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.


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: (for mei tai carrying instructions) and (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 ).