We have, thank goodness, a month of celebrations coming up, including birthdays - some milestone ones, anniversaries and graduations. And so we've begun prepping for them because when I wait until the very last second, nothing good happens.
Putting aside my boys who are having their graduations at the end of this week for a minute, my dad's birthday** is the first biggie of the month - and he's going to be 60 this year.
We had some time the morning of Memorial Day when Josh went to play softball, so we painted boxes. I had these leftover cardboard boxes that we already used for another project, but I am pretty sure these are the last of the boxes. I'm a little sad about that, they have come in handy on so many different occasions.
Anyway, so the kids painted the boxes and then we used stampers dipped in paint and alphabet letters cut out of sponges (bought, not made, don't worry), each child making his or her special box for Pops, as they call my dad.
We are going to fill the boxes with homemade sugar-free cookies - a happy compromise for a guy with diabetes who loves baked goods.
And while we were already painting, we made these to decorate the porch, using blue and white paint, in honor of the Israel Day Parade that is going to be taking place this coming Sunday in NYC and of Yom Yerushalayim or Jerusalem Day, coming at us tomorrow, June 1st. I can share these pictures with you because I know that you won't judge me on the state of affairs of my shelves. They need work, and time, way more time than I have at the moment. Just make pretend you don't see them.
And now I must continue the search for yummy sugar free cookie recipes. Do you have one? Care to share?
*Cookie Tuesday will be back next week. I kind of forgot that today was Tuesday, I thought it was Monday - a day off on Monday always throws me off.
**I'm pretty sure my dad doesn't really read this, even though he says he does, so I can share...
A weird combination in that title, no? But you'll see, you can have super fun in the backyard with stuff that you already have.
So my nieces and nephew came over on this pretty hot and humid morning and even though the kids' ages (7 of them) vary by a lot - the oldest is almost 12, youngest is just one, they really played together very nicely. And what did they play so nicely? They drag raced. Yeah, that's what I said. Drag racing in my backyard. It was really quite adorable.
My five year old and my 11 year old niece used chalk to divide the driveway in half, lengthwise. Then they took all my empty seltzer bottles from the recycling bin and lined them up in some sort of very specific way that only they understood. And then two kids at a time raced our hand-me-down ketcars down the driveway, slamming into the fence instead of using the brakes like G-d (and the manufacturer) intended. I'm just happy the fence is still standing.
There was a lot of yelling, "on your mark, get set, go" and waving flags and seltzer bottles in the air. And a lot of cheering. It was pretty cute - and then they used the seltzer bottles once again to make trophies. They taped some construction paper onto the bottles , colored them and handed them out, one (or two) per person, so no one would feel left out.
Oreos and drinks for a snack and everyone was happy. So easy! And as my oldest just said as we were looking at pictures from the morning, "That thing, mommy, that thing we just did in the backyard before, that was awesome!"
Welcome to Cookie Tuesday: where we bake the cookies anyway, even though we can take one look at the dough and know they are gonna crash and burn. See? I share my failures too.
Today's recipe was one that I have been searching for - for quite some time actually. My kids love rugelach but in general, rugelach are either made with a yeast dough (somewhat of a pain) or with shortening (gross). And so I have been looking for one that is made without yeast and without trans-fat. When I saw this recipe - made with no yeast and with oil - I should have known something was up. But I chose to ignore my radar and make them anyway.
And here, sadly, is what happened. I mixed the dough exactly as the recipe was written, which is unusual for me, but somewhere deep down I must have felt that if I deviated from the instructions the results would be worse than they were.
I mixed together:
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar until creamy.
3 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 cup of orange juice
1 teaspoon of vanilla
These last four ingredients were added by alternating the wet and dry ingredients. The dough was then mixed until everything was incorporated. As instructed, I placed the dough into the fridge for one hour. But even before I did that, I knew something was off. The dough was just so sticky, there was no way that an hour in the fridge was going to help. Spending the night in the fridge wouldn't help this dough. But I persevered. And also, I couldn't bake anything else while this dough was in the fridge because the dough was in the bowl from my kitchen aid. So I wiped the counter down and let it be. And besides, it was time for the baby to have a bottle and for the older one to nap, so leave the kitchen we did.
An hour (okay, more like three hours) later, we came back. As per the instructions again, we floured the counter and dumped out the dough onto the floured counter - except it wouldn't come out of the bowl. It was so sticky that when I turned the bowl completely upside down, the dough did not even move at all. It just stayed there, stuck to the bowl like a sweaty fat man on a leather couch*. I scraped the dough out onto the counter, dumped a truckload of flour on top and mixed and kneaded, which I was quite peeved about because if I wanted to knead something, I would have just made a yeast dough.
