Friday, November 25, 2011

Things That Make Me Smile 11/25/11

1. Alyssa: "I was a princess once. A long, long time ago."

2. Jake: "I need blue, red, and yellow. Hey, Mom! Those are all the primary colors!"

3. Jake: "The first Thanksgiving was in the 1950's, right?"


5. Alyssa, while driving at night: "Are we on planet Darkness?"

6. I looked in the living room and saw Zac "changing" a stuffed bunny's diaper. He told me "Bunny pee-you " as he cleaned it with a wipe.


8. Spending Thanksgiving with family and reflecting on our innumerable blessings.

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The Reading Game - Review

I was so excited to try The Reading Game with my kids. Until just recently, Jacob (5) really wanted nothing to do with reading a book. I thought "Hey, this is a game. Maybe I can "trick" him into reading!"

The game is very simple. You play Memory with 5 words at a time. After playing 6 sets of words, the student will have learned 30 words and is ready to read the first book. That book, Skunk, uses only those 30 words. From there, you move on to the first set for the second book, where the student will learn another 5 words and so on.  The cards and books are animal and color-coded to match the books, making the whole game pretty self-explanatory. By the end of the game, the student will have memorized 180 words. Almost half of them are among the 100 most commonly used words in the English language.

The Reading Game, created by the author of Wordly Wise, is sight word based. Since Jacob already knows how to read phonetically, he sounded the words out to read them (except for the true sight words.) Then, we worked on learning them by sight and reading the words more quickly. Alyssa (3) played along with us. Even though I wasn't overly concerned about her learning the words just yet, she was able to recognize when she found matching words. 

Jacob is the type of kid who is going to prove you wrong if you tell him he can't do something. You tell him he's not strong enough to pick up a heavy box, he'll try to lift it. You tell him he can't run faster than you, he'll challenge you to a race. You tell him he can't read a book until he knows all the words, he'll learn the words as quickly as possible. He did enjoy playing the game (what kid doesn't love playing Memory?), but for him it was more about the prize at the end - the privilege of reading a new book!

The exciting part for me was hearing him read these words in other books. Seeing him put the game into practice ensured me that he truly was learning these words by sight not just knowing that these letters make this word in this book, kinda thing. Over all, the speed and accuracy of his reading have improved. 

The Reading Game retails for $24.95 and is intended for pre-readers, struggling readers, or those needing a little extra practice. Jacob did not feel like it was a chore to learn new words, but instead enjoyed learning and memorizing words and reading the special books. The Reading Game is a wonderful fit for our family. I know that we will play it many more times, especially as the younger children grow. I already told Alyssa I think she may be ready to play it all on her own. Jacob was not happy to hear he was going to share "his" game. Must be a winner!

Would you like to read more reviews? Check out the list HERE.

* I was given a copy of this game in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Tasty Tuesday: Apple Cookies

I can't believe that this was the first apple recipe we've done this fall. We have a bunch of apples that were calling my name. They were begging to not be eaten plain. They deserved more out of their short lived lives. They needed to be combined with sugar and spices. I owed it to them to make them into cookies. 

I was busy gathering the ingredients and readying everything to start baking. 

And what does Alyssa decided she wants to do?

Eat one of those apples!

She's lucky I had more. I just feel sorry for the poor apple. Its hopes and dreams of being made into delicious cookies were broken with each crushing bite.

 I eventually put her to work though . . .




 And of course, grating.

The kids shredded the apples since I knew that Jake would not eat the cookies if they had bits of apple chunks in them. This is the kid who begs for asparagus, but doesn't like "things" in his cookies and what-nots. For that reason (and also because of his daddy), we did not add the raisins or walnuts either.  We did however, add a half cup of quick-cooking oats to make up for some of the missing substance.

Let me just say . . . yum! These cookies are the perfect way to use up a couple of apples in the fall or anytime of the year, for that matter. The shredded apples worked perfectly in place of the diced and the added oatmeal gave the cookies a wonderful consistency. They really don't even need the glaze on top; the cookies are pretty sweet as it is. We made half a batch of the glaze and it was just enough for one batch of cookies.

Whether you use glaze, raisins, walnuts, oatmeal, or a combination of four, you will not be disappointed with these apple cookies!

Besides, just think how happy you'd make the apples.

1/2 cup shortening                                                  1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar                             1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg                                                                       1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour                                 1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon baking soda                                          1 cup apples - peeled, cored and finely diced
1/2 teaspoon salt                                                     1 cup raisins

1/4 cup milk                                                             1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar                     2 1/2 tablespoons milk, or to desired consistency    
1 tablespoon butter   

1. Beat shortening and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and blend thoroughly.
2. Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
3. Stir half the dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts, apple and raisins, then stir in remaining half of dry ingredients and milk. Mix well.
4. Drop from tablespoon 1 1/2 inches apart onto lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove cookies to racks and let cool. Spread with glaze.
5. To make Glaze: Combine powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and enough milk to make glaze of spreading consistency. Beat until smooth. Spread on cooled cookies.
Recipe adapted from
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Make It Monday: Hand Print Turkey

I'm really behind in posting this week. It has been a busy week for all, I'm sure.

But what would Thanksgiving be without a hand print turkey???

 Paint your hand and thumb brown for the turkey's body.

Find a helper to paint stripes on your fingers for feathers. 

Apparently, Alyssa was making a tropical turkey. Hey, they celebrate Thanksgiving in Hawaii too, right?

Gently press your hand on a piece of paper, being careful not to wiggle your fingers around . . . too much. 

After you lift your hand, add the finishing touches to your turkey - a beak, a gobbler, legs, and a googly eye. Allow the paint to dry and proudly display your turkey for all to see.

Along with our tropical friend, we have a meatloaf inspired turkey, complete with ketchup on top. Maybe the poor turkey will get a reprieve from the feast this year. 

Then again, maybe not.

Happy Thanksgiving!
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Things That Make Me Smile 11/18/11

1. Jake: "Mommy, whenever I forget what I was going to tell you, I just say 'I love you' instead."

2. We were all shopping at the fruit and vegetable market. If the kids had their way, they would buy out the whole store! It always kills me this time of year when I see the prices of the produce. I remember just a few short weeks ago, when fruits and veggies grew aplenty in the warmer months and the prices were much lower. Some things I refuse to buy in the winter months. As we walked past the asparagus, Jake asked in an almost begging voice, "Please, can we get some asparagus?" Guess what we ate for dinner the next day.

3. Jake, in an announcer voice: "In today's news - Jacob wearing nothing!" Yep, the kid was running around the house in nothing but his undies. Surprise, surprise.

4. The kids were running wild and crazy through the house. Zac tripped, fell, began whimpering, and asked for a kiss. Jacob immediately ran over and kissed him gently on the nose.

5. Zac and I were the only two awake one morning. He was cuddling next to me on the couch as we played with his cars. I looked at him and said, "I could just squeeze you." He looked back up at me and said, "Sure," as he climbed up into my lap and gave me the biggest hug.

6. I heard "Mommy! Mommy! Moooommmmyy!" I went to the bathroom to see what the problem was. Alyssa was sitting on the toilet and said, "I really, really, reeeeaally don't want flush myself down the potty." Then, very seriously, she began to tell me a story about what she would do if someone came in the bathroom and happened to flush her. ". . . and then I would climb out using a ladder. An then I would need a bath."

7. While driving, Jake asked, "Are we going backwards or is that semi-truck passing us?"

8. We were looking at a store ad. Jake saw a picture of a baby and asked, "Is our baby going to look like that?"
Me: "If it does, Mommy's going to be in trouble with Daddy."
Jake: "Why?"
Me: "Because Daddy will wonder why the baby is black."
Alyssa: "I don't want a black baby. I want a blue baby!"

9. Jake asked, "Is that real snow or is that from the tree?"
Our cottonwood has confused our poor children.

10. Jake has a whole list of things he wants to be when he grows up: an inventor because he loves building gadgets and such with LEGOs, Trios, K'NEX, etc.; a chef because he loves helping me in the kitchen and is quite good at it already; a firefighter because he truly believes that he is a super hero (and a fire fighter is as close as you get to a real live super hero!) and can save anyone, also because my brother is a firefighter. Alyssa though always comes up with off-the-wall things she wants to be. This week she said, "When I grow up, I want to be a fish."
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Theory Thursday: Water on a Penny

Have you ever taken the time to figure out just how many drops of water will fit on a penny? You know, one day that information will be very vital to your well-being. For instance, you're at the grand prize stage of a game show, and the final question is "How many drops of water will fit on a penny?" Or what if an evil villain is overtaking the world and the only way to stop him is to answer "How many drops of water will fit on a penny?" Or if one day you need a science project for your kids and answering "How many drops of water will fit on a penny?" seems like a good choice for the day. 

See? This is a very important question. One day you'll be thankful you read this post. Trust me.

Start by filling an eye dropper with tap water.

Squeeze a drop of water, one at a time, onto a penny.

Make sure you count each drop as it drips.

The water will create a big bubble. Keep adding drops and counting until it spills over the edge.

 In the meantime, give the toddler his own water and a bulb syringe.

Get some towels to clean up the mess.

 And since this is science, try different approaches of filling the bulb.

Eventually, the others will realize how much fun the toddler is having making a mess experimenting that they'll want to join in.

Get more towels.

Jake made comments like "Yikes! I'm making a mess everywhere like a real scientists." and "I'm making my own scientist potions."

And then came the declaration that made all 3 children laugh hysterically. As he sprayed the water out of the bulb, he said, "I even made it backwash!"

And then I got more towels.

Oh, you're still waiting on the answer to the million dollar question? Well, Jake and Alyssa had a hard time getting a single drop every time they added water. I got 17 the one time I tried. I've heard that you can get anywhere from 25-40 drops on a penny though.

So, go try it yourself so one day, you'll be prepared to save the world.
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pantry Surprise 11/17/11

Why is there a Lincoln Log taped to my front door? Good question. Most of the time, I don't even ask the kids "Why?." Like, why are there stuffed animals in the dishwasher? Or, why are the crayons in the refrigerator?? Or, why is there a toy girl in the chip bag???

But this time, I asked Jacob, "Why is there a Lincoln Log taped to the front door?"

He answered, "We accidentally brought it home from Grandma's. I wanted to make sure we remembered to take it back, so I taped it to the door so we'd see it."

Perfectly logical explanation.

Now, maybe someone can explain why we're storing the play dough toys in the pantry!
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: 11/16/11

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Tasty Tuesday: Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie

Looking for something a little different this holiday season?  Why not make an apple butter pumpkin pie. It combines two of the season's favorite flavors and is still traditional enough to satisfy your pie fix. Plus, it's coated with a streusel topping. And we all know, streusel makes everything better!

We used our own homemade apple butter in this recipe. It adds a wonderful depth of flavor. You could also use a store-bought variety, but I highly recommend the homemade.

Just know, there aren't any spectacular pictures you can take for the making of this pie. Just a bunch of ingredients plopped into a bowl. 

Consider yourself warned.


 Mmm, looking better with each ingredient? 

 All mixed up, it looks like traditional pumpkin pie . . . but we know better. Ha!

We used the last of our brown sugar in the filling of the pie, so we had to make our own using white sugar and molasses, like we did HERE.

Technically, you're supposed to mix the two together by themselves (or mix the molasses with the wet ingredients.) I didn't want to take the extra time to do so, and it turned out just fine. See, sometimes shortcuts are ok!

We didn't add the pecans in the streusel because no one in our family would eat it then, and that would kind of defeat the purpose of making the pie in the first place. Nuts in desserts are starting to grow on me though. I think they would make a lovely addition to this one.

I've said it before, I don't care for pumpkin pie (even though I love any sort of pumpkin-y cake, cookie, or bread.) It doesn't even look like pumpkin though. It actually looks pretty good.

To me, it tastes very similar to a regular pumpkin pie - but better because of the topping. The texture is also a bit lighter. I think it needs more apple butter in order to get a better blend of flavors though. Or maybe I'm just trying to mask the pumpkin flavor altogether? It's possible. I love the addition of the streusel though. It adds a crunchiness to an otherwise creamy pie and gives it a good contrast.

Leighton's opinion is the one that truly matters. He agrees that it needs a stronger apple butter flavor to be called an "apple butter pumpkin pie." But put this pie in a match against a regular ol' pumpkin pie, and the tried-and-true traditional pumpkin is the winner.

Either one I make, one thing will always remain true: I steal the end crust off Leighton's slice(s). He could live without it, but it's my favorite part. We're like Jack Sprat and his wife, only instead of fat and lean, we're filling and crust.

Ah, such romantics we are.

Pie Crust
1/2 cup vegetable shortening                                 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour                                   1/2 cups cold water

1. Mix shortening, flour, and salt together with a fork or a pastry blender until very crumbly. Add as much water as needed to hold together, and mix lightly with a fork.
2. Roll gently on a floured pastry cloth to about an inch larger than pie plate. Fold carefully in half, lift to pie plate, and unfold. Press into pan. 
3. Don't forget to use up that excess pie dough!

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie
Pie Ingredients:
1 cup canned pumpkin puree                                 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup apple butter                                                   3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup dark brown sugar                                       1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon                              1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Streusel Topping Ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter                                              1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour                                        1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, apple butter, 1/4 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir in eggs and evaporated milk. Pour into prepared pie shell.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted 2 inches from the center comes out clean.
4. To make the streusel topping: In a small bowl, combine butter, flour, and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Stir until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in pecans.
5. Sprinkle streusel topping over the pie, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

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Math Mammoth - Review

We recently had the opportunity to review Math Mammoth for our mathematics curriculum. I love math. My son loves math. And this math involves a big ol' wooly mammoth? What could be better?  

"Math Mammoth offers affordable, yet quality math worktexts and workbooks for grades 1-8, available as both downloads and printed books. These books concentrate on conceptual understanding and are strong in mental math. The directions in the worktexts are written directly to the student, and are often self-teaching, thus requiring little preparation and involvement from the teacher."

Math Mammoth offers the following:
  • A full curriculum for grades 1-6 ($34)
  • Worktexts by topic for grades 1-6 - you get both instruction and exercises; ($2-$7)
  • Worksheets by topic (price varies)
  • Worksheets by grade (price varies)
  • Make It Real Learning workbooks - highlighting how math is used in real life. ($4.99)

When it came time to choose which download I would like for my son, I was overwhelmed by all the choices they have to offer. I realized that the Light Blue Series (full curriculum) would work best for us. Of course, I looked at the first grade curriculum first. Jacob (5) is an intelligent child. The first grade work seemed a bit too simple for him. I looked at the second grade curriculum. Hmm, that seemed like it might be a bit too difficult. What to do?

On one hand, I didn't want him to be bored with work that was too easy for him. But on the other hand, I didn't want him to get discouraged if it was too difficult, and I certainly didn't want him to skip over much needed concepts.

I looked at samples in first grade. I looked at samples in second grade. First grade. Second grade. First grade. Second grade.

After much prayer and making Jacob answer problems from both sets, I finally just emailed Maria (the author of the books) to ask for the second half of the first grade curriculum (1-B) and the first half of the second grade curriculum (2-A). You know what? She replied promptly and happily complied!  (Now why didn't I just do that in the first place?)

I downloaded the file right away and began looking through the curriculum. I wondered how Jacob would respond to the plain format of the pages. The worksheets he's used to completing are covered in cute pictures and bold colors and are sprinkled with "fun" things to do. The simplicity of these new worksheets did not bother him in the least though. He was able to understand and complete the work with little help from me. The instructions are written directly to the student and make it easily understandable.

Math Mammoth is different from other curricula in that it is mastery-oriented instead of spiral-oriented. The student is introduced to a new concept and then given many opportunities to practice and truly learn it before moving on, as opposed to quickly "learning" a new concept, practicing a handful of times, and then reviewing prior work. This method insures that the student understands one topic before learning another.

Jacob and I enjoyed reviewing this curriculum and will continue using it. Another great thing about it? I can "reuse" it with my other children as they get older . . . and I don't even have to store another book on the shelf!

You can read more reviews of Math Mammoth HERE.

* I received a free download of this curriculum in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Keyboard Town Pals - Review

Keyboard Town PALS Learn to Type program claims to teach your child to type in one hour. The children proceed through the program at their own pace. There's no testing, no scoring, and no racing against the clock. Instead, the 8 (6-7 minute) videos tell a fun story to teach the students the placement of their fingers and the location of 30 letters and symbols.

Jake (5) was very excited to learn to type. He had no experience with typing as everything he has done on the computer so far requires only the click of a mouse. As soon as Sunny, the guide, popped up on the screen, Jake had the biggest smile on his face. She is over-the-top silly.

Sunny introduces the student to the Keyboard Town Pals throughout the lessons. Each puppet pal is a letter or symbol on the keyboard. Most of the puppets are endearing. Some, not so much. One thing that I do not like is that the puppets or clues are not consistent. For instance, they ask "Are you still taking lessons?" for the letter R and visit puppet pal Emma for the letter M among a couple others. Sunny informs the student that they are sound clues not spelling clues, yet all the other puppets are spelling clues, like Amy and banana split for A and B respectively. It might not be a big deal to some, but the inconsistency bothers the perfectionist part of me. Or maybe it's my English major that cringes when it hears it. Another thing is that not even all the spelling clues are phonetically correct. For instance, they use George for the letter G. Technically, George starts with the J sound. My 5-year-old does not know how to spell George. If he sounded it out, he would spell it with a J. This could be confusing to him.

After a few lessons, Jake lost all interest in learning to type. It could be because his hands are a little too small to fit the keyboard and he had a hard time keeping them on the correct letters. Also, he was frustrated that he couldn't remember all the placements without looking at his hands. Twenty minutes in and he thought he should have been a pro. (I wonder where he gets that from???) Because the program is not interactive at all, it never let him know if he made a mistake. While I appreciate that the computer doesn't beep loudly or make him feel inadequate when a wrong key is pressed, I would like for it to let him know that he did indeed make a mistake.

Keyboard Town PALS is intended for kids ages 7-10. That could partly explain why it did not work well for my 5-year-old. It costs $39.95 for either a CD-ROM or a web-based package. The program is available in English, Spanish, and French.

To see what others had to say about it, go here

* I received a trial version in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Pantry Surprise 11/12/11

I know I'm a stickler for not wasting food, but this is a bit much even for me.

I guess there is a bite or two on the underside of the apple. Maybe the culprit was planning to finish it off later? I left it there for a while . . . and then threw it away! *gasp* Shh, don't tell my kids.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Things That Make Me Smile 11/11/11

1. Alyssa and I had a girls' day with my mom. We went to lunch and spent the day shopping. I'm glad we enjoy each others company.

2. Alyssa was sucking on her toes. Zac saw her and took off his socks so he could "eat" his toes too.

3. Listening to my kids laugh with each other. And giggle. And laugh some more.

4. Celebrating Leighton's birthday with a piñata and cake!

5. Alyssa was cutting out circles to glue on a worksheet. She was being very precise and taking her time. Once she started getting frustrated, I told her, "It doesn't have to be perfect. Just do your best." She replied, "But I want it perfect." She is my child.

