Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Our internet was out at Christmas, so happy belated Christmas too.
God's grace to you now and forevermore,
Renata

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Birthday Bash

It's been a while since I said I would post more of my birthday cake ideas. Well, I have been working on these posts for a while and I decided to post them all at once! I hope you enjoy them.

Spaceship Cake




I got the idea for this cake from Family Fun and Kraft Foods. We have had a lot going on recently so this cake was decorated way at the last minute. If you have iced cakes before, you know that it can be hard not to get icing on the rest of the board. I usually put foil or wax paper strips, but I was really pressed for time. Then I thought the extra icing looked fine, like stars or space debris (not shuttle debris mind you).




Blast off!




For some different spaceship designs, try Betty Crocker or Cake Space.

VW Beetle Cake




A friend of mine offered to loan me her Wilton 3D Cruiser cake pan. So I decided I could make it into a VW beetle cake because my son is just crazy about them.


This was the most I have ever put into a cake, but I enjoyed making it (primarily because I made it before, not on, his birthday) and he really loved it. I didn't want to do all that piping, but I couldn't smooth out the icing without hiding the detail from the pan.


Two days ahead of time, I baked the cake using my banana bread recipe (I think I tripled it). This turned out to be a great choice because I had done the bamboo skewer test for doneness (a toothpick was too small) but when I went to level the cake it revealed that the inside was definitely not cooked through. I put it back in the oven until it was really done. If it were a regular or light cake, it would have collapsed in the middle and I would have had to start over. I also made and colored the icing that night. I baked the cake ahead of time because I wanted to be sure it was cooled enough to ice it.


The next evening I decorated the cake. I raised the cake a bit by placing it on a smaller board, then on the main one. I iced the windows with grey icing, then I covered it with wax paper (actually the butter wrappers) cut out in the window shapes to prevent it from getting smeared by the red icing. Next, I spread a thin layer of red icing. That step is probably not not necessary if you are piping the body, but I was trying to get a smooth layer initially.



(before, with the wax paper templates)






(After the wax paper was removed)



Then, I piped the body with red icing and added the details. I had hoped to use some of the cake scraps to make the domed top, but it wasn't working well, so I used a heap of icing instead. I also put the cake back in the fridge quite frequently so that the icing wouldn't melt (I made buttercream icing with just butter because it's trans-fat free, tastier, but melts easier).


If you notice in this picture, I iced the contours (such as the headlights and the hood detail) first and filled in the rest. I think this defined the areas more and helped when I did the final touches.

Now, for the detailing...

  • Tires: Oreo cakesters, split in half (I would have preferred the cookeis, but I didn't want to buy a whole pack of oreo cookies and the cakesters were available in a snack pack) I then piped the centers with red icing.
  • Front red and rear lights: Gummy Life Savers. The red lights were cut in half.
  • Rear view mirror: Red licorice circles from a bridge mix at a bulk candy bin. I iced them with the grey icing and stuck a toothpick in them. You might want to get more than two of these because they can crack. That way you can pick the best two. I wonder if Hershey's Kissables would work.
  • License plate light, door, and trunk handles: licorice rods from the same bridge mix (I really don't remember what they are called)
  • Headlights: I also got these from the bulk candy bin. They were big gummy circles. I think they were Sunkist brand.
  • License plate: Wrigley's gum. I trimmed it to size and then piped my son's name on it with a small round tip (can't remember, maybe #5).
(the rear view, with the license plate)



If you try this, please leave feedback on how this worked out for you.




My Banana Bread Recipe

Actually, it is the recipe I use to make banana bread :-) I modified it from a Jumbo Banana Nut Muffin recipe in either Mostly Muffins or More muffins, by Barbara Albright and Leslie Weiner. I have used this recipe several times in birthday cakes.

I took out some butter, put in some oil, cut back on sugar, added honey. I also omitted the nuts. I love nuts in muffins and such, but because I am so cheap I sprinkle them on top with some brown or raw sugar, then I bake them. I also do this so if someone doesn't like nuts, it is easily picked off. I may have made this without butter or sugar before, but this is what I have written down. I will try to do it that way sometime soon and I'll let you know how it turned out.
[update: 2/27/08 - I have posted a no butter (oil only) version]

Anyway, here's the recipe:


My Banana Bread Recipe
Serving Size : 12

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/8 cup canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup honey
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups bananas -- mashed and ripe (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 oF. Grease pan or muffin tins.
In a large bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, cream butter, oil, sugar and honey until somewhat fluffy; beat in eggs. Stir in banana, milk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and stir just to combine.
Spoon batter into pan and bake 25-30 minutes (less if making muffins) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Remove pan to wire racks. Cool 5 minutes before removing from pan; finish cooling on rack. Serve warm or cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 193 Calories; 8g Fat (34.0%calories from fat); 4g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 46mgCholesterol; 244mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2Fruit; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

Racing theme cakes

I have done a racing theme twice. This first one is pretty straightforward. My son was fascinated with cars and the number eight, so I thought I'd make a figure eight race track cake.


I cut a 9"x13" cake in half and stacked it to make one smaller cake. I made the checkered flags with toothpicks and colored sugar for grass. I would have used coconut, but I didn't have any on hand. When my son blew the candle out, sugar went flying everywhere! I tried to sneak some of the leftover green sugar into some pizza dough and the dough came out with a drab grey color! :-p



The next year, he wanted a race car cake. This is what I came up with:





I decided to shape one from a loaf pan. A denser cake, such as banana bread or pound cake, works best for this type of cake. I made banana bread with this one. My son got sick right before his birthday and this was the first time we had invited friends. So this is actually the second (and better) cake made a week later. For the first one I tried covering it with red marshmallow fondant. Given it was my first time, I ended up with another late dinner (maybe I'll write about my red fondant experience in another post). Mini peppermint patties were used for the wheels as well as the steering wheel. Life savers were used for headlights and dashboard. I meant to put an number 4 in the circle, but inadvertently put his initial there instead. Who cares?



Anyway, I went to shop for my son's birthday present and I got my inspiration from a car in the dollar section:


Here is a sketch of what to do. Note that the part carved off the top (striped section) was used as the front of the car.




I'd really like to hear from you if you try this. Send pictures if you want and I'll add it here.

Noah's Ark Cake



Here is a Noah's Ark cake I made for one of my boys. The picture wasn't very clear and I kind of messed it up when I put blue icing on the roof and sides. But it was past 7pm and we hadn't had dinner yet.


This cake was inspired by Family Fun's Pirate Ship Cake, which uses a round cake pan, not a fancy one you will never use again. For this cake, I made a sweet potato cake with maple icing. The blue icing was made from white store-bought icing. I roughly mixed the blue coloring in so that it would give variations to the ocean color and the white sea foam. I spread it with a spatula and then piped around the base of the cake with a star tip. I can't remember if I piped some swirls in the ocean.

Oh, and I used Wilton's Noah's Ark mini cookie cutter set for the animals. Of course, regular animal crackers would do.

Below are the instructions (with variations). This doesn't have to be a birthday cake either. I've seen Noah's Ark as baby shower themes and I'm sure you could find more applications. If you try this, please let me know. I'd like to know how it came out (even if it was a nightmare).



