Ostara Fun for Everyone

eggs

The spring equinox is upon us, and the girls and I have been having fun getting ready.  While looking for ideas of things to do with them, I noticed a serious lack of information on the Web about how to include small children in Pagan/Wiccan celebrations.  So I thought I’d share what we do with you.  If you are looking for some other great ideas, I highly recommend the book Circle Round by Starhawk, Diane Baker, and Anne Hill.  It is chock-full of stories, songs, and craft ideas.

I’ve been telling them the story of Persephone and reading them Rupert’s Tales, story-poems about a sweet little rabbit who is learning about the different Pagan holidays.  We’ve been listening to a lot of Ostara Songs, but the big favorite is by Lisa Thiel.  Laurel likes to sing along with that one, even if she gets most of the words wrong.

Yesterday we made Ostara cookies, because nothing says “spring” more than the marriage of eggs, butter, and flour.  Get the recipe for these super good gluten free sugar cookies here.  We painted them with “cookie paint” before they were baked.  Just mix half an egg yolk with a smidgen of water and some food coloring, then let your little artists have at it.

Cookies are good for any reason, any season.

Cookies are good for any reason, any season.

Today we dyed Ostara eggs.  What makes Ostara eggs different from Easter eggs?  Not a dang thing.  I wish I could tell you that I made my very own all natural dyes from different plants, but I would be lying.  I am too sick and tired to do that stuff right now.  So a Paas egg dying kit from Target was what we used.  For the record, the “magic crayon” that comes with it is useless.  I was so let down that my pretty designs didn’t show up.  Thankfully, the girls didn’t care.

Laurel made all of the pink eggs.

Laurel made all of the pink eggs.

Since eggs are such a big part of Ostara, tomorrow we’ll be celebrating by eating Ham, Egg, and Potato Bake off of the adorable plates that the girls picked out at Target.  For dessert it is traditional to have custard, but I’m making a bunny shaped vanilla cake with coconut icing.  Because….cake.

Seriously, how cute are these?!

Seriously, how cute are these?!

Long before dinner, however, the girls will wake up to their Ostara “baskets.”  Traditionally, these would be made from wicker or grape vines or some other lovely natural material.  But my girls get baskets as Easter.  This year for Ostara they are getting metal pails filled with gardening supplies.  Then we will plant the little seeds they got in mason jars, so they can watch them grow.

My herbs are already sprouting!

My herbs are already sprouting!

I don’t think we are going to actually hide any eggs for the girls to find this year, since it is still pretty cold outside and our new puppy would eat anything we hid in the house, but they will enjoy eating them all the same.  Luckily, they are still to young to know any differently.  And before you get up in arms about the lack of candy in their buckets, have no fear…. they will get plenty next month when they get to pretty much do all of this over again, but on a much bigger scale.

Happy Ostara!

 

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Food: It’s What’s For Dinner.

I love food.  I love to taste it and smell it and cook it.  I think that cooking is a magical act, one where you can take basic raw ingredients and turn them into fabulous creations that you get to eat.  I am particularly fond of baking, much to my waistline’s dismay.  (But Chev’s joy.)  I have made very few New Year resolutions, but one of them is to suck it up and brave the mysteries of yeast.  I want to learn how to make wonderful gluten free bread and soft pretzels for my girls.  Because the stuff you can buy in the store, quite frankly, sucks.  I also dream of sticky buns.  Sweet, gooey, sticky buns.  *drool*

Sticky bunssssss

Sticky bunssssss

One of my favorite things to do on Facebook is ask all of my friends what they are having for dinner.  Not because I’m some weird food stalker or because I have nothing better to fill my hours with than reading about what other people like to eat.  Its because reading my friends’ responses gives me ideas for future meals.  I am always on the look out for new meal ideas.  I scour magazines, cookbooks, and Pinterest for new ways to tempt my family to eat well.  I have more Pinterest boards dedicated to food than to anything else.  (Seriously, go check out my boards.  I’m like a recipe hoarder.)  We have dietary restrictions in our house, and that makes meals much trickier to plan.

I enjoy a good challenge.

Bring it on, yeast.

Bring it on, yeast.

Ellie has Celiac disease, which means that if she eats anything with gluten in it, her immune system thinks its a good idea to attack her small intestines.  Sounds like fun, right?  Not so much.  Just one cookie can keep her (and me) up all night, crying with tummy pain and explosive diarrhea.  And gluten is in everything a three year old loves.  Seriously.  Pasta, bread, cereal, pancakes, cookies, crackers….all of it is just filled with gluten.  So we have to buy or make gluten free alternatives.  Thankfully, the gluten free products out there have vastly improved over the last ten years.  Diamond brand nuts makes awesome almond crackers that are basically Ellie crack.  Schar brand pasta is actually better than normal pasta.  Almost all of the Chex cereals are gluten free, including the delicious cinnamon variety.  So good stuff is out there.  But it is expensive.  Oh, so expensive.  And the bread all sucks, as previously mentioned.

Poor Ellie-Kitty

Poor Ellie-Kitty

I have high cholesterol, so I try to cook a lot of vegetarian meals.  Which is also great since we are poor and need to save money.  Meat is expensive, so we don’t eat much of it.  I have to admit, it took poor Chev a while to get use to eating meals that were not meat based. Having grown up with a very strong “meat and potatoes” background, it took a while for her to accept that things like chick peas and carrots could take center stage.  But after a while she found that she really liked our new meal plans.  Maybe not as much as she likes a good, thick steak with a side of more steak, but better than she thought she’d like them, nonetheless.

Mmm...long pork.

Mmm…long pork.

This brings me to the heart of today’s topic:  Dinner.  I had always planned to share some of our favorite recipes with you, and tonight’s dinner seems like a perfect place to start.  So, without further ado, I present you with…..our dinner.

I'm no food photographer, so here is a meme instead.

I’m no food photographer, so here is a meme instead.

Red Lentil Soup and Homemade Gluten Free Bread

Don’t freak out.  I swear, it is super easy.  Would I lie to you?  No, I would not.
The soup recipe came from a magazine, but I have no idea which one or when.  Sorry.
The bread recipe comes from http://www.elanaspantry.com/ She makes the BEST gluten free/dairy free/paleo food you can imagine.  Try her snickerdoodle recipe.  It will blow your mind.

Equipment Needed:
Slow cooker (every mother’s friend)
Immersion blender (or regular blender and some patience)
Mixer
Bread pan (7ish inches by 3.5ish inches..or whatever you have on hand)

For the soup:
3/4 cup blanched almonds (or regular almonds or almond meal.  I won’t judge you.)2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 2 inch pieces
2 celery stalks, sliced thin
1 medium onion, quartered (We aren’t huge onion fans, so I use a shallot)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 bag (16oz) red lentils, rinsed and picked over (I never do this.  I like to live dangerously.)
2 large vegetable bouillon cubes, crumbled
7 cups water (I have never used bouillon cubes in my life.  I use four cups of veggie broth and three cups of water.)
1 Tablespoon curry powder (Hell no.  We don’t do curry in this house.  I throw some paprika in there instead.)
1/2 teaspoon salt (This is one of the few recipes that I actually add the salt.  It needs it.)
3/4 cup heavy cream  (Ok, not the lowest cholesterol ingredient, but it is still better than a slab of beef.)

Mix up everything except the cream in your slow cooker.  Cover.  Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 hours.  Uncover.  Blend with immersion blender or VERY carefully transfer it to a regular blender in small batches.  Make it smooth.  Stir in heavy cream.   Garnish with extra almonds and cilantro if you want to.  (I never want to.)