7. Jake: "When the chicken's done, may I have a leg please?  A chicken leg; not your leg."
Alyssa: "I want the head!"

8. Alyssa said, "I want no hair and to be bald so I can put a pencil behind my ear."

9. Jake put his hand on my belly to feel the baby moving, but I told him the baby was sleeping. Alyssa asked, "Oh, does it have a blanket in your tummy?" Jake answered, "Yeah, it uses a slice of cheese!"

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Reading Is Fun?

"There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all."
 ~ Jacqueline Kennedy ~

Jacob, my 5-year-old, is very smart. He learns quickly, remembers everything, and loves to figure things out. He claims that he is already an inventor, and truly believes he can fix anything. He has a large vocabulary and  uses it. 

There's just one problem. He hates reading. Oh, don't get me wrong. He will sit all day and listen to me read. We often read an entire chapter book cover-to-cover in one or two sittings. But when it comes to him doing the reading, it's a different story (no pun intended.)

His disinterest in reading has always upset me. I read constantly as a child (Yep, I was the kid reading a book while walking through the mall.) It also hurt the teacher part of me. How could my child not like reading??? How could I teach him to love it? I taught other people's children to read, but I could not teach my own?

It's not that he can't read, because he can. He just does not like it. At all. He likes reading signs out the car window, certain things in magazines, or words on the T.V.. But a book? No, thank you.

Until now.

I bought this Diego phonics reading book at Salvation Army last week . . . for 20¢. Jacob doesn't watch Diego, but I figured I'd try it. He was very excited to receive a new book, like always, but this time was a little different. He asked right then if he could read it! Of course!

We sat together on the couch and I heard a beautiful sound. My son was reading. But more than that, he was reading well . . . and enjoying it! A few pages in and he said, "Reading is fun!" That's the first time he has ever said that! Even now it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. He read the first story with no complaints, no asking me to read a page, no struggling. I am so proud of him. 

He came to me a few times this week, asking if he could read more and has since finished the whole book! I cannot even express how happy that makes me! Jacob is finally enjoying reading. The more he reads, the better he does. The better he reads, the more he wants to do it. My boy is finally starting to love reading!

And to think, all it cost was 20¢. 

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Theory Thursday: Floating Egg

How much salt does it take to float an egg in a small glass of drinking water? Two teaspoons? A cup?  Watch the video below to find out.

Ok, so maybe it didn't work quite like we expected. Leighton suggested using warm water so the salt dissolved faster or stirring after each additional teaspoon. Regardless, our salt water was definitely dense enough to hold up the egg. And the kids had fun. (You should see all the video footage that was cut-out. Zac especially had fun boinging the egg into the water and watching it bounce back up again!)

We learned something and had fun at the same time. That's what homeschooling is all about!

Here is what you need if you would like to try this at home:

drinking glass
table salt

1. Start by placing the egg in the drinking glass. Fill the glass 3/4 with water.
2. One at a time, pour a teaspoon of table salt into the water, until the egg floats.

Happy Experimenting!

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday 11/9/11

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Tasty Tuesday: Tres Leches Cake

I asked Leighton what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday. "I don't care." I asked if he wanted his usual Boston Cream Pie or something else. "Whichever." I asked if he wanted to try something new. "It doesn't matter." 

The man is so easy to get along with, it's frustrating. 

So, what's a girl to do? Make what she wants, of course. I've been wanting to make a tres leches cake for a while now. I knew this would be perfect for his birthday for a few reasons:
  1. No chocolate. (Strange, I know, but he would live without the stuff.) 
  2. The sponge cake. (Again, no chocolate. But even better - a lighter, airier cake than most.) 
  3. The 3 milks you pour on top are reminiscent  of the flavors of custard. (Now, custard is something I could live without, but not the birthday boy.)
  4. The whipped icing. (Who would choose the light, fluffy icing over the thick, rich, overly-sweet frosting of most birthday cakes? Certainly not me. But my hubby would.)
Of course, Leighton was satisfied to try something new. Jake, on the other hand, was devastated that he and Daddy were not getting their favorite cake! Would he be won over by the tres leches???

