So says Sarah…

Veggie-love biscuits

Posted in About Food by Sarah Lipoff on 05/17/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

My child is still quite in love with all things cheese and grapes. We have evolved to blueberries, apples, oranges, and anything with peanut butter and jelly. But, cheese still rules the roost at our house. So, I’m constantly trying to find ways to sneak veggies into her stuff. I’ve even puréed spinach and coated her pasta only to have her point, shake her head, and say, “nope.” I had success with my classic white bean mac-n-cheese for a couple of weeks, but even that little bit of red pepper trips her up.

For some reason my husband came home with a box of Bisquick the other day. I’m not really sure what he was thinking – I don’t think I’ve ever actually used Bisquick before – but I guess he had a hankering for some pancakes. I whipped some up, and was wooed by the wonders of the stuff. And, the wee tot couldn’t get enough of those pancakes, so I figured I might be able to entice her to eat some veg by strategically placing some in that baking mix.

I came up with a tasty – and child tested – veggie biscuit that is just a bit sweet and the perfect amount of savory. They are perfect to toss to the kids for a quick snack or to accompany any dinner. And, they are super easy to put together!

The stuff

1/2 cup grated zucchini

1/4 cup grated carrot

1/4-cup super-small diced red pepper

1/4 cup chopped spinach

1 Tablespoon any kind of oil you like

1/4-teaspoon salt

1/4-teaspoon sugar

Dash of cinnamon and paprika

1/4-cup plain yogurt (you could use mayo or sour cream, too)

1/2-cup milk

1 egg

2 1/4 cups Bisquick

What to do

Add all those chopped, diced, and sliced vegetables into a mixing bowl and then toss them with the oil, salt, sugar, and dashes of cinnamon and paprika. Go ahead and preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, too.

Now you can add the yogurt, milk, and egg and stir until everything is all mixed up.

Then measure and add the Bisquick and you are good-to-go. Scoop up heaping spoonfuls of the biscuit batter, drop onto a lightly greased sheet pan, and pop into your hot oven for about 12-15 minutes.

Remove your piping hot toasty brown veggie-love biscuits from the oven and try not to eat them without letting them cool properly.

No one wants a burnt tongue, right?

 

 

 

 

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Sunday spectacular: Coco kitty

Posted in About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 05/15/2011

So, we adopted this cat from the Milo Foundation, and after a couple of months, things have really smoothed out at the house – and we are all in love with the Coco kitty. The thing is, the minute you wave a camera in front of her, she runs and hides. When she got all cozy in front of the camera today, I couldn’t help snapping some pics to share with everyone.

p.s. Coco kitty is half Siamese and we are finding she has some interesting characteristics (verbal, herding), so if you’ve got tips on living with a Siamese, send them my way!

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Art Activities for Kids: The Preschematic Stage of Art

Posted in Art Activities for Kids, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 05/13/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Children go through developmental stages in art helping them hone their budding skills and explore their creativity. Once a child figures out she can make somewhat representational squiggles, she has embarked into the preschematic stage of art. These potato shaped figures with stick arms and legs might not seem like much, but are a child’s first representations of people. Encouraging her drawings aides in her future cognitive and creative development.

The Preschematic Stage of Art

Viktor Lowenfeld, author of Creative and Mental Growth, describes the preschematic stage as a time when the schema (the visual idea) is developed. A child, between the ages of four and seven, creates drawings during this stage that depict what she finds most important about the objects she sees, such as someone’s hair or unique clothing. A child exploring the preschematic stage doesn’t have full understanding of the dimension and size of objects, so may draw a person as tall as a house. Color use is also more emotional than logical, expressing a child’s desire for creativity and enjoyment in her art.

Preschematic stage artwork resembles blobs or amoeba shapes with large smiling faces and short arms and legs. Don’t be alarmed with exaggerated features, such as an extremely large nose or mouth- or if the child omits features completely.  In other instances, a child may draw a head representing a whole human being, because she finds the head to be the most important part of their body, which she uses to eat, talk, see and hear. When a child draws a self-portrait during the preschematic stage, she often draw herself as the largest shape – as she feels she is the most important – which displays healthy development.

During the preschematic stage, the schema (the internal representation of the world) along with cognitive development, causes the young child’s brain to develop in grand ways. Jean Piaget, a Swiss philosopher and psychologist, finds children go through fixed stages of cognitive development. During the preschematic stage, Piaget places a child at the preoperational stage where she is unable to yet form abstract conceptions, and must have hands-on experiences and visual representations in order to form basic conclusions.

