Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sugar Cookie Bars

While looking for an easy treat for my son to take to his class for Valentine's Day, I came across these:
They took 30 minutes start to finish and the kids loved them! (So much better and easier than roll out sugar cookies!) 

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla. 
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. 
Pour the dough in a greased sheet cake pan. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. (Make sure you don't over-bake.)

Frosting ingredients: 
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar
5 Tbsp milk

Whip the butter and Crisco together. Add the vanilla and salt. Add the powdered sugar 2 cups at a time. Then add the milk and whip until fluffy. Add food coloring of your choice.

Spread the frosting on the cool cookie and add sprinkles of your choice. 

Cut into bars and serve. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine's Day Gratitude Hearts

Before February started, I had everyone fill out at least three hearts for each person in the family. They could write down something they loved about the other person or could write down something the other person is good at. Each day in February, I added a new heart to each person's bedroom door. (This could be used any time of the year!)

Valentine's Day Scavenger Hunt #5

Our 5th Annual Valentine's Day Scavenger Hunt. 

Scavenger Hunts are this Family’s Way
To Bring A Little Fun to this Valentine’s Day.
So Grab Your Siblings and Some Spirit, Too,
And Head Behind the Couches for the 1st Clue.

These Couches Are Comfy
And Nice for Resting.
Your Next Stop is Where
The Little Girl Likes Nesting.

Rachel’s Room is Messy
And It Needs to Be Cleaned.
So Let’s Move to Where
Lysol Wipes Can be Gleaned.

These Wipes Make Things Sparkle
And Shine With a Shimmer.
Another Clue Awaits
Where Dad Grills our Dinner.

The Garage is so Chilly
We Should’ve Worn a Hat.
But First, Check the Corner
Where the Boys Keep the Bats.

We’re Round 3rd Base
They’re Waving us Home.
The Jackpot Awaits
Where Mom Charges Her Phone!

Valentine's Day Claw Machine Box That Moves

My son has always loved the claw machine. So, we decided to try to make our own for his Valentine's Day box this year. While it doesn't actually pick up toys, the claw does move up and down. (Really the same result as the claw machines you see in the store!) 

We started by spray painting two sturdy boxes. Then we cut a large hole out of the larger box. We cut a flap in the bottom box to represent the toy drop out slot. The joystick is actually a test tube container we had from a science kit. We put water and food coloring in the test tube to make it look dark. We used modeling clay to keep the joystick in place. The press button is the circle from a used roll of duck tape. We covered that with fancy duck tape and hot glued it to the box. I found a $2 sheet of Plexiglas material from Menards. That slid right into place to keep the toys in place. 

The claw moves because of our Rule your Room LittleBits kit ( This kit has endless possibilities for the things kids can create. It is definitely worth the money if your kid is interested in circuits and creating things. We used the mechanical arm set up to make the claw move. The claw is just pieces of a wire hanger we cut and bent to make a claw shape. We hot glued and taped the claw pieces together and hung them from the mechanical arm. 

The last step was cutting a small hole in the side of the box to flip the switch on so the claw will move. 

Chocolate Banana Muffins

This is one of my favorite Taste of Home recipes. These muffins are preferred by my kids over banana bread. 

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the bananas, egg, and oil. Add to flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. 

I line my muffin tins with paper and fill. Bake at 350 degrees for about 18-20 minutes. 

Remove to a wire rack to cool. 

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

I found this Olive Garden copycat recipe online (  and altered it a little. 

4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup flour
1 cup whipping cream
3 cups milk 
(If you don't have whipping cream, you could do 4 cups half and half or 4 cups whole milk) 
28 oz of chicken broth
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped spinach
1 cup chopped, cooked rotisserie chicken 
1 16 oz package of gnocchi (I chop it in half before adding it)

Start by melting the butter and oil in a large saucepan. Add the celery and onions and garlic. Let that cook down for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. 

Whisk in the whipping cream and milk. Simmer that until it thickens. Add the chicken broth. Let it thicken again. Stir in some salt, the thyme, parsley, nutmeg, carrots, spinach, chicken, and gnocchi. The gnocchi will cook pretty quickly. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes before serving. Season with more salt if desired. 

Deep Dish Pizza

I found a recipe for Deep Dish Pizza in a cast iron pan and had to try it. I altered the Taste of Home original a little bit and came up with this...

3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 Tbsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil

1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 jar (about 15 oz) pizza sauce
mozzarella cheese
(any toppings of your choice)

This recipe will make enough for two crusts. You may have to add a little more pizza sauce/diced tomatoes depending on how much sauce you like. 

Start by combining 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, 1 Tbsp yeast, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt. 
Warm the water and olive oil in the microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes. 
Add the warm water/oil to the dry ingredients. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining flour and knead for 6-8 minutes with a stand mixer or your hand. 
Cover the dough in a bowl and place in a warm location and let rise for about 30 minutes. 

Punch the dough down and roll out into two circles. Grease the bottom and sides of your cast iron pan with oil. Place the dough in the bottom of the pan and spread up the sides of the bowl. (I only have one cast iron pan. If you don't want to wait to bake both crusts, you can bake this in a springform pan.) 

Put about 2 cups of mozzarella cheese on top of each crust.

 Mix the diced tomatoes (that have been drained) and pizza sauce. Spread the sauce on top of the cheese. 

Add any toppings of your choice. We add pepperoni and bacon. 

Then sprinkle each pizza with about a cup of mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese if you would like. 

Cover the pan with tin foil and bake in a 450 degree oven for about 30-35 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Trolls Photo Board

 Trolls, the movie, came out today. To celebrate, we made this photo board to do our own Troll's photo shoot. The kids have a blast with these! 

I just free-handed the trolls' bodies and cut out a circle for the faces. Then I painted the bodies with acrylic paint. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

2017 Super Bowl Commercial Bingo Cards

We have played Super Bowl Commercial Bingo for four years now. The kids love it! I use the website Ad Age to compile my list of commercials that are most likely to appear in the first half. (

I copy and paste the pictures around the scorecard to make different bingo cards for each kid. Here is a link you can make a copy of and transform any way you see fit:

I didn't have any colored ink in my printer last year, so I saved the scorecard image and uploaded it as a 5x7 picture to Walmart One Hour Photo.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Boston Cream Cupcakes

The kids have been really interested in baking lately. David decided we would make gourmet cupcakes every weekend. This is the first recipe he wanted to try ( They were so delicious! 

1 box yellow cake mix, prepared
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp flour
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups milk
3 3/4 powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa
pinch of salt
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup cream

Prepare the cupcakes according the box. Let them cool after baking. 

Meanwhile, add the milk and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a low boil. 

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, flour, and sugar together. 
Temper the eggs by whisking in 1/4 of the hot milk mixture. Then pour the tempered egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining hot milk and vanilla. 

Bring the mixture up to a low boil, stirring constantly. Let it thicken. Then set aside to cool. (I put it in the refrigerator to speed up the process.) 

When the cupcakes and cream are cooled, cut out the center of the cupcakes. Fill with the cream. I cut the top of the cut out piece and placed it on top of the cream. 

To make the frosting, add powdered sugar, cocoa, and salt. Add the butter and cream. Whip it until it is fluffy. Pipe the frosting on top of the cupcakes. Store in the refrigerator. The cupcakes are best when they are cold from the refrigerator. 

Garlic Noodles

I found this recipe on Pinterest ( and gave it a try yesterday. It was so good, I made them again today. 

8 oz angel hair pasta
4 cloves garlic
5-6 green onions
4 Tbsp butter
2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp oyster sauce

Start by boiling water for the pasta. Meanwhile, chop the green onions and set aside. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and oyster sauce. 
In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add the minced garlic. Add most of the green onions (leave some for garnish at the end). Cook for 1-2 minutes and pull off the heat. 
When the noodles are done cooking, drain the water and add the noodles to the saucepan with the green onions. Put the sauce on top of that and mix together. Add the remaining green onions to the top for a garnish. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 New Year's Eve Balloon Countdown for Kids

We are ready for our 4th Annual New Year's Eve Balloon Countdown of Activities. (A link to our previous activities can be found here:

I have added some minute-to-win-it style games along with some STEM activities this year. 
The last activity before midnight is a 17-clue Scavenger Hunt designed by my husband. 

