~ thanks to cousin jen for the lemons, fresh from her tree ~
* tip for juicers: cranberries are not easy to juice because they fly out as soon as they hit the juicing blade. load the entry with kale, then add a few handfuls of cranberries. the kale keeps them from popping out.
The post I wrote with the recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins has been my most popular and most commented on post. Thank you! To everyone who searched for this recipe, who made it, who came back and commented on the post - you really made my day. Thanks for your thoughtfulness!
This post has also been shared without giving me credit or linking back to my original post. Please don't do that. I really did create this recipe. I modified a recipe for pumpkin bread, made several batches to get the spice mixture right, and then tried several versions to get the cream cheese flavor right. So if you share - and I'd love it to be shared - mention me and put a link back here. Thanks!
I've made these dozens and dozens of times since I came up with the recipe in 2005. Over the years, my kids have come to like them with and without the cream cheese. Also, they like the cream cheese plain - no flavoring, no added sugar. I just use a sharp knife to cut the cream cheese into small rectangular prisms, and then push them to the bottom of the middle of the muffins. I always replace some of the oil with applesauce, and sometimes I replace some of the eggs with ground flaxseed and water. If I have walnuts, I add them on top. Anywhere I bring these, everyone likes them and I always get asked for the recipe. Also, they freeze well.
First day of summer! I am super happy to be out of school for the summer (although I still have a few comments to enter for my student's report cards . . . ). I started my day off by getting up early and making blueberry muffins for the kiddos, who have four more days of school. Having our schools on different schedules has been a challenge, and while August was tricky with me working and them not in school yet, June is a.w.e.s.o.m.e. I can get the house in order in peace while they finish up school, and I can attend all their last-day-of-school festivities.
Of course, summer is for lots and lots of reading. I'm working my way through the Thursday Next books again (just finished the third one last night), and I am picking up so many more of the overlapping inside jokes this time around. I have a stack of books to make my way through, and I'll be visiting the library more than a few times.
And the knitting. Yes, I still do that too, just not as often as I would like. I made a darling baby sweater and matching hat for an arrival this summer. LOVE knitting for babies! Everything is so DARLING! I have a whole mess of things that I want to knit, and I can't wait for a few uninterrupted hours to sort through all my yarn and needles and line up some new projects.
The family plans on spending lots and lots of time in our lovely pool, which was just cleaned and looks brand-new. I really think June is one of the best months for swimming, especially in the evenings. The air cools down to just lower than the temperature of the water, and it is such a luxury to swim after dinner. (Somewhere, someone is worried that we violate the "don't swim until thirty minutes after you eat" rule. We do. We're fine.)
So that's the summer plans. Who has time for cleaning or getting ready for back-to-school? Not me!!!
With all the recipe websites, food blogs, and pinterest, I'm at a crossroads with my cookbooks - keep or toss? There are a few standards that I will always keep - the Betty Crocker classic that I got as a wedding gift, the Barefoot Contessa cookbook that inspires me, and one or two more. The rest? They are dusty. I think it's time. What do you think?
It's been awhile since I posted here. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been my main outlet for the past few months. However, the New Year has brought a new challenge for me: my husband wanted to do the Virgin Diet. I'm pretty skeptical about most diets - I'm not even a faithful vegetarian! - but after hearing him talk about this, I became interested. It's a diet to help you figure out what foods make you feel good and healthy, and what foods you may have an intolerance to and should eliminate from your diet. I decided to give it a try, and shortly after the New Year, we begain the 21-day elimination of these 7 intolerance foods:
sugar and artificial sweeteners.
That's a pretty big list! Soy, corn, and peanuts weren't so hard to do without, but gluten? dairy? EGGS? Those were a challenge for me! And that last sneaky category, sugar AND artificial sweeteners. Well, that eliminates almost everything to drink - no soda of any kind, no juice (too much sugar), no creamer for my coffee. I started drinking green tea more, and tried almond milk in my coffee. (By the way, no good.) I tried hot tea for breakfast - with almond milk and no sugar - and that didn't do it for me. By the end of week one, I caved in and said I was adding back my non-dairy creamer to start my morning with coffee! I couldn't deal with the alternatives!
