Sunday, December 18, 2011

Santa, Birthday party (two topics, long post)

So I was just going to write something short... At ten o'clock my diary program pops up and I say... Oh, ten o'clock I should get ready for bed,... and then ignore it.  So I decided today I was not going to ignore it... but maybe I should write something....

I wasn't going to ignore it because I'm sending little star to playcare every morning next week rather than three full days, and want to get him there at a reasonable time in the morning so he gets some time there and I get something done.  I plan to take him home so he doesn't have to NOT nap there for two hours.  He's not been sleeping at nap time, and its become a problem.  This plan entails actually getting out of bed before 8 am, and therefore suggests going to bed reasonably as well.

 I just had to post about Santa.  I found out last night that TWO moms I know are not planning to do "santa" with their families.  That's two out of five who were at a moms2moms gathering... who are Christian. So, I mean, if even CHRISTIANS are opting out of Santa, can they please give my Jewish family a break and stop pushing it on us?  NOT everybody has Santa.  Yes, there are EVEN Christians who don't do Santa.  Its so "secular" Christians don't even want it.   

Really, I was quite encouraged by this surprising development.  Yay for serious Christians.  When I say serious, I mean the ones who are NICE- they may or may not be fundamentalist, but they take the whole loving kindness aspect of Jesus seriously.  They are responsible generous open minded people who can put themselves in another's shoes.   These are people we would all recognize as good people, and I know whatever religion they ended up in they would find the good things in it to practice. The Christian ones that I know tend to see these fine attributes as directly related to their faith, so that is why I single them out, and in a positive way say they are "serious" Christians.

I was thinking that some time my son might ask what Santa is because somebody will be sure to talk to ask him what Santa is bringing him/has brought him/ what he wants from Santa... it's happened in past years.  I would tell him Santa is what SOME Christian's pretend, and maybe he tells all his friends...  Of course this will never happen because despite Santa being pushed on everyone, my son doesn't care enough to ask, and even if he did know, is not likely to talk about it with other kids.   And of course, really, that's not a very nice thing... so I haven't really told him much about Santa, but I figure I should tell him about Christmas.  

You see I was just going to ignore it, but then a friend of mine asked me about Chanuka books for her kid- she wanted her kid to know about other people's holidays.  Here I thought the few Chanuka books I saw in the library were token for people like us, but no, perhaps other people do read them.  I realized that as much as Christmas annoys me personally, my kid, also, should know about other people's holidays.  Well, now I can tell him that not all Christian kids do Santa.  

And that Chanuka book I got out of the library- its probably the best Chanuka book we have -and we have PLENTY from the PJ library and other sources- which is silly because in the Jewish tradition, Chanuka is not an important Holiday.  Its not even biblical.  I hate the commercialization of Chanuka just like some Christians probably don't like Santa. I know one of the mom's said something about they didn't like lying to their kids, but I'm not sure if this is the primary reason they don't do Santa.  

Of course just a few weeks ago I found out about the Dutch Santa through facebook and I was feeling mightily happier about the American idea. You can read this One article about it or just type in Dutch Santa into Google to find out what I am talking about.

Well, I just had to write something about Santa.
And given that Chanuka starts in a few days, I really have to schedule my son's Birthday parties a bit farther from the Holiday.  Yes, I finally got around to organizing him a four year old party.  I had to invite NINE kids, and that was leaving out a few.  This relates to the four parties he already went to, and kids his age at play care and other reasons.  So Seven actually came and of course their parents which makes over twenty people if each kid brings two parents- some did, some didn't but you don't actually know in advance.  Anyway, I was lucky enough to reserve a room in our community center for this event.  For FREE.  Our house just doesn't cut it for that many people.  The space worked well- we even got to set up my son's little play house that takes up the whole living room at our house.  

