RECIPE: "Apple Pie" Breakfast Oatmeal

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My husband loves oatmeal like he loves fishing, wine and the occasional cigar. I am not over exagerrating. A bowl of warm, homemade oatmeal on a chilly weekend morning is very comforting. We decided to cook up some apples with it from the orchard pile we are working through (thus the plethora of apple recipes on the blog lately) for his birthday weekend today. When I had my first bite, I swear it tasted like apple pie! Delish.

We highly recommend not skimping with the milk and apple cider. We think using water instead would lose the apple pie experience. Just do some extra sit ups this week and it will be fine! (or not. I won't tell.)

"Apple Pie" Breakfast Oatmeal


2 baking apples, such a Cortland or Johnathan, peeled, cored and chopped into 1" pieces
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Tsp. cinnamon (or to taste)
2 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup apple cider
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal
2 cups milk
extra cinnamon for sprinkling


In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and 1/2 cup apple cider. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until apples are softened. Add the 2 cups milk, the rest of the cider, salt and oatmeal. Mix well, and cook over medium-low heat for 7-10 minutes until oatmeal is tender and creamy and liquid is absorbed. Serve warm with an extra sprinkling of cinnamon.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

GARDENING: 7 Cheap Yard Winterizing "Must Dos"

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The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting colder, especially here in the Midwest. Getting your yard ready for the cold months ahead could be very labor intensive and expensive! But it doesn't have to be. There are some things you should not skip doing, but even doing those things could be done cheaper if you are on a budget. If you are in a warmer climate and would like to share some of your local tips for your climate, please share! Happy raking!

So here is your "shopping" list, though some things you have already in your yard or garage:

Burlap: Do you have tender shrubs or Asian trees in large pots that need to stay out? Do you have tender fruit trees or sensitive shrubs in the ground that don't do well with the harsh winds really well? Burlap is cheap and can keep these plants warm and protected. Wrap pots with a few layers tied with twine. Loosely wrap shrubs and bushes once they have lost their leaves and tie with twine. When things warm up in March, uncover limbs if hey are covered so they can breath, but keep pots covered until all danger of frost is over. I am trying to winter a gardenia in a large pot, we'll see if it works out. I amy bring it into the office over the winter too. We'll see.

Tarp: If you have outdoor furniture or a lot of container pots, they will need protection if you plan on keeping them for years to come. We use tarp with bungee cords to protect some of our furniture. You can spend a lot with nice furniture covers, but tarps work just as well. Also, tarps are a great to wrap your pots once you empty them. Pile them on top of one another upside down. Then use a tarp to protect them so they won't crack-especially if you don't have room to bring them into any shelter like a shed, garage or deck.

Leaves for Mulch: Don't get me wrong, mulch is great for bedding plants. Many townships now even give mulch away for free, so check with your alderman or civic office. But if you have a big yard, mulch can get pricey. Leaves make great mulch, and many mowers now will do it for you on a special setting. We mulch our leaves through our mower and than pour them into our beds. The decompose quicker than mulch, making the soil soft and nitrogen rich. They also keep the beds nice and warm. Honestly, in the past I didn't even mulch them, but would lay them in whole and they still decomposed. You do need to watch out for disease or mold on leaves. You can spread it into your beds. Also, don't mound things too deep or you will cause root rot in the spring. We made a huge pile around an arborvitae one year and so much moisture was stuck under that pile that the roots of the bush rotted, so be careful. Spread the leaves evenly and mound slightly around plant bases you wish to protect, but don't go crazy. I think leaves for mulch is way greener than wood mulch. Also, you will need less leaf bags when raking.

Lawn Winterizer: Fall is good time to get your lawn in shape. You don't need to worry about drought, and there is plenty of moisture to keep things green. Purchase a winterizer and sprinkle away on the lawn so it can start storing food in it's roots. Do this after raking up leaves so things get spread evenly.

Epsom Salt: Epsom Salt is a very inexpensive way to get nitrogen into the soil. It strengthens the roots, and fall is all about roots storing food for winter. A good sprinkling all over your lawn and beds with just your hands, tossing here and there will get the roots for all your plants in tip top shape for hibernating time.

Coke: A can of flat Coca Cola can help with decomposition of organic material. The sugars feed the microbes that do the work and the acids also help break down organic materials as well. If you are throwing a lot of your leaves and thatch in your compost bin [or creating a dirt pile from your container pots (see next paragraph)], throw a can of flat coke over it to help break stuff down. On warmer days in the winter, be sure to add some more periodically and come spring, you will have some rich dirt or compost! You can also dilute it in a sprayer to help break down lawn thatch and over the mulch in your beds, too. This is good to do in the spring, too, fyi.

