Month: January 2011

Healthful Mondays: It’s okay to say no

 - by Sarah Lipoff

*this picture really doesn’t have much to do with this post, but I do love cupcakes and couldn’t resist.

It has been a long time coming. I’m happy with my life. I’m glad with what I’m doing and how I got here. I haven’t used anyone to get ahead, talked nasty, or trash-talked. And, along with that, I’ve gained a new life.

And, with that new life, I’ve learned how to say “no.”

I once had someone who I really respected (at that time) tell me that she wasn’t willing to continue working with me because I didn’t follow her lead – didn’t fit into her mold. I was so hurt by her comments because I had put so much trust in her, so much time. Then, my husband told me it was time to let go. That it was okay to say “no.”

And I did

And everything changed

I still have a really hard time saying “no” to adults. I have no problem telling my child “no” when the time is right. I think I understand that saying “no” to a child is something that only needs to be done in situations of emergency or extreme importance and it is not to be over used. But, when it comes to looking an adult in the eye and saying “no” – even a sugar-coated “no” – is still a bit hard for me.

You see, the guilt factor comes into play. Who am I to say “no” to a friend in need – that really could help themselves? How can I say “no” to someone who needs some extra time (which I know may end up taking all my time). What am I thinking saying “no” in the first place, right? I should be able to accommodate, help, assist, provide, entertain, and lend a helping hand to anyone who needs it, right?! RIGHT???!!!

No. I can’t.

And I won’t.

Sometimes tough love is the best love. This is hard to stick by, but sometimes offering no help is the best help. Sometimes it’s best to put first what is the most important, and sometimes that is you. You come first, and then whatever you find important next, and then next, and then next.

Hey, friends are great and all, but my family is definitely at the top of my list. I have to say “no” when they are put in harm’s way or when my time is going to be wasted. I have to say “no” when I think I may not be the best person to offer help, but that a professional or other loved ones may be better. I have to say “no” when I know by saying “yes” I will be led down a path that will drag me down down down into a bad place. I have to say “no” when I don’t think I am being asked to help for the right reasons.

So, the other day when another situation arose where I would’ve usually said “yes” (and there would have been bad results and things would have gone awry and I would’ve eventually become too involved and sucked in and ended up in a bad way), I said “no.”

And, everything is just fine, the world didn’t implode, things didn’t fall from the sky, and I went on with my day.

It’s okay to say “no.”

Fine art for kids: Boxing with Louise Nevelson

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Sarah Lipoff 2011

I’m not going to lie. Louise Nevelson is one of my favorite artists. I remember when my somewhat crazy-lady high-school art teacher shared pictures of her sculptures and I thought they were so interesting but yet so simple. Then she showed us these amazing pictures of her and I was totally hooked. Nevelson’s sculptures are really compelling and different and I love the compartmentalization of her work. Her artworks are a total package – a box full of fun. She painted these boxes of stuff one color, which causes the viewer to look deeper and notice shapes, textures, lines, and balance. And, Louise Nevelson was a bit crazy-lady herself, which makes her art even more cool.

So, when I came across an empty soap box the other day, Louise Nevelson came to mind. I also KNEW there were lots and lots of random bits hanging around the house that could be re-purposed into a great Nevelson inspired artwork. This is a great art activity for kids of all ages – even the wee tots! All you need are a box, some random stuff, glue, and black or white paint!

Start by sending your child on a scavenger hunt around the house searching for puzzle pieces that don’t have puzzles, buttons, beads, feathers, blocks, small toys, bottle caps – pretty much anything small and interesting that no longer has a home (or you are sick of stepping on because it just never gets put away).

Invite your child to place all the objects she found on your work table and pick the ones that have neat lines, shapes or textures. This is a great opportunity to talk about shapes – if they are organic or geometric – and discuss what texture is and how all her interesting objects feel.

Share some pictures of Louise Nevelson’s artwork with your child so she can see what her motivation is. Take a minute or two to talk about all the things your child sees in Nevelson’s artwork along with asking what she thinks about her creations.

Now offer your child the box and encourage her to place those found objects within the box, creating an exciting composition – just like Louise Nevelson! She can also think about balance (how things look within her composition) and if things are symmetrical or asymmetrical to create harmony, which causes the eye to move comfortably across the artwork.

Give your child a bottle of glue and let her stick her items to the bottom of the box. Encourage her to use a small amount of glue so there aren’t big-ol-globs of glue all over the place. And, if you’ve got an older kid, she can wield the glue-gun and really get those items stuck in place.

If you used glue, let your box dry overnight before painting. But, if you hot-glued, you’re good to go. Get out your black or white tempera paint and cover your work area before painting – and the child! Put some paint in a container, give the kid a brush, and paint that box of fun!

Your child’s finished Louise Nevelson box sculpture can be proudly displayed somewhere for everyone to enjoy!

Super snacks

 - by Sarah Lipoff

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

I’ve got a secret. I’m a Green Bay Packers fan. Yes, some of you already know this, but for the rest of you, this may be a bit of a shock. Yes, I like football. No, I don’t really get into it if the Packers aren’t playing. But, when there is a Packers game on – I’m screaming at the TV just like the rest of ‘em. After the big win last week against Da-Beeeeeuhrs, I’m out-of-my-mind excited about the Super Bowl!

And, along with being pumped about watching the Super Bowl, I’m ecstatic about cooking up some goodies to enjoy while watching the game. There’s going to be cheese, cheese, and MORE CHEESE!

Well, maybe I need to cut back on some of that cheese….

I’m always looking for healthy ways to eat nasty foods. If I can put a spin on cupcakes to make them healthy and tasty, I’ll try it. If I find a recipe that says it cuts the calories in chicken parmesan, I’m going to make it.  And, if I can come up with a way to make my Super Bowl snacks heart-healthy, you know I’m going to do it!

My husband’s side of the family hasn’t been so lucky when it comes to matters of the heart. I’m really proud of him for making heart happy lifestyle changes and am always looking for ways to keep our food heart-healthy, too (yes, even snacks for the Super Bowl) because I love him and can’t imagine life without him, or how I would pay the bills – but more so the part about living life without him.

I came across a wonderful collection of ideas for getting heart healthy today from the Motherboard, which also inspired an idea for a tasty and healthy Super Bowl snack! Spiced almonds! Not only are they easy to toss together, you’ll feel great sharing them with your guests knowing you aren’t filling them with fat, fat, fat, and more fat.

(And, yes, I will still be serving cheese, but in smaller amounts than previously planned. I wouldn’t be a good Cheesehead if I didn’t.)

What you need

2-cups whole unsalted almonds

2-teaspoons vinaigrette (your favorite kind is great)

1-teaspoon cumin

1/2-teaspoon salt

1/2-teaspoon sugar

1/4-teaspoon paprika

1/4-teaspoon garlic powder

Dash of pepper

What you do

Go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Toss the almonds in your vinaigrette in a mixing bowl making sure they are evenly coated. I like using an Italian or a garlic based vinaigrette (yum) but you can use olive or veggie oil, too. Not only are almonds packed with protein, they are full of fancy-shmancy things (beta-sisterol stigmasterol and campesterol), which are really heart-healthy!

Add all the spices to the almonds and stir. These spices will coat those almonds with all their tastiness, and are also a great way to keep your heart happy, too! And, hey, if you really like rosemary, toss 1/4-teaspoon in – or if you want super-spicy almonds, sprinkle in some cayenne. You can tailor the flavor any way you like it!

Cover a sheet tray with parchment paper and evenly distribute those almonds.

Put the whole shebang in the oven and gently stir occasionally until those almonds are all toasty brown – about 20 minutes. And, while those happy almonds are toasting, your house is going to smell amazing!

Let them cool before eating – you don’t want to burn the top of your mouth!

Happy Super Bowl!

(Go Packers!)

What to do when your child sticks something up her nose

 - by Sarah Lipoff

Last night while the wee tot was eating, something seemed to really catch her attention. I was trying to do the dishes, so hadn’t been using my mommy-observational skills, but just knew. I peaked around the corner and saw that she had stopped eating and was doing something pretty special with her finger in connection with her nose. Yeah, she’s really into picking her nose right now (and, yes, tasting it- eeeeeeuwwwww), so figured she was just exploring.

But, then, a couple of minutes later, she was still doing the same thing and was making a weird noise. I figured it was time to stop with the dishes and find out what was really going on.

I checked her out, pulled her finger out of her nose, and asked her what was up. The problem is the wee tot can’t talk yet, so her answer was, “noooes.” I translated her nnnning to be about her nose and took a look.

Yup. She had a bit of carrot bit stuck up her nose.

Awesome.

I decided NOT to panic, I mean, kids shove stuff up their noses all the time, right? I remember while I was teaching preschool we had one little guy that put everything up his nose – peas, beads, halved grapes… But, he was old enough to reason with, so I could usually convince him to blow his nose, dislodging the wonderous item.

No such option here.

I got out the trusty flashlight, gently laid her down and investigated closer. In the process, the babe fell in love with the flashlight – which was a GREAT distraction – and I got out the tweezers. I carefully got in position and, amazingly, dislodged the bit! Then, the minute the wee tot figured out what was going on, she totally freaked out, took a deep breath to scream, and sucked that piece of carrot right back up her nose.

By this point, the husband wasn’t so excited about how things were going. So, I figured a nice warm bath would calm the babe down, and get her out of the hubs’ hair. I also had visions of getting the babe to suck some water up her nose, which might pop that carrot out. I filled the bath, got the daughter in the tub and kept her covered with water. Yeah, I might have encouraged some face-in-water kicking and playing to encourage some water up in that nose, but, no such luck.

While I was drying the wee tot off I had a flash of brilliance! The big bulb syringe! I got it out and after getting the babe all warm and cozy in her jammies, quickly got out that syringe, snuck it up her nose, and sucked! I just knew I’d solved the problem – seriously, carrot bits can’t resist the suction power of the bulb syringe, right?!

No carrot bits.

If she’d only sneeze we’d be set! I pretended sneezing, I pretended blowing my nose, and I even put a bit of pepper in the palm of my hand and waved it under her nose, to which she made a funny face and tottered away.

Nothing.

By this time, the husband was beside himself having to listen to the babe endure all my carrot removal methods, the wee tot was exhausted, and I was out of ideas. So, I gave her a warm bottle, got her in the crib, and shut the door.

I figured I’d be checking on her every four minutes all night to make sure she was still breathing.

UGH.

Right before I tucked myself in for the night, I checked on her and she was breathing just fine. Then, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until 7am when her small little voice called out, “daaaada.”

While I was getting her changed, she sneezed out a big ol-wad of snot – and some chunks of carrot!

HA.

My money tree isn’t growing

 - by Sarah Lipoff

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

It’s that time of year where everyone seems to be extra grumpy, drives like crap, and doesn’t want to spend money on anything. Yup, tax season. The happiest time of year, right?! It’s inevitable that I’ll spend a couple of nights up all hours worrying, dreading, concerning – you know, college fund, retirement, braces, property taxes…..

I’m the first to admit that it’s been a year full of money adventures, from paying for my own health insurance (no more work-y), surviving the first year of mortgage payments, emergency pet care/disaster, and general cash outputted for having a child. I’m feeling a bit money tired.

My money tree isn’t growing. Its growth spurt is over and now it is just sitting in the corner doing not much of anything.

I need to get that tree sprouting happy leaves and shooting new branches. I need to get that tree reaching for the sky and photosynthesizing like crazy.

Let’s be honest. I have no clue when it comes to money matters. In fact (gasp) I don’t have a check book, don’t keep my receipts (unless I can write them off), and (double gasp) have a separate account from my husband – which I sometimes use to hide/save cash. It’s amazing that I’m not over-drafting like crazy with my cash card AND that I actually DO have some money stashed in my super-secret savings account.

