On Saturday morning, while we were eating our pumpkin muffins, washed down by lots of coffee (and warm Ovaltine, in T.'s case), I used my iPod to scroll through a long list of weekend activities going on in these parts. Fall festivals, the state fair, special museum exhibits--the list seemed endless.
"What should we do?" I asked.
"I want to stay in my pajamas," T. said, after no more than two seconds of thought.
For a minute I felt the instinct to reject this suggestion. Sometimes, when the weekend comes, I feel obligated to make the most of it, whatever I think that means--to take the kids somewhere, to do something different and memorable. Sometimes I'm restless, and the last place I want to be is home, tackling the mountains of Saturday morning laundry, or the dirty bathrooms, or the yard that beckons--always--to be weeded. Most weekends, if we don't force L. out of the house, he cocoons himself further, pulling even more inside himself, withdrawing from the rest of us and choosing computer time over anything else. That morning, though, he was deeply engrossed in a long, drawn-out battle game with his Star Wars figures and, around here, any time that's NOT computer time is golden, absolutely golden, and must not be messed with, under any circumstances.
And you know, what? I felt like staying in my pajamas, too. It had been a crazy-busy week, the first full week when I'd felt myself again, after spending the week before battling bronchitis, and the thought of just having an at-home Saturday seemed perfect, somehow. Both kids were wiped-out, too--edgy, not sleeping well, bickering with each other more than usual. A week ago Friday we skipped town for a day at the beach--both because it was L.'s last day of Fall Break, and because, well, we wanted to. We felt the need for a change of scenery, for a small road trip, a chance to reconnect again as a family (and I've always believed in that Victorian notion that sea air can cure upper respiratory infections).
It was an amazing day.
We did lots and by the time we got back home again, a little before 9:00 that night, both kids were pretty well exhausted. It took L. a good two days to recover from all the stimulation and excitement of that Friday outing. Not that it hadn't been worth it, but it brought home to us just how much we need to take care to balance those fun, intense, busy days, with quiet ones as well.
I thought about a wise friend of mine who once told me that whenever her children expressed a desire to just stay home on the weekends, she listened. Our weekdays often end up way too overscheduled, why let that spill over into the weekend? When both kids were babies, we always tried to follow that attachment parenting advice that children know their own social/physical limits, it's the grown-up people who have trouble gauging limits for themselves.
So we stayed home and put together puzzles, pulled ivy, did lots of laundry, hung a picture, and made soft pretzels.
As you know, if you've been following this blog for some time, L. is all about bread and, often, only bread. As a result, I'm always searching for new dough-based recipes, and always looking for ways to super-charge my existing dough recipes with flax seed, or hemp powder, or spelt so, at least, if L. is going to eat only bread, he's going to eat some really good-for-you bread.
I've made my own salt bagels before, and they are always a hit around here. But not long ago I had the brilliant, if obvious, idea that I could shape the dough differently and make pretzels, instead. You can use any basic pizza dough recipe, and super-charge it by adding flax seed, substituting hemp protein powder for up to a quarter of the flour, or just add some hemp powder on top of the flour to any basic dough recipe.
For our pretzels I used this pizza dough recipe and added a tablespoon of hemp powder before I mixed the dough for its rise cycle.
Once your dough has risen gloriously on the back of your stove while you're out pulling ivy, or tackling a puzzle, or unloading the fifth load of laundry that morning, pull off little balls of dough, roll with your hands into a long snake shape. Bring the two ends together and make a braid at the top. Bring the braid down, so it intersects with the bottom of your dough circle, and you have the pretzel shape. This is great for kids to do, but don't expect perfectly-shaped pretzels!
Put a big pot of water on the stove while you're shaping the pretzels. Soft pretzels, like bagels, need to be boiled before you bake.
Preheat the over to 475, too--it needs to be hot!
Once you've shaped your pretzels, drop them into the pot and let them boil until they pop to the surface-about 2-3 minutes.
Take them out, let them drip-dry for a few minutes, then place them on well-floured baking sheets (pretzels do a number on your baking sheets, so flour generously. Just oiling the sheets won't work, I've tried. I've never tried baking the pretzels on parchment paper, but maybe this would work, too). Spray the tops with cooking oil, and douse with coarse salt. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until lightly browned. Keep an eye on them, though. They'll go from looking barely done to brown in what seems like seconds.
Eat them while they're still warm! If you do want to save them, put them in a paper bag to keep, otherwise the salt will go soggy and the pretzels will lose some of their signature crusty-doughy texture.