Pudding It Together (apologies to Sondheim)

Happy New Year! My first resolution of 2012 is to blog more often. Back when I wrote a monthly parenting column for Sesame Workshop, I had a great excuse to capture all the amusing and precious details of my children’s lives, and my often humorous struggles as a parent. While an archive of these columns lives on elsewhere on this website, it’s time for some fresh material. I decided to share a fun story about making rice pudding with my daughter Olivia, now 7.

Yesterday, on the last day of vacation before she and Finian return to school, Olivia said she wanted to “do an experiment.” My wife and I know that this is code for “turning the kitchen into a tornado of ingredients.” Getting Olivia to try an actual recipe is sometimes tricky. She’d much rather mix random stuff from our cabinets and see what happens. I love the freeform cooking approach, but I want her to see that she’s capable of making some of her favorite dishes.

A few months ago, at a local diner, Olivia discovered that she LOVED rice pudding. So that seemed  worth a shot. I consulted a few recipes online, rejected one by Alton Brown (looked delicious, but required some esoteric ingredients, such as caradamom), and settled on one by the inimitable Ina Garten a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa a.k.a. the one who makes her husband Jeffrey melt at the mere mention of roast chicken. But I digress.. Here’s the recipe we used (minus the rum, which didn’t seem appropriate for Olivia)

She got a big kick measuring the rice, running her hands through the grains (“You washed them, right honey?”), and pour the whole quart of half-and-half into the measuring cup. I even threw in a little science prediction: “Do you think the measuring cup with overflow?” When it was gone, Olivia proudly sprinkled cinnamon on each dish and served it to our family. It was DELICIOUS! (And I just realized there are leftovers in the fridge, and I’m the only one home… Hmm.. the possibilities are endless.

I’d love to hear any great  stories you’d like to share about cooking with kids.

Have a wonderful 2012. I’ll write again soon. Promise!

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Ewww! Yaay! A New Bug Book for “Micro Maniacs”

After a long, hard winter, spring is finally in the air. And, if you live in Japan, so are swarms of Asian giant hornets! These lovely insects have a wingspan as large as three inches, and pack a super painful sting. One entomologist in Tokyo described the feeling of being stung by one of these guys as having a hot nail driven into his leg. These hellacious hornets are nicknamed “Yak-killer” in Asia because of their deadly neurotoxin.

But forgive my manners — you want a peek at this insect? — Here you go:

I learned about this interesting bug, and many more, while listening to an interview on NPR with Amy Stewart about her fascinating new book WICKED BUGS. The subtitle is pretty great, too: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects.

Ever since I wrote my kids science book MICRO MANIA, I’ve been stunned by the dazzling variety and quantity of creepy crawly critters in the world. (During the NPR interview, Amy Stewart shares this stunner: If all the insects in the world today were divided evenly among the human population, each of us would get about 200 million of ’em.) I can’t wait to read WICKED BUGS to learn more about such bizarre and icky creatures such as bat bugs. During mating, male bat bugs have an cruel behavior –rather than looking for a specific body part to inject their sperm into the female’s body, they stab her abdomen repeatedly, in order to deposit their sperm into her bloodstream. Almost makes those pesky bedbugs seem charming…

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Create a New Year’s Time Capsule

Happy New Year!!!

Yes, I know that it’s technically still 2010, but we’re close enough to start thinking about how to celebrate. If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, you might be wondering about how to make this holiday meaningful and fun to children. I recently came up with one idea I’m going to try with Finian and Olivia (now ages 9 and 6): Create a New Year’s Time Capsule. In fact, I just wrote about this for my latest (and very last) Sesame Family Newsletter, published by Sesame Workshop.

Since 2003, I’ve shared my parenting adventures online via Sesame Workshop. (If you’re curious to browse my past columns, you can visit my archive of Sesame Workshop Columns (2003-2010).

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Celebrating Chanukah…Even If You’re Not Jewish

One of the best parts about Chanukah (besides the fact that it gives me an excuse to sing Tom Lehrer’s great song I’m Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica) is reliving happy memories of celebrating this holiday as a child.

No, that’s not a photo of me and my family. But this scene from a Sesame Street episode is here because I just wrote another edition of the Sesame Family Newsletter which was published online a few days ago. The topic is “Celebrating Chanukah…Even If You’re Not Jewish”

Wishing you all a wonderful December!


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Avoiding Parenting Mistakes…Ha!

Happy December! And Happy Chanukkah to those out there who celebrate this holiday!

As many of you know, since 2003, I’ve been writing a monthly parenting column for Sesame Workshop. The latest one was recently published and thought you’d enjoy it. The topic, about which I consider myself one of the foremost authorities, is PARENTING MISTAKES. Hope you find it entertaining and reassuring. I’d love to hear your reactions, especially any stories you care to share. (You can start your embarrassing story by saying, “A friend of mine …” and I promise to be totally fooled.)

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Ahhh!!! Invasion of the Bedbugs!

Are you a Micro Maniac? (definition: “someone inspired by my recent book MICRO MANIA to learn more about the many fascinating and gross creatures that share our planet). If so, you’ll be glad to hear that the “Dean of Children’s Science Writers” (New York Times) Seymour Simon just asked me to write a guest blog for his website. The topic? BEDBUGS! If you’re itchin’ to read it, here it is!

(And if THAT didn’t gross you out about bedbugs — then perhaps this short video by National Geographic will.)

And while you probably wish that all bedbugs were deadbugs — keep in mind that if ALL teeny-tiny creatures on Earth were to instantly vanish, our planet’s ecological health would probably go into a tail spin. Make no mistake: It’s a small world, after all.

Hope you all had a great Halloween. Curious to see my last-minute makeshift costume? I went as the would-be Batman villain BUG-FACE BROWN.

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The Fun Side of Fatherhood

Hey, it officially summer! I hope all the fathers out there had a terrific Father’s Day. I know I did. Despite my daughter being hit with a wave of nausea at 4 AM (read: “projectile vomiting”), the day actually turned out quite well.

My kids, Finian and Olivia, gave me some sweet, heartfelt cards they had created in school, including one of Olivia’s footprint with a little poem about how I should walk slowly, so she can follow in my footsteps (awww…)

And my family gave me a generous gift to push me in new culinary directions. While I’m pretty sure I never uttered the phrases “barbeque smoker” and “I’d really love a” in the same sentence, this gift was surprisingly fun – and the resulting ribs and chicken were bursting with flavor. The best part was assembling it with Finian, who LIVES for figuring out how things work. Speaking of Father’s Day, you might enjoy my latest parenting column for Sesame Workshop (see PDF below). Would love to hear your thoughts and reactions — feel free to post them below.


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