Sunday, June 29, 2008

Recipe Round II

Since many of you seem to like seeing recipes on this blog, I'll try and post one every weekend. It gets me out of the "obsessed with my kid" mode that is the basis for this blog. The concession, however, is that all the recipes I will include will be for things Vivi loves. Now, hopefully, you and your family will too!

This recipe is for Watermelon Salsa which I first had while visiting my husband's friends in Vermont. I don't know if it was the salsa itself or eating it on their little farm on one of those beautiful Vermont summer evenings that made it so perfect! It still tastes good here in L'il Rhody though.


3 cups chopped seedless watermelon
1/3 cup chopped red onion
2 medium garlic cloves, crushed

small handful of chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt

juice from one lime

Put chopped watermelon into a colander and allow juice to drain for 20-30 minutes. Afterwards, combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well and serve. (I think this tastes better when it has a chance to sit for an hour or so to let the flavors mix.)

This is a really versatile recipe. Adjust the ingredients according to taste or add an anaheim pepper for some heat.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer Treats

Vivi and I spent the morning sweating it out at our local farm. Oh, how I love this place! It is prime strawberry season around these parts so we took full advantage of the opportunity to pick our own. We came home with over five pounds of strawberries (not counting the two or so pounds we consumed while out in the field.) I can't wait to turn them into various summer treats.

There is something about going to this farm with Vivi that makes me feel so in love with my life. The joy of seeing her run wild in the dirt and my not caring that she ends up totally filthy. The taste of a perfectly ripe berry grown a few miles from our house when everything surrounding us seems to have been subdivided decades ago. The ability to show Vivi where our food comes from-- that it is so much more than mommy going to the store and forking over some money. The fact that on a random Friday I am able to do something really neat with our child because my husband is willing to be the sole wage earner. It's just awesome.

Note to self: Reread this post in ten minutes when Vivi spills her juice, I misplace the checkbook, the phone rings, and I realize I went to the aforementioned farm with my shirt on inside out.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Potty Mouth

At the ripe old age of 26 months, Vivi has developed a deep interest in her body and a penchant for poop jokes. We were in the store the other day when the following conversation occured:

Old lady: Hi cutie, what is your name?
Vivi: Poop.
Me: No really. Tell her your name.
Vivi: I name is Pee.
Me: Her name is Aviva. Vivi, can you tell her your middle name?
Vivi: Toot.

Vivi, of course, thought this whole exchange was hysterical while I just cringed with embarrassment.

Yesterday, I was down on my hands and knees cleaning up a potty training accident. Instead of getting a rag like she usually does, Vivi put her hand down the back of my pants and yelled, "Mama's tushie crack! Mama's tushie crack!"

And just today, she felt the need to point out a woman in Target who was bending over. Even though there was no skin in sight, Vivi loudly announced, "I see dat womin's butt crack."

Now I am pretty sure that I have never used the term "tushie crack" or "butt crack" in front of my kid. I mean it just isn't the sort of thing that happens to slip out in conversation. I take full responsibility for her successful use of "Since when?" and "Ok. Call me later." when she is making one of her pretend phone calls but the whole bodily function thing, that just isn't my cup of tea. (Even though I can write about it at length on this blog...)

I am not sure where our sweet little girl went but I am hoping that this is just a phase. In the meantime, if you are having any issues with gas, constipation, or your toilet, I've got someone who will be happy to discuss it with you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


We have a little late afternoon routine in our family. Around 4:30, I let Vivi outside into our backyard to blow bubbles. She LOVES bubbles and it generally keeps her occupied for a while so I can start preparing dinner. This afternoon, I realized that things had gotten VERY quiet. Never a good sign...

When I went out to check on her, I saw her little feet sticking out of the stroller. She had climbed in, buckled up, and fallen asleep. This is how I found her:

The thumb and belly button combination works like a charm!

