My mom adventures in Fort Collins


Step inside my head, and then make the most of an old orange

This is not one of my regular upbeat and fluffy blogposts. I have to be serious for a second. So much is going through my head, and I would like to write something significant, but I can’t. I’m tired, and a multitude of issues are running through my head. People are enduring Superstorm, so I feel rather petty in my concerns. We’ve been sick for so long around here (some nasty respiratory bug), and tomorrow is Halloween. Woohoo (said with mock enthusiasm). I am just not present in a way that I would like to be. I will do what I do best: I will write something rambling and semi-coherent, but you will get the gist of it.

It’s been nearly a month since the abduction of a young local girl first made headlines. I still have an ache thinking about 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, the girl from Westminster who never made it to school on October 5th. And I shudder thinking about the 17-year-old monster that took her life. All of these things are too raw, too close to home and I don’t want to ignore them, but yet acknowledging my fear, my confusion, and my own vulnerability is just so exhausting.

Dear, sweet, 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway (From the Denver Post files)

You don’t have to be a parent to relate to the story of Jessica Ridgeway. But, of course, I am a parent, and I see most everything through that lens. My kids are my world, and I want to relay to them that they need to be protective of themselves and their bodies. I do not want to scare the bejeesus out of them. I want to be realistic, not fear-centered. My hope for them is that they live life with their eyes wide open, neither naive to human cruelty nor expecting the worst from people. I want to teach them to follow their instincts and to develop their intuition. I don’t want to put them in a bubble, but I do want them to be safe.

I’m a stay-at-home-mom and I send my kids to a co-op pre-school, so I think it’s fairly obvious where I stand. I love knowing who my children interact with on any given day. I am Momma Bear, and I will protect my babies. I want what every parent wants, and what Jessica Ridgeway’s parents no doubt wish they’d been given: I want a guarantee that some creepy weirdo will not snatch my kid while she’s just innocently living her life. Too bad they can’t issue that guarantee at the hospital right after they check to make sure you’ve installed the car seat correctly.

So I tell myself this: Most chidren are safe today. Most children walked to school without any problem whatsoever. More often than not, things do go according to plan. And I tell myself this because I don’t want to play the “What If”-game. You know the “What If”-game, right? What if [this] happens? What if [that] happens? What then? This is the game where you make yourself crazy by plotting your own Choose Your Own Adventure, only every single option ends in a catastrophe. Turn to Page 7 to be lit on fire, or turn to Page 8 to have cobras devour you in your sleep. Yep, that game.

When there are problems and heartaches, sadness and confusion, where do you turn? Usually, I do something simple and something that is nearly always available to me these days: I call my mom. Whether I’m five or thiry-five, nothing feels as comforting as my mom’s voice. As an adult, I can accept that my mom can lighten my mood in a way that no one else can. I can only hope that someday I may be a source of such support and refuge for my own kids.

Here’s the part of the post where I revert to my regular old homemaking skills (which, by my own admission, are actually few and far between). The other day I made this stovetop potpurri that reminded me of my mom. She used to do this thing with old oranges: slice them up, put a few teaspoons of cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick, if that was available), a bit of water and simmer on the stovetop. So, I made the stovetop potpurri. It wasn’t necessarily inspired by my mother, because it actually had a lot to do with the old oranges that had been living in my crisper for far too long. All I know is that my house did smell better. And that made me feel warm and cozy. And it prompted me to recall fond memories of my stable childhood home, and that made me feel better. Problems come and go, and sometimes linger. Our health, if we’re lucky, is mostly good and intermittently spotted with an occasional virus. My kids… well, there are no guarantees, but maybe I can assuage my concerns with proper education and communication. But the comfort of a warm, sweetly scented kitchen will always be a gift to me. Thanks, Mom. Love, Jayme

Savor the scent of spiced oranges… Mmmm

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Fast food: Mama’s Power Bites version 2.0
October 22, 2012, 1:19 pm
Filed under: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A while ago, this awesome mommy blogger that I read posted a recipe (she calls them “anti-recipes,” which is hilarious) for Mama’s Power Bites. You can check out her version here. I played around with her version, made several batches over the last few months and came up with this.

Not only is this delicious, it’s also packed with protein, void of most senseless sugar (I mean, I had to put a little bit of chocolate in it… I’m only human), and rich in good fat. These are satisfying little bites of goodness. And the best part? You don’t even have to turn on your oven! Just get out your food processor and chill in the fridge. I just made a batch and gave it to a mommy that has a newborn–perfect snack for a nursing, busy mom. Hence the name: Mama’s Power Bite.

