Let’s talk about poop

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Don’t you love how parents of young kids always have something to talk about? It doesn’t matter where you are, if you’ve just met, or if you have a girl or a boy toddler at home. It could be over drinks or at the park. In passing or right in the middle of a serious conversation. The topic just seems to pop up – and then there’s always so much to discuss.

Yup. Our kid’s bowel movements.

I think it’s a bit funny because most don’t announce to the crowd that they really have to pee, but gather a group of proud parents together and they are more than happy to swap child poop stories. Details are shared on how so-and-so (boys) sits or stands to pee, or how toddler made it through the night without an accident, how toddler is already going pee-pee and is only two, which potty seat is the best, those messy poopy accidents…

Seriously. I find it quite interesting how total strangers are so willing to discuss such intimacies.

We’ve recently become a bit more interested in potty training at our house. And, because of that, it is a big topic of discussion at our house.


Sure, I mention to others we are experimenting with the whole “using the potty thing,” but it sure isn’t the first thing I greet my friends with.


Hey there,  _______! I haven’t seen you in forever? What? What’s that? You’re married and just bought an amazing house? Really? And you have this totally cool and interesting job? Wow! That’s fantastic!

What? Oh, me? Well, guess what?! My daughter pooped on the potty today for the first time! Yeah – she’s amazing! It’s the coolest thing ever!


The other day while in line at the grocery store the mom behind me commented on my daughter’s clothing. This is the classic “starter” for conversations with moms. I’ve found it’s like the gateway to Discussion of All Things Toddler. Once eye contact has been established and a smile or giggle attained from the kid, they think they’re in.

Next, she guesstimated my daughter’s age and dove right in, “is she potty training yet?”

Me: We’ve been sitting on the potty, but I’m not pushing it or anything.

Her: Oh, well, you knooooow, girls totally get it before boys. You really should get things going earlier rather than later. I mean, who wants to change diapers forever, right (laugh, laugh, laugh)!

Me: (avoiding eye contact) She’ll get it when she’s ready. I’m in no rush…

Her: OMG, I have a boy AND a girl and let me tell you…… (blah blah blah blah)

Luckily, at this point, I was able to take care of paying and smile and nod while not really listening, but did hear something about ” there’s this CD you should have her listen to while on the potty, ” and, ” really, just put the little potty seat in the car and stop every 20-minutes.”

The tot and I both waved bye-bye and I gave her my well-honed “You ARE a Lifesaver” look and headed home.

And, then, you’ll never guess what happened.

My daughter pooped on the potty.

(And I instantly started calling, tweeting, and face booking everyone about it….)

*No one wants to see poop pictures, so, instead, here’s a pic of my daughter dancing in her new ballerina dress-up clothes. Notice how the cat isn’t that impress. But, when are cats impressed? Right?




Sunday spectacular: Addendum

I got a bit of good news late Friday afternoon, and to celebrate, the husband offered to take me to a fancy-schmancy lunch. We both had been wanting to try out Thomas Keller‘s latest addition to his takeover of Yountville – Addendum. There’s not much to say other than it was out of this world amazing. There are only two menu items to pick from, you’re nestled in a little grove of redwood trees amongst the gardens full of veggies and herbs the restaurants use for artfully creating the food, and it’s totally kid friendly.


© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

After we placed our order and found a nice redwood picnic table to sit, the tot and I wandered the gardens. Within 10-minutes, our food was delivered to us by some of the happiest servers around. The husband and I couldn’t decide which we liked better, the fried chicken or the brisket, but I’m going to have to lean just a bit more toward that savory, tangy, succulent beef. The chicken had obviously been soaked for days and days in the best buttermilk around, because the texture… the FLAVOR…. the juiciness! And everything had a wonderful fresh touch with the addition of rosemary.

Sure, it might be the most cash you ever toss down for fried chicken in your life, but it’s totally worth it. And to be able to kick back and watch your tot happily run about the gardens and grass makes things even better.

If you are in the area, or planning a visit to Napa, check out Addendum. It’s a great way to have a taste of what Thomas Keller has to offer without really paying the big bucks at the French Laundry or waiting in the always-there-line at the Bouchon Bakery.



Is it time for a big girl bed?

The other night the hubs got into bed after sneaking a peek at our slumbering daughter and pronounced her too big for a crib. I’ve known this for a while but haven’t wanted to say anything because I’m totally freaked about not having her in the crib. Sure, I’ve noticed her feet are almost touching the end of her crib when she’s all stretched out. Sure, I know she could crawl right out of the thing if she really wanted to. Sure, I know she’s growing (but I’m in total denial).

