A Warm Drink on a Cold Day

warm capuccino-saidaonlineThere’s nothing like coming in on a cold day and enjoying a nice warm drink. Cuddling up on the couch, your hands surrounding the mug for warmth as the steam floats up and you inhale the beautiful scent of coffee, hot chocolate, tea or hot apple cider, to name a few.

It doesn’t matter what you have been doing, if you’ve been enjoying some time outside doing outdoor activities, toboganning, skating, skiing or even just shoveling the walk, there is something about that warm beverage that offers you comfort like nothing else.

My kids love cuddling up on the couch with their drinks and maybe some cookies or other treat and watching a movie, tucked up under blankets. Nice and cozy and relaxing.

warm-drinksOf course when we decided to eliminate sugar at our house we could no longer default to the hot chocolate mix we bought at the store (and we used to buy the big can, you know that one that is super tall and would last for months). I know in the good old days hot chocolate was simply milk heated with cocoa mixed into it, but it had been a long time since I’d done that. In fact I remember one time when I was little and my aunt was looking after us, she did just that, and my sisters and I looked at her like she had 3 heads and asked her what the heck she was doing. In the end she ended up making the instant stuff but I know now what I missed out on.

I really like the milk heated version as I find it to be richer and creamier, even though it does take a little bit more time and work to do so. What I do now for the kids is actually a little fancier than that (something I discovered in my Raw Chocolate Making class), but it is soooo yummy and also very good for you.

Now I use a mix of almond milk, cacao powder (considered a superfood and high in minerals such protein, zinc, and iron), natural sweetener of choice and depending on the day some added spices. It’s actually quite easy to do and tastes delicious! I also like that I can make it different every time depending on what I am feeling like that day.

Dairy Free Hot Chocolate

4 c. almond milk (or your choice of dairy free milk)HBC-DJ12-hot-chocolate-shrstock-48722137

3-4 tbsp. cacao powder

3-4 tbsp. natural sweetener (I usually use pure maple syrup, but you can use honey, stevia, etc.) *amount of sweetener depends on sweetener used and personal preference

spices – sprinkle of to taste cinnamon and cayenne, or lucuma powder and mesquite powder

Place all ingredients into blender. Turn on low, then turn up to high, blend well. Pour mixture into pot. Heat on medium to desired temperature. Pour into mugs and serve.

Serves 4

What other delectable hot drink recipes do you enjoy?

Get Frozen this Christmas

220px-Frozen_(2013_film)_posterGrossing over 1.2 billion, Disney’s Frozen filled the hearts of young and old alike when it hit theatres last year. Taking the world by storm, it created many Elsa and Anna fans, along with their friends Kristoff, Sven and the beloved snowman Olaf.

A cute, fun and loving movie about a young Elsa, born with powers that she cannot understand or control, and her sister Anna who helps her not only to understand her power but to harness the love between them that saves them all.

The wave of Frozen themed products (from dolls to backpacks) quickly followed the movie’s success, littering the stores and soon residing in many children’s homes. On Halloween, Elsa costumes were one of the most popular, with Elsa’s everywhere (did everyone see the man with 5 daughters who all dressed up as Elsa’s including him?), with Anna close behind. Frozen is literally melting hearts everywhere. Of course I have some of my own little Frozen fans in my house.

My oldest son after frozen-movie-itunes-620x387seeing the movie, printed out pictures of Elsa and plastered them all over his room. He also decided he was wearing only blue, and had to have gloves. The younger two just wanted to watch the movie over and over again, learning and singing all the songs, which at this point they only sing the same few lines over and over. I thought ok, this is it, that’s not too bad. They didn’t even ask to be any of the Frozen characters for Halloween. Phew! Made it. Until…we were at Superstore the other day checking out the toys in the toy section (you know where I am going with this). 41dZ4p0p8zL._AA160_

Chloe had been talking about wanting an Elsa and Anna Barbie doll for Christmas. I thought sure they might exist. Seriously, might exist? I should have known better. Not only do they exist, they come in regularcolor changing, traditional outfit, dressy outfit (the ones they wore at the ball) and singing. They also have Kristoff, which so far I have only seen one style (I’ve always felt that Ken got gipped), but who knows perhaps there is another style out there. 41brLKFYoQL._AA160_

I have found Christmas is to be no exception in the Frozen merchandise, and feel they may have even amped it up, as there is a plethora of product out there for our buying pleasure. So far I have found, dolls in various styles from Barbie to toddler, books, puzzles, play-doh, styling heads, costumes, board games (from original game to themed Frozen Trouble), castles and even lip smacker. Lip smacker really? I guess if we buy it they’ll make it. And I bet there are lots of things like pyjamas and such that I have not even discovered yet.

I joked with my mother the other day that it would be a ‘very Frozen Christmas’ but I don’t think I was that far off the truth. Because of course I have already gone back to the store, sans kids and picked up not one, but all 3 Frozen dolls, and am on the lookout for a Frozen puzzle and perhaps a few other things. In fact, I discovered this morning that they are releasing on Tuesday (November 18), a Frozen Sing-Along DVD (and yes I am considering getting one, I know it’s terrible, I have been hooked by all the hype and excitement. Cause really how cool is that? And I think we must have one).

A word of advice – I highly recommend shopping around and comparing prices for these products. The dolls at Superstore were $24.99 each, but when I hopped online to check them out at other stores I found them for half price at another store. Not only did I fly down to Target to get them, but I got an extra good deal as they were on buy 2 get one free! I ended up saving $45 in the end, which is enough for another gift or a good few months of Starbucks lattes. Honestly I was shocked how much of a difference in price there was between the stores, but it just goes to show that it pays to shop around!

So if you have a little (or big) Frozen fan this Christmas, there are lots of options out there to satisfy every age. Also shop early, this stuff is popular! It will it give you time to find the deals, and find the Frozen products you want without being stressed about it (as well as possibly not over spending -you know when you see that one last perfect gift)!

The View from Above

IMG_0795Gazing up 328 metres, we watch as the newest Sky Jumper prepares to hurl themselves towards the ground below. Hearing their screams of terror and delight as they jump off the  edge of the sky tower, flying at a rate of 85 km per hour!

This is how we begin our excursion to Auckland’s Sky Tower, the tallest man made structure in New Zealand and sitting in the heart of Auckland‘s downtown. We watched in awe and wonder as each new jumper went, with a mixture of excitement and fear as we each contemplated whether we would do such a feat ourselves.

Of course this is one of the optional adventures at Auckland’s Sky Tower, as a visit to the tower itself and riding the elevator up to the top can be just as exciting and provide breath taking views up to 80 km in any direction.

IMG_0750I usually skip these tourist towers in most cities I visit, as it seems to me that one is just the same as the other. And being in a few before I would have considered giving it a miss. I have also found that a lot of the original views are blocked due to newer taller buildings that have been built so you can’t really see anything and what you can see is not always easy identify what you are looking at.

I found the one in Auckland to be quite different in many respects. We decided to go on the recommendation of my friend Regan, who we were visiting in Auckland. He talked it up quite a bit and said the views were fantastic, that we would see a lot of the city. He also thought it would be great for the kids.

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Going up the elevator

And he was right, as we entered the building (after experiencing the adrenaline rush by proxy with the jumpers outside), we were all excited. We purchased our tickets, which were quite reasonable, as they have a family rate for $61 and children under 6 are free!, and entered the elevator to take us up to the first level. Our excitement grew as we noticed a glass floor in the elevator and could watch the ground fall away as we went up. I thought this was really cool, and a great way to give you perspective on how far up you are going.

There are 3 levels at the top, the main observation deck (at 186 metres), the lounge and cafe (at 182 metres) and the sky deck (at 220 metres). Starting on the main observation deck, there are 2 levels there. As the observation deck goes in a complete circle, 360 degree views, you can choose to walk the inside perimeter on the carpet or you can step down to the path along the viewing windows, and walk along glass floors.

IMG_3576I always find the glass floors to be a neat experience and what it does to your head. It is weird for your body to be be looking down at the ground from that high up and thinking you should be falling, when your body isn’t. It was neat to watch how each of the kids approached it, Matthew walking across with no hesitation, Luke cautiously walking around the edge of the glass on the metal perimeter and Chloe jumping right on it.

