Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cinnamon Breakfast Rolls

If you've read through my GF page you'll see that I keep a few mixes on hands for emergencies or when a recipe calls for it.  I don't use them often but they help me mix things up a bit.  Get it?  Mix things up?  Once or twice a year I make Cinnamon Breakfast Rolls for the family.  To be honest, I don't really eat them myself as I'm not a huge sweets fan, but they needs something different occasionally and this fits the bill.

I found this recipe in one of my trusty Southern Living cookbooks, which are truly the only cookbooks I ever need.  This particular one is called "Cooking for Christmas" and this recipe has been a real hit in our home.  You can also find the recipe online at My Recipes which I do find myself visiting when looking for something specific.  Remember that I said in the past to not be afraid to substitute?  Well, don't.



For this recipe I substituted Bob's Red Mill vanilla cake mix which I purchased at Big Lots (yep, Big Lots) for a ridiculously low price and Pamela's Artisan Flour.  Also, I cut the flour portion down to 4.5 cups instead of 5.  I actually think we could have done 4 cups and been fine.  This recipe does not really rise like it does when you use regular wheat flour, so don't be disappointed!  I promise, they taste great regardless of whether they have risen or not. 



This is a make-ahead and chill recipe.  We made enough to make two pans full and have had them two mornings in a row.  If you walk into my house right now you'll smell fresh coffee and yeasty cinnamon rolls which are cooking right now in the oven.  Mmmm.......

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Gotcha" Day - Why We Celebrate

If you are not part of the international adoption community, specifically, the Chinese adoption community, you may not have ever heard of "Gotcha Day".  Or, maybe you've heard of it but didn't understand it.  It could even be that you are an adoptive parent and celebrate it but never really stopped to think about why.  I am, in fact, parent to a child adopted from China and each year for the last 5 years we have celebrated our "Gotcha Day".  Okay, we actually do not call it that.  For us, it is a "Family Anniversary" that is precious to each of us and yesterday we celebrated over dim sum at our favorite local Chinese restaurant.

  (First ever photo as a family of four)


The moon woke up yesterday morning knowing that it was a special day which she reminded me of prior to dressing for church.  She asked if she could wear her Chinese dress and I, of course, said yes.  I could see that she was really thinking about what the day meant and as I also went to get dressed I began to consider it as well.  It is true that it is a special day and an anniversary worth celebrating.  But, I had to wonder, do we celebrate simply because it is what Chinese adoptive families do?  Do we celebrate just for her?  What is the meaning behind it and will we always celebrate?  As I pondered these questions I had what I considered to be a revelation about our adoption experience.  For me to share it with you I need to tell you a little bit about my birthing experience.

Any way that a child comes to you is a blessing.  One does not trump or become more meaningful than another.  Almost 13 years ago I gave birth to our son.  It is a story I love to tell.  In fact, I don't know ANY  mother who has given birth that does not like to tell their birth story.  It is a magical, personal experience that will live with any woman her entire life.  I can still feel the emotions I felt as they told me they were taking me for the Cesarean after 38 hours of labor.  I can feel the excitement and fear.  I can smell the hospital.  But, most importantly, I can remember that moment when time stopped when they brought that tiny bundle around to show me before whisking him off to the NICU.  I still cannot walk into the hospital without getting emotional when I smell the soaps and hand sanitizers.  (Two weeks with a child in the NICU will do that to you.)

The same is true for our adoption.  My pregnancy lasted for 8 months.  Though our adoption journey was over 3 YEARS it was the last 4 months that was like a pregnancy.  We received our referral in late July and traveled in late November to China.  Just like when Noah was brought around for me to see, I can remember the moment when time stopped when a little girl walked into the Civil Affairs office with a smile on her face - ready for her next adventure.  I remember in that moment thinking, "where have you been? I've been waiting for you."  I remember the emotions and the smells and everything about that morning and many other mornings while in China.  And, just like in telling birth stories, I know very few adoptive moms who do not LOVE telling their story.  The paperchase, the trip over, that moment when they were given that precious child, the most often nightmarish trip home.

This brings me back to why we celebrate this anniversary.  We were there when our son came into the world.  It is his birthday.  It is my BIRTHING day.  It is the moment my husband became a father for the first time.  We also celebrate our daughter's birthday.  However, we were not there when she was birthed.  We missed that precious moment in time.  You see, we were all rebirthed when she was brought into that office.  It was that moment when time stopped, even for just a moment, and we were given a gift to be cherished and celebrated.

"I'd rather have a moment of wonderful 
than a lifetime of nothing special."
-Steel Magnolias




Friday, November 14, 2014

Essential Oils 101 - Lime

I am sharing with you a portion of the most recent Doterra blog post on the essential oil - LIME. (Click on "LIME" to read the full article.)  This is one of my favorite oils, which, I am, unfortunately out of!  (Guess what's getting ordered this week?) 



Primary Benefits:
A Powerful antioxidant that supports healthy immune function
Positively affect mood with stimulating and refreshing properties
Used as an aromatic, topical, and internal cleanser
Promotes emotional balance and well-being

Uses:
Diffuse to cleanse the air and uplift your mood
Put lime on a cotton pad to help remove grease spots and sticker residue
Add a drop of lime to your drinking water for enhanced flavor and antioxidants
Add 1 drop to facial cleanser or shampoo for added cleansing properties


(Please use caution and common sense when using any essential oils, especially if taking internally.)
Primary Benefits:
  • A powerful antioxidant that supports healthy immune function
  • Positively affects mood with stimulating and refreshing properties
  • Used as an aromatic, topical, and internal cleanser
  • Promotes emotional balance and well-being
Uses:
Diffuse to cleanse the air and uplift your mood.
Put some Lime on a cotton pad to help remove grease spots and sticker residue.
Add a drop of Lime to your drinking water for enhanced flavor and antioxidants.
Add 1 drop to your facial cleanser or shampoo for added cleansing properties.
- See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
Primary Benefits:
  • A powerful antioxidant that supports healthy immune function
  • Positively affects mood with stimulating and refreshing properties
  • Used as an aromatic, topical, and internal cleanser
  • Promotes emotional balance and well-being
Uses:
Diffuse to cleanse the air and uplift your mood.
Put some Lime on a cotton pad to help remove grease spots and sticker residue.
Add a drop of Lime to your drinking water for enhanced flavor and antioxidants.
Add 1 drop to your facial cleanser or shampoo for added cleansing properties.
- See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf
In the 18th century, British sailors drank lime juice daily to prevent scurvy while at sea, thus giving British seamen the nickname “Limeys.” Lime essential oil contains powerful antioxidants that ward off free radicals and enhance immunity. Due to its high limonene content, Lime provides internal cleansing benefits and can be diffused to help purify the air. It’s also an effective and natural surface cleanser. Lime is known for its ability to uplift mood, and balance and energize the mind and body. Lime is frequently used in facial and body cleansers for its purifying properties and uplifting scent. - See more at: http://doterrablog.com/essential-oil-spotlight-lime/#sthash.4tE9uR18.dpuf

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Great Examples of Education

I have long said that whatever your method of education your children, there are great examples.  Yesterday I came across a Washington Post article about Christopher Paolini, the best-selling author of the Inheritance Books.  I have known for years that Paolini was homeschooled and this article was a great one pointing out the possibilities for those educated at home. When I was part of the Waldorf school movement (since 2006 and I guess in some way still are a part of it), we had a list of who's who in the Waldorf world to show how Waldorf education cranks out the best and the brightest.  And, when visiting the military school where my husband's grandfather taught for years there was a wall of fame that could put any school to shame!  Many a general and statesmen were educated there. 


Today I was looking for a list of who's who among homeschoolers in the modern world and came across a page on the Pioneer Woman's website.  She said she is not a vocal proponent of homeschooling because educational choices are different for each family based on their circumstances and the needs of their children.  Well said.  I'm not sure what the future holds for my family.  We just moved into a new curriculum which we are all very excited about.  We are adding new activities.  The Moon is adding in additional time in the gym (girl loves to flip) and we are picking up climbing for our P.E. in January.

This is the first year we have been able to pursue some activities at our leisure in quite some time.  We no longer arrive at the gym or Boy Scouts woefully unprepared or hungry or frantic from traffic.  There is rarely the screaming of "get your shoes on, we're going to be late."  I know this is a luxury for my family that many cannot afford.  There are single moms and families who desperately need two incomes that cannot choose this lifestyle.

For now, we are happy being among the who's who in homeschooling (in our own minds, of course) and will take each day as it comes.  Today happens to be a morning at the library then an afternoon of schoolwork followed by dinner and an early bed-time.

Whatever your choice of education is, know that you are in good company and among the "who's who" of that choice.

“Education is the most powerful weapon 
which you can use to change the world.”
-Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

3 Months and Counting - Homeschool Adventures

So, we are three months into this new adventure called homeschooling. There is no way when you begin something like this to know exactly what to do and exactly what you need. Homeschooling itself is not a difficult task. It's really not. Most kids are sponges. They WANT to learn. The key is finding out what motivates them to learn and in what style they learn. We began the adventure with pouring over every homeschool resource online and in-print that I could find. I studied catalogs and obsessed over curriculums. In the end, we purchased a few things from hither and yon and a subscription to a couple of websites that allow me to download what I need each day. We take a weekly trek to the library to check out books to support our lessons and we set out to...well...reinvent the wheel.

I didn't want to reinvent the wheel. It was NOT my purpose. But, I was hesitant to make a large curriculum purchase up front without knowing what we needed. Ha! What we needed, what I needed, was someone to tell me what to do each day. Not entirely. But, mostly. Last week, after admitting to myself and to my husband that I needed more guidance, we purchased the majority of the Memoria Press curriculum for both children. We already had a couple of literature items for our 7th grader and he and I both really enjoy working with it.

What came next was more pouring over the website, the catalog and forums and making final decisions. I pieced together the curriculum from the Memoria Press site, Rainbow Resources and Amazon and voila - a new curriculum that will carry us through the year.   If you are not familiar with Memoria Press, it is a Classical Christian curriculum with the emphasis on Classical.



So we placed the order and the books have been arriving for a few days.  Yesterday we began our new curriculum and our day went better than it has all semester.  We had already been reading such books as Beatrix Potter's treasury, but Memoria's study guides have helped us bring these things all together.  Today we have our weekly co-op and I'm a little sad that we'll be gone the entire day and not get to our new books.  But, tomorrow is another day and we can do spelling and math and literature and composition and so much more!

“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.” - Beatrix Potter

Monday, November 10, 2014

Barefoot Book Review - The Greatest Gift

I want to share with you this amazing book from Barefoot Books - The Greatest Gift.  Each year on Christmas Eve, our children are allowed to open one gift each plus a combined gift.  They each get a pair of new pajamas which creates all sorts of excitement as well as a new Christmas book to read as a family before bed.  This is not the book we'll be reading - BUT WAIT! This is not the book we'll be reading ONLY because I could not resist and the Moon and I promptly sat down to read it. The beautiful cover and the promise of the title pulled me immediately in. 

http://fengshuimama.barefootbooks.com/
I don't want to spoil this book for you by giving you the entire story.  But, I will tell you that I literally could not finish the last two pages as I was weeping with so much joy.  Luckily, we're raising readers and my little one offered to finish the story for me.    Below is the information directly from my Barefoot Books site.  This is a treasure for all ages.

"A thought-provoking re-telling of the tale by Victorian writer Henry Van Dyke. Artaban, the fourth wise man, stops to help a dying man and is too late to give his present to the King of Kings at his birth in Bethlehem. So begins a long journey amongst the poor, the sick and the hungry, bringing comfort to those in need. But will he find what he is looking for?"



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Simple Family Feasts - Burgers and Fries



Today is the third of November.  The year 2014.  The Moon is asleep.  Halloween weekend was too much and she spent much of the morning crying and telling me how unhappy she is - all courtesy of me, of course.  The Sun is on the couch reading - a real grump today he is.  How dare I withhold candy from a grumpy 12-year old!  It's all water and good foods today all around and a good dose of iron for us all as we attempt throw off the sugar saturation and exhaustion from the time-change.

We have two more busy nights this week and then thankfully a couple of very slow and lazy days before our busy weekend.  I don't like being "busy" and usually will not use that word in conjunction with our lives.  But, truth be told, we have been busy and now that we are facing the holidays must guard against such "business" - AKA insanity - as we finish out the year.

That's why right now I am working on simple (and inexpensive) meals to fuel our bodies and that will not leave me exhausted and my kitchen as disaster.  I just finished cutting 4 large potatoes into french fries that are now soaking in a bowl on the stove (where, BTW, tomorrow's beans are cooking).  We love french fries.  All of us.  What we don't like is deep frying them or buying them in a bag (though if I am in a pinch I'll use Alexia or Whole Foods frozen fries).  I have seen many recipes for baked oven fries (you need a recipe?) and the one I wanted to share with you is over at Sweet C's Designs.  Her fries are wonderful and we have them at least once a week to go with various dinners.  Tonight, it's with hamburgers from local grass-fed beef.

If you have followed me this week you'll know I'm trying to get our grocery budget down.  It can be somewhat difficult when eating gluten-free.  It can throw your budget out of whack when eating something like burgers.  I could make my own buns, but.....it's so much easier to buy Udi's!  I am looking for a good way to truly estimate the cost of our meals so right now I am doing a lot of "guestimating".  I think tonight's meal is around $16 (this includes a small amount for the burger fixin's).  Okay.  $4 per person.  Not too bad.








Monday, November 3, 2014

Simple Family Feasts - White Bean Chicken Chili

Yesterday got away from me.  It did.  The time changed, which always throws me for a loop.  After church, I worked on a website for a non-profit that works with orphans and then spent a few hours double checking the nearly 200 orders for the son's Boy Scout troop fundraiser.  This blog posting was ever on my mind but I never put into words.  So, for the sake of my sanity, I'll pretend this is Sunday, November 2.

My intent the last two days was to make cheeseburgers and fries.  But, as the cold settled on Nashville and the leaves created a soft carpet of color on our lawn, I have only wanted warm comforting foods like shepherd's pie and soup.  Yesterday I pulled out another old favorite at our home - White Bean Chicken Chili.    Now, I have said this before and I'll say it again, but I typically use dried beans and I though sometimes I use store bought broths, more often than not I make my own. 

If you soak 1 cup of white beans overnight, then put them into the crock-pot with the other ingredients, they will turn out perfectly as this recipe calls for  8-hours of cooking.  In addition, I purchase rotisserie chickens from Whole Foods.  The chickens cost $8 and I simply pop them into the freezer as soon as I get home.  When I am ready to use one, I pull it out and simmer it in a 5 quart dutch oven with at least 3 quarts of water for about 45 minutes with a lid on but slightly open.  Once I am finished boiling the ENTIRE chicken, I place the broth into the crock-pot.  After the m
eat cools, I pull it of and add it to the pot as well and discard of the carcass.  There is something very earthy to me in using the entire chicken.  It keeps me in mind of where my food comes from and is a great lesson to my children as they assist me in the kitchen.

In a few days I'll be adding blog postings that talk about eating organic on a budget as I am trying to get our grocery down from it's embarassingly high amount to a more managable amount since I have left my full-time job to be at home with the children once again.  In anticpation of this, I thought I would guestimate the cost of this meal which was served with tortilla chips and shredded cheese.  The entire meal with the sides was at a cost of $18.  My family of 4 ate well with three of us having two servings.  There is at least one serving remaining in a small container in the fridge for someone's lunch.  I daresay a family of 5 (or even 6) could easily eat well on this recipe, but for these purposes I'll call it at $3 per serving

Now, I would like to get this per serving cost down even lower.  I didn't have time to make the cornbread last night, so I think if I substitute cornbread or the tortilla chips and if I purchase a pack of bone-in thighs instead of the convenience of the rotisserie, I think I can do it.  Stay tuned for more on cutting our grocery bill!

Though I am looking for the savings, I am thankful for the abundance in our home.  And thus, I shall leave you with this....








Saturday, November 1, 2014

Simple Family Feasts - Shepherd's Pie



Halloween is behind us and today is All Saint's Day.  The shadows are growing long and after a busy week and a late night of merriment, we have lazed around the house today.  I have Celtic music playing in the background which is accompanied by carrots sauteing on the stove.  Inspired by the afternoon I spent reading the fifth book in Diana Galbadon's Outlander series, I decided to make a family favorite of Shepherd's Pie.  I've made this dish for years in many different ways.  But, it wasn't until I found a great Irish Beef Stew recipe from Lauren's Latest that I perfected it to my tastes. 

Tonight, as my own shepherd's pie simmered on the stove, I thought I would see what other bloggers were sharing for their own English inspired feasts.  After spending waaaaay too much time on Pinterest, I narrowed the SP postings down to the following promising recipes.  You might be curious what I used as my criteria?  First, I eliminated anything that used a brown gravy mix. (I have to draw the line somewhere).  Then, I looked for different recipes that would appeal to different types of cooks (including myself). And, I looked for tradition.  In an time when we all want to stand out from the crowd, there is something to be said for a good old-fashioned meal.  You can always dress it up (pay attention to Southern Boy Dishes), but sometimes (as I saw on Pinterest) it can be a little too much.


This delicious looking meal is from Dash of Savory.  My mouth is 
watering.    I love the idea of using Guiness in my next pie! 


This dish is from Iowa Girl Eats.  She always has great foods on her blog.  



Menu Musings brought a High Class Shepherd's Pie which looks gorgeous in that copper pot. 


Okay.  I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I love a crock-pot recipe that is free from  "cream of" and allows you to walk away for a day and come back to a great meal.  The recipe  from Moms with Crock Pots  itself looks wonderful.  I just have never made this in a crock-pot.   Andthis allows you to use pre-made mashed potatoes which makes this meal in the reach of any working family. 


I don't know about you, but if I saw this pie on the menu at any restaurant, 
I would order one pronto.  (from Picture Perfect Meals).


Okay.  So, this is the most beautiful shepherd's pie I've ever seen.  I will NEVER do this 
but  I'm glad Southern Boy Dishes did.   I just do not have the time to make potatoes this way. 
 But, it's beautiful and a good recipe.  


Another wonderful Guiness recipe from the Hungry Housewife Cooks.
  This is the one that makes me think I'll cheese on top next time. 


The one above, the last one, is mine.  I hoped to have a better shot of it but my 12 year
 old son -  the one who stands 6 inches above me - dug in before I could get a good shot!

So you've seen my top contenders and I'll leave you with a few words of wisdom.  If you are one of those that feel that white potatoes do not fit into your paleo diet, just substitute cauliflower.  Shepherd's pie is naturally gluten free (at least mine is), but if it calls for white flour to be used as a thickening agent, you can substitute your favorite gf flour.  If you don't like the veggies used, you can always substitute.  Shepherd's pie....good....old-fashioned....comfort.

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson