Monthly Goals [an update]

Monthly Goals [an update]

Well, another school year has begun…

[How adorable as these kiddos??]

And, I’m finally a soccer mom…

[Jojo quit after the first practice and I didn’t even get a picture of Eva playing yet.]

And I’ve been enjoying lots of quality time with my kids and my handsome man [who now works from home!] since I withdrew from grad school [a story for another day]…

So, I’ve been staying busy and not posting, but now I’m ready to update you on my monthly goals.

Starting in January of this year, I chose a new health goal to focus on for each month.

January = no added sugar

February = a salad every day

March = practice more yoga

April = no alcohol

May = no more cheat days

June = drink more water

July = start meditating

I skipped August altogether because I was so stressed over school and so this month I decided to refocus on ALL of the goals. Yep, that’s right, no added sugar, no alcohol, no cheating, more salad, more yoga, more water, and more meditation. And, honestly, it’s been a great month so far. I feel great. I have lots of energy. I’ve been training for a marathon [not sure which marathon at this point]. I’ve been making strength gains. I finally feel like I’m getting back to my old self [the self before I had two surgeries…and almost back to my old self before I had four babies].

So, anyway, I’m not adding any more new goals, but I am taking suggestions for later this year. Anyone making mid-year health resolutions?? Lemme know!

💪 💪 💪

Karis

My 5 Favorite Parenting Books

My 5 Favorite Parenting Books

Over the years, I’ve read a lot of parenting books in a never-ending attempt to become the best parent I can be. Some books have been amazing, others have been so terrible I couldn’t even get past the first chapter. Some have been life-changing [like the one that said I don’t have to finish every book I pick up, which is why I stopped reading some parenting books mid-chapter] and some have been only minimally helpful.

Of course, whether a books is “good” is totally subjective. I’m not trying to say that I am some authority on the topic [or even on books in general], but I will tell you the kind of parent I want to be, and that should give you an idea of the types of parenting books that I appreciate the most.

The Parent I Want to Be

When I had kids, I knew one thing for certain: I didn’t want to raise my kids the way I was raised. And, initially, that was the extent of my thoughts about it. I knew I didn’t want an authoritarian, “my way or the highway” approach that demanded immediate, unquestioning obedience from my kids, and I didn’t want to dole out humiliating corporal punishment for disobedience, disrespect, or even questioning authority. [I knew by the time my firstborn was one-year-old that I was absolutely against spanking.]

Don’t get me wrong. My parents loved me very much. They would probably be appalled to read what I wrote above. They would insist that they had done what was right…not to mention what their religion told them was the only way to rear a child. “Spare the rod, spoil the child” and all that ancient bullshit. But, hitting a child is still hitting a child, no matter how good one’s intentions. And regardless of who is “right,” that’s just never going to be my parenting style.

I want more than just obedience, I want a relationship with my kids — one built on love, respect and trust that is mutual. I want my kids to trust and respect me because I’ve earned it. I want my kids to question my rules and decisions because I’m not always right. I want my kids to be a part of solving problems and finding solutions because I believe they are capable. When they grow up, I want them to say, “My mom’s my best friend.” I want them to call me if they’ve had too much to drink at a party. I want them to come to me for advice when they’ve messed up and know that I won’t punish or threaten or even judge them. I will love them.

But, heck, I’m a mom of four kids [ages seven and under]…and so I also need cooperation. I can’t just let them do whatever they want. I have to have some order, some structure, some firm guidelines. Sometimes I just need my kid to put on her frickin shoes so we can leave. But the only way I knew how to get kids to behave themselves was the way that my parents did it with me: through fear, threatening, and hitting.

So, I had to read some books. Turns out, there are non-violent, non-threatening, non-authoritarian ways to get kids to behave themselves. This is the path I have chosen.

In the end, all I’m really trying to do is raise competent, compassionate, independent adults. That’s really it. If they grow up and become these things — kind to others, capable of contributing to the world and taking care of themselves — then that’s a win in my book. And if I can teach them to do that without instilling fear, using intimidation, or teaching them that it’s the right of the powerful to strong-arm the weak, then that’s how I want to go about it.

