Sunday, May 31, 2009
- Want to keep your cake moist? A simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled and cooled) does the trick. Just poke some holes in the bottom layer of cake and drizzle it on. Continue as planned.
- One jar of jelly is a bit too much for the filling layer, even though it's tempting to use the whole jar.
- Is your cake slipping off your turntable or cake carrier? Place a rubber jar opener under the foil-covered cardboard disc your cake is sitting on.
- Technique is important, but frosting consistency is key and can make or break your decorating efforts. If it's too stiff in the bag, just add a bit of water or knead it with your hands a bit.
- When cutting the opening for the tip or coupler, put the tip or coupler in the bag and mark it with your fingernail (on the coupler, where the smooth part meets the treads), and then always cut closer to the tip of the bag than your mark--you can always cut more but if you make the hole too big, your tip will pop out under pressure and you'll have to start all over again.
- Keep a tall glass or heavy cup nearby to place your bags in while filling them (you can even fold the bag over the cup to help hold it open).
- Too many crumbs while icing the cake? Make sure the consistency of the frosting is thin--spreading stiff icing too hard pulls up crumbs. Remedy? Just do a crumb layer and make the second frosting layer thinner than the first.
- To smooth out the frosting on a cake, let it first form a crust (about 20 minutes) and then put a sheet of wax paper on it. Rub with your hand or a spatula to smooth.
- How do you keep the fillings inside your cake? Place a border of buttercream around the edge of the lower cake before spreading the filling or more buttercream.
- Trouble frosting the edge of your cake where the top meets the sides? I love using the 789 tip to apply the frosting on top while spinning my turntable. Then just overhang the last round, frost the edges, and gently merge the two.
- Canned frosting out of the ready-made Wilton can is perfect for roses (and tastes better than class buttercream!).
- Want to add letters or shapes to your cake design? Use cookie cutters to impress an outline. It's easier than piping gel transfers!
- Your rose nail is easier to manage in a paper/styrofoam cup, which frees up your hands to change tips, tighten the icing bag, etc.
- Dipping your finger in cornstarch allows you to flatten peaks on dots, buttons, and other designs.
- Writing on a cake is not like writing with pen and paper: do not retrace parts of your letters as you form them.
- Finally, something I saw at a birthday party just today: make your royal icing roses on dum-dum sized lollipops and then just stick them in the cake with the stick! Kids will love to eat them! Think it would work with buttercream?
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
- washable paints in separate containers
- brushes, sponges, balls in socks, chopsticks, whatever you have, ideally one for each color
- very large sheet of paper, posterboard, or even a white sheet (kids can work together or separately, your choice)
- At least in these early years, though maybe later (I'll have to wait and see), milestones like the first day of school or the first school picture are so much more important to me than to them. Maybe that's because they live very much in the present, and I'm either looking back or ahead.
- Old patterns die hard: even though I know I should phrase it differently, perhaps more enticingly, I still ask, "what did you do at school today?" And they, of course, respond, "nothing." But it's still good to ask.
- Other parents are only as judgmental as I imagine they are. Did the other parents look askance when I had mine over- or under-dressed for the weather? When the kids' hair wasn't brushed? When I had forgotten the lunchbox? Nope. And I certainly didn't notice when they had similiar challenges or oversights. We're all too busy with our own kids and lives to notice the mistakes in others'. (And, in the event that I'm wrong and they are talking about us behind our backs, I find that imagining that everyone is live-and-let-live helps me get through my day. No sense stressing about what you can't fix.).
- Yep, you'll forget the lunchbox. And the book order money. And the health form. And the coat. And you'll have to go home for it, or do without, and either way, it's okay.
- The teachers have seen it all before. Yep, they've had twins there. And lesbians. And potty accidents. And late health forms. They aren't surprised or disturbed. And they can be a great resource for advice, information, and support. They might not spend as much time with my kids as I do, but they see them more clearly, see them with less guilt and more objectivity, see their public personae which I don't often witness. And they've seen it all before . . .
- Loveys make the school day easier. Sis had Shirt, with all its new patches, in hand this morning, though Bud is less in need of his loveys these days (though he is more stressful about "drop-off" than he was).
