Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Favorite Fall Recipes - Fall-Flavored Chocolate Bread

This is so awesome, I want to eat it all the time. A while ago, I found this recipe for a double-chocolate banana bread, and loved it (like everything double-chocolate really). But to be honest, I have tons of banana bread recipes already, and with fall being in full swing, I am more into fall flavors these days. Which left me one afternoon with time on hand (i.e. Calvin napping and the girls enjoying their daily quiet time), some home-made apple sauce from my trip to the semi-public apple tree, and a sprinkle of creativity to create my fall-flavored chocolate bread.  Yum is all I can say!

(c) Life, Unexpectedly

1-1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (if you use sweetened apple sauce, reduce sugar accordingly)
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 - 2 Tbs. maple syrup
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 pinch of salt
1 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 heaping Tbs. cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate sprinkles

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
Grease and flour a bread pan.
Mix applesauce, butter, sugar, and maple syrup; add egg and stir well.
Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamin, and salt ; mix in until just combined.
Mix in chocolate sprinkles.
Fill batter in prepared pan and bake at 350°F for about 20 - 25 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.

Let cool for about 10 minutes and remove the bread from the pan. Let it cool completely so you can cut it without the bread crumbling. Keeps wrapped up in wax paper or foil for up to 5 days (longer when you store it in the fridge).

- If the batter seems too dry, just add a little milk, apple juice, or apple cider.
- Add an apple cut into small cubes to the batter to make it extra moist and to increase the apple-flavor.
- Melt a bar of dark chocolate and pour it over the cooled-off cake to make a nice chocolate frosting.
- Serve with whipped cream and a nice cup of cappuccino.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (70)

Ten Things of Thankful

This week was more quiet than last one, which definitely is a thing to be thankful about. Both girls are now signed up for dance class and Violet's been doing good progress in her speech therapy. I feel like we're finally getting settled in our routine. Only took me a few months  :-)

My ten things we're most thankful for this week:

1. Lily and Violet getting along better again. It's been a tough few weeks between them with Lily adjusting to elementary school and Violet becoming extremely attached to her, which, in turn, completely set off our Miss Freedom & Independent  Lily; almost daily, Violet had to be physically removed from Lily's room because she simply could not leave her alone. But today (Monday), for the first time in quite a while, I found them playing peacefully in Violet's room. Lily told me that Violet had invited her to listen to an audio play together, and "listening to it together is so much more fun than listening by myself".  It just melted my heart!!

2. One of Violet's friends giving me a beautiful fall leave as a gift when I picked Violet up from kindergarten today.

3. A new morning ritual for hubby and me. We sit down for a few minutes and share a cup of coffee before starting yet another crazy day. I really enjoy those moments with my love..

4. Mis-purchases. My sister was out to buy some apricot jam last week, grabbed a glass with yellowish content and happily went home where she realizes that she has bought orange marmelade. And because my lovely sister knows that I am the only person in the world who loves that stuff, she gave it to me. I've really, really enjoyed my breakfast the last few days  :-)

5. Having three more Atheist families in Lily's class, who - like us - are fighting for our kids' right to freedom from religion in class. We hope that we'll soon find a solution that does not include disregarding our daughters' constiutional rights and trying to exclude them from class activities.

6. My dear friend having found a wonderful and extremely capable lawyer to take action against the company she's worked for for over 15 years. Obviously, this company has decided to force all young mothers to resign, and in my friend's case, they have taken very, very dirty methods of bullying, libel, etc. She read the letter her lawyer has drafted to me tonight, and we're all confident that she will receive the compensation she deserves and damages for all the crap she had to go through in the last weeks.

7. Calvin getting his first vaccines and doing well afterwards. I'm so thankful that we live in a part of the world where we have so ready access to healthcare and all the necessary vaccines to keep our children safe and protect them from dangerous diseases.

8. Naps with the baby. He's such a cuddler, and on several occasions during the week we managed to snuggle up and nap for an hour or two.

9. Visits with friends. Violet, Calvin, and I visited my friend Jenny and her kids on Friday and had a great afternoon. Violet gifted her "Frozen"-dress that was too small for her to her friend Lizzi, who was so much in love with the dress. Love Violet for being such a generous little girl!

10. Lily's about reading!!  I have bought an early-reader's book for her and plan on giving it to her tomorrow. She can read a number of shorter words, but is still getting frustrated easily. She's definitely her mom's daughter  :-)  Maybe this new book will help her make that last little step to everything finally making sense to her. She's SO close!!

Have a wonderful new week, everyone!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Calvin's Second Month

Last Saturday, Calvin had his 2-month birthday. No, we did not celebrate it, but noted in disbelieve that another month had passed in no time. He continues to put on weight, and I'm looking forward to his next appointment in late November to see how much exactly he has grown. The newborn outfits are safely retired now, some have been passed on already, which is a weird feeling. So far, all the clothes were packed up and stored for the next baby, but there is no need any more to store clothes for more babies as none are in the planning. Maybe this is why I am so savoring every moment with our little guy.

Here are his current stats and favorites:

Height: at his last well-baby visit in September he was almost 23in tall, but I'd assume that he probably has grown another one or two inches since then.
Weight: in September, he weighed in at 11lbs even. Now, I'd say probably about 13lbs. Looking at the size/weight chart in his well-baby booklet, he was still at the 50th percentile for weight, but went from 50th percentile to 75th percentile in height.
Clothes size: He's wearing a few 3-months onesies still but is transitioning to 6-months clothes now.
Number of teeth: none yet, but we had the feeling that he was starting to teeth a little.

