Category Archives: sonoma

2012, Where did you go?

It’s so hard to believe it is January. 2013 – yikes, where did 2012 go? Reflecting on the last year, I was shocked at how much of a blur it’s all been.  It occurred to me that having baby numero 2 created more of a mommy fog than baby numero 1. Why? Well, with two boys racing around – time just doesn’t stand still.  I’m left in the dust behind two roadrunners.

Maybe it’s just me, but time seems to fly faster the more children I have.  It didn’t seem to go as fast with just one child.  Bobby’s first year, my husband and I relocated to Sonoma.  I can vividly remember exploring the town with my then 6 month old Bobby, introducing him to music classes and story-time.  I did similar things in 2012 with CJ, but its such a blur.  maybe it’s that the visits to the parks have taken on a new persona, instead of sitting playing in sand or with leaves, it’s a more interactive experience – playing hide and seek, tag, freeze dance, and chasing after Bobby as he climbs trees or (to be honest) tries to run into oncoming traffic.Again, left in the dust.

The quandary becomes how to slow things down for 2013.  Over the holidays a friend and also a mom of 2 wrote a beautiful piece about slowing things down.  She vowed to create stillness in her life.  To enjoy, embrace and extol the simple moments. Through these moments like reading stories, singing songs, and playing games, she saw her kids shine.

After much reflection as to my own blurry 2012, I do think there is something to slowing things down.  For isn’t it in the everyday moments where we really see our children in a new way.  Letting them explore things thoroughly without the pressures of hurrying about to get to X, to accomplish Y, or to finish Z.  I’m starting to think so anyway.

http://mothering-matters.com/10-tips-for-easier-laundry/The other day when faced with piles of laundry to fold, I tried something new.  Rather than wait until my roadrunners were sleeping, I decided to pull out the laundry baskets and actively engage them in folding. Here’s what happened.  Bobby was thrilled to get to help.  CJ was happy to pull clothes out of the basket and then climb in it.  Rather than get frustrated about the mess and inefficiency of the process, I let it go, trying to enjoy the moment.  I focused on letting the kids just enjoy the process.  After all, did it really matter if it took a little longer to fold?  Or if a towel had to be folded 3 times?  What I learned about my boys in that hour couldn’t be replicated anyother way.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be making this laundry folding a daily activity.  Nor will I be slowing things down completely as it’s not in my nature.  But I will be carving out time and creating space to enjoy life in a pure and simple way.

Sonoma Slow Cooker Stew

Winter in Sonoma means rainy weather, cozy fires and warm stew.  Having 2 young boys around makes finding a dish that all will enjoy challenging at times.  This stew though is a winner.  With Bobby loving the veggies and CJ the meat, this dish is both baby and toddler friendly.  The deep flavor imbued by the red wine (I use cab) makes it adult friendly too.  Plus this recipe yields quite a bit of stew so it is a perfect excuse to invite over a few friends to share it with.

4.5 lbs of stew meat

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp bacon fat

1 lb frozen white pearl onions

1 lb crimini mushrooms quartered

2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes cubed

2 cups kale chopped

1 leek

1 stalk celery

2 tbsp tomato paste

4 cups beef broth

1 bottle red wine

¼ cup flour

2 tsps parsley

2 tsps thyme

3 bay leaves

Salt & pepper to taste

Heat pan, add oil and bacon fat, heat till smokes.  Brown meat.

Add bouquet garni (leek cut lengthwise and 1 stalk celery tied together with kitchen twine) and bay leaves

Add mushrooms, potatoes, onions, broth, wine, tomato paste, spices (parsley, thyme, salt and pepper).  Cook on low in slow cooker for 7.5 hours.  Toss the bouquet.  Thicken sauce to desired thickness with flour.  Add kale.  Let kale wilt.  Serve with rice.  Enjoy!

Rainy Day Fun – Ornaments With A Bit of History

Desperate for a rainy day activity, I remembered back to when a babysitter in days of past made cookie ornaments.  It dawned on me that Bobby might like doing something like that, after all he does love to play with playdough.  Salt-dough is basically the same thing but more keepsake friendly.

