Staying Grounded When Chaos Hits

I definitely don’t live a standard life. And the thing about being a risk taker is that sometimes things fall short. And other times, everything falls short at the same time. Which is pretty much what happened last week. Let’s just say a lot of things crashed and burned. But that’s life, isn’t it? One minute everything is one way, and in an instant shit changes.

Since it seems like a lot of people in my life are experiencing chaos hitting the fan, I thought I would share some of my go-to techniques for staying grounded when life isn’t playing nice. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Gardening

I’ve loved gardening since I was born. No joke. I think my love of gardening came from my Irish/English grandpa who always had a massive garden and would teach me how to take care of each plant and honor the earth it was planted in. Being around plants soothes me. At the moment I’ve created a bit of a garden with some vegetables, roses, herbs and the most beautiful hydrangea ever. When I’m feeling super stressed out I go and sit out on my porch and just take in the reminder that growth will still happen, no matter what life feels like at the moment. Related image

2. Reading

I own more books than is probably healthy, and I try really hard to manage my addiction to buying them. This one I blame on my mom, since I grew up with an entire library to choose from. I love the wisdom and dependability of books. They’re still going to be there waiting for you to learn, or love, or let you leap into a fire pit to save an entire world. Who cares how your day way? There are adventures to be had. Right now I’m reading these books:
The First American
How We Got to Now
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3. Meditation/Prayer

If you’ve followed along on this blog for a while, you know that I’m a Christian and my faith is a really important way for me to bring balance to my life and worldview. When things get hectic and chaotic I take time to step back. I turn off my electronics and meditate to recenter. I think this is a really important part of being human, whether you’re connecting religion to it or not. Because when we find peace in ourselves, the outside world has a way of falling together, as well. Image result for meditation gif

4. Art/Cooking

I’m an artist and I do art. A lot. Whether it’s knitting, crochet, painting, cross-stitch (my latest craze), sewing, or making a recipe from scratch, creating with my hands brings me back to my center and calms me. I’ve always been like this, and I think it’s the same for a lot of people in my family. We’re makers. It’s in our DNA. We couldn’t stop even if we wanted to. Image result for cook little mermaid gif

5. Standing on my bed and lip syncing to Miley Cyrus

Ha. Ha. You thought these were all going to be adult and normal. Gotcha! I’m a huge Miley Cyrus fan (judge me if you must, you scoundrel) and I’ve found that her album Bangerz is just about the perfect lip syncing music to get that “F U” attitude off your heart. Be thou warned, that these are explicit lyrics. But, ya know, sometimes you need so yell a few swear words to get your mind back on track. The point is, have fun. You’ll be amazed how much of a difference it makes.

What do you do to re-center yourself? I’d love to hear about it! 

Kid Friendly Recipes Worth Keeping

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If you’re an au pair like me, or even a mom or dad who just wants to get your kids to actually eat a meal, you know that feeding kids can be tricky. Eating healthy while eating yummy aren’t always two peas in a pod, but over the past year I’ve picked up some recipes which have proven to be fail proof with my kids.
I’m not gonna lie, this year has been especially challenging for me because I’m feeding an age range of 5 to 21 years old, so the taste buds are anything but similar. But regardless of how difficult, each night I have four ravenous boys pacing my kitchen for food. What’s a girl to do!?

At this point I can honestly say I don’t know what I would have done this year without Pintrest. It has been such a help when I’ve had no idea what to do, or what to feed this family. Because let’s be honest, it’s not only important to find food that tastes good and makes everyone happy. We need meals that also work with the very real issue of time constraints!
All of these recipes I’ve found I can make into a dinner in 30 – 45 minutes (total – cooking + prep time) – because let’s face it, no nanny has 3 hours to dedicate to feeding her children. Sound familiar? Here are my top 5 go-to recipes for kids (just in case you find yourself swamped with salivating children).
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Whoever was the first person to come up with the idea of fajitas (or their cousins burritos/tacos) deserves a nobel peace prize. Not only do my kids love to eat food they can use their hands with, but they also like the independence of being able to put whatever they like on their plate, wrapping it up in a tortilla and calling it good. I really like being able to find recipes for copying store-bought items, so this recipe has been great for seasoning chicken, turkey and hamburger to wrap our little tortilla blankets around. CLICK HERE for the recipe!  Note: I usually throw in some canned diced tomatoes with the seasoning, to help with flavor/consistency.

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Everyone has their favorite pancake recipes, and I don’t want to add to the clutter of the internet, but this recipe makes simple honest to goodness buttermilk pancakes which are easily matched up with some eggs and bacon to make the perfect meal of breakfast as a stand in for dinner. This is a great meal to have when you don’t know what to make, can’t make it to the store, need something your kids love and want to use things already in your house. In my book (and my kids minds) it’s always a win. NOTE: This recipe is liquid heavy, so make sure you only add in enough of the liquid ingredients to moisten the dry ingredients to a silky texture – no one likes watery pancakes. CLICK HERE for the recipe!

