Power Balls : A healthier after-school snack

After tiring of seeing my kids subsist on nutella and toast as their go-to "wander into the kitchen looking for something easy to make" after school (and in our case between school) snack, I decided to revisit an old favorite recipe I haven't made in quite awhile. 

This recipe for power balls was actually the first thing I had in-print with the beloved and sadly long-gone Wondertime magazine. The original name for this treat, and what my family calls them--is"fiber balls", but I think we can all agree that name is mildly unappealing. Of course the fancy photographers at Wondertime were able to seriously cute-ify this handful of yumminess, but I think from the ingredient list, you'll get the idea. 

What I love about this recipe is that it's packed with good things, has tons of flexibility and is yummy enough that my kids will gobble them up. They are the perfect thing to toss in lunch boxes, have in the fridge for a quick after-school snack, or help everyone make it from lunch until dinner. 

And, they have replaced the nutella-binge going on this house. 

Though I forgot to count when I made them yesterday, you'll get a good 3-dozen from this recipe, I believe. Wrapped tightly, they freeze well if you want to store some away for another time. I like to use my small cookie dough scooper to get even-sized balls and then roll them by hand. 

So freshen up the snack list or the lunchbox staples and add these to the list! 





My Christmas notebook planner (aka: how I stay sane during the holidays)

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I wrote this post as part of my participation in a blog tour for The Motherhood on behalf of the makers of Children's MOTRIN® and received compensation to thank me for taking the time to participate. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

Two weeks ago when I was scrolling through my twitter feed "Christmas" was one of the top trending topics. I immediately got a little tightness in my stomach and rolled my eyes at the thought that people were already starting to talk about it, even before Halloween had come and gone. 

I've always been the kind of girl who feels bad for Thanksgiving. Each year Christmas seems to creep in on her and choke out all the goodness of Thanksgiving. So I rarely let myself begin to even think about Christmas let alone turn on a carole or plan the pockets of my advent calendar before I've fully celebrated Thanksgiving. 

But the other day driving home from school the girls started talking about Christmas. "It's my favorite of all the holidays," someone said. "And not just because of the presents. I love the way Christmas feels--cozy and warm. I love the spirit of Christmas." 

I sat and listened in silence and decided, maybe I could let Christmas creep in a little earlier this year. Maybe instead of feeling that post-Thanksgiving-only-a-few-more-weeks-until-Christmas panic, I'd start to think and plan a little earlier. Maybe instead of the post-Thanksgiving "how am I ever going to fit in all the things I want to do with them?" crunch, I'll give Christmas planning a little head start. 

So this year I'm embracing the spirit of Christmas early. Because it's not just about the rush to buy presents and decorate and get the tree and bake the cookies and send the cards, it's about the "cozy and warm" of Christmas. 

And that's why instead of waiting until after Thanksgiving, I decided to share my Christmas sanity-saver with you all a bit early, too. 

This idea is in no way my own. My grandmother--mother to FIFTEEN children--used a similar system. And my own mother too-- that secret black Christmas book that we all were SO tempted to peek inside, but never did. At least I never did. 

Many years ago I bought myself a large moleskine notebook that has become my Christmas notebook. It is the place where I organize Christmas. It is where I gather my thoughts, write down my ideas, collect recipes, make lists, and most importantly gather memories. 

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Here's a breakdown of what's inside my Christmas notebook: (Be warned, I'm a list-maker. And I have to write things down on paper to keep my mind clutter-free.)

1. Gift lists: Each year I make a three-column list. The first column is the name of anyone for whom I have to purchase a gift. In the second column I write down any and every idea I have for their gifts--whether homemade or store-bought. And the final column is what I actually ended up purchasing or making. 

2. Pre-Christmas calendar. In order to keep the week before Christmas from getting all kinds of crazy I plan out the week before in my notebook--everything from bath nights to when we'll decorate the tree or drive around looking at lights, to what Christmas Eve service we'll be attending, and when I need to get my Christmas meal grocery shopping done. 

3. Meal-plans + grocery lists. I also keep track of all our big meals in my notebook. Christmas Eve dinner (which in my wise old age has become simplified to soup and good bread), Christmas morning breakfast (something fairly easy, but special and always a big fruit salad), Christmas dinner with family and day after Christmas meals with out-of-towners. I write out my meal plans, make my grocery lists and clip recipes and ideas into the notebook as I come across them during the year.

4. Receipts. In the back pocket of my moleskine I tuck all the holiday shopping receipts. This way when/if something needs to be returned, I know exactly where to find it.

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Added bonus: Not only is the notebook helpful for planning each holiday season and knowing who's getting what, it also makes a great reference for birthdays. When I find myself at a loss for ideas, I consult my Christmas notebook to see if there were ideas I didn't jump on for Christmas that might be great for a birthday. If it's July and I think of The Perfect Gift for one of the girls, I quickly jot it down in my notebook because Lord knows I won't remember it in December.

But probably what I love most about the notebook is the memories. Do you remember  what you got your oldest child for her 3rd Christmas? I most-definitely do not, but oh how I love flipping back through the pages of my notebook to Christmas 2005 to find out (it was all about horses and art supplies.) Or remember 2009 when I tried to pull off a fancy roast, luminaries and the late Christmas Eve mass with a toddler? Yeah, I was crazy back then. 

My notebook keeps me sane. It helps me avoid those "standing in the middle of Target with no idea what to get my kids" moments. It helps me stay organized enough that I can truly enjoy the "warm and cozy" of the season.

And this year, I decided to bring it out early. Thanksgiving, I still love you. I'm just adding a sprinkling of Christmas spirit all around. 


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The makers of Children's MOTRIN are inspired by all the things moms do. Moms may not always realize it, but they are amazing in so many ways. Moms are on call day and night have have so much unique knowledge that can really help other moms. That's why the makers of Children's MOTRIN are asking moms to share this knowledge in the form of tips and tricks that help keep them going. They are asking moms to post their tips to the MOTRIN facebook page and for every post, Children's MOTRIN will donate $1 to Safe Kids Worldwide, a global nonprofit that provides moms with the tips they need to keep their children safe.

a little act of kindness

Sometimes there's that little act of kindness you've been meaning to do for months and you just needed that extra nudge. Thanks to Kleenx®Brand for the nudge I needed for this act of kindness below. *

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When we moved from our old house at Thomas Run one of the things I knew would be the hardest to do was to move away from our neighbor Mr. Dorsey. Mr. Dorsey was born in our house and grew up there but eventually moved next door onto his own smaller piece of property.

We became close over the years. Though he was stubborn and strong as an ox in his 70-plus years, we all still kept a close eye on him. He'd never ask for help (and when he did, you knew he really needed it) so Dan--cut from the same kind of cloth--would look for opportunities to help him out.

The very first time we met him he told me, "Just so you know, I walk laps around the pastures early in the morning, sometimes in the dark--so don't shoot me!" He used to drive a milk truck and always keeps milk truck hours. When his bull would get out and end up in our backyard, I'd call him up and laugh about it--though Mr. Dorsey was never happy about it.  When his cow would show up in side yard, I'd walk her home with a stick and put her back in the fence. 

When we first planted our garden, he'd pulled out his plow and ripped up the earth. He told us about the huge tree in the front yard and how his father had remembered it being that big and how old it must have been, the oldest in the valley. He worried about people robbing him and hated when the raccoons started getting in to his grain. He hoarded tractors and tractor parts and round bales and had two antique trucks buried in the brambles behind the falling down stone silo. But you couldn't move them or take them--because he might need the parts some day.

He said we were the best neighbors he'd ever had.

So when we moved to Woodlawn, I knew leaving Mr. Dorsey was going to be one of the hardest parts. 

We still see him. I still check in on him. When I drive by on a Thursday and he's out on his riding mower, I know everything's all right. 

When I see him now, he hugs me and gives me a big wet cough-drop-sticky kiss on the lips and squeezes my arm. He asks if Dan is busy at work and tells me he's getting ready to retire from driving the school bus. He tells me about any houses that are for sale in the valley and how I need to convince my dad to buy one for me, because we need to come back. 

