Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Keep My Day Job?

It's such a beautiful day, so the kids and I were playing outside. I was pitching to Jake and our conversation went as follows:

Jake: Hey, my bat's not that long.

Me: Sorry, I never claimed to be a pitcher.

Jake: Well, what did you go to college for?

Me: To be a teacher.

Jake: Oh. Well, next time you go to college, be a baseball pitcher.

July 2009

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Apple Dumplings

I had never made an apple dumpling. In fact, I had never even tasted an apple dumpling before today. My favorite part of any kind of pie is the crust. The Backyardigans got it right when they sang about the Great Pie, "The crust is extra crusty . . ." I figured this recipe would be perfect.

2 large apples, peeled and cored                           1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 (8 oz) cans refrigerated crescent roll dough       1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup butter                                                            1 (12 fluid oz) can Mountain Dew

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
2. Cut each apple into 8 wedges and set aside. Separate the crescent roll dough into triangles. Roll each apple wedge in crescent roll dough starting at the smallest end. Pinch to seal and place in the baking dish.
3. Melt butter in a small saucepan and stir in the sugar and cinnamon. Pour over the apple dumplings. Pour Mountain Dew over the dumplings.
4. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

He told her, "Put your whole weight on it!"

I took the dumplings out after 40 minutes. The bottoms were extremely soggy since they were swimming in sauce. I put them in a new dish upside down and baked them for another 10 minutes. They are so yummy! Jake even told me they are better than cinnamon, and he's a big fan of cinnamon. Next time, (and there will be a next time) I will cut way back on the sauce. I can't wait to try one with ice cream.

While the dumplings were baking, we made an apple dip. Mix together 1 package cream cheese, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract until smooth. It could be used for just about any fruit. Actually, it's good enough to eat with just a spoon. Jake asked, "Can we make this all day every day?" Every time I tried to put it back in the fridge, one of them would be right there asking for more. Jake eventually said, "My tummy's full, but I can't stop eating!" Needless to say, it's almost gone already!

It's a little difficult to eat dipped apples when you have only six teeth, so Zac got to lick his first beater today.  He loved it, of course. He loves to eat just about everything! The other two were not very happy about sharing it with him though. I think that I'm going to have to buy a new mixer, one with 3 beaters.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Make It Monday: Leafy Leaves

I so wanted today to be Tuesday. I can't wait to start baking with all those apples! Instead, we colored leaves with leaves. We used a leaf shaped paper punch to make red, yellow, orange, brown, and green maple leaves. Then, we glued them to large maple leaves that I printed. Any craft involving a paper punch and glue stick is a winner!

Jake did some extra punching since Alyssa needed help.

Zachy got in on the fun by eating colored Cheerios.
Hard at work.

This was before the whole table was covered in paper leaves!

Bet you'll never guess who made each one!

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Off to the Apple Orchard

A tradition has started the past few years with our family to go apple picking at the orchard. This is something that we begin to look forward to right after we finish it. It is one of those things that has to happen at a certain time with certain weather or it just isn't right. The apple season has to be at the right point to get the apples we want for eating and baking. The fall season has to be at the right point so that we are able to wear sweaters. T-shirts just are not right for fall apple picking pictures, just doesn't look right. As we began to plan our trip to the orchard for this past weekend the apple season was right for the types of apples we wanted, but we began to worry about the weather as Thursday got into the upper eighties. We ended up with sixty degrees a ton of wind and nearly coat and hat weather. We adorned ourselves in sweaters and sweatshirts and made way for Westview Apple Orchard in Romeo, MI.

When we left the house the sun was beginning to shine and a beautiful day was growing for apple picking. By the time we made it to the orchard the clouds had returned and the wind was kicking up, but still it was a good day to pick apples. We paid for our apples received two half bushel bags and hopped on the wagon to go apple picking.

Jake and Alyssa both look forward to eating apples as we pick, so much so that Alyssa ate three apples while were picking and didn't have room for a donut from the cidermill later. Jake started a couple and made it half way through them before dropping them while trying to pick others. The big discovery early on was a dead frog in the walkway that led Alyssa to beg Erika to save her and carry her, not sure why she didn't turn to her Daddy though. I don't think Alyssa pulled too many apples down that she didn't eat. Jake had a ton of fun climbing up the middle of the trees to see how high of an apple he could pull. Poor Zac didn't pull any, although he did get his own little apple that he nibbled on a good majority of the time. All in all we had the expected good time picking apples which we followed up with cider and donuts.

The kids wanted so bad to go and play on the playground that the orchard had in there "Family Fun" area, the problem came with the $32 it was going to cost for us to get in there. So in order to lesson the heartache of not playing there we stopped at Burger King for an early dinner and let them play there. They completely forgot about the playground at the orchard and had a blast playing where they could. Now we just have to do something with fifty pounds of apples. I have a feeling we will have no problems.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Theory Thursday: Leaf Chromatography

I thought it would be neat to see what colors the leaves of our trees will be changing to in a few weeks. The colors or pigments are already present, but are hidden by the chlorophyll needed for photosynthesis. It begins to break down though during the fall. We used chromatography, the separation of mixtures, to speed up the process.

We collected 2-3 large leaves from several different trees, making a pit stop 
at the garden to snack on cherry tomatoes. We used leaves from an unknown tree, 
and birch, cottonwood, lilac, and maple trees.

Cut the leaves into several small pieces and place them in a jar.

 Add enough rubbing alcohol to each jar to cover the leaves. Jake hated the smell!
Using a plastic knife or spoon, carefully chop and grind the leaves in the alcohol.

Cover the jars very loosely with lids or plastic wrap or aluminum foil. 
Place the jars carefully into a shallow tray containing 1 inch of hot tap water.

Keep the jars in the water for at least a half-hour, until the alcohol has become colored (the darker the better). Twirl each jar gently about every five minutes. Replace the hot water if it cools off.

 Remove jars from water and uncover. Place a strip of paper towel into each jar 
so that one end is in the alcohol. Bend the other end over the top of the jar.

The alcohol will travel up the paper, bringing the colors with it. After 30-90 minutes, 
the colors will travel different distances up the paper as the alcohol evaporates. 

 Remove the strips of paper, let them dry. You should be able to see different shades of green, possibly some yellow, orange or red, depending on the type of leaf.

Our strips were mostly green surrounded by a bit of yellow. The kids were completely unimpressed. I must admit, so was I. I was hoping to see some red and orange. Maybe we'll just have boring trees this fall. Only time will tell.

 Yep, we just have boring trees in our yard. {pout} We'll just have to try it again with pretty trees. 

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Cream-Filled Cupcakes

Today is a very exciting day in our house. We officially have another half-year-old. Two years and six months ago, our precious baby girl was born. Alyssa often tells her older brother, "No, I'm four-and-a-half. You're two." She understands the importance of those extra six months. We made cream-filled cupcakes today for her half-birthday.

3 cups all-purpose flour                                   2 eggs
2 cups white sugar                                          1 cup milk
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder              1 cup water
2 teaspoons baking soda                                1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt                                                1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup butter                                                   1 pinch salt
1/4 cup shortening                                           3 tablespoons milk
2 cups confectioners' sugar                            1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 36 muffin cups with paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the eggs, 1 cup milk, water, oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well. Fill each muffin cup half-full of batter.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.
4. Make filling: In a large bowl, beat butter and shortening together until smooth. Blend in confectioners' sugar and pinch of salt. Gradually beat in 3 tablespoons milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. beat until light and fluffy. Fill a pastry bag with a small tip. Push tip through bottom of paper liner to fill each cupcake.

Jake loved filling the cupcakes.

One cupcake for each child.

We realized the candle had not been lit after we had already sung "Happy Birthday."

Now she can make her very own cupcakes!

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Make It Monday: Hand-Painted Apple Trees

We never got a chance to do a craft yesterday, so we pulled double duty today.

I love all things fall. The feel of the cool, crisp breeze; the sound of the crunching leaves; the taste of apple and pumpkin baked goods; the smell of backyard fires, the warmth of soft, cozy sweaters; the beauty of the changing colors. This weekend we are going to the apple orchard. I am so very excited! It is my favorite family tradition. In honor of that event, the kids painted apple trees today.

  First, we mixed equal parts red and green in order to make brown paint. 
We did add a little yellow too, to lighten it up a bit.

Then, we used a paint brush to paint their hands.
They loved this part because it tickled!

Next, they made the tree trunks.

Time for the green leaves.
Jake said, "Oh, I'm feeling sick. People turn green when they're sick."

We used a blow dryer to speed up the drying process.

Finally, they dipped their fingers in red paint to make the apples.
Alyssa very first apple already fell off the tree.

I helped with the positioning of the trunks, but they did the rest by themselves.
Jake keeps asking, "Is it time to go to the apple orchard yet?"
Apparently, I'm not the only one who's excited!
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Theory Thursday: Borax, Water, & Glue

Today we observed the reaction of borax, water, and glue.

Jake guessed that it was going to make "sticky syrup."

Combine 1 quart of water and 1 tablespoon of borax and stir well. Let the mix stand for a few minutes.

Fill a disposable cup three quarters of the way with the borax solution. Stir in a few drops of food coloring.

Add white glue in a thin steady stream, stirring continuously. Keep adding glue until a large, stringy mass wraps around the spoon.
Pull the mass off the spoon and drop it into a container of cold water.
Then, remove the mass and, with dry hands, squeeze it to get rid of the air bubble.
Now you have silly putty!

They were very surprised that they had made silly putty. Jake had fun bouncing it on the floor, copying newspaper prints with it, and squeezing and pulling it. Alyssa touched it one time and would not come near it again. She did, however, want to keep making more. We made three different colors: red, blue, and yellow. Their favorite part? Watching the food coloring disperse through the water.  Maybe next week our experiment will be just watching the two mix. Maybe.

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