Fruit that Tastes like Candy

Lychee fruit has been one of my favorite treats since I was a young child. My family lived in Taiwan when I was 2 years old and I remember watching my dad peel and eat these delicious fruits. We honored this tradition at our wedding when we had our caterer custom make lychee sorbet for our guests. I was thrilled when I saw that our local Trader Joe’s sold these fresh (you can often find them canned). If you aren’t familiar with these strange-looking fruits, you will be surprised when you peel off the rough shell and find a juicy, sweet fruit inside. Some of my friends’ kids tried it for the first time this week and they are hooked! It tastes like candy!

Speaking of candy, at the same Trader Joe’s (can you tell I love this store), they were handing out samples of “Cotton Candy grapes.” I was dubious, but they actually taste like cotton candy! Supposedly they are totally natural (and organic) and the flavor was created with some hybrid grape breeding. I had my husband try one (without telling him what they were) and he could identify the flavor. These are just a couple of refreshingly sweet fruits you can try that your kids might enjoy on these hot summer days!

Our Current Favorite Show

My friend Hilary told me about the show MasterChef Junior over a year ago. She said that her kids loved watching it and that the show was pretty entertaining. We finally got a chance to watch the shows (available on Hulu) and this was a parenting milestone moment for me: Theo and I basically binge-watched the entire first season and we both had a blast. Nothing like sharing the anticipation of “okay, just one more episode…” with your child.

I had never watched the adult version of MasterChef, but from what I understand, the celebrity chef judges (including Gordon Ramsay) can be pretty tough. They are much less harsh on the kid version of the show which means no bad language and no abusive behavior. Also, it is genuinely impressive what the kid contestants on the show can do. They are aged 8-13 and are cooking at a level beyond many adults — like truly talented kids here, not just making “kid food” or easy dishes.

The current season (Season 2) is airing on FOX right now and the episodes become available on Hulu about a day after they air. Check it out and see if you and your kids love it as much as we do. My hope is that my super picky eater will become inspired by the wide variety of foods shown and maybe become more adventurous in trying new things (so far it hasn’t happened yet!).

Halloween Candy Removal Technique

Doesn’t the title of this post sound like the most curmudgeonly thing ever? I’m not a Halloween Grinch, but I always feel like the trick-or-treating haul is way more than any one child (or family) can eat. A few years ago, a “kill-two-birds-with-one-stone” idea came to me and we’ve been using it ever since.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast around the time of Halloween. We have a lot of friends and family who live in those areas so it was a frequent topic of conversation in our house. In his post-trick-or-treating candy-sorting bliss, I told Theo that he could separate out which candies he absolutely loved and keep those favorites, and then make a separate pile of “giveaway” candy. Then, for every piece he gave away, we would match his donation with $1 towards the Red Cross to help the people affected by Sandy. He ended up donating $61 and we made the donation in his name online.

I feel like this kind of exercise demonstrates to children the act of philanthropy in a nutshell: you give up something of worth to you and that sacrifice benefits others who are receiving your good intention. I find that money is sometimes a really abstract concept to kids and this way the candy is a tangible symbol of that.

That year we just gave my husband the haul of giveaway candy and he brought it to his office (just wanted to get it out of the house!) but I have since learned of this program that dentist offices can participate in: Halloween Candy Buy Back. You can enter your zip code and it will tell you which offices are accepting candy donations, which they will then send to an organization that organizes and sends it to military personnel to enjoy. So now it’s a win-win-win scenario!

Have a very Happy and Safe Halloween!!!

Theo’s 6th Birthday Party

photo-2

Theo’s 6th birthday party theme was pretty much based on a pun. The movie Frozen was super popular and we held the party at a frozen yogurt shop. Instead of focusing on the princesses, it was an Olaf-themed Frozen party. Especially because it was held in the summer and Olaf loved the summer. It had a lot of layers.

IMG_4133

The frozen yogurt shop had a private party room which was spacious and handy. But since this was a self-hosted party (except for the location) I had to come up with activities and games for the kids on my own. When the guests first arrived, they all got to go through the frozen yogurt line and get their own treats (with unlimited toppings). Nothing like pumping kids full of sugar first thing.

The activities were found online and included: Dress up as Olaf (using toilet paper and a few key accessories made beforehand), create your own Olaf using marshmallows and other supplies, icicle painting (salt water on black paper), and of course, watching the movie Frozen on the big screen conveniently included in the party room.

IMG_4147

The cake was back to good ol’ Costco again, decorated with my specifications, and with the addition of a printed fondant cake topper that I ordered.

IMG_4123

The favors were icicle-shaped rock sugar candy lollipops. This was not a party that emphasized healthy treats. The frozen yogurt shop also gave out little drawstring backpacks so the kids could take all of their crafts home.

IMG_4111

I was glad to be able to find so many Olaf-related items when browsing online for Frozen-themed party accessories. I was grateful for all of the (excessive?) merchandise available.

Free Monthly Activities

Did you know that you could fill all of your Saturdays every month with FREE activities for kids? There are lots of ways to keep busy and have fun all without paying one penny!

Here are some ideas:

1st Saturday of the Month — “Books 2 Movies,” Park City Library

On the first Saturday of every month, the Park City Library (1255 Park Avenue, near Main Street) shows free screenings of kids movies that have been adapted from books. We went to see “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (a Roald Dahl book) a couple months ago.

2nd Saturday of the Month — “Family Art Saturdays,” Utah Museum of Contemporary Art or UMOCA

The UMOCA downtown (previously known to me as the Salt Lake Art Center, where I used to volunteer in high school) has Family Art Saturdays on every 2nd Saturday of the month from 2-4pm. We went last month and did a stamping/sticker-making project and toured the exhibitions.

Theo placing a wish on Yoko Ono’s WISH TREE.
Placing stickers all over the museum, as part of Family Art Saturday.

3rd Saturday of the month — “Third Saturdays,” Utah Museum of Fine Art

I’ve written about the UMFA on here a couple times before but wanted to mention again that every 3rd Saturday of the month from 1-4pm they have free admission and kids crafts, that coincide with a current exhibition.

Ongoing Saturdays of the month

I’ve previously written on here about the¬†kids cooking classes¬†available at Williams-Sonoma, which run weekly on Saturday mornings.

Also check the Utah Film Center’s schedule for their year-round Tumbleweeds screenings around the state which are always free.

Sweet Treats

We could smell the (pumped in?) scent of chocolate from here.

The Natural History Museum of Utah is a favorite and we have been charter members since they first opened a few years ago. We were very excited to see a new exhibit at the museum, which will be here until June 1, 2014.

For a $1 fee, you can learn about the development of chocolate from cacao to candy bar.

The exhibition originated at the Field Museum in Chicago, which is the natural history museum I grew up going to, so I felt a sense of nostalgia sharing something with Theo from my own youth, as tenuous of a connection as it may seem. We learned all about how the chocolate we eat first comes from the cacao plant seeds and the history of cultivation and trade around the world. Chocolate was first served spicy before sugar was introduced and it became a sweet treat!

Theo and his friend pose in front of the giant chocolate box backdrop.

The exhibition does not have an extra charge on top of regular museum admission prices, but there is a special chocolate sampling presentation for $1 per person with timed entry. We thought it was worth it for the little taste of chocolate at the end after you have been thinking and smelling and craving chocolate throughout the exhibit.

***

One of the co-sponsors of the exhibition is the Sweet Candy Company, which is a local company based here in Salt Lake City. They used to offer public tours of their factory but recently suspended them and are developing a new visitor’s center. We went on a tour in 2011 and had a great time, and look forward to learning about what they will be offering soon.

Theo, age 2, with his post-tour treat.
Moms and Toddlers ready for the tour with their mandatory hairnets.

Cooking Lessons for Chef Theo

The store doesn’t open to the public until 10am so the class is private until regular store opening hours.

For Theo’s last birthday, we threw a cooking themed party where the kids made treats (ice cream and gummies) and everyone had a blast. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that our local Williams-Sonoma store offered free cooking classes for kids. I had been to their adult cooking class before and learned a lot about Italian pastas and sauces (incidentally, one of the most genius kid food recipes I’ve ever heard was from this class: Cook up some rigatoni [wide tubes], cut string cheese into thin strips the length of the pasta, stuff the string cheese pieces into the pasta, cover with sauce and bake!).

The store still offers the adult classes, but they also started offering kids classes as well. The teacher of these classes is named Patsy and she started these here in Salt Lake City and the corporate office heard about it and started expanding to other areas!

A W-S teacher (not Patsy) showing Theo how to hand whip some whipped cream.

We went to the Baking 101 class yesterday and Theo learned how to grease and flour a baking dish, make whipped cream by hand, sift flour, and whip egg whites until they formed peaks. Spread throughout the class is the use of tools that are handily sold at the store, but there is no pressure to purchase anything. However, parents get a discount if they do decide to shop after the class!

Shaking flour around the bread loaf pan to prevent sticking.

Details for the class (at the Trolley Square location in Salt Lake City, ):

Dates: Saturdays from 9:30-10:30 am
Register: To hold a spot, call the store at 801-359-0459
Ages 4+
Cost: FREE

Here are the upcoming topics:

March 8 — All About Strawberries
March 15 — Chop & Slice It!
March 22 — Let’s Stir Fry!
March 29 — Easter Egg Decorating
April 5 — Lemonade Day
April 12 — Easter Cookie Decorating
April 26 — Making Fresh Pasta

Theo’s 5th Birthday Party

photo 5

Theo’s 5th birthday party was a cooking/science theme. It was held at The Leonardo museum in downtown Salt Lake City, which is a multidisciplinary museum of art, science, engineering, etc. The birthday party package was based around two activities: making ice cream and making gummy bears. The kids would do the hands-on “cooking” and get to eat their treats!

IMG_0665

For his birthday cake, I went with a local baker who was known for her fanciful and unique designs. I explained what the party theme was and she gave us some ideas. I ran those ideas past Theo and he was adamant that the cake incorporate a giant gummy bear. So thus, we ended up with the completely edible, rice crispy treat based huge red gummy bear, wearing a chef’s apron. Adorable!

photo 4

The kids worked really hard to make their ice cream and gummies. The ice cream involved shaking a bag of ice with salt around the ingredients for the ice cream. Most of the kids were getting tired/bored/hands got too cold so there was a lot of grown-up involvement.

IMG_0721

The party favors for this party is one of my all-time favorites. It was functional, personalized, and thematic. I bought child-sized white aprons online and my good friend embroidered each of them with her fancy embroidery machine. She was a saint and even did a last-minute apron the day before the party when we learned about a last-minute guest. It takes a village to throw a great birthday party!

Sweetest Tomatoes

Even before Theo was born, we would occasionally eat at Sweet Tomatoes, braving the hordes of families and noisy children for some semi-healthy buffet gorging. After Theo started eating solids, Sweet Tomatoes became our go-to kid-friendly place to eat.

The salad bar aspect was great to introduce Theo to different foods when he was a baby: banana squash, peas, corn. Which all gave way to mac ‘n cheese, pizza and soft-serve ice cream when he became a picky toddler. The restaurant layout forces you to choose from the salad bar first before you can be tempted by their other delicious hot foods.

A trick: they will charge you extra if you take a protein (grilled chicken, etc) to add to your salad. Skip the protein in the salad bar and get the yummy white breast meat from their chicken and noodle soup (minus the broth and noodles, of course) and add that for (free) protein.

Now, as a parent, being able to take your kid to a place where they can be messy and noisy and still get a decent meal is a huge win. Save Forage for a date night; take the kids to Sweet Tomatoes.

*Note: When I was organizing the Milk+Bookies book drive last year, I reached out to several local restaurants and stores to solicit food donations. Sweet Tomatoes was incredibly generous and gracious and gave us a huge amount of chocolate chip cookies and bottles of milk. Extra gold star.