She’s getting too big for the crib.

Is it time for a big girl bed?

The idea sends chills through me – to the core. My evenings of  momentary respite from the chid flash before my eyes. I break into a cold sweat imagining having to sit in the room with the tot while she falls asleep ensuring she isn’t terrorizing the first floor of our house. Re-child proofing her room (and the rest of the rooms on the first floor) overwhelm me as I picture the bathroom door sneakily opened offering free access to all things child wants – like make-up and the toilet bowl brush….

She’s never going to stay in a big girl bed unless I strap her in.

(Really, I wouldn’t do that and in no way endorse any type of big kid bed that can either.)

Then, on top of all that, what type of  bed to go with? There’s so many to pick from, including:

The P’kolino Toddler Bed. This is super cute and slick, perfect for a crib mattress and the ability to transform into an adorable chair once your tot is too big for that crib mattress. And the price isn’t so bad, either. But, for us, we’re already busting out of that crib on all sides, so this one is out…


And then there’s this really pretty option from Stig Leander. I would love the house to come along with this super toddler bed – and for the price, it really should. A special mattress comes along with the purchase. The bed is uniquely designed to be a bit bigger than the average kid bed for room to play and lounge for those time your child wants to kick back and read Toddler Vogue.

And then there’s this option from KidKraft. Sure, it’s a bit plain, but this bed is all about safety and ease. It’s super low to the ground, allowing your tot the ability to feel comfortable getting in and out of her new bed and equipped with rails to stop her from rolling onto the floor during deep sleep (if she ever actually falls asleep…). You also can’t beat the price. Really.





There’s this option from Incredibeds. I’m not really sure what to say other than sure, it’s a cute idea, but could potentially turn into what toddler nightmares are made of…

There’s always IKEA. Their stuff is cheap, and sometimes a bit odd with unusual sizing and stuff, but, hey, there’s always IKEA. Here’s a simple option with a great price, but don’t forget, you’ve got to pick the mattress up from them, too.

So, what do you think? Which should we pick?

Yogurt clusters

© Sarah Lipoff

I love yogurt covered pretzels. Really. I love them so much I totally admit that every time they are purchased I eat them until they are gone. I don’t savor those sweet and sumptuous bits like chocolate. Nope. I gobble yogurt covered pretzels up.

The other day I had a huge craving for my creamy crunchy friends but didn’t feel like loading the tot into the car to make the trek to the market just to pick up yogurt covered pretzels. There has to be a recipe for making them, right?

Well, after extensive research, there wasn’t much result. Sure, I’m totally aware that yogurt covered pretzels are not heath food. Just because yogurt is in the title of the delectable treat doesn’t change the fact that there has to be some crazy weird stuff included in the ingredients to make the things so yummy.

Really. They can’t just be yogurt and pretzels.

Can they?

The closest I found was a recipe for yogurt covered raisin clusters. Sure, I like raisins. But not as much as I love pretzels drizzled in creamy frosty yogurt.

So I adjusted the recipe and created a concoction that turned out so good I had to put half the batch in the freezer so I wouldn’t devour them all in one go. This recipe really is super easy – but be warned. You need 24 hours to make these goodies. But, have no fear. The wait is worth it.

After I made the first batch (because, yes, I have made several more since) I learned keeping these clusters in the fridge keeps them nice and crisp – not soggy (ick). So, find a nice container or jar, strain some yogurt, and make some of these tasty yogurt clusters!


1 c plain yogurt

1 Tbsp butter

¼ t vanilla

6 c powdered sugar

2 c raisins

2 c skinny pretzel sticks (or use big ones – whatever you prefer)

1 c dry roasted nuts

Here’s the part that takes some patience. Line a strainer with a heavy-duty paper towel or piece of cheesecloth and top with the yogurt. Let the yogurt hang out overnight in the fridge, releasing most of its liquid.

The next day, gently press and squeeze any excess liquid from the yogurt and then place the thick stuff in a small saucepan. Add the butter and vanilla and stir gently over low heat until the mixture melts and comes together.

Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar creating the yogurt icing that will hold the clusters together.

Break up the pretzel sticks and add to a mixing bowl along with the raisins and dry roasted nuts. You can totally tailor this combination to your liking. Want more raisins? Go for it. Don’t want nuts? Add more pretzels!

