Current Favorite: Greek Yogurt & Guava Breakfast Bowl
As much as I love to eat, breakfast is kind of a struggle. Most mornings, I’m lucky if I can finish my coffee. But I’m trying to do better and I’ve been thinking of ways to make breakfast a bit more interesting. That’s why I love the idea of Breakfast Bowls. And this Greek Yogurt & Guava Breakfast Bowl has been my current favorite!
I’ve been obsessed with all things guava lately. And guava paste is making my obsession easier. I love making it into a syrup because I can use it in many different ways.
Related: Mango Peach Frozen Yogurt Pops
As a kid, I remember my mother buying guava paste. I’d watch her slice it up and eat with cheese and crackers. It never appealed to me as a kid. But these days, I’m all about it. It’s pretty much a staple.
Eventually the words came. And we prompted him to repeat many things. At bed time, I’d go through our ritual. Story. Kiss. I love you. And I’d wait. I’d wait for him to say the words every mother longs to hear. But I refused to prompt him to say, “I love you” back. I wanted him to say the words when he was ready and only when he absolutely meant them.
And now at night, I’ll read Norrin a story, kiss him goodnight and say I love you. Most night he says, “I love you, too.” Other nights he simply says, “Yes, I know.”
I’d be lying if I said “I love you” didn’t feel good to hear. But I don’t need to hear it from Norrin because I know that he loves me.
I know that he loves me when I walk in from work. He runs to the door to greet me with a smile on his face, his hands flapping with excitement.
I know that he loves me when he grabs my hand and asks me to read a story. Or when he simply sits beside me while I’m writing and rests his head on my shoulder.
I know that he loves me when he’s hurt or scared or sick and I’m the only one he seeks for comfort.
A Mother Understands What a Child Does Not Say - Jewish Proverb Click To Tweet
Some parents take “I love you” for granted. Some parents, wrapped up in their own chaotic day to day, ignore these declarations of love. Me? I cherish each and every time Norrin says it. And while the words are nice, they are not required. Because what I cherish even more is when he shows me he loves me.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with DiMe Media and TROPICAL cheese.
My love for Tropical cheese and tostones goes way back. I mean what’s not to love about Tropical Cheese Queso de Freir. Everyone loves cheese. And Queso de Freir fries to a crispy golden brown without breading or melting. What’s not to love about that? Not only is it one of my favorite go-to snacks, it’s one of Norrin’s too.
As for tostones, I could eat them every day – if they’re made right. I’m sort of a plantain snob. And nothing makes me sadder than going out for dinner, ordering tostones and they’re not up to my standards.
But as much as I love them, I’ve never made them. Something about frying food intimidates me. So when I want them, I either order them or buy them frozen (I know, I know – don’t judge me).
The other day, I was craving a grilled cheese sandwich. I hadn’t gone to the market and I was out of bread and out of cheese. Sometimes when I’m hungry, I start thinking about food and recipes and what I could make if only had this, that or the other thing.
During this food fantasy, I thought about the frozen tostones I had in the fridge. What if I used that as the bread and made the sandwich with tostones and queso de freir? Later that day, I went to the market and bought all the ingredients I needed to make my fantasy a reality.
It’s been a weekend favorite ever since. Especially during these chilly winter weekends when I want something comforting and filling. It’s warm, crispy, salty, gooey and just perfect alone by itself or with a bowl of soup.
I was telling a friend about my fear of frying plantains and she convinced me that I could do it.
So for the first time ever, I made my own. I was surprised by how naturally the process came to me. And it truly made all the difference in my Caribbean inspired grilled cheese.
My personal favorite way to enjoy Tostones with Tropical Cheese Queso de Freir is with a mayo-ketchup dipping sauce or a garlic-cilantro sauce.
