Crock-Pot Pear Butter

More food.

A couple posts ago, I discussed Bipolar II Disorder and the obsessions that often are symptomatic of hypo-mania. Now, you may have noticed a trend in my most recent blogs—they’re recipe based. I have gone nuts. But, I suppose there are worse things I could lose my mind about! Besides, these recipes seem to be well received.

Fear not for I shall continue documenting my culinary explorations. Let us begin!


We have soooo much fruit now that harvest is fully underway. The in-laws run a nursery so we obtain basket after basket of apples and pears. They are so much better than the ones you buy in the grocery stores. Also, they last a lot longer.

I had tried to make pear butter last week with the pears the mother-in-law (henceforth: MIL) gave me. That did not end well for me. I completely botched the recipe.

The LoverMan bought me some pears from the store to make me feel better. Nice guy, huh? The problem with store pears is that they go bad much faster. Since I saw a single fruit fly yesterday, I decided it was time to use the pears before those buggers got out of hand.

Crock-pot Pear Butter (Attempt #2)

 

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Check out these beauties. Ready for the taking cooking!

NOW! Down to business:

Cut up those bad boys into 1 inch chucks. I left the skin on because my blender can handle them. If you want to peel them, go right ahead. I prefer the easier road.

Dump the rest of the ingredients (water, honey, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, lemon juice) into a bowl and mix well.

All mixed up and ready to party like it's 1999
All mixed up and ready to party like it’s 1999

Mix in the pears. Toss to coat. Now, plop those suckers into your slow cooker. Set to low. (Not medium. I made that mistake last time.) Then, go away for 8 hours.

Before...
Before…

Let’s make mush! I love my immersion blender so that’s what I used. If you don’t have one, you can just dump the sauce into a regular blender. (More dirty dishes, though. You have been warned!)

... After!
… After! I left a few chunks in mine. Just for fun.

Keep on cooking the puree on low for a few more hours. Turn the lid so that some of the liquid may evaporate Keep an eye on it—you’ll know it’s done when the pears have thickened. (Surprise, surprise!)

Make sure that you are watching—last time, this is when I messed up. I cooked the snot out of those pears. Yuck.

Yeahhhh buddy
Yeahhhh buddy!

Transfer the pear butter into glass jars. Let that hot stuff cool down. Lid those suckers.

Store the jars in your refrigerator.

Heaven. Perfectly delicious.
Heaven. Perfectly delicious.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

It is officially fall!! I love fall. I love the colors. I love the weather. Sweatshirts and shorts? Yes, please! The apples and the pumpkins and the corn… so wonderful. I could go on for days. I mean, come on! There is certain magic in the air.

Most of all, I love pumpkins. Pumpkin flavored everything most things. I’ll admit that it may be getting a little out of hand. Pumpkin + baking = heaven. And I love cooking real pumpkins and making my own puree than buying cans of it. (I included the How-To of making your own pumpkin puree at the end of this post.)

Today, I want to share with you a delicious recipe that I found: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. Divine. The LoverMan and I made it together on our Stay@home date night.

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Gather up your supplies: flour, quick oats, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, baking soda, vanilla extract, butter, 1 egg, chocolate chips.

You will also need two bowls: medium and large, baking sheets, parchment paper, & cooling racks. And the obvious stirring utensils. Maybe some moral support; I had LoverMan.

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Both bowls, all mixed up and ready to combine!

In the medium bowl, mix together flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

In the large bowl, whisk together butter and the two sugars until creamy. Add the egg, vanilla, and pumpkin.

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Look at that deliciousness!!

Slowly add the flour/oats mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Stir until the well combined. Add in the chocolate chips—we used milk and white chocolate chips. I totally recommend that decision.

Now, set aside the bowl for 5-15 minutes—we want the oats to soak up some of the liquids so the batter isn’t too runny.

Perfect cookies for the perfect fall
Perfect cookies for the perfect fall

The rest is history: drop spoonfuls onto your lined baking sheet. Bake at 350° F for 13-15 minutes. When they are good to go, place on the cooling rack to, well, cool.

LoverMan deems the mission a success!
LoverMan deems the mission a success!

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BONUS!!

Here is how I make my own pumpkin puree:

Step 1: cut your pumpkins in half—this is hard(ish) to do. They are pretty tough… but a big knife, some elbow grease, and determination will get it done. Also, set your oven to 300° F.

