Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Our own private amusement park

Today we had a lovely afternoon play date with a friend at a local amusement park.  It was pretty much our private park as barely anyone else was there the entire time.

Enchanted Island is a cute little amusement park in the middle of Encanto Park, which is in the middle of central Phoenix.  For only $14 kids can go on all the rides you want/can stand.  And if you have an Entertainment book or a friend with one (thanks Kymm) then you only have to pay $7!  What a deal.

Our girls had a wonderful time going from ride to ride.   Most of the time they were the only ones on it!

No lines!

They could pick any flying car they wanted.  Usually the girls chose to ride together.  They also went on some rides over and over.  They'd just tell the attendant that they wanted to go again.  How great is that?

They were only limited by height, but just for one ride.

Of course it had a full sized carousel with their choice of any horse to ride.

But wouldn't you know they still wanted to go on the little tiny one (that cost extra of course).

The only ride the baby and I joined them on was the train.  It wound around the amusement park and part of the big park too.  We saw some birds, kids and a few interesting adults.  Including one man wearing nothing but a banana hammock sunbathing by the lake.  Strange.  Fortunately the girls didn't notice him.  Ha!

Of course we had the train all to ourselves. Now this may not be Disneyland, but for $7 and no lines we'll take it on a lovely afternoon.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why I wear my baby.

I am a big fan of babywearing.  Huge.  I can't imagine how someone can take care of a baby without wearing them.  Boggles the mind.  I wear my baby everywhere; the doctors office, grocery store, airport, park, restaurants, my kitchen.  Everywhere.  Heck, I even wear her to the bathroom.

I'm using a Moby wrap with the baby when she was only 7 weeks old.

What is babywearing you may ask?  It is simply holding or carrying your baby or child with a cloth carrier.  There are many different kinds of carriers.  I personally have used a wrap, structured carrier and a pocket/pouch.  I find that different carriers work better for different ages.

In no particular order here are some of my reasons for babywearing:
  • Keeps my baby close to me which helps with her attachment.
  • Frees up my hands to get things done.
  • Helps her get to sleep when we're out and about.
  • Helps her calm down when she is fussy.
  • Helps her feel safe when we are out and about, as she is in a cocoon if you will.
  • I know exactly where she is and what she is doing (hard to tell sometimes in the stroller).
  • It is easier at times than lugging around a car seat and/or stroller.

When my babies were newborns I favored pouches or wraps.  This is my firstborn in a Peanut Shell pouch at one week old.  I used the pouch all the time until she was about 7 months old or so.  It was very convenient to put in the diaper bag and pull out when we'd get to a grocery store.  She especially loved facing out and looking at everyone.  The main downside to the pouch was it put pressure on my shoulder which made it uncomfortable for long periods of wearing.

  Another favorite carrier with the littler ones is a wrap.  Wraps are long pieces of fabric that you wrap around with the baby tucked inside against your body.  It takes a bit of practice and a good photo step-by-step guide to get it right.  In this photo I'm wearing a gypsy momma wrap that is also suitable for use in water.  It is lightweight and easy to wrap.  I wore it when we went to Yosemite.  

I used that same wrap with my first born when we toured Antelope Canyon when she was around 10 months old.

Once the baby got a little bigger we switched to my Beco structured carrier and I haven't gone back to anything else.  It is easy to get on and off (has straps and snap in buckles to fasten), very comfortable and a bit stylish. ;)  I am always getting comments and questions about my Beco.  

Last month I posted here about a free child size Beco carrier (offer has expired though).  I was able to get one for my daughter to use to wear her baby dolls or stuffed animals.  She was thrilled to be able to have one just like momma.  We are too cute together when we're both wearing our Beco carriers (if I do say so myself).

I am grateful to have a community of friends that also babywear.  We all hang out together at the park, zoo, restaurants and homes wearing our babies. 

Just this morning I read a powerful article on fierce mamas about a woman who saved her baby's life by babywearing.  Now that's amazing!

So do you babywear?  What are your favorite carriers?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Do you know what Purple Kohlrabi is?

To be perfectly honest I had no idea what Kohlrabi was, purple or otherwise.  I'm not sure how I've lived three decades (and then some) without ever seeing or tasting it, but there you go.

