A Retrospective: 2012 Has Taught Me...

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That Nothing Comes Easy:
This past year was really, really hard. Whether it was work, school or raising my daughter, nothing came easy. I think the economy is taking so long to heal, it's making everything that much more difficult. The stress of moving forward in this economy seeped into finances, work/life balance, school resources-the list goes on. Every success or win we had in all aspects of our lives was hard won. Every step forward with our daughter, her transitional 4th grade year or her school as a whole was a rocky road. As the year comes to a close, I feel a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm not afraid of hard work, but my goal is always to reap the value of energy and time that goes into it. This year, things seemed way off balance. I hope that 2013 allows us to reap the rewards of the hard work we put in this year. I hope next year goes a little smoother.


That Getting Involved has It's own Rewards:
This year was the year I have given the most to various charities and organizations, whether it was my time, talents or money. My husband stepped back as we looked at the infographics I created for our end of year holiday card and said, "Out of all years, we chose the hardest one for us to do the most. Kind of ironic! Maybe that's why we're broke!" He was being silly and factitious, but it stopped and made me think, "Yeah. Why did I do that?" Maybe because if we weren't reaping tangible benefits from all our hard work, maybe it would feel good to give back to others? I think I needed something good to come out of something this year. If I could make an impact in someone else's life somewhere, that was worth more than anything. All this charity included my daughter's school, where I felt the more I involved myself in volunteering and projects, the more I could make an impact there. I thought all that could translate to help for her. All the organizations I helped were incredibly grateful, and I know my efforts went to good things. I hope 2013 will allow me to have a more balanced approach to our giving. and focus it so I don't get burned out. Hopefully I can put our family's time, energy and resources towards where it would make the best impact.

That if it's One Thing that's Constant, it's Change
Change is so hard sometimes. On a very personal note, this past year has slowly changed our family for the better. After our struggles with our daughter and 4th grade (without much school support) we took it upon ourselves to do some private testing. We found our daughter to have mild ADHD. Learning about ADHD and what makes my daughter tick is changing how we parent. We are also finding how diet affects her symptoms, so it is changing the way we eat and shop. We are only beginning our journey with these new discoveries, but I think the more we learn about ADHD and adapt, the closer we are becoming as a family. I am also seeing my daughter grow and mature, equipped with this new information about herself. This year has reminded us that nothing is set in stone, and we need to be open and flexible to what life throws at us.

Nothing has taught us that lesson more than the recent Connecticut shootings. The unwritten rules of safety and security for our young children in school evidently was a false rule. We have all lived in a bubble that has abruptly popped, similar to 9/11 in many ways. This awful incident has transformed my family, and me personally. I appreciate what I have more, and treasure the people around me more. I am painfully aware that each living day is a blessing and a privilege I get to spend with them. I approached the holidays differently, and I think I am also re-prioritizing what's important in life, too. I think the recent tragedy has changed us all as a country. I hope in 2013 we continue to learn and change for the better. I hope we never have anything so horrible happen again. I also hope that my family can continue to grow and change together, for the better.

Hard Work does Reap Rewards, Big or Small
It hasn't been all gloom and doom. Hard work does pay off, just not as quickly as I wish it to! To start with, all the review sheets, time, patience and investing in our daughter gave us a really great report card this 1st quarter, with just one C! I see her growing in independence, planning ahead on big projects on her own, and taking greater ownership and pride in her work. These are all recent big wins for our little family. On a sweeter note, I still reign supreme as baker, winning two 1st place awards for my apple pie submission in our parish apple pie contest this year! To that end, this blog is ever growing, too! I am slowly getting new comments and followers every day. And my writing successes don't just stop with the blog. All the writing I have been doing from a PR angle for the agency I work at has given us more opportunities. In fact, a couple editors ask specifically for my POV on things which is very exciting. On a personal note, the charities I have helped have been extremely grateful for my efforts. It was a positive experience where I've met amazing people that will be part of my life for a long time. And most importantly, I have received much appreciation and thanks from scouting parents this year. I have seen my Girl Scouts excited and inspired to do side projects on their own from what my co-leader and I have taught them. I see them excited to come to meetings and sad to go. Knowing I am making an impact in these little girls' lives is the biggest reward I could ever ask for. I hope 2013 allows me to build on these successes, as well as give us more opportunities.

