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cuppacocoa
May 4, 2017

I’ve always thought of bread as a labor intensive process, or at least a time consuming one. I remember early attempts of bread making that involved creating warm spaces, punching dough, kneading, and a lot of setting timers… only to be met with a lot of, “Meh, I can get a much better loaf for a lot less effort at the bakery.”

So I decided to leave the crusty bread loaves to the experts. I would stick to cookies and brownies in my bakery.

Then my friend Sandley shared an exciting find on her blog: Jim Lahey’s no-knead dough. As convincing as her bread story was, it was the photos that did me in. That, and this line: This bread has a wonderful crusty exterior, soft air-punctuated interior, and looks amazing.

Well, then.

Last year, she moved away (sniffles!) and left me with the rest of her instant yeast. There was a lot, so I decided to give the recipe a go, and I haven’t looked back since. Actually, I have looked back a lot. I have looked back at her blog and the recipe many times and decided it’s time to get this well-loved recipe onto MY blog for ease of use (and to share with all of you!). It is now a staple at our dinner table and is perfect for sopping up sauces or enjoying alongside a carby pasta dinner.

Some other things this recipe has going for it:

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April 26, 2017

Okay, you’ve got an idea about what kind of preschool you’d like to send your child to (read more here). Great! Now what? Warning: reading this next section might just make this decision feel even more complicated than it needs to be, so proceed with caution ;). Here are a few more things you might consider as you decide on a preschool.

Physical environment

People environment

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April 19, 2017

I am NO EXPERT on early childhood education.

Which is why I would have really appreciated an overview guide like this a year ago, when I was neck-deep in preschool research. It can be a daunting task. There is still so much I don’t know, but my goal is to give new parents an idea of what kind of things to consider when getting started on preschool research. I want to help you narrow down your goals and organize your thinking. I’ll talk about the different factors you might consider as well as some of our thinking as we worked through our decision for our preschooler.

Ultimately, I don’t think there’s any one best philosophy or type of preschool for all kids. I think they all offer different and wonderful ways for your child to grow, and you should find something that works best for you and your child!

Where do I start my research?

Your preschool decision can be as simple as finding the closest preschool to your house, or finding one on the way to work. You visit and it’s warm, welcoming, and the kids are thriving. GREAT. Done. You are so efficient!

Others go with the recommendations of friends, which is a great place to start. Your friend raves about her child’s class and school. You visit, it’s just lovely, and you see her child thriving there. Sure, why not? Easy peasy, you are done!

If you’re like me, though, you take about 100 factors into consideration, weigh each one (using an Excel spreadsheet), agonize over how important each one is (both now and in nine months, when she would actually be enrolled), and flit back and forth as you get input from friends, the Internet, reviews, and your “gut feeling” after you’ve toured the school (not to mention the pressure of waiting lists!).

Sometimes, I really wish I were not that parent, because the first two scenarios seems so simple and everyone I know is still very happy with it. The best advice I got from a friend was, “Jo, don’t overthink it.”

So maybe you should do yourself a favor and stop reading right now ;). But if you must, then press on. Good luck. And really, try not to overthink it.

Different Types of Preschools

In my research, I came across five main different types of preschools: traditional, play-based, Montessori, co-ops, and home-based. While most preschools have elements from more than one category (i.e. “play-based co-op”), these are teaching philosophies and styles you might want to grow more familiar with.

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April 13, 2017

A couple weeks ago, I got a random spam comment on an old post that I wrote, “Activities to Do with a Toddler.” After the initial disappointment of realizing it was not a real comment (yes, I like your comments!), I decided to look over that old post again from two years ago. First of all… TWO YEARS! I’VE BEEN BLOGGING FOR OVER TWO YEARS! I read somewhere that the average life of a blog is three years, and I think I jusssst passed that milestone… so here’s to another 3+ years for Cuppacocoa! 🙂

As I read it, I kept thinking, OOH, that’s a good idea, I should do that with my little boy! He’d love that! and Wow, what a great idea, so glad somebody compiled these to help pass the long afternoons. Heh heh.

In all seriousness, though, it was a reminder to pull out the old bean bin (which I had been hiding from him ever since he learned to grab things) and let him have a go at it. I was actually quite certain that he was not ready for such an activity. He is one, he still puts a lot of things in his mouth, and I just didn’t feel comfortable leaving him with the big bin of beans unsupervised. Did I really give my daughter full access to that stuff at the same age?!

According to my blog, I did. So the least I could do was let him have a shot at it.

I waited for a time when I could give him my full attention (i.e. his big sister was out of the house) and I took it out. Much to my surprise, he quickly caught on to the idea that all the beans needed to stay in the bin! Of course, some came flying out, but he soon learned to bend down and pick them up and put them back. I was impressed all over again.

There’s no way I would have taken them out if I hadn’t seen me do it for my first 1-year old. Hmm, I thought, there’s probably a bunch of stuff I’m forgetting to do for him that I did for her. Poor second child. I should go through my blog sometime and dig up those ideas that worked so well for her, and implement them for him!

So that’s just what I did. Here are my five posts that JoEllen of the past wrote for JoEllen of today, and I am high fiving old me (younger me?) for doing that. For some of them, I wasn’t sure if maybe I just got lucky the first time around (like “patient hands”). Would it really work again? Would it work with my boy? Would it work with my second child, when my attention was so divided these days (because older siblings sure know how to snatch up that attention!)? But I can say with more confidence that these are tried and true, at least two times through. Maybe you can try it, too!

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March 28, 2017

I love croissants. I love chocolate croissants, I love almond croissants and I love chocolate-almond croissants. I love butter croissants, I love kouign amanns (which are made from the same laminated dough as croissants) and I love coffee and tea twice as much when it is paired with a good croissant. When the day is feeling long and I need a pick me up, one of my go-to treats is a fresh baked croissant from a local bakery. Something about those flaky, buttery layers just brings a smile to my face, my tummy, and yes- my heart.

Croissants might be one of my love languages (or maybe just one of my favorite gifts/acts of service to receive :)). When my friends go to Napa (Bouchon!) or SF (B. Patisserie!) or Marin (M.H. Bread and Butter!) and text if I want anything, I drop EVERYTHING to quickly text back as I try to remind myself that it’s probably rude to ask for a dozen croissants. Seriously. I’ll be like, “OOH BEN! JOYCE IS GOING TO BOUCHON TODAY-” and he knows that means I will be oblivious to the world around me for the next minute as I scurry to text back my request.

And when the yumminess is in my hands, I melt a little (a lot) and feel so so loved. THANKS GUYS. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. My suppliers <3. Sigh.

The original recipe with powdered sugar and almonds sprinkled on top.

Almost a year ago, my fellow croissant-loving friend Tiffany sent me a recipe to make almond croissants at home. I was a little skeptical of the recipe at first, but when I finally gave it a go a month ago, I was blown away! It was SO GOOD! WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO TRY IT?! I have since made them again and again, a dozen at a time, and found a delicious recipe that I know I will be looking up a lot in the future. So it definitely belongs here on my blog!

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March 20, 2017

Since no one happened to get a clip of this particular moment a la Super Dads, I thought I’d illustrate it myself.

 

…and my work today is done. Time for macarons.

March 15, 2017

When we hear the garage door opening, it’s a flurry of activity. “PAPA’S HOME PAPA’S HOME PAPA’S HOME!!!” She drops everything and runs around like a chicken with its head cut off before she inevitably darts behind the kitchen counter and hides. I can feel excitement pulsing from her as she waits, holding her breath, reading to burst forth and surprise him with a hug.

He walks in, feigning confusion, “Hey, where is everybody? Oh, maybe they are all sleeping. I wondering where Mama is-”

“SUPWIZE!!!!!” she cries as she leaps out and bolts toward him with pounding little feet, “WELCOME HOME! I WAS HIDING, PAPA! I WAS HIDING THE WHOLE TIME!”

I can’t imagine a happier homecoming, and this is not an unusual scene at our home when Ben comes home. I love how she loves him, and I am over the moon for him as I see his face filled with warmth and love and delight in his child.

Everything started off similarly enough today. The garage opening, the open-mouthed excitement, the running around. But when he opened the door, she ran to him and I heard her cry out, “What fruit did you bring me today??”

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March 8, 2017

I like that he knows which fork I like to eat dessert with.

I like that he knows how I like the blankets to be arranged when I nap.

I like that he urges me to shower earlier so I have time to let my hair air dry. Because he knows that’s a thing, and that sleeping with wet hair is annoying.

I don’t just like it. I love it. And I feel loved by it.

When we were dating in college, it was a delight to study my new boyfriend Ben and learn his likes and dislikes. When I found out he liked brownies with ice cream, I took the bus to Safeway and got ingredients and made it the first chance I could.

When I learned that he didn’t like corn, I decided I didn’t care much for it, either.

It was easy. It was fun. He brought me chocolate and I cooked him meat. It was bliss.

Our first year of marriage was a similar school of learning and joy, finding ways to delight one another and show love with our study of one another’s habits and preferences. Somehow, though, over the last decade, the novelty of studying my husband has become less thrilling. I figure we’ve been together for over ten years… I probably know him better than he knows himself, right?

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March 1, 2017

In the beginning…

It all started at Alinna’s house. She inspires me to try new things a lot, like CSAs, hosting friends more frequently for dinners, baking bread, co-op preschools, and Dorie Greenspan. This visit was no exception. They had us over for dinner, and on the menu: grilled pizzas. By the time we left, I was determined to learn how to make artisan pizza at home, too.

When this family does food, they do food, and their pizza was no exception. Their sourdough pizza dough recipe came straight out of The Cheese Board Collective and I wouldn’t be surprised if they grew the kale in their own yard. I mean, they already have chickens back there.

Ben liked the pizza so much I decided I was gonna learn how to do it. Pizza nights were gonna be a thing in our house. I would sit back and drink some wine while the pizza baked, and we would have something DELICIOUS at the end of it. So I asked Alinna my 131 questions, studied as she built her pizzas, and tried to figure out how I was going to replicate this without a grill in the backyard.

Long story short, after much research and many rounds of improving my oven version, I am ready to share my Friday Night Pizza routine with you!

It does not involve sourdough starter.

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February 22, 2017

At first, I had big dreams for all the traditions we would keep each year with each new holiday, season, and event. Balloons for birthdays, gingerbread houses each Christmas, planting seeds in the spring, camping every summer, pumpkin patches in the autumn. I had lists of food to go with each season, imagining a feast to ring in each bloom, sweltering afternoon, falling leaf, and raindrop (aka winter in California).

But Groundhog Day would come and go, and no garden would be planted. We have yet to go camping as a family, and we only finally made it out to a pumpkin patch this past autumn. I felt like I was failing at traditions, and didn’t want to set anymore tradition-y goals lest I disappoint anyone (mostly myself) by not continuing them the following year.

Then one cool autumn afternoon, I decided to set my bar to very achievable, but still delicious and came up with this idea: We’d celebrate every new season with a beverage! Lemonade for summer, spiced apple cider in the autumn, hot cocoa in the winter, and… I’m still working on the spring drink. Any suggestions? I only have a month left!

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