Anyway, finally, finally, I was able to roll it out into a rectangle. Now, I have made rugelach before and one would normally roll the dough into a circle because rugelach are made by cutting a circle of dough into 8 or 12 triangles (crisscrossing the dough with a pizza cutter - if that helps with the imagery), spreading filling on top and then rolling up each triangle, starting at the bottom of the triangle and rolling towards the tip of the triangle. Make sense? I wish I had a picture to show you, but alas, I could not cut triangles from this dough. All I got was the rectangle. This rectangle, actually:
But okay, I could work with a rectangle. I figured I would spread the filling (in this case, a mixture of equal parts sugar and cocoa) over the rectangular dough and roll the dough up, jelly-roll style, with the plan being to then cut the jelly-roll into slices and bake then like that.
Except that the dough must have forgotten how much flour I had already added to it because it was still stuck to the counter. At that point, it was already 2:30pm and I have to get my boys from school at 3pm. What to do? So I scraped the dough back up, filling and all, and rolled small pieces into balls and placed them on the cookie sheet that has been waiting so patiently to bake some rugelach. Oh, and I dipped each ball into more of the filling mixture before putting it on the cookie sheet.
The cookies baked in a preheated 350 oven for 15 minutes. They looked exactly the same coming out as they did going into the oven. Not such a good sign. But Josh was brave. He tasted one. And he said they weren't bad. He even asked if I could make them again. I said I could try, but I really have no idea how much flour I mixed in there. Could be one extra cup, could be three. But make them again, most likely, not.
We will move on from here and give a silent prayer of thanks that Tuesday is over. And also that Cookie Tuesday only come around once a week. So. Much. Pressure.
*Are you laughing? Cause I was. For a long time. That was Josh's editing there. My original sticky dough analogy was "like doody on a potty". I'm still not sure which is more inappropriate and/or disgusting, but there you have it.
So apparently, April Showers do not bring May Flowers. April Showers bring May Showers and drowned plants and mutant hostas*. It's been raining for days now and looking outside is like looking at a wet jungle. No one has mowed their lawns, no one has raked any of the leaves that are covering every surface and for sure no one has weeded their gardens which means that those little suckers are popping up through the mulch that Josh painstakingly laid down himself. The sun will have to come out sometime, I just hope it doesn't bring a crazy hot summer with it.
What? Oh, you're saying I'm not the weatherman. Yeah, I know. I also know I am not nearly skinny enough to be the weathergirl and so that is why the weather commentary ends here. But my point was that it's raining and so we can't go walking or pretend jogging** with the double stroller and so we needed an activity.
And that's why, after much deliberation, we made pinwheels, using nothing but some paper, paper fasteners, scissors and straws. And a hole puncher.
I first saw this on a very creative blog called Northern Cottage and I bookmarked it for a rainy day. I considered recreating for you, step by step, how I made these pinwheels with my girls on the living room floor but as I sat down to write out the steps, I realized that it was really already done for me - and for you.
Northern Cottage did such a fantastic job on her pinwheel tutorial that there was no where for me to go with mine but down.
These were actually so easy to make once we got the hang of it that I had to wonder: if I made enough of these guys, could I generate enough wind with them in the backyard to take us off the electrical grid and save some money each month? Something to think about.
Anyway, because I followed someone else's tutorial and didn't change it up at all, I will just share pictures of my fun, dreary-day brightening pinwheels - and then I will go have a hot chocolate, because even though it's almost the end of May, it's pretty chilly out there. I better hurry though, my girls feel asleep after trying to make those pinwheels turn. All that blowing knocked them out, but you know that never lasts as long as it should.
*mutant hostas? Yeah, one lone leaf of my carefully planted hostas has decided to grow up instead of out like all its cousins. I'll take a picture and show you if it ever stops raining.
** to get skinny enough to be a weathergirl, obviously.
We've been very busy potty training the past few days so I kind of forgot about Cookie Tuesday until just before. What to bake? What. To. Bake? Oh, and also, I didn't have too many ingredients in the house so the what to bake question was even more concerning than usual.
Looking through the pantry and the fridge, I had only the basics - flour, sugar, oil, eggs, things like that. And then I saw it, in the back of the fridge, the very overpriced tub of chocolate spread I had bought for Pesach to try and lure the kids to eat something, anything. The tub was still pretty full, no one liked chocolate matzah - and can you really blame them? No. No, you can't.
