Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Table

I work with a lovely lady who has four children as well, except her kids are grown and navigating their lives as young adults.  Married, engaged, working...it's enlightening to see how my future may look when my kids leave the nest and start lives of their own.

I may need medication, but it's enlightening all the same.

A few days ago, this friend at work gave me and another co-worker some words of wisdom.  

"Never stop the family dinner.  Never.  Keep them around that table. Yes there are nights you are on the run, maybe more than you are home.  But every chance you have you set and eat around the table."

It made me think.  I used to make a family dinner every night.  When my kids were little, and we weren't running all over every weeknight with activities, we were around that table.  I taught my kids about napkins on laps, how to cut their own food and to ask permission to be excused. It was important to me they learned etiquette, and to this day they are pleasant dinner companions. 

Trouble is, today those dinners are fewer and farther between.  We are just about as busy as I can handle some days.  We have two or three practices to work around every night.  And games.  

That's before we even figure out homework and dinner and chores. 

We eat in the kitchen, we eat "together."  But there is something about that table.  I admit I was getting lax about it, there were nights we all were home and I let it slide.  Eating in the same room was enough.  

Not anymore.  

This week, the only night we were all home, we set the table.  I made a feast and we gathered around that table. We said our prayer, and we did our classic "high and low."  We go around the circle and everyone shares their high for the day and their low.  You could do a high for the week, or a high for the year.  

What's important is that we all answer the same question, and it gives us insight into everyone's lives.  We know what makes someone's day, what they value and what they dread.

It's wonderful.  And I feel like when we're around that table - with NO phones and no distractions - like time pauses.  Just for a bit, but it does. 

It's magic.  

Don't let that time together go, cherish the moments you can set aside to connect with your kids.  It makes a difference for them and for you.  There is nothing kids want more than your time. Those traditions give them something to look forward to after a long day, and something to come home for when they fly the nest.

Happy Tuesday...make it special. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How to Make Crayon Hearts

I found this Valentine activity years ago in Family Fun magazine.  I loved that it was easy, quick and unique.

It also made broken crayons useful again.
Broken crayons are one of the banes of my Mommyhood existence.  Please go away broken crayons.  Go away and never return.

Aside from recycling annoying crayon nubs, this activity makes a wonderful Valentine's Day gift for classmates.  A gift that is not a lollipop or a pencil.

Hallelujah and an Amen to that one.

I am good on pencils for at least a year.  We have a wonderfully varied pencil selection with a pencil for every holiday, season, superhero and princess.

I'm bracing for another pencil delivery via three backpacks next Monday (2/14).  If you are contributing to this delivery, I do thank you.  Even though I have a million of them, pencils don't expire.  I guess I can take a few dozen more.  I might use them to build a shed.

Without further ado, I bring you the "How To" on making crayon hearts.


Heart shaped cookie or muffin tin
Annoying crayon pieces from all over your house, car and purse

1. Help munchkins peel paper off broken crayons.  This is a wonderful, time consuming quiet activity.  Munchkins have to concentrate to peel that paper.  The room will be silent.

Savor it.

And then breathe deeply as you view broken crayon pile (cringe) and tiny scraps of paper pile (cringe squared).
This picture gives me agita.

2. Have munchkins fill each mold with assorted crayon pieces.  I love to watch my munchkins combine different colors for each mold.
LLG just tosses pieces in to fill each mold, he lets the chips fall where they may.

The Gymnastics Queen is very particular with her color schemes.  LLG's complete and total disregard for order drives her mad.  I find this very amusing as long as no one cries too loud.

3. Bake at 250 for 10-15 minutes until crayons are melted.

4. Remove from oven and cool at least an hour.  Crayons will easily pop out of mold once cooled.

These are wonderful to accompany store bought Valentines or to make homemade Valentines.

For homemade Valentines adhere heart crayons to a cut piece of card stock.

Add a super corny but cute message such as "You melt my heart" or "You make my days more colorful".

Valentine's Day is the ultimate in cheesy punch lines.  It's fabulous.

Go grab a heart shaped muffin tin and make something cool (heart crayons) out of something that is not cool (broken crayons).

Happy crayon making!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Homemade Bagels

One of my favorite things in the world is a good bagel.  I eat one every day for lunch.  Even when I was counting carbs (that's another post) I fit in a bagel every day.

I grew up in the "tri-state area" of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.  Pizza, bagels and indulgences such as Italian butter cookies are second to none. Bagels are plump and chewy, the butter cookies melt in your mouth and the pizza is an art form that has not been mastered here in central Pennsylvania.

Since moving to Pennsylvania, I've never found the kind of bagels that are plump, chewy and fill your guts with dough. My husband travels for work and nothing makes my heart sing like when he brings me bagels from New Jersey. There are establishments that claim to make a New York bagel, and while they are worth buying, they always fall short.

