Monday, October 28, 2013

Baking with children and other domestic delights

Little Miss woke on Sunday and cheerily declared, "It's pajama day!" like it's news. It's not. She tries that every time we stay home from school. Sometimes it works. The sun would be shining, the sky would be a glorious blue, and she'd be all gung-ho with her stay-home campaign.

"But it's beautiful outside, love."
"No! I want to stay inside!"
"We can go biking?"
"Mommy, biking is just not my thing..."

What kid says that?

I'm a fan of staying home too, but sometimes we just need to get out of the house. Errands don't run themselves, people, and when the girls run out of space or activities, they begin to torment each other for sport. I don't know about you, but that's not my favorite way to spend the day.

Yesterday, however, Little Miss Homebody won.

It might have something to do with the fact that we were out all day on Saturday with friends at separate events (three!), and I was all social-life'd out.  After getting my six-mile run out of the way earlier in the morning, my family and I got into the serious business of domesticating.

It's ironic that on Pajama Day, we did anything but lounge around in our PJ's.

First, the girls and I made a delectable challah bread pudding with chocolate and raisins. I thought the chocolate ganache might be too much, so I made a simple caramel sauce from this easy recipe instead.

Clothing optional

It's the perfect thing to make with kids because it appeals to their natural talent to mess and destroy, skillfully tearing up the challah bread like they were born to do this, and sprinkling raisins and chocolate chips  -- what little that didn't get eaten along the way, anyway -- all over the pan the way they would with rice on a newly mopped floor.

I warmed the milk, butter, and sugar on the stove in advance so all they did after Operation Destroy was to beat the eggs with me and then watched me mix and pour the custard into the bread-filled pan. Easy peasy.

"two chocolate chips for me, one for the pan..."

As long as you don't mind that most of the ingredients (about a 2:1 ratio) are going to end up in their mouths, and that they're not going to abide by any kitchen dress code (for my girls, clothing is always optional), then this recipe is perfect for a Fall/Winter day, when you're stuck (voluntarily or involuntarily) in the house.

so proud of their mess-terpiece

In the end, all the stress of kids who only half listen and mostly devour your ingredients pay off as we're rewarded with some warm and comforting bread pudding drizzled with caramel. The chaos is forgotten with the first bite, and the rest is just gooey, sticky, melt-in-your-mouth bonus.

* * *

While we were busy in the kitchen, My Guy was no slouch either. He surprised the girls by reorganizing their books and toys -- collecting many for donation -- and converting what used to be my little office space into a reading, crafting, and playing nook for the girls. I used to have a desktop on the desk, but now that I'm mobile with my laptop, I rarely found a use for that corner, other than to collect paperwork that never gets filed and, of course, dust.

Children's Nook
(please ignore the beer bottles; this is also next to the wet bar. It's a combined aesthetic. Ahem.)

I wish I had the foresight to take a picture of the "before", because, unless you've been to my place, you wouldn't know what a difference this "after" makes to this little corner of our family area in the lower level. I love that the kids can now easily spot and reach their books and toys that once were hidden in the girls' bedroom closet, which became an out-of-sight-out-of-mind issue.

We had to remind them to play with their toys, we had to remind them to pick a different book for the evening, but now that everything is out in the open and in the path between their bedroom and everywhere else in the house, we're hoping that they would just jump right in.

It actually worked -- too well, in fact -- because Little Miss got distracted on her way upstairs this morning, so instead of coming up to get ready for school, she was playing downstairs and had to be extricated from her game!

We can never win.

* * *

The rest of the day went by quietly as we divided and conquered the rest of our domestic chores. I picked up around the house while Little Miss handmade Halloween cards for her grandparents and auntie. We both listened to the classical station on Pandora, each giving the other space to work, to think, looking up to occasionally check in or ask for help.

We also completed our Fall banner this year and hung it above the fireplace. It's the same as the first banner we made from this time last year, except it's not. This time, we used the leaves we picked from our trip to the forest preserve last weekend, and while Little Miss marveled at her (our) creation, I sighed at the swift passing of time. I can't believe it's been a year already.

Yes, that's a Star Trek Phaser on the right. What?

While I reveled in the quiet afternoon activities with my big girl, Pickle played sidekick to My Guy, who was on a quest for more shelves and storage units for his office that also doubles as a guest bedroom. It's the one space in the house that's still in limbo, and he adds new elements to the room each week, like a sleeper couch, a roman shade, a Star Trek collectible, or, like this week, a rather cool red, metal cabinet to make it work for both his needs and that of our future guests.

There's a lot of reorganization going on in this house lately. Maybe it's the cooler weather that prompts us to nest. Or maybe we're going for loving, rather than just living, when it comes being in our home. Maybe it's also time for us to be rid of certain things from our past that come with our previous lives' attachments so we may fully appreciate living in the present.

Whatever it is, by the time we're done with all this purging, reorganizing, and repurposing of items and spaces, we're going to be able to sleep about 10 people quite comfortably in our three-bedroom apartment!

Now we just need to find the six people who're crazy enough to want to do that with us some time.

A Chicago vacation anyone?