So using what we had in the house, we made sugar cookies that went from mixed to baked in less than 15 minutes. Then we sandwiched pairs of cookies together with the chocolate spread, and presto chango from plain sugar cookies to fun sandwich cookies!
The how to:
Sugar Cookie Recipe -
2/3 cup oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 and 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
This is a really quick recipe, so preheat the oven to 400 degrees before you start. Lightly spray three cookies sheets with cooking spray. Combine the eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar in a standing mixer. Add the flour and baking powder and you are done. See? I told you to preheat the oven before you start.
Using a teaspoon*, drop the dough onto the cookie sheets, stopping after each sheet to go back and actually roll the dough into balls with your (dry) hands. After all the dough ballies are on the cookie sheets, go back and gently flatten each cookie with the palm of your hand. Don't smoosh them too hard, they shouldn't be that thin. If you like, sprinkle half the cookies with sprinkles and bake for between 4-10 minutes. Four to ten minutes? That's a pretty wide range. Crazy, I know. But it all really depends on your oven and how big the cookies really are. Here's the real rule - as soon as you see any browning whatsoever on the edges of the cookies, they are done. I don't care if the centers don't look done, they are.
Let them cool for a few minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack. Once the cookies are cool, use about 1/2 a tablespoon of chocolate spread to sandwich the cookies together. If you used sprinkles before baking, then use one sprinkle cookie as the top of the sandwich and one non-sprinkled cookie as the bottom of the sandwich.
And wow, look, you're done - and Caillou is still on the TV! Does that show never end? Now, quick, look at your cookies. They look like you worked so hard and made a chocolate filling and everything. No one has to know, I certainly won't tell.
*I initially wanted to make mini sandwich cookies and I kind of thought that I was. The balls of dough that I made were pretty small, all 36 of them. But the truth is, I could have made them half the size because they spread in the oven. Half-sized dough balls would have been mini. Oh well. These are actually kind of large sandwich cookies. I hope my boys won't be too disappointed when only one cookie shows up in each lunchbox.
The Potty Train has come to town. Well, not so much a train, more like a cupcake. Confused? That's okay, I'll explain.
The time has come to potty train my two (almost three) year old. Trust me, it wasn't my idea. I've been through this twice before and I had no desire to re-enter the world of carrying a potty from room to room, asking every two seconds if anyone had to go, bribing with chocolate and worst, cleaning the car (insert gag reflex here). I thought I had more time. I figured we'd do this in the summer. But my little one had other ideas and this past Friday morning, she decided that the time had come. And so out came our old trusty Elmo potty - and his twin brother, the other Elmo potty - the car one.
I hadn't used a sticker chart with my boys when they were potty trained. They were never into that whole non-edible incentive thing. They just wanted that promised Hershey Miniature and nothing else would do it. But my daughter, she's a smartie. Not that the boys aren't, they are too - but I am learning that there is just a huge difference between boys and girls. Huge.
And so I thought I'd use a sticker chart with her, combined with her beloved chocolate kisses. No Miniatures this time around - none of the kids liked the Mr. Goodbar. Why? I don't know. But I do know that I do, a lot. And so when one of the boys earned a Miniature, so did I. It wasn't pretty and I am still carrying the evidence around on my hips. I mean don't get me wrong, I love chocolate kisses too but I'm saving those for potty successes. The dang Mr. Goodbars were just there for the taking. And I took them.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the sticker chart. I had had a thought to make a "potty train" - a little paper potty traveling on paper train tracks, all taped to the wall. Use the potty and the potty moved forward on the train tracks. Get it? Good. But she didn't like it, this little one with a mind of her own. The boys thought it was a great idea when I floated it yesterday, but she wanted a cupcake. A cupcake train? No. Just a cupcake.
So we made a paper cupcake out of pretty scrapbook paper. I drew a large cupcake on a piece of paper, cut out the frosting part and the bottom muffin part and traced each one onto scrapbook paper. I cut each section out and glued them together, and there ya go, a cupcake. We hung it on the wall in the spot of her choosing. And for stickers, small round ones that stand in for sprinkles. Sprinkles? If you have been following along you will know that my little one is very afraid of sprinkles. Will not even look at a pastry item with sprinkles. But she is the one who called the stickers sprinkles. Maybe this is her way of working through her phobia. Much cheaper than non-insurance covered therapy. See, she is a smartie pants. Or panties, as the case may be.
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)