Thursday, December 05, 2013
Yesterday after school I set my kiddos up with a Christmas craft---painting and be-glittering pine cones to make into ornaments for their teachers. We're going to package a pine cone ornament up with some homemade treats for each teacher's holiday gift later this month.
That got me thinking about, and looking up, various Christmasy kid activities I've done with my babes over the years, which brought back all sorts of old posts and memories and photos (and ultimately made me super nostalgic and teary---omg, I remember that night we made those cookies, with Vivi in those jammies! I remember those size 3T jammies!---but, er....never mind about that part).
That gave me the idea to run a list here of some of my tried-and-true, kid-friendly holiday crafts and treats. So here are a few things to get you going. If you're looking for an activity to help fill a chilly winter morning or no-nap afternoon, a gift to make for a beloved teacher, or some treats for giving to neighbors this season, try one of these. And then let me know how it goes!
Glitter Pine Cone Ornaments
Chocolate-Dipped Candy Canes (great for homemade gifting!)
Snowflake Mix (good teacher gift!)
Homemade Peppermint Bark (ditto!)
Classic Gingerbread Man Cookies
I know I have more in my archives, but these should get you started. Put on some Christmas music, break out the paint smocks or aprons, and have some fun. Take lots of pictures. Because they won't fit into those size 3T jammies forever, you know. And then you'll be glad you have that picture of the Christmas that they did, on that day you made those cookies.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Hi, everyone! I assume you've all eaten your way through your Thanksgiving leftovers and are now solidly preoccupied with Christmas cookies and peppermint bark, am I right? I haven't started any holiday baking yet, but I did formally RSVP 'yes' to my friend Jess's annual holiday cookie exchange (remember the fudge?? One of my most popular posts ever, LOL...), and yesterday at Target I picked up candies and sprinkles for the gingerbread-men-making-and-decorating extravaganza I have planned with my daughters.
Over the weekend I made the most delicious soup with the leftover Thanksgiving turkey bones. (My girls made me stop saying "turkey carcass." You're welcome.) I spent all of Saturday afternoon simmering it into homemade stock, then used it as the base for a farm-veggie soup studded with shredded leftover turkey meat. (Probably the same thing most of you had for dinner on Saturday, ha.) SO GOOD. There is something so flavorful and nourishing about meals made from pure and simple food like that--just honest, deeply rich, homemade stock and a slew of organic carrots, celeriac, onions, cabbage, and roasted cherry tomatoes that I'd frozen last August. Yum.
It sort of makes one feel a little more justified in jumping headlong into the Decembery world of candy canes, peppermint M&Ms, and royal icing, doesn't it now? Maybe?
What do you have planned this week, friends? Christmas shopping? Baking? Snowman making? (We don't have snow yet, but it's coming.) Whatever you're doing, be sure and sneak some veggies into your holiday life along with the cookies and eggnog, OK? It'll make you feel better about everything else you may possibly be eating. ;)
Monday, December 02, 2013
You guys. I assume I am the only one who didn't realize until just now that the Christmas season is only THREE WEEKS LONG this year? OMG. How did that happen? I know, I know--unusually late Thanksgiving, blah blah. But OMG. Somehow I didn't put two and two together. I guess I wasn't paying attention to the fact that, if Thanksgiving is at the very end of November for some ridiculous reason, one will have only 3/4 the usual time for Christmas shopping, tree trimming, wrapping, shipping, card-writing, baking, caroling, school event-attending, decorating, treat-delivering, toy-drive-gifting, and all the rest.
It seems like a very good time to revisit a piece I wrote several years ago for BlogHer, about surviving the hustle and bustle by consciously choosing to simplify your holiday experience.
On another note, how about this old holiday essay by Catherine Newman? Have you read it in years past? It's so beautiful that I can't help rereading it every Christmas even though it's a little like torture--the dear, tender part about the third baby that wasn't meant to be, the ache for what might have been, even if you never thought you wanted more than what you already have.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of love and gratitude and too much pie. If you have any bright ideas about slowing down time, let me know. Until then, happy holiday season.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Perhaps you'd like a little turkey-shaped sugar cookie to go with your icing and decorative candies? Like Genevieve does?
Quick update, you all.
Late last week my 100-year-old grandmother passed away after a very, very long (years-long) nursing home stay and slow decline. I will be busy the next couple of days with funeral stuff, relatives, and the like--not to mention the normal weekday routine for my girls. My parents are staying here and will go home on Tuesday....the day before my mother-in-law arrives for Thanksgiving (and my kids get off school for the rest of the week). So, it's safe to say I won't be writing here again before Turkey Day.
On that note, I just want to say Happy Thanksgiving, and to let you know how thankful I am for all of you who have read and supported me over the years. There are surely a lot of mean people out there on the Internet, hate-reading and such just to leave comments designed to take a person down, but goodness knows those of you who are nice, hilarious, fun, thoughtful, and kind make up for all the others. As Glennon would say, we're all just doing our best, and we belong to each other, so let's be kind this week (and always) and give thanks for our blessings and for knowing one another.
Now, go take that turkey out of the freezer, STAT.
Friday, November 22, 2013
You're not sick of fall pumpkin recipes yet, are you? I'm a pumpkin fanatic; I never get tired of finding and trying new seasonal pumpkin recipes.
Here's one I made today. I based it on an old handwritten recipe glued into a notebook I've had in my kitchen for about 15 or 20 years, but I changed the original up with added spices, a dose of salt (always, people! it makes the other flavors pop), and chocolate (because of course).
What I came up with is a cake-y, semi-healthy cookie made with raw ("old-fashioned") oats and pumpkin puree, and studded with dark chocolate chips. (Chocolate chunks would be even better.) I made my cookies quite small for little hands at snacktime.
Note that I used all white flour, but I bet you could experiment with using up to half whole-wheat flour.
Easy, quick, and very kid-friendly. Enjoy!
Pumpkin-Oat-Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 4 dozen, depending on size
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or from a fresh, cooked sugar pumpkin)
1-1/2 cups white flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
3/4 tsp. salt
1-1/4 cups raw oats
2/3 cup (or to taste) dark (or semi-sweet) chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and beat well. Mix in pumpkin puree.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Add dry mixture to pumpkin mixture and combine. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded teaspoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake about 7 minutes, until lightly browned on underside but still soft and fluffy-looking. (Cookies will not spread.) Let cool on wire rack. Store tightly covered in Tupperware or similar container. (Can also freeze once cool.)
Thursday, November 21, 2013
So, friends. Who here is hosting Thanksgiving this year?
I am, and I always do. However, our Thanksgivings are very tiny. Christopher and I have small and/or split-up/fractured/far-away families and neither of us was raised with a posse of extended relatives with whom we are close. (Christopher once stayed in the empty dorms at college over Thanksgiving, if that tells you anything.)
So, at most I have two guests at Thanksgiving, and often just one. I know! Crazy to most of you, I'm sure.
So anyway, it's not like I'm cooking for a truckload of people. On the other hand, to some degree, if you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner, you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner--whether it's for five or 15. The only significant variation is the size of your turkey, which translates into how long it takes to thaw. Other than that, you're kind of doing the same things whether your feast is for a few or a large group.
My menu is pretty traditional (although I skip the sweet potatoes for this small a group and do a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey): a relish tray, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, honey-ginger glazed carrots (no green bean casserole here, because we just got our CSA fall storage share and are up to our ears in root veggies), cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and pie.
Over the years, I've done all sorts of things for dessert, including a classic pumpkin pie and a marbled pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake (delish), and though traditional cheesecake may be my all-time favorite dessert, it's soooo heavy after an indulgent meal. So my favorite Thanksgiving choice is the simple cheater cheesecake recipe below, because while it will satisfy any cheesecake lover out there, it's also fairly light compared to most holiday desserts. Which means that, should you end up with leftovers because of a small Thanksgiving guest list like I do, you can enjoy next-day pie with nary a flicker of guilt.
Try it sometime--if not next week, then maybe for Christmas?
(Sorry there's no photo! Trust me; it looks AND tastes good.)
Simple Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
1 nine-inch reduced-fat graham cracker crust
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 eight-oz. package Neufchatel cheese, softened & at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 eight-oz. tub Lite Cool Whip (thawed)
In a large mixing bowl, beat the pumpkin, Neufchatel, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice with an electric mixer on medium speed until fully incorporated and smooth.
Fold 2-1/2 cups Lite Cool Whip into the pumpkin mixture and stir gently until combined.
Spoon pie mixture into the crust, mounding the filling nicely. Chill 4 hours or overnight. Serve with additional Cool Whip, if desired. (A drizzle of warm caramel sauce is good too!)
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
These things are not necessarily related, nor are they guaranteed to have anything to do with kids or motherhood. They're just a few interesting things bouncing around my head these days.
1. Glennon over at Momastery is doing her Holiday Hands project again this year. Remember this? It's a HUGE service project that pairs folks with something to give (money, time, gifts) with folks who have holiday needs. Check it out. It's a great way to feel connected with the larger web of human beings out there, each of us trying our best, each of us sometimes in need (not always for money or toys but maybe for love, strength, friendship, prayers, or hope) and sometimes able to give.
2. Speaking of giving, an independent, mama-founded running-gear business called Active Bands has organized a "Virtual 5K" as a fundraiser for Philippines typhoon relief. For $15, you can register to run 3.1 miles anytime between Wednesday and Saturday this week--on a course, on a track, in your neighborhood on a route you've mapped out to be 3.1 miles, whatever--and 100% of the entry fee goes to a relief group helping typhoon victims. You also get a free Active Band running headband just for registering! And when you're done running, you email your time to Active Bands to have your name put in for drawings of donated prizes. Are you a runner? Do it. I am! (For more info, check out their Facebook page.)
3. Here's why those of us from these parts are so crazy about where we live. (I'm in a small town an hour out of the city now, but it's basically the same down here, only with more cows and farm fields.)
4. So, carbs. A month or so ago I experimented with avoiding bread products (so, not carbs like those in vegetables or yogurt or even potatoes and rice; just things like bread, cookies, tortilla chips, cake, buns, muffins, crackers, scones, etc.) to see if what everyone says is true (that doing so will magically melt away any pesky extra lbs. and belly bloat that have seemingly permanently affixed themselves to your mid-section, decrease your snack-food cravings, and make you feel great).
Well, guess what. It totally did. For the roughly two weeks I sustained the effort. Then I fell off the wagon (several birthdays in one week = cake & lots of it), regained the lbs., belly bloat, and raging snack-food cravings, and now: upcoming holiday cookie exchange. Goddammit.
(This book is really good, very compelling, and tried-and-true in that I have a good friend who has followed its advice and benefited greatly, health-wise, as a result.) I was amazed at how great I felt when I wasn't eating so many starches, though. Who knew that eating that stuff makes you crave chips, sugar, and junk?? And that NOT eating that stuff makes you feel really energetic?
So there you go. Enjoy. What's on your mind these days??