A decade ago, with an impending relationship break up in my not-so-distant future, I traveled to Napa Valley on my very own “soul vacation.’’ I was a girl in dire need of being alone with her innermost thoughts, a journal, a view of the vineyards, and a glass of delicious rosé … Or several. Under the guise of ‘’trying to expand my wine knowledge,’’ (amazing what one can convince one’s self of when headed toward heartbreak) I set out on a road trip to clear my head, nurture my spirit, and jumpstart my creative juices. What I got in return for my efforts, along with a broadened wine palette and some much-needed perspective, was a dear friend in Sean Meyer. The story as far as I recall it (given that I’d been wine tasting since ten that morning) goes a little something like this:
I was staying at a bed & breakfast within walking distance of the quaint town of Calistoga. On my first night there, having already eaten dinner, I approached the front desk and inquired where I might be able to locate a glass of great wine, accompanied by an equally great dessert. They sent me to a charming little bistro around the corner, with its own wine shop attached. I had just begun perusing the menu when the sommelier, who happened to be closer to my age than I’d previously understood sommeliers to be, came over and asked what I’d like to drink. ‘’I’m on a solo adventure to expand my wine horizons,’’ I informed him. ‘’What’s good?’’ “That depends on your mood this evening,” he replied. “How do you feel?” I thought for a moment. “Sassy and a bit feisty,” I told him. “I have just the thing for you,” he quipped. And with that, he smiled wryly and turned to fetch something from his fantastic wine collection. One glass led to a couple more, and I wound up having a full-blown conversation with this guy… It’s incredible how rapidly a stranger can transform into a friend, isn’t it? Our fondness for one another developed rather instantaneously, and we’ve been close ever since. So close, in fact, he flew in for my bridal shower three years ago, and conducted an outstanding blind tasting for all of my girlfriends and I. It made for an incredibly special evening, to say the least.
So all of that said, I have the utmost respect and appreciation for Sean’s recommendations, regardless of the subject matter. He has been known to throw some much-needed parenting advice my way on occasion, though (by nature of his prestigious sommelier title) his input and guidance typically revolve around gorgeous wines and the foods with which they should be paired. And every now and again, Sean casts a lively and inspired new cocktail into the equation… Cue the Anguria Frizzante con Basilico. It’s a mouthful, both in name and in taste! As luck would have it, Sean agreed to do a guest post for us this week, so I’ll let him do the honors…
Parenting In Napa Valley: A Guest Post by Sean Q. Meyer
Parenting. One could say so many things about it and never be able to fully explain it to non-parents. Personally, I like to say that in the Napa Valley, parenting is proof that reality is stranger than fiction. Where else in the world is every playgroup accompanied by the finest wines, beers and artisanal cheeses?
My daughter is growing up in the land of haute cuisine. A while back, I had gotten together with some friends and their children. I happened to be sitting on the couch with a particularly well-spoken 9 year old boy. As we were watching baseball a commercial for Jack-in-the-Box, a popular fast food joint, came on. He very politely asked, “Do you eat there?” I replied that I did not. He continued, “Me either… What is that other place? You know, the one with the big yellow M?” Needless to say, my jaw about hit the floor. Apparently, in the land of specialty single goat cheeses, hundreds of varieties of heirloom tomatoes and 100 point scoring wines, McDonalds plays second fiddle to Whole Foods or even a good taco truck.
I am not sure if there is another place where you could attend a one year old’s birthday party at a micro-brewery which had not yet opened their doors to the public. We celebrated well into the warm and sunny April afternoon, the highlight being the brightly colored Piñata… Well, and the tasting of small-batch carefully crafted beer and diverse and abundant selection of wines brought by the guests.
While it is surreal, we love raising a family here. We live in a small enough community that we walk nearly everywhere. It is safe and clean and there are numerous great educational opportunities for our daughter. And, the auction for her pre-school was at a winery. Another benefit to living in a place where great produce is readily available is that it makes it easy to cook at home, and creative cocktail invention has become something of a Friday sport. Our latest was inspired by the recent availability of great melon and the jungle of basil we currently have in the back yard…
Anguria Frizzante con Basilico
(Created by Sean Q. Meyer)
Ingredients: (Makes one drink)
2 tbs Watermelon
2 Basil leaves
1 oz. Limoncello
1 oz. Vodka
2 oz. Soda water (amount varies based on the size of your highball glass)
~Muddle the watermelon and basil leaves
~Add Limoncello, Vodka and ice
~Shake mixture and strain into a highball glass filled with ice
~Top with soda
Sean Q. Meyer
Father, Sommelier, Vintner
I hope you have an opportunity to enjoy this fabulous and festive summer libation. Please drink responsibly! A special thanks to Sean for his wonderful guest post and beverage recipe.
Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,
Jenna von Oy
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Eons ago, in the throes of my teenage angst and adolescence, I graced the pages of many a teen magazine. Laugh all you like, but I was a weekly staple in publications such as “Bop” and “Tiger Beat” (insert a note-worthy cringe and some schoolgirl giggling here). Ahh, those were the days… seeing myself in all of my pimpled glory, sporting faux Seattle grunge attire and wacky Blossom hats, while answering questions such as “If you were an insect, which one would you be?” (God only knows what my response was back then but I can virtually guarantee it wasn’t dripping with quite as much sarcasm as it would be today!) Admittedly, I tend to look back on those times with a small amount of embarrassment, and I would be happy to offer a myriad of self-deprecating jokes to back that up. The 90’s were brutal to most of us, but I think I might take the cake on this one. (To prove it, one need only recollect the flowered hat trend I helped to start…) After all, having your awkward years documented on prime-time television is tough to keep stuffed in a drawer, even decades later. It’s the kind of fodder that friends and family enjoy resurrecting time and time again. And I can’t say I blame them. I’ve provided plenty of comic ammunition over the years! That said, it wasn’t an entirely abysmal decade; I have a file cabinet of kitschy memories to show my daughter in years to come, and I got to know some pretty cool people through the whole ordeal. I recently reconnected with one of them and it was a blast from the “not-so-long-ago-but-definitely-glad-we’re-over-that-stage” past, which brings us full circle to this week’s guest blog! You probably know her as ‘’Hungry Girl,’’ star of the Food Network show of the same name. I, on the other hand, know her as Lisa Lillien, editor of some of those teen magazines I spoke of. Yes, she is largely responsible for the photos of Joey Lawrence that adorned your middle school locker. (Please don’t hold that against her!) These days, she is a successful cooking show host, “foodologist,” New York Times best-selling author, founder of the Hungry Girl brand, and all around girl’s girl. I’m thoroughly impressed with the transition she has made, though I still maintain a soft spot in my heart for the good old days we shared. In case you are curious, check out the fabulous photo Lisa sent over… long live the 90’s!
Lisa Lillien a.k.a. Hungry Girl:
Lisa’s bio states that she’s not a nutritionist, she’s just hungry. In other words, she’s the real deal: a bona fide foodie who just wants to find new and exciting ways to eat, while still fitting into her favorite jeans! As a woman who just had a baby several months ago, this greatly appeals to me. I love that Lisa isn’t boasting about some fancy-schmancy degree that allows her to wax poetic about how I should go about losing those last ten pounds of my maternity weight. Instead, she’s qualified purely based on her obsession with food. A self-declared “mad scientist” in the kitchen, she has created healthy and delicious recipes via the hands-on method. While most of the popular TV chefs fall short in connecting with me, this isn’t the case with Lisa. I think it’s because I know I can rely on her personal kitchen adventures for authentication. It’s gratifying to hear that recipes have been taste-tested by someone with whom you share common ground. There’s no one hiding behind the proverbial curtain. In other words, there’s no college-age, size zero-wearing lab rat/sous-chef flunky back there, whipping up the omelet! Lisa offers a refreshing take on it all.
If you’re anything like me, the only weight you’re losing these days is due to your inability to find a moment to make a meal for yourself. I joke that I found a new exercise regime that works: Squat five times to retrieve fallen pacifier; rock screaming baby for thirty minutes. Repeat until you are exhausted or pass out. I jest, but being a Mommy makes healthy meals difficult. Sometimes the easiest and quickest route is the least nutritious one. Consequently, I’m thrilled that Lisa agreed to let me interview her and pick her brain a bit. She definitely gave me some insight into my own eating habits! Make sure you check out her website, www.hungry-girl.com, for additional recipes and information, and don’t forget to subscribe to her daily e-mail. She’s a Mommy’s nutritional saving grace! As a special treat, Lisa has even offered a chance for you to win her brand new Hungry Girl book, Hungry Girl: To The Max! You’ll find the details after her interview… Bon Appétit!
JENNA: I knew you many moons ago, when you were still working at a teen magazine… This brings back a lot of memories from an awkward phase in my life that involved an abundance of acne, scary hats, endless bad hair days, and posters of Jason Priestley. I’m thrilled to see we’ve both moved on to bigger and better things! Your career has certainly taken a different turn since then; how did you get to this point? What inspired you to make the transition into food?
