Search This Blog

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Young families should have their very own restaurants...

Tonight PR and I foolishly attempted to dine at a restaurant...with the children. Why do we torture ourselves and our fellow diners? Well for one obvious reason, really: I don't feel like cooking or cleaning up afterward! I've spent the entire day tidying and wiping down and clearing off and putting away and cooking the other meals. I know it's part of my job right now as "CEO of the household," but I do have evenings when I've decided that I'd like to eat my meal sitting down and maybe even eat when it's still hot! This was one of those nights. The kids were good all day and PR was home relatively early, so we ventured out...and regretted nearly every moment.

Two of my three are actually very well behaved. Can you guess which child has a hard time sitting at any one place for more than a nanosecond? My darling sweet Caroline, though she has a heart of gold, has the attention span of a mini pinscher. (She yaps and whines a bit like one, too.) I really can't fault her, partly because she's so dang cute and partly because she's 2 1/2. But because Owen sat for 2 1/2 hour meals on cruise ships at 9 mos, 18 mos, and 3 I have a very distorted vision of children's table etiquette.

Here's what I propose. Restaurants with designated times or days for parents with little Carolines. Clearly there is a time when older couples go out to dine- 4:00 or so. Maybe we could slide into the next slot, say 5:15 or so? It would prevent those horrible stares from tables of "date night" couples who have actually spent money on a babysitter to escape their normal dinner entertainment- or worse yet- those diners who don't own such animated appendages (and most certainly do not appreciate the sights and sounds that come with them!) Owen IS quiet. Hudson can be quiet. But Caroline...well, she didn't come with that setting.

Until the time that such places exist, I suppose we will continue our futile effort: dining pleasantly with three young children. To those who have conquered this feat- kudos! To those who are looking for ideas to ease the pain while dining out, this is what works best for our family:

-Junky toys. These are those toys that come in the fast food kiddie meals. I try to keep a stash in the car or my over sized, chaotic purse. And if you lose or forget them, well really that's a bonus.
-Crayons and some sort of paper. While many restaurants now offer this, my children always want the same (or different) color than the other, whichever is not available. I keep a Ziploc bag of crayons in my purse.
-Mini play dough containers. The restaurant will be so very appreciative if they have carpet, but it can create a good 15 minutes of quiet!
-If you are dining at a pizza or an Italian place, ask if they can bring some dough for the kids to play with...CPK does it if you ask.
-Order an appetizer or the kids meal as soon as you are seated. My kids take forever to eat, so once the food is on the table, we're usually in good shape.
-Play "I Spy"
-Keep a stash of mini books or activity pads/magazines in the car
-Bring your own little snack: dried cereal, trail mix, dried fruit this will keep them busy until the meal arrives.
-Take them to the rest room to take care of business and wash hands. Who knows how many germs they have acquired since leaving the car...and, if nothing else, it's a trip through the restaurant.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Our MOPs group topic this month was birthday parties and I was trying to think of something creative and fun to do...and I couldn't help but bust out my cupcake pan. Cupcakes are so fun, I don't know why kids' birthdays are the only time I can enjoy them without feeling guilty. If you think about it, they are portion control, right? Works for me.

I've created some pretty fun cakes and cupcakes for my kids, but I wanted to do some experimentation with new I made two from my repertoire and two new and fun ideas: a pirate, a ladybug, princess, and lion themed cupcakes. All very easy, only the princess cakes used fondant. The rest were frosted with butter cream and embellished with candies and that fabulous "Cookie Frosting" made by CakeMate. I like that it dries quickly and once they are decorated there's no worry about colors or designs getting distorted, melted, or squished in any way. (Though I"m guessing the secret formula in those tubes is not all natural.)

Decorating cupcakes is a wonderful activity during a birthday party or celebration, as it takes some amount of concentration, seated time, and very little effort for the party planner! I would only suggest that the top coat of frosting and any fondant be made ahead of time. (Fondant is easier for kids to decorate if it has hardened.) Just have tubes of frosting or individual dishes of frosting for kids to use as the "glue." Kids are very creative and will make their own little masterpieces.

These can easily be made into cakes using a round cake pan, just substitute larger cookie or candy pieces (ie chocolate covered Oreo vice Junior Mint, regular sized chocolate chip for eyes, etc.) You can also use brownie mix when making cupcakes. It's not as crumbly for kids to eat, which is good for them AND whoever is cleaning up after the party. One other note, for toddler parties, I highly recommend making cupcakes in the mini muffin pans. You can buy lollipop sticks at Michael's and stand them in some craft foam for a cute effect. Most kids really only want a bite or two (or just the frosting) and most every kid likes eating food off a stick!

Here's a quick and easy set of notes to recreate the cupcakes:

Lion: Frost with "golden yellow" Gel color. While frosting is wet, coat edges with shaved chocolate (I used dark.) Cut mini-Nilla cookies in half with a butcher knife and press into the cupcakes to create the ears. The eyes are created by dipping mini-chocolate chips into white frosting upside down and pressing into the cupcake...dip just enough so the "whites of the eyes" can be seen. It creates a more dramatic effect than with chocolate chip alone. The nose, mouth, and eyebrows were drawn with CakeMate's "Chocolate" cookie frosting.

Pirate: Frost with "skin color" Gel color. The pirate's patch is a junior mint (how easy!) The other eye is created as described above, by dipping a mini-chocolate chip (upside down) into a bit of white frosting. The rest of the eye patch and mustache were drawn with CakeMate's Chocolate cookie frosting. The mouth is a piece of licorice string cut and pressed into the frosting.

Princess: Frost with pink or purple. I also made the cake inside pink, although funfetti would be cute, too (if you can stand the taste.) To make the crown, color premade or homemade fondant (I prefer the recipe for marshmallow fondant, it has a little better taste) with your choice of princess color. Roll into long rectangles and cut to 10 inches by 6 inches. Then cut this piece in half, to make two 10x3 pieces. Using the wide round base of a pastry tip, cut out 1/2 circles along one edge of each (this will be the top of the crown.) Space it as you prefer, the one pictured is about 1/4 inch apart. Carefully lift the "crown" and place it along the edge of the cupcake, pressing and blending the ends together. The inside is filled with pink and white sugar crystals, and the outside has mini gummy bears (they looked like gems) and gobstoppers and nerds (I know, not very tasty, but it's difficult to find pink and purple colored candy!)

Ladybug: Frost with red "no taste" gel. Use red rope licorice cut into 2 inch pieces as the antennae; press ends into the cupcake. Mini chocolate chips dipped (pointed side) into white frosting and then pressed into the cupcake make the eyes. Wings are drawn with CakeMate's Chocolate cookie frosting, and the spots are mini chocolate chips pressed pointed side down into the frosting. Easy!

Friday, January 8, 2010

A lifetime supply of laundry

First I must confess that I absolutely detest ironing. I am quite blessed in that PR's work clothes are his flight suit, which never needs to be ironed and that I rarely wear any of the items in my closet that need a clean press. Because of my ironing issue, and because I do like the satisfaction of a job complete, I have always washed laundry on many loads as needed until every last article was clean and put back in its place. However, it's only hours later that something that was clean is now dirty and the cycle continues, until the laundry baskets are spilling on to the floor- which is my "nails on the chalkboard." Things strewn on the floor makes me absolutely bonkers...even if it is a pile of freshly folded clothes just waiting to be stowed in their proper drawers...

*side note: My husband is an awesome laundry man. He will toil with those tall and mighty (by mighty, I mean potent) hampers until all clothes have been put through the ringer. However, he then folds them and forms them into the leaning tower of laundry and places them along the upstairs hallway like tiny ancient ruins. And those towers are just too tempting for Caroline not to run through, stomp on, or kick over like a little Godzilla. Do I complain that the job has not been completed and snicker when the neatly folded clothes have become hallway lillypads for my little froggers? No. Of course I appreciate the effort...but really I'd rather do it so that it gets completely done and I don't have to look at those daunting towers every night waiting to see if he might decide to put them in their proper place. So my new system will actually solve this issue, and the job will be complete from start to finish- hooray!

This week I had a laundry epiphany. Seriously. It will completely demolish my ever flowing piles of clothes in the hampers and on the laundry room floor! How, you ask? My new strategy is simple and brilliant. One load of laundry every (week)night. After we put the kids to bed, I bring down their dirties and gather the goopy bibs and the overripe dishtowel and pop it in the wash. We have our down time while the laundry is washed and dried, and then it gets folded and put away while the children are nestled snugly in their beds. I know, it sounds simple. But it never occurred to me to do just one load a day- or I would foolishly start the load at the beginning of the day (only to forget about it and have to rerun it in the wash hours later or try halfheartedly to dewrinkle by putting the "fluff" cycle on the dryer.) No no no. You see, all those lovely smelly rags and bibs and socks and last minute-must-have-for-tomorrow items are not ready or remembered unless you wait until the kiddos are in bed. AND when they're awake I rarely have the time to sort socks and his/hers/mine and actually place them in their drawers. I figure I can alternate whites one night, darks the next so not all the laundry will be done at once, but I will avoid having those huge armloads to carry down and I might actually remember to treat the stain since it has just occurred. Hooray!!!!!

It is just my first week of this new life strategy. I will report my progress in a few months, but I am quite optimistic that this will be one for the books!