So when I saw this in the chow locally CSA box I was mystified.  My husband and I guessed perhaps a type of kale or chard?  But the weird purple stem threw us off.  Fortunately Chow Locally was kind enough to include a photo chart of the vegetables in the box so we learned that it was a purple kohlrabi which is "a lot like a potato and their leaves are edible in salads".  

I did a little pinterest and googling to find recipes and settled on Kohlrabi Greens and Kohlrabi Parmesan.

Kohlrabi Greens
(inspired by this recipe on culinate)

1-2 large bunch kohlrabi with greens (I had 2 kohlrabi)
1 tsp sesame oil
soy sauce to taste

  1. Cut away the leaves from the tough ribs and stems.  Bring a pot of water to boil, add the kohlrabi greens and boil until tender, about 2-5 minutes depending on the age of the leaves.  Fish out a leaf after 1 minute to determine cooking time.
  2. Drain the greens in a colander and push on them with a spatula to remove as much water as possible.  Roughly chop the greens and put them on a serving plate.  Add sesame oil and soy sauce and toss to mix.
  3. Serve immediately. 
I thought the greens tasted a lot like spinach or chard, but a little sweeter.  I really enjoyed the added flavor of the sesame oil and soy sauce.  My husband wasn't a big fan however.  The 4 year old ate the greens and the next recipe too without any complaints.  That may have been because I bribed her with a quarter if she ate her entire meal without complaining. ;)

Kohlrabi Parmesan
(find original recipe on bellesqueaks)

2-3 medium kohlrabi trimmed of leaves and stalks
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan (fresh)
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp minced parsley

  1. Peel kohlrabi 1/8th inch deep
  2. Shred with grater or food processor (I used a grater)
  3. Cook kohlrabi with butter over medium heat, stirring often until tender, about 8 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with cheese, salt and pepper.  Toss and cook until the cheese just melts, about 1 minute.
  5. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
This recipe was interesting.  I thought the kohlrabi smelled a lot like a cabbage while I was preparing it.  It looked similar to cole slaw and then while cooking looked a bit like hash browns.  However, it didn't taste like hash browns, ha!

I pared these recipes with salmon and it made for a very light and healthy meal. So healthy that I had to make up for it later by eating 3 brownie bites.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

After yesterday's big box of CSA vegetables I had to strategize how to prepare them.  After seeing all the many greens in there I decided I'd better start with some ranch dressing.

I've mentioned this dressing before but I thought I'd add the recipe this time.  I am a huge fan of ranch but can't stand the store bought kind.  Fresh ranch is the only way I like it.  This recipe is pretty simple, you just throw everything in a blender.  We use it for dipping or dressing.  It lasts about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.  See foodiebride for original recipe.

3/4 cup mayonaise (or vegenaise)
3/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 to 1 cup buttermilk (I used 1/2 a cup)
1 small bunch of chives roughly chopped
small handful of parsley
1 clove of garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper

Place all of the ingredients in the blender and mix until it's the consistency you prefer (about 10 seconds).  If you want a thicker dip use less buttermilk (1/4 cup), use more for a dressing consistency.

For dinner last night we had salads using the bright and tasty salad mix and my fresh ranch dressing.  The 4 year old dipped carrots in the dressing and actually asked for more.  Success!

Tonight I plan on preparing the Purple Kohlrabi.  This is a first for our family, I'll let you know how it turns out.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Adventures in Agriculture

I just joined a local CSA called Chow locally.  A CSA or Community Supported Agriculture is a alternative to buying produce at the market.  Chow locally has a few Phoenix area farmers who come together to make boxes of fresh, in season fruit and vegetables to purchase each week.  We pay ahead so they only harvest the produce needed, no extra waste.

This was timely for us because we recently watched the documentary Dive on netflix.  It was a fascinating film about food waste in America.  It focused on grocery stores that throw away perfectly (or almost perfectly) good meats, produce and dairy.  Especially Trader Joe's.  I was so affected by the waste that I asked my local Trader Joe's what they do with their about-to-expire foods.  I was happy to hear that in the Phoenix area they donate to St Mary's Food Bank.  

The week after we watched Dive a friend told me about Chow Locally, perfect timing!  They have many pick up locations in the valley, but none up by me.  They're working on making one in my area which will make it even more convenient.  Fortunately my friend offered to pick up my box for me this morning.

We are working on eating lots of vegetables in our house, but I have to admit that I am not completely sure what all of these are!  I have also not cooked with some of them including the bok choy.  Another friend suggested sauteing with garlic so I'm going to try that tonight.

Can anyone tell me what the purple and green leafy veggie is?  I think I may need to google that one.  We'll be eating lots of greens this week. ;)  The box has mixed greens, chard, unidentified purple green veggie and spinach.  Also red potatoes, carrots, oranges, bok choy and turnips (I think, they're huge though).  I am going to have to google or pinterest some recipes to cook these.  Please feel free to add any suggestions for me!

ETA: I found a lovely photo guide in my box that says what each veggie is (and has a link for recipes).  I learned that what I thought were turnips were in fact rutabaga (tastes like a potato they say).  Also that the mystery veggie is a purple kohlrabi.  Never heard of that but it says the bulb is like a potato and the leaves work in salads. I'll keep you posted.  My last surprise is that the oranges are in fact blood oranges, a favorite around here!  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fisher Price Fridays - Play Family Camper

Today on Fisher Price Friday's it's time to go camping in the 1972 Play Family Camper #994.  Until recently this was my favorite Fisher Price Little People (FPLP) set.  Like the A Frame the camper is cute and compact.  I found just the camper and boat in a large Craigslist lot.  I added the rest of the pieces like the ladder, toilet and sink through eBay and the grill, motorcycle and table/chairs from another Craigslist lot.  I believe that I have all the pieces, although perhaps not the original colors.

The set has many adorable features such as the motorcycle and rider.  He (or she) is the coolest FPLP around.  Although I should point out that the rider didn't come with this set, just the motorcycle did.

Check out the inside, how adorable is that?  It has back doors that swing open, a ladder to get to the bunks (there are 4), a removable toilet and sink and lithographs of kitchen appliances and nick knacks.

My daughter LOVED the little potty.  I found it very useful when we were doing potty training.  The lid flips up and everything.

The little green boat goes on top and can hold 5 little people.  It has lithographs of a crab, fishing pole and tackle box.

Of course the FPLP camp in style so they have a grill, table with umbrella and lounge chairs to hang out in.  

Back in the day the original camper had a yellow plastic string tied to the front of the camper.  Then it could be pulled around by the string.  Other sets had the same feature (like the airplane, train and boat) but sadly most of mine are missing the plastic string.  The set came with 4 Little People: Green Dad (as pictured), Blue Mom with blond hair (not as pictured), Yellow Boy with a red cap (smiling with freckles, also not as pictured) and last but not least Red Girl with blond or brown hair (as pictured).

So did you have the Play Family Camper?  Or do you have it now?  What is your favorite feature?     

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Today I got paid to speak my mind.

I don't usually shy away from telling people how I feel.  Especially about opinions related to products, social issues or random famous people.  I do avoid politics however.  In fact I enjoy talking about the latest baby product, fun recipe, way to save money or crazy celebrity baby name.  That is one of the main reasons I started this blog in the first place!

So today was a highlight because I was actually paid, and really good money at that to participate in a focus group.  All I had to do was go to a nice office and chat with some nice people for a couple hours about a specific topic.  I'd tell you what but I promised to keep it confidential.  And, not only did I get money but they had refreshments to boot. :)  

I could get used to this!  Oh, and I had a little me-time since my two sweet girls were being watched by their happy-to-help grandparents.  Life is good.

This was my first focus group with this company, they also have online surveys and phone surveys.

Not sure if you're into it but if you are go to Inspired Opinions to apply and see if you qualify.

I can't wait to be chosen for my next focus group!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The best easy iced coffee.

Thanks to a baby who still doesn't sleep well at night I've been upping my caffeine intake.  On particularly bad mornings I even brew coffee.  I am not a fan of black coffee, I prefer it sweet and creamy.  I have a great iced coffee recipe that we've used from time to time, and it makes about 10 cups.

