When Kidoinfo started, we were 6 years old. Now we’re 16. A lot has happened in that time and personally we feel we’ve changed a lot in these past ten years. But one thing has remained constant and that is the reliability of Kidoinfo, there for the best weekend picks and insights into parenting. Though we’ve long ago grown out of the site’s target age range, our mom has continued to work tirelessly to keep her website fresh and essential for parents. Her work ethic and commitment to a satisfying and sometimes untraditionally rewarding job is inspiring to us both. Talking to her about Kidoinfo’s start she told us “I started it because I personally felt a need to gather information for things to do with kids as a new parent.” She spread the word about events that were great for kids but not marketed towards them. The site grew and grew and it became “definitely bigger than what I set out to create.” She began by sharing her own articles of parenting advice but it soon became “a collection of people and contributing writers who shared their voices.” What started as her own quest to help out other parents grew to a “trusted brand within the community” outgrew the voice of one and became a deeper reflection of Providence and its families in doing so.
It’s hard for us to point out exactly how Kidoinfo impacted us because it feels like its always been there. Kidoinfo is 10 now, but it’s leaving its nest and going through a new change. We’re a lot older than the young kids we were when it began but it still feels like a part of us as it involved our family, our coming of age, and of course our mom. Looking back through the archives is like looking back on a unique kind of family album. We asked our mom how life for kids and their parents has changed in the last ten years, since Kidoinfo began. The blog began the year the iPhone was invented but before everyone had one in their pockets, along with social media accounts and iPads as toddlers’ entertainment. It started at a time when she felt “a need to meet people” in person to discuss parenting. Now, it exists in a world where parents are just as likely to be checking their phones while at the park as they are to be watching their kids. The digital world’s dominance isn’t a total downside, though. Kidoinfo was born out of this digital revolution and social media’s success has helped spread the blog to more and more parents in Providence. With her work on the website, our mom helped parents use their digital devices to make their offscreen lives with family more fun and productive.
Kidoinfo has been our mom’s job but it’s also been an adventure for all of us. We’re excited that she’s focusing on other things, even if it’s a bit bittersweet that she’ll no longer be working on the website. Still, she’s done some great work helping parents get engaged in the community and raising kids a little more easy and enjoyable. She remembers a parent telling her that when they moved to Providence, reading her website made them feel they had found a real home. The internet moves faster than a refresh button but for the last decade our mom worked hard on creating a place for families to rely on. She’s supported and inspired us the whole time. Thank you.
E & D
By Jim Armstrong
You know that feeling you get when, halfway through the day, you suddenly realize you forgot to send your kid to school wearing something silly for “crazy hat day”? Or that today was the day you’d promised to send in a gift for teacher appreciation week?
It’s pretty close to impossible to remember every appointment and important date without a reminder. That can be frustrating when you’re talking about the little things – but the consequences can be much worse when it comes to the really important stuff.
We’re coming up on one of those important times right now: the next “Open Enrollment” period to purchase health insurance for 2018. Over the past few years, the federal government has led the charge when it comes to reminding people about Open Enrollment; one of the goals of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., “Obamacare”) is to make sure everyone knows they have the ability to purchase coverage for themselves and their families.
This year, though, the Trump administration has decided to cut spending on Open Enrollment promotion by 90%. That means a lot of people won’t get the message that the time to sign up for health insurance in Rhode Island is November 1 – December 31, 2017. For millions of us, this is not a deadline we want to let slip by. (You might also be hearing about a deadline of December 15th, but that’s only for states whose health insurance exchanges are run by the federal government. Rhode Island runs ours, and the state extended our deadline to December 31st.)
There’s a lot of confusion out there, but make no mistake: Obamacare is alive and well.
And, Rhode Islanders who shop on the state’s health insurance exchange (HealthSource RI) are actually quite lucky. Our state’s exchange has a tremendously positive national reputation for offering affordable options. Some states are seeing massive, double-digit rate increases this year; Rhode Island’s rate increases are among the lowest in the country.
Of course, price is only part of the equation. While most of us want low monthly premiums, it’s critically important to consider your annual deductible, too. Choose the plan that fits you, your family, or your small business the best. There are a number of insurance options available on HealthSource RI for all of those plans.
Even though you may end up purchasing your plan via HealthSource RI’s website or phone number, you should definitely get in touch with the insurance company you’re considering. Call their toll-free number. Get familiar with what they have to offer. Their staff will be able to check if your doctors are in their network and if the prescriptions you need will be covered – and they can answer your other questions, too. Purchasing health insurance can be intimidating; you want to be with a company that makes you feel comfortable.
Your conversation might also reveal that you and your family are eligible for significant discounts (in the form of tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies) if you purchase health insurance through HealthSourceRI. For example, a Rhode Island family of four can earn up to $98,400/year AND STILL QUALIFY for a subsidy and an additional tax credit. In other words, health insurance might end up costing you a whole lot less than you think. But you have to ask!
Most important, though: don’t forget that the Open Enrollment period to sign up for health insurance (in Rhode Island) is November 1 – December 31, 2017.
Jim Armstrong works on the communications team at Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, trying to tell all the remarkable stories happening inside and outside of their building. He and his wife have two young sons – both of whom are getting their flu shots again this year, no matter how much they complain.
About Neighborhood: Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island is a non-profit HMO that was founded in 1993 in partnership with Rhode Island’s Community Health Centers. Currently serving more than 200,000 members statewide, Neighborhood offers plans for individuals and families who qualify for Medicaid and/or Medicare. Neighborhood also offers commercial plans with comprehensive coverage for individuals, families, and small businesses via HealthSourceRI, the state’s health insurance exchange; Neighborhood serves 55% of the R.I. exchange market.
By Anna Johnson
When the school year ends, kids are excited. They can’t wait to leave the hallways and homework behind. But despite the thrill of those summer months ahead, the transition can be hard. For kids who have learning, social and/or sensory challenges, this change in routine can be especially difficult and creating unexpected problems.
To make things easier for you and your child, here are a few things to watch for. Try to plan ahead and manage things with some of these preventative strategies.
The Outdoor Elements
For some kids, the sunshine calls and they’re off. But for others, the hot sun is like kryptonite, zapping them of all their powers. These kids might drag behind, complain, and, pardon the pun, experience “meltdowns.” Loose cool clothing, hats, beach umbrellas, water bottles and shade are extra important for these kids. Other enemies, like bugs, sand, even grass, can also get heightened in the summer Recognize what outdoor sensory elements trigger your child’s discomfort and come prepared. Find favorite things they can do to redirect their attention and calm them. Art supplies, special snacks, journals, or a favorite toy might do the trick. Special blankets to sit on, hand held fans, and bug spray are useful tools to keep ready for your bag of tricks.
New People & Places
Festivals, fairgrounds, vacations, family visits, cookouts and camp. So many fun things to do in the summer months! But interacting with different people, learning the social rules at new places, adjusting to a different schedule and routine, can feel disruptive and difficult. Help your child by preparing them for upcoming events and new situations. Create a visual or written schedule for the day, don’t force new friendships, and build downtime into your child’s day. In some cases it is helpful to create a code word or signal to use when your child feels overwhelmed or needs a break.
It’s great to not have the rigid schedule of school in place, but children still need a sense of their day to help them manage their time. Using a white board or notebook, make a schedule with things like free time, meals, chores, travel and screen time. Use pictures if your child is younger. Structure = security for most of us, so having routines in place makes a difference. And while bedtime might be later, make it consistent. Sleep is a priority for all of us! The whole family will manage summer activities and changes better if they are rested.
Summer is a wonderful season, especially in Rhode Island, but it’s okay if you don’t get to everything on your bucket list. Enjoy the little things every day. Give yourself and your child time to breath and enjoy each other. Your summer may not be 100% stress-free, but with a little planning, it can be full of special moments and family fun.
Anna Johnson, Head of School at The Wolf School, is a devoted, passionate educator with more than 17 years of classroom and leadership experience. She holds a BA and MAT from Brown University, and speaks locally and nationally on topics related to Complex Learners.
The Wolf School, located in East Providence Rhode Island, inspires Complex Learners to discover confidence, compassion, and a love of learning to reach their full academic and social potential. To learn more about Complex Learners and The Wolf School, visit www.thewolfschool.org.
By Michele Meek, ShelfDig
No one can deny the convenience of online shopping. Even my grandmother is ordering gifts from Amazon now. Still, many of us want to support our local stores. And believe me, the stores want that too.
So a group of us created ShelfDig—a website that enables you to browse and search the store shelves right here in Providence.
This year, why not try to buy all (or at least most) of your holiday presents locally? I’ve compiled a list of gifts for babies, children and teens, and you might be surprised by the variety of gifts you can find right here in Providence, many of them even locally made.
