Two Books To Help Me With My Independent (almost) Two-Year Old

Scores and scores of moms, and parents in general, are overcome with stress.  Although at times we can see humor in stressful times, insight and occasionally find a practical solution to our stress, there’s still that serene lifestyle that is out of reach.  Yes, when you have adult responsibilities such as a career, children, running a household,  and financial commitments, stress is just part of the everyday norm.

If I’m being 100% honest with myself and totally transparent, my source of stress right now is my almost two-year old and the worries that most other parents face.  Most days, Gia is my little shadow – she’s eager to please me, mimics everything I do and is an overall very happy and well-mannered child.  Like any toddler, she has her moments and now those moments come around a little bit more often as she is tasting what it’s like to be an independent big girl.

The last week or two has brought about new behaviors that are usually directed towards me, mommy.  After all, I am with her everyday, all day, so it’s only natural that she would show defiance and resistance to me more than daddy or grandparents.  We all want to raise respectful, well-behaved kids who make good choices, but it’s not so easy at this age.

About two weeks ago when I took Gia to use the potty she was adamant about not going (because she was very busy playing) but it had been far too long without her taking a potty break.  Most of the time if she says “no” to going potty, I honor her request but keep a very close eye on her because she usually refuses to go only to exert her power.  This particular time I wasn’t going to bend because we were out in public and business needed to be handled before getting in the car.  The short of it is that she smacked me right on the head because she didn’t want to go.  This was a brand new behavior that was kind of shocking to me.  I’m sure she’s seen other kids do this at our gym daycare, but I was still emotionally hurt by it.

This week, after an activity packed visit to San Diego to see her cousins, Gia has had more frequent outbursts that are quite obviously the “terrible twos.”  I’ve always kind of hated that term, but it’s now truly starting to rear it’s ugly head just a couple weeks before her second birthday.

Learning to discipline such young child who is obviously very bright can be confusing and frustrating, to say the least.  There are so many methods of discipline and ways to parent, and everyone who has their opinions about it.  Craig and I are approaching this new phase of toddlerhood with as much patience as possible and with open minds.

I think that the hardest part about all of this for me is that I expect so much of Gia.  I don’t expect perfection by any means, because I expect that of no one.  It’s just difficult to remind myself that she still is quite young.  Just because she’s grasped so many things at such a young age makes me forget that she’s still not quite two years old.  Her mind is still developing and the concept of discipline is hard at this age.  I mean, really, what kid her age will sit in time-out, even if just for one minute?!  (If your kid does this, my hat is off to you and you can message me immediately about how you make that happen!)

What I’m getting at is that these little humans are evolving every single day and sometimes that means the days feel a little bit longer.  I like to share these normal hiccups and challenges because as parents we ALL go through it but don’t always share about it.  Sometimes it’s just nice to commiserate, simply to know that you aren’t alone!

As a result of our opinionated and independent girl developing new habits, we are slowing down and taking the time to explain things at her level.  She has such empathy for her age and knows when people are hurt or even if feelings are hurt.  If she hears me say to another adult that I was upset she immediately tells me, “Mommy, don’t worry.”  The fact that she tells me this means we’re doing something very right.

We are just continuing to plow through and prepare her for life the best way we know how.  We’ll continue to make mistakes along the way, but we’re all just winging it anyway!

In case any of you are going through this phase of toddlerhood, I’d like to share two books that I just ordered through Amazon to help me out:  “Hands Are Not For Hitting” and “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.”

I know that people laugh about these kinds of books because they weren’t accessible to parents of earlier generations and their kids “turned out fine.”  While that may be true, just because there’s new knowledge and support in the world doesn’t mean it’s bad or that we can’t be open to it.

Happy Friday my friends!

xo

Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones, A Perfect Morning Treat

Father’s Day this year was a busy one, yet still very low-key.  I knew the moment that I saw these scones posted on Kate Wood’s “Wood and Spoon” blog that I’d be making them as a Father’s Day treat.

Anyone who knows me should know that I love coffee.  My husband, Craig, was not a huge coffee drinker when we first got together seven years ago.  Let’s just say, things have changed and he needs his coffee almost as much as I do!  These scones are the perfect blend of everything that I love, so I had to share Kate’s yummy recipe.


Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones – recipe by Kate Wood:

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Before sharing the recipe goods, I’ll tell you a little bit more about how Father’s Day was spent this year…..

I woke up earlier than usual just to make sure that I could prepare the scone dough, give it time to chill and then bake before Craig became ravenous.  My husband wakes up hungry and is usually wondering what’s for lunch before he can even finish his breakfast.  Must be a man thing??

Our plan for the day was to have Craig’s dad and family over in the morning to share the scones with.  They arrived around 8am and once they all had their fill of my fresh scones, we went to a little coffee shop across the water in the neighboring town of Martinez.  I don’t really remember how I came across States, but it very well could have been my fellow coffee lover, aka, my mom.

We enjoyed our coffee at States, where I love to go because it’s very kid friendly.  There are wooden blocks and old toy trucks that are left on the lower shelves for the children to play with.  Gia always has a good time when we are there and even gets her own little coffee.  (I just fill her little to-go coffee cup with water and she thinks it’s the coolest.)

After taking our last sips from our drinks, we meandered through the Farmers’ Market that’s held on Sunday mornings in Martinez.  Once we all got to take a look at the offereings, we packed it up and parted ways.  Craig’s family went back home, while Craig, Gia and I had some family time.  We went five minutes down the road to a nice little park across from a fire station.  Gia played for about 45 minutes before we decided to head home, feed her lunch and put her down for a nap.

Later, after Gia woke up and played a little, we went over to my parents to see my dad for Father’s Day.  My grandma joined us too – there’s no way she’d go without seeing my dad on Father’s Day.  My mom made us a nice dinner and I’m pretty sure that the dads, as well as their stomaches, were happy.

Overall, we had a really nice day.  Sometimes it’s just doing simple, easy things with family that are the most enjoyable.


Daddy and Gia swinging together at Nancy Boyd Memorial Park in Martinez:

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Hopefully you’ll enjoy these scones as much as we did!  Now, for what you’ve really been waiting for, the recipe……

Chocolate Coffee Almond Scones

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup whipping cream, plus additional for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder or instant coffee
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped unsalted almonds
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. In a small container, stir the whipping cream and teh espresso powder to combine and set aside in the fridge to keep cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar.  Use a pastry cutter or the back of two forks to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it becomes a coarse meal consistency with pea-sized clumps thoughout.  Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips.  Add the espresso and cream mixture and sitr into the dry ingredients, just until evenly incorporated.  If a lot of dry ingredients remain in the bottom of the bowl you can add an additional tablespoon or two of cream, just barely enough to make it all come together into a dough. (I found that I definitely needed to add the extra bit of cream.)
  3. Pat the dough to 3/4 inch thick and use a biscuit cutter to cut 2 inch circles of dough for each scone.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Put the pan in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Once the dough is chilled, use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of whipping cream over the top of the sonces.  Bake in the oven until golden brown around the edges of each scone, about 25 minutes.

Notes:

  • Chilling the dough ensures the scones will rise well.  You can skip this step but it isn’t recommended for best outcomes.

Recipe from Kate Wood of “Wood and Spoon”

xo

Why We Are Having Another Child

As parents, it seems like Craig and I have finally fully adjusted to life with a little one and now we are adding a little sister to the mix.  Yes, we know we will have to referee many backseat battles and likely have to buy two of everything when it comes to toys – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, of course!  But what we are most excited for is to witness Gialina and her little sister play with one another and embrace each other in warm hugs.

When Gia was born I realized I would do anything to protect her.  I hope and pray that Gia will experience a similar feeling growing up with a younger sibling.  When baby girl number two comes along and starts to become more independent, our children will learn how to split the last chocolate chip cookie that I made, and hopefully learn how to divide TV time when their favorite show is on.  Obviously these little lessons will take time and there will be bumps in the road, but they will come in handy when they are in school.

Craig and I both grew up with siblings and we couldn’t imagine not giving Gia that same gift.  She might not see it that way in the beginning, but as already experienced by Craig and I, having a built in “playmate” and lifelong friend is wonderful.  There won’t be an urgent need to schedule playdates when Gia’s best friend is in the next room.  I know that some of this talk of being best friends can be wishful thinking on my part.  I am fully aware that siblings fight and sometimes they fight a lot.  I’m also keen to the idea that we are going to raise our children with a strong moral compass, so with that, we believe that our children will love and respect one another for a lifetime.  It’s all about setting a good example and instilling proper values.

In Gia’s almost two years of life, we’ve witnessed such empathy, compassion, humor and intelligence on the daily.  Whether it’s mastering a puzzle or learning to hit a plastic golf ball, we know that Gia will teach her younger sister so many things.  In the same regard, as an older sibling she will learn a lot of patience from our new addition.

As I’ve gotten older, I share so many of my thoughts and problems with my younger brother, Zach.  I hope that Gia and her sister will turn to each other for guidance, just as their funky Unkie and I do.


Pictured here is my brother Zach explaining the finer points of surfing to Gia.  I can’t wait for her to know the bond siblings can share.

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As sister’s they will celebrate so much together – from birthdays to a walk down the aisle, I hope they stand by each other’s side through all of life’s monumental moments.  With those good times also comes tough times – bruised knees, a less than perfect grade, a broken heart.  No matter the problem, siblings should be there to dry each other’s tears and act as a shoulder to lean on.

(Thinking about this next part makes me emotional and teary eyed.) Above all else, we are making our family a family of four because we want Gia to have someone to grow old with.  Friends come and go, but family is forever.  Unfortunately our parents aren’t able to physically be around forever, so having another sibling ensures that Gia will have a blood connection long after Craig and I are gone.

I’m aware that not everyone wants another child, let alone one child.  (I’ve addressed that in my blog before.)  I try to be sensitive to the fact that everyone is free to live their life exactly how they wish, with child or without.  I also know that those who want kids may have difficulty conceiving and may never experience what Craig and I have.  I feel great pain for those who want kids but are unable, and I have great respect  for those who choose to live their life without children, as these are very personal things.  All I know for myself is that I would absolutely regret not having a second child.  I feel like I would be robbing Gia of something that I know is so amazing.  This is why we are adding another girl to our gang.


Soon Gia will be picking flowers with her built in bestie.

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Sidenote:  I know my blog invites opinions of others, but I want to remind everyone to be kind.  By no means do you need to agree with any of my opinions, let’s just be respectful of one another.

I’d love to hear from friends and strangers alike – Why have you decided to have a another child?  Feel free to comment here and don’t forget to follow more of my adventures on my Instagram page, @mrsbennigson.

xo

Not So Frequent Flyer

For those of you who follow my Instagram account, @mrsbennigson, you already know that Gia and I took off for a weekend adventure.

For the last few weeks I’ve been wanting to head to Newport Beach to visit my brother. We don’t get to see him all the time and in turn, he doesn’t get to see Gia on the regular. We do what we can with technology and FaceTime, but the real deal is always our first choice.

Initially this trip was just going to be my mom coming down to visit Zach – I always have her for Mother’s Day, so Zach was long over due to have some mom time with her. I thought this would also be a good chance to visit Zach with Gia before baby #2 gets here, because Lord knows that we won’t be hopping on a plane with a toddler and newborn right away.

First of all, my hat is off to parents who regularly travel by air with their little ones. Flying can be stressful with or without kids – delays and being surrounded by loads of people means we aren’t really in full control.

Now, I know a flight from Oakland to Orange County is nothing compared to a transcontinental or international flight, but we had to start somewhere! Thankfully our flight was just over an hour and I armed myself to the teeth to make sure Gia and I would be prepared.

I have to say, we had it pretty easy when it came to luggage and necessities. My mom opted to drive down a day ahead of us because that’s just how it worked out. Luckily enough, I sent the stroller, car seat and our luggage with her. Yes to semi-free hands in the airport! All I needed to concern myself with was the little umbrella stroller and backpack with extra undies, snacks and books for Gia.

I think my biggest worry was the whole potty situation and not being able to get up on the plane during takeoff and landing. Fortunately, Gia was awesome about using the potty exactly when I needed her to.

