Saturday, June 29, 2013

taking a little break...

I'm taking a little blogging break. For how long, you ask? Maybe just a few days, maybe the month of July, maybe the whole summer... We'll see. This magazine excerpt from Dr. Harley Rotbart's book pretty much sums up the way I feel right now: wiped out. I told a friend that "I need more summer in my summer", and she replied, "If you feel frazzled you need to cut. You can't be full on every day. Summer is when u recharge for the coming school year...Could u take a pause... without losing ground? I guess another way to look at it is, at the end of the summer, what kind of memories do u want to have? Driving frantically around in the car or relaxing... What r your actions teaching your kids? Always be busy?" 

Ouch. So, baby steps. Last week, I did a clean eating week. (More on that when I get back to blogging.) And I decluttered the house some while I decluttered my eating. There's still work to do on both those fronts, but it's good enough for now. I feel more in order, more like I'm ready for a clean start...

And this coming week I'm setting aside time just to read. I'm delving into two books that have been on my can't-wait-to-read list for a few months now. {If you'd like a peek, click here for the books I look forward to reading, or here for the ones I've recently read and enjoyed.}

In my case, it took a dear friend sending me a zinger of an email to make me step back and regroup, then this excerpt from Dr. Rotbart's book drove it home.  

So, until the next post, hopefully you'll find me with my kids, putting more "summer" into our summer.

p.s. Have no fear, you can still use this blog as a fabulous resource. Simply scroll down the right side here and perform a search for something specific, or peruse the categories. Cheers.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

mmm, summer in a dish: apricot-blueberry clafoutis

Have I got a treat for you!!

I recently shared one of my all-time favorite summer desserts, Apricot-Blueberry Clafoutis, with our local market. Click here for the recipe!

This is one of those recipes that looks fancy, but is so, so easy. With just a few ingredients, you make a batter in your blender, pour it over some fresh fruit, pop it in the oven.... and voila! It makes a perfect summer dessert, brunch or potluck recipe. I hope that your family enjoys this recipe as much as mine does!

Monday, June 17, 2013

simple homemade gift + rainy day activity: lemon sugar scrub

School's out for us... and last week was a very rainy week. Normally I would just have my kids bundle up and go play in the rain, but my older son is in South America on an adventure with my parents for 10 days, and, well, call me a scrooge, but I'm not a huge fan of playing in the rain. Two days into summer break, I'd had my fill of Sorry and Totally Gross board games, and was feeling pangs of guilt that the last weeks of school had seemed so busy, and we hadn't done an end of year gift for all of the 'extra' (non-lead) teachers that play such an amazing role in my children's school lives. My 6-year-old overheard me mention this to a friend and excitedly announced that we should "make something!" So, we spent Friday morning making enough Lemon Sugar Scrub to pop in the school mailboxes of his Extended Day teachers, the Head of Early Childhood, her right-hand-gal assistant, his science, art, Spanish, and music teachers, the Head of School and his speech therapist (my child's... not the Head of School's). Because we now have our go-to Lemon Sugar Scrub down to a science, I am jotting the latest and greatest recipe down (with exactly what to buy, using brands and sizes readily available at your local market) here for you all looking for  a simple rainy day activity, or easy teacher/hostess gift, that your children can help make. Order the jars now (while you're thinking of it), and have the other ingredients in your pantry, and you too can the win mom-of-the-day award...

Lemon Sugar Scrub
(makes a dozen 8.5 oz jars)

twelve 8.5 oz jars (I get them at Container Store)
two 2lb boxes Sugar in the Raw
25.3 oz bottle olive oil (we used Filippo Berio Extra Light)
15 oz bottle pure lemon juice
zest of 3-4 lemons

{If you are making this with little ones, I highly recommend putting a towel down.} Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or pot. Divide evenly among jars and seal tightly. Let gift recipients know it's a beauty products, not an ice cream topping...

Here are action photos, since I know some of you like to follow along this way:

measuring sugar

now we know a box is 4 cups, so dumping sugar...

olive oil (yes, this makes me nervous on our brand new kitchen floors...)

lemon juice (yep, even more nervous about those kitchen floors...)

zesting lemons (I let him do one side of each lemon, then I did the other sides since they get slippery)


scooping (and I'm not going to lie: I was thrilled when he tired of scooping... at that point I had the remains of several jars worth of lemon sugar scrub running down my arm)

this photo's a little out of order, but I'm going to keep it here just to remind you to put a towel down... you can thank me later

voila! i wish i'd thought to take a photo with the ribbons and tags, but I didn't. you get the gist though!

Friday, June 14, 2013

we have a winner of the Fearless Feeding book....

#5, Holly Wells, you are the lucky winner!! Look for your copy of Fearless Feeding arriving in your mailbox soon, courtesy of Wiley publishers!! Thank you to author, Jill Castle, for this fun giveaway!!

True Random Number Generator  5Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fearlessly Feeding a Picky Eater - a guest post + give-away by Jill Castle, M.S., R.D.

This is the last week of school for my children {insert gasp}, which means I need to buckle down and figure out how to juggle my time between this award-winning {aw, you all make me blush} blog, raising two {awesome if I might say so myself} kids, and making time to take care of myself {novel concept, one I am working on... and all of you busy moms know, this is one of the hardest parts of parenting}.

Anyway, while I find my 'free time' in short supply once the school year ends, I always look forward to June-August as a time to read a ton, jot down my priorities and set my course for the Fall ahead. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to meet Jill Castle, the co-author of Fearless Feeding - How To Raise Healthy Eaters From High Chair to High School, and her book became my first official "summer read".

When Jill gave me a copy, I couldn't wait to delve in. I grabbed a highlighter and one of my favorite afternoon snacks (veggies rolls wrapped in rice paper, from the sushi counter at Walter Stewart's Market),

and sat there on the sidelines of my older son's tennis lesson reading her book. The approachable tips, and nonjudgmental style hit home. This is a mom who 'gets it'. Any mom, whether they are just starting out and trying to create good habits from toddlerhood+, or one who may be feeling frustrated as they try to expand their family's mealtime repertoire, can use this book as a much appreciated vote of confidence, and a little hand holding. And {drum roll} in addition to having Jill share her expertise as a gust blogger today, one of you will be lucky enough to win a copy of Jill's book! To win, simply leave a comment on this post letting me know your biggest challenge-- or best tip-- when it comes to feeding your family well. Entries will be accepted until midnight (Eastern time) Thursday, June 13th, and one winner will be chosen by on Friday, June 14th. But first, let's hear what Jill has to say, because I can't tell you how many people have asked me what do do about their picky eaters!  

10 Things You Don’t Want to Do with Your Picky Eater
Guest post by Jill Castle, MS, RD

“My three-year-old used to eat everything under the sun,” said Joanie, “but all that changed over the last couple of months.”

This phase called picky eating-- a hallmark of toddlerhood-- still throws parents for a loop. While most parents endure this, many don’t enjoy it, nor do they know exactly how to deal with it. And some make mistakes that prolong the stage beyond normal. Here, I help you understand what not to do, and why. Steer clear of these tendencies and your child’s picky eating phase will be shorter and much more tolerable.

Talk about picky eating too much. You’ve been there, and heard that. That mom who talks endlessly about how picky her child is, and how it controls her kitchen, meal table, and possibly her life! Talking about picky eating, especially in the presence of your child, draws attention to the behavior and may even reinforce it. You may also risk stigmatizing your child with a “label.” Remember: picky eating is a phase of toddlerhood—almost a rite of passage. It’s part of normal development. If it’s gone beyond the toddler years, there’s more to the story and you may need more help to sort out the root of the problem.

Nag or pressure to eat. It is so tempting to encourage or nag the picky eater to eat more (as if they forgot about the food in front of them!). The problem with this approach is that research shows that nagging or pressuring kids to eat or taste food may turn off their appetite. Imagine that—the more you pressure your child to eat, the less he eats! Not exactly what parents of picky eaters are looking for.

Feed the child (when he is clearly old enough to feed himself). Some parents take over feeding, thinking that if they offer a forkful of food, little Holly will take a bite. And she might. However, most young kids prefer to be in control of feeding themselves (and do better with eating when they are), and may be less cooperative when the adult takes over. Other children may have easy-going personalities or may want to please their parent, and acquiesce to being fed. Just know that on the spectrum of child development, kids want to be in charge of their own eating (that’s why they say “I do it.”).

Criticize eating performance. “Oh Johnny, you never eat enough! You’re wasting away!” or other admonitions like “I took the time to make this for you…” and “This has always been a favorite—I don’t understand why you’re not eating!” don’t really help in the long run. It’s helpful to know that eating is in flux during the early years, and largely reflects growth stage and appetite (and how well eating went earlier in the day). Criticisms about eating may bring up feelings of guilt, under-performance, and injure self-esteem. If you’re child doesn’t eat well, refrain from commenting. Get professional help if weight and growth are stagnant.

Use ultimatums. “No, you’re not getting down—you’ll finish your milk first,” or “You can get down when you eat three more bites of carrots.”  Ultimatums are an authoritarian approach to feeding kids, and almost never work to encourage children to enjoy or even like the food they are eating. And this is one goal of feeding children—to get them to like a variety of foods. Realistically, not every food will be liked—I bet even you have foods you’ve never liked! A respectful feeding relationship between parent and child will often yield a child who will lick or taste a bite, and a parent who keeps offering a variety of food without pressure, or an agenda.

Only offer foods the child likes. Boy, is this a trap! And many parents are in it. I don’t know a parent alive who enjoys only cooking and offering foods their child will eat. Most parents want their children to be open-minded, try different foods, and come to the table with interest and excitement. Yet, this almost never happens when the same-old food is served…not to mention a narrow diet may mean nutrient deficits, and problematic eating off-site. Catering to a child’s food preferences reinforces those foods, and keeps the child further away from a wide food variety and adventurous eating.

Praise too much for trying a bite. “Woot! Woot! Clap, clap clap! You did it! YAY. So proud of you, Trey!”(“phew—thank goodness he tried it!”) Believe it or not, praise for eating or trying food can feel like pressure to a child. You’re better off not reacting or responding to success, lest it set you back a pace or two. The business of eating should not be a test, performance or show. It’s simply the business of eating.

Rewarding for eating. “If you have four more bites of broccoli, you can have dessert.” Yeah, this tactic of rewarding will get your child to eat more broccoli, but it will also get your child to value dessert over broccoli. Big time. Think about the long-term implications of this—favoring dessert over veggies. Needing dessert (or another reward) to eat the healthy stuff. The truth is, there’s no real reward to solidifying these food attitudes today, in the long run.

Respond to antics. Yes, we all do it. In the moment when our child has worn us out, or when the picky eating is just too much. We want to shout, we want to discipline, we want to cry, we want to Get. Him. Whatever. He. Wants. Step away from the kitchen. Don’t do it. Keep that business-as-usual attitude. The poker face—you know it-- the blank, no-reaction face despite the whirl of emotions going on inside. Remember: Your job is feeding. His job is eating. No emotions, no caving, no anger. You can do it.

 Jill Castle is a registered dietitian and childhood nutrition expert, and proud mom to four kids. She is founder of the blog, Just the Right Byte and co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School.

I hope that you found Jill's tips helpful. If you would like a chance to win a copy of her book, Fearless Feeding - How To Raise Healthy Eaters From High Chair to High School, simply leave a comment on this post letting me know your biggest challenge-- or best tip-- when it comes to feeding your family well. Entries will be accepted until midnight (Eastern time) Thursday, June 13th, and one winner will be chosen by on Friday, June 14th. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

meal delivery to our (beloved) Kindergarten teachers

In addition to totally obsessing over whether I am in 3rd or 4th place (given the minute-- this contest is CRAZY!), yesterday the kids and I delivered dinner to my little one's beloved Kindergarten teachers. Last week, we delivered dinner to my older son's 4th grade teachers, and they loved it. I mean, who wouldn't love the gift of a homemade dinner?

Now, let's be clear on one thing: during this totally nutty end-of-year period, I was not home slaving over the stove. In fact {insert somewhat smug look}, I haven't actually cooked these past two weeks (unless you count making that avocado toast "cooking"). Remember that one night when I cooked and stocked the freezer? Yes, we're both living off that goodness, and gifting it.

And so, between opening the freezer door at home, making a selection from the homemade stash and then going to our local gourmet shop for a nice salad, a treat, and an appetizer, we were able to give two hard-working teachers a night off... and the wheels could still stay on the bus, even during a super busy week.

How great is that?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

avocado toasts with hard-boiled eggs and sriracha

I popped this photo of my pre-tennis match breakfast up on full plate's FB page last week and have received several emails either saying how AMAZING it was, or asking me to share the recipe. So, here goes! If you hard boil some eggs at the beginning of the week, this recipe comes together in minutes.

Avocado Toasts with Hard-Boiled Eggs and Sriracha
(makes a hearty breakfast for 1, or an awesome snack for 2)

your favorite bread, toasted*
1/2 an avocado
1 egg, hard boiled
sriracha sauce (optional)
lemon juice (optional)
sea salt & pepper, to taste

Toast the bread, then smash the avocado onto each piece of bread, using a fork (kids like to do this part). Slice the hard boiled egg, and place egg slices on top of avocado. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh pepper. Then drizzle with sriracha, and/or lemon juice. Enjoy!

*Depending upon where I am grocery marketing that week, I either buy a loaf of WholeG bread (which I originally swooned about here) at our local, Walter Stewart's Market , or I buy a loaf of Whole Foods' house-made "flax-quinoa bread in their bakery dept, and I have them slice it.