will troll you

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Made it to the beach! The sun hat was another madcap project I decided to finish on the night of the flight. Ted wanted to wear it for shade while enjoying his snack. Which came in a bag. Which now is a blanket. Taa-daa!

Made it to the beach! The sun hat was another madcap project I decided to finish on the night of the flight. Ted wanted to wear it for shade while enjoying his snack. Which came in a bag. Which now is a blanket. Taa-daa!

Filed under projects San Diego

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Last-minute, All-in-one Travel Tote, Beach Bag, Play Mat and Blanket

I was going to post something yesterday, but I got distracted. We were supposed to fly to San Diego the next morning, and I got up resolving to pack immediately and for once go to bed before 2am the night before a flight.

For some reason, a random thrift store baby quilt was one of the first things I picked up, and as I sat there folding it, it occurred to me that, folded twice, it was the perfect size!!! for an airplane activity/beach bag. Which I didn’t own since my last one got trashed last year in San Diego. I had to make it. Right. Now.

The fabric store was about to open, so I threw Ted in the car, ostensibly to try out his new booster seat, and raced out, with only the vaguest idea of how I was going to accomplish the feat. 

Back home with supplies. Two separating zippers, six D-rings, a few feet of heavy webbing, some cross stitch thread. Now waiting for bedtime so I can get down to it in earnest.

imageHand-stitching the zipper to the sides and across the middle of the quilt’s back.

Zippers trimmed to size, now time to block the ends.

Both sides ready!

Stitching D-rings in place for the straps.

Straps fed through the rings.

Two more rings (salvaged from an old handbag) sewn at one end of the webbing, so the straps can be adjusted for carrying in hand or over the shoulder, or taken off completely so the quilt can be a quilt. (Hence the attempt at keeping modifications to a minimum.)

Didn’t even occurred to me, but that makes three big pockets! Hurray for happy accidents.

No time to make my own pouch, so I grabbed one at a local toy store, put grommets in the corners, attached some bookbinder rings and snapped them onto strap D-rings with a couple of animal flashlight keyrings. (Of course it could have been done better, but I was just using whatever I had to hand.)

Let the stuffing begin!

The stripes! The stripes! My eyes hurt! (Here’s to getting dressed sleep deprived and in the dark.)

We’ve made it to San Diego without incident, the bag withstood the rigours of travel quite well (need to find a way to unobtrusively anchor the straps at the bottom), and, fashion failures notwithstanding, I’m going to pronounce this project a crafting success.

The bag pictured above contains:

  • laptop and charger
  • noise-canceling headphones in a case
  • travel potty with 12 liners
  • 4 pull-ups
  • box of wet wipes
  • 4 DVDs
  • 6 books
  • sketchbook
  • box of triangular crayons
  • magnetic drawing board
  • I-Spy card game
  • kaleidoscope
  • light-up plane fan
  • small teddy bear
  • pig and cow keychain flashlights
  • documents case/wallet
  • matchbox helicopter
  • toy car and truck
  • 3 BRIO trains
  • large peanut butter jelly sandwich
  • snack bag of baby carrots
  • banana
  • big bag of Bitty Bites
  • 2 fruit and veggie puree pouches
  • a few lollipops (for sucking on take-off and descent)
  • 2 granola bars
  • 3 fruit leather strips
  • 2 wholegrain breadsticks

And it still fit under the seat in front, economy class! (Mostly because Ted ate most of the snacks.)

All settled in our hotel room. The straps sticking out on both sides were annoying him, so I pulled them out. For now. Off to the beach tomorrow, so I’ll need a bag!

Filed under air travel with toddlers crafting last-minute projects

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I was pining after “decent” bread, and a cousin nudged me towards a website she uses. This was the simplest recipe, and it’s entirely sugar-free, just as I wanted it to be. (Seriously, if I want cake, I’ll ask for it.)

