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Easy Icebox Cookies

For a woman who calls herself a foodie, I’ve been consuming a dreadfully large amount of frozen, pre-prepared foods.  Granted, I try to purchase those foods from farmer’s market vendors who use real, local ingredients, but let’s face it, there are days when only chicken fingers will do.  Or a bagel smeared with sticky cream cheese from my local drive-thru coffee place.  I’m sad to say the food court in the building where I work has been a fixture in my daily routine.

This kind of eating is a fairly big diversion for someone who makes her own granola rather than buying cereal at the store, but I’m chalking it up to a particular season in my life which has necessitated some fairly drastic survival measures.

You see, my husband has been deployed overseas since July, and shortly after his departure, I found out I was pregnant with our second child.  Since then, life has been a roller coaster of adaptation to solo parenting, combined with the exhaustion and emotion of early pregnancy.  I have had to practice a lot of letting go.  My girl has watched quite a bit of Dora while I lay passed out on the couch next to her.  We have eaten more bowls of cereal for dinner than I can possibly count.  Though some of these changes have required just a little grace and self-compassion, there are others that weigh more heavily on my heart.  

Eating cereal for dinner – not having the time, or energy, or genuine desire to prepare a healthy homemade alternative – for someone who takes deep comfort and pride in preparing food, comes with a feeling of loss.  As have the other sacrifices; the fact that I’ve not written a blog post in three months; the stand-up paddleboard that remains in my garage, virtually untouched this summer; the feeling, on my worst days, that I’ve given up everything but work and parenting these past few months.

Surely, I am grateful to have my beautiful daughter and to be pregnant again, for a roof over our heads, and the ability to put food on the table, even when it’s chicken fingers.  I am thankful that I can remind myself that this time in our lives will end; sometimes that is the only thing that keeps my head above water.  But perhaps it’s also okay to acknowledge the ache that I feel when I see fathers out walking with their children, imagining that mama is at home with a hot cup of tea and a good book.  Perhaps it’s okay just to have a good cry about my untouched journal, the camera that’s collecting dust, and my racing bike with two flat tires and a net of cobwebs encircling it.

These cookies are a fairly good option for times like these.  My dad used to make them when we were kids; there were always a few rolls of icebox cookie dough in the freezer.  It wasn’t until he sent me some in a care package when I was in university that I realized the sheer delight of just slicing off a few discs to bake on a whim.  Just for me, just because I felt like eating soft, chewy oatmeal and hot, sweet maraschinos.

These can be made while balancing a toddler on one’s hip, or by sitting her on the counter and telling her to dig her hands in and help with the mixing.  They should be eaten with cold milk or a cup of tea, and should taste of love, and a bit of sweet relief.

Easy Icebox Cookies
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  2. 1/2 cup white sugar
  3. 1 egg
  4. 1 cup shortening
  5. 1 cup flour
  6. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  7. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  8. 2 1/2 cups large flake rolled oats
  9. Dried fruit, type and quantity of your choice (I use maraschino or candied cherries, candied ginger, raisins, and candied pineapple); nuts optional
Instructions
  1. Using a whisk or a stand mixer, cream the sugars and egg together. Add in the shortening, and mix thoroughly.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, salt and rolled oats.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet until they begin to form a cohesive mixture. Add in the desired quantity of dried fruit; I just "eyeball it" here. The dough will be quite sticky and tough, so you'll likely need your hands at this point to mix it thoroughly.
  4. Form the dough into square-ish bars approximately 10" long (you'll likely get about 3-4 bars from this recipe). Wrap first in parchment or wax paper, and then in tin foil. Store in the freezer until ready to bake.
  5. (Note: if you'd like to eat some of these right away, chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour before baking)
  6. When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 325F. Remove the cookie dough from the freezer and slice off the desired number of cookies (it's helpful to used a serrated knife here so they don't break apart). Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, or until slightly browned on the bottoms.
  7. Enjoy!
The Creative Mama http://thecreativemama.com/

With gratitude to digital photography

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”  ~Gilbert Keith Chesterton

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”  ~Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

With Thanksgiving right around the corner here in the United States, I’ve been thinking of the many things that I’m grateful for…like family, nature and our home.  Something that is definitely towards the top of my gratitude list is photography, and more specifically digital photography.

I was late to the digital photography party.  I didn’t switch to a digital camera until 2007, and that was only because my film camera stopped working. I needed to buy a new camera, so after much research I finally bought a digital Canon S3-IS, and then a year later I decided to get a DSLR  (Canon Rebel).  After I got my new camera I took some photography and photoshop classes, both on-line and at a local community college. I also read a lot of books and magazine articles about photography. Along the way I discovered many reasons why I love digital photography. Here are my top four:

Experimenting:

One of the things I love best about digital photography is that I can take as many shots as I want because I don’t have to pay to have all the pictures developed.  I can take pictures of things other than just the typical special occasion shots, like birthdays and holidays.  I have the freedom to take photos of nature and detail shots of our everyday life. I can take 200 pictures of the sunlight shining through the blossoms of a cherry tree if I want to and only print out the ones that I love.  

I can experiment with light and shadows and perspective.  I can try different lenses and play with various settings. If the photo doesn’t turn out I can learn from it…and then delete it.

 

Sharing:

Digital photography allows me to be more generous with my pictures.  I find myself taking more photos of friends and family, and then giving them the prints or digital files. I was the unofficial team photographer for the kids sports teams (baseball, cross country, lacrosse). At the end of the season I would create slideshows for team parties and photo collages to share. I would also put the pictures up on a file sharing site (like SmugMug).

One of the first photos that I took when I got my digital camera was of a pet of a family that I met at the baseball fields.  This family’s son was on the same team as my son and they would often bring their dog to the games.  I took a picture of their pet and later printed it out and gave it to them.  Fast forward to four years later when I was at their house for a party…and they still had the picture up on their refrigerator!  

Creating:

I love combining my digital photos with filters and textures in photoshop (I use an older version of Photoshop Elements).  I’ve made all sorts of items using my digital creations…most of them to give as gifts…things like calendars, coasters, canvas bags, coffee mugs, and recipe cards.

If it wasn’t for digital photography I don’t think I would have my small creative business selling my art photography prints on Etsy.com and at a few local coffee shops.  

 

Remembering:

I find myself using my camera as a photo diary, taking pictures of the little details of our daily life that I want to remember. Little reminders of the food that we ate, the clothes that we wore, the places that we went… pictures of the dining room table filled with notebooks and homework, or of the mudroom with shoes tossed under the bench and backpacks on the floor. These pictures mark a moment of time in our lives that I don’t want to ever forget.

Another reason that I love digital photography are the apps that will send you emails with your photographs from years past.  I use Shoebox, but there are other ones like TimeHop that do similar things.  It’s so awesome to see pictures from this day in your photo history from 5 years ago.

 

Looking through the lens of my digital camera changed the way that I see my life and for that I’m forever grateful.  What are some things that you’re thankful for?

This article was written by Dawn Smith.

 

5 Tips for Taking Photographs in the Snow

For many of us, this past week has brought a dusting, if not a few inches, of the fluffy white stuff.  Snow.  And so begins the season of bundling both our children and ourselves to enjoy some outdoor adventures.  While (at least for myself) it’s easy to remember to bring the camera along for our warmer weather fun, don’t shy away from bringing it to document your snowy explorations too.  Photographing in the winter and snow, brings a few unique challenges with lighting and white balance.  

Today, I’m sharing 5 quick tips for making the most of your winter photography…

1.  White Balance

White balance is often the trickiest part of photographing in the snow, it can come off in your images looking gray, brown or even blue. This white balance issue can easily be corrected by setting your camera’s white balance mode to Shade.  Another easy option is to meter off a white sheet of paper or poster board.  

2. Exposure

The reflective nature of snow can be confusing to your camera. One way to fix this is through exposure compensation.  Overexposing by +1 or +2 when shooting in manual mode will brighten up that white, and eliminate any remaining gray tones.  

3.  Stay warm

Keep your camera warm by tucking it in a bag, pocket or inside your coat when not shooting.  This will prevent cold from draining the battery, and any precipitation from damaging equipment.  

Keep your hands warm while shooting with a pair of fingerless gloves, or mittens that will fold down to expose your finger tips.  These are cute!  This will give you a good grip on your camera and help manipulate the dials and buttons as you are shooting, but still keep your hands warm.

4.  The Great White Reflector

Snow truly is the great reflector.  What better way to create beautiful skin tones and catchlights in the eyes!

5.  Avoid harsh light

Just as it is during the warmer months of the year, early in the day and late in the afternoon are the ideal times of day for shooting in the snow.  Avoid the harsh light and shadows of noon and the couple hours following, if you are able. Remember the light fades much faster due to daylight savings!

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