Easy Homemade Granola

Since last December I have been making homemade granola. My food-savvy friend Jessika gave me the idea and showed me how easy it was! I gave some away as Christmas gifts and got lots of positive feedback. With a few basic guidelines from Jessika and after consulting a few online recipes, (and baking many, many batches) I have developed this recipe. Homemade granola has become a staple of my diet and I now make it almost every week. I used to eat lots of Life cereal as a dessert/snack before bed (breast feeding really kicks up your appetite) but now I just eat this and have stopped buying the cereal. It’s delicious and I have the satisfaction of knowing exactly what the ingredients are. And those ingredients are all natural, real food, which gives me yogi-hipster-y satisfaction.

Easy Homemade Granola

1. Whisk together in bottom of large mixing bowl:

1/2 cup coconut oil (I usually heat it for a few seconds in the microwave to liquefy it before trying to mix it in)

1/2 cup honey or maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4-1/3 tsp salt

After whisking the above, I pre-heat our oven to 300 degrees.

Also cover a cookie sheet (one with sides, not a completely flat one) with parchment paper.

2. Add to mixing bowl:

3 cups oats

1 cup desiccated or shredded dried unsweetened coconut

Raw/unsweetened chopped nuts. I use:

1 cup walnuts, chopped (we buy whole walnuts from Costco so I measure out a cup and then chop them. If you buy the walnuts already chopped you might use slightly less than 1 cup)

1 cup pre-sliced almonds

Mix all ingredients together. I can usually get away with just using a large metal spoon and not getting my hands all sticky.

 

Spread mixture evenly across the cookie sheet.

Bake in pre-heated oven for about 12-15 mins or until the edges and maybe a bit of the top are starting to look slightly browned and toasty. Your kitchen may also begin to smell delicious.

Remove from oven and stir, trying to rotate the parts that were on the edge into the middle of the cookie sheet and vice versa.

Return cookie sheet to oven and Bake another 12-15 minutes or slightly longer until mixture is getting lightly brown and toasty looking and smells fantastic.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on cookie sheet. If you don’t want chunks of granola, you can stir it now.

I usually store mine in an airtight Container in the pantry and I can tell you that it keeps for over a week (but it has never taken me more than 1-2 weeks to eat/give away all of it!).

You could change up the nuts if you like. I have stuck with these because I always have walnuts on hand (they are a cornerstone of my daily oatmeal breakfast) and because pecans seemed really expensive (but I bet they would be delicious).

Also, I have used both honey and maple syrup (and a combination of the 2 when I ran out of maple syrup). I don’t know what is “healthier” or better for the planet, but I like the maple syrup better. The resulting granola is less sticky/chunky and I guess I just love the maple flavor. If you like your granola chunky, the honey works well and if you really pack down/flatten the mixture with a spoon prior to the second round in the oven, you are likely to get some good, big chucks. I have read briefly online about making granola bars. Definitely sounds doable but involves more steps. If you figure out an easy way to do it that you like, let me know.

Ooooh and I almost forgot! If you really want the “granola as a cookie replacement” experience, you can mix in chocolate chips and/or butterscotch chips either after the granola is fully cooled or after it has come out of the oven and slightly cooled (if you stir in a few chocolate chips when the granola is still warm they will melt and the results are pretty delicious). I like both but prefer the butterscotch. Actually… it was a problem that I liked the butterscotch so much. I kept eating them on their own, so I stopped buying them. Really the granola is already sweet enough for me on its own. I just pour milk over it, like a bowl of cereal, and feel like I’m having a special treat every time.

“Ok, Rebecca/Becky,” you’re thinking, “This all sounds pretty easy and everything but HOW, pray-tell, do you manage to bake or do ANYTHING with a one and a half year old around?” Well… I have a really amazing small child. While I’m bustling around the kitchen she likes to pull out pots and pans and spoons and make soup on the floor with all her animal magnets. Or she climbs up on the step stool next to me – close enough that she can see what I’m doing but not close enough to physically interfere- and she plays in the sink with a large bowl and a little water, some measuring cups and spoons. She’s a little imitator, what can I say? I’m pretty confident that we will enjoy many baking experiments together in the future.

Library Book Recall/Roll-Call

I’m still doing lots of reading, and I try to remember to take a quick photo of each book before I return it to the library.  Here are a few of my relatively recent reads. Now available at a Loudoun County Library near you!

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The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret

I quickly grabbed this book (and the one next to it) off the memoir shelf at Sterling library while I was also watching Maia, so I didn’t look at it much before I took it home.  I got home and realized that Keret is Israeli and the book is translated from Hebrew.  I usually avoid any books that would force me to learn anything (i.e. about other cultures, world events) instead preferring to keep my mind narrow and just read about people who do drugs and stuff.  But the book, focused on the years between his son’s birth and his father’s death, is written and translated beautifully.  Keret doesn’t TRY to teach us, but I did learn just a little bit about what it is like to live in Israel and be Jewish without getting at all annoyed.  I enjoyed his writing style so much that I picked up his book of short stories (which I’m currently reading).

An Extraordinary Theory of Objects by Stephanie LaCava

I also checked out this book, a memoir about the author’s turbulent adolescence as an American in Paris, without realizing that its many footnotes are a huge part of it.  The footnotes explain the history behind many of her collected objects, which provide a backdrop for the story.  I skipped most of them.  I don’t like footnotes, because I feel they pull me out of the story, and I don’t like to multitask (see also The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao).  Also, as I previously mentioned, I try to avoid learning anything historical while reading for pleasure.  But I enjoyed LaCava’s personal story and it stands alone as an honest and unique memoir even without the factoids (and it won’t take you more than a few days to read if you skip the footnotes). 🙂

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The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Just like her other novel, How to Party with An Infant, I had a hard time ever putting down this novel, set in and around Breckenridge, Colorado.  The narrator, Sarah, has just lost her young adult son, Cully, and begins to learn more about him through Kit, a young woman who knew him.  As I expected, Hemmings eloquently and honestly writes about grief and imperfect relationships with a bit of levity and irreverance.  On a road trip to a memorial for Cully we get to know Sarah, Kit, Lyle (Sarah’s father), and Billy (Cully’s father), all memorable and enjoyable characters.  Two Thumbs up from me.

Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir by Nicole J. Georges

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I love graphic memoirs and discovered this one while I was trying to find a memoir written by a doctor.  I’m so glad I found it and enjoyed every second of reading it.  Great illustrations, beautiful, painful story with enough humor and quirkiness mixed in to keep you from being miserable.  Nicole deals with uncovering her father’s true identity, as well as coming out to her mother, and negotiating a challenging relationship.  She is brave and admirable for writing this!  I found joy in the portions of the book where she writes and illustrates her dogs and pet chickens. Ticks all the boxes.

Let me know if you have any recommendations for me!  I still have to review a few other books which aren’t library books — I’ll try to get to those soon!

 

Why I Love Lake Anne: and a little Name Dropping for My Favorite Reston Small Businesses

Maia and I met Car at Lake Anne this morning.  I took Brian’s car so I could use our new little stroller which has a more subtle profile for smaller outings. I couldn’t figure out how to open it at first, so I called tech support (i.e. Brian), and Car found us in the parking lot and came to help.  We were greeted at the coffee house with a “hi! I haven’t seen you guys in forever!”  from the Barista, and I ordered my usual – a gratuitously large fancy latte.  It has become my practice to make up for the falling frequency of my coffee shop visits by getting gigantic drinks every chance I get.  I also got a Nordic Knot Pretzel, my guilty pleasure addiction since I discovered them at The Bike Lane Coffee Shop after my Sunday morning class at Beloved Yoga. We ordered our breakfasts and found a table. Maia eagerly sat in a high chair and ate a lot of the pretzel and not nearly as much of the egg and black beans from my breakfast tacos. She’s getting to be a much pickier eater lately; while I used to be able to shove most any food into her mouth, now she shows a clear preference for carbs.  I suspect this is normal toddler behavior, and I’m mostly just happy she eats.  Then she wanders around the coffee house, which was ok to do today because it wasn’t nearly as busy as it often is when the farmers market is running and the weather is warmer, so I didn’t have to worry about her being trampled. She made fast friends with a little dachshund who was tied to a chair just outside the window, and I chatted with his dad, who I recognized from yoga.

We then decided to head outside so Maia could continue walking around.  She strolled out into the plaza just like she owned it, and in the distance, by the dormant water fountain, I saw that a man had fallen and 2 people were helping him.  I approached with alacrity to see if my CPR/First aid skills were required, but by the time I got there I could see that a lady from the cycling studio was calling the paramedics and a handful of other people were approaching to help.  The man was responsive, but shaken, was helped to a sitting position and was urged to stay seated. Situation was under control, and tons of people were being helpful. I handed him his hat and helped him get his shoe back on, and then left him in the capable hands of his friends and neighbors who knew him by name (no need for more of a crowd). During the commotion Maia was unfazed, enchanted by the smooth moves of two older kids on scooters. We continued our leisurely stroll around the plaza, off toward the concrete boat and wooden horse on the corner.  With Maia leading the way, we caught up to our dachshund doggy and yogi friend.  I could see that the firetruck and paramedics had arrived and parked.  Car soon departed to go meet up with knitting friends, and Maia and I continued walking.  She lead me all the way across the arched bridge, up the sidewalk toward the townhouses, and up several small stairs like a true explorer. She would have gone further, but I suggested she not walk in the street, and she agreed to turn around. Continuing to refuse my efforts to put on her gloves (By the way, some other time let’s talk about gloves for a baby and how ridiculous they are!), she agreed to hold my gloved hand as we walked back down the steep hill.  I imagined what would happen if she fell and I let go of the stroller to catch her.  “And that’s how our stroller ended up in Lake Anne!” I would tell people at parties.  But that didn’t happen – we maintained our footing, all the way back to the concrete boat play area.  It was cold, but quiet and peaceful, besides the constant honking of geese. I very slowly herded her back toward the plaza – the longest walk ever—because I know that soon I would have to pee.  On the way we chatted with two young boys who were using walking sticks and waved to a couple sitting beside a fire pit at the brewery.  Maia pointed at the water and honked like a goose.  I knew we were right where we were meant to be.

By the time we were FINALLY in front of the community center, the couple from the brewery was walking by with their small fluffy dog that we got to pat and exclaim over.  Finally we made it through the community center, into the bathroom and back out.  We quickly looked in the Cat clinic window, meowed, and made our way back to the car.

It wasn’t magical, but I feel peaceful after our temporary sojourn to our local utopia, after feeling the warmth of those around us on a cold and cloudy February day.  Thanks, Universe.

Also, you’d think Maia would be ready for a nice nap after THE LONGEST WALK EVER but she is still lying awake in her crib chatting to herself, no doubt about dachshunds, geese, and yummy, yummy pretzels.

Downsize, simplify, savor.

Recently I listened to Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, Happier, where she and her sister, Elizabeth, introduced the idea of coming up with a one word theme for the year.  I like this idea, but I tend to be a bit long winded (as you know, dear readers) and I came up with 3:

Downsize, simplify, and savor.

Downsizing and simplifying go hand in hand.  My tendency to accumulate comes from a good place, frugality, a value I learned both from my father and my aunt and uncle. I don’t tend to buy a lot of stuff, but if I get something for free, and it has a conceivable use, it is hard for me to throw it away.  Half-used legal pads?  Great for writing notes/reminders/lists!  Free t-shirts and sweatshirts from the return bin at CustomInk, where I worked EIGHT YEARS AGO?  Good quality comfortable garments, and I can cut them into workout shirts! Who cares what random things are printed on them?  I can’t throw away the endless piles of notes from staff meetings, continuing ed classes, and mentoring sessions.  They could be SO useful, I just have to compile, organize and maybe type them up!  And let’s not forget to mention the ENDLESS, IMPRESSIVE quantities of letters I’ve saved, received from friends and family, some dating back to ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.  They are so fun to look at, and maybe I should send some of them back, as a “Hey, here’s what you were like back then” historical compilation for the writers, many of whom I have lost touch with.

With herculean emotional effort I recently downsized the amount of boxes in our under-the-house storage by about 1/3 (this involved our pool table being covered with junk for several months).  I couldn’t even begin to broach the large quantity of letters. But I did get rid of many of the less significant items. I also managed to frame and hang a few photos so Maia can now point enthusiastically to her cousins and grandparents.  But this is just a start.

After watching a few episodes of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, I’m inspired to tackle my clothing and jewelry, and from there?  Who knows.  Hopefully develop some organizational system for my PT related notes.  We’ll see.  Hopefully find some more space in which to live our lives and enjoy, savor, what we have.

I want to savor and simplify. I want to continue enjoying the people and activities I love.  I don’t want to use my energy on activities that are too complicated, not important or enjoyable, or purposeful. I want to continue investing in satisfying relationships. I’ve reached a point now where I am not focused on growth.  I am here. I have arrived.  Those things I wanted, I have.  That life? I’m living it.  Is it perfect?  No, not by any stretch of the imagination.  Am I perfect? No, I am still me, flaws intact.  But I’m ok with it.  I have a wonderful husband, a baby who is absolutely a dream in every way (I’m not biased at all). My career is where I want it to be for the foreseeable future, growing at a slow and comfortable pace which I have set.  We have enough money, cars, a cat, a house. We have friends, yoga, community.  Though I’m a bit of a self-improvement junkie, life is so good right now that improvement isn’t a priority. There is always room to improve, but I feel that in my case, life will only get better as I learn to relax and enjoy it. As I simplify, savoring what I have, rather than pushing to do more, have more, go further.

As a great yogi once said, I am here.  This is now.

My routine is weird, great, and hard.

My routine is weird.  I suppose there is the potential for feeling isolated any time one is in a situation unlike the one faced by those around her.  No matter how good the situation is, there is a quiet loneliness.  It is isolating because it is very specific.  For those of us, like me, who like to feel we are part of something – a group, a cohort, etc., its challenging.  I commute in the afternoons.  I am with Maia in the mornings.  When I work, in the evenings, I am working in 2 different offices.  Maia goes to bed at 8:30/9pm and wakes up around 9am, which is different from a lot of babies, but works for us, because I can put her to bed after I get home.  I guess when you have a family, that is how things go – you create the life that serves you and your loved ones. No one else will do it quite the same way.  Others listen.  They say “Oh that sounds great” or “Oh that sounds hard.”  It is both.  I guess that is just life.

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Maia is doing amazing things now.  She is beginning to know her colors.  She almost says “car” and says “eye” very clearly and points, sticking her finger into the eyes of new friends.  She started walking about a month ago (at 16 months) and now LOVES walking – returning her shakers and toys at the library, walking circles around the car after we get home.  She likes to kiss and feed her favorite stuffed animals, Bunny and Bear.  I am so proud of her and thrilled every day to be her mom.

It is hard, but not the way life used to be hard before Zoloft.  It is normal-hard.  Very doable-hard.  Even in the hard and lonely parts, I love my life.  Yes, it is a bit isolating because no one else has quite the same thing going on.  It’s a weird feeling, hard to pin down and articulate.  I guess that is what we moms have in common – we are all isolated in our own circumstances.  From the time you get pregnant, you are the only one with your specific circumstances. No one else is on the same schedule, then no one else has the same pregnancy or birth experience.  No one else negotiates the same family life or work-life as you.  It requires bravery, and a strong sense of self.  We must hold fast to our identity, our priorities.  We must share what we can with others, lean on each other, and be leaned on.  We must keep close the people who, though they can’t live our lives, get us, understand us.  I am so thankful for my husband, my parents, my dear friends who are beside me – not with me every moment, not living my life, but living with me.

Uncomfortably Personal Book Reviews, Part I: How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings

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The title caught my eye while I was looking for some novel about a mystery on the Appalachian Trail.  “How to Party with an Infant.” Sounds like a debaucherous, inappropriate good time, I thought.  It wasn’t what I expected.  Before the halfway point I almost abandoned it, unsure if I wanted to experience the emotional acuity and moral depravity of the main character’s flirtations with a married man, Henry, a father in her playgroup.  Then I realized: I was judging her.  As moms do to other moms.  Not for her parenting ability, which I had no reason to doubt, but for this flirtation, which, as I read each word, I feared it would burst into an affair on the next page. This realization (of my own judgy-ness) was a turning point for me, and I also realized that, damn, this book is f*&@ing awesome.  I stopped judging and instead began to empathize with Mele, and I couldn’t blame her for wanting male attention while she debates whether to attend the wedding of her ex, the father of her toddler.  I felt the heartbreak with her when, upon telling her lover she was pregnant, he responds with, “I’m kind of already engaged.”

I have had my heart broken, after emotionally investing every ounce of it, and though my circumstances were very different, I know the horror of discovering that you were simply a diversion in someone else’s love story, an understudy when you thought you were the female lead.  It is, if not the worst, one of the worst things I have ever felt.  For me, I was a college junior – I suffered, but recovered.  For Mele, she was pregnant with his child, a higher stakes investment.   The novel drops us into her story as she prepares for her daughter to serve as flower girl in the wedding, striving to show a dignified face as she watches. I guess I can’t blame her for seeking male attention in a less than ideal place. Henry, the playgroup dad, seems decent enough, but his circumstances are far from ideal.  Sure, his marriage is in the process of ending, but these conditions are not optimal for development of a lasting relationship between mature adults.

It is easy for me to judge.  I have been coupled with my husband since I was 23, and I can only imagine how difficult it is to be a single parent.

This novel reminds me that many people become parents in circumstances much less ideal than my own.  Parenting is f*@$ing hard, that I do know. It is hard because, as we raise our babies and toddlers, we are also responsible for parenting and protecting our own inner-adolescent. Does anyone ever really feel like an actual adult?

By the end, I was rooting for Mele and Henry.  Any book that can make me feel this depth of empathy is something gorgeous.  Vignettes featuring the stories of other playgroup parents are spun together within Mele’s story.  Each character is brilliantly created and as real as can be.  This book is not a memoir, but almost could be, because Mele and her friends feel so authentic and raw.

I can’t wait to put every book in the library by Hemmings on hold to hoard.  Don’t you dare beat me to it…

 

 

Library Books

I don’t sleep through the night lately (even though my baby does), but I do read books now, so that is something.  This last batch I picked up, quickly, from the Sterling library after storytime. I was in a hurry, and I was standing by the B shelf in the biography session (which also contains memoirs).  I will often pick up a book, start reading it, and abandon it if I’m not hooked.  These three I followed through to the end. Actually — I do have one more chapter of “Navel Gazing” to read, but I WILL read it, and you will be able to find these three gems at the Loudoun Public Library shortly. (Or, if you are so inclined, please support the writers by buying them — I’ve included links).

Memoirs are my favorite genre of book.  My favorites deliver a heavy dose of both humor and heart.  And if the writer is a bit dysfunctional in some way (drugs/alcohol, family, unhealthy habits of some kind) I enjoy it even more. My favorite author is Augusten Burroughs, who ticks all the boxes and delivers without fail.  These aren’t quite of his caliber (in my very humble opinion), but I enjoyed reading all three.

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Navel Gazing by Michael Ian Black

Great for anyone who has young-ish kids and feels 40 going on 75.  Black discusses his mother’s declining health, his efforts to become a runner (but running mostly sucks), fleeting suicidal thoughts, and his dysfunctional family members with a good dose of humor and and levity.

Sample: “Whatever failings she believes herself to have, Mom has always told us she loves us…I took being loved for granted, and I think any success I have in my life is at least partly attributable to that simple statement.”  (p. 56).

I hope my daughter will feel the same.

Are You My Mother?  by Alison Bechdel

Within the genre of memoirs, I love the sub-genre of graphic memoirs; comics about serious topics such as breast cancer and bipolar disorder which also make me laugh.  Alison Bechdel goes in depth analyzing her relationship with her mother and chronicling her time in therapy.  She also brings in lessons from the great psychoanalysts placing her own story in a historical/philosophical context.

Here’s a sample, which I find quite relatable:

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by Alison Bechdel, p. 85 (if she wants me to take this down, I will).

MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche

It’s hard to make friends as an adult, y’all.  My closest friends are from high school, and the majority of them have left the area.  Northern Virginia is a pain to drive in, and so, over the past… several years… I have made a conscious effort to make friends who live very close by.  AND, now that I am a mom, I am also making a conscious effort to make friends with other moms who have children the same age as Maia.  I am not terribly outgoing, so it is not easy for me.  But hey, the more I do it, the better I’m getting at it.

Rachel, who is a married 20-something, spends a year meeting over 50 prospective BFFs in Chicago.  Her search sounds incredibly exhausting — In the past 10 years I have not done nearly as much searching as she did in a year.  The book is fun, and though she is in a different stage of life than I am, I can relate.  She shares a lot of research on the nature of friendship, and shares her frustrations along the way.  For something a little lighter, pick this up.

Sample: “Teenagers spend nearly 33 percent of their time with friends, but that number drops to less than 10 percent for adults… Because when we’re not busy, we’re tired.” p.72

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Have YOU read any good books lately?  Please share.  Because until I learn to sleep as well as my baby does, I’ll be up reading…