Posted in Momming Hard

Springtime Greetings, and a Recipe for “Beer Stein Milk Tea”

I’m happy to say that beautiful weather has finally arrived in Manitoba!  My tulips are blooming:

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Nearly every day, my sons bring me fresh dandelions for my windowsill:

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The sprinklers and kiddie pool have been in full operation:

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And we blew bubbles on the deck for the first time this year – always a momentous occasion:

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I went to the garden centre and purchased some annuals for my flower beds (can you believe these colors??):

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At times like these I love to have a cool, sweet drink to sip on while I’m outside.  Today’s recipe, like last year’s Easy, Breezy Iced Coffee is inspired by my husband, who is great at concocting yummy drinks at home.  It’s also inspired by bubble tea…which some people love, and some people hate.  I fall into the first category.  I even love the chewy tapioca, although my at-home version does not include it.  Like most of my recipes, this one is fast, imprecise, and un-fussy.  But it satisfies my craving for a treat-in-a-cup at those times when I can’t just go out and buy one.

So, join me for a cup of tea, will you?  Begin by brewing strong tea (I use orange pekoe) by placing one tea bag in a large mug or beer stein, and pouring about one cup of hot water over it, or enough to fill the mug just less than half way:

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Steep for 5 minutes.

Remove the tea bag, and add 3 teaspoons of sugar (adjust to taste), a few ice cubes to cool it off, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla (again, adjust to taste).  Stir.

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Pour a splash of 35% cream into the tea – enough to lighten the color and make it appear a little thicker.  You won’t need very much, if you use heavy cream.  (Yum!)

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Finally, top up the mug/stein with your choice of milk.  I use lactose-free, but regular milk or almond milk would also be good.

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I use a beer stein because it’s just the right size for me, and I don’t like beer – so hey, what else am I going to do with it?  But any large mug or even a glass would do.

If you make this, I hope you enjoy it.  And as you sip away, let me know in the comments what you have been up to lately.  Happy spring!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Momming Hard

5 Little Pick-me-ups for Tired, Introvert Moms

(Yawn.)  “I’m tired!”

I say it so much, I’m tired of hearing myself say it.  And everyone around me probably is too!

Being tired is often just the normal state of being a parent.  If you’re also an introvert, parenthood can be particularly exhausting.  You need quiet, alone time to recharge your batteries.  But your children (especially the younger ones) may need to be around you basically from sun-up until sun-down.

In the past few weeks, I’ve really enjoyed the slower pace of not having to rush to the bus stop and preschool in the mornings.  I’ve enjoyed lazy mornings around the breakfast table with my boys, and countless walks and bike rides.  However, I have missed the few hours of alone time I would usually get during the week when school and preschool are in session.  Nonetheless, there are some simple strategies that I have been using to keep myself going as best as I can.

Sleep

Umm…duh, right?  But hang on there, just a second.  Like me, you may feel guilty for grabbing a cat nap in the middle of the day if your kids are sleeping or away at school.  But, does that nap leave you feeling replenished and in a better mood?  Are you still able to sleep the following night?  If you let yourself, could you fall asleep right now?

If your answer was yes to these questions, and you are an otherwise healthy person, could it be that you are functioning in a state of sleep deprivation?

I was shocked, when I became a mom, at how much sleep I had to sacrifice.  And not only for the first three months, as I was led to believe.  For years after children are sleeping through the night, parents are awoken for a plethora of reasons such as bad dreams, potty breaks, bed wetting, sicknesses, and random bumps in the night that snap you awake and into “parent mode” for no good reason at all.

Eventually, it takes its toll.  There’s a lot of catching up to do.

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given regarding motherhood was: “If you can take a break, then do.” You can’t take a break, nearly always.  Your kids need you, and you want to be there for them.  But when the house miraculously falls silent, and there is a pause in the constant demands on you, by all means – take it.

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Rest

This point may seem redundant, but it flows from my previous one.  Sleep is great when you have that luxury, but for some kids the napping stage does not last long.  Which means that your napping opportunities are cut short as well.  And even if you have one child who naps, chances are, you have another one who doesn’t or who naps at a different time.

Even if you cannot sleep, there may be a chance for you to sit down during the day and close your eyes for a moment or two.  I use screen time very deliberately with my kids.  Most weekdays, I will turn on the TV for them after lunch for about an hour (which is the time of day that I find myself hitting a wall).  After finding a safe show for them to watch, I’ll sit down somewhere and close my eyes.  Closing your eyes is key here – put away the devices, reading material, and whatever else you may want to occupy yourself with, and close your eyes.  You don’t have to sleep, but chances are you may drift into a slight doze.  I find that even 15 or 20 minutes of this will leave me feeling more refreshed than I was before.