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I actually made this with regular (boil to prepare) ravioli and my boys loved it. Again, it’s bringing together really basic items (ravioli, pasta sauce, meat and cheese) and making something wholesome that kids love. The prep time wasn’t much, but it does take a bit of time to cook, so make sure that you have some chopped veggies for your littles (or bigs) to munch on while it’s cooking, if you get a late start! CLICK HERE for the recipe!

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Okay, so this one isn’t really a meal, so much as just a life saver. Sometimes slapping a piece of cooked meat and some vegetables on a plate isn’t quite enough to fill the stomachs of your hungry children, and this is one of the easiest filler items you will ever find (not to mention, super fun for kids to help with). Add in a plate of these bad boys and you’re on a smooth path to baking your way into your children’s hearts. Just don’t expect leftovers – these things fly off the plate. CLICK HERE for the recipe!

IMG_1814b copyWarning: Once you cook this recipe your kids probably won’t stop asking for it. I’m not a crazy creative cook, but I do love to put food in front of my kids that is filling, wholesome and leaves them with smiles on their faces. This recipe does it all. Not only will it make your house smell mouthwatering, but while the chicken is cooking (with only a 10 min prep time! Hallelujah!) you can be putting together a salad, mashing some potatoes or making some buttermilk biscuits ( *wink *wink). By the time the chicken is done, you’ll be in good shape to have everything for dinner ready to go! CLICK HERE for the recipe!

What are your favorite recipes for kids? Let’s share!!

 

Pintrest Is My Friend, And Food

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I have Bisquick in my fridge.
Probably not the most exciting sentence you’ve read today; but it gets better. You see, the adventure lies in how the Bisquick got there. Because it didn’t come from the store.

I’m a self professed stress cooker, so when I came to France and saw everything around me different in the grocery stores, my stressed out self became more stressed about my chosen de-stressing activity.

But never fear, I did figure out a way to get my favorite treats, still. And they’ve been a hit with the family, as I’ve shared recipes with them, too! Thank God for Pintrest. Here are some of my favorites, so you can enjoy them even if you’re not living 5,000 miles away from the US.

 

  1. Bisquick 
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I kept finding recipes that said something along the lines of, “Just throw in some Bisquick.” Which is great, except for when you don’t have Bisquick within a thousand miles of your house. Luckily, this blog has an excellent recipe for a homemade Bisquick which turned out great and worked brilliantly in my other recipes.

  1. Fajitas

 

6b4ecd1d19f414e487fe915ef9f1d09dEvery Friday we have fajitas. I’ve tried and tried to have different meals, thinking the boys can’t really want to eat the same thing every week…but they do. And they let me know. Like when I made stir-fry and one of them asked, “But can I just put the meat in a tortilla and make a fajita?” Unfortunately there isn’t just a pack of fajita seasoning that you can grab at the grocery store, here. Fortunately, this lovely blog had my back. (Also Taco Seasoning – WARNING: A bit spicy)

 

  1. Pizza Dough

how-to-make-pizza-dough-6-copyThere isn’t really an option in France to just order a pizza “without cheese.” And as someone with a dairy allergy, that makes it really hard for me to have pizza, now. But lucky me, I found this recipe that helped me make some goodness at home so I can have a treat when I’m in the mood for a little Italy, and less France.

 

  1. Cake

 

729ce9790aeb33a39a0a92b3604dfed6It was one of my boys’ birthdays a couple of weeks ago, and I was asked to make a couple of cakes for his birthday. The only problem? There aren’t really box mixes in this country (and the few that do exist aren’t worth even trying to make). Which meant heading to Pintrest for a recipe that would tell me how to make a cake from scratch. It wasn’t actually that hard, but following the instructions with two screaming boys running around made concentrating just a tad more difficult.

  1. Icing

 

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This was one of the funniest things I made, not because I haven’t made it before, but because icing is just incredibly NOT French. French people do not ice cakes. The kids could not even handle how much sugar there was, but they loved it. The looks on their faces as they ran and told their brothers about this new treat was absolutely priceless. (Recipe)

Non French Cooking In France: Episode 1

This is not my picture, but it is what it looked like. I was too busy eating mine to take glam pictures.
This is not my picture, but it is what it looked like. I was too busy eating mine to take glam pictures.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the part of the show when I cook things in France that are not French. It’s true that France is known for it’s cuisine and, as an American living here, I feel incredibly inspired by that. But, the facts are – living here is like living in a box with baguettes, some wine and an assortment of cheese. Yes, you can survive, but since 2/3 of those things are personal allergies, it’s not going to be very fun for me.

With today’s kitchen adventures, I went through quite the adventure to bring everything together, but here goes nothing.

First off, rules of the kitchen:

1. Make sure there are measuring cups/spoons BEFORE you start.

2. Check to see if the country you live in sells baking powder/baking soda.

3. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you an hour to find 6 ingredients in the store.

4. Suggested soundtrack cleanse: Taylor Swift (to make you happy), Sam Smith (to make you sad) and Frozen (so you can let it all go).

For this episode, I decided I would take advantage of the absolute OBSESSION with peaches in this part of France, and make a crumble (which also doesn’t require baking soda or powder) and voila!

Here’s the original recipe I was following, in case you get tired of my rambling: 

1. Spend an hour in the “Supermarché” trying to find ingredients. Shake the boxes and cross your fingers that they’re actually what you need – cause, let’s be real, you can’t read the packages.

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2. Grease your pan with butter, because there’s not enough of that in the recipe itself…just grab whatever looks like it will fit your stuff. Set the oven to something that’s not 250 degrees – because in France it’s CELSIUS, yo. Push some buttons, turn some nobs and eventually get it to somewhere around 180 degrees (which is something close to 350 degrees in Farenheight, don’t ask me, I’m just here for the food).

3. Use a knife, cave man style, to skin the peaches (because there isn’t a peeler, duh).

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4. Throw them in a bowl with some sugar that looks about 3 tbsp, some cinnamon (3/4 tsp(ish)) and a couple of squeezes of vanilla extract (1/2 teaspoon). It’s probably going to look your dog threw it up, but it will smell like autumn and happy thoughts.

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5. Dump everything in the pan you’ll be baking in. Wash the bowl in the cold water, since the hot water takes 3 hours to warm. Dry it thoroughly. Combine “dry ingredients” aka 1 cup of flour…as in an actual kids cup. Plastic rainbow, yes please. Same amount for oats, and 1 cup brown sugar. Mix.

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Maybe just a bit more, butter -- for a snack.
Maybe just a bit more, butter — for a snack.

6. After everything dry is mixed, add in 1 cup of butter. But, since the butter isn’t labeled with measurements, just go ahead and cut as much as you want. It’s France. There’s no such things as too much butter.

7. After everything gets crumblyumtious, sprinkle it like fairy dust over the top of the peach dog barf filling, you have in the pan.

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It should look like this.

8. Throw it in the oven for about 45 minutes. But, since you can’t figure out the heating system until half way through,  you might want to leave it in a little longer. Especially since the heat was set only for the bottom elements.

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9. Take out of oven gingerly, trying your very best not to burn yourself, break the ceramic pan or permanently burn a counter. Allow to cool for a couple of hours.

10. Feed to darling brats, who will exclaim, through malicious grins, that they can’t stand it because they don’t like sugar…Share with parents, instead, and have them find value in you for something miraculously good.

The End. 

And for those of you who would like the ACTUAL Recipe, here it is: 

Fresh Peach Crisp

Prep Time: 15mn
Cook Time: 45mn
Total Time: 1hr

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 cups fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced – about 6-7 peaches
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup + 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, cold, cut into cubes

DIRECTIONS

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9×13 inch casserole dish.
  3. In a large bowl, toss peaches with cinnamon, vanilla, 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons flour. Pour the peaches into the greased casserole dish.
  4. In a separate large bowl, combine 1 cup flour with old fashioned oats, and brown sugar. Cut in butter until you have a crumbly consistency.
  5.  Pour the crumbly topping on top of the peaches.
  6. Bake in the oven, uncovered for 45-50 minutes.
  7. *Notes: Some of you have suggested that this calls for too much butter. If a cup seems like too much for you, feel free to reduce the amount to 1/2 cup. If you want your Fresh Peach Crisp to be extra crisp, bake for 5-10 minutes longer, making sure to keep a close eye on it. I personally love the end result using a full cup of butter.

French Cookinspiration

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This week seems to be the week of food, here. I’ve baked my first dessert, started putting together salads and dressings…and I’ve BEGAN to find my way around the French supermarket by my house. It’s not easy, because things aren’t arranged the same was as in the US…but slowly I’m starting to love my little adventures to the store.

This week I’ve been inspired by lots, but I thought I would share my food inspirations specifically.

1. Julia Child: Another American who spent time navigating the world of French living, I spent a good 30 minutes learning how to make a perfect omelet, today.

2. The Little Mermaid: My brother and I had a potentially unhealthy obsession with this song growing up, and I definitely had it in mind while I was cooking this week. In fact, mid ingredients I definitely said “Zut, Alors! I have missed one!”

3. Ebay: Ebay has been my friend pretty hard core for cooking ingredients (who knew!?) and cooking supplies. Measuring spoons/cups aren’t really a thing in France, so I haven’t been able to find any in the stores near me. While I was looking for some, I found these beauties, though, and I think I’m going to save up for them!

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