Freddy’s Obituary

IMG_9355

It is with much regret that I inform you of the passing of Freddy. Freddy was a great friend, wonderful son, fun brother, and hard worker. We welcomed him into our house with love. It was as if he was always a part of our family. However, after only a few short months he woke up this morning not feeling well, and a short time later was found dead in his room. There was no struggle, no dramatic goodbyes, only a sadness that this was the end.

Freddy is survived by his brothers’ Crazy and Bobby, and his adopted Daddy P. He was a hard worker; worked tirelessly every day and never complained. He seemed to find joy in what one might call menial tasks. His unassuming, quiet nature kept him from ever seeking the limelight. One might even forget he was there. Yet, with his passing a little boy was saddened beyond words. After the tears subsided, he simply said, ” I just wish he was alive.”

We should all be so lucky in life, however short, to enjoy our work whatever it might be, be the best we can, and to be loved, even by one small soul.

Goodnight and goodbye to Freddy the Fish.

THE Zucchini Muffin Recipe

IMG_9232

This is one of the first recipes I really played with and made my own. It has been such a huge success that I almost rarely get the chance to make any other muffins. Even family members try to make me sell these for a living. Having worked with many food companies I know that would be a difficult living to depend on one muffin. So instead I am sharing it with all of you.

This muffin was created out of my need to use the prolific amount of zucchinis I was receiving weekly from my mother-in-law’s garden. Additionally, this proliferation of zucchini was occurring at the same time that my children were very young and turning away the green stuff regularly.  My kids do not like chunks and have some texture issues. So I started pureeing the zucchini to an applesauce like mush. I would freeze it in 2 cup batches so I would be ready to make a batch when needed.

Enjoy!

THE Zucchini Muffin Recipe

Ingredients

3 eggs

1 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cups Turbinado or cane sugar

2 cups pureed zucchini

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground clove

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 cup wheat germ

1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions 

Preheat oven to 315 degrees Fahrenheit.

Beat eggs until light and foamy; add oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla. Mix lightly but blend thoroughly.

Mix together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices; mix lightly. Add dry ingredients to first mixture, stirring to blend. Stir in wheat germ and chocolate chips.

Spray the pan you choose with butter/oil spray of your choice and fill with batter almost to the top. To ensure the muffins or loaves are cooked, insert a toothpick or knife into the center and it should come out clean.

Cooking Options:

  • 2 – 8×4 inch loaf pans – 1 hour and 20 minutes
  • 2 – big nonstick muffin pans (2/3 cup liquid size muffins) @ 12 muffins – 35 minutes
  • 2 small nonstick muffin pans (1/3 cup liquid size muffins) @ 20 muffins – 25 minutes

Notes:

  • For the loaf pans I recommend putting a small scrap of parchment paper at the bottom to ensure it coming out of the pan easier.
  • If you want to go lighter on the sugar bring it down to 1 cup or 1 and 1/4 cups and up the amount of dark chocolate chips. The chocolate is better for you anyways.
  • If you want to substitute with applesauce or agave syrup for the oils or sugars you can but it will not have the same consistency. It will become rubbery-like. I personally don’t like the results but it could make it healthier.

How to tell if you are adapting or giving up?

Daddy and panos at the beach 8.10

To ADAPT is to change (something) so that it functions better or is better suited for a purpose.

To GIVE UP is to concede or relinquish.

Life is full of many choices and we would like to believe that the choices we make fall in line with our beliefs and goals. However, there are many times in life where the choice we make seems to neither follow our beliefs nor our goals. At that point in time we sit and wonder did we give up or did we simply adapt. The answer to that question defines us, solidifies our moral code and our confidence in ourselves. So if the choice between adapting and giving up is so important to our well being we must always be aware of the difference, right?

If only it were that simple.

There are times where the choice could be clearly on the side of adapting or on the side of giving up, but I fear the vast majority of the time these types of choices live in a very murky grey area, where it is almost impossible to see the line that divides the two. Having gone through some recent adapt or give up situations I tried to figure out how to determine which choice was which.

STEP 1 – Know the core of your goals and beliefs.

You might have told yourself, and your friends and family, that your goal is to travel, to run your own business, to be a National Geographic Photographer… Dig down to the core of that goal, the kernel from which the goal erupted and took form. If you said you wanted to travel all your life, for fun or for work, dig deeper to understand what it is about that goal that really excites you. Perhaps you like learning about other cultures, testing your own limits, seeing people and places different from yours, tasting other foods, learning languages and the list goes on. Only you can pull apart the layers of what you state is your goal to determine the real heart of it.

