Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summertime, and the livin' is CHILLY!

The high temperature yesterday was barely into the 70s. It was breezy and sunny, and perfect--as close to fall as we'll get for the next few months! My favorite. I celebrated it with a trip to the farmer's market AND by looking ahead to *real* fall weather and registering for my first full marathon in October! (FYI, a marathon is always 26.2 miles--always. Anything less is not a marathon; anything more is an "ultra"marathon.) I've been following an 18-week training plan for the past 2 1/2 weeks, so it was about time I officially registered. Wish me luck!

Lunch was a lovely little autumnal beet-green-and-poached-egg skillet topped with crumbled goat cheese, sea salt, and black pepper. Those odd little yellow-green things are garlic scapes and green onions, from last week's trip to the market. I chased it all down with a warm, steamy mug of Oregon Chai. Cheers to summertime fall!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Little Guy!

Today my son is two. TWO. I can't believe it. I wanted to make daycare treats for him, but knowing what he likes, I couldn't just whip up a batch of cupcakes and call it good. He literally shudders when he eats things that are overly sweet. So what do you make for the kid who wakes up every morning and tells me, "I need a peach!"?

Fruit pizza!

I didn't get to make this until after 10pm last night, or I would have put more effort into cleaning up the cookie crust. Eventually I'd love to make a gluten-free one. This one is simply made from a sugar cookie mix, but I cleaned up the rest in my own way.

Rather than cream cheese + sugar, marshmallow fluff, or whipped topping as various recipes called for, I mixed lower fat Neufchatel cheese + raw local honey for the "cheese" layer. The toppings, which in the recipes are to be mixed with sugar + cornstarch or marmalade for a glaze, are simply fresh, local blueberries from the farmer's market and sliced peaches that I soaked in pineapple juice to prevent them from browning too terribly. That's it.

I sampled some before I sent him off to daycare (quality control, folks) and it was mighty tasty. He ate the fruit off the top of his tiny square and told me I could have the cookie. :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Celery--who knew?

Over time I've come to realize that, while I don't really care for cucumbers as much as I think when I see them in the store, I really do like the taste of celery, especially when I find it in a meal where I wasn't expecting it. My photographer friend's Pad Thai is one of these meals--she snuck some celery in there last time I had it, and my tastebuds did a little dance when they tripped over that light and crunchy bite. The same thing happened when we enjoyed our stir-fry soup this week. Celery goes great in chicken soup! The crispy pieces in the middle of the soft noodles and tender chicken was just right. Springy and fresh!

Celery is sometimes called a "negative calorie food," meaning it takes more calories to chew and digest it than the food itself contains. The idea that celery is a staple of dieters who are severely limiting their calories is kind of off-putting to some people, which is maybe why I never remember that it's actually quite tasty AND good for you. It *looks* really boring, but it's so not!

Did you know that celery is actually a great source of vitamin C? Yeah, that vitamin found in oranges and bell peppers and broccoli--it's also hiding in those pale, unassuming stalks. No wonder chicken soup is so good when you're sick! Celery can also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. You can see more of celery's awesome credentials here, one of my favorite sites.

While the Clean Eating Machines don't eat a 100% organic diet, celery is one of the items I always buy organically. It is on the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list--a list of the 12 most contaminated fruits and veggies, which they recommend you purchase organically if possible. What makes celery so dirty? Its lack of skin or peel makes it highly susceptible to pesticides and chemicals used on conventional crops, which are hard to wash off with just soap and water. Buying organic celery ensures that your stalks are safer. You can see how the produce is rated here.

When I buy a bunch of celery, I try to wash and prep it right away, to keep it from getting limp. It's also a lot easier to add a handful to your soup, stir fry, or simple sandwich when it's already washed and cut! I like to cut one bunch (a package usually contains two) into sticks, which I store in a dish with water to keep the ends from browning; the other bunch gets chopped into smaller chunks.

Here are my favorite ways to enjoy this crunchy powerhouse:

--In my favorite Chicken Beet Salad, which I will make this week with beets from the farmer's market.

