MYO: Creative Writing Journals
December 1, 2011 at 6:00 am
Sometimes, an idea comes along just when you need it.
That’s how I felt when I saw a creative writing journal made by a woman in my writing group who is also a Montessori teacher.
She made journals with her class, but get this — she made one for herself too. Because she is a writer. And she models that for her students by sharing her own work. Brilliant!
I was so inspired that I picked up three blank notebooks that night.
That week, we each made our own Creative Writing Notebooks.
I borrowed the idea of including a Table of Contents page inside the cover. I also loved that she had inspiring words written on the cover of her notebook – words like publish and author.
When the kids and I made our notebooks, we brainstormed a list of “writer” words: creative, original, my ideas, thoughts, feelings, observations, expression, writer, write it down, revise and imagine.
We found some greater “writer quotes” like this one from one of our favorite children’s authors, Jane Yolen: “Love the writing, love the writing, love the writing … the rest will follow” and from Will Shetterly: “It is better to write a bad first draft than to write no first draft at all.”
Finally, we talked about some writing prompts, like describing a drawing, or writing about something that makes you laugh, or something that is special to you.
The kids and I spend some time each week writing. I get a chance to work on my assignments for my writer’s group, and they get a chance to practice putting their creativity on paper. Even my youngest, at 4, draws pictures and asks us to write words to go with.
I LOVE these journals, and the chance it gives us all to “write it down.” And I love sharing my love of writing with my kids.
My favorite new green smoothie!
November 25, 2011 at 6:00 am
The kids and I are big fans of green smoothies. We all them frog guts, and we are in a special club called the “Frog Guts Club.”
You can join. It is open enrollment right now.
I know green smoothies seem a little scary. If you haven’t tried one yet, you probably don’t buy it when people talk about how “they don’t taste like death,” and “they really don’t make you gag at all. Promise.”
But it’s true. Close your eyes. Take a sip. It will be OK.
This is a recipe for my new favorite green smoothie. I am drinking one this morning, as part of my squirt whipped cream and too much cranberry bread detox plan!
I promise this smoothie is delicious. If you are nervous, just add a little bit of kale the first time.
Tropical Green Smoothie
3/4 cup crushed pineapple
1/2 cup coconut milk (or more, depending on the consistency you need to get it going)
A few handfuls of kale or other greens
Throw everything in a blender and take it for a spin!
No really … Yum!
It’s Bee Time
November 3, 2011 at 6:00 am
We got a couple of special deliveries this past week. Our farmer friend Jan harvested honey and beeswax from her hives recently and was kind enough to share some of what she got with us.
This big jar of delicious local honey is a little like liquid gold to us. The honey helps keep us healthy during cold and flu season, and it tastes great on our toast and tea.
I was also thrilled that she gifted us with some wax from her hives this year, which we used to make some homemade beeswax polishfor our toys and also for blocks we colored, sanded and polished last week as part of our wood-themed homeschool pre-school class.
I’ve got some other big plans for these great local gifts, but I also thought it might be a good time to look back on last year’s “Honey Week,” when I spent several days talking about our farmer friend Jan and all things honey:
Hope you are enjoying a little of the sweet stuff where you are!
Making Crepes and Taking Names
October 28, 2011 at 6:00 am
I used to be very frightened of crepes.
They seemed so fancy. They seemed so involved.
I thought I would need expensive equipment and some serious skills.
But a few years ago, my mom’s friend Jan gave me her old Crepe Cookery cookbook.
It opened my eyes to the exciting world of ’70s photography.
My favorite part of this book, hand’s down, is this piece of random note paper I found inside (It says Holy Cow!). My second favorite part is the author photograph. My third favorite part is the actual recipes.
This is not to say that Crepe Cookery is not an excellent resource for all things crepe. It really is. Especially if you want to get fancy and make savory crepes, filled with things like Steak Diane.
I do not do that. I make sweet crepes for breakfast, and sometimes I make mu shu, but that was really only like twice.
Most often, I am still bleary-eyed and dangerous when I make breakfast crepes. My favorite recipe actually comes from my friend Rebecca, who adds ground walnuts to her recipe. It is definitely worth the teeny bit of extra effort in my opinion.
