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Monday, August 25, 2014

Zucchini Bread

My mom makes this zucchini bread all the time in the summer while the zucchini is abundant. She shared the recipe with us and we made it last night. It is delicious! 

Ingredients: 
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup canola oil
3 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
(1/2 cup chopped nuts can be added if desired) 

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. 

Add the eggs, vanilla, oil, and zucchini

Stir until combined. 

Pour into two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. 

Place on a wire rack to cool. 



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to School Activity Wall

With just over a week left of summer vacation, we decided to create a Back to School Activity Wall. Intead of using the tree I created from paper, I found a large bulletin board tree at Joann Fabrics. It worked great, and I will be able to use it for different seasons as well. (I will use the different colored leaves and acorns for the activity pieces in the future.)  
For the back to school wall, I used apples as the activity pieces.  I found these at Joann Fabrics as well. I wrote the crafts on the apples and added them to the tree. Each day the kids will pick a different apple and that will be the activity for the day. 
Our apples say: 
*Spaghetti Sensory play
*All about me rainbow
*Make a marshmallow bridge
*Make snack bags for school
*Back to school scavenger hunt
*Back to school photo booth
*Compass painting
*Make bouncy balls
*Camp-out in the living room for drive-in movie



Spaghetti Sensory Play

The kids had a blast with the first activity on our Back to School wall (http://workingmomwonders.blogspot.com/2014/08/back-to-school-activity-wall.html) . I cooked up a box of spaghetti and divided it up for the three trays. Each kid got a pair of scissors, a paint brush, and a plate containing their choice of paints. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kindergarten Treats

After talking with a few of the "Kindergarten moms", we found a lot of our kids were still pretty nervous about the big day. So, we decided to meet up at the school playground for a picnic. Hopefully seeing some familiar faces on the first day will help them. 

This was our contribution to the picnic. 

Apple cupcakes: I dipped the frosted cupcakes in red decorating sugar. Then we stuck in a pretzel stick for the stem, added some green frosting for the leaf, and finished it off with a gummy worm. 

We made up some treat bags for kids too. The first item was actually a pretend treat. I wrapped a pink eraser in wax paper to resemble a piece of taffy. 

The ruler says, "Kindergarten Rules!". The bag of Smartie candy says, "Hey there, Smartie! Good luck in Kindergarten!" The bag of goldfish says, "You're O-Fish-ally a Kindergartner!" The Pop Rocks say, "This year is going to ROCK!" 



Elephant Ears

After going to the fair yesterday, I really got a craving for elephant ears. Because I didn't want to spend $6 for one elephant ear, I decided to make my own.  (This recipe came from Allrecipe's magazine.) They turned out really well and were much cheaper than the fair elephant ears! 

Ingredients: 
3/4 cups milk
3 Tablespoons Crisco shortening
1/4 cup sugar (divided) 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoons yeast
2 cups flour
oil for frying
1 1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon

Combine the milk, shortening, 1 Tablespoon sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat until the shortening is melted and the sugar is dissolved. 

Let it cool until it is luke warm.


Stir in the yeast and let it sit for a couple of minutes, or until it becomes foamy.
Stir in 2 cups of flour. I used my mixer to knead the dough until it became smooth, but you could do it by hand if you don't have a mixer. 

Put the dough in a bowl that has been greased with oil. Cover the bowl and let it sit for about 30 minutes in a warm place. 


After the dough is doubled, break it into 12-15 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a circle . (about 1/8 inch thin)


Heat your oil in a deep saucepan. Drop one of the sheets of dough into the hot oil and let it cook for about 15-20 seconds on each side. (It will bubble up, but don't break the bubbles.) As soon as it bubbles and starts to get brown, turn it over and repeat on the other side. 

Combine the remaining sugar (3 Tablespoons) and 1 1/2 Tablespoons of cinnamon. Sprinkle the cooked dough with the cinnamon/sugar mixture as soon as it comes out of the oil. 

Serve warm. 






Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kids' Homemade Soap

A friend shared this idea with me yesterday on Facebook (http://www.simplydesigning.net/2014/08/make-kids-soap.html). I tracked down all the supplies at Hobby Lobby today for under $15. (And there is stuff left to make more than twice as many bars of soap. (Under $1.50 per bar of soap)

Ingredients:
I bought a block of clear glycerin soap. (I used the 40% off coupon that can be found online for Hobby Lobby)
I found a soap mold for just over $2. I decided to use an oval mold. They had many others to choose from. 
Then I picked up some little animal figures. I was going to use my daughter's little Frozen princesses, but she didn't want to give them up for the soap. You could use anything that fits inside the mold to decorate the soap. 
The final ingredient was a few drops of DoTerra Essential oils for the scent. (We used lemon, lavender, and orange--in separate batches.)

Steps:
I placed some of the glycerin blocks in a microwave-safe bowl. I heated it for 40 seconds, then stirred it. I put it in for 10 second intervals until it was fully melted, stirring after every 10 seconds.
After melted, drop 6 drops of oils for every two bars of soap. Stir in the oils. 

Then pour the melted glycerin over the animals you place in the mold. 


Just make sure the animals are completely covered with the glycerin. (Place them upside down so they are face up when the soap comes out of the mold.)

Let the soap sit for about 40 minutes. I ran a butter knife around the edge of the mold and it popped right out. 




Thursday, August 14, 2014

Firework Cupcakes

The Michigan Library Summer Reading Program theme this summer was "Spark a Reaction". Our library decided to use this theme and incorporate fireworks into all of the decorations. For the end-of-the-program party, we decided to make these firework cupcakes for all of the kids.

To start, I melted colored chocolate discs in the microwave. I filled one of my frosting decorating tools with the melted chocolate and topped it with a large line tip. 

I covered a cookie sheet with wax paper. Then I placed lollipop sticks on the wax paper. (I bought these at a bulk food store that sells candy molds.) 
I made a circle at the top of the lollipop mold with the chocolate. Then I drew lines coming out of the center. I covered most of the stick with the chocolate as well.  Then, I put sprinkles on top of the chocolate. Make sure you put the sprinkles on immediately after making each individual firework because the chocolate sets fast. 
I placed the cookie sheet in the freezer for about 5 minutes. When they were fully set, I moved them to a piece of wax paper on my countertop and repeated the process on the cookie sheet with other colors. 


I frosted cupcakes and placed sprinkles on them. Then I stuck in the firework stick to give it a 3D look. 

 



Saturday, August 9, 2014

Toy Story Birthday Cake

Rachel wanted a Toy Story party for her 3rd birthday. So, I did my best to create a cake that resembled her favorite character, Jessie. 

I started by making two 9-in round cakes. After they were cool I leveled them off and placed one on top of the other. Then I baked two 8-in round cakes. After those were cool, I leveled both of them with a serrated knife and placed those two on top of the 9-inch cakes. 

I covered the cakes with a thin layer of white frosting. Then I added red frosting to the top of the cake. (If I had to do this again, I would have done the red last. It was difficult to keep the red from mixing with the yellow.)

Then I added yellow and white frosting to resemble Jessie's shirt. The bottom 9-inch cakes are frosted with blue frosting. I piped on brown frosting to resemble her belt. I also added white lines to the top to resemble Jessie's hat. 

I added some decorative lines to the shirt component using red frosting. 
I used cow print felt pieces to cover the cake board. Then I added Rachel's Toy Story figures. 

 
The last steps were to braid licorice rope pieces and place them around the bottom of the cake and write the message on the top. 



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Crock Pot Quinoa Hash

I have been trying to find some healthier crock pot casserole recipes. I stumbled upon this recipe while I was searching for recipes that use quinoa: http://www.chelseasmessyapron.com/slow-cooker-tex-mex-qunioa-casserole/#_a5y_p=1753511

I altered the recipe to fit what I had in my cupboard. 