The only expensive thing was that we had to feed everyone.  After making cupcakes, frosting them, jello (my son's favorite), cutting some fruit,...well, I was so pleased when my husband suggested I should just order pizza to feed everyone.  No brainer.  Expensive, but worth it, and now we have a lot left over.  I felt pretty bad about not providing the right food for the one child who is allergic to everything except the jello and fruit, but his parents did say they would provide for him- which they are used to doing.

You see there was just a lot of food prep that week. I was also baking cookies for a cookie exchange the same night- it was more baking than I EVER do.  To get little star to help I asked if he'd make cookies with me and he said he wanted to do cutout cookies- it was the second time he'd asked, and we'd never done it before, so how could I refuse?  It seemed to take all day- dough in the morning, cutting in the afternoon.  The next day more cutting; frosting.  I did the next day without him because you just don't want dirty four year old hands all over cookies you are planning to give away- and it would have taken doubly forever.  So I let him try the cookies.  "They are too hard" he said, and again, I'm off the hook for giving him cookies.  He doesn't like them.

Now about the birthday party- it was low key, pleasant, not dramatic.  Kids were happy, they played, parents talked calmly, hanging out in their own cliques, but I don't really care- I just wanted everyone to be happy, and I think they were.  My son was happy even though it was all parallel play on his part. He watched the kids, played, and got jello.

I knew that even telling people gifts were not expected would not stop the gifts, so I wrote gifts were not expect, but if they felt the NEED to bring one I wrote what my son was actually interested in to help them out.  The first thing I wrote was that he likes soft fury things - I think I forgot the word furry-... like a stuffed animal.  Did he receive ANY stuffed fury animals?  No.  I thought this was a no brainer.  I think I'm going to have to buy him one.  Actually he did get this teddy bear thing, but its not soft and fury, its like a rag doll.

He did get reasonable gifts (I did mention he wasn't familiar with media characters so that really helped!)... sort of.  He got some books- also on my list, so that's great.  He received two small building toys (legos and erector set) that he will EVENTUALLY like... for a four year old party why would you buy toys that are age rated 5+?  Well, he WILL eventually like them, so I'm not complaining, I'm just surprised/confused.  Maybe busy people just don't read/trust the ratings, or maybe their kids are more advanced than mine is- quite possible.   He sure liked the stickers.

He also got two battery powered toys- a zhuzhu pet that he loves, and a nanobot (buglike thing)- that he also loves... that the battery already died on this afternoon- we opened it this morning. The pet might last longer since it sleeps by itself.  I can totally see why he likes these, but I'm not going to replace the battery every day.  Maybe he'll learn?  I admit I'd rather have a fake bug in my house than a real one... and a fake hamster than a real one.  But I can see that a real one would be much better... intellectually.  Fact is I'm NOT getting my kid a real hamster or having bugs in my house- and they are in short supply outside in the winter (aside from ANNOYING LADYBUGS), so really can't complain here. Thanks for the toys.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Joys of a picky eater and sweets

Did I for some reason say "last post"... well, I was serious, but I just had something to say.  Its not political, its not related to my project, and its only slightly embarrassing that I haven't cleaned out my cookie jar since the last time we had cookies.  I mean, it would only be SLIGHTLY embarrassing if the last time we had cookies was say, two weeks ago.  Well, here's the post:

1.  I gave my little star some chicken soup last night that I made.  I just cut up a lot of vegetables to add to some chicken stock- and little star "helped" by not getting into trouble, stringing celery, and cutting a few potato slices.  For eating the soup, I gave him mostly broth since he's not into chunks of stuff... or trying things, but usually he'll try soup.  I told him the carrots would be soft and sweet, which apparently after four years of refusal had some effect.

