Goodbye, Summer…until we meet again

It’s been a busy summer.  A trying summer, with two 3 year olds and a 5 year old at home all day every day.  My patience has been tested, and the guilt-meter has been off the charts, knowing every trying day is a day I’ll regret when they all go to school.

We’ve purchased three backpacks.  We’ve attended orientation for one, scheduled the other two, and fulfilled three school supply lists, gone school clothes shopping, and have filled the pantry with lunch and snack-packing supplies.

One week ago, my firstborn baby headed off to his first day of kindergarten.  Four days ago, he turned six.

He was calm, and he was ready for Kindergarten.  Way more ready than his mama.

He offered to get my camera ready for our traditional first-day-of-school shots.  He made his bed, made his own breakfast, brushed his teeth, dressed himself, and kissed us goodbye in the garage.  And then, when the bus came, he turned and gave me one last kiss and said, “I love you, mama,” and got on the bus without looking back.  That moment alone nearly killed me.  Each day since has gotten incrementally easier, but next week the twins are off to preschool and the cord-cutting process will begin all over again.

I’m sad to see summer end.  I’m sad to have to say goodbye to the warm days and sunshine and afternoons in the pool.  I’m sad to see the end of the last summer before all three boys are in school.

But I’m satisfied by what we accomplished this summer.  Our oldest boy is confident in his swimming abilities without his life vest.  The older twin is an independent swimmer with his life vest on.  And the littlest one isn’t far behind.  We played mini golf, spent a few days at the zoo, took a beach trip and visited a new aquarium and a battleship and a cave.  We squeezed in a few date nights, checked out a hot air balloon festival, spent several Sundays watching Ryan race his new go-kart.  We had play dates, took walks, hikes, and bike rides, and spent a lot of time in the pool.  Through all the tough and trying days of being at home with a five year old and two three year olds, we made a lot of memories this summer.

And now that they’re on their way back to school, I’m wrapping it up by fulfilling one last summer goal that had, until today, gone unmet: I’m sitting on the back deck, fresh out of the pool with a cold drink and my laptop.  I’m planning to focus more time on some exciting ideas: a new look for the blog is coming soon.  I have TWO secret projects under wraps, and I’m working on some new design projects that I hope to share on the blog in the coming months.  Stay tuned, friends.  Mama’s got free time on her hands, and it just might be fun…

 

xoxo,

~d

This Never-Ending Winter and my need for a change of scenery

We here in the northeast are experiencing the winter that won’t end.

It feels like it hasn’t stopped snowing since Halloween.  It feels like we’ve been trapped inside, staring at the same walls day after day, week after week, for half a year.  In a Facebook group I’m a member in, someone from Alaska commented last week that winter here has lasts for too long.  Alaska, people.  Let that sink in for a minute.

We’re trying to stay busy.  We’ve walked and been outside as often as we can, but sick kids and exposure to freezing temps aren’t always the best combo.  We planted seeds for veggie plants a few weeks ago.  The boys have a hockey net in the basement and can use that space to run off some extra energy.  T-ball season has started and we’re beginning to see a day or so a week that is suitable to be outside.  Regardless, we’re all tired of being inside. One day last week, upon returning from our errands, the boys filed out of my car and made a beeline for the driveway where big, fat snowflakes were beautifully, gracefully, tauntingly falling from the sky.  The three of them ran around in circles, arms spread wide, catching the flakes on their tongues.  It was heartwarming and beautiful, and I was so fulfilled to watch them, and yet…I’ll be just as fulfilled when I can sit in the grass and watch them roll up and down the driveway on their bikes, draw pictures on the concrete with sidewalk chalk, build castles and mountains in the sand, and push weeds from my flower beds in their big trucks while I soak up sun and heat.

But that’s just me.

In the meantime, I’ve stayed motivated by changing and reorganizing basically every room in our house in the last month.  I sometimes feel more energized when I rearrange things to change the flow and the way the light hits different aspects of a space.  That, in turn, gives me an idea of what accessory items are working for us and what we could maybe replace.

In our living room, for instance, I  played around with a completely different layout that seems to work really well for us.  What I noticed, though, is that we needed a new, larger area rug to tie the space together.  The rule of thumb for a rug is that it should touch all the pieces of furniture in the space to make it feel cohesive .  The rug we had isn’t big enough to do that; far too much of the floor was bare, which is not only an aesthetic problem, but a traction problem for our 12-year-old golden retriever.  She’s having a hard time getting up from the slippery floors after she’s been lying down.  So last weekend, we trooped into town, the five of us, for a family trip to Dick’s.  And I played the “Oh, but I’m the only girl, and can’t we please, please, PLEASE go to a fun store for me to look for house stuff?” card.  And we left with a rug.