Iced Coffee

8-10 cups strong coffee
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
*optional chocolate syrup to your taste

Mix it up in a small pitcher and keep it in your fridge.  Then whenever you want some iced coffee just grab a glass full of ice and pour the coffee on it!

Now this recipe is great, but this morning I didn't have time to brew 10 cups of coffee (in our little 4 cup maker) nor did I want that much on hand.  So I thought I'd wing it and I just added sweetened condensed milk to taste.

Adding condensed milk is much easier now that Trader Joe's makes a re-closeable squeeze bottle.  Have you seen these?  Perfect for adding a little to your cup of coffee, and it's even organic!  Also much less sticky/messy than the canned kind.

So save some money and make your next iced coffee at home!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Downton Abbey Finale

Hard to believe that Downton Abbey is already finishing up Season 2.  The two hour finale is on tonight. It seems like yesterday I was writing about the series here.  Of course it's only been 6 weeks, so I guess that isn't too long ago. ;)

Have you been following along with the upstairs and downstairs drama?  Have you been drinking tea and biscuits as you watch? I have.  Tonight I'll bring out my little Harrods of London tea pot and brew up some Lady Earl Grey tea with shortbread.  The sprinkles in the tea are from my Trader Joe's Sugar Chocolate & Coffee Bean Grinder.

In honor of the finale I had considered making my own clotted creme, the yummy dairy deliciousness added to scones over in England.  However, after learning that it takes 8-12 hours of cooking (either in an oven or a crockpot), and then 8 hours in the refrigerator to make only 1 cup of clotted cream I decided to forgo it this time.

Maybe I'll make scones and clotted creme for Season 3.  If I can wait that long.  I've read that season 3 will include Shirley MacLaine as the new character Martha Levinson, the mother of Lady Grantham.  That should be a hoot!

So what will we see in tonight's 2 hour finale?  Will Matthew end up with Mary?  I doubt it but I'll be tuning in online to see.

Let me know what you thought when it's all over!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Goats, Chicks and Donuts - Today's Organic Market Adventure

It is a lovely sunny and moderately warm day.  We started bright and early at the Momma's Organic Market (M.O.M.) at Northern and the 101.

I decided that I'd dress up my baby as a chick today just for fun.  We got the super cute costume as a Christmas present and I figured the market would be a good a place to dress up like a chicken.  What, don't you dress your kids up like farm animals on the weekends?

There were many yummy and beautiful things to see at the market this morning.  One of the big draws for our group was the freshly made donuts from the donut van.

They were giving out samples of hot and fresh powdered, sugared or chocolate dip donut rounds.  Yum yum!

As wonderful as the free donuts were the big excitement of the day was the petting zoo.  We didn't let our kids go in the zoo, but the kind zoo man brought the zoo in the form of a baby kid (goat) to our kids.  Ah, the delight of a calm, warm and sweet goat.

I think the goat was just as intrigued by the chick as she was of him.

Of course we had to pick up some farm fresh organic brown eggs.  We also found beautiful citrus, large lemons and grapefruit 4 for a $1!  

And no visit to the M.O.M. is complete without a stop at the booth of our favorite HappyBaby Food representative.  I wrote about her last month.  She shows off the latest HappyBaby foods and always has samples for the kids.  Today it was pouches of HAPPYTOT, HAPPYSQUEEZE (I eat these, they're for mommies too), HAPPYBABY baby food (for the youngest if she'll just start liking baby food one of these days) and of course HAPPYMELTS a crowd-pleaser for the young and old crowd.

It was a fun day all around.  They're open today until 2 pm if you want donuts, food, goats or other market goodies. 

See you next month M.O.M. :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fisher Price Fridays - Play Family A Frame

The most recent addition to our Fisher Price Little People (FPLP) collection is the 1974 Play Family "A"Frame playset #990.  It was a christmas gift from my parents and has become my 4 year olds favorite set (and mine too).  I love that it is so compact, easy to carry around and has cute little details.

The set comes with all of the pieces pictured, although I don't know that they are the exact ones that came with the original boxed set.  For example, some of the sets had a red grill and ours is yellow.  Not that we care around here, but if you're a purist you might. :)

The happy little family has wooden bodies and heads.  I especially love that the little girl is a redhead.  The kitchen includes a stone fireplace (with a roaring fire) and a brightly colored rug.  

