Life

Nursery Workers, You Matter!

It’s been a difficult few days, to say the least. My father-in-law passed away after a short, but intense battle with cancer. Not only has it been a sad time, but it’s been a busy time. I never realized how much work it was to pull a funeral together in a matter of days.

My husband has been away a lot recently, making preparations with family for the upcoming funeral. I have been trying to stay busy and keep the house as clean and as comfortable as possible for my husband when he comes home, a sort of oasis in the midst the chaos.

Since he had to leave again this morning to collaborate on the obituary, I decided to go to my family’s church rather than drive forty minutes to our home church. I wasn’t quite ready to face the questions and condolences of my church family and preferred to go somewhere where I felt less known.

It was a short five minute walk to the church that I went to every Sunday with my family as a child. Many of the same people I knew as a youngster were still there, though they’d aged quite a bit in the ten years or so that I’d been gone. A lot of them still recognized me and all of them were excited to see some fresh faces.

At nearly fourteen months, my daughter was by far the youngest person in the church. Everyone else in the tiny congregation, other than me, was probably in their mid sixties or older. I wasn’t worried so much about the age gap, but rather that there was no good place to let my squirmy daughter run free without being too much of a disruption.

Before the service started, the reverend graciously spared me from public shame by announcing that all of God’s children are welcome, even the tiny and noisy ones. She even gave my little tot the freedom to wander the aisles. I felt welcomed not only by the reverend, but also by the congregation. They clearly enjoyed having my tiny human squiggle her way around the church.

But oh, did I miss the nursery at my home church! Until today, I don’t think I understood what an essential ministry the church nursery really is. And I even work in the nursery! In the past, I’ve found it boring and I’m sure I thought it was unimportant. But now I know that a church nursery is not a thing to be taken for granted, and neither are it’s workers!

The service was a disaster for me. My daughter sat nicely for about two minutes reading the books I brought her and cuddling her stuffed dog. Then sitting became distasteful to her so I let her down to wander around between the pew and the wall. But it wasn’t enough. Though I had a whole pew to myself, it wasn’t enough room for her little body, and eventually we were forced to transition to the back of the church where she could stretch her legs and toddle about.

It was stressful trying to contain her boundless energy in an area completely unsuited for it. I couldn’t focus on the worship, prayers, or teaching because all of my attention was devoted to captivating hers. Though I wanted to leave, I stayed because I knew that the parishioners were tickled to have a baby in their midst. I also didn’t want to be rude. But oh, did I miss our church nursery!

The experience wasn’t entirely unfruitful, however. I now have a greater appreciation for the role that nursery workers play in the church, myself included! I used to think that the hour I spend watching babies toddle around was wasted. But now I know that it frees up tired parents to worship.

So thank you to all you nursery workers who served in your churches today. Even though it might not seem like it because you’re singing silly songs, babbling with babies, and changing dirty diapers, you are doing God’s work and it glorifies him. You’re making a difference. You matter.

Desserts

Coco-Mocha-nut Cupcakes (Gluten-Free, Lower Sugar)

I made these cupcakes recently for a family birthday celebration and I can’t believe how many raving reviews I got about them afterwards! My original intention was to simply use the recipe on the back of the box of the Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa that I was using. But…I can never follow a recipe exactly, so I made some substitutions.

The first thing I did was swap out the regular flour for Bob’s Red Mills Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour since I knew I would be serving some folks with gluten sensitivities. Then I looked at the amount of sugar the recipe was calling for, and I noticed that it called for more sugar than flour! Two cups of sugar for thirty cupcakes seemed excessive to me, so I cut it down by half.

The recipe also called for canola oil and milk, both of which we didn’t have. I don’t like to use canola oil for cooking, so I swapped it out for some coconut oil, which gave the cupcakes a nice, subtle coconut flavor. But we still didn’t have any milk so I had to run to the store. (I actually literally ran to the store, too. Packed the baby in the stroller and off we went).

Since we don’t typically drink cow’s milk, I didn’t want to buy any more than we actually needed. I spied a small container of coffee milk, debated with myself for a moment, and decided to go for it. Turns out everybody loved the hint of coffee flavor in the cupcakes, so I’m glad I tried it!

Everybody loved the frosting, too. I made a basic buttercream with hints of cinnamon, chocolate, and vanilla. Unfortunately though, when I first made the frosting I didn’t write down the ingredients or measure anything (which is typical for me), so I had to take some time to recreate it. But fortunately I figured it out, so you will find the frosting directions below as well.

