I love family. I love learning. I love food. This is simply a collection of thoughts, memories, and recipes that are a piece of me!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Three Ingredient Ice Cream

Before I get started here, I want to clear two things up.

First, this is not my recipe.  This recipe is all over the interwebs.  It's on Buzzfeed.  It's on hundreds of YouTube videos.  Martha Stewart uses it for goodness sake.  I won't be claiming my fame to this recipe at all, but I wanted to share it because I had never heard of this idea before so I wondered how many other people had also been hiding under a rock like me and hadn't heard of it either. And when I did see it for the first time, I was incredibly skeptical.   I am a bit of an ice cream snob, and the idea of a good ice cream made without churning it, quite frankly, seemed impossible. So I wanted to hold your hand and let you know...it's okay.  This recipe is really going to be okay in the end.

Second, yes.  I am aware it's the end of October, and pumpkin spice season is in full swing.  I should be thinking about pies and hot chocolate and tamales and all the things that warm my family's bellies when silver bells start ringing.  But...and this is a big but...it's ICE CREAM.  And it's always ice cream season.

So here's the deal: I have one of those counter top ice cream makers, and that thing has gotten some use.  I love homemade ice cream- especially banana- and so the heavy lifting for it seemed totally worth it.  But we only recently invested in a freezer that isn't the other half of our refrigerator, so we never had room to just keep the freezing bowl in the freezer...which meant some careful planning on my part.  First, I had to remember to put the bowl in the freezer a good 24 hours in advance.  Then I had to remember to make the base of the ice cream the night before I wanted to churn it.  Then I would churn it and had to let it freeze for another 8 hours so it wasn't like a thick milk shake.  If you're counting, that's ultimately a three day process.

No thanks.

Enter this recipe into my life.  No churning.  No freezing a bowl.  Very little mess, and I almost always have these three ingredients anyway.

So here's what you'll need:
2 cups of heavy whipping cream
a can of sweetened condensed milk
tsp of vanilla

If you want to get fancy and do more than just a simple vanilla, you'll need whatever you want to add in, too.

Start with pouring your whipping cream into the bowl of a stand mixer. (Or a regular bowl with a hand mixer!)  Some people refrigerate their bowl before they start, but I never do and have never had a problem.  Using a whisk attachment,  whisk the cream until soft peaks form.  Add in vanilla and sweetened condensed milk and whip until it's thick, which will only take a minute or so.  Then pour it into a freezer-safe container, freeze for at least 6 hours (but overnight is really best), and that's it.

I actually made two 8-cup containers today of this ice cream.  One I simply added banana to...so banana ice cream.  The second one, I used chocolate sweetened condensed milk to make chocolate ice cream.  Did you even know such a wonder existed??

I'm a fan.

I also have vanilla and peanut butter chocolate chunk in my freezer right now.  (I just added about 2/3 cup of peanut butter and chopped chocolate pieces to the vanilla base, and it's by far my favorite flavor so far!)

This doesn't taste like frozen whipped cream like I expected.  And it's smooth and creamy and wonderful- which I would never have believed if I hadn't tried it myself.

And these guys agree.

Monday, August 3, 2015

M&M Math.

In honor of school starting in a few weeks, I wanted to share this.  It's a great way to teach kids new concepts, but it also is an amazing way to get kids back into school mode if you want to give your kids a refresher course in math without them having to even pick up a pencil!

Long before I had three kids, and long before I ever started homeschooling, I had the amazing opportunity to work in the classroom of the best first grade teacher ever in the world.  Okay, so she is also my mom...and I'm not going to even pretend to not be bias....

But one thing I learned from her that I've carried with me since then is that learning is best done when it's fun- that kids will always learn best when they're enjoying it.

One of the things she did every year with her class was M&M Math.  (She actually had a book that she used, but I couldn't find it for this...)

I have used this with Isaiah, and I'm so excited to get to introduce this to my sweet-toothed little ladies now.

If you're anything like I was, you're probably thinking, "What in the world does candy have to do with math??"  Well, let me let you in on a little secret.  You can pretty much use anything to learn or teach.  Here are a few ways we are using M&Ms...

(Skittles are fun, too...or Fruit Loops!)

1. Sorting.  One of the reasons I love this is because it's really easy to cater to different grade levels.  With Eva, who is 2, I split a paper plate into 6 sections, wrote a color word in each section, and then colored the section that color.  She can match the M&M color to the color on the plate.  But with Izzy, who is 5 and knows her colors well and is now working on reading, I didn't color the section so she could match the candy color to the color word.

2. Graphing.  For this one, I did print some graphing pages off the internets, but they would be pretty simple to make, too.  This one is great for Izzy and Isaiah, who is in third grade.  Both kids get a small cup of candies.  Izzy put the candies directly on the page in the designated color spaces, but Isaiah counts the colors and draws on the page.  Both ways create a bar graph for the kids to see which color they have the most of.

3. Measuring and Estimation. To teach measuring, we simply put the candies in a line and use a ruler to see how long it is.  For youngr kids, you can "measure" by seeing how many M&Ms long, wide, or big something is.  We can include estimation by adding or taking candies from the line and estimating how long we think the line is now.  We also used the different kinds of M&Ms to see how that changed things.  It took less peanut butter candies to get from one side of the paper than it took of the mini candies.  This led us into...

4. Greater than, less than. For this one, I simply use an index card with a greater than/less than symbol on it.  I let the kids get a handful of candies and place some in two piles next to each other.  They then count the candies and then place the card correctly between the two piles to show which side has more and which has less.  This one is fun because I let them eat some from the greater than side to make the statement not true anymore.  That's always a crowd pleaser!

5. Counting.  This one is pretty obvious, but it's way more fun than using counters or non-edible manipulatives!

6. Alike and Different.  For this one, I used regular M&Ms, but I also used the peanut butter and mini ones as well.  The way we did it, each kid got a blue mini, regular, and peanut butter candy.  They then figured out how they were all alike and how they were all different.  They came up with similarities like them all being the same color, them all having chocolate inside, and them all having an M on them.  The differences were size, shape, and taste.  The younger kids can just tell you what is alike and what is different, but the older ones can write it all down.

7. Addition and Subtraction.  My mom uses flash cards which makes it really easy.  Each kid gets a flash card, then they use the M&Ms as counters next to each number.

8. Shapes and Pictures.  The kids are always a big fan of making pictures out of everything, and candy is no exception.  They used them to make very 8-bit type of pictures.  (I actually used this once for a Mario party we had for Isaiah.  The kids got a sort of "color by number" type of paper, but they used M&Ms to fill in the spaces instead of coloring them.  The result was either a Mario or a Luigi.  It was so fun for them, and you can check that out right here! (Mario Party)

The truth is, any time we mix up our school work and do something out of the ordinary, my kids always walk away understanding the concepts much better, and they never seem to forget that lesson.

I'm sure there are tons of other ways you can use M&Ms in math lessons.  Get creative (and share those ideas with me!)

I just suggest doing those lessons right before recess...because the kids can get a little crazy!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Loving A Grieving Child.

I have dealt with great loss.  Life-altering, devastating to the bone kind of loss.  The kind of loss that you never fully recover from.

And it was easy for me to become consumed by such a loss.  I could let it define me from here on out if I wasn't careful.  I could cry and let the sadness sweep over my whole life- and for a season, this might be good.  It might even be necessary.  Sin brings death, and when that understanding of what our sin does really hits us, we should take that moment to dwell in it.

But when my dad died suddenly in March, what I didn't see coming- the part that devastated me beyond my own personal grief- was dealing with how such a loss had an effect on my children.

As I walked toward my babies, sitting quietly on a couch in the hospital waiting area, trying to form the sentences in my mind that would shake their family foundation to its core, I had no idea how they would respond.  I went through the entire range of ideas.  Would they weep?  Would they understand?  Would they not care as long as they could get some juice and gummies?  To my surprise, after I struggled to form a child-friendly way to say, "Your grandpa died," they were just sort of quiet.

And they stayed quiet.  For the next few days, as people came in and out of the hospital and my mom's house, as they brought food and condolences, my kids were just....quiet.  They played and laughed and talked, of course, but about this subject, there was nothing.  There weren't the usual questions about what was going on.  They knew what had happened.  They were just quiet about it.

Until we sat around as a family talking with my dad's pastor about stories of his life.  My kids chimed in with their happy memories, and smiled along as we told some of ours.  We all laughed and had a great time that night, odd as that sounds.  But at the end of our happy, deep conversation about the man my dad was and the life he had led, I quickly asked that the pastor, as he read the eulogy the next morning, refer to Isaiah as "grandpa's little man" because that's what my dad always called him.  And you guys, as soon as those words flippantly left my mouth, I saw my sweet 7 year old, who had quietly dealt with everything that had transpired over the last few days, grab the blanket my dad always used, throw it over his head so no one could see him, and loudly weep.  And in complete solidarity with this child, every adult in the room joined in.  There was sadness there, in that moment, that overtook us all, and I began to understand how the grief of my child would be very different than my own.

Over the next months, this proved to be true over and over again, so I thought I'd put together a list of things that have really helped us as I walk through grief with my children....and I really hope they can help you if ever you have to go through this with your own kids.

1. They are not adults. I know this is obvious, but it took me some time to understand.  My 2, 5, and 8 year olds are not adults, and that means they will not deal with adult things the way adults do.  They will deal with them like kids do.  That means my expectations should be no more than that.  I revert to anger, but my kids wet the bed.  I cry in the car alone, but they have outbursts in public places.  They are kids.  Let them grieve like kids.

2. They don't always understand immediately. What took my 7 year old (at the time) a few days to process took my now 5 year old months.  And Eva, my 2 year old, may never understand the weight of what happened that day and how much her life was changed by it.  And that's all okay.

3. Let them see you grieve. This has proven to be true time and time again for us.  I know my kids have feelings and emotions about their loss just like I do.  And though I don't spend hours on end every day laying in bed crying (anymore...), I don't hide my sadness from them hoping I will shield them from pain.  I let them know that what they're feeling is valid when I show them I sometimes feel the same way.

4. Don't project. This was only a real struggle for me a few times, but when it was, it really really was.  When I told my kids that Grandpa was gone and there was no major response, I dealt with a real anger because I did not understand how they couldn't see the impact this would have or what they lost or something.  I saw it.  They should see it.  Only they shouldn't have because they were 2, 4, and 7.  My feelings are mine and their's belong to them.  Projecting my feelings on them is never good for any of us.

5. Let them deal with their feelings in their own time. This has been the biggest shock to me, honestly.  Things I think will set them off don't, like taking them to see the emotionally charged "kids" movie Inside Out, but then things I never think about, like them looking through a book I forgot my dad had given them, causes real emotional trauma and tears for hours.  (Isaiah actually asked me to hide that book from him, which I did, and then recently asked to look at it again.  I respectfully gave it back, and the quiet tears streamed as he read the book aloud to his sister.  My heart just shattered, but it was helping his heal.)  But just like adults, kids go through grief through stages in their own time.  Trying to rush or hold off on those stages does no good for them or me.

6. Don't assume you can always shield them.  This.  This every day for four and a half months.  Things happen that remind them.  Just today, we had a major melt down reading Charlotte's Web, and that's okay.  Though I want my kids to go through life without any pain or struggles, I understand that's impossible.  My attempts to shield them has always been futile and fruitless.  They will get hurt.  And I will do everything in my power to comfort them through that pain because I love them, even through their difficult sadness.

I'm sure as we go through the next months and next years and next tragedies in life, I will grow and learn more about how to walk through grief with others, but these six things have really changed and helped shape how I view grief, and have really helped me love my grieving children better.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

My Capsule Wardrobe: Fighting the Urge To Live In Excess (Part 2)

If you'd like to find out why I am doing this, please read Part One here!

Now you know the why.

So this is the how.

When I first began "decluttering" my closet, I really didn't know where I was going with it.  I knew I had to get rid of things, but I wasn't really sure what would happen after that.  The wardrobe I had amassed had been growing for years.  I had grown and changed.  I had babies and I lost weight.  I had no idea what I really even had or how much of it would fit, so mostly, I was just so happy that I could do this in the quiet privacy of my closed bedroom.    

And even though I hoarded tons and tons of things, I've never been "known" for my clothing.  Really, like most people, I felt like I was wearing the same three or four things Every. Single. Day.  

So I started with sorting.  I made the three obvious piles: Keep, Donate, Not sure.

I began to count the clothes as they came out of my closet and off the hangers.  

One....two....twenty...fifty seven....

When I hit 175, I just stopped keeping track.  At that point, it really didn't matter anymore.  I knew it was just a silly amount, and I honestly, I didn't want a record to even remember.

I kept noticing that the "keep" pile was consistently the smallest.  I was being very critical.  If it didn't fit, if I didn't love it, if I wasn't actually going to wear it, I didn't want it anymore.  

The more I took out, the lighter I felt.  As I separated my identity from these pieces of fabric, I began to feel bigger than this pile on my bed.  I was letting go of things I didn't need, and they were easily becoming things I genuinely didn't want anymore. 

In the end, I took three huge trash bags of clothes and shoes to Goodwill to donate them.  And I praised God for being my true comfort and for becoming more and more the desire of my heart.  And that was that.

Until it wasn't.

The day after my major clean-out, my closet looked sparse.  It looked sad and sickly.  And it made me a little sad.  It seemed like nothing went with anything.  I loved everything I had kept- about 50 things all together- but none of it seemed to make sense.  Like I said before: I don't think things are inherently bad.  I think beautiful clothes and shoes and jewelry are all good things- if enjoyed in the proper ways.  I felt like I had the keys to do that now, so I started doing research on capsule wardrobes.  

I watched so many Youtube videos and read so many blogs about them.  If you don't know what a "capsule wardrobe" is (like I didn't...), it's basically a small collection of clothes, shoes, and accessories that work well with each other.

Let me interject here.  If you google the term "capsule wardrobe," be prepared to be inundated with a massive amount of information.  There are so many blogs and articles and videos and opinions out there.  Pinterest it, and look at how many things pop up.  It's a LOT.  

Most everything I read or saw that really resonated with me pointed me back to Project 333.  The basic idea is to have a collection of 33 pieces- this usually includes everything except undergarments, jewelry, and home lounge wear or workout clothes.  These 33 items are then switched out every 3 months, or once every season.

I figured this would work for me, so I pulled out all the clothes I had left and began to see what worked well together.  Ultimately, I ended up with two main categories: what went with black and what went with brown.  Since I greatly prefer black during Christmas and brown during the fall, I opted to box up all my black things for now.  I didn't completely get rid of them.  They're sitting patiently and waiting until winter to be worn again.

The internet suggests creating a color pallet of what looks best on you.  There are a ton of fun online quizzes you can take to get this info, but for me, I already knew I owned a lot of (and loved) the colors mustard yellow, turquoise, and a pale pink. I added white as another neutral, and that made my color pallet complete.  It works well because I can switch out my browns for blacks, and these colors still work quiet beautifully.

Ultimately, what I kept was lovely.  I did pick up a couple of dresses and a new pair of jeans to round out everything, and I replaced one mustard colored cardigan for another because my old one was pretty tattered.  Other than that, I went with what I had, and this is what I ended up with:

Four Cardigans

Ten tops
Four bottoms
One sweater
Five Dresses
Six Pairs of Shoes
Three Scarves

I did not include my jewelry because I don't often wear much besides my wedding band and earrings anyway.

So there it is.  That's 33 things.  I probably won't stick to that number religiously forever, and I definitely won't switch out my browns for my blacks in exactly three months, but it was a great starting point for me. 

Every morning, as I open my closet now, I feel like I'm more than a rack of clothes.  I'm bigger than any pile of laundry.  I don't need these things anymore. 

Now I can enjoy beautiful things as I identify as a child of the greatest Comforter who has made me more through Him.

And that's a wonderful thing to desire.

Friday, July 17, 2015

My Capsule Wardrobe: Fighting the Urge To Live In Excess

Back in March, I was laying down in my bed, watching Netflix, and about to drift off to sleep when my phone rang.  It was my mom letting me know that she had called an ambulance for my dad.

Less than 48 hours later, he had passed away.

After the initial rush of people and food and full schedules, the world slowed down, and it was time to do the hardest part: go through all of my dad's things.  All of his belongings.  All of his stuff. 