I tried to think ahead and reserved our seat close to the lavatory. (My pregnant brain/mom brain didn’t fail me with that idea!) Once we boarded the plane Gia just hung on to me so she could snuggle, which is a rarity these days. Right after takeoff she dozed off and later woke before our decent. I offered her some crackers and we took a potty break before getting ready to land. Success!

Once we deplaned we were promptly greeted by my mom, or Gagi (gah-ghee), as Gia likes to call her. Needless to say, I was so proud of Gia while she was at the airport and on the plane. I think she must have been proud of herself too.

Anytime we try something new and unfamiliar it has the potential to be a little nerve wracking. I knew we would ultimately do fine on our first flight (and without daddy), but we all want things to go smoothly, especially with tots in tow.

As I’ve said on my blog many times before, just go for it. Don’t let your nerves or fears stop you from anything! Take the flight, apply for that dream job, go on the date, follow your curiosity wherever it takes you. Once you do it you’ll be glad you did, and you’ll wonder what your hang up was in the first place.

Maybe I’m a little preemptive in this post, as my flight home isn’t until Monday, but in the spirit of positivity, I’m sure we will do just fine on the way home too. I realize not all flying experiences go as planned, so I’m sure I’ll have more travel stories to share in the future – good and bad!

Happy travels and wishing all of the moms out there a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!

Xo

Those Who Matter Don’t Mind & Those Who Mind Don’t Matter

So, this morning it was brought to my attention by someone who read my blog post from yesterday, that the post was “offensive to a lot of people who can’t have children, or are childless by choice.”  This was juuuust the tip of the iceberg.

First off, I am saddened and quite frankly, shocked that this was how my post came across to this reader.  I stated in the post that it was not meant to offend or single out anyone or any single incident in my life.  I know that my little disclaimer doesn’t prevent people from being offended or sharing personal opinions.  I just wanted to come and clarify, for lack of a better way to put it, that I meant no harm.

I always post with the best of intentions, while keeping in mind that I want to stay true to myself and be authentic.  It has taken me many years to realize that I should just do what I love and be me!  Now that I’m actually doing that I feel a bit taken aback.

Second, I was not aware that a single reader could speak for ALL who are childless, by choice or otherwise.  I felt it unfair to have one person make such a blanket statement for a group of people who may have differing opinions than the one they tried to present to me via message.

Let me include that this person is childless, as I’m sure you could have guessed.  There is nothing wrong with deciding that having children isn’t for you.  There is also a countless amount of people who struggle to have a child, which I most definitely sympathize with.

I am honestly hurt that someone could say that my post was “a scathing vent of why my time is more important than any of my childless friends.”  Let’s be clear here….EVERYONE’S time is important and I am not saying that my worth is more than someone who is without children.  That couldn’t be furthest from the truth!  The people who really know me well know that I am a good person who would never claim superiority because I am a mother.  True friends are people who will seek to understand.

My post was meant to humor those who do have kids and help them see that as parents, we all go through growing pains.  Yes, I realize that when I chose to start blogging that others would give their personal opinions, and that’s great.  This is a discussion board of sorts, and I’m glad this person messaged me because I can always learn something from these kinds of interactions.  What I think is a bummer is that the message also affirmed that there are people who are not willing to have a dialogue, and will cut you out.

The hurtful message assumed so much wrong about me and the point I was trying to convey. Since I have a blog that revolves around being a mother, fitness, cooking and family (all things I love), am I not able to talk about those things for fear of constantly “offending” someone else who has a differing opinion?  So, now am I an insensitive person because I talk about being a mother??  Am I not allowed to talk about the role that has changed my life, just because I’m afraid I will hurt the feelings of someone who is struggling to become a mother?  That sounds pretty ridiculous to me, especially considering it was not easy for me to become pregnant.

I will continue to write about things that interest me, things I’m passionate about and yes, I will absolutely write about what it’s like having a child!  Blogging will always invite opinions and discussions, some of which might be hard to accept.  In turn, since this is my space to share my opinions, you now know my opinion of the message I received.  As a side note, this was the only negative commentary I received on yesterday’s post.  I received many in support of what I wrote and thanking me for being open and honest.  I’ll never please everyone, so it’s best if I just come to terms with that now!

So here it is….I’m warning all of you now that if you don’t like what I write or if it’s offensive, you can stop reading my posts just like this individual did.  We all have a choice.  🙂

Things People Without Kids Need To Understand

Okay, I get it.  I need to be compassionate, and most days I am.  I need to remember that people without children don’t know what it’s like to have them.  After all, I was one of those people 16 short months ago.  But, now my life is totally different.

I understand that when you don’t have kids you still care….you just don’t get it.  There’s no way you can help someone who doesn’t want kids, or is yet to have them, understand this whole mom thing.  I’m a different person now than I was before I had Gia.

Sometimes my wish is that those who are without children, especially those who know and love me, would pull up a chair, take a seat and let me explain a few things.  I feel like it would benefit both parties.  (No, this post was not prompted by anyone or any specific incident, and it’s certainly not meant to offend anyone.)  So, here we go:

  1. Meeting up last minute doesn’t work for me.  I used to be free spirited when it came to meeting up for an impromptu happy hour, or coffee date.  These days, I need to bring my busy toddler with me, along with a full arsenal of her “things.”  Basically, this kind of stuff takes a little planning, so I need a few hours notice to successfully meet up!
  2. It can take me hours to respond to text messages and days for voicemails.  Don’t read into my lack of urgency in responding to you.  It is what it is.  I just haven’t been able to get back to you because I’m busy putting my child down for a nap, washing dishes, or actually taking a shower.  Trust me, I care about you and want to give your text or message attention, but only when I can sit down and give it the thoughtfulness that it deserves.
  3. Let me show you what a real mess is.  Spit-up, diapers, baby food, bottles, dishes, toys everywhere and a few unmentionables.  If you want to feel better about the state of messiness that your home is in, just stop by my place after hurricane Gia has played all day.
  4. Do not tell me how exhausted you are, even though I know you’re allowed to be tired too.  Okay, you’re tired, but I’m a walking zombie.  Sleep regressions are real people!  Teething babies, sick babies, you name it, it means less sleep.  (All worth it of course!)
  5. Yes, I have to, and more importantly, want to bring my child with me.  I’ve missed out on countless invites to things because people simply think I can’t come now that I have Gia.  If you don’t ask me I certainly can’t join.  Now, I can join, if it’s okay with you that I bring my child.  This probably means interrupted conversation, food everywhere and if we’re lucky, maybe even a meltdown.  No, I can’t just let her sit in her stroller while we sip on a glass of wine on the patio of the newest restaurant somewhere.  She won’t just sit still and lay in the sun like your dog.
  6. I just don’t have time.  I’m usually cleaning my child, feeding my child, or trying to prevent her from getting into something that she shouldn’t be getting into.
  7. Parenting ain’t easy.  Insert comment from non-parent here: “I will never do _____ when I have children.” 😐
  8. No, I can’t just make my toddler stop crying when she’s having a meltdown.  One year old children can’t use their words, because they simply don’t know enough of them!  Even if they do, crying and getting upset tells me they need something.
  9. I constantly talk about my daughter, so you’ll have to get used to it.  I just love her more than life, so in turn, I love talking about her.
  10. Raising a pet is not the same as raising a human.  It’s just not.  The end.
  11. I post lots of pictures of my child.  I can’t help it!  I just think she’s amazing in every way.  It’s my prerogative.  If you think I shouldn’t post her photo to social media, that’s fine.  Feel free to unfollow me or roll your eyes in the privacy of your own home.
  12. I still need you.  And I’m still here for you too, I just keep odd hours.  My friends without kids shouldn’t feel like they can’t call me anytime.  I just might not respond or answer right away.  (See #2)  My life won’t be this chaotic forever….well, it might be, but eventually my little girl is going to grow up.  She will have friends, school and activities that keep her occupied and engaged.  She won’t need me as much as she does now, which makes me sad, yet proud.  By then I’m sure I’ll have a little more time to be the type of friend I want to be.  Although, by then, you might have one of your own.  At that time, I’ll just read this list I made to remind myself of what you might want me to understand.

This shot of Gia sums things up pretty well.  Dirty face, getting into something, all while living her best life.  I wouldn’t change a thing!

