21 December 2010

The perfect gift

For weeks, we've known the combination of a new baby in our house and a sour economy would keep Christmas gift giving to a minimum for us this year. We had no idea how much we ultimately would want just one thing, though: the health and happiness of our family.

A couple of weeks ago I called my sister to let her know that we wanted to make sure everyone was on board with not having a major giftapalooza for the kids. It was then she told me that their Christmas was going to be about experiences this year. You know, looking at lights, building a gingerbread house and hanging out as a family. I agreed that sounded fantastic. Her family dealt with job loss, and ours keeps seeing our income shrink with furloughs, rising health care costs and our choice for me to stay at home with our boys.

In the past few days my family's collective blood pressure has risen dramatically as we got word that my 3-year-old niece was being checked for lymphoma. And this came just about a week after my sister was called back for a follow-up after something was spotted during a routine mammogram. Thankfully, doctors have assured the family that everyone is well.

While we waited for answers I worried, mostly for my sister who had to put on a brave face to not alarm her daughters. I am just beginning to see that the really tough parts of parenthood don't come when your kid wakes up for the umpteenth time with pee-soaked sheets. The grueling part comes when you have to face our imperfect world and lead your child through it.

I am trying to take this moment to let go of a few minor stresses and remember what I am really grateful for this Christmas. For me, that's knowing what is truly worth worrying about and what is not. Merry Christmas, and I hope your Christmas wish is granted, too.

Here are my low-stress, low-cost and, I hope, fun Christmas gifts:

Homemade Cocoa Mix
(adapted from an Alton Brown recipe)
2 cups of powdered sugar
1 cup of cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons corn starch
*Vary by adding a pinch of cayenne, crushed peppermints or mini chocolate chips.


Marshmallow Snowman Kit

If you want an afternoon project that may not be as involved as an entire gingerbread house, this is a fun one. Just melt white chocolate and use it like glue to stack different sizes of marshmallows. Or just give them a dunk in the melted white chocolate and then a pile of your favorite sprinkles, dark chocolate chips or candies.

01 December 2010

A wee bit neglectful

I've not had much free time lately, so that's my excuse for neglecting my blog.

We had our high about a month ago when Carter was born, and, we've hit a low in terms of parenting moments. My adorable 2-year-old is acting like, well, a 2 year old. Who just got his mom stolen. It sounds so rational. In reality, however, it makes me very irrational. Like thinking I could keep him from getting every drop of water from the tub onto the bathroom floor. Nope. Or trying to keep him from peeing all over his bed. Not gonna happen. And wanting so badly for him to stop hurling toys out of the car while he kicks and screams about getting buckled in. Uh-uh.

Luckily this week I did find some motivation, even if it had nothing to do with parenting (perhaps it was because it had nothing to do with parenting). Some friends of ours had their own new baby to celebrate, and knowing how miserable the hospital food can be, I packed up a dinner (take-out, folks) and a few slices of some of the best banana bread I've made. And since I'm in no position to be cocky right now, I give all the credit to this recipe, which I followed precisely.

The recipe is from Orangette, this adorable food blog from an Oklahoma-raised, Seattle-living writer. I have a love-hate relationship with this woman I've never met. I feel like because we're both Northwest transplants from Oklahoma that we should have more in common. She, however, has an insanely popular food blog, a published food memoir and a regular column in Bon Appetit. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot to be thankful for, but in my sappy state, I feel like all I've got right now are stretch marks, early onset dementia and an endless pile of laundry. Seriously, which one of us do you envy?

But, all that aside, I do continuously go back to Molly Wizenberg's blog. The stories are usually charming and the recipes she shares are approachable, or at least she makes them seem that way, spinning a fun little story about where the recipe came from -- a dinner party, a childhood friend's mom or her late father.

If Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping doesn't sound delicious enough, check out one of her other banana bread recipes like this one or this one.

There are no shortages of excuses for baking this month, so preheat the oven and pull those blackened bananas out of the freezer.