When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Life in Fast Motion

Sometimes lately I've had the unsettling feeling that I don't really recognize our family's life anymore. Changes have happened often over the years as the boys have grown, it's true, but some of them felt natural in their subtlety -- one way of life shifted slowly into another. This year seems to be a time of more sudden and significant adjustments.  The weekday family dinners together that we've always enjoyed are very hard to come by now, and my earlier resolve to not ever live a crazy life of the four of us constantly running here and there has all but disappeared as Noah and Will and Matt and I have each actively pursued our own passions, sending us all off in different directions.

We carved pumpkins in shifts this Hallowe'en because there was no time when the four of us would be home to do it together in the days leading up to the 31st, and I made two separate trips to the school for student-parent-teacher interviews last week, because scheduling back-to-back appointments for the boys was impossible with the other things they had going on that evening. There is so much to keep track of this year:  two schools, separate dance and swim schedules that never seem to coordinate, meetings, volunteer commitments. I'm happy because everyone seems to be thriving in this whirlwind of interesting activity, but to be honest, there have been many times in recent weeks where I've looked at Matt in the midst of all of the craziness and asked, "Is this really what it's supposed to be like to have kids Noah and Will's ages?" Life right now is tiring and often stressful, and sometimes I miss the simpler days we once knew that allowed us all to enjoy being together more often.  I feel like the boys' youths are slipping far too quickly through my fingers while we rush headlong into each day's activities.

This past weekend Matt and the boys and I decided to reclaim some much needed family time; we took advantage of a day off school Friday (a PD day) and travelled to Michigan to enjoy an overnight stay in a hotel with a waterpark.  We all looked forward to this little trip for weeks, and I could sense everyone's relaxed and happy mood as we rolled down the familiar highways.  The four of us had hours to talk and laugh together as we savoured a leisurely dinner at our favourite Frankenmuth restaurant, helped each other shop for winter clothes, and browsed the millions of shiny ornaments at the world's largest Christmas store, which had us recalling our own sentimental and funny holiday memories. The boys shared some brother bonding time as they repeatedly hurled themselves together down the giant new slide at the waterpark and rode the fast-moving current of the pool's winding river, each of them always keeping a close eye out for the other as Matt and I smiled and looked on. We joked good-naturedly with each other about who snored and talked in their sleep in the hotel room we all shared, and about the giant chicken we saw wandering the pool area.  All of the craziness of the past two months faded completely from my mind in the hours we set aside just for family.

I am really glad to have spent this time with the three boys who mean everything to me, not only for the joy it brought all of us, but also for the comforting realization it has led me to:  life has certainly shifted shape in recent months, but our hearts know that nothing important has changed at all.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cashew Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (gluten-free, vegan)

Baking cookies has been a favourite Saturday or Sunday afternoon activity for me ever since I was a teenager.  There has always been something very comforting in the measuring and mixing of ingredients and a warm, sweet smelling kitchen on a chilly afternoon, and sharing fresh homemade treats with others makes me happy.  My mixing bowls were calling me one recent weekend afternoon, and I decided to combine elements of several of my best-loved childhood cookie recipes to create something new and delicious for my family to enjoy.  These treats are made from almond flour, pure oats, cashew butter, coconut, and chocolate to satisfy all kinds of cookie monsters!

Cashew Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

2 1/2 firmly packed cups blanched almond flour
1 1/2 cups certified pure oats
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 tbsp ground chia seeds
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup natural cashew butter
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

For the chocolate topping:

2 tbsp chopped dark chocolate
2 tbsp natural cashew butter

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Combine the almond flour, oats, coconut sugar, chia seeds, baking soda, sea salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the cashew butter, melted coconut oil, almond milk, and vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well to form a crumbly dough.  Stir in the walnuts, chopped dark chocolate, and coconut.

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Press heaping tablespoons of dough between your fingers to make it stick together, and roll the dough into balls that measure approximately one and a half inches in diameter.  Place the balls in rows on the parchment paper lined baking sheets, and press them down with the palm of your hand or the bottom of a glass to make flat circles measuring about half an inch high.  Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, until they are lightly golden.  Cool the cookies completely.

To make the topping, melt the chopped dark chocolate and the cashew butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring often.  Spoon this mixture into a piping bag with a small round tip, and pipe the topping over the top of each cooled cookie in a zigzag pattern. 

These cookies combine so many favourite baking ingredients that they can't help but be totally scrumptious!  They are a perfect mix of chewy and crumbly, rich in flavour but not too sweet.  I hope the nut butter, chocolate, oatmeal, and cookie fans in your house love them, too. 

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.