Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:41 pm

Miles is in a phase where his diet is about 50% cinnamon graham crackers.  Recently, the store was out of his favorite brand, so I got generic, and His Highness was not pleased.  To his credit, I tried one and they really weren’t as good as his usual kind.

So anyway, I was looking to use up the extra graham crackers, and I found a recipe that looked like I could adapt it to include them.  These are really, really good.  I am going to have to hide them from myself to keep from eating the whole pan.  They’re pretty soft and slightly chewy, and they hit the spot on an icy day.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars

  • 1 sleeve cinnamon (or plain) graham crackers, pulverized in a food processor.  This should yield a generous cup of crumbs.
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2-1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, depending on how chocolatey you like your life
  1. Heat oven to 325 F.  Spray an 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ pan with baking spray.
  2. Grind up your graham crackers.
  3. In a standing or with a hand-held mixer, mix butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Add egg, vanilla, and peanut butter; mix.  In a separate bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, salt, and baking soda.  Add to peanut butter mixture and mix until well-blended.  Finally, mix in oats.
  4. Press into the prepared pan with the back of a spoon or your hands.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown.
  5. Immediately sprinkle the hot bars with chocolate chips.  Let them sit for a few minutes until they’re glossy, then spread them out to form the topping.


The Tobin Times #17

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:49 pm

My little Tobin,

You probably learned it from your brother, like so many of the things you know.  Around our house, a request or demand often receives a look, the raised-eyebrow look that means “Aren’t you forgetting something?  Perhaps something manners-related?”  I don’t generally give you the look, since you’re seventeen months old and frankly we’re pretty impressed that you’re talking as much as you are.  But you don’t even need any prompting.  If you have any doubt about whether we’ll meet your request, you add on a “Peesh?”

It’s awfully difficult to resist.  Of course you use it most for things I don’t really want you to have (or have very much of), like juice and my phone.

Your favorite thing to do right now is to grab a pen or marker and start yelling “T-O!  T-O-B!”  That means you want to write your name.  Sometimes you make it all the way to T-O-B-N, though the I never makes it.  You can’t write letters yet exactly, but you do seem to understand that each letter is a distinct symbol.  You make a squiggle on the paper and say “T,” then another squiggle and you say “O.” You often end up with three or four intentional squiggles before it descends into scribbling.

You’re also working on your colors.  Your first guess is always green (“geen”) when I ask you what color something is, though you’re starting to get blue right too.  You often surprise me with the words you know.  The other day you pointed at a shirt and said, “Whale,” which was in fact the main feature of the shirt.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Sometimes I don’t understand what you’re saying, and I keep guessing things, hoping to get it right.  When I do, you say, “Oooooooooh,” in exactly the tone of voice I can hear myself using when I’ve figured something out.  When I’m on the wrong track, you do a spot-on imitation of my perplexed “Hmmm.”

We have your adorable baby passport all ready for our big trip, which is coming up in a couple of weeks.  I can’t wait for you to see the Caribbean sea, Tobin.  Considering how excited you get about a plastic cup of water, I think the shining blue stretching all the way to the horizon is going to amaze you like nothing you’ve ever seen before.  We’ve got SPF shirts and sun hats and plenty of sunscreen all ready to cover you, but if you’re really good, you might get to touch the Caribbean with a few square inches of your actual skin.

I was telling your dad yesterday that one thing I love about you is your generally good attitude.  You get grumpy sometimes, and you have a hilarious grumpy face that I really need to photograph.  But your bad moods are typically acute, not chronic.  Once we solve whatever your problem is, you’re back to your jolly self.  You love it when your dad tips you upside down.  You love giving and receiving blurples (and woe to the person who accidentally exposes some back skin while crouching to help your brother with something).  You love washing your hands.

You still love reading.  Your favorite book right now is Spot Goes to the Beach.  You also really like How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? and Little Bear, Who Do You Love?  Your very favorite part of that one is where the little bear loves his brother.  You can fill in the blanks of so many books and songs, most adorably the ones your brother and I sing for our choir.  There’s not much cuter than a baby singing John Denver.

You have the greatest face.  I already mentioned your grumpy face, but you do a fantastic surprised face, and your little gap-toothed smile is so sweet.  You understand how to be gentle with babies.  You gave your baby cousin Josh such tender touches without any reminders.  Your brother isn’t feeling very well tonight, and you came up and stroked his hair and shoulder so nicely.

I was a little worried that you weren’t good at reading emotions, since you seem to have zero remorse for naughty behavior when your dad and I scold you about it.  I shouldn’t have been concerned.  If anything happens to your brother, like if he hurts himself or is howling for any other reason, you immediately say “Bubby!” in a most concerned tone.  Your little brow furrows, and you just get so worried about him.  He’s a heavy sleeper, and he must have been having a bad dream a few nights ago, because he cried in his sleep.  It woke you up, and you were just so upset on his behalf.  Your dad went and checked on him, and he was fine, and we tried to reassure you, but it took a long time to get you to calm down.  You kept saying “Bubby!  Bubby!” and pointing toward his room.

