Sharing recipes, crafts and frugal living, the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. Yoga Instructor said goodbye to her nightly glass of Chardonnay to give up habits that were not serving her purpose in life! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.

9/18/2018

A Birthday Gift that is inexpensive, easy to make and perfect for anyone? Check this out!



Recently we celebrated my wife's birthday and I wanted to make her a little something, maybe a sweet treat or something that she could enjoy for a while after the birthday festivities ended.

Randomly, I came up with this brilliant idea after a trip to Costco while I was putting boxes in our recycling bin. What could I do with cardboard? Then it hit me! My wife was turning 40 in a few days, why not cut out a big four and zero and attach her favorite chocolate mini candies to it?

Thankfully the Halloween candy packs are out his time of year so finding the candy was really easy. And I already have a stash of hot glue sticks in a drawer ready for the next craft project. I freehanded the numbers and then cut them out with sharp scissors. I added a small dot of hot glue to each candy and then pressed it to the cardboard, it was a breeze and would be easy for kids to do under adult supervision. The whole project took less than an hour and has provided much enjoyment for the recipient (my wife) and her co-workers. 

The next time you need a quick birthday gift, run to your recycling bin and craft up this awesome gift! It would be great for all ages.

8/22/2018

Family Game Night!


One thing our family really enjoys is playing games together. We've done a family game night since they were little; learning valuable lessons like turn-taking or how to count money by playing Monopoly or learning to deal with disappointment as one child would end up in a puddle tears when he had to slide down the big slide while everyone else was at the top in Shoots and Ladders and then seeing how he could make a come back and win the game. Not only has game night been a tradition in our family but it's also a way for us to connect, to talk, to laugh and to simply enjoy being present together. 
  
As they get older the games have become more complicated and LONG! I don't understand some of the games we play (Dungeons and Dragons!) and basically just go along for the ride. But this game, Rock Paper Wizard that we recently bought for L's birthday is awesome! 
It’s great fun for a family of 4 or more or for a large group of friends, ages 10+.

"Choose your wizard’s spell and cast some magic by repeating one of the hand gestures found on the cards in front of you. Everyone says 'Rock, Paper, Wizard' aloud, and upon saying 'Wizard', forms a hand gesture and points it towards a target/person. Each card describes the spell’s effect, which can push an opponent towards the exit, advance yourself towards the hoard, or manipulate the coins each wizard must collect to win."

I love that it's fast paced, easy to understand and that there are no dice involved. :)
What games is your family enjoying right now?

8/14/2018

"Last Call for Alcohol!"- Celebrating 6 years sober.



Today I am celebrating 6 years sober! 

Each year that passes seems surreal, as though it's someone else's life. Six years ago I posted a "last call for alcohol” on Facebook with a picture of all the bottles from our stash lined up on the kitchen counter. I went to bed and had left them there overnight. Fifteen hours went by with only a few friends responding with their desires and requests. I could not tolerate the bottles on the kitchen counter. Hidden in the cabinet out of eyesight was fine, but lined up on the counter and the first thing that I saw as I came into the kitchen, made myself breakfast and prepared my coffee. It was too much. It felt too tempting at 8am, I was newly sober. I felt raw, like an open wound that the doctor tells you will heal quicker if you keep it airing out and exposed but all you really want to do is cover it up with bandages and far away from anything that might hurt it. I began pouring the alcohol one bottle at a time down the kitchen sink.

The first bottle I reached for was a small bottle of Jack Daniels. I couldn’t remember where this came from or how it came into our possession, it's not something that my wife or I would normally drink. Who did we buy this for? Did someone leave this at our house from a dinner party? The strong whiskey scent took me back in time to memories of underage drinking with Billy* in his giant yellow Buick. Billy was eighteen years old and had a drinking problem but he was a good time to be around when he was trashed because he’d let me drive his car. I was fourteen years old, far from getting a license of my own and yet I was his designated driver. At this age, I hung out with older kids and perfected the art of acting more mature for my age so that they would let me still hang out with them. For me, driving was more thrilling than drinking alcohol.

The next bottle was a plastic liter of well tequila. Images of Mad Mex flooded my mind; a restaurant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylanvia. My college friends and I would frequent this local joint because at 10pm the food and alcohol were half off. Not only did their food taste incredible to a bunch of college-aged kids who were living off of ramen noodles but the margaritas, especially the largest size named “Big Azz”, was really why we were there. Every 100-pound girl could get pretty tipsy off of a half-priced Big Azz, and in college, this seemed like a pretty important task.

Then I went right for the jugular vein, Seagrams Seven Crown. I twisted off the cap and this was my moment of wavering. I didn’t actually want to drink it because I convinced myself that anyone who drinks first thing in the morning; unless it’s a holiday, brunch or celebration involving mimosas, a person who drinks before the evening clearly has a drinking problem…an alcoholic. And I was not ever going to be “one of those people”. It didn’t matter that some nights I would consume two bottles of wine, the equivalent amount consumed as the person who started drinking at 9am, only I did it in a record-breaking three hours. None of that ever mattered to me, what mattered was that I drank when I deemed drinking was appropriate, which was in the evening. Keep in mind that at this point, with 24 hours of being sober under my belt, I was not yet admitting to myself or anyone else that I was an actual alcoholic. I only thought of my drinking as "being out of control". Of course, I realize now how ridiculous this train of thought was and with six years of sobriety, I confidently say that I am an alcoholic, in recovery.

A 7 and 7, had always been my go-to cocktail. And my moment of wavering was actually mourning that I’d never taste it in my mouth again. It goes down smooth; you can drink it fast or slow. The bubbles are nice and yet you don’t have that filmy feeling on your teeth from drinking rum and cokes all night. So many memories are associated with this one cocktail. I can recall the conversation with the bartender at the beachfront bar in the Bahamas in 1999. Him teasing me about not liking pineapple juice and over dramatically saying how disappointed he was that I wasn’t willing to try his latest drink invention. As he went on and on about the cocktail, my attention was elsewhere. The waves were crashing into the sailboat we had rented and I sat there sipping my 7 and 7, watching the gorgeous man I arrived in the Bahamas with wipe the salt water from his body. I remember thinking; let me drink a few of these so I will have the courage to tell him how in love with him I am.

The alcohol is slowing coming out of the liter bottle and swirling into my kitchen sink, and I tear up at a memory of being with my wife Lauren before we were married when we were simply friends who were both going through a very rough patch in our lives. We were at a dance club and I stood by the bar watching her on the dance floor with another woman and I felt so sad for myself. At the time I wasn't interested in being with her romantically, I was in the process of finding the courage to tell my husband that I wanted a divorce. I was in awe of her courage of being a lesbian, for being "out of the closet" and proud of who she is. I stood surrounded by people and yet I felt so alone, this was a constant feeling in all aspects of my life. I stared at all the women on the dance floor, dancing happily with each other in celebration as I idling spun my wedding band around my finger. I ordered another 7 and 7 so that I could numb the pain and loneliness that I was feeling and so I could continue to pretend that I was the happy-go-lucky girl, a facade that I used a lot and had become dependent on in my first marriage. 

People use alcohol for many things; typically it is to let go of their inhibitions. To dance on the bar, show their boobs at Mardi Gras or sing a song at the karaoke bar. Some people feel as though they are more fun after a couple of drinks or are able to talk to anyone, letting go of their inhibitions of public speaking or being at a party where they don't know anyone. I like to call it: liquid courage. I’ve never needed alcohol for that. I’ve always been daring, I’m a push-the-envelope type of person. I’ll hog the microphone at any karaoke bar if you let me without a drop of alcohol in my bloodstream. Alcohol served a different purpose for me, it allowed me to remain numb. To numb everything I was feeling so that I didn't have to face my own demons. I wouldn't have to feel my own unhappiness.

For years I used drugs and alcohol as an escape from my life, to pretend that I was happy. I used alcohol to cover up my vulnerability. Like a costume, I would put on the facade of happiness and that I had my life all put together. But inside I was falling apart and feeling very confused. I never hit a rock bottom that resembled something you'd see on a television movie. I didn't lose everything and end up on the streets homeless like some people do. But at the same time, I lost myself. Alcohol allowed me to numb my feelings and stop living for me.

Yoga and meditation forced me to look within and was a powerful tool in my recovery. In the eight limbs of yoga, (the fifth one) Pratyahara is about withdrawing from the outside stimuli and directing our attention inward. Taking the time to observe our cravings and habits that are not good for us. When you are in this place of healing and vulnerability, when you get rid of the distractions of life and tune into your true spirit, lots of emotions will surface. Present struggles along with the past baggage that you've been carrying around with you from place to place. Becoming sober has taught me how to accept who I am. Every morning I wake up and say to myself, "Today I am going to be the best version of myself. I'm not going to pretend that I am someone that I am not."

8/09/2018

Old School Paper Planner- Unplug to tune in.

Paper planner with the view of the bay

As an entrepreneur and small business owner, it’s hard to unplug. Especially when you are the person that does it all for your small business to keep it running; marketing, creating the schedule, development of classes being offered, customer service inquiries etc etc. I know that I need to be tapped into my community and commenting and liking posts in order for the computer algorithm to put my posts in front of my customers. But like all things, there is a balance. And I find myself creating similar “rules” for myself like I did when I realized that I needed to stop drinking. Limiting my time on social media and putting parameters on myself in order to not get sucked into the void of scrolling.

I struggle with the Facebook and Instagram temptations every time I pick up my iPhone. EVERY SINGLE TIME! I find myself getting on my phone to check my calendar and then twenty minutes later I am sucked into scrolling through beautiful pictures on Instagram. I laugh with my friends and will say “it’s a problem” but honestly.....it is wasting so much of my time.
I admit that, step one.

So I posted on Facebook :) to see if anyone else out there uses a paper planner. Like old school, a pen to paper monthly and weekly calendar planner and I was surprised by how many of my friends, yoga students, and family members have felt the same way that I do and have gone back in time to using a paper planner. Sixty-five comments later and I was feeling inspired plus I now know about all the great choices of products to choose, research and learn more about.

During my recent move as I packed up boxes and unpacked those boxes that you move from place to place that hold “memories”,  I came across the paper day planner that I had the year that my ex and I separated. The year I went back to fundraising for a nonprofit and also the year I started teaching yoga to earn additional money. It was fascinating to see before me all the things I did that year and how I conquered quite possibly one of the hardest years of my life. Of course, at any time I can go back to look at a previous year on my google calendar but as a friend pointed out, on my facebook post, google calendars feel cold and sterile. There is something magical about handwriting, even the crossed out and messiness of what the calendar becomes.

I decided on The Happy Planner by Me and My Big Ideas. I like the flexibility that I can add additional pages and notes to it and/or move things around. I also really like the structure of it, on the weekly calendar views there are three areas to write in so that I can categorize my goals and to-dos based on what aspect of my life that they fit into. I am still getting used to it and getting over the overwhelming feeling of creating a perfect, beautiful planner like the pictures I see on Instagram but like my planner, I am a work in progress.

7/11/2018

When I was married to a man no one ever asked me that!


It’s no secret...I use to be married to a man.
And now I am married to a woman. 
Stay tuned for my book (coming out 2019) where I talk all about this transition but for now here are my observations about the differences going from a heterosexual relationship to a gay relationship.

When I was married to a man:
-no one ever came to our house and immediately assumed we were siblings before thinking we were married.
-when hearing that we were married the next question asked was never, “legally married?”
-when someone else was introducing us, that person never referred to my spouse as my “partner”.
-no one ever asked us if our children were biologically ours.
-strangers and associates never asked how we got pregnant.
-no one ever asked if our parents and family were ok with our relationship.
-when we got married, people didn’t stop talking to me because they “disagreed with my lifestyle."


The questions and comments that have been asked or said to me after learning that I am married to a woman reminds me of the days in Sunday school in the Presbyterian church in which I grew up, every year we would start with learning the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt. 7:12). And so I wonder if we all took that approach would the world in which we live be a more compassionate place to exist? Ask yourself would you like it if someone inquired about the intimate nature of how your child was conceived? Would you be okay with someone questioning the legality of your marriage?

I know it's natural to be inquisitive about things that may seem different than you, but if you don't know people very well, maybe ask yourself how your question might be received before you speak and if you would want the person you are speaking with to ask about your infertility or if you used donor sperm. Also, try paying attention to body and spoken language. Gay couples often overcompensate with language and are forthright from the beginning about their relationship status verbally, take your cue from that and use their language. I always immediately say "this is my wife, Lauren" when introducing her, for example. Oftentimes gay couples also make it very clear in subtle ways that we are in fact a couple, and it’s typically the same ways heterosexual couples do. Leaning in towards the person, using “we” language, etc.

I do believe that when we know better, we do better. It starts with very small changes that are easy to make. My marriages have been very different because of the people involved but both have had many similarities as well. Because in the end....it’s a marriage between two people and the gender of those people doesn’t really matter. Love is love and all marriages are equal. 

7/04/2018

DIY Crate Bookshelf


I received many requests wanting to know more about the bookshelf in the picture that I shared on an Instagram post of my office area in the new house. I’ve recreated this bookshelf many times over in many different houses in which we have lived. It's a collection of many things, most are actual crates but there is also an old wooden drawer in there as well. It took a while to gather all these things which meant that it started out small. 
And in 2010 I used the wooden drawer as a side table

Right now I feel it's exactly the size that it needs to be, it doesn't need to get any bigger, for the space that it's in. You could create your own crate bookshelf by purchasing crates at a craft store and painting them or staining them. I personally wanted crates that were painted or stained in various shades and of various sizes so I allowed myself the patience in creating what the end result would look like. It also gave me something to always search for at yard sales and antique stores over the years. As it grew and a new crate was added I was able to recreate the shape by putting it together like a puzzle. 

In the mix is, as I mentioned, an old wooden drawer, several authentic milk crates, a vintage Pepsi crate that I found at an antique store, a wine crate from the first time I ordered wine through the mail many, many years ago. The books on the shelves are all mine and ones in which I gravitate to picking up and rereading. In terms of decor because this is in my home office I've chosen items that speak to me personally. A vintage Nikon camera that use to be my father's and when he gave it to me it sparked my love of photography, a wooden dancer figurine which was a gift from a college dance teacher, a glass canister marked "Joy Jar" where anyone is welcome to put their joy on a piece of paper and drop it in, a block with a Buddha quote: "What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create." And a picture from our amazing vacation in South Dakota where we got to go to the top of Crazy Horse! Sitting atop it all is a beautiful stained glass that my mom made for me when I was in college.

I encourage you to find patience in the creating of your home. Allow it to be a reflection of who you are rather than perfectly matched and color coordinated. You aren't living in a showroom, this is your home. Allow it to look like you!

7/03/2018

Before & After Pictures of the Old House

We recently moved from a townhouse to a single-family home in a nearby neighborhood, click on this link to read that post. We put a lot of work into the old house and it deserves its time in the spotlight. The before pictures are from the actual listing when it was for sale and the after pictures are from when we almost moved out, I had already started packing up things and then remembered to do this so it's not truly how we lived on a day to day basis but it gives you a general idea of our decor and color choices.

Before:

After: updated storm door and front and back doors. 


















Before: Front hallway, orange shag carpeting was everywhere! Including closets!
the door directly ahead goes to the basement.


After: Added custom Closet America closet organizing system. Hardwood floors were under all that shag carpeting that my wife and I ripped up ourselves and refinished the floors.


We took down the door that led to the basement.


Before: The kitchen. The oven door couldn't even open all the way because of where it was placed.




After: The layout of the kitchen was an eat-in kitchen and dining room combo. But we found this to be too small for the number of people that we like to host for dinner parties so we decided to put the dining room table in what would normally be the living room and had the eat-in area where the kids' desks were. I was then able to cook dinner and help with homework at the same time. 




