Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gus's Garden Blog - Kids in Gardens and Nature

Welcome to Gus's Garden blog about gardening with kids. Upcoming posts will discuss more gardening ideas and encounters in nature.


Laughing Planet: small salad with chicken ($5.50). Not enough so also got berry smoothie with soy milk ($5.75). /courtney

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Working Mom's Recipe of the Week

Chicken Fried Rice
Servings = 6
Time = 45 min

1 1/2 cup rice
2 c water
1 T butter
2 boneless chicken breast halves
2 T olive oil
2 large carrots
2 eggs
3/4 c frozen peas
3 green onions
3 T soy sauce

1. In a soup pot, bring water and butter to boil; add rice, cover and reduce heat to low. When all water is absorbed, remove from heat and keep covered.
2. In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Use kitchen shears to cut chicken into bite-sized piece and place in skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink.
3. While chicken is cooking, peel the carrots and then chop into 1/4-inch halfmoons. Dice green onions.
4. When chicken is done, scoop into a bowl. Add remaining one tablespoon olive oil to skillet and cook carrots until fork-tender, or desired consistency.
5. While carrots are cooking, crack eggs into a small dish and scramble with a fork. When the carrots are done, push the carrots to one half of the skillet and cook the eggs in the other half.
6. When the eggs are cooked, mix chicken, frozen peas and cooked rice with the carrots and eggs. Then stir in soy sauce and green onions. Taste and adjust soy sauce to desired saltiness.

Notes - To save some time you can use "minute" rice, pre-cooked chicken and pre-shredded carrots. To make healthier, use brown rice instead of white. In the picture, I served the fried rice with a side of roasted cauliflower sprinkled with cumin and sea salt.

What was for lunch?

Roast beef roll up with lettuce and soy chive cream cheese on whole wheat/ high fiber tortilla, baby carrots, apple slices, bubble water. Owen had "snacky" lunch since he ate his leftover bean and cheese quesadilla for breakfast (with pear slices and apple juice).

Monday, November 28, 2011

  • The Five Minute Mom’s Club

    I was given this book by a mama friend for my birthday. Irony is that it took me 6 weeks to get around to reading it!

    It is a quick read and a nice collection of ideas and resources. She does not claim to be an expert, and relies on other books, websites, moms, etc. for ideas and helpful tips.

Takeaways for me:

  • Use a mesh bag in the laundry for clothes you don’t want to put in the dryer.

  • Get back to the weekly dinner rotation: Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Leftover Wednesday, Asian Thursday, Pizza/Movie Friday, etc.

  • My son is a visual and hands on learner – I should take pictures and work with him first on what he needs to do each day (brush teeth, make bed, etc.). Let him check them off a check list on his own (age 6 1/2).

  • My system of different laundry bins and washing laundry separately is still a good one. (son, workout, mama/daddy, kid sheets/bed, mama/daddy sheets/bed, kid bathroom, mama/daddy bathroom, kitchen towels/cloth napkins). Don’t all necessarily have separate bins, but are washed and sorted separately.

  • Validation for delegating and paying people if you can afford it. I have learned I do not like gardening or yard work - I paid someone to clean up my yard, plant some plants, clear out some plants, and clean my garden plot. She also gave me ideas for what to do next year (I will hire her!). Also able to afford someone to mow the yard twice a month and a heavy duty cleaning once a month. This is also forces us to clean up the yard, change/wash sheets, purge magazines, return library books, clear out the clutter at least once a month. Also a great excuse to go out to dinner as to not mess up the kitchen.

  • Just because clothes were worn once, does not necessarily mean they are dirty and need to be washed. I do this with my own clothes, but not my son’s.

  • My son can and should do more related to getting and making his own food and drinks. He loves to help (and is able), but too many things are out of reach or not in a good place. This will require some reorganization of the kitchen and fridge – so not done yet. Winter break maybe?

  • We need a better area/system for school papers and backpack unload and storage.

  • It should be important to you, not someone else. Frozen brown rice is fine for my family, otherwise we would not eat it since I burn it and frozen takes 3 minutes. Nightly everything from scratch and we all eat the same thing – not as important to me right now as all being at the table together eating similar things at least 4 nights a week (pizza/movie night included!).

  • Book is a bit dated as it relates to smart phones, electronic calendars, etc.

  • Also very car culture-centric.

What are your 5 minute tips?


