Friday, July 29, 2011

My relationship with exercise

Almost 14 years old (I think).  Not an athlete.  Not cool.  Super-dee-duper dorky.
I'm going through my drafts folder and finishing some thoughts, so my posts are about to be even more random than usual!

So.  Exercise.

You know, I've never considered myself much of an athlete.  I was a typical kid in the '80s and '90s, riding my bike around the neighborhood with a curfew of "dark" and boundaries in the form of roads I wasn't allowed to cross.  I jumped rope and hula-hooped in the driveway.  I rollerskated (and later rollerbladed) up and down the street, and on the blacktop and ramps at the elementary school within walking distance. 

But I was always picked last in gym class.  I was always the first target in Dodgeball.  I hyperventilated when I had to run a mile.

I even had surgery on my right foot (to remove an "extra" bone and re-attach the tendon!  I might be a freak of nature...) and wore orthotics in middle school.

I played volleyball and ran track in seventh and eighth grade, but I was terrible.  I was much more adept with the fine motor skills (aka playing a musical instrument).

Sometime during high school, and then solidified in college, I realized how terrible I feel if I don't move on a regular basis.  In high school I didn't have much time for exercise.  I found plenty of time the summer before I started college (I was tremendously spoiled that summer) to run with no one telling me what to do and I discovered I really and truly enjoyed it!  My first semester of college brought a repetitive use injury so painful that I ended up with a scribe (seriously) for my homework and exams, so I wasn't practicing my flute six hours a day and again had plentiful time for hitting the gym.  (Sort of an aside - at this point, people started asking if I'd always been an athlete...and I was always bemused and said I still wasn't an athlete...)

I was hooked.  I ran whenever I could.  Sometimes it would be weeks between runs.  Sometimes it was several times a week.  But always I returned to it, and I explored the college town on my own two feet.

My first dates with The Beast involved running.  We ran six miles and he jabbered on about The Simpsons and Spinal Tap (neither of which I was terribly familiar with, because I hadn't watched much television or seen many movies through high school or my first few years of college).

Now, if it has been more than 2 days since I've broken a sweat, I get moody and anxious and snippy.  One night in college, when The Beast and I were dating, I whined to him about not having been on a run in awhile.  "Waaaaah! I've been so busy I haven't gone for a run!  Waaaaaaah!" and The Beast was his usual pragmatic and calm self and told me to go running.  I reminded him that it was midnight, and he simply offered to come with me.

So we went running.  At midnight.  In our little college town.  We saw some other people.  They were drinking and smoking on their porches.

The Beast's attitude hasn't changed (probably because I'm still thoroughly unenjoyable if I haven't exercised!), though these days he's not offering to go with me but, instead, is offering to take the kids or change up his work schedule so I can get a sweat in.  And he sees through my excuses or just makes them irrelevant!

I wrote a bit more about how I squeeze in exercise with the kids here.

Current routine:  Supposedly, I get up at 6AM five mornings a week and follow this 5K training plan.  The Beast is the "Parent On Duty" for long enough for me to eat a quick breakfast, run, and maaaaaaaybe shower.  (Of course, since Squeak is still so young, the boobs are on-duty during that time, too.)  Two of those days, while Bean is elsewhere and hopefully while Squeak naps, I "Bodyrock."

The reality is that I usually get three or four runs in each week, and sometimes Bodyrock doesn't happen - or sometimes I get up late and only have time to Bodyrock.

And I am constantly pushing back my goal of finally running a half marathon.  If my expectations/plans are unrealistic, it's a lot easier to make excuses - so I'd rather set a too-easy goal (right now it's to run a 5K on Squeak's first birthday in under 30 minutes, which The Beast says is much too easy and I say "so?") and meet or surpass it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Edibly Clean

This bit of information was passed along to me by a friend after I posted about vinegar way back when.

Did you know a spritz with white vinegar followed by a spritz of hydrogen peroxide will kill almost all Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli O157:H7 bacteria?  And it results in an edible mixture!

