Tag Archives: kids

Food is Love

12 Mar

While working away on the elliptical machines the other day, Mscooksalot and I discussed the new study showing how food shows love in our culture.  No big surprise, right?    Since way before we had little ones, I have cooked and baked as a way of showing my love, appreciation, support.  What makes someone feel more loved than fresh baked cookies, piping hot with melting morsels inside?  The olfactory experience alone makes one feel warm and cared for.  I always make lunches for my family (yes, to the mortification of my friends, even my husband) every day.  I feel this is a loving way to send them out into the world each morning.  They hopefully feel a little love when they see what I’ve made and I have the benefit of knowing they have a nutritious meal while they are gone.  But the study also points out that this idea of showing affection through food can lead to obesity.  I’m not sure on this one.

First of all, my family is not the slightest bit overweight.  Secondly, I kind of think the study has gotten it all wrong.  Food created and cooked in a kitchen at home is almost always more healthful than snacks or meals purchased pre-made or from restaurants.  There is not much love shown by going through the drive through anyway.  When we cook at home, we generally use fresh ingredients and much less sugar and salt than packaged food or food from a restaurant. When cooking at home, we also don’t use preservatives.   In fact, I think if more of us took the time to prepare fresh meals as a way of showing love, we may have less obesity.  A dozen donuts does not make my family feel loved, but some homemade, hot granola muffins sure do.  Maybe it is our definition of “love” that has become skewed along with our hurried culture.  Treating your family to ice cream is nice and fun, but it does not show love in the same way as preparing a family member’s favorite dinner recipe.

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Here are some of my family’s favorites.  I cook them as a way to show them love.

Sirskatesalot’s PB Choco Chip Cookies

1 c. margarine or butter

1 c. peanut butter

1 c. brown sugar

3/4 c. granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. baking soda

3 c. flour

1 c. milk choco chips

1 c. semi sweet chips

1/2 c. sugar for garnish

Mix butter and sugar.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Stir in flour and soda.  Mix in chips.  Drop by heaping scoops onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Wet the bottom of a water glass with water and dip in garnishing sugar.  Gently press down on cookie dough to flatten slightly.  Bake 350 for 12-14 min.

Princessenpointe’s Favorite Cauliflower Cheese Soup (From Williams-Sonoma Vegetarian)

2 small heads cauliflower

(I add 4 peeled potatoes

2 tbsp. butter

1 large onion chopped

1 clove garlic, minced (I use two)

4 cups vegie stock

1 tsp. dry mustard

pinch of fresh nutmeg

1 1/2 c. milk (I use fat free half n half)

2 c. shredded sharp cheddar

fresh ground pepper

2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Cut  1 cauliflower into 1/2 inch florets.  Fill saucepan 3/4 full with water, salt lightly and bring to boil.  Add florets and simmer 10-12 min. until tender. Drain well.  Set aside.  Cut second cauliflower into two inch pieces and set aside.  In soup pot, melt butter, add onion and garlic and sauté.

Add stock, reserved raw cauliflower pieces (and chopped, peeled potatoes if you choose), mustard and nutmeg and bring to boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until cauliflower is soft, about 30 min.  Remove from heat.

Working with 2 c. at a time, blend in blender until smooth and light.  I use my immersion blender in the pan.  Once all soup is pureed, stir in milk, bring to simmer.  Add cooked cauliflower florets and cheese.  Stir for 3-5 min. until cheese melts.  Season with your favorite spices and salt and pepper.

Serve topped with extra cheese and garnish with green onions.

Princelightningbolt’s Granola (loosely based on Dahlia Bakery’s granola)

2 c. oats

1 c. steel cut oats

1 c. shredded coconut

1 c. chopped pecans

1 c. chopped almonds (if you have time toast first)

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. sunflower seeds

1/4 c. sesame seeds

3 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. canola oil

1/4 c. orange juice

1/2 c. pure maple syrup

1/4 c. honey

2tsp. vanilla

Dried fruit of your choice

Mix all dry ingredients in bowl.  Stir together wet ingredients.  Pour over dry ingredients and stir to coat.  Spread on two, large, greased baking pans.  Bake 300 for 50-60 min. stirring every 10-15 minutes.  Cool in pans on wire cooling rack.  Store in airtight container.  Serve alone, on yogurt, with milk, etc.

