Apron Strings

Category — Parenting

Expanding the play kitchen

Play kitchen fixings

There’s a lot of activity shaking down in our neck of Ottawa these days and as much as I want to just focus on food writing and cooking, my inner community activist is being consumed by the completely foolish reconstruction plans of an arterial highway/main street not far from us.  Yes, highway and main street!  That’s Ottawa planning for you.


I’ve been putting together some items for Alden’s expanded “play kitchen 2011.”  Last year, the husband crafted a lovely tabletop cooktop for him out of spare Ikea shelves and now we’d like to build an oven and shelf unit for the cooktop to sit on.  My role was to find some new playfood to use.  As much as he’s loved all the crochet foods I made last year, I just didn’t have time to dedicate to crafting more food.  I relied on the internet and found some super cute Erzi and Haba playfood on the Baby Naturopathics website.

I really like the Haba felt noodles: fettucine, bow ties and ravioli.  They were sort of ridiculously priced for felt and my inner “crafty mom” is still feeling a bit guilty for not making my own.  If you are crafty, you could easily whip these up with some felt at home.  But alas, time was of the essence.

Some things, were just too amazing to resist.  The coffee beans in the little tin?  He is going to love putting those in the mini espresso maker for “coffee”.  The roast chicken with the removable legs?  I think he’s going to love roasting it up in his oven.

I looked at many play versions of coffee makers but they were so expensive!  The mini espresso maker is the perfect size and essential for the kid who likes playing with the “real” thing.

I also picked up some tea bags, sausages, fish filets, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and jam.

Goods for the play kitchen

The clincher?  The mini chef hat.  I found this one at J.D. Adams in the Glebe (but they also have them at the Glebe Emporium).

November 25, 2011   2 Comments

Three wheeling Centretown vegetable delivery

Veg delivery

Three wheeling with veg

We made our first deliveries of veg over the weekend courtesy of my three-wheeled vegetable delivery man.  His tricycle trunk was overflowing with baby bok choy and snow peas.  Good news neighbours, the tomatoes are coming along and we’ll soon have some zucchini and broccoli!  Herbs, as always, are plentiful.  Delivery hours can be arranged around outings to the splash park.

July 7, 2011   2 Comments

It’s Easter, not Eatster. Celebrating spring without food.

Ready for Easter

You don’t notice how much Easter is defined by chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs until you can’t eat them.  And after multiple stops at multiple grocery stores, there was not a single treat to be found without eggs, milk or nuts. Not even jelly beans.

I know that I could order some allergy friendly candy online, but this year, I didn’t feel it was necessary to go that route.

This year again, we are shunning the chocolates and marshmallow peeps for non-food items. I’ve been tucking away little surprises for a solid month (ever since the Valentine/Easter swapover).  It has taken a bit of work, but I’m happy to report that I have an Easter basket full of goodies ready and waiting.

Here’s what’s in the basket:

  • Play-doh – comes in cute egg containers and a little basket.  (Found these at Toysrus in the checkout aisle)
  • Frog basket, bunny cookie cutters, small bubble wand, Easter dishcloth and toy bunny – Loblaws
  • Plastic empty eggs (reused from last year) – also from Loblaws
  • Bunny stickers – Hallmark
  • Small Easter puzzle – Hallmark

A friend told me that Zellers sells Easter eggs with cars in them (although, I couldn’t find them at our nearest store) and there are lots of other ideas forallergy-friendly Easter baskets all over the web.

And if all this fails… I have backup Duplo in the basement.  Always have a Plan B.

April 7, 2011   4 Comments

A cheery start to the day

Ah yes, there’s nothing like being yelled at by your son’s daycare director first thing in the morning because she decided to change the rules about the “food free” party the day of the party. Apparently, it’s for the “greater good” of the children. It’s so frustrating that she’s breaking her own rules without giving me any notice and second, her manner of breaking the news was so rude. There I was unpacking Alden’s belongings from the stroller and getting yelled at in front of Alden, other parents etc. Cheery.

There will be no jam gift for her today!

ETA Friday: So, there was no food in Alden’s classroom. I have no idea why the director bothered to tell me about the cookies in another classroom or make such a big deal out of it all. Bizarre. I did hear from another parent that the cookie classroom decorated gingerbread houses with candy from the bulk store. The bulk store. *head slap* And yes, that classroom has at least one nut allergic child.

Our evening ended with a trip to CHEO (not food allergy related!) to remove a small pompom from the boy’s nose. They were doing a Christmas craft and the boy stuffed it up his nose and before I could get to some tweezers to remove it, he jammed it up even more. While the staff seemed to say that it would “work itself out”, Telehealth had a different opinion – go to CHEO. Indeed, we ended up needing to see an ear, nose and throat specialist since the attending doctor in emergency could not remove it. After a lot of suctioning and precarious tweezing, they were able to remove the pompom.

So, tip of the day: check that your daycare is using age appropriate craft materials and if your toddler jams something up their nose and you can’t remove it easily with tweezers and they can’t blow their nose, you will need to go to emergency. These things don’t “work themselves out”… they get inflamed and infected.

Karma threw me a bone this morning to make up for the sucktitude of yesterday – the barista at Starbucks made me the wrong order so I ended up with two lattes. Which I was then able to gift to a coworker. Nice.

December 16, 2010   8 Comments

Ho ho hold the food

In theory, our daycare centre is nut free and is aware of other food allergies. But, parents are free to bring in treats for their children for birthdays with only a reminder that it be “nut free”. Essentially, to an allergy parent, this means that there is no guarantee that these treats are truly nut free. (Not to mention our other food allergies.) Parents are not restricted to buying items from nut free bakeries. And at our daycare, the goodies brought in are normally from higher end bake shops where the treats carry no ingredient list. I have come to hate the birthday celebrations. I hate them. I carry my cell phone close all day.

So, when the note was sent around for the centre’s holiday party – I scanned it and saw “food”, “party”, “parents” and instantly jumbled up the facts that it was an open invitation for parents to bring in treats. (Actually, the centre was going to provide the snacks… oops.) The husband and I drafted a very direct email listing why store bought and homemade treats were risky, that we would keep our boy home and wanted to be compensated for that time because of the unacceptable dangers of having a crowded classroom of parents and children, crumbs, travelling food and sticky fingers.

It was pretty direct.

The director responded and came up with a solution to have only fruits and veggies. To us, it was a great compromise. Although, I wish we didn’t have to write a ranty email to find a solution that makes for an inclusive party. At any rate, problem solved. And hey, could parents really complain about the availability of healthy snacks?

So, when the party reminder email was sent around today – it included a message that “unfortunately” due to so many allergies, there would be no food at the party. Great! But the word “unfortunately” made me frown. Sure, it is unfortunate to have food allergies, but it’s not fair to place blame on preschool children for their illnesses. Because, I think that having every allergy kid feel included and go home at the end of the party instead of CHEO is fortunate.

Fortunately, the party will be food free so that no children will be excluded and there will not be any allergic reactions. It’s a good thing. For everyone.

December 7, 2010   7 Comments

Into every kitchen, a little mess must fall

Baking with the boy.

When it comes to cooking, I’ve created a bit of a monster.  The mere mention of the word “cook” or “bake” sends the little dude scrambling to pull a chair up to the cupboard to help.  I can’t really complain.  I sort of melt when he comes up and says, “helper”.  He’s my helper.   I love that he wants to cook.  (He does have a bit of a meltdown when he can’t help with the meatballs. Sigh.)

This week we baked a batch of oatmeal cookies together from the Vegan Cookies Take Over the World cookbook.  It was a stellar toddler success.   Even if you kid doesn’t have a food allergy, it’s nice to know that they can eat the cookie dough without any raw egg nasties.  (I know, we all totally did it growing up and hey,  look who’s still living.  Still.)

To avoid having the boy hoover the cookie dough before I can get it on the cookie sheet, I give him some ingredients to mix together.  On this particular night, he had some leftover kamut puffs.  And, as you can see, he decided to use his head as the mixing bowl.  Clever.  It was such a puffy crumby mess that we  could only stop, grab the camera and laugh at his crumbtactual hairdo.

We gave him a bath and cleaned him up so that birds would not peck at his head.  Parenting at its finest I tell you.

This post does not have a recipe – or much of a point other than to say sometimes cooking with a toddler can be messy.  The floor can be swept (or mopped), the puffs collected and the hair washed.  Are there nights when I would just like to cook without a sous-chef?  Sure.  But then I wouldn’t get cute photos like the ones above.

October 8, 2010   No Comments

The food revolution hits the toddler lunch box

I’m writing this as part of Scattered Mom’s lunch revolution party.  Woo hoo!  Party on!


I’ve been packing Alden’s lunches for daycare for almost a full year now, so I thought I’d share some of his favourite meals and take some of the mystery out of the toddler lunch box.

First. Pay attention to any food restrictions you get from your child’s school or daycare.  Find out if it’s a nut-free facility.   Take any message about food allergies seriously.  If your school is nut free, that means that no one should be eating nuts in the school or daycare.. no matter what time of day.  (Yes, this is from personal experience.)  If there is a request to refrain from sending certain items to school, please treat it with respect.  It’s not meant to throw a wrench into your life, it’s meant to reduce the chance of someone else’s child ending up in the ER.  These kids rely on the compassion of the people around them to stay safe.

If your child loves peanut butter, there are peanut and nut free options such as Sunbutter that you can use instead. Or pumpkin seed butter.  There are alternatives.  And they are easily found at the grocery store.

Second. Cute lunch boxes are optional.  I sent Alden to daycare with a boring old black insulated box for almost a full year.  There were no complaints.  Then I lost it.  And yes, I replaced it with a very cute owl lunch box.  It makes us both feel good.  In the beginnings, choose a box that suits your needs and is large enough for milk, bottles, jars of baby food, applesauce etc.  You can see my lunchbox roundup for more ideas.

Third. Figure out what kind of containers you’ll be using to store the food and drinks.  I switched up our plastic containers for glass ones and I use a mason jar for Alden’s drink.  His food gets heated and plated at daycare, so I am not worried about a glass bowl being pitched onto the floor and shattering.

Fourth. Fill that lunch box!  Some of my favourite things to pack in Alden’s lunch are:

Wednesday's lunch box

A sample lunch for my almost two year old.

Five. Don’t underestimate the power of peer pressure.  If you think your nubbin doesn’t like veggies, try sending them anyway.  If they see their friends eating carrot sticks, your kid may just take a nibble or two.  And nibbles count in the beginning.  Don’t count success by how much was consumed.  A taste counts.  Spitting it out counts.

Six. If at first you don’t succeed try and try again.  Take for example Alden and his apples.  He loves applesauce, but I couldn’t convince him to eat an apple slice.  The apple offer was made on many occassions (with and without a dip or Sunbutter).  Then last night he looked at the apple peeler and said “apple apple!”.  I cut up an apple and he ate the slices.  Peel and all.  Out of the blue.  Miracles do happen.  The same thing happened with berries.   He hated them until I convinced him to try one from the garden.  He has been hooked ever since.   Don’t get frustrated.  Kids are on their own food discovery schedule… despite our best efforts to turn them into instant foodies.

Friday: Cookies and garden chores

Learning to mix

Seven. Get the kids involved.  On the weekends, I bake snacks for the week.  This is a perfect time for little fingers to start seeing how to cook without any of the weekday stresses.

Eight. Final tip.  Pack lunch the night before.  It saves SO MUCH hassle in the morning.

August 27, 2010   8 Comments

Keeping the kid entertained

After seeing how much Shutterbean’s little boy loved his train set that his mama bought for him, I knew exactly what to buy Alden for his upcoming birthday. I scoured the internet for wooden trains and decided upon the Sevi village train set. It came with a ton of train pieces, cars, trucks, and even an airplane and the best part? The city play mat.

Choo choo

While my plan was to save this gift for his birthday, the weekend’s rainy weather left me scratching my head at how to entertain a toddler indoors. (Sure, we could have gone to a museum, but I wasn’t in the mood for crowds.) Out came the birthday present. Naturally, it was a hit. Score one for mom.

Now if I could only convince him to eat the corn chowder I made last night.

*Note: it is recommended for kids over 3 because of small parts.  I put the small pieces away for safe-keeping, but with some force, the little wheels can still come off, so it’s a toy that requires a bit of supervision for the younger set.

August 25, 2010   No Comments

Search for the perfect lunch box

After leaving Alden’s very plain and boring, yet irritatingly perfect-sized Joe Fresh lunchbox behind somewhere in Ottawa, I’ve been hunting for a replacement lunchbox.  I figured that with Joe Fresh selling peacoats in July they would also have some back-to-school lunch boxes by August.  Not so.  (Or at least, not at the Baseline/Woodroffe Loblaws.)  The other grocery stores options included a $15 super fugly cooler bag or girly Elle lunch sac.  No no no.  No.

I started searching around online for some stylish lunch boxes.  And wow – there some kyuuuute lunch boxes out there.  Ultimately, I let my wallet decide and chose the very cute owl Zoo Lunchie by Skip Hop ($16).

Packing lunch

The boy flipping adores it. He carried it around the house all evening, waved and yelled “bye bye.” He was ready to hit the road and leave mom and dad at home in the dust. It was a major toddler win. He clutched it in his stroller all the way to daycare today too. It would be the perfect lunchbox except… it’s about an inch and a half too small. Duh duh.

You see, I need to pack a main dish for lunch, drink and two snacks each day and it’s a pretty tight squeeze once you add in a drink container and a main dish container.

Packing lunch - Zoo Lunchie interior

Maybe I’m meant to have a separate thermos for the drink or perhaps use baggies instead of containers. I’m not sure. All I know is that that it’s just slightly too small for my toddler’s daily food rations. Sigh. Boys. At this point, I’m not sure what to do. Order another lunch bag or keep trying to cram everything into Mr. Owl.

Here is a list of the lunch boxes that I had on my shortlist:

  • Beatrix Lunch Box (available at Raspberry Kids): $37.  Yes, $37 for a lunch box.  Outstandingly cute.  Expensive.
  • Goodbyn (available from many different online shops in Canada) : $35.  I like this a lot, but I needed something that could accomodate small containers.
  • BuiltNY Munchler $14 – Major cute points, but decidedly petite.  I could see using this for short outings.  And I ADORE the built-in placemat.
  • Lunch Boxes for Kids – Cute, understated and great for my lunch.  But linen + toddler = nightmare. Also, it looks small.
  • Neoprene lunch bag $36 – I still love this one.  I regret not buying it.  I think the size is probably perfect for my needs.  Washable and non toxic.  Darn.  Next stop: Regret City.

August 17, 2010   4 Comments

Little Mr. Snow

The little guy wasn’t feeling himself, so we kept him home from school.  Of course, at home he doesn’t act sick at all.  He zips around, he teases the cat, he scarfs bananas like a monkey and dances around to his favourite Wizard of Oz tunes.

While the snow was a bit wet yesterday, I took him to the local park to burn off a bit of energy and watch some dogs at the dog park.  He still can’t really manage walking in the snow without face planting, but he was soooo happy to sit on the toy tractor and drive the “snow-bus.”  (He’s perfecting his ‘wave on’ in the above photo.)

I think he might just be starting to not totally hate the snow.

February 25, 2010   No Comments