Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I swear these posts have taken on a life of their own, either that or I am just glutton for punishment.

My husband and I are still getting used to being on someone else's schedule. I know. Our son is 14 months old and we're still not quite converted to meal times on the regular.

Until about a week ago our son was in the infant room at his daycare center, meaning he was fed when he was hungry, slept when he was tried and changed when he was dirty. This lack of structure offered a few drawbacks but, on the whole, we picked up a happy, healthy child at the end of the day. The toddler room has proven more of a challenge. For all of us.

In the toddler room our son now has set morning snack times, lunch times and afternoon snack times. The food is now fully supplied by the daycare center. Good for the wallet. Bad for our boy. If our son decides he doesn't like something or isn't hungry he has to now go without until the next feeding session rolls around, which is typically 2-3 hours later. As his mother I have mixed emotions about this: on one hand I get that it teaches the kids discipline and structure to eat what's in front of them and eat on a schedule. On the other hand I hate the thought of my baby boy being hungry and not fed. We've been on such an eating roller coaster since he began solids, that I'm kind of an advocate of "if he's hungry feed him."

Panic set in on Monday when I picked him up from school and found a note attached to his bag saying that he hadn't eaten much all day. When I asked the administration at the daycare center if he had access to food during the day they assured me he was offered each of the meals and snacks prepared but rejected most of what they put in front of him. I panicked. I rushed home cracked open the Goldfish crackers and yogurt and began to pump my kid full of nutrients.

When my son is hungry you know it. The whole neighborhood knows it. He's not modest about letting people know he's starving and his mother is a slacker in the kitchen. After getting him fed it was time to prepare dinner for myself and my husband, the problem now was getting our son to sit still and enjoy family dinner time.

He was full. He had eaten. He wanted to play. I've run into this scheduling conflict the last few days and I'm at a loss for what to do. Do I make my hungry kid who's been holding out on food all day now wait another hour until family dinner is ready? Do I feed him and forgo a peaceful, iconic family meal at the table? Timing is everything in this scenario and we just can't seem to line ourselves up.

In all of this evening mayhem one beacon of reliability shines in the distance of the 9:00 p.m. bedtime. Mommy's tall glass of red wine.  It's there like clockwork!

Friday, April 12, 2013

We've all had them, those embarrassing moments at the check out counter when your shopping cart displays some intimate detail of your personal life: Tampons in front of a guy you work with. Oreos and Diet Coke in front of the girl who's still wearing her gym shorts. Dandruff shampoo in front of someone who's taller than you. The list goes on and on, but in all my embarrassing purchases never have I ever been made to feel as ashamed, embarrassed and inadequate as a mother as I was today.

If you've ever been to the baby food aisle you're familiar with the variety of products that certain manufacturers offer as ammo for parents who are time-starved and culinary challenged.  I am now one of those parents. While I'd love to boil, bake, puree and chop a bounty of wholesome goodness for my child's meals, I just don't have the time, and, if I'm being honest, my kid ain't got the patience.  When my son needs to eat he needs to eat NOW. Not half an hour from now. Not when the meat is tender enough to dissolve in his mouth.  NOW!  Which bring us to my current obsession with 30 second microwavable baby entrees.

Many reputable, healthy brands offer a wide variety of well-balanced meals. Anything from mac n' cheese with peas and carrots, to beef and barley with sautéed spinach. Definitely better than anything I would have the time to throw together in my kitchen amidst the 6:00 a.m. morning madness (see Food Confessions of a Working Mom: Part One for the morning madness recap).

We are currently obligated to provide a breakfast, lunch and snack for my son five days a week while he is still in the infant room at his daycare center.  During a shopping trip I typically buy 10 trays of lunches, 5 oatmeal bowls, 1 box of cereal bars and a couple canisters of crackers along with some sticks of cheese and fruit cups.

As I approach the check out line I see her, Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast. She's wearing her yoga pants, wind breaker, running shoes and baseball cap. No make-up and flawless skin. Weighing in at 105 pounds and standing around 5 feet tall. Her children are well-behaved statues who refuse to flinch for fear of Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast's wrath. They remain still, silent and stacked one on top of the other in their state-of-the-art jogging stroller.

I begin to unload. A stack of entree trays make their way towards Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast's divider stick. A quick glance at first, then an astonished eye bulge as she sees me continue to send crunchies, cheese sticks and yes, more trays down the counter.

I avoid eye-contact. I convince myself that in not looking directly at her I will somehow maintain the mother-of-the-year status I have achieved in my head. But her next move left me no choice. Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast takes it upon herself to pick up one of my meals and inspect the nutrition info.

"Just awful."

"Excuse me?" I respond in a timid, embarrassed voice. I've been caught. Found out. My cover is blown!

"Have you bothered to research these at all? They're terrible for kids. Full of processed food and chemicals. I only feed my kids home-cooked, organic foods. It's so much better for their health."

My mouth drops open in astonishment. I obviously had no idea that such things had been said about this bountiful harvest I was about to blow an entire paycheck on. Okay maybe I did, but I figured it was all Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast paranoia. I counter.

"I had heard that, but I don't believe any of it. These companies have been feeding babies for years, and our pediatrician actually recommended these for their low-salt and low-sugar content."

"Your pediatrician huh?" As though I had made this character up in one of my pre-packaged baby food induced hallucinations.

"Yep." That awkward silence…

"Well did your pediatrician also tell you that your child needs to have all of their shots before they're old enough to process those medications? Pediatricians make awful judgment calls on children's health." With this, Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast had loaded her recycled burlap bag of organic groceries into her cart and was simply lingering to ensure I felt like poopie before hopping into her Prius and heading off to her hemp hut.

At this point my mountain of meals has piled up at the front of the check out line and my cashier is looking at me as though I need to pay up and move on." I reach for my wallet and throw Judgie Mommy with the Whole Wheat Toast a smile and in my most sickeningly sweet voice say:

"I find it hard to believe that pediatricians would still have jobs if they didn't have the childrens' best interests at heart. I was raised with a doctor as a father and I was raised on many different pre-packaged baby foods. I'm sure you probably were too. Back then our parents didn't have to worry about the political paranoia that so many people fall victim to today. Not to mention these meals have been very convenient for our family, since both my husband and I have full-time jobs and a number of other commitments (translation: we are very powerful people so don't mess with us)."

I stay on my soapbox…

"It's nice to know that companies are evolving past the sexist assumptions that women have all the time in the world to spend in the kitchen. It's quite progressive of these companies to assist working mothers with the variety of foods that they have. Aside from the convenience, I believe they are a healthy meal option thanks to our pediatrician. Plenty of children and parents follow the advice of their pediatrician and turn out just fine."

With this I grab my bags, load them into my cart and confidently wheel my way to the exit. My child however is still standing at the check out counter chewing on a magazine.

There are some battles we just can't win.


**DISCLAIMER: In no way am I criticizing people who do buy whole wheat toast and have the time and money to prepare thoughtful, wholesome meals for their children. In fact, I'm jealous. What I am criticizing with this post are nosy, busybodies who seek to criticize others for the choices they make. I'm sure we all think everyone should do it "our" way, but that's not the case. I am firm believer in "to each their own" and I really wish everyone else would think the way I do. Ironic?


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

DIY weddings are popping up everywhere. Brides who no longer have unlimited budgets to work with are finding solace in their ability to multitask by creating decorations, bouquets, dresses and even food from scratch.

As a result of this trend many traditional wedding components are being altered to fit the DIY bride's budget, timeframe and personality. Flexibility is key for today's bride-on-the-go and we've got a few helpful tips for those looking to simplify their cake and favor offerings.

Image courtesy of marthastewart.com

DIY WEDDING CUPCAKES

In the world of DIY weddings few things offer as much fun and flexibility as cupcakes. Huge, elaborate sheet cakes can put a serious strain on your budget and your sanity; cupcakes, on the other hand, are sweet, simple, sophisticated bites of pre-packaged goodness that offer variety, portability and creativity, three things your guests will truly appreciate.

Think about it, how many times have you been to a wedding and had to wait for your thin slice of cake to make its way to your table? Some guests wait up to an hour for the kitchen to plate the cake after it has already been cut by the bride and groom.  A cupcake tower allows each guest to calmly make their way to the dessert table and select their flavor of choice without the muss and fuss of slicing and serving. 

The possibilities with cupcake towers are endless. Brides can create as many flavors as they want in as many colors as they want. You no longer have to worry if you and your groom can't decide between apple-spice and red velvet, now you can have dozens of BOTH!

If you're looking to really get your guests involved, ask your baking buddies to bring a dozen cupcakes of their own as a gift to the bride and groom. It could be fun to see how your friends and family help build your cupcake centerpiece, and it will give each contributor a sense of ownership in the evening's festivities. 

Images courtesy of greatcakes.net and marthastewart.com


Just as the possible cupcake color and flavor combinations are endless, so too are the ways in which to build your tower. Many brides look to decorative platters and cake stands as a way to showcase their desserts. Others explore garden planters, tables and stands as a way to bring the outdoors in.

Themed cupcake towers can be an excellent way of integrating your personality as a couple. Towers of books set at different levels for the couple who loves to read; vintage suitcases both open and closed for those who enjoy travel; sports memorabilia; broadway costume pieces; the possibilities are endless!

Another way to dress up your cupcakes are to design personalized wrappers. Plenty of templates are available online in an array of designs based on bride and groom names, colors, patterns, textures, etc. Get creative and use actual photos of guests in your wrapper design as another way to make them feel special.

We realize that planning your own wedding can be extremely stressful, but we hope you'll find some solace in the sweet sanctuary that creating your own cupcake tower can provide. Cheers!





Monday, April 1, 2013


Spring has sprung, and with the warmer weather comes the innate desire to get outdoors. Many of us will be dusting off our bicycles, breaking out our shorts and packing up family picnic baskets in an effort to enjoy as much of this beautiful season as possible.

Below are three picnic-friendly recipes the whole family can enjoy.  Cheers!


APPETIZER

This Smoked Salmon Spread is a fabulous appetizer for any outdoor meal. Its earthy yet light flavor is comforting and refreshing all at the same time. Whenever we're holding an al fresco dinner party we love to include a bowl of this served with crackers, bread slices, or carrots and celery for the carb- conscious guest.

1 tin of smoked salmon
1/2 package of cream cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup of green onion
1 tsp fresh chopped dill
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder

  • Remove the cream cheese from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature before mixing
  • Drain the two tins of smoked salmon and mix with the cream cheese
  • Add the lemon juice, green onions, dill and remaining ingredients and mix together until smooth
  • Serve with a lemon wedge and dill sprig to garnish


MAIN COURSE

Our Greek lettuce wraps make an excellent picnic main course. Kids love putting them together and mom and dad will enjoy the easy clean up.  The sophisticated flavors will transport you to a Mediterranean coastline while never leaving the comfort of your backyard.

3 boneless skinless grilled chicken breasts
1 box of orzo pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup Greek salad dressing
1/2 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup diced feta cheese
1/4 cup diced, pitted Kalamata olives,
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 large head of romaine lettuce
  • Grill the chicken, season with salt and pepper, dice into cubes and set aside
  • Cook the pasta until al dente then remove from heat and rinse under cold water
  • In a large mixing bowl add the olive oil, dressing, tomatoes, cheese, olives and mix together
  • Add the pasta and parsley to the mixing bowl and toss
  • Transport pasta in a covered container
  • Peel the individual leaves off of the head of romaine, rinse them , then pat dry with a paper towel
  • Add the Romaine leaves to a Ziploc bag and take along with the pasta salad.


DESSERT

Nothing says spring like fresh fruit. Strawberries are the perfect finish for an outdoor picnic, especially when they come stuffed with cheesecake!

1 carton of large fresh strawberries
2 cups of cheesecake filling
1 box of vanilla wafers
1 tbsp powdered sugar
  • Hull each strawberry so that the leaves, caps and centers are cored out.
  • Fill a pastry bag with cheesecake filling. **TIP: If you don't have a pastry bag use a Ziploc bag and simply cut the corner tip off and leave the top open to encourage air flow.
  • Place a vanilla wafer on to the base of each strawberry and sprinkle the platter with powdered sugar.


DRINKS

A mild white wine, Sauvignon Blanc for example, would be an excellent accompaniment to the meal we've laid out for you above. For those looking for a non-alcoholic option the kids will love, we're very fond of mixing 1 part lemonade with 1 part sparkling water and adding a few mint leaves. 


So shake off those winter coats, break out those picnic baskets and break in those picnic blankets. Time to take this party to park!


Be sure to check out our "How to Pack a Picnic Basket" article in the April issue of www.splurgemag.com.


Image courtesy of caremytrip.com