Monthly Archives: April 2014

Old fashioned kids birthday.

Five years is a heartbeat. Five years is an eternity.

R turned 5 over last week. I say “over” because although like everyone else he has a birth day, this whole last week was a celebration of him as a unique person, a wacky boy, a hilarious character, and as an irreplaceable part of our little family. He makes us laugh every day. but also comes up with gems like “I hope I remember what you look like when I grow up”. (FTR, I’m not really sure what that meant, like “you’ll be dead when I’m a grown up” or pertaining to some kind of a ritual we do right now, but it sounded so sweet.) He’s also my little cuddlebug right now — I know what’s coming in a couple of years so I’m making the most of it!

He started birthday morning by opening presents from V and us. (I grew up with a tradition of always waking up to gifts on my birthday. It’s the one day of the year when you’re the undisputed star and I want my kids to know that feeling too.) V gave R a miniature of the VW camper Lego that he made a while ago. R’s following in his brother’s footsteps and turning into quite a Lego enthusiast himself. He was ecstatic to receive this present. V also wrote him some rare (and nice!) brotherly notes wishing him a wonderful birthday. We gave him a stomp rocket seeing as the kids are spending so much time outdoors right now. After school, I took him out for some froyo, before picking up V and making our biannual trek to Chuck-E-Cheese’s. The kids know we don’t usually go there (and NEVER on the weekend!) so it was a special treat on a special day.

ImageImageSo that was his actual birthday.

He had a celebration at school the next day with cupcakes and special classroom status. And then we had his birthday party yesterday. The old fashioned theme happened by accident; my schedule had been tight the past month and I hadn’t come up with any kind of theme. When I couldn’t delay sending out the invites anymore and had to pick a heading for the Evites, my idea of just “having some kids over” translated into an “Old fashioned” party.

You know what the best part is about planning the old fashioned way? It needs no planning at all! There’s no theme to follow so decorations are simple, no extra stuff to buy, no poring over Amazon for days on end trying to find just the right pirate tablecloth, no stalking Michaels or Party City for goodie bags, no trying to convince a reluctant kid to choose a cake in line with the theme when he really wants something else, no stress. The ONLY thing is prepped in advance was the parcel for the Pass the Parcel game. That’s it. Everything else flew at the last second. V stayed up late the previous night to “help” with decorations so we could surprise R the morning of his party. Since I wasn’t following a plan, I was so much more relaxed about letting V take the lead on the decorations — You want to make a canopy with streamers? Go right ahead. Oh, this one just hangs in the middle of the doorway? OK, sure. A balloon stuck onto a lamp makes it look festive? Yeah, yeah it does. We both had a great time — no yelling, no butting heads. It was already a great start.

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Party ‘do

Our guests arrived and the kids made a beeline to the basement where our bouncy castle is always a hit. Off point, our bouncy castle is hands down the best $100 we’ve ever spent on a toy. Like, EVER. Through various toy fads and phases, through several housebound winters, through kids ranging from 18months to 10 years, that bouncy castle has provided more hours of fun than all the other toys combined. If you have the space for it, I would recommend buying one, without reservation.

ImageAfter attacking the snacks, the kids played a rousing game of Pass the Parcel. We played it as kids, and yesterday proved that this game has not lost its allure for today’s children either. There was much guffawing and chattering and clapping as the parcel passed from one kid to another and each child got to unwrap a layer of gift wrap. The kids gamely recited poems, hugged their neighbors or imitated their parents. Upon completion of their “required” task, they got to choose a rainbow loom bracelet that my kids had looped in advance for their friends. What a hoot!

ImageA break for pizza, and then some outdoor fun. Remember that carnival game where you break cans with a ball? We stacked some beverage glasses in the formation and had the kids try to break it with a foam ball. Another unexpected hit. The weather was perfect and everyone enjoyed some much-needed sunshine. Our yard was an idyllic scene: adults chatting in the sun with kids chittering around them playing with friends. What’s not to love?

ImageIt was a wonderful, wonderful day. Totally old fashioned and absolutely what I had in mind. Happy 5th year, R, and here’s to many, many more.

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Teacher Appreciation Cookies.

You know who has the hardest job in the world??

Me.

Kidding. 🙂

Only partly.

Anyhow, teachers come a close second. They’ve cut my workload in half — since both boys started school full-time. (R only goes 3 full days but I won’t complicate this post with minute details of my daily routine.) Their job is most like a parent’s, especially those who teach our youngest people. Theirs is a largely thankless but extremely vital role in a young child’s life (ahem, who else has that role? Any guesses??). We all end up growing up but those early teachers remain etched in our memory — as cheerful, nurturing, old people who guided us through our first years. (Unless you got stuck with a vile gremlin of an early-school teacher, in which case, my sympathies.)

