About Charlie

Hiya, I’m Charlie, the awkward diet coke addict who secretly loves the rain. Some women might be naturals at motherhood. Congratulations to you; I’m so jelly. While confident that I’m doing a good job with my beautiful pumpkin pie, this motherhood thing is just not easy for me.

Deciding to stay home and become a mom full-time was one of the hardest choice this career-minded professional ever made and while I do not regret it the least bit, I do still ruminate putting my career on hold all the time. I look forward to the day I rejoin the daily grind but until then, I value and love spending all my time with my daughter and exploring books together is definitely one of our most cherished activities.

Happy Belated Father’s Day and Breakfast Burgers

Father’s Day was this past weekend here in North America and Melissa and her other half posted a very sweet Father’s Day Gift Idea.  We celebrated by having burgers for breakfast (yummy sauce recipe below) and ice cream cake for dessert.  I wish my daddy a very Happy Father’s Day even though I wasn’t be there to celebrate with him.

fathers day ice cream Cake

Saying my daddy was always working is probably an understatement and most my memories are of my daddy were of him working, but I have many fond memories too.

When I was really young, he was never around the house because he was always working. But then as my siblings and I were a little older, I remember playing at the back of the building where daddy and mommy worked.  This was a large dirt area where my daddy taught us how to ride our bikes when he was on a break.  I also remember playing in an empty parking lot while they worked.  This was the same parking lot where I remember my daddy teaching us how to play badminton and to fly a kite.

My dad worked seven days a week for 16 hours a day but I remember that he was often smiling while he worked.  Because working, while tiring and sometimes challenging, was an opportunity to better ourselves.  So I am not afraid of hard work, I am appreciative of what I have and most importantly, I smile, even when the going is tough, all because of my daddy.

Then when I was even older, I remember helping out, and then working alongside, and eventually holding fort on my own.  Nothing could have honed my skills or boosted my confidence in my abilities or prepared me for the real world more than those experiences, all thanks to my daddy.

While most memories revolved around working, there were some other fond memories too, like of all the times he brought home a new dog or cat.  He also instilled a love of camping, road trips, open water and the general appreciation of nature.  He taught me how to fish and was there for my first catch and again, he was there when I accidentally caught one of the biggest fish of the day.

fishing

He taught me how to drive and parallel park like a champ (probably can’t do it anymore but that’s not his fault).  And he also taught the importance of good dental hygiene.

This article at the art of manliness covers 10 reasons according to science why Fathers are important.  My daddy is important to me because he took the time to teach me so much and helped make me the person who I am today.

My daughter is probably still too young to tell me how her daddy is important to her at the moment but she has some big shoes to fill.

shoes - toddler and daddy

(These daddy’s and my shoes photos were cuter when her shoes were teeny tiny but I think I’ll still keep taking them for her.  So if she ever becomes a shoe lover like me, she’ll have these pictures to help her remember her shoes from her childhood.)

shoes - toddler and daddy

Happy belated Father’s Day to my daddy, my daughter’s daddy, and to all the daddies out there!  Thank you.  You Guys Rock!

Breakfast Burger Sauce Recipe

Makes enough sauce for four burgers.  Adapted from the Food Network

1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

I used a sweet chili sauce instead of the hot sauce, and omitted the chili powder so there would be less heat since my daughter and her daddy aren’t huge on spicy foods.  Enjoy!

breakfast burger

 

Cheers,

with love charlie

 

Open Up! Brushing & Flossing My Toddler’s Teeth

We went to the dentist today for my daughter’s cleaning appointment.  She is not yet 3.5 years old and didn’t get her first tooth until she was almost 2 years old but she has been to the dentist 3 times already, which seems excessive to me.  But our dental plan covers a cleaning and check-up every 6 months, and so while I question whether such frequent dental visits are necessary, I take her anyways for peace of mind.  Our hygienist and dentist both mentioned that these initial visits were really for relationship building and for establishing good dental habits.

toddler getting teeth cleaned at dentist

So far so good.  My daughter was a trooper and got a reward in addition to a goody bag with a toothbrush of her choice (she picked Nemo because of the colors), a floss sample, and some travel-sized floss and kid’s toothpaste.  She was also entered into the monthly raffle for being cavity-free.

dentist goody bag

While my daughter didn’t get her first tooth until she was almost 2 years old, my friend’s baby was born with teeth.  When did your baby get his or her first tooth?

Typically, babies get their first teeth between 5 and 10 months old.  These primary teeth are sometimes called milk teeth because of their white color and are pushed out and replaced by the permanent teeth at around age 6.

The Importance of Primary Teeth

Caring for these primary teeth is important because they are just as prone to captivities as permanent teeth, and even though they will eventually be replaced by permanent teeth, they help baby chew, speak more clearly, and serve as placeholders in the gums for the permanent teeth.  If the primary teeth fall out prematurely, the permanent teeth may drift into the empty spaces, potentially making for a very crooked smile. So open up wide!

Our dentist had recommended practicing dental hygiene even before the first tooth and clean our baby’s gums with a wet washcloth or an extra soft baby toothbrush.  Then when she gets her first tooth, to start brushing with a small amount of non-fluoridated toothpaste until she is able to spit well.  But by the time my daughter got her first tooth, the guidelines must have changed, because our dentist recommended using fluoridated toothpaste from the get-go.

