5 Minute Valentine Freezer Candy: Filled with Protein for a Healthy Snack!

Boxed and ready to eat, this snack is a Love filled delight! I wanted more, and decided to make a second batch!

Boxed and ready to eat, this snack is a Love filled delight! I wanted more, and decided to make a second batch!

This was so easy! So quick! So full of good stuff to eat- full of protein and anti-oxidants while also being GF/DF/Egg-free!! The Valentine Solution for keeping the whole family on the right track to good nutrition!

It is also a great kids activity! Super easy so they could really do it themselves. A great way to have fun and help kids learn about cooking and sharing the Love this time of year! They will probably request these for their lunch box too!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup nutbutter (peanut, almond, cashew, etc.)

1 1/2 tablespoons Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (I use Enjoy life because they are allergen free) or other chocolate chip variety

1 1/2 tablespoons Dried Goji berries

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Mix well and spread into a small freezer proof dish or mold into any shape with a candy mold tray. I used a plastic tray with little hearts. ( I would try silicon next time to eliminate the small bit of effort I had to use with the butter knife to pop them out of the tray. )

Wrap in wax paper, box, or tie in a pretty bag with ribbons. That is if you can wait to eat them! We ate 2 or 3 before they even hit the Valentine Box!

Enjoy! These are Yummi!

Warming Up Winter: Acorn Squash Sundaes Toddlers Love and Kids Can Help Make!

Warm Acorn Squash

It’s cold. Kids are inside. Tummies are growling. Time to have some quick and yummy fun! Squash Sundaes are the answer.

This recipe is super easy and can be tailored to any eaters needs. Toddlers can eat it pureed, and older kids can help make it. It’s warm, comforting, and fills the corners of hungry bellies. I used it as a dessert, but it can fit easily as a snack or even better, a warm healthy breakfast. Plus, did I mention it is jammed with nutrients and other good stuff to keep families healthy when it’s cold outside? Oh…it is!

Ingredients:

Acorn Sqush

Olive Oil

Blender or food processor (to puree for early eaters and toddlers)

Cranberries, pecans, butter (Earth Balance), maple sugar to taste

Any other additions or substitutions that you think might work, such as walnuts, raisins, maple syrup or cinnamon

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut Acorn squash in half, scoop and discard the seeds, and with about 1 tablespoon olive, coconut or grape seed oil coat the inside of the squash. This helps it stay soft and not burn while cooking. Depending on the size of your squash, cooking times may vary, however with a medium squash it took about 40 minutes to roast on the middle oven rack.

After the squash is roasted, let it sit a few minutes until you can easily scrape out the flesh. It makes a great mash as it is being scraped out of the rind, but if you need it to be pureed for your early eater or toddler, use a food processor or blender. If you don’t you may encounter a few strings or textured parts that are not safe. Additionally, kids can’t really help with this part of the recipe, as using the stove and scooping out warm squash is not safe either. However, kids do love to push the buttons on a blender, as long as they are well supervised.

Once the squash is in a bowl it is easy to get kids involved. I recommend setting out a couple small bowls with the cranberries, pecans, butter, walnuts, raisins, etc. so they can add in their favorites. If it is for the whole family they can add in what most of the family would like, or each child can get a bowl and make an individual “Squash Sundae”. Add more or less as each person desires, use them as toppings or mix throughout.

That’s it. Simple, easy and very little clean up! Tomorrow morning I’ll be trying this for a healthy breakfast, and I hope you too get to try it during these cold days of winter!

Pebbles and Dancing: How Mindful Play Creates Emotional Resilience in Kids.

This is an account of an amazing day. It is an account of when my husband started a new job a few years ago. I thought it was worth sharing.

My daughter Gigi and I begin our day with a celebratory breakfast. My husband started a new job, and to celebrate, Gigi and I pull together a “basket of office supplies” gift  and a mega breakfast. I am not sure which one of us enjoyed it more. We were all  smiling throughout our time together.

After our morning routine, Gigi and I headed out to the playground that she calls the “castle”. It is constructed out of timber and has multiple towers and bridges, making it look like a castle with a moat of pebbles all around it. She is really most into the pebbles so I decide to accept where she was and make the most fun out of it. The towers and draw- bridges will have to wait a few more months.

This playground is fun when experienced mindfully.

Pebbled playground leads to fun sensory play.

Once we get there, I realize that she is in bliss with the feeling the pebbles bring to her hands. We start talking how these pebbles feel hard, how big ones feel heavy, and how our clothes and hair are the opposite in their softness. Two other little girls, Rachel and Nina, join us. They kindly ask if Grace would like to play with them. My guess is that they are really asking if they can play with us.

We all make pebble cakes and pebble pies. We create apple chocolate cake, berry cake, strawberry pie, and blueberry muffins. We all start talking about how rocks feel hard, and soon Nina and Rachel are running around finding all the hard objects in the castle. Hard poles, hard chains, hard swings, and when all options are nearly exhausted, they even say they have “hard heads”! The same process is completed with all things soft and soon everyone is giggling.

How Kids Learn Emotional Regulation

We pretend to be pirates of the castle and are sailing on our sea of pebbles to distant islands. Grace is happy to have playmates and I am happy to have everyone so excited learning about the textures of our pebble wonderland. This is where it all begins for Gigi and her emotions. She is creating inner resources of joy and happiness that she will use to regulate her emotions when things get rough.

If Gigi can describe her emotions as she feels them in her body, she will one day be the master of them. She won’t be afraid to deal feelings as they make themselves present in her life. It takes little effort on my part to give her a vocabulary for her tactile experiences, and hopefully experiences will present themselves that will enlarge her vocabulary in detail, degree and also in relation to her multiple senses. Sadness can be “heavy”, anger might feel “hard” and peace might feel “soft”. Gigi will be prepared to deal.

Nina and Rachel continue to play with us. Rachel begins hugging me and tries to sit on me like a horse. At this point, I realize it is great to be playing with these little girls, as they so need attention. Their mom is on the other side of the castle the whole time. She can not see her children as they play and she does not check on them once during the forty minutes we are playing. Nina begins to initiate hugging more and more, and so as to avoid any major attachment that can not be fulfilled, Gigi and I decline their offer to go to the ice cream shop, and head on our merry way to our next destination, a dress rehearsal of a dance performance in the city.  I truly hope that Rachel and Nina find the attention that they need.

Sensory Play: How Mindful Movement Encourages Play

Gigi and I attempt to eat lunch, but Gigi is so excited about the dancers that she can’t begin to concentrate on her banana. We end the meal early, and head to the theater to see the dress rehearsal. The venue is a converted bar with a stage; it is very hip and has lots of room for Gigi to move “be a dancer” herself as she waits.
The second stage normally used by the musicians is not in use, so the dancers say that Gigi can go up on the stage. She is spinning, twirling and looking quite proud as she says “I’m a dancer!” She even tries the lifts as I swing her around the stage and she copies the dancers’ lunging patterns to the music. We both really enjoy ourselves.

Self awareness allows for mastery of emotions.

Calm parents are a model for calm kids.

How Good Memories and Emotions Help Me Stay Calm

As we leave the venue to find our car, I notice the sky becoming darker and darker. We have driven almost the whole way home when it begins to rain, and before I can process what is happening, cars are turning around in front of me due to downed trees. I also turn around and try an alternate route. As I navigate, our car begins to rock, the surrounding trees look horizontal, and the traffic lights take on the appearance of feathers being tossed by a majestic wind. Regardless of the nature of this wind, I am intent on getting home as fast as possible. Shingles from the roof are scattered on the front lawn; gutters and molding have been detached from the roof, and there is no electricity.  We make our way inside.

Once we are settled in, I check with my neighbors and soon learn there was a tornado that touched down a mile from our home. It is still raining, and Gigi continues to nap. My own emotions of ”heavy”. Fear subsides and gratitude for my blessings begins to “soften” me once again. Because I too have had an amazing day of great memories, calming down isn’t hard.

We are safe and sound at the end of a beautiful day.

Mindfulness leads to a mastery of our internal emotions. Mindful parents rasie mindful kids.

Mastering our emotions through awareness let’s use steer our ship well and weather any storm. Emotions light our way.

If Gigi can describe her emotions as she feels them in her body, she will one day be the master of them. She won’t be afraid to deal feelings as they make themselves present in her life. It takes little effort on my part to give her a vocabulary for her tactile experiences, and hopefully experiences will present themselves that will enlarge her vocabulary in detail, degree and also in relation to her multiple senses. Sadness can be “heavy”, anger might feel “hard” and peace might feel “soft”. Gigi will be prepared to deal.

Nina and Rachel continue to play with us. Rachel begins hugging me and tries to sit on me like a horse. At this point, I realize it is great to be playing with these little girls, as they so need attention. Their mom is on the other side of the castle the whole time. She can not see her children as they play and she does not check on them once during the forty minutes we are playing. Nina begins to initiate hugging more and more, and so as to avoid any major attachment that can not be fulfilled, Gigi and I decline their offer to go to the ice cream shop, and head on our merry way to our next destination, a dress rehearsal of a dance performance in the city.  I truly hope that Rachel and Nina find the attention that they need.

Sensory Play: How Mindful Movement Encourages Play

Gigi and I attempt to eat lunch, but Gigi is so excited about the dancers that she can’t begin to concentrate on her banana. We end the meal early, and head to the theater to see the dress rehearsal. The venue is a converted bar with a stage; it is very hip and has lots of room for Gigi to move “be a dancer” herself as she waits.
The second stage normally used by the musicians is not in use, so the dancers say that Gigi can go up on the stage. She is spinning, twirling and looking quite proud as she says “I’m a dancer!” She even tries the lifts as I swing her around the stage and she copies the dancers’ lunging patterns to the music. We both really enjoy ourselves.

How Good Memories and Emotions Help Me Stay Calm

As we leave the venue to find our car, I notice the sky becoming darker and darker. We have driven almost the whole way home when it begins to rain, and before I can process what is happening, cars are turning around in front of me due to downed trees. I also turn around and try an alternate route. As I navigate, our car begins to rock, the surrounding trees look horizontal, and the traffic lights take on the appearance of feathers being tossed by a majestic wind. Regardless of the nature of this wind, I am intent on getting home as fast as possible. Shingles from the roof are scattered on the front lawn; gutters and molding have been detached from the roof, and there is no electricity.  We make our way inside.

Once we are settled in, I check with my neighbors and soon learn there was a tornado that touched down a mile from our home. It is still raining, and Gigi continues to nap. My own emotions of ”heavy”. Fear subsides and gratitude for my blessings begins to “soften” me once again. Because I too have had an amazing day of great memories, calming down isn’t hard.

We are safe and sound at the end of a beautiful day.

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Yoga for Kids-Outside the Studio.

              Sometimes the yoga we need comes to us outside the yoga studio. My daughter and I learned this very lesson on our trip to Kripalu Yoga Center, experiencing each day, each new tree, each flavorful morsel, each fresh new experience with joy. 

Yoga Activities for Kids – Outside the Studio

Three years ago my family and I decided to visit Kripalu Yoga Center in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. We went so my husband could complete an in-depth study of Yoga nidra (the form of deep meditation that’s sometimes referred to as “yogic sleep”). I went to refresh my soul and bond with my daughter in any way the yoga center offered.  My husband was tired of long days at work, I was happy to be moving on from my position in the school system where I’d been for two years, and my daughter was ready to spend quality time with both of us. Once packed we hit the road already exhausted.

mindful travel with kidsWe took the trip slowly and stopped in Chautauqua, New York, for a day to enjoy the lakefront breezes, crisp air, and beautiful sunset. We were honestly so out of tune with the natural beauty all around us that we took a few hours to transition from “grumpy” to “calm”. However, once we were at ease it was smooth sailing. An ultimately non-gluten free meal (we are generally a gluten free family) of fresh baked pizza and ice cream, eaten lakeside, made for the very best end to our first day of travel. (For what it’s worth, I suspect Coppola’s in Bemus Point uses really high-quality ingredients, because no digestive or sleep issues were reported after our meal!)

I know, I know.  Pizza & Ice cream may not strike you as very mindful, but bear with me.  They are an infrequent indulgence, shall we say, but as a way for us to relax -and that’s including relaxing the “rules” and dietary guidelines we generally follow, at least for the evening – it hit the spot something terrific.

An early start the next day began with a quick trek to the Bemus Point playground. Our daughter was delighted to have the chance to move a bit before the six-hour drive to Stockbridge, MA, and the Kripalu Center. Little did we know that the tranquil lake would turn into a veritable sea of fast food, family-unfriendly food options as we crossed New York state via I-90. Several rest stops (and ice cream cones – milk is healthy, right?) later, we entered Massachusetts, ready to be done driving and to settle into our accommodations.

We’d rented a cabin in Stockbridge through an online service.  As we entered the scenic Berkshires, our eyes were filled with panoramas of green mountains and the pristine lawns of neighbors enjoying old time summer homes along the Stockbridge Bowl lake shores. Luckily for us, our cabin did us just right! Cute and cozy and filled with years of love from a history of summer family fun, the cabin set the stage wonderfully for a week of relaxing, bonding and rejuvenating.

Soon after we arrived, my husband got an early start to his conference at Kripalu and spent the next 4 days from 7 am to 9 pm learning about the practice of Yoga nidra. Although Yoga nidra feels like deep sleep, he was tired by the end of each day and ready to cozy up in the cabin by 10 PM. My daughter and I had the days to spend exploring, something we both enjoy.

Nature is an outdoor yoga studio.

Walking in nature allows for Mindful Parenting.

The first day we spent visiting the outdoor beauty of Kripalu. Huge willows provided a wonderful area for games of hide-and-seek and huge trunks for tree hugs. The flower garden provided a path to meet and greet many wildflowers and interesting trees. New seedlings provided conversation as we walked back to the center’s dining hall to enjoy our organic lunch! By the end of our first morning, I was refilled with inner warmth and my muscles began to relax and let my mind ease.

We took the afternoon to visit the quaint town of Lenox, just 1/2 mile down the road. We happened upon a bakery for a sweet treat enjoyed on the porch as French music played through the speakers above. My daughter played a game of “I’m going to eat it” as she ran back and forth between her pastry and the end of the deck. I took the time to enjoy my Birthday blueberry tart complete with pink box and white bow wrapping. We ended our visit to Lenox with a walk and the purchase of warm and cozy sweatshirts.

The next day was just as dear to us as we found the Kripalu lake for the first time, and met some of my husband’s fellow conference-goers, lovely women from Hungary and Iceland; wonderful souls, open to sharing their insights on deepening their practice of yoga and glimpses of their lives in far off lands. Equally as amazing was the crystal-clear lake water. I could walk out to my waist and still see my feet. It was the clearest water I had seen since visiting the Caribbean. It seemed to speak refreshment with each step I took….pure bliss.

Mindful parenting while my child swims in a clear lake at Kripalu.

A clear lake at Kripalu Yoga Center makes a great playground for the kiddo.

Getting into the rhythm of the week, it became a regular occurrence for my daughter and me to eat with my husband in the center’s dining hall. With the gluten-free pancakes the best I have ever had, eating together as a family was a chance to touch base and stay connected, as well as to satisfy our taste buds. We enjoyed rice milk, homemade teas, brown rice wraps, gluten free breads and a variety of culinary explorations – just a few of the menu items that helped my stomach smile from deep within. This was the experience of Yoga Eating for sure!  The center has a silent dining room available, to allow mindful and ‘aware’ eating, a practice I’ve been considering for my own home.

I think that of all the trips I’ve taken, the retreat at Kripalu ranks up there as one where I had the least amount of concern about the quality of the nutrition that my family and I were ingesting – and their dedicated staff really made sure that the nourishing foods were prepared with taste, texture, and quality in the forefront.

After dinner the kiddo and I would either read books and snuggle in the cabin or play in the Kripalu playroom. The playroom itself was plain but exquisite in its simplicity…a highly ‘Yogic’ playroom, you might say. We played “mama” to little horses who needed mommies, we tickled the keys on the toy piano, and rode in circles in the big red Radio Flyer wagon. As evening drew near, we were sure to snuggle up with a book, whether at the cabin or in the playroom. Sometimes we read about baby whales, sometimes about wolves, and if we were really up for a fine time, we read our book on manners (one of my daughter’s favorites).

The following days drifted together in a relaxed haze with rain drops sprinkling our heads as we roamed between our wonderful cabin, the graces of Kripalu and the town of Lenox. We even happened upon the Berkshires Co-Op Market to get their very special offering of Vermont brewed Kombucha Tea. It was so potent I think I experienced a full detox from just one bottle, yet with comfort and ease. The market itself was oh so special with every organic item my mind could imagine!

As the conference wound down, I noted that husband began to look a bit sad, and in asking him he reported that his bonding with so many wonderful people had been so rewarding; it was leaving them that was to be difficult. I encouraged him to get his good friends’ contacts and even proposed a trip to Iceland to catch up with friends in the year to come. Hubs was thankful for the suggestions and encouragement, and was glad to hear I understood his feelings. He offered to look after the kiddo at mid-day, so that I could take a break and have some time for myself in the bookstore and whirlpool room and to take advantage of the Yoga Dance classes at noon on our remaining days. Who could turn that down? I looked forward to some wonderful R&R experiences.

Yoga Dance was the first luxury I enjoyed with other mamas. It was a heart-centered class, in which we were encouraged to move our body and limbs as part of the outer world that radiated from pure expression at our heart center. Being moved by the rhythm and the spirit deep within I let loose and took up my space on the dance floor. It was as though I was a winged bird set free for the first time. Following up with another amazing lunch, time at the bookstore and a trip to Lenox, I was in my element. The day ended with 30 minutes in the whirlpool and hot showers. My whole body had been restored.

We left the next day, after another Yoga Dance and whirlpool adventure, as well as one last yummy Kripalu lunch. My daughter hugged each tree and my husband made peace with his desire to stay in touch with his new friends. We traveled back to Chautauqua for one more overnight, with a sunset on the lake thrown in for good measure, before getting back to Pittsburgh late Sunday night. After unpacking only the essentials we all snuggled in for a long summer night’s sleep.

Kripalu is a unique place.  I enjoyed writing this as a ‘travelogue’, so to speak, but I also needed to emphasize that opportunities for mindful, meaningful experience for a kid and her parents can be found in many places outside the studio proper where we perform asanas; whether on retreat, on vacation, in the people you meet, and in the moments both memorable and mundane.

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