Monday, August 30, 2010

Go to chocolate cupcakes

If someone had told me 5 years ago that I would become a person who makes chocolate cupcakes at least once a month I would have called them a liar -- totally failing to predict any of it, the rise of cupcakes as a food trend, Will, Liam, the whole thing.  And, so, here I am, a chocolate cupcake maker.

There's a story, no doubt apocryphal, about our Governor from back when she was still the Attorney General, or maybe before that.  How she would call people up at 10:00 at night to discuss this or that about whatever issue, or make sure they were going to actually wear a tie to the meetings the next day (I've heard it both ways), and all the while she was making cupcakes for something or other for her daughter.  This is not an invitation to associate, I'm not nearly as smart, and certainly not as driven or ambitious as our Governor.  I guess though the Governor and I do have that in common: we both work, we both raise a family, we both make cupcakes.  It's some kind of solidarity.

At any rate, this batch of cupcakes was made on Saturday, no late night required.  I made them while Liam was at Sand in the City with my parents; Liam and I frosted them together in the afternoon.  They were in honor of a visit from Will's sister and her family.  Liam's cousin is about 2 and I have yet to meet anyone in the 1 to 4 year old set who doesn't think a cupcake is about the world's most perfect food.

We use, exclusively, the Martha Stewart "one bowl chocolate cupcakes" and they are just great.  Not too sweet or chocolate-y, they come out right every time, you can half the recipe no problem, and they really do take only one bowl.  We make them mini-sized (half a recipe makes about 30 mini cupcakes, which is plenty) and frost them with butter cream frosting, generally in all different colors.  I credit the fact that Liam can pretty reliably predict that yellow and red make orange entirely to cupcake frosting.  Although, when I made them for Liam's school-birthday-party in June I frosted them all with white and colored sprinkles to prevent a riot over who got the last one frosted in blue or orange or whatever.

More later this week including an update, with photos, on the great house painting extravaganza of 2010.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Planes and cars

Will and Liam like to watch YouTube videos of planes, trains, big trucks, etc.  Sometimes this gets a little out of hand.  A few days ago Will made the mistake of showing Liam a video of a plane landing on a car on the freeway  (Will tells me no one is hurt and it is made up, but I haven't seen it.)  Liam was immediately obsessed and has been landing the airplanes on the little cars ever since.  Today when he wanted to watch it I told him he wasn't old enough for that video, and we had decided not to watch it anymore.  He was not happy, but I think it's better this way.  Good grief.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Nature Walk

Last Saturday Liam and I walked down our neighborhood greenbelt/trail to the new park at the beach where Liam decided to put water in his hat (inspired no doubt by this storybook where Mrs. Teaberry fills her hat with water and pours it on Tabby the cat's head to cool off on a hot day), looked at the big ship, ate a snack, and walked all the way home, picking blackberries along the way.  (So good!)  It's about a mile round trip, I'd say, and Liam walked the whole way.

This weekend we're going to do it again and may even get brave and take the dog with us; and a bucket for blackberries, I have ideas about jam.  Wish us luck!  I hope you all find a way to get outside this weekend.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Creepy Crawly

Will's family has a tradition of the "creepy crawly" which is a very nice animal unless you make it mad. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Will

Forty-two years is a lot of years.  I'm glad to have spend this last one with you.

We had our small at home family celebration last night; the bigger party will be tonight, at Will's parents.

Ours featured a dozen balloons (I thought Liam's face was going to crack open he smiled so wide when he saw them in the car), all of the little animal candles we could find, steaks, and summer vegetables.  A few small gifts.  Liam choose to give Will Tinker Toys ("maybe Daddy will share them with me") which was okay, since they both really do enjoy playing with them. 

Will's been not feeling great lately, but remains pretty stable all told.  I'll post a real update about all that sometime soon.

Liam gave the Tinker Toys right away, as soon as we walked in the door, but the other presents were given after dinner.  Liam helped Will open all the presents -- and then he decided he might try to read to Will from one of his new books.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In the evening we play in the yard & Liam channels house painters

Truly, I don't know what we did before the great yard makeover.  Liam is out in the yard continuously.  Tonight it was a lot of walking on the logs and, as usual, swinging. 

Painters start on the house tomorrow.  We have been saving for this since we moved in three years ago.  A long time coming.  I hope it looks better than great when it's done.  Tonight we were talking with Liam about the painters and it went like this.

Me: Liam the painters are going to start working on the house tomorrow.
Liam: Whyyyy?  Who?
Me: To make the house look nice.  The head painter's name is Murph.
Liam: I'm Murph, I'm a painter.
Me: Hi Murph.
Liam: (I'm not making this up) Sorry!  Sorry, we're running a little late.  That's right. We're running a little late.  We're not going to paint the house today.  We'll paint it tomorrow.

Thanks Murph.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Get the preschooler to the table on time

Updated: I checked back to this time last year; Will has been feeling pretty sick this week and I was trying to remember when he started getting sick last year.  (A: exactly this time, pretty much to the day.)  I was reminded how much Liam has changed in a year.  Last year he was still using half sign language and some half-words for talking.  Now, it's more words than you can shake a stick at and just this past weekend I asked him if he remembered how he used to say "more"  and "please" when he was a baby and he had no idea what I was talking about; I had to show him the signs.  Every time I get the notion to stop this writing I'm reminded how nice it is to be able to look back.

I've decided Liam is a preschooler now.  I think; now that he's three.  At any rate.  One of my (many) struggles as a (working-full-time-outside-the-home) parent is getting dinner to the table on time and then getting Liam to the table to eat it without an epic struggle.  Remembering that 5:15 pm is not the time of day when I am at my highest and most mindful best, it often goes something like this:

Me:  Liam, dinner is almost ready, 5 minutes, please wrap up what you're doing.
Liam: (Ignores) or "I'm playing! I'm playing! I'm playing!"
Me: Okay, finish up your playing and get ready to take a break for dinner.
Me: Liam, 2 minutes until dinner, get ready please.
Liam: No, no, no, no, no; I don't want to eat.  I'm playing.
Me: Well, we're going to eat dinner, so wrap it up please.
Me: Liam, dinner time, it's on the table, come on.
Liam: (Crying fit.)

Last week the child developmental specialist I see to help us know how best to talk with Liam about Will's sickness and hospitalizations suggested something I should have thought of on my own, that we give Liam a dinnertime ritual to help him transition from play to the table.  (Her first idea has always been: almost no kids this age eat dinner at the table; don't fight it, this is a battle for when he is five.  But, since dinner at the table is one of the only parenting outcomes Will has requested, I told her we had to try.)

So, Friday, we started "candle time."  Now our conversations go more like this:

Me: Liam, almost dinner time, 5 minutes, please finish up what your doing so you can get the candles out.
Liam: Is it ready? Is it on the table? Is it time?  Daddy, Daddy, will you help me get the candles?

Seriously.  I don't know if it will stick, but so far it's about that good a transformation.  We still have trouble keeping him at the table, but now at least we can get him there.  We use these candles given to us by Will's sister.  Liam loves them more than words can express. The giraffe has already been glued twice. 

Tonight's dinner was a weeknight favorite featuring leftover chicken: quesadillas.  They are the easiest thing to make.  Get some flour tortillas (we use whole wheat), thinly slice some cheese (we use cheddar or monterey jack or whatever is around), slice some green onion and some tomato if you have it.  Shred up the leftover chicken.  Make a tortilla sandwich with the chicken, cheese, etc.  Pan fry/grill (use very little oil and only a medium hot pan) until golden and melt-y.  Serve with sour cream for the non-calorie-counting set and a side of whatever vegetables you have around (tonight green beans and carrot sticks; often it's black beans and sauteed squash).  Totally toddler approved.  Will likes them too.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Learning the Aunts

I have this photo from my mother's wedding up in our guest-sewing-art-room/office.  It generally has lived on my desk and this is as close to a desk as I have at this house, so.  It has me and Auntie Chris, and my mother (of course), and her two sisters in it; and boy do we all look alike.  (Well, it was a bunch of years ago now, so none of us really look like that anymore, but, whatever.)  Liam is fascinated with it.  A few months ago he undertook to learn all the names.  He'll get there eventually.  My favorite is "Auntie Grandma."