The other thing worth a little extra effort on the mornings that I am not quite as bleary-eyed is setting up some fun fillings. My kids are often happy with a little bit of jam, but they get really excited when I let them experiment with mashed bananas, yogurt, sliced apples or pears, nut butters, and even cheese.
It turns out, crepes really can be quite simple.
Of course, that’s from a girl who isn’t sticking seafood in them.
Pumpkinheads: Knitting Little Hats
October 26, 2011 at 6:00 am
I am, by definition, a fly by the seat of my pants kind of knitter.
I am not a directions reader. And I am a big fat cheater. If I have too many stitches, I’ll just knit some together. If I don’t have a enough, I have no problem making a few whether there is technically space to do that or not.
What I have learned, is that this generally works OK with hats. It works less well with sweaters and pretty much not at all with socks. I mean, it might work with socks sometimes, but I have so many problems already in that arena that I find it better not to try.
All that being said, this pumpkin hat is really a piece of cake. It is a basic ribbed hat with a make your own rules type of stem.
I used an orange Cascade brand worsted weight yarn and size 8 circular needles. I used the same pattern for my 4 year-old and my 7-year-old. It is a little tight on my 7-year-old so if you are making this hat for an older child, you may want to use a larger size needle.
Cast on 80 stitches. Place marker and join to knit in the round.
Begin a K7, P1 pattern and continue knitting until hat is about 3 1/2 to 4 inches, depending on the age of your child.
Begin decreases. K8, K2T around.
Work on3 row in pattern
Work one row in pattern
Continue decrease until you need to switch to double point needles. Continue decreases until final round (K2T all around), and sew up top.
To create a stem, cast on 8 stitches using green yarn leaving a long tail. Knit until stem is about 3 inches long, again, leave a long tail. Fold in half and sew to hat. Weave tails ends into hat to create curly tendrils.
October 20, 2011 at 6:00 am
Something about fall always makes me want to gather everyone closer together and get cozy.
So last week we created a few new quiet spaces in our home — we moved a little rug, and created a little learning corner.
In our office, we carved out a little space for quiet and reading and relaxing.
The changes didn’t cost anything, but they’ve added a lot of coziness and calm to our days.
Do you have a favorite quiet corner in your home?
Friday Tea: Apple Bread
October 14, 2011 at 6:00 am
And so, we wrap up the little loaves in aluminum foil and pack them in our basket and we hit the road.
It’s a mobile tea time. Because this week we are sharing it with friends and family. We visit the library, and the friends we don’t see much, and we drop off apple bread and a little good cheer.
It’s becoming a tradition now. Every year. It’s becoming one of my very favorite things.
Adapted from New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant
1 cup light olive oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups whole spelt flour
1 cup white spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla
3 tablespoons almond milk
3 cups chopped apples
1 cup chopped walnuts
We double and even triple this recipe and it works great. This bread also freezes really well (for later distribution).
We like to make this in mini loaf pans, although round cake pans work really well when we are making it to keep.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use coconut or olive oil to grease pans and sprinkle with sesame seeds to coat.
In a very large bowl, combine oil and brown sugar and mix well. Add apple sauce, eggs, vanilla and almond milk and combine well.
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients including flours, baking soda, baking powder and spice. Add dry ingredient mix to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Add chopped apples and nuts and stir in.
Fill cake pans 2/3 of the way full.
Cook small cake pans for 20 to 25 minutes or until bread is cooked through. Cook in round cake pans for up to 35 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
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A Very Autumn Spot
October 13, 2011 at 6:00 am
You’ve probably picked up this week that I love apples.
I love fall, and all the cinnamon recipes and crunchy leaves that go along with it.
Which makes me a sucker for apple orchards.
One of the wonderful things about our non-traditional schedule here is the time is allots for apple orchard visits during non-peak hours. We try to go to one each week during the fall.
(And that’s the beauty of the Midwest, of course — anyone with two Jonamac trees and a cow can start an orchard and people will just follow the delicious smell of doughnuts.)
A quarter for the animal feed at the petting zoo; a quarter peck of apples for a pie.
That’s all we need one week.
