Friday, September 28, 2012

Sand Art: A "Controlled" Mess Art!

The rain and the cold are upon us, and so is the hunt for engaging indoor activities. This summer, when it was too hot to be outside, I ran into Sand Art at the art supply store. I bought one package and brought it home. Soon enough, though, I had to make another run to the store to buy another package and now I am looking at needing even more. Within minutes of trying her hands at this new craft, JR fell in love with the creativity, the "controlled" mess, and the process. She now sets up the room for it, sets out the necessary tools and calls for me to "do craft with her." While the scenes still display summer, the timeliness of the activity is unquestionable.

Here is what we do when Sand Art is our activity of choice; 

 First, start off with laying the scene you want to "color" out on a separate piece of paper.
The paper underneath will serve to catch the extra sand that is poured out, collect it,
and funnel it back to the bag for use on another scene.

Then, lay the paper, and the sand, on a plastic sheet, to protect your floors and help with clean-up.

Pour sand out,

Level with fingers,

and tap off any excess.

This is how the extra sand is collected.
Now fold the paper to funnel it back to the bag.

And here is the finished product.
Display on your favorite wall or refrigirator door.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Routine" ~ a photo story

We may not have our "routine" down to a science yet; JR still sleeps and wakes up at pretty unpredictable hours, eats when she's hungry, takes a bath at night on some days while skips it altogether on others, and randomly hangs out with friends depending on their availability.

One thing she does have down, though, is her "after the park" routine. Below is what she does once she has returned home, taken her shoes off at the door, and scrambled to the bathroom.

she climbs up these steps, and much to my worried surprise, all by herself,
sits on the counter, turns the water on;
luckily she knows to use the cold and not the hot water faucet,
adjusts the water flow; not too much or too little,

grabs the soap,
and proceeds to wash her feet,
and rinse them off, making sure she did not miss a spot,
and dries them off!
Now she is ready to play indoors!



O is for Optimal; making the most of what you have.

Monday, September 24, 2012

spice your rice series ~ 2: turmeric rice with corn

Yellow rice! Think of fun that would be to eat. And, with corn in the mix, it is even more appealing to the littlest taste buds.

Growing up, rice was a staple in our house. It was served at almost every dinner meal I can remember. Only on weekends did we have meals that did not include rice. So, my mom had to get creative with her cooking. One day she started making turmeric rice with chicken and corn. I do not know the origins of the recipe, but I have since adopted it in my own kitchen and make it for family and dinner guests alike.

To make it all you need is one pot, 30 minutes of cooking time and a handful of ingredients;

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1 small onion; diced
  • 1 cup of homemade chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • salt
Heat olive oil and sautee onions until soft but not brown. Add rice, corn, water and broth. When the liquids start boiling, add turmeric and season with salt. Turn heat to low and cook until rice is done.

Enjoy with plain yogurt on the side, or on top.

Now, wasn't that easy!

cook's note: to make it more wholesome, you can shred cooked chicken and add it to the rice once it has finished cooking.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Free" Time

I love having "free" time. I do not usually do much that is interesting with it, but I like the thought of having it. It is like "bonus" time, time to do whatever I want, eat whatever I want, and talk to whoever I want. That does sound nice, doesn't it? But that's all it is; a thought! When I have that time, what do I chose to do with it? Nothing! Mostly, I lie down; generally, I sleep.

"Sleep when your baby sleeps." I heard those words in what seems a lifetime away. "Sleep when you can." "Catch up on your sleep." I did not need to be told more than once; although at times I did need to be reminded of them. It feels like all I have been doing since early 2009 is sleeping, and yet it seems that I am still not caught up on it.

Ever since I found out I was pregnant with Jannah-Rae I have been trying to "get ahead" of sleep. I napped when I could, I slept early, woke up late, lounged and relaxed. I slept in late, napped on the weekends, and went to bed early when I could. I was planning on relaxing even more during my maternity leave, which I decided to take a couple of weeks before JR was due, but alas, she came next day after I started my leave.

So, when Jannah-Rae arrived I was hard hit with not having "banked" more sleep hours. And, like all new moms I tried to be a mom and continue with my "normal" life. So the phrase, "sleep when your baby sleep," had to be etched in my mind for me to heed its words. But when I did, a whole new world opened up; the world of sleep!

Now, more than two and a half years later I still sleep when Jannah-Rae sleeps. Yes! I nap with her every single day. When she used to take two naps, I used to take two naps. Now, she takes one nap, so I nap and then I hang out in the quiet and relax. I do not talk on the phone, I do not run errands. I may cook, clean at times, catch up on email and maybe fold laundry but mostly I try to be still. I may be behind on housework, but this makes me a happier Mama to a rested JR.

I also go to bed at night when she does; on many days if not all. Jeff tucks us both in and we snuggle together before we drift off to la-la land. Yes! She still sleeps in our bed; at least part of the night. Thankfully I have a husband who supports this practice. On other nights I stay up with Jeff, but that is still after I start out resting next to JR and making sure she is asleep.

