Blog Archives

Body-centering Babies (and Mommies!)

When babies cry “for no reason”, people usually try to distract them. I had the realization the other day that doing this might encourage habits of dissociation + escapism when they get older, instead of being present with their feelings (“I’m upset, oh I’ll go into the next room and look at the computer for a while”, etc).

Today I was caring for a 5-month-old. Right after a nap, bottle, and diaper change, the baby started to cry. I knew it wasn’t one of those three things she needed, and she had that glazed-over look that babies sometimes have when they are crying “for no reason”, so I thought she might like me to help bring her attention back to herself. I moved her legs and rubbed her belly and said “here you are!”, and she IMMEDIATELY stopped crying and regained focus in her eyes. She looked at me with a deep, fully conscious look, and let out a delighted laugh.

How awesome is THAT?

I also sometimes need help coming back to myself. My husband (who conveniently for me, is skilled in teaching various body-centered somatic psychotherapy practices) is an awesome resource for me when I am stressed and want to just go on autopilot instead of confront those feelings. When I am lost in thoughts, he’s there like a light in the fog to tell me “here you are!”. And here I am, needing nothing in this moment other than what I have already.

Curry Banana Matzo Ball Soup ?!

So my friend Louis and I just created the best soup in the world and I want to write down what we did before I forget, because I’m definitely making this next Passover! Basically, he was making fun of me for making vegan matzo balls in the past and was like “What did you use instead of eggs? Bananas?”, and I was like “THAT’S A GREAT IDEA! It can be like a Thai curry soup”. So we made it together this evening and it was quite delicious:

CURRY BANANA MATZO BALL SOUP:
3 cups matzo meal
3 cans coconut milk
2 soft bananas
2 sweet potatoes
2 yellow potatoes
1 onion
5 tbsp Thai red curry paste (or more, to taste)
salt (to taste)
optional: rice cooked with lemongrass

TO MAKE MATZO BALLS:
– Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl with a fork.
– Mix with matzoh meal until doughy.
– Form into 1-inch balls (add more matzoh meal if the dough isn’t thick enough to form into balls)

TO PREPARE THE BROTH:
– Chop the sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes, and onion.
– Put all chopped ingredients into a large pot and add water until they are submerged under about 2 inches of water.
– Bring to a boil, then add the matzoh balls
– Lower head to let simmer for about 30-40min or until potatoes are soft and matzo balls have risen to the top.
– Add coconut milk, curry paste, and salt.
– Let simmer for another 15 minutes.
– Serve over lemongrass-flavored rice.

Azuki Bean Biscuits!

Azuki beans already have a somewhat sweet flavor. For this reason, they are used in many Oriental desserts, including red bean cake and mooncake. I developed this recipe so that my toddler + I can share healthy snacks that are wheat-free, sugar-free, AND delicious. They are chewy and hold together well so they don’t make a crumby mess, and they make very tasty (and adorable) tiny-sandwiches. The flavor is sweet and satisfying. Recipe and more serving ideas below!

About the beans:
Azuki beans are a small, reddish bean with a sweet flavor. They are highly regarded for their nutritional and healing properties in Oriental medicine. To prepare dried azuki beans, first let them soak overnight. Rinse, and boil for 1 hour or until soft but still firm. Drain and leave to cool.

AZUKI BEAN BISCUITS
Ingredients:
5 cups rolled oats
2 cups azuki beans (cooked + cooled)
2 cups sweet potatoes (cooked + cooled)
4 eggs
pinch of salt

Directions:
– In a large mixing bowl, lightly mash the beans + sweet potatoes together with a fork.
– Add all other ingredients and mix well.
– Form tiny (2-inch wide) biscuits onto a greased baking tray.
– Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 min
(makes about 36 baby-sized biscuits)

Fun serving ideas:
– Cut biscuits in half and make little sandwiches or mini-burgers
– Top them with tomato slices, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil
– Use them to scoop salsa or dips (a yogurt-dill dip would be good)
– They go well with anything buttery or cheese-like
– Top them with your favorite jam (pepper jelly would be awesome with these)
– Serve them with soup!

Easy and Nutritious Baby Snacks (Carrot Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe)

Babies need snacks while you’re out and about, and preferably ones that make the least amount of mess possible (especially if you’re visiting friends who don’t have kids and aren’t accustomed to having bright red tomato sauce splashed all over their nice white couches… and carpets… and ceilings…).

We try to stay away from wheat, dairy, and sweeteners, AND we’re on a budget so we can’t just go out and buy fancy organic gluten-free snacky things (which are usually pumped full of so-called “healthy” sweeteners anyway). This means I have to get creative when it comes to packing snacks that will:
a) actually get eaten by a toddler
b) not spoil in the summer heat
c) not destroy someone’s house in 2 seconds
d) be extremely easy (and cheap) to make in the first place

I’ve been tinkering around with ingredients that we normally have around the house anyway, but today I had a stroke of genius… COOKIES! I NEED COOKIES!!… wait… I mean, super-healthy cookie-type-things! YES! Something yummy that my toddler can snack on without needing to be watched like a hawk, and will fortify her with protein + vegetables!

The recipe I developed requires only 4 ingredients, 5 minutes of prep time, and is so delicious that I keep snacking on them myself… I seriously can’t stop. The carrots are what really tie it all together, as they add a bit of sweetness and are just perfect with the peanut butter. Carrots have a lot of awesome health benefits too, as do the other ingredients: rolled oats, peanut butter, and eggs. Here is the recipe:

CARROT PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
(makes about 24 baby-sized cookies)
3 cups rolled oats
2 medium sized carrots, grated or finely diced (approximately 1 cup)
4 eggs (or other binding ingredient)
2 large heaping spoonfuls peanut butter (approximately 4 tbsp)
optional dab of butter or oil (to make softer)

Super-easy Directions:
– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
– Mix all ingredients together in a bowl + then roll out tiny (baby-sized) cookies onto a greased baking tray.
– Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes
– Yum!

Plushie Seder Plate!

While thinking of ways to make Passover more fun for kids (and babies), I got the idea to make a festive seder plate that is entirely made out of plushie toys, paper mache, and other crafts. I made a paper mache “shank bone”, cloth lettuce bunch + yarn “parsley”, plushie “charoset” (the pink ball things), squeak-toy “horseradish” (the yellow thing) and a plushie “clump of horseradish”. I had a decorated wooden egg rattle-toy that I used as the roasted egg. Then I made a couple pieces of matzoh out of cardboard (probably tastes similar to the real stuff!) + decorated them with crayons. The plate itself was a plastic serving tray that I painted. Everything was made from recycled materials and my 1-year-old LOVED playing with it when I was done!

Fun Passover Crafts!

I put together a fun + meaningful haggadah, and now it is time to decorate the covers! I decided to do collage art, because it is something that the baby can participate in (ripping paper, yay!) without causing toooo much of a mess. Later, we’ll decorate the inside pages with crayons, and tie the pages together with colorful ribbons. Here are a couple of my favorite ones so far, and “how to” instructions below…

happy helper

FREE YOURSELF cover (look: she’s holding matzoh!)

MATZOH cover… mmmm

How To Make Your Own Haggadah Covers:

You will need:
– 8.5/11 card-stock paper (fun colors preferable)
– pictures to collage with (magazines, family photos, drawings, etc)
– scissors
– glue

Begin by finding the perfect pictures to create a picture that is both fun to look at + meaningful to you. Lay it out on the card-stock page to make sure it looks right before you start to glue. When the covers are finished + dry, use a hole-puncher to make 3 holes down the side (and do the same to the pages of your haggadah). Tie the booklets together with decorative ribbons. Enjoy!

Yummy Kasha Protein Bars recipe (gluten-free sugar-free!)

I wanted to have a healthy protein-rich snack that I could easily eat while out on adventures with the baby (and that she can eat too, without getting crud all over her clothes). Protein bars seemed like the way to go, but packaged stuff is all made from horrible ingredients, or overpriced. I decided to look up a recipe for gluten-free/sugar-free protein bars, figuring I could probably just make my own bars for cheap… and couldn’t find ANY decent recipes!

So I made my own…

I picked buckwheat groats (kasha) as the base ingredient, because it is gluten-free and has many health benefits. I used peanut butter as my protein source, but any nut butter could be used. For extra protein, you could also add stuff like nuts, seeds, flax, etc. I didn’t use sweeteners, but you certainly could if you wanted to, and I added a suggested measurement to the recipe for those who would find that helpful. You could also add all sorts of fun additional flavors like: cocoa powder/nibs, coconut flakes, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, etc…

Chewy Kasha Protein Bars
prep time: 15min. cook time: 25 min.
serving size: makes about 20 3″x3″ squares

ingredients:
– 3 cups kasha (buckwheat groats)
– 1 cup almond milk, coconut milk, or water
– 1 cup peanut butter or other nut butter (cashew, almond, etc)
– 1/2 cup flax seeds
– 1 tbsp butter or coconut oil (optional)
– 1 tbsp agave or juice concentrate (optional)
– pinch salt
– fun additional flavors like: cocoa powder/nibs, coconut flakes, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, etc. (optional)

1. Bring the water/milk, flax seeds, and 2 cups of the kasha to a near boil (save 1 cup of dry kasha for later). Add the butter or oil. Reduce heat and cook until thick (about 10 minutes).

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked kasha with the remaining 1 cup of dry kasha, and all the other ingredients.

3. Spread the dough evenly on a 12″x16″ well-greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Cut into bars or squares when cooled.

Conscious Parenting

Judging requires effort.  Anger requires effort.  Believing and reacting to thoughts about what “should be happening” requires effort.  Believing and reacting to thoughts like “this is more than I can do” or “people are asking too much of me” requires effort.  These are the things that are actually draining, not what is happening in the moment.

