Every year at this time the jacaranda trees in Los Angeles start to bloom. They only last for a couple of months, but while they’re in blossom the city is peppered, everywhere you look, with beautiful purple trees. They start to emerge slowly – one here, one there – then they’re all over the place, and finally around mid-July they start to fade and disappear for another year.
To celebrate this lovely cycle, the boys and I play a car based game called “Jacaranda!”* It entails looking out for the purple trees and yelling out “Jacaranda!” the second you see one. Whoever has seen the most by the time we get to our destination wins. It sounds ridiculous, but I like the game for a few reasons:
- It encourages the boys to take notice of nature and appreciate it’s ebbs and flows.
- It motivates Miles to sit up and pay attention to what’s going on around him – a subtle reminder that there’s more to life than baseball and Minecraft.
- It inspires lots of silliness and laughter and playful arguments about who saw what tree first.
Really, it’s a very basic game, with a very basic premise, but it adds a layer of fun to our usual errand runs and school drops and who can’t use a little more of that in their day?
*Note: This game is also played from the end of November to the end of December, but during that time it’s called “Christmas Lights!”
Have you ever been stuck on the starch part of dinner? Bored of rice? Tired of pasta? Sick of the same potatoes, quinoa, and couscous? Feel like having fun? Well, then go to the Trader Joe’s frozen food section and pick up some Trader Potato Tots. Yes, these will remind you of the school lunches and TV dinners from your childhood, but because they’re from TJ’s the bad stuff is gone and only delicious, crunchiness remains. Be the dinnertime hero and go for tots – your kids will be impressed!
“What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set
aside on the 4th Thursday ofNovember, when no one diets.
I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?”
~ Erma Bombeck
Claudia’s favorite oil, even though she can’t pronounce it…
A couple of years ago we were in Paris and I got this cool multi-purpose oil at a corner drug store. Although I didn’t consider myself an “oil” type of girl, I fell in love with the smell and decided it would be a good souvenir. Once home, it quickly became one of my favorite things to use – on the ends of my hair or to tame fly-aways, on my elbows or any dry patches – it always worked beautifully and a little went a long way. Recently, I realized that even with prudent use, my bottle was almost empty and sadly, no Paris trip in sight. Mon dieu! Surprisingly, good old Amazon carries it, so now even if I can’t get to Paris, I can still feel ooh la la…
Weekday mornings in our house are rushed to say the least. They start around 6 and go, go, go ‘til we all exit at 8. It’s harried and there is NO time for grown-ups to eat. My problem? I am a die-hard breakfast eater. My solution? I always bring my breakfast to the office and dig in when I get to my desk. Of course this mobile breakfast plan of mine creates a problem of it’s own – it requires easy to tote and easy to eat (i.e. not messy, no cooking necessary) ways to break the fast. Sure, there’s always the old stand bys: bagels, hard-boiled eggs, Rob’s banana pancakes, but now there’s something new: Trader Joe’s Organic Pumpkin Toaster Pastries. They are exactly what they sound like – Pop Tarts with pumpkin in them – and they are delicious. Just the right amount of icing, an almost cookie-like pastry texture, and a pumpkin pie filling. For a no-time-having, pumpkin-flavor-obsessive* like me, they are the perfect fall morning fast breaker.
(Oh and they don’t need to be toasted to be yummy, so in a pinch you can toss them at the kids on the way to school and still feel like they’ve had a healthy breakfast.) YAY pumpkin-time!!!
*Whatevs John Oliver, I thought we were friends…
We are a vegetable loving family. Many nights we substitute the carb part of the meal for a second veggie. It’s satisfying and healthful, but sometimes we get a little bored using the same brussels/broccoli/zucchini/chard in the usual way. I went searching for a cook book that would inspire us to try new things in new ways and came across Plenty. The recipes are from chef Yotam Ottolenghi, who’s London restaurant, Ottolenghi, we found* and loved when we lived there for a few months. The recipes aren’t the easiest for a beginner like me, but they are so vibrant and interesting that they’re worth the bit of extra effort. From marinated pepper salad with pecorino to eggplant croquettes and artichoke gratin, everything is flavorful and beautiful to look at. So, if you’re a vegetarian or just really, really like veggies, this book would be a great addition to your kitchen library.
*By “found” I mean, I stumbled upon it by accident while getting lost the 30th time in one day.