Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Stockings

My goal is to have all homemade Christmas stockings for my family.  This is not a quick process.  I started to make the first stocking for Lex before Christmas in 2010.  The cabling was more difficult and time consuming than I expected and it was not completed in time for that Christmas.  The stocking was stuffed in a bag for over a year while I completed other projects.  I pulled it out again in January of this year, and three months later had a completed stocking.

This year Alayna learned how to  use a knitting loom.  While browsing Ravelry I found a pattern to make a Christmas stocking on her knitting loom.  After Thanksgiving Alayna picked out her yarn and began work on her stocking.  She learned new techniques.  She learned how to purl every other row to make a garter stitch edge that doesn't curl.  She learned how to turn a heel, which involves wrapping and turning stitches and e-wrapping backwards (for her).  All of this included following the directions in the pattern.

I love the stocking she created.  I am a proud mama.

Friday, November 30, 2012


It has been a crazy month. We moved from Texas to Wisconsin, we threw in a marathon and a baptism. Do I need to share much more to explain the crazy? I'm sure some would be interested to hear about it, so maybe we will. The kids have been amazing through this whole transition.

This post isn't about the crazy.  This is to share Alayna's drawings.

Alayna checked out a book on drawing horses from the library.  When she told me about the book I thought it would start with all those circles and ovals that you connect and then erase where they overlap. That's what all the learn to draw books I've seen do.

This book had no words just pictures of; step 1: draw this body, step 2: add eyes, nostrils, hooves and ears, step 3: add hair, step 4: finish with muscle lines for definition. 

When she showed me her first one, I thought she had traced it. No, it was all her. 

Click to Enlarge

First was the horse on the left (it was a foal in the book), then she added the one on the right (which was bigger with a short tail and mane). Oh, and these were drawn in pen because she broke the pencil sharpener trying to sharpen her pencil.

Later she found a pencil and worked on the horse with a rider.

Click to Enlarge

I know that I am the proud mama talking about this, but I am very impressed with what may be her natural talent for art.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Friday Night Lights

Before we leave Texas my children needed to experience the Friday Night Lights.  I took them to a high school football game.  Not just any game, The Wurstbowl between the two New Braunfels high schools' teams.

Our New Braunfels Unicorns
the Canyon Cougars

We wore our Unicorn blue.  Alayna worked on signs and a cheer*.  She also used her credits in class to purchase a mini #1 finger.  I was in charge of the three Ts:  Tickets, Transportation and Treats (apple slices and a roll of mints).

It was an extremely fun night.  I did a lot of explaining as the game was played.  We followed the cheerleaders' calls, we stomped, we jumped, we yelled.  Many times I would catch myself yelling, "Go, Cougars!"  After all the years I have spent as a Cougar, high school, college and as an alumnus, it is a difficult habit to break.  We were having such fun, we didn't even leave after the halftime show as planned.

My goodness, the halftime show.  Nothing like my days at the Ranch.  Both marching bands performed their competition pieces with full formation movements involving the flag teams and baton twirlers (ours were twirling 3 batons each!).  The dance teams** performed their numbers, accompanied by their band.  All lead by the drum major and at least 2 assistant drum majors.  Watch this for an example.  Not this year's, but whoa!

The Unicorn thunderstix were a big success.  The best part of the game for Alayna?  The Unicorns won 30-27.  The best part for me?  I received a number of compliments on what wonderful children I have.  Oh, and the blinged Unicorn jersey I bought.

The most anxious part of the evening was getting all three children safely back to the van.  Out of the stadium lights, it is dark and there are a lot of people and cars.  Everyone stayed close, and as we went thru the non-parking lot where vehicles were driving and parked I had Alayna wave her thunderstix to be seen, even though, as she pointed out, it doesn't glow.  We made it intact to the van and chatted about the fun we had until my heart rate had returned to normal.  By then the traffic had cleared and we went home and to bed.

* Alayna's cheer
Blue is great
Blue is bright
Let's go, Unicorns!
You know how to fight!

** The New Braunfels dance team is called The Monoceras and Mystics, complete with Majors, Lieutenants and there is even a "social officer".

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Apple Cider Doughnuts

This spring I was a tester for a gluten free recipe book, I'm even listed in the acknowledgments.  One of the items I made was struffoli which involved deep frying marble sized dough balls that are then piled up with a honey glaze drizzled over all of them.  Since I only did one test of the frying the oil was still "clean" and I stuck it in the freezer to make doughnuts some other time.

Now that we are moving it is time to clear out the freezer.  I decided, instead of throwing away this oil, I would make those doughnuts I had been planning for half the year.  I happened to purchase some apple cider and wanted a fun way to use it.  I did a Pinterest search for apple cider doughnuts and reviewed my previous gluten free doughnut pins.  Then I made a conglomerate recipe that I adapted to be gluten free.  Does that make it my own recipe?  I cooked them two ways.

Baked in my mini doughnut maker.

and fried in my defrosted oil.

Apple Cider Doughnuts
1 cup apple cider

1 cup rice flour
3/4 cups glutonous rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

6 Tbs melted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg

1/4 cup greek yogurt
1 finely diced small apple

Reduce apple cider to a syrup, roughly a 1/4 cup and let cool.  Stir together the dry ingredients.  Whisk butter sugar and egg.  Dump egg mixture, yogurt and apple in the middle of the dry ingredients and slowly bring together.  Knead the dough a bit.

Using a small cookie scoop, divide dough.  I was able to make 33 balls.  Fry for 4 minutes in 150-170° oil or bake for 5 minutes in doughnut maker.  Either one, you are trying to get a dark golden colour.

I glazed mine with a 1 cup powdered sugar/3 Tbs apple cider mix.

While both versions were very yummy, we all agreed that the fried doughnut holes were the best.

Brownie Batter Ice Cream

For months after I received my ice cream maker I attempted to make Brownie Batter Ice Cream.  I would make a batch of brownie batter from the Brownie Lady/Sacrament Brownies recipe we have.  I would make different modifications, omitting the marshmallows, baking powder, eggs, replacing the eggs, etc.  I adjusted the ratio of batter to ice cream base (baking the leftovers for brownies that were sometimes used as a mix-in for a brownie batter/brownie chunk ice cream).  All iterations resulted in yummy, chocolaty ice cream, but not THE brownie batter ice cream I was envisioning.

In March I pinned a recipe for brownie batter ice cream that simply used brownie mix -  DRY and added cocoa powder.  This was a novel concept to me, and exciting.  Except, I had moved on to other delicious ice cream creations.  I will share my Al-Mound of Ice Cream Joy recipe.  With Lex's corn intolerance I had also been on the hunt for a new brownie recipe (we have found two).  Until now.  This week I made my own version of brownie batter ice cream.  It was spot on to my imaginings and I had to stop myself from eating eat out of the ice cream maker to save for tonight.  I knew I needed to write this down before I lost my page of scribbled starting points, adjustments, ratios, etc or simply forgot what I did with all those numbers, especially the parts that weren't written down.

Brownie Batter Ice Cream

1 (14 oz) can of coconut milk (we use GoldenStar brand)
1/4 tsp salt
3 egg yolks
3 Tbs brown sugar
1 1/2 oz dark chocolate (we use bittersweet chips from Ghirardelli)
1 tsp vanilla

Dry Mix
2 1/2 Tbs rice flour
1 Tbs potato starch
1/2 Tbs tapioca starch
3 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs cocoa powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cocoa nibs

Heat coconut milk and salt in a double boiler.  Put chocolate and vanilla in a separate bowl.  In another bowl, whisk together egg yolks and brown sugar.  Temper egg mixture with heated coconut milk (150-160°) then add to the double boiler.  As mixture reaches 160°, stir for 2 minutes.  Pour thru strainer into bowl with the chocolate and vanilla.  Stir to melt chocolate and combine.  Allow mixture to cool in refrigerator overnight.

Grind cocoa nibs to powder.  Mix together all dry ingredients with whisk.  Churn ice cream mixture and dry mix in the ice cream maker.  Try not to eat it all as you transfer it to a container for the freezer.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Easter Treats

Finding gluten free candy is not difficult. And with enough experience you get pretty good at knowing what to pull from your excited children's clutches when they go trick-or-treating or to the Christmas party, or to the Easter egg hunt. After a while, the kids even get used to having the candy pulled away from them on the short trip from bag or basket to mouth. But this year we got a new curve ball that has made us change our whole approach to holiday treats.

This year we learned that Lex is allergic to corn. Without going into the gory details, we have recently become a gluten/corn free family. It does add a new level of hassle to many things, but believe me when I tell you Lex and everybody else around him is so much happier when he doesn't eat corn.

