28 April 2017

Blueberry Almond Granola

Little Bear's at noon Mass with Grandma, Kit is napping, and I'm all caught up on the non-noisy items on my to-do list, so here's a quick recipe!

Kit helped me mix up a batch of our current favorite granola this morning: with blueberries, whole grains, and coconut, it has something for everyone in our family! It's dairy-free, and easily gluten-free as well.

Blueberry Almond Granola

3 cups seven-grain cereal blend (or rolled oats, gluten-free if necessary)
3 1/2 cups almonds, chopped
1 Tablespoon sugar (I use evaporated cane sugar, but brown sugar or coconut sugar would also be good)
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup desiccated coconut (not the sweetened kind), divided
2 cups freeze-dried blueberries

Preheat the oven to 340 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together seven-grain cereal, almonds, sugar, and salt. In a small pot over medium heat, combine coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the coconut oil is melted. Pour liquids over dry ingredients, stir until it's all thoroughly moistened, and spread the mixture over two ungreased, unlined sheet pans.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove pans from oven, and stir 1/2 cup of coconut into each pan. Return to oven, rotating pans so that the one that was on the upper shelf is now on the lower, and bake about more 5 minutes, until the coconut is turning golden. Allow the granola to cool completely before stirring in the blueberries. I've found that it works best to pour the granola off both pans into the (cleaned) bowl I mixed it all together in, add the blueberries, and stir it up again in there rather than trying to stir in the blueberries on the pans.

(Recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker's Strawberry Coconut Granola, which also looks delicious, but no one in town carries freeze-dried strawberries so I haven't been able to give it a try!)

I started using seven-grain cereal in all of my granolas because I had a 50-lb bucket of it that we weren't going through quickly enough as hot cereal, but we've discovered that we really like the variety of flavors and textures that it adds to the granola; the last oat-only granola I tried tasted kind of boring in comparison! We use a blend of wheat, rye, oats, triticale, barley, spelt, and flax.

26 April 2017

A few of my favorite things...

It's that time of year again: snow melting, sun shining, children displaying astonishing speeds of getting soaked and filthy while playing somewhere you didn't think there even was any mud... And the annual Ultimate Homemaking Bundle! This year's bundle looks amazing. The resources are divided into: motherhood, organization and systems, faith, creativity, finances, home, in the kitchen, intentional living, marriage, recipies, self care, and work-life balance. 

"The Better Listening Workbook"? That one has Little Bear's name aaaaall over it. :-) Two books on deep cleaning/spring cleaning, which I've been itching to do (I know, I'm kind of weird) but have felt a little lost as to how to create a system for it in our new house. Two ecourses and a book all addressing different facets of photography, particularly taking and editing photos of our kids—I sure need help with that! And there are so many great cookbooks; I can't wait to find some new recipes to try.

I'm particularly excited about a couple of things:

  • The Fit2B Foundational 5+ ecourse — my doctor recommended their program for my diastasis recti, but we couldn't afford the monthly subscription, so I was so happy to see this ecourse in the bundle!
  • Making Big Life Changes Together, by Haley Stewart
  • Family Chore System & Planner, by Mandi Ehman 
  • A Mom's Guide to Better Photos ecourse, by Meg Calton

Just those four resources would cost $137 if I purchased them separately, but the whole bundle is only $29.97! That's amazing.

And there's so, so much more. Check it out! And if you're interested in what they have this year, and you prefer to read ebooks on an ereader/tablet/phone instead of a computer, consider picking up the bundle before Thursday night: Wednesday and Thursday, they're throwing in the .mobi (Kindle) and .epub (Nook/iBooks/Kobo) files for free with the .pdf files for the regular price of $29.97. Friday through Monday, it'll be an extra $10 to add on the ereader-format files.

Are you thinking about picking up a copy of this year's Ultimate Homemaking Bundle? Which resources are you most interested in?


I've seen a lot of sunrises this past month or so. Kit's been waking up between 4:30 and 5:30, occasionally as late as 6, and in order to allow Matt and Little Bear to keep sleeping I have to scoop her up and trundle upstairs, where she'll sprawl on my lap and nurse and doze or bring me books to read to her until 7, when she goes running back downstairs to dance around singing, "It's seven o'clock! Get up, get up!" 