Change brings Enlightenment
With all the changes that have happened for us this year, it's no wonder that they came with many discoveries-the first of which was work related. The beginning of the year had me dabble in writing as a thought leader for the agency. What I found is that I liked writing in general, and I especially liked writing about the agency business. I always thought my writing was limited to this blog, and about my recipes and crazy life as an urbandomesticdiva. Work opened up a whole new growth path for me that's very exciting. I also discovered how much better I could be at sewing and crafts. I took on bigger sewing projects this year. I am constantly inspired by Pinterest boards, and even taught my Girl Scouts sewing basics for a badge. It 's given me a lot more crafting confidence. On a more personal note, the academic/social/emotional testing for our daughter helped us discover what she is truly talented and gifted in, and where she needs help. We turned what was confusion and frustration at the beginning of the year into clear understanding, validation and direction. It was such an emotional road, as most roads are when it comes to your children. But the testing was the best investment we could have done. We learned so much about her, and about ourselves as parents. It was incredibly eye opening. And a final discovery relates back to the economy (big surprise). The economy is continually forcing us to self evaluate and discover, isn't it!? This year, we continued to downsize and discover what we really needed, and what we could do without. I also tried to make things or upcycle things versus buy new. This helped build my crafting skills and creativity as well. We also discovered how deep our generosity could go, giving away things we didn't need to charities. My daughter participated in this as well. Through cleaning and organizing her room over Winter break, I discovered how grown up she's getting. She was very mature as she put more and more things in the donation pile, as well as things to give to her younger cousins and close friends. This was a big change from when she was younger. In fact, I think I wrote a post about how Hoarders taught my daughter how to get rid of things a few years ago. But that's not to say that it didn't come with a lot of tears and emotional baggage when she was younger. Discovering how generous and mature she is getting was very special, indeed. I hope 2013 allows us to continue to learn more about ourselves and each other. Let's just hope the road is a lot smoother to get there in 2013!

As we close 2012, I wish you and your families a happy and safe New Year, with many future successes! Thank you for all your support on this blog journey. You help keep me going!









RECIPE: Instant Oatmeal, Maple and Hazelnut Pumpkin Bread

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I am not sure if your husband is like mine when it comes to pantry upkeep. My husband's head spins if we don't finish one kind of cereal, and yet buy and open another. He doesn't quite understand that we girls (meaning my daughter and I) get bored of the same thing, day in and day out. We like to mix it up. My husband, however, is embracing more of his "German" heritage in his old age. He wants everything methodically eaten and finished before moving to the next thing. That can mean days and days and days of the same cereal, and if it's a Costco sized item-you can basically count on it for a month.

Where am I going with this tirade? Well, we had some instant maple and brown sugar oatmeal in the pantry for a bit. We also have discovered a delicious chocolate oatmeal that my daughter and I are crazy for. So we have been surpassing the maple kind to buy and eat the chocolate kind.

Umm, did I mention it was chocolate oatmeal?

SO, one morning, the maple oatmeal box was sitting on the counter next to the coffee pot. This is my husband's passive aggressive way of telling us "EAT THIS." So I was inspired to use it in a healthy version of pumpkin bread. I thought the oatmeal would have great flavor mixed right in with a nice dose of sweetness. It's also a great way to get some whole grain in a sweet bread.

Not to mention I could use up three packets right there and then. That should make my cranky-pants hubby happy.

And it did, tummy and all.

Instant Oatmeal, Maple and Hazelnut Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 packets of Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
3 eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 15/16 oz. can of pumpkin
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts, toasted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray two loaf pans liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.


In a large bowl, mix the flour, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt with a fork. Set aside.



