Here's the scenario: Your six year old has a bookshare coming up.
The topic? A fable.
And the how-to? Choose to make a diorama or puppets to supplement the oral book report.
If you had the choice to construct a shoebox diorama or a couple of puppets, which would you pick? Personally, I'd go for the diorama. And that was the plan.
My first grader chose Frog and Toad: A List by Arnold Lobel as his fable, a great story about two friends, Frog and Toad. The very short version of the story has Toad making a list of things he'd like to accomplish that day. While Frog and Toad are knocking things off the list, namely going for a walk, the list blows away and panic ensues. Toad cannot remember what else is on his list and so cannot go on - with his walk or with his day. And so Frog and Toad sit in the forest until night falls and then they go to sleep, because Toad suddenly remembers that 'go to sleep' was the last thing on the list.
According to my interpretation, the moral of the story is that it's okay to make a list but its also okay to change the list when things go wrong. According to my first grader, it's important to stay inside with your list on a windy day. Both very important lessons.
We were all set to build a diorama on Sunday. His report was due on Monday and um, we had gone away for the weekend. Upstate. To my brother's house. A house with no art supplies, let alone empty shoe boxes sitting around.
So taking a lesson from Frog and Toad, we changed our plans and went with the puppet option. We used huge red Solo plastic cups as the base and paper plates as the tops. Thank goodness for paper goods.
In an ideal world, we would have googled 'Frog and Toad', printed out pictures of those two guys and glued them onto our puppet bases. But again, along with no art supplies, we had no computer and no printer.
Very carefully, because we also had only a couple of paper plates, I drew outlines of Frog and Toad while looking at their pictures in the Frog and Toad book and the little boy colored them in. He also cut them out and glued them onto straws and then told me that he couldn't believe there was so much work to do for a bookshare. We'd been at it for ten minutes by then - so, you can see, it was going well.
We still needed some way to attach the straws to the cups and the only way I could see was to go through the bottoms of the cups. But, man, those Solo cups, they're made of really good, really hard plastic. Only the best paper goods in my brother's house.
You know what I needed? I needed a scissor. I was going to have all the kids stand back and then stab the scissor through the bottom of the cup to make a hole, except haha! The only scissor in the hole house was a kiddie scissor, so really, no one had to stand back.
After many (many) repeated attempts at stabbing the cups, the scissor finally went through and made a hole just large enough to hold the straw in place.
We were good to go.
Now all we had to remember was to bring the project home with us, which really, had we not done one last walk-through of the house before we left, would not have happened. And sadly, these pictures would have been all the little guy had on bookshare day.
Happily though, bookshare day was a great success and the first grade bookshares are officially done! Two kids done with first grade bookshares and two more to go (but I have a year-long break before the next one gets to first grade, so I'm good).
I feel like I should save these puppets for the next kid. Is that wrong?
We really like making ices when the weather turns warm - and I really do not like buying ices in the store. All that red dye #4 and all. Blech. And besides, these could not have been easier to make - if you have a blender. Without one, I don't know what to tell you. A food processor maybe? A Magic Bullet?
I peeled, de-seeded and cut up one grapefruit and washed and cut the tops off of a pound of strawberries. Into the blender went all the little fruit and out come something resembling a smoothie.
I poured the fruit smoothie into my trusty ice pop maker, popped the whole thing into the freezer and then forgot about it. For like a week.
So a week later, on a hot afternoon, we broke out the ices. I enjoyed them immensely, as did two of my kids. The other kids would have enjoyed them more had the ices been a little sweeter, so experimenting with different sweetness levels before freezing might be a helpful idea. Josh wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole because of the grapefruit. Although, I'm willing to guess that these days, he might start singing a different tune - he's now on day 3 of his first Whole30 and fruit treats are starting to look pretty good these days.
We shall see what happens...
I love my blog. I find that it both entertains me and relaxes me, which is why I have been perturbed by the fact that I have not been blogging all too often lately. But I think I've finally figured it out.
See, Josh and I have recently joined the 21st century and got ourselves a couple of smartphones. Josh has been lusting after one for a quite a while now and I have been dragging my feet for many reasons, including the cost factor (these new phones add another 50% to our bill each month) and the connection factor (I don't like being accessible to everyone, all the time. I like to know that Josh can reach me and the kids' school can reach me, but other than that, eh. I don't need the constant checking of email and facebook and um, what else is there?)
But lo and behold, my old faithful cell phone died on me. The battery would not hold a charge any longer and I had the phone plugged in more often than I had it in my bag, which kind of makes it worse than a cordless phone and super-pointless.
Anyway, to make a very long story only slightly long, we had no choice but to get new phones and to upgrade. So we did and now we're here and now that we have these new phones, I find that I no longer sit down at the computer that often - and there ya go, the reason I have not been blogging. No computer, no bloggy. Simple.
I see that I have to make an effort to sit down and write, which is okay because nothing good comes without effort and I really do enjoy the fact that this blog will be something for my kids to look back on to jog their memories of a (hopefully) fun childhood.
So where am I going with this?
Shavuot begins tomorrow night and contrary to what Josh likes to make believe*, there really is a custom to eat dairy on Shavuot. Since I got totally lucky and got invited out for both Shavuot lunches, I kind of felt like I wasn't going to cook or bake that much for the two night meals - except my eldest came home from school, having learned about cheesecake. As far as I can tell, that was the big theme of the day - not the giving of the Torah, not the culmination of counting 49 days of the omer, just cheesecake. Not that I'm saying that the teacher is not doing a wonderful job, because she is and I am sure she hit on the all salient points of Shavuot, but all my kid heard was CHEESECAKE.
So here we are, needing a cheesecake.
And here I am, with one in the oven. And I have to tell you, (and I know this because I have made this cheesecake countless times), this is best dang cheesecake out there. No, really, it is. And if I ate dairy, I would keep it all for myself. But I don't, so I will let my kids have it. I know, I'm such a good mommy.
Here's my version of a Chocolate Chip Cheesecake - adapted from the very excellent baking cookbook called The Whimsical Bakehouse.
Grease the bottom of an 8" round pan. The pan should be fairly deep, so try for an 8"x3" round pan. Once the pan is greased, cut out a circle of parchment paper and lay it on the bottom of the pan.
2 cups of chocolate graham cracker crumbs (just fill a ziploc with graham crackers and have at it).
3/4 stick of melted butter
Mix the two together and press the mixture into the bottom of the pan, using any extra to build the crust up the sides of the pan.
Right about now would be a good time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3 bars of cream cheese - use the full fat kind, Shavuot only comes around once a year.
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream or Rich's Whip
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Mix the first four ingredients together in a standing mixer, until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, until they are fully mixed in. Pour the batter into the crust and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.
Now here comes the tricky part. I mean, not that tricky, but man, I hate a water bath. I usually use an aluminum disposable roasting pan for this part because it's big enough and because I can throw it out afterwards. If you're using a real roasting pan, please make sure it's not one that you have used for meat because you know, that would be bad. Dairy or pareve pans only please!
Put the cheesecake pan inside the roasting pan and fill the roasting pan halfway with hot water (not boiling, just hot). Be sure to pour the water into the pan with a cup, it's not a good idea to hold the cheesecake filled roasting pan under the faucet; there's absolutely nothing good that can come from that.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the center of the cake appears firm. Some say that there's nothing worse than an undercooked cheesecake, but keeping in mind that I would eat the raw batter, happily, I'd say to err on the side of caution and take the cake out too soon rather than too late.
Now here's the annoying part - let the cheesecake cool on the counter for two hours. Two hours?! I know. So don't do what I just did and put it in the oven at 9pm because really, we're going to be sitting here all night. I feel like I might as well make challah now - except for the fact that there's a cheescake in the oven. Darn.
Oh well, maybe I'll just catch up on the many many weeks of missed The Good Wife episodes.
Oh, and once the cake is cool, run a knife around the edges and using a parchment covered plate, place it over the cheesecake, invert the cheesecake so its upside down and let the cheesecake come out of the pan onto the plate. Peel off the parchment paper that was inside the cake pan and is now stuck to the bottom of the cheesecake and immediately place another plate, preferably the serving plate over the bottom of the cheesecake and flip in again so that it is now right side up. Make sense? Good.
