29 Jan
2014

Eat Your Heart Out

Valentine’s Day is one of my favorites because it’s EASY. Take whatever you have and cut it into the shape of a heart and/or color it red or pink and BOOM, you’re super festive. Another good thing about Valentine’s Day? Treeeeeats.

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I did a roundup of awesome Valentine’s Day food for Work It, Mom (Sixteen Sweet and Savory Valentine’s Day Treats for Your Sweeties; say that six times fast), and then if you scroll down past the roundup image here, I’ll show you how to make the cinnamon-honey rim-of-your-glass cookies that go perfectly with milk and tea and rainy (or snowy) days and people you love.

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Here’s the full list of links to all that pretty, pretty food.

Okay, so the rim-of-the-glass cookie idea is yet another one of those things that popped into my brain one day to the sound of a fanfare, and only after I danced around the room high-fiving myself and then chest-bumping the mirror (ow) did I check Pinterest and discover that, yep, I’m not the only one who thought of it.

But whatever. My way is better than the other ones because it uses one of my favorite cookie recipes.

These “cookies” are technically Homemade Graham Crackers, which came from Elisabeth, back in the heyday of Style Lush, who got the original recipe from Weelicious. I added the icing myself because, hey, Valentine’s Day. (These also make excellent gingerbread men if you’re not hugely fond of gingerbread.)

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (the original calls for dark brown sugar, but I use light brown)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I go a little heavier on the cinnamon)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cubed
1/4 cup honey (I bet you could also use agave; someone test this and let me know?)
1/4 cup water

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, having first made sure there’s not a pan of something in there that you forgot to take out three days ago, Leah.

2. In a food processor or mixer, combine the first six ingredients. Add cubed butter and pulse/mix until it resembles coarse meal. (I had a hard time getting a coarse-meal consistency in my KitchenAid mixer because the butter was lumping rather than breaking into tiny chunks. The food processor worked like a dream, though.)

3. Add honey and water and mix until you’ve made yourself some delicious dough (which you can totally eat without your husband giving you the side-eye because there’s nothing in here that will give you salmonella).

4. Remove the dough, shape it into a flat disc, and then roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper. I like my finished product to be more chewy and cookie-like, so I roll them out a little thicker than the recommended 1/4 inch; if you’re going for a more authentic graham cracker feel, roll your dough thinner.

5. Cut your dough into the desired shapes, which in this case is a heart. I made two different sizes and then made two modifications for two different serving options.

If you want to hang your cookie on the rim of a glass of milk or cup of tea, cut a notch in the bottom. I used a little cheese knife. The part you cut away? You have to eat it. Those are the rules.

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I also made a bunch with holes in the middle, which I made using a straw. Make sure you wiggle the straw around to enlarge the hole so it doesn’t close up during baking.

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If you look at those and imagine them saying “ooooooohhh” like the Toy Story aliens, it’s okay, your secret is safe with me.

6. Bake your cookies/crackers on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 15 minutes. I like to undercook mine so they’re chewy.

7. While your cookies are cooling, whip up some simple icing. I used the Wilton Confectioners’ Sugar Glaze Icing recipe, which is as easy as it gets. Stir 3 tablespoons of milk (I used whole) into 1 1/4 cups of confectioners’ (i.e., powdered) sugar, then add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and, if you want, a drop or two of food coloring. I split my batch in two and turned one of them pink. I used the handy-dandy plastic-sandwich-bag-with-the-corner-snipped-off method of application. Drizzle drizzle drizzle.

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And there you have it! These are really, really good, and they look cute too.

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Like I said at the beginning, eat your heart out.

24 Jan
2014
Posted in: Photos, Regular Entries
By    11 Comments

Potential Aid

Wombat has a kindergarten screening tomorrow morning and I wish I could be cool and breezy about it but I just can’t. Those of you who are surprised at this development, please form a line behind the unicorn.

