Oh Baby!

As usual, I’ve fallen down on my blogging, but I have a good excuse, I swear. DH came home from deployment ahead of schedule! And a couple weeks later we found out we are expecting a baby! Then the holidays, then our much anticipated honeymoon, then SURPRISE find out we’re PCSing across country shortly. So much change, so much exhaustion, and precious little half-caf coffee.

Homecoming was incredible, and in typical fashion, flawed. The flight was delayed so many times one of my friends called it the “countdownupdownup”. After hours of blow drying hair and makeup and choosing an outfit, we stood on the flight line in pouring frigid rain in the dark for half an hour when the flight was delayed another 10 minutes on landing. They touched down 15 minutes before the magic cutoff where you the get the following day off from reintegration, so the next day he was up and reintegrating at 9 am. Boo-oo.

Obviously all that didn’t sap much mojo, and here we are trying to sell our house, starting out my second trimester, starting to pick out maternity clothes. Which brings me to the main thought that got me thinking I need to write this out as I got thinking about it. What the heck is it about a pregnant belly that people feel invited to touch, when a few months ago they wouldn’t give you the time of day? Surfing maternity clothes I’m shocked at the number of shirts that cutely, hilariously, even aggressively, warn people off uninvited belly touching. I knew it was a thing. I was aware it happened. But enough to make shirts? Apparently yes, because a number of tips for new moms columns and even my week by week pregnancy book advise on deflecting nosy questions, unsolicited advice, and belly touching strangers. I can see how motherhood is a powerful bond between women, and some, especially very outgoing women, will feel like they’re part of the same club, and therefore friends, and therefore it’s fine to be touchy and ask questions just like a friend. Flawed logic but with all the best intentions.

It makes me laugh, but also sad, that there are things like, the snappy canned response to someone asking “Do you know what you’re having?” is “We’re hoping it’s a baby” (DH said I should say, “My husband hopes it’s a puppy”). Because seriously, most people on a daily basis wouldn’t ask you squat about your personal life out of the blue. And most mothers should remember what it was like to be constantly peppered with questions and advice from family and friends even before they go out in public. I mean, weeks ago it was getting tedious just answering “How are you feeling?” a few times a day to the small circle of loved ones in the loop (my solution, by the way, was to create a private Facebook group with almost daily updates so I don’t have to answer a bunch of texts–much better). And that was before I had an even remotely visible bump. So why, especially women who have been there themselves, do they do it?

I want to believe, I do, that people just want to be friendly and supportive. And probably in some way to share vicariously in the happiness of new life. When it comes to touching, there’s actually an easy answer. If you feel awkward asking permission to touch a woman’s belly, it’s definitely not appropriate to do it without permission. End of story. If you’re friendly with someone and feel comfortable asking, do ask, but be prepared to accept “no” gracefully.

If you’re one of those people who tries to go around sharing encouragement and striking up conversations in the check out line with anyone and everyone, it seems to me obvious that there are other ways to share encouragement with a pregnant woman besides touching or asking–both of which are, in a sense, taking. What would be giving rather than taking? What would be encouraging without intruding and opening the door for conversation without making the reply potentially fraught? How about an offer of help. What if, to reach out you say to the pregnant woman waiting in a long line at the sandwich shop “I remember those days, I’m happy to hold your place in line so you can rest your feet until its time to order”. In the check out line, “Would you like help getting your bags out to your car?” To which she might reply, “I’m fine, thanks” and that’s the end of the conversation, she might gratefully accept, or might stay and chat. You could offer a compliment, “You look gorgeous, I love that shirt.” And she might sigh and say “I don’t feel like it, but thank you,” and thus begins bonding about maternity fashion and swollen ankles. Or she might say thanks and go back to checking email on her phone.

People who want to talk will talk. They will take the opening you offer to bend your ear and usually shift their stance to be conversational. People who don’t want to talk will give a short reply and turn away, but at least probably turn away feeling a little better to have had a brief positive interaction. I realize most people who ask questions see it as striking up conversation or being friendly, and pregnancy, like a team t-shirt, make it easy to pinpoint a topic. And for most people, a question may  be the best way to get things started. But pregnant women get a million questions a day from people they know way better than you, a stranger or casual acquaintance.

