Friday, August 31, 2012

Guest post: Words from Mom, part 3

Mollie's childhood was pretty normal. We have always lived in the country so until she and Josh got older and were able to drive, they were stuck out on the farm with each other, which isn't so bad. We are all very close and did things as a family most of the time.  As parents we all know how hard it is to raise children.  The crying, the fights and headaches. As a pre-teen Mollie had a few time where her mouth got her into trouble.  Well one day I had all I was going to take from her, and when she realized it, she tried to run to her room. I said "tried" because she didn't quite make it.  I tackled her on the steps and sqwirted Dawn dishsoap into her mouth. To this day feel guilty about that, but she found out that I was not making idol threats.  
 
But the proud moments you have as a parent help you forget all the times you threatened to beat their asses.  Jumping forward to 2003, this was a year full of some of the happiest moments of our lives and the saddest.  Watching Mollie get ready to start a new chapter in her life was traumatizing for me.  On one hand it was good to see her so excited about her future, but on the other hand I was terrified that I was losing her.  So of course, the happiest moment that year was Mollie's high school graduation. We were all so proud of her,and of course, we all cried.  Mollie planned to attend AIB in Des Moines so that summer we kept busy by getting her ready for college, and for me it was trying to prepare myself for life without seeing my baby girl every day. 

 

 
The day we moved Mollie to college was one of the hardest things we had to do. We all went, Mollie and Josh driving her car full of her stuff and Dennis and I in our truck hauling the rest of her things.  As we helped her unpack and went shopping to stock her up on groceries, I wanted the day to last forever. I didn't want to leave her.  We stood outside her building, our close little family, huddled together holding each other and crying, not wanting to let go. It was a long quiet drive home that evening. 
 
Mollie had been in college for a couple of weeks when one day she called home say that she wanted to come home, she didn't like being so far away, she wanted to drop out of school and move back home. My first thought was how happy I would be to have my girl back home, our family together again.  Then I realized I could not let her do that, she needed to stay in Des Moines, to stay in school down there.  So even though my heart was breaking I gave her the speech, that this was her chance to start a new chapter in her life, learning from new experiences and grow as a person.  Mollie didn't take long to adjust to life in Des Moines and it didn't take long for me to realize that she would never move back home, she belongs there. Mollie had become a wonderful, confident, and independent woman.  I don't think I had anything to do with it.....it's just who she was meant to be.

I remember that morning, pulling away from my house to move to Des Moines. I remember it as one of the hardest days of my life. I was excited to start college and meet new people, but leaving home was a hard day for me. And Mom is wrong..she did have a lot to do with who I am!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Talking food with your kids- School Lunches

As a parent, it is extremely important to talk to your kids about food and teach them healthy choices early in life so they can make their own healthy choices as they grow. It's also important to be involved and up to speed about what they are eating when they aren't with you, e.g., school lunchtime.
   (Source)

School lunches are bulking up nutritionally as of lately. Because of recent changes in the USDA's dietary standards for school lunches, school districts are having to change their menu choices. Our district implemented more whole grains and more fruit and vegetable choices everyday. Such a great step in the right direction.  You can read in more detail about the changes and specifications here. But just because the school serves it, doesn't mean the child will eat it. That's why it's important to be active and knowledgeable about what they ate while at school.

One way to ensure they will get a good lunch is to go over lunch menu with them. Decide if maybe they would like to bring their own lunch that day. If they go to school and it's lasagna day and your child won't touch lasagna, guess what? They're gonna go hungry for the afternoon. They won't listen and learn as well in their classes and your $2.60 school lunch consisted of a carton of milk and the applesauce they had a couple bites of.  I don't know about you but that's not how I want to spend my money. :)

Every evening I read the menu to Kaydin and every morning I read it again in case she's changed her mind about what she'd like to eat. She also tells me what she did and didn't eat for the day. Everyday after school I ask her what she finished and what she tried. We are implementing a sticker system where she gets a sticker when she tries and finishes her vegetables. The kid will eat most any fruit you put in front of her- and a lot of vegetables. But there is a list of some veggies she doesn't like.  We're working on changing that. Today she tried and finished her corn and lima beans! Even though she thinks she doesn't like a certain food, we still encourage her to try them occasionally. Just because a food wasn't loved at three years old doesn't mean their tastes didn't change and they won't like it at six years old.  Reintroduce foods periodically and they may surprise you and actually like it!

It's also important not to force them. Yesterday Kaydin decided it was a cold lunch day. I offered her broccoli along with her other choices so she could try to earn a sticker. She declined. I was ok with that, though, because of the other healthy choices I stocked her lunch bag with. She just lost out on her chance for her sticker for the day. If you push too hard, it may turn the child off from being adventurous and trying new things on their own. Simple steps taken by you as the parent can help foster your child into healthy habits.

Stay tuned for some lunchbox ideas!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kitchen Tip- Chop and freeze onions

Did you know you can freeze onions? Neither did I until recently!  I usually buy my onions from Aldi where I can get three pound bags for $.99. A great buy! The only problem is that I usually don't use them up fast enough before they start to get soggy and soft.
 


I found my solution! Just chop the onions into small chunks (any size is fine), place in plastic freezer bags and stash in the freezer.  My amount of grocery waste just decreased because of this simple kitchen tip!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

S'mores Turnovers with Cookie Butter

Last Friday evening I whipped up a quick treat after a long week. I saw the idea of these on Pinterest a long time ago and never got around to making them at home. This would be the day!
Except when gathering ingredients, I realized I was out of chocolate chips! During my recent baking session to clean out the cupboards making Kitchen Sink Cookie Bars, I had used up all the chocolate chips! Not to worry, though, I had more baking supplies on hand. This time in the form of chocolate almond bark. A little chop job with my knife and I had myself some chocolate chips! See, that grocery hoarding comes in handy! ;)
To make these you just simply roll out the dough (you can use crescent rolls, too) and cut into rectangles. Then load up the individual dough with whatever you want to fill them with.
I went with a variety since Kaydin doesn't like marshmallows and Tim is obsessed with peanut butter. I also just had to add in some Cookie Butter to a few of them! Instead of eating it from a spoon like I usually do, I actually used it in some sort of a correct way ;)
Cinch the edges with a fork and they're ready for the oven!
I baked these at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes. Perfect treat for a Friday night!

S'mores Turnover with Cookie Butter
Idea from Pinterest

Ingredients
1 roll dough sheets or crescent rolls
chocolate chips
peanut butter chips
few tablespoons cookie butter
mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out your dough and cut in rectangles. Place your fillings in the middle of the individual dough pieces. Fold the dough over to create a triangle and use a fork to seal the edges. Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Guest post: Words from Mom, part 2

Here's another installment from my Mom....enjoy :)

Mollie was always...well, trusting. No, that's not it...lets just say a gullible child. I once told her that she was named after her Uncle John's dog which was named Molly. I know it was mean of me, but the look on her face was priceless! She was shocked and seemed traumatized, but I couldn't let up stating that it had been Uncle John's favorite dog and he was heartbroken when she had died so in Molly the dog's honor, we named our first born after her. The real truth is that Mollie was named by my father. We were very close, best dad ever! So we were honored to let him choose our baby girl's name.
Neither of these dogs pictured are Lucky, but those were the steps I always played on ;)


Mollie was a very shy child most of the time, always sticking close to Mommy and Daddy.  There were a few times when her curiosity got her into trouble, though. On this particular day Dennis was at work.  Mollie was two at the time. She was sitting on the steps going outside from our downstairs bedroom while I was folding clothes. One minute she was sitting there with her best friend at the time, Lucky, our dog, and then the next minute the phone rang (no cell phones back then). I went to answer the phone, it was Joan, Dennis's sister. Spoke to her for a minute and told her I had to go.  When I went back to check on Mollie and start folding clothes again, the little sneak was gone. Mind you she had never done this before.  I looked everywhere I could think of then called Joan back. She came out and we continued to look...well to make a long story short, we had neighbors, the whole Lyon clan, five (yes 5!!) sheriff units, and the Palmer rescue unit at our farm looking for her. The sheriff had put in an order for a man and his bloodhounds to come help in the search.  It was a very windy August day and even though we were calling her name and hoping to hear her respond, we had no luck. Oh, did I mention that I was 8 months pregnant with Josh! 
Then finally there she was in the arms of a sheriff's deputy. He had tried the camper door again, several people had already tried to open it, myself as well. We had always kept the camper locked, I still have no idea how she got in there. That was one of the scariest days of my life.  I was so grateful to have my baby back and for all the help. Glad that we had family that would drop everything to help one another.  In the end everything turned out great....except one little thing....while she was locked in the camper, Mollie pooped in her training  pants!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

 
Salads are one of my favorite meals! I eat them year round. Funny thing though, I had never made my own salad dressing until recently. I have always used the store-bought, even knowing it wasn't as tasty or good for you.  After making this apple cider vinaigrette, I'm thinking I need to branch out and keep trying other homemade types.
 
Out of nowhere I had a hankering for the salad pictured below paired with an apple cider dressing. I had never had this particular dressing but for some reason I wanted it and couldn't stop thinking about it! A quick google search led me to a recipe from Pioneer Woman.
  

All pantry and fridge staples! Easy enough!

 

Apple Cider VinaigretteAdapted from Pioneerwoman.com
  • 2 Tablespoons (heaping) Spicy Brown Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup (more To Taste)
  • 2 teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar (more To Taste)
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste

  • Add all ingredients to container and shake well.

    My favorite way to dress up salads are to add lots of toppings. Mine usually end up with more toppings than greens, though! Once when I was little, on a Saturday morning, I decided I would make a salad- but without the lettuce. The toppings were my favorite part back then, too. Except then I loved a lot of dressing. These days, I can only tolerate a very small amount. This particular morning I made up a salad in a little bowl using far too much ranch and western dressing, many handfuls of sunflower seeds, and some carrots, I think. When Mom found me with my salad, I had to sit at the table until it was finished. And let me tell ya, it didn't turn out to be as good as I imagined. I think that may have been my transition into backing off on the dressing ;)

     
    Apple, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
    • few handfuls of spring greens
    • 1/2 pink lady apple, cut up in chunks (any flavor apple is fine)
    • handful of red grapes
    • sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles
    • handful of dried cranberries
    • handful of dried cherries
    • handful walnuts or pecans
    • handful sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
    • drizzle of apple cider vinaigrette
    •  

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    A New Start

    
    Well, she made it through the first day of kindergarten! And so did I, neither of us cried!

    We have been searching high and low for anything and everything dolphin. We haven't found much and Kaydin wanted a dolphin notebook for school and drawing and writing. We decided to make one at home using some animal stickers we found!

    She made one for ocean aminals and one for animals that live at a zoo.

    Tuesday morning, we woke up bright and early to get ready for the big day! She knew exactly what outfit she wanted to wear and her backpack has been packed and ready to go for a few weeks now!

    She did admit she was a little nervous and was sad to leave Apple Tree preschool and all of her friends, but she was excited, too!

    Because of some unfinished construction at her school, the district decided to relocate the students to a church in the area for the interim. She is still a little confused about the whole situation, but the first day went great! She even learned that a few of her preschool friends are in her kindergarten class!
     


    We were the first to arrive in the classroom so she got seated and ready to learn. She completed her first assignment with no problems ;) When it came time for me to venture to my office, she gave me two hugs and a kiss and stayed in her seat like a big girl waiting for the rest of her new friends to arrive.
    She made it! Her first day of kindergarten is behind us and now the fun and business really starts! Is time ever going to slow down?!?! 
    

    Saturday, August 18, 2012

    About Me- A to Z Style

    Happy Weekend everyone!

    A- Apples- I could eat an apple everyday of the year. And now that fall is coming I am so excited to make homemade applesauce again!

    B- Brother- I have one brother that's younger than me. He's gonna be 25 soon! We are both so grown it's crazy! I still mother him and think in my own mind that he's just my little brother that still needs protecting. I'm sure he hates it, but he's still just a little guy to me that needs my guidance. lol

    C- city- Des Moines, Iowa. I love my city. I moved here 9 (?!?!?!?) years ago for college and never left. I love that it's got a city feel but isn't too big, it's a great place to raise a family, and there's actually alot to do in this little city. And we're moving up in the world! We just opened a Whole Foods Market and I recently saw a sign on a building being renovated that Dunkin Donuts is opening soon. I won't be visiting DD cuz I rarely eat donuts and I don't drink coffee, but I think it's pretty cool DSM is getting new venues.

    D- the Dramas. This is Tim's nickname for Kaydin and I. Us? Drama? I don't think so!

    E- Efficiency- I have a weird OCD obsession with making sure things are done efficiently. If I have errands to run, I make sure to make my stops in the best possible order so not to waste any time! Even when picking up the house, I try to do them in a certain order so I don't waste time. At work I fill my water container on my way to the bathroom. Ask Tim, I obsess over making sure everything we do is efficient. I'm sure he gets sick of it, but time is precious- I don't want to waste any of it :)

    F- Fall. My favorite season of all! The cool crisp air, wearing jeans and sweatshirts, back to school season, apples, pumpkins, college football, changing leaves, I LOVE fall! I wish it lasted longer than just a short few months!

    G- Grocery shopping. Most people loathe this household task but I love it!! I love strolling the aisles and seeing all that's there. I always take a list and am sometimes in and out, but I actually really enjoy frequenting grocery stores.

    H-  Homemade- I don't make everything homemade but when I can and am feeling ambitious I do. It's by far the healthier option. When you know everything that's going into your food you won't be eating extra additives and sugars that aren't necessary.

    I- Ice cream- I love ice cream! But I'm not one to buy a carton and keep it in the freezer. I buy maybe two or three (at the most) containers of ice cream per year to stash in the freezer. I do love me some soft serve, though! But again I don't get it too much! I'll forever love the vanilla soft serve at the Mallard, IA Sinclair gas station. We used to get their ice cream when I was little on the way to the Algona racetrack. Now I satisfy my ice cream cravings at the little ice cream shop in Pocahontas, The Purple Cow. Well, actually I think it's called The Udder Cream, or Udder Cow or something like that. But when I was little there was a purple cow statue up in the air outside the store, so it just stuck!

    J- Juicing- My juicer is probably my most loved kitchen appliance. The one I use is the Omega Vert 350. There are so many nutritional benefits to juicing and it tastes SO much better than store bought juice from a shelf. If you haven't had fresh juice, especially apple, find a way to try some stat!

    K- Kaydin.  My beautiful baby girl! I can't believe time has flown by so fast and she is already headed to kindergarten this year. Everyday she amazes me with how smart she is and continues to always make me laugh with her funny statements.

    L- Laughing- Whenever I'm with my girlfriends you can guarantee we will be laughing. I love having time to reminisce and just enjoy hanging out. A night of laughing with friends is good for the soul, everyone needs it! And when I'm not with my friends, I'm still laughing. Kaydin and Tim are free entertainment. They're always doing or saying something that makes me laugh.

    M- Mason jars- These little jars just make me so happy. I actually don't use or incorporate them too much at home as of right now but I just love them! They fit perfectly with my little country chic style that I love so much.

    N- Nutrition- One of my passions in life and something I care deeply about. Now, I could go on for hours on this subject--I won't-- but good nutrition is critical to your health. You can workout everyday but if you don't eat well you are not getting anywhere. There's always food controversy and the latest nutrition trends swirling through the news, but if you focus on eating whole foods, it's really not that hard. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lowfat dairy, and lean proteins is all you need to fuel your body. Now I'm not a perfectionist (i have a major sweet tooth) but it's all about balance. Now parents- set a good example for your kids and they won't be part of those staggering childhood obesity statistics. Don't put the junk food in your house and they won't eat it. Steam them some broccoli and they will! I could talk food and nutrition all day.

    O- Organization- Now, I'm not the most organized person. But I do love to do it. I love to sort things, rearrange stuff, and take inventory. I don't do it as much as I should, but I love to clean closets, sort through cupboards, etc. The feeling after it's over is so satisfying! So the next time you need to go through that messy closet, invite me over! ;) I think those types of things are so fun!

    P- Panera  Bread- Whenever we're out and about or wanting a quick meal I almost always suggest Panera Bread. I could eat there a few times a week. And if you make the right choices, it's not too bad health-wise.

    Q- Quiet- This is one thing I am not! I was shy as a little girl, was crazy and loud as a tween, teenager, and college student. I would say I've stabilized pretty well in adulthood, but still would definitely not be classified as quiet!

    R- R&B- My favorite genre of music.  Lyfe Jennings, Maxwell, Keyshia Cole, Mary J. Blige, Jagged Edge, Trey Songz, and on and on and on.... I play my R&B playlist on Spotify at work almost everyday.

    S- socks- I will NOT wear socks with holes in them. They go in the trash. Lucky for Tim, I do the laundry, and when I see a sock of his with a hole in it, into the trash it goes! I also will NOT wear a mismatched sock. Just. Can't. Bring. Myself. To. Do. It!

    T- Tim- my boyfriend. So lucky to have found him! He treats my daughter as his own and has always been there for me. My rock.



    U- Underwear- Hate wearing them! ...We'll just leave it at that! TMI?!? :)

    V- Vacations- I LOVE to travel! If I could get paid to travel and pay the bills...how awesome! Dream job right there! I am so excited to see the world and experience all there is to do in other places. I have always loved geography and my first degree in college was business administration- Travel and Tourism. I have an obsession with globes and can't wait to stock my home with them. I love geography so much that one summer I studied my globe and learned new countries and even taught myself all the capitals of the US states. Then I even had my family quiz me on them! What a nerd I was!

    W- Water- My most favorite drink ever. I down a bunch of water everyday. Well, except on weekends. I barely get 16 ounces down on Saturday and Sundays.

    X- X is always a hard one to come up with. An easy cop out brings us to X-ray. I've only had dental X-rays. No other type for this girl. (Fingers crossed)

    Y- Yogurt- I make my own! And frozen yogurt, too! But when I don't make it at home you'll find us at Menchie's for a frozen yogurt break. And whenever Noosa is on sale at the store WE.STOCK.UP! If you haven't tried it yet, go get some now! So good! It's like eating cheesecake, but with a good amount of protein!

    Z- Zzzz's- I am not a morning person, nor am I a night owl. I hate to get up and moving in the morning but I also am never ready to go to bed at night. There's always more I want to do in the day. However, I do LOVE to sleep! But only during the night. I like to take naps, but I can rarely bring myself to do it because it's wasting my daylight!

    Sunday, August 12, 2012

    Coconut Crusted French Toast

    On our vacation to San Diego earlier this year, I had some awesome coconut crusted French toast. Last weekend, it was time to recreate!
    I'm sure everyone knows how to make French toast. The key, though, to the egg wash is to add some vanilla extract and a little sugar. I also used half and half this time to make it extra rich. I usually just use some skim milk, though.

    After dipping your bread in the egg mixture, dredge it in the shredded coconut.
    Fry in your pan until golden brown. Couldn't be easier!

    This turned out really well! I would prefer a thicker, seedy-er bread, but this was still really good!! Tasted just like what we had on vacation. Enjoy!

    Thursday, August 9, 2012

    Kitchen Sink Cookie Bars

    Earlier this week I got a sudden urge to use stuff up from my pantry- in bar form. I always stock up on baking supplies in November and December. I don't even bake that much during the holiday season time, some- but not a lot, but I do like to stock up when it's cheapest! No need to spend more when I don't have to. I also try to buy my staples and seasonal items when they're on sale to keep my grocery budget down.

    The problem is, that usually results with a cupboard full of baking chips that take me well over a year to get through. What better way than to throw all different flavors in one batch of cookie bars?

     I found a simple recipe online and added in a few more ingredients I found hanging out in my cupboard, coconut and multiple flavored baking chips. And note to self- always add rice crispies cereal to a batch of cookie bars, or cookies for that matter. Having the extra little crunch was a nice added touch!

    Also, if you have a weird, marshmallow-hating child like I do, just tell them that the marshmallows are only on one side of the pan (obviously, the one opposite from where you cut them a piece) because they really won't know the difference anyway! ;)

    Kitchen Sink Cookie Bars

    Ingredients
    • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
    • 1 3/4 cups  rice crispies cereal 
    • 1 cup  mini marshmallows
    • handful  milk chocolate chips
    • handful white chocolate chips
    • handful butterscotch chips
    • handful peanut butter chips
    • 2 handfuls shopped walnuts or pecans
    • 3/4 cup shredded coconut (I used half sweetened coconut, half unsweetened coconut)
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened (could also substitute coconut oil for half the butter)
    • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
    Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside
    3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy
    4. On medium speed, mix in eggs and vanilla
    5. Stir in flour mixture until well-combined
    6. Stir in cereal/marshmallow/baking chips/coconut until well combined
    7. Spray 13x9 pan with cooking spray and press cookie dough into pan
    8. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown

    Wednesday, August 8, 2012

    Homemade Vanilla Extract


    I've talked many times about my love for my vanilla beans.  I took it even a step further and finally made my own vanilla extract!
    I've been wanting to make it for awhile now and finally made it happen! It is so cheap and easy! All it takes is some vanilla beans and a bottle of vodka. I used 10 beans for the size of bottle I used. 
    Just slice the vanilla bean open lengthwise and drop em into the bottle. Put it into a dark place and let it sit! That's it!
    You should let it sit for a minimum of three weeks (shaking the bottle once a week) and longer for even better flavor. Mine sat for about two months and it's great! Up to siz months has also been recommened.  So much cheaper than buying the small bottles of pure extract in stores. Now I have a supply that will last me a longgg time.