Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Blueberry Coffee Cake with Greek Yogurt and minimal guilt

Here is the Blueberry Coffee Cake Recipe as promised.

Like most of my recipes, it is a combination of inspiration from Pinterest and my own ideas. I have been practicing baking and cooking now for almost two years and have made more mistakes than good food but I do believe that this falls in the good food category. 

I am happy to say that I am becoming my mother in the kitchen. Oh, who am I kidding?  I am my mother. Period. But in regards to the kitchen, she makes a dish and then when we ask her to make it again she tells us that she doesn't remember how she made it. It never made sense to me until lately. We just toss in and stir then bake until it looks done. Unfortunately, Friends, this is exactly how this coffee cake was made so I will do my best to give measurements.

It was a perfect storm of having just the right ingredients and seeing a recipe on Pinterest that I wanted to try-  Greek Yogurt and Cake.  I had used a portion of my white cake mix for a previous recipe so  I needed some fillers to make up the difference. Enter oatmeal and blueberries.  And then a coffee cake was born.

You will need:

Fresh Blueberries
White Cake Mix minus a 1/2 cup
1 Cup Greek Yogurt
1 Cup Water
Oatmeal about 1/2 cup
Crumb Topping

Mix together the Greek Yogurt and Water

Stir in cake mix, oatmeal, and blueberries.  I used a 1/3 cup of oatmeal to begin with then decided I wanted more. Add to your liking. I used about 1/2 a carton of fresh blueberries but add to your liking there too.
This is the batter in a greased 8x8 pan. It is pretty thick but not quite as thick as a bread dough. You could use any size pan you want or make muffins.

Add the crumb topping.  This is my moms recipe and my favorite part of this coffee cake.

Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 Cup Flour
3/4 Cup Oatmeal
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 Cup Sugar
I did not use the salt and cinnamon for this recipe but it would be good either way. This will make more than enough for the coffee cake so save the extra in your freezer for another time.  Or use it all and have a very crumbly topping.  Put all the ingredients into a bowl and press it together with a fork until everything is moistened by the butter and it is a a crumbly texture. 

Now Bake at 350  for approximately 45 minutes. I say approximately because after my timer went off it needed to bake more. It was already a very nice brown on top and I didn't want it to burn so I covered it with tin foil and continued baking it until it was done. Using the clean knife method I checked the center every 10 minutes or so.  Unfortunately, I didn't keep up with how much time so you will have to watch closely at this point.  Your baking time will also vary depending on your pan size.

Let cool and Enjoy!

Wondering what to do with that 1/2 cup of cake mix you pulled out? Here is the Pinterest recipe I had used mine for-  funfetti-granola-bites. My girls liked them but it was an odd flavor to me. I felt good knowing I was getting oatmeal into my kids at least. These would be a nice on-the-go breakfast for school mornings. 


Friday, December 28, 2012

What a Great Year to be a Gamecock!

In our house, football season started with an email confirming season tickets for 2012 South Carolina Gamecock Football season. Chris's boss, who never ceases to amaze me by showing his appreciation for Chris in such personal and over-the-top ways, surprised him with this unbelievable gift. Of course the first thing that popped into my head, after an overwhelming sense of gratitude and disbelief, was, "I have to get a new football wardrobe. I can't sit in season ticket holder seats in last years t-shirts." Next I knew I had to get hair bows for the girls and make sure the cheer-leading outfits fit. We have to get pompoms and new little white tennis shoes...oh, and I needed boots to wear with my dress. See for us southern girls, football is as much a fashion show as it is anything else. I hit the ground running to make sure we looked  the part of a cute little Gamecock family. Little did I know that this was going to be bigger than a new dress, new jewelry and new collared shirts...this was the year I would fall in love with my Gamecocks. See, I had to converted years ago from those orange and purple folks so that I could date (! Chris would not even seriously date a Clemson girl) my husband and I had come to appreciate the Gamecocks and considered them my team. Not until this season of seeing the boys play every weekend and  following the stories of some the these amazing athletes did I actually learn to love my team. The taunts of our rivals talking about how great their past is and how they have dominated us in the rivalry games used to intimidate me and leave me speechless in defending my team. Not anymore, folks! They may  have the past (although a 60-40 win record hardly makes a domination) but we have Now and we have The Future. In my humble opinion, the mark of a true winner is not pointing back to  past successes but looking to the future, learning from failures and creating your own history...this, my friends, is what my Gamecocks did this year and have been doing since Spurrier came to Columbia.

