Yummy, Chewy, Gluten-free, Dairy-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mom has had Celiac for years. I try out the occasional dessert hoping to please her palate, but I haven’t made these for her yet. My kids are currently GF, DF in an attempt to see if it helps some rashes and behaviors. We’ll see how that goes. :)

Since they’re kids, I still want them to have the occasional treat, so I played with a few GF recipes and made it dairy-free myself. If you are dairy-free but can’t handle ghee/clarified butter, you might try lard or shortening as a substitute.

Also, I personally like cookies best out of the freezer, but these were decent as dough, fresh and out of the freezer. Bonus!

GF DF chocolate chip cookies

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup ghee/clarified butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup cane sugar (or you can use regular granulated)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups Namaste gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips

Cream ghee and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until smooth. Add 2 cups GF flour, salt, and baking soda, beat again until smooth. Add remaining flour and beat or mix by hand until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake for 9-11 minutes at 350. Don’t bake too long; you want them a little lighter so they’re chewy out of the freezer. Enjoy!

Bellies to Babies MN

Guest post by Dan Canfield, owner of Bellies to Babies

Winter is upon us and that means it is time to bring out all of the warm clothes, or better yet, go shopping for new ones! For most women, this is a fun time to get some new style going and buy the latest fashions, but for moms/moms-to-be whoare expecting, this upcoming season can be financially exhausting.

Luckily, pregnant women have another option this winter, previously loved maternity clothing. Instead of spending $30 for a long sleeve shirt, a previously loved, or “slightly used” long sleeve shirt can go for as low as $6.99. Bellies to Babies (located in Richfield and St. Paul) is the largest maternity resale company in the Twin Cities, offering hundreds of styles of clothing for prices that won’t break the bank.

For example, the breakdown below shows a whole outfit from Bellies to Babies in Richfield (6634 Penn Ave. S) that includes a name brand sweater, jeans, and an accent necklace for only $24.99, where this outfit at a department store would run $64.97, saving almost $43!

What really puts the cherry on top of this deal is once a woman has her child, she can go back and sell this clothing to the resale shop from which she bought it, making this a sweet deal this season.

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Anja, 7 years

Anja, at seven years old, you:

  • Are attached to your guys just as much as when you were a toddler. Sherman and Malia remain your top picks, followed by Coco and Elsa (a dolly I made for you last fall). You rarely go anywhere without at least one of them with.
  • Are very emotional. We’re back to tantrums again, only now they aren’t just loud screams, they are vitriol and threats against your family. Yikes. Hoping and praying this will be overcome.
  • Are, on the other hand, very nurturing at times. Especially with other little kids (besides your brother). You are patient and kind with them, always trying to help entertain and lead.
  • Continue to be a self-proclaimed “artist.” :) I am glad that you enjoy your artistic abilities…we’re working on humility.
  • Have new favorites. Color: pink, snack: cheese and crackers, cereal: Chocolate Chex, book: Bobbsey Twins series, holiday: Halloween, food: cookies, game: hide and seek.
  • Are silly and happy most of the time. You dance like your mama with a bit of your daddy thrown in. You are always making awful jokes and trying to get others to laugh along with you.
  • Are generous. You would give the clothes off your back if someone else needed them.
  • Are in 2nd grade.
  • Have grown so much at your reading and writing! Your cursive is rather pretty, and you will sit and read chapter books in your room now. You still hate math with a fiery passion, but we’re plugging away.
  • Can pose like nobody’s business. I took you out for your 7-year photo shoot, and every time you heard the shutter click, you struck a different pose. It was amusing, yet concerning, if that makes sense. :)
  • Are on the charts again for height! 93rd percentile. Yet you continue to grow out of pants at a rate that makes me consider taking out a loan…
  • Are a poet (and you know it…*groan*). You write songs and poetry in your spare time and will often perform them without any entreaty to do so.
  • Have no fear of speaking in public. I’m thankful that you started CC last year, because each week includes an oral presentation, and you could go on and on…you’ve come a long way since being scared of other kids when you were three!
  • Are playing better and better with Markus. As you two age, you seem better able to come up with things to play together, though you still take the role of “boss” while Markus is often the “underling.” Thankfully his strong personality doesn’t stand for too much of it.
  • Seem to be having lots of moments of “hearing” God. I don’t put too much stock in them yet, because often they aren’t very biblical, but I’m thankful you’re interested in reading His word and learning to listen to what He says.
  • Have lost two teeth and have one more on top that is wiggling.
  • Want to be a ballerina and a photographer when you grow up. Well, then.

We love you lots, little lady, and we are partners with you in prayer that you will continue to grow in maturity and in love for Christ.

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Good Reads for Kids – September 2014

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Back to school! This month’s focus will be on non-fiction books we used for school so far in 2014. Perfect for book reports or to add more dimension to something they are currently studying.

1. The Butterfly – A child’s view of Nazism in France.

2. What Is the World Made of? – A short and sweet look at solids, liquids, and gases.

3. Lily’s Victory Garden – An inspiring tale of what one girl did to help aid with efforts in World War II.

4. Lazily, Crazily, Just a Bit Nasally – We think all of Brian Cleary’s language and math books are fabulous fun.

5. The Wall – I may or may not have cried through this book. About the Vietnam War memorial.

6. The Boy Who Loved Math – All about mathematician Paul Erdos.

Good Reads for Grown-ups – August 2014 – Fiction

I should probably do this more often, but since I don’t, I will only post about the books I can remember reading. And if they weren’t memorable, they probably weren’t worth writing about anyway, right? Some of these were read so long ago that I don’t have a lot to say about them, so I’ll leave you to your own research.

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Ten books I’ve enjoyed over the past couple years are:

The Thornbirds – Not something I would usually pick by its cover, but it was well-written and haunting.

The Shoemaker’s Wife – Heart-wrenchingly beautiful tale that follows a pair of kids from the Italian Alps to New York to Minnesota.

The Forgotten Garden – I remember enjoying this volume by Kate Morton a couple years ago; she seems to like writing about folks who have little memory of their past and go on expeditions to find out more.

The Secret Keeper – Another Kate Morton novel. They’re long, but I do find them captivating. This one is based in the present (2011) and in 1941 bomb-ridden London. Surprise twists.

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym (Robert Galbraith), this mystery kept me guessing. It’s been a while since I’ve read a true mystery novel, and I found myself enjoying it again!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Compelling, well-written. I had consumed quite a bit of summer “fluff​” before I read this and it seemed great by comparison.

The School of Essential Ingredients – I want to eat all of Bauermeister’s books, but this one is the most edible. A feast for the senses.

A Week in Winter – I really enjoyed the character development in this one. For Chicky to have gotten away with her lie, it’s a bit much to believe, but the story that came after that was delightful. Maeve Binchy is the author. I’ve read a couple of her other novels, and I always enjoy the Irish setting.

The Rosie Project – A man who doesn’t know he has Asperger’s attracts an unlikely lady friend. Quirky and charming.

The Book Thief – Heartwrenching look at WW II from inside Nazi Germany. Character development is wonderful, the players captivating.

Good Reads for Kids – August 2014

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This month I’m focusing on poetry. There are some great poems out there for kids, and there are some truly crummy ones. Let’s focus on the good ones!

1. Oxford Illustrated Book of Children’s Poems – Not every poem in this book was our favorite (some I didn’t even read to the kids), but the classics plus illustrations made it worth checking out.

2. A Meal of the Stars – Anja originally didn’t want to read this book because “it looked boring.” But the puzzle of figuring out which way to read each poem lured her in at once, as did the clever illustrations. Bravo, local author Dana Jensen!

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3. The Real Mother Goose – Classic children’s poems (some quite frightening!) as you remember them, and some as you don’t. The price on this is outstanding

4. Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein’s poetry tomes have become classics in their own right, and Anja regularly picks this one up to read the silly, somewhat sordid verses. They usually rhyme, which appeals to her at age six.

 

Markus, 4 1/2

Little man of ours, at 4 1/2, you:

  • Verbalize everything. You are a non-stop talker from the moment your feet hit the floor until your head hits the pillow. It is exhausting for this mama, who is an internal processor.
  • Are incredibly creative. We marvel at your drawings, the things you create out of Duplos, your play stories, your questions. I love how God has wired you!
  • Are getting more adventurous with foods. You will now occasionally accept a small amount of sauce or dressing with salads, and you’ve eaten tomatoes (only one and very on purpose) several times.
  • Have stopped napping. You gave them up cold turkey at the end of May. That’s been a transition, to say the least. :)
  • Are as intense as ever. You have patented what we call your “pterodactyl scream,” which occurs anytime you are interrupted, anytime your sister gets near you, anytime you aren’t getting what you want, anytime we “aren’t listening to you,” and many other instances. We. hate. it. And we are still working with you on overcoming your need to it. “Please use words instead,” is heard a lot around here.
  • Disassemble everything. We find screws, bolts, nuts…just PIECES of your bed, your easel, your toys…everywhere. I fully expect your bed to collapse beneath you some night.
  • Demand very specific coloring pages. Your coloring books are not good enough anymore. I have had to limit you to one coloring sheet per day, or I’d be printing them out hourly. And you always have a very specific idea in mind when you request them, which isn’t easily met. “Mama, I want a racecar coloring sheet, but no faces on the cars, and with lots of cars on a racetrack, and one of them is the number nine…” I can’t tell you the number of coloring sheets I’ve ended up drawing for you because nothing online matched your customized request.
  • Enjoy reading. I read aloud to you and Anja probably 30-60 minutes per day, and you both enjoy it immensely. Daddy has read you Redwall and has started Mossflower with you over the past six months, and while they’re a bit over your head, you still listen for the most part. Some other chapter books you’ve enjoyed are: The Cricket in Times Square, Henry Huggins, and several of The Bobbsey Twins series.
  • Are getting more independent. Some days you’ll even open your dresser and grab your own clothes and get dressed before I’m awake. I don’t mind that at all!
  • Say the funniest things. We really appreciate your sense of humor. For instance, just while I was writing this, you fussed, “I have to pretend destroy Anja, but she’s running really fast and she’s not going to give my Legos back to me unless I pretend kill her!”
  • Need to be externally motivated. Unlike your sister, who is only self-motivated, you need a carrot dangled in order to accomplish tasks, whether it be a treat, a privilege, or an outing. You see no need to complete chores unless there’s something in it for you.
  • Wrestle with anyone who will let you near them. They might be your size or 6 times your size (Mr. Dustin?), you charge at them with the same ferocity. Your sister does not always appreciate this. You are competitive.
  • Act shy around strangers until they look away. Then you realize you might lose their attention and begin talking their ears off.
  • Are a very social boy. You want to be around people constantly. Getting you to stay in your room for longer than 5 minutes for afternoon quiet time is a big challenge.
  • Have some favorites. Color: blue. Food: pizza. Movie: Planes. Bible Story: David and Goliath. Book: Transformers something-or-other from the library. Toy: Audralina the fox. Indoor activity: Legos. Outdoor activity: biking.
  • Learned to bike with pedals. Now we can do family bike rides! They’re on the slow side, but still fun.
  • Can write most of your letters and some of your numbers. I think we’re going to work on letter formation this year. After spending months un-teaching and re-teaching your sister all her letters in first grade, I want to start you off right!
  • Still like to cuddle with your mama. I’m so glad!
  • Are curious. I think this is why you take things apart and ask so many questions…you have a great desire to learn! We were amazed by your little sponge-brain picking up almost all of Anja’s memory work just from listening along in the car.
  • Have had a little growth spurt since spring, but are still short for your age. All the friends you dwarfed as a baby are taller than you.

We love you, Markus, and we are excited to see where God takes you and how He uses your unique giftings.

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Applegate Wienervention

A couple weeks ago I received a hilarious email from Applegate. “Let’s be frank: Friends shouldn’t let friends eat bad meat. It’s time to stage a “Wienervention” and Applegate is here to help.”

They sent me a lovely box of wieners and other cookout-related supplies (pictured below). There were no strings attached to this gift, but I really like their products and want to blog about it anyway!

If your kids like hot dogs the way mine do, you are probably looking for a healthier way to serve them up. I’ve tried other versions of “healthy” hot dogs, but in my opinion, Applegate’s are the best-tasting! I’ve also had their deli meats, cheeses, and bacon and been impressed by the quality of all their products.

More than 90% of people who consume hot dogs would rather purchase franks with a short ingredient statement, and that’s where Applegate steps in. Our ingredient list is simple: beef (that has never been administered antibiotics or hormones), water, salt and spices. It’s time to say goodbye to those dirty dogs filled with sodium phosphate, sodium nitrate, and who knows what else!

Do your backyard barbecue a favor and try them!

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Good Reads for Kids – June 2014

Last month I wrote about some of the chapter books we’ve read this year. This month I will highlight some of our favorite picture books.

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We check out probably 50-60 books per month from the library. I thought that seemed like a lot until I heard my cousin (who also homeschools) had 76 out at once. Haha! So much of our education is dependent on reading; we want our kids to enjoy it and actually DO it a lot. We keep our library bin and our kids’ bookshelves in their room (and let’s be honest, our coffee table, end tables, kitchen table, buffet…any flat surface) well-stocked with reading materials.

Here are some favorite picture books we’ve read so far this year:

1. Here’s a Penny – The kids really enjoyed the simple tales of Penny and his neighbor Patsy. (Okay, so this one’s technically still a chapter book, but it has more pictures than your average chapter book.)

2. Grasshopper on the Road – Anja read this one aloud to Markus. They laughed a lot. We are HUGE Arnold Lobel fans. Can’t go wrong with almost any of his books. See also Small Pig.

3. Cowardly Clyde – Auntie brought over this book. Our children will choose almost any book with a dragon in it, so this was a hit. And what I said about Lobel above? Same with Bill Peet. Love almost any of his books.

4. The Children’s Book of Virtues – A collection of fables, folk tales, stories and poems that inspire character in young ones (and adults!).

5. Going West – Even though I’ve read some of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s actual stories to Anja, she (and Markus) still really get into these picture books based on the Little House series.

6. The Best Nest – A P.D. Eastman classic about learning to love the home you’ve got. Anja has read many of his books aloud.

7. Up North at the Cabin – This doesn’t read like fiction because it’s based on real places and events. If you know what lake country is like in the Midwest, you’ll find it to reflect that lifestyle perfectly.

8. Audrey Bunny – I fell in love with the story before realizing that the author is Angie Smith, whose blog I read regularly when I first began this one. A tear-jerker.

9. If I Ran the Zoo – Dr. Suess is a winner in our house almost every time. The man was a genius.

10. How To – Not much word content, but makes up for it in imagination.

What picture books have you enjoyed lately? Any favorite authors? Do share!!

Summer Unit Studies

We homeschooled this past year. I plan to blog more about that later, but for now I’d love to share some of the basic ideas we have for continuing our education through the summer. We’ve done this the past several summers, and it’s worked well for our pace. I don’t always get to every activity planned (or, being honest, every theme, depending on the week!), but I know that I have something there if the kids need direction or we have a lot of open mornings in a week.

summer 2014 unit studies

A source of inspiration for me are the local and regional Community Ed/Activity calendars. I often use those as a jumping-off point for picking our theme and then incorporate simple activities I know our kids will love. Here are some our themes and related activities for 2014.

GARDENING

  • Rake, dig, plant seeds
  • Read gardening books
  • Learn about some different types of plants

GARDEN ART

  • Build fairy gardens
  • Make a homemade bird feeder
  • Continue gardening, planting, weeding

KITES

  • Read stories about kites
  • Make our own kites
  • Fly kites
  • Play kite-related games

PIRATES

  • Read pirate stories
  • Make treasure maps and a telescope
  • Do a treasure hunt at a local park
  • “Walk the Plank” game

UNDERSEA SURPRISES

  • Visit a local aquarium
  • Make under the sea drawings/crafts
  • Read books about unusual sea creatures
  • Practice math with “under the sea” worksheets and manipulatives

NATURE DETECTIVES

  • Go dip-netting
  • Hike together
  • Check out a bird identification book from the library and try to spot and name some local birds

PARADISE

  • Have a luau
  • Visit the local pool
  • Learn about rainforest biome and the creatures in it

GONE FISHIN’

  • Tackle box math
  • Go fishing at a local lake
  • Do a scientific experiment about buoyancy using different objects

BEACH FUN

  • Sand activities
  • Visit local beach
  • Paint al fresco
  • Read books at the beach and about the beach

CATERPILLARS AND BUTTERFLIES

  • Visit MN Zoo’s butterfly garden
  • Make caterpillar and butterfly crafts
  • Do simple math problems with caterpillar segments
  • Observe butterflies in our yard

MESSY FUN

  • Make slime
  • Paint outdoors using various homemade paints
  • Outdoor water and mud play

CAMPING

  • Read camping books
  • Learn about constellations and star patterns
  • Make s’mores over a fire
  • Learn how to pack by packing for our own camping trip

BUBBLES, RAINBOWS & POPSICLES (this one is admittedly a mish-mash of all things summer)

  • Count popsicle sticks
  • Blow bubbles, make our own solution
  • Rainbow crafts and art
  • Popsicle stick crafts

SPLASHES AND ICE CREAM

  • Run through the sprinkler
  • Visit the local pool
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Visit a local ice cream parlor
  • Play “ice cream shop” with Play-Doh creations, practice adding #s

MINNESOTA HISTORY

  • Visit a local history museum
  • Go to the Minnesota State Fair and learn about how it came to be (while eating delicious things on a stick)
  • Read books about pioneers in this area