The word on the street from the blogs and articles seems consistently to express that questions or unwelcome touch comes across to most as “taking”, it requires energy just to find the right response that balances politeness with asserting one’s boundaries, such as deciding how to answer “Do you know what you’re having?” Do you say “No, we’re not finding out”, “Yes, but we’re not telling anyone”, “It’s a boy/girl”, “We’re hoping it’s a baby”, or to ignore the question completely because you’re hormonal and fed up and not sure you can answer nicely. It may be her last nerve you’re on if it’s already a sore subject, like if family is badgering mama-to-be to find out the gender when the couple has decided not to. It can also cause a sense of being violated if she feels compelled to answer questions so as not to be rude. It can also depend on the day, some days you feel like talking, others you don’t. When I started buying baby things here and there, the cashiers would sometimes comment “Oh, someone’s having a baby!” which gave me the chance to say “Yup” and hand over my credit card without elaboration (and on that day, even the observation felt like a question I didn’t really want to answer) or on another day to say “Yes, it’s pretty exciting, this is the first pair of little shoes I’m buying” which got her going about her daughter in law who is expecting and how difficult it is not to use her employee discount to buy up every tiny pair of shoes, and we both smiled. Offering something opens the door for conversation without creating expectations beyond a simple “Yes, please” or “No, thank you”. And some women do want to scream from the rooftops that they’re having a girl and they are so excited even though their back hurts and oh the baby’s kicking give me your hand and want to tell you all about the nursery color scheme even for the five minutes at the Starbucks counter. Trust me, they won’t need hardly any prompting to share their joy.

These are just my thoughts on how to offer support and camaraderie with the pregnant women you encounter in a way that’s more likely to be received as it is intended. I know just about everything related to pregnancy and child rearing are controversial, so take my two cents as seriously or not as you wish. For laughs, I’ve included some of the aforementioned shirts:

http://www.customizedgirl.com/design/221546e2a8422ca084eb1e783b7f1444_1019927&utm_medium=shoppingengine&utm_source=googlebase?gclid=CL6yhN_J7LwCFXBk7AodREIAug

http://www.redbubble.com/people/ashlykark6/works/9623347-yes-pregnant-dont-touch-white?country_code=US&p=t-shirt&utm_campaign=shopping&utm_medium=google_products&utm_source=google&gclid=CIKu2IPK7LwCFeRi7AodKhoAdA

http://www.cafepress.com/mf/23345525/dont-touch-the-belly-pink_maternity?utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=185178692&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=sem-cpc-product-ads&utm_content=search-pla&productId=185178692

http://www.etsy.com/listing/59117543/not-a-magic-lamp-dont-rub-the-belly?utm_source=google&utm_medium=product_listing_promoted&utm_campaign=clothing_low&gclid=CNfpvLHK7LwCFUVo7AodDS4AwQ

http://www.cafepress.com/mf/31113863/dont-touch-belly_maternity?utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=413211886&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=sem-cpc-product-ads&utm_content=search-pla&productId=413211886

The Ugly Side

This is the ugly side of Veterans Day, of deployment, of Army life in general. This, my day so far. I woke up to lovely, inspiring posts on face book about heroes and gratitude, and it made me smile as I brewed my coffee (a rare occurrence,  believe me). The last couple months have been busy, too busy, with growing, canning, dehydrating, volunteering, home improving, hosting the incredible loved ones who have visited to help me pass the time. It has also been busy just surviving, I realize. A friend called me a while back, and said that it just hit her how, before the spouse of a deployed soldier even wakes up in the morning, whether it is a busy chaotic day or a restful sabbath day, the absence and the undercurrent of fear is there just waiting for you. And she’s right. Before it even has a chance to be a great day you have to pray that away and put your game face on and some days, that first obstacle is insurmountable. And some days it’s like one of those American Gladiators obstacles that keeps swinging for you over and over. Today has been one of those days.

