Whole-wheat blueberry muffins

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

I don’t really think of muffins as muffins. They’re just mini-cakes in my world. This makes them so much more fun to eat, and when they are full of healthy ingredients, I don’t feel so bad when I eat more than one (or two). I love blueberry muffins, but often the recipes I try to create super-sweet dry muffins that make me feel like I need a glass of water to wash them down. That’s not my idea of a tasty muffin.

So, the other day I was getting ready to visit a good friend who just moved to a new place. We have kids about the same age, and love getting together, going for a nice walk, and letting the wee tots wobble about. We also have fun sharing tasty treats and each make something different or fun to eat – and hopefully entice the kids with, too!

I figured it was a great opportunity to make a batch of blueberry muffins and do some tweaking to a recipe I’d tried before that was close, but not perfect yet. I think the result was pretty awesome.

And, we ate them all.

Ingredients

5 Tablespoons room temperature butter

1/2 cup plain sugar

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

dash of salt – and, hey, add a good dash of cinnamon, too!

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

3/4 cup plain yogurt

3/4 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen (if you’re using frozen, rinse the blueberries and pat them dry to get rid of any extra liquid)

How to make the tasty mini-cakes

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Start by mixing together the butter and sugars until smooth. Then, incorporate the egg until everything is well blended. You can use a hand mixer, but I find leaving the bits and chunks of butter and sugar adds to the loveliness of the muffins later.

Now, add the baking soda and powder, salt, and cinnamon and give a little mix.

Slowly start adding the whole-wheat flour, along with the yogurt, until they have both been combined. Gently toss in the blueberries and lemon peel and give a couple of final stirs.

Line, or oil, your muffin tin and fill your cups. This recipe makes 12 good-sized muffins, so you should have enough to evenly distribute in your muffin pan.

Pop your muffins in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. They should be toasty brown on the top and when a toothpick is inserted, it should come out dry.

Let the muffins cool for five minutes in the muffin pan, and then remove them and let cool top-side down on a rack before eating.

YUM!

Getting a good night’s sleep

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

There hasn’t been much sleep going on at our house – other than the snoring hubs who seems to be able to slumber through just about anything. It seems the baby’s all mixed up on her sleep routine, which wakes me up, and then the cats are prowling about trying to figure out what’s going on. It’s pushed me to the brink of almost-insanity. Any of you out there (even if you’re not a parent) know how frazzled you are when a decent night’s sleep hasn’t been had. And, my brink of almost-insanity was quickly starting to become total insanity – along with some super-not-so-nice mamma behavior.

I knew it was bad when my mom sent me a concerned email suggesting I might want to look into some solutions for my problem. I started feeling like my “problem” was something else – like I was sneaking cigarettes in the wee hours of the night. I didn’t want to talk about it with others, was quickly becoming withdrawn, slap-happy, and over-caffeinated. I had to agree with mom. Something had to be done.

So, I picked up the trusty computer and did some research. After finding a fun discussion on the Motherboard about where your lack of sleep shows (hello, my patience level!) I discovered an article about Dreaming of Better Sleep. And, ironically, I actually HAD a dream the other night about getting a good night’s sleep. HA.

Well, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. With two-thirds of women not getting enough sleep, you’d think the world would be big mess o-ornery mammas, but somehow we still endure! Luckily, I’m not the type of non-sleeper that’s lying awake fuming over the fact that my hubs is snoring happily next to me or freaking out about work stuff. I wake up because the baby’s crying or the cat is scratching or the hubs biffed me while rolling over.  Then my body seems to think it’s morning – and I start obsessing about the upcoming holidays.

Argh.

So, I decided to try a couple of Family Circle’s suggestions and turned my clock away from the bed while sleeping, picked up some nice sturdy – and dark – curtains, and started a bed-time routine. I almost felt like I was the kid brushing my teeth, closing the curtains, moving the clock and getting tucked in tight. But it actually did the trick. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I also cut back on my alcohol consumption and made a real effort to have dinner ready before super-late o-clock, which helped, too.

These last few nights I’ve slumbered blissfully for almost six-hours of uninterrupted sleep! This means the babe is sleeping better, too. I think she’s feeding off my happy-sleep vibe. Let’s see how long it continues…

I have my fingers crossed!

So, what are your tricks for getting a good night’s sleep, or are you still tossing and turning trying to find solutions?

Fall leaf garland

© Sarah Lipoff

Between fits of screaming, crying, and general temper-tantrums yesterday, the babe and I actually came together to create a fun and cute simple art activity. She isn’t adjusting well to the whole “turn-the-clocks-back” thing and has decided sleeping is no longer essential. I, however, still need a little shut-eye at night and have stood up to her “shoooooes” murmurings at 2 am.

So, after her super-short hour-long nap yesterday, instead of enduring her fits of orneriness, I tossed her in the stroller (while she was uber-crying) and headed out with a determined smile on my face. After a couple of minutes, we both felt better and were ready to enjoy a lovely afternoon walk. The weather was perfect and those leaves were just calling to us to be used in some sort of fun art activity.

I selected some for the babe to hold while we walked and tossed a few under the stroller for later. By the time we headed back to the house, I had a great collection of colorful and local fall leaves. I spread them out on the table and got out the hole punch. My daughter is a bit young to punch holes, but leaves aren’t very thick or tough, so she was able to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze away her frustrations and get a couple of holes in a few of the leaves. I helped her out by putting holes in the rest.

Then, I searched around the house for a length of ribbon hiding somewhere. Once it was discovered, we sat down to thread the leaves with the ribbon to create a special fall garland to be hung along the mantel. Yeah, I did most of the threading, but my daughter sure was caught up trying to get the ribbon through the hole, which is great for building her hand-eye coordination and fine-tuning the small muscles in her hands.

And, it kept her occupied and busy for almost 20 minutes! WIN!

This is also the time of year to dig out all the fun fall books that along with entertaining your wee tot also educate. I came across We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger the other day, and we have tons of fun reading it together. We pretend we’re reaching up to grab the leaves off trees, attempt to say the colors of the fall trees, and then actually head outdoors and GO on a leaf hunt like the kids in the book. All in all a wonderfully fun learning experience. And, the book also introduces kids, in a simple way, to different types of trees and their characteristics. While we finished threading, I gave the book another read, which sure made finding the colors in the leaves in front of us even more fun – and great for my daughter’s color recognition skills!

After we had finished the fall leaf garland and hung it on the mantel to show dada when he got home, we were both ready to enjoy the rest of the evening. And, we both found our new decoration quite nice. In fact, my daughter spent a good amount of time enjoying some imaginary play pretending to make several more garlands to hang on her play kitchen while I quietly observed from the couch loving the show.

Healthful Mondays: CPR

Yesterday I was able to catch up on my CPR and First Aid training. This wasn’t a just-for-fun thing, I need to be certified for teaching, so every couple of years, I get to reacquaint myself with the art of chest compressions and back blows. I’m not going to lie – it’s not the super-funnest way to spend a day, but it IS essential information that everyone should know. EVERYONE.

CPR, or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, is a lifesaving skill that helps keep oxygenated blood pumping through the body when and if the body can’t do it for itself. When someone suffers a heart attack or serious injury, knowing and performing CPR could save a life. When working with kids, the constant concern of a wee tot choking on a grape or needing medical attention after enduring a fall can sometimes be overwhelming. So, staying fresh with first aid skills are also a must.

The American Heart Association has made a couple of changes to the way CPR is started and the original A,B, C or Airway, Breathing, Chest has been changed to C, A, B or Chest Compressions, Airway, then Breathing. This means that instead of starting with checking the airway and then giving rescue breaths, that you begin with checking for signs of life then go right into chest compressions, checking the airway, then rescue breaths. So, not really an amazingly huge change, but it’s a bit different. Here’s the thing. The most important first step is to CALL 911! These people are professionals and aren’t going to lose precious time trying to remember what they’re supposed to do FIRST. Give them a call and then go right into chest compressions, which will help keep blood pumping through the body, hopefully saving the injured person and preventing brain damage.

It’s always a good idea to know what to do in an emergency situation. Choking is one of the greatest hazards for small children. The best way to avoid a choking situation is to not give a child items that could cause choking such as grapes, candy, raisins, gum, loose change, and stopping your child from running with items in their mouth.Basically, there are many many items that are choking hazards, so unless you’re going to watch your babe like a hawk, knowing the basics about back blows and abdominal trusts is a must.

There are lots of locations that will help you learn these valuable skills. Check your local community college or hospital for classes on CPR and First Aid training. It doesn’t cost much to take a class and then you have important knowledge that is beneficial for years to come. Even if you’re not a parent, knowing what to do when someone appears to be having a heart attack – the leading cause of death in adults – is awesome. Especially if it’s a loved one that suffers one right in front of you.

And she said, “no.”

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

Really, I can’t wait until my daughter can chat away with me about her day and all the wonderous things she sees around her. These last few weeks her language has really started to develop and her bouts of screaming, pointing and screaming, and pointing and screaming and then pointing more are less and less. As she’s starting to figure this language thing out I’m becoming a bit sadder and sadder.