Rainy day today -- makes me think that winter with a 3-year-old is going to be L. O. N. G.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

People are sweet & you can help

I got this message (as part of a longer message) from someone I went to high school with and recently re-found on Facebook. 
"I just remembered something I wanted to tell you.  At our food Co-op, there are these jars.  If you bring your own bag, you get a bean to put in a jar.  There are various and sundry jars, each bean represents a donation the Co-op will make to whichever jar: Humane Society, Food Bank, and the like.  There's one for CF research, and A [her daughter] always always puts her beans in there.  I've told her about your family, and she wants to help."
Thank you S and A.  That does help.  Every one who raises awareness and everyone who gives towards research for a cure helps.  Everyone who brings dinner, or walks the dog, or drives to doctors appointments or the hospital, or babysits, or offers their thoughts and intentions helps.  It all helps.  Thank you.

In other news, Frank Deford (NPR sports commentator) the other day did a story in which he touched on presumed consent.  This is a policy where, upon death, people are presumed to agree to transplantation of their organs unless they have left specific instructions otherwise.  It's a good idea.  In the meantime, please register to become an organ donor and make your intentions known to your family.  That helps too. A lot.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Grilled Pizza!

We are eating a lot of pizza made on the grill these days.  It started a few weeks ago and shows no signs of slowing down.  Seems like on all the mom-being/home-making/child-raising blogs I read they are grilling pizza these days, so we're in (really) good company.   See, for example, here, and here

Here's how we do it, the full-time-working-mother-has-to-have-dinner-on-the-table-fast way. 

On Saturday or Sunday (or Monday night, or whenever but not the day we want to eat the pizza), we make the dough.  I use the basic pizza dough from Mark Bittman, basically.  It works just fine.  Three cups flour (I use 1 white 2 whole wheat), 1 tsp yeast, some glugs of olive oil (probably 1/8 - 1/3 a cup, this is more than Bittman calls for) and 1 to 1 1/4 cup warm water.  Mix all the dry ingredients, including the yeast.  Add 1 cup water and the oil.  Add enough more water to make a dough.  Kneed until smooth and let rise.  Punch it down and put it in a plastic bag in the fridge until you're ready to use it.  We don't add salt (Will's mom is low salt), but  Bittman says you should.  It works best if you take it out of the refrigerator as soon as you decide you're going to grill pizza, so it starts to warm up a little before you have to work with it.

When you're ready to make them, get the grill really hot.  We make these individual sized.  Pull off hunks of dough about the size of a baseball and stretch them out.  Because you used some extra olive oil in the dough and the grill is smoking hot, no need to oil.   Put them on the grill.  Turn down the heat to medium high.  Let them cook until the bottom is done and the edges are starting to firm up.  Flip them.  Now you're looking at a cooked side and the raw side is down on the grill.  Top with sauce, cheese, etc. and drizzle with just a little good tasting olive oil. Put  the grill lid down for a few minutes until everything on top of the pizza looks melt-y and the bottom is cooked and, voila, you're done!  I guess it's more flat bread with toppings than pizza. 

We've been sticking pretty close to tomato sauce from a jar, fresh mozzarella and/or ricotta, and basil.  Sometimes we add caramelized peppers and onions.  I have an idea that smoked salmon, corn, goat cheese and basil also would be really, really good, but we haven't tried that yet. 

These will be good no matter what you do.  Trust me.  I have screwed up the making of this pizza every way possible.  Grill too hot: done that, you get more char than you want, but it's still really good.  Grill not hot enough: done that, you get less char than you want, and it takes a while to cook, but it's still really good and everything melts perfectly.  Forget that you have to flip the pizzas over and put the sauce on the raw side.  Embarrassing, but you can flip them anyway and the sauce just chars a little.  Still really good.  They are so, so much better than any pizza you will ever make in your oven, I promise, you really should try this. 

Liam pretty much likes them, although his excitement about the prospect of eating pizza surpasses his actual consumption so far. 

Because it's summer we pretty much always have the following in the fridge: sauteed zucchini leftover from dinner past, barely cooked green beans good for snacking, carrot sticks.  Put one or all of these on the plate with the pizza.  Liam eats a lot of carrot sticks. Salad is good too if you have time to make it!