But let me step out of the land of rivalry.
Headed to Columbia
Even Jake got in the Gamecock Spirit

Getting her cheers ready!

Cheering at home.
Going to the games became a time of family bonding. Little Ainslee would never have made it through a game so she stayed with family and we brought Marin to all the games. It was nice to have time with Marin like the old days before her little sister stole her mommy and daddy.  Marin became a hit right away! She cheered with the best of them and loved waving her white towel to Sandstorm while daddy held her up in the air. A few times some folks came over and asked if they could get a picture of her cheering... a little random and a tad creepy but how could I say "no." She loves her gamecocks and couldn't wait to go every weekend. On the weekends that the games  where away, she would watch with us at home on the TV and cheer just as loud.

And what a year to have season tickets. To be able to watch all the record breaking plays and games. I won't bore you with them all because, frankly, I can't remember them all but it wouldn't take much digging on  your search engine of choice to look them up if you are interested.  I have many memories that are experiences I will never forget.

An announcer on one of the pregame/post game shows commented about fans being among thousands of their closest friends. That comment sticks with me because he was 100% correct. Even though I didn't know anyone around me, I felt a strong connection with them. We shared the same excitement, anger, fear, sadness and elation. It is an odd thing to be in a crowd of thousands and know that we are all feeling the same thing. At those games and in these moments, I was sitting with "thousands of my closest friends."

That feeling may have been the strongest when our Marcus Lattimore hit the ground and then didn't get back up. Complete silence. The sadness was palpable. I and many of the women around me where shedding tears, no doubt thinking of his mother, his future, how stellar of a man he is and why is this happening to him again.

Thank goodness he is back on track for a successful future now but in that moment we all feared the worst.  Even the other team, Tennessee, in a history making moment came onto the field to show respect for Marcus. In two half seasons, he broke records that are barely broken in a four year career. In the years that he was a Gamecock, I believe he was instrumental in turning our teams performance and attitudes around. He and other leaders on the team where reported to use scripture and prayer to encourage each other. I believe his reputation was well known in the SEC and he was a highly recognized leader and respected player.
 Best of luck in the NFL,  Marcus!  

The Georgia game was an amazing experience. Considering all the hype that this game was getting due to the teams rankings, the previous win records and the fact that they may have the craziest fans (except for my Bulldog friends...although I can't think of any at the moment?), I knew this was going to be an amazing game. I felt like we were a part of SEC College Football history ...and maybe we were. The stadium was packed and so loud! I like to say that the fans won this game because poor Georgia could not have been able to hear anything in addition to the momentum that we created and maintained for our boys. Our sweet Marin had to keep her ears covered because it was too loud for her. But she was a trooper and did her best to keep up the cheers. Truly, this was a game I will never forget!

I remember well and still feel a burn of tears in my eyes when I watch the video below. Before every game a United States Soldier who is also a Gamecock would say a tribute to their family and fellow fans on the big screen from where they were stationed. But this time was a little different. Enjoy:
... and grab a tissue!

I would be remiss to not put a huge thank you in here for Chris's boss! Jeff, Thank You! I don't think that words will ever or maybe even should ever tell what this football season meant to our family. It is memories that we will cherish and those we keep to ourselves are special family treasures.

Go Gamecocks! Watch out for 2013!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Story of our Kiwi

I remember the first time we saw Kiwi (aka. Kiki, Kiwifruit, Keeks, Keekersqueaks. We Selingers are big on nicknames, each child has at least three.) She was at the Greenville Humane Society in one of those concrete and chain link fence kennels. Chris and I frequently visited the Humane Society to pet the dogs and just give them much needed love. It was therapeutic for Chris since he had just lost his dog of 16 years. Cera was an Australian Cattledog who, like most pets, was like a child to Chris. I often teased Chris that he and Cera communicated better than most humans and that he loved Cera more than me. I suppose that was fair since Cera had been his girl for 16 years and I had only been dating Chris for a year or so. But back to Kiwi, after  Cera died I think Chris was hesitant to love another dog but when we saw Kiwi his heart melted. The saddest part was not the horrible kennel but the fact that she was huddled in the corner and unlike all the other dogs she did not run to the fence to be loved. She was an Australian Cattle Dog also. We asked if we could put her on a leash and walk her around hoping that this would help her. It only made our hearts break more. She was so terrified of us. With her tail tucked between her legs, she tried desperately to break free of the leash and find a hiding place. She ran underneath the benches and just shivered in fear. I told Chris that he needed to take her home.  She needed him. ACD's are a very special breed and not every one is cut out to raise one. I knew that he was perfect for an ACD and had the extra love and patience to deal with her special needs. Not to mention that a dog persons home is not complete without a four legged companion. He said, "No" but kept going back to see her so I knew it wouldn't be long. One day he met me for lunch and instead of meeting inside I saw he was still at his car. When I walked over, with a big grin, he told me to look in the back. There was Kiwi. A little gray ball of fur curled up so tight and shivering.  
Kiwi playing in the woods. One of the few activities that seemed to make all her fears disappear.

And so our journey to heal our hurting baby began.  When I met him at the house that night, Kiwi wouldn't even come out from under the bed. For about a week she hardly ate and Chris had to pick her up to make her go outside. His attempts to play with her where futile and on walks she was a mess. Eventually she warmed up to Chris and learned to trust him. I, on the other hand, was not so lucky. For over a year, she was terrified of me just as if I was a stranger. We tried everything that all the books told us.  And nothing worked to calm her fears. Oddly but thankfully, she had absolutely no fear aggression. It was as if she had no emotion accept paralyzing fear. Realizing that this was not a life for a dog, we started to discuss putting her down. It seems cruel on one part but on the other it was the most humane thing to do for dog who lived in constant fear. In a last chance effort to bring her back to the world of love and playing, Chris bought a puppy. Jake Jake came into our lives on March 28, 2006, almost a year after adopting Kiwi.  The transformation was immediate. This little bundle of energy and life awakened in Kiwi those long beaten down instincts to play, protect, love, even a little bit of motherly discipline when Jake would get too rough. The two of them became an odd pair, neither one being pack leader but both willing to submit to the other at times.  I believe somehow Jake knew his role was to heal Kiwi. They bonded as tightly as I have ever seen two dogs bond. Even though we were their people, Jake was Kiwi's and Kiwi was Jake's human connection would ever be stronger than theirs. Over time Kiwi hesitantly started to accept me as part of the pack. I think it helped to see how Jake and I bonded. Also since getting married I obviously was around her everyday. But she still held back from me until one almost fateful night in Columbia. She had run out the door at my mother in laws house, once again because of her fear of strangers. Chris went to look for her and I feared that she was lost. Being so far away from Greenville, I knew she wouldn't be able find home. Not to mention the very busy road in front of the apartment. Waiting inside was torture. I couldn't help look for her because she still was not completely comfortable coming to me and I feared she would only run further. Finally, Chris walked in carrying Kiwi. She was safe. I took her from him and carried her up to our room. I held her and cried into the soft fur on her neck, happy she was safe. This triggered a change in her towards me.  I don't understand it but somehow this display of emotion let her know that I was OK. From then on, she had not fear of me and treated me as one of her pack. 
Jake nuzzling Kiwi

Kiwi with Jake Jake when he was a puppy

When the girls came along she acted like a second mother. As babies, if they were playing on the floor, she would sit right by them. If they cried longer than she thought appropriate, she would come get me and look at me until I took action. She would reach up on her hind feet to sniff the girls when I picked them up. I often reminded her that I was the mommy and she was just their dog.  As the girls got older she was so patient with them. She didn't like rough housing (typical for a cattle dog) which made for some interesting family fun. But I always knew that she and Jake would protect my family with their lives if it came down to it. 
Kiwi sitting with Marin
Kisses for her human puppy

