Friday, July 26, 2013


Dear GoodJoan,

I need a recipe for a great tomato salsa!  Got any?

If you've learned anything from my blog by now, it's that I don't claim to do anything great, or perfect, or properly. I do things cheap and easy. Heaven knows I don't have enough time for perfection!  I do however, have a recipe for salsa that is good, flexible, simple and I think, pretty yummy.

Here's the fun part. If you dice the vegetables and mix them in chunky, you have salsa. If you puree the vegetables and mix them in as a liquid, you have gazpacho!  I know this because this recipe started out as a gazpacho recipe from some vegetarian cookbook that hubby bought when we were in college, but while we were eating it we thought "Hey, this tastes a lot like the mild salsa they serve at our favorite Mexican restaurant!"  I feel safe enough saying this is an original recipe now because the one in the cookbook started with whole tomatoes and had a bunch more ingredients and steps.  The more times I made it, the more I modified it. Now I claim it as my own!

In a large bowl, pour a large can of pureed tomatoes, the kind you'd use to make spaghetti sauce.
If you have fresh tomatoes, use them instead. Dice them up, toss in a bowl and add a little salt, that will make them more juicy.
Dice a pepper, an onion and 1-2 cucumbers and 2-4 cloves of garlic.
If you have any other veggies in the fridge you want to use up, add them here! I just avoid celery because I don't like the strings, and peeling the celery ahead of time is too much effort!  The cucumbers add the same crunchy texture. I usually opt for the pepper, onion, cukes, and garlic because I can get them year round at the grocery store.
Chop some fresh parsley if you can get it, use dried if not.
Some folks love cilantro, if that's you add it here. Personally, I only use a tiny bit or I think it makes everything taste like bug spray.
Add chopped jalapeno peppers to taste. Fresh if you like that, canned if you're as lazy as me! A dusting of dried cayenne pepper if you can't get the jalapeno.
For salsa, dump all of that into the tomatoes and stir.
If you want it very smooth, like gazpacho, put all the veggies into a food processor and puree till it's smooth. It won't be totally liquified, you just want it smooth enough to pour.
Add a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar. Some folks prefer lemon juice.
A drizzle of olive oil.
Add a bit of salt and pepper (to taste)
Put in fridge and let sit a few hours to chill and for the flavors to mix.

This is definitely one of those recipes you have to try once and then fiddle with to find how you and your family like it best.   Some folks like less garlic, some folks like a ton of cilantro. Some folks like it lumpy, some want it smoother.

When I puree everything, mine has a tendency to settle a bit so it needs a little stir before serving. I like to puree it and store it in a big pitcher in the fridge. A trick I learned watching "Women on the verge of a nervous Breakdown"  that way I can pour a big mug of it whenever I want!   I skip the hefty dose of sleeping pills used in the movie, but it's still refreshing and relaxing to eat!

What are your favorite Salsa recipes?

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Dear Goodjoan,

I have kids that can't swallow pills.  They are teenagers now and still can't manage it.  It makes getting them medicine when they are sick pretty difficult. Any suggestions for helping them learn to swallow pills?

In my house, being able to swallow a pill was right up there with the big milestones like walking and talking and graduating to an oral thermometer!  Some kids took to it pretty easily, others had a harder time.  With my brood, the 2 biggest hurdles were coordinating the balance between breathing and swallowing and simply getting past the anxiety that they were going to choke.

I started with the anxiety factor.  For some reason, my kids felt that pills were 'big' even little tiny ones and if they tried to swallow them, they would surely get stuck in their throats and kill them!  I asked them to start to pay attention when they were eating, because they'd realize that they were swallowing pieces of food that were much larger than a pill and without water, or drama, or choking!  I'd offer them pudding and ask them if they were swallowing it, or drinking it?  The same with gelatin, or gummy bears.  Did that have to be a liquid?  Of course not.  We're able to swallow lots of things that are 'bigger' than liquid!  Sometimes, just realizing that on a logical level made it easier to try to take a pill.