Mini Dirt/Leaf Pile: As mentioned above, you have to empty and protect your pots if you want them to last awhile-particularly ceramic or terra-cotta ones . Water in the dirt, if left in pots, will expand and contract as it ices and melts-causing cracking. The dry air in Winter will eventually break down even plastic pots. Find an unused part of your yard and dump all your pots' dirt there, layering the pile with mulched leaves and some green glass clippings in between. My husband won't let me compost in the city (no matter how hard I cry), so this is my poor girl's low maintenance way to get some nice dirt for my container pots next year. Come spring, this dirt will be all ready to go! And your pots will be, too.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

PARENTING: Am I Landing My Kid In Future Therapy?

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As some of you may have guessed (and others have heard me first hand comment) 4th grade for our family has pretty much been an exhausting nightmare. I knew it was going to be hard, but I did not realize how much my daughter was just not mature enough to handle some of the structural changes to her day. They have a locker, they switch classes, they have 3-4 tests a week to study for and they have to remember their materials to class as well as their homework or else they get the dreaded yellow card!

My daughter had 3 yellow cards her first full week. Oh, plus a pretty red one (there was much drama that night! Let me tell you).

So, I am a mom, and I try to be a good one. I had found myself stressing and worried, checking her assignment book every night and every morning. Going on the teacher pages to make sure she did not miss studying for a test. I have vowed not to yell anymore because it makes things worse. My husband or I work with her every night. We coordinated with the school to included my daughter in the after care homework helper program so she could get a jump on work before we pick her up. We prod her to do her work for long term projects so we are not up till all hours finishing it the night before. I have already met with the teachers to discuss my daughter's tough transition and how we could help. I pack her backpack and make sure she did not miss anything, and I write her reminder notes in the margin of her assignment book about this or that.

A handful of weeks ago, I was so distraught because nights were so exhausting and emotionally draining, and I was thinking about actually moving our daughter to another school, when a friend of mine (a mom of another "only") sent me a couple articles out of the blue. It was as if God had intervened with me a little. The main article that really made an impression on me was called, " How to Land Your Kid In Therapy". It was horrifying and eye opening at the same time. And I am sad to say, I saw myself in parts of it.

I am embedding the link if you wish to read it. The main idea is that in the past, parenting style was over critical, not emotionally attuned and even "absent". The baby boomers have now parented their children in a complete opposite style. You would think this would be good. But therapists around the country have their couches filled with 20-30 year olds who are lost, unhappy, and can't make a decision and many are still being taken care of in many ways by their parents.

So I guess it's good to be somewhere in the middle? What I realized is that, though I am trying to help my daughter through this tough transition, at some point, she needs to do a lot of this on her own. And if she fails, so be it. Failing may be the best teacher she could ever have. The fact is, I am not going to be around forever. And life is hard. I can't call her place of business to ask to make things easier on her or to give her a promotion. (and ironically, many parents of the genY set have done just that at my agency!) I can't make sure she will be happy. She needs to rely on herself for that. Here are a few things that the article touched on that made me rethink my approach a little.

Let go.

I have been a helicopter mom, I think. I worry if my daughter is making friends. I worry when she is made fun of. I worry if she is worried, about anything! Did we study enough? Did she remember to hand in her work? Will she remember to go to aftercare? The article talked about how I am not the only one, here. Colleges and universities have had to instill programs and "bouncers" to deal with and escort parents off campuses after orientation. They complain that parents just won't leave. I don't want to be that parent. I even see many mid 20 year olds still being taken care of by their parents, so that they have not had to make a decision on their career or livelihood, even after graduating college. And when asked about it, excuses are thrown left and right. I scoffed at these parents, saying, well, that won't be me! However, I look at the extent of what I am doing for my own daughter and shudder. When will I draw the line? When does caring and helping turn into something very detrimental to her growth and self esteem as an individual? How can we know when to stop? I know the last camping trip we were at this weekend, I hung back a lot more. I let her go off and do a lot of the activities by herself, giving her some socialization advice here and there. I gotta say, it was the most I have enjoyed that camping trip from when we started going together. I got to see my daughter start interacting with girls on her own and blossom a little bit. I saw her build confidence in some of her abilities. It is such a dance, it seems, when to hang back and when to jump in and when to hang back again.

Let fail.

