Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Green made easy - reusable shopping bags + great daily deal sites for moms!

I decided to start my New Year's resolutions off a little early! Since I'm trying to be kinder to Mother Nature, I thought I'd share something I've been trying to do lately...

Awhile back, I won a gift card to Olivia Place, a daily deal site that has items for babies, kids, and moms at discounted prices. A lot of the clothes and accessories that I've seen featured on the site are geared toward little girls, which doesn't help Wyatt. (All you moms with little ladies, go check them out! They've had adorable girl stuff the past few days!) So I was really excited when they featured a product for mommies who are trying to go green - reusable shopping bags!

New Year's Resolutions

I know, I know. Everyone makes New Year's resolutions, and I'm sure a select group out there actually manage to keep them all year long. But if you're like me, you stick to your guns for a month or two (if that) before kicking your resolutions to the curb. Not this year. I'm determined to be a better mom, a better student, and a better housedomesticpartner. (Can't really say I'm a housewife, now can I?) Of course, this means making resolutions that are practical and within reach.

1. I will be more organized.

Organization goes a looong way in helping cope with stressful schedules. I always buy an organizer near the beginning of the year and lose it sometime in March or April. This year, I bought an eco-friendly planner in bright green. Maybe the Earth-friendly part will encourage me to use it more, and maybe the color will help me keep up with it. This is absolutely essential for school. No more writing down reminders and dates all over my notes!

2. I will take better care of Mother Earth by using homemade products.

Along with buying eco-friendly products, I hope to make a few of my own. I want to start making my own cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, and of course, more baby food. (Remember when this blog was all about making homemade baby food? Yeah, me either.) My friend Sarah has a great recipe for homemade laundry detergent on her blog. It's cheaper than the commercial stuff, which is loaded down with chemicals, and is so much better for the environment. Of course, all of this takes up time, which is where the organization part comes in again. ;)

3. I will be more conscious of my health.

Since having Wyatt, I've always put his health and well-being before my own. There's nothing wrong with that, but I definitely think it's time to look after myself a little more often (i.e. time to lose the baby weight). I plan on bento-ing more often, eating less junk, and exercising. I can't remember the last time I exercised, honestly. Even walking around my parents' neighborhood a couple of times a week will be better than nothing. Plus, Wyatt loves to go for walks. And if I'm healthy, I'll be better able to take care of my family.

So, there are my three New Year's resolutions. Nothing too extravagant or out-of-reach. And since I've posted it here on my blog, you all can hold me accountable, right?

- Mother Nature Mom

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Cookies! + recipes

Yay, cookies!

One of my all-time favorite Christmas memories is making cookies with my mom. As a kid, I'd stand on a chair so I could reach the counter, wearing a homemade, decorated apron. (I can't remember if I decorated it or if my mom did.) My mom would mix up the ingredients and cut out the shapes, and my dad would ice them after they'd been baked. I was on sprinkle patrol, artfully arranging sugar ornaments on the Christmas trees, nonpareil scarves on snowmen, and red holly berries on wreathes. Or, you know, just dumping them in the center of the cookie and moving on. (I became more conscious of sprinkle coverage and sprinkle-to-cookie ratio with age.)

We've used different recipes over the years, especially for our cut-out cookies. Here's this year's lot:


1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt


In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. (We wound up using a hand mixer to get out the lumps.) Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour. (I recommend overnight, however. The dough was still very sticky after the initial hour.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out dough on sugared* surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. (We used parchment paper. No need to worry about the cookies sticking!) If dough starts to become sticky again, simply add a little more confectioner's sugar. Storing the dough in fridge between batches also helps.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes. Cool.

For homemade icing, mix a little water with confectioner's sugar until smooth but not runny. Add vanilla, almond, or lemon extract and food coloring! Spread over cooled cookies and add sprinkles if desired. (Oh, I desire sprinkles.)

Yield: 5 dozen

*You could use flour here instead, but using too much could make the cookies come out, well, flour-y. Confectioner's sugar achieves the same goal, and adds a little extra sweetness.

Spiced Crackle Cookies
(Kenny loves these, and jealously guards them every year.)

These cookies are the perfect balance of soft, moist, and crispy. If you're a fan of ginger snaps, you'll love these.

