Saturday, July 21, 2012

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

Now I know, usually I'm posting how to make something unhealthy healthier. Well, I'm going to come right out with it on this one: this still isn't healthy by any measure, but it doesn't have a ton of chemicals and other icky stuff in it, so it technically is healthier, just not healthy. You know, there are days you just need a little marshmallow fluff, I won't hold it against you if you don't hold it against me! When I was pregnant with DB, I ate a whole jar of it in the course of 5 days. Ewww. Just remembering that makes me a little nauseous. That stuff is so sweet and sticky! But just think of all the things you can make with it! Fluffernutter sandwiches, tasty icebox pies, sundae toppings, cake icings, the list is endless, and if you've sworn off the shelved stuff, that knocks a lot of those recipes off your list. Well, pout no more, here is a simple and cheap recipe for homemade marshmallow fluff, and just compare these ingredient lists:

Famous Fluff Brand, Rhymes with Taft:

Corn syrup
Egg whites
Cream of Tartar
Xanthan Gum
Artificial Flavors
Natural Flavors
Blue 1

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff:

3 Egg Whites
1 C. Sugar
1 t. Vanilla Extract

In a double boiler or a bowl set over boiling water, melt the sugar and egg whites together until they are hot and the sugar is totally melted, about 5 minutes on the nose. Stir it with a fork gently while waiting for it to melt down. It will be a thick syrup. Pour the syrup into a very clean and dry mixing bowl, a stand mixer is preferred, because it will be a lot of work if you're using a hand mixer, but either will do. The cleanliness of the bowl is important, foreign particles, especially grease, will prevent the mixture from fluffing, and you'll just have sweet egg white syrup, which is not particularly useful. Whip on high speed for a minute or so, when the mixture looks opaque all the way through, slowly drizzle in your vanilla extract. Allow to whip for another 10 minutes (seriously, it's a long time. don't just sit and watch or you'll think it isn't setting up. walk away for a bit.) or until the bowl is cool to the touch and your fluff stands in a soft peak when you lift the mixers out of it. It's ready to use immediately! Store it in the fridge, if you have any left over! *note: you may wish to add cream of tartar for stability, I never do.

I used mine to frost my experimental batch of oatmeal flour S'mores Cupcakes....but that's a post for another day! Enjoy! Let me know how your fluff turned out! What did you do with it?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Baby Sized Chores

DB's been super into "helping" recently. While it can be very tempting to try and distract him so I can do housework faster, I want to help him grow into a person who does chores easily and without separation from everyday life. I want to foster his desire to keep helping others all the time. For reference, DB's 19 months old, every child is different, but it's a pretty great age to start some consistent helping chores around the house, according to your child's interest and ability. You don't want to make them miserable! DB is highly motivated by my frequent "thank you's" , time with me, and the learning and play aspect of doing these chores together. I'm going to compile mini lists of the chores DB seems to really enjoy/excel at, and I'm starting with this list of 10, some for every type of chore, every area of the home.

1. Sorting colors. Now that DB has his colors down really well, this is a great one. We also use it as an opportunity to remember types of clothes.

2. Moving wet clothes to the dryer. We have a top loading washer and a front loading dryer, I hand him a few pieces at a time and he tosses them in for me.

3. Handing me Hangers. before putting clothes away, I put a pile of empty hangers out in the floor, and get the laundry basket a good 8 to 10 feet away so he has to go a little way to get them. He enjoys bringing me one at a time, and it keeps him busy enough that he's not unfolding all the folded items. (which was his hobby before I invented this one)

4. Using the vacuum attachment to get under sofas, in the cushions, and around window sills if they are reachable. My son loves the vacuum, so this is a big treat for him, but not for all kids, some may not like the noise.

5. For hard floors, wiping down the baseboards. When in doubt, hand them a damp washcloth. I show him where I like help cleaning and he cleans it, mostly, but if it doesn't get done or he gets distracted and starts wiping down everything else, I don't mind. I got time to get the floor swept/mopped and a few things got semi wiped down. Win win!

6. Damp washcloth again, I ask him to wipe down his training potty (since I've already cleaned it each time it's used, he doesn't need to be thorough), walls, and cabinets. just enough time for me to do a quick commode scrub, vinegar on the faucets, and a mirror shine. Then he can help me when I start on the tub, me with a magic eraser, him with his damp cloth.

7. Putting away dishes. Nonbreakables, of course. I make sure there's nothing in the lower level of the dishwasher that's breakable, and I unlatch all the necessary cabinets and direct him where to place things like pot lids, tupperware, dish lids, measuring cups, measuring bowls, silicon baking pans, utensils (I lower the crock for him to put them into). Usually I can get most of the other things put away while he's asking questions and organizing bowls.

8. Wiping up spills. DB's learning to drink without a lid on his cup, so he spills often. I definitely clean them up when I need to, but usually, I hand him a cloth and ask him to wipe up. It's not a punishment, it's just what we all have to do when we spill something. He enjoys it, for now, and not enough to spill on purpose.

