Monday, February 18, 2013


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Very early on Saturday morning, shortly after dawn in fact, my husband left (in our only vehicle) for an all-day bike race in the snow (I know: pure insanity) in the woods a couple of hours from where we live, returning after the girls' dinner that evening. It was very cold on Saturday, so playing outside wasn't a great option for the kiddos that day. And without a car, we couldn't kill time by going to the library or the grocery store.

I pulled off a day of multiple kid activities for and with my daughters, including baking bread, painting with a dish soap-water-food coloring mixture, making pretend cookies out of homemade Gingerbread Play-Doh, doing two kids' workout videos, and watching a movie--in addition to the required weekend tasks like completing homework and doing a few chores. My mom said, "Why do you have to be a preschool teacher all the time? Why can't you all just be?" And I was like, "It has been many years since you spent 11 hours stuck indoors on a winter day with six- and eight-year-old children whose favorite activity when they're bored is to fight like rabid baby honey badgers, hasn't it?"

Also: 11 hours, people. If you think that list of activities above took up the entire day, you haven't spent much time with small children lately. Believe me, we had plenty of time to just "be." But since my slate of planned activities was 100% successful in helping me meet my stated aim of preventing all meltdowns, tantrums, and sibling fights (holla! major mama success, people!), I feel compelled to share a small fraction of them with you. In case you find yourself alone at home on a frigid winter day with two young children anytime soon.

Dish Soap Painting:
This was an idea that came home from school with Julia from a classmate's mom. It was supposed to be for making art by blowing bubbles through a straw onto paper. However, since the note didn't include proportions, we couldn't get that to work. But it didn't matter; I mixed up a hefty squirt of dish soap, added enough water for it to get liquidy, dyed it with food coloring (I made four separate bowls with four different colors and a separate paintbrush for each), and the girls made a ton of watercolor-type paintings with it.

Below is the bread recipe we made. This recipe is from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures, by Jeanne Lemlin, only I omitted the caraway seeds (yuck). It is easy, super nutritious, and despite any misgivings you may have (whole-wheat flour, no sugar, etc.), it is moist, delicious, and my kids gobble it up. It's great plain, but even better with butter or cream cheese. Because I put our sliced loaf in the freezer so it would last all week for school snacks, I don't have a photo for you; I'm sorry. But really, you should try it. It is SO good.

Whole-Wheat Molasses Bread

2 cups whole-wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk or plain low-fat yogurt (NOT Greek style)
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a standard-sized loaf pan with nonstick baking spray, or otherwise grease the pan.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the egg; then beat in buttermilk or yogurt, molasses, and oil. Scrape wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 35-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. (Check pan at about 30 min. and lay a sheet of aluminum foil over it if the bread is browning too fast.)

Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove loaf from pan. Cool completely (about 1 hour) before slicing.

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