To say I love peanut butter is an understatement! I could eat it by the spoonfuls. Everyone else in my family.... HATES IT! Both of my kids were allergic to it, but have out grown it. My husband has NEVER liked it. I've tried sneaking it in cookies, muffins, pancakes, ice cream, etc. They notice it every time! So, I rarely make anything with PB in it anymore because I'm the only one that will eat it (sometimes this is NOT a bad thing).
Earlier this week, I was meeting some friends for brunch and thought, this is my chance! I've always wanted to make the PB Energy Balls that I see everywhere on pinterest. So I bought all the ingredients - I still don't know if I bought the right kind of "ground flaxseed" - I'll add a picture of it and if it's not what I'm supposed to use, let me know :) As I was looking at all the nutrition facts for these ingredients, I realized there is a TON OF FAT! Now, don't get me wrong, I know the difference between good fat and bad fat, but eating a "healthy energy ball" shouldn't have 15g of fat in it! So I had to make some adjustments. Here is my new doctored PB energy ball that is more than half the fat as the regular recipes and still super delicious!
Healthy PB Energy Balls
1 cup quick oats
1/4 cup peanut butter
4 TBS PB2 (mixed with 2TBS of water - so it has the consistency of peanut butter)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
2 TBS unsweetened cocoa
Mix all the ingredients together and roll into balls. Refrigerate before serving otherwise they'll be sticky. Store in the fridge for up to a week. Makes 21 bite-sized balls.
Each ball: 2g protein, 11g carbs, 4g fat
Yes, I have to admit, Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love driving through neighborhoods that are glowing with lights, I love the spirit of giving and most of all I love spending extra time with family and friends. Like most people, I used to wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas, but that changed 6 years ago...
Shortly after my oldest son turned one, I found out an acquaintance of mine had a little boy the same age who was just diagnosed with leukemia. When the mom started a blog about their journey, I read it diligently. I often found myself sitting at work reading the most recent update, wiping away the tears and unable to fathom having to go through that with your child.
Although reading the blog literally broke my heart, it changed how I looked at my son and how much I cherished every little thing... the way his chest rose and fell when he slept, the way he would say "hewwoo" (hello) when the phone rang, the pitter patter of his little feet when I came home from work, everything seemed like a gift. I was lucky my child was healthy, I was lucky my child was happy and I was lucky to be his mom.
This little boy's name was Dax and the doctors said he probably wouldn't live until Christmas. Dax really loved seeing Christmas lights, so his whole town decorated for Christmas around Halloween time just to put a smile on that little boy's face when they drove home (isn't that what the Christmas spirit is really about?). Eventually everyone around the nation was putting up Christmas lights and posting pictures on DecorateForDax.com. Dax died shortly after Christmas in 2009. (To read more about Dax, visit www.daxlocke.org)
To this day, I think of this little boy and the imprint he has left in my heart. I think about him more often this time of year and I still put up our lights early, not just because I love Christmas, but also because it's my daily reminder not to get swept up in the holiday hubbub, to cherish the time I have with my friends and family, and to be grateful.
No gift is bigger than the gift of life, so be kind to one another each and every day.
Black bananas means it's time to make banana bread! I absolutely LOVE banana bread, but I've been on the hunt for a healthier recipe. I found one and made my own little adjustments and boy are these great! They were super easy to make as well - only 1 bowl to clean! My entire family loves them too :) This recipe makes 15 muffins.
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup applesauce (I used one Cinnamon Applesauce Gogo Squeeze)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 scoop vanilla UMP protein powder
Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Mash the bananas and add the sugar. Mix until well blended. Stir in the remaining ingredients, until the flour is just incorporated. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
*These freeze well too!
This week was teacher appreciation week and as a first-time room parent, it was a busy week! I had collected money at the beginning of the school year, so I had about $20/day to work with. I didn't really do anything out of the ordinary, gift cards, flowers, snack bags, etc. But I did come up with a couple creative ideas that I wanted to share.
