raspberry jello

I’m Baaaaaaack–and the Start of a Jello Adventure

For something like the fortieth time in the 13 years of this blog, I lost my mojo. The last thing I wanted to do was write–or share.

I’m not the only person totally dragged down by this pandemic, but hey, sometimes I just like to feel sorry for myself.

To be honest, it is a strange time even without a pandemic. My once crowded home is gaining space, as one by one my boys are growing up and leaving the nest. By January, all that will be left is a teen and twin tweens. And, while this change is all well and good–so much of my adult life has revolved around being a mom to a gaggle of kids. So, this change is leaving me a bit sentimental.

Add in more than a little work angst over the summer and early fall. Add in the stress that being a professional fundraiser during a global pandemic entails.

I’ve just been preoccupied.

And that is OK. Part of what I have spent time focusing on is making my home into a sanctuary from COVID. Making sure home is a place where we all feel safe, and warm and comfortable.

About 50 times in the past six months, my husband has said, you should blog about this or that, and each time–I just kind of sighed. . . I was not feeling it.

But, on Wednesday, everything changed. During breakfast one of the tweens was rummaging through my cookbooks and found “The New Joy of Jello” (Copyright 1974) and was equal parts amused and disgusted. And the hubs said–“You need to blog this! Like ‘Julie and Julia‘!” and I realized that he was not wrong.

To show his support, he cleaned out the Jello aisle of our local grocery store. I’m sure the teen ringing him up thinks we are throwing a heck of a party!

My culinary minded tween looks forward to helping me recreate each of the recipes in this 99 cent promotional volume. However, there are a handful of recipes that we really do NOT look forward to more than a “no thank you bite” (Leftover turkey and celery in lemon jello anyone?)

Today, we started easy. A simple fruit and Jello concoction. The recipe called for “Birdseye Fast Thaw Frozen Fruit”, but I’m not sure that is an actual product anymore. However, we have all kinds of frozen fruit at our house, and the twins were happy to offer up raspberries–as they think frozen raspberries make their daily breakfast smoothie taste too sour.

I’m all for keeping things matchy, so I paired the frozen fruit with a raspberry Jello.

So, for this concoction simply bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil:

The recipe called for 10 ounces of frozen fruit. The raspberries had been opened and some had been consumed. We had just over 8 ounces–that was plenty.

Add the boiling water to one small box of Jello and stir to combine.

Stir in the fruit and chill until set.

And everyone agrees that any Jello dish is better with some Cool Whip!

This dish was a hit with everyone. As long as you like fruit in your Jello–and who doesn’t–this is a super accessible and easy enough for a young chef.

Honestly, it was fun for me to try a different flavor profile–I am solidly a strawberry Jello with frozen strawberries girl.

And yes, while cooking (boiling) my way through a 1970’s Jello cookbooks may sound silly, it may just be what I (and you) need right now!

7 Things I Learned at Adult Ballet Class

Once upon a time, I was a clumsy child. (I’m a clumsy adult now, but I digress). My mother, in a desperate attempt to keep me from breaking every bone in my body, signed me up for dance classes. I loved them (well, not tap, but I loved the rest).

I was NEVER a good dancer. But, I was a dancer. I continued to take dance classes all through high school. (I was blessed with an INCREDIBLE high school that offered dance as a physical education class! A true win/win, I was able to stay fit AND I did not have to embarrass myself by having to try and catch a softball.) That daily dance class was a touchstone during my high school career.

So, naturally, when I went to college, I sought out dance classes. I attended, coincidentally, Hope College in Holland, Michigan, which, at least at the time was the only liberal arts college in the state that offered majors in all of the fine arts (theatre, art, dance, and vocal and instrumental music.) I started out at Hope as a theatre major, and graduated with an English Major and minors in social studies and performing arts.

Now, mind you, through all of this I was STILL not a “good” dancer. But, I was a dedicated dancer and I loved it all. The music, the pain, the discipline–all of it. I’m not as sure that my husband was as thrilled with all of it as he helped me pay off college loans after we married– “How many dance classes did you take exactly, dear?” (It was ONLY one or two a semester! Honest!)

And then, I hung up the leotards, retired the ballet slippers, and became an adult. I was busy raising four sons and I hardly had time to think about dance anymore–(though I still would sometimes leap down the hallway to prove I still “had it”).

Fast forward to 2010 and the arrival of two of the girliest twins you could ever imagine. I had some BIG dreams for them! Their nursery was painted the sweetest shade of Sherwin Williams’ “Swan Lake Pink”. Their first Halloween costumes were matching tutus. From the time they could walk I took them to see “The Nutcracker”. Finally, the day came for them to BEG for ballet classes!

After they completed their first year at Northern Plains Dance, I gathered up the courage to do the scariest thing in my adult life.

I took my first ballet class in 25 years.

Let that sink in.

25 years is a LONG time.

It is a silver anniversary.

It is the length of time that I spent as a child and college student.

In 25 years I forgot just about everything that I ever knew about ballet!

There WAS some muscle memory. But I had lost SO much (mainly my balance).

However, over the past six months I have learned seven valuable lessons from adult ballet class.

  1. Adult Ballet Requires Vulnerability: Let’s face it. Walking into a mirrored room in leggings to dance, takes some guts. Ballet does not allow for covering errors with jazz hands and a shuffle-ball-hop. I found myself taking a really deep breath that very first day and imagined jumping into the deep end of a pool with no life jacket. And the amazing thing was–I DID NOT DIE. No one pointed and laughed. No one asked why I was there–as if I did not belong there. I was welcomed, shown to a barre, and that was that. The first day can be rough–but after that–you are a DANCER!
  2. Adult Ballet is Empowering: That awesome feeling that you are a dancer? Yes, my friend, that is empowerment. From that first class, I stood up a little taller, I carried myself with more grace, and, quite frankly, my daughters were SO proud of me!
  3. Adult Ballet is a Reminder That Our Bodies are Designed to Move: We have been created with INCREDIBLE bodies! However, in my day to day home and office life, I spend a LOT of time sitting. Ballet is a good reminder of the amazing range of motion that my body has. Each week I can feel my ability to push things just a little bit farther, plie a little deeper, kick a little higher. And, the more I dance, the more I want to move outside of class–park a bit farther from the office, make a few more trips up and down the stairs, a nice little stroll after dinner–you get the picture.
  4. Adult Ballet is Improving my Balance: It is no secret that as we age, we begin to lose our balance. A loss of balance is no laughing matter–though I do try to joke about it at times. However, an older adult who has a better sense of balance and the ability to SHIFT that balance in all directions is MUCH less likely to fall. This is a big deal as we age. Each week I can see small improvements in how long and how well I balance. Part of this is positional awareness which is also important as we age.
  5. Adult Ballet is Improving My Concentration and Memory: This concentration and memory piece is something I took for granted as a kid. It was part of dance, and it came pretty naturally. NOW, I find myself struggling to remember combinations–and yet, week over week, I am getting better! This is something to celebrate–but know that this kind of memory is a learned skill and so valuable even outside of the dance studio.
  6. Adult Ballet is Improving My Relationship With my Daughters: They are dancers and are at the very beginning of their dance journey. Through my taking up dance again, we have a shared language. We are learning from the very same instructors and sometimes struggle with the same skills. They witness me getting ready for class every week, carving time out of my busy schedule, and coming home with the best kind of exhaustion. What they are learning is that ballet is not just for 10 year-olds–it is for 48 year-olds too!
  7. Adult Ballet Makes Me Happy: Spin class does not make me happy. Even Yoga class does not make me happy (hello, fear of gas!). However, every time I leave ballet class, I am happy, empowered, a little bit sore, and so very proud of myself. We all know that we should do what makes us feel happy.

So there you have it–the secret to the little skip in my step (but not on Wednesday–dance class is Tuesday, so on Wednesday, I’m a little slow).

I totally 10/10 recommend that you give adult ballet a try. If you live in Bismarck/Mandan, you can check out the adult ballet offerings here. Otherwise, a simple google search should find something local to you!

Instant Pot “Baked” Potatoes

It is summer time here on the prairie. That means two things. First, it often feels too hot to cook. Second, the kids still seem to want to eat every day!

So, this Tuesday I am sharing with you one of my favorite time savers–potatoes in the Instant Pot.

I love a great baked potato, but I hate heating up the oven for them in the summer time. Thankfully, my Instant Pot doubles as a baked potato baker!

Making baked potatoes in the Instant Pot could not be easier! It is so easy, that my 10 year old made them all by herself the other night!

Simply wash 4 good-sized russet potatoes. Prick them all over with a fork.

Next, set your trivet into your Instant Pot and add 1 cup of water to the inner pot (1 1/2 cups if you use an 8 qt pot like I do!).

Rub the potatoes all over with a little olive oil and set them on the trivet. Prinkle with some coars salt and fresh ground pepper.

Set for 20 minutes on high pressure, and do a quick release when they are done.

While the Instant Pot is doing its thing, prepare toppings. My family likes lightly steamed broccoli, bacon bits, and shredded cheese–but certain purists in our family like theirs with JUST BUTTER–nothing else.

Sometimes I even cook up some potatoes on the weekend and pop them in the refrigerator for a quick lunch on busy work days.

What do you like on your baked potato?

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How Noom Helps me Stay Grounded During Uncertain Times

**I was compensated for this post and this post contains affiliate links. I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking my links

I think at least once a day I say, “We are living in strange times.”. That is my code word for the crazy that is the Spring of 2020.

In the past three months I have coached four kids (including a high school senior) through the wild world of distance learning. I transitioned to working from home, and now I am transitioning back to the office. (I have learned that I’d actually prefer a melding of the two modes!). I’ve navigated our family through a toilet paper shortage. (It was never a real shortage here, because as a household of six, we try to stock up ALL of the time). We had almost two months of church at home.

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Grandma Ida’s Congo Bars

Congo Bars are a great, simple, crowd-pleaser–with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry!

These simple bars are a taste of my childhood. The types of chips varied, according to whatever Grandma Schave had in the pantry, and hers most always also contained walnuts–because we had a walnut tree in our yard. I don’t add nuts because the kids don’t care for them in baked goods.

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