Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Camp Cool

I'm a "Girl Mom."
When Carly was born, I must admit, a secret sigh of relief washed over my bedraggled body. "Princesses, pink, ruffles, tutus...yes," I thought, "I can do this."
And I did.

Then came Will. 8lbs, 6 ounces of Power-Ranger-loving, butt-scratching, alphabet-belching boy...what was I going to do with this little creature?
Ballet, baking, craft time, curlers...I had all of that down with my eyes closed. "Guess it's time to embrace my inner Jedi Knight," I thought,  "and to let The Force be with me."
And I did.

Before I knew it, I realized that I was, in fact, a "Boy Mom" after all. The cowboy-themed nursery came easy. So did the choo-choo birthday cake and the black velvet Christmas knickers...a temporary partial setback. From there, my surrender to the dark side became inevitable as the will of my "Will" proved stronger than forces of pink and pixie dust.

Giant plastic dinosaurs roamed our terrain and the gentle tunes of Disney Princess ballads wafting from the playroom gave way to Japanese-tinged thugs and ughs of alien Nylock or giant Decepticon blaring from the TV.
So much too for actually trying to work on the computer or do a load of laundry while Junior quietly amused himself with educational toys. Before long, the confines of his hand-me-down pink and purple Graco "pop-up" playpen proved inadequate as our Little Houdini discovered how to stack his stuffed animals in such a manner as to provide the ultimate launching pad up, over, and onto, head first, the hardwood floor.
"Okay, little man. I see the dance we're doing here," I said to him as we waited in the doctor's office for the surgical glue to set on his bulbous little forehead, "game on."

Between nanny's, neighbors, preschool and the 6 foot high locks we installed on the inside of the doors, we learned to stay busy and intact, filling our days with play dates, baking soda volcanoes, backyard archaeological digs and Hot Wheel demolition derbies.

But, just when we'd get into the flow of a new school year or nanny share, our well-intentioned plans would get rocked as we'd slip into the dog days of summer.

Sure, there were plenty of pricey camps available, but at $70 bucks a day, I quickly fell off my parenting high horse and found myself surrendering as he'd hook himself up to a virtual endless IV drip of Wii and Nickelodeon...a most intoxicating, accessible and addictive elixir.

I had to do something...fast.

Enter Camp Cool.

I'd been toying with the idea of a co-op camp for a few years but never seemed to pick up the phone or send out an email to make it happen. This summer was different. Will would start Kindergarten that fall and, at five, had made a handful of real buddies whose Moms I could possible rally. This might just work.

Between a couple of neighbors, and a friend of a friend or two, we committed our five guinea piglets, all set to enter the same class in the fall, to a week Camp Cool....perfect!

We enlisted the help of Carly and her best friend Siena who were just entering 7th grade at the time...prime babysitting age. Each day would be hosted by one of the moms, moving from house to house as the week progressed.

Carly and Siena thought of themes and activities for each day and the host mom had only to provide lunch, supervision and nerves of steel for one of the five days that week...a small price to pay for five days of serious entertainment and buddy bonding.

The inaugural year of Camp Cool proved to be a monumental success. Tie-dye, paper boat races, twister, refrigerator box fort building...come on...what's not to love.

Over the last few years, we have added and subtracted a camper or two depending on vacation schedules and alas, Carly and her friend are no longer 7th graders and are therefore no longer hip to spending one of their precious weeks of summer vacation with a group of boys...that is, a group of 9-year-old boys.

But us Moms have done a pretty good job of figuring it out ourselves, I must say.

Shark tooth necklaces and sunshine...

Wet and wild water play...

Custom "Camp Cool T's...


Fine art...

 Edible art (those are giant self-portrait cookies)...
Snacks, snacks and more snacks...

Scooters and kites...

Poker 101...

And, my favorite, "Young Enterprisers Day."

From marketing...

...to manufacturing...

...to sales and distribution...

...our little campers went home that day with an incredible sense of accomplishment and $8 bucks each rattling around in their gritty little pockets!

I'd like to think that perhaps some of the venture's success was due in part to the allure of the delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies that the boys so skillfully made and marketed. In reality, it probably had more to do with that pink furry hat, the "Yummy Yummy" sandwich board and an irresistible impish grin.

Regardless, here is my recipe for what I think are the most delicious chocolate chip cookies around. Finely ground oats, lots of vanilla, tons of chocolate chips and, yes, a combination of butter and shortening set these crisp yet soft delicacies apart from the standard Toll house variety.

Here's how it goes...

Blend oats until quite powdery and fine...set aside.

Cream together butter, shortening and sugars.

Mix in eggs and vanilla.

Mix together dry ingredients then add to wet.

I like to use a mix of bittersweet and semi-sweet chips (it's also what I had on hand). Mixing in milk chocolate chips is great too for a milder "bite."

Mix them in by hand or on slow speed.

My favorite size scoops is about the size of a golf ball and I always bake on a Silpat non-stick silicone baking sheet.

Hate to admit it, but I picked up this little trick from Martha. Blob your extra dough onto a parchment sheet like this...

...and shape into a log using your hands pressing with the parchment to avoid a sticky mess.

Tie the ends with kitchen twine...

...label and freeze for later use or to give as a unique hostess or housewarming gift. Keep them in a secret place in the freezer or they'll never make it into the oven.

Enjoy warm with icy cold leche.

Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cream together:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening (yes, Crisco!)
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups white sugar
Mix in one at a time:
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 tsp vanilla 
Sift together and gradually blend in:
  • 3 cups of oats, blended fine
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
Mix in in gently:
  • 24 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate chips

Bake for 9-11 minutes at 375°

Note: this is a double recipe...perfect for freezing.

No comments: