12.30.2011

Have a holly jolly Christmas

Santa was way too good to the Chubby Vegan Clan this year.

I can't even begin to tell you how spoiled Pearyn was. From a new baby doll that talks and cries (thanks a lot memaw -- that's what Pearyn calls my mom) to a very real, very authentic Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, our little girl's Christmas was nothing short of amazing. My parents even got her a high chair, play pin and stroller set to use with her new talking and crying (again, thanks a lot memaw) baby doll.




















Have I mentioned how awing it is to watch my 19-month-old daughter be a mommy? It's both frightening and breathtaking what happens when human instincts take over. She finds her baby, her Elmo -- heck, any stuffed animal she can get her hands on -- then puts them night night with a pillow and blankie. Of course she doesn't forget to give them a goodnight kiss, in addition to both rocking and singing them to sleep.

I have the proudest 19-month-old mommy around.

Considering my epic shortcomings as a mother at times, it's reassuring to know she's picking up good habits from somewhere or someone (thanks, A LOT memaw).




















You just don't understand what Christmas is until you have a child to share it with. I was too enarmored with my daughter's excitement to bother opening my own gifts.

But I was blessed too -- and not just with a beautiful family to share the holiday with -- but with a husband who knows what to get his wife; exactly what she doesn't know she needs. I received an eco-friendly, cruelty-free, made from recycled tires purse, in addition to DVDs, gift cards and an absolutely gorgeous loaf pan.

You know you're an adult when you start asking for bakeware and other boring necessities. I can hardly wait to bake my first batch of lentil loaf. See? The loaf pan (er, ceramic dish) -- the gift that keeps on giving.




















My husband didn't get overlooked, however. He got plenty of football fan attire, hot sauce and the first Walking Dead Compendium (a gift I now regret because every night after work I lose him to graphic novel zombies).

See what I mean? Ridiculously blessed.

We also received an Android tablet -- as a family gift -- although I think Pearyn and I use it the most. What can I say? We ladies love our technology. We got it for a steal and I can't recommend the Acer Iconia A500 more -- especially if you're looking for a champagne tablet (iPad) on a beer budget.




















Because of the abundance and a tad on the extravagant side nature of our Christmas (not to mention Pearyn's mountain of toys overwhelming our living room), I'm looking for any and all tips you have on keeping your Christmas' in line.

How do you avoid going off the deep end -- or do you?

12.28.2011

Wholesome Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Chunkers

These cookies just barely slide into the “I don’t feel completely guilty about giving one to my daughter,” because they’re filled with fiber, protein and awesome vitamins and minerals (can we give a shout out to all this Vitamin C, K and E, not to mention iron AND some B6 and folate – holler!)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t resist adding some not-so-healthy chocolate chunks to this cookie, because oats, flour and chocolate really go so well together.

Luckily, you roll them into balls the size of a small baseball (hence the name ‘chunkers’) so you really can eat one and be done with these babies.

Wholesome Oatmeal Chocoloate Chip Chunkers
(Makes 18-24 cookies, depending on how much size matters)
Ingredients:
1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (for the texture and the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 TBS blackstrap molasses
2/3 cup coconut palm sugar (a magical substance derived from coconuts that tastes like brown sugar and not one bit like coconut. It’s still sugar, but it’s not nearly as processed)
Flaxseed "egg" (2 TBS flaxseed, 3 TBS warm water, let it sit for 10 minutes)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 TBS cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 chocolate chunks (we've been enjoying the heck out of Enjoy Life's chocolate chunks)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together all the "wet" ingredients (oil, applesauce, pumpkin, extract, "egg"). Stir in palm sugar.
Mix in dry ingredients, starting with flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and then oats. Add in chocolate chunks last.
Spoon onto greased baking sheet (slightly smaller than a baseball), squish down a little and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until bottoms start to get golden brown.

We don’t call them chunkers for nothing ya’ll!

You also might like:

Mini-Me Caramel Apple Pies

My name is Amanda and I am addicted to sweets.

Like over-the-top, can’t control myself, would shove 15 cupcakes in at one time if I could manage it, addicted.

And I’m not one bit biased when it comes to sweets – I’ll eat any and everything – from candy and cookies to cupcakes and pies, if there is an unhealthy amount of sugar and fat in it, chances are I’ll inhale it.

There’s something about the holiday season (and all the cookies, candies, hot chocolate and pies that come with it) that reminds me just how gluttonous my sweet tooth is.

So while I’ve been curbing my sweet tooth over the last few weeks (and hopefully the next gazillion months), I’ve decided that when I do splurge on something sweet, it’s going to be really, really good.

Case and point: Mini Caramel Apple Pies.

They’re so, so, so good (and I imagine just as bad, bad, bad).

Are they something you should be eating everyday? Definitely not. Luckily though, they’re high maintenance enough that you won’t want to make them everyday!

But they’re a great treat every now and then and the making them miniature-sized makes them the perfect little pie to bring to a family gathering!

Be forewarned, these are super duper sweet (and worth.every.calorie).

Mini Caramel Apple Pies
(Makes 12)
Pie Crust Ingredients:
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp salt
3 TBS sugar
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup vodka (I used a fruiffy whipped cream flavored version, don’t worry the alcohol bakes out!)
1/2 cup cold water

Filling Ingredients:
4 Large Apples (Use a combination to make a more complex flavor profile, I used 1 Granny Smith, 1 Braeburn and 2 Jonagolds), diced into small pieces
1/2 stick butter (to cooke apples in)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg (or to taste)
Splash of nondairy milk (I prefer almond)

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 TBS corn starch
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup nondairy milk (I prefer alomnd)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Crumb Topping Ingredients:
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar (yes, MORE sugar)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter (yes, MORE butter)

Directions for pie crust:
Blend “wet” ingredients, butter, sugar, vodka, water and shortening. Fold in all purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour and salt. Knead until a smooth dough. Roll up in plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Directions for apple filling:
Dice up all yoru apples and heat them up in a skillet with butter on medium-high heat. Add splash of milk and sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg on top. Cook for about 10 minutes or until apples are half-way cooked.

Directions for caramel sauce:
In a small sauce pan, bring butter and milk to a low boil on medium high heat. Stir in sugars, salt and extract. Add cornstarch and stir like a mad woman (or man). Allow mixture to bubble and boil, while stirring rapidly with a whisk (don’t let this mixture settle for too long, it’ll burn and stick to your pan). Repeat for 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens when removed from heat. (The longer you let it sit, the more it will thicken up).

Directions for crumb topping:
Pop the ingredients into a food processor and blend minimally to achieve a crumbly texture. Be forewarned, this part is a pain in the butt and is more than worth it.

Directions for mini pies (finally!):
Preheat oven to 375.
Take your dough and grab smaller than a baseball but bigger than a golf ball sized balls. Roll them out and place them in a greased muffin pan. Repeat until all 12 muffin cups are filled. (Tip: make sure some crust hangs out over the edge so the gooey caramel apple filling doesn’t burn and stick everywhere).
Stir apple filling into caramel sauce and fill muffin cups a little more than halfway.
Drop liberal amout of crumb topping on mini pies and bake in the oven on 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes (or until edges of pie crust are lightly brown).

Enjoy.every.last.calorie.

You also might like:

12.25.2011

Merry Christmas from the Chubby Vegan Clan!

Just a quick post for all my wonderful friends, family and followers!




















I hope that your days are all merry, bright and full of love. Regardless what faith we follow, what we celebrate and what food we eat, let's all agree to dedicate one day to loved ones, family and friends that become both! The Chubby Vegan Clan is blessed to have a smart, wonderful, healthy little girl, parents and in-laws that are active in our lives, brothers and sisters who love and care and particularly friends who call not only on Christmas, but all year round. We love you.

12.22.2011

When reducing my stress increases it ...

The holidays are a time for family, more cookies than any one person should eat, Silk nog, cheesy Christmas movies and love.

Oh, and did I mention stress? The holidays seem to bring out the frazzled, burning-both-ends, a little scary, stress in most of us.

While often times this stress festers during a shopping war, a mile-long traffic jam at the mall or a burnt 19th batch of cookies, every once in a while there is no real cause, there's just stress. And more stress. And anxiety. And more anxiety.

Last week we had dinner with our family friends. They have a little boy just a year older than Pearyn, so we always let the kids do a mini gift exhange (aka, us creative moms churn something out for our little one to give to each other's little one). For the little man this year I made a scarf. A bright blue, green and yellow scarf (which I'm happy to report he wears in the house, anytime he feels a drift).

