Archive | September 2012

thoughts after playing tennis with a three-year-old

  1. Is it possible I got a workout?!? {I definitely got a workout.}
  2. Is it possible Sam was hitting the ball with backspin?!?? {He was definitely hitting the ball with backspin.}
  3. Good thing I don’t want to make a good impression on my new cool neighbors that I’m trying desperately to be friends with, because I most definitely whiffed the ball, hit it over the fence, and launched it high above my three-year-old’s head numerous times.
  4. Good thing I don’t want aforementioned neighbors to think that even if I’m horrible at tennis, I’m a superstar mom, because Ty definitely spilled his water all of his pants on the way there, and thus was parading around the court in all of his with thunder-thighs, Huggies, and crocks glory while rattling the gate, eating leaves, and licking the bench.
  5. Yet I did receive the following inspirational comments during the match to revive my spirit:

– “Mom, you are hitting the ball in bad, bad ways. But I put it back every time!” (True.)

– me: “Sorry, Sam…bad shot.” Sam: “That’s okay Mom! That’s why I’m teaching you! So you can win the game!”

– Sam: “Mom, you are bad at tennis.” Okay, that’s enough. Here is where I drew the line. We had a discussion at this point about edifying our playing partners, and how they will not want to play with us if we hurt their feelings. I should know.

Also at this point, I had a blister. And I was sweating. And Ty was standing up in the stroller, shaking it back and forth. So we went home.

All in all, it was a wonderful, entertaining, and enjoyable experience that I look forward to replicating. Honest. 🙂


Don’t make this for dinner

Figured it wasn’t fair to post a few rave reviews of dinner at the Smartt house and not nights like tonight. We all have them. (don’t we???)

Tonight was a dinner flop. I’m not sure I can ever eat potatoes again with an open mind. Honestly eating in general has slid down a couple notches on the todem pole. What possessed me to make these sauted blobs? I was suggested the idea of “rosti” from a friend. She will remain unnamed on this post so that she is free from any association with the poor excuse of a meal I concocted. Plus, she only gave me the briefest of descriptions for the meal.

I remember hearing “hash browns,” “fried” and I guess I pictured something along the lines of a Waffle House potato dish – you know, smashed/diced, hashed overeasy smushed fried style? something like that? With a dollup of sour cream and splash of hot sauce?

I think I also heard “food processor,” come to think of it. Maybe “vegetables.” So here is what I came up with. My apologies to anyone who has ever enjoyed/ever wants to enjoy rosti. Probably don’t read the rest. And also to my friend, who for the record is an excellent cook. Even her coffee is way better than mine. Anyway, here is what I did.

  1. Peel lots of potatoes. Not a favorite job, but I kept picturing that crispy giant hash brown with a touch of my Polish Uncle Joe’s bellini/giant potato pancake, so I pressed on.
  2. Cut the potatoes and stick them in a food processor.
  3. Blend them up. Realize that the bottom is pasty mush, and the top is still giant chunks of raw potato. Begin to wonder if you have the right idea of “rosti.”
  4. Keep mushing the potatoes together until you have a uniform bowl of raw potato-ness.
  5. Pour it into a bowl and be disgusted by how much potato juice is swirming around. Is potato juice even a thing? Blot some with a paper towel. Then dump the mush into a strainer to get rid of the rest of the juice. Be pretty sure this is not how you make rosti, but cling to the idea of a giant hashbrown and continue.
  6. Hoping that some vegetables will consolidate the dish, chop up some pepper, onion, zuccini, and eggplant. Eggplant? You don’t even like eggplant. Oh well.
  7. Now, smush into patties, and fry. Then put them on a baking sheet in the oven for 10 minutes, because you’re not quite sure there aren’t still huge chunks of raw potato packed in there.
  8. Enjoy? or something. Put a slice of deli ham on the kids’ plates as a sort of truce.

The first bite wasn’t quite that bad. It was mostly mashed potato, and did indeed have some sort of distant relation to the polish bellinis of my Uncle Joe. But then came the eggplant. And the, yes, chunks of still-raw potato, which I mostly managed to pre-emptively fish out of our patties.

Sam ate two bites and said, “Mommy, I can’t eat this.”

“Why, Sam?”

“Because it’s not good.”

I couldn’t argue. I was starving, and prideful, so I ate more than I want to think about right now. My stomach is still a little queasy, but it stayed down. Ketchup sort of helped.

When Todd came home, he bent down eye-level with the cold pan of glops.

“What is this??”

“It’s…gross. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Is that mashed potato stuffing? What’s in it?”

“Nothing. No. It’s gross.”

“What meat is in it?”

“There isn’t any.”

(Jumping back like it’s pureed rat) “Ugh!! Throw it out.”

So, this is what Todd had for dinner.

Honestly, I was kind of jealous.

The marriage bed is a sacred place…

Did I get your attention? Don’t worry, this is about the actual bed. And how it’s not sacred anymore, because these are some of the things we have been finding in between the sheets, after retiring to our nightly haven: (are we the only ones?!?)

  • A golf ball. Oh, if I had a dollar for every golf ball in our bed…I would buy a taller bed.
  • A golf club. You would think we’d have noticed it before climbing in. You’d also think my parents would have seen our cat Tiger under the comforter back in the day when we searched all over and thought he had been raptured up early, but they didn’t see him either. Those comforters are sneaky.
  • chocolate chips, especially nice on hot days
  • desitin (real mood killer)
  • BBs for a gun (did I even spell that right?)
  • potato chips (okay, okay that was me)
  • several die-cast cars
  • various species of stuffed animal…which sometimes I just let stay. just the soft ones, you know.
  • banana peel
  • pine needles, blocks, and belt/imaginary pet lizard leash

Oh well. It’s nice to have a good laugh at the end of a long day. Adds an element of the unexpected, you know? 🙂

Southwest-topped Sweet Potatoes

I owe my friend Katie for this idea. I’m can’t believe I’ve never thought of it before! I was surprised how completely delicious and satisfying it was! My boys devoured it, and even my husband said he thought it was delicious and asked me to make it again! So there you have it! 🙂


  • sweet potatoes (one for each person)
  • can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • frozen corn (not shown)
  • 1/4 lb of ground turkey or beef (I only used a little meat and it still tasted delicious)
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • garlic powder
  • olive oil
  • toppings: butter, avocado, hot sauce, lime, cheese

Bake the sweet potatoes as you normally would. Scrub them, poke holes, baked completely. In a skillet, heat oil and cook meat. Add generous amounts of spices and salt, and then the rinsed black beans, and finally, the frozen corn. Allow this to cook through so the flavors meld. Slice open the potato and top with butter. Then add a sprinkle of salt and your bean mixture. Top with your choice of toppings. The avocado especially is delish!

Preschool Activity: ABC scrapbook

Jack’s “B” page 🙂

I love this little project because it’s cute, you can work on it for a few weeks, and it can use lots of skills:

  • letters
  • letter sounds
  • cutting with scissors
  • gluing
  • identifying and choosing objects
  • writing letters

If your student is more advanced, hand them a few magazines, some scissors, and let them find objects that begin with certain letters to glue on corresponding letters in a notebook. For my group, I went ahead and cut out a few objects that started with a, b, and c for Day 1, and let them choose which “a” object they wanted to glue, etc etc. (Lots of cutting…don’t you love projects that work on your fine motor skills too? 🙂 ). I also went ahead and wrote the letters on each page. They really enjoyed saying b-b-BLUEBERRIES, b-b-BIRDS! for each object which reiterates learning letter sounds. And glue sticks are always a hit! I let them use their scissors on some scrap magazines at the end because they are so excited about their scissors. These are my favorite first scissors.

beginner language activities for preschoolers

Here are a few suggestions for very beginning language activities for a 2-4 year-old.

Tracing worksheets – I had no idea this was so important, and to be done prior to even practicing letters. It makes sense though, as this is easier!

Visual discrimination worksheets– sounds really official, right? It’s really just a  “which face/dog/house is different”? exercise. The same skill that makes you look closely for a difference will be used later in identifying different letters!

Letter sorting – find a set of plastic letters like these. Each week, introduce a letter. Let the kids handle the uppercase and lowercase, throw it, hide it, talk about if they have lines or circles, etc. Then play “find the…” with the letters you’ve introduced, adding one letter each week. Hopefully by the end students can identify all uppercase and lowercase!

Letter Hunt – Print off a bunch of “a”s (upper and lower). Hide them around the room. Have students go on an “a” hunt and then sort upper and lower in different buckets. Repeat with each letter.

Beginning sound cut-and-paste activities like these are great for teaching sounds!

Practice forming letters – with stick pretzels or playdough

Letter hunt – Children choose any 10 letters from the letter manipulatives. Go through a stack of shuffled letter cards, calling out each letter to the children. As the letters are called out, children look to see if they have that letter, and if they do, the letter is put back in the letter tub. We see who is first to clear all of their letters (like a bingo game). If the kids are too competitive, we play until everyone has cleared all of their letters.
*To teach letter sounds: Call out a word and have children identify the first letter of the word. {Read more:}


six ways our skincare routine is getting greener

I think it’s interesting why people change sometimes. What makes someone stop downing bacon cheeseburgers and chomp spinach and cucumbers instead? Why would someone swap their MAC for Burt’s Bees, and what makes a tired mom drag herself out of bed to do a kickboxing video in the still-dead-of-night-morning? (Hmmm, that one hits close to home 🙂 ) The general answer for most of these is health, the desire for which can make someone do seemingly crazy things.

In plain English, fear of cancer is taking the fun out of darn near everything for me these days. When one can’t enjoy a simple bask in the sun without guilt, what has the world come to?!! 🙂

But I want to be healthy too. So along with dragging myself in the house to apply a thick coat of paraben-free sunscreen (and rinsing my vegetables in vinegar, but that’s another post for another day), I’ve started eyeing up every drop and slather of my skincare routine. In the process I’ve begun to make some changes. Here are my goals for the next few months:

  1. Become better acquainted with the EWG’s skin deep cosmetic database. This is an extremely comprehensive site listing the assessed safety of cosmetics. In other words, it tells you how bad your CoverGirl is for you and suggests something else you’ve never heard of. But I am thankful for it. Because of this site, I have so far found better replacements for the following products:
  2. facial cleanser – this was important for me because first thing in the morning, it just felt like I wanted to be putting something really healthy on my face.
  3. Facial moisturizer – because it goes directly on my skin, again, I felt like it was higher priority.
  4. kids’ moisturizer – knowing the dryer winter months are coming, I wanted to invest in a lotion I felt good putting on them.
  5. Experiment with healthier mineral makeup. This was easy to do, as Everyday Minerals actually allows you to sample up to seven products for $.01 and shipping! A product review of this brand is coming soon! I don’t expect to love it as much as the more processed items I’ve been using, just as quinoa is just not as delicious as mac and cheese. But if I can wear these everyday, and glam up with the junk only for my special biannual date nights with hubs, then I’m on the right track.
  6. Stop wearing deodorant!  Okay, just kidding! The Tom’s of Maine natural deodorants are actually quite pleasant, although a little more pricey. But this also seemed like a good step to take. Someone I spoke with recently noted that parabens are frequently found in tumors near the underarm or breast. The purpose of this post is not to confirm that, but the general consensus seems to be that a safer deodorant is a wise choice.

So there you have it! My first baby steps towards natural beauty! Is there a change you have made in your skin-care routine in the name of health?