Saturday, March 31, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 3/30/12

This has been an exciting week for sure. I haven't made the official announcement on the blog yet, so I'd better. Our baby was born last Saturday! That came as a surprise for sure, since he (yes, he!) came 4 weeks early. (I'll write up his birth story soon.) That's where I've been the past week. Instead of blogging, I've been caring for a newborn, a very little newborn.  He's had some struggles, but overall, for an early baby, he's doing well.

I never posted a "Things That Make Me Smile" list last week. I was late in getting it up (just like this week) and was planning to finish it on Saturday. But, like I said, my attention was drawn elsewhere. So, here are both weeks combined in 1 long list. Hope you smile!


1. Jake: "I like how big my muscles are."

2. My mom was pointing out the chickadee in the yard. Zac told her, "No, that not chicken. That birdie." 

3. The kids were watching Word World. The theme song says, "Nothing's better than a letter. They hold our world together." Jake replied, "Letters are boring. They just sit there and look at you."

4. Zac, pointing to his lips, commanded me, "You! Kiss Me!"

5. Though Zac has been potty trained for months, he still sleeps in diapers at night. When he woke up, I smelled a less-than-desirable odor. I asked, "Are you stinky?" He replied, "No, I not stinky. That my butt stinky."

6. Me: "Who determines your attitude?
Jake: "The air."
Me: "The air? Am I breathing the same air as you?"
Jake: "Yes."
Me: "How come I don't have a bad attitude?"
Jake: "It just comes to me more differently. It tells me how to behave."

7. Alyssa: "Artichokes - do they actually choke you for real?"

8. The night Tyler (our new baby) was born, Alyssa was cuddling with me on the couch. Suddenly, she said, "Mommy, your tummy is little again!"

9. Leighton has very sensitive skin. If he rests his hand on his neck for even just a few seconds, his neck will turn red and blotchy. Alyssa loves any cheese, but especially colby jack. What do these 2 things have to do with each other? Alyssa told Leighton, "Daddy, your neck looks like cheese!"

10. Zac came to me whining and holding his head because Thomas hit him. Thomas, as in Thomas his toy train.

11. Tyler cooed, and Alyssa said, "That's my favorite baby sound."

12. Alyssa coughed and cleared her throat. Then she told me, "Sometimes when I lose my voice, I have to work really hard to find it."

13. Zac was eating an apple and kept bringing me pieces of the peel. He told me, "I don't like wrapper."

14. I was changing Tyler's diaper and he was less-than-happy. Jake came running into the room and asked, "Why are you making the baby cry???" He's already a little protective.

15. Zac: "Mommy, baby is cwying. You have to hold him."

There were tons more things that made me smile this week, too. Things like the kids constantly running off to check on the baby, Jake telling me 263 times how cute Tyler is, watching all 3 kids kiss him over and over again, my mom coming over this week to help with the kids and housework, my grandparents coming home from their winter in Florida, and so much more. It's been a good week, for sure.

What made you smile this week?
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Friday, March 30, 2012

Alyssa's 4th Birthday Day

I already shared about our Mommy-Daughter Day to celebrate Alyssa's 4th birthday, but here is how we celebrated her actual birthday day.

It seems that we start each special day with pancakes. I think the kids associate pancakes with celebrations. This time, I colored the batter a pinkish-purple with food coloring and added chocolate chips. Alyssa was a little disappointed when she saw that I made plain ol' circles instead of party hats or something else festive, but she quickly got over it when she saw me top them with whipped cream and star sprinkles.

When we ran out of whipped cream, she asked for ice cream as a replacement. Ice cream for breakfast??? Of course! Who am I to deprive my princess of ice cream-topped pancakes on her birthday?

We all spent the day playing with toys and games of Alyssa's choosing. Multiple times, she told me, "I want to spend the day with you again." I think she liked having mommy to herself and not having to share my attention with her crazy brothers. It's always so special to have one-on-one time with your children. Of course, we also made these chocolate cupcakes and whipped vanilla frosting.

The real fun came when daddy got home from work. It was finally time to open presents!!!

She may have been a little excited to get a new stretchy headband and ribbon clip.

And she even may have been excited to get her new booster seat.

  And she was definitely excited to get a princess castle tent (though I didn't get a picture of her face when she opened it since her little brother was running all over and got in the way.)

My little girl is so sweet and loving, yet sassy and dramatic. She's my girly-girl in my sea of boys, but she can keep her own in a wrestling match. She loves to help and loves to cuddle. And ever since the beginning, she's had her daddy wrapped around her little finger.

Happy 4th Birthday, Princess! We love you so very much!

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

I See Sam - Review

We  got something exciting in the mail a few weeks ago. New books!

The Reading for All Learners “Little Books” program (a.k.a. I See Sam) is a sequence of 141 color-coded books. There are 8 sets of books from Kindergarten to 3.6 reading level. Each set contains up to 27 books and costs $30.

We started the program with the placement assessment. After having Jake (6 yr) read and reread portions from it, I chose to start him with book sets 4 and 5. I knew that he could read from the higher levels, but I didn't want him to possibly get overwhelmed. When the box of books came in the mail, I was surprised how excited Jake was when I told him that they were new books for him to read. The last few reviews have been for his younger sister. I guess he was starting to feel left out. That being said, he jumped at the chance to read the first book in the set.  

The beginning of each book starts with word practice and introducing new words before the student reads the first story. There are prompts (a smiley face for praise or comprehension questions) at the bottom of each page to assist the parent/teacher. The stories are filled with illustrations to keep the child's attention. Once the student has finished reading a book, he rereads it for comprehension. I was skeptical about this part. Jake is a strong-willed child. When he finishes any work of sorts, he doesn't see the need to redo it. The day after he finished book 1 of the first set, I told him we needed to read it all over again. Then, I braced myself. But he simply turned to the first page and began reading! He obviously likes the stories and level of difficulty. 

One thing I'm not crazy about is the quality of the books. They are simply a piece of cardstock for a cover and regular printer paper stapled together. We already have a book with a crimped corner and crinkled cover. {shudder} Also, because the printer paper is lower quality, you can see the print from the next page through the front of each one. Jake thought that was pretty cool though, since he could figure out the story without turning the page. 

Overall, we've enjoyed reading the Little Books. They are very easy to use and keep my child's attention. When my son doesn't complain or sigh when I say it's time to read, I am one happy mommy.

You can read other TOS Crew reviews here.

* Disclaimer - I was given 2 sets of books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Vanilla Frosting

We made cupcakes this week so Alyssa could take them to church for her birthday. When you homeschool, it's just not as exciting sharing your birthday treat with your classmate family. I asked her what kind of cake she wanted even though I already knew the answer. Chocolate. Always chocolate. And pink frosting, of course.

Thirteen ingredients. This is why people use a box mix.

Seriously though, this is one of the easiest chocolate cake recipes since it's made in 1 bowl in 2 steps.

 Dump in your dry ingredients and sift.

Add in your wet ingredients and mix well.

Easy and quick? Yep.

The only "problem" per se is that the batter is runny. Extremely runny. And messy.

I made 24 cupcakes  and the batter rose over the edges, making it difficult to remove the cakes. The cupcakes are incredibly moist, so they're very delicate. I suggest filling the liners a little less and making a few more cupcakes. More is good, right?

After the cupcakes are cooled, begin making your frosting. I highly suggest this recipe. It's probably not so much the ingredients, but the technique that really makes it. This picture is just the butter after it was whipped for 8 minutes. Thank God for a KitchenAid! 

Here's another tip - if you take your butter out of the fridge and let it sit for a couple hours in 75° weather, it's probably going to melt. All over. It also makes it difficult to "whip" since it just kinda slops around. If that should happen, just pop the bowl into the freezer for 10 minutes or so to stiffen the butter up before whipping. Ask me how I know.

Pour in the remaining ingredients after the butter is sufficiently whipped. The frosting will look done before the additional 7 minutes are up. Please, please, please continue to mix it. This is the lightest, fluffiest frosting I've ever made.

Wow. Like I said, the cake is incredibly moist and rich. Even Jake and Leighton liked them, and neither of them are big chocolate fans. In fact, Jake requested these for his birthday - minus the pink frosting, of course. The frosting itself is so airy and light. Jake said, "This is so yummy! I can really taste the 3 sticks of butter in it." I admit, I ate more than my fair-share of it. It's that sweet-tooth I have. I just can't help myself.

We even made the pink glitter sprinkles (post coming.)  It was so quick, easy, and fun!

I'm so sad the cupcakes are gone. Mmm, they were good. Both of these recipes will be added to our permanent collection for sure.

Anyone have a birthday coming up and need me to make you a cake??? One condition - you have to share!