I have definitely not arrived, but these five books have helped me tremendously on my way to calm, compassionate, mindful parenting.

Top 5 Parenting Books [Best to Very Best]

#5. How To Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids by Carla Naumburg

First of all, this book is hilarious. Well, it’s hilarious for parents. If you don’t have kids, I’m not sure you’ll get the humor. [But if you don’t have kids…why are you reading about parenting books anyway? 🤨]

In How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids, Naumburg gives the BEST tip to prevent your kids from pushing your buttons [and you know those grubby little fingers are always reaching for buttons]—make your buttons harder to push! It’s so simple and yet so BRILLIANT!

“Many parenting books focus on how to get kids to stop with all the pushing already. While it is technically your job as a parent to teach your children to keep their hands to themselves, both literally and figuratively, this is not the best tactic for managing your shit. Do you really want to hinge your sanity on the behavior of someone who licks the walls and melts down over the shape of toast? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Fortunately, there’s a better plan.

Carla Naumburg, PhD How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids

This book basically taught me that to be a good parent I have to be good to myself, as well.

#4. Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

I was reading this book while I was in the process of becoming a minimalist for my own reasons and I learned that simplicity is just as important for my kids as it is for me. All the struggles I was having with consumerism and clutter and excess and wastefulness and feeling hurried and glorifying busy and losing creativity and being stressed…all of that affects kids too. [Maybe even more so.]

This book helped me with intentionally structuring our family life and thinking through all the things I want for my kids and, more importantly, all the things I don’t. If it hadn’t been for this book, I think I would have been swept up in middle class American family life—filling my house with cheap plastic toys, allowing screens to babysit my kids, constantly trying keep them entertained, dragging them from one program to the next, and ultimately missing out on the joy, beauty, and wonder that simplicity fosters.

Instead, I learned that I had to be intentional about making space for my kids to be kids.

“Children need time to become themselves–through play and social interaction. If you overwhelm a child with stuff–with choices and pseudochoices–before they are ready, they will only know one emotional gesture: More!”

Kim John Payne, Simplicity Parenting

#3. The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

The Whole-Brain Child helped me to better understand my children’s developing brains which it built on all the great advice I learned from Now Say This [the next book on the list]. For instance, there is no point in trying to reason with a toddler in the middle of a meltdown because their “upstairs brain” has been hijacked by their “downstairs brain” — their strong emotions. So, instead I “connect, then redirect.”

A lot of the actual parenting advice is the same as in other books, [including the “connect, then redirect” tip above] but it makes a lot more sense when given with the context of what is physiologically happening inside your child.

“It’s also crucial to keep in mind that no matter how nonsensical and frustrating our child’s feelings may seem to us, they are real and important to our child. It’s vital that we treat them as such in our response.”

Daniel J. Siegel, The Whole-Brain Child

The book also has helpful cartoons to illustrate these concepts for your kids [or in my case, my partner, since he refuses to read any books].

#2. Now Say This by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright

Now Say This has been my favorite parenting book for YEARS. I’ve read it multiple times and I intend to read it many more times before my kids are grown. [It was just recently moved to my second favorite by another book, but I’ll get to that in a minute.]

This book helped me understand my kids on a deeper level and marked the beginning of my long journey toward more skillful communication. I learned how to accept my kids’ feelings without condoning their actions. I learned how to see the underlying need my child was expressing, rather than just seeing them as being difficult and disobedient. I learned how to sit with my kids through their big feelings so they would know that I won’t shame or isolate them for having emotions. I learned how to stop threatening, accusing and punishing my kids. [I still do all of these things sometimes, which is why this is an ongoing practice and I re-read this book frequently.]

This three-step method of handling behavioral issues [or any issues at all] has become the backbone for how I communicate with my kids [and even my partner] – though I am still far from perfect at it. First, I attune to my kids’ feelings. Then I set the limit. And then we problem-solve together. This shows my kids that I care about how they feel [even about trivial things like the color of their plate] but that there are limits to how we can behave [we don’t throw our plate because it is not yellow] and I am open to suggestions of how to solve the problem [you can have that plate tomorrow, maybe?].

Ya’ll, this process works! I have seen it in my family. But like all things worth doing, it also takes a lot of work. It’s definitely not an instant, miracle cure for all parental aggression. But, trust me, it really works.

#1. Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields

I just finished reading Raising Good Humans and it has surpassed my previous parenting favorite [Now Say This] because this is the first parenting book that makes mindfulness a priority. The first part of the book is dedicated solely to the work we must do on ourselves before we can even hope to change our responses in heated moments.

This was the key I was missing from all the other parenting books that tell you to speak softly and get down on your child’s level and give them a hug and say with empathy, “I see that you are really upset about that” — when all I have the emotional fortitude to do is scream and storm off to my room. How the heck am I supposed to put all this great parenting advice to good use when my nerves are frayed and I’m low on sleep and high on caffeine and hanging on to my sanity by a thread?!?

The answer is mindfulness meditation.

Meditation may sound daunting [or maybe even ridiculous] to people first considering it, but I’ve read many books about meditation over the years and I am totally convinced in the benefits of a regular meditation practice. I just haven’t started it…til now.

This book shows how mindfulness meditation is necessary for skillful parenting because it calms down the emotional waves inside ourselves, allowing us to be there in a calm, nonjudgmental way for our kids.

Guys, this is a game changer.

I’m going to write more about it next week because [surprise, surprise] my health goal for July is to prioritize a regular meditation practice.

Honorable Mention: Parenting Beyond Belief

I have to mention Parenting Beyond Belief, which is actually a collection of essays from secular parents about how they handle religion and ideas about god with their children. As I was in the process of leaving the religion I was raised in, this book was an absolute life saver.

It IS possible to raise kind, compassionate, moral kids without god or religion. If you want to try it, I recommend this book.


Let’s face it, parenting is tough. Parenting intentionally is even more tough. It takes a lot of work and effort and practice…and in my case, reading.

All of these books have impacted my parenting in big ways and I highly recommend all of them. I’ve tried many, many times to get my partner, Brett, to read these books, but he won’t [books are not his thing]. So, maybe I’ll have better luck convincing one of you that these books are worth reading.

Final word of encouragement to all parents out there: you don’t have to raise your kids the way you were raised. You can find your own way. It may even be a better way.

Good luck!

👧🏼 👦🏼 🧒🏼

Karis

Lessons in Motherhood and Being Present

Lessons in Motherhood and Being Present

You are not going to believe this, but I’m making it a point to read fewer books for the second half of 2022. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but…I’ve been reading too much.

Ironically, it’s the books I’ve been reading that have led me to this conclusion. Books like Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee and Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields.

Although these two books have very different intentions, they both helped me to realize that I am glorifying busy and missing out on important interactions with the world around me—especially my kids. In other words, I’m not being present.

Reading isn’t my only vice in this regard, but it is a major contributor.

For every mundane task [fold laundry, vacuuming, chopping vegetables, washing the dishes] I just pop in my headphones and listen to a book. A book makes all of these chores WAY more enjoyable. However, I get really irritated if my kids interrupt me, I often get distracted from what I’m doing [I once dumped cinnamon into my stuffed pepper casserole instead of cumin], and, in general, I miss out on being present in the moment, costing me precious moments that I could be spending talking to my kids, listening to their stories, playing “kitty and owner” [the current favorite game of my four-year-old]. This, I believe is bad for my brain and bad for my family and especially bad for my relationship with my kids.

