Posts tagged “children

Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes

Posted on April 3, 2014

snackcakes

 

I have a good friend who bakes Duff Goldman-style cakes. She does this for fun when she’s not teaching flamenco.

One year this friend made a hula monkey birthday cake for my daughter. I mean, this monkey had it all: a flower fondant lei, bold red lips and a sassy grass skirt. The detail was one thing. The flavor was out of this world. I have never been able to replicate the almond-flavored buttercream she made that day. Nor have I ever been able to bake a cake that moist and gently sweet. Kids fought over this cake in a way that was far beyond “I want the piece with balloons on it.”

So I bow down to anyone who can bake cakes with that level of artistry and flavor.

The one cake I can bake successfully (knock wood) is a yogurt cake. These cakes are a popular snack item in France for two reasons, a. because they’re really easy for kids to make (which means that even I can’t mess it up) and b. because the cakes turn out moist with a hint of sweetness. Everyone from Clotilde to Molly to Dorie has got a memory of or twist on this treat and it’s little wonder. There’s something about them that makes your household smell like comfort and warmth.

Although I like the classic recipe, there’s really nothing like goosing the simple batter with ribbons of melted dark chocolate, I’ve found. That’s what food blogger and cookbook author David Lebovitz did in his memoir The Sweet Life in ParisI used his recipe yesterday to bake an afterschool snack for my little one. It was such a hit that snack became dessert and breakfast too. When I asked my daughter which version of this cake she preferred, she got this dreamy look in her eye and said “I don’t know…they’re both pretty awesome.”

Indeed they are.

Lebovitz’s latest cookbook comes out next week and I’m looking forward to checking it out. I’m also looking forward to Alexander Lobrano‘s latest, Hungry for France, which came out Tuesday.

What cookbooks are you enjoying right now and why? Are there any recipes that bring back good memories for you? If so, what are they and what is the memory?

Tomorrow: I’ll be featuring an interview with Karen Pery, who has been featured in this space before. I’ll be catching up with her and sharing how she uses things like racecars and surfboards to help people tap into their hidden potential. It’s a pretty cool story and she’s a pretty cool lady, so I hope you’ll stop by tomorrow and see what she has to say!

In Defense of Writing

Posted on October 4, 2012

I heard something I didn’t like this week.

Kids — especially grade school kids — don’t like to write.

Howwwww is this possssibbbblllllle???? I loved to write when I was a little kid!!!!

Apparently, loving writing makes me weird. Math is more fun for children because they’re solving puzzles and playing with little plastic sets of ten and sometimes even Gummi Bears, if they’re lucky. Writing involves too much memorization (i.e. spelling words) and rules, and requires just too much work in general.

In kidspeak, writing is what they call borrring.

This revelation emerged as a general aside during a parent-teacher conference I had this week. It had nothing to do with my own kid. Although I do know that good writing requires work, as a writer I’ve never perceived that my job is boring. I love what I do and am prepared to beat someone up after school (you heard me) in the interests of defending my craft. So, filled with more than a hint of righteous indignation, I asked the teacher if there was any way I could help her show kids why writing is a good thing, an important thing, and even . . . (wait for it) a fun thing. Although I’m not sure if she’ll take me up on it, she said yes, she’d like me to come in after the first of the year. The good thing about this is that it gives me plenty of time to construct some pro-writing propaganda about how writing is the best thing in the world, ever, so there. I’m in this to win hearts and minds, after all.

Rebecca Wallace-Seagall wrote an impassioned defense of creative writing classes in schools, drawing from her experience as executive director of New York City’s Writopia Lab, a nonprofit that runs writing workshops for children aged 8 to 18.  Wallace-Seagall’s piece is part of The Atlantic’s education series “Why American Students Can’t Write”. Over the next two years, public school students in 46 of 50 states will have a writing curriculum that favors clarity over self-expression and Wallace-Seagall believes that good writing in any genre requires logic and precision. She writes:

If young people are not learning to write while exploring personal narratives and short fiction, it is because we as educators need more training — or the specifics of the curriculum need more development. It is not because those forms of writing in themselves are of no use . . . Human beings yearn to share, reflect and understand each other, and they use these reflections to improve the state of things, both personal and public. If we want our students to have this kind of impact, we have to teach them how to express themselves with both precision and passion . . . where would we be as a nation if we graduate a nation of people who can write an academic paper on the Civil War but have no power to convey the human experience? If Frederick Douglass had stopped writing his narrative on slavery because he felt he could not be at once a lucid communicator and an expressive, emotional being, where would this world be?

Indeed, where would it be? I’m hoping I can do my part, in whatever little way, to help another generation care about words — how they feel on your tongue, how they look on the page and how they sound to your ears and heart when a little symphony spills from your pen.

Critters

Posted on June 5, 2012

caterpillarone

Yesterday I battled cookies, both cyber and edible. I’ll write about my tangle with meringue later. Today, I’m writing about this little guy, pictured above. I turned my back on my vegetable garden for a day (because I was battling cyber cookies in a seemingly never-ending effort to upload my approved thesis to the university database) only to find that this little bugger had laid waste to one of my parsley plants. Rather than make the beast pay for its transgression, I ran inside, grabbed a plastic container and scissors and made a little home biology experiment for my youngster. After all, we grew and released an army of painted lady butterflies a few summers ago when we lived in Atlanta. Why not see what this little monster becomes too?

caterpillartwo

Once I captured our little friend (and a few bunches of withered parsley), I closed him up, punched little holes in the container’s lid and watched as he climbed up the side like this. That is where he has been since last night, when I Googled “caterpillars in South Louisiana” and discovered that he will not turn into an evil swamp creature that will devour us all, but a beautiful Swallowtail Butterfly.

Photo: brooksvillegardenclub.us

Photo: brooksvillegardenclub.us

C.S. Lewis

Posted on April 10, 2012

I’ve written here about that mythical day when I will be able to read things I want to read again without having to deconstruct any constructs or argue about any arguments. That mythical day is so close I can taste it and when it arrives it will be, let’s just say, a cause for celebration.

I took a grad school break today to read brainpickings, which is one of the few blogs I read. Today there is an interesting piece about C.S. Lewis’ Letters to Children, a book full of his correspondence with the many kids who wrote him. Lewis’ letters are full of advice that is just as useful to adults (and hags like me who are more than ready to go back to the business of being human again) as it is to the little folks who read his Chronicles of Narnia.

In a 1949 letter, Lewis writes to a little girl named Sarah, explaining that “there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do:

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C is for Cookie

Posted on August 15, 2011

cookies

My daughter started first grade last week and as soon as she got on the bus I was hit by another wave of feelings about how big she’s getting and how quickly time flies. The umbilical cord is cut on a daily basis, it seems, and it still smarts every time it is snipped.

Get used to it, you say?

Oh I’m used to it. But that doesn’t mean it gets any easier to take.

I promised to make the kid chocolate chip cookies to celebrate her first day of a numbered grade. That’s what I said out loud at least. To myself (and to this blog, I suppose), I admitted

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Signs of Life

Posted on July 11, 2011

Today my daughter informed me that you’re not supposed to run by the pool. We were not at the pool or running when she informed me. As a matter of fact, we were at home, sitting still.

But no matter!

You’re not supposed to run by the pool, she said, because you could slip and die. You’re also not supposed to run by the pool, she said, because the sign says so.

Which sign? I asked her.

“The sign with the running person covered by a red circle with a line through it,” she said. “That’s how you know you’re not supposed to do that. It is a rule.”

It is also common sense. But common sense, as we know, is not something we all have in common.

Which brings me to this sign:

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