Fun with Names

People can tell you that they love the sound of waves crashing on the shore or birds singing in the trees, but common sense tells you (and studies have shown) that the sound people love more than any other is the sound of their own name. “How can I help you, Mr. Jones?” is so different than “How can I help you?”

When I was directing the training program at a high-end resort, we had a set of “behavioral standards” that helped staff to know, in general, the expectations for their interactions with guests. These were not the technical directives such as the wait staff offering to refill the guest’s coffee cup within three minutes of them finishing the cup they have or the housekeeping staff remaking the bed “tightly and attractively” during daily service. Behavioral standards were the basics like smiling, being polite and maintaining eye contact. Use the guest’s name, we told them. Do not underestimate the power of using someone’s name. Use it discreetly, but use it.

Using someone’s name builds good relations, makes people feel respected, shows attention to detail, is the ultimate personalization. There are good reasons why, when you sign in to a web page such as your email or credit card statement, you invariably see some form of “Hello, ______[your name]______” or “Welcome back, ______[your name]______.” These companies know the power of using your name and work hard to make it seem natural, as if you are being spoken to personally.

Plus it’s fun, especially if you have names like Eppie and Rise. And we should have fun wherever and whenever we can! This past week my granddaughters and I did something we have done twice before on previous visits (does this make it a tradition yet?). We made name pretzels! They may be only four and five, but they know their names!

eppie at the table (2).jpg

rise at the table (2).jpg

It’s rather tricky to guide a child in dough-rolling and take pictures at the same time, so many thanks to Fred, my friend who was visiting, for the great photos that follow.

For pizza dough and pretzels, I have used King Arthur Flour’s “Easiest Bread You’ll Ever Make” recipe for many years. I grant that all the practice I’ve had makes it easier for me than for someone who is new at it. Nonetheless, this is what I started with when I was new at it, and it has served me well. https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/hearth-bread-recipe

Once the girls have their aprons on and the dough is rising on the counter, it’s time for the real fun to begin. You pinch off a piece of dough and get a snake started, one snake at a time. Applying enough pressure to get the dough to stretch out lengthwise but not so much as to smoosh it is probably the trickiest part of this whole operation.

demonstrating rolling technique.JPG

But after a few of them, you get the idea.

snake (3).JPG

With a four-year-old and a five-year-old, this activity is about working with your hands to make something interesting and yummy. If it’s not perfect, it will be yummy anyway, but the fun for a child – think of it – writing your name using snakes of bread dough! And then getting to eat it!

Let’s start with E for Eppie (which is short for Eponine, in case you wondered).

starting the E (2).JPG

How proud and happy she was to see it take shape.

eppie admiring E (2).JPG

And R for Rise. Do we like it?

R.JPG

R is not so easy as E. A little tweak is in order.

R2.JPG

That’s better. She’s happy. I’m happy. Onward.

making R.JPG

I’m not sure this is strictly for kids either. Can you see yourself with your friends in your kitchen, party-time (!), each of you making your names? Eppie loved seeing hers!

eppie unbaked2 (2).JPG

By the way, those are silicone mats on my baking pans. I love them. Before I had these, I prepared the pans differently. I used to cut brown paper grocery bags to fit the pans and then greased the paper. This technique works beautifully but I prefer the mats. One less step.

Rise was equally proud of her name.

Rise unbaked.JPG

We also made OMA (for me, Oma), an F for Fred, and a J, A and W for Jennifer, Anna Lane and Will, our neighbors who were coming later to play. But before you bake them (at 400 degrees), you first have to paint beaten egg on them and then add salt. The painting is another artistic element for the girls to enjoy.

rise painting egg.JPG

When the time comes for adding salt, you can talk about how different people have different tastes, different preferences, even with something as simple as salt. Some like more, some like less. We put on as much as we wanted to, and in some cases more (oops) than we intended to, though their ability to distribute it carefully and evenly was quite remarkable. If you do put on too much, you can push it off later. We are using coarse salt, umpteen varieties of which are available to choose from.

eppie adding salt.JPG

While waiting for them to bake, the new swing came in very handy. I don’t know about the kids in your life, but these kids LOVE to swing!

swing3.JPG

We didn’t read as many books together this time as we did in March – I wonder why!

When the pretzels are good and browned, take the letters off the baking sheets to cool. Wire racks are perfect for this.

rise on cooling rack.jpg

Add a plate of cheese (this one has dried cranberries in it) and a perfect plum or some other fruit cut up, and you have lunch! A very special lunch!

eppie rise oma at table.JPG

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