Coffee in hand, I checked email, and was thrilled to hear from DH. It’s rough for him right now, for any number of reasons, and he tries so hard to be positive and encouraging but we both feel the undercurrent. Sometimes it’s just a fact, to be acknowledged and ignored. It hums “thissucksthissucksthissucksthissucksthissucksthissucks” quietly in the background. Other days it is an undertow ready to suck you under or the moving obstacle that will, the moment you let your guard down, whack you in the solar plexus.

Today’s email was mostly about honeymoon plans, which should be a source of ecstatic daydreams, and yet it sucked the wind out of my sails. The suite we want may not be available much longer at the warm weather destination of our choice. Communication is spotty, redeployment is fraught with uncertainties, and the flights, oh dear Lord, the flight options are abysmal. It is a 5.5 hour flight, yet almost all our options are 21-24 hours with multiple overnight layovers just to GET there. I want to cry. I am crying, just thinking about it. I hate planning travel. I hate having to weigh the relative merits of quiet and private versus well situated, luxury versus cost, this view or that amenity and then comb through flights, weigh different airports or different dates to find a flight that isn’t a total ripoff, figure out how we’re getting to the airport, if the option to take a shuttle is even available given our tentative flight times, arrange care for our dogs (in a military community where most people take vacation at the exact same time, boarding space for pets is a nightmare). Travel plans are the kryptonite of my otherwise very competent can-do attitude.

I want my husband to deal with this. Isn’t planning the honeymoon the grooms job? He was, admittedly, busy preparing to go to war in the weeks leading up to our wedding. And now he rarely has internet and bigger priorities when he gets to a computer. But still, this should be his problem. If Dante was going to create a special circle of hell for me, it would be called multi-city flights from regional airports and once I think I find a good flight the server cuts the connection and every airport code and date and time disappears. I’d rather we up to my waist in ice.

My husband goes to a travel metacrawler, clicks a few buttons, decisively announces the best flight he can find for my approval, and whips out his credit card. What a schmuck. He has the best luck with hotels, transportation and restaurants. He does it effortlessly in the way that makes other people either slack jawed with admiration or really quite insane (can you tell which camp I’m in?). Our first Valentines day was a Saturday night in New York City, and I asked a couple weeks out, if he had thought to make reservations for dinner. He said he had it under control (read: nope). The day before, I asked if we had dinner reservations and he said he had it under control (read: nope). I informed him at that point who would be sleeping where if we ate at McDonalds for dinner…it’s a Saturday Valentines in NYC for goodness sake! All dressed up, we arrive in Little Korea and he walks into a packed restaurant and asks how long it would be for a table. They said 5 minutes. We were seated in 3. He didn’t wipe the smug satisfaction off his face for a week. What a schmuck.

So why shouldn’t HE be the one booking our honeymoon instead of me crying over my coffee after two hours with 6 browser tabs open, connections timing out, an oppressive number of decisions weighing down my RAM (mine, not the laptop’s, although it’s definitely getting slower too). DH would have had it done an hour and 45 minutes ago, and we would also get bumped to first class or bumped to a suite on arrival because he has the magic touch. One time, after booking the cheapest little european piece of crap available in Germany, he asked to rent a GPS unit at the desk and they upgraded us for free to a brand new cream audi convertible (the next available rental with in-dash GPS because they were out of the plug in units)! I mean, we had to peel the protective film off the trim, we were the first ones to drive it. I love being the gal on his arm when we go on adventures HE plans, things work out spectacularly well for us that way. But this is deployment and the gnome has pretty much made me his bitch since the halfway point, so I get to do travel plans.

Today was ready to suck me under from the start, and under I went. On the last day of a beautiful, unseasonably warm 4 day weekend that I keep wishing we could be enjoying together, and I keep fighting to pray away my ungratefulness. It’s a beautiful day. I don’t have to work. I heard from DH. We’re getting to go on our long awaited honeymoon. Yet I’m exhausted and it isn’t even noon. My patriotic feelings for the day have fizzled and I just want him home. Now. Yesterday. Pity party complete, it’s time to get back to what I do best: work long and hard so there isn’t space to think too much. Operation organize the garage is in full swing.

Today, thank a veteran, and buy his wife a box of wine (or her husband a bottle of his poison of choice). I am proud, grateful beyond words for the sacrifices our veterans make, but today I really don’t have the mental capacity for anything more than wanting mine home. Happy Veterans Day/ Armistice Day!

The Best Bread

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I have been a terrible, horrible blogger. I have started and not completed at least half a dozen posts in the last two months, busy with travel, house guests, volunteer commitments, an out of control vegetable garden, and unfortunately, more fatalities in our unit. It has been a chaotic deployment, to put it nicely! Then, the feeling of “Meh, I’ve already failed, it can wait a while longer” set in. And now I have a recipe worth shouting from the rooftops that got me back on my game.

It is based on a recipe from Red Star yeast, but as I’ve said before, I avoid using instant yeast whenever possible. It contributes to all the gluten/digestive issues people are becoming more aware of as commercial bread makings becomes faster and faker with dough conditioners and ultra processed yeast to make bread in 30 minutes that once took 12 hours. Studies show that the hours of fermentation in naturally leavened bread actually breaks down gluten into a harmless form. I encourage you to seek out scholarly research on the health benefits of naturally leavened bread (known as sourdough, although it need not be sour at all). Dr. Terry Graham, professor of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, has found some surprising results summarized here: http://www.bakersjournal.com/content/view/1245/ and the study’s full results in the British Journal of Nutrition here.

In fact, the best simple, straightforward explanation of the scientific basis of my bread making choices I stumbled across on an artisan bakery’s web page, and I encourage yall to scroll down to the “benefits of…” sections of this page which explain in in a nutshell: the effects of natural leaven on bran, the nutritional qualities of rye and spelt, and the benefits of organic and whole grains (versus commercially milled whole wheat). Okay, enough preaching, on to the bread.

Here is my adaptation of the recipe, which rises for 8-12 hours and despite the low-gluten ingredient list, still has a perfect bread texture 🙂

  • 1/2 cup raw/demerara sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (110°-115°F)
  • 1 tsp (1/2 packet) Active Dry Yeast (dry active is slower than instant or quick rise yeast)
  • 1 1/2 c unfed sourdough starter
  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (flax seeds can be substituted)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour plus extra as needed.

Wash

  • 1 egg
  • 2 t milk
  • 2 t honey

In stand mixer bowl, mix warm milk, sugar,and yeast, leave to rise 10 minutes. While the yeast is poofing, add the oats to the hot water right in your measuring cup if it’s large enough. Then mix in everything up to the flours by hand with a whisk. Whisk in the whole wheat and almond flour, which should make a wet dough/thick batter. Get the bowl settled into the mixer and using the dough hook, mix in the bread flour half a cup at a time. It should still be a tacky but add flour until it will form a ball, maybe a few additional tablespoons. Knead on medium speed for 10 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 8 hours (up to 12 depending on the temperature). I left mine in a 73 degree kitchen overnight about 10 hours and it over rose a little. Still tasted great and had a nice texture, not too dense, but it would have been even better if I’d only left for 9 hours.

Best bread dough

Pre-heat oven to 375. Punch down dough; turn out onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half; knead each portion into ball (I made one loaf and 6 rolls, both came out great) For loaves: using rolling pin, gently roll each into rectangle the length of loaf pan. Roll up into cylinder; pinch along bottom to seal. Fold each end of loaf in and pinch to seal. Place into prepared pans. Cover and let rise in warm draft-free place for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. For rolls: divide whole batch in 12 or half batch in 6, shape and smooth, then flatten down a bit on the tray, leave to rise 30 mins. Whisk together egg,  milk, and honey, and brush the dough thoroughly with glaze.

Bake rolls for 20 minutes or until golden brown, bake loafs 30-35 minutes. Remove the loaves from pans to cool on a wire rack (or the bottoms will get soggy, this is a nice moist, chewy bread).

