15 May 2012


Posted in parenting, Z-boy at 8:44 pm by Tricia


This solves two mysteries:

  1. What happened to all our water bottles.
  2. Why the boy’s lacrosse bag was so heavy (only the one filled tonight was empty!)

(actually, we own at least 4 of the dark blue, and another orange, so we’re
still short a few…)

(no singleton socks were in the bag, you’re on your own there!)


18 January 2011

not just candy…

Posted in candy making, food, Z-boy at 10:56 pm by Tricia

The middle child’s class studied the Netherlands for our school’s annual multi-cultural fair. He wanted to do a project on candy, which got further refined into a project on licorice. In case you didn’t already know it, the Netherlands has the largest per capita licorice consumption in the world (average of 2 kilos per person per year!).

photo of commercial licorice

five varieties of licorice, awaiting their taste test...

In addition to his reading and research, we ordered three varieties of licorice from dutchsweets.com: a sweet caramel licorice, a light salt (the boy insisted on this one for obvious reasons – i rolled my eyes), and a medium salt. We also got sample sizes of a double salt and another sweet. If I’d checked with my friend Annet beforehand, we might have ordered different varieties, but alas, I did not. Here are my tasting notes:

#1: caramel surrounding licorice.  Tastes like molasses – I like it. 6 out of 10.

#2: pink candy coated licorice. Tastes pink – strawberry, perhaps? No anise-y flavor of licorice, just very very sweet. 5 out of 10.

#3: “DZ”, the dubbel zoute, aka “double salt.” This is very tough – you can’t bite it. Instead, you have to suck on it for awhile. It gets saltier as it stays in your mouth. No licorice (anise) flavor at all, and no sweetness. Ick. 2 out of 10.

#4: the boy. This is not as hard as the DZ, but not soft either. You kind of have to break it off, rather than bite it. There is a little bit of taste beyond the saltiness, but I can’t describe it. “Semi nasty” is what I told Z (when he asked me if it was nasty). 2 out of 10.

#5: the smiley face. This is the worst of all – salt plus ick. I had to spit it out. 1 out of 10.

Afterwards, I told my husband: “this isn’t candy, it’s a cultural experience!” Needless to say, I’m not a big fan. On seeing my face, and hearing my “it’s not entirely nasty” comment, middle child didn’t try any of the salt varieties – he just tasted the four different colors of our sweet sample. I thought we should send the remainder to school for another taste test, ala the cupcakes, but he was afraid of being perpetually ostracized (I might be exaggerating here), so we didn’t.

cooking candy

the candy man - er, boy!

And finally, we made a couple of versions of licorice. After consulting with friends at the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers, I discovered that anise extract is easily located in your local grocery store (right in the midst of all the other flavorings at mine). Black food coloring is easily found there, too, but the thought of that squicked me out. I entertained the idea of following Patti’s lead and mixing food coloring until black appeared, but that seemed unnecessary for our goals – we were focused on taste, not appearance, so I decided we would make “au naturel” colored licorice.

photo of hard candy licorice

drizzling molten sugar is fun!

First was this one, a hard candy with anise flavoring. The child thought it was too anise-y flavored (he had added more than it called for, and too early in the process), but I liked it. Most of his classmates did, too. (We should have let them try the salt licorice – maybe somebody would have liked it!)

licorice caramels, cooking on the stove

the two thermometers do not agree... time to calibrate, I suppose!

We also made this recipe (a half batch), which is essentially caramels with anise flavoring. The child insisted on going easy with anise, while I wanted to double it. He thought the flavor was just right, I thought it was too mild. His class liked these as well.

I wanted to try this one – flour and powdered licorice root – but was put off by the imprecise directions, poor review, and lack of time. Maybe next month…

15 October 2010

The Cake is Not A Lie

Posted in food, Z-boy at 10:53 pm by Tricia

A few weeks ago, middle son did a project for school where he made cupcakes from a mix and cupcakes from scratch, then had all his classmates rate them. Nothing fancy – no double-blind tests, no counterbalanced design to control for order effects. He just gave ’em the cupcakes and had them rate on a scale of 1 to 10. I helped him make the cupcakes – we picked a yellow cake recipe from The New Best Recipe. It looked better, it smelled far better (less sweet and less fake), it even baked up with a more interesting texture. I have always said that I don’t like cake much, but then I ate an edge piece from a cupcake that overflowed its cup and it was a revelation to me! Wow! I was convinced, right then and there, that it would win by a landslide.

