Better than Oatmeal Cookies

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This is a brand new recipe for me. I made them for the first time on a whim this morning. I was getting ready to go to my Moms of Preschoolers meeting and was waiting for my cinnamon bread to rise. I guess I had too much time on my hands because it occurred to me that I needed to try this cookie recipe. I barely had enough flour, in fact I had to substitute some of my all purpose flour with Bread flour because it was all I had. I also forgot the baking soda. But even with that the cookies turned out great and are a new favorite. I had several requests for the recipe at my meeting.

This recipe is from Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. She calls them Gaia Cookies, after the store and bakery where she first tried them. Since I don’t know how to pronounce Gaia I am calling them Better than Oatmeal Cookies. They have a lot of the perks of oatmeal cookies but have a lot more going on than a traditional oatmeal cookie. They are tasty and hearty. These would make a great cookie to take to a new mom or for a road trip, or anytime you want a cookie but also want something with just a bit more substance.

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Better than Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 pound of butter (I used unsalted,) softened

1 and 1/2 cup of brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons of vanilla

1 and 1/2 cups of flour

1 and 1/2 cups of oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup coconut (unsweetened)

1 cup walnuts, chopped (I was almost out so substituted with pecans)

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup chopped dates, raisins, dried cherries, or cranberries or any combination ( I left out the raisins but did a combo of the other three)

Directions

1. Cream together butter and sugar.

2. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well.

3. Add dry ingredients. Mix just until dry ingredients are incorporated.

4. Spoon onto parchment covered baking sheets. I like small cookies, so  I do about a teaspoon and a half,  spoon more for bigger cookies.

5. Chill baking sheet in the fridge for ten minutes,  (this keeps them from spreading out as much when they bake) then remove and bake until slightly browned on the bottom, 10 minutes or so, longer for bigger cookies.

Note: I made two dozen and then spooned out the rest of the dough into cookie sized balls and placed them onto a baking sheet. I stuck the sheet in the freezer over night. Tomorrow I will remove it and divide the cookie dough into bags, 10-12 cookies per bag. Then i have cookie dough that is ready to bake, if company stops by I can just remove however many I want and bake (or I can take two or three and bake them just for me). This works for most basic cookie recipes.

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Perfect Moments

We are rich, and everything which we possess is a gift and a sign of the love of God and the love of men, it is a continuous gift of divine love; and as long as we possess nothing, love divine is manifested continuously and fully. But everything we take int our own hands to possess is taken out of the realm of love. Certainly it becomes ours, but love is lost. . . the moment we try to be rich by keeping something safely in our hands, we are the losers, because as long as we have nothing in our hands, we can take, leave, do whatever we want.  (Bloom, Beginning to Pray)

Today was one of those gorgeous Texas spring days. There was bright sun, a cool breeze, and no bugs. Zenie and I walked down by the river and had a picnic lunch. She had on her old sun hat, pink tutu and green rain boots. I was wearing one of my grandmother’s old blazers and a new pair of dangling earrings. We ate left-over pizza by the water and watched the ducks and turtles. Zenie made up silly songs. Every moment was perfect. God’s richness and love was evident.  I wanted to stay there, in that place, sun and ducks and songs and never let it change.

These moments happen from time to time.  They used to be reunion lunches with old friends or late night talks around the table. Now often they are the precious cuddles  on the couch with my little girl or  quiet dinners with Michael.  They are times when the world just feels right.

My problem is that just when things feel perfect a tension begins to build in me.   I want so much for nothing to change, for things to stay exactly as they are that I try, as Bloom says,  to take the moment into my hands, to possess it, to make it last. This tension sometimes is so strong that I end up ruining the moment that I could never have truly captured in the first place.

Of course, sometimes I’m just the opposite. Zenie is sweet and hilarious and I am so caught up in all that I have to do I don’t notice her. The world around me is irrelevant, I am living in the future, or at least in my mind, running through my to do list and missing out on what is right in front of me.

I love being a mom of a toddler and I want so much for my darling little girl to stay as sweet and little as she is right now. Sometimes each moment of growth feels like a loss . Then sometimes I feel like I need to just close my eyes and make it through, to plunge ahead and not stop to look around.

I think part of what Bloom is getting at is that we have to live right now. Not in an imaginary world of what may come, not in  trying to stop change from changing and not in the past.

My little girl today is not who she was yesterday (really for those who are around toddlers, you know it is true). Life must be lived in the present, no amount of thinking about the past will actually take me back in time. No worry about the future will get me there sooner. I only have right now. I can cherish it. I can breathe deeply and enjoy the sun and wind and the snuggles. I can know that God is there and his love is there in each moment.  And then as time moves on I have to let it go and live in the next moment as it comes.  I can’t make my girl stay little but I can enjoy who she is each day. And I can make each day fuller by keeping my mind here, on this time, not reciting an argument from last night, not planning one for tomorrow. Just being there in the sun feeding the ducks, enjoying that God gave me that moment to recognize that what I am enjoying are the manifestations of his divine love.

Do it Yourself Face Oil

I have always been the girl with bad skin. My pre-dermatology pictures from high school are almost too painful to look at. My skin was always red and pimpled and now approaching 35 years old my skin is scarred and still pimpled.

Over the years I have tried many skin care regimens, some that work and many that don’t. I hate wasting money on trials of new products. Plus I would rather not use chemicals.

I had a friend who was selling a line of natural beauty products. Looking through their catalog I was intrigued with the section on face oils. They claimed that often our oily skin is a reaction to over drying with harsh cleansers (I am totally guilty of this). They said that face oils can be used as moisturizers and even for cleansing. Of course the little bottles of face oil sold for about $60. I’m sure the products are wonderful but it was outside of what I could spend so I decided to make my own.

Now before we go on I’ll add that I am no expert in this.  I’ve just done some basic experiments to figure out something simple that works for me. I refer often to Wellnessmama.com and Crunchybetty.com both sites which are dedicated to natural living.

But I will give you a quick overview of what I know about mixing oils and about using them as a moisturizer or cleanser.

For most face oils, especially anything you are going to use as a cleanser, you need Castor Oil. Castor Oil is available in any pharmacy and is both nourishing and cleansing. It is an oil but it has an astringent-like property. It will make your oil mix less oily. If you only use your oil for moisturizer than you can go without the Castor Oil, but I find that I really like the texture with it.

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Then you can choose another oil or two based on what you have in your pantry and the different properties of the oils.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil- very moisturizing and universally available
Sunflower Seed Oil- good for all skin types
Jojoba Oil- good for all skin types
Argan Oil- good for all skin types
Grapeseed Oil- best for oily or acne prone skin
Almond Oil- good for all skin types, takes longer to absorb
Coconut Oil- better for oily skin (for me it is too drying)
Apricot Kernal Oil- good for dry skin

The simplest of oil mixes would be to combine Castor Oil with one or two of the above oils in the ratios listed below.
Oily Skin- 30% Castor Oil
Balanced Skin- 20% Castor Oil
Dry Skin- 10% Castor Oil

You can experiment in small quantities to see which oil you like and in what quantities. I usually just mix about equal parts of Grapeseed, Olive and Castor Oils (I’m not much for measuring).  Today I added some Sunflower Seed Oil because I had recently purchased it for cooking.

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Now there are lots of other bonus oils that are great for your skin but pricy. You could buy these at a health food. Neem, Borage, and Tamanu are good for acne prone skin. Sea Buckthorn, Rosehip, Evening Primrose and Emu are better for dry skin.

If you use essential oils you can add these too. They aren’t necessary but they do add fragrance and also have their own nourishing properties.  I add about 10 drops of Frankincense because I love the smell and 5 drops of Lavender.  Again, you can experiment to see what you like.

Then shake.

Now your oil is done.

I will add, you can see I have mine in a metal spray bottle. This has worked well for me. My hands are usually oily after I use this so screw top bottles are difficult. I had a glass one for a few weeks. You can guess how that ended. I would not recommend glass in the bathtub especially with oily hands. It took me quite a while to get it cleaned up when it broke.

Now on to how to use your oil.  I mainly use mine as a moisturizer. I wash my face with my normal facewash and then spray a bit in my hand (somewhere between dime to nickel size depending on how dry  my skin is), then just massage gently onto my face.

At first it will seem a bit oily, but spend a few seconds massaging it into your skin (this is good for your skin and relaxing anyway), you will be surprised at how quickly it absorbs. I use this mainly at night, but if I wash my face in the morning (it has to be a pretty special occasion for me to do this but it does happen) I’ll use it then too or whenever my skin is dry. If you plan to apply make up, you probably want to let the oil absorb for 20 minutes or so before applying.

This moisturizer is multi-purpose. You can use it anywhere on your body, and is great for after shaving. It is also gentle and safe for kids.

You can also use your oil as a cleanser.

To do this apply a small amount (about the size of a quarter) onto dry skin, massage well. It takes a minute or so to get the oil distributed. You want it to have time to saturate into all your pores, try to relax and massage well until skin feels well oiled.

Once skin is saturated with oil take a soft wash cloth and wet it with warm water. Don’t burn yourself but make the water fairly hot. It is the warmth of the water that will lift the oil off your skin taking the dirt with it. Lay the washcloth over your face and allow it to sit there and cool. Then wipe gently. Repeat until all oil is removed. No need to scrub. Once oil is removed, pat dry. Then reapply a few drops of face oil as a moisturizer if necessary.

I have heard of many friends having great results with this method. Some initially report that their skin gets worse for a week or so as the oil levels change on their skin but then becomes amazing.

I have to admit this method hasn’t worked well for me.  Though it was better than not washing my face at all which had been the method I tried before this (I know, you may not want to take beauty advice from the girl who doesn’t even wash her face).

My problem was that I wasn’t patient enough to really work the oil in and then to get it rinsed off well.  Over all it is a very relaxing method and feels very pampering. So now I just use this as a treat and for a deep clean every now on then.

Enjoy.

Coming to Terms with my Inner Two Year Old

I have a hard time believing that God is real. If God is really in charge and he is really good then why am I suffering and why is there so much misery in the world? These are questions I ask myself everyday (seriously, several times per day).

But if the fullness of light and good is to exist it only makes sense in the context of the fullness of darkness and evil. If things were always good and everyone always got what they wanted then we would all walk around self absorbed and greedy. It takes the potential for loss and grief to keep us grounded and to know what we value and why. Likewise if everything was miserable all the time then we wouldn’t know the difference, we would suffer and hurt but not have reason to hope for more.

The truth is it isn’t necessarily suffering that makes me doubt. My bigger problem is my I think I know more than God.

I want to have a second baby as much as anyone wants anything. We are good parents, healthy and have a great family, it doesn’t make sense, why would God keep this blessing from us?  There are wonderful families that I pray for daily whose children have fatal diseases, why would God let this happen?

But as much as I think I know, I don’t really. I can’t see the past or the future. Perhaps the heartache of infertility will make me the exact sort of mom that my daughter needs. Perhaps another pregnancy would lead to health complications and not allow me to raise the daughter that I have?

Yet I stand before God and stamp my feet and say “Please let me have what I want, why won’t you let me?”

I pray like Bloom says, with passion and eagerness not because my heart is stirred for God himself, but because I desire to get my way in the world.

Taking a step back, this scenario feels familiar. I remember Zenie this morning wailing, crying, stomping because she wanted milk in a pink cup not a purple one.

I’m not so different when I come before God with my demands and pleas.

“I am the door,” Jesus says. Bloom adds “. . .-before you knock at the door, you must realize that you are outside.”   I am realizing that to pray isn’t to list off the things that God already knows that I want, but to recognize that I need God.