The difference between the two recipes comes down to oil – play dough has it, salt-dough doesn’t.  Consequently salt-dough dries hard giving lasting life to your child’s creations.  The good news is that kids can play with the dough for days (just keep it airtight) and then dry their creations for further play or even gifts.

Here’s how to make salt dough.  Take 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup salt and 3/4 cup warm water.  Mix all ingredients and kneed for 5 minutes.  Then play!

We made animals and even cookie cutter ornaments in the shapes of cowboy boots as Bobby has been really into Woody from Toy Story lately.  If you decide to make ornaments, make sure to make holes in them before you set them out to dry.  Straws make perfect holes.  Drying takes about a week.  After they are dry, you can color them with paints or markers.

As a side note, making cookie ornaments also provides a way to teach a bit of history.  The whole tradition of decorating a Christmas tree started in Europe. Back then trees were decorated primarily with food and candy as a symbol of giving thanks for daily bread.

Wishing you rainy days filled with fun!

Pumpkin Patch Roundup

Along with fall, comes pumpkin lattes, jack o lanterns and of course Halloween!  Halloween is such a fun holiday to prepare for with kiddos.  Of course there is one tradition that is a treat to kids and adults alike — finding that perfect pumpkin.  Sonoma County has many amazing pumpkin patches to visit.  From neighborhood patches to full blown farms, there is something out there for everyone.  Here are a few suggestions:

Adobe Pumpkin Farm, Old Adobe Road, Petaluma.  Driving into Petaluma from Sonoma, you’ll likely pass by Adobe Pumpkin Farm.  With rusty old tractors decorating the pumpkin patch, kids can have fun running from tractor to tractor.  After kids find the perfect pumpkin, then you can do other things like harvest veggies, taste some local goodies, or shop for holiday (even Christmas) goods.  If you plan your visit on a weekend, then you will benefit from additional kid friendly activities such as pony rides, face painting and jumpy houses.  http://www.adobepumpkinfarm.com/

Peter Pumpkin Patch, Petaluma, 4235 Spring Hill Rd., Petaluma.  This pumpkin patch is out by Spring Hill Cheese Co. (also known as Petaluma Creamery.)  Let kids explore the patch, go for a hay ride, dig potatoes, milk cows, and climb pyramids made from haybails.  Then, treat them to some organic ice cream while you try some of Spring Hill’s organic cheese.  Definitely a trip worth making! http://www.springhillcheese.com/holiday.html

Petaluma Pumpkin Patch – Right off of the 101 is another pumpkin patch – the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch.  This patch has a fun corn maze (and animals too!).  So, hurry up and pick your pumpkin, then get lost in the maze.  http://www.petalumapumpkinpatch.com/

Petersons Pumpkin Patch, 636 Gossage Avenue, Petaluma – Pumpkins, animals and bees are on the agenda for those visiting Peterson’s Pumpkin Patch.  This farm is stacked with things for kids to do.  From a kid friendly exhibit on bees to feeding cows and watching chickens, this farm has lots to offer.  http://www.petersonsfarm.com/index.html

Stanly Lane is another local gem.  It has lots to offer in addition to pumpkins, including baby pigs!

Tolay Fall Festival has loads of fun on the menu.  Tractor rides, creatures barn, petting zoo, lawn games and crafts are a few of the things to do.  This festival has only select hours, so make sure to check the calendar before you go – available at http://www.sonoma-county.org/parks/pk_tolay_fallfestival.htm

If the Twos are Terrible then What the Heck are the Threes?

For years I have been hearing about the terrible twos.  And, yes, with little ones finding their independence the twos can be and were most challenging.  Now though that I am experiencing the threes, I am wondering why the twos got so much hype.  Why isn’t anyone talking about the threes?

Today must have set some sort of record.  The day started off with what was supposed to be a lovely short trip to the store which quickly reminded me why I prefer to shop solo. Bobby wanted to hold the box of kosher salt, then he wanted to throw it on the floor, then he wanted to grab something else, then he screamed for no reason.  All within a ten minute period.  I won’t go into what happened after the grocery store, but let’s just say more of the same thing.

