About a year ago, a new chocolate store called Chocolate Works opened up in the city - and at the same time, began offering chocolate making workshops for kids.
If you know us, you also know that we rarely venture into the city - the driving, the tolls, the paying for parking or, alternatively, the driving around looking for parking, the kids incessantly asking where the driveways are and why we can't park in them. We just don't do it. We briefly entertained the thought of taking the train into the city but the below freezing temperatures combined with the prospect of dragging the double stroller through the train station was just too much for me.
So we drove*. We ventured into the city with all the kids the other day - and it was totally worth it. The chocolate making class at Chocolate Works was the most fun I've had (um, I mean the kids have had) in a while.
Each kid had the opportunity to wear an apron, which for my four year old, was almost too exciting in itself. The child was unable to stop smiling from the moment we entered the store. I couldn't stop smiling either once one of the chocolate ladies came over with a sample tray. Yes, please and thank you very much, I will have another, thanks for asking.
Each kid in the workshop chose a chocolate mold - a huge chocolate mold - and got a turn to use the chocolate hose (I need one of those in my kitchen) to fill their mold. We chose a heart, ballerina shoes, a baseball mitt and a smartphone. Yes, we currently have a half-eaten chocolate smartphone in the house. I don't even have a real smartphone, but we won't go there.
While the chocolate was hardening in the molds, each kid had to make the very difficult decision of whether to choose an Oreo, a salted pretzel or a graham cracker to cover in melted chocolate. It's hard to choose - and my kids had some difficulty understanding why they couldn't have all three, but eventually, we wound up with 3 Oreos and a pretzel. Josh and I had no trouble choosing at all - he went with a graham cracker and I went with a pretzel. Sweet and salty, a no-brainer.
Each chocolate covered treat was placed on a conveyor belt and each kid had the chance to sprinkle their treat with sprinkles, non-pareils and or m&ms. I, for one, could not understand why anyone would choose anything but m&ms but that's just me, and yet so many people went with the non-pareils. Whatever. This is not the place for disparaging remarks.
As the treats came through the other end of the conveyor belt, where I am assuming the chocolate was quick-dried, each kid got the chance to catch their treat on a mini paper plate; my kids thought that was very cool. But even cooler was the chocolate fountain (I need one of those too; just think how nice that would look on the kitchen counter). Each kid in the class received a skewered marshmallow and had a chance to run their marshmallow on a stick through the melted chocolate fountain. Personally, I am not a marshmallow fan, but I honestly had to restrain myself from climbing headfirst into the fountain. Heaven.
For the last part of the class, each kid got to use squeezee bottles of colored melted chocolate to decorate their chocolates that, by then, had been released from their molds. So much fun and the chocolates were so pretty.
Our chocolates and treats were packed up in pretty paper bags and we were on our way.
The classes are a little expensive, but we grabbed a groupon for a class good for four kids. If you see one, grab it, it's so worth it.
*When did parking on the street in the city become so expensive? And where did all the parking meters go? They've all been replaced with muni-meters, which, while a nice and tidy concept which negates the need for many many quarters, also have a down side. Parking meters used to live next to each parking spot. Insert quarters, grab the kids and go.
Now, you park, bundle everyone up with gloves, hats and scarves, get the stroller out, walk everyone all the way down the street, pay at the muni-meter and then walk everyone all the way back to the car to put the tiny little receipt into the car window. All I can say is that it's a process. And an expensive process - when did parking on the upper west side become 50 cents for 10 minutes? Because I have to say, it takes us ten minutes to get out of the car. Muni-meters: possibly not the most family-friendly parking option around. And now I'm done complaining.
This past weekend we went upstate to my brother's house, the same place we spent this past summer. It was just as amazing as last time, except this time, there was the added bonus of snow! Not a lot of snow, but since all we've had so far this winter is a dusting (and I'm not complaining, just making an observation!), the small amount of snow was huge
to my kids.
They played, threw snowballs, made snow angels and pretended to snowboard - there wasn't really enough snow to snowboard but we did have an actual snowboard. We got the last one in Walmart (and most likely the entire upstate NY region) the day we got there. Even the cashier was surprised there were any left.
