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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Jam Canning Workshop

Have you ever wanted to can your own jam or save the beautiful produce you've grown or purchased from the farmer's market? Have you felt that it was too challenging or just needed some direction on where to start?


Let's start with the basics - strawberry jam.  This May, I will be offering a workshop in my home teaching you how to can a batch of homemade strawberry jam.  We will be using freshly picked, locally grown strawberries and turn them into beautiful bright red jam.  The process is simple and straightforward, and a perfect place for a beginner to canning to start.  I myself am fairly new to canning, although I have been around it my whole life.  My grandma always had jars and jars of home canned items at her house.  She also has always had a garden, and it's from her that I got my desire to garden, bake, and preserve foods.  Now, I'm wanting to pass this on to you.  My idea for the workshop came from one of my lovely Instagram friends, who lives my dream life on a farm, and offers weekend canning workshops at her farm.  I'm also planning on offering a second workshop later in the summer on canning tomatoes (with hopes that my own garden successfully yields enough to provide the tomatoes we need).

Below you will find all the information for the jam canning workshop!


Date:  Saturday, May 21st  9 am

Spots available: 5

Cost:  $100  ---Payment must be made by May 14th to secure your spot and to purchase supplies


What you receive:
  • Step by step instruction on water bath canning of jam
  • Hands on experience prepping and canning of jam
  • The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
  • Lunch
  • Jar of strawberry jam to take home
  • Grab bag of goodies

Lunch Menu:
  • Garden Quiche
  • Strawberry Poppyseed Salad
  • Garlic Cheddar & Chive Scones

Workshop Registration

Fill out my online form.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Foster Care Funnies

In honor of two of my favorite funny shows starting back up this week (The Mindy Project and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), I thought it only fitting that I share my list of funny things that B has said since he's been with us.  The kid is hilarious when he's not trying to be, mostly due to him either misunderstanding words or just coming up with his own witty responses.  The notes section on my phone is slowly filling with snippets of conversations that I had to hurriedly document in the midst of laughing so hard I was both snorting and crying.

Here we go:


-Why do the keep the boy cows away from the girl cows?
<<awkward silence>>
Maybe they're afraid they would get milked.


-I got this idea that comes from deep, deep, deeeeeep down in my stomach.  And it pops up into my head.


-Kids can do anything that parents can do.  Wait, no they can't.  Parents are able to not fart when they have to.


-She mentioned something in her mind, which I can read, that she wanted to take me there.


-I know what you're thinking, because I can read your mind.  You're thinking, 'How did he hear that?'  Sometimes I have ears and sometimes I don't.  I'm just natural.



-Every woman in the world thinks I'm handsome.



-We're all workin' on the money bridge!  It's a saying.



-So who was that in the picture?  (B): It was me, from the future.



-Did anyone hear that?  Good.  I think the gas tank is firing.  (He was a bit gassy haha)



-I think when I yelled I farted accidentally.  It just squeezed out like a squeaky toy.




And my all time favorite was at Taekwondo......he got to lead the beginning of class, where they recite their tenets, and one of the words he had to say was in Korean.  The word sounds like you're saying chariot, but somehow he heard "cheerios", which is what he said loudly to the whole class.

You know when you're somewhere that you are supposed to be quiet, but something funny happens, and then you absolutely cannot control yourself?  That was this moment.  I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life!

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pop Up Brunch

In my many efforts to try and figure out my life, I've literally come up with nothing.  I think my ultimate dream is to have a farm, with a beautiful old farmhouse, lush garden, an assortment of mini animals, and a guest cottage to use for a bed and breakfast.

Right now we live in the middle of a neighborhood in the city limits, and I'm trying to convince my husband that we can totally sneak chickens into the backyard.

So, until we can find this dream property, I've come up with a solution:  pop up brunch!


A few Saturdays a month, I'm going to plan a brunch that will be open to anyone we're friends with.  If you're following us on Instagram, we pass you at church, you're a work friend or just an acquaintance, you're invited.

How it works:  I'll be planning a menu, and will post it on social media.  We have room at our table for 4 other people, so married or single, you are welcome.  If what's being served sounds good to you, simply let us know that you would like to join us and the seat is yours!  Menu selections will include yummy items such as french toast, bacon, quiche, or a themed meal - such as a French, traditional southern or full English breakfast.

This new venture will also force me to be more social, make small talk, and get to know people better.  It will definitely be a struggle, as I would much rather hide behind a screen where I can carefully compose what I want to say rather than stumbling over my words in person.

The other positive is that planning a meal for a small group, cooking, setting a table, and having people enjoy what I've created is what I love to do the most.  It's my art, my creative process, and I want others to enjoy it.  Keep your eye out for our first pop up brunch, and hopefully we will share a meal together soon!
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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Family Command Center

We began our first full week of school at the beginning of January, and by mid week,  B had reached meltdown level.  I think a combination of a stressful first week, studying for tests and unstructured afternoons led to a breakdown right before bed.  We spoke to his counselor and she gave some insight on how homework had always gone in the past, and to stick with it.  B didn't like that we were pushing him to study and that we didn't give up when he got grumpy.  If he wants a battle of stubbornness, he's battling the wrong person.

I tried explaining to him that he was going to have homework for the rest of his school career, but when this kid gets something in his head. he can't let it go.  Or hear anything you are saying.  I did everything short of saying "Suck it up, buttercup!" and made him finish studying.  By bedtime that night, we are all stressed out.

 The next day I got to work researching chore charts, reward systems, and planning a schedule.  We have a small table in our main room that I had been using to display my ironstone collection, but I found a new home for it and began assembling a family command center.  I found a blog that had a reward system I liked, called the Jewel Method, which I changed to the Marble Method so it would be boy friendly.  This also ties in to a chore chart; he earns marbles for doing his daily tasks (brushing teeth, making his bed, feeding the dogs, etc.), then he has weekly chores (putting away laundry, wiping out his bathroom sink, etc.) and money chores.  He has the opportunity to make $5 a week, plus being able to cash in his marbles for different rewards. Marbles can be taken back if he gets in trouble for something.




I also created a daily schedule, so that the entire day is planned, including free play times and tablet time.  I did this to help eliminate the meltdowns during homework when he hadn't gotten to play his tablet much that day, as well as getting him to play with his other toys.  I also planned two family nights a week: Craft/Game Night and Movie Night.  Once he saw all that I had planned, he was actually excited about it.  He was ready to begin earning his marbles and marking tasks off his list.

The charts and lists and plans also keep my anxiety in check as well.  I get overwhelmed very easily, and typically have three notebooks with me so I can keep up with all the lists I make throughout the day.  By planning meals, snacks, and now a schedule, I feel far less anxious.

So far, the charts have been a tremendous help.  Although there is still whining during homework time, it has improved considerably.  Our newest homework issue is working on his confidence and trying to keep him from turning into a dark raincloud every time a challenge arises.




I still have a few items to add surrounding the schedule, plus finishing up his money responsibility system, but we're excited to finally have it up and running!



Click --> here for the chore chart and reward system that I used.
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Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Babka and a Tart

I recently had some time to test out a few recipes that had been hanging out in my Pinterest board.  I actually wanted to make both croissants and French bread over the holiday break, but time got away from me.

Soon, French pastries.  Soon.


Instead, I made a Coconut Cream Tart and Chocolate Orange Babka.






Let's start with the babka.  The recipe from start to finish took around six hours.  Most of this time was spent waiting on the dough to finish one of its multiple rise times.  The dough was made from a Challah bread recipe, and was infused with orange zest.  Once the dough has gone through the first rise, it's rolled out and spread with a delicious chocolate mixture.  Then you roll the dough up similar to cinnamon roll dough.  Here is where the process differs: you slice your rolled dough in half, turn the cut sides up, and then wrap the pieces into a twist.  The twisted dough goes into the loaf pan, rises yet again, then spends a little time in the oven before it is drenched in a fresh orange syrup.




Chocolate-orange heaven!

I was very proud of how this bread turned out.  Usually I'm super harsh with anything I've created, but I actually didn't find fault with this bread.  I would like to get a slimmer pan to get the loaf taller, but other than that it was delicious bread perfection.

Now onto the tart.


I had been craving a coconut cream tart for some time now.  All I could think about was the cool, coconut custard and how perfectly delicious it must be.  Which is strange, because I neither like coconut nor have I ever had a coconut cream pie.  But I just knew it would be amazing.

The tart shell began as any other pie crust, except you add an egg yolk.  This may be the norm for your pastry dough, but I usually do not put this in.  Once the crust is combined, you press it into the tart pan, then weight it and blind bake it until it's golden.  While this is baking and cooling, you make your coconut custard.  The general process goes like this: heat your sugar and coconut milk, then temper your eggs and put everything back into the pot to finish cooking. My mistake was not choosing the right bowl to do the tempering.  I have a bowl that has a silicone bottom, which keeps it from moving while you are mixing.  If you have one of these, use it.  Don't question it, don't consider another bowl.  Use it.

