TO BAKE: CHERRY BERRY BARS

I often, especially at that hour after my students leave, but can’t yet leave school to pick up my own little loves, find myself in need of something to munch on. I’ve gone through phases of handfuls of pretzels, tupperware-d muffins, little jars of plain yogurt with granola, tins of chex mix, baggies of graham crackers, or a simple, not overly sweet cake wrapped up in a napkin and tucked in my lunch box to enjoy with a steaming mug of peppermint tea in the afternoon.

But a couple weeks ago, it was after the boys had gone to bed, and I had in my mind these date bars that are a bit of a tradition for me to bake pre-anywhere travel. It had been a long school day, I had been making lists all week of things that needed to be remembered and packed before our trip. I typically double Smitten Kitchen’s recipe to fit in my 9×9 square baking pan, and to make more of a thick breakfast bar than the single recipe makes.

As you can probably see where I’m going where this, a few things went awry in my dark of night cooking. I was doubling all the ingredients in my head (always write them down. always!). I also didn’t have exactly all of the ingredients that the recipe called for – dried cherries rather than dates, frozen fruit to make up the difference, regular granulated sugar instead of raw, ginger instead of cloves, and the use of a whole cup instead of a half measuring cup. A few changes and mistakes that led to the greatness of a crumbly but chewy, sweet but tangy, sweet but also a little salt to take the edge off, homemade granola bar. The perfect after- school, or afternoon treat to enjoy with a hot cozy drink in a mug.

Homemade Cherry-Berry Granola Bars

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the filling:

What you need: 

5 ounces dried cherries
1 cup frozen (or fresh) mixed berries
1/2 cup water

What to do: 

+ Combine cherries, berries and water in a small saucepan.

+ Simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the liquid has absorbed and begun to thicken.

+ Set aside while you make the dough.

For the dough:

What you need: 

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cups oats, quick-cooking or old-fashioned, plus another 1/4 cup for topping
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

What to do: 

+ Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease sides and bottom of a 9×9 baking pan.

+ In a large mixing bowl, or in a Kitchenaid mixer, combine the sugars and oil. Add the flour, 1/2 cup of the oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda and salt. The mixture will be the consistency of a cookie dough.

+ Press about 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of your baking pan. Spread your filling on top.

+ To the remaining 1/4 of the dough, add 1/4 cup of oats and mix together. Sprinkle this on top of the fruit filling and press lightly to cover.

+ Bake for 30 minutes or until light brown at the edges. Cut into squares after cooled. Store at room temperature if eating soon, refrigerator for about a week, or freezer for longer.

A THANKSGIVING SPENT IN INDIANA.

img_0306img_3967We are very thankful for time spent with our families in Indiana this year. Flying with our two little guys wasn’t any easier than I thought it would be, but it was better than it could have been. Taking them out of their routine showed us that we should probably make it more of a habit than we do now. All the missed naps, refused feedings, and early wake ups were so worth the time spent with both sides of our families.img_3981img_3832Our parents’ houses were full of laughter, food, wine and loved ones, just how I like it. img_3947 While we were home, we also had a baby shower for my brother’s wife. They’re expecting their first, a baby girl, and we couldn’t be more excited for them.img_3973img_3828

We got in all of our Thanksgiving traditions: The turkey bowl at my aunt’s house, Thanksgiving dinner at home, trivial pursuit at Uncle John and Aunt Dianne’s, and then down to Mike’s house for Ben’s (and his cousin, Harper) baptism the next day (more pictures to come for that).img_0334img_3849img_0288img_3844img_3942img_3834img_0366Honestly, I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked. I just didn’t ever have my phone on me! Too busy enjoying my time with everyone. That’s a good thing! img_3923It’s so hard to be far from family and only have a couple visits a year to look forward to, but I can’t say I was sad to leave the icy temperatures behind. I said to Mike when we got outside the airport, “oh my gosh, it’s so humid. It feels amazing.” Words I never thought I’d utter.img_4065Those wide open skies, red barns, bare trees, and fires in the fireplace make my heart squeeze with the homesickness of it all though. Until next time, Hoosier state! img_3793

 

OUR WEEK AT A GLANCE. {DECEMBER 2-5}

img_0371We’re home after a whirlwind of a week in Indiana. Our parents’ houses were both packed with food, family, laughter and wine which is just how we like it. Days passed by in that busy mode of doing everything and nothing all at the same time. A walk down the street felt like  true achievement. Now that we’re home, we’re in vacation recovery mode, practically buried under piles of laundry and half empty bags with fingers crossed that our house doesn’t succumb to the flu bug that’s been going around the rest of the family.

week at a glance

This week looks to be pretty quiet. I’d like to get the Christmas decorations out, but have low expectations of getting anything up. The weather was so beautiful today that I took the boys to the park after school. Dinner, we pulled out that half gallon of mommy soup from a few weeks back and just had to heat it up and make a few peanut butter sandwiches to go with. Taco Tuesday follows, then sheet pan chicken with broccoli and potatoes on Wednesday. Thursday is a night without Mike, so I’ll heat up tacos for Charlie and I, and then Friday is, of course, pizza night. I also pulled out some frozen pumpkin muffins that I made a few weeks ago, there’s cheesecake ice cream in the freezer and Mike’s making popcorn for our snack tonight as we speak, and hot chocolate is in the pantry for another night, so those are some treats to look forward to this week.

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I’m hoping to get a couple runs (honestly, walk/runs) in during the week and then one night of yoga (I’ve been so stiff lately!), and this weekend we’ll get another couple runs in together if the boys allow it. Other than that, I started a new book today from school, and I can already tell it’s going to be so cute. We’ve got a hallmark Christmas movie on, and it’s supposed to get down into the 40’s tonight! Brr! We put the boys to bed in their flannels, and sweatshirts and long pants are laid out for the morning. I can’t wait to hear Charlie say “Brrrrr. Told.”

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LITTLE THINGS THIS WEEK.

1. this oversized suitcase…

because it’s borrowed from a friend and fingers crossed, big enough for four.

2. this tiny sound machine…for the (hopefully) extra sleep everyone will get whilst room sharing on our holiday travels.

3. these sweet family stripes from a fairy godmother…

because come December you’ll find us wearing them nightly (I’ve already been cheating by wearing my leggings).

4. this pan of homemade granola bars…

for being ready to wrap up and tuck away for a long day of travel tomorrow.

5. this stack of tiny warm hand-me-down clothes…

for two little boys headed to winter!

in other news:

we’re on vacation!! i’m scurrying around cleaning and throwing things into suitcases haphazardly, consulting my packing lists and intermittent breaks for side-clenchingly funny videos that mike finds on instagram. our flight leaves for indiana at five pm tomorrow and i’m relying on a combination of preparedness by trying to think of all possible scenarios and also prayer. it’s our first flight with both (very mobile) boys, right around bedtime! 😬 i am sure we will come away from it so much wiser than we are now. we are so excited for a whole week with family! what are you up to this weekend, reader? something good, i hope.

CHARLIE (2 YEARS) AND BEN’S (8 MONTHS) FAVORITE FOODS.

img_3282Dinner time is a messy, chaotic affair these days, which on weeknights I can only get together by putting on a show (Daniel Tiger!) for Charlie and letting Ben eat puffs off of the ground while I run around getting things together before Mike gets home. Mike and I both feel really strongly about having family dinner together at the table. It’s something that we both grew up having, and it’s always been something we’ve said has to be one of our family traditions. Do we all eat the same thing? Not always.img_3366Charlie is getting to the point at two years old that he has an opinion about things. He doesn’t just eat whatever is put in front of him like he used to. For dinner, he generally has at least a little bit of what we’re eating, but I always try to make sure that he has a fruit, a veggie, a protein, a carb and some kind of cheese on his plate. Some of that might be in our meal, and some I might put on his plate separately. There are some meals that he won’t eat, so for right now, I try to plan things that I’m pretty sure he’ll like and that we will too.img_3355Ben on the other hand, is still (generally reluctantly) eating purees, and is getting into more and more finger foods. He prefers to feed himself from his tray than spoon feeding. I’m starting to give him little bites off of my plate if it’s soft enough. He’ll be sharing our meals before we know it though!

Ben loves:

  • canned carrots
  • applesauce
  • yogurt squeezys
  • puffs! puffs and more puffs!
  • graham crackers
  • puffs
  • white bread
  • canned peas
  • pears
  • shredded cheese
  • did I mention puffs?

Charlie loves (in no particular order):

  • lasagna
  • tacos
  • hot dogs
  • meatloaf
  • rice
  • bananas
  • frozen waffles with butter
  • cereal
  • blackberries
  • clementines
  • yogurt
  • cheese of all kinds – goat cheese, colby, cheddar, sticks, shredded, etc
  • ketchup
  • butter
  • sweets, obviously – cookies, cake, muffins. love.
  • anything Ben is eating (brother jealousy is becoming a thing! “mine. charlie’s. mine.)
  • anything in a pouch – applesauce, yogurt, baby food puree, literally anything in a squeezy pouch

Here are a few of our favorite products for baby and toddler feeding!

1__

For Charlie

1// OXO Grippy plate for kids who throw their plates 

2// Fork and spoon for a kiddo learning to use silverware

3// A sippy cup for milk at meals for a boy who uses an open cup for water at school, but is definitely not there yet for milk at home. 

4// A sippy cup on the go for car rides, dragging around the house and taking outside. We recently left ours behind somewhere, but it’s my favorite for Charlie.

5// Little containers for snacks, fruit, and storing mini sized leftovers.

For Ben:

1// A seat that has kept both boys contained and happy for little munching meals.

2// The best spoons for feeding drippy purees to wandering mouths

3// Forever our favorite bottles.

