Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Gluten Free Holiday Play Date

Norah is a sweet girl and gets along with others just fine.  She is a kind, a good friend, and genuinely likes being around other kids.  However, she is still really shy (sometimes painfully) and it takes her a while to warm up to people. She tends to be quiet and reserved and lets other kids take the lead.  This is good because it makes her a bit more reflective than other kids her age and she is very cognizant of others' feelings.  This is also bad because it typically means she lets other kids take the lead and either ends up doing something she might not have done otherwise (like running around being obnoxious) or lets the alpha girls boss her around a bit.

She asked if she could have a play date at our house with the girls from her class (there are only seven of them--out of 19 kids total), and I figured it would be good for her to initiate something on her own turf.  I also wanted her to have the chance to enjoy serving her friends gluten free food and having it be a totally normal thing.  Five out of the six girls invited were able to attend and Norah also invited the little girl from two doors down (she is also in kindergarten but in a different class).  I had a lot of lofty, Pinterest-worthy goals for the play date, but like usual, most did not actually get accomplished.  What we ended up with was fun and I was totally fine with it.

Popcorn cups (if I had time I was going to make the snowmen ribbon scarves.  Clearly that did not happen):

Gluten free mini cupcakes from a box (well, actually bag).  I am not into Bob's Red Mill line of GF mixes anymore.  They end up tasting too eggy to me and require too many extra ingredients.  Adding five more things in addition to the mix defeats the purpose of using a mix.  I piped the canned (GF) frosting with a pastry bag and was pleasantly reminded that a pastry bag makes everything look one million times better.

There was a hot chocolate station and I made homemade cocoa in the crock pot.  It is an ingenious way to do it because the cocoa stays warm the entire party but there's no chance it will burn.  It was really simple--a cup and a half of heavy cream, six cups of milk, a can of sweetened condensed milk, and two cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Whisk, cook on low for two hours or so, turn to serve. Whisk every once in a while when you remember.  It is basically type two diabetes in a cup.

I used a GF brownie mix to make these chocolate "crinkle" cookies but something went horribly wrong and they looked awful.  Tasted delicious, but looked not delicious at all.  I stuck them in the Santa cookie jar and they were a big hit.

Since the play date was from 2:00 to 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon, I figured I did not have to serve real food.  In addition to the treats I just put out tortilla chips, hummus, veggies, dip, cheese and crackers.  

The main activity was cookie decorating.  I baked gluten free sugar cut-out cookies the day before in four or five different shapes.  Listen up, Cup4Cup people--you need to either make your product more widely available or give me a lifetime supply for my non-stop promotional activity.  I finally ran out of my 25 lb bag of flour and did not have time to order online or trek down to Williams Sonoma.  Plus, I discovered a GF substitute flour at Costco that is about a fourth of the price of my beloved Cup4Cup. Let me tell you, you get what you pay for.  It isn't the same.  I love you, Cup4Cup.  Please stop being so expensive and hard to get.

Anyway, the girls started arriving and immediately loaded up on cocoa with unlimited mini marshmallows.  They then proceeded to ingest 300 lbs of sugar in the form of spoonfuls of frosting directly to the face.  The rest of the afternoon was a blur of running around like crazy and some Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah Bingo thrown in.  Most of the moms stayed, and I enjoyed getting to know them.  Best of all they are all women who agree wine should be served at these kinds of functions.  Next time, for sure.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Big Winner

Norah entered the school's art contest and the award ceremony was last week.  In the visual arts category for K-2 she won third* place!  She was thrilled and my hope is that it will give her a ton more confidence.

*apparently, schools don't do first, second, and third place anymore.  Now they do excellence, merit, honorable, and then everyone else gets participation.  Norah was honorable.

Thanksgiving Weekend

For pretty much all of November, our house had the plague.  Both kids had insanely high fevers, sore throats, nasty coughs, and rivers upon rivers of snot.  They basically passed it back and forth to each other for weeks.  Norah had the entire week of Thanksgiving off and we did nothing fun because she was a hot mess.  I was able to stay immune until that week and then, bam.  Not only did I get the awful chest cold but I also got pink eye.  PINK EYE.  What grown up gets pink eye? It was so embarrassing. The worst part was that I couldn't even stay home because of an insane work deadline so I basically had to quarantine myself in my office while everyone else had a Thanksgiving potluck. 

As per recent tradition, GG and Aunt Vanessa planned to fly in for the long weekend for our Thanksgiving/VZ Christmas celebration.  GG recently had knee surgery and although we held our breath until the very end that she would be able to make it, ultimately her doctors felt strongly that it was too risky for her to fly (blood clots).  So, GG stayed in Southern California and lived it up with all of her friends.  We missed her terribly but we were lucky enough that Aunt Vanessa was still able to be here.  She is the best puzzle maker, gamer player, imagination actor of all times.  I felt like I should be paying her for excellent childcare the entire time she was here.

