autumn days

Friday, February 25, 2011

homemade power bars

power bars in the food processor

chilling in the glassware pan before chocolate is spread

My friend Sharon makes wonderfully creative power bars for her gluten-sensitive son and I finally got my hands on the recipe.  Sharon couldn't say enough wonderful things about Elana's Pantry, a food blog.  And so I picked out most of the ingredients from the grocery store.  Being too creative as usual, I made the following recipe with a slight variation.  I used olive and sesame oils instead of coconut oil and soon found out why that wasn't the perfect substitution.  You can probably already guess, but sometimes it takes me a while to figure these things out through trial and error.  The oils I used were liquid, while the coconut oil is more solid to hold the bars together.  At first I planned on making healthy bars without chocolate, but then I spied the jar of dark chocolate chips in my cupboard.  I swear I only used the cup required of the recipe, but the layer of chocolate deliciousness was almost 1/2 an inch thick.  You may notice there are no pictures of the chocolate-topped bars, as they were consumed so quickly that the camera couldn't capture it.

My first batch was so terribly delicious that I shared a bit with my family and then hid and consumed the remaining portion entirely by myself.  And it is mostly healthy, so I can slightly justify eating it all single handedly.  For my next batch, I plan hand chopping almonds before adding them to the food processor.  And I will use coconut oil as the recipe suggests.  I would already have a second batch prepared and half consumed by now, but I have to run to the store eventually to get the coconut oil.  Maybe I'll indulge with more dark chocolate chips as well.

Finally, here's the recipe.  Make sure you check out Elana's Pantry for more scrumptious ideas.

Gluten Free Almond Power Barsprinter friendly
2 cups almonds (raw)
½ cup flax meal (flax seeds ground in a Vitamix)
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup unsalted creamy roasted almond butter
½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
½ cup coconut oil
4 drops stevia
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips 73% cacao (optional)
  1. Place almonds, flax meal, shredded coconut, almond butter and salt in a food processor
  2. Pulse briefly, about 10 seconds
  3. In a small sauce pan, melt coconut oil over very low heat
  4. Remove coconut oil from stove, stir stevia, agave and vanilla into oil
  5. Add coconut oil mixture to food processor and pulse until ingredients form a coarse paste
  6. Press mixture into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish
  7. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour, until mixture hardens
  8. In a small saucepan, melt chocolate over very low heat, stirring continuously
  9. Spread melted chocolate over bars; return to refrigerator for 30 minutes, until chocolate hardens
  10. Remove from refrigerator, cut into bars and serve; makes 20 bars

Carrot Soup book (preschool book club)

Hannah and I enjoyed some activities based on the book Carrot Soup by John Segal.  It was one of the books she chose on her own at the library after our weekly story time visit.  It amazes me how many activities can be created through a single book, and we've just touched on the surface of this book.  Seeing the opportunities that lay waiting to be discovered, I have started looking at other library books in a different way, as if they are slowing talking me into creating mini-extension units through them.  I look forward to going through the Berenstain Bears books and Stuart J. Murphy's math-themed books for mini-extension units.  Now that our little boy is four months old, we can start focusing our learning in new ways again at home.  Let the fun begin.

Activities we enjoyed through Carrot Soup:
carrot people
decorated Hannah as a carrot person
planted carrots
carrot soup
carrot cake
ate carrots
identified different carrot varieties
included varieties of carrots into our garden plan

planting carrots and other vegetables

carrot soup with homegrown parsley

carrot people

Hannah dressed like her carrot people

the carrot people

carrot people hanging out while button sorting

a carrot-nosed snow person

homemade granola

This is an easy granola recipe I got from my friend Holly.  I've made it several times now, with Hannah as the scoop dumper.  My husband used to eat sugary boxed cereals each morning, and my daughter followed his lead.  Now my whole family looks past the store-bought cereals and sits down to enjoy homemade granola together each morning.  They have quickly consumed the 12 cups of healthy goodness in just a few days and was looking for more.  This is an easy recipe to spice up or change once in a while.  May you enjoy it as much as we do.

in a large mixing bowl
6 cups raw oatmeal
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped almonds or walnuts
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds

in a saucepan
3 tbsp cinnamon
1 cup honey or molasses
1/2 cup coconut (or other) oil
3 tbsp vanilla
1.5 cups raisins or dried fruit (optional and after baking; my family likes the fruit; I don't.)

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix together honey, oil, and vanilla in a small pan on low heat.  Pour combined honey mixture over dry mixture.  Stir until thoroughly mixed.  Put in oblong cake pans (my double batch needs 4 pans) and bake at 350, stirring every 7 minutes to give even browning.  Add 1 1/2 cup dried fruit or raisins (optional).  Store in tightly covered container.  Makes 12 cups.

warming the honey, vanilla, and coconut oil

baked to perfection

Sunday, February 20, 2011

homemade products (take two)

My friend Holly has excellent recipes and we are trying these new adventures together.  Here are several recipes she has generously shared with me.  She's also going to show me how to make my own castile soap soon.  I'd like my next venture to be creating my own beeswax chap stick.

One quart water
4 Ounces castile soap flakes

Bring the water to a boil.  Turn off the heat and pour over herbs.  Steep at least 20 minutes.  Strain herbs and pour tea over the soap flakes.  Stir until the soap flakes dissolve.  Once the mixture has cooled, store it in a plastic bottle.

***Different herbs can be used for different purposes (e.g. dry vs. oily; blond vs. dark; curly vs. straight).  For normal hair, common herbs are lavender, rosemary, red clover, & horsetail. I have a lot of different combinations depending on the hair you have.  Ask for specifics and I'll look it up.

02/2012 Update: This homemade shampoo dried my hair out a bit and it felt like it had a bit of build up.  I have been using a new simpler recipe for the past six months and my hair still feels great.

1 cup hot tap water
1.5 oz. grated bar soap  
1/4 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda 
2 T Borax

Add soap flakes to saucepan with water.  Stir over med-low heat until melted.  Fill a 1 gallon jug half full with hot tap water.  Add melted soap, washing soda, and borax.  Stir well until all powder is dissolved.  Fill bucket to top with more hot water.  Stir, cover, and let sit overnight to thicken.  Shake before each use.  Optionally, add a few drops of essential oil.  Adapted from

(My personal note: I saw Holly's laundry soap and it looks just like the one I buy at the store.  If I load up my detergent container with this instead of purchasing more, my husband couldn't tell the difference!)

10/2011 Update: I found my friend's homemade castile soap had too much lye and was burning holes in clothes.  For now, I use store-bought castile soaps and let the laundry detergent and water mix well before adding clothing.

1 (6ounce) can tomato paste
6 ounces warm water
3 T Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 T honey 
3/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. basil

If you like it hot, add 1/4 tsp. black pepper & 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper.  Mix everything together in a bowl and spread over crust. 

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter (chilled & diced)
1/4 cup cold water

Mix flour and salt together.  Using a pastry blender, incorporate butter until mixture is crumbly.  Add water, 1T at a time, until mixture forms a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Makes two 9-inch pie crusts.  Dough can be frozen.

in a large mixing bowl
6 cups raw oatmeal
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped almonds or walnuts
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds

in a saucepan
3 tbsp cinnamon
1 cup honey or molasses
1/2 cup coconut (or other) oil
3 tbsp vanilla
1.5 cups raisins or dried fruit (optional and after baking; my family likes the fruit; I don't.)

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix together honey, oil, and vanilla in a small pan on low heat.  Pour combined honey mixture over dry mixture.  Stir until thoroughly mixed.  Put in oblong cake pans (my double batch needs 4 pans) and bake at 350, stirring every 7 minutes to give even browning.  Add 1 1/2 cup dried fruit or raisins (optional).  Store in tightly covered container.  Makes 12 cups.

02/2012 Update: We continue to create, modify, and devour our granola for daily breakfasts.

(My personal note: I modified my first batch by adding a tablespoon of Italian seasoning, using garbonzo flour, and pepper jack cheese.)  

10/2011 Update: We are passing on the cheese-its.  My final product just doesn't compare to the boxed treats my husband loves.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

preschooling at home portfolio

photos of learning with Hannah's narration

workbook pages showing learning

nursery rhyme curriculum

workbook pages and pen pal letters

kept in "keeper" file and ready to bind into preschool portfolio

Dearest Hannah,

You've been learning at home since you were born, but as we get closer to legally homeschooling you during your schooling years, I am now collecting evidence of your learning for a portfolio.  A folder in our homeschool bin collects your work.  we sift through it now and then to keep your best evidence of learning.  You and I have been enjoying narrating your photos of home learning.  Some you write on your own, some you copy, and some I write for you.  We are having a great time learning and growing together at home.  I look forward to one day sitting down together to look back through this portfolio we have created together.

Bound with love,
your mama

grocery adventures (take two)

We had a few person bags made as gifts.  They say, "Please take note!  Always bring a tote!"

our pile of cloth bags (one for the library books, a bunch for the car, etc.)

We've been making our own fabric drawstring bags for when the plastic runs out.

