29 November 2011

Summer to Fall

It's a testament to how much my new job has taken over my life when the last blog entry is the 13th of July! Wow!

It's been a lovely, beautiful, crazy-busy Fall in the Sidwell home. I am teaching gifted children again and LOVE my new job even though it requires all my mental energy just to keep up! This fall, Paul and I helped host the first annual Helping Heroes Challenge - a trail run at Platte Purchase Park to benefit Wounded Warriors. Everything from building and designing the trails to course marshalling to picking up trash; we were in the thick of things and loved every minute. It was a thrilling learning experience; put 10 November 2012 on your calendar for the 2nd annual HHC!

November and December are fast-moving months with our anniversary, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all within 6 weeks of each other! We went to the Plaza III (a steakhouse on The Plaza) to celebrate our 2nd anniversary this last weekend and reflected on how grateful we are for the life we lead. 2012 looks to be a BIG year for us - lots of faith and trust and hard work are in store for our third year of marriage. The starting line is just up ahead; we're about to hit the ground running!

Happy Holiday season to all!

13 July 2011

It's a Cupcake World

I can't begin to guess how the cosmos lines up to makes these things happen but ... I baked cupcakes two months in a row. I know. Totally weird, given my non-cake thing. But, once again, we've found a beauty in these babies: Root Beer Float Cupcakes for my sister's (shortcakessweettooth.blogspot.com) June theme.

Recipe: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2011/04/hot-fudge-root-beer-float-cupcakes/

These cupcakes were extremely simple to make. Simple batter. Simple frosting.

Simply, go for it!

A couple things I learned/would change:

1) More root beer flavoring! These 'cakes weren't nearly as strong on the root beer flavor as I thought they would be, given the amount of extract I put in. My official note to self was: look for STRONGER extract for next time.

2) Make is super-easy on yourself and eliminate the separation of frostings; just make it all root beer flavored! Of all my taste-testers, it was unanimous that this change would be make the 'cakes even better :)

Perfect for hot summer days when you'd rather be eating than running outside in 147% humidity! Enjoy to the hilt :)

31 May 2011


I'm not a huge fan of cake. Really, only certain kinds of 'cake' turn my fancy. Cheesecake. Texas Sheet Cake. And once in a while, a cupcake.

So my sister chooses "Picnic Food" for our May theme in baking. And nearly the next day sends me this dangerous and sinful link:


Don't believe me? Just keep reading.

So a couple weekends ago, I'm in the mood to make these beauties. Let me tell you, this was the best cupcake making and eating experience I've had. That's right. Ever.

The cupcake batter secret is to do exactly what she says. Now, how against the grain is that for me, right?! But, margarita in my right hand and beautiful red Kitchen Aid mixer next to my left, I followed directions for once, and beat the butter and sugar for 5 minutes. 5 minutes. 5 minutes! A thing of beauty ...

The fresh lime zest and lime juice I would say were the next most important parts of both the batter and the frosting. Well of course, besides the tequila ;)

2 of my children wanted to lick the batter from the bowl so we gave it a go. "This tastes weird" all around! Not too hip on the tequila taste as it should be; but AFTER they came out of the oven (the tequila baked out) it was a different story all-around: "These are awesome!" - "They taste so moist!" (Yes, one of my children used the word 'moist').

After again following the directions - this was a marker day for me - for the frosting, and whipping this butter as well for 5 mins (these are super-low calorie cupcakes btw), on went the deliciosity of frosting.

As you can tell, my husband didn't mind posing for the camera with tequila-enthused smiles all around *wink* In all seriousness though: these babies need no tequila to make them amazing. The perfect cupcake. There. You heard me. They're an 11!

Now, go make some for yourself - you won't regret it!

15 May 2011


The last couple months have been many things, but mostly a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. I've had several life-changing highs and excruciating lows. I usually sense the roller coaster is coming but it is not until I'm riding it that I realize I am flailing. Like water through a sieve, I leak toxins. I chose self-preservation rather than truth; rules rather than questions; movement rather than contemplation.

See, contemplation requires me to stop. Stop moving. Stop analyzing. Stop controlling. Contemplation allows solace, comfort, rest, moment-to-moment peace. It is about choice. We are always choosing. Ever notice that? Rice or beans; South or North; listen or judge; accept or defend.

I am being stretched in new and different ways. While I am no foreigner to this process by any means, being stretched is never 'fun'. It is typically painful and requires a new level of trust and faith in God to get me through. Spending time in contemplative prayer with Him who makes all things work together for good - and yes, that says ALL things - is an essential piece for me.

It has been hidden.

It is remembered. And uncovered.

02 May 2011

Strawberry Goodness

Spring = Strawberries in my world! So happy to participate in the Strawberry Baking promoted by my amazingly, creative food artist sis! (Check out her awesome blog here: http://shortcakessweettooth.blogspot.com/)

I ventured into the muffin-world for my Strawberry-themed recipe this past month. My boy asked me just tonight what my favorite fruit was and I had to respond with 'strawberry'. There are so many ways to enjoy this decadent fruit! I took a recipe recommended by my sister called Strawberry Muffins (the recipe is here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/tasty-kitchen/recipes/breads/strawberry-muffins-2/).

In my usual fashion, I am not a great recipe follower (one of the many great traits I gathered from my Mom!) so some things were changed to protect the errr ... innocent- muffin-eater ;) I liked the recipe up-front but also knew I wanted to incorporate fresh berries rather preserves into the recipe. Changes I made: I used strawberry yogurt v. the vanilla yogurt as called for; and I completely left out the preserves and substituted about 2 - 2 1/2c. of fresh strawberries, folding those in last. I also doubled the recipe because I had plans to share with friends at a brunch at work! (The recipe doubled nicely). A few pics of the process along the way:

The muffins were super-moist (thanks, yogurt-y-goodness!) and tasted fresh for at least 3 days without refrigeration. I would recommend this recipe to all :) Enjoy!

29 March 2011

Chocolate Mint Brownies

They're here! And they're go-ooo-oood :)

Brendan and I whipped up some Chocolate Mint Brownies for the Mint March recipe.


The recipe takes a few steps but they are not difficult by any means - good recipe for helpers too. B enjoyed retrieving the measuring cups, unwrapping chocolate, and peppermint patties, as well as smelling everything in sight ;)

Here's a few pics of how it looks, just prior to baking and just as we were about to eat a warm yummy sample!

I'm interested most to see how they taste cooled completely v. still warm and gooey.

Can't wait to hear from others participating in the Mint March cook-off!

28 March 2011

March goes out like a lion?!

Vacation to southern MO was gorgeous! We "picked" the best 2 days of that week - mid- to upper-70's and sunshine! We hiked; we slept; we cooked; we read; we hiked; we slept; we cooked; well, you get the idea. Our own UN-scheduled time for 2 days is like a breath of fresh mountain air! It was nearly perfect ...

Hubby finished our 1st 'together book' on vacation; we found that it ("Loving Our Kids on Purpose" by Danny Silk) taught us several parenting keys we believe will work long-term, and have already seen do so.

1. Give them control. Allow them to fail just as much as they succeed. "You can do that if you want, but I wouldn't." Not in a sarcastic, you'll-be-in-trouble kind of way but with great sincerity.

2. Love, love, love them. Encourage them. Discipline them with understanding. Never take away their dignity. Using "I know", "I understand", "I don't know", "Probably so", and "That could be" as standard responses when they're pushing our buttons rather than getting into a power-struggle. Empowering them to make decisions for themselves. A great one when they are fighting/not resolving an issue on their own: "I'd be happy to referee this fight. I charge $10. Go!" (that one's just fun to see their face of shock! - They learn real fast to problem-solve on their own!)

3. "No-fun" situations. Help them think it through. Spend time working through the difficult times. Today, for example: Paul and I had intentions of running at 5p. What time did we go our the door? 530pm. Why? Aubry needed our time as her parents. She needed to realize her choices were making everything "no fun" for all of us. What she needed most? For us to stay and work through it with her. To show her she had the power to make the change to "fun" for all.

I finished our 2nd 'together book' on vacation as well. WOW! Your Time-Starved Marriage by Parrot and Parrot is excellent. I'm going to save the full review for a post of its own. Suffice to say, I understand the main issue Paul and I fight about (time!) in a whole new light. Highly recommended!

On the baking front, I chose my sister's recommended Mint recipe for the month of March: Peppermint Patty Brownies. They're being made tomorrow for Family Game Night - I have a feeling they'll be a big hit. Stay tuned for the next installment of books, board games, and baking :)

I'll leave you with this thought:

“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” -- Albert Einstein

14 March 2011

It's the Middle of March?!?!?!?!

I know I'm not the only one who gets behind in blogging.
But, dang; I sure dislike when I do. Here's a summary update:

February Food -- I made a delicious Strawberry Cake for Valentines Day! I was supposed to do something 'red' AND 'velvet' for the monthly baking fun with my sister but my mind blanked on the 'velvet' part. Ooops! Oh well: the recipe is super simple and the cake is the ultimate in moistness and fluffiness :) YUMMY! That should make up for it's lack of 'velvet-y-ness', right?!

Here's some pics and the recipe:

Strawberry Cake
1 pkg white cake mix
4 whole eggs
1 10-oz pkg frozen strawberries
1c veg oil
1/2c water
4T flour
1 box strawberry jello mix
1 stick butter
2-3c powdered sugar

Thaw strawberries and mash. Reserve about 5T for icing. Mix cake mix, eggs, strawberries, oil, water, flour, & Jello mix for 2 mins. Bake in greased and floured 9X13" pan (or a large heart-shaped pan like I did!) at 325* for 40-45 mins. Cool. For frosting, simply stir reserved strawberries, soft butter, and powdered sugar together. Ice the cooled cake and enjoy!

