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My nine-year old daughter Sabrina thinks McDonalds is gross. She won’t eat boxed cookies but likes snickerdoodles dusted with Vietnamese cinnamon. She doesn’t like regular old mashed potatoes but does love when I add in wasabi and mustard. She scoffs at fluffy supermarket bread suffocating in plastic yet loves the jalapeño-cheddar loaf from an old-school bakery in our neighborhood. She loathes the supermarket birthday cakes served at kids’ parties but begs me to make cardamom cake.


I love that she loves spices as much as I do.

Sabrina enjoys blending flour with baking soda, salt, and spices for the cakes we make together. She adds spices to the homemade tomato sauce we make for pizza, enjoying blending oregano, basil, and the Italian salt we bought in London. She loves Sriracha, cardamom, harissa, chipotle pepper flakes, ancho chilies, and chai tea made with tea leaves, fresh ginger, and spices.

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What’s made her like spices? I’m not sure exactly, but more than likely it’s because I’ve brought her into the kitchen with me – and to the farmer’s markets, spice stores, tea shops, and other specialty stores that populate New York City.

While some kids might at first feel intimidated by spices, they might like the idea of exploring with you. If you’re having trouble inspiring your kids to try something new, especially spices, then by all means start with taking them shopping with you, perhaps to a market you don’t usually frequent. They might reach for a certain spice solely because of its appearance, but I believe that cooking is a visual process at first. If your child likes how a spice looks, she just might like how it tastes or at least be more apt to try it. Plus, she might become a more adventurous eater, and even be interested in the world behind the spices.

Have your child pick out vegetables at the farmer’s market to pair with some spices. Choose noodles and a few bundles of unique greens in an Asian market to make a spice-filled noodle soup or stir fry. Peruse the aisles of an Indian spice market and take home something new. Then, most importantly, invite him to cook with you. Pull up a stool, hand him a whisk, a spatula, or a large wooden spoon (no sharp knives until he’s older).

While it’s true that some children won’t try new things, others might…especially if you’ve included them in the entire dinner-making process.

Here are five spices to get you going:

Cardamom

As I mentioned above, the only cake my daughter will eat is a cardamom pound cake. There is a recipe for coffee-cardamom pound cake in my cookbook, but you can omit the coffee while still adding in the cardamom. You can add a small amount at first to get them acclimated.

You can also make snickerdoodles and, instead of rolling them in the classic combination of cinnamon and sugar, replace the cinnamon with cardamom. Trust me, you’ll be taking these to the next school bake sale.

Chinese 5-Spice

Another dish to make for some spice-filled inspiration is roasted chicken, a pleasant canvas for many spices and flavors. In The NYC Kitchen I’ve covered the chicken with a spice well-known in Asian cuisine: Chinese 5-spice, a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. If they’re just not into the Chinese 5-spice, you can remove the skin for them.

Herbes de Provence

This savory blend comprised of a variety of French herbs (it can differ from blend to blend), including marjoram, savory, thyme, basil, lavender, parsley, oregano, tarragon, and bay powder with the rosemary and fennel. This blend is a more mild way to introduce your kids to spices and herbs. It’s less robust that the Chinese 5-Spice or Smoked Paprika. Add some to roasted chicken, sprinkle onto vegetables before roasting (carrots, potatoes, or zucchini, for example), or dust some onto salmon before baking.

Smoked Paprika

One night I declared, “We having breakfast for dinner.”

Little did my daughter know it would be a tangy, spicy, egg-y Mediterranean dish made with smoked paprika and sprinkled with fresh herbs, but she was game. I picked up a loaf of ciabatta and, instead of dipping it into the shakshouka as many do when eating this dish for brunch, Sabrina made a sandwich out of it and smiled at how much she liked it.

I’d like to inspire other parents to try this. Shakshouka is one of those versatile dishes that you can mix and match according to your taste buds. Add some sweet Italian sausage, omit the smoked paprika if it’s not to your taste, and instead add fresh basil, making it more Italian. Or add chorizo and some red peppers – with some beans, perhaps – to give it more zip and heft. Shakshouka is a humble dish to inspire your taste buds, so experiment and see what you and your children like.

Za’atar

This Middle Eastern spice blend is a generally mix of thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac (another spice I recommend trying). It’s most well-known for serving on baked pita bread and sprinkled on top of dips (like a yogurt-based dip). I also love adding a few tablespoons to a vegetable soup, tossing with olive oil in a salad comprised of Mediterranean ingredients, and spreading some on top of roasted fish. I think you’ll love its versatility. It’s also mild enough that kids will love it, too.

Instead of just making your kids dinner, invite them in to the kitchen to help out. They might like mixing, tasting, blending (Sabrina loves using the old fashioned mortar and pestle to crush spices), and ultimately tasting what they’ve helped you make. There be some extra cleaning involved, but it’ll be worth it. Picking out spices and adding them to your recipes will help your child feel good about food and what she’s eating – and make her more apt to try new spices.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"


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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)

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Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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