Looking for a quick and tasty holiday appetizer? Look no further. These simple sugared cranberry brie bites will give every foodie just the right fix.This recipe was originally posted at Annie’s-Eats, one of my favorite food blogs. The sugared cranberries are a Christmas staple around here; they have the most fantastic sugar tart POP!
First, you’re going to make a simple syrup to coat the cranberries and then let them dry on a drying rack like this, for about an hour.
Then you’ll coat them with more sugar. Yes, I’m saying sugar on the blog, oh dear. Justification: cranberries are soooo nutritious, but difficult to eat without a little bit of the white stuff.
A little bit of brie cheese on a wheat cracker and there you go!
Sugared Cranberry Brie Bites:
1. Procure wheat crackers. Round crackers give a nice aesthetic appeal.
2. Pick out a nice Brie (we’re pleased with PRÉSIDENT® BRIE ROUND)
3. Sugar your cranberries:
Simple Syrup: Over medium heat, combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup white sugar. Sir until combined. Take off heat. Pour in a bag of cranberries, just to coat (not to cook.) Using a slotted spoon, lay cranberries on a drying rack for ONE HOUR, at least. The cranberries should slightly sticky dry, but not wet.
Next, pour some sugar into a bowl. Pour cranberries into bowl to coat. And that’s it. Really.
Now, let’s sing – FA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LAAAAAA…it’s sugared cranberry brie bite time!
Here are some beloved items you may consider for the Christmas season:
For the convenient, cool and earth-friendly:
Bamboo Travel Utensils – To-Go Ware Utensil Set with Carrying Case. Yep! This is the gift I’m MOST EXCITED about giving this year! When I saw these bamboo utensils in their cute carrying case hanging off a colleagues backpack (thank you, Lynn!) I knew the perfect person to give them to: my earth-conscious missionary daughter who doesn’t need “stuff.” THESE. I want a set for the whole family (suggestion met with blank looks). What’s the big deal, you ask? LESS PLASTIC. Everywhere you go, you can whip out your bamboo utensils instead of using plastic disposable utensils that are cluttering up the oceans and forests and killing our cod. Just recently, missionary Cope-headed-toTaiwn asked me to send some chopsticks. This set COMES WITH CHOPSTICKS. I cannot get over the cleverness. (My son demonstrated what this might look like at the lunch table were he to pull out his bamboo fork. Obviously only the mature can handle the cleverness.)
Silpat Baking Mat: Thank you, Glenn and Kim! I adore these baking mats because: no more pan scrubbing!
For your HEALTH:
Garmin Forerunner Watch: It’s not inexpensive, but on the other hand, a total bargain. One of the best things I own. No matter where you walk or run, this watch tracks total time run, pace, mile splits, and heart rate. It’s a huge bargain if you look at it from a health perspective. Look for sales at Groupon.com, Amazon, and Garmin.com.
I have a lot of favorite “things” (like pens and paper!) but these are just a couple I’ve recently thought of. My kids have been doing a lot of “no-sugar” challenges and so for stockings, Santa and I are collaborating on Lara Bars (3-5 natural ingredients), nuts, seeds, paleo-friendly beef sticks, gum, dark(er) chocolate, and perhaps some Seed and Sky earrings.
And now for BOOKS! You can find past book recommendations HERE, but below are the ones I’m especially fond of for Christmas.
My daughter writes home about the great JOY she is finding in serving others. She left most of her world behind. I’ve been contemplating that idea and how freeing and appealing it sounds. I would like to follow that example of JOY and SERVICE this month. I know what our family needs most is not more stuff. So I’m looking for those moments of when we can do a little good and feel a little better (and yes, part of that can most definitely include presents!)
P.S. If you’d like to write Sister Cope Makechnie (Mǎ Jiěmeì) for Christmas, she can get email and mail:
If you want to send a real letter, she will be at the missionary training center ONLY until the end of December: Sister Cope Makechnie JAN01 TAIW-TCG 2005 N 900 E Unit 88 Provo UT 84602
When it comes to parenting, by far the biggest battle and discord we have had in our home isn’t drugs, sex, or rock ‘n roll.
