12/21/14

Chewy Almond Granola Cookies

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 This blog has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Quaker. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias #LoveMyCereal #QuakerUp

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The week before Christmas is baking week around here!  When I was growing up, my mom always had big variety of Christmas goodies spread out on our table on Christmas morning.  We would have a simple breakfast and dinner, and then snack the rest of the day.  It made it easy on my mom since she didn't have to cook this huge dinner.


I've kind of done the same thing for Christmas around our house.  I usually make a breakfast casserole, an easy dinner, and 4-5 Christmas treats for us to enjoy through the day.  Derek really loves having a good Christmas spread, and I'm loving being able to include the kids in the baking a little more this year.

I got most of my baking done last week, and I tried a new recipe.  It's good to change things up a little and keep the husband and kids guessing!  So in addition to some of our favorites, I created this cookie recipe.  They turned out nice and chewy, and I love that the Quaker® Simply Granola adds fiber to the cookies! I know Walmart has this cereal and all the other ingredients for this recipe.


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Chewy Granola Almond Cookies

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 baking soda
1 egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. Quaker® Simply Granola cereal
1 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 cup extra chocolate chips (for drizzle - optional)

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1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix together the butter, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda with a hand mixer until the mixture is well blended.  Add in the egg and almond extract, and mix until blended.

2. Add in the flour and mix well.  Add in the Quaker Simply Granola and chocolate chips.  Mix until blended.  The batter will be sticky.

3.  Use a spoon or your fingers to form 1 inch balls - space them two inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. (I line my cookie sheets with parchment paper to keep them from sticking to the pan.)

4.  Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes.

5.  Let the cookies cool for 5-10 minutes.  If desired, melt the extra white chocolate chips and drizzle over the top of the cookies.  Enjoy!

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(These cookies are kid-approved.)


I think these cookies are best warm out of the oven, with a glass of milk!  It probably would be the perfect cookie to leave out for "Santa" on Christmas Eve.


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I was really debating whether to use the Quaker® Simply Granola or  Quaker® Real Medleys® for these cookies - specifically the Cherry Almond Pecan one.  I ended up choosing the Simply Granola, but I think the Real Medleys cereal would be great for some variety!

Quaker® makes one of my favorite cereals ever - Quaker® Life - but I recently learned of Quaker® Oatmeal Squares, which we have never tried before.



We picked up a box at Walmart the other day when we got the Quaker® Simply Granola, and it's a yummy cereal too!  It is filling and not too sweet, and it stays nice and crispy in the milk.  Anyway, I was letting the kids snack on the Quaker® Oatmeal Squares and Quaker® Simply Granola while I baked.  They are my sweet little baking buddies!

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What are some of your must-have Christmas treats?  Are you trying any new cookie recipes this year?

12/20/14

Capturing Your Family In Pictures

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A few weeks before Wyatt turned a year old, I bought a DSLR.  Through that first year of his life I just found myself repeatedly frustrated with how slow my point and shoot was, and I wanted to be able to blur the background in my pictures, so I bought a refurbished Nikon.  I didn't even want to tell anemone I got it at first, because I was afraid they would be expecting amazing pictures right away, and I knew that having a good camera wasn't all there was to getting good photos.  But I practiced, and I think I've slowly gotten better.

I've been using it for taking pictures of the kids ever since, but there have been many times when I have found myself losing inspiration.  Sometimes I won't even pull my camera out for weeks at a time.   I'll feel like I have no new ideas, or I get frustrated that my pictures aren't turning out exactly like I want, but I hate it when I lose momentum because I want to document my kids' lives.

It's at times like those that I look for books like "Your Family In Pictures" by Me Ra Koh.  This book has so many inspiring photos, with basic "photo recipes" for each section.  She includes her camera settings and tips for setting up the photo and getting the effect you want.  Throughout this book she also includes tips for getting good pictures with a point and shoot and smartphones, so you don't have to own a DSLR to benefit from this book.

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(This is a picture I took of Gwen and Derek when Gwen was a newborn, inspired by a different book from Me Ra Koh.  I'm a fan.)

I think my favorite thing about this book is all the tips she shares for capturing who people are through photos by strategizing to catch them in moments that show their personalities or interest.  After reading this book I feel more inspired to not only capture my kids' personalities, but also to take more pictures of my husband, and even myself!

I think whether you are a beginner at photograph or have a lot of experience, you will find useful tips and inspiration from this book.  If you want to take better pictures of the people you love most, this is definitely one to check out!

Note:  I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for this review. This is my honest opinion.

12/19/14

So I'm Doing A Newsletter

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So in case yo missed it last week, I have a new little project going for my blog - I am doing a blog newsletter!

Reasons to sign up?

1.  I'm giving free printables to my newsletter subscribers - I am working on some Bible verse printables to send out in January now!  Yay for freebies!

2.  It is a great way to keep in touch with me - whether you sign up for the weekly post updates or the monthly newsletter (or both), you can respond to the emails you get, and your responses will be sent directly to my inbox.  I'm going to do my best to reply (promptly) to email responses, it's a great way to keep in touch!

3.  I'll be sharing photos and personal updates that you won't get on the blog.

4.  If anything ever weird happens with my site, you won't lost track of me completely because I can send you an email.

See?  There you go.  Four pretty good reasons!

And on a sidenote, what is everyone up to this weekend before Christmas?  Tonight we are going to the zoo's light display with my friend Danae, and her family - she also took Clyde's six month pictures recently, so I am excited to see how they turned out!  The picture above was my attempt to snap a quick phone photo after that session - yeah.  They don't sit still for me.

On Saturday I have a party at my friend Ashley's house and another party at my uncle's house, and on Sunday we have church and a family gathering with my dad's side of the family.  I counted, and over last weekend and this weekend, I have had ten separate events - whew!  It's all fun stuff though, so I'm not complaining.

Have a great weekend!



12/18/14

Sleeping And Sacks

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Clyde is growing so big, but we are still working on ironing out the kinks in his sleeping habits.

Clyde is probably our most eccentric sleeper.  Wyatt was just a great sleeper for most of his baby career, and Gwen got a little difficult around 8 months, but we implemented a few strategies that helped her sleep through the night more consistently.  But Clyde, he has always needed a little more coaxing to go to sleep.

Our routines for Clyde over the last 8 months have varied from a white noise app, to walking him to sleep (thankfully that stage was short-lived), to using a space heater to make sure his room is nice and toasty.  However, the space heater uses a lot of electricity, and especially right now we need to save money - so we've been trying to cut out the space heater, but I feel bad because I think Clyde gets a little cold in the middle of the night.

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Then recently I was contacted by a representative of Merino Kids to review one of their sleep sacks.  I agreed because I thought why not give it a try?  It couldn't hurt.

Before I got this sleep sack, I was thinking more along the lines of a swaddler - and I was skeptical because Clyde just figured out how to get up on his hands and knees, so I wasn't sure he would like feeling constrained.  But when I actually got the sleep sack, I was pleasantly surprised!  Basically, this sack is like a wearable sleeping bag for babies.  It has a tank-top style at the top, and the rest is just a long, thick blanket that zips like a sleeping bag.

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I was impressed with the quality of this sack - the material is thick and warm, and it has nice, sturdy snaps to secure the top around Clyde's shoulders.  The zipper is also sturdy.  We haven't had any trouble with Clyde working his way out of it.  And there is an opening that allows it to be used in a car seat as well.

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We have been using this sack every night since we got it, and I like it!  Clyde stays nice and warm in it, even when we keep the heater off, and it's perfect for these chillier winter months.  Derek has also declared that he thinks Clyde likes it, and he has been sleeping better.  I like that it is loose enough that Clyde can roll over and still get up on his hands and knees, so it's not constricting for him at all.

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The sack we got for Clyde is for babies 0-2 years old - I think it might be a little big for a newborn, but it probably would have been great for 3 months on.  I am happy that we'll be able to get another year or two of use out of it.  These sleep sacks are a bit of an investment, so it's nice that they can at least be used for a while.

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I think Merino Kids sleep sacks would especially useful for those who live in a colder climate or have a baby who likes to be nice and warm at night, and if you plan on having more kids because I think the quality is such that it would last through multiple kids.  I am excited that we found something that will help Clyde stay warm without using our space heater!


Note: I received a Merino Kids sleep sack for free in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

12/17/14

Snowdrop Cookie Recipe

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Snowdropcookies

The other day I made Wyatt and Gwen some Christmas cookies, and appropriately the song "Christmas Cookies" came on the radio.  That is one of those songs that always gets stuck in my head.  The rest of the afternoon I was singing "I sure do like those Christmas cookies, Sugar.  I sure do like those Christmas cookies, Babe" to Wyatt.