I hope you enjoy my adaptation of Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake. (You can find the original Hershey’s recipe here, if you are interested.)

This recipe makes roughly thirty 2 to 2 1/2 inch cupcakes.

Below is my basic recipe for buttercream frosting. For the Coco-Mocha-nut frosting, add 1/2 cup of cocoa powder (or to taste) after you beat in the sugar. For additional tips, check out my post on how to make buttercream frosting.

Did you make these cupcakes? Share your creation with us on Instagram with the hashtag #asimplefamilykitchen

recipes, Sides

Oven Roasted Broccolini (AIP, Ketogenic, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian)

Yesterday was the first time I have ever eaten broccolini in my twenty (plus a few) years of existence. I wish I had discovered it sooner because it’s delicious!

Broccolini, or baby broccoli, is a hybrid vegetable similar to regular broccoli, but different in a few ways. In particular, it has smaller florets, a longer, thinner stalk, and a slightly different (and in my opinion, better) taste. It’s slightly sweet and reminiscent of asparagus.

Broccolini can be served in a variety of ways including raw, boiled or steamed. I chose to roast it, which brought out more of its flavor and added a bit of crispness.

Here’s a basic recipe for Roasted Broccolini for you to enjoy as a tasty side.

Did you make this recipe? Share it with us on Instagram! #asimplefamilykitchen

Life

The Battle of the Bees

It started with a single wasp in the kitchen. I saw it buzzing around the windows while I was working at the table. “That’s strange”, I thought. “I didn’t think I left the door open. Oh well, maybe I let him in somehow.” I opened up the window and ushered him out into the warm outside air.

I didn’t think much of it until I went to go put the diapers into the washing machine in the basement. When I walked over to the machine, I heard a familiar buzzing sound. A wasp in the washer? This can’t be good. Thankfully, he flew over to the light allowing me to quickly and carefully toss the dirty laundry in the machine and escape back upstairs.

I went over to consult my dad, who lives next door. “Any idea why I might a wasp in my basement? I only saw one. I don’t know how he could have gotten down there.” My dad wasn’t sure either, but suggested I look around the foundation of the house to see if there were any nests near the foundation.

I patrolled the premise, but apparently not too well because I didn’t find the nest. But my dad did, a couple days later when he was mowing the lawn. “Beth, come check this out. I found out where they’re getting in.” He gestured toward the wall of the house. A cloud of yellow jackets passed in and out of the wall of our house as they went about their daily chores.

“I’ll take care of them tonight,” my dad promised. And he did. When it was dark, he sprayed their entry way and sealed up the hole so no one could escape. Problem solved.

Or so we thought. The next day, I went downstairs to do the diapers. Again, I heard buzzing by the stairwell. It looked like our raid hadn’t been completely successful and that in order to throw our stinky diapers in the wash, I was going to have to get past the wasp.

Carefully I made my way into the basement and deposited the load in the machine. But the wasp was back in the stairwell, buzzing by the window. “How am I going to get back upstairs? I’m trapped!” I tried waiting it out to see if he would relocate, but he was pretty content by the stairs. Then I realized why he was by the window: he was attracted to the light! So I turned on a nearby light bulb and he made his way over the the light, repeatedly crashing into the lit bulb leaving me free to make my exit. I left the basement, leaving the light on.

Later when I went to get my laundry out, I saw not one, but ten wasps buzzing around the light. Forsaking the laundry, I went to get my dad. “Dad, we’ve got a problem.” He came over to check out the situation. My dad’s deathly allergic to bees, so he really wasn’t happy about this new development. Because of his allergy, the attack on the wasps would have to be stealthy so as not to anger them.

Being an engineer, my dad came up with a creative solution. He rigged up a vacuum with a long PVC pipe attached to the nozzle. With the wasps flocking to the light, we were able to use this extension to suck them one by one into the vacuum. They would make a satisfying little “thump” as they traveled down the tube.

While we were down there, we figured out how they had been getting into the basement. Somehow, they had found their way in through a tiny crack in the foundation and built a large nest up into the wall of the house. My dad sprayed around the crack with Raid and the flow of wasps from the hole ceased.

The basement was secured, but the invasion wasn’t over yet. Ousted from their home, a cloud of wasps surrounded their old entrance, seeking desperately for a new way in. This might not have been an issue if it wasn’t next to our upstairs neighbor’s door! Further action was needed.

In an effort to wipe out the remaining wasps, my dad mixed up a batch of contact pesticide spray, ordinarily used for the garden. He misted the wasps until they started to diminish in number.

It’s been a couple days since then, and it appears that those yellow jackets are a hardy bunch because there’s still a few buzzing around by the door. The battle isn’t over yet, but I think we are on the winning side. At the very least, I can get to my washing machine! And for that I am grateful.

Have you ever had a wasp nest in your house? How did you deal with it?

Entrées

Ginger-Maple Salmon (Gluten-Free, Low-FODMAP, Ketogenic, Paleo)

Here’s a new recipe that our family loves! It’s a sweet and savory salmon filet with a touch of spice.

Lately our family has been eating more fish. I used to take fish oil supplements to make sure that I was getting enough omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are important for bone and brain health so I didn’t want to be missing out, especially while pregnant and nursing. But supplements are expensive!

After mulling it over, I decided that eating fish is better than taking omega-3 supplements for a couple reasons. First, instead of consuming a highly processed capsule, you are eating a whole food which contains other important nutrients like selenium, B vitamins, potassium, copper, magnesium, iron and zinc. Second, it’s cheaper. Instead of buying something extra, you’re just buying food – something you already do.

Now I know that fish can be expensive, but there are a couple ways to save money. One way is to choose frozen or canned fish over fresh. Another is to choose smaller fish, like Atlantic Mackerel or sardines, instead of larger fish like salmon.

If you decide to incorporate more fish into your meals, be sure to choose low mercury fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids and aim for 2-3 servings per week. Here’s a list of the top 9 fish that meet these criteria.

This recipe features salmon, which is a great low mercury, high omega-3 fish. I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as we did!

Did you make this recipe? Share your creation on Instagram with #asimplefamilykitchen!

parenting

18 Ways to Entertain Your Toddler in the Kitchen When They’re Bored and You’re Busy

Pop quiz: Which has a shorter attention span, a goldfish or a toddler?

It’s probably a goldfish but sometimes it seems like it’s your toddler. We’ve probably all been there: you’re trying to finish your morning coffee or trying to frantically whip dinner together while your toddler winds around your legs, begging for you to entertain them. Somehow, they are bored of the large variety of toys you provided for them and they need something new.

If you can relate to that, this list is for you. It’s a list of 18 things that you can entertain your toddler with, right in your kitchen. It’s perfect for a busy weeknight or a long, rainy day stuck inside. These activities are things that they can do on their own (with supervision of course.)

1. Let Them Stack “Blocks”

Don’t have any blocks? Don’t worry! Find some unopened pasta boxes and let your child build a skyscraper, and knock it down. Build a skyscraper, and knock it down. You get the idea.


2. Spice It Up A Bit

Pull out your spice rack and let your child remove and rearrange your spices. All the better if your spice rack is one of those spinning ones. Your child will probably also enjoy shaking and banging the spice jars, so be careful if they are made of glass. Also make sure they can’t get the lids off!


3. Teach Them Their ABC’s

Fridge magnets are a classic childhood toy that I think every kitchen should have. Your kid can play solo by taking the magnets on and off or rearranging them to form “words.” You can also tell them the names and sounds of the letters or teach them to spell their name. Having a small container near the fridge to put letters in can be fun too. Last night my daughter filled up my husband’s shoes with letters!


4. Bring Out Their Inner Explorer

Designate a cabinet for exploration and fill it with unbreakable items your kid can’t get hurt with or choke on. Let them poke around and discover new objects. Switch it up occasionally to keep it fresh and interesting.


5. Encourage Them To Wash Dishes

Set up a wash basin with some plastic dishes and utensils, soap and water. Provide them with a scrub brush or wash cloth. You may want to strip your child and surround them with towels, because they will make a mess. Guaranteed.


6. Start A Mariachi Band

Fill some plastic water bottles or pill bottles with rice, beans or lentils. Tape the lids on so they can’t make something else for you to clean up (or eat too many uncooked beans) and let them shake the night away.


7. Train A Future Rock Star

This is a classic. Line up some pots and pans, give your kid a wooden spoon, and let them drum up some fun. Grab yourself a pair of noise cancelling headphones and your kids will be entertained for an hour. (Ok, maybe five minutes. But at least you were able to finish your coffee, right?)


8. Create A Teething Station

Grab your wooden spoons and rubber spatulas and put them in a bowl. Let your child chew to their heart’s content.


9. Make An Obstacle Course

If your child can cruise, set up some chairs that they can maneuver around to explore their environment with. If they’re not at that cruising stage yet, set up a low table where they can stand and play with toys. This used to be my daughter’s favorite activity.


