Thursday, 19 November 2009

Surviving the Winter Blues: How to Embrace the Dark and Gray

I write this from my fourth-story living room where the rain is beating heavily against the windows and pressing all around me, is the aura of gray. It's 2:00PM, but already the daylight has a spent, dwindling feeling. It will have faded almost completely in another two hours. And there's still another month before the winter solstice, which means the darkness will only increase before it begins to decrease again.

One of the perks of living in the UK is the luxuriously long summer days one experiences here. But, the flip side is of course, the dark, darkness of winter. A source I just found, documents the shortest day of the year in Northern Scotland as being 6 hours and 20 minutes in length, with a sunrise at 9:00AM and a sunset at 3:20PM. Sounds familiar.

My point in writing isn't to spread the gloom, though it may sound that way from my mood so far! As I stare into the face of my second winter here, I've been trying to think of ways to counteract the gloom and embrace the gray. Here are some of my thoughts.

1. Exercise. Go for a walk, a run, a hike, a bike ride. Go kick a ball around in the rain. Don't worry about getting all muddy. Embrace the elements. Try to have fun. Being cold and wet and muddy might just make you feel more alive, besides the happy feelings that come along with getting your heart rate up.

2. Drink tea. It's cheap, it tastes good and it helps keep you warm. The perfect winter combo.

3. Use candles excessively. Part of embracing the darkness is trying to turn it from something oppressive into something, well...romantic, for lack of a better word. You can buy a large box of tea lights for very cheap, so you don't need to feel bad about burning through them quickly. Have a candlelight dinner. Even brushing your teeth can feel interesting when done by candlelight. Put a candle in your bedroom before you go to bed to make a cold bedroom feel just a little more inviting.

4. Turn on the lights before it gets dark. (This is something I learned from my oldest sister who lives in the Seattle area where winters are also very dark.) She finds that if she turns on some lamps about half an hour before the daylight starts to fade, she can counteract the late afternoon blah's that come when that dingy, gray daylight is filling your house.

5. Try to wake up early. I know it's hard, especially when it's still pitch black outside. But, with relatively few hours of daylight, it's important to take advantage, and waking up early allows you to meet the light when it arrives. Many people find that mornings are a particularly productive time, even when it's dark, while productivity often wanes on dark afternoons. Waking up early enables you to capitalize on your own energy.

6. Surround yourself with green. Studies have shown that the color green is important for counteracting depression. A great source of green, is of course, plants. If you can get your hands on some house plants, great. If not, here are a few ideas:

  • Buy some green onions (scallions or spring onions) at the grocery store. Bring 'em home and stick 'em in a jar of water so that the bulbs are covered. Leave them on the counter or on a windowsill somewhere. They should last up to two months, maybe longer. You can still use them for culinary purposes too, of course.
  • Take a pair of scissors and go find an overgrown hedge somewhere and do a little "trimming". Bring the "trimmings" home and arrange them nicely in an old jar or bottle. Some hedge trimmings will stay green for months. Others might lose their leaves after a few weeks.
  • Do the above, but with ivy, which also abounds in most areas of the UK.
7. Use music to set the mood. Don't underestimate the importance of putting on music throughout your day. Energizing music can help you find energy during the day. Soothing music can make a dark, dull evening feel pleasant and relaxing.

8. Bake. Take advantage of these cold months to fill your home with the wonderful smells and delicious flavors of home baking. Besides, having the oven on keeps the place extra warm.

Other suggestions welcome!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Cheap Dinner Ideas: 10 Easy Recipes from 15p/person

Learning to grocery shop, let alone cook in a new country is an adventure. New foods, different ingredients and incongruous price tags can leave you feeling a little lost. You may feel like some of the recipes you brought from home are suddenly not very practical anymore. Below are ten recipes made from ingredients readily accessible in the UK and available for less than £1 per person: in some cases, considerably less. Most are fairly quick and easy, though if you're not used to cooking from scratch, they may take a little adjustment.

Pizza with Bacon & Caramelized Onions
Spicy Indian Dahl with Mashed Potatoes (vegetarian)
Grilled Open-Faced Sandwiches
Curried Lentils Over Rice (vegetarian)
Delicious French Onion Soup in Thirty-Minutes
Couscous Salad with Black Beans (vegetarian)
Creamy Pesto Pasta
Lentils San Stefano
Thai Peanut Chicken with Coconut Milk
Spiced Bacon and Lentil Soup

Note 1: I have included a rough price per person at the bottom of each recipe. This is an estimate of how much it costs me to make the dish, though, as I'm always saying, it will likely vary a little depending on your location.

Note 2: You will be able to see that I'm caught between two worlds right now. Some of these recipes use American measurements and others use British. One or two may even include some of each! I'll continue updating to try to make sure each recipe includes both British and American measurements. Just leave me a comment if you have questions.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Spiced Bacon and Lentil Soup

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 rashers smoked bacon (or equivalent 'cooking bacon'), chopped
  • 450g potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1.7 litres fresh vegetable stock, hot
  • 300g dried red or brown lentils
  • Handful chopped fresh coriander (or for color and nutrition, a handful of chopped spinach leaves)
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and bacon and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, cook for 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic and cumin and cook for 1 minute.

2. Add the stock and lentils, boil, then skim off the scum that forms on the surface. Simmer for 15 minutes, until tender. Add spinach if using. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Season. Divide between bowls, sprinkle with the coriander and serve with warm rustic bread.

Serves 4 (This meal costs about £0.30/person.)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thai Peanut Chicken with Coconut Milk

  • 1 cup cooked, shredded chicken*
  • 2 tablespoons butter or peanut oil
  • 1-2 shallots or one small onion
  • 1 green or red chili or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • salt to taste

Saute shallot and chili in butter/oil. Add shredded carrot, lemon juice, soy sauce, curry powder, ginger and sesame oil. Saute another 2-3 minutes. Add peanut butter and stir well. Add coconut milk and simmer gently for a few minutes. Taste and adjust flavors. Add cooked chicken. Add salt to taste. Serve over rice or couscous.

Serves 4 (This meal costs about £0.55/person.)

*For cheaper chicken I typically buy a whole chicken (fresh or frozen). I cook it (either boiling it or baking it till done), remove all the meat from the carcass, chop it and divide it up into cup-sized portions for the freezer. Then I boil the carcass for a delicious chicken stock.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Lentils San Stefano

This is a fabulous lentil stew made from very simple ingredients. The key to the great taste is careful preparation. You may want to read the recipe through carefully before beginning.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 lb (1 1/8 cups) lentils
  • 3 bacon slices, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 slices baguette, sliced to 1/2 inch thickness and toasted
  • 1/2 lb potatoes (2 medium), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 (14- to 15-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, finely chopped and juice reserved
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano

Bring 3 cups water and bay leaf to a boil in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan, then add lentils and simmer, uncovered, 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let lentils soak 1 hour. Drain lentils in a colander.

Cook bacon in a 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until deep golden and some fat is rendered, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain and reserve for garnish, leaving fat in the pot.

Add oil to fat in pot and heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then fry bread, turning once, until golden, about 1 minute total. Transfer toasts to paper towels to drain and lightly season with salt. Add potatoes to fat in pot and sauté, stirring, until golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Add onion and garlic to pot and sauté, stirring, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in lentils, tomatoes with their juice, sugar, salt, pepper, and remaining 5 cups water and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until lentils are just tender and stew is thickened, 40 to 45 minutes. Discard bay leaf and stir in potatoes, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Thin stew with water if desired, then serve over toasts or with toasts on the side. Sprinkle with bacon if using.

Serves 4 (This meal costs about £0.33/person.)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Creamy Pesto Pasta

This is a very quick and easy little pasta dish to throw together.

1 pound bow tie or corkscrew pasta
1/4 pound bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons pesto (available in jars at the grocery store)
3-4 cloves garlic
6-8 mushrooms, sliced
handful of fresh, chopped spinach (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Cook bacon in frying pan until done. Add butter and garlic and saute 1 minute over medium heat. Add pesto, mushrooms and spinach. Saute about 3 minutes or until mushrooms begin to shrink. Add cream and turn off heat just before it begins to boil. Toss with pasta and serve.

Serves 4 (This meal costs about £0.75/person.)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Couscous Salad with Black Beans (vegetarian)

This dish makes a great meal on a warm, summer evening.

  • 280ml (10 fl oz) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 175g (6 oz) uncooked couscous
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 green (spring) onions, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, seeded & chopped
  • small bunch fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
  • 175g (6 oz) sweetcorn
  • 2 (400g) tins black beans, drained (or equivalent dried, soaked and boiled)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring chicken or vegetable stock to a boil in a large saucepan and stir in the couscous. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, vinegar and cumin. Add spring onions, red pepper, coriander, sweetcorn and beans and toss to coat.
Fluff the couscous well, breaking up any chunks with a fork. Add to the bowl with the vegetables and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve at once or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 4 (This meal costs about £0.80/person.)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Curried Lentils over Rice with Roti Bread (vegetarian)

I got a version of this recipe from my little sister in the US. I've adapted it to make it vegetarian, but you can use chicken instead of lentils if you prefer. This recipe calls for lots of spices. Check out a local Indian food store for cheaper, bulk quantities to keep on hand.

