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Fun Friday: Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding (dairy and gluten-free)

21 Sep

We’ve been working with some new ingredients most recently, but we’re still turning out some delicious meals and desserts!

Since the spring, we’ve been working with a new set of dietary restrictions, adding in dairy-free to the gluten-free mix. Although it’s been a bit of a challenge (understatement), it’s been an education and it’s been a success overall. We’ve found many good substitutions for the ingredients we used to use, and we’ve been experimenting for many months now and we have found that it’s still very do-able to bake and cook great recipes.

During the summertime, my oldest daughter was having a craving for bread pudding. We had an amazing bread pudding dessert in 2015 at the Grand Canyon that hadn’t been beat in the years since. I have a great cookbook, called “Gluten-Free Bible” which had two different bread pudding recipes in it, and she decided to give one of them a try. We had all of the ingredients for it and when I list the original recipe, I will list our substitutions, but you can see them here in the picture as well.

The funny thing about this particular recipe is that we originally started out thinking it was going to be dessert, but ended up making it for our breakfast because we broke one of the golden rules of recipes and didn’t read it all the way through before starting. Partway through our preparations we got to the “refrigerate for two hours” part and suddenly we were looking at bread pudding for breakfast. I was able to justify this because I felt that the recipe wasn’t much different than an overnight baked french toast recipe. We weren’t eating it every day of the week, so just this once (and the next day with leftovers) it would be just fine for breakfast.

Caroline had been craving a good bread pudding since the Grand Canyon in 2015.

This recipe was quick, easy and delicious, and those are three things we love in a recipe. Other than the prep of the apples and the bread, neither of which took very long, the rest was super-easy, and we definitely would make this recipe again. We used whipped cream on top (both the dairy and the non-dairy kinds) and it was a really fun dessert for breakfast meal.

Here is the recipe as written in my “Gluten-Free Bible” cookbook.

OLD FASHIONED BREAD PUDDING
Makes 6-8 servings

INGREDIENTS

10 slices gluten-free cinnamon raisin bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (We used Rudy’s bread.)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted (We used Earth’s Balance sticks, vegan)
2 cups whole milk (We used unsweetend almond milk)
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried apples
(We almost added dairy-free chocolate chips to this recipe, but we were ultimately glad we didn’t as it would’ve been more of a stretch to call that a breakfast item once we added chocolate into the mix.)

Lesson learned (again and again): always read the recipe all the way through first.

DIRECTIONS

1: Grease 9-inch baking dish.

2: Combine bread cubes and butter in prepared baking dish; toss to coat.

3: Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in medium bowl. Stir in raisins and dried apples. Pour over bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours.

4: Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Bake 50-55 minutes or until golden brown and center is set. Let stand ten minutes before serving.

The whipped cream that we buy which is dairy-free is the Reddi-Wip almond cream, but they also sell a coconut cream for those who can’t do almond. I’ve found it at our local Stop and Shop and at our PriceRite.

This was a very, very close second to the bread pudding which we had at the Grand Canyon in 2015. I think that part of that dessert experience was the Grand Canyon itself, and part of it was that it was topped in hot caramel topping, whereas ours was not (but could be!) I was also happy that our daughter who doesn’t like raisins, and hence hadn’t eaten this bread up to this point in time, ended up liking them in the bread pudding recipe. I felt like we’d managed to hide an extra serving of fruit in this meal, the way I used to do when they were all little. I don’t know if it matters that I was hiding it in a dessert. She ate raisins. Mission accomplished.

If you’re looking for a great recipe for fall that is easy, gluten and dairy-free, good for breakfast or dessert, and rivals that which is served at the Grand Canyon, I recommend you give this one a try.

This was so delicious, and great for any time of day or night!

Monday Musings: Did you cry?

17 Sep

 

Around midnight that night before, I looked at the pile, and gave a little shudder. At that moment, it all seemed surreal.

All through the years, as our kids were growing up, they seemed fascinated by our reactions and emotions, especially for sad events. We would return from a wake or a funeral or talk about something sad that had happened, and the kids would peer closely at our faces.

“Did you cry??” they’d inevitably always ask, waiting for our answer and the explanation that followed, yes we did or no we didn’t, and a discussion would ensue about how much or little we cried.

We recently broke the news to them of an unexpected death of a family member they were extremely close to, this past summer.

“It’s okay to cry,” I told them then, as they sat, stunned and not sure what to do next. And they did. We all did.

I was reminded of this interest in our emotions and how we handle them, as we began the process of packing up our oldest to move into her college dorm room, one hour, one state away. After I’d survived graduation day itself, and tried to navigate through the summer months to help her get herself ready to go, people would always come up to me, looking at me closely, and they’d ask how I was doing, and how I thought I’d do the day of move-in.

“Do you think you’ll cry?”

I was intrigued by people’s fascination with the coming day and its emotions, and I know that for some, it was because they’d been through it themselves before, and for others it was because they hadn’t, but at some point in the future, they would be at the very place in time that I now was at. With so many situations in life, people aren’t sure what the “right” thing to do is. Truth be told, there is no one right way to do these things.

“I don’t think I’ll cry,” I said. I explained that we were lucky, our daughter had chosen an out-of-state school, but with our own state being so tiny, we could get to her state in an hour. She would be gone, but not far away and we could get to her easily. Additionally, over the past two years, especially since getting her license and her job, she had been gone a lot. She worked a lot, she was at school all day and even for many of the nights between sports and activities, and on the weekends if she wasn’t working, she was often out with friends, making the most of her time before they all went their separate ways. I felt like we’d been slowly adjusting to life without her at home, for two years. Since January alone, she had traveled out-of-state with school twice, and with a friend for a week in the summer. She was independent, confident, knowledgeable and ready to go, and yet she wanted to be close enough to home to be back in a heartbeat if she wanted to be at an event, or needed to be home for an obligation, which we also thought was a good decision. I felt like we had done our job as parents, and we had done it as well as we could. She was ready.

This car which had recently taken our family on a five-week, cross-country adventure all together, was now packed up and ready for the next adventure.as we sent one of our own, off on her own

And truly, I wasn’t as sad as I was just so excited for her. My husband and I are both college graduates and we had both lived at school, both on-campus and off. We both knew how great these next four years ahead would be for her, and how lucky she was to be able to have these experiences. We were so excited that she’d picked the school she’d picked, as it seemed to be everything she wanted. It felt like home to her after the first day she visited, and it felt comfortable for us as well. We were incredibly happy for her.

During the parent orientation day in June, we were asked to write a letter to our student which would be given to her during her first week of college classes. I wrote that as our first child going off to school, we were all so excited for her, and that we couldn’t wait to hear all of the things that she got to do. I reminded her to try new things and to do new things, that this was going to be an exciting time her life, and in ours, as we all waited to hear about her new adventures. We’d tried to create that sense of adventure in our own family all through the years, and this was the next step: now go, and create your own new adventures. Be safe, but get involved. Try new things. If you don’t do it now, you may never get to.

As The Day drew closer, the posts and memes shared on social media were more and more sad. I didn’t open them. I couldn’t read them. I couldn’t let myself go down that rabbit hole. I had to stay focused and organized in order to best help her, and I wanted to remain excited for her.

She was worried.

“Are you going to cry?” she asked, looking at me closely.

“I don’t think I am,” I answered.

“I don’t think I am either,” she said, relieved.

I didn’t want her to. This was a happy time, and my mom had always said this about the times in my life that were transition times as well, when she wasn’t sad either, but happy instead. I didn’t want my other girls to be sad either. They were very excited for their sister, proud of her, and the months and years ahead were going to be exciting for them as well, as they made their way along the rest of their own educational journeys. Things were going to be a little bit different at home, but not a lot, but I also wanted them to look ahead at their own future adventures excitedly too, not worrying from now until then that it would be sad. I knew that ultimately, it was okay for any of us to cry, but I didn’t want to turn this into something sad if we weren’t already feeling that way. I knew too, that if I started to cry and started thinking backwards instead of forwards, I might start to cry and never stop, all those moments of babyhood and beyond flashing before my eyes.