You see, there’s something so great about a soft smooshy no-talking back baby. She’s all adorable and cute, and only cries a little bit. She makes these adorably cute smudgy noises that mean nothing and are just for fun. My babe’s totally into singing or yammering to herself without concern. I can listen to that beautifulness for hours.

Then, the language thing got its grips on my wee tot. Most kids start figuring out how to say a couple of simple words around their first birthday – and my babe did start babbling “mama” or “dada” at that time, but she hadn’t figured out the power of those words. So, at that moment when she said “no” and everyone gasped, she mastered the whole “if I say that then I get this” thing. She figured out when she says a word, and it really makes sense, others will go out-of-control crazy.

She said, “no.” And, she said, “no” at the RIGHT time, a time that made sense, a time that others heard and then did a lot of ooohing and ahhhhing along with a whole lot of adoration.

My daughter figured it out and is now a big NO machine. She’s even got this super-cute hand gesture worked out to go along with her “no,” which makes it even more special without being annoying when she sits and says it over and over and over again for 10 minutes straight.

As we venture down this path of language, I’m trying to encourage lots of good words such as “yes” or “help” or “thank you.” But, “NO” is her favorite right now.

I’m okay with that.

At least her new favorite word isn’t “whatever” (or something worse).

Fall leaf napkin rings

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, your festive holiday table can become even more special with the addition of some colorful fall leaf napkin rings. This is a simple project your child of any age can accomplish – you just might have to offer a bigger helping hand with the wee tots. But, have no fear, this is a no-fail project that requires art materials you probably have around the house!

No one wants bits of dried leaves in their green bean casserole or tasty mashed potatoes, so using colorful tissue paper for the outside of the napkin rings is a great solution. And, before you toss that cardboard paper towel or toilet roll, it can be transformed into a napkin ring! With the addition of some beautifully positioned leaf prints, you’ve got a winner of a fall leaf project and a way for your kids to get in on the fun of decorating for the holidays!

Start by inviting your child to help cut the toilet or paper towel rolls into 2-inch sections. Cutting encourages your child’s fine-motor skills, which are beneficial for his ability to hold small objects or use a pencil to do all that writing.

Head outside and spend some time walking about the yard or neighborhood looking for great fall leaves that are filled with color. Your child can bring a little bag or container to collect his leaves, and you can both enjoy a bit of quality time together in the fresh autumnal air!

Once you get home, spread those fall leaves all around a work space. Get out some tissue paper and encourage your child to select colors that match with the colors of the fall leaves he just collected.

Now he can tear the tissue paper into little bits. Tearing paper is another great way to encourage your child’s fine motor skills, once again building up those wee muscles in his hands!

Mix together equal amounts of water and plain-old glue (about a teaspoon of each) to create a nice wash your child can use to slather all over those bits of tissue paper around the cut piece of toilet paper roll. Encourage him to keep layering, which will create a nice and colorful napkin ring.

Set the covered roll aside and have your child keep working to create a set on tissue paper rings. Let them fully dry overnight, or at least for two to three hours.

Now your child can select a couple of his favorite small leaves to use for embellishing his colorful napkin rings. All he needs to do is paint over his selected leaf with black paint and then press onto the outside of the napkin ring! It’s that simple!

Once the napkin rings are dry, he can help put a napkin through the ring and place them on the table to enjoy during the next holiday dinner!

Happy fall!

Healthful Mondays: The importance of imaginary play

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

Well, yesterday was Halloween, and out daughter didn’t have a clue. But, just like every other parent out there, we scrambled to find a costume that she would actually wear (and not tear off the minute we put it on her) to parade her around while gathering candy we would hide from her and actually end up eating ourselves.

The thing is, Halloween is a big day for dress up. Dressing up is a big part of imaginary play – and imaginary play is a super-big part of growing up. We as adults even do a little dressing up here and there. That power-suite you wear not only looks good, but helps you feel the part, doesn’t it? And, for a child, dressing up gives her budding brain an opportunity to imagine situations other than her own reality and explore problem solving and role-playing.

Due to spending most of the month of October dealing with a sick kid, I was a bit lacking on the costume front. But, I did dig out a doggy jacket that a dear friend had given me as a baby shower gift and some face paint. Within seconds a wee puppy dog had emerged and was ready for a Halloween adventure. We have friends that invited us over to see what would happen when you take a couple of 22-month-olds out on the street to knock on doors asking for candy.

And, what we got was a ton of cuteness! My wee tot tossed out a couple ruff-ruffs here and there – and even found a puppy who wanted to help her be a real dog!

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

As we are getting ready to head out the door this morning, my daughter already has on her doggy jacket and is walking around the house emitting ruff-ruffs at the cat and the hubs.

I’m sure they wont mind a puppy dog a preschool today, right?