Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

{3/52}: on form and function

3/52: Post swim class warm-up with blankies and vanilla milk.

On the one hand, I wish I had a better portrait for this week. On the other, this iPhone snapshot really does do our week justice. It is gritty, blurry, glassy-eyed, and struggling to find composition. We are freezing cold up here! The high today was something like 10 degF, and we're getting a snowstorm tonight.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

channeling Atticus

Charlie's best impression of Gene Simmons.

The other day I told Nate that I thought Banjo was a good name for a dog. He countered that "Banjo" falls into Category #3 for names, the ones you think are unique but aren't really. He's right, you know. I admit that I fancy myself "cool, but not too annoying." Nate's astute observations are a good reason to keep him around.

I occasionally point out good dog names to Nate in the same vein as I mention boy's names to him; I don't have a specific boy or dog I'm naming, it's just a thing I do. I name stuff. This aside is apropos to nothing I'm writing about today except that I also think Atticus is a good dog name and a good boy name, and typing the title made me ponder my naming proclivity.

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

resolution salad, crockpot cassoulet, & a cookbook review

Author's Note: This post is not sponsored or paid. I just really like this book and think you will too.

I've been interested in Laurie David ever since I read an article about her in Outside Magazine eight years ago. Okay, so a confession is at that point I thought/hoped she was a real live version of the fictional character portrayed on Curb Your Enthusiasm (read: she's not).

Anyhow, I eventually learned to love her for her great environmentalist work, and when I heard she wrote a book about family dinner, I was intrigued to find out more. The book is called The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time.

Friday, November 22, 2013

{day 10}: kids & mealtime, chowdah, review & giveaway


Author's note: This post includes the Day 10 encouragement for those following the 12 Days of Minimalist Holidays series, as well as a review and giveaway of The Family Flavor: 125 Practical Recipes for the Simple and Delicious, and a recipe for creamy chicken soup from the book. Enter the giveaway below and then scroll to the bottom to find out what it's about.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

the 12 days of {minimalist parenting} Christmas

Following Minimalist Parenting's lead of rebooting the holidays, I am taking the notes I made during their two-week camp and turning their ideas into a list of activities you can do to prepare your home, mind, and family to take a minimalist approach to the holidays.

You can take as much or little time to do these activities, but they are designed to be done over two weeks. Each numbered task below represents one day for two weeks, and each item should take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Although I titled the list "The 12 Days of Minimalist Christmas," you could insert any holiday. In fact, beginning tomorrow there are two weeks before Thanksgivukkah, so I suggest starting tomorrow with the DAY 1 activity! You can follow along on the blog, where I'll chart my own progress.



The 12 Days of {Minimalist Parenting} Holidays:


  1. More and Less List: As with every plan of action, draw a road map first. Write down what you want to do/see/create more and less of over the holidays. Like with my minimalist manifesto, I refer to my list often when something--an event, or overwhelm of stuff--threatens to steer me off course.
  2. Tackle your hardest thing first: Spend 15 minutes (use an egg-timer if you want) and do the most difficult thing on your holiday to-do list first. Procrastination drains your energy.
  3. Say Yes and No: This task goes back to what I wrote about last week, regarding saying no. Say yes to events that make you happy or excite you and say no to events that drain you.
  4. Delegate!: Identify holiday-related chores (untangling lights, taking down Halloween decorations, etc.) your kids can do and delegate them. 
  5. Declutter for 15 minutes: Go to a clutter spot in your house, and with a trash bag, spend 15 minutes decluttering by donating or throwing away toys that don't get played with, are missing parts, or are broken and awaiting fixing.
  6. Donate a bag of stuff: This task should be easy. If you've finished Day 5, then you already have a bag to donate! You can give to your local rummage sale or seek one of many charitable organizations that do curb-side pick-up (e.g. VVA or Epilepsy Foundation).
  7. Rest & reflect on Week #1: Go back to the list you made on Day 1. Has anything raised or lowered in priority? Add or remove what is needed. Be mindful of how you feel and offer yourself and others your love, hope, forgiveness, and grace.
  8. Declutter e-mail: Touch each email only three times. First pass is for deleting messages that aren't addressed to you and responding to time-sensitive matters. Second pass is for emails that require more time. Third pass is for the messages that bug or don't interest you. 
  9. Make a holiday menu plan: Figure out 3-5 dishes that can be made and frozen in advance. Good possibilities are mashed squash, cranberry sauce, pie fillings, pie dough, and stuffing. 
  10. Involve your kids in mealtime: Kids can help with grocery shopping and meal preparation. Ideas for how they can help are on the Family Dinner Project website
  11. Develop and stick with a budget: Celebrate the holidays within your means by considering and communicating how much you plan to spend on gifts, food, travel, and entertainment. 
  12. Identify five favorite ways to care for yourself: Make a self-care short list of what nourishes, nurtures, and relaxes you.
  13. Give yourself 15 minutes: Make time in your calendar today and once each week for these 15 minutes to devote to one of the five items on your self-care list.
  14. Rest & reflect on Week #2: Go back to the list you made on Day 1. Was the second week easier or more difficult? What will you plan to continue more permanently in your routine? Add or remove what is needed. Be mindful of how you feel and offer yourself and others your love, hope, forgiveness, and grace.
If you try any of these holiday rebooting tasks, consider leaving a comment here on the blog or over on the Lone Home Ranger Facebook page. I'd love to hear what works and what doesn't!

Author's note: I did not get paid anything to write about Minimalist Parenting, but I like the authors and think you'll enjoy some concepts from their book. This post is part of The Homestead Barn HopWorks for Me Wednesday, and LHITS DIY Friday.