This recipe could definitely hold up to a 1/4 cup of bran thrown in the mix, and I will update when I test a batch including bran. Please comment if you give it a shot!

 

 

September 11

I know that our society is perfectly capable of forgetting. Most of us forget December 7 every year, the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor that our parents and grandparents swore would never be forgotten, that launched our involvement in a world war and sent our sons and daughters to fight fascism and genocide. But I know that I, personally, will never forget. I can’t. The ways 9/11/01 changed my life are innumerable.

12 years ago today, we as a nation, and my husband and I, began a journey wracked with pain, loss, love, and devotion. That morning, DH’s childhood dreams of being a hero took on their mature form in a decision to serve in the military. As a small child, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, I’m told he replied “a general” and his long time friends still call him General for kicks. It was a little boy’s dream of heroism and glory, that as an adolescent he affirmed in maturity, understanding it would require duty, honor, and sacrifice for country. He started basic training at 17, his parents had to sign a waiver. He set his sights on that goal, overcoming many obstacles and training relentlessly to be a warrior and leader, to take the fight to those who plot against our country and the free people of the world.

That path he began 12 years ago today brought us together 5 years ago and I joined his mission with him. We have gained and lost so much. Incredible people have entered our lives, and we have lost friends, classmates, loved ones in battle. We lose hours, day, weeks, and months together, but we have gained a lifetime. 20 weeks ago, it separated us once again, but what God has joined, no trial or distance can put asunder. This separation is the culmination of all those years of training, his deployment to Afghanistan.

Our nation will endure through any challenge, any cowardly attack, because of the citizens who run toward danger, whether firefighters, police officers, and EMTs; soldiers, sailors, and marines; or patriots who continue to fight for a strong and free America. Today, I honor ordinary citizens who became heroes when faced with extraordinary circumstances, first responders who daily put themselves in harm’s way, and all the members of the Armed Forces who support this  battle against radicalism, oppression, and hatred.

My  husband is my hero, and our journey started 9/11/01. I will never forget.

“No greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

One of those days

Today was one of those days that you really hope only happens in your bad dreams or on an episode of Army Wives. After a day of things taking way longer than expected, I was running late (as in, only 2 minutes early) for the division remembrance ceremony for one of our company’s soldiers who was killed earlier this summer. I see the other wives sitting together and the only seat left is next to the battalion XO’s wife whom I have met maybe twice, and seems practically perfect in every way. Okay, don’t do anything dumb. Deep breath, get centered for the invocation. Almost knock over the flowers I tucked under my chair. Yadda yadda lovely service, poignant and scary and terrible and beautiful with the surprisingly temperate breeze and totally clear skies and vista from the front of division HQ. Taking in the beautiful day, the sound of taps beginning, and trying to keep it together, I feel something touch me, and realize a spider has blown out of the sky and landed on my collarbone. It starts moving, and I really really hate spiders. I try to hide my panic and discreetly brush it off, which sends it scurrying down my blouse. At that moment, there is nothing I want more than to scream and tear open my blouse and get it off of me, and that is, at that moment, the absolute last thing on earth I can do. So I stood very very still and prayed the spider wouldn’t bite me because then I would actually really lose it even in the middle of taps. Suddenly, quickly, it was over and time to line up and pay respects and there was enough shuffling and coughing for me to shake out my shirt a little and convince myself it was gone. I’m really grateful for many years of ballet, because though my feet are messed up, I can endure a lot of pain, be dying on the inside and look like I’m happy about it, lose 5 lbs in 2 days, and be still for long periods of time without scratching an itch, and those are great life skills. While he is one squared away soldier, the looking happy about it is one aspect of discipline I think I even have DH beat. I’m pretty proud of myself for not making a sound.

