Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: S'mores Brownie Bars

The summer is drawing to an end. The days are getting shorter, the temperatures cooler. What better way to savor these last few days than with s'more brownies? These brownies are the very essence of our favorite campfire treat - the crunch of the graham cracker, the richness of the chocolate, and gooeyness of the roasted marshmallow.

And if you just can't bring yourself to make these (because trust me, you'll want to eat the whole batch and know you shouldn't since you don't want to look like a marshmallow), know that today is National Toasted Marshmallow Day. And that, my friends, makes it totally worth it. 

    3 cups graham cracker crumbs                     1 batch of brownie batter
    ¼ cup granulated sugar                                 1 bag mini marshmallows  
    ¼ teaspoon salt                                             Additional graham crackers, broken into pieces
    ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
   1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the pan with foil, leaving some overhang, and then butter the foil; set aside.
   2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt, mixing well. Add the melted butter and, using a fork, toss until the entire mixture is moist. Dump the graham cracker mixture into the prepared baking pan, pressing it into an even layer. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
   3. Meanwhile, prepare your brownie recipe. Pour the brownie batter over the cooked graham cracker crust, spreading it into an even layer. Bake the brownies according to the directions.
   4. As soon as the brownies come out of the oven, switch the oven to broil. Pour the bag of mini marshmallows onto the brownies, covering it in an even layer. Pop the pan back in the oven for a few minutes. Keep a close eye on them – you want them to start to char so you get that s’mores flavor, but don’t want to completely burn them.
   5. As soon as the pan comes out of the oven, top the marshmallow layer with the pieces of graham cracker, pressing down slightly so that the pieces of graham cracker get nestled into the marshmallow.
   6. Cool completely and then cut into squares. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

We made the crust entirely in the food processor in just minutes. (Have I even mentioned recently how much I love that thing?) Then, we used a box mix for the brownies (dark fudge with chocolate chunks, to be exact.)

Alyssa licked every last bit of the brownie bowl, while Jacob . . . 

enjoyed the buttery graham cracker crumbs.

The real fun was trying to keep the kids from eating the marshmallows before we tossed them on top to broil. As it turned out, we used only half the bag. Guess I could have let them sugar up after all. Hindsight is always 20/20.

And this is what they look like if you can bring yourself to take a picture before slicing and devouring. (We were able to use self-control only because the marshmallows stuck to the sides of the foil. Of course, we couldn't let it go to waste. We just had to eat it!)  

Broiling the marshmallows really is what puts this recipe over the top. That charred flavor is what elevates melted marshmallow to toasted marshmallow.

But let me tell you, these babies are messy. Ooey-gooey-messy. Crumbly-falling apart-messy. Making a mess on your counter and floors . . . and children's faces messy. But they are oh-so-good! The only thing I would change is cutting down on the graham cracker crust. It's so over-powering that you almost lose the flavor of the rich chocolate brownie. Next time, I'll try 1 1/2 - 2 cups of the cracker crumbs, but leave the butter about the same in order to hold it all together better. 

Regardless, none of that stopped us from eating. And eating. And eating.

So, before the coolness of autumn and the crispness of ripe apples creep upon us, take advantage of the last few days of summer . . . and make these brownies.
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Monday, August 29, 2011

Make It Monday: Box Towers

This, my friends, is not garbage . . .

This is precious building materials!

To make the very best, the very biggest tower, start by selecting the finest supplies.

Make sure to place the sturdiest components on the bottom.

Then, feel free to add cosmetic accents.

Be careful as you reeeaaach way up high to add finishing touches. 

Or, if big is not your thing, make a small tower. One can never have too many towers.

But if you really want to impress, use as many supplies as you can to make a tower tall enough to touch the sky! 

Be sure to watch out for earthquakes though!!!

But my favorite part of this activity???

Yep, right into the recycle bin.

Oh, well, it was fun while it lasted. Maybe next time we'll construct a tower that can handle the earthquakes.

Who am I kidding? Knocking it down is half the fun!

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How To Have a H.E.A.R.T. For Your Kids - Review

This is my first official review for The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew! Exciting, isn't it? 

I was given the opportunity to read and review the book How to Have a H.E.A.R.T For Your Kids by Rachael Carman. The title is a clever acronym that describes how to best raise your kids. It's good advice, whether you homeschool or not. 

Chapter 1: H - Have a Heart for the Things of God. In this, Rachael says,
"Intentional parenting means that we are thoughtful and purposeful in our actions and words. As intentional parents, we do not react, but we respond. We do not panic; we pray. We do not give sermons; we give scripture . . . By seeking God first, we are going before our families, paving the way for our kids. We are clearing our path through the undergrowth that is everyday life and showing our children how to put Him first in all things."