Thank you again to the best brother, bro-in-law and uncle, all rolled into one.
And the new TV facing the couch doesn't hurt either.
Winter break. The kids wait for it all year; a whole ten days off from school and finally and thankfully, we're all better. No more tissues floating around the house and just enough coughing left over so that the daily hot chocolates still make sense.
The other day we found ourselves in Rockland County with some extra time and nothing to do. We headed over to the Palisades Park Mall and even though I am not a fan of malls*, do all my shopping online and only enter a mall when I absolutely have to, I have to say, it was
Not only will you find a Disney store, a Lego store and a carousel, but a ferris wheel. Inside. Oh, and there's ice skating, a movie theater and an arcade. We considered spending the night.
Because my kids are my kids, they were terrified of all the rides, but they went on them anyway, and were so proud of themselves afterwards. So a day at the mall and a shot of self-esteem. What more can I ask for?
Actually, you know what else I can ask for - a life lesson in using your money wisely. And, oh my goodness, did we find ourselves with a teachable moment in the food court.
My kids asked (and asked and asked) for ice cream and because it was kid#3's half birthday and because we like any reason to justify having a treat, we went to check out the ice cream. Alas, the only kosher ice cream available was Haagen Daaz. We waited on line while the kids seriously discussed their orders. Josh listened patiently while they each described their
flavor and sprinkle color and cone vs. milkshake requests. And that's when we noticed that there was no price list hanging behind the counter. And you wanna know why? It's because a small cup costs $3.50 and a small milkshake, a whopping $7.00. Seven Dollars. And while we slowly backed the kids and the stroller away from the ice cream counter, we took that opportunity to explain that seven dollars is an obscene amount to pay for ice cream and that if each kid indeed got their preferred shake, we would have spent $28 on ice cream.
And the kids just looked at us. I explained that they were welcome to return the $7 box of lego we just bought each of the boys at the Lego store and use that money to get ice cream and that's when I saw the light go on in their eyes, understanding that it's so much better to spend that money on a toy than on ice cream that would be gone in a few minutes. Instead, everyone picked a chocolate bar treat from the vending machine.
Josh went on to explain that for $28, we could buy enough ice cream in Shoprite to throw an ice cream party for them and all their friends. They asked when the party was going to be.
Huh. We need to learn when to stop explaining things, be quiet and just eat chocolate.
*My mom loves to shop. I can't even italicize the word 'love' enough to get my point across. She shops for sport, which works out well now because my kids always have enough clothes, courtesy of my mom. When I was little, though, I didn't find this shopping hobby to be that great. In fact, I hated it. I hated being shlepped to malls, I hated the walking around and I hated it that the malls were all so hot in the winter and there was nothing to do but carry your own coat. I mean, what is that? But I digress. My point here is that my best friend from preschool (hi Esti!) loved to shop when we were younger and her mom, as the fates would have it, hated shopping. So we traded moms on a semi-frequent basis. Esti would go along with my mom and they'd do their shopping thing and I would stay with Esti's mom, who, luck would have it, was very into creating intricate designs with chocolates and chocolate molds (yum!) so I got to see the inside of Brooklyn's chocolate shops on a regular basis. Bliss - for everyone.
There have been some serious germs in this house over the past two weeks,
ending with bronchitis, for me. At least, I sincerely hope this is the end; I
cannot handle more coughing and sneezing and dirty tissues behind the couch.
Isn't that where your kids throw their tissues when they're done
blowing their noses?
My kids don't either, except that they do and they are and I didn't know it.
But now I do and now the children understand that a garbage can is a garbage can
and a behind the couch is a behind the couch - you know, where we throw
the toys when we don't want to sort them.
The last time I was sick like this was almost three years ago, right after
my youngest was born - except then, no one thought I was sick. What we did think
was that I was having a very hard timing recovering from a c-section and also,
possibly, a vicodin addiction. Well, not a real addiction, it was more like I
finished every last pill in that very small bottle and called my OB to beg for
me because I felt, how should I say this, very very bad.
