Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Painting the Outside Door






Well, our back door is technically a side door but it's the most used entrance to our house. Our house is brick but the side porch is all white look and I like the all white look, however between super alien green pollen and red dirt, nothing in Georgia stays very white for long around here!  This door was pretty beat up and needing a new coat of paint and for the past year I had envisioned a super dark navy blue almost black paint on it.  However when I got samples I ended up with like 50 shades of blue ranging from that super dark navy to light robins egg blue.  This color was in the mid-light range and an awesome friend who is much more decisive than me helped me narrow it down to a much more manageable decision.  Then I got my final opinion from my daughter and her buddy to decide between the final 2 paint colors.  This was not a time consuming project.  We did our homeschool in the morning and after lunch I started this project. The drying time takes the longest which was less than 2 hours and during that time I was doing laundry and playing with the kids.  Kind of instant gratification....that's my kind of DIY!

Here's a picture of the Opal Silk paint sample card with some of our eggs.

This color reminds me of my favorite blue-green eggs that my Easter egg layers leave me in their nest.  It's called Opal Silk by BEHR.  I bought a quart of exterior satin enamel (I didn't want a shiny glossy door) in the BEHR Primium Plus ULTRA Stain-Blocking Paint & Primer in One. Along with a small paint tray, small roller and 1 1/2 inch brush.

BEFORE:

This is after already going over it with an electric palm sander to smooth out and remove and marks, it cleaned the door pretty good.  I didn't sand in the molding, just whatever I could get with the palm sander.  Then I panicked and though maybe I should leave the door white after wanting to paint it for over a year...but I decided to ignore the self-doubt and hurry up and do it! 😅


I pinned up plastic to keep the door clean while working but I ended up taking it down because my cats were driving me nuts pouncing on it and making it fall down.  It's still winter, but we had a warm day in the 60s and I didn't have to worry about bugs landing on the wet paint so I ended up tearing the plastic down before even getting to painting.  But it's a good idea if bugs are out to keep your paint job from getting messed up. I placed a piece of cardboard under the door to work on and keep my hardwood floors clean.

I removed the handle and deadbolt and taped around the glass window frames, I didn't have painters tape and just used white masking tape.

I think I was supposed to remove hardware before sanding but it didn't really matter.  Just make sure to really wipe down the door nice and good to remove any dust before painting.

I looked up on Lowes how to paint a front door and it's pretty straightforward and did not take long. Less than an hour and I only painted the exterior face of the door.  I figured if I liked it I could later paint the entire door if I wanted to have that cute color on the inside as well. https://www.lowes.com/projects/paint-stain-and-wallpaper/paint-wooden-front-door/project


First stirred the paint and poured into my small paint tray. Starting with my paint brush, I painted the small wooden cross sections that separate the 4 window panes and the inside trim around that area.

Then using paintbrush, painted the mounding on the bottom half of the door.  (Photos taken after)


Using the small paint roller, I then applied paint over the 2 front panels that are part of the mounding on the bottom half, then before it dried, lightly dragged my paintbrush down virtically following the natural grain of the wood to leave natural paint brush marks.  


Bottom of door you can see the wood grain/paint is vertical in middle and then cut off by a seam created when you go across horizontally on the bottom of door.

Next, use the paint roller across the middle section of the door and then did the same thing, lightly pulled the paint brush across to smooth and leave the lines going horizontally following the grain of the wood. And repeated that method along the very top of the door above the window.

You can see the paint brush marks creating the grain after using the paint roller. This is along the long outside sections of the door that go top to bottom.

Last I used the paint roller down both sides of the door from top to bottom and then again, went over with the paintbrush leaving vertical lines following the grain of the wood from top to bottom.  I didn't end up taping the sides of the door with tape because with the paint roller it went on so clean and did not wrap around the edges at all.  Just be careful when going over with the paintbrush to not flick the sides, but if you do, you can quickly wipe any unwanted paint off with a damp rag. 
See how I did not paint the outside edges of the door.

I got some paint on that little piece of weather stripping on the bottom so I just painted the whole thing...looks better anyways because it was stained the Georgia red clay color and looked dirty once I actually noticed it.


I let it dry for 1-2 hours with door left open and then applied a second coat, repeating the steps above which did not take long, 45 minutes at most. The paint was dry within 1-2 hours and I just left the door open the rest of the day even though it was dry before shutting it.

I carefully removed the tape on the Windows, peeling it off pulling at an angle towards the inside of the window.  If you pull the tape off without cautions sometimes if the paint is still a little soft, it can pull of the paint around the edges of the tape.  There were a few spots of paint that got on the window but I just quickly scratched it off with my fingernail.

  It's been a few days now and still looks great :). I went to Charleston with my daughter for the weekend for a gymnastics meet and the hubby text me saying how good the door looks and that I should paint the door on our screen porch that color and our basement doors too! I'm not sure if I'll do that or just leave it to this one cheerful pop of color but we'll see. 


Sunny afternoon

Rainy afternoon

I painted this the day before going to Charleston and with this color on my mind, I was loving this house on rainbow row that I had to snap a picture of.  Maybe I will paint this someday!  Blue green turquoise love going on!!!!




