Hanalei Bay in a Bowl

Deep down, I am craving a little Hawaii time in a bad way.  Sand.  Fruity drinks.  Waves crashing.  Tropical breezes.  Ah, yes.  Glory Hallelujah.

So this morning, I set out to create a little Hawaii for breakfast.  As in “Hanalei Bay Oatmeal”.  Yes, I’m crazy.  It didn’t quite take me to the beaches of Kauai, but it was still yummy, especially with some extra strong coffee.

Here’s the recipe if you want to try your own tropical oatmeal.

Hanalei Bay Oatmeal

  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of gluten free oatmeal
  • 1/2  cup of coconut milk (we used the light coconut milk from Trader Joes)
  • 1 cup frozen mango (diced)
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple (diced)
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 t vanilla (I highly recommend Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla)
  • 2 T flax seeds
  • (optional:  shredded, unsweeted coconut and walnuts)

Directions:

Put water in a pot on the stove.  Bring water to a boil.  Add remaining ingredients and let simmer on medium for 8 minutes (ish).  Serve with shredded coconut and walnut pieces.  It’s extra yummy to drizzle a little of the leftover canned coconut milk or Coconut Milk creamer on top.

and yes, this was happening in the adjoining room while the oatmeal preparation was happening….

where are those tropical beaches?!?

Who Knew I’d Be Organizing Vegenaise?!?

Yes, who knew?!?  I NEVER in my wildest dreams imagined I’d ever buy Vegenaise.  Ewww….just the name gives me the willies.  I have received many Vegetarian cookbooks over the years, kindly, with plastered smile, accepted them, shelved them, and moved on.  And yet, here we are…approaching 2 months of a vegan, gluten free and sugar free diet.  I seriously have NO clue how this happened.  I mean, I have a clue.  There has been a lot of chopping, preparing, menu planning, internet scouring for recipes.  But I never would have thought we, the meat loving, cheese hoarding, ice cream ingesting Goughs would embark on this “adventure”.

So today, 6 months after my original pantry organization, Drew and I set about straightening things up a bit today, following Tsh’s lead at Simple Mom.

Drew also took this opportunity to empty and reorganize his kitchen too and move things around….

We took some quick photos of the pantry before….

Tried to find a spot, higher up, for the breakable, temptations that have become no match for our 17 month old climber and adventurer….

(and also purged over 1/2 of our cookbooks since September’s organization!)

After getting the labeller up and running (you might recall it was out of tape last fall…this time, batteries were dead after an Alex artistic frenzy a few weeks ago), we began labelling, pulling things out of packaging and filling up Ball canning jars and categorizing.

We have begun buying many more items in bulk, vs. packaged/processed items, so instead of one pint-sized jar for lentils….I now have 6 QUART size jars!  Proud of those lentils!

Not sure what Drew was secretly trying to say, but he sought out his Moving Truck and left it prominently on the canned goods shelf…

Even though this week’s challenge was to also encompass the fridge, I have gotten in the habit of cleaning and organizing it once every other week when doing our weekly menus and meal planning.  Weekly or bi-weekly cleaning is MUCH easier than every six month cleaning.  Now, if only I could apply that lesson to every other area of our home….

I’ll leave you with Drew’s theme song today.  Maybe it’ll be the “ear candy” you need to choose a project and jump in.  And I can send over the Hot Wheels “Move It” truck if you need some assistance!


Eat Well

 

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well,

if one has not dined well.”  

– Virginia Woolf

Oh, yes, Miss Woolf.  So true.  Sotrue.  Dining well.

We have been so so spoiled.  Matt and I have had the treat of dining out at some wonderful venues.  The gift of taking your time, savoring the meal, enjoying the flavors, letting the food become a memory, that is something that I put at the top of my priority list. These days, it is TOUGH to make that happen during day-to-day life.  For many of you who have eaten with us, you know that we are not the poster family for patient, perfect toddler/preschool diners.  Nope.  We are usually trying to squeeze in a “Thank You to God” prayer, some conversation about our days and keeping everyone in their seats (Drew is currently a master of escaping the locked bounds of his high chair). Continue reading

DPP ’11 // December 29th // Breakfast with my Little Rascal

Such a treat to have breakfast with this little guy.  And rascal INDEED.  While the eldest can be a handful, I can also put away dishes in the dishwasher and deal with laundry without fearing their immediate removal and double the work.    But this guy loves to eat.  Today he put away scrambled eggs and hash browns like a champ…all the while “blowing” on them to cool each bite off.  This “blowing” is really a big raspberry fest meaning EVERYONE gets a share of the fun.  We’ll see if Drew and I can finish off the to do list today before the three others arrive back home.  Happy Thursday!  {I’ll be TEACHING a week from today!  Holy Reality Check, Batman!}

DPP ’11 // Snowman Poop & a Tribute to Tom Dailey

Thanks to an amazing post by one of my favorite bloggers/photographers, Tara Whitney, I got the wonderful idea…well, I STOLE the wonderful idea, to have “Snowman Poop” one day for our lead up to Christmas.  Here’s her original link to the idea.

