I Not Food!

Today I received a call from Munchkie's daycare teacher saying to give her a call, or we'd chat when I picked her up.  When I received the voicemail I was already walking out the door to go get her, so I figured I would just wait until I got to the school.  The whole way there, I was panicking, did I do something wrong?  Did I send the wrong thing in her lunch?  It didn't sound urgent, so I figured she was safe and ok.

When I got to the daycare the aide was there with the remaining kids and looked down at the floor as she said "She got bit today"
I said "Oh, ok, that's no big deal."
She said "No, she got bit by a kid, not a bug."
I replied "Oh I figured, don't worry about it, she's been bit by dogs several times, we just tell her to rub it and move on"

The aide said that the funniest part was that Munchkie said "I not food!" after she was bit, as if to indicate that you are only supposed to bite food.

Because the daycare doesn't want parents to get upset with other kids or blame other parents, they never tell who the offending child is.  Even if a virus is going around the classroom, they don't say who the first snot faced kid was.  So naturally, when Munchkie and I show Munchkie's Daddy her bite, he says "you got bit?  Who bit you?" and being the good daughter she is, she totally sold out the kid. 

Even though she was completely fine and when I asked if I could see her owie, she went to reach for her foot (not sure what owie was there!) so it obviously didn't bother her.  I felt bad for her.  So after dinner we went for ice cream.  She had no idea why we were going out for ice cream, but she was loving figuring out an ice cream cone for the first time.  She was loving it so much that she had to strip down to her diaper for the ride home.

This is a day that I knew was eventually going to come, but still dreaded.  While I completely understand that these things happen, I want to make sure that my daughter was not the one provoking the situation.  I know kids will be kids, but I hope that she will learn to share and be kind to others.


Light and Refreshing

In the winter I'm all about hot chocolates, hot teas and coffees to snuggle under the blankets with.  In the summer I'm drawn to cold refreshing drinks, such as my obvious obsession with ice tea.  With my new mint plants I've been experimenting to see what I can use them in.  Some drinks have been bad.  Very bad.  Tonight I decided to try out a few things after I found some coconut flavored sparkling water.  This one is pretty good.

2 sprigs of pineapple mint, crushed up
1/2 a lime's juice
small squirt agave nectar
ice cubes
coconut flavored sparkling water

Now I just need to figure out something with the chocolate mint that actually tastes good.


I Actually Won Something!

I am so excited!  I went to check my email before I hopped in the shower for work and there in my inbox was the subject "you won the snack bags from Homemade Mothering!"  Yay!  I had almost forgot that I had entered Homemade Mothering's Contest.  I have seen many reviews on reusable snack bags, but couldn't convince Munchkie's Daddy that they were worth the price.  I think that FREE Itzy Ritzy bags might help.  I am getting two free bags, and I get to choose my three favorite patterns. 
 I can't wait for them to come and although my comment that helped me win the bags was  
My daughter’s favorite thing to say now is “take it us” and she will hold whatever it is up to her cheek. This would be perfect for me to say, if it can fit in the bag, it can come with us. Whether it’s her sunglasses, a random Melissa and Doug pretend food, small book, crayon or anything else she decides to love at that moment.
 I think it will also be used frequently in Munchkie's lunches to daycare.  We tend to use a lot of ziploc bags to daycare because the foods I send are mostly finger foods.  These will be great to replace ziploc bags.

I am so excited and so thankful to Homemade Mothering for a contest that I actually won!


I Heart Canning

Last week I went to Whole Foods for a one day sale on blueberries.  Organic blueberries were just $1.99 a pint!  Then since I had bought the limit, I figured I needed to find something to do with those blueberries so that they wouldn't go bad.  Another blogging mom also saw the sale and posted an amazing sounding jam, Blueberry Lime Jam and I just had to make it!  I'm not a big jam person, and there was no way that we would eat enough jam in a couple days time to make it worth while.  So the only other solution was to can the jam.  Then I thought, well if I'm going to make the kitchen a mess, I might as well go all out and spend the day canning.  So I talked to my mom, a seasoned canner, and figured out a few things to can.  Then I went to a local orchard to get a few more items of fresh produce and to the grocery store for the last remaining items.

I decided that going into this I had to be flexible.  If things didn't work out the way I wanted, I had to figure out something different.  I also knew that you have to be super organized and figure everything out ahead of time because timing is everything.  I went to Walmart earlier in the week and got the Ball Blue Book guide to preserving for under $6 as well as the utensil set for under $10.  I read up on canning ahead of time and plotted out a basic schedule along with all of my ingredients.  I sterilized everything in the dishwasher the night before and set out everything that I would need.

Once I got going there were a few things that I had to figure out as I went along.  I had to figure out what the best set up for me was so that I could be the most productive.  We have extremely limited counter space, so I had to take advantage of every square inch.  I hate to cut and chop things, I don't know why, but it drives me crazy!  I had read a tip online where someone said that they didn't like chunks in their jam, so they used a juicer to get the flavor without the chunks.  I thought, that seems like a way to make my life easier.  I put all of the fruits through the juicer before I cooked them, but I scooped all of the discarded pulp and added it back into the juice.  This way all I had to do was coarsely chop the big items, cut the tops off the strawberries, shove the fruit through the hole and press the button.  I even did this with the apples for the applesauce.

The next thing that I had to improvise on was the boiling water bath.  I used my lobster pot, which has a steaming rack, and I was able to fit five pint jars or six half pint jars.  The problem came once the water started boiling.  The lightweight lid was flopping all over, allowing the steam to escape.  So I looked around and found my heavy glass blender to stack on top of the lid.  That still wasn't enough, so I grabbed our Jillian Michaels 10lb kettle bell.  Yep, that's right, this is what my canning pot looked like each time I put something in a boiling water bath. 

The actual canning process ended up being surprisingly easy.  I think that I had to just try it out once to get over my fear and anxiety because now I realize that it's not so bad.  You basically make your item, spread, fruit, vegetable, sauce, whatever you want.  While the food is cooking, have your canning pot full of water heating on the stove.  Then I had our electric kettle boiling water at the same time.  As the food item was just finishing, I poured the boiling water from the kettle into the jars I was going to use and then over the lids in another cup.  Once the food finished I poured the hot water back into the kettle, ladled the food into the jars, measured to make sure there was the right amount of space on top, wiped the rims down and put the lids on.  I used the special jar grip to put the hot jars into the hot water in the large pot.  Then I brought the pot of water to boiling, put the lid on and let it boil for the amount of time in the book, 10-20+ minutes depending on what it was.  Once I took the lid off and turned the stove off I waited five minutes and then pulled the jars out and placed them on a towel to cool.  While the fruits were in the boiling water bath I would start on my next item.  Not bad as it seems huh?  Very doable!
When it was all finished I had (in order of the above picture) Blueberry Lime Jam, Spiced Honey Peach spread (was supposed to be canned peach halves but couldn't get the skins off or peaches halved, oh well!), Strawberry Butter, Blueberry Applesauce, Applesauce, No Sugar Strawberry Blueberry Jam, and Cinnamon Apple Rings in Apple Juice.
The best part about the day was that I tried to clean as I went along.  If I spilled something, I wiped it then.  I rinsed off spoons and put them in the dishwasher.  While something was simmering or in the boiling water bath I washed what I could.  So at the end of the night, my kitchen was CLEAN!  Not a dirty dish or surface in sight!

So I was able to sit on the couch with Munchkie's Daddy and watch a movie while we enjoyed some ice cream with Blueberry Applesauce on mine and No Sugar Strawberry Blueberry Jam on his instead of spending all night in the kitchen cleaning.
This morning for breakfast I had three different spreads on a piece of No Knead Bread that I mixed up to rise overnight.  I can't deny that I fell into bed stating that I was never getting back out, only to jump back out seconds later and run downstairs to throw together a half batch of bread.  I was back upstairs in less than 7 minutes and then we were able to enjoy my hard day's work for breakfast.  I also scrambled some of the farm fresh eggs I got at the farmer's market.  Mmmmmmm DELICIOUS!