LISA: Thank you!!! I worked in entertainment for a while — but always had a passion for food… and was basically a food gossip. I loved to share info about food finds — give people advice in supermarkets (sometimes when they didn’t even ask for it!), etc. I’m also a bit of a mad scientist in the kitchen. All of these things definitely contributed to my launching Hungry Girl. It’s funny, though, because my teen magazine writing style definitely helps me write my content today… The writing style is very conversational — and I write about food with that same high-energy “teen mag” enthusiasm…
JENNA: Since this blog is “Mommy-centric,” I have a few questions about food as it pertains to kids. What do you feel a parent’s biggest challenge is these days, where food is concerned?
LISA: I’m not a parent, but many of my friends are parents and they often come to me for advice. The biggest issue I see with moms is that they don’t make time for themselves… They’re always on the go, rushing and not thinking about making good food choices because they’re more concerned with feeding the family, worrying about their husbands and kids — and they end up eating whatever they can grab and quickly eat. As far as kids are concerned — a lot of parents just cave in to their kids’ cravings. And if you feed kids foods that are junky and bad for them early on, that’s what they’ll crave… A lot of parents are total pushovers when it comes to feeding their kids.
JENNA: What is the best thing a parent can do to ensure they don’t raise picky eaters?
LISA: I think it’s unrealistic to think it’s easy to control that… In general, kids are picky eaters. But the parents I know who have the most success with their kids’ eating habits are parents who have been pretty strict about making sure their kids eat whatever foods are served to them. I have one friend that always said, “I’ll never cave in to feeding my kids whatever they want. I serve them food and they eat it — if they refuse it, they’ll eventually be hungry and they’ll eat it.” I know other parents who let their kids eat whatever they want and those kids end up eating hot dogs and chicken nuggets every day… Not the best idea. It’s also a good idea to teach kids fun facts about different foods so they’ll be open-minded about eating new things…
JENNA: You’ve managed to turn healthy, nutritious food into something fun and appetizing. Given the fact that many moms work, leaving little time to plan or prepare elaborate meals for their family, what do you feel moms can do to ensure that everyone is eating healthy and balanced meals? What‘s one thing they should absolutely stay away from?
LISA: Moms need to take time to plan what the meals are. Even if the family is going to be eating fast food — there are ways to plan for it and make better choices. The most important thing moms should stay away from is making uninformed decisions… There are good-for-you options EVERYWHERE — even at quick service restaurants. So moms should be researching and figuring out what those options are and which ones will work best for their families.
JENNA: I’m a big believer in “everything in moderation.” Is there an indulgence you allow yourself, regardless of the fact that it isn’t quite as healthy?
LISA: Oh yes. Many! I live by the 80/20 rule, which means that 80 percent of the time I am paying very close attention to what I am eating and making smart choices and about 20% of the time I’m not quite as strict. One of my favorite indulgences is Southern BBQ. My husband is from Memphis and whenever we’re there I BBQ it up!!!
JENNA: Do you find it tough to eat out at restaurants and still maintain a healthy lifestyle? I know lots of parents who often give in to the convenience of ordering out, since it’s quick and easy. Is there any advice you can give regarding combining the convenience, while still retaining some nutritional value?
LISA: I am a firm believer that there are smart choices EVERYWHERE. I think people tend to make excuses and eat poorly when ordering in or dining out because they can. It’s easy to blame the menu. But the truth is, there are good for you foods at almost all restaurants. Even a fast food restaurant like McDonald’s has a SLEW of fantastic fresh salads, lean protein options, fruit, etc. on their menu. So takeout is easy to navigate. Stick with lean proteins, fresh veggies and fruit when possible — avoid fried foods, lots of creamy sauces, cheesy, oily items, etc.
JENNA: With the number of obese children we have in this country today, as well as teenagers battling anorexia & bulimia, I feel you are a pioneer for the “right way” to introduce young women to the concept of watching what they eat… by making healthy food exciting and accessible. What advice would you give a teenage girl about developing better food habits?
LISA: I am not a medical professional in any way but I do have opinions on this subject. I feel it’s important for girls to not have unrealistic expectations about what their bodies should look like. And in general to definitely NOT look at the teens and women on TV today as role models in that arena. Too many people on TV, in magazines, and in movies are extremely thin — even if they are just naturally thin and don’t have to work hard at it — many simply have body types and frames that are much smaller than the average teenage girl. If teenage girls focus too much on that or beat themselves up about not being a size 0, they can develop eating disorders. I think the more we can educate teens about reading labels, understanding what their bodies need to function and making smart choices based on their needs, the closer we will be to solving the issues that exist with eating disorders and body image.
JENNA: What’s one item in your kitchen that you can’t live without?
LISA: My microwave. I know that’s not the most sophisticated answer — but I’m being honest! I use it to make my HG egg mugs DAILY…. so I love it!!!
JENNA: Any chance we can get a recipe from you that might appeal to moms as well as kids?
HUNGRY GIRL’S BLT-RIFIC MAC N’ CHEESE ~ 227 calories per serving!
You’ll need: large skillet with a lid, microwave-safe plate (optional), medium-large pot with a lid, nonstick spray, microwave-safe bowl.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
¼th of recipe (about 1 cup) ~ 227 calories, 5g fat, 491 mg sodium, 33g carbs, 6g fiber, 4g sugars, 13g protein
3 slices center-cut bacon or turkey bacon
4 ½ ounces (about 1 ½ cups) uncooked high-fiber penne pasta
2 large yellow summer squash
3 cups chopped spinach leaves
1 large tomato, chopped and seeded
2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
2 slices fat-free cheddar cheese
4 wedges The Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss Cheese
Optional seasonings: salt and black pepper
Cook bacon until crispy, either in a large skillet over medium heat or on a microwave-safe plate in the microwave. (See package for cook time.) Crumble or chop.
In a medium-large pot, cook pasta per package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain and cover to keep warm.
Meanwhile, cut squash into pieces similar in size to the penne, about 2 inches long and ½ inch thick.
Bring a large skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to medium heat. Add squash, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, occasionally uncovering to stir.
Add spinach and tomato to the skillet, re-cover, and continue to cook for 1 minute. Remove cover and cook and stir until spinach has wilted, tomato is soft, and most excess liquid has cooked off, about 3 minutes. Drain excess liquid, stir cooked veggies into pasta, and cover to keep warm.
In a microwave-safe bowl, mix sour cream, cheese slices, and cheese wedges, breaking slices and wedges into pieces as you add them. Microwave for 30 seconds, and stir thoroughly. Microwave for another 30 seconds, or until fully melted. Mix until smooth.
Add cheese mixture to veggies and pasta. Stir to coat. Top with bacon. Serve it up!
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
(***This recipe was copied directly from Hungry Girl: To The Max!, courtesy of Lisa Lillen. For questions regarding this recipe, please contact Hungry Girl at www.hungry-girl.com)
A huge thanks to Lisa, for the interview and the recipe contribution! As promised, here’s your opportunity to win Lisa’s newest recipe book, Hungry Girl: To The Max! All you need to do is send me an email at Jenna@cradlechronicles.com, letting me know what your favorite healthy snack or meal is. Please title it “I’m a Hungry Girl.” You’ll automatically be entered into the drawing to win a book! Please make sure to include an appropriate email address, so I can contact you if you are chosen. I’ll randomly select two lucky winners at the beginning of January…
Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,
Jenna von Oy
PS. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!
When I was pregnant with Gray, I was blown away by the number of folks who reached out to us and offered positive guidance. More often than not, I hear women discussing the unwanted advice they’ve received during their pregnancies– strangers on the street who feel it necessary to say, “You shouldn’t be drinking that coffee; it will hurt your baby.” (Meanwhile, the expectant mother is holding a cup of decaf…) Other times, it’s a parent or in-law that decides to compare and contrast their past pregnancies with your current one, as if they are all the same. No exhausted woman who is plagued by morning sickness likes to hear someone brag, “Oh wow, you’re throwing up seven times a day? That’s too bad. I never got sick, had heartburn, or experienced trouble sleeping. Little Johnny was perfect in every way.” Brad and I got lucky, in that we rarely received comments such as this. Instead, we were extended kind and gentle support… even from people we didn’t know! Which brings me to my guest post this week.
Right smack dab in the middle of my pregnancy, in the throes of nausea and fatigue, I got a little surprise in the mail in the form of a book: The Greatest Pregnancy Ever. It was sent to me by authors/pregnancy experts, Laurel Wilson and Tracy Wilson Peters, and I appreciated their subtlety. They didn’t force opinions on me regarding how to raise my child, or tell me how to get over my pregnancy woes. They offered my sanity a nurturing helping hand– a spiritual support of sorts. Tracy wrote an inscription in the front of my book that read, “Jenna, Wishing you the greatest pregnancy ever. In light, Tracy.” The words in light struck me. They were such reassuring feelings from someone I’d never met, and I was grateful for that. It made me feel like there were other folks out there rooting for my child and I to succeed together! The book was a warm and wonderful reminder to relax and cultivate an early bond with my baby. Instead of entertaining my type-A desires to ignore the nausea and get things done around the house, it inspired me to indulge my need for quietude instead. These ladies encouraged me to embrace my motherly intuition and to connect with my daughter on an emotional level, even before her birth. I’m so pleased they’ve agreed to write a guest post for The Cradle Chronicles, and I hope you enjoy the read!
Baby University – Class Starts During Pregnancy
You are your child’s first teacher. From the moment of conception, babies are enrolled in the university of life. Every experience a mother has during pregnancy is designed to teach her baby about the world he will soon encounter. All of the information babies receive from their mother in the womb serves as a special lesson plan for adapting to their new world. Mothers are teaching their babies about their world throughout pregnancy, via special molecules of emotion. This is the basis for the bond between a mother and her baby and is the beginning of the school of life.
Contrary to popular belief, the mother baby bond begins well before birth. This bond starts early in pregnancy and is made possible because the placenta acts as a highly advanced communication device between the two. When a mother experiences an emotion or feeling, messenger molecules pulse through her body. These molecules are designed to communicate information to the mother’s body systems, but they also communicate to the baby via the placenta. For example, if a mother feels anxiety or stress, her heart rate increases, her adrenaline spikes and she moves into a state of fight or flight. Her body begins producing cortisol, the stress hormone.
When mothers have stress during pregnancy, babies are stressed, too. The March of Dimes reports that chronic stress in pregnancy can lead to health problems in the mother, such as preterm delivery, high blood pressure and other medical issues. Unrelenting, chronic stress in pregnancy can lead to a baby who cries more, sleeps less, and is anxious. Unfortunately, many mothers today are chronically stressed. They live their lives constantly on the go, jumping from task to task, engaged in activity from sun up until they drop into bed in state of exhaustion well past sun down. This environment of stress impacts a mother’s ability to sleep, increases her risk of developing postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, and decreases the blood flow to the placenta.
On a positive note, when a mother has joyful, loving, and compassionate emotions, it helps contribute to a healthier womb environment. Less stress leads to healthier development for babies. This unique communication between a mother and baby is how the baby’s emotional intelligence is created. When a mother has a loving thought, her baby experiences love. When she feels joyful, he encounters joy. When she is angry, he perceives anger. It is an amazing process designed to give babies the opportunity to develop a healthy emotional life that matches the emotional tone of his new family. This emotional tone is his way preparing for and coping with his world, known as the EQ, or emotional quotient. Today it is recognized that a healthy EQ is more important for long-term happiness throughout a lifetime than a high IQ.
So what is today’s mom to do? With the increasing pressures of today, how do we lighten our load? The good news is that it’s actually quite simple to help the body relieve stress. Below is a list of proven techniques that ANY pregnant mother can use to relieve the effects of stress:
- Yawn. Yes, yawn. Repeated yawning resets the brain, releases “happy” hormones and helps the body process cortisol. Ever notice the need to yawn when it’s necessary to pay attention but just can’t find the energy? Yawning is like a natural, gentle boost to the brain.
- Move! Take a 10 minute walk, swim for half and hour, dance to music in the living room, take a prenatal yoga class! Movement improves circulation, releases beta-endorphins and releases stress!
- Smile and laugh. Have friends over for tea and giggle! Watch a favorite funny movie. Do things that increase happiness. Laughter is one of the best antidotes for stress.
- Nap. Get at least a minimum of 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. Having just one 10 minute nap a day helps everyone deal with stress better. Getting the brain into the delta state of relaxation allows for body rejuvenation and improved immune functioning. Take an eye mask and mp3 player to work and, during break-times, rest deeply for ten minutes.
When pregnant mothers realize that they are their baby’s first teacher, it can empower them to make better choices. These choices can include practicing stress reduction techniques, developing healthier relationships, eating healthy foods and practicing conscious decision-making. Mothers have the power to change the world when they choose to teach their babies lessons of love during pregnancy. For more information on how to increase the mother baby bond and reduce stress during pregnancy, read The Greatest Pregnancy Ever: Keys to the MotherBaby Bond.
Laurel Wilson, IBCLC, CLE, CCCE
Tracy Wilson Peters, CCCE, CLD, CLE
Thanks so much to Tracy and Laurel, for lending their expertise to The Cradle Chronicles this week!
Until next time… Peace, Love, & Dirty Diapers,
Jenna von Oy
PS. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!