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Working Mom's Recipe of the Week

This is a great kid-friendly side dish. It's a fifty-year-old recipe - when my mom was a little girl, Rose and Clarence Anderson were such close friends of the family they became honorary aunt and uncle. Rose developed this recipe and it became a staple of the Thanksgiving meal. It's easy enough that kids can help make it and it's delicious enough that everyone will love it.

Rose Anderson’s Lime Jello Salad
Servings = 8 side servings
Time = 1 hour, plus chilling

2 small packages limeJjello
Hot water
1 small can crushed pineapple in juice
1 small container fine cottage cheese
1 small can condensed milk, chilled

1. Pour 1 ½ cup of water into a glass mixing bowl. Place in microwave and cook for 3 minutes.
2. While the water is heating up in the microwave, drain the juice from the pineapple but keep the juice in a dish (you will use both the juice and the pineapple chunks).
3. When the water is hot stir in jello, ½ cup of sugar and pineapple juice. Keep stirring until the jello is all dissolved.
4. Let the jello sit until soft, like pudding. It may take more than a ½ hour.
5. When the jello is soft scoop it into a medium-size glass or ceramic dish. Use the dish you want to serve the jello in.
6. Carefully stir into the jello:
a. Cottage cheese
b. Pineapple chunks
c. ½ cup of mayo
d. Prepared condensed milk
8. Cover and place jello salad in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. Keeps up to 3 days.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

cityMamas Happy Hour

First cityMamas Happy Hour

Join us for a glass of wine (or two), some snacks and conversation.

date: Thursday, December 15
time: 4:30 - 6:30
location: Trees, in the PacWest Bldg.

Join for 15 minutes or the entire two hours. Hope to see you there.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What's for Lunch?

Laughing Planet, pears, cucumber. Southwestern Burrito: no pico, no cheese, no rice; light beans; add chicken, light vegan sour cream, and spinach, on whole wheat. $10!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November Mtg Notes: Future of cityMamas, Books & Lunch

Thanks to all who attended our meeting today.  Lunch was hosted by DEEP, our parent organization (thank you!). We have an awesome group of Moms working at the City!  We know there are many more of you who could not attend today but who gave us great feedback and who will be a large and active part of cityMamas moving forward.
Thank you also to all of our Moms who filled out the survey!  The results were posted earlier this week - they can be found here.  Today, we shared a brief overview of what we heard, and discussed how we can together respond to your voices! 

Here's the short version of what we heard:
  • We mostly represent moms with young children (babies to early education), but there are many others with children from middle school and beyond.
  • We need to work more on outreach (Thank you to those who volunteered to help with this!  I will be contacting you soon...)
  • Although the timing and location of our meetings often do not work for everyone, the group collectively does not want to just be a "social network" via the web.  That said, many of you read our blog or Facebook posts, and want us to continue to expand our blog functions.
  • Our most popular meetings and topics of highest interest are: parental coaching, life coaching, organizing, home/work balance, finances, and health and food.
  • Many of you responded that you can help us!  If you haven't, but you are interested in outreach, blog posting, meeting organizing, or you-name-it, please contact us!  We'd love to hear from you.
Based on what we heard from you, for 2012, cityMamas would like to make the following changes:
  • We will start rotating format of meetings: once a quarter host a professional (e.g. Practical Parenting, life coach, organizing solutions, etc.); once a quarter host a social event; once a quarter have a mom-lead topic
  • According to the survey, happy hour was popular for a social event, so we’ll host the first one DECEMBER 15 at Trees, 4:30 to 6:30.  Come when you can, come for 15 minutes, stay for all two hours, come meet fellow CityMamas!
  • We’ll post more to the blog: book reviews, “what’s for lunch?”, mom testimonials, guest posts from our quarterly professionals, food topics – in addition to the weekly recipes.  A number of moms notified us that they want to help us with posts, so we will tap into you!  Please let us know if you want to write/post on a topic.  We will either allow you permissions to post, or you can send us your post/book review, etc.
  • ‘New Mom Buddies’ – a number of you responded that you want to help us with this.  We will get organized and hopefully start making this available starting in 2012.  This is not a full-time commitment!  Just a chance to give a new mom your support or listening ears.  Another mom offered to be support to moms who are in the throes of teenage years.  Let us know if you’d like to be a buddy!
  • If your location/schedule does not allow you to meet with the larger group, but you want to host a cityMamas gathering in your office (PDC, 1900 bldg, etc.), let us know!  We'll post it!  cityMamas is for you - if you have any ideas for how you want to be involved, contact us! 
 We had a great discussion during our meeting today.  Here's some of what we heard:
  • HR should have CityMamas info/flier for new moms as part of FMLA packet (Lora to check in with “outreach team” and new moms to weigh in on what would have helped them as new moms returning to work)
  • Can moms post that they are attending an event/activity outside the group (e.g. zoolights, children’s museum) to the blog?  (YES – email one of the co-chairs and they can post to blog)
  • Are there guidelines for pump rooms?  CityMamas should do draft something up (In the past, CM advocated for pump rooms in the Portland Building and gave some desired features – we could revive this list and contact Debbie?  DEEP?)
  • How much advocacy can CityMamas do? (co-chairs to check in with Debbie/DEEP)
  • Other ideas for meeting topics: 
    • Safety/Emergency preparedness (future mom-lead/city-lead topic?  Darcy will post her family’s experience/tips/what’s in her emergency kit)
    • “Mom tips” – e.g. technology or otherwise (future mom-lead topic?)
    • PTA/School involvement (future mom-lead topic or blog?)
    • "Family-friendly" city - how can we advocate for change via the Portland Plan or otherwise? (future mom-lead topic or blog?)
Moms - did I miss something?  Comment below...
Courtney also gave us a quick reminder about cityMamas' Fourth Annual Adopt-A-Family.  This is a great way to help families in need and to teach our children about giving to others.  If you are interested in giving this year, please look at the spread sheet and let Courtney know what you'd like to donate.  If you want to give cash, that is always welcome too.  Or, better yet, if your child is enrolled in a Portland Public School that uses Scrip, use it to purchase gift cards at participating stores, such as Fred Meyer and "double dip"!  Talk to Courtney for details.  