I’m nervous about trying to keep you occupied on our upcoming plane trips.  This is one of the last trips we’ll take when you can still fly free on a parent’s lap, but I have a feeling we’re really going to have to work for it.  Maybe we’ll be lucky and you’ll sleep.  Maybe we’ll have to buy those mini bottles of whiskey for all the other passengers on the plane.

My list of the words you know is over 120 words long now.  You are so smart, so focused, so amazing.  As I held you last night, I could hardly believe you’re the same person as that baby I used to hold in one arm.

You have about the same amount of hair as you did then.  Otherwise, you’re a whole different dude.  You’re a wonderful little guy, and I’m so happy to be getting to know you.  Keep up the good work.

Photo by Denny Crall




Salted caramel sauce

Filed under: — Aprille @ 7:23 pm

There is nothing better over ice cream.  Keep in mind I’m not an out-of-her-mind chocolate fan.  I like chocolate and all, but if there’s a vanilla or fruit or caramel or nut alternative, I’ll take that.

This salted caramel sauce is so, so good.  I made it to go on a turtle pie, and I’ve been consuming the leftovers steadily.  For those of you who must have chocolate, I bet this would be good alongside hot fudge sauce for a kind of one-two punch situation.

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons butter, in pieces
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • generous pinch kosher salt

In a heavy-duty saucepan that’s bigger than what you’d think you’d need (seriously, err on the side of large), dissolve the sugar in the water over medium-high heat.  Once it’s dissolved, stop stirring.  Just let it boil, swirling the pan occasionally, and brushing down the sides now and then with a water-moistened brush.

Once the sugar is a nice medium amber, remove it from the heat.  Add the butter and stir until it’s fully melted.  Pour in the cream, watch it bubble up like crazy, and stir with a whisk until it’s smooth and uniform.  Add the kosher salt and stir some more.  Don’t lick any utensils, no matter how much you want to, because this stuff is HOT and you will regret it so deeply.

The sauce will thicken as it cools.  I suppose it will keep in the fridge for a while, though it never lasts very lost.


Filed under: — Aprille @ 4:44 pm

Last night I made my old favorite Pork with Grapes and Onions.

Tonight I’m getting a bit more ambitious and making this lasagne.  I have tomato sauce in the freezer (well, actually it’s simmering on the stove right now, but until recently it was in the freezer) from last summer’s tomato harvest, so I substituted that for the canned tomatoes and omitted the basil and salt, since those were already in the sauce.

There are a few unusual things about this recipe that I like:

  • Fresh mozzarella instead of aged
  • Goat cheese
  • A genius technique for noodle management that involves soaking the pasta in hot tap water.  This is so much easier than boiling an enormous pot of water for the lasagne noodles, fishing them out and burning your fingers in the process.  And yet, it yields better results than any no-boil technique or product I’ve tried.

I’m hungry already.


Monthly Miles Memo #60

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:07 pm

My beloved Miles,

Today I went in to talk to the office staff at your preschool about signing up for the summer session.  I figured we’d probably put you in half-day preschool like you’re in now, plus I saw there was a special kindergarten preparation class for a few weeks in June.  Then I thought maybe toward the end of the summer you could switch to full-time so you could get some practice eating lunch and spending the afternoon at school like you’ll be doing once you start kindergarten for real in the fall.

“Actually, Miles should sign up for the kindergarten summer classes, not preschool,” Amber told me.

I did my best to act unfazed, like she hadn’t said such a shocking thing about my tiny little boy, the one who only just barely made the potty-training requirement in order to start preschool at Willowwind a couple of years ago.  That little guy couldn’t possibly be eligible for kindergarten sessions.  Those were for the big kids, the ones who just finished kindergarten, surely.  You’re a preschooler, a little Montessorian.  But they seemed sure, and it actually worked out better schedule-wise to do those classes anyway, so that’s how it will be.

You’ll still do mornings-only for most of the summer, then we’ll add on an afternoon session for the last week or two.  It will be an interesting exercise to figure out what you’ll eat from a lunch bag, since your usual lunch choices don’t translate very well to the ziplock context.  Maybe we can find some kind of Thermos so you can have noodles now and then.

But that’s the future, and now is the time to reflect on the last month and the last year.  This month has been lots of fun, with Christmas and family and your birthday.  We were sad to lose Grammy and Aunt Jeanne.  Two funerals made our holiday travels not the joy-filled adventures they usually are.  They were both really special women, and I’m glad that you have some of both of them floating around in your DNA.

Photo by Beth Clarke

You had your first big birthday party last weekend, to which you invited your whole class.  Though we hear about certain friends now and then, you don’t seem to have latched on to a particular best friend.  A couple of your favorite pals, Sienna and Theo, were unable to make it due to being out of town and sick, respectively.  You still had fun, bouncing in the bouncy house and riding around on Big Wheels at the gym.  I’ve had several parents tell me how much they and their kids enjoyed the party.  We had a lot of fun at our family celebration the following night (your true birthday, as you were quick to emphasize, due to your love of accuracy).  You liked your dinner and your presents, and you were very magnanimous about letting your brother rip open packages for you.  We have one more celebration left this weekend, when Mubby and Skittergramps visit.  After that you’ll be really, thoroughly five.

