Hallie

When you take food to somebody recovering from major surgery - must it be bland?

Unless their stomach is very sensitive to any sort of spice or strong flavorings they will appreciate some nice food just like you and I.

There are too many to list recipes for but you should be able to find ones that work for you quite easily.

You could do cottage or shepherd's pie (can make without tomato sauces), all kinds of pasta like boscaiola, mac & cheese or with pasta with pesto, almost any soup, very soft roast veg, risotto, pasta bake (these need not contain tomatoes/tomato sauce), stuffed zucchini/courgettes, fish and/or veg patties, most cooked fish really, baked ricotta, quiche/frittata.

I'm sure you've tried googling for easy to chew foods for post-surgery but you'll also have a lot of success searching for lap-band/gastric-band friendly foods. These will also tend to be more creative (and healthy!) as these people live with a soft diet for LIFE, so they're wanting something more than just mashed potato for a week or two.

If it must be bland you can never go wrong with chicken noodle soup. Or a chicken broth they can add noodles and chicken too.

This is my base recipe for stocks:

In a stock pot, combine the equivalent of 1 chicken (chicken quarters are so cheap) with excessive fat removed, one onion, quartered and unpeeled; 3-5 celery stalks, cut into pieces a few inches long; a large carrot, unpeeled and cut into 3-6 pieces; bay leaf; thyme/ rosemary/ ect, fresh if possible.

Let cook over night/ through the day, just under a boil. Skim the foam/ scum whenever you happen to pass by. Once ready, strain and discard used veggies. Season to taste with salt/ soy sauce, black pepper, mirin, sake, white wine, rice vinegar, MSG, or anything else to make it taste like awesome. You can add most of these at the begining if you like, except the salt and pepper. The pepper will turn bitter and if you try to salt early it will concentrate it as the liquid evaporates. If an alcohol is added, bring back to a boil to cook out the alcohol.

The chicken can be used again, but it will have almost no flavor. You can cook it with chicken bouillon to bring back a strong chicken flavor and sear it, once it dries out a bit, with light seasonings to add later.

This will let your friend decide between a light or a medium meal and allow them to freeze any extras with no issue.

Hallie

In the heat one thing really makes for a nice treat.

Fruit salad.

Fruit salad is great for the heat and less expensive this time of year. Mix 1/2 pack of vanilla instant pudding mix with the pineapple juice from a can of pineapple to make a mildly sweet sauce. Add the pineapple, apples, mandarin oranges (in juice but don't add the juice), peaches, grapes, blueberries, kiwi, cherries, blackberries, plums, apricots, and whatever else you love or is on sale.

Pulled pork is a good main dish; drop a Boston butt in the crock pot for 8 hours and shred with a fork and add or offer BBQ sauce. You could offer slider buns too.

Homemade mac n cheese works great for a cookout since even if it isn't super hot it still tastes great.

I'm a picnic-er. I probably do one or two a week.

  • Mark Bittman is my herofor this list of 100 picnic ideas
  • I'm having a moment with roasted zucchini. It is great at room temp and would travel well (although it won't look like this picture since it doesn't really brown.) This recipe is also great with a touch of paprika.
  • If you don't mind taking things in separate containers this panzanella recipe is very good. You could combine everything but the bread beforehand and just dump the whole thing over the bread when you get there.
  • Lots of sandwiches (and salads!) work better if you let them sit. My fave is buttered toasted onion roll blue cheese roast beef or steak thin sliced red onion horseradish. Or kings hawaiian roll sandwiches without pork.
  • For a nice picnic I'm a fan of charcuterie. Pick 2 or 3 hard cheese, a meat or two, some cornichons and crackers. Done. Depending on what you've got some fruit might be nice (prosciutto and cantelope, blue cheese and figs, etc) For a more downscale I just make adult lunchables (turkey deli cheese good crackers grapes or apples)
  • Elote is amazing for picnics.
Hallie

So we added an Xbox One to our family game night. And here are a couple suggestions. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood will be GREAT for your 4-year-old. I played it with my 4 & 6 year old daughters when it came out & they still ask to play it every other week.