Teachers and coaches were interviewed for this article, and the theme was the same. Softening falls don't help kids deal with the real world. Talk to any famous entrepreneur and they tell you that failure was how they got to be successful. SO why is it so hard to allow our kids to fail? We love them, we want what's best for them. But what I took away from this article and from my causal observations around me is that sometimes, the best thing for them is to fail. I was talking to a coworker who told me his son won class president after working super hard for weeks. The next day, his opponent was announced as "co president". It turns out, the opponent's mother made such a row about how her son had tried for years and not won that it would mean so much if he could be president. Honestly, the choice to have both boys be co president doesn't do either boy any favors. The winner worked hard and won it fair and square, but got his award taken away from him of sorts. The other boy has a preconceived notion now that if things don't go his way, mom just needs to make a few calls and everything will work out just fine. Not to mention, what if this other boy may have dusted himself off, and found he was really good and talented at something else that maybe would have been very fulfilling and successful for him. How is this right for either of them?

Life is not fair. period. Once kids get out in the real world as adults, they have to learn how to deal with set backs. And even though parents do call my office in efforts to land their children a job, it never has worked yet. In fact, it looks worse for the candidate, truthfully.

SO I have had to take a deep breath before going through my daughter's back pack. And I saw her first "U" (not an F, in the school's effort to be attuned...see what I mean?) on a test she "supposedly" studied for on her own. I did not freak out. She felt bad already. I just signed it and put it back in her folder. She needs to learn. She took responsibility for the studying-obviously not enough, and she has to take her lumps.

Be honest...gently but firmly.

Let's call a spade a spade. So many self help books preached the PC way of raising kids, to be emotionally attuned to their needs and self esteem to the point of ridiculousness. I know, I own many of them! I knew a mom that would reprimand her nanny when the nanny said "He was bad today!" and she would retort "He is not bad, it's his behavior that's bad. Don't call him bad. It is bad for his self esteem!" Well, she was also one that really believed her child was not bad, at all. And guess what, pulling hair, tripping others, lying and destroying property is, well, bad. ADMIT IT, DEAL WITH IT AND MOVE ON! The article talked about a patient who said her parents were never honest about her lack of skills in math. They would say, "Oh, you just learn different!" or "You just need different approaches!". They never did or wanted to admit that she was not good at something. Its OK to not be good at something! We all are good at some things and not others. To set up those expectations isn't fair to children. They will constantly feel inadequate. And deep down, they know the truth. There was a little league coach in the article that talked about how they were forced to give each child a trophy because "that was fair", and they were hard pressed to make some trophies up to be positive. The "Spirited Award" was for the kid that never listened, talked out of turn and generally was disruptive. The child who could care less to be there and would rather pick grass and daisies got the "Coach Award." But the best kid that was the most talented got the MVP award-but only once, because every child needed to feel like they could get a chance to win it next year. The coach went on to say that every kid knew deep down who the real MVP was. It was kind of an empty thing. Kids know the truth. We should be honest with them for their best interests. They will trust us more, in the end.

We can be close, but I am not her best friend. I am her Mother.

This one was a hard one to grapple with. We love our kids. I love my kid. I also think she is a pretty neat person and really hope that when she is an adult, we can still connect often. The therapist who wrote the article wondered if the issues are not with the kids but with the parents. She went on to talk about how parents don't want kids to leave because they are filling a much needed hole for them. If they go off and don't need them, what are they left with? So they want to be best friends with their kids, rather than a true parent. Have them stay around, live off them, golf with them, cook with them, vacation with them, in some cases still live with them or off them! Many genYers told the therapists that they would rather have a mother than a best friend. That they have lots of friends, just one mom & dad. and it's that role that is needed for children to know their boundaries, know their shortcomings, and also know (like little birds) when to get kicked out of the nest to fly away.

SO I did that this past weekend. As I mentioned before, this past scouting trip I stayed back where usually in the past the weekend was more of an event for both my daughter and I. The experience was refreshing for both of us, I think! I got space to be an adult and hang with the other moms, and my daughter got to be who she is growing to be, without me hovering. Maybe it's her growing up. Maybe it's a little of me nudging her out of the nest just a tiny bit.

Parenting is such a trying journey, and as in the movie "Parenthood",  when Gil is talking to his Dad...
"You know, it´s not like that all ends...
lt never, never ends.
lt´s like your Aunt Edna´s ass. lt goes
on forever and is just as frightening."
-"That´s true."
"There is no end zone. You never cross the goal line, spike the ball and do your touch down dance.

Will my kid end up in therapy? I have no idea. What I do know is too much of anything isn't good. So maybe parenting styles have swung so far the other way, that now it's time to land somewhere in the middle. I am going to try that, and see what happens. I'll let you know in 15 years how that works out!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

KITCHEN: Is Your Kitchen Trying to Kill You? Safety first!

