Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fun craft time with your toddler

The longer I'm a mom, the more I realize it's up to me to enrich my child's life.  Yes, his daycare is wonderful - they sing, dance, play games, do arts & crafts and have a jolly good time, but I also feel like part of that is my responsibility as his mother (plus I want to do all that fun stuff with him too).

Initially I was very daunted by the idea of trying to organize activities for my son (he'll be 2.5 next month), that's when I had an "ah ha" moment.  Toddlers have super short attention spans.  I didn't need to plan activities that would last for hours - just a short 10-30 minutes.  Once I had this realization, I started Googling and doing different crafting activities with my son - sometimes it's just coloring in a coloring book (but hey, we're doing it together) - other times I put a bit more effort into it and we "make" something.

To date we've made a telescope from a papertowel roll (which we covered in construction paper bits and painted) and this past weekend we made a paper bag puppet (who got his hair removed the moment we were done, lol).

Point is, don't be intimidated mommies!  There are lots of great resources out there and these crafts don't take a lot of time (or money ... or if you're like me, creativity).  The main things I learned are that (1) it doesn't have to be something super well thought out; (2) it doesn't have to be priceless work of art you'll want to frame and keep forever; (3) have fun with it - get involved with your toddler and (4) encourage their inner artist simply by presenting them with these opportunities to be creative.

Here are some great links of sites with craft ideas and a few inspirational pictures of my son's own handy work :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Recipe: 30 minutes or less: Paprika Chicken

You may have figured out that when it comes to cooking I'm all about (1) quick and (2) easy.  Yes, I'd also like to get "yummy" out of my meals and this one delivers on all 3.

When I got married, I got gifted several cookbooks from The Pampered Chef - one of our favorite recipes out of the 29 Minutes or Less cookbook is Paprika Chicken & Egg Noodles.

I'll share the recipe in it's entirety along with the changes I made in parenthesis.  This is a great recipe because you're constantly moving in the kitchen and before you know it - bam done!  I'm also able to get 85% of the dishes done before the meal is ready (a favorite bonus perk of mine).


  • 8 oz green beans (I've used both fresh & canned - my guys prefer canned).
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I use maybe 1/3 of a pound and use chicken breast meat)
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I just shake the shaker a few times)
  • 1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper (again, I just shake the shaker a few times)
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I do use this and I don't tolerate spicy food well, so non-spicy food eaters should be ok)
  • 8 oz mushrooms (I do presliced from the store because I'm lazy)
  • 1 medium onion (I have never used an entire onion in a meal before - I use 1/4 of a medium onion for this)
  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • 8 oz uncooked egg noodles (one bag of noodles makes two meals!)
  • OPTIONAL: 2 tbsp snipped fresh dill (I've never used this)
  • OPTIONAL: sour cream (I've never used this)
  1. Bring salted water to boil.  If using fresh green beans, cut diagonally into 2-in pieces, set aside.
  2. Lightly spray skillet with vegetable oil; heat over medium high heat 1-3 minutes or until hot.  Meanwhile, dice chicken into 1-in pieces; sprinkle with paprika, salt, black pepper & cayenne pepper, if desired.  Cook 5-7 minutes or until centers of chicken are no longer pink, stirring occasionally.  Remove chicken from skillet, set aside.
  3. As chicken cooks, cut mushrooms into quarters (or if you're me, wash some dishes).  Cut onion in half lengthwise, then into 1/2-in wedges (I cut mine to the point I can put it into my food processor and let it do the work).  Add 1 tbsp of butter to skillet.  Cook and stir mushrooms and onion over medium high heat 5 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Meanwhile (by meanwhile, I usually do this before I start the chicken on step 2 above), add noodles to boiling water and cook 2 minutes.  Add green beans and cook uncovered, 5-6 minutes or until noodles are cooked to desired tenderness.  Carefully remove 3/4 cup of the cooking water for use in sauce.  Drain noodles and green beans using colander.
  5. Add chicken and cooking water to skillet; stir to loosen browned bits from bottom of skillet.  Cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until sauce is thickened and chicken is heated through.
  6. Meanwhile, toss noodles and green beans with remaining 2 tbsp butter.
The recipe says to serve by putting the noodles/green beans on the plate and then topping with chicken/vegetable mixture - however, I've taken to mixing everything together in one pan as I feel that gives the overall meal a better flavor - feel free to serve it however you'd like!  If you'd like to use dill and/or sour cream, the recipe states to add it as a garnish to each individual plate.

Pictures of the magic happening:

Haha, those bottom few show: (1) that I can do dishes while I cook; (2) proof kids will eat it too and (3) the finished yum yum product.

Share links to your favorite 30 minutes or less recipes below, I'm always looking to try new things.
Bon appetit!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

The mainstream media has blown this issue way out of proportion lately - I'm sure you've seen all the articles about how anti-vaxxers are causing massive "outbreaks".  OK, first off - take a breath, there is no need for mass hysteria unless you consider less than 200 cases across the entire US in 2013 to be an "outbreak".

Some back story - here is a link to one of the articles I'm referencing: Thanks, Anti-Vaxxers. You Just Brought Back Measles in NYC.

Here is a very well written rebuttal by another blog writer, Jessica Gianelloni: Thanks, Pharma. You created the “anti-vaccine movement”.

The purpose of my article today is not to take a stance on either side - you, as a parent, have to ultimately make the decisions that you believe are right for your children & family.  If you vaccinate, great - if you don't, that's OK too.  As a parent, I would never blame an unvaccinated child for an "outbreak" because statstically speaking, odds are low the "outbreak" came from an unvaccinated child - odds are higher that it came from (1) someone who traveled outside the country and did not obtain the proper boosters before travel; (2) someone who had the vaccine as a child, but did not maintain their boosters as an adults or (3) someone who recently obtained the vaccine and had a negative response (you've heard of people contracting the flu from the flu shot yes?).

The purpose of my article is simply to say: as parents we have choices.  We can't let fearmongering articles like The Daily Beast article above influence our decisions as parents.  We know the research is there, both pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine.  It's up to us as parents to read the research, process what it says and make decisions regarding how we want to move forward.

See: How Facebook Can Sway Parents' Decision to Vaccinate Their Kids

Personally, we decided to follow the CDC guidelines for my son (some of his shots are delayed).  I did a lot of research (especially around the possibility of vaccines causing autism) and came to the conclusion for myself that the recommended route was OK and safe for my son and would protect him should he be potentially exposed to one of the diseases he's vaccinated against (yes, I did the chicken pox one too - I could write an entire new article about that decision).  That does not mean that I believe every other parent should do what I chose to do - they have to make that decision independently for themselves.

There have also been interesting articles from personal, individual experiences (like this one from Slate).  The thing I find interesting in this article that I'd like to research more is this: does being vaccinated naturally strengthen our immune systems in other ways?  My son is 2.5 - he's had a handful of sick visits to the doctor in that time (mostly due to my paranoia as a first time mother, more so than any sickness), he's missed 1-2 days of daycare max for sickness (teething related fever) and has received mild antibiotics 2-4 times (mostly just amoxicillin).  I can't help but wonder if there is a correlation between my son being vaccinated and his almost complete lack of illness since birth (granted there are other factors to consider, his diet, our overall household health [I've been sick quite a bit since he was born], his exposure to environmental elements, etc).  It's something I plan to do more research on as my husband & I talk about expanding our family.

Since I've now rambled on, let me just leave you with this: at the end of the day, as a parent - you make the choices regarding how you raise your children.  That's always how it goes: parents make the choices, but we also suffer from any unintended consequences.  Lord knows as a mom, I've made a decision one way I've later regretted.  All we can do as parents is learn, grow and change along the way.