After Wyatt's nap that day, he came out of his room, climbed up on the couch, and said "Can I have some Christmas cookies babe?"  So apparently Christmas cookies in general are now called "Christmas cookies babe"!  He is just so cute.

One of my favorite kinds of Christmas cookies ever is Snowdrop cookies.  They are kind of like a meringue cookie, but they aren't just crumbly, they are actually a little chewy too,  It's hard to explain, but they are so good.  I have a horrible time making them because I don't have enough patience to beat them long enough, but Derek always makes them perfectly - so now I just make him make them every December, naturally.  If they look familiar, you might recognize them from our Christmas gender reveal party last year.

This is the recipe - we have been making it since I was a girl, so I don't know where it came from originally, or if it was just passed down through the family.  If anyone has seen this recipe before, I would love to know the original source.  One big bonus to this recipe for all of you who are gluten intolerant is that it is already mostly gluten-free.  As long as you use chocolate chips that do not have gluten, you are good to go.

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Snowdrop Cookies

2 egg whites
¾ tsp. cream of tartar
¾ c. sugar
1 c. chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Take out the oven racks and place foil over them before heating the oven. Leave the racks out of the oven.

2.  Beat egg whites with hand mixer until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat until stiff. Slowly beat in sugar; beat until stiff (the mixture will form little soupy peaks). Add chocolate chips and stir to mix them in.

3. Place by teaspoon on foil-covered racks and put racks in oven. Turn oven OFF. Leave overnight.

4.  Wake up in the morning and enjoy!

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On a sidenote - the kids are getting to the age where I have to start thinking about how to handle Santa as a Christian mom. Do you have any thoughts?  You can read what I think about the Santa question on the Tommy Nelson blog!

12/16/14

Things To Love About Christmas

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I know I am not alone in loving this time of year!  Christmas time is just full of fun, cozy events with family and friends, and I love it.  I am trying to make a big deal of all of the Christmas festivities this year, so the kids can learn to enjoy Christmas for other things beside just the presents.  I want them to enjoy all aspects of this season, not just getting things.  If you want to instill some gratitude in your kids for non-present yuletide blessings, here is a list of Christmas things to be grateful for.

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Christmas Music.  I know there is many a Christmas music grinch out there, but all I can say is - it's one month of the year. Humor those of us who love it!  I have so many favorite Christmas albums, and a lot of them are from my childhood.  My family had a tradition of going on a  shopping day every year, and we would always get a new Christmas CD, so we developed quite a collection.  One of my old favorites is Alabama's first Christmas album, and one of my new favorites is Sidewalk Prophet's Christmas album.

Christmas Food.  We have a lot of goodies that we just make at Christmas time, and I look forward to them all year long.  My favorite has always been snowdrop cookies, but ironically, I always mess them up when I make them.  Derek has become our official snowdrop cookie maker.

Snow.  At no other time of the year is snow welcomed by the majority.  I happen to be one of those people that thinks if it's winter time, it should be snowing, but snow at Christmas is extra special.

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Christmas Movies.  We have a lot of favorites that we bring out each year, and I also love those cheesy Christmas movies that the Hallmark channel puts out every year.  I hope they never stop!

Christmas Parades.  Derek and I started going to the Christmas parade in a town near us several years ago, and I think it is safe to say it is a tradition now.  It's just a small, old-fashioned parade, with local groups walking and driving down the street.  They always have people on these big bikes, a fire engine, Clydesdale horses, and Santa in a red convertible.  It's just fun.

Christmas Jammies.  This is a new tradition to me, because we never did Christmas pajamas growing up - but I couldn't resist buying the kids three sets of matching Christmas jammies this year.  I can't wait to see them on Christmas morning wearing their new pajamas!

Chrismtas Cards.  Can I get a cheer for snail mail?  It's a dying art form that lots of people revive at Christmas time.  Nothing cheers me up like a big old stack of Christmas cards.

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Christmas Lights.  Why don't we put up twinkly lights all year 'round anyway?  They are so pretty.

Christmas Gatherings.  It can make the season a little crazy, but I love all the Christmas gatherings with family and friends!  I am a pretty social person, so parties just add so much to the fun for me.

Christmas Books.  Once again, we had a lot of Christmas books growing up that we would just bring out in December.  I have a collection started for my kids, and I was thrilled to be able to add "God Bless Our Christmas" to it this year!  Tommy Nelson gave us this sweet book.  It is written in a poem format, and cute little winter woodland characters participate in lots of Christmas activities - but the greatest gift of all is Jesus, and the book conveys that wonderfully.  The illustrations are adorable, and the kids love it!  It reminds me of a book we had growing up that I loved, and I think this will be one of our favorites for Christmas time.  I also thought it was appropriate to mention it in this post, because the first part of the book lists a bunch of fun, Christmas-y things too!

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The Excitement Of The Kids.  Amidst all the craziness that this season brings, sometimes we adults need a reminder of things to love about Christmas too, don't we?  And one of my favorite things about Christmas as an adult is watching how excited my kids get about everything this season brings - presents included.

The Focus On Jesus's Birth.  Even though some secular institutions may try to ignore it, it can't be avoided that in the end, Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of our Savior.  It's not just about love and family - it is about God's love in giving us His Son, so that we can be a part of His family!  That is ultimately what makes Christmas so special to me.  None of the other activities would be as wonderful to me without that true meaning of Christmas behind them (which is another reason I love Christmas books like the one above that point out the true meaning of Christmas!).

What did I miss guys?  What are some reasons that you love Christmas time?

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Note: I received a copy of "God Bless Our Christmas" from Tommy Nelson for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

12/15/14

Clyde At Eight Months

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Clyde is 8 months old!  He is officially an older baby.  It makes me kind of sad.


This month was a big month for Clyde - he learned to get up on his hands and knees on his seven month birthday, and since then he has gotten more and more comfortable with it.  He has moved his legs forward and his arms forward, but just not all at once yet.  He is so close to learning to crawl!  He loves being on his hands and knees and looks so proud of himself as he rocks back and forth.  He also does this little hop sometimes to get his knees underneath him, and it is so cute.

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Clyde also got his lower two front teeth!  He got the first one on November 29th, and the second on December 3rd.  He seems to be proud of his two front teeth, and he grins and runs his tongue over them all the time.



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Clyde is still loving his solid food, and he eats more than either Wyatt or Gwen did at this age.  He especially enjoys his baby food, and he gets upset if we forget to feed him.  We've got him up to three meals a day.  The other day we decided to see how much he would eat before he was done, and we counted three bowls of oatmeal and a baby food jar of apples!  He is also on formula, and takes probably 5-6 8 oz. bottles a day. We gave him his first Mum Mum "cookie" on Thanksgiving, and he enjoyed it - but instead of gumming it and letting it dissolve, he kept chomping down on it and breaking off big chunks, so I think we're going to have to find a more sturdy cookie for him.



Sleep is a little all over the place - he usually goes a 7-8 hour stretch, but it might be from 7-2, and then we still have to wake up in the night to feed him.  I am working on weaning him off his 2:00 feeding, because he is old enough that he could probably drop it.  I think he wakes up at that time more for snuggles than anything.  Which I kind of love, but it would be nice to sleep a little longer too.





I've been working more since Derek has been unemployed, and I can tell Clyde doesn't like not seeing me as much during the day.  Some days he just won't be pleased until I pick him up and spend a little time with him.  He goes to sleep quicker at night if I lay him down.


His personality is just adorable!  He is always so happy, and he smiles so quickly.  His new smile with his two little teeth just melts my heart! Sometimes if you pay attention to him he'll give you this grin and lift his eyebrow at you - it is the cutest little expression.  He still sticks his tongue out sometimes when he smiles, and I love it.


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My Sweet Clyde,

I cannot believe how old you are getting!  It seems like just yesterday that you were born.  You are such a sweetheart, my boy, and everyone loves your little personality.  I would call you social, but a little bashful too.  When I am holding you and people talk to you, you lay your head against my shoulder and give a big grin.  I can tell when you are in a playful mood, because I'll say hi to you and you'll grin, stick out your tongue, and raise your little eyebrows - it is such a mischievous little look.  When you are tired at night, or before your nap, I can tell because you will relax against me, and then your little fingers will grab my arm or collarbone, and you just gently pinch and need my skin with your little hand.  It's the cutest thing, and my signal that it is time to lay you down.  Every now and then you will still fall asleep in my arms, and as I look at your little face I can see the hints of the toddler to come, but I can also see my tiny little newborn hidden in your face.  It's happy and sad to me, because I know we have so many fun times ahead, but I also know that the baby will fade out of you all too quick.  I'm glad you are still my baby for a while longer.

I love you more than all the snowflakes in all the winters.

Love, 
Your Mama
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