So our challenge this year was to make sure the kids got the experience we and they wanted to have without any corn syrup sweeteners. That pretty much eliminates store bought candy. I think we succeeded. On the menu for Easter treats we made:

Bunny Peeps.  Sugar, water and unflavoured gelatin.  I beat mine a little too long, so the cream was already setting before I could spoon it in the mold.  I was trying to smush the stuff in before I had a giant mixing bowl shaped marshmallow. Hence the scary looking bunnies. But Peep were always a little better kinda mashed up. We also made our own colored sugars to really lend authenticity to these imitators. Paul wanted to stick with all yellow classic colors, but I made the sugars and did the work, so we had tri-color Peeps.

You can't have Easter without peanut butter chocolate eggs, right? Since Reese's are off the menu, we made our own Chocolate Peanut-butter eggs.  We subbed peanut flour for the graham cracker crumbs, and used bittersweet chocolate (70%). They don't taste like the traditional egg. They taste better! And the kids were just happy to have something chocolaty to melt in their hands and smear across their faces.

Al-Mound Joy (because we feel like a nut, but also like the dark chocolate).  We made a macaroon recipe, topped it with an almond and coated with dark chocolate (90%). It wasn't quite Almond Joy center. We still need to get the texture right, but we are getting there. I like that ours aren't as sweet and we control the type of chocolate we use. Lately dark chocolate has been much more appetizing compared to milk chocolate.

We also made brownies in this egg mold (except ours is pink). This is supposed to be the recipe that gets Oprah excited. The brownies in the egg molds were a perfect combination of moist, fudge-y taste and texture with just a bit of crispness to the "crust". The second half of the batch, baked in a square baking dish, was less fudge-y brownie and more fudge-sludge that was broken up and frozen to find its way into Chocolate Brownie Chunk ice cream. We didn't want all those good chocolate antioxidants to go to waste.

For our Easter egg hunt, we filled the children's eggs with coins, erasers and some other little trinkets. We turned Lex loose first to find eggs on his own before letting Alayna and Cavell get started. Lex did a pretty good job for a little kid on his first hunt. Once he figured out what was going on, he ran all over the back yard looking for little plastic treasures.

As stated above, I think we met our goal and had a successful Easter for the kids. They didn't complain one bit about missing out on the cheapo hard candy they would have gotten from the community sponsored egg hunts. I guess we need to start investing in silicone molds so we can make holiday appropriate treats all year around.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Jensen Family Gluten Free Waffles

We have had a number of requests to share our waffle recipe.  Seeing that we make them every week, it surprised me that they weren't already up.  I think these are the BEST waffles, even compared to the gluten ones that I can still order and eat when we are out.

The wet ingredients
Beat together flax, water, egg yolks, milk, and pumpkin.

The dry ingredients

Add flours, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum. Mix to become a batter.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Add sugar, and beat until the whites form soft peaks. Fold into batter.

The workstation set up.
This is my system to bake the waffles.  When both ready lights are on, I spray the plates and plop an almost 1/4 cup of batter into each square.  There is a lot left in/on the measuring cup (hence the "almost 1/4 cup") so I have a plate to catch all the extra batter.  Then I fill the second (black) iron.  While they are baking I wash out the dishes.  When the first (white iron's) ready light comes on again, I move the finished waffles to the cooling rack, spray and fill, and then remove the second iron's waffles.  Stacking the cooled waffles to make room for the hot ones.  Repeating again, and again and . . .

I regularly scrape the sides of the bowl down and scrape the batter from the plate back into the bowl.  Then I give the batter a little "fold" to ensure that the heavier ingredients don't settle at the bottom.  If the children are not "helping" I am able to make a weeks worth of sandwiches in an hour, start to finish.

My favourite waffle iron
We have had this (white) waffle iron for forever, possibly a wedding gift in 1998.  Before going gluten free we never used it, but it managed to stay with us thru 3 moves.  We always thought it was easier to make french toast or pancakes.  When 18 month old Alayna needed to begin a gluten free diet, and I could not master gluten free bread, we began to make waffles for her sandwiches.