And the views were fantastic! We were able to pick out landmarks such as Rangitoto Island, Auckland Domain, St. Mary’s Church and Auckland War Memorial Museum, to name a few. Auckland is a beautiful city and quite unique as it is basically built upon a number of volcanic cones. (I thought Regan said 13, but when I looked it up it is actually 48! Wow). Having Regan there was an added bonus, as a local, he could point out points of interest as well as answer any questions that we had, whether it be what is that to why is it there. Plus the kids loved him, as he pulled them along on the bean bag chairs around the observation deck.

IMG_0762Of course we did some classic photos of being pushed against the glass or pretending that we were being pushed or falling. With the big glass windows all around the deck these were fun and easy to do. You could also make yourself a souvenir penny in the machine on the deck, with an imprint of a New Zealand icon of your choice, whether it be the Sky Tower itself or the infamous Kiwi bird to name a few.

After thoroughly exploring the main level we hopped onto the elevator to take us up just a little higher to the Sky Deck. This is the highest public observation deck with views through virtually seamless glass. Not only did we have amazing views we could look down below and watch the Sky Jumpers from above taking their jump. We even had the opportunity to watch a couple braving the Sky Walk, where they walk around the 1.2 metre perimeter of the tower (full body harness and safety lines of course).

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Sky Walk

Feeling satisfied, we descended to the ground below, again watching our descent through the glass floor in the elevator. (Have I told you how cool I think that is?) And of course no tourist attraction is complete without at least a look through the gift shop, which they always have conveniently set up so that you have to go through it to get out. Isn’t that nice of them? :)

We also took a look at our souvenir photo which they shot before we went up the Sky Tower, though we decided not to take the photo, we did make a few other souvenir purchases. We were pleased with our choice to visit here and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Auckland. As we were really there only one day, it gave us a good idea of what was in Auckland and some of the sites that I had hoped to see but couldn’t because of time. I felt satisfied being at least able to see it from a distance.

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Rangitoto Island

We spent a better part of the morning there and had a really good time. It is one of the sites from our trip that Luke and Chloe ask again and again if we can go back to see. We even had the pleasure later that day seeing the tower lit up with its colorful lights, as we walked back to our hotel. The lights were beautiful and felt like a very nice way to end our day in Auckland.IMG_0791

Something to add to your Christmas Brunch Gingerbread Waffles

IMG_4336I don’t know about you but I get a lot of newsletters. I like to try new things, so if I come across something I try it out and before I know it I have been automatically signed up for their newsletter (though I realize the new anti-spam laws are meant to prevent this).

From time to time I go through and weed out the ones I don’t really read or pay attention to and unsubscribe. Others I scan periodically looking for those little gems and remember why I signed up for it in the first place; then keep it in my inbox. Those gems are what keep me hooked, keep me reading the newsletters and staying on.

The ones that keep me hooked the most are the ones with yummy recipes that I discover and want to try, something I may not have thought of or come across otherwise. These are my favorite discoveries, some delectable dish just waiting to grace my plate and win my approval.

IMG_4329I found one of those gems earlier this week, when scanning the most recent Sobeys flyer. Luke and Chloe were with me, sitting on my lap, when I discovered these gingerbread waffles. I love gingerbread and I love waffles, so I was sure gingerbread waffles would definitley be a fabulous combination and treat. I ooed and awed and quickly clicked on the link, spreading my excitement to Luke and Chloe, as we waited in anticipation to see what was on the ingredient list. Looked easy enough, so we planned to try them.

It was so cute this morning as we came downstairs to make them for breakfast. Luke and Chloe got their chairs and wanted to help make them. Luke kept chatting away about trying them and we’ll see if they turn out and it was ok if they didn’t. Quite interesting chatter for a 4 year old. They were definitely excited.

IMG_4330Making all the appropriate adjustments (dairy and sugar), these waffles turned out fabulously! Perfectly golden brown, fluffy, with a subtle (not overwhelming) taste of gingerbread, they are not only delicious but very filling! After only having 2 waffles I was quite full.

The kids loved them of course and were also quite happy with how they turned out. We even broke out the Christmas dishes to enjoy them! Now I have another fantastic waffle recipe to add to my reperatoire of delectable waffles (plain, chocolate, orange) and new options for breakfasts and brunches, especially Christmas morning breakfast. Who wouldn’t love to have gingerbread for breakfast on Christmas?

