Peppermint Bark

peppermint bark recipe
Peppermint Bark is delicious, and certainly on of the easiest holiday treats you can make.  Here's our quick and easy method of making it. 
The ingredients are simple:
1 bag of semisweet or dark chocolate chips
1 bag of white chocolate chips
candy canes
Here's the super easy version of how to make it:
Melt chocolate; spread it onto a pan lined with parchment paper.
Let it cool, the melt white chocolate and spread on top of dark chocolate.
Sprinkle, crushed candy canes onto white chocolate. 
Let cool, then flip over and cut into pieces.
Tada!!  That's it! 
For those of you that like more detailed, step by step instructions, here you are:
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Empty the bag of semisweet chocolate chips into a bowl. 
Place in microwave for 30 seconds.
30 more seconds in microwave.
Repeat above steps until the chocolate chips are completely melted, but do not overheat.
*I added in a few (ok, 8) Andes mints (green wrapper) to give the chocolate a minty flavor, but if you don't have any, add a drop of peppermint extract. 
Pour melted chocolate chips onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and spread evenly.  Don't try to cover the entire pan, just spread it out some.
Place pan of chocolate in the fridge to harden.
Here comes the fun part. 
Unwrap some candy canes, say, 6 or so, and place in a ziplock bag.
Find a hammer and smash away. 
Repeat the whole chocolate melting step with the bag of white chocolate chips.
Take your pan out of the fridge, and spread the melted white chocolate on top of the now hardened semisweet chocolate. 
Sprinkle the candy cane bits on the white chocolate before it begins to set. 
* White chocolate seems to be thicker and sets more quickly than the darker chocolate, so work fast.
Place the pan in the fridge to cool and harden.
Once chocolate is hard, turn it out of the pan onto a new sheet of parchement paper.
Peel away from the original parchment paper, and cut into pieces. 
*I do not cut my bark into perfect squares.  I just cut however the mood strikes.

The really hard part... try not to eat it all before you wrap it up for friends!
peppermint bark

Run, Run, as Fast as You Can

We awoke to find our Elf on the Shelf reading our copy of the Gingerbread Boy, and took that as a sign that we should make some gingerbread men!  No secret grandma's recipe or anything for these though.  We just used a prepackaged mix, since we've been so busy baking other treats for our neighbors and friends. 

Happy Solstice to all...and to all a goodnight!

Sandy Hook

I don't even know where to begin.  I'd heard vaguely about last Friday's tragedy while on my way to Little Guy's school.  As I walked into his classroom to volunteer my time I looked around to find the children having such fun in their centers.  The teacher gave them "Fun Friday," and they were just stoked.

As Little Guy and I drove home, the story of what happened in Connecticut came on the radio, and picturing the sweet faces of the kindergarten class I had just left, I couldn't stop the tears.  Little Guy asked, "Mom, are you crying?" 



What do you say?  What do you tell your 5 year old when something like this happens?  I have always been of the belief that when a child asks his or her parent a question, it is the parent's duty to answer it to the best of their ability.  For if your child can't count on you for the real and proper answer, how will they feel about coming to you later in life for those really tough questions?  Will they be able to trust you?  Will they feel comfortable talking with you about the difficult stuff? 

So I told Little Guy something I never imagined saying to him - that a man went into a school with his gun and shot people.  And that I was crying because I was so sad for the victims and their families who are going to miss them. 

After much discussion on who (6 year olds!?), and how, and why (why?!), Little Guy felt clued in and our discussion dwindled into silence. 

All I could think was, I shouldn't have to have this conversation with my 5 year old.  But you know what?  I did.  The truth is that things like do happen.  And they are happening more often.  I'm not going to get into why or what we should be doing to stop it, because I don't have answers about national policies, but I do have answers about our children. 

Pay attention to your children.  Show them love.  They are people.  Their needs and feelings are important, and building a trusting relationship with their parents is extremely important. 

I wonder maybe if instead of being a people that strive for money and success, we could become a people that strive for better relationships with eachother and our children. 

I cried myself to sleep that night, my heart aching for the victims and the families. 
This weekend was our town's Holiday Parade, and we were participants.  I couldn't help but thinking as I watched all the kids putting the finishing touches on their floats or costumes, that this could be the next place.  This could be the setting of the next crazed gunmans rampage.  And then I got mad. 
I realized that this horrific event has affected the population in numerous ways.  It has caused despair and sadness, it has caused fear and panic, and it has caused love and kindness.  It is up to you to determine how it affects you.  Once I moved past the despair and sadness, the fear and panic moved in.  I quickly pushed that aside to make room for the love and kindness. 

There were hundreds of children lining the street that night as the parade rolled by, and I looked into the eyes of each child as I wished them a Merry Christmas and handed out candy canes.  Their sweet, innocent little eyes which should know nothing of fear and tragedy. 
Make time for your children, say hello to your neighbors, let that car switch lanes, give the woman behind you in the checkout line with only 2 items the go ahead.  These are such small things, but they could be making an immense impact on the world. 

Our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families of Sandy Hook Elementary School.   



A friend told us about a trail just out of town that we hadn't heard about, so we'd been were itching to check it out.  We love exploring new territory, but hubby was especially excited because he'd heard there were some awesome biking trails there.  Even with the slight cooling of the weather here, it was pretty buggy out, so we didn't make it too far before we became a breakfast buffet for the mosquitoes and had to turn back.   
I don't know where our attraction to banana spiders comes from.  Perhaps it's the fact that they are just so huge.  Or maybe it's that you can get so close to them and really examine them from all sides while they are sitting up in their webs, waiting for a meal.  I suspect it's mostly because you always need to be on the lookout for them while in the woods, unless you'd like to wear one on your face since they build their webs almost anywhere.   

Make Your Own Natural Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a staple in our home; eaten almost daily by one of its inhabitants.  It's also something that can be very easily made without all the added sugars and chemical ingredients.  To make our peanut butter I use:  peanuts and flaxseeds.  That's all.  Really.  And it's wonderful.
For this batch I used 2 cups of peanuts, although I should have used 3 to fill the jar completely.
 The peanuts will go through quite a few different phases before they reach the proper consistency. 
 It will be very grainy at first,
until it begins to form a ball. 
 The ball will begin to smooth itself out,
 back into a less grainy paste.
 Once you begin to see the grains disappear, you may add in the flaxseed, if so desired. 
 Give it a few quick pulses to mix, and that's it. 
 Creamy peanut butter with ingredients you can pronounce.
 Sorry about the less than uniform image sizes.  Blogger is being difficult at the moment.  I will come back and increase the smaller images when I can.      Much better!

* Check out Your Green Resource for more Green ideas!! 
A Big "Thank You" to Simply Rebekah for choosing this as the featured post for Your Green Resource!


Florida Autumn

The arrival of autumn in Florida, most importantly to us, means the beginning to bearable weather during nature walks. There are no orange and red leaves decorating the trees quite yet. No, instead we enjoy examining the enormous banana spiders and taking notice of the oranges slowly changing colors on our trees. Not cool, crisp weather like you would imagine other parts of the country to be having during this time. Just a dialing down of the sweltering heat and humidity that plague us during the summer months; and for that we are grateful. To be outside in a nonwater related activity is such a treat after the long, hot months of summer. We take full advantage of our few degree drop in temperatures and spend as much time as possible enjoying our landscape.
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