It’s been 21 years since I graduated high school, 20 since I got married, almost 19 since I started having babies, and nearly 15 since I had taken my last college class. This last fall I decided to go back and finish the degree I had started all those years ago. It hasn’t been easy, considering I’m now a mom to 4, I help care for my grandma, and the autumn holiday festivities are plentiful. In the chaos of a busy schedule, I’ve misplaced important papers, finished assignments at the last minute, and fed my family way too much take out instead of a good home cooked meal. However, with my eye on the prize and with the help of my family, I’m succeeding. I’ve had to work diligently while allowing myself some imperfection in the process. Meaningfulness is not in the perfection of our works, but in the intentions and connections in each moment.
That being said, my goal this holiday season is to help my family connect with each other and others through service, thoughtfulness, and diligent work. I’ve been searching out the best ideas to help them do this and it’s filling our home with purpose.
I’ve learned that teachers appreciate a quality handmade gift. This year we’ve decided to use Happiness is Homemade’s peppermint and pumpkin spice soap recipes paired with hand crocheted cotton washcloths. While the washcloths are time consuming projects I complete while watching t.v., the kiddos are helping me with this very easy soap recipe.
We’re bound to go to a holiday party and at least one family dinner. I love bringing something different along to share. Trader Joes has a spectacularly spicy ginger brew soda. It would be great for a gift basket, a festive party punch, or probably help with a tummy ache… but be aware, it does pack quite a punch.
Every day can’t be filled with crafting, shopping, and festivities. There’s bound to be some boredom during winter break. That’s when I’ll be turning to this post full of ideas on making forts in the house.
And what do we listen to during all of this busy work? For those of you getting burned out on the same old holiday music, I recommend Sufjan Steven’s Holiday station on Pandora. It’s a bit folk-y, so if that doesn’t work for you, search to see if your favorite artist has a holiday station.
Just remember to make some meaningful moments this month.
I should have been a baker. One of my very favorite ways to unwind is to head into my kitchen and bake up something delicious. I love the meditative quality of measuring, mixing and creating – Muffins, cakes, and cookies are staples around here. When the reality set in that most bakers wake up in the dark, in those wee early morning hours to start their day, I dropped my ‘I should open a bakery’ dream like a just out of the oven hot cake. I am not a morning person, especially one that starts before the sun is even up. Thankfully I can bake any time of the day in my small but functional kitchen, making treats and messes along the way. And, with the holidays just around the corner, my Must-Have Holiday Baking list is being written down.
This recipe is certainly at the top of the list – the wonderful union of almond butter and chocolate in brownie form makes me very happy indeed. And others too…these do not last long in my house. They are perfect for a little treat during your day, or, to bring to the million holiday gatherings we all have at this time of the year. Yum.
I adapted this recipe from the new quarterly publication, Simple Scratch Cooking, put out by In Jennie’s Kitchen. I have made it gluten-free, with less sugar, and replaced the butter with coconut oil. Heaven on earth!
Enjoy your holiday season and remember to treat yourself to a little something!
This article was written by Kimberly.
Chocolate Almond Butter Swirl Brownies (gluten-free)
All ingredients listed are GF in my kitchen...if you are looking to bake totally gluten free, make sure you check and research all of your ingredients. And, as always, the quality of your baked goods depends on the quality of your ingredients.
- 6 ounces chocolate chips (any flavor, though I like milk chocolate)
- 1/2 cup refined coconut oil, somewhat soft but not melted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup GF all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup cane sugar
- 1/2 cup smooth almond butter (or chunky, if you prefer)
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, somewhat soft
- 1/2 cup cane sugar
- Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, grease top of parchment paper (where batter will go).
- In a medium microwave-safe bowl, add chocolate and coconut oil and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between until they are both melted. Add vanilla extract and stir to combine. Set bowl aside to cool.
- In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt; set aside.
- In the bowl of electric mixer, add the eggs and sugar and beat on medium until thick and pale yellow, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Blend cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and mix on low speed. Slowly add in the flour mixture on low speed, careful not to over mix.
- Combine the almond butter swirl ingredients into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds, until coconut oil is completely melted. Stir until mixture is smooth.
- Spread the brownie batter in the prepared baking dish. Add almond swirl in dollops over the top of the batter, and use a butter knife to swirl it in circles into the brownie batter.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes (depending on your oven), until the center is set and a toothpick inserted will come out with a few crumbs. Your kitchen will smell heavenly. Cool completely on a cooling rack.
- You can replace the coconut oil with butter, or the almond butter with peanut butter. Either way, delicious!
Adapted from Simple Scratch Cooking, vol. 1, Fall 2014
The Creative Mama http://www.thecreativemama.com/
The most wonderful time of year is often also the hardest, busiest, most stressful time of the year. Most of us have a constant running to-do list going through our minds, much like the ticker banner at the bottom big name news networks. In each and every moment, my attention is being pulled quite violently into the next 18 moments. And this is how we lose ourselves in this month. This is how we get to the end of it wondering where the season went and if we truly did, in fact, participate.
We’ve talked a lot this year about presence: about being in the moment fully and completely. And this time of year, it’s even more important to practice this intense mindfulness. It can be excruciatingly difficult given the amount of glittery, flashing things vying for your attention. But ‘tis the season of giving, and perhaps it would help you to remember what an amazing gift your presence really is.
There’s nothing that feels quite as good as someone really listening to you when you speak. There’s something amazing that happens when someone ‘sees’ something that we need to have seen without us having to point it out. And the wisest among us know that the real magic always happens in those split second, in between moments that you have to be paying very close attention to in order to notice.
This month, be that person. See those things. Give that gift to those around you. Give it to your spouse and your children. Give it to your parents and your extended family. Give it to your friends and neighbors. Give it to the clerk at the supermarket and the receptionist at the doctor’s office. And give it to yourself. Because presence is one of those gifts that you give to others, but you end up getting more in return. Your presence is the best gift!
If you’d like to dive deeper into this month’s mantra, as well as get some extra practice in presence, here are some journaling prompts to help you get started:
- In what relationships or instances do you know you need to be more present? What are some action steps you can take each time you are with these people or in these situations that could help you remain present and give them your full attention?
- Are there ways to streamline your holiday plans to allow for more time to fully immerse yourself in and enjoy a fewer number of activities? How might this space positively affect your relationships this month?
- As the month progresses, take some time to write down instances where you consciously practiced presence and how that affected the situation, your interaction, and your overall feelings.
You can print out a copy of this month’s Mama Mantra and hang it in your home or at work or anywhere you might need a reminder that Your Presence Is the Best Gift. And please share this message with your friends and family. You can download the web version here.
Can you believe that we have been using the practice of Mama Mantras for an entire year??!! That’s cause for celebration, we think! We want to know where you hang up your Mama Mantra to inspire you throughout the month. Share a picture with us on Facebook or Instagram and use #TCMmantra and we’ll enter you to win this Mantra Journal from TCM team member Maegan Beishline (aka: Madeline Bea on Etsy). (Giveaway includes shipping within the United States. Post your entry by Wednesday, December 10th. Winner will be announced on December 11th. )
Catch up on any Mama Mantras that you may have missed through the year…
This article was written by Maegan.