Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Eating in a hurry

There comes the time when your kids neat to eat, and they need to eat fast. Take a look at these great ideas.

Fast food at home

By: Nicole Dean
Kids have to eat. Three meals a day, every day. All moms know how important it is to have an arsenal of quick meals handy. You never know when you’ll have to put healthy food on the table in a hurry, or when you need ideas so dad can help.

Dunk It
Lucky for us, kids love dip. Cut some fresh cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, celery, and bell peppers and serve them with ranch dressing. Even finicky veggie-haters will eat their veggies with dressing on them.

Saved by a Sandwich
Start with two waffles, an English muffin, bagel, croissant, or a hotdog, hoagie or hamburger bun. Simply add jam, peanut butter, fruit slices, meat, hummus, veggies, eggs, or cheese. The possibilities are endless.

Oodles of Noodles
If you’ve got noodles, you can make a meal. Add some salad dressing and some meat, garbanzo beans and veggies and you’ve got pasta salad. Or, start with noodles and add a little butter and parmesan cheese to make buttered noodles. And, there’s always the classic standby - add pasta sauce and a dollop of cottage cheese onto noodles and you just made lasagna.

Wrap It Up
If you’ve got tortillas and leftovers, you’ve got a wonderful meal. Warm up your leftovers and wrap them up in a tortilla with some cheese. Voila! Leftovers Burrito.

Spuds from Heaven
Potatoes are a meal waiting to happen. Microwave a potato, pile on cheese of any sort (cheddar, mozzarella, cottage cheese) and some meat, veggies, or even salsa or sunflower seeds, and you have a delicious dinner.

Soup Warms the Soul
Fill a pan with broth and veggies. Then, just throw in whatever you have in the house, meat or beans, leftovers, a can of diced tomatoes, noodles or rice, and spices. You just made soup in minutes.

Turn the Day Upside Down
You can have breakfast any time. Cereal, eggs and bacon, waffles, or pancakes. Breakfast is always better at night.

Next time you’re in a position to make a meal in a hurry, refer back to this list and presto — you’ll have dinner on the table in minutes.

Article by:
Visit http://www.freequickrecipes.com/ for more food ideas. And, if you’re looking to save money by making frugal meals, visit www.freequickrecipes.com/frugal-cooking.php.

There are the times when fast just isn't fast enough. My children get on the bus early and go to school to eat breakfast, but this morning they couldn't wait for breakfast at school. They got up and made their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, and didn't even get it on their clothes or all over the counter. Now that's fast food!

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Putting that good food to use

With the arrival of our farm cooperative food basket Friday night, I've been so excited about eating healthy that my blog Living the Mom Life is starting to sound like a food blog. It's not a food blog, but in the spirit of all the fresh, natural food we'll be getting every month from the program sponsored by Hardin's River Mercantile in downtown Little Rock, here's an article about feeding kids healthy food.

Healthy foods that your kids will love

By: Angela Tyler
If getting your kids to eat healthy foods is a battle in your home, here are some tips that will make your kids happy and give you the satisfaction of knowing you are feeding them foods that are good for them.

Finger Foods
Kids love finger foods. Vegetables with low or fat-free ranch dressing are sure to be a hit as will sliced fruit or canned fruit in individual cups. Small sandwiches with the crusts removed served with a few carrot sticks and cheese are great ideas for kids.

Naturally Sweet
Most kids will ask for sweets such as candy and snack cakes. Instead of giving in to the pressure, give your kids applesauce and homemade oatmeal cookies prepared with a sugar substitute or honey rather than white sugar. Fruit snacks and dried fruit roll ups made from 100 percent fruit are great ideas for kids.

Start the Day Right
You can give your kids a delicious, healthy breakfast by getting rid of the ready to eat cereals and pastries and replacing them with bran pancakes and low-sugar syrup and/or fruit. Whole-wheat tortillas filled with fruit, scrambled eggs, or cheese and turkey bacon are delicious and your kids will have fun eating them, paying no attention to the fact that it is actually good for them.

Sugary Drinks
Replace fruit drinks and sodas with flavored tonic water and fresh fruit juice. Drink boxes containing pure fruit juice are relatively inexpensive and kids love the individual boxes, complete with straws.

Healthy Dinner
Dinnertime can include homemade pizza topped with cheese and vegetables, or soft tacos made with shredded chicken and cheese. Chicken strips prepared in the oven are always a hit and you could include an assortment of fresh vegetables and whole-grain breads. Fish sticks are relatively healthy if you prepare them in the oven rather than fried. Cheese and legumes are healthy choices.

Make it Fun
The secret is in the presentation. Arrange an assortment of healthy foods in a fun way on your child's plate. You can include smiley faces made from raisins or nuts and choose foods that are colorful. Kids will eat most things if they are presented in a unique design that makes eating fun.It's not difficult to get kids to eat healthy foods. It just takes a little extra thought and planning. Start by using our tips and you may be surprised to see what your child will eat.

Article by:
Would you rather spend time doing the things you love rather than being stuck in the kitchen? www.freequickrecipes.com/free-online-cookbooks.php has free cookbooks and recipes. And, if you are looking for fun exercise videos for your kids, don't miss www.funexercisevideos.com/big-kid-exercise.php

As a footnote, I don't advocate the sugar substutites on the market; instead I prefer to use either a small amount of real sugar or a natural sweetener like xylitol. We don't drink a lot of fruit juice anymore because of the high sugar content but give our kids lots of water in fun cups or with ice cubes.

These are some great ideas to start putting to good use!

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Making meals with farm-fresh groceries

We spent a good portion of the weekend on the road checking on our little niece, who was hospitalized with a flareup of her juvenile diabetes, so we didn't get to enjoy many of our fresh, natural Arkansas goodies from the farm food basket program at Hardin's River Merchantile in Little Rock. We ate a lot of on-the-road food, so I was glad to get back home this evening to my farm-fresh food.

My husband cooked up the organic whole wheat noodles with some chicken (from the local grocery store) and we ate that for supper along with another good spinach salad.
He put the hillbilly bean soup mix in the slow cooker along with some onions and who knows what else for supper tomorrow night, or maybe even lunch, depending on when it gets done. It sure smells good and I'm looking forward to it.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Groceries have arrived!

Our food basket from the community supported agriculture food basket program at Hardin's River Merchantile in downtown Little Rock has arrived. I was talking about it here, but talk no more! It is time to eat this yummy fresh produce and other scrumptous and healthy food raised by Arkansas farmers. Here is what we got in the February basket:

* Pound ground goat from Armstrong Beefalo in El Paso (and a recipe for goat chili!)
* Kathadin lamb from Adama Farm in Petit Jean
* Organic whole wheat pasta from Layla's Pizzeria in Little Rock
* Cornbread mix, hush puppy mix, fish fry batter and hillbilly bean soup from War Eagle Mill in Eureka Springs (we're going to hang on to the fish fry batter because next month's basket will have fish!)
* Sweet potatoes from Matthews Farm in Wynne
* Grass-fed eggs and white cheddar cheese from Honeysuckle Lane Cheese (made by Daley Dairy) in Rose Bud
* Spinach from Arkansas Natural Produce in Malvern
* Basil pesto from Villa Bellemonte in Jonesboro
* Log-grown shittake mushrooms from Sweeden Creek Farm in Kingsland
* Eight-grain loaf of bread from Boulevard Bread in Little Rock
* Medium grain organic brown rice from Southern Brown Rice Farm in Weiner
* Green onions from Inswanai's Farm

All of this came packed in a one bushel wooden basket from Little Rock Crate & Basket. We can take it back and get an extra $4 worth of food next month.

I never thought there was so much natural and healthy food grown in Arkansas. We have a lot of rich soil and we grow quite a bit of food, but much of it is sprayed with pesticides and exported. Come to find out there is a good bit of natural produce and meat grown here in Arkansas, and I'm tickled to partake of it.

We had a yummy supper of salad with spinach, mushrooms and cheese, soft-boiled eggs, and bread. It all tasted so fresh, clean, and healthy because it is fresh, clean and healthy! Tomorrow we'll have some pasta with mushrooms for lunch and maybe some hillbilly bean soup cooked with green onions!

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

(Hair) wash day blues

It could be put off no longer. It was time for a hair-washing. Everyone in the house dreads this time as it is usually punctuated with yelling and tears, and then there's the kids and the big show they put on! Thank goodness they only need their hair washed every week or two. Since they have beautiful curly black hair, a combination of Caucasian and African-American, it doesn't need to be washed often since curly hair is dry hair.

African-American hair is typically not washed near as much as Caucasian hair, but some Caucasian parents of biracial children make the mistake of washing their children's hair way too much, perhaps even every day as they would their own. This is a terrible mistake and creates a vicious cycle. Their hair is dry and curly, and is hard to comb, so their parents think it needs to be washed. That strips even more oil from it, making it even drier and harder to manage.

