Tag Archives: Food

A Night Out With Sting Rays

Last night, because we are Zoo Pass holders at the Milwaukee County Zoo, we were invited to preview the Sting Ray and Shark Bay exhibit. They boasted that you’d get to pet sting rays and little sharks and that was all Riley needed to hear. Though he was a little nervous that a shark would bite him. But off we went.

We got to the zoo and ate some unhealthy dinner from the zoo cafeteria. Yes, there was healthy stuff, but I had a salad for lunch, ok? Let me eat those cheese curds. Thank you very much.

We headed over to the building that housed the sting rays and Riley could hardly contain himself. Then we saw the line.

It was really long, but like Derek said, this is why we came. So we waited. And tried to entertain our squirmy almost 11-month old:

Squirmy Baby wants her mommy.

Squirmy Baby wants her mommy.

After a few minutes in line, we decided that one of us should hold the spot and the other should take Riley to see some animals. Lucky me, I got to walk the zoo with my boy. We headed to see the monkeys. We watched the bonobos, which he called “Bonoboats.” Then the gorillas. I had so much fun just holding his hand and walking through the zoo. I guess having your little boy getting a little older isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I never could’ve done this if he was 18 months old.

Itchy Penguin.

Itchy Penguin.

We were the only ones over by the cute little penguins and could watch them swimming and itching themselves to our heart’s content.

Finally, we headed back to Derek and Charlotte in line and waited some more. And some more. In total, we waited in line about 45 minutes. But once we got into the sting ray exhibit? So worth it.

First you wash your hands. Then your baby spits up on you. You have nothing to clean it up with because you had to leave your stroller outside. You duck under the divider in line to head into the bathroom to clean her and you up. Then you get into the giant room with the even bigger tank full of sting rays and teeny tiny sharks. Then your little boy says he has to go to the bathroom. Of course.

Upon returning from the bathroom, Derek lifted Riley up, who was a little nervous to touch the sting rays, but once he did, there was no stopping this future marine biologist.

He's petting it!

He’s petting it!

I know this face. This is the I’m-so-excited-I-can’t-stand-it face. I love, love, love this face:

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He would’ve stayed there, dangling over the side of this tank all night if we let him. And I don’t blame him. It was pretty amazing. Sting rays are graceful, soft, friendly and not scary at all. Which says a lot coming from me – someone who admitedly has a “fish phobia.” Long story.

But after a while, we pried him away from the rays, gave him a squirt of hand sanitizer, and promised him ice cream. He chose SpongeBob.

His lips were then dyed red and black. Thanks, SpongeBob!

His lips were then dyed red and black. Thanks, SpongeBob! Baby Sis gives that ice cream the side-eye.

Overall, this was an awesome experience for a Monday night. Nice weather, happy kids, petting sting rays and ice cream. All the makings of a perfect family night out.

P.S. As a vegetarian and an animal lover, I’ve always had mixed emotions about zoos. Sometimes they make me sad because it’s not natural for any animal to be caged constantly. But I gotta say that our zoo is really, really nice. The animals generally look happy, clean and cared for. And I totally understand why zoos are important for education. I love to quiz Riley on things like “Why are those flamingos pink?”  and “Do you think that gorilla’s hands look like yours?” It helps teach kids that animals are valued, important and something to be appreciated. And really, when else in his life is he going to be able to pet a sting ray? Amazing.  

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Making Some Warm, Fuzzy Christmas Memories

Ah, it all looks so easy on Pintrest and in sitcoms, doesn’t it? Let’s all gather on a cold, snowy morning and make some happy holiday memories, shall we? That’s what I thought this weekend. And then I remembered why I changed my major to journalism from elementary eductation sophomore year of college. Because I have no patience.

But let me back up, I decided to make and decorate sugar cookies with my 2-and-a-half year old son. Yowza.

I think of myself as a good cook and baker, but cut out sugar cookies are no joke. You have to roll out the dough, but before you even do that, you have to get the dough to the right consistency to roll it out. It was way too dry at first. And then I dumped in a bunch of water and it was too runny. So then I dumped in more flour. Lather, rinse, repeat. Finally, it seemed ok and we started rolling it out. And while I was rolling, I had to simultaneously bat away 2 year old hands that wanted to help. He’s lucky I didn’t accidentally roll over his fingers. I think that’s why he’s gripping all the cookie cutters in the picture above. He just had an overwhelming urge to do something during the rolling out process.

After Riley and I cut out the different shapes (stars, angels, trees and bells), we set them on the rack to cool. Uh…they don’t look very good, I thought. Uh oh.

But then the decorating, and the fun, started. I think next year I’ll buy the refrigerated dough so we can just do the fun stuff. I mistakenly thought Riley would get the concept that we’re just decorating these cookies, we’re not immediately eating all of them. Nope. He licked or bit every cookie I gave him to decorate. Crazy kid.

Oh, and as an aside, I found this Betty Crocker Cookie Icing and it was amazing! It dries hard, so you can stack the cookies. It’s like royal icing without the work. It was worth the $3.79 per pouch.

