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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cappuccino Peanut Butter Cookies

Oh, my friends.



This is a good one.



Get your recipe books/files/Pinterest boards ready.



For Christmas this year, my friend gave me a little jar of cappuccino peanut butter. It was tasty, unique, and she thought it'd make a perfect little gift. (Incidentally, she also gave me some apricot jam and told me she was thinking of a little PB&J theme. Melis, I hope you don't mind this use of your gift!)





It's been sitting in my cabinet since Christmas. I dipped some chocolate graham crackers in, and that was yummy, but it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with it:



Cookies.





Normally I'm your basic chocolate chip kinda gal (give me chocolate any day) but I figured one batch of peanut butter cookies wouldn't hurt.






Being a modern adult woman, I went to Pinterest to find a good peanut butter cookie, and oh man did I find one.



I found this recipe.



It's a pretty basic recipe, but I made sure I actually creamed the butter and sugars. Don't skimp on this step, I'm learning that really creaming the butter and sugars take a few minutes and it's oh-so-worth it.





 Alllllso the cappuccino peanut butter. It gives the cookies such a rich, toasty, coffee-y flavor without being overpowering. The texture of these cookies is just to die for.



Cappuccino Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup cappuccino peanut butter
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt


Cream the butter and sugars, then mix in the peanut butter until thoroughly combined. Mix in the eggs until well combined (if you use a stand-aid mixer like I do, turn it up for at least a few seconds). Add in the dry ingredients and mix well.

Bake at 325 for 12 minutes. The cookies will look just slightly underdone, but take them out and let them rest on the hot baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.


The recipe also adds that you can dip/drizzle these in melted chocolate, which I fully intended to do until I tasted one. Why mess with perfection?


Also, if you're near a Trader Joe's, I bet these would be the perfect use of cookie butter. Yum.





Sunday, April 6, 2014

On Continuing the Conversation

This weekend I had the privilege of joining about 20 women from my church on our first ever Women's Retreat. Personally, I had my reservations--aren't "women's retreats" for my mom, and are we going to hold hands and sing kumbaya? Despite my qualms, I had a lovely time. A few ladies from our church shared their stories with us, and we had some great, honest discussions surrounding their words to us.



We went to Tel-Hai Camp in Honey Brook, PA. If anyone is looking for someplace to hold a retreat, I highly recommend it. The accommodations were great (we were on the decidedly non-rustic end of the housing options) and the staff was friendly and super helpful.



Of all the great things that happened this weekend, however, one of my very favorite things occurred at the very end. Most of us were packed up and getting ready to go, and there was an impromptu conversation between myself and about five other women on the topic of feminism.



I won't hash out all the gritty details of what we discussed, but it ranged from feminism in the 60's, feminism now, feminism in the church, and why any of it matters.



It also included three women in their 20's, one mother of toddlers, one mother of teenagers, and my pastor's wife. A range of life experiences, ages, cultural backgrounds, and faith backgrounds was represented.



Nobody was put down, had their opinions dismissed, or laughed at crazy ideas (ideas that we fully admitted may be blasphemous, and that's why we felt compelled to ask and study and pray about them). We talked about how far feminism has come, what it looks like today, and what we as the new generation of young adults, professionals, and parents want the future to look like.



It was a beautiful thing, and it was deeply encouraging to me. Not just because we were talking about something that I personally feel is important, but because our thoughts and opinions were being respected, validated, and discussed in a church setting, with ladies who hold some level of authority and experience over us (I never thought I'd interrupt my pastor's wife!).



I am deeply lucky that I have found a church home where this is the norm, where this is allowed, and where this can happen freely and with love.



If you have any resources on any of these topics, please share them! I don't want the conversation to be over, and we are always eager for more to read and think about.





Wednesday, April 2, 2014

On Being Healthy

Dan and I have both been working on eating healthier and getting into better shape this year. It's easier for me because I actually like foods that are good for me.



Although I also like plenty of foods that are bad for me, so...



Anyway, one of the things I've been doing is cooking on Sunday to prep for the whole week. Sometimes I hard-boil a bunch of eggs or roast veggies. Our biggest staples so far, however, are pretty easy: muffins and granola.



I found this awesome recipe on Pinterest, and these muffins rock. They are made with oatmeal and whole wheat flour, sweetened with a small amount of brown sugar and applesauce, and just egg whites. They come together really quickly, are super tasty, and make a great snack or breakfast on the go without sabotaging an otherwise "good" day.





(I do not, however, soak the oatmeal for an hour as the recipe calls for...I just mix it up right away. No issues so far, and I've made these at least a half dozen times.)



Secondly, I make granola.



Granola is kind of a mystery to me, because it's delicious and generally good for you (as long as you don't get a super-sweetened version or totally binge on it, of course) but it's SOO expensive to buy. This is mysterious because it's so easy and inexpensive to make.





My version, which I based loosely on the delicious homemade granola from Elcy's Cafe, goes something like this:



3 cups of oatmeal (I like Trader Joe's Toasted Organic Oats)
1/3 cup of coconut oil
1/3 cup of honey
one big handful of almonds (I use blanched, sliced almonds)
one big handful of cranberries
one big handful of shredded coconut


I mix the first four ingredients together, spread them on a baking sheet, and bake at 350 for about 6 minutes. Stir it around and bake for another 6 minutes. Take it out and while it's still warm, mix in the cranberries and coconut.


Ta-daa!



That recipe lasts us about 2-3 weeks, and you can totally switch out the sweetener, fat, fruit, or nuts as you like. This is just the particular combination that is really appealing to us!



Between these two easy recipes, we have breakfast covered at least 50% of the time (I'm a big cereal eater, so that tends to be my other 50%). Both recipes are full of good-for-you, whole ingredients with minimal sweetening and healthy fats.



Also, they are extremely delicious and lead to very happy Henriches.




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Midwinter Break

Back in November, a few friends decided it would be totally awesome to take a trip to Vermont to ski and explore the winter. They thought it would be really cool to see a "real" winter with lots of snow, need to bundle up, and have some chilly adventures.



I laughed at them.



(You know I hate the cold.)



However, with some convincing and promises of awesome friends and some good beer, I consented to venture to the great white North(east).





Then we had this winter.



Which was brutally cold, with plenty of single-digit temperatures and several feet of snow total.



Nonetheless, we packed our bags full of long socks and borrowed snow gear, and drove up to Stowe, VT for a long weekend.





We rented this big beautiful house about a half hour outside of Stowe with 7 other friends (which brought us to 9 total, 4 couples and a 9th wheel). Since it was the off season and we were far enough from the ski resort, we scored a great deal and there were beds and bathrooms aplenty for nine adults who are all used to their own space.




Oh yeah, it was on a lake. Complete with ice fishing huts.







My snow angel.

The boys, of course, had to wrestle on the ice.

My snow angel/fighter won. 


We visited some awesome restaurants, drank some delicious beer, and toured Ben & Jerry's. Yum!







Ben & Jerry's was having their Winter Fest the weekend we were there, so there was lots of fun...and a cow!






Hail, hail, it's the whole gang!


On Sunday, most of the gang went to Stowe's ski resort. Dan and I, however, decided to take our lives in our hands and try snowmobiling, something that was on both of our bucket lists.





It was slightly terrifying, but super awesome.



We also cooked together, watched movies, ate popcorn, and played many rounds of Bananagrams. It was a pretty sweet weekend, largely due to the fabulous crowd. I highly recommend.



How are you holding up with the winter? Any fun midwinter trips to break the monotony?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

More Innie Love

I've written before about the strange phenomenon surrounding introverts vs. extroverts, but a Beth Woolsey over at Five Is A Lot of Kids wrote such a lovely piece about the topic that really resonated with me.



You should probably go read it.



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Day in the Life

There are so many things I love about working in an elementary school. Even though at the moment I'm aide-ing instead of teaching, it's still my absolute ideal place to work. Most days, even though it's always a wrench to get up in the morning, I'm genuinely happy to walk into school. I have amazing coworkers, and my school has a fantastic, upbeat atmosphere.


My days are usually full of energetic kids, challenging situations, lessons to be taught, shoes to be tied, and reminders and supports to be offered.



And every so often (read: every.single.day.) something unexpected happens. Something that reminds me that the title "teacher" covers so much more than instructing in arithmetic and reading.



Here are a few things that may or may not happen during the course of my day, serving students from ages 5 to 11, and working with the various staff members required to keep a school functioning:



Remind students to go the bathroom. And wash their hands. Three times a day. Every day. Every.single.day.



Jump, with cat-like reflexes, away from sneezes, coughs, and flying boogers. (Yes, they fly.)



Wash my own hands four million times a day.



Discuss the merits of bringing oxen vs. mules on your imaginary ship to your new pretend colony. Inform the students that oxen weigh more and eat more, but are stronger and good for pulling plows, but mules are more nimble and smaller. Wonder why you retained this random piece of information from Little House on the Prairie.



Receive anywhere from 2 to 20 hugs from 1st graders.



Make copies, cut things out, laminate the things, and then cut them out again...all while staying out of the office administrator's way because her to-do list is fourteen times as long as mine (or so she says).



Be offered a chocolate bar the week after Valentine's Day. Eat it anyway, because chocolate.



Switch gears from kindergarten morning meeting to third grade math (holy word problems, Batman) in the blink of an eye and frustrate countless students by needing to actually read the problem before offering solutions.



Be ignored by the lunch ladies (I will kill them with kindness, dammit).



Unclog sinks, toilets, and water fountains.



Wipe boogey noses, apply band-aids, feel foreheads, and solve most "medical" crises with either wet paper towels, hand washing, or a drink of water.



Tie four thousand shoelaces.



March down the hallway singing the ABC's and leading kindergarteners in rhyming word patterns.



Laugh, smile, and be reminded every single day that this is, without a doubt, the best job in the world and you wouldn't trade it for a million dollars.



Which is good, because you'll never make a million dollars. And you'll never care, because this is the best job ever.



Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Crafts for Kiddos

Since I'm kind of a glutton for punishment, I decided to lead a craft club for my school's after-school program. It was only 5 weeks, and I kept the crafts simple and fun. It turned out to be a total blast, and a great way to get to know a few students (16, in fact) better outside of class.



(As an aide, I get to move all around the school and thus know about half of our ~500 students by name, but I don't know many of them very well, so this was a golden opportunity.)



After scouring Pinterest, as well as getting some input from my 2nd-grade babysittee, I came up with five awesome, age appropriate crafts for 5-8 year olds.



Since we started in January, I wanted something seasonal and cute. I also wanted to make pretty much all of my crafts things that would actually functional or decorative, rather than just fun to make. This was our first shot:


Source



Then we made hang-able monograms, simply by cutting foam sheets into letters and decorating them. I failed to take pictures of that, but they were super simple and cute. My babysittee has hers hanging on the basement door of her home. Heh.



Next, we tackled exotic birds, made out of terra cotta pots. Add pom-pom heads, googly eyes, and feathers, and you've got...


My mom made something like this at a craft class when she worked at Michaels.



My little flock!


I love seeing their unique ideas and creativity!


Our last week together (one week got snowed out) we made a Valentine-y sort of craft. Add together some wax paper, tissue paper, and Modge Podge for some adorable little lovey-dovey stained "glass."


The hardest part for my kindergarten students? Cutting out those hearts. I tried to keep it simple
by folding black paper in half and having them cut out two question-mark shapes, one inside the
other. Even with very careful, slow instructions I had to help a couple of them.



Cute.







Best part? For 16 students, and four weeks of crafts, I came in just under $50. That was my prescribed budget, so I had a little help from my own craft stash (some feathers, paintbrushes, glue) and some really old supplies that my supervising teacher donated (paint, and she let us use her scissors). I was pretty pleased overall.