My mom, my sister, and I spent days and days going from room to room, and there were so many things to look at.  There were clothes and electronics and memorabilia galore.  As I looked through all the worldly possessions my father owned, I started to think about how none of those things were him.  Other people may walk into his office and see all of the OU footballs and jerseys and trinkets and think they were looking at the life of my dad, but they would be wrong.  They were things he owned, but they weren't him.

My dad was his giving nature.  He was the long talks about politics and history in the middle of the night.  He was the excitement about Christmas gifts because he loved seeing our faces when we opened them.  He was the planning of vacations.  He was the love for his grand kids.  He was so much.

But he wasn't that stuff.

And then I started looking at my own life.  A quick glance around my house revealed more about the state of my own heart and my own desire to make myself about stuff than I really cared to see.  It was everywhere, and it was glaring and obvious.  (I have been actively avoiding reading Jen Hatmaker's book Seven for a while now- and am currently still holding out...- because I knew it would be a harsh truth for me).  Stuff can run my life.  Stuff can control my life.  Stuff can comfort me when I should feel the weight of my sin, and stuff can comfort me when I should seek refuge in Jesus.  

So here I stood.  I could run to Jesus and away from a materialistic lifestyle that I've carefully cultivated, or I could buy another sweater.

The thing is, the active decision to rid my life of many of my things seems like it would be an easy-ish task.  
  1. Buy large trash bags.
  2. Throw things I don't need into said trash bags.
  3. Love God more.
But it turns out, it's a bit more difficult.  I made many many walks around my house trying to decide where to start. My first thought was "clean out the tupperware cabinet."  But then as I took some things down, I immediately realized I might use some of those things someday, so I moved on.

"Maybe the kids toys." But then the kids wanted to keep everything.

They're basically tiny hoarders.

"Maybe my clothes."

So I opened my closet.  I wish I'd have taken a before picture.  It was that bad.  I surveyed the damage.  I really looked at it with my eyes and heart wide open, and you guys, the only phrase I could coherently form in my jumbled up mess of a brain was "I literally can't even..."  Can't even what?  I don't know.  Begin?  Clean?  Breathe??  So I didn't.  I closed the door.  I turned out the light, and I walked away.

Weeks passed, and I opened my closet every day, and every day, I became more and more frustrated- with myself....with my clothes...with my mess.  And something in my heart began to stir.  I saw my identity being formed by these things.  These things, after all, covered me.  They kept me warm, and for a season, they had given me comfort. The rush of buying the new dress.  The finally fitting into the pre-pregnancy jeans again.  The getting to grab the cardigan at the first feeling of fall.  None of these things are bad on their own, but when they become the desires of your heart, they are a detriment to your soul.  My identity was being formed by what I covered myself with rather than what I should be filling myself with in scripture and fellowship.  And day by day, by God's grace, that was becoming appalling to me.  I was no longer finding a comfort in having a bunch of hangers holding a bunch of clothes that, many of which, I was still holding out hope that I'd have an occasion to wear.

So I made of list of what I needed to do: 
  1. Buy large trash bags.
  2. Throw things I don't need into said trash bags.
  3. Love God more.
And so I did...

Friday, July 3, 2015

Summer Fruit Dip

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and I just finished making this dip.

And I also finished eating a half of a pound of strawberries and a good amount of this fruit dip.  Oops.

I love this recipe for every holiday, but I wanted to share it really quickly for Independence day because the two fruits it pairs best with are strawberries and blueberries.  And the dip is white. So it's pretty much fate that it be eaten tomorrow.  (It's also great because it takes maybe 5 minutes to put together, so it's a perfect last second go-to...if you're a procrastinator...like people I know...)

What you'll need:
2 packages of cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
the zest of two lemons

I do this in my stand mixer just to make quick work of it, but It'd be pretty simple by hand, too.

Start by creaming the cream cheese a bit just to soften it up then add in the heavy cream and powdered sugar.  Blend it up until it has a smooth consistency.  Zest your lemons and then add it in along with the vanilla and give it another mix....and that's it!

I think this dip tastes best if you let it sit over night, but it's pretty great immediately, too. The lemon gives it a perfect little zing for a summer dessert!