Thursday, April 17, 2014

Family Update for Mid-April 2014

After noticing that I have been posting way too many recipes lately on our blog, I thought it was time to make a non-food post! We eat a lot. Every day, actually. Delicious food, too. And I like to share the yummy recipes that I find. But, we are more than just food.

Homeschool Planning
I have been spending a lot of time getting ready for homeschool in the Fall. My daughter will be studying a kindergarten curriculum and I am trying to plan things so that my toddler son can be included in the lessons, and for the subjects that Sugar Plum needs my one-on-one attention I need to find something to keep him entertained (without using the TV, of course). It’s actually quite challenging. He’s more at a learning-through-play age right now while she’s ready for more actual instruction mingled with learning play (there’s only so much fun that can be put into practicing handwriting or learning to read, but I am trying).

There is so much that I want my children to learn and I just don’t have enough time in the day to teach it to them. That and having school for 12+ hours a day would not be fun for them! Planning an age appropriate curriculum that will keep the kids entertained and interested is hard work! I had thought about purchasing a full curriculum, but I am not satisfied with any of them at the moment and they are far too overpriced. But I did settle on a math curriculum. This is the only curriculum that I am not going to plan all by myself, because it’s such a crucial subject that I don’t want to leave anything important out. Now I just need to budget my money to be able to afford the curriculum each year (my husband and I set up budgets for just about everything, so yes, I also have a homeschool budget to go by). I can see how homeschooling can be very expensive, but I’m going to try to be as frugal as possible.

I have come across some great resources online to help me teach them both and some blogs with advice for mom’s like me that still need to teach but also need to take care of younger children. I feel ready. The only thing I am clueless about is the temperament of baby #3, who will not be born until mid-July, just 2 weeks before the start of school! There’s a lot that we’ll have to play by ear and take one day at a time.
Getting Ready for Baby #3

Something else we‘ve been up to is getting ready for baby. I still have another 13 weeks to go but I already want to start unpacking and washing the baby boy clothes. My daughter has completely accepted that she will have another baby brother. She has fallen in love and likes to give the baby (my tummy) hugs often. Bear finally understands that there is a baby in my tummy. If I am holding him and he starts kicking and throwing a tantrum, I tell him to be careful not to kick mommy’s tummy because the baby could get hurt. When I say this, he starts crying. Really, really sad crying. Like he thinks he already hurt the baby and he feels so sorry. Then it makes me so sad because he’s feeling sad. I assure him that the baby is fine and we sit down on the couch and he gives my tummy lots of love. I am so lucky to have two tender-hearted children. They have their moments, but they really are just amazingly sweet most of the time. How did I ever get so lucky?

Other than homeschool planning and daily life, we don’t have much going on. I suppose it’s time to end this update and get back to work!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recipe: Orange Marmalade Muffins

I found this gem of a recipe via Pinterest. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try it and I am so glad that I did! It's been added to our family recipe book. It's very simple to make and I didn't need to make any changes. I added the recipe here, however, because there are so many times that I save a recipe link only to find a year later that it doesn't work and I can never find it again. I will still include the link to my source whenever possible, but the recipe is also here for personal use. Full credit definitely goes to CakeDuchess. (Actual recipe link is included in the recipe below.)

Orange Marmalade Muffins
Recipe Source: CakeDuchess, who veganized it from The Ultimate Muffin Book

Makes 16 muffins.

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup almond milk (I used original, unsweetened)
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
½ cup applesauce (unsweetened)
½ cup canola oil
¾ sugar
½ cup orange marmalade
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. orange juice

Streusel Topping
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. cold vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line the muffin tins with paper muffin cups.

Add the vinegar to the almond milk and set aside to curdle (you’re making buttermilk).

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, applesauce, canola oil, sugar, marmalade, lemon zest, vanilla, and orange juice.

Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined. Do not over mix.

In a small bowl, mix together the streusel topping and set aside.

Fill the prepared tins three-quarters full (I used a ¼ measuring cup and this worked perfectly to make 16 muffins). Sprinkle the streusel topping on top of each muffin.

Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one muffin comes out with a crumb or two attached.

Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

The kids loved them and especially loved having "cupcakes" for breakfast. They're so typical of children and ate the yummy streusel topping first, then ate the rest of the muffin. They knew they had to eat the entire muffin to get another one. Unfortunately, they got cut off after 2 muffins. The rest are going in the freezer for future breakfasts! I'll update once I find out if they freeze well.

**Update: They freeze wonderfully!!!! I take them out of the freezer the night before and put them in the refrigerator to thaw. Then in the morning I microwave them for about 15-30 seconds and they are as if they've just come out of the oven.**

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Six Months Later

Something amazing happened yesterday and I didn't even realize it.
Yesterday, April 7th, marked 6 months since the Charmer's open heart surgery.

