HOMEMADE PUMPKIN SPICE GRANOLA (gluten and sugar free)

I needed to use up some pumpkin, so I went into my kitchen and threw a bunch of stuff into a bowl. I was pleased when it turned out to be my favorite I've made so far. I've found that my granola is a little different each time I make it, based on what I have on hand at the time. So don't be afraid to omit or add your own stuff. I still may tweak the ingredients a bit in the future, such as adding a bit less sweetener. Honey is expensive, yo! And I've made granola before with less honey and it was still delicious. 

Also note, I like to make a LOT of granola at once and then eat it for several weeks. So you may want to half this recipe the first time and see how you like it. We'll eat it with apples and peanut butter (as pictured), or thrown in with fruit and yogurt (try adding canned pumpkin too!), or eat it like cereal with almond milk and blueberries (Andrew's favorite). Last night, I even used it when I ran out of coconut flakes to roll my chicken in...it wasn't bad. :)


In a large bowl combine dry ingredients:
  • 5 C gluten free oats 
  • 2 C almonds chopped in processor
  • 1 1/4 C unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 C whole sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 C flax (I used ground, but whole seeds should work)
  • 1/4 C chia seeds
  • 3/4 tsp of sea salt
  • 1.5 T pumpkin pie spice 
In a separate, smaller bowl whisk together:
  • 3/4 C honey
  • 1/4 C melted coconut oil
  • about 1/3 C pumpkin
  • 3 T coconut sugar (I don't think I'll do this next time)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 drop of cinnamon essential oil
Stir in the wet ingredients until the dry ones are well coated. Spread mixture onto a cookie sheet with parchment paper (this recipe filled 3 pans). Bake at 250 for about an hour...but be sure to stir every 10-15 minutes! Store in airtight container after it cools. 

Let me know how yours turns out! :)



Okay. Here is the second half of my shpeal about introverts. You can find the first half HERE

Let me begin this post by reemphasizing that being an introvert is not a bad thing, or a synonym for "shy" or "anti-social." It is an inherently different way of interacting with others. Did you know that an introvert's brain is actually wired differently than an extrovert's? Their thought processes travel different paths!

Google it. I think it's amazing.

Now, knowing what we know about introverts, here are some tips for interacting positively with the introverts in your life. 

I would prefer to give a prepared speech in front of a thousand people, rather than engage in "small talk" with a casual acquaintance. My worst NIGHTMARE is a social engagement where guests are given nothing more than food and time to mingle and chat. Especially if the atmosphere is noisy (people won't be able to hear me anyway). I'm weak just thinking about it.

I've needed to take way too many vacation days to recover from my "vacation" days this year.

The difference between a public speech and "small talk" is the task's structure (or lack thereof). Introverts are highly task oriented, so public speaking can actually be a high for me. I don't mind teaching classes, speaking in church, or leading a group with purpose. But I need time to prepare my thoughts! Making stuff up on the fly is stressful for my careful, perfectionist self. 

Let me give you some advice for those seeking to entertain introverts on a date, party, or weekend stay: Plan an activity with purpose. Give your guests something to DO. Pull out a board game, set up a volleyball net, institute a project...anything to help them relax, focus, and generate conversation beyond burdensome social pleasantries. But don't be surprised if you bring up a topic they're especially passionate about...and they talk your ear off!

Sincerity is soooo important. I don't want to have to spend my precious energy discussing mundane, surface-level topics when as an introvert, I crave authentic relationships. I want to reeeally get to know someone and talk about things that mean something. Life stories. Real problems. Exciting ideas. Not 'how my day was' with people who don't care. 

I think Laurie A. Helgoe explains it well when she says:
“Let's clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.”
I prefer one-on-one interaction over a large group any day. Large groups make it difficult to connect with individuals on a personal level. 

I think sometimes this is a good policy & sometimes you may not see the true  depth of a person.

Because I'm all about sincerity, my B.S. radar is especially receptive. If I sense someone acting phony or uninterested, I will immediately back off to guard my inner self and conserve energy for someone who is as invested as I am. I need validation that I'm not wasting my strength! 

A good friend

This is why introverts will often have a few, lastingly loyal friendships as opposed to an extrovert's large crowd of pals.We pour masses of energy into them and as such, are fiercely devoted. It takes a lot before I let someone in on my silly, free-spirited side. 

Absolutely true--I don't make friends easily, but the few I have I tend to keep.

Introverts rework every simple conversation in their mind to exhaustion. Because of this, be especially careful of critical remarks. One impatient tone, one biting comment on social media, one angry letter, will not be so easily erased by compliments and smiles the next day. Introverts will internalize them deeply...and they don't forget. Even if they truly forgive, they may remain wary--requiring time to build trust and really open themselves up to that person again.

Similarly, if you are rolling your eyes and gossiping about someone else, I will immediately put up a wall to protect myself. Why wouldn't I assume you do the same about me when I'm gone? Sure, nobody likes to be gossiped about.  But I believe introverts are even more sensitive to this, because their constant internal dialogue makes them especially hard on themselves. 

If corrections do need to be made, do so privately. Don't reprimand in front of a group, as this will be humiliating to an introvert's perfectionism. They hold very high expectations for themselves.

I love to be social...but I absolutely have to be mentally prepared for it. I'm aware that this sounds absurd to those who are naturally outgoing. But it's true. Remember, conversation--especially small talk--is going to leech me of important energy. If I'm low on energy and I haven't prepped for it (like an athlete does for a big game), I'll probably run for cover from that neighbor at the grocery store (like, literally dodge out of an aisle before I'm seen), carefully screen my phone calls even from closest friends (I do so adore the inventor of texting), and fend off unexpected invitations for social engagements ("Uhhh...sorry. I have to do stuff...at my house...alone.") I need to beef up my store of social juices beforehand. I know of extroverts who go to similar lengths just to avoid being alone with their thoughts!

I actually do like to be out around other people, but not to socialize with people I don't know. I prefer to hang in my little group and people watch.

And for the record. If one more person shoves a phone in my face without warning and demands that I say "hello" to someone on the other end, I might throw something. Introverts don't perform their best 'on the spot.' 

Conversations can be frustrating. Extroverts seem to be overly anxious to fill the slightest bit of empty space with noise. The silence makes them feel awkward and nervous, so they take the three seconds I needed to carefully find the right word, as a request to save the day! Then by the time there is another pause in the conversation, that interesting thought I had to contribute isn't even relevant anymore.
“While the introvert is reflecting on the question (thinking first), the extrovert takes this as an invitation to fill the void (talking first). As long as the introvert doesn't interrupt, the extrovert continues to fill the interpersonal space with talk. But as long as the extrovert talks, the introvert can’t think and stays mute. Mute means the invitation is still open, and continued talk assures that the introvert remains mute. By the time the extrovert pauses to ask, the introvert’s head is pounding and he or she just wants to get out so she can think. The extrovert just assumes the introvert had nothing to say, and moves on.”
Obviously, this is not the case with every conversation. But it has happened to me enough times that I can definitely relate. Trying to keep up the conversational pace of an extrovert is exhausting. 

Let me illustrate this with an example of a Sunday school class. The teacher poses a question. After 0.2 seconds, the silence makes the teacher antsy and immediately jumps in with their own answer. This cycle repeats itself through the entire lesson, unless a quick-thinking, fast-talking, extrovert can raise their hand first. Afterwhich, the teacher promptly moves on to the next topic.

Silence does not always mean a lack of things to say. The students were just beginning to process the question, make meaningful connections, and organize their words. Count a good 5-10 seconds next time before diving in, and give those poor introverts some solid THINK TIME! Then, after all the extroverts have been called on to share, a teacher's prodding as simple as, "Great! Anyone else have a thought?" a few times, will merit a surprising number of insights from the introverts quietly waiting their turn. I bet you'll be amazed by all they had to say after all.  

Introvert - Introvert penguin: Wait for the right time to say something...get interrupted

An introvert's mind is constantly swirling with thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Because of this, people often misconstrue my "thinking face" as being depressed or judgmental. Just know that I am probably only listening, daydreaming, reflecting, recharging, observing, remembering, waiting until you're done speaking, solving a problem, or making plans instead. Or I may be simply taking immense pleasure in the scene around me...without having to frolic around being the life of the party.

Quotes That Will Inspire You To Be A Fearless Writer #typography #fonts

Introverts are gifted at self soothing. They won't burden you with their problems unless you have proven yourself to be sincerely loyal. If you're certain I'm upset about something, just ask. Approaching me sincerely and without accusation will probably merit a truthful response. But don't come to inform me of how I must be feeling by putting words in my mouth. You'll probably be wrong, only placing me in an awkward spot.
“...Extroverts often incorrectly assume that introverts are suffering. Introverts internalize problems; we like to take things inside and work on them there. Extroverts prefer to externalize and deal with problems interactively. Because of this difference, introverts may seem psychologically burdened, while extroverts spread the burden around and seem healthier—from an extroverted standpoint. But note that I said introverts like to take problems inside. Sure, an introvert can overdo it, but so can the extrovert who feels compelled to express every unresolved thought or emotion."

Introverts have so many strengths. Intuitive, creative, detail conscious, loyal, sincere, focused, strong empathizers, and self-sufficient to name a few. Be grateful for them and refrain from making comments about "growing out of it" or needing to "come out your shell." These only further the misconception that introversion is undesirable and weird, and hurts self esteem.  Yes, we tend to be quiet. But why do you have to keep bringing it up? Introverts need a moment to observe and process before jumping into a situation...and that's okay! Just give some personal space, advance notice, time to think it out, and don't underestimate what those quiet, introverted folks are capable of. 

Story of my life.

Let me end with one of the most meaningful compliments of my life. I once overheard a favorite college professor say of me to my Bishop: 
"She's quiet...but there's a world of depth in her."

This meant a great deal to me because it was one of the few times I felt validated for who I am as an introvert, rather than made to feel guilty...like I'm supposed to change or fix myself. Assume this is true about the introverts in your life, that there is a world of depth in them not visible to the outside eye...and appreciate their need to keep it sacred. 



Growing up, I watched my bubbly, smiley, and outgoing peers with self-loathing. Isn't that the best way to be? I've learned that this is not necessarily the case. Sure, there are times even now, that I resent my "boring" personality. But overall, I have come to accept...and truly appreciate my introversion for providing some of my greatest strengths. Let me explain what an introvert REALLY is, why it's NOT such a bad thing after all, and the best ways to interact with the introverts in your life. 

When describing an introvert, people tend to go straight for the word "shy." Yet, being shy and being introverted are two distinct traits. You can be one and not the other. You can even be shy and extroverted at the same time! 

Shyness has to do with a fear and anxiety of social judgment. Being introverted or extroverted has to do with how one responds to stimulation. Extroverts feed off of people, noise, and action. It makes them feel alive! Introverts, on the other hand, get their energy from time alone or with a few they feel comfortable. Introverts may have a fabulous time at a lively party...but afterward, be completely exhausted. To recover, they require hours of "recharging their batteries" in a low key way. If I were to force myself to be an extrovert all the time, I would seriously drain myself ragged. 

Age and experience have allowed me to overcome much of my shyness. But in my lifelong battle to do so, I constantly ran up against barriers that prevented me from truly becoming the charismatic individual I thought I should be. Learning the difference between my shy qualities and my introverted qualities has helped ease my frustration. Yes, I occasionally may feel "shy" in certain situations. But being introverted is with me every day, everywhere I go, at all times. It is an intrinsic part of who I am. Despite being more confident and comfortable in social situations, my needs to observe, think before I speak, and have occasional alone time will always remain. And they do not make me antisocial, lonely, or unhappy. 

one-two out of every three people are considered introverted on some level on the social spectrum. That is a huge percentage of the population! Yet western society, not only praises and rewards the louder individuals...but guilts the quieter ones into thinking there is something wrong with them. 

Introversion is simply another, inherent way of being and interacting with the world. Not a lesser way of being.

The author Sophia Dembling says:
 "There are a lot of negative labels placed on introverts: socially anxious, don't like people, judgmental (because we sit quietly). Introverts may prefer one-on-one interaction...we might enjoy large parties but want to sit and watch the action from the sidelines. Extroverts may interpret this as not wanting to have fun, but this observation is fun for an introvert."
While sitting quietly is perfectly comfortable to an introvert, their extrovert neighbor may view it as awkward or impolite. Many times I have been shocked by accusations that I wasn't happy or having fun. I've had people offended and even downright rude because they thought I was feeling -- superior? angry? full of self-pity? -- when nothing was further from the truth. I was just "taking it all in" and enjoying myself!

Experiences like this, have taught many introverts that they had better fake it or put on a show to act more gregarious than they actually feel. Many do. Convincingly. But I guarantee you, that when the show is over, they drag their drained souls somewhere to withdraw and recuperate from the undertaking...left feeling that their authentic self is not good enough. However, society needs introverts just as much as they need dynamic sales managers, energetic PR workers, or sparkling TV personalities.

Despite common misconception, quiet folk can be just as effective leaders as their bold, aggressive counterparts. They have skills that allow them to listen carefully, think before they speak, creatively analyze and solve problems, hold focused and purpose-driven conversations, and communicate effectively in writing. Often, there goal is not to be in the limelight. Instead, they exude calm...fostering an environment where all voices are heard and considered...not just the loudest ones. 

Introverts also tend to be prepared and passionate/specialized on topics that interest them. Many valued contributions have come from introverted specialists of their craft through history: Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, Chopin, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, J. K. Rowling, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Sir Isaac Newton just to name a few.

The author Laurie A. Helgoe said: 
"Extroverts are, of course, often incredibly intelligent and creative; there's just a good chance that their best ideas happen while they're in a more reflective, or introverted, mindset."

Don't think I'm dissing on all extroverts. In actuality, they've made up probably ninety percent of my closest friends in life, because they draw out a lightness of heart and spontaneity that I don't naturally exude on my own. Introverts need extrovert's many strengths. To name a few, they keep the conversation flowing easily, they're enthusiastic, and simply put, they're fun! My fun-loving extroverted husband, perfectly balances my inclination to be intense and overly focused on productivity. So see? I love extroverts! 


Occasionally, the inherent differences between me and surrounding extroverts cause misunderstandings and hurt feelings. It is because of this that why I want to share a bit about how to effectively interact with these introverts. Being an experienced introvert myself, I figure I had few insights to put on the table. Though not everyone fits the personality profiles described here 100%, hopefully my thoughts can be helpful.

But this post is getting too long already! So, check back in a few days for the second half of my long winded explanation about introverts. Until then...

My sister modeling her Christmas present 2013
Introverts! Unite! Individually! 


PERSONALIZED PAPER DOLL MAGNETS (with dry-erase speech bubbles!)

I made a set of paper dolls for my little sisters for Christmas...each doll representing a member of the family: Dad, my step mom, the twinners, Andrew and me, Becksterooni, and Miss Aurora. 

They were drawn on heavy duty water color paper, colored in with Prismacolors, and outlined with a thin black permanent marker. In hindsight, I would have used some nice Chartpak markers for the color instead, to avoid so much texture. I was out of town at the time that I drew these, and only had the colored pencils with me. 

Then I drew speech and thought bubbles to go with each doll, laminated everything for durability, and super glued magnets to the backs. Now they can hang on the fridge or a white board.

The speech bubbles are my favorite part. They add an extra interactive element that I think the entire family can enjoy. What's great about them, is that the laminating makes it easy to change what the dolls are saying and thinking with a dry erase marker. 

 Just think of all the possibilities! So many fun ways to apply it. The Mom doll can be telling the children about their chores for the day. Andrew can whisper sweet nothings in my ear. And I can tease my dad about his fashion choices over and over again. 


CINNAMON CRUMBLE MUFFINS (sugar, gluten, dairy free!)

I have been experimenting with this recipe for over a year. Each time got better than before, but it wasn't until this weekend, that along with a few minor changes, I got the idea to add a crumble topping. That made all the difference. What a happy general conference breakfast it made!

I would recommend doubling this recipe. Otherwise, it will only make about a half dozen muffins and believe me...you're going to want to want more than that. 

2/3 C almond flour
2/3 C gluten free brown rice flour (minus 2-3 Tablespoons)
1/3 C gluten free oats
3 T coconut flour
3 eggs at room temperature
1/4 C almond milk (unsweetened)
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C coconut glycerin or yacon syrup or honey
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 packet of stevia
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp netmeg
1 tsp vanilla

I just eyeballed everything, so these measurements are estimates! 
1/8 C gluten free oats
1/8 C unsweetened coconut
1/8 C coconut sugar
1/8 C cold coconut oil
1 T coconut flour
1 T cinnamon 
pinch of stevia
pinch of sea salt

Add cupcakes liners to muffin pan. Fill each liner 3/4 with batter. Cover each muffin with desired amount of crumble topping. Bake in preheated oven of 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. 

I like to cut it in half warm and smother both pieces with ghee. 



{This is a favorite post from about 4 years ago. Having just finished up parent teacher conferences, it's been on my mind a lot. Most parents are fabulous. But sometimes, I wish some would take to heart more seriously what I have to say at these meetings!}

I realize I don't know my students like their parents do, but I do think that spending six hours a day with the little squirts counts for something. And I really do have their best interest at heart. 

Here are a few things I wish I could tell all parents...from the desk of Mrs. Ashmore.

1. READ, READ, READ and READ SOME MORE with your childTake them to libraries, talk excitedly about books, read them your favorite books, use books and reading times as rewards, have them read books to you...even have them write their own books. I can't tell you what a difference it makes on their academic performance. Parents always want me to give them a secret magical formula for success. And this is it. It is so simple, and yet has an insanely huge impact.

2. Throw the video games away. Every year, the kids with the worst ADHD....the ones with violent tendencies when things aren't going their way...the ones who drive me absolutely bonkers....are the ones who talk incessantly of video games. This may sound a bit dramatic...but video games will rot your child's brain.

3. Your kids are so capable. It's amazing what they can accomplish with some responsibility, direction, and trust. Stop doing everything for them and give them a chance to step up.

4. Talk to your child. This is the single most effective way to build their vocabularies. Low numbers of vocabulary words in a child's knowledge base will greatly inhibit their reading acquisition. Those entering school with lower vocabularies will almost never catch up to their peers. Talking with your children will give them practice with language, grammar, and interacting with others...all necessary skills. And it just makes them feel good to have you listen. =)

5. Missing school IS a big deal. Those two days that your child was absent in order to babysit her younger siblings, go snowboarding, or simply sleep in, she missed our lessons on nouns, breaking syllables, using guide words in a dictionary, explanation of the weekly vocabulary words, the spelling list phonics pattern, and multiplying by sevens facts. The "makeup work" I send home will never compare in quality to what they missed, and I simply do not have the time to re-teach those entire lessons just for your child! Plus, everything they learn tends to build on the previous lessons. The hole in their education stemming from those two days can haunt them for years.

6. Birthday invitations. I know it's convenient for you just to send them to school with your child to pass out to their friends...but you don't see the look on the kid's faces who aren't invited. It crushes their little hearts...and mine. Invite everyone, or send them in the mail.

7. Don't be a helicopter parent. Hovering protectively nearby to swoop in and save your child from consequence or discomfort, robs them of learning any lessons from those oh-so-important learning experiences (See # 3 above). Let me also mention, this type of parenting creates wussy crybabies. And they have to learn real fast that crying does not prompt me to swoop in and fix every little situation for them like would happen at home.

8. I know everything about you by the end of the school year...whether I want to or not. I know your level of education, the state of your marriage, your economic status, your religion, your values, your manners, whether you like me or not, your parenting skills, your top priorities, and even occasionally, your sex life. Kid's talk. Watch what you say.

9. Your child may be the center of your universe, but I have to share mine with 25 others. I saw this statement as part of a list found in the Reader's Digest a year or so ago. I love it. LOVE. IT. Often times, parents don't understand that I am working myself to the bone for their child...but I am spread rather thin.There is only so much I can do as a single person. Be nice to and understanding with your child's teacher!

10. I really do know what I'm talking about. I may look young, but I am a trained professional. I spent 6+ years learning how to educate your child, and I have 6 additional years of practical experience in this art. Don't discount my ideas because I can't possibly know what's best for your child. You may disagree. But do so politely, please.

11. Don't label your child in front of them. I have had so many parents inform me, with their child standing right there: "Suzy is so smart in math but will need a lot of help with reading." or "Steven is shy, so he may struggle making friends." "Billy is smart, he's just really lazy." People! Do you not understand what your words are doing?? Children will, rise up to meet your expectations. If you tell them they are a poor reader, shy, or lazy...they will become and always be, a poor reader, shy, or lazy. Those stereotypes are nearly impossible to break through.

12. I really do care about your kid. A lot. Please don't assume that I am "out to get him" if I need to share some academic or behavioral struggles with you. We are on the same team.


Holy Hannah CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES {sugar and grain free} updated

Yes, I still eat like a crazy person: no sugar, wheat, dairy, or soy products. I did take a break over the holidays, and enjoyed it...but definitely paid the price in aches and pains and other health issues. Now I'm back on track and trying to get my body to settle down and feel like it did back in November. 

Eating this way is not as difficult as it was in the beginning. I've found many great things to eat to keep from feeling deprived. These cookies were one of my favorite discoveries. 

A year ago, desperate for alternatives to carrot sticks and broccoli, I gathered a collection of cookie recipes from the Internet. Experimenting with ingredient combinations, I sought for something that might work for limited little me. The process yielded many failures: Cookies Andrew wouldn't touch and I nibbled at only to justify the cost of  the ingredients...cookies that made me gag and went straight to the trash with no hope of a future...

So, when I eventually pulled these out of the oven and tasted them for the first time, words welled up from deep within my sugar-impoverished soul: "Holy Hannah! These are delicious!" 

I very nearly cried. 

And my exclamation stuck. Several batches later, as I was jotting down the final recipe in my notebook of Candida-diet friendly foods, I labeled it in bold, joy-filled script: "Holy Hannah Chocolate Chip Cookies!"

These cookies, ladies and gentleman, are not just for health nuts. Soft, chewy, and full of flavor, they are enjoyed by little sisters, junk food lovin' husbands and picky brother-in-laws to boot.

Holy Hannah Chocolate Chip Cookies!
  • 1 1/2 C almond flour
  • 1/2 C GF brown rice flour
  • 1/2 C oats (I use gluten free)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground sea salt
  • 1/2 C melted coconut oil (I prefer slightly less)
  • 1/3 C coconut glycerin or Yacon syrup
  • dark chocolate or carob chips to taste
Drop into large mounds on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees. Yields 1 dozen. 

{UPDATE: I found an alternative that is just as tasty. Rather than chocolate chips, I add about a tablespoon of cinnamon with a drop or two of cinnamon essential oil. They taste just like snickerdoodles!}

{UPDATE II: Try adding 1/8-1/4 cup of applesauce (no sugar added) if the cookies aren't holding together very well. I think they're much better this way.}
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