Category Archives: Uncategorized

Mommy Manifesto: Embracing Muddy Puddles & Chamomile Infused Banana Bread

photo(25) The struggle between pursing a career and mothering is intense.  For neither seem to be able to be accomplished with perfection simultaneously.  I personally decided to ease up on the career to dedicate myself to nurturing my two boys.  Working in a different capacity has enabled me to spend more time with my boys.  However, the cost of doing is definitely a detour from the traditional career path for women lawyers.  Although I own up to this decision, doing so hasn’t eliminated the tug of war between the two.

As the case may be, when the tug of war seems to lean towards career or when I question my decision, one of my boys will do something that reminds me of why this decision was so important.  The goal of maximizing my time with my boys always wins out.  But what I do with that time, and what I’m trying to cultivate with my boys is so important.  My mommy manifesto is to:

  • raise them with love, support and compassion
  • nurture their interests
  • let them explore
  • foster their natural curiosity
  • make them appreciate the world around them
  • photo(26)teach a respect for other living creatures
  • build confidence
  • let them feel free to discover their wings and fly as they wish
  • let them feel secure
  • help them connect to the world around them
  • experience beauty, music, sports, art
  • raise them with a goal of independence and independent thinking
  • teach them to embrace their weaknesses
  • appreciate their differences and learn that being different is a strength
  • try not to coddle
  • be accepting of messes, for what brings more fun than a muddy puddle? or a sandbox
  • seek environments for them that align with the above and minimize their exposure to environments that don’t

I’m not saying that doing the above is easy or that it happens everyday.  Take an example from the other day.  Bobby wanted to cook.  So, we decided to make banana bread.  As I turned my back, he dumped in some of his chamomile tea.  I really had no idea how much tea he dumped in, nor did it really matter. The fact that he did so, really irked me.  I was angry that he didn’t follow directions.

Then, I stepped back, took a breath.  Asking myself two questions put everything in perspective:  1) who cares, and 2) what does it matter.  After all, does it really matter how the bread turned out?  And could being a stickler in this instance stifle his creativity?  Who was I to judge? Maybe he was onto something.  Maybe chamomile tea would add an extra special element to banana bread.  Who was I to stop his creative process?  In the end, the bread was a little dry as it took longer to cook, but everyone loved it anyways.

So, I’ve learned my lesson.  Next time we do cooking experiments, I’ll be making two batters.  One for Bobby and one for me.

What’s your mommy manifesto?

Just five minutes for me and a cozy cup of chai tea

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Sorry that it’s been awhile since my last post.  Life threw me a bit of a curve-ball and I’ve been reorganizing.  All is good, but I’ve needed to find some reinforcements to help with the kids so I can create time to work.

With my husband gone from before the kids get up until after they are in bed, I have gained a whole new appreciation for single moms.  Managing a house and the boys schedules alone seems to be a full time job.  Then add in work, and it’s total chaos.

Instantly, the little moments of “me time” whether it was grocery shopping solo or getting a pedicure totally evaporated into oblivion.  Where did “me time” go?

The other day, however, I got a little glimpse.  A cozy cup of chai tea, beautifully decorated with foam.  A warm spring morning.  A beautiful garden patio.  The sound of water dancing over a fountain.  And, the smell of spring in the air.  Just experiencing that moment was bliss.

With both of my boys off at their respective schools, Bobby at preschool and CJ at his playcare, before I dove into work, I took five minutes.  With every ounce of my being pulling me to occupy my time, it was totally and completely against my nature to step back and just be.  Five minutes to be present, to experience the patio, enjoy the chai, and breathe in the air.  It was heaven. And, the chai was spicy.

If you haven’t done it lately, I implore you to and before the kids go to bed.  Taking five at the end of the day when you are totally exhausted is totally different than sometime in the beginning when the day is fresh and new.  Try it out, you won’t be disappointed.

What’s your favorite way to take 5, I’d love to hear.

The Mommy Diet

Today, my husband surprised me by coming home with a lovely lunch from my favorite taqueria. Although we had a talk about avoiding carbs, the smell of fresh tortilla chips and fresh tacos was too much to resist. That subtle crunch of the chips yet the light almost creamy flavor of the tortillas contrasted with the spicy grilled chicken and fresh salsa. Add salt and there is a symphony of delight! So much for my efforts to limit carbs!

Why is it that whenever I start dieting, I end up gaining weight? Clearly, it’s due to lunches like today. So I’m not a fan of dieting, maybe that’s why I’m eternally a size 10 (a generous size 10). There’s just something about snacking on peppers, celery and asparagus that’s not completely satisfying. Don’t get me wrong, I love fresh fruit and veggies, but they just don’t compare to my comfort foods — freshly made thick tortilla chips, dark chocolate or rich ice cream.

There’s something about the end of the day. After dealing with two rascally weasels, indulgent foods seem even more decadent. They call to me. It’s as if they soothe the soul.

Then the justification comes in. Well, if I walked for forty minutes and did a Pilates class, then a few crispy chips shouldn’t hurt right? Oops, make that a few handfuls. And if I ran XX miles, then can’t I have all of my favorite foods?

In my book the mommy diet has to allow for some sort of indulgence. Maybe not everyday, but from time to time. Sure there are theories like Body for Life, which allows for one day off, or more strict regimes like South Beach, but what works long term? I’m now looking for a diet that allows cheese, chocolate and occasional tortilla chips. Any suggestions?

What’s your trick? I’d love to hear.

Raffi is Coming to Town!

Photo Credit Jon Benjamin

The all time children’s superstar, Raffi, is on tour!  Haven’t heard of Raffi?  Well, he has been creating classic children’s music since the 70s.  His songs like Baby Beluga, Down By the Bay and Apples and Bananas have captivated generations of children.

I’ve been a fan since probably the 80s when his tunes entertained me and my little brothers and sisters.  Now,  Raffi’s songs entertain my little boys.  On a daily basis, Bobby marches around the house singing Apples and Bananas.  And, CJ chimes in with grunts here and there.

I just can’t wait to let them sing Apples and Bananas with Raffi live in concert!  Luckily neither they nor I will have to wait that long since Raffi is on tour!

He will be in Berkeley on April 6, then hopscotching around the country.  Interested in more details? Then, click here.

The concerts will benefit the Center for Child Honouring, an organization founded by Raffi based upon a Covenant for Honouring Children, an absolutely inspirational movement promoting the rights of children and aimed at bettering the world for all children.  Check back for more information about the Covenant for Honouring Children as it more than warrants a separate discussion.

You’ve Got To Sing When The Spirit Says Sing – Music, Child Development & Raffi

Photo Credit Jon BenjaminSome say the first language of babies is music as they experience it in the womb.  From this early exposure, babies learn to love rhythm.  I noticed Bobby’s special connection with rhythm from the first moments of meeting him.  He was a bit of a fussy baby.  So, a constant dance-like bounce was all that would soothe him.  Once that stopped working, he would calm by listening to Yo Yo Ma.  The drastic impact music had on Bobby got me thinking about the relevance of music in his development.  I’ve learned that a connection with music plays an important role as the foundation for literacy and other social and cultural development.

Why is Music Important?

“The necessity of music in human intellectual development has been discussed as far back as ancient Greece, in the 6th century B.C. In Plato’s Book of Laws II, a discussion is presented between an Athenian student and his teacher, Clinias, that describes the ancient Greek views on the importance of music education.

Athenian: So, by the uneducated man we shall mean one who has no choric training; and by an educated man whose choric training has been thorough.

Clinias: Exactly.

Athenian: And, mark you., the choric art as a whole embraces both dance and song.

Clinias: No doubt.

Athenian: Thus it follows that a well-educated man can both sing well and dance well.

Clinias: So it would seem.” CITE

Many advocate for continuing a child’s early exposure to music.  One such group of experts explain: “Early musical training helps develop brain areas involved in language and reasoning. It is thought that brain development continues for many years after birth. Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways.” (Cite)

Music At Our House

Continuing Bobby’s exposure has been a bit tricky.   At 3.5 years old, he seems a bit young to sit through lessons.  But music is still on his mind.  The other day, he was in the backyard with two sticks.  One was double his height.  He held it upright in one hand and took another stick and began to strum the larger stick.  When asked what he was doing, he replied that he was playing the cello.  Later that night he pretended to play the flute.  And, his little brother, who we call Bam Bam due to his love of banging on everything and everyone, used two sticks to beat the ground.  Future drummer?  Maybe.  So, we had a delightful time singing songs amidst the trees.  After all, in the words of Raffi, you’ve gotta sing when the spirit says sing.

The favorite song these days is Baby Beluga. Thank you Raffi Cavoukian, the superstar of kids’ music, for creating this charming song that introduces lil ones to the wonders of the ocean.  Singing Raffi with my kids is nostalgic for me as I remember singing his songs with my six younger siblings.

The All Time Children’s Superstar, Raffi

Haven’t heard of Raffi?  Well he has been creating classic children’s music since the 70s.  I’ve been a fan since probably the 80s when his tunes entertained me and my little brothers and sisters.  For me, it is wild that now, I am enjoying his music with my own children.  What’s wilder than that? Well, letting them experience Raffi in concert.

Raffi will be on tour this year.  He will be in Berkeley on April 6, then hopscotching around the country.  Interested in more details, then check here.  The concerts will benefit Child Honouring, an organization founded by Raffi based upon a Covenant for Honouring Children, an absolutely inspirational movement to help make the world a better place for all children.  Check back for more information about the Covenant for Honouring Children as it more than warrants a separate discussion.

Ways To Introduce Your Kids To Music

There are so many ways to introduce young kids to music.  From streaming music in the background, asking them what they think of it, singing, dancing and playing instruments or sticks as the case may be.  In addition, concerts are a great way to let them gain another perspective.  Raffi’s concert is one such event and should be amazing!  But if you can’t make that, then check out your local community.  Consider attending a high school performance, church choir concert, music class or youth symphony.  Library storytimes also can incorporate music as well.

Thanks for reading!   Wishing you and your little ones magical times making music memories!

Pizza Pizza

Making pizza provides a fabulous kid friendly activity and meal.  It’s amazing how many vegetables I can get Bobby to eat just by offering them as pizza toppings.  He likes piling them on his little pizza.   Pizza 1And, then when it’s all baked, he’s so proud and happy to gobble up his creation.

To be honest, it took me a long time to find a good pizza dough recipe.  In the process, I made many a pizza dough Frisbee, that ended up being tossed into the trash.  To save you that trouble, here’s my “go to” pizza dough recipe adapted from Alice Waters, the Art of Simple Food.  The dough even freezes well!  So, make a batch and freeze half of it.

Ingredients

2 teaspoons dry yeast

1/2 cup lukewarm water

3 3/4 cups unbleached white flour (can use mix of flours as well)

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup cold water

1/4 cup olive oil

(if you like it sweet add a tablespoon of Honey)

(consider adding herbs to the dough)

Parchment Paper

Method

Stir together yeast and warm water until yeast is dissolved. Add 1/2 cup flour and stir well. Allow the mixture to sit until bubbly (30 minutes).  Add flour, salt, cold water and olive oil.

Mix thoroughly.  I use a KitchenAid Stand mixer with a dough hook.  Knead on low until the dough is soft and elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough is too wet and sticky, add more flour, but only enough to form a soft, slightly sticky dough.

The dough is the right texture when it pulls away from the sides of the bowl of the mixer, but still adheres to the bottom.

Put the dough in a large bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. For an even better-tasting and more supple dough, let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from the fridge 2 hours before shaping.

Divide the dough into balls.  Allow the dough balls to rest at room temperature, for an hour or so.  Shape pizza dough on Parchment Paper.  Shape into desired shapes.  If doing fogaccia, you can make it into rectangles.  For a thicker dough, let the shaped pieces  sit for about an hour before baking.   Brush with olive oil and garlic.

Top with desired sauces and toppings.  My favorite is brushed with a salted garlic oil, then top with prosciutto, pears, white cheese and fresh herbs.  Bobby’s favorite is brushed with garlic olive oil, then topped with marinara sauce, veggies (mushrooms, zucchini & broccoli), and sausage.

Preheat the oven (and a baking stone if you have it) to its maximum.  Preheat for about a half hour.  Put in pizza and turn down oven to 400.  Bake for about twenty minutes. Let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes.  Enjoy!

Bath-time Commandments

Do tidal waves hit your bathroom too?  It’s amazing that after bath-time there is always water splashed about my boys’ bathroom.  Encouraging fun and water play is important over here.  After all, the boys have such a fabulous time fishing for toys, pouring water and playing water instruments.  That said, I am starting to need to put some limits around this spash zone.

Somewhere between bath-time exploration and the  splash zone has to be a middle ground.  I am waiting to find it.  In search of it, I’ve implemented the following golden rules.  We’ll see how long they last.  I’d love to hear your ideas too!

Bath-Time Commandments

  • Bath toys stay in the tub
  • Water stays in the tub
  • No dumping water on siblings
  • No pooping in the tub
  • And, last but not least don’t drink the water (see above)

Tackle Those Spices: One Way to Organize A Shelf

Too cold to jaunt outside in the morning?  Or are your kids like mine, sick as dogs with the cold that just won’t go away?  Why not take advantage of being inside and make life a little easier by organizing your spices.

spice 1If you’re like me, you have a few spices on hand.  Some of them you may never use, because they are buried in a corner, at the bottom of a drawer or have just disappeared completely.  After years of trying to figure out how to best organize my spice drawer, I finally figured it out!

Rather than use a spice drawer, I am using a shelf.  I have labeled the tops of the spice jars.  Since the tops of the spices are at eye level it is so easy to find the spices I need when I need them.  My cooking has gotten a bit more creative as now everything is easily accessible.

All it took was a few labels, a sharpie pen, a little time and a dash of patience spice 2and voila — mission accomplished!  You can color code your spices as well.  I used red for spicy, yellow for savory, and blue for sweet which is turning out to be helpful.

By the way, the Slap Ya Mama spice in the photo besides adding a dose of humor to a spice collection, offers a fabulous slightly spicy yet salty flavor.   In my opinion,  like the man spice for women.  You know, the one your husband wants to put on everything? My husband would put Lawry’s or Mrs. Dash on anything and everything (before he met me).  So Slap Ya Mama is a southern favorite -its like Old Bay but with more flavor.  Made with red pepper, garlic and salt, it is pretty darn versatile.

What’s your favorite way to organize spices? I’d love to hear.

Where to Dine With Kids in Sonoma & Glen Ellen

FremontWith numerous Michelin rated restaurants, Sonoma is definitely a culinary mecca. There’s no reason to let kids deter you from hitting the town. From formal to casual, there are endless places to enjoy. Here is my short list.

cafe The Fig Cafe, Glen Ellen – With kid friendly tablecloths, divine food and friendly service, the Fig Cafe has it all. Savor the seasonal flavors and local produce while your little Picasso decorates the tablecloths. Don’t panic, because the cloths are topped with butcher paper (yay!). Bobby and CJ (well and to be honest I) highly recommend the mac & cheese. Bring your favorite bottle of wine as corkage is complimentary. A word to the wise – make sure to avoid the long wait by arriving when they open at 5:30.

Hopmonk Tavern – With a lovely beer garden that is nearly fully enclosed, Hopmonk is absolutely kid friendly. Hopmonk also hosts a variety of musical gigs, which can be captivating for young-ones as you enjoy the local brew.

Murphy’s Pub – Warm enough to dine al fresco? Then Murphys is a great spot. With burgers, fries and chicken strips, the menu offers kiddo friendly food. Bobby and CJ love the curry fries. So order up your favorite pint and enjoy!

Red Grape, Sonoma Square – Who doesn’t love Italian food with fresh Sonoma flair? In a laid back setting, the Red Grape allows families to do so in a no fuss setting. And, what kid dislikes pizza? I recommend just ordering off of the adult menu and providing Junior a slice of the adult flavor. Should you be meeting up with friends, consider reserving a spot in the back room. The bench is a great way to corral tumbling toddlers.

Taste of the Himalayas, Sonoma Square – This quaint restaurant is perfect for kids. With warm service and flavorful food, kids are right at home. They’ve brought food out for the kids almost immediately. Bobby recommends the garlic naan and CJ the lentil soup.

Fancy a special breakfast spot? Then check out the Fremont Diner or Studebaker Cafe.

