Friday, April 27, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 4/27/12

Happy Friday, everyone! It's been another busy week. We had revival services at church this week. So we were there Sunday, Monday Tuesday, and Wednesday. Thursday was a soccer game. And here we are at Friday. I'm hoping to find time tomorrow to get down in our basement and start organizing and pricing our huge section of yard sale things. I can't even call it a pile since it takes up a large portion of the room.  It'll be sad getting rid of some of the baby stuff (especially the girl clothes!), but it'll be so nice having a basement again!

How many of you are obsessed with use Pinterest? There are so many amazing ideas out there in the blog world that it's hard to remember them all. My bookmarked pages on the computer were out of control. (Ok, they still are, but at least they're not getting worse!) Leighton teases me because it takes me 4 minutes to scroll through my recipes bookmark. Yeah, it's that long.  But with Pinterest, I love that I can keep all my favorites organized where I can easily see them and a picture. Plus, I can access my list from anywhere. Oh, it's convenient. And speaking of convenience, we've added a Pin It button to the bottom of each post to make it easy for all you fellow pinners to save your favorite posts, too!

Now, on to the smiles!

1. Tyler was crying as I was changing him. Zac, the protective big brother, came running in the room. "Oh, no! what's wrong? Mommy, what you doin him?"

2. Jake was eating an apple and said, "Ugh, my right side hurts. I think it's filling up just this side instead of both sides." So, he leaned to the left while he finished eating. "There. That's better."

3. Jake: "I'm not afraid of a shadow. Unless there's something really scary behind it."

4. Zac: "Mommy, I like you songing."
Jake: "Yeah, how did you learn to sing like that? Probably because you have a pretty voice."

5. Alyssa: "Will you write this, please?"
Me: "I can't right now. I'm feeding the baby, and I can't write with my left hand.
Alyssa: "Sure ya can. Give it a try!

6. Tyler started smiling!

7. Zac: "I don't wike dat"
Me: "Why not? It's fun."
Zac: "I don't wike fun."

8. Jake's first soccer game of the season.

9. Jake: "Soccer is one of my favorites sports."
Me: "I bet baseball is another one."
Jake: "Yeah, and sword fighting."

What made you smile this week?

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tyler's Birth Story

I expected to be welcoming a new life into the world this week. Instead, we're celebrating with our one month old baby boy.

That Saturday morning, one month ago, was a special day. I woke to Alyssa climbing into bed with us.

Me: "Good morning, Sweetheart. Do you know what today is?"

Alyssa: "It's my party!"

She had turned 4 three days before, but we were celebrating with a party at my parents' house that evening.  The whole family was coming (minus one cousin away at college): grandparents, uncle & aunt, cousins. Even great-grandpa and grandma, who were coming home from Florida that afternoon would be there. Aunt Dawn was making a special princess castle cake and everyone was bringing exciting presents. All of this to celebrate 4 years with our little girl.

The boys made their way into our bed a few minutes later. We enjoyed each others company as we laughed and played on that lazy Saturday morning.  We eventually got up and headed to the kitchen. The kids played around us as Leighton cooked eggs and bacon while I made toast.

Tyler Joseph Leaf born at 4:12 pm

I was so thankful that Leighton and my mom convinced me to order pizza for the party. Usually, I make all the food for their parties, but they thought I deserved a break. I wasn't going to use being 8 months pregnant as as excuse, but for once it was nice to not have to spend the day in the kitchen. 

That afternoon, Zac and Alyssa lay down for a nap, Jake was playing with LEGOs, and Leighton was working on the boys' bunk beds. I headed to Michaels a little after 2:00 p.m. to take advantage of some deals. While at the store, I talked to some employees about a few upcoming workshops at the store, helped a lady choose silk flowers for her house, and chit-chatted with a friend's husband who was there doing some shopping as well.


I walked the aisles, looking for inspiration for craft projects for the kids. I spoke to an employee about one of the products.


I continued placing items in my cart - some predetermined, some by impulse. I walked through the entire store, taking advantage of being alone.


weight 5 lbs 10 oz

I made my way to the register and the way-too-long line.


I talked to the cashier and the lady behind me about my baby that would be born in four weeks, paid for my things and headed to the van. I checked over my receipt and realized that I bought the wrong thing. I considered going inside to exchange it, but didn't want to wait in that line again. I headed home instead at 3:00 p.m.


Leighton heard me arrive home and met me at the door.

Leighton, looking at my expression: "Are you ok?"

Me: "No."

Leighton: "Are you having contractions?"

Me: "Yes."

For someone who just talked to half the people at the store, I suddenly didn't have much to say. 

length 19 3/4 inches

I truly thought I was having Braxton Hicks. As long as I was not dilating, I was ok. I sent Leighton to research what could be done to stop the contractions as I headed to our room to lie down on my left side and drink some water.

Leighton: "All I can find is to lie down on your left side and drink some water. Watch a movie or take a nap . . . because there's nothing you can do to stop it."

Me: "What! Call Eileen (my midwife) to see what she says I can do. We have a party tonight!"

He called her and explained the situation. She immediately began to gather her things to come over. I reached for the phone as Leighton started setting up the birthing tub

Me: "I just want to know what I can do to make them stop."

Midwife: "There's nothing you can do. You know your history. (I had a 90-minute labor and a 46-minute labor; labor as in from my first contraction to baby's first breath.) I'm putting my things in the car right now."

Me: "But I just want it to stop. I'm not ready. I don't have any baby clothes washed. I don't have my towels together. I'm not ready."

Midwife: "The baby's ready though. You need to call your mom and tell her to come over. I'll be there in a few minutes."

my dad giving Tyler his first Chiropractic adjustment

At this point, I wanted to cry, not because of any pain - it still felt like false labor - but because I wasn't prepared. I like to have things in order. I like to be in control. I like to be ready. I was not.

When my midwife got there, she told Leighton to stop setting up the tub and prepare to catch a baby.

Me: "We don't have time for the tub?"

Midwife: "I can check you. If you're dilated more than 5, we don't have time . . . well . . . you're an 8."

Me, crushed: "Can I at least get in the bathtub?" (I really didn't want another bathtub birth, but it was better than delivering in my non-prepared-bed.)

adoring siblings

The next 30 minutes were busy. My mom arrived and got the kids ready for my brother to pick up. Leighton took down the shower doors. I sent everyone around the house to gather the needed supplies. And somewhere during that time, I made my way to the bathtub. As I birthed our baby into the water, Leighton was able to catch him. It was a special moment. Tyler Joseph Leaf was born.

The next 3 hours were a whirlwind of activity: weighing and measuring the baby, washing a load of clothes, taking an herbal bath, sending Leighton to the store to get some things we didn't have, trying to care for this life that entered the world before his mommy was ready.

Alyssa's princess castle cake

The whole family arrived at 7:00 p.m. for a double celebration - for Alyssa's birthday party and for Tyler's birth day. Alyssa opened her presents, was amazed at her cake, and of course, ate pizza. It didn't matter to me that I birthed a baby less than 3 hours before; I wanted to make sure Alyssa still got her special day that she had been looking forward to for weeks. Her baby brother was not replacing it. Instead, he was her special gift.

Because Tyler was born 4 weeks early, there were some initial concerns. He did need a bit of oxygen after birth, and we practiced Kangaroo care a lot the first couple days. He's doing fantastic though! Last week he weighed in at 7 lbs 5 oz. I'm pretty sure it's been the kisses that have ensured his health. After all, he gets at least a thousand of them a day! The other 3 kids absolutely adore him. They are constantly hugging and kissing on him, wanting to hold him, and checking on him while he's sleeping. They run to get me as soon as he makes a peep. Zac tells me every day, "He's so cute!" Jake is convinced that "He's the cutest baby in the world!" And Alyssa acts like she's his mother. Like I said, they absolutely adore him. Zac even gave him his first nickname, Ty Juice (instead of Joseph), and it's stuck with us all.

our family

Little Ty Juice, we love you so much and are glad that you couldn't wait to meet us! We're very grateful for these extra 4 weeks that we get to know you. We thank God for the blessing of you.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Theory Thursday: Dry Paper Underwater

Jake and I came back from soccer practice Thursday night and Erika had the Amazing Science DVD playing. Jake spotted this little trick and knew what he wanted to do.

All you need is a dry piece of paper, a glass, and a bucket with enough water to completely submerge the glass. Crumple the paper lightly, not too tight. (You want the paper to fit in the bottom of the glass but not fall out when you tip the glass upside down.) Simply tip the glass upside down and steadily submerge the glass in the water. You gotta keep the glass level so that none of the air is replaced with water. If it does you will have wet paper underwater.

Check out our attempt.


So how does it work? The air in the glass is lighter than the water. Because of this the air remains in the glass and acts as a buffer between the paper and the water keeping the paper dry.

Well, now that you know how to do it and why it does it go and try it. Try it with your friends. Just tell them, "I bet I can submerge this piece of paper in that water and it won't get wet."


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Friday, April 20, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 4/20/12

Happy Friday! I hope you had a great week. We've been busy, busy. It's finally starting to get warmer again here, yea! We were able to do some yard work and clean up the front flower bed. I haven't even starting on our garden yet though! Jake has started soccer again, so that's takes up a couple evenings a week. Also, because the weather's getting nicer, the construction/demolition work increases and Leighton works crazy hours. Our life is always busy, never stopping, never a dull moment. Life is good.

1. Zac was complaining about something. My dad started pretend crying in response. Zac told him, "You don't whine! I whining."

2. Jake has a little LEGO minifigure that looks like one of the Queen's guards. You know, those guys that stand outside Buckingham palace and have to remain solemn no matter what. Jake was making silly faces and funny sounds at the LEGO guy, pretending to try to get him to smile. It was so, so funny!

3. Zac kissed Tyler on the lips and got a little baby slobber in return. He wiped his nose over and over again. "Ewe! Something ewe on my nose."

4. Zac was cuddling next to me as I was holding Tyler. Alyssa came over to kiss the baby. Zac was not happy about sharing him. "You don't kiss my widdle baby!"

5.Zac asked me to get him something.
Me: "I can't right now. I'm feeding the baby."
Zac: "You need put him 'way!"

6. Alyssa: "My hair tastes like cotton candy when I suck on it . . .  I don't want it to taste like cotton candy. I want it to taste like hair."

7. I was in the basement and called to Leighton, "Hey, Honey?" He and Zac both responded, "What?" I called back, "Big Honey." Jake came running to the stairs, "What?"

8. Alyssa: "I spy something . . . cute!
Me: "Tyler?"
Alyssa: "Yep!"

9. Jake: "What's 10 minus 100?"
Me: "Negative 90"
Jake: "Hehehe. Good one, Mom." 
10. I walked into my room to find Zac standing on the rungs of the crib. He was shaking Tyler's hand and saying, "Nice to meet you."

What made you smile this week?

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 4/18/12

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Tasty Tuesday: Hawaiian Cheese Ball

We celebrated another "national day." This time, it was in honor of the tasty cheese ball.  Cheese balls, the crunchy ones not the creamy kind, always make me think of Zac. He has been obsessed with them ever since his very first bite. He would yell at anyone who ate one, anyone who even looked at his precious cheese balls. Yeah, he kinda likes them.

I love this picture taken of him at 14 months old. It really shows the love relationship. He carried that tub all over the house. All the time.

I'm sure he would have been thrilled if we would have made his beloved snack for National Cheese Ball Day, but alas, we made the creamy kind.

I searched Pinterest for a recipe. I perused allrecipes. I looked through many Swagbuck searches. I could not find a single recipe that I wanted to make. So, what did I do? Created my own, of course.

I could show you the step-by-step process in pictures, but it's really not all that exciting. Throw everything in a bowl, mix it up, chill, devour.

Not only is it super simple to make, it's really yummy, too! Alyssa said it was sparkle-doodley-licious, so you know it has to be good! I bet bacon would be really delicious in this too, but unfortunately we didn't have any. I didn't add any crunch to the outside of the ball since my family isn't crazy about nuts in recipes, but feel free to add them if you choose.

Next time you need an appetizer or just want to celebrate the cheese ball, try this recipe.

Hawaiian Cheese Ball
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
1/2 c cheddar cheese (I used sharp cheddar.)
1/3 c chopped ham
1/3 c crushed pineapple (drained)
2 Tbsp grated onion
1 Tbsp teriyaki sauce (You could substitute soy or worcestershire.)
pinch of pepper
1 cup crushed pecans (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing well. Chill in refrigerator. Form a ball and roll in crushed pecans, if desired. Serve with crackers.

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Amazing Science - Review

I mentioned in my last review how much my kids love science. They look forward to Theory Thursday every week when we do a science experiment. As I said before, this is the subject I struggle with. I love when my husband gets home early enough on Thursdays that he can do them with the kids. He loves science and understands it so much better than I do. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. So, I'm always checking out books from the library or searching the internet for fun experiments to do. When I had the opportunity to review a science DVD full of experiments, I jumped at the chance!

When Amazing Science Volume 1 arrived in the mail, my kids were ecstatic! I popped the first DVD in the player and all 3 kids plopped themselves on the couch. For every demonstration, a complete materials list is given, the experiment is shown from multiple camera views, and the concept is explained step-by-step. It was that step-by-step part that lost my 4-year-old. She doesn't understand all that technical stuff, just like her mommy. Poor thing. Jake, my 6-year-old, watched the entire first DVD, all 11 experiments, beginning to end. He kept saying things like "Wow! That's so cool!" and "I want to do that one!"

We had already done a few of the experiments before like color changing milk, floating eggs, and  lava lamp to name a few, but there are many more that we haven't. After watching the video, Jake decided on cloud in a bottle for our next project. He was so excited to be making our very own, just like he had watched. 

All 23 experiments are very well done and are explained in a way that a non-science-y person (like me!) can understand. The 2-disc set costs $19.95 or if you just can't wait to get it in the mail, you can download it now for $17.99 and start experimenting right away! also offers many other DVDs for science as well as math. Make sure to check out their website to find ways to make learning science and math fun and easy.

We absolutely love these videos! I guarantee that my science-loving little boy will watch them many more times. And if you stop by our blog on Thursdays, you're bound to see another Amazing Science experiment performed by him. In fact, it was while watching this that he told me that instead of a lemonade stand this summer, he wants to have a science stand and perform experiments for $1.00! Who knows, maybe one day he'll make his own science video! Until then, we'll continue to watch these. 

Don't forget to stop by the TOS Crew blog and read more reviews of Amazing Science.

* Disclaimer - I was given a copy of this dvd set in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Make It Monday: Popcorn Cherry Blossoms

One of the things I love about spring is seeing the trees start to bud. That new life and splash of green and is refreshing after the gloom of winter. My favorites though are the flowering trees. The pinks, the purples, the whites - all so pretty. We used to have a beautiful flowering tree in the front of our house. Pretty, that is, as long as the flowers were still on the trees. Once they started falling - and got glued to the exterior of our van - it wasn't so pretty anymore.  Even after we'd clean off the dead flowers, there would still be gunky residue left on the van. Yuck. 

Leighton cut down the tree and filled the space with concrete to expand our driveway. While I don't miss the dried flower gunk or having to walk through the mud to get from the van into the house, I do miss the pretty flowers.

Not to worry, we now have our very own cherry blossoms . . . inside the house.

To make the tree trunks, we traced each child's hand and arm.

Then, they colored them.

You'll need popcorn and pink/red/purple JELL-O for the blossoms.

Pour both the popcorn and the JELL-O powder into a bag.

Make sure the bag has no holes. One way to check is to pour them in and shake. If the powder spills out all over the table, there is a hole. 

Ask me how I know.

Once you pour the popcorn and powder into a new bag - one with no holes - shake, shake, shake it up!

Squeeze dots of glue all around the tree and place popcorn in each one.

Our blossoms were more purple-y than the pink I had originally envisioned. That's what I get for letting Jake, Mr. I-love-everything-cherry, choose the JELL-O. The color did change to pink once they touched the glue though. Also, I sprayed them with hair spray to ensure that the powder stuck and to turn them pinker.

I could have spritzed them with water to bring out the pink, but I remembered what would happen!

Of course, there was plenty of popcorn eating as well. And messy, sticky fingers. And dirty faces. And a powdery table. All the very best things about crafting.

Jake liked the popcorn so much that he asked if we could make it for Tasty Tuesday. It's no wonder he liked it; it tasted just like the fruit-flavored pancake syrup we made.

Aren't they pretty! There's really no wrong way to place the blossoms. The ones off the tree look like flowers that the wind blew away. (Good thing there's no van next to it!)

We got 3 beautiful cherry blossom trees (without the hassle of the clean-up!) and a tasty snack to boot? Sounds like a great springtime craft to me!

Hope you have fun making your own flowering trees!

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pantry Surprise 4/14/12

I was sorting through the mail when I heard, "Why is the salt and pepper in the living room?"

Some things are better left unanswered.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Easter 2012

What a weekend! (I should say "What a week!" I have been trying to get the post done for days!) Holidays are so much fun, but also very busy. It always take me a whole day to reclaim the house after rushing around like we did for days. We finally dyed eggs on Saturday night right before bed. Last year, we used the Dudley Egg Spinner. This year, we chose the old-fashioned route of placing the eggs into the vinegar-water-dye tablet mixture. As we waited for the tablets to dissolve, Jake asked, "Why does is smell like cleaner?" Can you tell what I use to clean our house???

I was pleasantly surprised that we had no mishaps. Er, I was pleasantly surprised that the kids had no mishaps. Should I mention how I may have spilled some vinegar while I was filling the cups? No? Good. I will say it was a good thing we had a tablecloth.  

The had so much fun dyeing the eggs. They would follow the same pattern with each egg:
1. Drop the egg into the cup
2. Wait approximately 2.83 seconds
3. Pull it out to inspect the boldness of the color
4. Repeat steps 1-3 as needed.

Needless to say, it took quite a while to decorate 2 dozen or so eggs. We lost a couple along the way that the kids dropped too quickly into the cup and one that daddy dropped onto the table and broke. We made up for it though by dyeing a few of the brown eggs that I accidentally boiled days before. We impressed the kids by using a white crayon to write on the eggs and having their names magically appear after being dyed. They also had fun playing pictionary with daddy to bide the time while the eggs were sitting in the cups. 

This year, we filled the eggs with LEGOs. (Way better than candy!) Each child had his own set in his own colored eggs. The blue and yellow eggs for Zac were the easiest to find. Alyssa's pink eggs were hidden with a medium difficulty. Jake's green and orange eggs were the hardest to find. Knowing which color to look for made the event run smoothly. It also ensured that each child had the exact same number of eggs. Plus, it was just way more fun!

I think I'm just as excited every year about the baskets as the kids are! They get so many cool things! They each got a new pair of shoes/boots, coloring/activity books, reading books, crafts, bubbles, and toys. And just like last year, the bottoms of the baskets were filled with shirts, pajamas, and a spring jacket. It's just like Christmas! Tyler even got his very first Easter basket. I'm happy to say that he was absolutely thrilled to find all those diapers!   

Why is it so difficult to get kids to cooperate for pictures? Zac will tell me 47 times in a day, "Mommy, take picture me!" But when I'm trying to get a nice picture, it"s a totally different story. This is probably the best picture we got of all 3 kids before church.

* Side Note: Aren't they still adorable in their Easter outfits???

We tried again after church before going to my parents' house. Here we have 2 boys not cooperating. Getting better though.

And we tried again after we got to my parents'. What can I say? We're gluttons for punishment. Zac still was refusing to smile for the camera. As soon as we pulled it out, he hid his face in my shoulder. Bribing him with candy didn't even produce a smile! {gasp}

We finally got this picture of the family. While it might not be magazine-worthy, I'm just happy that no one is in tears and everyone is looking in the general direction of the camera.

And to think it took only 49 tries to get this one picture.

Of course, we enjoyed our day spent with family. We had entirely too much food - ham, fresh and smoked Polish sausage, deviled eggs, cheesy potatoes, sweet potato casserole, rolls, strawberry cheesecake, cupcakes, tres leches cake - ate entirely too much, and probably had entirely too much fun. I hope you had a lovely Resurrection Day and thanked the Lord for what He did for you.   

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Things That Make Me Smile 4/13/12

1. Alyssa came running into the house very excited. "Mom! You have to see something AMAZING! There are dandelions growing everywhere in the yard!!! It's so beautiful!!!."

2. Jake: "Why is it called New York? Is it new?"

3. I don't think I've mentioned on here before that Leighton was making the boys bunk beds. (I think he may be writing up a post on the process.) He finished and set them up this week and moved Jake's twin bed into Alyssa's room. All 3 kids were so excited! They've  been having fun this week playing that the beds were pirate ships, hanging a blanket over the side and pretending that it was a fort, and reading books up on the top bunk. They may even have done a little sleeping, too.

4. This is the dialogue that took place in the van one evening. I'd say conversation, but as you'll see, there was no time for a response:
Jake: "Why did God make the center of the earth hot? Is hell in the center of the earth? Is God going to send a rock bigger than the earth to smash it and destroy it? I think Jesus is 1000 feet tall. Dad's not even 20 feet tall.  Can we see down into earth from heaven? If so, I want to see what He sees. Can we send letters from heaven to earth? . . . ."

5. While playing with cars -
Alyssa: "Oh, no! It's a truckpasser!"
Jake: "It's not truckpasser. It's trustpasser."
Me: "Actually, it's trespasser."

6. Jake: "Who's the baddest villain on all the Star Wars?
Me: "Hmm, maybe Darth Vader."
Jake: "I think you're right because he even has his own song to let you know he's coming."

7. Zac: "Mommy, where's Daddy?"
Me: "He's changing. What do you need?"
Zac: "I need to kiss him."

8. Tyler started squirming around and making little squeaking noises. Alyssa said, "I think the baby's getting an attitude."

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Peanut Butter Brownie Torte

I had been wanting to make this dessert for months, just thinking about it and drooling over it. Why didn't I make it sooner? I knew this was a recipe that needed to be shared. Peanut butter and chocolate together is my weakness. Add brownies to the mix, and I have no self-control. I knew I'd end up eating the majority of this decadent torte if it were made for just us. When my nephew was home from college a few weeks ago, and the family was getting together, I instantly knew what I'd be bringing.

The original recipe makes two small tortes using 4½ inch spring form pans. I don't even have one pan that small, let alone the six needed. What I did have was three 9 inch pans. I figured I could make one torte with the larger pans instead of two with the smaller. I mean, 4½ times 2 equal 9, right? Everything would be fine, right? 


The brownie layers were incredibly thin. Very tasty, sure, but so flimsy that they wouldn't hold up to the peanut butter mousse in between the layers. It was just an hour before everyone would show up at my parents' house where I was baking. The prime rib was cooking away in the roaster, the potatoes were ready to be placed in the oven, the rolls were rising on the counter . . . and the brownie layers were crumbling into pieces. 

It was at this point that I asked, "Why did I choose a recipe that I had to completely adapted for the first time for company???"

I ended up starting over - this time doubling the brownie layers. I was working frantically - leaving the used ingredients scattered around, sprinkling trails of powder across the counter, and splattering batter all over the kitchen - trying to get them in the oven before the temp needed to be changed for the potatoes.

There was one thing though that made it all ok. One aspect that made my frenzied endeavor bearable - eating the discarded brownies. Oh. My. Goodness. They were so fudgy and chocolatey. And addicting. I enjoyed entirely too many bites. Definitely a good sign for the finished product.

I finished assembling the torte after dinner. I learned something that day: it's not a good idea to take food pictures when you have a group of people waiting to eat the subject. I don't know how many times I heard "Are you done yet?"

Let me tell you, this dessert is rich - and I like rich. But this is rich. One sliver of a piece is all you really need. Unless you chill the torte first. Wow. The next day, after sitting in the fridge, this was amazing! I walked into the kitchen and found Zac sitting at the table with the entire plate just eating away. I know, that boy eats everything, but even Jake, who is not into chocolate, could not stop gobbling this up. It's that good. The only thing I would change is to leave off the chocolate ganache. It really is too much, in my opinion. But that mousse? I could eat that with a spoon!    

Please,  if you like peanut butter, chocolate, brownies, and all things delicious, make this torte!

But don't play around with the recipe when you're pressed for time. Unless you want to snack on the extra brownies.

Peanut Butter Brownie Torte
3 brownie rounds (recipe follows)
peanut butter cream cheese mousse (recipe follows)
peanut butter cup pieces (I used 1 king size bag of Reese's PB Cup Minis)
chocolate ganache (recipe follows)

Brownie Rounds
1⅓ cups unsalted butter, melted                                       ½ cup cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar                                                   1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs                                                                            ½ tsp baking powder
2 egg yolks                                                                     pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract                                                          1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Butter and flour three 9-inch diameter spring form pans. Set aside.
2. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together butter and sugar, about 2 minutes. Add in egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Beat another minute. Pour in cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed until fully incorporated.
3. Fold in chocolate chips until completely distributed throughout the brownie batter.
4. Evenly distribute the batter into the three prepared pans. Bake for 20-23 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Mousse
½ cup whipping cream, chilled                                        ⅓ cup + 2 tbsp powdered sugar
5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature               ⅓ cup peanut butter

1. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the whipped cream on high until stiff peaks form. Place into a bowl and set aside.
2. Add the cream cheese and peanut butter into the mixer and whisk on medium speed, until fully incorporated. Add powdered sugar and mix until combined.
3. Add whipped cream back into bowl and whisk on medium high until peanut butter mixture and whipped cream are fully incorporated and the texture is light and fluffy.
4. Place into a medium sized bowl and set in fridge while brownies fully cool, at least 30 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache
4 ½ ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped finely
½ cup heavy whipping cream

1. Place chocolate in a medium bowl.
2. In a small saucepan bring cream to a boil. Once the boil starts, pour over chocolate. Let sit 5 minutes. 
3. Whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy.

To Assemble the Torte
1. Remove brownie from spring form pans. Place one brownie circle on a plate. Add 1/3 of the  peanut butter mousse. Scatter a handful of peanut butter cups on top. 
2. Place another brownie round on top of the that. Then add another 1/3 of the peanut butter mousse. Then add more peanut butter cups.
3. Place third brownie round on top of second layer. Add remaining peanut butter mousse and more peanut butter cups.
4. Pour the ganache over the top of the torte. Best if chilled.
Recipe adapted from Peabody.
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Monday, April 9, 2012

AIMS What on Earth? - Review

My kids (6 yr & 4 yr) love science. That's one reason why we do a science experiment every week for Theory Thursday. There's just one problem - I struggle with the subject. I am always looking at various books to make learning fun. That's why I was excited to try AIMS What on Earth?. This science curriculum is geared towards Kindergarten-1st grade.

The book includes 30 activities and is divided into the following sections:
  1. Resources: The Earth has resources that are used to make all kinds of things. Resources can be conserved by recycling, reusing, and reducing their consumption.
  2. Rocks and Soils; Rocks and soils have observable properties.
  3. Water: Water is found in oceans, lakes, ponds, and rivers.
  4. Changes: Earth’s surface can quickly change due to hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, and wind and wave action.
  5. Day/Night: The sun and moon are objects in the sky that have repeating patterns of movement.
  6. Seasons: The seasons form a repeating pattern. The changes in weather help determine our clothing and activities.

The book is very thorough. It breaks down each lesson for the teacher with things like topic, key question, materials needed, background information, procedure, and more. It also includes a CD for printing the worksheets. I like the hands-on approach of the curriculum. After all, the Chinese proverb that guides all AIMS material is “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.”

This curriculum was written for use in a classroom setting. While I was able to adapt some lessons to be used with my 2 little ones, it did make things a little more difficult. Also, because of the strong focus on the hands-on approach, each lesson required a lot of prep work. I found myself skipping some of the lessons because I just didn't have the time or the resources needed. 

During one lesson about the sun, I asked, "The sun gives us light and what?" I expected my 6 year old to answer with heat. Instead, he replied, "Vitamin D!" I am glad that the lessons reiterate things that we've already taught on a daily basis. I think this is a good supplement for science, but would require too much effort to use as a main curriculum.
You can purchase a copy (paperback or PDF) for $21.95. They offer free sample activities to see how it would work with your family. Or stop by their store to check out other grade levels and subjects.

To learn more about AIMS, please visit their website here. Also, don't forget to head to the TOS Crew blog to read more AIMS reviews 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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Friday, April 6, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 4/6/12

Can it really be Friday already??? This week has just flown by. Tyler will be 2 weeks old tomorrow! He's put on a little bit of weight, is finally starting to get a somewhat consistent eating schedule, and is losing some characteristics of an "early baby." I am very pleased with how well he is doing. God is good!

1. Jake counted to 100 by 20s. When I asked how he knew that, he said, "I don't know. I just made it up!"

2. Our April Fool's Day meal.

3. Jake was saying the same phrase over and over again. 
Me: "Jake, I don't want you saying that anymore."
Jake: "Can I just think it in my head and not say it out loud?"
Me: No, because eventually you will. What you think about is what you'll talk about."
Jake: "I just can't stop thinking about it."
Me: "Whenever you can't stop thinking about something you shouldn't, just sing 'Let's talk about Jesus, the King of kings is He, the Lord of lords supreme through all --'"
Jake: "Did you just say 'whipped cream?'"

4. During a science lesson, I asked, "The sun gives us light and what?" (heat) Jake answered, "Vitamin D!"

5. Alyssa asked for a Twizzler's Pull & Peel. Since we had only 1 left, I told her that she and Jake would have to share it (Zac was napping.) I cut the candy in half and gave it to her. She walked over to Jake and asked, "Which one do you want?" Had it been the other way around, he would have measured them and chosen the bigger piece - even if it was only bigger by a smidgen!

6. Alyssa said, "Wanna feel my breath, Mommy? It's hot. That's because I swallowed something hot and it made my breath hot."

7. Zac was picking out a sucker to eat. He grabbed two, so I told him to put one back. He hid one behind his back, showed me the other hand, and said, "I have one!

8. Leighton bought an iPad on Craigslist. He's been wanting one forever, but we just couldn't justify spending the money. Now that we have all our debt paid off, got a good tax return, and found a great deal, he bought one. I didn't really see the point in having one. (I am not the techy one.) We have a laptop, desktop, and an iPod; why did we need one more device? Now that we have it though, and Leighton showed me things we can do with it, I love it! It's been so convenient using it for school this week. Maybe he does know what he's talking about . . .

9. Instead of a lemonade stand this summer, Jake wants to have a science stand where he'll preform experiments for $1.00.

10. I bought the kids chocolate-covered marshmallow eggs. Alyssa ate one and said, "They're even better than scrambled  eggs!"

Have a Happy Easter!

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Theory Thursday: Cloud in a Bottle

When I got home today Jake started me to tell about a science project that he watched on the "Amazing Science" DVD we are reviewing. (Look for the review in 2 weeks.)

"You take a plastic bottle and put alcohol in it, and swoosh it around, and put the cap back on. Then you use a drill or pencil or something to put a hole in the bottle. Then you pump it up with air and it goes WHOOOSH!His excitement was a little overwhelming. I knew what we were doing tonight, "Cloud in a Bottle".

It is simple really. Start with a two liter bottle, or any plastic bottle that can handle some pressure. A juice bottle perhaps. (Although I wouldn't try a milk carton.) Put about 1/2 teaspoon of rubbing alcohol in the bottle and "swoosh" it around to coat the bottle with it. Put a hole in the bottle. Now I pre-drilled a hole that fit a rubber fitting I had for our pump, but you can just make a small hole and cover it with duct tape and use a pump with a needle on it. (You know a needle for inflating a ball.) Insert pump end and inflate. We were trying to hit 25-30 psi. Once you get some pressure in it, release the pressure and WHOOOSH! You have a cloud in your bottle.

So why does it happen? I thought you might ask so I looked it up. When pressure is applied to the water in the air the molecules gather together and heat up. When the pressure is released the water molecules separate and cool. As they cool they form a cloud and if they cool further it rains. The alcohol evaporates quicker than water and releases its bond with itself quicker thus the alcohol cloud in the bottle forms quicker and with better visibilty than water would. (check this site for deeper info

You may have noticed that there are no pictures in this post. That's because we did a video. Check out how much fun we had trying this out. Do you see our special guest in the background, its the new kid in school.

Now its your turn grab the supplies from the closet, bathroom, and recycle bin and give it a try.
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Amazing Animals by Design - Review

My son is a big "why" questioner. Why does an elephant have such a long trunk? Why do zebras have stripes? Why does the giraffe have a long neck? Why? Why? Why? 

