Get outside, Family!

Get outside, Family!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kids outside while grownups cook

Thanksgiving is just about everyone’s favorite holiday, if you’re an adult. For kids, it’s a lot of waiting around for the adults to finish cooking. With the anticipation and pre-Christmas excitement, my boys are going to need to be running around outside as much as possible. So as I’ve been planning our turkey and sides, I’ve been thinking of ways to keep the kids busy outdoors.
(We’re in the middle of a snow storm here, so some of these ideas might get dropped in favor of plain old snow play.)
1.       Table decorations. One of the kids’ chores will be to collect natural items to display on the table and/or decorate the place cards. As motivation, I may need to make it a contest of who collects the most, with a reward of early dessert or something like that.
2.       Geocaching around the grandparents’ homes, each of whom we’ll be visiting over the coming days.
3.       Nature scavenger hunt. We’ve done this before with cousins of different ages working as a team, and it worked great. We’ll make the list together on our way to grandma’s house.
4.       Outdoor obstacle course.  Here’s a way to do it with leaves. We may try snow. 
5.       Traditional games played by Pilgrim and Wampanoag children. We could listen to this audio for inspiration. I’m guessing our crowd would like Blind Man’s Bluff.
6.       Toy bows and arrows. When I read that Wampanoag children played with these, I thought, “Hah! This is the answer! My boys will be out for hours!” I saw some very cute and safe bow-and-arrow toys with a foam “arrow” at a craft show last summer, but didn’t buy them. We don’t have time to make our own, but it may be worth a quick stop at the toy store. 
7.       Football. We’re not a huge football family, but a pick-up game can be a lot of fun with teams mixed of hard-core fans (like my husband or father) and others (like me) who don’t know a running back from a running game.

Have a happy holiday!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Turkey "hunting"

The Sous Chef and I “went hunting” for our turkey at Eichner’s Family Farm. They were sold out of holiday turkeys, so we had to order elsewhere. But we had fun checking out the birds in their pens while we were there. White feathery fluffs bunched together, sticking out their pink, bumpy heads to have a better look at us. When we make gobble-gobble sounds ourselves, it’s kind of a hard gob-bull, but coming from the turkeys altogether it seemed soft and melodious. One pen of fat ones was ready for Thanksgiving, a pen of smaller birds had more growing to do for Christmas. There was a time when seeing someone's future dinner still walking around would've turned my stomach. Now with a decade of sticking my hand in the cavities of turkeys and chickens to cook for my family, pulling out guts for gravy, and realizing how much we get from that animal in a meal, leftovers, soup stock and sandwiches, I felt appreciative, respectful even.
The smell was “yucky” to Sous Chef, but I told him that’s just because we aren’t used to it. Not sure I would ever get used to turkey poop. But we could take it for a little while, to pay our respects.
(The photo is of a turkey from the Knob Farm, owned by our relatives, which we visited last summer. I imagine that turkey is not having a good week.)
For a cute read about the fate of a turkey, check out "Run, Turkey, Run!" By Diane Mayr.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Eating in the car

Is it really eating while driving, if what I’m eating is a homemade potato taquito?


Car eating bugs me – I link it to fast food, too busy schedules, food dribbled down my front and a car that smells like restaurant carpeting. I mean really, we can’t just sit at a table somewhere with a napkin and plate? To me, it’s worse than eating at a keyboard or walking around the mall with a sandwich – and those gross me out, too. So when I was gobbling my taquitos behind the steering wheel – at a stop light, from a plate, with a napkin – I tried to hide my shame by slouching down in my seat and drifting past the drivers next to me.


And then I snapped out of it. Because the truth is my family snacks, drinks and dribbles in our vehicle almost every day. And I’m prepared to defend it. One of the biggest challenges I have to feeding my family well is having enough time to do it. If I eat my lunch on my way to picking up my son from school, maybe I can take a few minutes at home to boil potatoes for taquitos, or get one other thing done that needs doing. And I’m not cranky from hunger when I pick up my kid. Well, maybe a little cranky but not from hunger.


We spend a lot of time in our car. We don’t live in a walkable community or on a farm. We drive to the grocery, to school, to the playground, to the farmer’s market. Eating can make those dull, repetitive trips so much more productive. And interesting. There’s nothing like a package of crackers and drink box for passing 15 minutes of stop-and-go traffic.  Lately, I’ve been keeping wax lips and candy in the car to bribe/I mean reward my kids for not fighting on the way home. It’s always that last 10 minutes of a 25 or 30 minute trip where they go bananas. There are mints and gum (if there aren’t any left in the wrappers look on the floor) for real emergencies. And of course several days of coffee cups.


Many families I know like us, with kids involved in activities within a 20-mile radius from home, live out of their car in a similar way. We also keep brain "treats": game, books, building blocks, costume accessories, Bandaids, toy cars, dinosaurs, crayons, pens, window markers, notebooks, binoculars and balls. There’s back-up clothing. Lots of CDs (but no DVDs). We have one of those recorded-joke toys, too, but it needs new batteries. We talk. The kids make up songs about farting. Good times.


So my point to myself is that, we’re doing the best we can. It would be nice to walk or ride our bikes to the store, but at least we are spending time together. At least sometimes I am able to prepare homemade potato taquitos, and they are balanced on the steering wheel instead of a greasy sandwich.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Chef Zi Spice Dip

A little snack Chef Zi whipped up for himself. Cream cheese and a bunch of spices (a little cinnamon, paprika, garlic, cardamom...I think that covers it.) Great with celery.

Time for a change

It’s been so cold this week in Western Pennsylvania, after a beautiful October of sunny, mild days. It’s a shock to feel so uncomfortable outdoors; the internal heater needs a good kick. The kids complain that their hands are cold. Their winter coats from last year are too tight, hats feel itchy. It’s all I can do to get them outside for 20 minutes, when a week ago they were out for hours.
Without a doubt, being outdoors eases the stress in our household. Bad moods evaporate, arguments crumble. Fall days, with an intense blue sky and brilliant red and orange leaves, are like magic. I caught my eldest teaching his younger brother how to pump his legs on the swing. No bossing, teasing or belittling. And the younger one listened! No whining, teasing or kicking. The smiles on their faces were gold. Now that we’re suddenly indoors a lot more, the tension is high. The TV is on too much, they aren’t getting as much exercise. What I would give for another day to run around without our coats on.
The good times between them seem to happen in small windows when the younger one catches up to the older one just enough to get what his big brother is doing, and the older one is feeling confident in himself and comfortable in his skin enough to reach down to his little brother without seeing it as being a baby himself. And then everything changes; one grows some more, the other changes, too, and they have to re-figure out how to deal with each other again. So it’s kinda like the seasons changing, right? It takes weeks of being outside in summer sun to build a tan, tolerate sweat and pull out the right summer wear from the storage boxes. We acclimate. We get used to the heat and the bugs, and grow callouses on our bare feet. For winter we have to do it all over again. Figure out games and projects that keep us moving so we stay warm. Buy new coats. Remember the things we like to do outside in winter and find new ones (I’m thinking about geocaching this year). And we’ll love being out there again.