No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars

granola bars

The other day whilst perusing the aisles of Target (sans grocery list), I began grabbing random items from the grocery aisle, and tossing them in to my giant, red shopping cart. (Clearly I cannot be trusted without a grocery list.) In addition to my usual, aimless home-goods browsing,  I was looking for a few easy on-the-go snacks for Ayden.  I am not one of those perfectly raw, organic moms (although I wish I was), but I do read labels. My typical shopping guidelines are as follows:

  • If it grows out of the ground, I try to buy organic.
  • No sugar in the first 3 ingredients.
  • No high fructose corn syrup (to the very best of my ability.)

Like I said, I do this imperfectly. However, these guidelines are what matter to me most days, when it comes to feeding my family.  Anyway, back to Target. I was walking through the snack aisle, about to throw a box of granola bars in my cart. I checked the label, like I do, and noticed all sorts of disturbing corn syrups, ‘modified this’, and ‘modified that’. I thought to my self, ‘Self, I bet we can make this from scratch using real food’. So I did, and here’s how. 

Stuff you will need:

  • 1/2 cup raw or brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups honey (After making this recipe, I would cut it to 1 cup of honey)
  • 1/3 cup real butter or coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt (sea salt if you have it)
  • 1 cup 100% crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups rice crisped cereal
  • 2 2/3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 – 1 cup chocolate chips

ingredients

How to make it:

In a large bowl, combine oats, rice cereal and ground flax. Stir until well combined, and set aside.

step 1 step 1

Measure out sugar, honey, Butter/coconut oil and salt into a sauce pan. Heat over medium, and bring to a boil. Stir the entire time, and let boil for one minute so sugar dissolves.

Take off heat, add vanilla extract and peanut butter, stirring until smooth.

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Pour wet mixture over the dry ingredients that you set aside earlier.

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Stir until well combined.

mixed

Set mix aside for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare a large cookie sheet (12.5 x 17.5 x 1 inch) with parchment paper. (Trace bottom of pan on to paper, cut along lines and it should fit perfectly in the bottom of the pan).

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Pour the granola mixture on to the lined cookie sheet.

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Make sure you distribute the mixture evenly. Then get another piece of parchment paper and another cookie sheet, place on top of mixture, and press down to help set the bars.

Sprinkle chocolate chips on top, and repeat pressing technique.

bars

Allow bars to fully cool, (either in fridge or on counter).

Cut bars to desired size, serve and enjoy!

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***Original recipe was found on the Happy Money Saver blog.

xo, Em

Discovering: I Am Not Less of a Mom

There’s something I have been wanting to write about, but have been putting off. I think I have been avoiding it because I know some feelings are sure to arise. I am not a big fan of being publicly vulnerable, but I am a person who processes feelings through writing. My intention for this blog, has always been to be relatable to others, and to keep it honest. Which brings us to this post–a touchy subject for some folks.

not less of a mom

A funny thing happens when you start dating someone–people start asking you if or when you plan to get engaged. Then you get engaged, and people demand to know if you have set a wedding date. You set a date and get married, and then everyone wants to know when you will be having kids. (Ok, in my case we didn’t go in this exact order, but stay with me here). Then you become pregnant, and people want to know the baby’s gender and name. Baby is born. Life changes–you cross over in to the parenting world. And then people start asking when you are having another, since your first is so cute and all.

It is actually a bit exhausting, and if you don’t have some solid internal boundaries, it can add up to a lot of pressure. I blame human nature and our desire to inquire. (I am most definitely guilty of some of these inquiries.) But with that being said, I am going to tell you what may (or may not) be going on, on the other side of these questions.

After Mike and I had Ayden, our world was rocked, (and that is putting it mildly). No one was getting much sleep at night, Ayden was a difficult feeder, she liked to party at night and  only wanted to be held. Mike was working full-time and in school full-time. Money was tight. Emotions (hormones) were wacky. Life was hectic. That aside, Ayden was also an incredibly happy and smiley baby, who hit all of her fun milestones crazy-early. One thing was for sure, life was in session in the McAllister home.

A couple of months in to parenthood, we started getting the inevitable questions about when we would be having more kids. Most people had an opinion about the matter telling us things like, ‘You don’t want them too far apart’, or ‘You don’t want her to be an only child–then she won’t have anyone’, or ‘Don’t wait too long!’ To be honest, these comments felt intrusive and presumptuous, though I didn’t fully realize it at the time.

And then there were the comments from other moms (of two or more children), ‘One is so easy’, or ‘You only have one?’ Granted, this was not my interaction with all moms of multiples, but there were a few and it caught me off guard. I don’t believe that these comments were meant to be malicious, and I have learned to try not to take others personally (operative word being ‘try’), but if I am being honest, (I am), it felt a little passive aggressive.

Once upon a time, when being parents was just pillow-talk between Mike and I late at night, we planned on having two children. We each grew up with a sibling, and it seemed the natural thing to do. We also had very strong beliefs about exactly how we wold raise our hypothetical children. We were strong in or convictions. We would never raise our voices, never let our baby ‘cry it out’, never allow our child to throw tantrums in public, would allow for only minimal TV watching, never use modern technology (iPhones / iPads) as a means of child supervision, make all of our own baby food, etc, etc. We were so sure. And we were so wrong. If I have learned one thing from becoming a mother, it is that plans change quickly after a baby is born.

Cut to: Ayden’s 2nd Birthday, (the time of year we had planned to begin trying for baby #2.) We sat at or dining room table, us two. The conversation began. And then it happened; Mike had changed his mind. I couldn’t believe what he was saying; was he allowed to do this? Was he allowed to change his mind mid-game? I won’t go in to too many details about why, because this is my story to tell. I am speaking from my own experience, and it would be unfair to my husband if I attempted to write his story.

I will say this; that conversation led to more conversations, arguments, tears, praying, debates, soul-searching, a counseling session (with a not-so-great shrink), lots and lots of writing, weighing of options and eventually over time, acceptance. For the sake of my marriage and family, I had to come to a few conclusions:

  1. If I believe in a higher power (which I do, and choose to call it God ), than I am not really in charge of the whole game-plan. I cannot impose my will on anyone else; even my husband. If we are meant to have another child, then it will happen. If we are not meant to have another child, then we won’t. God is either everything or nothing. So in a sense, this situation was forcing me to dig deeper, spiritually.
  2. I was not willing to deceive or trick my husband in order to become pregnant again, and I was not willing to leave the marriage over it. This meant I needed to find a way to be ok with his change of heart. I didn’t have to like it, I just had to find a way to be ok (for now), with it.
  3. In order to become ok, I needed to find a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings that I already had in my life. I had to focus on all of the beautiful things, people and experiences that I am lucky enough to be afforded. I had to recognize that Mike and I are jackpot winners, when it comes to Ayden. I had to remember that not everyone who wants children get children, that some people lose hildren and that I have been blessed beyond measure in becoming a mother. I found that when I stay busy focusing on loving and appreciating what I have, I spend less time worrying about what I don’t have.

This doesn’t mean that some days I don’t drift in to the worrisome head space where I compare myself to or feel envious of others. And on those days, when I feel extra sensitive about it all, I do my best to be gentle with myself. I write a gratitude list about my life, I write down 5 things that I love and appreciate about my husband, I forgive him all over again for not always being perfectly in line with my desires and I remember that nothing is set in stone.

And some days, I am so content with our little trio, that I could explode with joy. I feel a deep sense of closeness between the three of us that is more fulfilling than I am capable of putting in to words.  I feel lucky. I feel full.

Sometimes I feel like the only person in the world that has experienced this with their spouse, which makes it even more daunting to write about. But the chance that someone may read this and relate, forces me to write my truth. Also, I have learned that when my feelings are fear-based, they’re usually off-base.

At the end of the day we really don’t know what other families are going through; whether it be fertility issues, losing a child or situations like mine. What I do know, is that it is never safe to assume. What I have decided to learn from this is that I can be happy. I can be happy if our parenting journey begins and ends with Ayden, or if we go on to have more children. And quite possibly the most important thing that I have learned is that either way, I am not less of a mom.

xo, Em

Orange Picking in Orange County

orange Picking in Orange County

Growing up on the East Coast, I have many fond memories of going apple picking every Autumn. I especially loved climbing the tall, wooden ladders (reserved only for ‘big kids’), to pluck my desired apples from the tree. Once our bags were full, we would wander through the orchard’s shop, where everything smelled like fresh apple cider and musty wood.

Living in Southern Orange County affords us many luxuries; sunny weather year-round, beautiful sandy beaches, but no apple picking, (unless you want to drive a few hours). So you can imagine my excitement when my Mother-in-law, Loretta, suggested we go orange picking!