--Mixed with tuna, Greek yogurt, dill, chopped fresh tomato, and Dijon mustard for a tuna salad sandwich.

--In chicken stock or soup, Asian-inspired or not! This is a great way to use the celery you may have forgotten about and allowed to get a little soft... I won't tell.

--As a quick and crunchy side with burgers or other summertime fare, dipped into homemade Ranch (or other) dip made with plain yogurt.

--In this tabbouleh recipe from Clean Eating Magazine.

Is there a fruit or veggie you tend to forget about until you have it, then realize how much you enjoy it??

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hey, thanks!

Yesterday another blogger friend told me that we had made the list of "50 Best Blogs for Cleaner Eating" published by Cool, huh? But the original link wasn't working, so I didn't get to see my name in "print." And then... I did! Because The Clean Eating Mama was also mentioned, and she had the link in her latest post. I was excited to see some familiar names on the list--some of them, like The Eat-Clean Diet and Eating Clean Works, helped me get my clean-eating feet wet. Thank you for your readership. It's nice to be known, especially since I was convinced only The H was aware my blog existed. Keep reading, and I'll keep eating. I mean, posting. :)

Stir-fry soup

Monday's dinner was originally going to be chicken stir-fry with peas and green onion, but at the last minute I gave The H a choice between "chicken over rice" and "chicken with noodles" and he opted for the (rice) noodles. It turned out to be a great decision! The Asian Chicken Soup that resulted was pretty darn fantastic.

First, I soaked a half package of dried wild mushrooms in warm water. I've had this package of mushrooms for so long, I was glad to have a chance to use them. I thought they'd jazz up this otherwise-boring-looking soup. While those were rehydrating, I browned two sliced chicken breasts in grapeseed oil in the wok and got some broth boiling in a separate pot, to soak the rice noodles in.

The noodles only took 10 minutes to soak. Meanwhile, I threw a handful of chopped celery, about 2 cups of snap peas, some green onion, garlic scapes, and the rehydrated mushrooms into the wok. I seasoned it all with wheat-free tamari sauce, three cloves of chopped garlic, and some freshly grated ginger. I keep a knot of ginger in the freezer and just peel the skin down when I'm ready to use some--a Microplane is awesome for grating it, even when it's frozen.

Once everything was heated through and the noodles were soft, I dished some into our bowls.

It was good.

It was so good, in fact, that The H didn't even bother with his bowl when he got seconds.

He says the mushrooms added such a great depth of flavor. I was impressed with the colors they contributed to the bowl. I'll definitely be using them again. For as simply as this was seasoned, we were both pleased with how flavorful it was. No need to add salt (thanks to the tamari) or pepper, though you could certainly spice up an individual portion easily.

Good thing I set aside my portion for lunch before we sat down to eat; I don't think we would have had any left otherwise.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Weekly meal plan

Sunday lunch - grilled honey mustard turkey meatloaf, sweet potato packets, celery

Sunday dinner - grilled chicken with asparagus, watermelon, and lemony herbed red potatoes

Monday - chicken stir-fry with snap peas, Napa cabbage, green onion, garlic scapes, and celery

Tuesday - (meatless) Black Bean Mango Salad from Branny Boils Over

Wednesday - turkey (maybe) meatloaf with spinach

Thursday - individual pizzas with turkey Italian sausage and whatever veggies we have to use

Friday - visiting family

Saturday - visiting family

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eating out: The Cheesecake Factory

Since we don't have a Cheesecake Factory where we live, The H and I have made it a point to stop in whenever we're in Atlanta, even if it's just for dessert.

I ordered a portobello burger that came topped with melted cheese (I forget what kind), grilled red onion, tomato slices, and shredded lettuce. There was supposedly a "spicy mayonnaise" on there as well, but pretty much all I tasted was a balsamic-like flavor on the portobello itself.

It was MESSY. Probably one of the messiest things I've eaten in a long time! Each time I took a bite, the portobello slid further away from my mouth. I ended up taking off the top bun completely, and eating the rest with knife and fork.

Before our meals came, I also had two pieces of brown bread and one section of the baguette. The brown was better.

We got dessert to go--Godiva chocolate cheesecake for The H since it's made with a base of flourless chocolate cake--and red velvet/white chocolate for me and the little guy to share. I have never yet been disappointed in a cheesecake flavor from here!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fajitas and freezer meals

Last month, I ordered a flank steak from our local co-op with the intent of making fajitas with it. I had seen a recipe in Clean Eating Magazine, and I was hoping to replicate it. Too bad once the meat was thawed, the recipe was nowhere to be found. So I made one up (why are you not surprised?) using this recipe from Chef Mommy and this one from

The cut of meat was so big that I had enough for two meals. And since I bought enough peppers and onions for at least that many, I decided to make a batch of fajitas to freeze. I always *mean* to cook one/freeze one, but it usually never happens. Today, I got to change that! The portobello caps I bought on Sunday also got sliced up, intending to supplement the meat, but once I discovered just how big it was (it was folded in half in the freezer pack) and saw I had enough for two full recipes, I quickly got out a third freezer bag and made a batch of vegetarian fajitas--portobellos, peppers, and onions. Perfect!

Once the marinade was mixed up (I had about 2 cups) I simply poured it into each bag, shook it all around, then laid the two extra on a plate to be placed in the freezer.

These were not as powerfully flavorful as I would have hoped, but still very good. Adding some Frank's RedHot to each serving gave them some extra oomph. Next time I'll add it to the marinade.

I'm so excited that I have two (nearly) ready-made meals stashed away!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Clean and local burgers & fries

Tonight we had burgers and fries--the clean and local way! Or, at least the way *I* do clean and local.

The fries were made from local parsnips (thanks to the farmer's market) and sweet potato. I cut them into fry-sized pieces, tossed with some olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and cayenne, and roasted at 425* for about 35 minutes.

I got this idea from Katie at Health for the Whole Self--I never would've thought to make parsnip fries on my own, but I'm glad to have another way to prepare them.

I shuffled them around after about 25 minutes to help them brown evenly. I like 'em crispy.

The burgers were 1/4-lb patties from a local farm via the co-op. The H seasoned them perfectly--I love dried chipotle powder! Between that and the cayenne on the fries, it was a pretty spicy meal.

When the fries were done, we plated everything and sat down to deliciousness. Our burgers were topped with spinach, tomato, and mustard (organic ketchup for The H).

I ate mine on a sandwich thin, and The H had his on a piece of freshly-made gluten-free, egg-free bread. I used flax meal "eggs" with our usual GF bread recipe, and it came out great. And you know what? We ate off salad plates, so even though it looks like a heap of food (and it was really filling) our portions weren't overpoweringly heaping. Try it sometime!

Eat-Clean Egg Salad

This was lunch yesterday. I've been wanting to make it for months, but every time I have the eggs made, someone eats the cottage cheese I was saving, or I run out of green onion, or... you get the point. The H came home for lunch, a rarity in our household, and since we didn't have any leftovers to heat up, we needed something fresh and fast. And I finally had everything I needed! He peeled eggs while I chopped veggies, and we were sitting down to eat in no time.

Eat-Clean Egg Salad
from The Eat-Clean Diet for Family & Kids by Tosca Reno
Makes 1 cup

1/4 cup fat-free cottage cheese
1 Tbsp skim milk
1 tsp prepared mustard
4 hard boiled egg whites, diced
1 hard boiled egg yolk
2 Tbsp chopped green onion (one onion)
2 Tbsp chopped celery (one rib)
Dash of curry powder
1/4 tsp sea salt

1. In a medium-sized bowl, whip cottage cheese and milk until smooth. (I didn't make it smooth--no biggie.)

2. Mix remaining ingredients except egg whites with cottage cheese mixture.

3. Add diced egg whites to mixture; mix well.

The H ate his with Mary's Gone Crackers, and the little guy ate his with a fork. Mine was placed atop a slice of locally-made whole-wheat bread. The recipe made exactly enough for the three of us. I really liked the texture, and the little hint of "hmm, what is that ingredient?" nuance from the curry powder.

Nutritional information for a half-cup serving:
Calories - 170
Fat - 3.5g
Saturated fat - 1g
Trans fat - 0g
Protein - 17g
Carbs - 18g
Dietary fiber - 3.5g
Sodium - 528mg
Cholesterol - 106mg

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Meal plan SATURDAY

Look at me, all ahead of the game and stuff. :D We're home from ATL after a *perfect* travel day, and ready to stretch out in our own house (and kitchen!) for a while. I jetted to the grocery store after dinner--pizza at a local joint that offers gluten free crust--to stock the fridge.

As usual after a long trip, I went a little nutso in the produce department and came home with the following:

Bell peppers--orange and red
Peaches--the little guy has been asking for them since we experienced real, fresh Georgia peaches this week :)
Mushrooms--white and portobello
Spinach--I have about 450 frozen banana halves waiting to be smoothied!
Sweet potatoes
Vidalia onions
Green onions
Chex for The H (gluten free!)
Kashi cereal for me
Cottage cheese
Organic half and half
Yogurt for the little guy
Earth Balance "butter"
Milk--skim for me and The H, 2% for the little guy

I'm quite sure I react to not cooking a lot by overestimating the fresh things we'll eat when we get back, BUT I made a meal plan first (built around meat that we had in the freezer) so I wasn't just buying random ingredients. I will make a trip to the farmer's market on Wednesday to get fresh eggs (we boiled the dozen left in the fridge today after checking their freshness) and whatever produce/herbs looks good. I would've loved to shop more locally for this trip, but I needed selection and convenience this time.

Our meals for the week, in no particular order are:

Fajitas--with flank steak from the co-op and portobello mushrooms with peppers and onions on corn tortillas... there will be plenty to share, anyone care to join??

Burgers--on the grill, served with a mango-melon fruit salad and parsnip/sweet potato fries

Kabobs--with locally-farmed chicken and loads of veggies, over brown rice

Pizza--our meatless meal for the week, gluten free and grilled if possible, using all sorts of veggies

Turkey Sausage Ragu--a good rainy day (there are some forecast...) meal from Clean Eating Magazine, with kale

And, if we don't end up going out, Turkey Chili with black beans (in the slow cooker)

Lunches for the week will be leftovers, clean-eating egg salad, and clean PBJs (natural peanut butter + fresh fruit on whole-grain bread).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Do you eat enough fruits and veggies?

A little blurb in the most recent issue of Clean Eating Magazine (at least, I think that's where it is... of course I can't find it now) includes a reminder that we should be getting 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Do you? It made me wonder how close I get to that goal, so I decided to keep track for three days and see where I fall.

1. Dried cherries (breakfast)
2. Raisins (breakfast)
3. Strawberries (lunch)
4. Beets (lunch)
5. Edamame (snack)
6. Tomato (dinner)
7. Red onion (dinner)
8. x
9. x

3 fruits, 4 veggies. Two servings short... I could do better by having a banana (and spinach! Go green monster!) with my breakfast, or as a morning snack. I did not have an AM snack, so that would've been an easy fix.

1. Mixed fruit (with breakfast--grapes, melon, orange slices, pineapple, raisins)
2. Green salad (spring mix, baby spinach, radicchio) topped with...
3. Beets (for lunch)

4. Blackberries (snack)
5. Edamame (snack)
6. Sauteed bell peppers (dinner)
7. Sauteed onion (dinner)
8. Pinapple salsa (with soy-flax tortilla chips... now I'm reaching!)
9. x

3 fruits, 5 veggies. Better than Sunday, but still not where it should be. Skipped the AM snack again. We were out shopping... I should've put some berries or a banana in my purse. I will have to make a concentrated effort to reach my 9 when we get back home!

1. Raisins and dried cherries (breakfast oatmeal)
2. Spinach (green monster)
3. 1/2 banana (green monster)
4. Blackberries (snack)
5. Vegetable soup (carrots, corn, tomato, zucchini)
6. Green salad (Romaine, mushrooms, tomato, broccoli)
7. Banana (snack)
8. Strawberries (snack)
9. More blackberries (snack--the last three were topped with cottage cheese)

FINALLY! I got my 9. Just out of curiosity, I'm going to keep track for 3 days at home, too. I think being in a hotel and not having a solid meal plan for the past 2 weeks has thrown me off. At least, I hope so--I would have thought my fruits and veggies intake was much higher than this shows! And if it's really not, well, then I have all the more reason to hit up the farmer's market.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Soup or salad?

I've come to realize recently that I don't really care for green salads. You know, the kind with chilled (perhaps wet), pale lettuce, oversized slices of cucumber, hunks of mealy pink tomatoes, maybe some shreds of carrot and Cheddar cheese. They just don't do it for me. I usually realize this *after* I have ordered one, and end up eyeing my neighbor's steamy, hearty bowl of veggie soup with envy.

My kind of salad looks more like this:

Or this:

Dark, tender mixed greens topped with a melange of fruits, nuts, stinky cheese, and veggies. Now we're talking.

If you ever have occasion to dine out with me, and I am debating between soup or salad, please point me back to this post.

Toddler Travel: Entertainment

Once you're on board your flight and the newness of your surroundings wears off ("reading" the emergency procedures card will only last so long...) you'll want to have some goodies ready to entertain your little one. Don't pull them out too soon--if you're still on the runway when the first surprise comes out, you'd better have a BIG stash handy. ;)

We have found that bringing toys that the little guy has never seen works best. They hold his attention the longest. Depending on the length of your flight, this could get expensive--so try looking at the dollar store, Target's $1 Spot, and party supply stores to build up a great stash before your trip.

Some of our favorites have been a travel Magna Doodle, Crayola Color Wonder markers/paper, stickers, and small board books featuring his favorite characters. The clearance section at Barnes & Noble is a good place to find those.

Magna Doodle--no markers, no mess. The stylus is attached with a short string. It's cool for little people to see that their movements make the picture show up. Less frustrating than an Etch-a-Sketch.

Color Wonder--the markers have NO COLOR. They only show up on Color Wonder paper. You can find blank pads, coloring books, and activity books that use these. Some are sold as kits with a mini coloring book and three markers, or you can find full sets at stores like Target.

Stickers --my son adores peeling stickers and decorating things, including his hands and shoes. He calls it his "project." The dollar store, or office supply row at Target, is a good place to find lots of inexpensive stickers. Bring a small notepad/notebook for them, and be sure to check your seat when you exit the airplane to make sure you didn't leave too much decoration behind.

Board books--they aren't as fragile as paper-page books, which you probably already know by now. They are sturdy enough to get tossed into a carryon bag, dropped on the floor, chewed on by teethers, and read by little hands without coming apart as easily as flimsier counterparts. No chance of paper cuts, either! Barnes & Noble often has sets featuring Disney characters on clearance. Cloth books are another option, which you can also find there.

Favorite toys--while you will want to have some new things, never underestimate the power of a favorite friend. The little guy brings his pint-sized Elmo when we travel, as well as one tried-and-true farm animal book. These familiar items help him feel at home in his new place and on the airplane.

Magazines--use the SkyMall catalog (or any magazine you may have brought with you) and go on a virtual scavenger hunt--look for three dogs, blue circles, find an old lady, have him/her point out something you can drink, etc. The airline doesn't care if the SkyMall mag gets ripped, so ease up and let your kiddo go wild(ish). Stickers can go in here, too.

Crayons--sometimes just good old fashioned crayons and a coloring book are awesome. My son *loves* to color. I can't tell you how many times a day I hear "No Mommy, I'm still colo-ling" when it's time to go somewhere. Crayola makes triangular (and washable) crayons that are nice because they don't roll all over the place. You can buy "travel kit" coloring sets at a place like the dollar store, or Husdon News in the airport for a lot more $$, that contain a few crayons and small-scale coloring books/pages that are nicely sized for a carryon or purse. Even if you don't use them on board, they're great to have available for pulling out in a restaurant that might not provide them.

Creativity--some of the oddest things have kept the little guy's attention when we were least expecting it. If The H or I wear shirt with hoodie strings, zippers, buttons, or snaps, it provides something for him to play with when his toys are boring him. His pair of dog-face (no, really) squeaky mittens became finger puppets and put on a show for him, causing gales of giggles. If you don't have mittens, a clean pair of socks (or hey, the ones your little one is wearing) can become hand puppets in a pinch. A piece of Bubblicious tooth-rotting bubblegum I found in my bag became the Mommy Blows Bubbles show for a few minutes. Get creative!

DVD player--there has only been one flight on which the little guy was squirrely enough to warrant pulling out my laptop and firing up a Handy Manny DVD, but if your child is used to watching shows at home (especially to wind down) bring some along. You can buy a pair of kid-safe headphones (look at Target or on Amazon) just for him/her to use, to make it extra special.

Being prepared before you get on board (I like to shop for travel goodies at least a week in advance so I'm not stressing that I have enough for him to do) will help you keep your cool if and when your little passenger acts like, well, a kid. You'll have lots of fun up your sleeve to distract him/her. It's always nice to hear from fellow travelers "Wow, he was so well behaved!"

Once you get to your destination, breathe a sigh of relief, since you will once again have access to the toys you've packed in your checked bags... OR if you need to save space, you can utilize a baby-equipment rental company like Baby's Away or Breezy Baby Travel Co and rent toys from them! More on them in the next Toddler Travel update.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Soup and salad

Tonight's dinner was light, after playing at the children's museum. It's nice to have local contacts like the one who told us the museum is free on the 2nd Tuesday of the month! She was kind enough to join us with her husband, little girl, and another local mom and her toddler. Thanks for meeting us, guys!

For dinner we got salads from a place at the food court in the CNN Center (Building?). I was in the mood for some more comfort-like food, and vegetable soup hit the spot. It was made without MSG, trans fats, or other weird ingredients. Aside from being quite salty, it was good.

My salad, while quite pretty, wasn't much to write home about. Maybe it was the dressing--too tart? Too cold?

The little guy ate some of my tomatoes. He also made up his own salad (cucumbers, cheese, turkey, kidney beans) and ate most of it.

A small miracle occurred when we got home: rather than making a beeline for the cheesecake or frozen espresso bar lurking in the fridge, I rounded out my evening with three whole-wheat graham crackers and a bowl of fruit (blackberries, bananas, strawberries) and cottage cheese. And decaf. (Did you really think I'd go a day without my decaf?)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Life's a zoo... then and now

Here are some pictures from our two trips to Zoo Atlanta with the little guy. They are from his first trip, in September 2008 (roughly 10 weeks old) and our trip this week, when he is 23 months old. The 2008 pictures are also pre-clean-eating... I think it's kind of funny how I've shrunk as the little guy has grown. :)

September 2008 vs. June 2010

Pandas, September 2008 vs. pandas, June 2010

Peekaboo! September 2008 vs. June 2010

Caleb's ride, September 2008 vs. Caleb's ride, June 2010

Gorillas, September 2008 vs. gorillas, June 2010

Toddler Travel: The Airport

When you travel with a little guy (or gal) you either need to know how to juggle, grow extra hands, or plan ahead and have a stroller or carrier that suits your needs.

Not all airlines will allow you to "wear" your baby in a sling or Bjorn-like device (call ahead and ask), though you can certainly use one in the airport. You will have to take the baby out when you go through security. The excuse one airline gave us is that they'd have no way to get the baby out in the event that I should become incapacitated. The Bjorn got stashed overhead that time, and I was glad that I had The H there with me to share holding duties. We put the (very) little guy into it when we were in the airport tram on the way to baggage claim.

September 2008

Since then, we have used a travel system, a simple umbrella stroller, a baby jogger, or the little guy's own two feet. Yes, that's right, we didn't bring a stroller on our most recent adventure. I don't recommend that until at least age three. :) Our favorite method is the umbrella stroller, but if your child is not old enough to support his/her head yet, obviously don't go this route.

If you are traveling with a car seat, I recommend purchasing a sturdy bag for it (Babies R Us sells some) and checking it with your other baggage. Most airlines do not charge for this, as it is considered an "assistive device" for your little one. The ticket agent should have plastic bags that fit over the seat if you don't have your own, but given the scratches and stains our traveling bag has sustained, I am glad we had the seat in something other than thin plastic. If you would rather gate-check your seat, or bring it with you in the hopes that there is an empty seat on board for your little one to use *with* his/her seat, that is your prerogative. It is just one more thing to carry and keep track of.

Before you get to the security line, have all of your TSA-approved liquids-and-gels bag easily accessible, and take your jackets and belts off and put them in your carryon.

If you are traveling with another adult, send him/her through security first, with the stroller and infant seat, if this applies to your situation. Then let a few people go ahead of you so the first person has a chance to get his/her things together and get the stroller set up and wait for you at the other end. Then you will only need to slip off your shoes and baby's, put your carryon and liquids bag in a bin, and walk through with your child. You can hand the baby to the person waiting with the stroller, allowing you two free hands to collect the rest of your belongings. You cannot set the baby in his infant seat while the seat is on the conveyor belt. Guess how I know?

Once you're through security, the rest is easy. Purchase milk if your baby will need it during the flight, since most airlines don't offer it during the drink service. Fill your reusable water bottles or buy fresh water so you can stay hydrated or shake up a bottle of formula when you need to. This is much easier than having to wait for a TSA agent to test your pre-made bottles in the security line. Find your gate, and as soon as you see a gate agent there, double-check that you are seated in an appropriate row for travelers with a lap child.

September 2008

If you have time to kill before your flight, let your toddler walk around as much as possible to burn some energy--and maybe work out a poop so you don't have to change one in the postage-stamp-sized airplane lavatory! If your little one isn't old enough to walk, lay out a receiving blanket for him/her to stretch out on with a few favorite toys.

When it's time to board, you can do one of three things:

1. Board early, when they call for travelers needing extra time or assistance. You can get settled in your seats without being in a crush of people, but you will be on board longer.

2. Board with the other passengers, as you would if you were traveling by yourself. If you are traveling with someone else, have him or her hold the baby while you stash things in the overhead bin and beneath your seat.

3. Send your partner on board with *all* your stuff (minus baby) when boarding begins, and let him/her get the bags settled, pull out your water bottles, and maybe even unload a few books or toys to stash in the seat pocket. Then you get to stay behind and board as the VERY last person with your little one in tow. This gives him/her the most leg-stretching, non-confined time possible, and assures that you aren't trying to juggle gate-check items, carryon, baby, and boarding pass(es), as well as trying to sit down without banging either of your heads.

Once you're on board, relax. You're not going anywhere for awhile. :)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Atlanta - Day 5

Ufff. That is what I have to say about the humidity today. The H and I both went for a run (separately) this morning "before it got too hot." Yeah... it was still hot. He did his 2mi around 8am, and I left for my 6mi at 8:30... which I quickly shortened to 5mi, and then out of desperation, I finally made a deal with myself that if I was over 4mi by the time I got back to the hotel, I'd do a few laps around the parking lot to make it 4.5 and call it good. And that is just what happened. Whew! I refueled with coffee and a green monster, just like the other day.

Then we went to the zoo! This was our second visit to Zoo Atlanta. Back in September 2008, we braved the 92* heat and humidity with our 10-week-old (duh). I'm drafting a "then and now" post with some pics from both trips--in the same exhibits--so you can see how we've all changed!

He was not a fan of the petting zoo, until The H showed him how he could brush a goat. He loves brushing things--his hair, my hair, the dog. Why should a goat be any different? :)

Of course the elephants were a big hit. He loves making his (very wet) elephant sound, which he is in the middle of in the photo above.

The lion was asleep, but we still said hi!

After the zoo and naptime, I went to Trader Joe's for some snacks while my boys hit the pool. I came back with a treasure trove of goodness--blackberries, strawberries, more spinach, eggs, half and half. gluten free pasta, chicken burgers, bell peppers, graham crackers, dark chocolate almonds, beets--and whipped up a quick dinner.