A House is Just a House

4 Mar

I live in an area surrounded by giant houses.  We had no idea where we were buying during that weekend real estate extravaganza I mentioned in “Moving…On.”  I love where we live and I adore our friends in those big houses.  However, I have never, ever wanted one.  I have friends whose hobby literally involves house maintenance and house decorating and care.  I appreciate this and admire the beauty of it all.  However, I hate house care and maintenance.  Both Sirskatesalot and I want less of it.  We are terrible with house maintenance like vacuuming behind the refrigerator every six months, cutting back trees, retouching paint.  How boring…we live near the beach and the mountains and have fun kids.  Who wants to stay inside and take care of a structure?.  Ugh, B-O-R-I-N-G!  I want to go.  I want a comfy space, large enough for two big dogs, two big kids, a kitchen for baking, but nothing more.  Really, there is a whole world to see.  Sometimes a house means seeing less of that because it is necessary to spend so much time maintaining that house.   I don’t want more time at home, I want more time exploring and enjoying.  Taking care of a house is not exploring and enjoying.

Homeownership is great, I’m not trying to knock it, necessarily.  I like our home, I keep it tidy, we use the heck out of it with friends and kids and relatives and fun, but it is a house.  It is only a structure.  I feel like some people around here treat it like the universe.  This is sad for many reasons, but one of which is that it is who occupies the house that is of interest, not the house itself.  I gag when I am asked if I want a “tour” of  a home I haven’t been in before.  Ahem, no thanks. How about a cup of coffee and some interesting conversation.  If you have seen one marble bathroom and remodeled kitchen, you have seen enough.  I want more travel or time to do new things.  Or, I am happy to sit at the beach for hours and hours.  I am not happy to organize, maintain, stay at home.  This is not a judgement, this is a preference.  However, I do sometimes feel sad for people I know who stay behind the Orange Curtain most of the year, perfecting their houses to the point where they have no time for friends, outings or travel because the structure has taken over.

A structure is just that.   A few walls to keep us warm and give us space to be a family.  A friend of ours just lost his structure in a natural gas explosion on the east coast (you can Google it…mind-blowing photos). Crazy and scary.  But this is just a structure.  The relationships and the world are still out there.  Just a little rebuilding is needed.  Don’t take these structures too seriously or you might find yourself voluntarily imprisoned in them.  Be careful what you wish for.

Muddle Through the Middle

1 Mar

When my kids were infants, babies and toddlers, there were many parenting books written that highlighted “quality time” with your child.  These moments were most often orchestrated and had the heavy feeling of importance.  For a while, as a VERY young mother, trying to do the VERY best, I bought into this notion.  No interactions or “moments” were significant unless they were planned weeks ahead of time, involved moving the moon and the earth and involved elaborate interactive detail and lengthy amounts of one-on-one time.  As a mother of teens, I can now admit, this quality time idea is a complete crock of shit.  Quantity of time takes the cake every single day.  Show up, be present, know you need to pay attention when the moment arises.  Know your kids.  You can only know your kids if you are there…not for the “quality time” picnic planned in advance for a Saturday way out on the calendar.  You need to be there when they need you and that is never, ever when the calendar dictates.

Children are sponges, they are ever changing and they are their own beings.  A few hours of “quality time” each week or month is fabulous.  This time helps foster relationships and create bonds.  However, children need so much more. Day to day interactions that often seem humdrum or even boring are the ones that truly form our little ones into the people they will become.  Celebrating the accomplishments, teaching morals during dinner and honing politeness at the parent/teacher conference or doctor’s office are all necessary.

But, as Anna Quindlen (one of my favorite modern American ladies) writes, “Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on.  It is about muddling through the middle.”  Muddling through the middle is the real life, nitty gritty, messy, necessary stuff.  Kids have this. They know this. Depending on their age this nitty gritty can involve who pestered who on the playground to whose dad said something weird during a playdate.  As they get older it involves who went to a party to get drunk and whose parents are not even home for the weekend.  But, you  don’t know when they will feel like sharing.  You have to be there for THEIR moments, not the ones you planned.  The most eye-opening conversations I have had with my kids have been in the kitchen late at night or on a generic walk with the dogs around the neighborhood.  This is the middle, this is the muddling through.  As a parent, you have no idea what topic is being thrown at you and you have no time to prepare, but you are there. You are present and you do you very best.  Would children have shared so much during a planned outing where we both felt pressured to bond and enjoy?  I don’t think so.  Time is important.  Kids grow fast. I hope we don’t waste our time being busy or planning quality time because quality time may be missed in the making…and we don’t always get it back.


Life Skills

24 Feb

I volunteered today at an M.U.N. (Model United Nations) conference at Princelightningbolt’s high school.  I didn’t have M.U.N. at my high school so this was all new to me when he first started high school.  This program is right up Sirlightningbolt’s alley (he loves history, politics, being up in front of people and writing a mean essay).  I am impressed I can discuss topics pertinent to the world with him because he is educated about current events.  He now knows that behind the Orange Curtain does not lie the entire world.

What I really enjoy about these conferences is seeing hundreds of smart, educated, interested teens all dressed up at 6:30 in the morning on a weekend day, ready for action.  Why doesn’t this make the news?  Hundreds of sleepy, overworked  teens are up at the crack of dawn, dressed to the nines and ready to debate issues pertinent to our world today.  What could be better?  When I drop Princelightningbolt off in my pajamas and  the sun has barely cracked the horizon, I am impressed.

These kids are going places.  The skills they have as teens will serve them well.  Get up, be prepared, show up, make a good case, dress the part, engage your audience, have the endurance to do it for 10 hours with a small lunch break.  Doesn’t this sound like a day of meetings at a real job?  Follow through, knowledge, preparation and presentation (of both information and of self) are key.  But, more important than all of these life skills, these teens seem happy.  They smile, they joke, they obviously have camaraderie.  This is important stuff.  This is life, this is relationships, this is communication.

We hear there are no jobs, kids are denied college entrance even with GPA’s well above perfect, their majors are impacted and worse.  However, there is a legion of teens out there ready to take on the world…head on.  These kids can dress the part, they can argue a point, they can commit and they can put it all down on paper.  Be ready, they are coming and they are strong.  If they keep developing this skill set, us parents will be in good hands when we age and are depending on someone younger to care for and make decisions for us.

And we will rest easy knowing they are productive, engaged and happy in their lives.  We all need to remember to hone these life skills and validate their importance at a time when most of us are checking their grades daily and forgetting that the grades are a very small part of the package.  Truly, do you even remember your high school GPA?  Probably not.  But, I bet you remember how you felt in high school and what you learned that you still know and utilize to this day.  I bet it mattered if you were happy and involved and I bet that still matters today.

Moving…on

10 Feb

A dear friend of mine is moving.  This doesn’t sound terrible, but where we live, not many people move away.  Our community is tight knit and we all know each other.  A lot of us now have teens and some in college.  We’ve been here a while and the roots are starting to grow deep. In fact, I cannot remember the last time a friend of mine moved away.

Sirskatesalot and I landed here by sheer luck.  We had only 48 hours to buy a house, not a ton of dough and we wanted our kids in good neighborhood schools.  This was the only house that met our requirements and boy, it was not pretty.  In fact, I sat on the porch and cried when the movers were moving our stuff in.  I could not believe we had bought such a heap and I was overwhelmed with the freeways, the noise, police helicopters…I hated it.

We have now been here a decade.  Wow, that is a long time.  Most of our kids’ lives. This is all they know.  We have dear friends.  We are entrenched, in a good way.  Our house is not so much a heap anymore, the freeways are not intimidating, and the beach is a stone’s throw away.  Did I mention we have dear friends?  We are a community.  We take care of each other.  We eek out time to have fun.  It’s actually surprising how much fun you can have when you are middle aged and boring.

We laugh at memories and current realities.  We know each other’s quirks, we suffer through most of them and we embrace a lot of them.  We even embrace our friends’ children’s quirks most of the time (ahem, this puts us up there with Mother Teresa if you know what I mean).  Our friend who is moving away will be sorely missed.  She is a riot.  There will be a hole here without her.  She is so awesome, though, that her new home will embrace her and she will become entrenched, but she’ll also gain an accent, big hair and a lot more make-up.  Any guesses where she is going to land? I can only utter a weak, “Yeehaw” because I want her to stay.

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Pegging Those Teens

7 Feb

Peg Leg here has two teens.  And, even amongst friends, sometimes I feel a little uncomfortable admitting that I really like my teens.  If you listen to the news, most teens are pregnant, drug addicts, drop-outs or gangsters.  If you listen to most of my friends, they are snotty, spoiled, selfish, oblivious, absentminded and irresponsible.  I confess that I can easily jump in and participate with my mom-friends in an hour long conversation about the negative character traits of teens.  You should see how we feed off of each other’s stories…we are like 5th grade girls with girlfriend drama.

In general, though, my kids are pretty awesome.  I am frequently surprised by how much I like them.  When they were sweet babies, toddlers and dirty-faced, school age critters, I never imagined it could be just as good, and, sometimes, better with teenagers.  Yes, they are big, demanding, loud, messy and stinky, but they are also clever, witty, smart and down right hysterical.   Sirskatesalot and I stare at each other wide-eyed when one of our offspring uses an epithet while telling a story at the dinner table, searching the other’s face for how to respond.  But then the punch line is so funny we break into laughter and forget to reprimand the storyteller.  It reminds me of when they were first graders telling jokes they had made up that were so NOT funny, but made us bust out in fits of laughter.  Only now, they are older, wiser, funnier and the jokes and stories are spot on.

While sometimes their decisions or attitudes are maddening, watching my teens grow into themselves is fascinating.  The path from teen to adult is a curvy, windy one filled with hills and valleys, but I think it it is important to let the teens do the driving.  I am enjoying these last, fleeting years with my kiddos.  I’m trying to give them credit, to back off, to let them do the driving, to let them set the pace and to let them choose the destination.

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