Instead of eating broth (oh well) he got into eating carrot and celery chunks.  The fact that I had just put a little soup in the bowl resulting in the impossibility of actually scooping up the chunks with his spoon did not deter him. He used his fingers to get the carrots on the spoon and ate them, for some reason disregarding the messiness of his fingers.  So he did not get frustrated at the difficulty of the task and fully enjoyed the "soft and sweet" carrots.  Today he claimed my soup was better than the one at playcare because that one didn't have carrots... I think it does.  Well I'm awfully pleased as I usually am when he actually likes something new... but I have to remind myself that this is probably temporary.    However, having a picky eater makes it all the more exciting when something as simple as cooked carrots is eaten.

He also decided he needed cherry jam, the kind "daddy" had, even after I explained that it had chunks of cherry.  Chunks had definitely been a no-no until he decided that blueberry jam was OK- but it has pretty small berries in it.  Actually, on the jam side I hadn't encouraged the cherry jam since its my favorite and rarely on sale... but still its nice he wants something new and with chunks.  See, with a picky eater you can even be excited when your kids eats something bad for them, like marshmallows or even weird candy.  I mean, at least they are trying something new!

Today I tried out this new cookie recipe that claimed it was super easy... well not exactly, but the cookies taste just like brownies, so who can complain?  (If you love brownies the way I do)  And the recipe wasn't impossible, it just took a bit longer since I had to substitute cocoa powder for baking chocolate- I think this is usually easier than melting chocolate.  Since I don't have a mixer I decided to mix it by hand rather than food processor since I wasn't sure if that would work correctly.  Any recipe that asks you to chill it for two hours is NOT by my definition easy, but it allowed me to make the batter yesterday and do some cooking today.

You were supposed to role the batter into balls- which were very sticky and roll those into powdered sugar, which wasn't too bad after I figured out that powdered sugar is a bit like flour in keeping things from sticking.  Little star got to help a little and without too much prompting licked off his fingers... which is a good step when you have a four year old who still hasn't learned to LICK things including his hands.  See, I was happy about this- though I did make him wash his hands before any more "helping" occurred.

So of course I offered him a taste of cookie- just before dinner as it was.  He took a little bite, said it was good, and DIDN'T ask for more.  Let me tell you, these things were amazing- just like eating a really great brownie.  After dinner I asked if he wanted a cookie- I mean, after all he "helped" make them, and we already shared a whole peach pie without him last week when he didn't want any.  Well, he said he didn't want a cookie.   More for US :)  I love the way he's not into sweets.  It helps me feel not guilty about eating them without him, usually after he's in bed.

2.  Now you may think we have sweets a lot... and sometimes we do- Most of the time in the fall I cook a lot of chocolate chip zucchini bread or pumpkin bread and we eat it almost all year.  But this year, my pumpkin and zucchini crop did not turn out, and truth is, I STILL have some grated zucchini in the fridge from last year, so I guess if the crop did turn out I still might not have done it.  Last year I brought (or somebody else did) donuts to my husbands department for a friday afternoon treat.  There were usually leftovers that we got to share at home almost every week during the school year.
Sometimes my husband uses baking to de-stress, so sometimes we get home made cinnamon buns, or pistachio nut cookies, or rugelach on a rare occasion.  Lately, however, its just been waffles- which are great.

This year, not much baking happened, until this month.

First there was this pie: I had to make this pie because I decided I was tired of waiting for my man to make pie crust so we could have a quiche.  It had been almost a year.  So I made a crust myself- not sure I've ever done it before.  In my house it was my dad's job- and he' didn't do it very often.  So I guess I followed that model and made it my husband's job since he actually likes to fool around with it and get it "just right"... though really I could care less if its perfect- I just want crust that tastes OK.  I don't care if its not that flakey or whatever.

Anyway, he's just not had any time lately, so I did it myself trying to follow the recipe to the letter since its my first time and all.  Of course I ended up using the plastic mixing blade on our food processor when I was supposed to use the cutting blade, but I wasn't sure, and I figured I couldn't really screw it up.  So as I tried to follow said recipe it sure took about forever to mix the butter and flour using the wrong blade, and it took about forever to role out the very cold dough as well.  And then there was the fact that I used a pyrex dish, and it said to get it VERY cold before putting it in the oven.  The internet claims that's OK-Phew.  And then there were all these cool it off steps.  No wonder I never make pie crust- it takes forever.  The quiche, by the way, was EXCELLENT and so was the crust.