I’m not sure what all is involved in the screening–some group circle time and some one-on-one time with an administrator, from what I can gather; perhaps there will be an impromptu talent show during which Wombat can prove his well-roundedness by showcasing his “dance” “moves”?–and I promise I haven’t worked myself into a mess of unnecessary froth about him not passing muster as far as “readiness” is concerned. He’s beyond ready, no question about it. (And he still has to wait eight months arrghhbffttapp!) No, friends, I’ve worked myself into a very necessary froth over the plain fact that for Wombat to get into this school (and the other private option we applied to), he can’t be deemed merely “acceptable,” he has to be exceptional. He needs to be desirable. They have to want him/us.

Here’s how it works: If you have a jillion dollars and want to send your kid to a private school, you go to the kindergarten screening and hope your precious spawn doesn’t bite anyone or pee on the rug while muttering profanities, and then you wait six weeks to receive your acceptance letter in the mail, and then you fork over $25K a year and then you pat yourself on the back for a job well done. When you’re us, though, you fret about the kindergarten screening because you know you’re not just competing with 150+ kids for one of 20 spots, you’re competing with who knows how many kids and from who knows what backgrounds for an unknown portion of whatever amount of financial aid is budgeted not just for entering kindergarteners but for kindergarteners–and any upcoming siblings–whom the school anticipates giving an equal amount of financial aid every year until they graduate from high school. It’s kind of a big deal.

So yeah. They have to want us enough to pay for us is the thing. And one of the admissions people told us straight up that a child’s acceptance not only has a lot to do with how he or she contributes to the balance of classroom demographics in terms of sex, age, ethnicity, family makeup, etc., but also how the money thing shakes out, i.e., if they have two applicants who are equal on all other counts, they’ll usually pick the kid who can pay full/more tuition because it’s better for the school that way. This is why when we got our financial aid assessment back from the national organization who decides how much each family can afford, we were on the one hand happy that we qualify for so much aid but on the other hand nervous that we might qualify for too much. We could totally be rejected from the private schools for being too needy, which, hello, we own a house and have two cars and two jobs and college degrees and live blocks away from people who are actually needy, and a can of worms just exploded all over my brain. (In theory, every kid has a chance to go to a good school, but my experience over the past month has shown how very wrong that theory is, but that’s a story for another day.)

Perhaps what’s wigging me out the most about the situation is that there’s very little we can do about a decision that rests so heavily on factors beyond our control. I’ve felt at times like a desperate girlfriend in the way I’ve whispered at the schools’ webpages “Just tell me what you want so I can be that for you, baby!” but the thing is, if they want to balance their classroom demographics with, say, a Chinese girl who has two dads, we really can’t give that to them, at least not without some Hollywood special effects and a wig.

And of course we don’t want to be what they want, we want them to want who we are. (Is there a difference? I don’t even know anymore.) While it’s frustrating that we have so little control over the situation, I guess you could also look at it as totally freeing because we can’t really be anything other than ourselves. All we can really do at this point is wait.

I hate waiting.

As for Wombat, the whole thing has been presented to him as a zero-pressure deal–”It’s a day of pretend kindergarten! Woo! (Please don’t bite anyone.)”–and I’m honestly not hoping for him to go into the screening and present himself as better or “more” or in any way different than he is. I just want him to be himself, which sounds easy enough, but five-year-olds are mercurial beings and I can’t lie that I’m crossing my fingers he’ll give the admissions committee a two-hour window into his bright, bubbly, wonderful, charming personality instead of a too-long snippet of him acting like a total spaz.

Then again, maybe they’re looking for someone to fill in the spaz spot of the diversity quota?

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Photos by the amazing Carla, who took our holiday card photos, which I want to share with you because they’re SO PRETTY because she’s SO UNBELIEVABLY TALENTED because we’re really not as sun-kissed and love-soaked as we appear in her photos. At least I’m not.

22 Jan
2014

Say Yay to Neigh

All in favor of horses, say neigh.

Chinese New Year is at the end of the month and it’s the Year of the Horse, and look, I’m not saying horses are better than all the other Chinese zodiac animals, but I am saying I’m embracing the horse as a style trend in 2014 with more enthusiasm than I would if it were the year of the rat/snake/ox.

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Click through to see how I made this reusable tote in ten minutes and how I fit two terrible puns into one sentence without batting an eye.