 She never fully learned to trust others. A few neighbors eventually worked their way into her heart and toward the end she did start to warm up to my parents. But most people couldn't get near her.  She was a dog who we loved because she needed us. She never was a dog who showered her people with love as most dogs are known for but that was fine with us because we knew we were giving her the best life she could have. We lovingly called her kisses "attack love" because she would quickly lean in and give one fast lick then turn away super fast as if to pretend it never happened. If you got "attack love" then you had made the pack. We also joked that she was more like a teenager because she would come hang out with the family and get a few moments of love then she would saunter back to the room, crawl under the bed and fall asleep.   But when food was present, she would fit the nickname "Velcro Dog" that cattle dog owners all use, as cattle dogs are known for never leaving their owners side (Jake has never let this nickname down). Old age hit her hard, I think due to how much stress her fears caused. In the end, the decision to say good bye was tough but merciful.  In the days after she was gone, adjusting was hard. Instead of  two dogs following me to put Ainslee to bed, only one followed. Instead of having to climb over two dogs in the kitchen while cooking, I only had to climb over one.  Ainslee, who always "helped" me give Kiwi her pill, saw the pill bottles on the counter and started calling for her. Jake sniffed all of Kiwi's hiding places trying to find her. All of these moments and seeing all the places that Kiwi should be sitting or laying and not hearing her paws pad across the floor, brought tears to my eyes, a lump in my throat and a real pain in my heart. Thankfully, the girls are unaffected by it and Jake Jake's depression is very mild. 

 Now waiting for us in more fear, no more confusion, no more pain. I am thankful for our time with her.

See you on the other side, Kiwi.
Kiwi snuggling with her Jake Jake
Enjoy this little video of Jake and Kiwi playing in one of our "harsh" southern snows.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Good Bye Old Tree...

I have never considered myself a "tree hugger". I usually will find “those folks” to be comical in their futile efforts to save the planet. I do think we should be good stewards with this beautiful earth that God has given us and be wise in our decisions. But, I find it quite brazen of us that we think we could destroy this amazing planet that God has set into motion and holds in a delicate balance in the palm of His hand.  After all, the design of this planet is such that when humans walk away from something they have built, the earth takes it back. Just walk past an abandoned building and watch the vines growing up the walls, the grass growing through the floors and trees taking out windows. It is really a humbling thing to see this.  I am indeed all about progress. I guess I probably fall in the category of those who contribute to global warming and such. I only just started recycling…gasp! and I leave the water running while I brush my teeth…gasp, gasp! And definitely, I would prefer to live in a new subdivision that may have been farm land or a forest previously than  to live in an old house. Oh, wait…my neighborhood did used to be farm land. Oh dear, I fear a visit from Al Gore soon! The way I figure it, if you plant some new trees around a new house then all should be fine.  Apparently, though, I have a soft side for nature and trees that I have squashed down inside me. Today, as I watched a tree fall, I felt a ping of pain that I had only experienced once before. 

We took Chris to the airport, as we often do on Monday mornings, where they are doing some much needed updating and expanding of our very outdated little GSP.  Each week I watch the progress and have been saddened as I noticed first the two big trees right outside the first door reduced to only stumps and then another and then another. Just think of what these great trees have witnessed and what they have survived. This morning, as we walked up from our parking spot so we could wait with Daddy for a while before he took off, we saw a large oak in the process of being chopped and a rope tied from it to a tractor ready to pull it over.  We all stopped and watched as this was something Marin has never seen before and we are always looking for new experiences to teach her. Hearing the chainsaw gnaw at the trunk made my stomach feel a little funny and sadness started to come over me. I got a flash back of another time when a tree revealed in me this secret attachment to nature. On a property I worked a few years back we had a beautiful Weeping Willow. This particular property has some very old trees that I felt were rich with history and strength. The power company threatened to cut this Weeping Willow down because it grew too close to the power lines. I swore at that moment, that if they returned with chainsaws, I would tie myself to that tree. Now, I was joking when I told my employees and boss but I do believe I would have done it for real.  Luckily, the power company had mercy on me and the tree so it still stands today.  But today, there was no mercy! It all happened in painful slow motion. They tried to pull the tree once but it stood firm. I could almost hear it saying, “No, I won’t go down!” Then the chainsaw wielder began cutting more. And again I could almost hear the tree crying in pain saying, “No, Please. I will not go down without a fight!”  The tractor backed up and this time the trunk of the tree gave way and a loud, sad “pop” sounded from the hacked V cut in the tree. The branches hit the ground and one by one you could hear them snapping as the weight of the tree pushed them into the earth. You could almost hear an audible moan as the tree gave up its fight and settled with only a few leaves now moving in the early morning breeze. My stomach caught in my throat at the popping of the trees trunk; my heart broke with each one of those branches.  We went inside and Marin asked, “Mommy, why did they cut the tree down?” My answer, “So they can build a big new airport for us.” In that moment, I felt a little greedy.  Not that I had asked for the new airport personally but I am excited to see the newer, nicer airport.

Watching a tree fall and hearing its fight for survival clearly is an emotional thing for me. Who knew? Thank goodness, I don’t have to hear it often.  I still love my city smog, my new neighborhoods, my big SUV’s and I will probably never learn to shut the water off when I brush my teeth but I do think I will need to go plant a tree soon to heal from this traumatic experience!  I do look forward to the new GSP but will always remember the moment that tree gave its life for it.
The new GSP...thankfully, I see lots of trees! More photos at link below.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Super Mom Who?

Today, I hear Marin step on our bathroom scale and say, “Oh no, I am getting too big.”  Instead of panicking and lecturing her on the dangers of bulimia and anorexia, I turn to her and smile. She was imitating me.  Lately, I have been obsessed with my treadmill, eating as clean as possible and standing on that horrible scale watching not just the pounds but the numbers after the dot.  I will take a loss of .3 pounds as an accomplishment and a gain of .3 pounds as an epic failure for the day.  As I am smiling at her, in an effort to use the psychological method of staying calm and positive to not make a big deal of this social faux pas of letting your daughter see your obsession with weight, I realize I could just add this to the list of “failures.” I begin to laugh now. Thank goodness a child psychologist does not live with me.  According to “them”, Marin and Ainslee are destined for all kinds of messed up lives. Then, I became annoyed. Where did this sudden feeling of guilt come from? I have never been one to follow instructions easily, just ask my ever patient parents. But especially when it comes to my kids, I rarely trust a book or others.  As a matter of fact, if they had come with that coveted instructional manual at birth, I probably would have lost it by now.  But the pressure that parents feel, whether consciously or subconsciously is annoying at best. We are inundated by media, pediatricians, other parents, and ignorant childless know-it-alls telling us how we should be allowing our kids to think, function and grow. When did we feel like we had to meet a standard that was created without any knowledge of our child’s individual abilities physically or mentally?
I think it happens in the most innocent of ways. We see our friends on Facebook or Pinterest posting such perfect little stories of easy potty training or pinning pictures of creative and educational crafts. Or we sit in a restaurant with our screaming children and feel bad because of the stares of strangers who want to eat in peace.  Our hearts are in the right place. We don’t want those strangers to be uncomfortable because of our kids, we want to be the perfect mom who potty trains our two year old in three days and whose children happily craft without glue and paint splattered everywhere.  But, we are not. Truth be told, those strangers either had kids who acted like ours and they should know better or they never have so they will never understand- so let ‘em stare.  If they wanted to eat in peace they needed to get it To-Go and curled up with a book on their couch.  I am not advocating letting your child reign terror over the restaurant but often correcting bad behavior is a noisy sport. As far as those pesky pictures and posts…we all know better. Those are brief moments in time. We brag on Facebook because we have so few accomplishments with little ones that we just have to share them with the world. And Pinterest, I have a love/hate relationship with this new website. I love the ideas, but I hate the inadequacies that all the crafty moms pull out of me.  Not one of the ideas I tried has been a complete success. And actually most of them have been hysterical disasters that I chalked up to memories and laughs.
It is so important that we don’t let these influences change the way we do what is best for our kids. We know our kids! You know your kid! Your kid may be able to handle seeing and doing stuff others kids can’t. So don’t hold them back because of the age limit on the package.  Your kids may be more stubborn with potty training or letting go of the bottle but like a very sweet person told me- Your kid won’t go to college in diapers with a bottle in her bag. Even better, they won’t go to elementary school in diapers with a bottle in her bag! You have all the power, you hold all the cards.  Society, books, friends and even not so much friends who butt in should all take a back seat to your intuition and knowledge of your kids.
I am not supermom. I don’t craft well. I say things in front of my kids that others may disagree with.  I talk about being fat in front of my girls.  My oldest used a bottle at night ‘til she was three and then when she finally got off the bottle at night she wouldn’t sleep unless she was in our bed. So now, she never sleeps in her own bed.  I didn’t make my kids cry themselves to sleep. I held them at night when they cried. (This is a whole new blog! I won’t go into the irresponsible and irrational method of Self- Soothing that society has pushed on parents as a suitable method of teaching babies to sleep.  I won’t go into how insane and detrimental it is to allow a baby to scream themselves to sleep instead of going to them and soothing them as a mother’s instinct tells her too. Moving on…) And potty training- that is a whole other story.  Daycare thought they had Marin potty trained…I knew otherwise. I was the lazy mom who kept her in diapers when I was with her so that I didn’t have to clean up messes. I never told daycare because, quite frankly, she’s my kid and they only get to know what I tell them.  She showed up in big girl panties every morning and then back in pampers when she got home. And may I just say, of course she was potty trained at day care, they line ‘em and tote ‘em off the toilet every 20 minutes. I chose to have a life outside the bathroom on nights and weekends. But guess what, she is fully potty trained now! Now that I stay home with my girls and potty training Ainslee will fall totally on me, she will learn when she and I are good and ready. If that means late threes…so be it. I am ok with not being the perfect mom who does everything by the proverbial or literal book.  I spend time with my girls being real and imperfect and needing forgiveness for mistakes and desiring a better life for them.  They know they are loved, they know they have to obey us and they know they are wanted.
Go Moms! And Go Dads! Power to the parents! Ok, but seriously, You got this…ignore everyone else. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thanks be to God!