Wanting some guidance, I did a little research to help me understand what this behavior is all about.   Some articles on websites like BabyCenter explain that tantrums are about the child gaining independence and that children will tantrum as a result of being unable to express how they feel.  These articles were totally unhelpful to the parent of the child who knows how he feels but just seems determined to pitch a fit.  After digging some more, I came across an article on WebMD that was informative.  Children between the age of 3 and 4 have a hard time knowing the consequences of bad behavior.  Allegedly after awhile a tantruming 3 year old will learn that the behavior results in a some sort of consequence and as a result they’ll tantrum less.

What should the consequence be?  Some experts suggest time outs, others just a lack of attention.  Apparently ignoring the tantrum can work well.  And for me, it has worked.  But what do you do when they’re tantruming in public.  One expert advocated for the parents to remain calm and detached.  After reading that, I started to wonder if they had kids.  It’s so hard to stay calm when your child is sprawled out on the ground somewhere with a group of onlookers.

Lucky for me, I got to try to stay calm. On the way to the park, Bobby had a meltdown. At first it was about a green dinosaur – he wanted it, then he didn’t want it, then he wanted something else, and went back to wanting the dinosaur.  Usually, I try to talk him down from his tantrum.  This time it was clear that my usual approach wasn’t going to work. So, I tried something new.  I ignored him.  I tried to keep my cool and counted to ten.  By the time I got to ten, he simmered down and was looking out the window.  So, maybe there is something to ignoring the tantrum.

Birthday Bash Baked Brie

Celebrating birthdays Sonoma style means being surrounded by close family, close friends and good food.  This is how we have been ringing in Bobby’s 3rd birthday.  The highlight food wise so far has been what I’ve named Birthday Bash Baked Brie (try to say that 10 times) or as it has also been called Brie Cobbler.   It is both easy and versatile.

You will need:

1 package of frozen puff pastry sheets

Wheel of brie

1 egg (beaten in a cup)

Two cups of fresh fruit (peaches, apples, pears would work well)

¼ cup sugar

1 Tbsp Quick cooking tapioca

Dash of cinnamon

Thaw your puff pastry sheets.  Slice your fruit.  Warm a saucepan and cook fruit with sugar, tapioca and cinnamon.  Stir frequently until the fruit is soft and the juices are thick.  About 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease an ovenproof dish with a bit of butter.  Lay one sheet of puff pastry on the bottom.  Unwrap brie and place on top.  Place fruit mixture on top of brie.  Fold pastry over brie – Depending upon size of brie, you may need another sheet of puff pastry.  Seal pastry at the seams.  And, then brush with an egg wash. Bake in oven at 350 until golden brown (about 40 minutes).  Let cool for a few minutes before serving.  Serve with crackers and/or sliced baguette.

Enjoy!

Trading Pumps for Pumas

We moved recently.   And in the boxes lie my collection of stiletto heels.  Beautiful leathers, bows of all sorts, silks, cheetah prints, sparkly bobbles – ohh the days of past.  Those shoes will probably stay in their boxes for awhile as I’ve swapped them with some sporty pumas equipped for running after energetic boys, climbing trees and exploring zoos.  Yes, mom shoes.

The funny thing is that more than my choice in shoes has changed these days.  My boys have turned me into a bit of a tomboy.  It may have started with trading my pumps for pumas, but honestly I think it started before that. There’s something about just needing to dress boys in jeans and vintage t-shirts that puts life into a different perspective.  I must say life is much much more full.  After all, who doesn’t love chasing dump trucks or waiting for the garbage truck to arrive?  For moms of boys, garbage day is akin to the superbowl.  Thank goodness garbage day is weekly rather than yearly!

Embracing this transition is fun.  Sure, I may not be sporting three inch heels and feminine apparel on a daily basis, but you know I am sporting two life loving bustling boys.  Nothing can compare to that.

Raising Awareness – Pinatas, Peanuts & Epi Pens

With eight percent of children having some sort of food allergy, raising awareness is important. After all, you don’t want to be the one innocently giving a child something that could trigger a life threatening reaction.

It seems that food allergies are here to stay. A 2008 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed an 18% increase in food allergy between 1997 and 2007. Peanut allergy also tripled during that time.

Some kids can react to an allergen being in the air or a handprint on a play structure, others need to ingest it. For those who have more tactile allergy triggers, the world can be a dangerous place. I’ve heard of moms leaving playgrounds when they see kids eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Imagine peanut butter getting on one child’s hands and then transferring it or traces of it to the playstructure. Such a result could present a serious danger to some children.

