These Simple Graces

Faith - Motherhood - Simple Living

Citrus Blush Drink Recipe

I was initially going to do something rose related for this month’s cocktail recipe. Too Valentine-y for you? Perhaps.

But then I saw blood oranges at the grocery store and thought “Oh yes! Perfect!” So here we are. This is a sweet drink, very light on the alcohol. It also tastes quite nice sans alcohol I think.

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Ginger Syrup
  • 2 oz. Blood Orange Juice
  • .5-1 oz Rum
  • 4-6 oz. Seltzer Water

Pour ginger syrup, orange juice and rum in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake to combine. (Or put in a cup and mix with a whisk.)

Citrus Blush Cocktail from These Simple Graces

Strain over more ice and add seltzer water.

Pour over more ice and add seltzer water.

If you don’t have blood orange juice then I would add a splash of lemon juice or cranberry juice to normal orange juice to give it some tartness which blood orange juice has. Cranberry juice will also give it the blush tone.

Citrus Blush Cocktail from These Simple Graces

My Intentional Year: February

February is well under way and the area I’m focusing on this month is: Finances. Oooo, ahhh, so exciting…

Some of my financial goals for the month are:

  • Write up a monthly expenses budget. My income varies quite a bit month to month, so I’ve been reluctant to make a yearly budget, but I figured I can start small by having some sort of written plan for what expenses come around monthly and see how much I need to make to cover those expenses each month and then plan on a larger scale once I’ve gotten that done.
  • Stick to a $200 grocery budget for the month.
  • Pay cash only for groceries.
  • Make a meal plan for the entire month at one time.
  • “Limited Spend” month. I’m not doing a full out no spend month, but I’m limiting my spending to certain specific items for the month. I took $200 out of the bank for food for the month, I will put gas in my car, pay monthly bills (I don’t think the student loan company would like it if I called and said I can’t pay because I’m doing a no spend month, what do you think?), and if any medical expenses come up then I will pay that, but that’s it.
  • File taxes.

January was my month of intentional creativity. Here’s how I did on my goals:

  • To complete the thermal curtains I started in November
  • To do my yearly review/goal setting/planning for my Etsy shop
  • To start refinishing my rocking chair
  • Design a knitted shawl pattern
  • Start quilting my quilt that has been sewn for near 7 years now, but is waiting to be quilted
  • Finish a mobile I’ve been knitting for my son

I didn’t get my planning done for my Etsy shop in January, but I have completed it at this point. I didn’t fully refinish the rocking chair, but I recovered the seat and I decided to wait on refinishing the whole thing because I can’t decide if I want to stain it or just try to sand it and clean it up from some dents and scratches a bit.

Have you fallen off the new year’s resolution train? It’s never to late to get back on track with your goals for the year.

My Intentional Year - These Simple Graces

Chai Spiced Hot Chocolate

Coming in just under the wire here with January’s drink recipe for my year of cocktails. Since I’m on a bit of a chai kick lately here is a homemade, from scratch chai hot chocolate.

In a small saucepan warm 1 cup of milk. Whisk in 2 TBS cocoa powder, a pinch of salt, and 1-2 TBS of chai syrup to taste.

Chai Spiced Hot Chocolate

Year of Cocktails 2017

I got a cocktail shaker for Christmas last year and in an effort to learn how to use it, I’m planning to post new a cocktail recipe each month inspired by the season. Some will probably just be a beverage recipe rather than a cocktail. Any that do contain alcohol will be optional if you’re not into that.

Disclaimer: I’m not a former bartender; I’m not a chef or anything fancy. So these won’t be fancy-shmancy drink recipes with fancy ingredients and elaborate directions. From the ideas I currently have floating around in my head I can tell you they will be simple and made with readily available (or easy to make) ingredients like herbal syrups and juices.

If you are a professional, please don’t lambaste me for my incorrect technique or ratios or terminology. I’m just trying to learn and experiment, so any helpful tips when you see me doing something weird would be fine. 🙂

January: Chai Spiced Hot Chocolate

February: Citrus Blush Cocktail

My Intentional Year: January

It’s the first month of my Intentional Year.

For January I chose to focus on being intentional in some creative projects I have planned.

Some of my goals for the month are:

  • To complete the thermal curtains I started in November
  • To do my yearly review/goal setting/planning for my Etsy shop
  • To start refinishing my rocking chair
  • Design a knitted shawl pattern
  • Start quilting my quilt that has been sewn for near 7 years now, but is waiting to be quilted
  • Finish a mobile I’ve been knitting for my son

I thought about starting the year off with something a bit more serious like finances, but I’ve been feeling like I just don’t have time to work on creative projects anymore and I felt like making some time to be creative would be a good way to start the year. I’m hoping it will inspire me for the months to come.

