Wednesday, 11 April 2012

you say potato, I say plantain

I don't usually fry, let alone deep fry anything. But my recent trip to Cuba got me thinking about the humble plantain, and its yummy results as a fried chip.

It's simple. It's yummy. It satisfies the need to munch, if you have that urge, and is more nutritious than store bought potato chips. And they are simple to make!

You need:


peanut oil

Peel and cut plantains into little slices. Heat up oil on medium heat. Add plantains and let them sizzle:

When golden, remove, cool and eat. You can spice them up with cayenne, cumin and chili peppers, or sweeten them with cinnamon and sugar, or just eat them up plain.

Simple and yummy.

xo Jo

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

today I am mellow, or not so mellow yellow

Yellow: banana, cadmium yellow, chartreuse, chiffon, cream, golden, goldenrod, lemon, mellow yellow, saffron, topaz, yellow ocher, amber, butter.

Sunshine, warmth, happiness, hope. Cowardice, deceit, hazard, and death. Such a conflicted colour. You either love it or hate it.

Interesting notes about Yellow:

  • In Chinese culture, colors corresponded with the five primary elements, the directions, and the four seasons. Yellow was associated with earth and the center (in relation to direction).
  • The Chinese have placed a predominance upon the color yellow not seen elsewhere in the world. It was the color of emperors during both the Ming dynasty and the Qing dynasty.
  • Huangdi, also known as the Yellow Emperor, is thought to be the founder of Chinese civilization, due to the tremendous amount of inventions that took place during his reign.
  • In India, yellow is the color of the Vaisya caste, or farmers, and is the color Hindus wear to celebrate the Festival of Spring.
  • During the tenth century in France, the doors of traitors and criminals were painted yellow.
  • In the United States, taxi cabs and school buses are associated with the color yellow.
  • During the 1357 Japanese "War of Dynasty," warriors wore a yellow chrysanthemum as a pledge of courage.
  • Jews wore yellow armbands in Nazi concentration camps.
  • In Aztec culture, yellow symbolized food because it was the colour of corn, the primary food of the Aztec people.
  • Yellow signifies “sadness” in Greece’s culture and “jealousy” in France’s culture.
  • Yellow is psychologically the happiest color in the color spectrum.
  • In medical terms, a yellow flag indicates a quarantine.
  • Yellow Stones: Amber, Calcite, Cat's Eye, Citrine, Fluorite, Golden Beryl, Golden Yellow Topaz, Golden Tiger Eye, Iron Pyrite, Lemon Chrysoprase, Yellow Celestite, Yellow Danburite, Yellow Garnet, Yellow Jade, Yellow Jasper, Yellow Kunzite, Yellow Muscovite, Yellow Rhodonite, Yellow Sapphire, Yellow Tourmaline
  • The comic book character Green Lantern was afraid of the color yellow.
  • 75% of the pencils sold in the United States are painted yellow.

- from

xo Jo

Monday, 9 April 2012

toddler wrangler/whisperer

To say that my toddler has had trouble sleeping is an understatement. At 2.5, he still rarely sleeps through the night, he often wakes up screaming and yelling, he talks in his sleep, and he has trouble settling. We have read every sleep book ever written. We co- sleep in an attempt to assist him to better slumber.

 I have hauled him to the doctor on many occasions when I was at my wit's end. Because he appears to be growing normally , and meeting or exceeding expectations for developmental milestones, medical types are not concerned. They do not lack for sleep, as I do.

I have tried many approaches to help him sleep better. I refuse to allow him to "cry it out," as so many popular baby advisers suggest. The very thought of doing that goes against every fibre of my motherly being, and against many of the choices we have made as parents to follow the "Attachment" style of parenting advocated by Dr. Sears. I won't let him cry. I can't agree with that approach. My motherly instinct tells me there are better ways. Why would I want to make my otherwise very happy child cry? I don't.

I am continually disturbed by the number of parenting experts that advocate the cry it out method. It seems a rather harsh way to get a child- a baby no less- to do something. It doesn't seem respectful or kind. It also, in my opinion, doesn't seem to "teach" the child any beneficial life skills. I am big on teaching rather than disciplining or forcing. There are great articles on sleep and why one should avoid crying it out  here, here and here.
So, while I have spent many sleepless hours pondering our situation, wondering what else I could do to help him, it occurred to me that now, at the age of 2.5, his language skills are quite advanced, that I might be able to talk to him more about his sleeping and that maybe something might be gained by these conversations.

I learned that things were starting to scare him- unfamiliar noises for instances, so spending some time listening together and identifying noises in the house and outside has helped. Now he can name what he hears and it isn't scary. He had also developed a fear of monsters (thanks Toupie and Binou!). Now we talk a lot about what he is hearing, and about the relative safety of our house vis a vis monsters, how our dog would never allow monsters, even pretend monsters to come in.

It also dawned on me, in an hour of desperation, that maybe hypnosis would work.

Hypnosis has such a strange reputation. Visions of drunken nitwits standing up and doing the chicken dance everyone some says beer come to mind. I think I shall re-phrase what I have written. It dawned on me that guided deep relaxation might work.

No, I didn't rush out and take a course. I guess I could, and maybe I might, but for what I need to do, adopting a sleepy, quiet, calm, relaxed, soft voice and talking about pleasant things in an increasingly sleepy voice seems to do the trick. There is no hocus-pocus. You just help the person relax. And to those who have taken courses for therapeutic purposes, I mean no disrespect. In fact I have tremendous respect for hypno-therapy. I just don't need to go that far.

Using our recent beach holiday as a jumping off point, I began "talking him to sleep" instead of singing, as I have been doing since he was just a wee little babe.

I get him to visualize a relaxing scenario- warm sun, cool breeze, singing birds, waves lapping on the shore. It is simple, calm, even predictable. I involve many senses- visual, auditory, sensual. And I guide him to a relaxed state. We eventually count the waves until he falls asleep, and I periodically remind him that he can allow himself to have a good long sleep and wake up feeling happy and refreshed. When I first started this, it took him about 1/2 hour to fall asleep. Not bad for this kid, but not great. Now, after doing this for about 10 days, it takes him about 12 minutes. The best part is that he has now started taking ownership of it. He asked for a new story today- one about tractors. So, we counted a parade of tractors, each one guiding us to a sleepier and sleepier place as they roll by. It worked just as well as the beach scene and the waves rolling onto the shore. What I like about this approach is that he is learning how to relax himself. This is a skill that he can eventually use on his own. He is learning to do this in a relaxed, supportive and loving environment. During the process I can reassure him that there is nothing to worry about ('cause he's a worrier). The process doesn't cause him anxiety (as crying it out would). And he is learning a valuable life skill: how to relax himself and put himself to sleep in a pleasant manner.

I wonder why none of the parenting books I have read suggest this? Why do some even advocate locking the child in his room and ignoring his screams and cries when the same result could be achieved in a much less stressful way for everyone? (I can't tell you how many naps I have had as a result of guiding my son to sleep...). I guess this peaceful approach requires a lot of effort on the part of the parent and huge investment of time. It's true. But, no one ever said that being a parent was easy or effortless, or quick. I like the saying that reminds us that we are not managing an inconvenience, we are raising a human being.

xo Jo

Sunday, 8 April 2012

happy easter snow day!

You can tell it is spring in Alberta because it is snowing. I took this picture on April 4th. I could go back through my archives of photos and find similar ones year after year in April, and some in May.

We live in the north. Quite far north actually. Latitude 53. It is to be expected. People tend to compare the weather here to southern Ontario- Toronto, for instance (latitude 43), for instance, and that doesn't work.It may only look like a 10 degree differences, but that is quite a lot.

We are also located at a surprisingly high altitude, situated on a high prairie plateau at 2,192 ft.

When I was a kid, we used to have baseball tournaments on the Victoria Day long weekend, typically the third weekend in May. We would get sunburns on one of the days, and we would frequently be snowed out the next day, or vice versa.

Such is life in Edmonton, on the prairies, or more precisely on the border between prairie and boreal forest.

It's actually quite beautiful, if you can allow yourself the pleasure of enjoying nature.

The birds don't seem to mind too much.

All in all, it was a pretty fun day. A bonus snow day before we put away our winter gear.

Although it's kinda too bad the dog peed on the snow man....d'oh!

xo Jo