Don't sell me a 3.5 ounce bagel. If that sucker isn't at least 5 ounces I'm not happy. 

Last year I decided to make my own bagels because I was tired of constantly searching for bagels that fit the bill.  If you have experience baking breads and worked with yeast, bagel making is not difficult.  I was pleasantly surprised how fast I was able to make six bagels I actually looked forward to toasting and slathering with butter. 

This recipe I found on all recipes, and I made some changes. You don't need to buy anything fancy, just bread flour if you don't keep it stocked in the pantry. And yeast of course. 

I use my standing mixer to knead the dough, no need for a bread machine.  I suppose you could use a bread machine, but these come out great with the standing mixer method. 

For the bagels:

1 package instant yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 quarts water (for boiling)
2 tablespoons honey (optional)
1 lightly whisked egg (optional)
Toppings such as poppyseed, sesame seeds, cinnamon sugar, etc

In a small bowl, pour the 1 1/4 cups warm water, yeast and sugar.  Let sit about 3-5 minutes, The yeast should froth and puff - this will show you it is working.

In bowl of standing mixer, add the remaining dry ingredients.  When yeast is ready, add to dry ingredients in mixer bowl.  Using hook attachment, knead dough about 10 minutes.  The dough should form a ball and "smack" off the sides of the mixer.  Let it keep kneeding - it will be loud but it will work.

Pick up the dough, spray the mixer bowl with nonstick spray or lightly oil.  Place dough back in and turn to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.  Let rise in a warm place about one-two hours.  I turn my oven on, preheat to 350, turn it off and place bowl inside. This warm air helps the dough to rise nicely. Dough should puff up (I'm using this word a lot today) and double in size.

Punch dough down and let rise another 30 minutes.  Again, set in a warm place.

Boil 4 quarts water and if desired, add honey. This gives the bagels a tad of sweetness, and is not necessary.  While water is heating to boil, separate dough into 6-8 balls.  I do 6 because I like a big bagel.  You can make them smaller.  After rolling dough into a ball, push floured fingers through center and work to create a ring.  set bagels on counter to rest for about 10 minutes.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Heat oven to 475.

Once water is boiling, add bagels two at a time.  Boil one minute each side. Place on parchment lined baking sheet.

If desired, brush bagels with egg.  I do this to add some color, and if I sprinkle poppyseed on top it helps the topping stick.

Bake bagels at 475 about 15 minutes until tops are just turning a nice golden color. I have read people turn off the oven and cover the bagels with foil for about ten minutes. I may try this next time, it is supposed to help with the chewy texture.

Eat immediately - or if you can resist - allow to cool and freeze.  Remember this is fresh bread without preservatives...so they won't keep longer than about two days.  I take one out of the freezer every morning.

*Tip...do not let bagels rise longer than two hours. When you leave yeast to work too long you will notice a "yeast" flavor and these won't be enjoyable!*

Have a great week!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Where I've Been

In the blink of an eye, your kids go from needing potty breaks and fruit snacks to needing money to spend as they rush out the door.

Seriously, that's how fast that happens.

I started this blog in 2009, I had a baby. She was a few months old.  I also had an 8 year old, a 6 year old and a 4 year old.  Life was busy with carseats and naptimes.  We did preschool runs and morning kindergarten.  I made dinner at night and breakfast every morning.  I usually passed out in front of the television with a bowl of ice cream watching Grey's Anatomy after all the munchkins were peacefully sleeping.

Then, every so often, one of them would wake up sick or with a bad dream and crawl into my bed.

I blinked.  My kids are now 16, 14, 12 and 8.  My oldest is getting his license.  Holy heck he's driving a car.  We're talking about college.  He's at practice after school every day.  He has a part time job. My fourteen year old is not far behind.  

Today my days seem short.  There was a time they seemed long, but that is forever gone.  I'm up early to work, I bring my two oldest to school.  After school (and work) starts a flurry of car rides, meals, homework and whatever else pops up.  Laundry is a never ending pile of misery.  Crumbs pepper my counters and floors.  

I did six drop offs/pick ups between 4 and 6pm yesterday. Thank God for leather minivan seats and XM radio. 

My life is full.  My kids are finding their way and learning who they are.  There is no greater enjoyment than the enjoyment I feel when I'm with my family.  It is truly a blessing to raise children.  They change you in just about every way imaginable.  

I'm not sure where to go with my blog or what to focus on, because so much of my blogs were about surviving those years when the kids were still wiping boogies.  And man those were some good years.  I could write about how to manage teen girls, how to manage your time, my favorite quick meals or how to just be happy...since that is one thing I manage to remain.  And it's such a great way to live. 

I hope you've all been well, I've sure missed mumbling and sharing parts of my life.  Understandably my kids aren't big on their lives being shared, so you've got me.  That will have to do. 

Happy Thursday, make it amazing. 

                                       Image result for happiness