The making of the cake was pretty uneventful . . . that is if you overlook things like Jake dropping egg yolk into the egg whites while separating them and me having to fish it out, Alyssa spilling sugar all over the counter, Alyssa spilling sugar into the egg whites prematurely. You know, stuff like that.

When you don't have a rimmed platter, you use an 11x17 inch pan. Fancy, huh? Also, the bottom of my cake stuck to the pan a little and left those beautiful marks. It's a good thing no one ever has to see how unsightly it looked.

Other than everyone reading this, that is.

Once your cake is pierced all over, slowly pour on the heavenly concoction. Allow this to soak in before icing it.

Why did I whip the cream in a small bowl with a hand-held mixer instead of my KitchenAid that does the work for me? Because I always chill the bowl and beaters in the freezer to help the whipping process. It does, however, splatter cream all over the place. It's a give-take relationship.

After the cream was thoroughly whipped, and the counter was efficiently covered, we iced the milk-soaked cake. Then, I shaved on bits of both white and milk chocolate using a vegetable peeler. 

Next came the true test. How does it taste???

In the words of the kids, it is "deeeelicious!" The cake soaks up the milk mixture beautifully. The flavor of the cake, while tasty by itself, is magnified by the milks. We used that last cup (that you're supposed to discard? That's just wrong!) to spoon a little more of the mixture onto each piece as needed. I don't even think it needs the whipped cream on top - but then everyone would see what you had to see in that picture. Visually speaking, I guess it needs the icing! Besides, Leighton and the kids really liked that part. Everyone has different tastes. 

For instance:
My cake: chocolate frosting, white chocolate filling, chocolate cake
Leighton's cake: whipped frosting, creamy milk soak, white cake 

Both are yummy! But did Jake forgive me for not making a Boston Cream pie? Did this one meet his approval? "Definitely," he said. He even asked for his birthday cake to be half tres leches and half Boston Cream. Ah, such a simple child.  

Tres Leches Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour                                 1 teaspoon vanilla
1-½ teaspoon baking powder                       ⅓ cups milk
¼ teaspoons salt                                           1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
5 whole eggs, separated                               1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup sugar, divided                                    ¼ cups heavy cream

1 pint heavy cream, for whipping                3 tablespoons sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.
3. Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
4. Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
5. Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and carefully spread to even out.
6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.
7. Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture - try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.
8. Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. To ice the cake, whip 1 pint heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of sugar until thick and spreadable. Spread over the surface of the cake. Cut into squares and serve.
Recipe from Pionner Woman

Linked to Whatcha Making Wednesdays.
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Make It Monday: Simple Piñata

In preparation of Leighton's birthday, the kids and I knew we wanted to make him something special. After all, he is the one who works so hard so the kids and I can stay home. He provides for us, takes care of us, and loves us unconditionally. This gift would be one of love.

And what screams love and birthday celebration more than a piñata?

Start by painting a paper bag. This whole side was green in honor of Daddy's favorite color!

 Then they added details, complete with a birthday cake and  balloons.

Don't forget to paint all the sides!

Once the paint is dry, fill the bag half-way with candy!  

Try to keep the toddler from eating it all before it makes it into the bag.

Roll the top of the bag down to close it. Staple it to secure it.

Using a hole punch . . . or knife or nail or your teeth - whatever you have on hand - make 2 holes in the top.

Loop yarn or string through the holes and tie, leaving one end long enough to hang the piñata  from.

Now comes the best part!




Check out those goodies!

When you're younger, birthdays and gifts are about what makes you happy. As you have children though, so much of that changes. Sure, we all like to receive nice things, but more importantly we enjoy seeing our children happy. It brought us both so much joy to witness the excitement all 3 kids had. They were slightly concerned that Leighton only barely tapped the piñata, so as not to break it, but they didn't let that stop them from having a fabulous time. 

Long after we put the kids in bed, Leighton and I laughed and smiled as we reflected on the evening and the fun we had. No present - no matter how elaborate or how costly - can replace the love of a family.
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