 Spiced Honey Peach Spread
1 cup honey
1/2 cup unsweetened 100% apple juice
3 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
6 whole allspice
4-5 pounds peaches
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 packet powdered pectin
6 cups sugar

  • Bring to a boil the honey, apple juice, cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice.
  • Simmer while you prepare everything else.
  • Boil a pot of water.
  • Once boiling, drop the peaches in the water for 30-60 seconds.
  • Drain the hot water and fill with cold water.
  • Remove the pits from the peaches and then puree.
  • In a large pot add together the peaches, lemon juice and pectin and bring to a boil.
  • Strain the honey mixture to remove spices and add to peaches.
  • Add sugar and stir to dissolve.  
  • Bring to a rolling boil and boil for at least a minute.
  • Pour hot peaches into hot jars.
  • Process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.


Farm Fresh

Growing up we had a farmer's market downtown on the square several times a week.  I remember when I was younger it being so fun and there were so many stands to check out and buy fresh produce from.  As I got older and accompanied my mother I remember there being disappointingly less produce and even less farmers.  The same was true when I went to the farmer's market at our first house in Illinois.  When the grocery stores carry "local" produce, why do you need to venture to a farmer's market?  I was shocked when that market mostly sold jewelry, soaps and other crafty items and no fresh produce to be found.

Today was my first time being able to make it to the big city farmer's market.  I have been to the smaller one in the town we live in and bought some amazing things.  Things got off to a rocky start this morning when Munchkie's Daddy woke me and said "it's 9:30!" we both immediately looked at each other and knew that meant trouble.  While Munchkie's Daddy gave Munchkie a bath, I scrubbed the contents of her diaper off of the walls, crib and carpet.  Then two hours later than we intended we headed to breakfast and then the farmer's market.

When we first moved here, we really wanted to live in the "Little Italy" neighborhood.  When we found out that we couldn't really couldn't afford it, it was so sad, and we've had a feeling of regret ever since.  This morning as we walked through the park to this quaint coffee shop under large flowering trees we felt the regret even more.  We turned to each other as we walked in and couldn't even believe that The Weakerthans were playing.  How cute are these hand stamped cups?  And Munchkie's "hmm, maybe carrot, you know, all that good stuff in it" muffin was amazing!  From what I could tell there was carrot, zucchini and a hint of citrus with a cinnamon crumble on top.  My apple cinnamon scone with just a taste of salt and Munchkie's Daddy's chocolate croissant were also excellent.

Then the farmer's market.  It was a good thing that my cash was limited and they were all cash only vendors.  I also, had just the night before gone to both an area orchard and the grocery store to buy ingredients for my day of canning, so I knew what was a good deal or what wasn't a good deal.  The flowers were absolutely beautiful!  I wish that I could justify buying bunches of them.  I already had my eye on these sugar snap peas, but the guy behind the stand popped out and brought one for Munchkie to try.  She loved it and begged for more.  Two pounds seemed like a good number.  Guess what we'll be eating this week!  Apparently his cow likes them too, he was showing this "too cute picture" of his cow eating the snap peas.

Then I spotted a vender that had all kinds of fresh potted herbs.  The rosemary initially caught my eye, but then as the farmer kept showing me the different herbs I was drawn in.  I ended up with rosemary, stevia, chocolate mint and pineapple mint.  The man said that if you dry the leaves in a paper bag you can add them to teas and coffees to add flavor.  I can't wait to figure out what to do with them.  Then, just as we were walking out, I saw them.  The farm fresh eggs.  I just had to get them.  I absolutely can not even wait to make some scrambled eggs in the morning for breakfast.

Overall, it was a wonderful time.  I am super excited about my purchases and can't wait to use them all!  I will be frequenting the farmer's market this summer in it's various locations.  If you are in my area, check out CitySeed to see the locations and hours of all of the farmer's markets.  I am partially devastated that I didn't think ahead of time to get a CSA and enjoy fresh produce each week.  The one at the orchard near me equals out to $30 a week for 20 weeks of produce!  I seriously wouldn't be able to get fresh produce like that anywhere for a price like that!  Let me tell you, I will definitely be finding a CSA for next summer!