The rest of it, though, we did without. We ate lots of fruit and vegetables. We tried lentil chips with hummus (which we like very much). We tried kale chips (no good) and black bean chips with guacamole (not bad). We ate chicken and salad and homemade soups (the best was this one) and sometimes lean beef (not me, but it's allowed on the diet) and more fruit and more veggies and lots of water. And by the end of the 21 days, I did not crave sweets like I used to! But I really missed dairy, so we deicded to add in dairy and see what happens. The diet has you add back one category, and notice how you feel after you eat it. I am sorry to report that cheese and eggs are not good for me. I feel bloated and bleh after eating them. However, gluten is good (oh, thank God for bread!) and small amounts of sugar don't seem to make much difference (except being unhealthy, but that's another issue). Corn - I learned that my body does not digest corn at all. (yuck - sorry.) So cheese and eggs and corn are off the list. After being soda-free for over a month, I am actually happy about that. I think the soda and artificial sweeteners are on the No List for me as well.
Although I really was skeptical about this diet, it was worth a try. It's main goal is not to lose weight (although all my clothes are looser now) or count calories or fat, but to find what foods are really good for YOUR body. Everyone is different, and everyone should learn what foods to avoid to feel your best, sleep your best, and LIVE your BEST.
When the girls were small, I heard Poppy tell one of her friends, "I don't see how you could ever have a favorite when there are just two: one will always and forever be your first, the miracle baby, the one who paves the way, strikes out for adventure - the intrepid one, the one who teaches you how to do what nature intended all along - and the other, oh the other will always be your baby, your darling, the one you surprised yourself by loving just as desperately much as you loved the first."
~ from The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass
Well, the kids and Stuart won. One morning in July, we were talking about the possibility of maybe looking for a rescue dog to adopt, and about three hours later, we brought home our new dog. He's a darling rescue dog, about a year old, and he's a Lhasa/Shihtzu mix. We've named him Snickers, because his coloring is exactly the color of a snickerdoodle cookie.
In the past few months, he has quickly become one of the family. We learned that he was rescued from a home that neglected him, and we can't imagine what tradegdy would befall a family that would train a cute puppy like this guy and then neglect him. He's so very needy - he wants to be with us all the time and to be petted frequently. Which of course we have been trained to do! He loves to sleep at the foot of someone's bed, and he checks in on us throughout the night. We had some chewing issues, but I think the worst is over.
Like Stuart has said several times, we had specific criteria for any new dog, and Snickers fit all of them. It's like he was meant to be our new dog. Having him has helped us through the last stages of grieving for our old Simba, who we still miss, but not as sharply or painfully. All of us at one point or another have yelled "Simba!" to Snickers, only to be painfully smacked with reality once again. But those times are becoming fewer, and thankfully more nostalgic than painful. I do believe that owning pets helps children deal with grief in good and healthy ways, and that the joy that we see on their faces and on the dog's face when we come home at the end of the day are completely worth it.
(Please remind me that it's worth it in fourteen years when I start the "my old dog just won't die" nonsense. Thanks.)
PS - Yes, we do realize that the new dog looks shockingly like the old dog. We know that. We love that. We won't be sad or upset if you point it out to us. (I wish the nice lady at the dog hotel read my blog, because you can bet that she was kinda creeped out and very nervous about saying anything about the new dog looking like the old dog. The kids and I laughed about that in the car on the way home!)
New thing I learned while making this post: you can access your instagram photos on the internet using several different websites. I used http://www.gramfeed.com/. It worked great!
It's a cooking day today at our house. That means I'm making a double batch of something good for dinner - usually lasagna or these enchiladas. I'm using yams and making one batch with meat (for the carnivoires in the house) and one batch without. It's acutally better as leftovers, and I freeze single portions for lunches. Enjoy!