The countertops were our favorite feature, quartz with glitter!


Before: Livingroom.






After: Living room area which we used as a dining room.








Before: Each bedroom had wallpaper borders that my mother painstakingly removed for us while we ripped up more orange shag carpeting.


After:


Before: 4th bedroom


After: 4th bedroom. After the disruption of our adoption, we turned the 4th bedroom which was M's bedroom into the living room. We needed this room to have a different purpose. So the TV and sofa lived in this room for family movie nights.


Before: Basement




After:
I forgot to take a picture of the basement before we left. But many of you know that I use to teach yoga classes in our basement. We installed dense foam flooring, new ceiling tiles and LED lighting.
Here are some photos from that time and then after I opened the yoga studio in Roosevelt Center, which is where it is currently, the basement became a kid hangout area.






After the yoga studio moved: Kid craziness!


I truly hope the next family enjoys their time there and fills the walls with laughter and fun!

Moving On: Leaving Behind the Sadness


We recently moved. Ironically we weren't intending on moving but some folks put a flyer in our mailbox and the mailboxes of our neighbors advertising that they would like to purchase the style townhouse that we owned, which there are a limited number of in the community. My wife and I thought it over for a weekend and then said: "why not let them just see the house and then see what happens." And so we did.

The couple came and saw our house on Friday, April 20th and put an offer in of our asking price to purchase it the following Monday. Ten days later we put an offer on a house in a nearby neighborhood. A neighborhood that we didn't really know that well but it had a lot of things we were looking for; single-family house, close to shopping and restaurants, only 15 minutes for me to commute to my yoga studio, 15 minutes to water for kayaking, on a bike trail and had a big backyard with the option for gardening. We moved into our new house on June 10th.

It's been a whirlwind of a time, to say the least. But we are finally settled into the new house and enjoying all the things that it has to offer. Most importantly the fresh start to create new memories. Our old house held a lot of sadness for us. Don't get me wrong we had some wonderful times in the four years that we lived there and made friendships with some great neighbors but there have been some major blows to our family. We waded through the sadness of a miscarriage in that house and then the disruption of our adoption of a boy from foster care. Those walls held that pain and every time we entered we were reminded of the reason why we purchased that house in the first place, the intention to expand our family. It felt like a constant disappointment and we needed a change.

I believe that God puts people in our lives for a reason. The family that arrived on our doorstep wanting to buy our house was a gift from the Universe that we didn't know that we needed. Each step in the process of selling our old house and buying the new house has been flawless, there have been no hiccups. A sure sign that this was meant to be our new journey.

Stay tuned for a Before and After picture post of the old house, we did a lot of work in creating that home, I truly hope the next family enjoys their time there and fills the walls with laughter and fun!

4/17/2018

What does Clean Eating for a Family really look like?


I often get asked this question by people who are interested in health coaching but have resistance to it because they’ve done diets before where they felt like they were starving all of the time or they have been burned by people promising to teach them how to eat healthy and then discover that they are required to purchase shakes and bars from that person resulting in a bill that cost hundreds of dollars each month.

When I work with clients in my health coaching business I meet them where they are in their life. I listen and we create goals that challenge them but are attainable and don’t cost a fortune.

I don’t believe in radical shifts to your diet. They just aren’t maintainable. The reality is that you have a family and you work and you don’t have time to do all the things that the radical shift instructs you to do! Instead, I like to encourage small changes. Creating new habits that will become not just a diet but a lifestyle. That isn’t to say that major changes in your diet don’t have a place, there are a time and a place for them. For example when you are trying to figure out what foods are causing you bowel discomfort, allergic reactions or skin problems. I will also happily offer suggestions for supplements and shakes that clients can use, but you aren’t required to purchase them from me. I tell you about products that I have used personally and where I tend to purchase them (hello Costco!).

My health coaching clients learn to create new habits that are maintainable for their lifestyle whether they are overworked, have a long commute or have kids who are picky eaters. Here is an example of what my family dinners look like this week. We have two parents and two kids, the kids each get a say in what will be for dinner. You’ll notice that not everything in the picture is organic and you’ll also notice that one night this week we are having hotdogs! A gasp! Right? Hotdogs is what one of my kids chose for dinner this week so we go with gluten-free turkey franks without nitrates served with a side salad and vegetarian baked beans. This is a perfect example of what clean eating can look like, you can still eat what your family wants. You don’t have to make a total radical shift but instead making small shifts towards healthier choices. Let’s talk about what health coaching would look like for you! Send me an email - Gretchen (at) BeeYogaFusion.com

Here is what's for dinner at my house this week that I am making out of the items pictured.
Total cost $67.17!
Hotdogs, vegetarian baked beans, side salad.
Ground chicken taco, nacho chip salads with cheese and salsa (not shown).
Tofu veggie stirfry with cauliflower rice (not shown).
Copycat P.F. Changs chicken lettuce wraps 
Leftover Night- salad bowls with a fruit salad.

3/21/2018

Afternoon Pick-Me-Up Smoothie

When the 2 o'clock afternoon slump hits most people think that their body is craving caffeine. And that actually should be the farthest thing from your mind. Caffeine can certainly give our bodies and mind a jolt, which we often times confuse for feeling satisfied, but in reality, our body is needing more "fuel" to get through the afternoon. Caffeine won't sustain us till the work is over. That fuel should be a high protein, high fat snack. When my schedule is packed and I go right into teaching evening classes without stopping for dinner, my go-to afternoon snack is a smoothie. If you work in an office purchasing a Ninja blender, to keep at the office, is totally worth every penny. Check with a co-worker and see if they might be interested in splitting the cost with you and then you can both make healthier decisions together and hold each other accountable! Win-Win!

The recipe below I drink on its own with nothing else but it could certainly be a breakfast replacement as well. It will keep you feeling satisfied even if you go to yoga after work or workout before going home to eat dinner. 
(Please note: I do not get anything in exchange for promoting these products, I just personally like them. But if any of these companies would like to send me samples to pass out to my health coaching clients please email me!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 small apple with skin on, sliced
  • 1/2 cup berries
  • 2 Tablespoons Flax Chia Blend, Carrington Farms
  • 1 scoop Green Superfood, Amazing Grass
  • 1 teaspoon Macca Powder, Navitas
  • 1 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Creamy Almond Butter
   

3/18/2018

Kale and Pumpkin Frittata - Great for Paleo and Gluten Free Diets!



I love to cook things that use just one pan on the stove and this recipe, if followed, will allow you to do just that. My one pan staple is a deep 6 quart saute pan with a lid, like this one. This recipe is high in protein and has no grains which allows it to be gluten-free and perfectly in line with Paleo diet followers. Serves 6 when using a 9x13 pan.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 dozen large eggs
  • 5-ounce package of baby kale, destemmed.
  • 1/2 of a lemon, juice only
  • 1 small onion
  • 8 ounces Baby Bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat convection oven to 350 degrees, I use a convection oven for most of my cooking. It speeds up the cooking time and the heat is distributed evenly. If you are using a traditional conventional oven double the cooking time and watch closely.

Spray a 9x13 glass pan with cooking oil.
  1. Destem baby kale leaves and rinse thoroughly, place in a bowl and squeeze the juice of half of a lemon over the leaves and stir by hand. Set aside.
  2. Cook ground turkey in saute pan uncovered and stir occasionally.
  3. While ground turkey is cooking, chop onion and mushrooms.
  4. When the turkey is half cooked with still some visible red, add the onion and mushrooms and cover the pan with a lid. Stir occasionally.
  5. Once cooked, remove from heat and add the kale, stirring constantly until the leaves are only slightly wilted.
  6. Add coriander and thyme and stir.
  7. Pour turkey mixture into the 9x13 cooking pan.
  8. In the same bowl that the baby kale was in, whisk 1 dozen eggs until fully blended.
  9. Pour eggs over the ground turkey mixture in the cooking pan. Shake the pan from side to side to distribute the eggs, don't stir!
  10. With a spoon place dollops of pumpkin over the egg and turkey mixture, as shown.
  11. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, I prefer sea salt.
  12. Sprinkle crumbled feta evenly over the top.
Bake for 30 minutes in a convection oven, uncovered. And then bake for additional 10 minutes with the pan covered with foil. Test the center with a knife to be sure that it is cooked thoroughly. 
Enjoy!