I travel with the paint swatches we used on every wall in our house.  This way,  when I’m out and about, I always have the colors on hand to compare.  So, I pulled the swatches out of my purse in the middle of the store to check, and my three super manly boys and my one super manly man each grabbed a spot of the rug and trooped it to the checkout for me.

Another thing that I’ll be addressing in the living room is the blank wall above the sofa.  I’m currently searching for some artwork to frame and hang to make that more of a focal point.  My problem is deciding on what I want.  Because your space should tell your story, I don’t want something to just “put” there; I want it to be personal, have significance, and to tell a story about our family.  I have family portraits on the wall going up the stairs, so I’d like to do something artistic or inspiring in the living room.  My top ideas right now are to frame some photos of our town or from our travels and have them made into canvases, or blown up for large matted frames.  Because the sofa and curtains are neutral colors, I’d like to bring out the colors of the rug with the art…and then possibly repeat those same colors with some new throw pillows on the sofa and love seat.

I’d love to hear from you; does anyone else get suffocated by their surroundings when the weather keeps you confined in the same spaces?  How do you deal with it?  Are you painting?  Tackling a renovation project?  Replacing furniture or accessories?  Leave me a comment!

 

xoxo,

~d

 

 

You Are you being creative?

Once upon a time (a little over a year ago), a family friend asked me a question that repeats itself in my head every now and again:

“Are you being creative?”

This family friend is actually a friend of Ryan’s family. He’s known me for probably fourteen of the fifteen years I’ve been hanging out with Ryan’s family, and because they live a few states away, time together is pretty limited. To be honest, the question took me completely by surprise because of all those who know me well, nobody had ever asked me that before. Yet, that is undoubtedly what makes me tick: creativity. Crafting, writing, designing, cooking, and baking are my favorite outlets. And when life gets hectic, those are the things that take a backseat (well, except for cooking, obviously. I do feed my family.  But there’s a difference between creative cooking, and cooking just to put something on the table). As it turns out, in the absence of creativity, I tend to get crabby.

My husband is usually the one to catch onto the mood first, and is super amazing at offering me time, or space, or an outing, or coffee, to clear my head enough to zero in on whatever creative recess of my brain is itching.  He offers, very frequently, to take charge of our boys on the weekends to offer me the chance to get away and focus on my ideas.  Somehow, however, I haven’t yet figured out how to accept his offers and relinquish control to do it.  I’m pretty sure it’s not an uncommon thing for moms, but I feel guilty if I’m not doing it all: working, being home, keeping up with the messes three boys can make, feeding said boys, being present for bathtime, storytime, bedtime, and any other time I feel like I need to be present for.  It’s unrealistic, but I’m notorious for holding my expectations high.

 

Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to take on a couple of different interior design projects.  The timing has been perfect, since the boys are getting a bit older and don’t require quite as much of my undivided time and attention these days.  They’re at an age where they will all play together, or find their own separate activities, which gives me a good chance to focus on other things.  And I’ve done it all from home, on my own time, without having to put the kids in daycare and be away from them all day (with the exception of a meeting here and there).

Guys, I feel like I’m on fire. I feel like letting out a little bit of creative energy has created brand new stores of creative energy that refuse to be kept in.  I feel like I’m reaching into the long-forgotten recesses of my brain to exercise atrophied muscles.  I’ve been calmer, yet more energized.  I’ve been patient.  I feel confident in a way I haven’t in a very long time.  My house isn’t any more of a disaster than usual.  My kids have been able to entertain themselves and one another in the room where I’m sitting to work. (OK, full disclosure: literally AS I typed that last sentence, half a pitcher of iced tea got spilled all over the refrigerator and the floor underneath.  I did not lose my cool.)

My point here, friends, is that somewhere in the midst of the creative process that’s required to complete a color scheme, floor plan, and idea board, I’ve gotten more creative.  How else do you explain starting a blog post on your phone while you’re waiting to pick your preschooler up from school?