The finished power bites

Mama’s Power Bites

Ingredients:

1 cup raw almonds (or raw cashews)

1/8 cup coconut oil (melted)

¼ cup honey or brown rice syrup (or combination of both)

3 pitted dates

3 Tablespoons of protein powder (optional—I use Shaklee Soy protein)

1 cup of grains—I like to use a combination of whole oats and Ezekial cereal

Melted chocolate (optional)

My ingredients in harsh light. If you have never seen the Ezekial cereal, it’s great in this recipe! It’s packed with protein (8 g in a 1/2 cup) and has the crunchy consistency of Grape Nuts.

Directions:

In a food processor, begin with the almonds (or cashews) and grind. Add the melted coconut oil and honey/brown rice syrup, blend again. Add pitted dates and protein powder (if using), blend again. Now, a big ball of doughy-like substance will have formed. Dump this into a big bowl, add your grains and mix with your hands (like you’re making meatloaf). Now press the mixture into ice cube trays, muffin tins, mini-muffin tins, or just press it into a pan and cut it into squares later. Finally, if you want just an eensy weensy bite of sweetness, melt about ¼ cup of chocolate chips in your microwave and dot each “bite” with a bit of chocolate. Allow to harden in the fridge. Makes about 20 bites if you use the ice cube tray trick as I did. Keep these puppies stored in your fridge so that they remain solid and not soft.

Pressed into the ice cube tray, some with their chocolate topping and some “naked”

Using the ingredients that I used in this particular batch, I came up with this: Raw almonds—20 g protein, Protein powder—14g protein, Grains—approximately 14 g protein. That’s 2.4 g of protein per bite, plus healthy fats and fiber!



MiniMurph and Spiderwebs: Cheap thrills for the kids

I know that our highly-consumeristic culture often emphasizes going places with your kids, doing “stuff” with your kids, buying “stuff” for your kids, and a lot of these things cost money. I personally try to avoid feeling like we have to spend money to have a good time. We go to parks, we pack picnics, we play with friends, we make crafts, we enjoy our time with one another. You get it. My love don’t cost a thing. Money can’t buy you love. The best things in life are free. All that.

But every once in a while it’s good to know that there are cheap options out there. I know of a $5 pizza kit and a $2 packet of synthetic spiderwebs that might just rock your world.

You may have heard of the pizza chain Papa Murphy’s pizza. It is a “Take and Bake” establishment: you come into the store, tell the nice folks behind the counter what you want on your pizza, then they create and saran wrap a pizza that you can take home and bake in your own oven.

My parents used to frequent this place, and my hubby generally likes it. I myself don’t love the pizza, but it’s often a good choice because it’s cheap and easy. We get this stuff once a month or so, and the kids will eat it.

Well, while I was having a fun day in Denver recently, Cory got the girls their own personal pizzas. It’s called the MiniMurph.It’s a pizza kit complete with dough, sauce, cheese, and pepperoni (if you’re into that, my kids definitely ARE into pepperoni). As a bonus: They come in the cutest mini-pizza boxes that are now being used in our play kitchen.

Spreading the sauce

I saw the photos and thought I’d share. Looks fun, right?

With their finished products

My other suggestion for cheap thrills is the awesome Spider-web-in-a-packet that you  can find at any craft store (I found mine at JoAnn’s), Halloween store, party store, and possibly even Target or Wal-Mart. Surely you know the type of packet I’m talking about.

Decorating pretty much anything at all for Halloween is a source of big fun at our house. But my kids didn’t even know these existed. They had a hand in creating the spooky porch, and they are thrilled. Twenty minutes of fun, and as a bonus the packet had little plastic spiders that they embedded in the spiderwebs. Porches are great for this stuff, but the wind has taken much of ours down by now (consider yourself forewarned). If you don’t have a porch just use thumbtacks to drape this stuff inside your window frame (inside or outside), cover a bush, or string it from your ceiling. A little of this stuff goes a long way–I’d recommend one packet to start with.

Marvel at the spooky spiderwebs… oooooooohhh

There you have it–cheap thrills for the kids, both under $10. What are some of your favorite cheap-fun-with-kids ideas?



