Month: August 2013

The House Always Wins- Creating a Mini-Economy to Improve Behavior

  A few weeks ago, G started to earn his first allowance.  To be clear, we’re not talking about boring, plain ol’ green money, but bright red poker chips.  G is thrilled.  Red is his favorite color.
  As R is getting older, he’s needing more and more attention and it was getting hard to take care of everything he needs and everything G wanted me to do and not collapse from exhaustion halfway through the day.  There are only so many times Mommy can clone herself to be in 3 places at once before lunch.  G’s allowance is part of a system we’ve put in place that is simultaneously giving me a breather, teaching him about money, improving his counting skills and cutting down on some of his whining about wanting to watch tv.
  One of the biggest behaviors that we were hoping to curtail with this approach was G’s need for “company” while he uses the bathroom.  He’s a social little guy and he figured out pretty quickly that he can have a captive audience to yammer at if they’re waiting for him to use the potty.  That means that using the toilet inevitably takes him 10 times longer than it should while whoever is keeping him company is trapped in the hallway outside the door, unable to do anything else while he chatters away at them.  He was potty trained months before R was born…he doesn’t need help anymore, he just likes the attention.
  Neither my Mr or I have a problem per say with keeping him company, but he wanted it every single time he used the bathroom and would throw a fit when we didn’t.  It wasn’t a great situation.  So, I told G we were going to start something new and handed him 3 poker chips.
  It works like this: every morning he gets 3 poker chips.  He can spend his poker chips however he wants or save them all day long, but certain things have prices.  If he wants someone to keep him company in the bathroom for instance, he has to pay them 1 poker chip…in which case we’ll be happy to accompany him.  However, if he saves his poker chips and builds up 5 of them, he can pick to watch a show at some point during the day when he normally wouldn’t be allowed to watch tv.
  This is working beautifully so far.  He still occasionally wants one of us to keep him company in the bathroom, but for the most part he has started going by himself…and far more quickly than when he would sit and talk to us.  The tantrums have evaporated because it’s his choice to save the “coins” instead of having company.  He watches a teenie bit more television now, but not much, seeing as he can’t earn an extra show more often than every other day, but best of all, his begging for tv is gone.  Before we implemented this system I was hesitant to let him watch any television besides the 1/2 hour he gets with his lunch.  If it wasn’t part of a routine it always unleashed a tidal wave of begging, whining and tantruming while demanding he be allowed to watch more for days afterwards.  Now, all I have to say is “do you have 5 coins?” and the discussion is over.
  The behavioral changes alone are enough for me, but as an added bonus, we’re also teaching him how money works by doing this.  He is responsible for keeping track of his coins.  Sometimes people lose their money, and once already, G lost a coin.  It made the difference between his being able to afford a show and not being able to afford one.  I happily helped him look for the coin, but refused when he suggested I just go get him another one since, basically, I knew he was supposed to have another one.  Sorry kiddo, nobody is going to hand over that Armani suit jacket you want just because they know you’re supposed to have the money to give them, even if you can’t quite remember what you did with it…  In the same vein, we’ve discussed that he can’t have more coins just because he wants them either.  He counts out his coins to pay for things and we’ve discussed the importance of making sure you’re paying accurately as well…that nobody is going to let you pay with too little, but that sometimes if you accidentally give someone too much, they may just keep it.  Good encouragement for him to make sure he’s really counting correctly!
  So far we’re keeping the system really simple.  He’s only 3 and there are a lot of new concepts involved in all this, so we don’t want to overwhelm him, but it has the potential to develop lots of nuance that will teach him the basics of money and discourage frustrating behaviors.
  Have any questions about how we’re making this work?  Leave me a comment or send me an email!

Cheesy Broccoli and Chicken

  You know, I really hate it when people make versions of super easy meals that are, well, not super easy.  They tempt you in making you think “sweet, I’m just going to dump everything in a pot and go!” and then it winds up you have to hand-make noodles from wheat grown in the Himalayans or something.  Not cool.

1 package Stuffing mix; chicken flavor 
1.25 c water
4 chicken breast halves, chopped into bite sized pieces
4 c broccoli, chopped into florettes
1 c cheddar cheese, shredded
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled 
4 Tbsp Ranch dressing, divided
  So we didn’t follow the instructions for this one at all.  The whole point of the original recipe is that it’s a tin foil pack like a hobo stew, but my Mr decided (and I agree) that when you have to cook ingredients before putting it all in the pack it defeats the purpose.  Okay, okay, it’s not Himalayan wheat noodles, but pre-cooking the bacon is an extra step that gets a pan dirty, so we made this on the stove top instead.
  The bacon is the first to get cooked, followed by the chicken, then the broccoli.  Once all of those are cooked through and softened up, everything else on the list gets added in, stirred up and heated through.
  This was alright, but it was exceptionally salty.  I think perhaps some low sodium bacon…or stuffing mix if you can find that in a low sodium (or both), would help.  I’m not sure that we’ll make it again.  It certainly wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t anything I was all that blown away with that I wouldn’t rather try another new recipe instead.

Scoop Back Top (Completed)

  The scoop back top is done and I’m…mostly happy with it.  The binding on the neckline was a little tricky.  I used the same technique I’ve been using since I made the Ariadne top, and because I was working with a very stretchy knit, decided to reduce the length of the binding by 30%.  Think that was a smidge too much.  Ah well.  The back turned out lovely.
  I didn’t actually have a picture of the front of the original shirt, so I had to decide on my own how I wanted to make it.  Since I was using this black and white stripe I thought I’d channel a French sailor’s shirt and went with a bateau neckline in the front.  I’m not entirely sure it was the right move.
  I don’t think it looks bad persay, but I think all those stripes work as a handy measurement of just how freaking long my torso is…and having them start right up by my collar bone…  What can I say, I’m a looooong cool drink of water.
  To make this I started with my favorite basic top pattern.  I cut everything normally (though I lengthened the hem on the back piece so I could get that nice scoop effect) but just cut notches for where the neckline met at the shoulder seams.  I sewed up the sides and shoulders (check out that stripe matching folks) and tried it on.  I stuck a pin in the back above where my bra hits and started very conservatively cutting til I got the scoop to where I wanted it.
  My scoop back turned out wider and shorter than the one in the original…but like I said, I wanted to make sure I could wear it with a normal bra/tank top, and a bateau neckline just doesn’t look right unless it’s a bit wide.  My Mr. actually suggested adding the scarf at my waist, which goes a huge way to breaking up the “ohmigod she goes on forever” look.  I’ll probably try making the same general idea again in a solid color and maybe giving it a deeper neckline in the front.
  As always, I’m happy to answer any questions you have about how I put this together!  Leave me a comment or send me an email, I love hearing from you guys!

Apricot and Dijon Glazed Salmon

  G loves fish.  It’s a wonderful thing, because it motivates us to have it often, something we struggled with before he started expressing his delight in it.  I like fish, but it’s never something that jumps up and down screaming “make me, make me!” when I’m making my menu.  Probably because it’s seldom covered in cheese.  Luckily I tried this anyhow.
1/3 c apricot preserves
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp soy sauce*
salt & pepper
2 salmon fillets
*not in the original recipe, we used it to thin the sauce
  Combine all of your ingredients except for your salmon together and spread it over the fillets.  Place everything on a broiler sheet (covered in tin foil…you’ll thank me later) and cook it under the broiler for 10-12 minutes.
  This has a wonderful, almost teriyaki like sweetness to it, and I love how simple it is to make.  The process reminds me a lot of my mom’s flank steak.  Even I can’t get bored with cooking when it only takes 10 minutes.
  This recipe went over wonderfully with everybody.  G actually begged for seconds after having his dessert he liked it so much.  I ate more than I probably ought to have and am looking forward to the leftovers for lunch!

Lazy Summer Days (Pt 2)

  Every August my mom’s side of the family has a get together at my grandparents’ cottage.  There’s always lots of food, family and good times.  I’ve been making the trek up North for as long as I can remember, and the cottage has come to feel like a second home.  Now my boys are starting to build memories there too.
  We were just there this weekend and I’m already looking forward to going back.

Scoop Back Top, a Work in Progress

  I almost finished the top I’m working on for today.  The body is constructed and the sleeves are attached.  The finishing however, is not even started.
  Rather than rush through it and doing a hackneyed job, I’m forcing myself to slow down and do it right.  That means you’ll have to wait for the pictures til next week.
  The idea for what I’m working on started with this top:
  My version is going to be significantly more warm weather oriented (though I like the design enough I may just make a colder weather one too).  I had a lightweight white jersey knit with black stripes across it that I decided to use.
  Those stripes are part of why it’s not done.  Ready-to-wear clothing never seems to actually match their stripes/patterns.  It drives me crazy.  So, since I’m a matching-stripes snob, I had to make sure all mine lined up.  Easier said than done.  But, all of my side seams match and even an acceptable number of armhole lines, so now it’s time to cut some bias strips for the neckline and finish the hem and sleeve cuffs.
  Every summer my July and August wind up entirely out of control and this year is no exception.  Lots of visiting friends, hitting the beach and bbq-ing means not a lot of time with needle and thread.  I’m certainly not complaining!  Regardless, this top ought to be done by next week and I’ll show it to you then!

Very Cheesy Casserole

  Today’s recipe is a new one from our good ol’ stand-by, the Everything One-Pot Cookbook.
1 tsp peanut oil
1 c onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp cumin
1 can kidney beans, drained
2 c brown rice, cooked
3 eggs, beaten
2 c ricotta cheese
1/4 c feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp soy sauce
salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 c bread crumbs
  Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.
  Heat your oil in a large skillet (make sure it’s ovenproof) and saute your onion, mushrooms and garlic until cooked and nearly soft.  Add your remaining ingredients, minus the tomatoes, Parmesan and bread crumbs and stir well to combine.
  Cover your mixture with slices of tomato and top with Parmesan and bread crumbs.  Place in the oven and allow to bake for 40 minutes.
  This one got a bit screwed up.  I didn’t buy any new feta at the store because I happened to have some in the fridge already.  When I opened the container the feta was in however, it became painfully clear that it was not something any of us wanted to be eating…so my version was absent cheese…and a fairly flavorful cheese at that.  If I remember I was out of one of the spices as well…so take it with a grain of salt when I say that this wasn’t bad, but wasn’t particularly flavorful.  I don’t know that I’ll be bothering to go back and make it again…I’m not a big fan of the beans and rice combination, so I’m not feeling terribly motivated to work for this, but if you do like beans and rice, give it a try…actually add all the ingredients and let me know what you think!