Showing posts with label Resolution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Resolution. Show all posts

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.

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 10, 2013

my quest to become a {gulp} storyteller

my girlfriend's boyfriend

This weekend we went to see the comedian Mike Birbiglia perform his show, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend. He is so funny and such a wonderful storyteller. I loved that his act had multiple small story arcs within one larger arc, and so many of the jokes would come back later in the bit. I also appreciate that, when compared with the tragic moments in Sleepwalk with Me, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend is at its heart a love story, full of the missteps and heartache but also pockets of optimism that he delivers with such honesty and self-deprecation. It was fun to see the show in Worcester, close to his hometown; the audience was as rowdy as I expected. [If you haven't yet, you should check out Mike's film version of Sleepwalk with Me on Netflix].

Friday, March 01, 2013

spring cleaning update to your kitchen: {guest post}

How are you doing on your New Year's resolutions? I wised up this year and didn't announce my resolutions, thereby (in theory) circumventing guilt when I did not fulfill them. However, being a person who seeks self-improvement, I did make some mental notes on areas of my life and home I'd like to tinker with this year. One area I highlighted for renovation is the kitchen. But despite loads of inspiration on my Pinterest boards, I am having trouble getting started. Cue those guilty feelings.

With the beginning of March comes thoughts of spring cleaning, so it feels like a good time to put aside the fear and guilt and get moving on some of those resolutions. Today I'm bringing in a guest with expertise in the field of home improvement, and she's going to give us some frugal ideas for where to begin on updating your kitchen. Be sure to read to the bottom for Jillian's bio. Take it away, Jillian!
***********


Ikea kitchens
Image Credit: Ikea

This year when you're doing your annual spring cleaning, don't just clear out the clutter from your kitchen; –make it better by improving the organization, updating the design, and maybe even doing a bit of renovation.

Here are several great ideas to make your kitchen the best room in the house.


Ikea Kitchens
Image Credit: Ikea


Organize(rs for) your drawers. 

How many times have you cleaned out your drawers and made everything look fantastic, only to open them a few weeks later and discover that everything has gotten cluttered again? No system is perfect, but there are some great drawer organization systems that can go a long way towards helping. Ikea offers these simple drawer organizers that help you to divide your cabinets with clean lines, and several manufacturers are even applying this idea to dinnerware with pegged dish organizers. You can move the pegs around as you need to fit your particular plates, bowls, and saucers, and never worry about where they're supposed to go.


My mom's kitchen after recent updates (note the mirror and newly painted cabinets)


Do it with mirrors. 

Everyone knows that mirrors work wonders at making spaces feel bigger, but few people think to use this knowledge in their kitchen. If you have a cramped cooking area, you can make it appear larger by adding in a mirrored backsplash. You'll open the space up with reflections and create a brighter, cleaner look.


Provide a facelift. 

Redoing your entire kitchen can be prohibitively expensive, but that doesn't mean that you can't use frugal tips to make it look like a new room. Convince people that you replaced your cabinetry by getting new doors. Some places even offer them unfinished for as little as $9.95 per door! Alternatively, you could paint your current doors a different color and simply pick up some fancy new hardware.



Ikea KitchensSink and faucet. 

Another piece of hardware that can make a big impact is your sink and faucet. Change out both, and you can have a truly different look in your kitchen, especially if you're going from a traditional metal sink to one made of stone, china, or even glass. Of course, some sinks can cost in the thousands. For many, that's probably too expensive, so if that's you, make an impression with a new designer faucet. You can even help the environment by getting one that's low-flow.


Hang around. 

One great way to get organized and revitalize the look of your kitchen is to utilize the vertical space – especially the space underneath counters. If you’re really feeling in the mood to change things up, you can get a cabinet that suspends your microwave over the stove and free up more of the counter. Those looking for something a bit easier, though, may want to try a hanging pot rack or a hanging wine rack.


Ikea Kitchens
Image Credit: Ikea

Change out your chairs. 

If you have a small table in your kitchen or a breakfast bar, the kind of seating you use can make a big statement about the room. Are you stately and refined, or sleek and modern? Even changing out something seemingly small like your seating can greatly affect the overall look and feel of your kitchen. Perhaps just as important, smaller chairs can give you more space and make your kitchen feel bigger than it really is.


About the author: Jillian Watkinson is a DIY expert and has written about home and gardens for many years. You can find other examples of her writing on The Design Inspirationalist, The Kitchen Blog, and Pegasus Lighting. When she’s not writing, you can find her covering Community Home Supply and other useful supply companies for various projects.

Editor's note: This post is part of LHITS DIY Linky and The Homestead Barn Hop.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

on making our own lard

{Secondary/Alternate Title: Yes, We are Those People}

My plan was to publish a post today about pocket meat pies. That post will need to wait a day because to make a meat pie, you need a sturdy savory crust. I believe that crust should start with one surprising but important ingredient: lard. I've gotten on my lard soap box before, so rather than beat it to death, I'll simplify the conversation today and boil it down--so to speak (hardy har)--to a few quick paragraphs.

Why lard?

In the middle of the last century, well-meaning scientists told us saturated-fat-containing ingredients like lard caused heart disease, and law-abiding citizens ran fleeing from it. Since then, we've learned that the replacements for lard--like vegetable shortening--contain trans fats, which are much worse for you than saturated fat. Not only that, but lard also contains monounsaturated fat that is necessary for brain function. Even leaving health out of the discussion for a moment, I am sold on the idea of lard because I am a firm believer in nose-to-tail cooking. Hence, we actually eat tail from time to time.

In a nutshell, lard is not your enemy, and the people who want you to go on believing it is have ulterior motives.  Set aside what you think you know, do your research, and make your own decision.

Where can you buy lard? 

To make lard, you need to get your hands on pork kidney fat called leaf lard. The reason you want leaf lard is that you can render it into a neutral fat that doesn't taste of pork, assuming you cooked it low and slow enough. I'll get to that part in a minute. We get our leaf lard for a $1/pound from a cooler at our monthly meat CSA. If you don't have a CSA, I bet you can strike up a deal with any pork seller at your local farmer's market if you're friendly. Heck, you might even be able to get it already rendered from your butcher if you're lucky.

Remember how I said I was going to start saying yes to ideas, even if they sounded scary or impossible? Ahem. To be frank, the rendering process is not as pleasant as I'd like it to be. But then, with a process called "rendering fat," did you expect it to be pleasant? For one thing, it's messy, in that "fat gets on things and won't come off things" way. For another thing, it doesn't look good. Mine wasn't even photographable. For a third thing, it's smelly. Not "I'm frying up some bacon" good smelly, but "I've been working in the kitchen of a 24-hour diner" bad smelly. I advise you to make a giant batch in one day, then hang on to it in your freezer for the next six months. Let it be a warm enough day that you can crack a window--for us, that's around 40 degF, but our standards are influenced by the chilly Beantown climate.


Nourished Kitchen
Image credit: Nourished Kitchen

How do you render lard?

Now that we've gotten the purchasing and caveats out of the way, let's get down to cooking. The actual directions couldn't be much simpler, so rather than reinvent the wheel I'm connecting to blogs that have already written them. If you are making a batch of savory lard and you don't mind a slight porky flavor--in fact, you might even be going for that--you can make it in a Dutch oven on the stovetop. If you want it for sweet pie crust and don't want it to taste like pork at all, then you should probably make it in a slow cooker. For either method, you'll want to start by chopping the fat into small pieces (Note: if you're getting it from the butcher, you can ask to have it ground, or you can do the grinding yourself if you have one of those sausage attachments on your stand mixer).

Here again are links to the two methods:

Tomorrow, we'll delve into the fruits of our labor and discuss delectable meat pies. I promise it will all be worth the stinky effort.


Author's Note: This post is part of Fight Back Friday, Tasty Traditions, Real Food Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

roof permits are hard to come by...

Between the Lincoln logs, Duplos, and wood blocks, we've got lots of building going on 'round here. If only Charlie would let us put a roof on it...

video


The kids are enjoying their new holiday loot, and meanwhile Nate and I are dividing our time between college bowl games (nearly done! phew) and basement shuffling. New year, new stuff! Purging seems to be a disdained activity in many households, but I know I'm a broken record when I say I love rotating my belongings.

How are y'all holding up? Any resolutions? I'm going with the standard "more exercise, less sugar" routine. And maybe some L-glutamine to help my tummy along...

I'm also going to try to take some sage advice and keep my list of regrets down to a minimum. I love the "what is my legacy?" and "who will be there with me?" questions he poses in that HuffPo article. Thought provoking to be sure.

Hope you're having a splendid start to the new year!
xoxo
~J

Thursday, January 05, 2012

living frugally in an official capacity

I talk often--maybe too much?--about how I try to live as frugally and sustainably as possible. Frugal living is important to me both because of our OITK household ("One Income Two Kids," my own adaptation of DINK, but something tells me it might not catch on) and because, well, I was raised that way. I can think of so many examples from my childhood from which to pull. Let's see, there's...
  • The oft-repeated story of my grandmother standing up at my dad's wedding rehearsal dinner to announce "I LOVE a bargain!," apropos to nothing [might be a good post for another day] 
  • The other oft-repeated [spoiler: gross!] story of my great grandmother sopping up the remnants of a ketchup bottle with her bread and coffee at the breakfast table 
  • Or, how about the fact that my dad polishes furniture with his old whitey-tighties!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

the thirty-second birthday

Hello friends! Prepare for some grade-A stream-of-consciousness writing today. If you can't be uninhibited in your writing on your birthday, then when can you, amirite?

I noticed when I typed out "thirty-second" instead of the number 32nd, it looks the same as 30-second as in the amount of time. This is a fitting accident, as it really feels that my birthdays are already flying by. I have nothing more substantial or profound to add to this observation, but I want you all to know that I am aware of it. Of the speed-of-light birthday thing. Older people are always trying to tell me this fact of life as though I am not yet in the know. But I am! Which brings me to my next random point.

I looked up the word "Methuselan" the other day (thanks to Sub'n Matron's use of it on her blog). Basically, you might say it's a nicer, more creative way of saying 'old person.' So anyway, I'm looking it up when I stumble upon a reference on the D&D (that's Dungeons & Dragons for those of you like me who aren't in the know) Wiki.

This find brings me to two thoughts. The first is that I'm going to start keeping a list of words I want to use more often. Methuselan is a great-sounding word and is totally better than just saying 'she's an old lady.'

The second thought is "Who are these people?" Who are these people who are interested in knowing how to create a virtual undead humanoid? This fact is in no way related to the remainder of my post. But did you know that, about the existence of a D&D Wiki? There's a whole 'nother world of peeps out there, y'all.

My birthday journal entries are always fun ones to go back and read. Unfortunately I haven't been as good about blogging on my birthday as I have at journaling. Here's a post I wrote the year I turned 30. Here's another post I wrote three days before my 29th birthday, and in which I inexplicably do not mention my birthday. No wait, it is explicable, because birthdays in your twenties flit in and out of your life like snowflakes; even the bad ones aren't bad because, cripes, you're in your twenties!

Another by-product of my thirties is that I now always pay attention to someone's age when I'm reading an article about them. I suppose it's so I can properly judge them for whatever accolade they've achieved or ludicrous behavior I'm reading about. Note: Chelsea Clinton and Jessica Simpson are both my age, as are Kate Hudson, Elin Nordagren, Drew Brees, Alicia Keys, Venus Williams, Gisele Bundchen, and John Krasinski. Kim Kardashian is a year younger than me and has two divorces more than me. Yet again, nothing enlightening to say, just passing along the deets. Judge away.

Since it's been over a year since Charlotte was born, I think I might have surpassed the period of time in which I can blame my stupidity on "baby brain" and start accepting that this is the new me. In light of that revelation, I am happy to have discovered a site that lets you determine whether you are about to share old news. Just in case some day I, like many of my elders, cease to be hip and with it. Oh, who am I kidding, that day has arrived.

I'm not sure how old I was when I first saw "When Harry Met Sally," but I do have one memory of its impression on me. Well, two memories. This first is that I marched right over to my friend's house who I knew wore days-of-the-week underpants to find out if it's true they don't make Sunday (It is! or was, circa 1991). The second was that I completely understood why Sally had a meltdown over her age. Or, I thought I understood. To me, she was old, even if Harry tries to convince her she's not. And so, because it was burned in my brain that day, I remember how old she was. Care to guess? Thirty two, of course!

I've already had a wonderful birthday so far, and it's only 8am. Bring on the Facebook onslaught of well wishers I haven't had a real conversation with since 1998! My birthday week doesn't end today, either. Nate and I are getting a babysitter on Friday night so we can finally see the newest Harry Potter film. Our party trick used to be to announce the last movie we saw in the the theater; the point was to shock and horrify our childless friends. But at this point neither one of us can even remember what that last movie was. Are you shocked and horrified?

I got an early birthday present from Charlie yesterday. She simultaneously began walking unsupported around the living room and began climbing on the couch (evidence of her escapades is below). Happy birthday to me!

video

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