A small number of foods are responsible for 80% of all allergies (milk, wheat, soy, eggs, fish and nuts). The most common childhood allergies are to milk, wheat, soy, eggs. These allergies are likely to resolve during childhood. Other allergies, like to nuts and fish are said to be more long term.

With food being such a part of our culture, a restricted diet presents challenges especially for young kids who are too young to regulate their own food intake. From birthday parties to playgrounds, the snacks offered can pose serious risks. For kids with egg allergies, innocent foods like French toast, mayonnaise, quiche, custards and meringues, are problematic.

Being the mom of a child with food allergies is a nerve wracking anxiety provoking experience. Bobby first showed sign of being allergic with a light rash on his face. As he got older his reaction intensified – vomiting, tongue swelling and trouble breathing. So, as his mom, I’ve learned to watch him like a hawk. You could say I am a helicopter parent on steroids.

When a piñata breaks at a birthday party, I have been filled with a sense of dread as I look to make sure I am able to monitor what candy my child eats. Of course he goes for the candy in shiny packages. Explaining why some kids are able to eat peanut butter cups or why the Easter Bunny would leave candy that can’t be consumed has been a bit of a challenge. The good news is that as he get older, he will be better able to understand the result of his allergies and self regulate his intake.

Not knowing when a new food allergy will show itself is a challenge and downright scary. Such has been my experience lately, requiring the inaugural use of the Epi Pen and resulting in Bobby’s first (and hopefully last) ride in an ambulance. Holding Bobby as he struggled to breathe was my worst nightmare. For seconds, I contemplated whether to subject him to one of the things he hates most – a shot. As much as I hated him having him the shot, I knew he needed it. I held him, my brave husband gave it. Within seconds, that shot somehow helped him breathe. After being able to breathe, he thought it was so “cool” an ambulance and a fire truck came to his house. I thought it was so “cool” that they arrived so quickly. But – Bobby, yes, this was an impromptu party.

For parents of kids with allergies, there are things we can do to. We can educate others about our children’s’ allergies. In fact, I hesitated to write this article as I want so much for Bobby to be treated just the same as the other kids on the playground. The reality is that he can be treated that way, but that the adults caring for him need to know how to use the Epi Pen should the need arise. On that note, Bobby’s school actually invited me in to talk to the teachers. They even practiced using the Epi Pen. Here in Sonoma, two schools are at least partially nut free – Valley of the Moon (entirely nut free) and Sunshine School. Old Adobe Preschool is also attentive to children with allergies.

There are little things we can all do to make the world a more allergy friendly place.

  1. Before giving a child a snack, ask their parents if it’s ok.
  2. Have kids wash their hands with soap and water or wipes after eating. There is research to suggest that hand sanitizer won’t get rid of trace amounts of food.
  3. When hosting a party, make sure food is on countertops out of the reach of young kids.
  4. When your child is done eating, make sure uneaten remnants make it into a trash can.
  5. Be supportive of parents whose kids have food allergies. If you think they are overreacting or being overprotective, then check out a video on youtube of a child having an anaphylactic reaction or just ask me what it’s like. I’m happy to tell you.
  6. Remain positive. Stress the strengths of kids with allergies.

So where’s the silver lining? Current scientific studies may hold promise for the future. For example, there are studies currently as to introducing trace amounts of foods to develop a tolerance. Also, kids with food allergies learn to be tough. Heck, I’ve heard of an Army Ranger who has a peanut allergy. So with the right support, our kids can have the option of being rangers too.

For more information about food allergies – check out FAAN (www.foodallergy.org), the Food Allergy Initiative (www.foodallergyinitiative.org) and the Food Allergy Project (www.foodallergyproject.org).

A 6 Month Old Foodie – Feeding Baby Sonoma Style

Raising kids in Sonoma has tons of benefits, beautiful weather, picturesque pastures and amazing local produce.  The food part of this joyous trinity seemed to disappear when I started feeding my 6 month old premade babyfood.