Step 2: gut it. Take out the seeds and strings as best you can. If you want, this is a perfect time to save those seeds to roast later! Yumm.

Step 3: in a 9×13 inch pan, place the pumpkins rind up (meat down). Pour ½ inch of water into the pan (keeps the pumpkin from drying out and burning while they cook).

Step 4: throw them bad boys in the oven for 1 hour (or until tender). I gauge their doneness by a fork—does it easily slide through the rind into the meat? Yep! Okay, they are good to go!

Step 5: take those beauties out and let them cool. Then take a spoon and scoop the meat out of the rind. If you still have some strings, they won’t mess up the puree. We just don’t want too many of them.

Step 6: put the meat into a food processer. Add some water to make the blending easier (not too much!). Have at it… you will end up with, well, a puree!

Perfection.
Perfection.

Quick Q&A:

Q: But why does my pumpkin puree taste different from canned pumpkin?

A: Simple, surprising answer: your canned pumpkin is not just pumpkin!! Here is more information. Companies commonly use pumpkin and squash in their products. Because certain types of squash fall into the same genus (think: taxonomy) as pumpkins, it’s technically not a lie. The added squash enhance the color and sweetness of the pumpkin.

Another note: pumpkin pie filling is pre-seasoned. Manufacturers do the dirty work for you by adding the cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. into the pumpkin.

Lastly, enjoy the fall and all of its pumpkin-y glory!

Confessions of a Crazy Girl

Hi, my name is Hanna and I struggle with Bipolar II Disorder.

Here’s how it works for me. I spend anywhere from 1-3 weeks living on top of the world–hypo-mania. Sounds like fun, huh? It is at first.

I begin to obsess about something. Usually, I dive into crafts. I become a crafty machine! Other times, I bake. I spend hours everyday making something. All I want to do is create. I put off things that I really shouldn’t—homework, family time, household tasks, and sleep. But, I feel great using my hands. I can’t sit and just watch a show, or just sit and read. I need to be doing something.

Then I just start to feel out of control.

I feel like I’m on the “tea cups” ride at an amusement park. Just spinning faster and faster, screaming for it to stop. It’s a constant roller-coaster. My head is running 500 miles per hour and it’s exhausting. I become mentally drained and no amount of sleep can make me feel better.

I feel crazy. Like a lab rat on crack.

Give it some time and I return to “normal.” I feel normal again—just like everyone else. Days pass. Life is good. I come to believe that I’m a regular member of society and that, maybe this time, it will last. That maybe I won’t go through the cycle again…

Then there is the depression.

It creeps up on me. One day I’m fine. Then the next, something happens—a little bump in the road—and I feel a little blue. Instead of bouncing back, the blues just sets-in and worsens. It worsens until I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to go to class. I don’t want to do my homework. I don’t want to go to work. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to even look at anyone. I don’t want to create anything or read a book or watch a movie or take a nap. I don’t want to do ANYTHING. I mean, come on, it’s depression.

I want to curl up in a ball and wish away all of the negatives. I know I’m a good mother, but I feel like I’m failing miserably. I know I’m a good partner, but I feel like I’m constantly disappointing and hurting my husband. I know I’m a good student, but I don’t seem to have the drive to dedicate time to my studies… I just don’t care. I know I’m a decent person, but I just don’t feel like it. I feel like a failure.

Again, I wish more than anything I were normal. I wish I didn’t have these thoughts in my head. I don’t want to go through life wondering when I’ll crack. When am I going to lose my mind? When am I going to melt into a puddle? Why can’t I just walk through life experiencing traditional highs and lows? I don’t want the extreme ones anymore. I’ve done my time. I’m ready to tap out and let someone else complete the fight.

But, the medication does help. In the simplest explanation, it takes the edge off. The highs aren’t as high and the lows aren’t as low. But, it’s still there.

At this point, I feel as if I am my disorder. I feel like my diagnosis has taken over who I am. It drags me by a leash and forces me to experience emotions that I don’t want to experience. “Hi, I’m Bipolar II. Sometimes, I’m called Hanna.”

I just don’t want to be me.

But if I can’t be someone else, then I want to know someone who faces BP II. I want to be able to share my demons with someone who lives with the same ones. I want a friend that I don’t have to explain the nuances—just what it feels like to be hypo-manic or how badly the desire is to be normal.

I’m hesitant to talk about this, but I’m hoping it’ll help others. Everywhere I go, I see information regarding depression and anxiety. It’s wonderful! I am so thankful that the world we live in is becoming more and more understanding of psychological disorders (read: mental illness… but I just don’t care for that term). I love that many of my friends and family are comfortable enough to talk about what they are going through and asking for help.

But there’s a catch—I feel left out. I have yet to see or hear anything regarding Bipolar II Disorder. When I do mention it, the looks I receive drop my stomach. Bipolar I Disorder is not the same as Bipolar II Disorder. Those looks make me feel even crazier than I already do. This is such a large stigma around Bipolar Disorders in general. That is a “me” thing… but, I still feel left out. And I want to feel normal.

I feel left in the dust, screaming for the car to come back and pick me up.


BONUS: I recently found a wonderful website. To Write Love On Her Arms is a nonprofit organization aimed to provide hope and support to those coping with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. I highly suggest you check it out. My favorite part are the blogs—the site links to hundreds of blogs that discuss these topics written by people who experience them. It’s a great community. And I feel a little less alone knowing they are out there.

DIY Bachelorette Party Shirts

My wedding is getting closer and closer… the planning is done and the festivities have begun!!

My girls planned an amazing bachelorette party. It was amazing. We had a Smitten Kitten (pro-women, healthy sexy toy party), pole dancing class (!!!), food, a fire, hot-tubing, and a movie.

To add to the fun, one of my girls suggested she and I make shirts for everyone! Naturally, we “pinterest-ed” ideas. There was soooo much! The purchasable ones would rack up quite a bill for the 6 of us. And the DIY ones were intricate and slightly intimidating. We ended up creating our own simple shirts for a decent price.

Basic Supplies:

The shirts were on sale ($4)

Metallic acrylic paint ($4)

Sponges ($2)

Plastic stencils ($6)

Masking tape ($2)

Wax paper ($3)

First thing’s first… this is all of our gear.

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A Note on Paints: the best type of paint to use is fabric paint. If you don’t have any/can’t find any, you can mix in a textile medium. However, we couldn’t find any in our town… so we just used the acrylic paint as it. It honestly worked out just fine.

To set up, we cut wax paper pieces and inserted them in the shirts to prevent the paint from bleeding through. It works like a charm. And much more handy than cardboard.

The next step is to take those beautiful, reusable stencils and center them on the shirt as you’d like. Tape down two of the letters. For instance: in “CREW” we taped the “r” and “w.” (Trying to place the entire word or two letters side by side will create large gaps.) Take your little sponge brush and dab away. DO NOT USE STROKES. This will move the shirt and mess up your design. Dab, dab, dab.

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Keep on, keeping on. You can either let dry completely before doing the next letters… or you can do what we did. We let it dry for a little while then very carefully placed the other letters down. Tape these on the top and bottom (Obviously taping the sides won’t work too well.) Continue painting!

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My partner in crime, Heidi. This girl rocks.

Here’s a bonus picture of our moral support… Abaddon took a break from supervising us to supervise the fish. Kinda cute, huh?

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Anywho, this is what our shirts ended up looking like! “BRIDE” for me; “CREW” for, well, my crew!

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As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, we went to a pole dancing class! It was a wonderful experience and a little bit of a work out. No, it wasn’t at a strip club or anything. There’s a fitness in The Cities that teaching pole dancing classes. (Our instructor was adamant that she has never been, nor ever will be, an erotic dancer.) Great experience. If I had a gym closer to my house that taught classes like this, I would certainly participate. I encourage ya’ll to try it out!

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Me & my girls 🙂

Easy Homemade Granola

I suck at healthy eating, much less breakfast. In my attempt to do so, I’ve taken baby steps: Yogurt. The problem is, yogurt is boring and doesn’t fill me up for long.

Enter: granola.

I’ve searched high and low to discover a simple, moderately healthy granola recipe. I found THIS ONE. I wanted to share the love—so here it is!!

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Easy Homemade Honey-Vanilla Granola

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Here are all the supplies I used. The original recipe didn’t use parchment paper, but I did. It makes life (and clean-up) a lot easier! You’ll see in the recipe listed at the end of this post that there are numerous optional add-ins. I chose to use almonds and crasins. Because they are delicious.