In a very large bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy. Add the sugar and whisk until light and creamy. Add the pumpkin, vanilla and oil and whisk until smooth and combined. Pour half the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the sour cream and whisk until combined. Then add the rest of the flour and whisk until just combined.


Once the hazelnuts have cooled, finely chop them more with a knife. Add them to your batter. Mix well. Let batter sit for about 15 minutes to allow the groats to absorb the moisture in the batter. The batter will thicken up as it sits.

Once 15 minutes are up, mix the batter a few more times, and divide evenly between pans. Bake both loaves on the middle rack for about 45-60 minutes, rotating a few times as you go. Tops should be golden and puffy with light cracking, and a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Invert them onto cooling racks once they have cooled down a bit and are pulling away from the pan edges. This can take up to 15 minutes or more. So be patient. You want them to fall out of the pan, but not be still so hot that parts of the bread still stick to the insides. If you find them hard to come out, run a rubber spatula or butter knife around the perimeter to help them out.

Serve warm with some butter.




RECIPE: Eggnog French Toast with Pear and Cranberry Compote

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Happy Holidays Everyone!


I have been a up a bit...we do a mini celebration with my little family this morning, before we get primped and packed to go to Nonna's! My daughter gets up SUPER early and empties her stocking. She also gets to open one gift of her choice. We enjoy a special breakfast, listen to Christmas music, and hang out in our PJ's. This year, I have added peppermint hot cocoa to the menu as well. Right now, I have this wonderful Eggnog french toast baking in the oven. I prepped it last night, and also made the compote yesterday. So all it needed was some melted butter and in the oven it went. I'll heat up the compote in the microwave a little and we will have a breakfast the three kings would envy! The scents coming out of the oven right now are fantastic! So I thought I would share this with you, because if you have extra eggnog and are coming up empty on a brunch items tomorrow, this would be wonderful! Just assemble it before bed tonight, and you'll be all set tomorrow morning.

And during this time, please keep the families in CT in your heart and prayers this holiday season. I cannot imagine the pain and sadness they are feeling right now. I wish them some peace over the next few days, if that's at all possible.

 And I wish you all a happy time with family and friends. Remember, every day is a gift, and so are the others you are with. Thank you for your continued support, love and feedback here on the blog and sharing this crazy "mom-life" journey with me. XO

Eggnog French Toast with Pear and Cranberry Compote
adapted from epicurious.com

Compote
3 ripe pears, cored, sliced, then each slice halved
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. orange juice
dash of salt
2 cups spiced apple and pear cider (Trader Joe's or other)
6 Tbsp. corn syrup
4 cardamom pods
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
8 Tbsp. butter

French toast
1 large country loaf (about 14 oz.) sliced horizontally, then vertically into 8 slices. So you should have 16 total pieces, each about 1 inch thick or so.
4 eggs
4 cups light eggnog
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. rum flavoring
1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. butter


Directions:


First make the compote. In a saucepan, boil the apple/pear cider with the corn syrup, brown sugar and cardamom pods. Turn down to simmer and cook down to about 1 cup (roughly 15 min). Once reduced, whisk in 4 Tbsp. butter. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, melt the other 4 Tbsp. butter. Add the pears and cook until softened. Then add the cranberries, sugar, orange juice and salt. Cook until the cranberries pop open. Add the reduced apple syrup, and simmer until mixture turns into a syrupy consistency, about 8 min. more. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Can be made the day before, just reheat when ready to serve.




Next, make the egg custard. Whisk 4 eggs in a large bowl until beginning to foam. Add the spices, salt and rum, and whisk until well combined. Pour in the eggnog and whisk until combined. Lay bread slices in two 13 x 9 baking dishes ( I used one this size and one smaller). Pour the egg custard evenly between dishes. Using a fork, flip the bread slices over so both sides get well coated. Wrap with plastic and store in the refrigerator overnight.


