Featured

Nutrition on the Go: Thermal Slow Cooker Recipes

A while back, in my post about thermal slow cookers,  I promised to give some recipes for the thermal slow cooker… Here they are!

Advantages to thermal cooking:

We use our slow cooker for entertaining, parties, camping, and just being on the go! My husband and I discovered thermal cookers (non-electric slow cookers) about eight years ago, and its a great way to save energy, and perfect for taking on the road, or even just to visit friends for dinner!

Another great benefit to it is that my children have special dietary needs. Since they require a gluten-free diet, they need extra calories to make up for not having bread or grains. I can make a pot of soup with rice, or a pot of buckwheat, quinoa or other gluten- free grains, flavored the way they like it. Then they can eat something before going into a restaurant.

Essentially, this little device saves energy and can be brought almost anywhere. Prepare it at home, put it into the outer thermos and let it cook while you’re driving!

Our bodies do need a little more sustenance as the weather changes, and most people spend  more time in the kitchen– which adds to the electric bill. Thermal cooking only requires a stove to get it to a boil, the rest of the cooking is done in the thermos!

Where to purchase them (using my Amazon shopping link)

Thermos Shuttle Chef

I like this one, not just for the color, but the size of it, and the great reviews it got (five stars), and the cost. It’s made by Thermos, the same brand as my first one: Thermos Shuttle

It comes in a smaller size too, and is very economical compared to some of the other brands listed on Amazon. Here is a link to some other brands available: non-electric slow cookers

Read the Safety Precautions

Before trying some recipes, please make sure to carefully read all directions on your thermal cooking device before using. Your thermos will cook the food for you, but it has to be brought to the proper temperature. Each thermal cooking device is different and will come with different safety precautions as to how long the food can cook for, when it must be eaten and whether it can be reheated. You will also need to know the amount of food that it can safely cook and how full to fill the inner pot.

Some Recipes and Sources: Bon Appetite!

The recipes I’m sharing come from the Nissan Thermos Cook and Carry System instructions (the one I have been using.) However, I am excited to try other thermal cooking systems, and I highly recommend Mr. D’s Thermal cooking blog: http://www.thethermalcook.com/ You can go crazy on his website watching videos and learning all these wonderful techniques!

Onion Soup (Serves 12)

1 Tsp Olive Oil

3 Tbsp tomato paste

4 1/2 pounds yellow onion, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick

10 garlic cloves

1/4 pound shallots, peeled and quartered

2 pounds leeks, white part only, sliced 1/4 thick

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 1/2 tbsp fresh whole thyme leaves

1 1/2 cup red wine

2 quarts broth

1 tsp salt

2 bay leaves

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Over medium high heat, brush a large skillet with the oil, add the tomato paste, and cook until the color darkens, stirring to prevent scorching, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the onion, garlic, shallots, leeks, cayenne pepper and thyme, and cook until the onions become translucent and start to carmelize, about 8 minutes. Stir in the wine and bring to a boil.

Transfer the onion mixture into the Cook and Carry system inner cooking pot. Add the broth, salt and bay leaves, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover the inner cooking pot and place in the insulated transport container and allow to cook for two hours.

To serve: ladle into individual bowls and garnish each with a tablespoon of parmesan cheese.

Poached Herb Chicken

1 four pound roasting chicken

1 cup assorted fresh herbs of choice (I like tarragon!)

1 tsp olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into 4 peices

6 medium red potatoes, well scrubbed, but not peeled

6 cups chicken stock

1 tsp salt

9 whole black peppercorns

2 cups fresh green beans

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

3 tbsp arrowroot

Wash and dry the chicken well, pulling off any visible fat. Stuff the cavity with the herbs and put in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Heat the Cook and Carry System inner cooking pot, add the oil and fry the onion for 3 minutes. Add the carrots and fry for two minutes. Transfer the prepared chicken into the inner cooking pot, on top of the onions and carrots, and tuck the potatoes in all around. Pour the stock over the chicken and vegetables and bring to a full boil. Add the salt and peppercorns, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Place the green beans on top of the chicken, cover, place in the insulated transport container and allow to cook for 3 hours.

Just before serving, make a sauce: 3 cups of the stock from the chicken and our it into a fat-strainer cup. When the fat has risen to the top, pour the defatted liquid into a saucepan. Remove 1/3 cup of the defatted stock and mix it with the arrowroot in a small bowl to make a slurry. Stir the mustard into the saucepan and heat gently. Remove from the heat, stir in the slurry, return to the heat and bring to boil to thicken.

To serve: remove and thinly slice the chicken. Serve the meat with the potatoes and green beans, covered with the sauce.

Featured

Children’s Literature Conclusion of Book 1

Buses… everywhere in Costa Rica there are buses. Buses to the cities, buses to the mountains, buses to the beaches, and to the rain forest tours. Waiting for a bus could be a little uncomfortable, but once we were on the bus, there were plenty of nice people to share conversation with. Nobody minded speaking Enlgish to us, nor did they mind our muy poquito Espanol.

One bus ride seemed almost magical. We left the beaches of Cahuita and  Puerto Viejo to go up into the mountains. We were on our way to visit an American missionary family. Norte Americano, that is– from Los Etados Unidos like us. They came to help people and had adopted many orphan children from Costa Rica. They had plans to take us to see the volcano, Mt Irazu.

The trip lasted several hours. At one point the bus driver let us get out to use the restrooms and buy bananas at a farm stand. As we rode through little villages early in the evening, everyone was outside. children were kicking balls, grown-ups walking dogs, fathers playing with their children while mothers cooked a meal. The missionaries informed us that almost everyone had a T.V. even in a poor country. Yet they didn’t seem to be occupied with t.v. They were all having fun outside!

We passed a banana field and a man boarded the bus and sat near us. He couldn’t speak English but he kept talking to us with his hands. He kept saying, “Bonita Senorita Sophia! Sophia Laurie!” “Like Sofia Loren?” “Si! Sofia Loren!” he exclaimed!This man only thought of nice things to say. “She is part Italian, and very beautiful,” Daddy said. The man was beaming and trying to tell us about his own beautiful children. I couldn’t help thinking how rough his hands were and how hard he had worked all day– even late into the evening– to take care of his own family. He must have children and grandchildren that live close by. How often do we see someone beaming from ear to ear after working so hard! And talking to complete strangers like us after being out in the fields all day!

Soon we arrived in the city. It had really gotten cooler outside. The bus stopped outside the ruins of a beautiful old cathedral that was all lit up with colorful lights.That is where we met our friends. They took us to dinner that night and to see Mount Irazu the next day.

“Mama, was Costa Rica your favorite place that we traveled to?” “So far, yes.” “Why Mama? Because it was so beautiful? Or because the people were so friendly?”

“Both,” Mama said. “Is Italy like that too?” Asked Sophia. “I think so. People like to talk. And they like to be outside going places– busy late into the evening.” “That’s how Giovina is,” Sophia said. “I think Daddy and I will paint Costa Rica first!”

Featured

Children’s literature: Mom and Daughter Relive Costa Rica via Scrapbook

costa rica 3-460

“Mom, we have to find a picture for Daddy to paint– somewhere cool that I’ve been to!” Sophia exclaimed, the next morning.

Sophia’s little brother was still sleeping, so mom and daughter sat on the couch to look at the family scrapbooks.

Sophia goes through her baby pictures. “Am I still that cute, Mama?” she asks. “You are even more beautiful now.” her mama says.

Sophia reads a caption on the page: “I never tried to squeeze my baby’s feet into shoes before– her feet get stronger without them. But now that she’s walking outdoors, I emptied the bag of hand- me- down baby shoes that Karla gave us, and found two pairs that fit her. Here’s Sophia in her first shoes!

“Wait, Mama!” Sophia said. Karla gave us used baby shoes?”

“Yes, what’s wrong with that?” asked Mama.

“Karla the airline stewardess?! I got my shoes from someone who had traveled all over the world? No wonder I’ve been to so many places already– I’m wearing someone else’s shoes! I bet her daughter traveled with her in these shoes, and now I am traveling! See Mama, shoes do take you places!”

Mama just smiled. “Let’s look at your pictures in Costa Rica. You were only 1 and 1/2 years old then. Your first trip overseas.”

Turning the page, Sophia saw that Mama had embellished it with detailed journal entries. Now that she was old enough to read, Sophia found herself delighted at what she was learning!

costa rica 3-236costa rica 5-575

Here’s Sophia at 4:00 a.m. ready and waiting to go to Chicago O’Hare airport. minus 13 degrees outside– January in Chicago! Hard to believe Central America is only four hours away by plane!  It’s winter here, but Costa Rica will still be having their summer. Wonder how hot it will be and how many bugs? Part of our time we’ll be up in the mountains, so we’ll keep some sweaters and rain jackets, but leave most of this winter clothing behind once we get to the airport. Hard to believe Central America is only four hours away by plane! Costa Rica, here we come!

costa rica1-59costa rica1-268

When we first arrived, the sky was clear but the wind was blustery. We were told that the wind gusts were unusual and had to to with Mount Turrialba volcano having erupted on January 5, 2010– one week earlier. Vocanoes can send ash far up into the stratosphere and this can continue affecting weather for quite a while. High winds and even rain and thunder in the sky can result from a volcanic eruption. No one was hurt in the volcano that year, but everyone felt the high winds were very unusual for such a mild climate.

Our trip started and ended with San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. San Jose is packed with cars. Only ten years ago, people mostly took buses or rode bicycles. But then people started being able to afford cars. There are so many cars that the city of San Jose made a law that people can only drive their car one day a week, and on the weekend. Some people may drive on Mondays, other people on Tuesdays, etc! So people still have to take buses or share their car with someone else. It did take us incredibly long to get to our hotel!

sandals_cropcosta rica 5-813

In Costa Rica, coffee beans grow. They have the best tasting coffee in the world! And guess what? Mommy never cared for coffee before– until she had to start chasing little Sophia around! Yep, we had to put you on a little harness sometimes!

You ran all over in those little sandals. We put them on you in San Jose and you wore them the entire trip, until we returned to San Jose, and you lost one of them at a concert and cried for two days. We never found the missing sandal. It seems that it wanted to stay in Costa Rica. Funny to think of it, we got those sandals and summer clothes from a friend who had taken her kids to Puerto Rico. Her little girl is only a little older than you and they are part Peurto Rican– like you and Daddy. I think that sandal wanted to stay near the Carribean. I can’t blame it– sandals don’t like Chicago winters!

Featured

Learning Together on the Go: Part 2

by Wendy Kullman

washington&moscow-339

Devise a strategy not to use your “devices” on the trip! How do you feel after a day of working on the computer? Why subject your child to that?

Normally family schedules make it hard to sit down and tutor your kids, but car rides are a great time to make up for that!  A family vacation, or any trip together can be seen as a time for developing deeper family relationships. Make it happen!