Black Bean & Yam Enchilada
Recipe by Sheila at musings of a mommy.blogspot.com Adapted from a recipe from Vegetarian Times (December 2011)
olive oil 1 large
onion, diced 2-3
yams (or sweet potatoes), peeled & cubed 1 15oz
can diced tomatoes with green chiles 1 jar
cloves garlic, minced 1 15 oz
can black beans, rinsed 1 cup
frozen corn kernels 1 large
(19 oz) or 2 small (10 oz) cans enchilada sauce (or more!) Small
corn tortillas (30 small ones) Shredded
cheese (I used 4 cups Monterey jack) Sour
cream, hot sauce, avocado, cilantro, and limes for serving
olive oil in large saucepan/pot.Add
onion and sauté 5 minutes.Add yams,
tomatoes, salsa, garlic, and ½ cup water.Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30-40 minutes, until yams
are soft.Mash mixture with potato
masher.Add beans and corn and cook 5-10
sauce on the bottom of a baking pan. (I make two 8” or 9” square casseroles,
adding ground beef to one of them.)Top
with tortillas (overlapping to cover completely), sauce, 1/3 of filling,
cheese, sauce, tortillas, sauce, filling, etc.End with tortillas, then sauce.Cover.
minutes at 350 F.Remove cover, sprinkle
with cheese, and bake 5 minutes more to melt.Let rest 10 minutes or more before serving.Garnish with sour cream, hot sauce, avocado,
cilantro, and lime wedges.
for potlucks and freezes well for leftovers.
Yesterday, the kids and I picked a bowl full of tomatoes, and then peeled and crushed them to make soup. It was fun showing them how to put the tomoatoes into boiling water for a few minutes, then cooling them in a bowl of ice water, then peeling them. They were fascinated that the peels came off so easily. Then we mashed them and pushed them through a strainer to get out the seeds. Messy work. Kids love making a mess in the kitchen. Then I made the best homemade tomato soup. Guess what the secret is? Sugar. It tasted good, but very acidic, until Stuart suggested that I add a few teaspoons of sugar. It worked!
Today we are off to the mall. Sally wants to shop with a friend, and Sam needs new shoes. I don't normally shop for shoes at the mall, but we have two hours to kill, and I don't want to spend them all at GameStop. We may go to the pet store and look at the puppies. Maybe.
I'm planning on writing up a long post about our fantastic trip to Disney World, but I am still too busy. Busy in summer - loving it.
Our dog died this week. It should not have been a surprise to us, because I have been trying to prepare the family for this dog's death for months now. "He's an old dog - fifteen years!" "That poor dog is deaf and mostly blind." "It might be time to ask the vet if he's suffering." Yes, I said all those things to my husband and the kids over the last few weeks. I was trying to prepare them for what was certain to happen.
I was trying to prepare myself.
Of course, as with most things in life that you think you are ready for, we were not ready at all. When I saw my old dog's lifeless body, I was not prepared for the depth of my grief. I instantly started sobbing. I sat in front of my dog's body and cried over it. I touched his head, his body, his head again. I'm pretty sure I scared the kids. I think I heard one of them say, "Dad, she's touching the dead dog!" But I could not stop myself from crying and sobbing and generally falling apart.
It was awful.
However, I'm not sorry. Simba was a great dog - a part of our family for fifteen years. He was our first baby. We got him when he was a puppy, before we had babies of our own. He was the first pet of both of our kids. We have dozens of Simba stories that make us smile, dozens of pictures of that dog. He deserved to be mourned, and mourned deeply. After I was done falling apart, Stuart called the county and found the address where we had to take the dog's body. (They don't want you to bury your dead pets in your yard, by the way.) It was the quietest car trip our family has ever taken. The people at O C Animal Care were kind and professional; each person expressed condolences before helping us. We drove home in silence.
It's been a sad time at our house. I found a pet brush that I hadn't thrown out, and it made me cry. I found a coupon for dog food in my wallet when I opened it to pay for groceries, and I almost cried. I opened the back screen door, and the sound made me remember how Simba would stick his nose in the screen and open the door and walk around the house. It made me laugh, then cry. Twice I have started to ask the kids if they remembered to feed the dog . . . then stopped myself. I'm sure these moments of sadness will continue over the next few weeks.
