One of my most favorite parts of parenting is finding secret little things like this, which make my heart explode with love.
One of my most favorite parts of parenting is finding secret little things like this, which make my heart explode with love.
You all know you’re supposed to plan your weekly menu, make your grocery list, and go shopping once a week. You spend less and don’t go nuts when you realize it’s 5:30 and you have nothing but rutabaga in the house.
So in a fit of brilliance I came up with this posted weekly menu. The dinner plan for the week is clearly posted, so the kids can check the wall rather than bug me. And I can plan the week much better.
First I made a sheet that had the days of the week on it (and I made it look a little like a diner menu to make my 50s-kitsch-self happy). Then I brainstormed all our dinners, because we don’t actually make that many different ones. There are kid favorites on there, like macaroni & cheese, but also more grownup dinners like Indian Feast or Mediterranean Platter. I tried to be a little more vague so that each item could mean several different meals (like “Pasta”). I also made one called Fancy Dinner, which means I get to make something that no one else will likely be excited about (tofu in mango sauce, or something like that) and everyone has to try it. If they eat it, they get dessert (Fancy Dinner is the only night we get dessert). Fancy Dinner also covers holidays and birthdays.
After I made up the big sheet and all the dinner ideas, I laminated everything and stuck Velcro squares* onto them. I keep all the meal ideas in the (sad, needing-to-be-replaced) envelope taped to the wall under the menu plan. Every week we eat almost the same exact plan, but I do change it a bit sometimes.
The kids still complain and get frantically whiny at 5:00, but it’s definitely calmer now that we all know ahead of time what we’re having for dinner.
P.S. Be sure to notice my gorgeous Stacey Cramp calendar next to our menu. It makes me so happy.
*I feel like half my life is organized in terms of laminated paper and Velcro squares these days.
I am someone who embraces resolutions (not like my mother). Why not start out the new year making some promises to yourself? The key is not to make too many, and not to make them unattainable.
While I do have an ever-expanding list of general goals (keep the house cleaner, do laundry every day, plan homeschool better, exercise a lot more), I have two specific goals for right now.
First, I am participating in Julie F. Hedlund’s 12×12 in 2012 challenge. The goal is to write a draft of a picture book every month in 2012. It’s an extension of PiBoIdMo, and I had so much fun doing that, so I’m really excited about 12×12 in 2012.
Second, I am starting off the first 21 days of 2012 by eating the way I’m supposed to. I was going to do the Whole Living cleanse, but then I looked at it more carefully and realized that it doesn’t really include proteins (or, barely, solids) for the first week, and that seems like a bad plan for a nursing mom. So, I’m picking and choosing parts from it, like:
They also say “no wheat” and then say that if you haven’t given up wheat before, you should try, because you might feel more energized. That’s fine. But I have given up wheat before, and I felt awful.
Whole Living also says you should be hungry at certain points during the day. That your stomach should rumble at least four times a day. I’m trying to embrace this too. I’m generally home all day, which means that often, if I get the teensiest bit hungry (or if I’m bored, or avoiding doing something annoying), then I eat. That stops now.
The other component I’m bringing to it is that I know how to eat well, I just choose not to sometimes. So I’m going to be cooking a lot less kid-friendly white pasta, and making more stir fries and squash and stuff like shiitake fried rice and barley risotto. And everything Mark Bittman recommends today in his “semi-vegan” article in the New York Times magazine.
What about you? Do you have any goals for 2012?
So, as long-time followers of World of Julie know, I am sick of making dinner for people (children) who burst into tears when I put dinner in front of them. I am sick of making a seemingly kid-friendly meal, like spaghetti and meatballs (something I don’t particularly care for) only to have everyone burst into tears and reject it.
So a while ago, I mostly decided to completely ignore what they might want to eat, and just make what I want for dinner. If they’re going to get mad about it either way, it might as well be stir fry. (Note that I forget this sometimes, and still stupidly make something that none of us likes.)
For the month of October, we’re going vegetarian. If I didn’t have these meat-loving kids (except Henry, who isn’t that into it), I would be vegetarian all the time. So we’re trying it out.
Eli: “We need to get some of those meatballs.”
Julie: “Actually, we’re going to try to be vegetarians for the month of October.”
Julie: “To see how we feel. To see if we feel better.”
Eli: “I FEEL GREAT RIGHT NOW!”
So I made bean and hominy pot pie for dinner. Either the girls are starving, or they are warming to our new eating plan.
How do you all do it? Do you eat what you want? Do you make five different dinners?
Magical words spoken by the allergist this week: “You know, I don’t think she’s actually allergic to any of these foods. I’m not even going to give her a skin test. I think it was just eczema. You can feed her whatever you want to.” Hurray! Let’s make peanut butter cookies! Um, after we finish of those two tubs of cookies from Trader Joe’s, I mean.
So, with all my random food issues these days (well, not my food issues, but the ones that are mine as a nursing mother), a book called Raw Energy by Stephanie Tourles caught my eye at the library. It’s a book of raw food recipes (snacks, mainly), and since raw food by definition can’t include wheat, dairy, or eggs, I can eat everything in it. The book goes into all the reasons it’s great to eat a raw diet, and I believe it, but it’s not practical for a family of six. Also, I like cooking. However, I get the point and see no reason not to go raw for snacks and maybe some lunches or breakfasts.
So I got the book out, and made some Herbal Energy Balls, which are a little like the great peanut butter balls, but with almond butter and coconut. Yum! And then I decided that I can figure out raw snacks without a book (hello, apple!) and returned it to the library. And then I kept thinking about all the recipes I didn’t get to try, so I got it out again. And then I just gave up and bought it.
There are a lot of juices and things-to-drink that I haven’t explored yet. There are quite a few recipes that call for a dehydrator, which I don’t have (do you?). But I have been elbow-deep in all the various snack balls and bars. There are many, many other recipes I still want to try, but I am having so much fun in the snack ball chapter that I haven’t bothered exploring the other ones.
I did venture briefly into the dessert chapter to make the vegan chocolate pudding (a coconut oil/cocoa/raw honey concoction) which is so incredibly yummy I can’t even tell you. It’s the devil, if the devil can come in the form of something without refined sugar. It becomes this solid block of fudge in the fridge, just perfect for breaking off a big chunk and furtively stuffing it into your mouth while your children are upstairs getting socks. For instance.
I got permission from the publisher to share a recipe with you, and I deliberated quite a bit deciding which one to share. I finally decided on Smooth Maple-Carob Zippers. They have chocolate and maple syrup, and you keep them in the freezer, which makes for an interesting texture (and also makes me less likely to eat a whole mess of them). I find that the recipes in this book are extremely adaptable — so I’ll give you the recipe, and tell you my changes also.
Smooth Maple-Carob Zippers
Excerpted from Raw Energy by Stephanie Tourles, used with permission from Storey Publishing
1 cup raisins
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup raw carob powder (I use regular cocoa powder — you can also find raw cocoa powder if you want to keep it raw)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Soak the raisins for 4 hours in enough purified water to cover by about 1 inch. Drain. The soaking water can be refrigerated and added to a smoothie recipe to serve as a sweetening ingredient later, if you wish. Note: I have made this using soaked raisins and also by skipping this step and using dry raisins. I think I actually prefer it with the dry raisins: it takes less time, and the snacks made with soaked raisins seemed more prone to freezer burn.
2. Put the pecans in a food processor and grind to a medium-fine meal. Add the raisins, carob (or cocoa powder), maple syrup, cayenne, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and pulse-chop until you achieve a slightly chunky, fudgy consistency. Don’t process to the point of a paste. The mixture will be very moist and thick, so you may have to use a spatula to free to blade a few times. Be careful.
3. Scrap the dough into a medium bowl, then oil your hands with coconut oil.
4. Pinch off small pieces of dough and roll into bite-size balls about 1 inch in diameter.
5. Store in a tightly sealed container in the freezer for up to 6 months. Wait 24 hours prior to consuming so that the flavors blend and the texture becomes firm and chewy.
Yield: about 40 bites
Let me know what you think! Like I said, there are still many recipes in here for me to explore, but I think it’s worth the price of admission for the snack ball chapter and the chocolate pudding fudge stuff.
So I’m still doing a restricted diet here due to Ramona’s potential allergies to wheat, dairy, egg, and peanut. We did take her to an allergist in December, who did a skin test, which did say she’s allergic to those things. Now, I don’t want to dismiss food allergies, especially when it’s my own kid, but I gave up those things between the blood test and the allergist, and she still had bad eczema (which was the reason they thought she might have allergies). The allergist recommended a different lotion — I had been using Aquaphor, which didn’t do anything except make us all greasy, but the allergist recommended CeraVe. Switching moisturizers made a bigger difference than any dietary changes, and all but eliminated her eczema. So I don’t know what to think. I’m still avoiding those foods, and she has another allergist appointment in May, where they may do a “food challenge” (when they give her a tiny bit of the potential allergen) with wheat. Meanwhile, she did her own personal mini food challenge the other day by stealing a Cheerio from Zuzu (nothing happened).
I would really love to go back to eating wheat.
I haven’t really gone fully into any kind of wheat-free baking or anything. I make cookies with the kids and just don’t eat any. I know there are all kinds of wheat-free baking mixes, and allergen-free baking methods, but honestly I still think that she’s going to outgrow these allergies (at least the ones that affect baking — wheat, dairy, and egg), and I don’t really need to go too crazy with alternative flours in the meantime.
And as you can see, she’s hardly wasting away, and doesn’t worry about food at all, but instead works hard at being adorable. (By the way, that finger she has going into her mouth in the photo — her right index finger — is the one she sucks on. Very cute.)
Oh hello, friends, do you know that I think of you often and have many things to tell you? But that, while in many ways adding a fourth kid hasn’t really added much in the work department, it has taken away much in the time department. Some days I honestly get about thirty seconds to myself. Plus there’s the problem of my computer, which has started to (literally) make a death rattle, and has generally adopted the speed of a top-of-the-line Radio Shack desktop circa 1987.
But first I want to tell you that Ramona is a total peach and generally just a happy little bubster. Though right now she’s going through some kind of five-month about-to-do-some-big-developmental-things Sleep Issue, wherein she wakes up all the time, and the last few nights has woken up at 11:00 or midnight and been AWAKE, and excited and wanting to play. Or maybe this is just a fourth kid thing, and she has already figured out that midnight is the only time when she can have her parents all to herself.
I will also tell you that she continues to have various skin issues, mainly major eczema — dry, red skin. We took her in for a blood test which came back with a possibility of allergies to (are you ready?) wheat, dairy, egg, and peanut. Which means I have had to give up those things (read: I have had to give up all the things I eat all the time). Mostly I eat rice cakes with almond butter, and salad. Her skin did get better right away, and it seemed like some great miracle, but then her skin got bad again. And then it got better, but I caved and had a piece of pizza, and it got worse again. So who knows. We have an appointment in December with an allergist, when they’ll do a skin test and determine what for real she’s allergic to, if anything. Until then I get to test out how strong my willpower really is. Ah, toast! Ah, butter! How I miss you!
There is not much Halloween candy you can eat if you’re not eating wheat, dairy, eggs, and peanuts.
And, speaking of food, I want to tell you that for years the citizens of the Portland metro area have been telling Trader Joe’s that they really should open a store here. For years Trader Joe’s said, “We have no plans to open a store in Maine.” Well! Finally! After all our rabble-rousing, we now have our own Trader Joe’s store, and it is THE LARGEST TRADER JOE’S IN THE COUNTRY. And the opening day, last Friday, was the largest opening of any store the company has ever had. The employee I talked to in the store said, “We will never doubt Maine again.” I feel foolish for being so excited about a grocery store, but it’s true, I am. What are your Trader Joe’s staples? What can’t I live without?
I want to tell you that I bought a bag of these bag clips, and I love them. Am I the only one who finds those little squarish bread-bag clips to be one-time-use items? I can never get them back on the bag in a satisfactory manner. Or the twist tie will get lost. I am very happy to have a bunch of reusable bag clips in my drawer.
I want to tell you that my camera died. Apparently it’s a common problem for my camera (a Canon PowerShot SD1200) to get this lens error that pretty much means death (or prohibitively expensive repair). I’ve only had it for a year and a half. I’m having trouble dealing with the thought of researching a new camera and actually ponying up the cash to get it. Sigh.
Besides the fact that sometimes I only turn on my computer every four days because the death rattle is so depressing.
I also want to tell you that I randomly bought a kitchen timer, and it has made such a huge difference with kid discipline. It’s like I’m suddenly able to foist the nagging off on this inanimate object. “Playroom needs to be clean in ten minutes! Timer is set!” and then I walk away. It’s also great for bedtime chapter book reading: we set the timer and when it goes off, it’s time for bed. I will say that I mistakenly bought a battery-operated timer, so it doesn’t just go “ding!” but beeps annoyingly for a minute and a half. And while, yes, it’s an incredibly irritating “time to get out of bed” kind of noise, it is helpful for proving to the children that yes, indeed, the timer really is going off. Sometimes when I time them using the microwave timer, they deny that it ever went off, since it only beeps once.
I also got this book called 365 Manners Kids Should Know by Sheryl Eberly, to try to make our kids not so much mannerless monkeys. It’s divided into sections, with a different manner for each day. A lot of them are fairly esoteric, but hey, you never know when your kid will be going to a formal dinner or to the symphony, and plus a lot of manners sort of fit into a general idea or frame of mind about how to act in public, so I think it’s all good to know. The book has a different manner for each day of the year, but we started in the table manners section and are going to skip around as we see fit. I like the one-manner-a-day format, because just learning one small thing (we read it at dinner, and discuss) seems just enough to let it sink in and not be overwhelming.
I want to tell you that Dave and my 12th wedding anniversary is this Sunday. We will most likely have a glass of wine and maybe some wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free delicacy after the kids go to sleep (because nothing says, “The first 12 years were fun; let’s do it for 112 more years” like almond butter on a rice cake). But if we do somehow decide to go out to eat, where should we go? I haven’t been to a restaurant in Portland (besides Silly’s) in years, and I know there are a bunch of new ones.
Though if you want a tasty allergy-friendly dessert (besides rice cakes), I tried this apple cranberry crisp and it was amazing. The only esoteric ingredient is coconut oil, which I happened to have.
I should end this, because my window of being able to blog has opened and closed many, many times since I started typing. Let me just show you this (blurry, taken-by-cell-phone, everyone-has-redeye) Halloween photo. Henry is Harry Potter, Eli is Buzz Lightyear, Ramona is a monkey. Zuzu couldn’t decide between all the various dress-ups in the dress-up bin, so she combined some and was a pirate crossing guard.
Ok, so a few months ago Real Simple did an organizing thing on some woman whose fridge was a disaster. (I think I only know two people whose refrigerators aren’t disasters.) (I’m not one of them.) The article recommended getting Frigoverre round glass containers to hold produce that you wash and cut up when you get home from the store, so it’s ready to go. I somehow wasn’t particularly interested in that, but I was interested in the containers themselves, since our plastic food storage containers are falling apart, or had BPA in them, or were so old that I wasn’t sure if they had BPA in them or not.
Part of me wants to throw out all our usable plastic containers and start over with glass, but that seems wasteful. I did order a set of three square Frigoverre containers (square, of course, because everyone knows round containers waste space that you could have in the corners) (poorly constructed parenthetical bit, but you know what I mean). I love them! At first Dave complained that they were too heavy, but I think that was more a function of just being used to the lightweight plastic ones. The three sizes are perfect, and I love that you can reheat in the glass part — and put it in the dishwasher — without worries.
I also recently picked up some glass Anchor containers from Target (link is to a set from King Arthur Flour, but at the Target store you can buy individual pieces), and I like those too (especially because I got some very small ones which are good for leftover onion or tomato halves), but I like the Frigoverre lids better, plus that the glass is a little thicker.
One day I will have only glass containers. And I have an undue want for the Frigoverre glass jug, which would be perfect if I were squeezing my own orange juice or something, which I’m not. Although if by “squeeze my own” you mean “mix freezer can of orange juice concentrate with water” well, then, sometimes I do that, but not often enough to justify a new jug.