Wednesday, September 26, 2012

When a muffin goes bad

Ever have a muffin or scone or bread recipe that didn't work?  Me too!

Two weeks ago I posted on Facebook this ddelicious pumpkin muffin recipe:
(1 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbls cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp ginger, (I also add a tbls of chia seeds for omega 3) 1 mashed banana or 3/4 cup pumpkin or any other flavor you want, 1 egg, 1/3 melted butter (we use soy free earth balance), or you could use coconut oil, and a good tbls of pure maple syrup, 1/2 cup chopped pecans or other nut of choice. Mix all together and bake at 350 for 18 minutes.)

The last two times I have made these muffins, they have overly thick and haven't risen.  I think I am adding too much pumpkin, but I'm not sure.  The muffins don't rise, and they aren't dry, they just aren't done.  Cooking them longer doesn't work because then it will dry them out.  So then I am left with mostly done, thick, flat muffins.

What to do?

I really hate throwing away food, especially when I can factor in the expensive ingredients and my time.

So again, what to do with my "can't use as is" muffins?

We hosted our annual Harvest Supper and I was making individual berry pies.  The recipe called for a pie crust top, I created non-usable pumpkin muffin crumble instead!  I took thee muffins, crumbled them, added a handful of gluten free oats, a handful of chopped  pecans, and 3 tablespoons of honey.  I mixed it together and threw it on top. 

The outcome was DELISH!

(The berry pie is two containers of strawberries, one container of raspberries, and one container of blueberries.  Add 1/2 cup of berry preserve, 3 tablespoons of corn or tapioca starch and 1/3 cup honey.  Mix all together.)

Well, that took care of one batch.  Then I made another batch, but these were our only option for breakfast.  I had nothing else to serve my kids for breakfast.  No eggs.  No oatmeal.  No cereal.  And not enough fruit to fill them.  What to do?  I have half baked, unrised, thick muffins.

Our little mishap created the BEST breakfast ever!

I mashed up two muffins in a bowl, added some coconut creamer, drizzled just a dash of maple syrup, and sprinkled chopped pecans.


I mean it...BEST DISH EVER!  So yummy.

I have no words.

Except, next time you mess up a muffin, fix it with cream and syrup.  You can't go wrong.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Middle's right of passage

One of my favorite things that Paul and I have learned over the years is the importance of rights of passage.  It is a time to take pause.  To realize that a moment in your life is changing.  That things won't be the same and you need to take a moment to stop, to reflect, to pray, and find tools or wisdom to carry you through this new stage.  Our American culture doesn't do a really great job at this, and Paul and I are far from experts, but we love the idea of arming our kids for the next stage of life, and taking pause with them.

Our first right of passage happens when one of our kids starts school.  This is a big moment to talk about expectations, how important school is and what an honor it is to go to school.  We talk about  the responsibilities of being a school age kid, and most important how God can use them to bring his light and love to friends and teachers that might not know him.  They are now entering a very special mission field and Mom's and Dad's role in their life is a little different now.  There is a lot to talk about, and a lot to pray over for our children in this moment.

We did this for Big last year, and had all these great ideas and hopes and expectations and then he ate candy the day before and we witnessed first hand what sugar does to that kid.  Could hardly keep his eyes on us for two seconds, and that is not an exaggeration.  He couldn't sit still, he couldn't focus, he couldn't listen.  With all that said, we still had a great time, but we were really hoping that this year with Middle would be the way we dreamed this moment would  be.

Then Middle threw up till 1am the night before our special right of passage afternoon.  We decided to do it  anyway and just keep it low key.

The first thing we do on our afternoon is get the kid a backpack.  Since they wear a uniform to school, this is pretty special, and it's just us and one kid doing this together.  Middle LOVED his new backpack.

This may sound like a perfect and wonderful day, but it wasn't without its reality.  We carried Middle most of the time because he was so tired.  He was missing a bit of his spark, and his treat included an OJ and banana.  Poor little kid.  I'll be honest though, out of all three kids, he's the best sick kid.  If you have kids, you know each family has one, and he's ours.

