So says Sarah…

Spring blossom artwork

Posted in Art Activities for Kids by Sarah Lipoff on 04/30/2012

spring blossom artwork

It seems everywhere I look there are blossoms, blossoms, blossoms. Spring is officially here, and with it, tons of flowers. While out for a nice walk, the tot and I couldn’t help stopping every few blocks to check out the colorful beauties, which reminded me of amazing Chinese blossom paintings. Full of bright pinks and reds, traditional blossom paintings are delicate and pretty and then lined with black lengths of tree. Blossom trees welcome spring in Asia and are also a large part of Chinese New Year celebrations as decorations.

After we returned from out outing, I pulled out the tissue paper and glue. While I cut several circles of pink, red, and fuchsia tissue, I enlisted the tot to mix together equal parts glue and water in a small container. If your child is old enough to cut with scissors, she can be in charge of cutting tons of different sized tissue circles.

Once there’s a nice pile of tissue circles get out a sheet of white paper and invite your child to sprinkle the tissue circles around the paper and then brush with the glue water. Encourage your child to overlap and layer the tissue as much – or as little – as she’d like.

While the paper is still wet, offer your child a black marker and invite her to draw lines to represent trees and the branches of the trees. The marker washes in with the glue water and tissue, making the artwork dreamy and spring-like. Your child can even use a green marker to add the surrounding grass.

Don’t’ forget to find the perfect spot for displaying your child’s finished spring blossom artwork!

Happy spring!

Sunday stuff

Posted in About Life by Sarah Lipoff on 04/29/2012

It was  a good and bad weekend. It’s not a big deal or anything, so don’t freak out. Things have been a bit hectic for the last couple of weeks and I’ve scrambled to hold everything together. I’ve also been really determined to do it all “on my own” and am not so good about “asking others for help.”

Yeah.

So it all came out in a big breakdown the other night, which was pretty unfair to the husband. He already does so much – and not so fair for me to do the total female crying-wailing-drama thing.

But the salvation of it all was our new thing.

This thing.

This radio.

Since its amazing arrival we’ve been listening to it. LISTENING to it. The TV has been off, us adults have been a bit more attentive to the tot, and the husband and I are having good and beneficial conversations. We also spent most of the weekend outdoors. Seriously, who can resist the smiles of a toddler in a tutu swimsuit on a play horse?

We also had an amazing meal of grilled chicken thighs alongside grilled salad.

Yum.

So, all in all, things turned out just fine. Sometimes you have to deal with the bad to get to the good, right?

 

 

Matzo pizza (with homemade pizza sauce)

Posted in About Food by Sarah Lipoff on 04/26/2012

matzo pizza

I’ve spent a lot of time daydreaming about pizza lately. Crisp, thin crust topped with zesty tomato sauce and coated with amazing cheese… Yeah. I just can’t stop. I make lots and lots of pizzas with the tot, but I’m really trying to find ways to cut the calories. With Easover behind us, we still have a few boxes of matzo hanging around, and they’re going to be there for next year’s Easover unless something is done with them.

Pizza.

Pizza sauce is a seriously tasty thing. It can be chunky or smooth, salty or sweet, tangy or spicy-hot. All I know is that I didn’t have any in the fridge when I had the brilliant idea of using a piece of matzo as a base for my super-low calorie pizza. I did have an old can of tomatoes in the pantry, which wasn’t very appealing. But, with a bit of love, that can of tomatoes turned into something seriously flavorful, and I had total matzo pizza success.

 Ingredients

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, strained

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Dash of red pepper

Couple of drops of Worcestershire sauce (optional)

What you do

This sauce is a snap to make. Simply open the can of tomatoes and strain away any liquid. You want to use un-seasoned canned tomatoes (I also used organic). Put those tomatoes in the blender with the rest of the ingredients and blend. If you like your sauce chunky, blend for just a few pulses. But, if you prefer things nice and smooth, blend for as long as you like. If you’ve got Worcestershire sauce hanging out in your pantry, don’t shy away from adding a few drops. This adds a lovely smoky flavor and just a bit of an earthy saltiness, which makes the tomato sauce even better.

To make your own mini-matzo pizzas, preheat your oven to 450 F. Place a single piece of matzo on a sheet pan and then coat with a few big spoonfuls of that fresh pizza sauce. Add your favorite pizza toppings, a sprinkling of cheese, and then pop in the oven until the top is bubbling.

Yum.

 

Sun, sun, sun with Suntan Stan

Posted in Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 04/23/2012

The last couple of days the sun has been a wonderfully vibrant thing up high in the sky. We have totally enjoyed ourselves gardening, playing in the wee kiddie pool, and soaking up the sun. I grew up in the baby-oil-for-sun block generation and am starting to see the wear and tear it’s left on my skin, so am making sure to do a bit extra to keep things as good as they can be by wearing sunscreen. But I do think it’s okay to let the skin soak-up about 15-minutes of that healthy vitamin D before slathering up.  After having a bit of fun in the sun, we get out the lotion and coat our bodies.

Sunscreen is an amazing thing – especially when you have kiddies that love being outside. My talented friend agrees, so he wrote a book about it with the intention of educating kids (and adults) on the importance of sunscreen. It’s a sweet little book full of cute and adorable – and helpful tips on sunscreen use.

Suntan Stan enjoys tons of fun outdoors while remembering the importance of keeping on the sunscreen. This book is a great way to introduce the concept of wearing sunscreen to kids – and how they can be part of staying safe while outdoors and in the sun. My friend Larry Cheifetz is seriously hilarious (and the parent of three lovely girls himself) and this book shares his personality and passion for keeping kids safe – and healthy.

And, along with writing the book (with his co-writer Jennifer Horn and illustrator Mike Ferrin), Larry self-published it. Check out Suntan Stan’s Facebook page for more information about the book and how to pick up your own copy!

*Just so you know, I was not paid for this post or compensated in any way. I wrote this review strictly because Suntan Stan is darn cool – and so is my friend Larry.

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Roasted celery, leek and French green lentil soup

Posted in About Food by Sarah Lipoff on 04/20/2012

Roasted celery, leek and French green lentil soup

Even though it’s spring, I still love making soup. There’s nothing like a bowl of nourishing goodness to make a day better. And sometimes I don’t even heat the soup, but enjoy it room temperature or just barely warm. This spring soup is also very filling, which is great for slimming down those winter pounds. Roasting the celery and leeks makes this soup a snap to prepare and really elevates the fresh flavors. Serve with a slice of toasted bread or pita chips for a perfect spring lunch.

Ingredients

8 stalks celery

1 leek

3 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

dashes pepper

32 ounces good chicken stock (homemade if you have it)

1 cup French green lentils

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dry vermouth

1 cup water

What you do…

Start by cleaning and slicing the stalks of celery into thin strips on the bias. Nice big thick slices, around 1/2-inch thick,  is perfect. And don’t toss those celery leaves – you’ll need them later. Slice the leek in half, then into thin 1/4-inch half rings, and then rinse in a strainer to remove any icky grit.

Coat a sheet pan with the vegetable oil and crank your oven to 425 F. While you’re waiting for things to heat up, chop the garlic and add to the sheet pan along with the celery and leeks. Sprinkle with the salt, dried oregano, and good dash of pepper.

Place the veggies into the oven and set your timer for 15-minutes.

While the celery, leeks and garlic are roasting, bring the chicken stock to a simmer and add the French green lentils and dry vermouth. Cover and let bubble while waiting for the veggies to roast.

After about 10-minutes, turn the celery, leeks and garlic to prevent any burning. Allow them to continue roasting while the lentils simmer. You can do a taste test of the broth to check seasonings and adjust as desired with more salt, pepper, or oregano.

Remove the roasted celery, leeks, and garlic from the oven and add to the bubbling French green lentils. Chop up those celery leaves and add them, along with the 1-cup water, and simmer the soup uncovered for up to 20-minutes, or until the lentils are to your liking.

Serve with toasted and buttered slices of good French bread.

Happy Spring!

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Oh my gosh your kid is so creative! (Right-brain dominant kids)

Posted in Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 04/17/2012

My tot is only three and she’s in love with coloring, coloring, painting, coloring, cooking, imaginary play, and more painting. I often hear the, “Oh my gosh, she’s just like you” comment, along with the, “You’re so lucky she is so creative!” Well, am I? The thing is, I’m hyper-creative. While writing this I’m also thinking about what I’m going to cook for dinner, that the downstairs hallway needs painting, how I’d like to do a finger paint canvas project with the tot, and how cool it would be to make a soap dish from a cabbage leaf pressed in clay.

I’m a bit ADHD right-brain creative.

Along with having all these awesome ideas running through my head, I’ve got life to contend with. Often my ideas are a flash and then gone.

I also can’t add without using my fingers.

(really)

Creative kids often struggle with logical real world stuff. The right-brain is hardwired to indulge creative thought, pushing that mathematical, sensible, and reasonable left-brain to the background. Encouraging creativity is important for all – but sometimes it is important to make sure those that are creative are getting a bit of that logical left to balance things out.

The Right-Brain Dominant Child

A child’s brain is an amazing thing with areas in charge of logical thought, which may not be used as often as parents (and teachers) would like, and also creativity. The brain is divided into two hemispheres – the right and the left. The left side of the brain is dominant over the right side of the body and the right over the left. This means left-handed individuals are thought to be right-brain dominant, but it is not always the case. Before labeling a child as a right-brain learner, remember that the entire brain works together to create a complete human being, but many do have tendencies toward a specific half.

Right-Brain Characteristics

When a child seems to excel in the creative arts, is excited about doing hands-on activities, and exploring and experimenting, the right side of the brain is probably dominant over the left. Several developmental characteristics are often associated with right-brain learners such as higher levels of creativity and language skills. Along with these positive attributes, right-brain dominant kids are often thought unorganized and easily distracted.

A right-brain dominant child may also be classified as a visual- spatial learner, which means the brain taps into learning through visual clues, the child prefers information given all at once, and learns through doing not observing. Those long mathematical problems or activities that follow multi-step directions may cause a right-brained child to tune out. In a perfect world, children would be taught in ways most appropriate for their learning style, but with a majority of the population leaning toward being left-brain dominant, a more structured, linear, and goal-oriented way of education prevails. This causes many a teacher to feel a child isn’t able to perform as well as other children without realizing that it may have more to do with how the information is presented.

Learning with a Right-Brained Child

Now that you have determined you have a right-brained child, what is the next step? There are simple ways to encourage your child to tap into both sides of the brain, which not only allows the dominant side to shine, but balances the whole being.

–       Use your child’s creativity to help utilize left-brain strengths.  Most right-brain dominant children enjoy learning through doing. Turn the next challenging math assignment into a creative experience by encouraging brain to think in different ways. Spend time talking through the assignment with your child, or even act out ideas, and encourage taking notes to help remember details later. Not only does this help keep things on track, but encourages the linear left-brain to work alongside the creative right.

–       When your child is ready to get working, encourage solo work time. Often right-brained children enjoy working with others, which may lead to wonderful and exciting learning opportunities within the classroom, but can take a child off-task when completing homework. Tap into the left-brain by giving your child quiet space to focus on the task at hand. When a task is completed, celebrate with an engrossing and engaging game or activity that rewards all that hard work.

–       Use your child’s visual brain to its best by encouraging learning through using color. When studying for an upcoming spelling test offer your child a pre-test and then focus on the words that were challenging. The HSLDA (Home Schooling Legal Defense Association) suggest writing out the misspelled words on cards with the letters that are incorrect in a different color. For instance, if your child writes Saturday as “Saterday” write the correct letters in black and the incorrect “e” as a “u” but in red. Help your child make the flash cards together to encourage the left and right brain to work together.

–       Take your time – and encourage your child to do the same. Visual-spatial learners do not work well under pressure. Although, in most cases, school tests are timed, while at home, offer your child as much time as needed to get work done. If your child is challenged with an activity, encourage drawing a picture or creating charts to show visualization the activity. Offer assistance and encouragement without judgment or getting frustrated if things are taking a bit longer than desired.

–       When in the classroom, offer the right-brain dominant child lots of opportunities for visual learning, which means including charts in lectures and visuals when discussing an assignment, such as pictures of birds when learning about migration. All children enjoy looking at visuals when learning, so including additional images as often as possible only aides in everyone’s education.

Having a right-brained dominant child may seem like a roller coaster at times, with moments of total excitement and crashes with great disappointments. Working with your child is key, no matter the learning style, which encourages positive learning for years to come.

Sunday spectacular: Spring garden

Posted in About Life, About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 04/15/2012

It’s been a long time since I’ve shared a Sunday spectacular. Things have been busy, but today, due to my new iPhone, I had a camera handy to document our wonderful day full of gardening. The tot is finally old enough to (kinda) understand what we’re doing out there in the yard, and really gets into checking the plants for buds, pulling weeds (and sometimes other stuff that I have to go back and re-plant), and excitedly awaiting the strawberries to turn red.

This is the third summer we’ll be at our house and we are finally figuring out what does well where. Today I dug up a few trees and found them new homes, purchased native plants to add to our hillside, and even put together a few hanging baskets.

It was an awesome day.

So, do you garden with the family? What are your favorite garden goodies?

 

 

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Egg-citing egg carton crafts – perfect for Earth Day!

Posted in Art Activities for Kids, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 04/13/2012

Earth Day is right around the corner, and with Easter just behind us, I’ve got a stock-pile of egg cartons just begging for repurposing. I had the opportunity to share my favorite ideas with Parents.com, showcasing eight fun and simple ways to transform those egg cartons into something really special. Earth Day is all about celebrating nature and remembering to appreciate the Earth by reusing, repurposing, and recycling. These egg cup activities do all that – and more!

So head on over to Parents.com to check out 8 Creative Egg Carton Crafts and get busy with your kiddies! Want more egg carton inspiration? Check out my adorable egg cup mask that the tot and I put together along with these other awesome egg carton activities.

Everyone is having fun with egg cartons!

Skinny orange chicken

Posted in About Food by Sarah Lipoff on 04/12/2012

So says Sarah...

I love sweet, savory and spicy Asian food. Every once in a while we order from this awesome local place, but lately we’ve saved the cash for other things. Delivery can run upwards of $30 for an appetizer (got to have cream cheese wontons), two entrées, and don’t forget tip. Now that it’s spring, I’m also trying to lighten-up our dishes. Last night I needed a sticky rice fix something fierce and happened to have all ingredients needed for one of our all time favorites.

Orange chicken.

This is a nice and light version with lots of bright orange flavor that happily serves two – with leftovers for lunch the next day. If you love lots of sauce, you might want to double the ingredients. I like a nice, thick coating of sauce on my chicken, not a big pool of it leftover on our plates. Adding a touch of grated orange peel really kicks the orange flavor to a whole new level. But, if you’re not into that, just leave the grated orange peel out – it’s still tasty. So steam up some broccoli and fluff (or sticky-up) your rice – this orange chicken recipe is low in calories, easy on your wallet, and takes minutes to toss together.

What you need

(for the sauce)

3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon ketchup

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Big dash of dried ginger

Pinch of grated orange zest (optional)

Dash of salt and fresh pepper

(for the chicken)

1 lb boneless chicken breast cut into chunks

2 tablespoons flour

Dash of salt and fresh pepper

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 scallion chopped

What you do

Oranges are in season right now so are super cheap and super sweet. Using fresh squeezed really gives this recipe that spring-fresh flavor. Squeeze the orange juice making sure to strain for seeds (no one wants to chomp down on a crunchy bit while enjoying tasty orange chicken!). Chop and add the garlic to the orange juice along with the rice wine vinegar, ketchup, sugar, soy sauce, dried ginger, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and orange zest (if you want). Give things a whisk and let sit while preparing the chicken.

Chunk up the chicken and then add to a zip-top plastic bag. Sprinkle the flour, salt, and pepper over the chicken, seal the top, and shake-a-shake.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add the canola oil. Here’s the deal – you really need a non-stick pan or a wok to make this happen. I’ve tried using a regular skillet (and a really good one) and the chicken sears to the bottom, making a big mess.

Toss the chicken until it’s browned and happy all over, which takes about 5 to 7-minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and let rest on a few folded paper towels.

Now add that orange sauce to the hot pan and let bubble. After the sauce has simmered for about 2-minutes, add the chicken, stir to coat and continue to reduce for another minute.

Serve over a nice big pile of hot rice, a side of whatever veggies you love, and a sprinkling of chopped scallion.

Enjoy!

*Here’s my guestimate calorie breakdown. I’m no expert, and not really great with math. This is just an idea of calorie count per serving based on my three-serving recipe:

  • 1 lb cooked chicken breast – 499 calories
  • 3/4 cup orange juice – 84 calories
  • Garlic – 4 calories
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar – 1 calorie
  • 1 tbsp ketchup – 15 calories
  • 1/2 t sugar – 8 calories
  • 2 t soy sauce – 5 calories
  • 2 tablespoons flour – 56
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil – 240

Comes in right around 300 calories per serving – add steamed white rice and you’ve got a 500 calorie dinner.

 

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Toddler lunch date: Grilled cheese and apple sandwiches

Posted in About Food, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 04/11/2012

So says Sarah...

For the last couple of days the tot and I have enjoyed some time off from the preschool. It’s spring break, which means doing lots of messy projects at home, cuddling with an afternoon movie, and making tasty stuff.

Honestly?

I’m kind of in love with spring break right now.

Today I decided we would have a lunch date. Instead of feeding the tot her regular side of apple sauce with a plain cheese sandwich – and making something for myself later while she napped, I mixed it up a bit by making a sandwich both of us would love.

Grilled cheese and apple sandwiches.

Yeah, this is a kid-friendly sandwich, but it’s also a wonderfully tasty and fulfilling adult light-lunch option. Enjoy with a small cup of soup or side salad and you’ve got an awesome lunch. Just go a bit lighter on the mustard for the kiddies.

What you need to make one sandwich…

2 slices of whole-wheat bread

Room temperature butter

Dijon mustard

2 thick slices of Jarlsburg (Swiss) cheese

1/4 a Gala apple thinly sliced (you can leave the skin on)

What you do…

Start by giving one side of a piece of whole-wheat bread a light coating of butter. Place that slice, butter side down, in a pan over medium-to-low heat.

Cover that slice of bread with one of the slices of Jarlsburg. Good Jarlsburg cheese is nutty and ooey-gooey, which blends wonderfully with the sweet Gala apples, and tang of the mustard.

Thinly slice one-forth of the apple, avoiding the core, and layer six to eight slices on top of the cheese.

Top the apples with the second slice of cheese.

Give the second piece of whole-wheat bread a nice coating of good Dijon mustard, place on top of the sandwich, and lightly coat the outside of the slice of bread with butter.

By now the sandwich is probably ready for a flip – do so gently with a spatula to ensure the whole pile of goodness doesn’t fall apart.

Let the grilled cheese and apple sandwich toast until the cheese is gooey – about 3 to 4-minutes on each side.

You know that melty-cheesy-oh-so-good thing?

Yeah.

Grilled cheese and apple sandwich

Enjoy!