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Sometimes I Need Me Time

Is there a mom who doesn’t feel guilty over taking personal time? I hate feeling guilty over taking hikes without my kids – and especially because Kirk watches them while I go out. But I also know I need that time. I am with them 24 hours a day otherwise. But more, for the first time in my life, I am finding I am timid with my kids. Ford went everywhere with me, he was hiking not long after he started walking. We hiked and backpacked thousands of miles. Taking Walker was natural as well. But I have so little confidence in taking Alistaire hiking, where it is me, Walker and Ford and Kirk can’t come. Honestly? What scares me is the thought of him having an allergic reaction in the backcountry with no other adult to help me. For me, this is beyond scary and I cannot wrap my mind around it. Maybe next year when he is older. We will see. Until then…maybe it isn’t bad for me to take trips with just me and no one else to worry about.

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I was supposed to go on a much longer hike with my friend Jared and help him finish a section of the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) he hadn’t done, but by Sunday I was exhausted. By the kids, by the week and feeling really anemic. At least Jared is flexible and didn’t guilt trip me too much. I am grateful for that. And he likes to fly fish…and the lake we went to has plenty of fishies to play with.

Early morning at Sheep Lake today.

I end up at Sheep Lake at least once a year. It is pretty, large, has great meadows and is e-z-y to get to. (Seriously, 2.10 miles one way, with only a little elevation gain).

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Only one hitch…I was so tired I didn’t pack everything like I normally do the night before. I left my camera behind. Argh. Thankfully I had my phone along…but I really would have had so much more fun shooting flower photos.

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We ended up on the far side of the lake, where the fish were jumping (it was around 9 am). The wind was blowing steady most of the day, which kept bugs off of us.

For as sunny as it was, it was really cold at times!

If anything, it was chilly at times, maybe in the mid 60’s at most. Even though it was blue skies and sunny (it is though at mid 5,000’s for elevation).

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Jared was the only fly-fisher out there, and was the only one catching anything – he caught quite a few (he uses non-barbed hooks and lets them go).

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We spent a good half of the day just lounging around – OK, he was fishing. I spent my hours reading books on my phone (thank you Kindle app), napping and exploring the basin.

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The wildflowers were just opening, with Magenta Paintbrush opening.

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Give me lupine covered hills and I am in bliss.

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That and being lazy. Being lazy once in a while needs to be done more often.

~Sarah

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Zoo Strolling

My Mother In-law and I took the boys to the Cougar Mountain Zoo yesterday, which is a few miles from where we live. I have started on taking them on outings, to see how they enjoy it. Walker is the perfect age now!

Not everyone is a fan of zoos/preserves I realize…I mean I wasn’t as a kid, after too many vintage zoos that were horrid (Seattle and Portland were plain awful, elephants chained and on concrete). The Cougar Mt. Zoo is an intimate learning area, with only a few areas to visit. Open air, with room and the animals actually seem happy. A perfect zoo for small children to spend 1-3 hours in. They are happy but not overwhelmed! And even the 15 year-old had fun – I think he enjoyed it the most, especially the talking birds….and the tigers. The gorgeous tigers!

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The area for the tigers was one of the nicest I have seen. Grass, a waterfall with pond and more, there are two areas for the tigers as well.

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Two little boys. really into the emus below them. Later, we went down and got to be right up to them.

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Alistaire was very, very happy – giggling as the animals made lots of noise. Especially the Lemurs and Macaw birds!

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The cougars live in the center, catching your eyes as you enter the zoo. Gorgeous kitties. I love cougars – especially when I see their tracks in the snow while hiking!

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Tonight I face the difficult decision on how to stay within normal eating at a chain restaurant. Oy, even with nutritional stats online (thank you to King County, Wa for requiring chains post this!!) Looking at a menu while not hungry and looking at just how crappy the food is, is well….depressing. Ugh. I am getting used to eating every meal at home. It is hard when faced with 75% of the meals are a near days worth of calories. Yuck. and how nearly everything is white crap and or mass produced meat. I will miss my home cooking! No dessert for me 😉

~Sarah

Summer Is Here….Catching Up On Everything

Three things that say to me summer is here…Fathers Day, farmers markets and school getting out! It has been a rough week and one I was glad to be done with. Walker came down last Sunday with a Norovirus that then spread to Ford, then Kirk and finally me. The baby seemed to buck it pretty well. I really, really hate Noroviruses. I felt so weak and just wiped out, but someone had to keep doing laundry and sterilizing everything. It was a long 5 days before we were all on the mend. I didn’t get a lot done this past week, outside of a steady diet of white rice and bland cereal, so this weekend I was feeling inspired to get back into my kitchen! Then Fathers Day arrived and I was so inspired I got take-out teriyaki 😉 Hah….and local gelato. I feel so lazy, and I am OK with it.

To my husband…I love you ♥ You are a great Daddy to all 3 of our boys. Especially the middle one….who is your shadow.

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The yards are popping, the heat and sun are finally getting everything going, especially my new lavender plants. I put in 5 Spanish Lavender plants along the retaining wall in our back yard, in a no-man’s land near the play ground. I avoid growing food there, due to the rail timbers and their gagging creosote fumes. At some point we will be able to remove the timbers, but till then….

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With me nearly out of projects to do in the backyard, I am in the front yard, in the process of ripping out much of the grass. I have an idea in my mind. We shall see what happens. I would grow veggies but my fear is they would be stolen. Ah well. I’ll post photos soon, as it takes shape.

Our local Farmers Market opened up on Saturday for the season and I was there right at opening. Early bird gets the worm and all that (or in my case, it means I get the good produce!) Kirk was off doing man-stuff (kayaking!) so I roped Ford into helping me with his younger brothers. This entailed him pushing the stroller and watching bags of produce while I yakked with the ladies 😉 Good kid! Anyhow, our local market is in its 5th year and is held at a local elementary school. It has steadily grown bigger and better every year!

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I met a new vendor, The Mason Jar Farm run by the nicest lady – and I love their logo.

 

 

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A happy Alistaire in his stroller!

 

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Walker got to play spin the wheel and won a “I’m a recycling champ” tattoo from the King County waste dept. I got tons of free compostable bags for my well-used compost bin in my kitchen, so win-win (we are champion recyclers/yard waste bin users!). I love how our local market really gets down to the kid level –

 

 

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I was so happy to see Annette from Sweet Briar Produce back again. Her and her husband, Mike, are who I get my raw honey from during the summer.

 

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Baby zucchini, big radishes, cucumbers and purple onions….

 

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Sugar Peas…I totally admit I shelled ALL of them and ate every single one myself. In one sitting. Whatever. I deserved it 😉

 

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Living near the Cascade Mountains pays off for cherries. Especially first of the season cherries! Yeah, you pay for it…but oh were they worth it!

 

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Having said that…meet my newest friends: The Mexican Sprite bottle & a bamboo chopstick ~

 

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Take a cherry, put on top of bottle, push chopstick through (gently) and poink…there goes the pit, into the bottle. Yeah, that easy. And since I had sipped Mexican Sprite all week (I only crave it when sick) I had plenty of bottles. PS: Bonus, the Sprite tastes just like it did when we were kids, since it is cane sugar pop. Thank you Costco and local stores for carrying it. And the bottles are really. really pretty 🙂 You can remove the logo and they make great mini vases.

 

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As for school, the oldest has 2 days left. One is field day, the last is a farce of a day – they go and get out like 2 or 3 hours later. Hard to wrap my head around that Ford will be a 10th grader next fall, and he finally enters high school (it is 10-12 here). His mind is already on summer vacation, let’s not kid anyone here…hah!

Back to the grind….lots more grass to rip out!

~Sarah

Nailed It! (Or I’ll Never Be a Cake Decorator…….)

To prove a point that most of us food bloggers are real life humans and not everything is perfect, lets talk cakes. Cakes are something I can bake, but lord knows I cannot decorate them. Piping? Fancy frosting? Hahaha….especially when I am using natural coloring and making a cake vegan. And I forget just why I hate my cake pans – which went in the garbage can after I was done I might add! The cake was tasty, as was the frosting, but wow….what a hoot. Still, I gave it the old try. And found myself giggling loudly as I made it, knowing mine would never, ever look like a professional cake.

Sunday was Walker’s 3rd birthday. A few weeks back I had picked up a copy of Better Homes & Gardens Cakes! book-magazine (sold in grocery stores) –

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You know the type: many wonderful ideas and great photography of delightful cakes. And with recipes, of which I veganized the yellow cake and white frosting recipes.

So I let Walker look through, in the kid section. Here is what he picked:

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“Racer Cars, Mommy!!!!! Race cars!!!!”. Hehe, sure, I’ll try. Nailed it, right? Lol……..or is that “close enough”? Now you see why I was giggling…..

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But you know what? He loved it. He was SO happy. He was running around screaming and laughing. He kept telling Daddy and Ford to stay away from his cake. And I let him demolish one whole cake, while he happily made a huge mess. (And after, it visited the compost bin….)

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And he got a gift from my MIL, a new play suit, a Melissa & Doug Police Officer Role Play Costume Set.

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Er…maybe the hippie skull cracker didn’t come with the outfit 😉 Johnny Law says he better not have to run after you!

It was a good birthday. We spent the weekend on the Olympic Coast here in Washington State –

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And had a lovely trip, of hiking in the rain forest and being lazy on the beach.

~Sarah

Cherry Cupcakes and a Birthday Weekend Away

This all started with an idea. Why should one celebrate turning 40 with a black cake (or cupcakes)? Why not be happy? Go for bright. Celebrate spring coming! I was a March baby, and as I write this post…it is sunny outside. I am sure it won’t last, but I’ll enjoy the late winter promise of spring.

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I considered dried cherries, then fresh. Finding fresh wasn’t going to be easy or fresh, the produce man asked if frozen would work. Maybe it would….and off home I went. Helped I had a huge bag of frozen cherries waiting for me there.

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Cherry Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened cherry juice
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar, preferably organic
  • 1/3 cup neutral vegetable oil
  • 2¼ tsp pure almond extract
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch, preferably organic
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cups cherries, pitted, drained and finely chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°, line 18 muffin cups with liners, such as Reynolds Stay-Brite.

Whisk the cherry juice and vinegar together, add to a medium mixing bowl with sugar, oil and almond, whisk until dissolved.

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl, pour wet over dry, stir until just mixed, fold in cherries.

Divided equally between lined cups, rap on counter to settle.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool, then frost as desired.

Makes about 18 cupcakes.

Notes: 

If using frozen cherries, thaw, drain and pat dry, then chop.

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Cherry Frosting

Ingredients:

Directions:

Beat the shortening with a stand mixer until light. Add in powered sugar, beating in. Add almond extract and 1 Tablespoon cherry juice at a time, beating in, until spreading constancy is reached (mine took about 1/4 cup juice).

The frosting will be a light pink.

Frost as desired.

Now then…how did I spend my birthday weekend?

In a ton of emails one caught my eye awhile back. It was from Lake Quinault Lodge, which sits on Lake Quinault in Olympic National Forest. I have stayed there several times, it was an email with deals for previous visitors with a winter deal. I nearly deleted it, then I took a look. It was a bargain. Buy one night, get one night free, at a fabulous low price ($79 weekdays, $99 weekends plus taxes).

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And pretty much all of the rooms were up for grabbing at the lodge. Being that we are a family of 5, I grabbed the Beverly Suite in the Boathouse, which sits between the lodge and the modern lakeside hotel wing. It is rustic, but large, and more so, the only suite (ie. a bedroom for us!) at the lodge. For 2 nights we payed less than $138 (with taxes included). Considering that this same room can run for $239 to $289 a night, you can see what a bargain it was.

Yes, those mailing lists can be a good thing! The Boathouse is the oldest building of the lodge (built in 1923), the suite is the top story.

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They don’t lie, you do get a 360° view from the suite, with large windows and views of all sides, especially of the lake. The “suite” is a one-bedroom cabin. Very rustic but comfortable, and yes, large. It has a bathroom (with a very tiny shower), hide-a-bed couch, 3 roll-a-way beds, 6 person dining table, a partial kitchen that has a refrigerator, microwave, sink and a hot plate to use, along with dishes and tools. The bedroom has a king bed and love seat. Lots of ceiling fans and huge windows that open. You do have to climb a very narrow indoor staircase (though the landing before you head up is a great storage area for wet gear and getting boots on). The staircase is NOT child friendly, so we blocked off the top with one of the roll-a-way beds. A baby could take a very scary fall, so be wary. We brought his pack and play for safety. It was a great choice otherwise for our large family. Just be wary of the very slanted ceilings in the bathroom. Our poor teen kept knocking his head. Hehe.

At the price we paid, I was happy. No 5-Star, but for the price it was a good deal. (Although I can’t believe people pay $239 and up for the rack rates for this room!! It isn’t worth that….)

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We woke up early on Saturday morning to rain. Gee, no shocker there. It is a rain forest and it is March 😉 It is nice to lay in bed listening to it – and not be in a tent dreading getting out. After wandering around on the covered veranda below – and just enjoying the misty morning, we headed up to the lodge.

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Traveling with three kids isn’t the easiest thing I suppose, I learn new things every time. One is a lot of patience. And not over-planning. I let them wander and have fun. The baby had eyes only for the lanterns, his brother, The Toddler, for bossing around his little brother.

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Which resulted in “B! You get back here!” (B is Alistaire’s nickname) and B running away. It was one of those moments when life is good and all is well.

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After a fun breakfast (yeah, roughing it…maybe not) we set out for a hike. Where upon it dumped as it should in a rain forest. And kept dumping. Our trail eventually ran out, with it under a good foot of water. At least we tried 😀

When Walker was young, I picked up a Deuter Kid Comfort Deluxe Rain Cover to go with our Deuter Kids Comfort III pack. It has been worth the cost, Alistaire was bone dry inside the kid carrier and even took a nap.

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Walker, me and Alistaire on my back –

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I loved the tree. It looks to me like a large tree with legs, sitting down on the nurse logs (which was taller than Walker). Walker loved playing in the creeklet of water. Finally we got so rained out and with the trail under water, we called it a day. We headed back to the lodge, used that handy landing to dry our rain gear and spent the early afternoon in the lodge’s lobby, soaking up the heat from the fireplace, reading, talking and playing. Lots of other folks were doing the same. Add in a warm mocha and it was very relaxing.

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Walker enjoyed finding a tiny rocking chair and a pile of books –

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Late in the afternoon, the weather started clearing. Kirk watched Alistaire while he napped and told us to go hiking. I took Ford and Walker out on a short hike –

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We found a stream to enjoy –

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A set of waterfalls –

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And a bridge that Walker had fun crossing over and over –

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It was an odd hike in that it was sunny and 60° out!

After, we went out for dinner. We ended up having a 2 hour dinner that was so relaxed I wondered who had switched all my kids 😉 The kids all passed out happy.

The clear skies lasted through Sunday morning. One of the prettiest sunrises I have seen over that lake. We got up and had a nice family hike, all of us, before checking out.

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Me, Alistaire on my back, Walker and Ford (Kirk took the photo) –

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It was this small window of perfect weather. As soon as we got done hiking and were finishing loading the van, it started raining.

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My little hiker, Walker –

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The lake was calm –

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~Sarah

Little Feet

No recipe tonight….just a happy smile thinking about today. Kirk and I took the boys on a hike in a nearby state park. We found a lull between rain storms and set out. Walker ahead of me….like with his older brother, Ford, I have outfitted him in mini-me gear. I go by the theory my children should have as nice as gear as I do! Walker loves his backpack.
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At the trailhead, Kirk carried Alistaire today. Him and Ford set off and soon left Walker and I in their dust. Which was OK…..

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As Walker and I hiked the loop, hand in hand, I realized it was the most relaxing hike I had ever taken. Ford was always a strong hiker, and where Walker is as well, he is also curious. He asks questions about what he sees. Just him and I, slowly walking, breathing the cold air of the Cascade foothills. We looked at root balls, ferns, moss and more. We met dogs and humans. We looked down and saw we both had similar shoes on.

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Near the end, Kirk was waiting for us. Someone had to have a trekking pole suddenly!

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Alistaire riding in the backpack carrier. Kirk said he sat quietly, watching as he and Ford walked and chatted.

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I am so happy with todays stroll with Walker. It lifted my spirit so much. I hope you all had a wonderful Sunday!

~Sarah

Fears, Rain & Cupcakes

The past 9 days have been unnerving to say the least. Alistaire fell backwards and smacked his head on my desk leg (the cool design from Costco was apparently not such a great idea, it has “X” legs). After a couple of Dr. visits to watch the lump on his head, and then x-rays on Tuesday (that was very traumatic – he howled and howled and I felt horrible having to hold him down), his pediatrician wasn’t sure. They couldn’t see any fractures and overall the baby was feeling great. After the Dr. had a conference with the specialist in Tacoma they decided to wait. But holy his head looked awful. He had a HUGE lump on the side/back of his head that only stabilized in size today.

Daddy’s hat covers a multitude of lumps!

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Yesterday our Doctor called us and said he had a conference with another colleague, this time at Seattle Children’s Hospital. They recommended we bring him in for more testing, to rule out any internal pressure, under the skull. We took the risk of a CT Scan so we could get a better look.

The good news?

No internal pressure. No fractures. Just one hell of a swelling, which could be seen in the scans. For me, the scans were worth it. It allowed that tight feeling across my body and head to dissipate. To breathe again. To not be hyper-freaked that the swelling would get even bigger.

The downside is it is basically blood. And it is going to take a good amount of time to come down. He might get left with a small reminder of it above his skull, calcified. That’ll be a family lore to tell for years!

The happiness of my week was that. And then he walked last night!! By himself!! Those first steps 🙂 So happy!

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“Coffee with Momma is the best!”

After so many stressful and sleep-deprived nights, filled with storms of thundering rain and snow, walking out of the hospital this afternoon to clear skies and dry roads was wonderful. And it seemed fitting to come home to what I had baked last night. I have said it before, when I am stressed, creating is an outlet for me. And due to my stress I had forgotten about a bunch of bananas. They were at that stage. The one where if you don’t make banana bread/muffins/cupcakes then the next day your compost bin is burping after eating up $3 of organic vittles (that might be the fat squirrels that chewed a hole into our bin)……So I got busy and made an inspired banana cupcake, moist inside with a snappy frosting on top. And oh yeah, they are vegan friendly to boot. And very toddler n’ teen approved.

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Banana Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup really ripe banana, measured after mashing (about 2)
  • ¼ cup neutral oil
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp pure almond extract
  • 1¼ cups white whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup walnuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°, line a 12 count muffin tin with foil lined papers.

Place walnuts on a small baking sheet, toast in oven for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool a bit, then finely chop in a mini food chopper.

Whisk wet ingredients smooth in a medium bowl.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl, add in walnuts, then wet ingredients, Stir till just mixed.

Divide evenly between liners, about ¼ cup per liner.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and tops are not damp. Let cool for 10 minutes, transfer to a cooling rack. Once cooled, frost as desired.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

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Maple Cream Frosting

Ingredients:

Directions:

Beat shortening with a hand mixer until smooth. Beat in salt and maple syrup, then add in sugar. Slowly add the milk, as needed, beating till smooth and just spreadable.

Spread on cooled cupcakes as desired. If piping, add a bit more milk.

Decorate as desired. banana chips make a nice edible topper.

~Sarah

PS: Don’t forget to enter for a chance at a copy of Vegan Slow Cooking – 2 more days left!

Upcycling Baby Food Jars: An Advent Calendar

A simple truth: I get carried away with hot glue guns. What starts out as a small idea in my mind, it blossoms into a large-scale project 😉 My Advent Calendar came out of a whimsical thought – to have one big enough for all three kidlings to share. The past 4 or so years Ford, and then Walker, had a normal sized one, but it only held 2 pieces of tiny candy in each slot. It was too small now, though I am keeping it for Ford, I’ll save it for him when he is older. Or next year he can have it all to himself 😉

It all started with an idea – of recycling/upcycling baby food jars once again. 24 jars in total. Alistaire (and Walker…who loves to eat his brother’s food…) helped me get the jars ready –

And then this happened:

What started as a concept for 24 pretty jars turned into a Sarah-Creation. Because all advent calendars need a 2 foot tall flocked tree! No? Well, they should. (I should state this disclaimer: I once took a garage sale $1 bookcase, painted it luxe black, lined the shelves with crushed blue velvet, painted the interior gold and added black fringe….my taste has always been questionable – ask my husband about our 3 tier wedding cake holder decorated as a PNW forest with mini tent, backpacks and animals – and a mini lake.)

My point being that with a little work and some paint, ordinary ‘junk’ can be recycled and upcycled into something whimsical. I didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas, I don’t have set notions of what the holidays should be like. I had no traditions and do it for our kids more than anything – and I know Kirk enjoys it. For me…it is simply a season where I get an excuse to be crafty, to create and bake a lot of goodies and candy.

A mini tree topper completed it –

I love this shade of blue a lot (my wedding ring and earrings match it). I am still on the fence if I want to put up the big tree this year. With Alistaire furniture/wall cruising (he is now standing for up to 30 seconds without holding on!) all I could imagine was him making a mess of the tree. More so, I have no idea where to put it this year while we still have the pack n’ play downstairs. So the idea of a small tree, brightly decorated, yet above the baby’s reach sounded great. We shall see. But for once I got to pick out the colors I love (with Walker’s help of course!) A small and portable holiday scene? Perfect.

Each jar is filled with artificial dye free candy, ranging from candy-coated chocolate, peppermint candy, gum drops and chocolate coins. Walker loves to walk around the dining room table and take it all in. He happily pulls up a chair and tries to inch closer….

So how did I do it?

First I matched all the jars – I liked the shape of Safeway’s O Organics line, the stage 2 jars. Remove the labels, soak off the sticky residue in the way you like, then wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water. Let air dry overnight.

Fill the jars with candy or treats of choice. Secure the lids on, making sure they are even.

Using a small brush, paint the lids as desired, with craft acrylic paints. I used my old standby, Ceramcoat®, in Metallic Silver and 24K Gold. At $1.39 a container it is cheap and effective. I painted 2 coats total, giving them an overnight rest between coats. I painted 12 silver, 12 gold. As for how much paint? You will barely break in a bottle!

After they sat and dried fully, I applied tiny stickers I found in a scrap booking section, by Jolee’s Boutique. They are cute as can be. The ones I bought came in packs of 20, so I picked up 2.

For the tree:

Kirk had an extra shelf lying around, from an old IKEA storage shelving system. He cleaned up the edges on one of his manly tools I am scared of, then handed it over to me. I hot glued the tree’s base to the board (using a 2 foot pre-flocked/pre-lit tree that I opened up and did the branches beforehand). Once set, I draped a cheap tree skirt around it, glueing the skirt down on the edges to keep it neat.

Then I decorated the tree with mini-ornaments, I used 3 sets total. I also decorated below the tree with matching bead garland, then lined up the jars as desired.

I am not quite done, I still need to number the jars. My free-hand skills are not the greatest for painting numbers, so I need to find mini-stencils or stickers, that will take a trip to a large craft or scrapbooking store for that. If I get that done this year, great. If not, there is always next fall!

To store I am going to save a large cardboard box I can set it into, on a bed or large bubble wrap. When I think about this tree…it makes me want to not do a big tree. It is SO easy!

PS: The gingerbread house I built over the weekend is sitting in front of the tree now….and I love it!

PS2: In a Google search I saw a Pinterest Board on “Baby Food Jar Crafts” where my blog was pinned a couple of times. I had a huge smile knowing there are plenty of other weirdos out there like me 😉

PS3: How much did this project cost me? Ummmmm…..let’s not talk about that. It would have been frugal if I hadn’t bought the tree and ornaments. But hey, they were all 40% off! I paid about $16 for the tree, so it wasn’t “too” bad.

~Sarah

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