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Sugar Bowl Mix: January 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

Tackling a cold

I'm tackling a cold.

Somehow tackling a cold in the Los Angeles winter always feels slightly lame.

It's 75 degrees here.

But warm and sunny or not, our house has been struck hard by the current cold of the season. First Katie, then Tim, then me, and Caroline, the final holdout, came down with it today.

When I have a cold I yearn for a steaming mug of strawberry lemonade tea with fresh squeezed lemon and a drop of honey from a teddy bear.

I yearn for a soft bed with a lot of pillows. If it comes with a kitten that's even better - as long as he doesn't attack my toes.

What do you yearn for when you're sick? How do you tackle a cold?

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This post is participating in Tackle It Tuesday at 5 Minutes for Mom.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chocolate bread pudding

I was knocked down with a bad cold for most of last week. So when I was finally feeling a little better and could stand on my feet for more than ten minutes I wanted to bake something simple, something comforting, something chocolate.

I turned to Real Simple for a chocolate bread pudding recipe. I usually like Real Simple but this recipe was not that simple and had a few flaws in the directions. But with a few changes in the directions and the ingredients - I used unsweetened chocolate, not semi-sweet chips - this turned out to be a rich, hearty comfort food dessert with a hint of sophistication.

3 cups milk
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter
9 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Trim the crusts of 12 slices of bread.

Lightly grease an 8 x 8 pan.

Whisk the milk, eggs, and sugar together in a saucepan. Add the butter and the chocolate and heat over low heat, just until the butter and the chocolate melt.

Arrange a single layer of bread in the pan and pour the sauce over it. Add the next layer of bread and pour the sauce over that. Arrange the final layer of bread slices and pour the remaining sauce over it.

Cover with plastic wrap and place another baking pan over it with something heavy on top of it (I used a heavy mug) to weigh down the bread. Set aside for one hour.

Note: if you have leftover sauce, go back after 30 minutes and pour the leftover sauce onto the bread. Sometimes it takes a while for the bread to absorb the sauce.

Remove the weight and the plastic and bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes until the pudding sets.

Serve with a dollop of cream whipped by hand.


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Find the recipe to print here.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Our new kitten

Our new kitten arrived on Saturday. The girls named him Emory in honor of our first Emory who died last year when he was just 8 months old.

The new Emory is very busy! He's in the refrigerator whenever there's an opportunity. He's particularly interested in the vegetable drawer.

He loves it when Caroline carries him around in this basket.

He collapses at 8 o'clock every night.

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This post is participating in Wordless Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Battle hymn of the horse mom

Amy Chua's book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom touched a raw nerve in the US with its indictment of American parenting practices and praise of stricter-than-thou Chinese parenting practices. 

The extraordinary response to Chua's book got me, like the rest of the world, thinking about what kind of mom I am. I know I'm not a tiger mom. I believe in tough love, but piano practice stops after fifteen minutes in our house, not six hours! I'm not aggressive enough to be a wolf mom, or timid enough to be a mouse mom, or big enough to be an elephant mom, or fragile enough to be a deer mom, or blind enough to be a bat mom. 

After sifting through many kinds of moms that I am not, I finally realized the sort of mom I strive to be: a horse mom. The kind of mom who keeps going steadily, who's reliable, strong, gentle, and sympathetic. The kind of mom who sees what's happening all around her, who is sometimes graceful, sometimes stubborn. And sometimes scared.

This horse mom believes in:
free, unstructured play
school plays
a LITTLE television
hard work
tough love
nurturing self-confidence
nurturing self-esteem
learning second languages
respecting other cultures
freedom of choice

What kind of mom are you? And what do you believe in as a mom?

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This post is participating in 5 Minutes for Mom's Tackle it Tuesday.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Macadamia and white chocolate cookies

Macadamia nuts and white chocolate. A little salty, a little sweet. A perfect pairing.

Tim made these cookies from Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy cookie book. If you like to bake cookies, check it out. Every recipe we've made from this book has been delicious.

3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup dry-roasted salted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup white chocolate chips

Pulverize the oats in a food processor or blender until fine. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and salt to combine.

In a large bowl mix the butter with the sugars and the vanilla and then whisk in the egg.

Stir in the flour mixture until everything is just moistened.

Stir in the nuts and the chocolate chips.

Tim rolled his dough into a ball, covered the ball with plastic wrap and then refrigerated it for 2 hours. But you can also leave it overnight.