I will tell you though, the night before, as the hours got closer to midnight and her stuff was piled up everywhere, ready to go, her room cleaner and emptier than it’s ever been in recent years, it suddenly got real.

Surreal.

It was dark outside, quiet in the house as just she and I were the only ones up. We were marking bags, closing up containers, checking off lists, and I suddenly thought to myself, “I just did this. I just unloaded all of these clothes into drawers and closets, gift bags filled with baby clothes for her before she was born.”

And, in a life that is often so filled with routines, doing the same thing, day after day after day, for kid after kid after kid, it struck me: I’ve never, ever done this very thing before. I’ve never yet, packed up a kid to move out of our house. I’ve brought one home, three times, and done it the same way every time: the baby girl flag flying outside the house, baby car seat with a new baby girl and new parents standing on the front steps for a photo, but never yet, had I done the reverse, packing one up to leave.

It felt like nothing I’d experienced before, because I hadn’t ever experienced it before, and I never would experience that very first, so new, again.

At that very moment I took a deep breath, I swallowed a big lump in my throat, and I kept packing, closing, labeling.

We had a short amount of time and a big job ahead.

On the morning of move-in day we were all business, and as my husband later described to all who asked, you almost don’t have any time to cry, any time to feel anything (but tired). We had to be at the dorm by her designated time slot, and we worked backwards from that time, finishing packing up the car so we could leave on time and be there on time. Once we got there, we had just a few hours to make magic happen in that empty room, now filled with all her stuff, and soon after, all her roommate’s stuff. There was furniture to move, things to be put together, bags and crates and bins to unpack, items to help hang on the wall in the spots she designated, and the time flew by. Our younger two went off to explore the area. Don went off to get us all some food and to buy a fan, since I’d broken the one we brought with us within the first five minutes we’d arrived.

My daughter directed me in what she wanted where, doing it as she’d planned it out in her mind (and on Pinterest) for so many months. This was her time, she had everything she needed, and it came together beautifully, just as she’d hoped it would.

Before we knew it, the sun was setting on move-in day and we were ready to go home.

Before we knew it, it was time to go. We’d hung the last picture on the wall, plugged in the last extension cord. Whatever was left to do, she could do on her own, and she could continue to make the final details the way she wanted them to be. It was now time for her to begin her new adventure without us there. It was time for her to explore the hallway of her dorm and see who her neighbors were. Time for her to bond with new friends, figure out what was what on campus. Friends she’d met at orientation who’d moved in earlier that day, were texting her, “Are you done yet? Let’s go!”

She was ready. It was truly the first day of the rest of her life, and I remember beaming a big smile across the room to her just before we left.

“I’m so excited for you,” I said. “Are you excited?”

“I am,” she smiled back.

She was ready. And so were we.

When the time came to give a hug goodbye, we were happy for her, excited for her days ahead.

And so we all gave hugs and said goodbye, and off we went. No tears, and really, no sadness, just excitement and exhaustion from the day and from the past whirlwind weeks of preparation.

The next day and in the days to follow, people would ask us, “Did you cry?” Many would look closely at me to see how I was doing, how I did, just as my kids always had when we’d return from something sad.

“I really didn’t, and we’re really doing okay,” I’d say.

We didn’t cry, at least so far, not yet anyway, but it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing for those who did, or do. Everyone’s emotions are different and their situations are different. Some cry for other reasons, some kids move further away and aren’t as accessible as ours will be. There are no two families, no two situations, no two kids alike. We didn’t cry for this one, but who knows what will happen for the next one. Or the next, the last.

No matter what happens when it’s your own turn, do remember that no matter what, it’s okay to cry.

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: A grab-and-go meal for any time of day

12 Sep

A new grab-and-go idea from my friend Gina!

I love social media and the ability to find new ideas from people who’ve either thought of them first, or tried them out first, and been successful.

