Before you do any shopping…

The Holidays are here!  And in that post-Halloween lull, advertising starts heating up.  Can you feel it?  Has the Holiday shopping rush begun too early this year?  There seems to be lots of news coverage of stores opening earlier than before, trying to grab those early shoppers as early as possible to get the biggest bang for their 4th quarter earnings, and expectations are high.  I, myself, have never been one for the day after Thanksgiving, in-person, door-buster frenzy.  But, one year my husband and I ventured out, before sunrise, on an extremely cold morning in Minneapolis to get a $200 laptop of some sort.  It was exciting, the promise of great deals, and standing in line waiting for the store to open, hot chocolate in hand…  First problem was, we were too early for any of the coffee shops, so a warm beverage was not an option.  Second problem?  Laptops were gone with the first 20 customers.   But we were able to load up on batteries and extension cords.   Usable?  Yes.  Giftable?  Not exactly.  And, SO not worth getting up at 5am to stand in a long, cold line.  Though, who am I to say!

My advice?  Sleep in, invite family and friends for brunch and DO IT ONLINE!  And while you’re at it, before you click all the way through your order, google that online shop and do a fast search for any deals you might be missing.  On a recent Land of Nod purchase, I found a free shipping code that saved me nearly $60.  Retailmennot.com is a deal-listing favorite of mine, but there are others.  Special tip: include the current year, and maybe even month, to get the most relevant results.  Happy shopping!

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Happy 100th, Julia!

*photo courtesy of kitchensaremonkeybusiness.com

Today marks what would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday!  As a child I spent many a weekend afternoon watching old PBS reruns of Julia Child’s cooking shows.  She had a zest for food that was contagious and everything she made always looked decadent and spectacular.  She lacked self-consciousness and bounded into her recipes with more authenticity than just about any TV personality chef I have seen on television (and I watch my fair share!).  I found her captivating, even in my elementary school years.

My mother was a fan, too.  Being a great cook herself, my mom  had several of her cookbooks in her kitchen bookcase.  She consulted them for a handful of favorites that she would make when entertaining.  One of the standouts was Julia’s Gateau de Crepes from her Julia Child and More Company book.  This gorgeous dish resembles a layer cake, only it’s bound with crepes and filled with savory things like swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms.  It was Mom’s perennial favorite for Easter Brunch.  Many years ago her cookbook went missing, but I was fortunate to find a replacement on Ebay from a kind man in Hawaii.  It was my first Ebay experience and one I will never forget as I anxiously awaited this vintage book and hoped that this Ebay thing wasn’t a huge racket!  It arrived safe and sound and Easter Gateau resumed.

Gateau de Crepes

Ingredients

For the crepe batter

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

Vegetables and Cheese for Filling

  • 1 lb carrots
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper
  • I lb fresh mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons shallots
  • 1 bunch fresh broccoli (about a pound)
  • 2 cups shredded grated Swiss cheese

Custard Mixture for Filling

  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  • a pinch of fresh nutmeg to taste

Rosie from Kitchens are Monkey Business photographs and describes the process better than I ever could!  Click here to see her beautiful work!

http://www.kitchensaremonkeybusiness.com/2010/12/rosie-makes-julias-gateau-des-crepes.html

Travel at 2

It’s hot.  You’re confined to an uncomfortable seat.  You’re bored.  Maybe hungry.  You want to get up and do something, but you can’t.  For an undetermined amount of time.  You’re tired.  And you’re 2…

If we think travel is tough on us, what must it be like for a little person who doesn’t understand one bit of it and, by the way, didn’t really give her/his stamp of approval to this itinerary.

We know travel is worth it.  We get to see friends and family, and experience new places, smells, sites and tastes.  So, we continue to do it.  With every new stage of development we try our best to make the journey fun or at least manageable for everyone involved.  Traveling with a 2 year old (or nearly 2 as the case may be) is much different than traveling with a 1 year old  and we want to be armed with a “discovery bag” full of options to keep things running along smoothly.  So, here it is, my top 5 travel tips for Travel at 2…

1. Bring lots of SNACKS.  Obvious, I know.  This isn’t your first rodeo.  But, I like to introduce new snacks to keep things exciting.  I found these and they were a huge hit and best of all they’re organic: http://www.diapers.com/p/little-duck-organics-strawberry-mango-tiny-fruits-39705

2. Bring some portable activities.  These packable sticker books are fantastic, reusable and a steal: http://www.amazon.com/Little-Airport-Sticker-Activity-Dover/dp/0486412725/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344974156&sr=1-3&keywords=dover+activity+book  Add a small sketch pad and a baggie filled with crayons for more fun.

3. Bring snuggly items for that nap you’re hoping for.  Favorite blankets and this type of compressible packing pillow helped seal the deal for us: http://www.rei.com/product/794982/rei-backpacker-pillow

4. Bring a brand new toy.  I Spy Bags are fun for travel and they are lightweight: http://www.etsy.com/listing/106042408/i-spy-bag-mini-with-sewn-word-list-and

5.  Lastly, when all else fails…Ipad.  We aren’t video/tv fans for our toddler but when it comes to travel, we bend the rules.  Here are great headphones for little ears: http://www.amazon.com/Kidz-Gear-Wired-Headphones-Kids/dp/B0007NWL70 (I recommend practicing with them to get your child used to wearing these prior to travel).  I searched high and low for a video I felt was sweet, slow-moving and accessible and the winner for us was “Kipper the Dog”!  It comes as a series of 8 minute stories, so there are multiple places to stop the show and transition into something else.  If you are looking for Ipad games, we have found the Apps by Duck Duck Moose to be pretty straight forward, educational and least annoying 🙂 : http://www.duckduckmoosedesign.com/educational-iphone-itouch-apps-for-kids/fish-school/  And, of course, there are so many books to download as well, your entire library is now portable!

HAPPY TRAVELS!

The trouble with guests…

“Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” -Benjamin Franklin

My family recently visited some loved ones and had a fantastic time.  It was a seaside adventure and thus travel packing involved various sunscreens, UPF hats, bug repellent sticks, water sandals, sunglasses…you get the point.  This was indoor/outdoor living with a heavy emphasis on the “outdoor” and it seemed that we needed most of these outdoor sundries on a regular basis, as in many times a day.

Being that we live in a major city and host many guests throughout the year, I am sensitive about an unwanted trail of belongings strewn throughout someone else’s home.  Nevertheless, despite our efforts to keep our clutter at bay, after our third day on the island it seems we were beginning to “smell” (although, I still blame the diaper pail).  Thus, our three hot weather items were anonymously removed from the main level of the home and placed in a small ball in “our” bedroom.

All right, all right, I get it.  After all, who likes to see their turn of the century sideboard littered with cafe receipts, eyeglasses, keys, phones, nail files and that bag of snack mix the airline so generously gifted.  That said, should guests need to transport every important personal item up or down to the room in which they are bunking several times a day?   We’ve all been there, either on the receiving or giving end, or maybe both?  So it got me thinking…is there a reasonable solution to this age-old problem?

Brainstorm!!  I present to you the “Guest Box.”  This is not a comment box. No.  Who wants one of those?  Let’s be honest.  Rather, it is an attractive box in your favorite hue that can house a guest’s small, portable and necessary “on the go” personal items throughout the duration of their stay.  A set of these boxes can be stacked  neatly by the door, in cubbies in the mudroom (if you’re lucky enough to have one of those), under a table in the entry way, or anywhere you see fit.  It allows everyone visiting to have a bit of personal space near the hub of the home without them taking that Hansel and Gretel bread crumb approach.  Win, win 🙂

simple is beautiful…a message for the moms and dads out there :)

Ok.  I figured parenthood would be challenging.  Everyone talks about the sleeplessness, the lack of personal time, and the farewell to freedom.  But I didn’t realize what some of the other obstacles would be and I guess I wasn’t prepared for how often I would feel like I really didn’t know what to do or how to handle a situation.  Even when it comes to the really, really great times, the times we watch what our little (or big) ones do, watch them accomplish something, go for something for the first time, make some sort of incredible association, and we want to say something, but don’t know exactly what to say.

Theories abound these days regarding child-rearing.  We hear from “Tiger Moms” who say expecting greatness and refraining from too much praise leads to independence.  While Dr. Sears (the “father” of Attachment Parenting) suggests that you can never love your child or support your child too much.  Then there’s RIE which favors large amounts of dialogue and narration of what it seems your child is feeling and doing over excessive praise so that s/he may remain fully authentic and capable.  All of these approaches seem to share the same ultimate goal: confident, happy, well-adjusted children who grow into happy and well-adjusted adults.

With all this information, I must admit that I sometimes feel stalled in my reactions when I witness certain moments of what I feel is “awesomeness” in my son.  Then I read this.  It made so much sense and hit me so profoundly as something that is so right, I wept: “I love to watch you play.”

Have a look and see what you think:

http://www.handsfreemama.com/2012/04/16/six-words-you-should-say-today/

It’s summer! Do you know what’s in your garden hose??

My tomatoes are turning red and delicious on their vines.  For this novice gardener, it is a very proud moment.  I took great care in choosing the right location for my seedlings, planted them with organic soil and food, gently tied their growing vines to their stakes for support and watered them daily.  They are healthy, organic, and we grew them all ourselves.  So, naturally I was dismayed when I read an article reporting lead in very likely the garden hose I have been using to water our food source!  Lead.  Wonderful.  In fact, the study in the article reported  that 70% of the 179 garden products it tested contained chemicals of “high concern,”  30% contained lead and 100% contained phthalates (a chemical linked to birth defects and breast cancer).

And, not only have we watered our garden with our lead-laden hose, we also fill the kiddie pool for our toddler – water that he inadvertently, or probably advertently, drinks.  Perfect.  The good news?  10 seconds of internet search uncovered many lead-free and phthalate safe hoses.  I took a chance and visited my local chain retailer and found a good option there and we are back in business!

***Tip: Look for “drinking water safe” and/or “lead free”on the packaging.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/21/study-finds-garden-hose-water-dangerous_n_1615774.html

Me vs. My glass shower doors…

Ok, I know I’ve been posting a lot about cleaning…Don’t misjudge me, I don’t enjoy cleaning. In fact, on my list of peeves, it’s a chart-topper. But, I do like clean things and I DON’T enjoy spending time doing it only to be disappointed with the streaky, spotty results. Maybe I’m in a frenzy because it’s spring.  I don’t know. But I’ve been googling the topic of how to clean glass shower doors non-toxicly for months now and have tried it all: the vinegar, the lemon juice, the baking soda, the glass cleaner, the foaming bathroom cleaner, the lime remover, and even, gulp, the vodka, all with poor results.  This weekend I decided to go out on a limb and experiment with my own non-toxic recipe. To my surprise, IT WORKED! So I’m sharing with you! You can benefit from my many weeks of trial error and then gaze at the glistening results  🙂
-spray glass doors with Method Bathroom Cleaner
-sprinkle a cloth with Bon Ami scouring powder and work onto the doors in a circular motion
-repeat if necessary and rinse with clean water
-then do yourself a favor and buy a good squeegee and squeegee the doors after each shower

p.s. you can find these 2 products easily at many Target stores and supermarkets.  or try Amazon.