Guilt Free Saturday-What Not to Wear

Welcome to Guilt Free Saturday:The Long Weekend Edition.
Or, perhaps I should call this the “What Not to Wear” edition.

Are you familiar with “What Not to Wear”? If not, you are missing out. Here is a short synopsis: Stacey and Clinton work makeover magic in one week with a $5000 shopping spree on a fashion disaster that has been nominated by friends and family. The nominee has to surrender all their clothes and shop in NYC by Stacey and Clinton’s rules.

This past Saturday, I could totally hear Stacey and Clinton yelling at me.

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See, they give each nominee a set of rules that assists that person in finding clothes that are practical, comfortable, fashionable, and figure-flattering. Most of these rules change to fit the nominee, except for one: when you leave the house, WEAR REAL CLOTHES. No pajamas. Nothing you would wear to paint the house or to work out at the gym.

Now, I am hardly a diva. Or even high maintenance. To be honest, I rarely do normal things like comb my hair (I wish I was joking, but hey, I have curly hair. Combing it sometimes is a bad scene.) However, I always wear real clothes when I go out. Oh, and shower. It is part of my self-care. It is part of my, “Even though I am a mom I can still look young and cute,” needs.

But…

This Saturday, I majorly broke that rule.

I was tired. My daughter is on this new kick up waking up at 5:45 AM and not going back to sleep. We had to do a major shopping trip at Wal-Mart. I was comfy. I was like, you know what, SORRY Stacey and Clinton, I am about to become a mom stereotype. Out I went, in my electric green fleece pants and hooded sweatshirt and snow boots. Unwashed hair in a ponytail.

I did not feel one bit guilty. Or as if I was “letting myself go,” as my mother (who, by the way, has NEVER left the house in pajamas in her entire life. Or sweatpants.) would say. It’s Saturday. I dress for work every day of the week. I’m not a person you have to worry about showing up for a wedding in jeans. I just needed a day off.

Emboldened by my success in non-real clothes wearing, I decided to push the envelope. After we went shopping, I took my daughter to McDonalds’, to the giant Play Place that is five minutes from our house. Where, I would like to say, I was NOT the only mom not wearing real clothes AND some dude hit on me and was like, “I used to be a police officer!” (Ummm, that’s nice. You obviously didn’t do a ring check, dude.)

Eat that, Stacey and Clinton. Even in my pajamas in public, I still got it.

Adventures in Toddlerland:Epic Mom Fail

Over the Blizzard Weekend, we made the decision to start potty-training. We had purchased the potty, and since we had nothing else to do, it was all hey, why not?

We aren’t using any special method, or formula, or book. We are using the old “keep sitting them on the potty at regular intervals and act like its a big deal if they pee,” method. Also, my daughter is a little young, so I also don’t want to stress her out. I have all these Freudian nightmares in the back of my mind. But I digress.

It has been going pretty well. We camp out on the potty. We often pee. We use the iPad to relax and entertain ourselves. I think I have seen every cat video on YouTube. This one is particularly effective, as it shows a cat USING the potty! When there is success, we clap, cheer, high five. As my daughter says now, when she looks into the potty, “Proud!”

However, I am always one to push the envelope. She wasn’t asking to use the potty, and that is where success really lies in this whole endeavor. So I think to myself, maybe I can sweeten the deal. Who doesn’t like an incentive? Toddlers love incentives! All the books say so. And I had a bag of Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate chips. A chocolate chip is the perfect size for a toddler!

(Just a side note-I don’t really do incentives. I will probably go into why in detail another time. The short story is, you should do what is right just because. But peeing isn’t a moral or behavior issue. So I wavered.)

So she pees in the potty. And I tell her, “You pee peed in the potty! Mommy so proud! When you go pee pee in the potty, you get CHOCOLATE!” I hand her the chocolate chip.

Keep in mind my child eats a 90% Mom Food Nazi health food diet. When she asks for “cake” she means a salt free organic rice cake.

She puts that little chip in her mouth. I swear, she heard a choir of angels so loud, I found them deafening. I think a little taste revolution took place on that tongue. “Mmmmmm!” she shrieks, “CHOCOLATE!”

She finishes eating it. “Mamma. More chocolate?” she takes my hand and leads me to the cabinet.
“No more chocolate. Only when you go pee pee. Go pee pee, get chocolate.”

MAMMA, MORE CHOCOLATE!

Guys, I was in serious trouble. This was totally not what I had in mind. As you can imagine, “No,” did not go well.

Ten minutes of crying later, all I could think of was, “Epic Mom Fail. Worst decision yet.”

And secretly, in the back of my head, “Demanding more high quality semisweet chocolate? THAT’S Mamma’s girl!”

Maybe we aren’t asking to use the potty yet, but Mamma’s still proud.

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Dutch, Dutch Baby

Dear Dutch Baby,
How have I lived three decades without you? Your buttery goodness, golden top, and puffy interior bring me delectable satisfaction. You are the result of an improbable union between a crepe and fried dough. Plain, soft, and easy to eat, you are the perfect “mommy and me” breakfast. I fed my child powdered sugar without guilt, while I slathered my slices with homemade blueberry jam.
Let me bask in your image…

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And you are so easy to make!

I adapted from this recipe. There are endless variations. Use one egg, 1/4 cup flour, and 1/4 cup of milk per person eating the pancake. Mix well in a blender or by hand. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place a huge hunk of butter in the center of a skillet. I used 1/4 of a stick. Place the skillet with the butter in the oven. Let it melt while the oven preheats. Pour the batter in and bake 20-25 minutes, until it is golden and puffy, like a popover. Top with powdered sugar or other topping of your choice! Also feel free to add some spices to the dough-I will be adding some cinnamon and sugar to my Dutch Babies in my future.

Till Next Time, oh glorious pancake,
-Spicy P.

Mom-cation

This post is coming to you in celebration of my spontaneous Mom-cation!
What is a Mom-cation, you ask?

A Mom-cation is an unexpected period of time when there are no immediate, pressing responsibilities competing for your attention, your child is otherwise occupied (mine is napping) and you are actually free to relax.

Generally, Mom-cations are unexpected. Today, I came home from work unusually early. Just in time to put my child down for a nap! I threw in a load of laundry. And I am now lying on my couch, watching some show about sausages on the Travel Channel and typing this. Oh, and eating caramel popcorn with dark chocolate, cashews, and almonds, which I totally recommend.

Mom-cations are, I believe, a necessity. For most of us, there is always something that MUST be done. A child to watch, a meal to cook, a meeting to attend, a client to see. Most exhaustingly, there is always someone to engage with. Those moments when not only do you not have to do anything, but you don’t have to interact with anyone, are precious, and few and far between.

I have a pre-plan in my head for my Mom-cations. Three, actually. In the winter, I do what I am doing now-lie on the couch, watch TV only I like, and fart around on my iPad. In the summer, I go outside and stay in range of my baby monitor (if my child is sleeping and home) and read. If I am not at home and am, say, in-between appointments, I go to a book store. With my pre-plans, I can relax, QUICK, for the 35 minutes I usually have.

I encourage you to plan for your Mom-cations. I am going to go enjoy the precious few minutes I have left!

Guilt Free Saturday- Television

If, like me, you are stuck in New England, you have noticed it is negative degrees outside, with no let up in sight.
What do you DO with your life if you are stuck in this sub-zero catastrophe?
You could take up ice fishing, or ice climbing, or perhaps ice skating.
Or you could be the parent of a toddler who is not quite ready for these advanced motor skills, and who stands still yelling, “Mamma! Stuck!” when you dress her in the appropriate amount of layers for said weather.

So you improvise. You go shopping at big box stores. You go to drive-thrus for donuts. You visit every friend and relative you know. You check out the PlayPlace at McDonalds and at the mall.

And it’s still cold.

And so you watch TV.

So. Much. TV.

The American Pediatrics Association urges no television time at all for children under the age of two.

If you had asked me, before I became a mom, whether I would let my child watch TV, I would probably have told you no. I grew up in a very TV restricted environment, and I believe, despite the huge stink I put up as a child, that I am better for it. I am rarely bored and almost always able to figure out a way to pass the time.

But now, as an adult, I watch a lot of TV. Bad TV. Rot-your-brain type TV. It’s like my ongoing adolescent rebellion.
But not with my child. And so I digress.

When it was above 10 degrees outside, we played outside all afternoon, both on the weekends and when I got home from work. TV was not the first choice. Or even the back up. But now, with a stuffy nose and full-out cold every two weeks for both my child and her parents making up most of our winter thus far, sleepless nights from said colds and the eruption of an entire mouthful of teeth, and a heavy work schedule, my brain, for one, is mush. My energy is down.

But you know whose energy is never down? The gang from Yo Gabba Gabba. They are always ready to jump, shake, and shimmy.
And when I feel blah from the weather, and my full-time job, and the fiscal cliff, you know who is always, always cheerful? Elmo.

When I say “watch TV” I should clarify: we watch exactly three things here: Elmo DVDs, DVR/On-demand episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba, and YouTube Videos of cats. I always wondered who actually watched videos of things like “cats playing piano” on YouTube. Now I know. My child DELIGHTS in cat videos.

In fact, here is our favorite:
The Mean Kitty Song

This media diet eliminates the two things about TV that are, perhaps, the worst for kids: commercials, and violence.

But it doesn’t eliminate the #1 reason that kids shouldn’t watch TV- when you watch TV, you aren’t interacting with your child. They are watching a picture.
And the guilt sets in.

I am using this guilt to motivate me to use TV as an activity we do together, as opposed to a baby-sitter.

Today, for example, when we were watching the Yo Gabba Gabba episode about dress-up, my daughter ran to get her own “party hat” (they wear hats to dress up). So I ran and got my own party hat. We spent several minutes swapping hats, and trying on each other’s hats. Then we danced. (In Gabba Land, it is time to dance fairly often).

Am I saying I never turn on Elmo so I can cook dinner or go throw in a load of laundry or eat dinner with my husband? No. I totally do that. And I absolutely admire people who don’t. I do know real people who allow their children no screen time at all, ever. And I am in awe of those parents. Did my daughter rip my iPhone out of my hand yesterday because I was spending time texting while I thought she was occupied, watching TV? Yes. Did I put them phone down and play with her after she did that? Yes. Lesson learned that time.

If TV can get us through this winter, and teach my child to say “Mamma, party hat! Awesome!” then I totally think its worth it.
Guilt, be gone! ‘Cause now it’s time to DANCE!

Bi Bim That!

I am the type of person who will purchase an entire outfit to match a particularly perfect pair of shoes.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I created an entire meal to consume a sublimely spectacular condiment.

Kimchi is a spicy, salty, briny pickled Korean cabbage “relish” if you will. It is to be eaten with and alongside other dishes. I happen to love kimchi, and one of my best friends MAILED homemade kimchi ACROSS THE COUNTRY to me for my enjoyment.

The immediate concoction of a vehicle for said kimchi was necessary.

Enter Bi Bim Bap.

Bi Bim Bap is a Korean dish where a bowl of rice is topped with a variety of veggies, bean sprouts, some protein, and a sunny side up fried egg. You break the egg, stir up the veggies, coat everything in yolk, and go to town.

Oh, and eat kimchi with it.

To get inspired, I found this article, detailing non-traditional approaches to this very traditional dish. My main stumbling block? I had NO RICE. See, we only buy rice in those boxes with mixed in spices. We single handedly support Rice-a-Roni and Near East around these parts.

Personally, my favorite rice substitute is the soba noodle. These Japanese buckwheat noodles are healthy, slightly nutty, and have a toothsome texture that makes them stand up to all different meats and stir fries. And, they are super fast. Like four minutes in boiling water fast.

I like that in a noodle.

My other secret ingredient-which you can leave out, if you want-is Noritamago Furikake Rice Seasoning. I had an old roommate that introduced me to a sprinkle of this weird mixture of sesame seeds, seaweed, bonito, and dried egg yolk powder (weird, I know). It gives everything that special little UMPH! of authenticity when I make Asian noodle dishes.

Oh, and sriracha sauce. Of course.

Once I had the noodles in hand, everything else was simply a matter of sauté, chop, season, and dump.

This is my final product.

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It was seriously, seriously good.

Bi Bim Bap Inspired Noodles
Serves One. Multiply for more people!

Ingredients

Half a bundle of soba noodles (they come in these haystack-esque bundles)
1 egg
Half a Zucchini (or summer squash)
Four baby carrots
Sirloin Steak (I cooked up a six ounce steak rare for myself to use for multiple meals, and used 1/4 of it on this) or a protein of your choice. Beef is traditional, but I mean, I replaced the rice in this dish, so I won’t get all high and mighty on you.
Rice Wine vinegar
Soy sauce
Vegetable oil, for sautéing
Sriracha or other hot sauce
Rice seasoning
Homemade kimchi one of your best and brightest mailed 3,000 miles to you. Or you could buy some at the store.

Boil a small pot of water for the noodles. When it comes to a rolling boil, throw the noodles in, and cook for four minutes. Take out, drain immediately, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and stop them from sticking. Set aside.

Lightly oil a skillet, preheat until hot, and sear your steak until it is dark brown on both sides. Then, either cover it and turn down the heat and cook it on the stovetop, or throw it in a 350 degree oven until it is done the way you like it. Let it cook while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Cut the zucchini into matchsticks and throw them into the already hot-from-your-steak skillet. Stir fry until hot, but still crunchy, about three minutes.

Chop your carrots into matchsticks. Leave them raw. Drizzle them with a little rice wine vinegar.

Get a bowl. Put the noodles in the bottom. Drizzle with a little soy sauce and some rice seasoning, and stir. Arrange the vegetables scenically on top in little sections. Cut your steak, and do the same.

Now, fry your sunny side up egg. I recommend covering it with a lid so the yolk is nice and warm but still runny. I have read that in Thailand, they teach elementary school children how to fry a perfect egg. I think we could use that included in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.

As soon as the egg is done, put it in the center of your bowl. Like the sun! Garnish liberally with kimchi and dot with sriracha.
Pop that yolk, mix it up, and enjoy!