Strawberries, asparagus and steak on the barbeque…

Must be a long weekend!  And the first of the “Summer” for those of us here in Canada…the first of many evenings on the deck or at the cottage or the cabin or the chalet (as I have learned these words could all be referring to exactly the same building just in different parts of the country…depending on whether you are in Ontario, BC or Quebec)  If you have a different word and you are from a different part of the country, help me out!
Here on the West Coast, the sun teased us on Friday and then went away somewhere for the rest of the weekend, making a return after lunch today.  And coming out to shine in full force just in time for everyone to head back to work.  Oh well.
Rob took advantage of this afternoon’s sunshine and took the kids kayaking (altho they decided to swim instead!  Brrrrrr!  Duncan came home and jumped into the shower to warm up!).  The big girls were out with friends, so I took advantage of an empty house…and baked and filled the table with salads, all so I don’t have to cook tomorrow (and maybe even the day after that!).  Well, in reality, it means that Rob doesn’t have to cook tomorrow, since I have a course on Tuesday nights until the middle of June.  “Partnerships in Addressing Challenging Behaviour” is the title and I am very pleased to say that I am learning a lot (the first course I have taken in the last six years that I don’t spend a good part of each class feeling like I could teach it..However, I am realising that once I know the material, I actually could teach this one too, but I am too lazy right now to go and do a masters and entitle myself to actually do that so I stay quiet).

What did I make?  See for yourself…

 First, we put the mixer to work, making two big batches of cookies…ginger-spice-cookies from an earlier post, as well as peanut-butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies 
from the Brown Eyed Baker.  The only change I made to the Peanut butter oatmeal recipe was I added a full cup of rolled oats and I used spelt flour.  They were a hit (yes, they are almost all gone!).  I would highly recommend this recipe.  A great lunch box cookie (oh, I also used the 1 tbsp scoop, not the 3 tbsp scoop, so I got more cookies but they are still super yummy!).

…Then I made some salads, ’cause, well, it is supposed to feel like salad weather and not soup weather, so until it does, we will just pretend (if we all wish hard enough the good weather will come!  I believe this).
Santa Fe Salad from the Best of Bridge, as well as my own version of the old picnic standby : 3 Bean salad.

 3 Bean Salad (and some corn)

1 can (500ml) of red kidney beans,  drained and rinsed twice
1 can (500ml) romano beans or chick peas (same as above)
2 cups frozen green beans, rinsed and thawed, but not cooked (or yellow beans but I think the green ones are prettier)…In season, I use fresh and blanch them first.
1 red or yellow pepper, chopped fine
half a red onion, chopped fine, or 7-8 green onions, chopped small
1 can baby corn, rinsed and drained and rinsed again.  I used to use regular corn, but my kids love to see the baby corn in the salad (and it means that they eat it!)

Combine all in bowl.
Make dressing:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
a couple of pinches of salt
a couple of grinds of pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Mix these all together with a wire whisk.  Add 1/4 cup or so of canola oil while whisking.  Pour over waiting salad.  Let sit about 15 mintes (or in the fridge overnight) before serving.

3 Bean Salad with corn

And a few other things hit the menu that didn’t require quite the same prep…Like asparagus, strawberries and steak.  Oh and a drink for me!

This is my favourite way to prepare asparagus (before he met me, Rob hated asparagus, then he found out how to cook it)…A dose of olive oil (the best you’ve got) in the skillet, get it nice and hot, then add your aspargus (after you flip the steaks for timing) and turn the heat down to medium.  Stick around to toss it frequently and watch the colour.  If you have a mixture of thicknesses in your asparagus, save the smaller ones until halfway through cooking the bigger ones, once your aspargus is bright green, it is done.   A squeeze of lemon before serving and you are all set.

Some Vancouver Island Beef for the BBQ

And for lunch tomorrow, Rob is all set with leftover steak and potatoes and some asparagus.  and we cooked enough steaks for leftovers to have with salad tomorrow.
The kids will be eating chicken wraps with 3 bean salad  and some cookies for dessert!

Happy Packing!