Gifts for Babies & Toddlers
These cotton baby onesies make unique gifts. Each one has its own decoration—a series of hearts, a tiger, or Martian. Locals might especially appreciate the “Don’t Mess with Rhode Island Either” design with a little RI within an outline of Texas. | $22
Cool Pop Teether
Teething babies (3 months and up) will enjoy this colorful silicone teether in the shape of an ice pop. | $9.95
These porcelain animal ornaments created by New Jersey artist Beth DiCara make a charming decoration for children’s rooms (although they’re definitely for show, not for play). | $18
Baby’s First Book: Nesting Dolls
Rag and Bone Bindery's best-selling baby book helps parents keep memories and mementos from baby’s first year. | $72
Milkbarn Swaddle Baby Blanket
These 100% organic cotton swaddle blankets decorated with white roses or little foxes are perfect as nursing covers or stroller blankets. | $27
Annicke Mouse: Handmade Stuffed Animal
Made from light brown organic cotton fleece, with a hand-embroidered face and striped cotton lining on her floppy ears, Annicke is perfect for newborns because it doesn't have any buttons or strings. | $42
Gray Baby Kowali Kozyhat
Gray and black fleece hat for babies. | $22
Plush Mini Creatures
Handmade colorful soft toy stuffed creatures by Mr. Sogs Creatures. | $18-$46
Little Miss Austin: A BabyLit Counting Primer
Designed to introduce 'little bibliophiles' to the romantic world of Jane Austen with a stroll through one English village to meet two rich gentlemen and discover what happens when the five Bennet sisters encounter four marriage proposals. | $9.99
Let kids create their own superheroes with these locally-made shiny and whimsical star capes. | $26
123 Beach Board Book
A beach-themed counting book is perfect for Ocean State children and babies. | $7.95
Touch and Learn Preschool Playbook
Preschoolers can learn numbers, alphabet, spelling and more with this compact electronic learning device that looks and feels like a book. | $23.99
Gold or white-colored lion bookends can decorate baby’s room. | $40
Gifts for Children
Handmade Car Seat Organizers
A great gift for kids and parents, these organizers hang from the back of the front seat and contain compartments to hold pens, pencils, books, tablets and more to keep children’s activities (read: clutter) in the car more organized. | $39
Lacing Cards Children’s Art Set
Children ages five and up can practice ‘sewing’ with these Children of the World Lacing Cards set from Eeboo. | $18
Children’s Height Chart
This refrigerator magnet height chart helps keep track of kids’ height. | $12.95
Wooden Bake & Decorate Cupcake Set
A Melissa & Doug wooden cupcake set includes cupcake tray, cupcakes, icing tops, cupcake sleeves, candles, icing markers and oven mitt so children can celebrate birthdays any time they want. | $19.99
This variation on Bingo has been a favorite in our house. Both pre-readers and readers alike can play (recommended for ages four and up). | $19.99
Hand-Stitching Project: Owl
Crafty kids will enjoy being able to hand-stitch (with a little help, perhaps) their own stuffed animal. The kit includes pattern, instructions, and all materials necessary to complete the animal. Also available in Cat, Kangaroo, Fox and Whale. | $20
Skull Piggy Bank
These colorful ceramic skull-themed piggy banks can contain loose change in older kids’ rooms. | $15
Roominate Chateau Wired Building Kit
This Roominate chateau-building kit includes wires and designable furniture to teach children important STEM-related skills like basic circuitry, wheels and pulleys, and creativity. | $49.99
This classic Geomag product contains magnetic rods and nonmagnetic steel spheres that combine to create an unlimited number of structures, for ages three and up. | $36
Peruvian Musical Instruments
Form your own kid band with a bamboo flute, painted maracas, a wooden mallet and metal chimes, and other instruments. | $10-28
Shrinky Dinks Refill Pack
The old-fashioned technology of Shrinky Dinks still amazes. This refill pack includes six sheets of shrinkable plastic so children can imagine their own shapes and designs. $9.50
Set Card Game
This game of visual perception is officially for ages 8 and up, but we’ve played it with children as young as four (for them, we often take out one of the ‘layers’ – shading, shape, color, number). It’s as fun (and challenging) for adults as it is for kids. | $13.99
Make Your Own Bunny Puppet Kit
Children ages four and up can make their own bunny puppet with this kit that includes a plush puppet body, fabric puppet parts, non-toxic glue, and instructions, along with puppet show ideas and a stage scene ready to color. | $18
These locally designed pendants by Lucky Bird Studios and Fishcakes feature a variety of themes to suit any tastes, from ‘I Heart Pie’ to ‘I Heart Pi’. | $26
Small Earthlust Water Bottles
Kids will find these BPA-free stainless steel water bottles with bird, elephant and owl designs ‘very grown-up’. | $16
Ada Books offers gently used children’s books like Pairs: Twins and Other Twosomes, Mad About Monkeys and Leo: A Ghost Story. | Various prices.
Snap Circuits: Light
This circuit kit includes 55 parts that snap together with ease so children can make projects like a strobe light or lights that change to the beat of music. | $79.99
Toysmith Juggling Balls
A set of three colorful juggling balls is perfect for beginners. | $ 7.95
Gifts for Teens
Choose from a variety of colorful skateboard decks, then choose a wheel color and truck to design your own skateboard. | $50 for decks; $20-$50 other parts.
Here’s a pair they might not have already—a pair of vampire earrings. | $10
Fjallraven Kanken Backback
This iconic Swedish-designed backpack is durable and water-repellent, with adjustable straps. | $80
PARL Paw Print Bangle
Animal lovers will appreciate this handcrafted paw print bangle with 20% of your purchase donated to the Providence Animal Rescue League (PARL). | $35
The Sharman-Caselli Tarot Deck
An illustrated Tarot card deck created for the first time tarot card user. | $24
Decorative Cell Phone Covers
Celebrate sports teams (Yankees, Bruins, etc), Superheros (Batman, Hulk, etc) and other themes with a decorative cell phone cover. | Various prices.
Ripped jeans, white jeans, or simple blue jeans by Joe’s Jeans. | Various prices.
Earrings from Around the World
Earrings in a variety of shapes, colors and styles from around the world. | Various prices.
A leather-bound journal (various sizes) makes a great gift for a budding writer or artist, or any teen that might appreciate the “old-fashioned” arts. | $32-42
Rhode Island Bag
This natural cotton canvas bag features a Rhode Island map filled with pictures, icons and city names. | $20
S'well Wood Collection Water Bottle
This stainless steel water bottle, painted to imitate wood, keeps drinks cold for 24 hours, or hot for 12. Plus, for every Wood Collection bottle sold, S’well will plant a tree. | $36-48
In this selection of remainder books from Symposium, you’ll find classics like Ulysses or On the Genealogy of Morals, along with books by Nabokov, Faulkner, Proust, Hunter S. Thomas and Chaucer. | Various prices.
Providence-based artist Margaret Hinge makes these handcrafted stone earrings. | $40
How about a shiny new bicycle? Find road racing, touring, upright hybrids, and mountain bikes in all colors and sizes. | Various prices.
Round Hanging Terrarium
Here’s an idea for an eco-friendly room design—grow a plant in a round hanging glass terrarium. | $30.50
Graphic novels and comic books, like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby and Gahan Wilson’s Sunday Comics, fill this shelf. | Various prices.
Made from carved wood with white inlaid patterns, each of these hair sticks features a unique design. | $12
The classic sneaker still holds up—high-top and regular Converse sneakers in all colors. | $50
Or if you know your teen wants the Nike Air Huarache or the Adidas Tokyo Purple Sneakers or the New Balance 996, browse this shelf for designer sneakers. And when you buy local, it makes it easier to exchange for a different size! | Various prices.
ShelfDig enables shoppers to browse, search and discover online the products available in stores in their local community. A semi-finalist in the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition, ShelfDig currently has partnerships with over 60 stores in the Providence area and launched to the public in the beginning of November 2015.
The other day, I realized that if things had played out differently, I would be gearing up to send Boy 2 to kindergarten.
My boys are 9 and 5, and this will be our second year homeschooling. Last year, my little one was in a beautiful little co-op preschool, and I got my bearings homeschooling Boy 1. We had our tough days, but we love this way of learning and this lifestyle for our family. So both boys will be home this year.
We may or may not be in it for the long haul–it’s a year-by-year decision. A few times this summer, I thought about the coming year and questioned my sanity, mostly from the standpoint of having very little time to myself—I’m either at work or with my kids, for the most part. But that is the life of most mothers, in varying proportions. This year, I will make sure I have an afternoon or evening every week with childcare when I’m not working so I can put down my roles and responsibilities and have a little time to just be Camille—not the mom, the homeschool teacher, the wife, or the midwife. I am ready now to build that in to my family’s schedule without guilt, knowing that it is a necessity, not a luxury.
Once I talked myself down off the ledge of general overwhelm, I had myself a minor freak-out about how I would actually direct the education of two kids four grades apart. Last year, I had the luxury of quiet one-on-one time with Boy 1 while Boy 2 was in preschool three mornings a week. This year will bring a new period of adjustment. How will I create space for quiet focus for my 9 year old with my active 5-year-old running around all the time? How will I provide my kindergartener an enriching experience while doing “real work” with my 9 year old? How will I select enough but not too many outside classes and social activities for both boys without us running around all the time like a carload of chickens with our heads cut off?
I feel much better now. How did I get through these moments of panic and angst? I sought support from veteran homeschool moms who have been there and done that. I reminded myself that plenty of people are doing this very successfully with three and four kids or more. I nailed down the last of my curriculum decisions, which helped me envision what our “sit down work” mornings will look like. I remembered how much I worried last year about doing enough, only to be amazed by the end of the year at what we were able to accomplish. I made the shift back to focusing on the gifts of the homeschooling lifestyle—mainly more time together, freedom and choice. Our school year is ours to create.
And then there’s the gift that underlies it all for me—the gift of following my heart and my gut as a mother instead of operating out of fear and “shoulds.”
I have no real regrets about Boy 1’s three years in traditional school. By and large, he had a good experience. I don’t second-guess my decision to homeschool and wonder “what if?” the way I know I would if neither of my kids had ever been to brick-and-mortar school. But naturally, with all the talk of “back-to-school” and Boy 2 being kindergarten age, I’m thinking back to when Boy 1 started kindergarten.
He was a young 5—barely made the age cut-off to start K, and we agonized over whether to send him or wait a year like many people are doing, especially with boys. We decided to grab the elusive spot at this particular school while we could, since everyone was telling us he was ready. Once we made that tough decision, we weren’t too worried about his adjustment to kindergarten. He had been in daycare three days a week from age two to four for 10-hour days. During his pre-K year, he was in preschool three days a week. Add to that the fact that he has an outgoing, adventurous personality, and we thought he would make a seamless transition.
Instead, he cried almost every morning for three or four weeks. When I asked him why he didn’t want to go, all he could come up with was “I just need time to do my Legos, mom.” His teacher was a 30-year veteran who was calm, kind, and reassuring. A couple of times, she left her classroom at the start of class to come out to the car and help me coax him in. She stayed in regular communication with me and kept saying some version of, “I know you’re worried, but trust me, within a month he’ll be absolutely fine.” And he was.
But before he made the transition to going in happily each morning, I thought we had made a terrible mistake, that he hadn’t been ready after all and we should have waited a year. If his teacher hadn’t been such a pro and so sure of what she was telling us, we might have pulled him and sent him the following year. We seriously considered that, but it seemed so radical in the face of the reassurance and encouragement we were receiving.
Homeschooling crossed my mind a few times. But back then, it was a cool idea for OTHER people, and not anything that I could pull off. I had a toddler and was trying to recover from a bout of depression, and it just did not feel like an option that was open to me.
So we kept him in school. I quieted my heart and my gut and stayed up in my head. I told myself every day that he would adjust and it would all be fine. And he did, and it was.
Fast-forward four years. If things had played out differently, my baby would be going to kindergarten this coming Monday. I would be having all the emotions that go along with that, telling myself it would all be OK.
Which it would be.
Instead, my baby is “going” to kindergarten at home. Homeschooling is not the “better” choice, but it is the right choice for our family, for this year. How do I really know that? Because it’s not anything I need to convince myself to feel OK about. It feels right.
Today, I am able to make decisions for my family from that place, and for that, I am grateful.
Camille Williams is a mom of two boys, wife, and midwife who loves living, working and playing in Providence. She blogs about home, family and parenting, midwifery and women’s health, homeschooling, and life in a bicultural family at www.camillewilliams.net. Whatever the topic, her focus is making the most of the opportunities life hands us to learn how to live and love better, and connecting with others trying to do the same.
© Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2015
By Camille Williams
We are in the 7th inning of our first year homeschooling Boy 1 (age 8). We are taking this year-by-year, and who knows? A brick and mortar school may again be the best choice for our family at some future time. For now, though, this has been a great decision for us, and Boy 2 will be home next year for kindergarten as well.
Since we started this adventure, I get a lot of questions about the challenges of this educational choice and lifestyle. While we have had our challenges, many of the things people understandably assume must be really hard have not been big issues for us. The most common questions I get are some version of the following:
- What about social opportunities? It does take a little effort to make sure he gets enough time with other kids, in the sense that a pre-assembled group of kids does not arrive at our door daily. But it is very doable. The homeschool community is growing, and we have met some amazing people. We belong to a great homeschool group, and there are plenty of activities available within and outside the group, both for free play and more structured activities. And, of course, we still get together with friends outside the homeschool community.
- How do you make sure he learns what he is “supposed to” learn? Kids are natural learners, and there are so many curriculum choices out there, there are almost too many options! I don’t have an education degree, but neither do a lot of private school teachers. I am in awe of what teachers accomplish meeting the needs of so many children. There is no way I could manage a classroom like that—not even on the level of averting total mayhem, never mind inspiring and educating each child! And I know there are teaching strategies that could benefit my child of which I have no knowledge. What I may lack in this area is balanced by the fact that I am facilitating the learning of only one child (soon to be two), I know him better than anyone else, and this set-up allows him to have a completely individualized education. Besides the more structured curriculum work, this lifestyle allows plenty of time for self-directed projects and endless hands-on, experiential “world schooling” opportunities. (That is a whole other post!) Now that we are in the last quarter of the school year and I can look back on what he has accomplished, any fears I had in this area have been put to rest. All the people I talked to when we were researching this decision were right—it’s not as hard as it sounds, kids are hardwired to learn, and homeschooling is very efficient.