10. Design A Sensory Bin

There is a good reason that there are a million and one ideas on Pinterest for sensory bins: they are a cheap way to entertain your kid for hours. And, it’s easy to keep your kids engaged because you can change them up daily or weekly. Here’s a fun one from Swaddles n’ Bottles.


11. Turn The Kitchen Into A Dance Floor

This activity is super easy. Turn on some tunes that you and your child like and rock out. They can dance and you can chop your veggies to the beet. (Sorry, had to sneak a bad veggie pun in there.)


12. Veg Out

Give your child an array of fruits and veggies to explore. You can even give them a magnifying glass. Depending on the age, though, they may try to eat them skin and all. I gave my daughter a banana once and she started eating it through the skin! Obviously I stopped her, but yuck! Moral of the story? Be vigilant!


13. Whip Up Some Water Shakers

Fill empty water bottles or spice containers with water, food coloring, oil, glitter and whatever else you can think of. Make sure the caps are secure and watch your child enjoy sloshing the colorful, sparkling water. Here’s some ideas from Preschool Inspirations.


14. Get A Little Slimy

If you don’t mind a little (ok, a lot of) mess, whip up a batch of slime! You don’t need any fancy ingredients to make a safe, non-toxic slime or playdough. Once again, Pinterest is your friend here.


15. Sweep Like Cinderella

Kids love to help with chores. And, it’s good for them. Dress your toddler in their favorite princess costume and put them to work with a dustpan and broom. They might not do a great job, but they will have fun. Plus, it will pay off later when they can sweep the floor on their own while you kick your feet up for a well deserved rest.


16. Swab The Deck

Similar to number fifteen, but possibly more fun because it involves water. (Kids love water.) Give your kid a washcloth and a spray bottle and let them wash the floor. (Kids love spray bottles, too.) You might need to teach them that they can only spray the floor, not the family cat.


17. Work On Fine Motor Skills

Provide your child with some cheerios, pasta, or other food item with holes. Then give them a pipe cleaner, a shoe lace, or a string with some tape on the end and teach them to thread the “beads” on the string. Depending on what you give them as “beads,” they may just end up snacking. But that’s okay too, because the goal was to entertain them, right?


18. Wear A Baby Backpack

If all else fails, wear your baby. My mother-in-law used to put my husband in a backpack (when he was smaller of course) and wear him around while cooking. He loved hanging out with mom and watching her do things. These days there are many great baby carriers and wraps that you could use to serve the same purpose. We use an Ergo baby carrier or a BabyWombWorld wrap. Just be smart if you’re working in the kitchen please!


How do you entertain your toddler when you need to get things done? What are your favorite go-to activities?

Cleaning & Organization

The Great Coconut Oil Flood of 2019

“Watch out for the spill,” said my husband as I walked into the kitchen that morning. I looked down at the floor. “No worries,” I thought as I side-stepped the mess on the way to the bathroom. It was a big spill, but nothing an old towel couldn’t handle.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “When I was opening the coconut oil this morning, it slipped out of my hands. I was going to try to clean it before you got up.”

“Oh.” That statement gave the mess new meaning. “Guess it’s not going to be as simple as grabbing an old towel,” I thought to myself. “How are we supposed to clean up all that cooking oil?”

We started with paper towels. They helped a little bit, but were mostly useless because there was just too much oil. Then, I had an idea.

“What about baking soda?” I wondered. From my adventures in laundering, I knew that baking soda could be used to remove cooking oil stains from clothing. To remove an oil stain, all you have to do is some apply baking soda and wait for it to absorb the oil. Then you brush it off, dab on some detergent and rinse out the remaining oil.

I decided to apply this bit of laundry logic to our situation. I sprinkled and waited, fingers crossed. And it worked!

The baking soda absorbed the majority of the oil, leaving nice little clumps which could then be swept away. We finished the job with an alcohol-based degreasing spray. Though it first seemed like an impossible task, we managed to clean several cups of coconut off the floor and counters, all before the baby woke up. Success!

How to Clean Up a Cooking Oil Spill

Hopefully this scenario never happens to you, but in case it does, here’s a four step process for cleaning up spilled cooking oil.

  1. If you’re cooking and spill the oil near a burner that you’re using, turn it off and wait for the area to cool.
  2. Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the oil spill and allow the oil time to be absorbed. Sweep, vacuum, or wipe away the clumps of baking soda or cornstarch.
  3. Break out your heavy duty dish soap or a spray cleaner designed for greasy messes and apply it to the remaining oil. Let it sit for a minute or two and clean it up.
  4. Celebrate, because you did it!

Have you ever had a cooking oil incident? How did you clean it up?