Friday Reflections – March 31

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Last night JP made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner as part of a school project. It turned out really well and besides a few burnt fingertips, I think we may have a new cook in the family.

The sun is finally peeking out from the clouds and the daffodils are in full bloom. This week has had its ups (before mentioned daffodils, open-minded children, morning show with amazing coffee and lots of friends) and its downs (a stubborn receptionist, a late night fight and cramming to finish a school project). I come to the end of the week with a sigh of relief but also with the feeling that I really experienced and lived what we call LIFE. I hope your week was full of love and laughter as well. Enjoy Friday!

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This cake was a team effort. My mother-in-law sweetly had the cake baked and the party decorations up (the dining room was floor to ceiling Pokemon!) It was definitely a birthday to remember. Happy 7th Birthday Kai!
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Spring in a vase.
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I made Turkey Minestrone Soup from Rustic Joyful Food and it was so tasty. The recipe called for ditalini pasta but I wasn’t able to find it and was going to get the small elbows instead. A quick Google search informed me that there are certain pastas that are specifically for soup so I looked again and spied this cute alphabet pasta on the top shelf. So fun!
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The local radio station KEXP is constantly streaming in our house and going to their new home down by the Space Needle has been on our list of places to go. They have in-studio performances almost daily that are free to the public. Tuesday morning we finally made it down and it was absolutely amazing. La Marzocca coffee is exceptional and seeing Kate Tempest live was riveting. Her thought provoking lyrics and emotional energy is mind blowing.
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I love this collection of plants at my wonderful friend’s house. I was in need of some emotional comfort that morning and left her home feeling cared for and recharged.
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Leave it to Martha to get this cleaning procrastinator to dig out the vacuum and get to work on ridding the house of dust. Her article on how many chemicals are in dust and the “right” way to dust and vacuum (start from the ceiling and move down to the floors) was what I needed to get motivated for a bit of spring cleaning.
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Afternoon Snack Pumpkin Muffins

fullsizeoutput_3da4Sometimes when life feels bumpy and what worked smoothly last month doesn’t feel smooth anymore, I want to take a hammer to it all and start over. I start making chore charts, sticker charts, afternoon schedules – anything to make the family run the way I want or expect. In reality, usually just a minor change can make a difference. Lately, the afternoon snack seems to be the problem area. I decided to get my chisel and set to work.

Our schedule is pretty much the same each day. School gets out, we play on the playground and then walk home. I unlock the door and remind them to take their lunch boxes and folders out of their backpacks and to go and wash their hands. Now begins the scramble to the pantry. The first child calls out “Mom can I have” and then the other “Mom I want”. I answer with a yes, no, then a yes. Cupboards banging, drawers opening. Pretzels flying. This week I decided to do something different.

First, I did a pantry clean up. I realized that the easiest items to reach were the treats and pre-packaged items. I changed that and stuck those in a bin on another shelf higher up. Now they look and see nuts, dried fruit, and some crackers. Secondly, we slow it down. Lunch time was not all that long ago. No need to rush in and finish snack within 15 minutes of walking in the door. There is plenty of afternoon left, I guarantee it. Instead of snack being the first thing that happens, we all take a few minutes and relax and then I tell them that I will go make snack and will let them know when its ready. Simple really.

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Lastly, this next step is really the most important change. I decided to  start planning out the snack. I was worried this would be disappointing to them. I thought that they liked being able to make these choices on their own, but you know what? I think they were as frustrated with the afternoons as I was and don’t seem to mind one bit. The food is served more family style (or party style) so each child can choose what they want of each item.

As an added bonus, since moving beyond the bunny cracker I’ve noticed that we’ve been able to get a little more variety into our mini-meal. Here are a few of the new(ish) items I’ve added to the rotation.

  • Air popped popcorn (going to add nutritional yeast this week and see how that goes)
  • Hummus and pitas
  • Mini bagels topped with blueberry whipped cream cheese (thawed blueberries whipped with cream cheese and a little lemon zest)
  • Tortillas rolled up with Nutella and bananas

This week I decided to make whole wheat pumpkin muffins. I have made these so many times and absolutely love them. They are the perfect addition to our after school routine.

It has been so nice not having to field so many “can I have” questions and to just enjoy catching up after the school day. I think this change will stay – unlike the chore chart.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

I originally found this recipe on allrecipes.com and have made adjustments over the years. You can replace half of the oil with applesauce if preferred. This recipe makes 24 regular muffins or like me, you can make twelve regular and twenty-four mini muffins like I have shown above. I like having both sizes on hand and they freeze great. You could also leave the batter in the refrigerator and bake them off each day as needed. The batter would keep for 3 days. Of course you could throw in some toasted nuts or chocolate chips if desired.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup mild tasting oil (such as canola or vegetable)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

Preheat over to 350° F. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl whisk flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder and spices and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, oil and eggs. Use a wooden spoon and stir pumpkin mixture into flour mixture. Stop mixing when flour has been incorporated. Add milk and incorporate. The batter will be loosen and be less dense.

Fill the muffin tins 3/4 full and bake. The mini muffins take about ten minutes and the larger ones are done in around twenty minutes. A toothpick will come out clean and the tops will spring back when touched. Let the muffins cool a few minutes and then remove from the pan. Let cool completely on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for 3 days or freeze.

Enjoy!