Right Brain/Left Brain Development

With the right-brain in charge of creativity, but the left more dominant with control over math, rational thought, and linear thinking, the young child entering the preschematic stage needs help to stimulate her visual cortex and promote use of her creative right-brain, developing a whole human. By introducing and discussing art with the child, she is stimulated to learn more about, and question, the world around her. Involving the child in making decisions about an art activity keeps her interested in creating art and promotes her self-esteem.

Hands-On Activities

Encourage a child to explore the preschematic stage, along with her preoperational stage of development, through engaging in lots and lots of hands-on activities to boost cognitive development and self-confidence. Sean Brotherson, a Family Science Specialist, finds that children need simple hands-on experiences for their brains to develop. Activities such as building with blocks, organizing objects based on color or shape, or taking a nature walk along with picking leaves off the ground are wonderful ways to jump-start brain development and get both sides of the brain working together.

Art Activities for the Preschematic Stage of Art

Family Portrait

-Encourage the child to create a family portrait based on a photograph, giving her a visual representation to work with. Look at a family picture together discussing the people in the picture and interesting characteristics of each person, encouraging her observational skills.

-Offer the child markers to use for drawing the family portrait so she can create strong, bold lines. Allow the child to fully explore her preschematic expression of color by using them as she wishes, even if not representational. Encourage the child’s color recognition skills by asking her about the colors she uses as she draws, further helping her cognitive development.

-Once the portrait is finished, help the child write a short paragraph about what she drew engaging the left-brain to work with his creative right-brain. Ask your child questions such as, “what are you doing in this picture,” or “who are all these people?” Alway encourage your child to tell you about her artwork, allowing her to share her story, encouraging her feelings of self-worth.

Nature Collage

-No matter the time of year, getting outside and combining science and art benefits the development of the budding young brain. Provide the child with a small basket for her to pick up items while walking and discussing different plants and animals observed, benefiting her preoperative brain.

-Let the child select a large sheet of colored construction paper and invite her to glue the items she collected in any arrangement of her choosing, which gives her hands-on experience for her cognitive development.

-Once the items have been glued to the paper, offer the child a black marker to carefully outline the items in the collage, helping hone her fine-motor skills.

-When finished, help your child write a short story together about walking in the woods, or exploring nature. It can be based on real events or full of fantastic creatures!

The preshematic stage is full of discovery and expression. Benefit a child’s development by encouraging her to explore her creativity and learning through engaging hands-on activities along with spending quality time together, which benefits everyone involved!

*This is an article I originally wrote for Funderstanding.com, a great site with a wealth of information for educators, students, and parents – go check them out!

Frozen orange pops

Posted in About Life, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 05/13/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

I would love to tell you the family and I go for a lovely walk every afternoon or bike off into the sunset when the husband gets home from work, but more often than not, we all end up sitting on the deck or inside in front of the TV. And, (gasp) the adults have an adult beverage while the wee tot runs about. It’s not that we’re lazy – we’re just tuckered out. The hubs has been hard at work all day and I’ve been, well, mothering.

So we needed some help changing our bad habits now that the weather was warmer and the days longer. It would be fantastic to be all Hallmark card-ish and pull off some sort of amazing healthy family activity, but I needed some motivation. My waist isn’t getting any smaller with all that sitting around in the evenings – and those late dinners after the wee tot hits slumber land.

(The husband needs some assistance in the “health” area, too.)

I found an article on the Motherboard that brought back those childhood memories of playing outside on long summer nights and the sound of the ice cream man in the distance. We’d all run outside – even the adults – and spend our spare change on cold treats. Everyone would hang out talking and licking up the melted mess.

Those were the days. No one was shuffled around from one activity to the next, we rode our bikes, we ran free around the neighborhood, and often our parents were along for the fun. It seems times have changed – and after reading that Motherboard article, I knew there were other parents out there doing what they could to make happier, healthier families, too.

Consider my butt kicked.

I figured we could start some healthy family traditions, but there needed to be a good reward hiding in the freezer to enjoy after all our hard work, which made me remember my one-time favorite end-of-the-day treat on those hot summer evenings. While the babe was napping, I started planning, and got busy in the kitchen preparing…

Frozen orange push-up pops!

Yeah, I’d love to tell you I found push-up pop molds, but I didn’t. I did come up with a tasty recipe that freezes perfectly in popsicle molds or can be put in the ice cream machine. The minute the husband got home I turned him around and shuffled out the door, strapped the wee tot in the stroller, and we meandered around the neighborhood smiling and waving (actually, the babe did most of the waving). And, after that wonderful walk, we all enjoyed one of those HEALTHY orange pops will sitting on the deck watching the sun set.

If that’s not a Hallmark moment, I don’t know what is.

Ingredients

1-cup plain fat-free yogurt

1/2 cup orange juice

1 Tablespoon orange zest (only if you’ve got a fresh orange hanging about – these pops are just fine without the zest, too)

1-teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon sugar (you could use honey instead)

It’s as simple as putting everything in the blender and giving it a swirl. Then, the mixture can be poured into popsicle molds and left in the freezer for a couple of hours. Or, let the mixture churn in the ice cream maker and put in the freezer – if you don’t eat it all directly from the machine!

*This makes enough for four big popsicles, but if you’re planning on putting the mix in the ice cream maker, you might want to double the recipe.

 

 

(indulgence)

Posted in About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 05/12/2011

*Yes, this week’s Red Dress Club prompt is about gluttony, something I think I know quite a bit about. But, this post is about an actual time I could’ve been a bit too gluttonous, and stopped just in time…

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

It had been a long day. Really, it had been a long week – a long month. And, it was only 3 in the afternoon. It seemed nothing had gone right, things had fallen apart, there were big messes everywhere that seemed to be collecting dust and taunting me. I was in no mood to deal with any of it. Having the child hanging on my leg made things worse.

She wasn’t even crying, just her mere presence caused my core to reverberate with anxiousness and my head to sprout gray hairs. What would I do if something ever happened to her? How would I go on? I wanted to eat a bite of her so some small piece would be with me at all times – become part of my body.

Yeah, that’s a bit gross, but I’m tired, okay?

When someone dies everything sucks. When a couple of people die all clumped up around the same time, everything sucks a little more. Having a wee being all full of happiness and glowing with life causes mortality to slap you so hard on the back of the head it results in whiplash. For the most part of the week I had been a stumbling mess crying for no reason, staring into space, drooling…

I figured I’d snap out of it – something would wake me up from my darkness and self-pity, which caused even greater guilt for not grieving the deaths but fearing of more.

This afternoon was just like every other. The babe had awakened from her nap gleefully yelling the heartbreaking, “mmmmmooooooooooomy.” I had dutifully pulled her out of the crib, changed her, offered a slight hug, and succumbed to the television as a better entertainer than myself.

I had given up.

I was lame.

As I shuffled to the fridge for a snack – because eating seemed like the right thing to do – that shiny bottle of chardonnay sparkled from the back of the fridge. Its gleaming glory screamed, “DRINK ME!”

Everyone else did it. Other housewives indulged in afternoon delights, right? I wasn’t the only one to drown my sorrows in alcohol. It’s not like I drink everyday at 3….

These thoughts quickly ran through my head as I opened the wine and sloshed some into a glass. I even snuck a peek behind me to see if anyone was looking. But, who would be there? I was home alone. Alone with a child that couldn’t talk and was busy in love with Caillou.

I could sit and slurp wine for an hour or two until the husband came home and then slink off to bed.

The perfect plan.

By the time I had polished off the first glass that sharp dull feeling had started seeping through my body and everything seemed a bit less harsh. The babe was in the other room laughing at her boyfriend, and I could just keep going.

As I began pouring a second glass my daughter came running around the corner so excited to share some sort of rambling jumble of words with me she slipped and went sliding on her stomach right across the kitchen floor. As I waited for her wail, she turned over and began laughing so hard, I couldn’t help it. My last sip of wine came shooting out my nose and splattered all over the floor alongside my giggling daughter.

That was the moment.

Everything was going to be just fine.

I put the wine away and rolled around on the floor with my daughter while we laughed and laughed.

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Fine Art for Kids: Expressing with Haring

Posted in Art Activities for Kids by Sarah Lipoff on 05/12/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

What I love about Keith Haring’s art is that it is what it is. His images are simple with prominent strong black lines and areas of color. An American artist that grew up in the 1970’s, Haring was a bit different and hooked in with the alternative art crew thriving in New York during the late 70’s. His buddies, including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, took art outside the typical gallery and museum setting and hit the streets, bringing graffiti art to the mainstream. In the mid 80’s Haring found the perfect canvas for his art – unused subway panels. He used white chalk to create hundreds of images that entertained and moved the viewer.