- I could never do that—isn’t it stressful and demanding on you? Well, sure, sometimes. Just like life in general. I certainly have some responsibilities I didn’t have when my child was in school. At the same time, other stressors have been removed. We aren’t doing the relentless hurry-up morning routine. I don’t have to spend the afternoon or evening pushing homework to happen after he’s already been “working” all day at school and just needs to play. There is a spaciousness and flow about our days that comes from being at home more, together more, following our own rhythms. I’ve lived both ways now, and having kids in traditional school versus homeschooling are just different lifestyle choices. I don’t have much time to myself, but really, how many of us do? I work part time and homeschool my kid(s). I’m almost always either with my kids or at work. Mothers who work full time are either at work or with their kids. Same boat, slightly different proportions.
The bottom line for me about stress and homeschooling? I’m a lot less stressed in general since we started homeschooling. That’s not because Boy 1 was having a bad experience at school. He had a pretty typical, mostly good experience by most standards. It also has little to do with the details and logistics of the two lifestyles. It’s really about the energy that is freed up and the happiness that is created the more we travel our path of living our very own handmade life.
It was scary to make this huge decision to do something so far out of the mainstream. There were a lot of logical and rational reasons for our choice. Those factors aside, I knew intuitively it was the right thing for our child and our family, at least for now, and I simply felt called to do it. I thought homeschooling might feel like swimming upstream against the current of societal norms. What I found is that continuing to resist doing this was swimming against OUR current, and that’s the much bigger stressor. Taking the plunge = living in alignment with our truth.
Camille Williams is a mom of two boys, wife, and midwife who loves living, working and playing in Providence. She blogs about home, family and parenting, midwifery and women’s health, homeschooling, and life in a bicultural family at www.camillewilliams.net. Whatever the topic, her focus is making the most of the opportunities life hands us to learn how to live and love better, and connecting with others trying to do the same.
By Chef Lara
I was only recently turned onto Fiddlehead Ferns but now that I have, there is no going back. Their season is very short however so you have to grab the ferns by the frond now! Fiddlehead Ferns are the baby leaves of the fern plant — if left alone they become the frond of a fern. Fiddleheads have antioxidant activity, are a source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and are high in iron and fibre.
You do need to make sure that you blanch your fiddleheads before you cook them. Undercooked fiddleheads can make you slightly sick and can be slightly woody. Cooked correctly, however, they are fabulous to both eat and look at!
Wild Fiddlehead Fern and Mushroom SautÃ©
YIELDÂ 2 servings
- 2 oz. extra virgin olive oil
- ~ half a small onion, chopped
- 2 to 3 strips of bacon (optional)
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 6 to 8 oz. assorted fresh mushrooms, cleaned and cut to desired size
- 1 Tbsp. butter if desired
- ~ salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ~ a small handful of fiddlehead ferns (about 20 pieces)
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
- Meanwhile, in a skillet set over a medium flame, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and bacon if using and cook, stirring often, until the bacon has rendered its fat and is beginning to brown, and the onions are softened and golden. Stir in the garlic. Cook for another minute and add the butter if using. Add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are fully cooked. Season all with salt and pepper.
- When the mushroom and onion mixture is nearly ready, season the boiling water with salt. Add the fiddlehead ferns to the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes, until they are tender.* Remove the fiddleheads with a strainer or slotted spoon and add them to the mushroom sautÃ©. Toss together, adjust seasonings, and serve.
- Fiddleheads will go from tender to overcooked in a very short time, much in the same manner as asparagus. Taste a fern after 2 minutes of cooking. If you’d like them more tender at that point, let them cook another 30 seconds, then try them again.
- Lift them from the cooking water rather than straining them out - sometimes there is a little sediment in the fronds that will come loose and sink the bottom of the pot. Lifting the ferns out will leave it behind.
Source: www.culinate.com. Photo credit: UVM FoodFeed
By Dorothy Chin Gerding
Every year around this time, my father and mother gather themselves up and make the pilgrimage to Boston for supplies to make Jung, and celebrate a surprisingly unique holiday, Tuen Ng Jit or Double Fifth festival (thus named because it takes place May 5th of the lunar calendar). As with most Asian holidays it involves food and festivities, and in this case the very colorful and exciting dragon boat races. What makes this festival so unusual is that it is not celebrated on the same day in the all the Asian communities, and it is not originally a religious or government holiday, but a holiday based on a tragedy in history.
