Homemade Banana Nut Fruit Bars

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In an effort to start eating less processed foods {even "healthy", organic processed foods}, I went searching for a recipe for homemade Larabars. We LOVE Larabars. BUT. They are expensive and when you need at least 2 to feed the kids, it can add up quickly. I wanted a cost effective way that didn't use 800 ingredients. I came across a few recipes, but really wanted to use what I had on hand so after seeing that I could dry bananas and use those, in addition to dates, I set out to create this recipe.
You'll need to dry your bananas first. I'm not sure how store bought dried bananas would work because these need to be somewhat sticky and help hold the bar together. 
Set your oven to 170 degrees {that's as low as mine goes}. Cut your bananas into slices lengthwise and place on a drying rack. 

Place drying rack on top of a cookie sheet to catch any bits that may fall off during the drying process. Place in the oven and allow to dry for 8-10 hours. I started my batch at 2pm and turned off the oven at 10:30pm and left the bananas in the oven overnight. They were the perfect consistency in the morning.
Recipe: Homemade Banana Nut Fruit Bars
What You'll Need:
3 bananas (dried first - see above for drying instructions)
1/4 c or approximately 8 small dates (this is the type we use from Costco)
1/2 c sunflower seeds
1/4 c other nuts (almonds, cashews, hickory nuts, peanuts, etc.)
Blend dried bananas and dates in food processor until they form a sticky dough. It should clump into a ball. 
Blend in sunflower seeds and other nuts {we used peanuts this go round} until finely chopped. Turn out onto wax or parchment paper and form into a ball with your hands. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and press the dough into the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate for 1 hour. 
Cut into desired size. 
We used peanuts this time because it's what I had on hand. You could also form these into balls instead of bars. 
Based on the ingredients I used, these bars cost about $.31 a piece. When making 6 bars this saves me almost $1 per bar based on the price of Larabars at our Trader Joe's. Worth it!
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A Love Letter to my Daughter

Dear Sweet P, 

Six. I can't quite comprehend how you are turning 6 because I can still vividly remember you staring up at me the moment they placed you in my arms after you were born. You were so alert. And your eyes were blue. 

When we first found out we were pregnant with you, I was scared. Scratch that. I was terrified. We'd only been married for 2 months and had no idea what we were doing. But God knew exactly what He was doing and I've never been able to imagine what life would have been like had it not happened that way. 

At 20 weeks we found out you were a girl. We were overjoyed, but that terrified feeling I'd had when we found out we were having a baby came back. All the mistakes and not so great choices I've made in my life, pains I've endured and pain I've caused came flooding over me and I desperately didn't want you to be like me. So from the beginning, I've fought to make sure you feel valued, and loved, and important. A few months ago you came to me and asked, "Mom, what does ugly mean?" I did my best to explain and then said that sometimes people call other people ugly. You looked at me with all the innocence in the world and said, "That's terrible." And it is.  I suppose many would say I've sheltered you from certain things as well, but I'm okay with that. I'm okay with you not learning the definition of ugly until you were almost 6. My hope is that you see the beauty in everyone and everything - looking deeper than the surface because the surface so often hides what's underneath (good or bad). 

Your birth wasn't easy. In fact, of the three of you, yours was the toughest. I pushed for 3.5 hours and I wasn't even aware of the passing of time anymore. Just that I needed to be DONE pushing and holding my baby. You were quite content to stay put, but with a little help from suction and a whole lot of pushing from me, you burst into the world. And our lives were changed. Life is so much better with you in it.
You teach me more and more as each year goes by. I was worried about having another baby because I didn't want our relationship to change, but God eased my worries and Sprout was born when you were 2 and half. You weren't too sure about him at first, but your love for him is fierce. We see it any time he gets a consequence you don't think is fair. Or when you're worried about him getting hurt. Or teaching him something new. He's hit the age where he wants to do everything you do. Sometimes you like that. And sometimes you want to be left alone. 
I pray you always know how loved you are. That if you ever start to doubt yourself or your ability to do anything, that you remember that anything is possible with God. That you never fear failure. Or success for that matter. And that when things get tough, you'll pray about it and keep going. I pray that you'll have the confidence to try new things, even if you're scared. That you'll grow up seeing the world through God's eyes. That you'll see that everyone matters, no matter their skin color or background or beauty. They all matter. And you do, too, You matter. Never forget that. Even when someone tells you you don't. Because you do. Your story matters, too. Be kind. Even when others aren't. This will be one of the hardest things to do - to turn the other cheek when someone wrongs you.
I pray you always love Jesus. That when you fail or get your heartbroken or find yourself in a lonely place, that you'll remember that you're never alone. Of course I wish you didn't have to fail or get your heartbroken or find yourself in a lonely place, but sadly, for most people, it's inevitable. I also hope that when you succeed, find true love or find yourself surrounded by those who love you, that you'll remember that you're never alone. 

My heart feels both heavy and light as you turn 6. Heavy because I cannot believe so many years have passed and that you aren't a baby anymore. Light because I can't wait to see all that God has in store for you, for us in the next year. I feel like just yesterday I held you for the first time, but I also feel like I've known you forever.The past year has been amazing for us as mother and daughter, and I couldn't be more proud of the little lady you are becoming. 
As a toddler, you were so cautious. But over the past several months I've watched you throw caution to the wind and replace it with a carefree spirit for adventure. My first born. My only girl. I have all the memories from the moment you were born stored inside me, but I feel like I blinked and we were here. I'm afraid if I close my eyes the next 6 years will have passed when I open them. 

You blow me away every day with your creativity. With your wit. With your love for nature. With your strength. With your love for Jesus. I have so many wishes and hopes for you, but I know that as you grow you'll pave your own way. And as you grow, may you always feel worthy. Because you are. May you always be brave. Because you are. May you always feel loved. Because you are. 

I love you, Sweet P. 


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Comparison is a Thief.

"Comparison is the thief of JOY." ~Theodore Roosevelt

And yet, I do it. Every day. 

Even though I know it gets me nowhere. NO. WHERE. Well, it gets me somewhere. Just not where I want to be. 

And I don't just do it with material things. Like comparing my house with a bigger one. I compare my mothering with other mothers. My acts of service with others' acts of service. My child with another child. I compare my entire day with a snapshot I see of another mom's day on Instagram. It's never-ending. 

And it robs me of my Joy. My daily successes. My favorite bits of the day. The tiny moments of life meant just for me. It comes silently and rips them from my grip until all I see are my failures. My not so great bits of the day. And a cloud settles over me. It takes my joy and leaves me riddled with guilt and self-pity and "if I'd only." 

But. I have found that comparison sneaks in ONLY when I am seeking the approval of man rather than God. Galatians 1:10 says, "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." How can I serve Christ if I'm constantly comparing my life with someone else's? 

I can't. 

If I continue to compare myself with others, I'll never measure up. Because there's no end to comparison. It goes on and on and on until it completely sucks the joy right out of life. Until there is nothing left, but envy and anxiety and dissatisfaction and resentment.

So I have a choice. I can choose to compare (which is basically like telling God, "hey! This life you gave me? Yeah, it's not good enough so....") and continue to feel empty with each comparison I make. Or I can choose to seek the approval of God and focus on what He wants for me. 

I choose the latter and the happiness and contentment that comes with it. Is it gonna go perfectly? Nope. Probably not. But I'm sure gonna try. 

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Return of the Blog

How do you start a blog post after a 2 year hiatus? I've been wondering that for the past month after I decided it was time to return to blogging. And the only conclusion I've come to is to start off with what's gone on since I stopped blogging in 2013.
Here are a few highlights from the past 2 years:
  • Sweet P turned 4, then 5 and in two weeks she'll be 6. WHAT?!#^!@ How did this happen?
  • Sprout turned 2, then 3 and provides constant comic relief for our family.
  • Bud (our 2nd sweet baby boy) joined our family in July of 2014 and we are now a family of 5!
  • We started homeschooling at the elementary level - Sweet P will finish our Kindergarten curriculum in a few weeks and she learned to read last fall!
  • Sweet P has tried cheerleading, basketball, soccer, choir, art classes, dance classes, gymnastics and continues to love AWANA.
  • Sprout started soccer two weeks ago and is now the coach of the green team (according to him).
  • Bud army crawls, rolls over and sits up. He's super close to full blown crawling, but I'm not rushing him.
  • TK & Uncle EZ moved to Iowa last summer! (yay!)
  • Auntie Rosita didn't move to Iowa, but she did become an Ambassador for Noonday Collection & we are SO proud of all she has done with that company.
  • Gammie, Nana & Papa Ray Ray still live in their respective areas, although we're slowly (and hopefully but surely) convincing Gammie to move to Iowa.
Much of our life continues to be the same or similar to what it was 2 years ago despite all the changes that have occurred! I'm not exactly sure what the blog will look like from here on out. Most likely a little bit of writing, a little bit of recipes and a little bit of crafty kid projects. I also plan to chronicle our homeschooling journey for the next year to share what we do with friends & family. 

For a long time I didn't miss blogging. It'd gotten to the point where I wasn't doing it for me and it wasn't fun for me anymore. It took too much time and felt very forced at times. My blog had moved from a space for me to write to something else and I'm not sure I liked that something else. So why did I return to blogging? Well, I told the Farmer a few weeks ago that I've felt like I've been in survival mode for the past 2 years and have put a lot of my own interests on the back burner to care for our home & our children. Now that we've gotten to a point where 2/3 of our children are a bit more self-sufficient, I've decided to return to a few hobbies and those include writing and crafting. So here I am. It's been a slow process of getting started again and while this feels awkward and silly, ya gotta start somewhere. So here we go.

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