Monday, July 30, 2012

Putting the Squeeze On

Last night I pulled out a citrus juicer I had gotten with this intent and let the boys make their own orange juice. They loved it. While they didn't even finish the juice until much later, they kept wanting to make more.
Corwyn taking his turn twisting and turning.
 Nathan was more serious about the process
 Putting some muscle behind it

Both boys loved the result

Now I'll note that we are not a juice family. We don't keep juice at home. We're a water and non-dairy 'milk' family. When we have juice, special occasions out etc, the goal is for it to be 50% water. This juice was no different, after they squeezed 2 oranges each, they poured half a cup of water over the squeezer each and filled their cups. I love that it's fresh fruit, but with most of the pulp gone, it's too much sugar. I love the whole fruit juices from my heavy duty Vitamix but this was both a learning activity and a treat. In the future, I want them to get into stevia sweetened fresh squeezed lemonade, the orange juice was a jumping off point.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Strollers - how big is too big?

Honestly, I don't think there is a single answer. And even if there was, the question is wrong too; if you genuinely think there is a cut off, it should be by age, not size.

Come on, you've all thought it at one time or another "That child is too old for a stroller." (probably before you had kids) But so what.  There is an entire website devoted to showing examples of this (this is by someone who has no children) Walk

I know when I first thought of having kids, I wanted to be strollerless. I wanted to wear/carry my child. Having twins put a bit of a damper on it. Yeah, I was able to wear one of them, and sometimes even two,  but a stroller was a necessity. Maybe if I lived in the burbs and used a car to go everywhere it might be different. But I live in the city, near downtown, no car and (almost) everything is in walking distance.

I went through a lot of strollers in the search for the one that worked best for us. And there was never just one at a time and most served a purpose for a year or two and were replaced as they grew and our days changed. (I bought and sold second hand mostly). Right now, we have a side-by-side double, two single umbrella strollers and a wagon. I personally have used the double only once or twice this year. I'd sell it, but my caregiver uses it anytime it's raining (this is Vancouver, it rains).

It used to be the two umbrella strollers were only used with another adult, but now Corwyn loves to push his. We can often go for an entire day with Nathan either riding or pushing his stroller and Corwyn pushing his the whole time. Most of the time. Sometimes though, we can be somewhere and Corwyn decides he can't walk anymore. It doesn't happen often, but after getting stranded and having a friend have to come help, I've started putting the stroller connectors in the bag. I'd like to stop using them all together but they can only walk so far, if the destination also involves playing then trying to walk home, I can't respond to carry requests with two of them.Oh and for those who are thinking to get Corwyn to push Nathan. No. On rare occasions he will, but mostly he just wants to push an empty stroller (he'll push the double or pull the wagon too, but only if it's empty - doing anything necessary to get Nathan out of it).

The boys are 3, barely 3, but 3. Even for those who think kids should be out of strollers before school age think 3 is okay. Nathan is big. In an umbrella stroller he looks big. He looks too old. And now it's summer. In the colder weather in a bulky jacket, it will look worse. I see the looks; I hear the comments said in stage whispers. Get over it people. Nathan plays hard and rests hard. We walk lots, take the bikes some and use the strollers too.

I miss the always in a stroller age sometimes. Getting places was so much faster. Shopping was a million times easier. But I love the freedom of going out without one. I'll be happy when we're totally done with them, and a bit sad at the passage of time to.

Those are my kids. My kids are healthy and luckily developmentally normal. But you can't tell by looking at a child if there are issues that would require a stroller until an older age. Wheelchairs aren't cheap. Or sometimes a stroller sometimes because they can get easily tired because of certain medical conditions. Or they don't have a car and 10km is too far for a younger child to walk in a day.

Or whatever. Maybe the child is lazy. Maybe the parent needs more control. So what. Bottom line, it's none of your business. Is it hurting you? Do you lose sleep over it? Are there no other problems in the world and in your life that this is the most important cause you have? I don't think anyone will be pushing their developmentally normal child to high school in a stroller.

Sorry for the small rant. I was amused one day when Corwyn was sitting and pushing himself along in the doll stroller. And it crossed my mind that someone could post a picture of this on the website saying he was too big.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gluten-free Coconut Muffins/Cupcakes

These are somewhere between a muffin and cupcake, a bit sweeter than a muffin, but not as sweet or rich as a cupcake. I like cup-in over muff-cake but neither works well.

Anyway, I had planned to bake this weekend anyway but Corwyn sped the timing up a few days. He loves eggs and also likes to take them from the fridge to hand to me, even when I'm not ready. Last night, he picked up the egg carton and then while turning, tipped the remaining 1/2 dozen or so eggs out. Sigh. All of them were cracked, but luckily only one broke open and was past saving. So baking it was.

The recipe along with some variation options will be at the end. Some information and the process will precede it.

I was first turned onto using coconut flour by this book

It was here my love for using coconut flour began. I started to use it in more recipes and began to experiment. And I learnt some things along the way. It's a very dense flour. You need very little compared to the liquid ingredients. It likes eggs and works best in recipes with lots of egg. Let it cool (almost) completely before removing it from the pan. A little fills you up.  There are quite a few brands on the market. I use the one I can find. I haven't tried others but I'm sure they are all similar. It's a bit yellowish in color, not quite like either a white or a whole wheat flour. It has a slight coconut taste but not as much as you think.

As mentioned coconut flour is dense and likes eggs. I found that if you can whip the egg whites before mixing in the yokes and other wet ingredients then you'll get a lighter finished product. It's not necessary, but if you have the time and the tools, then go for it. As it would have it, based on how the eggs were cracked, I was only able to separate the whites from two of the six so I whipped those. Try to go until the peak stage for maximum froth. 

I use free range, grain fed eggs. It's a personal choice but I do know the yokes are much brighter in color and I like the taste more. (And it's that much more critical for money reasons to use the cracked-by-Corwyn ones vs throwing them out). The next picture is after adding the honey, oil and the rest of the eggs. You can see how nice and yellow it is. 

Oh, coconut oil. You don't have to use it but I recommend it. It is a saturated fat *gasp* but it's health benefits have been shown again and again as out weighing the fat. So unless you have explicit orders by the doctor not to, give it a try. It's kept at room temperature and is solid (it's summer so solid is probably a generous term). To melt it for ease of mixing, I measure mine and leave it in the cup on the element that gets hot while the oven is preheating. It's melted and ready when I need it, with no extra work.

This is after mixing in the coconut flour, baking soda and chocolate chips. It's still quite liquidy. But you need to leave it for another few minutes (maybe while you prepare the pan) and the flour will absorb some of the liquid making it almost mold-able before you put it in the muffin tins.

I've mentioned before that I love using ice cream scoops for muffins and cookies. It gives them a uniform size making them come out of the oven at the same done-ness. These are my current scoops. The biggest is a 1/4 cup and works great in a regular sized muffin tin. The next down I use for mini muffins and the smallest is for drop cookies. These are also great because the kids can help scoop and I can still hope for even baking sizes and slightly less mess.

And of course the finished product. I've also mentioned before about using parchment paper liners in the tins. I LOVE this and this picture should show you how that the claim to being no stick is true. 

These are not a diet muffin. They are made with coconut flour, coconut oil and eggs so there is fat in them. They are honey sweetened so have calories from that too. And, oh yeah, I made this version with chocolate chip (dairy free so Nathan can enjoy them). There is around 200 calories in each. But with 1/2 egg in each, there is also a fair bit of protein. Depending on how you feel about honey, if you eliminated the chips this is probably a paleo 'safe' food.

Basic Recipe
3/4 cup of coconut flour
1/2 to 1 tsp of baking powder (personal choice, can be omitted for a much denser result)
dash of salt (sea salt if you have it)
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup liquid sweetener (honey, agave, maple syrup)
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350
Lightly mix flour with baking powder and salt. Put aside.
Whip the egg whites until the peaks stay firm
Add the rest of the liquid ingredients and mix until fully combined
Stir in the flour + powder mix until well combined (you can keep using the electric mixer)
Add the chocolate chips and stir until just combined
Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or so

While you do, line 12 regular or 24 mini muffin tins (I prefer to use parchment paper liners).
Divide the mixture into all the tins (remember my hint on the ice cream scoop if you have one).

Bake for around 22-27 minutes. Check at the lower number using a toothpick inserted into the center. It should come out clean. I left mine in 25 minutes and they were just starting to get dark at the edges but are not burnt so I'd say just right.

Remember to let them cool before you take them out of the pan. I know you want, you really want to to try them hot. They will smell great but if you do, you will think they are not cooked or turned out wrong (yes I've done this). Let them cool at least 30 minutes, longer if you can handle it. Then enjoy.

I recommend keeping these refrigerated or in the freezer. Mine have never lasted long so I can't say how long they will last.

As to variations, there are tons. I used the chips this time because it was last minute baking and I went for ready made, fast and easy. Switch out 1/4 of the coconut flour for raw cacao (or regular cocoa powder)  for double chocolate. Eliminate the chips all together for a basic muffin. Add in dried berries or even chopped fresh berries (since they are in season).  Change out the vanilla for orange or lemon oil and put in some grated rind for a refreshing taste. Cut the sweetener in half and put in a concentrated fruit juice. Use an egg replacer to make it vegan (I've done this using either flax seed and ener-g egg replacer with success). Add some fresh herbs (I'm thinking rosemary) for a more savory option (hmm, I'm thinking lemon rosemary for my next attempt). 

The possibilities are almost endless. Just don't change the liquid to flour ratio and use eggs or equivalent binder and you'll be fine.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vancouver BJD Details

To my parenting friends, this post will likely be a WTF! Feel free to ignore it, but I'll provide a brief explanation for the curious. I have an extensive doll collection, the bulk of it Asian Ball Jointed Dolls(BJD), dating from pre-kids. While I still love them, I have no time or space and have been downsizing slowly over the last 3+ years. I found the best way is to offer them for amazing deals to local friends and creating a fast web page as a blog post with the pictures is efficient, hence this post.  The sale information will not be in the blog since it's not commercial. I will probably just keep reusing the same post for each doll, updating pictures and info. I want to stay focused on the kids. That said, if you have questions about this doll or BJD in general, I can try to answer or point you to people or places for more information.

To those from the Vancouver BJD community, this is a Dollkot Hara. He's SD sized. I'm his second owner. His face-up and tattoo were from the previous owner. He has a bit of a sad expression, and has both freckles and a mole. While his face appealed to me, I've never really warmed to the SD. I got him from DOA in 2007. He has mostly sat in his box in a closet. He's big and taking up space and I'd love for him to find a new home. 

His box is from a Customhouse AI doll and it was used for the actual shipping. He'll come with the eyes shown (sorry, I don't know what they are) but no clothes or wig. The box has bubble wrap and one pillow.

He is in great shape, although I think some of the coating has rubbed at the waist joint. 

Warning - some full frontal nekkid doll shots to follow

To sleep perchance to dream

Overall, the switch to no naps during the day is going really well.

They have not magically started going to be at 7 again (sigh) but it's (usually) before 9 now. But the really great thing is that they are sleeping in. Corwyn has only woken up before 6 once and often makes it to 7! Nathan, sleeps about an hour longer. They are also sleeping deeper it seems. It's now very rare for them to come sleep with me during the night too. So overall, I'd say this was a huge success.

It's not without it's exceptions though. If in the stroller anytime between 11 and 1, Nathan will start to dose. It takes effort, but he can be woken up. They've had the odd cat nap for 5-15 minutes but seem to recover quickly. Once I get them moving again, they're good until bedtime.

Sunday was an exception. We were having a Twin group picnic at a local beach (yes there are many local to me). But it wasn't the one closest to us and involved a bit of a bus ride, and since I had friends helping, we had the strollers. Since summer has finally hit Vancouver, the boys were up and out by 8:30 am, playing around the neighborhood. We got to the picnic site early and played in a playground before going to the beach. While there, they played and ran and went in and out of the water, generally being 3 year olds.We left just before 1. Nathan was dosing before we got to the end of the first block and Corwyn was down by the end of the second. Both slept for the bus ride including transfers. Then they woke up, at almost the same time less than a block form home. Overall, they slept less than an hour. I was able to keep them busy the rest  of the day so bedtime was reasonable too.

How's sleep at your place?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bye Bye Naps

Naps had been getting a bit shorter as days went on. But the boys were still sleeping longish hours and going to be at a reasonable time (before I did). Lately though bedtime didn't just creep up, it jumped. They went from falling asleep at 7-7:30pm to falling asleep at 10-10:30pm. And the kicker being they still woke up at the same time (Corwyn around 6am, Nathan up to an hour after that).