All of these questions and more can be answered in the book Amazing Animals by Design. It was written by one of my fellow TOS Crew members, Debra Haagen. She wanted to write a book for preschool-3rd graders that credits God for specifically designing each animal.

The reader follows John and Sarah as they take a trip to the zoo with their parents. Along the way, they learn many interesting facts about the animals. It is evident that God had a special purpose for not just the animals, but for us as well.

This cute and very accurate book retails for $8.99 for a paperback copy and $7.99 for a digital download and can be purchased through Tate Publishing. When we received the pdf file, my husband put it on our new iPad for us to read. It was simple to do and the pictures looked beautiful on that device. My kids (6 yr and 4 yr) and I enjoyed reading this book and learning some new things. What an amazing God we serve!

You can read more TOS Crew reviews of Amazing Animals by Design here.

* Disclaimer - I was given a pdf version of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 4/4/12

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Tasty Tuesday: Resurrection Rolls

My kids are ecstatic that Easter is quickly approaching. Jake has been looking forward to it ever since the excitement of Christmas wore off. He has had a countdown going since this past Sunday.  All week, when he wakes up in the morning, he first asks, "Where's baby Tyler?" and "Can I give him a hug and kiss?" Very next thing, he tells me how many days are left until we celebrate Easter. I wish I could tell you that he's looking forward to commemorating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Or at least that he's eagerly awaiting the time spent together as a family. But no. Of course, he does understand the true meaning of Easter. He knows that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and rose again three days later. But he's a kid. To him, it's all about the Easter basket and Easter egg hunt. What can I say, he's six.

Anyway, I wanted to make sure to put the focus on Jesus. I first heard of resurrection rolls a few years ago, but never made them. Until now.

The purpose of the rolls is to show a picture of Jesus' resurrection from the grave. (Full story and symbolization at bottom of post with recipe.) The ingredients are simple - a can of refrigerated crescent rolls, marshmallows, butter, cinnamon, and sugar. There's just one problem with that list. We don't buy refrigerated rolls. I make them from scratch. I had never made crescent rolls though. No biggie, there's a first time for everything. Sure, I could just have picked up a tube of rolls from the store, but where's the fun in that?

I love this thing. Dump all the ingredient in, select the dough/pasta setting, hit start, and wait for 90 minutes. Ah, simplicity.

Once the dough is ready, take it out, and punch it down a few times. Break it into two halves and roll each half into a 12" circle, or almost-circle. 

Cut the dough into 10-15 wedges. I made mine a little larger to cover the marshmallows. I tried a couple small ones though to see if they'd be big enough. They weren't.
If you're making regular rolls, you brush the dough with softened butter, roll them up starting with the wide end, allow to rise until doubled, and bake. We did that with one half of the batch. They other half, I let rise in wedges and then continued with the resurrection roll recipe.

Here is where I have a problem. You see, I took picture after picture of my little ones assembling the resurrection rolls and pictures of the finished product. But we can't find them. I looked on the memory card. No files found. I looked on another card. No files found. I had Leighton check. No files found. What's a girl to do? Continue with the post . . . without any picture proof. 

So, visualize with me. Can you see Jake dip his marshmallow into the melted butter? He's rolling it around . . . and around and around. There's Alyssa coating her marshmallow in the cinnamon and sugar mixture . . . and sneaking a few tastes. There's Zac pretending to help, but really just licking his fingers every 3 seconds. They all place the covered marshmallows on the crescents and wrap them up.   

And here's where we run into trouble. Again. I could skip this part - you'd never know - but I can't. See, my dough was not doubled after an hour and a half and it was getting late. I warmed the oven to 250°F for 5 minutes, placed the dough inside, and let it finish rising. I realized after we tried to cover the marshmallows and the dough wouldn't stick closed that it was partially cooked. I never turn the oven off! It was cooking my precious dough for 10-15 minutes instead of allowing it to rise in the warmth. On a side note, I boiled 2 dozen eggs yesterday to dye this week for Easter. As I was drying them to put them in the fridge, I realized that I had used brown eggs. Kinda hard to color brown eggs! Yesterday just wasn't my day in the kitchen. Hey, it happens!

Anyway, back to the rolls. We wrapped them the best we could and baked them. And we ran into trouble. Yet  again! The rolls were browning, but the marshmallows were still there. Jesus can't still be in the grave! I let them bake until the cook in me could stand it no more. We simply couldn't eat overcooked rolls just for the sake of illustration. I removed the rolls with marshmallow oozing out. We did have a couple that were totally empty inside, like they're supposed to be. The kids were amazed that the marshmallows were gone! And they loved the almost-cinnamon rolls that were left. But honestly, the ones with the fresh, roasted marshmallow-melt tasted even better! 

While they enjoyed their rolls, I read them John 19:40-20:18. We talked in depth again about the story. Jake asked, "How many times did Jesus rise? Because it says He rose . . . again. Again means more than one time."

And again we have trouble - our rolls are all gone! We should probably make them a second time just so you can see the process through pictures. Or maybe I just want more than 1 measly roll!

1 (10 ounce) can refrigerated crescent rolls                       1-2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
8 large marshmallows                                                         2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

1. Take a triangle from the cresent rolls.
The crescent roll represents the cloth that Jesus was wrapped in.

2. Get a marshmallow.
This represents Jesus and His purity.

3. Dip the marshmallow in melted butter.
This represents the oils of embalming.

4. Roll the buttered marshmallow in the cinnamon and sugar.
These represent the spices used to anoint the body of Jesus.

5. Wrap the coated marshmallow tightly in the crescent roll (bring the sides up and seal the marshmallow inside, otherwise the marshmallow will leak out.)
This represents the wrapping of Jesus’ body after death.