Thursday, January 19, 2017

Vitamin C for the Soul


In the past couple of years, I haven't made official "New Years resolutions" but rather spent spare moments here and there reflecting on what I need to work on.  Ambitious and sometimes unrealistic resolutions can be exciting and inspiring at first but can quickly lead to beating ourselves up when we quickly fail to even begin to accomplish that goal. So I look at New Years resolutions the same way I look at diets...I don't do them.  Rather than going on a "diet" I think it's better to just make simple changes that can lead to an overall healthier lifestyle.  Likewise, it is important to be self aware, take time to refocus on what's most important to us, check ourselves and give ourselves some positive things to focus on. Rather than specific resolutions, Just spend some time to make sure our lives, schedules and energy is in line with what we value. Coincidently after I started writing this post, our pastor Andy Stanley did a great series you should watch at reallywantseries.org, it's taken me a while to hit the publish button on this :/ but is all about figuring out what we really value, what we really want.

I will admit, 2016 kicked my a$$.  By spring I was hitting mom/homeschool/wife everything burnout and then just struggling to recover and as anyone who's been there knows, it is hard to draw from an empty well.  Unfortunately rather than refilling my cup, which I was trying to figure how to do but when your driving down the highway and your car runs out of gas and there's not much around...it isn't all that easy to do.  And using the broke down car metaphor, a woman with a broke down car is in a vulnerable position, I became vulnerable to the triad of anxiety, fear and doubt.  I actually had a dream one night where there was a dark figure lurking in my peripheral vision, almost like a stage hand orchestrating from the wings and just as I was waking from the dream, the hood on the cloak fell back and I saw a three-headed wolf and I immediately identified them and knew their names, Fear, Worry and Doubt.  It was a moment of like...oh now I see you and I know who/what you are!  It was empowering because it helped me identify what I was struggling with and then I could figure out how to deal with it.  It is funny how this past year I hit burnout, when if you look at the past 11 years of my life starting with our best friend and roommate committing suicide senior year in college, graduating and moving, getting engaged, surprise pregnancy while wedding planning with HG (extremely sick all pregnancy) while dealing with PTSD from the suicide, then adding undiagnosed postpartum thyroiditis turned Hashimoto's followed by 3 cross country moves and 2 more sweet babies in less than 5 years while my husband traveled for his job at least 50% of the time just to rattle off the big things. God was so good through it all and used everything for our good (except the suicide...that will always be heartbreaking, I remember when my daughter was a baby, I'd be driving and pull up to a stop sign and suddenly go blank and flash back to that time and feel overcome by the darkness of it and for years felt like an accomplice to murder.  Hindsight is 20/20, at the time I was just immature and ignorant of mental health issues and after it happened, and we were being questioned by police they pointed out that all the signs were there and that is where the guilt would come from).  Having our daughter when we did really was a blessing because she moved us forward and helped us grow up faster and really was a dream come true because I was always the motherly type and wanted to be a mom my whole life more than anything else.  A funny side note was after Tyler proposed (5.5 years from our first date in high school) we were sitting, admiring the ring on my finger and I was all gushy and "oh my gosh we're gonna have babies!!!" Lol I don't know who says that 15 minutes after getting engaged when they are 22 but we had talked about the future plenty and both knew what we wanted.  I just didn't realize that process was gonna start like 3 weeks later! So while she was a surprise, she was more than wanted and we would never have it any other way!

When I started this post I had no intention of sharing such personal parts of my life story but it helps explain where I'm coming from when I say this year was the least busy, least eventful, least stressful year in the books, so it would appear based on history.  we didn't move or have a baby, my husband worked less than he has in the past (although his version of less is still like a mad man-he has more drive and discipline than anyone I know!), I don't feel like I have PTSD anymore and can talk about what happened without feeling traumatized all over again, my thyroid seems to be healed as I haven't been on thyroid medicine for 4 years now and tests are all normal as a result of going gluten and dairy free, we are settled in with a home I never ever imagined I would have in a beautiful part of the country we have a great homeschool community and lots of cool homeschooling choices and opportunities,  the blue ridge mountains are not far from our back door and we get to explore and be in beautiful nature often so I should feel better than ever! But I think that is just it, I think everything cumulatively caught up to me and I found myself a bit wrecked. Maybe it was just adrenal fatigue I don't know.

