Thursday, December 31, 2009

Persimmon Brownies

Persimmons are one of my favorite winter fruits. I have been receiving them in my produce box over the past several weeks and have been thoroughly enjoying them. Today I received two very ripe Hayachia persimmons in my box that were almost past the point of eating, so I decided to try them in this recipe:

Persimmon Brownies

2 very ripe persimmons
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil or melted butter
1 egg
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon/nutmeg/cloves
1 c. raisins
1 c. chocolate chips

1) combine mashed persimmons (skins on) and wet ingredients.
2) gently stir in dry ingredients without over mixing.
3) fold in raisins and chocolate chips (may be substituted with chopped nuts.)
4) pour into greased 9x13 pan and bake in 350 oven for 25 minutes.

The verdict: These were quite good. Not as sweet as a traditional brownie, but a nice change (and you don't have to feel guilty eating one- they're actually good for you.)

Now excuse me while I go enjoy one with a cup of nettle leaf tea (compliments of the produce box as well.)

Happy healthy eating!

Friday, December 25, 2009

We caught Santa's elves having a dance party!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Best Gifts

What was Ashlee's favorite gift this year? Her crocheted hat.

Kaitlyn would say the same, too.

Mommy loves the girls' new hats. Thank you Aunt Roxanne!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Silent Night

Christmas Eve

We walked around the temple (as per Jacob's request)...

Viewed the beautiful nativity...

Came home and decorated sugar cookies...

Then had our traditional seafood candlelight dinner...

Santa's cookies are out, the reindeer food is on the front porch, lists are made, and we are wrapping up the evening with a viewing of Elf. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In Praise of Gentle Birth

At my last prenatal visit I plucked this book off the shelf of my midwives' library. Initially I was drawn in by the title, as well as the birth stories I came across upon scanning the contents of its pages (I love reading birth stories and can't get enough of them.) However, upon a deeper reading, I discovered that this book contains such a plethora of information, wisdom, and woman-to-woman intuition that I thought I'd pass it along to all of my mommy-to-be friends. Dr. Sarah J Buckley speaks with the authority of a doctor and mother to her own four children born naturally at home, and covers topics from normal, undisturbed birth to homebirth, attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, the spiritual journey of labor and birth, and gentle discipline. I really connected with much of what she had to say on a spiritual level. Here is a synopsis of some of my favorite quotes from the book:

First off, she acknowledges the importance of experiencing a natural birth by saying that "a woman who has given birth under her own steam gains an immense sense of personal accomplishment... (feeling that) 'if I can do this, I can do anything.'" Buckley believes that "these feelings are a part of our evolutionary blueprint for birth, giving a new mother the confidence that she needs to care for her baby" (68.) This is something that, since first giving birth naturally at age 18, I have instinctively known but have never been able to express quite as eloquently as Buckley has.

She takes the definition of natural birth one step further when she introduces and advocates for homebirth. Contrary to the belief that homebirthers are often poor, uneducated, and/or living in third-world countries, Dr. Buckley states that "Women who choose homebirth tend to be older and better educated than the general population and include many health professionals... homebirthers are generally trusting of their bodies and of the natural processes of birth, and tend to be self-reliant and self-responsible in other aspects of their lives. The experience of giving birth in one's own time, in one's own space, also reinforces these attitudes, giving the new mother a solid confidence in her abilities and those of her baby, and laying a firm foundation for pleasurable mothering" (231.) And don't forget the benefits of a homebirth for the father; for after the birth, it's the father who stays while the midwives go home, not the other way around.

Perhaps the passage that most struck me on a spiritual level was Buckley's acknowledgement that homebirth is a sacred event. "Homebirth ensures that these sacred events (menstruation, conception, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding) stay within our own space, keeping the circle whole and inviolate. Homebirth can bless our homes and our families many times over, creating a wondrous atmosphere in the early weeks and months, and giving us memories and experiences that can sustain us- mothers, babies, fathers, and children- for a lifetime" (236.) It just makes sense that our babies are conceived at home, grown at home, then birthed at home. I know that when I experienced my first homebirth with my third child, Noah, the thought that came to my husband and I was that this was the way God intended women to have their children. There was no denying the sacredness of the event and the spirit that permeated our home those first few days and weeks.

Changing paces, she talks about her experiences with yoga and birth, and how yoga helped her to prepare for the birth journey. She says, "For me, birth is a time of spiritual teaching and awakening, and yoga has been a great ally in this process. Yoga has given me an inner space and an outer practice, as well as a taste of the bliss that is possible when I fully surrender to the elemental (and unpredictable) forces of labor and birth... Like yoga, birth is about getting out of the way... (and) as with any spiritual path, the more awareness we bring, the more we reap from our experiences" (287.)

Buckley concludes with a section on gentle discipline. For me, it is always a challenge realizing that this tiny little miracle of a baby is going to grow up and require some discipline. It's a sad but unavoidable reality. While it is hard to break away from, I have learned that it is impossible to hold onto that bliss and innocence that accompany the birth of a new baby, and to be the "Perfect Mother" I aspire to and commit myself to be. Rough times are sure to lie ahead. Buckley sums this up well when she says, "My version of 'The Perfect Mother' involved fulfilling all of my child's needs (often ignoring my own,) and never saying 'No.' The attachment parenting that I did with Emma was wonderful, and involved a lot of devotion, but I was in real danger of being an unselfish and emotionally unreal mother with a selfish, spoiled child" (300.) Her solution to this is to be a "self-centered parent," which ultimately means taking care of ourselves first so that we can better take care of our children. Nobody wants a martyr. She says "self-centerdness saves us from the resentment that can come when we over-stretch ourselves in fulfilling our children's needs," (RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU'VE BEEN THERE!) which is not uncommon for attachment parents (301.) This passage really helped me to realize that by taking care of myself and tending to my own needs, not only am I not being selfish, I am actually doing my children a favor by making sure they have a full well to draw upon.

In summary, there is so much good information in this book that I recommend every new or expecting mommy has a copy on her shelf. I thought of so many of my mother friends, from the one who had her first natural birth with her fifth child, to the one who is about to experience her first birth and homebirth, to the one who introduced me to homebirth and who is about to have her fourth, to the ones who aspire to homebirth, that I really felt connected to them all. As I've said before, the births of my children have been the most sacred events in my life, and birthing at home has been the epitome of that spiritual experience. I wish you all luck and can't wait to hear some more birth stories! Good luck and God bless.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Prep 101- Part II

What to do when it's 5:00 in the morning and you still can't sleep?

Make homemade caramels and shine your sink (then blog about it.)

If only FLYlady could see me now.

Holiday Prep 101

What to do when you wake up at 3:30 a.m. and can't fall back to sleep?

Knit baby legs by the light of the Christmas tree, of course!

(That's one less thing on my Christmas to-do list... maybe now I'll be able to get some sleep.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

FLY Lady (Finally Love Yourself!)

Formerly, keeping a clean and orderly home was never an issue for me. In fact, I relished in the time I spent doing chores and organizing. I couldn't get enough of it. I found that the more I cleaned, the better I felt, so the more I would clean, etc. I find that a clean, clutter-free home frees me to embark on more creative, productive endeavors. On the contrary, living in a messy house leads to mental, emotional, and spiritual clutter. A great book that sums up the effects of living in chaos and how to get out of it is Karen Kingston's Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui. I highly recommend it.

Anyhow, I know all of this and was living by it... and then I got pregnant. I experienced about 6 weeks of intermittent nausea and fatigue, and as such I was forced to shift my priorities. A clean house ranked second to getting adequate rest and keeping my 4 kids clothed and fed. Well, the first trimester passed and yet I found myself stuck in some of the same bad habits I had developed while in survival mode. As of late it has been my goal to get back to where I used to be, yet despite my best intentions it's still been a struggle. Then I remembered FLY Lady.

She randomly popped into my head the other night as I was contemplating what I could do to get back on track, and so far she has made all the difference. I feel more like the old "me" than ever before. She has a very simple program that is easy to follow and is very gentle in her tactics. For example, Day 1's goal was to shine my kitchen sink. So I did. And naturally, this made me want to keep up with my dishes and counters as well, so I did that too. Yesterday's task was to shine my toilet. So I did- both of them. And naturally, with a shiny toilet you'll want clean counters and sinks, too. I also jumped ahead in the program and read that she recommends washing one load of laundry a day, so I've been doing this as well. As such, I am no longer overwhelmed by the burden of trying to wash, dry, fold and put away 6 loads of laundry at once. Today is only Day 3 for me, but I can already feel the change. I have fallen back in love with my home and the chores that go along with maintaining it. She coins the term CHAOS (can't-have-anyone-over-syndrome) and helps you to overcome it. As far as I believe, everything is better in a clean house! This is coming just in time for the holidays, too, and I hope to have reached my goal of order and cleanliness before I start homeschooling. Thank you FLY lady.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


This is the first year I've had success in making homemade English toffee, so I thought I'd share. I've already made this twice in one week (yes, it fits into my diet.) The recipe is a science, so make sure you follow it exactly. Every step is critical in the success of your finished toffee.

English Toffee

3/4 c. butter
1 1/4 c. white sugar
2 Tbs. water
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 c. semi or bittersweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli's 60% cocoa chips)
1/2 c. chopped almonds (this is optional)

1) melt butter over medium heat in heavy saucepan.
2) add sugar, water, and corn syrup and stir just until blended.
3) bring to a boil without stirring the pot at all!
4) allow to boil, undisturbed, until mixture reaches a deep caramel color, about 10-12 minutes.
5) immediately pour into a well-greased (I used oil spray) 10" x 15" x 1" glass pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over top. Allow to sit for about 1 min.
6) using spatula, spread melted chocolate over all. Sprinkle with chopped nuts.
7) allow to cool completely (I stick it in the fridge to speed the process.) When set, break into pieces.

Homemade English toffee can be layered in a jar and tied with ribbon for a festive Christmas gift.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December Recital

Ashlee's dance recital was last night. This is a mid-season production, and is not as elaborate as the Summer recital. It was still a lot of fun though. Her class adapted an 80's theme and danced to the song "Far From Over." Ashlee shone like always!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Snowy Day

As Forrest and I were getting ready to go to bed on Sunday night, we looked out the window and saw a few snowflakes falling down to the wet ground. The last thing I wrote in my journal that night was, "I wish I could keep the kids home from school tomorrow for a snow day."

Little did I know we'd wake up to this:

Jacob was the first one to notice the blanket of white, and wasted no time suiting up in his snow gear. Noah soon followed.

The biggest snowball I think I've ever seen.

The neighborhood was so beautiful. There's something magical about snow.

I forgot to mention that we got a little more than we bargained for; we also woke up to no electricity. It wasn't long before the kids were yearning for some much needed heat, so Forrest fired up the camping stove to use as a hand warmer.

It also doubled as a place to prepare my lunch (sauteed radishes and red mustard greens from the produce box.)

Forrest diligently shoveled the snow in the driveway for a safe walking path, and transferred it to the front yard for this monstrous snowman (ours was the biggest in the neighborhood.)

Forrest even crafted a wooden pipe for his mouth.

While it was a lot of fun, the novelty of a snow day soon wore off. By late afternoon, I realized that without heat or electricity our house was becoming destitute. The kids had gone through all of their warm clothes (they were soaking wet from playing out in the snow) and I had no way to dry them. I tried to give them a bath, but they ended up with only about 6 inches of lukewarm water. We had cereal and cold sandwiches for dinner, when what we longed for was a hot meal. Forrest had to go to work that night, so I was left alone with the kids in a cold, dark house. We went out and got some hot chocolate then drove around and looked at Christmas lights to pass the time. Finally, at about 8:30 we came home and lit as many candles as we could, then I had all the kids pile into bed with me. The thermostat on my car read 28 degrees, and there was no way I was going to put them in their own beds. I was so grateful when I awoke around 11:30 p.m. to the sound of the central heat running and the glow of the night light from my bathroom. The thermostat in our house read 52 degrees... brrrrrr! I will try never to take electricity for granted again.

The Belly Report

Well, through a somewhat hazy and toothpaste-splattered mirror, you can see that the belly is growing. Monday was the beginning of my 28th week, putting me officially into my third trimester. We also had a prenatal that day, at which all the kids were able to listen to her heartbeat. With the help of the midwives, Forrest and I were able to feel her positioning and even caress her tiny back and bum! She was squirming all over the place and kept kicking at all of the hands placed on her. Much to my dismay, my back and hip ache has begun already, making it difficult to walk. I have had this with every pregnancy, but it usually doesn't come until later in the third trimester. The pro to this was that it gave me the motivation to inflate my exercise ball (or birth ball) and bring it upstairs into my bedroom, where I am able to use it for stretches and core-toning exercises. That seems to help, if only temporarily. The third trimester is always my favorite, aches and pains and all. 11 1/2 weeks and counting.

A Walk Through Bethlehem

On Sunday night we headed down to the Sunrise Community Church for this Night in Bethlehem we had heard about. It was cold, and the rain kept threatening to dump on us, but the experience was well worth it. The whole night was centered around replicating the birth of Jesus. Everyone was dressed for the time period, and the atmosphere was incredibly authentic.

Before we entered Bethlehem, we had to sign the census for accountability purposes.

The kids got a chance to help these women grind grain for their bread. Back in the day, women would spend 3 hours each day baking enough bread to feed a family of 6 for 1 day. They didn't have Nutrimills and bread machines.

We found the 3 wisemen with their gold, frankincense and myrrh, and they gave each of the kids a gold nugget (spray-painted pebble) to bring to the baby Jesus. These guys' costumes were amazing.

They even had live farm animals walking around, which made Kaitlyn ecstatic. She could've spent the whole night with them and been happy as a goose.

These baby lambs were so precious.

We looked up and saw the angels appearing to the shepherds in the field, singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and directing the shepherds to Bethlehem. They were beautiful.

After much searching, we found the baby Jesus.

Of course the kids had to give him their gold nuggets.

This was a free event and is held annually at the Sunrise Community church for one weekend only. I think we'll be making it one of our new Christmas traditions, and I would highly recommend it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Relief Society Christmas Dinner

Last Thursday was our annual Relief Society Christmas dinner and program, and it was absolutely beautiful. I arrived early to drop off some food, and the house was decorated and serene. I was glad that I was able to soak in the ambiance of it before the crowd arrived.

Elegant centerpieces adorned every table.

We sat at a table near the fireplace; so cozy. I love this picture of the savior.

The homeowners have a beautiful piano.

My friend Tiffany made these amazing homemade chocolate mouse cups. I can only imagine the work that went into them. They were delicious.

Tiffany made these truffles too. She definitely has a talent for candy making.

It's been a tradition that my friend Lisa comes to the dinner with me every year. I love her company, and we had a great time chatting it up. I kept grabbing her hand and putting it on my tummy so she could feel Rachel move.

The women singing a Christmas carol.

These two sang a beautiful duet right at the end.

On the way home, I passed by this elaborately decorated house and couldn't help but stop and take a picture. It was the perfect way to top off the night.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Winter Soups

We've been on a soup kick and have had soup, salad, and homemade bread or biscuits every night this week. Just thought I'd share two of the good recipes I've found:

Chicken Stew with Dumplings
This is the best chicken and dumplings recipe I have come across. It turns out rich and delicious every time, and it makes plenty of leftovers.

Zuppa Toscana
This was my favorite soup when I worked at the Olive Garden, and I was so happy to find the recipe online. I made a big pot of it tonight with some of the kale I received in my produce box, and it was delicious. Forrest especially liked the spiciness of it. However, if you are serving kids, I would suggest scaling back on the red pepper.

I love winter soups!

Sneak Peek

Here is a preview of my latest endeavor: homemade stockings.

This one still needs a hook, a name and the embellishments. I figure if I can complete one stocking per night, I'll be in good shape.

I chose to make them out of crushed velvet with a satin lining. I have five different colors of velvet: one for each of the kids. They are lined with sew-on interfacing to help them keep their shape. I am hoping they will become keepsakes for the kids, but we'll have to see how well they hold up (they don't make fabric like they used to.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Produce Box

I am so excited. I just started receiving my produce box again!

For just $20 a week, you get a box full of fresh, organic, locally grown produce from a farm down in Sacramento, delivered to your area (my pick-up spot is Bubba's in Cameron Park.)

What I love about this service is that the farm owner includes a letter each week detailing what is in the box, along with recipe ideas and health benefits. This is very helpful as some of the produce is quite exotic and I wouldn't know what to do with it otherwise.

Here is an excerpt from this week's letter:
"The Ragged Jack Kale is an heirloom from the 1600's. Kale soup with
sausage / potatoes is a sure winter cure for everything."

The remainder of the contents include: Quince, pineapple sage tea, delicata squash, assorted peppers, fresh thyme, sweet potatoes, seasonal salad mix with edible flower petals, daikon radishes with greens attached, and red mustard.

I am not kidding when I say I can literally feel the nutritional boost from eating this produce. It's eating the way nature intended. The greens are so dark and rich, packed with nutrients. Grocery store produce doesn't hold a candle to it (even if you shop the organic section!)

Click here to find out more info. about Consumer Supported Agriculture and to start receiving your own box.

Happy eating!