"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."~Maya Angelou

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Back to Basics

Every parent wonders what they can do to assist their child's development, what words to say what games to play. The truth of the matter is it's the basic things that really help, nothing fancy or over the top is needed! Don't lose sight of whats most important, talking with your child, reading with your child, singing and dancing. These basic skills help new toddlers understand the world around them. Don't feel the urge to make your child grow up to fast either. They will spend the next 18+ years in school, getting your child into a school setting early on is fine, but definitely not needed for optimum growth and development! Visit http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/12-18-months-activities-for-cognitive-development/?sssdmh=dm17.558742&esrc=nwpmmdailytip110511&email=2177568409 for some great, natural ways to support your child's development!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Precious pumpkins

It's pumpkin time! Time to head out to your local farm or pumpkin venue of choice and collect some goodies!  My family traveled to a nearby farm this weekend to collect some pumpkins for pies as well as to carve in another week or so.  The woman who we dealt with was so nice and ended up giving each of my children more than one free pumpkin!  Going to get pumpkins is such a fun family tradition, along with taking those great pumpkin photos!  One fun fact that I have learned is that the more "lines" a pumpkin has the more seeds will be on the pumpkin, meaning it has been on the vine longer. Ripened pumpkins will also be darker in color. Of course pumpkins are part of the squash family, making them a super healthy food choice.  Pumpkins, with their rich orange color, are considered an anti-oxidant, full of beta carotene. Studies show that diets rich in beta carotene are less likely to develop certain cancers.
Of course, there are also the delicious seeds found withing the pumpkin.  make sure when you are scooping out those pumpkins this year, you toast at least one batch of seeds! Toasting seeds only takes about 10 minutes and is a great snack to share with your kids. It is an easy process and the kids can help. To make your seeds scrumptious, first clean the seeds by rinsing with cool water, then lay them on a baking sheet, so they don't overlap. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake for 7 to 10 minutes at 350, depending on how crispy you like them. Cooking times vary, but you will quickly find what works best for your taste buds!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Baking Bug

Temperatures are slowly dropping, leaves a starting to turn color and the sweet smell of woodsmoke is beginning to perfume the air. It is the start of a wonderful season, probably my favorite. The first family outing of the fall tends to be apple picking in our house, which we will be doing next weekend. If you go to early the apples are still a little green and quite tart, so you definitely want to wait until mid to late September. My personal favorite to pick is Cortland apples. They not only taste delicious, they are excellent for baking. What to bake you ask? Well cooking with apples is easy and very rewarding. A few of my favorites are applesauce and apple muffins. I encourage you to let your children help you in any way they can. Under good supervision most two year old's and up can help cut up the apple after it has been peeled, and of course add ingredients to any dish. Below you will find the recipes to my homemade applesauce and some apple muffins that include other very healthy ingredients, which provides a "delicious and nutritious"(as my son likes to say) way to start their morning.  I hope you enjoy them as much as my family does!!! Happy Baking!!!

Homemade Applesauce
Peel and slice up as many apples as you wish, you will probably want to use at least 20 apples though.
Using a steamer, put about 2-4 inches of water in a pot, add apples to steamer and cook until soft. When all apples have been steamed I put them in a food processor to blend. I always add some cinnamon to my applesauce, and depending on the tartness, a tablespoon of sugar.
I enjoy storing my ape sauce in mason jars, but any glass jar will do.
Cool and refrigerate, but don't expect it to last to long, it is just to yummy!!!

Glorious Morning Muffins
2 eggs
3/4 C veg oil
1/4 C milk
2 t. vanilla
1 C white flour
1 C wheat flour
1 C packed brown sugar
2 t. baking soda
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 C shredded carrots
1 C shredded peeled apple
1/2 C coconut
1/2 C raisins
3/4 C sliced almonds
Heat oven to 350. In large bowl beat eggs, oil, milk and vanilla with whisk until blended. Add flours, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. With spoon, stir in carrots, apple, coconut, raisins and 1/2 cup of the almonds.
Divide batter evenly among muffin tray, will make 18 large or 30-35 mini. Sprinkle remaining almonds over batter.
Bake 20 min or until toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Is your child getting enough sleep?

  Counting sheep. Listening to the chirp of crickets. The whirl of a fan or music from a radio sometimes do the trick too. All of these things may or may not help us get to sleep. As an adult we may rely on outside white noise to settle us down at night, or reading a good book and having some tea. As we settle ourselves down from busy days, it is important to remember to do the same for our children, as their ability to unwind is our responsibility.
                 I can not stress enough my belief that a bedtime routine is not only helpful, but necessary. Having a routine not only comforts your child from as early as 6 months old, but gives them a sense of consistency that is so important in their changing lives. I know everyone would love to be at home every day with their children, but that is not always possible. So as a child's day may change from a sitter to home, or school to home, having a consistent routine will give them a tremendous sense of security. Both of my children have always had the same routine; dinner, baths, quiet play and bed, and I have some great sleepers! Now of course there are some tantrums and such thrown in there, but they know what's coming next. They can count on going upstairs after dinner to take a nice bath, and know that they will return downstairs to play for a short while before stories and bed.
               I have found an excellent website I am excited to share with you that has several great features including the amounts of sleep recommended for various ages. The bottom line is all children over the age of 1 should be getting at least 10 hours of sleep, while some children will want up to 13 with daytime naps on top of that! Another point I want to stress is to remember that it does not work to your advantage to keep a child up to help them sleep better, in fact it will have the opposite effect by making them overtired and harder to settle down.
                Sleep is so important for their development, both cognitively and socially, and I hope everyone will take a moment to reflect on their child's sleep pattern and adjust it if necessary. Sweet dreams everyone!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What's in your lunchbox?

               That special time of year is upon us again, no not that big guy in red, but back to school time! Many of you have children going back to public schools, while others have some pretty big milestones coming up, whether it's the first day of preschool, kindergarten or your child's senior year in high school! (Good thing I have made a deal that mine won't be getting any older after this year!! :) ) As parents we do as much as we can humanly do to not only prepare our children for this, but ourselves as well. We go clothes shopping and shoe shopping to make sure they are as comfortable as they can be, we want our children to be happy, right? We give them new hair cuts to give them a fresh new feeling, because we want them to feel good about themselves, yes?  We also load them up on school supplies, backpacks and 1,000 other knick-knacks because we always want our children to be prepared. Then the night before the first day of school arrives and you pack their lunch. Let me ask you this, how many of you did a "back to school" grocery trip? Let me explain.
                At this point in time I am packing lunches year round. My children are still quite young and when I am working they are in childcare. They have to have lunches and snacks packed when this happens, and I need to be prepared for it. A few things I like to have on hand include easy to eat protein foods; red beans, cheese, peanut butter or chicken bits. I try to have as much fresh fruit and veggies as possible, like carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber or apples. Frozen veggies are always a good standby, peas, mixed, or broccoli can be thawed and added to a lunch box pretty quickly. In my experience children will eat whatever they are fed from the beginning. My 14 month old is extremely picky, but I just continue to offer her good choices knowing one day she will know no other way. The key seems to be trying to offer a variety and being consistent. Their taste buds are always changing so you never know when that day will come when she smiles and eats green beans happily, instead of throwing them on the floor!
                  I divide my time between working at home and working in an early childhood center for children from 18 months to preschool, and I have seen thousands of lunches come through. I must say that for the most part parents pack some very healthy lunches, with 3-4 great choices. But there are a few that just makes you think, what was that parent thinking? To give you an idea of what I am talking about, here's a sample of what I've seen. Fluff sandwiches, artificially colored cheese crackers, gummy fruit snacks, cookies, cupcakes, brownies, yogurt that is neon in color, and microwavable "baby" food, that, I'm sorry, smells revolting!! Now don't get me wrong, anything is fine in moderation and my children enjoy goldfish and graham crackers. The point I am trying to make is why do we spend all sorts of time, energy and money and making our kids feel and look good, but forget about the importance of fueling their body? What we pack in their lunchboxes is so important, and I hope that every parent thinks twice this year before they throw in some processed crackers before adding a banana.
                 I have included some information on the new "food plate", which has replaced the old food pyramid. I hope you all find it as helpful as I have, I think many people will find this much easier to work into their lives. Happy Eating everyone!!

The new food pyramid is a circle.
The feds have ditched the age-old triangular guide to eating well in favor of a circular plate they hope diners will load up with fruits and veggies.
"As long as they're half full of fruits and vegetables and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we're golden," said First Lady Michelle Obama, who helped unveil the new icon Thursday.
The simple white plate is paired with a smaller white plate that the feds say is reserved for dairy, such as a cup of milk or a container for yogurt.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Welcome to my blog!

            I am so excited to post my very first blog and begin what I hope will be a long and memorable experience. In my blogs I hope to accomplish several different things. As a mom of three, and an early childhood educator, I am always looking for a fun new craft to do on a rainy day, or some great homemade holiday decorations. I am excited to share what I know with others interested in the same thing! I hope my blog is a place where others will also share what they love to do with their families, because everything that I know I have learned from someone else!

           Another area I will explore in this blog is thoughts and ideas on living a "greener" life.  My husband and I have really made an effort this year to turn our home into the most natural, safe environment we can, making small changes every month. One of our biggest changes was switching where we buy all of our household products, from all toxic chemicals to all natural cleaners from an incredible wellness company, Melaleuca. We have also cut out all artificial colors, as our son has terrible allergic reactions to food that contains them.  Little things, like making as much of our food as we can and using safe products in the home, are things I have learned from others, and because they have made such an incredible impact in my life I feel it is my responsibility to share what I learn with others. It is my sincere hope that I can help someone else feel as good as I do in knowing you are doing everything in your power to give your children the best environment you can.
           In addition to that I am looking forward to sharing information I learn about healthy eating and fun cooking ideas to do with (or without) your children!  For instance I just discovered making Kale chips, and now they are our every Wednesday treat! My kids love how they just melt in your mouth, and the crunchy, flakiness of them, and I really encourage all of you to try it at least once! My step-daughter, who is my oldest at 5 (almost 6, a week to go!) has to be one of the pickiest I have ever encountered. I made the chips one day after we visited a local farmer's market, and I swear she LOVES them! To make them is so simple and the benefits of Kale are never ending! I have included a bit about the power food at the end of this blog, so you can get a good idea of the incredible value of this food. To make kale chips:
I recommend using Kale that is curly at the tips, which tends to be darker purple in color. Start by pre heating your oven to 350.  Simply pull apart the leaves from the stem, ripping it into bite size pieces. Make sure not to include any of the stem on your baking tray.   Once you have your baking sheet covered with pieces of the leaf, drizzle with olive oil. I usually give the leaves a little toss to fully mix the oil throughout. Sprinkle with either regular salt or sea salt, and bake for 10 minutes. Voila! You have just made the healthiest, not to mention easiest and quickest, snack your kids will go nuts for, I promise!!

What Is Kale - Super Vegetable For Optimal Health