This waffle iron has been used, roughly, once a week for 7 years!  It is irreplaceable.  See, it is a true "regular" waffle iron.  Rectangular waffles with small, shallow pockets.  All irons on the market today are "Belgian" waffle irons.  Even the non-round ones have these wide, deep pockets.  While our other/newer waffle iron works, to use the same amount of batter I have to spread it around to fill out the square.  Then, it doesn't rise as well and you don't get the deep pocket anyway.

This is 8 days of sandwiches for 3 children (aka 48 waffles)
Can you see the difference in the new vs old irons' waffles?  The front row has older on the left, newer on the right.  Because I like the old iron's waffles better, when I get to the end I will make the last batch (sometimes only 1 or 2 waffles worth) on it.  That's why there is an old iron waffle on the right side.

Jensen Family Gluten Free Waffles
adapted from Eating Gluten Free

2 Tbs Ground Flax
1/2 Cup Water
3 Egg Yolks
2 Cups Milk *
2 Cups Water *
1 Cup Pumpkin Puree **

1 Cup Sorghum Flour***
1 Cup Buckwheat Flour
1 Cup Brown Rice Flour
1 Cup Tapioca Starch ****
2 Tbs Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Xanthun Gum, rounded

6 Egg Whites
1/4 Cup Sugar*****

Beat together flax, water, egg yolks, milk, and pumpkin. Add flours, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum. Mix to become a batter.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Slowly add sugar, until the whites form soft peaks. Fold into batter.

Bake on a hot waffle iron.

Keep waffles in a warm oven (with the door cracked open) until you are ready to eat. Any leftover waffles may be placed in Ziploc bags and frozen. They may then be reheated in the toaster, or made into sandwiches in the morning, to defrost in time for lunch.

* Really it's just 4 cups of liquid.  If I have leftover coconut milk I will add that, if I am at the end of the milk jug, I will just finish it.  I do try to have at least 2 cups be something other than water though.

** You can also use applesauce.  If I want to get fancy, for eating waffles not sandwich waffles, I will add pumpkin spice with the pumpkin: 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground clove or allspice.

*** Our supplier of Sorghum flour stopped stocking it, we now use white rice flour, but preferred the sorghum.

**** You can substitute another starch, perhaps potato or corn.

***** When we are doing the "fancy" waffles, we will sometimes use brown sugar in place of the regular and then add 1 tsp of vanilla extract.

And those 3 extra egg yolks?  With a can of coconut milk and a 1/3 cup of sugar I make an ice cream base.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I'm sure there should be a Christmas post here, somewhere.  But, we aren't the best at blogging, especially during the busy holiday season.

I did want  to share my latest game with Lex.  When Alayna was little my mom made a simple matching game with coloured squares of felt.  I don't know why I wait so long to start playing this game with my kids.  Each one has LOVED matching the colours.

It took me matching a couple of  squares before Lex caught on to the idea.  Then he became a master - without teasing me by matching the wrong colours.  Bonus, he tries to repeat the colour name after I say it.

After each match he would say, "Yeah, I did it!" while raising his arms.  When all the pieces were matched he came at me for a big hug with more cheering and then sat down to play it again.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Our Newest Cook

This is mostly a post for my mom.

Lex has learned how to move the chairs around in the kitchen to reach whatever he wants to reach.

This has increased his interest in our cooking.  He no longer screams at us while we are cooking.  Instead he pulls up a chair to help.  I decided it was time to let him help make waffles.

Since he doesn't have his own, out came Alayna's apron and chef hat that Grandma Onines made for her a couple years ago.  The hat did not stay on long after pictures were taken.

He was extremely cute and excited!  I couldn't decide on just one of the pictures to share, so here they all are. 
His job for his first time helping was to turn the mixer on and off.  I figured since he always plays with it when it was put away, he would do well.  And he did.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Am A Marathoner!

I ran 26.2 miles!  It took me five hours and four minutes.  That is the gist of this post.  If you want to read about my experience in more (possibly boring) detail, feel free to continue.

I have been training for the Chosen: Marathon for Adoption for 16 weeks.  The closer the race was the more I thought about it.  The final week, it was ALL I could think about.  I don't remember anything that I talked to anyone about during the last week, unless it was about my race.  I was excited.  I was giddy.  I was a touch nervous, but knew I could do it.  I started shaking with anticipation Friday night, and don't think I stopped until the race began!