Maybe the next week we need caramel apples (because sometimes you just do).
I love the mums and the honey displays, the endless packs of soup and dip mixes.
I never buy the soup or the dip. But I like that they are there. Someone wants, them, I’m sure. Someone somewhere just bought one for her sister-in-law, or her kid’s teacher.
I love taking the wagon and walking up and down the rows of trees, side-stepping bees, always wondering how long it really takes for an apple tree to mature. Surely if I planted one today …
There is something that makes me grin as I walk hand-in-hand with my kids down paths covered with fallen leaves.
It feel special. It feels right.
It always feels just like fall.
Almond (Nursing, or Not) Cookies
September 30, 2011 at 6:00 am
There was a time, not so very long ago, when I was absolutely completely terrified of babies.
I thought they were fragile and easily upset and potentially explosive.
I recall being 35 weeks pregnant when a co-worker brought her two-week old daughter in for a visit.
The experienced mamas in the newsroom passed her around as if she was a really adorable loaf of bread.
When it was my turn, I froze.
“Don’t you want to hold her?” the mother asked, looking at my bulging belly.
And the truth was, I just didn’t. I didn’t want to hurt the baby, and I didn’t want to do something to upset the mother who by all the recent accounts I had read of childbirth, had just been through an experience not unlike having her beating heart ripped out.
But five weeks later, when my own tiny baby came into the world, all that changed.
I was still terrified of doing something wrong, but through my own experience I came to see babies as far less breakable.
I also came to see the process of having a baby, and becoming a mother, much differently.
So often, when someone I care about has a baby, I not only want to give a little something to the newborn, but the new mama as well.
And because most of the new parents are often exhausted and hungry, I often like to bring a meal or food for the busy family.
These Almond Cardamom Cookies are not only tasty, but they are full of good things for the postpartum days.
Almonds are an ancient galactagogue (something that helps support lactation) and cardamom, passed through the mama’s milk supply, helps comfort a newborn’s tummy.
We recently made a batch for a family who welcomed a new son.
And I was even lucky enough to get the chance to hold him.
Almond Cardamom Cookies
1 cup almond flour (I like to grind my own almonds, but almond flour is available at health food stores)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp cardamom
2 eggs, lightly beaten
a handful of raw, shelled pistachios
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Add eggs and almond extract. Mix well (you may need to use your hands at this point to get the wet ingredients fully incorporated). Wet hands and form small balls. Flatten slightly and top with a pistachio. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Deliver to a mama who just delivered!
What is your road food tolerance?
September 1, 2011 at 6:00 am
I spent some time recently in Alabama, and while there, I met 4 people who I would describe as interested in really healthy eating.
We talked about vegetarianism/veganism and “health food.” One woman described her childhood of tofu and greens. Another couple shared that they bring a lot of food from home when they travel — like full meals!
And then there is my sister, who I was traveling with, who stopped at a Trader Joe’s before we left just so she could pick up healthy snacks for the athletes she trains.
But something all of us talked about were the challenges of traveling when you are used to your “home diet.”
Let’s put it this way — we were all packing. Pumpkin seeds and Larabars; fruit from home and in one case –a beet salad!
Because something else that was expressed frequently during the weekend was that something happens to your food tolerances when you cut out a lot of the processed stuff and fast food.
This isn’t to say that you can never have a treat, but when you are used to eating really well, a weekend of eating “off diet” can be more disruptive than for someone more accustomed to eating that way regularly.
I have noticed this with my children too, and so often when we travel, either our first stop is a grocery store, or we bring lots of food from home.
I think it is possible to find a good balance — where you can still enjoy local treats and the convenience of dining out while also not suffering digestive upsets or other issues. But it involves a little extra planning and awareness.
So I want to ask — what tips and tricks do you use to eat well while traveling? Do you scout out restaurants before you leave, or find a local health food store? And what do you always bring from home?
We always travel with herbal tea bags, reusable cups and bottles and snack foods. We also try to bring balanced stuff to complement the starchy-sweet breakfasts that hotels often offer for free.
Do you find that the better you eat at home, the lower your “road food tolerance?”
Please share how you handle travel in the comments below!