Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Better to Give Than to Receive...

...especially when your house is overflowing with stuff!

I need your help. Olivia's 5th birthday is coming up and I bet her relatives are going to start asking me for gift requests/suggestions. She has a lot of "stuff" and doesn't need any more. Some of it was cheaply made and broke quickly. A lot of it she just doesn't play with or use. I'd like to avoid these kinds of gifts.

I've got a few ideas but could use more. We like to go to the zoo, so I thought a zoo pass would make a good suggestion. If we had museums around here, passes to those would be nice, too. We've got a library card. I should find out what plays and/or musicals are coming up at our college and community theaters. Maybe ask for tickets to those?

Olivia loves to get mail. She has a subscription to Ranger Rick, but I thought about suggesting subscriptions to other children's magazines. When we get through with them we can donate them to the library or give them to another child (like my niece!).

Other ideas? I can't stop my family from bringing gifts, but maybe I can give them some carefully chosen ideas so we don't amass any more junk.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Into the Mouths of Babes

If you're like me, you pay attention to what you feed your children. For those of you who'd like natural alternatives to over-the-counter teething medicines, here are some things to try.

- Soak a wash cloth in water or chamomile tea and freeze it. Let your little one chew on it. (Don't throw away the tea bag! See below.)

- After making chamomile tea, let the tea bag cool, then let your little one chew on it.

- Mix 1 drop of tea tree oil in a glass of water, then rub on gums.

- Get a Baltic amber teething necklace for your little one to wear. Although it is a teething necklace, it is NOT to be chewed on! It just needs to be next to baby's skin.

- Dilute 1 drop of clove oil in 1-2 tablespoons of a carrier oil such as almond oil (or other edible oil). My father-in-law mixed some for Jesse in grapeseed oil. Clove oil must be diluted because it is STRONG and can burn when applied full-strength.

- Let your little one gum on cold fruits or veggies. My mother-in-law gave her kids carrots to gnaw on until they had teeth that hit (because then they could bite off a chunk of carrot and choke).

- I just read about pickles for teething. Apparently the cold and the vinegar soothe the gums. I don't know what's in store-bought pickles, so you may not want to try this unless you make your own pickles. By the way, homemade pickles taste better than store-bought anyway (big surprise, right?).

- Wrap an ice cube or crushed ice in a handkerchief, wash cloth, or cheesecloth. Tie it closed or use a rubber band. If you use a rubber band, watch carefully in case it breaks.

You'll probably find that what works best for you may not be what works best for your neighbor. Jesse loves to chew on ice now (he's 17 months old) but didn't like to when he was younger. I think it was too cold for him. So wrapping an ice cube in a wash cloth didn't do much for us. Our favorite was the clove oil diluted in grapeseed oil.

These ideas should get you started. Hopefully at least one will help!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Olivia may not look much like me, but she is definitely my child. Sometimes she says things and I feel like I'm listening to myself. I've noticed we both use "otherwise" quite a bit. Olivia also breastfeeds her baby doll. The doll sleeps in Olivia's bed or in a crib nearby. She also has a sling to carry her baby.

She sees lots of candy and cereal at the store that she wants me to buy. Sometimes it's something I don't mind getting, but more often than not I have to tell her "that has lots of artificial flavors and colors in it." The other day I heard her ask my parents if their bread had articifial flavors and colors in it. I couldn't help laughing!

We had to replace our shower recently because it was leaking. My husband took the pieces of the old one outside and was wondering what to do with them. Olivia told him he should recycle them.

Like me (and her daddy), Olivia loves books. For the past couple of years we've been going to the library almost every week and checking out around 8 to 15 books. Saturday I checked out about a dozen for her. We returned close to half of them this evening because we'd already read them several times (in just 3 days!). I remember one day (a while ago) Olivia was supposed to be taking a nap. I went to check on her and she had fallen asleep in a pile of books. There were probably a dozen on her bed and on the floor. I went straight to the living room and told hubby she is definitely our child and sent him to have a look. Then I took a picture. I've got it around here somewhere...

For better or worse, kids are sponges that soak up our speech and behaviors. We would do well to remember this. I want my children to grow up thinking breastfeeding is normal. I want recycling to be second nature to them. I want them to love books and learning. I want them to be patient with and kind to others. It will be much easier to teach them these values (and others) if I practice them myself.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gluten-Free Gluttony

My post is a bit late this week because I had to go out of town for a funeral :(

I've seen gluten-free products on the shelf but never paid much attention to them. Recently my father-in-law started a gluten-free diet, so I've been noticing them more. He's found some cereal and bread that fit into his gluten-free diet, but was lamenting that he doesn't have any "goodies" to eat. He had bought a package of wheat-free Newman-O's but apparently they're not gluten-free. Olivia and I wanted to make him some cookies, but all my recipes call for flour. So the other day I bought some gluten-free all-purpose baking flour. I substituted it in one of my favorite cookie recipes and it worked pretty well. The cookies were a little crumbly (no gluten to hold them together!), but they tasted great! By the way, I made some gravy with the gluten-free flour since he was having dinner with us and it made excellent gravy.

There are desserts that are flourless, like custard, ice cream, and fudge. The Healthy Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe I posted earlier is gluten-free. But sometimes you just crave warm cookies and a glass of cold milk. Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.

Nutmeg Meltaways
Taste of Home
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour (the original recipe calls for regular flour)
3/4 cup ground almonds (about 3 ounces), toasted
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar, and vanilla. Gradually add flour; mix well. Stir in almonds. Shape into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 300 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Combine confectioners' sugar and nutmeg. Gently roll cooled cookies in sugar mixture.
Note: If using gluten-free flour, the cookies will be VERY fragile. Handle with care!

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
(I forgot about this recipe until today.)
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda

In a mixing bowl, cream peanut butter and sugar. Add egg and soda and mix for 2 minutes. Roll into walnut-sized balls and place on a buttered cookie sheet. Create a criss-cross pattern with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.