Detox Dips #2

I’ve got another dip for you!

Hello, super-healthy ingredients!

This one’s called Lime-Spiked Black Bean Dip, and it’s a Cooking Light recipe.  The first time I made this dip, I thought it was delicious. And then I forgot about it. Because, when I looked at the recipe, I’d think to myself, “That must have been something that was pretty good considering how ridiculously healthy it was, but I want something uber-yummy.” Then one day I picked health over uber-yumminess, and I remembered that this dip gives me both. Hooray!

Of course, I have to tinker with recipes, and with this one, I add probably 50% more lime juice, maybe even double. I also go easy on the green onions (not my favorite) and throw in extra cilantro (a favorite for sure, and every time I eat it I thank The Fates that I didn’t get the Cilantro-is-Soapy gene). Finally, I puree the whole dang thing. That way I can be lazy about the chopping. I do, however, still grate the carrots. That’s because I’m really not crazy about raw carrots. They’re just so–ewww–carroty. But if they are in teensy, teensy pieces, then I can handle them.

Anyway, I find this one super-tasty. It’s good for veggie dipping, but I also like it (and, come to think of it, the first detox dip) spread into half of a red pepper with a slice or two of avocado on top. Yum.

My kids are wearing their PJs inside out for a snow day, which I’d never heard about until tonight. And I am old.  So if we are shut in, what’s everybody doing to entertain themselves?

Maple Ski Ridge

We finally made it to Maple Ski Ridge! Really, I feel silly that we hadn’t gone before. Everyone told us that it was a great easy trip and perfect for learning skiers. Somehow, I had a mental block that there couldn’t be anything worth a trip that wasn’t, you know, a trip.

But we had a wonderful time! We loaded up our car so that we could go directly from church and ate lunch en route so that we wouldn’t miss more time than necessary.  It was a quick trip to Rotterdam for us, but when we arrived I was concerned. First, the wind was positively whipping all over the place, and Cute W was parking while I ran (okay, stomped) inside to buy tickets. The line was long. There was definitely an early-afternoon rush. So I fretted about the children becoming demoralized little Popsicles. When the crowd parted I could get a glimpse of them through the windows, but the crowd parted infrequently. And of course I’d forgotten my cell in the car, so I couldn’t call Cute W to ensure that he’d joined the children and that no one was getting frostbite.

Luckily this wait won’t have to be repeated. This year they’ve started a new system, the Sweet Pass, which is a card that you can refill online. We paid $5 for the cards themselves, which each person keeps in a pocket instead of one of those hang tags. Then next time we go, we can “reload” the card so that we don’t even have to step into the lodge. Unless we want cocoa.

As it turns out, the kids were fine and Cute W had scored an unbelievable parking space. Which wasn’t too difficult, since the place is small. But honestly, Maple Ski Ridge was perfect for us. There are two rope tows and two lifts. We were novices with the tow rope, but everyone did relatively well.  By the end even J was reaching back to put the handle behind her so that she could sit back and relax her way uphill. M was overjoyed and did terrific with all the skiing–she barely paused in 3 1/2 hours. J would have preferred to snow plow straight down every hill. She’d fall and get frustrated on some of her turns, but generally she had a wonderful time. Our biggest problem was that she’d speed up and then we’d be going alongside her yelling “Pizza! Make a PIZZA!” But the best was that, for us at least, there was hardly ever any wait time at all to get back up the hill. And that was a Sunday afternoon after a snowstorm.

It was also a new experience for us to run into various acquaintances while skiing, so it felt almost like a neighborhood get-together. Some parents were clearly just hanging out in the lodge and checking for their kids through the windows. The food prices looked relatively reasonable (again, I’m cheap, so we’d packed snacks). It was, as I’d heard, pretty crazy-busy in the lodge, with people camping their stuff all over the tables.

J rides the lift with me. I would have taken more pictures, but we were too busy skiing.

All in all, it was a great place for the beginner & young skier. We’ll  visit other places, too, but we’ll absolutely ski there again.  It was an excellent family outing for us, and it’s nice for the kids to have a place where they can feel pretty comfortable just about anywhere. And it’s especially nice that it’s so close to home!

There’s Only One Conclusion. . .

I don’t know if any of you caught the New York Times article the other day about getting kids to play independently. One of the things that they mentioned was that kids need some space of their own away from all those fussy grown-ups so that they can think creatively and be independent and all.

I spent quite a while today moving the last of the Christmas stuff into storage, which meant that I was passing through our tremendously cluttered basement playroom. Observe, if you will:

A portion of the Barbie schoolroom.