Look at your cheesecake and be proud, but don't eat it yet. Not cause it's not Shavuot but because by the time this process is done, it'll be one o'clock in the morning and there's that whole eating-in-the-middle-of-the-night-heartburn-thing. You can have some for breakfast instead.
*All fleishigs, all the time. It's a like a motto.
Can I tell you how happy I am that my hostas are growing back?
I love a plant that comes back year after year, and yet, mine usually don't.
I must have some other-colored thumb, because it certainly is not green.
Except, maybe, maybe, my thumb is turning colors, because my hostas are back!
Did I mention I was happy?
Forget Disneyworld, my happiest place (besides my bed) is Target. I love that place. And my favorite Target section - the dollar bins.
In actuality, I never need anything from those bins, but who does? And yet, I cannot walk past the dollar bins without adding a magnetic notepad or a Hello Kitty headband to my cart. But the best, at least in the spring, are the bubble wands. All four of my kids love these - even the ones who think they are too old to blow bubbles.
See, the bubble wands, they also double as light sabers and you know, light sabers=cool.
After school the other day, on the first really beautiful day in weeks - it's been weirdly cold for April - the kids ran outside and I handed these guys out. And they all played together. All four of them; all four kids have not been interested in the same activity in what feels like forever.
I fear that the days when I can occupy all four of them with one activity are quickly coming to an end.
I wonder how this will all play out.
It's been a merry-go-round of a week with different kids home sick. Huge thanks go out to that modern miracle called Motrin, because they have all been relatively un-cranky, which is much appreciated. But this also means that they are bored. B-O-R-E-D and I'm running out of things to do.
This morning we baked a delicious cake - a kind of cinnamon crumb chocolate chip coffee cake* in a bundt pan, so it looks all fancy. It's my mom's recipe from years ago - and neither of us have made it in ages - but the girls picked it out of the cookbook this morning so we went with it. The house smells great and we're now ahead of the game for Shabbos.
But there was also an afternoon today - a gorgeous day, the kind of day that has you standing at the window, looking out and saying, I must get these kids into a stroller right now so I can go walking. And so we did. Except that really, once you get outside, you realize it's freezing. Not truly freezing, but windy and chilly enough that you're just as happy as the kids to go back inside and hang out in the porch.
Which is what we did.
And then we rummaged through the arts and crafts stuff and made rainbows, because, well, I wish I had a reason, but I don't. My girls just like rainbows.
They sat and made these and I sat on the couch and watched. Perfect.
Grab some colored paper and a scissor and cut the papers into small pieces.
Hand out bottles of glue and large-ish papers. Draw a big rainbow on each paper and let the kids glue one little paper at a time to the rainbow. In theory, it should take quite a while but it only took my girls about twenty minutes, most of that time spent smooshing glue between their hands. You know what? Whatever floats their boat today is fine by me; as long as no one is fighting right now, I am happy.
Oh, and here's the recipe so you can make your house smell great too. The whole thing can be put together in five minutes - and then you can go sit while it bakes. Love that.
*Savti's Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1/2 lb softened margarine (I used 1 cup oil instead and it's totally fine)
1 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup soy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk, and again, totally fine. Rice milk would work too, as would real milk, but I like to keep my baking pareve.)
1 tsp vanilla.
Mix all in a large bowl and set aside while you make the crumb part.
In a small bowl, mix together:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon (or more, if you like)
1 cup chocolate chips
Spray a bundt pan with baking spray.
Pour half the batter into the pan, top with 3/4 of the crumb mixture, add the rest of the batter and then top it off by sprinkling the rest of the crumb topping on top.
The recipe that I have from my mom indicates that the cake should be baked for an hour. However, mine was done at 45 minutes. I feel like my oven runs hots, but even accounting for a temperature difference, I feel like 60 minutes would be too long. I would start checking at 40 minutes and go from there. You want a toothpick to come out clean, maybe with some melty chocolate on it.
So all in all, I'd say bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
I have Ninjago coming out of my ears lately*. Everywhere I step, a little ninja guy or his sword or his spinner is poking itself into my feet.
Oh wait, do you not know what Ninjago is? You might not, if you're not lucky enough to have a seven year old boy. So I'll explain - Ninjago is a subset of regular old Lego, consisting of (as far as I can tell) four ninjas named Kye, Zane, Cole and Jay. I think. And I believe that they are all battling Lord Garmadon for something, but I don't what that something is. What I do know is that there is Lego everywhere. And I also know that I really like the Ninjago word "spinjitsu" even though I cannot define it.
The third Lego related lesson for today: I also know that Josh is fed up with living in Legoland. It's a nice place to visit but it's time to take back the house. And so all the Lego (All The Lego) has been moved up to a spare room in the attic, which is now such a holy mess that you cannot walk in there without shoes on. But I try to look on the bright side - I don't visit the attic that often so I do not have to see it. And if I don't see the mess, then I get to say things like What mess? My house is neat! Come on in!
In the spirit of ninjas and lego pieces, here is what my lego-lover pieced together from paper and tape. Who knew he was so crafty?
It's a ninjago costume, a full body one at that.
Just some paper, a scissor and scotch tape.
Gotta love a crafty kid.
*I also have kids with strept and fever coming out of my ears, which is where this non-blogging mommy has been.
I love Birthdays. Yesterday, mine. Today, the State of Israel.
My kids came home from school all sugared up, humming Israeli songs, dressed in hand-painted Israeli flag t-shirts and smelling faintly of falafel, telling tales of chumus and pita and apple cider. I have not yet figured out the significance of the apple cider but the rest of their day sounded awesome. These are the kinds of days when I kind of wish I was still a little kid, going to school everyday.
Today is the kind of day that calls for a big thank you to the teachers for turning Yom Ha'atzmaut into a joyous and teachable day, where love of The Land is reinforced in kids who might forget why they sing the Hatikvah on a day to day basis.
Happy 65th, my friend. Oh how I wish we could celebrate together. I mean, I'm not knocking the giant blue and white cookies for they are indeed tasty and celebratory, but it would be nice to celebrate together, thousands of miles away from where I sit now.
(And just in case you're really interested, right now I'm sitting on a little stepstool next to the bathtub while the girls fight over who gets to come out of the bath second...)
The lovely chocolate-covered fruit arrangement from my brother. This is BEFORE the kids fondled all the fruit and ate all the chocolate off the sticks. See the cupcake lookalikes with sprinkles in the picture? I told the kids there was a fruit hiding underneath all that chocolate. They disagreed. They insisted it was an ice cream bar. It wasn't. And it turned into a bite and spit party. Fun for everyone.
Another year, another birthday, another day to eat way too much sugar.
The day started well with a nice Whole30 breakfast and then went downhill from there.
Well, downhill and uphill.
Everything was very tasty - the falafel at my birthday lunch, the surprise Edible Arrangements chocolate covered fruit thing and Dunkin Donuts with the kids. All delicious. But now I don't feel too good.
Sugar is not my friend and that makes me sad.
Tomorrow, we go back to eating like a grownup.
We have been having breakfast issues lately, specifically with the what to have
part of breakfast.
My kids are partial to cream cheese and saltines, an unfortunate combination that has become the go-to breakfast in the house for a while now. I have been trying to counter that by offering scrambled eggs, but really, who wants to get up early to scramble eggs every morning? I know. Me either.
So I made these muffins
) last night, in the hopes that they'd eat these for breakfast - and three out of four kids ate them happily, and in my book, that's a win.
The 100daysofrealfood mom says to put whatever you like into the muffin batter so I tripled the recipe and then added three different kinds of add-ins: chocolate chips, walnuts and coconuts. But now I think about it, I'm pretty sure she meant nice things like fruit, not questionable breakfast items like chocolate chips. What can I say? Baby steps.
The muffins are delicious and a triple recipe yielded 36 muffins, so enough for many many breakfasts and a few lunchbox treats. Like I said to Josh - one recipe makes 12 muffins. That's so cute. What would I do with 12? After everyone tastes, I'll be left with almost none.
Nope, in our house, we triple a recipe or we go home. Or however that saying goes.