A new plan

The evening routine has been making me crazy lately. Alan works late, I feed the kids whatever they want (which is generally one of about three things: bagel, cereal, or toast and butter), and I make myself something healthy(ish). We all three read at the table and zone out. I finish my dinner then nag/bug/remind them to eat, stop reading, shower, etc. The whole thing makes me crazy! After a long time reading at the table I take away their books and they cry because they are still hungry. We fight. It’s awful.

In my perfect world we would all sit down together, eat a hot, healthy meal (that the magic dinner fairy has prepared), and engage in conversation together. In a perfect world.

So, at family meeting on Saturday I brought up the evening routine as a problem. We discussed solutions. Eve proposed not reading at the table, which Lex was very hesitant to agree too. We finally decided on no reading at breakfast or dinner because those are times we have a time-frame and schedule to adhere to (school or bedtime), but reading at snack or lunch was ok. Reading at the table when you’re not eating is fine too, of course. Lex agreed to try for a week. Last night we all ate pizza and garlic bread at the table and had a great conversation. In bed that night Lex told me that he really liked the conversation and it was a very nice dinner. This morning, Sunday, a day we’d usually read the paper at breakfast, Lex decided to eat quickly then read the comics afterwards, all on his own without me reminding him of the new rule. I made french toast, per Eve’s request, and we all sat together and again had a lovely conversation about the day. Lex ate toast and butter, but still joined us for the meal and conversation. No fussing about reading. It was great! Tonight Lex was at Lego League and Alan was at work, so Eve and I prepared a nice meal (lentil soup and fresh bread, again at her request) and set the table with candles and everything. When the boys got home we sat down together for a great meal. Lex had bread and yogurt. I would love to get him eating more variety, but for now I think the meals together again are awesome! I hope it continues without fuss. Maybe after a few weeks we can start working on trying new foods again.

I know this sounds like old news because food has always been an issue in this house, but lately it has really hit me that he is nine and a half years old and doesn’t eat warm food. His diet consists of about five “meals” and none what you would consider a proper meal. We rarely go out to eat because all he’ll eat is the bread and butter, or bagels at Panera Bread, and he can’t eat at friends’ houses or birthday parties. It is really limiting for him and seems to be getting worse, not better. I was hoping he would out-grow the pickiness, or at least gain some curiosity about food as he grew up, but nope, not so far. I’m hoping this can be a first step. At least removing the reading makes him more aware of what he’s eating (makes all of us more aware of what we are eating!) and maybe we can work that into expanding his diet a bit. Wish me luck!

Halloween Gingerbread

Last week we went to visit a friend who had, in the past (2012), helped us make gingerbread houses. We don’t see her often and when I mentioned our plans to visit, Eve immediately asked if we would be making a gingerbread house. I told her no, just visiting, but the idea stuck and she insisted. Sooo…. behold the Halloween Haunted Gingerbread House!

completed house

Our Haunted Halloween House

The process took a few days. On the first day we made the dough.

eve baking p1

Eve in the kitchen. I love it!

eve baking p2

She doesn’t even need a chair, just a little stool. :)

Then we rolled it out, cut it, and baked it.

eve baking p3

She was eager to help cut out the pieces and ended up doing most of them all by herself.

baked pieces

Here are all the pieces.

On Saturday we built the house! Sadly my royal icing was not strong enough and did not “set” quick enough, so, alas, we had an unstable house on our hands.

construction p1

Off to a messy start already! I think I need to use a smaller icing tip next time.

decorating extras

While we waited for the walls to dry we decorated the trick-or-treaters and house accessories.

construction p2

The roof is on. We decided to add an M&M border to the wet icing, on the assumption that it would dry quickly!

construction p2

After a wall and roof panel fell twice I decided it was time to bring out the reinforcements!

inside

The second collapse also gave us a chance to put the gingerbread people and ghost inside, which we had forgotten the first two times we put the roof on!

I stuck the house in the fridge for awhile and we all went out to play. You have to take a break from the sugar fumes sometimes and it was a beautiful day!

cookies

These look good enough to eat!

house decorating

When Aunt Rosy arrived we decorated the gingerbread house and added the accessories.

house p1

Ta-da! I took away the glass in hopes that the roof would stay. We propped it up with some gingerbread trees. :)

house p2

In this picture you can see the gingerbread dog house, the dog (white with red spots), and the trick-or-treater dressed as a pencil. I love that costume idea! I told Eve she should be a pencil next year and she decided Lex could be an eraser to go with her. :)

house p3

A rickety old house needs a rickety old fence in the backyard.

us

Happy bakers! (Eve has her bunny ears under her chin and it looks like some weird neck scarf.)

The house was lovely, kind of, and I stuck it back in the fridge for a little more firming up. It stayed there all day Sunday while we were busy with the CHaD (another post on that will follow soon). This afternoon I cleared off the table (not a small feat!) and set up a nice Halloween display. The kids were super excited when they came home from school.

on display

I tidied up the table and set up a nice Halloween display this afternoon before the kids got home. They were excited to see it all setup. (Notice the glass behind the house? It started sagging after all the decorations were one, so we figured the glass was a required structural support. Lex added some candy to the top to make it look better.)

Sadly, we got back from karate to discover this:

caved in

Oh no! It lasted for a few hours before it caved in. Not even a nice roof slide like the first few times, this was just a complete cave-in.

Eve did a dramatic cry for awhile and then moved on. We agreed it was now a super spooky fallen down Halloween house. There were two casualties of the roof collapse, but the kids were consoled when I promised they could have the casualties for snack tomorrow. I claimed the third causality, a ghosts, for myself!

The house might not be perfect, but we had tons of fun so I’m going to call it a success!! (and try my friend’s royal icing recipe next time!)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

pb&j barsIt was my day to bring snack for Lego League, so I made Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars from the latest edition of The Baking Sheet, a King Arthur Flour publication. (I tried to find a link to it, but I think this is the final edition before they switch to some other format, so I can’t find any useful links online. Oh well.)

The recipe looked tasty and easy and sure to please ten hungry kids. Turns out it’s fantastic! So tasty that I can’t stop nibbling. Fortunately there were a few left over for us to enjoy at home. :) If you want an easy, tasty treat, give this a shot!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
(directly from King Arthur Flour, The Baking Sheet, Fall/Holiday 2014)

Dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups cream peanut butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Filling & Topping:
1 1/2 cups high-quality jam (I used a mix of store-bought blackberry jam and homemade triple berry jam. The color contrast between the bars and jelly part was great.)
1/2 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x13″ pan, or line with parchment.

In a stand mixer cream the butter and brown sugar until well blended (about 2 minutes). With the mixer on low add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter; mix until well combined. Scrape the bowl a few times during mixing.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients with the mixer at low speed to the peanut butter mixture until just combined.

Spread half the dough into the prepared pan (an off set spatula or bowl scraper works well here). Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough over the jam. Sprinkle with the peanuts. Bake for 35 to 38 minutes until golden brown and set. Remove from the oven, cool, and cut into 1″ x 2″ bars.

Yield: 30 bars.

It’s apple time again!

We took our first trip of the year to the apple orchard this week! I’d like to go back a few more times, but we have so many apples already!! We went with Elizabeth and Alistair and had a wonderful time. We ran through the corn maze, picked golden raspberries, apples, and blueberries.

running

When I say “we” I really mean “they” ran through the corn maze while Elizabeth and I moseyed behind, chatting and occasionally regrouping the kids. Alistair looks like he’s yelling his corn maze battle cry! (I wish I could harness his energy!)

reading

Fortunately Lex took care of reading the clues so we weren’t lost in there forever!

a corn

Alistair says, “what’s the point of a corn maze if we can’t pick the corn?!”

e corn

Eve says, “well… if he picked corn …”
I say, “You’re not supposed to pick the corn! But… since you already did let me take a picture.” :)

pumpkins

Lex waving to the tractor driver hauling pumpkins.

lex apples

Lex’s picking method was to fill all of his pockets as full as possible before coming back to the bags. I love his efficiency.

lex tree

We broke a few rules that day. He’s so cute though! A little monkey in an apple tree.

wagon

This year we got a wagon. I learned my lesson from last year, hauling apples all the way down the hill.

weighing pumpkins

While I paid for our goods, the kids decided to see how much the pumpkins weighed – altogether.

strong eve

Eve helped bring the apples to the car. Strong girl!

Yesterday I made apple pie and triple berry jam. We had lots of black raspberries in the freezer from our back yard so I added those to the golden raspberries and blueberries we picked at the orchard. It came out great!

pie

Wait, don’t cut it yet! I almost forgot to take a picture!