There have been hidden blessings. We remembered a few days before he died, we let Simba in the house and he wasn't on his leash. This was rare, because he was starting to lose control of himself, and I kept him in the two rooms without carpeting. He had accidents in the house almost every week in the last few months. Anyway, he walked over to Stuart and licked his leg. Now, Simba loved to lick people, and mostly Stuart. Back in the day, Simba would run at full speed through the house, jump on our bed, and jump on Stuart to wake him up. It was our favorite Saturday ritual, having the dog wake up Daddy. But about six months ago, he stopped being able to jump on the bed. He stopped licking us. He didn't even like us to pet him anymore. He was an old dog and just wanted to be left alone. But when he walked over to Stuart and licked him that night, it was his goodbye kiss. He knew it was time. Looking back, I did too, but I didn't want to see it.
The emails, facebook posts, and text messages from our family and friends have been another blessing. Everyone understands how hard it is to lose a pet. That helps. That heals.
As I write this, I'm crying again. And I'm laughing at myself, because I really have no idea why or how we become so attached to our pets. I also have no idea why we still want to have pets, knowing that their loss is certain, and that we will feel so much pain when they are gone. This is one of the mysteries of life - it is wonderful and awful, it is joyful and painful - it is sometimes both at the same time. You can't have one without the other. I've been thinking of the other pets I have lost in my life - of our dog Roxy, our dog Cocoa, my sister's cat Spook, my mom's bird Pico. I don't know if it's good theology to believe that animals go to heaven, but I believe it anyway. Don't tell me I'm wrong, because in this area, I don't care if I'm wrong. I believe that dogs go to heaven. I like to imagine them up there, running around and getting in trouble and waiting for us. I like to imagine my grandma, who was a great dog lover herself, in heaven taking care of my dogs for me until I get there.
Goodbye, Simba. We love you so much, and we miss you so much. I hope Grandma is giving you lots of treats, and I hope there are some of those flowers that you love to sniff up there. We'll see you when we get there.
Tomorrow is the last day of school. I am ready and not ready, at the same time. In many ways this year has gone by fast - the speed of my life has been turned up and everything seems to fly by me. On the other hand, this year has been long and difficult, learning to be a working mom and remembering how to be a teacher again. I'm ready for summer, for some time to sit and think and process the last ten months.
This blog needs to have some changes too. I've thought about closing down here at musings-of-a-mommy, since I have a facebook and a twitter, and now an instagram and a pinterest and a good reads account . . . that's quite a lot of things. I think I'll change things up here at musings this summer to bring everything together. I still like sitting down and writing a long post, even if it is only once a month or every other month. Twitter just doesn't cut it for me.
One more thing on the To-Do-List for the summer!
clean the garage
re-type calculus reveiw worksheets and tests
paint the kids' rooms
teach the kids to cook a meal
take a trip
update the blog
Yep, it's going to be a great summer! I'm ready!
End of summer update: everything on the list got done except clean the garage. Oh well! If I had to pick one thing that could not get done, that would be it! :)
Today is a wonderful Sunday - it's quiet in the house, but raining and windy and generally really nasty outside. I'm baking cookies and muffins, and feeling like a stay-at-home baking mom. I do miss the days where I would be the only one in the house, cleaning and planning dinner and feeling a little bored, a little restless. I love teaching and I'm so thankful for my job, but sometimes I feel like being a good teacher and being a good mother are mutually exclusive. Like last week, when Sally got sick and I needed to call for a sub - two days in a row. I felt guilty for the last minute call, then guilty that I was not putting my family first. A double-serving of guilt, which was all my own fault. The people I work with understand that family needs to come first, and using my sick days certainly doesn't negate my hard work with my students.
I know I'm not alone in doing this - feeling like I need to be everything to everyone and grading myself way too harshly because I don't measure up.
So today, as I bake oatmeal cookies and pumpkin muffins, I'm going to be thankful. I'm thankful that Sally is feeling better. I'm thankful that today is Sunday and we are all home. I'm thankful for my comfy, slightly messy, perfect-for-our-family house. I'm thankful for the pool and it's beautiful blue promise of summertime and slow hot days and long nights laughing with friends. I'm thankful that, in the wide lens of life, a handful of sick days is really no big deal. I'm thankful for my job, and my students. I'm thankful I got the chance to meet them, to teach them math and science and maybe a little bit about life. I'm thankful for my husband, for my daughter, for my son. I'm even feeling thankful for my old arthritic dog.