To show appreciation for our teachers, R’s school is observing teacher appreciation week this whole week. Each day these martyrs are treated to a different treat: flowers, cards, take-out lunch, etc. The PTO is hosting an appreciation lunch for the faculty, to which my contribution is……

ImageYes, Pinterest-inspired simple Teacher Themed Cookies!

I had so much fun making these. For starters, the shapes are simple and sturdy so they decorated and travel easily. Secondly, these are so darn colorful!

I handcut this crayon shape. Initially, I pored over my limited set of cutters to see how I could prune or edit another shape into a crayon but that proved futile. I spent a fair amount of time with a ‘T’ and a ‘1’ before realizing I could just slide a pizza cutter to cut strips of dough and then quickly chop a sharp triangular point. Much faster.

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ImageBefore choosing the exact designs I wanted to decorate, I’d realized many school supplies are shaped as a simple rectangle. Pizza cutter to the rescue again and I had blackboards and notebooks!

ImageThese notebooks came out adorable. This time my colors mixed exactly as I’d wanted them to — bright with just the right hue.

ImageSome glittery stars and medals to complete the show.

ImageThe ribbons on my medals aren’t quite as realistic, but I just. couldn’t. figure it out. Oh, whatevs.

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And THAT is a collection I can be proud of. I hope this shows the measure of my appreciation for little R’s teachers. The only return I expect is a clean plate. 🙂

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Veggie loaded no-yeast homemade pizza.

Pizza is so easy to make at home that I don’t make it often enough. Doesn’t make sense? Yeah, I’m in one those moods.

We don’t eat pizza as often even though both the hubster and I enjoy it very much. I think part of the reason is that we haven’t found a pizza delivery place we both agree on. Most chains serve oily, too heavy on the cheese pies that are just gross. A few local places we’ve tried but haven’t loved. So my pizza consumption is mostly limited to cool (temperature-wise, not the hip factor) slices served at kids’ birthday parties (I accompany my own invited fiends, in case it is misinterpreted that I like to hang out at random kids’ birthday parties in order to partake of the inevitable Papa John’s slices).

So sometimes we make pizza at home. In fact, one of our favorite summer dinners is a Pita Pizza evening in which, as you guessed, we serve pizza-style toppings on pita bread. If you haven’t tried a pita pizza before, I have to tell you that it’s a light, refreshing, healthy, and absolutely the easiest pizza you’ll ever make. The crust gets totally crispy in the oven, it’s naturally thin crust if that’s your thing, and it comes in a one-person portion size.

Anyhoo, this post isn’t about pita pizzas, much as we love them. This one is about homemade, from scratch, pizza, which is every bit as wonderful. I make my own dough with almost half whole wheat flour, a chunky tomato sauce whose ingredients I can count, loaded with veggies and light on the cheese — just as we like it.

Chunky Tomato Pizza Sauce

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Tomatoes (3-4), garlic (lots of it!), basil leaves (2-3), 1 green chilli (optional), sugar (1 tsp), black pepper and salt. That’s all you need for this terrific tomato sauce loaded with flavor. Simmer all ingredients together for about 20 minutes on medium heat until water from the tomatoes evaporates and they turn to mush. Let cool and blend to chunky perfection.

Pizza Dough

Usually I use active dry yeast for breads and pizza dough but I was out yesterday. The resulting dough wasn’t quite as springy and stretchy, also because I used whole wheat, but it was still delicious. You couldn’t make a deep-dish pizza without yeast, I suspect, but thin crust will do just fine without.

1.5 cups AP flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup water

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp baking powder

Mix everything together and knead into a soft dough. You may need a tad more water to make the dough pliable but not sticky. Let rest in a oiled container, covered, for a couple hours. (If short on time, let it rest for about 10 minutes; since there’s no yeast in there the dough doesn’t need any proofing time.)

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Huh? HUH? How scrumptious is THAT? I like mine peppered with red chilli flakes. Got it. Spinach turns crispy on baking. Got it. Less cheese sprinkled UNDERNEATH the toppings. Totally got it.

And. Don’t miss the crust on this one.

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Perfectly crisp. I like my pizza crunchy, not really chewy. You can probably guess I’m not a fan of the doughy kind of pizza… I care more about how full it is up top. And this one is gorgeously, perfectly suited for that.

Well, what more can I say? Just… gorge responsibly. 🙂