But, back to my wonderful money tree. I need to maintain that tree to help make it grow, grow, GROW. I started a conversation over at Momster looking for some real-mom advice, and then came across some great help-my-money-tree-to-grow ideas from the Motherboard that not only provided some realistic money-saving tips, but also ways to save that I hadn’t even thought of!

Like that big-ol-pile of gift cards for stores I don’t really visit? I had no idea there was a site you could swap cards for ones you will really use! I also love the idea of getting outdoors once the weather warms up to walk or bike my errands – especially those near by! Not only will I save a bit of cash, but maybe help my jiggle-in-the-middle! Along with getting ready to ditch the driving, I’m going to start regularly checking my air pressure. I couldn’t believe that under-filled tires could set me back $300-$500 A YEAR! Hello, air pressure gauge – you are my new super-best friend!

Besides learning lots of helpful tips for saving some cash this year, I got out my calendar and added some inspirational notes to keep me on track and motivated to use extra cash to pay off debt instead of silly spending.

Okay, money tree, get growing!

Caillou

 - by Sarah Lipoff

If you aren’t a parent (or grandparent, teacher, or around a young child often) this post won’t make much sense – just a quick note before we get going. I don’t want you to be lost in the crowd or anything.

You see, I can’t stand Caillou. I think I’m not alone in saying that someone needs to take Caillou back behind his colorful cartoon house and tell him a thing or two. I’m not saying his mom and dad aren’t doing a good job or anything, but Caillou is the whiniest, most bothersome, annoyingly crying four-year-old I’ve ever seen. It seems Caillou can’t get through a seven-minute-segment without complaining or crying or just breaking down.

And, my daughter LOVES Caillou.

UGH.

The minute the quirky little theme song comes on (because I didn’t change the channel in time), she screams, “Caaaaaaaayooooooooo!” and parks her little tushy right down in front of the TV. You see, sometimes Caillou comes on right after our favorite show, Sesame Street, and I just don’t get to that remote in time. If I try to change the channel, there’s some pretty serious temper-tantrum action. And, it’s way too early in the morning for that.

I sit here at 8 am this Friday morning writing this while enduring yet another episode of Caillou. Will it be the one where he and mommy take the subway only for him to get to his play date and declare he wants to leave right away to ride the subway again (rude)? Or the episode where he can’t share with his little sister?

Yeah, the show has some cute moments and great learning-through-watching potential, but gosh, that Caillou is annoying.

So, what kid show drives you batty that your kid loves?

Happy Friday, everyone!

Sweet potato quinoa waffles

 - by Sarah Lipoff

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The other day I couldn’t resist baking up a ton of sweet potatoes to enjoy with dinner and feed the babe the next day. The thing is, I really went a bit too crazy with how many I baked and we had sweet potatoes with dinner, the babe had sweet potatoes for lunch, and we even had sweet potatoes with dinner again. And, there were STILL leftovers.

So, I figured we could have them for breakfast, too! I also had some leftover quinoa from a big salad I had made, and decided to toss them together for a tasty breakfast treat – sweet potato quinoa waffles! Who can resist that combo, right? And, super tasty as well as super healthy with all that protein packed quinoa and vitamin filled sweet potato! Serve the warm waffles with a pat of cold butter and drizzle of warm maple syrup as topping – yummmmmmmm.

What you need

1 cup cooked and mashed sweet potato

1 cup cooked quinoa

2 cups flour

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Dash of salt and cinnamon

What you do

Mash together the sweet potato and quinoa in a mixing bowl. One they are blended together well, you can add the brown sugar, dash of salt and cinnamon, and baking powder and give another good mix.

Now you can add the milk, eggs, and oil and get everything all incorporated well. Slowly blend in the flour until nice and smooth.

Start heating up your waffle maker. What, you don’t have one? Well, go out and pick one up. Really. You should have one, even if only to make sweet potato waffles once in a blue moon. You’ll thank me later, I promise.