The next morning, preheat oven to 375˚. Let the pans sit out at room temperature for about 30 min. I flip the bread over one more time so the side facing up all night gets a good soaking while sitting. Meanwhile, melt 4 Tbsp. butter, and spoon half the butter on a large foil lined baking sheet. Spread the butter around with the back of a spoon. Drain and lay the bread slices snugly on the baking sheet. Spoon any extra eggnog batter on top, then spoon and rub the remaining 2 Tbsp. melted butter over the tops. Bake in the oven for about 20 min., or until tops are getting puffy, dry and slightly golden. Flip the bread over and bake for another 15-20 min. Cooking times will vary depending on how moist the bread is, how much water versus cream is in your eggnog and how thick your baking sheets are. My slices took longer to cook because they were pretty soggy going in. Just keep a timer going and check on them as you go. Serve warm with warmed compote.




CRAFTS: Upcycled Fingerless Gloves from Old Sweaters!

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Having trouble using your touchscreen devices this winter? Well, fingerless gloves are becoming more and more popular because of just that. And for Christmas gifts, I made them out of old sweaters I purchased at the thrift store. I made sure they were machine washable, as well as large/extra large sizes. I Brought them home, washed them, and got down to business.

One thing to note, boiled chenille and chenille in general are harder to sew. It can be done, but it takes care and patience. I found the tighter weave cotton blend sweaters to work out a lot easier. Also, each sweater should provide 3 sets of female-sized gloves. One pair out of the sleeves. Two more along the bottom edge of the sweater, so the waistline becomes where the fingers go.







First create a template on paper, noting specifically where the thumb hole goes. I used fingerless gloves I already had. You can use your hand and draw around it.





Second, start at one sleeve and pin your template to the sweater. Make sure the edge matches up the bottom of the sleeve. Cut around the template through the whole sweater...both sides.

Using the template, pin where each end of the thumb hole starts and stops on the top piece, and again on the bottom piece. Unpin your template and pin it to the other sleeve on the sweater, and repeat.

If there is a different back to your sweater versus the front, meaning your gloves have a different back, flip your template over on your second glove so the thumb lands on the opposite side of where your first one did. This assures the backs stay on the back with the right versus left hand.



Now, take a glove and turn it so right sides face each other and you are sewing on the wrong side, matching the thumb hole pins. Starting on the edge without the thumb hole, zigzag stitch all the way down. Now open the gloves flat, right side down. Fold top edge down about 1/4", this is the edge farthest from the fingers. Zigzag stitch the edge so you have a clean edge up top. The sweater already has a perfect edge by the fingers.

Now, put the gloves back together, and zigzag stitch right up to the edge of the pin where the thumb hole starts. Now, open up the glove where the thumb hole is, laying it all flat, right side down. Fold over the sweater 1/8 inch over and zigzag stitch from one pin to the other end of the pin. This creates a clean edge seam around the thumb hole.

Next, put both sides back together. Zigzag stitch the edge from the finger top opening to the other side of the thumb hole where the pins are. Take the pins out, and trim all lagging threads.









Turn the glove inside out, so the right side is now outside and all your strings and stitches are on the inside, and it's done!

Lifestyle: Less Spend, More Heart For Christmas

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Things have been tight financially for us, and I know I'm not alone. On account of that, I have been trying to be a little more creative and open minded in trying unorthodox ways to give gifts to show important people in our lives that I care. In light of the recent tragedies in CT, it has galvanized my approach to the holidays this year. Waking up at 3 a.m to fight with people over purchasing a flat screen TV is not what the season should be about. It's about love, generosity of the heart and care for our community and fellow man. It's also about being grateful for what blessings you have. So in the spirit of the season, I lessened my carbon foot print, tightened my budget and got my hands working.

Don't get me wrong, this approach doesn't simplify the holidays, which I was trying to do, too. No sir. I think I worked the most I ever have on Christmas this year. I am flat out exhausted, and I still have more to do! It's more work to go to many smaller shops than one shiny big box store. It's labor intensive to make things versus buy them.  But to see the joy in someones face after getting something specially hand made for them, making them feel all the more special? Well, that makes the moment all the more meaningful. Here are some things to keep in mind as you run to finish your shopping list.