(click on image for a larger -- and hopefully printable -- view)

Train Cake

We ended up building this cake together as a family birthday activity. I iced the cake and the rest of the family put on the decorations. This was a fun and relaxed time, much like decorating gingerbread cakes. We used Family Fun's Choo Choo Cake idea. You can also find step by step instructions here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Leftovers

I could probably eat ham and turkey sandwiches for a week (sometimes grilled, yum!). But sometimes, I try to make meals from leftover ham and turkey. Some of the things I have made in the past are:

  • turkey pot pie
  • turkey and/or ham fried rice
  • split pea soup with ham (using the ham bone)
  • ham and cheese omelets
  • curried turkey salad
  • ham and pineapple pizzas
  • triple corn casserole with ham

I'm sorry I don't have any recipes for these (maybe for some of them), but I improvise. If you want an idea of what I put in it, let me know.

Any other suggestions? I am also trying to figure out how to reinvent the collard greens and cornbread dressing (stuffing).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Thanksgiving fun

If you are looking for more Thanksgiving fun (and beyond), go to the Tip Junkie. Laurie found my turkey rolls and gave me a "great tip award". I am truly honored, but I am more excited about finding out about her blog and sharing it with you all.

My friend Alan also received an award for his Thanksgiving Carols. I had forgotten about those and thought you might want to check them out.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Some thanksgiving ideas...

Here are some of the fun things we have cooked on Thanksgiving:

Turkey rolls! You can use any roll dough. I used cloves as the turkey's eyes.
[updated 11/18/09: Here's the recipe I used for the rolls]



Another year we grilled turkey legs, like those you find at the agricultural fairs. Mmmm...


We have also grilled a turkey breast. It came out pretty good, but the seasoning didn't penetrate much. My husband wants to do it again this year, although I am not sure what recipe. This time, we'll be using smoking chips for sure.

Last year, I wanted to make caramel apple turkeys. I made the apples, but didn't have time for the turkey. The idea was that the apple would be the body and the feathers could be attached to the stick. Then a head would be stuck on front. If I do it this year, I'll let you know. If you try it, let me know too :-)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My first thanksgiving turkey

Believe it or not, last year was the first time I ever cooked a turkey. To make sure it would come out good, I checked a couple of sources, but my one stop place for ideas came from the Food Network. They have recipes and videos that make it easier to understand. I pretty much followed the Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe (except for the brining because I bought one of those frozen turkeys on sale a few weeks before). And I made a celery and carrot "rack" inspired by Michael Chiarello.



Here it is ready to go in the oven:






Here's the neck bone and some veggies for the gravy broth (I guess I took this picture so I'd remember what I did). I was so proud of myself that I had remembered to take the neck out of the cavity:





And here's the final product:






Now, if you look carefully at the bottom right part of the turkey breast, you will see something like a round stamp. It turned out it was the gizzards bag I had left in!


The turkey still came out fine.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanksgiving is just around the corner...

And so the subject of avoiding weight gain comes up.

Actually, I don't like the topic of weight much at all. One day I'll write a post about this when I have more time to dedicate to this subject (but if anyone already knows of a great source, let me know). The reason is that people think that a magic number equals good health. But health can't be measured by weight alone. Furthermore, many times the goal weight is unrealistic and unecessary. It is possible to be considered "overweight" and be healthy, and be in a "normal" weight range and be unhealthy. It's the lifestyle that will make a difference.

That being said, it is often hard to maintain a healthful lifestyle during the next 6 weeks. Anything in excess is not going to be good for you. I have never tried this, but I would argue that lettuce eaten in excess it would be bad for them (maybe it would have the soporific effect as in Beatrix Potter's The Flopsy Bunnies). There are many strategies out there, but there is one a dear friend of mine once said that makes the most sense:

Don't eat something you don't really like.

That's right. My friend doesn't really care for pumpkin pie, so why eat it when there is so much else to eat?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

About Halloween Candy

You may be wondering why I haven't posted on this before halloween. I have three simple reasons:

  • I just moved to another state
  • I spent my childhood in Australia, where they don't celebrate halloween (although we went trick or treating a few times anyway)
  • Since I've lived in the US, I have not lived in areas where people trick or treated (or I didn't know I was supposed to turn the porch light on).

So this was my very first real halloween and I DID give out candy. I realized that, from a nutritionist's perspective, I have a lot of thinking to do about this.

A comment on What to Eat blog said the following: "What kind of killjoy can’t bear to give kids candy on Halloween??! It’s just one day out of the year, and as long as they’re not eating crap for the other 364 days, why ruin the fun?"

No, I don't want to be a killjoy by not giving out candy but the kids were coming around to my place with LOTS of candy. I would say that most of them could have filled at least a one gallon ziplock bag (and that's being conservative here). They definitely had more candy than they could eat in one night.
Furthermore, my 15 month old was bouncing off the wall after eating maybe 6 m&m's .

You've probably heard this before, that all foods are ok, as long as they are eaten in moderation. Well, when does moderation become excess, and at what point does it become a cause for concern or alarm?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Settling in...

I love my new home. It is in a great location, we are in a beautiful home, family is just 1.5 miles away, every grocery store imaginable within 10 minutes, and as a bonus I came across a backyard beekeeper who sells honey and a local dentist/farmer who sells maple syrup from his office. I could go on and on about what I like about here, but it is so hard to settle in right now.

Trying to establish a new home with three little kids running around is not easy. I feel like I'm saying no every minute. My kids' childish playfulness and curiosity looks like an invitation to injury right now (although my second child got a big knot on his head by simply tripping over, not when he was bouncing off the walls). Also, my daughter is really interfering with our sleep and both boys are not exerting control over their bladders. I don't even know what to do about all this anymore. I feel like I've tried everything. I really need some wisdom (and patience) in all of this. Anyway, I feel like I'm micromanaging them and I am weary from their increased defiance.

One day I was so grumpy and snappy that I didn't want to be around myself either. Now, I know that's not good for anyone, which made things worse. I know it is not glorifying to God to be the way I have been behaving, but I felt like I just couldn't snap out of it. Then when I was putting my cookbooks and notebooks back on the shelf (after the toddler finished playing with them -- with my permission), I came across a quote I wrote down about 3 years ago:

"A Christian's inner peace is never based on his ability to take the teachings of Scripture and figure it all out. Our peace always rests on the presence, power, and character of the Lord."*


Then I was able to finally take a sigh of relief. Here I was trying to find peace by behaving a certain way, rather than simply giving God glory for his presence, power, and character, which does not change. My attitude was still sinful, but Christ's grace has the power to forgive me of it and give me a fresh start. It's still hard, but I am reminded that I am not alone, and that God is not against me in all this.


"This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers." 2 Timothy 2:11-14

* Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands. Paul David Tripp p.30

Monday, October 22, 2007

Still unpacking...

For those who read this and didn't know, I moved approximately 600 miles across the country. I didn't mention anything on this blog before because my mother in law might read it and we were going to surprise her. Anyway, I just thought I'd let my friends know we're doing well. We like our new home, but we still have to settle in and adjust to our new surroundings. I hope to write more about the move later.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Getting kids to eat...

What are some reasons or incentives you have heard (or used yourself) to get a child to eat?

I remember my dad telling me there were thousands of children starving in China, so I should eat my food. I still don't understand the connection between cleaning my plate and solving that terrible problem...

I am going to lay low with blog posting in the next few weeks. I think this topic would be a good one to linger on for a while. I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions.

Friday, September 7, 2007

What to Eat blog

Marion Nestle is well respected for her work explaining the relationship between the food industry and politics. She has also written a book, What to Eat, which apparently tries to decode all the mixed nutritional messages out there. Her books are on my "to read" list, but I was pleased to hear she has a blog called What to Eat. I can't really handle any heavy reading now, but her blog is a great resource for me. Personally, I like how she addresses her topics in a non-threatening way as well as encourages participation from her readers.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Where does your food come from?

My 4 year old son is the curious kind, always asking questions. Out of his own inquisition, he is learning that beef comes from cattle and pork from pigs, etc. Just recently he asked me where cookies came from...


On a recent trip to the beach, we discovered that goldfish crackers indeed come from the ocean. Here's proof:



Surprisingly, pop tarts come from the ocean too:


Well, this post is not as much about how food is produced, it is about where it is produced. September marks the Eat Local Challenge. There are many good reasons to eat locally, but my strongest ones are that when you eat locally, you are protected more from food safety problems (microbial and chemical) and you are most likely to be getting the best nutritional benefit the food can offer (some nutrients degrade over time, so you get fewer benefits the longer it takes from harvest to table). I'm nowhere close to eating as locally as I'd like, but I do intend to focus more on that in the upcoming year. Right now I am in a very transitional stage so I'll take little steps here and there. Hopefully, things will be more stable for me next year. I plan on starting my own container garden (growing herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, maybe squash) and become a member of a CSA farm. Canning and dehydrating foods are other ways to preserve food past their season. By the way, you can make a food dehydrator from a box fan, paper air filters, food grade mesh and bungee cords. Just another experiment put off to next year...

Have you ever given thought to where your food comes from?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

How to save on groceries

I'll write about this topic in a personal way later, but I thought maybe someone would want to know about a special for an ebook called Supermarket Savings 101. I just got my copy last night and have only skimmed through it to see what it's like. It looks promising (although I have not looked at it from a nutritional quality perspective, I'm sure the principles can apply to any eating habit). The author piloted (i.e. tried it out on others first) it so I think it gives it more credibility. Anyway, why not save money on groceries? Maybe then the filet mignon will fit in your budget (if you love it that much). The price today is $11.97, tomorrow it will be $3 more until it reaches full retail of $17.97 on Friday. There are other ebooks thrown in the bundle too.

By the way, I did not sign up to be an affiliate, so I don't get any money for sharing this with you. But if you want to do that, there are instructions on her site. I am using the Frugal Homemaker Plus blog's referral site, since I found out about it there.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Unconditional Love

Here is a recent conversation with my four year old:

J: "Mommy, I love daddy, I love my brother, I love my sister, but I don't love you."
Me: "That doesn't change anything. I am still your mommy, I still love you, and I will always love you."
J: "I love you, mommy."

I may have been offended if my son said that a year ago. This was not said in the middle of an argument. He had put some thought into what he said and decided to see what my response would be. I took it as an opportunity to show him that I will always love him, regardless of whether he loves me back. This is important to me, because I want to raise a child who chooses to love God. God desires that we show Him love. Still, whether we love Him or not doesn't change the fact that He loves us and that He will always love us. We don't earn it, we don't deserve it, it is not forced upon us -- it is ours to receive.

"We love, because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19

Monday, August 27, 2007

Another "healthy" criteria to add to the confusion...

It drives me crazy when companies define something as healthy because usually the products they are advertising as such don't really contribute much to overall health.

If it weren't for blogs like Parke Wilde's US Food Policy, I would have totally missed Kellogg's announcement to limit advertising to children for their products that don't meet a certain nutrition criteria. In one post, Parke talks about Kellogg changing the serving size for Trix cereals so that it can be advertized.

A related post about the froot loops cereal straws showed how this product also meets the "healthy" criteria set by Kelloggs. Some good points were brought out in the comments section:

Kati from Preschool Rock said:
"This shows how implementing a policy based on nutrients alone to define 'healthy' is the wrong approach. It looks like this product fits the criteria Kelloggs set to allow advertising to kids - "no more than 200 calories, no trans fat, no more than 2 grams of saturated fat, no more than 230 milligrams of sodium and no more than 12 grams of sugar." (...) Is this food healthy? It's almost 40% table sugar. I don't think we're teaching children a thing about healthy eating because the product contains 'only' 3 teaspoons of sugar."

On the other hand, Lisa stated that the food is not labelled as healthy, she considers it a treat and that she allows her kids to have one straw a day, which adds up to only one teaspoon of sugar. I wonder how that compares to a glass of chocolate milk, for example...

Anyway, my point is that all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle, but I wouldn't go by industry's definition of healthy. Consider where the food fits into your lifestyle and make your decision from there.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Any ideas??

My son just asked me what rhymes with curtain.
I'm stumped. I can't think of anything.
So I throw this question out to you.

What rhymes with curtain???

UPDATE: After several hours, I finally came up with certain. Of course, I mention this to my husband and he immediately comes up with the same thing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This Day...

It is a common occurence in my household to explain that the food is the same whether it's in a red bowl or a blue one. I often hear, "I don't like that" when something doesn't happen the way my kids want it. So many times I have found myself showing the same ingratitude. Just last night, I was thinking about how I respond more favorably if things are said or done a certain way. But I realized that requiring things to be said a particular way in order to make the message acceptable is really like my son rejecting his spaghetti because it's not in a red bowl. This is not justification to say whatever you want however you want, but rather it is an explanation of how often we take offense to something that is said or done simply because it isn't done in a manner that we deem "appropriate".

Then I read a post by Jennifer (aka the lactivist) that pierced my heart. It brought all that was stirring in my heart to a new perspective. She starts off her post saying, "Sometimes I think about the people that might have been. Not so much about someone not living up to their potential...but about just how close you came to not existing period." Her post, inspired by her grandfather's time at Iwo Jima, ended with a challenge to be thankful for our existence and to make our existence count.

It was not her challenge to make my life count that pierced me, it was the reminder that the lives of those I love count. My thoughts went back to when I was pregnant with my first child. Two people I knew had stillbirths, another friend had a baby with severe spina bifida, and I had a friend on bedrest (who later miscarried). And here I was with an uncomplicated pregnancy and birth. Even breastfeeding was uncomplicated. I often wondered, why not me? Why not my child? I don't have the answer for those questions, but I will tell you that I have not taken any of my pregnancies for granted. I must confess, though, that in the nitty gritty detail of living, I have not prized my children and husband the way I should. I have been so caught up in the the whining, the tantrums, the backtalk, the night waking, a word not spoken in the way I would have preferred, that I have dismissed the laughter, the tenderness, the thoughtfulness, the kindness and unconditional love I have been given by these same people.

A song that sums it up for me is called "This Day". It was performed by Point of Grace in the mid-90's and I sang it when my mother remarried.