Since it’s already most of the way through the month, I know how it’s going thus far, but I’ll post that update all the way at the end of the month. 🙂

How are your 2017 goals going so far?

My Intentional Year - These Simple Graces

Chai Spiced Syrup

I love the taste of chai in the winter! It just takes something already warm and cozy and amps it up a notch. My favorite is to make homemade chai tea using this recipe. I’ve tasted two bagged chai teas that I really like as well. The bagged chai tea from Trader Joe’s, and one which is from England which my cousin sent me some of while she was living there. Other bagged teas that I’ve tried just didn’t quite hit the spot.

I recently had the idea to make a chai syrup/honey to make it quick and easy to add a touch of chai flavor to my tea without having special tea bags or time to make the whole concentrate (which I drink rather quickly when I do make it.)

This is obviously not as strong as actually brewing chai tea, but it adds a nice little sweet chai spice to your tea or coffee.

It is based entirely on The Prairie Homestead chai tea recipe that I love, so head over there to get the spices!

Ingredients:

  • Spices listed in this recipe (Just the spices, don’t add the tea bags.)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup honey or sugar (I prefer a honey flavor in my chai tea so that’s what I used.)

Chai Spiced Syrup - These Simple Graces

Directions:

If using honey: Put all the spices and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Let steep for 20 minutes and strain. Mix in honey, and store in a clean jar in the refrigerator.

If using sugar: Put all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Strain into a clean jar and store in refrigerator.

Chai Spiced Syrup - These Simple Graces

Uses:

  • Add to tea or coffee to taste
  • Use to make homemade hot chocolate
  • Drizzle over ice cream
  • Use as a spiced simple syrup in cocktails
  • Use as a sweetener in a pumpkin smoothie

Chai Spiced Syrup - These Simple Graces

Chai Spiced Marshmallows

If you’ve never made homemade marshmallows you are seriously missing out on awesomeness.

My first attempt was quite tasty, but looked disgusting. My second attempt, was delightfully delicious and they looked pretty good too. I think that I over-beat the first batch so my advice is to watch it very, very carefully.

This isn’t really my own recipe, it’s a recommendation to try a combination of two other recipes.

To make my chai marshmallows I used Wellness Mama’s marshmallow recipe and instructions, but instead of water, I used 1 cup of chai.  When the marshmallows were done I tossed them in a mixture of:

  • 1/4 cup powdered sucanat with honey (to powder it just put some in a blender and you have a powdered sugar substitute!)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamon

I wholeheartedly suggest that you try this combo, they are amazing in hot chocolate!

Chai Spiced Marshmallows at These Simple Graces

2017 Word of the Year

And here I am, sharing my “one word” for 2017 post half way through January. I figured better late than never right? I love reading how people chose their words and what it means for them and their year ahead, so here it goes.

Two years ago I chose the word “Focus” for 2015 and everything was going swimmingly until I was sidelined by pregnancy sickness in August. I never really got back on the “accomplishing my goals” bandwagon after that.

In 2016, I was so preoccupied with getting ready for the baby and all of that so I never really took the time to plan out specific goals, or commitments for the year. By the end of 2016 I was feeling like everything was just happening around me, like I was just reacting all day every day instead of doing anything proactively. I was (read “still am”) behind on everything and things only got done when it was urgent or overdue. (Example: “clean the stove” was on my list of things to do before the baby was born. I still haven’t done it and he’s 9 months old.) I look at my daily life and think “What am I doing?! I say this is a priority, but I’m not living like it is. I go from one thing to another, to another without stopping to think about what’s important and what I need to trim out of my life.

It wasn’t hard to pick a word for 2017. I went through Leonie Dawson’s Your Shining Year workbook (I’ve used her business planner before and loved it so I gave the life version a try.) and my word for 2017 is “Intentional.

I don’t want to just keep running around reacting to what’s happening around me, I want to take intentional steps towards my long term goals. I want to set priorities in my life and then let that guide my decisions.

So how am I planning to make this an intentional year?

I made a list of 12 areas that I want to work on. Each month I’ll choose an area and then work towards some specific goals in that area.

As part of the workbook I made a list of 100 things I want to do this year. There are long-term projects, quick items, books to read, routines to create, weekly, monthly and seasonal habits. The list really runs the gamut. Each month when I choose my intentional area I will go through this list to help me choose my goals for the month.

I plan to do a monthly update post to say how I did the month before and what I plan for the upcoming month…accountability y’all.

Leonie talks alot about how most people who make goals don’t write them down or review them and those who write down their goals and review them regularly are the highest achievers.

You’ve probably heard it said that goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. (SMART goals) I think we can make goals that fit all those criteria but still fail because we want to do it all at once. We want to start it all in January and have all the new habits formed by February. If we don’t then we get discouraged.

In addition to breaking our goals up into smaller steps to make them more achievable, what if we spread them out? So set a goal in January, but then don’t even intend to start working on it until August. If you’re writing things down and regularly reviewing it then you won’t forget about it by then.

So I’ve set my goals for the year and now I’m going to take it one month at a time in bite size pieces…ok, maybe large mouthful pieces. We’ll see how it goes.

Did you choose a word for 2017? I’d love to hear it.

My Intentional Year - These Simple Graces

Chocolate Pumpkin Granola Squares

This recipe is a copycat of the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Granola Bark that’s been in stores this fall. I experimented a bit and came up with something I like. I didn’t do a cost analysis, but I’m betting it’s cheaper than buying it from the store, and it isn’t too labor intensive to make.

I made a crunchier version and a chewier version. To make it more crunchy simple decrease the amount of pumpkin and bake it for an extra 5-10 minutes. I can’t decide which way I like better. It depends on which one I’m eating! Pumpkin, chocolate, nuts…what’s not to love!?

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (split in half)
  • 1/4 cup millet
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (decrease to 1/4 cup for a crunchier granola)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup sucanat
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cardamon

Mix together oats, almonds, 1/4 cup of the pumpkin seeds and millet in a 9×12″ baking pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes to crisp up a bit. Add the spices and stir together in a medium bowl.

Chocolate Pumpkin Granola Squares at These Simple Graces

In a medium saucepan melt together pumpkin, oil, maple syrup, sucanat and vanilla. Pour over oat mixture and stir until well coated.

Chocolate Pumpkin Granola Squares at These Simple Graces

Oil the same 9×12″ baking pan very well or line it with parchment paper. Press the granola mixture into the pan and bake in your 350 degree oven for 45 minutes for a crispier version or 30-40 minutes for a chewier version.

Chocolate Pumpkin Granola Squares at These Simple Graces

Remove from oven and cool completely. I put it in the fridge overnight.

Melt chocolate and spread over the top of the granola. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds over the top and press them gently into the chocolate. Let cool until hardened.

Chocolate Pumpkin Granola Squares at These Simple Graces

You can now cut or break it apart depending on how crunchy it is.

Chocolate Pumpkin Granola Squares at These Simple Graces

Store in an air-tight container. I stored the chewier version in the fridge for longer than a week, but the crunchy one was fine on the counter and it was gone within a week so I don’t know how long it would last.

If you have any leftover little crumbs of granola that broke off they are great in yogurt!

Embarrassing Baby Food: on judgment and choices

I read comments on blogs, you know the type.

They’re coming across as ‘better than thou’ because they take the care to make their baby’s food while others feed their precious children jarred food gasp.

Or they’re harsh towards those who do, ‘this is clearly your first kid, wait til you have 4!’ ‘Yeah, if I had time to make my own baby food I’d spend it on something more worthwhile!’

I mean obviously there are people in between, but the extremes speak loudest.

My son just started eating some solids last week and we went out of town this past weekend to visit my in-laws. I brought a couple jars of pureed squash that I’d made and when I pulled it out to feed him I legitimately felt embarrassed to have homemade baby food. A couple people asked if I made his food and as I answered I felt almost obligated to qualify my “yes” as though I was doing something wrong and offensive by having homemade baby food. I felt like I would automatically be lumped in with the “better than you” mommy’s and could hear the harsh words I’ve read playing through my head.

I feel as though when I choose something, it will be taken as a judgement against other people’s decisions.

So by having homemade baby food, I am looking down on those who buy baby food. Or by breastfeeding, I’m judging people who formula feed.

But I’m not.

I guess it’s because I’ve seen other people be so judgmental about the same choices, so I’m afraid I’ll come across the same way.

I am 100% not sitting over here thinking: “Well, obviously I make food for my precious baby. I would never dream of formula feeding or buying those toxic jars of food from the store!” I’m thinking more along the lines of: “I have some extra sweet potatoes there which will go bad while we’re out of town, might as well throw them in the oven with dinner and blend it up so they don’t go to waste?” I also have jarred baby food in my cabinet right now. Why does everything have to be either/or? My goal is to make food for my son when I can cause it’s cheaper, but I’m not against jarred food.

When I choose something that’s the best thing for myself and my family at this time in our lives, it doesn’t mean I’m hating on other choices. I don’t like this “If you choose A then you hate B.” mentality that seems to be seeping around everywhere. How about “A and B are both valid choices, and I’m choosing one and you can choose the other and we can respect and value each other’s opinions and choices.” Where did that mentality go?

How about you? Do you feel like you’ll unintentionally make people feel judged by your choices? How do you make sure they don’t?

Embarrassing Baby Food: on judgement and choices at These Simple Graces

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