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Healthy Gingerbread Muffins VS. Traditional Gingerbread

It’s a good thing I love to work out because I also like to eat good food.  As they say, “everything in moderation!”  For some that can be a hard saying to live by during the holiday season with so many parties, cookie swaps and family gatherings all centered around food.  The holidays are definitely the time of year where many people indulge more than usual, but rightfully so!

With moderation in mind, I wanted to share two recipes that I came across for gingerbread.  One is a healthier muffin version and the other is for all you traditionalists – a classic gingerbread.

But first, here’s Gia helping in the kitchen:

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For those of you who follow my Instagram account, I’ve shared some of my baking escapades over the last few days.  On Monday, Gia and I made the healthy gingerbread muffins, which were a total hit with her (and the dog – oops).  Gia has had one muffin everyday for the last three days!  As for Homie, our Frenchie, he got ahold of a muffin that Gia accidentally dropped yesterday.  Unbelievably, Gia didn’t mean to drop it.  Thankfully Homie didn’t get sick after devouring the totally off-limits treat, he just had excessive gas, which isn’t too far from the usual for him.  Sorry, TMI!  Anyone who owns a French Bulldog can sympathize.

I finally tasted the healthier gingerbread muffins the morning after I made them.  I decided the muffin would taste good with some espresso, so that’s what I paired it with.  The flavors of the muffin were there, but it was on the dry side.  I totally expected that would happen, due to the “healthier” ingredients.  For those who are wanting a taste of the holiday but also want to be mindful of what they’re eating, it’s a good compromise.  The downside is, it might just leave you yearning for the old school version with all the calories.

I knew I had to make some traditional gingerbread after my husband, Craig, dubbed me a junior baker after making “healthy” muffins.  Let’s say I’ve regained my usual title of household iron chef after making the real deal!

I found the recipe for this classic gingerbread from another blogger that I enjoy following – Jenna Beaugh, known as @eatliverun on Instagram.  I love following her Instagram account because she is someone I can relate to.  Jenna is a mom of two boys and is a food and travel writer who is based here in the Bay Area – Berkeley to be exact.  She keeps it real with the ups and downs that come with motherhood and she is always sharing great recipes.  Go follow her!

We have yet to taste the recipe that I used from Jenna because the gingerbread has literally just popped out of the oven.  The plan is to bring it to my grandmother’s tonight for my family to enjoy for dessert.  We’re going to have an early dinner, followed by some fun at Tilden Park.

Gia is going to ride the steam trains and look at all of the Christmas lights and decorations this evening.  It should be fun!  I’m looking forward to taking her somewhere that I went as a child.

I hope everyone’s having a great holiday season so far!  For those wanting these recipes, here you go:

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil (melted & cooled to warm)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1 egg @ room temp
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I used whole milk for Gia)
  • coarse sugar for sprinkling (optional)

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Preparation

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, line muffin tins.
  • In a large bowl whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves & salt.  Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, add coconut oil, maple syrup, molasses, egg, yogurt and milk. Whisk until smooth.  Add dry ingredients, mix until well combined.
  • Pour batter in muffin liners, filling halfway, sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  • Bake 18-22 minutes. (Makes 12 muffins.)

Jenna Beaugh’s Gingerbread

According to Jenna, this recipe is from her great grandmother.  The original recipe is from the 1930s, so Jenna updated it with a couple of tweaks.  I’m sitting here letting mine cool and it smells fantastic!  Click here to get the full recipe.

Happy baking!

xo

In The Loupe

For you non-jewelry folks out there – no, I didn’t spell loupe wrong. The title of this post is my attempt to show that I can be clever! I know, I’ve got some major room for improvement in that department. At least I tried! 🙂

With Thanksgiving only two days away, Christmas around the corner and countless holiday parties on the horizon, I wanted to talk about how to care for some of our most cherished possessions. After all, us ladies will likely be sporting our diamonds, pearls, colored stones and gold to some of these upcoming gatherings.

Like I said, jewelry can be one of our most intimate and cherished accessories. Understanding how to care for and protect our treasured jewelry can make a world of a difference in maintaining its beauty, while keeping it dazzling for generations to come.