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Mix together the rolled oats and brown sugar. Old-fashioned rolled oats work the best—they’re less likely to disintegrate. I also used light brown sugar. You can adjust how much sugar (and later honey) if you want sweeter granola.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together honey, vanilla, and oil. I used coconut oil. The mixture won’t be 100% integrated, and that’s alright. Just make sure it’s as combined as possible.

A Note on Coconut Oil: It’s solid at room temperature, so I nuked it for 10-15 seconds to melt it down. I used the Kirkland (Costco) Brand oil. While good coconut oil isn’t supposed to have any flavor, this stuff did. It works for my purposes and I really don’t mind the coconut flavor. Just so you know.

Dump the honey/oil/vanilla mixture into the oat mixture. Mix around for a few minutes to evenly coat the oats. Then add in the nuts or seeds that you want to use.

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Spread EVENLY on the baking sheet (again, parchment paper is a godsend!). Toss it in the oven (350 degrees) for 30-40 minutes. The original recipe said thirty, but I kept in the oven for a little longer. Use your own judgement. Just make sure you stir it up every five minutes. It’s a pain in the butt, yet totally necessary to prevent burning.

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Keep ‘er cooking until the granola is golden-brown instead of white-ish.

Take it out of the oven and mix in the dried fruit. Let the granola cool before breaking into chunks.

Store it in an airtight container.

Let me tell you, the effort is completely worth it!

Enjoy being healthy 🙂

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Cake.

SPOILERS!!!

I recently watched the movie Cake. It is the story about Claire, played by Jennifer Aniston, and adjustment. Claire and her son were in a car accident. While the boy died, Claire survived but with a degree of paralysis and chronic pain. She struggles to cope with the loss and abuses pain medication—to treat both physical and psychological pains. Claire connects with the surviving husband and son of a woman she knew in her support group who had committed suicide. Flirting with the idea of committing suicide herself, Claire speaks one sentence that resonated with me. As she laid on train tracks awaiting death, she says, “I was a good mother.” (She changes her mind and lives, don’t worry.)

“I was a good mother.”

That’s it, isn’t it? I believe that is the heart of it all: we want to believe we are good mothers. We want to know that we are good. Not necessarily that we are great…but that we are enough. What we are doing is working and our children are happy. And I know I’m not the only one in this. Jennifer Senior spoke of the relationship parents have with their children in her TEDtalk.

In this age of intense confusion, there is just one goal upon which all parents can agree, and that is whether they are tiger moms or hippie moms, helicopters or drones, our kids’ happiness is paramount.

(Senior, 2014, 17:58)

By hiding “our kids from the world’s ugliness,” we take away opportunities to learn. We prevent them from living a full life. The beauty of pain and unpleasantness is that it helps to define just how amazing life really is. That is not something that I want to take away from Gus. I want him to struggle; I want him to experience hardship and pain. But, I also want to be there when he does. I want to hold him and explain that life is a cycle. We are ecstatic…and then we mourn. Over and over again. I want to help him understand that our struggles over and over again teach us lessons and make life that much more interesting and worthwhile. Most of all, I want to hold him, kiss his forehead, and tell him that I love him.

The single-mother of the two boys across the street who spends more time at work than at home does so to provide for her kids. The mother snapping at her child in the grocery store to “just put the cookies back! We are NOT getting them!” loves her kids so very much—everyone has their breaking point. The first-time New Mom, still in the hospital, is crying because she is terrified and unsure whether she can ‘do this’. Try as we might, not one of us is going to be a perfect mother. She doesn’t exist. But we do what we can with what we have.

A child’s happiness is a very unfair burden to place on a parent. And happiness is an even more unfair burden to place on a kid.

(Senior, 2014, 17:58)

I try to create a warm and loving home for Gus. Right now, it is easy to see him happy at two years old. However, I personally struggle with good parenting and seeing my child smile. I believe that holding up boundaries and standing by my word is the best option in the long run. It is just hard to see my son bawling when I tell him he’s had enough juice or it’s time to get out of the bath.

There is so much I want for my son. So much I wish I could provide for him. There never seems to be enough money. And there never seems to be enough time. And I never seem to have enough energy. Most of the time I can accept that.

Then there are days where I collapse in tears. I don’t feel like I give Gus enough. If I could give him the world, I would. And I know that there are millions of mothers out there who feel the same way I do.

So, I try. I talk and sing with Gus on the drive home from daycare. I play and read with him instead of doing my homework. I have dance parties with him while I’m cooking his supper. I make sure that he has clean clothes to wear everyday. I take the few hours in the evenings and weekends that I have with him and try to make them count. And I drink more than my fair share of coffee. These are the memories I want him to have—happy ones. I want him to feel loved. Unconditionally.

I do my best…most days. I need to accept that not everyday is going to be perfect.

For today, I am going to enjoy waking up at 2am to sooth a frightened and crying Gus. I am going to tear up as I hear him squeal and laugh. I am going to smile when he wakes me up faaaaar too early in the morning just to show me the tractor on his cup. Or when he tries to put my glasses on my face and hands me my phone because he wants his mama awake, too. I am going to hold onto every moment I have with him—even the frustrating ones. And I am going to let them go as they pass because I know there is SO much more to come.

In the end, I know I am a good mother.

IMG_0653Gus, 3 hours old.

Reference:

Senior, J. (2014, April) For parents, Happiness is a very high bar [Video file].                          Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talk/jennifer_senior_                           for_parents_happiness_is_a_very_high_bar/transcript?                           language=en

Birthday on a Budget

Dear LoverMan,

I am so thankful for you. Everyday. And my heart was full to bursting on my birthday; you made me feel so incredibly special.

You started my day by bringing Gus to daycare. I know you were tired…but you put that aside. You remembered that I am NOT a morning person (yet!). I was able to sleep in a little more than usual…

And when I woke up, you were making blueberry waffles. No patronization here, they were the best waffles I have ever eaten. I know they’re just a mix…but still. And the blueberries! You know; you remembered. I love blueberries. And the best part is that you did the dishes! I was already feeling the love.

You let me drag you to my appointment at noon. You sat with me in the office as I talked to the Veteran Services worker. But you didn’t stay silent. You found the words to describe how I experienced life when I got home from deployment. I’m not the best with words; I speak of the world in different terms than others. But you speak my language. For that, I am blessed. I have you who knows what I’m saying even when I don’t.

We cleaned the house. You didn’t want to, but I did. So, you did as well. You did the dishes and helped pick up all of our son’s toys. I even got to pick our cleaning-dance music.

Then, you let me talk you into watching Titanic and cuddling with me. You let me fall asleep on your lap 30 minutes into the film…and you continued to watch it. When I woke up, you offered to get me some coffee. But you stayed with to watch the film to the end. I was a blubbery mess; you didn’t judge me.

“This movie is stupid.”

“No, it’s not. And you picked it.”

“Why did you let me pick this movie?”

“Because it’s your birthday.”

“ugh.”

“You can cry, it’s okay.”

I won’t tell the guys that you teared up at the end, too. I was embarrassed for crying and you made me feel less foolish by admitting you were pretty sad too. I love you for that.

So, then you went to work and I went to dinner with my friend.

But after we were both home, you had a surprise for me. You packed the car with blankets, pillows, some snacks and beverages. You put me in your car and off we went. We drove into the countryside where the city lights are a distant memory. You stopped the car, hopped out, and laid out the blanket and pillows. We spent the next few hours staring at the stars. How, I love the stars. How, you love nature. It was perfect. We laid and talked. I found about 50 different “dippers” and you made up your own constellations. I love you. I love seeing you in the places you feel most like yourself. I love hearing you talk about nature and what it means to you and your life.

When we were ready to go, we packed up the car and left. We talked about life and growing up. We talked about where we are as a couple and as a family.

“The best part about being in our 20s is that we are old enough to maintain some kind of responsibility and make our own decisions, but young enough to still make blanket forts. Do you want to make a blanket fort in front of the TV in the living room tonight?”

Of course.

I love that you are still so playful in between moments of responsibility and adulthood. I love that you let me bully you into giving me a back massage. I love that you let me pick yet another sappy movie. You cuddled with me. Yeah, you fell asleep earlier than I did… but I was able to fall asleep listening to the sounds you make when you’re dreaming. I fell asleep with your arms around me, holding me close.

The whole day was wonderful. I don’t know the last time I have felt that special. And you did that for me. You opened your heart so very wide to include me in it. You went out of your way to make me feel loved. And I love you. I love you for that and so much more.

You really are the man of my dreams.

and I’d choose you: in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in and version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.

excerpt from “The Chaos of Stars”

❤ Hanna