Marin and Ainslee - Summer 2012
I am thankful for prayer and the bible. Thankful that I am loved with an everlasting love and that I have an eternal future with the Almighty Creator. And that my eternal future was bought for me because Christ first loved me. Since it is a gift that I didn't and can't earn, my home in heaven can't be taken away! I am thankful that I am already forgiven and that I am never asked to do the right thing alone or with my own strength. I am thankful that I don't have to have all the answers because my awesome God has already planned my life for me. And no matter how much I screw things up my Lord and Master is NEVER surprised or without a plan. Thanks be to God!

Monday, February 13, 2012

So easy Strawberry Syrup

Maybe the best part of making this was that my kitchen smelled like my mom's house when she makes strawberry jam. Not even Smuckers can hold a candle to my mom's jams. Nothing like her warm homemade biscuits with a big, cool dollop of her strawberry jam...mmmmmmm! Oh, wait...we are here for syrup...but I feel a visit to mom's house is in my future.

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups strawberries

It is best to have everything measured out and ready to go because this is a very quick process.

I used frozen strawberries that I had purchased fresh and put in the freezer  a while back. I didn't bother letting them thaw out first since I knew they would thaw quickly in the pan. Fresh or frozen will work and you can chop them to what ever size you want. I left mine fairly large so I could experience a large piece of sweet, juicy strawberry with my bite of pancake.

Mix sugar, water and cornstarch over medium low heat until blended and smooth. Drop in the strawberries and bring to a boil. Stir constantly. Let boil about 2 to 3 minutes or until it is the consistency of syrup.

Pour over pancakes or ice cream or just eat it out of the pan like I did...before I remember to put them on my pancakes!