The Family Dinner – Stop Blaming Everything Else

drive thruMotherlode, the NY Times family-oriented blog, has recently been posting a series of articles dealing with the idea of celebrating, not loathing, the family dinner.

I stand behind that 100%.

I don’t care if both parents work full-time, family meals should be a time to de-stress after a long day. In fact, even though my mother was the main provider for our family during my childhood, we still sat around a table and ate together EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. Sure, some nights it was my dad who cooked, throwing together hot dogs and green beans. Other nights we got pizza or Chinese. But most of the time my mom would pop something in the oven after work, and we would all sit in the dining room and talk about our days.

From the blog:

We’re trying to do what families have done for hundreds of years: come together to restore our physical and mental energies at the end of the day over a necessary meal. What makes that hard is not that we’re struggling to make a fine béchamel sauce with a baby on one hip. What makes it hard for all families, albeit in different ways, is that we as a society don’t consider family time a priority, and for some of our citizens we scarcely allow their families any consideration at all.

This is something my husband was talking to me about just last night as we shared our own simple dinner together after the baby had been put down for the evening. As much as having a date night allows us to recharge our batteries and have a much needed moment of relaxation, we must also remember that we need to be content and restful in any situation.

That bears repeating: We have to find the peacefulness in any situation!

That’s exactly what my mother would do when she arrived home from work to find hungry children hounding her for food. She would turn on the little purple radio that sat on the kitchen counter, perhaps light a candle, and preheat the oven. Then she’d get into some comfortable clothes and head back into the kitchen to pop some chicken in the oven, or mix up ground beef and taco seasoning for burritos. Like I said, the meals were usually simple, but they were flavorful and always healthy.

If late work schedules, exercise classes, activities, sports practices and homework make taking an hour and a half to prepare and eat a meal together an unbearable challenge, it’s not time in the kitchen that’s the issue.

And herein lies the problem. It’s not even a matter of cooking for many people – it’s a matter of prioritizing the family. The results of decades worth of debate about this topic are frozen food sections overflowing with quick options, many of them even organic and specializing in different dieting lifestyles. But it still takes time to set the table and gather everyone together to eat it. I’ve seen way too many SUVs and Mini Vans barreling down the road with passengers sitting inside and stuffing their faces out of brown paper bags – the modern day feeding trough. It’s just easier when every hour of your day is scheduled, I guess.

If we would like to physically come together with our family and friends at the end of the day, there’s no end to the things that get in our way. Cooking, ambitious or not, is not what stands between parents and a pleasant evening at home.

Most of the family’s with lives that revolve around a tight schedule of demands from work and extracurricular activities may not view dinner as that big of a deal. But it’s one of the most reoccurring memories I have as a child, and I’d wager it’s the same for most other adults, as well. Catching up on the lives of our family – whether it be children, spouses, siblings, or even friends – is mandatory.

Those evening hours around dinner….are what you get, if you can get them. That’s your time together, whether your meal is simple or elaborate.

Puerto Rico – Skip the Resorts to Find the Culture

Lessons Learned while Traveling – 5 Year Anniversary Edition

Typically, my husband and I choose to stay in any town’s historic center when traveling, so that we can explore what makes the place stand apart from every other village and city in the world. On this particular trip, we wanted to go the lounging-by-the-pool, drink-in-hand route, instead.

photo 2That was our first mistake.

But first a bit of back-story. Labor Day will always be preceded by weekend getaway for Jeremy and me. Our anniversary falls at the end of August, making it the perfect time to use that extra day to find a new spot on the map to explore. This year we decided we needed a chance to recharge our batteries, as it were. With only 4 days to make that happen, we jetted off to Puerto Rico since it only takes a minimal amount of points with a Southwest credit card.

Waking the next morning, it didn’t take long to realize we just aren’t long-term lounging-by-the-pool, drink-in-hand people.

photo 5 copyWe had already come to terms with the fact that we aren’t laid-back. Not in that sense, anyway. That first morning in Puerto Rico, we walked along the beach as far as we could go, swam up to the bar and sat in the water with a beachy cocktail, and then finally settled into some lounge chairs and kicked back to read while simply enjoying our time together. But after only a little while of being in the intense Caribbean heat (of which we were mostly in the shade), we had to either get another drink or risk melting right into tropical landscaping that surrounded us.

We did wind up having that second drink, then decided to get all dressed up and go into the Old City for the evening. A $25 dollar cab ride later, we were walking along cobblestone streets and reveling in what we knew we were missing.

photo 5Like every other historic town we visit, our first stop was the cathedral. A truly picturesque wedding was taking place that evening, so we weren’t able to see inside. However, right across the street was an ancient building that had at one time been the cathedral’s convent, but had since been turned into a boutique hotel.

photo 4In fact, after our mega resort, the Hotel El Convento felt like a corner of heaven. Before our trip, I had looked into this hotel – it had even made it to our short list. But without direct beach access and only Queen beds outfitting their adorable guest rooms, I passed them up. What a huge mistake! We promptly asked the front desk attendant if there was any room in the inn for the remainder of our stay, but this hotel – along with each and every other place we checked – was sold out for the weekend.

photo 4 copyBut we explored the hotel’s nooks and crannies anyway, and soon wandered throughout the city looking for the other hotels the helpful attendant had recommended. That’s when we came upon The Gallery Inn. Being familiar with this eclectic hotel due to rave reviews online and in magazines like Travel and Leisure, I knew it was highly sought after. But I didn’t expect to come face-to-face with the hotel owner, an imacumlant woman I took to be hovering in her mid-60s.