- Learn the names of the teachers immediately. Then work on the other kids' names. And their drop-off parent (even if you recognize them only as "so-and-so's mom." That's your new name anyway. I actually got good at recognizing cars too, well, only if they had bumperstickers). You'll be seeing and hearing a lot about these people, who are new and important in all of your lives.
- Participate as much as possible in school activities--go to parent meetings, volunteer your time at school, attend extracurricular activities, buy the school t-shirt. You're helping to build a new community for you and your kids. And depending on your town (and it's how it was where I grew up) or life path (we never moved out of district), they could be with you for the next 12+ years.
- Birthdays suddenly become a huge deal. At our school, the kids are feted on their special day or half-day (go if invited, it's a huge deal). And there is so much more talk about birthdays and parties and how old you are. It's good to invite the whole class to the party and even better to go if invited, even if we never managed to be free for other birthday parties. I'm going to work on this next year.
- Another thing I need to work on: we didn't have playdates with any of our new friends, if only because we have such a large coterie of "old" friends (one of whom is in their class). Over the summer, I'm going to try to arrange for us to see at least some of our school friends.
- I loved visiting the kids' school (I think I went 3 times, not including the picnic--for half-birthday, Lunar New Year, and just this week to do a painting project a la Jackson Pollock, more on that later), both because I wanted to help out and because I loved seeing how their day was (even if it was never "normal" if I were there). And it was so heart-warming for them to be proud of me, to want to show me things, to want to sit next to me at snack.
- Paintings never dry during the course of the school day. And even if you get paint or glue or glitter all over your hands and jacket and carseat, it's still the best art you've ever seen (the challenge, however, will be what to do with it all! I haven't learned this yet).
- Half-eaten food is nasty and best cleaned out of lunchboxes immediately. But, you'll forget that too and have to clean it out in a morning rush the next time. And you'll hold your nose. But you'll forget again.
- Weather matters more now than it used to (with less time to remember to check the report) for what clothes to wear, for whether they'll play outside. On rainy days, like today, I pick up a little early as everyone gets stir-crazy inside. And I never developed a good rule of thumb for if they needed a heavy coat, light coat, no coat, mittens/hat or not. Especially because they never thought they needed any of it. And yes, at least once each, they were the only kids without coats and the only kids in coats!
- Your kids see and hear everything at home. And they talk. And you won't know what they'll say until the teacher tells you. Best not to say or do in front of the kids what you don't want those teachers to know about.
- But the teachers won't know certain things unless you tell them. Keep them abreast of seemingly insignificant as well as significant family events.
- "That's not how we do it at school" will become a phrase in their repertoire.
- There will be new songs and new stories and new games that you won't fully understand or comprehend. For the first time (at least in my house), they will have experiences that you're not privvy to. It's a good thing, really. Especially because you can google most stories and songs to be ready when they ask you to sing it or tell it to them. Which they will, not realizing that you don't know everything. I know that perception is fleeting so I'm enjoying it now. Even though I know I don't know everything.
- Your child will hit or be hit, misbehave and be talked to, and the teachers will have to talk to you too. And you will be mortified and dwell on it. And the kids will forget.
- Sickness spreads like wildfire and comes at the most inopportune times. And you'll all miss their going to school.
- Those five minutes of dropping off and picking up your kids is chaotic--lunchboxes in cubbies, sign-in sheet to fill out, bulletin board to read, artworks and notices to gather, parents and kids and teachers to greet and talk to. But the transition is hugely important. We have a beep-beep goodbye ritual for leaving and a hug-hello at pickup. Most of what you know about their life at school will come to you in these small bursts. And the information is crucial.
- A year ago, they couldn't recognize or spell or write even parts of their names, put on their coats by themselves, cut with scissors, ride a tricycle. Now they can. And so much more.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
“Cooked food does many familiar things,” he observes. “It makes our food safer, creates rich and delicious tastes and reduces spoilage. Heating can allow us to open, cut or mash tough foods. But none of these advantages is as important as a little-appreciated aspect: cooking increases the amount of energy our bodies obtain from food.”
He continues: “The extra energy gave the first cooks biological advantages. They survived and reproduced better than before. Their genes spread. Their bodies responded by biologically adapting to cooked food, shaped by natural selection to take maximum advantage of the new diet. There were changes in anatomy, physiology, ecology, life history, psychology and society.”
