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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Cranberry Streusel Scones

css4It’s no secret that I love scones.  Done right, they are melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  I have had my share of dry scones and my share of hard scones, and these, my friends, are neither.  There’s something about fresh cranberries that make everything taste a bit better.  Maybe it’s the fact that you really only crave them during one season of the year, late fall to early winter, that makes it extra special.  These scones have a hint of orange and light spices, so you have a bit of citrus that cuts down on the tart berries.

My son thought it was really funny to shake the berry.  Because, if you shake it hard enough, you can hear the seeds rattling around inside.  It was like his own personal maracas, and he would violently shake the berry next to his ear and laugh.  It was fun until he shook it a bit too hard and hit himself on the side of the head.  Sigh…

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Brown Girl Dreaming

Teaching to adolescents, I am always on the lookout for a great book that grabs you right away.  Many adults have short attention spans, but young adults? Even shorter.  This novel is actually a memoir, but it’s told in poetry form.  The author hooked me right away, and I was drawn not only to the language and word choice, but the gripping story that unfolded.  I could not put it down.

brown-girl-dreamingBrown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

Genre: memoir (told in poetry form)

Summary: This memoir is about a young African American girl born in Ohio in the 1960s.  At a very young age, her mother leaves her father to move back home to South Carolina and takes Jacqueline (the author and narrator) and her two siblings with her.  Her mother then leaves for New York City, to try to obtain a job and a better life for her children.  While she is gone, Jacqueline is raised by her grandparents.  Later, her mother returns for the children, and she spends the rest of her childhood in NYC.  This is a bittersweet story of resilience and the desire to belong. Continue reading

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Linzer and Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

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It snowed an inch in Portland yesterday.  For those of you who live in areas where lots of snows is normal in the winter, one inch is probably a dusting to you; but out here, it shuts down the city.  And that is what it did yesterday afternoon, today, and most likely, tomorrow.  As a teacher, they ended school early yesterday, and cancelled school today and tomorrow.  It was nice having a “day off” today, but I am actually quite bummed that I don’t have school tomorrow.  December, as a teacher, is my second favorite month.  (And in case you’re wondering, September is my favorite.  I LOVE the beginning of the school year!)  All the winter festivities, merriment, excitement, and joy that accompanies this month is contagious.  And I just wanted one more day of it with the students before they go on their merry way to Christmas Break.

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Anyway, because today was a snow day, I thought, what better way to spend the afternoon than baking?  I was out of a few ingredients, so Eric and I trekked a mile to the grocery store with kids in tow.  They had so much fun tromping around and kicking up the snow, not one of them complained that it was too far (like they usually do when we take walks).  Grace even made up a song and sang it the whole way there–something about how she was snowboarding.

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The cookies I was making was to take in to co-workers tomorrow, but since I have no school, I guess I’ll have to eat them all myself.  Darn.  The sugar cookie recipe comes from the book Cookie Craft and if you don’t have the book, I highly suggest you do buy it.  It’s chalk-full of great advice on decorating sugar cookies, especially if you’re a newbie.  I use this recipe every time I make decorated sugar cookies, and I used them in these sandwich cookies too.

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