Book Update: I finished "Loving Our Kids On Purpose" mid-February. As was the rest of the book, it was also a great finish. My husband is finishing it this month and then I'll post a final review of our together thoughts! We have had a lot of good parenting discussions already :) I'm now reading books along the idea of developing leaders and widening ones circle of influence. "Awakening the Sleeping Giant", "Principle-Centered Leadership", and "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" have been recommended to me thus far so I'm diving in. I'm also reading my husband and I's second "together book": The Time-Starved Marriage by Parrot and Parrot. Next post should have a lot of book updates/reviews!

This week is Spring Break from my Counseling job (not my 2nd job but I'll take what I can get!); Paul and I are heading down to southern MO - Eminence, MO to be exact - for a 2-day retreat. We are staying in an old mill on the Jacks Fork River that has been converted to a cabin. I. Am. Thrilled! There is no better way for me to relax than to be in the middle of nowhere, no cell phone signal, no WiFi - just books, running shoes, and my husband.

I'm the most blessed woman, I just know it ...

23 January 2011

I'll have some more, please! Snow on the Mountain, that is :)

It was quite an experience making this 'Snow'!

There were several steps (a bit time-consuming) as well as several times when I was thinking, "I don't know that this is going to be a hit." But I pressed on ...

First, the cake batter you begin with looks less like cake batter and more like homemade ice cream batter prior to freezing. But, I baked it for the 25 minutes the recipe recommends and then let it cool.

The second step is to cut up bananas and oranges into bite-size pieces - Aubry loved helping with this part. Using a sharp knife at age 7 carries significant steps up the ladder of maturity, you know ;)

Next, you are supposed to break the cooled cake into pieces. This was one of the junctures at which I encountered doubt. The reason being the cake was not completely done in the middle! Crazily so, because a toothpick inserted into the hot cake was clean. And now the cooled cake was a bit gooey?!?!?!?! But, again, I pressed on. Literally. I combined the cake goo/pieces with the fruit and pressed it the bottom-half of a bowl to chill in the fridge for 2 hours.

Post-chill, the cake is turned upside-down on a platter and looks like this:

Then, you whip heavy cream with confectioner's sugar and vanilla extract. Wha-lah: snow!

Two hours later, Hubby and I enjoyed a piece with a glass of wine. It is very tasty! Actually, I completely recommend you try it, especially if you are a fruit-lover!

To snow! The edible kind :)

20 January 2011

Filters & Gardens

One of things I teach my 2nd graders is to use "I-statements". They are developmentally ready to cognitively process the idea that "I-statements" are much stronger than "You ______________." I give them this visual: when we go around, speaking to others with the "You did ________ to me!" or "You always ______________ me!", it is like taking my finger and pointing it at them. I ask them to think of their friends as mirrors. We talk about how the entire function of a mirror is simply to reflect. And when my big "you-finger" is pointing into that mirror, it is really just pointing right back at me! Instead, we practice making I-statements such as "I feel sad when you cut me in line because that is rude." or "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings when I called you 'stupid'."

These two chapters were like mirrors. Mirrors that reflected there are times when I am most definitely using my you-finger rather than my I-statement. Nothing like eating my own words, eh?!

But I'm so grateful. I'm grateful because I have a chance to change my behaviors. More than that, it is my responsibility to do so. Here's a few thoughts about Chapters Two and Three:

Truth matters. Realizing that my interpretation of truth depends on my belief about what I can control is vital. I am inevitably going to have my mom and dad's voice in my head. I am always going to remember how it felt to be a child in their home. But my responsibility is take the initiative to control myself and thus create the environment I want my children to have, not just a reincarnation of what I experienced. "The ability to manage yourself and your children towards the goals that you have in being a parent rests in the ability to tell yourself what to do and do it no matter what they've done or are doing." (p. 80) I wrote in the margins of Chapter Two, "Knowing how I want to respond and doing it are two separate entities at times!". In other words, my filter better be working at all times. Sometimes I just need to zip it and think!

My children are my garden. I have 3 goals for them:
1) to have healthy relationships;
2) to be able to set healthy limits for themselves; and
3) to value a strong connection with their parents and siblings.

Thus, I have 3 goals don't I?!

1) I will act and react in a healthy way, despite their behavior and choices.
2) I will model healthy limits for self, as well as give them healthy choices and consequences from which to choose.
3) I will highly value my connection to them physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

The practical piece Silk recommends (and that I plan to begin to implement immediately!) is fall-back phrases; a few default responses I can use when they have hit my disrespect button or are demanding my attention by performing negatively. (And believe-you-me, I need these!) Nothings gets my blood pumping faster than disrespect.

I know.
I don't know.
Probably so.
Oh no!
No problem.
That could be.
Nice try.

I'm picturing these phrases as compost for my 'garden'. I am willing to take a risk on this fertilizer as a means for which my home will have even greater peace and joy and self-control and love. Gal 5:22, 23

Snow on the Mountain

We just had 9" of snow fall on us in Kansas City!

This makes it an ever-so appropriate time to choose my January recipe-of-the-month. My sister, my mom, and I are continuing our baking together concept of Fall 2010 with a twist: we choose a theme for the month, each choose a different recipe to make, and then share our thoughts about! January's theme: snow.

My pick? http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Snow-on-the-Mountain/Detail.aspx

It's a fruit-filled cake with whipped cream frosting! I'm excited to share how it turns out. Anyone is welcome to join us! Just let us know when you do and what you thought of your recipe :)

Also, stay-tuned for my next installment about "Loving Our Kids On Purpose" by Danny Silk. It's continuing to be a great read!

12 January 2011

"Loving Our Kids On Purpose" - Control v. Freedom

One of my goals for 2011 is to read 40+ books! My husband and I also make mutual goals each year. Coincidentally, we decided to read 3 books together, "Loving Our Kids On Purpose" by Danny Silk being one of them. Doubly worthy of blogging about, I'd say :) In processing and applying the tenants of the book, I thought it would be helpful to organize my thoughts in a way I could review them as often as needed (I'm pretty thick-headed at times!). I also am passionate about sharing my life experiences in order to impact others for good. What better way than to blog as I go?!

Chapter One thoughts:

The book has quite a lengthy introduction ("foreward", "preface", AND "introduction"!) and is followed by four chapters of approximately 30 pages each. I am intrigued by several points Mr. Silk had made so far.

Chapter One is entitled "The Heart of the Matter". It is truly reflective of the content. Early in the chapter he states, "Until our children can learn to deal with what is going on inside of them, they simply cannot learn to manage freedom." Freedom is truly the theme of this section. He gives a great example of something he and his wife employed as a parenting technique when their two boys were 6 and 4 years of age. They shared a room, and had begun a power struggle at bedtime, of course resisting the event. They decided to begin the "Room Time" concept in which they said, "It's room time. I don't want to see you or hear you until morning." The boys thought they had it made! After all, they didn't say they had to go to bed :) So they run off to their room and after only a couple minutes, they can hear them wrestling around. So Dad opens the door and says, "I can hear you!" The excuses start flying so he questions them: "Are you tired?" "Nah!" He proceeds to give them each a simple chore they must complete. This of course is completely deflating. After they struggle through a 2-min chore for 15 mins, he asks again, "Are you tired?" "Oh, yes. Yes, we're tired." Off to bed they go. Next night, same routine. When he asks this time, "Are you tired?" "Oh yes, yes we're tired!" Off to bed they went, learning already. Skip ahead about 10 years; older sister moves out and now the boys have their own room. As usual, room time is announced. Without Dad noticing, the boys head to the same room. After a few minutes, he hears them crashing around in the room. He yells from the couch, "Are you boys tired?" Within seconds, he hears two doors open and shut.

The subconscious is a powerful thing! And even more powerful: when children realize they have a choice. That they always have a choice: to exercise their own self-control - their freedom! - or to do something really dumb. Both have consequences. One is desirable. The other, not so much.

For me, this chapter reminded me that I have a huge responsibility as a parent to have my own inner house in order. That I need to process my own experiences as a child - what I experienced as 'parenting' - and be diligent about choosing what I want to carry forward and, even more so, what I don't want to bring forward into my parenting style. It also reminded that children want love. That love is the basic ingredient they want most. They want to be assured that they are loved no matter the mistakes they make or the disappointment they see in our eyes.

And I will wrestle with that. I know because I already have. My childhood memories of correction and discipline don't include the love message therefore when my children are disobedient or make disappointing decisions, I can be quick to correct rather than lovingly discipline them.

My take-away? Parenting is the biggest, most important job on the planet. Not an earth-shattering realization. But it is something I want to remember. Every day.

I'll leave you with this quote from the book:

"God has put a design and destiny within our children ... As parents, our goal is really to introduce our children to relationship with God by doing our best to relate to them like God does ... Honor brings power to relationships and the individuals in those relationships ... One of the primary ways we show honor to one another is by sharing power and control ... Loving on purpose means that we learn to let perfect love cast out all fear." -- Danny Silk

I encourage you: if this reflection got your attention on any level, go grab a copy of the book! Amazon has it for about $11 right now. You won't be disappointed.

Meanwhile, let me know your thoughts:

What have been your struggles/challenges with giving your child(ren) freedom?
(If you're not yet a parent, what do you imagine will be your struggle/challenge?)