He is amazing. He has healed so well and that's why I didn't think of it.
I love his scar. It has faded a lot over the past 6 months, but I still love it. It reminds me of what he's been through.
It reminds me how strong he is. It reminds me of how incredible modern medicine is. It reminds me of how amazing the power of prayer can be. It reminds me how fragile life is, and how we should treasure every moment. It reminds me of how much I love being a mother.
I love how he points to his "boo-boo". I love how he giggles when I kiss it.
I could never change this experience because of how much I have learned from it.
I love my little heart warrior.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Feeling Renewed

One of my favorite things about General Conference is waking up the next morning feeling spiritually renewed and energized. It gave me a lot of things to think about and the motivation to improve in the areas I'm lacking.

It was so much fun preparing for and watching conference with the kids. Sugar Plum is finally getting into it and has already been asking me this morning when we will get to watch General Conference again. I had to tell the poor thing that it won’t be until after her birthday when General Conference will come on again.

Saturday’s first session of conference began at 12, and so we did a picnic lunch. It was just the kids and I since daddy had to work. I honestly didn’t know how much of conference I’d be able to watch but the kids were so well-behaved that I was able to hear every talk! Sugar Plum's favorite part of conference was the music. She later informed me that when she grows up, she’s going to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Then she changed her mind and said she wants to be the conductor instead. It’s good to have goals, I suppose.
Our "picnic" lunch.
The kids enjoying the music of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Can't expect a 4-year-old to pay attention the entire time!
She's quietly playing with little brother's dinosaurs.

I got some good snuggles in with both of my kiddos. Those are always nice. Here’s the little guy snuggling with me and his baby brother.

Since the picnic idea went so well for lunch, I decided to do it again for dinner. We watched the second session (this time with daddy) on an almost 2 hour delay so that we could eat our dinner and watch at the same time.

When the second session ended, it was time to put the kids to bed. Then Hubby watched the priesthood session while I did some family history work on the computer. I was able to hear it and I especially loved President Uchtdorf’s talk. I think next time I’ll have to just watch the Priesthood session with Hubby, as some of my favorite talks came from that session.

We did the same thing on Sunday and it was just as enjoyable as it was on Saturday. The only different was that Hubby was home all day (and it was the first day in months that he did not have to leave the house for anything… he stayed in his pajamas all day!).

Friday, April 4, 2014

Recipe: Springtime Risotto

Peas and carrots, carrots and peas; creamy risotto, please, please, please!

(Can you tell we've been watching way too much Sesame Street this past winter?)

I have been seeing a lot of recipes lately for risotto of all kinds. Most of them call for a lot of cream, butter, and cheese. The vegan one's, while they do look delicious, call for a lot of vegetables that my young children wouldn't appreciate and for an ingredient that I don't ever use: dry white wine. I don't drink alcohol of any kind and I don't cook with it either. So finding a good recipe was getting very difficult. Finally, I decided to wing it.

It turned out AMAZING! I chose peas and carrots because those are my daughter's two favorite vegetables. As a mom, most of my culinary experiments are geared towards the taste buds of my little one's. If they won't eat it I am stuck with a huge pot of food for myself. Even if it turned out delicious for me, eating the same thing for 5 days can get a little boring.

My daughter loved this risotto so much that she paused for a moment during dinner just to thanks me and tell me how much she loves it. That's when I know I've done good!

Springtime Risotto
Makes 4 servings 

1 medium onion
½ cup carrots, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup Arborio rice (risotto)
3 cups vegetable broth
½ Tbsp. dried parsley
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup nutritional yeast
½ cup frozen peas
Salt and pepper 

In a medium saucepan, combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, and carrots and sauté over medium heat until they are tender. 

Add the rice and cook until it starts to toast.  

Add 1 cup of the vegetable broth, stirring frequently so that nothing sticks to the bottom. Once this first cup is absorbed (about 5 minutes), add another cup of broth. Once this is absorbed (about 8 minutes), add the third cup of broth along with the dried parsley. 

Cook until the rice is tender and creamy and the broth is mostly gone. 

Add the nutritional yeast and almond milk. Once combined, add the frozen peas and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

Welcome, Warm Weather!

Spring is here and the sun is shining!
It has been a long winter for us here in eastern North Carolina. Mild compared to other places in the U.S., but we're not used to that sort of thing down here. I lost count of how many inches of snow we've received. But we are so thrilled for it to be warm enough to enjoy playing outside.
The kids live for the outdoors. They both enjoy it in their own way.
Bridget wants everyone to look at her and what she's doing, over and over and over again. She's a bit needy, but she's cute.

George on the other hand is very independent. He plays with a pinecone or a stick for a few minutes, then moves onto something else in the yard, like the garden. I think he's going to be our little gardener this year. We'll need to get that started soon.

On this particular day, I realized something about George. The kids had been outside playing for well over an hour, but he hadn't yet broken a sweat. The temperature was 86 degrees, so it was plenty warm, but he was still dry. His hair was dry, skin was dry, and his cheeks were just a little bit pink. This is significant for us because of all that he had been through last year. He used to sweat a lot because his heart was enlarged and not working properly. This year is different. It's great. We are so fortunate to have two healthy children.

This entire week has been beautiful. We might be in for a rainy weekend but the temperatures don't seem to be getting lower than the 60s. We've waited a long time for this. We hope everyone else is enjoying this lovely weather, too!
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