If you don’t want to place your children in front of screens, you can be opportunistic about those moments during the day when they become preoccupied with something for a while, and take a breather then.  If my children are playing nicely in the other room, I may lie down on the couch for a while.  Or if they’ve gone outside to the backyard, I’ll sit down with a cup of tea.  It’s easy for a mom’s day to stretch to the length of 12 hours or more, in addition to being wakened at night, with no days off in between.  Don’t feel like you need to spend the entirety of those hours on your feet.

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Exercise

Ok, I don’t think there’s a better way to get a tired person want to kick you in the teeth, than to tell them they should exercise more.  At least, that’s how I feel when someone tells me so!  However, as difficult as it may be to get going on this one, there is truth to it – as long as, like I mentioned before, you are otherwise a healthy person.  It’s like a little magic bullet.  Add fresh air to the mix for bonus points.  And take your kids with you, to wear them out as well!

Since doing school at home with my son these past few weeks, I have joined in on his Phys-Ed workouts when I can.  From him I’ve learned  how to do a “burpee” and a “squat.”  I’ve braved the wild world of a push-up, and realized how much easier it was to jump rope when I was 9 than it is now.  I’ve cycled against the wind.  I’ve repeatedly chased my 3 year old around our bay on his balance bike.  Each time, it has been a lovely jolt to my system, like some kind of wonderful drug.  “Just do it,” as Nike would have you believe.  And in my unqualified opinion – the more vigorous the exercise, the better the payout.  If you try it, let me know if you agree.

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Get Creative

A writer I follow named Deanne Welsh dropped a thought into my inbox last week that caught my eye.  Its heading was: “Is creativity sustaining you?”  And I would even ask, is creativity nurturing you?  For those who love to be creative (you know who you are), it can be incredibly life-giving to have some kind of free-flowing project on the go.  However, I would caution that if you impose burdens and restrictions on yourself for the outcome of said project, you can rob yourself of the joy it would have otherwise brought.

For example, my main creative outlet is this blog.  However, if I start to worry about all the problems or weaknesses in my blog – not adhering to a consistent schedule, drifting from niche to niche, low stats, etc. – I feel discouraged and my blog becomes a burden, instead of a joy.  Now, those things can be important for bloggers who want to grow their following.  However, what I am encouraging is to not let the outcome of your endeavors (even if they flop) steal the positive effects of creativity on your mental health.  As a music therapist, I am a firm believer in “process over product.”  That is, the experience of creating something can be just as important (if not more so) than the end product itself.

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Pray

My days begin with prayer; my days end with prayer; and I sandwich it in between whenever I can.  No, I’m not on some kind of strict, religious schedule.  Prayer gives me life.  It is my connection to the One who cares for me more than anybody else.  The only One who fully knows and understands who I am and what makes me tick.

I think prayer would be awfully boring if it were a one way street – talking to someone who never speaks back.  Thankfully, that is not the case.

“…his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:4b‭-‬5 NIV

The thoughts, feelings, pictures, memories, and impressions that the Lord gives to me as I pray or read my Bible are sometimes the only things keeping me calm and behaving as a halfway decent human being.  And even if I don’t really hear Him respond, I know that He is always listening.  Intently.

I have become convinced that God has a soft spot for moms.  This topic could probably comprise a blog post all by itself, but for now, I will leave you with one of my favorite verses.  It reminds me that I am not alone in parenting my kids!

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven.”  Matthew 18:10 NIV

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So, there they are – sleep, rest, exercise, creativity, and prayer – 5 things helping me survive (and sometimes even thrive) as an introvert mom.

Are you an introvert mom?  Do you have tricks or ideas to share?  Let me know in the comments section below!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Momming Hard

Free Printable Chore Chart for Kids (Pre-schoolers and Pre-readers)

Hello, friends!  Today I am sharing another free printable: a chore chart for kids.  Since it uses only picture symbols, and there is nothing to read, it is best suited for preschoolers and pre-readers.  There are 3 duties on the chart, which are to be marked off with either a check-mark or a sticker, each day of the week.  The 3 duties, represented by the picture symbols, are:

  • feed the pet,
  • pick up toys, and
  • obedience and respect towards parents.

(It should be fairly obvious which duties correspond to which symbol.)

There is also a column in which you may tally up the week’s total of check-marks/stickers (or the amount of allowance/reward earned) for each particular duty.

I made this chart several years ago, when my husband and I decided to start giving an allowance to our son, as a motivator to keep his attitude in check and help in small ways around the house.

According to my foggy recollection of learning about behavioural psychology all those years ago, this would qualify as a classic ‘token system.’   Teachers, parents, and therapists use these kinds of techniques all the time to motivate children, and they can be quite effective.  However, they’re not fail-proof.