So I've been tired. Sometimes I can close my eyes when she naps, but more often I need to devote that precious hour to doing things with Little Bear or taking care of things around the house that can't be done with an active, noisy toddler climbing all over me. The week or so of consecutive four-something wake-ups did wonders for my perspective, though: this morning I was grateful to not be woken until 5:35, and Monday, when she didn't get up until 6, felt like I'd been allowed to sleep in.

It's been interesting to get a first-hand look at how quickly our daylight increases at this time of year; normally, by now we would just be accustomed to the fact that's it's always broad daylight by the time we get up, and not think about when the sun was rising. It was noticeable this morning, though, that because we didn't come upstairs until 5:35, we missed even the last of the bright orange-pinks that we've grown used to seeing.

Most mornings, Kit interrupts her monologue about wanting "milka" as soon as we reach the top of the stairs, exclaiming, "Ooh, sunrise!" and I'll mumble something less enthusiastic about it being beautiful. Because it is, but I'm still half-asleep, child. I didn't realize how much she appreciated the sunrises until a few days ago, though, when I finished helping her get dressed and told her she was beautiful, and she smiled, flung her arms open, and said with a twirl, "I more bootiful dan de sunrise!"

I would be so thankful if she would start consistently sleeping until 6, at least, but despite my being so tired constantly, there has been something valuable about these quiet early mornings. Time to think, to pray, to snuggle on the couch reading to Kit. And this morning, finally finding a bit of time to write. I've been needing to go to sleep early myself, since I know I'll be woken up early, so most evenings I've been trying to get to bed within an hour, hour and a half, of when the kids fall asleep, and that small block of kid-free time is usually spoken for by something that *needs* to be done, instead of being open for something I *want* to do. I'm glad that I found time this morning to write, though! I do miss it.

13 April 2017

Humility & Hot Cross Buns

This afternoon was kind of a chaotic mess after Kit didn't nap and I gave up on putting her to sleep after more than an hour and a half of trying because I had so. many. things. left on my list for the day. 

In the span of less than three hours, I finished the entire list and got everyone dressed for Mass and out the door, and was feeling quite proud of myself for pulling it all off. I do remember, now, the thought occurring to me as the kids were squabbling about breakup boots and I was running madly around the kitchen that praying for, well, any help I could get would be a good idea, but I was so focused on just doing all the things that I pushed the thought aside. I may have needed a little reminder that I can't really "do it all myself"...

After Mass, supper, and putting the kids to sleep, I came back out to the kitchen to frost my speedily-concocted hot cross buns, and discovered a tray of little rocks. What do you get when you accidentally leave the sugar out of a yeast bread? Nothing tasty!

May your Triduum be prayerful and blessed, may you be reminded throughout the days of the point of our observances, and may all your Paschal baking rise properly!

09 April 2017

Strawberry Palm Sunday

Happy Palm Sunday! We wound up at the cathedral instead of our usual parish for Mass; our bishop was the celebrant, which made Kit excited because she likes seeing his "bishop hat" (mitre). We all gathered outside the cathedral doors for the blessing of the palms and the first Gospel reading, and then the whole congregation processed around the outside of the cathedral singing "All Glory, Laud and Honor" before going inside. I'd never seen that before; maybe because Holy Week for us is often right in the icy, slippery part of breakup? Are Palm Sunday processions common where you are? 

Oh, and despite the extra-long Mass, Little Bear was so good. Like, significantly better-behaved than a typical Sunday. We were so proud of him. Kit, on the other hand... well, I know long Masses can be hard on little ones, and she was sad and sleepy.

Our meals today wound up—unintentionally—featuring the liturgical color of the day, which Little Bear got a kick out of. Strawberries have been on sale, and I'd promised Little Bear strawberry shortcake for Sunday dessert. I had some berries that to be used right now this morning, though, so we diced them up and enjoyed them over chocolate brownie waffles, from the Chocolate-Covered Katie cookbook. (One of my favorite cookbooks right now, y'all; everything we've tried from it has been delicious, and it's all healthy! And no one's paying me to say that ;-)) Matt whipped up some eggs and sausage to go with them, and we were all so full afterward that we didn't really need lunch.