Classic Chocolate Cupcakes
1 1/2 c  flour                                                         1 tsp salt
1 1/2 c sugar                                                        2/3 c buttermilk (or 2/3 c milk + 2 tsp vinegar)
1/2 c cocoa powder                                             1/2 c brewed coffee or espresso, hot
1 1/2 tsp  baking soda                                          1/3 c + 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp  baking powder                                      2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp  cornstarch                                            1 Tbsp  pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350° F and fill cupcake pan with  liners.
2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift all dry ingredients.
3. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed and pour into prepared cupcake pan until just less than 2/3 full.  *Batter will be very liquidy.
4. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. Carefully remove cupcakes from the pan immediately and place them on a wire rack until completely cool.
Recipe adapted from Sweetapolita.

Whipped Vanilla Frosting
3 sticks + 2 tablespoons  unsalted butter, softened
3.5 cups  confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed. Butter will become very pale & creamy.
2. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
3. Best used right away, for ideal spreading consistency.
Recipe adapted from Sweetapolita.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday, Alyssa!

Happy Birthday to my baby girl! Though I suppose she's not a baby anymore. Any parent will agree that children grow entirely too fast. Could it really have been 4 years ago that she was born? Four years since we first saw her precious face? Four short years that we've been blessed to raise her?  It seems like just the other day we were planning for her arrival, yet it's hard to remember our life without her. Now here we are, 4 years and a little 2-year-old brother later, and we're waiting to add yet another one to our family. 

These days with all the kids being so little can be hectic, sometimes stressful, and always very busy. But even though it can be overwhelming at times, I know that the years are flying by in a flash. If only I could stop the clock or at least slow it down for a bit. I want my kids to know how special they are, how much we love them. That's one reason why I have started to spend a special day alone with the birthday child. Last year, Alyssa and I had a lovely tea party.  Here is our mommy-daughter day this year (a day early so as not to interfere with Wednesday night church.)

After we dropped off the boys, we headed to Burger King for lunch. The kids are signed up for their birthday club and get a free kid's meal. Big spender, I know. Hey, I did pay extra for her chicken nuggets though; only the hamburger meal is free. Now that's love.

She also got to sit in Jake booster seat instead of her 5-point harness. It's always a treat to sit there when he's gone. She'll be so excited to open her very own pink booster today! Since we'll be getting a new little baby soon, Alyssa will be moving to the back of the van, where it will be difficult to climb back and buckle her. Besides, she's a big 4-year-old now. (Side note: I am so excited about not having to wrinkle up her poofy dresses with all those buckles!)

After lunch, we headed back home. My girly-girl loves getting dolled up. We applied some of mommy's make-up, curled her hair, and painted her nails. Don't grow up too fast, little one.

I was surprised when she asked to play the Wii. She had been talking about another real tea party for weeks. I guess the lure of being able to choose the games, instead of playing whatever her big brother picks, was too tempting. Plus, I let her be Player 1 -- bonus!

Such a precious, innocent face. Can she really be 4 already???

After our festivities at home, we went to Toys R Us and stopped by the front desk to get another birthday crown and a balloon. We also heard a personalized birthday wish over the speakers. Every time someone walked by, they said, "Happy Birthday!" And every time she responded with "Happy Birthd . . . uh, thank you."

She got a card and $3 coupon in the mail as part of the birthday club. We like to take the kids to pick out a small gift using that coupon. The only problem? All the smaller, more inexpensive toys are higher up on the shelves and the bigger, more expensive ones are eye level for the kids. Of course. We walked around for an hour - an hour, no lie - before she settled on a $5 clearance bridal dress-up set. She and Jake love to pretend that they're getting married. It was perfect.

Michaels is next to the toy store, so we just had to make a trip there as well. She is a crafty girl all the way. She'll often sit at the table making a mess creating some masterpiece. She loves to cut paper into tiny pieces with scissors or with paper punches. (She doesn't necessarily like to pick up the scraps, but that's a different story.) Her newest obsession is yarn. Not knitting or anything like that since her mommy never learned herself, but cutting it, tying it, taping it, leaving it all around the house. She was very excited to stock up on some new craft supplies for her birthday.

We ended the afternoon with a stop for Slurpees, for her and to surprise each of her brothers. She also got to watch a movie in the van while we headed back.

I am so thankful for the times we get to spend together. I will forever cherish the memories as I do the ones I have of spending time with my own mother. I hope that Alyssa and I will remain best friends as she grows just like my mom and me.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart. I am privileged to call you mine.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 3/16/12

This was another week where I didn't record a whole lot.  First, I was sick. Then, I spoke too soon about the kids. Thankfully none of them got it nearly as bad as I did. I'd much rather have it worse/longer than see my babies feel yucky. Anyway, here are the few things I did manage to write down.

1. Alyssa: :Is the new baby a boy or a girl?"
Me: "We don't know yet."
Alyssa: "We need Daddy to make an x-ray to see if the baby has long hair or short hair so we'll know if it's a girl or boy."

2. Did you know that everyone speaks English? They just say different words. Like hola is just a different way to say hello.

4. Alyssa was kneeling beside Jake as he was lying on the couch not feeling well. She was caressing his face and saying, "It's ok. You'll feel better soon. Soon. It's ok." 

5. Getting my birth kit in the mail!

6. My nephew came home from college for a week, so the whole family got together at my parents' house. We always enjoy spending time together. Jake made him a card and told him that he's his best "frend." All 3 kids were ecstatic to spend the evening with their cousins and aunt and uncle.
7. Me: "Zac, are you being a brat?"
Zac: "Yes."
At least he's honest.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Getting Close

I cannot believe that in 6 weeks or so we'll be upgrading from a family of five to a family of SIX! We will have a precious new baby to hold and cuddle, soft baby cheeks to kiss, a sweet little face to gaze into, and more love to share. This pregnancy has gone by the fastest of them all. I'm sure it's because I now have 3 little ones who fill my days with constant busyness.

We're to the point where we need to start gathering the supplies for our homebirth. I received my order from Baby Birth & Beyond a few days ago. So exciting!  I still need to get things together around the house - towels, baby clothes, wash cloths, laundry basket, back-up phone list, etc. There's a lot more preparing for a homebirth, but it's completely worth it.

This is the first pregnancy that I've taken belly pictures. I never wanted to showcase my growing waistline before, but I figured it's now or never. This one was taken last week. When Leighton got home from work yesterday and I went to welcome him, our bellies hit before our lips. He laughed and said, "There's no denying there's a baby in there." Nope, baby and I both are definitely growing. 

The kids are very excited about the New Baby as well. Jake has had a countdown going the past month or two. Since we go to my parents' house every Friday, he'll say, "Only ___ more times going to Grandma's until we get the new baby!" He's also told me that he can't wait to watch the baby come out of my tummy, like it's going to crawl out my bellybutton or something. I can ensure you, he won't be watching.

So, that's where we are on this baby journey. Pretty soon our house will show signs of an itty-bitty one again. We're getting close!

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Wordless Wednesday 3/14/12

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Welcome, Spring!

Spring has sprung! Or at least it's in the process of springing. Today was gorgeous. The sun was shining and the temperature was nearly 70. The kids played outside all day. It gave me a chance to get caught up on housework that has been all but ignored this past week. To say I've been ill is an understatement. I didn't even venture out of bed all day Thursday. Friday was a little better. Saturday, I felt well enough to attend an all-day youth conference. (Read: Saturday, I was too stubborn to miss out on an all-day youth conference.) Sunday, I paid for my stubbornness. And I was still completely wiped out Monday. I won't list all the ailments I had, but trust me, for me to see the mess all around and not even attempt to clean it, meant I was sick. Really sick. The kids have been fantastic. Jake helped a lot with the other two, and all 3 helped get anything I needed. I'm sure allowing them to watch an excess of television and eating poptarts (which are reserved for Sunday morning breakfast) for lunch helped them all behave better. It has been an off-week for sure. 

But when I woke up this morning . . . I felt human again! I have been non-stop all day. What a feeling! Since it was so nice outside, I was able to open the windows, disinfect the house, and chase all those germs away. (Thankfully, they didn't seem to bother anyone else before they left.) In between cleaning, laundering, washing, organizing, sorting, vacuuming, and cooking, I was able to spend some time outside with my loves. 

Zac spent most of the day in the swing. If I wasn't pushing him, one of the other two were. Even so, he was content to just sit there a few minutes before calling someone over to give him another push. 

I showed Jake and Alyssa how our tulips, daffodils, and strawberries are starting to grow. Jake made sure to pick me the first flower of the season. Then, they continued to pick nearly the rest of the bunch.

They loved being able to eat lunch outside again. They all just had to sit on the same side of the table. I guess they really do love each other.

 These 2 spent most of the day digging in the mud, looking for worms.

After dinner, we all headed back outside to sit by the fire. Zac found his way back into the swing and conned Daddy into pushing him. We brought out the fixings for s'mores once it got dark.

Little Guy was not quite sure what to think of the gooey messy that was placed in his hands. He kept licking his fingers, trying to get rid of the stickiness. He took a few bites of the s'more, handed it to Jake, and settled in with the bag of raw marshmallows.

I feel good, the house is clean, we had fun together. It was a wonderful day. Welcome, Spring. Glad to have you back.

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Tasty Tuesday: Mock Shamrock & Mint Oreo Shakes

March is a wonderful month. The weather warms up. The ground starts to thaw. The birds return and chirp. The flowers begin to grow.  Green shows all around. My little girl celebrates her birthday.

Yes, all those things are wonderful. But the best part though? Shamrock shakes. It's true. I love them. The creaminess, the mintiness, the yumminess. Mmmm. What I don't love is that McDonald's never seems to have them. Oh, sure, they have the picture on the menu, but every time we go, they're out. Do you know how frustrating that is?!? We don't even eat at McDonald's but a couple times a year!  We've made special trips in the month of March though for the beloved Shamrock Shake. Do I want to substitute it for a strawberry shake? Nooo. How about a vanilla? Nope. Not even a chocolate shake can compete with my Shamrock. Sigh, we don't even bother anymore. 

What's a girl to do???

Why, make her own, of course! Why didn't I think of that sooner? We make our own shakes all the time. It's one of the kids' favorite treats on Sunday nights after church. We buy a big tub of cheap ice cream from the store for practically the same price as a single shake from a restaurant. Each one gets to choose which flavor he'd like. Some nights, I make 4 different flavors. It's quick, cheap, and makes everyone happy. Oh, yeah, they're delicious, too.   

So, the moment you've all been waiting for . . . the homemade Shamrock Shake ~ always in stock, always worth the price.

1. Dump all ingredients into a blender.
2. Place lid on blender (unless you'd like a show with your shake.) 
3. Blend.

Following me so far?

Pour into a glass, garnish, and enjoy!

Oh. My. Goodness. Soooo yummy! No longer do I have to wait for March. No more do I needlessly venture into McDonald's. Never again do I have to be disappointed at the lack of minty shakes! I now have my own mock shamrock. (Or maybe I should call it a sham shamrock? Or just a sham-sham shake. Say that 10 times fast!)

I wasn't sure if Jake would like it. He's not too keen on minty things. Let me tell you, he loved it! He has told me multiple times how yummy it was and asked when I can make it again. The other 2 kids gobbled it up as well. Their daddy, on the other hand . . . he liked the initial flavor, but not the aftertaste. Don't worry, I'm not offended. He's also not a big fan of mint. He'd rather use vanilla or orange toothpaste. Now, that's weird. And lest you think I deprived him of a shake just because he's weird and doesn't like mint, I'll tell you that I made him a fresh strawberry shake instead. 

Anyway, the only thing that could make this mock shake better is to turn it into my all-time favorite shake/ice cream -- mint Oreo. (Now do you see why I don't let my kids eat the mint Oreo cookies when I buy them???)  Another place we go maybe twice a year is Dairy Queen. (Are you starting to get the picture that we don't go out much? 'Cause we don't.) I don't know why I bother to look at the menu. Maybe to see if something else catches my attention. Maybe to make the employees feel good about the yummy pictures behind them. Maybe because it's what I'm supposed to do. It doesn't matter. I always get the same thing - mint Oreo blizzard. Such a risk-taker I am.

To make your own, back up to step 1 in the Shamrock directions and add crushed Oreos (even better if you use homemade ones.) Proceed as directed, lid on and all. Then, after you pour it into the glass, place it in the freezer for 30 minutes to soften the cookie pieces.


You know what makes this shake better than one you can buy? No, it's not the convenience. No, it's not the price. No, it's not even that you know what ingredients are in there. It's because you can add as many cookies to the mix as you want. And nothing is better than that.

* I do not use measurements when I make shakes. I just pour, plop, blend, taste, adjust, blend, taste . . . Below are the amounts I used to make these shakes. Our ice cream was pretty soft, so I didn't need much milk. Adjust the amounts according to your personal consistency preference.