Caribbean Inspired Grilled Cheese | Tostones with Tropical Cheese Queso de Freir (with 2 dipping sauces)
Tropical Cheese Queso de Freir – sliced into squares
2 green plantains
2 – 3 cups canola oil (or any frying oil you prefer)
pinch of salt
cooking spray (or butter)
Queso de Freir Directions:
Heat oil in skillet
Fry in hot oil until golden brown
Remove from oil and set aside
Peel and slice plantain
Keep slices in bowl of cold water to keep them browning
Fry plantain in hot oil until golden – about 5 to 7 minutes
Remove and drain on plate/colander lined with paper towels – allow them to cool slightly
Smash each plantain with a tostonero – or you can be like me and the bottom of a clean can of beans and parchment paper.
Fry flattened plantain a second time until golden and crisp.
Remove from oil
In a clean skillet, coat skillet with cooking spray or butter
Add tostones and “grill” each side
Add a slice of Tropical Cheese Queso de Freir to a toston
Top with another grilled toston
Remove from skillet
Sprinkle salt on top of sandwich and enjoy alone or with your choice of dipping sauce
Mayo-Ketchup Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons ketchup
garlic powder/paste to taste
Combine mayo, ketchup and garlic in a bowl. Keep refrigerated.
Garlic Cilantro Dipping Sauce
fresh garlic – 4 – 6 cloves (note: I really love garlic so I’m always extra with it.)
few sprigs of cilantro – finely chopped
1 – 2 teaspoons of vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ fresh squeezed lime
1/8 teaspoon oregano (optional)
salt/pepper to taste
Add garlic, salt, pepper, oregano to food processor or pilon. Combine olive oil, lime and vinegar in a small bowl. Add garlic mixture and stir. Keep refrigerated
Tostones with Tropical Cheese Queso de Freir - YouTube
Tropical Cheese Queso de Freir has the reputation of being the highest quality and most consistent frying cheese in the country. It fries to a crispy golden brown without breading or melting. Traditionally, it is consumed in the Dominican Republic as part of their breakfast accompanied by eggs, mangu (mashed plantains), and fried salami. It is also widely consumed in Nicaragua as an accompaniment to any meal. A version of this cheese, known as Halloumi, is consumed in Greece and other versions are enjoyed throughout the world. The possibilities for using this cheese are many. It can be deep fried, grilled, or pan seared. It can serve as a substitute for sandwich bread or mozzarella sticks, added to a salad in place of croutons, or added to pasta. Our Queso de Freir can be grilled with fruit, vegetables, and chorizo on skewers or fried and paired with different dipping sauces.
It’s the last day of January. I’m thinking about my word for 2018 and how it’s important to reflect on the effect that my home has on our everyday energy, efficiency, and happiness.
I may not set resolutions for myself but I do have some home resolutions – specifically resolutions in decor.
I’ve spent the last few months repainting and redecorating my living room with a lot of pieces from Wayfair. And I’m so happy with the way it’s turned out. [Note: While I am a Wayfair Homemaker and this post is sponsored – the majority of the items purchased were paid for by me.]
I’ve been in this apartment for 15 years. When Joseph moved out, I knew I had to start over and while it hurt – I was ready for the fresh start.
I painted the walls white and a bluish grey. And I looked forward to redecorating. I’ve lived “alone” before but this time was different. For one thing, I have a 12-year-son and secondly, I’m over 40 and much more financially stable. For the first time in more than a decade, I could decorate without having any compromise – truly creating a room of one’s own.
Also – there’s Pinterest. I don’t have an eye for decorating but Pinterest does help.
Which is why I love creating Idea Boards on the Wayfair site. It allows me to add the items I want (set up within different categories) and when I’m ready to purchase I can just go to my Idea Board and click purchase. I have many home resolutions in mind but this gal needs to work on a budget and plan ahead.
Home Resolution #1: Create a Reading Corner
I love to read and I have a lot of books. I’ve always dreamed of having a little reading nook. Living in a small 2-bedroom apartment, that’s not so easy. But with this happy yellow chair, fun pillow and glam lamp, I carved out a girly reading space. I loved this space before but when I added the faux fur area rug and placed the ottoman beside it – it felt complete.
