Friday, February 26, 2016

Empty Cupboard Cookies

It's Day Before Grocery Day, which at our house can be a day of rather interesting meals. We ran out of milk yesterday and flour a few days before that, and we haven't had white sugar for a week. So choosing a treat for the boys' Tea was a bit tricky.

I thought of cloud cookies, which have almost no ingredients, but it turned out that I was still missing some, so I made up my own version, which turned out quite nice.

Maple Cloud Cookies

4 egg whites
1 1/2 c brown sugar not packed down
1 tsp maple flavoring
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275. Beat egg whites and salt on high until white and fluffy. Add maple flavoring and brown sugar slowly. Beat on high until you have soft peaks. Mixture should be rather dense, about the consistency of soft serve ice cream. Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Drop large spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet. Bake 45 minutes. Lift foil off the cookie sheet and set aside so that cookies can cool. Cookies should be light and airy, with a crisp/hard crust.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tea with Toddlers and How it Just Might Fix the World

I have always considered the institution of tea time to be a magical thing. In college, I had Tea every Wednesday at 4, complete with real tea cups and scones. The rule of Tea was that it could not be consumed while reading a book or writing a paper, regardless of impending deadlines, so it was a brief, blessed rest from studying and, I firmly believe, the sole thing that kept me sane my junior and senior years.

I got this kettle for Christmas and I love it dearly. It is exactly like this one, although that company doesn't seem to carry the "Tiffany blue" color that mine is, which is a mystery.

After college, I more or less left the ritual of a regular teatime behind. But now I am reinstating it. It fixes EVERYTHING.

1. It helps with the witching hour. Late afternoon is a miserable time at the Fenn house. My mother calls it "the witching hour," and my precocious children have extended that hour to last from about 3:30 to 7. Nearly every single day, this is a time of unparalleled crankiness, regardless of whether they actually sleep during naptime or not. Tea provides a mood boost both emotionally (Hey look, tea! Hey look, cookies!) and physiologically (blood sugar boost).

2. It helps teach delayed gratification. In her book Bringing Up Bebe, Pamela Druckerman writes about how the French will often save their child's treat for the day until their afternoon snack, even if they buy it or make it with the child earlier in the day. We're doing pretty much this exact thing, and I think it's going to be very helpful. The boys help make a treat in the morning (It doesn't have to be sugar-packed, just something a bit sweet and treat-like.) and then they wait until after naptime to eat it. The ritual of it helps them have the patience to wait and believe me when I say that they can eat it later.

3. It makes going down to bed easier. Tea can't come until after naptime, so you'd better go start your nap! It gives them a reason that seems to make sense to them. Apparently "because you need it," "because you're throwing a fit for no reason," and "because Mama needs a break" are not reasons that that make sense.

4. It helps them last until dinner. 'Stache works at a cell phone company, a job that we are so grateful for, but the one huge downside is that he works until 6:30, which means it's frequently 7 o'clock before he actually walks in the front door. I hate (hate hate hate) serving dinner without him, for both relational and practical reasons, but getting two toddlers to wait until 7pm to eat dinner? Oy. Having a predictable, substantial snack at 4 helps them last.

5. It fills their tanks. One of the reasons that the witching hour(s) is so terrible is that their bad mood is perfectly coinciding with when I need to actually be doing things. Late afternoon is when I'm cooking dinner, it's when I'm rushing to finish the housecleaning before 'Stache gets home, it is not when I want to deal with clingy toddlers who are shrieking at each other and me for real and/or imagined offences. But when we have Tea first thing, right after they get up, it's me pouring attention on both of them. We sit around our kitchen table with our tea cups and our treats and I am talking to them. I am looking them in the face. I am listening to them. And then we finish, and the boys run off to play and I start cooking dinner or whatnot, and they are fine with that because I've just filled their tanks with time and attention.

It. Is. Magic.

It is not, however, picture-perfect, as evidenced by this photo which includes crumbs all over the table and a decidedly relaxed dress code.

Pro tip: My children love tea but don't like it to be actually hot. If I put their tea bags in their cups, pour in the hot water, and then make my tea in the tea pot, their tea will cool faster so I can have hot tea while they have lukewarm tea.