With my son in particular, we ended up phasing out this system after a time.  Initially, it was successful.  But eventually he came to realize that, along with the possibility of being rewarded, there was a possibility that he could fail.  This seemed to cause him stress, and his behaviour worsened.  When we removed the chart (actually, he tore it in two) and stopped harping about it (but still required the same behaviours), he became more relaxed and obedient.  Perhaps, by then, we had made our point.

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If you are looking to introduce your preschooler or kindergartner to the concept of having a few daily responsibilities, a chart and reward system such as this one could provide the small amount of structure and inspiration that you need.  However, it is important to carefully observe your child’s responses, and shift or modify your strategy when needed.

The preschooler whom I designed this chart for is now 8 years old.  I no longer give him an allowance.  He is required to pick up his toys at least once per week, but other than that, he probably helped more with cleaning when he was little than he does now.  When you’re 3, it can be great fun to put dishes away and play around with a mop bucket.  Not so when you reach school age and the novelty of such things has worn off.

However, he’s been reminding me repeatedly in the past few days that he would love to have a skateboard.  His birthday is not until next spring, and Christmas is still a ways off, so I’ve suggested that maybe we should dust off this old concept of ‘allowance’.  Saving up for a skateboard seems like a perfect motivator to learn more advanced household skills, such as:

  • vacuuming the floors,
  • folding laundry,
  • loading the dishwasher,
  • cleaning the bathroom,
  • taking out the garbage, or
  • dusting.

While discussing this possibility, he asked me if I could make him a chart!  So perhaps the old one had made a positive impression, after all. 😉

Once again, here is the link to the chart if you would like to take a look or use it:

Chore chart for kids

Do you give your kids allowance?  What’s your system?  I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Momming Hard

Easy, Breezy Iced Coffee

Recently, my husband and I were at McDonald’s (dollar drink days!) and he bought me an iced coffee.  Although I’m a huge coffee drinker, I had never really gotten into the iced variety (maybe because I’m already always cold). 😉

To my surprise, I really enjoyed it!  And since I realized how easy a great iced coffee is to make at home (and probably even cheaper than $1), I haven’t stopped guzzling them.

Here’s my oh-so-simple recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Strong brewed coffee (preferably cooled)
  • Ice (duh!)
  • Sweetened/flavoured coffee whitener (such as Coffee Mate)
  • 35% cream/whipping cream (why be skimpy?)
  • Milk

Directions:

Fill a glass about halfway with ice.  Add the brewed and cooled coffee, again until about the halfway mark.  Pour in a *splash* (technical term) of coffee whitener, and another splash of the 35% cream.  Fill the glass the rest of the way with milk, and stir it up.

Adjust all of the amounts to suit your preference.  I also use lactose-free milk in mine, because, well…you know.

I’m thinking of making a large jug of this concoction next week, when I plan to have a few ladies over.  Do you think they’ll like it?

If you make it, let me know in the comments what you think!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Momming Hard

The Lost Art of the Roux

What do scalloped potatoes, creamy enchilada sauce, chicken pot pie, and cream of broccoli soup all have in common?  In my kitchen, a homemade roux is the foundation for all of them.

When I first learned to cook, I did so by opening cans.  My mom had given me a few of those Campbell’s soup recipe books, and I thought that was the only way to go.  I became the master of cream-soup-goop-based recipes.

And honestly, I don’t have anything against them.  I still use them from time to time.  However, I was troubled by the fact that unless I had those cans stocked up in my house, I couldn’t cook many of my favorite dishes.

How did they do it a-way-back-in-the-day…before Campbell’s soups??  (Gasp!)

I had been duped into thinking that a creamy, tasty foundation to a multitude of tasty dishes had to come from a can.

The truth is, that you can achieve the same flavour and texture quite easily by learning how to make a basic roux from scratch.

Here is the incredibly simple process:

Take equal parts butter (or margarine) and flour.  Melt the butter on the stove.  Add the flour, mix it in, and cook for a minute or two.  (It will look like a paste.)  Add liquid (broth or milk, or a combination of the two) gradually, whisking it in, until the mixture reaches your desired consistency.  Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes, stirring frequently.

Here are the quantities I use for 2 cups of roux (with a creamy, sauce-like consistency):

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups liquid (broth or milk or a combination of the two)

Since developing this skill, I find myself in the canned soup aisle very infrequently.  I feel great about making my food ‘from scratch,’ and can adjust the taste and consistency to my liking.

For additional flavour, you may cook chopped onions or garlic in the butter before adding the flour in the process I described above.  Salt, pepper, and other seasonings can also be used to adjust the flavour of your roux.

Do you use a roux in the dishes you make?  Do you use the same process/ingredients in your roux as I do?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Momming Hard

Free Printable Teacher Appreciation Gift Tag

As Manitobans, there are two things we become very good at: fending off – the cold in the winter, and mosquitoes in the summer!  Because of this, I am giving my child’s teachers each a small citronella candle as an appreciation gift as the school year comes to a close.  I have created a free teacher appreciation gift tag to go with them, that I am sharing with you today.

Simply click here to download the pdf file.  Then print the tags on card stock (there are 4 per page), cut them out, punch a hole in each, and tie them around the candles with string or yarn.

This is an affordable, easy gift that most people (male or female) should be able to appreciate and use.

I can usually find small citronella candles for as little as $3 each at Wal-Mart, Superstore, or Canadian Tire.  At that price, you may want to grab one for your child’s bus driver and principal as well!

This gift tag would also work well attached to bug repellent or mosquito coils.

If you use this idea, let me know in the comments how it goes.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

 

 

Posted in Momming Hard

Chore-a-day Cleaning Schedule for Busy Moms

Today I am sharing a simple cleaning schedule that I have followed (more or less) for years.

Everyday tasks such as dishes, laundry, and meal prep are listed, plus one additional cleaning chore for each day from Monday to Friday.  There’s a blank spot for each day, to fill in what you are planning to make for supper.  In the Thursday column, there’s another blank spot to fill in one monthly job of your choice.  (See the list below the schedule, for a few suggestions.)

By having this schedule in place, my house can stay reasonably clean without much thought or stress.  And on the weeks when I don’t complete each and every task (hey, it happens 😉 ) I simply take a breath and start again, from scratch, on Monday.

For more background on how this routine came about, see this post.

To access the pdf file of the schedule to print, click here.

Let me know in the comments – what is your cleaning routine?  And if you try my schedule, tell me how it works for you!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

 

Posted in Momming Hard

Basic, All-Purpose, Single Batch Icing

I’ve spent a good portion of my mom life confused about icing.  It seems silly, because icing is one of the simplest things to make.  However, I’ve produced several botched attempts.  I’ve made it too buttery, too wet, or too dry.  I’ve curdled cooked icings in the pot somehow.  I’ve nearly broken my arm trying to mix it with a spoon, and then found myself in an icing sugar cloud when I turned on the mixer.

There are many icing recipes out there, but I’ve found some of them to be complicated or hard to duplicate.  (At least for an amateur like myself.)

Today I will share with you the proportions and method that I have settled upon.  I like the flavour and consistency of this icing.  It’s nothing spectacular, but when you need icing in a flash for cookies (it’s great on Soft White/Grandmother’s cookies) or a cake, and have only basic ingredients and a small amount of time – this is my go-to.  As a plus, the proportions are easy to remember.

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Basic, All-Purpose Icing

  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup cream or milk
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla (I just pour a splash in – yum!)
  • Food coloring (optional)

Place softened butter and icing sugar in a bowl.  Mix with hands until crumbly.  Pour in the cream or milk and vanilla.  Use an electric mixer and blend until smooth.  Add food coloring (optional) and mix in.

If you find the consistency too dry, add a few drops of milk/cream.  If too wet, add a small amount of icing sugar.

To ice a large cake (or if you like a LOT of icing), you may want to double this recipe.

 

Pretty easy, right?

I love how excited kids get about icing and sprinkles.  It’s just a sure-fire way to make the day special and put a smile on their face 🙂 .

Hope you enjoy, and if you make it, let me know in the comments how it works for you!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Momming Hard

Soft White (Grandmother’s) Cookies

Welcome to my first ever Momming Hard Monday.  In these segments I will post some kind of super-mom idea that I have done or hope to do.

(Because I can’t always be super-mom. But one day per week, I can pretend to be!)

Today, I share an old family favorite: Soft White (or Grandmother’s) Cookies.  Where I live here in Mennonite-ville, they are made and loved by all.

Top them with your favorite icing and sprinkles for a truly authentic experience!

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Soft White Cookies

  • 2 cups sweet cream (whipping cream)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup margarine (or butter)
  • 5 cups flour
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 (or 2) tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Blend sugar and softened margarine or butter together.  Add beaten eggs.  Add vanilla.  Blend dry ingredients together in separate bowl.  Add dry ingredients alternately with cream (begin and end with dry – 1/3 of dry, then 1/2 the cream, 1/3 of dry, other 1/2 cream, and then the rest of the dry).

Sprinkle flour on a clean surface and roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into shapes.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes.  I like mine slightly underdone, so I lean toward the 10 minute mark.

 

Have you made these before?  What’s your best icing recipe?  Let me know in the comments.

And by the way, in the future I will do my best to post closer to the BEGINNING of nap time. 😉

See you on Friday for the first of my weekly rambles!

Warm wishes

Lisa