Home Resolution # 2: Minimize
Living with someone else means taking on extra stuff. When I was redecorating, I knew I wanted to minimize. Immediately three words came to mind: chic, feminine, functional. Everything about the living room before – including the furniture – was dark, masculine and claustrophobic. I wanted bright walls, inviting furniture and to make the most of the small space. I was done with big, bulky furniture. The sofa is slim, comfortable and pulls out to a twin size bed. The coffee table is sleek, stylish and has an extra drawer for storage. And my TV stand is beautiful and holds all of my components (while hiding all the wires).
Home Resolution #3: Stand Out, Get Comfy.
I love how the white walls and glam reading lamp makes the room brighter or dimmer – depending on the mood. The yellow chair and hello gorgeous pillow invites you to sit down and stay a while. While the poof ottomans begs you to kick your feet up and/or have a seat. These are my simple stand out pieces that not only start conversations but they make guests feel welcome and at home. I want my friends to come over, kick off their shoes and just chill.
It really doesn’t take much to update a room or revamp an area in a room/apartment. You’d be amazed by what an area rug, a tough of greenery, a piece of wall art or any other home decor will do. I love the idea of picking home decor pieces that spark a conversation or reveal something personal about me. I love the typewriter canvas print because (1) I’m a writer and (2) I learned to type on a typewriter (because yes, I’m that old).
Home Resolution # 5: Host a Ladies Night In.
I am so ready to be the hostess with the mostess and my living room is almost Ladies Night In worthy. I recently purchased the Bartender’s Choice Serving Tray and I love it. Not only is it easier when having to serve multiple drinks but it looks gorgeous when set on my coffee table. Wayfair has so many items to choose from and at every price point.
I love chips, dips and all the extras. I want a ladies night in with wine and cheese. And I want to entertain without feeling like I’m running back and forth from the kitchen to the living room. I love these serveware pieces because they’re glam and functional.
The poof ottomans serve not only as places to kick up heels, but also as extra seating spaces. What I like most about them is that they are movable. They can be easily be moved around the living room to create seating spaces. The same with the chairs. The chairs in my living room are lightweight enough to be moved around. I like the flexibility they give me while entertaining. The large area rug also adds an area of comfort – I love sitting on a cozy rug and gossiping with my girls.
I know the space I’ve created is an inviting Ladies Night In kind of space and I can’t wait to host my first one.
For more information, check out my Wayfair Idea boards:
Disclosure: Hasbro provided us with a complimentary ToyBox Tools.
ToyBox Tools are designed to help children enjoy playtime in a way that’s fun, inclusive, and comfortable, at their own pace.
I remember when Norrin was going through the evaluation process. The doctor handed Norrin a toy car. Instead of “driving” the car and/or making “vroom vroom” sounds, Norrin, held the toy car close to his eyes and started spinning its wheels. And the doctor said, “I see he has no pretend play skills.”
Pretty hard to imagine a kid with no play skills. It’s the kind of thing many parents take for granted. Nearly 10 years after Norrin’s autism diagnosis, play skills are something we still continue to work on.
Developed by Hasbro and in collaboration with The Autism Project, ToyBox Tools is a collection of resources for parents, teachers, and caregivers to help them engage children of all abilities in the joy of play.
The program offers a series of wait cards,countdown timers, play-mats and playbooks with step-by-step instructions on how to play with select Hasbro brands, and recently added new resources based on beloved brands My Little Pony, Transformers, and Baby Alive.
The tools are designed to help children enjoy playtime in a way that’s fun, inclusive, and comfortable, at their own pace.
Hasbro’s fundamental mission is to bring joy and play to children and their families around the world. But for some children, play can be challenging. For children with developmental disabilities, play isn’t always accessible out of the box. More often, countless toys are relegated to the back of the closet or the donation bin. Even more importantly, the joy and benefits that play can bring — the connection to peers, siblings and other generations — may be lost.
I’ll admit, sometimes it’s hard for me to figure out how to explain things to Norrin in a way he’ll understand. That’s why I love the idea of ToyBox Tools. The materials are simple and easy to understand. It’s a great tool for siblings who want to play but may not know how to make the connection.