I Did It!

In the words of Munchkie "Look at me!  I did it!"  I finally have grown my hair out.  I cut it on the second day of my honeymoon over 5 years ago and have not managed to grow it back out since then.

With super thick and what I call "naturally nasty" (not curly, not straight, not wavy, defiant and frizzy) hair every time I would start to get my hair long, it would get warm out.  As it gets warmer I have no desire to blow dry my hair and start sweating minutes after taking a shower.  So my solution to not having to spend time on my hair would be to chop it off.  I actually had grown it out a good amount, and then Munchkie was born and I went in when she was less than two weeks old to have several inches taken off.  This (pic below) was my hair two years ago at a friend's wedding.  I am so proud of myself for growing it out.  It may seem like a little thing, but to me it has been a struggle for five years.

You might ask why I would want to grow my hair out if it's such a struggle.  Well, first off, because Munchkie's Daddy likes long hair and secondly because it makes me feel empowered to meet a goal I set for myself.  Even if that goal was initially set to make someone else happy.  Every time I went into the salon and ask for it to be chopped off, I would feel so relieved to have an easy, quick style.  But then I would feel this little hint of regret, like I had given up on a goal and was unable to achieve it.  It feels really good to realize that after several years, my goal has been met. 

See you later short mom hair!  


Sunday Afternoon Baking

Since it's Father's Day and Munchkie's Daddy was taking a nap, when I heard "Daaaaaaaaddddddddyyyyyy I waaaaaaaaaake uuuuuuuup!" I decided that I would go ahead and wake up (I was sleeping all day after working that night) and get Munchkie.  Ever since our oven was fixed I have been itching to bake something besides bread or chicken.  I have been searching through our Food Network magazines and decided that we actually had the ingredients for this recipe.  However, I didn't pay attention to how long the cook time was, I was almost late for work waiting to pull it from the oven and had to completely forgo the "cooling time."

Mix-and-Match Quick Bread

How fun is that?  Each issue they have a mix and match recipe for all kinds of things from chocolate bark to ice tea to quick bread.  You choose your mix-ins and then follow the standard recipe, anything that I can alter is fun for me.  I made the banana chocolate bread with Munchkie's help.  That girl loves bananas, but she loves chocolate more, I had to keep her from digging the chocolate chips out of the batter.  While I think it will be a complete mess, she will love the bread.

 My version of the Chocolate Banana Bread
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup mashed banana (2)
Changes I will make for next time - read through and pull ingredients out before I start, add 1/4 cup more flour, and skip the zest.  My bread looked absolutely nothing like the one in the magazine, so in addition to this I think that I need new baking soda and baking powder.  I'm definitely going to try it again.


One Hour of Sun

Yesterday I took advantage of the one hour of sunlight that was usable for making tea.  I used the blackberry tea for the first time and just opening the bag it smelled delicious.  Munchkie saw me smelling it and wanted to smell it too.  She said "mmmm nummy!" I did let her have a few sips of the finished product, even though it is loaded with caffeine, which she really liked.

Blackberry Black Tea
6 Black tea bags
9 teaspoons of loose blackberry tea, divided into three tea filters
~ 1 gallon cold water
1/3 cup honey

To make, add the water and tea in a glass jug (about one tea bag per cup of water) and set out in the sun for about an hour.  If you leave it too long, it could become bitter, but I should have left mine out longer, it probably wasn't quite as sunny or warm as it should have been.  Once it is brewed, pull the tea bags out of the water and add the honey.  Mix well and refrigerate.  Serve over ice.  Delicious!


Twinges to a Bursting Heart

For whatever reason Munchkie has woken up several times already tonight crying out.  Sometimes it's just a little cry and then she falls right back to sleep.  A few times she has not been able to calm until one of us goes upstairs.  I don't want for her to become dependent on us to sleep and I want her to be able to soothe herself back to sleep, but she is just so precious that I want to stay at her crib.  I love to watch her sleep, comb my fingers through her hair and hold her chubby little hand.  She almost instantly falls back to sleep, just knowing that Mama is there.  Sometimes, if she's had a really bad dream, she will say "snuggle for a minute Mama?" and how can you turn that down?  I certainly can't.  I have to jump on any opportunity to cuddle with that crazy girl.