½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
2 cup flour
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp crystallized ginger, chopped
¾ cup confectioner's sugar


In large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and molasses with hand mixer on medium speed until blended. Beat in egg until blended, scraping down side of bowl. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, and cinnamon in clean bowl. Add to butter mixture; beat on low speed until blended. Stir in crystallized ginger. Cover; refrigerate 1 hr.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray (or use parchemnt paper.) Place confectioner's sugar in bowl. Roll pieces of dough into 1 inch balls; then roll in confectioner's sugar to completely coat. Place on prepared baking sheets at least 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350 for 11 minutes, or until cookies have expanded and flattened; the tops will be covered with cracks. Let cookies cool on baking sheets on wire rack 2 minutes. Transfer cookies directly to racks; let cool completely.

Try not to eat them all at once. =)

Yield: 3 dozen

So there you have it. What goodies are you enjoying this Christmas?

- Mother Nature Mom

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What are you grateful for?

Note: I debated over whether or not I would post this blog entry; it's so far removed from the usual cheerful Mommy banter that I usually write. But I felt it was important, especially in light of the season, to remind everyone that no matter how much stress you're under, no matter how many bills are in your mailbox, no matter how much your kids are driving you crazy, it's important to stop and be grateful for all that you have because it could all be taken away in an instant. I promise to return to my usual Mommy-ness in my next post.

My day started early. Actually, it started yesterday morning. I didn't sleep at all last night in preparation for my last final of the semester. I was actually pretty annoyed. Driving an hour one way to take a test that would last all of 30-45 minutes in 20 degree weather? Yeah, not my idea of a perfect morning. But, I sucked it up, drove to Milledgeville, and took my final.

Afterward, I drove to work to pick up my tips and reward myself with yummy, delicious coffee. I totally deserved it, right? After a night of studying (which really means a night of Facebooking interspersed with studying), and an hour long drive back home, I needed it. So, I went inside. And that's when I heard one of the most horrible things I've heard in a long time.

I'll spare you the gory details, but essentially, one of my coworkers was robbed and her family was put in mortal danger. The assailants tailed her husband's car to their house, threatened the lives of everyone inside (including at least four small children) with guns, and robbed them blind. And so far they've gotten away with it.

Thankfully, blissfully, no one was hurt.

I cried and cried. I cried because no good person deserves to be a prisoner in their own home. I cried because no mother should have to see her children's lives threatened. I cried because, as a mother myself, I kept imagining my son, my family in the same situation. I cried because this is the sort of thing you hear about in the news, something that happens to other people far away, never anyone that you know. I cried because, once again, I'm terrified of the world that my child is going to grow up in. If this can happen in a small town in middle Georgia, it can happen anywhere. Suddenly, all my worry and fuss over a final that I could have passed in my sleep became embarrassingly trivial.

The world is often scary and cruel, but , thankfully, there are reminders of just how beautiful it can be.

The now-defunct Dublin Starbucks was a very tight knit group. We were all friends. We were all there for one another. We had each others' backs no matter what. I'm proud to say that Milledgeville is the same way. Seeing everyone rally around our coworker and friend is inspiring. Helping out with her bills, providing toys for her kids' Christmas, alerting other Starbucks stores in our district and seeing them help out as well... it really shows that, for better or worse, Starbucks is a second family to all of us. That's something I can feel good about, despite everything else.

So please, when you're feeling at your wit's end with everything in your life, when the stress is driving you crazy, when your mind is so focused on school or work that you tune everything else out, when you become bogged down in all the "should have's" and "what if's" and "wish I had's", just.... stop. Just stop, and remember everything that makes your life wonderful. Be grateful. What's that old saying? "We are never guaranteed tomorrow"? Something like that.

And now I'm off to nap with the most important little man in my life. I don't think I can hug him enough today...

-Mother Nature Mom

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A delicious find + recipe

This is a little overdue, but I had to share this recipe that I discovered from the blog Open Mouth Insert Cookie (how great is that name?) I came across this recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding kind of randomly, i.e. looking at bentos. Another bento-er had linked to this lovely blog, and I knew I had to try this recipe as soon as I read it. So fall-esque! True, the weather seems to have turned towards winter for good (and about time - thanks, middle Georgia!), but I'm sharing nonetheless. =)