I was all set to write (vent) a post today about grouchy people in grocery stores, who somehow feel the need to step in and discipline your children right in front of you, even though your kids aren't actually doing anything too terrible at the time. This happened to me at Harris Teeter on Monday, and it really got my back up--particularly since I thought my kids were behaving pretty well at that moment, all things considered, even if they were being a little loud and silly at the checkout line. A crotchety old lady turned on them suddenly and shushed them fiercely, telling them to "stop it" in a cold, stern voice that did stop them in their tracks, but not in any good kind of way. In the end I tried to forgive this old lady for being so harsh. Maybe, I thought, she was one of those old ladies who believe kids should be "seen and not heard," or maybe she had just endured a sad personal tragedy, or maybe she was just having a really bad day. Whatever it was, it just suddenly didn't seem post-worthy. But isn't it annoying when that happens? How do you handle it?
Instead, since I had several email requests last week for the recipe for the macaroni and cheese bites I mentioned, and for some information on how to make those clay boats/party favors I wrote about, I thought I'd pass the information along here.
The macaroni and cheese bites recipe came from here. I found it while I was thumbing through a Southern Living magazine at the occupational therapist's office last fall. And if it wasn't always clear whether the 30 minutes of OT was actually helping L., at least I got the chance to read through magazines while I waited. The recipe is delicious, but don't overcook the bites or they'll come out a little rubbery. They actually keep really well in the oven, if you want to fry up a batch ahead of time and then keep them warming while the guests arrive. They went well paired with the spiced cider, or you could serve them with a simple salad, if you want to impress adults and not a bunch of four-year-olds. They were a huge hit--crunchy on the outside, then gooey-cheesy on the inside, with a little kick to them from the diced pimiento. I've found that, hands-down, if you're trying to please kids' palates, any type of noodle dish usually works, especially if you combine the noodles with cheese. And these were perfect, and really delicious cold the next day.
And those clay boats... a friend passed on that craft idea to me years ago, and I always wanted to use it. I will always be proud of that fleet of clay boats we made, although that year we invited too many kids and I ended up making close to a dozen of those boats--that was in the days before I realized that inviting lots of kids does not a great party make. You can buy large, inexpensive bricks of red clay at a craft store like Michaels or A.C. Moore.You'll also need:
-Colored craft sticks
-Foam sheets in different colors (for the sails)
-Paper clips or coins (or anything), to press into the sides of the boats to make designs
Make sure you get the kind of clay that dries hard without baking, unless you want to clutter up your oven with boats all afternoon and end up with your house smelling like a pottery shop. We molded the clay into balls big enough to then hollow out and shape into boats. If you're making lots of boats, you might want to make them smaller, to save clay. But make sure you make them deep enough to hold a few candies. After you've molded the boats, take a small piece of clay and press it into the bottom of the boat. Cut triangular sails out of the foam, and then cut slits into the top of the sail and the bottom to thread the craft stick through. This will be your mast and sail. Stick the craft stick into the lump of clay at the bottom of the boat. As the clay hardens, the stick will stay in place. If it wobbles too much, you can secure it with some hot glue.
To decorate the sides, press a coin or decorative paper clip into the clay along the sides of the boat to make swirls or designs. You could also use a paper clip to scratch names and/or dates into the side of the boat. We filled the boats with candies and a few shells, and after the party kept one on our desk filled with paper clips! The kids loved them so much, and I took tons of pictures like this one:
(I don't know what that ring-tailed lemur fellow is doing in the picture. He was not a party favor.)
Even now, on days like today, after a night of horrible sleep, those boats can make me smile, their sunny blue and red sails filled with an imaginary wind, ready to set sail to calmer waters.