Photo by Gary Clarke

Five.  I clearly remember being five.  I know I remember things from earlier years, too, but those are more memories of certain events and scenes.  From being five, I remember wide swaths, from going to kindergarten to losing teeth to, at the end of my fifth year, Uncle Tyler being born.  This makes me think you’re forming impressions of the world now that will stay with you.  No longer can I reassure myself after questionable parenting decisions by saying, “Oh, he’ll never remember that.”  You’re going to remember more and more going forward.  I guess it’s time I got my act together.

I’m mostly kidding.  You’re a great kid, and while I certainly can’t take all the credit, I must being doing more right than wrong.  You have some areas in which you could grow (so do I), but I’m proud of the compassionate and kind, observant and sharp person you are.  You are always excited to go see Tobin after he wakes up from a nap, hugging and loving him and cooing sweet things to him.  You are his idol.  When you’re at school, he sometimes cries and says, “Bubby bye-bye.”  He squeals with glee when I tell him it’s time to go get you.  I hope he can handle it when you start going to school all day.

The general personality you’ve developed continues.  You’re still a bit shy and reluctant to talk to people you don’t know well, and good lord can you be moody.  Too much stimulation with too little down time wears you out, as does being off your routine.  But I’ve also seen tremendous improvement in your confidence, ability to articulate your feelings, and ability to reason through tough situations.  You’re growing up, little Miles.

A couple you know is breaking up.  Your dad and I have been talking about it, and I didn’t want you to overhear things and silently worry, so I tried to explain it clearly and honestly to you.  I don’t usually make promises I can’t be 100% sure I’ll keep—this is my own accuracy obsession in play.  I didn’t tell you that people only die when they’re very old like Grammy, because how would that explain Aunt Jeanne, who was younger than your grandparents?  I want you to be able to trust me, but I also want you to feel secure.  It’s a tough trick trying to balance honesty and reassurance.

The couple has kids, and you were worried about them.  I explained to you that they’ll still live with their mom and see their dad a lot (for some reason you had the impression that they’d need to find a new mom and dad, so we cleared that right up).  I also told you that it would never happen in our family.

This is where I feel weird making promises.  I can’t see the future, and I bet that family never thought it would happen to them either.  But having you changed my relationship with your dad in a monumental way.  He’s fantastic:  he is a great father and partner, and he makes me feel loved and appreciated every day.   He works really hard to support us financially, but he doesn’t use that as an excuse to check out emotionally.  Your number zero birthday, the day we truly became a family, changed things.  I am happily married for sure, but that’s secondary now.  What matters is that we are a unit.

You made that unit, Miles.  Thank you.  It’s a stronger bond than I ever realized I could share with anyone.

Photo by Gary Clarke

The other night at bedtime, I was lying in your bed with you reading stories.  You have a double bed, which is nice for bedtime story logistics, but after I finished the stories and turned off the light, you stayed smooshed up against me with your head on my dudju (pillow, for the uninitiated).  It was not comfortable, and since you like me to stay with you until you fall asleep, it seemed untenable.  I asked you to please scootch over to your dudju.

You did.  A minute or two later, in the dark of your room, I felt you shake a little and choke back sobs.  I asked you what was wrong, thinking you were sick or there was something on your mind from school you hadn’t told me.  You didn’t want to say, but I finally coaxed it out of you.  You were sad because I asked you to get off my pillow.

On one hand:  really?  You’re going to have to toughen up if that’s the kind of thing that can reduce you to tears.

On the other hand:  after a long day, you love going to bed.  You love your bedtime stories.  You love our “Night night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite, that’s right” ritual.  You love cuddling up.  I’ve heard about the battles some parents going through trying to get their kids to bed, and we’ve never had to worry about that.  My biggest bedtime problem is that my tired little boy likes to be near me.

Photo by Beth Clarke

Life is short.  I invited you back to my dudju and held you close until you fell asleep.

There will always be a place for you on my dudju, whether you’re five or fifteen or fifty.




Denver dilemmas

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:42 pm

Another song we’re singing is John Denver’s “Country Roads.”  Miles listened carefully to the lyrics and had a couple of questions.

In response to “Country roads, take me home”:

M:  How do the country roads know where him or her lives?

He also wasn’t sure about the term “mountain mama.”  I told him maybe the songwriter’s mom lived in the mountains, so he called her that.

M:  Just one question:  If his mom lives in a mountain, where do they sleep?

A:  Maybe they have a house right next to a mountain.

M:  Maybe they sleep on a bench.

The sea of secondary

Filed under: — Aprille @ 5:06 pm

Miles and I have recently joined a family choir.  One of the songs the kids are singing is “Yellow Submarine.”  As we left rehearsal last night…

M:  We all live in a primary-colored submarine, a primary-colored submarine, a primary-colored submarine.

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