chocolate + paper + scissors


Redirection for Mommy.

Since I haven't posted anything since July, it occurred to me this week that I need to stand back, get some clarity and redirect the vision and focus for my blog. This epiphany was inspired by a beautiful, creative and dear friend of mine. She inspires me each time I read her writing...

Thank you, Amy.

The change of seasons is bringing beautiful and much needed clarity to my world.

Looking forward to sharing more with everyone soon.


Lots of firsts!

Okay, so it's very late - past my bedtime - but it's very nice to have some quiet time to myself! Today was one of those busy days at home - and we managed, somehow, to not leave the house at all. This is bad, isn't it? No exercise! No outside stimulation! But it was nice, too.

I do want to share a delish recipe - but I have to share a quick review of our day:

1. We had lots of imaginary play, as we were in Dragon Land much of the day with K and her friends.
2. A can now clap his little tiny, delicate, chunky hands, and gets so excited! We love it so much that we all clap with him! He's also on his way to crawling any day...
3. K managed to answer the phone for the first time today: she took a client call of daddy's while I was in the other room tidying up...oops! Thankfully, she didn't give any financial advice!

Okay: here's the recipe. I threw this together a couple of weeks ago after forgetting to add sugar to the Nigella recipe I posted last time. (I hope you never do that!). After throwing the entire baked, unsweetened batch of brownies in the trash, all I had to make dessert with was some chocolate, butter and some honey. First time to make this sauce - but it was amazingly tasty. I will be making it again...perhaps for a morning beverage! Nice alternative to coffee.

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter, salted
4-5 tablespoons of honey

Melt it all in a small pot on the stove...and enjoy. It refrigerates well - but it will harden, so you'll need to reheat it in the microwave.

Chocolate heaven! Goes well on anything - especially room temperature foods. But we ate it on ice cream when my girlfriends were in town, and it was heavenly. Of course, the company made it taste even better!

Lights out for now...sweet dreams!


FFF: Thank you, Nigella, for lovely fudgy brownies.

Hi all!

I know it's Thursday with a holiday weekend I thought I would post this recipe early. I haven't been very consistent with posting my favorite recipes - I really am trying to do a better job at this one. I have some out-of-town preparation to do tonight, so I'll try to make this short and sweet.

I tried this Nigella Lawson brownie recipe for the first time at the end of this school year for my daughter's pre-school teachers. I baked for them whenever an opportunity presented itself, usually for holidays. They always loved everything so much - and it's so fun to bake for people who love and appreciate the product!

Nigella: can we talk about how delicious she is? Her cookbook reads so's so soothing and relaxing. Making these brownies was such a joy - so calming during such a busy time of year. This recipe is taken from How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking. It's a gorgeous book.

I substituted white chocolate chips for the walnuts. which were a nice complement. These were gooey and scrumptious. I realized that my entire baking life, I've been making cakey brownies (as opposed to fudgy brownies). I was afraid these were undercooked, but they were fine once they cooled. The gooey-ness was the best part. I froze about 1/4 of the recipe, and they're great warmed in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Cheers, and enjoy! And, everyone have a lovely 4th of July.

13 1/4 ounces soft unsalted butter
13 1/4 ounces best quality dark chocolate
6 large eggs
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
17 2/3 ounces caster sugar
8 ounces plain flour
1 teaspoons salt
10 5/8 ounces chopped walnuts

1.Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2.Line your approximatley 33 x 23 x 5 1/2cm brownie pan with foil or baking paper.
3.Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy based saucepan.
4.In a bowl beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla.
5.Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.
6.When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar mixture, and then the nuts and flour.
7.Beat to combine and then scrape out of the saucepan into the lined brownie pan.
8.Bake for about 25 minutes.
9.When its's ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle, but the middle still dark and dense and gooey.
10.Keep checking the brownies as they cook; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.

Makes 48 brownies.


Chocolate on a Monday morning

I'm officially entering a new zone...I've decided to eat some chocolate this morning to jump-start my week!

I'm also huddled in a corner at the local bookstore with a cup of hot peppermint tea...and celebrating my new quiet time on Monday mornings, while my mother stays with my little ones. My daughter was so excited to know that she would be able to play with her gran "all by herself" while brother sleeps...and it validated my thought that just as we moms need a break, so do our children. They definitely need some outside stimulation.