First, let me tell you why I’m not just a random woman pretending to know what I’m talking about. My love for diamonds, colored stones and pearls really became apparent to me during my time working at Tiffany & Co. During the time I worked for the company known for its famed blue box, I wanted to become a Gemologist (I still want to, but have put it on hold to be a stay at home mommy). I took courses with the Gemological Institute Of America to get the ball rolling on a process that can be quite lengthy. Although I have yet to become a Gemologist, I did receive my certificate in diamond grading and can call myself a GD, or Graduate of Diamonds.

This picture shows me in action when I was with T & Co., and yes, I got the sale:

Why do you even care? Well, I have gained the skills to grade the color, clarity, and cut of diamonds. I’ve learned to determine proportions and estimate diamond weight. I have also studied diamond treatments, synthetics, and simulants, and understand the effect of fluorescence on diamond body color.

Mind you, I haven’t actively done this since my daughter, Gia, was born, so I have some brushing up to do. Looking at diamonds and knowing what to look for is a practiced skill that requires the right equipment too. Even though I don’t get to work with diamonds everyday as of now, I am still constantly reading and learning more on my own with the materials I have been given from the G.I.A. (It’s a complete coincidence that my daughter is named Gia, by the way.)

Anyway, I digress. Now let’s get back to caring for our jewelry.

Be careful around light and heat with your jewelry. Light and heat can affect a colored gemstone’s color and durability. Over time and in excess, some colored stones can fade and their durability can be compromised.

Pearls, which are very delicate, can bleach if exposed to extreme light. When heat is excessive or if there are sudden extreme temperature changes, some gems can actually fracture.

Look at these gorgeous aquamarine earrings:

This next tip is kind of a no-brainer….keep your jewelry away from chemicals! Chemicals can damage and discolor your precious metals, like gold, silver and platinum. Chemicals can even damage some gemstones.

Even everyday items like hairspray, perfume and lotions can permanently damage the surface of your pearls or other porous stones, like turquoise. As a rule of thumb, you should always remove your jewelry before washing dishes, jumping into a chlorinated pool, spritzing with perfume and setting that hairstyle with spray. It can be tough for some to break these habits, but I’d much rather take the extra time to make sure my jewelry is safe from damage.

Use ultrasonic cleaners with caution! Not many people have these machines in their home, as they are a bit of a luxury to have. Your local jeweler will probably have more than one though. Not all gems and jewelry can safely be cleaned in an ultrasonic. Organic gems such as pearls, coral, ivory and amber absolutely CANNOT be cleaned in an ultrasonic.

The vibration generated by the machine can also shake loose your stones if they aren’t mounted properly. Ultrasonic machines are great for your tarnished silver pieces. It’s best to let a professional decide what can and cannot be cleaned by using this method.

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, so let’s make sure we always show them the love they deserve. I hate when I see people handling their diamonds the wrong way. What I mean by the wrong way is that they are touching the stone itself, instead of holding the band that the stone may be mounted on.

Diamonds attract the oil that’s naturally occurring on our hands and fingers. If you touch the diamond, the oil from your fingers will make dirt and dust adhere to it, dulling the fire and brilliance. Minimal handling of the diamond will keep it sparkling much longer.

Ultra classic round brilliant:

The key to a diamond’s sparkle lies in its facets – which work like a series of many tiny mirrors reflecting light in and out of the stone. Regularly cleaning the facets will keep your diamond sparkling and your diamond jewelry in gleaming condition, ready to shine for your next special occasion.

Pictured below is a gorgeous 2.69ct pear shape, D color and internally flawless. (I sold this ring a few years ago – It commanded a $155k price tag.):

If you have additional questions about how to care for your jewelry, feel free to comment or shoot me a message! I’m happy to help!

May your holiday season be bright and merry, just like your jewels!

It Takes A Village

Since breaking my ankle last week I have never been more appreciative of the help from my family. It’s moments like this where I feel so lucky to live so close to my parents and in-laws. 

Normally, on weekends when Craig is working graveyard, I get my one-on-one time with Gia. We go to the park, run errands and play. Now that I’m helpless with Gia, I’m totally reliant on Craig and our family. 

This past weekend was the first small challenge we had to sort out because of my broken ankle. Prior to getting injured, my mom had planned to drive down to Orange County to help my brother. He has two herniated discs, and after lots of physical therapy and pain, he needed to get an epidural to help him. (We sound like a bunch of gimps in this family!) Zach certainly needed my mom there, as he wouldn’t be able to drive after the procedure. 

With Craig at work Friday-Monday morning, my mom gone, and me being useless, it was my mother-in-law, Gail, who came to my rescue with Gia. 

My biggest worry this weekend was, how am I going to watch Gia? I can’t even change her diaper with this cast and pain, let alone chase her and prepare her food! Craig obviously couldn’t help me when he was home from work because he had to sleep during the day. Our solution was that Gia would have a weekend sleepover with Nana and she would come hang out with me during the afternoon when Craig was up and getting ready to head back to work.

Only Homie is enjoying the fact that I can’t do much:

 

This weekend everything worked out great! What was especially nice about Gail and Harry watching Gia was that they got to have the whole weekend to share with her. In a way, it was good timing because they are heading to a wedding this week and then going straight to see my sister-in-law, Michelle, afterwards. Michelle is due with my second nephew on the 17th – so Gia got to have fun with Nana and Papa before they go to meet their new grandbaby. 

Picture of Gia helping Nana in the kitchen:


 I have to say, this whole ankle ordeal has given my anxiety a major boost. I have endless guilt that I’m not able to do much of anything for Gia, except let her sit on my lap. I am always asking everyone who is helping me with Gia, “Is that okay? Are you sure?” Not to mention the endless amount of  times I’ve said, “I’m sorry.”

I hate that people have to wait on me and that I’m not able to care for my own child without help right now. I know this is all temporary and that it’s just the way things have to go right now – I don’t have much of a choice!

I’m looking at this whole thing as a mental challenge for myself. It’s just another test that has been thrown my way. As always, this will teach me something new, making me a better mother, wife and daughter. 

Photo of G looking too cool during her weekend with Nana & Papa:

Pumpkins + Munchkins

I’ve been a blogging slacker for the last three weeks or so, but I think you’ll understand why.  First of all, with the horrendous amount damage and displacement caused by the fires in our area the last couple of weeks, it just didn’t feel right to blog or post much on social media.  I felt guilty going about my everyday life knowing that just up the road people had lost absolutely everything.


Photo from my mom & dad’s front yard on day 1 of the fires:

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Craig and I donated to our local church, Northgate Christian Fellowship, but wished we could do so much more.  Craig did work some mutual aid in one of the hardest hit areas of Santa Rosa – the Coffey Park neighborhood.  He showed me pictures of the neighborhoods and it was shocking to see how unrecognizable things looked.

On the brighter side of things, we closed on our house earlier than expected and started moving in.  It’s seemed like a never-ending transition from the last house to the new one, and we aren’t sleeping there just yet, but I’m thinking we will be next week.  We are so excited to be in our new house, in such a wonderful neighborhood.  Our street is full of little ones and friendly families.  We’ve already met four of our neighbors and I can’t say enough about how welcoming and nice they are.

What I’m looking forward to most about the new neighborhood is Gia being able to make friends as she grows.  I just have such a good feeling about all of it and I can’t help but feel so fortunate.

To cap off the busy week that we’ve had as a family, Gia and I went downtown to stroll First Street for the Halloween Costume Walk.  I wondered how much we’d actually get to walk with a 14 month old, but it was so much fun and Gia did great.  She loved waving and saying hello to all of the other kids who were dressed up.

The only candy she had interest in hanging on to was her mini crunch bar.  By the end of our stroll it was half melted in the wrapper.  Of course I wasn’t planning on giving it to her – not enough teeth and that kid doesn’t need a sugar jolt.


Our little pumpkin with her candy of choice:

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There were some really great costumes and cute families who dressed up together.  Gia wore the pumpkin costume that I wore when I trick-or-treated for the very first time.  I wasn’t able to get her to wear the little pumpkin stem hat that went with it, but hey, I tried.   I’m thinking that the next Bennigson baby will have to wear the costume too.  Looks like I’ve already got a tradition in the making!

I hope you all have a great weekend doing whatever it is that you have planned!  Happy Halloween to all!