Each side has a sliding plastic door and a balcony complete with heart cutouts.  This side has a working "dinner" bell.  The bedroom has bunk beds, which was a first (and a last) for FPLP sets.  They can be separated or stacked.  They originally beds came with foam cushions, but over the years they deteriorated (which is a common problem with all beds).  I'd love to figure out a way to make tiny little sheets or new mattresses but haven't been clever enough yet.  Any suggestions for me?

It has a ladder to get to the second floor and a fold down roof that doubles as a front yard.

My daughter set up a car accident with the 4-seat Jeep.  Don't worry, no FPLP were actually harmed in the making of this photo shoot. ;)

See you next week when the FPLP family takes a trip in their camper.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Quick and easy Creamy Tomato Basil soup

We had a long day of hanging out at the park and driving around running errands.  By the time we came home I was ready for an easy-to-make dinner.

So Tomato Basil Soup was my choice.  It only has 6 ingredients and takes under an hour.  I found the recipe here and I believe it's from a restaurant called La Madeleines.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

  • 4 cups crushed canned (or boxed) tomatoes
  • 12 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 stick of butter (I use salted and put a bit less than a whole stick)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  1. Simmer tomatoes in a saucepan for 30 minutes.  
  2. Puree with the basil leaves in small batches in either a food processor or blender.  (I used a immersion blender instead).
  3. Return to the saucepan and add cream, butter, salt and pepper while stirring over low heat.
  4. Garnish with basil leaves and serve with warm bread.
See, easy-peasy.  I'll admit that for dessert we had a fabulous non-homemade lemon meringue pie from Fresh and Easy.  Not only was it good but 1/2 off.  Oh, I love a bargain!

See you tomorrow for Fisher Price Fridays.  I'll be showing off our Play Family A Frame house.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sleepless nights and Smoothies

Life has been exhausting the last couple of days.  Mostly due to nights without sleep because of a fussy, sad and restless baby.  Turns out she had a horrible ear infection.  Who knew?

Now that she's medicated I'm hoping for a great night's sleep.

Yesterday in the midst of the confusion of exhaustion I decided we all needed a treat.  So I pulled up the copycat Orange Julius recipe I'd saved a few weeks ago.

Turns out it was perfect.  A little ray of sunshine and a yummy burst of orange.

I worked at the Orange Julius booth during the state fair back in high school so I know a thing or two about them.  Ah, the secrets I could tell about those OJ van shenanigans.  Perhaps another day. 

Anyway, this beautiful smoothie is tasty and pretty to look at but doesn't taste just like a Orange Julius.  Although I think I prefer this one.  Tastes more fresh and natural.

Orange (Julius) Smoothie
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cold water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla 
5 ice cubes
6 oz frozen orange juice concentrate

Place everything in the blender and blend until smooth.  I suggest adding a bright straw or pretty umbrella for a particularly festive look. :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fancy Nancy Valentine Party for Arizona's 100th!

We attended quite the soiree yesterday.  Soiree is a fancy way of saying party. ;)  The Maricopa county library near us had a "Fancy Nancy Celebrates Arizona's 100th Birthday" party.  It was also valentines themed since it was on the 13th.

My 4 year old was very enthusiastic about going to the party, especially since she got to wear her cowgirl dress up costume per the library invitation.

The Fancy Nancy/AZ Centennial theme was found throughout.  They had Fancy Nancy and cowgirl themed books, songs and crafts.  One of the songs was to the tune of "bingo was his name-o" but they said "fancy was her name-o" instead.  Hilarious.

Some of their ideas would be great for a Fancy Nancy themed birthday party.  Especially with the cowgirl/cowboy twist.  

Simple stickers, jewels, short boas and crown shapes to decorate the hats.  The boys had sheriff badges and plain hats.

No valentine party is complete without making a few valentines.  They had colored paper, stickers, small doilies and glitter glue.

Fancy pink lemonade punch and red velvet cupcakes for the snacks.

Of course many Fancy Nancy books decorated the room.

A fun time was had by all.  Happy 100th Birthday Arizona!