Monthly Archives: September 2013

Oatmeal Pumpkin Chai Cookies

‘Tis the season to bake with gourds. I wanted to come up with something festive and fall-ish for the kiddos that didn’t require tons of ingredients. We’ve been working on this recipe for a few weeks because vegan, gluten-free baking can be tricky. Due to food allergies, we have to take out the eggs and dairy so we’re always trying to find substitutions that add back in some flavor. Vegan baking is a fickle beast. You’ll make something the same way all winter and then summer comes and it, quite literally, falls flat. Our first version of this cookie much more closely resembled a cake pop [though it was rather tasty]. So we’ve landed on this winner by using vegan butter spread to help the cookies fall out a bit during baking [and even baked them twice to make sure it wasn’t a fluke!].

oatmeal pumpkin chai cookies | hey, beth baker!

Oatmeal Pumpkin Chai Cookies
Makes about 18 cookies

1 cup oat flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons earth’s balance vegan spread (coconut oil works great, too!)
1/2 cup almond milk brewed with a bag of chai tea*
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add ins: chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, or coconut. About 1/2 cup.

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix together the oat flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the vegan spread [not the sticks] and sugar. Next, add in the pumpkin, tea, and vanilla. Mix together and add in the flour fixture. Incorporate it all together and add in a mix in if you wish [we must]. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop dough onto parchment and bake on your baking stone for 12 or so minutes depending on how your oven bakes.

oatmeal pumpkin chai cookies | hey, beth baker!

*To brew the chai tea for this recipe, I microwave 1/2 cup of almond milk for about 90 seconds and then let the bag of chai tea steep for a few minutes.

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Baby Essentials

And here we are, eleven [or less!] weeks away from meeting our third lovely. There are certainly some things different with the third pregnancy. There are “oh, I remember that / am not panicking because I know that feeling” thoughts. There’s the difference in how quickly time passes when you’re taking care of two toddlers [really, it’s already time to go back to the doctor!?] there are things that don’t change – like the emotion that surges when you hear a heart beating or see that beautiful babe dancing on the ultrasound monitor.

So I thought I’d put together a list of things I’ve deemed essential the third time around [and wish I’d known the first time!]

baby essentials | hey, beth baker!

1. Aden + Anais Swaddling Blankets. I thought these were over-hyped and far too expensive for blankets but I found a pack on sale at Kohl’s [you know, on sale, with a coupon and Kohl’s cash… Kohl’s!!]. Let me tell you why I love them. First. They’re huge. Anyone can be swaddle champion with these guys. Second, the muslin is the perfect weight. Babies are for bundling but, like adults, you want layers of defense so you can easily adjust. Third, they’re adorably cute. Fourth, throw one in the diaper bag and you’re covered. It’s a nursing cover, it’s a blanket, it’s a burp cloth, it’s a strangers-don’t-peek cover for the carseat. Versatility is king. Fifth, it’s soft. It’s so soft you’ll find it’s getting stolen for snuggles by siblings. I left one of these in a cabin while on vacation and cried. No, seriously. And then I promptly tracked it down and begged to have it shipped home.

2. Hooded Towels. I feel like some people think “babies can use adult towels” but they’re a hot commodity around here. I like that they’re thinner and so soft, and the hoods are great. The kids are convinced they’ll freeze after a bath without the “hat”. While still in the bath, they’re calling towel dibs [the dinosaur and the duck go quick!]. We just added to our stash to accommodate baby number three. I usually find mine at places like Marshall’s or Ross for a lot cheaper than Target.

3. Lightweight Gear. While you’re out there scoping out patterns and safety ratings, keep an eye on that weight listed with the other dimensions. Because, here’s the truth, babies get heavier. Like, every day. And you have to carry other stuff. And push and pull and load and unload. You are your baby’s mule. You thought carrying them for nine months was hard but now you get to carry them and a hundred and fifty [hyperbole] more pounds. So we’ve gotten a lot of use out of our Maclaren umbrella stroller and our click ‘n go skeleton stroller but less use out of the ghastly heavy all-terrain stroller I was confident I needed. That stroller, actually, became nearly obsolete when I had two children twenty months apart.

