Friday, February 26, 2010

Adventures in Crock Pot Cooking.

Aside from a two week hiatus where the oven miraculously came back to life, I have been 'crock pot cooking' for around two months now. While I would love to update you on my crock pot adventures more often I am settling for a round up of some of my more memorable dishes. In case it wasn't clear before, the stove top functions, we just briefly plug in the oven, light the burner, and unplug before the 'brain' starts beeping.

Best Crock Pot Meal: You might be surprised by this, but to date, my favorite crock pot meal was a slow cooked oatmeal. This meal was breakfast obviously, and the recipe was combination of one found in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two: For the Small Slow Cooker and this one. I used steal cut oats, water and milk, adding apple pie spice, a whole chopped apple and a few handfuls of golden raisins. It was supposed to cook overnight on low, but my slow cooker doesn't seem to understand 'low' so it cooked in 4.5 hours, which meant I was up at 3am checking on it. Good thing I don't sleep through the night eh!  This was soo good! I had to thin it out with milk because it was so thick, but oh man I will be making this again for sure.  Sean's opinion: Not much different than instant, no big deal. HA! He has no taste buds, he would eat wall paper paste for breakfast without complaint if I made it for him.

Worst Crock Pot Meal: Lime Chicken with Rice.  This was in my early days before I understood how quickly my slow cooker cooked. I made it because I had all the ingredients on hand, but it was totally inedible as far as I was concerned. I only tried one other chicken recipe before writing it off as impossible in my crock pot.  Sean ate this, but agreed it wasn't very good.

Most Exotic Crock Pot Meal: Honey Orange Tofu. I thought this was really good! A great intro tofu recipe if you are new to the tofu game.I followed her advice on tofu prep from a different tofu post by coating it with cornstarch and frying it in butter before putting it in the crockpot with the sauce and broccoli. The broccoli (which I don't like in general) was steamed to perfection but Sean was turned off by the color (not a bright green anymore). I really liked the sauce and the tofu was perfect, in fact Sean thought it was pork at first. He wasn't a huge fan of the sauce, but I don't care, it was good!

Biggest Repeat Offender: Butter BeefWe don't eat much red meat but it cooks a lot better than chicken in my crock pot so we had this quite a few times. TOO many times I think, I O.D.'ed on it and I'm not sure Sean was ever a big fan. It is very hard to tell what he likes and doesn't because he never says much either way. He basically gives the same response to everything."It's good." After the second round of making this he stopped taking the leftovers, I think the re-congealed butter just disgusted him... actually I don't even know if he knew how much butter was in this (I halved the recipe and then left out a tablespoon but still!) He likely would have refused to eat it entirely if he knew.. He did always make me strain it so he got NO sauce, since he probably assumed it was floating in its own fat (which is kind of correct). I served this over mashed potatoes and really enjoyed it the first few times, I don't know if I started making it worse or if I just got sick of it.

Meal We Are Still Tinkering With: Pulled Pork:  I keep trying to find the perfect BBQ sauce for this and have yet to find it. I've tried a few HFCS free and I've made my own once. Sean liked the homemade sauce but I thought it wasn't quite right for pulled pork, but I'm unable to figure out why or how to fix it... I guess I should go get some restaurant pulled pork to help refresh my memory on what it is supposed to taste like.

Best Side Dish: So far I've only done two side dishes, Baked Beans and, Potato and Pancetta Risotto from the cookbook above. The baked beans were way too sweet, but we did eat a lot of them because this recipe makes SO MUCH! The risotto was good, but I had higher expectations for it. I think I would try it again with a different pancetta because it was totally flavorless. Colin had small portions of both of these and was actually enthusiastic about the risotto despite the potato in it. So I guess the best side dish was the risotto, but since it didn't last as long we didn't have time to get totally sick of it.