I would like to try this recipe using coconut milk instead of almond milk (though really the almond milk version turned out very well), just to see what the difference is and if we like it even more. You never know til you try! So next time I make them we’ll give it a go.

In the meantime, enjoy these yummy dairy free, sugar free, gingerbread waffles, topped with pure maple syrup they are sure to be a hit this holiday season!

Gingerbread Waffles

1 1/4 c. whole wheat flourIMG_4334

1c. all purpose flour

2 tbsp. coconut sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1 1/2 c. almond milk

3 eggs

1/4 c. barley malt

1/4 c. Earth Balance vegan spread, melted

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, coconut sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices).

In a small bowl, whisk together almond milk, eggs, barley malt and melted Earth Balance. Add barley malt mixture to dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

Fill a greased waffle iron with approx. 1/2 cup (125 mL) of batter per waffle. Cook until golden and cooked through, about 3 min. per waffle. Repeat until all batter is used. Serve with Pure Maple Syrup.

Makes approximately 12 waffles

Slow Cooker Taco Soup

IMG_4317The slow cooker is a fantastic tool for those busy days, when you can pop dinner in and literally forget about it until supper time. Providing you with a little more freedom and relief. I really appreciate it as I don’t have to think about when or how I am going to make supper as well as having that extra hour that I wouldn’t normally have before supper. Not to mention the lovely smells that are wafting through the house as it cooks throughout the day!

As a result I am constantly on the lookout for new and tasty slow cooker recipes to try. Years ago, back when I first starting blogging, I found this recipe for Taco Soup on the Canadian Parents website (they had quite the selection of slow cooker recipes and I got quite a few from there). I was sad when their site changed and I could no longer access these recipes and not having written them down I was hooped. I did the best I could and guessed at it but it wasn’t quite the same.

IMG_4311Happily, I discovered a way to recover old webpages and was able to recover the recipe! I was so excited as it is such a yummy one and the kids really enjoy it. Of course the original recipe called for ground beef, so I substituted ground turkey instead. With a few other modifications you have the recipe I use below.

Of course the part the kids like the best is being able to have ‘chips’ for supper, though they do eat and enjoy the soup as well. It’s like having a treat for dinner. The spices I often find are hit or miss as some days it turns out spicer than others, some with no spice at all. Either way it is one of the favorite dishes at our house and especially enjoyable on a cool Autumn Day.

Slow Cooker Taco Soup

1 lb. ground turkey

1 pkg. taco seasoning (or 1 tbsp. *homemade mix)IMG_4319

28 oz. can diced tomatoes

19 oz. can red kidney beans

1 medium onion, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped (may also choose green, red, or orange if prefered)

2 c. water

10 oz. can tomato soup

2 tsp. chicken bouillon powder

Season to taste with garlic powder, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper

In a medium frying pan, brown ground turkey and chopped onion. Once browned drain well and add taco seasoning, stir. Combine remaining ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours.

Serve with taco chips and/ or shredded cheese.

One of the other things I have discovered is how to make my own spice mixes at home, instead of buying them from the store. A lot of them have added preservatives and sugar that I want to avoid, so I found this easy ‘just like in the package’ taco seasoning recipe that I use now. I also have one for chicken bouillon powder which I use in all my soups, stews, etc.

*Homemade Taco Seasoning

1 tbsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. garlic powderIMG_4315

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. paprika

1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.

What are your favorite slow cooker recipes?

 

Under the Sea

What do a giant shark, a spinning tunnel and an expedition to Antarctica have in common?

IMG_0827They are all found at Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium in Auckland, New Zealand, a fabulous underwater world created by New Zealand’s most celebrated under-sea explorer.

During our 3 week travels to Australia, we incorporated a week in New Zealand to get a little taste of the green pastures full of sheep, vineyards and many other sights of the country. We only spent one day in Auckland so had to pick and choose what we saw (as there is so much to do just in Auckland), but Kelly Tarlton’s was not a sight to be missed!

This harbourside marine park is a great place for the kids and the entire family. With experiences such as Shark Dives, Penguin Discoveries and Behind the Scenes tours, to Interactive Zones and the Seahorse Kingdom there is something for everyone.