Here are some strategies that I hope will accomplish both learning and togetherness– MISC. as in miscellaneous (with lots of m’s): Manipulatives, Math, Music, Manners, Memories, Imaginative play, Stories, Cards.

Manipulatives:

Here are some fun, non-messy hands-on activities your children can be doing while you’re on the road:

Travel Tangoes: These are magnets shapes that can be made into all different animals or other patterns. They come with only a small number of peices (only about 6 per set) and a magnetic board with flaps that show different patterns to create. The answers are on the back of each flap. These have kept our children entertained quietly in the car, and we have also brought them to a wedding reception and a concert. We were able to interact quietly, helping our kids, while stimulating our brains and theirs! Really works well for all ages! (Except children who are young enough to put them in mouth.)

Magnet letters: bring your refrigerator magnet letters and an old square shaped cookie tin. Keep the letters in the tin, and children can use them to practice sounds with you or write messages with them. Not good for children under three of course.

Learning Palette: This manipulative “toy” by Usborne  is the FUN, HANDS ON, SELF-CORRECTING learning game that teaches essential grade-appropriate skills without batteries or electricity. Covering addition all the way to algebra, it meets the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards. Each card is self-correcting. You can buy sets for reading or math skills. You really have to see it to believe it– click here for demonstration!

Interactive Math:

When I was growing up, my uncle would always quiz my cousin and I on math facts in the car. I was always inclined to write down the problems, but now with the Singapore method used in many schools, children can learn to solve problems in their head much more reliably. We always did counting with our two year old in the car– it was a good time to work on memorization of any kind. Normally family schedules make it hard to sit down and tutor your kids, but car rides are a great time to make up for that! Flashcards can help too.

Music:

You don’t want to be singing “Old Mac Donald” over and over again. Nor is resorting to the radio a good idea. So plan ahead! Go to your library and check out a bunch of children’s CDs, classical music, and songs you all can learn from. I always enjoy getting foreign language CDs designed for learning, because we can all practice together, and sing together!

My advice is to intersperse music with other interactive games and learning activities, so that you’re not relying on music and get some peace and quiet. There are times when children just need to let it out, so use those times to introduce new music!

If your child plays an instrument, make them practice at intervals during the trip. We take my daughter’s violin and have her play for relatives; but we’ve also had her play at an outdoor picnic area at a rest stop, and at the oil change place while waiting. These kind of situations challenge the child to recall and utilize their skills in interesting situations. It’s refreshing to hear music in these otherwise boring places, and we always get applause!

More M’s to follow!

Featured

“Are We There Yet” Prevention, Learning on the Go! Part One

IMG_5948

“Are we there yet?” are four words that parent’s ears should not have to deal with when traveling. And likewise, day trips to museums and cultural places should be filled with excitement and anticipation! Read on to see how to make these statements as reality in your family!

Stamps, stickers and passports:

Kids love to feel like grown-ups! Just like us, they love rewards and a sense of completion. These rewards should not be treats or toys; they should be acknowledgements. In fact, it makes sense to reward them for achievements outside of school; this way they understand that focus and discipline can help us in every day life!

When Sophia was at White Pine Montessori school her first year of preschool, they made a mock passport with her photo in it. I never dreamed how handy something like that can be! Here are some new ways you can use this idea:

  • For each trip you go on, whether its abroad or near home, make a mock passport.
  • for a long car trip, give them a sticker or stamp for each hour spent reading or learning in the car. (More tips on car learning time to follow)
  • Use rubber stamps or stickers to represent places they go. Some museums might use stamps or stickers for admission. You can ask someone to stamp their “passport”– they’ll probably be delighted to!
  • If you go to a cultural event, find a stamp or sticker that would represent that country. For instance, our 4 H group hosted an international night, and each child had a mock passport. Our group represented the Netherlands, so we used a windmill stamp.
  • If you can’t afford stamps, why not write something like “Hello” or “Welcome” in that language on their passport along with the name of the country.
  • Not traveling abroad? Get stickers of all 50 states, and use them, whether you’re on an adventure or just visiting the grandparents. I would love to have an accurate record of all the states I’ve been to throughout my life!

Learning Toys:

If you’re going to reward them for learning in the car, on a camping trip, or on the way back from a day trip, you need to provide them something to work with! My next post will continue this theme with some good suggestions for learning toys!

Featured

Children’s Literature: Chapter 6: Memories

_MG_1052 (1)

As they sat down at the outdoor cafe to eat lunch, Sophia pulled out a notebook and began writing. “Mamma,” she said, “I’m writing down things I remember. My scrapbooks helped, and even my dreams last night helped me remember places I’ve been. It was so fun looking at the scrapbooks with you yesterday!”

“I remember eating outdoors at a cafe like this when we lived out West. Daddy did a painting of me outside the little ice cream shop there. And we went to a children’s store nearby where we got little purple and yellow boots for me. You even wrote something in the scrapbook about those shoes being from France. And I remember that little French girl wearing a beret. She had to have been the owner of my old shoes– she must have brought them to the consignment store. After all, they were French shoes. I remember playing with her and looking at musical instruments at one of the stores. And eating ice cream outside with her. Her mom was looking at Daddy’s art work.”

“Hmm… all those memories are from when Daddy worked in Pullman, Washington. I think you remember more than I do,” Mamma said. “Or you are just imagining it. But I was three when my parents took me to France on a business trip, and I remember a lot too.” Mamma said

“You’ll have to tell me all about it,” Sophia said. “I want to write a story about the little French girl, so I need to know more about France!”