The progression of my dad's ALS pinpointed it all along with a fall out with a friend who I had to distance myself from who although I truly cared for deeply, no longer felt like a healthy or safe relationship.  It was painful because I cared about her very much.  I hadn't had any friendship "breakups" since I was in high school and with families involved I was very torn up, especially because my own family was far away, with a baby and in a different place trying to process my dads ALS and process the guilt I felt for not being closer to help my parents more, it was all just too much to deal with emotionally.  For so long I was always strong through all these major life events, trusted the Lord and he always took care of us and things always turned out for the good and I was able to be very Pollyannaish and content with ease.  With my dads diagnosis with ALS, that brought on a new level of hope and prayer and faith, desperately begging that My dad's ALS progression would halt at some point before it got too bad as it has for some others or even that there would be a healing miracle and it would reverse.  There are people out there who have had their ALS  stop progressing and continue to live a mostly normal life still able to function a lot on their own, and there are yet others who's ALS even reversed.  With my mom by his side, diligently taking care of him and all the protocols to try and implement, I had hope, lots of faith and hope.  I would have visions flash of my dad running up and down the stairs again with a delighted grandchild in his arms enjoying the ride.  And while I believe our prayers have been answered in the regard that my dad is at almost 4 years post diagnosis and still here, as its given us more time with him than others have, it's still progressed along the course and it is such a very cruel disease and awful to watch someone you love go through.  It doesn't seem fair for anyone, but especially to a healthy young 57 doctor who rode his bike everyday, who never needed to use a sick day in 10 years and took seriously his calling to serve his fellow man by being an amazing doctor who truly listens and cares. When not doing that he was serving in scouts taking the boys on awesome high adventure trips down the Pacific Coast, climbing Mt. Adams, cycling in an annual triathlon, planning a fun family activity to take us all snowshoeing, sledding, snowmobiling, camping on the Oregon coast or jet skiing on the Columbia River. When he wasn't doing that he was helping someone move or whatever need there was he was happy to help. 

I think this year, the anger, acceptance and grief of the situation started to settle in more and with it came the burnout of everything else over the years and I just felt fatigued in every way, including spiritually fatigued.  I ran out of energy to pray anymore at the same time having bad anxiety about running into that friend and I think that is where the door creaked open for that three-headed wolf to get a grip on me, take over the stage and undermine me in every way.  Rather than being filled and sustained with the trinity of God, Savior and Holy Spirit, I was drained by that three headed wolf, opposite of the trinity but also 3 in 1, 3 different names but one in purpose, which is to rob us of everything that God so freely gives us, which is Love, self worth, confidence, joy and peace...all the opposite of the fruits of Fear, Worry and Doubt.  With that, rather than just dealing with the anger and grief of the situation with my dad, I was now under attack in every way, into my very being because fear, anxiety and doubt can quickly spread and run deep like a malignant cancer, affecting other areas of our lives and destroy confidence, steal joy, rob us of self worth and make us second guess ourselves constantly.  Once anxiety creeps in and puts us in that state of fight or flight mode, it's hard not to let that state of being affect us in other ways unrelated to the original cause of anxiety.  Suddenly my grief over my dad's situation, and anxiety over running into that person transformed into self-loathing now that an inner voice that is excellent at tearing you down is given the stage in a moment of vulnerability and being stuck in flight mode. I can look at the whole situation now and see how important our spiritual health is like our physical health and how it is so intertwined.  If we get spiritually and emotionally run down, our spiritual and emotional "immune system" becomes weak and we are more vulnerable to "pathogens", and if we catch a "cold" or other ailment, our immune system is further impaired and it's then easier to catch and get run down with other illnesses going around.  Without getting the immune system strong again, you get caught in a vicious cycle of always being sick with something or other.  Just as there are always bacteria and viruses lurking around everywhere, some more contagious than others, how strong our immune system is determines how well we are able to carry on with our normal life unaffected by them because a strong immune system can quickly deflect and deal with the exposures without taking you out.  So can keeping our spiritual and emotional/mental immune system strong, we can walk boldly without fear of being taken by the "viruses" and "bacteria" lurking around looking for a host, we can quickly deflect and deal with them without hardly skipping a beat.  We can be friendly, open and loving without being anxious.  Maybe you could say anxiety is like getting mono. You feel like crap and exhausted for a long time but everyone thinks your fine, until you get even more sick and finally go to the doctor only to find out you have been sick all along without realizing what the problem was and now have a secondary infection since your immune system was so taxed dealing with that original ongoing illness and now you have to figure out how to heal from a host of issues.  Maybe it starts out with some minor anxiety over an issue with someone or a underhanded compliment or some random remark that incites a twinge of insecurity...if you don't quickly combat those Germy moments with hand sanitizer and an extra dose of vitamin C, it can begin the process of hampering the immune system and before you know it you're body is so burdened it developes an auto immune response, which is when your body starts attacking itself...well...when we get run down and lose our confidence and joy I would say that our soul develops an autoimmune disease if we find ourselves internally beating ourselves up. So I guess as I'm writing this, these C words that came to mind as my intention and focus this year I've decided to call Vitamin C for my soul.  Along with spending more time filling myself with God's word, these words I think are great focuses to deflect the attacks of that three headed wolf.  I can't live out my purpose or enjoy the many blessings The Lord has graciously given me if I'm a paralyzed slave to fear, anxiety/worry and doubt.  

I'm NOT an open book type of person, even within myself I internalize things so much so it's outside my comfort zone to share all this but maybe someone will be able to relate in their own way and know it's ok and it's going to BE ok if we hit times in life when the wind is taken out of our sails and we find ourselves doggy paddling and struggling. If not, at least helps me crack my shell to share personal struggles without worrying about feeling judged or guilty.  (Although I still have work to do so I'm sure I'll be worried and self critical over how this post came together and tempted to delete it.😭). 

Anyways, here are my C words that I have for my renewed focus of things to be intentional about and work on this year.  I kept wondering why the words I was coming up with were all C words, but now that I see it as my Vitamin C, it all makes sense lol!


These words may mean different things to different people but for me personally, here are some notes on each, Without going into too much detail, but in small points.  Hopefully these Vitamin C's will keep us more immune from negativity, anxiety, fear, doubt and a host of other negative personal issues that can hamper our mental/emotional/spiritual health, which ultimately affects our physical health as well.

Confidence

Reject self-doubt and be positive. 

Here is a list I made while doing some reading in Joyce Meyer's The Confident Woman and will continue to add to but it's a good start. (Reading her book is also my way of starting the year with the intention and focus on confidence.

Affirmations from Heavenly Father
*God's wisdom is in me and I make good decisions.
*No matter how I feel, I can go forward in faith and make the right choice.
*I am greater than my feelings.
*I have favor with God and expect good things
*I am strong (confident) and of good courage. -Joshua 1:6
*He makes my feet like the hinds (strong and able) He sets me secure and confident upon the heights...- 2 Samuel 22:34
*In peace, I will lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust - psalm 4:8
*By the help of God I will praise His word; on God I lean, rely, and confidently put my trust; I will not fear. what can man, who is flesh, do to me? - Psalm 56:4
*I am valuable, I have worth, I am gifted, I am talented and I have a purpose on this earth.
*God has called me by my name and I am His - Isaiah 43:1
*I am precious in his sight and honored.  Fear not, He is with me. - Isaiah 43:4-5
*I will ask and receive that my joy may be full. - John 16:24
*I have a great future.

Connection

*Be intentional about connecting with those I love most.  Being present and undestracted in the moment.

I'm with my kids all the time, but I want to be sure that I am really WITH them and make the moments count.  Anxiety is what gets in the way of this mostly, when you're distracted by worrisome or anxious thoughts, you aren't fully present and robbing yourself of the joy of each moment that you miss.

I came across a great anxiety grounding tool on the blog By Candace Playforth http://candaceplayforth.com/healing-anxiety-nature/
With the 5-4-3-2-1 approach to connect with the present moment and an easy way to do that is looking a kiddo in the eye and coming into their little world, looking at their big round eyes, seeing the rosy health in their cheeks, listening to their sweet little voice and listening what they are playing or thinking about. Whether it's playing Pat A Cake with a baby, engaging with a son and his Lego setup, helping a tween organize her room, doll stuff or pick out clothes...whatever it may be, be intentional to engage with them and their world...even if it's sitting there being shown a bunch of different dragons on Dragon City that are their favorites lol!

Another tip I came across by The Day Designer was to "touch your planner before you touch your phone", a great way to stay grounded and connected with your day, your intentions and your people.
https://www.facebook.com/theDayDesigner

Communication

This is something I have really been learning this year with help of my ladies small group while we read Jen Hatmaker's "For The Love" and Lysa Terkyrst's "Unglued".  I learned I'm a stuffer, internalizer and obliger and struggle with setting boundaries with tendencies of an approval addict, which helped me also realize my love language is words of affirmation.  Although verbal expression is NOT my strong suit and I know this is an area I can really improve.  My husband is the complete opposite, he has amazing communication skills and public speaking skills and has no fear of speaking his mind, isn't held back by social hang ups of worrying what other people might think, can stand up and speak in front of 100 people with ease, whereas I am so opposite in those ways.  I can be more of a slave to those things and it's almost like I put a gag on myself and his being so opposite of me in that regard is something I have always loved about him and been a tad jealous of!  

Within my family, We all get busy and miss and feel disconnected to the family members I love so much that live cross-country and I want to be more intentional about staying in communication with them outside of social media and even texting. I always thought social media and texting were the best thing ever because I've moved so much and it's how I stay in touch with everyone and I've always had a phone calling aversion so they make a great crutch for someone like me who really cares and thinks about you but picking up the phone incites slight feelings of panic.  I was this way before social media and Facebook and I would either write snail mail letters or end up losing touch with people. But, despite how great social media and texting can be for introverts to stay engaged with people they care about, Instagram is no replacement for hearing my sister's or brother's voices and my nieces or nephews in the background or an old friend on her lunch break as she orders her Starbucks in the drive thru!  It's true we are all busy and social media makes it easy, but I definitely feel more connected talking to my friend and hearing her actual voice for 5-10 minutes while she has a break than just double tapping her pictures.

The kids...I think I do pretty good here since we are together so much and very connected but I can still have better communication, stealing away moments for intentional connection and conversation with each person, communicating to them positive messages so the day doesn't slip by with me just directing the next thing they need to do and the occasional scolding.  Being intentional to communicate positive thinking and joy through playing with them.

Communication with God, praying even when I don't feel like it.  Honestly, even when I don't feel in the mood or too tired, once I start, there's so much to be thankful for and so much to say and even a short and sweet prayer is better than none.  The more we spend communing with the face of God, the more we are filled with His love for us and that is what flows through us, filling in the nooks and crannies with His goodness and driving out any negative emotions or false thought we may have about ourselves.

Along with communication is your community! Staying in communication "community" with others helps us not feel isolated and not be just focused on ourselves.

Contentment

This one surprised me when it came to mind because I've generally always been a pretty low-maintenance, content person.  It's a quality my mom often praised me for was that I was always so content and easy and in the earlier years of our marriage when the budget was super tight and my husband traveled a lot, I was perfectly content, I knew I had everything I needed and in a precious phase of new motherhood that I cherished and was just thankful I could be home with her, even if that meant we were living very tight.  But since I somewhat lost myself this past year, it's a reminder to get back to who I am and always was in the past.  To remember who I am and stay content and teach the kids contentment as well.  Being patient and content in the moment.

Cheerfulness

A merry heart doeth good like medicine. - Proverbs 17:22 
'Nough said!

As he thinketh in his heart, so is he. - Proverbs 23:7

A cheerful happy disposition impacts health and life.

One thing that helps me hone in on this trait is my Happiness Project One Sentence 5 Year Journal.  I can quickly jot something down and just by 1-2 sentences being put to paper, it quickly changes my mindset and my mood.  There is so much research about the benefits of practicing gratitude and having a more positive outlook...it all just backs up what proverbs 17:22 above says.  So make sure to use those smiling muscles!  These C's are intertwined. I think when we are cheerful and smile, we feel better about ourselves and that brings us full circle back to our confidence level and ability to feel connected with others.  

Remember to smile.

One more bonus Vit C is....

Cardio

Anxiety and worry is also a form of intense internal energy, excess adrenalin bouncing around all over the place.  Some good old fashioned cardio that gets you sweating can burn up all that excess internal energy that saps you of any real, useful energy (I know that sounds weird right? Too much internal energy gives you less energy...but yes, all that excess internal energy is exhausting).  You can feel like a different person coming out of that workout covered with sweat than when you started that workout. You'll feel proud of yourself, more confident, content and cheerful I guarantee!  Because I'm experiencing that right now!  I always have stuck with yoga and still think it's great but I started taking spin classes recently and I have never worked out so hard before, nor enjoyed working out so much before or felt so much better so quickly!  I haven't had a gym membership in 6 years and I remember how much better I felt when I had that membership before and could go, drop the kids off at the childcare center and just burn off steam.  I didn't even care what physical benefits the workout gave me it just made me feel better.  But we bought an elliptical and kept thinking I can use that and do yoga at home but it's not the same.  I need that gym environment to push and motivate me. I can just drive there not motivated and show up, but once in there and started in a class, I can get into that mode and find out I'm capable of more than I thought I was and come out renewed and tired yet energized in a healthy way.  For me, in the spin class I can zone out and reboot my brain.  It's too intense to think about other things and I don't even have to think about what I'm doing, just follow the instructions and push through.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds with Jesus Christ. -Phillipians 4:6-7

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Making Gluten Free Petit Fours

Dairy Free Gluten Free

Chocolate and Cream Cheese

 PETIT FOURS

making chocolate gluten free petit fours


My first experience with Petit Fours was when I started dating my husband in high school and went to his house around Christmas to be offered one of these adorable little cakes from Swiss Colony, a Christmas tradition in his home.  They were so yummy it was hard to not want to eat the whole box, especially with how much more crazy my sweet tooth was back then.  7-8 years later, our toddler daughter was there, in her Little but poofy Christmas dress, eating the little cakes with such delight. I didn't know if there was anything cuter than that petit little girl eating petit little cakes. But, by the the time she was 4 we had gone gluten free and sadly no more petit fours for us.  Tradition was ruined!  Petit Fours did remain a Christmas tradition for my husband however as his parents still send him a box every Christmas (he's not gluten free). Last year I was determined to make some, as my daughter fondly remembers from when she was 3 how good they were.  I researched how to make petit fours and then attempted to make gluten free petit fours. I made a gluten free chocolate cake and dairy free coconut cream for the filling and dairy free chocolate ganache for the coating.  It was a lot of work, it was a big mess and they were as big as a hostess cupcake and tasted more like a hostess cupcake, so while it was not a complete fail as we still ate them, they were a total mess and not presentable...they were not petit fours.

This week when my husband came home from the office, he had a gold box in his hand and quickly said "don't get mad, my parents sent them to my office but don't worry they aren't that good." What he says to make our daughter feel better when she can't have something he has.  Suddenly I thought of a new way to try making gluten free petit fours and it was very quick and easy, easier than regular petit fours.  I thought of the gluten free ice cream sandwiches we made last summer using Nicole Hunn's recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring.  A thin, chocolate wafer/cake that is easy to make and no slicing cake into crumbly thin layers and freezing required!  (Typical part of making petit fours)

What you need:

Ice Cream Sandwich Chocolate Wafer recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring (HERE)
Can of pillsbury Cream Cheese Frosting (I read the label and it was dairy free-normally I would make homemade frosting to avoid the extra "ingredients" but I was tired and promised my daughter we would have girl time and make these.)
Ghiridelli Chocolate Semi-Sweet Chips (or other dairy free chocolate chips)
Dairy free milk (almond, coconut or cashew)

dairy free cream cheese frosting
(SHHHH!!!....I cheated and bought frosting when I realized it was dairy free!)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325

Make the sandwich cookie dough as directed (here)

Separate chocolate dough into 2 balls.

Place one half on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, top with another piece of parchment paper and roll out into a rectangularish shape just a little over a 1/4 inch thick.  Remove top parchment paper and if you like, trim the edges to make them straight and add the extra dough to the other ball of dough.

Repeat with the other half on another baking sheet.

