Monthly Archives: January 2013

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!

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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!

Comfort with Chaos

What is your comfort with chaos?

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Having a toddler makes me ask this question to myself each and every day. How much should she “experiment.” How much direction should I give? And, most importantly, how much FUN can we have?

At this point in my 18 month long crash course in parenthood, I have finally come to a very important conclusion: you can do anything-literally anything-with your child if you are not set on a specific outcome.

This was not an easy lesson for me. I am a control freak. I also like to GET IT DONE. I have had many long, frustrating days on this journey where nothing went as I wanted it to.
And I have an easygoing kid, people. Even when she was an infant she just ate, slept, and pooped.

At the end of yet another frustrating day, I finally figured out that I wasn’t having any fun. And if I wasn’t, my child wasn’t going to either.

I had to give up control. And, at the same time, take back control.

I have decided parenting is the intersection between what is good for me and what is best for my child. For example, I don’t believe everything we do should be about her. Nor should it all be about me. But I have 31 years of living behind me, and I felt sure there were some things I could show her that she would like, and we could do them together.

Shockingly, there is!
Exhibit A:

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We really enjoy cooking together.
But I had to let go of my process to make it a success.

I had to find some comfort in the chaos of cooking with someone who, at any moment, could take the entire thing we were working on and either: 1) eat it 2) dump it on the floor-on purpose or 3) get bored and make me stop. Also, she is super mobile, curious, and quick, so I have to make sure nothing around her is 1) hot (either as in the opposite of cold or too spicy, though she does like things with a zip!) 2) sharp 3) breakable or 4) Inedible (like an open bottle of vanilla extract or a bowl of raw eggs).
Several unfortunate mishaps (none serious, thank god) and many messes later, I have finally come up with a cooking process that works for US.

Today we made bacon cheddar biscuits. Which, I am sorry to say, were ok, but not awesome. But we had a blast. I didn’t flinch when she ate a spoonful of raw flour. Or took the dough and started spooning it into her own mixing bowl. Or offered a lump to the cat.

And through including her, I learned that my child can COUNT! I was spooning in tablespoons of buttermilk, going, “1…2….3…4…”and I paused to adjust my grip on the bottle and I hear her little voice go, “Five!”

I almost dumped the entire bottle on the floor.
I squealed “Yes! Five!” and she responded with, “SixSevenEightNineTen!”

If I had not let go, and learned to do things with my little love, and kept only cooking when she was asleep, this moment never would have happened.

So, accept that anything can happen-and you never know what will.
Now, who is going to help me clean my kitchen?

Guilt Free Saturday: Anything Goes

It’s Saturday, before noon! In an amazing twist of fate, my child slept through the entire night last night! This is especially amazing because she has a cold!

Naturally, she was up at 6 AM, ready to go.

A quick aside-I am going to save these posts for when she is a teenager and sleeps till noon and I am all bent out of shape. It will remind me to lighten up and go back to bed and be grateful she can use a toilet.

We are now having a “nice nappy” (that’s the vernacular around here) but whoa. Did we ever have a morning.

Before 7 AM, in the 30 seconds it took me to grab some coffee, my daughter managed to brush her hair with the toilet brush. Thank god she also currently has a hand washing fascination.
We played coloring.
Then, she demanded hummus, crackers, and olives for breakfast. She consumed about 3 bites, then said she was done.
Then, we settled for an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba.
We did laundry. We chased the cat.
Then, we needed breakfast for real. I made turkey sausages and ketchup. And juice. She ate about 1 sausage and about 2 tablespoons of ketchup with a spoon. Mmmmm. Then proceeded to drink her juice, take the straw out of the juice box, and drink the juice directly from the little hole, without the straw.
This is messy.
Then, we looked at Mamma and said, ” Poopoo.”
Yes! She knows when she poops!
We then went to take a shower and clean up the poop. This involves getting in and out of the shower 18 times (her) while attempting to, you know, shower, (me) and steam the room up to unclog her faucet nose.
My bathroom looks like the changing room at a water park. For reals.
But was that enough water? No.
In a genius move, a few weeks ago, I took the suggestion to do dishes with my child. Now, that is all she wants to do. All the time. To point where after the shower, she tried to move the bench I let her stand on all by herself, while screaming “Mamma! stuck! Heavy! Dishes!”
I HATE doing dishes. She is obviously not related to me.
So, we did dishes.
After yet more water had been strewn about, I finally got her dressed, and we watched YouTube puppy and kitty videos. She began to randomly cry. This is code for “Holy God I need a nap.”
And now, she sleeps.
Whew.
I’m tired.
And I am glad we made all these messes. We stick to such a brutal (for everyone) schedule during the week, with Mamma and Daddy both working full time, that on weekends, I like to do anything goes. Like, oh! I forgot to mention how she draped me in a few yards of dental floss, stepped back to admire her work, and deemed it, “Pretty.”
It reminds me that childhood IS fun-and parenthood-CAN be fun. It can stimulate the imagination. It can help re-frame household objects. I remember my job goes beyond saying no, teaching life skills, and giving, giving, giving. That my little person wants to give back- through sharing, through “helping” with dishes and laundry, through feeding Mamma a sausage she so thoughtfully dipped in spilled grape juice. By making me prettier with dental floss.
So lighten up, and play a lot. Remember, in parenting, that as long as it works for you and your child, anything goes.

Adventures in Toddler Land, Part 1-Waste not-Waste A Lot

I am child of the eighties. Reduce, reuse, recycle were the themes I grew up with. I am hardly a militant conservationist, but I do most of the day-to-day things you are advised to do to save the earth, like turn off lights, drive a fuel efficient car, turn the heat down, etc.
Then, my baby became a toddler.
Or, as I like to think of it, The Era of Waste. When I see what, and how much, I waste in the day-to-day of living life with my toddler, I feel immense guilt. I cringe. I have adopted little strategies to reduce this waste. But yet, the following things remain true:
1. The best way to brush teeth is to allow her to hold a second toothbrush under a running faucet.
2. A nice, full bath relaxes her at the end of the day.
3. Food served on a plate always-ALWAYS-ends up on the floor when I encourage independent eating (aka mom steps back and eats her own dinner and ceases to physically hold the plate down).
4. Juice is dumped/poured/squeezed everywhere.

Wasting food bothers me the most. Wasted food is a pet peeve of mine, in general. I will eat leftovers whether I like them or not. I will eat the ends of bread, the crumbs at the end of the chip bag, and the last swig of milk. I make chicken stock from my roast chickens. I can be so extreme, in some ways, that my husband jokes I act like we are living during the depression.

Now, I can find my way home, like Hansel and Gretel, due to the trail of Goldfish crackers that we leave wherever we go. I give her very small portions, but there is always some leftover. Plus, she makes almost daily floor-dumping offerings to the cat, despite my explaining that kitty thinks blueberries are yucky.
*sigh*
I keep telling myself that this a phase. But until it ends, you’ll find me if you follow the trail of crumbs, leading to the endless sound of running water.

Summer in a Glass

First, a confession: I actually really like winter. I like the briskness, and snow, and snuggling under a zillion layers. I often joke that my seasonal affective disorder is the reverse of most peoples: during the summer, I wilt and grow increasingly sluggish. My whole self shuts down in the heat. In the winter, I am ALIVE!

But even for die-hard winter lovers like myself, there comes a time when the soul needs a pick-me-up. For that, I suggest this:

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It’s a glass of prosecco, with frozen strawberries in it. Prosecco is a dry, sparkling Italian wine much like champagne. I purchased myself a bottle for New Years Eve festivities (aka, me, at home with my family, eating spinach artichoke dip with Ryan Seacrest) and then the next day, decided I could use a little fruity pick-me-up with the somewhat less bubbly leftovers.

It is divine, and I recommend it. Put the frozen strawberries into the chilled wine and it melts and gets sludgy and the wine become punk and fruitfully fragrant. At the end of the glass, you have a delicious treat!