Coat a paper towel with a drizzle of oil and get your waffle ready for making something tasty by giving it a wipe down.

When your waffle maker is ready, pour about 1/3 cup of the waffle mix into your waffle maker. You’ll find out after the first waffle if your maker likes more or less batter. Every waffle maker is a bit different.

You’ll know your waffles are ready when they are golden brown on the outside and easily release from the waffle maker.

Now that you’ve got a big stack of sweet potato quinoa waffles, all that’s left is to slather on the butter and syrup and (maybe) share with others.

And, hey, these waffles aren’t only for breakfast. They are also fantastic alongside BBQ chicken or underneath a nice pork chop!

My jiggle-in-the-middle

 - by Sarah Lipoff

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

While walking around the house the other day I noticed something unfamiliar. I looked down. Was I pregnant and hadn’t realized it? Had my dryer shrunk my clothes again? Did I put on my husband’s jeans by mistake? Hmmmm. Because all that jiggle and wiggle couldn’t be MY fault.

I reluctantly got out the scale and did a quick weight check.

OUCH.

Yes, the holidays were about a month ago and I admit to not doing much of anything to offset all that eating, drinking and general merriment. But, I eat healthy-tasty-home-cooked-organic-if-I-can-get-it food. Not that unhealthy calorie-laden bad stuff. So, I shouldn’t have this much junk in the trunk taking place.

Well, yeah. I did overindulge here and there. Who doesn’t around the holidays? I’m not looking to be Gisele Bundchen or anything. But I’d love my tummy not to jiggle (when I walk) and my tushy not to have that dimply-thing going on – you know what I’m talking about.

On top of discovering the gelatinous muffin top around my middle, it’s seriously the worst time of year for hitting the neighborhood to sneak in a quick morning jog before the hubs heads to work or enjoy a long walk with the babe in the stroller. It’s pretty rainy and dreary. I’d much rather cuddle up on the couch with a movie, a jar of peanut butter, and a box of crackers (oops, did I say that?).

There’s no excuse. It’s time for a home gym – or some sort of work-out-in-the-home plan. But, how to do that? Especially on a budget, because I’m not going to buy any fancy equipment or anything. My parents had stayed in our guest room/office, which I had spruced up before their visit. There’s no reason why it can’t be a happy, healthy workout space, too!

I enjoy doing yoga and Pilates, so invested in a nice mat and got out the big bouncy exercise ball that had been hiding in the garage. I found an article by my friends over at the Motherboard with some great home-gym suggestions, such as picking up window treatments and some nice plants for your work out space. After I hung the curtains and potted the plants, I got ready to feel the burn.

Here’s the thing, I’m just starting out on this whole home gym thing and am not planning on adding much more to my yoga mat and exercise ball. But, if you are, take into consideration the amount of space and location of your workout spot. Positioning a treadmill in the room above kido doesn’t make naptime a great time to get in a run. Also, home gym equipment takes up space – and is heavy! So, check out the lowdown on how many square feet are adequate for different types of pieces!

For now, I’m enjoying some great yoga and Pilates and hoping that all that stretching, bending, and posing will magically burn the fat off the back of my legs – and obliterate that jiggle-around-my-middle.

We’ll see.

The lonely cat

 - by Sarah Lipoff

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Well, as some of you know, one of our cats recently moved to the Los Gatos hills (really, her ashes are scattered there), leaving our wonderous wee cat, Shasta, behind. Shasta only knew Delilah. She came to us as a kitten from a calico mama and a ferril cat dad. She really took to my husband when we picked her out, which made me mad because she was supposed to be MY cat. But, we still showed up the next day to take her home, helping out a work-mate of mine who didn’t want another litter of strays in her backyard.

Shasta REALLY loved Delilah. Delilah didn’t want anything to do with Shasta. I ended up locking them in the bathroom and walking away one afternoon hoping they’d figure it out.

And, they did.

It’s not like they were inseparable, but they tolerated each other. And, on good days, they enjoyed sleeping on the bed together, bringing way too many mice into the various places we lived, and chasing things about – mainly each other.