Ingredients: 
1 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well with warm water
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 can corn, drained
1 medium green pepper, diced
1 chipotle pepper (comes in a can--chipotle peppers in adobe sauce), diced 
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion
1 lb hamburger
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1/2 Tablespoon cumin
3 cups chicken broth (water could be substituted)
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 Tablespoons taco seasoning
mozzarella cheese (optional) 

Add the quinoa, black beans, tomatoes, corn, green pepper, chipotle pepper, chili powder, cumin, and chicken broth to the crock pot. 

Meanwhile, brown your hamburger with the onion and garlic. Add the browned hamburger to the crock pot. 


Stir and let cook on high for 4-5 hours. 


The water will be absorbed when it is done. Add the 2 Tablespoons of taco seasoning and 1 Tablespoon of lime juice. 
The hash can be eaten as is. We also ate it with mozzarella cheese on top. 


To add another texture, I tried some on a tortilla and rolled it like a burrito. We also ate leftovers with Tostitos Scoops. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Embracing Change

This week I was called to reflect upon a word that has undoubtedly affected each of us. This word, often bringing bittersweet feelings, is CHANGE.  As I watched the Detroit Tigers play Thursday afternoon with my six-year-old son, David, I realized the effect change can have on all ages of people.
My son has become enthralled with the Detroit Tigers this season, watching every possible game, learning stats, and acting out his own game scenarios in the backyard. Therefore, when my husband called him just minutes before the official word telling of a potential trade for David Price, I knew we were in for many mixed emotions.
At first, my son became excited because he knew the potential David Price would bring to his favorite team. Nevertheless, in that same instant, his smile faded. He whispered, “I hope they don’t trade someone I like…” Literally, 30 seconds later, he noticed Jackson being called from his familiar center field position. The floodgates opened. Tears started falling. “Not Jackson…I don’t want him to go!” David cried. It was heartbreaking to watch him realize what was happening. Change was about to happen, and he wasn’t sure he was ready for it.
The night continued to progress with random tears every time he thought about the trade or someone mentioned it on tv. He even asked to watch a DVR’d game from 2011 because Jackson was playing in it.  Now, he knows enough about baseball to know the Tigers had to make the move because it was the best thing for the team, but it didn’t make losing Jackson any easier for him.
When I realized what was happening to my innocent six-year-old, I started thinking about all the times I have been asked to make a “change”, especially in my profession. As an educator, we are constantly being asked to adjust to changes in legislation, changes in teaching standards, changes in assessment and evaluation, changes in technology, etc.
Most times, I feel I embrace change pretty well, especially if I can see the benefit for my students. However, when these ideas are presented at staff meetings, it doesn’t always go well. Regardless of the profession, I am sure we can recall times when colleagues (or ourselves) have been resistant to a new idea presented. I have heard everything from, “Why change something that works!” to “Oh great, this will never work. We tried the same thing ten years ago.” The list continues.
We are all resistant to change, especially if what we are doing seems to be working. But, like the Detroit Tigers, why aren’t we always looking for ways to CHANGE to make ourselves or our own professional teams better?  Sometimes we don’t want to give up something we have done forever, or learn a new program, or study the latest techniques being implemented in our profession. However, if we really challenge ourselves, we will most likely find that a change could bring out something positive. And even if it doesn’t, we won’t know unless we try. If we maintain status quo, we can’t get better or worse. Why not try to get better.
My son learned this valuable lesson by the time Friday morning came along. While he still misses Jackson and wants to attend every Detroit/Seattle game played in Detroit, he understands that the change had to happen.  
I learn more lessons from my children than I ever thought possible. This story is no exception. While I don’t cry and become emotionally distraught every time a change is about to take place, I have complained about potential downfalls that could happen. Sometimes I dwell on these downfalls. If my six-year-old can recognize the importance of change in a 12-hour time frame, why can’t I? I need to think about the positives that can come from situations, because without change, we will never know if things can improve. Embrace change when necessary. Learn from the past, grow for the future. 
http://workingmomwonders.blogspot.com/2014/03/detroit-tigers-cake.html



Thursday, July 31, 2014

Pirate/Princess Summer Party

My son starts kindergarten this year, so I wanted to try to get some kids together this summer so he sees some familiar faces on the first day. We decided to put together a pirate/princess theme party this week. Here is what we did...