If you didn’t know, we are currently staying with my in-laws, as our home is undergoing some repairs. Their community hosts orange groves, and a little birdie (their community news letter), told us that the trees were full of ripe oranges. We made a girls-day adventure of it, loaded the wagon with Ayden, her scooter, picnic goodies and a few other odds and ends, and we three were off to the orange colony. Orange Grove Adventre

Have you ever smelled citrus fruit straight from the tree? If I could, I would make this a scratch-and-sniff blog post, so you could experience the fragrant freshness firsthand. But since I can’t, I will do my best to translate it in to words. (For starters, Ayden and Loretta peeled open one of our oranges, and from about 30 feet away, it smelled as if someone had peeled it right under my nose.) When we reached the grove, we were a bit set back by how picked over most of the trees were, but we were quick to find a silver lining–the fruit at the very tops of the trees were not only untouched, but perfectly ripe as well. fresh oranges

You may be saying, “But Emily, you are only 5’3″, how did you reach those oranges?” Ahh fear not grasshopper, when there’s a will, there’s a way. (Also, it doesn’t hurt that my Mother in-law is 5’9″). We McGyvered the heck out of those trees, and made out like orange-bandits.

McGyver 1

That’s me. With a shovel. Standing in the wagon.

That's Ayden crashing my Real Housewives of Orange County, moment.

That’s Ayden crashing my Real Housewives of Orange County, moment.

Below are some photos from our orangey-adventure. If you have never picked fresh produce before, I highly recommend trying it. There is something instinctive about picking fruit. It makes me feel of the earth, and connected to nature.   Ayden picking orange picking orange close up

Loretta and Ayden

Ayden picking flowers for Loretta

picking flowers ayden orange wagon

lemons

Lemons!

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Digging for gold… obviously. #CaliforniaGoldRsh2015

orange24.jpg  orange20.jpg orange13.jpg   xo, Em

The Best of Pinterest

Best of Pinterest

Alright crafty friends, (and wannabe crafty friends). It’s a new year and the DIY possibilities are endless. So let’s talk about Pinterest. Pinterest offers an infinite abyss of clever DIYs, beautifully styled homes, delectable-looking recipes, insanely cute outfits and pretty much anything else your inner idealist could hope for. Let’s be honest, it’s fun to lay in bed, scrolling through images of ‘ideas’ (or ideals). In fact, one could even argue that it is like a virtual vision board, helping you to manifest a life you desire… Am I pushing it? Regardless, it is fun and a great place to get ideas for projects.

When I joined Pinterest a few years ago, I made a non-spoken agreement with myself, that if I was going to play in this perfect little fantasy-land, I had to at least attempt to execute some of these projects. Otherwise, it seemed like a huge waste of my time. Through a lot of trial and error, (and a few epic fails), I have selected what I believe to be the best DIY projects of Pinterest. Some I have recreated, and some are still on my to-do list.

My criteria for this are as follows:

  1. Easy to execute and emulate.
  2. Fun.
  3. Functional.
  4. Realistic.
  5. Within a reasonable budget.

Button Magnets

Hey you! Yeah you, the one with the pizza delivery and taxicab magnets (that you got for free in the mail), adorning your fridge; this one’s for you! It really doesn’t get much easier than this, and the finished product is nothing short of adorable. All you need is some buttons, magnets and your hot glue gun.

magnets

Scrabble Art

I am a bit of a self-admitted word-nerd, so obviously I love me some scrabble art. Wouldn’t this make for a cute gift? I made a piece of art like this, but I used an actual scrabble board as my canvas. It included my family’s names, with words like ‘family’, ‘love’ and ‘home’ woven in perpendicularly. It currently resides in our humble abode.

scrabble art

(We also used my scrabble creation as wedding decor)

(We also used my scrabble creation as wedding decor) Photo cred: Sarah Field Photo

Earring Holder

Here is another genius idea, and happens to be one of my very first successful Pinterest DIYs. I love a functional craft! To spruce things up, (and because I didn’t have chicken wire or screen on hand), I used black fishnet instead. I use my earring holder for my larger, dangly earrings.

earring holder earrings

Scrabble Coaster

Love. These. Coasters. These are on my to-do-someday list. The word possibilities are exciting and endless.

scrabble coaster

Mason Jar Chandelier

I think the proper words for this rustic chandelier are, “I die”. In fact, my super talented friend, Steph, has one of these puppies hanging over her dining room table, and I assure you, it is even better in person. Steph’s home is one of my absolute favorite design spaces, and if she lets me, I will be doing an upcoming blog post, spotlighting her beautiful home.

