The UnGlam Fam

I now blog at www.constantcircus.wordpress.com!


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Blog Change!

Guys, I’ve changed blog names and will now be writing at http://constantcircus.wordpress.com/. Please change your bookmarks accordingly.

Please please please do not forget to check back or think that I’ve stopped writing because this page won’t be updated any more. All this content, and more, is awaiting you at my new home at the Constant Circus!

PS: I changed because a) This blog name doesn’t really describe me and the family because, really, we are glam (ha!), and b) I just really like that name much more. 🙂

So, come on over…


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Cereal Snack Bars Without Tears.

American parents of elementary school-aged children will know the play on words in the title — “Handwriting without tears” is the name of the workbook that kids use to hone their printing and cursive skills. These workbooks were designed by a teacher who had kids in her class that refused to write because they found the pencil hold too cumbersome. Or something. So she devised these lined workbooks and suddenly the kids stopped weeping.

I wouldn’t exactly say I devised these snack bars, but they are so simple and versatile that there were definitely no tears involved in getting these together. They are inspired by a lot of recipes for “cereal snack bars” Mr. Google threw at me, but I didn’t copy any one recipe’s ingredients or measurements.

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I’ve heard that there are two types of cooks — those that go by the book, collect ingredients before they get down to the recipe, and those that loosely follow the basic constructs of food behaviour, fly by the seat of their pants in the kitchen. I started being the former but have gradually migrated to the other side. These cereal bars are the perfect example — I didn’t have peanut butter so I made some cashew butter of my own to substitute; figs for dates, puffed rice for crispy rice cereal. I had ingredients that were waiting to be used so I eyeballed the rest and ended up with super-easy, beginner no-bake snack bars packed with taste and nutrition. I’m going to provide approximations of amounts that I used, but these seem pretty no-fail, so if you try them, just go with your tastes and you should be fine.

Easy, No-bake Cereal Bars

Yield: About 20 bite-sized squares or 10 large bars

3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup plain puffed rice
1/4 cup honey bunches of oats (or any other slightly sweetened breakfast cereal)
1/4 cup cashew butter/paste (homemade or store-bought)
1/4 cup honey (I used buckwheat)
4-5 dried figlets (figlets are smaller than regular figs, and sweeter)
1/4 cup walnuts
handful almonds (whole or crushed, your choice)

  • Lightly toast oats and puffed rice in the oven. Transfer to a mixing bowl when cool. Add breakfast cereal. Set aside.

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  • Pulse walnuts, figlets and almonds in a blender until coarsely ground. Add to cereal mixture.
  • On a low flame mix honey and cashew paste and stir until it becomes a thick, pourable liquid.
  • Pour liquid into dry mix and lightly toss with a spatula to coat all dry ingredients.
  • Line a shallow baking dish with cling film or parchment paper and press down the bar mixture with hands into a uniform layer about 3/4inch thick.
  • Cover the surface of the dish with cling wrap and refrigerate for a few hours.

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  • Cut into bars when cold. Store in the fridge on parchment sheets to prevent sticking to each other.

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These bars are light, moist, lightly sweet and delicious! I just ate an oh-so-yummy square with my evening tea, and I can see how it’s such a convenient grab-and-go breakfast for those rushed mornings.

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Give them a try. They’re fun to make and brag-worthy. Just like you. 😉


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An Afghani Saga.

Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini is a storyteller. His latest novel makes ordinary stories rise above their monotony and become something true; they own themselves when heard through various people, different perspectives.

The book tracks the lives of Pari and Abdullah through a heartbreaking childhood in 1950s Afghanistan, torn from each other to lead bifurcating existences on different continents. We finally see them reunited at the end of the book, after having been led into the lives of para-relatives and friends and their own individual stories. The strength of the book lies in its lyrical prose interspersed with Afghani folklore. We see Afghanistan as it once was, war-free and open and liberal. We also encounter the Taliban, albeit fleetingly.

A common thread of unshaken guilt, unexpressed remorse and unadorned truth of feelings weaves through the entire novel. The twin feelings of guilt and shame that I reckon all of us expats feel when visiting our origin countries struck home. This emotion is most often expressed as apathy — Hosseini is not afraid to confront it head-on. The perspectives of women aren’t tacky either.

The best part for me, however, was the Afghani folk story the novel begins with. Such poignancy is seldom encountered in a story retold. I read it aloud to V today, on a grey afternoon that begs for a good story to be told snuggled in a warm blanket. We both got a bit teary-eyed, him with the story, me with the idea of our days of such intimacy being short-lived.

The library lent it on a non-renewable, 14-day loan. I’m done in a sporadic-reading 3. It’s that good.


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We are Flint Hill School.

Hi. My name is Puja, and my kid goes to a private school.

I’m not sure if this is an emotion shared by others, but whenever there is a discussion about schools with other parents, I’m extremely reluctant, almost ashamed, to admit that my kids attend private school. Living in a county whose public education system is nationally recognized as one of the best, I feel like people will judge or draw inaccurate conclusions about me or my lifestyle.

The truth is that when we moved here we didn’t know where we were going to end up living and, as the school year was already underway, we got V enrolled in a private school in an area we were interested in. I could’ve transferred him to our local school later but he’d already started to settle into Flint Hill and so we let him be. Gradually we’ve all come to adore the community feeling of the school, the personalized attention, and the friends we’ve made (him and I both) at FHS. It might not be the most academically enriching school in the area, but if your kid whines on the weekend about not being able to go to school you’ve got to believe something is right.

Last week our class representative hosted a parent dinner at her lovely house for all second-grade parents. We were requested to bring appies and dessert for sharing while she provided the mains. Guess what my contribution was? 🙂

FH Husky PawThe Husky Paw is an official symbol of the school. Our kids take pride in being called the “Flint Hill Huskies” and recitation of the Husky Promise at home usually helps in reminding V to look at a disappointing situation anew.

The Blue Flames are the official logo, while the Husky banner is waved at important school events.

 

 

 

 

Every so often, V likes to take out the school year book to look at the pictures of older kids and alumni, fantasizing about himself at age 12 or 16 or whatever, which sometimes leads into a discussion about adulthood and family and such. Last year’s book was signed by his first-grade classmates in their kiddie scrawl, some of whom aren’t in this school any more, but who he still remembers and talks about.

I had much fun decorating these cookies; the look on V’s face when he saw the plate was all the compliments I could ever ask for these.


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The difficulty of a Difficult Kid.

As far as labels go, V could possibly be classified as a “difficult kid”. The problem with labels is that no one can really compare my difficult with another person’s. I could have the most laid-back, logical, un-insane kid, but if I choose to call him difficult there’s no way to dispute me. There’s a lot of hoo-ha about labeling kids and how it messes with their self esteem — indeed their life! — but this seems to be the problem only with perceived negative labels. After all, I haven’t heard of anybody calling the CPS over labeling someone a fantastic child or a talented little person, and so on.

V knows that he’s picky. He agrees that he has a quick temper that turns him into a mean person. He sometimes even tells me that he realizes when he’s being illogical and argumentative but can’t seem to stop doing it. We are constantly working on that. We have both come to realize his triggers and most times when he’s unable to react to situations in a non-disruptive way, I have learned to diffuse them in various ways.

Yesterday, though, I couldn’t. I yelled at him like I haven’t in a while. I grabbed him by his shoulders too hard. I shoved him. I punched the bed a few times right in front of him because I couldn’t punch him. I got so mad I almost cried. I’d totally lost it. And the worst part was I knew in my mind all along that it wasn’t a behaviour I wanted him to emulate. I was being the exact same person that I wanted him NOT to be. That I’d worked with him all this time for him to be able to control this exact impulse that I could not control in myself. I. just. could. not. stop.

I was where he is so many times a week or month, and even I couldn’t stop myself. He’s 7, and I’m, well, older. I should know better. And I did. But I couldn’t  stop anyway.

If someone called me a difficult person, I could live with it. I could bear it knowing that someone still loves me even if they and I both know I’m difficult. And that’s my lesson from yesterday: V is my difficult kid, but he will be okay as long as he knows I’m always in his corner. My job is not to protect him from what everybody thinks of him — his own behaviour will influence that. My job is to be there for him, labels and all.

PS: I did go and apologize to him before he fell asleep (this all happened at bedtime), but I felt rotten for a long time after. Hopefully the scars will be all mine.


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Spicy Raspberry-Apple Chutney

Another food post! What’s going on with me?! I do find though that even when I’m too overwhelmed to write about anything else, food always seems to come to the rescue.

Unlike blueberries, I’m not a raspberry fan. Yes, their colour is pretty, and yes, raspberry jam isn’t the worst thing on toast, but the fruit itself doesn’t excite me at all. I don’t know, but the only kind of raspberries I’ve experienced have been squishy and soggy and begging for some blue growth on them. So when I found myself with a pint box of them from the grocery chain store, I could think of no better use for them than in some sort of chutney. Googling recipes didn’t find me anything simple (my pantry staples don’t include fancy cider vinegars or pine nuts), so I improvised my own. I have to say, I may not be ready to compete on Chopped yet, but I quite fancy my own ingenuity on some days! 🙂

ImageYou’ll need:

1 tbsp minced shallots (white onion, or use vidalia if you like)
1 pint fresh (ha!) raspberries
1/2 apple, peeled, cored and diced (whichever kind you like; I used red delish)
1 tsp minced jalapeno (optionally, deseeded)
1 tbsp brown sugar
a pinch salt

On medium heat, saute onion in a bit of oil until translucent. Add everything else and simmer on low until mixture thickens, about 10 mins.

ImageTake mixture off heat and blend with a hand blender into a somewhat smooth but chunky chutney. Serve warm with hot roti or cold on toast. It’s a winner either way.

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Checkerboard cookies!

I recently bought the cutest cookie cutters at Williams Sonoma, beach themed, and have been dying to use them. What better occasion than our nephew’s upcoming birthday? So today I started prep by making two batches of cookie dough, one white one chocolate. While they were sitting chilling in the fridge, I remembered how much my own kids love the checkerboard cookies that I buy at Whole Foods sometimes. Only I don’t buy them very often since they are about $8.99/lb. Pretty steep for some sugar dough, don’t you think? Well, I do, but I buy them anyway for an after-school surprise treat.

Anyway, while the building blocks were sitting there I figured why not try a possible blunder? I had nothing to lose except for the time that I’d already lost.

A couple of YouTube videos later, this is what I had:

The white dough is a vanilla-lemon flavor, and the chocolate is just pure decadence. They baked without spreading. The cookies are a trifle under-sweet since their original avatar was supposed to be frosted, but they are a perfect teatime snack. They used quite a bit of butter, as butter cookies are wont to, so I wouldn’t make a habit of it, but for an occasional splurge, they’re fantastic.

And so pretty to boot! Lesson of the day: Whims sometimes do pay off.