4. Dollar Store Lotions. Yes, really. That Dollar Tree sells some fabulous stuff but the thing that keeps us coming back are the random lotions they supply. Because our kids have always had sensitive skin we’ve needed medicated, thick lotions without added fragrances [which, surprisingly rules out most of the baby lotion aisle]. But the Dollar Tree regularly stocks a creamy version of petroleum jelly [recommended by both our dermatologist and allergist]. And then they’ll randomly have Dermasil or Udderly Smooth for a buck. A buck!

5. Ergobaby. I think just about every one of my friends has converted to the Ergo. We started out with the typical “pop your baby in or out” Baby Bjorn style carrier but it wasn’t super comfortable for us or the baby. On a bit of a whim [encouraged by a Black Friday sale] I bought one. I thought it was too expensive but the fact that I could use it up to 45 pounds swayed me. We like to go hiking and I knew the kids would love a piggy back ride long after the carrier was retired from every day use. But, really, I’m not sure I would’ve survived Landon’s babydom without it. He was a heavy guy. Pretty immediately. And he didn’t learn to walk until 15 months. Actually he wasn’t sitting on his own until 9 months and he flopped around without the carseat [that I couldn’t lift with him in it] supporting him in the stroller. There’s no ergo hype. If you buy nothing else, buy one of these. They put baby in a natural sitting position and protect their growing hips. They’re crazy comfortable for mamas and daddys. Go Ergo. [p.s. We have the performance version and are big fans. It’s breathability is probably the only reason we can wear it hiking in the summer.]

6. Cloth Diapers. Okay, I almost didn’t put this one on here because cloth diapering is definitely not for everyone. However, I’m insanely grateful for the amount of money we’ve saved by our investment into cloth diapering three and a half years ago. We initially invested $150 and we’ve probably matched that in adding to our stash but I’m going to be cloth diapering my third kid soon and most of those diapers are still in play! We are big fans of Cotton Babies and love the combination of bumGenius and Flips that we use.

There you go. I just wrapped up baby purchases in six or so items. I tried to skip the obvious stuff most people know like don’t stock up on a ton of newborn sized clothes. And some stuff will just be different for different mamas, but these things sure did work for us. I will say that normally I’m a “brands don’t matter” kind of girl but that doesn’t seem to be the case with baby gear. Any seasoned mamas out there have an essential, can’t-live-without item to add to the list? Have I mentioned lately how much I love babies!?

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Homeschool Preschool: The Letter D

I don’t want to say ‘D’ week was a dud, but it was certainly different. It was a four day week because of a holiday so we spent Monday at the park. It was perfect, actually.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

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We also made some sensory items as suggested by some of Landon’s therapists.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker

Sensory play is kind of amazing. My little guy is a bit of a seeker. He’s a thrill seeker [and likes to climb really high and fall]. He’s a smell seeker [be it the diaper pail or fall scented candle]. He’s a tactile seeker [he likes to rub his food on his arms to feel the texture]. He’s an affection seeker [but who’s complaining there]. And he’s a visual seeker [give that boy a picture book!]. At first it was suggested that he might have Sensory Processing Disorder [google it if you must] but after a couple evaluations we’ve happily landed with the decision that he’s just a little quirky and interested. He doesn’t have the behavioral problems that could stem from SPD and he’s able to control those impulses with some positive re-direction. I mean as much as any other male two-year-old. So, with that, it was suggested to us that if we don’t like some of the ways he seeks to have his senses delighted, we provide positive solutions. We can do that.

This is spiraling to a different place than the letter ‘D’ but I’m going to go with it. So, for example, he likes to climb and fall. Instead we’ve been making sure we get some swinging time in. Or another option suggested to us was the wrap him up in a blanket like a burrito and roll him out. But he likes the swinging. And we’re working on behavior correction for the diaper pail thing. Because him sticking his head in the diaper pail is gross. But he’s a good listener. He’ll get it. And he can smell that pumpkin candle until his little heart is content. There’s a Montessori thing with “smell jars” maybe we’ll try something like that.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

