7.9.14

I can't do it all, and that's ok.

A little bit of self talk. A little bit of rambling. 

The day to day is what is real, tangible, substantial. I've been trying so hard to do it all, often times I feel like I'm failing at everything. Perhaps it seems redundant, but yesterday the realization that I can't do it all struck me like a ton of bricks. I've been struggling to find a healthy balance with everything-- the kids, things I enjoy, things I need to do. The thing that struck me most is that I need to learn to tell myself, "No".

No, I can't do it all. No I can't do that craft. No, I don't have time to take beautiful pictures. No, I don't have time to sew things that are extra. It's not good enough for me to just do the bare minimum for my family. They deserve the best of me, the best that I can give. That means having to say no to other people a lot, even when I'd like to say "Yes, sure!"

It's not to say that doing things I enjoy, and that can be really amazing to those looking at this life from the outside, are wrong in and of themselves. What is wrong though, is focusing my patience on those things outside my little home and leaving little for the ones who deserve the most and the best of my time, and patience, and love. 

The other day I was talking with my kids in the car about how those that are closest to us deserve the best of what we have to offer because those are the people who matter the most. The "cool kid" maybe be awesome, but if he or she isn't in your circle of trust and family (family can be friends too!), then although your efforts can be kind and generous...if you turn around and treat your family crumby when you get home then the soul of the matter needs to be addressed. I'm guilty of those things. The ones closest to you know you most intimately, and sometimes we feel safe in our anonymity with strangers or acquaintances. Deep down though, what we really crave is to be known, and understood, and accepted in the mess that is "Me".

 Someone the other day mentioned to me that I always have amazing projects going and beautiful pictures on my Facebook and Instagram reel. Yes, it's my highlight reel! It keeps me going. It's my little "escape". The fact that the sink is full of dishes, and the couch is full of laundry escapes from being seen...because I planned it that way. I had to rush through a recipe, taking pictures as I went, while my daughter clung to my side in the sling, whining that she too was ready to eat. In those moments I feel frustrated with those things around me because my attention is wanting to be elsewhere. My mind is wanting to be on all things pretty and easy. But that just isn't life right now. Life right now is demanding and dirty, messy and frustrating at times. The toy I posted to Instagram is cute and fun, and I'd love to make a bazillion of them to sell because that would be fun for me, I just don't have the time. I don't have the time because the baby only naps for 5-7 minutes at a time and I'm holding her the rest of the day 95% of the time, while being mommy to the others, too. And that, that is what I love most. That I am needed by my little family.

As time goes on, and the kids grow and our life morphs into what it is meant to be, I see me morphing into more of who I am supposed to be right now. I struggle so much every time I do something for the family to let it just be for the family. There is this level of pressure from outside sources, and within me as well, that keeps pushing me to make everything something more for the outside world.  The thing is that maybe God just wants me to be hidden within my little family and to let my talents and skills be used to build this family up. It reminds me of what I hear in my church community about using our time and our talents to glorify God. Yes indeed, I do want to do that. For now, perhaps in the quiet and stillness that is my family--that is the best place for it.

I was very clearly reminded the other day that I am never going to be like the cool homeschool mom's that I observe at classes and extra curricular activities. My kids went to an awesome art class the other day and one of the mom's asked me if I was planning on going to another event the following day. No, I explained, we had Lisette's cardiology appointment. We have therapy appointments that change times each week. I have kids who are most comfortable at home. Not anti-social, but social anxiety! They crave to go home after being out. They take a day to recover. I wish, sometimes, that I could be like those other mom's. Sometimes I wish that my kids were like their kids-- you know, easy.
My idea of easy is so silly though. I read the greatest thing the other day. It read something like, "If your family were like what you imagine would be perfect, you would be bored out of your mind." Truth. It's such a truth. I much prefer the messiness of this life. God knew what he was doing when he brought us all together. And so I wouldn't trade it for the world. My struggle is in embracing it more fully each day.
I wouldn't change a thing despite how challenged I may feel at night when I take a moment to breath after some crazy day of appointments and difficult personalities. The love and concern that I feel for my little ones bubbles up and overrides any desire that may come to do something "else". That's as it should be. I think this is more self-talk than anything else. Celeste, you're doing exactly what you should be doing. Embrace it, and relax into it.

