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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookie

Sing with me, "It's the most wonderful time of the year..."
The time of the year I bake cookies, and reacquaint myself with the oven.  Kidding.  Sort of.

Our littlest Peanut is fighting her first cold, so unfortunately she and I couldn't go pick out a Christmas tree.  I wanted to make sure that when the boys got back, it felt as Christmassy and festive as possible, so I baked some yummy cookies. I wanted to try a new cookie, and found a recipe for Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies.  I'd never made shortbread before, and was excited at the short ingredients list - all of which I already had!  They turned out very tasty, and were a rounding success with the boys!


1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cups sugar (1/4 for cranberries, 1/2 cup for dough)
2 1/2 cups flour (spooned and leveled, not scooped)
1 cup unsalted butter (cubed and cold)
1-2 tsp vanilla extract (the original called for almond, which would be great too, I'm sure.  All I had was vanilla, and it worked really well!)
The zest of one orange
1-2 tbs fresh squeezed orange juice
Extra sugar in a a bowl for coating


1. Pulse together the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor, until it breaks up the dried cranberries.

2. Combine flour and remaining sugar in a bowl.  Set aside.

3. Use a pastry cutter (or two forks) to cut in cold butter, until you get fine crumbs.

4. Stir in extract, cranberry mixture, orange zest and juice.

5. Knead dough with your hands, until it comes together into a ball.

6. Form into a log, about 2 inches in diameter.

7. Refrigerate for 2 hours.  (Or up to 72 hours.)  (Or do what I did - use half now, and half later.)

8. Preheat oven to 325 F (163 C).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Take the dough log out of the fridge, and cut into 1/4 inch slices.  Roll slices in the sugar in the bowl (making sure to get both sides and the edges.)

9. Place on baking sheet, about an inch apart.  (They don't expand much, but I'm notorious for cookies sticking together, so I was over-cautious.)

10. Bake for 12-15 minutes.  It's important not to over-bake them.  I baked them for about 13 minutes.

11. Let them completely cool on the pan before handling them.  


The original post says they are good for 3 days when kept in an air tight container, or for 3 months in the freezer.  That makes them perfect to bake ahead for the Christmas season.

These are definitely making the final cut for cookies for neighbors and friends!  Scrumptious!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

I love Thanksgiving.  Really, I enjoy holidays in general.  But I love what this holiday is about; two of my favorite things - family and food.

I also love the cozy, warm colors associated with the holiday.  This year was our first Thanksgiving in Slovenia (last year we were in Hungary), and we were delighted to have our friends celebrate with us!  I wanted to make our home feel festive, but also wanted to stick with our more minimalistic/rustic feel.

For the centerpiece, I used pumpkins, lavender greens, cotton, walnuts, wheat and little dried pears (hruške - given as a gift by a little elderly lady at the market).

When we moved to Slovenia, I bought dishes from a Slovenian potter, named Jasmina Verbič.  I love them, because they are simple and beautiful.  They are easy to dress up or down.  I used my great-grandmother's silver.  When I opened the box they were in, it smelled like my Gran and Gramps' house.  They passed away two years ago, so having a little piece of them as a part of our celebration made it that much more special.

For the kids' table I made pilgrim hat crayon holders, and turkey snacks (a preschooler one with pop corn, and a toddler one with puffs).  The kids ended up at our table, lol, but it was actually really nice to have them so near us.

It was an overcast, kind of dreary day, so the light was darker than I would've liked, but it made for some dreamy low-light pictures.  So, here is our Thanksgiving celebration.


Happy Thanksgiving from our little turkeys!  We have so much to be thankful for!

I had some Thanksgiving books out for the kids, here are the titles for you:
1. The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell (this one is my favorite!)
2. Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson (about the woman who petitioned for Thanksgiving to be a national holiday.)
3. P Is For Pilgrim by Carol Crane (a Thanksgiving alphabet book)
4. Pete The Cat Thanksgiving by James Dean
5. Thank you, God, For Daddy by Amy Parker 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Thoughts From A Second-Time New Mom

New mommyhood.  That fog in which many of us find ourselves.  Diapers, sleep (the baby, not you), spit-up, blowouts, tiny clothes that need washing, smiles, crying, gas, more crying...
Funky smells, engorgement and/or bottle sterilizing, sleepless nights, 3 am articles about SIDS, hair loss...

It's a magical time.

One, that oddly enough, even as a mother of two (woah!)...
I'm almost doing for the first time.  "What?", you say?  I'll explain.