Chapter 2: E - Enrich Your Marriage. One thing that I especially liked about this chapter, is that Rachael challenges us to serve our husbands. Serve my husband? Ha! I do that every day. I prepare his meals, wash his filthy work clothes, clean the house, fix his half-inside-out socks, throw away tags and wrappers forgotten on the counter from newly bought purchases, sweep up dried mud from his work boots, close the always-left-open-in-the-morning pantry door . . . Sure, we "serve" our husbands, but this is not the serving she is referring to. She suggests asking him how you can serve him that day, whether it's making a phone call, running an errand, or whatever else it may be that will lessen his load. And then do it. Joyfully. Be a servant, like Christ was a servant. (I may not wash Leighton's feet, but trust me, washing his demolition work clothes is humbling in itself!) 

Chapter 3: A - Accept Your Kids
"Your kids were sent right on time, on purpose . . . God decided to send each specific child to you, uniquely designed to bless your family. He sent these children to your home as tools to mold you and the other members of your family."
Wow, talk about humbling! My children were sent to me to mold ME. Raising children is not solely about teaching them Truth, how to obey, or how to live. Raising my kids is also meant to refine any imperfections in my own life. Looking back, it's amazing how we as parents have molded and changed since having children. I am not the same person I was 5 years ago, and I am not the person I will be 5 years from now.

She also says in this chapter, "The thing I want my kids to hear more than anything else is that the God of the universe loves them." Again, wow. I tell them God loves them. We sing "Jesus Love Me." But I don't tell them nearly as often as I tell them of my own love for them or as much as I hug and kiss and squeeze them for myself. It's something I need to work on. They need to know - to really know -  that God loves them. Then they'll understand when things don't go like they planned, when troubles arise, that "all things work together for good." (Romans 8:28) That God is always there,  guiding them because as He said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13:5)

Chapter 4: R - Release Them to God. Reading this title, I knew this chapter would be a toughy. I know my children are really God's and that they're just "on loan" to me to raise them. But accepting His perfect will for their lives might not match up with my desires. Yes, I long for them to be in the center of His will. I want them to obey Him in whatsoever He commands. I truly desire for them to be fully content and happy living the lives God has planned for them. But to become a missionary in a foreign land or simply move far away or choose a dangerous occupation or . . . Who knows what the future holds but Him. It's not my job to question it or to hold on tight to them. It's my responsibility to equip them for the future. And step back and watch God make something beautiful with His creations.

Chapter 5: T - Teach Them the Truth. Ultimately as parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children truth. Yes, as a homeschooling mother, I teach my kids that 2+2=4, blue and yellow make green, and mixing baking soda and vinegar will cause a reaction. All truths. But of what use is this education if God is not first and foremost in their lives. What good would millions of dollars from a successful job on earth be if they have no crowns to cast at Jesus' feet in Heaven? The most important Truth we need to teach our kids is the Truth of the Gospel. Jesus, who is the perfect sinless Son of God, died, was buried, and  rose again to make the payment for our sins. If we seek to keep God and His Truth first, the other truths will fall into place.

Acts 4:13 speaks of Peter and John being brought before the Sanhedrin. These were "unlearned and ignorant men"  accused before the intimidating consul. But Peter and John stood out. Why? Because "they had been with Jesus." I want that testimony for not just me, but my entire family as well. (Ok, not necessarily the unlearned and ignorant part!)

The book itself is hard cover and only about 7 inches high, which is a nice size to hold while reading. Rachael Carmen's simple, honest, witty writing is a pleasure to read. The book costs $13 and can be purchased from Apologia. (Interesting side note: the company is owned by the author and her husband.) You can find many other resources and curriculum on the Apologia site.

I highly recommend this book, whether you're looking for encouragement in homeschooling, tips to better understand your children, or just desire to have a better and closer family. How to Have a H.E.A.R.T For Your Kids will do just as it promises.

You can find more reviews of this book here.

* Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Things That Make Me Smile 8/26/11

1. Leighton and I went away for a long weekend . . . by ourselves. We haven't done that in 6 years. Six years! It was wonderful. There is no one I'd rather be with 24 hours a day. But, it was a little strange leaving the kids with my parents. Ok, it was a lot strange. I was constantly feeling like I was forgetting something. "Hmm, I have my purse and a bottle of water. What am I missing??? Oh yeah! Three kids . . . and a diaper bag, and snacks, and toys." It was refreshing though to be alone with my Love for 4 days. Hopefully we won't wait another 6 years before we do it again.

2. Right before we walked out the door to drop the kids off at my Dad and Mom's, Jake ran to get the framed picture of Leighton and me that he keeps next to his bed. "Every time I miss you, I can look at your picture." And he did.

3. We talked to the kids on Skype the night before we came home. Or at least, we tried to. We talked; they mostly made silly faces at themselves in the camera or wrestled with my dad in the background. We didn't have much of a conversation, but we had plenty of laughs.

4. We bought a huge jar of whole pickles. You know, the one's that are too big to even fit in their little mouths. All 3 kids love pickles and were ecstatic! They would eat bread & butter pickles every day if they could. These were dill though, so they were a little sour. Jake said, "It's pickly enough to pickle out my appetite." Not quite sure what that meant, but 1 pickle was enough to satisfy him.

5. As I said in my last post, Jake started soccer this week. He has asked every single day when his next practice is. He told me, "I wonder what we're going to learn at the next practice. I already know how to dribble." If you know anything about Jake, you understand that this is a typical statement from him. He is my cocky little boy who thinks he can do anything and everything the best. One practice and he knows how to dribble. No need to practice more. The boy has a lot to learn - about both soccer and life. For now, his cockiness is somewhat amusing.

6. Our pastor started a study on the church itself on Wednesday night. In his introduction, he talked about what the church is, what it is not, and why we need it. Jake, who was sitting there perusing a LEGO magazine and seemingly in his own world, looked at me and said, "I know why we need the church. It's because we need to learn about Jesus." Even when sometimes you think they're not listening, they're listening.

7. Not only is Jake old enough to play on his first sports team, but he's old enough to have his first 2 loose teeth! He told me, "I have a secret for you." I leaned down to hear his whispers in my ear. "I have a loose tooth." I thought, "No, that can't be. You're just a baby!" But as I  felt in his mouth, I wiggled not 1, but 2 tiny bottom teeth. His smile was huge! Mine was bigger.
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First Soccer Team

Jacob started soccer this week. Where does the time go? One minute, he was just a tiny little thing in my arms. Now, he's big enough to run around a field and play his first organized sport. 

I know I did not give him permission to grow so fast. Kids these days. Sheesh.

He had so much fun at practice! The British Challenger trainer was so good with the kids. They worked on dribbling, stopping the ball, and just plain having fun. They played so many games, you'd never know they were actually practicing!

It was challenging to keep Zac from running out onto the field to play "ball!" with "Bub-bub!" Alyssa was nearly in tears herself. "But I'm a big girl. I want to play soccer too."  She finally settled for running circles around our blanket with Zac following close behind.

After they finished practice, we headed to a sports store to get Jake some red soccer socks and cleats. We also bought another size 3 ball to satisfy the two little ones.

Jake asks every day if he's going to soccer. I think he's a little excited. It's going to be a fun ten weeks!
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Theory Thursday: Hover Craft

So Erika and the kids watched a live online video from superchargedscience.com a couple of weeks ago. During the video an offer was made to try the paid section of the site for one month for only a dollar. Erika immediately signed up, our children love science. One of the "getting started" projects is the Simple Hovercraft. There is something about hover craft that just fascinate most people. I know I myself would love to make some sort of machine that would be powerful enough to allow me to sit on it but still float/hover just above the ground. This would cause mobility without the need for wheels or tracks to move me across the ground. Most hover crafts though do not actually float above the ground. They simple have a fan motor forcing air down into a semi sealed space below the carriage of a vehicle that allows the vehicle to have a seemingly much lighter weight to it. Right now you are probably picturing the standard air boat like water/land hover craft that has a a big balloon donut that the craft rides on. Well, in this project we are not making anything that looks like that, but it does use a balloon.

What you need:
  • a regular balloon (not a small water balloon)
  • a "sport" top from a water bottle (the pop up kind)
  • an old cd (I used a cheap blank one)
  • paper cup
  • thumbtack
  • hot glue gun
  • knife to cut the cup