The Food:
Pirate and Princess cupcakes. I found the toppings at a cake store. 

Princess chocolate suckers: I just poured melted chocolate in chocolate molds and added a stick.

Pirate ship jell-o cups. The bottom is blue raspberry jell-o. We added a quarter of an orange and placed a pirate flag stick in the orange. 

The pineapple is my best attempt at turning it into a boat. Then I added a few of the grape/watermelon princess wands to resemble some sails. 

Cannonballs (grapes)

Fish and chips


Star sandwiches

Hot dog boats


Princess Decorations
The table:


I took some of the rose chocolate suckers and placed them in a piece of styrofoam. Then I flipped a vase over the suckers to resemble the rose from Beauty and the Beast. 


Princess Putty: 
Start by mixing about 2 cups of white school glue with 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Then we added red food coloring for the princess putty. We did a separate batch using green food coloring for the pirate slime (see below).

In a separate small bowl, mix 3/4 teaspoon of Borax and 1 1/3 cups of very warm water.

Pour the borax water into the glue water. Mix with your hands.

Keep mixing with your hands until you have the slime. It will only take a couple of minutes. 
I placed the slime in little containers I found at Wal-Mart. Then I added a treat pop label to the top. 

For the wands, I started with a skewer stick. I cut out two stars from glitter cardstock. I hot glued a piece of maroon, pink, and white ribbon to the inside of one of the stars. Then I glued a piece of black glitter tulle and some gold stars to the star. The final step was to hot glue the other star to seal all of the ribbon inside. 

I got the princess plates, napkins, and sashes from Party City. Each girl also got a pack of stickers and a necklace. (And a tin of pirate goodies)

The princesses each got to choose a hat as well. I used the template from this website: http://www.firstpalette.com/tool_box/printables/Birthdayhat.html 
The hat is made from decorated foam sheets with a piece of tulle hot glued to the top of each one. 


Pirate Decorations
 The table: 

I found black plates from Wal-Mart. 

I filled the boxes with candy bracelets. 


I gave each guest one of these pirate tins from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002YQS0X2/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
I put a few of these pirate coins in eaach tin:(http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005OMV42C/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) I hid the rest of them around the house. That was one of their treasure hunt activities. 
The hook cup is just a red solo cup with a piece of tin foil through the top. I also bought pirate and princess stickers. I placed a different sticker on each of the kids' cups. This helps keep track of what cup belongs to each kid. 

We used gold spray paint to turn some gravel into little gold pieces to fit inside these little jars: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004ZXW4MK/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1


Here is the Pirate slime. The recipe for this is above in the princess decoration section. 

For the swords, I bought a large piece of foam insulation. I cut it into four pieces. Then I added gold duct tape for the base. 


The last decoration was treasure hunt cups. I made sand-colored play dough. I used my microwave play dough recipe: http://workingmomwonders.blogspot.com/2013/03/microwave-play-dough.html
 To color the dough, I placed 4 drops red, 2 drops green, and 16 drops yellow food coloring. I made 3 batches of this to fill 12 cups. 

I got the idea for these cups from this website: http://alwaysexpectmoore.com/2012/09/treasure-island-pirate-party-game.html.
I cut 6 leaves from green construction paper, leaving a strip to connect each of the leaves. I ran glue down the strip. Then I wrapped the strip around a decorative straw. Using a different straw, I curled the leaves down. 
Inside the play dough, I hid a pirate coin and some jewels. I added a pirate sticker to the cup. 


The boys' table:


For an outside decoration, I found a large cardboard box, cut out two ovals, and painted a princess image on one flap of the box and a shark image on the other flap. The kids took turns getting their pictures taken in this photo booth.