It’s Not All Mary Poppins

When is a cookie not a cookie?

I’ve lost my salt dough recipe! Fortunately, I have a computer and I have Mr. Google. In .0006 seconds, I have 47 gazillion salt dough recipes. They are all the same:

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 1/4 cups hot tap water
(2 t oil, optional)

We count range around the big metal bowl on the kitchen floor. “One!……Twooooo…… threeee…. fooooour!”

“We makin’ cookies, Mary?”

“No, we’re making dough. We will make pretty things for your Christmas tree with the dough.”

Then the salt. I hold up the pyrex container and the box of salt. “We need one cup of salt, guys. I’m going to pour up to this line. You tell me to stop when it’s up to the line, okay?” I pour, and pour, and stop.

“It’s not up to the line, Mary! You needa keep goin’!”

Except I can’t. One-third a cup is all that’s in the box. Nuts.

“Why are you puttin’ the flour away?”
“Isn’t we going to make cookies?”

“Yes, we are. No, not cookies, but yes. I just don’t need so much flour any more. We need exactly one-third as much as we needed before.”

“Okay!” Their famous contrariness notwithstanding, toddlers take a lot of adult inexplicability without any hesitation whatsoever. We’re making cookies but not? Mary needs a one-third of before? Okay, then, Mary! You go!

In goes one-third the flour, one-third the salt. We take turns stirring the powders. Emily swooshes the spoon gently side to side, Timmy dabs cautiously at the bottom of the bowl, Anna stirs the wooden spoon in tiny circles, Nigel (it was inevitable) manages to flip a spoon of flour and salt skyward. Malli, contrary Malli, holds the spoon upright and completely still for 90 seconds, staring at the rest of us, daring us to argue.

We don’t. Which ticks her right off, so that when I say, “My turn, Malli!”, she attempts to hang on to the spoon. Her immovable force meets my irresistable object. “It’s my turn, Malli. You can give me the spoon, or I can take it, but it is my turn now.” I’m calm but resolute. This is not a negotiating ploy; it is fact. She considers for a second, then hands it over. If reason and fairness don’t succeed, and succeed promptly, and I must take the spoon from her, I’m perfectly willing to do so. She knows this.

I reward her with a warm smile. “Thank you, hon.” And with a little extra responsibility. “Would you like to pour the water in?” She does.

The resultant ball of dough is much smaller than normal. Two-thirds smaller, in fact. A little kneading, it’s nice and glossy. Grouped round the dining table, they watch me roll it out. Then we hand out the cookie cutters.

“We going to cut out the cookies, now?”

“We going to cut shapes from the dough. But these aren’t cookies, lovie. They are going to be for your Christmas tree.”

So we cut shapes, using cookie cutters. And we put the shapes on a cookie tray. But they are not cookies!

Then I incise a hole where the ribbon will go by pressing the end of a straw into the dough and lifting it out. The end of the straw is sealed witha plug of dough, but that’s easily remedied. Pfft! A salt-dough plug bounces on the table in front of Timmy. Anna and Timmy screech with laughter. After that, each plug is eagerly anticipated. My pea-shooting days were long behind me, but this is fun. I bounce them off each child in turn, much to their delight. Timmy carefully gathers up each tiny bit of dough.

Anna tries to eat one. “Anna, don’t eat that. It tastes yukky.”

“It’s a cookie!”

“No, love, it’s not a cookie.” It’s dough, we rolled it out, we cut it with cookie cutters, we put it on a cookie sheet, and now we’re putting them in the over, but THEY’RE NOT COOKIES. ??? Yes, adults are truly inexplicable.

Anna looks at the tiny piece of dough in her hand, then gives me a suspicious glare. Yeah, right, lady. Another glance at the dough, and then – pop! – into her mouth it goes.

Her eyes squinch, her chin draws back, and she erupts in a spray of saliva and slimy salt dough.

“Those cookies is yukky!”

“That’s because they’re not cookies, love. I did warn you.”

She glares at me, scrubbing her tongue on her sleeve. Warned her, forsooth! Like that’s any excuse.

They are now cooling on the stove. After nap, we will paint them. Because they are not cookies. At all.

December 6, 2007 - Posted by | Christmas, crafts, food, Malli, power struggle


  1. “Yeah, right, lady.” I’ve seen that look more times than I’d like to admit. 😛

    Great post.

    Comment by Sheri | December 6, 2007 | Reply

  2. Add a package of unsweetened Kool Aid drink mix- yummy smell and color! (Best for playdoh and not ornaments)

    Comment by Jill | December 6, 2007 | Reply

  3. Oh my! That was a great post. I was rolling around with laughter at the end!

    I’ve seen that look one too many times too!

    Comment by Nanny Sarah | December 7, 2007 | Reply

  4. Yeah, but haven’t we all tried a little bit? Just to check they are as yucky as one quarter salt suggests?

    Comment by Z | December 7, 2007 | Reply

  5. Mary- I’m curious about what you do when the kids tries it and likes it. Maybe it’s just the kids I take care of- but I’ll tell them something will taste bad and it’s yucky, etc… then they still put it in their mouth, but they actually like it! I know sometimes they say it just to mess with me, but sometimes they really seem to like it! Then I have to come up with another strategy to keep it out of their mouth (kids put weird stuff in their mouths!)

    Comment by Julia | December 7, 2007 | Reply

  6. Thank you thank you thank you!
    I needed a great idea for my kiddo to keep busy on rainy winter days (we have an abundance of them here in the pacific nw) and this was just the perfect inspiration! I made the dough while he was sleeping, though, so I didn’t have to explain the “it’s not a cookie” issue…
    Did you know that you can microwave instead of baking? 2-4 minutes depending on how many and thickness… huge time saver!
    Thanks for keeping us chuckling and inspired!

    Comment by Jennifer | December 9, 2007 | Reply

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