December 2009


I’ve been meaning to post something brief about these things for some time now, but seem to keep forgetting to do so.  These are a couple of finds that have made my life a little easier in the past few months.

Trying to find toddler dishes that are easy to clean, microwavable, non-toxic and difficult to break is surprisingly difficult.  Melamine is dishwasher safe but can’t be used in the microwave (and cracks and shatters when dropped or thrown onto tile floors).  I try to avoid using more plastics than necessary because they inevitably melt or develop grooves from having food cut on them, as well as being less than environmentally friendly.  Stainless steel dishes are cute and durable, but obviously not microwave safe.

Enter Corelle.  Yes, that Corelle.  The stuff most of us had in college because it was dirt cheap, but which can not usually be accused of being overly stylish.  I read the suggestion on some green parenting site, and since they sell plain white Corelle plates at the BX here, I figured it was worth the investment of $2 per plate to see if it worked.  Seriously, this stuff is indestructible.  Stephen has dropped it (intentionally and inadvertently) onto our hard tile floors several times with nary a chip, crack, or hairline fracture appearing.  It’s dishwasher safe, microwave safe, and totally eco-friendly.  As an added bonus for anyone who, like me, resents the pervasive use of branded characters and images on every possible child-related item, Corelle has no trademarked characters of any kind on it.  I have six small bowls and four small plates, and they get used daily.

Another favorite recent discovery is these steel drinking cups from Life Without Plastic.  Stephen loves drinking from a “real” cup at the table, and the melamine tumblers we had for that purpose all cracked within a month of purchase.  I tried some metal tumblers from Amazon.com, but they weren’t real food grade stainless steel and the mysterious metallic coating started to peel within a week of using them.  They also had a curled-in lip, in which water and bits of smoothie tended to get caught.  These new tumblers and mugs are fantastic — a nice smooth lip, just the right size for Stephen to hold, completely unbreakable and dishwasher safe.

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My friend K made me this skirt for Christmas this year, and I can’t resist showing it off.  It absolutely ROCKS, and I can’t flaunt it in person.  I was trying to hold out until 5 months before donning maternity clothes, but I’m definitely going to make an exception for this skirt.  (I’m also probably going to have to revise that goal to 16 weeks instead, because I just don’t like the Bella band very much and the hair-elastic-through-the-buttonhole-trick is starting not to work very well on most of my pants.  But I digress.)

It’s made of what feels like a cotton blend fabric, which has a bit of stretch to is, and has a soft, stretchy yoga waistband.  It hits just below the knee, which I think is the perfect length.  I tried it on last night, and it fits great but the waistband definitely has lots and lots of stretch to accommodate a growing belly.

Here’s a closeup of the pattern so you can fully appreciate the brilliance (I included a nickel to give a sense of scale).  It’s these awesome alien-looking skulls with knitting needles for crossbones.  The background is a chocolate brown color, and the skulls are white with tiny pink polka dots, and the knitting needles are a pale pink.  Overall this is definitely the coolest piece of maternity clothing I own, and probably the coolest maternity skirt I’ve ever seen.  Now I just need to make sure Kim will tell me how to convert it into a regular skirt once I’m past that awkward post-partum nothing fits stage so I can keep rocking it for years to come!

We don’t do a gluten-free, casein-free diet, but my friend K’s little boy J does, so when she asked if we could bring dessert to our families’ Christmas dinner last night I was determined to find something that J could enjoy as well.  Let me tell you, if you’ve never tried to cook GFCF, and especially if you live somewhere like here without ready access to things like sorghum flour or xantham gum, it’s really tricky to find a dessert that doesn’t rely heavily on either flour or butter.  I cobbled together this recipe from a couple of different ones, I loosely based the filling on Ina Garten’s Apple and Pear Crisp recipe, and then used this recipe for the walnut streusel topping but I doubled it.  I didn’t have an oval dish, so I used a 9×12 rectangular pan and that worked just fine.  It came out pretty well, especially considering that I ground the rice flour in our Cuisinart grain mill, which is sufficient for our needs but definitely doesn’t yield commercial-grade flour.

If you’re not doing GFCF you could definitely still make this using regular flour and butter.  I prefer butter to margarine under normal circumstances, so next time I make this (and there will be a next time!) I’ll probably do a butter/oatmeal/brown sugar streusel topping.

GFCF Apple Pear Cranberry Crisp

– 4 pounds apples and pears, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch chunks (I think I had about 1 lb. apples and 2 1/2 lbs. pears, but any combination would probably work)

– 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

– 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

– 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

– 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

– 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

– 1/2 cup granulated sugar

– 1 1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice

– 1/4 cup rice flour

Topping:

1 cup rice flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp apple pie spice

1/2 cup cold margarine

1 cup walnuts, chopped fine

Grease a 9×12 baking dish (rectangular or oval).  Preheat oven to 350° F (165° C).

Make filling: Combine cranberries, sugar, zests, juice, and spices in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until cranberries are softened and juices thicken slightly, about 5 minutes.  Stir in flour, apples, and pears, stirring to coat.

Make topping: In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugars and spices.  Cut in cold margarine with knife or pastry blender until mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Stir in walnuts.

Pour filling into prepared dish, and sprinkle topping over.  Bake in preheated oven for approximately 50 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and topping is a deep golden brown.  Cool 10 minutes, and serve warm.

When my friend A left Turkey, she blessed us with a whole bunch of stuff — a huge bag of summer maternity clothes for me, toys and clothes for Stephen, and two toddler-sized chairs that A bought for her two oldest children (now 8 and 6) when they were about Stephen’s age.  The chairs were looking a little worse for wear after being loved by four children, but they had nice sturdy metal frames and Stephen was absolutely enamored of them because they’re exactly his size.  I forgot to get a picture of the red chair before, which is unfortunate since it was actually in worse shape (the plastic cover on the seat was ripped about 1/3 of the way across), but here’s the blue chair before.

I decided to use some of the fabric left over from making our tablecloth to recover the chairs since I had some relatively large pieces in my scrap pile, and it seemed like good heavy-duty material.  I cut the fabric down to size and zigzagged the edges to prevent them from fraying, then used small screws to fasten the fabric onto the seats.  Upholstery tacks probably would have been easier, but we didn’t have any and I really wanted the project to be done before our houseguests arrive this week.  I’m really pleased with how the chairs turned out — I’m not positive that they won’t come apart after a while, but for the time being I think they look really nice.

Stephen is delighted with them, and drags them all over the house with him.  They’re the perfect height for him to sit at the coffee table and color (and he’s also figured out that they can be used as a step stool, but we’re discouraging that as much as possible) and they’re light enough for him to pick up and bring with him from room to room.  I like that they’re much sturdier than plastic chairs but not heavy like wooden chairs.  Plus, I’m rather proud of turning something that was probably destined for the trash pile into something that will continue to be used and loved.

…the newest member of our family.  Baby boy or girl Rees is due on or about our 10th wedding anniversary (10 June).  Happy anniversary to us!

Sometimes, instead of cleaning up Stephen’s blocks after he’s gone to bed we build him a surprise for the morning.  We spend half an hour building something that he’ll knock down in 3 seconds flat, but his cackle of glee when he sees the tower is totally worth it.

Tonight we built this masterpiece: