Pax

While looking for a new book to read and share with my middle school students, Pax kept coming up as a recommended read.  This is the first book I have read by the author and in many ways, it brought me back to my childhood and reading Where the Red Fern Grows.  (Ahh, I loved that book!)  Pax carries the same punch and beautiful writing as that book.  It also tugs at the heartstrings, for anyone who has ever had a pet will instantly connect with the main character in this book.  Although it is written for upper elementary to lower middle school children, there is much that adults can connect to, and the writing is anything but “childish.”  Great sentence structure, vocabulary, and a powerful story creates an unforgettable book and journey as boy and fox try to be reunited again amidst a great war.

paxPax, by Sara Pennypacker

Genre: children’s literature; nature; animals

Summary:  Peter and Pax are inseparable, ever since Peter found Pax alone and abandoned as a kit.  However, years later a large war is looming, and Peter is forced to drop off Pax in a forest as Peter’s father enlists in the war.  300 miles away Peter moves in with his grandfather–a move Peter bitterly regrets.  That night Peter realizes he should have never dropped of Pax, alone and vulnerable, and sets off on a journey to find and rescue his beloved friend.  Meanwhile, Pax sets off on an adventure of his own, trying to be reunited with his owner. Continue reading

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7 Layer Bars

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Today hit a high of 50 degrees.  You’d think it was spring, based on all the people I saw wearing shorts and sweatshirts around downtown Portland.  It almost will be, since we dealt with freezing temperatures for about a month now.  20 degrees warmer and we’re pulling out the lighter gear and sunglasses! (Haha.  Seriously though, who are these people?)

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The warmer weather must be messing with my brain, because I have had sudden urges to clean out my linen closet, pantry, and deep clean the laundry room.  That is where I remembered, as I was reorganizing and de-cluttering my pantry, that I had all the ingredients to make 7-layer bars.  It seemed fitting, and rewarding, after all the hard work to make these simply irresistible, and super addicting, bars. Continue reading

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

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I know I’m being cliche here, but one of the best food combinations in the whole world is chocolate and peanut butter.  In fact, I have been known to take a square or two of chocolate and dip into a jar of peanut butter.  Lazy,  I’ll admit it, but oh so good.

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This recipe is almost as easy as that, but there are a few special ingredients that make it that much better.  I made these to take over to a friend’s New Year’s Eve party, you know, before all the diets started, and they were gone in seconds.   They’re crunchy and sweet on the inside, and melty and smooth on the outside.  A perfect combination of salty and sweet.  I sprinkled some chopped peanuts on the top of some of them to add a little extra crunch.

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You can make these balls all in one go, or separate it out over a few days.  If you choose to make it in two days, you can make the dough on the first day, separating the dough into 2 large discs, covering it in plastic wrap, and placing in the fridge until you are ready to coat in chocolate.  On the second day you can roll the discs into balls of any size (I like larger so I don’t have to roll 80) and dip into chocolate.  Whatever you do, just give yourself a little bit of time,  as the balls need to chill in the fridge before you dip them in the hot chocolate. Continue reading

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Homemade Hot Chocolate

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I’m in a minor panic mode.  Weather forecasters predicted a possibility of 1-4 inches of snow Tuesday night.  I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but in the Portland area, there’s much hype from the media when it comes to snow and little is delivered.  So I didn’t think too much about this particular forecast.  Saturday morning I went to the grocery store in a mad panic because the ice/snow/wind storm was supposed to come around 9 AM bringing 1-2 inches of ice.  The storm did materialize, but it was closer to a little more of a dusting of snow and 1/2 inch of ice.

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I decided to smite the weather forecasters this time and not panic.  When I woke up this morning, we had 11 inches of snow.  Yikes! Now I am kicking myself that I should have listened to the meteorologist, and therefore gone to the grocery store on my way home from work yesterday because I am almost out of fruits, veggies, and milk.  But more importantly, I am almost out of flour and butter.  And when you’re cooped up inside, warm baked goods sound better than ever, hence the minor panic mode I have induced upon myself.  This picture is the nature park by our house.  I have to admit, snow is beautiful.

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This one is of our backyard.  Oh my poor Japanese maple! Continue reading

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Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

cwrs4It has been unusually cold in the Pacific Northwest.  We had two separate snow storms that cancelled school for 2 1/2 days in mid-December, and yesterday, a snow/ice/wind storm rolled in.  Here’s a picture of our backyard.  We didn’t get that much snow.  Clearly we got a lot of wind, as you can see by the debris on the patio.  But what’s harder to see is the layer of ice on top of the snow.  That’s what shut down the city.  And that’s what cancelled my birthday celebration with my family.  I’m not bitter or anything.

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Not all was lost though.  I had a cozy, stay-in birthday weekend celebration with the hubby and kiddos.  We watched movies we checked out from the library, played games, made banana bread and cookies, all the while staying sane being cooped up for 2 full days.  I think one reaches a point you become too old for a pity party. Continue reading

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Reflecting On a Year

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The time between Christmas and New Year’s has always been a time of contemplation for me.  A time to look back on the year and reflect on the highs and lows.  A time to see the mix of laughter and sorrow.  But through the bitterness there is sweetness, no matter how small it is.  In February, on my husband’s birthday of all days, I was involved in a hit-and-run accident which totaled our car.  My son, Matthew, was in the back seat, and even though the driver plowed through the back end of the vehicle, smashing the trunk and shattering the back windshield, there was not a scratch, bruise, or break on my son’s little body.  Miracle.  God was good.  This fall, we had to put one of our cats down, who was about 12.  He suffered from kidney failure and it was painful to watch.  How do you explain death to a 6 and 4 year old?  My husband took it especially hard, but Matthew told him not to worry, as Thomas is in heaven and we will see him someday.  Sweetness in the bitterness.

For many of us, 2016 has been a roller coaster ride, but no matter how hard or easy this year has been, each year offers a fresh start. A clean slate.  And I love fresh starts.  I am one of those obnoxious people who creates lists.  New Year’s Resolutions is no exception.  In fact, I look forward to it.  However, I have to limit myself to 10 goals, otherwise I’ll get carried away.

Two years ago, I had to have my gallbladder removed.  Subsequently, my diet changed too.  Not drastically, as I ate pretty healthy before, but it took a whole year for me to accept the fact that I have to really limit the fats and sugars I eat.  For example, I can’t eat a 4 oz steak without getting a stomach ache, and sweets, which I ABSOLUTELY love, obviously, is down to just a few small bites.  As in, I can eat one cookie, not two.  And it kills me!!  The majority of the desserts I make on this blog are given away to neighbors and coworkers…after my family has had a few bites.  This is how I make friends.  This is also how I keep them.

I have taken up exercising more too.  In October, I completed my first 1/2 marathon and liked it so much that I signed up for another one next year.  (I walked it though.  Not ready to commit to a full-on running race.  That’s too crazy for me.)

Writing goals is a great way to verbalize what you’re thinking.  E.M. Forster’s quote How do I know what I think until I see what I say? is one of my favorites.  And sharing goals is a great way to have someone hold you accountable.  So, I wrote down my 10 goals, but am going to share just 5 of them with you.  They are as follows: Continue reading

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Merry Christmas

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I want to wish you the merriest of Christmases. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my little blog.  It truly does mean a lot to me, especially since this is a small hobby of mine.

These past few days I have been baking up a storm for last minute parties and am looking forward to a few days off.  In case you’re wondering though, here’s what I am making Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.  Christmas dinner is at my parents, so wahoo!, I can take a bit of a break.

Christmas Eve Dinner:

lasagna from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Cat Head Biscuits from America’s Test Kitchen

lemony green beans + roasted Brussels sprouts

Cheesecake

Black Bottom Brownies 

Christmas Morning:

Cranberry Streusel Scones

fresh fruit

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For us, Christmas day is about family and reflecting on all the wonderful blessings that God has given us.  It has been an amazing year and I am so thankful and utterly grateful.  Can’t wait to see what the future holds!  I’ll be back next week with something yummy to share.  In the meantime, I hope you have a fantastic time with your family and friends and wish you a Merry Christmas!!!  xoxo

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