First, take the sport top and poke three or four holes in the outer ring of the top. That is the part that actually pops up. I started with three and ended up with six and opening the top, but please start with three and a closed top.
Next you want to get happy with the glue gun. Put as much glue as will fit on the rim of the cap and center it on the cd. Then take the glue gun and begin to dispense the rest of the stick around the outside edge of the cap. Ok, maybe you don't need the entire stick, but you need to add some. Trust me, if you don't do it now you'll do it later when the cap comes off. Not that it came off on me. Oh, and about centering it, I was careless in my placement the first time and thus our craft hovered moving to one side constantly until I re-glued it in the center.
Now you need to cut the bottom out of the cup. Please! Be careful!
Do all this while one of your little helpers inflates the propulsion device.
Now I don't have pictures of this step, but take the balloon from said little helper and proceed to wipe off the excessive amount of slobber from the inflatable end of the balloon. You need to do this so that you can keep a good grip on it while attaching it to the craft. But, before you attach the balloon, be sure to twist the neck of the balloon so that when it is attached it will hold the air until you are ready for it.
Now that the air filled rubber sack is attached to the hover craft your are ready for action. Simply untwist the balloon and voila (wah-la) you have a hovering disc, ...... or not. Yeah, it kind of hovered. Thus we put more holes in, still dragging quite a bit. So what do you do when you need more air, open the flood gates! Well, the type of flood gates that release air not water. Although..... I wonder what this would do if we ran pressurized water instead of air................................. Oh! Sorry, I'm back. We eventually opened the cap up halfway. The balloon deflated much faster but it was the only way to get true hovering.

The following video is just a short clip of our first hover.

Well, that's our little hover craft. Why not make one and share it with us! Okay, Okay, you only have to share the pics or video. I'll let you keep your craft.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Things That Make Me Smile 8/19/11

1. Jake told Alyssa, while playing with his Trio Batcave, “I don't want to play Robin. He's just a young kid.”

2. Zac loves pretending he's a dog. He has been crawling around and panting for many months now. He has really caught on to the licking part recently too. He will act like a dog and lick all over you. The more you squirm and scream, the more he licks. It's extremely funny . .  especially if you are not the one on the receiving end of the “kisses.” He reminded me of my oldest niece. She did the same thing approximately 20 years ago. I did not think she was so humorous then. And I certainty hope she's not still giving kisses like that now.

3. I asked Jake if he wanted to help me make the mini doughnut muffins. He shrugged his shoulders and casually replied, “yes.” When I asked if he wanted to make them all by himself, his face lit up and he excitedly said, “Can I, can I, please???”

4. We took the kids to the park down the street. We had fun, especially while we all rode on the 6-way see-saw. I'm not sure whose smiles were bigger – theirs or ours?

5. Zac loves going to bed. He always has. I asked if he was ready for a nap. As I was putting some clothes away in his room before he went to sleep, he was climbing the rungs of his crib so he could go “ni-night.” When that didn't work, he climbed up into Jake's bed instead and lay down on his pillow. “Ni-night,” he said with a big smile.

6. Jake is obsessed with Super Heroes. He's convinced that he has every single super power known to man. And then some. His newest alter-ego is Skunk Man. He dressed in a black shirt, black pants with white stripes, and a cape. He runs around spraying villains with his stinky spray. This is one power I am thankful that he does not truly possess. (Shh, don't tell him!)

7. Both Jake and Alyssa have gotten into a mimicking phase. They are not allowed to mimic me, but they do it to each other quite often. Child A will complain that Child B is copying them. I will reprimand Child B. Instantly, Child A will turn around and mimic Child B. And so the pattern continues. Well, Alyssa started complaining that Zac was copying her. I had to explain that he wasn't trying to be annoying (like her big brother), but that he learns by copying. I raised my arms; he raised his arms. I clapped my hands; he clapped his hands. I knocked on the table; he knocked on the table. Alyssa joined in the fun by showing him actions to mimic. It was a learning experience for the both of them, and a precious one for me.

8. During dinner, one child started laughing. Then, another began giggling because of the first. The domino effect continued when the third one joined in. Eventually, all 5 of us were laughing hysterically. The best part? No one could remember why.

9. We surprised the kids with a trip to our local ice cream shop. Eighty degrees + ice cream cones + 3 children = a sticky, drippy mess . . . and many smiles.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday 8/17/11

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Tasty Tuesday: Mini Doughnut Muffins

Mention the word cinnamon, and Jacob is all over it.

Say doughnut, and all three kids come running.

1/2 cup white sugar                                    1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted                                 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg                      1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup butter, melted                                 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 24 mini-muffin cups.
2. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the milk, then mix in the baking powder and flour until just combined. Fill the prepared mini muffin cups about half full.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until the tops are lightly golden, 10 to 15minutes.
4. While muffins are baking, place 1/4 cup of melted butterin a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of sugar with the cinnamon. Remove muffins from their cups, dip each muffin in the melted butter, and roll in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Let cool and serve.

I love recipes that the kids can prepare completely by themselves. Jake made these muffins while Alyssa was taking an impromptu nap.