Eve’s 7yr Checkup

Another year, another trip to the doctor’s office. Fortunately another easy-peasy trip for us. The biggest inconvenience was a cranky Lex. Eve was happy and healthy, of course. She’s now 57lbs (77th percentile) and 50″ (83rd percentile). Growing right up! I didn’t get a picture at the doctor’s office because doctor visits just aren’t that cute any more. Shhh, don’t tell.

I asked the doctor about the lump on her ear. I think I posted about it a few years ago, but I can’t find it for a link now so you’ll just have to trust me. :) The doctor said it doesn’t look dangerous at all. She said sometimes “growing and changing” bumps on children are just growing and changing because the child is doing the same. She said growing and changes things on grown-ups are more concerning. She agreed that a visit to a dermatologist would be prudent anyway though, even if just to put my mind at ease. She gave us a referral and maybe I’ll hear back from a specialist before 2015! Fortunately it’s no emergency.

image

She certainly has no trouble with her ego!

The one thing the doctor stressed, again, like she always does, is healthy eating. I always feel guilty when my kids list all of zero things in response to her question about healthy eating. She asks, “What vegetables do you like?” and they says “Umm….” Silence. She then asks if we’ve seen the MyPlate.gov thing and then proceeds to tell them about the importance of healthy foods. I say “Yes, I’ve said it all before. They know. They just chose not to.”

Tonight Eve chose to. Yay! I was having edamame for dinner and she asked to try some. She decided it was ok, not amazing, but not awful (rave review!) and then asked for some more. Eventually she asked me to take a picture to show daddy. :) Maybe it was proof that she once ate something green. I have a guilt complex about their diets (and my own too!) so it always makes me happy when they are willing to try something new! Yay Eve! Here’s to a new year of healthy eating! (or at least one meal)

image

Edamame is yummy!

 

Eve bakes

Yesterday Eve was browsing through her fairy cookbook and decided to make some cookies. Her first choice, pink pinwheel cookies, didn’t work out because we didn’t have the right ingredients (much to my surprise we were out of powdered sugar!). After much deliberation she finally settled on pink sparkly heart cookies.

mixing

Eve did all of the work on these cookies. Measuring, mixing, etc.

When the cookie dough was chilling in the fridge she went down to the basement and never came back, so she finished them this morning.

rolling

She rolled out the dough and kept say “Oh, this is such hard work!”

cutting

She cut out big hearts and little hearts, then got bored of the rolling/cutting process and started just making shapes with her hands.

topping

The directions said to brush with egg whites then sprinkle with sugar. She thought that process took too long so she asked why you can’t just go from egg white to sugar to cookie. I said “go for it!” She tried one (top left corner) and said, “Oh, they kinda get all messy when you do that.” Then she went back to the original way.

The first step of the recipe said to mix red food coloring with granulated sugar to make it pink. She decided she wanted purple, so she added red and blue food coloring. It ended up being a red/blue/purple combo.

oven

Into the oven they go. Like I said, she did everything!

I was right near by for the “into the oven” process, but a little more involved with the “out of the oven” process so no pics of that. She helped though. She wore oven mitts and held one side of the tray. :)

cookies

Not quite what the picture showed, but all Eve.

eating

Her favorite part! :)

Death by deliciousness

To use up chocolate and peanut butter filling from last weekend’s birthday cake, I decided to make some dark chocolate cookie sandwiches.  Fortunately we have a party to attend tomorrow, so I don’t have to eat these all myself!  If it’s possible to die from pure deliciousness, you’re looking at it!

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Then, for good measure, a strawberry rhubarb cobbler, with ingredients fresh from the farm!

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Valentine’s Day Treats

We will be jettin’ out of here on Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate anyway. The kids finished their class Valentine’s Day cards today. We are going to bring them in on Wednesday and their teachers have promised to distribute them. My guys are eager to return to a bunch of Valentine’s Day cards waiting for them after vacation. :)

This afternoon we made cookies.

chocolate

Someone’s had enough chocolate already!

kisses

They were giving each other silly kisses. I tried to get a picture, but instead got this weird shot. :)

sugar

Fun with sugar. Eve had the job of rolling the dough balls in sugar. It took much longer than necessary, but she enjoyed the sensory experience.

hearts

While Eve played in the sugar, Lex got the first shot at putting the hearts on the cookies. These are definitely fun to make! (that table in the background sums up my life! Messy, colorful, healthy, sweets, kids!)

yum

Cookies!

eve

Eve got a turn at the hearts too. I could NOT get a picture of her with a non-talking mouth! :)

I have been wanting to make these cookies for awhile now. Holding off until it’s actually close to the sweet holiday. They are peanut butter blossoms (with the unholiest of deliciousness – Jif peanut butter!) with Dove and Hershey hearts instead of the usual Kisses. So YUMMY! We will be delivering these to various friends over the next few days, while saving a few for ourselves, of course!

