Comfort Food

After my last post, I figured it might be good to follow up with something comforting.  And what’s more comforting than a favorite meal or food?  Every fall/winter I seem to find a different rendition of a chicken stew or something similar that becomes my obsession for the season.  They’re all so similar that even if I decided to make two different recipes in a short time period, it wouldn’t really seem like I was changing things up at all.  They all have your basics: poultry, onions, carrots, celery, some kind of thick, creamy broth, and a biscuit or pastry.  Everything that just screams comfort!

One year my obsession was Bobby Flay’s turkey pot pie with sage crust.  It’s your basic pot pie but the sage in the crust combined with the turkey breast really elevates it.  I used to easily be able to make two at once and freeze the second for another night (sometimes that same week)!  I’ve had years of experimentation with different chicken noodle soup recipes, and Ina Garten’s chicken stew with biscuits on top is super scrumptious.

This year I’m extremely into Ree Drummond’s chicken and dumplings.  It’s only December and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve made it since October.  I love how the dumplings puff up as soon as they enter the simmering broth.  There’s nothing like a hot bowl of this stew to warm you right up on a cold night!  Randy says it’s his favorite, but I called him out the other night on saying that almost every night at dinner, so he obviously can’t be trusted. 😉

How comforting does this bowl look?!  This was a night Randy came home late from work and we took our bowls into the living room and enjoyed dinner for 2 by the light of the Christmas tree.  (There are some perks to his working late…) 😉

Another comforting recipe I have is my pepparkakor cookies, which essentially are Swedish gingerbread cookies.  The word “pepparkakor” literally means pepper cake.  There’s a Swedish “legend” that goes with the cookies, too.  Think of a secret wish and hold the pepparkakor in your hand.  With your opposing finger, press down in the center of the cookie.  If it breaks into 3 pieces exactly, your wish will come true!  I used to do this with my Morfar (Swedish for mother’s father) all the time as a little girl.  Unfortunately, my cookies always come out a little too thick to break them easily with a single finger, but they taste delicious!  I must say that my favorite part of these cookies is the way the house smells when I make them.  It’s spicy, sweet, and warm, and reminds me of my grandparents.  If you like gingerbread but don’t care for the time it takes to ice them into little people, give this recipe a try!  We don’t have time to make gingerbread cookies before Christmas this year like I planned, but we may still make them after.  Until then, I have a whole tin of pepparkakors that we will enjoy! 🙂  Here’s the recipe, the printable is at the bottom…

Merry Christmas!


Here is a plate of my pepparkakors with a Vietnamese cardamom latte!  Yes, those are orange peels in my coffee carafe.  The latte is delicious!  Part of the Ninja recipe book.
  •     2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  •     2/3 cup molasses
  •     1 teaspoon ground ginger
  •     1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •     1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  •     3/4 tablespoon baking soda
  •     2/3 cup butter
  •     1 egg
  •     3 1/2 cups sifted flour
  1. Place butter in a large, heatproof bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat brown sugar, molasses and spices just to boiling point. Add baking soda and stir in. Pour this mixture over the butter and stir until it melts.
  2. Beat egg and mix in; add flour, a cup at a time, and blend thoroughly. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead 1-2 minutes. Wrap in waxed paper and chill until firm (about an hour).
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  4. Roll out to approximately 1/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured board and cut into desired shapes. Place on greased baking sheets and bake for 8 – 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from sheets and cool on racks.

Here’s the handy, dandy printable! pepparkakor-cookies

When You Feel Like a Failure…

It’s. Been. A. Week.  Anyone else?  Seriously.  The things that happened at the beginning of the week, like the snow and shoveling my driveway on Monday, or the MomHeart Group I went to on Tuesday evening seem like they were weeks ago.

Noah was sick last weekend and I ended up bringing him to the doctor on Tuesday. Bacterial infection. Amoxicillin. If you have (or had) small children, you know the drill.  He’s much better now, but the girls are sick.  And I have a horrible cough.  The week has had some ups and downs, a lot of downs.  But probably the biggest downer of all, is this feeling of failure in every department of my life that I’ve let linger all week.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  I know a lot of other moms go through this.  So I’m opening up about my own feelings of weakness.