Scott's Hut

Scott’s Hut

Located just outside of Auckland’s downtown on Tamaki Drive (and easily accessible by city transit or a free shuttle from downtown), you’re adventure begins as soon as you purchase your ticket. Entering Scott’s Base, you’re taken back to the first expedition to Antarctica and the conditions they had surviving there. Learning about life on the coldest place on earth!

Authentic memorabilia such as reindeer sleeping bags, food they took and items for entertainment, takes you back 100 years ago when Captain Robert Falcon Scott lived in his Antarctic Hut exploring the area.

Soon after is the Antarctic Ice Adventure, where you have the opportunity to see New Zealand‘s only colony of Antarctic penguins. After navigating the ‘ice tunnel’, (a spinning tunnel that makes you feel like you can’t walk in a straight line, and is hilarious for the kids. The floor is not moving but because the tunnel is spinning around you it feels like it is. My daughter found herself crawling along the floor to make it to the end). You enter a walkthrough area where you can view the King and Gentoo penguins swooping and swirling through the icy waters.

IMG_0830These guys are a delight to watch and all 3 of my kids loved watching them swimming and diving. I got some great video of them watching them, until Chloe hit Matthew or something like that, and then we caught a nice little tiff on video, aw the memories. Ha ha, what a great family vacation!

We had the priveldge that day of seeing the new King Penguin chick, tall, fluffy and stoic, standing on top of the ice. He was pretty cool to see.

We moved on to the other areas of the aquarium, enjoying Stingray Bay, where we timed it just right and listened to the Stingray talk, while sitting and enjoying a much needed coffee while listening. Did I mention that there is a nice cafe across from the Stingrays for just such emergencies?

IMG_0853It was pretty cool as we got to see the Stingrays up close and learned a lot about them, like how they spend most of their time inactive buried in sand, and prefer shallow waters, with the largest growing to 6.5 long. They really are fascinating gentle creatures, and it took me back to my swimming with the Manta Rays when I was in Hawaii.

The highlight for sure was the shark tunnel, where you are literally surrounded by sharks in an underwater tunnel. Stepping onto a moving pedway, it takes you around the ‘loop’ to view the sharks and other fish in the aquarium; able to step off on the side if you wish to pause and look a little longer.

IMG_0837It was such a unique experience to be surrounded by these sharks and marine life. We even got to see some other people on the shark cage experience – where you get to go into a cage and swim with the sharks in the tunnel. Pretty cool experience I think.

This place is very well thought out and laid out, with lots of opportunities to view and explore. Brimming with information, hands on opportunities and fun interactive experiences (have I mentioned the giant shark mouth that you can be ‘swallowed up’ in?) it will easily engage everyone.

The aquarium also gives back to the community as they provide school programs, scholarships, and established the Sea Life Conservation Fund, a non profit organization committed to protecting unique aquatic animals and their habitats.

IMG_3599Sadly, Kelly Tarlton himself has already passed away, dying shortly before his one millionth visitor saw the aquarium, but left a legacy and fulfilled a dream. He was dedicated to preserving and protecting marine life in our oceans and educating others. His Sea Life Aquarium continues to do this for all it’s visitors, young and old alike.

One of the final highlights of our visit was the souvenir photo we purchased at the end of our visit. When we first went in they snap your picture and of course offering it to you for purchase at the end. The thing was ours was really good. We got poses of us in the Antarctic with the penguins and another being eaten by a shark! Plus it came in a neat little package with information about the aquatic animals as well as opportunities to download photos online and even create your own slideshow. It was pretty neat!

Definitely worth the visit, and a place I would go back to and visit again, Kelly Tarlton’s is a must see when visiting Auckland!

One Dark Spooky Night

halloweencity-1024x680Halloween, the second biggest revenue holiday next to Christmas. Children flock to the streets dressed in costumes looking for treats. Superheros, villians, princesses, scary figures, all interested in a little sweet treat as they knock on your door.

Decorations abound in neighborhoods, community events of all kinds pop up offering various alternatives to the traditional door to door. Halloween is a fabulous holiday and one that adults and children alike can get creative and have a lot of fun. There are all kinds of traditions around this holiday, like the jack-o-lanterns we put on our doorsteps, dressing in costume, and going door to door.

images-25I was curious this year to find out more about Halloween and where it came from. How did this holiday begin, why do we go door to door? If you think about it, it seems like a really odd thing to do, dress up and go ‘begging’ for candy. I wanted to know more.

Halloween, also called All Hallow’s Eve, stems from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, which is a festival in which they celebrated the end of the harvest season and the first day of winter. It was also believed that this transition between seasons was when the veil between worlds was the thinnest and a bridge to the world of the dead. It was when deceased would come back and wreak havoc such as sickness or damaging crops. Masks and costumes were used during the festival to mimic the evil spirits and appease them, so to protect and leave the community alone.

The tradition of going door to door in costume was first found in medevial times when the practice of ‘souling’ was done. On All Hallow’s Eve poor folks would go door to door receiving food in return for prayers for the dead, therefore protecting people and offering peace to the deceased. Fascinating I thought, instead of candy, it began with people asking for actual food.

images-27The Jack-O-Lantern was one of the most interesting. Based on the Irish folktale of Stingy Jack, who had tricked the Devil into not taking his soul, had nowhere to go when he died. As he had led a sinful life he could not go to Heaven and because he made a deal with the Devil who couldn’t take his soul, he had no place to rest and was left in darkness. Unable to see, the Devil threw him an ember from Hell to light his way. Jack placed the ember in a turnip, his favorite vegetable and wandered the Earth looking for a resting place. The Jack-O-Lantern became a symbol to keep spirits and ghosts away on Samhain.

Traditionally, all these Halloween events took place and originated in Ireland, Scotland and England as early as the 10th century, not reaching North America until 19th century, really taking off in the late 20th. In fact, during World War II, Halloween was toned down quite a bit due to sugar rationing during that time.

HalloweenHow the items given out at the door evolved from food items to candy is a mystery, and I have not been able to find out exactly why this changed. I can only hypothosize that it may have been a cheaper alternative as trick or treaters became more abundant or something along those lines.

Today, many of the Halloween traditions still hold true, though there is a strong trend to reduce the amount of candy and sugar surrounding the holiday and with anything, there is controversy on both sides whether we should or shouldn’t do so. Honestly, I believe it is a personal choice as to what you choose to do and why. Regardless, people still dress up in costumes and enjoy going door to door, parties or other events finding their ways to celebrate and enjoy the holiday.

Stingy Jack

Stingy Jack

Here are some more fun facts I discovered in my research on Halloween:

  • The colors orange and black are associated with Halloween because orange is associated with the Fall Harvest and black with darkness
  • The fear of Halloween is known as Samhainophobia
  • If you see a spider on Halloween it represents the spirit of a loved one that passed away is watching over you
  • It is believed that if you have a Halloween birthday you have a gift of communicating with those that have passed over
  • Cats, spiders and bats are not random symbols, they are associated with witchcraft
  • The pumpkin took over from the turnip for the Jack-O-Lantern when they Irish arrived in America and discovered the orange vegetable in abundance

If you have any fun or interesting facts about the history of Halloween please share them in the comments below!

Halloween Martinis

IMG_4259I am so excited about Halloween this year! For the first time in years I am going to a Halloween party. That’s right, dressing up, going dancing and socializing with other adults. It’s been years since I have done this and though I have always wanted to have more of an adult experience around Halloween, it was often more about the kids, their costumes, their events and trick or treating. So my adult adventure never worked out.

Not that I don’t enjoy hanging with the kids and doing all kinds of activities with them around Halloween. Each year I find fun new Halloween crafts to do, create a Halloween menu for the day (which traditionally includes pumpkin pancakes – yum!), and add more to the decorations we have around the house and outside on the front lawn.

It’s fun, I get very excited (almost as much as I do for Christmas), as do the kids and we spend a good couple of weeks preparing, planning and expanding on our Halloween adventures.

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Bat Bites

But I would be lying if I said I am not looking forward to my adult Halloween. There’s just something about no bedtimes to worry about, no other people to be responsible for, and an evening where you can enjoy the company of other adults sans enfants.

So in the spirit of Halloween I started thinking about what I could do to add a little more ‘adult’ to my Halloween. What was out there that could make things a little more interesting? I always enjoy finding some new recipe to make in some kind of fun Halloween shape or theme. Last year I discovered Bat Bites, a cream cheese ball rolled in poppy seeds with tortilla chips for wings. Not only did they look super cool but they were also delicious!