That's right folks, not only do I work, keep my daughter from putting herself in harms way everyday and put dinner on the table and delicious cookies in the cookie jar, I like to knit as well. It's a hobby that comes in spurts, and I'm currently on a mission to knit the Chubby Vegan household more scarves and hats than any family of three needs. I realized something today while I was knitting, though. What is supposed to be something I do to unwind and shut my mind off a bit, results in my clenched jaw and several other parts as well.

I am incapable of relaxing.

It started sometime after graduating from college. I spent four years majoring in English (in addition to pitching for the school team, having the best friends a girl could ask for, working tedious waitress jobs and meeting the love of my life), then all the sudden I graduated and had to do something with said degree.

Somewhere along the road I decided the only way I was going to be successful as an adult is if I hung up that fun, carefree side of myself and worried my life away.

I find ways to take seemingly relaxing activities and warp them into chores of doom. I worry that my knit isn't tight enough or my rows aren't straight enough. I love yoga, except I spend so much time analyzing whether I'm in the right pose that I forget to calm down and stretch my muscles. I'm not against the occasional glass of wine here or there, but let's face it, I'm already the Chubby Vegan Mom, I don't need to be drinking any more calories.

Do you see how I just turned my stressing out about how much I stress out into worrying about gaining weight? It's seriously a talent, I know.

So while it's too early to call this a New Year's resolution (and well, let's face it, I never stick to those anyway and I really, really need to stick to this promise), I'm going to let myself off the hook more often. I don't need to be perfect at everything, heck I don't need to be perfect at anything.

I just need to be the best version of me I can be - mistakes and all, burnt cupcakes and all, neurotic tendencies and all, extra love handles and ALL.

If I can focus on being the best Amanda I can be (did you even know my name was Amanda!?) maybe I won't be worried about being everything to everyone, it'll come naturally.

So let's hear it CVM followers, what do you do to unwind during the holiday season? Better yet, what can I do to start unwinding during the holiday (and every other) season?

Have you made your Not New Year's Resolution this year?

12.19.2011

The perfect pumpkin pick me up

This week in the Chubby Vegan Household, we dove headfirst into the world of healthy cookies.

And let me assure you, my little girl is a cookie pro.

We didn't ease in to anything this week, we jumped on the healthy train and never looked back.

It is with great pleasure I post our Pumpkin protein plumps!

These cookies have a really, really earthy taste. Not recommended for the sweetest of sweet tooths, but a great little cookie to start your day off with.



Pumpkin protein plumps
(Makes 3 dozen)
Ingredients:
1 can pumpkin
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (I promise you won't know they're there!)
1/3 cup date sugar (I know it says "sugar" but it's made from dates and it's surprisingly delicious)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 TBS pumpkin pie seasoning (or to taste, my first batch with only 1 TBS was really bland)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 TBS molasses
1 cup oats
1 1/2 cups spelt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds ground up (don't skip this part, they give a nice crunchy boost)
Sesame seeds (enough to roll the cookies in)

Instructions:
Cook the lentils and then blend in a food processor with the date sugar.
Preheat the oven to 375.
In a bowl, mix pumpkin and pureed lentil/date sugar mixture. Stir in applesauce, vanilla extract pumpkin pie seasoning and oats. Add ground up pumpkin seeds.
 Next, mix in all of the spelt flour. Begin adding the all purpose flour until you reach a lumpy, stick consistency (think chocolate chip oatmeal cookies). You may not use ALL of the all purpose flour or you may need more, this depends largely on the gooeyness of your canned pumpkin and the water absorbed by your lentils. The important thing here is the consistency.
These cookies will be lumpy and sticky. If you add so much flour that they become more doughy and sugar cookie like, that is too much. We want them lumpy and sticky enough for you to form a messy ball (which you will then roll in sesame seeds to control the sticky issue).
Pour your sesame seeds (or if you're really, really crazy about pumpkin seeds you can crush more of those and sub them for sesame seeds) into a bowl and set aside.
Once you've got the batter where you need it to be, roll it into ping-pong sized balls and then roll around in the sesame seeds, coating the ball.
Smoosh them with your hands into plump discs and place them on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake on 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes (or until the bottoms become light brown).
Don't let them deceive you, they dry out really quickly if you leave them in too long. They should be firm, but still springy.

You also might like:



12.14.2011

I'm suffering from a case of 'Split Personality Tuesdays'

I realize that it's technically Wednesday when I'm typing up this blog. It's actually 1:19 a.m. to be exact, you're probably wondering what the heck I'm doing up. Heck, I'm wondering what the heck I'm doing up.

The answer? Rehashing the day's events, of course.

It's not much of a secret that I'm battling a serious case of the negative nellies this holiday season and today's prognosis seemed bleak.

But instead of spending the rest of my blog whining up a storm about what didn't go my way (or what might have actually gone my way, but I didn't feel was up to par with 'my way'), I'm going to celebrate the Split Personality that was my Tuesday. Chubbyveganmom.com is my attempt to portray my real, hot-mess-of-a-mom, chubby-vegan-lifestyle-living, slightly neurotic self. So while I'm doing my darndest to focus on the good, I'm going to have to conquer some of the bad and downright ugly along the way.

We'll start with the ugly. The really, really, really ugly - my husband's ass.

Don't mistake me. Chubby Vegan Dad actually has a really, really good ass; one of those perky bubble ones in fact. But in addition to this trait, he's got a digestive system that seriously doesn't play nice - with anything. While he tries to spin these fallacies about vegan cheese and beans being the culprit for his seriously offensive digestive track, the truth is air, water and puppy kisses would cause the same reaction. And it's such a volatile reaction, that sometimes, I get angry. I seriously get angry at my husband for passing gas, because it's clearly something he can control, right?

Yeah, bet you're starting to feel really bad for my husband now (but hopefully not too much, because I have to sleep next to his stinky butt all night).

On a positive note, Pearyn is slowly moving into her cuddly phase. (I'm starting to see how easily attached I could become to attachment parenting.) I'm reaping all of these benefits and enjoying every.last.minute.of.them. Even if it means watching an extra 20 minutes of Mickey Mouse here and there or being pushed out of the bed because my 19-month-old wants to lay horizontal in between mommy and daddy. It's totally worth it.

On a less than stellar note, I've been devoured by a spider or some other evil, evil bug. I know I'm vegan and all, but if some little bug is going to get all up in my business and eat me while I'm asleep, you better believe it better not let me catch it. Seriously, it looks like I was bitten by a vampire. Two fabulous little bites on my neck, that are all sorts of itchy, sore and bruising (because my body is a big cry baby and doesn't respond to insect bites very happily).

And even though it's winter and that encourages all those Chubby Vegan Mom-chomping bugs to make their way inside, it also means I get to drink hot chocolate, lots of it. And this isn't your run-of-the-mill cocoa powder and milk hot cocoa. This is your heat up the milk and melt some vegan chocolate into it and the top it with Healthy Top's AMAZING whipped cream. Seriously, we're talking fattening, over indulgent, crazy decadent in a mug. And it's worth every.last.calorie. Trust me.

And there's this whole missing all my friends part. I love the people I'm surrounded by at home. I love my mom friends, I love my crazy hippie veggie-baby raising friends and I adore my family, but every once and a while I find myself craving (seriously) some time with my best friends. The girls who knew me before I became a mommy, before I graduated with my super awesome English degree and before I became a wife. The one who sat in our college cafeteria coming up with ways we could get out of pitching practice (my best friend and I were college softball pitchers) and conditioning (like, say, throwing ourselves down a flight of steps or developing malaria).

The one who used to chew my ass out on the pitching mound when my head was stuck in it (yes, I'm a glutton for punishment, our other bff was our catcher).

And the one who I met when I had to meet my husband's hetero life mate; the girl who sat at the bar with me playing stupid photo match games while our boyfriends verbally expressed their love over too many beers (and the same girl who subsequently racked up a really, really high bar tab for said boyfriends).

Sometimes, I feel like I need a little old me in my life, not because I don't love every minute of my life now, but to remind me that I was once someone else.

I've got a million things in this world to be grateful and happy for. And despite all the spider bites, smelly farts and bff hankerings I have, all I have to do is look at my beautiful, smart little girl and know that I did something seriously, seriously right to have her precious little self here. I don't care how cliche that sounds, sometimes cliche is exactly what needs to be said.

12.13.2011

Yes Pearyn, there is a Santa Claus




"Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds."

Let's face it.

We might be big kids at heart, but for the most part, we're far too cynical for our own good. 26 years have made us skeptical, a skeptical society has made us bitter and our bitterness is rubbing off on our youth.

Not only do children not get to believe in Santa for long, some don't get to at all. Trust me, I'm not trying to step on any toes here, in fact, I have incredibly close family friends who will raise their child without a faith in Santa Claus.

They have their reasons for wanting to raise their child on an honest foundation, just like I have mine for believing every child should get to be a little more innocent, a little more hopeful and a little better for a little bit longer. I think children should get to be kids for as long as they can.



So when Pearyn asks for the truth, that's exactly what I'm going to give her.

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to our life its highest beauty and joy."

Because when it comes down to it, wouldn't the world be better if he did exist? Shouldn't at least the spirit and the emotions Santa Claus is supposed to evoke survive the skepticism, the reality, of our modern world?

"Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see."

Perhaps believing in Santa Claus is a fallacy, perhaps it's a betrayal to allow my daughter to believe in something I know isn't metaphysically present, but then again, is it wrong to let my daughter believe this world is a little bit better than we all thought? Is it wrong to want our children to find more in this holiday than just a big price tag mommy and daddy conquered for them?

"Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else as real and abiding."

As long I have a say so, this is precisely what my daughter and any future children will be raised to understand.

"No Santa Claus? Thank God he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, maybe 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the hearts of children."

12.07.2011

Traditions are traditions for a reason

Bah Humbug!

I'm just kidding.

Kind of.

It's not really a secret that I can be a bit of a grinch when I'm in a less than stellar mood. Unfortunately, in addition to the over-the-top merriment I feel during the month of December (who wouldn't with all those cookies, pies and tofu scramble wreathes just waiting to be baked, not to mention watching our darling little girl maneuver her way around some wrapping paper, bows and scotch tape), every now and then I'm overcome with that misery-loves-company mentality (namely, when I think about all the cleaning I have to do, not to mention the putting up and taking down of all those festive decorations).

With just under three weeks until Christmas, we've got our miniature village up and running, in addition to some Santa and snowman decals, a Minnie Mouse door hanger (complete with jingle bells), a Mickey Mouse stocking for Pearyn, a Batman one for Chubby Vegan Dad and an old-school knit one for me, Christmas Minnie and Mickey Mouse stuffed beanies (to add some pizzazz to Pearyn's room), some miscellaneous garland and an oversize, plastic snow globe that Pearyn refuses to put down.

Did you see what we left out? That's right, a Christmas tree. We STILL don't have our Christmas tree up yet.

This year we've opted to put up a fake one (complete with all the decorations my mamaw used to put on her tree), mainly because of the real, live Christmas tree fiasco we faced last year. No seriously, we didn't just have a real tree, we had one that still had it's big ole root ball intact, so we could plant it in the backyard after it served its Christmas duties.

Then we moved. We moved away from our precious first tree.

All my rambling does in fact have a point, I promise.

So this year we were bickering about when to put the tree up (and when I saw we, I mean me, because I'm the grinch of Christmas present). I was complaining about the whole shaping of the tree, not sure whether Pearyn would respect the boundaries of the tree this year and not looking forward to throwing (MORE) junk in our garage.

And then I looked at all those ornaments. I looked at all the shiny, pretty glass bulbs that ordained the same tree at my grandmother's house, and I felt sad; I felt really, really sad.

This will mark out first Christmas without my grandmother, the first year she won't be around to put far too many ornaments on her extravagant tree, burn too many candles in so many "holiday" scents they all start to blend together, but mainly, she won't be around to remind us of all the small things.

She had this way of making you appreciate the little things in life, probably because her love of things simple, from an old song she used to dance to, a gaudy ring she bought from the home shopping network or even 10 pairs of the same, exact shoe (in different colors) because they were THAT comfortable.

 She was the kind of grandmother who displayed her grandchildren's ugly macaroni art not because she felt she had to, but because she was genuinely proud of it.

 But most of all, she was proud of her Christmas tree. She was proud of the countless trinkets that lit up, rang and jingled, she took pride in the grins that appeared on her grandchildren's faces when they saw the trimmed tree. Making us happy, made her happy.

It was that simple.

Because traditions are traditions for a reason (and not to be a pain in the butt), but to help us remember.

And that is why this year, although she won't be here to celebrate with us, and even though I might have to put up 1,000 bulbs and trinkets simply to put them away in a few weeks, we will not only put up her Christmas tree, we will decorate it the way she would like it.

This year, we will make her proud.

12.04.2011

Blessed

Sometimes, I can be a bit of a negative Nelly.

While I like to sound all cool and say I'm neither a glass half empty or glass half full kind of gal (it totally depends on what's in the glass, am I right?), the truth is I'm more of a "it doesn't matter what's in the glass because it's dirty, chipped, too small, too big, too wide, the wrong shape and no matter what I'm going to dislike it" kind of gal.

I know, it's utterly infuriating and depressing, right? Trust me, it's even worse when you have to live with it, ALL the time.

It's not so much that I enjoy the bad "juju," it's just that it's so easy for me to slip into that way of thinking; you know, the kind where you see the absolute worst in everything (even cuddly kittens and puppies' wet noses). I feel all woe is me about anything and everything; from not being sure that I'm really where I should be in my life, being envious of my friends and family for their super important careers, education and lifestyles, to wishing I just had the white picket fence and 2.5 kids right this very second (or at the very least, wanting it). I'm not kidding friends, when I throw myself a pity party, I throw myself a pity party about every.last.thing.

I know, you're wondering how I'm married and have friends when I'm such a soul-dampening succubus. The good news is I can pull myself out of these types of moods, usually before wreaking too much havoc in my life  (or else I'd just have something else to complain about).

I should probably extend my forever gratitude to my incredibly loving husband, ever-understanding mother, mood-lightening father, my too-generous-for-his-own-good brother, my always-there-to-lend-an-ear aunts and cousins and my best friends for always holding my hand (or lying in bed with me and watching a marathon of Sex and the City) and reminding me that I'm not a terrible mom, I'm just human.

For the last week and a half I've been miserable and loving my own company. I've been whining to myself about not living the American dream, not having enough money, not exercising enough, not eating as good as I should be, not being a better friend, not making enough time for everyone in my life; you name it, I've found a way to make it ridiculously pessimistic.

And then something incredibly small happens, the tiniest thing and I'm reminded what an absolute (pardon my French) ass I'm being. And I slowly get myself out of my funk.

Today I found a vintage cookie press from the 1950s. It happens to be the exact same one my grandmother used every Christmas when all the women (and kids) got together and made our holiday cookies to divvy up into tins and take home (just enough to tide us over until our big Christmas party where we'd indulge in far more than any family should). I knew it was her exact one because of the copper accents on the actual press and the weird camel disc it came with. I remember being little and trying to figure out why on Earth anyone would ever need to make a camel cookie (I'm still trying to figure that out). And my husband ordered it for me, without question, because he knew I'd been holding out for a vintage cookie press and not one of the crappy plastic ones they sell nowadays. And it's not so much that "getting a gift" cheered me up, it's the memories this 60-year-old press is bringing back and the ones it's going to allow me to make with my daughter.

And boy, my daughter, I can't tell you enough how blessed I am to have her. Here I can't turn my brain off about whether and when to have a second child, when there are people out there dying to have a first that haven't. To those of you experiencing that pain, I'm sorry, and I'm embarrassed to seemingly take for granted what an amazing miracle my little girl is. She really, really is.

And we have these friends, these superb people in our lives, ones who celebrate our anniversary with us, ones who see our daughter as their own and ones who listen to the rambling texts of their college friend who isn't too sure what she's doing with her life. We are so blessed.

And what about the food? From the Christmas season's first sugar cookies to Brussels sprouts roasted in olive oil and sea salt, it's all about looking at the bigger picture. It's my daughter's eyes when she tries a new food (and loves it) and my husbands excitement when I make him his favorite vegetable ever. With sometimes above average skills in the kitchen, being able to cook my way out of a bad mood is such a wonderful outlet.

And let's not forget Christmas - the most wonderful time of the year. Nothing can bring you out of a pity party faster than remembering how fortunate you are (especially when you have a roof over your head, food in the fridge and a beautiful, healthy family). Although, the hot chocolate, lights, tree and pretty villages don't hurt the spirit either.


Not to mention my daughter's eyes when she takes it all in.

It's settled, I'm so blessed. Really blessed.

What do you feel blessed with?