You will never know for certain if you are simply giving up or adapting if you do not do this deep dive analysis of your goals and beliefs.

STEP 2 – View the choices like a CEO.

Once you know your real goals and beliefs, you can analyze the choices being presented clearly. The CEO is interested in profits, adding value, efficiency, and the image of his or her company. Put the emotional attachment, the ego aside, and look objectively at the choices.

  1. Is the choice you are facing taking you on a more efficient, or a value added, path to your end goal, your profits?
  2. Does the path contradict any of your beliefs?

If the answers are 1-yes and 2-no, than you can stop here. You did not give up, you simply adapted. For example, say you always planned to run your own business and the next career step was to start one. However, you were given a great job offer that would give you needed skills to ultimately run your own business. After accepting you might have given yourself a hard time saying you had given up on your goal of starting your business right now, when you actually adapted to the situation gaining both efficiency and value to apply to your end goal. You could have stuck to your goal and jumped to start your own business immediately without the skills. You might have found success without the additional job experience, but you probably would have gone through some tough challenges causing you unnecessary pain along the way.

If you answered 1 -yes and 2-yes or 1- no and 2 -no or yes, you could be giving up and you need to skip to STEP 3.

STEP 3 – Determine if your beliefs or goals have changed over time.

Has anything major changed in your life? Did you just go from being single to having a significant other, a husband, a wife? Did you just have a child, another child, a pet? Did you or someone close to you go through a major health or other life changing experience?

Suddenly that goal to travel for a living is not so strong anymore, after getting married, having a kid, getting sick. At one point your goals were your own, career oriented or other, now your goals look like a Venn diagram gone berserk with about 10 intersecting circles of interests and goals and needs of others, along with yours.

Imagine a single flower in a flower pot. The water, the food, the sun the love is focused solely on that flower. Eventually the flower gets bigger and stronger and the owner plants it outside in the garden. Now the bees and other bugs depend on the flower for food. The flower competes with the other flowers and vegetables to get food, water and sunlight. In this new environment all grown up, the flower’s goal is not simply to exist for its own sake, but to survive, to compete, to support the environment it is living in. Sometimes a choice in life will come along to take us in a new direction that our environment is directing us toward. Don’t feel that you have given up, you are adapting to life, the circles in the Venn Diagram, the other flowers.

STEP 4 – What does your gut tell you?

After you have figured out the core of your goals and beliefs and determined if the choice is taking you in a more efficient direction or not, supporting fundamental changes happening in your environment, you have arrived at the final, most scientific step of all….what does your gut say? At this point if you have done the analysis above and been brutally honest with yourself, your gut should be backing you up. If it is not you might want to go to step one and try again.

 

 

Cookies for Breakfast

IMG_9218

Teddy needs breakfast every morning, but Teddy is just not willing to get up early enough before school to get ready in time to eat a proper breakfast. This mom has been on a mission to find something better than the frozen pancakes, waffles and cereals that are filled with chemicals, sugar, and preservatives. Don’t get me wrong, we turn to those items quite regularly, but if I can decrease our consumption of the prepackaged foods, even a little, that is a success.

I did a lot of experimenting with this recipe. It started from an AllRecipe breakfast cookie recipe from an Iris Mac but it looks very dissimilar to its original version.  Because I did not want to buy almond butter I opted for regular butter. However, I was not feeling good about that substitution as a healthy option. One version I tried had the butter fully substituted by a cauliflower puree. The husband did not like it warm or cold.  Shockingly the intended audience of a 9 and 7 year old loved it more than the butter filled cookie.

The key in using the vegetable puree substitute is to make it cold before serving. One of the few times in my life that I will recommend a baked should be cold to eat. The reason is because the cauliflower smells when it is just out of the oven and it is not a great smell. After a few different versions I believe the best version that everyone was happy with equally is the one I have posted below, using olive oil and a smaller amount of pureed cauliflower. The critics gave it two thumbs up.

Ingredients

2 cups walnuts

2 Tablespoons Chia seeds

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose unbleached flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup pureed cauliflower

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup agave nectar

2/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

Preheats oven to 350 degrees.  I always recommend using the Pampered Chef cookie sheets or some equally high quality cookie sheet, and parchment paper for easy clean up.

Process the walnuts and chia seeds in a food processor. This helps reduce the texture issues a little one might have, but keep the nutrition. Combine the processed walnut mixture with the oats, both flours, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Mix the chocolate chips into this mixture as well.

Also in the food processor, combine the cauliflower, olive oil, agave, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Pour this mixture into a larger bowl. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet.

Use a large cookie scoop, 1/4 cup or 3 Tablespoons to make your big breakfast cookies. I get about 9 to each sheet. Flatten slightly and bake for 14 minutes. Should be golden brown. Let cookies sit for about 5 minutes after baking so you can remove them to a cooling rack without breakage. Eat after they have cooled off, or the next morning after being in the fridge.

Makes 24 cookies.

Notes

  • Serve with some Greek yogurt and fruit for a quick, filling, nutritious breakfast.
  • Options –
    • 1) Nut butter version– Reduce the olive oil to 1/2 cup; remove the cauliflower puree and replace with 1/2 cup of your favorite nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter…)
    • 2) Low sodium version – Reduce the 1 teaspoon salt to 1/2 teaspoon. I was shocked at learning the fact that 1 teaspoon of salt = 2,500 mg of sodium. We should only be consuming 1,500 mg total per day. I will be working harder to reduce salt in the future.

 

MINECRAFT Birthday Party

 

My son was turning 7 and wanted a Minecraft Party. I found all sorts of incredible beautifully decorated cookies, bags and decorations. These were the things that the parents would “Ooo and Ahhh” about, but the kids would destroy in seconds, putting the hours and days that I put into making them into question. I am a bit of a perfectionist, but I am also a realist. I put my ego aside and instead went searching for what would make my kids say “That was the best birthday party ever.” So I tried to find Minecraft activities. This was much harder to find. In the end I did craft a pretty cool party for 15 boys….yes you heard it 15.

Some bits of wisdom I would like to pass along. First 10 or fewer kids is really the maximum headcount you should ever contemplate. Second no matter how great all the kids are, how well they get along, always stick with 2 -2 1/2 hours maximum. Less you really can’t do anything and more is just too much.  Third enlist friends or parents to help. You know how you always politely turn down that “do you need me to stay or need any help?” Don’t ! However I would pick a real helper in advance of the party not day of. Someone you are comfortable with, know well, and who will jump right in to take control when needed. Fourth have the kids help. Things will not be perfect but they will be pretty proud of themselves and you will have one or more things you do not have to do. Mine made the Creeper costume and some TNT boxes out of file boxes for the TNT explosion site.

Timeline

4:00-4:10

  • Arrival of guests
  • M&M Guessing Game and free play

4:10-4:40 (30 min)

  • Gem Search and Sword Building

4:40-4:50 (10 min)

  • Shoot a Zombie

4:50-5:05 (15 min)

  • TNT Bombs

5:05 -5:20 (15 min)

  • Ender Dragon Fight

5:20-5:50 (30 min)

  • Pizza and spider cake

5:50-6:00 (10 min)

  • TNT Pinata and goodie bags

How it works….

We had the brilliant idea that this could fill a 3 hour party. It did not, primarily because of the off and on rain that kept forcing the kids to come back in the house! It did fill up about 2 1/2 hours and then a movie was put on to calm the chaos for the last half hour. If you need to fill more time the Shoot the Zombie game and Ender Dragon Fight can be played a couple times.

At the beginning the kids search for their gems, which I separated by color in baggies. I put about 14 large gems in each baggie, however 10 would have been sufficient since most had some leftover after making their swords. The gems were large jewels I bought from Amazon in yellow (gold ingot), red (redstone), and blue (diamond) colors. The kids were then divided into teams based on the color gems they found. These teams were used for Shoot the Zombie and Ender Dragon Fight. The team with the most points at the end was the first to hit the pinata, after the birthday boy of course.