We did a book dedication, where the kids each brought in their favorite book and dedicated it to the classroom. So they signed their name and wrote a little message to the teacher or to the future classes inside the front cover. Their teacher LOVED it!! We also gave her a book, "Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education" by Ken Robinson, Ph.D. She said the book dedication was the best teacher appreciation gift she's ever received. So, if you have a book loving teacher, remember this one for next year!!
Also, I asked the teacher if there was anything specific that she needed for the classroom. She said they needed a new CD player, but I thought that it was kind of a boring gift and since I asked, I needed to throw in an element of surprise, otherwise, what fun is that! So I thought it would be awesome to make a dance video as an addition to the CD player. Who doesn't love watching a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds dancing?
So I met the kids in their P.E. class one day and videoed them (on my phone) dancing to the song, "Happy". Our theme was, "You Make Us Happy!" We also captured each child saying what their favorite thing about preschool was. I used iMovie to put the whole video together. I've never used iMovie before this project, so it took me awhile to get the hang of it (and by awhile, I mean maybe an hour or 2), but the end result was fantastic!
The best part, in my opinion, was that we asked each child what they wanted to be when they grow up and then I had their name and "future so-and-so" scroll across the bottom when they were speaking. I'm not sure who loved this more, the teachers or the parents!! I love that we'll be able to pull this up when they're graduating 8th grade and all get a good laugh at what they said they wanted to be and how cute and little they were. We had everything from, dentist to super hero to pink ballerina :) Priceless!!
Earth Day is a great day to get kids involved in learning about the Earth and ways to recycle, reuse and restore. Here are some links with suggestions on what to do with the kids.
Carrots are Orange - 20 activities for kids and families
TeachersPayTeachers - Nature Scavenger Hunt (you will have to register to download it)
3 Boys and a Dog - Kids activities and snacks
TinkerLab - 50 Earth Day activities
My oldest son, who is 7, is rooting for the Seahawks to win the Superbowl because according to him, "the Patriots are cheaters and no one likes cheaters." In addition to the Superbowl, I've been trying to come up with more breakfast options so the kids aren't eating sugary cereals every morning.
I came across this spinach muffin recipe on Mama Say What? blog (http://www.mamasaywhat.com/spinach-muffins-recipe/) and I actually had all the ingredients already! Lord knows I was NOT going to run to the grocery store on a Saturday afternoon, the day before the Superbowl and with a blizzard on it's way!
I wanted to make it a bit more healthy and I needed to add some blue to it to officially call them "Seahawks muffins". So check out the recipe under the recipes tab on this site, or just click here.
I've taste tested them and I really like them (but I like healthy food, ha!) I'm anxiously waiting for my oldest to get home from a chess tournament to see what he thinks. My husband will be the hardest sell, I can't just tell him I used food coloring to make it green :)
Can you Escape Bloomington?
No, I'm not talking about literally escaping Bloomington, I'm talking about a business called "Escape Bloomington." Some friends of mine and I went to Escape Bloomington last weekend and I loved the experience. So much, that I'm already planning a date night to go back. If you like solving puzzles and brain teasers, you have to try this!
Without giving anything away, or spoiling the fun, the jist of it is this.... you willingly go into a room, get locked inside, and have 60 minutes to get yourselves out. There are 4 rooms to choose from, Focus Pocus, the Morgue, the Playroom and the Office. Check out their website, www.escapebloomington.com for more information and ratings of the rooms - some are harder than others.
While you're in the locked room, the "game masters" are watching you through a camera and you're allowed 3 hints, given on a TV screen in the room. We had to use all 3 of our hints and even discussed one of them with the game master on the "house" phone because we were arguing about a clue we had already found, ha! (we aren't strong minded woman or anything). We successfully made it out of the room with 58 seconds to spare - whew!! And then they took our picture to officially announce we did it!
For those of you that might freak out about being locked in a room - yes, there is an emergency key. So don't worry if you have to go to the bathroom or just get uncomfortable being confined to a small room with 5-9 other people.
How do you book your escape? It's super easy, just go to their website (www.escapebloomington.com) and click on "book a game" and then pick a date, time and room and pay online. Each room has a suggested number of people, so if you're going as a group, just make sure you don't exceed that number. Also, if you're just going as a couple, be aware that others can book in that time slot until it's filled to capacity. So you may end up with people you don't know - which could be fun... or disastrous!
So if you're looking for something different to do on your date night or a girls night out, I highly recommend trying this!
"I'm glad you didn't die today"
My father-in-law recently passed away suddenly. It was a shock to all of us and I dreaded telling my kids because it's a hard concept to grasp. My oldest, who is 7, understands death because he's lost 3 grandfather figures in the last two years. He understands that when someone dies, you never see them again. He's also not very emotional, so he tends to grieve quickly and move on. That doesn't mean he doesn't miss them, but his outward grieving is very short lived.
My youngest, who is 4, doesn't understand what it means to die. So he had a lot of questions! "What do you mean I won't ever see him again? Where did he go? Is he going to come back? What is your soul? Does everyone die? Can kids die?" It's so overwhelming and exhausting to go through all these questions because with every answer, just comes another question. And it's the first time that he's realized that life doesn't last forever, which has developed into worrying about when all the people he loves are going to die. He would hug me at night and say, "I'm glad you didn't die today." Ugh, that just yanks at those heart strings!
So, one night, we all cuddled into our bed and we thought about all the places Grandpa could have gone. I explained that some people believe there is a heaven and when you get there, you see all the other people who have died and that they can still see and hear you. I also told them that some people believe that souls get reincarnated and live in others. My youngest asked if maybe Grandpa could be an angel - absolutely!
As you can probably tell, we aren't a "religious" family in it's traditional sense. We believe in a higher power, but we don't limit our beliefs to "one right way." They seemed to understand that we don't know exactly what happens when someone dies because we haven't experienced that before. So they came up with what they wanted to believe in. My youngest believes Grandpa is his angel (if you knew his Grandpa, you would think this was hilarious!) and my oldest wants to believe he's in Heaven with his other Grandpas that have passed.
We ended the talk stressing that no matter what you believe, there was no "right or wrong," there's just "different" beliefs. In the end the boys seemed to feel better about "after life" and their questions about death have subsided for the time being. And hopefully we won't have to grieve another loss for quite some time!
Last month was the first time I'd ever attended the Third Sunday Market at the Interstate Center! How have I gone this long living here and never been? I have NO idea, but it's a sad truth. I went with my best friend who had never been either and we were shocked to see the line of cars just to park. They have it all figured out though with workers directing traffic and showing you exactly where to park. We made our way through the mud (it had poured down rain the night before, surprise, surprise), paid $6 to get in and I was immediately overwhelmed, ha! The only thing I can think to compare it to is going to IKEA.
There were so many cool things, but there were also so many ridiculous things! I feel in love with an old dresser that had been redone. They had stained the top a dark brown, almost black and the rest was painted cream with blue/green drawer fronts. It was gorgeous! I don't need a dresser, but if I did, I definitely would have bought it! I also had my eye on a dining room table, but I could hear my husband saying, "we already have a dining room table", so I passed on that too.
The one thing you have to be prepared for is bargaining... which I'm not very good at. I feel bad asking someone to lower their price. I shouldn't, because apparently everyone does, but it just doesn't come natural to me. This is something I'll have to overcome if I'm going to make a habit out of going every 3rd Sunday!
I left the market without a single purchase, but it made me realize that I want to re-do every room in the house... now that's not very practical and quite frankly, I don't have the time to do that right now. However, I've started following and pinning "market finds" to plan my next trip to the Third Sunday Market - THIS SUNDAY! And I hear this last one is the best one to attend, because they're more willing to give you a deal.
So now I have a tough decision to make - do I skip my son's last soccer tournament to go to the last 3rd Sunday Market?
Melissa Ash - mom of 2 energetic boys, wife, and business woman. Just trying to "do it all".