4// Puffs, because puffs make the baby world go round.

PEACHY BATHROOM INSPIRATION FOR THE BOYS’ (& GUEST) BATHROOM.

pink
via Burtsbrisplease instagram

I mentioned yesterday that I’ve been working on the boys’ bathroom (which doubles as our guest bathroom too). I thought I would share a little bit of my inspiration before I’m actually through with the space. towel rack

I didn’t mind our bathrooms when we bought our house. They’re decent, and kind of remodeled. I say kind of with a little trepidation because the only remodeling that has been done is that someone replaced the vanity. Original peach tile, basic tub, and peeling black window frame all remain. I like the tile! I really do. Our old house had pretty vintage blue tile that I always loved (Mike wasn’t a huge fan). So this was a happy surprise (for me) to find a house that had colored tile in the bathrooms. So of course I wasn’t planning to re-tile the whole thing. Nor did I want to replace much. I just wanted a little refresh. Add a little charm to the place. You know?

open shelves

Honestly, I just wanted to  paint the vanity and I thought I would be done with it. But you know how one project leads to another because you’re looking closer at everything and suddenly the project has become much larger because you’re doing something to everything in the room? Yeah. That’s happened. Monday Inspiration_ How We React Emotionally To Colour - Mad About The HouseI’m not going to go into much more detail because I’ll save that for the actual bathroom remodel post! These are just a few pictures that inspired me throughout this process, the pink vanity being the biggest part. Quickly followed by open shelving (and a gaping hole in the wall by the towel bar I removed), wall hooks, etc. etc etc. 🙂 Happy Monday, all!

All photos have been found via pinterest, my favorite source of inspiration!

OUR WEEK AT A GLANCE. {NOVEMBER 17-23}

img_3130The final week. The week before Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it’s here. This weekend was such a sweet one. The boys are feeling better, everyone was well enough for outings, playtime, normal sleep and mealtimes. We tried out a local diner for breakfast on Saturday and it did not disappoint. Disney+ was also on high usage during Ben’s nap times for Charlie (need to keep him quiet so Ben can sleep!). Charlie was kind of scared during Aladdin and loved The Jungle Book. He was giggling SO hard. Hilarious. Anyway our weekend has come to a close and, we fly out next Saturday evening, so our whole week revolves around getting ready to go home to Indiana!week at a glance-2I was out of school almost all last week with Ben (who has RSV), so I’m looking forward to having a “regular” week with all my classes and really getting some good library activities in there, and making sure that all my students have a book to read over Thanksgiving break! img_3213We’re keeping it simple this week for meals. Mike made a giant batch of “Mommy Soup” (beef stew with barley) today. It’s finally in the 60’s here! Soup weather! We had it for dinner tonight with sourdough toast. We’ll have it for one other dinner this week, and we put a full half gallon mason jar in the freezer for another meal in a couple weeks. We’re having meatloaf tomorrow from the freezer that I had made a few weeks ago. Love doing big batches of meals and freezing for meals later in the month when I don’t have time (or energy!) to cook at the end of a long day. img_3138When we go on trips (especially weeklong trips) we like to empty out the fridge as much as we possibly can. No one likes to come home to slimy veggies, or moldy leftovers. Yuck. So we’re just going to demolish everything in there. I have two nights of leftovers planned this week. Luckily, our kids are young enough that they can’t complain about leftovers! img_2896I’m also planning to make these date bars that I make every time we travel. I just feel so irrationally smug about having a homemade something in my bag instead of buying a ten dollar cookie from a store at the airport. img_3038I started re-doing the boys bathroom last week, and made lots of progress this weekend too. It’s my goal to get it done before we leave. I just have a little bit of sanding, a last coat of paint, and then put up the floating shelves and a new mirror. Easy peasy, right? Hehe.

LITTLE THINGS THIS WEEK.

1. this collection of medicines…img_2670the signs of a sickness making its’ way through the house and for making my boy moderately more comfortable amidst coughing fits.

2. this teeny tiny tree with twinkling lights…img_2825for adding just the right amount of cheer.

3. this pre-bedtime cookieand the rest tucked away in the freezer to bake at the drop of a hat.

4. this dress found on clearance…and the many many wears she will get the rest of the school year.

5. this project paint…for being the start of a house project that isn’t quite the right shade yet. Back to the drawing board.

in other news:

mike’s taking a turn at home with ben today, and we’re hopeful that he’s going to be back to school on monday. i feel like i’ve cheated the week a little bit by leaving early on tuesday, home wednesday and thursday, and then back to school on friday, which in the elementary school is a weekly holiday. we’re going to take it easy this weekend and hang around home. charlie was coughing more than i like this morning, so i hope the sickness isn’t getting to him now too. fingers crossed, friends.

what are you up to this weekend, reader? whatever it is, i hope you kick your feet up and enjoy it.

from the land of turkey headbands, tylenol and cookie crumbs, love, em