Dearest Hannah,

Thankfully for you, I had another grocery adventure, but this time all by myself.  As a mother of two small children, I relish my time alone, even if it is spent strolling down grocery store aisles.  This time I went armed with bunches of plastic bags shoved into a paper towel tube, a couple plastic tubs, and a baggie of twist ties.  The local Winco has an enormous amount of goods in the bulk section.  I found my Parmesan cheese, organic spaghetti noodles, coffee creamer, and dry cat food in bulk.  (The cat's intestines didn't react well to the dry food, but we loved the pasta and cheese.)  I came home with 20 plastic bags full of bulk and produce items, a tub of local blackberry honey, and an extra $0.06 for each reused bulk and grocery bag.  (My mom says each cashier has a different rule on bag refunds and you can't get more than $2.)  I reused my bags because I felt it was the right thing to do, and found that I could also earn some money back by making that choice.

We've been able to share our old plastic bags with the local library who gives them out to patrons with loads of books.  And we pick up our library books and groceries in fabric bags.  In my spare moments here and there... they aren't plentiful... I've assembled some fabric bags that will eventually be our bulk bags when the fabric bags wear out.  And for now, we're saving our old holy plastic bags for recycling at Far West Fibers.  Progress is being made and I had another fun outing to the grocery store.  This time I got to rock out to my music alone in the car and discover new things to buy without new packaging.  Who could ask for more?

Wrapped with love,
your mama

Thursday, February 3, 2011

parental expectations & culture

My friend Alice emailed this article to me (Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior), as my husband is Taiwanese and may have interesting opinions on the subject of parenting that differ from a Caucasian parent's perspective.  This was my response.
our two beautiful Eurasian children

Dear Alice,

No worries about offending by asking for his advice because he's Asian.  He says as an Asian person, he is able to speak for all Asians... and then made a joke about Asian dads being better than moms; he's such a funny guy.  It was an interesting article.  He said there were a lot of generalizations, and he's didn't have Chinese parents, but Taiwanese parents.  He said he watched television and played video games and could do anything he wanted, other than go out to play on weekdays, even after finishing all his work.  The expectation was he'd get no less than perfect and that he'd go through graduate school. 

And my Caucasian family rule was I could go out to play after my homework and chores were done.  The expectation was to try my best, whatever that was.  I had to focus on my tasks until I felt I had done what I could.  In my family there wasn't necessarily an expectation to go to college, nor the funding, yet both my brother and I received good grades and eventually paid our own way through college and masters degrees.  My husband had his college paid for and is the only child in his family NOT to have a masters degree.  So this article gave us much to think and talk about.  Which way is best?  Is there a way to have firm expectations and still allow your children free time and space to have say in their activities (which activities and how often)?

Now I am wondering if I should raise my expectations of Hannah instead of giving her so much independence and so many choices in her daily life.  I didn't have so many choices to make when I was a child and then found later I had trouble making my own decisions.  I believe giving my daughter freedom to find her own answers by listening to her own heart and instincts will serve her well in the long run.  I do feel I make decisions for her when it's necessary or when I just can't accept another alternative.  An example is she wants to stay in jammies at home all day every day and I just need to get out of the house after being home-bund with an infant for a couple months.  I try to provide choices for Hannah whenever I can, to let her feel her own empowerment and to shape her own environment, even if the choices are, like my husband says, the same two things said in different ways: "brush teeth now or in one minute."  I am more of a stand back and keep them safe mom.  I love allowing time and space for free exploratin and learning, as long as it appears safe and respectful.  I can find a way to give Hannah choices that I can live with while also encouraging her to put all her effort into the activities of her choice.  She can choose the activity from our shared list, or I can.  She can put all her effort into that activity and try her best and practice, or I can choose a logical, natural consequence or another activity for her.  There are ways for both parties to get what they want, I believe.  It seems to me a child comes with particular interests and talents and it is our job as parent to help them to grow to the best of their ability into healthy happy adults.  But that's just me, the parent of a preschooler.  I am sure my philosophy will be quite different when my daughter is a young adult.

We've had a student-nanny in our home for a couple weeks (I went through the same nanny school 15 years ago,, and I've found laying down rules and boundaries and reasonings and lists of parenting techniques has really helped me evaluate my parenting choices and style.  What a wonderful opportunity to reflect on my parenting while my children are young, so I can still make changes.  So on days when I feel I am going stir-crazy or just crazy because there's not much time left within the day for myself, I can breath and reflect and learn and grow, and be thankful for that time to process my parenting before my children are adults.  I feel so privileged to have that luxury of reflection when looking back at I and my parents and grandparents were raised.  Hopefully I am growing into a parent with clear expectations, high standards, yet time to run and play and enjoy time with my beautiful growing-so-fast children.

This article got me thinking.  We will have more structure within our day now: more home school activities, scheduled classes here and there, more of a routine, once again host regular preschool book club parties, and more frequently visit with our home school (and other) friends.  What did you think of the article?  No offense was taken and we appreciate the conversations this article has opened.

Warm regards,