A Date in A Bar

Phew. We have been busy. Good busy, getting ready for and celebrating the holiday of Passover with family and friends. My kids have stayed up way too late and we’re all just tired.

Tired + Passover’s dietary restrictions (no eating bread and many grains) = challenging. I was as prepared as ever as I’ve been following a mostly plant-based diet these last few weeks, skipping most gluten and wheat products. The hardest part seems to be figuring out easy-go to snacks for my family – like cereal, granola bars, popcorn and the raisin-bread and cream cheese sandwiches my kids had been inhaling.

Luckily, before I endeavored to make any of these things with Kosher for Passover ingredients (think matzoh meal and potato starch), I came across a recipe for homemade cookie dough LÄRABAR® from Oh She Glows. Dates, cashews, a bit of sea salt, vanilla and chocolate chips. Though I’m a sucker for anything “cookie dough,” my favorite LÄRABAR® has long been Cherry Pie so immediately substituted dried cherries for some of the dates.

ingreds

We’ve gotten hooked on these dairy-free chocolate chips, but any mini chip will work.

The words “food processor” tend to scare me off from recipes, so I threw mine in the Vitamix. Just as speedy as my food processor, but easier to clean up.

I made small square bars in a pan with our first batch. Half to keep at home, half to work with my husband – both enjoyed very quickly. For the second batch, I just rolled out the “dough” like a pizza pie and left it in the refrigerator to chill.

rolled out

My parents babysat that evening. I’m not sure they knew what they were eating, but alongside my kids, they tore off piece after piece until they had eaten nearly half. When I packed lunches later that night, I used our heart-shaped sandwich cutter on the remaining half, eating the trimmings as quickly as I cut.

bars up close

Chewy, moist and sweet and still natural and simple. Perfect for this recovering gummy-anything (bear, worm, fish, spider, frog) addict, and my similarly sugar-addicted kids. I’m especially excited that Ryan gobbles up these bars, since he generally eschews all nuts. We ate tons of these before the holiday and I imagine we’ll snack on them all week.

date with ltm

A Date in A Bar

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups raw cashews
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 1 cup tightly packed dates (or 3/4 cup tightly packed dates and 1/4 cup dried cherries)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons mini dark chocolate chips

Instructions

If your dates are stiff or dry, first soak in a bowl of water for 30-60 minutes, then drain well and pat dry.

Add cashews and salt to a food processor and process until the cashew crumbs are just smaller than peas, for about 3-4 seconds.

cashews

Add pitted dates and process until combined (about 15 seconds). The mixture should stick together easily when pinched between your fingers. If not, add a teaspoonful of water and process it again.

Add the vanilla and process until combined. Pulse in the chocolate or simply stir in by hand.

For bites, scoop mixture onto parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment paper on top and roll out with a rolling pin to desired thickness. Chill in refrigerator (1 hour) or freezer (15 minutes) before cutting with cookie cutters. Eat all the trimmings or roll into a ball and re-cut.

For bars, line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper. Scoop mixture into pan and smooth out until it’s level and packed densely. Refrigerate (1 hour) or freeze (15 minutes) and then slice into 10-12 bars.

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The Leaf Men

Truth: I hardly read a blog (besides my sister’s) before I started one.

I do read blogs now. Some I just hop on and off for an inspiration or how-to, but I find the ones I read regularly offer a different perspective from what I’ve got going on.

I’m hooked on Grown and Flown, a parenting blog by two smart, accomplished moms whose children have left the “nest.” Reading stories from newly crowned “empty nesters” lends meaning to the words of the seemingly lamenting mothers I’ve met while toting around my kids (Enjoy this time…it goes by so fast.) I feel infinitely wiser (also a mix of terrified and devastated about how fast it all is going to go) to benefit from lessons like I Photographed My Children At All the Wrong Times and If I Had to Do It Again (things one author/mom wished she did for her kids, starting in 6th grade, to help them through high school).