On top of that look into:

  1. Rayman Legends the 2nd player can't really die or negatively affect progress so it's a great game to play WITH your kid
  2. Child of Light another great game where you can play WITH your child. I played this with my oldest (the younger one watched & liked it too) and I would use the support character to keep her alive
  3. Lego Games always good family co-op
  4. Minecraft the kids go crazy over it
  5. Peggle 2 can't go wrong with Peggle
  6. Skylanders the games are fantastic; the caveat being it can get EXPENSIVE. I've managed this game by staying a generation behind & have had great luck getting figures for cheap
  7. Guacamelee co-op beat 'em up with good character
  8. PvZ: GW Plants vs Zombies FPS that you don't have to worry about the violence being gratuitous
  9. Chariot good co-op puzzle platformer

Terraria is perfect.

It is a 2d sidescroller like classic old Mario games, so it fits that description. But this also makes it easier for him to understand. Its also a Minecraft clone (which is another strong suggestion, as it is this generation's Mario) and provides dozens of hours of depth with item variations, mining, crafting, boss fights, etc... It also has up to 4 player splitscreen, so it can accommodate your whole family.

I have a 5 year old that is obsessed with it. He knows all the super complex recipes and gathering strategies. My 3 year old does well for himself. He can move and attack and he just likes going around and killing the bad guys. He'll hand me the controller if he gets stuck in a hole that is too deep to jump out of, as he doesn't know how to dig yet.

Hallie

The extravagant bar mitzvah drives me absolutely nuts. Call me old-fashioned, but there's always the tried-and-true classic fountain pen. But since it seems to be an obligatory social custom in some circles....

Obviously Israel Bonds have been a mainstay for a long time. Judaica is a good one: mezuzahs, kiddush cup, seder plate and such. Though seder plate is usually more of a wedding gift than a bar mitzvah.

If the kid is non-Ortho he might not have tefillin. They're kind of pricy (probably starting around $400) so maybe it's for a few families to go in on together.

Not a Jewish gift at all, but I'll tell you the best gift I got: a distant cousin bought me about $200 of shares (split between two companies). The week after, he came over to my house and gave me the 101 on how the stock market works. Taught me to check it every day, keep an eye out for news about the companies and such and make decisions for myself about when to buy and sell. I followed them for over a year, selling one around 2 months and the other around 14 months - a fantastic experience that taught me financial literacy and responsibility.

I also got some lovely candles.

For a bat mitzvah candle sticks are a good bet. They probably won't have their own set and it's a nice thing to have, especially if they're pretty. Even if they don't use them, at some time in their lives they may want to light shabbat candles and some small, portable sized ones of their own is a nice option. Still I have seen some really strange bar/bat mitzvahs, and some of the invitations that get sent can be "interesting," especially some of the more decorative one, the best though had zebra print on it (reformed family).

Hallie

In my opinion strider bikes are the way to go. It teaches them the necessary balance skills faster than training wheels since they do not have to mutlitask. Training wheels are more hindrance than help in this regards because they will still feel like they are falling over.

My nephew wore the "tires" off his training wheels.

I think it might have slowed him down on switching to a real bike, and I believe he still used training wheels.

Honestly I don't think they work out to be a replacement for training wheels. But they're still awesome because the kids get to learn the feel of a two wheel vehicle with their feet barely off the ground. And they can ride a strider before they can bike with training wheels.

It's probably more of a replacement for a tricycle than training wheels.

Hallie

The questions a lot of new parents have in regards to children pre-kindergarten but post-maternity leave: Would you go to a child's birthday party on a weekday afternoon?

he answer is for most of us: no. The idea of going to a party after a days work is not very appealing. Around dinner time my husband and I are usually tired from work/child care and one of the last things I think we would like to do is go to someone's house and hang out with a bunch of kids.

Then there's the kid's schedule being off which could disrupt bedtime. Unless it was a close friend's child or a close family member's child, I wouldn't go.

I think that the main reason is that stay at home mothers feel this is more feasable. They want the weekends for their families and with school aged children children this seems like a nice treat.

Still if you work, it would make for a very long day for you, but you could do something on Saturday evening. If you work until 6, you could have a small party from 6:30-8:00 at a pizza place or something similar. The kids could eat dinner, play, do presents, cake/ice cream, and then go home.

And this is the point.

Birthday celebrations do not have to be a traditional party.

You could take your child with a friend or two to the zoo, the museum, or the movies on a day when you are not working. You could share a special lunch at a restaurant where the waiters sing Happy Birthday and bring a dessert with a candle.

It all comes down to the perspective.