Score the rolled out dough into roughly 1 inch wide strips.  (My strips were about 1 x 7 inches just depends I how you rolled it out)

Bake in preheated oven according the the sandwich cookie instructions, or until until it lightly springs back. (I ended up doubling the baking time since it was a larger mass since i wasn't cutting out cookie circles *about 14 minutes for me).

Remove from oven and allow cake to cool.

Assemble the cakes!

chocolate petit fours

Using a knife, spread some cream cheese frosting over one long strip of your chocolate cake.

Carefully pick up another strip of cake and lay in on top and then spread that layer with cream cheese frosting and then add one more strip on top of the cream cheese. You now have 3 layers of cake with 2 layers of filling.

Repeat with remaining strips until you can't make any more. If you have excess scraps of cake, just leave those out in a dish for munching.

My fun little helper...she's very involved as she plans to open her own gluten free bakery.

Now that you have some long layered strips of cake and frosting, take a sharp knife and carefully cut them into 1 inch sections creating 1 inch squares.

This looks like a mess but it was all contained within this cookie sheet and the chocolate ganache and sprinkles that fell below were also later picked at and enjoyed ;)

Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, place a cookie rack over top and then arrange your gluten free petit fours on the cookie rack.

In a double boiler* add a bag of dairy free chocolate chips and 1/4 cup of dairy free milk.  Stir until melted.  You want the chocolate icing to be somewhat running so it's easy to spread over your cakes so if it doesn't drizzle off your spoon, add some more milk until you get the right consistency.

Using a spoon or small spatula, carefully spread the chocolate icing over the top of your petit fours, letting it drip down the side.  As it drips down the sides, using a spoon or spatula, carefully spread the chocolate icing over the sides, adding more frosting as needed and letting the excess drip down onto the baking sheet below the petit fours.  They won't all be perfect but as long as you get the tops covered well and most of the sides, that's good enough.  Then top with some sprinkles for added color and decoration and allow chocolate icing to set and then enjoy your easy gluten free dairy free petit fours!  These were much less labor intensive than making sugar cookies!!!! 

As you can see here, this was more of a challenge to make gluten free dairy free petit fours as easy as possible, and have some fun mommy daughter time, not looking for perfection. We had some that we thought looked perfect although most were not, but they all taste the same and they taste VERY yummy!

frosting for petit fours

petit cakes



*to make a double boiler, add an inch or two of water to a small pot, then place a glass Pyrex bowl over top of the pot and boil the water. Place the chocolate and milk in the glass bowl and store as it melts, this produces a smooth ganache.

*usually I like to make everything from scratch, even if it's not "healthy" it's still healthier than using anything from a package with the extra preservatives and ingredients however, as this was an experiment and I wanted it to be as easy as possible, especially if they didn't turn out, I thought a shortcut now and then ain't the worst thing in the world...besides, stress can kill you too! lol!



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Gluten Free Black Bottom Banana Bars




Adapted from Taste of Home http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/black-bottom-banana-bars

1/2 c Earth Balance Butter
1 c organic cane sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 ripe bananas mashed
1 3/4 c gluten free flour baking blend such as King Arthur
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder (Hershey dark cocoa powder-even better)

Preheat oven to 350
Line a 9x13 with parchment paper or lightly grease.

Cream the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in stand mixer.
Add bananas one at a time, mixer will mash them up for you as they mix in.
In separate bow mix gf flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and then add to banana mixture. Stir til just combined.

Separate half on batter into a medium size bow and add 1/4 cocoa powder and stir til combined.  

Spread the chocolate batter over bottom of pan with a spatula.

Spoon the original banana mixture over top and then use a spatula to spread over the chocolate layer.

Sprinkle top with a few chocolate chips if desired.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top and toothpick comes out clean.







Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Bites




Peanut Butter Protein Packed Cold or Frozen Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Bites or could be called Healthy Frozen Cookie Dough Bites...My family just calls them Cold Granola Balls...whatever you want to call them...it all started during a hot Texas summer in Dallas in an apartment with very inefficient AC.  We lived on homemade granola bars but that one hot summer day I started to make my granola bars as usual and then before I could finish, just couldn't bring myself to turn on the oven.  I thought of the days I would sneak those Spunkmier cookie dough balls from my moms freezer (I think they were a fundraiser and you got a gallon size bucket with scoops of cookie dough you kept in the freezer and had cookies ready to bake at anytime.)  I used my cookie scoop and plopped the granola the bar dough onto a parchment lined cake pan and put it in the freezer...my husband and I were HOOKED!  Now I form them into smaller balls by hand so they are easier for the kids to manage and keep them in the fridge or freezer.  I love freezing them and then throwing in a ziplock bag or small container when we go on hikes because they are full of protein and keep everyone going.

These are so awesome to have year round but especially great in the summertime when we crave something cold yet filling to keep us going.  These make a great protein packed breakfast on the go instead of a bowl of hot oatmeal or when you're in a hurry. Throw them in a picnic cooler and bring to the pool or lake for a great snack to keep energized and feeling satisfied instead of snacking on chips and popsicles.


After 8 years since my first time making homemade granola bars and playing around with it, here is my Cold Granola Ball Recipe.

