Monday, November 24, 2014

Cut to Winter. About Clothes, Breakfast and Time


Thank you to all the readers still tuning in after a season of quiet from us.  It seems the weather has turned in Chicago. It isn't even late fall anymore. The skies cut to Winter this last two weeks with a tiny rainy thaw this weekend. 

Dressing for these days is all about layers, of course. Not so much difficulty for grown ups but tricky most times when you have a small person, or more, to get outfitted for the morning commute on a bike.

We have an excellent post that we don't really edit much about dressing here. It holds steady with some pretty good advice...

Aside from getting dressed, how do you feed a bunch of kids, get them dressed, and leave on time to get to where you need to go? This is not a perfect art in our household. Especially not these days, when our oldest attends a school completely the other direction from the others. We seem to have clothing sorted but our big problem is time.
Our biggest challenges seem to be getting everyone fed a decent breakfast and out the door dressed. The place I tend to gain time is on breakfasts that they can carry in the box bike and eat even with their glove-covered hands and goggly faces. (It takes too long to get to school with the kids riding their own bikes as we have a four mile commute.) Forget eating at the table before unlocking the bike to leave. Morning food has to travel or I am late.

Here are our survival  strategies for homemade breakfast running out the door.  Substitute pop tarts, or any other favorite carry-along that works for you, and then tell us what it might be in the comments please!

Mugs of instant oatmeal, warmed biscuits, waffles without toppings, a thermos of not-so-hot chocolate and/or a dashed-in stop at a favorite bakery have all worked in our daily pinch.  A jelly sandwich is fast and OK but not warm for winter. Bags of Chinese bakery pork buns are great, too- just steam or microwave the number you need. Of course, it's better fresh but most bakeries we know that bake buns sell them in bags of a dozen or so as well.

We use quick cooking oatmeal that can be finished with boiled water from the kettle in a cup that can travel without having to cook on the stove.  I turn on the kettle, then pour the water into the loaded cups before we get the shoes and clothes on to ride. A spoonful of topping sugar, maple or raisins on top. Then everyone grabs their cup and a spoon and runs down to the garage. We use metal insulated cups that don't burn gloved hands and cheap metal spoons from a restaurant supply in Chinatown.

Waffle mix is made at night with the dry half measured out into a covered bowl and the wet half of the recipe in a cup in the fridge. I turn on the waffle iron just after I get up and mix the batter fast, fill the iron three times while I yell at everyone to get dressed and then pack the waffles in wax paper bags to be eaten on the bike.  We use an old Alice Waters recipe for whole grain waffles from our (covered with years of kitchen grunge) copy of her first Simple Food book. You can add crunchy sugar chunks to the batter when you cook it - Belgian sugar for this is at Ikea, strangely.

Biscuits work because they don't have to rise and they bake fast if cut very small.  Dry and wet mix measured the night before speeds things along. Muffins tend to need to bake just long enough that I get crunched for time and can't get out of the house quite fast enough.  Biscuits, again, get packed in the bags to run out the door. Sometimes they stand in for bread in lunch sandwiches if I forgot we were out of bread! We put ham or jam in the biscuits, or bake them with candied ginger sometimes. We use an old Martha Stewart recipe from her Baking Handbook.

Hot chocolate goes in a small thermos for each kid - not hot so it will burn anyone's mouth, but warmed through to be nice moving along in the box. We just play that by ear. You can make great hot chocolate with just hot milk and dark chocolate;  it's less sweet than a mix and more chocolaty. If the milk is warmed the chocolate will just melt in it while we run around. I mix it with a whisk once before pouring it into the thermoses.

Sometimes we stop at a favorite bakery on the way.  We try to stop at a place with enough people at the counter so we don't get snagged in line, in a neighborhood spot safe enough to leave children out front in the bike while one of the children or I run inside. 

A really nice end to the hectic commute is finding ourselves at a great coffeeshop, with every child safely at school, watching the sleet outside through the steamy windows.