So says Sarah…

Marker wash with Morris Louis

Posted in Art Activities for Kids by Sarah Lipoff on 03/16/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Morris Louis isn’t an artist you’ve probably heard of. You probably haven’t seen any of his artworks either – but maybe you have and didn’t realize it. His paintings are so soothing that your eyes just glide around them while leaving a warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy. If Louis Morris’ paintings were blankets, I’d envelope myself in as many as possible and feel complete on so many levels. The color, the blending, the softness, the movement and line….

There’s not much to know about Morris Louis. He was a Washington D.C. native who lived a short life, painted sporadically, and now has artworks in famous museums all over the world. He kept to himself, but rubbed elbows with some of the other Color Field painters in the 1960’s, such as Helen Frankenthaler. Basically, Louis covered an un-primed canvas with lines and spots of watered down paints creating bold and vibrant areas of color, along with dark and moody abstractions. What’s not to love?

Morris Louis was on my mind the other afternoon while the wee tot was drawing and drawing with her markers. She’s all about making long lines with her marking implement, creating these lengthy scribbles of color. So, Louis got me motivated to turn those scribbles into something more.

Just about everyone has a set of markers, paper, and water, so there’s no excuse not to do this fine art activity. And, what’s even better is that a two-year-old can do it. Really. Because mine sure did!

Start by taking a look at examples of Morris Louis’ work. Our inspiration was Untitled A, 1960. The lines of color that blend and bleed into each other really create something special. And, those markers with a little help of some water will do the same thing.

Invite your child to coat a piece of white drawing paper with water under the faucet. You’ve got to use drawing paper – construction paper breaks down and printer paper tears too easily.

Now she can place that dripping-wet paper on a work space that’s good-to-go for an art project. Markers can stain, so either put a piece of cardboard under the paper, or a plastic or paper bag.

Go ahead and offer your child those markers and encourage her to create long lines of colors. The markers will hit that watery paper and blend together just like a Morris Louis painting!

Your child can keep making long lean lines or create areas of color – whatever she prefers. Once the paper is covered, let the creation dry for an hour or so before moving it. This way you won’t tear that really cool artwork.

I happily posted our dry, finished Morris Louis marker wash on the fridge. It sure helps brighten my day!

 

 

My husband and I have separate checking accounts

Posted in About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 03/14/2011

The other day I found myself defending my decision to have my own separate checking account from my husband. Really? And, it was with a total stranger (amazing what happens in the grocery store line). My husband and I have separate checking accounts. We have a joint account, which I really don’t use, and I have my own account with a debit card (no checks) that he doesn’t have access to.

Yup. The hubs and I have separate money stuff.

I’ve had my own checking/savings account for I don’t know how long. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’ve had a job since I could babysit and can save and spend as I see fit. Hey, I’m first to admit that attempting to manage money WITH me would be a serious hazard (I sometimes resort to using my fingers to count…). But, I pay the overdraft fees, no one else.

With that said, I’ve been able to save, save, and save like you can’t believe and not had to worry about the hubs dipping into the stash to pick up the newest and coolest camera equipment. I’ve also been able to take care of bills, purchase loads of groceries (and booze), pay my own health insurance (along with the babe’s), and do some other stuff, without using the hubs and I’s joint account.

I’m proud of that.

Having my own account has been a big part of our relationship. I trust my husband to take care of what he says he’s good to go with, and I take care of the other stuff. About every-other-month we have a mini powwow to discuss how things are going and we give or take bills or things that need to be paid.

And, it works.

Whatever you do in your house is perfect for you. But, in our house, we’ve got our own accounts and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now who wants candy? My treat!

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Chalking with O’Keeffe

Posted in Art Activities for Kids by Sarah Lipoff on 03/13/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

One of my favorite stories about Georgia O’Keeffe is that she would often walk her property in New Mexico with a garden hoe cutting the heads off snakes that got in her way while looking for interesting things to paint. I can’t say if it’s a true story or not, but it sure seems fitting. Georgia O’Keeffe led a long and amazing life. Really. This woman was a true artist – ringing in photography as Alfred Stieglitz’s muse and then continuing on to be a celebrated artist all on her own.

O’Keeffe’s artworks often depict flowers at their best – really close up. She morphed those pretty lilies into things that transported the viewer from looking at a plain-jane flower to looking at something really outstanding. And, it was different. AND, she really was a character. I only have the utmost respect for Georgia and all she created and accomplished.

Well, the other morning at 6:20 am when the wee tot awoke and called, “mamammammamamama,” the sun had a nice warmth to it and there were a couple of flowers that had popped in the pre-spring happiness. It was time to head outdoors and go for a walk, just like Georgia did (hopefully without the snakes – I’ve had enough of those buggers).

So, we went outside and picked a couple of morning glories that had opened on our deck. I figured they were perfect inspiration for our own O’Keeffe inspired flower artwork!

I shared one of my favorite Georgia O’Keeffe paintings with the wee tot that looked just like our morning glories, Purple Petunias, 1925. My daughter oohed and awwed over the cool, cool colors. Often Georgia used sets of either cool or warm colors for her large-scale paintings. The cool colors are blue, green, and purple – colors that make you think of ice and crisp air. Warm colors are red, yellow, and orange, which bring to mind fire, heat, and excitement.

After I put the morning glories in a vase close by for us to look at while we worked, I got out the chalk pastels and a nice big piece of paper. Your child can pick a flower from the yard to use as inspiration, too (or you all can take a trip to your local flower shop to find a special flower for the art activity).

Offer your child a black piece of chalk to outline the shape of the flower and then either use warm or cool colors to color the flower in. She can experiment with layering and blending the pastels on her paper. Encourage her to take her time and think about how to fill her paper with her flower.

My wee tot is a bit young for the whole “taking your time” thing, so I drew an outline and let her go crazy with colors of pastels I handed to her.

When your child is satisfied with her flower, offer a paper towel and let her blend, blend away! This gets a bit messy, so have some fresh, clean paper towels ready to clean up!

Now she can go back in with pastels to add details and additional bursts of color to her O’Keeffe inspired flower!

Once she’s finished, her flower creation can be displayed alongside the flower she used as inspiration so others can take a look at the real thing, and then her close-up rendition.

 

The food tyrant vs. white bean mac-n-cheese

Posted in About Food, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 03/11/2011

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

I don’t know how else to share my total confusion and distress over the fact my daughter will only eat three things – cheese, grapes, and cookies (which are really saltine crackers, but we call them “cookies”). Sometimes oranges or pears take the place of grapes, but pretty much cheese and “cookies” rule. One day my daughter can’t get enough of banana bread, and the the next she turns up her nose. Then she loves peas, and by the next meal they are playthings instead of something to eat.

I’m seriously tired of the dinner battle, which is turning into an unending war. The food tyrant is reigning high on her throne. I’ve shared with you every successful triumph, only to have my hopes of new food adventures dashed the next day.

Humph.

My daughter’s personality is in full shine mode right now, and she can be a stinker at times. Hey, I was at that age, too, so it’s only fair. I wasn’t sure if I could take another night of fresh healthy food being tossed to the floor and wasted. So I resorted to making that blue and orange box of pasta to see what might happen. I was utterly amazed while watching the wee tot shovel it in by the fistful.

Really?

The last three nights have been filled with nothing but mac-n-cheese. I’ve relinquished. If I mess with the original recipe, it gets dashed to the floor.

I’m happy she’s found a new favorite food. I’m not excited about the healthy-ness of the whole shebang. I figured there had to be some sneaky ways to get other things in the babe while she’s fascinated with the orange stuff. With some helpful tips from the Motherboard, I think I found a winner.

WHITE BEAN MAC-N-CHEESE!!!!!

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Ingredients

2 cups dry small shaped pasta

6 cups water

1/2 a red pepper chopped

1 cup white beans

1 Tablespoon butter

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Dash of pepper

How to make the stuff

Start by boiling 6 cups water in a large stockpot. Once everything is bubbling, add the pasta.

While the pasta is boiling away, go ahead and chop half the red pepper and steam in a small saucepan or in the microwave until tender. Red pepper is one of those things your kid may not be super excited about. But, when it’s pureed, she’ll never know it’s in there! And, red pepper is packed with tons of vitamin C and natural fiber – and helps give this mac-n-cheese the perfect orange color!

Now you can open a can of white beans and give them a good drain and rinse. White beans are also full of fiber, healthy protein, and vitamin B, which is great for your child’s budding brain. Go ahead and measure one cup of those little tasties and add them to the blender. Toss in the butter, oil, water, and salt, too.

