Artisan Play Dough

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As mentioned last week, I’m trying out unusual ways to keep my kids occupied this summer.  We finally got around to making our own play dough.  It’s very easy and I’m sure you can make your own too.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity)
food coloring (we finally got to use ours which are more than 10 years old)

First, mix all the ingredients except the food coloring in a pan.  Put on the stove over low heat while continuously stirring until almost dry and the consistency seems like that of play dough.

Turn out the dough on a clean counter top (or on a silicon mat for easier clean up) and once cool enough to handle, knead until smooth.

Divide the dough into however many colors you want to make and form these into balls.

Flatten each ball and put in several drops of the food coloring.  Fold the dough over and work it until you achieve the color you want.  You may need to add more food coloring in as you work the dough.

And that’s it.  It’s safe and non-toxic.  Just keep it covered and it should last as long as your child’s attention span (hahaha).

Luck of the Draw

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Sometimes I look at my life and I notice all the things lacking.  It sometimes makes me depressed when that happens and I start feeling sorry for myself.

Then I read about the plight of people less fortunate than me and I again realize how lucky I am.  It always serves as a wake-up and makes me realize that even if I wasn’t born as fortunate as others, neither was I born as destitute as most.  It reminds me of a verse from Desiderata :

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. 

Just like poker, the initial hand that we’re dealt is purely by chance.  What we do with that hand though, is up to us.  I then remind myself that I am where I am based on choices that I have made.  If I want to change my situation, it is within my power.  It may be harder than if I was born with a silver spoon but neither will it be as hard had I been born dirt poor.

However, I look back at my life again and realize that I am actually happy where I am.  I have all that I need.  Sure there are a lot of nice-to-haves that I lack but it doesn’t really affect my quality of life in a major way.  Had I really wanted those things, I’ll prioritize getting them.  But those are just stuff.  Stuff that after some time will get thrown away.  Stuff that takes tons of resources to make and end up with tons of other stuff in the landfill.  In the end, we can’t bring stuff with us to the grave.

I’d rather invest in experiences, enjoying the simple things.   Having time to make bread.  Making our own play dough with the kids.  Making our own pizza.  Playing board games.  Hanging out with friends and family.  Having coffee for hours.  Enjoying conversation.

For me, these are the moments that count.  Time is the one resource that we all have.  No matter who we are, we only have 24 hours in a day.  We have to spend it the best way we know how.  Once spent, we can’t get it back.  I can only hope that when it’s time to say goodbye, I will have no regrets.

Desiderata 

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

— Max Ehrmann, 1927

List #7

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Time to make a list again:

1.  Unexpected April showers – The unexpected rain last Wednesday made the weather “cool” for at least two days.

2.  Swimming – We went to Tito Roy’s house last Thursday and swam with the family together is Odick’s family.  We had great fun.

3.  Baking for family – I’m happy to have the opportunity to bake for Jon’s family and for mine on two consecutive days.  It was tiring but worth it.

4.  Holy Week – 4-day weekend for Jon and for most of the working population here in the Philippines.  It was a good time to just enjoy each other’s company and relax.

5.  Connect 4 – Thanks for Auntie Lanie and Uncle Hector, my kids have a new board game to keep them occupied and make them think too.

These are my simple pleasures for this week.  What’s yours?

Soup in a Bread Bowl

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The last time we had soup and bread for dinner, we had cream of mushroom soup (from a pack) and French bread.  Yumi requested for French bread that time and I think it was my second attempt at making it.  At that time, Jari requested to have bread bowls ala French Baker and have pumpkin soup for the next soup and bread dinner.

So last night, we decided to have pumpkin soup in a bread bowl.  Jon made the soup and I made the bread.  I used the country bread recipe and instead of making two loaves, I made 4 loaves so we’d have one bowl each.

Then the bread has to be converted to a bowl by first cutting off the top.

Then removing the bread inside.

Finally, dinner is served:

The presentation is fantastic and the taste too.

However there are some things that I learned about this whole exercise.  I realized too late that the bread bowls would really be too much for one person to finish.  Before, when I made the same bread, I’d make two loaves and we can finish one loaf on one day and the other loaf the next day.  So I should have known that we wouldn’t be able to finish everything in one serving.  Actually, Yumi and I shared one loaf but the guys had one bowl each.  They had to take a break for two hours before they resumed eating to finish their bread but they eventually succeeded. Yey!

So next time, I’ll make 6 bread bowls, or maybe even 8.  At least if we open our cafe, I already know the best size for our soup in a bread bowl to share.

Sweet Biscotti

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I think my family has gotten over the novelty of having freshly baked bread around the house.  Last Monday, I made French bread as usual and by today, there was still more half a loaf left.  Usually we finish it off within the day or at most the next day.

So I decided to take a break from bread baking and do something else.

First off, I made bread pudding with the left-over bread.  This is a standby recipe and usually successful, but I think I made a bit too sweet today but it was still okay.  We had this for breakfast and I think we were all quite happy with it.

Then, I decided to make Sweet Biscotti.  I found a recipe by Emeril on the Food Network  site and I decided to give it a try.  It was my first time to make biscotti and it was a bit difficult because the dough was very sticky so it was hard to shape into logs.

Anyway, it turned out ok.  Actually, I didn’t follow the recipe completely since hazelnuts were needed but we didn’t have that so I just substituted walnuts and cashews.  It was also supposed to be dipped in melted white chocolate but I think that would make it over the top already so I omitted that step.  I found it a bit too sweet but it’s great with coffee.

It was a nice break from baking bread but after all that sweetness, I’m looking forward to eating bread again and just having it plain with butter.  Maybe tomorrow…

B.O.R.E.D.

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This is the first summer since having kids that I’m a stay at home mom.  I never realized before how challenging this is.

For one thing, it’s too hot.  Actually, we’re quite lucky this year since summer, or rather, the hot and humid weather started kinda late.  I think, last year, it was already hot as early as February.  This year, it only started this April.

For another thing, it’s hard to keep the kids occupied and happy.  Actually, it would be easy if I just let them watch TV the whole day or let them play the computer the whole day.  But since last year, we have limited their TV viewing time as well as their computer time.  During the school year, they can only have one hour of TV during weekdays and one hour of computer playing time on weekends.  Since it’s summer, they have been given two hours but this is for both TV and computer.  They have to choose what to use their time for.

So, everyday there’s a lot of complaining going on, etc, etc.  I actually think they enjoy playing with other kids more than watching TV or playing the computer.  It’s a good thing that our neighbors have kids that are roughly their age.  They spend most of their time out in the street biking, or playing soccer or other games.  But of course, if the other kids are not outside, then they start complaining again that they have nothing to do and no playmates, etc, etc.

I just hope that there’s a nearby park or a beach or a pool that we can go to (wishful thinking, I know).  There is a park about two blocks away but it’s quite small and there are just a few swings and slides.  It’s not maintained well so it’s quite rusty.  There’s no big space where they can play soccer or other ball games.  So it’s not really a good idea to go there.

Hopefully, I can think of activities we can do that will keep them occupied.  I found a recipe for play dough online so maybe we’ll do that within the week.  I guess I could also play chess and other board games with them.  We could also do some baking and cooking together.  I guess I just have to accept the mess that’s part of learning.

If only life was as easy as a Phineas and Ferb summer, my kids would never get bored.

List #6

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Time to make a list again:

1.  French bread – This is my new favorite crusty bread 🙂

2.  Pizza lunch – We had home-made pizza for lunch yesterday.  Kids loved making it and it was good and filling too.

3.  Crunchy granola – It’s my new favorite snack, delicious and healthy.

4.  Manual kneading – I just realized that I love kneading.  It’s not hard at all and I feel a connection with the bread I’m making.

5.  Movie night – This is one of our simple pleasures on a weekend, watching a DVD while eating junk food.

That’s it for now.  I hope you enjoy counting your blessings too. 🙂

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