Fremont Diner – It doesn’t get more kid friendly than Fremont Diner where you’ll be greeted by rusty trucks out front. Watch out Cars fans, Bobby has cited Mater. Farm enthusiasts will delight watching the chickens free range in the back garden. The patio hosts picnic tables perched atop gravel. A delight for toddlers as they toss their food on the floor (yay!). So, grab a table and order up some comfort food. I’m in love with the breakfast sandwich, and my husband with the biscuits and gravy.

Studebaker Cafe home to the Golden Hawk Cafe (breakfast only) offers a more casual experience. Fully equipped with a train table and developmental toys, Studebaker photo(18)Cafe can help keep your kids entertained while you enjoy some of the decadently sinful offerings there including the famous cheesecake. They have a nice and affordable breakfast menu. For example, organic egg omelets with cheese are $4. That said, I highly recommend the scones. with each bite, a symphony if bliss. Maybe its from the fact that Studebaker takes endless efforts to ensure perfection, including making their own buttermilk. So, check it out.

Did I miss your favorite spot? I’d love to learn about it.

Kid Friendly Wine Tasting in Sonoma Valley

Wine tastingLife in Sonoma may be synonymous with picturesque vineyards but it is also synonymous with kid friendly activities of all sorts.  Finding kid friendly wine tasting experiences, however, can be a little tricky as some of the tasting rooms seem more like museums.  From intimate to commercial tasting rooms, here’s a list of my favorite spots to take family and friends with kids in tow.

RocheSince this article is about wine tasting in Sonoma, I’ll first mention a delightful tasting room steps from the historic Sonoma Plaza.  Let your kids explore the Sonoma Plaza and then continue the fun at the Roche Winery Tasting Room.  In addition to exquisite wines, Roche offers a perfect place to experience life Sonoma style.  Not to worry if your tots are still restless, Roche has a lovely patio for kids to roam.  If your kids are older, Roche also has bike tours of the vineyards!Kid cycling Roche

Meadowcroft is ideally situated at Cornerstone.  Why not let your kiddos let off some steam while hunting around the gardens, and then pop in for a tasting?  That’s what I did.  And, to be honest the folks at Meadowcroft were more than hospitable with the two galloping tots.  They even went out of their way to invite me to feed my kiddos in the tasting room.

Bartholomew Park  offers as its name suggests is in a park setting.  With trails and picnic grounds to roam, all will delight in a visit.  Interested in hiking? Then load your toddler in your backpack and take a hike.  Or bring a picnic and enjoy the grounds.

No list of family friendly Sonoma wineries would be complete without mention of the Larson Family Winery.  This place includes picnic tables and a grassy area with kid friendly games.  If you like  bubbles, then try theirs. We used it to celebrate CJ’s baptism.  Also, for future holiday planning, note that Santa visits Larson.  Wine tasting  and Santa — enough said.

Desire a more intimate tasting experience?  Then consider visiting Peter Cellars.  Located on a private estate equipped with bocce ball, it doesn’t get more kid friendly than this. Be forewarned, however, that this boutique winery offers wines so delightful you’ll be hard pressed not to join IMG_1755the wine club!  Note that tastings are by appointment only.

Up for a bit of a drive?  Then venture to two wineries in my neighborhood – Benziger and Eric Ross.  The warm, friendly and intimate environment at Eric Ross Tasting Room is worth a visit.  Eric Ross is so kid friendly that they keep hot-wheel cars on hand!  And, Dennis and Diane, the tasting room managers, make it a point to welcome kids.

Benziger in Glen Ellen offers a fun experience.  It even boasts a play-structure!  I think one of the only play structures in Glen Ellen.  Take kids on the tractor tour of the vineyard or let them climb the fort and speed down the slide.  Either way you win!

Kenwood offers numerous spots as well.  Why not visit VJB?  VJB offers a little piece of Italy right here in Sonoma.  Feel transported  by the environment, wines and flavors.  In addition to a tasting room, VJB houses a lovely Italian deli and dessert cafe.  The courtyard contains kids providing a respite for parents as they leisurely nibble on Italian treats while letting kids race around the courtyard.  I highly recommend the prosciutto and arugula pizza.  Totally delicious!

I hope you enjoy some of these places.  Did I miss your favorite spot?  I’d love to hear about it!