Hooray for that!

I'm trying to get into a groove with a schedule for my blogging, which has been difficult to do this year. My daughter will be four in August, and my son is almost nine months, and I'll admit that it's taken me this long to finally feel like I can care for my children and keep life organized in our home - not perfectly, but it is doable. Finding time for myself, however, has been a true challenge since October (which I hear is very common after having a precious, chunky, toothy-smile second child come into one's life).

The current economic slowdown has brought me some time - as I haven't had any freelance writing projects since January. It's really been an adjustment, since I've been so used to having some sort of deadline to keep me on task. (Deadlines really help with this!) But, I've had more time to spend with K and A...and I'll admit that I am officially a stay-at-home-mom (who still likes to work when it comes around).

It's a hard job, this household manager business. I used to be highly competent at executing all kinds of tasks when I was teaching - teachers are multi-tasking geniuses! For some reason, though, it's taken me almost four years (yeek - four!) to come into my own for organizing our home life: nurturing, cooking, cleaning (house, clothes and tiny, untidy bodies), motivating, organizing, procrastinating.

Yes - somehow, "procrastinating" snuck up there on to the list, just like the pesky mosquitoes that bite me in the summer air when I'm not looking. Let's see: still haven't completed my thank-you notes for the arrival of my precious October. It gets added to my to-do list every week, but it never gets done. Why is this? My theory is: when I don't have time to myself, I use procrastination as a retaliation to the world of very time-consuming tasks. (Although thank-you notes are lovely and necessary - and they used to be a favorite thing of mine to do, before having children.)

The other day I felt as if I had ADD - I couldn't get anything accomplished - my brain was in lockdown mode as the kitchen was a wreck, A was crying, K was dumping tiny colorful beads on the wood floor in the other room, and I was sleep-deprived from staying up late and waking up twice with A in the night.

But, a little time to myself always makes everything better and clears my head: writing, running,'s all necessary!

So, cheers to all you mothers out there who are a little bit burned out this morning. Don't forget to take care of yourself! At this time, I'd like to give some props to Mojo Mom for her insight and her exceptional book, Mojo Mom: Nurturing Yourself While Raising a Family.

I highly recommend it for every mom, new or experienced. It's never too late!

In short: let's keep it real, ladies. Just take care of yourself.

Happy Monday...


Question of the day:

How, in our media-driven, fully-communicado lives, can we be successful multi-tasking individuals, while also being good active listeners, present and mindful with our loved ones?

Food for thought.

Where's my chocolate?


Slimming down for summer

Dear Hottest Season in Texas,

It's so great to have you around - there is nothing like you. Your heat can be unbearable - but summer is a magical season. This week, you were a little lighter than usual. Thank you for the cool breezes you brought our way this week - they made for some delicious stay-outside-all-day days and some dreamy nights! I can't believe you're already here.

Vivid memories of last year with you: Hot days at the pool with our blonde fish. Being very pregnant and stretching a beautiful green maternity suit until it would stretch no more. Our first trip to the emergency room with our girl after her collision with the corner of our cedar chest at 2 a.m.. Our girl's 3rd birthday party, celebrated in pink and purple. Bracing for Ike - and being grateful for having survived it. Spending two weeks with no power. Learning what we really need to be happy is each other. And, preparing for the addition of one more to "each other" - awaiting our new baby brother.

And so, it has been an amazing year! Today, we took baby brother swimming for the first time, and the water was much colder than I expected. His reaction: tears! I was so caught up in watching our little chunk in nothing but a swim diaper, held by Daddy, that I forgot to take a picture. But I'll always have the picture in my mind of those few minutes - and then it was time to get out and dry off! Big sister had such a great time with the floaty she was using - but she was cold, too!

But in moving forward with the rest of the season, I confess that my goal is to slim down on what I call over-connectedness. With the online world, e-mail, cell phones, Facebook, blog-following, my time quickly leaves me, and I'm left feeling like I do after reading "junk food" magazines. There's a beautiful life to be lived, - just as little children live in the moment. I'm hoping to have more of that this season, and less technology.

And more ice cream!


Happy Birth-day

Today is a most lovely, perfect spring day in Houston...the kind you want to bottle up and savor every day: clear blue skies, warm, dry weather with a nice cool breeze. It also happens to be my birthday.

Every spring, I feel the power of rebirth in the air - so I love that my birthday comes during this season. I believe one's birthday is like a personal "new year" celebration - we get to begin another year and celebrate our wonderful, precious lives.

I've been in a nurturing, nesting kind of mood, and the best way I know how to nest is to bake for our family. So, I'm so excited that my birthday gift from my family is the King Arthur's Baking Companion. I've had my eye on this cookbook for years, and when I finally found it at our local library, I fell in love!

I'd like to make a toast: to birthdays, new beginnings and amazing new recipes!



Always Easter

I hope all of you had a glorious and memorable Easter.

Here are some words of wisdom you may enjoy!

Always Easter
By Grace V. Watkins
From Ideals Easter

You say it happened long ago
And in a far-off land
Where men and women spoke a tongue
I would not understand,
That centuries have come and gone
Since that triumphant day,
And that the garden where He walked
Is half a world away.

He walks in every garden, friend;
And every rock-sealed tomb
Opens ‘neath His shining hand
As springtime flowers bloom.
For every dawn is Easter dawn;
On every sunrise hill
The earthbound glimpse eternity
And meet the Master still.


Fantastic Food Friday: Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I’ve decided to make Fridays a day for celebrating great food. Please note that I’m not claiming to be a food expert, nor is this a food blog. However, I do love cooking and eating food (which I suppose makes me a foodie!) and experimenting with recipes to make them healthier and still delish. Not all recipes that I love are healthy, by the way! But, I would like to share recipes that are somewhat easy that also make my family happy. Eating good food should make us happy, right?

I have to give credit for my “FFF” title. Last year, my friend and colleague Kim turned me on to Rocks in my Dryer, a fantastic blog about life and parenting, which originally featured Works for Me Wednesdays (now featured on We are THAT Family). I decided to follow in the footsteps of the alliteration – and devote my fun Friday entries to fantastic food.

My free time is limited in this season of my life, but there are two foodie sites I check regularly: Cookie Madness and Cooking Light. There are millions more out there – but these are my two favorites that always offer no-fail recipes.

I’ve been trying to take to my cookbooks that have been collecting dust over the years (especially the last 6 months, as my little man is almost 6 months!). I’m so fortunate to have so many lovely books – so I’m trying to dive into them a little at a time. I’m excited to share them with you!

My most recent recipe find comes from a church cookbook – which are full of great little favorite, tried-and-true comfort food recipes. I added a few twists to make it (secretly) super healthy, and my three year-old daughter and my husband loved it! They’re both quite choosy on their sweets…especially my husband. Since we’ve been married, we’ve concluded we have very different ideas of what constitutes “good” sweets. That's another topic for another day.

This recipe has whole grain, ground flaxseed, antioxidants from the chocolate, and vegetables! It tastes like gooey chocolate cake. With benefits.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Adapted from Food for the Journey
by First Congregational Church of Houston

3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional!)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Dutch-processed)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated zucchini
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Beat eggs until frothy. Beat in sugar, oil and vanilla until thick and lemon-colored. Sift all dry ingredients together. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture alternately with zucchini. Stir in chocolate chips last.

Pour batter into a greased 9X13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Enjoy as a perfect breakfast, snack or dessert!


Simply Beautiful.

My husband is a financial planner. Yes: since October, his profession has been no fun. Lately, his days are full of stress and uncertainty. Yucky market numbers. Ups and downs. Worried clients. Feeling helpless.

In fact, the very morning our son was born, the Dow hit record lows. As he held our sweet little guy in his arms, he felt the cell phone ringing in his pocket. As I sat in the bed, still drowsy from my epidural, I’ll never forget the torn look on his face. “I’ve got to go make some calls to clients.”

Did I mention he works from home?

His daily interruptions from one co-worker include lots of “Daddy, look at this!” and “Daddy, where are my princesses?” and the quiet tiptoe into Daddy’s office when he’s on the phone to get one more (okay, just one more) piece of legal-sized paper for multi-color crayon scribbling. Even on his most stressful days, this tiny three year-old colors his days beautiful.

These days, I can’t help but remember the economic downturn of 2002. In a post-911 world, and in Houston, in a post-Enron world, our economy was hit hard. I obsessed about reading the news every chance I could, as if the journalists could foretell our uncertain future. I’ll never forget how he crash of Enron sent destructive ripples through the city – through every industry. Employed at a marketing communications firm, I (somehow) survived two rounds of layoffs. It was a frightening, emotional and stressful period, with days full of twice the workload and newly-absent beloved co-workers, sent to find employment elsewhere. I grew up during this time - and I learned the value of gratitude – and making the most of what we’re given.

These days, I’m doing good if I sit down to read the headlines at some point during the day…or the week! My freelance workload has been fairly slow, which has been a blessing, since I’m still adjusting to life with two children. But when I’m not writing for clients, I’ll admit that some days my brain goes to mush, and I make little effort to read CNN’s headlines. (So, I will try to catch the day’s political recap with Rachel Maddow or John Stewart for some good laughs.)

With a passionate, energetic three year-old girl and a nursing 5 month-old boy, my agendas are different these days, and a successful day has nothing to do with clients, and everything to do with a small girl whose soft hands reach for mine in the parking lot of a busy grocery store. And a tiny boy who lights up when he sees me with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s a good day if there’s little fever, lots of arts and crafts projects mixed in with some Barney and Word World – and of course, some treats. Oh – and 2-3 good naps for little guy!)

With all of the hectic, stressful headlines indicating an uncertain future, it’s quite easy to get sucked into the downtrodden-ness of it all. The good side of it is – and I don’t mean to sound cliché – but times like these really remind me how little we really need to be happy…yet how much we already have.

The life our family lives inside our walls may be filled with some sleep-deprived nights and nonstop, messy days, but this life is simply beautiful - even when paper, glue, play-doh and beads keep me from seeing the floor.


Mandatory reading that's hard to swallow.

After listening to the most recent episode of my favorite weekly podcast, Manic Mommies, I feel I have to share a book that was reviewed this week: Poisoned Profits: the Toxic Assault on Our Children. I encourage each of you to have a listen to the interview with co-author journalist Alice Shabecoff - it's informative and fascinating - but frightening, and yet - motivating.

Below is the post I made in the Big Tent Manic Mommies community. Although I promised myself I would try to refrain from purchasing any books this year...I'll have to break down and make an exception.

Subject: Ridding the ol' plastics per this week's podcast

First of all, I want to say that this week's podcast, although horrendously frightening, was eye-opening and educational, and did make me move to clean out some probably not-so-healthy items in the house.

Let me just get this off my chest (let's pretend this is a aloud for all to hear): "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

I have to say that the preview of this book, as Erin so eloquently put it, "scared the bejesus out of me." I was listening to the podcast as I was nursing my sweet little 5 month-old boy this morning...and I wanted to clutch him and my daughter so close to me - so close that I permanently protect them from every bit of potential toxic harm. I know...not quite so possible. But we can try.

So, that said, I just cleaned out our eek-y plastics drawer and am ridding our home of all old sippy cups, bowls, plates...all things plastic.

And, although I was once an organic fanatic when my daughter was starting solids, I'll admit that I've slowly sunken back into the realm of conventional foods to help ease the pocketbook: non-organic milk, regular eggs, meat, etc. Times are very lean in our home, as my husband is a financial planner (not a fun job to have right now whatsoever) and I am a freelance writer (inconsistent business), so I've been thinking that it's okay to buy conventional foods to save extra money, but I'm disappointed that it's not. Where is the happy medium?

I found it interesting that the author mentioned the cost if we didn't choose organic. That was a bit of a jolt.

And, what the heck - about the dirty dozen?! I hadn't heard of this handy list. Thanks, ladies, for the tip. Here's an article on necessary organic foods from MSNBC, in case anyone missed it:

So, Erin and Kristin, although this week's podcast was heavy - it is greatly appreciated - and we all have a responsibility to pass it on to others.

Off to dump the plastics in the recycling bin. Lots more work to do.