Hasbro is a toy brand I grew up with. And I love that I’ve been able to share my love for Hasbro toys with Norrin. For Hasbro to recognize the difficulties some children have with play and work to make play more accessible is a very special thing. ToyBox Tools is the kind of resource I wish had existed in the early years of autism. Because I know it will be life changing for so many kids and families. My hope is that ToyBox Tools will soon be available in Spanish and other languages.
ToyBox Tools are designed to help kids enjoy playtime in a way that’s fun & inclusive. #autism Click To Tweet
Preparing for Norrin’s IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) meetings used to throw me in a tizzy. But it’s been almost a decade of meetings and goals and related services, that I’ve learned to not worry as much. It also helps that Norrin is an appropriate school environment and that I love his teachers and therapists. They want what’s best for Norrin and I trust them. I don’t even attend his meetings in person, I feel comfortable enough to just call in.
While IEPs no longer stress me out, that wasn’t always the case. I had to learn how to advocate for my child. And even though I feel like an IEP veteran, I still prepare as if it’s my first time (minus the stress).
Individualized Educational Plan or IEP refers to the document developed at an IEP meeting which sets the standard by which subsequent special education services are usually determined appropriate. It is a written statement, developed, reviewed, and revised, that includes the components to be provided and the annual goals to meet the unique educational needs of a student with a disability.
“…the IEP guides how the child will be educated and outlines goals for the child, interventions, and any accommodations and services that will be provided,” says Dodd White, president and CEO of the Episcopal Center for Children (ECC), a nonprofit organization providing therapeutic and special education services to children ages 5-14 in the greater Washington, DC area.
White offers tips to help parents or guardians preparing for an IEP meeting. They were all things I’ve done before and they’ve helped.
5 simple tips to help parents walk into an IEP meeting with confidence. Click To Tweet
5 Simple Tips to Help Parents Prepare for the IEP Meeting
Tip #1 – Confirm meeting attendance.
At least 10 days before an IEP meeting, you should receive a letter of invitation. As soon as possible, RSVP for the meeting in writing. Inform the school if you will attend the meeting in person or by phone. If you are not available to attend the meeting at all, propose alternative dates and times, even locations.
Tip #2 – Review draft documents before the meeting.
At least 5 business days before the meeting, you should receive drafts of the documents (e.g., IEP, Behavior Intervention Plan, evaluations) to be discussed during the IEP meeting. Take time to review these documents before the meeting.
Tip #3 – Carefully review draft documents and write down your questions and notes.
Make sure you understand your child’s diagnosis. Ask for clarification of education or treatment jargon if needed. Goals and objectives should be clear. Make sure you understand start date(s), how long services are offered, and the procedures involved. If your child is not progressing toward a goal as you had hoped, ask how this will be addressed, or if a goal should be revised. If you want more frequent updates on progress during the school year, you can request additional updates. If you think something else might help your child, come prepared to discuss it. Write down any proposed changes to the IEP and any information you would like to add.
Tip #4 – Invite additional people to the IEP meeting if you want them there and think they can contribute.
An IEP meeting takes a “team” approach to helping your child. Take the initiative to invite individuals who have relevant knowledge or expertise regarding your child (such as, family members, coaches, community support workers, social workers, attorneys, advocates, etc.). Let the school team know additional people will attend the meeting.
Tip #5 – Strive to build a healthy working relationship with the school, treatment providers, and the entire IEP team.
Developing healthy and professional relationships with the school and treatment providers can help your child. Be open to discussing issues promptly, directly, honestly and courteously. Ask questions and listen carefully to answers. This will allow you to respond appropriately and avoid misunderstandings.
I don’t even know if you were a boy or a girl. In my mind, I imagine you as a girl. A little girl with bobbed curls, dimpled cheeks and bright eyes. You are the little sister, Norrin asks for. I would have named you Leia.
You would have been three years old.
There is not a day that passes that I do not think of you. But the days in August and January are the ones that make my heart ache the most. August is when I lost you and I mourn for my loss. And January, I mourn for you and all the things you could have been.