The activities: 
Mentos/Diet Coke experiment
Make fortune cookies
Make colorful cupcakes 
Make wishing wands
Water Experiment
Glow in the dark jello
Visit my concession stand
Fill out annual question sheet
Confetti eruptions
Photo Booth
Stack it up game (25 pennies stacked with one hand in 1 minute)
Suck it up (move m&m candy from one plate to another)
Stack attack (stack 21 cups in a pyramid in a minute)
Moving it up (move opposite color cup all the way through the stack)
Glow in the dark bouncy balls
Streamer party ball
Make soft pretzels
Scoop it up game (move ping pong balls from one bowl to another)
Make a time capsule
Make fire ice cream
Make glowing exploding bags
Make party slime
Magic milk fireworks
Glow in the dark ring toss
Defy gravity game. (Keep two balloons in air using only 1 hand)
Scavenger Hunt

The clues for the hunt:
It’s New Year’s Eve
And the Hunt Begins.
Start the Search
Where Shoes Have Been

Shoes Can Be Stinky
It’s Sad but True.
Dad’s Cologne Helps
The Smell and the Next Clue.

Too Much Cologne
And You’ll Smell Like Matt.
Get the Next Clue Where He
Takes Relaxing Baths.

This Drain Was All Clogged
So We Fixed it with Borax.
This Journey Continues
With Rachel’s Favorite Fruit Snacks.

Secret Life of Pets
Was Not a Great Movie.
But the Game on Dad’s iPad
Is Really Quite Groovy.

Wind is Blowing
And the Chimes are Ringing.
Another Clue is Located
Where Rachel’s been Singing.

You Found Daddy’s iPad
Where it Made Most Sense.
The Next Clue is Hiding
Where Mom Hides Presents.

This Closest is Perfect
But It’s Not the Only One.
Another Clue Awaits
In the Closet of the Sons.

The Boys Closet’s Messy
As No One Can Argue.
Is Rachel’s Even Worse?
Check it Out, Won’t You?

Think You’re Done With Closets?
You Best Think Again.
There’s Another Closet
Where Our Coats Have Been.

The Search Must Continue
For Our Excited Pair.
Look for a New Clue
Underneath Dad’s Chair.

Chairs are So Comfy
A Great Place for a Seat.
But Behind the Couch--
Now That is Sweet!

The NES Classic
Has Been a Family Hit.
You Might Find Clue
Somewhere Near It.

Video Games Are Great
But we would rather be in the pool.
Move The Search Along
To Where Food Stays Cool.

Cold Food Is Yummy
But Some Like it Hot.
The Oven Has No Clues
The Microwave? Maybe, Maybe Not.

When Food Gets Stuck
In Your Teeth It Is Gross, Methinks.
You Should Go Get A Toothbrush,
Maybe Near the Sink?

The Search Has Ended
The New Year Is Near.
2017 Will Be Great
Because We’re Full Of Cheer!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Gingerbread Man Hunt

One of our daily Christmas activities was a gingerbread man hunt. At the end of the hunt, the kids were led to gingerbread cookie dough and supplies to make a gingerbread man book. 

Here are the clues: 
1. Run, run, as fast as you can; you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man! Follow the clues to catch him! 
2. (was with number 1) I was in the kitchen, but not anymore. I may be caught running by the back door. 
3. Oh you are just seconds too slow. Try finding me where Yoda's light saber will glow. 
4. Oh darn, you are just missing me...Maybe I'm in the Christmas tree! 
5. Nope, not hiding in here. Maybe I'm by the bathroom mirror. 
6. Now I'm running out of steam...I'll be waiting where you store the whipped cream. 

The book cover is made from construction paper and wax paper. The kids decorated their own gingerbread puppet to place in the oven. 

The oven door opens so the gingerbread man can stay stored there until the story is read. 
I stapled paper to the cover and the kids wrote a story for the gingerbread man. 
Page 1: Run, Run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man. 
Page 2:The gingerbread man ran over a hill. 
Page 3: The gingerbread man ran up a tree.
Page 4: The gingerbread man ran into a barn
Page 5: The gingerbread man ran by a lake.
Page 6: The gingerbread man on top of a fox's back. The fox said, "Come a little closer, I  can't hear you." Run, Gingerbread Man, run! 
Full book details can be found on: