Last week, a long-time friend brought her twin boys over for a play date. Which is code for "Wow, we really need to catch up, let's hope our kids will entertain each other for a couple of hours so we can chat!"
Anyway, at one point, she asked if you like playing with play-dough. I think the color probably drained out of my face as it hit me that to my knowledge, you've never even seen play-dough. What kind of mother am I? Nearly two years old, and you've never beheld the joy of that squishy colorful dough? Obviously the next course of action, well, after we finished chatting about our jobs and our families and all sorts of other very grown up conversation topics, was to start googling home-made play-dough recipes.
I swear I remembered making play-dough at home as a child, and I know that many of the parents I'm acquainted with have made it, so I figured it was a simple thing. I figured wrong. Nearly every recipe called for an ingredient I didn't have on hand (cream of tarter) or that I'd never even heard of before (what on earth is alum?) so I began to get discouraged. Then, I found it! A recipe for play-dough that calls for used coffee grounds and a few other things I happened to have on hand!
The next day, I started saving the daily coffee grounds in a separate container (they usually go in with other compostable things). By the end of the week, I had enough to make play-dough! After drying the coffee grounds (spread out on a cookie sheet in a 170 degree oven for an hour or so, if you're as clueless as I was about how to dry coffee grounds), I got everything I needed together. I just guessed on the water, because the recipe simply states "warm water" but doesn't specify how much. Perhaps this should have been my first clue about the...adventure that lied ahead.
I mixed up the dry ingredients as instructed. I marveled at how pretty the mixture looked, and how nice it felt to run my hands through. If you hadn't been napping at the time, I would have let you play with the mixture a bit. It probably would have been the most significant sensory experience you'd have gotten out of the whole mess.
In addition to not mentioning just how much (or even approximately how much) water to use, the recipe also lacked any direction about when or how to add color. I had the bright idea to separate the mixture out into 4 smaller containers so I could add color at the same time I added water.
I set to work adding food coloring and water. Now, the recipe does specifically say "this kind of play-dough has a different kind of texture", so I was expecting something...I don't know, maybe grittier than regular store-bought play-dough. What resulted was the furthest thing from dough that I've ever seen. think the chair I'm sitting on more closely resembles dough.
I was distraught. Not only was I disappointed that I wouldn't get to have the fun first play-dough experience with you I was looking forward to, but I'd wasted all of that cornmeal and salt. I'd taken all of these photos in anticipation of writing about how great the recipe turned out and how much fun we had with our play-dough. Before giving up, I figured I would try to save it. I got out the flour, and slowly started incorporating flour into each container. A few tablespoons, then a few more tablespoons. Eventually, I ended up with something relatively dough-like that looked like this:
Not even close to the photo on the recipe page, but I hoped it would at least be workable. The rest of that day was busy, so the next day, after your nap, I pulled out the play dough and formed a few small balls of it for you play with.
Even though it was a crumbly mess, you seemed to enjoy it, although you quickly lost interest and moved on to your chalk board. While you scribbled away, I started working with the dough, trying to warm it with my hands to make it more pliable, so I could make something, anything out of it.
And there you have it. Your first play-dough was a big ol' play-don't, but at least we got a smile out of it. Here's to many more kitchen experiments, hopefully with more success than this one!
P.S. Anyone have a good play-dough recipe, or know what alum is? ;)