GAMES

M&M Guessing

  1. Need – 2 small jars, M&Ms, slips of paper, pens
  2. How to play – Count the M&Ms, place in one jar and have kids write their name and guesses as to how many M&Ms are in the jar, placing their guesses in the other jar. At the end of the party announce the winner.
  3. Notes – M&Ms have nothing to do with Minecraft but my son wanted this. If you feel a need to tie into the theme get Minecraft colors for the M&Ms

 Gem Search and Sword Building

  1. Need –  yellow, red, blue gems evenly divided in baggies; glue gun; pre-cut swords out of poster board (like the kind you would get from the Dollar Store for a Science Fair project); paint; brushes
  2. How to play – You have to spend a night or two cutting out the swords. See the picture at the top. I had a template for the sword and handle drawn as two separate pieces so I could use the poster board more efficiently and then just glue gunned the two pieces together.
    1. If you are lucky to have good weather DEFINITELY hide the baggies of gems outside. We had drizzle off and on so the gems were hidden in our living room and the paint session was set up in our garage. Two boys at a time were sent in and had to find a bag of gems and run back out in 2  minutes. They were timed.
    2. The table in the garage was set up with a sword at each spot, paper plates filled with either red/blue/yellow paint and paint brushes. The boys had to sit in the section with the same color as their gems. I allowed them to paint the handle with other colors – brown etc. but the sword itself was to be painted the gem color.
    3. Then one by one I would glue gun the gems to where they wanted it placed on their sword. This was the most time consuming part.
  3. Notes – If your son or daughter is not as adamant about having the large gems you could do glitter, smaller gems, sequins etc. which they could glue themselves. But the big gems had to get glue-gunned.

Shoot a Zombie

  1. Need – 3 -1 ft x1 ft squares of cardboard painted to look like a zombie face; 3 kid’s beach buckets to fill and 3 filled with water; 3 supersoakers or sponges work too.
  2. How to play – This is a relay race to fill your bucket with water first. Divide the group into their 3 colors, which is their team, and line them up behind the bucket of water. The empty bucket will be on top of the zombie face on the ground some distance away, maybe 10 feet. First kid in line fills their soaker with water, runs to the zombie bucket and empties their water into it. First team to fill their zombie bucket wins.
  3. Notes – Kids like this game. If you need to fill time, play this more than once.

TNT Explosions

  1. Need – Diet Coke bottles 12 oz and Mint Mentos (get as many as you have kids plus extras for spills); sheets of paper that when rolled like a cone can help funnel the mentos into the soda
  2. How to play – In principle each kid goes one at a time to dump their Mentos into their soda and watch the foaming and explosion in the air.
  3. Notes – Definitely need extra eyes on this one to prevent soda in eyes and the drinking of the sugary solution. Also buy the name brand soda and Mentos. Lots of reviews on line regarding this experiment state the explosion is not as good with generic.

Ender Dragon Fight

  1. Need – 2 foam swords made from pool noodles; DANGER tape
  2. How to play – The birthday boy is the Ender Dragon with a sword. One player with his/her noodle sword goes into an area that is marked off with something like DANGER Tape, where the Ender Dragon resides. The first one to hit somewhere below the knees with the sword wins. Any jumping out of the fight area or hitting anywhere above the knees loses. The team with the most points wins.
  3. Notes – My son insisted I figure a way to have sword fights, and not  have it conflict with my need to keep 15 boys from getting into an all out brawl resulting in injuries. I succeeded but keeping it contained and keeping eyes on the fighters constantly is the key.

Extra game…..

Creeper Water Balloon Battle

  1. Need – water balloons, creeper costume made from boxes (see photos above), willing older sister or brother to play the part of the creeper.
  2. How to play – This is like good old dodge ball, heavily favoring the kids and not the creeper. The creeper would be on one side of the field and the kids on the other, with the balloons at the middle line. All would run to the line to gather as many of the water balloons as they can. Creeper could get hit many times. However, if the Creeper hit a boy the boy would go out and that team would be down a point. The team with the most kids still in wins.
  3. Notes – We ended up with a rainy day and did not play this, but it sounded like a lot of fun.

OTHER

http://textcraft.net/ – I used this site for the goodie bag names. Just type in a name using the Minecraft font, then copy and paste to word document and print.

4 STEPS to your PLACE in this world

XTi_D620_011713Everyone craves a “place in this world”. Finding a place is really that constant pursuit of purpose, fitting in, and finding the meaning of your life. Lost souls are the people without purpose, who don’t fit in, who cannot seem to find meaning in their everyday lives.

So often I hear this as an end goal, this finding of purpose. Everyone has a role to play and if I just find my role and stick to it I will be great, and I will be content. This idea is put into our heads early in life. As a child you are told if you do well in school and focus on a specific subject, career or sport you are praised for your focus and determination; you are expected to do well in life. The ones we worry about and fear for their future are the kids without focus, without a passion, without an end goal.

