Thursday, January 31, 2013

Baby on Board

He LOVES his helmet and points to his head and his helmet and says "hat" so we will give it to him to wear.
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Monday, January 28, 2013

Exercises to Avoid Injury

I am re-posting this graphic because I don't want to lose it!

It was embedded into an interesting article my brother sent me (I think it was from Men's Fitness- sorry to not be more specific!!) and I love the idea of having some specific exercises that everyone should master in order to avoid injury. Pin It

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Imaginary Play: Blocks into the Zoo

While putting his younger brother down for his nap the other day, I told my preschooler to go build a zoo with blocks.  I came out and he had started, then we worked on it together.

My job was to organize the big blocks and to be the Home Depot Supply Center, and he came to my store and paid a dollar per block for his materials.  He made a few returns, and I made him his change.  We worked on making change and counting, and recalling the zoo attributes, and what animals need to have in their enclosure.

As you can see, the little blocks are the watering hole.  The big blocks are one big enclosure with a covered area and a zookeeper on one side.  This is for nighttime, to keep the animals locked up and safe overnight.  There is a feeding area for the animals, and boulders for them to sit on during the day.

On one side is the place where the people who come to the zoo can view the animals.  There is a ramp for people with strollers to go in, and stairs otherwise.  This viewing area has a tower you can climb up (or hop up) so you can have a better view.

The animals are also in the enclosure.  They are made of pipe cleaners, and there is a giraffe, horse, seahorse, zebra, walrus, and two lions.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kids Book Review: ABC Dentist

We have come a long way in the tooth brushing area in the last couple of months, thanks in large part to the book ABC Dentist and the advice of a few friends (namely, get a book and insist on tooth brushing).  We were intermittent brushers, and now we are religious with both kids, twice (or even three times) daily.  If I forget, they remind me.

In this book, the authors run through the alphabet and use each letter for a dental office item.  The items they choose are relevant and informative, and interesting to my preschooler.  The drawings are realistic and the whole book is just enough to keep us interested but not too scary (we actually reword "Q" for "Questions"-- it gets a bit scary-- and I gloss over "O" for "orthodontist").  This book has helped my older child understand the need for tooth brushing, and he is a great influence in this way for his younger brother.

We use Weleda Children's Tooth Gel for them and they like the mint flavor and I like that it is non-toxic!

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Sensory Play: Beans and Grains in the Bin

This is an IKEA bin (yes, one of our Organization bins, repurposed by the family member shown above) with wheels.  It has been filled with beans and rice, plus nuts in the shell.  There are also measuring cups in there, a bowl, and some containers with lids.  I saw a few items playing hide and seek inside with the kids as well.

Do you want to hear the good news about the above family member, who is now preschool aged? He is mature enough to understand that the bin stays on the kitchen floor and all measuring and playing is to be done over the bin.  He also helps herd his younger brother over the bin and sweep the floor after the littler guy's spills.

It's been a fun toy so far.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Easy Kid Food: Panini Hamburgers

I know it's not super original, but I guess hamburgers are a classic American Kid Food for a reason.  Kids love them, and they are easy and delicious.
We make these often, but the "buns" are a recent addition.  We don't typically eat our hamburgers with buns at home-- they are just served as patties on the plate.  I am not sure about the food combining of meat and complex carbohydrates, and it makes for a thick item for kids to hold in their hands.  They also really like the plain meat, and I'd rather if they fill their bellies with meat and veggies before anything else.
This is the brown rice bread we keep in the
 freezer all the time and used for the "buns" here.
But on this day, we made the burgers on the Panini Press then got rice bread for buns.  We cut it into the right shapes using an upside down cup as a mold/ cookie cutter, then pressed a patty between the slices of bread.

Interestingly, the parts were still eaten separately, but they liked having them served as a unit.  It is a nice use of the Panini Press and some meat ~ for variety.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ice in the Water Table - A California Winter

It has been below freezing at night here in Northern California.

In the photo above, my older son is wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a button up short sleeved shirt, a fleece jacket, a down vest, fleece mittens, fleece balakava, sweatpants, and boots.  The little one is in a sweater and pants, boots, and a fleece balakava and mittens.