9. Simple Food Prep. DB's favorites include: mashing fruit like bananas and mangoes, snapping fresh green beans for me, I just check for stems as he hands me the pieces, throwing my chopped ingredients into a pot/bowl, using a plastic butter knife, "cutting" soft things or scraps I don't intend to use. Measuring things like rice, flour, grains, etc, using a spoon to fill a larger measuring cup. Using coconut oil to oil a cake pan or cookie sheet, coconut oil is perfect because we just rub it into our hands when we're done, not washing it off like shortening, which is yucky anyway and a pain to clean up.

Playroom/Play Area:
10. CLEAN UP! Ok, this one has to be turned into a game. When I present an empty canvas bin, and name a particular toy or colored item, DB gets really excited to find all of them and place them away. It works nicely. Just focus on one thing at a time, for example, I say, "Help me stack all the books right here, please!" and place a book on the sofa. When all the books are put away, we highfive and start a new project, like putting all the cars into this box or all the blocks in that bin. If the toys are not as easily categorized, I put a box out for green toys, and after he finds them all, I sort them more finely. It's the principal that matters, learning to clean up our messes.

Remember, plenty of Thank You's, and keep it fun, specific, and simple. As long as it's a game, it's building positive responses to doing small housework. It's laying a foundation for the future. They're still babies, don't sweat it too much. :) Have fun with your new cleaning buddies!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Trusting Women Again

Have you heard a woman say something like "I'm just not good at making friends with women" or anything even remotely like it? I have. I've also said it. More times than I care to reflect on. It wasn't until I read this blog post by Jaime at I Am Not The Babysitter this morning, that I realized I should think on WHY I feel this way and WHY I feel I need to say things like that.

I'm studying and working to become a doula and lactation consultant, someone who supports and empowers women, so shouldn't I be examining my own relationships with women and why they are weak or I perceive them as weak? I started thinking that if I am actually going to be a good support person, asking other mothers and women to put their trust in me, I should be able to put trust in them as well, I can't ask for something I'm not willing to give. I'm constantly asking women to trust their own bodies and support systems, a support system that I want to be a part of. I'm constantly saying "why don't doctors and medical professionals TRUST women (and their instincts, intuitions, abilities, etc.)?" But I myself don't trust women nearly enough. How can I make a true difference if I don't find the root of the issue and put my mind to setting things right?

I've been hurt by a lot of women in my life, and I'm sure I have blame to share in hurting other women. I don't like how ugly things can get, and how long those scars can last. Once I read that article this morning, I started examining my relationships with other women more closely. I've been making and maintaining stronger relationships with women, realizing the value of their friendship, and working hard (as one should in any relationship) to keep the relationship alive and fruitful. It's something I'll have to work hard to correct, the tendency to reject female companionship and femininity in an effort to protect and prove myself, but it's worth doing.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Grilling Out and Local Food

I think local food is highly under appreciated in many parts of the country. It usually requires a bit more work than the one trip to the grocers, and many of us don't have the time! I'm very fortunate that I shop at a grocer who carries local milk, eggs, meat, and produce, and labels it boldly to make my shopping for local food easy. Local food has so many advantages, both to health and to the local economy, buying from farmers and supporting small local business is a great way to spend your dollarvotes. I just recently visited the farmer's market in my city (Baltimore, Maryland), and it was fantastic! DB got to pick out some food he wanted, and settled on blueberries, strawberries, and currants. There was lots left over, so I made a berry icebox poke cake out of the rest of them at the end of the week and topped it with local cream I whipped up with a touch of sugar. The rest of the veggies left at the end of the week, and there were a lot as we went a bit overboard at the temptation produce carnival known as the farmer's market, went into a salad. Salad and cake went with us to a barbecue and complimented summer perfectly, with seasonal local food!

McCormick spices have always had some of my favorite grilling flavors and they recently sent me a box of spices to try out this summer. I have to say that it made me try a new flavor I wouldn't usually pick. I liked that the ingredients listing is simple on the seasonings I tried, and I could pronounce EVERYTHING on it, which is a big deal in our house! I enjoyed testing out some of their new marinades and rubs. We had a great cook-out. Food, cold beer, and summer backyard grilling conversation, it doesn't get much better than that!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A new look, a new leaf

Notice anything different around here? I spent some time recently deciding on and designing a new look for the page. I thought the old design looked...myspacey. Yes, I know. *shudder* That's not a good thing in the design world. Ick. Now I'm no design pro, but I know my way around a font or two, and Photoshop is a friend of mine, so I just committed to getting it done and I did it. How do you like it? I'm going to be slowly converting the buttons and widgets to a lighter color scheme to match, but for the most part I'm done and I like the new, light, fun look.

I also have a new facebook fan page, so if you care to, go on over and "like" me, facebook official! I'm working on a few new blog posts, slowly but surely. You know that if they take more than a fw minutes, they're packed full of great stuff, so hopefully you'll appreciate the effort in spite of the delay! Family first, internet second, and I've been soaking up lots of time playing with DB recently. Have suggestions or feedback? Leave a comment or email! I'd love to hear from you! Namaste!