I love it, I hate it. I’m always on it, I’m always vowing to cut back.
Our two oldest children had a phone upon entering high school, or soon after that. It was great for communication – and it still is. I text my son every day. I texted Cope every day until she left for her mission to Taiwan (I’ve got to write about THAT!) And I tell you what, I really miss NOT TEXTING her every single day. Or maybe I just miss talking with emojis.
We’ve got lots of tech rules. We’ve had many many discussions about usage. We’re all sick of talking about it. We have a technology contract. Children hand their phones in at night, cannot have it in their rooms without permission, and know that at any time, we, as their parents can access all of their accounts (Yep, we’re fun.)
And still, by far, arguments over technology use ranks #1 over all other issues.
This summer I really began to wonder why we continue to do this to ourselves. Actually, no one is doing this to us. We are doing this to ourselves. We are putting the internet in our children’s pockets, with all its pings and dings and apps and saying – but not too much! Get real.
I greatly dislike the worry and pit in my stomach I get when I see children reading less (Brynne: I WOULD STILL READ!) I worry we are training them to be more distracted as they are drawn into snapchat and social media time sucks. I dislike that we look at a screen first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.
This summer, an epiphany: we’re not giving our ninth grader a phone.
How very revolutionary.
Response: “That’s so unfair!”
Yes, it totally is. But you see, darling, we are evolving. Getting better at this parenting gig. We will change our minds, course correct, and generally do things that are very unfair over the course of your 18 years under this roof.
Brynne, you still love me, right?
Interesting to me, she got over it very quickly. Life went on without anyone disowning us.
She has an iPod and a laptop. She has access to the internet. Thus far, she has always been able to reach us, has never been kidnapped, stuck on the side of the road, shoved in a locker, been swallowed by a whale, or any other worst-case scenario that I, as a mother, regularly envision. (Brynne: uh, NOT YET!)
With an iPod, she can text. She can borrow someone else’s phone when she’s on the road with the team. So far, it’s not been a hassle. (Brynne: uh, not for you!)
I almost caved a couple of weeks ago when Cope left her iPhone behind and we suddenly had a spare. Why not give it to our ninth grader? (Brynne: yeah, why not?) Why not? It’s paid for. For $20/month we could just pass it on down. But you know what? I don’t want my Niner to have a phone. When she asks why, I say, Because I Love You. (Brynne: insert eye roll.)
You’ve likely Googled “phone” and “addiction” (or is that just me?) (Brynne: just you, Mom.) We know they’re addictive, especially for our children’s growing, impulsive frontal lobe brains. This impulsivity has advantages, making our teens bold, creative, risk takers, out of the box thinkers. What do we do to that brain when we put the internet in their pockets? What I see? Eyes glued to screens. Fights with mom. Ugh. So over it.
Caveat: the internet is not bad. It’s great! What a genius invention. I just want to hold off a little longer, knowing full well our teens are already accessing the internet for hours, daily. But do they have to have it in their pocket?
Maybe in a few months we’ll change our minds and my 14-year-old will have a phone in her hands. Maybe I’ll feel differently in a week. Maybe the time will be right.
And parents: take heart. My Niner is not the only one without. I’m seeing the tide turn a bit, in that respect. Other parents are saying no, too. When I see this, I think – YES! And it makes me feel not quite so witchy.
SOLIDARITY is a POWERFUL thing! It has further emboldened me to say – Not Yet. And perhaps you will read this and be emboldened, too.
Bottom line: if you DO want to give your child a phone, it’s OKAY. I won’t throw rocks at your window. It’s a personal, family decision. Great! Good for you!
But also this – if you DON’T want your kid to have a phone – it’s OKAY. It’s a personal and family decision. Great! Good for you!
My girl thinks this post is lame. She would still like to have a phone. (Brynne: it’s not too late!) But I think she also understands. (meh.) And she’s still nice to me.
MUST READ HERE. “When I treat teens struggling with depression, anxiety, and ADHD, I tell them to get off their screens. In the hands of a depressed adolescent, phones can be dangerous. In my view, they are weapons. I wonder how we have gotten to the point in America where young children carry these weapons in their hands to school, soccer, parties, and even bed — and no one sees the danger?”
We don’t tend to like adversity and problems. Yesterday, these trees gave me a different perspective. The day after a wicked cold rain storm that raged through the night, I happened upon these trees sitting in cold flood water. They stood still and strong, with nary a root upturned. Missing leaves and small branches, but completely unmoved. And I thought: Strong winds and strong storms make strong trees.
I’m taking a 7-day social media hiatus which is really nothing, but in one day I could feel the difference: greater peace and time. I found myself putting the phone down instead of feeling bored and scrolling. It’s been a tumultuous and upsetting news cycle (what else is new?) and I need to find the good – which is not out “there.” It’s right here at home, making eye contact with my children, having a daily conversation with my husband, and pondering deeper scriptural texts. This Saturday and Sunday we are immersing in two full days of General Conference. This event ALWAYS makes me so HAPPY.
Himalayan Salt Deodorant. Okay, this sounds strange – it’s JUST SALT! But I have this thing about putting chemicals straight into my pores after showering and shaving, and salt just feels so…natural. It works quite well! I picked it for cheap (just a few dollars) at a boutique, but I’ve seen them all over the web.
Alert Caffeine Gum as a running aid. Let me clarify: ONLY AS A RUNNING AID. I’m a little neurotic about not getting addicted to substances, and so I don’t allow myself to chew this piece of 40mg of caffeinated gum (a small cup of coffee has about 60mg of caffeine) except for early morning runs. Way easier and better than gels and GUs and Shot Blocks that have all that other sugary junk in it. It makes me feel motivated, helping me run faster and farther. You can buy 100mg/caffeine gum, but that’s “military grade,” and again, we don’t need any more addictions! Tired in the afternoon? May I suggest a 10-minute nap?
When Cope found it in my drawer she gasped and said, “Mom! WHAT IS THIS? I feel like I’ve discovered steroids in the house.”
RX and Lara Bars. 3-5 ingredients in them and that’s it! (The carrot cake bar above has 9 ingredients but all are “natural” and words I can pronounce.)
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Cope raced through the whole trilogy. I’m all set after Book #1. It was entertaining, and I adore reading of other cultures and languages, but I thought the book too long and lacking in substance (which might be just the thing you’re looking for!)
My friend Kate brought us the most beautiful bouquet of flowers “just because.” Patty sent my daughter a bouquet of flowers when she got her mission call Taiwan. Such a small – but big – gesture that makes me happy every time I enter the house. Happiness tip: Send the Flowers!
Two of my girls are using matching planners from BAM, because, like their mother, they cannot survive life for one day without a physical, hand-written calendar (Google calendar is great for sharing schedules, but I also gotta write!) It makes me a bit giddy to see them planning and organizing their lives. Check.
Also: these pens with the planner. Goodness, I love them.
Wasn’t I going to post books more often? Well, here you go – 8 books I read this summer and into fall as I try to hit 50 reads for the Goodreads Reading Challenge (I’ve always loved reading challenges 🙂 )
Love and Ruin by Paula McClain: Historical fiction. McClain (The Paris Wife) writes the story of Martha Gellhorn and her infamous relationship with Ernest Hemingway. Gellhorn was one of the first and most well-known female war correspondents. RESPECT.
Where There’s Hope by Elizabeth Smart: Nonfiction, adult. I took notes upon notes reading this book. We know Smart’s kidnapping story, but here she offers more: hope moving forward. I’ve become a huge fan of this woman, watching her take control of her life and empowering women of every age. One of the most powerful stories is her father bringing Elizabeth and her little sister into his study to practice, “screaming” after a woman cornered Elizabeth in the bathroom at church (after she was returned from the kidnapping she still didn’t know how to fight back!) Elizabeth froze, not knowing what to do or react. It’s wonderful to be polite and have manners when the occasion calls for it – but do our children (esp our girls!?) know how and when to scream and bite and kick when needed? Really great book.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: Middle grade, fiction. Take it from Paige: the movie does not do this book justice! Read the book! My girls read it over and over and over, especially when they need to curl up with an old favorite. I loved it, too.
Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin: Middle grade, fiction. Baldwin makes a lovely debut with her middle grade read about Della, the ups and downs of family and farm life, and a mother’s mental illness. Really well done! Just thinking about this book makes my mouth water and my body break out into the damp sweat of summer (that’s a compliment – Cindy brings great voice and language to this story.)
Calypso by David Sedaris: Memoir, adult. I’ve never read memoirist Sedaris before. He’s really funny, even when writing about family tragedy. He’s also extremely irreverent. Geez. You read a sentence and think did he really just write THAT? But no doubt, I get what all the fuss is about. He’s a great writer and I want to learn from him.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone Young Adult, fiction. This was my freshman daughter’s summer reading. She read it fast and said, “you should read this.” I casually picked it up and couldn’t put it back down. Real, sad, important. Justyce, a young black scholar is trying to balance two worlds – his old neighborhood and an elite prep school. It’s present-day, but he writes letters to the great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, trying to figure out his place in a racist America. Head’s up: language.
Yes, we’re alive over here, time is just going so fast I start wondering where to start.
It’s such a strange thing to suddenly be the parent of older kids instead of having a posse of younger ones. The baby is going into 6th grade for heaven’s sake! I find myself gazing at her playing Barbies and with her American Girls, knowing in a blink they will soon be abandoned for American Eagle gift cards and iPods.
We’ve had a great summer, traveling out west for a family reunion, coming home to another family reunion (hosting all of Gregor’s brothers and family – a hoot and a holler!) The house has been FULL of people and so much food and messes and reminiscing.
Labor Day always marks the beginning of packing school lunches, quieter days, busier afternoons, and the rank smell of soccer cleats by the front door.
I find myself pondering Ernest Hemingway’s quote:
There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow. How old must you be before you know that? -Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
I’d like dispute that, Ernest. If I may. Because what of this:
The past in a cool, dark pond; our feet are always damp.
I took that line from book critic, Lucy Feldman. Isn’t it terrific?
I’ve always been one to look back and also forward. I think I have a better handle on it, feel more at peace with change.
It’s been a good summer and a hard one. We lost a tremendous man and friend to suicide. His impact reverberates through our community in a painful way I’ve wanted to run from, yet it’s been a huge wake up to remember we belong to each other. It’s a reminder to check in with one another. To speak up when we are hurting, to reach out when we need help.
But the good stuff?
A LOT of swimming at our favorite hole:
Traveling to Utah for a family reunion, where the stomach bug traveled through all of us (YES!). We hiked some mountains, sold books, rope swinged into Blood Lake, ate gallons of ice-cream.
In early August I ran in the Beach to Beach 10k alongside elite-level and olympic runners (okay, fine, they were practically finished before I started) and now I’m ready to train for the Cape Cod 1/2 marathon this October. SIGN UP HERE! We (running buddies Maryn, Jill, Chloe, and Cope) have had great times on the rail trail. Running a 9-miler with a pal bonds you for life, I swear.
The other night I lay here in the dark, looking out at a bright moon lighting up the sky. The next morning I awoke early for our girl posse long run. The moon was still up when we started; by the end of the run we were running into the sunrise. WOW.
I’m waxing a bit sentimental thinking of the upcoming year and the many changes that will occur. These kids we’re raising? We haven’t missed anything. It’s happening all as it should. We’re watching miracles happen every single day.
Here’s a picture of my siblings and me from this summer: I remember so well when we were little kids and now look at us. Side note: isn’t it remarkable that I’m the oldest and have retained my natural L’Oreal Medium Brown hair color when the rest…haven’t? What can I say??? I guess it’s all in the genes! 🙂
And look at these kids. What will they remember about their childhood together? Adding Grandpa and Tenny to the mix sure was a great idea!
So here we go:
Cope is awaiting her mission call! It should arrive any day. Like, ANY DAY. She will serve an eighteen-month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She will leave behind her phone(!) and everything else to serve and teach others of one thing: the life and mission of Jesus Christ. I’m in awe of her. She could be called to Brazil or Iowa – WE DON’T KNOW. I’ve known A LOT of missionaries, but how different it is to have my own child embark. Strange, for sure.
Nelson embarks on his senior year and is currently going through the college admissions process. Boy, that’s no small feat. Note to self: we will survive. He’s also ALMOST done with his Eagle Scout project and fundraiser. I’m more than A LITTLE EXCITED to see him on the soccer field this fall. He loves the sport so much, and uh, so does his mama.
And Brynne Brynne? She’s a freshman! Zowie. Paige is a middle-schooler. I mean, what is going on? They will also be on the soccer field and I’ll be coaching, so you know, packing lots of Lara Bars.
I process these transitions by running (which leads to cravings of wavy potato chips and Diet coke, but hey, no one’s perfect.) Also? More sleep, please.
Talk to me. What are you transitioning to?
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I ADORE a complex medical dilemma coupled with lots of family drama. And Genova is an actual neuroscientist – as well as a superb writer. Richard, the main character, is a brilliant and world-renowned pianist. He’s also a terrible family man. So what happens when you suddenly start noticing a funny weakness in your hand and are diagnosed with ALS? It’s the family who steps up. This hit very close to home as I lost a dear friend to this horrible disease. For me, an informative tear-jerker.
What do you know? Carrie Rubin is also a doctor in real life, and a superb writer. THE BONE CURSE is book #1 in an exciting new series: a medical thriller with a supernatural element! I also kindof know Carrie through the internet and it’s always so thrilling to see your writer friends pave the way and do it SO WELL! Great job, Carrie.
Oooh…this one was kindof a guilty pleasure (in the tamest of ways!) The moral of this story is: it’s time get stone-cold sober. At least for Cassandra Bowden, who woke up next to a dead man. Did she do it? SHE CAN’T REMEMBER! She really doesn’t think she has it in her, but…SHE CAN’T REMEMBER! After flying through this book (ha), I said to self: GO FIND ALL THE BOHJILIAN BOOKS NOW.
This book is getting all the rave reviews for good reason. I LOVED it. I could not put it down. In the same vein as THE GLASS CASTLE: a family, a brilliant but mentally ill father, a child with no formal schooling who is schooled in survival and using her own smarts. After listening to the audiobook, my dad commented, “I knew a few people like that in Idaho.” Wide eyes.
After reading EDUCATED, I must have been on a survivalist kick, which is what Hannah’s written. The setting is the wild, beautiful, and dangerous Alaska. I enjoyed this book, but the mother’s horrible enabling DROVE ME CRAZY the entire book. Obviously I lack empathy. Or something.
This book is pretty astounding in its writing and its research. Bohjalian is really really good. I have so much more respect for what midwives do – and what they risk. A medical thriller with lots of family drama and ethical questions that are terribly hard to answer – right up my ally! A GREAT READ. Jodi Picoult fans will love Bohjalian (but you probably already knew that.) Also, he’s lives in Vermont! Think he’d mind if I knocked on his door?
YAY FOR DEBUT AUTHORS! I’ve known Melissa for years. How fun it was to both have debut books in June. This was a very sweet, yet realistic look at child homelessness. Sad, but hopeful. I loved all of the images of trees, throughout. Themes of hardship, sisterhood, and home run through this novel. Melissa has more books on the way and I look forward to more from this huge talent!
This book was not at all what I expected – in a really fun and surprising way! There’s this boy who doesn’t know where he is. What’s his name? Where are all the people? Why won’t his inner bully leave him be? With only one character throughout, Clark does a fantastic job of keeping the reader engaged. It’s somewhat heartbreaking but somewhat not…I don’t know. I’ll be thinking of this book for a long time. “Once upon a time there was a boy…” So good!
Okay, that’s it for me. What’s kept you up at night? Do tell! I love hearing what you’re reading and yes – I’m ready for a new book!