Friday, August 31, 2012

Getting ready for the weekend

I've been neglecting blogging this week because I am excited to get ready for our labor day weekend adventures. 

For the last few years Michy and Ian have spent labor day weekend in DC.  Micah and I have done various things- mostly of the outdoorsy/ hiking variety.  Last year we had big plans to do some camping and county high-pointing (which is our totally dorky hobby of attempting to stand on the highest point in every county of the US) in Vermont, but were unfortunately washed out by the hurricane the weekend before. 

This year we decided to play it safe and get a hotel room in New Jersey.  From there we plan on climbing the state high point of New Jersey and visiting the New York Renaissance Festival.

So I've been spending the week preparing. 

Since going gluten and dairy free, getting snacks while on a road trip has gotten much harder.  The munchkin is also not a huge fan of the car seat, so I like to have healthy treats to keep him amused.  So this week I pulled out the dehydrator and  made some easy to grab snacks.  Dehydrated bananas (one of the munchkin's favorites), carrots, and homemade fruit roll-ups.  It was my first time trying homemade fruit rollups and they are so good! So much better than what you can buy in the store.  I'm going to have to get more fruit today and make some more because I am sure we are going to go through these quick.


The other thing I've been up to this week is sewing!  Since we are going to the Ren Faire, the munchkin needed some garb.  So I got some linen and made him a tunic.  Then made him some leggings with some wool interlock (so that later they can double as his pj bottoms.)

toddler sized T-Tunic!
wool leggings. 

Who can resist babies and toddlers in garb?  I promise there will be tutorials for both the fruit roll-ups and the tunic once we return from our long weekend.   Have a great holiday! 


Monday, August 27, 2012

Ready for fall

The mornings are starting to feel cool,  it is getting me excited for the fall.  Autumn always makes me want to knit. 

I love working on stuff for the munchkin, because its pretty instant gratification.  I can cast on a project, and be finished in a week or so.  Though now his inseam is getting kinda long... so longies are taking me a bit more time than they used to.  (time for a squishy newborn to knit for!)

This is what I've been working on the last few weeks.  I just love the look of toddlers and babies in wool pants, and wool works so well as a diaper cover that the munchkin spends most of his time in wool shorties and longies. He always gets compliments about his cute pants.

Gotta love stripes. 

I adore this colorway.  Its Mosaic Moon, Moonlit Grove.  

With cables down the sides. 

And a matching Hudson Hat

Another hat to match the munchkin's favorite shorties, which I'm going to turn into longies once the weather cools. 

The longies were made with the Evie Pants Pattern (which, by the way, I am a licensed knitter for if you are looking for a custom piece).  The hats are Hudson Hats.  Right now I'm working on another pair of longies in orange and green, and have the most gorgeous yarn (again from mosaic moon) waiting for me that will probably be longies, but maybe overalls. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Letting him be frustrated

The other day I was watching the munchkin play with his blocks.  They weren't fitting together the way he wanted and the little car he was building kept falling over.  He was getting really angry.  The urge to go over there and help him was overwhelming, but I kept back and let him work on it himself.

The blocks caused several tantrums over the next couple of days.  He was determined to get it right.  If I dared interrupt him because it was bedtime, or he needed his diaper changed... boy did he let me know his displeasure.

Then this morning, as I was getting ready to head out to work, I noticed that he was pushing around a giant block car.  You have to love his determination.  I know that as he grows up it will continue to be a challenge not to jump in to save him from stress, or save him from getting his feelings hurt... but I think that the frustration can lead to great developments.  Its my difficult job as a parent to know when he needs me and when to let go and let him figure it out on his own.  To see how proud he looked this morning, I think I made the right call.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Very Veggie Marinara

First- big news! The munckin has gone from a high chair to a booster seat! We picked up a cheap one the other day to give it a try.  He's been getting more and more reluctant to sit in his high chair.  I figured he probably wanted to be at the table with everyone else instead of separated.  He seems so much happier to be in the action.  I still have the high chair out for times when I want to give him a snack while I'm make dinner, but for meals I think he is going to transition full time to the booster.  I can't believe how big he is getting.
First meal in his big boy chair!