Love the extra snuggles though.

After getting the backpack, we go and pick out a treat and then head to a special park where we can sit, eat, talk and pray over our child.  Here is a wonderful photo of two of my guys.  Ahh...I just took a moment to sit and stare at them.  I love them so much.

If dad gets a photo, mom gets a photo.

Since he was doing so great, we let Middle have a couple bites of coconut milk ice cream.  Chocolate is Middle's favorite, and he was SO excited.

We even lured a chipmunk to share with us.  That was pretty fun to watch.  What can I say? We're givers.

This was a special time with Middle set apart from the other kids and set apart to mark the beginning of school.  I loved listening to wisdom that Paul passed on to him.  I loved the questions Middle had and hearing about the things he was excited for.  Praying over our kids is probably one of my favorite things.  I love hearing Paul's heart for them and what he dreams for them and what is nervous for.  I love that kids hear our hearts and us trying to surrender our will to God's for their life.

Middle's first right of passage.  I probably won't be included in the next one since it will deal with boy things, if you know what I mean, but I look forward to planning it with Paul.  And it will probably include a weekend away.  Lots to talk about as a boy growing into a young man.

The last thing we do for the kids on their first day of school, is give them a necklace to wear.  Their name is written on the guitar pick to remind them who they are.  They are a Tietjen, and Tietjen's are believers in God.  They struggle, they love, they forgive, they laugh, they try hard, they live in God's grace and live a life of serving others.  Also on the necklace is a cross which is there to remind them they are not alone.  Christ goes with them wherever they go.  They belong to him and are not alone.

Enjoy the photos and our little tradition.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The ho hum life

It's one of those weekends where much doesn't happen.  Nothing exciting to write home about (or blog about).  We didn't have anything planned, and we try to do that as much as possible.  We want our weekend to just develop.  We had really great moments, we had frustrating moments.  We didn't eat  anything special or planned.  In fact, most of our meals were pretty lame if you ask me.  I just didn't care.

Saturday was our Sabbath and we had to leave the house because all I really wanted to do was clean and do projects.  I couldn't rest in our house and it was too beautiful to be in doors.  All the kids wanted to do was go to Chucky Cheese.  All Paul wanted to do was walk around  a mall.  All I wanted to do was walk around a lake.  I'm not sure how, but my wish came true.  It was wonderful.  We walked around a couple lakes, skipped rocks, climbed trees, swung on swings, and gave piggy back rides.  With all that goodness there was also, "I'm bored" comments, "I'm tired" and "When can we go to Chucky Cheese?"  Normal kids, normal day.

After, we walked around the mall a bit and looked at lots of silly things.  Then we took the kids out to dinner and came home and put them to bed.  Paul and I rearranged some furniture to bring our record collection back out to a permanent spot in our home and that was wonderful.  We listened to a ton of oldies but goodies for over an hour, then I fell asleep on the couch.

Sunday started with finishing homework, then off to church with their big Welcome Day celebration which included a carnival.  We rocked climbed, bounced house, pet animals, and partook in a hayride.  We had lunch at 130pm, we took naps at 3pm and we started our family bike ride at 530pm.  We ate supper at 845pm and the kids were asleep before I was done praying over them.  The day had good things, the day had unmet expectations that made me annoyed at Paul, then him annoyed at me.  Then we were good, then I was annoyed at my kids, then they were annoyed at me because they were bored and just wanted to go on the bike ride.  The bike ride was amazing and we had a blast riding around the city at night.  It was an extra special adventure.  I realized as my anxiety was rising because we were getting our very tired kids into bed so late, that my attitude was going to make or break this memory.  They don't know how late it is.  They just know that something fun happened.  So I tried to keep my attitude in check and gently encourage quicker movements into bed.

It was nothing special.

It was very normal.

There were no amazing pictures taken, or delicious recipes to share.  Nothing Pinterest worthy.

But in hindsight, I think that's what makes these the moments that get remembered.  Paul and I fight hard not to be too busy.  To allow these weekends and week nights of nothingness so that we can just be together.  To let fun happen.  Yes, my kids get bored and would probably love to have time with friends, or a sport to go to or a party to happen.  But we think its really important to fight through the bored thing.  To have weekends that are slow paced and force us to figure out what to do with ourselves and each other.  And here in the cities there is no lack of great things to do.  We have hundreds of options, but that gets overwhelming.  I don't want all those options all the time, it makes me feel like we are missing out on so much so we have to do stuff so we don't  miss out.  That is a lot of pressure, and one I try hard to let go of.

(I got what I wanted though! With the exception of the annoyance at my husband in which he actually did nothing wrong.  Got to love miscommunication!)  Slow paced family time.  Silly songs on bike rides.  Discovering great climbing trees on the lake.  Our family having good and hard moments constantly throughout the weekend.  It's what families are.  Sticking together in good and hard moments.

I hope my kids remember that.  The days we just spent doing nothing together.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bad day gone embarrassing

I was sick for about a week.  I had headaches that would render me to my bed.  I had stomach aches that would render me to the bathroom.  I would resurface for an hour and then my body would tell me to go back to hiding.

The day I resurfaced for good, I realized how important it is for a mom to be present.

While washing the dirty dishes, I watched my one son grab a dirty cup from the sink and fill it with warm water and drink water.

I watched my daughter pick up broken chips off the dirty kitchen floor and eat them.

I watched my other son put a stool on a chair and climb to the food pantry and get an open bag of almonds to eat.

I found Lego's in the fridge.

Clearly fending for themselves made them scavengers.

Then I took them out of the house and that is when I discovered that sickness takes away part of your brain.  I am still not sure how it happens and where it goes, but it was almost like I was listening to myself and I kept thinking, that is a bad idea.  Yet I let it all happen.

I'm not spilling those secrets, but it ended with this.

My daughter wrapped in my scarf with nothing else in a public park because there was nothing else for her to wear. 

We went home immediately after this picture was taken and I didn't let us leave again till the next day when my brain came back.

And she was on to me.  She knew it was wrong and she didn't like it.  I kept trying to convince her that it was the new trend, but she didn't believe me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A dream come true

It may sound silly to you, but it has been a dream of mine for quite some time to know how to can my own food.  When Paul met me I was idyllic and dreamy of growing my own food, cooking and sewing and painting and creating.  I couldn't cook anything but Mac and Cheese and didn't know how to sew a button.   It was bad and my dreams felt pretty out of reach.  I didn't even know where to begin.  Let's just say, Paul has eaten his share of throw away meals in the last 10 years.

There has been something in me for a long time that struggles with my complete dependence on everyone else for my survival.  I would think to myself, "If anything happened that took away grocery stores, communication, anything, I really wouldn't know how to take care of myself."  I saw strong survival qualities getting lost on our generations.  I saw people who work, but don't know how to live or take care of themselves.  It really bothers me.  We make money, but don't know how to take care of ourselves.

Fast forward eight years, and now looking at my family's need for healthy food, locally grown and organic, it just makes sense.  The time felt right.  I tried my hand at a vegetable garden a few years ago.  We ended up with a few cucumbers and some peppers.  Not that great.  I think I grew more weeds than food.  Last year, I increased my garden double in size,  I had Paul cut down three trees in our backyard for more sun exposure,I built my own fence and had the neighborhood kids come over and help me plant.  I went all out and was so excited for my garden. 

Then a tornado dropped a garage on my garden and I was left with nothing.  For all that happened and was destroyed, I was saddest for my garden.  Heh, I would randomly say to Paul when we were fallling asleep last summer, "I miss my garden".  He would just laugh at me.  It was pathetic.

Well, I was ready this year.  We re dug our plot and planted away.  I was diligent in my weeding and watering and was so impressed with the food coming out of our garden, and the fresh food we were eating, but we couldn't keep up, and the point was to preserve the food for winter. 

Well, I don't know how to do that.  Remember, it was my dream, not my reality.

Thank you dear Heather for offering your mom's hobby farm and her time to help me out!  Spending time with my mother in law in Texas showed me how much knowledge can come from sharing a kitchen with someone.  Yes, you can follow a recipe and search the Internet for answers to your questions, but nothing beats having a teacher/mentor in the kitchen with you.  That's what I wanted for all my questions about food, and how to can it, how to preserve it, what other options I have.  I wanted to share the kitchen with someone who has spent years figuring it out.  Well, Heather's mom saved the day!

Two weekends ago, my sweet friend Heather and I drove my three kids, a huge box of food from our garden and our adventurous spirits 45min north of the cities to her mom's house where we had a blast for two days.

We showed up on a Friday afternoon and the kids went right out to play and run around the acreage.  Probably the best feeling ever to just let your kids run around outside for hours knowing they won't get taken or lost or learn to curse.

Isn't it just perfect?  I couldn't resist taking this photo.  It feels safe and warm and like home.

Here is Big and Little playing catch with Emit, my friends dog.  And yes, Little is acting like a princess.  While they were playing catch, and middle was digging in the sandbox, Heather's mom and I were pealing and boiling two HUGE pots of tomatoes for Spaghetti sauce.  I went to work right away in that woman's kitchen which was exactly what I wanted.  We had big plans for all we were going to can and cook in two days.

Here is her chicken coup where she houses over 20 chickens.  And she was so kind to send us home with two dozens fresh eggs.  BEST GIFT EVER!

With all the fresh food we were preparing and eating, the kids got to feed the chickens all the time and loved it.  I'm not gonna lie, every meal felt like we went to the garden and picked our meal.  We ate fresh from the garden beans, corn, squash, zucchini  for bread, eggs, tomatoes, and watermelon.  The chickens loved that we were there.

After peeling and coring all the apples and piling them in the huge pot and doing the same with the tomatoes,  we took the kids to the lake while food cooked.  It was hot and the perfect time to cool off.  The kids spent their time digging for great rocks and shells and playing with all the dogs that showed up.  Great fun.

After a yummy supper, we enjoyed fresh warm apple sauce around a fire.  We burned pine cones, sticks and needles.  We also got to pick fresh apples off the three trees they have on the farm and enjoy those around the fire.

A beautiful photo of the front of the vegetable garden.

While in the kitchen working on grading zucchini to freeze, Little enjoyed the tire swing.

When it started to rain, Big improvised and drove around inside the barn.  I could have left him there and he never would have missed me.

Little got to be pushed around in a vintage stroller.  Yes her shoes don't match, that is the price you pay for empowering your children to dress themselves.  But she is wearing my pants from when I was 2.  She's so old school.


My friend Heather took this photo of my dream coming true.  She said she had to capture the moment since I had been wanting and waiting to can for so long.  In the end I love that she take the picture.  It may sound silly, but dreams come in all sizes and they take on different shapes and colors.  This was a dream of mine, and I love that it came true.  Heather's mom gave me her weekend, her time, her kitchen and let me ask dozens of questions, let me kids run around her home, and she taught me to can my food.  She was this huge gift in the process of giving us a healthier, happier, self sufficient life.  She gave me a tool to help love myself and my family.  A way to protect and preserve heritage traits and talents.  I am so grateful to her and Heather for helping make a dream come true.  It's a big deal to make room for dreams, whether big or small.  It was such a fun weekend, full of joy, laughs, learning and conversation.


Look what we did! 9 cans of spaghetti sauce, 5 cans of apple juice, 5 cans of apple sauce, and 12 bags of frozen zucchini for breads and soups.

At the last minute, we sent the kids out in the rain to collect as much Basil as they could.  Heather's mom had already collected as much as she wanted so the rest would just go to waste.  All the green in front of the kids is basil, and they picked a ton for me.  We made four big jars of pesto before we left Saturday night.  No matter how organic, locally grown pesto is, it will always include cheese.  We haven't had pesto in 18 months, but now.... Now we can have pesto twice a month if we want!  We are so excited if you can't tell.  Pesto noodles, pesto pizza, marinated pesto chicken, and homemade pesto gnocchi.

I had a small dream come true.  My kids got out of the hood for the weekend.  We had good, unscheduled fun with animals, plants, water and toys.

Thank you Lord for refreshing our weary souls and providing ways for dreams to come true.

A new chapter

Thursday marked the day where two of my kids are in school all day.  It is just me and Little at home now.

Its odd to be in a moment that you know you will remember for the rest of your life and have an authentic feeling about it.

You have the voices of parents who have gone before you and what they experienced, and you have thoughts of feelings that you think you should be experiencing.  So many thoughts.  So many feelings.

I have a 7yr old. 

I have two children in school now.

I have been surrounded by children and chaos for 7 years.  Before that I was working full time.  Before that, I was in college.

I have so many plans and ideas for my time, and yet I feel paralyzed and don't know where to start.  This is what I have been asking for for years, more time.

I cried all day.  I would be standing in my basement, cleaning and organizing, (I started with the big project first) and I just felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness, and fear, and loneliness, and like part of my body was missing, and excitement, and timidity, and anxiousness, and joy, and peace, and fear, and....


That was my word all day.


I had a dear friend call me, and I was verbally onslaughtering her and I finally said, "I just feel weird.  I don't know how to be alone."  And then I started crying again. (No I haven't forgotten that I have a small child at home, its just that, she is so easy, and going from three kids to one it does feel like you are alone.)

She came right over.  Pulled me from my basement, made iced coffee and we sat on the couch.

Then I started all over in what I was feeling, what I was afraid of, what I was excited for, and my total not knowing where to start in how to live this new life I have.

We went through all the things I was feeling, and she talked me off the edge of each negative one, and pushed me to embrace the good ones.

I know how to be Dani who has three crazy kids that I manage each day and prepping the house and the food, and planning activities.

I know how to be Dani Tietjen the public speaker.

I don't know how to be Dani who has time to pursue an organized healthy life.  A creative life.  Time to daily devote, time to read, time to volunteer, time to paint, time to write, time to sew, time to research, time to work, time to plan great activities for the kids, time to budget our money.

I am excited for my kids.  I am so grateful for their opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese fluently.  I am excited for time with my daughter.

One lesson that my dear friend helped me learn, is that just because my kids are in school, doesn't mean we have to jump on the American band wagon of activities.  I dread that hamster wheel, and I don't want it for my family.  It is really, really difficult to not join activities.  That may sound silly, but here in the cities and at a very cultural forward school, there are so many great activities to get your kids into.  Music, art, sailing, sports, chess, so many!

But that just means more stress on the pocket book, on the schedule, and for our family.  So we only do school, and come home and play and do chores.

I learned other fun things about myself and this new adventure with my friend that day.  But those are other blog posts.  Posts I am hoping to have time to write now!

Even though I still feel weird not having my little people around me, Little and I are going to embrace our first week together at home with fun things planned.

What I realized when writing this is, is that one would think my children were my whole life.  But I have a wonderful speaking career, I have healthy friendships and a very healthy marriage that I invest time in away from my kids.  I have hobbies and workouts that I love to do. 

But when you are used to the constant chatter of your kids, their help when cooking, and they are around to have adventures with on the spur of the moment, you really miss it when its gone.  Yes they fight, and they are loud, and they seem to spill everything and make a career out of making messes, so not having to deal with that each day all day is helpful, but mostly I just miss them.

So, cheers with me to this new stage of life and my children becoming smarter and more worldly than me each and every day.

Boys in thier uniform for the first day of kindergarten and 1st grade.

My little helper dressed herself today.