In April, I exchanged contact information with a few bloggers at a writer’s conference at The Mark Twain House. One young woman mentioned she blogged about her experience battling cancer. Optimistically (and naively), I imagined her cancer far behind her. I’d later read on her blog that she slipped out of the conference at lunchtime to take her chemo drug. I check in on Eyes Peeled, Always each Tuesday/Friday; hoping for a positive medical update, knowing I will always read something reflective and well-articulated. A few weeks ago, Karin shared a post quite different her usual: Project Nature Face; photos she and her husband took in Acadia of nature faces they made on their hike, using rocks, leaves and other bits of nature.

Coincidentally, my kids and I had just picked up a copy of Lois Ehlert’s Leaf Man.

We’ve been making our own leaf men all week. Noah checks on them and makes needed repairs every day (somehow they are pretty wind and rain resistant), and he keeps picking up treasures on our walks for a new leaf man.

Meet Leaf Man, Leaf Mom, Leaf Dad, Leaf Ryan, Leaf Noah. Also created, but not pictured here, Cathy the Leaf Man (the babysitter).

 

 

Last Licks of Summer

I’m loving these cool mornings followed by 80 degree afternoons.

Our favorite new treat on a hot day – Honeydew Cinnamon Pops – a Love Them Madly original (we think) and the runaway winner among a variety of fantastic fruit and herb pops Scott & Ryan tested this summer (other contenders: pineapple mint & watermelon basil).

The honeydew at the markets have been so sweet that Scott has been making these often.  On hotter days this summer, Noah was having two for breakfast.  With no added sugar, a cinnamon boost (reportedly a good source of iron), and the fact that making a batch of pops is entirely Dad’s territory, I had no complaints.

Honeydew Cinnamon Pops

Prep Time: 5 minutes

 

Ingredients (6 pops)

  • 1/3 of a ripe honeydew
  • Cinnamon

Instructions

Chop honeydew into bite size pieces.

Blend (we use immersion blender) and add cinnamon to taste.

Pour into possible molds and freeze.

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Back to School Choices: Haircuts & Backpacks

I’ve been known to like long hair on my boys.

I’m no good at boy hair or boy haircuts. I just always repeat my mantra, not too short and not straight across.  Last summer, I scheduled a haircut for Ryan the week of my sister’s wedding at our local barber shop, where Rob always gives Ryan a good haircut and a little gel for a slick dose of cool. Except in this case, he pretty much scalped him. Now, our barber shop is not exactly a place designed for kids (or their moms). And, in this case, I happened to bring my mother along.  I’m pretty sure Rob won’t forget the day he turned my five year old into a marine on the eve of my sister’s wedding while my mother watched. No one likes being yelled at by my mom.

You might wonder if the haircut inspired the backpack choice?  That was an accidental purchase: the result of a very last minute shopping trip with Ryan the night before camp began, at, of all places, Burlington Coat Factory.  His “summer cut” this year was a tad longer (still Rob) and the camo backpack is still kicking, though thankfully close to retirement as the inner lining has completely peeled off.

I am proud of Ryan’s military pride, but I did a little pre-shopping this year on a backpack for Ryan for kindergarten.

A natural choice for my superhero lover would have been one of these from Pottery Barn Kids. Sturdy and fully loaded; but I’d hate for Ryan to outgrow the superhero before the bag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or this modern take on Angry Birds at Old Navy. I liked the modern print (for a character backpack anyway) and the price ($18), but its a bit small and well, angry.

One of my favorites for back-to-school jeans and soft tees, often with the characters Ryan likes and the modern/cute look I favor, H&M has this colorful $15 explorer pack in their fall line (and 20% off all kids’ clothes through August 12th).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I liked the prints on these packs from Lands’ End and shared them with Ryan.

Ryan (and Dad) — both smitten with bungees – fell for a simple gray & orange bungee-clad number in the Lands’ End line at Sears.

I couldn’t help but notice the Land’s End choices for girls.

   

What pack will you go with this year? Kid-choice or parent?

Check back on Friday for a fun and easy t-shirt craft (Ryan’s is military-inspired).

Gold is For the Olympics

Remember the state of my garage doors a few weeks back?

After all those paint samples (and a half dozen more), I still hadn’t decided on a color.

And then I did.

Last week just as the painters were leaving, a lovely, Harvard-educated landscape designer visited our house and proclaimed “How lovely. You picked the perfect gray.”

Aw. It was nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went with Benjamin Moore Platinum Gray and Brilliant White on the trim. Yes, honey, I know this is the very same color a friend endorsed two years ago when we mentioned we might be painting our house. The very same friend who told us she receives several notes in her mailbox each summer from passerbys in her Wellesley neighborhood inquiring about her “perfect” paint color. And, yes, honey, I remember that we looked at said friend’s house in 2010 and decided it was perfect for our house too.

Lesson learned. Indecision can be a giant waste of time. Happy to have finally decided, and happier to come home to my pretty, dare I say, nearly graceful home, after eight years of solid gold. Still left to take care of: landscaping (with the lovely and complimentary designer), lighting, house numbers and shutters.

Oh, and about the shutters. I had such good intentions (and inspirations) to re-use them, but once they came off the house, I realized they were pretty flimsy pieces of vinyl. I guess they served their purpose these last 40 years.

Inside, I’ve been working on the wall gallery I started in my home office to to display my boys’ artwork. With hopes of making frequent rotations, I popped out the glass on some assorted wooden and silver frames and added some magnet clips to attach the artwork.

The boys have enjoyed having their works on the wall, though when I mentioned I’d like to frame something Ryan brought home from camp the other day, he suggested that we “really frame it. Like with real glass.”

Curious about the life of Bloggers?

Visit Love U Madly to check out the video my sister and I made while gearing up to attend the BlogHer conference this weekend.

Back to Basics: My New/Old Closet Workout

During law school, I went a few years without dental insurance. Which led to me not going to the dentist every six months.

And apparently, I didn’t think I should invest in floss either. When I finally decided to splurge on a cleaning, it was lengthy and brutal. I was lucky that I had no cavities, but the hygienist had to bring in some sort of laser light therapy to rid me of plaque and tartar.

I swore I’d never let my dental health go again.

Fast forward a dozen years, to last week. I breezed into Boot Camp (Tyler English Fitness) and grabbed a foam roller. If I thought I blended in, I was found out right away when the instructor asked me my name. I told her I hadn’t been to class in awhile.

“That’s ok,” she grinned, “Welcome back.”

As in welcome back to the dentist after 18 months of no flossing or professional cleanings.

Foam rollers to the side, the next 40 minutes, we used only our bodies. A workout, Hallie said, you can do in your closet.

Here’s the workout: four basic exercises.

1. Mountain Climbers – Quickly alternate bringing knees in and out while in a high plank.

2. Burpees – Stand, squat, jump out to high plank, jump in and stand.

3. Jump Squats – Squat (very low – thighs parallel to the ground)

4. Push-Ups – You know this one. Knees are fine, if needed.

Each round of four exercises was timed with work periods that got longer AND LONGER (10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds), with varying (brief) rest periods in between each exercise and each round. When we got to the longest round, Hallie stood a few feet in front of me and shouted “WE MISSED YOU JODIE.”

It felt great, impossible, wonderful, breathless. And forget about 2nd day soreness. I was sore in about 15 minutes. I cringed every time a child cuddled me this week.

I’m back and I’m hooked. On days I don’t go to boot camp or get some sort of exercise, I’m repeating the exercises above. I figure I can count as well as Hallie. I may not last 45 minutes in my closet, but even 15 minutes on a non-workout day should keep me away from the laser light therapy. I tried my own version of the workout over the weekend and even got my kids to do the 10 second round with me, then time the rest of the rounds with me.

At the end of every boot camp workout, the class forms a loose huddle, hands in the center and shouts “1-2-3, Get Better.” It felt goofy at first, now it feels just perfect. Especially when I get to walk by this.

Exercise Illustrations/Photo Credits: Mounain Climbers and Jump Squats by Women’s Health Magazine, Burpees by Marine Magazine, Push-Ups by Military Plain Facts.

 

Live in the Hartford area?

Want to try out boot camp class with me?  

It’s “bring a friend” month at Tyler English Fitness.  

Just let me know – would love you to join me anytime.

One Hoppy Family

Think I’m going Easter on you?  I’m leaving that to Love U Madly today.  I’m talking about hops, as in beer. My husband’s family is in the beer business in Massachusetts, and the Kansas side of his family invited us to join them in the annual Kansas Brew to Brew road race to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis.  Far from a family reunion full of barbecue and casseroles, this one included a 44.4 mile relay consisting of 10 legs of about four miles each stretching from the Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City, Missouri to the Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence, Kansas.  It now rivals my family’s indoor rock wall climbing Hanukah party as Top Athletic/Reunion event.