The history: My mother told me the story, when I was still in pigtails and satin pajama outfits, about the death Qu Yuan (278 BC). Qu Yuan was a beloved poet and advisory minister to King Huai of the state of Chu (One of the warring states in China). The legend varies from province to province, however most best know him as a social idealist who committed suicide in protest of government corruption. The king had not heeded Qu Yuan’s warning, that a neighboring state would in invade them, but instead supported opposing advisors and exiled Qu Yuan. As history goes the state was invaded, the capital captured, and in his depression upon hearing the news, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River.
The birth of the dragon boat races: You may wonder what does this have to do with Jung go and Dragon boat races? In his exile, Qu Yuan had become very famous and well liked. So when the local villagers learned Qu Yuan’s intentions, they raced out in their boats to save him-now considered the birth of the Dragon Boat Races. Unfortunately his body could not be found, so the local people then made balls of sticky rice (known as Jung) and dropped them in the river in hopes that the fish would eat the rice instead of Qu Yuan's body…and that’s why we have Jung, my favorite part of any holiday, the food.
Traditions: With each holiday, traditions are set and passed down from generation to generation. This year was my turn to learn to wrap Jung, the delightful bundle of sticky rice with some tasty fillings–some are plain, sweet, and savory (salty). Depending on the country and region, your Jung will vary from wrapping, fillings and even shape, but all will have the yummy sticky rice base. Since my family is originally from the Southern, Cantonese speaking China, we like the savory ones–which may include salted duck eggs, Chinese, sausage, pork belly, dried shrimp, chestnuts, and the occasional shiitake mushroom wrapped in bamboo leaves. I can still smell them boiling in the vat on the back porch. This year’s batch yielded fifty wonderful bundles. Some of my mother’s friends will make hundreds to distribute to friends and family, to remind them of who they are and where they came from.
The Boston Dragon Boat Festival Even though this year’s holiday has passed, you can still celebrate the holiday by attending the Dragon boat races in Boston on June 14th and 15th. The Boston Dragon Boat Festival is the oldest of its kind and takes place annually on the banks of the Charles River in Boston and Cambridge. Thirty to forty teams from across the United States and Canada compete over a 500-meter course, paddling in sleek, colorful 39-foot Hong Kong style dragon boats. I look forward to cheering on a boat, having a Jung with friends and family, and maybe just maybe I will see you there.
If you miss this festival on the Charles, Little Rhody has their own Rhode Island Chinese Dragon Boat races–September 6th this year in celebration of Taiwan day. Races are held on the Blackstone River off the School Street pier in Pawtucket from 8 am - 5 pm. Join the thousands who attend each year for great competition, fun, and to learn about Chinese culture.
Festivals are free to attend and open to all ages. For more information www.bostondragonboat.org or www.dragonboatri.com
- Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes
- Celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival
- Awakening the Dragon: The Dragon Boat Festival
I recently heard that people were getting bored with kale, and that Swiss chard is the new kale. I am not so sure about that, but I do admit that rainbow chard is definitely beautiful to look at (see picture).
Swiss chard is a leafy green very similar to kale with the same nutrient profile, and is rich in iron and antioxidants. You can prepare chard exactly as you would kale;Â it is just as hearty and does not wilt easily. I find chard slightly less bitter, so if you're not a kale fan, this may be the dark leafy green that will win you over!
I do recommend varying the greens in your diet, and Swiss chard is plentiful now, so dig in and enjoy! Since it's still bitter cold in New England, I am sharing a recipe that will warm your insides while giving you fabulous nutrition.
Spring is coming I promise and until then…enjoy your winter vegetables! Their time is almost up! — Your Chef Lara
Meatless Butternut Squash and Chard Lasagna
Winter squash and chard are filling yet low-calorie stars in this mouthwatering meatless lasagna. Flavorful, rich in color, and full of vitamins and minerals, even a meat lover will not mind this meatless main course.
YIELD: 10 Servings
- 1Â (2 pound) butternut squash
- Sea salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste
- 1Â shallot
- 1Â bunch red chard, washed, drained, but left damp
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 1Â tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 2Â cloves garlic, minced
- 8Â ounces baby spinach leaves, washed, drained left damp
- 1Â container (16 ounces) part-skim ricotta
- 1/2Â cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1Â teaspoon dried oregano
- 1Â teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1Â teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1Â jar (28 ounces) spicy marinara sauce [or homemade]
- 8Â uncooked whole-wheat lasagna noodles
- 1 1/2Â cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- With a knife or fork, poke holes or small slits all over the squash. Place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high for 5 to 6 minutes or until a knife inserts easily into the skin. Microwaving instead of baking the squash saves time and makes it easier to peel. Roasting it after cutting it in half is also an option.
- After cooking, let squash stand for 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Use a vegetable peeler to remove skin. Cut squash in half lengthwise and using a spoon, remove seeds. Slice thinly and season with salt and black pepper. Set aside.
- Chop the shallot.
- Remove stems from chard and coarsely chop.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 13x9x2-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large nonstick saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook garlic and shallot, stirring frequently, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add spinach and cook, stirring until wilted, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Transfer spinach and any liquid to a medium bowl to cool slightly. Stir in ricotta, Parmesan, oregano, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Set aside.
- In the same saucepan, add chard and season with salt and pepper. Press down and stir with a spatula for 1 to 2 minutes. Cover and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally, and adding a bit more water if pan gets dry, about 5 to 6 minutes. Set aside.
- Pour 1/2 cup marinara into the prepared baking dish, using the back of a spoon to evenly spread. Lay 3 or 4 noodles in sauce. Spread half of the ricotta cheese mixture on noodles. Layer with butternut squash. Lay 3 or 4 noodles on squash and cover with half of the marinara sauce. Cover with chard and spread remaining ricotta cheese mixture on top. Cover with remaining noodles and sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella.
- Spray a large piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray and use it to tightly cover dish. Bake lasagna until sauce is bubbly, about 50 to 55 minutes. Remove foil and cook 5 to 10 minutes more to brown cheese. Remove from oven and let stand for at least 15 minutes before cutting.
Individual servings: Divide lasagna into 10 freezer and microwave safe containers. Let lasagna cool completely. cover with a sheet of plastic wrap placed directly on the lasagna. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Let lasagna thaw in refrigerator overnight.
Microwave: Individual portions can be reheated in the microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through.
Oven: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If reheating single portions, placed desired number of pieces into baking dish. If reheating entire pan, carefully take foil off baking dish and remove plastic wrap. Cover baking dish with foil and cook in oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until lasagna is hot and bubbling.
By Claire Moscrop, Nutrition Consultant
When the weather is colder we tend to drink less water. We just don’t think about hydration as much as in the summer and it's not so appealing to have a large glass of cold water when the temperature is dipping into the 30’s. Many of the body composition assessments I have done in the last few weeks have shown low hydration levels so here’s some information to help:
Did You Know?
- Your muscles are 75% water; your blood that transports nutrients is 82% water; your lungs are 90% water; your brain is 76% water; even your bones are 25% water.
- A fluid loss equivalent to just 2% or more of your body weight can impede aerobic performance so don’t waste that precious exercise time by being dehydrated!
- Through activities of daily living, the average person loses about 3- 4 liters of fluid a day in sweat, urine, exhaled air and bowel movements.
- You should drink half of your body weight in ounces. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces or (2 liters) of water per day.
- Over hydration can occur but is generally more of a concern for endurance athletes.
Source: Water Cure
What Should I Drink?
- Regular water is the best option, this is what we are designed to drink. All drinks contain water but the diuretics in caffineated drinks flush water out of our bodies and the sugar in sweetened drinks can impede hydration.
- Sports drinks should really be reserved for endurance athletes and intense workouts lasting over an hour.
- Add a fresh lemon slice lemon to water especially during meals, the vitamin C can help your body to absorb iron and the acid can marginally increase stomach acidity which can help in digestion.
When Should I Drink Water?
- Drink a large glass of water in the morning to get your blood flowing before any coffee or tea. This is the point of the day when we are most dehydrated and we have more toxins. Try hot water with a slice of fresh lemon to get a kick start on a cold morning.
- Drink before, during and after exercise. Take at least 2 water breaks during a 45 minute class.
- If you feel hungry, you may actually just be thirsty so have a glass of water before reaching for a snack.
- If you are drinking alcohol at dinner or a party, try to alternate with a glass of water between alcoholic drinks, you will feel much better the following day! Also hydrate well before the party and have a large glass of water before going to bed. If you have been drinking alcohol, your liver will be thankful!
Claire is a graduate of the highly regarded Institute of Integrative Nutrition in NYC, as well as a certified Sports Nutrition Consultant through the AFPA. As a mother to 3 young girls and wife to a busy banking executive, Claire understands first hand how difficult it can be to provide healthy, home-cooked meals with today’s busy lifestyles. Claire’s programs will help you to achieve this. Check out her website atÂ www.clairemoscropnutrition.com for more details.