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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Independent Play – Moving to Room Time

I got a lot of positive feedback from my first Independent Play post, so I thought I would continue it, and share some thoughts on how to keep it in place for your older child. Obviously, there will come a point when your toddler will no longer want to play in a playpen. I would say somewhere in the 18-24 month range, your child is going to be ready to move to doing independent play in their room. Room time can be a wonderful thing – it allows for more play options for your child, a wider space, and hopefully, some time for you as a parent to get things done while your child is happily entertained. It forces them to not only find ways to play by themselves, but to also choose between various options. I find that Brandon behaves better and is more focused throughout the day when he has his time to play alone. What a nice treat for mommy and child!

Here are my keys for moving from the playpen to room time:

  • Make it Safe – it goes without saying, but you must baby proof the entire room. We have locks on the closet doors, outlet covers, straps for the furniture, etc. Watch your child while they play in their room and notice if anything seems like it potentially could be dangerous. Always ere on the safe side.
  • Limit the Fun – when you are just starting out, having all their toys accessible to them can be totally overwhelming for a child. It can also cause for a huge mess since they will probably pull out anything they can get their hands on. Limit what they can get out (at least to start), and keep the toys in rotation so that they stay interesting. I actually have a special basket that I keep in the closet that is full of toys that Brandon only gets to play with during this time. He has his regular toys as well, but these additional “special” toys add extra appeal.
  • Give them Boundaries – after spending months in the rather confined space of a playpen, a whole room can be very intimidating. My husband thought of a great way to help with this, and actually brought out the mat insert that sits in the playpen and put it in the center of the room. Brandon spent the whole first week on that mat before he eventually ventured off (further proof that kids actually respond well to some boundaries!). We still put out a special quilt that my mom made during his room time, and he usually sits on it most of the time. Moms of rambunctious boys – you will be totally shocked how your little crazy man will sit still when he is finally given the option!
  • Be Accessible, but Hidden – a baby gate in the door frame is the perfect way to keep your child in their room, without closing the door. Try to stay out of your child’s line of sight, as I’ve found that once they see mommy or daddy they get distracted and will often want to come out to play. Just like when they were younger, a monitor (especially a video one – just because it’s fun to see what your child does when he thinks no one is looking!), is really helpful here.
  • Give it Time – once you move to room time, you really can, and arguably should, stretch the amount of time your child spends playing alone. I have personally seen the benefits a child reaps when they are forced to figure things out for themselves, and you need to provide them with enough time to do so. I would try and do at least 30 minutes. We do 30 minutes with Brandon (who is now 26 months) twice a day when he doesn’t have school (once when he does). You could also do one hour once a day. Fit it into your schedule and try and make it a consistent time each day so that your child knows what to expect. A great tip is to get a timer and set it for the amount of time, that way your child knows when it goes off that time is up, not when they just decide to whine for you to come and get them.
  • Expect Good/Bad Days – there are inevitably going to be days when your child does not want to play by themselves, even after you’ve worked them into it at the beginning (yes, there might be some tears and whining when you start out – stay strong and keep the time frame short, they will grow to love it!). I’ve come to find with my own children that they get a little more clingy when they are either teething or about to get sick. On these days, I don’t force the issue and I just skip independent play. But children are smart, and if they realize that putting on a pout will get them their way, then they will continue to do so even after that little cold is gone. At that point, it might take tough love for a day, but we get back into our routine and they are good as gold before you know it. On the flip side, there are many days when Brandon doesn’t even want to leave his room after his time is done. He will figure out a new toy (one that he would have whined to me about helping him had I been there) and want to keep playing. This is what it’s all about.
  • Clean Up – another great skill for your child to learn is the art of cleaning up the messes we make. At the end of each room time, help your child to put away their toys and leave their room tidy. Sing the song and slap high-fives when they’re done, most kids (surprisingly) seem to think this part is almost a game.

I am (rather obviously) a huge advocate for independent play. It’s good for the kids while they are doing it and allows me the time I need to accomplish things, so that I can focus solely on the kids once they are done. Please let me know if you have any comments on what has worked for you and your family, and whether your kids like to play by themselves – I always love to hear new ideas!

