Afternoon Tea with a toddler. Think twice

Try not to sweat the small stuff

I love creating memorable experiences for my kids and finding special occasions to bring us closer together. Whether that’s a weekend adventure, a trip to a museum, or creative projects at home. With two young kids, I almost always feel exhausted at the end of any project or endeavor. My son is also at an age where he is over-the-top inquisitive. Parents, you know what I’m talking about.

My son, on the subject of Margherita pizza

Why is the pizza called Margherita? What are these green things? Do I have to eat them? What’s basil? Does basil grow in the ground or on trees? Did God make them? Does God eat basil? Can we get a pizza without basil? Actually, I just want pizza with no sauce, no cheese, no basil, and no tomatoes.

Me: No, because it’s no longer a pizza.

Fast forward: The basil and the tomato slices (on his side of the pizza) have been surgically removed.

Half and half
You can tell which side is his side of the pizza.

I love that my son is curious. He has an existentialist mindset, questioning absolutely everything and defining his own sense of the world. Something we should always encourage as parents…to question things.

My daughter, when it comes to tea time

My youngest is a toddler with a bold personality. She can be a hurricane force of nature, and I can see the machinations behind her cherubic mien. In many ways, she and I are most alike. My mom says she is a mirror copy of what I was like at that age. Personality to boot. Embracing her English side, my daughter loves playing make-believe with tea sets and sipping from tiny cups.

Make-believe tea time
Playtime with tea and cakes

My son was an easy toddler in comparison. He has a breezy, sunny personality and in my eyes, a total charmer. My daughter is far more intense in comparison, a roller coaster of fun and ebullience.

Afternoon tea with fine china

I had made an appointment to take my parents and the kids out for afternoon tea. It would be a first-time treat for my daughter and son. I thought “how cute” if I could dress up my girl in a frilly outfit and adorn her hair with a fascinator hat from her Auntie D. She was so good with her toy tea set. Surely this was an excellent idea.

Reality: Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The English Rose Team Room in San Francisco’s East Bay is a gorgeous place with fine bone china and tables covered in pretty tablecloth. Every inch of the place is covered in floral patterns. Very English I thought. But as soon as I walked in, I had a feeling of dread. Everything was in close quarters and the fine china looked incredibly delicate as I saw my toddler stomping her little feet.

Beads of sweat formed on my brow and on my upper lip. As we sat in chairs with little seat cushions, the server appeared and patiently walked us through the tea service.

Tea service
Server was warm and friendly

Delicate teapots in the shape of chimneyed houses, cups with delicate handles, clattering saucers, gilded plates, and a 3-tier tray of finger foods appeared. Every inch of the table was covered with dangerously breakable items. Did I want hibiscus tea or mint tea? Cucumber sandwich or egg sandwich? Scone with clotted cream and jam, or carrot cake? Sugar cookie or apple pie? Everything was sumptuous, but I was too busy hovering around my little girl to have much of an appetite. Making sure she didn’t touch this or that, or worse actually drink anything from a tea cup.

I looked over at my son. He was enjoying himself and was quite happy with his special meal and apple juice in a tea cup. Bonus, he found a tiny dish of M&Ms next to his flower shaped PB&J sandwich. Talk about finger food!

Afternoon tea with the family
Happy with his kid-friendly meal

My son was a perfect little gentleman and made his momma proud. My daughter, on the other hand, was building herself into a quite a state. Of course she wanted to interact with the fine ladies sitting at adjacent tables. An elderly pair were having a polite conversation to our right, while the table to our left had the most well-behaved pair of young sisters, bows and all. This was not going to be my day.

My daughter bellowed that she wanted to get down from her chair. Nana and I promptly escorted my mini-me outside where they had pretty tables and tea sets displayed in a garden party setting. Phew, disaster averted. We had escaped outside.

Garden party setting
My girl running around in the garden party setting

Pretty soon a stuffed bunny with long floppy ears caught my daughter’s eye. She managed to decapitate it with one quick swoop of her energetic arms. The bunny’s head was fortunately affixed to a wooden stick, so I was able to easily re-attach the head to its floating body.  Another potential crisis averted.

So much for finding respite outdoors, the garden party setting was rife with adorable breakables. With defeated looks, we marched right back inside.

Back inside for tea
With nana by her side, she dips her pirouette smack dab in a frosted cupcake

We finally got my little one to take a few bites of her meal. She managed to dip her pirouette straight into the frosting of a pink cupcake, and made a little mess of things. Bits of her beautiful floral PB&J sandwich ended up on her lap, and she slingshot launched the fascinator hat, nearly hitting me in the face. Her idea of sitting in a chair was to stand, so she was at eye-level with all of us. Did she think she was the Queen of England?

Our afternoon tea outing turned to be an abbreviated visit, and we left with a generous doggie bag filled with all the sumptuous food we had not been able to enjoy.

We’ll come back in a couple years

Fine time
Afternoon tea in the future

In summary, I loved the ‘idea’ of experiencing afternoon tea with the kids. My son happily nibbled on all the finger foods and loved the whimsy of the tea settings. It was too much to expect my toddler daughter to sit still for even a few minutes. Would I go back? Absolutely! But I’ll wait a while until my daughter is a bit older. At the moment, we’re better off taking her to the local pumpkin patch.

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Relationships are work (in a good way)

Marriage, a journey in progress

Whoever said marriage is easy has not been married. It’s hard work. Just like you work to excel in your career, parenting, sport, or other pursuit. Marriages are not Netflix Originals where someone realizes the error of their ways, and decides to whisk you away in romcom fashion for a happily ever after.

It’s also not a dating app scenario where you get to swipe right if something doesn’t work in your favor. Don’t like the way he picks food from his teeth. Too bad. You’re committed. Unfortunately, we live in a challenging time in which a “disposable” mindset is so pervasive. Fragmented families, experience with unhealthy family and romantic relationships, and an instant gratification culture where you’re just an app, tap, and swipe away — can make commitment that much harder. Everyone comes from a different place, and everyone comes with their unique set of baggage.

So, let’s talk sustainability.

Great relationships take work because it’s worth the investment.

We are products of our childhood, upbringing, and cultural norms. Statistically speaking, children of divorced parents are more likely to jump ship. And, if your parents married others after divorcing, you’re 91% more likely to get divorced. (Source: Nicholas Wolfinger, Cambridge University Press 2005). 

But statistics are just numbers at the end of the day. Like Ben Stiller’s risk manager character in Along Came Polly, it’s best to throw the risk assessment out the window and commit to doing the work. And be your own best judge.

After reading key publications and articles on the subject (the work required is consistent), I’ve distilled the summary down to five points.

1) Be a good listener and ask questions

As a busy mom I am engrossed in work, caring for the kids, running errands, and juggling multiple projects. Being a good listener is one of the most important aspects of being a great partner. You can visibly see your partner’s reactions and emotions. We each have our own idiosyncrasies, and it’s important to be present for those we love.

2) Have high standards for each other

Having high standards for each other is crucial. There was a reason you got together in the first place and exchanged ‘I do’s.’ If something bothers you, address it immediately. Don’t tolerate negative or hurtful behavior on either side. Talk it out, and work on nipping the problem in the bud.

3) Learn to argue constructively

Sometimes you agree to disagree. It’s inevitable. I can have strong opinions as does the hubs. Arguing constructively means respecting the others’ opinion and exiting the argument gracefully. That may involve humor, a time-out from conversation, and sometimes just an acknowledgement that both views hold merit. Agree to disagree.

4) Show you care

I grew up in a household where “acts” (i.e. making a favorite meal, planning a special trip) spoke volumes when it came to love and commitment. For others, those acts aren’t enough. Some require more tactile or verbal demonstrations of care and love. Talk about and understand what your partner needs from you (and vice versa).

5) Plan regular date nights

Life gets in the way, and you find yourself frequently exhausted and drained. Having kids are an absolute delight, but it’s hard to schedule regular date nights. This is an area that can provide a great opportunity to re-connect, and just have fun.

Enjoy the journey (there will be bumps)

For my part, I am a work-in-progress and on this journey with my partner.

Yes, marriage is a lot of work. It has its ups and downs, and that’s par for the course. The down times can be incredibly tough, but it’s an opportunity for an honest relationship assessment, and a time to reboot with kindness and forgiveness.  I read a refreshing post (encourage you to read) by Winifred Reilly, a Marriage and Family Therapist, which gave her perspective on 36 years of marriage.

My parents have an amazing relationship and 40+ year marriage, which came from a shared journey with shared goals, and a belief in a happily ever after.

 

Healthy Chocolatey Banana Smoothie

Kid tested, dad approved

Hail to the super food drink that’s deliciously smooth, and a healthy way to start the morning. It’s also a better alternative to a rich cake or sundae. My hubs loves his smoothies and the kids love them too. Smoothies are simple to make and require only a handful of ingredients. The recipe below can make 2.5 to 3 large drinks. For little tykes, you can divvy up and pour into smaller cups.

Smoothie History

A smoothie is basically that cold frothy beverage made from pureed fruit (sometimes veg) and combined with ice, milk, or juice. You’ll often find nut butters incorporated into chocolate smoothies. A smoothie is a healthier cousin to milkshakes.

Smoothies go back to the turbulent 1930’s when health food stores started making and selling them. All thanks to the invention of the electric blender.  The term “smoothie” found its way in recipes during this decade. By the late ’60s, they were more widely distributed via ice cream vendors and health food stores. Smoothie bars came about in the ’70s.

Smoothies are ubiquitous now. Walk into any grocery store, coffee shop, Starbucks, chain restaurant, and gym, and you can order one up. They come bottled up, or made to order.  Some smoothies contain a scary amount of calories, packing 600-1000 calories in a single serving!

When possible, make it at home. It takes you <5 minutes.

Chocolatey Banana Smoothie Recipe

The ingredients are simple. The only appliance you need is an electric blender. We like the Ninja blender.

Assemble your ingredients
Get your ingredients together. Almond milk, organic cacao powder, bananas, raw honey, almond butter, and monk fruit (powdered form).

Assembling ingredients
Gather all your smoothie ingredients

Toss into the blender
Place sliced bananas, ice cubes, cacao powder, unsweetened almond milk, almond butter, monk fruit powder, and raw honey.

Ingredients go into the blender
Toss all your ingredients into the blender container

Blend for up to 2 minutes
After securely placing the lid, blend for up to 2 minutes. Everything should be well combined.

Blend your smooth
Ready, set, blend!

Serve it up with love
Smoothies look great in a tall glass, or a cool stainless steel cup. Add a small detail like a colorful paper straw when you serve it up to loved ones.

Chocolate smoothie
Yummy smoothie that’s good on the tummy

Ingredients

– 2 bananas
– 1 cup almond milk (unsweetened)
– 3 tbsp of almond butter
– 2 tbsp of cacao powder
– 1 tbsp of raw honey
– 1/2 tsp of monk fruit
– 1 1/2 cup of ice cubes

Optional chocolate spice version, include:
– 1 inch fresh ginger (sliced)
– 1/2 tsp of cinnamon

Optional chocolate mint version, include:
– fresh mint leaves (small bunch)

Monk fruit usage advice (if you’re a newb)
As a word of caution, don’t overdo the monk fruit sweetener. A little goes a long way. It’s extracted from a small melon native to China and Thailand, and has been used for centuries in traditional Eastern medicine. You can buy monk fruit in dried and powdered forms.

Enjoy for breakfast, post work-out, or dessert
Have a smoothie without the sugar crash! It’s a favorite in our home, and the hubs is the master smoothie maker. Kid tested, dad approved!

Yummy smoothie
Kid tested! Dad approved

Gluten Free Crêpe Recipe – Confetti Fruit + Mortadella & Cheese

Crêpes for all [wheat & dairy sensitivity]

I have a fondness for breakfast and brunch foods. In fact, I would say brunch is hands-down my favorite repast. On the weekends, the mid-morning meal represents the quality time I get to spend with people I love. Coffee that I can sip in comfort, and a meal that befits my more leisurely weekend tempo.

The hubs loves sweet and savory meals of french toast, pancakes, waffles and crepes. The challenge is that with a gluten sensitivity, we have to be more creative with options that taste almost or as good as the wheat version.

I want to share a simple crepe recipe that you can enjoy with your partner, your rambunctious family, or special date. If they have a gluten or dairy sensitivity, no problem!

Keep reading and you’ll see easy-peasy recipes for mortadella & cheese crepes and confetti fruit crepes. Fun fact, funfetti was trademarked by Pillsbury, so hence the references here to confetti and the use of rainbow sprinkles to achieve the effect.

A little crêpe history mon ami

The delicate, thin pancake is typically made of wheat flour. It’s French in origin and is a Latin derivative of the term crispa, which translates to ‘curled’. The history of crepes date back to the thirteenth century in Brittany, a region west of France. Crepes were made famous in Brittany and eventually became a national dish of France.  These delicate pancakes are most often filled with fruit fillings with sweet syrup, fresh fruit, and even a sweet lemon filling.

Crepes today can be found in much of the Western world. It’s popularity is seen in US, Canada, Belgium, and throughout Europe. Crepes are often eaten for breakfast, dessert, and the savory versions are ideal for lunch, snack or even dinner. Depending on the preparation, you could theoretically enjoy it breakfast, lunch and dinner. Popular savory versions include fillings of ham, cheese, and eggs with various types of veggies, i.e. mushrooms and spinach.

From time to time, you’ll see crêperies that specialize in an assortment of sweet and savory crepes. It’s also a popular item on some restaurant menus, but it’s easy to make at home. You don’t need any special equipment to make crepes in your own kitchen. Just grab that skillet, and let’s get started.

Basic Gluten Free Crepe Recipe

The first thing you want to do is to make the crepes themselves. You’ll need to gather up your ingredients. Dry ingredients of gluten-free flour and a pinch of salt. Wet ingredients of eggs, almond milk and vegan butter (for those with dairy sensitivities).  See the ingredients list below.

For gluten-free flour, I would recommend Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose baking flour, or King Arthur’s all-purpose flour. Both are high quality GF flours. The Bob’s Red Mill flour I use is made from a blend of garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, whole grain white sorghum flour, tapioca flour, and fava bean flour.  If you’re curious, the King Arthur all-purpose flour is a blend made from rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, and whole grain brown rice flour.

Gather ingredients
Ingredients of GF flour, eggs, butter and almond milk

Blend flour and a few pinches of sea salt
Quickly blend the GF flour with a few pinches of sea salt or kosher salt.

Gluten free flour
Blend GF flour and a few pinches of salt

Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl
In a separate bowl, blend all your wet ingredients first. Your eggs, almond milk and melted butter (cooled to room temperature) should be whisked together until its well combined.

Then add your blended flour in with the wet ingredients, whisk until its well combined. Then set your batter aside

Combine the ingredients
Whisk and combine all the ingredients

Heat up 9-inch skillet to make crepes
Use extra virgin olive oil spray oil to lightly grease the Skillet, then heat it up to a medium heat. Once the pan is hot, then ladle in the batter (~5 tablespoons) until the bottom of the pan is completely covered. You’ll want to tilt the pan around so the batter evenly spreads. Give it a minute to a minute-and-a-half and then carefully flip over with a large spatula. The other side will need half the time.

Stack up the cooked crepes on a platter
You’ll be able to make one crepe at a time, and the time goes by pretty fast. Stack up the crepes on a large plate or platter.

Basic Crepe Ingredients (makes ~12 servings)

– 1 3/4 cup of gluten-free flour
– Few pinches of sea salt
– 3 large brown eggs
– 2 tablespoons of vegan (or regular) butter
– 2 cups of Almond milk
– extra virgin olive oil spray

Mortadella & Cheese Crepes

What I do is split the 12 crepes and make half savory crepes, and half sweet crepes. The first batch of 6 crepes, I start with the savory filled crepe of mortadella (Italian bologna) combined with diced tomatoes, mushrooms, and shredded cheese. Mortadella is basically a fancier bologna that has become quite popular. It’s made from finely ground, cured pork and flavored with spices and includes whole peppercorns, myrtle berries and slices of pistachios. It’s certainly not the bologna I grew up with back in the day.

For dairy sensitivity, Daiya mozzarella shreds are fantastic. Otherwise go with a nice blend of mozzarella and cheddar shredded cheese.

Savory ingredients
Savory ingredients

Heat up the skillet and make savory crepes
Make one crepe at a time and fill with a large tablespoon of each type of savory ingredient. Then fold over the crepe to cover the filling, using the large spatula. A minute on each side (carefully flip over the closed crepe).

Serve up the crepes on a platter, and dig in.

Savory crepes served
Savory crepes ready to eat

Savory Filling Ingredients

– 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes
– 3/4 cup of shredded (vegan) cheese
– 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms
– 3-4 slices of Mortadella (Italian bologna) or ham. Diced up.
– 1/4 tsp Herbs de provence

Confetti Fruit Crepes

You can then use the remaining crepes to make sweet fruity versions, which the kids (or the kids at heart) will love.

Prep fresh bananas, strawberries and blueberries for the filling
Slice up the bananas and strawberries. Place them in a bowl along with the fresh blueberries. Sprinkle the fruit with cinnamon.

Heat up the skillet to make the fruit-filled crepes
Heat up the skillet at a medium temperature and place a generous tablespoon of each type of sliced fruit. Add more to your liking, and then fold over the crepe. Heat both sides of the folded crepe for about a minute.

Place the finished crepe on a serving plate and get ready to adorn with the funfetti part.

Melt dark chocolate down in a bowl
In a microwave safe bowl, you can melt down 70-80% dark chocolate (or bittersweet baking chocolate chips). Microwave on high for 1 minute when you’re actually ready to use the chocolate. Stir the chocolate with a spoon before you drizzle over each of the folded crepes. You can do zig-zags of melted chocolate over the folded crepe.

Top off the fruit-filled crepes with rainbow sprinkles
On each crepe, drizzle the melted dark chocolate using a table spoon. Then optionally add non-dairy (or regular) whip cream. You can add sprinkles at the top and then serve it up on a dish.

Confetti Fruit Filling Ingredients

– 1-2 large bananas (sliced)
– 1/2 cup of strawberries (stems removed, sliced)
– 1/2 cup of blueberries
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/4 cup of dark chocolate (70% cacao+) melted down
– Rainbow sprinkles (confetti effect)
– Non-dairy whip cream (optional)

Funfetti Crepe
Crêpes with a funfetti soul

Enjoy a fun new breakfast tradition. For a healthier sweet crepe version, you can tweak and adjust the toppings.  Enjoy and bon appétit!

Family Time Management Tips [From a Chief Mom]

Doing Things Together

One of the most challenging, rewarding responsibilities I’ve had is working in the tech space. I’m drawn to innovation and disruptive technologies that really connect people — from mobile games and smartphones to pet technology that can literally give pets a voice (AI/ML). I have a lifelong love of learning and tinkering.

Most importantly, I love being a mom (aka Chief Mom Officer), and it’s a tough gig! For this week’s fiver, here are tips to make the most of family time.

1) Calendar to plan everything

The all-important calendar is necessary to plan every appointment, party, meeting, lesson, and to-do’s. I can always check it on my phone, get reminder alerts, and it gives me the semblance of being organized.

2) Order essentials in bulk

Why buy TP or paper towels as one-offs? Ordering in bulk on a recurring schedule is a great way to save time and to ensure you never run out of the important things. What did I ever do before Amazon?

3) Pack lunches the night before

Packing lunches the night before
I’ve embraced the bento box lunch

I’m not that good at origami, but I’ve gotten creative with preparing bento box style lunches. This is effective with picky eaters, and a great way of showing you care (notice the hearts?). I prep lunches the night before, so I don’t feel rushed in the mornings.

4) Spend quality time; ask thoughtful questions

Compromises are made every day. One area I don’t negotiate is spending quality time with the kids daily. I’ll think of ways to engage them with questions (peppered with hugs).

Being present
Spend quality time; ask questions

Questions like: What was the most interesting thing you learned today? Did you like the lunch I packed for you? What made you smile? Who did you play with today? Did anything bother or upset you? (why?)

5) Organize weekly baking / other creative projects

I’m no Martha Stewart, and neither is the hubs. But together, we make a great team when it comes to cooking up projects with kid-friendly themes. Weekends are the best to do things together, and Sundays are designated Sunday Fundays.

Baking projects together
Space rock cookies were the theme

Well, that’s it for this week’s fiver.

How do you manage time with loved ones? Suggestions always welcome.