Friday, June 29, 2012

Last Day of Strawberries; First Day of Blueberries

Clara and I went to Jones Family Farms in Shelton, Connecticut for our annual strawberry picking adventure. They update the outgoing message on their phone every day with information about the crops, and I was surprised to hear the somewhat dire message that June 28 would be the last day of strawberry picking. This news was immediately followed by a more upbeat, but equally urgent warning that a limited supply of blueberries had ripened and could be picked on a first-come, first-serve basis. They would close the blueberry field as soon as supplies ran out. With that news, Clara and I made the hour drive to Shelton to see if we might be able to return with a supply of two of our favorite fruits.

Clara loved riding the "Berry Ferry," a blue truck that drove over many fields to take us to the blueberry area. The chatty driver shared with us the many techniques the farmers use to scare away birds. Wildlife, he told us, is responsible for eating about 30% of their crops. One of the more unusual techniques was releasing a sonic alarm every hour. He also reminded the group in a somewhat scolding voice that this number doesn't include all of the fruit eaten by human visitors!

Some of the blueberries were big, juicy and ripe, while others were still a pale white color. It was exciting to be there on the very first day of picking. Within just a few minutes, we had a full basket of blueberries. 

As the farmer on the message had warned, the strawberries were definitely on their way out. It took an hour just to gather a small amount of ripe strawberries. Many of them were overripe and decaying already, and we really had to forage to find just-right berries. Clara was especially proud to find a few tiny, itsy bitsy, baby strawberries.

Once home, we got to work making Strawberry Shortcake. After a couple of frantic calls to my mom to remind me how to make whipped cream, we finally figured it out. Clara had cooking class occasionally at school, so she is well versed in the language of cooking. As soon as I set down the berries on the counter, she asked, "OK, now what are our other ingredients?" She helped with every step of production, and she said she was most proud of pouring in the sugar for the whipped cream. 

Gently mix ½ cup sugar with 2 quarts of berries. Set aside bowl at room temperature, about 1 hour until very juicy. (I didn't add sugar to the berries yesterday because I felt they were sweet enough as is, but some berries might need a bit of sugar)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
*For best results, make sure beaters and bowl are ice cold
1 half-pint heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.     Reserve a small amount of heavy cream to use at the end. In a large bowl, whip most of the cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. About three minutes into whipping, add sugar.
2.     Beat for about two minutes more, and then add vanilla. If the whipped cream becomes overly stiff, add reserved cream to liquefy it a bit.
3.     Make sure not to over-beat, cream will then become lumpy and butter-like.
1 cup Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix
1/4 cup shortening
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
Yield: 5 - 6 biscuits
Preheat oven to 375°.

1. In a large mixing bowl pour in Pamela's Baking; Pancake Mix and cut in shortening with fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
2. Pour milk into flour mixture while stirring with a fork. Do not let dough sit. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto a greased cookie sheet.
3. Bake 12 minutes, or until brown on top.
Ellyn’s note: The biscuits were not done after 12 minutes. I ended up baking them for closer to 30 minutes, and raising the temperature to 400 degrees.
Two of our next three meals consisted of Strawberry (and Blueberry) Shortcake. There's nothing quite like sitting down to eat freshly picked berries covered by a dollop of whipped cream slowly melting over a warm biscuit. Yum! 


Monday, June 25, 2012

Being Brave

Photo: Disney/Pixar

Over the weekend, Lila and I decided to escape the heat and hit up a cool, air-conditioned matinee. (This is something my mom and I used to do when I was little.) We got together with our neighbors and headed to see Disney/Pixar’s latest release—Brave.

Lila is always down for a movie but, at first, she was a little skeptical of Brave. You see, Lila is not the “princess-type.” According to Lila “princesses are boring.” To our delight, Brave is not your average princess movie. (Phew!) The princess, Merida, is much like Lila—with her wild, untamed curls, she is athletic, independent, daring, adventurous, and well… brave! She is strong-willed and stubborn. The whole time I felt like I was getting a glimpse of Lila as a teen and what our relationship might be like. Her mom is quite reserved and wants Merida to abide by the rules and expectations of a princess. As close as they are, naturally, the two experience conflict which (without giving away too much of the story line) leads to disaster… that is until they are able to put pride aside, compromise, and mend their mother-daughter bond.

As a mom and a daughter myself, I thought the film did a great job of exploring the complexities of mother-daughter relationships. While right now, to Lila, mommy is the best and mommy knows everything, I know there may possibly come a time when I won’t know anything and the LAST thing Lila will want to do is go to the movies with her MOM. (O.M.G!) Perhaps if I take heed to the messages in the film and insights derived from my own teenage years I could re-write our own fate? I just don’t know… all I know is mother and daughter relationships are complicated. For now, I will just enjoy these moments when Lila snuggles on my lap and buries her face in my shoulder during the scary parts.

FYI… there ARE scary parts in Brave. The movie is pretty dark and there is a giant, demon bear. So, beware! But, if you and your little one are “brave” enough, Lila and I do recommend this film. Let us know what you think.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Bahama Mamas

First thing out of Lila's mouth (to her bff, Elisa) when we arrived in the Bahamas: "I need a drink in a coconut..." My thoughts exactly, Lila girl!

Once we stepped on the beach, we were greeted by plenty of local vendors offering "cocktails in a coco!" Perfect. Coconut drink in hand, Lila's vacation had officially begun.

Now that we are back home, we can still enjoy a taste of the Bahamas with our very own Bahama Mama recipe:

For Bahama Babes
1 ounce orange juice
1 ounce pineapple juice
1 ounce coconut milk
1/2 ounce grenadine
1 cup of crushed ice
Serve in a coconut shell with a straw

For Bahama Mamas
Same as above but add a 'lil rum and enjoy like you're on island time!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Life is good...