Next day, I was talking him through the statistics and graphing, when it finally struck me: those kids preferred the mix! What were they thinking?? The homemade ones even had a higher spread in the ratings (from 4 to 10, instead of 7 to 10). A four? Somebody rated these revelatory cupcakes with a 4?? So much for the claim that “As easy as the boxed mixes are to put together, nothing can beat the flavor of a home-baked cake.” Apparently America’s Test Kitchen doesn’t have 9 to 11 year olds on their tasting panel!

This week, I needed to make a dessert to take to a party. As I was flipping through cookbooks, looking for something a little more inspired that cookies or brownies, I came across the Red and Black Raspberry Pudding Cake in The All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. I’d been lured in by the “last of the season!” sign on raspberries two days earlier at the Farmers’ Market, so had berries on hand. And I remembered that revelatory cake, so I decided to make this. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the name – would it be gooey inside? It wasn’t – the raspberry sauce starts on the top, but sinks (or the cake rises?) and it ends up in the middle of the cake. It is sort of like a thick jam layer, not gooey at all. It was really really tasty – I would definitely make this again, were I the kind of person to bake cakes!

Raspberry Pudding Cake

3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
3 Tab cold water
2 cups black raspberries (I used frozen blackberries)
1 1/2 cups red raspberries
1/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest (I used dried lemon peel)
2 Tab lemon juice, or more to taste (fresh recommended; I used jarred!)

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used some leftover cake flour)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tab (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously grease a 9-inch square or 7×11-inch baking pan.

To make the sauce: In a heavy, nonreactive medium saucepan, stir together the sugar and arrowroot powder until well blended. Gently stir in the water, raspberries, and lemon zest until smoothly incorporated. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer, stirring occasionally, just until the raspberries release their juice and the mixture turns translucent, about 30 seconds longer. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice, if desired.

To make the batter: in a medium bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium-high speed until lightened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth, about 1 minute longer. With the mixer on low, beat in half the flour mixture until evenly incorporated. Gradually beat in the milk until evenly incorporated. Add the remaining flour and beat on low until incorporated. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute longer, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Turn out the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly to the edges. Pour the sauce over the batter; do not stir. Just let it sit on top of the cake batter.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is puffed and lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool to warm, at least 20 minutes. Spoon the pudding cake into bowls or onto plates. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, or heavy cream, if desired. (We ate it plain!)

11 February 2010

News you can use

Posted in oddities, Z-boy tagged at 10:35 am by Tricia

I’m not sure why I saw this in late January when it was first published in 2005, but here is some news you can use from the BBC:

untidy beds may keep you healthy

Watch out mites! We're leaving our beds unkempt...

Granted, this claim is based on a computer model, and there is a suggestion that the average humidity in a house might mitigate the effects of unkempt bed covers, but I’m sure plenty of people are willing to sign up for the treatment condition in any real-world experiments!

On a related note, the middle child had a friend over a few weeks ago. Friend walked into the boys’ room, looked around, and said: “You’re lucky. My mom makes me clean up my room!” Sigh.

30 October 2009

Skater Chick

Posted in Z-boy tagged at 11:26 pm by Tricia

Afghani Skater Chick

Afghani Skater Chick


So that I’ll have a post for October (!!), I’m going to link to this picture of a girl skateboarding in Kabul! My 9yo is very much into skateboarding right now. Our town has hundreds of parks, but no skate park. So many Saturdays, we drive north about half an hour so he can skate indoors at a park set up by a church. They divide the day by age groups, so he’s with kids his age – but it’s mostly boys. Nevertheless, he thinks this photo is awesome.

22 December 2008

Italy Is

Posted in Z-boy at 12:48 am by Tricia

Z-boy’s class studied Italy this year for our school’s annual multicultural fair. During Writer’s Workshop one day, they wrote “Italy Is” poems. Z’s is below. He told me that some of the lines were inspired by a classmate or the teacher, but even so, I think it’s pretty good for an 8 year old!

Italy Is

Italy is pizza like you never tasted before.
Italy is art and Florence is its heart.
Italy is a string of pasta going from Sicily to Rome.
Italy is a home for every one.
Italy is Galileo looking through the night sky.
Italy is a boot in a world of shoes.