For a positive tactile experience we made some homemade play dough. They would play with this stuff every day. To put it over the edge we added some scents like cinnamon to one and peppermint essential oil to another. Maybe I’ll talk about that more later, but it’s been a fun little journey so far. We are so blessed with the early intervention program we’re in right now. We initially started the program just before his second birthday when he wasn’t talking. That led to speech therapy once a week. After a few months with our speech therapist, I asked her about a couple of Landon’s quirks and she brought them up with our service coordinator who agreed that maybe occupational therapy would be useful for our little guy [I guess during his initial evaluation his scores for areas like adaptive behavior were “borderline”]. Sometimes I think the stigma around these services is that they’re for kids who have something wrong with them. Not for normal kids. Which makes me feel a little crazy. I went to speech therapy as a kid. Actually, I wasn’t recommended for speech until the ripe age of nine when we moved houses and changed schools. I loved speech. Loved. I loved the “teacher”. I loved the fun games she had us play. I loved that after being in speech for a few months I was getting better and better at the consonants I couldn’t pronounce, which meant fewer and fewer instances of being picked on for the way I talked. Why wouldn’t I want that for my kid?! Okay, sorry. Whew!

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

We started out the week with more books than these. There was a book about counting dinosaurs I thought would be an instant hit. But nope, these two were the real winners. And I’m not complaining because they’re great; totally the kinds of books you don’t mind reading over and over.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

The letter ‘D’ craft was inspired by this one. I think the construction paper letters are her favorite so we’ve had a great time doing those. The crazy part, to me, is that she wants to do them independently. I say it’s crazy because there are so many other aspects of school where she tells me she likes that it’s “Mommy Lucy time” but for the crafts she wants me to give her the gist and let her fly. I’m grateful. And to show it I lay on the couch until she’s done. ;)

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

So, we didn’t spend a lot of time in the school room. But we did spend a lot of time on the living room floor. Reading books. Stacking blocks. All of that good, definitely just as important, stuff.

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[This Is] Real Life

Life before kids was exactly what I imagined it to be when I dreamed of it. It was filled with romantic dates, long hours logged at work, sweet moments spent on the couch snuggling and reading. There were dinner parties and romantic getaways. We slept. There were weekends spent dutifully working together to fix up our fixer upper.

Having kids sort of changed things. There’s more laughter, that’s for sure. Dinner parties are a little different and when there’s a babysitter I really just want to sit across from that husband of mine with a latte and stare into his dreamy eyes [that guy knows how to age, let me tell ya]. Home improvement projects are still a two man job but the labor is divided into one baby wrangler and one skilled laborer. Every year is blissfully, exceedingly, challengingly wonderful. But it’s definitely not liked anything I dreamed.

And I mean that in a good way. I couldn’t have imagined it to be this great. I think that’s partially because I’m older. With maturity has come a clarification of the difference between joy and happiness. And, somehow, a sense that joyfulness follows the economic principles of compounding interest.

These thoughts, embarrassingly enough, were spurred by Lucy asking us to paint her room purple. No really. We were in Home Depot one day, cruising the paint section and she said, “So, you mean, walls can be any color you want them to be? Well then I want purple walls. Dark purple walls. Would Daddy do that for me?” Tell me, what parent is going to say no to that? It didn’t matter that I spent hours finding the perfect shade of “pineapple sherbert” to paint her walls so that they would be a relatively neutral palette for all of her colorful belongings. It definitely didn’t matter that none of the Land of Nod inspiration rooms were dark purple. And I’m certainly not saying we should give in to every whim of our almost four-year-old. But, why not have purple walls.

So we went back to Home Depot, determined to find a color dark enough to feel dark purple and light enough to not feel like a dungeon. And, well, we couldn’t find anything. Instead we came home, put Landon to nap, and had a lesson in “how to make purple”. Using leftover paint from our previously red front door and our previously french blue bedroom we stumbled upon a marvelous pinky purpley perfectly Lucy purple. Here it is. Real life.

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[this is] real life | hey, beth baker!

So I took some pictures to send to the Mimis because Lucy’s been talking about this room redux for weeks and I knew they’d want to see it. I didn’t clean her room and make it look magical. This is real life. This is how it looks every day. Honestly, this is probably it on a good day… it could look much worse. But she’s crazy happy about this room. She told me painting it was, “the best of the best things she’s ever done.” And that’s how the present is different from the past.

[this is] real life | hey, beth baker!

So it really doesn’t matter if this guy always has food on his face because there’s also usually a huge smile there, too.

[this is] real life | hey, beth baker!

And she’s not four yet but she has a “thinking face”. And uses it to muse important questions like whether she’d rather watch Busytown Mysteries or Amazing Alphabet Adventure.

[this is] real life | hey, beth baker!

And he just turned two but he can climb the rope ladder all the way up to the top of the playground.

I wouldn’t have guessed that these would be the things my heart treasured. I couldn’t have imagined the sacred moments would be so simple.

[this is] real life | hey, beth baker!

I didn’t know she would be so, so funny. Like, funnier than any comedy I’ve ever seen.

[this is] real life | hey, beth baker!

I didn’t realize how much they would mean to me. My heart couldn’t grasp that. I guess because it grows with them each day [remember that thing I said about compounding interest…].

It’s just good. Real life. It’s so painfully and abundantly good.

Homeschool Preschool: The Letter C

The letter ‘C’! I’ll be honest and say I’m proud that we’re still going strong.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

I forgot to mention it last week, but it became obvious pretty quickly that we’d need a way to organize all of the fun stuff we’ve been doing. So we’ve been filing everything away in a 1 inch binder [that’s filling up a little quicker than I’d like!]. We also hang out our work for the day so that Chuck sees it when he gets home and the kids can talk to him about it.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

Here are the books for the week: The Cat in the Hat, Clifford at the Circus, Curious George, The Hungry Caterpillar [not pictured], and How to Hide a Butterfly. The butterfly book was added in because Lucy was still talking about them from last week. It’s ironic because she’s terrified of butterflies in real life. It worked out for our letter of the week because the whole book is about camouflaging.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

We focused pretty heavily on cutting and counting this week. The cutting she loved. The counting she despised [fickle toddlers]. Mead workbooks are always great so when I saw this one focused on cutting on clearance at Target, I snatched it right up. The basic idea of the book is that you have colored sheets in the back that you [the adult] can cut out and worksheets in the front. The worksheets are like stickers so they remove a piece and then snip up the strips you’ve provided and stick it on. Then when it’s all finished they can color on top of the parts they didn’t peel away.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

For counting we used Learning Resources Counting Cookies [which it doesn’t look like they make any more]. She loved this. She matched up the cookies [chocolate or vanilla and matched the colored filling] and then stacked them up and counted them. We also used the Lauri Number Play Puzzles. She’ll do just about anything puzzle related. It was when I started asking her about numerals that she declined. :)

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

One day we went camping in the living room and she opened up a Barbie hospital/clothes store. Yep.

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homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

For our letter ‘C’ craft, we read The Hungry Caterpillar and did this craft. Landon lost interest in approximately 18 seconds. I thought he would like ripping the tissue paper but it was actually a little hard to rip. I already had the circles cut out on cardstock so after we ripped the paper I showed Lucy how to collage the tissue on using a paintbrush dipped in half glue, half water. She did a couple circles by herself and then asked for me to help her do a few more. We hung them up to dry and that afternoon I cut around the circle shape again [since some of the tissue spilled over the edges] and I gave her a bottle of glue to finish the craft. She had a really hard time gluing the pieces down because she wanted the caterpillar to be in a line, not in a ‘C’ shape. Which, let’s be honest, makes sense. So it would have perhaps been more successful if the paper she was gluing the circles to was already in the shape of a ‘C’.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

Worksheets were fun, as usual, and she’s working really hard to write her name. Her letters are already fairly neat but sometimes she gets so excited she loses track of what goes where. I did wonder this week if it would be a challenge for me, a right handed person to teach my little southpaw. I mean obviously teachers do it all the time, but they’re trained professionals. ;) She also requested a more challenging sheet for learning her numbers so I found one that included some tracing work [which she enjoys].

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

Uncharacteristically, we stayed inside most of the week. The temperatures were in the triple digits and mama is six months pregnant. I did keep them occupied quite a while with some Hotwheels and a tube that came with a rug we purchased. They spent nearly an hour sending cars down the tube.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

The last activity we did involved our Toob animals [we’re building quite the collection] and some flash cards from the dollar spot at Target. We went through and tried to see how many animals on the flash cards matched ones from our collection. And then she got silly and replaced the turtles with a missile and the fish with an eel. But those giggles were pretty great, too.

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Bacon Avocado Kale Pizza

You guys, we’re friends and we joke around a lot but woah. Woah. About this I do not joke.

Bacon. Avocado. Kale. Pizzzzzzzzzzzzzza.

I’ll be honest about two things. First, pregnancy is doing something to my taste buds and they have not been appreciating my cooking as of late. Also, it’s funny to me that I share both cooking and baking recipes on this blog because I am a “little of this, little of that” cook and a baker who rarely bakes a recipe the same way twice. Now that those dirty little secrets are off my chest, lets get on to the good stuff.

The so, so very good stuff.

Here’s my go to pizza crust. It’s my favorite because it only rises for ten minutes. There’s no need to start dinner early.

When you make that crust, you’ll have enough for two medium sized pizzas. For the first one I made a pineapple pizza. I threw some bacon on a cookie sheet to pre-bake a bit for ten minutes while the pineapple pizza was baking.. During that time I also sliced my avocado [pretty thin] and got some kale out of the garden. You won’t need much for this recipe, one stalk. Remove from the stem and tear up into smaller pieces. Put it in a bowl and drizzle it with a teaspoon or so of olive oil. And then… massage the kale. No, for real. Make sure each piece of kale is covered in olive oil. Give it a little massage so that it softens up and gets all shiny.

To assemble the pizza, just spread your dough out and cover it with your favorite marinara and cheese. Add almost all of the avocado and as much kale as your heart desires. Top it all off with the bacon that you’ve torn into smaller pieces and bake as usual [17 minutes is our magic number].

#bacon #avocado #kale PIZZA! | hey, beth baker!

Bacon Avocado Kale Pizza
8 slices

1 avocado, sliced thin
I stalk kale, massaged in olive oil
3-4 pieces of bacon, pre-baked for 10 minutes
1/2-3/4 cup marinara
3/4-1 cup cheese [we used a skim colby because it’s what was in the fridge]
1 prepared pizza crust

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Homeschool Preschool: The Letter B

My goodness. We had so much fun with the letter ‘B’! Since it was successful last week, we used worksheets to ease our transition from weekend to school time. The key to keeping Landon occupied and happy seems to be having a lot for him to do so after he did some do-a-dot sheets I gave him some stickers. Stickers are great for working little fingers and coordination. To make it easier on him I removed the negative space part of the sticker sheet.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

He was really excited about the stickers. :)

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

Lucy has been breezing through hers so I’ve been trying to pull out some that will be more of a challenge for her.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

We started off another morning reading some books on bears that we got from the library. If you’ve never read “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”, I will tell you it’s a much more fun read if you chant it.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

While the kids were eating breakfast, I hid a bunch of bear paws around the living room. I drew them freehand on a sheet of brown construction paper (with my husband’s help) and then numbered them and cut them out. I stuck them in their hiding places with painter’s tape.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

After she found them we ordered them by number on the window. She wanted to do this a few times so of course I obliged! It was seriously fun.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

For a fun day we took a ‘B’ picnic to the mall. We took rice cakes with “butter” as my kids call sunbutter, broccoli, and blueberries.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

The winning activity of the week was definitely the bumble “B”. She had a great time. It engaged her for a good amount of time. And then at the end she ran off to find those flower stickers to feed the bee. :) Here’s some directions for the craft.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

So I had this idea that it would be really fun to have a bubble bath scavenger hunt. We went through our big tub filled with all sorts of toob creatures and pulled out the things that start with ‘B’. We had everything in there from bugs to buses. I gave them sifters from our beach toys to dig stuff out. But here, my friends, is the problem. My three-and-a-half year-old was completely freaked out by the idea of bugs in the bath. There was shaking and screaming. Meanwhile Landon ate the bubbles. Mom fail. :) Learn from me. Laugh with me.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

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She did not, however, protest to the gummy bear graphing that we did. My sweet girl likes to sometimes pretend she doesn’t know how to count. I’m not sure why, but it’s obviously not vastly important [right now] that she perform that on command. The gummy bears, however, had her counting up a storm. We try to eat really healthy, but even I was a little embarrassed that this was the first time she’s ever had gummy bears. I helped her to know which color each bear should be on the sheet and then we put it in a plastic bag after so that the gummy bears she was going to eat wouldn’t sit on the marker ink [even if it is non-toxic].

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

We also made our favorite banana bread [although we always make it as muffins]. This is what my children do while things bake in the oven. :)

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

Lucy got a chance to paint one day while her little brother was sleeping.

homeschool preschool | hey, beth baker!

And we made ‘B is for berries’ smoothies. No recipe here, just threw kale, apple juice, frozen blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, and fresh strawberries into a blender.

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