I guess it started on Monday.  The snow plus Noah being sick meant a sick/snow day to start the week.  I feel like I see occasional Facebook posts of other moms with their sick kids having a snuggly movie day under a blanket with some tea or hot cocoa.  It looks so lovely and serene!  (And of course, it’s only a picture, and we all know a 2-second photo that gets posted on Facebook is not necessarily the reality of an entire day, but it seems like it, sometimes, doesn’t it?)  So I was hoping to have such a day with my kids.  But I can only sit down and snuggle with my sick children after I’ve…

  • disinfected the entire house
  • changed bed sheets
  • started laundry
  • cleaned the kitchen and bathroom
  • cleaned out all the humidifiers because oh my goodness did you see the GMA special on how much bacteria can grow in humidifiers if they aren’t properly cleaned regularly?!  Yuck!
  • bleached the window sills to get rid of any black mildew or mold… or is that just dirty dust that’s worked its way into the corners of the windows from every other time I clean the windows and sills?  Doesn’t matter, bleach it!
  • and on this day in particular, shoveled the driveway

So by the time I was actually able to sit down and try to get some snuggle time in, Abby, who wasn’t sick at the time, couldn’t sit still and watch another movie if you paid her, and Noah was falling asleep.  So the day came and went without that perfect Kodak moment.  Initiate feeling of failure.  (And to clarify, it’s not just about getting the cute pic on Facebook.  It’s about not getting that time, that moment.  Don’t sick kids need mommy snuggles???  Am I a bad mother because I spent the day cleaning the house instead of hugging my kids???  Not that I don’t hug them all the time anyways, but, these were my thoughts.) Here’s what my house typically looks like with sick children…

My kids have been sick with colds recently so this new wave of sickness felt familiar.  Which led to a whole new set of questions leading to my feeling of failure…

  • why are my kids “always” (yes, huge exaggeration but this is how it felt) sick?!
  • I haven’t refilled their vitamins in a while, is that the reason?
  • Am I not feeding them enough fruits and vegetables?
  • Are they not getting enough vitamin C?
  • Is my house not clean enough?
  • Am I not instilling enough “clean” habits?
  • Am I FAILING as a mom because I can’t keep my kids healthy???  What are other people thinking in secret about what our house must be like if my kids are sick all the time…

We took December off from school so we could relax and embrace the reason for the season.  I also hoped to play lots of educational games and do some supplement work to our curriculum.  And here it was, week 2 of our 4-week hiatus, and we were stuck being sick.  And not all at once.  So when Noah was sick, I was busy cleaning and looking after him (and the baby) and then when he got better, Abby got sick, then Emmalyn.  And now I have a terrible cough/cold!  So there’s always been a reason we couldn’t get something done.  How is it possible that I’m “behind” in my “break schedule?”  That has to be some kind of oxymoron.  So among this week of weirdness and sickness, these were some of the failing thoughts that I let grab a hold of me…

  • Why can’t I keep my kids healthy?  I’m a bad mom.
  • We’re not having the “educational fun” and “embracing the season” like I envisioned for December.  I’m a bad homeschool mom.
  • Even though we’re not officially doing school this month, I still can’t find the time to balance the checkbook or budget and have caused my husband stress over this.  I’m a bad wife.
  • Even though we’re not officially doing school this month, I’m not putting in as much time as I’d like at work to get done what I want.  I’m bad at time management.
  • I found a recipe for a immune booster smoothie that I decided to serve my family each morning to help ward off future sickness, but it was not well-received.  (Too pulpy.) And I only served it a few mornings.  I’m a bad mom.
  • I didn’t get my Christmas shopping done when I wanted to.  I thought I would be “ahead of the game” and I’m not.  I’m bad at getting things done.
  • I can’t manage to get up early enough to do my quiet time AND exercise like I’d like to.  I’m bad at taking care of myself.

These are the thoughts that swirled around my head and heart all week, nearly crippling me.  I know that they’re not true.  Sure, I can improve on all these things because I’m not perfect, but I’m also not bad at all of them, or a failure.  I know this.  But when you’re weak (like, because you’re tackling sickness during the holiday season and feeling stressed) the Enemy creeps in.  And I let him.  I let him allow me to focus on my shortcomings and to feel like a failure.  And in doing so, it took my focus off of Christ. And when Christ is not at the center of my universe, it sort of spins out of control, you know?  His grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made strong in my weakness.  This truth was forgotten this past week.  I hope to never let it be forgotten again.

I will say, that as melancholy as this post has been, I’m doing much better at the start of this week. (At least mentally; physically, I kinda feel like crap still.)  And at the end of last week, I had a nice text-pet-talk with my good friend (and mom hero), Amanda.  I know we can all be in this same boat at times, ladies.  Let me encourage you that you’re not alone if you’ve felt these things, and please take hold of 2 Corinthians 12:9 and claim it for yourself!  You’re not a failure, you’re a child of God and have the glorious privilege of resting in Him.


Looking for an immune-boosting smoothie recipe?  I think I got this one down, as this morning, the kids said it was the “best smoothie ever!”  This smoothie is jam-packed with vitamin C and can be a good “pick-me-up” if you start to experience the “winter blues.”  I don’t really measure, so bear with me.  For my 3 kids I used…

  • handful of whole strawberries (stems included)*img_1022
  • 1 banana**
  • handful of chopped pineapple
  • 1/2 – 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 TB almond butter**
  • 1-2 TB wheat germ**

Blend until smooth.  Serve cold! 🙂

*Strawberry stems are edible and very healthy, containing extra vitamin C and minerals, which is why I leave them on for a smoothie.  Faster prep since I don’t have to cut up the strawberries, and the kids don’t even notice!

**Not included in the original “vitamin C” smoothies I was looking into, but they made the smoothie taste better for the my kids and the wheat germ helps to fill them up a bit more.

I serve this smoothie WITH FOOD for their breakfast.  Growing kids need a good breakfast! Randy and I could just have the smoothie as our meal and be fine! (Although, I pack him a different “protein” smoothie for lunch, so if I want to serve him this for breakfast, I usually make some other food as well.  Don’t want him to feel like he’s on a liquid diet. haha!)  For Randy and I, I add frozen, chopped kale; but my kids pick up on that right away so I leave it out of theirs.  Originally, I tried putting shredded carrots in the smoothies, too, but that’s what made it too pulpy since (although the carrots were already shredded) they didn’t break down enough.  I like the benefits carrots have to offer and I want to get vegetables in the smoothie, too, so I might try carrot juice in the future.  


Final Fruits: Gentleness & Self-Control

I’ve had so much on my heart and mind this week.  I feel like I have at least 5 topics to write about but everything in me (well, the organizes, control-freak in me) says I NEED to finish writing about the fruit of the Spirit, first!  So here we go!

We finished the fruit of the Spirit with gentleness and self-control.  And now Abby can recite the verses which is awesome! (See link at the end of this post.)

Gentleness is an interesting topic to try to discuss with children.  Because we have a baby in the house, they know exactly what it means to be gentle with their bodies.  They can demonstrate a gentle touch versus a rough one, no problem!  But applying that to their hearts can be a tricky concept for young minds.  I’ve said it before, kids only understand what they understand–it’s futile to try to get them to comprehend something that’s above their mental maturity level.  That’s why I love the verse we used for gentleness–it’s perfect for Abby, my little girly girl.  1 Peter 3:3-4 says: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”  Abby loves all things jewelry and make-up.  I explained to her that while those things are fine, they shouldn’t be the only thing that make us “beautiful” and that God wants us to have a gentle and quiet spirit (something I struggle with, myself).  This means not getting angry easily, not outbursting over little things.  This is so hard to do!  And we can’t be this way all the time on our own, that’s why we need the Holy Spirit in our lives.  So to help us remember to not outburst when we’re angry, we made stress balls in the shapes of grapes, our representational fruit! (Okay, you have to use your imagination a little.)