The first thing I tell Caucasian parents of biracial children is to stop washing their hair so much! That would help more than anything in caring for this beautiful hair. Once a week or every two weeks would be much better. We don't use products especially for children's hair, since they do not give enough moisture. We use Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner for dry hair or Melaleuca's shampoo and conditioner for dry hair.

The second thing is to keep it moisturized. I tell parents not to use products made especially for children's hair because it is too watery to stay on the hair all day. Water should be used when combing that pretty hair every day, and a wide-tooth comb is a must. Along with that, we use a thick conditioner from a jar (B&B Supergro) that I call grease, and just regular baby lotion. I prefer the Equate brand sold at Wal-Mart, since it's thick and yummy smelling.

I stumbled upon the use of baby lotion quite by accident. I had been using Pink Oil moisturizer (and other generic brands based on that) and ran out one day. We had some baby lotion left over from my purchases for my older daughter; we didn't use it on her skin because it didn't do anything for her. In fact, we typically don't use any products made for children because they just don't work, from soap to shampoo to lotions. We try to buy safe soaps and such that are nontoxic; our favorites are those that contain tea tree oil and we order stuff like that from Melaleuca.

When it comes time to fix hair for school, we mainly use elastics that don't have metal on them. Of those we usually use the thick black ones, as they hold their hair very well, don't pull, and they don't distract from the natural beauty of my children's hair! We used to use barrettes and those cute ponytail holders with balls and other ornaments on them, but they pull their hair and we quit using them. I hate to see kids' hair pulled too tight and I like my girls to be comfortable all day.

The main thing in caring for this beautiful curly hair is not washing it often, something that keeps those hair wash day blues from coming around very often! Today's turned out okay with minimal yelling and crying, and the results are just breathtaking! Here's a picture of that beautiful hair.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Educational television

There is very little television watching that goes on in our house, but while being housebound the entire weekend because of the weather, we were bored and looking for things to do so on went the television. Since we don't watch much we don't have cable or satellite so all we could watch was the local networks and PBS. My husband watched basketball most of the weekend and turned it to PBS Sunday afternoon after all the hoops were over.

To my surprise, when I got up yesterday morning, my older daughter had turned the television on and was watching PBS. I attribute that to my husband's bad example, but it's technically still the weekend since it was a legal holiday and there was still ice outside. Besides, they were being quiet. Cool shows like "Dragon Tales" came on, although I can do without "Barney," "Calliou," and "Teletubbies," being as they are all annoying. Now "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" is a whole different story altogether.

Many happy childhood mornings I spent watching "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." Thirty years later he seemed even more appealing with his darling gray hair and grandfatherly demeanor. He's still taking off his suit coat, putting on the red sweater, then taking off his dress shoes and putting on the comfy sneakers. This day he talked about trees, artists, and cycling! Wow, what a lineup. The death of Fred Rogers a while back was definitely a blow to all those who grew up with a dear grandfather on television, but it is comforting to know that his legend lives on.

Now the really cool thing is that just about anything can be educational. "Reading Rainbow" did a program on rhymes and songs that tell stories, and it featured none other than some awesome 1980s artists like Lionel Richie, Sting, Tears for Fears, DeBarge, and Run DMC! Talk about a 20-year rewind. Those were some of my favorite musical artists in high school, especially Lionel Richie. They even played a snippet of the video of my favorite high school tune, "All Night Long."

Now THAT'S educational! We'll have to start turning the television on more often around our house.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Home-cooked comfort

During the past bad weather weekend, the whole family was treated to the wonderful smells and warmth of real wood fires and home cooked food, courtesy of my resourceful husband who hates to be cold or hungry. I didn't have to worry about a thing this past weekend since he was around to take care of all the important stuff, like keeping the kids warm and well-fed. It gave new meaning to the term "keeping the home fires burning."

The good times are over now. The ice cleared enough for my husband to return to work today and it's up to me to keep the house warm and the children fed. I have managed to keep the house toasty but we're back to boxes and cans for our meals today. I'll poke around in the refrigerator for leftovers for supper. I'll probably find some, since he's always thinking and planning ahead when it comes to food. Thank goodness for his home-cooked comfort!

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Sunday, February 19, 2006


The weatherman turned out to be right and winter did arrive this weekend. The sleet started during the night Friday and by the time daylight arrived Saturday morning there was a thin blanket of white on the ground and roads. As the day wore on, the streets got icier though what coated it was sleet that kept the roads from being completely impassible.

We decided to stay off the roads and even inside the house, since it was so cold outside! The temperature wasn't supposed to get up above freezing this weekend and I don't think it has. We've watched movies, cooked, posted on message boards, and generally just wasted time all day.