For supper, we sort of had our traditional Palm Sunday meal of psari plaki; I used an Argentinian Malbec instead of the called-for white wine, because that's what I had open. And dried parsley instead of fresh. And I didn't really measure anything. And I didn't remember the olive oil until it was in the oven, and had to quickly pull the pan out and drizzle it over the top. But it tasted good! We used halibut cheeks, which certainly contributed to the deliciousness. I'd totally forgotten about having psari plaki until the night before, so I was sure glad to find one last package of halibut in the freezer!

And for dessert, the promised strawberry shortcakes. I used Chocolate-Covered Katie's recipe, but with cow's milk instead of coconut milk, and they turned out very well—light and fluffy and just the slightest bit sweet. I did wind up whipping too much whipped cream for tonight; one thing I love about coconut whipped cream over cow's milk heavy cream is that the coconut cream will hold its' fluffiness in the fridge for at least a day or two before going flat, but in my experience at least, leftover whipped cow's milk cream will be flat by the next morning.

Anyway, much tasty red-themed food. Kit was ecstatic over all of the strawberries she was allowed to consume today. Good vitamin c and fiber, right?

What did you do for Palm Sunday?

01 April 2017

Watery week

So much water everywhere right now. It's still above 40 F at nine o'clock this evening, and the snowmelt is dripping from the roof like rain. Everything is getting so soft and punchy! The kids helped me make a snowman out of the sun-softened snow in the front yard today, to their delight. Little Bear was clambering along the piles of scraped-up hardpack along the sides of the road on our walk this afternoon, decided to step out onto the parallel snowdrift, and promptly sank in deep enough to lose a boot. Kit had fun sliding on her belly down the bank over and over ("swimming wike a turtle!") as I climbed to the top to "rescue" Little Bear and his boot.

I hadn't been in town since Tuesday, and was startled this morning to turn into the grocery store parking lot and be faced with a giant puddle. Our road is looking pretty muddy, and I'm so thankful that they removed the hardpack a couple of weeks ago—it would be beginning to resemble a bog if they hadn't! It's certainly that time of year again: breakup. ("Spring," as you call it in other parts of the country.)

I was at a farm in the hills this afternoon for a workshop on root cellars, and as everyone trickled in we were talking about the weather. It was so pleasant to be sitting in the sun in a hoody and breakup boots instead of a coat and snow boots! We sure have a lot of snow, though—it was still waist-deep on me a few days ago, when I foolishly decided to break a new trail pulling the kids in the sled—and with the sudden swing to high temperatures, we were speculating on the likelihood of some roads or small mountain highways washing out as it all melts at once. We're going to need to start chipping away at the hardpack on our own driveway really soon; it'll all run downhill away from the house, so we weren't too worried about it, but I'm starting to realize the mess we're likely to have at the bottom of the driveway if we let it all melt and run down as it wills.

And we've been making the poor water system repairman navigate our driveway all week; I'm sure he'd appreciate having a less-slippery slope to drive up when he comes back again next week. It's not really his fault he's had to keep coming back... We've been having trouble with our water turning yellow and smelling rusty/earthy, and I think, I hope, we've finally figured out what the problem is. Apparently our water softening system is supposed to be serviced every year, and we didn't know that so it didn't happen this past summer, and the water was slowly getting harder and harder. When we finally realized there was a problem and had a tech out to service it, the current theory is, it'd sat so long that sediment had built up in the bottom of the tank, and now each time the recharge cycle runs, that sediment gets stirred up and sent back into our pipes. So we'll shop vac out the whole thing, get rid of the mucky stuff, and see if that puts a stop to it.

It's not like the water is currently dangerous—we're using it to wash dishes and persons—but it's not so fun to drink, so we're revisiting our water-hauling days with a big blue jug of water perched on the kitchen counter for drinking and cooking. The kids, predictably, think it's great fun. It's not a huge headache for me, since Matt's the only one strong enough to carry the water jugs up into the kitchen, so he's definitely the one most looking forward to having clear water coming out of the taps again!

What does your spring weather look like right now? Having a bunch of snow still around in April is normal here, but I know that's not the case everywhere!