No December meeting - See you at Happy Hour!  Details/reminder to follow.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Talking Turkey

I don't know about other people's families, but on Thanksgiving day everyone in my family is in the kitchen helping prepare food. Grandma is making crust for the apple pie. My mom is stirring gravy. My husband is mashing potatoes. I'm forming rolls. Jordan, my daughter, is given small tasks so she feels included. And we are all chatting up a storm. Hearing stories from when Grandma was a little girl on the farm and having to catch the turkey. Laughing about how my mom went into labor with my brother the day after Thanksgiving. Telling Jordan about honorary "aunt" Rose who made up the Jell-o salad recipe that we still serve today more than 50 years later. By the time dinner hits the table, it is well infused with love and laughter and maybe a few tears.

But there is also the stress of the holiday meal. So, here are my tips on de-stressing and how to get kids, and husbands, involved:

1. Make sure everyone, men included, have a dish they are responsible for making. Mashed potatoes are a hard one screw up - peel, boil, mash, done. He can do the potatoes early on Thursday, then scoop them into a buttered crock pot, set on low - they'll stay warm and moist until dinner time. He doesn't even have to miss football.

2. Start early. Figure out what can be done before Thursday. The Saturday before I make cranberry sauce. Jordan helps by pouring water and sugar into the berries. She can also prep the jars and lids so they are ready for me to fill up. Wednesday, Jordan and I will make the Jell-o salad and the pumpkin pie. Jordan can measure ingredients and stir. Early Thursday morning, she and I will start the dough for the rolls. I've had Jordan kneading dough since she was five.

3. Don't make new stuff. Every year all the magazines and newspapers come out with new fangled green bean casserole recipes or stuffing or whathaveyou. Personally, I don't need the added stress of trying something new and hoping it works out. My family has been doing the exact same dishes since I can remember. The way we end up with new items is when a new person joins the family. My brother's wife's family tradition is a apple-cranberry pie. She brought one when they were dating, it was a big hit and is now part of the meal.

4. Laugh. Mistakes will happen. One year we peeled the potatoes into the garbage disposal and tried to run it. We broke the garbage disposal and water came flooding under the sink and all over the floor. As we were cleaning up the mess, the news was on and they were going over tips for the day. One of the tips - don't put potato peels down the garbage disposal. Right. Check. I've also burned the pie crust, used salt instead of sugar in the Jell-o, added vanilla instead of soy sauce to the green beans. Each time we just laugh about it and it makes a great story to tell in the kitchen the next holiday.

