Nothing is Forever

Do you recognize this character?

I know the Christmas season is all about being charitable but it seems everywhere I  go now I get hit up for more money. It used to be I could just give to the Salvation Army reps who stood outside the stores with bells and buckets, alerting me to their presence but  never harassing me when I walked by. There were school and church fundraisers where I could buy from people I know. Now I get people who want money and food for a homeless shelter actually accosting me EVERY time I go to the grocery store, not just for the holidays. “Don’t make eye contact,” I tell myself. I don’t like being this way but otherwise I feel the need to explain why I’m not contributing each and every time I shop for food. Retailers now make the employees ask outright, would you like to add a dollar to that for this or that? In this case, I usually end up saying yes because they all sound like good causes and who wants to say no to the children’s hospital in front of all the other customers? Plus there is no way to avoid eye contact with a cashier. Unfortunately, it all adds up and by the time I find a cause I really want to give a more sizeable donation to, the money is gone. Then I feel guilty like maybe I shouldn’t have splurged on a facial I got last month.  (It was AWESOME by the way.) Too late! Guess I’ll be signing up for more volunteer hours instead. Letters to the military is an easy one. I can’t remember what blog had the idea about giving kids allowance and asking them to save a portion of it in a jar and then choose what causes to use it for the following year, but maybe it’s time to inspire my little man.

Speaking of charitable causes, here’s one that won’t break the bank. All you have to do is have your child write a letter to Santa and drop it into a designated mailbox at any Macy’s store. For every letter they receive, Macy’s donates $1 to the Make-a-Wish Foundation up to a million. They even have a cute web site for you to create and print the letter: http://social.macys.com/believe2010/#/home. Rocky sent a letter asking to be surprised and then added “unless I am on the naughty list for not following the rules at school and yelling at mommy”. He’s pretty curious to know if Santa really would give him coal. He’s torn between testing the theory and risking his presents.

Does anyone know if a Swiffer Wet Jet really is a good buy? Rocky got hooked on the idea last year after watching a commercial. He continues explaining to me that I need it because it is especially good at cleaning corners.  My sister’s son has a similar affection for Aqua Globes. Do those work?

What is your best bargain find so far? I got one of those free $10 certificates that JC Penney sends out every now and then and bought a gift that also happened to be 65% off the day I went in the store. I paid about $5 for a $45 item. Sears sent me a certificate from their club program that I used to buy $65 shoes for $6. Should I even bother putting a gift receipt in those boxes? Found a $90 Lennox table cloth for $12. Oh and so far I’ve managed to get three free magazine subscriptions just for being a member of magazines.com and for ordering flowers. Just in time to let all my paid subscriptions slide.

Just heard the tune “Hey Ya!” on the radio. Always puts a pep in my step even though if you listen to the lyrics it’s not an entirely happy song. I hate being tricked like that.

Sent your Christmas cards yet? Me neither. Quit your bloggin’ and get to it! I mean me, not you. You can hop on over to the Unmom for more randomness.

randomtuesday

Christmas in Germany

The German Teacher shares the lovely season of Christmas in Germany!

Christmas market, Marienplatz, Munich

Living on the edge of the Bavarian Alps as we do, one of my favorite times of year here is the Christmas season.  Between the holiday decorations, Christmas markets and the impressive backdrop of snow-covered Alps, this time of year is magical.

Saint Nicholas

We call him Santa Claus, but in Germany he’s called Sankt Nikolaus, or Saint Nicholas.  In Germany, Saint Nicholas brings gifts to children on December 6th, his feast day.

This year, I thought Rosebud was old enough to learn about Saint Nicholas. On the evening of December 5th, Rosebud and I sat at our kitchen table, where I sang her a song about Saint Nicholas called “Lasst uns froh und munter sein” (or “Let us be happy and cheerful”).  The song is about how children put out a plate on Saint Nicholas Eve, and then while the children sleep, Nicholas puts treats in the plate for the children to find the next morning.  We sang the song several times (“Mommy, sing it again?”), and then I helped Rosebud put a plate on our kitchen table for Saint Nicholas.  The next morning, her eyes were wide with amazement when she discovered her plate was full, with a few sweets and many clementines.