We had gluten-free rice pasta with marinara sauce, roasted garlic chicken sausage, and a vegetable medley, with a glass of red wine. This all came from our first TJ's run last Tuesday.

For my post-dinner munchies, I enjoyed a plate of juicy blackberries, cinnamon graham crackers (made with whole wheat and evaporated cane juice!), and of course some decaf.

These crackers are thick and crunchy, just sweet enough, and made with not-terrible ingredients. Sure beats the ones from the grocery store that I have been avoiding for the past year! Too bad they're not gluten free, or then they'd be perfection itself. (Sorry, H!)

Since I thought all day that today was Sunday, I was extra excited to remember that *tomorrow* is Sunday, so we have another full day of relaxing and exploring ahead of us before jumping into crazy busy-ness again on Monday. Happy mid-weekend to you all!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Atlanta - Day 4

Ah, Friday. The sigh of relief at the end of a busy week! And yes, despite being able to relax poolside with my fellas and a charming inflatable turtle, it *has* been busy! Being away from home--with or without a toddler--and still trying to maintain work and routine and sanity isn't always easy.

Today's breakfast was steel-cut oats with chopped pecans and maple syrup, and a chocolate protein shake. I would have liked raisins in my oats, but I forgot to ask The H to bring me some from the breakfast buffet.

The little guy and I munched some dried cherries for snack time, but that's it--we'd been shopping (is "Lost in Translation" worth the $4 I paid for it at TJMaxx? I took a chance...) and then I had to pick up The H and a coworker, who were very nearly caught in the rain. We shared a bowl of Trader Joe's microwaveable rice noodles for lunch, though they were extremely salty and he didn't care much for his portion. He chose instead to eat a hardboiled egg and a squeezable applesauce. I rounded out my afternoon nosh with a small blueberry-and-cream yogurt, also courtesy of Trader Joe's.

Given the piddly portion of my lunch, I was quite ravenous by the time the little guy woke up from his nap at 3pm and fairly devoured some organic cheese sandwich crackers, a piece of turkey, and a Trio granola fruit/nut bar with a cup of coffee.

For dinner, we headed towards Cumberland Mall for Ted's Montana Grill, one of our favorite stops if there's one in the area. The service and food are consistently good. Tonight the little guy and I shared roasted chicken, a baked sweet potato, and green beens. He also snagged some of The H's fries, ate a bowl full of half-sours, and a third of the tomato-onion salad we all shared. In addition, he polished off his cup of milk and some dinner roll. This kid can *eat.*

We spent the evening at a bookstore, browsing and playing. Whoever thought to put a Thomas the Tank Engine train table in the childrens' section should be given a raise. Brilliant! Tomorrow we're heading for the zoo. I hope it's not too hot!

Toddler Travel: An Introduction

This is the first in a series of not-necessarily-food-related posts (note the new "Toddler Travel" tag on the right) that is designed to help fellow parents travel with their little ones. Our son has been flying with us since he was 2 months old. Throughout the past (almost) two years, we've amassed some tips and tricks that have made our trips smoother and more enjoyable. If you have any specific questions, please leave them in the comments section and I will address them to the best of my ability.

First flight! September 2008

Since the little guy has always been younger than two when we've flown, he's never yet needed his own seat. That is about to change, as his birthday is at the end of the month! We have not had a problem with him as a lap child, despite him being a wiggly, curious infant/toddler each time we've flown. Don't underestimate your child's ability to sit still (or at least in one general location) in a new environment! There is lots to look at and explore in an airplane.

Do be sure to let the airline know--as far in advance as possible, and again at the gate before boarding--that you have a lap child with you. You will need to be seated in a row that has an extra oxygen mask, so your seat assignment might be different than what is originally printed on your ticket.

Once in awhile you might get lucky and be on a flight that isn't full, freeing up an extra seat that your little one can have to him/herself for awhile. This has worked especially well for The H and me, since we can trade off who is entertaining the little guy and who is resting/reading.

That's all for my intro post--if you're not going to be traveling with small fry anytime soon, feel free to gloss over the "Toddler Travel" posts--I'll include the heading with each new one--but please refer your friends/family in case the info might be helpful to someone else.