Getting a Toddler to Her Brush Teeth

Our dentist also gave some suggestions on getting my daughter to brush.  Most revolved around keeping the experience light and fun:

  1. singing a (silly brushing) song and incorporating the song into the routine
  2. letting my daughter pick her own toothbrush and or toothpaste
  3. playing brushing with her favorite toy
  4. allowing her to brush our teeth first
  5. playing copycat or follow the leader
  6. try brushing and flossing as early in the evening as possible before she is tired and fussy

When my daughter was young she was like most kids who want to mimic adults, so getting her to brush her own teeth was easy since I had always brushed in front of her.  But getting her to let me brush her teeth was, and still is, a battle.  Some parents would be appalled that I’m still brushing her teeth for her but our pediatrician was a huge advocate.  I encourage my daughter to do almost everything she is capable of, and had initially protested his recommendation because she actually does a reasonably decent job at brushing.

Our pediatrician stood firm and said with conviction that caring for her teeth is something that is too important for potentially well enough because that means it’s also potentially not well enough.  That sold it for me.

I felt it was personal for him as he said he was admonished by his dentist for letting his now 5 year old son brush his own teeth.  I couldn’t bring myself to ask him if his son got any cavities when he brushed on his own.  Anyway, he is promoting assisted brushing until age 6 (and possibly age 10 for flossing).

Our routine now is she gets to brush her own teeth first, and then I floss and brush it again for her.  And if she was really good letting me brush, she gets to use the mouthwash.  That girl loves doing whatever mommy does.

Toothbrushes

These are some of the first few toothbrushes she had picked out herself.  She had no idea what Monster’s Inc. or My Little Pony was at the time but had wanted an electric toothbrush like mommy’s.

kid's toothbrushes

I now use the 360 brush by baby buddy exclusively because it’s just much easier and quicker to clean her teeth.  Proper brushing requires a 45 degree angle.  This is hard to attain without twisting the wrist and practically impossible to achieve with a squirmy toddler.  The 360 brush has extra dense bristles all around so as long as I can get the brush in her mouth, we’re golden.  I also like that the soft bristles all around means I don’t need to worry about accidentally hurting her gums as much as I did with the regular toothbrush designs.

DSC01600

360 brush = Best Toddler Toothbrush Ever! Ever!

DSC01603

As a compromise for no longer letting her choose her own toothbrush, and using the 360 brush, we use toothpastes in all her favorite colors (yes, she has multiple favorite colors).

Flossing

Our dentist had said that not flossing wasn’t an option for us because my daughter’s jaw is so small that her teeth are crowded and super tight (sigh…braces down the road?) while most toddlers tend to have spaces and gaps between their teeth (a very good thing since these primary teeth are space holders for even bigger permanent teeth).

Fun Flossers

DSC01607

We got a sample of these fun flossers the first time we went to the dentist and they seem to clean more effectively and are easier to get in between her super tight teeth than the traditional string floss so we’ve been using these for my daughter ever since.  Her next dentist visit is in December.  Let’s hope everything is still good then.

Cheers,

with love charlie.jpg

 

Easy Cheesy Broccoli Rice

White rice has a bad rap because much of the vitamins, minerals and fibers in rice are in the bran and germ, and these are removed in the milling and polishing processes to create white rice.  Although in the USA, white rice is enriched by law so that some of the B vitamins, iron and folate levels are similar to or above that of the whole grain (brown rice).  White rice is also often considered unhealthy because it is both high in carbohydrates and easily digestible which causes spikes in blood sugar, potentially concerning to diabetic individuals.

White Rice is Awesome

Despite those reasons, white rice makes a regular appearance on our kitchen table.  It’s high in complex carbohydrates which we need for energy. The general rule of thumb is that half of our calories should be from complex carbohydrates.  White rice is also a relatively fat-free, sodium-free and cholesterol-free source of protein.

The main reasons why white rice is a staple in this household is because it’s quick and easy to cook, it’s inexpensive, and it’s very versatile.  It’s neutral taste and texture blends well with most foods and white rice can be made into virtually any part of the meal: soups, salads, mains, sides, or desserts.  And it seems that no matter how it’s made, it’s a comfort food too.

It’s a comfort food in particular though when it’s hot and cheesy.  This recipe is my go to cheesy rice recipe because it doesn’t require any butter or cream so it’s light, but still very tasty and fulfilling.

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Recipe

  • 1 lb broccoli florets
  • 3 cups white rice
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 slice ginger
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 3 oz shredded cheese of choice or 4 slices of cheese

When serving rice as a side, the general rule of thumb is 1/3 to 1/2 cup of uncooked rice per person.  When serving this cheesy broccoli rice as a side, that won’t be enough 😉

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Method

  1. Rinse rice (optional if it’s clean or you prefer a stickier rice dish)
  2. Heat oil and fry garlic and ginger and black pepper until fragrant, a few minutes
  3. Add rice to pan and cook until rice is toasted, approximately 5 minutes

fragrant rice4. Remove rice mixture from heat.  Add chicken bouillon to rice mixture and mix well

5. Add broccoli, rice mixture, sugar and chicken broth to pressure cooker and set for 12 minutes (I have a rice setting on my pressure cooker so it’s dummy proof for me).  If using stove top or microwave or rice cooker, chicken broth and cooking time will need to be adjusted to your methods

frozen broccoli

I use frozen broccoli florets (from Costco) and add them to the pressure cooker frozen and they are so soft that they practically disintegrate after 12 minutes.  They are also so sweet that I omit the sugar in the recipe

6. After rice is cooked, mix in cheese while rice is still hot until cheese is melted

cheesy broccoli rice

Can you believe there is a whole pound of broccoli in there?  This can probably be called a sneaky recipe too.

7. Let rest 10 minutes and serve while it’s still warm or reheat if necessary.  Enjoy!

cheesy rice with chicken

Tonight we had cheesy broccoli rice and strawberry chicken, with extra cheese for my daughter.  More cheesy please!