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Fig Tart with Mascarpone Cream

As promised, here is the beautiful fig tart recipe courtesy of one of my favorite cookbooks, The Winemaker Cooks. If you’ve never checked out this book, I would highly recommend it. It’s beautiful enough to be a coffee table winner, and the recipes themselves are fresh and delicious.

Now back to this lovely tart. Would you believe this was the first tart I’ve ever made?! Seriously, I had to go out and buy a tart pan and everything. Turns out it’s even easier than making a pie since you don’t have to do all that crimping and prettying up. You just lay the extra crust over the sides, then run your rolling pin over the top, et voila! I also love any reason to pull out my rolling pin – it just feels so retro chic, like I should be cooking in heels and pearls. So not only was this tart fun to make, but it also makes for a rather impressive dessert. The figs do all the real work since they just look beautiful on their own. And for some reason figs don’t seem to be the most popular fruit choice, which makes them seem all the more special. My brother-in-law had actually never eaten a raw fig before this! Get on board people, they are delicious!

I will admit that I had a bit of a snafu the first time I made this, as I think there might be a typo in the recipe. It calls for a full teaspoon of salt, and since I was making this with my toddler, I was concentrating more on keeping his little hands out of it, rather than tasting it before I spooned it into the crust. End result was seriously salty. So I did what any enterprising cook would do – I removed all the figs, scrapped out the old filling, and replaced it with my refashioned version. The day was saved. Try this one out while it’s still warm enough to have you craving a cool/refreshing/light dessert.

I’m off to New Orleans for a much deserved weekend with my college sorority sisters and some (hopefully) great Ole Miss football. Major thanks to my husband and in-laws who will be on kiddo duty!

Fig Tart with Mascarpone Cream

Adapted from The Winemaker Cooks

1 1/2 cups AP Flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3 T ice water
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup honey, extra for drizzling
8 figs, quartered lengthwise

  • For Pastry: in a food processor, pulse flour and salt until combined, then add butter and process until it forms coarse crumbs.
  • Add the water, 1 T at a time, until mixture just comes together.
  • Remove dough and shape into a disk, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to 2 days).
  • Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to soften for a few minutes.
  • Roll into an 11-in. round, then place over a 9-in. fluted tart pan with removable bottom.
  • Press dough into the sides, then run rolling pin over the top to remove excess dough.
  • Place back in the fridge for 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours).
  • Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  • Remove pastry from fridge, prick all over with a fork, then line crust with parchment and fill with dried beans.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then remove paper and beans and cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until just golden.
  • Transfer crust to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  • For Filling: in a medium bowl, whisk together the mascarpone, sour cream, and honey.
  • Spread into cooled crust, then arrange figs on top in concentric circles.
  • Remove from pan, and drizzle with additional honey before serving.

4 Wonderful Years!

Four years ago I married the most amazing man I’ve ever met. I’m so incredibly blessed. Thank-you to our parents for throwing us the most gorgeous wedding, and for the many friends and family members who made the day unforgettable. Much love to you all, and happy anniversary honey.

Photo courtesy of Laura Stone of Artstar Photography

Rosemary-Crusted Standing Rib Roast with Red Wine Gravy

So I’m about to hit you with the most amazing Sunday dinner roast ever. Yes, it is pricey, but it is so worth it. This is my husband’s favorite meal, and pretty much the only thing that he requests on a regular basis. He claims it actually makes him emotional, it’s that good. As long as you buy a good cut of meat, your work is pretty much done. You just cover it in a little rub, let it roast away, then whip up a quick gravy using the drippings. We are talking out-of-this-world flavor. Although working with a cut of meat that is on the pricey end can be intimidating (you don’t want to mess it up!), I’ve made this at least 5 times, and it’s always come out perfectly, except for the one time that I tried to use a less expensive cut. Still good, but not as amazing as usual. Trust me – splurge a little for a special dinner!

Our 4th wedding anniversary is this week, and I couldn’t think of a more perfect meal. Too bad I will actually be off having a crazy reunion with some of my sorority sisters in New Orleans, but that’s another story. 🙂

Rosemary-Crusted Standing Rib Roast with Red Wine Gravy (serves 4 with leftovers)

Adapted from The Winemaker Cooks —-> One of my favorite cookbooks! Stay tuned for another great recipe from here this week.

1 standing beef rib roast, 4-5 lbs.
3 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 T freshly cracked pepper
1 1/2 T kosher salt
2 T extra-virgin olive oil

Red Wine Gravy:
reserved roasting pan fat & drippings
1 cup red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or a Bordeaux blend)
2 cups beef stock
4 T unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1/4 cup flour
salt & pepper

  • Remove roast from fridge at least 1 hour before cooking, to allow it to come to room temp.
  • Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • In a small bowl, combine rosemary, pepper, salt, and oil to make a paste, then rub all over roast, including rib side.
  • Place roast, bone side down, on a rack in a roasting pan.
  • Roast for 45 minutes, then turn temp down to 375°F and cook until meat reaches an internal temperature of 125°F (thermometer inserted into center of meat), which will take another 30-45 minutes. I like to use this thermometer. Meat will be medium rare, but will continue to cook while it rests – don’t overcook!
  • Place roast on a carving board and tent with foil for 20 minutes before slicing.

Gravy:

  • Pour drippings from the roasting pan through a fine mesh strainer into a glass bowl, them skim off fat and keep to the side.
  • Place roasting pan over 2 burners set on medium heat, then add wine and stocking, scrapping up all the brown bits at the bottom.
  • Pour this wine/stock mixture through the same strainer into the glass bowl with the drippings (minus the fat).
  • Place pan back on 2 burners over medium-low heat, add butter, 1/4 cup of the reserved fat, and onions and cook until onions are lightly brown, about 15 minutes.
  • Sprinkle flour into pan and cook, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes.
  • Add the drippings/wine mixture and cook, whisking constantly, for 5 more minutes or until thickened.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve alongside or atop slices of roast (my husband actually freezes any extra gravy, and will have a whole meal of just gravy and rice).

Rylan 6 Month Summary

I seriously cannot handle how big Rylan is getting. I feel like with Brandon (our first) I couldn’t wait for him to crawl, talk, eat real food, etc. But with Rylan, I’m thrown off when he starts growing up. He’s at that perfect little age where he’s still really portable (no plethora of toys or ipads needed for a quick trip out), but engaged enough to have fun with. I’ve never been one of those overly emotional mothers, but after packing away some of his “6-month” clothing that was too small, I got a little teary eyed. My sweet baby is growing up!

And boy is he growing! This kids likes to eat like it’s nobody’s business. We are full on with the solids this month. So far he has had rice cereal, sweet potatoes (1st food!), pears, peas, carrots and oatmeal. I honestly think he would start shoveling potato chips into his mouth if I let him. Pretty much the only time we hear him whine is when we aren’t getting the food to him in a fast and continuous stream. This has made our family dinners a little more rambunctious than normal since I like to feed myself as well, which invariably causes a pause in his meal. 🙂 Can I just tell you, as a mother who has had a “non-eater,” not having to coax every last bit of food into him is like heaven. I fully appreciate the gift that is this kids appetite! I’m only feeding him solids at lunch and dinner so far, since the mornings are bound to be hectic this month with Brandon starting school 2 times a week, but I think the kid will be clamoring for it soon.

Rylan’s reflux seemed to peak this month, so we’ve switched his meds up to Prevacid twice a day. It’s still not great, and I’m still doing more laundry than any woman (or man!) should ever have to, but let’s say he’s gone from spitting up 30 times a day (I kid you not) to like 15. So I’ll take it. Brandon took a good year till he was ready to come off the meds. Hopefully Rylan will fare a little better, but as for right now he seems to have it just as bad.

Rylan has definitely become more engaged this month, and has been loving the various toys and contraptions we’ve pulled out of the closet (just as a note for all you second borns out there – we have had some new additions, it isn’t all hand-me-downs!). He is forever trying to stick things in his mouth, and will steal that phone/cookie/cocktail out of your hand if you aren’t careful. Whereas Brandon was never really into toys, Rylan seems mesmerized by a new rattle or soft toy. It’s really cute and makes his short bouts of independent play time easy.

His sleeping is still going great, and I’ve tried to be more predictable about his morning nap, making sure he is in his crib most days as opposed to letting him sleep in the stroller. This consistency has really helped to lengthen his afternoon nap, and now I know that he will take a good 2 – 2 1/2 hour nap every afternoon. I think he might be ready to drop his 3rd nap in a month or so, as he has missed a handful of them and has been well rested enough to make it to close to bedtime without getting cranky. Most days he still falls asleep for about 30 minutes during that nap though, and will play quietly for the rest.

Here’s a typical day for Rylan at 6 months:

  • 7:30 am – wake-up, get dressed and bottle (8 oz with 1 1/2 tsp rice cereal)
  • 7:45 – breakfast w/ Brandon (usually in bouncy seat, not eating solids here)
  • 8:15 – Outside!
  • 9:30-11 – nap #1
  • 11 – “play” with Brandon
  • 11:30 – Independent Play (blanket time while mom preps lunch)
  • 11:45 – bottle
  • 12 – lunch (we introduce new foods at this time, so not to mess with bedtime if he has an adverse reaction).
  • 1-3/3:30 – nap #2
  • 3:15/3:30 – bottle
  • 3:30 – “play” with Brandon (tummy time) or Outside
  • 4:45-5:30 – nap #3
  • 5:30 – independent play in play pen
  • 6 – dinner with family
  • 6:40 – bath
  • 7 – bottle (8 oz with 1 1/2 tsp rice cereal)
  • 7:30 – bedtime!

Happy half birthday little guy! We love you!

All pictures are courtesy of the amazing Laura Stone of Artstar Photography. Laura did our wedding photos and was kind enough to do some family shots of us when we were back in GA. I could not recommend her highly enough!! She also has a beautiful blog that showcases some of her work.

Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake

This is my absolute favorite summer dessert right now. It’s totally over-the-top, with layers of chocolate chip cookies and coffee & chocolate flavored whipped cream. I guarantee you will be running back to the fridge to grab more! It’s so simple to make – just a little whipping and layering, then leave it in the fridge overnight to soften the cookies (this is by far the hardest part). I recently brought this to a bbq and everyone loved it, so I promised I would post the recipe here. I can’t say enough good things about this cake, it’s so delicious!

Although you can probably use any kind of chocolate chip cookie out there (including homemade if you felt so inclined), I would highly recommend you try it with Tate’s (I buy mine at Whole Foods or Fresh Direct) first. They are really crispy and thin and maintain the perfect texture in the cake. I’ve made this cake 4 or 5 times now, and every time I’ve used Tate’s, so I can’t be held responsible if another cookie doesn’t give you the same amazing outcome. 🙂

Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

2 cups heavy cream
12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup coffee liqueur, like Kahlua
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. instant espresso powder (I’ve also used instant coffee)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 (8-ounce) packages Tate’s chocolate chip cookies (no snacking, you need them all!)
chocolate chips or shavings, for garnish

**You will also need an 8-inch springform pan.

  • Using an electric mixer with whisk attachment, slowly whisk together the cream, mascarpone, sugar, coffee liqueur, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Increase speed, and continue whisking until it forms firm peaks.
  • In an 8-inch springform pan, cover the bottom with chocolate chip cookies, even breaking them apart to fill in any big holes.
  • Spread a fifth of the whipped cream on top, then proceed with another layer of cookies.
  • Continue until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of whipped cream.
  • Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge overnight.
  • To remove the cake, run a knife around the outside and remove the sides.
  • Decorate with chocolate garnish in the center if desired.

August Restaurant Round-Up & Giveaway Winner!

ABC Kitchen

I feel like the Jean-Georges restaurants I’ve visited have been a bit of a hit or miss. There are a few that I love (like Nogatine & Dune) and some that I really don’t (Lagoon in Bora Bora). But after 3 visits to ABC Kitchen, I can assure you that this one definitely falls into the love category. It won a James Beard best new restaurant award in 2011, and is consistently serving up delicious organic and locally sourced dishes. Everything is super fresh and seasonal (pretty much all of nyc has jumped on the farm to table bandwagon). It’s great to know that there is always going to be something new and delicious each time you go, but I have a few favorites that I would really like to see back on the menu this fall (squash toast and fried chicken, please!). At this visit, we started with a heirloom tomato toast, then split the burger and squash blossom pizza. The pizza was amazing, and worth going back for in itself. For dessert we had the ice cream sundae, which includes popcorn and candied peanuts and is swimming in chocolate sauce. Hungry yet?

The decor is also reason enough to visit. It’s pseudo located within ABC Home and is full of chic, modern furniture paired with elegant and mismatched china. It’s charming and sleek all at the same time. If you can’t get a reservation, we’ve had great luck just walking-in on the earlier side. You might have to have a drink at the bar if you want to wait for a table, but there are a number of bar tables that you can order from as well. Best of all, the staff is among the friendliest I’ve met. They’re a great source for information on what dishes to try since the menu changes frequently – definitely ask for their recommendations!

David Burke Kitchen

Another farm to table concept, David Burke Kitchen is delicious, laid-back, and, as we’ve come to expect from Burke, quite inventive. One of the standouts of our meal were the peanut butter stuffed, bacon wrapped dates, which were just as crazy and amazing as they sound. We also loved the pretzel crusted crab cake and the peach bbq short rib. Best of all, we got it on the cheap since it was restaurant week!! They even had specially priced bottles of wine, which you know we took advantage of. For dessert, a must have is the toffee monkey bread for 2. It’s massive, and even after it’s served for 2 (table side) half of it is still left in a cute little tin to take home and enjoy the next day. The woman next to me actually made the comment that it was the best thing she’d ever eaten. I certainly was glad to have that 3rd & 4th serving! The staff was attentive and helpful, and when our dessert was taking a little too long, they promptly brought over champagne to make it up to us. A classy touch.  We will definitely be back!

Il Palazzo

Everyone has their pick for Little Italy, and this is ours. If you are visiting nyc, Little Italy should definitely be on your go-to list. They close the street to vehicular traffic, so there’s tons of people walking around, vendors selling everything from pashminas to gelato, and a plethora of outdoor cafes serving up classic Italian fare. I’ve had great experineces at a number of restaurants down there, but I’ve been going to Il Palazzo since I first came to the city as an intern nearly a decade ago. There’s outdoor and indoor seating, and they also have a great atrium type space. The staff is always friendly and helpful and the food is excellent. If you are looking for classic Italian cooking, you really can’t go wrong here. The portions are also large so plan on sharing! My husband and his family absolutely love their capellini primavera. Ferrara Bakery is also right around the corner, so you must stop there for something sweet and delcious – I vote for the chocolate dipped cannoli!

Robert

Have an occasion coming up, like an anniversary or birthday? Look no further than Robert, which is located atop the Museum of Arts and Design. From their spot at the top of Columbus Circle, you get fabulous views of Central Park and Broadway. Ask for a table next to the window! I loved the vibe from the decor – very modern and fitting of a museum restaurant. The crowd was decidedly chic, as was the food. The menu isn’t extensive, but everything we tried was delicious and presented beautifully. I’ve been to The Modern, inside the MOMA, and I would choose Robert any day. You just can’t compete with the views and food.

Boite en Bois

Classic French food all the way. This is a neighborhood haunt, and has pretty much zero scene. I really don’t have too much to say about this one. If you are in the area (great for early dinner before hitting Lincoln Center) and are in the mood for excellent traditional french food without all the fanfare, this is your spot. Some might call it romantic, and some might call it small and quiet – while I really enjoyed my food, I would have to side with the latter.

And Kimster you’ve won the kitchen scale giveaway on behalf of Slimkicker! Please email me at themommygames@gmail.com and I will make sure you get set up. Congrats!

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