Open Letter to Dora the Explorer

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Look, Dora, we really need to talk. I like that you have had a part in teaching my children Spanish, and I am sure you have many wonderful traits such as being a caring daughter and ardent animal lover, but we really need to talk about your manners. I’ve been trying to teach my trio the importance of their inside voices, but every time you say to say something louder, I instantly regret letting you into my home.

Your cousin Diego isn’t any better. In fact, I think he may be more nefarious. I suspect he is in league with the pharmaceutical companies. Daily he tells my children, “Everybody Screeeeeeam!” and I instantly look longingly at the medicine cabinet, thinking of the painkillers that lie there.

Your Nick Jr. counterparts over at Yo Gabba Gabba, also like to incite excitement and noise. In fact, I am beginning to wonder if Nick Jr. has shares in the ear plug or hearing aid industries; I know Mickey Mouse definitely should be a loyal consumer of the latter, since every day in his Club House, he encourages children to speak louder with the melodic admission, “I can’t hear you!”

I digress, dear Dora, back to you. I know you may have noticed you have not been invited to visit as often. It is because we have been busy with more polite guests. The animals over at Word World have been particularly gracious, as well as that talking dog, Martha. We do not have a bias towards animals, since we have been enjoying numerous visits from the human Kratt Brothers. We have even enjoyed prehistoric visitors from the Dinosaur Train, and the humans and other diverse species from Sesame Street.

Who knows, maybe our paths will cross again someday, but for now, in all honesty, I cannot say I miss you.

Best always,

Essay Kay

Carbohydrate Compromise: Vegan Calzones

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Vegan Calzone (Photo by Essay Kay)

Years ago, there was a friend of mine who would always say, “If you are going to sin, sin big, because all sin is sending you the same place.” If this is your theological stance, you are entitled to it, but I would advise that you do not apply that mantra to your eating habits.

I fell off the healthy eating wagon while on vacation, and I must admit, it really has been a journey trying to get back to where I was. I have come to realize that although eating unprocessed foods and cutting out sugar and flour give me the best results, I am much happier and successful when I make some compromises. The results are not as mind-boggling, but they are still good. By refusing to go to either extreme, that is, going cold turkey or “sinning big” by giving up altogether and eating whatever suits my fancy, I am able to be more consistent in my weight loss, and more importantly, my health overall.

This brings me to today’s compromise. An hour before going to the gym for Body Pump, I ate fruit, fish, some vegetables, and drank some herbal tea. When I got home, I was ravenous. I usually plan my next meal, but I had not had the energy for such foresight today. I was craving carbs, but was not in the mood for the usual fare. I decided to sin, but with modifications.

I snacked on some nuts to start the rebuilding process of my muscles and got to work on my carbohydrate compromise . . . vegan calzones. By making the dough from scratch without high fructose corn syrup and a million and one preservatives, and making some healthy substitutions, I was able to get my fix with less guilt.

Here’s the recipe, just in case you are also in need of a carbohydrate compromise:

The completed calzone halved. Note that only 5oz of spinach was used for this one. It is after making this that I realized the filling would have been much better if I had doubled the spinach to 2 5oz packs. (Photo by Essay Kay)

VEGAN CALZONES

INGREDIENTS

Dough

1 cup rolled oats or quick oats

1 Tbsp Land O’ Lakes Olive Oil & Sea Salt butter or olive oil

½ cup honey

1 ½ tsp salt

2 cups boiling water

½ cup warm water

1 Tbsp active dry yeast

2 cups premium bread flour and 2 cups premium whole wheat flour

(or 4 cups whole wheat or whole grain white flour)

Extra flour for kneading

Filling

1 14oz pack of firm tofu (drained and crumbled)

1 cup homemade mayo

10 oz chopped spinach

¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes

2 Tbsp Chicken-like Seasoning

Onion powder and garlic powder to taste

 

Home-made Tofu Mayonnaise/Dressing

14 oz soft tofu

1 cup raw cashew nuts

¼ cup lemon or lime juice

1 ½ Tbsp honey

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp onion powder

 

Topping

1 teaspoon honey

2 Tbsp water

3 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

1 Tbsp chicken-like seasoning

 

  1. Make the mayonnaise a few hours before to give it a chance to thicken. Mix all of the ingredients and blend until completely smooth. Makes about 3 cups. Put in container and chill in refrigerator.
  2. Start the process for the dough. Soak the oats, honey, butter/oil and salt in the boiling water for about an hour.
  3. Fifteen minutes before the oat mixture’s hour is up, activate yeast in the warm water for about 10 minutes. Will look creamy.
  4. Add the yeast mixture to the oat mixture. Mix then gradually add the 4 cups of flour. This will make a soft and sticky dough.
  5. Empty ½ to a cup of flour on a flat surface, then carefully empty the dough on to it. Sprinkle the ball of dough with flour and knead for about 20 minutes. The dough will still be soft, but less sticky, more smooth and elastic.
  6. Separate the large ball of dough into 8 balls, then roll each one flat.
  7. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  8. Remove homemade mayo from refrigerator and mix all of the filling ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
  9. Divide the filling evenly among the 8 squares of dough, not allowing filling to touch the edges. Brush dough edges with water then fold the squares in half diagonally, making triangles. Press the edges firmly then reinforce the seal with a fork, which will also add a pattern to the edges.
  10. To prepare topping, mix yeast flakes and seasoning in one bowl, and dissolve honey in the water in another.
  11. Spray baking sheet with olive oil and arrange calzones on it. Brush the calzones with the honey water mixture then sprinkle with the nutritional yeast-chicken style seasoning mix.
  12. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Best always,

Essay Kay

Has John Grisham Run Out of Ideas? Maybe, just Maybe.

Tags

, , , , , ,

John Grisham is my all-time favorite author of legal thrillers. I have read all of his books, except those which do not fall under the legal genre. There have been times when my husband had to put a pillow over his head to block out the light of the lamp because it was after midnight, and I was in bed poring over every page of Grisham’s latest novel, just having to get to that story’s ending . . . I am just not sure where that Grisham charisma has gone in his 2011 outing The Litigators.

I love Grisham’s writing so much that I did not even save myself some money by waiting on the paperback, and I did not even wait for the stress of my semester to be over, I ordered and received this book in March this year. I pushed studies aside, telling myself I am justified in procuring my stress reliever, but as a long time reader of John Grisham, The Litigators, was a disappointment. I usually finish a novel in less than a day, but it took me 5 months to get to the end of this novel.

The book is set in downtown Chicago, and chronicles the decisions of David Zinc, a disillusioned, young lawyer who leaves the large firm life, and joins the questionable “boutique firm” of Finley & Figg. The road from high profile firm employee to street lawyer is not an easy one for David, especially working with ambulance chasers like Oscar Finley and Wally Figg. The firm gets caught up in a potentially lucrative litigation case, and this is the crux of the entire novel.

To a first time reader of Grisham, this book is excellent, since it reveals many of his strengths, his detailed portrayal of characters, his handle of the law, his ability to craft a mystery and evoke that “edge-of-your-seat” feeling in a reader . . . if you have never read any of his other books! The problem I had with this book is that there was nothing new; it was fairly predictable, the pacing was slow, and I did not feel truly invested until the last four chapters. As I was reading, I could identify modified plotlines and characters from his other books.  I was reading and thinking O, that’s like in the ‘Rainmaker’ or O yes, the same kind of thing happened in ‘The Street Lawyer’ or Hmm, very ‘King of Torts.’ I understand how hard it is to come up with new ideas, especially when one is a prolific writer, I sympathize, but that sympathy does not do much in alleviating my disenchantment.

When all is said and done, I am a great believer in second chances, so I am eagerly awaiting “The Racketeer,” which comes out in the Fall. The only difference is, I think this time, I’ll wait for the paperback.

Best always,

Essay Kay

Education can Still Happen while on Vacation … and Your Kids won’t even Know it’s Happening

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My daughter was looking over my shoulder while I wrote the topic of this post and gasped, “What? But, Mum, I had fun in Barbados!”

I smiled and said, “Didn’t you learn things at the Barbados Museum?”

Her eyes widened and she nodded.

“What about at the Barbados Concorde Experience?” I continued.

“Yes,” she barely managed to squeak out.

“… and what about Harrison’s Cave?” I said with a grin.