1 1/2 c creamy peanut butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/3 c coconut oil
1/2 c honey
1 Tbsp vanilla (or at least 2 tsp min)
3 cups oats (I use bobs red mill gluten free quick oats or gluten free rolled oats I get through Amazon)
1 cup crushed crispy cereal (such as Rice Chex or Honey Nut Cheerios or GF Crispie Cereal)
1 cup Chocolate Chips (we are dairy free and use Enjoy Life, Kirkland Semi-Sweet or the gold bag by Ghiridelli)

Optional Add Ins
You can add 1/2-1 cup of any other add ins like
1/2 c flax seed
1 c puffed millet
1 c puffed brown rice
1/2-1 c dried fruit like craisins 
1/2-1 c nuts (u would recommend they be finely chopped though if you have barge pieces of things it will be harder to shaped into balls and hold together)

Line a 9x13 inch cake pan with parchment paper or a large plastic food storage container.  If you don't line it and freeze these they can freeze to the container and be hard to remove.

Mix first 5 ingredients together til smooth.

Add in oats, crispy cereal and chocolate chips (and any optional add in if desired) and mix thoroughly.

Scoop out spoonfuls into your hand and form into balls. 

Place into prepared container, cover with plastic wrap, tin foil or container lid and then refrigerate or freeze.  These are yummy to eat frozen or just cold.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

CTC Math Review

CTC MATH 


I would love to tell you about what we have been doing for math for the past 6 months.  I had not been able to settle on any particular curriculum, even the most highly recommended Charlotte Mason style math curriculum's, while I knew they were good, just didn't seem right for us.  So we started doing a lot more living math which I wrote about here and were really enjoying doing math this way.  However, I was becoming more and more drained, not because from doing living math, but my health was just not keeping up and then I started really dropping the ball. I didn't know for some time, but I was very anemic and very low on vit D and just felt like I was dying.  

I didn't have the energy to plan and prepare the fun, engaging living math fun that we were finding so rewarding. I wanted to keep doing living math activities, but I felt like I needed something more stable and structured than what I was doing, yet still gentle and not stress inducing. So I went back to searching my top choices.  One that I kept coming back to was CTC Math. My husband and I were hesitant about doing an online math program, especially after doing math in such a hands-on way AND being very Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Nature Inspired in our homeschool, we just weren't sure about doing math on the computer or ipad.  

The kids and I were traveling to visit family for 2.5 weeks, so I decided to do the free trial as our math while we were away and now here I am writing a ha;f a year later.  My son (K) was so excited by the certificates, he really thrived on the structure of the program and was motivated to plow through it. He thought is was fun and just took off and is almost a full grade level ahead now. He would ask me if he could do more math. I'm so happy that he is just starting out on something that he has taken to so well, hopefully we'll just avoid any math drama all together with him at this rate.

With my daughter (3rd grade) we had started out with basic math workbooks from the store in Kindergarten and done fun math sheets and activities from 1+1+1=1 and other fun pinterest stuff.  It was going well. Then first grade we started doing MFW and we did the math that came with that and that's when things started to get wonky...it wasn't bad...it just wasn't good either.  We did everything by the book, but it wasn't working, nothing would stick...it was like starting over every day.  And part of that is how my daughter learns and the reason we went away from "curriculum" and more into relaxed eclectic, or what I coined Classical Masonori Waldunschoolers. (that's Classical Conversations, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf and Unschooling all blended up into a super yummy and healthy smoothie!) 
Anyways, then by second grade we started Singapore as recommeded by MFW and she liked the pictures and how there weren't too many questions per page so she wasn't visually overwhelmed, but I was floundering in trying to teach it because I'm not mathy...I'm a math phobe!  I'm still haunted be a reoccurring nightmare that I skipped my last college math class the last semester and remembered right before finals and am freaking out knowing there is NO way I can pass the final or make up for the all I missed.  I hate that dream!
  
Meanwhile I had began looking at other options more obsessively (at least that's probably how my husband would describe it when he turns on the computer and there's 30 tabs open in just 1 of the browsers and I'm reading and researching too much).  We were getting through the Singapore book, but when skills came back up, it was clear she wasn't getting it, it wasn't sticking.  AND with any math I did with her, she was always immediately overwhelmed when we started a new topic or idea and would shut down before even giving it a chance and I'd be trying to convince her how simple it was if she would just listen for a second.  
I really wanted to like Math U See or RightStart, those are such good programs but every time I looked at them, I just knew  it wasn't for us, she would shut down as soon as she see's that page of problems just as much as I felt overwhelmed when looking at all the stuff that came with Rigthstar.  Anything that looked like a textbook just was a very hard part of our day.  So that is how we just decided to embrace hands-on learning and dove into Living Math.  

But once we gave CTC Math a try, I was amazed.  My daughter would watch the short video lesson that is like an animated and narrated power point presentation and would just be engaged, nodding her head like "Oh OK that makes sense" and then as soon as the lesson was finished and Pat Murray says "alright we've completed our lesson and good luck with your questions." She would just go right in and confidently be ready to do her math, even if it was something totally new...something that would have her sliding out of her chair and onto the floor in a ball of misery, excuses and overwhelm in the past.  