Anyway, quiche only uses one crust, and by the recipe, the dough is only supposed to sit for two days at most in the fridge.  My husband MONOPOLIZED the kitchen that weekend preparing a chicken.  You see, it had to be done JUST right- every single part of the thing.  You can't just massage it a bit, put it in the roasting pan, and cook it.  No, you have to unfreeze it carefully, debone it, separate the different parts into different dishes, prepare each one, and cook them all in different ways including breading some of the pieces.  And then, you are not done, no, you have to cook what's left down in the pressure cooker for stock.

Do I sound like I'm complaining...well, lets say that the chicken was EXCELLENT, we ate it all week so all I had to do was prepare starch and veggies, and the stock made great soup.   On the other hand I think it was too much work, my husband got behind, got annoyed, stayed up late every night to catch up, and I believe is now sick.  So perhaps this is all my fault because I asked if he'd cook the chicken last weekend, and perhaps I should have waited several weeks, not bought the chicken, or done a less perfect chicken myself.

Anyway, fact was, I had to use up that extra crust.  So I looked up a recipe for how to use frozen fruit in pie.  I've never made the inside of a pie before either.... just quiche.  The only fresh fruit we had was honey crisp apples, and I think its a shame to cook such expensive delicious eating apples (though they would probably be good in a pie).  We did however have some peaches that were over a year old and blueberries in the freezer.  So I followed the instructions that did not mention if I should drain the extra liquid from the fruit (so I didn't), and I made a "streusal" top crust that the recipe said to do.   It did kind of bubble over- as I knew it would since it barely fit in the crust, but WOW, it was a great pie.  I was not sad that I didn't have to share it with little star.

My husband's godmother sends us this wonderful fudge every year around Christmas.  Now we told her more than a year ago that we liked the chocolate fudge without nuts the best, but every year, including last year we get half chocolate with walnuts and half this white chocolate fudge that neither of us like much though my husband tolerates it- we often give it away.  But who's to complain- the dark chocolate, even with nuts is amazing.  This year, however, she sent us a whole container with dark chocolate fudge and no nuts!  Oh, its heavenly.   Usually my husband, kind man that he is, knowing how much I love the stuff, lets me eat more than my fair share.  This year, he's all stressed out, and I am happy to make sure he's getting his share... or more.  He deserves it and there's twice as much to share in any case!

So, why was I making cookies?... well last year I participated in this cookie exchange with my mom's2moms group, and we got all these cookies that I exchanged for pumpkin/zucchini bread.. which we scarfed down rather quickly.  I wasn't sure I exactly had time for that this year given little star's birthday party is on the same day, I'm not sure if I have Jury duty this week, and I'm planning something for my project.... but I asked my husband if he'd like me to participate assuming he wouldn't care or would think it was too much work (even if it was my work, it would certainly impact him).  He said it would be nice to have the cookies... or something like that.  What?
OK, so sure, I like cookies too, and I can try this new recipe.  So thats why I baked cookies. They are really good.

I knew the cookie jar probably hadn't been cleaned..well because every time we have cookies I seem to have to clean it before putting any into it.  We rarely have cookies... probably last year after the cookie exchange was the last time.  But we have this great cookie jar.  Its from my grandfather's shop.  My grandfather, who died when I was around four years old used to run some sort of used furniture store... that burned down... but anyway, my grandma's house used to have all sorts of stuff that I don't think people on their income could necessarily have afforded.  The cookie jar was always there.  Its a ceramic cylinder painted as a round thatched house with a little chimney and has the look of Italy where it claims its from.  When you take the lid (the roof) off, it has a characteristic sound that lets you know for sure somebody is stealing a cookie.  Cookies seem to hold a very nice texture when kept in it.  I'm not quite sure how it influences humidity, but somehow it does it right.