The other place we had trouble was the idea that you can have water in your mouth and still breathe!  For some reason, my kids felt like the moment something was in their mouth, they had to hold their breath. Typically, this is a normal reflex so we don't inhale and swallow at the same time and aspirate stuff into our lungs.  As we get older, we learn to control it better.  Kids sometimes don't realize they can control it.  This made swallowing a pill a race to get the pill down before they needed to breathe again.  Then of course, needing to breathe created another level of anxiety that caused the whole situation to escalate.  I asked them to take a sip of water and spit it in the sink. Then I'd move to take a sip of water, wait a second, then spit it in the sink. Moving up to take a sip of water, and hold it in their mouths while breathing in and out through their nose. Once they could do that comfortably, we were past the biggest hurdle.

Once my kids understood that they could hold something in their mouths and not choke, and that they had the ability to swallow lumpy things without choking, we were ready for practice.  I'd give them a glass of water and some of those mini M&Ms. I'd have them try different ways to swallow the M&M whole. Some kids wanted to put it way in the back of their mouths, then drink it down. Some put it on the tip of their tongues and moved it back themselves.  One liked to take  a mouthful of water, tip his head back, drop the 'pill' in and swallow it all in one gulp.  It didn't always go down on the first try, but if it didn't they could simply opt for plan B, chew it and swallow it, and not panic.  I'd have them practice once in a while, when they were not stressed out.  If they got panicked or anxious, we'd stop and try again another day.  Eventually, they could swallow the tiny M&M and I'd move up to regular M&Ms, or smarties, or gummy bears, anything pill sized but not so scary to chew in case they had to go with plan B!  With one kid, who had to take a fairly large capsule, I'd open the capsule, mix the medicine in pudding, then fill the empty capsule with sugar (to make it heavy) and have him practice with that.  The medicine tasted horrible so he was eager to be able to swallow it without tasting it!

I also found that for some situations, water is not the best way to get a pill down. Some capsules and coated pills can get tacky when they get wet and they want to catch in the back of the throat, rather than slip down.  For those pills, sometimes a spoonful of pudding worked better to coat it and let it go down without a fight.

We still have the occasional medicine problem, especially with particularly large or uncoated pills that start to dissolve before you can get them down! But we have our ways around that too!

If they really can't manage it, many medicines are available as liquids, though the amount an adult or teen needs to take to get the right dose is often pretty huge.  Some medicines can be turned into liquids, trans-dermal patches, or even lollipops or gummy bears at specialized 'compounding' pharmacies. Your pediatrician, or local children's hospital probably has a list of pharmacies that provide this service.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hurry Up!

Dear Goodjoan,

I have a child with an attention issue. Generally it's not a problem, I've learned to adapt to her 'speed' at various tasks, but one thing that still drives me slightly bonkers is that she will NOT GET IN THE CAR!  It's not that she doesn't want to go in the car, or go out, in fact she's usually very eager to go where we are going! She seems to think that she's moving pretty fast but she has to stop and look at every rock, every ant, some clouds, every dog hair stuck to the car upholstery, the interesting weave of the fabric on the car seat get the idea.  When I suggest she keep going, or look at that later, she gets mad and tells me she IS hurrying!  Normally, I leave plenty of time to get to the car, but some days, like when it's raining, or when we're late, I'd kinda like to move her along a bit faster without creating a scene that stops the whole procession in it's tracks! I know you have a child with ADD. How did you deal with things like this?

I found the ideal solution for this problem completely by accident! Many year ago, I had started a work at home type job and one of the company samples in my starter kit was a kid friendly stop watch. Before I could get it out of the box, my oldest, who was probably 2 at the time was interested in it. I explained what it did and he immediately wanted me to time him doing various things!  How fast could he run across the yard?  How long did it take him to count to 10? I saw the benefits of this right away and turned almost everything into a game. How fast could he run to the mailbox and back 5 times? (to tire him out!) How sloowly could he walk to that tree and back? (So I could sit down for a minute!) How quickly could he put away his toys? (he cleans!) How long could he go without talking? (do I need to explain this to anyone with a 2 year old?) How quickly could he put on his pajamas?  One time I even tried to see if I could time how long it took him to go to sleep but he insisted on popping up every 10 seconds to ask "How long has it been now?" but hey, you can't win them all!  Not everything was a manipulative way to speed him up, but when so many things were a fun game with the timer, I don't think he realized when I was using it as a way to hurry him on those pokey days!  I kept that stopwatch in my diaper bag for YEARS!  Get a stopwatch and ask your daughter how fast she can get in her carseat!  Then the next time, remind her of her 'score' and see if she can beat it!  Time yourself getting into the car and see if she can do it faster than you. When you get home and have time, let her use the stopwatch to time how long it takes that ant to crawl over that rock!  Or how long it takes her to read 3 books. Not everything has to be a race.