21.8.14

Breakfast Reminiscing & Homemade Hashbrowns



If you spoke with any of my siblings you would probably hear about one of their fondest memories being that our mother always made us breakfast, lunch and dinner. She is an excellent cook. There may not have been a snack in between meals, but we always always had three meals a day. Breakfast and Dinner were always together at the table. As we got older there was always conversation. Good memories. I miss my siblings back home.
Now that I have my own little family I try to have us eat meals together. Our meal times are different in that my husband had a big hand in promoting parking everyone in front of the tv with a movie on. I'm not a huge fan of that idea, but at least we're all together! He also brought cold cereal into our home. How novel is that?! Growing up, we never had cold cereal in our house. Mom always made us breakfast; pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, cream of wheat, scrambled eggs, etc. In fact I never had cold cereal until I was an adult. Amazing! Maybe it's due to having grown up the way I did, but I prefer to sit down with a hearty meal in the morning. And though my kids eat cold cereal in the morning, and often times we eat watching a movie together, now as they are getting older they are starting to ask me to make them breakfast in the morning. I admit that sometimes I say, "Go get a bowl of cereal", because it's easy. But I sure am loving that they are appreciating that I get to make them breakfast, too. (Instructions for the Hashbrowns can be found at the end of this post.)




Sometimes I get requests, but sometimes I'll just bake a crumb cake or some muffins. Lately, we've grown fond of homemade Hashbrowns. They're not really as complicated at you'd imagine. And who doesn't love potatoes at every meal? It's the Irish in us. It can't be helped. We love our meat and potatoes. Just ask my siblings. And my own kids.

My oldest has actually almost entirely taken over making these Hashbrowns, which for me is awesome. Mostly because I think it's great that someone can finally cook for me. I have my 11 year old trained well. He can make me a burger, an omelet, grilled cheese, and now Hashbrowns. Oh, and Bacon. Everyone must learn to make bacon-- it's required. We're getting off the subject though. Back to the beautiful potatoes. We speed up the process by microwaving the potatoes before shredding them so that they are precooked. This way, all you need to do is add in your extra's if you like and brown them in the pan with some oil or butter!





My boys like peppers and onions, and my daughter likes them plain with some eggs on the side. You can add just about anything you'd like. Often times I will add in sausage for a heartier meal. Just prep the add-ins before mixing them with your Hash browns so that they are ready to go straight into the pan all together.
 

 The last part of it all is just browning the Hashbrowns in a skillet. Some days I am able to flip it like a fancy chef, and some days I need a little spatula help. Some days, they just get stirred around. It all depends on how you like it. In our home, wouldn't you guess, the kids love breakfast and a show. Hats off to all the skilled chefs out there willing to do a fancy show for their family!


 The time in the kitchen is definitely time well spent. Isn't that why so many people put so much thought into their kitchen design? For what seems like forever, people have gathered around in the kitchen and at the table to talk and spend time together. Even at the stove and counters working together in (mostly) harmony to create something together. It's a beautiful thing.



Homemade Hashbrowns

1 Potato per person
Butter

Add-ins are optional.

Scrub your potatoes and dry them. Stab each with a fork. Bake them in your microwave according to your machines settings, or in the oven for about 20 minutes. Let them cool enough that they can be handled. Using a cheese grater, grate your potatoes. I do the potato peel and all, however you can peel the skins as well. Prep your additional ingredients, sauteing vegetables if necessary and mix them together with your grated potatoes. Salt and Pepper to taste. On medium heat add about a teaspoon of butter to your pan. When it bubbles, add your potatos to the pan. Let them sit undisturbed, to brown on one side. When they are browned,  flip them to brown on to the other side. I like to flip them entirely onto a plate, add more butter to the pan, and then slide them back in. When both sides are browned remove the pan from the heat and serve them up hot!


7.8.14

A Summer Abundance (Recipe for Squash Fritters)





It never seems to fail that when I want to cook the least, that is when I need to do it the most! And by that I mean, use up some of the abundance of summer veggies that have collected in my produce drawer. If you're anything like me,  you get some vegetables and they just sit in your drawer for a while because you're not sure what you want to do with them, or you have so much from the garden that you're kind of sick of seeing them. (Even though you purposefully planted them!) Every summer we end up with a bunch of squash-- Zucchini, Crook Neck, all different sorts. 

Yesterday I took the kids to meet up with some old friends of ours at the Aquarium. We had a blast and it was good to catch up with and spend time with friends that we'd met at Camp Pendleton more than 5 years ago. By the time we got home and I'd unpacked everything, gotten everyone to stop arguing (yay for car trips!), and taken care of some things around the house, I was not feeling the love in the kitchen. But I knew those squash were in that drawer. And they were calling my name. Very loudly.


 Fine, you annoying Squashes. See, I'm not a huge fan of squash to begin with. Perhaps I've never had them cooked properly, or in a fancy enough way that I didn't just look at them and have my first response be, "Meh. I'm not that hungry anyway." How rude of me, right? Those poor unappreciated squash. There's something about being in the South, also, that makes me want to appreciate foods more that maybe I wasn't keen on before. It's a different culture and different horticultural area and so the locals use different foods in different ways than what I may be accustomed to. 





Foods like Collard Greens and Okra, which I was totally unfamiliar with prior to living in North Carolina, are staples around here. Likewise, you will see quite a bit of squash around here! After a little bit of recipe research I decided to treat my squash like I was going to love it. I mixed a little bit of what I'm familiar with, (California Cuisine), with a little bit of what is more familiar to people here in the South, (Southern Cookin', fried foods). The result is almost as good as bacon, according to my taste testers. That's saying a lot.
 Shredded squash, shallots, garlic, fresh herbs, some binders, mixed up, made into patties and browned on both sides. They are a delicious and healthy alternative to a meat patty as well. When I made them I used flour and egg as a binder. However, you could add even more protein by using chickpea flour, or even mashed beans. 

 
This will definitely become a staple in our kitchen when it's a meatless meal day. Not only is it delicious but it's also budget friendly, as well. And it's fridge friendly because, you know, I have a ton more squash that need to be used up. Don't skip the Garlic Aoli! It's what really finishes this recipe! For the directions, see below.


Squash Fritters with Garlic Aoli

2 small yellow squash, shredded
2 small zucchini, shredded
1/4 cup of diced yellow bell pepper
1 shallot, diced (or a 1/4 c of diced red onion)
1 cup of bread crumbs
1/2 cup of flour
2 eggs
1/4 tsp fresh Thyme
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Canola oil

Aoli
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 cloves of minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a silpat.

In a bowl toss your veggies together with the garlic, bread crumbs, and Thyme. Add the dry ingredients and mix to coat the veggies. Whisk your eggs and add them to your bowl. Mix everything together until it is evenly coated and wet from the eggs.

In a skillet, on medium heat add about 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Two at a time, place 1/2 cup sized fritters of your veggie mixture to the pan. Cook them to a golden brown and then flip them to do the same on both sides. Transfer your fritters to the baking sheet. When they are all browned, transfer the sheet pan to the oven and bake them for about 12 minutes. They should be firm in the middle and not falling apart when they are done.

While your fritters are baking make your Aoli. Mix together the Mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper.

Let the fritters cool slightly. Serve with a dollop of the Garlic Aoli.

These are great paired with a glass of wine, and make for a really light and easy dinner. Enjoy!

 

1.8.14

Seven Quick Takes (Episode 1)





To us folks who stay at home, Friday doesn't have the same connotation perhaps as it does to those of you who work outside the home...but I am still feeling the love for "TGIF"! I am a bit behind of some things that  had planned for this week, so I'm going to sit here and eat my Overnight Oatmeal determined to complete my tasks. Mean while, I thought it would be fun to join in Seven Quick Takes link up.

To Join in Seven Quick Takes, head over to visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary. She's such a smart woman, and she cracks me up. That's always a good thing.







Today the kids and I had a swim playdate scheduled, but from the 
sound of the Thunder and the flashing lightening illuminating my room at 
3am, and now again as I write this...I don't think swimming will be 
happening today. 




More than likely, I will be blamed for #1 by at least one of my children. 
Because, ya know, I control the weather. ;) 




I hope I didn't leave the windows down in the van. 




The other day I was talking with my mother about I-can't-remember-what 
and she called me a Foodie. It shocked me. I never would  have 
classified myself in that way. To me, food is sort of an outlet that I 
use my creativity with. Even more than eating it, I just like to make it
 and see other people enjoying it. But, yeah, I guess I am a Foodie. It 
would make me super happy to be able to make and photograph food 
everyday. To some degree, I guess I do, but I wish I would/could get paid
 to do it. Any takers? Here is my resume--> One highly qualified 
full-time mom to 4 (3 special needs kids), "working" from home doing 
various entrepreneurial endeavors on the side for the last 9 years. 
Artist. Great multi-tasker. Formerly a chef, professionally. (Yes, I had
 an outside-of-the-home-job!) Work involved must be transient, as we are
 nomads and go where the military takes us. Very good managerial skills.
 (When you have kids it's a must.) Pretty good computer skills. Loyalty,
 top-notch. Then end. Inquire within. 




If you take #4 seriously, bless you!




Now it's raining. I really hope I closed the windows in the van. 



Over the last few weeks my house has exploded with toys and all sorts
 of contraptions meant for baby Lisette to use and I find myself moving 
through the house like it's an obstacle course. It's driving me a little
 bonkers. It's not that I'm anti-toys, but I cleaned out the house 
during the Winter of 98% of my kids toys so that you could actually walk
 without worrying. We're arriving back there. All I'm going to say is, 
if you give us Lego's they will go straight to Goodwill. You know who you are. 



For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


 

31.7.14

Good Conversation (over some Scones!)







Back when I was 19, (so ages ago), a friend and I back-packed and couch-hopped our way through Europe. To say it was amazing would be an understatement. The details are fuzzy now, but I recall sitting in a Pub in London having my first luke-warm beer and munching on a scone. I know! Beer and scones? Somehow it worked. I remember my friend and I sitting there for hours just chatting away. I've been a scone fan ever since. It's hard not to love a good scone. 
This time I added my fresh berries to them. You have to handle the dough pretty gingerly when you're adding fresh fruit because it likes to go everywhere. So when you are folding your berries in, especially, you need to be gently and just fold them in so the juice doesn't go everywhere.

Here the recipe for you. 

Blackberry Scones with Lemon Sugar

2 cups of flour
5 Tbsp chilled butter, cubed
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup of heavy cream

6 oz fresh Blackberries

Lemon Sugar for sprinkling over the top. Instructions for the lemon sugar can be found here
 http://www.doodlela.com/2014/07/lemon-thyme-cake.html

Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat. Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a mixing bowl put your dry ingredient. Whisk them together to mix. Add your butter. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut your butter into your dry ingredients until you have pea-sized crumbs. Add your cream all at once and stir with a fork to combine. Pour your dough onto a floured surface, or onto a silpat, and gently knead it until it comes together. Don't over-knead it. It can be a little crumbly. That's ok. Gently fold the berries into your dough with your hands, just until it all comes together. Shape it into a flat circle about the size of a pie dish. Using a knife or dough scraper, cut it into 8 slices. Place them on your lined pan. Sprinkled the tops of your scones liberally with the Lemon Sugar. Bake for about 17 minutes, or until golden brown around the bottom edges and they are no longer doughy inside. Eat warm or room temperature.

And make sure you have some good conversation to go along with them!

28.7.14

Life with Lisette--Six months later.





This week we're celebrating 6 months of life with our special blessing, Lisette. All at once, it seems like it's been a long road and gone quickly at the same time. She's helped us all be a bit better, and brought so much joy into our family.

Though she is the highlight of this post, I'd like to talk a bit about something that is near and dear to us. And, as of late, it seems that this subject is lighting up the web with quite a bit of controversy. Breastfeeding. I'm not going to talk about it in the way you think, though. I want to talk about the struggles of breastfeeding a Special Needs baby. 

Lisette and I struggled with breastfeeding right away. My baby wouldn't latch on. I sat propped up in the hospital bed desperately trying everything I knew to get her to latch on and she just wouldn't. More than anything, this scared me the most. What if I couldn't feed my baby? This was new to me! I'd successfully breastfed three other babies. The experience I had with each of my three other children might be classified as "perfect". I had a great milk supply. An abundance really. The kids each had a great latch right from the beginning, minutes from being born. The only thing we ever struggled through was thrush, and that came and went fairly quickly. I humbly admit I was one of those women who was completely confused by the idea of someone not being able to breastfeed. I admit it's because I was ignorant and had never experienced difficulty myself. Until now.


We spent many days in the Special Care Nursery with wonderful nurses and a lactation consultant trying to help me to get her to latch, and more time in the NICU. I pumped every 2-3 hours and brought my liquid gold back to be given to Lisette through her feeding tube. I was determined not to give her formula. I knew I had enough milk. When it came in, it came with a vengeance. When she would latch on, I would silently cry for joy in my head. Even if it was just for two minutes. It was better than nothing. But sometimes, at 3 in the morning when she wouldn't latch on at all...I just wanted to cry my heart out. Why? What was I doing wrong? I have lots of milk, baby, just drink! It just didn't happen, though.

I pumped everyday, up to 12 times some days. It was, by far, one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. It took just over a month for her to nurse a whole feeding. Sometimes she'd nurse, sometimes she wouldn't. I just kept trying. By three months, we were exclusively breastfeeding. But that doesn't mean to say it was or has been smooth sailing. One part of this whole process that I've had to come to terms with is a different version of "perfect breastfeeding".  Even now at 6 months she still struggles with latching on correctly, and some days even latching on. She has good days, and days where she struggles more. We've had to learn how she must lay to nurse, and what the best position is for me to hold her in. I need to support her body, her head in the right position, chin/jaw support, and hold the breast to her mouth. It's complicated. And it's always messy. We deal with a lot of leakage. After most feeds her shirt will be soaked. It's just the way it is.






Some days we're both tired and just want it to go smoothly. I've lost my patience once or twice. I'm not perfect. Her version of smooth and perfect breastfeeding is different than what I have known with my other kids. It's not worse. It's different. Looking at it this way helps me to be patient and more understanding of her needs. What has helped immensely with persevering has been for me to accept that this way of feeding, her way though perhaps less ideal, is good enough. She is getting what she needs! She's doing beautifully.

For mama's out there that might be struggling with nursing, or with nursing a special needs baby, I just want to say to you--->Please don't give up! Do what you can! Ask for help. As for advice. Ask a mama who may have been where you are, or who might be able to send you in the direction of help and guidance. Please don't feel like you aren't good enough-- just wanting to make an effort is amazing and brave. It may be hard work, but all things that are worth being proud of are worth working hard for. Listen to your heart!

I wouldn't change how things have gone thus far. I've grown and changed along this path for the better, and learned so much from this wonderful little girl.




25.7.14

How to Peel a Melon (Plus a recipe!)





Back in the day, I worked in a snazzy deli where I made lots of salads. Pasta salad, fruit salad, rice salad, bean salad, pea salad, cold salads, and hot salads. Just about every salad you can imagine. We always had freshly made fruit salad, so as you can imagine I had to prep a lot of fruit including melons. If you are in a hurry to make salad, or feed a crowd with a melon, this is a great way to get it peeled and served up in a hurry. It's simple, and you can get it done in just a few minutes. Observe!

Rinse your melon if it's farm fresh. I cut my melon in half because I was only going to use half for my recipe. Clean the seeds out.

Cut off the end. Lay it on your cutting board, flat side down. Start to slice the rind off, with straight downward cuts. 


Ta-da! Easy peasy. If there are little bits of rind, just cut them off. 


Chop it up into cubes for a salad, or slices just to eat by themselves. 
When we get a melon I like clean it right away, and cut it into cubes or slices so the kids can go right to the fridge and get a piece without my having to cut it each time. (Healthy snack!) Store it in a rubbermaid container, or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Experience has shown me that the melon gets used up more efficiently this way as well. When it's left whole, I find that I never really get around to cutting up the rest of the melon and often times it will just end up in the trash from sitting too long.

This half of my melon I used for the following recipe!

Cantaloupe and Cucumber Salad with Mint

2 cups of cubed Cantaloupe
1 cup of seeded and cubed Cucumber
1/4 cup of sliced Red Onion
1 tsp of mint Chiffinade

Dressing

Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
1 tsp of Lemon Zest
1/2 cup of Greek Yogurt
2 Tbl of Mayonnaise
1 tsp Wild Honey

Stir together all your dressing ingredients in a bowl and pour it in a larger bowl with your fruit, cucumber, and onions. Mix gently to coat. Sprinkle with mint. Serve cooled, the same day.









Say G'Day Saturday

20.7.14

Cloth-eez Review


A few years ago I was a cloth diaper making machine. With lots of changes in our family dynamic and the birth of a new baby, therapy appointments multiple times a week, and general running of a household the opportunity to do much sewing or crafting has had to be put to the side. If I do much it's at night. And honestly I'm just too tired by the end of the day these days. That's the main reason why I chose to purchase cloth diapers this time around. I knew that I wanted to do simple and inexpensive. For us, that meant doing covers and prefolds or flat diapers.

I was lucky enough to purchase back from someone some prefolds that I had converted to fitted diapers. Those lasted us quite a while! My little one is just about 6 months now, and just over 11 lbs. She's itty bitty. But she's growing, slow and steady! She's out of her Newborn sizes finally. I knew I could stretch them a but longer, by just laying them flat in her covers, but that wouldn't last long. The first brand new cloth diapers I ever purchased--- OsoCozy. Sadly, the experience didn't leave me feeling warm and cozy. In fact, they shrank so much that I couldn't use them at all and ended up returning. (Thank you Amazon!)

My most recent experience with Green Mountain Diaper Co., however, has been great. The diapers were shipped out the same day I ordered. Talk about fantastic! They arrived only a few days later. Super fast shipping!

On the left if when they arrived, still in the package. One the right, the next day, after I had washed and dried them. There was very little shrinkage. I was stoked! This was a good sign.

 I should mention that I ordered a size bigger than the chart indicated in anticipation of shrinkage, etc. My thought was that even if they were too big I could still fold then down enough to fit, and thus they'd last longer as well. Which ended up being the case. They are a bit large on her, but it just means more absorbancy! You can see below that I just fold over the extra and put the Snappi on.
My daughter sleeps through the night and she can wear one of these without any booster insert, without any leaks. It's great.
And just "because"...
 
Check out the rolls! I know she's still tiny, and the rolls aren't much yet, but...Oh my, she's just so squishy and fun!

19.7.14

Moroccan Quinoa in Roasted Acorn Squash


This weekend is a busy one with my sister here to visit, and lots of outings. This quick Moroccan Quinoa in Roasted Acorn squash is perfect for a meal after a long day of fun with family. Pair it with some lamb, or even by itself, it makes a great light meal.





 Moroccan Quinoa in Roasted Acorn Squash
Serves 2
Ingredients:

1 Acorn Squash, halved and clean of seeds

1 cup of tri-colored Quinoa
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/8 cup Roasted Sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup of onions, diced and sauteed in a little olive oil
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/4 tsp Thyme
1/4 tsp Turmeric
dash of Cinnamon
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Lay your Acorn squash cut sides down on a lightly oiled pan. Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until tender when stabbed with a fork.

While your squash cooks, prepare your Quinoa. In a pot, bring your stock to a boil, then add your Quinoa. Bring back to a boil, covering the pot with a lid. Let cook covered for 15 minutes, or until the stock is absorbed. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. When the Quinoa is finished cooking, let it cool slightly and fluff it with a fork. Add it to the bowl with your seasonings and stir to combine. Taste, and season with salt and pepper to your preferences.
When the squash is done baking, place each half on a dish and split your Quinoa between your two squash bowls. Serve immediately.



Here's to a great weekend!

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