I am going to take a moment and share a story about my life. Recently I began working as a preschool teacher in Blackhawk California. It all started when a friend Lara who I worked with in the dental field 15 years ago ran into me at Costco. She went on and on about how much she loved her job working with kids. I was intrigued by our conversation and reached out to her on Facebook. We connected and I messaged her and asked if her place of employment Tassajara Learning Center was hiring. Lara gave me her bosses contact information and I reached out and inquired about a teaching position.
Here’s a little back history on me that most of you might now know. I’m a kid lover. I’ve always adored kids. I had my first child at the age of 20 after getting married at age 18. I fell in love with a gorgeous man in the US Marine Corps and we eloped after only knowing one another for 6 months. This marriage ended after Eric left me when I was 7 ½ months pregnant. My mother told him to “take care of me and don’t ask for her help, or leave and never see us again.” That night my husband left.
Eric and I at a photo session in San Francisco in 1983
Eric and I had a tumultuous relationship with Eric being jealous, controlling and manipulative. He never hit me, but was mentally abusive to me. Luckily, I was able to live with my mom and she cared for me until Curtis was born. He was 2 ½ weeks overdue and born on January 20 1985 on Super Bowl Sunday almost 31 years ago. A fireman named Mark Thomas delivered him in my bedroom since I never made it to the hospital on time. My mom’s car wasn’t working and Kaiser wouldn’t send an ambulance. I was allowed to live at home until Curtis was 3 months old.
Curtis’s first picture at 2 days old
At that point, I found a job as an Au pair and worked for a wonderful woman named Diane. Diane had a son named Joel who was 4 and she needed care in the evenings while she worked. Curtis and I lived with them for 2 years and I was able to go to school, work at Longs Drugs part time and help Diane run her home. I learned how to cook, clean, iron, paint fences, garden, and of course care for Joel and Curtis in between. I loved taking care of these boys. We had a ball together.
Curtis holding Andrew in Dec 1992
I was fortunate enough to meet my next love at Longs Drugs. Ken was putting himself through UC Berkeley, working 35 hours a week and taking care of his sick father. I married this sexy man that has the most generous heart 2 ½ years later in June of 1989. Ken adopted Curtis two years later, and we had another son Andrew in 1992.
Ken pushing Curtis in a stroller at the zoo
Here is a pic of me and Curtis when I was a single parent in Nov 1987
Ken and Curtis on Father’s Day
I’m the luckiest girl on earth to have my boys and a loving husband. I am grateful every day for the opportunity to work at a beautiful preschool like Tassajara learning Center and I look forward to teaching my new kids a few things before they begin kindergarten. I’m especially happy that I ran into my friend Lara and for my families’ encouragement as I step into this new career.
Here’s a recipe that I think you’ll like. These Honey Bran Muffins are moist and perfect served with a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee or hot tea. I hope you make them for your family and spoil them like I spoil mine.
Honey Bran Muffins Baked w Fig Jam
2 C All purpose flour
2 t baking soda
1 ½ t salt
1 ½ C wheat bran
½ C Fiber One Cereal (crushed)
½ C Unsalted Butter (1 stick), room temperature
1 C sugar
½ C honey
2 large eggs
¾ C fig preserves
1 t vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
2 C buttermilk (or use Milk and add 1 T apple cider vinegar)
½ C diced dried plums
1 C raisins
¼ C Demerara Raw Sugar to sprinkle over muffins before baking
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 24 muffin cups w paper liners. Stir flour, wheat bran, Fiber One Cereal, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and blend.
Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until creamy. Add honey, then eggs one at a time. Add fig jam and vanilla and mix well. Beat in buttermilk alternately w flour mixture until combined. Stir in dried plums and raisins and scoop into muffin cups.
Sprinkle Demerara sugar over muffins and bake for about 20 minutes until a tooth pick comes clean when testing. Take out of muffin cups and cool on a rack.
Feel free to leave comments or ask any questions.
I’m loving winter time. I am spending five days up in the mountains with family. It is currently 33 degrees here in Truckee California. We are at 6125 Elevation nestled in the coziest house you can imagine. There is a huge snow storm going on. We are expecting at least two more feet of snow.
It’s days like these that make me want to bake. And gingerbread is the perfect comfort food to celebrate this holiday season. After all, December is a glorious time of year, especially when it’s snowing outside.
Over the years, my family would take a drive up north once in the winter and once in the summer to celebrate birthdays and have family reunions. All 15-20 of us cram into a big house and eat, drink and play games. It’s a joy to spend time with my nieces and nephews on a more personal level. Many of them join me in the kitchen to whip up a meal like chicken parmesan or lasagna. Then we find time to bake something sweet to make a perfect ending to a family meal.
This week I’m enjoying cooking for my sister and her girlfriend. I’ve made bean soup, BBQ pulled pork, and this wonderful gingerbread cake. We’ve enjoyed having this cake for breakfast as well as dessert.
I feel spoiled to be able to sneak away from my life in the Bay Area and enjoy the splendor of life in the woods. Here are my 9 ways to double your pleasure while on vacation in the mountains.
- Make a fire in a wood stove and be grateful for a generous sister
- Stay in your pajamas all day long
- Make an apple butternut squash soup and serve w crème fraise
- Drink homemade peppermint hot cocoa w whipped cream or marshmallows
- Scrapbook homemade greeting cards
- Put your feet up w a warm blanket and cuddle w a loved one
- Watch football with a cold beer and eat hot appetizers like potato skins dipped in ranch dressing
- Snuggle w your kitty cat on your lap and drink a Peet’s coffee w a dark chocolate ganache
- Bake a delicious and moist gingerbread cake and serve with a vanilla caramel ice cream
Here’s the recipe.
Softened Shortening or butter for coating pan
1C Canola Oil
1 C Granulated Sugar
1 C Molasses
2 T crystallized candied ginger
2 large eggs
3 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T baking soda
1 T ground ginger
2 T ground cinnamon
1 t Maldon salt
½ t ground cloves
1 C Pale Ale or Guinness Beer
Serve w whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly coat a 9X13X2 cake pan or 2 9” round pans with shortening and line w parchment.
In a large bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, molasses and candied ginger. Add eggs and whisk until smooth.
In another large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt and cloves. Whisk dry ingredients into molasses ingredients starting w dry alternately adding beer ending with dry until just combined.
Pour into prepared pans and bake in preheated oven until tooth pick comes clean @ 45 minutes.
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I rarely mix my recipe blogging with parenting, but today I’m feeling inspired to tell my story about raising a son with autism. It’s something my family and close friends know about me, but rarely anyone else. I’ve never publicized this information because I wanted to protect my son and family from any repercussions and stay private.I’m not ashamed or anything about our situation, but it is a sensitive subject especially when things aren’t going well.
Lately, Andrew the son I’m speaking of is struggling with college. Although I am proud that he has come this far, I’m worried about his chances of graduating. Here is a little glimpse of his story.
Andrew is currently 23 years old and one of the sweetest men you will ever meet. He is well spoken, articulate and handsome. He is athletic in the sense that he has earned his third degree black belt in Taekwondo and had been teaching students at a local studio for the last five years or so. Andrew also achieved his Eagle in scouting when he was in high school. He worked hard to gain this honor by learning leadership, completing many badges, hiking for days in the wilderness, and completing a project that helped the Monument Crisis Center in Concord. He is also a very talented musician. Andrew’s choice of instrument is his voice. He is a tenor and received much of his training from director Ken Abrams and the award winning San Ramon Valley High School and was lucky enough to travel to Costa Rica. My husband and I were chaperons for most of his tours and enjoyed supporting the organization. Andrew got a partial scholarship to go to college at St. Mary’s College of Moraga California and joined the Chamber Singers Choir with the famous Dr Julie Ford. In the past year they performed at Carnegie Hall and in Latvia the summer before. St.Mary’s Choir is traveling to Russia this Spring to compete in the World Choir Games and our son is hoping to rejoin the choir next semester and perform with them. At a the young age of 7 we sought out piano lessons for him and he continued his studies in music for ten years. As of last summer, Andrew taught piano and voice lessons to students in the East Bay area and hopes to continue to share his passion for music in the future.
But even after all this success, our son seems lost. He had to cut back his school schedule because of finances and is currently a part time student at St Mary’s College and Diablo Valley College. He chose not to sing this semester and I believe it was the worst decision of his life. He is now more quiet and withdrawn than ever. He goes to school, comes home and goes directly to his room. Most of his college friends have graduated and moved on. He doesn’t have the social life like he did since he now lives at home instead of on campus.
As you can see, Andrew has had tons of success in his life. He has so much potential to be a great musician, composer or teacher someday, yet something is getting in his way. As a parent, it is hard to know how involved I should be. When he was young, it was easy. It was my job to make sure he got the best teachers, disability counselors, etc. Now things aren’t as clear.
I realize I’m not the only mom raising a son with disabilities. And I know there are many kids/adults with autism that haven’t had these successes or opportunities like my son has had. Being a parent is hard. I have to trust that Andrew knows whats best for him. I have to believe that one day he will overcome these struggles. I don’t know what it is like to be him. I haven’t walked in his shoes. I’m only the mom who cares for him and loves him and wants the best for him.
This is what I know. I know I will be there for him through the good times and the bad. I will support him and his decisions while he is learning the ways of the world. I’m grateful for being given the chance to raise a son with autism. He is going to do big things and go places someday. I am confident I can look at the big picture, take a step back and be happy with my parenting so far.
Here are two recipes that I have made recently that my family loves. You will never go back to making a plain cornbread ever again. Toss in some blueberries and see how these warm berries burst in your mouth. Adding a pad of butter to the warm slice always brings a smile to Andrew’s face.
Here is the best Blueberry Corn Bread recipe.
1 ½ C All Purpose Flour
2/3 C Granulated Sugar
½ C White or Yellow Corn Meal
½ tsp Kosher Salt
1 T. Baking Powder
2 Large Eggs
1 ¼ C. 2% Milk
1/3 C. Canola Oil
3 T Butter melted
¾ C Fresh Blueberries
Preheat oven to 350degrees. Butter or grease 9” round pan.
In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder.
In another medium size bowl combine milk, eggs, oil, and melted butter and mix well. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir with a wire whisk until blended. Toss blueberries in last and stir. Pour into a round baking dish and place in center of preheated oven. Bake for 30-35 min or until tooth pick comes out clean.
Need a healthy alternative to either a plain bowl of cereal or a hard boiled egg for breakfast? Try these delicious moist muffins. They freeze well and delight even the pickiest eater. If you like them extra sweet, top with a cream cheese frosting for a little extra tangy flavor.
Blueberry Cranberry Muffins
Blueberry Cranberry Muffin ingredients:
2 C. King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour
1 C. All Purpose Flour
2/3 C. Granulated Sugar
2 1/2t Double acting Baking Powder
1 ½ t Baking soda
¼ t. Kosher Salt
1 t cinnamon
1 t ginger
1 C. Plain Nonfat Yogurt
½ C. Canola Oil
1/3 C. Thawed Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate
1 ½ C Fresh Blueberries
1 C. Dried Cranberries
24 Dried Apricot halves, chopped (Soak in ½ C Brandy) Heat Brandy in microwave first. Add apricots and let them get plump before removing from liquid and chopping.
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Use Paper liners and line 2 muffin tins to bake 24 muffins.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and spices.
In a large bowl combine oil, yogurt, orange juice, and eggs. Mix well. Add dry ingredients ½ cup at a time just until combined. Gently stir in blueberries, cranberries and soaked apricots.
Spoon batter equally into muffin tins. Bake until tooth pick comes clean when removed about 15-20 minutes.
Cream cheese frosting: 8 oz room temperature cream cheese, 1/2 C softened butter, 1 1/2 C confectioners sugar, 1 t vanilla. Mix until combined.
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