It won’t be hard to do less fun reading since I will start my masters in nursing in August [which is estimated to be a 60+ hour per week time commitment]—though my school reading will increase significantly—but that makes my time with my kids all the more precious. It is even more important that I spend the time I have with them actually focused on them, not in my head about my to-do list, or meal planning, or appointments that need to be made, or phone calls that need to be returned. But in order to silence all that noise in my head [the “emotional labor” of the household as Kate Manne calls it in her book, Entitled], I have to practice being present.

So, I’ve been really trying lately to take out the earbuds, put down the book, and be more invested in what’s going on around me. I don’t know if my kids have noticed a difference, but I hope in the long run, they will think of me as being attentive, involved, good at listening, and always interested in what they want to share with me.

[I’m not giving up all fun reading, however. I still get up at 5am to spend a quiet hour meditating and reading, and I will definitely be listening to audiobooks on my road-trips this summer because that’s the best way to pass time in the car. 👍]

Since this is my last summer before I start my full-time schooling and then go back to work full-time, I really want to soak up these moments with my kids. We’ve already had a lot of fun so far this summer and we have a few more special trips planned to visit friends and family. I want to be really living in the moment and focusing on being present with my kids.

Any other parents out there struggle with this???

🙋‍♀️

Well, here’s to the never-ending journey to becoming a better parent. Wish me luck!

👧🏼 👦🏼 🧒🏼

Karis

Simplifying Parenting [Part 7: Children’s Chores]

Simplifying Parenting [Part 7: Children’s Chores]

You probably already know this about me, but I’m one of those people who LOVES a list. I make lists for everything: shopping list, grocery list, meal plan list, to-do list, daily habit list, bucket list, household projects list, school assignment check list, daily/weekly/monthly cleaning list, family birthdays list, reading list…even writing this list of lists has proven quite enjoyable for me [don’t judge].

Well, here’s another list that is a life-saver for parents [or at least it is for me]: the children’s chore list.

FINALLY! The kids are old enough to help with some of the work around the house. Giving your kids chores empower them to take responsibility, makes them feel important…and they may be less likely to throw their clothes on the floor if they know they will have to pick them up. But most of all, you’ll get some much needed HELP!!

My kids don’t particularly love doing chores, but they do love the feeling of being an integral part of the family and contributing in a meaningful way [and the allowance is nice too].

How to get kids to do chores

In order to give our kids a little motivation and make chores more fun, we use a two reward system: 1) weekly allowance and 2) a chore chart.

The weekly allowance isn’t really a result of the chores. We give them their allowance whether they do their chores are not. But on the flip side, the chores are not optional either. Chores are how we all contribute to the family and home. [And goddam it, there is no reason why I should be the only one doing them around here!!! Can I get an Amen?!]

As for the chore chart, this is a trick that I myself know and love [but I also read about in Atomic Habits by James Clear]. Checking something off a list is REWARDING. It feels SO GOOD! This is ultimately why I am so obsessed with lists—it provides visible proof that I’m making progress.

So, I printed these adorable chore charts [thanks to Mique at 30days] for my kids and laminated them and hung them on the fridge so the kids can check off their chores each day.

You can download the printable for yourself from 30days here.

How old do kids have to be to start chores?

I don’t know if there is some child psychologist answer to this question, but I can tell you that my 2-[almost-3]-year-old can set the dinner table with napkins, silverware, and put everyone’s water bottles at their seat [in fact, she demands to do this chore and has literally stolen the job from her older sister].

So, I guess I’d say 2-years-old is a good time to start, though kids know how to pick up toys and put things away even younger than that.

There are plenty of lists out there on the interwebs that can provide age-appropriate chores. Just try some out and if needed, adjust the list! [That’s why I had these laminated, ya’ll]

If you want some ideas, here are my kids’ chore charts:

Evangeline, almost 8-years-old
Theo, 6-years-old
Jojo, 4-years-old

Important rules regarding lists

Lists must be flexible. I think this may be a contributing factor to why lists stress some people out and some other people totally hate them. Lists do not have to be written in stone. While this is true of all lists, it’s especially true for lists for your kids [even unspoken lists like the list of careers you want your kid to choose from]. Things will happen, days will get away from us, we’ll decide to walk to the ice cream shop instead of doing any chores, there will be melt-downs, freak-outs, and some days it won’t get done.

That’s no big deal. Kids are learning about responsibility. They can’t be expected to perform like an adult [even adults don’t perform perfectly…and yes I’m looking at everyone who has ever called into work “sick” because they just didn’t feel like working, myself included].

Lists need regular review and revision. In order to make sure that the chore lists are working for everyone, we review them in our weekly family meeting and make adjustments. [I’ll share more about our family meetings another time, but this is definitely something you should start, if you’re not doing it already.]

We make adjustments to the lists nearly every week [again, that’s why it’s laminated and written in wet-erase marker]. Sometimes we change chores just for some variety. And as the kids get older, we increase the difficulty of the chores.

Look, I’m no perfect parent. I’m not even a model parent. I wouldn’t even say I’m a great parent. But I am trying to be a good parent. I’m also trying to survive being a parent. So in these posts, I’m just sharing ideas that work for me and my family. I am certainly no expert.

Give them a try if you want, or share your own ideas.

👩‍👧‍👦👨‍👧‍👧

Karis

Simplifying Parenting [Part 6: Storing Childhood Mementos]

Simplifying Parenting [Part 6: Storing Childhood Mementos]

I recently decluttered the “craft closet,” which is used so frequently that it was becoming dangerous to open the closet door.

Before:

After:

WAAAAAY Better right?

I pride myself on being “minimal”…in all things EXCEPT craft supplies.

😁

What can I say? Art is super important to me and a full [albeit messy] craft closet is how I foster creativity with my kids.

But I’m not actually here to extols the virtues of decluttering. I wanted to talk about how I organize and store all of the mementos that my children accumulate.

You know what I’m talking about…the coloring page that they are SO proud of for actually coloring the whole thing, the first note where they wrote “I love mommy,” the spelling test with the hard earned 100%. Normally, I’m the first one to say NOT to hold on to sentimental junk – but some times I don’t listen to my own words. Sometimes I want to hang on to these mementos of my kid’s childhood.

Some of Evangeline’s mementos – most probably wouldn’t mean a lot to other people, but they are special to us and hold happy memories that I want to cherish.

I just finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, in which she makes it a goal to be a “storehouse of happy memories.” At one point she gets cute boxes to literally store the happy memories of her daughters. I’ve had my own version of her boxes for a few years now.

Back to the craft closet…

Besides all of the craft supplies, this closet also holds my kids’ memento drawers [the plastic drawers on the floor]. I use these drawers to organize the paperwork that my kids bring home from school and the many pieces of artwork that children create.

However, this collection goes through several rounds of “reductions” over time.

The Three Round Rule

Round 1 – I make the initial decision of what to keep immediately. Most coloring pages get recycled and a lot of the school papers, but occasionally there is a special drawing, creation, piece of art that I put away in their drawer. I also keep their graded papers and projects.

Round 2 – At the end of the school year, I go through everything in their drawer again and keep the most special. In a lot of cases [and in the face of the sheet quantity] a lot of the items have lost their value, so I feel fine recycling. Obviously things like school pictures, the class photo, and special creations move to the next round.

Round 3 – I really liked Gretchen Rubin’s ideas about boxes, so I’m working on acquiring four cute storage boxes [you know I HATE buying things] which I will use to store the special mementos for my kids. BUT I still plan to review the items that make it into the box every year and toss anything that doesn’t still hold special meaning. Over the years, time really does put some of these sentimental things into perspective and the items that really matter stand out.

When I married Brett, his mother gave us boxes and boxes of his *ahem* crap from his childhood. And we had to go through it and look at every kindergarten field day green ribbon, every plastic t-ball trophy, every grade school report card. Quite frankly, by the time you’re an adult, you don’t care about the majority of that stuff.

