Friday, May 1, 2009

Bug the Builder...Yes, We Can!

It's funny how small things can be pivotal. How many parents have wrestled with their child over math lessons or homework to the tune of the plaintive cry of, "When will I ever need this?" Bug, at the advanced age, has succumbed to this syndrome while doing those quadratic equations the rest of us know as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Sigh. At this rate, I expect I'll hear the same from Princess in another month or two...

When his attitude became increasingly truculent, I decided that we needed some practical application and enlisted the services of Tool Guy. And truly, woodworking experience utilizes all of the functional math embodied in most third grade curricula. He obliged me, as he does in most all things.

Amazingly, this child who had heretofore shown no passion for anything other than videos and computer games (I do not count myself among those parents who see a budding Spielburg or Gates in such juvenile passions) developed an immediate affinity for woodworking. Now this is an avocation I'm thrilled to see him sink his teeth into. I'd much rather he wax on to strangers about the kerf of a blade than what level he acquired in even such as Math Blaster.

For his first project, he and Tool Guy settled on a bedside table in my honor, considering that a piano bench overflowing with my audiobooks, earbuds, and other multi-media accoutrement such as accompanies my night-time knitting excursions needs some help. Tool Guy did the ripping, but Bug did the rest. The centerpiece tool to this entire project was a commercial jig--doncha just love all of the lingo? Just wait until I start elaborating on mortises and tenons--which produces a superior assembly, both in strength and ease of execution. Within a surprisingly short period of time, Bug proudly presented me with a night stand that he had designed. Tool Guy assisted in dimensioning, but Bug's rough sketch of what he wanted still graces the wall of Tool Guy's shop. Bug sanded, assembled, stained, and shellacked this table. Amazing.

And when, proud papa that he is, Tool Guy flashed pictures of this table around as if it were Bug's baby pictures, Bug received his first commission to produce some bedroom furniture at some point for one of the mom's in our homeschooling co-op. Tool Guy and Bug were both so buoyant about its success that they decided to write to the jig manufacturer and wax enthusiastic about its merits and applaud them for marketing such a useful and efficient tool that even an eight year old could use to build quality furniture.

The response was surprising. On Thursday evening after trudging in late from a long day of homeschooling co-op, we were greeted at the door by a UPS package. I twitted Tool Guy, Mr. UPS-At-My-Door-Everyday, yet again for yet another internet order from his favorite jig company, but he declared himself innocent. And indeed, he was innocent. This time...don't kid yourself. The package turned out to include a warm letter of thanks for Bug's initial letter and pictures of his project. The letter asked that Bug consider building another project using the tool kit in the package, which was their latest incarnation of Tool Guy's favorite jig, and document the project for them.

The pair were beside themselves with excitement and acceded to my suggestion that we needed a new medicine cabinet for the bathroom and the project began in earnest. Meanwhile, the company PR rep was not idle. Shortly after the cabinet was finished and the last pictures and video clips were sent off to them, we received a phone call from the local paper wanting to schedule an interview with Bug. Heady stuff for an eight year old, no?

In addition to teaching Bug lessons about addition et al, this project has taught him a multitude of other things. Craftsmanship, creativity, a sense of self-confidence, and self-sufficiency. I want my children to learn that they can do whatever they set their minds to and not remain at the mercy of what the market provides. I think it was Bug who, when I was applying make-up one day and commented that I was almost out of a particular cosmetic, responded with, "Guess you'll have to make some more." Heh. But that's really the message that I want them to carry. If they can dream it, they can make it.

They can even make it if someone else dreams it. (Just don't sell it, alright?) One of the banes of Breatharian eating is the expense. Even the commercial preparations that are compliant with the diet are hideously...nay, exorbitantly...dare I say, usuriously expensive. Granny discovered this when she volunteered to underwrite providing the Hobbits with such commercial treats as they could have. She failed to reckon with the rising cost of food and the rising amount of such food that the Hobbits could consume. Quickly she cried, "Uncle!" and agreed to underwrite the ingredient purchases if I would do some cooking dangerously and reverse engineer the treat. It was an immediate hit. It has been requested to be part of our travel package when we do a road trip later this summer.

Grainless Granola Bars

Base "dough"

1/2 cup baking or whole dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup amaranth
1 T maple syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup seeds or chopped nuts (pumpkin seed and sunflower seed pictured)

Run ingredients through food processor or blender until blend incorporates into a ball.

Into the base dough, press 1 cup total of pumpkin, sunflower, sesame seed, walnuts, pecans, or any preferred seed/nut or any combination thereof. Princess is inclined to a pumpkin/sunflower seed combination, while Dog and Bug favor walnut. The seeds/nuts can be pressed into the dough with a fork or scraper, but I decided to let my machines to the muscle and used the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid. When the seeds/nuts are fully incorporated into the base dough, pull off approximately 1-2 T of the mixture and press into the bottom of a muffin form. This amount of ingredients yields about 12 granola bars. Alternatively, press the whole mixture into a pan and slice into bars.

Bug told the reporters, "I like it. And I'm good at it." On such things hinge significant things...a sense of math, a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of direction. And quality time with Dad. Doesn't get much better than that.


Zenseer said...

Those look great and very tempting!
Do you think I can use other non grains (such as wild rice, quinoa or buckwheat) as well?

Thanks ;).

BTW I left a comment/question under your grain-free sourdough bread...Don't know if you answered yet.

Loztnausten said...

Quinoa might work, since it is almost as small as amaranth. I'm not sure about buckwheat and I'd be even more dubious about the wild rice. Playing with other seed options certainly sounds like something that you might try cooking dangerously with, though. :)

I'll go look for your other comment. Thanks for visiting!

Jenn B said...

nice! what an awesome "early mother's day present" (on all accounts, not just the finished product). :) ..and seeing as i still have 15-20lbs of amaranth sitting ignored in my pantry, i will likely be trying this recipe.

Jenny @ Nourished Kitchen said...

What a great recipe! It kind of reminds me of the trio bars.

Whitney said...

Hi. I just linked over to your blog from mothering. :-)

I'm curious if you are soaking any of the ingredients? I have amaranth, but I'm new to it as an ingredient. I have no idea how digestible it is raw.

They look yummy!


Unknown said...

Going to try this recipe today! Looking for things that have protein and are portable but are egg free, dairy free and nut free so my son can take them to school! Thinking of trying to sub in millet or chia too!

Angela said...

Wow!! Rarely have I made anything in my kitchen that my children have met with such enthusiasm. I think they would rank these right up there with cupcakes. Even my cranky teething 2 year old who wouldn't eat anything today ate 3 of them!

Loztnausten said...

Glad they were such a hit!! :)