Put the steamed red pepper in with the rest of the goodies and give a good blend. You want a nice creamy consistency, so if you need to add a bit more water, go for it.

By now your pasta should be ready for draining. You can put the pasta back in the stockpot and cover it with your bean sauce. Toss in the shredded cheese and a good dash of pepper. Gently stir until the cheese has melted and you can’t stand not giving the goodness a taste.

You can eat by the forkful over the pot – just make sure to ladle up a bowl and offer it to your kids, too!

(And, yes, this is the stuff my little food tyrant is noshing on in the picture above.)

Enjoy!

 

Ode to Coco-kitty

Posted in About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 03/10/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Well, these last few nights have been bliss. There hasn’t been any yeowling, scratching, hissing, crying, or lying awake (those last two were about me). It took just about a week, but Coco, our new kitty, has been fully accepted to the household.

Not only is she a cute cat, she’s got a fun personality, too. She was relentless at proving her chasing, batting, and playing skills to impress our other somewhat-reluctant-to-her-presence cat, Shasta. Can you blame Shasta? No. She was still missing her old pal Delilah, but it was time for a new friend.

I followed everyone’s directions and kept the two separated for two days, letting them smell each other through the door, and then the last day, swapped Coco with Shasta, so Coco got to roam the house for a couple of hours while Shasta hung in the guest room.

And, it worked. There’s been some hissing here and there, and lots and lots of bits-o-fur from some small scuttles. But, all in all, Coco-kitty is now a full-fledged part of the family.

All I care about is that the night is silent again, the doors aren’t being scratched to be let outdoors in the middle of the night, and that horrid yeoooowling is over.

Thank you, Coco. Thank. You.

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That’s life

Posted in About Life, About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 03/08/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

These last couple of weeks have had some pretty major ups and downs. I lost a friend, attended his memorial, and offered support and love to his family. While sitting there with my daughter listening to his family and friends share about his life, I couldn’t help from bawling.

It was horrible.

My daughter didn’t get it. My husband kind of got it.

I was bummed.

Every morning I would wake up and say to myself that this would be the day I would be okay. That I wouldn’t catch myself on the verge of tears at some random moment, be tired, overwhelmed, scared shitless…

I lost a friend last year along with a cousin. Both of their deaths caused so much pain and torment. And, during all this I’ve been watching as my daughter is growing and changing and evolving. And, my heart pounds and breaks and then pounds some more.

I have no idea what I would do if something ever happened to her.

But, that’s life. I can’t control what happens around me – just what I’m doing. I can make every day the best day. I can be nice to others, offer support and love when possible, and cherish every special moment around me. I can do my best. I can.

Today was the first day in a long time where I felt a little bit better. That those I’ve lost are still part of my life and can be forever. That I can live and love my loved ones without constantly fearing I might lose them.

Because, that’s life.

 

 

 

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Quinoa scones

Posted in About Food by Sarah Lipoff on 03/07/2011

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Sunday afternoon was dragging, and the wee tot was really hanging on the side of my leg. It seemed I couldn’t do anything without her pulling, grabbing, and whining while wandering around me. I was getting pretty tired of the rain outside, and the hubs and I weren’t feeling like tossing her in the car and heading out for an adventure. So I decided some tasty baking was in order!

I gave my daughter a slice of toast the other day with a barely there coating of strawberry jam and her new favorite word quickly became “toast.” I really can’t have bread around the house (I end up eating half the loaf while standing in the kitchen with slabs of butter hoping no one will catch me). I love quinoa and try to find ways to sneak the uber-healthy grain into everything. I found a basic scone recipe and decided to marry the two – quinoa scones with a dollop of strawberry jam. My wee tot thoroughly enjoyed squishing together the butter and flour and then helping cut circles with the cooking cutter. And, she also added just a little drop of jam to the top of each scone – while enjoying a couple of spoonfuls, too!

Yum.

Ingredients

1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

2 cups flour

1/2 cup cool butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

dash of salt

1/2 teaspoon vinegar

1/2 cup milk

Your favorite kind of jam

How to make them

Measure all your dry ingredients and add them to a bowl and give a good stir. Make sure there aren’t any lumps and bumps. You can also preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a sheet tray with a piece of parchment paper.

Now you can cut up your cool butter and start crumbling the dry ingredients and the butter together. I say ditch the fork method and get busy with your hands! Or, get the kids to wash their hands and have them squish and squash until your dough is the consistency of course crumbs.

Add the quinoa, vinegar, and milk and stir until incorporated. You don’t want to mess around with the dough too much – it makes it more like little bundles of bread instead of little crumbly bundles of goodness!

Turn the dough out onto a lightly dusted work space and gently press and form the dough until it is about 2 inches think. Go ahead and start cutting out scones and putting them on your tray. You can use whatever shape you’d like – and this is another great opportunity to get your kids in the kitchen to help! Just make sure to leave a bit of space between each scone on your sheet pan.

Now make a thumbprint in each scone and fill with a small spoonful of your favorite jam. Once again, wonderful occasion to get the kiddies in the kitchen and scoop and drop their favorite flavor of jam!

Toss the scones in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes. Once they are golden brown and lovely, remove and let cool before eating. Really, make sure to let them cool. Hot jam isn’t great on the tongue!

Enjoy

Watercolor with Warhol

Posted in Art Activities for Kids by Sarah Lipoff on 03/05/2011

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Andy Warhol was kind of crazy. I think that’s what people liked (or didn’t like) about him. He was a bit cooky, hung out with lots of famous people, and made these hyper-modern paintings that used the popular culture that surrounded him. And, with all that nutty behavior and interesting art, Andy Warhol became an icon himself. Along with using repeated imagery, he tied in bright vibrant colors. Warhol often placed complimentary colors next to each other (complimentary colors are located opposite each other on the color wheel – red and green, blue and yellow, orange and purple) to really make things super dramatic. Along with others, such as Roy Lichtenstein, Warhol was part of the exciting Pop Art movement of the 1960’s.

Well, yesterday afternoon, when the wee tot decided she wasn’t going to nap, and I needed to figure out a way to stay sane and get through the afternoon, I figured we may as well create a fun artwork with Warhol as influence. My daughter is just starting to figure out shapes and what they are all about. So, using her favorite shape – a heart – seemed like a fun way to make a repeating, colorful artwork in the style of Warhol! I shared with her some of my favorite Warhol paintings and enjoyed watching her point out all the different things she saw.

First, I divided a 9 by 12-inch piece of white construction into a grid forming six equal sized squares. If you’ve got an older child, she can get out a ruler and pencil and do this for herself, honing her math skills.

Now invite your child to draw the shape she selected in each of the squares, trying to make them all the exact same size. My daughter’s a bit young for drawing her own hearts, so I helped her out with this step by tracing around a heart cookie cutter (which your child could do, too!).

Once she’s drawn her shapes, give your child a black permanent marker to go over her pencil lines. Offer help as needed and keep a watchful eye on that permanent marker – you don’t want it to wander off…

Now get out the watercolor paints and encourage her to paint the inside of each shape a different color. Then, she can paint the outside of the shapes its complimentary color – or use whatever color combination she would like! My wee tot started out strong, but after two or three squares got distracted, so I helped finish her creation.

Your child’s finished Warhol artwork can proudly be displayed in her room – or on her door welcoming others to come on in!

Work+Family=Nuts

Posted in About Life by Sarah Lipoff on 03/04/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

It’s not like I have a big career or anything, but I do work. Along with helping out at my daughter’s preschool, I also do a bit of writing on the side. Yeah, that includes this blog, and I also contribute to a couple of other websites. So, it’s not like I’m heading to the office or anything, but I do have a work-spot in my house (which doubles as a guest room) with a real door. And there are days I have to shut that door so I can get some work done. This means there are times there are people on the other side of the door that aren’t excited about it being shut (child, husband, cats).

Well, too bad. I’ve got to get work done, too. And, taking care of a child IS a full-time job. Really, people. Taking care of a child is a full-time job, even if part of that day is spent at the office.

Parenting is a lot of work.

So, the other night I shut the door because I needed to re-work an article before a deadline. The hubs had just returned from his day at the office – and he went there. He made “the comment.”

You are home all day with the wee tot, couldn’t you find the time to get this done then?

Really?

REALLY? You want to go there?

Yes, there was time during naptime when I could’ve taken a couple of moments to spell check, but dishes and laundry needed to get done. Yes, I could’ve popped the babe in front of Caillou so she could scream “CAIIIILLLLOU” over and over while I attempted to concentrate.

Sure.

Nuts.

I’ll totally admit that I’m stretched a bit thin and his snippy little comment cut deep. But, before I busted out of my work room, I took a deep breath and did a bit of research. I’m not the only one dealing with this. I needed advice – and a little laugh – before talking to the hubs.