Buy local
It's statistically proven that buying local helps create a bigger impact in your community than shopping at the big chains. I planned a shopping outing last week with the girls at work where we walked around my local Lincoln Square neighborhood, buying affordable and unique gifts. The customer service is better. The holiday decor is cuter. Some stores even served spice tea or cocoa while we shopped. It really got us in the spirit of the holidays, and we knew our dollars were making a bigger impact-right where we lived.

Shop used books

Some people may feel that giving used anything is a faux pas at Christmas. If you can find a good, local shop that takes care of their gently used books, you can find a well kept, affordable treasure trove of goodies for the bibliophiles in your life. Many collectible books are out of print anyway. And with the popularity of ebay and exlibris, the stigma around used books is greatly diminished. In fact, you might spend 10 bucks on something that on the collector's market is worth hundreds! Imagine that as a gift? I shop at a wonderful bookshop in Chicago called Open Books. All their books are donated, and sales go to reading and writing programs provided to local schools. All people that work the shop are volunteers, too. So your dollars truly go toward a very worthy cause.

Try giving handmade gifts that are green, too
Handmade gifts are always an option at Christmas. And now with the popularity of Etsy and Pinterest, it's never been easier to get tips and inspiration on handmade gifts that look better than anything you get at a big box store, and more special. After all, you took time out of your busy schedule to make someone something amazing! A bigger plus is if you can make something by recycling something else. Then you give the earth a Christmas present, too. Last year I made a slew of scarves upcycled  from T-shirts. This year I cut up old sweaters to make fingerless gloves. People need warm fingers as they touch their smart phone screens, right? I gave them out to my colleagues today and they were very excited. It made the 2 a.m bedtimes this week worth it. I love everyone of those girls. I wanted them to know it, tight budget and all. (By the way, I'll be posting a how-to tomorrow. You can easily make a few in an afternoon if you have an old sweater lying around.)

Use your kitchen
As this blog validates, I like cooking and baking. I always prepare platefuls of cookies to give to friends, neighbors, teachers and clients. This year I expanded my flavors. I also went to a dollar store to buy tins, tags, wrapping paper, etc. I had never been to a dollar store. It was overwhelming at first. But just buying the holiday necessities there (most of which gets thrown in the recycling bin) I saved 50-100 bucks. If you're not a baker, there are other things you can make in your kitchen like; assembled cookie mixes and bread mixes in jars, canned fruits and jams, even jarred herbal sugars, salts and cocoas. If you have summer herbs drying, crumble some up in a jar, add a decorative label and voila! A culinary gift from your own garden. If you get ahead on timing next year, steeping liquors, vinegars and oils for bottling can make sensational gifts, too. These gifts just need a month's lead time.

Shop craft fairs
So not so crafty, or crafty in some things and not others? Visiting your local parish or community craft fairs is a great way to get one-of-a-kind items at inexpensive prices. I've bought ceramic cereal bowls for 4 dollars each.   I've found unique necklaces with gem stones starting at $15. I can spend that at Target, but it's mass produced in China somewhere. Not by someone in your own community, trying to earn a living by their art and craftsmanship. If crafting places are hard to find, you can also shop the Etsy stores online, as well as check out national craft shows. Renegade Craft Fair is an awesome craft fair, and not your Grandma's craft fair, either. There are many in various cities at various times throughout the year. Check out if there is ever one near you at http://www.renegadecraft.com/. Our office has planned a brunch/shopping day just around visiting this craft fair.

Shop ebay and thrift stores for that once a year holiday outfit for your kid
I have a major tomboy on my hands. Every year my daughter and I fight over dressing up for Christmas and Easter. As she has grown older, I can't justify spending money on a new formal dress she will never wear again. And honestly, all the other kids wear their holiday duds once, too. And guess where it goes? Ebay or thrift shops! So look there for gently used holiday outfits, spend some more on Dryel sheets or a proper dry cleaner, and your kid is ready for the holidays. I guarantee you save at least 50 bucks, and you kept something out of the landfills.


***

So that's how I gave less to big corporations, and more of myself and my family to the people I love who make a difference in our lives every day. Every day is a gift. So are they. And this year, I tried to make my gifts worthy of just that.

If you have any ideas to share, please do! And have a wonderful Holiday!

RECIPE: Almond Cherry White Chocolate Swirl Cookies

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I often wonder what it would be like to move to a farm for a month before Christmas, and just live simply. No shopping. No fighting with crazy ladies over parking spots. No honking. No credit cards. No crazy entertaining. No expensive greeting cards. Gifts are handmade-if given at all. I think it would be lovely to strip it down to the basics. Think how much more joyful the whole experience would be?

One thing is for sure, I would still bake my insane amount of cookies. But I would enjoy it more because I would not be jamming it into the rest of the crazy. I would have time to visit with neighbors as I drop off platefuls of goodies. I would probably have time to bake some kinds I have always wanted to try. 

Well, here is a cookie that I have always wanted to create. It's a cherry almond flavor twirl cookie. I made this baby up, and I added the white chocolate for a hint of creaminess. These are really pretty in the cookie mix. You can also kick up the cherry flavor by adding cherry extract or kirsch, if you wish. But I liked them as is.

Try enjoying the holidays a little more. 
Run around less. Buy less. Bake more. Visit more. Enjoy more. I know I'm trying...with not much luck. But I'm trying!


Almond Cherry White Chocolate Swirls

Ingredients

1 1/2 sticks softened butter
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup ground almond paste
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. Maraschino cherry juice
1/4 cup finely chopped Maraschino cherries
1/4 cup finely chopped white chocolate
1 Tbsp. red food coloring or more
Red colored decorative sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350˚.


Beat butter and sugar until creamy and light. Add the almond paste and whip until combined. Add the eggs and almond extract until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, add 2 cups of flour until just combined.

Split the dough into two even parts. In one half, add the cherries with the juice. Add the red food coloring, and mix well with a fork. Then add the remaining 1/2 cup flour until dough is able to be shaped well. Add more red food coloring to get the bright color you want. In the white half of the dough, add the white chocolate and combine well.




 Lightly flour a 12-14" sheet of plastic wrap. Shape the red dough into a rectangle on the floured plastic. Then lightly flour top of the dough and cover the rectangle with another 12-14" sheet of plastic wrap and roll it out to 1/8 inch thick. Do the same for the white dough.



Now peel the plastic off both doughs. Carefully pull up the white dough by pulling up the plastic wrap edges. Carefully flip the white dough onto the red dough as evenly as possible, adjusting it to the edges. I trim off excess edges and patch areas that are missing coverage. Then I gently roll the top twice to smooth out the patches.


With the long edge of the dough/plastic wrap,  roll the dough tightly into a long log. Wrap it in plastic and with your palms roll it back and forth to even out the diameter across the log. Cut the log in the middle. Wrap each half in plastic wrap. Roll both again back and forth to even them out and wrap separately. Freeze for an hour or in the fridge for two. Once chilled well, roll logs in red colored decorators sugar if you want, so the outer sides have a nice coating. Slice the chilled rolls with a serrated knife into 1/4" thick discs.

Place discs 1" apart on parchment lined baking sheet for about 8 min, switching racks midway. Edges should just starting getting golden. Transfer cookies to cooling racks while still warm to cool completely.

LIFESTYLE: Quick Anatabloc Update/ Dec 4, 2012

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Hello my fellow Anatablocers! I hope the holidays aren't stressing you out too much and you are staying healthy. I have been asked by many how I have been doing, and thought I would let everyone know I am doing great-really great in fact. A few posts ago I mentioned I wanted to start doing other things to try and help heal my intestinal tissue while the Anatabloc does it's magic on my immune system. I thought if my immune system wasn't attacking my digestive system constantly, then it could have a chance to actually heal. After a few tries with over the counter probiotics and some aloe vera juice, I visited an apothecary shortly after Thanksgiving (All the eating caused me to have a day of discomfort). The pharmacist there recommended two things. Slippery Elm powder and a special power-biotic from a company called Symbion. I have been taking 2 power-biotics once a day for two weeks, and I was taking Slippery Elm three times day. I now only take Slippery Elm before dinner. Slippery Elm is supposed to actual heal and soothe the tissue in your intestinal tract. You mix 1 tsp. in a cup of warm water and drink it before eating a meal. (It tastes like watered down tree bark, but it's doable.) The power-biotics help balance it all out. But the addition of these two things with the Anatabloc is giving me a totally normal tummy life. I am so very happy right now. I feel like I dodged the immune suppressant bullet, for now.  We'll see long term.

Now the Symbion bottle says after a month, I need to up my dosage for a bit, then go back down. I think the idea is to get the balance of good bacteria there to stay in your intestines. All I know is that it has done wonders for regularity. I am in no pain, and I really feel normal.

Oh and twice I have felt I was getting a bad cold, with it going around the office. With extra sleep, I dodged those illnesses. I believe the Anatabloc really does support the immune system. It has really helped keep me healthy.

This Apothecary I visited is a wonderful place, with a long history of healing people naturally. If you are ever in Chicago, I urge you to visit it. The building alone is lovely-but the knowledge inside is worth the trip. It's called Merz's Apothecary. It's on Lincoln Ave in a wonderful little shopping neighborhood called Lincoln Square.

RECIPE: Peppermint Candy Cane Twirl Cookies

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Holiday baking is upon us, and I have spent all of today prepping cookie dough and freezing it for baking days next week. This was somewhat grueling, and I took a mini nap after I was done! Mu husband helped and by 2:30 this afternoon, I had 8 flavors prepped and wrapped up. As mush work as it is, I love piling up cookie tins and trays high with a variety of flavors for our friends and neighbors. Mu daughter and I bundle up with cookie in hand and go surprise neighbors. To me, this is what the season is all about. I have many favorites for my holiday cookies, but this one I love for it's festive nature. It just screams "Happy Holidays!" with it's red and white swirls and crushed candy cane bits. It adds such nice holiday color to the array of yummies. There are quite a few recipes like this out there, but I wanted to share my recipe variation with you. Hope you enjoy holiday baking as much as I do! (And I do recommend a power nap with Holiday Inn playing on the TV when your done.)

Peppermint Candy Cane Twirl Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. peppermint extract
5-8 drops red food coloring
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy canes (about 4-5 canes)
red or pink decorative sugar (optional)

Directions:


Preheat oven to 375˚. Crush the candy canes by running them through a processor or placing them in a plastic bag and hitting them with a rolling pin until finely crushed. Set them aside.

In a small bowl, mix the flour with the baking soda.

In a large mixing bowl, whip the butter. Then add the sugar and whip until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg and whip until light and fluffy. Next, add the milk, vanilla and salt. Turn the mixer on low, and gently mix in the dry ingredients until combined.


Separate the dough in half evenly, and place one half in another bowl. In one half, add the peppermint extract and red food coloring. Mix well until everything is combined evenly. In the other half, add the crushed candy cane bits, mixing until well combined.



Roll the red dough with a light dusting of flour to about 12 x 6 or so on lightly floured plastic wrap. Do the same with the candy cane half. Flip the candy cane dough on top of the red dough, matching edges as well as possible. Using the long side, beginning rolling the dough into a tight log. Cut in half. Wrap each log in saran wrap, and roll each back and forth until they are even in thickness. Chill for a few hours, or freeze.

Let the dough sit at room temp for 5 or so minutes before slicing. Feel free to roll log in some red or pink colored sugar for garnish before cutting. Using a serrated knife, slice off pinwheels, about 1/8 inch thick. Rotate the log around as you cut so things stay circular. Place pinwheels on a cookie sheet a couple inches apart. Bake until lightly golden on the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Remove cookie while still warm and transfer them to cool on a wire rack.
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