I did not.  This resulted in me not being able to whisk while adding in the hot mixture (because one hand was pouring and one was holding the bowl), which resulted in tiny bits of cooked egg throughout my custard.

Not cool.

Luckily, I had a strainer handy, so I pressed the custard through this to keep out the gross little egg pieces.  Technically, I probably should have started over, but I was out of ingredients.  Such is life.

Once the custard has chilled, you gently fold in fresh whipped cream, fill the tart shell, then top with more whipped cream and toasted coconut.  Your next step is to stuff your face with creamy coconut





If you would like to bake either of these yummy desserts, the recipes can be found here:

http://www.popsugar.com/food/Chocolate-Challah-37053434?crlt.pid=camp.Xt9JidR9QKL9

http://willowbirdbaking.com/2010/04/22/coconut-cream-tart/



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Friday, January 8, 2016

Christmas and a New Year

2015 brought lots of changes to our lives, including celebrating Christmas and ending the year as a family of three.  We definitely enjoyed our first Christmas playing Santa, and B enjoyed the mountains of gifts he received.  He was out for winter break, so we jumped into the parenting thing full force when he moved in.

We may or may not have been counting down the days until school starts back! :)

The week of Christmas was spent playing board games, watching movies, and building gingerbread houses!


On Christmas Eve, we baked cookies for Santa and made sure to put out carrots for each of the reindeer.  B went to sleep and then Santa got to work,  putting out a bike and a few other toys.  We tried to only do a few things from Santa and more from us, because I feel like Santa shouldn't be the one to give big gifts.  

On Christmas morning, we opened presents, then our families began swinging by for breakfast and to see what all B got (plus open more presents).  We chose to stay home most of Christmas day, because we wanted B to get to have time to play with his new toys (and to keep his hyperactivity in check).  Based on what we know about his past, this was probably the most elaborate Christmas he's ever experienced, and we wanted him to enjoy it.  We also had several meals with family, one of which he made an announcement at - about how happy he was to be there and thanking everyone for being so nice to him.  He's definitely been blessed with tons of new family that have welcomed him in and shown him what it's like to have people that care about him.



The next week we spent playing with toys, riding bikes, playing a two day game of Monopoly, and watching movies. 


 B decided that he was going to be able to stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve, so got some sparkly 2016 glasses and sparkling white grape juice (which we had to remind him over and over that it was ONLY grape juice! haha).  Somehow he stayed awake, even though we were struggling, and after a dozen games of Uno, we rang in 2016....then promptly went to bed.  On New Year's Day, B slept until 10, which gave me and Graham a couple hours alone to silently drink our coffee and play Uno, complete with ruthless "Draw 4's" and whispered cursing.  



On New Year's Day, I made us a meal full of luck: Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin, Black Eye Peas, Greens, and Cornbread.  B is still talking about how delicious the pork was.  Thank youuuuu Pinterest!




A joyous time was had by all.

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

An Exciting Update!

Whew!  The past month and a half has been a whirlwind.


Why?  Well, for the past 3 weekends we have been fostering a little boy!!

Originally, we had decided that we only wanted to adopt, and not pursue fostering.  We had been waiting on our social worker for an extended period of time, and are actually still waiting to hear back from the state on being approved to adopt.  A few months back, I had hit a low point, full of anger and resentment, and had finally really committed to being at peace with the whole situation.

And then we heard from our worker.

She told us about a 10 year old boy that was about to come available as a foster to adopt situation.  After taking the weekend to think it over, we agreed to move forward.  We began getting a room ready, and as we learned more details (which were super scarce) we began customizing the room.  I wanted it to feel cozy and personal, and not like a temporary place.


After a few stressful weeks of planning, DIY-ing furniture and minor meltdowns of "I'm not ready for this", the first weekend visit was happening.  We met him,  his temporary foster mom and his worker, introduced ourselves, and the three of us were in the car and headed home.

Can you imagine how incredibly weird and awkward this was?!?

Prior to picking him up, I was trying to decide if I was going to hyperventilate, have a full scale panic attack, or throw up.  Luckily, they pulled up at our meeting spot before any of those could happen.  "B" jumped out of the car, went straight up to Graham and shook his hand.  I extended my hand, but B went in for a hug, which put me in this awkward, unprepared side hug; story of my life. The drive home was surreal, because here we were, complete strangers to this kid, and he's not afraid of us at all.

It was both a relief and heartbreaking at the same time.  Even as an adult, the thought terrifies me of having two complete strangers drive me to their home, where I would stay for the weekend and be completely dependent on them.  For a child, that should be paralyzing.  But it wasn't.  He jumped right in, as if we had known each other for years.

This is his normal.

We started out just doing weekend visits, and have now gotten him full time.  As of right now, we will be fostering him until he either comes available for adoption or goes back to his biological family.  Until we know for certain what will happen, our plan is this:  to give him a normal Christmas, a safe place to live, and to love and care for him until he's either legally ours or is reunited with his family.

We are not allowed to post any pictures of his face, but here are a few:






More to posts to come!




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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A weekend in Tennessee

You know that blog post where I said I was going to write a post a day for the entire month of September?

Yeahhhhh....about that.

Life ( and laziness) happened, and here it is, almost mid November and I don't even remember the last time I wrote anything.  I apparently need some serious motivation to write.  Have any of you seen the "Living with Jigsaw" video on YouTube?  Let's take a moment to watch the weird hilariousness that it is, shall we?


I need this in my life.  "Lauren..........you are surrounded by armed mousetraps.  If you do not write a blog in one hour, they will disarm, pinching you to death."




So, this is what's happened lately:

I turned thirty.  It was rather uneventful.  I still only have one gray hair on my head so I consider that a victory.





The next weekend we took a mini vacation to Chattanooga & Nashville, Tennessee.  We stayed in our first AirBnb, and it was so much fun!  The house we stayed in was over 100 years old, and was in the North Shore district, so we were centrally located to lots of restaurants and shops. (Please excuse all my photos.  These are unedited phone photos, most of which I was in too much of a hurry to eat than worry about decent lighting.)




Our host, Karen, was a retired teacher, and was such a nice person!  She had taught English as a second language, as well as German, and through this had met & taught the German family that was also staying with her.  We spent time with them at breakfast, and it was fascinating learning about their lives, as well as watching them try to understand some of our English (and us their German!).

Veggie Egg Scramble, fruit & yogurt and muffins

 I'm not a people person by any means, but I loved every minute of it.  Unless you make it a point to seek people out and talk to them, you would never get this type of interaction at a normal hotel.

Our first night there, we met some friends for supper at Taco Mamacita.  The food was so yum!




On Saturday, we drove up to Nashville, where we went to the farmers' market.  They were having a food truck competition, so we were in food truck heaven!





I'm adding owning a food truck to my list of things I want to do when I grow up.  I think they're just wonderful. And adorable.

We scored this amazing piece there:


All the shopping made us hungry, so we got a snack:


Is it even possible to ever resist fresh donuts??



And then we made it into the produce section.

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere! We left with five :)



That afternoon, we drove around a bit, saw the chaos that is Broadway, said no, and went to Crema for coffee.


Geez Louise, that's a pretty coffee shop!


Shiplap walls, white everywhere, and a slight farmhouse feel even though it's modern and artsy.  I'll just take up residence there, please.

Then, to kill some time before dinner, we went to the Parthenon.  Behold, the mighty Athena!






We also met two awesome little statues:



Finally, it was time for dinner.  We had planned Hattie B's Hot Chicken as our meal destination for Nashville.  And that was where I died and went straight to fried chicken heaven.




Let's start with the sides.  I got turnip greens, because...hello, you can't have fried chicken without greens.  And you can't have fried chicken and greens without mac & cheese.  Here in the south we count mac & cheese as a vegetable, not a starch. Amen? Amen.

But this wasn't just plain old mac & cheese.  It was spicy pimento cheese mac & cheese.

Now to the main part of the meal.  The fried chicken itself.  I got mild, because I wanted to survive the drive back to Chattanooga.  This chicken was crispy and fried to a deep, golden brown, and then I'm thinking brushed with hot sauce.  But not in a saucy wings kind of way. The chicken skin was super crisp. So maybe it was fried in and the "sauce" was actually spicy grease.  Who cares.  It was delicious and I ate it ALL.  By the way, they put a slice of white bread on the plate to help tame the fires of Mordor that have overtaken your mouth.  (All my LOTR fans: that reference was for you) The only problem with this bread is that it is placed UNDER the chicken, thus soaking up all the extra spicy sauce/grease/magical goodness.  That's when you start eating the pickle chips they give you, which may or may not ALSO have spiciness on them.

That may have seemed like I was trying to talk you out of eating there.  On the contrary; go forth, and eat all the spicy fried chicken you can.  It's a good burn and you will enjoy every fiery minute of it.

On Sunday, we had to say goodbye to our German friends (which I will not even attempt to spell their names) and Karen.  We went to brunch at Food Works, which is located in an old knitting mill.  There is also an antique store in the same building (obviously we went to this as well).  Even though we had just eaten fried chicken the night before, we got the chicken and waffles.  There can never be too much fried chicken.

It came with a scoop of Maple Praline Butter


We had a fun, relaxing and food filled weekend.

I call this perfection.





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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lessons in a Year

I don't think it's coincidence that the journal I brought with me this weekend is the one that I took notes in at an adoption conference.

It's been exactly one year since we announced our decision to adopt.  I've felt myself sinking for a while now and today is why.


The decision to adopt was a long one.  It was strange and scary, but it is the path we are called to take.  In my journal, one of the pages of notes from the conference talks about the "kol d'mama daka" - the still small voice of God.  I can remember those first small whispers in my heart, while being around our friends' adopted children, of "You can do this".  Much like those first moments of knowing you're pregnant or feeling the first flutters of your unborn child, those first feelings of knowledge of that kol d'mama daka are exquisitely precious.  There was such joy and excitement in those first months, as we went to classes and learned about the type of parenting we would be undertaking.  I pinned countless ideas on Pinterest and dreamed of how bedrooms would be decorated.

And then we waited.  Suddenly, we were no longer in control.  We were waiting and having to put our faith in our social worker, in humans, in the world.  We learned very quickly that disappointment was to be found.  A process of approval, that on paper was supposed to take two months, ended up taking six.  When the papers arrived to notify us of our approval by the county we live in, there was no excitement or feelings of hope.  By this point, my hope had been replaced by cynicism and apathy. To me, this paper didn't symbolize one step closer; instead, it was disappointment that we had believed that work was being completed, and that there was still more waiting ahead.

At this one year mark, we are still waiting on approval from the state to be licensed to adopt.  We were given no timeline on this step, and though it may sound strange, I feel trapped.  I feel as though our lives are just floating along, stuck in a holding pattern, completely at the mercy of others.

Through this whole process, I've claimed a feeling of "everything will work out how it should."  And I do truly believe that.  But I've also used it as a crutch to enable me to shut down my emotions.  Instead, I should be using it as a way to fuel my faith.  I should be seeking that kol d'mama daka every day.  I should be actively putting my faith in God every day; not as a way to shield myself from disappointment or to be a mindless follower, but to voice those fears and disappointments to Him.  To seek His hand when I feel like I'm drowning, and trusting that He is going to pull me up out of the water.  I have to rely on Him through this, because I know that this journey of adoption is not my own.  I have to remember who set this desire in my heart, who gave me the courage to say yes, and who has been there for our future children during those times that their biological parents failed them.



I encourage you today to spend some time listening for the kol d'mama daka
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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Menu Planning

If you follow me on Instagram, last week I posted a shot of our lunch/menu planning trip to Panera.  If you don't currently menu plan, I strongly encourage you to.  It helps tremendously with budgeting, grocery shopping, and if you are an OCD list maker - your sanity.






I plan our meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner - for the entire month.  I print out a blank month from the calendar on my computer, and use that to write in our meals.  This stays posted on the fridge, so we always know what our next meal is.  I make my grocery lists for a week at a time, and organize my list based on type of item - ex. dairy, meats, etc.  If you go to the store with a plan and a list to mark off as you go, you will do so much better about overspending AND over buying.  This will only work though if you are checking your pantry and fridge to see what you already have.

Planning out meals also helps keep you from going out to eat (unless it's been planned into the menu), because you have already bought all the ingredients for the meal.  We had gotten bad about not having a definite plan for dinner, or forgetting to thaw out meat and then just going out for dinner.  Now we stick to our menu plan unless an unplanned event pops up, in which case we just shift our meal plan back a day.

I also plan breakfast because I have to be up super early for work, and I need something that I can eat while driving and that will keep me full for a long time.  So sitting down to a bowl of cereal is out of the question for me, aside from the fact that I don't really care for milk and I definitely don't want milk at six in the morning. Maybe that makes me a weirdo.  Does anyone else have this feeling of resigned tolerance of milk?

We do plan a night each week for takeout (Thursdays!), and then a couple of nights a month to go out to a nice dinner. I feel like it's the same mindset as transitioning to a healthy diet; you have to have a few cheat days to help you stick to it.

If you don't already plan your menu, try it out!  Set aside an afternoon or a couple of hours and find some recipes, organize your calendar, and make your grocery list.  Remember to be detailed and if you're buying an ingredient that you only need a small amount of (such as fresh herbs or produce) try to plan other meals that week that can also use those ingredients.

Happy Planning!
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