Now slowly add the yogurt icing to the mixing bowl and fold together using a spatula.

Drop the clusters by heaping spoonful onto a tinfoil-lined sheet pan.

Pop your clusters in the fridge and let cool and set for at least 3-hours before taste testing. Sure, these aren’t as perfectly frosty as those yogurt covered pretzels you pick up at the grocery store, but they are homemade (and you know exactly what went into them), which makes everything better!

You could also use flavored yogurt for something different, or add 1/4 c chocolate chips or peanut butter to the saucepan with the yogurt for chocolate or peanut butter covered yogurt clusters. SO simple!


Coloring desk

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

First and foremost, I’ve got to give credit for the idea for this project to the wonders of Pinterest. The other day while perusing all the amazingly cool things people create, I came across an idea from iCandy for cupboard door art desks. I was smitten with the idea and loved her bright colors that transformed those shabby doors into something really fun for the kiddies.

But I don’t have any random cupboard doors.

I do have lots and lots unused shelves from old bookshelves and cabinets hiding out in the garage. I figured I could take the original idea and put a bit of a spin on things to make it work for me and my tot.

This project is super easy and really fun. And your kid is going to want to spend hours and hours coloring on her new desk!

What you need

Square or rectangular piece of wood (ours was 1.5 by 1.5 feet)


4 6-inch screw on furniture legs


Hammer and nails

Hand saw

Wood Glue

Measuring tape/pencil

Spray paint

How to make it

If you’re using a piece of wood that has already been painted, give it a roughing up by using some sandpaper all over the place. Now you can start thinking about how you want to divide the coloring desk using the trim.

Use the measuring tape and pencil to measure your lengths of trim. You can create a simple square or rectangle around the outside edge or create divisions and areas. The trim will ensure your child’s favorite crayons, markers, or pencils won’t be rolling off the desk and onto the floor.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

If you’ve got a fancy-smancy saw, use it to cut your lengths of trim or just use a simple hand saw, which works just fine, too. Now put those pieces of trim in position and place on a nice flat and sturdy work spot and hammer on the trim with small trim nails.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Now flip the desk over and screw in the furniture legs. You can find these in most big hardware stores in different styles and shapes. Put a bit of wood glue around the screws to ensure those legs are going to stay in place. Use a paper towel to wipe away any glue that squashes out around the edges once the legs are completely screwed in.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

To finish the desk, give the whole thing a good coating of spray paint. My daughter picked this super vibrant orange and I think it turned out really cute! And she really does color and color and color all day on her new coloring desk!





Monday spectacular: What to do on a holiday

My husband had the day off today, as did many others in the out-of-home work world. As a mostly stay at home (work from home) mama, there are never days off. So, when the husband said he was ready for an adventure, we loaded up the car and made the decision to drive toward the water in hopes of clear skies and empty roads.

That’s a big wish for where we live.

You see the weather around Northern California can be interesting. While one area is nice and toasty with sun, 5 miles in any direction can lead to fog, cold, and drizzle – especially near the ocean. And, we all forget that fog is there, so the minute our little microclimate is cloud-free, we load up in our cars and head to the beach, only to find it’s cold and windy.

Not beach weather.

We opted for skirting the beach and heading up curvalicious Highway 1 to a spot we’d driven by a couple of times in the past to check it out.


Sure, the prices were a bit steep ($8 and up – average about $15 per person for lunch and $20+ for dinner), and pretty much everything is fried, but the oysters are amazing. I ordered the hot oyster sandwich and when it arrived, was a bit disappointed by the buttered toasted white bread and skimp-o leaf of lettuce holding five plump and fried oysters topped with another toasted slice of white bread.

But simplicity won on this one.

There was barely any coating on those barely fried oysters resulting in an amazing pop and slurp of fresh oyster flavor in every bite. We also opted to sit in the back of the restaurant right next to the stack of fresh oysters and the grill master who filled the orders as he got them and delivering the steaming goodies on paper plates.

The clam chowder was really tasty and we had to wrestle it away from the tot to even get a few spoonfuls for ourselves. I would’ve gotten some pics of the food, but really, it wasn’t much to look at – and we were too busy savoring every bite.

Just as we finished lunch the fog burned off and we found the perfect spot to sit and enjoy the sun before driving back home.

How was your Labor Day?

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011


Everything is an unending battle at my house. Some days I feel like I’ve won small victories but on others fully understand I’ve been amazingly bamboozled and it starts all over again. This is the unending battle of Toddlerhood. It is a challenging and tricky skirmish, with low blows, battle cries, bribery, and a pretty messy battlefield.

And sometimes that’s all before lunchtime.

A toddler is in total ME mode. It’s like your favorite song stuck on replay until it’s just not that cool of a song anymore. At first you’re like, this is awesome! My kid can talk and do stuff! She’s growing up! There’s so much to do – so much to look forward to!

And then she says, “NO.” Or, the reigning battle cry at our house, “I DO IT.”

If you remember a while back I shared an article including helpful hints on how to create self-reliant preschoolers. It’s full of advice and information but nothing about what is really going on in your tot’s brain. Like why your child is screaming as loud as she can for what you think is absolutely no reason when you try to put the shoes on that she was totally in love with yesterday but now won’t even allow in her room.

(true story)

Your child’s brain is in mega-overdrive at this age and hard-wired for being egocentric. The age of two is like reigning as king or queen – a total dictatorship. The toddler’s brain is twice as active than an adult’s, processing, understanding, exploring, connecting, synapses are snapping…. There’s so much going on and it all applies to the child. Sure, this is a bit overwhelming, but it is also feeding the future being. And, for right now, in her mind, it really is all about her. Most kids are starting to figure out language skills, exploring fine-motor skills, and all the exciting things the body can do by the age of two.

This means lots of activity.

And many battles of wills.

Hey, your child is developing right on track – be happy she’s doing great! Embrace all those special moments when your child screams, “NO” and “MINE” and “I DO IT” and kicks and screams and fist pounds. Yeah, right. No one enjoys the toddler tantrum and if you’re going through what I’m going through, you’re about ready to do anything to make it stop.

Because reasoning with a two-year-old is futile.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea to pick your battles and set some rules and regulations for a fair fight. And each kid has a different style of Toddlerhood. All are wonderful and exciting – and when you finally accept that two-year-olds are going to be two-year-olds, sometimes it all works out in the end (or you find a moment to quietly rock in a corner saying “this too shall pass” over and over).

Here are a few Toddlerhood styles I’ve encountered. You may even have one hanging out in your home:

The Tyrant: This is the toddler that always looks like an angel (doesn’t matter girl or boy) causing every other parent to go, “why can’t my kid be like that?” But, behind closed doors, this kid rules the roost. The Tyrant knows how to put on a good show but then expects lots of rewards for all that great behavior. The Tyrant is also a master at wearing others down (i.e. parents) to the point of total submission.

The Crier: Yup, this is that two-year-old that cries on cue. The Crier has skills that could land huge paychecks if the role was right but isn’t old enough to properly negotiate movie contracts. Instead, the Crier will drop big wet tears when toys are taken away, the proper meal isn’t provided, or desired clothing isn’t put on properly. The moment desired item/action is provided, tears magically disappear.

The Broken Record: I’m pretty sure this is what we’re dealing with at our house. The Broken Record starts almost like a whisper and then accelerates to levels unheard of by man. A super high pitch is attained along with an amazing ability for restating phrases over and over and over to the point where either everyone goes totally batty or the object of interest is provided.

The Budding Shoplifter: You know this one – the kid that takes stuff and runs. There’s not much more to say other than watch your keys, cell phone, spare change, and any other items you’d like to hold onto around a Budding Shoplifter. Reasoning doesn’t usually offer much result. Once a Budding Shoplifter figures out that grabbing and running gains attention (doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative), that Budding Shoplifter keeps on grabbing.

The Screamer: A screamer has it all figured out and knows how to get the win by doing something so simple – scream. Screamers scream often and loud and have different styles. Some are long and high-pitched, others short and staccato, and I’ve even encountered growlers.

Sure, there are others including Vampires (biters), Silent Sneakers (you think everything is going great in the other room), and Sweet-Talkers (please, please, please, pleeeeeease, PLEAAAASE!).

Being two is hard work. Kids are learning by doing, meaning they often do things over and over to learn through trial and error, which drives some of us parents nuts. Because two-year-olds only have a couple of years under their belts, they aren’t able to resort to past memories or responses from previous problem solving, resulting in the constant desire to try things (or sing the ABC’s) over and over. Sure, we as adults are a little tired of reading that same story 482 times, but your toddler is connecting those pictures with the story and with the words, which develops language, reading, and cognitive skills.

Remember to take a deep breath and tag-team with your partner if you need a break. Try talking things out and re-directing behavior as needed when things start spiraling out of control with your tyke rather than shame-based discipline tactics. Set boundaries and have realistic expectations while understanding that the toddler brain is developing like crazy.

What type of toddler do you have at your house?

Roasted summer veg quinoa

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Our garden finally decided to be a garden and grow a couple of tomatoes and zucchini. This summer was a bit cooler than usual, so the rest of my stuff (peppers, herbs, artichokes) didn’t really take off. But, the other day, I had a good handful of happy stuff and while savoring the wonderfully fresh smell of my collection, I had an idea.

Roasted vegetable quinoa

You know I love quinoa (here, here, and here) and it really is a super-food often overlooked. It’s also not challenging to work with and is very versatile. This recipe is so easy and can be adapted for whatever veggies or flavors you like. This healthy side can be on the table in less than 30-minutes perfect for lunch as is or for a side dish at dinner topped with grilled fish or chicken.

And, it’s super yummy.


4 cups cooked quinoa

1 zucchini chopped

1 large tomato chopped

1 small onion or shallot chopped

1 cob of corn (corn cut from cob)

1 garlic clove sliced and diced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh herbs chopped fine (whatever collection you like)

1 scallion

2 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

How to make it

Preheat your oven to 425 F and start dicing up your vegetables. Grab your pre-cooked quinoa from the fridge and break up so there aren’t any big lumps and clumps. Not sure how to make quinoa? Just follow the directions on the box or check out these directions (although I never pre-rinse my quinoa – but go ahead and do that step if you’d like).

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Place all your veggies and the olive oil on a sheet pan and give things a good stir. You can give everything a little sprinkle of salt, too. Pop those vegetables in the hot oven and let roast for about 10 to 15-minutes and then give a stir. Let them roast another 5 to 10 minutes and then remove from the oven.

Now sprinkle the quinoa over the vegetables and give another stir. Pop everything back in the oven for another 10 minutes and then remove.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the balsamic dressing, fresh herbs, additional salt and scallion. Carefully spoon the hot roasted vegetable quinoa into the dressing and give things a stir. Pepper to your liking.

Serve warm or enjoy cool. Either way it is fantastically good.

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Fine art for kids: Tints and shades with Josef Albers

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

My previous installment of exploring fine art for kids got some interesting reviews over at Shine from Yahoo!. Go ahead and check out the comments and come back if you would like, but, basically I had a critic of my creative ideas. Yeah, his feeling was that instead of being fun and educational, these art activities are creating mediocre kids.

Well. Get over it.

I’m happy creating a mass of “mediocre” children that have fun while discovering the wonder of color, line, shape, design, and art. Yup. Art.

If you’re with me, I encourage you to share your fantastic art activities that you enjoy doing with your kids at the end of my arty project posts – or please share them around your network.

Let’s keep creativity fun, spontaneous, and exciting.

And this project is a great way to explore the wonders of color and design with a modern artist that has definitely influenced the way the world looks at art. Sure, Josef Albers isn’t a household name, but his simplified vibrating artworks took color theory beyond the norm and caused the viewer to really stop and pay attention to the power of color.

Color theory is one of those areas of art no one really gets super excited about. All that color mixing, the color wheels, and dark to light shade gradients and tutorials become pretty boring after a while. But, with the help of Josef Albers, color mixing just might turn into something fun!

A tint is when a color is mixed with white and a shade is when a color is mixed with black. Josef Albers totally experimented with shades and tints in his artworks. Start by taking a closer look at some of his creations with your child and chat about his color choices and the shapes he liked using (he sure liked squares!).

To create this square-shaped color theory artwork, take some influence from Albers by cutting a white paper into a square. Now invite your child to use masking tape to section off several squares. He can use scissors to cut the tape into thinner strips if he’d like.

Now your child can pick a color to use for creating his tints and shades. We decided on yellow and added a couple squirts of white and black next to our yellow paint.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Invite your child to start by painting a section of his square creation with the solid color. Then he can add a bit of white to that color, creating a tint, to use for painting another section. Then he can add a bit of black to his color, creating a shade, to use for another section. He can keep adding white or black to finish things off.

Once everything is all painted, let the Albers’ inspired artwork dry for an hour or so before removing the tape. Invite our child to create several radiating artworks and then tape them to a door or wall in your home for a really exciting pop of color.

See – color theory isn’t all that bad after all!