Using it up: Caramelized onions
October 18, 2012, 9:33 am
Filed under: Food | Tags: , , , ,

Seriously, you will be getting my posts regarding Miller Farms bounty for quite some time. This is my inspiration for caramelized onions, you can see I tweaked it a bit.

Though, truth be told, these onions would have kept in my basement for a while and needn’t have been slayed so early on in the “use it up” process, it just so happened that I had a hankering for caramelized onions on top of goat cheese on top of crusty bread toasted in my oven for 7-8 minutes. So, off with their heads… or something like that.

My onions, sitting in the kitchen sink where they were getting a much-needed scrub down.

Do you love chopping onions as much as I do? When I wore contacts, I could chop, slice and dice with the best of them. Seriously, when I worked at this cute coffee and sandwich shop back in college, they would make me slice the onions in our pantry closet with the door shut because I was the only one who could do it without crying and slobbering everywhere. Now that I have reclaimed the persona of my sixth grade photograph with the awesome tortoise shell glasses, I find that the cutting of onions is more problematic. I try to just hurry up and get it done.

You will need:

A dutch oven (mine is only 6 quarts, but bigger would be better)

3-4 Tablespoons of butter

A bunch of yellow onions (maybe 6 large ones is what I used, so like 9-10 medium ones, you can adjust accordingly)

1 teaspoon of salt (adjust this if you’re using salted butter, I always use unsalted butter)

1 Tablespoon of sugar (which you add after things have cooked down for about 30 minutes or so)

An awful lot of patience and pot-tending

Slice those bad boys–first into half, then into half-moons. You’ll want slices, not slivers, not chunks. Slivers get stringy, and chunks don’t cook down as well.

My mound of sliced onions and my too-small dutch oven–don’t tell my favorite pot that I’ve been talking about her behind her back!

In you dutch oven, you’ll melt your butter and add your onions. Add them until they are pretty full to the top but you can still stir things around. It’s amazing how this will all cook down, so make all your effort worth it by cramming as many onions in this pot as you possibly can without flinging them all out onto your stove top with every turn of the spoon.

You can see how it’s getting golden in color, and it’s cooking down. Keep stirring, it’s still got a way to go!

You will start on medium high heat and keep the pot stirring. It will take 20-25 minutes before your onions start getting golden. I had this horrible problem because my onions were too fresh and not dried, they left an immense amount of liquid and refused to brown. My solution: I let them sit and drain in a colander for about 10 minutes while I did some other things, then I put them back in the dutch oven and we started from there. They caramelized like good little onions after that.

After you start noticing some golden hues and you’re getting a bit of burnt-up-deliciousness on the bottom of your pot (I’m certain that “burnt-up-deliciousness” is the technical term for this), go ahead and turn your heat down and add your sugar. Keep stirring. Just keep stirring. Even when you don’t want to, just do it.

After another 20-30 minutes, your onions will be very golden and completely jam-like in consistency. Here is where your hard work pays off, I swear!

Carmelized onion toasts: Whole wheat bread, goat cheese, carmelized onions. Bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes, serve with your favorite tomato soup!



Taking a minute to talk about “The Girls”

October, as many of us are aware, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The pink ribbons attached to large buildings may have tipped you off to this fact.

From vibevixen.com

There are a number of non-profits that create awareness, search for a cure, educate women and girls on breast health, and support women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I think it’s fair to say that this October we can all do something for “The Girls.” Breast Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women, but it is a disease that is best conquered by education, early detection and consistent screening. If you live in Larimer County and you need more information on how low-income women can receive such screenings, call Linda Miller at the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, (970) 498-6751.

Whether it’s a self-exam, making that appointment for a mammogram that you’ve been putting off, or just getting in touch with your body, we can all stand to appreciate these luscious jugs a bit more. Mine have nursed two babies, and for that I’m grateful. I just bought myself a boatload of new bras–and Tracy Fulks and RFL were completely right, I was wearing the wrong size. Big time. For the past five years, I have been one size off on band-width and two sizes off on cup-size. Shows you how out-of-touch I was with my own over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders.

A woman’s chance of developing breast cancer increases with age, which is why 40-years-old appears to be the age that most health professionals suggest having a routine screening process performed, such as a mammogram. I recently learned of a great organization here in Larimer County that serves women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer–through support groups, various counseling services, hair and wig help, acupuncture, music therapy, nutrition counseling, etc. Check out the Lydia Dody Breast Cancer Support Center when you have a chance. And come out for one of their fundraisers–

Zumba BooBash–a Halloween inspired Zumba dance-a-thon to raise money for Hope Lives, the Lydia Dody Breast Cancer Support Center, on Thursday, October 25th from 6:15 pm to 8:15 pm (Free Childcare provided)



Upcoming Events: The Fresh Beat Band is coming to Lincoln Center
October 12, 2012, 7:10 pm
Filed under: Blogging, Local color | Tags: , , , ,

Okay, y’all. Tell me you haven’t done it. Tell me that you haven’t gone to see a huge locomotive Thomas the Train, or Disney on Ice, or, in one of my favorite moves, gone to the Princess Ball to see real princesses.

Just thought I’d give you the heads up that Nickelodeon’s fabulous team of four musically inclined best buddies is coming to Fort Collins.

The Fresh Beat Band Live in Concert coming to the Lincoln Center Performance Hall – Fort Collins, CO  Nov 02, 2012, 6:00 PM. Get your tickets today: CLICK HERE FOR TICKET LINK

The Fresh Beat Band live in concert

 

The Fresh Beat Band debuted in 2009 and is now in its third season on Nickelodeon. The Fresh Beat Band centers on four best friends – Kiki, Shout, Marina and Twist – in a band who love to sing and dance.  In each episode, preschoolers sing and dance along as they help The Fresh Beat Band solve everyday challenges.  Lincoln Center Performance Hall – Fort Collins, CO  Nov 02, 2012, 6:00 PM. Get your tickets today: CLICK HERE FOR TICKET LINK

This reminds me that I should do a fun post of all the wonderful upcoming events at the Lincoln Center–love that place! But this event is coming up quick, so I had to put in the plug. Should be a blast!



Kitchen Success: Spicy Asian-inspired Chicken and Cabbage Soup
October 11, 2012, 5:54 pm
Filed under: Food | Tags: , , , , , ,

I hate to keep going on and on and on about my problem with the vegetables coming out of my ears, but, well, vegetables are coming out of my ears. Apparently, when I pick-my-own veggies by the shopping bag full, I like to cram them very full.

One of the four hand-picked heads of cabbage. I just shredded my cabbage with a box grater, and it was very fine.

One of the things that I really struggled with is cabbage. I had 4 heads of cabbage. I do still want to make some sauerkraut, but that wouldn’t necessitate 4 heads of cabbage. So, I went to good ol’ allrecipes.com and I came up with this gem.

The brothy goodness of this soup is somewhat soaked up by the cabbage, making it a bit more stew-like.

Ingredients:

2 breasts of chicken (or approximately 1.5 lbs of chicken, if you choose to use other cuts)

2 quarts of chicken broth or chicken stock

4 medium carrots, peeled and julienned into matchsticks

2 leeks, halved cross-wised, cleaned thoroughly and sliced thinly

1 small head of cabbage, shredded

1 tsp ginger (I didn’t have fresh, but I bet that would be great!)

1 clove garlic, minced

cooked egg noodles (optional)

**And the most important part** Sriracha sauce, dispensed in the individual bowls and dependent upon the appropriate spice level

Directions:

In a dutch oven, poach the chicken breasts in the broth/stock on medium-low until cooked and tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Turn up the heat to medium. Add the carrots and leaks and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage and spices and cook for another 5 minutes. Meanwhile, shred the chicken and once everything is cooked through, reintroduce the chicken to the soup. Cover the dutch oven and allow the flavors to meld, but you can turn off the heat to prevent the chicken from getting tough.

Serve with egg noodles. If you desire, you could also substitute cooked Ramen noodles or cooked broken spaghetti noodles. As far as leftovers, don’t store the noodles in the broth, or they’ll soak up too much of the liquid. However, don’t forget the Sriracha (or some other chilli sauce or hot sauce)–the kick from the Sriracha sauce gives it that extra something.

When I was reading the reviews for this soup, someone mentioned that this soup reminds them of the filling you find in eggrolls. And I couldn’t agree more! Yum, and filling and relatively low cal. Enjoy!

**Oh, and I hesitated to post this until I had tried a little something. See, I had so much of this soup that I stored some in the freezer. Well, I tried it tonight and I’m going to go ahead and give this the store-in-the-freezer stamp of approval. You won’t want to freeze it with the noodles, if you’re using them, and you may even want to add an additional can of broth or a cup of water to the soup since the cabbage does seem to “soak up” some of the liquid, but the flavor and the essence of the soup survived the freezer just fine..