“What about Italy?” Mamma asked?

“It’s just like you said, Mamma. I need to start with something familiar. You were in France, and I got to meet a girl from France. There’s a story here and I am going to write it!”

Featured

Thermal Cooker: Energy Efficient Slow Cooking– At Home, Traveling, or Camping!

Wow! I keep seeing all the face book pictures of children going back to school (I actually get teary eyed looking at other people’s kids starting a new year of school!) Here in Illinois, the weather went from hot and sticky, to cold and rainy overnight. First, you wish summer would last forever, then you get the urge to go apple picking, and next you’re craving heartier meals and thinking about your favorite fall recipes. At least that’s how I am. Our bodies do need a little more sustenance as the weather changes, and most people spend  more time in the kitchen– which adds to the electric bill. My husband and I discovered thermal cookers (non-electric slow cookers) about eight years ago, and it’s a great way to save energy, and perfect for taking on the road, or even just to visit friends for dinner! Here’s an example of one: //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=wwwlittleshoe-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00EI643D2&asins=B00EI643D2&linkId=37OGTT4KQF4HC6IU&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true“>Thermos Shuttle Chef

Primitive societies discovered how to get a pot of food boiling over a fire, then place a lid on it and bury it underground, where the temperature is retained and it continued to cook. Go into an Asian store and you can usually find a modern thermal cooking system. It’s an inner pot that fits into an outer thermos with a handle. Essentially, a slow cooker that doesn’t need electricity!

We’ve brought our “Cook and Carry” with us to friend’s houses, pot lucks, concerts in the park, and of course, camping! People always ask me, “how long does it keep things warm?” I always smile because that’s not the right question to ask! “No,” I say, ” We actually cook our food in this. Then we bring it with us. It is not just staying warm, it’s cooking. When it’s ready, we eat it!”

Yes, you can take a small chicken, throw some onions, carrots and rosemary or tarragon (love it!) on top, fill it with water up over the food, bring it to a soft boil, put the lid on. Take it off the stove after it has reached the soft boil, and put it into the outer container, flip the lid, and voila! Six hours later, you have a finished meal! If you’re skeptical, bring a thermometer and check the meat temperature! Be sure to bring a stainless steel ladle too– I’ve ended up somewhere with plastic silverware and paper plates, but nothing to serve the food with. Be sure to bring bowls too; we usually take stainless steel bowls for camping and other activities. You will want to enjoy the broth from the food along with it, and paper plates just don’t work for that!

If you’re at a campground, you can use the thermal cooker over a propane stove. You can start oatmeal the night before and have it ready the next morning! You can start lunch before you leave for the day’s activities and leave it in your tent (it’s sealed) to come back to. Or you can bring it with in the car.

Or you can start it on your stove at home– it makes preparation easy if you’re invited for dinner. (I can actually get the kids ready, clean the house, or get myself ready without having to keep an eye on the stove.) I don’t have to worry about transferring it into another dish to bring, because it just stays in the pot. By the time we drive to our destination, socialize for a while, and sit down to eat, it’s ready! You can make side dishes or main courses– I will include some recipe ideas next time!

Here are some new thermal slow cookers I would like to purchase, although our old one still works fine, I like the innovations of these newer ones!

I like this one, not just for the color, but the size of it, and the great reviews it got (five stars), and the cost. It’s made by Thermos, the same brand as my first one: //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=wwwlittleshoe-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B00EI643D2&asins=B00EI643D2&linkId=37OGTT4KQF4HC6IU&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true“>Thermos Shuttle Chef

It comes in a smaller size too, and is very economical compared to some of the other brands listed on Amazon. Here is a link to some other brands available: non-electric slow cookers

Stay tuned for those fall recipes!!!

Featured

Children’s Literature, Chapter 5: The Little French Shoes

_MG_1050 (1)Image0092move-83

The last chapter ended with a description of the scrapbook with mother and daughter looking at it together. That will take more work as it is a visual post with captions. It will require a painting, and fewer words. Here I am jumping to the next “chapter” where Sophia remembers the little French shoes she owned when the family lived out West. She begins composing a story about a little French girl she met, or imagines meeting….

Mamma, Sophia and her little brother glided over the cobbles stones on the Woodstock Square. “Can we get some fresh blueberries from the Farmer’s Market?” Sophia asked. “After your karate lesson,” Mamma said.

A woman walked speedily past them towards an office building. Her high heels made a “clip clop” noise as she passed. “Are those the kind of shoes you want, Sophia?” Mamma teased, “fancy shoes that go clip clop like a horse? Ride a fine horse to Banburry Cross, Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes..” Mamma sang the nursery rhyme and both children laughed.

“When I was in England,” said Mamma, ” I bought a pair of black shoes that were low cut with sturdy wide heels. They lasted a long time. The woman I bought them from said she had a pair. ‘I can even walk over cobblestones in them and not feel a thing!” Mamma did her best British accent to imitate the woman at the shoe store in England.

“Didn’t I have little boots that were sturdy and were different colors? Miss Kristine said they were made in France– she knew because she was a nanny there, remember? And we got them at a little town like this, where Daddy was showing his paintings.”

“My goodness,” exclaimed Mamma. “You remember that, and you were only 2 1/2? Those boots you wore when we went to Portland and you were feeding the ducks? Yes, we got them in Pullman, Washington, where Daddy used to work. There were some cute shops there, and we got you the boots at a children’s consignment store. Daddy displayed some paintings there at another store when Pullman had their art walk. And what did you do during the art walk, but try on more shoes while I was hanging paintings.”
“Yes,” said Sophia, “you have a picture of me trying on shoes in the scrapbook. And I’m pretty sure I met the little French girl at the art walk.”

“Really,” said Mamma, “I don’t remember that part.”

“It was fun looking at scrapbooks with you yesterday, Mamma! It helped me remember a lot!”

Featured

Camping with Baby, Under Tree Tops…

Image0108
Sophia 2 years old

Baby sleeps soundly, loving rain drops…

I mentioned in earlier in my blog how we took our daughter camping for the first time when she was four months old.  (I have a picture from this adventure– will post it when I find it!) Why do you think they like the song “Rock-a-bye Baby in a Treetop”? There’s nothing like going to sleep to the sound of rustling trees! Labor Day weekend held a steady downpour that year. But our baby fell asleep early, and slept through the night (such a thing was not heard of at home!) Mommy awoke well-rested, and that made for a peaceful, enjoyable weekend with friends.

There is nothing out of the ordinary being out in nature with a little one. Trees and rain are more comforting than night lights,  electrical things running, parents downstairs washing dishes and talking.

I grew up camping, (although not starting till we were older). So it was not new for me. But it was a fun challenge taking a baby, and made me look at life and duties as a mom differently. It was so peaceful.

Is camping only for “outdoorsy” people?

No, it doesn’t have to be. Our family likes hiking and canoeing, but that is not a complete picture of who we are. We like cultural events, festivals, quaint towns, and new places– as long as there is something worth seeing. We camp nearby to save money, and to have a connection with nature.

KOA campgrounds are nice for children because of their community feel, breakfast, mini-golf, swimming pools, and nice bathrooms. They are a good starting point if you’ve never camped, and its easy to find them. But there is nothing wrong with state parks and other campgrounds.

Why go camping?

If the above mentioned reasons are not enough, here are some more to think about.

  • It’s a good bonding experience for the family. When a baby is born, both parents are usually very exhausted. Home routines become rushed and perfunctory. Mommy and Daddy both have very different roles for those first few months, and Daddies even tend to feel excluded.
  • Since camping traditionally is more of a man’s role, it gives Daddy not only some relaxation, but a place of honor. He’d probably rather start a campfire and set up a tent than cook meals and make the beds at home. Its a great way for family to come together and put aside all the distractions.
  • Camping saves money, and if you don’t care for outdoorsy activity, you can camp near a festival, near a town where you’d like to do sightseeing.
  • You can make it a social event. It’s a lot less work than hosting a dinner party, and you can spend time telling stories and experiencing nature. It makes you feel freer!
Featured

Kids in Flight!

balloon_shadowHot_air_balloon_finish

balloon_moonI know what you’re thinking– Where are the kids? Next time! Some things take a little planning, and maybe parents want to go up first to assess the flight for their kids. Found out hot air balloon pilots do take children on board. Nostalgia Ballooning is the only balloon company in the Chicago area. According to Nostalgia Ballooning in Hampshire, Illinois, children under five squirm too much, but provided there is parental help, children above five are generally able to see out of the basket and follow directions– which is all that is necessary for them to be involved in this lovely adventure! So when our son turns five, then he and  his sister might go with us!

This time I went with my father for his birthday and we had a wonderful time. He is standing next to me and the guy to the far right is Art Moller, a pilot from New Mexico, where hot air ballooning is big! We drove through New Mexico last spring, and perhaps next year we will try it out there! Just looking at his website with pictures of balloons flying over the red desert is absolutely amazing: www.albuquerquehotair.com

We arrived at 5:30 a.m. (You can see the moon still out when we were up in the air in the picture above.) Morning is when the winds are most still. Evenings are the second best time. The crew helped the pilots spread out the balloons on the ground and hold them while they were filled with cool air. You can see the size of the balloon in my new header picture where it is still being filled behind the truck. Once the balloons were full, the pilots started blasting the propane and a little hot air made the balloons start to pull away. We climbed into the basket, which felt like an over sized picnic basket. Five adults fit comfortably, considering everyone had a beautiful panoramic view. If you like watching out a plane window as you ascend, think of how it would be to feel embraced by the sky and fresh air from a basket! Planes hit turbulence in the clouds as they ascend more than 4,000 feet. Hot air balloons stay below that airspace. It is still possible to distinguish houses and trees.

The balloon lifted off gently and moved at only about eight miles an hour upward. We reached 3,828 feet high, and could glimpse Lake Michigan and Chicago on the horizon, with the sun shining almost right out of it, meaning we were due West of Chicago. We traveled 8.02 miles and the trip lasted 1.07 hours. About half way through the trip we came to a lower altitude. We crossed over familiar roads, the I 90 expressway, and drifted East. There is no control over the destination– but the countryside is full of decent landing spaces. Since the fuel lasts only a little over an hour, the pilot begins scanning for good spots well before then. We touched some tree tops as we flew over! When the pilot found a good spot, we landed, but waited for the ground crew to get permission from the property owner. Permission granted; the ride was over but the excitement lasted. The entire crew helped push the air out of the balloon and it was crazy to see such a glorious and gigantic item stuffed into a seemingly small, plain bag!

I want to look into this National Balloon Museum more. Have any readers been there? Let me know about your experiences with hot air balloons!

Another opportunity I’ve been looking into and planning for is the Young Eagles Program. Kids over eight years old can ride for free with a pilot as an introductory flight. This happens at airports all over the country. Check for events in your area. Lake in the Hills, Illinois, and the Dekalb-Sycamore Airport of Illinois sponsor a Young Eagles Flight event every year.

How Do You Stay Healthy on the Go?

IMG_0414Heart healthy, gluten free, unprocessed, low sugar… How do you meet all these standards for a busy lifestyle? I’d love to hear stories of how you and your family stay healthy on the go! Please feel free to send a comment!

I will be sharing some exciting ways that we have learned! whether we’re on a road trip, or just running errands!

Today I wanted to share some fun recipes for the New Year! You remember in my last post how my little one threw almonds into our soup– and gave us a solution for the noodles that were purposely left out! Well here is that recipe, and a couple other fun fresh ideas to take us from winter into spring!

Red Relish Valentine’s Day Salad:

1 cup pomegranate seeds

1/2 cup beets

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

2 Granny Smith apples

2 cups frozen cherries (Costco!)

1 bag cranberries, lightly steamed until they pop (2 minutes)

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey

1/4 cup olive oil

Go-Green Kiwi Smoothie

2 large avacados

as many kiwis and green apples as you can fit into the blender

fresh sprouts or your preferred vitamin mix

optional maple syrup or honey to sweeten (Our family is OK with unsweetened!)

You may add other green vegetables if you like, but I prefer to keep fruits with fruits and veggies with veggies (its a little easier on the stomach that way)

Almond Crunch Stew

In a large pot, saute 1 large onion, red or yellow bell peppers 4 organic zucchini or summer squash in butter till soft. Add 1tsp oregano, 2-3 tsp of creole spice mix (2 tbsp celery salt, 1 tbsp sweet paprika, 1 tbsp course sea salt, 1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp onion powder, 2 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp allspice.)

When the vegetables are soft and mixed well with the spices, pour in chicken or beef broth, and let simmer. (Optional: saute some ground turkey or chicken in a separate pan and add to the soup. Garnish with almonds and cilantro!

 

 

 

Crunchy Soup?!

Do You Take Your Kids’ Advice?Anthony

I’m not talking about bland generalities, like “they inspire me,” or they make me stop and smell the roses.” Come on– it’s January!

Did your children give you any good ideas this past year? Anything so adorable and creative you will always remember it? Any surprisingly grown-up, workable ideas? Any really good questions that made you stop and think– and have to google it? Any little projects they put so much time into you couldn’t help being proud of them?

Go ahead– remind them! Encourage them! And don’t be afraid to comment here on this blog– I’d love to hear some stories about how your kids inspire you!

I need to backtrack and think of all the occurrences this past year when my kids surprised me with something novel. I need to let them know how much I appreciate them! But here is one example from last night:

Crunchy soup?!

“Crunch, crunch,” my little guy was munching on almonds right next to me, and as usual, Mommy had two separate issues to tackle: how to get my son to eat his soup, and how to get my daughter (who was eating it) to stop complaining! “This soup isn’t tasty without noodles. Why can’t we have noodles?” my older child whined. Before I could explain yet another time, my little guy leaned over and dropped an almond right in her bowl. A half-eaten one at that! In spite of her shriek, I looked to my right and noticed my son’s bowl of soup was full of almonds. He seemed to have found them to be quite a tasty substitute for noodles!

One by one, we each tried the almonds in our soup. When my husband came home, the kids insisted he try them too. After learning that I did not intentionally alter a recipe, and that our son was the culprit– not me (whew!) he decided to try one almond, and to our delight, asked for more! No more complaints from the peanut gallery– I mean almond gallery!

Task List versus Inspiration List

Before I give out the recipe– which I will later– I want to point out what my little boy did for jump-starting my new year! If you’ve been following this blog, you may have noticed the recent silence. I don’t mean to make excuses. I don’t have writer’s block. I have what’s called a “bread and butter” business from home. I have clients, deadlines, and scheduling conflicts. I spent the autumn months doing quite a bit of commuting to train for this new venture. Just as I began blogging my children’s book, and blogging about travel, I have been “on the go” more than ever!

Throughout my seven years of being a stay-at-home mom, I woke up almost every day with my right brain in full swing– lots of ideas and a strong desire to write. I promised myself that as soon as my kids reached school age, I’d begin a blog. Well, I’m not breaking that promise! I have plenty of material to write about! It’s just that for the last three or four months, I’ve awoken to a task-list, instead of an inspiration list. And that’s been quite an adjustment!

When I took my blogging course last summer from Nina Amir, I learnedd that a blogger needs to have an outline– a projected course of material and how they will cover it. That outline can get us through times when inspiration seems to be lacking.

Thanks to my amazing little son, I recovered some inspiration! But going forward, I want to talk about what I will be doing with the blog:

What’s Happening with the Blog:

  • At some point, my husband and I will refine and hone the children’s book… stay tuned!
  • “Familes On the Go” newsletter and posts. Tips geared for active parents– not travel adventures only, but more practical, everyday tips for living a busy lifestyle!
  • Nutrition information. Living a gluten-free– or for that matter any health-conscious lifestyle can slow you down. (How to be healthy on the go is something my husband and I have spent a considerable amount of time studying and practicing.)
  • More book reviews– adult and child. Reading list for busy parents, as well as recommendations for children’s educational books.
  • Experiences with moving and transitioning, and helpful tips.
  • More product reviews
  • At some point, an updated look and more user friendly website!

 

Families on the Go for the Holidays

If you’re a family on the go that likesphotos old computer 10362 holiday activities that are educational, cost effective and where you don’t have to fight crowds, you may enjoy my next few posts!

I confess– we haven’t been “on the go” lately. We’ve sorta been lying low. Resting during this season… Although the weather has been pretty good here in the Chicago area, Our family seems to be sick every year starting on Halloween and that’s just the way it is for us. It was that way for me when I was young. So, we avoided all the candy, and caught up on much needed rest and our bodies healed much more quickly this year than ever! A few walks outside on nice days has been about all our energy level could sustain. I’ve even taken time away from blogging, but believe me, it has been to a good cause! Now we can get on to bigger and better things!

Though there’s plenty to do during this season, I’ve decided to share a few events that are local to the Chicago/Milwaukee area that have been meaningful to our family. If you like activities that are educational, cost effective and where you don’t have to fight crowds, you may enjoy my next few posts.

The Quentin Road Christmas Musical, Bethlehem’s Tower is outstanding! We have gone to it for two years in a row. Written by Linda Scudder and arranged and orchestrated by GRAMMY and Dove Award winner David T. Clydesdale, the timeless message of this production goes much deeper than a typical Christmas pageant and reveals significant details that tradition has overlooked… until now. I strongly encourage you to…

“Take a special journey with Quentin Road this Christmas as we unlock secrets from Christmas Past. With a 300-voice children-and-adult choir, dramatic lighting, and live animals (including an 8ft camel), we will present what really happened on that first Christmas night long ago.”

If you’re not from the Chicago area, I’ve heard that it’s broadcast around the world online. Tickets for the live performance are as low as $10, so its very affordable!

  • Performance dates: Saturday, December 12th – 2:00pm
  • Saturday, December 12th – 6:00pm
  • Sunday, December 13th – 2:00pm
  • Friday, December 18th – 7:30pm
  • Saturday, December 19th – 2:00pm
  • Saturday, December 19th – 6:00pm
  • Sunday, December 20th – 2:00pm

Tickets available at http://www.qrchristmas.com or by calling the Ticket Office at 847-438-4494. Address:

  • 60 Quentin Road
    Lake Zurich, IL 60047

Another event we have enjoyed in years past is the Holiday Folk Fair International– a glorious celebration of culture. Our family often enjoys cultural festivals at Milwaukee Summerfest, but this one has dances, music, food and crafts from a wide array of different countries and cultures. More details from website:

http://www.folkfair.org/ Nov 20-22

Enjoy the closing day of Holiday Folk Fair International for free as the Greater Milwaukee Foundation presents its centennial Gift to the Community for November. Free admission on Nov. 22 provides access to a unique and compelling celebration of cultures, including traditional music and dance performances; food and shopping vendors with global wares; arts, crafts and demonstrations.

When at Home: Foreign Language

When at home: Foreign Language Audio learning

Ah, summer is almost gone! Yes, we travel a lot, but in reality school season has set in and there’s nothing we can do about it! My little boy is at home with me, and he is constantly asking me, “A donde bas?” “A donde bas usted?” He just naturally expects to be on the road, going somewhere! He’s learning some Spanish phrases because I finally figured out the best way to incorporate foreign language into our home is to listen to interactive audio CDs. I always had musical CDs in Spanish when they were babies, but now I really felt comfortable putting on the Pimsleur Approach Spanish. The best time to play it I find, is when I’m making meals, because that can get so boring and time-consuming– especially for a preschooler. Pimsleur can be expensive, but here is the version I use available on Amazon: Pimsleur Approach Spanish 1. I’m at level two, but that’s O.K. Sometimes I put on what the kids need and sometimes I put on my what I need. During meal prep, while he’s playing or while I’m doing puzzles with him;during dinner prep while my daughter can hear it too, and of course, on the open road!

I love that it’s interactive and that my mind is trying to get the answer before they say it on the CD. It is designed to just listen and repeat. It’s also designed to constantly refresh vocabulary just at the scientifically proven moment that your mind starts to lose its retention. The more times you hear a word, the longer you can remember it; each time gets incrementally longer and the Pimsleur designers have that all figured out! Here is an Amazon page showing the different varieties of Pimsleur studies that are available: Shop my Amazon links

I really believe in giving them potential to become fluent in another language while they are young. For a long time I obsessed about just doing one language, but through thrift stores and garage sales I have gradually acquired Chinese, French, Italian and other languages– there’s nothing wrong with giving them a sampling of multiple languages, and if you have babies still, it has been proven that they can learn to speak without an accent if you introduce it before the age of 16 months! I love the idea of learning it on the go– because my kids and I are too busy to be able to sit down and focus in front of workbooks right now.

When it comes to books, you may like the Usborne First Thousand Words books– each book has the same cute pictures and themes but they come in different languages. Help them learn their first thousand words easily and reinforce what you are doing audibly with Pimsleur. Here is my Usborne link: First Thousand Words

On my children’s book:

When I decided to blog a book, I knew I would never complete it without the pressure keep writing– which comes from having to post two to three times per week. Just read this quote from “The Weekend Book Proposal” by Ryan G. Van Cleave: “Ideas are cheap. A good idea handled poorly in writing isn’t publishable. A boring idea handled wonderfully in writing might well be publishable. It might even be a bestseller. Until you develop your idea on the page, you’ll never know if it’ll work or not as a written text.” That is my reason to keep blogging: to figure out whether it will work or not! Thanks for being patient and supportive of my blog as I figure it all out!

Maps, Mazes, Music and Mad Libs: Learning Together on the Go, Part 4

Maps

Maps are great discussion starter for kids. In my post The Kids Are Planning Our Next Vacation, I mentioned the Dino’s Illustrated Maps that you can get from Amazon and put over your kitchen table to stimulate discussion about places. There are also many varieties of children’s maps, atlases and coloring books that are terrific for road trips. (Shop my Amazon link here;)

The possibilities for learning and discussion are endless: landmarks, mountain ranges, weather patterns, types of roads. For very little children, just understanding their directions: North, East, South, West, can be a kind of game.

Puzzles of the United States (or other countries) make a good activity to learn maps. What about putting magnetic strips on the back of the pieces (this is for parents who have a little time) and then using a small cookie sheet to stick them to in the car? This way pieces don’t get lost as easily. A good activity for children ages 4-7.

Mazes

My four year old loves the oversize maze books by Usborne (check it out at my Usborne link here;) Colorful, interesting mazes with all different characters and themes work great with my little boy. He may not get the right answers all the time, but he is using logic to get from here to there– and that’s a great skill to develop!

Here are some ways to make mazes go further with young children:

  • Interact and help them a little, but not too much. It’s fun for adults too!

  • Laminate them with the cut out the answer on the back, so they can use it over and over with a dry erase marker. Putting the answer on the back of each one lets them self-correct!

  • If you can’t laminate them, let your child use a miniature toy car or doll to travel the maze rather than using a pencil. That way mazes can be used again without being scribbled over!

Music

In a prior post I wrote about music in the car. I mentioned classical music and foreign language CDs from the library. Folk music and world music are some other options.

Folk music is great for traveling because of the stories you will hear, especially if they are stories from other cultures or very old stories. It really teaches us to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of life’s experiences. Everyone has a story to tell, so don’t be afraid to tell stories as a family. You can even make up silly stories or poems.

Likewise with world music— much more interesting than ordinary stuff on the radio. When I was growing up my Dad had a very eclectic music collection, and still does– though now it’s all digital of course. I remember one year driving to Michigan at Christmas time, we hit a blizzard and we were listening to “Sail Away’ by Enya as the snow pelted our windshield. We couldn’t see the road in front of us, and what did my Dad do? He turned the music up! It made for a very intense ride, as I thought we might “sail” right off the road into a sea of snow! It doesn’t have to be that intense, but at least make it memorable!

Mad Libs

They’re hilarious. Use them to teach language skills such as parts of speech. I’ve used these with children as young as six. Adults and children love the silly stories they can make. I’ve heard parents exclaim, “my child’s not reading yet,” or “my child doesn’t know what an adverb is yet!” Great– teach them early! What better way to remember what they are than by making silly stories out of them! Here are some Mad Libs on Amazon.

Learning Together on the Go: Part 3 Memories

In a world where everything is changing, and convenience is king, I hear many parents who look at car trips as a headache rather than an adventure. They’re afraid their children will be hungry and whiny and have to stop for the bathroom constantly– which are all just as much a reality at home. In “continuation of the Learning Together on the Go series”, here are some more ideas to make your car rides exciting!

Memories:

Traveling is a great time to reflect on places you have been, and to tell stories of where you went as a child. It’s hard nowadays to be all together– parents working different shifts, kids in daycare. Make the most of family trips– they’ll never forget it! These lyrics of “Galway and Mayo” by Irish band Saw Doctors speaks to that:

“We used to go out driving
We’d travel near and far
Nearly every Sunday in me
Father’s oul’ ford car
He’d be pointing out the landmarks
Everywhere we’d go, through the
Twistings , turning , winding roads
Of Galway and Mayo

Me mother in the front seat
Children in the back
We’d be imagining Indians in the
Fields waiting to attack”

Last spring we were able to take a trip to Pennsylvania where both my Dad and Grandma grew up. My mother grew up nearby in Maryland, and her mother’s childhood home– built by her father– still stands. My Dad was along with us and it was neat being able to show the kids the landmarks I remember visiting as a child. After careening down a narrow mountain road that I remember very well, we were able to stop at Summit Diner– a place I remember eating banana cream pie with my Mom and Grandma when they were alive. We had to use the GPS to find it. It’s really amazing and comforting to find places that haven’t changed!

Kids too, have memories to reflect on. In their short lives, a trip you took six months ago– relatively speaking– is like me remembering the last time I was in PA– twenty years ago. There’s always something to talk about on a trip, and very little need for kids to be watching movies or playing video games in the car. My Dad shared a story about being stuck on a mountain road after a ski trip. The road was closed down due to a blizzard and they just made it into a nearby town before the road was closed off. The visibility was so bad that my Dad and Uncle had to walk in front shoveling while my Mom drove the few miles into town. What a memory! I’m so glad the kids got to hear it, although I need to write these things down and retell them.

Kids may feel bored at times covering a vast expanse of land, but without driving all those miles, how would they know just how big the world is? When we drove from Tennessee to Arizona, my kids got to experience how big Texas is. They got to see the change in landscape from trees to ranches to cacti. No only can we appreciate the variations in landscape along the way, but things that we see jog our memories. Passing through a military base in New Mexico got my husband talking about his time at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. Although we came to Arizona to see Tuscon and the Sonora Desert, flying in to our destination would have excluded other opportunities for views of the landscape and family memories.

And don’t forget those stickers and passports I wrote about in Learning Together on the Go part 1. Keeping a record of states traveled and routes will help them keep it all in context for years to come!