Bad Ideas

I have had a few bad ideas lately. Of course, they seem like good ideas at the time but somehow during the implementation phase of my idea something goes wrong. For me, it almost always involves Vivi melting down because I try to do one more errand, make one more call, or start one more project when she really needs my attention. Doesn't this point to the universal question all parents grapple with: How do I respect and honor the needs of my child and still get something done?

Well, my bad ideas reached a whole new level of insanity this past weekend when I got it into my head that it was time to paint our kitchen. To put this project into perspective, I should tell you when I moved into this house three years ago, my husband already had been living here for 13 years without making any obvious changes to how the previous owners had left it. Like a dog marking her territory, I quickly got to work stripping wallpaper, painting, mixing and replacing furniture, and making this place into our home. The kitchen was the last of these projects and oh boy, did it need it. (Even though my artist friend Beth described it as "retro cool.")

Of course, when we did all of the other projects in the house we did not have a toddler and what a difference that makes. My great idea quickly spiraled out of control when we realized that one of us would need to keep her occupied while the other worked. We hired a babysitter for a few hours but what I expected could get done in a day stretched into four. At one point, Vivi stood in the doorway leading to the kitchen and said, "Vivi no go in dare. Mama makin' really BIIIIIIG mess." We were all tired, dirty, cranky, and subsisting on take-out that we were eating in our backyard.

We finished last night and does it look better? Yes. Was it worth it? Ask me in a couple of weeks when the memory of the project fades.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Vivi loves snacks. I mean she REALLY loves snacks, especially if they belong to other people. When we arrived at a birthday party for Vivi's friend Will last week, she was a bit timid about going inside. When Will's mom Karen said, "Vivi, we have snacks!" we were up those porch steps faster than you can say "cupcake."

The thing is that Vivi will eat, eat, and eat. A bowl of salad, she'll try it. Oh, you happen to have a corndog, can she have a bite? Moussaka? Bring it on. It is not uncommon for her to have a banana, some Goldfish crackers, toast with peanut butter, and a strawberry smoothie in one sitting. When she grabs her purse and heads to the door, she tells me that she is going to "Ho Foods. Gonna buy rice and beans."

Now don't get me wrong, I am so relieved that she has a healthy appetite and is an active, happy child. Sometimes, however, I feel like the parent who never quite has it together. I don't know how many times we've been to the park with an arsenal of snacks and she still ends up eating hers and everyone else's. So, as a way to give back to all of you parents out there who have shared so generously with us, here are recipes for a couple of Vivi's favorite snacks:


1 19 oz. can cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
1 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts (drained)
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 t. coarse sea salt
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh basil or a 1/2 Tbsp. dried
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
Black pepper or other herbs to taste

Throw it all into a food processor and process until smooth. This dip tastes better when it's been able to sit for a few hours in the refrigerator. I serve it with cut up veggies or whole wheat pita chips. Vivi is really into sandwiches these days so I also use it as a spread for bread.

(To which I often hear, "Mama dees cakes delightful!")
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup oat flour (put some steel cut oats in a food processor until they are finely ground)
3 Tbsp. ground flax seed (optional)
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
dash of cloves
1/4 c. canola oil (you can substitute olive oil, butter, or flax seed oil.)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots (app. 2 carrots)

Optional ingredients: 1/4 cup walnuts or raisins or coconut (sometimes I throw them all in)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups or a tray of mini muffins with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together flours, flax seed, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar, and eggs until well combined. Whisk in the applesauce, vanilla, and carrots. Add the dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in your add-ins (walnuts, etc.) if you are using them.

Fill muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted in muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes for big muffins, 10 or so for mini muffins.

Let me know what you think! If you like these, I can post more recipes on a regular basis.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pottying for a Purpose

Vivi has entered the realm of potty-training and it is an exciting time in our house. I am SOOOO over diapers and luckily, she's starting to feel that way too. I've tried to do my part for the environment by using cloth diapers and letting her go "nakey" whenever it seemed like there was little danger to our rugs or couch or beds. (See previous posts about how well THAT has worked!)

Lately, however, I've found myself in a bit of an environmental quandary. With Vivi peeing as much as four times an hour on her potty, what do I do with all that urine? I know that right now the words "just flush it" are running through your head and generally that's what I've been doing. Every time I pull the handle though, I think about how much water I use to flush a little bit of pee. I've tried just collecting it in the grown-up toilet and flushing once an hour but I have to say that there are times when I forget and well, that's kinda gross.

Thanks to the Crunchy Chicken blog, I have found a solution! It's all going to our garden. That's right! One part urine + ten parts water = a wonderful fertilizer and potential squirrel deterrent. (See previous post about our ongoing battle with squirrels.) Now, before you get totally grossed out, my husband and I aren't about to go peeing in a pitcher just to take one for the earth but with Vivi's small deposits and far less water than a typical flush, why not use something that would be sitting in a bowl anyway?

For those of you who are intrigued by this idea and want to take it a step further, why don't you join Crunchy Chicken's Golden Showers Garden Party this Saturday?

Golden Showers Garden Party - 6/21/08

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lost in Translation

Everyone knows I've got a thing for refugees. This isn't some sort of Angelina Jolie complex. In the late nineties, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Turkmenistan where I met Afghans who had fled the Taliban, Russians who were trapped following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and other ethnicities just trying to make their way under one of the most oppressive regimes on Earth. (Turkmenistan or the Taliban? Good god that is a choice no person should ever have to make.) And, of course, there were times when I felt like a refugee myself. Everything was different in Central Asia and I frequently found myself torn between an overwhelming desire to return home and honoring the commitment I made when I joined the Peace Corps. Until Vivi's first birthday when I decided to stay home full-time, I spent my career working on behalf of refugees.

Fast forward to a few months ago when my husband and I made the decision to hire a babysitter for a few hours each week, for the sake of my sanity. We placed the usual Craig's List ad and got a prompt and pleasant response from Lu, a 60-something grandmother from China. She came with her daughter for an interview and both were very sweet. I called Lu's references and we hired her a week later to work 9:30-12:30 on Wednesdays. Simple, right?

Well, not really. You see Lu barely speaks English and when I say barely, I'm being generous. I don't know what the heck I was thinking when we hired her. Somehow her English seemed fine at the interview but since I've got that thing for refugees, I may have misremembered (a la Hillary Clinton).

Today, I was still in my nightgown and was peeling off the five swim diapers Vivi had decided to put on when Lu arrived at 8:45 a.m. I thought, "45 minutes early. Maybe she got a ride instead of taking the bus." Of course, I couldn't ASK her so I got myself organized and headed out the door half an hour later. As I was leaving, I pointed to the clock and said, "Can you stay until 12:30?" "Yes, no problem" was her response.

I arrived home at 12:10 to find Lu flying out the door with her purse. My first thought was, "Ummm... where's my kid?" She hastily said, "Yo husband wid Wee Wee." Then, I started to put things together. She must have needed to leave early today so that's why she came early. She could have at least told me that! Well, actually, she couldn't because she doesn't speak English. UGHHHHH!!!

Fair reader, you might ask, "Why don't you let her go?" Good question. She really does love Vivi and I know she takes good care of her, despite the communication difficulties. And, well, I've got this thing for refugees.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Man vs. Squirrel

With the rising prices of everything these days and our recent completion of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, my husband and I have decided to do our best to eat locally this summer. While the notion of "living off the land" doesn't generally come to mind when I tell people we live in Providence, Rhode Island, we have always maintained a rather productive vegetable garden. Plus, the city itself has a healthy share of farmer's markets. Since we are vegetarians, we have no need to roam the wild countryside brandishing our weapons either. (That's best left to the mafia around these parts anyway...)

As romantic as our eating adventure sounds, we are actually engaged in a rough and tumble turf war with the most devious, scheming, and shrewd opponents. No, it's not Cargill or even Whole Foods. Our enemies are far more insidious than they. (Well, maybe not more insidious than Cargill but I digress...) Our adversaries are the squirrels and our mutual desire is the composter. They break-in, scatter the contents all over our yard, we reinforce the composter, and the cycle begins again. I'm starting to think that we are in a Bill Murray movie. This is what our composter looks like now:

Who do you think is winning?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Peeing or Dirty Shoes, which is worse?

Vivi likes to go "Boingas." This is her term for jumping on anything that has a little bounce to it and, not surprisingly, we seem to have a lot of those things in our house. While bouncing, she repeats "Boinga! Boinga! Boinga!" over and over. It is such a thrill for her to jump and a joy for us to see it that we have yet to curtail all the bouncing. Her favorite place to go Boingas is on our bed and we have just one rule- no shoes.

We had just come in the house yesterday when Vivi headed upstairs. When I asked her where she was going, she said "Upstairs." Well duh, mom! For some reason, I didn't press it and since she generally yells when she needs something, I let her go and headed to the kitchen. About ten seconds later, she yelled "Going Boingas on mamadaddy bed!" Shit! I had a vision of muddy shoe prints all over the quilt covering our bed and flew upstairs. When I got to our room, she was sitting on the edge of the bed carefully holding her feet over the footboard while trying to remove her sneakers. I couldn't believe it. I thought, "She gets it. She understands the rule! Whoa... yay Vivi and yay mama!"

A couple of hours later, after some snacks, trips to the potty and assorted other toddler activities, Vivi headed back upstairs. No problem. She knows the rules. "I'm just going to finish what I am doing here in the kitchen, " I thought. Then the voice came from above, "Peed on mamadaddy bed." Yup, that's right. Our stellar potty-trainer had just relieved herself on our bed.

Well, at least her shoes were off.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tube Babes?

Since our daughter was born, television has not been a part of her life. We've had no Baby Einstein, no Dora the Explorer, no Disney, and no Sesame Street. This wasn't so much an active choice in the beginning as it was an instinct that TV probably wasn't a good thing for her. It just didn't feel right to me.

Vivi turned 2 in April and with her leap into toddlerhood, I've started to reassess some of our parenting choices. Many times adults have talked to my daughter about Elmo or pointed out Dora to her and I've had to explain that she doesn't know who they are. Are we turning her into some sort of social outcast by not letting her watch TV? Perhaps, but I'm okay with that right now. I've read two wonderful books: Buy, Buy Baby by Susan Gregory Thomas and Taking Back Childhood by Nancy Carlsson-Paige that have helped me feel better about our choice. They discuss the myriad reasons to turn off the tube for young children-- everything from how children are targeted by corporations to turn them into "cradle to grave consumers" to the increased aggression and decreased creativity in children who watch excessive amounts of TV.

Our goal in parenting our daughter has always been to raise a kind, compassionate child whose presence in the world makes it a better place. It doesn't matter how smart she is or her physical abilities so long as she is able to deal with the ups and downs in life. With this in mind, I think my hunch about TV has served Vivi well. I really prefer our tea parties and couch-cushion forts to tantrums about toys she has seen on TV. When she's older, we will probably revisit this issue again. Toddler playgroup dynamics are a lot different from middle school-dynamics, after all.

Friday, June 13, 2008

And they call this child-proof?

So I should have just done it. I've been thinking for weeks (months?) that I need to get rid of all of those heavy duty cleaning products that reside under our sink. After all, how can I use them to clean my house when they just pollute our environment? What I was not thinking, however, is that my two-year-old would figure out how to break my 100% guaranteed child-proof barrier. Well, she did and now I am cleaning with vinegar and baking soda like I intended to do all along. Oh, and I'm writing a letter to those child-proof gadget developers....