3/14/2018

My First Pie & Happy Pi Day!



I am in LOVE with this cookbook, First Prize Pies by Allison Kave. It might come as a surprise to you knowing that I am a health coach and here I am blogging about eating sugar-laden pies. I firmly believe in moderation, I don't think it's possible for most people to completely eliminate sugary sweet desserts forever. I believe that we have to find a balance for ourselves to live and be happy. (In a previous post, I explained my Social Pie Experiment.I've decided that 2018 will be the year of making pies and what better day to post a recipe for a pie than on Pi day! 

For my very first pie I made one of the recipes from First Prize Pies cookbook. I chose this one for my wife, both for her love of caramel and Samantha Bee. The pie tasted fantastic, extremely rich in flavor and relatively easy to make except that I will note that making this pie is time consuming. Not labor intensive but waiting for things to set in order to finish the recipe takes patience. I hope you enjoy!

Samantha Bee's Salty Caramel Pie: First Prize Pies by Allison Kave

Pretzel Crust
8 ounces pretzels (pick your favorite kind)
6 to 8 tablespoons (85 to 115 g) unsalted butter, melted (pretzels can be very dry, so you may need more)

Filling
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) brown butter (I used regular butter)
2 tablespoons mascarpone (I couldn't find mascarpone so I used 2 tablespoons of full fat cream cheese and a splash of heavy cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Topping
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips

Make the crust: Grind the pretzels in a food processor until finely ground or seal them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Pour in the butter and mix (hands are best for this) until the texture is that of wet sand. You may need more or less butter, depending on the texture of the pretzels. Firmly press the crumbs into a 9-inch pie pan. Chill the crust in the freezer or fridge for several hours. (For a less crumbly crust: Once chilled through, bake the crust in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.)

Make the filling: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together 1/2 cup water, the sugar, and honey until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Cook over medium-high heat, moving the pan around occasionally, until the caramel has turned dark amber and reached 340°F (170°C) on a candy thermometer. (Or just guess, like I did.)
Remove the caramel from the heat and slowly pour the cream down the side of the pan, whisking constantly. Be very careful here: The caramel will start to bubble violently and release a lot of hot steam. Whisk in the butter, then the mascarpone, then the vanilla and salt. Pour the filling into your prepared pie shell, and refrigerate it, uncovered, until fully set—at least 5 hours.

Make the topping: Heat the cream until scalded, and then pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then whisk until glossy. Spread or drizzle the ganache over the filling, allow it to set, and serve. This pie can be refrigerated for up to 1 week, covered well in plastic wrap. Allow it to come to room temperature before serving. For easier slicing, run your knife under hot water first to prevent the caramel from sticking to the blade.

3/11/2018

Clutter Free Bathroom Ideas to Simplify Your Life





Raising two teenaged boys and making time for my marriage, family, and friends while also running a successful yoga studio and health coaching business is time-consuming. 2018 is the year that I am making a change in how I spend my days from my work time, family time to my volunteer positions. I am choosing to live with intention. You could say that is my "theme" for this year.

Choosing how I spend my time and with whom during those big open chunks of time on our weekend calendar is exciting and soul fulfilling. But what about those small little windows of time where you need to vacuum the house or scrub the tub? Not so much! I believe that if I simplify my house, even more than it already is, that doing these chores won't occupy as much time in my schedule. I don't feel as though I have a time management problem per say but I am seeing how these little household tasks that I do each week are occupying more time than I would like to and hiring a cleaning company is not in the budget right now.

So I started looking at the tasks that I do around the house with a detective type eye, analyzing the movements. What am I touching and how? Am I constantly having to move things in order to complete the task? Could I just get rid of that?