Pin It No, it is isn't a new horror flick out for Halloween! I was invited to share this nifty infographic about kitchen safety with all of you. I have to say, I need to read up on the knife stuff. I cut myself being stupid with a frozen bagel last year and it easily took 6 months for the scar to go away! While healing, it even reopened by a child's ice skate when she plowed into me at a skating event for scouts. Her blade went right into my week old cut and BANG! Shearing pain and puffiness. I probably needed stitches...but we moms are TOUGH!

And it only takes 10 bacteria to make a person ill. That stat is surprising!

Enjoy and be safe out there! And thank you,, for sending it to me to share! Well done!

Your Kitchen is Trying to Kill You:  Tips for staying safe in the kitchen (Infographic)

Source by JES Restaurant Equipment

RECIPES: Fall Recipe Round-Up

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My favorite past "Fallish" Recipes, pure and simple. Get out there and enjoy the colors and scents of fall, inside your kitchen and out!
Let's Get Cook'n!






RECIPE: Oat, Maple and Pumpkin Bread

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I mentioned yesterday in my post...well, more like ranted...just a little....about the skimpiness of food manufacturers. It is especially annoying in certain canned goods, where they keep amounts just under 16 oz. If you need two cups, which is the usual amount for a main dish of some sort, you are forced to buy two cans and have extra. Well, this weekend I concocted two lovely baked fall recipes where you can use one happy can of 15 oz-ish pumpkin to cover both! The previous post (Pumpkin Blondie Bars) used 7 oz. of pumpkin. Now you will use a full 8 oz. for this delicious pumpkin bread. And you can toss that empty can into the recycling bin to boot, munch on some yummy pumpkin bread and feel good about the world and your pocketbook.

Oat, Maple and Pumpkin Bread


3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cooking oats
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup canola oil
8 oz. pumpkin puree
1/2 cup low fat buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1-2 Tbsp. brown sugar for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray two 9" loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix flours, oats, spices, baking powder and soda and salt with a fork. Set aside.

With a whisk in a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Add the sugar and whisk until creamy. Add the maple syrup and eggs, and whisk until fluffy and creamy. Add the oil, pumpkin and buttermilk and whisk until smooth.

Add the flour and whisk until well combined, but do not over mix. Fold in the pecans. Pour evenly into the two prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle each with the brown sugar on top. Bake for 30-35 minutes, flipping pan sides once during bake time. Let cool on racks for ten minutes, then invert them out to racks to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap to keep fresh and moist.

RECIPE: Pumpkin White Chocolate Blondie Bars

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I have noticed something as of late. I have noticed the food manufacturers are skimping. They need to do this. The rising costs of food and fuel are making their products more expensive to make, but consumers are only willing to pay up to a certain amount for things. SO instead, the food manufacturers are changing their packaging to hide they are putting less product in while keeping the same price. Here is the sneaky part of what they are doing;  keeping things just under an "even number" for a volume amount causes you to have to buy more product. For example, chicken stock is just under 2 cups. Same with canned fruit like pumpkin and tomatoes. How convenient that the cans are just under 16 oz.– meaning to get 2 whole cup's worth for recipes you need to buy a second can. (ch aching, ch aching)

Welcome to Capitalism.

So, if it's buyer beware, let us be smart and eat well, too! Say hello to one of two recipes I will be posting over then next few days that you can whip up happily using ONE (yes, one!) can of pumpkin to cover both recipes.
Then you can stick it to the man. And give him a blondie bar, while you're at it.

Pumpkin White Chocolate Blondie Bars
adapted from sugarcrafter/


2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
7 oz. canned pumpkin puree
3/4 cup white chocolate baking chips
1/2 cup toasted coconut
1/4 cup chopped cashews


Take an 11 x 7 x 3 pan (or 13 x 9 for thinner brownies, thicker makes them cakier) and line it with tinfoil. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350˚.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Stir with a fork. Set aside.

In a small pan over medium heat, toast the coconut until golden. Cool down.

With an electric mixer, whip the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and whip until fluffy. Add the egg and whip until lemon yellow in color and fluffy. Add the pumpkin and vanilla until well mixed.

On low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Don't over mix. By hand, mix the coconut, chopped cashews and white chocolate chips into the batter until well combined.

Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake on the center rack for 30-35 minutes, or until lightly golden and toothpick at the center comes out clean. Let cool on a rack. Cut into 2" bars. Store bars in the airtight container for 3-5 days.

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