This seems to play out in real life. Sports teams that have the best players for each position, the ones that have been training for most of their life to play a certain role, are usually the best.  Same goes for any company, organization etc., the players that are the best prepared and are successfully fulfilling their role allow the great machine to work, and all is well with the world.

What happens though as soon as a player’s role loses definition? This could happen because of a bad manager, or coach, on board who cannot identify the player’s strengths and/or cannot define the player’s role clearly; or the player him/herself loses certainty about this being THE role. Listening to the people around me, I believe both these scenarios happen far too often. When this happens the person feels a sense of loss; fear at not knowing what to do or what their purpose is in life; self doubt that they aren’t focused. Self doubt and fear magnify as they get older, since with age should come focus and clarity. You should know what you want to do with your life by now. There must be something wrong with you!!!!!

I listened to a great speech by Elizabeth Gilbert Flight of the hummingbird – the curiosity driven life. In this speech she pulls away from her past pushing of a passion driven life. She asks us to embrace the fact that we may be hummingbirds, going from flower to flower, spreading our talents and hard work here and there but not settling on any one flower for the rest of our life. We may look back and see an actual path through our life  and discover that the path itself was our purpose.

STEPS to finding your place in life:

  1. Stop beating yourself up for not knowing what you should do with your life.
  2. Look back and see the path you are on.
  3. Engage and be FULLY present wherever you are on that path.
  4. If something starts to pull you in a different direction, put your seat belt on, and enjoy the ride to something new.

 

The BIG 4-Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie

 

_MG_9113These cookies have been raved about every time they are made. I am at the point where I rarely am able to find time to experiment with other cookies, because when I finally find time to make cookies these cookies are always requested. So enjoy my delectable, soft, chocolate filled 4-Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 cups flour, all purpose

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate chips

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper for easy cleaning.

In an electric mixer beat butter at medium speed until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating until blended.

Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to butter mixture beating until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. It is so thick at this point that I give the stirring a head start with my mixer.

Drop with the large Pampered Chef scoop or use a 1/4 cup.

Bake for 12 minutes, or until just starting to lose the shine of uncooked dough and turning a golden brown.

Notes

  • It will taste better with salted butter.
  • When measuring the flour scoop the flour into the cup using a spoon, instead of using the cup to scoop the flour. The latter method will give you too much flour
  • For the Semisweet and Milk chips I use Nestle brand, for dark I use Hershey, and bittersweet can be Ghirardelli. The flavor was off when I used the Ghirardelli for the other chips.
  • I am now a firm believer in using better cookie sheets. I just bought the Pampered Chef cookie sheets because a friend of mine was getting better results with these cookies. It worked. Before the cookie sheet they were flattening out too much. But with the cookie sheets they were a nice thick cookie shape.

Uniquely YOU

IMG_9144Last night I had what one might call an “Ah Ha” moment. I was surfing possible shows to watch with our new Fire T.V. Stick, looking through the Amazon Prime content on T.V., and picked a newly produced Jane Austin-like period movie. After reading the summary and deciding it did not sound that interesting, I clicked the down button to the row of suggested movies that were similar to the one I had chosen. There were SO many similar movies, several that were the same movie just produced and acted by different individuals, in different locations, at different times. These smart, rich, popular producers and actors continue to produce the same or similar movies over and over again. Such thinking conflicts with my business basics, the need for new and unique, never been done before. I thought “Why do they do it?” Then it dawned on me that they feel that what they bring to the table is unique, unique enough to entice a large enough group of people to part with their money and see and like their film.

My thoughts immediately took me back to my Peace Corps days where so many of my life lessons took place. During my time in Benin as a Small Business Development Peace Corps volunteer, my role was to help the people of Benin improve their business skills. One big business problem I saw that I could not convince them to fix was the proliferation of hair dressers. It felt like there was a woman’s hair shop every other doorway in the main city and multiple ones in small villages. I told them you need to diversify to make money; don’t you understand the supply-demand models I am showing you???? They would look at me with that look of “this white girl is crazy if she thinks I am changing my trade, but I better smile cause I don’t know what she is capable of.” Then she might ask if I wanted my hair braided.

What I did not understand then was these women had a unique sense of self, just like the producers. Yes, many probably did not know any other trade and they had to do this to make any money at all. However, I think many really believed that what they could do with the hair was unique enough from their sister two doors down that they needed to have their own shop.

