Monday, November 23, 2015

Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree {And what to do with it}

If all you're doing with your pumpkins is carving them, you're doing yourself a disservice! Making your own pumpkin puree is super simple and saves you from using the BPA-lined cans of puree (for convenience sake while still staying safe, there are a few brands who make boxed puree, check out this one and this one).

We went to the pumpkin patch in October to pick out our pumpkins and came home with a variety of pumpkins and squashes. There is nothing wrong with buying your pumpkins from the grocery store or Walmart, I buy them from those places as well, but I always try to buy local when I can.

Plus, going to the pumpkin patch is a lot of fun! And there are cute photo ops!

Once you have your pumpkin, wash it really well and cut it in half, from the stem down. 

Scoop out all of the seeds and guts. Set the seeds aside to roast later. Cover each half of the pumpkin with foil and set on a cookie sheet, foil side up. Place the cookie sheet in an oven preheated to 325 degrees. Bake for about an hour, or until the flesh is tender and is easily pierced by a fork. Once the pumpkins cool, scoop out the pumpkin flesh (or just peel away the skin) and puree in a food processor.

Now you're all ready to make pumpkin goodness galore! Here are a few paleo pumpkin recipes to try with your fresh puree:
I tried to choose recipes with simple ingredients for anyone who is not on a paleo diet, but wants to try some of these recipes anyway. Besides coconut flour and almond flour, most of the ingredients for these recipes should be things you already buy or have stocked in your pantry!

Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe? The holidays are the perfect time to make both tried and true recipes and new ones that will wow your family and guests. Don't you agree? I hope you have a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be sexist

I have never really considered myself a leader. Yes, I have gone out for and won leadership roles at various times in my life, but I never felt a strong call to lead. The moment I became a mom, that changed. Now my days are full of leadership. A heavy burden, and one that I do not take lightly. My son is only two and at this point in his life he believes that the world is all about him (it's also sometimes about mama, daddy or papaw). It is up to me to lead by example, to show him that the world is also about others, about giving to others, about sharing with others, and taking the time to listen to and care for others.

Recently, I filled out a form for his school and one of the questions asked, "What are your hopes and dreams for your child?" I had left the task of filling out the form to the last minute and had to turn it back in that morning so I jotted down some generic things about wanting him to be healthy, successful, educated, a good citizen and a good father. I do want all of those things for him, I do. I want so much more for him than that though. I want him to be compassionate towards others, those that are downtrodden, left out in the cold, homeless, orphaned and in poverty. I want him to be passionate about his beliefs and to follow his heart without listening to the naysayers or those who would tear him down or doubt him. I want him to be generous, giving of his time, funds, and heart to those that he loves and even to those he may not even know. I want him to treat all people with the same regard, no matter their gender, skin color, sexual preference, religious affiliation, or anything else that society continuously tells us divides us. I want him to be exposed to, learn about and embrace other cultures. I hope that he will speak out against injustice.

This month, #NWARKCares is spotlighting women in politics and leadership. It occurred to me while reading about all the ways that we as women can work to improve the appalling statistics, no one mentions training up boys and men to advocate for women in these roles. There is plenty of talk about empowering girls to engage in leadership roles, but not one thing about making sure we are teaching boys that women belong in those leadership roles right alongside them, or even teaching them to think being subordinate to a women in leadership is normal. Now it is very possible that I missed those articles or was not looking in the right places, but I read many and out of those I would think there should have been at least one mention.

About those appalling statistics I mentioned before. Let's just talk about right here in my state. Did you know that even though women are half the population in the state of Arkansas, only 17 percent of the General Assembly in Arkansas is made up of women? Arkansas is one of 24 states that have never had a female governor. According to a 2012 Legislative Report, the poverty rate in Arkansas for female-headed families with children was 47 percent. Not surprisingly then, women continue to make less money than men in Arkansas. All of these statistics were gathered from, a non-partisan non-profit with a mission to empower women and girls to engage in politics, policy and leadership. I should note that they welcome men to join, as long as they share their belief that women should be better represented in politics, leadership and policy.

In a recent speech at Glamour's Woman of the Year awards, Reese Witherspoon spoke about women being underrepresented not only on screen but in every industry. She drew attention to the fact that ambitious women are stigmatized. “I want everybody to close their eyes and think of a really dirty word. Now open your eyes. Was any of your words ambition? I didn’t think so. Why do people have prejudiced opinions about women who accomplish things? Why is that perceived as a negative? In a study by Georgetown University in 2005, a group of professors asked candidates to evaluate male efficient versus female efficient in politicians. Respondents were less likely to vote for power-seeking women than power-seeking men. They even reported ambitious women as provoking feelings of disgust," she said. The rest of the speech is full of eyeopening and empowering antidotes like this. If you have the time to watch it, I highly recommend doing so.

So, how do we raise our boys to see ambitious women as women who need support, not derision? Where do we start?

-Start early. 
At the age my son is now he plays with trucks and dolls, his play kitchen and his train set. He loves helping with "chores" like washing dishes, sweeping and vacuuming. According to Lise Eliot, author of "Pink Brain, Blue Brain," parents are more likely to encourage girls to freely choose to play with whatever toys they like and to advocate for them to be whatever they want to be. They are not so likely to facilitate the same environment for boys, and are more likely to discourage them from playing with traditionally girl toys. Our own preconceived notions about gender shape what our children will come to believe. Instead of being encouraged to play with toys that teach nurturing, boys are left only with toys that teach strength, physical ability and aggression. It doesn't take long then for them to see what values are held in higher esteem.
-Teach them to value and understand the perspectives of others.
If boys are taught early to value the perspectives of others, including girls and women, they are more likely to continue to value their ideas, perspectives and plights into adulthood.

-Take every opportunity to teach about diversity and equality. 
See an ad on TV that objectifies women? Stop at the moment and talk to your son about that issue. It will resonate much more than if you just brought it up out of context.

-Talk to your sons about how women and men are portrayed in movies, TV shows and advertisements.
Reese Witherspoon, Geena Davis and others are working hard to change Hollywood, but the fact is that women are still mostly represented in stereotypical and supporting roles.

-Most importantly, lead by example in the home.
It is so vital that the values you want to instill are modeled at home. Division of household duties, how you and your partner speak to one another, and your actions showing that you value yourself and your partner will inform the your son's own personal beliefs.

Maybe all of this is a lot to put on my son's slight shoulders. Maybe it is a lot to put on the shoulders of parents. Maybe. But isn't it also a lot to put on our sons the burden of always being strong, never being able to express emotions, especially fear, sadness and hurt? Isn't it a lot to ask them to be the sole breadwinner in their families, and to take on the guilt that inevitably follows when they feel they are unsuccessful? Isn't it a lot to put on them the burden of being the ones who are supposed to fight? The thing is, these two years have flown by and I know that in a moment I will turn around and he will be 18. I absolutely must start thinking about this now and begin to teach him that women can and should lead.

Friday, November 13, 2015

{Friday Refresh} Fill Your Cup

When you are a mom (or a busy creative and/or professional or just a human being) it can be hard to find the time take care of yourself. Not only that, but sometimes it feels like an indulgence to do the things you need to do to make yourself feel more human. At least that's true for me. I feel guilty taking the time away from my family, writing, household tasks, etc. to do something simple that fills my cup like get haircut or read a book. Then, when it's something like going to get a massage, it can feel like an extravagance.  Taking care of ourselves is not a luxury though. It is essential.

Taking care of others, keeping a tidy home (or not so tidy), making sure there is healthy food to eat each day, working and giving back to the community--whether you do all of these things or just some of them--they take a toll. The things on the aforementioned list range from things that bring joy to things that are just dreaded tasks that must be done. Even the things that bring joy can be draining, and sometimes they take up more time and energy than anything else. I love being with my 2-year-old son and taking care of him is my greatest joy, however, I am learning that in order to do that to the best of my ability, I need to fill my cup as well.

Learning. That word is key. I think the last time I had a haircut was in March, and I'm pretty sure that all the books I've started to read this year are still sitting on the shelf waiting to be finished (that goes for some of the books I started to read last year, too). Since it's been so long I decided to start with the "extravagant." I took time out of my work day (one of the two days per week that Young Master Gray is cared for elsewhere) and had a massage this morning. And, oh, was it glorious! Apparently, it was much more necessary than I had imagined as this was the first time I'd ever had a massage therapist tell me that I should come back twice a month for regular massages. Clearly, she hasn't heard about how long it's been since I had a haircut! I am feeling pretty relaxed, albeit a little sore (if you want a true deep tissue massage, see Carole at Aleiptes Massage in Rogers). A nap just may be in the cards for this afternoon!

What do you do to fill your cup? How do you make sure that you take the time to do those things?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Imagine: A Child's Adventureworld {Giveaway}

This post was compensated by Imagine: A Child's Adventureworld. All thoughts are honest and my own. 

Imagine a place where you can take your child on a playdate and sit chatting with other moms while still being able to watch your children play. Now imagine that place as a bright, fun, engaging play space with predominantly wooden toys separated by half walls into areas that let their imaginations run wild--a veterinarian clinic, a fire station, a market, a cottage, a train depot and more. This is the dream that Orie and Amanda Quinn have made into reality at Imagine: A Child's Adventureworld in Fayetteville. Just as important as the things that they have included in the space are the things that they have left out of it, including screens, coin-operated games and to the best of their ability, germs. Rule number one when coming into Imagine is that everyone must wash their hands before any play begins. That, along with a strict sanitation policy goes a long way in easing my mind about taking my son into a place where toys are played with by many children throughout the day.

When the Quinns were unable to find the kind of play space that they wanted for their kids in the Fayetteville area they began to dream up plans for a theme park based on imaginative play. The themed areas in Imagine were modeled after the way the Quinns facilitated play for their own sons, Aiden, 5, and Spencer, 3, in their home. They would transform their spaces into themed areas to play and interact in, implementing various challenges and scavenger hunts within those themes. Once they scaled down their ideas to something that would work here in Northwest Arkansas, they brought in James and Brittany Flammer as partners. James was able to take their ideas and make them into reality by building out the space into the separate areas, and even building some of the playscapes, such as the train that captured my son's attention the moment we walked in.

You really have to see it yourself to appreciate all of the wonderful detail that was put into the play areas, from the walls painted by artist Jason Jones, to the toys chosen, to the woodwork, but here is a virtual tour of the space. 

Isn't it a fun space? This place is the the stuff of kids' dreams, well, at least for my kid. I love watching my son so engaged in play and really using his imagination and creativity. The separate areas help to capture a child's attention and keep them occupied with an activity for longer than if there were in a wide open space with lots of different options. If you've ever taken your child to play in an open concept play area, you may have noticed them jump from one activity to another to another without spending much time with any one activity.  It's exhausting to watch and overwhelming for the children. The first time we visited Imagine, my son spent all of his time in the first 3 play sections. Each time we have returned, he has discovered a new area to play in. I can definitely see his appreciation for some of the different toys/play areas growing as he grows up.

If you live in Northwest Arkansas and haven't already visited Imagine with your children, I highly recommend it! The other parents I chatted with seemed to really love the seating in the middle of the space that allows them to keep an eye on their kids while still enjoying the company of other adults. They also appreciate the idea of having everyone wash their hands first thing, especially now that we're entering cold and flu season.  

The Details:
  • Open Monday-Saturday from 9-5
  • Admission for adults: $4 flat fee
  • Admission for children 1-8: $4/hour with an hour minimum, then $1 for every 15 minutes thereafter. So if you play for and hour and a half, it would be $6. 
  • Monthly passes are $35 for one child and one adult
  • Yearly passes are $150 for one child and one adult
  • Located at 3801 Johnson Mill Blvd in Fayetteville
  • Kids and adults must remove their shoes before playing so make sure you bring socks!
  • Healthy snacks are available for purchase, and you can even buy the toys you find in the play center

Imagine also offer birthday party packages starting at $200. There is a separate birthday room, or you can reserve the entire space if you choose their after-hours package. You can view the different packages offered on their website.

Now for the really fun part, I'm giving away a one month pass to Imagine-A Child's Adventureworld! Open to readers in the Fayetteville, AR and surrounding areas only. Good luck!

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