In this week's farmshare we had a bunch of beautiful heirloom tomatoes.  I knew I needed to do something with them quickly so that they didn't go to waste.  So it was time to make marinara.  yum.  Making pasta sauce is one of my favorite, albeit time and labor intensive, cooking tasks.  There is really nothing like homemade sauce, jars just can't compare.  I put a ton of veggies in my sauce, whatever is on hand, which mellows the acidity of the tomatoes and gives the sauce a really complex flavor. Plus it is a great way to hide some of the veggies the munchkin might not normally eat and get him even more nutrients. (though to be fair this kiddo is a great eater and hardly ever gives me a hard time about veggies *knocks on wood*

Like with pesto, I don't really follow a set recipe.


10 or so tomatoes (in the winter two cans of diced tomatoes is a good substitute for fresh)
1 large onion
5-6 cloves of garlic
An assortment of veggies- I always have at least carrots and celery- altogether about 4-5 cups of chopped veggies
1/4 cup olive olive
Herbs and spices to taste-  I used salt, oregano, thyme, parsley,  and basil.  When I know Ian wont eat it, I throw in a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
1/2-1 cup of red wine

Here are the veggies ready to go. 

1. Get some water boiling 

2. Prepare an ice bath

3. Once the water is at a rolling boil, take your tomatoes, remove the stems and drop a few in at a time.  Once the skin starts to wrinkle (about 1 minute)...

Pull them out and drop them in the ice bath.  

4. Peel the tomatoes and squeeze out the seeds.  The hot water and ice bath makes the skin practically fall off.  Ian tells me that running them over the fire on a gas stove also works.  I've never tried that. 

Peeled and seeded tomatoes. Notice the baby monitor- the munchkin was actually napping in bed. sweet!

5. Chop your veggies and saute with the olive oil.  In here I have onion, garlic, carrots, celery, a bell pepper, a cucumber, a summer squash, some broccoli, and 3 beets. The beets give a great color and sweetness to the sauce.  All these veggies came from our farmshare. Have I mentioned how much I love having a farmshare? I <3 Red Fire Farm

6. While your veggies soften blend up your tomatoes

7. When the veggies are a little soft you can add the tomato puree... then add your herbs, bring everything to a boil, then set it to a simmer.

8. Simmer the tomatoes until all the veggies are soft, about 20 minutes.

9.  Throw it all back in the blender and puree.  You will probably have to do this in batches or use an immersion blender.

10.  Add your wine.  

11. Simmer, simmer, simmer, simmer.  The longer you simmer the richer the sauce becomes.  I let this batch go about 3 hours.

The munchkin playing an awesome pots and pans drum solo while I cooked

This delicious looking eggplant

became this even more delicious dairy and gluten free eggplant parm.

definitely munchkin approved.


Friday, August 17, 2012


This week in our farm share we got over a pound of basil.  A pound of basil goes a long way, so I knew I had to do something with it quickly so it didn't go to waste.  The obvious choice was pesto. I love pesto, it tastes like summer.

I don't really have a pesto recipe.  I always kind of wing it, but it always comes out tasty. 

So here are my guidelines for a tasty vegan pesto:

Ingredients: Amounts are appoximate, I do this by sight/ taste- play with it until it looks and tastes right to you!

Fresh basil- washed and larger stems and flowers removed.  About 3 cups
A nut- pine nuts are traditional, but I don't like them so I use walnuts instead About 1 cup
Garlic- 3-4 cloves
A good quality Extra virgin olive oil- I drizzle this in last until the pesto has a nice texture, about a quarter cup.
Nutritional yeast- about a 1/4 cup
An acidic liquid- lemon juice works, today I did sweet cider vinegar- about a tablespoon
Salt- about 2 teaspoons- more than you think you'll need
I don't use pepper because Ian is allergic, but it would work nicely

Throw everything into your food processor but only about half the olive oil you think you will use, pulse a few moments and give it a taste.  The nutritional yeast, acid, and salt are key here because they replace the tangy, salty Parmesan.  Here is where I play with the ingredient proportions until it tastes right.  I always end up adding more salt than I think I need.  Then start blending, adding olive oil until you achieve a smooth, creamy consistency.  

NomNomNom. The munchkin was eating it with a spoon as I got it into jars. 

We had it with brown rice pasta.

Munchkin approved!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Creating a water baby.