They came out pretty cute and the kids enjoyed them for about 5 minutes.  Then Noah bit his and got a mouthful of flour which was unpleasant (but yay for natural consequences) and Abby’s has disappeared. But planting seeds, I’m just planting seeds.  I’m sure in our homeschooling adventures we’ll revisit the fruit of the Spirit and I hope they remember some of these activities which will help the meaning of the verse stick. 🙂

So, self-control.  This is probably the biggest reason I even wanted to do a unit on the fruit of the Spirit!  Like most 5 year old girls, we struggle with controlling our emotions around here.  And like most 3 year old boys, we also struggle with controlling our bodies (especially when we’re angry).  And unfortunately, this fruit sort of fell flat.  Maybe I should’ve started with it since it was one I wanted to emphasize the most, but I think because we saved it until the end, we were just a little “over” the unit.  The verse we used was 2 Timothy 1:7: “God didn’t give us a spirit that makes us weak and fearful. He gave us a spirit that gives us power and love. It helps us control ourselves.”  I love this verse because it culminates our unit, in a way.  It talks about the Spirit of God helping us to control ourselves, just like it gives us all the other attributes we learned about throughout the unit!  We talked about some of the actions we need to control about ourselves and I also thought it was a good opportunity to talk about impulse control and “wanting” so many toys/things and being envious of others.  I meant to watch the Veggie Tales movie “Madame Blueberry” and talk about how she had to learn to control her spending, but we never did.  Strawberry was our fruit for self-control and I made strawberry smoothies to go with dinner that night!  To wrap up our unit, I started making some homemade play dough which is scented like different fruits.  I’ve only made 2 so far, but we have all winter!  They’re super easy, fun, and smell great!

Here’s the recipe…

In a saucepan over medium heat, mix:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 TB salt
  • 2 TB cream of tartar
  • 2 TB vegetable oil
  • 3 oz pack of Jell-O

Once the mixture comes together, dump it out of the saucepan and knead with extra flour until it forms workable “play” dough!  So easy!  (A little messy, but fun!)

I’m glad we did this unit.  I do hope the activities will be remembered and referenced as Randy and I continue to educate our children.  Now, I think it’s time to focus on just our schoolwork without adding “extra” supplements for a little while.  It’s fun, but it’s a lot of work!  Maybe these posts gave you some ideas of things to do with your own children to help impress God’s Word on their hearts… 🙂

img_20161216_094341481Here’s Abby reciting the fruits of the Spirit:

Fruit of the Spirit video


Embracing the Eternal Season in the Midst of the Temporary One

Things have been a bit crazy around the Dattolo household for the past few weeks.  I am tired.  And Randy is tired.  Our kids are even tired, as they’ve been falling asleep almost immediately upon hitting their pillows each night (normally they’re up in their room until between 8:00-9:00).  And I’ve been putting them to bed EARLY!!!  I can’t honestly think of anything specific that we’ve done lately that would tire them out so much, other than that maybe playing outside in the cold might make one more tired than playing outside in comfortable weather?  Or perhaps the sheer tiredness of both their parents has actually worn off on them.  I think we parents affect our kids in more ways than we can ever really understand. Anyway, I’m so tired that even the 2 cups of fully caffeinated coffee I had this afternoon (brewed “richly” by my new Ninja Coffee Bar!–I promise, I’ll write some kind of “ode” to it at a later date–it’s amazing) cannot help keep me awake.  Just glancing at the piles of clean laundry waiting for me to fold is making me yawn.