5. Keep kids busy. Have a couple crafts for kids to do. Every year Jordan makes the name tags for the place settings. This year she is also going to make a Thank You Sunflower. You take a small paper plate and color it all brown. Then you cut out petals from yellow construction paper. Each person writes what they are thankful for on the petals and tapes them to the paper plate. Note - I suggest choosing the crafts and going to the craft store two weekends before Thanksgiving, so it's not yet another thing you have to do at the holiday.

6. When all else fails, drink more wine.

I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with lots of friends, family, love and laughter and really, really good food! If you want any of our family's recipes, shoot me an email

Thursday 11/16: we will have lunch!

One last reminder about our meeting: Thursday, 11/16 @ 12:00 (Fir Creek, 3rd floor, PDX Bldg) to review our survey, talk about next year, sell books, review sponsor a family, etc.

Lunch will be provided! We will have a deli tray (make your own sandwiches), fruit salad, and cookies from Bridge City Cafe (formally Paradise). Thank you DEEP for the funds. See you there.

New "college prep"

As working families, we all realize the high cost of childcare. I thought you find this article interesting:


A study finds placing one child in day care costs as much as paying tuition at the University of Oregon

I like to think of high quality child care as "college prep!" Hypothetically this should make saving for college easy after kids have entered grade school, but typically costs continue for after school care and summer camps...


Check out our survey results!

We've posted our survey results online for everyone to review. We'll discuss them at our mtg on Thursday, but there's no need to review really. The important part is what we are planning next and how you'll be a part of it...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Book Review: Raising Cain

In being responsive to our October survey, I am posting a book review for Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.  I read this last February for a book club with some friends who have been reading parenting books.

It was a pretty sobering book:  the premise is that boys aren't receiving the "emotional literacy" to respond to the situations and changes that they face throughout boyhood - instead they often resort to stoicism or solitude.  The topics of sex, alcoholism, depression, suicide, and violence, for this mother-of-a-four-year-old-boy were a bit alarming.  I definitely became more self-aware and probably self-conscious of everyday interactions with my boy...  maybe even paranoid.  Unlike the other books I've read, Raising Cain didn't include a "how to" or guidance to prevent such horrible outcomes that were presented as case studies... until the very last chapter.  I am so glad I stuck with it, but WOW.  The book could have been more instructive throughout.  At least to prevent some hyperventilating.

The following is a great, quick book review from BookBrowse:

For my matter-of-fact "Cliff Notes", I found the following chapters most helpful/enlightening:

  • Introduction - The authors give you a sneak peak at why they felt this book was important to write, so it gives some good context.
  • Chapter 1: The road not taken: turning boys away from their inner life.  - Here the authors make the case for boys' "emotional illiteracy" - the inability to express emotion without resorting to anger or withdrawal.  This is very interesting stuff, and it may make you see the world in a whole new light.
  • Chapter 2: Thorns among Roses: The struggle of young boys in early education.  - Here is the case that the early education is slanted against boys and boy behavior!  So, you moms of young preschool and early-education sons will find this fascinating and a little disturbing. 
  • Chapter 4: The culture of cruelty.  This focuses a lot on bullying and pressures specifically that boys face.  Again, very eye-opening.
  • Chapters 5 & 6:  Fathers and Sons, Mothers and Sons.  These two chapters explain the importance of male and female role models, and how they provide distinct and critical functions.
  • Chapter 12: What Boys Need.  AT LAST!  I read the entire book to get to this chapter.  Up until this point of the book, I kept thinking, what do I do???  So if you are really anxious, read this chapter.  
I'm over-simplifying, of course.  But what are book reviews for?  If anyone has unique concerns about discipline, anger, solitude, depression, romance, I would definitely advise consulting those chapters - and the whole book for that matter.  I admit that as a mom of a four-year old boy (at the time I read it), I was looking for a softer read about general boy behavior.  This book sure packs a punch.  And I'm glad it did.

One last thought I will leave about Raising Cain:  It encourages us to always give our sons a safe place to express emotion.  Expect and embrace the exuberance and activity that boys exude and then celebrate it!  For me, that provided a sense of relief and a nod that it's going to be okay.  (I was pregnant with boy#2 at the time I read this, and that's what I needed to know).

Has anyone else read this?  p.s.There's also a PBS documentary about Raising Cain, which after reading the book, I didn't think I had the stomach for - did anyone see it?

Thoughts to share?

What's for lunch - remote test

Leftover Monday - pork chops, mashed cauliflower, steamed broccoli and mustard caper sauce. /courtney

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fourth Annual cityMamas/Faith & Friends Sponsor a Family

It is the time of year when we come together and provide for others. This year we have two families and are again partnering with Friends & Faith. As in the past, after we have bought the requested items, we can supplement with new or gently used items (esp., books, toys, clothes, and jackets).

Please let me know what you are able to donate this year. (Email or phone call). If you would like to give cash, check or gift card to purchase a specific item or for the general shopping fund, that works too. Just be clear what you would like the money to be spent on.

I could use a co-chair for this effort. Please let me know if you can help. Shopping would be the weekend of December 16-18. Drop off is Monday, December 19.

Please have all items/money/gift cards to Courtney (9th floor, NE Corner, Portland Bldg.) or Mindy (7th floor, 1900 Bldg) by the end of the day on Wednesday, December 14.

Contact me directly and I can send you the spreadsheet with requested items. It was also sent out via email.

Thank you in advance for your time and generosity.

Courtney Duke
cityMamas, co-chair
Bureau of Transportation

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Working Mom's Recipe of the Week

Buttermilk Chicken, Couscous and Green Beans
Time = 30 min
Servings = 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c low-fat buttermilk
1/2 c low-fat mayo
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 T olive oil
1 lb green beans, trimmed
2 c water
1 T lemon juice
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1 T butter
1/2 t salt
1/2 t dried thyme
1 c whole wheat couscous

Place chicken between to pieces of heavy plastic wrap. Pound with mallet to 1/2 inch thick. Mix buttermilk, mayo 1/4 t salt and 1/4 t pepper in a bowl. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Coat the chicken in the buttermilk mixture and place chicken in skillet. Cook 6-8 minutes, flip and finish cooking until done through.

Meanwhile, bring water and lemon juice to boil. Steam green beans over lemon water until fork tender. In a second pot, bring chicken broth, butter, remaining salt and thyme to boil. When the broth is boiling, stir in couscous, then cover and remove from heat. Allow couscous to sit 5 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed, then fluff with fork.

Notes - You can add any dried herbs to the couscous - rosemary, oregano, parsley are all good. You can also dice a 1/4 c of onion, mince a garlic and add both to the broth.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November 17 Meeting: Future of cityMama + Book Sale, Book Drive(s) & Lunch

November 17 Meeting

Future of cityMama + Book Sale, Book Drive(s) & Lunch

Don’t forget we are meeting Thursday, November 17.

We will review the survey and talk about what you want out of cityMamas. Will also have a book sale and book drives. There will be food! We will provide hearty snacks and treats – maybe even enough for your lunch. Details on that next week.

Hope to see you there.

Courtney, Lora and Darcy

Books, Books, Books!

We have a lot of book related things this month.

1) Books Make it Better – a book drive.
Jen Barth – who spoke to our group in September, started a national book drive.

Bring kids books (new or used – purge the bookshelf!) to donate to the November 17 meeting. We might do a larger/city-wide effort as well.

2) Book Sale
Have a bunch of your books to purge? Let’s have a book sale! $2 for paperbacks, $5 for hardbacks. All proceeds split between Books Make it Better and our Sponsor a Family effort. Also at November 17 meeting.

Preview from my purge: Freedom, The Corrections, Committed, Eat Pray Love, Swamplandia, Away, Friday Night Knitting Club, Olive Kittredge, and more. Holiday gift giving made easy.

3) cityMamas Library
Bring your funny mama books, parenting tomes, advice books, whatever you think another mama might enjoy and donate to our library. Inter office one at a time to Darcy Cronin or bring to the November 17 meeting.


What's For Lunch?

Welcome to What's For Lunch?

We all need inspiration, so we let’s share lunches. Not everyday, but at least once a week. Want more ideas? Check out One Hungry Mama facebook:!/onehungrymama She posts everyday. She has a blog too: Locally, Feed Our Families on facebook:!/FeedOurFamilies or blog: also great resource.

Courtney Snack
Chocolate soy milk, homemade snack mix (raw sunflower seeds, dried
cranberries, dark choc chips), banana

Owen Lunch
'snacky lunch' - trader joes multi grain crackers, turkey, cheese, baby carrots, grapes, watered down orange juice. Not pictured: Halloween size kitkat

Owen Snack (can have at recess)
Not pictured: pumpkin choc chip mini muffins; trader joes apple/carrot sauce tube

Courtney Lunch
'hummus lunch' - 1/4 cup Barbur World Foods hummus, Kashi whole grain pita chips, cucumber, grape tomatoes, pear, bubble water

What did you have?