"What name would you like for the sexual, mental and spiritual union between a male and female which is undertaken for life? I understand from 'Roots' that at one time it was called ''."
“Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Tex., is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Tex., and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male.”
Monday, May 25, 2009
- Rush out into the street.
- Take candy from strangers.
- Eat off the ground.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
The first thing that Id like to do
Is to save every day
Till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I'd save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you
But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Ive looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go
Through time with
If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you
But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
- for cominig over to play this morning and keeping us company;
- for the magazine (which has some great recipes in it);
- for dinner (which we inhaled--you won't be surprised that I'm asking for the recipe, right?)
- for witnessing our financial documents this evening;
- for continuing to be a great friend.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
- Prairie dog pop-up: we laced sheets and towels through their toddler bed bars, making a lattice, through which they would pop up and pretend to be prairie dogs a la the zoo.
- Vet--I was the vet and they were the pet owners of bunnies and penguins. Their pets, similar to our own trips to the pediatrician, had ear infections, fevers, vomiting, and splinters. But I was able to fix them all, no problem.
- Handy Manny: I think this is our only pop-culture inspired play. One or the other of them is Handy Manny and I am either Kelly who provides them with needed parts or the client who has a a broken oven/chair/table, or both. They fix it and we start over again. Sometimes with the soundtrack playing in the background.
- Mommy as seamonster (indoors) or shark (outdoors): Yep, I'm a monster. A tickle/kissing/hugging monster that routinely attacks preschoolers who must then run to their beds/swingsets for safety. Usually, Bud tells me not to be a "tickle monster" and instead wants hugs.
- Bake sale: Sis spreads out her wares on the piano bench and sells them to us, checking us out at the cash register.
- Zookeeper: They're the animals (sometimes prairie dogs, see above, or sloths or bunnies or bats, see below) and I'm the zookeeper. Then I'm the visitor admiring them and taking pictures. But then they escape from their cages. And I'm the zookeeper again, rounding them up, usually enticing them with carrots and broccoli. And we start all over again.
- World of Darkness: we make caves in the covers and their bats in our own version of the Bronx Zoo exhibit.
- Penguin Family: We have an embarrassingly large collection of stuffed penguins, starting with an oversized penguin from the movie Happy Feet that we call "Mr. Big Penguin" (it's almost 3') that charmed Bud and Sis when they were smaller. Now there are others, from Mystic Seaworld, FAO Schwartz, and other stores. Anyway, Sis makes a penguin family with two parents and a baby, which one of the big penguins hatches while the other looks for food. Sis always comments on how cute the baby is.
- Restaurant: This is one of their all-time favorite dramatic plays. I guess maybe we eat out a lot! It's very sophisticated now, with menus and placemats, waiters and chefs. Recently, this has evolved into hibachi, since we had dinner there last week.
- Library: Stamp books, put them in book drop, start again. Sis has a collection of bunny books, while Bud has his dinosaur books all in a pile.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
- Don't try to master new cake and frosting recipes on top of learning new cake decorating techniques. It's just too many dishes. And no one cares if it's a mediocre box mix if it's pretty.
- Sometimes, even the recipes in Joy of Cooking don't come out the way you expect, like when your 9" white cake seems half the height it should be.
- You need a lot of frosting to cover a two-layer 9" cake. And you can't really fake it.
- Half a jar of jelly isn't quite enough for a good layer of filling.
- When you use a turntable, put a rubber jar opener under the cake circle for friction. Or your cake WILL SLIDE OFF AND FALL ON THE FLOOR.
- You can save a cake that has landed facedown on the floor by scraping up all the icing and starting over again (once you stop sobbing in the living room). With new icing. Call it a "crumb layer."
- It takes two spatulas (spatulae?) to masterfully lift said cake off the floor (according to Mama, who did the triage and treatment--see above).
- No one will know.
- Unless you tell them.
- And then your kids and partner will eat it anyway. Saying all the while that it is "great, just like you, Mommy" and tastes yummy.
- Because they like cake.
- And love you.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
- Food sources, such as native plants, seeds, berries
- Water sources, such as a birdbath, pond, water garden
- Places for cover, such as a thicket, rock pile, birdhouse
- Places to raise young, such as dense shrubs, nesting box
- Sustainable gardening, such as mulch, compost, chem free fertilizer
- circle cake with 3-D icing-piped animal figures
- shaped cake of animal face(s)
- circle cake with iced sugar cookie animal figures in habitat (green grass?)
- circle cake with flat piped animal figures (based on cookie cutter shapes) in grass
- circle cake with plastic animal figures in grass
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
These three readings were included in the Mother's Day service at church on Sunday. I was touched by all of them and wanted to share them with you. I include the originally writers and sources where I could find them.
This is for all the mothers who didn't win Mother of the Year in .
All the runners-up and all the wannabes. The mothers too tired to enter or too busy to bother.
This is for all the mothers who froze their buns on metal bleachers at soccer games Friday night instead of watching from cars, so that when their kids asked, "Did you see my goal?" they could say "Of course, wouldn't have missed it for the world," and mean it.
This is for all the mothers who have sat up all night with sick toddlers in their arms, wiping up barf laced with Oscar Mayer wieners and cherry Kool-Aid saying, "It's OK, honey, Mommy's here."
This is for all the mothers of Kosovo who fled in the night and can't find their children.
This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they'll never see. And the mothers who took those babies and made them homes.
For all the mothers who run carpools and make cookies and sew Halloween costumes.
And all the mothers who don't.
What makes a good mother anyway? Is it patience? Compassion? Broad hips?
The ability to nurse a baby, fry a chicken and sew a button on a shirt all at the same time?
Or is it heart?
Is it the ache you feel when you watch your son disappear down the street, walking to school alone for the very first time?
The jolt that takes you from sleep to dread, from bed to crib at 2 a.m. to put your hand on the back of a sleeping baby?
The need to flee from wherever you are and hug your child when you hear news of a school shooting, a fire, a car accident, a baby dying?
I think so.
So, this is for all the mothers who sat down with their children and explained all about making babies. And for all the mothers who wanted to but just couldn't.
This is for reading "Goodnight Moon" twice a night for a year. And then reading it again. "Just one more time."
This is for all the mothers who mess up. Who yell at their kids in the grocery store and swat them in despair and stomp their feet like a tired 2-year-old who wants ice cream before dinner.
This is for all the mothers who taught their daughters to tie their shoes before they started preschool.
And for all the mothers who chose Velcro instead.
For all the mothers who bite their lips -- sometimes until they bleed -- when their 14-year-olds dye their hair green. Who lock themselves in the bathroom when babies keep crying and won't stop.
This is for mothers who show up at work with spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their blouses and diapers in their purses.
This is for all the mothers who teach their sons to cook and their daughters to sink a jump shot.
This is for all the mothers whose heads turn automatically when a little voice calls "Mom?" in a crowd, even though they know their own offspring are at home.
This is for mothers who put pinwheels and Teddy bears on their children's graves.
This is for mothers whose children have gone astray, who can't find the words to reach them.
This is for all the mothers who sent their sons to school with stomachaches, assuring them they'd be just fine once they got there, only to get calls from the school nurses an hour later asking them to please pick them up. Right away.
This is for young mothers stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation. And mature mothers learning to let go. For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers. Single mothers and married mothers. Mothers with money, mothers without.
This is for you all. So hang in there.
And better luck next year, I'll be rooting for you.
Originally published by Cindy Lange-Kubick in the Lincoln Journal-Star, April 11, 1999.
When I came drenched in the rain,
My brother told why dont you take an umbrella with you.
My sister said why not you waited till it stopped.
My Dad angrily said only after getting cold, you will realize.
But my MOTHER,
as she was drying my hair with her saree,
not at me
…………………….. But at the RAIN.
from a poem originally written in Tamil (found here)
I offer a prayer for mother’s day today.
This is who it is for:
It is for all the mothers in this room, in this city, across this continent, and in every land around this planet.
It is for the mothers whose homes resound with children’s laughter, screeching toys, loud music, or the sullen teenage shrug.
It is for the mothers who gave birth in joy or in agony or in grief.
It is for the mothers who have adopted the motherless and discovered how wide love can reach; and it is for the mothers who have given over their children to others.
This prayer is for all the women who have wished to be mothers and are not.
It is for all the mothers whose children have ever gone off to war, for the worry they endure and the tension they carry through every hour of absence. It is for the mothers whose children return whole and unscathed, or who return wounded in mind or body, or who do not return at all.
