Mama G’s Apple Pie

Sharing my apple pie recipe again in case anyone is prepping for Thanksgiving tomorrow…

Served With Love (in Colorado)

Fall coming around always makes me excited for several reasons:  Cute layered outfits, boots, Chiefs football, Buffs football, and baking anything and everything.  This year we had another thing to be excited about: apples.IMG_6976

We planted an apple tree a couple of years ago and this was the first year I was supposed to leave a few of the flowers so fruit could actually grow.  The lovely folks at my favorite garden center told me to pick 100% the flowers the first spring, 75% the second spring, 50% the third and so on.  The reason for this is so that the tree can use its energy to put down solid roots instead of growing fruit.  Even after picking 75% of the flowers off this year we had gobs of apples!  This means that I have been able to work on my apple pie recipe…

IMG_3876I like a classic…

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Gift Idea for Kids Age 3-8: Adventures Box and The Adventures of Bubby and Didi!

This year I am trying my hardest to get my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. Ladybug’s costume didn’t get to us on time for Halloween so I learned my lesson there and don’t want it to happen again! I’m sharing this gift idea early in case you have a 3-8 year-old on your list and are trying to get your shopping done early too.

If you’ve followed this blog for a bit you know I published The Adventures of Bubby and Didi in 2020. The book is all about two siblings finding fun ways to play together. They use their “Adventure Box” filled with odds and ends to go on all sorts of adventures with their dog, Charlie, who enjoys the fun too! I wrote this book to use it the way I previously used an episode of “Daniel Tiger”… When my kids were arguing or being picky at the table, I could always find an episode of “Daniel Tiger” with the message they needed to hear. I chose their lesson of the day and the lecture came from someone other than me. So when I hear the “bored” word or when my kids are starting to bicker, I can get this book out, read it to them, and then tell them to go have some fun. It is a story that gives them ideas for how to find a fun way to play. And I always loves seeing what they come up with!

The book makes a great gift for those 3 to 8 years of age. But you can pump the gift up a little more by including a great start to an Adventure Box!

A cardboard box and fun items to go along with the book would make a great gift for a little one in your life!

Some of my kids’ favorite Adventure Box items are below:

Capes and masks that can be decorated. Available on Amazon.
Crayon Twistables so they can decorate other items. The Twistables feel special compared to the crayons they use most of the time at school. Available on Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart or any office store.

Small notebook so they can keep track of their adventure ideas. Available on Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart or any office store.
Empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls. In our house, they get turned into telescopes, binoculars, food for stuffed animals, etc, etc.

Inexpensive ball of yarn or twine. You may have to help them cut it but they like having access to their own yarn that they can use when and how they want to.
Animal masks and other dress up items likes old halloween costumes. These masks are available on Amazon.

Over the last year I’ve put together a few of these Adventure Box starters to give away to individuals who helped me with the book and the kiddos always love them!

Let the fun begin!

I hope this idea can help you get your Christmas shopping done a little early! Remember, if you wind up buying a copy of the book, authors receive a higher percentage of the purchase when it is bought through the publisher and not a third party like Amazon or Barnes and Noble. If you can buy directly from Archway Publishing, I would appreciate it very much! Remember to select “USPS Regular Mail” for free shipping.

Happy shopping!

From the garden: Blackberry Peach Cobbler

After a bit of a summer sabbatical, I am happy to be sharing a recipe that we have loved during this transition from summer to back-to-school and fall.  My blackberry bushes are currently weighed down by more blackberries than I know what to do with.  I love watching people walk down the sidewalk next to my bushes and sample a berry.  That’s my favorite time to eat them too: warm from the sun and fresh off the vine.  It is also Palisade peach season in Colorado which means you see peach stands all over the place.  The dairy that delivers our milk each week (Longmont Dairy) will also deliver a box of fresh Palisade peaches.  I love opening up the milk cooler to a giant box of peaches and my Ladybug will eat a whole peach any time she can get her hands on one.

The finished product. Golden brown on top. Fruit bubbly and cooked through.

We’ve had blackberry-wine sauce over steak, fresh blackberries on yogurt, blackberry compote on ice cream and many other recipes this summer to use up the pound of berries we have been picking each day.  But my favorite way to use blackberries in a recipe will always be cobbler.  I can still remember as a little kid going to a restaurant (I believe it was called Fitz’s in East Cape Girardeau, IL) with my mom, maternal grandmother, maternal great grandmother and other relatives.  We all inhaled the delicious blackberry cobbler and then smiled at each other with purple stained teeth.

I like a cobbler that is heavy on fruit, not on breading and has a crispy top to provide a good texture difference to the cooked through fruit.  Blackberry cobbler is fantastic on its own but my twist of adding peaches I think balances out some of the tart blackberry flavor with the natural sweetness of the peach.  This recipe goes together easily and is great to make ahead and then warm for a crowd.  I love serving it with a little good vanilla ice cream on the side to add some creaminess.

Recipe:

Filling:

  • 6 cups blackberries
  • 5 peaches, peeled and diced into nickel-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Topping:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons cold butter cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup hot warm

Sprinkle on top:

  • 2 Tablespoons raw sugar
I add raw sugar to the tops of muffins and other baked goods. It gives a nice little crunch to the top that makes a boxed muffin mix taste like made from scratch.

Directions:

  1. Pour yourself a glass of red wine and put Johnnyswim on Spotify
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  3. Combine all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat the fruit evenly with the sugar and other ingredients
  4. Pour filling into a 2 quart baking dish
  5. Bake for 10 minutes
  6. While the filling is baking, combine all of the topping ingredients (except the water) until the butter is smashed in with the other ingredients
About a 50/50 mix of blackberries and peaches is what you are going for.

Most baking recipes will call this “resembling a course meal.”  You can accomplish this with a pastry blender tool, a fork, or even your fingertips.

  1. Stir in the water until combined
  2. Remove the filling from the oven and spoon the topping over them.  You want to have spots with some filling poking through.
  3. Sprinkle the topping with the raw sugar.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes more.  The topping should be golden.
  5. Let cool for 5 minutes then spoon cobbler into a bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
If you want more breading for your cobbler, just double the topping ingredients.

You can also bake this ahead of time and warm prior to serving in a 200 degree oven.

I hope this warms your soul as much as it does mine!

Happy cooking!

New Page: Favorite Things

You will now see a new section on the header menu of my blog now: Favorite Things. I will be adding different items I find for my kitchen, my kids, or myself that are high quality, work great, and worth sharing. I also put a list of my favorite follows and podcasts in case those are helpful as well. I know I love receiving these recommendations from friends instead of just trying to search for things on my own.

What I am working on for Served With Love in Colorado:

  • Chicken piccata recipe to share
  • Carnitas tacos recipe to share
  • Full tour and information on our Colorado Teardrop trailer (I’ve named her Spark and love her so much!)
  • My 5 favorite recipes for summer
Carnitas tacos recipe coming soon!

What I am excited about:

  • Hopefully being able to do some readings and promotion of The Adventures of Bubby and Didi now that things with COVID are improving
  • All our camping trips this summer, including a big one in June to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
  • Having Bear and Ladybug with me on Fridays this summer. I’m off on Fridays and will only send them to their summer program Monday through Thursday so we can hike and go to the zoo, aquarium and other fun places.
  • My garden. I cannot wait to get more plants in the ground!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

NATIONAL SIBLINGS DAY READING AND GIVEAWAY TODAY

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Reading and Giveaway

TODAY, Saturday, April 10, 2021, is National Siblings Day! To celebrate the special relationship between brothers and sisters, I will be doing a live reading of The Adventures of Bubby and Didi on Instagram Live today, 4/10 at 6:30 PM MST. AND, I’ll be giving away one copy of the book to a family who joins the event live.

Here’s how to join:

  1. Follow @bubbyanddidi on Instagram
  2. Get the kids in their pajamas
  3. Join the event live on Instagram at 6:30 PM MST/7:30 PM CST

The real life characters from the book (including Charlie) will most likely make an appearance too!

My brother and me in Joshua Tree National Park.

We look forward to celebrating National Siblings Day with anyone who can join us!

Press: The Adventures of Bubby and Didi on the news!

As many of you know, I am a clinical genetic counselor by day, not a trained writer and a definite newbie to the world of publishing. Writing, publishing, and marketing a children’s book have been skills that I have had to develop as I’ve gone through this process. Luckily, I have some friends who have some these skills who I can learn from! One such friend has been extremely helpful with marketing and helping me to get my book out into the world. Creating and sending out “Adventure Boxes” was this friend’s idea.

The kids wrote the “Adventure Box” for me to make it look like the box in the book.

In the fall of 2020, I sent “Adventure Boxes” with my book, masks, capes, a journal, and other fun items to a few individuals. I knew some of these individuals from various connections and some are public figures I hoped to connect with. Along with the items, I sent a note asking the individual if they would be willing to share information about my book with their followers and friends on social media. One of those boxes went to Corey Rose, from 9News in Denver. She has two young children who are close in age just like the characters in the book. She also does a parenting/family segment on 9News called “It Takes A Village” and has a group on facebook with the same name.

Masks, capes, and all sorts of fun goodies to help kids start their adventures.

With her interests and family, I was thinking she might be interested in the book but my box went out to her while she was on maternity leave. After months of not hearing anything from many of the people I sent boxes to, I was a bit discouraged. Then, out of the blue, Corey sends me a message on Instagram and asked if she could mention the book as part of a segment she was doing. She said some very nice things about the book and asked questions so she could share all the details.

Here is the segment that ran on Mile High Mornings on Thursday, April 8th, 2021.

https://www.9news.com/video/news/local/mile-high-mornings/it-takes-a-village-women-entrepreneurs-find-ways-to-entertain-while-educating/73-dfca7026-c214-488f-8ff9-12e6fd943cb2

Corey Rose from 9News on Mile High Mornings

It was definitely an honor to be listed with some other women entrepreneurs!

The other women mentioned in the story are producing some really fantastic products so please check them out.

Lana’s Shop: Packadoo Alphabet Cards for Kids and many other beautiful products.

Compact Play: Dough-on-the-Go and other play dough kits that are super cute.

I saved the Instagram stories that Corey did about the book on the @bubbyanddidi Instagram highlights. It was very fun to see the book talked about in such a public forum and I hope this news story will help it to get in front of (and purchased by) more people!

Fingers crossed!

Someone else’s great idea: Sheet-Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken

I know that all the world is crazed for The Lazy Genius Collective’s Change-Your-Life-Chicken right now, which is absolutely fabulous, but the chicken dish we’ve been making over and over again in our house this winter is Taste of Home’s Sheet-Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken.

This is an easy meal to throw together on a foil-covered pan which makes it perfect for a work-night dinner…

…or on a night when you need to do something else while dinner cooks. Recently I realized that the laundry had gotten completely out of control. As many parents have experienced in 2020, it is just about impossible to do all the things all the time. Adding teacher to my list of different roles meant that laundry just didn’t make the cut one week. Or more specifically, my least favorite part of the laundry: folding it and putting it away.

It was a serious pile of laundry…

So one night, I got this dinner in the oven, poured a glass of wine, put a show on for the kids, and dumped all of the laundry in the middle of the living room for us to all fold together. We paused the show to take “put away” breaks and we all took care of our own laundry. By the time the meal was done cooking, the pile was gone and I was feeling much better. Now, was everything folded and put away exactly the way I would have done? Absolutely not. Were the drawers and closets organized the way I would have loved them to be? Again, absolutely not. But the anxiety-producing pile of laundry was gone and that was what I needed that night.

My kids and husband LOVE this dinner! I usually just throw the pan in the middle of the table and serve it with a loaf of sourdough made previously (or easily bought). We all wind up breaking off bread and dipping it in the lemony sauce on the pan.

Hopefully this recipe can help you put an easy meal on the table sometime soon!

Happy cooking!

Kid Idea: Passion Projects

During the 2020 spring semester, Bear’s kindergarten teacher had him do what she called a “Passion Project” to allow him to go a little deeper with a subject and stretch himself. He took several weeks to research a subject of his choosing and then he presented his project to his teacher and another little boy who had done a project as well. It was great to see him excited about something he was doing for school (the pile of completed worksheets were not doing it for him) and he was very proud of what he had put together. He researched sharks and left his shark poster up in his room for months.

The shark poster was up in Bear’s room for months and gained some stickers and other marks along the way.

Fast forward to the end of the fall semester 2020 and both my kids were needing something more than worksheets to finish the rest of the school year. And let’s be honest, I needed something to take up their time while I was trying to work from home. We decided they could each do a Passion Project of their choosing and present to their grandparents and family via FaceTime and Zoom prior to Christmas. It worked out really well for our family so I thought I would share what we had them do in case anyone else is needing something to keep their kids busy and engaged with school.

First, discuss with each child what subject they would like to learn more about. For younger kids you will want to keep it to something simple: a specific type of animal or specific place. Older kids could choose something more broad: a sport or country. Once the topic is chosen gather the items they will need to do their research and present their project.

Items needed for each child:

1. Notebook

2. Pencils

3. Basket to put their research items in

4. Library books and DVDs, magazines, and your own books on the subject

5. White poster board

My kids chose to research ladybugs and bears and you guessed it, Ladybug researched ladybugs and Bear researched bears. Their nicknames really do fit them.

Once they had their subject chosen, I logged into our library website and requested literally every book and nature DVD on ladybugs and bears. I apologize if you needed a book or DVD on ladybugs or bears from the Douglas County Library system in December 2020. They were all at my house but we were putting them to good use. It took a few days for these holds to be ready so while we were waiting I also gathered the books and magazines we already had on these subjects and put them in the baskets we had ready to go. I then sat down with each child and talked to them about what they wanted to learn about their subject. On each page in their notebook, we wrote one question that they wanted to get answered from their research.

Example questions for an animal/insect subject:

  • Where do they live?
  • What do they eat? What eats them?
  • What is their lifecycle?
  • What do they look like? Can they be different colors? Do males and females look the same?
  • Are they endangered? How can we help?
  • Etc.

What to do:

1. Request every book and DVD can find at your local library.

2. Gather the books and magazines you already have on the subject.

3. Sit down with each child and talk about what they want to learn about the subject.

4. Write one question they want to be able to answer on each page in their notebook.

5. Allow them to watch their DVDs and read their books with their notebooks in hand so they can write answers to their questions.

6. Once they are done with their research, go through their notebook with them and help them with spelling and putting sentences together.

7. Have them create a poster with answers to their questions and a picture that represents their subject. They can first do it in pencil and then in marker once spelling has been checked.

We put their “research baskets” in their tent in our loft. They had a cozy space to read and work and all of their materials were in a set and organized spot. For days, these kids read to themselves and each other totally engrossed in the subjects they chose. And I was able to get SO much done!

Once their research was complete, I sat down with each kid and went through their notebooks with them. They could tell me what they learned and I could help them with spelling and putting sentences together. I then gave them a poster board and pencil and told them to draw a picture of their subject and to write their questions and answers around their board.

And, to all the other Type A parents out there, here is the hard part: Don’t help them put together their board beyond giving them those general guidelines and helping with spelling. Would you do it differently? Absolutely! But they will get more of a sense of accomplishment for doing this project if they actually do this project.

Once you spellcheck their work done in pencil, you can have them go over it with marker and add color. If they wanted, they could cut out pictures from magazines and add them as well. For older kids or for a different challenge, they could put together a Powerpoint or Keynote presentation instead of a poster board.

Bear’s bear project
Ladybug’s ladybug project

Once their projects were done, the kids each took turns presenting what they had learned. We taped their poster boards up and took a video of them telling us all about their projects so we could share it with their teachers and any other family members. We later did Facetime/Zoom sessions with grandparents so they could see their work and ask questions as well.

Here is their finished work! They were incredibly proud of their projects and the boards are still proudly displayed in our stairwell.

Bear insisted on running out after his name was called like he sees his favorite athletes do…
This sweet girl can tell you facts about ladybugs for hours…

We’ll be doing Passion Projects like this for other school breaks and if we have to go back to virtual/remote school again for sure.

I hope this idea can be helpful to you!

Kids Gift Ideas: Bubby and Didi’s Suggestions

Since the holiday shopping season is here, I thought I would share with you some gift ideas for kids with a The Adventures of Bubby and Didi theme.

Gifts to inspire creative play do not have to be expensive.
  1. The Adventures of Bubby and Didi by Melissa Gilstrap (of course!)
    • More information about the book is available on a previous post here.
    • I really do think this is a great gift this holiday season since we are all going to be spending more time at home and kids are playing more often with just their siblings.
  2. Adventure Box items
    • The book has a recipe for how kids can make their own Adventure Box but it really is quite simple. All you need are different odds and ends from around the house (toilet paper or paper towel rolls, old t-shirts, old Halloween or dress up outfits, etc).
    • You could also add some fun new items that are inexpensive:
  3. Young, Wild, and Friedman sensory kits
    • My kids have been asking for these kits because a couple of their friends have them. The kits each have a theme (mermaids and reptiles are what my kids asked for). Each kit has three different play doughs and then items that go with the theme so kids can create little scenes. I can see my kids playing at the kitchen counter with these for hours!
  4. Classic Lego Bricks with challenge cards
    • I know Lego kits are all the rage and my son loves these too BUT I’m not the biggest fan. Why? While they are great at teaching kids to follow directions they are not great at encouraging creativity. (Plus, how many kits can you possibly store/display the built items for?) I prefer the occasional kit and then just Classic Lego Bricks that are built, torn apart, and rebuilt again and again. We have large box of Classic Lego Bricks that fits under my son’s bed and we often find him and his sister in the mornings sitting around this box making random things.
    • There are lots of different challenge cards you can find online with different themes. These challenge cards give kids an idea of something to make and then they have to figure out how to create it. During the first round of quarantine, my kids did a 30 day Lego challenge where every day I would send them upstairs with a challenge to do and 30 minutes to an hour later they would come back down with their creations. It is amazing what I can get done in that time!
    • Here are some options for challenge cards. They are easy to find on pinterest (for free) or on Etsy (low cost). You could even create your own as well:

Those are my Bubby and Didi themed suggestions for this year! Some additional ideas from what Beast and I are getting our kids are below.

In our house, we have a gift or two from Santa, stockings, and then gifts from parents. We try really hard not to overdue gifts since we have two sets of grandparents and other people who love on our kids with gifts as well.

Beast and I gift the kids in the following categories:

  • Ornament from Hallmark (series or something special from the year)
    • I write a little note to each kid that stays in their ornament box for them to read each year when they get it out. The note explains why I chose that ornament or why the one in the series is meaningful for this year.
  • Something you want
  • Something you need
  • Something to wear
  • Something to read

This year our Santa gifts and some of our other gifts are camping themed since we ordered a Colorado teardrop camper that will be ready in April. We cannot wait for it to be done!!!

For ornaments, Ladybug gets the Brilliant Butterflies series because she is my little garden helper. Bear does not have a series yet so I’ve been picking an ornament for him each year. He’s received a few superheroes and last year was Patrick Mahomes, which he was very excited about. This year, I had to commemorate the Chiefs Superbowl win.

For something you want, my kids are each getting one of the Young, Wild, and Friedman sensory kits discussed above. I’m guessing we’ll be spending more time inside this year so I was happy to purchase these kits that I know will keep them busy!

For something you need, we went with camping blankets that they picked out from Rumpl with their favorite National Park picture. In the new teardrop they will have their own little bunks so we wanted in invest in some blankets that they like, will withstand the wear and tear of camping and match our decor inside.

For something to wear, we are filling needs this year with a new swimsuit set for Bear (in hopes we can actually go on a planned vacation after Christmas) and new boots for Ladybug. I also got some of their winter essentials from Primary.com as well as some really fun matching pajamas for the whole family (even our dog). We’ll see what Beast thinks about that… Dogs in clothes are not his favorite thing.

That is a summary of what we’ll be gifting the kids this year. I hope that helps spur some ideas for your kids as well.

Mel

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use or purchase myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you choose to purchase an item. In addition, as the author of The Adventures of Bubby and Didi, I also receive compensation for each copy of the book that is purchased.

Exciting news: Children’s Book Published!

More information and an excerpt at www.bubbyanddidi.com.

I’ve hinted before that I had a bit of a side writing project going on and just this week I was able share exactly what that was. I published a children’s book called The Adventures of Bubby and Didi. It is based on my kids, Bear and Ladybug as I call them in this space, and I could not be more excited to have it out in the world!

This book has been written for a couple of years. I have read it to my kids off and on and occasionally sent it to random publishers to see if anyone was interested in it. During the spring quarantine of 2020 I decided to get more serious about getting it published. I used my Fridays off to begin working with Archway Publishing, the self-publishing arm of Simon and Schuster, and six months later the book has been published.

The book is all about how two siblings use a cardboard box full of odds and ends to have creative playtimes at home. I do not think the timing could be any better since we’re all staying at home a bit more these days, siblings are playmates even more than before, and the cooler fall/winter weather is arriving making indoor play more frequent. I really hope this book can be used by families to help inspire creative playtimes for their kids during the craziness of 2020 and beyond.

More details about where you can find the book and the story are below.

Happy reading!

Mel

____________________________________________

The Adventures of Bubby and Didi

Published October 21, 2020 by Archway Publishing

More information and an excerpt at www.bubbyanddidi.com.

Available now at:

*Authors receive a higher percentage of the purchase price when a book is ordered directly from the publisher instead of a retailer like Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Details about the book:

Bubby and Didi are not just brother and sister. They’re best friends, too! Together, they use an “Adventure Box,” filled with odds and ends to help them go on adventures throughout the day——with their dog, Charlie, of course.

One moment, Bubby and Didi are superheroes stopping the bad guy. The next moment, they’re chefs whipping up tasty treats for their biggest fan: Charlie. Their Adventure Box lets them travel to far-off places in their imaginations, like the jungle and even space.

At the end of the day, it’s time to rest, but Bubby and Didi aren’t finished having fun yet. Now, it’s time to read books, and those books give them ideas for tomorrow’s playtime!

Follow @bubbyanddidi on Instagram for updates about the book.