It became a whole family affair and cookies were made into aliens and even the Star Trek symbol. No, my husband isn’t a Trekkie.

Check em out! They look pretty darn good if you ask me. Bonus points if you can find the Star Trek symbol. Also notice the Christmas tree that is decorated with the word “Tree.” We is creative.

So, no, it wasn’t easy. Yes, it was messy and took two hours longer than I thought it would. But the boy LOVED it. And was even talking about it 2 days later. So yes, it was worth every minute and every goopy drop of flour and butter on the kitchen floor.

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Why Didn’t I Think of This Sooner?

We are a family of 3 (plus a dog). It seemed like we were generating waaaay more garbage every week than we needed to. When looking at what was filling up our kitchen garbage can, it was obvious. We like cereal. And Riley likes his bunny grahams. The bulk of our garbage can was just that – bulky cardboard packaging.

And then, DUH! Cardboard is recyclable.

In our city, we buy bright blue recycling bags and fill it up with our recyclables, put it on the curb and we’re good to go. We separate out newspaper into paper bags and now, we also separate cardboard packaging.

Between 6-pack beer packs, my beloved cereal, granola bars and Wheat Thins, we only had…wait for it….ONE bag of garbage to put out for the week.

From what it had been, that’s really unbelievable. It makes me really wish I had thought of it sooner, but glad that we’re doing it.

And it’s easy. We just put a box next to our garbage cans and when we polish off a box of Kashi, I take out the bag and toss it, flatten the box and stack it with the other boxes. No biggie.

By the way, that Sea Dog Blue Paw? Buy some now. You’re welcome.

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Eat Your Veggies

I know a lot of people with picky toddlers. I’m very thankful that I do not have one. Riley will eat just about anything. Healthy things. It’s amazing. Garbanzo beans, peas, spinach. It’s pretty impressive.

So I wasn’t surprised with what happened the other night. I had a busy night where I taught my skating lesson, stopped at the grocery store and, starving, decided to hit up the salad bar and grab a salad for my dinner.

I came home about a half hour before Riley’s bed time and while Derek put away the groceries, I pulled out the plastic container from the salad bar.

I had never thought of it before, but salad just may be the perfect meal for a picky toddler.

Riley caught one glimpse of what was in that plastic container, and begged for a taste. So right there, closing in on bed time, we plopped down on the kitchen floor, he in my lap, and we ate salad. Kids like veggies? Maybe that’s really not so surprising.

I mean think about it. For a little kid who is used to getting a lot of the same food every day, the colorful veggies on the salad bar would be a welcome sight to little eyes.

The different colors and textures is what really struck me. He grabbed a chick pea, then noshed on cauliflower, then he munched on a snow pea, and finished it off with some feta cheese. Crunchy, creamy, salty. No dressing, no fork, no waiting. He gobbled up my salad, happy as a clam.

And I ended up eating a frozen waffle for dinner.

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I Heart Cows

And no, not because “they’re delicious” like some people say.

I have not eaten meat since I was 16. I have no desire to ever eat meat again. No poultry, no fish, no beef, no seafood. For me, it’s all about the animals. I remember when I was in 7th grade and suede leather bomber jackets were so incredibly in. And by some miracle, that was one trend my parents actually purchased for me. I still remember sitting in my bedroom, feeling the soft leather and thinking, “This was an animal. And now it’s dead so I can have this jacket.” It made me feel sick to my stomach. “Maybe it was sick so they had to kill it anyway.”

It’s no surprise that I became a vegetarian.

Living in a meat-centric state like Wisconsin, there have been many times I have gone hungry. Weddings, work functions, family/friend gatherings, even some restaurants. I’ve gotten pretty good at finding something for myself to eat just about anywhere, though.

So last week, Oprah broadcast her vegan challenge. No meat, dairy, or animal products for 7 days. I have always admired the woman and I love that she’s getting people to think about their food. Whether they want to become vegetarian, vegan or neither.

I was also very proud of Lady O for doing what no mainstream public television show has done before – she showed the inside of a meat processing plant.

I knew it was going to be hard to watch. I have a very weak stomach and like I said above, I love cows. There’s something about these animals. They look so proud, so pretty, so intelligent. I think it’s their pretty, big brown eyes. The fact that Wisconsin is known as the dairy state may have something to do with it, too.

But even I was surprised by my reaction when I witnessed what happens to these cows from the farm to the slaughterhouse.

I cried. I sobbed. I whimpered. And I couldn’t help it.

A big part of the show was about how “humanely” they kill the cows. Talk about an oxymoron. Is it ever really possible to humanely kill anything?

Contrary to what you may believe based on this post, I do not pass judgement on meat eaters. I’ve been ridiculed and picked on for 16 years for my beliefs, so I wouldn’t do that to someone else.

But.

I think everyone needs to understand, appreciate and respect where their food comes from. Something died so you could eat. A beautiful, living, brown-eyed, blinking cow died for your hamburger. Maybe if we all kept things like that in mind, the world would be a little better.

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