Archive for February, 2010

losing a child’s lovey is an emergency

February 15th, 2010

I just read Wheels on the Bus, and Lucy, Emily’s son Benjamin’s one-of-a-kind lovey, has gone missing. For a mom, this is a crisis situation. I left an encouraging message after recently having had a Bear Blanket close call. And I don’t want to think about what would happen if we lost Pink Bear.

When I was pregnant, my friend Brenda took me to Maternal Connection at El Camino Hospital, an amazing and rare resource for breastfeeding supplies and support. She told me to buy two flannel receiving blankets. One had a balloon pattern, the other Teddy bears. As only an experienced mom would know, these blankets were cut larger than most receiving blankets, so you could actually swaddle a baby in one. Of course, we didn’t know our baby would weigh 9 pounds, 13 ounces, at birth and quickly outgrow them for swaddling.

Brenda also took one look at me the first time she saw me at home alone with Carter, called El Camino, had me hand over a credit card, and registered me for the New Mothers’ Support Group, another amazing resource when taught by her same teacher, Laurie. My mommies’ group, all with babies born within weeks of each other, is still a lifesaver and actively in touch, as is Brenda’s. During a class, Laurie taught us how to train our child to have a lovey. The hope is a baby with a lovey in the crib will wake up, comfort himself with the smell of Mommy from the lovey, and fall back asleep without crying.

I started with cloth diapers (it’s a good strategy, as you’ll see, to have multiples). I’d put one over my left shoulder, where I would pat Carter after nursing him at bedtime. (I’d be in my bed. Sometimes, I’d fall asleep, too, and “forget to put the baby back.”) I’d put it with him in his crib and toss it in the wash in the morning. Eventually, I upgraded him to flannel blankets, and the El Camino blankets went into the rotation. As the years went by, and the El Camino blankets became the softest from the most washes, Carter settled on just the Bear and Balloon Blankets. He would sleep with them and use them to comfort himself. (When he’d get upset, I’d straight out ask, “Do you want a flannel blanket?”) They also had starring roles in many pretend play schemes. Then they went missing, turning up, finally, in all places, at Brenda’s house. (She had assumed they were one of her kids’ until I called searching for them.)

Late last year, we lost Balloon Blanket. Carter rejected the replacement from El Camino (yes, the shop still sells the same pattern nearly five years later) because it lacked the washed-hundreds-of-times texture. As a preventative measure, I cut Bear Blanket in half. Then one half disappeared. I cut the remaining half in half.

Then the other night, I found myself knocking on the door after hours at Frye’s trying to track down a 1/4-size piece of worn-thin flannel that looks like a rag. I told the man at the door, “It’s an emergency! My son lost his baby blanket!” (I left out that my son is now 5.) I retraced my husband’s steps and nearly assailed the salesperson cleaning up in the camera section, where the model trains live, too. He had seen it…and eventually found it in a back room! I could not adequately express my gratitude.

New rule: Both Bear Blanket halves stay home. Carter’s asleep with them now. And I had to find Pink Bear before he went to sleep. I hope I won’t have to ground her, too.

“I’m doing the best I can”—excuse or survival tactic?

February 14th, 2010

Is saying “I’m doing the best I can”:

A) Giving up
B) Coping
C) My 2009 mantra
D) All of the above

Does the answer depend on whether I say it aloud or just to myself? I confess it was my silent mantra last year, but I’ve found myself saying it lately with some frequency.

Excuse or survival tactic? Discuss among yourself.

when life brings you lemons, make lemonade—and mini Bundt cakes

February 7th, 2010

mini bumdt at 350I didn’t know who Nigella Lawson was until my best friend Dawn gave me Nigella’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess for a wedding gift nearly eight years ago. Nigella’s lemon Baby Bundts recipe, super simple to make with impressively pretty results, has been an ideal match for any of my three mini Bundt cake pans. (I’ve already admitting to collecting Nordic Ware, so is it a surprise I have the multi, the fluted, and the flowers mini Bundt pans?)

Tonight, I used the book’s photo of white icing dripping off the sides of a mini Bundt cake to sell Carter on having the three Meyer lemons he brought home from Lucy’s tree at daycare to do double duty: make lemonade as intended and make dessert for a Super Bowl gathering tomorrow. Bonus: both offer easy ways to engage kids in the kitchen.

Carter loves to hand-squeeze lemons, using funny enough another wedding present, a lemon squeezer from friends Anita and Cameron. Tonight, I let him cut the lemons in half with a serrated knife for the first time. (Just when you thought I’d forgotten about the child-development skills part of my blog, I’ll point out that hand-squeezing and cutting take strength and coordination, while directing where juice or a knife ends up involves hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness.)

For the cakes, however, I didn’t let Carter handle the zester, yet, even though he asked. I’m still nervous about zesting the skin off my own fingers, so I think we’ll hold off on that. We did talk about what zest is and sniff it, though, for a bit of sensory awareness.

Lots of zest (I use more than the original recipe) and the frosting are key to the cakes being flavorful. This is the first time I’ve doubled the original cake recipe, so feel free to half it. You can also use vanilla yogurt instead of plain. And, according to Nigella, the recipe will also work with just about any citrus, such as orange or lime, so make it you own and let me know how it goes.

One-Lemon Lemonade

Squeeze 1 lemon. A large lemon yielded 1/3 cup lemon juice. Heat the same yield amount of water (1/3 cup) and of sugar (1/3 cup water) in the microwave on high for 2 minutes to make simple sugar. Mix juice, simple syrup, and an equal amount (1 cup) of water to dilute. Chill and enjoy.

Lemon Baby Bundts

1 cup plain yogurt (or 2/3 cup Greek yogurt + 1/3 cup water)
1 1/2 cups butter, melted and slightly cooled
4 eggs
zest of  3 lemons (preferably Meyer)
2 cups flour
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon, scant, salt (2 pinches)

2 cups powdered sugar
juice of 2 lemons

Butter two mini Bundt pans (each with six molds). Preheat over to 325˚F.

Whisk together the yogurt, butter, eggs, and lemon zest in a small mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold with a rubber spatula until well combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 molds. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the tops are starting to lightly brown and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool cakes 10 minutes in pans before turning out on a wire rack. Cool completely before icing.

To make the icing, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl and add enough of the lemon juice to make icing about the consistency of honey. Pour icing on top of the cakes and allow to drizzle down the sides.

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess