Smart Mamas

Tag: childcare

Kids and Veggies. How to Foster a Love Affair (4)

Christian and his buddy selecting the perfect tomato

Pick Your Own Farms

There are many ways to get your kids interested in vegetables and fruit, this way is fail proof, the crown jewel. Plan a fun family day by visiting a local pick your own farm. There are many all over the country. Every farm is unique. Some are destination spots with picnic tables, restrooms, and tours. Others are small, intimate family farms with nothing more than a bucket to fill and rows and rows of fresh veggies.

Once your child learns how to look for ripe pickings, the hunt is like Easter on steroids.

This farm we visited with friends.  They grew many varieties of tomatoes. They also had peppers, watermelon, and squash. My friend’s daughter hated tomatoes. It wasn’t long before she was munching on tiny, yellow sweet tomatoes (sweet golds).

My boys couldn’t wait to get home and eat their little treasures. Christian ate a large tomato just like an apple and little Roman ate grape tomatoes by the fistful. The nice thing about picking your own fruit and veggies is they tend to be sweeter, juicer, more flavorful than those found in the grocery store. Also, kids get a chance to learn how veggies are grown and about different varieties.

Once you visit a farm, many times they will put you on their mailing list, so you will get email updates when they have a new crop ready to harvest. It’s a fun and unique way to spend a family day. One your kids will fondly remember.

The best online resource for locating a pick your own farm in your area is

Have you visited one before? I would love to hear your experience.

Healthy Mango Milkshake

This is one of our favorite fruit shakes.  Sure to be a hit with it’s light and refreshing taste and a snap to make.


1 mango, peeled and seeded

1 large pear

2 cups of your favorite milk.  We love it with almond or soy milk.



Cut the mango and pear into large pieces and place in your blender.  Add 2 cups of milk.  You may want to adjust this according to the size of your fruit.  Add ice, we use around 6-8 pieces. Blend till smooth.  Pour into glasses and enjoy.

Mangoes are packed with vitamin A and other antioxidant vitamins like E and C.  They are also high in iron.  This fruit can even help with acne by unclogging pores.  You can slice a few pieces and place them on the affected area for about 10 minutes.  Mangoes have a wonderful anti-inflammatory property, which can reduce pain from arthritis and ease symptoms of asthma.


Note to self, clean spots off blender and glasses before taking pictures:)

Good Morning Chunky Monkey Milkshakes

My boys love this quick morning breakfast and it is loaded with potassium, iron, and protein.  When I introduce new foods to my children I start with something fail-proof.  The first time they tried this shake it had these ingredients:

1 cup of unsweetened almond milk

2 bananas (I like to use my freezer bananas)

2 teaspoons of blackstrap molasses or 1 tablespoon of maple syrup

3 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend till smooth.

Serves 1

In time I added other ingredients:

1/4 cup of organic, fresh roasted peanut butter or 1/4 cup of tofu

1 teaspoon of ground flax seeds

Flax seed is a wonder grain. Stocked full of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, high in most B vitamins, and magnesium.  It’s easy to sneak into meals, just don’t overdo it.  I don’t use more than a tablespoon per kid a day.

They love this breakfast and think it’s a big treat.  Milkshakes for breakfast, what beats that?  I know it’s healthier than cereal or any other processed breakfast.  A good start of the day for all of us.

Kids and Veggies. How to Foster a Love Affair (2)

This post is the second in a series.  I am sharing different ways we have kept our kids excited and interested in fruits and vegetables.

What is it?

The boys LOVE this.  We do, too.  Whenever my boys accompany me to the grocery store they pick out a new fruit or veggie they would like to taste.

This is a very serious process.

They scour each bin in search for the strangest, most unique produce.  Once they locate it they treat it as if it were a precious gem carefully carrying it back to the cart.  “What about this one, mommy?”  Both proud and curious.

As soon as we get home they are relentless in asking, “When do we get to eat it?”  It’s usually soon.

Yesterday this is what they chose…

The bin labeled it dragon fruit.  Good choice.

I told them we could eat it after dinner.  Dinner came and went and they asked if they could have a piece of Halloween candy.  I told them they could after we tried our dragon fruit.  They accepted this as a good deal on their end.

Typically we wikipedia the new item and learn a bit about it before we eat it.

This is what we learned:

It is actually called a pitaya and it is a fruit of several cacti species.  It is commonly known as a dragon fruit in Chinese.  There are 3 varieties, 2 red and 1 yellow.  They are native to Mexico, South America and Central America.  They are also cultivated in many Asian countries, Hawaii, Australia and Israel.  It is compared to a kiwi because the inside has many small edible black seeds.

Usually after viewing several pictures and learning about it the boys can’t wait to dig into it.  The sit in anticipation as the knife meets the flesh.

It is a big moment.  We dip four spoons into the soft innards and we all taste it at the same time.

It was a hit.  Not overly sweet. Kind of a cross between a kiwi and a pear.

They never did ask for a piece of Halloween candy.  Instead they went to bed with bellies full of dragon fruit.

Win for mom.

Note ~ you can buy dragon fruit at a local Asian market for half the price of a commercial grocery store.

Update: I almost forget to add the nutritional info. Here it is from this source:

Dragon fruits are high in antioxidants, which help to fight carcinogenic free-radicals from forming in the body. In addition, they are a good source of Vitamin C, and are rich in minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus. They are also low in calories and high in fiber, while the seeds are have high polyunsaturated fatty acids. Aside from its nutritional content, the fruit is also said to help excrete heavy metal toxins from the body and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Dragon fruits are also known to be a natural laxative.

Click here to learn more about dragon fruit.

Finally, A Little Sugar

Hectic.  December.  Why does it have to be that way?

Actually, my entire year was hectic.  Managing graduate school, an internship, a stay-at-home toddler, a kindergartener’s schedule, laundry… it has not been easy.  Errors were made.  Assignments were late.  Nothing worse than forgetting Polar Express night at my son’s school.  A special ticket was sent home for an evening of holiday movie magic while dressed in pjs.  My little one kept saying it was his special movie night and I had no idea what he was talking about.  He cried himself to sleep.  The next day he talked about his plans to share a pillow with his good friend and promises of bracelet exchanges.  Bad mommy moment.  Oh, the guilt.

Throw in a couple of half marathons and I am exhausted.  Depleted.

Now, the time has arrived.  The light at the end of a long tunnel.  I counted down the months, days with fellow classmates.  Ah, holiday break.  So many things to catch-up on and long awaited time with my family.

Oh yeah, Christmas.  Eek.  So much to do.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas time and all the festivities that go along with it.  BUT, this year I really need a break and I want to spend every moment with my kids and husband.  I miss my little guy who started school this year.  When I stayed home with my kids there was endless time with them, those days are long gone.  Time with them is precious and I look forward to it.

Something’s got to give.  And so it did.  Christmas cards fell by the wayside.  Early shopping, negative.  Thoughtful gifts for out of state relatives, fail.  Fresh baked goodies for friends, next year.  My first day off of school and internship was Friday.  Friday and Saturday I was in bed sick.  Yesterday was the first real day off and we did something I have looked forward to…baking and decorating sugar cookies with my sweet boys.

I loved having the entire day to spend at leisure.  Every time I bake or cook with my sons, memories flood in from my childhood.  My maternal grandparents owned a bakery.  My paternal grandparents owned a cafe in Greece.  My father owned a restaurant for 25 years.  Most of my fondest memories are standing on a stool side-by-side a beloved family member stirring, mixing, beating eggs.  We made homemade breads for dinner and dessert was NEVER bought from a store.  Fast food was a rare occasion.  I recall less than five happy meals before my fifteenth birthday.

My grandparents have all passed on.  My mother, too.  All of my family lives in Arizona and Greece.  Texas is home to my husband, my children and myself.  Christmas never feels right.  This year I want to focus on our small family, while recharging my batteries.

We enjoyed our cookie day.  We listened to music and danced while we pressed cookie cutters into soft dough.  We giggled and ate colored sugar with our fingers. We iced cookies and decorated broken cookies sending them to the “boneyard.”

I watched their busy, little hands at work and it warmed my heart.  My 3 year-old would make my grandma proud ~ with the way he managed a rolling pin.  My big kid firmly pressing the cookie cutter with both hands to form a well-shaped cookie ~ my grandpa would smile.

Yesterday felt like Christmas.  I may be selfish, but I want a few more of those days before the holiday ends.  Next year I’ll have the shopping done early and cards mailed the weekend after Thanksgiving.  This year we will focus on our time together and I plan to savor every moment.

Do you ever take a break from any of your holiday obligations?

My First Month Out of the Blogger Closet

My first blog entry was in April of 2008.  I was a SAHM with a baby and a 3 year-old.   Hot topics were BPA in sippy cups, vaccines, and autism.  I worried.  A lot.  There were days I filled the recycle bin with plastics.  Days I dreaded taking my baby to get his shots, especially after he broke out with measles from his MMR vaccine.  Research was therapy.  WebMD was my best friend.  I longed to connect with other moms who were as neurotic as me.  Thus, my blog was born.  I wanted to create a space where I could write about some of these issues.  It was cathartic.  I loved the camaraderie and learned so much.

Soon my baby became a toddler and I enrolled in graduate school.  I was consumed with papers and temper tantrums; my blog was left to gather tumbleweeds.

One recent evening while avoiding a homework assignment, I thought of it.  My blog.  Several attempts later, I figure out my login.  Success.  There it was and shock… people had been there.  Actual hits the day prior.  How could it be?  As I read through the old posts, I remembered how much I enjoyed it.  Life got so busy.  I could find time.

Six weeks ago, I wrote four posts.  It felt good.  Nothing spectacular, but it was a start.  My blog was always my own private pastime.  No one knew about it, not ever.  On October 23rd I wrote a post about Halloween candy.  Publish.  I glanced over the post on my blog and suddenly felt the urge to post it on my Facebook page.  Perhaps it was the candy eyeballs staring me down, daring me.  Perhaps I wanted to be held accountable, forced to continue my blog journey.  Click.  That was easy.  Waiting.  An hour passed.  Fifty views.  Then 100.  The response was positive and my batteries were charged.

It’s been a month since then.  This is the evolution:

  • I wanted to find other bloggers, so I searched blog communities.
  • I came across BlogHer and joined.  One evening later, I submitted a blog post.  The next day I opened an email that read, “I’d love to syndicate this in November as part of Own Your Beauty’s imperfection month.”  Wow! I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded great! I was thrilled and stunned.  Disclaimer: This happened by sheer coincidence.  My blog topic coincided with the theme of the month.  Sometimes the stars align.
  • Now what do I do?  I spent a few days thinking about that.  What would I write about?  What were my goals?
  • My husband said I must join Twitter.  So, I joined.  Tons of interesting bloggers.  Awesome.  Now, I just have to get down twitter etiquette and figure things out like, groups.  I downloaded TweetDeck.  Love the streaming.  Shrinking, linking, retweeting gives me a headache.  The community is worth it.
  • While on twitter I found a mom community, Twittermoms, and joined.  Actually, it found me.  But, I like it so far.
  • I bought a web domain.  It’s parked.
  • I created a Facebook page for my blog, so friends that are interested can get updates.  It felt odd to post on my personal site.  That’s just me.

Thirty days later, I’m still pretty clueless.  I am vaguely familiar with things like NaBloPoMo and another really long acronym that is similar, but different.   I am trying to learn the ins-and-outs of social media.  Hours of scouring the internet about web hosting, blog designers, plug-ins, and widgets have only confused me further.

Most of the blogging world is unknown to me, but I am certain of my goals.  My desire is the same now as it was when I started a few years ago.  I want to engage with a community of writers and women whom I respect and can learn from.  I want to write.  I want to have discussions on topics like how to live a simple and meaningful life, how to buy and cook foods that are nourishing, how to connect with our community, how to tread lightly and teach children about the environment, and most of all my passion in life… how to foster growth and well-being in children, women, and families.  Right now my blog is in the cocoon stage.  I am hopeful it will grow into a space where people who want to live consciously can learn from one another through different experiences and expertise.  Until then, I’ll keep chugging… one blog post at a time.

What were your achievements or roadblocks when you first started blogging?  Thank you for reading. 🙂

*Artwork found here.

Miso Soup For the Soul

I do my best to include at least one nourishing dish with each meal.  Last night we had a hodge podge dinner.  I had finally found white miso in the refrigerated section of Whole Foods (by the tofu) and it had been sitting on the shelf in the refrigerator for a good two weeks.  Time to make soup.  I used this recipe:

Mellow White Miso Soup

5 cups of water

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1 Tbs. tamari sauce

1/4 cup white miso paste (I used Miso Master Organic)

*optional adds ~ 1/4 cup shredded carrot, 3 oz sliced mushrooms, wakame (seaweed -it will need to be boiled ~20 mins)

Boil water.  Add mushrooms, scallions, carrot, and tamari.  Reduce to medium heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 mins, or until veggies soften.  Reduce heat to low & pour some of the hot soup mixture into a bowl (~1/4-1/2 cup).  Add miso paste, blend well.  Add the miso mixture back to the pot of soup and simmer for 2 minutes.  Be careful not to boil.

I cut cubes of extra firm tofu and dropped them in the bottom of the individual serving bowls and poured the soup on top.  I omitted the carrots and mushrooms because we were out.  Viola!  Miso soup just like in a Japanese restaurant.

I plan to make a pot a few times a week, because it was so easy and a nice treat on a cold day.  Miso soup is the Asian version of chicken soup.  Actually, the nutritional benefits are not a fair comparison.  Here is what I discovered from my Google research:  It strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer.  It is high in antioxidants, which prevents the signs of aging.  It contains protein, vitamin B12, B2, E, K, tryptophan, choline, dietary fiber, linoleic acid, and lecithin.  It even helps reduce the symptoms of menopause.

The best part for me was that it just felt good to nourish my family.  I had high hopes for yesterday.  It was the first evening off I had in awhile.  I envisioned an evening full of books, cuddles, and laughter.  Instead my boys were loud and wild and a bit unruly.  I felt defeated before I headed to the kitchen.  Nothing turned out as I planned.  Once the kids were in bed, I thought about that miso soup.  It sounds silly, but, I felt better about the day knowing I made something nourishing.  I did one thing right.  Some days we are wonder mom.  Utterly and completely spectacular.  Other days, well, not so much.  It’s important that we do not compare our not so much days to our wonder woman days.  Find the one moment you did something right and then let it go and enjoy the rest of your quiet evening.

This recipe came from the cookbook, The Sacred Kitchen, by Robin Robertson and Jon Robertson.  I cannot recommend this cookbook enough.  I love it.   It was printed in 1999.  You can find it here.

Persimmon. My Newest Obsession.

Last weekend my husband brought home a box full of fruits and veggies from our local co-op.  A few days later, I found a little treasure inside the vegetable drawer.  Was it a fruit?  A vegetable?  I had no idea.  It was an orangish-red color and waxy to the touch.  The tiny sticker attached to the stem identified it as a fuyu persimmon.  Hmmm.  I sliced it open and took a bite.  Quickly, it became apparent that the skin is not edible, but the inside was sweet.  Very sweet.  I was expecting tomato, but it wasn’t anything like one.  I keep trying to place the taste.  Something like a pear, plum, papaya mixture.  The texture was smooth, like velvet.

I immediately googled it and this is what I learned -There are a couple of different types.  This one is the Asian variety.  It is used mostly in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cooking.  It is loaded with vitamins A & C,  fiber, antioxidants, folic acid, lycopene, and many minerals.  They can be eaten raw, dried or used in cookies, cakes, puddings, and salads.  I still can’t believe the persimmon and I have never crossed paths.  Now I have a new fall fruit to feed my family.  Oh, the little things.  Gotta love’m.

I can’t wait to bake something with it.  Do you have any persimmon recipes?  Please share.

Study Finds Link Between Pregnant Moms Smoking & Criminal Behavior of Offspring

A new study by professors at Harvard School of Public Health and Brown University links mothers who heavily smoke during pregnancy with criminal behavior of offspring later in life.  This is a fascinating discovery and a powerful motivator for moms to stop smoking when pregnant.

Read about the study here.

Exciting Changes to Come!

I want to add a quick note before leaving town.  I am in the process of adding pages and more content to my blog.  I started blogging again because there are many things  I am eager to discuss and learn about.  I hope to create a community for moms’ who are interested in the care and well-being of their children, themselves, and their families.  There is so much to learn.  It can be daunting at times.  However, the most valuable information comes from communicating with one  another by sharing our personal stories.  Thank you for visiting.  If there are topics you would like us to tackle together, please let me know in the comment section.

Respect & Love,


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