Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ingredient of the month...

What?!?! Yes, beets. They are great. Now a few years ago, I thought of beets as a nasty canned item that some old lady would try to serve me. My husband refused to try them again due to his memories of sitting at the dining table until he ate all of them off his plate. But our local co-op farmer had them on the menu so we tried them.
They are delicious and very good for you! So eat up.
To prepare them you can do a couple of things....for the roots (the red parts)
Burn them!
Yes, throw them on the grill until the skin begins to blacken (similar method to roasting peppers). Then peel the skin off, salt and pepper and enjoy.
Boil them!
Throw into a pot with water and boil until fork tender. Then peel, butter and eat.
Roast them!
Peel and dice. Toss with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put into a hot oven (400F) for 30 mins or until fork tender.
Grate them!
Grate them into salads or cole slaw! My grandmother grates them into horseradish at Easter time to symbolize Jesus' blood.
Our favorite way to eat beets...grate beets and place into a steaming basket with a sprig of basil and a couple lemon slices. Place over simmering water with tight fitting lid and steam for five minutes. Remove beets and discard basil and lemon. Mix with a scoop of yogurt and drizzle of honey with some salt and pepper to taste. Great hot or cold. The kids love this one! Even the baby (do not give honey to children under 1 year old!).
For the greens...
You can prepare them as any other dark steam them or chop up and mix into soups or stir fries.
For more information on beets, see

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ingredient of the month...


Its finally fall and nothing makes us feel like fall then apples! Going to the local orchard and picking them off the trees and tasting all different varieties. Now, we eat apples year-round but we feel like eating them more in the fall months.
What to do with them? What NOT to do with them!!
Eat them plain! Or slice up and eat with cheese or peanut butter.
Apple Crisp!
Slice up some apples thinly with the skin on--enough to fill an 8x8 pan. Top with your favorite crisp topping and bake. Use canned biscuits or oatmeal cookie dough. Our favorite is a mix of 1/2 whole wheat flour, 1 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup smashed almonds, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp each of ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves, and allspice. Cut in 4-6 tablespoons butter. Bake 30-45 mins until browned and bubbley.
Slice and add to sandwiches. Turkey or ham and apples is yummy.
Add to salads.
Make an apple salad--dice apples and combine with pineapple, peanuts, and yogurt! or grate with carrots, dried cranberries, and a poppyseed dressing.
Add to muffins or breads.
Add to soups.
Butternut Squash and Apple soup! Sautee an onion, two carrots, some celery, one butternut squash, and a couple apples, 6 cups chicken stock, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Cook until squash is tender and puree.
Slice and sautee (a little butter, brown sugar, and spices). Add to sweet potatoes, waffles, pancakes, french toast, carrots, pork chops, or serve alone.
Enjoy fall and its fruits!!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Birthday Season

Twice a year, we have Birthday Season. In the fall, my kids' birthdays fall within six weeks of each other and my husband's and my half-birthdays are mixed in there. In the spring, my husband's and my birthdays come up and the kids' half-birthdays. What are half-birthdays, you ask? My husband's family started to celebrate their half-birthdays (six months past your actual birthday) because a year is too long for a little kid to wait for that special day. We have half of a cake and sing half of Happy Birthday. It is a great idea until you are still forcing your wife to plan a big celebration in your twenties or your child doesn't understand why no one at school is wishing her Happy Half Birthday.

Anyways....because of this season, we end of eating cake for six weeks. In many ways, we enjoy this. But as we are trying to keep off that baby weight (or loosing it, darling hubby) takes great restraint.

Each person gets to pick what kind of cake they want. 9.5 times out of 10, its chocolate cake. So, below is my standard cake recipe. Everyone picks different fillings and icings but the cake is usually the same. Once in awhile we throw in carrot cake (for the baby's first birthday, he likes carrots) or a cheesecake.

I also let the kids pick their theme...Toy Story, Bugs Life, Hungry Little Caterpillar, Princesses. Decorating cakes is really easy. Just be imaginative and creative. Use some ziplocks as piping bags. Color frosting to any color you want. And use small toys as cake toppers. Recently, I made a cake for my niece using small rounds a cake on top of each other to create Rapunzel's tower.


WW Birthday Chocolate Cake

2 cup sugar
1 ¾ cup flour
¾ cup cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup hot water

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add remaining ingredients except water. Mix for 2 minutes. Add water. Mix until well incorporated. Pour into 2 greased, and parchment-lined circle pans. Bake 30 minutes on 350oF. Cool and frost.

Chocolate Ganache Filling

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Combine cream and chocolate in microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave for 1 min. Stir, repeat until chocolate is melted. Stir in vanilla. Chill one hour or until thick. (Add a layer of raspberries! my hubby's fav!) Can add any extract or liqueur to change flavor.

Chocolate Frosting

3 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
½ cup butter, softened
5-6 tbls milk
1 tsp vanilla

Combine cocoa, butter, about half sugar. Add remaining sugar and milk alternately. Add vanilla.

White Frosting

1/3 cup water
2 tbls meringue powder
½ cup plus 1 tbls butter, softened or shortening
6 cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp almond extract

Combine water and meringue powder. Whip until soft peaks form. Add 2 cups sugar. Add butter and remaining sugar alternately. Add salt and flavorings.
Can be easily colored and great for piping.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Little Things

Its been a stressful and busy week, so here are some little things to get you through.

*My daughter's art teacher was named the Teacher of the Year for the state of Illinois today! She is a fabulous teacher and person. We love her and we are so glad that she was recognized for her outstanding dedication to our kids and community.
Check out the story at:

My husband is hilarious! Now he doesn't cook, really at all. So, when he was in charge of dinner...he lost track of things. He was making breaded chicken fillets (the pre-packaged, just heat and eat kind). When I got home I noticed that the oven was off and there was no chicken to be seen. I assumed he just didn't make them. So we were sitting down to eat--I somehow ended up serving, my daughter asks where the chicken is. The look on my husband's face was priceless. Then he explains...well I put them in the oven and set the timer for 17 mins. But he apparently completely forgot what was happening and when he went back in the kitchen, he noticed the oven on and turned it off (I don't know, thinking I left it on before I went out to run??). When the timer went off later, he simply turned it off and completely forgot he was baking the chicken in the oven. It still makes me laugh thinking about it.

**Our baby is officially walking! and into everything possible!

**Our almost 3-year-old started preschool and loves it so much he wants to go all the time--especially after dinner and on weekends. Just wait until he is a teenager and I have to bribe him to go.

**Our almost 10-year-old had artwork selected to be copied onto a tile for the wall of the new pediatric wing of the hospital. It is very special (and super cool of the hospital to think of including local, children's artwork as a permanent feature!).

Friday, September 08, 2006

This Week...

What we ate...
Pot Roast (in the crock pot) with roasted potatoes and acorn squash
Meatloaf with brown rice and veggies
Pasta Primavera
Smoothies (hubby's on the Abs Diet that includes lots of smoothie recipes)
Dove Bars!
Apple Crisp
Whole wheat french toast
Cheesy scrambled eggs with hash browns with peppers and onions
Lots of leftovers! (the pot roast and meatloaf fed us for days!)
Carrot Cake (baby's 1st bday!!)
Pumpkin Bread

What we read...
the baby...really into Baby Sign books, Five Little Ladybugs, the Eency Weency Spider
the 2-yr-old...Berenstein Bears Get into a Fight, Green Eggs and Ham, Look and Find Books
the 9-yr-old...Bone: Out from Boneville
the mom...4% Famous (a new book and I have yet to see a plot develop and I am 100 pages in...I don't even know why I am reading it still)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Baby Weight

First of all, I would like to give my love and support to anyone trying to loose weight and/or get into better physical shape. It is a hard thing to do.

Secondly, I would like to share that I am finally back to my pre-baby weight (pre-my 3 year old weight). Although I think our stomach flu of last week helped me get there...

I was very young when I was pregnant the first time and only gained about 25 pounds. I lost it right away...didn't even think about it. Second baby...gained a lot. I decided to be pregnant as much as possible and ate anything I wanted, didn't exercise....I gained almost 40 pounds (I know many people think that is nothing but consider I am only 4 ft 11 inches tall and normally weigh about 118 lbs). With that pregnancy, I had back pain all the time and swelled up like a whale. After losing the initial chunk (e.g. the baby and fluids), I didn't loose much weight at all (I kept a good 5 lbs on in the end). So, we decided to have another kid instead of trying to loose the weight.

Now 3rd time around...I gained about 30 lbs, exercised (up until the day before delivery), and ate better. I thought... I feel great, I look great. I will loose this weight in a snap--I'll be nursing (not that I stopped) and running around after three kids now. And I did loose the initial 20 lbs by my 2 week check up...and didn't loose another pound for 4 months.

What did I do? Besides sweeping away any depression about my weight (couldn't hear or see another celebrity mom who lost all her weight in a week--with the help of nannies, personal trainers, and chefs--did any of those women breastfeed?) and refusing to buy new clothes to accommodate my new size...I started taking classes at the gym (the same gym I had been going to all along and just using the cardio machines--the same gym we picked because of the classes we had never been to). The first class...cardiokickboxing was awful, I thought I would die. The second class..step was terrible, I was just waiting to fall on my face. Then, I did a core class. This is great! Then I persisted on the kickboxing class. I ended up going to the class 2-3 days a week. I have kept this up for 10 months! I love it!

I also tried to watch my diet. Just more fruits and veggies--eating the rest of the baby food doesn't count. I cut out all beverages during the day and drank only water--I allow one small glass of juice and one of milk and an ocassional cup of decaf coffee (I used to down cranberry juice like my life depended on it). I don't drink soda anyways.

I also frequented a Breastfeeding and Weight Loss message board (at This is a great help. There are other women who don't bounce back in six weeks or even six months either.

Finally, the pounds trickled off. And one year later, I finally lost that extra 13 pounds (that's about a pound a month). So, I lost the weight and can I say my jeans are even a bit baggy! (know that I still have a nice, soft belly there) More than the weight, I am in good shape. This means I can play harder with my kids and be a great example of good health for them.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sick again

Well, we went through it this week. My daughter came home after visiting her various grandparents sick. Not just tired and crabby from too much fun and spoiling from the grandparents...but throwing up sick. We figured she was exhausted, motion sickness or maybe even food poisining. She was fine the next day and even the next. But that night, it started again and it wasn't pretty. After about 4 hours of vomitting and other things (not all making it to the bathroom), it was over. She was better the next day--tired, dehydrated, and afraid to eat in case she had to get sick again...but better. Great, that was over.

Then I got it. Thankfully, I got the younger two to bed easily and finished my PTA stuff for the coming first day of school before it hit. My husband was out at fire fighting training, out of reach so if the boys woke up, I don't know what I would have done. For over 6 hours I was in the bathroom. I slept on the couch, sitting up...close to the bathroom and far away from anyone else. My husband brought the baby down a couple times to nurse. But I figured that our daughter was sick for 4 hours so I should be done soon, right? And I did feel a bit better the next day--exhausted but better. But my husband came down at 6am that morning to take his turn. Now I had only not thrown up for 3 hours and a terrible sense of anxiousness came over me.

If my husband and I were both sick...I mean really sick like this, who was going to take care of the children? Crap!! What were we going to do? Most of our friends were out of town or working and we didn't want to send our possibly infected children to anyone else's house with little ones. Should we call in the reinforcements (e.g. the parents)? Unfortunately, my mom who had been babysitting the kids while we were out of town had caught the same bug and was sick, sick, sick too. There is a crisis nursery in town that we could have used if necessary. But I was feeling better, enough to take care of the kids. And then my husband felt better (only 3 hours of real sickness for him). So we took turns napping and taking care of the kids.

Then all was well. Well, the dishes and garbage piled up (a lot) and we watched a lot more TV than usual. We fed the kids whatever they wanted (out of the meager supply we had). My husband felt better fast and was running errands (e.g. more saltines or powerade, anyone?), he threw in some laundry and a load in the dishwasher. I made up a batch of cherry jello and another of vanilla pudding. And we were all set...then I started getting sick again. Of course Mom gets the sickiest--probably because I had the least amount of time to really devote to getting better (I still had to nurse and take care of people, my husband can nap anywhere anytime).

It feels like it will never end---my kids will never eat a real meal again (I couldn't even watch Food Network, I was so nauseous), the sink will never be empty, I will spend the rest of my life in the bathroom--our one, tiny bathroom.

But alas, it did end (at least I hope so, the little ones haven't gotten it). I finally woke up this morning and felt completely different, anew. I could eat. I could play with the kids. We had an actual meal together tonight. It was only a few days but having three of us sick in the house (including the two adults) was a big blow. I feel like we should set up some kind of plan in case, god forbid, it should ever happen again. At least a sickie food stash and unwatched dvd's.

I hope none of you get sick like us--at least not at the same time.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

This Week...

What we ate this week...
Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin and baked potatoes with mixed veggies
Hash Browns (using the leftover potatoes) and cheesy scrambled eggs
Taco Pizza (see below)
the Big Salad
New Barilla Plus pasta with tomato sauce
Homemade Mac and Cheese (with new pasta)
a yummy dinner at a wedding reception
lots of PB and J's (with natural PB and all-fruit J, of course)
Raisin Bran and Cheerios
Carrot, Apple, Kale Puree (for the baby)
Udon noodles with tofu and veggies
Tabouleh salad

What we read this week...
the baby...animal board book, Maisy Takes a Bath
the 2-yr-old...Buzz and the Bubble Planet, My Truck is Stuck
the 9-yr-old...American Girl Books
the mom...People and Parenting Magazine, newspaper (no books, I know...bad, bad)

I grew up in Chicagoland, so it is given that I like pizza. This was a problem with I decided to give up cheese to help with the baby's reflux. Now that I don't live in Chicago any more, it is hardly worth it to order pizza (too expensive for sub-par food). So we often make our its a great use for leftovers.

What we do...
Crackers, tortillas, toast, store-bought crusts, homemade crust (sorry, I haven't found a recipe I like enough to pass on)
Leftover chicken, bbq sauce, onions, jack cheese
Ground meat, black beans, leftover pasta sauce with a splash of taco sauce, cheese, lettuce, avocado, tomatoes (last 3 add after baking)
Any leftover or fresh veggies
Ham and pineapple (a great use for that Easter ham)
*The kids like to make their own pizzas (torillas are the perfect size for that)!

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Working Vacation

Remember when you were a kid and vacation was the coolest time of the year? You would play until you dropped, ate junk food until you felt sick, got sun-burned, drove for hours and hours at a time?

Who made those priceless, childhood memories possible? Your hard-working parents.

We are on vacation this week in Wisconsin. We are here at my parents' house with my parents, brother, and niece. When I was a kid, we used to come up to Wisconsin all the time with my cousins, aunt, uncles, and dogs as well. It was a blast when we were kids. I have very vivid memories of all the fun. I don't remember the 8-hour drive. I don't remember my parents cleaning up all the time or scrambling to keep us entertained and somewhat clean and rested. I don't remember what my parents did at all actually. Probably because they were busy being thoroughly exhausted.

Honestly, I was ready to go home before we even left Illinois. We had come up early and stayed at my parents' regular house for two days before heading up. So with a teething baby, a moody two-year-old, and a overtired nine-year-old, we were done after that. But we got in the car and did it. The ride was actually ok. The baby only screamed for probably an hour or so (reaching his hands out to me with a look to break my heart). I didn't get car sick--a usual occurance. My map-loving brother navigated us passed a terrible traffic jam. Our two-year-old actually ate lunch when we stopped. So all is well. But what makes you so tired while driving. We were just sitting and talking for 6 hours.

I know why I was. It is hard to entertain two kids for that long. I used every toy I brought and found in the car, plus anything else babysafe I could find. Fed them animal crackers, teddy grahams, juice, water. Sang songs, played peek-a-boo, read books. Let the baby poke me in the eye--since it made him laugh. Tickled them, carassed them, ignored them. Finally, we made it.

Then we had to make sure they safely explored the new place. Remembering if everyone ate, slept, has clean clothes. Are the doors locked? Did the baby eat the dog food? Are the cousins fighting again? Why won't the two-year-old wear a lifejacket? Where is the three-year-old?

It is just so much work to go on vacation with the whole family. My husband and I just want to sleep, really. My mom keeps asking me what I want to do this week...and I reply 'nothing'. I just want to relax a bit. So we are trying to relax and have fun--in between the overtired tantrums, dehydrated kids, and wet dogs.

At least we are with family...the kids will love that they got to go on vacation with their cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents. It will build loving relationships for life. Just as our parents did for us. It is worth it in the end (I am close to all my eighty-plus family members who we still vacation with regularly).

But my husband and I are thankfully going out of town next weekend without the kids. Its to a wedding but I'll take the excuse to go overnight without the darlings. Its our vacation from the vacation.

Ingredient of the month...

Well, its time for INGREDIENT of the MONTH!!!!

Ground Turkey
This is our family's new favorite thing. We use it all the time. You can easily replace ground turkey in any recipe that calls for ground beef. It is leaner than beef as well. It can be more expensive than ground sirloin (our usual beef of choice) but if you catch it on sale and stock is about the same price.
Turkey burgers are good as well. It won't taste just like beef but it is yummy nonetheless.
Turkey Chili
1 package ground turkey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 sweet pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 4 oz can diced green chilies
1 15 oz can of tomatoes
1 15 oz can beans, whatever you like
1 15 oz can of chicken or beef broth
1-3 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1-3 teaspoons chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
In a large, deep skillet or pot, heat pan and add oil. Add turkey and brown. Add veggies and cook 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add chilies, tomatoes, beans, chili powder, and worcestershire sauce. Cook 3 minutes. Add broth. Bring to boil. Once to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes. Add extra water to make desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I usually make this in the morning when I have a bit of time and then stick it in the frig. This allows the favors to meld better. Also, serve any leftovers over grilled hot dogs with cheese and onions.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

This Week...

What we ate this week...
Pork Chops with Gorgonzola and Pears (yummy and fast!!)--recipe below
Thai takeout
Turkey Chili Mac and Corn Muffins (the kids made this dinner)
Sweet and Sour Beef (crockpot meal)
Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
Grilled Salmon
Pasta with Tomato Sauce
Whole Wheat French Toast
Lots of Salad and fresh veggies and fruit

What we read this week...
The baby...Hey! Wake Up! Winnie the Pooh Collection (ok, he ate these books)
The 2 -year-old...Monster Muffins, Elmo's Counting Game, What Bounces?
The 9-year-old...Babysitter's Club, Nickeloden Magazine
The Mom...A Simple Plan by Scott Smith (this was great!) and Parenting and People Magazines

Pork Chops with Gorgonzola and Pears
Source: Better Homes and Gardens, July 2006
Prep: 10 minutesCook: 20 minutes

4 pork rib chops, cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick
Sea salt, kosher salt, or salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium ripe pears, peeled, cored; each pear cut into 8 wedges
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup dry white wine or apple juice
1/4 cup whipping cream
8 oz. creamy Gorgonzola or blue cheese, cut up
Freshly ground black pepper
Additional Gorgonzola cheese, cut into chunks (optional)

1. Sprinkle pork chops with salt. In a 12-inch skillet cook pork chops in hot oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn chops and cook 5 minutes more or until browned and juices run clear (160 degrees F). Transfer chops to a serving platter. Drain fat from skillet.
2. In same skillet cook pear wedges in butter over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until browned, turning once. Add pears to platter.
3. For sauce, add wine and cream to skillet. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, 1 to 2 minutes until slightly thickened. Add the 8 ounces Gorgonzola; whisk until cheese is almost melted. Remove from heat. Serve with pork and pears. Sprinkle with pepper; serve with additional cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Breast is Best


Ok, I didn't really think so but I am becoming a bit of a Breastfeeding Nazi. I was breastfed and I breastfeed my kids. Almost all the women in my family have breastfed their children as well. I didn't even debate it when I had my kids. I honestly don't think there is a debate...breastfeeding is the best choice.

We are mammals...because we feed our young with our own milk. Women are made it do this...this is the purpose of breasts (sorry, it is not to make sex more fun). Babies were made to eat it. And humans have been doing it since the creation of humans. Formula wasn't invented until 1867 (by Nestle)!

Now, I understand that their is a small, very small percentage of mothers that truly cannot breastfeed. And since their is an alternative to breastfeeding, it is a woman's choice. But I am amazed that only about 65% of mothers leave the hospital breastfeeding and by six months only about 30% and only 10% at one year*. Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics** recommends breastfeeding for 2 years and in most cultures where children are allowed to nurse as long as they want or need to, they usually self-wean between 3-4 years--yes, YEARS!

And breastfeeding in there's an issue. In most states, 41, women and children are protected by law to nurse in public. And if a public place denies a woman and nursling this will probably hear about in the news (recently Target and Victoria's Secret). Of course I nurse in public. I am as discret as possible and most of the time people don't even know it has happened. But if you look over and what. Baby's gotta eat. Or would you rather he scream in hunger.

Extended breastfeeding (typically nursing after 1 year)...ya, I do that too. My first baby...13 months. Second baby...20 months. Third baby..going on 11 months. Besides continued nutritional benefits, the emotional benefits are great.

Nursing while pregnant...did that too. Yes, it is safe (as long as you take care of yourself).

Breastfeeding and the the news, both sides of the debate are well-represented. In entertainment...very poor. This includes shows about babies (such as TLC's Bringing Home Baby). Where did my kids learn that babies eat from bottles? Not at home. If you can see women's breasts almost falling out of their shirts, you can show mothers nursing their babies (which doesn't show any of the breast, in most cases). The most recent media blitz has been the cover of the August issue of BabyTalk. (see

Overall, I think breastfeeding is great. It works fabulously for our family. I had great support, education, and resources. Sometimes, breastfeeding takes some real work and can be frustrating and painful. So, if you are going to breastfeed, go out there and find some support (most hospitals have a lacation consultant on-call (We love the Carle Hospital Breastfeeding Clinic!!), join La Leche League ( or just call the leader for advice, find some other breastfeeding moms (either in person or has a great set of breastfeeding message boards).

Why We Love Breastfeeding...
Its the best and most natural nutrition for my baby.
It is so easy and convienent.
Its free!
It guarantees me individual time with my nursling.
It makes me sit down for 10 minutes every two hours.
It keeps my breasts to a C-cup (ok, this is my husband's addition).

*Kelly Mom
A great breastfeeding website! Tons of information and support!

**American Academy of Pediatrics

Friday, July 21, 2006

Oh Poop!

You know that you are a true parent if you talk about poop on a regular basis.

And I am a parent so...

our two-year-old finally went poop on the potty! This is a big moment in life. He has been working on potty training for months. He has total control over his bladder and bowels. He runs around naked most of the time with no accidents but he resisted using the toilet for bowel movements. So much that has become chronically constipated--requiring daily doses of milk of magnesia. When he needs to poop, he would ask (or plead) for a diaper. But yesterday, we simply didn't have any diapers. We went and bought some Buzz Lightyear pull-ups but he refused to wear them. So he had no choice but the potty left. It took him several tries but he finally did it. He was so proud. We hope that is the turning point in potty training. He still won't wear underwear--he prefers to be nakey. But one step at time.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Summer Changes

This summer has been a challenge as a parent. Overall, I am exhausted but I have to find the energy and strength to continue on from day to day. What has changed the past six weeks?

Well, not much overall. But, school is out. My nine-year-old is home...all day...every day. I never realized how much she was gone at school and her other activities. Don't get me wrong, I love my daughter and overall she is a delightful person. But, I realized that having her home all the time changes the vibe and routine in the house. My usual quiet time while the boys are napping is gone. I have to divide my attention throughout the day in thirds. And the girl has got to eat! This has been a very unexpected change--not that she eats, I knew that, but the amount of food and expense was a surprise. During the school year, my daughter eats two of her three daily meals at school. And we only pay 70 cents a day for her to do so. Can you believe that?! I have tried to figure out how to do that at home, and it is thank you school district for finding a way to nutritionally and economically feed our children. So our grocery bill has gone up a bit and I find myself having to go to the grocery store weekly (I used to make a 'big' trip every other week, and a produce and milk run once a week).

Speaking of eating...the baby is eating more food now too. Don't worry...he still nurses ten times a day (that is not hyperbole). Having all three kids home and eating has been good for our schedule. It makes us all eat, together, three times a day. This has been especially good for our picky, snacky two-year-old. He sees his sibs eating and thinks maybe its a good idea.

Speaking of the two-year-old...this summer has been the summer of transition for him. Potty training, pacifier weaning, juice reduction. And he decided to cash in on his last few months of being two...temper tantrums! Lots of them!

And the baby is crawling and learning to walk....

My husband is trying to find a new job....

And I am trying to keep us all under control.

Ingredient of the month...

This month...I love GOAT CHEESE!

This is a great ingredient that is relatively affordable and makes you feel like you are eating adult food again! And everyone will think you are a fancy chef.

At our local farmer's market sells some great stuff! But it is available in most grocery stores.

Here is how we use it...
*Add to tomato soup!

*Top it on burgers! or steaks! with mushrooms and onions!

*Mix into salads!

*Make a turkey, apple, cranberry, goat cheese quesadilla!

*Top puff pastry with goat cheese and sliced apples, drizzle with olive oil and bake 10 mins!

*Mix with dried cranberries and a drizzle of honey and spread on crackers or bread!

*Mix in pasta with sundried tomatoes and garlic!

*Smear on portabello mushrooms, sprinkle with bread crumbs and broil 5 mins!

The possibilities are endless!!! Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What I've been doing...

This is part of my new format...this will give you a quick idea of what our family has done each week. Additionally, I will write journal-type entries.

What we have been eating...
Many of these meal recipes are or will be posted on this site.
*Thai Chicken Pizza (so yummy!)
*BBQ Tofu/Tempeh in wheat tortilllas
*Pasta with artichokes, mushrooms, and spinach (yum!) and big salad
*Homemade macaroni and cheese, grilled hot dogs, and mixed veggies with spices
*BBQ chicken sandwiches, baked red potatoes, peas
*Turkey Meatball Sandwiches
*Peanut Stir Fry with Noodles and Chicken
*the Big Salad
*the famous 'Leftovers!'
What we have been reading...
the baby--Baby Sign books, Maisy's train, Goodnight Moon
the 2 year old--How I Became a Pirate, Tarzan, The Very Busy Spider, The Very Quiet Cricket, 10 Hungry Monsters
the 9 year old--Harry Potter 4:GOF, Ella Enchanted
the Mom--Blindness by Jose Saramago (this is a great book! and it would have been even better had I had all my brain cells back intact. it is a bit difficult at times but really thought-provoking (remember when you thought about something besides poop)); Double Whammy by Carl Hiaasan (great, fun read).
What have we been watching...
BabyFirst TV (
(we got a month-long preview on our service). It is really great. The 'shows' are about 3-5 minutes each and are developmentally-appropriate. Our baby didn't really care about it but our 2-year-old loved it. He was very interactive with the programs.
So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)
My daughter and I like to watch. We have never really watched American Idol or anything, so this is our first show that we are getting into it all. No, we haven't voted for our favorite yet (and probably won't). Its good summer fun.
Got it from the library, of course. I haven't seen the stage show (but I have seen La Boehme) but I really liked this movie. The music is great and the cast (mostly the originals from Broadway) are great.
Pirates of the Caribbean 2
Search for the lost is WAY too long. Its all pirate action and its all good. Johnny Depp is great and I could easily be persuaded to watch Orlando Bloom for two hours. My nine-year-old liked it too but was scared at certain parts. The plot confused her a bit as well. If you liked the first one...and plan on seeing the third...head on out.
This was a good one--of course Pixar can't miss. Of course my two-year-old son loved it (and told his toy Lightning McQueen that he was home when the movie started). I thought is was a bit long (2 hours) and slow at times and right now the least favorite of the Pixar collection (but I am sure it will grow on me once my sons have requested to watch the DVD a hundred times).

New Directions

So, I have been trying to become a master 'blogger', rather unsuccessfully. I intended to use this blog to express my feelings and experiences about early childhood and parenting, including how I get through my daily life of a mother of three kids (e.g. recipes and activities). But...because I am a mother of three kids, I have been having a difficult time finding the time and energy to blog.

But rest assure, I have not given up. I have decided to use a slightly different format (and fancy new layout). Additionally, one thing that has bothered me about blogging is the lack of interactions with my readers. So, please email me or comment on the blog. If you are reading this, let me know what you think...any questions...want a recipe for something...what to share a recipe....

Please keep coming back. I really am determined to update the site weekly...I least for now.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Wake Up!

So, our lives are so busy and our schedules are so full that I seem to run on autopilot. The routine that I have established in the house runs itself each day, seven days a week.... This routine is good. Kids thrive on routine--don't we all. They can predict what is going to happen next and find comfort in knowing what is going on in this crazy world they live in. Also, routines set your biological clock and allows one to sleep (or want to sleep) at regular intervals and eat in a sensible manner. Parents loves this as they can predict when their kids eat and sleep and thus can plan activities.

However, this continual routine can also be bad. It runs, and runs, and runs, and then all the sudden a month has gone by...or a year. What happened? The days run together and you find yourself in continuous motion--working only to maintain this routine. And you've been eating the same ten meals for the past three months. And it is exhausting.

What actually made me think about this was a song on the car radio--actually one of my husband's countless mixed CDs. It said--with a great dance beat--"Wake up! You're asleep at the wheel!" And indeed sometimes this is how I feel. I wake up and 'drive around' without even aware of what I am doing--nurse, change diapers, pour bowls of cereal and cups of juice, throw in some laundry......and on and on. I even find myself driving certain places without much thought--I have actually driven to a place and realized I had no real reason to be there, I simply automatically drove there.

So, I have decided to 'wake up'! Yes, I still have to 'drive'. Kids have to eat, play, and be cleaned--so do I. And a basic routine is still a good thing. But we can make things fun and interesting. Change things up! Stop and watch the kids laugh and dance, instead of taking the opportunity to finish the dishes. We can go to the park--even though lunch is supposed to be in 30 minutes. Take the time to enjoy breakfast with the kids and not be thinking two meals ahead. Take a bath or shower with the kids--with bubbles!

And to this's some quick 'wake ups' for regular recipes (basically by adding fresh herbs and favors).

Mint and Lemon Peas
Frozen or fresh peas, cooked
Lemon zest
Fresh mint, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper

Make peas like usual. Add lemon zest and mint. Enojy. (good cold as well!).

Crunchy Green Beans
Frozen or fresh green beans
Dried cranberries
Roasted almonds, chopped

Cook beans like usual. Add handful of berried and almonds.

Chili Corn
Canned, frozen, or corn on the cob
Chili powder
Lime zest
Salt and Pepper

Cook corn like usual. Add butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chili powder and lime zest.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Books are Back

Yes, I am still here. Sorry. We have been so busy this month...including a great vacation to Colorado. Travelling with the kids is so exhausting but the kids and even I had a great time visiting family, friends, and nature. Then we just have all these things on our calendar. Crazy! So is the life of a family. I can only imagine what it will be like when the kids are in jr. high and high school!!!

Anyways. I wanted to at the very least recommend some more reading--I know we all have tons of extra time to sit down and read, right?! Actually, I read at least 15 mins or one chapter before I go to bed each night unless its super late or I am super exhausted. I just finished R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton and have Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code on my shelf.

The Tao of Poop by Vivian Elizabeth Glyck
This is a funny and interesting book for new and vetern moms alike. Read the whole first chapter before making a judgement. Besides including her personal experience as well as other parents, each chapter includes 'sanity savers' and 'thought exercises'. These give you some things to help out and think about your life.

Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy
This book is the first in a now series of books by the comedienne. It is a funny reflection of her own pregnancy including all the things that other books don't really mention including the unpleasantness of pregnancy and weight gain and loss. Its a fun read for vetern moms and a reality check for new ones.

The Breastfeeding Cafe: Mothers Share the Joys, Challenges, and Secrets of Nursing by Barbara Berhmann
This is a fabulous collection of stories from breastfeeding parents all over the nation. You'll laugh, you'll cry...what could be better?! A great book for all nursing moms.

The Complete Book of Breastfeeding by Marvin Eiger andSally Wendkos Olds
This is the breastfeeding reference book I own. (Yes, I do occasionally purchase a book). Besides all the usual info, there is a drug list for nursing moms and a great reference section.

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
No, this is not a parenting book but its a great book to read with your child--age 9-15 years. I love Hiaasen's books and he has two young readers' books. This is a great book. My daughter and I really liked it. There is a movie that was recently released based on the book--although I have yet to see it.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Ok, I haven't read it yet but...this is our first summer read-together book with my daughter. There is also a fabulous movie based on this one. I'll let you know how it is.

What my 2-year-old is reading right now...Sesame Street Magazines, Maisy's Train, Arthur's Valentine Countdown

What my 9-month-old is reading right now...The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Good Night Moon, Barnyard Dance

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Recommended Reading

by request

I'll be honest, I don't have a lot of 'parenting' books on my shelf. Since I have studied families, child development, and education, I have read a lot about these subjects. And I have been a parent for almost ten years, so my past experience is enough to write a couple books. Additionally, other parents and the internet are fabulous resources. I do own a few books--mostly reference books on pregnancy and breastfeeding.

But I do have some books that I highly recommend.

Our Babies Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent
by Meredith Small
This book is a must for any new or vetern parent. Read this one as soon as you realize you want to or will be a parent. Small takes the reader through several aspects of parenting (e.g. feeding, sleeping, play) in relation to cultural traditions of many cultures including the US. This book allows you to think critically about your parenting choices and why you make those choices. Its great book to read to reflect upon yourself as a parent.

Entertaining and Educating Your Preschool Child
by Robyn Gee and Susan Meredith
A good book to help you figure out what to do with that bundle of joy. It answers the question of 'how do I play with my child'. Including developmental information for ages 0-5 years, this book describes numerous activities to do with your child to foster his development. It is super parent-friendly.

The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer
by Harvey Karp
This is a nice book to learn how to relate to your child and make her feel good. Written by a pediatritcian, he clearly explains why and how to soothe your baby.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night
by Elizabeth Pantley
This book is an interesting perspective on sleep. It includes information on babies' sleep cycles and many options for getting some sleep (including co-sleeping). Be warned, this technique takes hard work--like any sleep training, and strong consistency. It also may work for one baby and not the next (like in our house).

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know about Your Baby from Birth to Age Two
by Martha and William Sears
I like Dr. Sears' books and perspective on parenting. He utilizes 'attachment parenting' as his major philosophy. Again, this perspective may not work for your family or every child. His website is

First Meals: The Complete Cookbook and Nutrition Guide
Annabel Karmel
This is a good book to to guide you through making your own baby food. Although there are some questionable recommendations from my perspective (I don't push solids too much until the babies are 9-12 months old and I avoid dairy the first year); there are a lot of fun and great recipes for all ages.

You should know by now that I love the library. So, I urge you to go and spend some time in the baby book section. There are a lot and you should find books that match your personality and outlook on parenting as well as your baby's temperment. Do not feel obligated to follow all of anyone's advice. Do what you feel is best.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Bring the Restaurant Home

We don't eat out much. But we miss a couple things from restaurants--soup and salad bars. We love to have soup and salad dinners--they are healthy and economical. So here are some ideas to bring the 'restaurant-style' home.

Fake-Out Cream Soups
This recipe is for Cream of Cauliflower Soup or Cream of Brocolli Soup but its a lot healthier and super fast. Pureeing soups gives a creamy texture without adding lots of cream--actually no cream. Simply topping soup with cheese instead of adding it while cooking, reduces the fat as well.

2 tablespoons olive oil or 1 tablespoon oil and one butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 head of cauliflower or 1 bunch of brocolli, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
4 cups broth or water (if using water, simmer extra 10 min)
1 cup shredded cheese

In large pot, heat oil. Add onion, carrot, and celery. Sautee five minutes. Add garlic and cauliflower or brocolli, and salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes. Add flour and stir well. Cook 5 minutes. Add liquids. Cook on high and cover. Bring to a boil. Drop heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Using immersion blender, puree soup (or ladle into blender and puree in batches). Leave some vegetable chunks. Ladle servings into bowls and top with 2 tablespoons cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

*You can also make Baked Potato Soup by adding 3 baked potatoes (leftover or made in microwave so save time). And so not puree but use a potato masher to smooth out soup. Top with cheese, bacon, and green onions.
**Experiment with adding spices or fresh herbs to change flavors. Cummin, curry, cilantro...

Great Fruit Salad
Your favorite fruits (we like apples, berries, bananas, melon)
Add chopped nuts--almonds are great!
Add minced mint and ginger
Add the rind of one lemon or lime and its juice

Super Salad
Start with your favorite greens. Add as many fruits and veggies as you like. Here are some of our favorite combos.
*Apples, dried cranberries, almonds
*Carrots, peas, avocado, almonds
*Veggies, nuts, dried ramen noodles
*Pears, nuts, blue cheese, raisins
*Peas, pesto
*Brocolli, carrots, peas, apples
*Beans (chickpeas, kidney beans, green beans)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Little Things

When people ask me how I am, I almost always answer with either "busy" or "tired". Things get so crazy around here sometimes. Soccer practice, PTA meetings, meal preparation, shopping, laundry, vacuuming... Having three kids different ages is definately a challenge. Each child needs such different things. Our nine-year-old needs to research her science project. Our two-year-old is potty training--enough said. And our baby is learning to use his body to obtain and eat everything in the house.

So through all this chaos, you have to sit back and enjoy it. So here is a list of ten things that happened in between and during the chaos that make it all worth it.

1. Our 8-month-old finally figured out how to crawl and can now smoothly transition from laying down, sitting, crawling, and standing!
2. My husband mistakingly dressed the baby in our 2-year-olds clothes and vice versa. And neither one cared.
3. Our daughter sweetly helped our two-year-old during his first Easter egg hunt.
4. Our daughter played goalie at her soccer game.
5. We have an owl in our yard and we all stop and listen to it.
6. Our two-year-old helped feed the baby cereal.
7. It was nice enough to play outside--so we are out every day!
8. The kids all sat and played musical instruments together.
9. Our two-year-old learned how to say our last name (which is a complicated one!).
10. Our daughter made us a ceramic toothbrush holder in art class. She hid it from us in a gift bag to find with our Easter baskets.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Playing with your child on the cheap

Have you been to the toy store lately? There are SO many toys now. I swear when we were kids there were not as many toys and for sure, our household didn't have that much. After the holidays, my kids had so much and I couldn't believe it. To be honest, I don't remember a lot of my childhood toys. I am sure my parents and relatives provided tons of things to play with but actual manufactured items....I had dolls and stuffed animals. I even asked my mother about it and she couldn't remember any of my specific toys either. However, my mom and I can clearly remember my brothers' toys including He-Man stuff (we had the Castle Greyskull and this really smelly skunk-man) as well as a bunch of Star Wars toys. Perhaps I was the forgotten third child or it was assumed I wanted to play with my brothers' things, or perhaps I played with other things such as soup cans, boxes, pots and pans, and books.

My kids have lots of toys. A lot of things that require a lot of batteries (batteries make a good baby shower gift!). My son has dozens of trucks and trains and cars. My daughter has so many Barbies (30 at one point) and little craft kits (beads all over!). Even the baby has a lot--but his favorite toy for awhile was a washcloth. And even though our two-year-old really loves his train set...the kids love the simple things such as paint, blocks, empty boxes, dancing, playing outside, cooking, coloring, and reading. So I have vowed to do a major downsize of your toy stash this spring.

To that end, I thought I would share some of our favorite activities and toys that are fun and inexpensive.

1. Cheesy Sticks
This is a favorite that I picked up from a developmental therapist.
Take an empty and clean parmasan cheese container and 10 or so popsicle sticks. Allow your child to put the sticks into the top of the cheese container. Start with the lid off. Then progress to the large opening side...then the three small hole side. This will work on the child's fine motor skills or hand and finger skills as well as hand-eye coordination.
By using colored sticks or writing letters, pictures, or numbers on them--the child can sort them ('find all the blue sticks'), make a pattern ('let's do a pig stick then a sheep stick'), or count them as he puts them in.

2. Bouncy Ball
Who doesn't like to play ball. Go out and invest in an exercise ball or pilates ball. Make sure to get one that best fits your size. This is a great thing for everyone in the family. My husband prefers to bounce on the ball than rocking in a rocker when dealing with a fussy baby. It is also great to restore your core muscles after the baby (just sit with your baby and make circles with your hips). I love to exercise with it...but that's a different post.
*Sit on the floor with the ball in between your legs.
1. Lay your baby on top of the ball on his belly. Gently bounce the ball. (this will strengthen the baby's upper body and its fun!)
2. Roll the ball slightly so that the baby almost is standing on the floor, you holding his hands over the top of the ball, and then roll him back to the top (like #1).
3. Sit the baby on the top of the ball. Hold either her torso or top of the thighs. Gently bounce the ball (this is help strengthen your baby's core so that she can sit by herself).
4. Have the baby sit in your lap. Pat the ball with your hand. Help your baby pat the ball. Take turns patting the ball. (this will encourage turn-taking and imitation).
5. Sit with your baby close to a wall--a few feet. Roll the ball with your baby toward the wall (it will bounce back). (this is help your child learn to predict).

3. Paint
Most kids love painting.
You can make paint out of lots of things:
Jello (with just enough water to make a thick paint)
Pudding (with just enough milk...)
Powdered tempera paint (you can make it as thick or thin as you want)
Dish or hand soap with food coloring
Yogurt with food coloring

Try painting outside or in the bath tub for easy clean up.
Paint on old wrapping paper, paper bags, construction paper, the sidewalk, bath tub.

4. Box town
We always have boxes around. Let your kids do whatever they want with them. Or help them (for younger kids, you can do it and surprise them one day). Make them into cars, trains, planes, houses, mail box, refrigerator....the possibilities are endless.
I usually limit the lifetime of our box creations to 1 week--that's about how long I can stand to have a big box in the living room or bedroom.

5. Kitchen Fun
By now you realize we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. And hopefully by now you have reorganized your kitchen so that it is safe for the kiddos.
1. Pull out the pots and pan and wooden spoons and make a drum set for the kids.
2. Have them organize the pantry for you--soup in one spot, pasta in another.
3. Have them help make a grocery list--have them check the pantry, what's missing, count what you have.
4. We have lots of fun magnets and magnetic toys on the frig and dishwasher.
5. Kids can stack boxes or can to make a castle out of cans.

Some good resources...
Entertaining and Educating Your Preschool Child by Robyn Gee and Susan Meredith (a great book for 0-5 year olds (one section for 0-2 1/2 years; one for 2 1/2-5 years) including what to use in your house to foster development).

Parenting Magazine--they have a section each month on ideas to use recycleables (e.g. toilet paper rolls, milk jugs, paper napkins).

Thursday, April 06, 2006

State of the Household Address

by request

We made the decision for me to stay home with the little ones while my husband works a full-time job. This puts us on only one income. Therefore, maintaining a tight budget is extremely important. Here are some things we do to keep our expenses low.

1. Food
It is estimated that Americans' second largest monthly expenditure is food (after mortgage or rent). (some of these tips are from the Chicago Tribune--although I unfortunately cannot find the article again)
*We don't eat out much. In addition to having three kids who won't sit for more than 20 minutes at a restaurant...eating out is terribly expensive (this includes driving through, ordering in, or stopping by). Additionally, making food at home is faster. By the time you decide on what everyone wants, order, wait, drive home, lay it out on the could have made a simple and healthy meal.
*If you do eat out....don't order drinks. Water is good for you and free.
*Order a meal and only eat half (this will save your waistline too!). Save the rest for lunch.
*Many restaurants offer 'kids eat free' program. Do some research and find which do and don't.
*Also, look in those advertisements you get in the mail (that I often recycle). They often have coupons for local restaurants.
*Be a conservative tipper--unless the service is excellent, don't feel bad to keep it at 15%.
*Don't order food for your 2 year old unless you think he will actually eat it. Otherwise, ask for an extra plate and give him some of yours (this is NOT meal sharing and it should not cost a thing).
*Make it at home!!!
I love coffee but paying $3 for a latte is silly and is now a nice treat once in awhile. Instead I make a cup at home for pennies.
I make our own babyfood, baked goods, pasta sauce, soup, chinese, pizza....

*I am a great shopper.
*I read through the grocery store's weekly advertisement before going to the store (its online at our store). Most of the items on the ads are at great prices (often a loss to the store). So, stock up. I used to think...why do I need 10 bottles of apple juice. But...if you buy them when they are 10 for $10 and use them as will save about $1.50/bottle. Cereal is a good one to stock up on as well.
*Try to shop alone. The more people with you, the more requests and impulse buying will occur.
*Buy an extra freezer and buy meat when its on sale and freeze.
*Coupons are only worth it if you would normally buy the product anyways.
*I also almost always buy the store-brand. I am picky about a couple of items (shampoo, mac and cheese) but otherwise, its always cheaper (even when the brand name is on sale)
*Also, I buy reduced-priced baked goods. Our grocery store bakery puts 'old' baked goods half-off after a day. They are still fresh and taste better that they are cheaper. Our store also reduces the rotissary chickens after 7pm (pick one up with your milk and have the next day).

2. Beauty
*Ok, if you know me personally, you know that I am not exactly a beauty queen. I am very simple in my fashion and beauty regime. So, I cut back on make-up, hair products, and perfume (I don't use them really--I do wear make-up but not on a daily basis). I also do not color my hair--which saves me tons of money!
*As for haircuts....I do them at home for everyone but myself. We invested in a set of hair clippers ($15). I cut my husband's hair with the clippers and my son and daughter's with a good pair of hair sissors (that came with the clippers). I go to a hair stylist to get my hair cut a few times a year--and mostly to the discount places.

3. Clothes
*My kids birthdays are in the fall and then its holiday time--so they all get enough clothes to get them through most of the year. But we always have to get summer stuff.
*I use any gift cards I get for their birthdays and Christmas in the spring. I also watch out for some good sales at the stores.
*I try to buy clothes that are a bit too big--so they might fit the following year as well. Our poor baby simply wears almost all hand-me-downs from his big brother. I also buy winter coats for the kids every other year and at the end of the winter (for the following year). Around February, stores put everything on clearance (you can do the same in the summer for swimsuits--but those are harder to predict the size).

As for my husband and I, we really don't buy too many clothes for ourselves. Around twice a year, I take an Old Navy shopping spree and my husband's buys a new outfit for work.

Also, don't feel bad asking a friend or family-member for hand-me-downs or shopping at Goodwill. Kids go through clothes super fast! You could probably fill an entire room in your house with all the clothes they will wear in 18 years.

4. The Library!!!
I know I have mentioned it before. Go get yourself a library card. You can get books, movies, music, newspapers, magazines.....for FREE! I used to be a Barnes and Noble junkie--but now I have a hard time spending money on any of that since I know I could get it from the library. Plus its a great place for family fun!
5. Gift-giving
*This may sound cruel but...we don't give our baby gifts. He doesn't care if gets something under the tree from Santa or for his birthday. And if we do get the youngest something, it is always very practical. And we don't get our older kids much either. They get a few gifts at Christmas and their birthdays but we have enough family and friends that they get tons of stuff. We try to do more 'experiential' giving--like a special activity or dinner for their birthdays.
*This may also sound bad but...we don't give expense gifts to anyone. Bottom line...we can't afford it. We make a lot of gifts (framed kid art is great!) and try to spend time with people. My husband and I get each other modest gifts or make each other something (like dinner without the kids).
6. Penny-Pinching
I do a couple penny pinching things that I hope save us money but I don't even have time to find out.
*Turn off the lights. If you are not in the room, turn it off.
*Turn off the computer. My husband leaves it on all the time--just in case (of what, I don't know). But if you aren't using it, it will save energy and not give off any extra heat that you don't need.
*In the the drapes or blinds. Let the sunshine heat the house. In the summer...keep them closed to keep the heat out.
*Run your ceiling fans.
*Take shorter showers or double up (I will take a bath with the babies--hey what other time will you get a chance to soak?).
*In the summer, use your microwave, crockpot and George Foreman grill instead of the oven. It will keep things cool (and thus not cause the AC to charge on).
*Really measure your laundry detergent. Why waste a bunch if you are only doing a small load (like any of us have 'small' loads of laundry!) And wash on cold.
*Buy the cheaper diapers and wipes. Who needs Supreme? Or use coupons.
*Order free samples. If I see a product I already use on TV offering a free sample, I order it. Its FREE! If you are flexible with your brands, you could get a lot.
Let me know what you do to save money! There are always new ideas to try!
next (cheap) toys and activities with the babies!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Finding Family Fun

You really should leave your house once in awhile--and bring your kids with. But where will you go?

Your community is probably filled with family-oriented activities, and many might even be free!

*Look in the local newspaper (more local than the Chicago Tribune--be specific to your town or neighborhood) or free weekly newspapers. Especially in the summer, there may be some great festivals to go to.
*Our favorite spot for free, family fun....the library. Many offer 'baby time' once a week and other programs for people of all ages.
*Check out your local park district. Many offer programs for families at low-costs (or offer some kind of funding) as well as special free events for families (like an Easter egg hunt, touch-a-truck day, concerts).
*If you live near a college or university, check out their calendar of events. Large universities usually offer open houses and free programs as well as free sporting events.
*Join a Parent Group--Mothers and More or La Leche League are good groups to join to meet other parents with small children. Many of these groups list their meeting times in the local papers.
*Enjoy nature!! Its springtime now so enjoy your local parks, take a walk, go to a nature preserve, visit local arboretums, explore the urban jungle (your kids may enjoy window shopping as much as you do!).

Below are some links for my community:
News Gazette
Weekly Buzz
Champaign County
Champaign Public Library
Urbana Public Library
Champaign Park District
Urbana Park District
University of Illinois
Parkland College

Mothers and More
La Leche League

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Waste Not

Being a stay-home mom, our budget is very tight. Therefore, I don't waste a thing in our house, if I can. We always have bananas that no one will eat once any brown appears. So we eat a lot of banana bread and muffins as well as smoothies.

Dont' have time? Peel bananas, chop roughly, place in ziplock, and throw in freezer. Label the amount on bag. (You can also freeze any berries or peaches that get forgotten)

Here are our favorite recipes.

This is fiber-packed and a great morning snack.

Chunky Monkey Muffins
1 cup sugar (you can do 1/2 white, 1/2 brown)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 eggs
4 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk with 1/2 tsp vinegar)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chocolate chips, optional
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins, optional

Heat oven to 350F. Cream butter, sugar, and 2 bananas together. Add buttermilk. Add flours, soda, salt, and cinnamon. Fold in oatmeal, nuts, chocolate, fruit, and remaining 2 bananas (chopped). Spoon into muffin tins sprayed with cooking spray. Makes 24 large muffins (bake 20-30 min) or 48 mini-muffins (bake 15-20 min) or 2 bread loaves (bake 45-60 min).

*Using a mixer, this is easy to make while holding the baby. Use an ice cream scoop to fill baking cups.
**Kids can help pick out ingredients and taste them (please be aware of choking hazards).

Fruit Smoothies
1 cup frozen or fresh fruit
1/2 cup juice, milk, soy milk or water
1/4 cup yogurt, optional
1/2 cup ice, optional

1 banana
1-2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup milk or soy milk
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup, optional

Place in blender and blend until desired consistency.

We also have leftover pasta and rice often. Here is a great recipe to use it up.
Speghetti Pie or Rice Casserole
1 cup veggies--leftover or fresh (onions, carrots, squash, whatever)
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk or broth
1 cup tomato sauce
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained (throw in the microwave for 3 mins and squeeze out in paper towels)
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2-2 cups leftover pasta or rice
1/2 cup shredded cheese

Heat oven 350F. In large skillet, heat butter or oil. Add veggies, sautee 5 minutes. Add flour and stir. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add milk, stir. Bring to boil. Add tomato sauce and spinach. Add pasta or rice and egg. Top with cheese. Mix until well combined. Pour into 9x9 pan, sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 15 minutes. While baking, make a salad or veggie (try making frozen green beans with a handful of dried cranberries).

*You can make this ahead of time and put it in the oven when you get home (cook for 45 minutes).

Learning from Lasagna

Its been awhile, I know. But that's what happens in families. Kids get sick, teething, soccer practice, and all the sudden weeks have gone by and you didn't even notice. But in the chaos we call parenthood, I did manage to get some good food on the table.

Here is a great lasagna to learn with....

Learning Lasagna
1 package no-cook lasagna noodles
1 package italian blend shredded cheese (or 2 cups grated mozerella)
2-3 cups tomato sauce (see recipe below or use store-bought)
2 portions of lasagna fillings (see below)
Heat oven to 350F. Prepare sauce and fillings as desired. Coat bottom of 9x9 pan with sauce. Add one layer of noodles (about 3 noodles--you will probably have to break them up to fit). Cover with sauce. Add one layer of filling. Add layer of noodles. Cover with sauce. Cover with layer of shredded cheese. Add another layer of filling. Add layer of noodles. Cover with sauce. Cover with remaining shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes. Take foil off and bake additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool 15 minutes.
(This freezes well. Line the pan with two layers of foil, then assemble. Cover with foil. Freeze in pan. Once frozen, take out of pan and wrap with plastic wrap. You can bake from frozen, add 20 minutes).
Lasagna Fillings
1. Mix one small container of ricotta cheese with one clove finely minced garlic, 1/4 tsp basil, salt and pepper. (You can also add one package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained well).
2. Brown 1 lb. ground beef or italian sausage. Drain excess fat. Add one cup tomato sauce.
3. Sautee fresh veggies in pan with garlic and basil. You want about 1-2 cups when finished. I suggest mushrooms, zuchinni, carrots, spinach, peppers, or any mix (leftover veggies work well too!). Add one cup tomato sauce.
4. Grill or sautee one eggplant--sliced thin.

Easy Tomato Sauce
(its better and WAY cheaper than jarred sauce)
1 large can crushed tomatoes or about 5-10 fresh tomatoes, chopped and seeded
1 medium onion, chopped
at least 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil or a bunch of fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
(you can also pump up the veggie in-take by adding 2 chopped carrots, 2 chopped ribs celery, 1 chopped bell pepper, or fresh or frozen spinach)

Heat a medium pot on high. Add olive oil, onions (and any other veggies except spinach), and garlic. Sautee for five minutes. Add basil, tomatoes, and salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer ten minutes. (Add spinach at end).
*I sometimes puree the sauce--to hide the veggies.
What the Kids Can Do!
*Select fillings (one kid can pick one, another can pick another)
*Break noodles into 1/2 Can you make this noodle into 2? This piece is called 1 half. How many halves do you have now?
*Count noodles
*Measure ingredients Let's scoop 1 cup of sauce into pan.
*Spread sauce and cheese
*Help make the pattern of the lasagne Sauce, noodles, filling...what comes next?
*Cut veggies (older children only!)
*Put foil on top
*Measure different pans to select right one
*Identify shapes for right pan We need a square pan, which of these is square?
*Count corners on pan How many corners are on this pan? We need one with 4 corners.
*Grate cheese (older children only!)
*Identify colors of food What color is the tomato sauce? How about this noodle?
*Taste different ingredients Do you like that taste? Does it taste sweet or sour?
*Mix sauce or fillings
*Read recipe Identify title, words, sentences, number, fractions, symbols.

Monday, March 06, 2006

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Introduce yourself!

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Keeping Up with the World

With the passing of the Oscars last night, award season is now over. This year I was at the point where I only really knew the nominees in the children's categories (e.g. best children's album, best animated film). Thank goodness for the Daytime Emmy's--at least I have seen those shows at least once. Being a stay-home mom, especially in the Midwest where its supercold in the winer and hot in the summer, we spend a lot of time inside--not even talking to other people outside the immediate family. Some days I feel so out of touch, that I can't believe what's happened to me. But I have found some ways to combat this isolation and feel like other adults in the world.

--The Latest News
First, I keep up with the news. I try to watch the local news at least a couple times a week. I also check on the daily news online. Even if I only read the headlines, at least I know there is something happening. I check the national and local websites once a day.

I like and (as well as

--The Gift of Gossip
Secondly, I give myself the gift of celebrity gossip. I subscribe to People Magazine. Its a bit expensive, since it is published weekly but you could share the subscription with a girlfriend. Or I read Us Weekly at the gym. And I even check once in awhile. In our American world right now, celebrity news is as almost as important as 'real' news, so if you are in the know you can relate to other adults--should you come in contact with any.
(at least the crossword in the back should keep your brain working!)

--See Adult Movies
We try to see 'adult' movies at least once a month. I don't mean porn--although there is nothing wrong with that, if you like. I mean movies made for people over 13 years old. Movies are expensive to go to--especially on a date with your honey (dinner, movie, popcorn, babysitter=$100 easy).
Here are some tips:
(1) go to a weekend matinee--some theaters reduce the price even more from 4-6pm. Sitters are easier to find since they don't have to devote their whole evening to babysitting.
(2) rent a DVD--there are only $3-4 which is half of one ticket at the theater. Pop some popcorn at home for another $1. Too tired at the end of the day? Pop it in your laptop and watch it in bed or watch half one day and half another.
(3) Pay-per-view. It can be the same price as renting and you don't have to return it.
(4) Rent from the library. Our library is getting movies faster than before and you can borrow them for a week for a small fee (ours is $1).
(5) If you really watch a lot of DVD's, try a service such as Netflix or Blockbuster Online. They mail them to your door. If you are really going to watch a lot, it is definately worth it economically. You could also share a membership with a friend.
Also, since you probably won't be able to see every movie out there. Make the experience worth it, glance at reviews ( is great, you can see how a movie rates without reading through all the reviews and ruining the surprise endings) or ask friends for reviews.

--Read a Book or Watch TV.
I also love to read. After being in grad school, I longed to read anything that wasn't a textbook or research article. So, I became a library junky. I find a series of books or a particular author and read as much as I can. Right now I am reading books by Sue Grafton (her alphabet series, A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar...). They are great with a super female lead. Check it out at
(**Also, by seeing you read, your children will see the importance of reading for themselves!)
By the time we get all the kids to bed and clean up a bit, its late and we are tired. Sometimes, I am just too tired to read coherently. So, I try to watch one 'adult' television show each week. I make the time. Usually, I prefer CSI but if I miss the beginning, I opt for ER. Something about watching something without dance numbers makes me feel like an adult again.

--Eat like an Adult
It is so easy to find yourself munching on macaroni and cheese with a side of chicken nuggets. But once in awhile, you need to eat gourmet. Make a separate meal for you and your honey (if the kids are having chicken nuggets, make a big salad with spinach, greens, veggies, apples, cranberries, nuts. Then slice up the chickken nuggets and add it to your salad). We also like to keep some of our favorite restaurants kid-free, meaning we only go there alone. It becomes a special place that we can feel like adults and not parents for a hour or two. Eat slowly and stay late for dessert and coffee.

--Get Out of the House!!
Finally, get yourself out of the house (and not to the grocery store!). I find that to only places I go are the grocery store and the gym. Although, I use the gym as my retreat, I also need time to go something alone and not practical. You don't always have to multi-task. Go to the movies, have coffee with friends, go out and talk on the phone for an hour--without interruption, read in the park, shop for clothes for yourself, treat yourself to lunch, go for a walk. Do something without the kids or even your sweetie and try not to think about them--as hard as that is. You probably have a cell phone, so if they are truly in need of you, they can call.

It is so easy to fall into the seculsion of your house and role as a mother or father. But you have to remember that you are also a woman or man, wife or husband. Take the time to be that adult. It will allow you to be a better parent.
Happy person=Happy parent!!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


So, this week we are all sick. I can't remember a time when we were all sick at once. It really is unpleasant. At least my husband wasn't as bad as the rest of us--he made us a big breakfast on Saturday--thanks, hun.

So, I sit here--in my extreme exhaustion, staring at the line up of vaporub, tylenol (four types), saline drops, kleenx, bulb syringe, vitamins.... I washed everything possible--toothbrushes, all the doornobs and light switches, the remote, computer keyboard, toys, pacifiers, everyone's hands. We rented videos and got books from the library. We have shared our only humidifier among the bedrooms. We have eaten ice cream, pudding, donuts, applesauce, pizza, and speghettios. And drank gallons of fluids among the five of us. I have changed my clothes three times a day--due to spit up and snot. And we sleep when we can. Well I think four out of five of us are doing better. A trip to the doctor will get the last of us on the road to recovery--missing three days of school helps too. It will probably take us a week to get back on schedule and working again on potty training, sleep routines, and school work. But oh well. Maybe fate made us take a break from our busy schedules and focus on ourselves for once (I slept almost three hours without interruption on Saturday!!).

And it reminds me share one of my favorite recipes...chicken soup.

Basic Chicken Soup
3-4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, if desired
1 medium onion, chopped
5-6 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups chicken broth or water
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken breasts in hot oil. Cook until lightly brown. Flip over. Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until other side of chicken is browned. Add basil. Add liquid. Bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 15 minutes. Take chicken breasts out of soup. Using two forks or a knife (or your fingers!), shred chicken. Add back to soup. Add peas. Cook five minutes. Enjoy.

Add any veggies you want. Play with your food!
You can add noodles the last 10 minutes of cooking. We like alphabets or fat egg noodles.

Add 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger and one 4 oz can chopped jalepano peppers with liquid. While shredding chicken, add 1/2 package thin rice noodles. Omit peas.

Tortilla Soup
Add 1-2 chipotle peppers or one 4 oz can chopped jalepano peppers, 8 oz tomato sauce, 1 tsp chili powder. While shredding chicken, puree soup with immersion blender. Top soup with crushed corn chips and shredded cheese. Omit peas.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Busy Days

Yesterday was a terribly busy day for us--although upon reflection, I suppose it was normal for our lives. Besides the fact that we had just gotten back from travelling, which meant everyone was tired and a bit off, we had to be in three different places at once. Our daughter is taking a class which happens to be at the same time my regular exercise class and it was PTA night. It was also bath night for the kids. Not willing to give up my hour to myself at the gym, we have organized a somewhat elaborate system to get us all where we need to be. (Did I mention we only have one car?)

First, we eliminate things we can't or don't want to do. The PTA meeting was a child-parent activity, so since our child couldn't be there, we eliminated PTA. I fed our older son dinner now--at 430pm so that at least its a possibility he will be in a good mood. So, I put on my workout clothes, pack my gym bag, change the boys' diapers, and get everyone with shoes and coats to the car. We pick up my husband from work. Then we drive to the gym where I and our older son get out. I drop him off at the childcare and I go to kickbox. Meanwhile, my husband drops our daughter off at class. Then he goes home, takes care of a few things with the baby. After about half an hour at home, he packs the baby up and begins to retrieve us. He picks up me--freshly pumped and showered (the gym is the only place I can shower without anyone coming and asking me questions, using the toilet, or trying to get in with me) and our son. At this point, both kids are crying. Our older son had a miserable time at the gym since he was forced to leave a Bob the Builder toy there and then put on his coat. Our baby hates the car and was hungry since my husband didn't have time to feed him while home. But we have to keep going. We pick up our daughter and head for home. At this point, it is about 730pm. Kids' bedtime is at 8pm. We resort to survival mode. Skip baths for the boys--they can do it in the morning. Any homework not due tomorrow can be left undone for our daughter. The girls eat dinner and the boys get ready for bed. After dinner, the girls enjoy some ice cream and strawberries--shhhh! Our daughter can't skip showering even though its late but we keep it short. By 815pm all the kids are in bed and we are sitting down for the first time since 5pm. A quick putting away of dinner--the dishes can wait. And we collapse to watch the Olympics.

Now reading that, it is pretty typical. I guess it makes the time pass quickly.

So onto another mommy survival tip....
The Crock Pot
Every family must have one. On nights like this--when time is short and eating all together is unlikely, a crock pot meal is great. Plus, these meals take minutes to prepare and are healthy (since you aren't using any oil, etc. to cook with). You can throw the meal together the night before or when you have some down time in the morning. Even husbands can make great meals using it (hint, hint darling husband!). The extended cooking also acts as a nice air freshener--the house and even outside smell great (if you like the smell of pot roast or soup, that is).

Funny story--my cousin got married last year. She registered for a nice and big crock pot. Well, she ended up getting 6. We all told her to keep at least 2 for herself but she didn't believe us and only kept one. Oh well.

*I don't usually involved the kids while cooking with the crock pot because there's no time. It only takes a couple of minutes--usually of chopping, which I obviously don't do holding a baby or toddler.

Beef Stroganoff
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 lbs stew beef
1 tablespoon tapioca
1/4 cup water
1 small package mushrooms (about 6), sliced
1/4 cup sour cream
salt and pepper

Add onion, garlic, sauce, basil, beef and tapioca to crock pot. Add salt and pepper (1/2 tsp each to start). Mix together. Add water. Cover and cook on low 6 hours or high 4 hours (or according to manufactures instructions). Add mushrooms after 5 hours or so. Before serving, add sour cream. Taste for seasoning. Serve over egg noodles.
*can be left on 'warm' setting after 6 hours until reading to eat.

Barbeque Chicken
Chicken breasts--up to 12 fit in a standard pot
1/4-1 cup prepared barbeque sauce (about 1 heaping tablespoon per breast)

Put ingredients in pot. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. With two forks, shred chicken. Serve with buns and extra sauce as sandwiches.
Leftovers are a great filling for tacos or burritos. You can also make BBQ chicken pizza (lightly toast a tortilla, top with chicken, BBQ sauce, and cheese. Heat until cheese is melted)!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


This past weekend, we packed up the kids and went to visit the family for a wedding. It was a delightful weekend full of family and friends. It was great to see almost all of my mother's family (and that's a lot--almost 60). It was especially amazing and a bit strange to see our younger-baby cousins (we officially have to stop calling Jim who is graduating from college Baby Jimmy!) all grown up and enjoying the wedding. It is great to celebrate with four generations together. I will gladly pack up the family and drive a couple hours to see them!

As usual, it was a lot of work just getting out of the house. The preparations begin a week in advance. Besides, planning our week's meals with the existing food in our house--so we use all the parishable foods before we are gone, I shop for anything we might need for the trip (e.g. medications, birthday cards, snacks). Then I try to keep the kids on their schedules until we leave--meaning sleep and eating. I plan to do laundry a day or two early and start pulling things out to pack the night before. We go out of town often enough that it is pretty easy to pack up but it always takes us what seems like forever to leave. We always leave at least one hour later than what I had planned. Then we get in the car and my husband inevitably says he needs to run some kind of errand before we leave town. Our family has learned to expect us at least two hours after we say we will arrive.

Once we are finally there, the adventure begins. I used to get extremely stressed out when we travelled, especially up to Chicagoland to see family. I would always be sick by the time we got home. So over the years I have changed my perspective and tried some strategies to reduce the stress.
*Pack lightly.
If we are staying with people (instead of hotel), I only pack half of what need and do laundry. When travelling with five people, there are a lot of clothes. Plus kids get dirty--you want to wash those right away. I almost always do laundry when visiting my mom's before we come home--that way you come home with mostly clean clothes and you don't have to worry about doing it when you get home. Also, we often stay with my parents so I stock her house with a lot of items (e.g. shampoo, soap, toothpaste, lotion, baby cereal, sippy cups, toothbrushes). We also keep a pack-n-play there. She also has a stroller.

*Take care of yourself and your kids
Do not overschedule yourselves. Of course your mother-in-law would like to see you as does your grandmother, and aunt, and brother, and best friend. But you can't see everyone at every visit and you can't see them all in one day. I try to plan only one major event/visit each day. Plan to stay an extra day if possible. Try not to feel obligated to see everyone. Remember people can come visit your home as well.
SLEEP!!! If possible I try to plan things around the kids usual sleeping times and meals. Try not to skip a nap more than one day. Sleep yourself. I love talking with my siblings but I really shouldn't stay up past midnight to do so--especially when I will see them in the morning. Also, get back on schedule as soon as you get home.
EAT!!! We have found that people without kids do not eat like people with kids--most commonly, they eat dinner when your kids are usually asleep and sleep when your kids want to eat breakfast. Try to keep your kids and your own bloodsugar under control. Pack good snacks (e.g. cereal bars, bags of cereal, dried fruit, applesauce, juice boxes, pretzles). Kids will most likely not eat at big family meals like Christmas dinner--besides the fact that the food may not be familiar, they will be overstimulated with presents and new people and places. Feed them before you leave. I also feel like as long as they eat something, we're doing good. For example, our son didn't really eat dinner one night because he didn't like any of the food offered (he's a picky eater to begin with). So, I let him eat a piece of cheesecake and some jello anyways. At least he got some calories in him, right?

Someone in your family will have a meltdown while travelling--whether its you or your kids. Its ok. People won't think you're a terrible mother if you kids throws himself on the floor because he's exhausted and doesn't want to share his toys. This past weekend, our kids were so tired. We were having dinner with my grandmother and two out of three of the kids left the table in tears. I just let them happen. Both kids took a couple minutes to cry and pout and then returned to the table and ate and the rest of the visit was pleasant. If you protect your sleeping and eating you can try to avoid meltdowns but...

*Diaper Bags
Although I try to be minimalistic with my kids and travel....I do pack a good diaper bag. Besides the obvious diapers and wipes, I pack an extra set of clothing for all the kids in diapers and an extra set for me (since we are still nursing--FYI my kids are notorious for getting off their nursing schedules while travelling). I also have toys, books, snacks, extra pacificers, and diaper cream. Since most homes without kids won't have toys for the kids to play with, the kids pack a bag of things to do including books and favorite toys (they also use them in the car). Warning!!! Don't pack your kid's favorite favorite toy unless you will be very good about remembering to bring it home. My son loves his Thomas the train but I bring other trains in his bag--besides the fact he would be really upset if we lost it, he will not share it with other kids.

Travelling with Your Toddler,,423r,00.html

Have a Good Trip,,423r,00.html

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Valentine's Week

This week was Valentine's Week. I hope everyone had a loving and special day. Having three children, it took us a couple days to complete our Valentine's date--dinner one night, movie the next.
With Valentine's, my daughter had a party at school. Being the crazy mother that I am I baked up a storm (Heart-Shaped Cookie Pops, Red Velvet Cupcakes, and a Coffee Cake for the teachers and staff during Parent-Teacher Conferences). Did I mention, she also did a report on Poland and asked me to make some good Polish food for her class? (So, a batch of raspberry kolockies, sausage, pierogies, and sauerkraut).

I love to cook, so today I have included some easy and kid-friendly recipes from my week. Additionally, I have some educational ideas to use as well. The coffee cake you can make with one hand (e.g. holding a baby)*. I will try to feature at least one 'One-handed Recipe' every few weeks. I cook every day--yes, every day. So, I have figured out many ways to involve the kids in cooking and get a homemade dinner on the table every night (plus cookies for the bake sale, brownies for my husband's office, birthday treats for a party...).
*Please take extra care while cooking with a baby. Never hold a baby close to burner, oven, or while working with a knife.

February Recipes

Cookie Pops
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
6 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
lollipop sticks--available in craft or baking sections

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Add flour, soda, powder, and salt, beat well. Dump dough onto plastic wrap and work into ball. Pat dough into disk-shape. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 10 minutes to overnight. Roll out on floured board to 1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Place lollipop sticks into shapes--about half way up. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375oF.

1 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup water
Food coloring, if desired

Combine and spoon over cooled cookies.
(You can top with sprinkles or other decorations while glaze is still wet)

Sour Cream Coffee Cake--A one-handed recipe
From Betty Crocker’s Cookbook (1991)

1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cups butter, softened
3 eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla (or other flavorings)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ cups sour cream or yogurt

½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup finely chopped nuts
1 ½ tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350oF. Grease tube, bundt, or 2 loaf pans well. Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternating with sour cream (about three additions of each). Combine filling ingredients in small bowl.

Spoon half of cake batter into pan (if using 2 loaf pans, spoon ¼ batter into each pan, etc.). Sprinkle batter with half of filling mixture. Repeat. Bake for 45-60 minutes. Cool completely and remove from pan.

*You can add other fillings into the middle layer such as 1 cup of cranberry sauce, chopped apples, blueberries, any leftover pie filling, chocolate chips, sweetened cream cheese….

This cake freezes great and stays fresh for several days with well covered.
What kids can do?
Unwrap the butter Let's count the sticks of butter!
Crack the eggs--into a separate bowl first
Measure ingredients How many half cups do I need for 1 cup?
Roll out dough
Cut out shapes What shape are you using? What shape is this? What is your favorite shape?
Mix glaze
Glaze cookies What color is the glaze?
Sprinkle cookies with sprinkles
Spoon dry ingredients and sour cream into mixer
Sprinkle filling
Other ideas:
Read recipe with child aloud--run your finger along words as you read
Ask child to find the numbers on the page
Ask child to find letters, words, and sentences on page (Can you find a W on this recipe?)
If child can read, ask child what to do next after a step