For the bread:

1 1/2 c almond flour
3/4 c arrowroot flour
1/4 c golden flaxmeal (I can never find this, so I use 2 T millet flour instead)
1/2 t salt1/2 t baking soda
4 eggs (again…not so low in cholesterol…..)
1 t honey
1 t apple cider vinegar

Start your eggs in the mixer, blending for 3-5 minutes, until they are frothy.  (If you don’t have a stand mixer, this will feel like an eternity.  I don’t have a stand mixer.)  Mix your dry ingredients together in another bowl.  Add the honey and vinegar to the eggs.  Mix some more.  Stir in the dry ingredients with a spoon.  Scoop batter into a greased bread loaf pan.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when you stick it in the middle.  Pop it out of the pan and cool on a wire rack.

This bread doesn’t have yeast, so it doesn’t rise very much. It is a dense, nutty bread.  I wouldn’t use it for sandwiches, but we LOVE it with soup.

Oh, and for the record, no, my three year old twins do not eat this soup.  They look at it. They poke it with their spoons.  Occasionally they will stick a finger into it and lick it off.  But please don’t think that I have some magic wand that makes toddlers eat lentil soup.  I don’t.  And I won’t lie to you about it.  They DO like the bread, however, and every once in a while one of them will dip the bread into the soup and eat it that way.  I consider that a win.  One day they will like the soup and eat it up.  That day is not likely to be today.  And I’m ok with that.

Enjoy!

 

Painting Cookies!

They look good enough to eat...all in one sitting!

They look good enough to eat…all in one sitting!

Today Laurel and I made cut-out cookies.  I wanted to make up for making cookie-looking non-cookie ornaments the other day.  Because I’m all about fairness.  And baked goods.

The fates smiled upon our house today, and Laurel was on her best, most adorable behavior.  So after we put Ellie on the school bus we broke out the cookie dough we made yesterday.  Laurel picked out which cookie cutters to use, and helped to cut the dough.  The only fuss she made was when I wouldn’t let her roll the dough out herself.  (That’s a quick way for it to end up on the floor!)  She told me how many of each shape to make, and we had a great time.  Then it was off to the table to decorate them!

If you have ever made cut-out cookies with a young child, you have seen the way they apply sprinkles.  Usually it involves 1/2 an inch of colored sugar on top of each cookie, non of which actually melts, and it just gets everywhere.  So I wanted some kind of (less messy) alternative to sprinkles.  Enter…..Cookie Paint!

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Paint + Cookies = One happy Lil’ Bear!

I remembered seeing a post somewhere at some point about making cookie paint out of egg yolk and food coloring, so I decided we’d give that a shot.  And it worked great!  Laurel loves to paint more than anything in the world, so it was a natural fit.  I decided on a limited pallet of colors, and only made red, green, and blue.  The blue didn’t really want to come out blue because our egg yolks were very yellow.  So it was sort of greenish, but I didn’t really care that much.  If you want a truer blue, I’d try using the egg whites.  I’m not sure how that will turn out, though. It might make them extra crispy.  You’ll need to add a bit of water to the yolk/food color mixture as well, to thin it out a bit.  And you don’t need much of it.  I probably could have split the yolks up and used only half a yolk per color, instead of a whole one.  In any case, I love how they turned out.  The paint got really shiny and pretty.  We will definitely do this again!

Truly Scrumptious

Truly Scrumptious

Gluten Free Cut-Out Cookies

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup gluten free flour (I used King Arthur’s Multipurpose Flour)
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

– Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Mix in the dry ingredients.
– Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge for at least an hour.
– Preheat the oven to 350 F.
– Roll a chunk of the dough out on a floured surface until it is about 1/4 inch thick.  Remember to flour your rolling pin (or wine bottle or other rolling implement).
– Break out your favorite cookie cutters and have at it.  Remember to dip the cutters in flour if they start to stick.
– Put the cookies on a cookie sheet.  Use parchment paper if your heart desires it.  I don’t bother.
– Take the left over dough and squish it up with another chunk of the unused dough.  Repeat the rolling/cutting steps until your cookie sheets are full.
– PUT THE REST OF THE DOUGH BACK IN THE FRIDGE.  Otherwise, while you decorate the first batch, your dough will get too soft and sticky and you’ll never get it rolled out.  Trust me.
– Decorate your first batch of cookies however you want.
– Pop those cookies in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
– Cool on wire racks.
– Once you have a free cookies sheet, get the rest of the dough out of the fridge and start rolling/cutting.  You get the point.
– Devour.

 

Cookie Paint

1 egg yolk per color
1/4 teaspoon water per color
a few drops of food coloring

In small bowls, containers, or ramekins mix up a yolk, the water, and some food coloring.
Make sure you use CLEAN paintbrushes.  Not the ones your kids were using the other day that you just sort of half-assed rinsed out.  Either use new brushes or give the ones you have a proper cleaning with dish soap and hot water.  Use a different brush for each color; don’t try to rinse between colors. It will water down the paint too much.Again, if you use yolks that are a dark yellow, you may have problems with some of the colors.  I had to add a lot of red to make the paint red, not orange.  You can try the egg whites, but I haven’t tested that theory yet.
Paint the cookies!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love the holidays.  I really do think it’s the most wonderful time of the year.  And the girls are just making it better.  Every year they understand it a little more, and this year the magic is definitely blooming in their hearts.  But I still have some things to bitch about when it comes to the holidays.  And, being the generous person that I am, I thought I’d share them with you.

1.  Here comes Santa Claus……and there go my kids
There is a common occurrence among young children; they want to see Santa, oh god they want to see Santa, until they actually see Santa. Then, holy crap, Santa is the scariest man in the world.  Ask Laurel.  Last year she could not wait to see Santa.  We were the first in line to sit in his lap at Chev’s company Christmas party.  Then we got up there and this happened:

Ho Ho Holy Shit this is funny

Ho Ho Holy Shit this is funny

Laurel is crying, I’m laughing, Ellie is all “who the hell is this guy?”, and the elf is just hamming it up.  I’m guessing this year will be more of the same, but times two.  However obsessed Ellie is with the man in red, she had finally developed a healthy fear of strangers. So please, mother of a perfectly behaved 7 year old who has obviously forgotten what toddlers are like, cut us some damn slack.  Thanks.

2.  Silver Bells and Sensory Overload

Bright lights, shiny colored presents, loud music, people everywhere, lots of food….its all a bit overwhelming, isn’t it?  Even as adults we can get exhausted from the whirlwind of the holidays.  Triple that for little kids.  Laurel doesn’t deal well with loud sounds or lots of noises at once.  She says they “scare-a mines ears.”  Add in her normal three year old fear of strangers and holidays can be pretty rough on her.  And yes, uncle she only sees three times a year, you count as a stranger.  And no, she will NOT willingly sit on your lap.  Please stop trying to make her do so before she has a complete meltdown.  Now multiply that by one hundred for Ellie.  While she likes people, she doesn’t particularly like being pinched, hugged, or patted thirty thousand times in one day.  Add in all of the sights, sounds, and smells that can go along with a large gathering and there is a very good chance that I will be carrying her around all day because she has suddenly become a Velcro baby.  I’m her safe space, her home base.  If you see her clinging to me like a baby opossum, its because she is done.  Just done.  So leave her alone.

3. Cakes and Cookies and…..all the other stuff we can’t eat.

IMG_3162e

Sorry, kid, not for you.

In addition to Down syndrome, Ellie has Celiac disease.  We found out this summer, so this is our first gluten free holiday season.  And I’m already dreading it.  Nothing like telling your kid that she can’t eat ANY of the cookies at the party.  Or the crackers.  Or the cake.  Or the sandwiches.  Or the turkey, because it was roasted with cornbread stuffing inside of it and now the whole thing is contaminated, which doesn’t really matter, because I wouldn’t trust it anyway without reading the nutrition info label, because frozen turkeys are often injected with stuff that has gluten in it, so it might have been contaminated from the day it was killed.  Oh, and I’ll be needing a brand new stick of butter and clean knife to use to butter her gluten free bread that I brought from home, because there are gluteny crumbs in the butter and now the entire stick is contaminated and she can’t eat that or she’ll get explosive diarrhea for the next three days and I do NOT want to deal with that, so instead I’ll deal with your rolled eyes and snarky comments behind my back.  And NO she can NOT have just one cookie.  I know its a holiday and you think I’m just being mean, but unless you want to stay up all night with her while she cries because her little tummy hurts so much that she wants to die, just stfu and put the cookie down.  And for the love of god, do NOT give Laurel a cookie in front of Ellie.  Unless you want to unleash the Hulk and have Ellie lose her mind and smash everything she can get her cute little hands on.

4.  Great Expectations

My girls are three.  They like shiny things.  Especially if they are at eye level.  They like to pick them up and shake them and put them in their mouths and play with them and drop them.  They also like stairways to unknown lands and doorways to uncharted territory.  It is a child’s job to explore the world around them.  This is why you will find nothing breakable placed less than four feet from the floor in my house.  This is why we use plastic plates.  This is why we have a gate blocking off our kitchen and locks on our attic and basement doors.  Because children are meant to explore.  If we are invited to your house for the holidays, do not expect them to suppress their nature just because you didn’t want to child-proof your house.  It’s not going to happen.  Don’t expect them to listen to you if you tell them not to touch your grandmother’s antique snow globe which you place oh-so-conveniently on the coffee table.  Don’t expect them to listen to you if you tell them to stay out of the spare room which you left wide open.  It isn’t going to happen.  They aren’t being bad.  They are doing what they are suppose to do.  You are an adult.  Your job is to be smart enough to figure this out.

5.  Holiday Q&A

If your family is like mine, the holidays are the time you see relatives you don’t see the rest of the year, so it’s natural to want to catch up with them.  Its natural for them to ask questions about the your kids, and what they are doing these days.  I get that.  Please, ask me about Laurel’s love of painting and Ellie’s passion for music.  I will wax poetic about it for hours.  But there are some questions and comments that can really piss me off.  Like “Why isn’t Ellie talking yet?  That doesn’t seem normal.  I’ve never heard of downsy kids not being able to talk.”  Oh, really?  In your vast research of children with Down syndrome, you missed all of the information about low muscle tone and poor vocal planning that a large number of kids have to deal with?  Maybe you should do more research before implying that my kid isn’t normal right in front of her.  She may not be able to talk, but she understands everything you say.  And don’t use the term “downsy.”  People with Down syndrome hate that shit.  So do their parents.  Would you call a person who uses a wheelchair “wheelsy.”  I certainly hope not.  Ellie is a person first, thankyouverymuch.  Then there are the barely-veiled questions and comments that imply that you disapprove of my parenting style.  No, I’m not going to let them eat candy before dinner.  No, they are not potty trained yet.  Yes, I really am going to let Laurel run around with the boys instead of making her sit still on the couch like a little lady.  Yes, I really am going to read the ingredient labels of every single thing on the table before I put it on Ellie’s plate.  No, I’m not going to make Laurel hug or even talk to you.  So back off.

6.  Gifts Gifts Gifts

1-Corinthians-12-4

Its beginning to look like consumerism!

Want to know what the girls are getting for Christmas?  Laurel is getting a doctor kit and Ellie is getting a little train set.  They are both getting four things in their stockings, and I’m going to make each of them a stuffed dinosaur.  That is it.  Seriously.  And no, it’s not because we are poor (which we are).  It is because they are three and don’t need anything else.  They don’t care about the newest, coolest toy on TV, because we don’t have cable.  They don’t a Doc McStuffins Princess Sophia Barbie Dream House because they don’t know that they exist.  And you know what?  They aren’t deprived in any way.  They are THREE.  They don’t need iPads or bounce houses or twenty new dolls.  We have enough stuff.  They don’t play with half the toys the already have.  Laurel would rather paint than play.  Ellie would rather dance than dress up dollies.  And you know what?  I’m just fine with that.

 

Again, I really do love the holidays.  It is my favorite time of the year.  I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, happy Hanukkah,  happy Yule, merry Christmas, happy Kwanza, and a wonderful New Year.

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