Happiness Project#88: Watermelon Pops!

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Oh, summer. With the exception of lovely summer flowers and homemade popsicles, I’m still not a fan of the season. Had it not been for my 4 year old wanting to be out & about swimming, and climbing, and jumping every day, I doubt I would leave my house. Ever. Well, okay, except for leaving the house when in need of new books. Because, books. Which I’ve been whipping through at a blistering speed. As in 3 to 4 books a week. A feat which I haven’t accomplished since I left working in the book industry a good 4 years ago. Apparently the book worm within me is very, very hungry.

Anyhow, since summer is officially here, and I’m still attempting to resolve my distaste about it, my little girl & I decided to create a summer popsicle together, with her faaaaavorite summer fruit: the ever so juicy watermelon. A popsicle recipe that she did (nearly) entirely on her own. With her sticky little fingers, and beaming smile, and dancing brown eyes. Seeing this child of mine become so excited about creating new things, always make my heart proud. And sharing recipe adventures with her? Most definitely one of my favorite parts of being a Mommy.

So grab your little ones, and your favorite popsicle mold, and get into that kitchen! Particularly with this delightfully quick, and easy (though kinda messy), recipe!

1 pound fresh watermelon

4 teaspoons lime juice

4 teaspoons granulated sugar

Break out that mixture (or food processor), and set out an 8 to 10 cavity popsicle mold, with corresponding popsicle sticks.

With a large, serrated knife, cut up the watermelon into 4 large halves. Skin off the watermelon’s rind, before dicing up the 4 cut halves into small cubes. With an melon ball corer, remove those pesky watermelon seeds. Seeds in popsicles aren’t very tasty.

Throw those cubes of watermelon, along with the lime juice, and granulated sugar into the food processor, pulsing on high for a few minutes until the entire mixture is fully blended, and smooth.

Spoon out the watermelon mixture (I use a small mixing cup as a scoop), into each of the 8 popsicle cavities, filling each cavity all the way to the brim.

If your popsicle mold has a lid that has slots for popsicle sticks, slide in each stick before placing the mold into the freezer. If your popsicle mold does not have a slotted lid, add in the popsicle sticks after the popsicles have already been semi-frozen for at least an hour. Freeze until completely frozen solid.

I hope you all enjoy the beginning of this summer season! Or if you’re like me, who isn’t very particularly interested in the summer sun, perhaps you will enjoy the fun of creating your own fruity popsicles instead!

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For the love of words.

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This week has been rough. It’s incredibly hard to see someone that you love go through the ickiness of chemotherapy. Particularly when it reminds you too much of the hell that last summer was. So to stave off the roiling waves of PTSD, I decided to grab my camera, and hunt for my favorite summer flowers. Because flowers always make me feel a bit lighter.

As I was thumbing through the flower photos on my camera, one particular quote about flowers, & resilience, came to mind: “Deep in their Roots, all Flowers keep the Light.” A quote, which in turn, opened up the floodgates within my heart, for the words that mean the most to me. Words which inspire, and uplift, calm, and soothe, encourage, and provoke. Words which remind me of the relentless beauty of the world within my heart, and mind. These are a few of my favorites:

“Words are the most inexhaustible source of magic.”

“Fairytales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”

“Be softer with you. You are a breathing thing, a memory to someone, a home to life.”

“Fear is the stone we push. May yours be light.”

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quite voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”

“Some women fear the fire, some women become it.”

“Wear your tragedies as Armor, not shackles.”

“After a while I looked in the Mirror, and realized…Wow, after all those hurts, scars, and bruises, after all of those trials, I really made it through. I did it. I survived that which was supposed to kill me. So I straightened my crown…and walked away like a boss.”

“I always wonder why birds stay in the same place, when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question.”

“What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?”

“Tired of trying to cram her sparkly star-shaped self into society’s beige square holes, she chose to embrace her ridiculous awesomeness and shine like the freaking supernova that she was meant to be.”

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

 

Happiness Project#87: Banana Muffins!

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PTSD. I’ve been through a ton of scary medical situations in my life, but none have created such a strong reaction from me as living with cancer has. Recently, someone very close to me was diagnosed with breast cancer, and has already gone through her 1st round of chemotherapy. Fortunately, although she’s had a couple of side effects from the chemotherapy meds that she started, she’s doing much (MUCH) better than I did when I went through chemotherapy. Which is SUCH a relief. To everyone.

But because of seeing her start chemotherapy, and seeing how tired it has made her, the PTSD that I have from my own experience, has been hitting me HARD. For the past 7 days, I’ve been trying to quell this crushing anxiety about it. Because it reminds me too much of the hell that I endured last summer. A hell which I honestly did not think I would survive. And even though I feel like I’ve come pretty far this year since walking out of that terrifying experience, just the word, “cancer,” strikes dread within my heart. To where I’ve been struggling with sleeping, and eating, and leaving my house.

So for the past couple days, I’ve been working on new fondant products, and baking. A lot of baking. Since the act of baking (usually) provides me a small dose of therapeutic relief. The messier, the better.

Hence these new Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins, which my Daughter will be taking to her teachers tomorrow, as a THANK YOU for everything that they do. A quick little baking project, with a wonderful punch of flavor. Stress therapy has never been sweeter.

2 cups cake flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

pinch of cinnamon

3 ripe bananas, mashed well (I use a fork to mash them all up nice & good)

1/4 whole milk plain yogurt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line two cupcake pans with 18 paper liners.

In bowl #1 combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well.

In bowl #2, either on a stand mixer, or handheld, combine all 3 mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla extract, mixed well. Slowly add the wet mixture (bowl #2) to the dry ingredients (bowl #1), and gently stir until the flour mixture is absorbed. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the banana mixture into each of the 18 paper cupcake liners, filling them 3/4 of the way full.

Pop the 2 pans into the oven, and bake for 18 minutes. Pull both pans out of the oven, and let cool on a wire rack. And serve, with or without butter.

The best part of this recipe? When a 4 year old bites into one, saying, “YUM!” That always makes my day. Even though they’ve recently been a little darker.

The predicament of busy.

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Every morning, I wake up breathing in the essence of life. Cherishing every new dawn, and every coinciding nightfall. Because this time of mine is precious. And not a certainty. It’s hard, if not nearly impossible, to go about my day without acknowledging the threat of possible re-lapse, that sits quietly (far) back within my consciousness. I cannot, for the sake of responsibility, believe that I will, from this year forward, never again need to worry. Because I always will, in some way or another. This is what we survivors do, I believe.

So to combat any anxiety that I feel, I try to do what most restless adults do: I stay busy. Or try to, anyway. Which sometimes feels more like a curse than a relief. But why a curse? Because the act of busyness can sometimes bring about more harm than good. Physically, and emotionally. Something that I’ve seen far too often in the lives of both adults, as well as those of children.

There’s a quote being thrown around, in many of my closest circles; “Stop the glorification of busy.” And it’s something that I wholeheartedly believe in. For myself, my daughter, and my family. After last summer’s 6 months of chemotherapy, where I was too sick to do anything on my own, one of the lessons I learned was that it was OKAY to NOT DO things. That it was OKAY to NOT be busy all the time. Because I’ve come to realize that being busy doesn’t always equate being happy. In many ways, being busy (running around & always making plans) prevents me, and many of those around me, from having the time to FEEL happiness. From acknowledging the quietness of being ALIVE. Because, yes, it’s generally within moments of silence, and quiet, that we truly FEEL the many things within our hearts & minds. Something that we’ve forgotten how to do, because of this drive to be busy doing things.

So maybe instead of allowing the busyness of life to dictate our every moment, maybe it’s time that we take the TIME to be STILL instead. Where instead of rushing to the store, we’ll sit in the parking lot, with the windows rolled down, listening to the breeze pushing it’s way through the trees. Or instead of doing the dishes every day,  we’ll let them sit in the sink, or in the dishwasher for one more day, so that we can go outside, and sit in a favorite chair, watching the clouds roll by. Maybe instead of pushing our children into 2 or 3 after-school activities, we’ll let them come home from a full day of school, so that they can PLAY instead. Where they have the freedom to DO or NOT do whatever they want. So that they can re-charge their imagination. So that we, as adults, can re-charge our lives, and in turn, our souls.

This one life of ours, is just that: one life. One chance to be who we truly WANT to be. Considering that we spend a good half of it (if not more than just half) in school, where school days are anywhere from 6-8 hours long, and then in jobs, where a job is anywhere from 40-50 hours a week, perhaps NOT being scheduled all the time, will give us the space, & time, to see the many blessings that this life has given us. To feel again. To let go of the glorification of busy, and just…breathe.

Those dishes sitting in the sink? That laundry piled up in the hamper? That dirty car resting in the driveway? They won’t be any less functional by being dirty for another 24 hours. But living through the quietness of being still? This is something much too precious to waste. This is time spend wisely.

Stop the glorification of busy. Rest. Relax. Breathe. You are worth it.

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