This Day

This day is fragile - soon it will end
And once it has vanished, it will not come again
So let us love with a love pure and strong
Before this day is gone

This day is fleeting when it slips away
Not all our money can buy back this day
So let us pray that we might be a friend
Before this day is spent

This day were given is golden
Let us show love
This day is ours for one moment
Let us sow love

This day is frail - it will pass by
So before its too late to recapture the time
Let us share love,
Let us share God
Before this day is gone
Before this day is gone

Words & music by Lowell Alexander

"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is." Ephesians 5:15-17

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The power of one...

Today is the last day of World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). I have made several posts about WBW on my infant feeding history blog, but I wanted to post something here too. If you've read this blog long enough, then you know that I am always coming back to the topic of breastfeeding. The more time passes by, the more it becomes dear to me. This post will be more of a rambling nature, but I do want this to be posted today :-)

My idea for La Leche USA's theme, "The Power of One... _____." is:

The power of one phone call.

How many mothers with breastfeeding problems pick up the phone to call a friend, a lactation consultant, La Leche Leader, even their doctor to talk about it? I haven't checked to see if someone has tried tracking that data, but that's beside the point. My point is that some mothers hesitate to call, or just don't -- whatever the reason. Well, I am glad that La Leche League now has a 24hr hotline (1-877-4-LA LECHE). What a wonderful privilege it is to make a phone call that won't inconvenience anyone -- regardless of what time it is -- for free!

I once read somewhere about someone giving a lactation consultant service gift certificate as a baby gift. I thought that is a wonderful idea so that a mom can have that kind of peace of mind if she needs to call on someone. With my first two children, I didn't need to call anyone. As a matter of fact, I have never even been to a La Leche meeting. But I'm glad I called someone regarding my daughter's breastfeeding, as it helped me manage the situation I was in, which was already quite stressful. As much as I have told friends to call me if they need anything, I know that I don't have many of the answers as I am not trained in that area, but I know I could connect them to who does as well as encourage them. I once asked a mother if they had a friend who was a lactation consultant, would they call them for advice. Her answer as a definite yes. So one day I hope to be a friend like that. Nonetheless, I have considered donating to the LLL hotline as part of a baby gift. Not only will this spread the word about the hotline, but it will be my own small way of making sure it remains.

So, if any of you are inspired to comment, what is one thing that made (or could have made) the difference in your breastfeeding experience?

Friday, August 3, 2007

Cupcakes

We love doing cupcakes, especially for first birthdays. It's cute, simple, and just the right size for the birthday child. There is no need for a knife, and plates are optional. Cupcakes also work well for class parties, as some schools and daycares apparently require cupcakes. Best of all, there are so many possibilities with cupcakes. Here are some of the ones we have done:

Baloon Cupcakes (from Family Fun)

Froggy Cupcakes (also from Family Fun, with modifications)


Ladybug cupcakes (my own idea), using mini oreos, chocolate chips, red icing and licorice twizzlers.


If you'd like, you can dress up the ladybugs like this. I didn't feel like piping black icing, so I kept it simple.

I don't have a picture of this idea, but I found some mini cars for a dollar and put them on cupcakes, along with some checkered flags made of toothpicks. Very easy.

If you still want the look of a real cake, try the pull-apart cakes. These are cupcakes lined up together and "joined" with a thick layer of icing, which in turn is decorated. An example is this pull-apart turtle cake from the Betty Crocker website. I've also seen pull apart cakes at my local grocery store.

Want more ideas? An internet search will pull up plenty of cupcake ideas. Here is a list of some of the links I like:


On a side note, the computer cupcake image up top came from Family Fun's website, but I wasn't able to find any directions on their site.

As time permits, I will post the other cakes that I have done: Noah's Ark, racetrack, race car, and train.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Nutritious birthday party = Oxymoron?

I remember being around 9 or 10 years old and planning my little brother's 4th or 5th birthday party. I remember making a log cabin out of pretzel sticks and peanut butter, we most likely had chocolate crackles and honey joys (they had a different name, but I can't remember it), and most definitely candy -- lots and lots of it. I remember at that young age wondering what I was thinking when I bought all that candy...

A child only has one birthday per year, so why make an effort for it to be healthy? After all, it's a special occasion, and once in 365 days is hardly an indulgence. Well, I'm not here to say you can't have your cake and eat it too, but there are some reasons I can think of why you may want to think of healthful alternatives:


  • Why not? If you already enjoy eating healthy foods, why not also eat them on a special day?

  • This is not the only birthday or celebration your child or the rest of your family will participate in throughout the year, so those extra empty calories can really add up.

  • Your child may have some bowel trouble after all that sugary stuff.

  • You could quickly gain weight by eating the leftovers throughout the week.

  • Some people criticize associating junk food with rewards or for "happy" times, reasoning that down the road, this can encourage people to make bad food choices when in need of a pick me up (I'll need to write a separate post on this).

So, here are some suggestions to put the nutrition into your birthday party:

Use a muffin or quick bread recipe, preferably one with whole grain. Fruit- or vegetable-based quickbreads (such as banana bread or carrot cake) is an easy way to incorporate nutrition and texture into your cake. These usually pair up well with some whole grain. I will update this post later with the comparison of muffin vs. cake mixes to see if there is much of a nutritional difference.[UPDATE: one muffin has more calories than one cupcake. I forgot to check sugar content. At least with homemade muffins you can add some more nutrients to it, such as vitamin A and fiber.]

Make cupcakes. Cupcakes have become a first birthday tradition in our family. They are much easier to decorate and the portions are perfectly sized for the birthday baby. If your recipe calls for more than what you'll need, you can always freeze the leftover (preferably unfrosted) cakes. And, if you use the muffin recipe, that's a quick breakfast or snack already prepared for a later time.

Incorporate fruit and vegetables. Use a fruit side, or a vegetable platter. Be creative. Once I saw in a magazine melon slices cut into flower shapes with a cookie cutter, then put on a lollipop dowel. Put them together and you have a fruit flower bouquet.

Make your own spritzer. An alternative to soft drink or sugary Kool-aid is a half-and-half mix of seltzer water (not to be confused with artificially sweetened carbonated water) and 100% fruit juice. This doesn't work very well with orange juice, but apple, grape, cranberry, and other mixes work well. Even if you go with the sugar-added drinks, such as fruit cocktails, you're cutting the sugar in half, so you're still better off than before.

Make realistic quantities. One year, I made these froggy mint oreo cookies (YUM!), but my kids didn't eat much of those, neither did my husband and brother. This left a lot of yummy cookies for me to eat and before I knew it, the button to my jeans rubbed up against my belly button so much that the skin got irritated. Lesson learned. Another year, we made too much cake. It was just us celebrating and there was a lot left over. My husband and I couldn't bring ourselves to eat it all. I think we ended up throwing half of it away (it was not a quickbread or muffin year, ha ha).

Stay tuned for cake (especially cupcake) decorating up next.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Say What?

Welcome to the July Carnival of Breastfeeding. This month's theme is "The things they say." There are plenty of strange and misinformed statements about breastfeeeing, but some are downright funny. So I have joined with other bloggers (linked below) to share some of those things.

My contribuiton involves one of my husband's brothers (good thing he has 2 brothers to keep this anonymous, ha ha). My mother-in-law enjoys telling this one:

"My cousin had car trouble so we went over to her house so my husband could take care of her car. When I got there I had stomach trouble so I handed her the 5-6 month old baby and went to the bathroom. I was in there quite a while and the baby started crying. My 3 year old son told my cousin to nurse her, but she answered she couldn't because she had nothing to feed the baby with. He then replied, 'You have breasts, don't you?'"
Links to other carnival stories (updated throughout the day):

  • Tanya discloses what her son says during breastfeeding
  • Leisa shares her daughter's reactions to her little brother breastfeeding
  • Sinead's daughter wonders how breastmilk is stored
  • Dave is left to console his son
  • Angela interviews her kids
  • Amy shares what not to do
  • Jennifer describes her budding lactivist
  • Andi describes her son's scientific perspective

And, of course, you can share with your comments too.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Make your own ring sling -- Very easy

A few months ago, my friend Leah introduced me to the no sew ring sling on Jan Andrea's site. In a nutshell, you thread the top part of the sling through the rings, just as you usually do the "tail" (see link for a much better explanation). The friction of the fabric on the shoulder should keep it from slipping. I eagerly made one for myself, using a soft lightweight fabric my mom brought back from Brazil. The problem was that it was shorter and not quite thick enough for me to keep secure up top (it is unlined). Then I thought of tucking the fabric through the rings one more time. The end result was this:

Not only does it look more like the sewn on rings, it works well for shorter, thinner fabrics. For a better understanding of what I did, I have provided the video below:



Especially with lightweight fabrics, inspect your fabric regularly for any worn spots.

UPDATE: Leah has posted a video on how to do the initial thread for the ring sling.

Shoelaces...

I don't remember the first time I managed to tie my shoes, but I remember starting with the bunny knot. I eventually progressed to the other method where you start with one bunny loop and then wrap the other end around it and tuck it in, then pull...
Do you know what I mean?

Well, I had bookmared Ian's Shoelace Site a few months ago given that my oldest child is headed toward that rite of passage, but I just got around to looking at it this week. There is more information than you'll ever need to know about tying shoelaces, but I did make a terrible discovery...

...I've been doing it wrong.

I have been frustrated with how my shoelaces are always coming undone, even with the double knots. Now I know why. By reversing the way I do my starting knot, I now have perfectly straight bows, that don't slip. And I don't need to double knot either.

Granted, now I have to think before I tie my shoes, but hopefully the new way will easily become a habit. Good thing I learned this before I tried to teach my son.

I guess it's not too late to change.

Monday, July 16, 2007

My ring sling made this post possible :-)

I've tried babywearing since my first child was born, but never really got the hang of it. But with my third child's share of colds and ear infections this year, carrying her became more of a necessity. But like most people, I had tried several different carriers found in retail stores and they just weren't working well for me.


one of the carriers I tried


I found myself longing to learn from cultures where they carry their kids with a piece of fabric and go about their work. After all, I had all these modern contraptions that weren't working for me. Then I discovered there is a whole babywearing movement going on. Not only that, the internet has made it possible to sell many different types of carriers. In fact, there is a babywearing group in my area that has playgroups, monthly meetings, an email list, and a lending library (so you can try a carrier before you buy).



The two types of carriers I settled on are the mei tai and the ring sling.


me & Drea wearing each other's Mei Tais

The mei tai is great because you can carry the baby on the front (forward and backward facing), back or hip. I needed to be able to cook and clean with my daughter, so this was the best bet for back carrying. I used it to go strawberry picking and it worked great. The disadvantage is that you can't easily pop your kid in and out of the carrier. There are many variations to the mei tai, so do your homework before you buy.






me using the ring sling

The ring sling is great for shorter trips and is easier to put baby in and out. I use it when my daughter has fallen asleep in the car because she usually continues sleeping a bit longer. I also use it when she wants to be held in my arms. Although the picture shows my arms wrapped around her, it's the sling that is holding her, taking my weight off of my shoulders. There is a proper way to position it, but once you learn those tips, it makes it easier to use. You can also make a no sew version (or almost no sew), which makes it quite inexpensive. I'll post about that separately.

My daughter fell asleep in the MIDDLE of the 4th of July fireworks display while in the sling pictured above. We were fairly close to the platform too. She was very relaxed, much more than she has ever been. It was a wonderful feeling to provide such security to her.

If you are interested in learning more about babywearing, Nine In Nine Out and The Baby Wearer websites are great places to start. The Mamatoto Project also has information on how to wear and make your own carriers. Jan Andrea at home on the web also has detailed information on making baby carriers.

Other useful sites are:
http://www.kozycarrier.homestead.com/instructions.html (for mei tai carrying instructions)
http://zolowear.com/WearingTroubleshooting.aspx and http://zolowear.com/Wearing.aspx (for correct positioning and troubleshooting for ringslings).

Last, but not least, my friend Drea's blog has a lot more information about babywearing, including reviews.

Well, most of this post was written with my daughter in my sling. Now I'm about to put her in my mei tai and take the kids outside for a walk.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pizza Party


I spent this evening teaching some wonderful women how to make pizza dough. I usually use a mixer or a bread machine to make mine, but we did it by hand tonight since not all of them have that kind of equipment. I supplied the dough ingredients, sauce and cheese, and they brought their favorite toppings. We ended up making calzones (not pictured) and had a great time. They compared it to a Pampered Chef type party without the selling. By the way, I'm the one in the middle with the blue shirt.

I walked them through the process and each of them got to take some dough home. I made a big batch of dough ahead of time so we wouldn't have to wait an hour for the dough to rise, then shape etc. We all made calzones and then I made two pizzas with the leftover dough. I also had mixed up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies ahead of time and put it in the oven after the pizzas were done, turned off the oven and left them there for about 15 minutes. A nice way to use up the heat left over from the oven. The dough, sauce, and cheese came out to ~75 cents per person. The cost of toppings vary, but most likely is less than the usual $1 added at the pizzeria.

I have always wanted to teach people to cook, but I haven't had much opportunity. It was a great opportunity to get to know people and I hope I can do similar type gatherings in the future.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Examining the five second rule

Is a food still safe if it is picked up off the floor quickly (within 5 seconds to be precise)?

Well, I was catching up on posts on the Curious Cook by Harold McGee and apparently someone at Clemson State decided to find out. According to McGee's NY Times article, the food is contaminated upon contact, although it will be contaminated the longer it sits on the floor.

In practice, the problem is that you don't know if the floor is contaminated, what it is contaminated with, or how much it is contaminated. So is it really safe? This may take more than 5 seconds to figure out.

This post is dedicated to my friend Dan who just taught my son the 5 second rule this week(Thanks for the lesson, eh! :-P ).

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

1-877-4-LA LECHE

1-877-4-LA LECHE is La Leche's new 24hr breastfeeding hotline. Micky on Mocha Milk wrote up some more information about the hotline as well as funding information. Check it out and spread the word.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Another blog?

As if I had enough time on my hands, I have created another blog. The blog will address the history of infant feeding practices and recommendations. I don't think it will be all that active, but I just wanted a place to record my thoughts on the subject.

It is found at http://infantfeedinghistory.blogspot.com

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

But I didn't want this father's day to go by without honoring fathers. On mother's day, moms get a pat on the back (or maybe even a back massage), but the dads often get a black eye directly from the bully pulpit.

To the fathers in my life: my husband, my dad, and my father-in-love (there is more to our relationship than mere law). Thanks for demonstrating that gentleness, kindness, courtesy, and patience are compatible with manlihood. Your lives are an encouragement to me. You are irreplaceable.

I feel these words are so inadequate, but I hope you realize the extent the kids and I love you.

May God bless you richly.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Then... and now

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9.

Five years ago, I had a to write a 15-year career plan for a class assignment. We were asked to describe where we envisioned we would be in five years (short term) and 15 years (long term). I started off that assignment with Proverbs 16:9 (quoted above). It was a hard essay to write because I feel I've lived most of my life on the whim. But I'm glad I had to write it.

People have different ideas about writing a plan like this. For some, it is equivalent to boxing themselves in or setting themselves up for failure. But, for others, it gives them focus and direction, something to work toward. But as I learned through this assignment, a plan is more than writing resolutions. We were asked to write down a priority statements, so that even if we had no clue where we were going, we'd at least know what mattered most. In summary, I wrote down Jesus first, family second, employment (including community/volunteer efforts) third.

For the most part, I kept my priorities straight, but my expectations were so different back then. For example, I wrote:

"I have no illusions about parenthood. I know that it is a lifelong commitment and work."

I chuckled when I read that statement. What hadn't sunk in back then was that this commitment and work is 24/7! On the other hand, I had no idea how much I would love having children and how the birth of my son would change my life forever (that may clue you into why we now have three kids ages four and under).

I also had no idea how much time caring for children (and a home) can take, that I can't do everything I want, and that my creativity exceeds my availability (and pocket book, ha ha). I learned the value of organization and the cost of disorganization, and I didn't expect I'd always be so tired :-)

By the way, did blogs even exist five years ago?

Back then, I also had a wonderful set of friends and neighbors. So I went into parenthood with strong social support (which I noted in my essay). But by the time my son was 8 months old, all of them moved away. That's right. All of my closest friends and "mentors"moved away. Some moves were expected, but most were not anticipated at all. It was a difficult time, but God saw me through it and has been so faithful. We are still living in this transient community, so I have been through it again. It is still tough, especially because now I feel the need for that type of support when back then I really didn't need it as much. But, by the grace of God, I have come this far and I am still standing (though I'd rather be laying down sleeping, ha ha).

Most of all, I'm learning I have to stop comparing myself to others. Yes, I need to learn from others, but just because someone else is able to do more than I can it doesn't mean I am less of a woman. It means that I have to accept where I am in life. That doesn't mean I am not striving to do things better, it means that I have the liberty to enjoy life now, regardless of my circumstances. I am still learning this. Part of that is not taking myself so seriously.

The things I thought I'd be able to do in my community didn't come to fruition, but I'm not disappointed. I am at peace because I stayed focused on what matters most to me. I see how my expectations and circumstances were different. I also see how I was still "thinking in the box" and I now see opportunities with a different perspective.

This is how I finished my essay and I can truly say I still feel the same:

"It was not by chance that I have made it to where I am now, but it is also not by meticulously mapping out how I would like my life to be. I do have desires like everyone else, yet I have found that I don't need to rush to get there. There are times I have had to wait. I didn't want to, but I did. I do not regret waiting because I have learned so much during that time. I would not have the vision I have now if I had attended UNC five years ago. I am happy to be where I am -- most of all, I am happy to be following the leading of Jesus Christ -- the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). "



Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I'll be back...

I've decided I need to take the rest of the month off. I'm just too tired to write posts the way I want to (especially the nutrition related ones) and sitting in front of the computer puts my mind into a deeper fog. So, I feel that I need to pull away from my computer for a while.

Hope to see you again in June,

Renata

Friday, May 11, 2007

Is motherhood a higher calling?

Biblically speaking, motherhood is a blessing, as it was God's wish for us to be fruitful and multiply. Children are also a blessing, as demonstrated when Jesus instructed the people to "let the children come to me." There are many, many, passages in the Bible that reinforce this, but nowhere do I see that it is a higher calling.

Then why are we told that it is a higher calling? Is it because we have chosen to deny ourselves of certain things? Is it a reaction against our society's perception of children as an inconvenience, hindrance or a risky venture? Is it because we see motherhood as a job? Is it because we are seeking our satisfaction through our performance? I don't know.

But what I do know is that it’s not a higher calling. As disciples of Christ, whether or not we are spouses or parents, what higher calling is there than to abide in Christ and to be conformed to His image? Although motherhood is definitely an effective tool that God uses to accomplish that process, it is not the only one. So, regardless of who you are, remember that God has given you all you need to be a holy, useful vessel unto Him (2 Timothy 2:21).

And for you mothers out there, have a great and blessed Mother's day.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Steeped in Tradition

We finally made it to a local farm today to pick strawberries, and of course we had a lot of fun. When I first went a few years ago, I put my kids up on this big scale and took pictures of them. I decided it would be a great idea to track their growth by taking a picture on that scale each time I visited the farm. This time, however, the scale was being used as a display for some shortcake mix, so that prop was not available for picture taking.

Disappointed, I noticed how attached I was to that little tradition I started. It was almost like that was the only reason I had gone to that farm. Never mind that I took about 60 pictures and we did have fun. My kids were not on that scale and the visit simply was not complete.

This experience has shown me how hard it can be to break away from tradition when we have so many fond memories tied to it. I have come to understand how easily we can elevate our tradition to a level it was not intended to have -- thus forgetting what we set out to do in the first place.

Friday, May 4, 2007

How do you define a "good mother"?

Sure, I'm trying to be a good mother, but in my pursuit of being a "good" mother, I have realized that I don't know what that is. I know what a "bad" mom would look like, but because we don't do all the things a "bad" mom does, does that make us good? Are we supposed to be better than the bad moms (is there really such a thing?), the best that I can (but does that make the "cut" of being good?), or is there something else?

So, if I havent confused you already, what do you think makes a good mother? Or should we be asking, "what makes a mother good?"

Friday, April 27, 2007

Why the news makes us dumb...

There is a book by this name. My husband read this book several years ago and I really should read it myself (although my husband told me the Cliff Notes version). Still, I am more and more frustrated by the way media reports nutrition information. For a good case in point, the Lactivist has written a great post.

The bottom line is that it can be hard to think critically about every issue when there is so much else that needs to be done (especially if you're waking up four times at night, like I am). Anyway, several of the food and nutrition blogs I link to provide a good perspective on some of the media reports. Although I don't always agree with everything that is posted on these blogs, they think through what they are saying and they provide a refreshingly different perspective.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Some life...

Does life end at having children?

That was a question my friend Drea addressed today. Apparently she was talking to someone who said he thought having children must "suck" and most people have "no life" once children came along. Here's my response to that question:

I agree that having children will make you lose your "life". Having children forces me to think beyond myself and to put them before me. It may not be the "life" I expected, but it draws me closer to Jesus, the Lord of true life (John 14:6).
Does it suck? Mostly no, sometimes yes. But the "life" I had before wasn't anything as good as what I have now. It's definitely different, but definitely better.

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. "I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." Galatians 2:20-21

What does God want from us anyway?

Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' "This is the first and great commandment. Matthew 22:37-38

It occured to me today when I was talking to a friend that God doesn't want our giftedness. It's simply not enough. He wants our whole heart -- our life. He wants to take the things we are good at to glorify Him. He wants to take what we are lousy at and use it in spite of us -- again for His glory.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down...

Last night I watched Mary Poppins for the very first time! I have always been familiar with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but I've never seen the movie. If you think that's bad, it's only been a year since I watched the Wizard of Oz for the first time. The Sound of Music is next on my list.

Well, my 4 year old caught the virus the rest of the kids had last week, so I figured we'd borrow the movie since he loves the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious song. It was definitely a spoonful of sugar last night. This last round of viruses has hardly been serious, and we have been spared from the really bad viruses (flu & stomach bugs) this year. Still, I am weary from so much illness in the past year. They say that infants catch somewhere around 6 to 8 viruses in their first year, well my first two didn't get sick in their first year (this is my daughter's 5th), so I am having a hard time writing this off as "normal". But it does appear to be a year with more viruses going around. Anyway, I know it could be much worse, but it's still hard. So, I'm going to try and take Ms. Poppins advice...

Thursday, April 5, 2007

One a penny, two a penny...

... hot cross buns.




I was searching for a variation of my hot cross bun recipe. I have one I like for the bread machine, but I don't have a bread machine anymore so I was just checking to see if I had the same recipe written for mixers so I wouldn't have to do the adaptation myself.

Anyway, I came across this story from the New Zealand Herald criticizing the warning Diabetes New Zealand gave about Hot Cross Buns. Pretty much, DNZ stated that the bun is "equivalent to two to three slices of bread. It advised readers of its magazine to chose a smaller bun or just eat half a bun." (Emphasis mine) So, the Herald has gotten carried away and took this warning as a call to parliament to ban the seasonal hot cross bun.

Now, I understand that people don't want to be told how much they should eat, especially of a seasonal treat. And their probably tired of people blaming everything as a cause of obesity.

Anyway, a person called Anthony made the following comment that caught my attention:


"It is like the anti-smacking bill. Smart people will not overindulge so they dont need a warning. Those who do overindulge will not heed the warning.,"


A very good point, but what about those "not so smart" people? Just cause you ain't smart doesn't mean you can't make good choices for yourself. It just means that you could benefit from a bit of useful information. A fool is the one who doesn't ever want to learn. Even smart people can be fools.

Now, I understand that the tizzy was probably not over the part that the bun equals two or more bread servings, but more due to the suggestion to eat a smaller bun or half of one. But the suggestion was made in a magazine from the own organization, not in a press release or a draft bill to parliament.

As a dietitian, I want to help people make better choices for themselves, not choose for them. That's why I don't like diets (I also don't like the focus on weight either but I'll have to save that for another post). But if someone with high blood pressure comes to me and is asks me what they can do to lower the sodium in their diet, then should I just teach them how to read the food label and leave it at that? Or should I offer other alternatives as well?

I acknowledge that dietitians and other health professionals and organizations have often failed in the message they send out to the public. But, in the case of the NZ Herald, who is making a mountain out of a molehill here? But, apparently, it is only the health professional/organization that is ever to blame.

Anyway, to celebrate Good Friday, here is my Hot Cross Bun recipe. If you want just the recipe, (without all this rambling from this post), highlight the recipe and then go to file, print (or ctrl-p) and "print selection". If that doesn't work, let me know and i'll post it seperately. By the way, I found out I had both the bread machine version and the hand mixed version on my computer. Well, it made for an interesting blog post, I hope :-)



Hot Cross Buns (Bread Machine)

Recipe By : Rosie's Easter Basket http://www.notjustforkids.org
Serving Size : 15 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Bread (Machine)

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1/2 cup milk*
1/4 cup water*
3 Tablespoons butter -- cut in small pieces
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon bread machine yeast
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup raisins
----- Egg Glaze -----
2 Tablespoons water
1 egg yolk
----- Icing -----
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons milk or cream
dash salt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

*3/4 cup skim milk may be used in place of the milk and water listed
for rolls above.

Place first ten ingredients in bread machine in order suggested by manufacturer. Set machine for dough or manual program. The dough should be soft but check during the kneading cycle and add a little flour or milk as necessary. Add the currants and raisins ten minutes before the end of the kneading cycle.

When program has finished, turn risen dough out on to a very lightly floured surface. Shape into 15 balls. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 30 minutes).

Using a sharp knife, cut a cross (or X) on the top of each roll.
Beat the water and egg yolk together and brush over rolls. (You will probably have more than you need, discard the unused egg glaze.)

Bake at 375° F. for 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make icing by combining the last four ingredients. Stir
until smooth, adjusting sugar and milk to make a mixture that flows easily.

When rolls are baked, cool on wire racks. Drizzle icing over the top of each roll following the lines of the cut cross.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Nutritional information according to MasterCook, per roll:
189 calories, 3.8g fat (1.9g sat. 18.2% CFF ), 4.7g protein, 34.1g
carbohydrates, 46mg cholesterol, 250mg sodium

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Grāpples

What happens when you infuse an apple with concord grape flavor? You get a grāpple. According to their website, a grāpple (pronounced grape-l) is THE hot new promising product to fight the "childhood obesity war":

"With childhood obesity increasing at alarming rates, Grāpple® brand apples could go a long way to improving the eating habits of children and introducing them to more produce. "

Is it just me, or is there something wrong about this statement? I admit, I'm not good at logic and critical thinking, but this doesn't make any sense. What is it that a grāpple will do that an apple or grape can't or hasn't done already? Where is the connection? I don't think it will go far at all to improving kids' eating habits. It will, however, quickly put a hole in your pocket at a whopping $1.25 per apple! Furthermore, I think more damage can be done to the child when we start obsessing over their weight and appearance.

Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't eat one. If you want to eat a grape flavored apple, then fine, eat it. If you don't mind spending $1.25 for an apple, then why not? Just don't do it to save your child's life.

If anything, it has added to another existing problem, and that is of food allergies. This past February's issue of the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, addressed two case studies of allergic reactions to the fruit.

So here's my take on the grāpple:

I don't get it.
I won't get it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nurturing patience

"How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cakemixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?"-Paul Sweeney


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mom's (or dad's) Infamous Sayings

I really don't recall my mom having any infamous sayings, but I have friends who do. Anyway, I am starting to come up with some to use on my own kids. The latest one is:


"We don't serve whine here."

What are some of your favorites?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

To All Who Choose To Change

In the spirit of fad free month, I would like to quote this post I read a few months ago on diet-blog:

An Open Letter To All Who Choose To Change

A previous post made a call for other diet and health bloggers to come forward. Already the growing list of blogs is fascinating - and leads me to write this "open letter" to anyone who is trying to change themselves.
A perusal through some of the more personal weblogs and journals is both sobering and enlightening. These public narratives represent a microcosm of all those who are trying to change. The various triumphs and heartaches demonstrate the depth of character that is needed to make life-long changes.

To Whomever is Reading,

When it comes to weight loss - or any other kind of physical transformation - there are two kinds of people:

  • Those who will try any number of quick-fixes - always looking for a new answer
  • Those who have come to realize that their efforts to change will require transformation in every facet of themselves - not just their external physique.

If you are committed to change - then you must reach deep inside yourself. You will face disappointment, frustration, and confusion. The decision to get up and keep going will test your depth of character - demanding that you become a better person - both inside and out.

The modern attitude to life is all about minimal input and yet expecting maximum gratification. This mindset is apparent in our relationships with others and in our relationship with ourselves. We expect an easy road - but life wouldn't be so difficult if we didn't expect it to be so easy.

Through the Looking Glass

Sometimes I feel voyeuristic looking over personal blogs - it's like peeking into someones private struggles. I come away feeling many things: sobered, inspired, amazed, and amused.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the world. You have made a commitment to change that will demand more than just manipulating macro-nutrient ratios or sweating on a treadmill.

Many people are happy to settle for bland mediocrity. But that's not you - you have made a decision to reach higher and to push further. I congratulate you for that. You will become better for it - both inside and out.

The world is sorely in need of you - because better people make a better world.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

My boy loves them veggies!

I have mentioned in previous posts that I am not very gifted when it comes to the task of meal planning. Yet, meal planning has its advantages as you save money and can eat better if you have a plan of some sort. So this afternoon, my husband and I set out to try and put together a menu for the next three weeks.

We started by asking the boys (the baby girl doesn't have a say yet) what their favorite foods were. We also asked them to name their favorite vegetable. Our 4 year old said he liked lima beans. Our 2 year old chimed in and said, "I like jelly beans." :-)

What makes this even more humorous is that our oldest didn't know what chocolate was (actually, he didn't know what it was called) -- let alone jelly beans -- until he was at least three. I knew that would be a tough act to follow with the younger kids, but I now realize by how much!

Friday, March 9, 2007

How accurate are magazine nutrition articles?

The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) has issued a report on the accuracy of nutrition articles from 21 popular magazines from 2004-2005. The report describes the evaluation criteria and then gives a summary for each magazine they reviewed. Top of the list was Consumer Reports (90% accuracy) and at the bottom was Men's Fitness (67%). This useful resource can be found at: http://www.acsh.org/docLib/20070227_Nutrition.pdf.

On another note, I wonder when they will start evaluating blogs...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Fad Free




March is National Nutrition Month, and this year the American Dietetics Association has decided to focus on fad diets. I also found out that they have issued fact sheets reviewing popular diets in 2005, 2006, & 2007 (they are in PDF). So, if you have a question about a particular diet book, this is the place to go first.

Anything that promises a quick fix, or an easy way out warrants some caution, this doesn't apply only to what we eat but to life in general. But back to dieting, what makes one "work" may actually harm you in the long run, especially when you gain the weight back. I am also not a fan of watching the scale. I think there are other indicators that are better to gauge your health.

So if you want to take charge of your health and have a healthier weight, here's my recommendation:
Take it one step at a time. When you do too much at once, it can be hard to sustain it. Take a look at some of your eating habits and start with ONE you know (or have been told) isn't good for you. For example, simply drinking more water instead of sweet drinks can make a difference in your weight. Then move onto another one.

So, what are your experiences? Feel free to chime in.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Just in case you were wondering...

My family and I have been recovering from a cold, and I've had a lot of things weighing in my mind, so I haven't been much in the mood to blog. I hope to get new posts up next week.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Have I told you lately that I love you...

I was just reading a post on the Lactivist (I mention her blog a lot, don't I) about a way she honored her grandparents. About 10 years ago, she wrote a letter to them telling them how much she loved and respected them. She also shared some of the fond memories she had of spending time with them. What made this even more special is that her grandmother had dementia for the past several years and passed away this week. She shared how much it was easier to grieve knowing she had told her grandparents these things while they could fully comprehend it.

I never really got to know my grandparents. We moved from Brazil to Australia when I was 13 months old. I was 13 years old when we moved back. My paternal grandfather passed away when I was 4 or 5. The only memory I have of him is seeing him ill in bed, when we went to Brazil to visit one year. My maternal grandfather was very quiet, reserved man. He now has Alzheimer's. I did get to know my grandmothers a bit more. I cherish those moments. They are such godly, faithful women. Although my interactions with them have been quite limited, they have deeply touched my life in many ways.

My children have not met all their grandparents. I pray they will have the opportunity. In the meantime, I believe the respect and admiration they have for my parents is ultimately tied to how much I talk about it with them.

Last mother's day, I wrote a mother's tribute honoring my mother, and other motherly figures in my family, as well as my husband and children. I've been wanting to share it on my blog, but I thought I'd save it for this mother's day.

Well, I'm not sure if I made any sense. I was having trouble falling asleep. I think I'm finally ready to go back to bed.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Day Care Drama

Well, what do you know? It appears that the dramas of peer pressure and falling in love are now starting long before high school -- like at the day care! Check it out:

http://members.shaw.ca/anabw/grease.htm

Super Baby Food

I have always wanted to make my own baby food, but I haven’t done it much. With my first child, it was a challenge enough to have other food before him because I was so disorganized (and breastfeeding is so convenient). So, I ended up buying the stuff from the stores. I was also going to try and make my second child’s food, but one of my husband’s coworker gave us a bunch of baby food because their son rejected it. His wife had started giving him homemade food from a book called Super Baby Food and their baby didn’t want anything to do with that processed stuff. I did a mix of homemade and jarred, but soon he was eating table food with us anyway. Well, now that my third child has been looking at us like a vulture when we are at the table, I decided to get the book from my local library and see what it had to offer.


With the exception of a few precautions, it doesn’t take much know-how to make baked apples, sweet potatoes, and puréed peas. You don’t really need a book for that kind of stuff either. But Super Baby Food is more than a baby cookbook. The subtitle saying that it is “absolutely everything you need to know” is pretty accurate. In addition to recipes, there are plenty of money and time saving tips. Cost consciousness is a plus for me, as this is often a downfall in most cookbooks. For those who prefer a schedule, the author has provided one. Also, there’s a chapter detailing almost every fruit and vegetable you can think of, providing information for from selecting them in the grocery store, to cooking and freezing, as well as at what age it is appropriate to include those foods. The nutrition advice is sound and well explained, and there is an emphasis on whole (i.e. minimally processed) foods. To keep up with the current recommendations, corrections and updates are available through http://www.superbabyfood.com/. You can also browse sample chapters on the site.


By the way, you know how the packaged baby cereal tastes like cardboard? Well, homemade cereal has a much better taste and texture to it. I did buy the boxed stuff. It comes in handy for thickening the cereal when I add too much liquid, and when I haven’t had the chance to make more cereal, but my baby seems to like homemade food better.


In addition, Super Baby Food includes information on cleaning your home with baby-safe materials (I tried cleaning my bathroom with vinegar and baking powder. It worked out really well), as well as a section on birthday parties (I’ve got to try their spaceship cake design).


In summary, Super Baby Food is a resource well worth having.


Super Baby Food (2nd ed), by Ruth Yaron. ISBN: 0965260313