It is a powerful concept to realize that there is NO ONE on earth that is a carbon copy of you. First of all your DNA makes you unique physically, mentally, and emotionally right from birth. Then add in parents, friends, environments, education, classes, work, hobbies, sports and so much more and you become uniquely you. Your voice cannot be copied. Someone, somewhere will find what you have to say or do inspiring in a way that no one else can inspire. Don’t let fear stop you, the fear that your concept, movie, writing, recipe, photo, artwork, paper….is not good enough or unique enough or worth anyone’s time. Whatever you do is unique from the minute you think of it. Rihana might have millions of followers who hang on her every word. On the other hand I bet I have at least one follower who could not care about anything she says, and feels inspired to do something positive in their life because of what I have to say.

So please for the sake of those that need you write one more lifestyle or cooking blog; sing Frozen’s Let it Go one more time; bake one more chocolate chip cookie; create one more Jane Austin movie and set up another hair salon. It is a lie to tell yourself what you do is not good enough to put out there. By whose standards? There are billions of people out there and I can guarantee something you say or do will affect at least one. Isn’t that person, or those people worth it, however many and whomever they might be?  Let your uniqueness shine for someone to see.

 

Cardamom-Lemon Refrigerator Cookies

XTi_D620_012925I love unique flavors popping up in ordinary recipes. Cardamom in a cookie for the ordinary American is pretty unique. These cookies were created by Mary S. Gutshall of Marysville Ohio. She won the cookie contest in 2007 and her Julie Child-like, all-American photo of her holding her winning cookies was posted in our Sunday Patriot News. Her secret to good cookies ” Butter, it’s God’s gift to us.” I liked her instantly. Below is Mary’s delicious, buttery goodness filled, award winning, Cardamom-Lemon Refrigerator Cookie.

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom or more to taste**

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (or any nut)

**I prefer to buy the cardamom seeds from an international grocery store and grind them myself. You will get a much more potent flavor.

Directions

Stir together flour baking powder and cardamom; set aside. In large mixer bowl, beat butter and shortening on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg and lemon peel; beat well. Add flour mixture; beat until combined. Stir in nuts. Cover and chill about 45 minutes or until easy to handle. On waxed paper or clear plastic wrap, shape dough into two 7 inch rolls. Wrap and chill for several hours or overnight.

Optional: Prior to slicing and baking, roll dough rolls in colored sugars, coating the outside.

Remove dough from refrigerator and cut in 1/4 inch slices. Place one-inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet, or cover your sheet in parchment paper for easy cleaning. Bake in 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Remove and cool completely on wire racks. Repeat with remaining dough.

 

 

Value of a moment

ornaments

This is one of the busiest times of the year. I find myself reeling some nights from all the “to do’s” on my ToDo List. Trees need to be decorated, lights hung, and cookies baked.  We are rsvp’ing to special holiday outings or parties with friends, and filling all the donations and food drives. All this is great stuff, but it is occurring on top of an already overwhelmed schedule of school, work, kid activities, winter sicknesses, and just plain old – keeping things together.

Just last night after the snacks, the homework, dinner, and showers, I brought up the ornaments from the basement and started rushing the kids to decorate the tree before bedtime; to check it off our list. I felt the anxiety pushing its way up from the gut to the throat.  My mind started to wander and follow the tangled mass of to do’s and a feeling of fear began to float to the surface, fear that we would never make it in time. A sudden, tiny, wave of sadness stopped me in my tracks and forced me to think of one of my favorite quotes “What we achieve is not as important in the end as how we got there.”  Equally important is the “You will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”  At that moment I had a choice to keep pushing, or really enjoy that moment.  It took a little virtual nudge in my brain, but I stopped and enjoyed the moment; the “getting there” instead of the finale.  I felt a wave of peace push away the sadness and frustration.

I am no angel, and this will not be a perpetual state of bliss and peace that all you mere mortals have no hope of attaining.  But it was a moment that I enjoyed, and did not miss, with the Christmas music and my children.

So take time today, in the chaos of the season, and remind yourself that you have the power to enjoy the process. Instead of a month plus of exhaustion, frustration, and holiday chaos in the hopes of enjoying one day, enjoy all the moments along the way as you prepare.

 

Photo: Red Christmas Ball Decoration By InteriorDesignInspiration.net