As an interesting aside, I have a distinct memory of going to Vanessa's graduation from business school when I was pregnant with Norah.  We were talking about one thing or another and she said that she wanted to go by Aunt Nessa (which is super cute).  Norah called people what she wanted to call them, regardless of our suggestions (ie, Grammy v. Bubby) and never took to Nessa.  Louie on the other hand, all on his own, started calling her Nessa on this visit (again, super cute).  It's probably because he can't pronounce Van.  Regardless, it's very endearing.

Thanksgiving lunch/dinner was at the S house and I was in charge of the sausage stuffing, salad, a vegetable side, and a gluten free chocolate cream pie.  I used my trusty Cup4Cup (again, PR people, we are on board with a spokeskid gig...) and even though I had a few moments when I thought the crust would crumble, it turned out perfectly.  This was half-way through the pie baking process and I never managed to get a photo of the final product.  There was a lot of freshly whipped cream and chocolate shavings.  I don't eat dairy so I didn't even try it.  I'm a sucker.

I got Lou and Reid matching sweaters.  Reid absolutely refused to wear his.  Louie loved his but insisted on pairing it with his ratty maroon sweat pants.  

I had to wear my glasses for like two weeks.  I don't think I have done that for twenty years.  I hate wearing glasses.

This was my vegetable side dish.  Half with bacon.  Because I care.

This would have been a much cuter photo if they were wearing matching sweaters.

Steph and her kids that were toddlers like last week.  Now they are giant.  And awesome.  Norah has always been a little single white female about Megan, but lately it's the boys who are total stalkers. They love, love, love Trevor and go bananas whenever he's around.

These two look so much alike.  I have to do a double take with some of Norah's baby pictures.

Lou actually ate more than three bites of food, which was a Thanksgiving miracle.  Also, Megan's fish was a big hit.

Norah always draws feet like this.  It's kind of creepy.  Like a hybrid tree-human.

And the reason we moved to Texas can all be summed up here:

After the festivities died down I agreed to do something I have never, ever done before in my entire life--participate in Black Friday.  Now, I have nothing against Black Friday.  If you want to celebrate Thanksgiving by sitting in front of the fire with your near and dear, good for you.  If you want to go to the movies, by all means.  And if you want to wake up at 4:00 am to go shopping, have at it.  I have never been willing to go because 1) I hate waking up at 4:00 am, and 2) I hate crowds.  But apparently Black Friday now starts at 8:00 pm and at 8:00 pm I needed to walk off some turkey, was full of cocktails, and BVZ and Vanessa were willing to take the kids home and put them to bed.  So, I was game.  I am not sure I will do it again but it was definitely not the worst things I've ever done.  Plus, I had good company.  I almost bought myself these shoes (I didn't).  Clearly I was full of cocktails.

The Friday after Thanksgiving is VZ Christmas.  We missed GG a lot but powered through.  Vanessa came through like a champ with a marble run for Lou and a Build-a-Bear gift card for Norah.  I think we were at Build-a-Bear about 30 seconds later.

The blue holiday bunny's name is "Sparkle" and she's fabulous.

We had a fun and lazy Friday and then on Saturday we had tickets to ride the Austin Steam Train--Polar Express Edition.  Now, the best thing about two and five years old is that they don't have very high expectations.  Which was a good thing because the Austin Steam Train--Polar Express Edition was pretty beat.  There were some lackluster decorations and a relatively creepy Santa that made me sit on his lap.  It lasted about an hour longer than it should have.  The upside?  The company was stellar. And the kids looked really, really cute in their holiday pj's.

Louie was so stoked that Vanessa wore her "conductor hat."

BVZ and Camilla are equal parts bald.

Norah is pouting here because Louie wanted to sit next to Vanessa.

Mrs. Claus was less offensive and handed out cookies.

Maybe it's his strong Dutch heritage, but Lou always ends up wearing man capri's no matter the shape, size, or material of his pants.

At the halfway point, all of kids got train whistles.  At the half way point.  Why for the love of all things merry did they give all of the kids train whistles at the half way point?

After the very long train ride we introduced Vanessa to the joy that is Torchy's Tacos and let the kids stretch their legs at home.

Saturday night BVZ and Vanessa left the suburbs and did something fun.  While they were gone I put together Lou's marble run.  BVZ couldn't believe I was able to do it.  It took me over two hours but I was determined.  It is so, so, so cool.

It has already provided hours of quiet entertainment.  I love you, marble run.

Another successful Thanksgiving in the books.  Hooray for us.