Almond Butter Brownies, Gluten Free, Delicious!

This is my sweet sister- in- law Bev’s almond butter brownies. She found the recipe online somewhere and made these for our family Thanksgiving dinner. They are gluten free and healthy, using maple syrup instead of sugar but most importantly they are delicious! Even both my sons gobbled them up, convincing me to bake them for Christmas!

You will need:

  • 1/4 c. and 2 Tbls. cocoa powder
  • 1 c. Soft almond butter
  • 1/2 c. and 3 Tbls. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. rolled oats crushed or I used 1/3 c. Oat flour. You can use almond flour instead if you wish
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease or line a 8 inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes and let cool for an hour. Can be refrigerated for up to a week. Don’t overcook. These are soft, rich in flavor and fudgy. Delicious!

An up close photo of the last brownie!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul💕

Cookie Day 2019

A few years ago

Every year my mom, sister and niece gather with me to celebrate the holidays. Our true intention is to create a way to connect over a busy few weeks of the holidays. We soak it all in in one Saturday afternoon, gazing at our Christmas tree and decorations, toasting to our kinship and time together and lastly but not least, we bake cookies.

In previous years we have all brought ingredients to mix and bake one type of cookie. I’ve made peanut butter kiss cookies, chocolate crinkles and cherry chocolate cookies in the past. Now that we’ve mastered this tradition we have gotten smarter. The three of us mix the dough ahead and bring to bake them together. This saves time and space, for four busy bakers in one kitchen can get confusing.

The last several years us girls held cookie day at my house. This year we had it at my sister’s new home about 45 minutes north of me. My mom met me at my house with all her goodies and we packed my car for the ride.

This year’s cookie day toast

My niece Ella Kate rolled out sugar cookies playfully while we listened to Christmas classics such as Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. We rolled and we laughed. We taste tested and reminisced of days of old when we were little girls at Christmas. My mom made coconut macaroons with a new twist, a plopped Hershey’s chocolate kiss on top. I made peanut butter blossoms with kisses. I designated Ella as my helper to unwrap all the kisses so that when the cookies were done we could quickly press them on each treat. One year I messed up by not preparing them ahead and in the time it took to unwrap them, the cookies started to cool and the kisses didn’t melt and stick. Take my advice, do the prep ahead of unwrapping so once the cookies come out of the oven, the kisses are ready!

We were all having such a good time baking, decorating and talking, I forgot that I had another bowl of chocolate kisses and started using my mom’s. The bowl was hidden among other plates and bowls and I discovered them after I used my mom’s! I easily get side tracked in a hoopla of fun but live and learn! No harm done.

While I’m talking about Christmas cookies I wish to share an awesome yummy cookie recipe I found on tv. For a few weeks I was hooked on watching Giada’s Holiday Handbook, watching her craft holiday treats for her family and friends. I jotted down a few recipes including her Peppermint Sandwich Cookies, little light whoopie pie like cookies with a peppermint filling inside. I made them for my family and co- workers and they were a hit!

  • Giada’s Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

You will need:

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 4 oz melted bittersweet chocolate ( cooled a bit)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. Nonfat yogurt or Greek yogurt, I used nonfat
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

For peppermint frosting:

  • 2 sticks ( 1 c ) softened butter
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
  • dash salt
  • 8-10 peppermint patty candies chopped

Combine dry ingredients. Set aside. Mix wet ingredients. Gradually fold in dry ingredients to the wet mixture. It will resemble cake batter. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 F. Drop tablespoonfuls if dough, five across and 3 down on a standard baking sheet. Bake about 9 minutes.

Cool on rack. Meanwhile mix frosting together. Once cookies are cool, add filling on one cookie and sandwich with another. Can be refrigerated or kept in a sealed plastic container.

You can freeze any leftover frosting for another time. I tried it and it was delicious once I thawed it out.

Serve with pride and expect to have an empty serving platter after. They are delicious!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul😘

Suddenly the Stockings Were Filled

Forgive me my friends…I meant to post this on Christmas Eve but family celebrations and excitement prevented me from doing so. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas with family and friends. Happy holidays to all! 🎄❤️🎁

As I rummaged happily in our boxes of Christmas of long ago, mementos from past Christmases appeared hidden in the depths of the box. One of them was my Merry Christmas stocking I had as a child. It’s really the only stocking I possessed growing up. It’s threadbare and simple but all red with holly and a font out of the sixties. Many little toys and candies were tucked in it through the years. Tom also has his old red stocking, one that saw many Christmases and always held a clementine in the toe.

When I see my stocking I think back to Court Street in Haverhill, where I grew up in a huge blue Victorian. Every Christmas at 3 am, my sister and I crept down the stairs to snatch our stockings. We tiptoed quietly with an overflowing anticipation of surprises and the magic only Santa Claus can provide. We would go back to our beds to look at our goodies and snoozed back to sleep until later.

One significant memory remains vivid. It was in a different town south of Haverhill, Lebanon, New Hampshire on Williams Street. I was eight years old and still believing in all the miracles of Christmas. But something changed that night, a drastic knowledge and understanding of how Santa Claus really worked.