Oh. My. Goodness. These muffins are sooo good! They really do taste just like a cinnamon and sugar doughnut holes! Of course, you can feel free to add less of the cinnamon and sugar part. As you can see, Jake covered every single millimeter with the grainy goodness, and we still had a bit left over afterward. Halfway through the coating process, I noticed that he started using his left hand. What was his reasoning? "So I can lick both hands!"

The best part of these muffins (aside from their deliciousness) is how quickly and easily they can be made. Much different from when we made paczki.

Go ahead and makes these mini doughnut muffins. You will not be disappointed!

We've since made them in our doughnut pan. They are just as delicious!

Linked to Whatcha Making Wednesday.
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Make It Monday: Foot Painting

Have I mentioned that my kids love to paint???

Oh, I have?

Well, they really loved this activity!

I squirted some tempera paint in the colors of their choice on a large sheet of paper.

And a-painting they went!

We tried holding the edges down with rocks from Jake's collection. Tried being the operative word.

Zac was unsure about painting at first.

 Then, he was positive that he didn't like it!

Hey, Zac! Don't you want to paint??? 


The other two . . . ahem, we three (I couldn't let them have all the fun!) thoroughly enjoyed it though and painted multiple pictures.

We filled a big bucket of water to wash off. As always, the activity turned into a science experiment. Jake was choosing his colors of paint for his pictures based on which colors he wanted to use in the rinse water.

As each picture was finished, we hung it on our clothes line to dry.

The great thing about this activity (other than feeling the cool paint squish between your toes!) is that you can reuse the pictures as wrapping paper, cards, in frames, etc. 

A fun activity, a science experiment, a reusable craft, and a painted patio to boot? Sounds like a winner in my book!  

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Things That Make Me Smile 8/12/11

Here we are at week two of Things That Make Me Smile. It's hard to believe that a week has passed since I posted the first one.

1. Jake woke up sick on Monday. The poor boy felt absolutely miserable. During one of his trips to the bathroom, he asked, "Can you pray that I won't be sick anymore?" It brought a smile to my lips and tears to my eyes. We prayed right there in the bathroom.

2. He asked a little later, "Am I just going to be sick today." After being assured that this was probably the case, he said, "Then I can't wait til tomorrow." (He was actually feeling 100% by early afternoon and no one else even felt queasy. Prayer works!) 

3.  I was trying to explain to Alyssa and Zachary that Jake had a stomach bug and didn't want them climbing all over him. Alyssa asked, "Is it like a crawly bug? Did it climb into his mouth and crawl down his throat into his belly?"   

4. I've been trying to incorporate more fun into their lunches. I like using our cookies cutters to make fun shapes in their sandwiches. This week, I made Alyssa a flower using Clementine orange segments for the petals and a cucumber stem. It was a hit! We've done it multiple days since.

PB&J sandwich with edible gel face, mandarin orange petals, & pickle stem

5. Zac and I practiced letter recognition using the letter pretzels. We got in some learning and a snack! I love listening to him say the letters. "Eeeeeee! Oooooo! Sssssss!"

6. While Jake was cleaning his room: "This room is going to be as clean as an apple!"

7. Jake finally figured out how to pump his legs on the swing! Now he can really get himself going without a push. He's always loved swinging, but needed someone to push him. It makes me happy that now he can have fun even when I'm too busy to play.

8. Jake woke up and cuddled with me on the couch for a few minutes. When I yawned, he asked, "Why are you tired?" I replied, "Well, I've already been up for a little while. I read my Bible and prayed. I made my bed, cleaned the bathroom, emptied the dishwasher, and folded some clothes." His eyes got huge and his jaw just about hit the floor. "You did all that while I was sleeping?!?"

9. Alyssa was picking itty bitty flowers (weeds) for me. Jake came over with a flower behind his back too. He said, "I just had to stop swinging and pick it for you since it was the prettiest one."

10. Zac's nose had been running all day. Like a typical toddler, he'd let the snot drip down without a complaint. I walked over and wiped  his nose. He cheerfully said, "Dank Do!"  (thank you)

11. Alyssa fell off Jake's bed and hit her head on the bookshelf. As I was comforting her, Jake decided to cheer her up by "spraying" himself in the face with whipped cream, pretend banging his head on a chair and falling over, balancing toys on his head, and such. It didn't take long before she was laughing so hard that she was falling over on the floor (no head hitting this time.)

12. Jake and Alyssa were playing that they were getting married. They both got dressed up. While Jake was laying out a red blanket for a walkway and constructing a Lego cake, Alyssa was extremely giddy. "I'm getting married! I'm getting married!" She was giggling like it truly was her wedding day.

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