Clothes shopping…and it was fun!

Today was the day appointed to go forth to Childrens Place and resupply the kids wardrobes with warmer clothes.

Many of my friends looked at me in pity when I announced our plans. “Just think…if they were in school, you could go by yourself and not have to deal with all that.” Presumable meaning the chaos that surrounds any mom when she’s taking 3 kids clothes shopping.

However! After our morning breakfast and play time in the rain (which was spent running homemade boats down the gutter), we loaded into the minivan and headed out to the outlet store. 30-50% off already discounted items was the catalyst to dare the trip with all the kids. Honestly, some days I’m that mom with the toddler throwing a fit in the cart, and the other kids running around like feral children. I try to limit my exposure to the outside world on days like that, and figured if it started getting bad we would just have a cinnibon at the food court and try again another day.

Once we got into the store, I told The Naturalist and The Golfer that they had ‘X’ amount of dollars to spend. The Naturalist went to her section, and I stayed with The Golfer to help him out. He was on a camoflage kick and wanted things that were camo, brown, or green. Last year, I would have set limits on the amount of bland colors allowed in the cart, but this year I’ve let go a bit. As long as he was under ‘X’ amount, I was fine. He found a pair of camo sweat pants, looked at the tag, and said, “They’re $24. That’s a lot. It takes up a lot of my money…but I love them so much!” Then I pointed out that they were marked down to $16.00, and then marked down another 50% off that. His eyes got wide as the beauty of the sale sunk in. “These are only $8 now?! I have so much more money to spend on other stuff!” Yes, little grasshopper. You are quick to the ways of the SuperSale.

In what I can only describe as the pride of an unschooler, I watched him walk around silently computing 30%, 50%, & 70% off. No formal lessons on percentages…just the aquisition of a skill with an immediate application. I gave him his own bag, and by the end he had filled it to within $2 of his limit. Not bad, considering I was well into high school before percentages made any sense to me at all.

The Naturalist came in well short of her limit due to the fact that she is no longer small enough to fit into most of the clothes there. Yikes! She’s only 11, people! But she’s just so…..so…..long. And tall. Already, her pant inseam is longer than mine. Her feet are 2 sizes larger. Her arm reach is wider. She is all arms and legs, and is best described as ‘coltish’. Also, she has strong preferences in her clothes. No pink. No stripes. No flowers or butterflies. No girly prints. So, we settled on some size 14 jeans and left to find the Gap outlet. There, she fit nicely into XS women’s t-shirts in teal, red, brown, and blue.

As if I needed further proof that my little girl isn’t so little anymore, when we went to the food court she ordered 2 spring rolls and vegetable noodles for lunch.

While she was getting her food, The Golfer, who had changed into his camo pants, camo shirt, camo hat, and camo shoes, told me he really went “the whole 8 yards” with his army outfit. I corrected him. “It’s 9 yards, honey. The expression is ‘the whole 9 yards'”. He smiled up at me and said, “I know. But my underwear isn’t camo, so I really only went 8 yards.”

The Sassy Princess, who had been great the whole time, chattered away about using a ladder (me: “a letter? a leader? some leather? ohhhh..a ladder!”) to talk to a bird in a tree about how he got so high, and where was his mom, and where was his home, and was he hungry, and did he need a blankie, and did he like sharks…and…and…and… She barely stopped to shove in some pizza.

In what could be an uprecedented feat, The Golfer said it was ‘the best shopping day ever’. I think The Naturalist felt proud that she was shopping at an adult store for her clothes, rather than a kids store, and acted very maturely. She even tried on her clothes in her own stall for the first time. The Sassy Princess lost her cool at the end, but she lasted longer than I’d anticipated. All in all, a day all of us enjoyed–even shopping for clothes!

Chocolate Orange Muffins

I came across an old cookbook of my mom’s, hidden away in a kitchen cupboard. “Muffins” by Elizabeth Alston. I love this cookbook. I love it for how the pages are still dog eared, marking my mom’s favorite muffin recipes. I love how it has notations in pencil from my mom, indicating changes to the recipes. Usually things like, “Double the chocolate!!!!” or “Add streusel topping!!!”. I love how it brings me back to high school. I had a few extra curricular things going on back then, and would leave the house by 5:30 (in the morning, people!) and then swing by again at 6:45 before heading back to school at 7:15. My mom would wake up and make muffins for me every morning, so when I had a few minutes between 7 & 7:15 I’d gather up a few, sit down to read USA Today, and then run back out the door with a quick, “Thanks! Bye!”

I appreciated those muffins back then, but now I adore the memory of a warm house filled with the aroma of mom’s homemade muffins. So, of course, now I bake them for my kids. Currently, our favorite is the Chocolate Orange muffins.

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QUICK AND EASY RECIPE–12 regular or 36 mini muffins.

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips (mini or regular)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour

Heat over to 375. Grease muffin cups or use foil baking cups.
Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add yogurt, orange juice, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix very well. Batter will be quite liquid!
Sprinkle flour, then chocolate chips, over batter. Fold gently, just enough to blend in flour.
Scoop batter into muffin cups. Bake 15-25 minutes, or until golden brown and springy to the touch. Turn out onto a rack to cool.

INDULGENT EXTRAS

If you have more time, here’s a few things to take these muffins from wonderful to divine.

*Take 2 medium oranges. Finely grate the orange peel. Add this into the mix after the eggs.

*Take those same oranges and squeeze their juice into a measuring cup. Usually, I get about 1/2 cup OJ that I use in place of store bought juice. Mmmmm!

*Buy a fantastically expensive deluxe chocolate bar of your choice. Dark, milk, bitter…whatever floats your boat. Chop it up into chunks and add in place of chocolate chips. Prepare to be thrown into Chocolate Orange ecstasy.
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When I make these, I do a triple batch. One batch is to be eaten immediately, as the kids come crawling out of the woodwork going, “Is that a muffin I smell? Are they ready? CanIHaveSomeRightNow?” followed shortly by, “You are the best cook in the world!”. Another batch I put in the fridge to be eaten the rest of the week. The third batch I freeze and save for another time.

I’m telling you, these things are magical. I mean, it’s not like I don’t cook 3 meals and make countless snacks during the day for my kids. But when I make these muffins, it’s different. I get thanked over and over, and lots of affirmations on my mothering & cooking skills. So when you make these, come back and tell me how it went and how often your kids gave you extra hugs & kisses.