Curried Lentils

  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 4 onions, diced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger (or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground)
  • 1 Tablespoon ground coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon garam masala*
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 28 oz diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup double (or heavy) cream
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar

Soak and cook lentils according to package directions. Heat oil in heavy pan and saute onion over medium heat until deep brown for 25 to 30 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric, cumin, garam masala and cayenne. Saute additional 2 minutes. Add lentils and 1 cup of water and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in tomato and cook 5 more minutes. Add cream.

Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro if desired.

Roti Bread
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 4-6 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4-1 cup water

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and garam masala.
Stir in 2 tablespoons oil and enough water so dough is soft but not sticky.
Divide dough into 10 balls.
Cover and let rest 5 minutes.
Roll dough into very thin circles.
Brush both sides with oil.
For each roti heat 1 teaspoon oil in large skillet.
Cook 1 min per side on medium heat or until top starts to bubble.

Note: You may put them into a sealable bag when still warm if you don't plan to eat them all fresh. This will keep them flexible.

Serves 4 (This meal costs about £0.50/person.)

*Garam masala is a type of curry powder available in many grocery stores or India food stores.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Grilled Open-Faced Sandwiches

I am always surprised by how delicious and satisfying these easy, open-faced sandwiches are. Serve with a nice side-salad or a soup and dinner is made! Also, experimenting with other toppings can be quite rewarding.

  • 1 loaf French bread
  • 2-3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots thinly sliced
  • slices of sharp, white cheddar cheese
  • thinly sliced, cured chorizo (looks kind of like a peperoni stick)
  • fresh basil leaves (we grow our own--can use dried if necessary)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Slice as much bread as you plan to use and brush each slice generously with olive oil on one side. Arrange tomatoes, chorizo, and basil over each slice, then top with shallots and cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange slices in a broiler pan and broil for 5 to 10 minutes, watching carefully to avoid burning.

Serves 4 (This meal costs about £0.65/person.)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Delicious French Onion Soup in Thirty-Minutes

This simple soup is surprisingly filling and a wonderful dish to enjoy on a cold, rainy night. Why not make your own loaf of easy, delicious Artisan bread to go with it?

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 6 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup white cooking wine
  • 6 cups beef stock (made from bouillon is fine)
  • 4 thick slices thick, crusty bread
  • Several slices sharp Cheddar or fresh Mozzarella cheese

Saute onions, herbs and spices over medium heat for 15-18 minutes. Add wine and simmer for 1 minute. Add beef stock and bring back to a boil. Toast the bread. Pour soup into bowls and put toasted bread on top. Arrange several slices of cheese over bread and, if desired, put bowls in hot oven till cheese has melted. Serve immediately with remainder of bread.

Serves 4. (This meal costs about £0.15/person.)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Spicy Indian Dahl with Mashed Potatoes (vegetarian)

This is a really cheap meal if you have all the spices on hand.


  • 25g Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 225g red or brown lentils
  • 700ml water
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)

For the dahl, heat the butter and oil in a saucepan, and add the onions, garlic, cayenne and a pinch of salt. Cook on a low heat until the onions are soft.

Tip in the lentils and stir for a few seconds before adding about 150ml water. Simmer until the water has been absorbed by the lentils. Continue adding the rest of the water, and cook until the lentils are soft and the water absorbed. Add the cumin, turmeric and chopped coriander and serve piping hot. (As an alternative, just cook the lentils on their own and when soft add them to the saute above. Then add the spices.)

Mashed Potatoes
  • 1kg Potatoes, even-sized, scrubbed, unpeeled
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 50g Butter
  • 200ml hot milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)

For the mashed potatoes, boil the potatoes for five minutes in water to cover. Continue cooking on a lowish heat now. After about 15 minutes, add the whole garlic cloves to the pan, and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender. Mash potatoes and garlic together, then add the butter and incorporate. Add boiling milk, the chilli, garam masala and chopped coriander. Serve straight away with the dahl.

Serves 4 (This meal costs about £0.22/person.)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Pizza with Bacon & Caramelized Onion

Every Friday night is pizza night at our house. Not only does it give us something to look forward to (since we love pizza!), but I love not having to think about what to make for dinner that night--the decision is already made! At first when we moved to the UK, we tried to make pizza the same way we had in the States. After a few months of exploring the grocery stores and a lot of experimentation, our ingredients changed to fit both the budget and the unique options available here.

This is one of our favorite pizza concoctions that conveniently has a very low price-tag attached. The dough can be made up to a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it.

For the Dough:

  • 3/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
  • 1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups (or more) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Pour warm water into a large bowl bowl; stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Add flour, sugar, salt and olive oil all at once; stir well until dough forms a sticky ball. Transfer to lightly floured surface. Knead dough until smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is very sticky, about 1 minute. Transfer back to bowl, coated with a bit of oil; turn dough in bowl to coat completely with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch down dough. (Can be made up to 1 day in advance. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.) Roll out dough according to recipe instructions. (Start in center of dough, working outward toward edges but not rolling over them.)

While the dough is rising you can prepare the toppings.

For the Toppings:

To caramelize the onions you will need:

  • 4 medium-sized onions
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried or fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan on high. Peel onions and slice thinly. Add onions, thyme and bay leaf to pan and saute for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking onions, stirring occasionally. If they begin to get crispy or dry out, add a splash of water and reduce heat further. Repeat if necessary. You want the onions soft--almost gooey. Cook for 30 minutes or so. Onions should have turned a deep brown color--caramelized! Remove bay leaf. Set aside.

Prepare the bacon:
  • 250 grams 'cooking bacon'* (equivalent of 6-8 rashers/strips)

[*'Cooking bacon' is an assortment of leftover bacon cuts packaged together and sold very cheaply. It tastes more like ham or Canadian bacon than traditional America bacon. I buy a 1 kilo package, bring it home and divide it four ways, using only one part and freezing the other three parts for future pizza nights.]

Cook bacon in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat until done. (You can use the same pan as the onions--no need to wash it! All these flavors will be blending together anyway.) Chop roughly. Set aside.

  • About 15 dry, salt or oil-cured black olives, pits removed
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, sliced semi-thinly
  • 1-2 balls fresh mozzarella, sliced semi-thinly
  • Olive Oil
If you have a pizza stone, put it in the cold oven and then preheat oven to 450 degrees. (If you don't, try creating a stone surface by putting clean bricks or flat stones in your oven. If you're not that adventurous, just use the thickest baking sheet you have, and only put it in the oven 5 minutes before putting the pizza in.) When dough is done rising, divide into two balls. Taking one ball of dough, roll it out or toss it until it forms a disc between 10 and 12 inches across. Place on cutting board thoroughly covered with cornmeal, semolina or flour. Using a pastry brush, coat with olive oil and slide into hot oven directly onto stone. Bake for about 5 minutes--until no longer doughy, but not browned or crisp. Remove and place on cooling rack. Repeat with other ball of dough.

Taking the now-par-baked crust, coat again with olive oil. Spread half of the caramelized onions over the surface, then the bacon, tomatoes, olives and finally the cheese. Return to oven for about 10 more minutes--until the cheese is thoroughly melted and the crust takes on a nice golden color. Repeat with second pizza. Cut in quarters or sixths. Serve hot.

Makes 2 medium pizzas. (If feeding 2 people, this meal will cost about £0.82/person)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, 6 November 2009

Take the Guess Work Out of Packing

The Universal Packing List

I thought this website was funny and kind of clever. All you have to do is fill in your travel criteria and it will spit out a customized packing list to take the guess work out of preparing for your trip. With most airlines now charging for checked luggage, it pays to pack carefully. Your packing list will also contain all kinds of helpful instructions such as taking out the garbage, turning on/off the heat, even...shaving. If you're a list person like I am, you'll love this little tool.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Money Saving Tip #5: Buy a Magic Jack

I previously wrote about the money-saving benefits of using Skype for calling home while away. Of course I'm still a big Skype supporter, especially for totally free video calling and calling other Skypers for free. However if you need to call a land line from Skype, you are subject to their international calling rate of something like 3 cents/minute. While this is a still a really good deal, there is something better. The Magic Jack. (Thanks, Wes, for the suggestion!)

The Magic Jack is a small, simple device you plug simultaneously into your computer and your phone. It then enables you to pick up your phone and start making free calls to the US and Canada. It's pretty simple. Here are a couple things to know.

1. The Magic Jack service costs $19.95/year. There is a one time fee of $20 to purchase the device. So, the first year, your total cost will be $39.95. Subsequent years will be only $19.95. (By way of contrast, we spent about $60 last year buying Skype credit.) You are entitled to make and receive as many phone calls as you like--your total annual cost will still only be $19.95.

2. You will be given a free phone number with an area code that you get to choose. This means people can call you too. We chose our parents' area code in Washington State. That way, though we live in the UK, they can call us and it's a local call for them.

3. According to the website, you can make calls only to US and Canadian numbers for free. However, registered users can also purchase low cost minutes for international calls.

4. Along with the free local number, the service also includes free voice mail, call waiting, three-way calling and call forwarding.

5. This may just be a personal thing, but I thought the Magic Jack website looked kind of sketchy. If we hadn't known people who've used the service successfully, I would have been inclined to think it was a scam. Check it out, though, for more information and to order. Note, they do not currently ship to the UK--only to the US and Canada. If you're already in the UK, just have it shipped to family or friends and have them forward it to you.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, 2 November 2009

Flying with a Baby

Having recently completed two international airplane journeys with our infant, I thought I'd throw out some long-haul travel ideas. Before we left for our second trip I was encouraged by some moms to get something like Benadryl to "encourage" the baby to sleep. I considered it for a while because our first experience had been pretty rough, but wasn't sure what to do. I finally decided to buy some in case I was really desperate, but to try to get by without it. Well, the decision was made when I discovered that neither of the drugstores I visited would sell anything like that for use on a child under six years old. I was really surprised! Just as well as I've since read recent studies that strongly discourage anything of the kind.

So, the following are some practical, natural (as in, non-medical) tips for helping you and your baby cope with a long flight, both for sleeping and for trying to stay occupied and relatively quiet while you travel.

1. Bassinet: If your baby is 22 pounds or less request a bassinet. This can be an invaluable way to free up your tired, sweaty arms, especially if you're traveling alone. It's basically just a little bed that hooks into the wall in front of you. In order to use one, you have to be sitting in the front of a section, so make sure when you make your reservations, that you choose your seat carefully. It may be worth a phone call to the airline to see if they can arrange it for you. Also, make sure you verify it when you check in.

2. Sleep Prop: Before you travel, choose an item for your baby to sleep with and work toward creating a sleep association. This could be a blanket, stuffed animal, pacifier or anything soft or cuddly that's safe to sleep with. (If you don't let your baby sleep with anything for safety reasons, disregard this point.) Make sure you only give the item to your baby when it's time to sleep. Then, when you are on the plane and your baby finds himself in a new environment, he will be able to understand that it's time to sleep when you pull out the sleeping prop. This worked wonderfully for us on our most recent trip.

3. Cheerios: If your baby is old enough for solids, I strongly recommend an investment in a box of Cheerios. They're not just food, they're interesting to play with (prior to eating, of course), make a relatively small and easy to clean up mess, and take a long time to eat. Put one at a time in your hand and make your baby pick it up for himself. This should be good for at least 30 minutes of entertainment!

4. Nurse/Bottlefeed: Of course, there's the conventional wisdom about nursing during takeoff and landing to help those little ears pop. Also good for keeping baby quiet and occupied for a few minutes.

5. Goody Bag: Assemble a little bag of never-before-seen items for your baby to play with. DO NOT take toys that your child is used to playing with. Save your precious space for new things that will keep baby occupied much longer. But, before you run out to the store to buy a bunch of new toys, do a walk around your house and see what kinds of safe, interesting household objects you have that might enthrall your baby for hours. Here are a couple of ideas from our recent trip with an 8 month old: a new toothbrush (this was a BIG hit). (Make sure it's a soft-bristled brush to avoid chaffing his little gums); a well-washed silicon pastry brush; a rubber spatula; a brightly colored ribbon; a Tupperware lid; half of a wooden clothes pin (without the spring, of course). I kept this odd assortment of things in a little zip up bag--like a toiletries bag--that he could also play with. That way everything was contained and I didn't have kitchen gadgets roaming free through my diaper bag. Speaking of diaper bags...

6. Organize your Diaper Bag: This is essential. The temptation when traveling is to let carry-ons become the dumping spot for everything that didn't fit elsewhere. As a result you end up with bulging, disorganized bags and it's impossible to find what you want when you want it. There's nothing worse when traveling with a baby. If you possibly can, ensure that the diaper bag is carrying only baby's things and that they are only things that are absolutely necessary. For instance, does he really need three changes of clothes? Ten diapers and a whole container of wipes? Six jars of baby food? Are bigger toys really better than small? Think carefully through every item you place in the bag and your ride will be much more pleasant for all.

Stumble Upon Toolbar