Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Teacher Tip of the Day: free printables and fun/educational activity ideas

post signatureLooking for some free printables for your kids? features some great printables and activity ideas - great for teachers or parents. Check out these fun fall activities, too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to School - Back to Reality

This post originally appeared on

September is a bittersweet time for me: not only do I send my kids off to school, but I also send myself off to work. I bid farewell to my short-lived months as a SAHM and head back to the classroom, where a fresh batch of students awaits me. At the end of every summer, steeped in everything us moms do to manage our families, I wonder, with much anxiety: How am I going to do all this AND work 40 plus hours per week? And then I gently remind myself, I've been at this for the past 10 years. I. Can. Do. It.

The smell of fresh crayons still sends me in a tizzy and I adore shopping for school supplies for my kids and my classroom. September is when I draw up my goals for the year, when I revamp my wardrobe, when I clear the clutter in my life - September is my "new year."

I love the quiet calm of late August, when I take a moment to prep my classroom. Before I know it, tens of high school students will be rushing in, (hopefully) ready to learn. I've been at this for far too long to suffer any first day jitters, and I'm pretty good at maintaining that strict teacher fa├žade - for the first few weeks - then it crumbles away and I'm once again "Mrs. B."

I always remind myself that the quiet student in the corner might one day be protecting our nation as a soldier, that the chatty girl doodling in her notebook might be the doctor that delivers my first grandchild, that the teenage angst ridden boy with the goofy grin might be a future state senator, so I'm mindful to greet every student with respect and most of all, hope.

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Monday, August 29, 2011


Late summer afternoon bike ride for frozen yogurt at Starfruit on Division with two of my favorite peeps
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Long Weekend in Union Pier, Michigan

Daniel hitting the road from the beach cottage
We just spent a lovely, long weekend in Union Pier, MI. Our entire extended family - Grandma and Grandpa, Aunty, Uncle and the cousins - gathered in a beach cottage for some end of summer fun.

We officially became a biking family with the installation of a bike rack and our new bikes were put to good use on the lovely backroads of Union Pier, New Buffalo and Lakeside. On one long bike ride, a deer that I thought was simply a large lawn statue, sprung to life and darted in front of my path. Chiara yelled "Horsey!" - thinking it was a horse, it was that big.

Marked bike paths, beautiful scenery, and lots of nice stops along the way for snacks/lunch/breakfast make this area ideal for a biking family. We love the Blue Plate Cafe for breakfast, the Whistle Stop for lunch and snacks, the farmer's market on Saturdays and Sundays outside Skip's for fresh fruits (peaches!) and the beach at Town Line Rd.. Rent your dream beach cottage with Bluefish.
Chiara contemplates the waves

We're planning on heading back in the fall to enjoy the autumn colors!

Here's a good bike map to get you started!
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Monday, August 15, 2011


Riding my bike in Humbolt Park with my little girl in the baby seat and my boy and husband trailing behind
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Monday, August 8, 2011

#makesmesmilemondays A New Haircut

My 10-year-old son DID NOT want to get his hair cut. He wanted to grow it "long" and "high" with "long sideburns" - a.k.a. an Elvis-style afro (a style that just wasn't working with his hair type). Finally we went to our favorite barbershop, Joe's Barbershop on Fullerton in Logan Square, and they set him up with with an Elvis-like but neat retro trim.
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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Calling All City Moms! Apply to Be an Illinois Field Mom and Spend a Day on a Country Farm

Some time ago, I was completely enthralled by the PBS documentary series, The Farmer's Wife. It's an intimate, poignant portrait of a Nebraska couple that is struggling to keep their farm afloat while raising two little girls. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it - it's available on Netflix. 
The Farmer's Wife offered me just a small glimpse into the reality of farming. As a working city mom, I don't have to truly worry about the whims of weather. Food almost magically arrives on our supermarket shelves and tables - but I often wonder: Who picked my strawberries? What chemicals were sprayed on my apples to keep them so shiny and flawless and why? Was the chicken that laid these now scrambled eggs treated humanely?
If any of these question run through your head, consider applying to become an Illinois Field Mom, a new initiative offered by Illinois Farm Families. If chosen, you'll have the chance to tour up to five family-run Illinois farms. 
I know I'd love to experience firsthand what it takes to run a farm in 2011. Interested? Learn more and apply at

Disclosure: Illinois Farm Families is a sponsor of Tiramisu, Mom! That said, my comments above are truly my own - I think this program sounds fantastic!
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Baby's 2nd Haircut

***this post orignally appeared on The Chicago Moms

My baby girl, Chiara, had her first haircut ever at a manly man’s barber shop. She was all smiles for that first haircut – perhaps because she was busy watching her big brother get his haircut at the very same time.

A couple months later, for her second haircut, I brought her to a fancier salon.

But as soon as they put the cape on her, Chiara screamed bloody murder. Nothing could calm my girl down.

So I brought her back to the barber shop. We sat her up on the chair. But she took one look at the friendly barber and screamed so loud that she practically burst the barber’s ear drums.

Well, I waited a few weeks, hoping that the terror would be long forgotten about in the toddler time/memory loop. Finally, on Saturday, we set out, hopeful, for baby’s 2nd haircut at long last. We went right to the pros: I’d heard through the grapevine that Snippets knew a thing or two about Hairstylistophobia. Our stylist, Teresa, pulled out all the stops: she had me sit Chiara in a police car chair with a steering wheel and let her get acquainted for awhile before she approached us and introduced herself to Chiara. She distracted Chiara with a safety sucker and the streaming Thomas the Tank Engine episodes. Teresa decided against the cape because there is something about plastic capes that irritates certain kids. She chatted with Chiara for a bit then pulled out her scissors and got to work.

Chiara, this time, was totally unphased. She just sat there and enjoyed the video and the cherry sucker, paying zero attention to the lady fiddling with her hairdo.

Teresa gave me some great tips on transitioning from baby to little girl hair that I’m happy to share:

*Try to avoid bangs. Bangs will require more frequent visits to the hair salon. Initially, at the barber shop, I had Chiara’s bangs cut because, for the life of her, she won’t tolerate bows or clips for more than 30 seconds (she likes to play with them, not wear them). Teresa reminded me that it’s better to let them grow out. Less maintenance.

*Use rubberbands consistently to pull back your child’s hair. This will “train” the follicle back and keep the hair secured and out of your child’s eyes.

*Teresa suggested paying a visit to Sally Beauty Supply where you can find an inexpensive gigantic box of mini-rubberbands. While no doubt these stayed put in Chiara’s hair, I did find that they did some slight damage to her fine, blonde hair as I took them out. So I went with the mini cloth-bands: these stay put and keep Chiara’s hair out of her face without doing much damage when taken out.

*Teresa recommended having a special toy or treat (i.e. raisins) and a special spot to sit for daily hair care sessions, so kids learn that it’s time to sit still so mom or dad can brush and fix the hair.

Since Chiara is so pretty (and isn’t every little girl??!!!) regardless of how her hair looks, it’s more about working to get that hair out of her eyes so she can get down to important business like coloring and reading.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Orange French Toast Sticks with Maple Yogurt Dipping Sauce

The kids in the Lincoln Park Zoo mini-train. Over the years, I have glady spent
large sums on tickets for this little choo-choo, and I have happily
watched it spin round and round, waving wildly at each passing.
This morning we went to our favorite city zoo - Lincoln Park Zoo - to meet up with the Tropicana Orange Juice OJ Express for a special breakfast treat that both my kids helped prepare: Orange French Toast Sticks. I know that one of my part-time jobs is "Fruit and Veggie Pusher" here in our home - it is so important to me that my children maintain healthy eating habits and I'm always trying to find and prepare healthy recipes that focus on the fruits and veggies. My kids loved this take on French toast, so I'm happy to share the recipe with you below.
Nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner, the creator of the recipe, was on hand to answer any questions on nutrition and reminded us that one glass of orange juice is equal to two servings of fruit (on a related side note - one of my fave breakfast drinks is vanilla soy milk whipped in the blender with some OJ. Mmmm!). She also recommended making a huge batch of these French toast sticks on the weekend and freezing some for the weekdays - they can be heated up in the microwave for a quick and healthy breakfast treat.
Learn more about the Tropicana OJ Express and take the Pledge to Squeeze More Fruits and Veggies into Your Daily Diet by clicking here.

Orange French Toast Sticks with Maple Dipping Sauce
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, CSSD

4 eggs
4 egg whites
1/4 cup Tropicana orange juice  
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs cinnamon
8 slices whole grain bread
vegetable oil, for brushing

Dipping Sauce: 2 Tbs maple syrup mixed into 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt

- Whisk eggs, OJ, vanilla and cinnamon
- Dip bread into mixture
- Lightly brush griddle with oil
- Over medium heat, cook dipped bread slices for 3 - 4 minutes each side, until golden
- Cut each slice into stick-shaped pieces
- Serve French toast sticks with maple yogurt dipping sauce

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