Saturday, July 30, 2011

How to sleep like a 3 year old and a simple 3 step plan for waking all adults

Jack crawled into our bed the other night. In fact he has been crawling into your bed a lot lately. He is pretty sneaky and most nights we don't even know he is in our bed until he has fallen back asleep. He has taken to crowding certain members of the bed. For a little fellow he can certainly take up a lot of room. I am happy to report that my extensive research has determined that there appears to be evidence that sleeping styles are genetic. Jack prefers to sleep like a starfish. Its as if he passes out mid snow angel or mid jumping jack. He finds comfort in making sure his knobby knees are directly pressed into a lower back. He is conscious of any potential back problems and wants to make sure we eliminate any trips to the Chiropractor. He's a thoughtful bugger like that. Apparently its easier to sleep if your foot is pressed into the crook of someones neck. Consequently you will also sleep better if you kick this foot once in awhile. You just have to work the kinks out, plus you wouldn't want your foot to fall asleep. It's also important that you are committed to your sleep. When questioned you should be able to easily tell said interrogator what you are doing.

Dad: "Jack, can you move over, I have no room."
Jack: "Dad! Stop it, I'm sleeping!"

Perfect example of how to succinctly and accurately alert said interrogator of your intentions. You want to be firm.

So then you need to go back to sleep, legs akimbo, every once in a while reenacting scenes from Riverdance, fiercely defending your right to sleep.

You will need to wake up at 5am and immediately begin questioning those surrounding you as to why they are not awake. They are missing precious moments of the wonderful day! Firmly tell them to open their eyes. They probably won't listen but that's ok because you are prepared. You have a fool proof three step process for situations just like this.

Step 1: Gently lift the eyelids of sleeping individual.

(I cannot overstate the importance of step number 2. Do not deviate from the instructions.)

Step 2: Get up right in the persons face. If you think your close enough, you're not. If necessary grab both sides of the sleeping persons head. Ears make great handles if you are wanting some leverage.

Step 3: It's important you use your outside voice for this part. You really want the sleeping person to hear you. Better yet you want to neighbors to hear you. After all you are providing a valuable service so really its for every one's good. So in your best outside voice you want to say, "ARE YOU AWAKE?"

If all else fails you have a code red sleep emergency. You should immediately continue to the lesser known but still quite valuable Step 4 which calls for repeatedly demanding items. Milk. TV. Tissues. Puppies. It doesn't really matter but the important thing to remember is that you need to be making rapid fire demands. Your goal is to motivate and subtly confuse said sleeping person so the louder and more intense the requests the better.

Congrats! You have successfully gotten a refreshing nights sleep, served as alarm clock to the community, and you don't even need a cup of coffee to feel human. Truly adults could learn a thing or two from young ones and their zest for life first thing in the morning. If you could bottle that energy you would be a bazillionare.

I truly wish I could sleep like a 3 year old.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lesson #7 you can feed people old shoes if you make them fresh bread.

Ok so that might be a gross exaggeration but I know I will eat pretty much anything if it comes with fresh bread. I try and make one meatless meal a week in our house and I typically find we aren't really missing much if we have fresh bread. We pretty readily admit we are carb-avores in this house so its no huge shock we are into bread. I am so happy I found this bread recipe. I could kiss the person who invented it. They should be nominated to the carbohydrates hall of fame. The recipe is dead simple and the best part is that you keep a large batch of dough in your fridge and make a loaf whenever you want fresh bread. It's also a really friendly dough. It doesn't ask to be kneaded, the yeast doesn't have to be proofed, you don't have to measure temperatures AND you can make it into so many different things. With the exact same dough I have successfully made Naan, focaccia, pizza dough, sandwich bread, ciabatta and just the standard round loaf (boule) that we usually have with dinners. Try it. Do it. This is your carb conscience speaking.

So lets get down to it!

No Knead Bread
(Courtesy of Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day)

Ingredients: (Makes 4 (1) pound loaves)
3 cups hot water (not boiling)
1 1/2 TBS sea salt
1 1/2 TBS yeast
6 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1: Pour hot water into a large (at least 4 quarts) tupperware or other food safe container. You will need a container that also has a lid!

2: Add yeast and salt. Stir just to mix together. Nothing has to fully dissolve or bubble or proof like other typical bread recipes. (Not that you need a picture but this is what it looks like )

3: Add flour to the container with the water, salt and yeast.

4: Stir the flour into the water mixture until all ingredients are incorporated. You do not have to knead the dough and this should only take a couple of minutes. I use a large wooden spoon. The dough will be slack, shaggy and very wet. Don't worry this is what it is supposed to look like!

Word on the street is that mixing is easier in your Cars jammies

5: Put the lid on your container but DON'T shut it. The dough needs some air-but not a whole heck of a lot.

6: Let the dough rise for 2 hours and then put in the fridge. The dough will not double in size and will be fairly flat when it rises. The dough is easiest to handle when it has been refrigerated over night or at least several hours so I typically make up a new batch on a day we don't need bread.

Here is everything you need for making the bread (minus a picture of the broiler pan I use)
*pizza stone (you can also use a cast iron pan or even a terracota saucer!)
*broiler pan (or any oven safe shallow pan)
*Pizza peel (I definitely didn't have one of these when I started making bread and used a wooden cutting board with a handle and it worked just fine!)
*small pitcher for pouring water into broiler pan (steam = crusty loaf!)
*flour for dusting loaf

7: Prepare a pizza peel (or cutting board) by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent the loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven. I use an old washed out honey bear to distribute cornmeal onto my pizza peel because I got sick of cleaning up cornmeal.

8:Sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour, then cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece with a serrated knife. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on four “sides,” rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go, until the bottom is a collection of four bunched ends. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it doesn’t need to be incorporated. The bottom of the loaf will flatten out during resting and baking.

9. Place the ball on the pizza peel. Let it rest uncovered for about 40 minutes. Depending on the dough’s age, you may see little rise during this period; more rising will occur during baking.

10. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on another shelf. My oven takes about 20 minutes to get to 450 so I usually just put my kitchen timer on for 20 minutes after I shape my loaf. When the timer goes off I set my oven to 450 and I know when it beeps to tell me its reached 450 I have given my loaf enough time to hang out before being baked.

11: Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour, which will allow the slashing, serrated knife to pass without sticking. Slash a 1⁄4-inch-deep cross, scallop or tick-tack-toe pattern into the top. (This helps the bread expand during baking.)

12. With a forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour about a cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and firm to the touch. With wet dough, there’s little risk of drying out the interior, despite the dark crust. When you remove the loaf from the oven, it will audibly crackle, or “sing,” when initially exposed to room temperature air. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack, for best flavor, texture and slicing. The perfect crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.

13. Refrigerate the remaining dough in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next two weeks: You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. This maturation continues over the two-week period. Cut off and shape loaves as you need them. The dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.

Make bread. Eat bread. It's the circle of life.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Jack versus self sufficiency

Jack came into my room yesterday morning and crawled into bed. He told me he wanted milk. I rolled over and my eyes rolled back into my head and I went back to sleep. I probably grunted at him or snorted or growled or made some other guttural noise appropriate for 5:30am. You can get away with a lot of noises at 5:30 that just aren't appropriate at other times of day. I am pretty sure first thing in the morning I look like a sleep deprived Medusa. I often warn people in my house to not really attempt communication until I am at least one coffee deep into the day. Its just wise. You've been warned. So while I registered on some level that there was a mini human in my bed asking me for something, I didn't/couldn't muster up the energy to even respond, let alone get out of bed and provide said mini human with milk. Jack took matters into his own hands and scuttled out of bed and padded down the hallway, apparently down the stairs, and then back upstairs where he returned to our bed. He softly slurped away on what I can only imagine was a sippy cup. When I regained consciousness and decided that I should probably greet the day I found this at the bottom of our bed.

Jack had procured not only a sippy cup but what he deemed to be an appropriate refill. Now, I don't know about you, but I love to start my day with a nice big frothy cup of fat free half and half. It really adds that extra zing to my step! I have to selfishly admit that my wheels are turning at a truly alarming rate cooking up some wild ideas for what I can teach Jack to do while I am still in bed. What's next? Brioche? Espresso? I admire your step towards self sufficiency, my dear boy. Congrats! You are growing up. Now I have to go cry into my fat free half and half because you are all old and independent.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jack's first story

Jack wrote a story yesterday. Ok, well I wrote the story but he authored it. Apparently I moo. Who knew?!

One day a giraffe was moo-ing. He said, "Lily?" Then Lily mooed back at the giraffe. Then they went on a spaceship rocket. They liked it. Jack wanted to come too. Jack said, "push the buttons!" "Wes do you want to come on the spaceship rocket?" Wes did want to come so he climbed on board. They decided to go to work. They built a house for Jack. Jack painted it red. Jack touched his new house. Then they all went home.

The end.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I'm a vegetable ninja

I have been in vegetable stealth mode pretty much ever since Jack has been eating solids. You know what I'm talking about if you have a picky eater. You find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, tip toeing into the kitchen and injecting your kids yogurt with microscopic portions of butternut squash. You hold your breath and slink back to bed only to be viciously disappointed when your toddler tastes said doctored food item and refuses to eat it. Sigh. You've tried. I mean you've REALLY tried. If you are a vegetable ninja you too know the pain of cooking up homemade goodies with love only to have them rejected before they even reach your tots mouth. In attempting to make peace with the fact that my kidlet won't eat a vegetable, I have had to take a break from vegetable ninja-ry (I just made that word up..It should be a word....Please feel free to start using it in sentences. It could be the new "tom foolery" ) because, truth be told, my attempts to improve my child's nutrition have been enough to make me go prematurely gray. So in this break from fruitless vegetable sneakiness I discovered a new product from none other than Kraft Macaroni and cheese. Kraft has a new mac and cheese that boasts a 1/2 cup of vegetables in every 1 cup serving. Could it be true? Would Jack eat it? Would there be weird vegetable flecks in it thus thwarting any and all attempts to get him to eat it? I had to know. Jack loves boxed mac and cheese. I am thinking he likes it primarily because no cheese was harmed in the making. It's also neon orange. Delightful. So I bought the new mac and cheese and with expectations rather low offered it to Jack. He ate it. He ate ALL of it. I felt like I had won some sort of vegetable triathlon. I want a gold carrot medal. I almost don't care what type of vegetable this mac and cheese proclaims to contain because Jack ate something that had contact with a vegetable and perhaps even an ACTUAL vegetable. I just got goosebumps. By the way its cauliflower for those wondering. Cauliflower goosebumps y'all, cauliflower goosebumps. For all you nay sayers out there who are shaking their heads at the depths I have sunk to in feeding my child a sub par, processed, boxed dish, you just can't ruin this high I am feelin' right now. While I am still wringing my hands a bit at the thought of Jack developing rickets or some weird malady because of his lack of vegetable intake, I feel like I have finally won a round. So, go forth vegetable ninjas! Continue hiding healthy foods inside your kids favorites, continue sharing ideas with other frazzled moms, and know that you are never alone. This ninja knows your pain.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I'm a haircut doctor

I gave Wes his first haircut today. Ok not really but I think it counts. Sort of. Wes had hair that was well past his ears and I think it was starting to itch him so I took matters into my own hands and gave him a little side burn trim. Let's just say I didn't miss my calling as a cosmetologist but I got the job done and Wes has been officially de-Elvised. Jack was sufficiently traumatized by my new found hair trimming talents. "Mom? Are you a haircut doctor now?" Why yes....Yes I am. Don't worry the swoop is in full glory and I won't be cutting that anytime soon.