Sean just walked into the room and I asked him what his favorite dish was of everything I've made in the Crock Pot. After spending some time trying to list off everything I've made, he settled on the risotto. You want to know what that tells me? He didn't like ANY OF IT. If you asked him to list things he doesn't like he would say celery, cilantro and risotto!  This might bother some people, but it doesn't bother me at all. He is responsible for his own fate, and since he rarely provides any suggestions for dinner (other than to tell me he would eat the same meal every night, and would be happy with Pb&J) ( I wouldn't!) I cook what I want to cook. The real problem is that most of his favorite restaurant meals are things I don't eat and probably won't attempt to make. However, he recently asked me if we could eat more tofu and quinoa so I am attempting to work that in more frequently. Eventually I will find a dish that Sean likes enough to actually request!

I think that just about wraps it up. Do you have a favorite crock pot recipe, crock pot cookbook or other favorite source? I would love to hear it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fropper Review

For Christmas Colin got a tricycle from my parents, however he found it when we were home for Thanksgiving so he was able to get a preview session and then ride again at Christmas time. He thoroughly enjoyed it, but obviously had to be pushed around as he had no idea how to use the pedals. That was his first taste of a ride on toy. We did not bring the trike back to NYC because we just don't have anywhere to store it all winter and I figured since he couldn't really use it yet what was the point?  Well shortly after Christmas this started:

Colin would attempt to ride on any small toy that would fit under him. I hoped he would get over it and forget about riding toys... it didn't happen.

  When I bumped into The Fropper
online I thought I might have found the solution! I searched locally for a used one, hoping to avoid the $70 price tag but when I couldn't find one I finally brought it up to Sean. I had all my arguments lined up ready for a 'discussion'
  1. Colin clearly wants a ride on toy.
  2. He is the perfect age for this toy and should get a good year plus out of it before he max's out the weight limit.
  3. It is small, and probably made primarily for indoor use
  4. He should be able to manage it by himself, no bending at the waist to push him around for hours.
  5. IT FOLDS UP FOR STORAGE!! So perfect.
Of course I showed it to Sean and he said. 'Okay buy it. Just skip grocery shopping next week.'  I said DONE. We actually have a LOT of food in the house right now and really need to get creative to use it up before it goes to waste, so aside from milk and bread we shouldn't need anything from the store. I've been on a cooking (well crock potting) streak lately so I've been a little less 'restrained' than I normally am at the grocery store.  I like to call it binge shopping. Anyway, that is for another post. Back to the matter at hand.

Out of the box here is Colin's reaction to the fropper:

Colin's First Ride from Rebecca Berry on Vimeo.

Here is a short deomonstration of how the fropper folds! The best feature!

Folding the Fropper from Rebecca Berry on Vimeo.

Once again Colin enjoying the fropper. Now a more experienced rider he goes 'no handed'

Colin on the Fropper from Rebecca Berry on Vimeo.

So far we love this toy. I'll try to update in a few months to let you know if our opinion changes. Some people on Amazon reviewed it to say that the handle bars broke off easily, we'll just have to see.  So far it seems pretty sturdy. I have to admit I am tempted to try it out myself, but since the weight limit is 45 lbs, I'm holding back.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

White Men Babies Can't Jump..

As promised here is a video of Colin. Sean has been trying to teach Colin how to jump. He has yet to get his little body of the ground but his attempts to do so are pretty funny.He did a lot of 'jumping' before I could get the camera out and was tired, so at the end of the video he starts just doing the arms, but that is funny too.


Colin Jumping from Rebecca Berry on Vimeo.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Favorite Things: Young Toddler Edition

I've been saving up ideas for another 'favorite things' post and since today I hit SUBMIT on my first paper submission for journal publication I'm celebrating and doing something fun instead of jumping right into the next paper. Once again, like all my 'favorite things' I purchased these items myself and am reviewing them without request (or permission for that matter, not that I need it) from the manufacturer. I am listing them with amazon links, if you click on my link and purchase the item I think I might make three cents (this has yet to happen so I have zero expectation that it ever will)  Here goes.

Boon Saucer Slip Resistant Plate:  I really like this plate. It is the perfect size for toddler portions, so if Colin clears out a section of food I feel confident he has had 'enough' a concept that is very unclear at this age. The plate is a bit tricky for him to pick up, although not impossible. The walls of the sections are a good size for him to push against with a utensil. I think it is a great 'training' plate. More and more we are attempting to move away from the 'smorgasbord of food' placed on a tray and into a real meal scenario. This plate helps me remember to do that even when it would be easier not to.

Thermos Foogo Straw Bottle : This is a handy sippy cup for traveling. We take a lot of day trips or quick overnights and this is essential for that. It is insulated and therefore keeps Colin's milk cold even if we are away from a refrigerator all day. Lately we have also started using this as a smoothie cup because it is the only straw bottle I have. Another good beverage to keep cold until it is finished. I loved this bottle so much I started snagging it and using it myself without Colin around. It is a nice cup to share since it doesn't look like a sippy cup. I eventually got the adult sized version for myself. Colin as he has gotten older has gotten a bit more aggressive with throwing things so the lid is on its way to broken at the hinge but I would replace it in a heart beat.

BuiltNY Gourmet Getaway: Another great gadget for on the go tots, although I do not think that is who they are marketed for. I can fit a couple days worth of food in this bag, toss in a freezer pack and we are good to go. Keeps stuff cold, and keeps all Colin's food in one spot. Fits easily under the stroller and fold flat (or squished) when its empty. A real cooler has no place in my apartment. I even got two of these to give to people as Christmas gifts. I hope they like theirs as much as we like ours.
It is made from wet-suit material and is machine washable. Love it!

The Snack Trap: If you have a baby eating finger foods, you likely already have one of these, if not you need to get one. I've heard about people functioning without them but I don't know how. The second you give Colin an open bowl of snacks he inverts it and dumps the contents on the floor. At home I continue to let him eat them anyway, but out and about no way. I use these in the stroller and in the car and often can't find them because we left them in one of those places or the diaper bag. I now have five of them although I can pretty much guarantee there is only one in the drawer right now.

Safety 1st Spring n' Release Latches: I figured I should add a few things that weren't food related! These are the child proofing latches we ended up using on our living room book shelf cabinet. I like them because they have a spring in them so when you press down it 'gives' very easily. The older style you rely on the elasticity of the plastic to bend it away, and I find them much less user friendly. No breaking a nail on these kind! They were easy to install although the directions were actually pretty horrible.  I did use my dewalt cordless screwdriver to pre-drill holes so it does require some semi-permanent installation. I was hoping to avoid that but in the end they keep Colin out and let me in so I'm pleased.

Canon FS10 Camcorder: Obviously the use of this item isn't limited to the toddler years but Colin is doing some pretty cute stuff right now (look for a video later this week!!). I have actually been asked lately about what camera I use and how I like it so I figured I would put it up here. I only ONLY use Canon cameras and I wanted a flash memory camera so there was very little debate about which camera we would purchase. I love this as a video camera, but the photo quality in the picture mode is pretty bad. I don't think I've used it as a still camera since Colin was 6 weeks old. Once I installed the software that actually came with the camera (literally a month ago) the download and video sharing has gotten much easier. I have no idea why I didn't do this sooner. I'm not big on reading directions I guess. But for those who have asked, yes I do recommend this camera. You can take it out of the box and have it figured out in no time at all. I have zero video camera experience prior to purchasing this, so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Colin plays favorites!

Toddlers can be so uncouth!  Colin is at the age where he has definite opinions and clear likes and dislikes. Lately there are people he loves, people he is lukewarm about, and people he just doesn't like! He isn't very tactful about showing his dislike either,and it can get a little embarrassing!! The tricky part is it is difficult to know how he will react to anyone at any particular visit.

 Colin went from being terrified of Jayson to being Jayson's little buddy in two quick back to back visits. 

  He was originally lukewarm to uncomfortable around Uncle Chris until we went to visit them in Miami and now he asks to talk to 'Tis' all the time.
 Photos from Chris' visit in January, We spent a few days with Chris and Colin is still asking for him. Particularly when I say something like "Guess who is coming to see you today?"

Aunt Lauren used to be his obvious favorite, from about 6-16 months he would gravitate to Lauren whenever we were around them. (Photos from one of Colin's birthday parties)

 The adoration was mutual so it worked out but now...

  Aunt Katie has taken over the top spot. He still likes Lauren (calls her Nin which is just the cutest) but I think watching the Katie video has really turned the tide. But when it comes to Lauren's friend Kim, oh man he is terrified of her and we have NO idea why!

Pictures from Friday.

I know I was like this as a child, My mother tells stories of me telling people "I don't like your face" so I'm sure this is some sort of cosmic payback. I feel absolutely terrible when he doesn't like someone. Thankfully at this age he has a unique and special relationship with each of his grandparents. I can't even imagine how difficult it would be to referee or diffuse a clear favorite in that situation!

Have other parents dealt with this? Anyone have any tricks for buffering the situation and softening the blow to those he shies away from? Some people take it really well and just back off, but others get mildly offended.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The City Treehouse

Colin's big adventure on Wednesday was a trip to the City Treehouse in Chelsea (about an hour away by subway) with his buddies Kip and Leo and their moms. We all met on the subway and the boys did very well sitting in their strollers while their mom's chatted away. We actually took the train a little further than we had to so we could get to a station with an elevator and then backtracked to the tree house.  The general set up is three rooms, one with a large tree shaped slide and fort as well as a large water table. Another room was set up with mats, balls and hula hoops which I assume is used for baby gym classes. The last room is an infant room with a well padded floor and lots of toys.  The boys spent most of their time in the first room, playing with the water table and going down the slide. The boys really had a great time, but to be honest the moms aren't sure we would make the trip again. We weren't too thrilled to learn the treehouse shares space with a doctors office and thus is probably even germ-ier than a typical kids play space, since sick kids come on purpose. The place costs $20 an hour (first timers get 50% off that thankfully). The shoe rules are a little unclear, kids and MOM's have to have to have 'water shoes' or what they actually mean is 'shoes that are not generally worn outside, but are somewhat water resistant' if you call they might tell you to wear slippers but this clearly makes no sense when you get there. Thanks to Lukas, Colin and I were able to outfit all three boys with acceptable shoes with two pairs as spares. Unfortunately I was the only one to get the email that Mom's need a change of shoes too. Barefoot is okay, but isn't comfortable because the floor is moist and warm. The place also smells a little like mildew laced with chlorine. But like I said, the boys had a fantastic time. At first, I wondered if an hour would be enough time to play, but after about 30 mins we all started checking the clock thinking is it time to go yet? Somehow this place can really wear you out quickly.

Here are the pictures of all three boys playing:

 Colin loved the balls in the water table. All the boys did!

All three stooges. Colin, Leo and Kip in that order.

 Kip playing in the waterfall.

Colin enjoys a turtle (a plastic one if that isn't completely obvious)

 More Slides! This one was a bit trickier to supervise because you can't be at the top and bottom at the same time.

This pictures is moments before Colin tried to launch himself off the slide to go around Kip. The concept of taking turns is totally lost on Colin. Something to work on.

 Going to up stairs to the slide. From the bottom of the stairs you can't see the slide, and from the bottom of the slide you can't see the top of the stairs. This leads to a very scary few seconds while mom runs from the bottom of the stairs to the bottom of the slide, hoping that your child only moves forward and not back down the stairs. (Colin can not go down stairs unsupervised but he also can't be left to go down a slide without supervision.) Poor design in my opinion.