Remove the dough from the fridge and scoop by the tablespoon on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 325 degrees until golden brown. About 13 to 15 minutes.

Find the easier to print recipe here.


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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Five happening things for kids to do in Las Vegas

Not everything that happens in Vegas has to stay in Vegas. We spent a week in Las Vegas last November and I wasn't sure what to expect. Vegas has a reputation, after all. The only thing I knew about Vegas was the Strip. So I did some research, spoke to some locals, and came up with some fun, family friendly activities.

Here are five happening things for you and the kids to do in Las Vegas that you can tell the world about!

1. Go on a horseback ride in Red Rock Canyon. We went to Bonnie Springs Ranch and rode through the desert for one hour. We saw a coyote, two jackrabbits and lots of birds and got to feel like genuine cowboys and cowgirls. If you go in the winter dress warmly. It was windy and in the upper thirties the day we went!

On the way out of the ranch we met this wild baby burro and its mom up close!

2. Go to Siegfried and Roy's the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage. Seeing the dolphins so close and watching a five month-old white tiger cub sucking on his caregiver's fingers will mesmerize both you and the kids.

3. Go to The Springs Preserve. This is an amazing, 180 acre cultural space filled with museums, hands-on activities, a living desert exhibit, a bird show, and a lot more. Katie was picked to go on stage during the bird show!

4. Wide, monotonous, strip-mall lined streets and bland, suburban homes make up most of Las Vegas beyond the strip. But once you get outside the city itself there's an incredible desert  to explore. An easy way to do this with kids - especially kids from Los Angeles who don't like to walk more than 25 ft at a time - is to walk the boardwalk in Red Rock Canyon. You'll see many different birds, deciduous trees (a rarity in the desert), a desert spring, petroglyphs, photos and write-ups about ranchers who lived in the area and you'll learn that Las Vegas means the meadows in Spanish. And even the kids will be the impressed with the cool, red sandstone rocks. It's a true oasis from the city.

5. Get serenaded in a Gondola on The Grand Canal at The Venetian. Cheesy? Sure. But the kids will love it. This is well organized so your wait times are minimal. While we waited Tim wandered through the shops with Katie who discovered her saved $6 in allowance wouldn't buy her that $900 bracelet she really liked.

Have you ever been to Las Vegas with your kids? What did you do for fun with them?

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A hint of spring - Wordless Wednesday

It's a balmy 80 degrees in Los Angeles. It's January. After all these years of living here, the Canadian in me is still surprised. We'll get more "cold" weather, more rain. But just around now there's always a hint of spring. Our privet bush is sprouting new leaves and the camellias are blooming. In pink. One of my favorite colors.

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This post is participating in 5 Minutes for Mom's Wordless Wednesday.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

My life in Pink

At one time in my life I hated pink. My wardrobe consisted of browns, grays and blacks with the very occasional lavender. I was pretty cool. Or so I thought. No pink for me. Too frilly. Too girly. Not me.

When I was pregnant with Caroline there was no way I was going to paint her room pink. I painted the walls yellow and the ceiling blue. I sewed her bedding myself in yellow and blues.

After Caroline was born the baby gifts started arriving. They were pink. Light pink, dark pink, fuscia. Every hue of pink. Caroline wore all of them. The pink complemented her skin tone.

So what's a girl to do? I embraced the pink. Grudgingly at first, for sure. I started by buying pink clothes for Caroline. And how couldn't I? Pink reigned supreme in the baby and toddler girl selections. And then slowly but surely pink crept into my own wardrobe. A t-shirt here, a sweater there. I stopped at the coats. There has to be a limit.

When Katie was born she wore all of Caroline's baby clothes. And more pink arrived in the form of gifts. I bought Caroline a pink bedspread for her big girl bed. I was surrounded by pink.

When we moved back to Los Angeles Caroline chose a bright fuscia pink, her favorite color, for her bedroom. I painted one wall that color and the rest a lighter shade of pink. But her room is PINK. So very pink.

I'm an official pink convert. I thank my girls for that. Pink is a fresh, full of life, a little romantic, a hop-in-your-step-color. A little brightness in your day. A symbol of girl power. Pink is good. I'm at peace with pink.

I can almost see myself painting my own bedroom pink.

Do you like pink? Is there anything that you used to dislike that you like or love now that you have children?

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Butterscotch brownies with chocolate chips

Today I am being featured on Mama's Little Nestwork! I was so honored when Mama Hen said she wanted to feature me. Mama Hen was one of my first supporters in the blogging community. She has such a giving and positive spirit and I know I'll always feel uplifted and encouraged after I visit her blog, Mama's Little Chick and her supportive community, Mama's Little Nestwork. Please check out her blogs, if you don't know about them already. If you're visiting from The Nestwork, welcome!

Last week these butterscotch brownies pulled us out of a slump. It was one of those weeks that seemed done for by Tuesday night. Baking is one of our go-to activities when our souls need a little lifting, when we need some positive together time. So Wednesday after school Katie and I baked. She cracked an egg for the first time, sifted all the flour and "tested" far too much brown sugar and butter "just to make sure it tasted good." Our week seemed saved.

The original recipe - a staple of my childhood - comes from The Joy of Cooking. We add chocolate chips instead of walnuts and I double the recipe to make a thicker and chewier brownie.

Crunchy on top but tender and gooey in the middle, these brownies are rich with buttery butterscotch flavor. Caroline says these are "the most delicious brownies I've ever eaten!" Try a batch. I think you'll agree!

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in the brown sugar until it dissolves. Pour into a mixing bowl and let cool slightly.

Add the eggs one at a time and beat well. Add the vanilla.

Add the sifted flour, baking powder, and salt.

Beat until well blended.

Add the chocolate chips.

Pour into a greased 8 inch pan. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the brownies are golden brown on top. They will still be gooey in the middle. Do not over bake!

Cool on a rack and then place in the refrigerator for one hour before serving.


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Find the recipe to print here.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hair brushing causes seizures

I'm excited to be participating in Mama Kat's writing prompt for the first time. This post is inspired by: "A moment you felt truly relieved."

Did you know that brushing your child's hair can cause a seizure?  I didn't know this. But now I do.

When Caroline was in Kindergarten she had a quick shower every morning and Katie had one right afterwards. On this particular morning the house was an especially chilly 49 degrees when we got up and the shower was warm and inviting. Caroline asked for a few extra minutes to play and I promised her sister the same.

After her shower when Caroline was dressed I brushed her hair while she stood in between my legs, her back to me. As I pulled the brush through her shoulder length blonde hair, my mind wandered to the rest of the lunch that had to be packed, to the shoes that had to be retrieved from upstairs, to the field trip release I hadn't yet filled out.

So when Caroline said "I want to go back to bed," I offered a quick Mom response.
"I know what you mean, but we've got to finish getting ready and get to school."

Then she slumped down. Very gently. Very quietly. I thought she was being silly, pretending to fall asleep.

"Don't be silly," I said. "Come on, stand up."

She didn't stand up. She stayed slumped against my leg. She had just passed out. I gently lowered her to the floor, not quite sure how to react.

As I stood there, listening to Katie playing in the shower, and deciding what to do, Caroline began to jerk and shake. Violent motions that seized her whole body, that sent her arms and legs flailing. That seemed to move the entire floor. When her eyes opened and rolled back in her head, showing the whites, I froze.

My five-year-old was having a grand-mal seizure.

Before the seizure ended I started to, very methodically, plan out what needed to happen: I had to call 911; I had to get Katie out of the shower and dressed; I had to call Tim who was at his early morning yoga class; I had to get dressed myself; I had to call one of Katie's preschool friends to get them to take her to school.

Once the seizure stopped Caroline was so pale her skin was almost transluscent. I grabbed her up in my arms. I hadn't lifted her up like that in a long time; she was heavy. Her head slumped against my shoulder.

"You're okay, baby," I said. I never called her baby. 

I shouted to Katie to get out of the shower.

"Caroline is sick!" I said. I didn't want to scare her but apparently something in my voice did because she turned off the shower, got out, dried herself and was completely dressed, all in about one minute flat and she was only three years old and had never done all that by herself.

I raced back to the other end of the house, to the phone in the office, where I placed Caroline, still unconscious, on the floor.

I dialed 911 and explained my five-year-old had just had a seizure. I was put through to a paramedic who asked if Caroline was breathing. It hadn't even occurred to me check. I reached down and felt under her nose and saw her chest rising.
"Yes," I said. "She's breathing."

As I hung up Katie appeared, fully clothed, her hair dripping wet.
"Can you get Caroline a blanket?" I asked. She charged off and returned with a blanket from the family room sofa.

Caroline's eyes opened but she was not responsive. Her forehead was cool under my hand.

I called Tim and left him a voicemail. His yoga class wouldn't be over until 7:30 and he probably wouldn't check his voicemails until he was leaving the yoga studio at 8 am. I tried not to cry but when I said the ambulance was on the way I choked up.

The paramedics arrived. They were very calm. They explained this happened a lot. She probably just spiked a fever. Except she wasn't sick and didn't have a fever

When I called a friend who lived down the street to see if she could come get Katie I finally burst into tears.

The paramedics hoisted Caroline, now on the gurny, into the ambulance. I saw my friend, her car parked a little way down the street, running up the hill towards us. Some neighbors came out and asked if everything was okay. My friend picked up Katie, now crying, and carried her off. I shouted after her that Katie hadn't eaten breakfast.

By the time Tim met us at the ER the color had returned to Caroline's face and she was less groggy but when the doctor told us he wanted to do a CT scan I couldn't stop my tears. Tim and I watched through a glass partition as Caroline was pushed into the CT scan. She was so brave. She never complained or cried.

She was released shortly after the CT scan came back normal. We went home and spent a day playing games and watching TV. 

I checked on Caroline several times before going to bed. I had a hard time sleeping that night and many nights that followed. 

Caroline's pediatrician told me: "Every kid is allowed one free seizure." But she also recommended Caroline see a pediatric neurologist. 

Meanwhile, a friend of mine told her father, a pediatrician, about the incident. Amazingly, he asked if I was brushing Caroline's hair when the seizure happened. Evidently seizures caused by hair brushing are well-documented. He urged me not to follow up with neurologist.

So I did what anyone would do. I googled "hair brushing causes seizures." I got a lot of results. Apparently Caroline's morning was the perfect set-up. The extra time in the warm shower had her feeling a little light headed, brushing her hair caused her to experience vasovagal restriction and pass out and the lack of oxygen to her brain caused the seizure.

I cancelled the appointment with the pediatric neurologist.

I felt total and complete relief; her seizure was  a genuine "free seizure."

It's three years later now but I still brush her hair very carefully and she doesn't take showers in the morning. 

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just breathe

It's been a rough week.

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participating in Wordless Wednesday at 5 Minutes for Mom


Monday, January 10, 2011

Tackling letting go

Like most families, we have a lot going on. I'm looking for work, we're deciding whether or not we 're going to make a big move to another city, we're selling our house and we're dealing with very trying, emotionally exhausting behavior from Katie. I'm stressed. So stressed that I had a systemic eczema outbreak a month ago.

I need to let go of some things. Things that just don't really matter in the grand scheme of things. This week I'm letting go of Caroline's messy room.

The unmade bed, the clothes under the bed, the piggy bank dangling from the dollhouse, piles of paper and books on the desk, stuff all over the floor and the back of the desk chair broken off? Big whoop. The worst that will happen is some clothes may miss this week's laundry.

So I'm not picking anything up or telling her to clean up her room. I'm leaving the messy room alone. For now. For this week.

What do you try letting go?

This post is participating in 5 Minutes for Mom's Tackle it Tuesday.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

My family's chocolate cake

Last week I celebrated a birthday. Every year I make myself my great Aunt Neanie's chocolate cake. This is known to everyone in my family (and to many friends!) simply as Aunt Neanie's cake. My great Aunt Neanie was an amazing baker. This particular recipe is an old dutch recipe that she adapted. I grew up on this cake. My mother still makes it every time we visit her. It's my girls' favorite dessert.

It's a wonderful way to remember my great Aunt Neanie, a vivacious, energetic, always-on-the-move, big-hearted woman.

The cake is light and fluffy and not too sweet. I've never tasted another chocolate cake quite like it. My family always serves it with vanilla buttercream frosting and chocolate drips. Perfection!

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cup milk

Melt the chocolate in the double boiler or in the microwave (3 minutes at 50% power). Let cool slightly.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Slowly add in the cooled chocolate. Add the sifted flour and baking powder alternately with the milk.

Pour into three greased and floured 8 inch round pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (times vary depending on your oven) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan before turning them out.

Vanilla Buttercream frosting
2 lbs confectioner's sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until smooth. Frost the cake.

Chocolate drips
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 teaspoons butter

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler or in the microwave. While hot pour over the frosted cake.


Find the recipe to print here.

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This post is participating in Be One Fine Day's Monday blog hop and Monday Mingle at Tough Cookie Mommy.

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