Cheers,

with love charlie

Turkey Sneaky Balls Recipe

There are lots of ‘sneaky’ recipes online for hiding healthy foods in meals kids will eat but I am a visual creature so when I saw the below photo in my Instagram feed a few months ago, I just had to try to make a turkey sneaky ball.  It was a surprisingly huge hit with my family and is now on the regular dinner rotation.

Turkey Sneaky Balls Recipe/ Ingredients

Ever since I learned about vegetable subgroups, I had been trying to increase my family’s intake of red and orange vegetables.  The importance of variety became more apparent to me after learning more about the different vegetable subgroups and their different nutritional benefits.

As a family, we ate plenty of green vegetables, but rarely ate red or orange ones.  Until I figured out why my daughter refused carrots, these turkey sneaky balls looked like a great way to sneak in a little bit of orange vegetables.  And paired with spaghetti and tomato sauce, the simple meal suddenly has both red and orange vegetables covered.  Yes!

Turkey Sneaky Balls

Turkey Sneaky Balls Recipe

Adapted from Fit and Sam’s Instagram Photo below

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp chicken boullion
  • a handful of cilantro leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups baby carrots
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup oatmeal

A photo posted by Samantha Helms (@fitandsam) on

 

Turkey Sneaky Balls Method

  1. Placed the baby carrots, garlic, and cilantro in the food processor until the carrots were finely minced
  2. Mix all the ingredients until well incorporated
  3. Sear meatballs and then cook in preferred method (continue to pan fry or simmer in sauce or bake in oven etc.)
  4. Enjoy!

mix up ingredients

Mix it! I know it’s better to mix meatballs with our hands but I just didn’t want to risk my daughter sticking her fingers covered in raw meat anywhere near her face or attempting to wipe her hands clean on her clothes so I gave her a big old metal spoon.

mix up ingredients

I am thinking these sneaky turkey balls would also make a great patty for a hot melted sandwich, or maybe add a little cumin and chipotle to the ingredients and make a sneaky balls taco?  What do you think?

So will you be sneaky any time soon?

Cheers,

with love charlie

Star Lamp DIY & Toddler Shedules

For the first 18 months or so, it seems every time we settled on a comfortable schedule for my baby daughter, it was already time for a new one.  But then for the last 2 years (she is almost 3.5 now), she was pretty much on the same schedule and so I forgot that I should just create a new schedule instead of doing everything to unsuccessfully try to get her to stick to the old one when her needs change.  Unless of course someone can give me a sure fire way to get her to nap 😉

When she started to randomly skip her nap, the days became a scramble because everything after the skipped nap was completely ineffective; she was tired and clingy and poised for hysterics when she was normally a pretty awesome kid.  And did I say clingy already?  Cooking dinner was a challenge again because instead of being my little kitchen helper, she might be a clingy zombie one minute, then a clingy Godzilla the next.  She was so clingy that even attempting TV magic didn’t work.  Everything was suddenly ‘scary’.

Bedtime might be suddenly shifted earlier (or she might even pass out at the dinner table) and then the next day is in a jumble as well, as the next morning she might either wake early, or sleep in, or she might nap for an extra long time and then refuse to sleep at her usual bedtime.

star reflections

So after my realization that it’s time for me to readjust our schedule to account for potentially skipped naps, I have been shifting all high priority errands and activities to the mornings.

We’re still figuring out what will work best but I’m thinking I need to add some high-energy activities, like her current favorites: crazy dance party, or laundry basket pulling race, to before lunch, to maybe tire her out more, so she will be more likely to nap in the late afternoon.

I’ve also started to gather some engaging yet quick and easy, and quiet or low-energy activity ideas for the extra hours we suddenly have on hand the days she won’t nap.  Any ideas or suggestions would be much appreciated! She is starting to suggest some too, like this star lamp.

star light in tent 2

She saw a star lamp on TV recently so yesterday, instead of napping, we went around the house gathering supplies.

Star Lamp Supplies

  1. Clear Jar
  2. Paper
  3. Hole Punch
  4. String/ rope for handle (if Jar doesn’t have one)
  5. Light

star lights

Star Lamp DIY Steps

  1. Measure and cut paper to inner size of jar
  2. Punch holes into paper and insert inside jar
  3. Tie string around top of jar for handle
  4. Place light source into jar
  5. Close lid
  6. Turn off room lights to enjoy star pattern on ceiling and walls

star lamp

This was one of those times where nothing went right yet everything still fell into place.  The star lamp is not even remotely near Pinterest-worthy quality, but we ended up having lots of fun making it and she loves it.

How our Steps Really Went Down

She wanted to use blue paper, no surprise there, but we were all out of blue, except for a small scrap that wasn’t big enough to go around the jar, and so we used purple instead.  She wasn’t too happy about that but as soon as I showed her how to punch a star into the paper, she was too excited to start and forgot about her disappointment.

However, when she set out to punch stars and swirls and small holes into the construction paper, it turned out her little hands weren’t big or strong enough to do it.  It won’t do if she had to just sit and watch me punch paper so luckily she was content with (the added but unnecessary step of) cutting the construction paper into several strips.

As she was cutting the paper, I kept searching for the missing jar lid but after a few minutes, and despite her protesting, made the executive decision to stop looking and just use paper for the lid.  The scrap of blue we had left was big enough for the ad hoc lid so she was happy about the color again.

Then it turned out our trusty led lamp was dead.  In fact, all our flashlights were either dead or too big for the plastic jar, but as we were discussing putting the activity on hold for another day after the lamp recharges, we suddenly both had the idea of trying the flashlight app on my phone and it actually did the trick.

star lamp diy inside tee pee

As she sat quietly on my lap in the darken room inside her tee-pee, gazing up at the star patterns, I struggled to keep from falling asleep and don’t know how she has so much determination to stay awake.

The lamp is surprisingly like the Tranquil Turtle I had (unsuccessfully) used to try to get her to sleep as a baby, and like the turtle, the lamp seem to only stimulate her more than relax her.  I really miss my afternoon break while she was napping everyday but this was fun and I do look forward to all the extra activities we can do now.

blurry star reflections

What is your 3 to 4 year old’s typical schedule? Is it notably different than when 2?

 

Cheers,

with love charlie

 
Shop Amazon – Father’s Day in Handmade

Beach Essesntials With Babies & Toddlers

Now that we have a daughter, and she is a little older, we go to the beach 3 or 4 times a year.  It’s a relatively easy trip to plan and something our whole family can enjoy.  It’s not even summer yet and we’ve already been twice this year to nearby destinations.  Before we had our daughter, I was at the lake or on a beach almost every other weekend during the summer months.  Life prior to baby was definitely more carefree and spontaneous.  Before baby, planning was simply:

Friends: “Beach this weekend?”

Me: “Sure!”

After baby, as simple as I try to keep the planning and packing, the car is still loaded up to the brim, and then there is the logistics of actually getting to the beach involved.  A 6 hour drive is no longer 6 hours as we need to stop more frequently for diaper changes and melt downs.  We try to time the bulk of the drive during nap times for our sanity but that means the actual vacation time is cut short since driving is done during the middle of the day.  After finally arriving at the beach, how long we stay is dictated by baby’s needs and many times I might not even get a chance to go in the water, tan or walk along the shore.  Please don’t get me wrong though; I’m not complaining.  These beach trips are treasured family adventures and I love seeing my daughter enjoying the gorgeous outdoors.  I’m just noting the complications going to the beach now entails for me after becoming a mother.

mother and toddler playing in sand at beach

Earlier, as a lead up to Mother’s Day, I had written about my 3 unexpected pregnancy challenges, but like Melissa, restrictions were top on my list of (expected) pregnancy challenges.  Jet skiing was definitely something I gave up after I became pregnant.  I also didn’t go boating anymore and eventually stopped going to the lake and beach because I didn’t want to wait or watch alone by the shore.  My friend, who owned the boat and jet skis, didn’t really understand my overly cautious stance as his wife was also pregnant at the same time I was and she continued to go boating with him.  If I were 10 years younger like she was, or if I hadn’t miscarried before, or if it hadn’t taken such a long time to get pregnant again after the traumatizing miscarriage, I might have continued to join them.

I don’t know how many more years it will be before I can be a spontaneous beach goer like before, but packing for the beach this year with my 3 year old was already notably less intensive than packing for the beach last year or the year prior.  Maybe with each experience we get better at determining which gears work for us but my 3 year old also has much more predictable needs and her schedule is more flexible. I also didn’t need to prepare and bring specific (baby) food, diapers, swim diapers, and more diapers.  The essentials that haven’t changed for our family beach trips, in no particular order, are:

Sun Protection

Some or all of these: Sunglasses, hat, sunblock, umbrella, and tent or shelter with SPF.  The tent also comes in handy for keeping baby off sand and for naps, and privacy if you’re big on that like I am (e.g. for diaper changes, nursing, etc.).  A rash-guard with SPF, especially ones with sleeves, will also provide more sun protection coverage than a swim suit and serve double duty in keeping baby or young child warm if the surf is cold.

Sunday Afternoon Toddler's Play Hat

 

Baby Powder (talc-free)

This makes removing sand a breeze. BREEZE!  Just apply liberally to body and the sand brushes right off with the powder.

 

Toys

This can be as simple as a disposable cup or spoon for the sand and water.  My daughter’s favorite is still just a shovel and a bucket.  Bubbles and a kite are also fun toys at the beach.  Other toy ideas we tried include water gun, floats, and sand molds.

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We haven’t tried a metal detector but that was a great suggestion from Stephanie. She also suggested the great idea of burying treasure, such as beautiful seashells, for kids to discover or dig out and it was a super huge hit with my daughter.

seashells by the seashore

A young baby also needs toys, albeit maybe not sand toys, but toys to distract baby from trying to eat sand.

 

Towels/ Change of Clothes

For drying off (and for laying or sitting on if not bringing blankets or beach chairs).

Dry clothes with plastic bag(s) for wet or sandy clothes or suits.

 

Hand and Face Wipes

You could just use a towel, but I felt the moist wipes were better and most conveniently, not sandy, when attempting to clean food from faces, wiping runny noses, moping up sweat, or cleaning weird stuff found on the little fingers etc.

 

Hydration

Beverage bottles with built in lids like funtainers (I swear I never knew these existed before my daughter needed one and now I see that almost all kids have one?) are so much easier to use on the beach than trying to open a bottle cap with sandy hands, and keeping tabs on the cap.

 

Food/ Snacks

For me, I found it’s almost always handy to have some (healthy) snacks on hand when with young kids.  They can expend a lot of energy in a short period of time and a snack can be just that, but it can also be the magic that prevents an impending melt down from over exhaustion.  Some snacks like fruits will also provide hydration.

How much food to bring really depends on how long you’re staying on the beach and when you’re going.  I used to see families with young kids spend the whole day on the beach eating not one but two meals in the sand, and I envy them.  With my daughter, we have stayed for a maximum of 3 hours, because she would either want to, or I would see that she needs to leave.  We have been having lunch on the beach because my daughter loves picnics but since we stay for just a few hours, we can easily just go after lunch and not have to bring any food to the beach.

 

Safety/ First Aid

It doesn’t have to be fancy and can be just a plastic bag with saline solution, in case sand or sunblock gets in eyes, and a few bandages and antiseptic ointment, in case of cuts (e.g. sharp rocks or shells vs. little tender baby feet).

This year we took a life jacket with us because my daughter loves the water and despite swim lessons, can’t swim.  I can’t swim to save my life either after 5+ years of lessons so I thought a life jacket when playing in deeper water would be the safer bet.

Life jacket or swim floaties is where I see the most variation on the beach. Most families have some sort of toys, or food, or sun protection with them, but as far as life jackets or floaties, it’s all over the map.  Some families are on one extreme of helicopter parenting, like ours, where the kid is within arms reach and attached to some sort of flotation device, while some families are on the other extreme of ‘no-rescue’/ free-range/ platform parenting, and kids barely able to walk yet are playing happily along the shoreline with the parents looking up from tanning only when the kid returns, with all kind of variations along the two ends of the spectrum.

Toddler in life jacket on boogie board at beach

Depending on where along the paranoid parent spectrum you fall, safety/ first aid might not be beach essentials on your list.  On our last day at the beach, the family next to us had 4 beautiful boys ranging from a non-crawling infant to maybe 5 or 6 years old.  They had a large cooler of snacks and beverages and lots of toys.  But then the 2nd eldest boy came back to their tent crying because he got sand in his eye.  And he got spanked for crying and refusing to go back out to play because he said his eye hurt too much so I’m sure they thought our kid looked absolutely ridiculous in a life jacket.

 

Waterproof Bags/ Pouches

You can probably leave most your valuables at home/ hotel but something for your keys and phone can be useful.  I really wanted needed a phone protector because face it, don’t you want to try to get pictures of your cute kid on the beach too?  Water proof pouches also double as sand proofing gear too.

waterproof phone protector (1)

 

Most things are standard for a beach trip with or without kids; just with babies and young kids, I need to be extra diligent about sun protection and hydration.  I never use all I bring but I just find it less stressful being prepared for contingencies.  Having some extra clothes and extra towels in the car came in handy several times.  So what are your beach essentials when going with a baby or young kids?

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Cheers,

with love charlie

 

 

 

 

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Pickle Carrot Sticks

Carrots are naturally sweet and chock full of vitamins.   A single cup of carrot contains over 400% of our daily requirements for vitamin A, which is key for growth, a healthy immune system as well as good vision.

wash carrots

Whenever I think about trying to eat more vegetables, green (salads, or spinach and broccoli) comes to mind, so imagine my great surprise when I found out that for ideal health, vegetable subgroups need to be taken into consideration, and the ideal amount of red or orange vegetables is actually notably more than dark green ones.

For example, according to choose my plate, people should be getting approximately 3:1 red or orange vegetables to dark green vegetables.  For young children, 2-3 years old, the ratio is even higher at 5:1!

Yikes! Does ketchup and spaghetti sauce count as red or orange vegetables?  I have to confess, despite trying to increase the ratio of red and orange vegetables in my diet, I am still no where close.

When my daughter first started solid foods, it was clear that she didn’t like carrots.  The more she refused it, the mushier and creamier I made them to entice her, but she was adamant on spitting out the carrots so I relented after a few dozen failed attempts.  I had read somewhere that babies might need to try a new food approximately 15 times before liking it, but after trying for months and months, making them sweet, or savory or buttery or spiced or plain and her refusing them all, I stopped trying to get her to eat carrots.

Then one day, maybe a year later, I saw her happily eating some carrots at a friend’s house, so I tried making carrots again.  Again, she refused them.  Now that she was older, I just simply asked her what’s up.

She simply responded that she likes carrots; she just doesn’t like them soft.  Oh.  Well then.  So I handed her a raw baby carrot and she said thanks and munched away while I was watching both in amazement and distress that I had just handed her a choking hazard.

In particular, she liked the sweet, tangy and crunchy pickle carrots we got with our banh mi (Vietnamese style sandwiches) that we buy for lunch sometimes when we go to stock up on Asian groceries.  For the last year, I have been trying to find a recipe that replicate that sandwich shop’s pickle carrot and daikon (do chua).

pickle carrots

The one below, adapted from White On Rice Couple, is the closest so far, but not exact.  I can’t put my finger on what is different, but the sandwich shop’s is sweeter without tasting sugary.  The sandwich shop’s is also savorier, but clean tasting.  I just can’t explain it (and I’m pulling my hair).  Any tips or hints or alternative recipes will be most appreciated!

Vietnamese Style Pickle Carrot and Daikon (Do Chua)

Recipe adapted from White On Rice Couple 

Ingredients

 

  • 1/2 lb carrot, julienne
  • 1/2 lb daikon, julienne*
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic

 

*Often I just double the carrots and do not add daikon because it’s not always readily available in my neighborhood store.

Directions

1. Wash and cut carrots and daikons.  My knife skills are atrocious, and having roomed with a sushi chef who laughed every time he saw me trying to cut something, I like to do this step in privacy.  I argue it’s for my daughter’s safety, but hiding is really optional.

carrots

2.  Combine water, sugar, and salt and heat until sugar and salt have dissolved.  Let cool and add vinegar and garlic.

3.  Add carrots and daikons to solution and let sit overnight to a few days for flavors to infuse.

pickledCarrots

It’s very convenient to have these sitting in the fridge to add a little bit of extra vegetable to meals.  My daughter likes it when I add a small handful of these pickled carrots to her sandwiches for a sweet refreshing crunch.  Last night we made fish tacos for dinner and these also came in handy and added a nice tangy crunch to the tacos.

For more information on healthy eating styles, I love the US’s department of agriculture site: choose my plate!  It feels like I’m trying to increase our vegetable intake one garnish or addition at a time but it’s a worthwhile effort right?  So do you have any tips on how we can get enough red or orange vegetables in our diets?  Please share!

Thank you in advance.

Cheers,

with love charlie

 

Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)

Toy dog wearing glasses with patch for lazy eye

Lazy eye is when the brain favors one eye as vision develops in infancy and early childhood leading to decreased or loss of vision in one or both eyes. Both my daughter and I have lazy eye, which I now know tends to run in families. As much planning as I had put into my pregnancy, birth and care of my daughter, I hadn’t thought at all about my lazy eye and the potential of passing it onto the next generation. The Mister had joked that his offspring would be born already wearing glasses because of his severe nearsightedness but neither of us had made any cracks about my lazy eye that wanders and sometimes make strangers think I’m staring at them out of the corner of my eye and strike up conversation.

ortopad eye patches - outer space

The brain may unconsciously favor one eye over another for example if there is a muscle imbalance between the eyes affecting tracking coordination or if vision in the two eyes are significantly different. My lazy eye is from muscle imbalance. My daughter’s lazy eye is most likely from having much more astigmatism in one eye. There are other reasons as well such as limited vision in one eye due to cataracts.

Sometimes signs of lazy eye may be obvious like a wandering eye as in my case, or that the eyes do not appear to be aligned, but lazy eye may not be apparent without an eye exam as in my daughter’s case.   According to the Mayo Clinic, all children between 3 and 5 should have a complete eye exam.

Depending on what is causing lazy eye, it may be corrected with some combination of glasses, contact lens, eye patches, eye drops or surgery. The earlier treatment is started, the better, so I really regret not taking my daughter in for more comprehensive vision testing sooner.

TREATMENT:   GLASSES FOR LAZY EYE

My daughter was prescribed glasses to correct her astigmatism in the weaker eye. The hope was that in correcting the vision imbalance, she might begin using both eyes equally.

She has a small head so we had trouble finding glasses with a proper fit. Most frames have three numbers printed on them; lens width, bridge width and temple arm length in millimeters.  I found a useful infographic online so I put it at the bottom of this post in the resource section.

blue and pink glassses with hearts

We ended up going to 7 different optical stores and was considering buying the frames online when she suddenly said “those ones” and pointed to these pink and blue frames while we were still outside the final store. I thought I heard music in the air.

blue and pink glassses with hearts

While these frames weren’t covered by our insurance and they were a little large, we felt that her liking the glasses was most important for two reasons. First, to increase the likelihood she would wear them and second, to minimize the risk of her taking them off and abandoning them somewhere.

Please note that while this post is NOT sponsored, there are some affiliate links in this post.  These were just products we had success using and wanted to review and share for information purpose.  I am not giving any kind of education or medical advice (I won’t know what’s what).  Please consult your health care provider (pediatrician, physician or ophthalmologist or optician etc.) for diagnose, treatment and medical advice.

ANTI-SLIP NOSE PIECES

Since the frames were a tad large for her tiny face, and it did not have a nose piece, we got these sticky pads for the bridge to help with the fit. It doesn’t look good but she says it’s more comfortable and the glasses slide down less often so I would say they work well.

NosePiece

These came in a 10 pack so I took two for my glasses since I always have a problem with them sliding down my nose too, and I agree, they are comfy.  I am oily so I might need to use a new pair every few weeks.  They have a sticker on one side so they are easy to stick onto the glasses and I was able to reposition them several times until I got the fit right.  Unfortunately that mean it is uneven on the glasses.

NosePiece2

Silicon nose Piece

 

CHUMS

The optician had highly recommended chums to help minimize losing the glasses since she is only three. There are some days where she keeps taking them off but in general she is good about keeping them on because they do help her see better. She loves the chums however because it helps distribute the weight of the frames from her nose and ears to her head and it keeps the glasses from sliding down her nose.

Kids Chums

They come in so many colors and patterns but I choose the two pack in blue because it was a good value and my daughter’s favorite color is blue (in addition to pink and green).

navy blue chums

ANTI-SLIP SILICONE GLASSES RETAINERS

Some chums reviewers noted the chums were hindering their kids from taking off their glasses and putting them back on (e.g. to wipe their face during a sports game) and so I also purchased these rubber ear pieces as well in case the chums prove too much of an obstacle.   But since she seems happy with the chums, I never tried them on her glasses. I put them on mine and love them since my nose is relatively flat and my glasses tend to slide down so I will order a larger size in clear for me.

AntiSlipEarPiece

 

A LITTLE BAD NEWS

Often times, the proper treatment will improve vision in only weeks or months. However, despite 6 weeks of diligence wearing her glasses constantly, her weaker eye still appears to be weaker and so we have started patching for 6 hours a day.

TREATMENT:   PATCHING FOR LAZY EYE

Patching is when the stronger, good eye is covered, encouraging the use of the weaker eye to stimulate it. Her follow up visit is in 6 weeks and I am hoping for the best. Luckily she is still having a good sense of humor about all this and walking around saying “I’m a pirate, argh, shiver me timbers” which comes out as “argh, shiver my tumbers” half the time and cracks me up. I love her.

Baby Pirate

Photo Credit: Katrinaelena

ORTOPADS

We are currently using the medium sized glitter Ortopads but since she will only wear the blue mermaids, and with enough persuasion, the green lady bugs, the rest are mine to wear just to keep her company.  The patches come to around $0.40 each, so that’s not an ideal scenario.

Mermaid and Ladybug

The ophthalmologist’s office gave us these three on the most recent visit and she liked and wore all three styles.  They were waaaaaaaayyyyyy less sticky too so they was much easier to remove.  The problem is I haven’t been able to find them for purchase.

ortopad eye patches - boys

So I just ordered these (non-glitter) ones with the hopes she will like more than just one pattern out of the whole box.


Oh boy, it is tiring when forcing the weaker eye to work. I get nausea too. After just a few hours I feel like I’ve been working out so I give my daughter extra hugs and kisses for being such a trooper. I noticed quickly that my daughter’s depth perception is slightly off and her peripheral vision is poor when her good eye is covered. For example, she might stick her spoon of food into her cheek by accident or clip the door frame when walking through the doorway, so I make sure I hold her hands when we go up or down the stairs.

3 PATCHING TIPS:

I wanted to share three tips that I had picked up and used with some success from Amazon reviewers:

  1. Stick patch on the back of your hand first to reduce it’s stickiness. I do this every time for my daughter’s patch but it still ends up stuck on tight by the end of the day.
  2. Remove patch after baby or child is asleep. I hadn’t planned to use this since my daughter has enough trouble falling asleep as it is and I do not want to risk waking her, mad at me, but one night she fell asleep with the patch on so I removed it while she was asleep.         Amazingly she didn’t wake and barely flinched so on the nights she is willing to sleep with the patch on, I wait until she is asleep to remove it. It saves all of us some tears and grief.
  3. Use oil or Vaseline to help lift the edges and reduce the patch’s stickiness for removal. I need to use oil or Vaseline to rub around the patch’s edges before she would let me remove the patch.

OrtoPad sticker eye Patches for Lazy Eye

AMBLYOPIA EYE PATCHES FOR GLASSES FOR KIDS

I also got these patches to place over her glasses frames. It came 6 in a box but other than accidently losing some, I’m not sure why we need so many since they seem perfectly reusable even if very flimsy.  The unwrapped patch in the picture has been reused for days and had been put on, taken off, put on, taken off numerous times and despite a few wrinkles, still looks and works fine for us.  I guess they could get dirty easily or get lost.

Lazy Eye Patch for Glasses

I’m not sure why some of the reviewers said it was hard to put on the glasses but because my daughter’s frames are small, it only takes me seconds and so I find these eye glasses patches very convenient.


The ophthalmologist had recommended the sticker patches over the glasses patches so my daughter won’t be able to peek or cheat but I got the glasses patches anyways so that when we’re out and about, I can easily use these to maximize her patched time.  For example, I can just pop these on her glasses for the car ride and then take them off at the destination whereas I can’t quickly remove the sticker patches from my daughter’s face because it hurts her. I can rip the patch off my face with no problem but she is still young and the skin around her eye area is extra sensitive.   She is also probably not oily like me so instead of the patch coming lose over time as my patch does, her patch seem to get more stuck as the day wears on.

blue eye patch for glasses

Here is my daughter’s toy dog baby modelling her glasses.  Despite how cool all the different patches look, I really hope she doesn’t need to be patched any longer than the 6 weeks.

Toy dog wearing glasses with patch for lazy eye

References and for additional information, check out these links:

Mayo Clinic: Lazy Eye Basics

Medical News Today: Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)

Rehealthify: (YouTube video) Amblyopia Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & More…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4pXMjqs12o

Zenni Optical has a cool infographic on how to understand frame sizes:
What Are The Best Eyeglasses For Your Face Shape? - Infographic

Affiliate Links:

Lemongrass Grilled Pork (Thit Nuong)

Lemongrass is a perennial native of India but cultivated worldwide for its oil for medicinal, culinary, or cosmetic applications among a multitude of other uses.  The lemongrass stalk itself, though very tough, is commonly finely crushed or chopped and used in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.  I personally like it because it’s very fragrant with a refreshing lemony taste, but more delicate and subtle than citrus zests as I’m very sensitive to bitter flavors.

It pairs well with seafood, chicken and pork and is good for a variety of curries, soups, marinades, or tea recipes.  But it’s hard to find fresh lemongrass in my neighborhood grocery stores so I’ve long contemplated growing my own.  Is it wrong to fantasize about access to fresh herbs on demand?  I have an okay green thumb for ornamental plants, but a complete black thumb when it comes to gardening for food.  I have never ever succeeded in growing anything edible but since lemongrass is a grass, maybe, just maybe?

Growing lemongrass (among other herbs I frequently use) is fairly high on the list of things I would like to do (when I have the time or energy), but it had been very low on the list of priorities to-dos.  However, lately there has been a lot of news about Zika carrying mosquitoes.  I suppose these news are more scary for pregnant or planning to be pregnant women, but either way, it seems the demand for mosquito repelling plants are up, because I am seeing more and more citronella grass, lemon balm, catmint (catnip), marigolds, lavender, and garlic, just to name a few, for sale with “MOSQUITO PLANT” signs or labels (which I assume means these plants help repel mosquitoes rather than attract them).

So what does this have to do with growing lemongrass?  Lemongrass is also a top mosquito repelling plant.  So maybe growing lemongrass, now with the additional purpose of protecting my dinky-a-roo and family from nasty bites, has very good reason to move up on my priority to-dos list?

Grilled Lemongrass Pork Recipe

Adapted from one of my favorite blogs for Vietnamese cuisine The Ravenous Couple 

Ingredients

Lemongrass Pork ingredients 01

  • 1.5 lb pork butt or shoulder
  • 1/4 cup finely minced lemongrass (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp ground pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp thick soy sauce*
  • 3 tbsp roasted sesame

Lemongrass Pork ingredients 02

*Note thick soy sauce is a different product than regular soy sauce.  It is thick and rich and has molasses.  This was another product I had difficulty finding so there are several jars sitting my pantry.

Directions

The hardest part of this recipe might be finding all the ingredients but otherwise, it’s fairly easy and can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.  The below piece of pork butt was approximately 3 lbs and for our small family, was 6 meals worth of meat.  We ate one fresh and froze 5 for the rest of the month.

Lemongrass Pork Butt 01

Cut meat into 2 to 3 inch pieces of approximately 1/4 inch thickness.  Optional, hand tenderize the pieces.  If you have quality meat, this is totally unnecessary.

Lemongrass Pork Butt 03

Mix all ingredients except for the sesame seeds for marinade.

Lemongrass Pork ingredients 03

Marinade for at least an hour up to a day.  If freezing, I just place each meal portion into a plastic bag and then put them directly into the freezer without waiting for it to marinade.  The time it takes to freeze and defrost is sufficient for meat to marinade.

Lemongrass Pork Marinate

Grill until golden and slightly charred.  Alternatively, bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit/ 148.9 degrees Celsius until done, approximately 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve hot with vermicelli or rice. I find it best served with mild or sweeter sides as the meat can be on the saltier side.

I was pensive about posting this recipe because the only picture I have of the finished meal was actually of a flopped attempt.  I’m good with finding time to take pictures during the preparation process but always forget the finished product because by then, my attention is on making sure everyone is ready to eat while the food is still the right temperature.

The pieces pictured below were totally overcooked because I was too zealous about the hand tenderizing (there is something therapeutic with pounding with a hammer) and the pieces were thinner than ideal.  And then I did another cooking no-no, I stepped away from the grill and didn’t check on the pork until it was too late.  It still tasted okay, but was not juicy as usual.  But like my putting growing lemongrass off again and again, until news of Zika gave me additional reason to do it, I decided the same for this post, if not now, when?

Lemongrass Pork

In addition to Tom Yum soup, another recently discovered family favorite with fragrant lemongrass is Melissa’s Curry Chicken.  Thank you Melissa for the recipe!

Next time you’re grilling, will you give this recipe a try?  And if you have lemongrass growing in your yard, there might even be less uninvited pests at your BBQ.

Cheers!

with love charlie

 

Buttercream Frosting

Hello there!  I’m not sure if Tuesday is just a second Monday but here is a little sweet and colorful icing recipe to add some rainbows to your day, whichever day it is.  What is your favorite color?  What about your favorite cupcake frosting color? Are they the same?

rainbow cupcakes 01

If I had to pick one, mine would be blue.  Is yours blue too?  Just guessing blue because according to this info graphic, it is universally the most common favorite color whereas orange is the least popular favorite color.  I used to love reading those color personality tests because blue is often associated with trustworthiness, peace and intelligence and who doesn’t want to be associated with those things right?  Although I have yet to read a negative personality test result for any color 🙂

Lately my daughter is on a rainbow kick, insisting that rainbow is her favorite color.  She used to say it was blue, green and pink but lately she has added purple, brown, orange, yellow, red and gray as her favorite color.  So when it came time to put icing on some rainbow sprinkle cupcakes, she naturally requested rainbow frosting.

plain pudding cupcakes

Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Adapted from My Cupcake Addiction

Ingredients:

5 cups softened butter (250g/ 8.8oz / 2.5 sticks)
5 cups powdered sugar, sifted (600g / 21oz)
1 tsp vanilla extract (or extract of your choice)
1-2 tbsp whole milk, cold

Optional:  Food coloring if using.  The gel types would add less liquid to the icing

Directions:

 1. Soften Butter if necessary

TIP:  You can soften butter in the microwave using the defrost setting for approximately 10-15 seconds.

I can’t believe how giddy I was when I found how to soften butter quickly because it is usually impromptu baking for this mommy (and, well, I am just plain forgetful sometimes).  This is how my solid stick of butter looked after 15 seconds on defrost:

soften butter

2.  Beat butter for 5+ minutes

Beat room temperature butter for 5+ minutes

3.  Add powder sugar 1 cup at a time and beat for ~2 minutes with each addition so that sugar is well incorporated.  Add 1/2 tbsp whole milk as required if icing is too thick.  When ~1/3 sugar has been incorporated, add vanilla extract.

4.  Add coloring if using.

wilton icing colors

I envisioned a pastel rainbow so I used a small small amount of red, blue and yellow gel dye (a toothpick pokes worth of each).  I put the icing into a plastic bag and then poke each color into the icing, then tried to mix the icing so that the yellow and blue would make green and the red (pink) and blue would make purple.

Pastel Buttercream Frosting

icing in bag 02

Pastel Buttercream Frosting

After I started frosting, I saw that I got a good amount of green but didn’t mix enough purple.  My daughter still okay’ed it but I made a mental note for more purple next time.

Pastel Rainbow Sprinkle Cupcakes

This icing can sit in room temperature for a few days.  If refrigerated it can last for 1-2 weeks.  It can also be frozen for later use but I haven’t tried that.

I got the recipe and directions from this awesome YouTube video by My Cupcake Addition:

p.s. I only made 2/5 the recipe because I didn’t want to put 5 cups of butter and 5 cups of powder sugar on the table for dessert for 3 people.  As a result, I only had 1 cup of icing and it was enough to frost ~5 cupcakes as pictured below:

rainbow cupcakes 02

So let me ask again, what is your favorite icing color?  I think I’m changing my answer from blue to rainbow too.  SMILE!  It’s Rainbow-day.

Cheers!

with love charlie