So this morning seemed like the PERFECT morning to do it.  Because today will also mark the celebration of a very special man, Mr. Tom Dailey.  Tom has served as the most amazing custodian at Marin Elementary School {in Albany where I used to teach} for a LONG time.  And Tom has been so much more than a custodian.  He cares deeply for students, staff and the school itself in ways that often go unnoticed.  And….Tom has a big affinity for donut holes and deviled eggs.  Every Friday the staff would trade off making food for “Fat Friday” and we’d have a wonderful time of community and yummy treats each week during lunch.  Nonfailingly, Tom would always bring one or both of his favorites.  And when Tom brought deviled eggs, he would bring multiple versions.  On my last day at Marin, almost four years ago, this was on my desk when I got into work in the wee hours.

I think I have shared it here before, but it bears sharing again, because it makes me weepy everytime I see it.  He didn’t need to leave a note to let me know who it was from.  I knew it was Tom and I understood his sentiment right away.

So today, in honor of Tom’s retirement, I am bringing donut holes to the party and feeding them to my children for breakfast.  They might be “disguised” as Snowman Poop, but really, they are a tribute to the amazing, Tom Dailey!  Love you, Tom!!!

{p.s.  And if I’d had time, this was the deviled eggs recipe I WOULD have made!}

The Project, Take Two….

My organizing, purging, and cleaning bug has been in full effect this week. Something took over after the pantry project and I couldn’t stop until I’d combed every cupboard and cranny in the kitchen.

This drawer, in particular, was keeping me awake at night….seriously….what was IN there?? Closer look???

Then there is the other various cabinets and drawers…

Those corner hexagonal corner cabinets are TRICKY! (at least that’s my excuse)

BBQ tools, anyone?

Here are the same tools, laid out so we can clearly see we have TWO of each implement.

Can’t see the baking supplies, pans, muffin tins, cooling racks, you say? Here’s the same view with the lovely harsh glare of the the flash!

Did you see this mini muffin tin hiding in there? Ended up giving this away to my friend’s garage sale. Cute, have used it a few times, but really….not worth the storage space for me. Would rather share the wealth.

This cabinet wasn’t too bad, but who needs THAT many kid plates, bowls, water bottles, and cups???

Too many utensils!!!!!!!!!!

So as I did with the first project, the pantry cabinet, I cleared everything out, sorted things into categories, purged duplicate and unnecessary items and cleaned out the empty drawers….

Ahhhhh….simplicity.

And then I began to put things back with the help of some drawer organizers I already had.

Found four wine bottle openers (we always forget one on trips and end up buying one). So….two will be repurposed, one in each glove compartment of our cars so we won’t have to buy a new one again!

Ended up using an empty drawer in our glass cabinet to store serving utentils, utilizing a cloth napkin to soften the blow. Poor spoons…no harsh, cold, wooden drawer for you!

And all the tupperware? Safely contained in that previously scary drawer, shown in the first picture of this post….

And a brief view of the kid drawer for now. I’m sure this will evolve and change and I plan to get rid of a few more items from this area (when Alex, my hoarder, isn’t looking).

Sadly, I forgot to take before pictures of the spice shelves and the freezer, my other two conquests. I guess I was rushing to finish during Drew’s nap. BUT, trust me, that spice shelf was NASTY, impossibly crowded and filled with expired and duplicate spices. I laughed to myself finding a jar that expired in 2007——-until I found one that expired in 2003! Yes, TWO THOUSAND THREE!!!!!!!!!!

Here’s the after of the shelves of spices and condiments and such….

{I am still coveting the magnetic spice containers from the Container Store…

….but I’m holding myself back. What we have will work for now. And what we already have is FREE. That is always better than spending money!}

Seeing that picture of the spice cabinet now, I’m kicking myself that I don’t have a before picture. Seriously….there was NO room in there and the lazy susan was so full of items it had a hard time spinning without wheezing out its last breath.

I moved and organized a few more items up above the stove, especially rarely used vinegars and spices.

I made quick labels with post its (as I mentioned earlier, the labeller tape ran out…yes, I know…BAD form). I also posted lists on the doors of what was actually in those “rarely used spices” containers. Hopefully it will keep me from buying Thyme again. I found THREE containers, two of which were unopened. Sinner!!!!!!

Sadly the other thing I found while working up there, above the stove, was this….

Sick, disgusting, sticky and gooey. The hood over the stove was GROSS.

Enter….Bar Keeper’s Friend.

This stuff seriously works some magic. The hood will need even more elbow grease (not MEAT GREASE!) than I already put in, but I had to call it quits for today.