Remember, don't encourage her to move at a speed that is dangerous, just a little quicker. You want her in the car and not smacked into it because she ran so fast she couldn't stop! And you want her safely buckled, not racing so fast she doesn't get latched properly!  Time her going up stairs or uphill but not down! One is a game, the other is an emergency room co-pay!

Best of all, remember to try not to get too frustrated.  If you are really stressed out, use that timer to make yourself count to 10!  :)  My ADD kid was a handful, but is now the most creative person I know! He's outgrown much of his dilly dallying and now I can see how what used to be aggravating 'attention problems' has grown into a unique view of the world and a fantastic eye for art and design!  He sees light and dark, and motion and form in a way that I simply cannot!  When he talks to me about a picture he's drawing, he points out shading and colors that I didn't notice. I mean, I see them, but not the way he does. The other day he went on for probably 30 minutes in the car about the color saturation and shape of clouds. I had noticed the clouds. I thought they were pretty that day, quite fluffy and poofy.  I don't think I could think up 3 minutes of monologue describing them other than that, he had 30! 30 minutes, non stop, in classic ADD fashion, but the way he was describing the sky made me glad he was the kid that couldn't help but stop and stare at an interesting rock :) I saw a rock. I wonder what he saw?

Hot Georgia Summer Body Scrub

Dear GoodJoan,

My son just came back from scout camp and he's so ground in dirty that even after a shower, I can still see the dirt rings on him! Any advice for getting him clean again?

Certainly! Scout camp is fun but they sure do come back a special kind of filthy!  First, empty his trunk and haul it outside to sit open in the sunshine to air out.  Do not do like I did the first year and tell your scout to unpack his things and them assume that he did it.  6 months later I found a trunk half full of mostly clean laundry, topped with a bag of pool shoes that had been worn in the lake, loosely tied in a grocery bag and left there to fester.  There's not enough febreeze in the world for that!

Next, whip up a batch of this and have him use it in his next shower!

Hot Georgia Summer Body Scrub!

This body scrub feels COOL as it washes away so it's great for showering off after a long, hot day! It'll take off bug spray and sunscreen and that sweaty film that you can feel all over yourself when you've been out in the heat too long!

1 box of baking soda
1 bottle of  body wash or liquid soap (use Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap for Extreme COOL!)
water (amount depends on your container)
a small plastic container with a wide mouth

1) Wash out your small container.  I used an empty gelati tub because it was handy.
2) Fill container about 3/4 full of baking soda.
3) In a separate cup, mix about a tablespoon or so of soap with warm water and mix gently. I used about a cup and a half in my example.  You want to thin out the soap considerably, but not make a frothy mess. For the example in the photo, I used Suave body wash in Sweet Pea and Violet scent. Dr Bronner's is organic if that is important to you.  If you don't want the ultimate tingly sensation, use a scent other than peppermint or tea tree) Any liquid soap would probably work, but I like really stinky ones, so the final product still has a good amount of scent.
4) Slowly pour the soap solution in the the baking soda. When the tub is full, put the lid on and roll it gently back and forth to wet all the powder.
5) Test consistency. If mix is too runny, add more baking soda. If it's too dry, add more of the soap solution.  Eventually, you should find that the baking soda will settle and extra water will rise to the top. I keep mixing and adding until I have the tub mostly full and about 1/4 inch of water remaining on top.  The end result should be a slurry you can easily scoop up in your hand but still has some grit.
6) Place container in shower and enjoy!

This stuff leaves my skin feeling so soft, I just love it. The baking soda exfoliates and the touch of soap cleanses.  A good scrub with this should have your scout Class A ready in no time!

WARNING- This scrub can make the bottom of your tub or shower slippery so be careful!!

Totally aside, my spinal cord injury left me with something called a 'neurologic itch' which is a fancy term for a spot on my body that itches almost constantly. The itching is caused by a glitch in my spinal cord sending the wrong signal, and not something actually on my skin. This scrub is gentle enough to use quite vigorously on that spot on my hip so that I feel like I'm really scratching it, but without damaging my skin like I've had happen with salt scrubs! Then the cool sensation helps calm the itch for a little while!