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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins...Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!  Always looking for a good excuse to make something with pumpkin, I thought this was a perfect day for pumpkin streusel muffins.  So they're not healthy...oh well, it's Halloween!

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins...perfect for a fall day!
Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t. salt
1 c. pureed pumpkin
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. oil
2 eggs

For streusel topping
1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
3 T. cold butter

Combine dry ingredients in medium sized bowl.  Add wet ingredients and stir just until combined.  In separate bowl, combine the streusel topping ingredients...breaking apart the butter and incorporating it into the dry ingredients with your fingers, until crumbly.

Put muffin batter in muffin cups, filling about 2/3 full.  Top with a generous sprinkling of streusel topping.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your muffin cups.  To test for doneness, insert toothpick in center of a middle muffin.  It should come out clean, with no wet batter clinging to the toothpick.  Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

Cookie scoops and paper condiment cups...great for making muffins and cupcakes
Handy tips for making cupcakes and muffins...
Use a cookie scoop for putting batter into cups.  They come in various sizes.  Cuts WAY down on mess!
If you want to make a lot of muffins in a short time, consider using paper condiment cups (you can find these at restaurant supply stores and stores such as Cash and Carry, and Smart Final).  You can put twice as many muffin cups on a cookie sheet and bake as normal.  The cups hold up all by themselves.  You can also use the small paper condiment cups for making mini muffins and cupcakes.  They're adorable!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Core values

Sisters can be taught how to get along  :)
Society's views of child rearing seems to change with each passing decade.  The focus shifts depending on current issues of the day.  A look at presidential first ladies gives us a glimpse of this trend.  Nancy Reagan in the 80's used the slogan, "Just say no (to drugs)".  Laura Bush advocated literacy in the 90's.  Hillary Clinton believed, "It takes a village (to raise a child)".  And Michelle Obama is currently promoting against childhood obesity.

While all of these causes are noble and worthwhile, they don't focus on time-tested and tried values and standards that have been proved to produce well-adjusted children and happy families.  Without strong values, taught in the home, families are left to shift with the tide of popular policy and opinion.

What are some of these core values that are so important?  I came up with my own list and then googled the subject and found that all of the values I wrote down were also listed in numerous articles and blogs.  Apparently, these are not radical ideas.  :)

1. Honesty.  How can a society (from the family to a global society) survive without its members being honest?  Being honest is not an excuse for being cruel or harsh. 
2. Respect.  Our children need to learn how to be respectful to their parents, teachers, other adults, younger children and their peers.  I guess that includes just about everyone!
3. Charity.  By this I mean service.  When children are taught how to help other people, they gain a perspective broader than their own little world.  Service also helps children learn...
4. Gratitude.  Being thankful for what you have is a value that we all could improve on!  There is too much of "I WANT!" in our families today.
5. Kindness.  This goes along with respect.  Being unkind hurts.  Children who are kind, find that they have more friends and better relationships with their family.
6. Work.  Whether it's regular chores or periodic jobs, work teaches the concept of following through and being responsible.
7. Obedience.  A two edged sword here.  Blind obedience can get a child into trouble if they trust everyone they come in contact with but being obedient to parents and teachers is absolutely essential to a child's safety and well-being.
8. Humility.  Ok, I didn't see this value listed in the articles I read, but there are too many children who lack this vital trait.  No one likes a cocky, show-off, bragging child.  Being humble reminds children to be thankful.

You're probably not going to see a first lady promoting these core values anytime soon.  It's too bad.  If more parents, leaders and teachers were to address and act upon these values, I think we'd have more children grow up to become happy, contributing members of society. 

So, dear mothers, it's up to us.  Maybe I'll address each value in a separate blog during the next week or so.  It's worthwhile stuff  :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

What a child IS vs what a child DOES

Self portraits...wonder what mischief they're planning  :)
When you've had it up to here with your children, when you wonder how you're going to survive...remember this...there is a difference between what a child IS and what he DOES.

A child is endless potential, a work in progress, boundless energy and imagination, a loved member of the family.  A child is not a miniature adult. He is a CHILD.

As such, he is going to make mistakes, try your patience and test his limits.  It's all part of the process of growing up.  You have the awesome responsibility of guiding and teaching your precious children to be well adjusted adults and this process is going to take until they ARE grown up.  You can't expect your young children to have adult behaviors and thoughts.  Even teenagers sometimes act more like toddlers than almost adults.

Regardless, their frustrating behavior is not who they are.  When you are irritated, remember that you are irritated at their BEHAVIOR, not them.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween ideas

All ready to go out!
Halloween has been a time-honored celebration for hundreds of years.  Its roots go back to Celtic traditions of honoring the dead and the end of the harvest season.  A far cry from what it is today  :)  Children look forward to Halloween as a time to dress up in scary or cute costumes and eat large quantities of candy.

Our world is no longer the safe place it used to be (if it ever was) but that doesn't mean that you and your family still can't have a fun time.  If you're not comfortable with taking your children around neighborhoods, knocking on strange doors and having them beg for candy, there are several options to consider.

1. My personal favorite...For years (at least 30), our church has organized a "Trunk or Treat" activity where church families come to the church parking lot, park in a very large circle with car trunks pointing inward.  Each family can decorate their trunk whatever way they wish.  All the children go trick or treating to the different cars where candy and goodies are handed out.   The children have the satisfaction of getting to go trick or treating and getting their candy and the adults have an enjoyable time socializing.  It can be as simple or fancy as you wish.

2. Little children don't need huge bagfuls of candy so you can scale down their activity to just visiting grandparents and other relatives and close friends.  If the candy is really for you  :)  consider going to the store the day after Halloween and buying yourself the kind of candy you want...probably at least 50 percent off too!

3. Start an annual tradition to go to a pumpkin patch or corn maze on Halloween.  Let the kids dress up in costumes and spend an afternoon getting exercise and running off all their energy (hopefully!).  Pick up a fresh pumpkin while you're there to carve at home.

 4. Several malls and communities plan trick or treating activities, again so kids don't have to go to unfamiliar places after dark.  Usually held in the afternoon, they have games, activities, contests and of course, candy.

5. At home parties (not for little children) with scary movies, popcorn, hot chocolate, apple cider and of course, candy.

Cute little kitty  :)
6. At home parties for families whose kids have allergies, illnesses and food sensitivities.  Look for some of the "tame" Halloween movies that are geared towards children (like "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown") and fix treats that all can enjoy.  No one should be left out.

Whatever you do, take lots of pictures and have the kids brush and floss before they go to bed!

Monday, October 21, 2013

An annoyance

Just a pet peeve today.  I wish parents wouldn't let their children answer the phone until they are old enough to speak clearly and answer appropriately.  Sure, it's cute to hear little Johnny's voice answering the phone but sometimes the person on the other end actually needs to talk to an adult with an actual reason.  If you're busy and can't come to the phone, let an answering machine take the message.  If you don't have an answering machine, it's time to buy one.

Oh, another thing...when little Johnny IS old enough to answer the telephone, teach him basic phone manners and phone safety.  You never know who is going to call your home.  Teach him to never give out information that the parents aren't home.  Never give personal information.

I'm a big fan of answering machines, in case you couldn't tell  :) 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Excess

It started out innocently enough...your little girl was given a Beanie Baby for a gift and she loved it.  So, being a "good" mom, you buy her another one...and another one...and her friend buys her another one...and the relatives buy her Beanie Babies for holidays and before you know it, a special shelf, then a whole bookcase (maybe even a whole room!) is devoted to the Beanie Baby collection.  While your daughter truly enjoyed the first and maybe the next few, it didn't take long for the magic to be replaced by the urge to collect more. 

Excess.  We're all prone to it.  It all boils down to the mindset that if one is good, then two is better.  But is it true?  We only have so much space in our homes.  Do we really need to fill up our homes with things bought with the sole purpose of acquisition?  How many books do we need?  How many kitchen gadgets?  How many knick knacks?  How much fabric? How many toys?

Things cost money.  They cost time.  They cost precious living space.  Is it possible that enjoyment decreases with the amount acquired? 

So many people complain that they don't have enough space and want a bigger home.  Or they say they don't have enough money to meet their needs.  Yet those same people often have large enough homes and decent salaries.  What if those same people learned how to control their craving for excess?  Would their lives be happier?  Might they actually enjoy the possessions they have?  Would  they have the money to live within their means?

Although it's hard to resist the things you have a soft spot for, remember that things are just things.  And too much of a good thing is still too much.  Excess is the enemy of contentment.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

24 hours in a day?

We all have 24 hours in a day, right?  Maybe not and here's why.  Everyone sleeps somewhere between 6-10 hours a day.  That time can't be counted as productive time (unless you count the body renewing itself during sleep).  Husbands (and often wives) work 8-12 hours a day and that is time outside of your control.  What is left is the productive time that you get to choose how to spend.  For some people, that might only be 4 hours or less each day.  Not much is it?

With that in mind, can you see how important it is to choose how to spend your precious time?  Do you really have time to watch two hours (or more!) of TV every night, just to keep up with the latest sitcom or drama?  Do you really have time to browse Pinterest and FB for hours on end?

I'll admit that I'm sometimes guilty of doing just those things but it's a rare day, not the norm.  Where is the time for exercising?  For spending time with the kids?  For spending uninterrupted time with your husband?  For enriching activities such as service, gardening, education, personal hobbies?  When are you and your husband going to get around to home maintenance and organization?

If you put time into perspective, you'll see how important it is to choose wisely the small amount of time you actually have.  My husband's saying, "There isn't enough time to do all the wonderful things there are to do" is very true.  It's up to us what we do.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Maslow, Motherhood, and Me

Exposing my inner nerd, I admit that one of my favorite classes in college was a study of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.  Simply put, he believed that a person is motivated to achieve certain needs and that the most basic needs have to be fulfilled before moving up to higher levels of needs.  His model is usually portrayed in the form of a pyramid, with the most basic needs (food, shelter, water, air, etc) on the bottom, moving up in complexity until reaching the top level of self-actualization (achieving personal potential and fulfillment).

Although critics point out the flaws in his model, there is enough truth in it to be useful in various aspects of motherhood and living in general.  Babies are the most obvious example when considering their needs.  At the bottom of their little "need pyramid" is sleep, food, warmth, dry diaper, followed by interaction with mother, being held and cuddling, followed by external stimuli etc.  A financial "pyramid" would have the basics of employment, shelter, food, warmth, clothing...followed by things like health needs, communication, transportation, followed by education, entertainment, travel, philanthropy etc.

In both these examples, in order to be satisfied and happy, the basic needs have to be considered first.  Can you see how this model can be used in other areas?  Take food...the USDA used this same type of model for several years (the Food Pyramid) to show what our diets should look like.  Grains at the bottom, sweets at the top.  (I think I have my pyramid reversed!)

When there is an area of dissatisfaction in your life, try to think of the problem in terms of a pyramid.  Are the basics taken care of?   Whether the problem is housekeeping, diet, your children's behavior, your relationship with your spouse, your employment...your pyramid needs a stable foundation to be strong.  Work on shoring up that foundation before moving up to bigger and better things.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Heavenly Pumpkin Pie smoothie

Dairy free pumpkin pie smoothie!
Probably the best part of Fall is pumpkins!  I love pumpkin pie, cakes, bread, muffins, cookies, name it, if it has pumpkin in it, I love it.

Since I've been trying to make healthier meals (and snacks) for my family and have been incorporating smoothies into our daily diet, I had to try to make the perfect pumpkin smoothie.  After several attempts, I think I came up with one that meets all of my high other words, it has to taste good  :)

A note first -
Opening a large can of pumpkin puree for one smoothie leaves a lot of pumpkin to left to deal with.  Ice cube trays solve the problem.  Each little compartment holds a scant tablespoon of product (in this case, pumpkin puree) and two trays will hold an entire can of pumpkin.  Freezing the cubes, transferring them to freezer bags and using only what you need is so convenient.

Heavenly Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
1/2 c. pumpkin puree (or 5-6 frozen pumpkin cubes)
1/2 apple, cut into chunks
2 bananas, cut into chunks (preferably frozen)
a handful of almonds (I used raw...probably about 1/4 c.)
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/2 to 1 c. water
Blend everything in your heavy duty blender until smooth and creamy.  It truly is heavenly!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Some books are timeless...

I came across a little gem of a children's book last week while browsing through a used bookstore.  It was written by Munro Leaf, who wrote the famous children's book about Ferdinand, the peaceful bull who only wanted to sit and smell the flowers.  I remember that book from my own childhood and enjoyed reading it to my children when they were little.  Disney turned the story into a sweet animated cartoon, probably sometime in the 1960's.

Anyway, I digress... I recognized the author but didn't realize he'd written any other book.  Surprise!  After buying this new little book, I went home, googled him, and discovered that over his lifetime, he'd written more than 20 books for children.  Some have been reprinted recently, as was the case with the book I found.

