Thursday, December 12, 2013

These are a few of my favorite (holiday) things...

As measurable snow has fallen and the air is definitely cold, this is my follow up post to the ways the holidays kill my holiday spirit. Thank you for letting me vent about the holiday craziness. However, I remind myself that holiday is a compound word - holy day - and to treat it that way.

Here are some of the things I love about the holidays...
  • Our family traditions - Every year we read The Advent Book taking turns opening a door everyday until Christmas. The book tells the Christmas story and on Dec 25 behind the big red door is baby Jesus. By Christmas my girlios have their pages memorized. We also read The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever, which is a great book for any age. Our Christmas morning tradition includes not any opening gifts until breakfast is eaten and all cleaned up. Apparently, the girlios have noted, Christmas breakfast includes bacon.
  • The opportunity to bless others - I know the holiday season has begun when Operation Christmas Child boxes come out. My girlios love shopping, packing and giving to children around the world. There are so many opportunities to give during the season - meals, adopting a family, shoveling, etc. We try to be cheerful givers. It really is better to give than to receive.
  • Pretending that I do crafts - My craft graveyard suggest that I have good intentions but little productivity. However, I like to believe that I am crafty. And since I have 'free' time in the holidays, I like to make and create things. Sewing, scrap booking, knitting, crocheting. Small projects normally get done. Long term projects drop by the wayside (and into the graveyard) when the holidays are over.
  • Reading books - Since I have been involved in academia since the dawn of time, I don't get a lot of time to read for pleasure. I read some great books to the girlios during the school year but the holidays offer me the chance to read books of my choosing. I love getting lost in a book. I like, as Bobbi puts it, a book hangover. Losing track of time, staying up way too late, getting lost in a book, laughing or crying, and speaking in the same dialect for the rest of the day are things I love about reading. Fiction, nonfiction. Classic, fluff. History of civilization, history of math, history of dumplings. Sweet holiday reading.
  • Warm beverages, fleece and blankets - One word: coziness. I love snuggling in blankets with a warm cup in hand. Sometimes it is with a book. Sometimes it is just sitting. Normally, there is a dog at my side and one at my feet. We can fit a surprising number of people on the couch.
  • Playing in the snow - There is sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, snowball fights, snowmen, snow angels. We love it as a family. If the snow is falling it is usually between 20-30 degrees, and we can tolerate it. Of course, there is cocoa afterwards. I love winter running too.
  • Using the oven - In the summer turning on the oven is oppressive. During the holidays my baking switch turns on. Turning on the oven sends heat and smells around the house. Since I have a little more time, I can experiment with recipes, stock up the freezer and make old favorites. It satisfies my creative desires too.
  • Hanging out with my family - The holidays are a special time for my family to be together. We could be playing a game together, cooking together, or reading books/playing in different parts of the house. There is just a peace when we are all together. Yes, we still have to referee girlio scuffles, but even the dogs know when the pack is all together. A special bonus is seeing  member of the extended family - G'ma, G'pa, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. It's nice to catch up and spend time together.
I wish you Happy Holy Days. Set them apart and fill them with peace, love and joy. Blessings!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

This recipe is a staple in our family. It's easy and terribly good. The original recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. My adaptations are slight. Unlike most zucchini bread recipes, the original recipe has only a quarter cup of oil. I reduce the oil farther, and it is still moist. When the garden produces more zucchini than we can eat, I shred and freeze it for cold days like today when I don't mind the oven being on. It can be made vegan with an egg replacer. Since the first loaf is gone within half an hour of taking it out of the oven I normally make three loaves at a time.

So yummy! You are welcome.
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup sugar*
1 cup finely shredded unpeeled zucchini
2 tbsp cooking oil*
2 tbsp apple sauce
1 egg
1/4 tsp finely shredded lemon peel**
1/2 cup semisweet morsels

*The original recipe calls for 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup of oil.
** I use dried lemon peel

1. In a mixing bowl combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg.
2. In another mixing bowl combine sugar, shredded zucchini, cooking oil, egg and lemon peel and mix well.

3. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.
4. Stir in chocolate chips.

5. Pour batter into a greased 8x4x2 inch loaf pan.

6. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (When making 3 loaves, I rotate the loaves every 18 minutes)

7. Cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from pan and cool thoroughly on a wire rack. Or eat it all before completely cooled. The loaves can be frozen. I usually wrap them in cling wrap and then in aluminum foil.


A weary mom's pep talk

Today I have been in a funk. I must have woken up under a dark cloud. I'm tired. Just tired. Tired of washing the same dishes, washing the same clothes, and cooking in general. I didn't want to be responsible. Being a mom and working seemed too much. The day felt long from the moment it started, and I was struggling.

So today I thought about the encouragement I wanted to hear. Here are a few things I heard.

  • It's okay to let the dishes wait. They'll be there when you are ready.
  • You don't have to make a gourmet meal. Simple still fills stomachs.
  • Take time for yourself. Don't feel guilty about a moment of sanity.
  • It's okay to close and even lock the bathroom door.
  • You don't have to do all the laundry today. Try for one load.
  • Your kids are only this age for a moment. Spontaneously hug them even though they are driving you crazy.
  • It's okay to sit down.
  • Change it up a bit. Change it up a lot if need be.
  • Turn up the music if you like this song. Dance maybe. 
  • It's okay to be good enough today.
  • Today is not a reflection of tomorrow.
  • Today may bend you, but it won't break you.
My day wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible. Partly cloudy when the forecast looked like rain. If you're a tired mom like me, I hope you find this encouraging. There are many many days we need it. There is hope on the drudgery days.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Insanity Log: Day 2

Life is insane in the holidays so why not do the Insanity workout at the same time. I may not write about all the days, but I am writing to keep myself accountable to do all 60 days of the workout. I'd love encouragement. Feel free to ignore the posts too. Or enjoy my quips and whines while drinking coffee on the couch. I will sweat for you. If I break or tear something, I'm out.

I work part time, and I work a couple of jobs. As my days in December seem to be playing out, I am working every day except two in the next 19. Poor planning and insanity. I need an outlet, endorphins and a routine.

I picked up the Insanity workout from my local online garage sale. We have p90x, and I like it in the winter months, but the workouts can be long. Insanity workouts are shorter (and harder). So here is how it is going so far...

Day 1: Fit test. A bunch of different exercises for a minute. DVD is 25 minutes long. Conclusion: I am not Insanity fit. Is it bad to be sore from the fitness test? This is going to be a long 60 days.

Day 2: Was sore getting out of bed from fitness test. First workout is 40 minutes long. Went to the bathroom twice during the workout and drank half a gallon of water. Sweat like a boss. Jumping in workout emphasizes my jiggly butt and jiggly thighs. Bummer. I did need that information currently. Had to rest a lot, especially near the end. Loved all the stretching in the middle. Need to find my heart rate monitor for tomorrow. No joke. Was sore an hour after the workout. It's going to be a long sore day. are you?