'ye-oh ye-oh ye-oh' aka Leo

 That is some serious excitement!

Colin had some fun in the other room too. Mostly he enjoyed the giant mirror and watching himself play.

 Yelling at his reflection. Testing exactly how this mirror thing works.
Such a sweetie pie. 

The moral of the story: all these play spaces look bigger and better 'on tv' (or online as the case may be)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Colin is 19 months old.

Today Colin and I went on an adventure with friends. His 19 month old pictures are from that adventure but I will do a separate post about that to explain where we were and what he was doing.

Colin hasn't been weighed or measured for quite some time so I have no idea what those numbers are, but I can tell you Colin is in between size 18 month clothes and size 24 months. In anything one piece, he is a solid 24 month but 24 month pants are still way to long. If we were unsure before, this makes it fairly certain he got the 'Jones' torso

  • Leo and Dawn: We met Leo and Dawn through our neighborhoods 'summer of '08 babies' web group and then got to know them further during a music class we both took.  Dawn is another 'work from home' Mom, so we have been trading time in the last few months, each taking both boys for a few hours to free up the other to run errands or do laundry or what not. Colin has taken to Dawn like he has taken to no one else. She comes over with Leo and he immediately sits in her lap and has her read him books(over and over again). He readily gives her hugs and snuggles, much to Leo's dismay. Colin and Leo also play very well together. They share toys and food without any real complaints and Colin gets VERY excited if he is told he will see Leo. We actually refer to Leo as "ye-oh, ye-oh, ye-oh" now because Colin always says his name three times.
  • Crayons: Colin has totally figured out crayons now and really enjoys the opportunity to leave his mark on something. So far he hasn't mastered the idea that they should only be used on paper but we are working on it. Mainly they have to remain locked up unless he is being closely supervised.
  • Katie Video: Colin asks to watch the video at least 10 times a day. He now sings along, particularly in the "on and on and on" section and the "peee-ple" parts.
  • Digital Picture Frame:  Sean's Aunt Peggy gave us a digital picture frame for Christmas and we have loaded it with some pictures. Colin loves to watch it cycle through the pictures and tell us who the picture is of.
  • Music: We are currently listening to a Disney channel on Pandora radio. Colin loves when I sing and dance with him to the upbeat, fast songs like "Under the Sea" and "Friend Like Me." His laughter is all the encouragement I need.
  • Finding the mouse.  Dawn actually started this with him, Sean and I knew about this feature of the book (thanks to Sean's Aunt Eileen) but figured Colin was too young to care yet. NOPE. In the book "Goodnight Moon" in everyone of the colored pictures is a little mouse, but its position is different in every picture. Colin absolutely LOVES to find the mouse, and will ask for "more more mouse" every time you finish. So often that we eventually just stop reading the text and just turn to the pages so he can look for the mouse. Sean also discovered that another of our books "I love you all the time" has a heart on every page so now we also find the heart. If anyone knows other books like this please pass them on. We tried some baby I spy books but Colin isn't really a fan yet.
  • Sticker books. My sister got Colin a Planet Earth Ultimate Sticker Book for Christmas, and then I purchased a second one (Lego Duplo Ultimate Sticker Collection) not long after. Colin's favorite part about sticker books is the ability to repeat a shape or animal and continue to find them throughout the sticker pages. He will get on a roll and ask for "more more gorilla" or "more more stars" It has actually been a great tool to help teach him his shapes (he knows square, rectangle, triangle, octagon, star, oval, circle, heart and diamond) and animals (I can't list all the animals he knows but he does know that gorillas are not monkeys!).
action photo

  • Waking up from a nap: no matter how long he sleeps (mostly about 90 mins but he slept 3 hours yesterday) he always wakes up crying. I always go in and get him really upbeat and excited, but he hasn't managed to wake up happy yet...
  • Not leaving the house. The winter has been hard on all of us, but Colin really does not like to hang out in the house all day long. He regularly begs to "go go go" and will get upset if I tell him we can't go. I try to give him good news, and at least say we will go out later but even going for a walk is tricky when the snow is everywhere on the sidewalks and intersections. Thank God for trips to Leos and Leo coming to see him! Some weeks that is all we get to do.

New things
  • Sentences: While he isn't always speaking in sentences he does use them occasionally throughout the day. I continue to be amazed by how well he communicates and how quickly his language skills have/are developing. Although to be honest, with his toddler logic and my literal thinking we have some trouble sometimes. The problem is that I am not the best communicator!
  • Teeth: 2yr molars are on the move. We did get almost two months with no teething and Colin was quite the joy to be around during that time. So far nothing seems to have broken through the gums but he regularly has one or both hands in his mouth along with a few of the teethers I've pulled back out of retirement.
  • Projects: Colin had just reached the age where he can follow simple instructions (like 'don't touch' or 'squeeze this on the paper") so we have done a few simple projects during the worst of our snow imprisonment. 
  • Letters. Colin got Meet the Letters from Sean's brother for Christmas and has watched it a maybe twice a week since them. He now has very good letter recognition for about 10-15 letters. "i" is currently his favorite and he will point it out in books and on signs all the time. "L", "M" "P and "O" are other favorites. The people at Preschool Prep seem to know what they are doing, I think the show is really boring but it is his current favorite DVD. 
  •  Repeat repeat repeat: Yep hello toddler, Colin loves to repeat things over and over again.
  • Potty sitting: Colin was doing really well sitting on his potty for a while. So far nothing is coming of it, but he was content to sit a few times a day. Lately this is a little more touch and go, and he gets very nervous when he realizes he has to go to the bathroom. Instead of staying where he is he will stand up and turn his back to me subsequently peeing on the floor. We are working on it. I have once caught him mid stream and gotten the removable portion of the potty into position to catch the pee. We got very excited but it hasn't translated into anything of value.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More Fun in the Snow.

For Erin!

We are still cheering you on my friend!


 Through every 21st mile you hit!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A long time coming..

If you have seen me in the last six months or so you have probably heard me say something along the lines of  "That's IT I'm chopping it all off!"  The longer my hair gets the more I get annoyed with it and the more Colin grabs on and doesn't let go.  Not only have I not had the time to cut it, the bigger hurdle was I didn't know where to go. My preferred stylist sold her business in early 2007 and since then I have bounced around to a few other places but have never likeed the cut enough to return for a second try. Until today! I went to the Natural Look Salon (an Aveda Salon) in the Queens Mall. I originally was trying to find a place in the neighborhood but after having some language issues with Colin's cut I abandoned that idea and went to the mall instead.  My stylist was John and while English wasn't his first language either, he spoke it much better than the three other salons I've been into in the "nabe" (that's how the cool kids say neighborhood (mom)). I don't want to come across supremacist, I certainly don't think that people who don't speak English can't cut hair. It is just that your stylist is someone you have to be able to communicate with easily, and I have enough trouble getting my ideas across when it comes to my hair I don't need extra challenges.

Back to the point, I got my hair cut!! I would love to tell you what Colin's reaction was but he was asleep by the time I got home, so I will have to update you tomorrow. For now you can just check out the pictures:

From the front.



What it will look like most of the time since I chronically tuck my hair behind my ears.
John (my new BFF!) talked me into angling it more front to back than I had originally intended but I'm happy with it. He basically took 45mins+ just to style it so I'm sure it will look much different when I do it and spend all of 15 but I am SO pleased just that it doesn't suck (as so many of my more recent hair cuts have)!  It is the length I wanted and it is well cut.  If you are curious this is the picture I went in with.

p.s. if you think I look pale or thin, I probably am, I was sick (reprise of Ben's March of Dimes virus) over the weekend and haven't been able to eat very much since.