Here's the lesson: the next time you are being too hard on yourself, stop and start listing all the things you are thankful for in your life. Start seeing the glass half full. Life is hard and beautiful for everyone. Hard and beautiful at the same time. For every one. Sure, some people seem like their life is all beautiful, and some people seem like their life is all hard. But it's all hard and all beautiful for everyone every day. The hard parts build your character so that you can appreciate the beautiful parts even more.
We are in the middle of break, in the middle of holidays. Christmas is over, and the gifts and decorations are still floating around the house. New Year's Eve approaches. We've baked lots of cookies, I've made the kids favorite foods, we've shopped and played and slept in. In short, we've made the most of the break and are probably going to be ready to return to the routines of school and work.
I did not send out Christmas cards this year, a late decision made to save my enjoyment of family and holiday. Thank you to all who sent us cards - we love getting them and reading them.
We had a really great Christmas, spending time with my parents and enjoying being together. The kids got a trampoline from Santa, and we spent the better part of Christmas afternoon putting the thing together. They also got some video games and other electronics, providing hours (days? weeks? months?) of entertainment. I am thrilled with my iphone - a gift from my husband. It is amazing the way technology has changed in the last decade.
I'm off. I'm almost finished with a knitted blanket and with reading a book - two things that I have less time for now that I'm working full-time, but I made a point to make time for them this week.
It's been a great day so far, and I'm so thankful for this break from school. Being at home all day with my kids feels like such a luxury! We did some Christmas shopping (I think we are thankfully DONE) and I have dinner in the crockpot so the whole house smells yummy. (Mexican Chicken Soup - a new recipe - I'll let you know how it turns out.) I've been wrapping presents and watching movies and then (brace yourselves) cleaning. I know. The mind reels. But ignoring housework for three months has consequences.
Our dog is very old. In January, he will be 15 years old. That's really old in dog years. I'm going to look up how old that is . . . . (the internet is a wealth of information, but not all of it is great.) A 15-year old dog is equivalent to 75-105 in human years. Our dog is acting like a 99-year old dog lately. He can't hear very well. I don't think he can see as well as he used to. He has had trouble going up and down our one step in the house, and he has had some accidents in the house in the last month. He's eating ok, but he's losing weight. He sleeps almost all day. Poor old dog.
I've been thinking about him a lot lately, as I've had to deal with his accidents (translate: clean up his accidents, or make the kids clean up his mess and suffer the emotional consequences (which is worth it for the lesson they are learning, but painful nonetheless)). I think that my response toward my old dog, who has been a faithful family pet for 14-almost-15 years, is very revealing about who I really am. I am not a nice person. I get so mad at this poor old dog, who can't help it that he's losing control of himself. I even found myself taking it personally, especially last Sunday when we let him stay in the house while we went to church. We tied him up in the room next to the kitchen - it has a vinyl-type floor that is easy to clean. He had water and a nice soft bed to sleep in, and he should have been grateful to be inside because it was raining that day. It was a cold, windy rain too. When we got home, he had peed and pooped on the floor, and turned over the kitchen trash and rummaged through it. It took Stuart and Sam and me a while to get everything cleaned up, and we were all grumpy about it the entire time. Who wants to come home from church and clean up a mess like that? But see, the real question is: why were we so angry at our old dog? He was just doing exactly what old dogs do.
So, I've been thinking about this (more than I knew) and I have decided to let the dog teach me to be a better person. I want my response to my old, half-deaf, partially blind, incontinent dog to reveal that I am a kind and gracious person (stop laughing!). I want to not get mad at the dog, but to be thankful that we have had him for so long, and to be thankful that he has had a good long life as our family pet. I'm going to give him water in our blue bowls, because he loves having water inside the house in the blue bowls, even though half the time he spills it. I'm going to let him sleep in the hall, the way he always has slept, even if that means the first thing I do in the morning is clean up dog pee. And I'm going to hope that one day when I wake up, I will find out that our dear old dog has died in his sleep, because I don't want to have to decide that his health has gotten to the point that he needs to be put down. I don't want to make that decision. (This reveals that I'm a coward, I know. I'm ok with that.)