Recently, our friend Gina had shared that she has successfully made ahead and frozen egg sandwiches as a quick grab-and-go breakfast either for school days or camping trips or whenever they’re most needed. She uses Bagel Thins and her family loves them.

I decided that this school year, as soon as I had some time, I’d try out her idea for my family. I always have great intentions, and I can’t always do something like this all the time, but I figure that any time I can be prepared ahead of time, is better than not.

Eight bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches were ready to go.

This past weekend, I was able to get the Bagel Thins and give this a try, and I was so happy when my daughter was able to grab a quick egg sandwich for her breakfast later on in the week, deeming the meal a success.

Gina’s instructions were simple: be sure each part of the sandwich is fully cooled, and wrap in paper towels for reheating. The Bagel Thins bag makes for great storage in and of itself, so I just cooked, cooled, wrapped, labeled and froze.

As I was cooking, my daughter Liz was so excited and before even trying one out, she requested sausage patties for the next time around, so I knew she had high expectations for this trial. I used precooked bacon to cut down on some of the prep time (one slice cut in half per sandwich), and I used my counter-top griddle to cook the eggs all at once. I was able to cook six and then two. I cooled them all on a cookie sheet, which I’d popped in the oven for a couple of minutes first, just to fully melt the cheese.

I hope that I can continue this meal prep idea as it gives us an additional breakfast or on-the-go meal for those times when we want something filling and don’t have a lot of time to make anything.

Storing these right in the bag was super convenient.

I appreciate the sharing of ideas from all of my family and friends, and I love this idea from Gina. I hope that we can continue to make these throughout the school year, along with other grab-and-go ideas for those busy days and nights. I encourage you to give it a try too, if you’re looking for something new for your own family’s busy schedule.

Have a great week!

College Ready: sharing what I’ve already learned (part one)

15 Aug

What exactly do they need?

They say you don’t know what you don’t know, and that is so true for so many situations throughout life. As a mom to a new, soon-to-be-on-campus college freshman, that saying could not be more true. As an educator to the core, I feel the need to share with others what I’ve learned so far along the way so that I can help other parents the way that others who’ve gone down this path first, have also helped me. Last fall, I wrote an article called Navigating a family’s first senior year. I feel like I am now ready to write the next article in that series.

So, here goes. I’m separating this information into two blog posts so that it’s not too long or too overwhelming.

Here is what I’ve learned so far, that I think is worthy enough to pass along to you.

First and foremost: ask around. This process is all new since we parents went to college, if in fact we parents went to college, as not everyone does. Social media is new, technology is new, online ordering is new, memory foam is new, HIPPA is new, it’s all new. Everything. So other than remembering what my dorm looked like and my basic needs, lots of other stuff isn’t the same. Ask those who have done it before, and research. Read blog posts, read other people’s experiences-good or bad-and then take from them what you wish, and discard the rest. That’s the same advice I always have for new moms: Everyone will give you a ton of information, so listen and use some and politely ignore the rest. We are parents who are starting all over again at the new mom and dad thing, just in a different way. Beginning I’m not sure when, but really focusing this past school year, I did just that. I read, I researched, I asked and I listened, and I made lists.

I also began to put a little bit of money aside after Christmas. This sounds obvious, and it’s way easier said than done, believe me, I know. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was putting money aside for yet either, but I knew we’d be needing it, and I was right. It wasn’t for the college fund, and it wasn’t her savings account money for living on during college, it was different money. Each time I got paid, I’d put some random amount into her checking account from mine, whatever I thought we could spare at the time, and she’d move it over into her savings account. I’m sure that it made me lacking some other money somewhere else for something else, but it allowed me to have a stash ready, designated for expenses for whenever we needed it.

“What is this money for?” she’d ask.

“I don’t know yet,” I’d answer. “But I know it’s going to be for something.”

In the spring, the college deposit was due. Some of the money went to that. In July a small registration fee was due for a September activity, so some of the money went to that. The rest would be spent on dorm supplies when we shopped. (That will be in my next post.) These were things a college loan wouldn’t necessarily cover, they didn’t fall under tuition or room and board, but they were needed, and they were costly, and they had to be done. I wish now that I’d put more money aside, starting sooner, as I found the last month of senior year to be extremely expensive with all of the graduation events (she had three different ceremonies) and clothes/shoes/jewelry needed for each, as well as for her prom, and even things like the meals we hosted for family after the graduation events and the party itself, so keep all that in mind as you go forward.

Additionally, throughout the year, I started picking up random things and putting them aside in her college laundry bag that we’d given her already for her 18th birthday, filled with a few college-ready gifts. Soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, laundry and dish detergent etc., all went into the bag during the year, even more frequently as the spring approached. At my CVS, any time I saw a “buy one, get one half off” deal, I’d buy one for us and throw the “get one half off” item into her bag. If I saw something on clearance she’d need, I’d grab it and throw it into her bag. By the summertime, her bag was full, having started off half-full at her birthday.

This is a great gift for recent high school grads who are going to be living on campus.

Before the summer even hit though, I asked people whose kids had “been there” already, what she’d really need. I got two great tips that I want to pass along to you. I used them both as graduation gifts for her and for others.

The first is a gift they need to have, but you hope they won’t actually need. The mom of student finishing her freshman year recommended a well-stocked first aid kit. She listed off a bunch of items kids need that they don’t necessarily want to go to the health services building for, like a band aid or a cough drop, but that they don’t always think to have. I loved this idea. We get sick all the time over here, and have a ton of bumps along the way too, so I decided to definitely do this as a gift for my own daughter, as well as some close family members. I bought $3 buckets at Target that I found in the “under $5” bins, and I filled them. I did generic things everyone needs, like a digital thermometer and band aids and cough drops, cotton balls, ice packs, etc., much of which can be found at a Dollar Store, for just $1 each. Several things came in multi-packs of individual items, like a three-pack of hand sanitizer, which I’d break up into three individuals for three gifts. For my own daughter I added in additional items, or full-sized items, some more costly, like the certain sunscreen she uses, or a big tube of stain stick, and bug spray. I filled the bins and wrapped them in cellophane with a ribbon (all found at the Dollar Store too) and gave them out.

My daughter took off on that idea, and for her own friends, she gave them buckets as well, but filled them with school supplies (markers, pens, pencils, paper clips, ruler, white out, etc.,) and threw in some band aids and cough drops as well, all for under $20 a bucket, including the bucket. We wrapped them the same way and they made great gifts.

This reminded me that she also needed her own school/desk supplies, so we later made her a bin of those as well. Everything we always have here, on hand throughout the school year, she’ll need there.

This was a fun gift to make and to give.

The next great gift idea, I received from a co-worker whose son was about to graduate college as my daughter was graduating high school. I was stumped as to what to give her for gifts at the time we spoke. Her son had also attended an out of state school, so she had given him gift cards for places that were in the city where he’d be attending school. I thought that was a fun idea, and since our daughter’s school was out of state, but not too far away, one of my best friends and I took a day’s ride up and back, grabbing a bunch of little gift cards to places that were near her school. Some were to places that we don’t have here, but we also spotted some places that we do have here, so I continued to shop for gift cards even after that day trip. Some spots were less expensive, so we got $10 gift cards and some were more so we got $15. One place was a sit-down restaurant she likes, so I got a $25 gift card there.

I filled out the front sections for our gift cards, and she filled out the rest for others she’d received.

Once I had them all, I decided to get a cute organizer from Target for her to keep all her gift cards in, as I knew she’d be getting more from other people and she had been saving a bunch at home as well. I added in restaurant menus if they had them, and figured she could throw in coupons to the places she had gift cards for, if she had any.

This was a great gift, a fun day trip for me, and it made me more familiar with the area in which she’d be spending her time. My friend was my co-pilot that day and she kept a running list of local places we saw so that as time goes on, if someone were to ask me what she needs for a birthday gift or a holiday gift, I can say, “There’s a CVS right next to her campus, get her a gift card there,” or to any other place I now know is up there. If we want to add to her collection ourselves for gifts in the future, we can.

There are so many great gift ideas out there, and I know that there are different philosophies on gifts. Some feel that helping to pay for college IS the gift and that’s what they give. Others take a big trip as a gift or send their child off on a trip with someone else as their gift. For us, this worked out well and it made for a fun afternoon after graduation when she opened her gifts. They weren’t expensive to pull off, and during a super-expensive time of year, that was a blessing in itself. It was just enough and will last her throughout her school year(s). They were fun, but they were functional too. Even the gift card holder can be re-purposed in the future. The labels can be labeled over, and the hashtag sign is on there with removable tape. I really tried to think ahead and be practical. (By the way, in case you’re not sure, HANGRY is a combination of Hungry and Angry, which is a popular word with kids now, but also didn’t exist before. I’ve also witnessed Hangry with my own kids, and it’s real and a perfect description.)

Stay tuned for my next post, and I’ll pass along anything I can about dorm room shopping that I’ve learned so far. I’m not a pro, and we’re not even to the point of moving her in yet, but I’ve already learned a ton and I will pass it on.

Monday Musings on a Wednesday: Onward and upward

20 Jun

She’s off and running

Well, we made it. We made it to and through our first child’s high school graduation week. It’s taken me a while to be able to sit and think about what I wanted to write, as I definitely wanted to mark this life event (for all of us) in writing.

It’s the craziest roller coaster of emotions–happy, proud, sad, thrilled. When our kids were babies, I was constantly feeling this need for life to slow down. They grew fast, they conquered milestones one after another. They rolled over, crawled, walked, ran, rode bikes, drove a car.

I kept wishing that the merry-go-round would slow down a little bit so we could stop, bottle up what we were seeing and doing, and then restart, but we couldn’t. It just kept going.

And going.

And here we are.

High school was hard. Lots of things were hard, but hard prepares you for real life. Life is hard. Throughout these past four years and the years leading up to it, we often said, “In the end you’ll be better off for having worked hard. Do you best, try hard, and most of all, be a good person, because that is what matters most in the end.”

In the end.

That’s the weird thing. As we drove to pick up the graduation cake and flowers on the morning of graduation, my husband said, “It’s weird, for us this feels like the end, but for her, this is just the beginning.”

If that didn’t make me cry, nothing would. (Or so I thought.)

But it’s true, what he said. We were finally finishing high school. There were days of high school that not only did I think we’d never get through the year, I questioned how we’d get through high school three times, but we did. This was the end. She had finished, made it, seen the success and reward of all her hard work and stress, and yes, she’d come out better for the grit and perseverance.

I have reflected in these recent months that you work so hard to get to a point that you see as a major goal or milestone. A benchmark: their first birthday, their 10th, 13th, 16th, 18th birthdays, and you think to yourself, “Whew…we did it. We made it. We survived.” And you think you get a break. We’re done. It’s done. She made it.

But, you don’t. That merry-go-round doesn’t actually stop. You don’t get off and take a break, a rest, a breather. You wake up the very next day and keep moving forward. I think I equated it to a wedding, all the anticipation and the build-up and then you’re done. It’s over. But you’re not, and I think that’s a good thing because there’s so much yet to come.

On graduation day I found myself to be more happy than sad. Proud, thrilled. On the next day afterwards, I found myself to have a bit of a delayed reaction, crying unexpectedly during a song at my youngest’s dance recital (In My Daughter’s Eyes) that I hadn’t expected to hear that day, or to be crying through in the audience as I saw my oldest at three in my mind’s eye, dancing on the stage for the first time and graduating high school in what seemed like the next instant. (In my defense, the mom next to me was teary too, and her daughter hadn’t graduated the day before.) I find that weird things get me emotional, and yet my biggest emotion is happiness and the events where I thought I’d be sad, I’ve been the most happy.

I am so happy for our daughter and what she achieved when she thought she couldn’t, what goals she set and then met, and most of all, what a good person she’s turned out to be at 18. As we read through her yearbook and read through various poster boards from culminating events for various year-end activities, over and over the most common theme was thankfulness for her goodness, her leadership, her help, her time, her kindness.

In the end, that will get her furthest.

There is a graduation speaker I hear at our city graduations each year, and he uses the same line, year after year no matter what else he writes in his speech, and I was so glad to hear him say it again this year. Each year, he tells the students that it is their talents, their grades, their GPA that has gotten them through high school and to graduation day, but that it is their character, their values and their morals that will get them through life, and I truly believe he’s right.

The merry-go-round does not stop now.

As we embark on this summer in between the end of high school and the beginning of the rest of her life, I am reminded of many things, as I have been all year long, and for the past 18 years. My own high school graduation quote in my yearbook was from a song from the campfires at summer camp, “The Circle Game.” The song has stayed with me since my days at camp and through my years as a young mother, through to today-and I know through to the days beyond today. It has run through my head day after day and week after week as I imagined this merry-go-round of our lives.

I think that ultimately, it’ll stay with me for the next forever and a day.

It’s not the end, it’s just the beginning.

The Circle Game
Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when you’re older, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town
And they tell him,
Take your time, it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Songwriters: Joni Mitchell
The Circle Game lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing

The taste of success is sweeter after failure

3 Apr

 

It took a lot of perseverance to get to this point.

Throughout their lives, whenever our kids have stumbled, fallen, failed, we’ve helped to support them in getting back up, maybe taking a quick break, and then trying again. It doesn’t matter whether it was learning to walk, riding a bike, passing a class, creating a project or practicing a role. At the end of their journey, we would celebrate their success with them, even if success looked different than they originally anticipated or took longer to achieve than they thought it would. In the end, that taste of victory was sweet.

Cooking can be like that. Sometimes you follow a recipe and make a creation that comes out right the first time. Sometimes you follow a recipe and even though you worked hard and did what you were supposed to do, it ends up having to go into the trash and you need to start all over again. No matter what though, it is my opinion that the taste at the end when you’ve finally gotten it right, is so much sweeter than it would have been the first time around.

It seemed to look okay coming out of the oven.

This Easter I had that experience. I wanted to try out a new recipe for an Italian Ricotta Cake, from “Tornadough Alli,” and to make it gluten free so we could all enjoy it. Because the cake called for using a cake mix, rather than making the entire thing from scratch, it would be easier for me to make a gluten free substitution in the ingredients.

I know that they say not to try out a new recipe for company, and I knew that it’s especially important when it’s for a holiday meal that you’re hosting, but I decided to try it out for Easter anyway. Our guests are forgiving, and really how bad could it go?

Luckily I gave myself an extra day for baking and started on Good Friday night. I had slept much later that morning than usual, so I could cook into the wee hours of the night and get ahead with my baking. It also gave me a buffer of a day or so in case I had to bake an entire cake recipe all over again.

I’m sure you can tell where this is going.

I followed the recipe to a “t” as they say. I only substituted out the white cake mix for a gluten free yellow cake mix so we could all eat it. I used a springform pan for probably the second time in my life.

As it cooled, it looked less and less promising.

However, after I cooked the cake according to the directions and had taken it out to cool, I had a sneaking suspicion that things weren’t going to go my way this time around with this new dessert.

The instructions had specifically stated to be sure the center of the cake was set when taking it out of the oven.

It seemed a little jiggly, but I used a cake tester to test it so many times that it seemed almost like polka dots on top of my cake. Each time, it came out clean, so I figured I was in the clear.

I wasn’t.

As the cake cooled, the center proceeded to sink and I knew the news was not going to be good.

At about 11pm I opted to try to slide the cake off of the bottom of the pan and onto a serving plate to see what would happen.

Not company-ready.

That happened.

Ugh.

I was so bummed out. I was going to have to toss this cake into the trash. There was still raw batter in the center and there was no way to salvage this dessert.

However, as I got ready to toss it, I tasted it. The cooked edges of the cake were delicious! I knew that if it had gone differently, this recipe could have been a keeper.

I still had a half container of ricotta cheese and of heavy cream. I had all the ingredients I needed, I just had to get a new box of gluten free cake mix.

Luckily I had my buffer of an extra day.

On Saturday, my husband picked up the cake mix as I made our other dessert and I mentally prepared myself to start this one all over again. I was determined to make it work.

I followed all of the steps. This time, on the advice of my mother, whom I was frantically texting out of state at almost midnight the night before, I cooked the cake much longer. Her own recipe usually takes almost 20 extra minutes to cook and set properly, so with that in mind, I cooked it until it no longer seemed jiggly in the middle-about 20 extra minutes-and then I pulled it out and crossed my fingers.

Seemed to look much better this time.

It had to work this time or else there was a gluten free bakery down the street that I’d soon be visiting instead.

I left it to cool, went to the mall to get the last kid their Easter dress for church that night (yes, day before Easter and night of when we needed it, I know) and hoped and prayed that when I got back it would still be solid in the middle.

And it was.

We arrived home in time to color our eggs and head off to church that night. I had my two desserts ready to be frosted the next day and I was good to go. I had managed to pull it all off.

On Easter morning, as I was frosting this cake and sprinkling the spring-colored sprinkles on top, I was glad I’d tried out something new, and glad I’d not quit after the first try. Had I not given myself that extra day for the trial run, I may not have had the chance to try a second time, but I’m glad I did.

That evening as we cut into the cake, I was so proud of it and everyone raved about how good it was. It was definitely a keeper, and I definitely think that I enjoyed it more than I would have if it was something I’d accomplished easily. My kids were definitely more proud of me, more complimentary of this particular cake, knowing how much of my time and effort and how many prayers had gone into making it.

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, I’m pretty sure that this cake had that extra sweet taste of perseverance as it was going down.

Happy Birthday Don and Alexandra!

23 Mar

So what’s the best birthday gift *you* ever gave someone?

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 23, 2012

Today is a very special day.

Today is Alexandra’s birthday.

Today is also Don’s birthday.

That makes me the best wife ever because seven years ago for Don’s birthday at 1:22 am I gave him our third daughter.

I know, I know, best gift ever, right?! It’s hard to top that one though, so I don’t really try. I’m back to t-shirts, pajama pants and stuff like that for his birthday gifts.

Alexandra’s First Birthday 2006

Since sharing his birthday with his daughter, Don has been blessed with getting to have a Snoopy party, a My Little Pony party, a Dora party, a Purple party and this year…Hello Kitty. Technically they’re not his parties obviously, but you see what I mean.

Birthday crowns all around on Alex’s second birthday.

Thankfully, my parents have this neat tradition that they started with us where we celebrate the adult birthday parties at their house each year and we “kids” get to choose our meal and our cake. I choose….well I won’t tell you what I choose until it’s my birthday this summer. But Don chooses a totally opposite type of meal and cake than I would choose, so I guess it’s good that we each get a chance to choose our own, to choose what we like. Don chooses meatball sandwiches (made with my mom’s homemade meatballs and gravy) with lemon cake for dessert. It’s probably the only time all year we have it and he really enjoys it.

Therefore, today I thought I’d share with you the recipe for Don’s birthday cake of choice each year, the lemon cake. It’s really yummy, I particularly love the corners.

***********************************************************************************

LEMON CAKE

A cake *just* for Daddy!

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup water

2 beaten eggs

Duncan Hines Lemon Cake Mix

1 can lemon pie filling (divided)

DIRECTIONS

In bowl by hand, mix together oil, water, eggs, cake mix.

Add 1/4 can of lemon pie filling into the mix.

Put into greased 9×13 dish.

On top, distribute the rest of the pie filling.

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

When cool, glaze with:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Add a little hot water if necessary.

THE BIRTHDAY TWINS CELEBRATING THEIR SPECIAL DAY IN 2016