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How We've Made 'Sundae Sunday' a Lasting Tradition

From the best pizza dough to movie selections...
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When we first implemented 'Sundae Sunday' as part of our routine, I didn't know if it was something that we would do one Sunday, then forget about over time. But it turned out to be the single thing our entire family looks forward to most each week. Sundays used to be the day where we were running around, getting things done and bopping between kids' birthday parties. Now, it's our day at home (i.e., like the rest of our days), but it's a little bit more slower paced and thoughtful. Below I've shared a few of the details that make it so special: 

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Geoffrey cooks in our house 98% of the time, while I pretty much exclusively bake (I think I've made one meal in quarantine, and told everyone in my life about it...). For that reason, I handle Sundae Sunday from start to finish—it's a nice way for me to give back to my family and spoil G. 

That being said, when we started this tradition, I gave myself an out: Because it's meant to be joyful, and never a chore, I decided that any Sunday I felt too tired or didn't want to be in the kitchen making dough all day, we would simply order in a pizza. That being said, we just had our six Sundae Sunday and I've made dough every time. There's something so evocative of childhood to see a bowl of dough rising on a summer afternoon on the kitchen counter—it creates a sense of anticipation that's almost as enjoyable as eating it. Each week, I pull from one of two recipes. 

Let's start with the first one: It's really is as simple as the title, "The Easiest Pizza You'll Ever Make" suggests. It's straightforward, makes little to no mess, and consistently turns out completely fine pizza. If I were to grade it, I would give it a B. And so, to know on those days when I'm busy organizing a bathroom, going for walks, and playing freeze-tag in the driveway, I can walk into the kitchen at 4 PM and still turn out dinner very quickly with little effort is amazing. 

This past weekend, because I was able to finally procure bread flour, I tackled my favorite recipe again. It was only then that I was reminded of how labor-intensive, but also worthwhile it is. Not only does it require multiple trips into the kitchen, for rises/punching down dough, wrapping, and securing it—which I actually find extraordinarily meditative—it's the multiple messes you make throughout the process that makes it so exhausting. It takes excessive force to unstick all of the pastry dough that inevitably gets stuck to your fingers and every surface it comes near and you have to do that several times.

When I made it last week, I told G to be honest with me, and share if the efforts are worthwhile. Turns out: They are. If I were to grade the pizza that comes out from this dough, it would be an A+. It's literally better than a good portion of the pizza we eat in L.A. (disclaimer: We are not in New York, so I'm aware the standards are slightly lower). The good news is: It makes six balls of dough, so we typically freeze two (I put them in a plastic bag with olive oil, and defrost it for quick, weeknight meals). 

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When we're an hour away from dinner, I turn on the oven to 500° F with the pizza stone at the bottom. From there, the most important thing is getting everything out on the counter. I set out a bowl of olive oil with a brush to apply it to the crust with a sprinkle of salt, pizza sauce, cheese, and toppings. For the first few weeks, we kept things simple and made cheese pizza with basil, but we've started to experiment by adding ingredients like sautéed onions, goat cheese, pepperoni, and mushrooms (I don't believe in mushrooms on pizza, but G loves them!).

I build each pizza on a flat baking sheet, making sure there's more than enough flour underneath so it can slide right onto the stone. I learned my lesson after one unfortunate evening when my pizza caught an edge and morphed into a crumpled calzone. Now, while I'm making and building it, I'm conscious to not put too many toppings on it and to scooch the stretched dough around to see if it can come off, to make the swift movement onto the stone seamless. 

I'll usually make four pizzas for the three of us and we bring it to the couch to eat. (Here are a few additional tips for making pizza, from one of my favorite restaurants in L.A.!) 

P.S., Though I haven't yet tried it, someone recently DMed me to say a pizza steel will change your life! I'm not exactly anxious to run out and get another tool for my kitchen, but if you're considering getting into the pizza space, that may be something to consider. 

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A lot of what we drink depends on the weather. On overcast Sunday afternoons, we'll open a bottle of red wine, but on sweltering days, where I'm shuffling between a hot kitchen and backyard, I'll make a gin and tonic. Sloan always has a Shirley Temple. 

And don't get me wrong, there's always going to be a dessert, but the name 'Sundae Sunday' is a bit of a misnomer at this point... after being in the kitchen all day, I don't want to get more things out than I need to. More often than not, we'll grab some candy or an ice cream sandwich from the freezer. 

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Especially now that we don't have much to look forward to (and going back to the importance of creating a routine for Sloan), having something fun pre-programmed into our weekend plans has been really nice for Sloan. Quarantine is hard to navigate with a kid, and the idea of now being out for summer feels like, "Now what?"

It's made me realize that we need to sprinkle in more of those random traditions she can rely on and anticipate—maybe every Tuesday afternoon, I'm finding a new DIY for her. I compare it to when I was a kid and the teacher would promise a pizza or ice cream party. In reality, the pizza would be cold or there'd only be enough for one slice, but the promise of it was always the part that tasted best. I know it's something she cherishes and looks forward to. 

Sloan loves to be involved in the kitchen, and has always insisted on helping with the dough portion, which isn't ideal seeing as it already creates an enormous mess and is hard to handle, but we've found a compromise that works for our family:

I've learned firsthand the importance of giving her kitchen tasks that are age appropriate. Beyond the obvious (not allowing her to handle a butcher knife), if I were to give her a ball of pizza dough and have her create a ten-inch round, there would be tears when she failed, so I try to set her up for success. I bring her stool to the countertop and set everything out for her. Even though the toppings aren't always in ideal proportions, she feels proud of herself for having made a pizza on her own, and while she's eating hers, G and I assemble the rest.

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Typically, when we let Sloan watch a movie—which we do everyday now around dinner time (quarantine)—it's time G and I can use to clean, make dinner, or chat, so she's on her own. Our first inclination whenever we allow her to watch tv is to productive, but we've implemented a rule to not even have our phones nearby so we can actively watch the movie with her on Sundays. Plus, we're watching some of the first live action movies she's ever seen, so we're usually fielding a lot of questions. 

We alternate selecting our movie each week, though we also help steer Sloan. On the weeks where she gets to choose, we'll offer feedback because we never want the evening to turn into something G and I aren't genuinely enjoying too. Last week was Father's Day, so G chose the first StarWars The Force Awakens. We've watched E.T, Babe, and The Secret of NIMH (purely nostalgic from my childhood!).

At the beginning of quarantine, there was little that differentiated the weekends from the weekdays, which became problematic since we weren't taking time off of work. As soon as we began to isolate our weekends though, Sunday Scaries came back. Having something consistent to look forward to every Sunday has been an enormous help—and is something my entire family cherishes. x

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