A Pocket Person’s Guide to Air Travel

Guest Post by Musical Soup Preschooler

When you are 4 years old, traveling by plane can be a delightful experience as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. If you play your cards right, air travel can be a magical time in which videos, snacks and juice flow with abundance.

1. Do not trust your mother to pack for you. Feel free to remove what she has packed and assemble your own items. It is unlikely that you will agree with what she packs for you. With any luck, a giant bottle of bubbles can stow away in your carry on bag.

bubbles

2. If you have a summer fun pass ID available, feel free to show it to the people in the security line. If the grown up people need to show their IDs, you probably should too.

pass

3. On the plane, request, nay, demand a seat by the window. I have found that grown-up people are particularly compliant when loud voices are used in confined spaces.

4. It is also important to be situated near your mother. She is most likely to have the snacks. See #3 also about the loud voices. If you sit with Dad, you are more likely to be fed sugarless gum or breath mints, both of which will suffice in a pinch.

5. Costumes and accessories help pass the time at the airport. Here, I demonstrate this principle using orange fangs.

IMG_5600

Do you know of a time not improved by orange fangs? I think not.

6. If you are lucky, your flight will include a screaming baby. They will be far louder than your protestations for a window seat or Mom and you will look like a star in comparison.

Happy travels, my friends.

Posted in Family, Non-food | 1 Comment

Flourless Dark Chocolate Brownies

These brownies are dangerous. I need to get them out of the house immediately. And by that, I mean they are really, really good.  Luckily, it’s teacher appreciation week, which is a grand opportunity for getting rid of sharing treats. Our preschool class’ home room dad asked everyone to bring in small, tapas style treats for a Cinco de Mayo theme. I am pretty sure that tapas are Spanish, not Mexican, but whatever.

brownies

If you try these, I think you will agree that flour really doesn’t add much.

I used this recipe as my inspiration, but I changed it up a bit.

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 oz. dark chocolate, broken into small pieces (I used 70% percent cacao)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Combine butter and chocolate in a microwavable bowl. Microwave in short intervals (around 20 seconds), stirring each time, until butter and chocolate are melted. Stir until smooth and let cool slightly. Stir in sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until center is set.

Cut into tiny bite size pieces so that you will feel slightly less guilty is you eat one or two. Or five or six…

I can’t seem to resist sharing something ridiculous that my kids say, so here you go. Yesterday Musical Soup Girl went swimming at a spring water pool with a friend. Except she told us it was a swamp water pool. But, don’t you know, “Swamp water is some of the cleanest water in the world!” Ah, lovely, refreshing, crystal clear swamp water is  just the best.

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The Rest of the Story

When my daughter was born just over 7 years ago, the very first thing I said was that I couldn’t believe that I had just given birth to someone with THOSE toes. She looked like she could use them to climb a tree.

babytoes

See what I mean? I don’t remember who took this photo, but I am sure that I demanded it be taken to document the toes. They were half the length of her foot. Then the nurse said, “She’s beautiful” while eyeing the baby protectively and me suspiciously. Of course I thought she was beautiful. Since when does toe length preclude beauty anyway?

The body hair was a little more disconcerting. She was born with tufts of dark hair sprouting from her earlobes and along her back. The doctor reassured us that that is not uncommon and the hair would fall out soon.

I have a memory–although I’m not sure if it’s real or imagined–of Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story about Elizabeth Taylor. It begins by telling us about a furry baby and then the rest of the story tell us that the baby grew up to be Elizabeth Taylor. For the first few weeks post-partum, I would repeat to myself, “And that furry baby grew up to be Elizabeth Taylor!” My husband thinks this probably was not a real episode but something I heard on the Simpsons. Could be. A quick Internet search did not find this episode, but it did find several other bloggers with the same memory. Very curious.

I am glad to tell you that the excess hair did fall off. My baby girl turned seven a few weeks ago and we had a small animal petting zoo for her party. The baby ducks were so precious. The little beaks just kill me with their wee adorableness. But those baby ducks were runners. The bunnies and guinea pigs were content to sit on laps, but the ducks made a run for it every time. This was challenging for the children, who tried to find the delicate balance between cuddling them and squashing them. Come to think of it, I try to find that balance every day, too.

Duck

Photo credit.

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Go-To Yellow Cupcakes

HappyBirthday

I am behind on posting again, as per usual and I do want to properly acknowledge Musical Soup Girl’s 7th birthday last week. But first–I want to note that I have a new favorite yellow cupcake recipe. I am primarily posting this for my own benefit, because I know I will forget. I have made many yellow cakes and cupcakes before, and they are almost always too dry and flavorless. Sadly, the cupcakes from a box are often better. But not these! They are light and fluffy. I finally have a go-to yellow cupcake recipe. I did make sure to let all of the ingredients come to room temperature first, so that may have helped the texture, too.

I frosted them with vanilla butter cream frosting and was quite happy with the results.

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Exactly Two Years Ago

Every once in a while, I will actually write things down. And not even on a blog. These are not necessarily important things, just random things that catch my interest. A revolutionary idea, I know. Anyway, I just came across this conversation and, oddly enough, it happened exactly two years ago–March 31, 2012. That means my daughter was four (almost five) and my oldest son was eight.

March 31, 2012

Little Girl found a caterpillar that she was very fond of. She carried him around and called him “Catty.” She was extremely upset and crying when she accidentally dropped him between the slats of the deck.

Big Brother: Don’t worry. I’ve been dropping caterpillars down there for years, so he’ll have a family.

Me: What? Why?

Big Brother: To protect them from predators.

Caterpillar murder or random act of kindness? You be the judge.

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The Art of Slowing Down

I have spent a lot of my life feeling antsy, for lack of a better word. There is always a nagging sense that there is something I can supposed to be doing, but I can’t quite put my finger on what that something is. I am so envious of people who have a Calling. They knew from an early age what they wanted to do, and they did it. Interestingly, many of these people seem  to be teachers. But for me, that has never been the case.

A couple years ago, I had a mini epiphany. Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about what I do. Maybe I should worry more about who I am. And that person, the one I strive to be–well that’s a work in progress.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like the days and weeks fly by without a lot of introspection. It can be hard sometimes to still our minds, to let the quiet seep in, even in the middle of a noisy and chaotic life.

art

My four year old loves to paint. Sometimes he tells me that he needs to paint, and I believe him. I recently moved his easel to the kitchen and left his paints out. He ended up working on a painting for about a week, adding a little more each day.

He is a kid who notices everything. If anything in his environment is moved or changed, he’s the first to notice. I don’t. All those details somehow get filtered out for me. When I tell him we’re going to the library, he’ll ask if it’s the red one or the blue one. And I honestly can’t answer. All my brain registers is “library,” and the color of the door or the awning out front is completely lost on me. So when he asked if we’re going to the red or blue library, I had to tell him I don’t know. Mommy doesn’t notice things the way he does.

tulips

Spring is finally here, and I’m loving the tulips we planted last fall. A part of me is surprised that they actually grew and bloomed. Although, oddly, only the ones we bothered to put in ground actually grew. The bulbs we left in the garage and forgot about–well, they’re still there.

hammock

Every time I walk by this hammock, I think how relaxing and inviting it looks and I am tempted to hop in. I do not know the people who live there, so I’ve resisted that urge so far.

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Gingerbread Pancakes with Roasted Bananas

Did you know that tomorrow, March 4, is National Pancake Day? Who knew? Would you believe that I started this post before I even knew such a thing existed? That, my friends, is what they call timing. Okay, let’s face it. Any day is a good day for pancakes. We don’t need a national holiday for that.

The kids have been listening to audiobooks of the Animal Rescue Team series lately. I think it’s pretty good, but mostly it’s a welcome reprieve from the Magical Tree House audiobooks that have been on near constant rotation lately. The 4-year-old is particularly obsessed with these books. After hearing Mary Pope Osborne scat singing as a young Louis Armstrong in A Good Night for Ghosts…well, you can’t unhear that. I know that those books have educational elements, but I can’t help to think that jam sessions with the ghosts of Jean Lafitte and his pirate crew might be a tad confusing for a 4-year-old and possibly lacking in historical accuracy.

Anyway, I counted three dishes mentioned in the Animal Rescue Team audiobooks–ginger cake with roasted bananas, red pepper soup, and corn porridge. After hearing about it for the sixth or seventh time, I made my way to the kitchen to try my own version of the ginger cake with roasted bananas. I may have to find a good red pepper soup recipe, too. As for the corn porridge…meh.

Ginger is not my favorite flavor. However, when followed by the words “cake” or “bread” it will do quite nicely.

I roasted the bananas at 375 degrees for 15 minutes until they were dark and oozy like this, except maybe less blurry.

roastedbananas

The roasted bananas paired quite well with the gingerbread pancakes. I did not make the optional orange blossom maple syrup with this recipe, but I probably would have felt really fancy if I had.

gingerbreadpancakes

However, my kids would still prefer plain of buttermilk any day. These kids–they are not the most adventurous eaters.

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There Are No Small Roles, Only Small People

I did not cook anything noteworthy or take any pictures this week, but there is something I have to tell you. My daughter is going to be in a production of The Wizard of Oz and roles were announced this week. My little girl was cast as a Munchling and Uncle Henry. Not a Munchkin. A Munchling. I did not correct her. And his name is Murray. She told me that she’s considering changing Uncle Henry to Aunt Henrietta. I can not wait to see this play.

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We Heart Oatmeal

Earlier this month, Musical Soup Girl learned about Groundhog Day at school. The following conversation ensued.

MSG: Did you know The Warthog saw his shadow?

Me: Warthog? What warthog?

MSG: Oh, right. Sorry. I meant hedgehog. So, six more weeks of winter I guess.

Side note: Are the predictive powers of a rodent really an essential component of a first grade education?

Anyway, it’s still winter. The Pig said so. And we did, in fact, have more wintery weather this week and another delayed school day. That means more warm and comforting food.

I came across this technique for preparing steel cut oats ages ago. In general, I’m not much of a fan of oatmeal. Too mushy. This version, however, is so hearty you can cut it and it will hold its shape. You can vary it with dried fruit and nuts, but this batch was completely plain and simple.

oatmealheart

Steel-Cut Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups milk
1/2 teas. salt
1-2 cinnamon sticks
1 teas. vanilla
1 cup dried fruit or nuts (optional)
3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1. Combine the milk and oats and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

2. Pour the oat mixture into a saucepan and add salt and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla, sugar, and dried fruit and simmer 5 more minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks and pour into a 8×8 inch pan. Refrigerate, and the oatmeal will thicken as it cools. Eat hot or cold.

Posted in Breakfast, Healthy | 1 Comment

Cake for Shut-Ins

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? A combination of boring, stupid healthy eating, shifting interests, busy days, and a touch of malaise resulted in a perfect storm of not blogging. Oh, who am I kidding–I always have a touch of malaise. I’m working on that.

I have been drinking a lot of green smoothies lately made by blending unsweetened almond milk with a frozen banana and a bunch of raw spinach. But do I feel inspire to write about this? No. No, I do not. For the record, it’s better than it probably sounds.

Anyway, we have been experiencing a lot of school and business closings and delays lately do to inclement weather. But our “snow” days? They have no snow. Today we don’t even seem to have any ice. Not sure what’s going on. This was the third cancelled school day in the past couple weeks.

If I hear one more preschool teacher-type suggest that we enjoy these precious moments with our little ones, things could get ugly. I assume they are probably just feeling smug that they are not the ones spending these precious moments with my little one.

Today, the four-year-old thinks it is hilarious to follow me around with a Captain Hook hook-for-a-hand toy, trying to hook my waistband. So many precious moments. I gave up trying to do anything productive. So I made this cake.

bostoncream

I would like to note a couple things:

  • Boston cream pie is cake, not pie. Why?
  • Homemade pudding, such as the vanilla pudding sandwiched between the layers of this cake, is really, really good. I never thought I liked pudding because I only knew the pre-packaged, store bought pudding in a little plastic cup. This is not the same thing at all.
  • I did not have many of the ingredients called for in the recipe I linked to above. It turned out really good anyway. I used fewer eggs, less cream, and no vanilla bean. No matter–a tasty cake was produced anyhow. Although the cake did seem a little squatty and short compared to the one pictured. There was no way I was going to venture out for more eggs and cream. Not because I fear the state of the roads, but because I fear my mental state in a grocery store with all three of my children. A slightly less eggy, less creamy cake is far preferable.
Posted in Cake, Dessert | 4 Comments