Archive for July, 2010

Banana Whoopie Pies with Nutella Cream Cheese Filling

I think it’s official—whoopie pies are the new cupcakes. They’re everywhere! Bakerella featured them last week, there’s a new cookbook devoted to entirely whoopie pie recipes, and a quick Google search yielded more than 172,000 results. I used a couple of those to create Banana Whoopie Pies with Nutella Cream Cheese Filling for Tom’s birthday.

For the cake portion, I used a Martha Stewart recipe. This made bite-sized pies—I piped the mixture into 1.5 inch circles marked on parchment. I added a smidge more flour than the recipe called for to ensure they stood nice and tall.

The filling is a Nutella and cream cheese mixture, courtesy of Une-Deux Senses.

Ava Fix

Summer’s spoils

We’ve had a brutally hot summer—it seems the heat index is always soaring above 100 degrees, sometimes before 9 am. Fortunately, the tomatoes don’t seem to mind.

The backlash against overparenting

When Ava was a baby, I worried about EVERYTHING. I think my exhaustion as a new parent was due primarily to this stress—even more so than relatively sleepless nights.

I’m not completely reformed, but I do remind myself of two things quite regularly: People are generally good, and my children will be fine. This mantra of sorts puts my mind at ease, letting me focus on what is here and now.

I’m not terribly concerned that the girls probably watch a bit too much TV. I’m pretty darn sure they aren’t going to be kidnapped as they play in the back yard. I don’t drill Spanish flashcards at the dinner table. And, I figure that no matter what their preschool curriculum entails, they’ll probably still have the opportunity to rack up student loans in college.

There’s a catch 22, though, and that’s I sometimes worry that I don’t worry enough. Will my apparent lack of energy and effort on the parenting front will have negative consequences down the road?

Maybe not, at least according to the article “The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting” in Time. The story is long, but I think it’s worth a read if you have kids of any age. Here are a few excerpts that I found especially noteworthy (or at a minimum, self affirming).

Perhaps my kids really will be fine!

“…We were so obsessed with our kids’ success that parenting turned into a form of product development. Parents demanded that nursery schools offer Mandarin, since it’s never too soon to prepare for the competition of a global economy. High school teachers received irate text messages from parents protesting an exam grade before class was even over; college deans described freshmen as “crispies,” who arrived at college already burned out.

…We bought macrobiotic cupcakes and hypoallergenic socks, hired tutors to correct a 5-year-old’s “pencil-holding deficiency,” hooked up broadband connections in the treehouse but took down the swing set after the second skinned knee. But too many parents have the math all wrong. Refusing to vaccinate your children, as millions now threaten to do in the case of the swine flu, is statistically reckless; on the other hand, there are no reports of a child ever being poisoned by a stranger handing out tainted Halloween candy, and the odds of being kidnapped and killed by a stranger are about 1 in 1.5 million.

…Fear is a kind of parenting fungus: invisible, insidious, perfectly designed to decompose your peace of mind. Fear of physical danger is at least subject to rational argument; fear of failure is harder to hose down. What could be more natural than worrying that your child might be trampled by the great, scary, globally competitive world into which she will one day be launched? It is this fear that inspires parents to demand homework in preschool, produce the snazzy bilingual campaign video for the third-grader’s race for class rep, continue to provide the morning wake-up call long after he’s headed off to college.

…We can fuss and fret and shuttle and shelter, but in the end, what we do may not matter as much as we think. Freakonomics authors Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt analyzed a Department of Education study tracking the progress of kids through fifth grade and found that things like how much parents read to their kids, how much TV kids watch and whether Mom works make little difference. “Frequent museum visits would seem to be no more productive than trips to the grocery store,” they argued in USA Today. “By the time most parents pick up a book on parenting technique, it’s too late. Many of the things that matter most were decided long ago — what kind of education a parent got, what kind of spouse he wound up with and how long they waited to have children.”

If you embrace this rather humbling reality, it will be easier to follow the advice D.H. Lawrence offered back in 1918: “How to begin to educate a child. First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning.”

Light up the night

While we were at the cabin, I visited one of my favorite little shops in Sauk Centre. Sadly, it was for the last time—they family-owned store was going out of business. Everything was 30 percent off, and while I could have spent my last paycheck without much trouble, I settled on these lanterns.

I picked up eight small, glass lanterns in pink, yellow, orange and lime green. I also found four larger, plastic lanterns in the same colors, though Olivia managed to break one roughly 8.5 seconds after picking it up.

Nevertheless, the 11 lanterns, filled with a bit of sand and votive candles, looked gorgeous hanging in the ornamental pear tree off our deck at dusk. As an added bonus, I found an extremely efficient way to make Bryan nervous…

Olivia Fix


Well, I did walk, but it didn’t feel like a failure.

I left home at 5 am this morning, stopping along the way to pick up my friend Sarah. I soon discovered that I arrived at the park about 75 minutes earlier than necessary. But, we had a nice time talking to other race participants and checking out the staging areas for the duathalon. There were about 275 participants, and I lined up near the back of the group. By the time we were out of the park, I was tired and wishing I was back in bed.

I tried to focus on very short distance markers—even just thinking about the next power line pole, or in some cases of extreme desperation (or a seemingly mountainous hill), the next fence post. I lengthened my stride downhill, taking advantage of the easier segments to improve my time. I decided to walk just before the first mile and a half, and I gladly accepted two cups of water at the turnaround point. I would guess it was roughly 13 steps before I began to regret that.

I walked a couple more times on the uphill portions of the course on the way back, though I did try to keep my speed up as much as I could. However, most of my energy was spent trying extremely hard not to lose all that water. Come to find out, it would have been less traumatic to lose it on the course, than, oh, say 100 meters from the finish line…

As I ran down the last turn, I saw Sarah, and then promptly puked. SIX TIMES. The incredibly bored medics all jumped to my aid—I had to fend them off while trying to avoid my shoes and actually finish the race. Once that was out of my system, I felt like a million bucks.

I crossed the finish line at about 41 minutes, meaning I must have averaged just under five miles an hour. I may have some photos to post later tonight—the photographer seemed to think my behavior near the finish line was worth documenting.

Overall—and even despite not meeting my intended goal—I enjoyed the whole process very much. The group was friendly and collegial, and that alone made it a pretty great experience. So much so that I’m planning to sign up for two more 5Ks—July 24 and August 28. And, believe it or not, I’m looking forward to Monday’s run.

Training update

Last night, I ran the final workout in my Couch to 5K training program. It was an easy, 30 minute run on the treadmill—quite a difference from what awaits me tomorrow morning.

I made the mistake of doing a trial run on the actual 5K course last week. It went about as well as could be expected for a course nicknamed the “prairie punisher.” Between the hills and the heat, I struggled during the last half, walking quite a bit in order to finish. It took me more than 45 minutes, and was actually harder mentally than physically. And now, having that failure in my mind makes this Saturday that much more daunting.

But, I came home, rested a couple of days, then ran 3.2 miles on my treadmill. There were no hills—not even an incline—and no heat (in fact, I had a fan, and an air conditioned basement). But, in one respect, I’ve met the goal of the training program. It just won’t feel that way, though, unless I can run the entire distance tomorrow.

I picked up my race packet last night, and for the first time, I felt truly nervous. I stood next to actual athletes who intend to run a 5K, bike for 30K, and then run another 5K, just for fun. And here I am, agonizing over what’s basically a warm-up run. It was humbling and a bit demoralizing.

And therein lies the real problem.

I am realizing that while the training program prepared me from an endurance perspective, I still have a lot of work to do within my own head. I spent some time yesterday reading about the mental game behind running, and I found that some runners use mantras to push themselves. I don’t think I could memorize a quotation by Gandhi and use it effectively, but one “mantra” stood out to me:  “Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running…” a play on the “just keep swimming” line from Finding Nemo.  It’s no wonder that one appeals to me—go with what you know, I suppose.

I run at 7 am tomorrow. Here’s hoping…

Olivia Fix

“Why yes, I am standing on the deck stark naked. Why do you ask?”

Lakeside lillies

My mom has always said that flowers grow well—and are more colorful—in Minnesota because of the sandy soil. I think the neighbor’s lilies are a prefect example.