Breast feeding versus Bottle feeding

   It seems like this has a been a hot topic this week.  It caught my attention when I heard part of Brian Goldman’s program on CBC radio one earlier this week, “White Coat, Black Art” .  He was discussing the pressures put on new mothers to nurse their newborns, and that the message they were given was that they were failing as mothers (already!) if they didn’t nurse, but chose to bottle feed with formula instead.  Wow, did that resonate with me.
   We had been to the prenatal classes, and read the books.  And we were not “young” parents, as we were both 31.  We were prepared and my husband and I expected that I would nurse, and that would be the way it would go.  (We also thought we would use cloth diapers, but that is a story for another day).  Nursing was better for both Mother and Baby (and heck, formula was expensive!), so that was the plan.  Well, as most of you know, babies come with their own plans, and nowhere can you find those plans written down anywhere to read ahead of time.  So, we tried.  And we tried.  And we tried.  And because it wasn’t working, the maternity nurses said that we could stay another night at the hospital to get things figured out.  During this time, there were all sorts of hypotheses about why nursing wasn’t working…Maybe the baby was tongue tied?  Maybe there was something wrong with my nipples (yes, they were tired of being grabbed by big nasty maternity nurses and shoved into my baby’s little mouth).  I spent most of those first days in tears, which the maternity nurses wrote off as hormones.
   Our first trip to the Health Unit, the day after coming home from the hospital, and the public health nurse  weighed my little boy.  His weight was down a few ounces since we left the hospital.  More alarm bells!  Had I been feeding him?   How often?  Maybe I should pump.  So she brings out this big honking machine (it was blue) and said that I could borrow it for a few days.  She gave me a quick lesson in how to use it and then went back to focusing on our “lesson” in breast feeding.  More breast-grabbing, and holding my little boy’s head in her vice-like hands.  I hated her already, but had not voice to tell her what I really thought. 
   At home, my m-i-l was encouraging about the pumping, and told me stories about how she had been told “not to nurse” when her first baby was born, but she had anyway.  And it was so good that nursing was what was being encouraged nowadays.

   My own mother arrived two days later, and the first thing she did was send my husband out to buy a case of formula and some bottles.  In that moment, I was angry at her, but I think Rob was relieved.  We were all tired of the screaming baby.  And once I saw my little boy settle down contentedly with a bottle, I was grateful to her.  “You and your sister were bottle fed, and you turned out just fine.  Breast feeding is not the be-all end-all.”  Interestingly enough, once we started the babe on formula, he happily nursed and took the bottle, and started gaining weight, and he stopped screaming so much.  I nursed him until I went back to work when he was 11 months old.  At which point, he decided he didn’t want to nurse when I told him he had to, so he weened himself.
   When he was three and a half months old, we started attending Healthy Beginnings, a drop in program at the Health Unit for moms and babes under 12 months.  We went every Thursday afternoon right after nap.  There, I met some of the most amazing women ever.  Many of them I still see today (and that is 10 years for those of you who are reading this).  We were all first time Mums, and almost all of us were reasonably new in town, or at least we had not grown up in town and therefore didn’t have a tight network of friends right close by.  We became each other’s network and we shared sleeplessness (with someone other than our hubbies), first colds, first foods, labour and delivery stories, and of course, breast feeding experiences.  Especially the stories about the “Breast-feeding Not nice lady” (we have another name for her, but I won’t write it here).  At some point, we had all crossed paths with her.  And we had all been made to feel (by more than one of the PH nurses) that we were failing our children if we were not doing everything in our power to make breast feeding successful.  The facilitator of the group (an early childhood educator) asked us if she could take our comments back to the nurses who worked around her, and we agreed.  I don’t know if it made any difference or not.
   Two years later, when I was getting ready for my daughter to be born, I went out and bought a bottle and a can of formula and put them in my hospital bag.  Not because I wasn’t planning on nursing her (I was), but because I wanted to be in control of the situation and not be manhandled by some bossy nurses (don’t get me wrong, I know many amazing nurses, and our hospital has the best labour and delivery nurses anywhere, but past performance predicts future).  Needless to say, my “delivered in an hour, ten pound, three ounce turkey”, arrived ravenous, latched on in her first 5 minutes in the world, and according to the maternity nurses, “Could have given lessons”.   Still, at 7 days old, the PH nurse had another panic-bossy attack when my babe still hadn’t reached her birth weight (she was only 20 inches long, were we really concerned that she wasn’t back up to 10 pounds?).  Three days later, in the doctor’s office, she was back up over 10 lbs, and my doctor grinned when I vented about the nurses and their bossiness.  He took the weight chart and made a note and then went and faxed it over to the Health unit to satisfy the nurses that I wasn’t a bad mother, and that I had a lovely healthy baby.  Incidently, a few weeks later, at my daughter’s 4 month well-baby check and immunizations, I decided not to share with the nurse that my two year old had already fed her little pieces of sliced ham off of his lunch tray, and she had eaten them!

     There are many things that new mothers are told about the benefits of breast feeding, including how it can effect your child’s health later on in life (reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, etc).  However, you have to remember that if you made a choice to formula feed your baby because it was the best choice for you and your baby, then it is quite likely that you are going to think about what is best for your child in all areas.  Choosing to bottle feed doesn’t condemn your child to a life of fried foods and Saturday morning cartoons, unless you choose those things as well.  My formula-fed child has an incredible imagination, does well at school, is likely the skinniest boy in his class and has a great mind for mathematics and science.  He eats well and gets lots of exercise (and loves video games and the ocean).  My breast-fed child is a voracious reader, loves to perform and spend time with her friends.  She eats just about everything we feed her (including slices of ham!), hates video games and loves bugging her brother. 
  My recommendation is be true to yourself and let your love for your children and your own values guide your decisions.  Do your research, but make sure that you and your children are happy, healthy and loving life, because that is what will get you through.

Happy Packing!

Getting them to the table

   Wow!  Thanks for that!  The busy week seems to have found its way to an end at last.
A little over a week ago, I came across the local Dietitian’s bi-weekly column in one of our town’s free newspapers (you know the ones that come wrapped around all the fliers of those stores hoping to grab your money before you realise you even have it).  As a professional, she is employed by our local health unit to supply services to members of the community on dietary issues.  I always read her column when I see it, and this week it was about supplements for children and how children don’t need them.
Now before I begin, let me say that I have great respect for the profession and having used her support services when dealing with a child or two who has come through my daycare, I can tell you I like her no-nonsense approach to diet and eating (however).  She presented as part of a course I took, and the first thing she said was “When a parent tells you their child will “only eat” Kraft dinner and hot dogs, you know you’re in trouble, not just with the child…”  I am not a dietitian and have relied on more than one dietitian over the years for advice and suggestions.
My own feelings on supplements are that they can play a vital role in filling in the gaps in our diets, and those of our children.  For some, supplements can mean the difference between merely surviving, and thriving.  For others, when paired with a clean, healthy diet full of whole foods like fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, can take their game to the next level.  And for many (both young and older), supplements can be a way to make the break from an unhealthy diet, and pave the way to clean eating.
My big complaint about her article was that all it did was preach at parents not to give their children supplements, and to follow the Canada food guide to assure their children are getting adequate nutrition.  Nowhere does she suggest to parents how to get this nutrition into their children.  Perhaps she means for parents to contact her to get suggestions or that she will continue on in future columns with suggestions, but nowhere does she elude to this.  My experience (as a parent and a care provider) is that parents don’t want to be preached at, they want suggestions they can use right now!
So rather than fill up more space ranting about what she didn’t do…I have a few suggestions of my own…

1. No matter how little they are, make them part of the meal experience. (Okay well, maybe those not yet eating solid food or walking upright can be excused from this one…)  Even the one year old in the family wants to be part of the crowd, even a crowd of two.  There are simple things that little ones can do to support the table setting process: get a little basket for the cutlery and get them to carry it over, or carry the napkins etc).

2. And if your reason for not doing number 1 is because you don’t set the table to eat because you don’t eat at the table, then we will start there…Eat at the table together.  We eat almost every night together at the kitchen table.  And if only two or three of us are present at the “sitting down time” of supper, we sit down together.

3. Turn off the TV…even if it is in the other room (this happens in our house) and you cannot hear it, turn it off.  It distracts from the activity at hand, eating the meal together.  As an adult at the table, watching the TV over your children’s heads while they eat sends a message that it is more important than they are…As I tell my children frequently, “Those people ON the television are working actors, getting paid to make stuff for you to watch on TV, they are NOT watching TV.

4. Make meals with your family in mind…If your children prefer raw veggies to cooked, put out a small dish of raw veggies on the table while you are making dinner.  When you serve the meal, put small amounts of everything on the plates…We have something called “no thank you helpings” at our house…One piece of broccoli, three pieces of cooked carrot, a tablespoon of bean salad…All examples of small helpings.  Larger helpings can seem overwhelming for small children, much easier to give them two mouthfuls of roast beef, and then have them come back for more.

5. DON”T MAKE MORE THAN ONE MEAL.  Feed everyone the same thing.  And yes, the fussy eaters will appear to be “starving” but eventually they figure out that breakfast time is a long time from supper time, and they start eating what is on their plates.  Folks have often commented that my children are such good eaters (well, they are, sometimes, and trust me we have struggled to get there).  But we have always fed them what we were eating.  As a toddler, my daughter called Kalamata olives “grapes”…”More grapes please Daddy!”  My son loved avocado when he was little and now likes guacamole.  Of course, this can backfire too: the first time we introduced them to Crab, we figured they wouldn’t eat it, since they love the little crabs at the beach and of course the big tank at the grocery store.  Uh uh, loved it…Now, if we want to have crab, we have to get one per person.

6. DON”T GIVE UP!  This is the biggest one.  It will get worse before it gets better.  But it will get better.  They will eventually eat (almost) everything you put in front of them…Especially the boys…And once you get the boy eating everything in sight, his sister will decide she is a vegetarian, and turn up her nose at the meat on the table, but  don’t fret about that one because the boy will eat her share, and with any luck, she will be sure and point out that she can eat fish and seafood, and that there should really be more crab on the table.

There will be more suggestions and I promise that they won’t sound nearly so bossy as these ones!

Until then
Happy packing!


A few days "off"

   Much as I would rather be blogging, life requires that I sit down and type away on three reports for the Skating Club AGM being held on Wednesday (after having been rescheduled due to a conflict with the Federal Election here in Canada).  There are also test papers that need to be prepared for our end of season test day (for which I must only oversee and not also “parent over” this time around) being held on Tuesday! 
So as much as I would like to “rant” a little about the dietician’s column in our local paper from the end of last week, it will have to wait until later in this week!

I also have a couple of recipes to share…Stay tuned!

Happy Packing!

A to Z Challenge Reflections Post

   It has been a busy month and by far my favourite “business” has been fullfilling the A to Z challenge.  Planning to take time out each day to write “something” was a real treat.  It was also a learning experience that taught me “I can do this”.  (and I don’t want to think about all the time over the years spent thinking “I don’t have time”).   I did some planning ahead of time, and I am fortunate that my blog has a bit of a theme, and therefore allowed me some structure in my planning.  And I learned that my mother is addicted to “editing”…I love that she emailed me the changes she wanted me to make itemized by line, by post.

   As  a new blogger, I would recommend that challenge experience to anyone.  The main reason is that it forces you to post and then creates a habit of going out and checking out other blogs, where you learn even more about blogging, sending you back to your own blog to tweak things or to try something new the next time you write an entry.  Reading other blogs and following new blogs has been a big part of the pleasure of the last month.  I am nowhere near through all of the participants, but I am still working on it!  Thank you all for sharing part of yourselves with us readers! 

   When I began the challenge, I hoped to increase my “readership” and add some followers, and I did.  I doubled my number of followers and greatly increased my readership.  (I hate to admit that I am a bit of an addict when it comes to checking stats).  Given that before I started writing this blog, no one had really read anything I had written since University, 20 years ago.  Well, other than daycare publications and the skating club newsletter.  Reading feedback from followers and more accomplished fellow bloggers, and hearing feedback from the folks I see who have read what I write is thrilling.  I just hope you are not all going to go away now that the challenge is over.  (and yes, I did dream the other night that I opened my blog one morning to find that there were only 5 followers left… the joy of stress). 

  I am very thankful for the start this challenge has given me as a blogger.  Looking forward to many more posts and new blogs to follow.

And a big big thank you to the hosts of this challenge!  I can say that I have learned something from each of you through the course of the month.

Alex J Cavanaugh
Arlee Bird
Jen Daiker
Jeffrey Beesler
Karen G
Talli Roland
The Misadventrues in Candyland
Stephen Tremp

Happy Blogging!  (er packing!)