Z-boy Jonski, age 8.

And here’s a link to a poem he wrote in kindergarten.

23 February 2008

Page 123

Posted in books, meme, Z-boy at 8:23 am by Tricia

A reader’s meme from Mindy via Deb. I decided to play along because the closest ‘big’ book was Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules [obtained at a recent Scholastic book fair], which seemed potentially fun!

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)

Honestly, Diary of a Wimpy Kid was the closest I could find without standing up! Everything else in arm’s reach is a short picture book.

Find Page 123.

Find the first 5 sentences:

On the way back, Mom was really talking up Magick and Monsters, saying how it could help me with my “math skills” and stuff like that. All I can say is, I hope she isn’t planning on becoming a regular at these games. Because the first chance I get, “Mom” is getting handed over to a pack of Orcs.


After school today, Mom took me to the bookstore and bought just about every Magick and Monsters book on the shelf. She must’ve dropped about $200, and she didn’t even make me cash in a single Mom Buck.


I realized maybe I judged Mom a little too quick, and maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing having her in our group after all.

Oops, that was 6 sentences. Sorry. Anyway, it’s intriguing! After I get back from the Y, I’m going to have to read more, to find out how this turns out!

Feel free to play along if you’d like…

14 February 2008

I Heart Breakfast

Posted in food, Z-boy at 1:20 am by Tricia

I heart breakfast – at least on Valentine’s day!

heart-shaped breakfast cookie

Orange Chocolate Chip Scones

1 1/4 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, warmed to room temperature
1 egg
2 Tab orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 tsp grated orange peel
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Thaw orange juice and warm butter. Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In separate bowl, combine egg, OJ concentrate, and orange rind; mix well. Add wet ingredients and chocolate chips to dry ingredients. Shape dough into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Pat dough into a circle about 1/4 inch thick. Cut circle into 8 wedges (or 10 if you’re a family of 5) (or however many hearts you can manage if making for a special treat) and place on a foil- or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

I think these originally came from a website called “Baking Bits”, but I no longer have the source written down. Z-boy called them “breakfast cookies” when he was little, so the entire family adopted the name. They’re yummy, and simple to make! Although they’re best fresh out of the oven and slightly warm, I made them Wednesday night so they’d be available for a special Valentine’s Day breakfast. (I don’t believe in early rising, not even for making special breakfast treats!)

11 October 2007

Monster Milk Shake

Posted in food, fun, Z-boy at 2:38 pm by Tricia

monster milk shake recipe

Z-boy copied this recipe out of a book at school and brought it home. He made one the other night (using vanilla ice cream instead of fruit flavored frozen yogurt), and then shared it with me. We both thought it was pretty good, but he said the honey added a “weird taste.” You definitely could taste the honey, but that’s only “weird” if you don’t like the taste of honey. I guess he doesn’t! When he thought we were out of honey he suggested using maple syrup instead, but insisted on honey when we found it in the pantry. I think I would have preferred maple syrup (since I love maple flavor), but deferred to my little drink master. Next time, he’s going to make it without honey or maple syrup. After all, when you’re starting with ice cream and chocolate syrup, why add sweeteners?

This drawing was also on the sheet of paper. I forgot to ask whether or not this was also in the book, or if it’s his own interpretation of a milk shake.

monster milk shake picture

11 September 2007

so THAT’s where it went!

Posted in fun, oddities, Z-boy at 10:06 pm by Tricia

Remember all that “Millenium” 2000 merchandise that sat, unsold, on store shelves, even once it went on deep discount? Turns out it found a new life. Ethiopia never adopted the Gregorian calendar, so they celebrated the “new millenium” today. Look at this picture (picture 4 in this gallery) if you don’t believe me.

But come on people, you’d think you could have learned from our mistakes and endless nattering on the topic: the new millenium doesn’t start until 2001! Sure, “2000” makes for better goofy sunglasses than “2001,” so celebrate all you want, but don’t call it the new millenium for another year.

(okay, I admit it: I bought some of that merchandise on deep discount, seeing as how I was pregnant at the time and thought it would make a good souvenir for baby-to-be…)

One more thing: did they just recently have Y2K computer problems to deal with?? That just brings up too many mind-twisting questions when I start to think about data management issues (maybe all computer programs have a “map date to the rest of the world” field??)

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