Healthy Eating

I told the kids that starting in January we were going to have a new meal plan. I had no idea what it would be, but I was sick of arguing with them about what they could eat, sick of making three different meals each night, sick of negotiating exactly how many carrot sticks it would take to get yet another piece of bread and butter. Just sick of the whole feeding process! Despite the fact that I mentioned it to them several times over the past month, I did not, in fact, have any actual plan in mind.

So it came up again in conversation a few days ago. We discussed, as a family, the reasons I was unhappy with the current meal situation. They added their opinions. We came up with a plan. The plan is that they will make their own dinners from now on. How’s that for a plan?! I agreed, with the caveat that they need to make healthy dinners. We talked about what a healthy dinner includes and Lex expressed concern that he wouldn’t be able to do that since he doesn’t like fruits and vegetables. It was late and he was starting to get agitated, so we agreed to attempt a list of fruits and veggies the next day.

After school yesterday they each grabbed a sheet of paper and started making a list of fruits and vegetables they like, sorted by color. I pulled up a great PDF listing of fruits and veggies by color (from the Sesame Street website, no less, and it also includes a convenient “sometimes foods” and “anytime foods” list) Both kids made their lists and Lex was surprised to find how many things he likes in the green category. You can see in the picture below that he made the green section pretty small, expecting it to be empty.

When they got done listing the foods that like, I asked them to choose two foods from each color group that they *might* like and would be willing to try. Those are written with a question mark next to them. Then they each chose one of the question mark foods to add to the shopping list, with the understanding that they would in fact taste the foods when I brought them home.

lists

These are the fruits and veggies that my kids like… today.

Last night Lex wanted garlic bread for dinner so I taught them both how to make garlic bread. They each looked at their lists and chose their side dishes accordingly. Eve ate grapes and lentil soup (the meal I cooked), while Lex ate an entire honeydew melon! Eve had milk, Lex had yogurt. A fairly healthy meal, I think. And everyone was happy and no one argued.

This evening Lex made garlic bread again, with cheese on top, and he wanted carrots for the side. He agreed to work with me on prepping them. I washed and he cut. Yes, I taught him how to use the sharp knife. He said, “Am I really old enough for the sharp knife??” It was terrifying to me, but his opinion was “This is pretty easy, really.” I was composing a visit-to-the-ER blog post in my head, but he got the carrots all cut up and had carrots, yogurt, and cheesy garlic bread for dinner. Whole wheat bread. Healthy enough. (are my standards low?!)

I don’t know how long this will last, but the life skills lessons in the kitchen (Eve can now make mac & cheese by herself, with just my supervision around the stove) and the eagerness to prepare meals is something I’m going to enjoy as long as possible!

Gingerbread treats

Yesterday I had a rare day at home. Almost spoiled by a last minute (8am!) call from the principal asking if I could sub. I said yes, then no, then felt like a crazy person, but settled on no because I was really, really looking forward to a day at home. It’s been awhile!

I got caught up on a few things, but mostly spent the day preparing this:

gingerbread surprise

A gingerbread surprise to welcome them home.

Making the dough, rolling, cutting, baking, preparing icing, gathering toppings… all for a sweet surprise for my little ones. I also made salad and exercised, to somewhat balance out the sugary day.

The kids were THRILLED when they came in the door! They did their after school jobs lightening quick and were decorating in no time. :)

Eve, just getting started.

Eve, just getting started.

Lex at work.

Lex at work.

sweet

What a sweet table! :)

messy

It got a little messy. I was really glad I thought to give them trays to work on!

eves bag

Eve made a bag on her gingerbread baby. Of course, with the way she creates, by the time she was done decorating it you could no longer see the bag. :)

cookies

Cookies galore!

done

All done! It took us all afternoon, but we all had fun.

We decided that we didn’t need 41 heavily decorated gingerbread cookies in our house (ok, that part was my decision!) so we packaged them up with a gingerbread poem and a holiday greeting and brought them to school this morning.

packed up

Gingerbread boys and girls headed off to school!