Washi tape Ikea RAST makeover

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Lest you think I have abandoned this blog, I assure you, I have not! Unfortunately, I have not yet figured out how to make time for both blogging and an almost-full-time job. Just when I had a few posts in mind, and photos to go with them, some nagging back and neck pain exploded into constant agony from a pinched nerve (on Easter Sunday, no less), and within a few days, my right arm was fairly useless. A couple visits to the doctor and an MRI later, I was diagnosed with two ruptured discs in my neck and scheduled for surgery.

Now I’m two weeks post-surgery, and feeling much better. The pain from the the pinched nerve is gone, and I’d say my arm is about 50% better (some physical therapy is probably in my future). Recovery from the surgery itself is going well. Though I’m restricted from lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk and not allowed to drive yet, I think I’ll be back to most of my usual activities very soon. If the rest of the family has to carry the laundry baskets and groceries and run the vacuum for a while longer, so be it.

Before all this spine surgery nonsense distracted me, at the end of spring break I finally finished Miss Eight’s nightstand project. She had a wobbly three-legged decorator’s table for a nightstand, which wasn’t big enough for her lamp, alarm clock, books, and the dozens of hair accessories and tubes of lip gloss a girl needs. We decided the little Ikea RAST dresser would be the best storage for the money. It gives her a little more surface area on top, plus three drawers to hide the clutter.

After wading through a ton of Ikea hack ideas on Pinterest, we decided that a rainbow of stripes on a white background would complement the colorful polka dots on Miss Eight’s bedding. The first coat was bright white semi-gloss paint & primer (the same can that I use on baseboards and trim), applied with a brush. Then I sprayed several thin coats of glossy white spray paint that I bought on clearance when our local hardware store went out of business. I let the paint dry and cure for a week, and then used a level and a pencil to mark where our randomly spaced washi tape stripes would go on the drawer fronts. The tape was so easy to apply–much faster than paint would have been–and should be easy to remove if we redecorate in the future. Miss Eight picked the colors as we went along, so she was pleased with the final result.

219Now I have a bag of washi tape left over, and I’m eager to find other uses for it. First up will probably be to hang up all the posters and pictures that keep falling off the walls in Little Six’s room.

Real food

The radish seeds I planted ten days ago have popped out of the soil in little pairs of round leaves. My reading tells me I may have been too generous with my seeds, scattering them in shallow furrows rather than spacing them apart. I expect to thin the seedlings in a day or two so they aren’t too crowded. The next few days promise to be sunny, so I hope to see a few more of my tiny crops pop up in their raised bed, too.

I’ve been on a steady reading diet of books about food. At long last, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I’m tearing through Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss. I have a stack of gardening books from library, and my first issue of Urban Farm magazine arrived yesterday. My brain is swimming with conversations about what we eat and where it comes from.

All of this reading has crystallized my dissatisfaction with some of the food we eat (don’t get me started on the candy pushed at my preschooler at every turn). To be fair, our kitchen probably contains less processed food than in most houses on the block, and I’ve always been a proponent of moderation. I buy chips, but usually only if they go with a meal I’ve planned, not as an everyday snack. I don’t buy soda, water bottles, juice boxes, or any single-serve beverages unless we’re having a party (not counting the ginger beer and tonic water we keep on hand for cocktails). We rarely buy single-serve snack packages. Recently we bought a case of Pirate’s Booty at Costco for the kids to take for snack at school, but it’s just too easy for them to grab it as a default snack whenever they have the munchies.

The trouble is, some things are hard to moderate. For example, I haven’t been too picky lately about what kind of breakfast cereal I buy. My personal line in the sand stops at Red Dye Number Whatever, marshmallows, and chocolate. I like convenience as much as the next harried parent, but I’ve gotten more concerned lately as Little Five clearly prefers Golden Grahams and Cinnamon Toast Crunch over plain Cheerios, and regularly asks for (and is refused) them for lunch and after school snack. He craves sugar like nobody’s business, and wants dessert after every single meal. He doesn’t get it, but that hasn’t affected his demands. Honestly, I’m tired of the daily argument. Miss Seven, like her father, isn’t a big fan of cold cereal, but she will condescend to eat the sweetest ones. Anyway, I’m fully aware of the contradiction that while I’m busy packing their waste-free lunches, my kids are eating junky cereal for breakfast.

We had a long dinner conversation about better breakfast choices we could be making. Mr. Ten asked if there are different cereals we could buy that are healthier. This morning he learned to make his own oatmeal in the microwave and he confronted us with the ingredient label on the Trader Joe’s Cocoa Almond Spread that Miss Seven was spreading on her whole wheat mini bagel, so we had a little conversation about portion size.

Speaking of breakfast, we’ve embraced smoothies in our daily breakfast routine. It’s a good first step, but I’d like to work on finding other quick and healthy breakfast foods, since none of us finds a smoothie alone a satisfying meal. Some of us like oatmeal and other hot cereals with fruit, and some like eggs, but it seems everyone wants variety. Yesterday I baked a batch of healthy muffins (multigrain applesauce muffins, with just a splash of olive oil and honey), so that’s a good start, too. It might be as simple as refusing to buy cereal and forcing myself to bake and stock healthier choices that still taste good. I’m not putting my family on any kind of extreme diet, but we can continue our journey toward more whole foods, locally produced, prepared at home. And it’s just two more weeks until the farmer’s market opens!

