126 articles

library day – old school phones

Call me crazy, but I have decided, for some reason that I cannot articulate, that it is extremely important for my daughter to know about all sorts of analogue stuff that has become almost obsolete but that, in my opinion, remain far more desirable than their modern digital counterparts.

She knows how to put a record on the turntable, she can dial a rotary phone, and one of our favorite books is The Lonely Phone Booth, by Peter Ackerman with wonderful, slightly cock-eyed illustrations by Max Dalton.

It tells the story of a real live phone booth (still standing today!) on the upper west side of Manhattan that is ignored in favor of cell phones until an electrical storm takes out the cell towers.

Here’s the phonebooth, wondering what on earth those little silver things are that everybody is speaking into.

Maybe I love this book because the story celebrates a relic of my youth, growing up in NYC. Or maybe I love the storyline because it reminds us how fleeting all of this digital technology is. Or maybe I just like it because it justifies my rotary phone (which worked during the last 2 huge power outages, by the way…)

Whatever the reason, it’s a sweet story, and a great thing for a city kid to read. Plus the next time you’re on 100th street and West End Avenue, you might just be tempted to make a call.

library day – pretend soup

We have had our daughter helping us out in the kitchen since she could reach the counter with the aid of a step stool, but it is only after I spotted this brilliant cookbook at our school book fair that she could really take the reigns and make deliciousness happen on her own (with a few minor assists!)

Thank you, oh Mollie Katzen (of the classic Moosewood Cookbook fame) for getting help from co-author Ann Henderson and writing a cookbook for the little ones that a) has the most brilliant illustrated instructions so that they don’t need to be fluent readers and b) has real food recipes made from wholesome ingredients that will hopefully inspire our kids to eat right, rather than just piling whipped cream on top of everything, all the time.

The recipes are first printed traditionally, with little tips for the grown ups about how to tailor the experience for the children. And then, the following two page spread is the illustrated version for the kids, with the last instruction always being “EAT!”

Which we did. And well, too.

Ice cream sandwich as anti depressant

Last weekend was a rough one. Trying to come to terms with losing my uncle to lung cancer sucked (and is ongoing), plus I learned that another friend was also taken by the same beast (though a slightly different version.) And now Maurice Sendak. It’s almost more than I can take.

It was only at the end of the aforementioned weekend that I realized  I’d spent the majority of my time in the kitchen, drowning my sorrows by cooking food. And I must say that the homemade ice cream sandwiches that my daughter and I produced on Sunday afternoon did nudge me towards the realization that the world is still a beautiful place, despite the just plain horrible things that can happen at times. Our sandwiches were far from perfect looking, but man were they delicious.

I have  the fabulous Deb of Smitten Kitchen fame to thank for the idea. Probably my favorite food blogger, her recipes never disappoint. In fact, I’ll probably pre order a copy of her soon-to-be-published cookbook by the time you all are reading this post. which I’m looking forward to as I am not a fan of cooking from a computer screen, but I feel guilty about paper-wasting if I print out the recipes.

A few tips, if you decide to go for these sandwiches yourselves (and you most definitely should):

Take all of the helpful hints in the recipe to heart. They actually malke the whole thing much more managable.

Give the newly made and wrapped sandwiches ample time to freeze back up before you serve them. We did not (maybe 30 minutes or so) and the ice cream was a bit too soft in the center. Not that it mattered, especially as we ate them outside, but if you don’t want your floor to turn into lakes of vanilla, I’d take this advice seriously.

Click below for the full recipe, or for all the details, tons of beautiful photos and a doorway into the most excellent world of Smitten Kitchen, click here. And tell her I sent you.

Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Sweet Designs by Amy Atlas

Yield: 12 2-by-4-by-1-inch ice cream sandwiches (24 cookies). However, I made 10 large and 10 miniature (1-by-1.5-inch) sandwiches because while I was baking the large ones, my son toddled in from his nap and announced “Mommy making cookies! For Jacob!” and I realized he probably didn’t need a cookie nearly the size of his head. I am so very mean.

If you have a favorite cookie cutter shape you’d like to use for these sandwiches, definitely use it. You can cut the cookies and the ice cream with it. You could perhaps even make, say, star-shaped ice cream sandwiches for a 4th of July-themed cookout. You know, if you’re not me.

Re, the cocoa weight below: Just about everyone on earth besides me finds that a cup of unsweetened cocoa powder weighs 80 to 85 grams. That’s what the number below is based on. However, I consistently find that my super-fancy Valrhona Dutch cocoa weighs in a bit higher, up to 5 to 10 grams more than you see below. So, you might nudge it up if you’re using the same.