I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it was time to transition to Advil;
no more vicodin. So I transitioned and it didn't help and 12 days post
c-section, on a Sunday, I found myself in my internist's office begging him to
write me a prescription for something stronger than Advil. Luckily, he was
immune to my red eyes and drippy nose and obvious womanly charms
and noticed that I had a hacking cough.
Apparently, when you go in to have a baby, the baby isn't the only parting gift.
They offer bronchitis and a touch of pneumonia too. All for free, except for the
enormous co-pay for that private room, but that's a whole other story.
Anyway, back to now, I once again have bronchitis.
And what have I learned this time around?
That I have good friends.
I have friends that offer to bring dinner, I have friends that share the
secret witch's brew their dad swears by when he doesn't feel well and friends
who will gladly share the last of their pot of chicken soup with you.
We're all busy - some of us at work, some of us at home and some of us are
just busy coughing these days. But I love the friend who calls before she runs
to Shoprite, just to see if you need more cough drops. You say no, you're good
and she brings some anyway.
Thank you to my friends for taking care of a very-pathetic fellow mommy
this past week or so. But the very best friend of all - the husband, who
rearranges his life and work for days at a time to make sure the kids are good
and who makes sure I'm extra good. I'm good, Josh. Everyone will have clean
clothes again, soon. Maybe not in their drawers, but definitely near their drawers.
Something kind of weird is going on with Josh's ties. Over the past week, several of them have gotten dirty, which is strange because in almost ten years of marriage, I can't recall that ever happening before; taking a tie to the cleaners feels like something I have never done before.
Having just reread those two sentence, I can be fairly certain that one of two things have just happened - either you've clicked away because why in the world is she talking about ties or you're still here because you're my mom or your name is Alissa.
Anywho, Josh needed a specific tie (aka - his one really nice one) for this weekend but the dry cleaners could not have it ready in time. In a panic, I asked my mom if she could drop a couple of ties at our house on her way to work; my dad has, estimated conservatively, about a thousand ties, all of them really nice because my mom purchased every last one of them. Me, I wouldn't know a nice tie if a whole rack of them fell on my head*.
Last night, I mentioned to Josh that my mom was coming in the morning with a selection of ties for him.
And he said, (so happily) really? Your mom's coming with pies!?
And then I had to say, no, not pies, ties.
And he wasn't so happy anymore. He was actually kind of sad.
Don't get me wrong, he appreciated the ties, but for that one brief shining moment he was envisioning my mom walking through the door carrying four or five bakery boxes filled with an assortment of pies for him to sample. Just the idea of it made him so happy - and until that moment, I had no idea that this was a dream of his. See, who says you can't learn new things about your spouse?
So yeah, I kinda sorta had to bake a pie today. Just one, not an assortment, let's not get crazy. But we are going to make a crust. Don't worry. And just so we're clear, I made this recipe up. My kids think it came out great, but just in case your kids don't, I just wanted to put that out there.
Anyway, I googled and googled and could not find what I was looking for. So I took a little from there and a little from here, and came up with the following:
For the crust -
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (I used chocolate graham crackers)
1/2 cup melted margarine or oil
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and pour into a greased pie plate, pressing the crumbs down the bottom and up the sides, as far as it will go.
Bake for 8-10 minutes
While the pie crust is baking, gather together:
2 cans of unsweetened and full fat coconut milk
2 boxes chocolate pudding/pie mix
Pour the coconut milk and pudding mix into a pot. Bring it to a boil, whisking it the whole time. It will start to thicken as it nears boiling point - it's kind of like making pudding in a pot.
Remove the pot from the heat and allow the filling to cool sightly and pour it into the baked crust. Refrigerate for an hour until the filling is somewhat solid.
Now it's time to add the topping.
For the topping, gather together:
1 4 oz. container of Rich's Whip
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
Using a hand mixer, whip together the whip and the sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread the topping onto the pie. Refrigerate for a couple of hours and serve cold, straight from the fridge.
I was very nervous about this pie, for several reasons. To start, I've never made a cream pie before. And second, I had never before cooked or baked or even opened a can of unsweetened coconut milk. But much to my delight, this was, in the words of a six year old who should not be speaking like this, freaky good. We might need to have a conversation about language later tonight, but for now, even I can attest to the fact that it was freakin good (at least that's what I think he was trying to say) - yeah, I know, the Whole30 round two. I cheated. It was my first cheat since this whole Whole30 thing started. It was a choice, I made a choice to taste my pie and it was totally worth it. I had one spoonful and I walked away. Having said that, the rest of the pie has now been packed away, awaiting Josh's return from work.
And also, I locked the baby gate to the kitchen. I know that I know how to open the gate, but it is a mental deterrent for me. I'm good.
*Wouldn't you know, something just like happened to me once, courtesy of one of my kids at age two. The combination of me kneeling down next to a tie display in Kohl's to pick up a sippy cup and a toddler's outstretched hand was, shall we say, not good.
It's absolutely freezing outside today and I so thought these snowman cookies
would be appropriate right about now.
The little one and I had the pleasure of visiting my four-year-old's
kindergarten classroom last week to bake cookies. The class has been learning
about the brachot or blessings on food and last week was mezonot* week.
We arrived at school at 9am and left three hours later after a visit that
was messy, exhausting and a lot of fun. The kids and I made sugar cookie dough**
together; they each got two turns to pour in the ingredients and hold the mixer and
then all of a sudden, it was snack time! I love snack time!
After the snacks were cleared away, hands were washed and the tables wiped
down (so much cleaning in preschool - I've either forgotten about that part of teaching
or I wasn't such a tidy teacher), it was time to roll out the dough. But alas, there
was no rolling pin. So we just kind of smashed the dough down and everyone had their
turn to use the snowman cookie cutter to cut out their cookies.
Once the cookies were baked, the real fun began.
To make these snowman cookies at home, just gather together the following:
1 lb. confectioner's sugar
6 tbsps water
6 tbsps light corn syrup
Oreo cookies, scored and halved for hats
jelly beans for a nose
mini chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth
mini dot candies for buttons
either Pull 'n Peel licorice or Sour Sticks for the scarves
some popsicle sticks
a big mixing bowl and a spoon
I know, it seems like a lot, but it all came together pretty quickly.
The teacher (Morah Sarah - love her! So far all of my school-age kids have had the
amazing experience of spending a year in Morah Sarah's kindergarten!) divided
the kids up into three groups because cookie decorating with 16 kids at once,
plus an extra two-year-old, can get crazy pretty quickly.
One by one, the groups came to the table and spread the white "snow" icing
on their cookies.
To make the icing, pour the confectioner's sugar into your mixing bowl. Add
the 6 tbsps of water and mix until all the sugar is diluted. It's fine to add
more water if needed, but don't let the icing get too thin because then it will
run right off the cookies and the snowman will looked all melty. Once the
sugar is diluted, add the corn syrup and mix well.
Using a spoon, drop a small amount of icing on each cookie and let the kids
use (clean!) popsicle sticks to spread the icing. The icing also acts as the
glue for all the candies and cookies.
I had made one cookie ahead of time and left it on the table for the kids
to look at, but they were free to decorate any way they wanted.
The cookies ended up being absolutely adorable and were even cuter
looking once they were all lined up on the table together. Sadly, I was so
focused on the decorating, I forgot to take too many pictures.
On the way home, I realized that I had hardly taken any pictures at all but I
remembered that Morah Sarah had said she was going to send home a cookie with each
student. I figured I'd just take a picture of the one my daughter was going to
bring home, but sadly (or maybe not sadly, maybe they were just that yummy),
hers was eaten before it was my turn to pull to the front of the pick-up line
Oh well, at least my little one took a very long nap that afternoon. School is tiring!
*Mezonot? Mezonot is the Hebrew word for the category of food that includes
cookies, cakes, donuts, muffins, really anything you'd find in a bakery,
except for bread, which has its own bracha.
** It was awesome because I found a recipe that did not need to be
chilled for 30 minutes, like so many sugar cookie recipes require. Instead, we
went from measuring to mixing to rolling out the dough in less than 45 minutes,
which, when baking with 16 four-year-olds, is really the equivalent of two
minutes. Maybe three.
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)