She was, in fact, in her early 80s. With silvery blonde hair and a Cockatoo perched upon her right shoulder, she graciously welcomed us into the lobby. She left as quickly as she had appeared, but the lobby attendant let us in on the fact that the sculptures which filled every crevice of the courtyard and lobby were the creation of the owner, who was quite celebrated in Puerto Rico.

photo 1 copyWe both fell in love with Old San Juan, and succumbed to the exorbitant cab fees in order to get there each day. Local unions have not only ensured that cab drivers are paid handsomely for their services, but also that the hotels and resorts will not be implementing shuttle services any time soon.

photo 1That’s not to say we didn’t sit by the pool again during our trip. On the contrary, we enjoyed a few more frozen drinks at the swim-up bar and took many more walks in the sand. The resort next door even had an amazing Airstream that sold nothing but Clicquot – so decadent! But our credit card bill can attest to what really entertained us.

I guess you could say we’re explorers at heart. But sometimes we do fall victim to the touristy cliches!

photo

Where to Stay in Puerto Rico

Hotel El Convento

The Gallery Inn

Villa Herencia Hotel

Da House Hotel

What to Eat in Puerto Rico

Marmalade

El Picoteo in the Hotel El Convento

Casa Cortes Chocobar

Caficultura Coffee Shop

 

 

 

The Only Paleo Bread that Works for Me

I was thrown into the world of preschool parenting this week. There was no gentle nudge, but a well-meaning push sent me into the grocery stores to gather snack items for the children. I think I’ve mentioned that our school alternates families to purchase the week’s snack items. Well, I signed up for the first week, in order to get it over with (and control what my child was putting into his mouth). I’m neurotic, what can I say?

The list was long, and included many things my son wouldn’t be eating. Among those things were crackers, pita bread, and bagels. This was mostly for the lower elementary students, but I know some of it makes it’s way into our toddler class. However, there was one itemswith an asterick beside it – homemade bread. Griffin’s teacher knew we were on a special diet, and was also aware that I liked to cook. So she suggested my bringing in some Paleo bread for the class.

Wonderful, right?!

Except that it’s one thing to make something in the safety and seclusion of your own kitchen, knowing that no matter how it turns out your family will love you. It’s quite another thing to supply grain free bread to strangers and cross your fingers in hopes they don’t think you feed your children nothing but rabbit food and cardboard.

photoSo I spent yesterday baking.

And EVERY SINGLE recipe I tried was a failure. It didn’t matter how good the reviews were or how much the blogger raved about her perfected Paleo bread recipe. It either tasted exactly like scrambled eggs or it refused to rise. One managed to do both. Did I mention the recipe also had to be nut free, as well? With small children devouring my cooking, there was no way I was going to chance an allergic reaction. My own son has never even had nuts.

However, there is one recipe that has never failed me. It takes a bit more effort (which is why I was attempted new recipes in the first place), but it tastes just like homemade bread! Both my husband and my father give this a thumb’s up, which is a testament to just how delicious this stuff really is.

It comes from Sarah over at The Paleo Mom. She remains to be the only source I’ve found for a grain free bread machine recipe that actually rises and tastes like true, homemade bread. Sarah, Thank You, Thank You! The children at my son’s preschool will be thanking you tomorrow, as well!

You can find the Nut-Free Yeast-Based Paleo Bread here,  and check below to see my notes!

Grain-Free, Nut-Free Paleo Bread

  • For the Flaxseed, I have used pre-ground regular flaxseed before, but found it very easy to grind my own golden flaxseed with a coffee grinder.
  • For the Arrowroot Flour, I have had success also using potato flour, or simply doubling up on the Tapioca
  • Raw Pepitas are pumpkin seeds! Measure, then grind in either a coffee grinder or food processor.
  • It can be a little disconcerting not to mix everything together before putting it in the bread machine, but the machine knows what it’s doing! I do generally mix the dry ingredients together before putting them in, because I just can’t put 100% faith in my mom’s 25 year old bread machine.
  • Make sure to follow Sarah’s advice and use a spatula to help kneed the dough!! I did this about once every 5 minutes during the initial kneed cycle.
  • The top of this bread isn’t going to be pretty. Just cut the loaf on it’s side and use the crust to keep the bread fresh.

 

Do you have a bread recipe that actually works? Sometimes Pinterest is great, but I find that I spend more time sifting through the recipes than I do cooking!

Life as Oxymoron

Here I am, writing what has overwhelmingly become a mommy blog, filled with photos of my child and the many milestones he has made.

Box house

Perhaps that’s why I sometimes find myself at a loss for additional words to put onto the screen.

As much as my son completes me, he isn’t the whole of me. There are so many more facets to my being than just the label of “Mommy”. I have only been able to claim that title for less than two years, in fact.

But picking a different theme for this blog would be difficult. Life isn’t about putting things in neat, tidy boxes, as much as we all may try. And while my life is taken up with a toddler for the present, I do (surprisingly) have other thoughts running through my head. For starters, here are some ideas I’ve had when thinking about areas to focus on in the blog :

  • A Paleo Lifestyle – Except that I occasionally cheat
  • Christianity – But I feel myself to be one of the least qualified
  • Travel – With the exception that since having a baby we haven’t left the U.S.
  • Disney – Now here’s an area I know something about! But there’s a very small audience who wants to hear about Paleo-ified Disney food.
  • Natural Living – Although I can’t seem to find a decent natural mascara – among other things – and I’m certainly not leaving that out of my daily routine.

Some blogs focus on one topic – food, a parenting/learning philosophy, a destination. But this just isn’t one of them. I guess I’m too full of opposing interests and desires to ever truly fit into one category. So my goal is to hopefully entertain, no matter the subject. But one thing is for certain – it will all be relevant, because it will all be about my family and myself!

Preschool Has Begun, and So Has My Writing

My tiny little baby started Preschool yesterday. I am so in love with this school, and I think Finn will be, as well!

photo 5For him, this is a time to learn how to play with children, become comfortable with adults other than family members, and explore. The Montessori curriculum is so amazing at fostering independence – even on the first day of school he was setting out his own dishes, being assisted with pouring water, and sitting at a children’s table with others as everyone had a meal.

photo 1

photo 3What this means for me is time to work on my grad school thesis, as well as do a bit of writing for myself! Ah, the freedom of listening to a podcast while writing these words.

Friends, I want to apologize for not making time in this last season. We all get busy, but for me, this is not only a personal journal mixed with a bit of therapy; it’s my creative outlet. It’s also something I need to hold myself accountable for, because I have started projects (such as the 52 project) and then fail to see it through to the end. I refuse to be a person that doesn’t finish the things they start – even if it’s a project on my own blog.

So expect more from me, and more pictures courtesy of his wonderful teacher!

7/52

CrayonsGriffin: You’re such a dreamer. You ponder activities, wanting to perform them just right. When introduced to the crayons, you meticulously began taking each one out and testing the color on paper before moving on to the next. And you’re so great at putting them all back in when the task is completed!

Taking Stock

I’ve hardly had time to sit down and look at the computer screen, much less write something other than Brit Lit papers. But I thought it was high time to get something on the blog besides a weekly (or close to it) portrait of my child.

Chicago7So in this rare moment of down time, I’m checking in with me.

Making : Sentences form Paragraphs
Cooking : Paleo/Primal – tonight it was Chicken and Eggplant Parmesan
Drinking : Mother’s Milk tea and Eberle Cabernet
Reading: The French Lieutenant’s Woman
Wanting: To take pictures that capture each moment as I really see it
Looking: To the present
Playing: Carla Bruni Pandora radio
Wasting: Too much raw milk – 1/2 a gallon is too little, yet a gallon is much too much
Wishing: That the breastfeeding acne would disappear
Enjoying: Large glasses of wine and deep, dark chocolate (no matter how cliche)
Waiting: For sandy baby toes in two weeks’ time
Liking: A few good Irishmen – Yeats, Joyce, and Wilde
Wondering: How I’m going to write a thesis
Loving: Local, organic farmers like the Vincent Family
Hoping: That daylight savings time doesn’t ruin deliciously long naps
Marveling: At the skill of women writers – Bronte, Woolf, Atwood
Needing: To accept the body I now have and all its wonders
Smelling: The cinnamon raisin bagels that were a Pinterest fail (Paleo bagels just may not be in the cards)
Wearing: Yoga pants all day, every day
Following: More blogs than I can keep up with
Noticing: How much I need to express myself through writing
Knowing: I need to be more laid back
Thinking: That that a good haircut is sometimes hard to come by
Feeling: That I need a spring cleaning
Bookmarking: This blog – so much talent
Opening: The door for creativity to rush in
Giggling: At my son’s new-found ability to sing along with me

I have been so inspired by Inked in Color, where I also got the idea for a challenge that allowed me to simplify my life. Looking over this list, it seems I’ve been in need of a few things for myself – not the tangible sort. This was a great exercise to allow me to focus on something other than chores, the little one, or school work. It also made me realize I never posted any pictures from our Valentine’s getaway to Chicago! Enjoy

Chicago6

Chicago3

Chicago5

Chicago4

Chicago

Chicago2