With Little Man’s arrival getting ever closer, doctors’ appointments more frequent and Mommy tireder, we’ve largely cut back to the basics in recent weeks — phonics, math, a bit of writing, a lot of drawing, countless hours of read-alouds, LOTS of free play, and daily science/nature shows on PBS or Netflix (alternately known as “Mommy’s nap time”). This week, though, we’ve managed to squeeze in some apple-themed extras in honor of Johnny Appleseed’s birthday.
More than anything, Little Bear wanted to visit an apple orchard. Unfortunately, we were not able to find one anywhere within a reasonable driving distance (probably because our mild winters create a less-than-ideal climate for commercial apple growing). So we tagged along with The Produce Guy and took a virtual YouTube tour of Duncan Orchards in Bountiful, Utah. We then read several nonfictional and fictional books about apples, apple orchards, and apple picking:
Then, we toured the produce department of our local supermarket and chose half a dozen varieties of apples to sample — Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Honeycrisp. So far, the girls have tasted the Fuji, Honeyscrip, and Granny Smith. The Fuji they devoured for lunch today, and Little Bear declared it to be the best apple she’d ever had. (Baby Bear was too busy eating to comment!) Apparently, half a Fuji apple was not enough to satiate Baby Bear. A few minutes after lunch, I found her back at the dining table with a Honeycrisp apple she’d helped herself to. And judging by the fact that she ate over half of it before deciding she’d had enough, I’d venture to guess she liked it also. Little Bear ate a small slice and deemed it good, “but not as good as the Fuji.” (I welcomed this news, partly because Fuji apples are also my favorite, but mostly because they’re less than half the price of Honeycrisps!)
The girls sampled their third apple variety of the day after I chopped a couple of Granny Smith to make an apple cake. As expected, raw Granny Smith apple proved to be a bit tarter than they liked … until I rolled the diced apples in cinnamon and sugar and set them aside for baking. Then, the Granny Smith dices too began to disappear one surreptitious handful at a time.
Speaking of apple cake, baking a cake from scratch easily ranked at the top of both girls’ lists of favorite activities. For Little Bear, baking provided ample opportunities to read, measure ingredients, and follow directions. For Baby Bear, it was all about being involved and doing what she saw her Mommy and her big sister doing. All in all, it took us about 25 minutes to make a recipe that I could easily have done alone in 10, but oh, how the girls enjoyed those minutes! I failed to take photos of the process — mostly because I dared not leave curious little fingers unattended near my KitchenAid mixer long enough to go in search of the camera! At Little Bear’s request, I did photograph the final product:
Yep, the entire top stuck to my my well-greased, well-floured, “non-stick” bundt pan.
“Oooh, is it an upside down cake?” Little Bear asked, gleefully clapping her hands at the sight of crustless apple chunks.
“No, honey, it’s just a mess,” I said, silently wishing I’d disposed of the offending pan on one of the previous occasions when it had failed me.
“Well, it looks yummy to me!” Little Bear allowed.
Even as I stood there peeling the top crust out of the cake pan, I had to agree that the cake did look rather tasty. Taking a deep breath, I abandoned all hope of repairing the cake in any decent fashion and, instead, decided to make two little girls very happy.
“Here,” I said, handing them each a chunk of the top crust, “let’s see if it tastes as yummy as it looks.”
Both girls devoured the bites I handed them and begged for more.
“You know, Mommy, I’m really glad the cake came apart,” Little Bear said afterward.
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“Because if it had been pretty, you wouldn’t have let us have any until after dinner!” she replied.
Sigh. Out of the mouth of babes. … She had a valid point. We weren’t in some bake-off contest. We weren’t trying to wow anyone. We weren’t taking the cake out anywhere or even baking it for any special occasion (aside from the birthday of a long-dead folk hero — and I’m pretty sure he long ago ceased to care how birthday cakes baked in his honor look!). We were simply making memories — messes and mistakes included.