January 30, 2015

Easy & Chewy Granola Bars

When Esther was first born, I joked to friends that I was surviving on the "cookie diet." And it was pretty true! When she woke up throughout the night I would grab her, then rub through the kitchen with my free hand grabbing a snack before we settled down to nurse. And what's delicious & easy to grab with one hand? A cookie, or two... or three. You get the idea. Then I remembered this sweet little recipe, simple enough for sleep-deprived me, and these replaced the cookies. Most of the time. Easy to make with kids, and especially great for cooking with toddlers because there's no "raw" ingredients if their hands make it to their mouth during the process.

You just need oatmeal, sweetened condensed milk, and some add-in's. If you avoid this recipe because of the sweetened condensed milk (like I did), compare it to the box of a regular box of granola bars and see what you think. There are also great tutorials for making your own sweetened condensed milk (including using coconut milk only), so those are possibilities too. No matter how you make them, just try them. Also, feel free to adjust the add-in's to clean out all the almost-empty's you have sitting around the pantry. It's a great way to use them up!


Cherry & Coconot Granola Bars

inspired by this recipe by Three Many Cooks/ Pamela Anderson
(they have a gluten-free version too)

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup dried cherries or cherry craisins, roughly chopped
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 325F and place oven rack in the lower-middle. Grease a 9x9 baking pan with cooking spray. For easy removal, place a 9 by 18 inch strip of heavy-duty foil on pan bottom and up the two sides. Grease once more with cooking spray. 

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix together using a spoon or clean hands (especially fun for littles). Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Pat down until firmly packed by placing a piece of plastic wrap on top and pressing down (our favorite, so everyone can help) or with a spatula. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. 

Cool to room temperature and put pan in freezer. You might be tempted to skip this step, but don't. They magically transform in the freezer from a loose cookie to a granola bar. When bar is firm, remove from pan using foil handles and place on cutting board. Cut into 16 1x4 inch bars*. Can be stored for a week in an airtight container or frozen. 

*Sometimes I'll cut them into smaller squares and store them in a jar for easy nibbling. Perfect for tossing to hungry kids while you're waiting for the pasta water to boil (wink)

January 19, 2015

Mermaids & Pirates, Part II

The best part of Isia's mermaid costume was her contribution. In years past, we would go to the fabric store & I would just pick out a few options for her to choose from. Not so this time. She loved looking through the fabric (just like her Mama) and found this pink one all by herself. I wasn't sure how well it would sew, but it ended up doing nicely. And it made her so happy that she was the one who found it!

To make her seashells, and Esther's seashells too, I ended up doubling the fabric over itself and sewing around a seashell template that I created. I then pinned the seashells onto their shirts, sewing them on around the outline, then sewing the seashell's "ridges" directly onto the shirt to keep them firmly in place so they wouldn't pucker. (Please ignore the lone seashell ridge above, I hadn't formalized my plan yet.)

The end product looked like this! The shirt was a long-sleeve cream one we bought at Target to keep her comfortable & warm. It's also made a great addition to our dress-up basket because she can put it on all by herself. Billy's pirate hathas been a fun addition to our dress up basket too. He's all about "bad guys" these days (which means any character, not just the villains) so he loved his pirate get-up.

Returning to mermaids, I was inspired by this tutorial for Isia's skirt & found this perfect fabric when we were shopping:

Aren't those ruffles perfect? I was so excited, and it was easy to work with too. Since it's stretchy I only made a folded-over waistband at the top & didn't worry about any additional elastic. I also made it pretty snug, which helped it to stay up. For the bottom I trimmed the fabric directly under the bottom ruffle, and no other hem was needed. Since I wanted her to be able to walk, I did cut out a triangular portion in back (not pictured) starting at her knees and ending at the bottom of the skirt. The pink fin pleats (see above) can be found in the tutorial, very simple! The only modification I did was to sew the sides on- to make them sturdier- while leaving the bottom pleats open. 

And what do you get when you cross a mermaid and a pirate?
Mermaids & Pirates

A little girl who's ready for adventures!


January 6, 2015

Mermaids & Pirates: Part I

Do you mind if we take a quick visit back to October? I could wait until next Halloween to share them... but I'd rather not (smile). Isia is smitten with mermaids right now, and luckily I still had this mermaid costume left over from her very first Halloween:

Isia mermaid

Her little tail was first a pair of cotton baby pants that I opened up & seamed together. I sewed scales on the front, and a double-sided fin at the bottom in fleece, to keep it soft for baby toes. I then hot-glued shells onto a plain long-sleeve onesie, and used a fabric marker to draw the straps in. She liked it a lot, and made it "flap" very realistically with her kicking legs. And then, to Mama's delight, it got to be put to good use again. 

So Esther could have her chance as the littlest mermaid! Isn't she sweet? I'm smitten with those little hands right now. She was perfectly comfortable in this little outfit too, which made for a happy  first Halloween. Her tail stayed exactly the same, but I did make her a new top to match her big sister's mermaid outfit. More details on the big kid costumes to come next, stay tuned!

December 31, 2014

For the New Year...

Thanks Giving

“This year’s (Christmas) does not have to be new and improved, more dramatic and moving than last year’s. The perfection is in the repetition, the sheer ordinariness, the intimate familiarity of a place known because we have visited it again and again, in so many different moments. Over the course of a lifetime there will be the sad (Christmas) and the joyous (Christmas), the thoughtful (Christmas) and the hopeful (Christmas), the transformative (Christmas) and even the boring (Christmas). This is not about progress, it is about circles, cycles, and seasons, and the way time moves, and things we must remember, because with ever-faster turnings of the wheel it can become easier to forget.” -“Sabbath,” by Wayne Muller

I can usually remember what I was reading at different transitional times in my life. A snowy, homesick day in China brings back memories of “Of Human Bondage” by W. Somerset Maugham and “A Circle of Quiet” by Madeline L’Engle. Early days of nursing Isia were coupled with a weighty tome on John Lennon. And these days, as my Dad recovers from his hemorrhagic stroke in early November, have been paired with “Sabbath” by Wayne Muller.  It’s been a practical reminder of rest during these past two intense months of baby-rearing, homeschooling & care-giving for my parents. It’s also helped me, especially that quote above, to adjust my expectations this Christmas. To not try to force a normal Christmas with all its trimmings. Instead we bypassed our tree this year, as well as stockings and handmade gifts, and went straight to holiday movies, mugs of hot chocolate, and naps. Lots of naps. 

It also brings me back to this special space, just in time for the New Year. Because the wheel keeps going faster, and sharing here is sweet rest in the midst of this journey. Thank you, always, for joining us along the way. Wishing all of us health, peace, and light in the New Year… and many naps too! (wink)