{Minimalist Parenting} book review


minimalist parenting
Back in March, I participated in MinCamp, a free two-week lifestyle program run by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest, authors of Minimalist Parenting and their great blogs to which I linked. Inspired by Red Shutters, I briefly considered writing my thoughts on the book and camp. Then life happened, and now it's seven months later. But, daily blogging is on, so let's do this.

Last week I mentioned one of the ideas I liked best in the book, that moms are curators of the stuff and activities of family life. I appreciated their real-life anecdotes sprinkled throughout the book. For example, some prudent wisdom I have taken to heart is that giving up your baby stuff doesn't necessarily mean you're taking a stand on future reproduction. Christine's idea to ask for used items at a baby shower is right up my alley, so I happily gave my cousin the bulk of our baby stuff cluttering up the basement.

Honestly, I didn't read Minimalist Parenting cover to cover, but that could be because I've been a student of minimalism for a while now and have read copious resources on this topic already. I borrowed it from the library, brought it to the gym with me for a few days and flipped through while on the bike. Much of what it says validates what I am already doing of what I've learned by chatting with girlfriends. Having said that, I do think it's a good and quick read, and it would make a great baby shower gift for a new parent.

While I might not have thought the book itself essential, the authors have made some valuable contributions to the field that I want to point out. First, they maintain a fabulous Facebook page that is continually updated with great articles on topics related to minimalist parenting.

Author's note: They are devoting a section of their Minimalist Parenting website to the holidays! They have some great ideas for rebooting the holidays to enjoy them more by doing less. In the next post, I shared my version of their camp, which is tailored toward the holidays.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

natural birth stories: review, giveaway, and discount!

Author's Note: You can read more about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood on my site here. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to find out how you can get your own copy of Natural Birth Stories.

When I was nearing the end of my first pregnancy, I picked up a book one day that my mom recommended called Spiritual Midwifery. It was the first time I'd read any book that Ina May Gaskin published, and I was hooked from the start. Reading the stories of those women's natural births was empowering; it quelled my anxiety while also raising my belief that I could give birth without medical pain relief.

Monday, November 04, 2013

the ultimate healthy living sale!

Now that we own a Kindle, I have gotten into reading e-books. They are so inexpensive and don't require me to return them to the library! I especially love when these bundles of lots of books go on sale. You know how much I love a good bargain.

I've never signed on to promote a bundle before, but I love the idea of supporting the authors of healthy living ebooks because that's my own favorite writing topic. Plus this bundle really is a heck of a deal, and I don't put out that stamp of approval lightly.




Saturday, November 02, 2013

goop + sk = harvest salad

Gorgeous local beets. Charlie kept saying "Wow, BEAUtiful!"


I picked up Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook It's All Good a while back, and I am as happy with it as I was her first book of her father's recipes. Actually I am happier, considering these days--i.e. the "pre-holiday purge" days--I'm more inclined to make healthy salads than cheeseburgers. Nothing against cheeseburgers, which are completely and engrossingly delicious. In fact, I would stop writing right now to scarf a cheeseburger down if presented in front of me.

What was I saying? Oh right, salads. Haters gonna hate GP, but honey badger don't give a damn. Yes, I too snorted at some of the ridiculous lines in the book. And no, I would not agree that Vegenaise is "out of control" good (not that I've ever tasted it). But laughing at her is part of the fun in following her goings-on, right? I think she's a real person, and people don't like the pretty ones expressing who they really are if who they really are seems holier-than-thou. So she eats vegan food, so what? There are some delicious vegan recipes out there.

Smitten Kitchen, on the other hand, is a breath of humble air. I can't believe I've had her book for a year and haven't written about it yet! (Although, I remember I did mention a word about the wonderful Dutch baby that changed breakfast in our household possibly forever.) Her book is as fantastic, beautiful, and creative as you'd expect if you've followed her blog. Personally, I can't wait to make her apple cider caramels again this season (that is, when my no-sugar cleanse is over) and then unwrap and eat them one by one by myself in a dark, quiet corner of my house.

Truth be told, my style of eating is much more in line with Deb's than GP's. I particularly love that in sk's butternut squash salad recipe, she makes a frank admission that she doesn't eat salads because they're healthy but because she likes them. Ditto, sister.


When I saw GP's arugula salad with roasted veggies, I immediately remembered sk's salad, which I've loved and made several times over the past year. I was intrigued about the idea of adding beets and shallots, but I also liked sk's use of sherry vinegar (tho apple cider vinegar is great in fall too) and farro. Thus, I combined the two recipes. And it was all good.


Monday, September 16, 2013

reboot family dinner {+ a giveaway of two great books}

{Note: Congratulations to Emily and Jessica, the winners of the giveaway books. I hope you enjoy them, ladies!}

I enjoy our summer lazy routine where we let the girls watch more TV and eat more ice cream, but there's also a quiet bliss to our back-to-school fall routine. We begin spending more hours indoors, whether in school or in our living room, and our busier schedule makes those rarer family trips outdoors to pick apples or play t-ball all the sweeter.

With school fully ramped back up, I am getting back into the swing of family dinner. I admit to struggling a bit at times, continuing to serve the girls summer staples of deviled eggs or tuna salad before Nate and I have our own dinner hours later. And pretty please don't ask me whether they've been eating lots of snacks.


We've had our successes too. On Sunday, for example, we went out to pick apples and filled our bellies to the brim with fruit, so we weren't as interested in a full dinner that night. Instead, the girls played happily in the next room while we chopped and simmered apples close by in the kitchen. They loved to sample a bit of still-cooking, piping hot applesauce, and Daddy whipped them up a quick grilled cheese sandwich and mug of tomato soup while we were still mixing and canning apple creations.

Charlie's favorite part was the bluegrass band playing at the farmstand. Girl after her mama's heart.

We've all heard in recent months about the importance of sitting down to dinner as a family. Lately I've been pondering the definition of "family dinner" and wondering if there's more room to bend the rules a bit. I'm happy to be working with The Family Dinner Project (FDP) to experiment with my neighborhood pals and see if we can make family dinners better together. They have some fantastic ways to fit in food, fun, and conversation with your children into your day.

I'm betting you can guess Vivi's favorite part of the day...

On apple-picking day, we didn't all sit together at one time to share a big spread of food; however, we did connect as a family in picking and putting away a bounty of fall's delicious harvest together. Later on in the evening at bedtime, we played a game FDP calls Rose & Thorn, asking them what their favorite and least favorite parts of the day were and sharing our own.

If you are interested in making family dinner better in your household, I encourage you to check out the FDP website. They have so many wonderful (and free!) resources. I'm also happy to be offering a giveaway today of two books that have helped us keep the kids interested in trying and eating new and different foods, which is one of the important pieces in the family dinner puzzle. Thanks to their generous publishers for making it possible to share these books!

Here are the books you can sign up for a chance to get for free (sign-up is below, and it will be open until Sunday September 22nd, 11:59pm ET):



1. French Kids Eat Everything. I wrote about this book in April, and the post was syndicated on BlogHer. A publicity manager of the publisher, HarperCollins, found what I wrote and offered to share the book with two readers of this blog. I absolutely loved this book; it changed the way we eat dinner forever, and it has made the experience so much more pleasant. See more of what I wrote here.


2. End of the Rainbow Fruit Salad. Here's what I wrote about it in July. The publisher offered to give y'all one of these books as well, so sign up below if you're interested! My kids love this one and still to this day call it the pickle book because of the illustrated pickle who helps make the salad.

WIN THE BOOKS!

Use Rafflecopter below for your chance to win! It's that easy. Just submit a comment or drop me a line by email or Facebook if you're having trouble figuring it out. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 15, 2013

summer is happening

We are brushing our teeth with blueberries over here, after our haul of 10 lbs on Saturday (!). Want some?
It seems I am living my days in such a state of lazy summerness that I can barely find time to write. But like any habit, I know it will come easier if I just start doing it. So here I am. And there you are. Hello there!

Yesterday we had some of Nate's work friends over for relaxing dinner (Domino's delivery, nothing but the best for these folks), drinks, and games. Although someone brought a game I've heard lots about lately, "Cards Against Humanity," it was deemed too gritty for getting to know each other, so we passed it up in favor of a vintage '80's Trivial Pursuit Genus Edition. It was so hard! And FUN! I learned much about pre-'80's TV and film facts and historical tidbits that have at some point dropped out of the average dinner guest's wheelhouse. In my opinion, the best parts were the marital squabbles and the guffaw-worthy ridiculous questions (Did you know Tarzan's son's ape-name is Korak? Of course you didn't!). Another highlight was the cobbler I made with our day-old blueberries, which was decadent and delicious, if I do say so myself.

Today I stopped quickly over to the used bookstore in town to stock up on some summer paperbacks, having decided the ones I grabbed at the church rummage sale in a fit of overzealous loftiness wouldn't make the cut. I had a few on my short list, specifically James Michener's Centennial and Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone, but I had an open mind and wanted to leave with a bag full. Boy did I ever accomplish that goal. Upon walking around for a few minutes, I remarked to the ladies behind the counter, "I can't believe I've never been in here before!," to which they replied, "All the moms tell us that!" That sounds about right.

But then it got even better when I heard I could get store credit if I brought in some of my own books to trade. Having just been through the book shelves the day before in preparation for our get together, I raced home to grab my stack of give-aways and brought them on over. I walked away with 10 paperbacks for me and two for the girls for only $25. Winning!


Here's a list of what I grabbed if you can't see it in the picture (the first two are my Grandma Louise's recommendations, which I follow religiously):

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (store owner's recommendation)
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Caribbean by James Michener (for a trip to the very same location in two weeks!)
Centennial by James Michener
The Awakening and short stories by Kate Chopin
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and other stories by Robert Louis Stevenson
Being There by Jerzy Kosinski
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Have you read any of these? Any stand out as favorites? Let me know so I can commence sorting my GoodReads summer reading list.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

hey y'all, I'm syndicated!

BlogHer

I have a post syndicated on BlogHer.com today. It's the article I wrote a few weeks ago about how we changed the way we eat after reading French Kids Eat Everything. If you get a minute, please go check it out and leave a comment! I'd love for everyone to see how great my readers are, since I know they'll love you as much as I do. Thanks!

Just as exciting, the publisher has offered a few books as a giveaway over here. Isn't that sweet? I'll let you know more about that in a few days!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

my love affair with England

Did I mention yet that I think I'll try writing every day this month? Next month I'll be taking a vacation from regular life, and it will likely be from the blog as well, so I thought I'd send off with a month of daily posts. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

When we lived in England, I didn't write nearly enough on the blog about what daily life was like. I chalk it up to typical me in my twenties. "Life will always be this interesting and therefore why bother talking about what I'm doing?" or something along those lines.

Now of course I see my lack of writing as a bunch of wasted material. From time to time, I think about sharing that journey with you, but it seems awkward to bring it up randomly. Hey guys, remember when I used to live overseas that time five years ago? Let's talk about it!