chandelier

Memory Jar

Every year I say I want to start a memory jar–this is MY year. I am doing it, people. Come December 31, 2015, The McAllister family will have a jar full of memories to read!

memory

Stencil Pillow

More crafts with more words. Seems easy enough, right? Plus who doesn’t love a throw pillow?

stencil

Ticket Keepsake

I am one of those sentimental people, that saves every show ticket I have ever been to, (even down to my very first concert; The Grateful Dead, Fall 1993 Tour.) When I stumbled upon this DIY, I knew it was fate and quickly proceeded to create my own ticket collage. If you’re a romantic (like me), these could make for a really cute anniversary gift.

ticket keeper

tickets

Animal Silhouette 

Craft paper, scissors, tape/glue and a frame. Quick and easy nursery, (or in my case, bathroom) art.

animal sil

Sharpie Mug

Really, the ideas for this one are never-ending. So easy. So cute.

sharpie

Faux Zinc Letters

Remember my tutorial on these babies? I love my faux zinc letters. And you will love yours too! #pinterestdoesitagain

zinc zinc1zinc2

DIY Nightstand

A spray-painted trash can turned upside down. Definitely one of those ‘why didn’t I think of that’, moments.

night stand

$1 Chalk Sign

Easiest chalk signs ever. You can buy trays like this (and other various shapes), at your local dollar store. Slap some chalk board paint on them, and you have instant party decor. I have used these for many a party. (You can see an example in my gallery from Ayden’s 1st Birthday Party, here.) 

dollar chalk sign

Painted Table

I am in love with this whimsical, space-saving idea, aren’t you? You could even mount a mirror above it and make it in to a vanity. Ideas, ideas…

painted table

Menu Board

Need help meal planning and staying on top of your grocery list? Make a menu board. Game-changer, and pretty darn easy to make.

menboard

Revamped Folding Chair

I have two folding chairs just begging for a makeover. Stay tuned for a step-by-step in the near future.

folding chair

Glitter Shade

Sparkly is my favorite color. If it’s glittery and shiny, I like it. This one is a yet-to-do for me, but I am sure that I will find a lampshade (or two) to try this on.

glitter shade

Numbered Drawers

I gave our boring old dresser a super easy makeover, using this idea. It gave our dresser a whimsical, personalized touch.

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Painted Drawer Interior

Cute, cute, cute! I love a pop of color; so many options with this.

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Gold Mug DIY

This combines 2 of my favorite things; coffee mugs and gold. love how the gold sharpie turns metallic when baked in the oven! (I will be putting this to the test, asap).

gold mg

Gold Letter Magnets

I have a zillion of those multicolored, kiddie, letter-magnets. A coat or two of gold spray paint, and you have magic.

gold magnet

Gold Rock Book Ends

(Told ya I liked gold).

book ends

Fabric Garland

I love me a garland, a bunting, a banner and pretty much anything cute and hang-able. How darling are these? Don’t feel like making one? Buy one from my friend, Shanna.

Fabric garland

Available at: Neni & Co.

Available at: Neni & Co.

Jello Playdoh

I want to make this. The end.

playdoh

Gold Dipped Feathers

You thought we were done with the gold, didn’t you? Wrong. I have a ar of my own sparkly, gilded feathers on my computer desk. They inspire me and they’re pretty. ‘Nuff said.

dipped eathers

I will continue to collect fabulous Pinterest DIYs for you guys, so keep an eye out for a sequel to this list. I’d love to see your creations, so pretty please show them off to me!

xo, Em

My Resolution to You

Me

January 1, 2015. Nice ring to it, eh?

Happy New Year, you beautiful creatures, you.I am writing this as a sort of intention, or manifesto for the coming year, to my readers. I had a long conversation with my hero, (my big sister), yesterday, about vulnerability. About transparency. About authenticity. It became very clear to me that one of my hopes and intentions for this blog, was to open up a bit more, and let you in. 

I often talk about the power and the magic of truly relating to each other, and now it is time for me to walk that talk. I still plan to share fabulous and fun DIYs, events and recipes, but I am also hoping to incorporate some more #realtalk.

I am so excited and honored that you have decided to join me on my blogging journey thus far, and I can’t wait to bring you so much more; cue music, “We’ve only just begun…”

xo, Em

life is rad

7 Moms That I Love

7MOMS THATI LOVE

                                                   (Photo source: Babble.com)

I recently read a hilarious blog post from Scary Mommy, called ‘7 Moms That Drive Me Crazy’. The article was not only funny, but had some real truths in it. I also related to some of the moms that she poked fun at, and she even admitting to the same. The article was clearly written in good fun.