I took off the lid. Sure enough it needed cleaning.  And it had ONE COOKIE in it.  And that cookie wasn't even obviously moldy.  It seemed to look just like one I remembered from the cookie exchange.  I couldn't believe it.  A year old cookie?  I was still a bit afraid of the thing and put it into the compost.  There were lots of crumbs and sugar in the jar, and nothing looked moldy or strange.  Weird.  Cookies must really be bad for you if the microbes won't eat them and no bugs even got into the jar. Its not sealed.  Its just a ceramic lid on top of ceramic.

Moral?  None.  Food is good. Food is fun.  Food is interesting.  Hearing about what other people do with food is interesting.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Last (?) thoughts

Hi readers,
I haven't written in a bit, and I just wanted to let you know what's up.  Stuff is going on, but nothing really really compelling.  The interesting stuff (OK, its not that interesting) generally has to do with family- ie not bloggable, or maybe its my political take on something, or something to do with the science playspace project.  Well, I just feel that these topics might get in the way of the playspace project if they are public, so it doesn't leave me much to blog about.  I may open another blog at some point that's less traceable to me... or not.  Or maybe I'll write here and there on this one.  I'm not sure, but I thought I should be honest about it with anybody who's reading this... if anybody is.  In fact if you do read this and want me to keep blogging, please comment.  Otherwise I assume nobody cares.

Last updates:
My son turned four years old.  I've reserved space at our local community center to hold him a party (he wants one), but I still have to plan it.  Of course what I mean is plan some food and some toys or something.  Its just a big play date to me... though my husband did suggest liquid nitrogen icecream or silly putty making, so I think some sciencey thing would be fun.  Why did I reserve space?... well I can imagine about three kids inside our house at most- and I've noticed you get both parents as well.  He's already been to FOUR parties this fall, so we owe some people.

I got a good report from playcare yesterday- when I came in he was evidently enjoying being tickled by another little boy.  I've never seen that kind of interaction before.  His teacher said he was interacting with the kids more and responding better.  I'd like to say this is because we are doing something better at home but... well, we've tweaked some things, but I really think its just age... or just he had a good day.  He seems to be giving up his nap at school... and maybe at home too.  I may have to change his schedule around.  I don't see much point in making him lie there for two hours every day and not sleep.  One hour I can see... Its because he's still in the three year old class room- the four/five year old classroom is full, and really I LIKE his teacher, and he's not exactly on the top of maturity.  There are also at least three kids who are older than him in the class.  But because its the three year old classroom they expect reall naps... that the other kids still do.

Little star is improving with potty training in the day, but we are still lacking the part where he decides to go when he needs to.  However he is mostly dry and is using our toilet and the one at school... though not other ones, so I still can't take him anywhere.

We had a good time with my family for T-giving, and little star did reasonably well . traveling. Its the first time I can remember with no snow on T-giving.  My little star got lots of good uncle, cousin, and great uncle time.  And also aunt time.  He just doesn't get much non-nuclear family time at home, and I don't think that's a good thing.

About the science playspace...we are sort of in a strange place- we have some money, but can't really spend it properly without more people in the organization and a space.  Its not like I'm getting paid, so its not always my top priority either.

We won't go into politics here, except to say I find myself curbing my speech on political matters (of which everything falls in that category) with local people because I don't know  how it will effect the science playspace project in such a mixed environment.  Did I mention we are the home of the Freshwater case... and we are a "purple state".  I'm so worried I'll say the wrong thing to the wrong person (I probably already have).  There are lots of things I'd love to promote on facebook, but I don't; I just like it when other people post it- thus only those people know I agree with them... well I assume that's how facebook works since I don't know everything everyone else likes on other people's pages.

As usual, trying to get to bed earlier.
Please comment!