Finally, I tackled the freezer. This post, from one of my favorite blogs, I Heart Organizing, was really inspiring for me. Especially as my husband frantically digs through the drawers for frozen baby food as said baby is trying to get to everything first. Ice cubes litter the area and peas typically are flying due to opened bags. There was no rhyme or reason to the freezer. Basically we just shoved things in and hoped for the best.

Again, didn’t get a before picture, but here’s the first run….

(think we have enough ice packs?????)

And then today, I hit up the local dollar store and got a few things to help corral things in the freezer, inspired by that previous post.

Sidenote: While checking out at the dollar store, the man in front of me was purchasing $292 worth of canned pineapple and fruit cocktail. And they were on special, 2 for a $1. Yes, that’s right, mathematicians….584 cans of fruit!!!!!!!! The checker was sweating and laughing as she rung up my $8 purchase.

So, here’s the redo with the baskets. Matt and I also ate a few items for lunch. Nothing like sorting to make you realize how much you already have on hand to eat.

These projects cost a whopping $8.66 for a few additional baskets to help tame the shelves and freezer and $1.49 to buy cumin at Trader Joes. Still want to grab nutmeg, but after learning about grating actual nutmeg nuts while in Italy ten years ago, I just haven’t had the heart to buy the ground stuff again. Anyone know where to buy the real deal??

So, for now, this organizing maven (haha) is going to take a little breather and hang with the chitlins who will no doubt mess with everything I just organized. Oh, well, we’re always evolving, eh? Here’s a link to all things organizing on my Pinterest page. Unfortunately, it just gets me thinking about what space to conquer next!

Instilling Habits

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I love lists. I am sure I’ve mentioned it here before. Even created a “list club” in 5th grade. The club revolved around bringing fun notebooks and pens to school and making fancy lists. Any surprise I was senior class secretary??

Matt and I tend to have a regular “discussion” centered around our meal plans. For me, the subscriber to MANY food magazines and blogs, making binders of clipped recipes to try is a habit, and oddly enough, a joy. I love the unknowns of a new recipe, whether or not we’ll like the result and whether the chopping, peeling and preparing will be worth it. It has happened more than once that I neglected to read the recipe before diving in, only to find out the meat was to marinate overnight or the bread needed to rise 2 hours before baking (that MAY have been last night….just maybe…..good thing I was making FLATbread!).

Matt’s philosophy is to have a small rotation of meals that are simple and tasty, alleviating the guess work and stress. Rather than deciding what to eat and then stressing in the kitchen making something new each night, things are streamlined and easier to budget for.

Every time he brings this approach up, I cringe and feel like I am being forced into a straightjacket.

So like good opposites, opposites that are married, we have kind of reached a compromise. I have decided on a few “categories” which will be making an appearance each week—–pasta, stir fry, pizza, tacos, salad and soup. But….the creativity can shape something unique nonetheless. Tonight I attempted pizza with potato, rosemary, pancetta and fontina. Last night our stir fry was a little more Mediterranean—roasted summer veggies on hummus with a poached egg and homemade, grilled flatbread. (Thank you Chad and Kim Rodgers for that inspiration a few years back!). Fish tostadas with tomatoes from our garden and avocados…

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(tostada fixings from a recent dinner)

Despite being a list making fiend, I hadn’t considered using it for grocery shopping, planning and as a budget helper. My friend, Casey, has done this for years, and after weeks on end of tossing expired, limp and lifeless produce, I knew I needed an intervention a few years back. So, we began planning meals for the week, creating our shopping lists by category (I’ve gotten many compliments from the Trader Joes staff for my Sharpie written, colorful and organized masterpieces….haha, little do they know it is truly to make the process of shopping as quick and painless as possible with the two boys!)

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I have been wanting to take the next step of posting the week’s plan, rather than trying to dig for the little scrap of paper that tells me what meals I have ingredients for. Basically, an excuse to buy a clipboard and use colorful pens?!

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Planning allows us to look at the week ahead and plan appropriately for meals….easy meals for days that are full and will be a bit tricky, cooler meals for hot days (did NOT do a good job of that this week!!!!!), and special weekly meals like breakfast for dinner. This week was especially toasty, so we scrapped the plan one night so we could use the tomatoes overflowing off our vines and washed it down with LOTS of water.

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Alex has been in charge of the grocery list while shopping for awhile and now that he’s working on writing letters, he insisted on making his own menu for the week.

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His plan pretty much included a fruit a day…he insisted on planning healthy foods. Would be great if he actually followed through on that!!!! I shouldn’t complain—his desire to buy kale at the farmer’s market or eating all our tomatoes off the vine is something to be grateful for.

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Now that we are one week in, I am feeling like it will be a great weekly ritual for us, creating some expectations and exciting things to look forward to for Alex in addition to making things simpler for me.

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The current challenge won’t be throwing out wilted produce, but rather making sure Drew is staying out of trouble while cooking!

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(blurry picture used on purpose….)

 

A Hungry Child Can’t Wait: Ask 5 for 5

Guest Blogger: Sarah Lenssen from #Ask5for5

Family photos by Mike Fiechtner Photography

Thank you Christine, and nearly 150 other bloggers from around the world for allowing me to share a story with you today, during Social Media Week.

A hungry child in East Africa can’t wait. Her hunger consumes her while we decide if we’ll respond and save her life. In Somalia, children are stumbling along for days, even weeks, on dangerous roads and with empty stomachs in search of food and water. Their crops failed for the third year in a row. All their animals died. They lost everything. Thousands are dying along the road before they find help in refugee camps.

At my house, when my three children are hungry, they wait minutes for food, maybe an hour if dinner is approaching. Children affected by the food crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia aren’t so lucky. Did you know that the worst drought in 60 years is ravaging whole countries right now, as you read this? Famine, a term not used lightly, has been declared in Somalia. This is the world’s first famine in 20 years.12.4 million people are in need of emergency assistance and over 29,000 children have died in the last three months alone. A child is dying every 5 minutes. It it estimated that 750,000 people could die before this famine is over. Take a moment and let that settle in.

The media plays a major role in disasters. They have the power to draw the attention of society to respond–or not. Unfortunately, this horrific disaster has become merely a footnote in most national media outlets. News of the U.S. national debt squabble and the latest celebrity’s baby bump dominate headlines. That is why I am thrilled that nearly 150 bloggers from all over the world are joining together today to use the power of social media to make their own headlines; to share the urgent need of the almost forgotten with their blog readers. Humans have the capacity to care deeply for those who are suffering, but in a situation like this when the numbers are too huge to grasp and the people so far away, we often feel like the little we can do will be a drop in the ocean, and don’t do anything at all.

When news of the famine first hit the news in late July, I selfishly avoided it. I didn’t want to read about it or hear about it because I knew I would feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. I wanted to protect myself. I knew I would need to do something if I knew what was really happening. You see, this food crisis is personal. I have a 4-year-old son and a 1 yr-old daughter who were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought. If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother’s hungry child?

My friend and World Vision staffer, Jon Warren, was recently in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya–the largest refugee camp in the world with over 400,000 people. He told me the story of Isnino Siyat, 22, a mother who walked for 10 days and nights with her husband, 1 yr-old-baby, Suleiman, and 4 yr.-old son Adan Hussein, fleeing the drought in Somalia. When she arrived at Dadaab, she built the family a shelter with borrowed materials while carrying her baby on her back. Even her dress is borrowed. As she sat in the shelter on her second night in camp she told Jon, “I left because of hunger. It is a very horrible drought which finished both our livestock and our farm.” The family lost their 5 cows and 10 goats one by one over 3 months, as grazing lands dried up. “We don’t have enough food now…our food is finished. I am really worried about the future of my children and myself if the situation continues.”

Will you help a child like Baby Suleiman? Ask5for5 is a dream built upon the belief that you will.

That something I knew I would need to do became a campaign called #Ask5for5 to raise awareness and funds for famine and drought victims. The concept is simple, give $5 and ask five of your friends to give $5, and then they each ask five of their friends to give $5 and so on–in nine generations of 5x5x5…we could raise $2.4 Million! In one month, over 750 people have donated over $25,000! I set up a fundraiser at See Your Impact and 100% of the funds will go to World Vision, an organization that has been fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa for decades and will continue long after this famine has ended. Donations can multiply up to 5 times in impact by government grants to
help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support,
healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families suffering in the Horn.

I need you to help me save lives. It’s so so simple; here’s what you need to do:

  1. Donate $5 or more on this page (http://seeyourimpact.org/members/ask5for5)
  2. Send an email to your friends and ask them to join us.
  3. Share #Ask5for5 on Facebook and Twitter!

I’m looking for another 100 bloggers to share this post on their blogs throughout Social Media Week. Email me at ask5for5@gmail.com if you’re interested in participating this week.

A hungry child doesn’t wait. She doesn’t wait for us to finish the other things on our to-do list, or get to it next month when we might have a little more money to give. She doesn’t wait for us to decide if she’s important enough to deserve a response. She will only wait as long as her weakened little body will hold on…please respond now and help save her life. Ask 5 for 5.

Thank you on behalf of all of those who will be helped–you are saving lives and changing history.
p.s. Please don’t move on to the next website before you donate and email your friends right now. It only takes 5 minutes and just $5, and if you’re life is busy like mine, you probably won’t get back to it later. Let’s not be a generation that ignores hundreds of thousands of starving people, instead let’s leave a legacy of compassion. You have the opportunity to save a life today!