Randy got a new job recently and it’s stressful on both of us.  He’s now delivering packages for UPS.  Randy and I are wired so differently when it comes to career stuff.  And because it’s hard for me to understand the sudden switch, it makes it hard for me to explain it to others.  So I won’t try just yet.  I will say that I’m very proud of him, supportive, and happy for his happiness–there’s an excitement in his face when he says that this is the first job he’s had that he pictures himself retiring from.  (Wow, when did we get so old??? haha!)  Obviously, retirement is not in our near future, so it IS saying something that he feels like he could have this job from now until retirement, and it’s the first time he’s felt this way.  Because it’s the holiday season, this means several LATE nights for us right now, and early mornings.  For the past few weeks, his average arrival time at night has been around 8:00-8:30 p.m.  Then he has to eat the supper I’ve saved for him, and rush off to his second job, which he has to keep for now.  We’re like ships passing in the night.  Except I’m not passing.  I’m standing still and he’s coming and going.  So maybe that was a poor analogy. But you know what I mean.  This sudden change in our schedules has made us both tired and struggling to figure out how our day-to-days should work.  He’s obviously out working hard, and I’m figuring out how to keep the kids entertained from breakfast through bedtime and debating whether or not I should go “all out” for supper and what we can talk  about over dinner when it’s just been them and me all day long.  It’s exhausting, to say the least.

Randy and I now relish the weekends even more than we did before.  Saturday and Sunday hit and we both feel like we need to absorb as much of each other as we possibly can to last through the long week ahead.  I guess this makes the fact that I’m a very organized planner come in handy.  I actually schedule all of our family time on the weekends–when we’ll do a certain devotional, make cookies, take a walk, have a movie night, etc.  I have to plan it out or else we just sit around feeling exhausted and bored and before we know it, it’s Monday again.  This past weekend felt particularly special because of this.  Last week was the first week Randy had EXTREMELY late nights (like, after 9:30 at night–this has become the “norm” half the time, now) so the weekend together felt so needed!  I mentioned in a previous post what my plans were for December schooling.  We’re doing a devotional from my church which has some family connections (that I happened to write–did I mention that part?) and we’re also doing an abbreviated version of Truth in the Tinsel by Amanda White.  (I really love her!)  The kids and I do the Truth in the Tinsel during the week in place of school, basically.  It’s great, though, because start-to-finish, it takes about 20 minutes of the day!  So it’s definitely a nice break from our normal couple hours of school.

15267848_10158177065380221_7654522769736880644_nSo the family devotional we did this past weekend from Hope Chapel was about Jesus’ name: Immanuel.  We read about it and talked about its meaning.  Then we were supposed to have some family “togetherness” to symbolize being with each other the way God is with us.  We called my mother in law, who lives in Connecticut, just because.  I made Ree Drummond’s amazing broccoli cheddar soup and let it simmer on the stove while we took a family walk in the cold.  And it flurried a little for us!  When we got home, the soup was ready and we had a nice, long, lunch together as a family.  Then we ALL took a nap!  It was the best day.  Not to mention that Randy and I went out that night which was a lot of fun. 🙂

img_0969Yes, this is a stressful time, which is why it’s so important for me (us) to cherish these quaint, family moments.  Whenever I’m tempted to talk about this time of life being a “season” of this or that, I’m reminded of something I recently learned in a Bible study… the author was cautioning us not to think of life in terms of different seasons because the truth is, Christians are in an eternal season of life.  And this life on earth, knowing Christ, is its own season that should impact every temporary “season” of life we will ever experience.  So even though I’m tempted to dwell on the stress of this time and give myself the excuse that it’s just temporary, or seasonal, it’s no excuse to lay down.  I can rest, as long as I rest in Him.  But I can never stop living the life that God has given me or ministering to others (ahem, my husband, children, family, and friends) with the tools which He’s equipped me.  So I’ll continue to plan our family events so we can capitalize our time together.  I’ll continue to wait up for my husband and sit with him while he eats dinner at 9:30 at night and take care of the household chores so he has one less thing to worry about.  And I’ll continue to entertain, care for, and witness to my children.  And I’ll continue making broccoli soup, which we all decided is our new favorite (actually, it was always one of Randy’s favorites, which is why I made it). 💜 So that, my friends, is what’s up with me.  I was going to write about how we talked about our next fruit of the Spirit, recently–gentleness, but I’ll save that for my next post.  How’s your December going?