Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Allie's second Halloween today. She was a monkey this year and participated in the celebrations more actively than last year. She even got to trick-or-treat at my work the other day where we had a big party for the kids.

We did not go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood tonight though. Next year. But tonight Allie and I hung out by our front door, greeted  our local little ghosts and monsters and Allie loved giving out the candy. It was fun! minus a couple real scary masks that kind of ruined the experience a little for Allie.

Needless to say, Allie cannot have candy, but for a special sweet Halloween treat I made her some yummy and kind of healthy cookies (that also have been acting like breakfast for me and MJ for the last couple days). The recipe came from my #1 favorite cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens and it is a recipe for "Peanut-butter oatmeal rounds" that I made just a couple adjustments to by decreasing the amount of sugar and replacing some white flour with wheat flour and made these great

Whole-wheat Peanut-Butter Oatmeal rounds

3/4 C softened  butter
1/2 C Peanut butter
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole-wheat flour
2 C quick or rolled oats
If you like, you can add a cup of raisins, dried cranberries, peanuts or chocolate chips. I didn't add anything this time.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl beat both butters with an electric mixer. Add sugar, baking soda and baking powder. Mix well. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in the flour and then oats.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto a baking sheet. Bake about 10-12 minutes until edges are light brown. 

Transfer to a wire rack to cool down. Nice little treat to enjoy with some tea or milk.

Happy Halloween! :)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Delicata squash

This is just a quick check-in to share my  discovery in the Food world. I have just discovered a Delicata squash this fall and this may be my new favorite kind of squash. How had I never noticed it before? It's soooo good! It's sweet, buttery and so easy and quick to prepare. Such a nice easy side dish for your dinner. Just cut it lengthwise in half, scrub out the seeds (discard or toast and eat, like you would with pumpkin seeds), slice each half into thin half-moon shapes. All you need for seasoning is salt, pepper and olive oil. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes. Delicious! And if you're looking to add more fiber into your diet, delicata squash is a great source. Most importantly, Allie loves the cute curly servings of it!

Try it if you haven't yet.

Fun from a clay bucket

I love cozy days at home like we had this past Sunday. After we had a nice big weekend kind of breakfast, we all settled in the living room for a morning of relaxation. MJ and our dog Druzhok were taking a 3-hour-long naps as it was raining outside and Allie and I played together. Eventually she got distracted enough with her toys, and I had a chance to read a new issue of "Parents" magazine while sipping a nice cup of coffee. Allie came over once in a while to join me in looking at a new page and she would point out the objects she knows and then she would get back to her own games, which was just perfect enough for me to relax and have a nice bonding time with Allie at the same time. What keeps her occupied for looong periods of time these days is her big Clay Bucket, that I mentioned already as a great entertainment we brought on a  long plane ride recently. This $5 bucket of clay just keeps on giving!


There is so much Allie can do with it! So not only it keeps her entertained, but also develops her imagination and creativity and I am sure the activity of rolling different shapes is a good little exercise for her little hands,although for now I have to help her with making clay balls. But she loves to cut them in half with the plastic toy knife that came with the set (well,  I am the one calling it "cutting in half", I bet for Allie it is "sculpting shapes").

Then there is always a classic: rolling out the clay  strips with a roller and cutting out the shapes with special ornamental cutters.

You can also use combinations of clay balls and the strips that came in a set and pretend to be an architect and build structures.

So many fun activities with just one toy. It always keeps Allie busy and entertained. When the fun of playing with the clay wore off the other day, we added to the game her toy pots and pans and she was "making a soup" out of the clay shapes she'd made earlier. That lasted another hour. She was really into the idea of "cooking soup" out of it, so much in fact that she asked me to sing about soup that night. In place of her friends' names that we usually sing in our songs, she had me sing "mama soup", "dada soup" and "Sasha soup".

Hope your little ones have as much fun playing with clay or playdough as Allie does.

Hope you are safe during the hurricane this week!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

We're going on a Bear Hunt

Allie goes through periods of having favorite books, as I am sure most kids do. This month it's been "We're going on a bear hunt" by British writers Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. I feel like this book deserves a special attention, because it's been the favorite for much longer than all the other books in the past. It makes me happy too, because I love the book, as well. It's funny how some books become Allie's favorite and for some reason I just really feel like hiding them, because for no apparent reason I cannot stand them... Like we have these series of books about a horse (I can't even recall what it's called, that's how much my mind resists it...) and Allie used to love them because they were tiny and cute books, but I just tried to avoid them every time. They are probably good books, but I don't know... I just wasn't into them... And right when I started feeling like I weirdo for disliking a kid's book it turned out that MJ hated the book too. So we hid it... forever...

"We're going on a bear hunt" was given to Allie by her Mor-Mor (that's what she calls one of her Grandmothers, MJ's mom). Mor-Mor is a teacher, so you know if she gives you a book, it's extra special and has a great meaning and will be really good. And the one I am writing about is one of them.

It's just one of those books that has a meaning for kids and a special hidden meaning for adults. It's about a family that is... you guessed... going on a bear hunt. It's fun to read because it has a cute and adventurous plot, you actually wonder what's going to happen at the end (as much as you can be curious about the ending in a toddler's book), the text rhymes which I love and has lots of repetitions. Because of the repetitions and the rhyming it's easy for kids to memorize the text, so by now Allie can almost recite the book. So, very educational. The pictures are great too. I feel like the pictures especially "promote" the family's bond and closeness. On every picture you see mom, dad, their 3 kids and the dog. One of the kids is a baby and you see this baby travelling between being in everyone's arms, which is so sweet! The family is going through all these obstacles and they are doing this together which teaches your child what the meaning of a family is and shows that everyone is together helping each other out through the difficult situation (that was the hidden meaning for adults).