I've tried a few times to get him over here for dinner. But he always puts me off and instead says, "just bring me some of your oatmeal raisin cookies. I think about those every since you brought them to me that one time." He doesn't ask for much, but he does ask for cookies. 

Every time I drive by I get that little twinge of regret that I've haven't shown up at his door with cookies since we've moved. The kids remind me often. And then I forget. And then weeks have gone by. 

But I finally found my reason this past week. An opportunity to do an act of kindness, even something small--and I knew exactly what my act of kindness would be and who would be on the receiving end.

When the kids walked into the kitchen and there were oatmeal raisin cookies in the oven they knew what I was doing. I'm pretty sure someone said, "It's about time, mom." When Mr. Dorsey gets home from driving the bus tonight, they'll be something waiting outside the door for him. 

So if you're putting off that little act of kindness, that special thing you've been meaning to do, here's my nudge--do it. It doesn't take long. It doesn't take much. And it feels so good. 

A big thank you to Kleenex®Brand for the push to do this small act of kindness. For giving us a few extra goodies to pack in our basket for Mr. Dorsey, including their cute little packs of tissues that I know he'll be tucking the car seat (or school bus seat!) beside him. Thanks for making this small act of care so easy to do. Here's hoping you'll join the "Share the Kleenex Care" movement and be inspired by them to do your own small act of care. Even just the smallest gesture (like passing a tissue) to a friend, stranger, neighbor--that needs it, has a big impact.

*This post is part of a sponsorship with Kleenex Brand and Socialstars. 

weekending : sad face + sheep

From the weekend: 

Testing out my sheep print on some different things. I'm liking this fabric tote. Needs a little something else, but it's definitely taking shape. 

I broke my daughter's heart apparently. I wouldn't give her a yogurt stick. 

Then, I broke it all over again, when I wouldn't let her spray the piano keys with window cleaner. 

My middle child ate more pomegranate seeds than should be legal. And then she ate some more. (A simple how-to de-seed a pomegranate here.)

And we celebrated the birthday of a very special two-year-old with a crazy cake overflowing with animals. And sprinkles. (try to ignore that mess behind-the-scenes, please.)

Happy Monday, friends.

More soon...xo.


When the going gets tough: letting go of perfect

I've decided that when making a commitment to better health, fitness, eating...the hard part isn't starting. God knows in the past few years I've "started" many, many times. The hard part comes when you hit a bump in the road, when you lose some of your motivation, when you're busy, when life gets chaotic. That's when it gets hard because it tests whether you're going to keep on going, or give up.

I feel like since late summer, early fall--I've been in the hard part. I've been trying to figure out where this time for myself--exercising, planning my meals (that are oftentimes different from my family's meals), getting to the gym--fits in to a suddenly overwhelming family schedule. 

One of the first things to throw me off the rails is chaos and lack of a smooth, low-key schedule. (*cue maniacal laughter*). That's pretty much my whole life right now. And I've discovered something about myself along the way--I struggle when I'm not doing this whole journey perfectly

And while that might sound like a wonderful thing, it can be really defeating when you mess up. There were days this summer where I wouldn't 'stick to the plan' and so instead of going to the gym or checking in the with nutritionists who are helping me on this journey, I'd say to myself, "I can't go in there until I'm back on track. Until everything is perfect again." Turns out if you wait for 'perfect', it's not going to happen. 

So I had to adopt a better attitude. Not sticking to it for a meal or a day or a moment, doesn't screw up everything. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, for pete's sake. 

The good news is, I'm back at it. I'm back on track and feeling good. (Could this possibly be why I'm writing about it again? I may be guilty.) The other good news is that even during this "bump", I still never lost sight of the big goal. I knew what I was going through was a temporary re-adjustment but I still felt extremely committed to the long-term. And I still know this time it's gonna work. I don't want to lose what I've lost and worked so hard for. Apparently, I just had to climb this hill first.

As always, thanks to so many of you who have emailed, commented and lamented, and who have said, you're in the trenches, too. Whatever the goal, I hope we all can help push and encourage each other along the way. 

More soon...xo.