When Delilah’s time came, it was hard enough on the hubs and I. But, seriously, the minute we walked in the house after putting Delilah down, the noise that came out of Shasta was the worst thing I think I’ve ever heard.

The worst

I cried so hard that night listening to her yeowling and yeowling while walking about the house.

Well, it’s been a couple of months now, and the husband (surprise!) is the one ready for another cat. I’m still a bit reluctant. You see, even though Shasta isn’t really a big people person, or a lap-cat, or a well-behaved-not-peeing-in-the-corner-when-pissed cat, she’s kinda my cat and I’m worried she’s going to tear another cat to pieces or feel we are trying to replace her.

Yesterday the husband made us stop and look at rescue kittens. I was totally against it. Then, I started understanding. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea (yeah, mom, I know you aren’t excited about this…).

I am not sure how many more days I can take coming home to a cat that hasn’t left the bed, a cat that isn’t eating, a cat that only visits us at night for a short amount of time to then lurks back to the bed to sleep. A cat that happily spent her days playing in the yard, bringing us snakes and defending our yard, which now stares at the walls.

Over the last few weeks, I have shut Shasta out of the house enduring her horrid meowing to be let back in, tossed about countless amounts of string, bottle caps, catnip toys and treats only to watch the child pick the neglected things up and play with them. I’ve offered new food, tasty cooked vitals, and even (gasp) milk.

Nothing.

Well, what would you do?!

The damn cat needs a new friend.

Anyone have advice for me?

Fine art for kids: Collaging with Kandinsky

 - by Sarah Lipoff

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

As an art teacher, I’d normally start out with some catchy information about Wassily Kandinsky, but I’ll save you all the gobbledygook. Kandinsky created colorful creations and was part of a collection of artist considered Fauvists. He also hung with some Impressionists and had his toes in with the Abstract-ers, too. He was also a long-time teacher with his buddy Paul Klee at the Bauhaus.

What I love about Kandinsky’s work is that it is really colorful, which grabs the attention of kids and gets them excited about making art. Older kids can explore the concepts of abstract and color with this activity along with learning more about Kandinsky, while the young ones will enjoy tearing, glueing, and basically making a big mess. Collaging is the art of  pasting a collection of things together to make a finished artwork – so why not use some colorful tissue paper with Kandinsky as inspiration! All you need are paintbrushes, glue, a variety of colors of tissue paper, and a paper.

Start by taking a look at Kandinsky’s work. One of my favorites (and the inspiration for this project) is Fragment 2 for Composition 7. Even if you have a wee tot like I do, they get a kick out of looking at art. You can turn it into a learning opportunity by doing some simple color recognition (what color is that?) or checking out simple shapes. For the older crew, ask engaging questions about the artwork to get kids thinking. Discussing why Kandinsky sometimes used non-representational colors might be a good place to start.

So, once you’ve had your fill of Kandinsky’s creations, get out your materials. It’s a good idea to cover your work area for this activity with a plastic garbage bag or some old newspapers – tissue paper is messy! Your child can help get things ready by grabbing some glue and a couple of paintbrushes, along with a variety of colors of tissue paper.

Slosh together equal amounts of glue and water in a small dish. Don’t go crazy or anything – about a Tablespoon each of water and glue will be more than enough. Your child can help mix the water and glue together with a paintbrush.

Invite your child to start tearing colors of tissue paper. Tearing encourages those itty-bitty muscles in your child’s hands honing her fine-motor skills. If you’ve got a young one (two to five years of age) they can go willy-nilly tearing and then coating with a layer of glue water, but for an older child (six and up) you can encourage her to think about design and balance in her artwork before gluing her tissue pieces down, motivating her analytical left brain to work alongside her creative right brain.

Encourage your child to cover her Kandinsky collage with glue to keep all those colorful tissue pieces in place. Once she’s finished, she can take a final look and decide if any additional color splashes are needed.

Once the collage is dry, you can proudly display the artwork next to a print out of your child’s Kandinsky inspiration for others to see!