The book's ending is very cute and funny. The family sees the bear, gets scared and runs back home (oops, sorry to ruin the book for you by giving out the ending... :). They get home, crawl into bed, under the covers and hide in there, all snugly, cozy and TOGETHER!

Allie likes to stay on this page for a while and find everyone under the blanket. This book would be such great addition to your child's library and will also make a great gift! I just love it myself for its sweetness, special meaning and fun illustrations. Hope you'll enjoy it too.

Thank you, Mor-Mor! :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

A cool addition to your toddler's wardrobe

It's 7 o'clock on Friday night, weekend is here and how lucky that I happened to have some store-bought pie crust dough and a bunch of apples. Apple Pie was just in the cards this evening! The easiest thing to make if you have the crust ready. I just quickly sauteed some sliced apples in butter with brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg, then thought for a second and added a pinch of cardamom and a handful of dried cherries, piled the mixture up in a pie dish lined with the rolled out dough, covered with the second disk of dough and an hour later we have a perfect apple pie that will last for the weekend. Now I am ready for the coziness... :)

But that was just some bragging about the pie, what I really wanted to share is a discovery of a very smart baby clothing item. Have you heard of "ez sox" yet? The socks with loops? They are genius!

 Allie got a few pairs from our beloved Aunt whom I mentioned in my previous entry. Not only they are super cure, bright and colorful but those loops make it so easy for Allie to put them on. All by herself like a big girl! Naturally, she loves the fact that she can put those socks on all by herself. They just seem like a must in any toddler's wardrobe.

Have a great weekend! :)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What to put on a baby registry

This entry is sort of a step back for Allie and I since we've been through that a while ago, but inspired by the exciting news by one of my best friends who is expecting a baby, I wanted to share my version of "What to put on a baby registry" and dedicate this entry to her! This would be my ideal baby registry if I knew what I know now when I was still pregnant. I read lots of blogs and articles and talked to a lot of my friends and family for their suggestions. Hopefully this entry will come in handy for someone one day.

I think a baby registry is kind of like a sandwich.... It's made for the same purpose and most of the ingredients are similar (we've got bread, some type of meat, cheese, veggies or in a baby registry we've got supplies for sleep, entertainment, bath, feeding etc), but somehow all the registries you find are actually very different. One person says that a bottle warmer is a waste of money and the other says tat it's the most essential thing. Someone says that a diaper genie is the best invention ever and the other says that it's the most useless thing you can buy. I think when one puts together a list of necessary things it's a good idea to check out a bunch of opinions and then create your own based on your lifestyle and budget.

Almost two years later after having Allie and seeing what I used and what I haven't here is 

My ideal baby registry

My list combines the items "to get" and "not to get", so I apologize if it looks too crowded. I just want to share everything I've got to say on the topic.

  • Car seat for an infant or a travel system
  • Crib and a mattress 

I would not include much clothing. People give you cute outfits anyway (especially if your husband has the most generous aunt in the world :). Think about it, when you shop for a baby gift, what are you usually inclined to get: a super cute dress or a pair of nail clippers from the registry? But I'd still register for some clothes, including sets of different sizes. My list of clothes is on a "shy" side, assuming you have a washer and a dryer and can wash what you have.

  • (5) Bodysuits and one piece outfits and (5) onesies are the most comfortable for you to put on your baby and for the baby to wear, they are great for the daytime hanging out and for sleeping.
  • (2-3) Sleep sacks are wonderful, they are cozy and warm and I love the swaddling sleep sacks the most. As a matter of fact, one of the secrets to Allie's longer sleep was swaddling her.
  • (2-3) swaddling blankets.
  • (10-12) receiving blankets. They serve many purposes, including being burp clothes.
  • (3-4) crib sheets.
  • Mobile for the crib.
  • 4 waterproof mattress pads.
  • (2-3) light blankets, but those tend to be a popular gift anyway, even if you don't include it.
  • Those cute bedding sets you see in stores are kind of useless, because you cannot use half of what they pack in there for safety reasons (too bulky for the baby).

  • Diapers. Be sure to register for different sizes, so you don't get stuck with too many small ones. I actually suggest to not register for "newborn" size, but maybe just get yourself a small pack just in case (or many hospitals will send you home with diapers), because I know more than 1 person who had big babies and skipped that size all together.
  • Baby wipes. Don't order many, because you never know if your baby's skin will be too sensitive for a certain kind and then you'll need to experiment.
I would not register for a diaper rash cream. Different kinds work for different babies. Some moms swear by Boudreaux butt paste and others can only use Desitin, etc... It's a good idea to get different samples that you can order online for free and see what's the best for your baby, before paying for bigger containers.
  • Changing pad.
  • (3) changing pad covers.
I would not get a special changing table that has a short life span. We actually got one from Craigslist that was almost new and it looks more like a dresser. I actually still don't know if it's a dresser that doubles as a changing table, or a changing table that moonlights as a dresser... The point is when I no longer need the changing table I will have a perfect dresser.