In the depths of a late Christmas Eve night , I excitedly lay in my bed with bubbling up anticipation. Suddenly I heard a creek of the floorboards and rustling movements. As a curious young girl of 8, I had to sneak a peek at Santa. For what stories I could share and I could finally see what he looked like in person! Sadly that day, some of the magic dissipated, for I caught my dad filling the stockings. “ What the **** are you doing?” That was my dad’s surprise reaction, as he think he was just as disappointed as I was. Even though I knew the truth after that, I still believed in all of the wonders of Christmas.

Our stockings are hung on the stair railing and on the bureau knobs. It still gives me a tremendous joy filling them and seeing my family’s faces light up with surprise and gratitude. It’s a simple tradition, one that Tom and I practice with each other and covertly hide our goods in anticipation of the dark hours of Christmas Eve. A little globe of a clementine nestles in each toe while the rest of the stocking holds warm gloves, hats, toothpaste, deodorant, chap stick and candy.

It’s always been our tradition to open our filled stockings first in the wee hours of Christmas morning. This year Dylan and Lexy will be here celebrating the holiday on Christmas Eve. They will open their stockings then. The next morning Branden, Tom and myself will open ours.

We are blessed beyond belief not only with material goods but the incredible gifts of health ( my previous health scare has subsided and thankfully with God’s help I’m okay), friendship, family and most of all love. These beautiful presents carry us through the hard times.

My family’s Christmas photo

I wish you all a Happy New Year 2020 with health and love. Be looking for more posts in January as my health is better and I’m ready to write and share!

When the cat photo bombs your Christmas photo attempt!

All My Best,

Mary ❤️🎉

Lil’ Moments

Lately I have been caught up in everyday life, so immersed in it that I’ve neglected my blog. It’s been over three years that I’ve written it and shared my life with you all and I’m truly thankful for the friends I’ve made through it. I go through times of not knowing what I should share and what should remain silent. Also I’ve been battling a health issue that hopefully will be resolved soon. For the first time in weeks, last night beautiful ideas blessed me and so I will share.

I’ve had a few little moments that have touched my heart, making my week special when I needed it. The other day a little first grader who I work with shared with me that he had never tried a gingerbread man. Can you believe that…six years old and he has never held the little arms and legs of a gingery spicy treat adorned with sweet icing and raisins for buttons!

It brought me back to my younger days when I was a little girl. My mom used to bake big gingerbread men and poked a hole in the top. That way we could lace ribbon through the hole and hang them on the bristly branches of our Christmas tree. I would sample a cookie here and there, savoring the spice on my tongue.

my sister and I at Christmas. Notice mom’s gingerbread men on the tree!

I went home the same day and promised to myself that I would fulfill that little boy’s wish and bring little gingerbread men in for my reading groups. I think I’ll bring icing and candies for the kids to decorate. Maybe he will love them as I did or if not , at least he can say that Mrs. Blowey baked gingerbread men for school and that he didn’t care for them.

Another lil’ moment was when another first grade boy chose to write about me in his circle journal. Every Friday the class has a journal with a little circle and in are pieces labeled of different activities they did or learned in school. The teacher modeled several sentences they could write about and one was of the music teacher and how she is kind in class. This little boy announced that he would write about me because I am fun. It was a sweet thing to say, something I’m proud of, because not only am I teaching growing minds but I’m spreading kindness and joy in my groups as well.

Ever since I’ve lost a colleague to cancer a few years ago, my true intention is to make a difference. Her spirit reminds me to play with the kids, to laugh deep belly laughs and to make school a fun place to be for them. I cherish her memory as well as her teaching ideas and have taken her kindness and joy and made it my every day mantra.

My sons Branden and Dylan

Yesterday my son Dylan came for his after work ritual. He stops by every day, either just before his night summer job or for hunting. He was gathering his hunting clothes while I sat quietly in the window watching snowflakes magically scatter outside. It was serene and beautiful, a lovely way to unwind after a busy day at school. Suddenly Dylan ran to me and gave me the biggest hug! He does hug me, for I’m his mother, but this one was different. It not only spoke of love but friendship and appreciation. I value these small moments of connections with my son, as they don’t happen all the time. Life is busy and even though we talk mostly every day, sentiments and hugs are not always included. Now I ask myself, why not? For I love this young man I gave birth to many years ago and he loves me.

My son Dylan and I at his wedding
My son Branden and I

Lastly my youngest son, Branden sent me a Facebook message saying, “ I love you so much.” He doesn’t always convey his feelings either! What a special day of love from my guys! I’m not sure what stars were aligned in the universe or if God gifted me these lil’ moments to carry me though my trials. He always has my back, even when I’m sick. I believe He has the best intentions and deepest love for me. That carries me through anything. I’m blessed beyond measure and I trust He will walk beside me all the way.

As I wrap this up, I challenge you to notice the little things, for they are truly the big most important things. Your child’s little hug or smile, a friend’s message, a colleague’s act of kindness….whatever it is, relish in it. Accept the love and then pay it forward.

All My Best,

Mary 💕

I’m thankful I get up every day with open eyes and a loving heart.