The schoolroom is actually quite elaborate, with a private staff bathroom with soaking tub (not pictured) because those students can really stress a teacher out. The Barbie teachers are also great literacy advocates, as you can see:

The Book Nook, with plenty of comfy spots to lounge.

However, the Barbies are also fierce advocates for animals. Here’s a portion of the veterinary hospital. The human section is relegated to the lower level, where Kelly dolls line a waiting room. The Barbies are simply too busy with their furry and flippered patients.

Note the blue blocks which give the illusion of water and the only Barbie appropriately dressed for the task at hand

Of course, all of this work is exhausting, but luckily they have a fabulous mansion complex where they can kick back and have a miniature plastic cocktail in the hot tub at the end of a grueling day.

The flowered-scarf awning allows the Barbies to have the soaring cathedral ceilings that they truly deserve

Now some people who see these pictures (or worse: attempt to actually navigate the labyrinthine basement in an effort to, say, check the water heater) might see this playroom as evidence of slovenly housekeeping or woefully overindulged children. Both reactions are, let’s face it, somewhat accurate. But after the article on play, I’m more inclined to come to a different conclusion:

My children are brilliant & creative, and I am a fabulous mother!


Detox Dips #1

After spending several posts in December tempting you with cheese, chocolate, and butter, I figured that we’re all due for a bit of a detox.

First, a disclaimer: I am in no way an authority on the detox issue. I don’t have the self-discipline for a cleanse. Last year I did manage one week of almost-entirely-vegan eating, but that Triumph of Nutritional Abstention has since receded into the mythic past. Oh, well.

When I can motivate myself, I like to have a yummy dip in the house so that I’ll snack on vegetables eagerly. Obviously, a chipotle ranch dip would be yummy, but it would sort of defeat the purpose, right? But luckily I do know how to make some pretty tasty and healthy dips. So I thought that I’d share them with you.

Today’s is from–if you can believe it–Cooking with Friends. As in, the tv show. We got this book as a gift, and it seemed pretty silly. But it has some surprisingly good recipes. As well as cheesecake shots of the actors. I opened the book to the Out West Bean Dip/Monica photo page so that you could see. Also so that Courtney Cox and I could have a little girl time together. She’s going through a bit of a rough patch, as you know, with her separation from David Arquette and his subsequent visits to strip clubs and rehab check-in.  Sounds to me like the split was the right choice if it motivated him to make a change. Which I told her while tossing items into my food processor.

Here’s the recipe, but I’m adding my own variations and comments in italics.

Out West Bean Dip

  • 1    19-ounce cannellini beans, drained and rinsed– Or 15.5 oz. if that’s what you’ve got.
  • 2    medium cloves garlic, peeled– Raw will give you killer breath, which you can ease by using the pre-minced. I go raw and stinky.
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 quarter cup  olive oil– I use 2 tablespoons. A quarter cup seems like way too much.
  • 2    tablespoons lime juice– I up this by to 3 tablespoons to add a bit more liquid since I skimp out on the olive oil.
  • 2    teaspoons chili powder–These spice proportions are a nice opening bid, and then I just add to taste.
  • 1    teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt to taste

Place the beans, garlic, and cilantro leaves in a food processor or blender.  Process and scrape sides until it’s finely chopped.  Add the oil, lime juice, chili powder, and cumin, and process until smooth.  Put in a serving bowl and add salt to taste.  Goes well with vegetables or crackers or chips. The consistency is perhaps a bit thinner than hummus, so you can also use it to spread on a sandwich. Mmmmm, like with avocado.

Oh, and while we’re at it, does anyone have any super-tasty healthful dips to share?

Books

We got a notice about pink eye and head lice in J’s class. Again. Actually, I’m grouchy tonight for a whole host of reasons, both large and small, but I won’t bore you with them. Except, here’s J’s go-to bug-avoiding hairdo:

Instead, I’ll tell you about what we’re reading lately. M just finished The Good Liar by Gregory Maguire. Did you know that the author of Wicked has written tons of chapter books for kids? Well, he has. Many of them are funny, but this one is set in occupied France during WWII. The other night M volunteered that she didn’t like the mother in the story: she was “too intense” and “she’s not nice to their soldier”. And I managed to keep a poker face even though I know from my motherly quick-skim that the mother’s hiding a Jewish mother and daughter in her house and “their soldier” is the local German soldier occupying their village. Anyway, M finished the book, and we ended up talking a little bit about that time period, and she found it interesting. And here’s the thing: I love history & historical fiction. Not M. She’s generally all about funny books. So part of me wants to take this interest and run with it, but then, of course, we don’t really need to go all Holocaust at age 8. I’ve acquired scads of the more young-girl appropriate Dear America books, but they hold no appeal for M.

Meanwhile, Cute W has been reading bunches of Bloom County at bedtime with the girls. He loves Bloom County. They’re enjoying it, too. But every once in while I’ll be washing dishes and I overhear him reading about George Bush or stag parties or celibacy or catcalls. And I just hope that they won’t stop him for an explanation. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Well, at least I don’t have to have those conversations.

Different book tastes are one of my parental crosses to bear. Years ago M picked out Little House on the Prairie at the public library, and I started getting weepy right there at the circulation desk. But she never really got into the books. Meanwhile she resists anything remotely resembling fantasy. Which means that the entire Harry Potter series remains untouched on our shelves, along with A Wrinkle in Time. Which I read in the 3rd grade (M’s grade). Read and loved, I should say. So much that it was in the third grade that I picked my first-born’s name. It kills me that M has no interest in it whatsoever.

J has abandoned the fairy tales that we both love for the Daisy Meadows’ freakin’ Fairy books. Currently it’s Jade the Disco Fairy. I know, I know: any books that get a six-year-old excited about reading are good. But. . . booooorrrring. And no. She’s not reading these books herself. She’s still at the sounding-out single-syllable words, okay? Okay? She has yet to blossom, reading-wise. Which is too bad, because if she knew how to read them, maybe I could skip this series entirely.

Nursery School Shopping Season

If you think that nursery school or preschool is in your child’s future, you should know that January kicks off School Shopping Season. Generally, these programs are for kids who will be 3, 4, or a young 5 in September 2011.

I remember going to a play date back when M was still two years old, and the mom I was with had already checked out, like, 6 or 8 different schools. I had a little mini-panic attack right then and there, sitting cross-legged on the toy-strewn carpet. Lucky for me, I managed to stumble my way into the Niskayuna Co-op Nursery School, which was not just a great school for the kiddly-winks, but also a wonderful & supportive community for me.

Anyway, the oh-so-brief nursery school 101 is that you should ponder: what schedule works for you, whether your child will be more successful huddled over worksheets or playing in a sandbox, and whether you’d like to go to a school where you can basically slow the car down while your child jumps out or a school where you’ll volunteer and bring a snack occasionally, as well as all the variations in between. I actually have pretty strong opinions on this, but I will not subject you to them in this post. If you’re curious, you can check the Useful Information tab on that nursery school site, because compiling that research was one of the many things I spent time on before I spent time writing this blog. Ah, memories! I sound facetious, but I do miss it. A little bit.

If you want more general information about nursery school, here are a couple of helpful sites:

Once you get the lay of the land here at your computer, ask your friends with older kids about their nursery school experiences. From what I’ve seen, I’d say that about 5 out of 6 people you ask will love-love-love their preschool, and 1 out of 6 will have a harrowing horror story to appall you. So, you know: good luck with that.

A Preschool Fair is awesome because you can meet with a whole bunch of folks at one time. It makes it easier to distinguish between what your actual options might be. Ask them what makes them different from the people at the next table. Chances are, they’ll glance anxiously to each side and then lower their voices and give you the dirt. Check with parenting groups near you to see if they’re having a Preschool Fair. The Niskayuna Moms, I happen to know, are having a fair for their members this week.  Local libraries will also often host Preschool Fairs. Two I’ve found are:

Finally, many preschools and nursery schools (and it’s basically semantics, but tends to reflect more “academic” vs. “play-based” schools) will have Open Houses where you can come with your child, explore the classroom, meet the teacher, and speak with other parents. Many of these are scheduled in January (including “my” school, Thursday, January 6th from 6:30-8 pm). You can visit an Open House without committing to registering just yet, and it’s a great opportunity for you, really. Your child can play with some new toys, and you have an opportunity to chat with an early childhood education specialist. Sure, ask about if there’s an Emergency Plan and how they deal with food allergies and all that, but if you have a chance to visit a few places, why not ask each teacher about some current parenting challenge that you’re facing? You’ll get free advice and some insight into what kind of person the teacher is.

And, if all of this talk about preschools has you hyperventilating with stress, may I recommend Academic vs. Play-based Nursery Schools: Honestly, Who Gives a Shit? It will give you some perspective.