  • Baby carrier (there are so many different kinds! We had a baby bjorn and loved it).
  • Baby stroller or a travel system (again, so many kinds! Deserves a separate blog entry... or a separate blog!)
  • Stroller bunting, especially if it's a cold time of year.
  • Pack and Play (we still use ours for a place to sleep for Allie when we travel). It has many purposes.
If you plan on breastfeeding:
  • A breast pump (double electric ones are the best)
  • Breast pads and ointment (you will need them, but I personally preferred to buy them myself rather than flashing those "sexy" items on the registry. Pump is enough...
  • A nursing pillow.
  • (2-3) nursing pillow covers.
  • Bottles and extra nipples with various speed
  • Nursing cover-up. Now, that was a genius invention!
  • Highchair or a booster seat (we have both and we need both. booster seat is great for when we travel)
  • Blender (this is in place of a Baby food maker that some people recommend. Blender is so much more versatile but serves the same purpose. You can make your baby food in there, then make some soup and then finish off by making a margarita! You can also continue using it once you've passed the baby food stage. 
  • (2-3) baby spoons.
  • A couple baby dishes, but this item is really very optional. We have 2-3 plates and 2-3 sippy cups that Allie is using. You can definitely get those later on.
  • (1-2) teething toys.
  • Pacifiers (Allie ONLY took soothies, no other pacifiers), so you may have to experiment
  • Diaper bag. I'd only include it if you found the one you are absolutely in love with. Otherwise, I'd just wait to get THE ONE, when you find it. This is the bag you are going to use the most, so you should really, really like it. Probably not too girly too, since Daddy will be carrying it from time to time.
  • White noise machine.
  • Nightlight.
  • A small bathtub that converts into a tub for an older baby.
  • (1-2) hooded bath towels.
  • (4-5) wash clothes.
  • Baby monitor (I would do video if I could do it over again. I could've saved Allie from waking up many times when I walked in to check on her, plus it's so fun to watch what they are doing when you are not there once they start moving a bit).
Instead of a baby first aid kit I would get the items that I really need separately:
  • baby nail clippers
  • digital thermometer
  • bulb syringe
  • baby tooth brush
  • baby hair brush
  • Laundry detergent for baby clothes (any kind that is dye free and unscented usually works)
  • Bassinet or a Moses basket (something small to sleep in till "graduating" to a crib

This next part is things that are just as necessary, but can be borrowed from friends, if possible or gotten used:
  • Bumbo seat
  • Rocker or a glider
  • Bouncing chair
  • Swing 
  • Baby gym (with lots of lights and music)
I hope this is helpful and if you are reading this, you must be expecting a baby. Congratulations! The best thing in the world is about to happen to you!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cranberry "juice"

During our vacation (that by now you are probably clear that I won't stop talking about for a while :) Allie discovered little juice boxes. It was good to have a plan "B" for when Allie was getting too tired for vacation activities and give her a juice box that instantaneously made her happy, but now we find ourselves on an almost dangerous territory where the juice is all she wants to drink. As I said in one of my posts I am all for the moderate amount of juice for Allie, but I like it to be freshly squeezed, or real in other words. Juice in the box is, of course, not the same as the real stuff, but there isn't just enough hours in a day to squeeze the fresh juice out every time Allie asks for it. So here is the solution I found: I make a cranberry  drink that will keep in the fridge for an entire week. It's very healthy and tastes great. I offer it to Allie when she asks for her juice and she really enjoys it.

Cranberry "juice" recipe

12 oz bag whole fresh or frozen cranberries
5 Tbsp sugar
6 Cups water

Cranberries are at their pick right now, so you can buy them bagged at your grocery store. But when they are not in season, I make the same drink out of frozen cranberries. It's super quick and easy.

Before you do anything, start boiling 6 cups of water.

Rinse cranberries with lots of water. Discard the ones that are going bad (soft and discolored)

Sprinkle cranberries with sugar (feel free to add more sugar is the amount I indicated makes a drink that's still too tart for you/your child). Mix the sugar with the cranberries.

Once the water boils, transfer the cranberries and sugar mixture into the pot with the water. Cover, simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let steep for another 10 minutes.

Strain the liquid into a clean dish that is heat resistant. I don't usually do anything with the pulp, but I am sure my aunt would make a pie with cranberry filling out of it. So feel free to recycle it. It would probably make a good addition to a smoothie.

Once it's cool, transfer the liquid into a container (or pitcher like I did) and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week. 

You can also freeze some in the ice cube tray and have fancy and pretty looking ice cubes for your water or to flavor other drinks,

Cranberries have lots of antioxidants, vitamin C and fiber. This drink is so great to give a boost to your little one's immune system this time of year!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Figure it out, baby!

One day during our vacation, MJ, Allie and I were walking around the Santa Barbara downtown. It was a hot day and I was craving a smoothie. We were walking a while before we finally saw a juice/smoothie spot. I ordered a smoothie called "Raspberry" that had raspberry juice, a banana, strawberries, raspberry sherbet and  frozen yogurt  It was absolutely delicious! You know that feeling when you really crave something and finally get it and it tastes even better than you anticipated? That was it. I finished my huge portion of "Raspberry" and couldn't be happier being with my family in such a gorgeous place with such a delicious drink in my belly.

how can one not be happy looking up at this view?!

The next day when we were walking around, I wasn't so thirsty, but the memory of the smoothie the previous day made me go back to that place and order another "Raspberry". It was good. But it wasn't nearly as enjoyable as it was for for the first time. And I thought it made a perfect sense. I should've known that you can't just duplicate a great experience. And  for some reason it made me think of my mom. She is very wise. I thought how if I was walking around with her that second day and expressed an idea to get the same smoothie as I had had yesterday  she would've definitely known  that it wouldn't be the same, but she would've not stopped me from getting it. She would let me have it and let me learn the lesson. This was totally random,  but I just could picture that scene: me forcing that smoothie on myself and saying that it's not the same and my mom saying "Yes, it's usually not as good if you try to repeat the experience". This is how a parenting lesson occurred to me out of nowhere...or out of a smoothie, I should say.

I think this is going to be my parenting strategy with Allie.  I will let her try things on her own and let her figure out as much on her own as she can. As I thought of it, I realized that I have already been doing it, kind of.  I give her warnings, but I also give her the freedom to see the consequences and learn the lesson. If she wants to take a sip of MJ's freshly squeezed ginger juice, I warn her that it's going to be too spicy for her but let her taste it, so that she can see for herself and stop (or switch to super tiny sips, which luckily for her health she's been doing. So good for her!) If she wants to turn on the faucet with the cold water while taking a bath, I warn her that it's going to be too cold but let her turn the handle and feel the cold. She learns it's too cold and turns it off; next time she'll think more carefully before doing it. When she purposely spills her milk or throws her food on the floor, I warn her that she would be the one cleaning up the mess. Just the other day she threw all her grapes on the floor and I told her she can't leave the kitchen till she picks them all up and throws them away. She is not even 2 years old yet, but I know she understands. She kept trying to escape, but I calmly returned her back and kept asking to pick them up, because she was the one who made a mess. This "process" took about 5 minutes (but felt like an hour), she was trying to leave, she lay on the floor, she was doing her pretend-cry, but I just stayed calm and was telling her what needed to be done. Eventually she went straight to picking up her grapes and happily cleaned them all up. Things like that. I try to avoid saying "No, don't do it".  She is so little and so curious, why not let her? 

Now, of course, I am not going to let her see what happens if she puts a fork in the outlet, or what happens if she walks in the middle of a street with heavy car traffic. Dangerous things are dangerous things, certain activities are off limits. But if what she wants to try is harmless and most likely teaches her a lesson, I think it's good to allow it, even if it causes inconveniences, such as cleaning up.It teaches her independence,  nourishes her curiosity and develops her creativity in how to deal with things.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fun fall project for kids

While not the most exciting season, fall definitely has its own beauty. It took me a while to come to this conclusion as I myself used to think of fall as my least favorite season, I wouldn't have even put the word "favorite" anywhere close to the word "fall", like I did in this sentence. It was the time of the year when it got cold, started raining and you had to spend more time inside. Now I love it for exactly same reasons: it gets cold, starts to rain a lot and I have to spend more time inside. The season of coziness. I love a good rainy and windy day that you look at out of your window while being warm in your home and cozy with your family. It's my favorite kind of weather to read a book to with a cup of tea or coffee and to cuddle on a couch with my dog Druzhok (when he doesn't snap at me for making the slightest movement while he is asleep at my feet). I think I didn't like the fall in the past because I always associated it with the end of the school vacation, the end of the fun. Now that the start of the fall does not coincide with "the end of fun", I can appreciate it. The leaves turning beautiful colors, warm apple cider with a cinnamon stick, delicious rich soups, and quite honestly the new seasons of my favorite TV shows (even though it sounds less poetic...).

I am teaching Allie to love fall too. There are activities that are best saved for this time of year and we are taking advantage of this season and enjoy new games. Today Allie, MJ, Druzhok and I all took a nice walk around our neighborhood while enjoying the pretty colors around and letting Allie explore. We did nor bring a stroller, we do not typically bring it for short walks. That way Allie is more likely to run around and enjoy herself. We showed her how to run through the piles of leaves and hear them making "shhhhhh" sound as she steps on them. We were showing her pretty leaves and acorns, encouraging her to pick them up and turn the leaves into beautiful fall bouquets. I actually spent the entire walk teaching her what "a pretty leaf" means, but I don't think she got the concept. At the end of our walk the two of us had our own set of pretty leaves. Let me show you what we've got.

Here is my set of pretty leaves:

And, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you're ready for this. Allie's pretty leaves:

So either I am not a good teacher and didn't do well explaining what a pretty leaf means, or maybe I just don't get it. Maybe I have it all wrong and don't know what "pretty" means myself. You tell me...

But in any case, it was fun to gather leaves while walking with the family and breathing in the fall air. When we got home, Allie and I did a little craft project out of our leaves. We were pressing small pieces of clay on paper and then sticking the leaves on top. Quite a fun project and certainly very nice looking!

Allie was all about that project and when we finished with the first set of leaves, we went back outside and got more for more crafting. I am sure we will be doing this for as long as we have the leaves on the ground.

I encourage everyone to go on a nice walk and look around and see all the pretty colors that the fall is offering!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Roasted butternut squash, many kids' favorite!

Because it's fall and because "a picky eater" topic is always popular...

The veggies that Allie has never said no to are: cucumber, carrot, green beans and butternut squash. The love for all the other veggies comes and goes, but the dedication to butternut squash and the other three stays unchanged.

Butternit squash is a perfect fall vegetable and there are so many ways to cook it! To me the hardest part is to peel and cut it up, but once you're done with done, it's the easiest thing to cook. And of course, you can skip the hardest part by buying a peeled and cut up butternut squash.

Super easy roasted butternut squash

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare the squash and transfer it on the baking sheet lined with the foil.