We had to go out to explore the thick ice on the water table.

We had emptied it at the end of summer, but the rain filled it up again last month and we let it sit.  Then it has been freezing and melting for a few weeks, and on this day we went to check it out.

The ice was firmly attached to the sides of the table.  And the entire unit was too heavy for us to lift.

On previous mornings, we have been able to knock it off the sides and see the thickness, and munch on the ice.

Below you can see the frost on the grass.

And the frost on the roof is visible below.  Yipes!

Don't worry, though.  Later that day we went out again and it was warmer; warm enough for us to dislodge the ice from the ice table.  It was over an inch thick.

After dislodging it, we happily ate it and hauled it around the yard on the ice hauler before sinking it into a hot bath to watch it float and melt (not pictured).
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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kitchen Item Review: Pasta Strainer - Pour Off Sieve

  This stainless steel pour-off sieve has been incredibly useful not just for pasta, but for steamed veggies.  It is a smaller dish to clean and dry than a colander, and lets you keep the food in the pot while removing the water.

Its downsides are that food sometimes tumbles over the open edge (would be solved by a taller one), and that you often need to hold it on both sides to get the water out and keep it steady.

Overall, this is a nice addition to our kitchen repertoire. Pin It

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bedtime in the .... Bathtub?!?

He gathered all the pillows and organized them to make a nest in the bathtub for book reading time... how cozy!
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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Recipe: Coconut Chocolate Fudge (Primal, Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Vegan, Dairy Free)

Chocolate Coconut Fudge

1 cup cocoa powder
2 cups powdered almonds (ground up almonds or almond flour)
1 cup coconut oil
1 T vanilla
1 t sea salt

Mix in food processor. Refrigerate as desired.  May add honey if desired.

(note: view my inspiration here)

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

12 Min at Home Workouts! How (and Why) to Start High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been said to be the most efficient way to get a workout.  It has been said to be better than cardio for your body, since the intervals keep you working hard and keep the metabolic fire burning.

I first researched and started weightlifting in 2000, and I remember someone at 24 Hour Fitness telling me a story about someone who was disappointed after they had been working out for ten years, since they looked the same as when they had begun.  The punchline is that at least they didn't look ten years older (like their non-exercising peers, who had obviously aged).

In the meantime, I gravitated towards aerobics and group fitness classes of all types, then found Muay Thai and did a bit of crossfit training with it, then found Bikram Yoga, Barre classes, and at-home workouts.  I have always biked for transportation (never for sport) as often as possible, and always have loved swimming for fun and some cardio, as well as preferring to walk whenever possible.  I also cycle in and out of running for exercise, but it usually hurts my knees after a few weeks.  My mode of sweating has had to change as my life has moved locations, I've gotten married and had two kids, and have battled with and against knee pain and back injury.  For me, finding a way to sweat and move my body not only keeps my body running smoothly, but it is a way of meditating and keeping my life in balance.  I like to be strong, and it makes the other parts of my life easier.

I remember someone telling me people work out for their looks, or their health, or for how it feels.  I like to exercise for all three.  

But that is not what this is about.  This is about High Intensity Interval Training.  Twelve Minutes (give or take a couple if you must) of sweating hard and working hard: max effort and max results in the minimum amount of time needed.  I wonder if the Internet had been what it is now back in 2000 if I would have spent so much time in the weight room, or if I would have stopped lifting to pursue other sports.  HIIT is so easy (yet so hard)-- it is a great way to get the workout in but not spend the day doing it.  I used to complain that it took two hours to work out for an hour (half hour to pack a bag and get to the gym, then the workout, then the shower and drive home and unpacking).  Now it takes about 12 minutes to work out for 12 minutes.  Sometimes it takes 20 if you include finding the exercises (so you don't do the same thing every time), getting your gear out, and showering afterwards.

Gear Needed:

Everything is optional.  It is all done at home and you can do all bodyweight exercises.  If you follow someone's website or program (I love which has just changed into and Zuzana, a BodyRock co-founder, does her own and I'm sure there are loads more of these free sites out there), they give you exercises and use or don't use equipment.  You can also read a book like You Are Your Own Gym or The New Rules of Lifting or Turbulence Training or get DVDs from places like Beachbody (but I think their programs are slightly different- I haven't tried them).  

What to Do:

You can read the books to get the exercises then get yourself an interval timer (or download an app) and set it to 50 seconds on and 10 seconds off and choose 4 exercises and repeat them 3 times through for 12 minutes total.  Choose a push, a pull, a leg, and a core exercise and call it a day.  Or do compound exercises to make it harder.  Try different angles and surfaces to make it easier and harder as you get stronger.  Do this 2-4 days per week and call yourself stronger.

What if I don't Want to Think about it?

Then go to The Daily Hiit and follow them and use their workouts! They are great!  The hosts are very enthusiastic and fit, and very encouraging of us at various levels of the fitness journey.  They post workouts every day or so, and have modifications to make them easier (or harder), and you can also start with their Lite series for easier moves and to get a feel for HIIT.  

They will have you buy an interval timer, a set of equalizers, and Ugi ball, and a sandbag.  You can do the workouts without all this stuff-- it's just easier with it.  It's about $300 together and worth the investment.  I have some dumbbells I've had for ages (10-30 pounds), and a stability ball, and some kettlebells I use occasionally, but these are less necessary for the HIIT workouts.  My older son just had me buy 2 pound and 5 pound dumbbells for him and his brother to use so they can join me occasionally when he saw them at Target.  I also have two old yoga mats I use to give me a sense of space in the bedroom: one for me and one for the kids to "work out" on.

Have fun!  Because it is fun.
 Let me know how it goes for you.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Steel Cut Oats to Go (Frozen in Muffin Cups Precooked)

We baked up a huge batch of steel cut oats to freeze in muffin papers so they would be pre-portioned whenever needed.  We did this to keep in the freezer at the little guy's preschool (the teacher gives him his special muffins whenever they serve a snack with sugar in it).  He chose oatmeal over classic "muffins," so I was more than happy to oblige.

First we soaked the oats in water and a splash of apple cider vinegar overnight.  You could also use lemon juice or whey.

Then we brought the pot to a boil and boiled for less than ten minutes, or until they were soft.

Then we mixed them up with some flaxseed meal, chia seeds, and organic pastured butter.

The little guy organized the muffin cups and papers and we portioned it all out.  You can see we used some odd shapes for the ones at home.

Then we left them on the counter to harden for a couple of hours, then transferred into plastic bags and into the freezer.

Perfect for grabbing on the go!
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Organizing the Entry/ Drop Zone

I don't know about you, but at our house we have so many moving parts (bodies!) and each one comes with its own pile of clothing, food, and mail.  Yes, even my 19 month old gets mail (thanks, PJ Library). And with winter clothing, the piles are even bigger!

As the kids have gotten older, our incoming piles have gotten busier and less tidy.  Here are some ideas to help organize that "drop zone" in the entry.

  • Bins by person, tucked under something like a coffee table or bench, or in a row in the hall.   After asking my husband (ahem) again and again to put his coat into the coat closet when he gets home, he finally explained why he won't do it.  He said the closet is by the front door and he comes and goes from the garage.  Our garage entry is too small for a wall coat rack.  So we put out a rolling bin from IKEA for him and he can put his work stuff in it, then we roll it under the coffee table for the night.  And now we can sit on the whole couch.  There is room for two bins under there.
  • Coat rack.   You could do a hanging rack or a classic free standing coat rack in the entry.  Everyone has their own hook, and their clothing goes there.  Bags also go there until they are emptied, or when you are packing to go somewhere.
  • Hanging key place - high up.   We have a row of hooks with a little shelf above it.  Keys go on the hooks the instant you come home, and wallets and sunglasses go on the shelf.  It is too high for little hands to help reorganize, and if the same thing is in the same place every time, you always know where to find it.  Pretty essential concept with lack of sleep and one zillion things to think about at the same time (like why Junior and Junior like to poke each other when it is time to go to the grocery store then burst our giggling). 
  • Wall bins for mail.   This is the same concept of keeping mail from helpers until you have a chance to read it. You could do bins by person, or incoming and outgoing.  We find that if we have the same items in the same place all the time, there is rarely frantic searching.
  • Wall bins for other items~ like the remote or cell phones, iPads, etc.   In the same vein, we hung a little (slightly ugly but immensely useful) plastic wire coated bin and ran a cell phone charger to it.  When not in my pocket, that is where my phone lives.  The remote control (the one that works, not the other 8) and a key for our outdoor shed go there.  The key is tied onto a clip so it has double security there.  iPads could also easily go somewhere like this: in the main room, but out of touch and near a charger.
  • A Designated Shoe Place.   We have a box by the door, and all the shoes go in it when we are coming and going. The kids can reach their shoes, and they always know where they go. It also signals to guests to please remove their shoes.
  • Put things in their places before the next activity.  This is an attitude shift that really helps.  If we put our things away right when we are done using them, right before the next activity, then we can always use the kitchen table and kitchen counter... even if the "next activity" is going to the bathroom.  Piles will stay small, and it is always easier to keep clean and organized then to get clean and organized.  Once a pile is out of control, it is so much harder to manage.

With one area of the house organized, it is so much easier to keep the rest of the house tidy.  I actually find that if my stuff is tidy, it is easier to think and breathe and I feel calmer and more centered.  It did take until my older son was 2+ years before I hit the point of needing to keep the house organized, and the piles in the entry and toy piles do sometimes still get out of control.  But I like having a few key places for things, and keeping on top of things.  Especially now that there are so many more things than ever before. Pin It

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How much does the Xtracycle Edgerunner weigh?

I believe I have mentioned our new Edgerunner by Xtracycle (with homemade child seat). 

This was not the same day I weighed the bike (it has since gotten running boards and I narrowed the Hooptie position).
I decided to weigh it.  I got our bathroom scale and balanced it (diagonally) using the kickback.  It was empty, with the stuff on it that I take every time we ride:

  1. Edgerunner Complete
  2. Water bottle in water bottle cage (full but not that big)
  3. Front homemade bag with phone, sunglasses, and wallet, bell and odometer on handlebars
  4. Homemade child seat and side bag with 2 bananas and bag of beef jerky and 2 sets mittens inside
  5. Freeloader bags with bike lock, lights, spare pants and underwear size 2T, tissues, light cloth sling, and a tiny medical kit stashed inside
  6. Pair heavy duty racks with whatchamacollars installed
  7. Little foot cages on the pedals
  8. Kickback with stance wideners
  9. Hooptie
  10. Running Boards
  11. 3 helmets clipped to the side
It weighed 61.2 pounds.

We weighed our grocery bags and they each weighed approximately 10 pounds each (9.7, 8.2, 11.4, and 13.6).  

So-- a Trader Joe's run to get 4 bags of groceries with both kids (19 mo and 4.5 years and 28 and 43 pounds) is 61+40+28+43= 172 pounds of cargo (without rider weight and including bike weight).

The bike has been really stable with just me and the kids (132 pounds). Reviews of various bikes seem to mention that a lot of the longtails lose a bit of responsiveness around 100 pounds of cargo and I would have to agree with this bike.  It rides great with me and the kids, and after we load on the groceries, I still feel safe and can stop easily and start without falling over but I use the gears a lot more when loaded way up (not unexpected), and it has some wobble in the frame (also not unexpected but still noteworthy).

As an aside, we weighed my husband's regular mountain bike - 31 pounds. So that is how I think I am carrying about 100 pounds of cargo with just me and the kids if it is actually 132 pounds with 61 of bike and 71 of kids.
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Monday, January 14, 2013

20+ Lbs of Cabbage to Jars to Ferment into Various Sauerkrauts

Mandarin, anyone?

 Our CSA told us they had extra mandarins and cabbages, and would sell them to members in 20 pound increments. How could I resist?

Learning to take off his clothes while fermenting.

It took us all day, but we processed 20+ pounds of cabbages into various jars to ferment.
Corollary damage to kitchen during fermentation setup.

 We used a few recipes from Nourishing Traditions but Wild Fermentation and The Joy of Pickling have good recipes, too.

 Basically, each recipe calls for a head of cabbage sliced thinly and 2 T of salt (we use kosher).  Then you pound it and put in jars.  If there are other veggies or spices, they go in before the pounding.  You leave an inch of headspace, and close the jar and leave it on the counter for a few days before putting it in the refrigerator.  I have opened each jar each day to let the juices and air escape, though that's not in the recipe.  They really sit and bubble all day long.

We tried the Cordito (Latin America), which we have made before and LOVED. It is cabbage, salt, carrots, onions, dried oregano, and dried chili flakes.

We also tried the plain sauerkraut, which is cabbage and salt.

We also made Kimchi (Korea): cabbage, onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, radish, chili flakes, and sea salt.

Another we made is Tsukemono (Japan), and it is our first attempt at this one, and I've never eaten it before either. It is cabbage, onions, soy sauce, lemon juice, and sea salt.

So far, they are tasty (Day 2) but all the salt taste hasn't been replaced by sour.

Note you also see the fresh olive experiment in the front of the photos- the green olives are curing in brine which we change weekly (1:10 salt and water by weight) and the black olives are packed in salt and set to drain.  They should be ready in 6-8 weeks from when we started (we are about halfway there).

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Playing on the Xtracycle Edgerunner

The kickback kickstand is so great. It is so stable that the little guy can climb all over the bike and it stays solid- not even a wobble.

(note we also have stance wideners)
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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Plain Pointy Persimmons

It's persimmon season again! This year, the "baby" is 19 months and I actually got him to sit in the high chair for this.  He did need the "kiwi knife," though. This is a knife we have that has a fairly blunt serrated blade and is shaped like a spatula with a wooden handle. We got it at Williams Sonoma, but I didn't know what to search for to find it in their online catalog, so sorry I don't have a link. I have seen them at the grocery store as well.
Remember to make sure they are soft like a water balloon before serving them. 
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Friday, January 11, 2013

Winter Family Cargo Biking Gear

I keep mentioning our new Edgerunner by Xtracycle (with homemade child seat).  Well, it's been about freezing at night and it gets sunny and up to around 50 during the day.  We were out the other day with gloves and puffy down vests over fleece jackets and fleece pants on the kids, and the older one said his face was cold.

So we made neckwarmers and child sized balakavas. We traced each child's profile onto a piece of paper for a pattern, then cut it onto the fabric and stitched it up.  The fleece is double around their neck.

 After the maiden voyage, both decided it was too hot so we put them into the bags on top of the groceries after shopping.

One flew out!
 It was sad.  Our first wind casualty.  I need to do better packing and tucking.

Then we traced daddy's when he got home and made another in about 10 minutes (it had taken all morning to make the others).
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Refrigerator Sitting

What is it about the open refrigerator that is so enticing?  It's 50 degrees outside and 66 inside so I am guessing it's not the cool temperature that draws him in.

Oh, and Hungry Hippos, too.  That game is a magnet.

He backs himself up and likes to sit on the edge, inside the refrigerator.
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Preschooler First Sewing Machine Project

This little one has been begging for labels of his very own.  So I went and got him the same ones I have, the amazing woven ones from Worldwide Label on Etsy.  These are so sturdy and amazing.  I got them with his name on them.  He is so happy with them.  Especially since he is learning to read~ his name in writing is pretty much the coolest thing ever.

So he/ we decided to make a ziploc baggie out of fabric to use the label.  He chose the fabric and we cut it out using a ziploc as a pattern.  He chose a zipper and off we went to the sewing machine.

First we stitched the zipper onto both sides of fabric (he does the stitching and pinning and I do the directing-- there is a way for my sewing machine - Babylock Creative Pro- to be used with a button instead of a foot pedal and he can control it by himself).  Then he pinned and stitched the label in - he decided to do it inside (which is why you don't see it)-- I do a lot of my purse labels inside which is why I guess he has chosen that?? Maybe???).  

The he pinned the edges and sewed it (zipper open) and turned it through the zipper opening.  He LOVES this item. He sees it around and asks me, "who made this?" Then he opens it up and reads his name off the label.  :)
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