The Magic Skirt and the Multi-purpose Chickpea

Two trays of chickpeas in my oven

I didn’t babysit a lot when I was younger. I did puppy sit for our neighbor’s Lhasa Apso when her puppies were “due any minute.” This involved me feeding her regularly, then stopping in to watch her behavior in case she started to “nest” or act restless. Thankfully, her babies were born when the family got home. And there was an infant across the street, Kerstin, who I babysat a few times when I was in high school. Eventually, she grew up, went to Harvard and I believe is now a doctor somewhere, so her time with me wasn’t TOO damaging!

Young girl with cap and gown on, waving
I’m sure she’s gone far in her life. Photo by Laura Garcia on

But traditional babysitting wasn’t me

But other than family members, nieces, nephews, and a cousin occasionally, babysitting just wasn’t something I did. Still, those brief events left me with memories of children and how their minds work. One nephew used to refer to me as Mama (probably just to push his mother’s buttons). He’s also the nephew who, when staying with me for a few weeks at just 2 or so years old, would put himself in the corner for a bit. When I asked him why, he’d let me know the bad thing he was going to do. He was penalizing himself in advance! Scary! He’s another quite intelligent child, who has grown up to be a man filled with promise. And there was also Kerstin. That smart little girl who revealed an incredibly creative mind. It provided entertainment for herself and for me when I spent time with her.

Little blonde boy crying
Too smart for his age. Photo by Anna Shvets on

Some kids Have cardboard boxes, Kerstin Had a skirt

Kerstin’s skirt didn’t look like anything special. But when I walked into the living room, prepared for her usual game of playing teacher; standing on the fireplace hearth and instructing a classroom of stuffed animals, partially dressed dolls, and me on the couch, I noticed a new item in her pile of toys. A cotton print skirt. It was a wrap skirt, quite popular in the 70s. Basically just a swath of bright cloth with ties at the top. I wore similar ones myself. Black stretchy longer ones or short sheer black ones for dance performances or rehearsals, or long suede ones with boots for school. Kerstin’s appeared to be one of her mother’s. And she was so excited to show me the amazing things this skirt could do.

Woman walking on the beach in a colorful skirt
It was a magical skirt capable of time, space, and life travel. Photo by Molly Champion on

Never stop a child’s imagination

Kerstin picked up the fabric (she was all of about 3 or 4 at this point) and stepped up onto her “stage” to demonstrate:

Now I’m an old lady! And she wrapped the scarf around her face like a shawl, bent over slightly and pretending to have trouble walking

Young woman wearing head shawl
Kerstin didn’t look old, but in her mind she was. Photo by Daria Sannikova on

Now I’m Supergirl! The skirt moved to her shoulders and flew out behind her as she leapt off the hearth onto the carpet

Wonder Woman leaping through the air
Ah the magic in a piece of cloth Photo by Roy Reyna on

Now I’m a dancer! The skirt moved lower and wrapped around her waist flowing out behind her as she twirled around the living room

Woman dancing in a long skirt
All it takes is a swirly skirt! Photo by Wellington Cunha on

Now I’m a mommy! She quickly swaddled the nearest doll into the skirt and cuddled it close.

Young girl with doll
Simple things can bring joy Photo by Polesie Toys on

In Kerstin’s mind the skirt was magic, and filled her time (at least for an hour or so) with dreams, and personas, and adventure. I knew then that she would grow up to do amazing things. Because even with something as simple as a cast off (or stolen from her mom’s closet) skirt, she knew how to explore every opportunity.

A gift of magic

A number of years later, my brother-in-law was lecturing in Montreal and my sister and two nephews had gone along for the trip. My mother and I drove up to share some time with them as well. One night we got to babysit while my sister and her husband went out for dinner with some colleagues. Both boys were under the age of 5. My sister provided me with their nighttime routine so we’d know what to expect.

Bathtime is not a scary event!

As she was heading out the door, Lorraine commented, “Bathtime may be a struggle.” But I had something I thought might change that fact. I was so right! As soon as my sister left, I opened my tote bag, and told them I had a surprise for them. Eager eyes turned into smiles and squeals when I pulled out two huge silk scarves in bright colors. They tied them around their necks and ran around the hotel room jumping from bed to bed. They were superheroes. Those silk scarves kept them busy (and probably our downstairs neighbors wondering what was happening) for a half hour or so.

But bath time arrived and the question came up, “Can we take our scarves in the tub? “Of course!!!” What silk scarf can’t stand up to a bit of bathwater? So bubbles filling the tub, the two of them jumped in and enjoyed a continuation of their super hero game. Because super heroes need to get clean, too, right?

White tub with chrome faucet and white towel
Some soap and a scarf can turn into superman’s bathtime! Photo by Pixabay on

By the time my sister and her husband arrived back at the hotel that night, the two little boys were snuggled up under the blankets sleeping soundly. It had been a great night. And I had found proof, sometimes you can take something very simple and turn it into something amazing. That brings me to this amazing recipe for Crunchy Chickpeas… yes, canned chickpeas can turn into your go-to snack. They’re healthy, easy to make, and you can switch up the spices to get whatever flavor your craving!

Crunchy Spicy Chickpeas


  • 2 15-oz cans of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried
  • 2 TB flavored olive oil. I used lemon, but sage, rosemary, or harissa would also be good
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 TB nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A couple grinds of black pepper
Two trays of chickpeas in my oven
They smell so good as they roast


  • Preheat the oven to 350F
  • Rinse and dry your chickpeas. Mine weren’t dry enough and they didn’t quite crisp up. Best case, you get your chickpeas out, rinsed, drained, and dried, then give them an hour our so sitting in a single layer on a rack to finish drying well.
  • Place all dried ingredients in a bowl
  • Drizzle oil over your chickpeas, then place into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir them all around until well covered.
  • Spread them out in a single layer on two baking sheets
  • Place baking sheets in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring them gently, or shaking them around at the 10 minute mark, but making sure they stay in a single layer
  • Check them at 15 – 20 minutes to see if they are crispy. If not, give them another few minutes. They should be crispy, not soggy before you take them out of the oven.
  • When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  • Store leftovers, if there are any, in an airtight container. Ours kept crispy and tasty for a week!

The nice thing about this recipe, built as a variation on one in Gordon Ramsay’s Healthy, Lean & Fit, is that you can switch up spices, use Chinese 5 Spice, add garlic salt and fresh herbs like oregano or thyme, or even make a sweeter one with honey salt and a bit of butter flavored oil for a Kettle Korn feeling. I hope you enjoy.

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