Well, it looks like I need to get busy making some lists and start delegating chores around the house. An article from The Motherboard also told me to lower my expectations and “do less.”

HA!

At first these ideas seemed ridiculous (I did laugh for a bit), and then, it all made sense. I should make more lists (I forget everything) and if the husband wants a certain shirt washed, he can do it himself. He’s not that domestically challenged.

I whipped out a pen right then and there and made my first list ever. I titled it:

Ways to Stay Work/Family Sane Now…

1. Pick out clothes for the wee tot the night before so she doesn’t throw a fit over which shoes to wear causing us to end up going places shoeless (I’m tired of the looks).

2. Have husband wash his own coffee mug (seriously, for some reason this totally annoys me each morning, which doesn’t start the day right).

3. Start buying things in bulk so I’m not always running to the grocery store. Really, we have space in the garage to store stuff. And, by the time I get to the grocery store, I’ve forgotten what I’m there for.

4. Spend 30 minutes daily not feeling guilty about feeling guilty. Then, maybe when I sit down to work, I won’t be thinking too much about thinking too much.

5. Get a hair cut regularly. Or say I’m getting a haircut and just go do something for an hour by myself. Because, when I look and feel good I am so much more fun to be around.

I posted the list right next to my computer in my office.

We’ll see how things go.

 

 

Chicken nuggets-o-happiness

Posted in About Food, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 03/02/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Well, a battle was won last night. We’ll see if the winning team comes out ahead tomorrow. But, for tonight, I am claiming victory of the longstanding toss-the-meat-to-the-floor-dinner-time battle II. Victory was had almost a year ago with my pineapple turkey meatballs, but, sadly, it didn’t last long. Within a few short days, meat proteins were quickly tasted, chewed, spit out, and tossed to the floor.

I’d pretty much given up and had even tentatively held up my white flag of defeat, but last night, I had one single little chicken breast waving at me from the freezer. It whispered, “don’t give up on meeeeeee” in this little voice. And then, divine intervention stepped in.

Chicken. Nuggets.

I will admit to having a great love of chicken nuggets from the place that shall not be named during my childhood. I loved those crispy fried pieces of who knows what dipped in that small container of barbecue sauce, or maybe honey. Hmmmmm.

So, I figured I’d concoct my own chicken nuggets-o-happiness that were a bit healthier, and maybe a bit tastier. The one thing that always got to me about those chicken nuggets was that grease flavor. Well, there’s no grease here….

What you need

1 medium raw chicken breast (about 4-6 ounces)

6 crumbled saltine crackers

1 scallion chopped

1 egg yolk

1 Tablespoon plain yogurt

1/4 teaspoon salt

Sprinkle of pepper

Food processor

Dusting of flour

1 Tablespoon vegetable (or olive) oil

Medium sauté pan

What you do

Start by separating an egg and adding the yolk to your food processor. Don’t toss that egg white! Pop it in a baggie and put it in the freezer for something later.

Large dice the chicken breast and add it to the food processor. You can also crumble up your crackers and add them, too.

Sprinkle in the salt and pepper along with the diced scallion. Go ahead and give everything a good whirl in the food processor. Things are going to get a bit lumpy and goopy.

Now add the yogurt and give everything another good blend. Your mixture should resemble the texture of cottage cheese. You want some bits of chicken and all the other stuff, too. This gives the nuggets that flaky texture – not like sausage. So, don’t blend too far. We’re not looking for sludge, people!

Put your sauté pan over medium heat and coat with your oil. While you are waiting for the pan to get hot, use a spoon to scoop out small ovals of the chicken mixture and pat on a plate covered with a dusting of flour.

Once you’ve created about 10 to 12 small oval-ish shaped nuggets, and rolled them in the flour, you can gently place them in the hot sauté pan.

Let those little buggers of tastiness cook for about four to five minutes on each side, or until the outside has turned a lovely golden brown.

I served those chicken nuggets-o-happiness plain, but you could put some barbecue sauce on the side, ketchup, honey – whatever your kids like!

Not only are these tasty, they are good for your kids. And, you might even find yourself sneaking a couple, too!

*This would also be a fun recipe to make with the kiddies. Just remember to wash everyone’s hands before and after working with the raw chicken! No one wants to get sick while making chicken nuggets-o-happiness.