Tuesday was our last Swim for Tots class for the summer.  The difference in the munchkin between the first class and the last class was remarkable.  At the start of the summer anytime I took him near the water he clung anxiously to me.  Tuesday he was practically leaping out of my arms to try an swim by himself.  He was giggling, splashing, and kicking.  He was able to crawl out of the pool by himself and jump back into my arms.  He went underwater without a fuss.  He squealed with delight when it was his turn on the slide. He happily went into the instructors arms so he could jump back into my arms at the deep end.  It was a joy to see. 

By no means is he now a budding Michael Phelps, but he really is starting to seem comfortable in the water.  The last time we went to the lake, he ran right up to the edge and walked in by himself.  He didn't get freaked out when he tripped and his face went under. He never would have left my arms the first time at the lake.  He really made great progress.  I love swimming, so it was really important to me that he get comfortable with the water as early as possible. I wanted to start before he really had a chance to get scared.  If he has some sense of the water and how to stay afloat, I will be much more confident to have him around water- like Michy's parents' boat.  (Of course he will still wear a life jacket and be watched like a hawk!)  It is also important to me to get him out around other kids.  We are lucky that our schedules are flexible enough that someone can always be home with him, but it does mean that he doesn't get the chance to socialize with other kids very much.  I am making an effort to get him out with other toddlers as often as possible.

Here are some photos from our swimming experience.

So excited!

Climbing out all by himself

jumping into the deep end

swimming back to the shallow end. 

Happy to jump


Classes don't start up again until October, hopefully he won't lose his enthusiasm in the 5ish weeks we have off.  I'm going to try to keep taking him to the lake until it gets cool. 


Monday, August 13, 2012

From the Ground Up Gluten Free Muffin Mix

I woke up this morning with a craving for muffins, and we just happened to have a package of From the Ground Up muffin mix in the pantry that Michy had gotten as a sample to try from the co-op.  From the Ground Up is a gluten free bakery based in Vermont that uses locally grown ingredients.  They have their own grain mill that has never processed wheat, rye, or barely... so there is no possibility of contamination.  Excellent! They also offer Community Supported Bakery Shares, which I think is a really cool idea.

I decided to give them a try.  There was enough mix to make 12 good sized muffins. The instructions tell you to add egg, milk, vanilla, oil, and whatever fruit you want.  I chose to use eggs (since we still had some local pasture raised eggs in the fridge), but I'm sure you could easily swap in an egg alternative, like Ener g Egg replacer, ground flaxseed, or even banana if you like the flavor.  I used coconut milk and coconut oil.  I've recently developed a love of coconut oil and I put it in everything.  We had a bag of frozen mixed berries in the freezer so I threw those in as well.

The mix instructions were simple to follow.  The batter was thick but still easy to handle.  The only weird thing was the instructions were for 3 jumbo muffins or 6 regular muffins instead of 6 jumbos or 12 regular.  I just thought that was a strange number to base instructions on and so I ended up having to double all the numbers.  Not a big deal, but still surprising. I made what I thought were 12 regular sized muffins.  They took about 5 more minutes to bake than the package suggested, but my oven can be a bit tempermental.

These smelled delicious. When I pulled them out of the oven, the munchkin followed me into the kitchen and began pointing and signing please... so the smell is also enticing to toddlers. 

I let them cool for a few minutes before popping two out of my muffin tin, one for me and one for the munchkin.

Looks yummy. 

A Little Earth Balance. 

These tasted as good as they smelled. Hearty and sweet with a great texture.  I polished one off and immediately went back for a second. The munchkin finished a whole muffin by himself without dropping any to the dog.

I will definitely be buying some of this mix.  I would also love to try some of their other flours. Mmm... can't wait to have another muffin for breakfast tomorrow. 

Munchkin approved. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Geek Baking

The Geeks are Sexy blog has a fun little post this morning about Amanda Oakleaf Cakes.  She is based in Boston and makes really awesome decorative cakes. 

I happened to be hanging out in the con-suite of Arisia when she was putting together a life-sized Stormtrooper cake and caught it on video.

I enjoy baking but haven't gotten too fancy with my cake design yet. Eventually I'd like to do more structural cakes. I have made a couple fancy cakes that I've been particularly proud of.

Ian turned 42 on his last birthday... so like any good geeky partner, I made him a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Themed Cake!

I got the idea from the Geek Mom blog

For the munchkin's first birthday we did a Very Hungry Caterpillar themed party, so with laurel's help I made a caterpillar with a cake head and cupcakes for the body. 

The cake along with other foods from the book

It was delightfully messy. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Crafty Essentials- Ball Winder and Swift.

I've been knitting for more than a decade but only recently broke down and bought a ball winder and a swift.  

I don't know what I was waiting for! Maybe it was just that the thought of spending money to be able to wind balls faster when that money could be spent on more yarn seemed silly. 
The ball winder makes these great, neat, center pull cakes that sit relatively flat... no more balls of yarn rolling wild across the living room to be chased by toddlers and cats! It is so much easier than wrapping the skein around my knees and winding the ball by hand, especially since whenever I start winding a ball this way the munchkin will immediately need my attention.  I can put this down in the  middle of winding without worrying that will end up all over the living room.

It is also really fun to to wind the ball and watch the swift spin.  I have to be careful not to get to carried away, or my six year old side goes a little crazy and the skein ends up flying off the swift and I end up with a tangled mess... but that has only happened a couple of times ;)

Here is my swift and winder.  This lovely yarn is Mosaic Moon- Moonlit Grove Colorway and will be fall longies for the munchkin.  I can't wait to start knitting with it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Party at the Co-op

Yesterday was the staff party for the River Valley Market, the natural foods co-op where Michelle works.  As Michy is the guru of all things HR, she headed the party committee.  It was a family/ friends friendly event so Ian, the munchkin, and I joined her to help set up and celebrate.  I mostly munchkin wrangled.

It was a fun night.  Good food, great music (from a band made up of co-op employees), and plenty of silly games.  Micah joined us once he was done with work and we ate and danced to the music.  The munchkin loved the music.  He was bouncing around and dancing all over the place. 

Micah and I took the munchkin home around 9pm and he slept great after all the partying.
The River Valley Market

Playing peek-a-boo under the picnic table

Watching everyone set up

Playing with a beach ball

The beach ball kept him entertained a good portion of the night.  He kicked it all around the parking lot.

Tonight is the 2nd Hartford X-treme Scramble.  Looking forward to another fun race with Laurel. 


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Easy Gluten Free/ Dairy Free Eggplant Parm

 Last week we got the most delicious looking eggplant in our farm share.  For me to say "delicious" and "eggplant" in the same sentence is really saying something.   Until I experienced my first fresh, local, organic bought-at-the-farmer's-market eggplant a couple of years ago I thought eggplant was the most foul mushy grey veggie known to man.  But on a whim I bought one, made ratatouille, and realized I hadn't given it a fair chance.

I looked at my luscious, shiny, purple eggplant and decided it wanted to be Eggplant Parm.  It was so yummy, I had seconds.

with a side of quinoa pasta

While I love making food totally from scratch, there wasn't time for that today with errands and taking the munckin to his swimming lesson... so I relied on some of my favorite gluten free and dairy free brands for this dinner.

Gillians Gluten Free Bread Crumbs
Dayia Mozzarella
Gluten Free Bisquick
Bove's Marinara Sauce ( I really enjoy making marinara, but when I don't make my own this is my go to, it is really delicious!)
2 large eggplants,
Enough egg to help the breadcrumbs stick (While I'm eating mostly vegan, I happened to have pasture raised eggs from a nearby farm on-hand, to make this vegan omit the egg and use whatever breading method works best for you)
oregano, thyme, basil, salt, pepper, nutritional yeast- personal preference, I tend to have a heavy hand with herbs.
A neutral flavored oil that can hold up to higher heat- I used canola, enough to thoroughly cover the bottom of the pan.

1. Preheat the oven to 400.

2. Cut your eggplant into thin slices (about a 1//4 inch)

3. Salt the eggplant and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.  Seriously! This is the best trick I've learned for drawing out the excess moisture in the eggplant and avoiding that soggy mushiness that I don't like about eggplant.

4. Combine your herbs into the breadcrumbs (or use Italian style breadcrumbs) Bread the eggplant slices- I do a layer of gf bisquick, then dredge in egg, then coat in breadcrumbs.  

5. Heat your oil to medium high. Pan fry your eggplant slices- it takes about a minute each side

I suggest wearing an apron- this can be messy. I particularly enjoy my "baking is science for hungry people" apron.

6. Layer your eggplant, daiya, and sauce.  I also sprinkled some more of the herbs on top with a nice pinch of nutritional yeast for more of a "cheesy" flavor.

7. Bake for 30 minutes.

Munchkin approved!