One of the areas under attack is our bathroom. We shop at Costco so we have these huge bottles of shampoo and conditioner, the supersize ones with their pumps, balancing in the corners where the tub and the wall meet. They have to be removed in order to clean the tub. And then on the bathroom sink, we have 4 people's toothbrushes and two different kinds of toothpaste and each week all of that is being moved in order to clean or constantly being knocked over as you try and clean just one side of the sink at a time. It seems like such a small problem but these little moments of time are where I believe I can simplify my life.

So after way too many hours thinking about my bathtub clutter problems, I scrolled through Amazon and I found this handy dispenser made by Better Living. I filled it with our Costco shampoo, conditioner and body wash and said goodbye to the giant bottles in the tub. Now the corners are clutter free and it makes cleaning the tub as enjoyable of a task as it can be. You do have to commit to its location because once it's installed using silicone, it can not be moved easily. For the bathroom sink, I went into our attic and pulled out the Ikea spice rack that at one time served as a small shelf for books when my kids were in bunk beds and I didn't want them to get out of bed to put their nighttime reading away. I installed it on the wall next to sink and have their toothbrushes and toothpaste in one area off of the countertop and now they are in charge of keeping their area clean. I placed me and my wife's items in a glass vase on the sink which can easily be moved to clean in one movement. Little changes like this can make a daunting task of cleaning the bathroom a little bit more enjoyable and most importantly will take less time to do. Have you learned some space-saving tricks to save you time when cleaning the bathroom? I'd love to hear them in the comments!

3/07/2018

The Social Life of Pie


It might come as a surprise to you knowing that I am a health coach and I am blogging about eating sugar-laden pies. Here is the thing, as a health coach, I believe in moderation. I believe that we have to find a balance for ourselves to live and be happy. I don't eat pie every day, but every once in a while is totally okay for me. Also as someone who identifies as an Alcoholic, I'm always looking for alternative ways to find social gatherings that don't feel awkward when alcoholic drinks aren't being served. Even for folks who don't drink often they might mistakenly assume that a Friday night dinner invitation warrants bringing a bottle of wine. And for some people, it's an uncomfortable conversation to have with guests that you might not know very well and have invited over with the intention to get to know better.

Recently I had a conversation where I admitted to the other person that I’ve never actually made a pie before. I’ve made all kinds of desserts but never a pie. Their mouth hung open, shocked. She even said, "Come one everyone has made a pumpkin pie, it's so easy!" 
Nope, never. 
Here is a bit of my backstory.....my entire childhood my mother, my sister and I would take turns helping a neighbor Mary who lived a few doors down and was in a wheelchair. Mary was grandmother age, never had any children of her own and we started helping her soon after her husband died. We actually didn’t even know her before that. My mom was and still is such a caring, kind person, she saw a person in need and immediately wanted to help her. We took care of Mary and welcomed her into our lives, without seeking recognition or reward. (My mom, of course, did a lot more than me and my sister.) Our job, as kids, was to go down to Mary’s house in the evening and take her shoes and socks off and put on her slippers. Every third day it was my turn and Mary would have made a pie and her and I would have a slice (or two!) and talk. I really cherished that time with her and Mary’s pies were delicious! I’ve never tried to make a pie of any kind before now, yet they hold this very special place in my heart. 
So all of this is to say, I'm starting a little social pie experiment. 

I found this cookbook, First Prize Pies by Allison Kave on the shelf of my local library and was immediately drawn to the beautiful cover. After flipping through it for a few days I knew I had to own this book. The photographs are beautiful, I love the font that is used in the recipe writing and the actual recipes are both unique and yet familiar flavors. I have a fondness for eating food that is in season and this cookbook has pie recipes that are divided up by seasons, our meeting was clearly meant to be. When I saw that, ideas began to run wild.... what if I made a pie each month and intentionally invited friends over for pie and tea. Doesn't that sound lovely? It's a beautiful confluence of my love for cooking, of my purpose to live intentionally and devote time to relationships which have meaning in my life and also my goal of learning and developing a new skill. 
I'll keep you posted on this slice of my life!  ;) 

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