If people imagine that they are needed to do more than they think they are physically able to do, this can be a very stressful thought.  But often what is actually happening in those moments is that they are either not realizing what their capabilities are, or they are misinterpreting what is actually needed in that situation.

I experienced this early on when my infant daughter would cry, I would put out a lot more energy than was necessary as I tried to “fix the problem”, and would feel exhausted and nervous about not being able to calm her.  Then my husband had the insight that all the baby ACTUALLY needed in that moment was for me to be present, and hold her while looking at her with love and acceptance.  And it was true.  I realized that I obviously couldn’t calm her while believing the stressful thought that I HAD TO calm her.  Without that thought, what naturally happened was just experiencing being true love, and this is what is actually needed when there is no obvious physical need.  Everything else requires effort and becomes draining.

Being infinite love requires no effort.  It is not training yourself to have “positive thinking”.  It is what happens before thinking begins.  It is surrendering and letting everything happen through you instead of being done by you.

I used to think that this experience of complete surrender into infinite love and consciousness was something random, ephemeral, and sporadic.  But I have learned that consciousness is actually a muscle that can be exercised (by doing body-awareness and thought-questioning exercises, or by praying in a way that invokes real surrender instead of just feeling safe).

In any moment, you can choose to fully embrace believing your thoughts, or choose to fully embrace consciousness/G-d/surrendering.  I think this is what that “Jesus” guy was talking about when he said to give up all possessions and follow him (I like the idea of reclaiming Jesus as a cool Jewish dude, instead of thinking of him with the mythology/concepts that Christians came up with)… Anyway, I don’t think he was talking about morals or afterlife; I think he was talking about having freedom from suffering NOW.  I think he was talking about giving up all of your baggage (in every moment that you remember that you can) and embracing what is happening in THIS moment instead of believing that you know better than the universe what SHOULD be happening in this moment.  Such sweet bliss is available in every moment, but we often pick “being right” over it.

Gluten/dairy/sugar-free Hamantaschen! mmm

This picture is making me hungry. We avoid sugar + gluten + dairy, but don’t want to cook things that require a bunch of crazy expensive ingredients. This recipe seems simple enough… I may experiment with buckwheat (instead of almond) flour, coconut (instead of grapeseed) oil, and various sorts of fillings such as poppyseed + agave mmmm.

Raspberry Hamantaschen
2 cups blanched almond flour
½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water
some raspberry jam

– In a large bowl, combine almond flour and salt
– In a smaller bowl, combine oil, agave, vanilla and water
– Mix wet ingredients into dry
– Chill dough in refrigerator 1 hour
– Roll out dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper ¼ – ½ inch thick
– Cut dough into circles (size of your choosing)
– Make a light indentation with your forefinger in the center of each circle
– Drop ½ teaspoon of raspberry jam into the center of each circle
– Fold the dough in to create 3 sides; pinch each of the 3 corners to form a triangle shaped cookie
– Bake at 350° for 8 minutes until cookies are golden brown around the edges
– Serve

original recipe + post:
http://www.elanaspantry.com/gluten-free-raspberry-hamantaschen

Inspiration + Advice for Artist Parents

Being with a baby 24/7 can be pretty overwhelming.  Even if you somehow manage to find the time to create art, you may feel like you completely lack the energy to DO anything about it!  For the first year of my daughter’s life, I tried out all sorts of different art-making strategies in attempts to find something that worked.  As a SAHM of the “attachment parenting” variety (with a daughter who tends to only take naps while nursing), I have discovered a few tricks to help me continue making art on a quasi-regular basis…

1. Keep it simple, keep it small
Now might not be the best time for ambitious, gigantic, or super-messy projects. If you feel like you need to get momentum going to make something really awesome, you will be disappointed when you have to stop every 5 minutes to play with the baby, nurse, clean up some poop, etc… Instead, see if you can figure out projects that take less time, and can be done in little spurts without needing a lot of preparation or cleanup.

2. Accept that your art will be different now
That might sound scary, but it is not a bad thing! As mentioned above, you may only have 5 minutes at a time (or less!) to work on your art, and this will definitely have an effect on the outcome. This game of musical chairs might end up giving your artwork an interesting new flavor.

3. Try new mediums
I was primarily a painter in my pre-baby life, which has totally not been working out for me in the past year. But I am now discovering the joys of illustration, collage, and fabric art.  When I’m working with baby-safe materials (like fabric), she can even play alongside with me while I work!

4. Make a plan while nursing
I prefer spontaneous, unplanned, messy art-making. But I have discovered that when every half-second counts, it is better to begin making artwork when I already know what I’m going to make. And what better time to plan it all out than when trapped under a nursing baby?

5. Let your baby teach you how to appreciate everyday awesomeness
Babies are amazed by simple things like mirrors, bubbles, or seeing a flower that is PURPLE. Instead of thinking this is cute and then focusing on “important stuff”, take a moment to really investigate the awesomeness that your baby is pointing out to you. See it for yourself as if YOU are seeing it for the first time… and notice that it really IS amazing! This is a great opportunity for art inspiration.