6. Place in a 375°F oven for 10 to 12 minutes.
The oven represents the tomb where they buried Jesus.

When the rolls have cooled slightly, the you can open the cloths (rolls) and discover that Jesus (marshmallow) is no longer there, HE IS RISEN! The marshmallow melts and the crescent roll is puffed up, but like the tomb - it is empty!

Crescent Rolls
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast (or 4 1/2 tsp)           2 eggs
3/4 cup warm water (110° F)                                                  1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup white sugar                                                                 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt                                                                        1/4 cup butter, softened

1. Place the first 7 ingredients in pan of bread maker in order of manufacture's directions. Select the dough cycle.
2. When cycle is finished, remove and punch down dough. Divide in half. Roll each half into a 12-inch circle. Spread with butter. Cut into 10 to 15 wedge. Roll up the wedges starting with the wide end. Place rolls with point under on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until double (about 1 hour).
3. Bake at 400° F for 12-15 minute or until golden brown. Brush tops with butter.
Recipe adapted from here.
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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Make It Monday: Marshmallow Easter Eggs

This is a very, very easy project for Easter. But don't let its simplicity fool you. It actually sneaks a little bit of learning into craft time!

All you need is a paper cut-out of an egg and colored marshmallows.

Just hand your kids the 2 supplies and let their imaginations do the rest.

They might make stripes, polka-dots, trees, flowers or a smiley face complete with eyebrows and mustache!

Or . . .

They might just plop all the marshmallows onto the egg.  Hey, whatever works!

I took advantage of this time to work on colors with my 2 year old. He's known all his colors for many months, but he still likes going over them. I would say "find a green marshmallow" or "can you put a pink one on the egg?" It was good review.

You can even practice patterns - easy ones for the younger kids and harder ones for the older.

But the best part???

Cleaning up!

Zac ate all of his marshmallows long before the other 2 kids were finished creating and recreating their Easter eggs. He kept reaching across the table to grab some out of Alyssa's bowl.

Little Stinker!

Grab some paper eggs and marshmallows and have fun decorating your own Easter eggs! 

Just make sure you have plenty of marshmallows to go around!

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Monday, April 2, 2012

April Fools Fun

Happy Belated April Fools Day! Jake thinks this is a great holiday, and I really wanted to make it fun this year. So, we had dessert for dinner and dinner for dessert! These are not original ideas, but are plenty fun just the same.

Our menu consisted of cupcakes and Kool-Aid. The kids were ecstatic to have cupcakes for dinner - confused, but ecstatic.

Of course, they all tried to take a drink first. Poor Zachy. He got it the worst. The other 2 kids were confused at first, but poor Zac just did not understand. He kept sucking and sucking on the straw, but nothing would come up! He told us, "Mine not working. I don't wike dis one." We explained that it was really jello, but he still kept trying to drink it. 

Jake thought it was great though!

The real fun was using the straw the slurp the jello. It makes the funniest sounds! One of my favorite childhood memories of my cousin is when we were vising family in Wisconsin. He and I were eating jello  - with straws! He was laughing so hard that red jello came out his nose! We had so much fun that day. And now I was able to carry on that excitement with my own children.

These were incredibly simple to make. I made a packet of jello according to the directions on the box, and poured the liquid into individual glasses. Then, I stuck in a straw and placed them in the refrigerator to solidify.

We moved on to the "cupcakes." Alyssa tasted the frosting and was a little disappointed that it wasn't sweet, sugary frosting. Jake tasted it and said, "Mashed potatoes??? But what's the cake?" As soon as he tried it, he was happy to find out that it was actually meatloaf. That boy loves meatloaf. This particular batch was made with venison from a deer that Leighton shot last fall. All the more special.

These were easy to make. I made a batch of meatloaf and filled my silicone muffin cups. I topped each one with a bit of ketchup and stuck them in the fridge on a cookie sheet. When I was ready to bake them, I just popped the cookie sheet in the oven. Then, I made mashed potatoes, filled my dessert decorator, and piped the potatoes on the cooked meatloaf cakes.

I couldn't think of anything fun to do with a veggie, so we just had plain ol' broccoli. Exciting, I know, but we all love it, so it worked out fine. Our meal was filled with much laughter and talks of tricks that the kids could play. We had so much fun!

After church, we ate pizza! Or rather yellow cake crust, red colored frosting sauce, white chocolate shavings cheese, and fruit roll-up pepperonis.

Even after being tricked before, they were still surprised that it wasn't real pizza. Gotta love their innocence. And their smiles.

They gobbled this "pizza" right up. Jake was leery at first about the "cheese" because he thought it might be coconut. He had no hesitations when I assured it him was white chocolate though.

This one took a little bit more to prepare. I baked a yellow cake mix according to the directions on the box in two 9" cake pans. (I used only one half. To be more realistic, you could put less batter in one pan to make a thinner "crust.") Then, I used what frosting I had in the fridge (about 3/4 cup) and added quite a bit of red food coloring. As I suspected, it still had more of a pinkish hue than red, so I added some strawberry jam. I don't think it helped much with the color though. It did, however, make the frosting even sweeter. For the cheese, I used a potato peeler to scrape off curls of a white chocolate bar. The pepperonis gave me the hardest time of all. After trying multiple things to make the circles, I found out that the easiest thing was just to cut them out using kitchen scissors.

What fun we had! The kids have been talking about the tricks all day today.

And they're already talking about next year. I'd better start planning now!
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