Keep two separate spray bottles (don't mix the two), and follow one immediately by the other (doesn't matter which one first).  I use this mainly to disinfect in the bathroom - specifically the toilet - but it is also useful in the kitchen for cutting boards, around the sink, and as a vegetable wash (since it's edible in such a small amount)!

And, of course, hydrogen peroxide makes an inexpensive and safe stain remover on its own.

Note:  Hydrogen peroxide should not be ingested in any kind of sizable quantity, so this is one to keep out of reach of the kids.  The spritz on the veggies when washing them is fine, though.

Review of Milk Nursing Babydoll Tank Top

Finally.  Finally I am writing this review!

I won this adorable Milk babydoll top from Milk Smart Mama in April or May.  At first, it was too cold to wear it.  Then I wanted to wait until I had worn and washed it a few times before I reviewed it.


Overall, I love this top.  I got numerous compliments the first time I wore it, so I can't help but love it!  It is adorable!  I had tried several tops from Motherwear and they all looked like sacks on me.  I was so disappointed - and then spent the time shipping them back to Motherwear for a refund.  I wasn't sure I'd ever try to own a nursing shirt again.  Afterall, if I was going to spend the money, it better be more flattering than the t-shirts I normally wear and, with my super-frugal ways, it should really be worth wearing whether I need breastfeeding access or not!

So this babydoll is the very first nursing shirt I have actually owned and worn in public, and I can't wait to get a little gift money together for a few more!

And did I mention it doesn't wrinkle?  And that my baby is still a spitter and spit-up washes right out?

There are a few things about the top that were less-than-ideal.  The first is that I would call it moderately un-hippy because it is clearly made of synthetic materials.  This fact was obvious from the unfortunate new-car smell of the top out of the package.  However, the smell dissipated completely after a few washes and the shirt still looks brand new after several washes.

Another not-ideal aspect is that I had a bit of a challenge finding a bra to wear with it.  I think some moms could go braless in this top, but I am just not comfortable at this point.  The Body Silk by Bravado and Bravado Bliss work alright, but any bra runs the risk of showing over the top of the shirt.   

And the nursing access - simply because of the babydoll design and the bit of extra coverage under the visible material - is a little bit difficult.  It's not terribly tight - nothing to make me worry about clogged ducts - just tight enough to be awkward.  And adding the bra underneath made the whole thing even more awkward. 

So, this top fulfilled my needs and desires in a nursing top, in that it gave me decently-modest nursing access while being adorable between feedings.

Sorry it's grainy and crappy...but the shirt is cute!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Falafel Recipe

Hmmm....I swear they're yummy, but the picture is not that appetizing!
This is a go-to recipe in our house.  As long as I've remembered to soak the beans a day in advance, it's a quick meal that everyone loves.  Plus, I make up half the batter for one meal and fry up the other half completely fresh for another meal. 

To go with it, I make up a plate of vegetables - carrot and celery sticks, cucumber slices, and tomatoes, - along with a little feta.  The adults get a plateful of greens to top.  Bean just dips carrots (and sometimes celery) in "dip"  (ranch dressing) and devours the falafel.

I use half the salt called for in the original recipe - the salt in this case really does make this dish yummy, but I don't find myself needing more than the 1/2tsp.

Also, this is not a recipe you can shortcut by using canned beans.  I once tried to rush it because I had forgotten to soak beans, so I tried cooking them (would be similar to canning).  The falafel fell apart!

This is adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (an excellent book for basic recipes)

1 3/4 c. dried chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 small onion, quartered
1 tsp ground coriander
1Tbsp ground cumin
Scant tsp cayenne
1c. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp baking soda
1Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
Neutral oil for deep-frying

-put the beans in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches.  Soak for 24 hours, checking periodically to make sure the beans are still covered in water.

-drain the beans and add them to your food processor (fitted with metal blade attachment) along with all other ingredients except the oil.

-pulse until minced but not pureed, scraping the sides periodically to keep the biggest chunks down by the blades.  Add a very little bit of water if absolutely necessary to keep the blades moving (I've never needed to do that, though).  You want the mixture as dry as possible.  When it is minced, you can taste and adjust seasonings accordingly if you'd like.

-put at least 2 inches of oil in a saucepan.  I use a small pan and to 4 falafel at a time in a non-ridiculous amount of oil.  If you use a larger pan, you'll require more oil but be able to make more falafel at a time.

-heat the oil on medium-high until a pinch of batter sizzles immediately.  Scoop out heaping tablespoons of the batter and shape them into balls (The Beast once made patties that he then cut with cookie cutters.  It was really cute and clever.  Bean will happily eat them in standard ball form as well!)  Fry in batches, without crowding, until nicely browned, turning as necessary.  They take a few minutes per batch.

-serve hot or at room temperature (they're edible cold from the fridge, too - but not wonderful.  "Wonderful" doesn't matter when it's 3PM and you haven't eaten since 7AM, does it?  These are a fine late lunch when I just need to stuff my face.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ranch Dressing recipe

Store-bought salad dressings have always been one of the first things to go on my low sodium diet.  This is one of my favorites.  I also love that it makes multiple batches.

It is adapted from here.

Ingredients for the mix:

1/2 c. buttermilk powder
1Tbsp dried parsley, crushed
1tsp dried dill weed
1tsp dried minced onion
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground pepper

Combine in food processor until well-blended and powdery smooth.

To make dressing:
Combine 4Tbsp of the dry mix with 1c. mayonnaise and 1/2c. milk.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Potato Pancakes (Latkes)

I grew up celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah.  When The Beast and I got married, I hadn't celebrated Hanukkah at all for years, but I decided I wanted to start up some of my own family traditions and make them mine and The Beast's family traditions.

So, ever since our first winter as a married couple, we have celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with a dinner of brisket and latkes...and I think one year there was matzo ball soup, but it was a bust so has not been repeated.

I'm sharing the recipe in July in honor of my mother-in-law's purchase of a food processor and because these are totally worth eating more than once a year!

Use the food processors grater attachment to make quick work of all the grating.

4 large potatoes (about 1.25lbs), peeled and grated
1 medium onion (optional, but I recommend), grated
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
about 1/2 c. oil for frying

-Grate potatoes and onions, using grating disk of a food processor or large holes of grater.
-Transfer them to a colander and squeeze the mixture to press out as much liquid as possible.  Transfer to bowl.
-Mix in egg, salt, pepper, flour, and baking powder.
-For each pancake, drop about 2 Tbsp potato mixture into hot oil in a pan.  Flatten with the back of the spoon - each cake is about 2.5-3 inches in diameter.
-Fry over medium heat 4-5 minutes each side, or until golden brown and crisp (the hotter your pan or griddle gets, the faster they'll cook). 
-Drain on paper towels (or unpaper towels, but they will get oily and require a little extra laundering).
-Stir batter between batches and add flour if too thin.

I serve with powdered sugar and apple sauce.  YUM.

P.S.  Once again, I don't have any pictures!  Perhaps I will take pictures of the results when we use D's new food processor on vacation oh-so-soon!

Friday, July 8, 2011

White Bean Dip

In honor of my mother-in-law purchasing a food processor, I am about to bring you a string of recipe posts involving this favorite piece of kitchen equipment.

I love this recipe because it can be thrown together really quickly (as long as we have white beans in the freezer*), and we can dip veggies and/or bread in it and call it a complete meal.  It's also an easy dish for a party.  You can also use it as a sandwich spread.  I've adapted it from here (the old blog of a friend). 

You can also use canellini beans, but great northern beans are what I always find.

pint jars of great northern beans (or 2- 15oz cans), rinsed
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 jalapeño pepper
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. sun-dried tomato (preferably packed in oil, otherwise plunk them in boiling water for a bit)
2Tbsp drained capers
Juice of 1 lime
1tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp dried oregano (or 2Tbsp fresh)
1/2tsp fresh-ground pepper
salt, if you desire (I don't find it necessary, since the capers are pretty salty, plus that whole low sodium diet thing)

-Preheat the oven to 400°
-In a small oven-safe dish (I usually use a pie pan or a Pyrex container), toss the garlic cloves and the whole jalapeño with 2Tbsp of the olive oil and place in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the jalapeño is soft and light golden brown.
-Slice the jalapeño in half and remove the stem and seeds
-Fit a food processor with the metal blade attachment, add all the ingredients to the bowl of the processor, and puree until smooth.

P.S.  Someday I might add pictures.  Or you can send me yours.  It's really yummy.

*A quick note on freezing beans:  fill your jar to the freezing line with beans and then pour in cooking broth to the line as well.  Then, if you want the skin of the beans to maintain their structure, add acid - a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of vinegar.  If you are going to make a dip, you can add a base - baking soda is what I would use.  We always add acid because we don't generally know what we're going to use frozen beans for and I'd rather not have mushy beans where whole beans are desired, and the skin still breaks down just fine for a dip.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thoughts on Community

On a much-needed run last week, I thought a lot about what I'm in need of right now.

I'm in the midst of reading Your Three-Year-Old:  Friend or Enemy by Louise Bates Ames.  The title is so apt.  I get so much sweetness and wonder with Bean, and then he pushes me away so hard and with such hurtfulness.  I'm hearing the typical "I don't love you," and also experiencing the funny draining impressive omg amazing irritating rollercoaster that is life with a smart, willful, passionate, and persistent child.

In starting the first chapter of Your Three-Year-Old, I actually bawled.  According to Bates Ames:
Three now enjoys other children, but most of all he enjoys his mother.  He loves to do things with her - go for a walk, go to the store, "help" with housework, and, above all, play.  He is happiest when his mother finds it possible to give up other activities and concentrate on him.  Almost anything the two of you do together brings him joy.  It is bliss to have Mother read to him, play games with him, talk to him, just be near him.
Um.  No.  This is how I would write it:
Three now enjoys other children, but most of all he enjoys anyone who is not his mother.  He loves to do things away from her - go for a walk after telling her not to join in, go to the store with Dad, create more housework, and, above all, go play with anyone who isn't his mother.  When his mother finds it possible to give up other activities and concentrate on him, he rebuffs her; when she does not find it possible to concentrate on him, he works hard so that she cannot concentrate on anything else, either.  Almost anything the two of you do together ends in tears.  There is little bliss, though you should snag what you can when reading to him, playing games with him, talking to him, and just being near him (when he will let you).
I calmed myself down and read on:
Three is a conforming age.  Three-and-a-half is just the opposite.  Refusing to obey is perhaps the key aspect of this turbulent, troubled period in the life of the young child.  It sometimes seems to his mother that his main concern is to strengthen his will, and he strengthens this will by going against whatever is demanded of him by that still most important person in his life, his mother.
Many a mother discovers that even the simplest event or occasion can elicit total rebellion.  Dressing, eating, going to the bathroom, getting up, going to bed - whatever the routine, it can be the scene and setting for an all-out, no-holds-barred fight.
Yeah!  That's what I'm experiencing over here.  All-out, no-holds-barred fights.  To the death.  (Or at least to the potential for head injury.)

Bates Ames goes on to repeat over and over that the mother of a three-and-a-half-year-old should find her child a babysitter and keep mother and child separated until the kid's fourth birthday.

I think I'm down for that.  I have already called my mother-in-law and said "PLEASE SAVE US FROM EACH OTHER!"  (Soon.  So soon.  The Beast and I will get our first night together away from Bean, with the help of my in-laws.  Yeah, I know.  Sad.  But with no family nearby, this is the first opportunity we've really had!)

I have desperately wished for a grandparent figure nearby.  I love my kids more than anything - and right now everyone needs a break.  The Beast and I need to regroup and reconnect.  Bean needs to spend some time with people he's not so willing to push.  Don't mis-hear me.  This is not a "bad" kid or a kid with any kind of behavior or attitude problem.  He is a joy to be around right now if you are not his mother.  He is empathetic.  He is social.  He is creative.  He is hilarious.  He is curious.  He is an awesome kid all around. 

Back to that run...

In thinking about what I need, and what our finances are like for all that childcare, I got to thinking how cool it would be if there were some kind of network for situations like this.  I was thinking of a multi-generational Big Brothers/Big Sisters of sorts, where I help out a young adult with some home-cooked meals or a quiet place away from the hubbub of campus, continue to help out my friends with childcare, postpartum meals, etc.  Or I could mentor a younger person - I do miss my flute students, so this is appealing! - and that teenager could help with childcare, and be away from their parents (yeah, I'm aware this 3.5-year-old thing is a preview).  Everyone could pitch in.  I don't know how it would be facilitated - A Craigslist or Freecycle sort of listing?  A Facebook or Twitter feed?  A mixer of interested folks, who can then connect on their own (or through an online community space?).  Perhaps an evening of quick meetings akin to speed dating!  ha!

My idealism (and the endorphins) completely took over and I was thinking about a utopia of a diverse group of people all paying it forward and helping each other out, knowing that they would have help when they needed it.  And everyone learning from each other.  Even where people might disagree, it might not matter because everyone is pitching in and agreeing to disagree.

Apparently what I need is a commune.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Being Color Kittens"

Bean being a Color Kitten and Squeak playing with the packaging of something or other.

Sorry for the absence.  The last week has been chaotic.  Squeak swallowed a tiny rubber band last Sunday. least we think it was Sunday.

Anyhow, he's Grabby McGrabberson these days and is a happy eater of anything.  Despite the fact that he has only one tooth, he has successfully eaten a variety of foods (he grabs stuff off my plate, insists on eating off my fork, etc.  He's like Bizarro Bean, since Bean didn't eat much of anything until close to his first birthday and refused to let us feed him) as well as mud, flowers, grass, dust bunnies, and now a rubber band.  ::sigh:: 

Since eating the stupid thing, he has required a little extra snuggling, plus extra nursing since we took him off solids entirely (per pediatrician's recommendations).  And The Beast had minor surgery on Friday and couldn't help out a whole lot with a baby who had to be carried or at least held in a non-sitting position pretty much all day long.

But anyway...

I wanted to post about this activity I did with Bean (a month ago) because I love it on several levels.  It's simple, it involves water (a long-time passion of Bean's), it's something he can experiment with, it's super flexible in terms of whatever transferring implements are around, and it even gave him a chance to hone some fine motor skills.  It's also nostalgic for me, as I remember doing the same activity - with a big metal mixing bowl and a turkey baster - when I was young!

I present to you:  "Being Color Kittens"

The Color Kittens is a book that my mother-in-law gave to Bean - it is a classic Golden Book that she read as a young girl!  It's actually written by Margaret Wise Brown (of Goodnight Moon fame).  In the story, The Color Kittens (Brush and Hush) mix various colors of paint together in attempts to make green.  In the end they make all the colors in the world.  (And spill them, but I try not to emphasize that when we're doing this activity!)

To do the activity, I laid out a big beach towel on the kitchen floor with several clear containers.  I then put water in three of them and colored them each with food coloring in a primary color.  Then Bean used the turkey baster to transfer the colored water to the empty containers, mixing them together to see what he gets.  He also liked adding uncolored water to dilute the colors, and I gave him a wooden spoon to stir his concoctions.

Later in the week, we did the same activity outside on our back deck.  Bean had a friend over, so we needed more ways than our only turkey baster to transfer the water.  I found a couple medicine syringes, and that was a huge hit with Bean.  As I knew he would, he started shooting water off the deck when he got bored with mixing the colors.

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