Cookies
2 2/3 cups (335 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup (75 grams) extra dark or Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks or 285 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Filling
1/2 gallon (8 cups or approximately 1050 grams, weight will vary by brand/variety) ice cream, your choice of flavor (I used cookies and cream), softened

Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift the flour and cocoa together (I am generally too lazy to sift things but cocoa is really lumpy so don’t skip this) and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy. Add the yolks and vanilla and mix until combined, then scrape down sides and mix briefly again. Add the flour mixture a little at a time then mix until combined.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. If the dough is too soft to handle, wrap and chill it until firm enough to roll out (I recommend 30 minutes only; any longer and it becomes crumbly to roll out). Roll each batch into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle, about 10 by 8 inches. Cut into a total of 24 2-by-4-inch rectangles.

Use an offset spatula to transfer the rectangles to the prepared sheets; you’ll only need an inch space between them. Use the tip of a thermometer (totally brilliant tip from Amy, by the way; it made far better indentations than skewers that I usually use for docking) to poke the cookies with holes (Amy recommends 14 holes but I used this as my guide and made more).

Bake the cookies for 16 to 18 minutes, or until they stay firm when tapped in the center. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough, rerolling scraps as needed.

Meanwhile, line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper, allowing it to overhang on two sides (it will act as a sling for the ice cream). Spread the softened ice cream into the pan, smooth the top and freeze until firm, about one hour (or longer if your freezer is as terrible as mine).

Run a knife along the exposed sides of the pan to loosen the ice cream. Holding onto the parchment paper, lift ice cream out of the pan and onto the work surface. Using one of the cookies as a template, cut ice cream into 12 2-by-4-inch bars. Strangely, I found using kitchen shears to go right through the ice cream and the paper underneath the easiest. I then flipped each piece of ice cream onto a cookie, peeled off the paper, and finished sandwiching the rectangle of ice cream with a second cookie.

(Look, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that this whole ice cream part caused a spectacular mess in my kitchen. Huge! It was an ice cream massacre! But, I was rushing and you should not. If your ice cream begins to soften, just slide it back into the freezer for a bit and it will become easy to work with again. Promise. Do as I say, not as I did, unless you like sticky floors.)

Wrap each ice cream sandwich in plastic and please, again, listen to Amy here. I was all “Oh, let me just get them cold again and I’ll wrap them later.” Which was wrong. They continue to lose their shape for a bit, runny and melting, before they freeze up and that is why my sandwiches were kind of a mess. “Sealing” them into their shape immediately with plastic is, well, the reason that Amy is a sweets stylist and my food looks, uh, “handmade.”

Freeze until just before serving.

library day: know thy neighbor

Tuesday is library day at my daughter’s school. Which means every Tuesday morning is spent rummaging around through the piles searching  fot the borrowed volume in order to return it to it’s rightful home.

We always manage (by the skin of our teeth) to find the book.

So in honor of this ritual, I thought I should give a shout out to the poetry book we purchased over the weekend that has earned a top tier posiiton on the family reading list. Neighbors: The Yard Critters is a poetry book written by George Held and illustrated by Joung Un Kim in the collage/drawing/painting style that seems to be everywhere these days. And yet, when done well, is extremely captivating.

The poems are sophisticated but simple, providing an introduction to poetry that is engaging without being… well… stupid.

It’s a beautiful celebration of springtime and of lazy afternoons (and evenings) spent outdoors. And it makes a great gift, not the least because it’s pretty new, so your friends probably don’t have it already.

library day: a book about seeds

In honor of both Sprngtime and Passover, My in-laws sent my daughter this beautiful picture book– and she has been eagerly soaking it up ever since. As have her parents, who (though we hate to admit it) know next to nothing about planting anything.

A Seed Is Sleepy, lyrically penned by Dianna Aston and beautifully illustrated by Sylvia Long, introduces children to a vast array of interesting facts about seeds, with exquisite and finely detailed drawings that will have your kid confidently expounding upon the difference between a hamburger bean and a japanese maple seed before you know it.

Each page is more enticing than the next, and elaborates on one particular aspect of the life of a seed… it’s actually inspired us to plant a garden from seeds ourselves!

Published by Chronicle books in 2007, you can pick this up at Amazon, if you’re not feeling like hiking over to your local bookstore to see if they have it…

Oh also, here are some nice ideas for activities to do while experiencing this book.

mr penguin

Once again, Natalie Vichnevsky of Golden Calf in Brooklyn comes through with a brilliant, if somewht random, object that simply must make its way into our house.

In December, it was a glass piggy bank. This time it’s a stuffed penguin, made by hand in Vietnam from a patchwork of colorful fabrics that attracted my daughter to it like a moth to a flame. There was no way we were leaving the store without him. The only problem was whether to go with the penguin, or one of the elephants (also pretty damned cute.)

And for $15, the price was so reasonable that I may actually head back over there to buy a few more of these to keep around as future gifts.

happy (way belated) easter

So I had some internet problems, and then I had to leave town unexpectedly, and now it’s way past Easter Sunday. But I love this picture I took of the little felt bunny I found on Etsy for my kid’s basket, so I’m posting it anyway.

And hoping that everybody had a happy Easter.

Oh and just for hte hell of it, here’s a picture of one of the rad eggs we made this year for our egg tree. Thank you alphabet noodles and gold spray paint.

And above thanks all to my aunt for giving me the idea in the first place.

bunny days are here again

It seems like only five minutes ago it was 2011, and we were dying eggs to make a last minute easter egg tree. And now it’s coming around again, in all of it’s glory. Spring holiday time. And with it, spring vacation (what?? kids home all day??) and the holiday feasts (and obligations and travel) associated with Passover and Easter.

My particualr little person is, at this moment, completely obsessed with the Easter Bunny, writing him notes, anticipating the contents of the easter basket, tasting the chocolate eggs in her over-active imagination, etc etc.

In the desperate hopes of downplaying the mouth candy in favor of a more wholesome variety, we’ve started a tradition of filling our easter baskets with books appropriate to the season. Here are a few of my favorites, in case any of you are on the lookout.

The Slightly Surreal

Bunny Days, by Tao Nyeu. (see above) A beautifully illustrated and surreal set of three stories about some bunnies who are always getting in trouble and are subsequently saved and repaired by their guardian angel, Bear.

The (sort of) Historical

The Story Of The Easter Bunny, by Katherine Tegen. An endearing invented tale about how a little pet rabbit, in what looks to be the German countryside, became the Easter Bunny.

read on for more…

The Educational

I am a huge sucker for an alphabet book, and The ABC Bunny by Wanda Gag, in which each letter represents something that bunny encounters on his voyage from Bunnyland to Elsewhere, doesn’t dissapoint.

The Classic

Our well worn edition of this beautiful story of a much loved stuffed bunny’s quest to become real always makes me a little misty when I read it. No kids library is complete without a copy of Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit. Especially at this time of year.

I’m constantly searching for new additions to this list… Any of you have favorites we should add?

carousel!

Sure, tons of people have written about Dumbo’s gloriously renovated Jane’s Carousel. But it took a few spare hours to kill on Christmas day to get my little family down to the waterfront between the bridges to give it a go.

It is now one of our favortie spots on Earth. It is seriously not to be missed.

click below for more photos and info:

First up, the location cannot be beat. The views are spectacular and there is something heroically magical about riding to and fro between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges on a gilded horse like the one below.

And then the renovation, the attention to detail, the beautiful paintings on the side panels, even the wide planked wooden floors are amazing.

So head on down to Brooklyn Bridge Park and check this out. It’s only 2 dollars a ride. And the stunning glass pavilion that houses the carousel (designed by Jean Nouvel) makes the experience impervious to the weather, so no need to wait for a summer day. It is truly one of the city’s best attractions.

And I’m not just saying that because it’s in Brooklyn.

(A little photographic shout out to my bright red holiday shoes!)

for my daughter (holiday gift guide #8)

When the editors at Tadashop.com asked me to come up with some gift ideas in collaboration with my daughter, I jumped at the chance. It was like getting my holiday shopping done before Thanksgiving. (Too bad I’m not anywhere near finished in reality…)

The site’s a great one stop shop for pretty much anything you might want for your kids (or your nephews or godchildren or whomever) culling the best products from huge sites like J Crew and little boutiques like Sweet William in Brooklyn. I probably spent waaaaay too much time on there, but it was so fun to see all of the great products their editors have pulled from the world wide web of children’s merch.

click below for more…

I’m still pretty old school when it comes to shopping– I prefer to actually go to the store, hold the potential gift in my hands, put it in a bag and then hide it in the closet till the big day.

But I’m also a reasonable person and working parent living in 2011 with unlimited access to everything (via the internet), except time. So when I find a good site, I will not hesitate to take advantage. I’m sure we’re all in the same boat.

And who doesn’t want to open a box that arrives at the front door full of sparkly golden princess shoes?