So…

Are YOU being creative?

xoxox,

~d

An Anecdote on Strong Wills

My Aunt Sharon and Uncle Don used to take me for a week every summer. They’d plan wonderful, often also educational activities for us, like visiting Gettysburg National Park: touring Amish Country in Lancaster County, Pa; camping near Hersheypark; touring the state capital; and shopping. Always, always shopping with Aunt Sharon. I was two years old when they took me to New York City. I still remember calling the Statue of Liberty “the fake lady with the thing in her hand,” and wearing my heavy pink fur coat.

It wasn’t just for me; Aunt Sharon and Uncle always plan fun, educational experiences for anyone visiting them. One year, they planned a trip to tour a power plant for our family (there were probably 15 of us) when we stayed with them over Thanksgiving. When I brought Ryan to their house for the first time, they took us to explore the abandoned coal town of Centralia. They always know where to go and what to do that their guests will enjoy the most.

One of my first vacations with them, they took me to Lancaster, Pa, to see Amish country. I don’t remember it very clearly anymore but Aunt Sharon has told the story dozens of times so I know it well:

It was unseasonably cold that morning. I, being all of about four years old, decided I’d wear my pretty summer outfit (a shorts outfit with a sleeveless top, if memory serves). My aunt, with a few years of seasoned adulthood under her belt, advised I go for something more weather-appropriate, but I, already aware of the necessity to sacrifice comfort for beauty, had my mind made up. This led to a meltdown of sorts (ok, total meltdown), but Aunt Sharon wasn’t backing down. We argued a few rounds, and obviously I lost, and we still managed to have a fun day touring a one-room schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, and sitting in an Amish buggy.

Last night, as I was helping the twins into their pj’s for bed, one of the boys asked for a certain pair of Lightning McQueen pajamas that he’d just worn two nights before. I already had another pair on him, and wouldn’t allow him to change. This led to a meltdown, of sorts (ok, total meltdown,) obviously, but I wasn’t backing down.

This morning I woke up to both twins in my bed. The twin who’d fought so hard over pj’s had had the presence of mind and the sheer determination of, well, his mother, to change into the aforementioned Lightning McQueen pajamas before I was alert enough to stop him.

Apples. They really don’t fall far from the tree, do they?

Busy

It’s a word that gets thrown around often.  Not just with me; we all use it.  Busy.  We’re ALL busy.  Caps, bold, italics.

“Sorry I never got back to you; I’ve been so busy!”

“How’s your summer?” “Busy!”

Me, personally?  It’s never occurred to me to keep track of how many times a day I say it, hear it, think it.

Any time I take my boys (three of them, all under age five) out in public?  At least one casual observer will offer a grin and a sympathetic “I bet you’re busy!”

When my husband reluctantly asks me to do a favor or take care of something household related because he works pretty crazy hours anymore?  “Babe, I know you’re busy enough already, but if you get a minute during naptime or whatever, could you…?”

When I look at the stack of library books on my nightstand or on the end table in the living room? “Ugh, if I wasn’t so busy, I’d be through those already!”

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A lot of my busy-ness is of my own making.  Apparently I took Aesop’s Fables a bit too literally as a child, because every time I ignore work to do something pleasurable, I’m reminded of the Grasshopper and the Ant.  Remember that story?  The ant worked and worked, never taking time off, while the grasshopper, all “Carpe Diem!” played and forgot to prepare for winter.  So when wintertime rolled around, the ant was warm and full, while the grasshopper died a cold, hungry death.

That must be it.  I hate being cold.  And hungry.

So I stay busy.  Not always particularly productive, but definitely busy.  And when I say busy, I pretty much mean in the sense that I start 349587348962 projects and approximately 2 get done.

Take, for instance, this spring.  I found an ant infestation in my spider plant (here we go with the ant theme again). So I carried the plant to our back deck, where I drowned those suckers out, then gave them a nice, healthy dose of old coffee grounds to show them I meant business.  Apparently, ants hate coffee.  So maybe I’m not as much like an ant as I thought.  Anyway… my spider plant.  I didn’t want to bring the ants back inside, so I let my plant sit on the deck for a couple of days.  It was still spring, and we weren’t finished having frost then, so a few leaves on my plant were sacrificed in the effort.  When I pulled them to make room for new growth, I put the dead leaves on top of last summer’s hanging basked from the deck, my Mother’s Day petunia from Ryan and the boys, which I never emptied last fall.

Fast forward to late July.  This past Saturday morning, Ryan took the boys with him to run an errand while I stayed home.  After they left, I wandered back to the deck to pick up yesterday’s swim suits and towels, and decided maybe it’s time to finally clean out that hanging basket.  What I found when I moved those dead spider plant leaves took me by surprise.