Her response? “Mummy, I was having so much fun I did not realize I was learning!”

That, dear readers, is the entire point. My family and I only had 2 weeks of vacation, but we wanted it to be rich in fun and experiences.

My children spent most or all of their lives in the United States and we felt it was important for them to get some tangible education about their heritage. At the same time, they were also taught integrative lessons of art and science. The media used were museums and other places of interest that would grab their attention, while imparting knowledge.

Where We Visited

Barbados Museum – It is so unfortunate that photos are not allowed here, but it is a good place to start a lesson of Barbadian history. There are permanent displays and other temporary exhibitions, such as the Crop Over exhibition (a history of Barbados’ biggest annual festival), to be viewed.

Barbados Concorde Experience – Barbados is one of the few places where one can view the legendary supersonic aircraft. For a fee, one receives a very educational tour about the craft and its history in Barbados, which is strongly rooted in the close ties Barbados has with Great Britain. The staff is quite knowledgeable and visitors are allowed to board the craft to view a short film and take photos of inside the aircraft, even a replica of the Cockspur Gold Cup which had been transported via the Concorde. There is also another documentary on the outside of the craft, projected onto the airplane, complete with surround sound effects of the plane’s iconic sonic boom.

Afterwards, you can feel free to go to the observatory to get a different view of the international airport, or the children can play with the X-box and Wii games which have now replaced the simulation programs that were damaged from overuse.

Front End of British Airways Concorde G-BOAE (Alpha Echo) – Photo by Essay Kay

Harrison’s Cave – A wonderful geological and historical tour that includes a film on the formation of Barbados and the Cave itself; interactive touch screens to educate about the Cave, and tram and walk-in tours of Harrison’s Cave. View photos here.

Harrison’s Cave (Photo by Essay Kay)

Mama’s Little Things – A little museum of miniature dolls and furniture depicting different epochs of Barbadian history. I found out about this gem by word-of-mouth. It seems to be one of Barbados’ best kept secrets in the parish of St. John. The owner has made almost everything and she walks one through her displays while presenting the history of Barbados with some personal anecdotes. My daughter, in particular, was mesmerized.

Entrance to “Mama’s Little Things” – Photo by ESM (Essay Kay’s Mom)

Our To-Do List

It is a pity our time was so short, because we had other education-rich locations on our itinerary which were put aside to spending time with family (another education-rich experience, when you think about it). These places included George Washington House, where the First President of the United States resided for 2 months as a young man in 1751; St. Nicholas Abbey, a beautifully-maintained plantation house that is rich in history; a return to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, which captivated our children 3 years ago with its fascinating flora and fauna; botanical marvels such as the Flower Forest, Jack-in-the-Box Gully, Welchman Hall Gully and Orchid World; and a visit to Chalky Mount, the Mecca of pottery in Barbados. There are many other options, of course, and there are always new developments, but we believed that those mentioned would be a good start; unfortunately, our itinerary was overambitious for the time allotted.

Entrance to Orchid World (Photo by Essay Kay)

As mentioned in a previous post, it is good to research your vacation spot based on your priorities; if that priority is education, again, the Internet and locals are valuable tools to guide you on what is appropriate for your family and you.

Best always,

Essay Kay

Secrets of Traveling with Children – Sanity in a Carry-On

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Prior to having children, traveling on a plane with the offspring of others did not bother me, but I realized that it seemed to bother some other passengers. When my turn as traveling mother came around, in an attempt to be considerate to my own children who could understandably be bored and restless on long flights; and ,less directly, in consideration to my fellow passengers, I approached travel with my angels with a 4-point plan – WTFE. Before you say, “Kay, I never knew you were one to use such language,” I should explain that WTFE stands for keeping the children well Watered, Toileted, Fed and Entertained. The premise lies in the fact that when the children are comfortable, they will be well-behaved.

As babies, I would be sure to have all of their supplies needed for feeding, cleaning, playing, etc.’ as well as extra changes of clothing in carry-ons. I would also plan to nurse or bottle-feed during liftoff so their ears would be unaffected; or change diapers before boarding to start the trip in comfort. Now they are a little older, at the ages of 9, 7, and 3, planning is still needed, but their happiness is much less dependent on me once I have my “Travel Survival Kit” aka “Sanity in a Carry-On.”

We usually let the children eat and drink, then go to the restroom if we have time before boarding, then, according to them, comes the fun once they get on the plane. We are a family of 5 so we travel with at least 5 carry-ons. The three most critical of the 5 would be the one with extra clothing, etc. in case checked baggage is lost, which is extremely likely with this particular airline that tends to ensure my husband’s luggage is Always Absent; the carry-on with food and snacks; and the carry-on that my children seem unable to live without, the carry-on with various toys and activities.

What I pack in that last carry-on depends on my children’s interests at the time, and this is key. Children’s enthusiasm for certain activities wax and wane over time, so what may have worked well on last year’s trip, may be a misstep for this year. Below is a photo of some of the items from the ‘sanity kit.’

“Sanity in a Carry-On” – Just some of the items traveled with to entertain the children – sketch pad, V-Reader by VTech, coloring book, magenetic story book, puzzles, crayons, markers, pencils, book of multiple stories, eraser, and Hotwheel car.

All of the children love to draw and color, so crayons, markers, pencils and erasers were staples. Complementing these were coloring books, sketch pads, and for my daughter, a children’s brain teaser puzzle book that is not shown. I also packed small puzzles which I knew all three would like and would fit nicely on the airplane tray; small toys such as Hot Wheels; reading books based on their varying interests (e.g. animal books for the eldest and Thomas the Train books and activities for the youngest); and my middle child’s favorite V-reader, with extra batteries and a set of headphones so the noise would not disturb others.

This may seems like a lot, but it did the trick for the four plane rides of our round trip. The children were satiated, and once they were happy, we all were.

Best always,

Essay Kay

My Mother Isn’t Human, and Neither Is My Daughter

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

My sister cyborg – Seven of Nine from Star Trek (Photo: Google Images)

I had a feeling my daughter questioned my humanity, but it was not until this evening that my suspicions were confirmed. She was enthusiastically telling her Dad and me about a book her grandmother had given her, and was advocating that it be the next book designated for nighttime storytelling, when she made this Freudian slip:

“The book is really good! It is so exciting! I think it is a book that both adults and humans would like …” then she trails off into peals of laughter when she realized what she had said. I knew it was a good call to put truth serum in her supper.

My 9-year old daughter is going through that preadolescent phase, where the lines are clearly drawn between adults and children. This stage of social development, which many preteens go through, is when friends and identifying with peers increase in importance. I have noticed the change over the past year where “we kids” and “you adults” have become predominant phrases in her vocabulary. She is still affectionate and my “little girl” in many ways, but the truth of the matter is that my little girl is growing up.

While I know puberty and its uncertainties are inevitable, and I am proud to see how my daughter is maturing, I must admit, I am missing my innocent 2-year old princess, and in some ways, dreading the teen years. I am trying to balance being approachable while being a parent and not a friend, which I hope will constantly remind her that as she negotiates the uncertain terrain of adolescence that she always has her parents as ones to which she can turn. I am hoping and praying that by the time adolescence is through that I am the one who can discern if my daughter is still human; if it turns out that she isn’t, well, we could always bond by giving each other oil changes.

Best always,

Essay Kay

 

 

The Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma’am of Blogging

Tags

, , , , ,

Photo: Google Images

I’m readying my salad plate for the bloggers who want to throw tomatoes at my head because they do not find my honesty so refreshing. If anyone wants to throw a few carrots, lettuce, and a nice low-fat salad dressing, that’s fine too, ’cause I’m hungry.

I only started blogging a few months ago and have been slowly getting acquainted with what it means to be part of a blogging community. First of all, I love it. I love interacting with others who find writing as fulfilling as I do. I love seeing the different styles of writing, the diversity of opinions, the variety of cultures, and the miscellany of experiences. We are a medley of artists harmonizing the melodies of our assortment of lives and I appreciate being a part of such a grand symphony.

The interesting thing, however, is as followership grows, so does disconnectedness. It is harder to keep up with all who follow you and all whom you follow, even as you traverse the blogosphere connecting with even more bloggers whose work you enjoy. I have noted that there even comes a point where one should not expect a reply from a blogger with whom you may have good rapport because there are just so many more people commenting than when you first bonded.

There is also a “Like You and Leave You” category, where bloggers come, like a post, and then they are never seen again. Nothing wrong with that, I am grateful for those who demonstrate their liking of my posts, whether they return or not. Furthermore, I have done it myself when a particular article stands out to me while browsing; however, again, this speaks to the lack of social connection that is the subject of this article. All blog posts do not facilitate the continuation of a conversation, not a bad thing, just a fact.

Moreover, there are bloggers who just have a voracious need to be followed and to have their posts read that they forget that good writing is not all that is necessary to grow and maintain readership so they dispense with social interaction altogether. I am unsure how successful such tactics are, since even those with corporate agendas have found that creating a connection with potential clientele is good for business.

People start blogging for different reasons, and the blogging community may serve various purposes, whether as a way to connect with other writers or people who have similar experiences, as a medium to promote an agenda, as an ego masseuse, to share enthusiasm about a beloved topic, as a practicum to improves one’s writing . . . the motives are myriad. What many bloggers have in common though, is the reality that blogging is only a part of lives already full of other things. What that adds up to is that when one is part of a blogging community, one’s world will definitely become bigger, but one should not expect that each interaction will lead to the proverbial call in the morning.

O, and thanks in advance for the tomatoes, they are full of wonderful antioxidants, like lycopene, that will help me live longer.🙂

Best always,

Essay Kay

Making Exercise Opportunities While on Vacation (and more photos of Barbados)

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Food was my downfall during my Barbados vacation, but I can happily say that I was able to exercise; if I hadn’t, by the end of the vacation, there would have been a photo of me on the front page of the local papers, above an article about environmentalists trying to save a rare whale that became beached on the island. Yes, I can laugh at myself.

If health and exercise are among your priorities when vacationing, do some research beforehand to ascertain what guided activities may be feasible, and don’t forget that there are many exercises (walking for example) that are free. Utilize the Internet, or ask questions of the staff of your chosen accommodation. In Barbados, for example, there are several sporting activities available on the island, but not all of them are conducive to taking your children with you; asking someone who knows is definitely a worthwhile supplement to Internet research in situations like these. Personally, I made the less expensive choices of swimming in the ocean, walking on the beach (the sand offers great resistance), and on rainy days, the treadmill was my ally. Some of the other options available would have been hiking tours, biking tours, golf, tennis, diving, and kayaking.

There are also other alternatives for burning some calories in a less vigorous manner. One which I hope to do some day is the Walk-In Cave tour of Harrison’s Cave, which is a breathtaking place of interest in the parish of St. Thomas. We took our children there, but on the Tram tour, since that would be less tiring for them; but take a look at the pictures below, isn’t that a lovely place to get a walk and the perquisite of education too?

Best always,

Essay Kay

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Meant To Be Healthy While On Vacation … but I’ve Been a Bad, Bad Girl

Tags

, , , , ,

View from Shop Hill, St. Thomas, Barbados (Photo by Essay Kay)

“I haven’t seen anything lately from Essay Kay … has she finally run out of essays?” If that is what you were thinking … well no, not quite. I was busy tying up loose ends here so I can go on vacation to the beautiful island of Barbados. I had the best of intentions, I really did, but while I kept up with my cardio by walking most days, I will admit I over-indulged when it came to food. I am sorry I did not take any pictures of the meals, not only to share with you, but maybe if I had, it may have given me a moment of pause; I may have been more temperate instead of using the excuse, “Well, it is not as if I eat this every day!” Sigh.

I gained 5 pounds in 2 weeks, but that is not all I brought back with me; I also brought back some wonderful memories and I will post a few photos in my new “Barbados” section. Full disclosure: this is the country of my birth; however, the photos themselves will show you that when I say Barbados is beautiful, it is rooted in truth not bias! It is also possible to have quite a healthy vacation in Barbados with its nutritious foods and many activities, but I got caught up in nostalgia and gave in to the Barbadian soul food that I ate in my younger days.

Well, now I am back, I have no choice but to vigorously deal with the consequences of my bad behavior. Hopefully, the gym and unprocessed foods will remember who I am.

Best always,

Essay Kay