While I'm not the sleep police, I do know that my kids do better (emotionally) with 10-12 hours overnight. And I would have less problem with a later bedtime if it translated to a later wake-up to keep the net sleep hours the same. So how to deal with it. Not sleeping as much overnight, they were of course seeming to need the nap more. And if they nap, they don't need to sleep at night. It became a catch 22. Enter the long weekend and a chance to experiment. 

Sunday was Canada Day here. I knew we'd be out for much of the day. And knowing my kids, Nathan would nap in the stroller the first chance he had, but Corwyn doesn't stroller nap so it would be an interesting  experiment. Corwyn actually fell asleep in my lap while we were having lunch. As expected though, he woke up when I tried to put him in the stroller, and happily stayed awake. Total nap time 20 minutes. Nathan passed out after lunch and slept for almost 2 hours. But in general, he needs more sleep than his brother. Come bedtime, Corwyn fell asleep at 9 and Nathan just before 9:30. And to add to it, neither woke up before 7. Success to a degree.

So onto Monday and my first attempt at a total nap free day. I had originally planned to spend as much of it at the playground as possible to keep them moving, particularly during the times they liked to doze off. But the weather did not cooperate. Rain, rain and more rain. Being the sturdy Vancouverites we are, we still spent over an hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon at the playground.

The rest of the day was spent moving from activity to activity whenever one got bored or yawned. We watched movies, played with playdough, finger painted, had a friend over, made drums out of containers, built with blocks and pretty much anything I could think of. There was one small nod off point with Nathan as I was dishing up an early dinner. He was barely asleep and happily woke with the promise of food.

Both were starting to nod off around 6 and I got them through to 6:20 and called for a bath. Nathan loves these and Corwyn tolerates them. Both were done faster than usual. We read 2 books and they settled into their beds for a couple of quick games on their leap pads. Nathan stayed in bed and Corwyn came out and laid down on the sofa behind my back. I swear he fell asleep mid-sentence at about 7:45-50. At almost the exact same time, all sound from the bedroom stopped signalling sleep there too. So that was it, both asleep before 8pm.

What time did they wake up? How about 7:40 for Corwyn and 8:05 for Nathan! And honestly, I think Nathan would have gone longer had he not been repeatedly poked by Corwyn.

I'd like to say the night itself went smooth, but it didn't. It wasn't anything new though and not directly related to the early bedtime. It was a bit of a comedy of errors and even though I was able to go to bed earlier, I didn't get a perfect nights sleep.

Nathan came out to my bed around 2:15. Nothing new. He stopped off to go to the bathroom first (yeah!) but in the process dribbled tons on his undies and screamed for me to come help him. This I can do almost in my sleep but the noise woke Corwyn. So I ended up with both in my bed. Nice snuggles.

Around 3:20 though, Nathan said his tummy hurt. Then he said he had to poop. Since he had some liquid poop earlier in the day, I encouraged him to dash to the bathroom. He made it to the bathroom but unfortunately wasn't fast enough for all of it to make it into the toilet. So 3:30 saw me cleaning him and washing the bathroom floor. But after that was over, he was ready to go back to sleep.

But for me, that wasn't the end of it. Those who've read along for years know that Corwyn gets night terrors and waking type dreams sometimes. Usually when overtired which I guess he was. Around 4:15 he started hitting and kicking me (in the head since he was backwards on the bed) screaming for "mommy go, mommy go". So I did. I know from experience if I try to fight it, it will escalate, he will wake and not go back to sleep again at all. But if left, will fall asleep within 10-20 minutes. I went into their room. Nathan wanted me, so followed.

There we were, sharing a toddler bed at 4:30. But Nathan wanted the light on. I told him I needed it dark, so if he wanted the light, I had to leave. He seemed to let it go. But then about 10 minutes later, he told me to leave. Sigh. So I left. Then he was screaming for me to turn the light on. Seems he thought he wanted the light more than me. I turned it on, then walked out. I had not made it back to bed yet when Nathan was there, wanting to sleep with me.

By now, Corwyn's episode was done and he was deeply asleep, sprawled in the middle of the bed. Nathan crawled in on one side of him, me on the other and we all went to sleep.

I woke first, shortly after 7 when I heard the dogs downstairs barking. I was able to get up, get dressed and even start on breakfast before Corwyn woke up. He woke up happy, while I was sweeping the floor.

Overall, I was happy. We'll see how the next few days go. I don't mind 8-8 or even 8-7 for sleeping. I will miss the daytime break during the nap. But I'll manage.