When we had Aidan, I was working as a Kindergarten teacher in the US.  I was employed full-time for most of my pregnancy and birth, but was only employed part-time at the time of getting pregnant.  This meant that I was not eligible for any kind of paid maternity leave.  Legally I was allowed 6 weeks of unpaid leave.  Which is what I had.  It absolutely broke my heart the first day back at work, when Dan took our teeny tiny baby to the babysitter (an amazing mama from our church, who watched him Tuesday-Friday, for about 8-9 hours/day).  Although I was thankful for a job (without which we wouldn't have been able to live), and for someone who loved my baby enough to watch him, it was not easy.

Every day, when Aidan came home, he smelled like the babysitter's house (which was actually a wonderful essential oil smell, but still), not our home.  I think that is the most tangible image of what I felt.  My baby didn't even smell like he lived with me.  My husband actually spent more waking hours with him than I did - he had Mondays off.  I pumped at work twice a day, because I was determined to breastfeed.  When he came home, around 5, he basically cluster-fed until bedtime.  He was/is an AMAZING sleeper, so then he would sleep from about 8:00-6:30.  Then, I nursed him, got him and I both ready, and Dan would take him to the babysitter again.  Every day.

Whenever I decided to sit down and do the math, about how many hours a day I actually spent with him... I just couldn't do it.  I stopped myself before I actually got to the answer.  Even now, I'm getting emotional.  But we did what we had to do.

When he turned one, he started going to the preschool at my school.  That was a little better - because of less of a commute, I got probably an extra hour a day with him.  I could also check in on him throughout the day, if I needed.

Then, when he turned 2, our lives took a drastic turn, we were commissioned to be missionaries.  All of a sudden, I became a stay-at-home-mom to a toddler.  It was a huge shock to the system.  The first few weeks were heaven!  After that, I started to realize more and more what the positives of being a working mom were.

I had a professional life, people actually cared about what I had to say.  Adult conversations.  Feeling fulfilled on a non-mommy level.  Feeling like I'd accomplished things in my day.  "New" experiences every day.  Putting on real clothes (don't laugh, it's true!).  Getting a "break".  Not having to change all the diapers in the world.

Thankfully, Aidan was already 2, so he was active enough, and fun enough to do things with.  We were a one-car family, and Dan traveled a lot, so I did have to get creative about how to keep his busy self occupied, but overall it was a good experience.  We had fun, I felt like I got to really know him, and we adjusted.

And now here we are.  I'm now (as of 8 weeks ago), a stay-at-home-mom to a newborn.  This is new territory for me.  It feels so strange to say that, but it really is true.  I'm so blessed to have a job where I can be involved in ministry, and still be a SAHM, I am so thankful for that!  But this is nearly all new to me.

For example - going out with her TERRIFIES me!  I'm getting together with a friend tomorrow morning, and it'll be our first real outing just the two of us - by ourselves, riding the bus, going into the center of town.  AAAHHHH!

Also, how do I fill my days?  We live according to her schedule, so I'm not actually in "want" of things to do, but what do I do with her when she's awake?  How do I stimulate her growing mind?  How do I break up the mundane, never-ending slew of laundry?  What do I do when she won't stop crying?  (By the way, the answer is nurse her.  Always nurse her.)

Thankfully, the culture here in Slovenia is very mommy-friendly.  I have mommy friends to go on walks with, get coffee with, or who come over.  But it can also be very lonely, and all-consuming.  I often crave a professional conversation, where my education is of use to me.  I nurse on demand, so I'm very "tethered" to the baby.  She's not always a happy baby, and needs lots of holding.  Or baby wearing.  I love the cuddles, and closeness... but I also love hot coffee, and lunch.  And sleep.

Basically, my rambling doesn't have much of a point, or conclusion, except to say that mommyhood is a complete devotion of self; whether you are a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, work-from-home mom or any combination of those.
There are positives and negatives to each situation.  In my experience, both are hard, but in very different ways.  For me though, the ability to stay home with Jocelyn is priceless.  I am beyond thankful for our current situation, and ability to mother they way I'd like.  
I am so thankful that Aidan was such an easygoing baby, and that he loves and adores me.  Even with his first year the way that it was, he has always loved me (a very real mama-fear), he is healthy and happy, and now that he is 4 and back in school (Slovenian kindergarten), he loves it, and is excited to go every day!
In the afternoons, when I get to have both of them with me, and we're having a snack, playing or watching TV, I'm so thankful that I don't have to do lesson planning, or prep for a parent-teacher conference.  But I do kind of pine for a lunch break, donuts on Friday, morning chats with coworkers and looking professional.

So if I seem very "new mother-y", please understand.  
I kind of am.