Smoothie Week

I declared last week Smoothie Week. If you’re going to stay home for spring break, you need to inject a little excitement into the usual proceedings. Without the need to get everyone out the door early in the morning, I decided it would be a good time to bust out the blender and experiment with some new smoothie combinations.

Why smoothies? 1) They taste good. 2) They’re a sneaky vehicle for getting more fruits and veggies into all of us. 3) Depending on the ingredients, they can help prevent annoying tummy complaints that some of us have been suffering from. 4) A smoothie is also a good way to get some calories into Miss Seven, a reluctant breakfast eater.

I did a little bit of googling to find out what ingredients to have on hand. I decided to stock bananas, frozen berries, baby spinach, plain yogurt, chia seeds, milk and orange juice. I also created a little smoothie station on the counter: the blender, the jar of chia seeds, and a jar of colorful straws. I sliced up the bananas (I like to buy the overripe bananas that are marked down) and stored them in a container in the freezer.

The kids really got into the smoothie spirit. Every morning they would ask what kind of smoothie we were having.

Day 1 (dessert): Chocolate Banana

(banana, ice cubes, yogurt, milk, honey, chocolate syrup)

Day 2: Orange Strawberry Banana

(orange juice, strawberries, banana, yogurt, milk)

Day 3: Green Smoothie

(kiwi, banana, yogurt, chia seeds, spinach, orange juice, milk)

Day 4: Banana Cream Pie

(banana, yogurt, drizzle of honey, milk, vanilla, cinnamon)

Day 5: Purple Smoothie

(banana, blueberries, spinach, yogurt, milk, chia seeds, drizzle of honey)

Day 6: Mixed Berry

(strawberries, blueberries, banana, spinach, yogurt, chia seeds, orange juice)

By Day 7, I was starting to repeat the rotation. If you can believe it, Green Smoothie was a heavy favorite, along with Banana Cream Pie. I’m not sneaking the spinach into the blender anymore–they figured it out pretty quickly and don’t seem to mind. I overheard Mr. Ten telling his friend, “You can’t even taste the spinach!”

The verdict? I have had far fewer nights where my stomach has felt out of sorts. We’ve all had extra servings of fruit and vegetables, and we’re all getting a serving of yogurt every day. The kids didn’t seem to need a mid-morning snack. And they all asked if we could still have smoothies, even though Smoothie Week is officially over. And so we are.

 

 

Coconut banana popsicles

What do you feed a kid with the stomach flu so she doesn’t get dehydrated? Did you know the BRAT diet isn’t recommended for children anymore? I didn’t. Miss Six was home from school yesterday, and it was real challenge finding something she was interested in eating. Her total intake yesterday was a piece toast with Nutella, one tube of yogurt, a bowl of popcorn, and 1/3 of a banana. And a popsicle.

I didn’t want to give her a bunch of sugar or juice, fearing it would make her symptoms worse. Banana was an obvious choice, and that carton of coconut milk sounded like a tasty pairing. (This is a good option for my gluten- and dairy-free friends, too.)

She’s feeling good and back at school today, but I’ll be making these popsicles again. Her brothers gave them the thumbs up, too (and then requested chocolate popsicles–maybe next time, boys). If you have extra liquid in the blender, call it a smoothie and drink it up!

    

Coconut Banana Popsicles

2 ripe bananas (frozen ones work fine, too), cut into chunks

1 1/2 cups coconut milk, well-shaken

2 Tbsp. honey

Purée everything in blender until smooth. Pour into a popsicle mold (I like this one from World Market; the kids like how the handle collects the drips and has a spout for drinking them up) and freeze until solid. To unmold, let them sit out for 10 minutes, or run the mold under warm water until the popsicles come loose.

               

A safe haven from pollen

The air outside smells so good. The trees are greening up, daffodils are bobbing in the breeze, and we can hear a woodpecker hammering away. The temperature is a perfect 73 degrees. But today I closed up all the windows, turned on the air conditioner, and dragged the vacuum cleaner upstairs, because my poor kid suffers from allergies to tree pollen.

This week his eyes have been red and watery, he’s had long stretches of serial sneezing, and last night, just after midnight, he had his first big nosebleed of the season. Our pediatrician recommended Claritin (we buy the generic loratadine), which definitely helps manage his symptoms. We have also started giving him a dose of Benadryl at bedtime to manage the watery eyes and sneezing, which often triggers his nosebleeds. (The drowsiness side effect is just a bonus.) I am grateful that he doesn’t have asthma or any other condition that can be exacerbated by allergies, but the symptoms he does have can be miserable, distracting him at school and disturbing his nighttime sleep. I can’t put him in a plastic bubble. He has to go to school and I’m not going to discourage his active playtime outdoors. But here are a few ways we help him stay comfortable at home during the spring allergy season.

6 ways to alleviate pollen allergy symptoms:

  1. Close the windows. I hate to do it, but if the pollen isn’t blowing in, he isn’t breathing it.
  2. Especially in the bedroom, vacuum (with a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, if possible), dust with a damp cloth, and wash all the bedding in hot water.
  3. Change the furnace filter regularly.
  4. Have your child wear a hat outside and change clothes after playing outdoors for any length of time.
  5. Encourage kids to shower before bed. It rinses off the pollen (especially in their hair) that they’ve accumulated while playing outside, and the steam helps clear the nasal passages.
  6. To keep nasal passages moist and prevent nosebleeds, use a saline mist or ointment in the nose morning and night.

   

Now, if anyone can suggest six ways to convince a nine-year-old boy that taking a shower every day is a good idea, I’m all ears.