But now I have my nose in another Jane Austen novel, at the same time as I'm reading a biography about the great William Morris and watching a Masterpiece version of Emma that I rented from the library (did I mention I'm obsessed with Victorian England?), so my travels have been rattling around in my mind. It seems like as good a time as any to bring it up with y'all.

Oh, first I want to mention the Masterpiece Emma. Have you seen it yet? I'm enjoying it so far. It has the naturally slow pace of a Masterpiece series, and it's fun to see all the usual British suspects playing the beloved Austen characters. Who doesn't want to see more of Johnny Lee Miller? So far, the most interesting distinction from the Gwyneth Paltrow film (an absolute favorite of mine, likely in the top 10) is the spotlight on Miss Bates. She was a bubbly caricature in the film, providing little more than comic relief--"PORK, Mother!" and such. But in this series, you get an in-depth look at how miserable her life must have been to have only her senile mother as a companion. You truly feel what Austen must have wanted us to see. A woman without fortune was certainly pitiable in that day.

In contrast, I don't think it's possible for an actor to improve the job Juliet Stevenson did with Mrs. Elton in the film version. I'll share some pictures with you to honor my favorite of her lines, "People with extensive grounds are always so pleased to meet other people with extensive grounds." Here here!






I miss living somewhere that there were other tiny towns a half kilometer away.


This one makes me tear up thinking of how perfect and calm my life was in England, nesting for my new life as a mom and taking in all the sights and smells of spring.

One part of the Masterpiece Emma I loved is seeing the fields of rapeseed again (the stuff that makes canola oil, with the worst name imaginable). They are so lovely you can't look upon them without smiling. Add this to the list of things you want to see before your time is up.


The year we were in England, it seemed the fields burst into life the very same day as Genevieve, so I also always think of her when I see them.




Here are some from far away. Cool, huh?

What do you think, should I write more about England some time? I have many more pics I can share.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

in with the new

Spring is finally here to stay. With it came all the bargain shopping experiences you know I love. Negotiating ain't my thing, but if the price is set, I'll buy--and the last hour when everything is half price is fun too.

This weekend was my church's rummage sale, which is always a favorite. The children's book section is where I make a bee-line during the volunteer pre-sale. Check out some of these "awwww"-inducing finds:



Last year I volunteered during sale week by marking prices on breakables, but not being a tchotchke collector, I was worried I did it badly and found the experience stressful. This year I stuck with sales, which I liked because it involved talking to people. I met lots of the congregation who come to the 11am service. They all sized me up to be a 9am-er, "because all you 9am-ers have small kids."Yup.

The hardest part about sales was the rush at the end of the half-price sale. Everyone seems to assume you will give stuff away for nearly free just to get them out of your hair and because you don't want to cart the goods off to charity. They are mostly correct in this assumption, but I must tell you a hard truth. This segment of society--who haggle with volunteers at a rummage sale from which the proceeds go to a good cause--they weren't raised right by their mamas. My fellow fraught cashier could be heard a time or two exasperatedly bristling, "Oh all right, have it your way." I just laughed because laughter is how I handle awkward folks. Well, laughter and judgmental blog posts.

The adult book section--by that I mean books for grown-ups, not of the three-x variety--also had some great finds, so I think my summer reading selection is nearly complete. I put it up on Goodreads in case you're on there too and want to follow along or comment. If you're an avid reader and not yet on Goodreads, check it out! The combined inventions of GR and Pinterest mean I almost never miss a book recommendation these days.


Would you count Faulkner and James as summer reads, though? Hmmm, perhaps not. What do you have on your current book list?

p.s. I've already read Stumbling on Happiness, but I gave it away years ago and thought I could use a refresher. Do you give away books you liked? I can't handle clutter, so I find it's easier for me to get the book again later from the library or a used book sale than it is to lug it around for years. If I keep it, I just end up resenting it gathering dust. Plus, giving it away means I get to share book-love, which is one of my favorite life activities!

p.p.s. I admit that pic above of the books isn't great to show off the titles, but I wanted to squeeze in my other new purchase. That little bowl on the left is also a find from the church sale. Three bucks! I've been looking for a bowl for all the cell phone hoopla, and this one fits the bill nicely, doncha think? Here's a better shot of the books:


Friday, May 03, 2013

leaning in to road rage

I am writing a post about the fifth birthday party scene, but I must pause first and tell you separately what happened to me yesterday. I've begun listening to Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead while I carpool the kids to various shindigs, and it gives me a nice pep talk in the car. Some parts I disagree with (e.g. "50% of men should stay home with their children." What the what? Do we really want a society in which this happens? Just, no.), but I am enjoying her anecdotes from the workplace. She describes many incidents in which women colleagues demur for no apparent reason at all or are shushed by men when trying to speak. I have definitely politely demurred to men in my office. But no more! Watch out world, another feminist is being let loose.

So I'm having another pep talk on the way to school yesterday morning, and I'm pondering the ways in which I put myself second on a regular basis. Bear with me while I set the scene, I am going somewhere. To get to Vivi's school, I drive from one exit to the next on a little access road that follows our highway. It's a quick drive down this access road and gets me to my destination a full 3-4 minutes faster than the back roads, and the only minor annoyance is when I meet with the ramp coming off the highway. The access road has two lanes, and I use the left lane because I make a left turn at the exit. The ramp off the highway also feeds into this left lane, and because I am already in the lane and there is no yield sign, I assume I have the right-of-way. Note that when I am the one coming down the ramp, I slow way down and make sure no one is already in that lane before I merge. But most a$$holes do not do this slow-down maneuver. Instead, they barrel through at the same speed they were driving on the highway and expect you to slow or swerve out of their way.

But today, Reader, I did not demur. I saw a big honkin' truck coming down the ramp, but I continued on my merry way ahead of him, chin held high, blaring Sheryl Sandburg at full volume. This man did not want to yield and continued playing chicken for a minute, but I knew he saw me and would slow down eventually. But Oh ho ho! What I didn't know is that he would then lay on his horn, swerve into the right lane, roll his window down (this was a nice morning so we all had windows down), and scream--in plain view of my two small innocent lambs--"Learn how to drive, BITCH!" and THEN cut me off and slam on his brakes.

Reader, it was at this exact minute that I had an epiphany.

The road is not the place to lean in. There are, in fact, probably lots of locations where it's wise--for either safety or sanity's sake--to step back and let the boys do their thang. Even if their thang happens to be screaming at pretty ladies on the highway. From now on, I'll be taking my Sandburg in smaller doses, and never on the highway.

Have you read her book yet? What did you think? If you're a woman, do you feel like you demur to men's opinions or their place at the table? I think I do, but I'm not sure it's such a bad thing. I mean, they need the big piece of chicken, right? Let's chat about this stuff, ladies.

I have no photo to go with this post, so here's me showing my bud the b-day party tie-dye battle scars.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

on not becoming The Goops

Alternate title: But I still refuse to eat snails.

Have you read French Kids Eat Everything yet? I'm not finished with it, but it's already a game-changer for us. A lovestruck Nate turned to me at dinner last night and wistfully said, a hint of a glistening tear in his eye, "This is just how I wanted dinner to be." Okay, I'm kidding about that. That kind of husbandly praise is the stuff of dreams...

With how much I talk (read: gloat) about feeding my kids real food, it might surprise you I have a lot to learn about teaching kids to eat well. Yes, I usually manage to get my kids to eat healthy food, BUT I have come to dread meal time due to their whininess, messiness, disregard for normal decibel levels and decent personal space, and sibling rivalry that accompany every meal. I was becoming a cross between a hair-raising psycho and a punch-drunk lunatic at dinner, getting into immature discussions with my kids about who was going to get the purple plate and which child would be allowed to sing the third verse of the rainbow song.

Then, the clouds parted, and this book fell into my lap. Or something like that.

But, seriously y'all, I was skeptical at first about whether the tricks in this book would work for us. I have employed some aspects of attachment parenting, and one of them that I associate with the trend is to offer children choices and let them articulate their preferences and control aspects of their food world. If I had to pick one thing I've learned in the last week, it's that the science does not agree; in fact, it suggests children aren't capable of deciding what they should eat, and these decisions actually stress them out.

But the proof is in the pudding: how did the experiment work for us? I am dumbfounded by the fact that not only did these fancy tricks work, but they have made ME enjoy food more. Who could have thought that was possible?

Here's a nutshell about why I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up, with a few caveats (so maybe, one enthusiastic thumb and another regular thumb):

Caveat first: I don't have as many ingrained issues with food as the writer apparently does [Example: she is a self-professed lover of McDonald's. Gag me with a spoon.], so I had trouble identifying with her tendency to whine about her great luck. She seemed to have begrudgingly taken on the challenge to feed her kids French food--WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE AND MARRIED TO A FRENCHMAN--whereas I look at these opportunities to mold and change my kids as fun experiments. To me, a person who doesn't thank her lucky stars that she can benefit from the wisdom of the best foodies in the world has a bit of a chip on her shoulder. But then again, I try never to judge a woman for a reaction to her mother-in-law's advice.

Having said that, I learned loads from this book. I've only been to France once and then only to Paris, but even after a few days there, I learned easily that the French have figured out how to make good food. They enjoy food so much and so well. What I didn't know was that they have many rules about what, when, and how to eat. Being someone who likes to cook and eat--and someone who is sometimes painfully attempting to teach my kids good manners--I appreciate a culture that is willing to take time in crafting good, well-mannered eaters.

I also didn't realize how many bad American eating habits I have--and even worse--that I'm passing down to my kids.  I had become resigned to my fate, forgetting--or perhaps never knowing to begin with--that I have role in their meal-time education (Rule #1). Could it be as simple as they were misbehaving because they weren't aware that there were meal-time rules?


French Food Rules

Food Rules
Illustration by: Sarah Jane Wright for French Kids Eat Everything

Here are few of the rules she discusses in the book that I am most taken with (in my own words):


Up the formality! 

The French lay a tablecloth (!!), even for small children; they forgo paper napkins and sippy cups, opting instead for glasses, cloth napkins, and real silverware; and they announce the beginning of the meal with a quick phrase, "To the table!" When everyone is seated, they say "Bon appetit!" to signify that everyone may begin eating. My kids love rituals so took to these improvements like buttah. Vivi sets the table with a purpose, as though she has been lying in wait for the chance to be given this task. We've always said a blessing, which is now like icing on the cake instead of the only ritual.

Documentation of our first foray into tableclothing. It's a Kenyan wrap skirt. Cute, huh?


Respect each other...and the food! 


Imagine a meal with small children in which you don't have to endure loud interruptions and whining. Wonderful, right? How is this magic accomplished??

Actually, it isn't that hard. Once I got started, I figured out quickly that the rules I was implementing were exactly what they were already doing at school. Duh. If they say "But I wanted the purple plate!," I say "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." If they say "I don't want tabbouleh!," then I say "You don't have to like it, you just have to taste it." And after both of those phrases, they pipe in with "That's what my teachers say!" Oh, right.

I can't believe I didn't use these rules sooner. I always imagined that if I stopped them from jumping around and yelling, I would somehow be stifling their joy. But while I previously would have used my "Let kids be kids!" go-to parenting rule, I now realize that what I was doing was robbing everyone, including myself, of a chance to eat a peaceful meal. By stopping the chaos, I offer respect to my dinner guests and myself--and to the food we are eating, for that matter.

Plus, I've added an element of fun by asking them a few questions about their day, like their favorite thing, something they didn't like, a funny part of the day, and a time they helped someone. Both of the girls relish this time to shine with everyone listening. And I relish the opportunity to start new Mom catchphrases.


No food bribes or rewards (Rule #2). 

This rule is actually harder for me than I had thought. In my opinion, this rule exempts the once-a-year bribe of "If you do well at the doctor, you can have a lollipop!" But it also means that you can't stuff your kid's face with animal crackers every time you're in line at the bank. You can't jump into the car knowing you're going to get stuck in traffic and bribe your kids with fruit snacks and chips to make it the duration. You can't swoop in after your kid falls down or doesn't get the purple plate and say "If you eat your peas, you will get a popsicle!" What I failed to realize is that I was teaching my kids to fill their voids with food, and by doing that, I was making their relationship with food emotional. Yikes.


No snacking (Rule #7). 

This rule is tied with the rule above. "It's okay for them to be hungry" has become my new internal mantra. Once I attempted to stop our constant snacking, it occurred to me I had been teaching Charlotte to be a snack monster (see: toddler terrorist post). Her hunger monster still rears its head on occasion; however, just as I wouldn't back down when I tell her it's time to brush her teeth, I feel confident that keeping her from simple carbs and sugary juice is going to pay off in the end when she learns to reward her patience with satiety instead of stifling it with empty calories.


Eat family meals together (Rule #4).

I always wanted to enact this rule, and I had done it sometimes, but I admit there were many occasions that I would spend their meal doing dishes or reading blogs in the kitchen instead of sitting with them. Now I look upon meal time as an important part of their education and sit at the table with them, even if I on rare occasion am not eating a meal myself (and I try to make sure I am eating with them). When they are finished with the meal, I let them have time to blow off steam and be silly (read: not at the dining room table), and I take that time to do my quiet recharging or cleaning.


I've been reciting a poem to the girls called "The Goops" that my parents recited to me as a child, and it has taken on a new meaning lately. Turns out that "The Goops" is actually a series of books written in the early 1900's to teach children manners, so it's no wonder it stands out now.

The Goops 
by Gelett Burgess (1900)

The Goops they lick their fingers,
The Goops they lick their knives,
They spill their broth on the tablecloth-
Oh, they lead disgusting lives!

The Goops they talk while eating,
And loud and fast they chew,
And that is why that I 
Am glad I'm not a Goop--are you?


the goops
Image credit: Gutenburg.org
Author's Note: I shared this post with Tasty TraditionsWorks for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Gibran, on marriage

Even though I wasn't a member of the 1960's counterculture, I still appreciate The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. Have you ever read it? I have no idea what happened to the tattered copy I had in college, but when I get around to purchasing another copy, I'd like it to be from a thrift store so it has the similarly worn feel. I wish I could possess a tenth of his brilliance, but then, something tells me he wouldn't like me wishing that. Whenever I've encountered a milestone in life, I've often found myself flipping through the book to see what Gibran has to say on the subject.

In keeping with that trend, yesterday after I wrote about wanting to write about marriage--a writer's mise en abyme, or more likely, a narcissist's worldview?--I turned to Gibran's thoughts on marriage from The Prophet. [n.b. equally wonderful are his thoughts on joy and sorrow and on children]. I thought you might like to read along with me:

 You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. 
      You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days. 
      Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. 
      But let there be spaces in your togetherness, 
      And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. 
      Love one another but make not a bond of love: 
      Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. 
      Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. 
      Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. 
      Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, 
      Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. 
      Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. 
      For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. 
      And stand together, yet not too near together: 
      For the pillars of the temple stand apart, 
      And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow. 


-Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet

From our trip to Stockholm, 2006

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

how babies are born: a conversation with my daughter

The worried look, caught on camera

Welcome to the March 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Tough Conversations
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have spoken up about how they discuss complex topics with their children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
***

Update (10/22/13): We've added a new favorite book to the library of sex education called It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends. It has illustrations of a bird and bee talking to each other on each page, which were cute and provided some comic relief for the material to keep the conversation light.

I was planning to write about preschool gender roles today. In fact, I had the post all ready to go on the submission deadline. That morning, my almost-five-year-old daughter actually began our first tough conversation. How's that for timing? Apropos to nothing, Genevieve turned to me with a furrowed brow at the breakfast table and said "I don't want to grow up! I want to stay a kid forever because William said that Mommies have their tummies cut open for the baby to come out. Is that how babies come out, Mommy?"

Before I get to my response, let's break down her announcement. My first reaction is "Oh, sad!" because at that time of the day, I hope for my child to ponder the best way to get more cereal on her spoon, not worry about the fate of her uterus in a few decades. My second reaction is "Thank goodness!" because I'm so happy she feels comfortable to bring up these subjects to me.

Without even a sip of coffee, I managed somehow to keep head firmly attached to shoulders. I calmly explained that first of all, having babies was not something she needed to worry about now because only grown-ups have babies. Then I told her that although some babies are cut out of their mother's womb (as I've discussed in the past, we use anatomically correct language), it's not how most babies are born. I told her that babies are usually born from a mother's vagina, and it's usually a wonderful and happy day when it happens.

She looked a tiny bit less frightened. Then I asked her if she had any more questions. Boy, did she ever.

"Yes," she replied firmly. "Sometimes I feel a rumbling in my tummy. Is that a baby floating around?"

Oh, sad! No, I reminded her, only grown-ups have babies in their wombs. Clearly we needed to go over digestion again, so I began telling her all about how food is broken down for nutrients in the stomach, and waste travels through the intestines to become poop. Her eyes widened and her expression softened to one of curiosity and wonder. Mommy was talking about poop! She had lots of questions about how poop is made and the reason we sometimes have gas (admittedly we call gas a "toot").

From this experience, I take away the importance of follow-up questions and making sure I understand why she wants to know the information and that she understood my responses. My daughter is almost five, and next year she'll be in kindergarten, so I know there are more talks to come before that first day of school. I want her to know she can always come to me when she has questions about how her body works or if kids at school tell her information she doesn't think is correct or feels needs clarification.

Later that day, I went to the library and picked up a few books that have started and continued quite a few discussions about the human body this week. To my surprise, she will sit through an entire lengthy book on the subject! This proud mama looks forward to the many more conversations to come.

In case you'd like to pick up some books, here are the ones we've read so far and liked:


Above all, I want Vivi to be excited about how amazing her body really is and hopefully never rarely embarrassed by her bodily functions. Her question was a good reminder to me that once is not enough for a discussion about her body. We're never going to sit down and have THE TALK because I plan to have many age-appropriate talks over her childhood. I consider this conversation a doorway to a new beginning for us.

Have you had "the talk" with your preschooler? What can you share about the experience?


***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon March 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • A Difficult Conversation — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is keeping her mouth shut about a difficult topic.
  • Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child — At Authentic Parenting, Laura is puzzled at how to discuss sexuality and objectification with her 4-year-old.
  • Tough Conversations — Kadiera at Our Little Acorn knows there are difficult topics to work through with her children in the future, but right now, every conversation is a challenge with a nonverbal child.
  • Real Talk — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explains why there are no conversation topics that are off limits with her daughter, and how she ensures that tough conversations are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner.
  • From blow jobs to boob jobs and lots of sex inbetweenMrs Green talks candidly about boob jobs and blow jobs…
  • When Together Doesn't Work — Ashley at Domestic Chaos discusses the various conversations her family has had in the early stages of separation.
  • Talking To Children About Death — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is currently dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. In this post she shares how she's explained it to her toddler, and some of the things she's learned along the way.
  • Teaching 9-1-1 To Kids — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling talks about the importance of using practical, age-appropriate emergency scenarios as a springboard for 9-1-1 conversations.
  • Preschool Peer PressureLactating Girl struggles to explain to her preschooler why friends sometimes aren't so friendly.
  • Frank Talk — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis unpacks a few conversations about sexuality that she's had with her 2-year-old daughter, and her motivation for having so many frank discussions.
  • When simple becomes tough — A natural mum manages oppositional defiance in a toddler at Ursula Ciller's Blog.
  • How Babies are Born: a conversation with my daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger tries to expand her daughter's horizons while treading lightly through the waters of pre-K social order.
  • Difficult Questions & Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell The Truth — Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection shares the potential impact that telling lies instead of taking the time to answer difficult questions can have on the parent-child relationship.
  • Parenting Challenges--when someone dies — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about talking to her child about death and the cultural challenges involved in living in a predominantly Catholic nation.
  • Daddy Died — Breaking the news to your children that their father passed away is tough. Erica at ChildOrganics shares her story.
  • Opennesssustainablemum prepares herself for the day when she has to tell her children that a close relative has died.
  • Embracing Individuality — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy addressed a difficult question in public with directness and honesty.
  • Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica Claire of Crunchy-Chewy Mama also values discussing them with her children to soften the blow they might cause when they hit closer to home.
  • Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama concluded that her family would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, she came up with a plan to persuade her gluten-loving son to find peace with the change. This is how they turned the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle into an adventure rather than a hardship.
  • How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? — How do you and your family approach diversity? Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her thoughts at Natural Parents Network and would like to hear from readers.
  • Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares parenting practices that enabled discussions of difficult topics with her (now-adult) children to be positive experiences.
  • Tough Conversations — Get some pointers from Jorje of Momma Jorje on important factors to keep in mind when broaching tough topics with kids.
  • Protect your kids from sneaky people — Lauren at Hobo Mama has cautioned her son against trusting people who'd want to hurt him — and hopes the lessons have sunk in.
  • Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work works through how to answer a question from her 4-year-old that doesn't have a simple answer.
  • When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth — Melissa at White Noise talks about balancing truth and love when telling her son his adoption story.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

{on the range} week 7: Cinderella ate my daughter

{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we're doing, reading, and eating. It's a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}.


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."
Genevieve: Climbing mountains wherever she can.
Charlotte: Proving that gearing up to go out in the snow is still a good time for a gal to accessorize.


On the Range
February 12-18, 2013

Milestones

  • "Charlieisms" are suddenly sprouting up every day. Last night she said "Burrrrrrt, Mommy. It's cold!" and "My tutu didn't fall off yet!" (she meant to say 'tattoo').
  • We're having February vacation week, and Vivi went to winter camp yesterday. Unlike with the school report (i.e. "What did you do today?" "Nothing"), she was aflutter with news of the morning, including brushing wool, feeding sheep, climbing "Bird Hill" and spotting deer and wild turkeys, and cracking her own eggs when cooking a snack. Winter camp is a great success!

Media

  • I just finished Cinderella Ate My Daughter, and it was an eye-opening page turner. I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up for moms questioning the place of pink plastic Barbies and pants that read "JUICY" on the bottom in their daughters' lives.
  • Thanks to this Splendid Table episode, I got a new book from the library called The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook. I've already tried a recipe for "biscones," a cross between biscuits and scones. Ah-mazing. I give lots of thought to a new cookbook purchase before pulling the plug, but this one is a serious contender for 2013. Next recipe up: savory chicken cobbler. Mmmmmmm.

Moods

  • Meditative. We got another six inches of snow on Saturday morning. For most of the day we got the thick flakes that resemble the paper cutouts we grew up making in grammar school, so it was a beautiful sight.
  • Frustrated. I learned this week there's a setback in my doula certification paperwork, so I feel like I'm back at square one, just waiting with nothing I can do to speed up the process.  


Meals

Monday, October 22, 2012

did you read? {10 favorite cookbooks}


I've been known to gab about my love of cookbooks, even on the blog a few times. A good cookbook can be just as good as the best book, in my opinion. I love to nuzzle into the couch with a few cookbooks from the library to get some great ideas. Norah Ephron once likened the feeling of being taken away to another world by a book to the "rapture of the deep" experienced by deep-sea divers who forget which direction is the surface of the water. Rapture is definitely a word I'd use to describe my adoration of cookbooks.

Not many library selections make the ranks of the cookbooks I buy, but those that make it to my shelves aren't ignored and left to gather dust. I treasure them and consult them weekly. Some women have a purse to match their every mood; personally, I prefer to pair my moods with cookbooks. Whether I'm craving an international meal, a quick comforting recipe for the kids, or one made from ingredients found at the farmer's market, I have a book to do the job well. Below are a few of my favorites, for your consideration (note: these are indeed affiliate links...so I can buy and then write about more cookbooks, of course!).

1) The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman

The hubster's family gave us this one the year after we got married. Mark Bittman is staffed at the New York Times and is one of my favorite food writers (I am also looking forward to purchasing How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food one of these days). I don't always agree with his column (see comments of another post), but his books are thoughtful and well-written. I love that I know when I have a delicious dish in an international establishment, say harira at a North African restaurant, I can come home and flip open the book to that recipe so I can attempt to replicate it. Whether you crave kung pao chicken, masala chai, or plaintain chips, you'll find them in this giant volume. We received a leg of lamb-- a rare inclusion-- in our latest CSA bundle, so I plan to try lamb tagine with prunes next week. I'm a sucker for prunes and meat together.

2) Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food by Jacques Pepin

You can read more about this one on my previous post about it. It's my all-time favorite cookbook and can frequently be found on my nightstand. Jacques Pepin is my food hero.

3) The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook: Heirloom fruits and vegetables, and more than 100 heritage recipes to inspire every generation by "The Fabulous Beekman Boys"

I wrote about this one previously too. The fall recipes are the absolute best, so now is the perfect time to check it out. Be sure to browse their website too (they also have a show on Cooking Channel, which I haven't watched yet because we've been cable-less for almost a year).

4) Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets by Deborah Madison

Another one given to me by my mother-in-law, a fellow avid home chef, this book pushes the limits of my ability to cook with local ingredients. She doesn't stop at just introducing us to vegetables like kohlrabi and escarole; she elevates humble farmer's market fare to another stratosphere. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the delicious results.

5) Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round by Marisa McClellan

While this isn't a traditional cookbook perse, I would argue its as important an addition to your repertoire as any book, if not more so, if you plan to preserve food. Canning requires exact balances of acidity, sweetness, and pectin in the case of jam, so the chemistry component alone makes me a preserving cookbook evangelist. You can fly by the seat of your pants when making soup, maybe, but unless you have tons of experience, I wouldn't try the same with blueberry jam. Like most cookbook authors today, Marisa also has a wonderful blog, which is how I found her book.


6) The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond

I adore her signature style of photographing each stage of the cooking process. It makes for a fun evening read and an instructional guide. She has such a way of making readers feel at ease, like we've been invited into her kitchen for a chat. I can't get enough of her blog. Um, also, carnitas pizza. Need I say more? She has a great show on the Food Network that I catch on Saturday mornings at the gym when I can.

7) Savoring Spain & Portugal by Joyce Goldstein

This one is sadly apparently not being printed any more. But I'm including it anyway because I love the notion that each international trip should be followed by a cookbook of the food in that area upon returning to the states. We went to Spain and Portugal in 2009 and have enjoyed this book (a third gift from mom-in-law!) even more because it reminds of all the delicious food we ate on our trip. We shared our favorite recipe from this book last year, a Galician fish soup that is one of Nate's specialties.

8) The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

I get many of my staple recipes from Ina, like hummus, tabboulehroasted vegetables, and granola. I love how simple and straightforward her recipes are. She of course also has a fabulous cooking program on Food Network. Not surprisingly, they love her in England as much as we do here. She has such a calm and joyful approach to cooking and to life, and her marriage reminds me of a set of my grandparents who seem to love cooking and eating as much as Ina and Jeffrey. They are a delightful pair.


9) My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness by Gwyneth Paltrow

The addition of this book on the list might surprise you, but she is correct in titling this book "easy recipes." They are as much about family and comfort as they are about being cookbook-worthy. It's my kind of cooking, and the photos are fabulous. I wrote about this one previously too. Gwyneth also has a great e-newsletter and website with more recipes.

10) The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

This book will be released on October 30th, so I can't offer an authoritative review yet, but c'mon! Anyone who has ever read her blog knows it will be amazing. Have you pre-ordered yours yet? I did!


Editor's note: This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday, Monday Mania and The Homestead Barn Hop.

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