I had a few boxes of my own from childhood when I moved out of my parents house and I tossed most of it. But, of course, I’m glad I had the newspaper clippings about my speech competitions, my autographed photo with the President, and some of my favorite writing projects. But the rest was junk.

The three round rule is my attempt at doing the majority of the sorting for my kids so that they don’t someday inherit a basement full of crap to sort through. Maybe someday they will wonder, Where is that kindergarten cut out of the letter B that I loved so much?…but I highly doubt it.

What do you do with all of your kids’ mementos???

📝

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste Valentine’s Day Pencil Arrows

[Nearly] Zero Waste Valentine’s Day Pencil Arrows

Well, here we are again at Valentine’s Day, trying to give thoughtful, waste-free Valentines to my kids’ classmates.

When Evangeline was in preschool, we gave cuties wrapped in twine with a little “leaf” tag that said “You’re a cutie!”

[You can read my post about how to make these valentines here.]

Then, when Evangeline was in Kindergarten, we made coloring bookmarks with a crayon to pass out on Valentine’s Day.

[You can read my post about how to make these here.]

Last year, I homeschooled the kids and didn’t have to worry about passing out class Valentines – and I’m not sure whether anyone else did either since a lot of schools were doing distance learning because of COVID.

But now the kids are back in school – Evangeline in second grade and Theo in Kindergarten – so we’re making the obligatory school Valentines again.

My daughter adamantly refused to give cuties again [what can I say? It was worth a try] and she fought very hard for heart-shaped suckers, but I really hate giving out candy and dread all the plastic wrappers that will end up in the trash. [This is the unfortunate result of having an environmentalist/personal trainer for a mother.]

So, we agreed on pencils.

Cute, right?

I got the free printables from Perfectly Splendid [link here]. You have to check out all the awesome printables for Valentine’s Day that she has on her site, PositivelySplendid.com. [I also used her Bernie Sanders printable for a Valentine’s Card for my husband! Find them here. Too perfect!]

My mother-in-law was kind enough to print the hearts on card stock for me and then we got busy this morning cutting out the hearts, punching holes, and signing names.

Fair warning, my standard hole punch did not make a big enough hole for the pencils so I had to do some fancy punching to make them fit. But it still worked out fine.

Warning: There was some waste created in the making of these Valentines. Five plastic sleeves that the pencils came in ended up in the trash, but all the paper scraps were recycled and these pencils will hopefully get lots of use in the future.

Practical, [nearly] zero waste Valentines for the win!

Hope everyone enjoys the love fest tomorrow!

❤️🧡💛💚💙

Karis

A Salad a Day Keeps Vitamin Deficiency Away [and three healthy homemade dressing recipes]

A Salad a Day Keeps Vitamin Deficiency Away [and three healthy homemade dressing recipes]

My healthy goal for February is to serve a salad with every dinner.

It’s no secret that I am a lover of salads. I’ve posted many, many times about them. They are my favorite way to eat a lot of fresh, raw veggies.

Healthy Salad Dressings

I have been making my own salad dressings for years and I highly, HIGHLY recommend it. It is better for your health, better for your wallet, and allows you the freedom to customize a dressing that’s perfect for you. I usually mix the dressing right in my salad bowl, but sometimes I do make it ahead for when I’m taking a salad to dinner at a friend’s house.

Homemade Vinaigrette

To make, put equal parts olive oil and vinegar of choice in a jar with a lid. Add salt and pepper to taste, and a little bit of dijon [or any kind] mustard. Then shake to combine.

This dressing is customizable in a million different ways by using different vinegars, adding different spices/herbs, and adding lemon [or other citrus] juice.

Healthier Homemade Ranch

Like pretty much all kids, my kids like ranch. They like the vinaigrettes that I make too, but ranch is their favorite. I make my own healthier version by mixing the following seasonings into plain Greek yogurt: parsley, garlic, onion, dill, chives, salt and pepper. Use equal amounts parsley, garlic and onion. About half the amount of dill. Even less chives [this can be omitted altogether]. Then salt and pepper to taste.

