Archive for the ‘ Food ’ Category

Introducing Peanut Butter the Easy Way

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

We lucked into a fabulous babysitter, Liz. She’s a competent college kid who always leaves the house picked up, brings a library book to read during Roy’s naptime and tells us he is so good that we should pay her less. I swear the last time she was here, she cleaned our microwave.

Back in March, our regular daycare provider took a weeklong vacation, so we scheduled Liz for a few mornings so I could still get a little work done. Before she left that first day, she asked: Would I mind if, in the future, she baked us some cookies while Roy napped? Seriously. She asked for permission to bake us cookies. I’m not much of a baker, and Clint rarely gets around to it. So yes, Best Babysitter In the World. We would very much appreciate your fresh-baked cookies.

Turns out the girl has some serious oven skills. The next day, I came home to a batch of the most perfectly round, perfectly chewy peanut butter cookies. Clint and I oohed and aahed over them that evening, marveling at our luck in finding such a kind, thoughtful and responsible sitter who could also whip up a mean baked good.

Though it was late March, and technically spring, the next morning I awoke to a full-on snowstorm. (This is Minnesota, after all.) Somehow, Liz made it to our place, and before I braved the roads to hole up in a coffee shop for a few hours, I asked if by chance she’d given Roy a cookie. She hadn’t. “Oh, good,” I said. “He doesn’t eat peanut butter yet. I exposed him to it once, but they say the second time would be more likely to trigger an allergic reaction. I just never seem to be up for that stress,” I told her.

“I could do it,” she offered.

Hmmm. I entertained the possibility for a split second. First of all, no peanut allergies exist in our family, so the chances of Roy being allergic are pretty slim. Second of all, I’m confident Liz can deal with pretty much anything, and I’d only be a few miles away. Before I got to a third point, I snapped back into reality. I am not going to hand that part of my job over to my 20-year-old babysitter, no matter how awesome she is. I told her thanks, but no thanks. The consequences could be quite serious. The roads are too bad if they were. I’d do it myself eventually.

I got stuck three times on the way to the coffee shop. No kidding. As in thank-god-I-have-a-shovel-in-my-trunk, strangers-pushing-my-car-for-me stuck. It took me nearly an hour to go a couple of miles. But once I got there and settled in, I got some work done, then headed back home, without incident, to spend the afternoon with my baby.

He was asleep. Liz gave me the usual update—how much Roy ate, how many “presents,” as she calls it, he left her. “Oh, and I gave him some peanut butter cookie,” she added. “He was fine.”

You guys. My babysitter introduced my child to peanut butter. Against my direct orders. I was stunned.

My first reaction was to ask, “When?” It’d been a few hours. No swelling. No wheezing. No hives. Nothing. OK. Well.

After Liz left, I immediately called Clint and told him what happened. As we spoke, my bewilderment wore off and I found that in its place wasn’t anger, but relief. Amusement, even. It was a dangerous game she played there, but she had all the best intentions. And everything turned out fine. Had it been anyone else—a friend, a grandparent—I don’t believe we would have had such a laid-back reaction. But Super Liz took matters into her own hands and, once again, made our lives easier. To our amazement, we were OK with it.

Now we’re getting ready to introduce shellfish, to which we DO have a family history of allergies. As easy as she made it the first time, I’m definitely not leaving this one to the sitter. Any advice? How did you introduce the high-allergen foods? Did you stress about it as much as I did? How would you have reacted to the sitter doing the job for you?

Image © flickr user diekatrin

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Urban Chicken Coop: Good Idea or Insane Whim?

Monday, June 13th, 2011

toddler chicken coopI’m extremely happy to report that Roy is on the mend. After five days of breath-monitoring, medicine-administering, Calamine-slathering and the like, I’m in dire need of a new and brighter topic. And so: Chickens!

We’ve been tossing about the idea of a chicken coop for awhile. We were originally inspired about five years back, after visiting our friend Randy, an artist who lives in the Iowa countryside. He’d built a gorgeous chalet-like coop, complete with salvaged stained-glass windows, and really seemed to enjoy taking care of his “ladies.” The morning’s omelets sold me.

Flash forward to this year, with the urban coop trend in full swing. My fairly new eater is an egg-lover, which makes them a menu constant. A steady supply of “free” organic eggs sounds fabulous, as does the homegrown lesson in where food comes from. Lately, we have chicken ownership on the brain.

So I’m ready to take it as a sign that a few weeks back, we spotted a chicken pecking about a neighbor’s front yard. We rang the nearest two doorbells. No answer. We were trying to decide what to do when she found her way into the nearest open gate. We shut it, figuring that if she wasn’t theirs, they might know where she belonged.

A few nights later, we spied someone puttering around in that very yard, so we stopped and asked: “Do you have chickens?” He answered “yes,” so we kept going: “How many? Is it hard? Are they noisy? How often do they lay?”

Mid-inquisition, his wife showed up, and the two of them were kind enough to not only field our questions, but invite us back to see their setup. Within seconds, Clint was inspecting the coop and getting the 411 on space requirements and city regulations, as Roy poked about, ultimately deciding that their dog was the cooler attraction. We left with an open invitation to swing by and talk all things chicken, plus plenty of food for thought.

When it comes down to it, the decision is up to Clint. He’s the professional hammerer in the family, so clearly he would build the coop. We have somewhere in the ballpark of a zillion projects in the works around the house and yard, so I didn’t think the odds were good that I might somehow sneak “build chicken coop” up toward the top.

But the day after our impromptu neighbor-chicken meet-and-greet, Clint tells me he called the aforementioned Randy, who gave him the scoop on which chickens are the friendliest and which lay the prettiest eggs, as well as his hatchery recommendation. Would I please order a catalog? Done.

And then: He picked up DIY magazine solely because I mentioned that the latest issue had an article featuring a chicken coop project. Later, we had a serious discussion on how we might adapt that coop to our needs.

Finally, there was the moment when Clint looked me square in the eyes and said, “If we get chickens, will you take care of them? Really?”

I could tell he was serious, so I took a little time to picture the reality of a coop—or, more accurately, the reality of poop. Would I be comfortable with adding “clean up chicken poop” to my standing to-do list? This would be the price to pay for those eggs. Those fresh, warm, perfect little eggs, waiting mere feet from our door each morning.

My final answer: Yes. You guys, I think we’re on our way to an urban chicken coop.

Are we crazy? And if you happen to be a chicken owner: Any drawbacks I need to know about?

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Tags: | Categories: Food, Fun, Home, Love And Diapers, Must Read

Taming toddler energy

Monday, June 6th, 2011

toddler in balloon hat

Roy’s activity level hit an all-time high over the weekend. Think: Energizer Bunny on crack. I miss the little snugglebuns who used to sit complacently on my hip. Now, in under a minute, the squirming starts, and then the pleas of, “Walk? Walk? Walk?” Though technically, he means run. Run like the wind, as fast as those chubby little toddler legs will take him.

Clint and I spent hours at a local festival chasing him. It was at a large, grassy park, and attendance was fairly sparse, so we didn’t worry about him disappearing or anything. It was only a matter of tag-teaming the chase in order to keep our energy levels up. One of us could talk with friends, listen to music, or just relax, while the other followed him around as he made a mad dash for the band’s electrical cords, then the feral black cat, then the crabby folks’ cooler. Why oh why does it always have to be the cooler that belongs to the crabby folks?

We had a good time at the festival, just in a very different way than we ever have before. I noticed that we’ve developed a few strategies to help keep the mood up and our sanity in tact.

1) Chase. If you perform the “I’m Gonna Get You” dance well, he won’t even notice you’re steering him away from that older kid’s super-pointy craft project, tempting him there on the grass.

2) Engage, kid-style. Improvise with what’s around you. Caterpillars? Rocks? Tree bark? All worth a shot. We were lucky enough to have a balloon-animal twister at our disposal, who bought us whole minutes.

3) Feed. We’d counted on more and varied available food. Mistake. We later vowed to always bring a selection of healthy snacks that, when eaten together, could stand in for dinner. All that running needs fuel, and without it come serious crabby-crashes. Bonus: No standing in line.

Then there’s always the option we’re employing more and more often: Leave him at home with a sitter. We did that Friday night (thanks, Mom!) and actually got to spend time in a place other than our home, standing relatively still and talking with each other.

That, thankfully, was the same kind of fun it’s always been.

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Tags: | Categories: Development, Food, Fun, Love And Diapers, Travel

Starting a vegetable garden (also: horses!)

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

man at farmer's market with seedlingsWe planned on starting the garden last year. I’d hoped Roy’s first foods would be plucked from a lovingly tended garden mere feet from our side door.

As it turns out, it’s hard to find time to shower when you have a newborn, let alone ready the soil, plant a garden, maintain a garden and stay on top of a garden’s bounty. Roy’s first foods were purchased from our local farmer’s market. It was a delicious, low-maintenance and fun second-place option.

I’m happy to report that one year later, a lot more showers are happening in this household. And so, over Memorial Day weekend, we headed to the farmer’s market to purchase our seedlings.

If Clint doesn’t look 100% thrilled, it’s likely because he’s tended a vegetable garden before. I haven’t. And I may have stated that I do want to garden, but I do not want to dig. Guess who’s fated to wind up the grunt on this family project?

After we got our seedlings, eggs (organic), baguette (wheat), jerky (beef) and a few veggies, we went in for the finale: a horse-drawn wagon ride. Little did we know, the planets were perfectly aligned to turn it into The Coolest Horse-Drawn Wagon Ride Ever.

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