Do not let this marquee subliminally influence you to read the book or see the film festival wonder "We Need to Talk About Kevin." Unless of course, you prefer to lie awake at night thinking really horrible thoughts.

Even though it was sticky 90 degrees without much cloud cover, you can guess this road race through industrial and rural stretches of Kansas had a lot of spirit, especially after the Jayhawks win on Saturday night launched KU into the NCAA finals. (As I write this, I am totally holding my breath watching KU trail Kentucky by 7 points, with 2 minutes left in the final).

Photo Credit to my father-in-law, JPS, who ran a rather scenic leg of the Brew to Brew which included a boat crossing.

Our beer guys named our teams “One Hoppy Family” and “Ale in the Family.” I spotted some pretty clever team names on the road like The Pursuit of Hoppyness, Who Gives A Schlitz?, Lions & Tigers & Beers – Oh My and Occu-pint Lawrence, though this was probably my favorite:

Pretty special to be running among cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nephews, husbands, fathers, sons…

Big thanks to our “Brewmaster” who coordinated the whole complicated system of pick-ups, drop-offs, boat crossings and every tag between runners. We think everyone made it back home or to the hotel.

Planning a reunion this summer? Make it a SPORTING EVENT!  Though there’s certainly nothing wrong with eating cupcakes.

Alright. The game is done. There may be more happy/hoppy families in Kentucky tonight. Sorry KU (and three family members pictured here who flew to New Orleans for the big game), but thanks Kansas for one wonderful weekend. We’ll get ‘em next year. 

Why I Birdfed My Children Too

April Fool’s!

I did not birdfeed my children. I never even heard of birdfeeding before actress Alicia Silverstone made headline news by sharing a home video on her blog The Kind Life showing her passing her ABC (Already Been Chewed) food from her mouth to her baby’s mouth.

Sounds gross? It is and I don’t think Alicia is playing a joke on us.  I adored her in Clueless, appreciate her dimples AND her veganism, but wish I hadn’t spent any of my precious weekend minutes figuring out if bird feeding is good for human babies. It’s obviously compelling to consider whether people should act like birds, but don’t get sucked in. If you can’t resist, read this quick summary over at The Week, then flap your wings over to Love U Madly, and check out my sister’s Kim’s necklace giveaway.  You can be like a celebrity without birdfeeding. Just chirp your favorite in the comments section at Love U Madly and you may soon sport one of these three awesome spring accessories:

Chirp.


Chirp, chirp.

Chirp, Chirp, Chirp.

Later this week on Love Them Madly… I’ll fill you in on my weekend travels: one hoppy family reunion and one of the best museum experiences I’ve ever had.

I Love This Because…

A reader sent me a great link with this adorable idea from Becky Higgins and Kiki Creates:

I love these modern frames and the bold colors, but I had just picked up some old windows from my dad’s old office building and one of them seemed just right for this project.

Can you tell I really like my new chevron paper???

I printed these cards on 5 by 7 pieces of cardstock and taped them to the panes in back. I wrote on the glass window with a white dry-erase/chalkboard pen.

I like that we are all represented on here – we can all leave “I love you” messages to each other.  I wrote all of these, but I swear Ryan gave me the quote on my hugs.  I have a feeling I’m going to be taking a lot of photos of this little board as we write on it. You could also leave the names blank and include a few different phrases, like “You make me laugh when…,” “I have fun with you because…,” or “I can’t wait for …”

Right now it’s in our powder room, where I know we’ll all see it.  Don’t think it is here to stay, but I was eager to hang it and fearful of making more holes in my wall so I used an existing nail.

 

Welcome to Love Them Madly!

I am mom to two little boys who keep my life happy, sweet and a bit messy.  In my twenties, I somehow got mixed up with the law (yer, I went to law school and practiced for a while). As I raise my kids, I see I am constantly trying to right myself down a more creative path. My sister site (literally, my sister’s site) Love U Madly inspired me to document my adventures in creating, exploring and parenting.

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