And now top it with your favorite spices. Here is what I usually use and I never measure it, I just throw a dash of this and a handful of that and while it's always different, it always ends up being delicious. So, the list of spices:
  • rosemary
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • salt
  • a little honey or maple syrup
  • lots of olive oil

Place it in the oven for about 25-30 minutes.


Friday, October 12, 2012

The essentials for travelling with a toddler

As we are currently on vacation, I thought it would be most appropriate for me to write about travelling with a toddler and changing time zones. So I am going to do that while Allie is napping after her busy and filled with excitement vacation-kind-of-morning.

Yesterday we all took a long taxi-bus-plane-bus trip from Maine to California. It was a very long journey. It took us 14 hours to get to our destination. It was Allie's first time taking such a long trip and first time on the plane. Needless to say, we were a bit nervous about how this was going to go.

After a thorough preparation I am happy to report that we made it here and the trip went smooth and we are currently vacationing in one of the prettiest places I've seen in my life, Santa Barabara, CA.

The lessons that I got out of this adventure so far (I am sure there will be more) are what to pack for a long bus and plane rides and how to hep your child adjust to a new time zone.

10 things to pack for travelling with a toddler

1. Food. We packed lots of snacks that were easy/not messy to eat, easy to transport that can go unrefrigerated for a few hours. For us the list of foods was:
  • Dried unsweetened apple rings
  • Dried unsweetened cherries
  • String mozzarella cheese
  • A cucumber
  • Whole wheat bread or English muffins
  • Seedless clementines
  • Some cheerios. Pack a cooking twine or a shoe lace to make a necklace with while  eating them, it provides for extra entertainment while travelling
  • And of course, Annie's bunny grahams. We don't leave the house without them.

2. Entertainment.
  • Favorite books
  • Favorite doll and a blankie to wrap her in
  • Crayons and muffin paper cups, it's so much more fun to draw inside of them than a regular paper, and she can also stack them for fun
  • Fun stickers and something to stick them on. I had some paperfor that purpose, but Allie thought it would be more fun to stick them on her sippy cup, which it was.
  • Just in case we downloaded a couple apps on an Iphone, but we didn't use them.
  • I got this Clay Bucket with clay and cookie cutters and stuff from a pharmacy knowing that Allie would love it, but we didn't even use it, she kept herself entertained with other stuff. But I am sure we'll be using it on the flight back. I'll save it till then.
  • Another thing that saved the day was the individual TV that all Jetblue planes have. Allie never watches TV at home, so the cartoons on the plane were a big hit and we let her watch some Tom and Jerry when she was getting tired.
3. Extra clothes for your child. I brought 1 change of clothes, but next time I'll bring more. Allie spilled water a couple times and had a couple accidents that diaper could not handle.

4. A small carry-on suitcase for Allie that we got right before the trip was definitely money well spent. We packed all the fun stuff in it, because it wouldn't fit in the diaper bag and the extra food and snacks and Allie also loved rolling it all by herself, like a big girl around the airports.

5. A car seat that fits in the plane seat. We were SO HAPPY that we got Allie a separate seat on the plane. We had hesitated for a long time, since she can still fly for free being under 2 years old. But finally we figured that  a 6 hour-long flight is worth splurging for. That was the best decision ever! I simply cannot imagine what we would've done otherwise. The plane ride otherwise would've not been so easy. We borrowed this special car/plane seat from a friend that also had  wheels hidden in it, so we could use it as a stroller at the airports, and she peacefully sat in it for almost the entire flight.

6. A blankie. We brought one of Allie's favorite blankies to give her some comfort and warmth during the bus and plane rides.

7. More diapers than we thought we would need was a good call.

8. Lots of wet napkins and some soft clothes for wiping stuff that kept spilling, wiping hands that kept getting dirty and for lining the seat that kept getting wet. 

9. Bottle or a sippy cup to sip from while taking off and landing. It helped Allie's ears to deal with the pressure changes. We brought an empty bottle and filled it up after we had passed the security, but apparently we could've brought the liquids to the airport, as long as it was "for the baby", which is nice to know for the next time.

10. An extra shirt for yourself. You never know what's going to be spilled on you.

We flew to the time zone that is 3 hours behind our home. That was another reason to get a  bit nervous. So I am really shocked in a  good way how easily Allie adjusted.

Adjusting to a new time zone.

I think they keys for us were:

  • Adding an extra nap during the day, since our day ended up being 3 hours longer than usually.
  • During the regular bed routine time (when it was 6-7 pm our time at home, but still 3-4 in our new time zone) we had a very "active activity", so Allie bypassed the state of the usual calming down time with running around the beach, splashing in the waves and playing with the dogs on the beach.
  • Make sure she doesn't go hungry during the day and has plenty of snacks but has a real dinner during the new dinner time, so her dinner was still at 6 (when it was 9 at home). From then on, we just continued the routine of dinner-bath-books-milk and finally bed.

She went down super easily, slept until 6 am new time, which was amazing since this is her regular wake up time, so she was all adjustment this morning! She is also napping right now during her regular nap time. It's amazing how great her internal body clock did during this change!

Thank you for being such an easy child Allie! :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Raising a bilingual child. Part I

I am sure there'll be more parts to this topic. Trying to raise a bilingual child is hard… I have a whole new respect for parents who managed to do that! I guess I just always thought that it would come naturally: you just do your own thing and your child will end up speaking all the languages that are spoken by father or mother. But as it turns out it is not as natural as I thought it would be.

Let's break it down.

Goal: To raise Allie bilingual. Have her understand, speak, write and read in both English and Russian. In the light of how things are going right now, I demonstrated more flexibility on the subject and would be just as happy if she could just speak and understand Russian.

Obstacles: There isn't really a Russian community in our town, or not that I know of. There aren't Russian daycare centers, I don’t have any Russian friends with kids where we live (my closest Russian speaking friend with a kid lives across the Atlantic, which would call for a very long commute to playdates), our Russian speaking relatives all live out of town or out of the country, and as this wasn't enough, even at home Allie doesn't get to be in a 100% Russian speaking environment. 
I almost always speak Russian with her, but I speak English to MJ and I talk to him more than I talk to Allie, so she gets to hear me speak English just as much as Russian. 

Problem: Allie has become very talkative just recently and talks pretty much non-stop. When I understand what she is saying, it is mostly English I hear. Most of her sentences start with ‘I want’ (my personal favorite is ‘I want all done”, meaning “I’m done”) and while she knows a lot of Russian words, I can’t get her to say Russian sentences. The best case scenario we are looking at “I want спать” (I want sleep) or “I want кушать” (I want eat).

Solution: If anyone can think of one, please let me know. But here are the things we've been doing so far:

-I continue speaking Russian when I talk to her. Only Russian. I vocalize for her in Russian every activity she does, so she knows what things are called and hopefully after much repetition will memorize them.

-I read to her Russian books. Every single night. Allie has quite a few favorites in English and I’ll read them to her too, but for the most parts English reading is MJ’s responsibility. I read Russian books.

-We listen to a lot of Russian music. We have Russian CDs and downloaded songs from old Russian cartoons that I grew up with. I’ll play them in the mornings while we are getting ready or during weekends while we are at home and Allie is playing. Sometimes we’ll listen to a Russian radio station too.

-Skype sessions with Allie’s Russian babushka (my mom), her aunt and her dedushka (my dad) are great, as well. In additional to all the fun, it’s like a Russian lesson.

-Listening to fairy tales. My sister gave Allie such a great gift recently – a CD with Russian fairy tales. Allie loves it! We listen to it in a car on the way to and from the daycare. They make her laugh and the more she listens to them, the more she enjoys them. She starts to repeat certain words from them or laughs at the same tings, so clearly she recognizes and understands them. Although, I can’t complain there. She understands everything in Russian, it’s just the talking part that’s a bit harder.

I am sure this list will expand as Allie is getting older and I’ll need to sit down with her to some actual lessons of reading and writing and counting and so on (maybe MJ will join us and will learn some Russian with Allie), but so far for a 22 months old those things seem to be the most effective in the circumstances that we have.

Thank you for listening and for sharing your suggestions,

Do svidaniya

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Homemade ketchup or how not to cheat

Since we are having a long weekend, all of the meals are being eaten at home and the topic of picky eating came up again. It's ironic that it never happens at the daycare. Every day when we pick Allie up, we get a "report card" where the teachers write what she enjoyed doing today, what she ate, what mood she was in, what her nap was like etc. Wait, I can actually show you one. It's a very cute and useful idea! Here it is:

So as you can see, for the food section they circle one of the 3 options for breakfast and lunch and the options are: she ate

  • nothing
  • a little
  • a lot

I have almost never seen anything circled but "a lot". She always eats a lot there, but at home from time to time we do go through periods of Allie not being so enthusiastic about eating what I cook. During those periods one of my secret tricks is actually kind of cheating... Cheating on healthy food. I'll cook her a healthy meal and then I'll serve it with ketchup. Busted!... but sometimes I just see no other way but offer ketchup as the last resource. She'll eat anything with ketchup. Anything! But then I feel like ketchup just cancels out the whole healthy eating idea.

A couple weeks ago when I was just going through our supermarket's own magazine "Fresh" that I wrote about before, I came across the recipe for a homemade ketchup. I loved the idea and that was the reason why the magazine got to hang around on the kitchen table for the last 2 or 3 weeks, I was going to try the recipe  I finally tried it the other day and wow...Is that a genius and delicious idea! It was so good! Needless to say, Allie loved it and treated it just the way she treats store-bought ketchup (I mean with love). I actually even saved an empty ketchup bottle in case I'd have to transfer the homemade stuff in there and continue the culinary cheating, but I didn't even have to use it!

With  few tweaks and adjustments based on what was available in my fridge that day, here comes the recipe (sorry for the lack of pictures, I am still to replace the camera that was [mis]used by the photographer Allie):

 Roasted Garlic Ketchup

1 head garlic
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper (red preferably), diced
1/4 C water
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
1 tsp ground allspice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice off the top of the head of garlic, so you can see the cloves. Place it on foil,  drizzle with some olive oil and salt. Wrap and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. If you've never had roasted garlic, you have to try it, it's delicious! In a lot of Russian restaurants, they actually serve a whole head of roasted garlic with bread with your dinner. You just spread the roasted garlic paste on bread, it's amazing!

2. In the meantime, heat some olive oil in a skillet and add diced onions and peppers. Let cook about 15 minutes on  medium heat, stirring occasionally.When cooked through, add the water and brown sugar, stir and let cook for another 5-10 minutes until most of the water evaporates.

3. Squeeze out the cloves of roasted garlic in the mixture, add in tomatoes, vinegar and allspice. Cook for another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

4. Transfer to a blender and blend it to a preferred consistency. 

5. Serve with anything you like and save the rest in a jar.

I actually ended up serving it to the adults with some spaghetti. I mean it just tastes like a delicious pasta sauce! 

Enjoy the ketchup yourself and offer to your picky eaters as an extra incentive!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Why to write a journal

One of the things that I was inspired to do by Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project" that I wrote about earlier is start a new journal. A different kind of journal.  

I have to say I've always been into writing diaries, ever since I was in the 6th or 7th grade. I would describe my day, but mostly I would just write in there funny stories that happened at school that day. There was never any lack of funny stories in my classes. I am really glad I did that, it is so fun to read those diaries, the memories just rush back and it's the best feeling to relive those great moments!

When I got a bit older I remember hearing from someone that you should write about your feelings in the diary. So I started doing more of that. I would write how I felt about having a fight with my sister and how it hurt when she almost pulled my hair out, and I would write how mad I was at my friend for not sharing the school textbook with me and how I really liked  a boy and didn't think he liked me back. But now that I reread those entries sometimes I don't find them that fun.They are fun when some activities are described, like the activities leading up to the hair pulling with my sister. I actually had quite a few of those entries, and when I tell about them to my sister now, we always have a good laugh. But when I just described the feelings with no activities... I just find it boring to reread.

I actually was doing these "feelings thing" for a while as it turns out. I mean I still had my days described and funny and exciting things written about, but once in a while I'd run into the "feelings". I still did that when I was dating my now-husband, then-boyfriend MJ. When we'd have a fight, it would all "be documented" in my diary, but when I reread it now 5 or 6 years later, it just upsets me, so why would I want to reread and relive that? So I just skip those entries.

Of course I am not saying that it's better to write the diary one way or another, but I am just saying that for me it took a few years to realize what I should be writing in mine. Just describe things that happened. No hurt feeling. I know some people write about that to kind of "pour it out" to make themselves feel better, but did it work for me? Now that I think about it...hmm...not really. Because I would pour myself out to my mom. Or my sister. So really by the time I would get around the journal, it was more of a burden to write about and then having to relive those moments as I wrote them.

Same thing about happy feelings. I get a little mad at myself sometimes when I read an entry of this kind "I had such a great day! I am so happy! So many funny things happened!" Ummm ok... so what happened?? Why didn't I write what happened? I guess I thought I would remember. And sometimes I do, but more often than not I have absolutely no idea...

So years later it occurred to me that I should just describe remarkable things that happened. What I felt about them I could probably figure out just reading about what happened. And this is what I started doing with my journals.

But then, Allie was  born. And my journal writing activity just stopped. I didn't have any time or energy for that. What I did though, I started a new one just for Allie for when she is older. I actually started it when I was pregnant with her, and I would write her little messages in there: about the day she kicked for the first time, what song made her kick for the first (it was a song by Coldplay), about my doctor appointments and so on. When she was born I continued writing important events, such as first time she sat up, crawled, walked, said "mama", and those typical things you don't want to forget. I am SO HAPPY I've done that, because those things really seem impossible to forget, but if you ask me now when she smiled for the first time or when she said "mama", I remember those moments happening in every detail, but I have no idea how old she was. And Allie would probably be curious to know that. So for her I will have a full report in the form of that diary.

Allie's journal is great, but it doesn't include any Allie non-related stuff. And that's probably natural, because my life is now pretty much rotating around Allie. But I have things that happen at work, or with MJ or just some random things that I want to remember in the future, but I don't want to write them in Allie's journal, because then it just ruins the whole idea of the journal. This thought had lived in my head for a long time, but I had also known that I wouldn't have any time to write another journal. Until I read "The Happiness Project". The idea I found there solved the problem!

It basically says that if this is something that makes you happy, you should just simplify the whole idea of writing a journal. It can be any kind of journal, but the one that I loved was "What I am thankful for today". No need to describe it, since it is exactly what it sounds like.

I started a journal a couple months ago. It is on my nightstand. Every single night before I go to bed, I write in there just a couple sentences about what I am thankful for today.It can't be anything general, like " I am thankful that I am healthy", which of course I am thankful for, but this is not something I write in there. I write 1-2 things that happened today that made me happy or that I am thankful for. I LOVE IT! First of all, it  creates this little special notebook of only happy thoughts and positive memories. So when I read it, it will be very recharging. It will also help me remember those things. Even though I don't have the time to write the detailed description of certain events, I'll have a few "key words" that will bring the memories back. And the main thing, it just makes me pay attention to special happy moments in my day that I didn't necessarily notice before. For example, one evening MJ, Allie, Druzhok and I were all in Allie's room. Druzhok was chewing his bone, MJ was reading to Allie and I was putting away her laundry. Sounds like a nothing-special-moment, doesn't it? Well, it wasn't.  It just felt so special and intimate, I felt so happy in that moment and I thought "This is what I am going to write about tonight in my thankful journal". If I didn't have this journal I would probably just let that moment pass by. Having the journal makes me search for those moments and really pay attention to them. It's great!

We all have nothing-specials days or even just bad days, but I bet you can always find at least one good thing that happened to you that day. At least one. By the way, this is another benefit of having a child, even if nothing special happens and I have really nothing to write about, there is always something special or funny that Allie did that day! :)

Happy journaling! :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Oh what a day!

Things learnt today:

1. Do not let Allie have any electronic devices, or any devices that have a potential to break. Even if it is "just for a second". Allie got a hold of my camera for just a minute and had a very fun minute taking pictures of everything but the minute ended with her breaking it... So there will be no colorful recipe pictures for a while until I get it replaced. 

2. Supervise Allie extra carefully if not sure that our dog Druzhok finished his food. Allie really wanted to make sure Druzhok has his dinner and kept serving it to him. In one another bowl...on the floor...out of her hands. This process looked quite peaceful and innocent so I didn't have second thoughts about focusing on dinner primarily. Mistake! The next thing I see is Allie demonstrating for Druzhok how to eat the food. I don't know how much she ate, but in any case that was just not good...

3. Really stick to the bedtime routine...  A few activities were done out of the usual order tonight and a few unusual things were added, that just messed the whole routine and delayed the bedtime by an hour.

Today was just one of those days to learn from your own mistakes. Just a crazy day with just as hectic end. Started off with Druzhok coming back inside the house from his little outing/potty trip and bringing with him this awful stench. Apparently he rubbed himself in something very, very, very bad. I don't even know what it was that smelled so bad (by the way I started describing the smell just now, but disgusted myself too much and decided that it is not critical to the blog to have that description, so I decided against it and deleted it. You are welcome.) When I let him in from his walk, I didn't notice it at first with all the running around that is a description of our typical morning. We only noticed it when he suspiciously was rubbing himself on the couch. This is when we came closer and smelled IT. That of course resulted in stripping all the pillows off the couch, the couch itself and starting a major laundry project. Then getting the vacuum out to vacuum all the feathers that came out of the couch pillows. Oh and did I mention that about an  hour before that Allie woke us up because she was wet and so was everything else in her crib (clearly I hadn't done a very good job putting a diaper on last night), so that was the laundry project #1 of the morning. So we were moving on to #2 laundry project. The reason why those were "projects", not just regular washes is because they included taking the covers off the couch and crib and then, what is even harder, putting them back on... I don't even understand by the way how is it that we live in the 21st century and there isn't an easier way of putting the bedding in the crib?! That was the morning...Leave alone all the usual preparations for daycare and work...

Right after work it was time to finish up the laundry project, spray with Febreeze anything Druzhok touched in the morning, cook dinner, clean up the mess left in the morning.... while Allie was eating the dog food...

After the delayed bedtime and a super hectic day, I am so excited to make myself a cup of tea and sit down and watch some funny show.

Ironically, Presidential debates took the place of the funny show by the way... Oh well, the cup of tea is still happening though! Good night :)

Parenting and Marathoning

This past Sunday MJ ran the Maine Marathon. And not only was he committed enough to run it in the most miserable rainy, windy and cold weather, but he also set a personal record! I was so proud to be there at the finish line and see him complete the race in the shorter time than he had predicted!

I feel very proud to have a husband who is a marathon runner! I mean isn't it a great hobby? I feel like there are so many husbands who spend their free time watching sports, or just watching TV or drinking beer or something. Running is just a great passion to have! For MJ, not for me. I am not a runner, but I am so amazed at people who can run a marathon! See, to me this is an unreal thing to do, so I am just so very impressed with you, the marathoners out there!

But of course, training for marathons does take quite a bit of time. It's a serious commitment. And sometimes it can get in the way of things. Like sleeping, or spending the time together. So here comes one of the challenges of parenting for us: for MJ combining marathon trainings and family with a small child, and for me combining family with a small child and putting up with MJ's marathon running. I hope I don't sound too dramatic when i say that, but there's definitely been days when I wished MJ hadn't run. Like when I am exhausted and Allie seems to be asleep, and I am about to finally get some rest, and the minute MJ leaves for a 20 mile run, she wakes up and I have absolutely no energy to rock and sign and read. On those days I very much wish that he was home. Now. Not in 3 hours. But really I am very happy with this passion of his and love to tell people that my husband runs marathons :).

After he finished The Maine Marathon this weekend and set a personal record, we were both so excited and were talking about it, what it took, and how he got there and how he can improve. And I said that I should write a blog about how he combines his marathon trainings with being a good dad and a helpful husband. MJ came up with an idea of me interviewing him, so I asked him a few questions and will share the answers.

Me: What do you like about running?

MJ: Being able to push yourself physically. A lot of times when I'm out there it reminds me of being on the canoe trips when I was growing up. You really get to explore and you can learn about the area much more intimately because running gives you a very useful skill of mapping in your brain. Also, it just feels good. And it's a great way to meditate.

Me: How has running changed for you after Allie "came along"?

It got tougher, because i want to spend time with my wife [me] and Allie. So I have less time for running. I get the feeling of guilt, especially on long runs. It also got harder keeping to the schedule. Sometimes I have to sacrifice one thing for another. I rely on a lot of support from my wife [me].  Sometimes I just simply have less energy to run with the late nights and early mornings.

Me: How do you deal with these difficulties?

My wife's support- it's huge. Jogging stroller was a great purchase! Now Allie can come with me on many runs. We can take runs together as a family. I need to be flexible and be ready for running schedule change and adjustments. I used to mostly run in the mornings and now I take runs whenever I can do it (early morning, or late at night, or during the nap). It involves more planning, but it's ok.

Me: How does your running benefits your family?

MJ: It sets a positive example to Allie for health and fitness, because running also ties in proper eating, nutrition, calm mental states. It shows setting goals and working toward them gradually. Things just don't happen, it takes  a lot of hard work and effort and time. It teaches mental toughness, "not give up" kind of attitude.  I hope that Allie will run with m in the future, if she wants.

Thank you, MJ, for sharing your thoughts. I hope moms and dads marathoners out there will find your words inspiring and useful!