This past week, I made six pairs of pants. Maybe eight. I've lost count. Also, I ripped out the hems on five others. They were all too long, just last fall. By Christmas, too short. By February? Where's the flood? I learned early on to build BIG hems. Those fall pants fit again. For another twelve seconds.
Now, you and I know that no girl actually needs thirteen pairs of pants. Seven's sufficient. Nine, ample. Thirteen? Well. Call me Overboard.
In my defense, she had oodles of lovely bright hand-me-down shirts and nothing to go with. (She is a girl. This is a thing.) Also, I suspect these may be the last pants I get to sew. Kindergarten will soon (eep!) be behind us, and with more years and more school, there's more longing to blend. I get that. I totally do. There's a fine line between making a child clothes, and inflicting them upon her. A good rule of thumb is to cease before hearing, Gosh, Mom, my pants match the curtains...
Right now, we're on the right side of that equation. I fully intend to respect that.
But image isn't the only thing. This winding down is in part logistics. I realized on this last go that we're rapidly approaching the 1-yard threshold. This may not make sense to most of you. But if you sew? For kids? You know.
You know that the day you can no longer cut pants from a clean yard is as much a milestone as walking, talking, texting. Last weekend, the last of the tub toys quietly, unceremoniously left the bathroom. We all shower now. The rubber ducky days are over. A yard's insufficient. It is how it is. (Whoa.)
Patterns follow suit. I went to make a sundress from Heather Ross' Weekend Sewing recently, one I dog-eared years ago with every intention of making soon-soon, only to find I apparently was not soon-soon enough. The sundress topped out at 4T. I have a 6T. And just ordered seven pairs of size 18 jeans.
(I'm sorry, but who here authorized my 13-year-old to grow so tall, so fast? And could you please, like, clear it with me first?)
So it goes when you forget to learn to sew until your littles are almost big. When burp cloths and stuffed balls are history. When baby blankets and bloomers and dear tiny fat-quarter things are already irrelevant.
So as my skills have exploded from bobbin-winding 101 to bi-pedal pants, I've begun searching for sewing needs. The odd doll (and a wardrobe). A pink polka-dotted giraffe. A woolly bunny with Liberty-lined ears. And lots and lots of pj's and pants. I make excuses, basically.
I make excuses because sewing is something new, a skill, and new skills are good. I know this because whenever I sew, I feel stupid, at least half the time. The way I see it, complacency and stagnation are the two main enemies of age. It is hard to feel complacent and stagnant and 51% stupid, simultaneously.
I do it, too, because sewing lets me practice problem-solving, first-hand. Problem-solving, as any parent knows, is one the main life lessons we teach. And I teach it impeccably. I dish wise advice. I rationally dissect the process. I smoothly review the steps and techniques. And lose it all instantly when I've attached the bag strap the wrong way round. For the third time.
So sewing begets humility. At least for me. And empathy. And a keen awareness of my own innate talent for human error and seriously wrong pants. You've probably got these down cold. (Well, maybe not that last one.) Me, I need reminding. I need seam ripping. I need false starts, wrong thinking, false hubris, and dazed and confused unrelenting frustration. Sewing delivers. In spades.
And then there's the fact that sewing's like this language I meant to learn, but never quite did. The sewing vein runs so deep in my genes, it's like I'm some second generation upstart who never bothered learning to read, or write, or even understand, the mother tongue. This ignorance, it gets old. Eventually, you want to know from button holes.
Also: that crunch sewing scissors make as they slice through cotton? *Chwooosh*. That sound. Like the smell of fresh rain on warm Spring cement. But for your ears. (Never mind.)
Also, pants. The girl actually needs pants! She's still no fan of jeans. And leggings, which she likes, especially with dresses, are great for dress-days. But not every day's a dress day. Indeed, most days are anything but. The girl needs gear for what fills those days. Rock tumbling. Snow romping. Crayon painting. Clay rolling. Puzzle piecing. Flopping down on the floor and reading. Pretend feast-making with friends all morning. Wee wooden peg doll painting. (This book!!) Anything, everything, no-excuses pants. I'm all over that. Some excuses are better than others.
So it is with these chocolate chip cookies. Majority opinion in my house does not favor embellishments, additions, or modifications of any kind to our beloved house standard. Save the addition of ice cream in summer, these cookies sit somewhere between holy ground and sacrosanct. I get that, too. The purity thing. The don't-mess-with-perfection perspective. I feel the same way about mac and cheese. I would never add lobster or gorgonzola or broccoli to cozy pitch-perfect cheese and carb bliss.
But chocolate chip cookies? Turns out I'm a traitor. And a repeat one, at that. And oh, I do hope that you are one, too. Because although I'm no ordinary chocolate chip cookie mucker-upper, I am in this case. This case is worthy.
I made these first for a get-together, last summer, with lots of adults, and so, an excuse. It was nothing: a tumble of walnuts, a tip of nibs, this and that to interest things up. I hoped for a little texture, and got it. And a whole lot more, besides.
I'd forgotten just how much I love the way walnuts work with chocolate chip cookies. Their earthen sweet, their buttered snap, sit so well against the underlying butterscotch that is the backbone of the breed. They're comic relief to chocolate's weight, a soft mellow answer to sugar's shrill.
Add to this a toss of nibs, those nubs of pure, roasty, unsweetened bean. Their bittersweet brings this gravitas, these little punctuation points along the eating. And their texture, that beguiling crunch, somehow tender and taut, all at once, interjects one more layer of happy. You wind up with this triumverate of crisp, walnut, nib, caramelized dough, variations on the theme of crunch, each grand; together, better. Meanwhile, the chocolate/sugar monologue is broken up, relieved by the walnut/nib newcomers. It's like adding a blaze orange Chesterfield to an all-blue room. A really swell break in routine. And if you ask me? Better than the original.
Since last summer, I've found at least a dozen excuses to make these cookies. (Bake sales! Block parties! Because!) And along the way, I've discovered two things. They are so addictive, so good, even my nut-averse children will eat them, all the while claiming they "like (chomp chomp) the other ones (crunch crunch) better." And two, if you look hard enough? Excuses are out there, just waiting to be found. In fact, I think I just gave you one.
Loaded Chocolate Chip Cookies w/ Cocoa Nibs + Walnuts
adapted from our beloved chocolate chip cookies
Yield: 3-4 dozen cookies (18-24 sandwiches)
We usually use standard Nestle chips, but last week, faced with a rare shortage, made these with one bag of Ghiradelli bittersweet chips and 1 1/2 cups of standard Nestle morsels. Amazing. The Ghiradelli were dark and big and wonderful; the smaller Nestle chips nestled in between. Highly recommended. Cocoa nibs are available at well-stocked grocers and online. We use whole wheat flour exclusively in our chocolate chip cookies, adoring its nutty flavor and texture. And, why, yes, that IS two teaspoons' salt, and twice the chocolate most cookies call for. Because that's how we roll.
2 cubes + 2 tablespoons (9 oz.) salted butter, sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup, packed, dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
generous 1/2 cup cocoa nibs
Place two racks in center positions, and preheat oven to 350°. Line two heavy baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and salt on medium speed, until thoroughly combined but not yet fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape sides, add egg, and mix, 30 seconds. Scrape sides, add vanilla, and mix, 30 seconds. Add flour, baking soda and baking powder, and mix on lowest speed, just until combined, 30 seconds. Add chocolate chips, walnuts and nibs, and mix 10-20 seconds, until just combined. Finish incorporating by hand, if needed.
Scoop dough into 1" balls, and arrange them 10 to a tray, staggering them in rows of 3, 2, 3, 2. Flatten each ball slightly with a damp hand, to half an inch in height, then bake for ten minutes. Remove trays from oven, rap sharply against stove or countertop several times to release air, reverse trays (front to back, and top to bottom), and return to oven for another 3-4 minutes. Cookies are finished when gloss is just gone, edges are slightly darkened, and centers are just set. Cookies will continue to bake and firm as they cool. Remove cookies from oven, allow to cool on trays 10-15 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely, 30 minutes or so.