Have you ever tasted store bought babyfood?  The other day, I opened a jar of garden veggie dinner of the organic variety.  I gave some to CJ, my 6 month old.  He spit it out!  So, I had to wonder why his protest?  I tasted it.   It was absolutely dreadful.  I spit it out too!  It made me wonder about the long term effect of serving my child bland disgusting mush.  So, in a very dramatic style, I tossed the jar in the trash and threw some of my dinner into a blender (the magic bullet – best 20$ investment ever).   Shallot and lavender chicken, sautéed Romano beans and panko crusted mac n’cheese.  Interestingly enough, CJ gobbled down the blended mush.

It turns out that folks have written all about this phenomena – check out Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton and Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman.

It has turned into a bit of an experiment for me.  As I fed my first son completely differently than how I am feeding CJ.  With Bobby, I followed the traditional approach.  First he had rice cereal.  Then I slowly introduced each food individually for about a 5 day period looking for allergies.  For awhile Bobby had very plain tastes that have taken awhile to undo.  That’s not to say I disagree with the idea of slowly introducing foods as to look for allergies.  But as a mom with a child with food allergies, I can tell you that in my experience the reaction a child may have to food can be really pronounced  (rash, wheezing, swelling, vomit).

It is quite possible that I stunted Bobby’s culinary tastes by feeding him such plain food for so long.  Having come to this realization, I have completely changed what and how I feed CJ.  Now for breakfast, he gets whatever we’re having.  Today it was bits of sweet potato banana scones (see recipe in my blog post).  For lunch, he gets blended fruits and veggies.  He snacks on fresh produce from the farmers market. He loves cucumbers, peaches and plums all fed through a mesh feeder.  For dinner, he gets a mashed version of whatever we’re having.  Over the weekend, he tasted and loved ribeye steak, basa fillets, and lavender chicken.   All were hits as he didn’t spit it out and wanted more.

Don’t get me wrong – sometimes he gets jarred food too as it is so convenient.   It is the rare instance that I don’t add some sort of flavoring to it.

So, if you want to start feeding your baby Sonoma foodie style – pick up a small blender like the Magic Bullet and a few mesh feeders.  Get creative and you won’t be disappointed.

Tips for Teething Tots

“A happy baby is a healthy baby.” That’s what the lady at Homegrown Bagels, in Sonoma told me as she handed me a bag of bagels specifically designed for teething babies. As I took the bag, I wondered whether the little bagels would help make my CJ happy again.

They say that three months is the perfect age. For awhile I wondered about the source of such comments, then it hit me – three months is when babies start to become more aware. They start to notice and interact with the world around them. They smile, coo and giggle. Who doesn’t like a three month old baby?

Then four months hits and the same once smiling, cooing and giggling baby, has bouts of crying and screaming. In addition, they start drooling enough to make some dogs jealous. The cause? Teeth. Those pesky teeth cause a ton of pain as they work their way into the scene. And, in the process, they turn the sweet baby into a fussy one.

It’s happened to my own little CJ recently. With moments when he’s totally inconsolable, waking up from a dead sleep with a screech unlike any other cry, CJ has been in major pain. I even trekked him to the big city (Petaluma) for his doctor to take a peek, and well, the route of his pain – teething.

Desperate for something to help ease his pain, I sought tips from fellow moms. Here’s the list of what folks have recommended:

  • Teething bagels – If you’re lucky enough to live near Sonoma, then these lifesaving bagels are free at Homegrown Bagels
  • Cold foods or ice in mesh feeders
  • Frozen washcloths
  • Cold plastic teethers
  • Amber teething necklace
  • Hylands teething tablets
  • Advil
  • Tylenol
  • Cherry brandy

Having tried nearly all of these recommendations, it goes without saying that CJ is one of two things. He is either much more comfortable or more entertained by the various things I am offering him. He loves chewing on frozen bananas in mesh feeders, gnawing on bagels and sucking on washcloths. Sometimes though I do think that he has more fun playing the “mommy pick it up” game. The game goes like this – I give him the bagel, he drops it on the floor, I pick it up and so on and so forth.

Even if the happiness is caused by the game CJ and I play with teething tools, it is happiness just the same. It rings true that a happy baby is a healthy baby. Thank you to the moms and dads out there who gave me new ideas (and Homegrown Bagels for the teething bagels).

also published at http://www.sonomanews.com/News-2012/Teething-bagels/