This year I decided to go with some kind of Halloween drinks, some spooky concoction I could whip up in the kitchen. And with my new adventures in trying different martinis I decided there must be some kind of Halloween martini out there and would be the perfect fit! I hopped on Pinterest to see what I could find.

I was not disappointed, I found an abundance of Halloween themed martinis, the question was which one to try? Of course I wanted one that was sugar and dairy free, or one that I could modify easily. Yes I know, but this would just make things simpler and I would feel less gross after (I have really noticed that if I fall off the wagon, even a little bit with that I just feel sick after, my stomach is not happy at all).

I discovered a few and now have a list of martinis to try, such as the Black Widow and Witches Brew. But I did of course feel I should try at least one right away, so that I had something to share with everyone this week, you know to enjoy your adult Halloween this year.

The Poison Apple, a fabulous mixture of apple juice, pomegranite juice, honey and tequila, even a little healthy. Deadly in it’s title, it is also deadly delicious. I made two versions last night. First a virgin martini, omitting the alcohol, so that I could share with my son while we enjoyed our show for the evening. Then the full on version a little later, after he went to bed, you know so I could get a good idea of what it tasted like before I suggested it to all of you.

Both are very good, I love the pomegranite juice, but the one with the alcohol has a definite strength to it. Even if you are not a fan of tequila, you will likely still enjoy it as the juices and the honey sweeten it just enough to make it go down nice and smooth. You can even add in an apple floating in it for effect. Pretty cool.

I am looking forward to trying out those other martinis, though I have to purchase some ingredients first. There were even some recipes with dry ice, which would be super cool to do!

Poison Apple Martini

2 oz. apple juiceIMG_4254

1 oz. pomegranite juice

2 oz. tequlia

1 tsp. honey

Fill martini shaker with ice. Mix ingredients together in shaker. Shake well, pour into chilled martini glass and enjoy!

What’s your favorite Halloween drink?

 

The Language of Love

images-24Love makes the world go round, love is a many splendid thing, all you need is love. Love is the foundation of our human existence and the essence of how we relate to each other to create and sustain our world. Yet so many of us are distant from our loved ones, lost or alone, wondering how to create the love we need and connect with those we care about in a loving and successful way.

Everyone has their own way of giving and receiving love. The challenge is, if we are not able to identify what a loved one’s ‘way’ is, we do not know the best way to communicate love to them in a way that they get. Therefore we may be pouring out our hearts per se, and our partner’s/ loved ones are just not getting it. As a result they may feel unloved, though we love them very much.

Dr. Gary Chapman through his books, The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages of Children teaches us how to figure out what our loved one’s love languages are, so that we can have more successful and happy relationships in our lives, whether it be with our spouses, children or other people we care about.

He identifies and describes clearly and concisely what the 5 love languages are and that when we are able to not only identify our own, but also those of others then we can easily communicate love to others.

The challenge is, your love language, may not be the same as your partner or children, therefore there may be some learning in how to speak your significant others love languages.

In his books, Gary outlines very clearly what each of the love languages are, examples of them in everyday life and ideas and suggestions on how to speak them to others. He describes that though there are 5 main love languages, we all have one primary love language (one that we prefer above all others) and that there are many dialects or ways to speak that love language to another person. Physical touch, for example is one of the love languages, but this does not always mean one kind of touch. For partners it will likely include sex but also involves other kinds of physical intimacy such as holding hands, kisses, foot massage, a soft brush across the cheek, etc. For children, this could mean hugs, kisses, a pat on the back, play wrestling.

The books are well laid out and easy to follow, with an introduction on how to make best use of the books and lots of examples throughout. The books also include a quiz or ‘game’ at the end, each designed for children and adults appropriately to help you figure out what other love languages are (which I found extremely helpful with my oldest son!)

I also found the additional sections in The 5 Love Languages of Children like how to use a child’s love language for discipline and in single parent families to be very interesting and extremely helpful. The discipline aspect is not something that I would have thought of, but after learning how to use it effectively with my children, it makes perfect sense! And truly creates more harmony and easier disciplining in my house.

