Friday, September 28, 2012

Looking for Contributors

We are looking for people who'd like to contribute articles to our blog - you can submit a single post or become a regular feature, whichever you'd prefer.  The goal is to have multiple writers providing insights into various health topics for kids.  We'll be reaching out to parents, health professionals, and anyone who has some tips or insight on raising healthy, sustainable children.

Topics of interest include, but definitely not limited to:
- local places to take kids
- kid-friendly restaurants that offer healthy meals
- tips for traveling with children
- outdoor how-to's (like hiking, camping, biking, skiing advice)
- natural health articles

All of these subjects should be kid-related.  So, even though we love rock-climbing - if the approach is super steep, full of cactus spines and rattlesnakes (Rivendale at Mt Lemmon comes to mind) or 5' tall smooth boulders lining the path, it's probably not a good fit.  But we're open to your ideas, so please contact us!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

{Reviews} Music to Love by

My favorite gift for expectant parents is an amazing music CD called "It's a Big World" by Renee & Jeremy. I was introduced to them through a friend in Tucson (the kind of mom/friend who has the most amazing energy, very warm and intuitive; she motivates and inspires me to be a better mom/person) when I was pregnant with The Muse.  D and I immediately loved the music and the song "Miracle" brought me to tears (of happiness) each time I heard it.  The music by Renee & Jeremy is pure love in musical form.  For the newborn days in particular, there is nothing better.  We listened to the album so often that we had memorized most of the words by the time The Muse was born and were able to use them as soothing lullabies for putting her to sleep, or just calming her down as needed.  I am convinced she recognized the music from when she was in the womb as she would immediately relax when we played the CD or even sang the songs ourselves.

Around the time The Muse was getting into the toddler stage, Renee & Jeremy released a second album called "C'mon."  The music was both different and the same; it seemed obvious to me that Renee and Jeremy's own children were growing up too and so they were creating the music that fit the age.  It was still full of love and joy, but more dance-able and fun!  Oh, and there are practical lessons being discussed too, like sharing and being patient; what toddler or kid couldn't use a little reminder?

More recently, a third album came out called "A Little Love."  Oh my goodness!  I cannot say enough about the positive vibe in this music.  It is a collection of covers, even more dance-party-worthy than their "C'mon" album.  As parents, we know most of the songs already but now they are well suited for our kids and we love it!  If I need a little pick-me-up (not that I ever get tired or crabby because, you know, I'm the mom), we turn this on and we all dance and sing.  Everyone's mood is better and I even feel better about the world in general...
"Think of your fellow man
Lend him a helping hand
Put a little love in your heart..."

And to make it even better, we had a funny experience with The Muse after she listed to "A Little Love" a few times, where one of the songs is Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give it Away."  We were out for a walk and offered her a drink from her water bottle.  She paused, danced around a bit, took a sip, and broke out into the lyrics "you do a little dance and you drink a little water... give it away, give it away, give it away now..."  She was only 3 at the time, she sang loud and it was hysterical!

Music like what Renee & Jeremy are creating is perfect for helping us to create positive and fun experiences with our children.  Sure, we could still make these memories and have a good time without it, but I couldn't imagine a better soundtrack.  You can find more info, preview the music, and buy their albums at http://reneeandjeremy.com/.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

{Recipes} Allergen-Free Chocolate SunButter Bars with Puffed Millet


Tomorrow is The Muse's last day of school and they are having a picnic.  These past weeks have been so busy, I actually considered buying something from the store to bring (shudder).  Alas, as I pride myself on being a crunchy, healthy mom and baker, I couldn't do it.  After consulting the pantry for supplies to make something easy and quick, I realized we still had some Puffed Millet cereal from my days of eating completely allergen-free after Little Dude was born.  If you've ever tried puffed millet, you understand why an almost-full bag was still sitting around.  There must be something you can do with it, right?  

Hmmm... and then I noticed the chocolate chips.  And the sunbutter.  Aha!  These turned out absolutely delicious and may just be my new go-to dessert when in a hurry.  And as an added bonus, they totally satisfy any urge for a Chocolate Peanut Butter cup; they're that good.

Here's the recipe for this delicious and healthy, most certainly kid-friendly, and totally allergen-free (no gluten, dairy, nuts, soy, or eggs) snack:

10 oz package of Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips (I've done taste tests and found my family likes this brand best and it's free of soy, nuts, gluten and dairy)
1 cup Sunflower Seed Butter (I like Trader Joe's brand, but any will do)
6 cups Puffed Millet cereal


 - Heat oven to 300 degrees.  Place puffed millet on a cookie sheet or in a shallow baking pan and toast for a total of 4-6 minutes, turning/tossing to move millet around for even browning after 2-3 minutes.  It is ready when it is slightly golden and you can taste that it now has a bit more crunch.  Do not let it burn. 
 - Put your chocolate chips and sunbutter in a double boiler or in a saucepan over very low heat.  (I used my 4 Qt Chef's pan so I could keep the dirty dishes to a minimum.)  Stir until mixture is melted and smooth.  You can also melt it in the microwave, being careful to not overcook or burn the chocolate.  Remove from heat. 
 - If your pan full of melted chocolate and sunbutter is large enough, add the cereal to it.  Otherwise, pour both the chocolate sunbutter and toasted cereal into a large bowl.  Mix thoroughly.
 - Line a 13x9 pan with aluminum foil and press mixture into it evenly, using a spatula or the back of a spoon. - Refrigerate until firm (about an hour) and then cut into squares of desired size.  Since I'm feeding kids, I kept them around 1" square and got a total of 72 squares (my pan isn't exactly 13x9, sorry about that bad math).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

{Recipes} Kale Yogurt (or Kale Salad)

Our Kale and Chard garden
I didn't grow up eating greens.  Well, not unless you count iceberg lettuce.  No?  I didn't think so.  As I've gotten older and had children though, I understand more and more the importance of good nutrition and passing those habits down to The Muse and Little Dude.  And they are habits.  I don't want my children to struggle the way I have with changing well-established bad eating habits like those of us who grew up on overly sweet, overly processed foods.  When I was a kid, one of my favorite foods was "Salisbury Steak."  It was some kind of pressed meat (beef?) covered in thick, brown salty sauce.  I cringe as I think about how little it resembled anything close to whole food.  Yikes.

In my present life, in addition to growing some of our own, we get organic fruits and vegetables delivered every week from Boston Organics.  It's similar to a CSA, but not exactly.  I signed up after our second child was born and I could no longer manage a regular trip to the grocery store.  They deliver.  (If you're in the Boston area, I highly recommend them!)  We now eat tons of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and our meals are planned around the week's delivery.  Since we almost always get some kind of greens, I have been learning to put them into all kinds of dishes that the whole family will enjoy.  Sometimes I don't know which is more challenging; getting myself to eat enough vegetables or getting the kids to eat them.  The good news is that what works for one then, often works for us all.  I slip them into pasta sauce, simmer them into soups and stews, saute them, blend them in a smoothie, and occasionally eat them raw.  The recipe below is a variation of what I found in the Boston Organics recipe collection and again at A Thought for Food.

The Muse loves yogurt, so I named this "Kale Yogurt" and she ate it!  D and I can't get enough - it's that good.  My recipe is also lactose-free (no cow-dairy).


Kale Yogurt (or Kale Salad)


1 large bunch of kale, stems removed and leaves sliced
1/2 cucumber, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup plain goat yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste

Stir thoroughly the yogurt, lemon juice, mint, garlic, olive oil and salt in a large bowl.  This is a good time to taste and adjust the salt or add more garlic or lemon juice (I ended up using 3 TB of each because I like those strong flavors).  Stir in chopped cucumbers, if using, and kale.  Enjoy!

Note: this recipe is double the original recipe amounts, so you could halve it if you prefer less dressing.  When I tried it the first time, it just didn't seem like enough.  Perhaps I had a larger bunch of kale or perhaps I'm just a saucy kinda gal.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

SylvanSport GO Adventure

rock climbing, outdoor couple
It's been a long time since I've won anything.  When D and I met in Chicago, eight years ago, I found myself on quite the lucky streak; in addition to meeting each other, we won many free concert tickets from WXRT (best radio station ever, I might add) and had a couple of amazing years in Chicago together.  Now, two cross-country moves later, I am hoping my luck didn't get left there in my hometown.

Do you know why I specifically need that luck now?  Not just because we have two children (we all know parenting itself could use the occasional luck), or because our life has been stagnant for some time while moving and raising little ones, but because it's time to start creating amazing adventures for those minis.  Interestingly, D and I both stumbled upon a review for this super cool pop-up tent camper trailer called the SylvanSport GO, a few months back.  In their words, "it's an American-made, gear-hauling, hyper-engineered, fully tig-welded piece of Mobile Adventure Gear."  And it is truly impressive.  Unfortunately, considering the pending move coupled with the current real estate market, the price tag is a little high for our budget.  Still, we've been pining for it ever since.

Best Pregnancy Picture Ever
Ah, but there is a contest in which the Grand Prize is a SylvanSport GO!  Even before deciding on a grand prize winner, they will be choosing three finalists who will be awarded their dream GO Adventure.  Obviously, we'd love to win the Grand Prize - but we'd also settle for being a finalist if it meant we could take the family vacation of a lifetime.

Now, I'm sure there are plenty of good candidates out there and I have no idea the actual odds, but this could be a real dream come true.  How many other entries were from women who hiked through their entire pregnancy, including the due-date, which became the day they delivered?  That should be make me a worthy adventurer, right?

what you do when you need a camping fix, but can't get away
Not to get all dramatic on you, but it has honestly been a rough five years since leaving Chicago and I would love to experience the kind of adventure we could take with a little vacation time and some awesome giveaways from this contest.  Our plan would be to use the SylvanSport GO to drive from east coast to west coast, starting in Acadia National Park in Maine and stopping at as many National Parks as possible.  It would be the first true Adventure trip for the kids and it's not likely they'd ever forget it.  Let's hope our essay is compelling enough to win.

More family hiking
In case the SylvanSport judges are reading this now, they should also know that we are a serious outdoor family and we'd represent them well.  D and I fell in love because of rock climbing and camping together.  We got engaged in our tent, which was in our living room at the time, then took a road trip from Chicago to Tucson and back to get married the same month.  I spent every weekend hiking in the Mountains while pregnant, and our kids are expert backpackers already.  In addition, since some of the contest is based on our being able to promote the SylvanSport GO, it may help to know that D & I met online (we understand internet marketing!).  Of course, we also have this awesome new website to use for documenting the Ultimate GO Adventure.

The finalists will be announced October 1st, which, coincidentally, is our Anniversary.   Fate, perhaps?

(And even if we don't win, you should definitely check out the details on the SylvanSport GO!)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Growing Our Own Veggies

We recently visited family in Tucson and The Muse had her first experience with a fruit and vegetable garden.  To say it was inspiring would be an understatement.  Every morning, and every time a friend came to visit, she would excitedly ask to show them the greenhouse.  She would return with handfuls of fresh vegetables, which became increasingly smaller and less ripe over the course of our two-week stay.  I've never seen her eat so many carrots or snap peas... thus solidifying our plans to grow our own vegetables this year for the first time.

I started my research here on the good ol' internet and found some ideas for things that would grow well in containers.  Our backyard is far too shady, but we have a large porch with many sunny stairs in the front of our place.  Plus, growing herbs right outside the front door, near the kitchen, would be perfect!  We then went to our local garden center and got some advice from their experts.  A hundred or so dollars later (we also had to get fertilizer, organic potting soil, and a few containers), we were on our way to growing our very own organic cucumbers, chard, kale, red and yellow sweet peppers, strawberries, and an array of herbs.

It's been an exciting few weeks since we planted our treasures, though I am still struggling to find my green thumb.  (I've grown flowers and all kinds of other non-edible plants for years - why should this be so difficult?) Fortunately, the strawberries are doing so well that I planted a few more containers and varieties.  And they are outside The Muse's bedroom window so she is greeted most mornings by little red fruits.  The chard and kale are providing nicely as well.

Everything else is a bit more challenging as I get over the learning curve.  We lost the cucumbers and one basil plant almost immediately (too early in the season perhaps).  And I was thrilled to see a ladybug on one of the pepper plants a few mornings ago, until I realized she was there because we have an aphid problem.  Horrible, pearly green insects sucking the life out of both pepper plants.  My instinct is to declare war and buy some nasty chemicals.  Alas, we are organic gardeners, cultivating good food and patience.  I waited for the ladybug to eat her fill, then sprayed the plants thoroughly with the hose.  Once the water dried and the sun left the porch, I filled a spray bottle with soapy water and covered every surface of the leaves and stalk.  Within an hour, the aphids were gone.  Unfortunately, when I checked on my peppers today, I noticed some leaves are falling off the plants.  Most of the remaining leaves have dark spots or are curling up.  I'm going to fertilize them in the morning and hope for the best.

In any case, having our own garden has been wonderful for The Muse.  You see, she is a 3 year old girl and doesn't always want to eat the most nutritious parts of her meals.  She'll eat foods like toast (we make our own gluten-free bread), apples, pasta, and berries but it can be a challenge to get the veggies and proteins in too.  Letting her know that something came from our garden has been like magic.  We go outside with our pruning scissors, she helps to cut, prepare and cook the herbs and greens, and then she actually wants to eat them too.  She still may not eat as much of them as we'd like perhaps, but it's a start.

 If you have a picky eater, I highly suggest growing some of your own foods.  You can even ease into it and start with some simple herbs.  Showing your kids how they can add their very own home-grown herbs may be just the right amount of encouragement.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

For Love of The Ride

In the beginning... there was the wheel.  Ah, but what good was it without friends?  Two wheels are great, but four are even better.  So was the thinking when we bought the bicycle trailer for the little humans.  It's a Burley Bee, and we seem to love it.  While not exactly the most fitness the kids could be getting - they are paraded about as if in a chariot for royalty, after all - it's the ideal mode for going places fast without the car.  Which is a great alternative for us, even if we have to use the car to get to a family bike friendly stretch of town.  You may know that the greater Boston area leaves a lot to be desired by the pedal pushing set.  Some neighborhoods and towns really are well appointed with bike paths, some are working on improvements, but many are inconvenient or downright dangerous to solo cyclists, to say nothing of a couple parents out for fun with the kids.


Of course, that wasn't going to stop us.  Our inaugural ride in the Bee was the two mile trip to school, where we send our little Muse every weekday.  The Muse was the sole passenger, of course, and had plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy a bowl of strawberries as we bounced along.  Yes, a bit too much bouncing perhaps, but mainly because I was loathe to ride in the actual street for much of the journey (see previous paragraph), and the sidewalks around here are riddled with root heaves and stump holes.  All obstacles aside, the first trip was a smashing success.  Upon egress from the trailer, The Muse immediately announced that we should be using the trailer to go to and from school every day from then on.  We shall see. . .


Ride number two came about somewhat spontaneously, given the fair then foul then fair again temperament of our New England sprummers.  Sunday of Memorial Day weekend turned friendly and we packed the bikes and trailer in the back cavern of the shiny dinosaur eater. Wishing the dog best of luck staying out of trouble, we drove seven miles to the Arlington put in of the Minuteman Bike Trail.  I always picture a tiny little dude on a bike when I read that.  From the lot (free parking on Sundays and coincidentally right across from our CSA pick up where we get 20 pounds of incredibly good meat every month) we rode 4.5 miles northeast on a very pleasant and shady path, dedicated to bike and foot traffic and with only a handful of easy and safe street crossings.  Little Dude and The Muse chattered and sang nearly the entire way, which was music to my ears.  Check out our ride on my Runkeeper page.

Just around the last half mile, Little Dude started to get rather antsy.  It turns out he had slipped down in the restraints, putting him in an uncomfortable slouch.  We stopped in Lexington, under the shade of a massive beech tree in front of the Minuteman museum.  Throwing a blanket on the ground, we spilled the stash of goodies from the cooler bag and tucked in to a splendid snack of nuts, fruit, chocolate, iced tea and all good things that we love.  Perfect except that the whole affair was infused with some maddeningly good aromas from  Royal India Bistro.  It smelled so fine that we returned for carry out after the ride back to Arlington - but that's fodder for another delicious tale.


Where was I?  Getting the kids outdoors!  Right!  I almost would believe that The Muse could have run the entire way back alongside our bikes.  It seems that all she wants to do these days is run, and I am seldom inclined to stop her. She knows better than to run in the street, so I generally trust her judgement in regards to safety.  In regards to getting anywhere on time, however. . .  We only get to live each day just the once, right?  So let her run.  And run she did, all around that beech tree and the park there and never once even noticed the enticing candy store across the way.  A feast of berries seems to be all she needs most days, and things like this make M~ and I feel like we are doing right.  As for Little Dude, he was content to explore the grass just past the boundaries of the big blue blanket.  Soon enough he'll be hiding behind, and high up in, all those trees right along with his sister.

On the return trip we rearranged the cargo a bit, giving Little Dude a blanket prop and a snack to be supervised by The Muse.  The latter was not done without some trepidation on my part.  Sealing the pair of them in what amounts to a high speed tent with a three year old to defend against choking hazards... there I go, over doing the dad thing again.  They were fantastic.  So good, in fact, that Little Dude took a rolling nap for about twenty minutes, and The Muse just relaxed by his side.  That was a happy sight for me, and I chose many the safe opportunity to turn and look back while riding on.

The Bee performed admirably, and was a pretty penny less expensive than a lot of the other options out there.  It folds up Jetson's style and weighs about as much as a circus peanut when empty.  When fully loaded it can carry a solid day's worth of gear, with plenty of room for a pair of super genius riders.  So I give it high marks, and kudos to the designers at Burley.

See you on the ride...