As I shop and prepare for Norrin’s 8th birthday. I think of you. And I have to stop to catch my breath and blink my tears away. I think about how fun three can be. And what party theme you would have wanted.
I think about how unfair my grief is to Norrin. It’s hard to celebrate another year of life, when I am reminded of loss. When he sees me crying, he sits besides me and asks if I’ve been watching a sad movie. And I envy his innocence. He is unaware I am crying for you.
On the 20th, I hold my tears in. It is Norrin’s day and I celebrate him. When we light his candles, I think about all the progress he’s made over the course of the year. And when he blows out the candles, I make a wish for Norrin and say a prayer for you.
All I think about is how much joy you would have brought us. I think about how I would have loved tucking you in and reading you bedtime stories. I think about what an awesome big brother Norrin would have made. I think about how wonderful it would have been for Norrin to have a sibling, to have someone else in this world, someone he could depend on after I am gone. I think about all the memories and milestones we have been denied.
I think how much I would have loved to hold you, even if just once.
Last night there was no New Year party or counting down to midnight. It was just me, Norrin and Netflix. And Norrin fell asleep by 9:30. It was my first solo New Year’s Eve in almost 20 years. Spending time alone was something I had to learn.
I spent the last eight months of 2017 pretty much alone. I took a lot of long walks alone. Went to a play alone. Ate lunch or dinner at restaurants alone. I walked the High Line alone. Sat in Central Park alone. Visited museums alone.
Mostly, I just walked.
Lauren Hill, Mary J. Blige and Beyonce kept me company on those long walks. Every day after work, I’d walked from 58th and 8th through Central Park to 77th and Lexington. Other days, I walked all the way up 5th Avenue to 86th Street. A few days, I’d walk up to the 100s to catch the 6 train home. (For those not familiar with NYC streets – I was walking a few miles on a daily basis.)
I walked out of necessity and avoidance, not wanting to go home. I walked through my anger and sadness and grief. During those walks, I had time to think.
I didn’t realize how much I needed time alone until it was forced upon me.
And in November, Joseph moved out. After 17 years with a partner, I found myself alone.
I’m not quite ready to get into the details of our separation (I probably never will). But I will say, that Joseph and I still love each other. He’s a good person, an amazing father. Marriage is just hard. And as a couple, we went through a lot – stuff that cannot be repaired or undone.
It’s fine. I’m fine. Norrin’s fine.
And we’re still a family – atypical as always.
The coparenting thing has been an adjustment. It’s been a work in progress.
With Norrin spending the weekends with his dad, for the first time since being a parent, I have entire weekends alone. These are the moments when I feel the emptiness of my home. The loneliness can feel crippling. There are some days when I wander from room to room, wondering what to do with all this free time and then doing nothing at all.
But there is liberation in the loneliness.
The part of me that enjoys the time alone. That craves and yearns for it. I like being home alone. Cleaning alone. Watching TV without interruption. Doing my nails. Eating a snack without being asked to give up half. Being able to leave the apartment without having to worry about someone else.
During my moments of solitude, I’ve started writing in my journal. I made my own wontons for wonton soup. I enjoy blasting music – singing along to the Hamilton soundtrack – while I cook or clean. Even just sitting in my living room, lighting candles and just being in the moment.
Being alone has also forced me out of my comfort zone. I’ve repainted and redecorated alone. I’ve put together furniture alone. (I did have some help, but mostly – I worked alone.) I used a drill – yeah I may have drilled into my thumb but so what? When you spend so many years depending on someone else to do things for you, it’s easy to forget how strong you really are and how much you can do on your own. It’s nice to have a helping hand but it’s satisfying to know you can hold your own.
I woke up yesterday morning, made myself a cup of coffee and started setting quarterly goals and planning out my month. In my months of spending time alone, I neglected my blog, my writing, my dreams, my joys and had a love/hate relationship with social media.
Spending time alone inspired my word for 2018.
As a mom, especially as an autism mom, it’s too easy to lose focus on the things that matter to me and only me. It’s all about the kid(s).