No one can run on an empty tank, and an empty emotional love tank (as Dr. Chapman calls it) is even worse. I think it is so important with children these days to learn to connect with them and really communicate love. With the growth of technology and reduction of physical connection and time together, we need to make those moments when we are together meaningful, loving, so that when our children leave the house they feel confident that they are loved and cared for and that we as parents have communicated this to them loud and clear! The concepts and techniques is these books make this super easy to do.

I had read Dr. Chapman’s original The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts book many years ago and found it fascinating and a concept that really worked. I have applied it in my experiences with loved ones and have watched the magic happen, how the closeness I was looking for appear simply by communicating love to them in a way that they understood. And I know that when people speak my primary love language of Quality time, I definitely feel loved by them!

So go home tonight, grab a copy of The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts or The 5 Love Languages of Children and start reading and applying these concepts in your life. Not only will you find out a little about yourself you may not have been aware of, but you will learn to create more love in your life, more happiness, and you will be surprised at how absolutely easy it is!

No one can receive too much appropriate unconditional love. I think you’ll agree we’d all like a little more love in our lives and to feel more loved by others, and Dr. Chapman’s books give us easy, simple tools to do just that!

Books have been provided courtesy of Northfield Publishers and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favorite bookseller.

Yummy Pumpkin Muffins

IMG_4234There’s nothing better than a warm pumpkin muffin, fresh out of the oven, with a nice bit of butter on it, melting as the muffin melts in your mouth with that first delectable bite. I love pumpkin and that is one of the many reasons I love this time of year. In the Fall, pumpkins and pumpkin recipes and dishes abound.

Whether it be preparing for the Thanksgiving feast or the events at Halloween there are pumpkins everywhere. And I am quite happy to take advantage of this and enjoy as much pumpkin as I can. There is so much you can do with pumpkin from soups to pies, cheesecakes, even drinks like martinis and lattes! (Who else can’t wait for Fall so we can experience once again the delectable flavors of a pumpkin spice latte)?

IMG_4224Muffins are one of the quickest and easiest ways to use pumpkin. They are great for snacks, to put in lunches and easy to freeze, if they last that long. My kids love muffins of any kind and will gladly gobble up the pumpkin ones just as quick as the strawberry rhubarb, apple, blueberry, etc. Of course I tend to make my favorites (or honestly what is in abundance at our house, for instance earlier in the Fall we had all the apples from our apple tree).

Over the past couple of years I have adjusted my pumpkin muffin recipe, passed down from my Mom to make it sugar free and dairy free, meeting our new dietary choices. I have IMG_4237also been experimenting with gluten free recipes as well and therefore have found some good gluten free pumpkin muffins as well. (Usually I still need to do a little adjusting with the sugar, but it has become second nature now and is a quick and easy substitution).

So I make both at times, as my kids will eat either, though I am finding I am moving more towards gluten free only because I am noticing how my body is feeling after gluten sometimes (which is not so good). And today I am sharing both recipes with you. Both are equally easy and delicious, so it is simply your preference or dietary needs to decide which one to try (You could, like me, make both).

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

1/2 c. tapioca flour

1/2 c. garbanzo flourIMG_4225

1/2 c. brown rice flour

1 c. coconut sugar

3 tbsp. flaxseed

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. nutmeg

2 tsp. cinnamonIMG_4220

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 c. pumpkin puree

1/2 c. safflower oil

2 eggs

1/2 c. dates or raisins

In a medium mixing bowl, mix dry ingredients thoroughly (flours, coconut sugar, flaxseed, baking soda, salt and spices). In another bowl, mix wet ingredients together (pumpkin puree, safflower oil, eggs). Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and add wet ingredients to dry. Stir until just combined, then mix in dates or raisins.

Line muffin tin with muffins cups or grease with coconut oil. Fill each cup. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

1 3/4c. all purpose flourIMG_4223

1/2 c. coconut sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

pinch ginger

2/3 c. almond milkIMG_4233

1/2 c. pumpkin

1/3 c. olive oil

1 egg

1/2 c. dates or raisins

In a medium sized bowl, beat together egg, pumpkin and oil. Add almond milk. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mixture. Mix in dates or raisins.

Line muffin tin with muffin cup or grease with coconut oil. Fill muffin cup and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins

Do you have a favorite pumpkin muffin recipe?