Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Photo Shoot with Aimee

A couple weeks ago Aimee came over for a visit and took pictures of Conan and Morgan.  We had a lot of fun, and got some great pictures of both the kids.  It took me a while to narrow it down to my favorites, there were so many to choose from.  Gabe has more shots of Morgan on his site here.
Click to pop through to see the larger versions on Picasa.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Birthday Thoughts

It's my birthday!  36 years of being me, and it just keeps getting better.  :)

Soon it will be Conan's birthday also, so we are talking a lot about birthdays these days.  This year will be the first birthday party where Conan really "gets" birthdays, so I've been thinking about ways to make it fun. 

Last night I asked Conan what his favorite part of birthday parties was.

Without hesitation, he replied "Eating cake!"
"OK" I said, "but what else do you like?"
"Ice Cream!" he shouted.
"Uh-huh, I know. What else?"
"Pie! And cupcakes!"
"OK" I said again.  "But what do you like to DO at parties?"
"Maybe have cookies?" he replied after a thoughtful pause.
"Right, but what about games?" I said, trying to steer the conversation away from desserts.  "What kind of fun games do you like to play with your friends when you go to parties?"
He thought about that for a little while, and then his face brightened. 
"Trick or Treat!  That's my favorite."
"With real candy, Mama." he added helpfully. "Lots of candy."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Playdough: It's Easy!

So it turns out that playdough is actually as easy to make as everyone says.  Who knew?

Well, OK, nearly everyone.  Despite frequently being told that it was super easy to make, I always thought it would be hard to get it to turn out just right.  This is probably because I have a vivid memory of my Mom making a disastrous attempt at playdough when I was a kid.  I'm not sure what we did wrong back then, but whatever it was, I was able to avoid it this time.  Our playdough turned out absolutely perfect, without a doubt every bit as good as the store-bought stuff.  And Conan loved helping to make it.
Cooking this stuff was pretty strange.  At first it really didn't seem like the goo in the pot could possibly work out, but after a few minutes stirring it on the stove it quite suddenly changed texture and voila! we clearly had acheived playdough.

The recipe said to add the color to the water, which did make it super easy to blend it in, but it also meant that all the playdough was the same color.  I used yellow, and then took about half the finished dough and worked in some blue coloring to make green.  (I would also have made some orange, but then I discovered we have no red food coloring - I think it all got used to make fake blood a couple Halloweens ago.)  It was pretty easy to work the color through, and kneading the dough while it was still warm helped to work it smooth.  Next time I don't think I'll worry about coloring the whole batch, and instead split it up after it is cooked and make several colors.
Conan's favorite thing to do with the playdough is to make cookies.  If I set him up with some cookie cutters, his toy rolling pin, a plate and a spatula, he'll really crank them out!
He's quite serious about the cookie-cutting process.  Here's a quick instructional video, in case you needed some pointers on how to make cookies from a real expert.

With cold, rainy weather settling in and lots of indoor playtime in our future, I'm really glad to have finally taken the plunge and made my own playdough.  Seriously, give it a try!  Take it from me: it's as easy as everyone always told you.

Here's the recipe we used:

Cream of Tarter Playdough Recipe

2 cups of plain flour
2 cups of coloured water
1 Tbsp. of cooking oil
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup of salt

Place all of the ingredients in a medium size or large pan. Cook slowly on medium-high and stir it until the playdough thickens - just a few minutes. Keeps best in the fridge in plastic containers.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Click through for larger images, complete with captions.

I didn't get to spend very much time at all sightseeing, but the little bit of Peru that I did see was really nice. I was able to get out of the hotel for a few hours before the conference started on Wednesday and after it finished on Friday, otherwise all my time was spent networking and listening to presentations on various aspects of the international produce trade. My own presentation was the final one of the day on Thursday, and it went really well. I was a bit nervous - sweaty palms, a few mispronounced words, one flustery moment when I lost my train of thought - but everyone I spoke to afterwards kindly said that it didn't show. The best compliment I received was from an older gentleman from one of the large conventional growers, who approached me after my presentation and told me that he understood organics for the first time, but it had never made any sense to him (as a market or a production method) before. My goal at the conference was to present organics as a legitimate, logical, and profitable global market segment - to counteract the perception that it's run by wild-eyed hippies who want to turn the clock back to stone age agricultural technology - and I think I succeeded. :)

Update: If you're interested in the current state of the US organic market (or just a fan of power point) my presentation is now available online.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


I'm sitting in the airport at SeaTac, waiting for my flight, thinking about Conan. I'm heading to Peru (Yes, Peru!!) for a business conference. While I don't usually get to go to such exotic locales, business travel is an increasingly frequent occurance for me. I enjoy it, for the most part, but it's without a doubt the most difficult part of my career to balance with motherhood. Luckily I have a wonderful husband who does a great job holding down the fort, but it's still hard on all of us.

I've learned not to tell Conan about upcoming events too far in advance, because he doesn't really grasp the idea of waiting for more than a couple days of future time to pass. So I waited until last night, when I was doing my final packing, to tell him I was leaving. "Mama's going away for a few days, on an airplane, for work. Then I'll come back!" He's always taken this in stride before, but it's been less than a month since my last trip, so he remembers it clearly. This is the first time he's really understood what it meant that I would be gone.

He seemed OK with it at first, asking some questions about where I was going, and what kind of airplane ("A big one? A really REALLY big one?") I would be flying on. He played normally while dinner was cooking, but then he refused to sit down and eat. That in itself is (sadly) not that abnormal these days, but he didn't even want to play "hungry Tyrannisaurus-T-Rex", which usually gets him to eat like a charm. He really started to act out - yelling "You don't talk to me!" and "Don't look at me!" whenever I spoke or looked at him, stomping his feet, throwing toys, and generally being as bad as he knows how to be. So, as is our practice, we declared dinner time forfeit and moved straight to bedtime.

He continued to misbehave, physically trying to push me out of his room, crying and demanding that Papa ALONE handle bedtime. Somewhat confused, I stepped out and shut the door. I stood in the hallway, wondering what was up, and feeling sad that on my last night at home this week I wasn't going to get to spend any nice time with my baby. Then, with one of those sudden 180 degree reversals only a preschooler can manage, from inside the bedroom came shrieks of "I WANT MAMA!"

In that instant I realized what was going on. This was not a standard dinnertime meltdown. This was "my mama's going away and I'm mad and scared so I'm pushing her away but I also want her and this is NOT getting me what I want but I don't know what else to do." I went back in the room, got down at eye level with him, and asked him "Are you mad and scared because I'm going away?" "Yes" he wailed, and colapsed into my arms. So we cuddled and hugged. We talked about the things we would do together when I got back. He calmed down, and we got his teeth brushed and jammies on, and then we cuddled some more and he went to bed happily.

This morning I kissed him goodbye, and he waved happily as he drove off with Papa on the way to Preschool, his fears and insecurities banished, at least for now. But it was a real wake-up call for me, that as he's understanding more ane more about how the world works, some things which didn't previously cause anxiety are now pretty scary. I'm not sure what I can do to make my travel easier on him, other than to make sure I tell him very clearly that I'm coming back, and that I love him more than anything.

And bring him presents, of course.