After the families paid their respects, the brass went up in pairs with their wives behind them (so really foursomes) to leave coins on the battlefield cross. You know, the inverted rifle with a helmet on top and dog tags tied to the grip and a pair of boots. It is visually arresting, and I realize the tinkling sound I had heard through the ceremony was the dog tags blowing in the wind and bouncing off each other and the rifle. Then the ushers began letting people out of the rows just like church, alternating sides, to pause before the cross. Everyone was lining up 2 at time, and we, the wives, were an odd number and I was the last one on the row. Crap. I’m running the scenarios in my head, whether to just be the odd woman out and go with the person behind me, when I realize it is a line of soldiers who are evenly distributed and I will mess up their whole thing. Maybe they’ll have  me go up by myself? Please, no. Then three people go up together. Thank goodness! So when the last two wives before me step out, the XO’s wife steps over a little extra and I pop out into the aisle with them. Crisis averted. Then…we stand around awkwardly, mostly silent because the line is still going strong, trying to communicate by eye contact and a few whispers. Wait forever to sign the guest book and then I bolted. All I could think about was how much DH would hate this, and how he had better not get killed because I’m not sure I could sit through one of these knowing how much he would hate this. It was (rightfully) so, so very serious and quiet and grave. It was ceremonious enough that it really should be rehearsed but it’s a terrible idea to rehearse a memorial service, so there’s a good bit of fumbling and bumbling. It is everything DH hates about official Army protocol, and he had damn better not get himself killed because it was awful. Lovely, tasteful, moving, and  awful.

So, after getting stuck in rush hour leaving post, it felt incredible to hang a left and hit the 2 lane country road to St. Elmo with the windows open. Going 55 between a field of corn and a field of tobacco with the radio on loud feels even better. Getting the last 2 bottles on the shelf of rare and highly sought after bourbon from our tiny local distillery right before they closed was about as good as the end of my day could get when the one employee in the gift shop offered me a tasting of the bourbon, and well, 1/3 oz was just enough to coat my tongue and warm my chest, and it was delicious, and sharp, and hot, and sweet. And now I’m sitting on the deck watching the sun go down and cast long rays across the rolling fields beyond our fence. Today was an okay day.

The take away lesson, folks, is if you haven’t been to a remembrance ceremony, be mentally prepared for it to be a bit awkward, turn off your cell phone ringer, plan ahead of time to sit with someone, ask someone who has been before about the protocol (at least this post gave you a general overview), and, you know, have enough self discipline to not freak out if nature attacks you.

Hiatus

Sorry I haven’t been posting much lately, it’s been pretty hectic. I haven’t had time to do fun things and take photos of it. I will try to do a post on a recipe this weekend. It’s been a heck of a first third of the deployment so far. Too many red line messages. Too many long gaps in communication. But lucky for me, I have the best friends in the whole world, who solicited letters from all the guests at our wedding with words of comfort to pull out when I’m having a hard day. I’ve had to open more than I like, but thanks to the outpouring of love, I have more than enough to get me through the rest. God is good, and He has put amazing people in my life. I’ll be getting a visit from one of those dear friends (their ringleader) this coming week so I probably won’t be posting regularly until after that. Consider it my summer vacation from blogging.

P.s. Heads up for the Ft. Campbell community, if anyone sends magazines in care packages, the R.F. Sink library is currently giving away 2012 magazines for free in the front vestibule. Sorry, I took all the Shape magazine for myself, and a selection of magazines to send DH and his buddies. There are still a bunch of National Geographic, Men’s Health, Esquire, Fantasy Football, Architectural Digest, Coastal Living magazines, and a bunch of random fitness, gun, military, and fashion magazines. It’s worth finding out if a local library or your doctor’s office discard magazines after a certain period of time. Or even ask neighbors and relatives if they would give you their magazines instead of chucking them. There is nothing like reading for a good low tech source of entertainment, and magazine articles are a good length for short periods of downtime. In short: free magazines are easy to come by and a great addition to care packages.

Breakfast Bites

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These little egg muffins are as good for a fancy brunch as for microwaving every morning for a week to get a quick nutritious breakfast. I could sing the praises of these beautiful bites, but the proof is in the tasting, just make them, they’re too easy! The inspiration for these are based on this recipe by Iowa Girl Eats (awesome food blog).