Or you can just buy the ranch dip package at the store – but why when you have everything you need in your cupboard already???

Vegan Green Goddess Dressing

This is a recipe that I got from America’s Test Kitchen, The Complete Plant Based Cookbook, but of course I’ve modified it.

I basically soak a cup of raw cashews in hot water for 30 minutes, then blend with 3/4 cup water, fresh lemon juice from one lemon, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley flakes, salt, pepper [and whatever other seasonings I feel like] until smooth. I add water if it’s too thick.

Yum 😋

So far this month, we’ve had side salads, taco salad, and “salad pizza” [which is just salad on top of my homemade pizza dough – more like a flatbread]. I’ve even had a “smoothie salad” – don’t ask. And my kids keep asking me for their favorite: chickpea salad.

[chickpeas, arugula, evoo, lemon juice, smoked paprika, and sliced kalamata olives]

Looking forward to this month of raw veggie salads!

🥗 🥗 🥗

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste Kitchen: Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

[Nearly] Zero Waste Kitchen: Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

For the month of January, I’ve been avoiding added sugar, which is a LOT harder than it may sound. Though I thought I already knew most of the culprits hiding sugar, I have discovered a few more places that I was unaware of.

Sneaky Sugars

For instance, sriracha has sugar. That might be common knowledge for people who eat sriracha regularly. I just thought it was like any other hot sauce, until I tasted it. It was so sweet that I had to check the label.

Sure enough – sugar is the second ingredient.

Though, the real conundrum is how they manage to put “0g added sugar” on the nutrition label…????

🤷‍♀️

I don’t know what that’s about, but I decided not to take any chances and switched back to my regular hot sauce [Tapatio, at the moment] which has no sugar.

I also happened to be in the market for a new multivitamin and I thought I would give gummies a try [they are so dang popular after all], but I decided against it when I realized that they have added sugar.

These are the gummy vitamins that my kids take every day. They prefer gummies for obvious reasons [and truthfully, the sugar content is nominal], but they also like Flintstone chewable vitamins, and these don’t contain any sugar.

Sugar in Bread

By far the sneakiest place to find added sugar is in bread. It is very challenging to find bread in the grocery store bread aisle that doesn’t contain any sugar. It’s not impossible, of course, so if you really want to buy your bread, I recommend looking in the bakery for freshly baked loafs that only have the four necessary ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, water.

Obviously, if you want a sweet bread [such as zucchini bread] or even an enriched bread [such as brioche], then you can expect to find sugar in the ingredient list – but for every day, run-of-the mill sandwich bread and buns, sugar is unnecessary.

So, I’ve been making my own for years.

It all began when I experimented with giving up processed foods for a month. I was pretty new to baking at the time, but I had to find a bread recipe that I could actually make that would work for sandwiches – that was also 100% whole wheat. It took me quite a while to find one that worked for me, but now I’ve been using the same recipe for the past five years to make everyday bread for my family.

The base recipe is from An Oregon Cottage [you can find the recipe here]. Over the years, I’ve altered the recipe to suit my needs — namely removing the honey and swapping two cups of whole wheat flour for bread flour, which makes a slightly fluffier bread.

So, here is the recipe that I use [and it’s in my preferred format which is with ingredients listed in bold in the instructions].

Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

This recipe makes two loaves and takes me 2 hours to make [1hr and 20 minutes of that is rise time], but I’ve been making it every week for years, so maybe plan on 2.5 hours.

1. Put 2 1/2 cups warm water [about 110°, but don’t stress it – just not so hot it can burn you] in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast over the water. Add 2 cups bread flour. Mix until incorporated. Wait 10-20 minutes [the mixture should rise and get foamy on top].

Before 20 minutes
After 20 minutes.

2. Add 1/3 cup olive oil [or any neutral oil], 4 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir until it becomes too thick, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until smooth, adding additional flour as needed to keep it from being too sticky.

My kids love to get it on the kneading.