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My point is, yes, I’m busy.  We’re ALL busy.  Caps, bold, italics.  It’s not exclusively a parent thing, or a student thing, or a career thing or a sports thing or a…well, you get it.  Life is hectic, and messy, and crazy, and unpredictable.  And sometimes, under all that busy-ness, there are surprises budding that we aren’t expecting.

And aren’t those the best?

 

xoxox,

~d

 

Summer Reading

Summer is here, friends.

In other words, the good TV shows have all concluded their seasons (sigh.  Grey’s), or have been cancelled (yeah, I’m lookin’ at you, Mistresses), or have been bingewatched in their entirety (that would be OITNB).

It’s too hot to cook.  Or eat, for that matter.

The boys and I are spending the majority of our days outside, walking, playing in the sand, drawing on the driveway, blowing bubbles, having squirt gun battles, and swimming.  My house is a wreck and I don’t care.  Summer comes but once a year.  Incidentally, so does winter, but I have yet to figure out how to bottle and store warm weather.  (Unlike the snowball and icicle we’ve been preserving in our freezer since November.  I told the boys we’ll take them outside during one of those unbearably hot July days and see how fast it melts.)

My days of helping with grass cutting have, once again, come to an end.  Voluntarily, this time, after I encountered two snakes while mowing our backyard this week (I only do the back at our “new” house, inside the fence, so nobody can see how terrible I am at it).

That leaves me to my one true talent in life and my favorite summer hobby: reading.  Usually my summer books of choice are the romance-y, lovey dovey, devour-it-in-a-day sort of literature my mom always referred to as “smut”.  It’s her favorite too, and it’s addicting, albeit totally un-educational.  And as a stay-at-home mom for six years running, I’m starting to think maybe my brain muscles could use a bit more exercise.  I’ve finished four new Danielle Steel novels since mid-May, and I’ve moved on to actual educational material now.

Last week I read one parenting book, and began another, while a third still sits on the end table in the living room.  Let’s face it, even on my very best days, my skills as a mom could still use some improvement.  My boys deserve the best I can give them, and I’m not ashamed to admit I’m still a work in progress.

And tonight I searched our county library’s online catalog for some more nonfiction material I’ve been thinking of reading and just keep forgetting about in lieu of mindless quick reads.  Here’s the list:

*Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, by Piper Kerman     (Yep, only because I love the show.  But I love to see how Hollywood jazzes up true stories.)

*The Girls of the Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan     (Not gonna lie; I borrowed this in the spring and didn’t get through it.  I’ve been kicking myself though and am determined to finish this time)

*Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (If you don’t follow her on Twitter, do yourself a favor and do it.  She’s hilarious.  I can’t wait to dig into a full book of her punchy wit.)

*Hidden Figures: The American dream and the untold story of the black women mathematicians who helped win the space race  (I don’t feel so bad not knowing about all these untold stories, seeing as how they’re “untold.”  But I’m particularly interested in this one after Ryan and I visited Kennedy Space Center last summer.)

*Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail (True confession: this one is all because of Lorelai Gilmore.  A Year in the Life, anyone?)

 

So that’s it.  Oh, wait, no.  The Shack is on the end table too, hiding under the third parenting book.  I bought it about seven years ago, and still have not taken the time to read.  Now that there’s a movie, though, it must be read before I can see the Hollywood version.

Leave your recommendations in the comments!  I’d love to hear what’s on your summer reading list!

 

xoxo,

~d

You Can Take the Girl Out of the Country… 

I was born and raised a country girl. 

We may have covered this before: my parents were both raised on farms. Farming is in the blood. My parents did not choose to have their own farm but we spent plenty of time farming as I was growing up. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of being perched on the fender of a tractor with my dad or my grandfather (my pappy and I once shared a picnic lunch in a tractor, in the back corner of a field during planting season); or roaming around the farms on a four-wheeler, most often with an end goal of bringing feed to the cows; and that one time my dad thought it would be fun to climb the pile of sawdust (he later made me promise I wouldn’t tell Mom). I’ve bottle-fed calves; drank fresh, raw milk from the cows my great uncle and his family owned- the last surviving dairy farm in the township till just about a decade or so ago; and walked barefoot through freshly plowed fields. I know how to can (even though I don’t do it), make my own homemade jams, and can preserve fresh produce in the freezer.  My dad taught me how to shoot- and respect- rifles and bows, and I have even attended one game dinner, sampling several unexpected types of meat. Venison remains a favorite in our house, and our freezer is stocked with that and beef from the cows my brother raises. And a defining moment in our marriage just may have been that summer we helped my dad and brothers on the hay wagon, with Ryan slinging bales from the bailer as I perched at the top of the wagon trying to secure the load.  

I’m not a farm girl. I was raised to know how to work on the farm AND how to work a farmhouse kitchen, working side-by-side with my granny to feed my pappy and his farmhands: lots and lots of coffee to get them going in the morning; hearty meat-and-potato meals, often featuring a loaf of hot bread and melty butter; and knowing that dinner would sometimes have to be reheated because during planting season and harvest, farmers don’t rest. I’m no stranger to the farm life, even if it’s not the life I’ve chosen. 

Every once in awhile, though, we go home and that country girl resurfaces. With a little coaxing from my mom and my husband , she came out to play for a few minutes a few weekends ago. 

Where we live, we don’t start measuring snow till it measures in feet. Where we come from, four inches is a huge deal, and an opportunity not to be missed if you own a snowmobile. My youngest brother just happens to have one, and my husband just happens to desperately want one, so clearly our weekend plan was a solid one. 

Now, I’m not sure if y’all are familiar with snowmobiling, but let me just say, there’s something very liberating about ripping through a wide open field at 70mph. As I clung to my husband for dear life, I may have briefly questioned my sanity, and simultaneously questioned why I’d  waited so long for this experience. The answer is as follows: I never claimed to be sane…and I hate being cold. 

Nevertheless, it was fun to get out and tour the farm- albeit at a higher rate of speed than I’ve been accustomed to in the past several decades- and of course I can never turn down an opportunity to wrap my arms around Ryan’s waist and let him be in control of whatever machine he’s operating. Of course, he’s the most competent man I know, and I trust him completely. Clearly, so does my mom. 

When Ryan went outside to get on Cory’s snowmobile, he looked at me and said, “you wanna go?”  But…I was warm. And my boys were…well, happy, content, and playing without even acknowledging my existence, so that wasn’t an excuse, but I still said no.  Before I had finished responding, my mom had her coat and her boots on, quickly enough that Ryan might’ve been taken aback. With a glimmer in his eye, he and my mom took off. 

When they returned awhile later, my mom burst through the door, cheeks rosy, and thrust her gloves into my hands. “You get out there right now!” she demanded. Mom spoke, I listened. Knowing my boys were still content, well-tended, and blissfully unaware of my plan, I bundled up and headed outside where my husband was waiting. We took off down toward the barns, cutting though the field where my pappy’s cows used to graze and toward the corn crib, past the machine shed and up through the fields we used to toboggan on with my grandparents. He cut back toward the corner of the property where the millstone sits: a large boulder with a hole in it, once used by Native Americans to grind corn. We followed the property line to the edge, then circled back down past the pond, to the open field behind the house…the same field where I remember being pulled on a sled by my pappy’s four wheeler when I was a little girl. By the time we finished I could barely feel my face, but I was exhilarated by the flash of memories at such a high rate of speed. 

I guess you just can’t take the country out of the girl. 

Can you hear me now?

By now you all know that my life is a series of screw ups and debacles, and that I’m the kind of girl who almost gets confident in her place in this world, only to be shown that I’ve got it all wrong. 

Lately, I’ve been trying really hard to be better organized. Ryan changed jobs this week, our oldest is in preschool and soccer, and they race Radio-controlled cars as a hobby. Add in regular doctor, dentist, hair, appointments, etc for five people, and our calendar fills up rather quickly.  Last year, I decided to turn one wall in our home office into a “command center,” (basically just a place where I have a dry erase board, calendar, and filing system to keep important papers from being returned to school with four days’ worth of stove splatter on them). This fall, I’ve focused on managimg my household chores and responsibilities, and generally decluttering my life. Because, you guys, kids come with ridiculous amounts of stuff (especially when well-meaning and very generous family members shower them with gifts every chance they get.) My boys are pretty loved, and I’m not complaining. I’m embracing the opportunity to reexamine what I really must hold onto. 

Thus, the majority of my life lives on my phone. I note appointments in my phone calendar, then centralize my personal calendar to the one in the office where I’m guaranteed to see it. It’s kind of an extra step, but I figure I can use all the reminders I can get. Plus, if anything ever happens to my phone…you see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Being married to a “computer guy,” (which is seriously understating his job title) has its perks. He keeps all of my gadgets in tip-top shape, reminds me to back up my data (ahem, 500 pictures of my kids), asks- even when he’s exhausted- how my laptop is running.  He will drop everything if I have the slightest technology conundrum, and he will not rest until I’m back in business. 

Last week, he was home with us before transitioning to his new job. Ironically enough, we woke up on his first morning of vacation to find that my iPhone had attempted to update overnight, but without enough free memory available (ahem, 500 pictures of my kids), it wiped out everything and completely reset my phone to what was basically factory settings. And, guys, he fixed it. Like, recovered the vast majority of my photos, contacts, all of it. The man is a saint. And a genius. A sanitly genius. 

So imagine my chagrin when, while trying to get the boys out the door for a mad dash to Target for the Halloween costumes I’ve been envisioning for a year but because I lost track of dates (despite my two calendar rule)…I dropped my newly-formatted phone in water. Obviously, my pretty hot-pink case was more for show than for protection because the phone is definitely fried. In less than 24 hours, my saintly genius had taken care of that problem, too. 

But you know what I’ve learned from my 48 hours free of technology in the past two weeks? I’ve learned that I can do the day-to-day without my phone. I’m lost in the midst of cooking when in need to google an ingredient substitution or to find the recipe for homemade taco seasoning, but I don’t need to check it every time I walk by it. 

At soccer practice this week, I took my phone inside because Ryan was meeting us after work but he wasn’t sure he’d get there in time. I also wanted to use it to take photos. What I actually found myself doing was taking pictures and posting them on facebook, then surfing facebook, responding to comments, texting photos to family members, and…well, not really watching my boy do this thing he loves so much. 

We all say we’re putting our phones down. I pride myself in trying to keep mine off the dinner table. Mealtime is family time- that’s how I was raised, and I believe in that philosophy. But I’ve been less diligent lately. 

And, clearly, it’s gotten me (and my phone) into hot water. 

Xoxo,

~d

Oops. I did it again.

Invented another recipe, that is.

Sorry for the title.  But it got you here, didn’t it?  So…maybe I’m not so sorry.

My life is pretty much a comedy of errors.  So I don’t need to explain why I’m posting nearly a week later than I had intended to, right?  Suffice it to say, our week has been a little different from most.  Awesome, just a little different routine.

This past Sunday was an R/C race day.  This race puts me within 20 miles of the closest IKEA, so I usually tag along with Ryan and our first racer for  this one.  (In fact, quick side story: race morning arrives and little man says, “Mom, I’ll miss you while you’re at IKEA today.” I responded, “Who says I’m going to IKEA?” His reply? “You ALWAYS go to IKEA when we go to this race.”  Yep.  Touche.)

So, yeah, obviously I went along to go to IKEA, though I didn’t make my final decision to go until about 11:30 Saturday night.

Race days are long days.  Ryan usually leaves our house between 6 and 7AM, depending on how far he’s traveling.  This trip required a 7AM departure. (We never got on the road till 8).  He usually just grabs a gas station breakfast for him and his companion (breakfast sandwiches, donuts…whatever.  I try not to interfere too much on these days).  I do, however, usually try to send something semi-healthy for munching.  With all three boys going this trip, I decided to make something that would be mostly healthy and filling, and not require heating or cooling.  My solution?  Scones.  I thought if I packed them with peanut butter, oats, and wheat germ, they’d fill those little tummies enough that we could keep snacking throughout the day to a minimum (this plan backfired, by the way.  However, I maintain that I provided a solid breakfast for him to absorb some of the sugar.)

Anyway, back to my scones.  I love cinnamon ones, while pomegranate is another favorite in this house.  This time, I was hungry for peanut butter scones.  Of course, I’ve never even tried them, never mind used a recipe to make them.  (In fact, the only scones I’ve ever eaten are those I’ve made myself.  So…I hope I’m doing it right.)  Google said peanut butter and chocolate chips was a great option.  Pinterest agreed.   I had no chocolate chips (remember, 11:30PM).  Peanut butter and jelly sounded divine, but those had to be cut with a biscuit cutter and, and jelly in the car didn’t have me all that excited.   At midnight, knowing I had to be up by 6AM, I wanted to do it the easy way.  Peanut butter and oats?  That I could do.  But again, none of the recipes I saw matched the ingredients I wanted to use.  Again, I invented.  Here’s how:

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Scones

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup wheat germ (or flax seed)
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup milk
½ cup peanut butter
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugars, soda, salt, oats and cinnamon.
Add butter, use two knives scissor-fashion to crumble until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add milk, egg, and peanut butter, then stir till just combined.Dump everything onto a parchment-lined baking pan (or, I just use my pizza stone for easier cleanup) and pat into a circle, about 12″ in diameter and a half-inch thick. Cut the circle into eight triangles, and bake for 20 minutes or until edges are golden.

And behold:

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These were easy, filling, and yummy and kept my boys happy.  I’m not sure how necessary the cinnamon was, but I’m one of those people who thinks cinnamon works in just about any recipe, especially in the fall and winter; use at your discretion.

Scones, baby.  It’s what’s for breakfast.

 

Cheers!

xoxo,

~d

Pumpkin Spice. Nuff Said

I have a problem.

Actually, I got 99 problems but…

Right.  Family show.  Moving on.

So,let’s focus on my two biggest problems of the moment:

  1. I cannot for the life of me back down from a challenge, even when (especially when) it comes from my four-year-old.
  2. I have zero capacity for resisting anything that comes labeled as “pumpkin spice.”

There’s a humorous back story here, and a semi-related and wholly hilarious YouTube video parody to go along with it.  The back story is this:

Our oldest son goes to preschool three days a week, for two and a half hours each day.  He takes a snack every day, and he really loves to pick what he’s going to take- though, some days he prefers to be surprised; it really is a mood thing.  Among his favorite snacks to take are yogurt, these seasoned pretzels, fruit, graham crackers, goldfish crackers, and granola bars.  I started making my own granola bars about two years ago because they go REALLY fast in our house.  Ryan loves them at breakfast time.  And after dinner. They’re perfect for the boys’ “after nap snack,” as our oldest says.  And I love them too.  So those little boxes of eight that you pay $2 for?  Doesn’t even get us through a day- I can’t justify it when it takes just a few basic ingredients and little more skill than one needs when making Rice Krispy Treats.  So last week, the little guy asked me if we had any granola bars for me to send for his snack this week.  I didn’t, at the time, but I’d purchased what I needed with the intention of making some.  Then, he said these magic words: “Mom, could you make pumpkin spice granola bars?”

The words were music to my ears.  I immediately began searching for recipes.  Google, Pinterest, and all of my cookbooks.  But…I kept coming up empty.  I had a few results, but nothing that really sang to me (or the ingredients I had on hand.)  Sadly, I couldn’t let it go.  I had to find something that would work.  Because, not only had my baby boy asked me for something and I wanted to deliver, but also because it’s October and I’ll put pumpkin in ANYTHING this time of year!  So, I resorted to experimentation.  I went to my go-to granola bars recipe, then found one recipe on Pinterest I could tweak to my needs, and attempted to mash the two together. (By the way, if you’re following the links to check out the recipes, note that the first one is for a 13×9 pan-sized batch; the second is for an 8×8).

And so…the first attempt turned out to be pretty decent.  I would say they could still use a little something (chocolate chips are at the top of that list.  I’d also say mixing in a half a cup or so of finely chopped pecans might take this right up to where it needs to be).  But, for my first attempt and also for a completely fabricated recipe, on the first try, I’m a little proud of myself.  And my boy was happy, so, yay me!

Wanna try them?  Here’s how I did it:

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3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
Heat over medium-low heat until just boiling.
Add:
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

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Pour immediately over:
2 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups crispy rice cereal
1/4 cup wheat germ (or flax-seed)

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Stir to combine, then pour into a 13×9 pan
lined with aluminum foil (this makes it easier to
pull the bars out to cut them, and also helps with
cleanup)

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If you’re going to add chocolate (and, by all means, DO!), make sure you don’t mix them into the pumpkin mixture; they’ll become a melty mess.  Instead, once you’ve pressed the bars into the pan (I use a sheet of waxed paper.  Press HARD), sprinkle 1/3 cup or so over the top, then press gently once more.  And if you’re thinking of adding nuts (I totally will next time; this version is missing a bit of crunch), add them to the oats, cereal, and wheat germ or flax-seed.  Probably 1/4 to 1/3 cup is a good starting point.  And when you fall in love with these…

you can thank my son. Because I’m off to Starbucks for a PSL.

Cheers!
xoxo

~d