  • 1 c chopped green onions
  • 1 c chopped zucchini or summer squash (squeeze out excess moisture)
  • 1 c chopped low sodium ham
  • 1 c low fat shredded cheese (cheddar or pepper jack is best)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 c egg whites
  • 1 1/2 c cooked quinoa
  • hot sauce to taste (we love Peach Serrano)
  • 1/2 t sage
  • 1/2 t parsley

Mix it all up, and put in mini muffin tins (preferably silicone) with a very, very light spritz of olive oil. Bake on 450 for 15-20 minutes, until the edges become golden brown. Makes about 4 dozen mini muffins. I have used fat free cheese as well, and at this temperature it actually does melt just fine. My top choice is Cabot sharp extra light or jalapeno (both 75% reduced fat).

Marvel Comics Care Package

Marvel Care Package Contents

Ranger loves helping pack boxes–and he’s learning to be photogenic!

I happened to collect a bunch of Marvel/Avengers themed goodies on clearance just before DH’s bachelor party, and thankfully, most of the items in their hangover bags were returned unused, unneeded. So, candy, bandages, compressed wash clothes, etc, feature Captain America, the Hulk, all the favorites. And, after my pinned link for a Hulk care package has been so wildly popular, I decided to make one of my own. This box includes workout support like: jerky, shake powder, nuts, fish oil, power bars, vitamin C drink mix and instant Starbucks coffee. There are some other requested items too, especially sunscreen, baby wipes, pencils, led lights, and crystal lite. I should have sent batteries, but forgot…oops! As always, I collect the Sunday comments to line the bottom of the box, and decorate the flaps. Not my best decorating job, but keep an eye out for the football season opener and Halloween boxes, I just got the paper for them and they’re going to look sweet.

Captain America flapHulk Flap decor

Nourishing No Bake Chocolate Cheesecakes

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  • 4 oz unsweetened bakers chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 c hot coffee
  • 1 1/2 t high quality gelatin
  • 1/3 c pasteurized egg whites
  • 2/3 c plain or vanilla greek yogurt, prepared
  • 2/3 c raw sugar
  • 1/4 c  Benefiber
  • 1 t vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • Chocolate wafer cookies

At least a full day before you plan to make this, leave 2/3 of a cup plain greek yogurt open, covered with a paper towel or cheese cloth to let some moisture evaporate out of it (this will make it more similar to cream cheese). Dissolve the gelatin in coffee, and microwave chocolate in a microwave safe mixing bowl about 45 seconds until mostly melted. Whisk gelatin mixture into chocolate and add sugar. Continue to whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add egg whites, yogurt, and salt, and whip. Place wafer cookies (I used Keebler fudge strip cookies) in the bottom of small pyrex cups, or if the wafers are slightly smaller you can use muffin cups. Cover with filling mix and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

It won’t taste sinful or decadent. But, you can eat it without feeling a little sick after only a sliver. I love a good, rich, dense chocolate cheesecake, but I can only eat a few bites before I feel ill these days, my body isn’t used to eating that way anymore. So, I like this recipe because it’s lighter but still silky, sweet and a little tangy, chocolaty without being rich.

Serves 4

Nutrition Info per serving (151 g): Calories-308, Fat-16 g, Carbs- 52g, Fiber- 9g, Protein- 11g Also: 17% of your daily calcium, 26% magnesium,  27% of your iron, 35% copper, and 56% manganese

*These are my best calculations by nutritiondata.self.com based on the exact amounts of ingredients and brands that I used. You should always calculate for yourself.

For comparison, according to Fitday.com, your average 150 g of chocolate cheesecake has:  Calories- 589.9, Fat-37.7 g, Carbs- 57.4g, Fiber- 2.2g, Protein- 9.7g and FIVE times the sodium!

Wedding Blessing Basket

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Books, candle, coffee mug, cross, screwdriver, massage oil, Bible

This basket was a labor of love for my beautiful sister-in-law and her wonderful new husband, who just recently embarked on a crazy little adventure called dual military marriage. I’m sharing it because I couldn’t find anything like this, and I hope it makes a good starting place for others with vague ideas of doing something like it. Please don’t just copy it, it’s not meant to be a project tutorial. Put thought into the bride and groom’s taste and your own wishes for them and make it unique. There are so many ways you could represent the lines of this blessing, or another blessing (feel free to comment if you have ideas for other representations, and the best is when some things in their registry fit the bill). A sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace; DH and I wanted this gift to be a tangible sign of an intangible benediction. Its meaning comes from the piece of yourself you pour into it.

With DH deployed and unable to be home for his baby sister’s wedding, we decided it was really important to give them a significant, meaningful gift. He suggested tying gifts to a little rhyme like our friends did for us. So I looked in books and searched google and scoured pinterest for ideas, poems, quotes, but there were so few good ideas, and the message that stuck out in my mind was the Gaelic blessing my maid of honor toasted us with at our wedding, which had been so touching to us:

Slainte go saol agat, Bean ar do mhian agat.
Leanbh gach blian agat, is solas na bhflaitheas tareis antsail seo agat!

Health for life to you, a wife of your choice to you,
Land without rent to you, a child every year to you,
And the light of heaven after this world for you!

(I know what you’re thinking, and yes, the line about a child every year was met with roars of laughter and yelps of “Irish twins!!” So, like good Catholics, we left it as is and prayed that God has mercy and my sister in law has a sense of humor)

So after some conversation, we came up with small gifts in support of each aspect of the blessing:

  • Health: a phenomenal cook book by a holistic health nutritionist and a cute couples yoga book.
  • Wife: massage oils from The Body Shop and a book on military marriage and separation. I also included a monogram coffee mug with the quote from Proverbs: “A good name is more desirable than great riches” to signify her new name.
  • Land: for their first home, a cross and some picture hangers, and a screwdriver set.
  • Children: a gag book called Safe Baby Handling Tips (with handy “whose turn is it?” spinner), but the real gift is an IOU for a hand made baby blanket. Once they decide to start a family and settle on a nursery theme, we can look at patterns and colors and I’ll get to work.
  • Light: a leather family bible with pages to record christenings, weddings, funerals, etc, with the family name embossed across the bottom. Also a candle, to be literally a light in their home.

Then we wrote tags to go on the items in the basket, with big brotherly wisdom one side and scripture affirming it on the other. It’s just laser printed on good paper, and then glued to pretty scrapbook paper, folded, and tied with 1/8″ gold ribbon. Below is an example, and then the text of each of them.

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A wife of your choice for you

N. (groom), take good care of your wife and she will always be your greatest blessing. N. (bride), bless the crap out of him.

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She is clothed with strength and dignity, she can laugh at the days to come. “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” -Proverbs 31

Good health for life for you

The Army will take a toll on your bodies and minds, and your health is precious. Hopefully these gifts support you in all forms of health: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.

“Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” -Jeremiah 33:6

Land without rent for you

Home is where your heart is, wherever you go, no matter how many times you move. Here are some things to help make each home you inhabit a pleasure and a sanctuary.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  -Matthew 7:24

A child a year for you

Okay, maybe not that many…but children are an incredible blessing when the time is right. We’ll look forward patiently to being Uncle and Aunt!

“Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.” -Psalm 112

The light of heaven after this world for you

And when our work is done, our course on earth is run, may it be said, ‘Well Done; Be Thou At Peace.’ May this Bible give you endurance to run your course and keep your eyes on the light.
“I will deliver them and honor them.With long life I will satisfy them and show them my salvation.” -Psalm 91

I had to stack it on the Bible which wouldn’t fit in the basket, but I liked the symbolism that all the other gifts are “grounded” so to speak, on God. Then, I tied it all up with gold shimmer tulle and purple ribbon, because purple was one of their wedding colors, and I enjoyed the theological significance of purple, the color of royalty, and the marriage blessing that invokes such vivid imagery.

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“…By the power of your Holy Spirit, pour out the abundance of your blessing upon this man and this woman. Defend them from every enemy. Lead them into all peace. Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle about their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads.  Bless them in their work and in  their companionship; in their sleeping and in their waking; in their joys and in their sorrows; in their life and in their death…” Amen.