3. Divide dough in half. Take one half and flatten, then roll up and pinch together. Curl up ends and pinch together. Place seam side down in oiled bread pan. Repeat with other half of dough.

4. Cover with a towel and let rise for one hour [preferably in a warm place].

Before the rise
After rise

5. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

And voila! Enjoy that freshly baked bread smell! Mmm…

🍞 🍞 🍞

Karis

Teaching my kids about Martin Luther King Jr.

Teaching my kids about Martin Luther King Jr.

Every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the kids and I celebrate by reading some good books on the topics of civil rights, social justice, and racism. I always select library books that contain a lot of diversity and represent a wide range of peoples and cultures. However, on MLK Day, we really take time to talk about prejudice in the past and present and learn more about Martin Luther King Jr.

This year, we went to our local library [in our small town in southern Illinois] and checked out every single book they had on Dr. King and the civil rights movement – a whopping total of 5 books.

We read these books together [I summarized a few since my kids are only 7, 5, 4, and 2]. The picture book, My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris, is big and beautiful and a really nice way for kids to relate to Martin Luther King Jr.

We also watched an episode of Sesame Street about Martin Luther King Jr Day, in which all the Sesame Street characters contributed to a “peace tree” by choosing a way they promise to promote peace and equality all year long. I thought this was a great idea and [if I remember], I’m going to make a peace tree with my kids next year.

When I saw how few books our library has for kids about the civil rights movement and it’s leaders, I decided to purchase some new books to donate.

Public libraries are a source of free education for a community and if I want them to carry more books with diversity and social justice themes, I might as well start by supplying some myself. It’s a small thing to do, but hopefully these books will impact little readers in years to come.

❤️

Karis

No Added Sugar [and my family vacation recap]

No Added Sugar [and my family vacation recap]

This year, I’m considering setting a health-related goal for each month. I haven’t totally committed myself to this yet because…well, it would be tough. But I’ve been trying to tackle my COVID-induced bad habits for the past year with very little success. So I think having one new habit to focus on each month will be helpful.

Starting in January [or right now], I’m doing a month of no added sugar. I’ve actually done this before, many years ago, after reading Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub.

Last time, I was astounded by two things:

1. Sugar is in everything. I found it hiding everywhere – even the most savory of foods like breads, sauces, frozen dinners, peanut butter, chips, snacks, and nearly every other processed food.

“There are many shortcuts in life, but perhaps none that come free of consequences. Sugar is one of those things we have manipulated into giving us lots of shortcuts: to better taste, to more convenience, to ever-higher food industry profits. But at what costs? As the old saying goes, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”

Eve O. Schaub, Year Of No Sugar

2. Going without added sugar for a period of time allowed me to really taste and enjoy the natural sugar found in produce like carrots and peppers.

So I’m doing it again. In particular, I’m hoping that this will help me break my late night candy-consumption habit.

🤞

I’ll let you know how it goes.

I didn’t start the first of January because my family took a vacation to Florida where we stayed in a private rented home with my parents and sister’s family. We enjoyed the sunshine, went to the park, walked through the zoo, and took our kids on the obligatory visit to Disney World.

Brett and I also had a really fun evening to ourselves in Orlando where we went to the Museum of Illusions, rode the Ferris wheel at ICON park, had dinner at the Sugar Factory, and then rode the world’s [almost] tallest swings.

Love him. ❤️

Anyway, my classes started for the spring semester the day after we got back home, so it’s right back to reality.

I hope you enjoy the long weekend and the MLK holiday [for those in the US]. I haven’t decided yet how we will celebrate it in my home, but it’s more than just a day off work/school. It’s a day to reflect on the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and the continuing struggle for justice and equality for people of color. I’ll probably get some good books from the library and spend time talking to my kids about our responsibilities to ensure the fair and equal treatment of all people.

Several years ago, we got these excellent books from the library to read about Dr. King and the civil rights movement. I highly recommend them for anyone with kids.

Are you doing anything to celebrate?

❤️

Karis