Favorite food: mommy's milk
Favorite toy: He loves his activity gym and a little tumbling ducky that I got as a hand-me-down from a very good friend when Lily was born.
Favorite book: he loves to listen when I read fairy tales to his sisters. And since they mostly choose the fairy tales from a girls' story book, I'd say he loves those.
Favorite outfit / piece of clothing: he still doesn't care. My favorite clothes for him are a striped fleece hooded sweater with bear ears on the hood and a hat with bear ears. Yes, I love those  :-)

Likes: cuddling, singing, getting his little toes tickled, getting warmed by the space heater, looking at toys dangling over his head, being adored by his sisters.
Dislikes: bathing, changing his clothes, having a tummy ache, mommy cooking/baking/doing homework with Lily (basically mommy doing anything that does not involve doting on baby Calvin).

Happy 2-months birthday, my little guy. And please stop growing already!!

Calvin at 2 months

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Countdown To The Holidays

Yes, it's true. The Winter Holidays (however you may call it) is approaching again. I started shopping early this year, wrapping m first presents during our visit with the in-laws in the U.S. in May. Luckily, I've not been in the holiday mood since early summer, like last year. I am just about getting started with the true fall mood, looking forward to Thanksgiving and the first German holiday bread (aka Stollen) on Sunday after Thanksgiving. Why do I love the second half of the year more than the first? Holiday flavors, weekends cuddling on the couch, a house warmed by cookies baking in the oven, first colorful then white landscapes, cocooning and listening to what's inside, spending lots of time with family and friends. This is why!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (69)

Ten Things of Thankful

What a busy week! So many appointments to remember,  but also a lot of quality time to spend with my wonderful family and friends. I am tired and exhausted, but feel so very, very thankful to have all of them in my life.

The special thankfuls this week:

1. Violet for the rescue Monday morning. Lily had lost her sweater, but Violet found it and also reminded her big sister (and me) that Lily still needed her glasses just as she was leaving. What only would I do without our little girl??

2. Home-made organic apple sauce. While being out with Lily to pick elderberries for elderberry jam (total fiasco by the way), I found an apple tree growing outside a fence; I spontaneously declared the tree public property and picked a bunch to take home as well. Yesterday, I finally turned them all into apple sauce. No sugar, no preservatives, no additives, just plain old apple sauce. Yum!

3. Cream of rice with home-made apple sauce for breakfast - just remembering that I forgot to add the cinnamon..

4. Getting to watch Calvin discovering his feet. He was beyond-words adorable watching them wiggle and giving me the biggest, sweetest baby smiles I can imagine.  Such a special moment - or twenty minutes.

5. Dates with my lads. Hubby and Calvin first took me out for breakfast before heading to the hardware store Friday morning, and in the evening, we had a movie date at home with delicious dessert.

6. Getting to watch Violet during her first dance class. It was still a little difficult for her to follow the steps, but I'm sure in no time this class will help her to gain more awareness for her body and movement. Plus: the approval for her early intervention therapy came in the mail today. Starting next week, she's going to see an occupational therapist and the early intervention therapist in addition to the speech therapist. Sounds like a lot, but we've experienced with Lily that this comprehensive approach is really generating fast improvements.

7. A wonderful Sunday afternoon with friends. We shared a delicious lunch and took dessert out to the park where the kids played soccer and we adults enjoyed some good conversation. The sky was pretty overcast at first but later in the afternoon, we had beautiful sunshine. Violet's conclusion at the end of the day:  Mami, I'm absolutely exhausted, but so, so happy!  I'd call this a perfect weekend!

8.  A lovely cup of chai latte at the end of the day. With a side of dark cookie chocolate.

9. A very supportive HR department. Without a prompt from my side, they sent me all the paperwork to apply for the child care refund my work pays at the end of each year. Yay for more paperwork!

10.Hubby finally having found a school that supports him receiving his benefits he has earned while serving in the military for 8 years, having his health ruined during that time and being intentionally given false information that hurt our family on his way out. If everything goes as planned, I'll be married to a college boy soon  :-)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Maternity Leave Musings

Today was officially my last day of maternity leave. Until mid-November I'm taking vacation time and will enter parental leave afterward.

Even though I had some issues adjusting to this new life at home, I think I'm finally arriving in this new role of stay-at-home-mom, and I absolutely love being able to spend so much time with my family.

Calvin in mid-September
This morning, while hubby was out for his German class and the girls in school and kindergarten, I enjoyed a little mid-morning nap with Calvin, and after we woke up, he discovered his feet!!  I watched the little guy being excited about those two little wiggling thingies at the very end of his legs for a good twenty minutes, giving me some of the biggest, most heart-warming toothless smiles you could possibly imagine.

My conclusion on this first-time experience for me: I will never be a stay-at-home-mom. I love being home right now, but I know that it would never truly fulfill me. I am thankful that legislation here in Germany allows me to take tons of time off to take care of our baby and our family as a whole, but I am also thankful that my job is waiting for me when I return - part-time for now - in March. I am glad that legislation also protects families and give me the right to cut hours (or potentially even stay at home completely) for up to 3 years, which we are definitely taking advantage of, as I will be working part-time only until September 2016!