I don't know what it is about a sleeping child, but it sends a wave of peace over you and your heart feels as though it is about to burst with love.  Even if the trip upstairs to bed was a fight and an ordeal.  That sleeping form makes all of the frustration disappear and there is nothing but love. It's not even something that can be described.

Nights like these make it so difficult to go back to work in a couple nights.  While I have always enjoyed working nights, I am not there when she cries out.  I don't get to spend those extra moments leaning over her crib watching her sink back into a deep sleep.  In the middle of the night and hours of the early morning, it's not my name she cries, she has come to realize that I am not a reliable person to come to her rescue.  It's daddy who is there every night.  Daddy who gets her ready for bed.  Daddy who comes to cover her with her blanket when she wakes all disoriented.  When Mama is there, it's a surprise and not the expected.  Even while my heart is near bursting, this realization feeds a nagging twinge.  A twinge that is difficult to ignore.  A twinge that I will feel as I care for other children in the dark hours of the night and early morning.  I just hope that my bursting heart can help me better care for those children in need when I am away from my own.


Stick IN Your Stomach Not ON Your Stomach

I have always loved oatmeal.  There are several foods that I could eat everyday of my life and never grow tired of, such as yogurt, french toast, oatmeal, ice cream, chocolate, berries, brie and an iced caramel macchiato.  At least oatmeal and berries are good for me!  I have been eating this now that it has warmed up out outside.  The thought of putting something hot into my already sticky from the humidity body, does not appeal to me, but I do love oatmeal.  So my options are to sit eating it with the A/C window unit blasting on me (great use of my resources) or try it another way.  This is what I have come up with.

1 cup water
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 packets Stevia (honey, sugar, brown sugar, agave, whatever you prefer)
1/8 cup milk
1/2 cup frozen mixed berries (or whatever frozen fruit you prefer)

  1. Bring the water to boiling- I use an electric kettle so if I forget about it, no big deal, it shuts off automatically.
  2. While the water is boiling, mix oats, cinnamon and Stevia (or your choice of sweetener) in the bowl you will be using to eat.
  3. Add the boiling water to the oat mixture and stir.
  4. Let this stand for a couple minutes until the mixture is thick and the oatmeal is cooked.
  5. Add the milk and stir until completely combined, this is just enough to make the oatmeal a little creamy.  
  6. Add the frozen berries and stir again, the berries will significantly bring the temperature of the oatmeal down.
  7. Once the berries are mixed in, enjoy.  The oatmeal is chilled, but not old gross oatmeal cold, and you get cold little bursts of berries while you're eating it.  It's perfect for a summer morning where the temperature is already too hot to handle.
I usually don't get to eat the entire bowl because there is a little face that instantly appears next to me and says "mmmm yummy oatmeal, I try it Mama?"


Back to the Aquarium and a Colorful Meal

Today I decided that our aquarium hiatus had come to an end and we were ready to return to the love of Munchkie's life.  I made the huge mistake of saying something this morning about going to the aquarium and that is all we heard about until she and I got our hands stamped with a green frog and walked in.  Her love for that place is ridiculous!  Even though she fell asleep in the car just 2 1/2 miles from the exit, as soon as she opened her eyes and knew where she was, she almost fell out of the car in excitement.  We had a fun time running around and seeing everything we could in a couple hours time.

After we got home and Munchkie was completely crashed I started working on dinner.  I had mixed together a half batch of no knead bread and left it out to rise while we were gone.  I got home and separated the dough into eight lumps to attempt making rolls, which turned out ok for rolls, but not great for hamburger buns (the crust is just too crunchy).  I think that my least favorite thing about healthy eating is the chopping.  Everything needs to be cleaned and chopped.  It takes much longer than you think (at least it does for me!).  Even though it took a little while, it was well worth it.  Eating turkey burgers on homemade rolls with a delightfully colorful and tasty salad complimented by ice tea while sitting outside was the perfect ending to a fun day.
Yep, Munchkie is eating peppers, tomatoes and shredded cheese, I tried to get her to eat the bread by slathering butter on it, she just licked the butter off and told me she was "all done".