Some key things that really make CTC Work for us are:
  • Only one question is displayed at a time
  • There is a progress bar at the top that moves each time they submit their answer so they get that immediate reward of seeing how much closer they are to being finished with questions.
  • Their score is kept showing their current percentage on that lesson as well as how many out of the total number of questions they have completed.
  • Being able to type in or select the answer takes away the added stress for those with Dyslexia or other similar issues as they can just focus on the math and not worry if they wrote 25 when they mean 52 or hand fatigue for those who grip too hard, then write wrong and can't erase their answers since they press the pencil SO HARD.
  • The lessons are concise and to the point but do a great job explaining and demonstrating the concept. (Charlotte Mason would approve)
  • You can select how many practice questions you want your child to do and what you require for a passing grade when you set up your students account. You could set it for only having to do 10 practice questions but require 90-100% accuracy or you could set it up however you want.  
  • There are diagnostic tests for each topic and you can select short (20 questions) Standard (30 questions) or comprehensive (40 questions)
  • Parent can assign tasks with deadlines if desired
  • Parent can edit the students account so if they want to delete a lesson and redo it to get a better score and award, you can.
  • Kids love checking their awards section and keeping track of how many platinum, gold and silver awards they have earned.
  • They enjoy the speed skills.
  • My daughter likes that after she completes a lesson, it shows how long it took her to complete the lesson, but that it doesn't show a timer while she's doing the lesson because any sort of timer is stressful and distracting for her.
  • mobility - we travel quite a bit and this is easy to access from anywhere without having to pack anything
  • Built in manipulatives that kids can move around on screen with either a mouse if using computer or with their finger if using an ipad to work out their problems and find the answer.
  • No teacher frustration...I sit with my kids as support but if they don't get it (which has only happened on rare occasion thus far) they can simply re-watch the video lesson and try again.  
  • Affordable! Having a family subscription with multiple kids with access to all grade levels is an incredible deal.  The subscription for the whole family (with the home school discount) costs the same as other curriculum, but just purchasing one grade level.  And you can easily move your kids up or down based on where they need to be without having to buy more curriculum/materials.  
  • This program is great for a variety of learning styles as it is Visual, Audio and Kinestetic.
  • Kids like the new feature of being able to customize the color scheme of their account.  My son has Red and Orange and my daughter Teal and Blue. Sometimes it's the little things, like having their own user name and password, their own color scheme, records and awards...they like it.
  • This program has been like a burden lifted for me as I feel very confident in how my kids are doing in math now and I can still add in living math activities to our day, but I don't HAVE to always be prepared.  
  • I have a two year old...I don't have time and patience for whining and tantrums and dawdling over math!  I haven't had any of those issues since we started CTC Math AND my daughter is retaining what she has learned.  

I think if Charlotte Mason were around today she would approve.

A couple Cons:

  • I wish it was easier to go back and change one question that as wrong so they don't have to have a lower award or redo the whole set of questions because of a simple mistake like bumping the submit button or a typo when they knew the right answer. Although it's taught them to really DOUBLE check before they click submit.  
  • The Times Tables Game and Speed Skills didn't work on the ipad but they just fixed that so that's been great!
  • They have great built in manipulatives but every once in a while you may want to actually take out a scrap paper and pencil for your child to work the question out on. It's not a big con but sometimes you are used to the manipulatives and then you'll get a question without any and my daughter will stare blankly. this isn;t really that much of a negative but more of an FYI.  Also one some of the money questions, I brought out some of our fake money for her to use because on some of those there were not built in manipulatives...however, I was happy to be able to bring in some other manipulatives that she could use so not a big deal.
  • I would love if they made an app for the ipad instead of doing it within the Safari browser.  Sometimes it can be a little glitchy on the ipad sometimes. It definitely works smoother on the computer.
Those are the only Cons I could think of and I was really trying to be honest and thorough but there are really no HUGE complaints I have.  I think this program is totally awesome and I envision us sticking with this all the way through.  And...I'm honestly getting more confident at math from watching his lessons with my kids! I struggled to do mental math...but I am getting much better now and I don't think I've had my college math class nightmare in a while now! :0

And I will say, we are not total unschoolers, but I think many unschoolers would enjoy having this as a math program as I know many people resonate with the ideology but then wonder..."what about math?" I think CTC Math could blend well with any full on homeschool style out there...except maybe not full on Waldorf because you can't watercolor paint on your computer screen! :)



Pea Gravel Courtyard Patio Makeover

BEFORE

It was a weedy mud pit that just always looked like a mess, and the small concrete patio that was by the doors was pretty stained and not looking too attractive either.  I love the look and sound of pea gravel underfoot AND it's a lot cheaper, easier, faster and more forgiving for a DIY patio than most other options.  I do love flagstone and beautiful hardscaping, but I LOVE the charm of the pea gravel so it was an easy route to go.  The pavers that line the pea gravel patio were reused from the messy, weedy ugly path that was going through this area.  There were lining the path and it was filled with large jagged white rock.







After 2 truckloads of deco pea gravel was dumped on our driveway...

AFTER

Less than 24 hours later, Tyler and I had laid out landscape cover and he wheelbarrow-ed down all 2.5 tons of gravel himself!  Still need to do some things down there, it's pretty bare but we love the look down there so much better!