From the book, "How to Behave and Why" by Munro Leaf
It's entitled, "How to Behave and Why"and was written in 1946.  The inside cover states, "In a time when the rules for raising children have been redefined dozens of times, here is a book for bewildered parents, from a simpler time when we all agreed on what was right and what was wrong."  It was written for young children but the message applies to everyone.  The main things you have to do if you want to make friends and keep them are..."You have to be honest. You have to be strong.  You have to be fair.  You have to be wise."

Just because a book is old, doesn't mean that it doesn't have information current to living today.  What a sweet little book.  I'm going to try to find some of his other works!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Moving with little children

Moving is a stressful activity but especially for young children.  They know something is up.  You might have even told them what's going on but they don't really understand.  They feel your stress as you make preparations to move to a new house and/or city.  The only way they know to handle their own stress is to cry or cling or behave in other ways that don't really help the situation.

There are a few things you can do to lessen the impact on the family.

1. Try as much as possible to maintain your children's regular routine - before, during and after the move.
2. Make and post a countdown calendar so they can see how long it will be until the big day.
3. Regularly tell them what is going on, in simple terms they can understand.
4. Be positive and upbeat, regardless of what you're feeling inside.
5. When packing, pack their bedroom last and unpack their bedroom first.  Keep things as much like their old room as possible...especially at first.
6. When packing their room, pack one box of their most favorite belongings and mark it clearly that it is to be the very last box on the truck.  Make sure your kids get to open their box as soon as you move in.
7. At your new house, give your kids the royal tour and talk about all the fun things you're going to do at your new home and in the new neighborhood.
8. Give them time to readjust. 
9. Remember that a move is temporary.  You will all settle in soon.

Most likely, you and your family will move more than once while your children are growing up.  It doesn't have to be a negative experience.  Your kids will adjust and your family will have new experiences and new adventures.  Give it time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Peace of mind

No one likes the idea of deprivation.  If we want something, we want it NOW!  The idea of waiting or even doing without is so foreign as to be ludicrous.  At least, that's what advertisers want you to think.

There are some things that you cannot do without.  That, housing, heat, other words, the basics.  But even within those categories we have choices.  We can make our money stretch by buying frugally or inexpensively or we can be dissatisfied unless we have the biggest and best there is to buy.

If, after your basic needs are met, you still have money left over, THEN you can contemplate how that money is to be spent.  A wise person or family will look ahead to the future and anticipate future needs.  That might include braces for teeth, savings for emergencies, college and other worthwhile expenditures.  Money can be saved for "wants" and then purchased when the money is available.  A not so wise person or family might look longingly at new "toys", going into debt for exotic vacations, and just being frivolous with the money they have.  Then when the inevitable emergency happens (job loss, unexpected medical bills, major car or home repair), they wring their hands because they have no money to meet those needs.   The "toys" paid on credit lose their excitement long before they're paid off. 

Meeting your basic needs and having the resources to handle a financial emergency isn't deprivation.  It's peace of mind.  It's knowing that you've made the necessary preparations for unforeseen expenditures.  It lets you be in control.  It lets you sleep at night.

Which position would you rather be in?  Now is the time to get back in control.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tidy Tuesday - Our job description

If you're a stay-at-home mom, you probably have a husband who works full time.  If your husband works full time, he probably is gone from the home several hours of the day.  His job probably has certain requirements and expectations that he needs to meet in order for him to keep that employment.

Being a stay-at-home mom has requirements and expectations too, although they are somewhat more...fluid.  Your hours are long and sometimes you don't get a lot of positive feedback.  But, that doesn't mean that you can shirk the basic requirements of your job.  You have to have more self-discipline because you are the one who plans how your "work hours" are going to be filled.

What are some of those tasks that are part of the job description of a stay-at-home mom?
1. Nurture, teach and care for your children.
2. Household tasks...laundry, cleaning, organization, clutter control, maintaining a neat and tidy home.
3. Budgeting to make your one income stretch to meet the family's needs.
4. Meal prep, menu selection, purchasing groceries.
5. Scheduling appointments (medical, dental, educational, home and car maintenance).

Those aren't all of the tasks that we do but they are definitely some of the most basic.  Someone has to do those things in a family and by the mere fact that we are the ones who don't work outside the home, those are our jobs.  We might not get the praise and applause of the person who works outside the home, but our work is necessary for the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health of our family. 

When you fulfill your jobs and your husband fulfills his, there is true balance in the relationship and no one is left shouldering most of the weight or feeling resentful.  It is a system that works.