When I went to comment on the post, I noticed a comment-war going on. There was a lot of criticism about not being supportive of other women/moms, and some people felt personally attacked. I found this strange since it was written in such a general way. I have learned that I have to be able to laugh at myself, otherwise I will become miserable. But this also got me thinking about the flip-side of this article–it got me thinking of the kinds of moms that I love and appreciate. And since I am really in to the whole law of attraction thing, I figured I would write a response article about the kind of moms I adore.

1. The Supportive Stranger

When Ayden was around 4 weeks old, we started venturing out in to the world, and by venturing out I mean taking trips to Costco or Target. (Trust me, this was no small feat for a brand new, first-time mommy). Inevitably, she would cry at some point. Being that she had a dry diaper and had just been fed, I was at a loss. I was also bursting at the seams with hormones, and felt über self-conscious about having that baby–you know, the one that cries in public. It was at these times that I experienced the kindness of The Supportive Stranger.

Sometimes it was a simple nod of understanding. Other times it was small talk about how babies just cry sometimes. Regardless, it helped me to not feel so alone in my scary new role as someones mom. I love these women. It may seem like a small act of kindness, but it carried me through many a day.

2. The Sharer

You’re at the park, the petting zoo, the trampoline place–wherever. You suddenly realize that you forgot to pack a snack for your little, who is eye-balling (if not actually attempting to swipe) another kid’s stash. It’s embarrassing. You swear you feed your kid. You swear you usually pack snacks. And then it happens. The nicest, most prepared mom in the world pulls out a spare pack of fruit snacks or pirate’s booty or raisins or goldfish, and offers it up.

She doesn’t look down her nose at you, she simply smiles and says “I’ve been there”. Thank you sweet supplier of toddler snacks! Crisis averted, all because this mommy was taught to share.

3. The Truth Teller

One thing I have learned as a mom is, things are not always as the seem, (especially on Facebook). Social media would have you believe that having kids is a breeze. In fact, social media would have you believe that babies and kids are always having fun, always smiling and always dressed well. Not true.

What I really appreciate, (possibly the most), are the moms who tell the truth. I appreciate the moms who are honest about the stresses of having kids, the pressures of being a wife and mom and the realities of perfectly imperfect kids.

As moms, I think we tend look at other moms and compare ourselves. In the past I always came up short, in my mind. Knowing that the other seemingly ‘perfect’ moms have the same struggles as I do, has really helped me to be kinder to myself. Plus, you never know who is looking at you, and admiring your own mom-skillz. So I say, pass on the honesty, and help other moms let themselves off the hook!

4. The Hand-me-downer

The hand-me-downer rules so hard. These are the amazing mamas who generously provide you with entire wardrobes at any given time. I love these women! I love the unexpected Christmas in July, when a giant trash bag of cute (often times brand name) clothes appear on our front step. And it feels just as good to return the favor to other families. This is one of those unspoken exchanges that go on in the mom world, and I am ever so grateful for this.

5. The Back-patter

Let’s time travel again for a bit, back to when I was a brand new mom. I vividly remember talking to other moms purely for moral support and hearing the words, “You’re doing a great job”. Simple words, right? Those words literally stopped me dead in my tracks. They were the best words I had ever heard. Those words allowed me to breath for a minute. I needed those words, and didn’t even realize it. Those words are our code.

Most likely those moms had heard those exact words just at the time they needed to hear them, too. Those moms knew I needed a verbal pat on the back, and provided just that at just the right moment. I am thankful that I was taught that early on. It helped me pat myself on the back, when no one else was there to do it.

6. The Baby Holder

I love the moms who want to hold your baby for you. I love them. A few minutes to go pee by yourself, to eat a sandwich, to do the dishes, etc can be life-changing in that moment. So thank you, moms, who have ever offered to occupy my child for me for any amount of time.

7. The Mama in Need

The mama in need is the mama who saves my sanity. You know what feels even better than being helped? Helping someone else. At least that has been my experience.

When I get to utilize all of the wonderful things that other moms have taught me along the way, I feel a part of this incredible mama community. I feel useful. I feel like a real mom.

It is a give-and-take system. And while we may not always see eye-to-eye on hot-button topics, we are all just trying to do the best we can with what we have. I appreciate all of the mamas out there, whether you vaccinate or don’t, cloth diaper or don’t, breast feed or don’t, co-sleep or don’t, spank or don’t, etc, etc. At the end of the day, you are doing a great job.

xo, Emily