Like what you see? Here’s the recipe:

1 cup white flour
1 cup whole grain flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup warm water
1 envelope Fleischmann’s Yeast (the recipe calls for a little less, a little different, but this is what I had to hand)
2 tbsp oil
3 tbsp sunflower seeds

Mix flour and salt. Dissolve yeast in a little water, add some flour to make into paste. Add yeast to flour, add water and oil. Knead until smooth and a little sticky. Add sunflower. Knead until well incorporated. Place in a bowl, brush with oil and leave covered with a cloth for 30-40 minutes. Make sure it stays warm and out of draft. Punch back, shape and place on a paper-covered baking tray. Can dip in more sunflower seeds, but for me they didn’t adhere very well and kept falling off afterwards. Leave covered for about 30 minutes, until risen again. Bake in an oven preheated to about 425F for 12-15 minutes, with a tray of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven (cold water will do). Enjoy quick, because it’s totally preservative-free!

Filed under cooking

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Nice, Kind… Mindreader

In the circles in which I spend most of my time there has been a lot of talk lately on the subject of teaching children manners. Yet another article is doing the rounds, and moms everywhere seem to be jumping headlong into the fray.

I was doing my best to sidestep the conversation. I was finding it exasperatingly pointless. Nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, is saying that “thank you” and “please” have become obsolete. Yet, somehow, accusations keep flying, and arguments turn ever more vitriolic. The nature of the beast couldn’t be further from polite.

Things have been happening. I have been more mindful of what happens when I open my mouth, more attentive to what others are saying to me. It’s made me more particular, granted, but somehow more forgiving, too. It’s been gnawing at me all week, and I think I’ve finally put a finger on what makes the difference between me drawing a line and drawing somebody in. 

It’s power.

I enjoy shocking my fellow moms by proclaiming that I don’t want my child to be nice. Nice is an anathema to me. After spending most of my life trying to be just that, I’ve realized at last that “being nice” has only served to keep me docile. To acquiesce when offended. To oblige when put upon. To smile through blows. 

There’s a world of difference between “nice” and “kind.” In my life, I’ve known scores of nice, polite, unkind people. I’ve also known many with no manners, but hearts big enough for every single creature in this world. 

So here’s my point: I feel like the conversation at the moment is putting the cart before the horse. A kind person cannot fail to be intrinsically polite. Insofar as politeness is consideration for others, kindness will always result in what is the spirit of good manners. Teaching children manners is all well and good, but if the behavior comes from parental edict rather than innate desire, then it’s pure form. Etiquette followed to the letter, but devoid of soul.

Kindness isn’t how you cut your steak or whether you greet your elders appropriately. It’s how you see the world. If you resent another for not letting you have a seat, or for pushing past you in a line, odds are you’re not kind, even while you demand better manners. Kindness is helping because you enjoy it, not because it makes you feel superior, or gives you leverage, or you just don’t know how to refuse. Kindness is standing up for yourself while respecting the other. It’s asking for a seat if you need it, or gently reminding the person pushing past that there is a line. Kindness is an exercise in power. It’s a calm strength that lets you see what’s needed in a situation, and step in without fear or anger, because we’re all just human, and none of us can read minds (thankfully).

So no, I don’t want Ted to be nice. I do want him to stand up for himself, respectfully, and to choose his battles wisely if it comes to that. I want him to go through life with win-win glasses on. To learn manners by choice, out of respect for others and not to fan his own sense of entitlement and superiority. I want his politeness to be a byproduct of his kind, winning mindset.

A mom can hope.

Filed under toddler manners

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Money Matters

I hadn’t really thought the idea through when, a while back, I decided to give Ted an allowance. But in all those months since our trip to Boston, it’s worked.

"I want this one!"

I might be reinventing the wheel for all I know. It’s probably been done before, and with more insight and purpose. All I wanted was an excuse not to cave in to Ted’s calmly-delivered and well-articulated, “I would like this [entirely redundant thingamabob], please.” (Whining and begging I have no trouble refusing out of hand.)

He gets $2.50 a month. I go by the ticket price and cover the tax, because I cannot imagine having this conversation just yet:

Ted: “I’d like this [$0.50 thing].”

Me: “It’s $0.50. That’s two quarters. Have you got enough money?”

Ted, triumphantly fishing out the last two coins from his wallet: “Yes!”

Me: I’m sorry, darling. You forgot the tax.

Nope. Not happening. He gets the $0.50 thing, I take his money, but - having already palmed the difference from my own wallet - hand the clerk what’s actually owed. As the months go by, Ted seems to be more and more pleased with himself when that happens. He has his own money, and he gets to decide how it’s spent, no questions asked. At the same time, any requests he cannot afford are open for discussion. If it’s useful, or sensible, or will give pleasure to the whole family and we can afford it, it’s a yes. Otherwise, it’s a no. And that’s the end of it.

"It’s $40, honey. I don’t have that much treat money. How much have you got?"

From what I hear, he’s still young for the consumerist fits so many children suffer in toy and candy aisles the world over, but I keep my fingers crossed that we’ll never have to deal with that. He’s still young, but already he’s learning the value of money. He understands that sometimes there just isn’t enough, and you have to find other amusements or go without. And treats and toys are just that - embellishments, fun to have but not necessary to have fun.

Enough for a $0.25 horse ride.

Ted’s spending so far:

July: $1 on a frozen yogurt cone, $0.50 on a painted wood train shape, $1 on four diner jukebox songs.

August: $1 on a thrift-store Thomas the Tank Engine talking toy (“I’m a verrry use-ful en-gine!” grrr…), $0.25 on a mall carousel ride, $1 on a frozen yogurt cone. $0.25 to go. It amuses me to keep track of how his money goes.

Filed under toddler allowance toddler discipline pop goes the weasel

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You Are What You Eat, Kiddo

Maybe it’s the influence of Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules. Maybe more than a year of repeating “that’s not food honey, that’s a treat" does something to your brain. Either way, I seem to have lost all tolerance for adults feeding children crap. You’re the parent, you’re in charge. 

We are not all doing the best we can. I know I’m not. And I’m not the one advocating chips for dinner.

Yes, I’m looking at you, ParentMap, you bastion of wholesome NW parenting, you beacon of all things outdoorsy and organic. How could you do this to me? How could you taunt me so? How could you send me a link to an article on 12 Genius Campfire Meals that was anything but? You know I love camping! And campfires! And new ideas for what to eat when out in the wilderness!

Of course I read it.

And wept.

imageDo I even need to bother questioning the nutritional value of a bag of nacho cheese chips? And ice-cream, s’mores cones, and chocolate banana boats are not ”meals.” 

Judging from the dish selection and equipment necessary, ParentMap wanted to send its readers on a luxe car camping trip with a bunch of unruly offspring. Dutch ovens and waffle makers? Personalized pizzas for the “picky” eaters? Spare me.

(Yes, I’m in a terribly judge-y mood today, and, apparently, consciously choosing to waste my energy on it, though overall I’ve been getting really good at stepping away from unnecessary peeves. No time for drama for this mama.)

Since it’s rude and unproductive to criticize without offering ways to improve, here are my 12 Average-Intelligence Campfire Meals, that - unlike Dutch-oven stuffed peppers - are quick and easy to prepare and do not require specialized equipment (I am, however, assuming we’re still car-camping and have access to a decent cool box):

  1. Stir-fry
    image(Photo credit: Flitzy Phoebie)

    Most of the time, I like to pre-cook my meat and get all the veggies chopped at home, so I’m not wasting camp fuel and holiday time on prep work. For the same reason, I tend to use fresh packaged noodles rather than rice. If we do want rice, we opt for the pre-cooked variety that only needs about 10 minutes on the stove. Fresh spices are lovely, but ready sauces do just fine for camp cooking.

  2. Spaghetti
    image(Photo credit: .:Ganesha:. on Flickr)

    Cook noodles, fry whatever meat and veg you’d like to add, warm up sauce, serve. We had this while backcountry camping, with dehydrated sauce and peas. Worked out great, and Ted loved it.
    (Backcountry tip: Costco’s bacon bits don’t need to be refrigerated.)

  3. Hamburgers
    image(Photo credit: Holidays Central)

    Yes, hamburgers. I make ours in advance from mince I’ve chosen, so I know it’s 100% good-quality beef. Or turkey, I’m easy. Salad is easy enough to pack, and I usually serve them with a slice of cheese and some crushed avocado as well, with roast corn on the side. We prefer the taste of wholegrain and that’s my usual go-to carb base, but I’ve just found out (in the process of looking for a photo for this post) a recipe for Paleo sliders with eggplant “buns,” so I think that’s on the menu for our next trip instead!

  4. Kebabs
    image(Photo credit:

    D’oh. Just make sure the meat is cooked through. If you have the time and fuel, serve with rice. Otherwise, bread or couscous work, too. Or more vegetables. Can’t go wrong with that.

  5. Tuna salad
    image(Photo credit: Call Me Fudge)

    You can go the traditional way, and mix canned tuna with some mayo and S&P, but I like to keep things light, so instead I’d recommend this healthy tuna salad recipe. Serve over baked potatoes (yum) or pasta, or, if you really don’t feel like building a fire/starting the stove, with bread. 

  6. Chili
    image(Photo credit: 50 Campfires)

    Grab some ground beef and chorizo, get a good fire going, and soon you’ll be enjoying the taste of camping at its finest. I wouldn’t do this on a camp stove, as it’s too fuel-hungry, but if there’s no burn ban then it’s on! Just check out this campfire chili recipe.

  7. Grilled fish
    (Photo credit: Lindsay Johnson via Design Mom)

    No camping experience would be complete without a freshly-caught fish off the grill. It’s easy, delicious and good for you. Serve with whatever takes your fancy, be it baked potatoes and veggie kebabs or couscous and salad. And if fishing and the associated violence aren’t on your bucket list of camping experiences, you can always grab your favorite fillets from the store.

  8. Kielbasa and baked potatoes
    image(Photo credit: The Polish-American Club (PAC) of the Triangle)

    This one is a nod to my Polish heritage. I’ve spent my childhood perfecting stick-sharpening and sausage-spearing skills, so it would be a shame to let all that practice go to waste. Make sure you slash the kielbasa before you put it over the flames, because it tends to “jump off” the stick if allowed to explode uncontrollably. Back in the old country, we’d eat it with a slice of crusty bread and a crunchy vinegar-free pickle, but these days I prefer baked potatoes and a salad.

  9. Ratatouille

    I love this one, especially if I got a big package of kielbasa I can chop up and fry first to grease the pan. Nothing yummier than a “spiked” veggie entrée. An easy, forgiving one-pot dish that’s also a great way to use up all the stray vegetables I tend to accumulate over the week while making other meals. Also, a great excuse to serve with over-the-fire dinner crescents.
    imageNow that’s genius. (Photo credit: Glamping Campsites)

  10. Stew
    image(Photo credit: lovetoknow camping)

    Delicious on the colder camping trips, especially if you already feel compelled to keep the fire going. It’s a stew. Being hearty and satisfying is in its job description. Nuff said.

  11. Potato cakes
    image(Photo credit: Pomidor i Bazylia)

    I stumbled across this one by accident, but it worked out great. We picked up dehydrated hash browns at Costco, and I planned on having them for breakfast one day. One box didn’t seem like much, so I rehydrated two. We had hash browns coming out of our ears. I popped the “leftovers” in the cool box, and used them up the next day for dinner. All it took was a flashback to my grandmother’s kitchen and the memory of innumerable summer evenings spent munching scallion-heavy potato cakes. Couple of eggs, a little flour, a dollop of sour cream on top and we had ourselves a childhood-throwback dinner. We rounded it off with some roast vegetables, and decided to remember some protein next time. (Come to think of it, some mixed-in canned tuna wouldn’t go amiss. Or smoked salmon. Definitely salmon.)

  12. Soup, Risotto… All The Things
    image(Photo credit: Who Needs A Cape?)

    Maybe I’m alone in this (the popularity of Dutch ovens would seem to suggest so), but I’m a big believer in (car) camping convenience. I’m on holiday, I don’t want to be slaving over the fire for hours on end. I want to go swimming, I want to hike, I want to play frisbee and chase with my kid, and then I want to go back to our tent to a good meal, burn ban or not. And the best way to achieve all that is a bit of meal planning while still at home. Anything that lends itself to reheating is fair game. If it can be frozen, that’s better still, as it can double up as an extra ice pack in the cool box. Anything that doesn’t make our camping life easier is out. And still we get to eat well, and spend less time and dirty fewer dishes in the process. You don’t have to be a genius to figure that out.

I’d keep ranting, but we’re off camping and about to cross the border to Canada. Have a great weekend! And if the above wasn’t enough to get your saliva and creative juices flowing, be sure to check out these 500+ Camping Recipes from Mom with a prep

Filed under camp food common sense eat like you mean it