25.11.16

Advent Countdown



Advent us upon us! It's just around the turn. Having a visual count down to Christmas helps me and the family to prioritize. 


Click to download the printable version
A blessed journey to Christmas, friends!




30.10.16

Psalm 145 Printable


This printable coincides with today's readings for

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Please enjoy your very own download to print of Psalm 145:13.

29.10.16

Apple Cranberry Spice Bake


All I can say about this is....get on your stretchy-waisted pants.  
Really, though, you are going to want to eat this whole pan of deliciousness. 
This was a happy accident that resulted from wanting to use up some apples and cranberries I had on hand. They were both starting to go and I needed to save them with something delicious. 

I had previously made a crumble of sorts with both apples and cranberries, and it was really yummy too. But I wanted to try something a little bit different. We are huge fans of Pull-Aparts. Or as everyone else calls them, Monkey Bread. I had heard of someone adding apple pie filling to them, but I was curious to see how it would turn out with the addition of the cranberries. We were in a for a sweet surprise.


I did make use of the microwave for this recipe. As I do with my apple pie filling, I pre-cooked my filling so that the baking time was shorter. 10 minutes in the microwaves and it was smooth sailing putting everything together after that. When you do this it can cut down on your baking time by a pretty big portion of time. This is great for the holidays when you have several different things to bake.



Here is the recipe, and please take a look at the video for look at how it all comes together!

Ingredients
  • 3 Large Granny Smith Apples, Peeled and Chopped in 1/2 inch 
  • 1 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries, picked over
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinammon
  • 1 1/2 tblsp corn starch
  • 4 cans of Pillsbury Biscuits, the small rolls
  • Butter, to butter your pan
  •  
  • 1 cup powder sugar
  • 2 tsp milk
13x 9 inch baking dish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. 
In a large microwavable bowel put your apples, cranberries, spices and cornstarch. Mix to coat your fruit. Microwave for 5 minutes. Stir. Repeat, for another 5 minutes. While your fruit cooks, butter you pan and set it aside. Open one can at a time of the biscuits, and cut them into small bite sized pieces. I like to use kitchen scissors. Spread the pieces evenly in the pan repeating with each can of biscuits. When your fruit it done cooking, it should be soft and have a slightly thickened juice. Carefully spread it over the top of the biscuits in your pan. Bake for about 35- 45 minutes, until the biscuits are cooked through. Set aside.

Mix your powdered sugar and milk to make a drizzle for the top. Add more sugar or milk to get the consistency that you like. Drizzle it over the top.

This is best served warm.


A video posted by Celeste Bowen (@artisticceleste) on



 

This is definitely on my to-make list for Christmas morning!

11.10.16

Switching as a Family

 My youngest has been Gluten and Dairy free since she was only a couple of months old. It's been a journey for me because I love food. Baking, cooking, recipes, beautiful food. If you've stuck around here long enough, you've witnessed some of my concoctions. It's been a huge challenge for me to find alternatives. My daughter doesn't want much in the way of fancy food.

 The challenge has been for me and my palate. The journey started with me cutting things from my own diet so that I could continue to breastfeed, (she had/has severe reflux),which I thought was super important for her growth and development. Hypotonia made learning to nurse a huge challenge, and the allergies added to the challenge. You can read about that journey here on the blog too. But anyway, the diet change has been a challenge in other ways as well. Having to shop separate, cook separate from the rest of the family. It's exhausting some times. So almost three years into this journey, (can you believe she's almost 3 years old), I'm making the decision to switch all of my baking to gluten free. Because who likes having to make two batches, separate in two containers, use two different kinds of ingredients, spend twice the money. No thanks. Think smarter, don't work harder.

I could just be lazy, too. There's always that possibility.

 
So I am a huge fan of pumpkin baked goods. I love that it is a super versatile food. One time I went to dinner with a friend at this little tiny restaurant in Berkley where the menu was different every time. The husband-wife team were of Indian (as in India) and Hispanic descent. As you can imagine the fusion of the two flavors was amazing. This particular day they had pumpkin enchilada's on the menu. I wasn't quite sure what I was in for by ordering this particular dish, but it turned out to be amazing. For the life of me, I could never repeat the dish. It was really a great mesh of flavors that enhanced the pumpkin flavor. Sweet and savory at the same time. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of finding new and different ways to use pumpkin. 
 
This is a perfect time to make one of my favorites, though. Pumpkin cookies. Now is the time to stock up on canned pumpkin. And cranberries. I like fresh cranberries, but dried are great for baking as well. I combine the two in these super yummy cookies. They're soft and moist, and the oatmeal gives them a really hearty bite. They are best eaten fresh, but they can keep for a week or so covered, and layered between parchment. Recipe is below! 



Ingredients
  • 1 cup all purpose flour gluten free
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1½ cup rolled oats certified gluten free
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin puree
  • 2 sticks Earth Balance Spread, or shortening
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp baking powder double acting
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup Dried Cranberries
Instructions
 
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  1. In a large mixing bowl add flour, oats, brown sugar, white sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. Whisk together until well combined.
  2. In a separate bowl mix together egg, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, along with butter.
  3. Using a hand mixer, blend all ingredients together until well combined. Stir in the cranberries. Place dough in refrigerator and allow to chill for about 15 minutes.
  4. When dough is chilled, scoop 1-inch to 1½-inch balls of dough onto cookie sheet, leaving about 2-inches of space between each cookie.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown and slightly firm to the touch. Remove and allow to cool before eating.
I hope you like these as much as we do! 

25.9.16

Falling into this Season



 
And then Fall was upon us!  It happened all of a sudden really, I just got caught up in the hustle and bustle of things. The Spring, the Summer, and the kids back to school. I barely caught my breath. In fact you could say I'm a bit winded from keeping up with things. But we've arrived at Fall and I am excited because it is my favorite season of all. Sweater season is a'comin'. 
We're still experiencing a September heat-wave, but I'm holding onto the fact that it can't last forever. And the foliage outside is starting to turn so I have some natural decor to bring indoors.
We stick with a pretty minimalist amount of decor. There's a few reasons for that. The first is, too much "stuff" overwhelms me. In a fairly small space, adding much more can make me go bonkers, especially with how much clutter can collect with kids and mail and all the day-to-day stuff. And secondly, I have small curious fingers that like to eat and investigate everything (still). All the cute stuff keeps to the mantle over the fireplace. I have hopes that one day I can go crazy with decorating the whole house with each season. One day. When the kids are grown, maybe! But that doesn't keep me from going all out on the mantle. I love bringing in the pretty fall colors from outside. We live right near a river, and along the river runs a bike path that is full of beautiful trees and grasses and other plants. Weeds. Yes, weeds. I bring them in too! We also have lots of variety of birds that make their homes nearby, so tying in some of their feathers was only natural.
 The berry branches I collected before the colors had changed completely, so they were a lovely hombre of oranges, pinks, and peaches. They've dried now, to darker hues, but they are still very pretty. And now that they've lost a little bit of fullness with the drying process I'll likely collect some other leaves and foliage to add in and make it fuller. The one thing is to be careful if you have little ones in the house, that they don't find a stray berry and eat it!

For the little ones...something so that they can enjoy some of the season, and learn a little. Putting together a sensory box to go with a seasonal story is so great. For my youngest daughter, I picked a seasonal story about leaves and put together a sensory box comprised mostly of some leaves from a garland from the Dollar Store. You could also use a big tub and add things like beans, acorns, small pumpkins. We can read the story, play with the leaves, talk about colors. We learn Signs for the colors, tree, leaves, Autumn, weather, etc. Fun and simple!


Happy Fall!

12.4.16

Mother/Daughter Collab


The unexpected, and the change in perspective are what help us grow and change. The perfectionist in me tends to want to shoo away the little hands when they tug on my hem while I'm attempting anything that resembles "work". She can't be shoo-ed away, though. When her little arms rise up and search my face, and her eyes plead with me she tugs my heart and my hands naturally reach down to embrace her.


And so I'm embracing this messiness even more. It's perspective. Sometimes perfection is found in the unexpected "mess". This is perfection---> embracing my current position and working with what is in my heart. And this little one is definitely in my heart in a big big way. There's no getting around it. 

We're embracing our current position. We're collaborating. We're taking what we have and growing and making something beautiful together. 
 This is love. Laying down my expectations and embracing this point of expectation and need as service for the one reaching out to me, this little one who says with her whole self, "embrace me". It's surprisingly fulfilling.
And so we've collaborated on these pieces. 
My goal was to begin making again. 
There is much more coming. 
Watch for it. 
She's captivating. 

23.3.16

Down syndrome Awareness Day 2016


Here are 5 things that I've learned since my daughter was born, in no particular order.

1. Every parent that I've met who has a child with Down syndrome finds that tears come easier and more often. Tears of joy, tears of pride, tears of compassion & understanding for other families and friends with children with Down syndrome. Your heart can't help but be touched by their presence in your life. Your heart is touched in a different way. Some part of you is opened in a way you didn't know before.

2. You learn a new sense of tolerance/patience. With each of my kids, I've learned a new sense of tolerance/patience to some degree because having several children just does that to you if you want to remain sane. But having a child with Down syndrome teaches you tolerance in another way. You become less concerned about "how fast and far you can go", less concerned with keeping up with the Jones's. You learn to be more patient in "waiting" for milestones, more tolerant of things that might annoy you otherwise. And if you have any sort of heart, more tolerant of other people's misunderstandings of what Down syndrome is. After all, unless you have first hand experience with someone with Down syndrome there are several things that are commonly believed which are antiquated and completely untrue. Which leads into....

3. Education. There are a wondrous variety of things to learn on this journey. It starts on day 1. The first thing that I hope you will come to see is that these persons are more alike than different! They desire love, compassion, understanding, friends, family, education, all the things that any other person may desire. When you receive the Down syndrome diagnosis, it is my hope that it will be delivered with a sense of joy that you have a new human being to get to know. Who will Lisette be? What will she do as an adult? What kinds of food does she like? What makes her laugh?

4. Family is not always blood. People who you can relate with, who are experiencing similar circumstances, whether they are health related or simply because you have this rare and beautiful thing in common can be the binder in these people becoming your family. Some of these people are some of the greatest gift to my life. They can relate. They cry with me. They lift me up. They are my people.

5. You'll wear tshirts. Usually, I like to wear simple stuff. When my daughter was born this desire to share suddenly sprung up inside. Though we mostly keep to ourselves, wearing a tshirt is a way to spread awareness for a cause, and I became drawn to them. That, and buying tshirts can support your local group. Consider buying a tshirt if you see your locals selling them! More often than not the proceeds benefit your local community.

This is just a tidbit of what's come in the last couple of years. I can't wait for the journey to continue.

16.3.16

An Accidental Advocate


For the most part, I live a quiet life. You mind your business, and I'll mind mine and we'll all get along happily. You won't find me being one to rock the boat or stir up a storm over much. But every once in a while a fire starts burning in my belly, if you will.

Sometimes you find yourself having to say things when you'd rather not have to, which is what I've found myself having to do a lot of over the last few years. In the recent past I've written about having to advocate for my kids because they need my voice. Even with that I try to be as cooperative and flexible as possible with regards to working things out because I want to get along with people, I don't want to be that special needs mom. Nothing against you mom's at all! You just have a knack for having the right words at the right time. On the other hand, you'll find me fumbling for words and trying to piece together a cohesive sentence. That's just me. I have to take time to form my thoughts, to be able to process those cohesive sentences so that I can get the right thing out.

First I want to open this with...we have been extremely blessed to have had a mostly pleasant experience with receiving services and healthcare while here in California. Up to this point all the social workers we've met with have been very helpful and accommodating as well. That's not to say there haven't been instances of difficulty due to confusion between healthcare providers, or insurance denying certain things. However, our overall experience has been good. Later on, towards the end, I will share some of our struggles now. But they are nothing compared to what some people I've met have experienced.

Bear with me as I figure this out as I'm writing it. The plain and simple truth of parenting special needs kids is that a great portion of energy can sometimes go into having to advocate and fight against a system, or systems, that were brought into existence to help exactly those people who are now fighting to get the rights which those systems were created to help with. In the last week alone I've heard several stories about having to fight the school system to get an IEP for a child who is medically entitled to one but which the school district for whatever reason feels that they can deny. (We actually faced this while in North Carolina.) And then the systems that are set in place to help families stay together in their own home rather that have their child or family member sent away to some state/governmental institution to be cared for by healthcare workers that are over-worked and under-paid themselves. It's corruption. It's wrong. It wears on care-givers that are already at the brink with giving 24/7 care to a loved on that they want to help. I have heard stories first hand of social workers interrogating the disabled and making the family members feel violated and in the wrong for seeking help from the exact systems that are there to supposedly help them.

It's frustrating. It makes me so angry. It's not fair. These social workers are not only taking advantage of people in fragile situations, but the harassment and the double-talk and the total lack of compassion for these peoples situations is less than human. To treat these people who may be medically fragile as though there is no need for outside help or assistance is cruel. To down-play their difficulties is cruel. What percentage of these social workers or state workers have any sort of experience first hand with living with and caring for someone with a disability or special needs? It should be a requirement. What is the percentage of people taking advantage of these programs? Something like less than 2%. Who would even want to spend their time and energy spending months trying to get these "benefits" when the journey to get there is like having to fight some corporate giant (government)? The whole thing is atrocious.

And I don't know what to do, but pray.

And now we arrive to where I currently am. I have several kids with several different diagnoses. I am tired most days. I get bleary eyed. I forget things, or I over schedule appointments because it's me alone coordinating all of this. Even with support of several family members I still struggle to balance it all. As supportive as they are, none of them are versed in the first-hand of having to deal with each child's needs full time. I realized my need to delegate things out. But I also realized my need for some backup with regards to having someone that can point me in the right direction and be my second-hand-man. That's where it came in to play for me to acquire an Advocate. The reason wasn't to "fight against the big guns", but to have someone there who knows what to ask for by looking over each of my kids file-binders to see where I am lacking in knowledge or skill to get the services that they are entitled to that might be beneficial to their future success. I want each of my children to succeed in life, no matter what that means. (Here in my home as adults, or on their own. I'm always thinking of the future.) It made sense to find an Advocate for help. As soon as I took advantage of her assitance to make some calls on my behalf it was as if I had called in the big guns. It felt like I might as well have "lawyered up" against the people that I had a good repore with, and so I had to make calls to sooth hurt feelings....

This will need to be continued as I have chores and kids to tend to. But I'm sure you can imagine my feelings of frustration. Can you relate? Do you have an experience similar?

10.3.16

Leprechaun Trap DIY




There must be some magic going on because it definitely was magical how it took my son's Kindergarten project to get me back here to share something creative. 
Life is just so busy and crazy sometimes. I wish sometimes that I was that stay-at-home-mom that sent the kids off to school and had "free-time" to do crafts and such, but that's just not the case these days! My little's schedules have me running here, and there, and everywhere. Throw in the never-ending (so it seems) stream of sickness that keeps hitting and you've got me running around like a hen with her head cut off. 

When the teacher sends a notice home from school that a project is due the following week, my deal is to put it off until the last minute. Because I'm busy. Or because I set the notice down, it gets put in the recycle bin, and I forget. Or, likely, a bit of both! This time we were supposed to make Leprechaun traps out of whatever we had around the house. Okie doke. I spent a few minutes looking at ideas, gathered some stuff I had laying around, made a quick run to the Dollar store for the green poster-board and decorative green thingy (what do you call that?), and got out the glue gun. You'll love this. It took about an hour total and turned out pretty well, if I do say so. 

Here is a list of the things I used
  • An Oatmeal container
  • Black lid, you could paint one if you don't have one
  • Strip of black felt
  • A handful of rocks from the garden
  • A greenery swag of some sort
  • Couple of Twigs for the ladder, and other twig stuff for decorating
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Cotton Balls
  • Miniature Clay Pot
  • Glue gun and glue
  • Xacto knife for cutting a hole in the lid
  • Black Marker 
  • Gold Spray Paint (Or Rolo's or gold coins or fake coins...or pennies?)
First, I made a hole in the lid of the oatmeal container for the Leprechaun to fall into. I traced around a medicine measuring cup. It was a good size. Then I cut and glued the green poster-board onto the container.  Next, glue the lid on.  
Using a plate as my template, I cut a round of the green poster-board as the base of my hat and glued the oatmeal container to it's center. Use plenty of glue so that it stays attached as there is only a small rim.

Cut a length of felt to go around the base of your container. We're making it look like a hat with a buckle! Glue it on, being generous with the glue around the base of your hat. It will help it stay attached to the base as well as keep the felt on. Next, determine where you want the front of your hat to be and glue your black lid onto the felt.

After you've got the basics done, I was just creative in placing the pipe-cleaner rainbow. I didn't want to make it too tall, (It was supposed to fit in his backpack, yeah right!), so I attached them to the side. With a lot of glue. A lot of glue.  And then I covered up that glue with more glue and cottonball clouds. Because that's what we do. We cover up our nasty gluey mess with more glue and fluff so you can't see it! *wink wink nudge nudge* The other end of the rainbow is attached to the top edge of the lid in the same way. Cut a length of your greenery and glue it down around the edge of the top.
Next step is to have your munchkin pick out a handful of pebbles and spray paint them gold, or just buy some Rolo's or something fun to go into your pot! While your gold dries (if you choose that route), have your little guy use the black marker to color the miniature pot black. Be careful and sit in one spot while doing this. You don't want the pot to break. *cough* (More glue to the rescue.) I filled the pot 3/4 full of cottonballs and glue the pebbles down on top.

Next step is to make the ladder, which is easy peasy. Have the little one pick out two sticks for the sides and one that you can snip and make into the steps. Glue that baby together and attach the ends to your base and the side of you container. I used a couple of pebbles at the base to give it more stability. The rest is basically up to you as far as decorating. You can add more greenery, more pebbles, more miniature "trees", add a sign.

 It will definitely make your little one beg and plead to stay up and watch for Leprechauns. My little guy even stuffed some extra cotton balls into the trap hole so he has a nice soft landing when he falls in. So thoughtful of him!

If only I could spend everyday doing Kindergarten crafts. It's always so much fun. The expectations are pretty reasonable, and it's always fun to upcycle something regular into something spectacular! I can't wait for the next one.

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