Checking the weather beforehand, I knew it was going to be a perfect running day.  40° for the start, 50° by the half and 60° for my finish.  To make race morning easier, I tagged along with the YMCA's running group, who were meeting at a gal's home only a short walk from the start.  Perfectly warmed up from the walk, I started the race without my warming garbage bags, but with my gloves and sleeves made from thigh-high socks with the foot cut off.  While we missed the pre-race revelries, I was part of the pack for the start and crossed the start line 3 minutes after the starting gun went off.

I ran the first half of my race with some friends from church, Jessica (who was pregnant, running her first half!), and Brooke joined us for the first mile before work.  At the first mile, Brooke said that we had just run a 7 something mile!  That didn't sound right, but my watch said the same thing.  Coming up to mile 2 I noticed my watch still said only 7 and some.  What?!?!  Yes, I realized that I hadn't started my stopwatch, I had switched back to the time.  The stopwatch and the interval timer were started at mile 2.

There's not much to say about the first 6.5 miles.  It was a pleasant run with a friend.  We chatted, noticed those that were on similar intervals or paces around us, and just plain enjoyed ourselves.  The only important thing to note was, by the third water stop, I had already confused myself with my fueling plan vs. water stations vs. walking intervals.  It sounds silly.  I had been training with water, an Endurolyte (Hammer electrolyte pill) and amino pills every 2 miles and Huckleberry Gel every 4th.  Suddenly, I couldn't recall if the water stop at 3.5 miles was my "4" or the next one.  Adding to my confusion, I had only run 3:1 intervals (run three minutes, walk one minute ala Jeff Galloway), twice.  I liked doing them that way, and enjoyed the company, so choose to use them with Jessica for the race.  Except, intervals don't magically line up with the mile markers or the water stops.  Hence my fueling confusion.

At 6.5 miles Jessica (and about everyone else, 1041 runners) turned around to finish the Half, and I continued with the few (143 runners) running the full marathon course.  I talked with a gal, and then let her continue without me as I thought I would try to continue the intervals.  After another estimated interval, around mile 7.5, I fell into step with a pair that stopped running after some beeping.  When I discovered they were doing 3:1 intervals, I asked if I could join them and now had conversation, motivation, and a beeping timer for my run.

Another enjoyable 6.5 miles went by.  It was fun chatting with Christine and Reynaldo.  Our little group would regularly pass and be passed by two other groups of gals, and it was nice to chat with everyone we saw and cheer on the runners already on their way back.  In no time at all, we were at the turnaround/half-way point.  At mile 14 I noticed that my lower back was getting sore.  I had warned my new running mates that mile 16 was always a rough one in my training runs, but as we went thru it my legs were feeling alright.  I think the gloves and sleeves finally came off around this time, too.

By mile 18, my back was hurting enough that it was rough to start up on the run intervals, and when the beep for the walk intervals occurred I kept stopping to try and stretch it.  Christine and Rey gave me so much encouragement and talked me thru.  Somewhere in there I thought I was getting a second wind, which didn't last.  I was starting to lag behind on the run intervals, but was able to catch up during the walks.

Around mile 22 Christine realized that if we could continue at this pace, we could achieve a 4:50 marathon, my "everything went perfect" goal.  Except, this was also where we met "The Hill".  For the first time, I was walking on the run interval, but my new partners slowed down their walks and gave me a lot of encouragement, and I caught up.  I was able to stay "with" them for another mile before they pulled too far ahead on a run interval for me to keep up.  I walked a lot of mile 23.  While I tried to keep myself "running" a little more for mile 24, I kept stopping (and sitting) to try and stretch my back and legs.  At the final water station at mile 25 I told myself it was my last sit down and I would run most of my final mile.

Then I saw the mile 26 marker, the turn to the main road. I could hear the cheers of the crowd at the finish.  I saw the huge boards with messages of love and pictures of the children who's adoptions had been achieved because of this race last year.  After the boards I saw my family cheering for me.

I became extremely emotional, an odd mix of ready to cry and a new burst of energy to finish strong.
And I did, finishing with a smile (which was noted by the emcee).  My new running friends were there to cheer me in, as well as another friend who had finished her first Half 2 1/2 hours before.  Amazingly, after running twice as far, I felt better after this race than I did after my half last year.

This is my finisher's "medal" made by the orphans in Haiti who will be receiving aid out of the entry fees.  100% of the entry fees goes to specific adoptions (if the runner was part of that adoption's team) or will be used for 3 different orphanages around the world.