His childlike style was eye-catching and different from anything else in the art world, and Haring began to gain attention from museums and galleries. He remained true to his unique style until his death in 1990. Let’s be honest, some of Haring’s images aren’t for the kiddies, but he is an inspiration and wonderful influence to all for creating art of all kinds.

So the other day, when I was feeling a bit down, I thought of Haring and the challenges he went through in life – and how he kept creating through it all. I figured the wee tot and I could make a moving and expressive creation in his style.

First we headed to HaringKids.com, a wealth of awesome Haring stuff, and checked out Haring’s artwork and the interactive activities on the website. Then we got out the crayons and started drawing.

My tot is a bit young to create forms using expressive lines, so I helped her by making an outline of a person using a black crayon. But, she wanted me to add a heart, a few stars and a moon, which seemed to fit in perfectly. Older kids can think of creating an expressive form with movement and lines with shapes surrounding it, just like Haring.

Encourage your child to press hard with the crayon, making strong dark lines, which also encourages her fine-motor skills. Once she’s satisfied with her expressive drawing, she can dig out those watercolor paints.

Invite your child to paint over her black crayon drawing and watch as those black lines pop through! She can use specific colors in areas of her painting, or cover the paper with one solid color.

Once her expressive form painting is dry, she can give it a title and find the perfect spot to display it – like the fridge!

Crafty

Posted in Art Activities for Kids, Cool Stuff, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 05/09/2011

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

We survived our spring garden cleaning spree and have been enjoying the benefits of a nice green yard and some happily sprouting veggies. Amazingly, the wee tot has really gotten into gardening and actually has been listening when asked to stop pulling the plants out, but instead to put them back IN the ground. So, now she happily digs up the few plants in her little garden and then re-plants them.

Hey, it keeps her busy.

A few flowers are starting to raise their heads to the sun and the temps are steady in the upper 70’s and low 80’s making me feel more like summer than spring. But, our indoors reek of winter. There are big blankets everywhere, a fireplace that needs cleaning, and some dowdy place mats and dishes hanging about. The real issue is the wee tot’s room. Now that she’s progressing from baby to toddler, it was time to up-date her room with some summer style.

Those flowers were my inspiration for my complete Internet search, looking for some fun ideas and crafty mama-sence for some instant summer decorations. Well, once again the Motherboard had some suggestions to help me get motivated and accomplish my mission. Their flower lamp-shade embellishments reminded me of some super cool tissue pompoms, which looked just like big happy dahlias.Why not make some tissue paper flowers to hang from the wee tot’s ceiling above her crib – along with a few created from recycled materials!

Don’t freak out – this project is way easier than you’d think, and the kids can get into it, too. And, you know how much I love re-using those plastic bags hanging out under the sink! These recycled plastic pompom flowers are awesome and so cute!

How to make them

Start by stacking six plastic bags on top of each other with the handles on one end and the bottoms on the other.

Now use a sharp scissors to cut off the bottom seam of the bags along with the top handles from the bags.

Use the scissors to cut the sides of the bags on both sides, leaving you with 12 rectangles of happy white plastic bag stacked and ready to go.

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Now accordion fold the plastic bags starting at one of the short sides of the bags – but really, it doesn’t matter if you fold from the long side or the shorter side of the bags. We created great plastic pompoms either way!

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Cut a length of string and tie a knot around the middle of the folded plastic bags, leaving some remaining string to use for hanging. We had some green string hanging around, which was perfect for making these poofy plastic bag pompom flowers.

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Here’s the fun part! Start opening the layers by pulling apart the plastic bags. Before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful flower!

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Want to make one with tissue paper? Follow the same directions, but with sheets of tissue. We experimented with smaller pieces of tissue paper, just a few stacked together, and cutting the outside edges of the tissue paper, all with great results!

I hung our finished creations from the ceiling of our daughter’s room – and we ALL love them!

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

*If you wanted to really summer-up these flower pompoms, you could use thick green ribbon to hang them, making them look like fresh flowers floating from your ceiling!

**And, yes, that is my daughter slumbering happily under the finished product!

 

Sunday spectacular: Mother’s Day

Posted in About Life by Sarah Lipoff on 05/08/2011

I wish all you mums a happy Mother’s Day! I would love to say that Mother’s Day is all sunflowers and glitter, but, in actuality, it’s all about getting through the day just like any other. Highlights included cleaning the fish tank so our 10-year old fish could see us (and we him), our child eating the majority of the chocolate my husband bought me (because he can’t say no to the wee tot), the making of some fresh bruschetta for a play date tomorrow (which we HAD to sample), and the brining of a lovely free-range turkey breast – because what else is more nurturing than roasted turkey, right?

Right.

I hope all you mamas had an awesome day and are comfortably relaxing after basking in the happiness of your family.

Chin-chin.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

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Spring flower cards

Posted in Art Activities for Kids by Sarah Lipoff on 05/07/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Whether it’s May Day, Mother’s Day, or someone’s spring birthday, these cards are so simple to make and are really adorable. What’s even better is the kids can help make them, too! Even my wee tot got into making lovely watercolor washes and then going on a nature hunt in the yard for any fresh spring flowers to use. What a great way to make something special and spend some quality time with your child!

Start by making the background to your spring flower cards. Offer your child a sheet of white construction paper and a small cup of water. Now encourage your child to cover her paper with the water using a big paint brush, making sure the entire paper is wet.

Time to get spring-y! Get out the watercolors and invite your child to paint over the water-covered paper using bright spring colors such as yellow, orange, purple, and green. Your child can watch what happens with the paint when it is painted over the watery paper. The colors blend and wash together, creating a really cool effect! She can use small brushes to create detailed lines and dots, or big brushes to make sweeping areas of color.

Once she’s satisfied with her watercolor creation, allow the paper to dry for an hour or so. While waiting, head outdoors on a nature walk looking for any fresh spring flowers or leaves to use for the cards. We used some lavender and some pretty-pink petaled flower for ours!

Now she can cover the flowers with black tempera paint and press them on top of the dry watercolor paper creating a flower print! After the prints are dry, she can cut around the flowers and glue them to the front of cards – perfect for giving to any special loved one or friend.

Make the finished spring flower cards even better by tossing a handful of seeds in the card before mailing!

Happy spring 🙂

The easiest chocolate soufflés – so easy your kids or husband could make them for Mother’s Day!

Posted in About Food, About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 05/05/2011

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

I don’t know about you, but my plans for Mother’s Day include chocolate. Lots of chocolate. One of my favorites of all chocolate goodies is chocolate soufflé. The last time I attempted these oh-so-decadent soufflés, I headed for failure with a daunting recipe, and was also majorly distracted when my daughter fell down the stairs, so I figured it was time for a re-try.

And, with Mother’s Day just days away, why not give myself a little pre-mama day treat?!

So, while the babe was blissfully slumbering (safe from any falls or random ouches), I tweaked the first recipe I attempted to an uber-easy creation just about anyone could bake. And, with total success!

Your kids or husband could comfortably put these together and surprise you on Mother’s Day. Just leave the recipe hanging around somewhere they may happen upon it (hint, hint), and there you go – chocolate soufflé!

Ingredients

1/2 cup Dutch cocoa

1/4-cup sugar

2 Tablespoons flour

1 Tablespoon butter

Pinch of salt

2 egg yolks

3 egg whites

2 Tablespoons milk

1-teaspoon vanilla

Extra butter and sugar for preparing ramekins

What you do

Prepare your ramekins by coating them with butter and then dusting with sugar. And, if you don’t have any ramekins (like me) you can use coffee mugs. I had some cappuccino cups that worked perfectly. Go ahead and pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, too.

In one mixing bowl, add your cocoa, sugar, flour, pinch of salt, and butter. Give the ingredients a stir with a fork until it is all crumbly.

Get out your eggs and separate the whites into a large mixing bowl, and put two of the yolks in with the chocolate mixture.

Time to get fluffy! Whisk those egg whites until they form stiff white peaks, which takes about 3-minutes using a hand mixer.

Now you can add the milk and vanilla to the chocolate mixture and stir things together until incorporated.

Slowly add the chocolate a little bit at a time to the egg whites and fold things together. That means STIR GENTLY. Keep adding and mixing until everything is happy. Don’t worry about lumps, clumps, just stir until things are all together.

Fill your ramekins – or mugs – until they are about three-fourths full. The batter makes enough for about six ramekins, 2 BIG mugs, or four cappuccino cups. Place them on a cookie tray and pop them in your hot oven.

Set your oven timer for 15 minutes and walk away. When your dinger dings, remove the poofy soufflés from the oven, let cool, and enjoy!

*I love my soufflés just a bit underdone, all eggy and soft. So, I took mine out after baking for 12 minutes and they were perfect – and so good. I ate two back-to-back…

 

 

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