So just returned from a short vacation to the Bahamas with our good friends the Malones.  Might have slightly set the bar high with pristine, turquoise blue waters being Elisa's first beach experience (and I still have a love/hate relationship with toes love the feeling but it's totally gross because it gets EVERYWHERE) but I guess I shouldn't be complaining since that will mean more Caribbean vacations for me right?  I could get used to the view... ;-)  

Here's a pic that totally sums it all up...This has really got to be the GOOD life...

"Life's a beach, mon." ;-)


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The sweet and the sour of the lemonade business

Sunday morning, Lila's lemonade stand opened for business. The young entrepreneur was still watching her morning cartoons and finishing her breakfast when her first eager customers (Grandma and John) arrived at 8:45am (15 minutes before the official grand opening.) Lila came running out reciting her sales pitch: "Lemonade! Le-mo-nade!!!"

The first couple dollars came with pure excitement! And so began our small business venture... Here are some things that we learned:

The Sweet:
  • Having a lemonade stand means you get to sample your own products-- ice cold mint lemonade, giant sugar cookies, and yummy cupcakes. After all, you have to test for quality control.
  • Lemonade stands seem to evoke instant happiness. We received lots of smiles just from the mere sight of our stand.
  • Some people will give you money just for being cute and not even take any lemonade or treats.  Or some big spenders will pay double or triple the price for lemonade. (Hmmm, perhaps we were under priced?)
  • You get to meet other children in your neighborhood and set up future play dates.
  • If you have left over products, your Nana will buy the rest and even let you have some of what you just sold to her. ("Nana, can I have some of your lemonade and cookies?")
  • When you own your own business you could make your own hours such as deciding to shut down early for nap time.
  • The sweetest thing of all??? An extra $14.50 in your piggy bank! 

The Sour:

  • Cupcakes with chocolate frosting will melt in the sun. 
  • Sometimes it gets boring when no one comes by for a while.
  • You might get a tummy ache from too much product sampling.
  • Some grouchy people will actually walk by and ignore a little kid even when asked nicely "Would you like to try some lemonade?" (How rude!) 
  • Owning your own business is hard work!! As your business expands, employees (or even partners) may be needed... (But, actually, that could be fun!)  

Friday, June 8, 2012

When life hands you lemons...

We come from a family of business owners, so I believe Lila was born with an entrepreneurial spirit. With her spunk and self-confidence, she is sure to do something special!

This weekend, we are preparing for her first small business venture-- a classic lemonade stand. We plan to set up shop Sunday morning. Pictures and sales results are soon to come. For now, here is Lila's sweet, summer lemonade recipe. Enjoy!

Lila's Lemonade:
1 cup of lemon juice 
1 cup of sugar
6 cups of water
A couple of extra lemons
fresh mint leaves

Mix ingredients together.
Add more or less sugar to taste. 
Slice the extra lemons for garnish.
Add a mint leaf or two.
Chill and serve over ice. YUM!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jingle Bells in June

My daughter loves Christmas music, and when I say loves, I mean LOOOVVVEEES. As in she thinks about it every day from January to December. It is not unusual to hear delighted squeals and giggles coming from our car in September as Clara leads another round of yet another holiday song..."Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh- hey!" But, Clara's fun was squelched last year when my husband made a rule that Christmas songs could only be sung from December 1 to December 31. I think this is a bit harsh, but it really grates on his nerves to hear “Jingle Bells” in June.

So, Clara and I have come up with  a compromise. When Clara and I are alone, she is allowed to sing as many Christmas songs as she wants. She loves when it is all three of us together, but singing Christmas songs is one of the primary benefits of Mama and Clara alone time.
On the days that Clara and I ride to school together without my husband, she quickly remembers what this means for her. “Mama, since Papa is not here, can I sing Christmas songs?” she asks eagerly. Before I can reply in the affirmative, she is already practicing her repertoire, remembering with delight that she can hum Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” in addition to some of her more traditional holiday fare such as “We Wish you a Merry Christmas.”
Sometimes, she forgets what songs are classified as Christmas music. “Wait a minute,” she asked slowly and deliberately last week, “Is “God Bless America” a Christmas song? When I told her no, she triumphantly began to sing it loudly even with Papa in the next room, with a grin that indicated she had outwitted the system.

December, March, June, or October, I love hearing her earnest little voice belting out Christmas tunes, and I love that it has become “our” thing, something we do covertly and proudly together, just the two of us, a sacred ritual we share as we drive to school in the morning. It's fun to start each day with a little holiday cheer... even in June.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Holy Guacamole!

For Cinco De Mayo, Lila's preschool taught the kids how to make guacamole. Up until that moment, Lila wouldn't touch guac because (as her picky father would also say) she didn't "like the way it looked." It was mushy and green, therefore, not very appealing to her despite the fact that Mexican is her absolute fave food and she was nearly born at a Mexican restaurant. (I went into labor at "Taco Loco.")

However, if Lila creates it herself it has to be good. Lila is now a big fan of guacamole-- as long as it's her own! She is also thrilled to be growing an avocado plant at school from the pit. She excited to go to school every day to check on it.

Her recipe is below. I don't know the measurements because Lila tends to cook intuitively (unlike her mother who likes to be precise). The only instructions I have are to chop and prep the ingredients for your little one and let them work their magic. 

2 avocados 
peel, cut, remove pit, let your child have a ball mashing them up in a bowl.

chopped onion
chopped red, green, and yellow pepper
chopped tomatoes
finely chopped garlic
Put them out on the cutting board and allow "the chef" to decide how much or how little to add into the mashed avocado. Stir it all together.

top with:
salt and pepper
a squeeze of lime

Enjoy with tortilla chips or, how Lila likes it, by the spoonful!