Green chile cream cheese dip

I remember making many many Mexican meals as a kid with my sister, likely because such a meal has so many kid-can-do components before you even get to the eating part.

This dip was an unquestioned part of the meal. Right along with the tomato salsa and the guacamole. Not until 10 minutes ago did I realize I’ve never seen this at any Mexican restaurant, which could explain why I can’t think of what it might properly be called. Hope my mom can help.

For now, never mind the name. Teach your kids how to make it. It’s easy. It’s addictive. It’s great with your favorite vegetables and crackers. Works well as a spread, too, say, in a pita bread with sprouts and everything else you could stuff in there. Or on a flat tortilla, which is then rolled up and sliced like a jelly roll.


1) On a random evening when you have about 10 minutes, mix together the following:

  • 1 package (about 200 g) cream cheese, room temperature [cottage cheese, sour cream and creme fraiche could all be substituted or mixed and matched]
  • 1 can (about 100 g) green chiles, diced

2) Put this mixture in a small bowl, cover and chill.

3) Chop up a happy plate full of fresh vegetables, particularly the crisp crunchy kind good for dipping. Think cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, jicama, celery, sugar peas, etc. You’ll want them chopped a bit chunky (chunkily?), because this isn’t a soupy dip. Put them to chill, too. You can do this before you go to bed or save it for the next day, because the dip needs to come to room temperature just before serving – while it’s busy doing that, chop your vegetables.

4) Arrange the vegetables – or not – and dig in.


A quick google search turned up slightly more complicated versions, using more ingredients; start off simple, I suggest, and work your way around your taste buds’ preferences.


Dance and sing in the rain

The weather forecast calls for several days of rain during the next week. Yippee, I thought, because I have a bazillion things to do, and I might get them done if it’s too wet to go outside.

Which is precisely the wrong thinking, according to my new favorite Idea Person Nancy Blakey. Go outside! Take a walk with your little one when it’s raining. Talk about how the world around you looks while it’s raining. Dance in the rain. Sing in the rain. Youtube the clip I know you’re humming right now.

Or, for a stunning twist, skip about 30 seconds in and try to re-enact this one (super kid-friendly):

Experience different types of rain, such as drizzles, mists, and the great gushing downpours. Be careful during thunderstorms, of course.* But do by all means go outside if you can, and heartily encourage others in your neighborhood to join you.

While she doesn’t quite spell it out, I’m guessing – hoping, really – that Nancy Blakey urges leaving the umbrella and other rain attire at home sometimes. Wear your best these-can-get-soaked clothes, because you know what you have to do: show your little one how to properly splash in a large puddle. Practice a few times first if you must, it’s okay.

*UPDATE: Several gentle readers pointed out that I’d muddled the counting and thunderstorm stuff in my post the other day. Yes, yes, indeed I did. It should have gone something like this:

1) See lightning, start counting.

2) Stop when you hear the thunder.

3) Each second counted is approximately one mile, and that is how far away the lightning is.

If your child has trouble grasping concepts such seconds and miles, change the distances to categories that are more manageable. A great time to do this is with your child when there is no storm in sight.

I’m convinced. I’ll meet you outside next time it rains.

Thunderstorm goes big boom

How do you calm your little ones during a thunderstorm? Counting helps. Singing helps.

As a kid, I regularly scooted into my parents’ bed and together we counted “21, 22, 23, 24…”, which, when you count in Dutch, has the same number of syllables as “1-1000, 2-1000, 3-1000, 4-1000….”, all of which had something to do with how far away the storm was. Last night during a really bad storm, I was right back into counting, using my own rough distance categories of Moving Closer, Entirely Too Close, Moving Away, and Much Much Better.

I don’t seem to dislike loud noises anymore (I also covered my ears at the powwows and 4th of July fireworks shows). I want to brag and say it’s because I’m a big girl now, but perhaps closer to the truth is that I just don’t hear as well. Loud music at clubs and concerts and a penchant for turning up the volume in my headphones … and singing along significantly off-key… have reduced many thunderstorms to things that go bumpety-bump in the night.

Yeah, count and sing that storm away.

How do you spell___?

Note about this post: It’s not bite-sized. It’s not food related. It’s not craft related. Arguably it doesn’t belong here, but I don’t know where else to put it right now. Just so you know.

Nearly all my elementary school students are writing now. Some are just at their first words, adding a word or two to a sentence, while others are writing short paragraphs. Nearly all of them know how to say, “How do you spell ___?”, and they will ask me to spell every unfamiliar word – which is practically everything they want to write.

Today I stopped spelling words for them.

That is, I only spelled words if they were relevant to the lesson. Most other words I let go.

I realized the students weren’t really learning or remembering how to spell, and yet their workbooks were full of almost perfectly spelled words. I also realize I can’t justify that letting them loose to spell however they think is really going to improve their spelling. I did, however, see from their various writings today just how words are formulating in their heads, and the next task is to figure out what to do about that.

I thought – and still think – that spelling words is useful for my Japanese students not just for letter recognition practice but to help them somewhat understand the concept of individual letters, which doesn’t really exist in Japanese. In the past, I’ve had students make their own flashcards with pictures to help them remember new words. In smaller classes with only one or two students, I’ve had them keep a notebook of words, and I used their lists of words as springboards for other activities. For one reason or another, though, these ideas didn’t work well. As another suggestion, some textbooks recommend writing a word on the board for all to see, not just the student who wants/needs the word. This rarely works for me, although if more than one student wants the same word, I will have the first student spell it for the others.

Let me keep flailing my arms for a minute more, because I’m still thinking aloud and hoping this will make sense.

Perfectionist though I tend to be, I’m also a huge fan of whatever school of thought advocates making mistakes but worrying about them later if everything else is ok. By “ok”, I mean that the meaning is otherwise understood. Ideally, the students would work now on being comfortable with writing – just writing – and, as I started to notice patterns in their writings, I could work on those with the class as a whole.

I suspect the parents would not be entirely in favor of this approach. It’s just that I’ve noticed something isn’t working, and I’d like to try something different.

Hm. Comments?

Happiest mirror on the wall … or floor

I’m hot and tired, and if I don’t get me to sleep soon, I’m going to be grumpy tomorrow. I just looked at myself, gasped, and have decided I need to hold off on the fairest of them all question until much much later this week.

The next time you’re talking about happy/sad/angry/silly/scary, etc., stand with your little one in front of a mirror. Make a happy/sad/angry/silly/scary face together.

Take a picture of each emotion, upload them to your computer, and add labels. If you have the software, turn each emotion into a series of small stickers (well-stocked office supply or craft stores should carry the paper for this). For each day – or a few hours – your little one can pull off and stick on a calendar a sticker describing his emotions at the moment. Easier than all that: draw a simple face next to the date on the calendar. If you can, discuss the why of the emotion, and jot a brief note next to the face. Discuss what can make other people happy/sad/angry/silly, etc.

Play some (slow/fast/moderate) music and dance in front of the mirror. Discuss how you feel before, during and after.

Hold up a small handheld mirror to a larger mirror. Look in one mirror and discuss what you see. If that’s a challenge for your little one to comprehend, go to a clothing store, find an item or two to try on in the dressing rooms, but instead, play with the multiple mirrors there. How many of you are there?

If you have a sturdy mirror, put it on the floor and let your little one carefully walk on it. If you can’t move the mirror to the floor, move your child to the mirror and help her walk up the mirror. Be careful that she doesn’t kick the mirror, and stay alert afterwards in case you need to remind her that no, she can’t really walk like Spiderman can. I know. That’s rough news to bear at any age.

Bedtime. Yawn.

Pizza pizza pizza Part 3

Ways To Get/Make Pizza- Mostly At Home

a) Call or walk over to your favorite pizza delivery place and bring the pie home. If you’re up for feeling giddy, order a combo you’ve never tried before.

b) Same as a) above, but ask for a nearly plain pizza, say, tomato or basil or no sauce, and cheese, if you eat that. Once home, have the kids plunk their favorite lightly grilled or steamed veggies and/or fruit (pineapple and apple work really well with many veggie combos) on the pizza. Reheat if necessary.

c) If you have a little more time, assemble the pizza mostly from scratch. Many supermarkets sell pizza crusts, and, since you’re already there, have the kids help you pick the toppings. Little ones love to go off in search of ingredients, and they’re learning a bazillion things with just the command “Find three tomatoes.” Do stay near them, lest they also learn what happens when they pick the three tomatoes from the bottom of the pile.

Note: If the kids are picking healthy toppings, but they are combinations that make your stomach queasy, loudly praise the healthy aspect and encourage them to be creative. Then quietly slip back to the pizza crusts so you can make a tamer version for yourself. I do think you’ll have more fun, though, if you let them run most of the show with occasional guidance from you. Take a moment to recall how often you deliberately grossed out your own caretakers…then dig in with greater gusto than you thought possible.  They’ll love you for it.

Another note: As with this and many of the pizza options, some people like to lightly grill their veggies before assembling the pizza. I’ve never done this, only because it’s one step I’m always willing to skip in favor of eating sooner, and I figure the whole thing will get hot anyway in the oven. Do as you please.

d) This one works well with little ones and others with fist-sized appetites. Great for a quick afternoon snack, too, if you limit yourself to one muffin. Take an English muffin, slice it in half and lightly toast the halves. Add a spoonful or two of your favorite sauce, just enough to cover the muffin, and the toppings you can carefully fit on it. No need to add too many toppings, as you don’t want the concoction to be too difficult to eat. Add cheese if desired. Bake for about 10 minutes in a toaster oven, let cool, then eat.

e) Go to your favorite pizzeria. This is how it must have started with me. Way way back when we lived in Idaho, we always celebrated my birthday at a Shakey’s that also played old silent black and white movies.

f) Another take on the “mostly from scratch” pizza: pizza mixes. We used to get Chef Boyardee mixes that had a basic flour dough mix (add water and oil, I think), a tiny can of tomato sauce, and something resembling parmesan cheese. I did many birthday parties this way. I haven’t seen the mixes in years, but I just discovered they’re available from the good people at (ooh a site for the Maestro), who ship internationally.
Fantastic activity for kids of all ages.

g) Bread machine pizza crust makers, anyone? Or just making the crust by hand from scratch? That’s for making the crust the way you want it. Then proceed with any version of the above options for adding toppings. The great thing about this version is that you’ll most likely have more dough than you need for your meal. Take what you need for the current meal, divide the rest of the dough in equal amounts, wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them. Right there you’ve saved yourself at least half an hour or so the next time a pizza craving kicks in.

h) Finally, when your tummies are full, curl up with Pete’s A Pizza by William Steig (yes, the Shrek guy), which he apparently wrote when he was 90 oh my. You’ll want to read that over and over again.

Ok, that’s all I can think of. There must be more. Ooh, calzones. Not now.

Happy eating.

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