Christmas market, Salzburg, Austria

Originally, children in Germany would put out a boot or a stocking, just like the tradition of having Christmas stockings for Santa to fill.  Usually Saint Nicholas leaves gifts of oranges or clementines, nuts, chocolates, Lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread) and maybe some other small gifts.  A friend of mine in the Netherlands told me that Saint Nicholas is very important there; he’s called Sinter Klaas and children get most of their gifts on Saint Nicholas day.

At some of the Christmas markets in Germany, Saint Nicholas appears in costume.  He asks the children if they have been good and usually gives them a clementine or apple.  Unlike our jolly Saint Nick in North America, Saint Nicholas is slender rather than plump, and dressed like a bishop in red and gold.

O Tannenbaum – Oh Christmas Tree

The custom of bringing an evergreen into your home and decorating it is an old one; the tree symbolized the return of spring. Traditionally, Germans decorate their tree with candles and bows; also common are sweets, glass balls, straw stars and wooden ornaments and figures.  Most people have lights in the shape of candles for their tree, but some families still put actual candles on their tree.  When I was an exchange student in Köln (Cologne), my family had real candles for their tree.  We lit the candles and admired the tree for about twenty minutes, but then extinguished the candles and plugged in the string of lights for the rest of the time.  The candle-lit tree was beautiful, though.  I’m not brave enough to do it myself, but the candle-lit tree is something I’ll always remember.

A typical Christmas market stall, Oberammergau

Some families put up their tree on Christmas Eve and then take it down on January 6th, which is called Three Kingsday.  In the ballet The Nutcracker, the parents of Clara put up their Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  The children don’t get to see the tree until the parents finish decorating it, which is another tradition that some families have.

Adventskranz – Advent Wreath

Most families have an advent wreath in their home, even if they aren’t necessarily religious.  It’s thought that the Advent wreath originated before Christianity spread throughout this part Europe.  In the Germanic and Scandinavian countries, a large wheel was decorated with four candles.  The four candles represented the four seasons, and the wheel represented the earth.  The candles were lit in the hopes that the wheel would turn back toward the sun.

Today, the candles are lit for each Advent Sunday and instead of a wheel, a circle is usually fashioned out of pine boughs.  Last year, one of the students I tutor in English was telling me how he and his friend always collect pine boughs to make into wreaths to sell at their local Christmas Market.  The hand-made wreaths I’ve seen here are decorated with ribbons, pinecones, dried oranges, whole spices and other seasonal items.  The wreaths make for a beautiful table decoration and help to bring a little light into one’s home during the dark December days.

Carousel, Christmas market, Oberammergau

Christkindlmarkt/Weihnachtsmarkt – Christmas Markets

The Christmas markets, which are outdoor street markets, are probably my favorite tradition here.  Especially in southern Germany where we live, the markets are called the “Christkindlmarkt” but in other parts of Germany the markets are called “Weihnachtsmarkt”.  When the festive Christmas markets open on the first weekend of Advent, I feel like finally it is time to get ready for the holidays.

The markets are generally held in town squares or pedestrian zones, and wooden stalls are set up to display handmade crafts, foods, ornaments, jewelry and other items.  It wouldn’t be a Christmas market without sausages or bratwurst, gebrannte Mandeln (candied almonds) and Glühwein (mulled hot wine) or Kinderpunsch (spiced warm fruit punch).

Larger cities like Munich have multiple Christmas markets, and even special themed ones.  This year, with baby Superdude in the stroller and Rosebud who likes to walk, we have gone to the smaller markets in our region.  Rosebud in particular has loved going to the Christmas markets.  She gets excited over the lights and decorations, the outdoor music and even all the people.

Even though the weather can be very cold and snowy, somehow we don’t mind when we are walking around the Christmas markets.  A mug of Glühwein or Kinderpunsch helps keep the cold away.  My children are lucky to experience the Christmas traditions here.  As they grow older, we will all have fond memories celebrating Christmas in Germany.

More lovely Christmas in Germany pictures!

A stand offering candied almonds, Bad Heilbrunn

Rosebud enjoys kettle corn, Oberammergau

Rosebud holds out her mug of Kinderpunsch, Munich

Listening to festive music performed by a local band, Oberammergau

Got Cork? Get Creative!

My first attempt at a wine cork wreath.

I did not get the artistic gene in my family. My mother reminds me of this fact. “Mom,” I asked her once. “Why do you keep that ugly clay duck I made in 6th grade? It has no neck, the beak is misshapen and the colors are all off.” She shook her head and said, “I keep it because I know it was the best you could do.” I think she takes pity on me because she didn’t get the gene either. Like recently when I painted a basic happy birthday sign for my son’s party. She took one look at it and said, “You needed your sisters to help you with that.” Ah geez.

Well, I may not be the artist/animator with a strong musical background like my older sister. Nor do I have a passion for sewing that my younger sister has, something that came in very handy after she had three children by the age of 30.

A different take.

But, c’mon Mom, I’m not totally lacking in creativity. Check out these cork wreaths I made this month. While there are other blogs that will give you step by step instructions on how to recycle your wine corks, I got what I thought I could use at the craft store (a glue gun, a couple different kinds of wreath bases and some ribbon) and went to work. To be honest, I came across the idea last year and casually mentioned that I could use a few corks to one of the relatives. She recruited a couple of others and, a year later, they delivered boxes full and told me they couldn’t wait to see what I was going to do with them. Darn it. I guess I’d better follow through, I thought. (I hope it’s true they were collecting from friends as well because otherwise those relatives drink quite a bit. I’m just sayin’.) So far I’ve made three wreaths and I still have many more corks leftover. Looks like someone’s getting wine cork trivets this year! Or maybe some cork ornaments from Rocky. Placeholders are another easy use. I recently visited a chic hotel that used wine corks in tall glass vases as decor. Must be the in thing now. Look, Scriv, conveniently green! Ho ho ho.

 

***The Gen X Moms are no longer writing as a group (too many scheduling conflicts) but you can continue reading about my adventures with Rocky on my new blog at:

http://www.jedismama.com

A Can't Miss Toy for Toddlers AND Preschoolers

I have to review this toy because both of my kids love it.  And, while it comes with 27 pieces, it’s never strewn across the living room floor.  Also, even though it plays music, it isn’t annoying.  Oh, yeah, and it’s gender neutral. Do I have your interest, yet?

It’s Leap Frog’s Fridge Phonics Magnetic Alphabet Set. It is a full set of letter magnets and a musical magnetic holder.  The letter magnets fit, one at a time, inside the doghouse. When they’re engaged, a song plays, introducing your child to that letter’s sounds. For example, when you put in “A,” you’ll hear this song:  “A.  A says A and A says ah.  Every letter makes a sound. A says A.  And ah.”  And, that same simplistic song is what you’ll hear for every letter.  I like that it’s so simplistic. The kids can focus on the differences in the verses, which is merely the sound(s) associated with that letter. The vowels are a different color from the other magnets, so, even early on, kids can associate that they go together and are somehow different from the other letters. There’s also a button they can push that plays the Alphabet Song.  Bugster is only 20 months old, and she can mumble her way through The Alphabet Song pretty well because of all the times she has pushed this very button.

Leap Frog’s suggested age for this toy is 2-5 years.  Both of my kids started playing with that earlier than that, and The Big Cheese, at 3 1/2, is still enjoying it. 

The letters are a little large, so if you’re super neat and like a blank fridge, this isn’t for you.  But, I have found it really holds my kids’ interest. I have used it more times than I can count to distract them while i’m in the middle of cooking  a somewhat involved meal. 

It’s a little pricey, at $20, but I really think it is worth every penny.  The Big Cheese hasn’t had any other toy for 2 years that has gotten as much use as this one.

Holiday Photo Tips

Tis the season for holiday decorating, overeating, over spending and family gatherings.  If you’re like most Americans, you will most likely be toting a camera around with you on these occasions.  How do you capture these moments and what are the best tips from the pros?  Lucky for you I have some great tips for even the most beginning novice.

You don't need the whole tree in there to get they're in front of the tree.

Don’t have a super fancy DSLR?  No worries, the point and shoot cameras that are available today take some really amazing pictures. Even I don’t carry around my big pro camera to family functions, I carry my small Canon Powershot.  The first tip I tell everyone is to READ YOUR MANUAL!  Get to know your camera and the different settings.  For example, you should be able to switch between having the flash fire automatically or turn that baby off.  If you want a moody shot of the neighborhood Christmas lights, you obviously don’t want the flash going off automatically, you need to know how to turn the flash off.

Decide what is your subject.  This is a HUGE one that I tell people all the time, especially my parents.  Every time my parents come back from a trip there are always pictures of my mom, about the size of an ant, the huge skyline, the trees, cars, etc all in one picture.  What is the focus?  If you’re going to do a scenic photo, take the people out, if you want a photo of a person, make them the star and don’t worry about all that scenery.  Too often I see holiday pictures with the huge Christmas tree, the stockings hung, and the kids in about 1/4 of the photo.  Trust me, if your kids are the star of the photo and take up 75% of the frame, the viewer still understands and sees they’re in front of the Christmas tree, you don’t need all 8 feet of the tree in there.

Get creative with your shots!

Be creative. We always try to do something different with our holiday pictures, whether its a fun picture of the kids wrapped up in a ton of Christmas lights, just a picture of their feet in front of the fire, or funny angles of their toys.  That’s the joy of the digital age, you can take as many pictures as you want, so go ahead and be creative!
And finally… edit edit edit.  I am a AVID believer in editing.  We have way to many pictures stored on our hard drives these days.  We didn’t use to have 150 pictures from Christmas, maybe a roll of 36 exposures right?  Just because we took the picture does not mean we have to save it.  We don’t need a picture of every toy that was opened, or the back of the kids when they were playing with their cousins.  Instead edit the pictures down to a solid 30-40 pictures that represent this holiday season best and get them into an album of some sort.  Whether is an online album to share with friends and family or a printed album get them off the computer and into a place that your children can look at!  Don’t hand them a hard drive when they’re all grown, get these memories in print.

The Photo Addict runs a retail photography studio location in Fullerton, Ca.

Toddler + Breakable Ornaments = ???

Mouse is one inquisitive dude. He is constantly exploring, testing, and problem solving. Train Guy is pretty positive he’s going to grow up to be an engineer because of the way he observes everything and then takes it all apart to see how it works. So it’s no surprise that he was absolutely enchanted by the Christmas tree, and by “enchanted” I mean “desperately wanted to figure out how that thing lights up and how all of those pretty ornaments feel in his hand.”

Bad cell phone pic of Mouse's creative problem solving

Like here’s an example of his problem-solving capabilities. We have some portable fencing that we use for our dogs on camping trips. We thought we would set up the tree all nice and pretty, and then surround it with the dog fence and make it Mouse-proof. It seemed like a great idea, and at first it totally worked. Mouse saw the tree, and after several rounds of “Wow! WOW!” he proceeded to conduct a very thorough investigation of the fencing to figure out how to get around it. Finding nothing, he quite simply resorted to hopping onto one of his ride-on toys and ramming the fence outright. I was laughing so hard all I could get was a crappy cell phone picture, but I had to admire his creativity.

I’m pretty damned proud of his sense of adventure and desire to learn and experience everything around him, but sometimes it’s not the safest course of action. Still, I wouldn’t change his natural sense of curiousity for the world.

Anyway, Train Guy and I collect Christmas ornaments and have gathered many from all over the world. Putting the truly breakable ones on the actual tree was clearly a bad idea, but I still wanted to display them.

From L to R: an antique ornament handed down from my grandmother, a Waterford crystal Snoopy, and a hand-painted ornament from Germany

Then I had a brainstorm. Why not buy a garland, string it up out of reach, and then hang our nice ornaments from there?

I headed over to Michaels to grab an artifical garland as well as a string of lights to make it all snazzy. Oh, an important thing to know is that I have these bursts of creating brainstorming quite frequently. A good 50% of the time they don’t work out at all. About an additional 25% they work, but not quite like I imagined them. I often run into several roadblocks along the way. This was no exception.

My first challenge was the fact that the garland was 9 feet long while the string of lights was only 7 feet. Yes, I could have purchased a longer string of lights, but these were on sale and I’m pretty cheap, so I bought two strings, thinking I could double up and make it all nice and pretty. Problem solved!

Back at home, I hit problem #2, which was that the two strings of lights I’d purchased did not, in fact, connect end-to-end to make one long continuous string. That would be the expensive lights I put back on the shelf thinking I was so clever by getting two cheaper strings. And since we only had one outlet to work with, I had to figure something out. I thought about cutting the end off the garland to make it shorter, but it’s made of this thick wire and I wasn’t sure where the wire cutters were in the first place (the garage, I presume, except the garage is sort of a hazardous area right now).

Voila!

But then it occurred to me to just bend the edges back, one foot on either side. And voila! A 7 foot garland to match my 7 foot light strand. Now I have to take the unused lights back to Michaels, but oh well. I worried about additional setbacks, but much to my delight, there were none! I managed to string the garland across two windows in our dining room, hang my nice ornaments out of reach, and they all looked quite good.

Go me!

So if you’re looking for a way to display breakable ornaments out of reach of toddlers, or just have extra ornaments you want to show off–here’s your solution!

'Tis the Season To Be Sick

‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all through the day, I’d been achin’ and chillin’ with no appetite.  I called up my hubby and asked him to please, bring home some Oscillo as fast as can be.  After taking as directed, third time the charm, Thanksgiving morning I was raring to go.

Now, I truly felt like the flu was upon me that day and I’m ever so thankful to have heard about Oscillococcinum while attending a vaccine workshop at Belly Sprout by Dr. Lauren Feder, a homeopathic M.D. Our Thanksgiving dinner may have turned into take-out otherwise. I took the Oscillo just as instructed, at the first sign of flu symptoms, and followed up with one dose every 6 hours. By the third dose (after a good night’s rest), I was in good shape and able to cook all day.  I was worried that it may taste funky but not at all. It was quite sweet actually. What I really like is that when my son turns 2 he will be able to take the same Oscillo dose. No need to purchase the children’s type. It works for the whole family which helps the pocketbook and storage space. I love how homeopathy helps my body do what it needs to do when I couple it with rest.

A week later, So Cal was bathed in heavy winds which seem to be the culprit of my family’s “sniffles” lately. God only knows what’s flying around in the air out there. I knew I was fighting something off when my throat came up sore. As this is the first line of defense, I took immediate action by gargling with full-strength Alkalol, a natural antiseptic and mucus solvent. I then got out my trusty Neti Pot and filled it with a mixture of equal parts Alkalol and lukewarm filtered (previously boiled) water, and flushed my nasal passages. My new drink of choice became tea with honey and I donned a scarf around my neck at all times. I broke out with the generic Emergen-C to help boost my immune system.  It is effervescent which I learned from a pharmacology seminar was the fastest way oral medication would reach your bloodstream; hence, why I like many homeopathic remedies as they are dissolved in the mouth under the tongue.

What's in your medicine cabinet?

When my throat would worsen (usually at night which is an indicator to rest), I would gargle with Alkalol again and eat a teaspoon of honey and let it coat my throat. My yoga instructor uses turmeric with raw honey but, I have yet to try this and I don’t know the measurements. I stay away from citrus as it dries the throat. Being a singer, you learn many hard lessons while singing and performing, so I’ve learned what works best for me. Tea shouldn’t be too hot either, you’re just trying to soothe it, not inflame it. The same goes for soup. Chicken soup is always a winner, but I changed it up this time with some albondigas (meatball soup) with an organic chicken stock base and lots of fresh veggies.

After a couple days of contending with my throat, the rest of this bug reared its head with sinus pressure, headache and cough. I continued with the above remedies and ran to Henry’s for some back-up. There, I found that Boiron, the makers of Oscillo, had a few other remedies in their arsenal, on sale to boot. I picked up some Chestal syrup for my cough (another product my son can take when he turns 2—KA-ching!) and Sinusalia for my sinus pain. Also in my shopping cart was Ricola sugar-free cherry drops to keep in my purse for cough attacks and ginger-peppermint tea for my sinuses.

If I had the luxury of an hour of alone time (remember I’m a mother of two children under the age of 2), I would steep a pot of this ginger-peppermint tea and run a hot bath with sea salts and essential oils. I tried this when I was single, and it really helped sweat out a sinus infection.  This time around, I would just have to settle for dressing warmly and lots of tea with honey. Oh, I almost forgot another key remedy in my bag of tricks, Save The Baby. It’s an old family favorite and hard to find. It’s like Vicks rub. We apply it at night to our chest, throat and upper lip. The vapors help soothe the cough, throat, and nasal passages.  During the day, I would take a whiff of some pungent aloe gel. This can be used similarly if Save The Baby is unavailable to you.

This might seem like a lot to you, but this is my drug-free way of letting my body work its magic and avoid the doctor’s office.

What’s in your medicine cabinet?

DISCLAIMER:  I received no compensation for any of the above products/entities mentioned. I am a consumer and the above statements were based purely on own my personal experiences and are no substitute for medical care. Keep in mind that I’m not a doctor and don’t let me dissuade you from seeking medical attention if and when necessary.

Silent Sunday

Kids and Veggies? It Can Be Done!

Guest contributor The Cooking Mama weighs in on kids and veggies!

It’s a hot and sometimes contentious topic, getting veggies into your children. Some moms are of the mind that hiding veggies is disrespectful and detrimental to the development of their palates. These moms argue that if a vegetable is prepared simply and deliciously, kids will enjoy it. That’s undoubtedly true for some lucky moms, but if the success of Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious books is any indication, lots of moms have found that their kids just aren’t ever going to eat that broccoli, whether it’s roasted with olive oil, fresh herbs, and a sprinkle of sea salt, or slathered with radioactive-orange cheese. If making a bunch of purees and stirring them into everything you make isn’t your bag, I can share a few ideas that are totally palatable to young, developing tastebuds, while retaining all the nutrients and some of the flavor and texture of the vegetables used to make them.

Baby Goose love broccoli

When Goose was starting solids, she loved veggies even more than fruit. We followed the practice of baby-led weaning, so she happily and noisily sucked and gnawed on stalks of steamed broccoli, roasted asparagus, and green beans to her little heart’s content. As her pincer grasp developed, she enjoyed peas and was absolutely crazy about black beans. I was so pleased, and maybe even a little braggy about my excellent little eater (because clearly my wonderful parenting was responsible, and not her naturally adventurous disposition). There was nothing Goose wouldn’t try. And then came toddlerhood. Suddenly the foods she once gobbled down were being pitched to the floor in a fit of disgusted rage. Black beans? BLECH! Spinach? I haven’t seen YOU eating any spinach, mother! Over the course of a couple months, vegetables became all but verboten to Goose. As she was growing well and I thought it was a brief phase, I happily offered more fruit along with the veggies, but when I realized she wasn’t eating ANY vegetables apart from sweet potatoes and the very occasional carrot cube from her peas and carrots, I realized I might have to get sneaky.

Make eggs, not war

Kids, generally speaking, like eggs a whole lot. Goose would eat them at every meal if I let her. Luckily for us, eggs are a perfect vehicle for veggie delivery. A quick peek at one of my favorite sites for baby and kid food ideas, weelicious.com, led me to the idea of mini frittatas (link to recipe: http://weelicious.com/2008/06/18/baby-frittatas/). The site’s author makes hers with roasted red pepper and asparagus, which sounds delicious to me but perhaps not the best way to introduce the concept to a truly picky eater. My first try included a small handful of cooked peas and carrots, and a dash of salt and pepper. Goose loved them! Next up was finely chopped steamed broccoli and a little bit of shredded cheddar (Goose is sensitive to dairy but can handle a very little bit of cow’s milk cheese). Verdict?

om nom nom

Yum, and her little toddler pal loved them too. These cute little handheld frittatas could take on all kinds of veggies, I’d bet. Why not try chopped, well-drained frozen spinach, finely diced squash (roasted or steamed), or seeded and finely diced tomatoes? If you’re pressed for time or don’t feel like heating up the oven, just mix your cooked, chopped veggies right into scrambled eggs before they are fully set. And when in doubt, add cheese.

Fry them up

Goose was never all that impressed when I offered steamed cubes or the mashed flesh of a baked sweet potato, but when I started cutting them in sticks or rounds and roasting them with a little olive oil and a pinch of cinnamon? She was over the moon for them. Now we have sweet potato fries with lunch or dinner a couple times a week. Goose does a dance in her highchair when she sees them and I feel good serving them because sweet potatoes are absolutely loaded with vitamins and fiber. And remember, good old Russet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and fiber too, so oven fries are a good guilt-free indulgence. Just leave the skins on and go easy on the oil! Some other veggies that might be better received in oven fry form are turnips, zucchini, carrots, or even green beans. There are plenty of recipes on the net, breaded and not, so do some experimenting.

Dessert

If all else fails and your picky little one turns her nose up at everything, make some sweets. Mini muffins are an excellent way to hide vegetables – think finely shredded zucchini or carrot in a basic spice cake recipe – and once baked, the veggies are nearly indetectable. This time of year, canned pumpkin is plentiful (barring a shortage in your neck of the woods) so try adding a few spoonfuls to oatmeal or baking up some quick breads. I’ve even read about black bean brownies, which are supposedly really moist and yummy and not at all bean-y (though I admit I haven’t mustered up the courage to try them yet). Those mixed fruit and veggie squeezable pouches are getting rave reviews, too. And even if your little one isn’t getting as many vegetables as you’d like, remember that fruit, although higher in natural sugars, also packs a big nutritional punch when it comes to vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants.

gratuitous cuteness

Getting your kids to eat the right foods can be really stressful and difficult, and I’ve definitely let myself get worried over it as much as any other mama. One obvious, but invaluable piece of advice I’ve heard from many of my mom friends is to relax, because kids will eat when they feel like it. There’s no use fighting them and making mealtime unpleasant for everyone. With that in mind, our new MO has been to just keep offering veggies every day (some hidden, some not) and make sure that Goose sees us eating and enjoying them too.

You Can Have Upholstered Chairs and Little Kids, Too

Protect your chairs with SmartSeat

I love the look and feel of upholstered chairs. Unfortunately, when it came time to choose a dining room set for our new place, I had to consider the fact that I had a 3-year-old who I feared would ruin the fabric on my beautiful chairs in no time. My husband and I ultimately decided to upholster just two of our set, at least he and I could enjoy them while our little one would remain on the much easier to wipe wood chairs. If only Becky Rabson had come up with her idea for an elegant protective seat cover sooner. Perhaps it isn’t too late to have the remaining chairs upholstered now that she offers an affordable product to combat the messes my now 5-year-old might make. If you are worried about combining your family’s upholstered chairs with a toddler, this is a product for you.

Becky was a stay-at-home mom grappling with the same issue I had about how to keep fabric chairs neat and attractive with little ones at home. Ugly vinyl just doesn’t cut it. She and her husband decided to combat the problem themselves and founded their company, PB&J Discoveries, along with a family friend. The SmartSeat chair protector they invented is a waterproof, stain resistant, and machine washable cover made from soft-to-the-touch, toxin-free fabric. It adjusts to fit most chairs ranging from 18″ to 25″ wide and comes in three basic colors. She sent me a blue one to try on my chair and I have to say it is pretty inconspicuous. I kept it on my chair over the holidays and no one even asked about it. My child sat in it over a few meals and, sure enough, down came the apple sauce and the milk. It all came right off. I also liked that there was no bulk in the material. It didn’t wrinkle and stayed in place.

Does your mom or other relative have those expensive cloth chairs you worry your child will spill juice all over? Take the seat covers with you when you travel. Find out more about Becky’s seat covers at http://www.smartseatdiningchaircovers.com/.

SmartSeat fits many types of chairs.

Disclosure: The Librarian was given a sample SmartSeat chair protector in exchange for a fair and honest review.