Friday, November 22, 2013

Sweet Potato Casserole for Thanksgiving

Most of the dishes at our Thanksgiving table are the traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, orange-cranberry relish, and pumpkin bread recipes that have been passed down for generations. One of the newer additions to our family's table is this Sweet Potato Casserole recipe from my stepmother.

It is one of my favorites because the addition of the orange juice gives the sweet potatoes a sweet and tart flavor. I like that the potatoes aren't mashed in this recipe but have some firmness to them because they are layered in slices. I usually make this dish the night before Thanksgiving and refrigerate it overnight, and then bake it in the morning.

6 medium sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup raisins
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup maple syrup
4 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil sweet potatoes about 40 minutes until tender. When cooled, peel and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Place in dish and dot with butter and raisins. Top with salt, cinnamon, and syrup. 

Drizzle with juice and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle marshmallows on top and bake for another 5 minutes until marshmallows have browned. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

What do you want to be when you grow up? Why not an engineer?

When shopping online for Lila's Christmas gifts, a quick internet search for "girl's toys" yields results such as: Fashion Headbands, My First Purse, My First Sewing Kit, Barbie Glam House, Disney Princess Hair Accessories, Disney Princess Dress Up Trunk, Disney Princess Castle... Princess, Princess, Princess, Pink, Pink, and more Pink! I've written about my frustrations with the on-going gender stereotyping that my own daughter has experienced- Not all girls want to be princesses!

Thank goodness for a breath of fresh air- Goldie Blox: Building games for girls to inspire future engineers. Debbie Sterling, engineer from Stanford, is the founder and CEO of GoldieBlox. Inspired by her math teacher to pursue a career in which women are underrepresented, Debbie explains that she would've never known what an engineer was if her teacher hadn't suggested it. How would she when toys designed  for girls to explore "grown up" roles are generally restricted to domestic tasks (cooking, cleaning, taking care of babies) or beauty and fashion (dressing up, styling hair, putting on make-up). With these limited options, what messages do our daughters receive about who they are and who they can become? I love it that Debbie Sterling is totally "disrupting the pink aisle" with toys that inspire young girls to bust through these archaic barriers. The Goldie Blox kits include a story book and construction set that allows girls to utilize their problem-solving skills while learning principles of engineering.

Like most, I discovered Goldie Blox through their highly successful commercial that has been circulating all over the internet. Moms are sharing and talking and giving each other high fives. The demand is there. We desperately want more toy options for our little girls beyond the "pink aisle."

I'm super excited that Lila will have Goldie Blox under the tree this year.




Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My five-year-old, the wannabee teenager

My daughter is five years old, but if she could be any age, she would definitely choose to be a teenager.

Clara's eyes glow and her voice gets shaky with reverence whenever I mention someone who falls into the prized category of teen.

When we recently met a new person of said age, Clara turned to me whispering, "So, you're saying she is thirteen years old. So, that makes her a... teenager, right!?" as though being a teenager is the most magical thing one could be.

I am not sure what caused this absolute adoration of anyone between the age of 13 and 19. Perhaps it is because I teach teenagers. Perhaps it is because being a teenager is just close enough to her age that it seems a reasonable reach, more attainable than adulthood. Whatever the reason, Clara is absolutely hooked on the idea of being a teenager.

At some point about a year ago Clara and I witnessed a situation where a teenage girl was being rude and dismissive to her mom. I mentioned to Clara that sometimes teenagers think they are "too cool" for their parents and try to separate from them. I was trying to teach Clara that this is an annoying but necessary and natural stage of development.

Instead, Clara took my use of the word "cool" quite literally. She believes that spouting the word "cool" must be said in direct proportion to the number of times that "teenager" is said.

Whenever I mention someone who is a teenager, Clara turns into this valley girl teen from the 80's spouting phrases I haven't heard in twenty years: "Oh my gosh, like, wow, this is so cool." "Cool, man!" "That's cool, right, mama?"

Clara took me for a trip down memory lane this week when she asked, "Mama, were you cool when you were a teenager?"

"I was well liked. I had friends."

"That's not what I'm asking. Were you cool?"

I did not consider myself to be a particularly cool teenager. I was cool in the sense that I was an individual and followed my own passions. But I wasn't cool like the goth girls who went to raves every weekend or the preppy girls who had their hairs teased to the sky with their matching plaid pants rolled up at the bottom who met up with the boys from the football team on the weekends.

I racked my mind for something that might represent coolness.

"Um, do you know what a prom is? It's a big dance where everyone gets dressed and at the end everyone votes for the prom queen and king."

Before I could finish my story, Clara interrupted, "And you were the prom queen, right, mama? So, you were cool."

"Well, normally the prom queen is the most popular girl, but in my case, I was running against all the popular girls and their votes got split, so I won more by being the nice girl than the popular girl."

"So, you were kind of cool?"

"OK, I guess I was kind of cool."

Clara seemed satisfied with the knowledge of having a mom who was semi-cool as a teenager.

I am still struggling to find the words to explain to my teen-dazzled daughter that sometimes being "cool" isn't actually the point. I want Clara to know that being cool is relative and temporary. As she gets older, I will remind her that being cool as a teenager is usually based upon other teenagers' views whose motivations are often full of insecurity and judgement.

To current and future Clara, always remember that the coolest thing to be is to be yourself.