So, when do I get "free" time? Some days not at all. Some days when I have help in the afternoon or early evening. But when I do get this "free" time, I still find myself wanting to rest. It seems that sleep is something you cannot bank. I wish I knew that when I was little and fought sleep tooth and nail!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Creaky Old House

I love our public library. Growing up, we did not have a library you could just borrow books from. We had one at school, but it was small, limited. When I arrived to the US, new doors opened up to me; the Library doors. I discovered a whole new world out there, where you could walk in, hand over your library card, and take as many books as you like, and walk out.

I did not come to fully appreciate the library though, until JR became interested in books. Of course I wanted to read to her, and read to her often. But we do not have room to keep buying books, and I did not want to keep spending money on all these books, when one day we will surely stop reading them. Enter the Library!

My friend told me she makes a monthly trip, takes a reusable shopping bag, and fills up. I decided to try the same. So, one Saturday, I left JR napping with her Baba and headed out to the Central Library. I felt like a kid in the candy store, except I did not have to limit myself, or pay for anything when I was done. The possibilities were endless. I started with a few, the ones that were on display. On the first trip, I came home with around 2 dozen books. We sifted through them, and ended up with a handful of favorite ones. Now, I brave the shelved books and browse them before I check them out.  Over the months, JR and I have come to have favorites that we renew, or when the renewal period expires, check out again. In the case of a couple that we absolutely loved, even purchased them for our library at home; you will hear about one such book in a future post.

This week's loot brought home a book called Creaky Old House. A family of nine, and a dog, live in the house. One of the boys describes the house, and talks about how a simple repair job turns into a major remodeling project; the door knob on the front door falls off and they fail to fix it. Suddenly, though, and while everyone is busy putting the remodeling ideas and blueprints together, his little sister, Lizzie, fixes the door. The book is filled with rich, new vocabulary, and wonderfully vibrant illustrations. The rhyming text, and I am partial to text that rhymes, flows easily and musically from page to page. It is not a short book, 32 pages, but you could easily skip passages without compromising the story.

You can buy it here, or check it out from your local library!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


N is for nature; a great source of mystery and learning.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Seasons; a clothes narrative

While not officially here for a few more days, Fall is in the air. We sleep with the windows open at night, we wear light jackets in the morning hours, and we see longer shadows in the afternoon. Rain falls on and off, and it smells clean and sweet.

Today, I cleaned out JR's closet and put her summer clothes away. It always saddens me when I say goodbye to a season through her closet. While I have been doing the same thing with my clothes throughout the years, somehow it is different when it comes to JR's. Redoing her closet four times a year, and although its only been two and some years, puts a time stamp on our lives. It symbolizes her growing up and the time passing by. Whereas with my clothese little changes from year to year - donate the old, keep the new - little else changes; I have been pretty cosistent with my size. In her case, though, it reminds me that the clock is ticking, that she is growing, and that there is such a thing as time, and it is precious.

It is easy to lose track of the days when I am with her all day every day. I often have to refer to the calendar on the wall to remember what day of the month we are in. I look at my watch to see what time it is. But growing up knows no dates and no time. It just happens, right before our eyes, a little each day, every day until one day, the clothes get too small - or do the kids get too big? One way or the other, they grow up, slowly become their own selves, and one day, too soon, leave. Then, the closets stand empty, and the seasons change all by themselves. If I am still up for it at that time I may continue to rotate my closet, but if I am not, then I will track the seasons through the window, or on the calendar. Until then, though, I will enjoy watching JR grow and observe the season through her clothes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


M is for Many; there is so much out there, to live and learn.

Monday, September 17, 2012

spice your rice series ~ 1: Riz bi Lahme or Rice with Ground Beef

There are lots of things I love about Lebanese food. One of them is how simple some dishes can be. Rice with ground beef may not be a "traditional" Lebanese dish, but it is served in many of the households I grew up with, and it was always the meal of choice at my Teta's house whenever there was a large lunch gathering. Served warm, topped with pine nuts and almonds sauteed in butter, with huge chunks of chicken hiding among the rice, it was always a satisfying meal. Garlic-mint yogurt is always this meal's trusted companion. It is not complete without a bowl of the yogurt sitting on the side, waiting to be drizzled on top.

To make this at your home, here is what you need:

  • 1 cup of white rice
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2.5 cups of chicken broth; I use homemade
  • salt, pepper and cinnamon
  • olive oil

Finely chop the onion, and add it to the olive oil that is heating on a medium high heat. Once the onion begins to soften add the meat, salt, pepper and cinnamon; all to tatste. Brown the meat thoroughly, then add the rice and the broth. Once the broth has come to a boil, lower the heat and simmer the rice until cooked through, around 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning as needed.

To serve, as above, cook the pine nuts and slivered almonds in melted butter until brown. Do this on low heat and keep a close eye on the nuts as they brown quickly. Shred some cooked chicken on top of the rice, add the nuts and serve with the side of yogurt. Enjoy!

cook's note: if you want to change it up a little, you can add 3/4 cup frozen peas to the rice while its cooking; that way you get your protein, veggies, and carbs in one dish. With the diary in the yogurt you have one completely balanced meal.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

On-line dating: the story of us

We met over three years ago; online! We each had our circumstances which brought us to the cyber board that united us with our one common condition; being pregnant around the same time and having estimated due dates around the same month. And so it was a daily exercise to get on the board and share our concerns, questions, hopes, dreams, frustrations, motivations; you name it, we talked about it. One thing led to another and soon Stephanie and I were making a "yoga" date.

Months after we "met" online we decided to meet "in-person." We both loved yoga and decided to become yoga buddies. Every Thursday, for moths, after work we practiced prenatal yoga together and drove home together. We did not meet otherwise but looked forward to those 45 minutes of "me" time and catching up.

Then, JR came along. She was the first among her three peers to appear; she came early. Tessa followed. And, life became hectic. One day, we hear from another on-line acquaintance; Sonia. Sonia, was part of the February board so we did not know her as intimately as the other January Moms, but we were so thrilled that our in-person group was about to expand. Eleanor was also born early, which qualified Sonia to switch to our board. And one day, she showed up at one of our play dates. What a wonderful surpise. Back then, little did I know that Sonia would become my go-to person with questions and support, both in mothering matters, and life matters. All I knew at the first introduction was that I was opening my house to someone I did not know, who could turn out to be a complete psycho. I am glad I was wrong!

One visit led to another, and pretty soon we were having regular meet-ups and play dates. We would go to the breastfeeding support group meetings together, have lunch at Whole Foods, take walks, and hang out at each other's  houses.

Then, Stephanie's maternity leave came to an end. What a sad transition that was. A few short weeks after that, our group of three became a group of one, when Sonia, too, had to go back to her job. Little old me was the only stay at home mom, back then. Now, it is different; at least temporarily again. When, after a few months, back at work, Sonia annouced she was leaving her job, I thought the news was too good to be true. But it was! Once at home full-time, Sonia and I saw a lot of each other and kept up with seeing Stephanie. Although it is easier for me to hang out with Stephanie over the weekends, since she lives a few blocks away from us, we try hard to find times when Sonia is also free on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Like today!

Today was a most beautiful day, and not because the sun was shining and the air was crisp, but because it was one of those weekend days when three friends, who a little over three years ago went on with their lives independently of each other, got together to share their lives. Life does work in mysterious ways. This way worked out to better the lives of three, then new, moms.

Stephanie, Ranya and Sonia

and, the reasons behind us;

Eleanor, Tessa, JR

Eleanor, Tessa, JR


K is for Keeping; or not keeping, as nothing stays and everything changes.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Learning Bears

I am not one who usually recommends "products" to other people. While I love getting recommendations, I hesitate to make my own because you never know. You never know what others are looking for, what their philosophy is, how much they want to spend, etc. There are so many factors that enter when making a purchasing decision that most times I just feel more comfortable keeping my 2 cents. Now, if someone asks for my opinion, I share, but I do not volunteer.

Today, however, I am making an exception! With most of JR's friends in school, or back in school, I decided that it was up to me to make sure she did not feel "left out". One way to do that is to engage her in what people may refer to as "educational" toys. To me every minute of every day of JR's life is educational, and everything around may as well be a toy. But this particular purchase could be considered "educational" in the sense that is fosters "formal" learning of math; size, shape, weight, color, addition, subtraction, and counting.

Learning Resources Three Bear Family Rainbow Counters provided this lesson of the day wherein JR sorted the bears by size. She lined them up to form a line, and gave them names. She also imagined they were "waiting" in line for their turn, and even sat behind them for her turn. We talked about small, medium and large, and tried to associate that with babies, mothers, and fathers. Of course, she had her own ideas of who the mothers and the fathers should be, but that is all part of the fun. When she was done, she counted them as she put them back in their tub, without prompt from me, or help!

While the tub comes with 96 bears, I thought that was too much bears to keep track of, so I split it with a friend. I recommend you do that, too, otherwise you will be chasing these multi-colored figurines all over your house.

You could buy them from Amazon, here.


J is for Juggle; many roles, many hats, many responsibilites.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I'm on the phone; a photo story

Here is the story of a little girl talking to her friend while on a leisurely walk.

Hello, so and so, this is me, Jannah-Rae.
Yeah, I am sitting here in the stroller.
What are you doing?
How are your brothers and sisters?

The sun is out here, but it is not too hot.
No, I am not hungry.
I just had breakfast yesterday.
Yes, last Sunday we went for the walk, too.

Well, I cannot really tell you what I think.
Why? Because Mama can hear me.
She will be sad. I do not want her to be sad.
Yes, Baba is here, too.
Last time Baba and me went to the park;
the one with the sand.

You are really funny, you know that?!
I have to go now;
Mama wants her phone back now.
Ok. See you later.


I is for Imagination; it sure is fun living in my daughter's imagination these days!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012