This morning I slept until about lunchtime, impressed with how quiet it was and how warm I was in the bed. My husband was doing an excellent job of keeping the house warm and the kids well-fed and quiet. I got up to crusty dishes all over the kitchen and dining room and crumbs strewn from one end of the house to the other, but since I was so well-rested I was happy to clean it all up!

The girls and I have another day together tomorrow since they are out of school, but my husband must return to work. The ice will be melted off the streets enough to make his one-hour commute tomorrow morning fairly safe. The rest of us will probably stay in the house another day and make it a long homebound weekend.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Buckling down for a bad weather weekend

We've had just about as many different kinds of weather this past week as we've had days. A mild week weatherwise last week was finished off on Friday with buckets of rain in the morning and big snowflakes all afternoon long. My little snowmen looked funny sitting on leaves out in the bright sunshine all weekend long, and the past two days we haven't even worn coats. It's been around 70 degrees in the afternoons.

This weekend, though, promises to usher in winter big time. The weather forecasters have spouted off just about every winter weather word there is -- snow, sleet, ice, you name it. The temperature dropped 40 degrees in just a few hours -- it was 70 yesterday and we haven't seen 40 today. It's not supposed to get above freezing this entire weekend, and power outages are possible with the frozen precipitation.

Since this is Arkansas, I'll believe all that when I see it, but I figured I'd better get prepared with necessities we'll need for a long weekend -- wood and coffee! I called my husband at work around 4 p.m. to check on the status of getting a load of wood and got sent to the local wood man with my own meager stash of funds, no less. In another hour I had more wood than I'll be able to burn the rest of the winter piled all the way up to the front door.

Good, one staple down. I scrounged around for some more cash and made the short trip to the store for coffee and sweet creamer, joking with the checker that I was now all ready to be stuck in the house the whole weekend! Whether or not it gets as bad as they say remains to be seen, but come what may, we're ready!

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Wash day blues

Where in the world did all these dirty clothes come from? That's the question I've been asking myself this weekend. The answer seems to lie in the fact that everybody's growing and getting new clothes that need to be washed, and nobody has bothered to wash them or the ones we already had.

As a mom who'd much rather do pretty much anything besides housework, I take exception with the laundry. I don't mind doing the laundry and cannot stand the accumulation of dirty clothes. I don't mind piles of clean ones laying around because they're, well, clean. I do a pretty good job of keeping the clothes at least clean if not actually folded and on occasion put in the drawers.

With two children and their father to wash for, though, I have to stay on top of it. Apparently I let one or two too many days slip by without working on the laundry and now I get to spend one or two days catching up on it. Better get to it!

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Friday, February 10, 2006

First snow!

We have had our first snow of the winter here in eastern Arkansas. It came this way about noon and kept snowing until it got dark. It was a perfect snow, about a inch or so of wet accumulation that made good hard snowballs and snowmen but didn't stick to the streets or ice over.

The girls got out of school early and their grandmother was here to receive them, since I made a trip to Memphis today not thinking that the weather would get bad. As soon as I got in we headed outside and didn't come back in until there was no more clean snow left in our yard!

It's snowing!

Meet Stax, my little snowman I made during the very first snow of the winter, so named because I was visiting the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis when big fluffy snowflakes started coming down! I made a bigger one named Rufus after one of the artists for the Memphis label. The recording studio in downtown Memphis made such artists as Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding, and Johnnie Taylor famous but went out of business about 30 years ago. It's now a museum.

Because of the quickly-approaching inclement weather, we didn't get to spend much time at the only museum in the world dedicated to soul music, so I named some snowmen in its honor once I made it home safely!

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Incredible love

One of the perks of being a mother is that you get to be loved, incredibly so, despite all your flaws and foibles. My six-year-old daughter presented me with a handmade card yesterday that warmed my heart and made me stop doubting my abilities as a parent, even for just a moment.

She took a piece of white paper and with a pair of my scalloped-edge scissors cut out a square about four inches on each side. On one side she wrote, "I incredably love you Mommy" at the top. She drew a picture of the two of us and then under that wrote, "Me you pefect together." Out on the side are tiny little hearts individually encircling the letters "I l-o-v-e y-o-u."

Aw, how sweet, I thought. Then she showed me that there was more to this thoughtful little card. She flipped it over and indeed there was more. "Me, me, me, You, you, you — perfect together." The "perfect together" part is encircled with a heart.

You can't beat incredible love! The card, along with the incredible love, gives my mind peace and comfort that I am a good mother — most of the time — and that I can do this thing!

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Guessing game

The longer I'm a mother the more I realize that parenting is one great big guessing game and I'm going on way too few clues.

My daughter was getting her hair combed yesterday evening when she started complaining of pain in one spot of her gums. Her gums, no less! She had the same complaint the day before so I know it's a geniune malady, but I couldn't see anything out of the ordinary.

What to do? I'm the mommy, I'm supposed to know what to do. Alas, I didn't. So in all seriousness I pronounced my solution: "Well, I guess I'll think of something to do about it and hope it works."

After I said it and thought about it, I had to snicker at myself at the sound of the words. "I guess a lot about things, don't I?" I mused out loud to my insightful six-year-old. She agreed with me. I make no effort to try to hide the fact that I am unsure about things and that I make mistakes, but it seems like I'm doing a whole lot of winging these days. I said so to her.

The unexplained mouth pain is just one issue in a long line of concerns that have left me stumped. Stomach troubles, strange spots on the skin, and all sorts of odd things. What is going on here? What am I supposed to do about it?

As if physical ailments aren't enough, we've got theatrical tears and smart alecky mouths to deal with. What gives? It's not as easy to administer swift and just punishment for these childish transgressions and to be consistent about it as it is to preach it, especially when the meltdowns are more my fault than theirs. Now what am I supposed to do?

Wouldn't I just love to know?

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Friday, February 03, 2006

A lifetime of health

Finding a balance for my children's health is certainly a challenge. I frequently encounter families who allow their children to put all kids of chemicals, preservatives, and other harmful things from their food into their little bodies. Then there are some who forbid any sugar or anything not organic. While this is in and of itself a good idea, a person could spend all their time and money on living organically. Surely there must be a reasonable balance.

I want my children to make good choices when they get older and throughout their lives and not just now as small children with me lurking in the background, aware of nearly everything they ingest. I strongly believe that a good balance now is imperative for them to make the right choices when they are adolescents and adults.

I had a good start on my healthy journey throughout life, with no sugar and without most types of harmful food additives. My mom, a nurse convinced of the value of vitamins, teamed up with our neighbor, a hippie lady from California with expertise in the use of just about every type of herb on the planet, or at least those that can be grown in the area. They ganged up against us kids and as a result we were as young children familiar with herbs like comfrey, lobelia and aloe vera along with what vitamins are to be taken for certain symptoms. All good things, but along with that, sweet treats were simply not allowed.

The backlash from all this good, healthy childhood eating was that as soon as I was able, I bought and consumed all the candy, chocolate, chips, and other sugar- and preservative-laden foods I could get my hands on. This continued for years, up until around the time I got pregnant with my first child a little more than seven years ago. Out of concern mainly for my children's health, I've reverted to the eating habits of my childhood but with some sweets allowed.

I want to strike a balance for my children. For the most part we eat healthy foods but sometimes stuff like processed sugary foods are allowed as a treat. We make it clear that it is a treat but enjoying them is most certainly not forbidden.

From all of this I want them to grasp the lesson that sweets are treats that are fine to be enjoyed on occasion but that our overall diet should consist of fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods. I don't think it's healthy to completely forbid a certain food. I think more good can be accomplished by allowing some non-healthy treats so that they won't go overboard later. I sure hope I'm right.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Healthier eating at last

My children will be eating a lot healthier now that we have been accepted into the community supported agriculture food basket program at Hardin's River Merchantile in downtown Little Rock. We get our first basket the 20th of this month and I'm really excited about trying all the naturally-grown foods and the antibiotic-free meat products.

If it were left up to me I'd just get the vegetarian basket but my husband is a true Southern meat and potatoes man. As he recently put it, "Southern people don't think it's food unless it once lived." He doesn't truly believe that, but I added, "Yeah, and they have to fry it to make sure it's dead!"

It's quite difficult to eat healthy in this area for many reasons. Everything is fried, and I do mean everything. It's very hard to grow anything organically because of all the pesticides used around here — a very flat area with rich soil, which means it's great for raising food but water stands and breeds mosquitoes and all sorts of other pests show up too.

On top of that, there is not a lot of knowledge on even how to eat healthy so a health food store is a rare commodity in these parts. The closest one is about 30 minutes away and is in a book store. It's a good place to pick up apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil and flax meal but that's about it. Another one about 45 minutes away, also in the corner of a book store, is a nice spot to grab a container of psyllium husks. It takes an hour drive to get to one with everything you need, and by the time I get the money to go I don't have the time, or vice versa.

Speaking of money, it most certainly is expensive. We cannot afford to eat like I'd like to — completely free of pesticides and antibiotics. But the CSA food baskets from the Little Rock merchantile will be a good start for us.

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