Search For the Perfect Ice Tea Jug

As soon as the weather starts to warm up we immediately start making some ice tea.  It's our staple in the summer.  We don't usually buy drinks like juices, etc so our fridge usually only has the option of water or milk in it.  We can also offer you coffee or tea if you decide to come visit.  The summer however brings choices.  We constantly have ice tea because it is the perfect compliment to any meal.  There are also so many options for variation. You can go straight black, green, herbal, fruity, spiced, or combinations. Then there's unsweetened, slightly sweet, sweet or even southern style sweet.
 I started making ice tea after we got back from our anniversary trip and was fired up for summer to come.  Our trusty ice tea maker had served it's purpose for many years and so I started a hunt for something else to use.  I found a smaller jug and although it was plastic (something I try to eliminate) I read it thoroughly and it had all of the positives I look for, BPA free, dishwasher safe, etc.  I made the first batch of tea, let it sit on the counter cooling for a while mixed in the honey and then poured it into the tea jug.  I walked into another room  and when I came back into the kitchen, the jug had melted and collapsed on itself.  I freaked out and started the much-more-difficult-than-I-thought search for glass storage.  Nine (yes nine) stores and a couple weeks later I finally found something.  I actually found two different options in two different stores on the same day. This first one I liked because it looks vintage.  It makes me think of days sipping ice tea while dripping in sweat on a wrap-around porch slowly swaying in solid wood rocking chairs.  The other option I have reminds me of my childhood, playing outside until dark and every house on the block had a jug of sun tea sitting out on a rock or tree stump brewing in the hottest hours of the day.  I intend on doing the same with my newly found $5 treasure.  Tonight I made a batch of strawberry black tea which is chilling in the fridge overnight and I can't wait to have a glass tomorrow.

We have a cabinet that is pretty much only for drinks, containing teas, coffees, travel mugs, straws for Munchkie, and other little random things.  We have all kinds of options for teas.  We tend to lean towards the combination slightly sweet ice tea blends.  I usually make a french press of plain, very strong black tea and a pot of flavored tea.  I then mix with 1/4-1/2 cup of pure honey, stir and then pour over ice and top off with water to fill the ice tea jug.  We recently visited a mind boggling tea store and have been enjoying the strawberry black tea I brought back with me.  If you are someone who even remotely likes tea, you have to check out Adagio Teas and see all of the options they have.  You can even order customized blends with flavors of Caramel Cinnamon Cream, A 'Chocolate Cupcake' Tea or Coconut Cream Paradise.  These sound amazing!

Do you have a favorite go-to drink?  What do you turn to when you need something cool and refreshing?


Simplifying the No-Knead Bread Recipe

After 6 weeks of no working oven, and a semi working oven for who knows how long before that, today has been a great day!  We have a working oven!  Of course, it had to be just when the weather started getting warmer.  I didn't realize how much I relied on baking for stress relief until there was no oven to bake in.  This recipe showed up in my blog feed a few days ago and I could not wait for the repair guy to come today with replacement parts to fix my oven.  

Munchkie's Daddy grew up overseas where fresh bread doesn't even compare to the bread here. He has made it his quest to make the perfect loaf of bread. Tonight, he said "this is just like the bread we used to get in Albania in the market" and I almost cried in relief and happiness.  I think this super easy and super delicious bread recipe will be gracing our table frequently.  It has an amazing crust, an incredible soft inside and only four ingredients.  I did use whole wheat flour, so it was 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 3 1/2 cups bread flour.

Simplifying the No-Knead Bread Recipe

Besides the bread I threw together a quick salad, cooked some fish on the stove top and made a pitcher of fresh ice tea from some tea we picked up at a great little tea store, Adagio, while traveling last week. It was such a delicious meal!  The perfect ending to a long day of work for Munchkie's Daddy, and a good time together as a family.