It is for all the mothers who grieve – lost pregnancies, lost children, lost hopes, lost futures.
And this is my prayer:
May peace come to you.
Peace amid the noise and chaos of active children
Peace amid the silence and the absence.
Peace with the choices you have made, the paths taken and the ones not taken.
Peace with the grief you have endured.May peace come to you, and may you greet it and welcome it, and make a place for it to live within you. May peace find a home in you, and from that home, may peace venture widely over this earth.
a prayer from Jill Ann Terwilliger, UU Minister in Kalamazoo, MI
Monday, May 11, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup Crisco
1 cup buttermilk (or soured milk)
Preheat oven to 450°F. If using soured milk, combine vinegar and milk now and let stand, while continuing. Sift dry ingredients together. Add Crisco and blend well until like fine meal. Add buttermilk and mix delicately until it comes together. Dump out on floured surface and knead gently 5 times. Roll out about ½” thick and cut into desired size. Bake in greased pan, with sides touching, until golden brown, 15-18 minutes.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café
We had pizza for lunch after church. Not just any pizza. But pizza from a special pizzeria--world famous--that we rarely get to visit (we didn't visit this time--Mama got take out while we were finishing up at church. It was so cute--I was supposed to help out in the classroom today but was summarily excused so they could make surprise presents for moms--handpainted pots with real petunias! And Sis's was red, Bud's blue, each with their names carefully written by them. For family members present that one Christmas, it was the pizza we'd ordered on the day before Christmas Eve but never enjoyed because we ended up taking Bud to the ER for a disjointed elbow. He was fine afterwards; the pizza wasn't). And it was so good, so worthy of its fame. A nice treat. No dishes.
But I don't have a recipe for you. Instead, I give you the homemade pizza dough we made on Tuesday with the kiddos and Mama Teacher and CJ--fun to play with but it needs more salt, or something, I think. I used half of it to make rolls too, a la Bertucci's, but again, must need more salt.
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 3/8 cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup prepared pizza sauce
other toppings (ham, artichokes, mushrooms, black olives, whatever)
Combine all ingredients, at room temperature, into bread pan (wet, then dry, then yeast). Select dough setting. Press “start/stop” and remove when dough is ready. Pat dough into 12 x 15 “ cookie sheet or 14” pizza sheet.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Spread pizza sauce over dough. Sprinkle toppings over sauce. Bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown
Oster Bread Machine book
After rest, we spent a long time playing outside in the yard. "Handy Mama" (Sis's appellation) put new batteries in the playhouse and the kids "helped," since they've garnered so much fix-it knowledge from their current tv favorite, "Handy Manny" (they used "Phillipe" today). So now the fountain and doorbell work and the kids had a field day using the fountain to water the yard (and new plants we picked up at a plant sale yesterday, including zucchini, squash, and a sunflower for each) and clean their "lawn mowers." Meanwhile, Mama and I mainly sat and marveled at the strong winds, which kept the windchimes ringing the whole time. The fun only stopped for dinner a few hours later, during which time Bud put away huge amounts of zucchini, onions, and orange peppers with some garlic and Penzey's Mural of Flavor seasoning. Mama and I had that with polenta and leftover lentils with chili con carne seasonings. Sis had chicken fingers leftover from Mexican food yesterday (and, hey, Mommy Goose, I asked and they said they're not closing. But who knows). Afterwards, we all had watermelon, grapes, and mangoes. These are amazing mangoes. Not the red/green/yellow mangoes you find in most grocery stores but the all-yellow-orange ones that Ma and Gong get in Flushing's Chinatown. They are much sweeter, less stringy, richer flavor, creamier. Divine. Which is why I had secreted one away for a Mango Lassi after we got them to bed (during which we were both most of the happy thoughts of the day). Mama and I shared it. A perfect ending to a pretty perfect Mother's Day.
1 ripe mango (or approximately 1 cup pulp)
1 cup whole or lowfat plain yogurt
3 tablespoons sugar
½ cup cold water
ice for serving
Peel, pit, and coarsely chop 1 ripe mango (to yield about 1 cup fruit). In a blender, purée mango with yogurt, sugar, and cold water until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh sieve to remove pulp, if desired. Serve immediately over ice.