Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Freeze Your Own Acai Juice For Smoothies & Acai Bowls

You may know that I've been eating gluten free for almost seven months now. I've found that the hardest meal of the day to eat gluten free is breakfast. Most of it involves bread of some form- toast, bagel, cereal, muffin, donut, pancake, waffle... you get the idea. I WISH I liked eggs, but I really have to force them down with bacon or sausage in the same bite. I recently got introduced to acai bowls, and I LOVE them! The problem is, all of the recipes I've found involve frozen acai smoothie packs. I went on a quest to find them, and the closest place I found to my home is 45 minutes away at a Whole Foods. The other thing is...they're expensive. It was $6.99 for FOUR little frozen packets.
I found fresh acai juice in my local grocery store (Savemart for locals), and tried making bowls with that. The problem was, they were really runny, really quickly because there was so much liquid. The other thing to think about is this large bottle of juice is $6.99, but has to be used within 7 days of opening it. Then one day I had a brainstorm! What if I froze the juice in ice cube trays, then dumped the cubes into a freezer bag to pull out when I needed them? Hello, genius! 
I'm happy to say, it worked!! One large bottle is enough to make 3 ice cube trays. I estimate that one big bottle should end up making about 10 smoothies or acai bowls, for the same price you would get FOUR at the store. I thought I'd give you the recipe I've ended up with after many trials and errors.

 First up, cut your fruit that will top it. It can be anything you want- strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, nectarines, bananas, whatever you'd like. You want to cut it first so that you are ready to assemble your bowl when the smoothie part is ready.
The toppings I use are my gluten free granola, sliced raw almonds, and hemp hearts. Hemp hearts sound weird, but they're really good for you, and when you are eating something with a lot of flavor, you really can't taste them.
 In your blender (just bought a Ninja last week and I LOVE it!), drop in 3-4 acai frozen cubes, half of a sliced frozen banana, 1/3 cup frozen raspberries, 1/3 cup frozen blueberries, 1 cup organic apple juice. I pulse it a few times, and then blend until smooth.
 This recipe makes 2 snack size bowls, or one BIG (meal size) bowl. When it's done it should look like this, see how it has almost a thick ice cream consistency? Yep, not runny anymore!
 Now is the fun part, just top it with your goodies! I spill on some granola, hemp hearts, and almonds.
 Then I top with the fresh fruit! This is SO super yummy, and acai is REALLY good for you! If I eat this, I am full for hours.
Enjoy! Let me know if you try freezing your own acai juice!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Home School Room Redo

Today I decided to tackle my mess in the school room. Yikes! I have been blinding my eyes when I have to walk through that room ever since the last day of school. If you home school, you know that the last thing you want to do after you have finally survived completed a school year, is even LOOK at the mess you've made throughout the year. All three of our desks were getting every-growing piles of junk on top of them.
Don't believe me? Look below...
 I should have taken pictures before I started the clean up. This is mid-organization. I stopped and took a break and was really tempted to throw up my hands. Our "room" is not really a room, but kind of a pathway to get to the kids' rooms and the main bathroom. It doesn't have a door, I guess it was originally planned as an office space? (Fast forward to years from now, and picture wall-to-wall built in cabinets with a couple of different workstations and granite counter tops. Craft room!)
 Ok, back to reality. See how BAD the above photo is?? No wonder I wanted to quit mid-clean up.
 Now on to the "afters". Above is my old turquoise table that I use as my desk. If you didn't already know that I am a color addict, it will become very clear in this blog post. ;) The easel to the left (Ikea) I folded up and pushed against the wall. We use it if we are doing a project together, but that's not too often anymore. I have smaller whiteboards on the turquoise shelf (Ikea), that I can pull out for us to use. It's just easier when you're dealing with small spaces to tuck it away if you don't use it every day.
I had fun organizing my new cart with all of our much-used goodies. I like to use clear glass containers and white milk glass to organize smaller items. Yes, I'm using a vintage Miracle Whip glass jar to house my dry erase markers and erasers. ;) 
 I picked up that globe today at a yard sale. Eventually I'd like to have a collection of globes, but I'm cheap so it will probably take awhile. When I bought the globe today, the man told me he hated to part with it because it was always in his dad's office his whole life. I told him I was going to put it in our school room and he was so happy that he clapped! It was cute, it made him feel so much better about selling it, knowing that it would have a new life in our home. The giant bookshelf is also Ikea, and once the school year begins, it will get filled with teacher editions.
Our room is oddly shaped, and you have to walk through it to get to the bathroom or Emma's room, so we can't put the desks just anywhere. They concentrate best if they aren't next to each other (poke, poke!), and I need to be able to reach both desks to hand them work. Our walls are obviously FILLED with charts, maps, calendars, etc. The teal paper rack was a magazine holder that I found at a thrift store years ago and painted.
 I started thinking today about HOW MUCH time we spend in this room during the year, and I really needed to make it a pretty place. I got some old windows for free a couple of weeks ago, and I thought it would be cute to hang it up with a colorful bunting banner. I also lined up my favorite Ball jars. I wish you could tell how BIG this window is, but the picture makes it look really small.
 I also had this window lying around, so I added a quick colorful pastel bunting.
Last is our art wall. Every so often I buy the kids a canvas or two to paint.They love it, and I think it's so important to let them create. I hate to say I have a favorite, but that cupboard door in the center that says "I will fly, chase the wind, and touch the sky" just KILLS me! Cami painted it when she was 7 years old and it is from a song in the movie Brave. 

I looked up our old school room, which is now Emma's bedroom. It's here if you'd like to take a look. It also shows how we used to keep track of the books they read when they were in the younger grades, and how our reward system worked. It worked wonderfully at that age, by the way!

The other thing we've done is "the happy heart box". We have a big wooden box, that is painted to look like a giant alphabet block, and it gets filled with candy and little toys. Every Monday, if they were good every day the previous week, they got to pick from the happy heart box. It could also work as a Friday afternoon treat with a week's worth of good behavior and completed work. We still use it now that they're older, but now they just choose two candies that they can eat while they are working on Monday afternoons instead of toys.

That's it! Hopefully it gives you some ideas, but mostly I'm just glad to get it done and not have Mt. Everest growing on my desk.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Burden Bearers

Last night I had trouble falling asleep. All day yesterday I had trouble turning my brain off. You see, I have this theory. {You might think I'm crazy}

My theory is that people can be burden bearers. It may sound strange, but I'll try to explain. Some people can hear about something tragic, or hear about someone suffering and they feel bad for the situation/person, but then go about their day. Then there are some people who can spend time with someone who is suffering and walk away feeling as though they left a little piece of their heart with the person suffering.

For the burden bearer it can almost feel as if the piece of heart that you left behind with the sufferer is then replaced with a piece of their burden. You carry it away with you. You feel the sadness deep within you.

I am a burden bearer. My heart breaks for people.

There have been two or three times in my life that I have actually prayed to bear part of someones burden. I don't do that often, because I take it seriously. It's not pretty to share in suffering. It's not fun.

Is this my gift? My superpower? Really? Over-sensitivity?

I've had this thought going through my mind since school let out- "summer of service". Ok, in my mind it actually looks more like #summerofservice. As soon as school was done I started making a running list. There were a few things I needed to take care of at home, and I wanted to do something for others at least a couple of times a week. I wanted my kids to realize that the world does not revolve around them. Life is more than serving yourself. Some of the things on my list were simply a service to my husband, things that he wouldn't have to do after working all day in the heat of summer.

I degreased our grill, and let me tell you, that doesn't sound like much, but it was disgusting! I don't think we'd ever cleaned off the outside of it.

I mowed our crazy-big yard so that he wouldn't have to be in the sun any longer than he needed to.

I drove 40 minutes out of town to drop off a work proposal at a customer's house when he didn't have time.

My mother-in-law also made the list. I painted her dresser that she got from her parents house. I went back another day to hang all of her wall decorations up that have been down since her house got remodeled LAST YEAR! (oops!) Last week I took the kids to her work and we were going to switch out cars with her and take hers to pay and get her oil changed for her (but she wasn't at work yet).

Yesterday was the hardest. I took the kids shopping for food, snacks, flowers, dinners for a dear family that we love. They've just suffered one of their worst nightmares.

It might sound all nice and warm and fuzzy to list off good deeds, but the reality of it is not. The nature of sacrifice is giving something up. Today I got stung by a bee mowing our yard. When I degreased the grill, I accidentally drug it out into a part of the yard that had an anthill and got completely covered in ants. When I dropped off the proposal I was grilled on his pricing by a grumpy old man. When I painted the dresser, I was sweating like a crazy lady when it wasn't turning out like I'd imagined. Hardest of all, when I spoke with the family who suffered great loss, I allowed myself to really remember mine. Serving is not a "woo hoo, look what I did" type of thing. It's messy. It stings...sometimes your foot, and sometimes your soul.

The blessings are coming out on the drives to and from these places, from EXPLAINING to the kids WHY we're going to Nana's work. WHY we're going to the grocery store for someone else. WHY we're doing things we don't HAVE to do.

Because love. We do them because of love for others. We do them to light up the darkness.

I haven't shared my #summerofservice idea with anyone because it kinda makes me look like a dork, but that's ok. As things get crossed off of my list, I add more. When you think of the people around you, the list will really never dry up. Open your eyes past yourself. Bear someones burden if you dare.