Mock Shamrock Shake
4 scoops vanilla ice cream                                        
1/2 c milk
1/4 tsp mint extract
8-10 drops green food coloring

1. Blend ingredients until smooth. Adjust ingredients, as desired.
2. Pour into 2 glasses. 
3. Garnish.

Mint Oreo Shake
4 scoops vanilla ice cream                                        
1/2 c milk
5 crushed Oreo cookies
1/4 tsp mint extract
8-10 drops green food coloring

1. Blend ingredients until smooth. Adjust ingredients, as desired.
2. Pour into 2 glasses. 
3. Freeze for 30 minutes.
4. Garnish.
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 3/9/12

1. It was past the kids' bedtime, but I couldn't bear to send Jake to get ready. He was sitting on the couch reading about the birth of Jesus in his Bible.

2. The next morning, Zac picked up Jake's Bible and asked him, "Bub-bub, you read Bible me?" And he did.

3. Me: "Are you going to be a good big brother?"
Zac: "Yes."
Me: "Are you going to help Mommy with the baby?"
Zac: "Um . . . no. Lyssa will."

4. I opened a cup of applesauce for Zac, but left a small strip of of the seal on the edge. He refused to eat it until I removed every last bit of the foil from the cup. I am the same way. I think it's funny (a curse, perhaps?) when our children acquire the same quirky characteristics that we have.

5. Me: "Jake, can you please stop talking for 5 minutes?"
Jake: "Sure . . . (4 seconds later) Is a meteor just a piece of rock? Is it hot? Can you touch it? What will happen to you? Hey, watch this! Whoa, that was close! That was so cool! . . . . " And on and on it went. (And yet another mommy trait. Oops.)

6. Alyssa had a stuffy nose. She blew it, and said, "Now my ear is humbling." (humming)

7. Jake to Alyssa: "God can do anything. He can even turn you into a frog!"

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

World Read Aloud Day

Happy World Read Aloud Day! This is one of my favorite days so far. I love, love, love reading. (I talked about that some here.) The kids and I love to sit on the couch and read a book or two . . . or three . . . four . . . Sometimes we just have a reading marathon. Sadly, it is getting a little more difficult for the 4 of us (ahem, 5 of us) to sit and read now that there's a little one who's given me a not-so-little belly and has taken over my lap. Zac is not happy about losing precious space on mommy. Not to mention, my arms aren't quite long enough to reach around him to hold the book comfortably. Oh well, I suppose that will be remedied in the next few weeks. 

When I realized that today was World Read Aloud Day, I got very excited. You don't have to twist my arm to make me read. I gladly accepted the challenge. As did the children.

We read quite a bit today, but not this much. The pegs on one of the boys' book shelves broke and my handy hubby just fixed them. The books were all sitting neatly in piles. 

Until Zac went in the room to "read." Jake piled the books up again. Zac scattered them once again. Our little 2-year-old is an avid reader. Or just a little stinker. 

Abusing books is one of my pet peeves. I do not like them being on the floor (unless we're studying something or having one of those marathon sessions.) I cringe when a page is torn. And don't even think about throwing a book! {shudder} Books are precious and need to be treated properly.

So, getting the bookshelf back in order was one of my projects today.

It took a while, but I feel much better now. Have I ever mentioned that I'm a bit OCD about some things? Books on a shelf is one of those things. The books have to be together by type (Berestain Bears, Clifford, Dr. Seuss, chapter book, etc..) Then, they have to be in order by size. Oh, and if two books are the same height, the fatter book has to be on the taller side. Also, I try as much as possible to keep the hard cover and paperback books with their own kind.

I admit, it's an obsession. But look how pretty it is! I have been known to walk past a shelf and fix a book or two that are out of place. Leighton doesn't even flinch at it anymore. He's gotten used to my crazy ways. Just think, we have another set of shelves in Alyssa's room, tons of books in our schoolroom,  a full-wall set of shelves in the basement, and more books than I care to count in boxes because they have no home. Have I also mentioned that I'm addicted to books? That's another obsession. I suppose there are worse things.

Like not owning books. Not reading. Not learning. Not exploring through the power of words. Not taking the time to read aloud to your kids.

So, if you missed out on today, that's ok. Just make up for it tomorrow. Don't worry, I won't tell.

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Wordless Wednesday: 3/7/12

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Tasty Tuesday: Double-Stuffed Fauxreo Cookies

Oreo turned 100 years old! Even though the cookies have some wrinkles, break easily, and are squishy in the middle, I'd say they aged rather well. Not only are they "milk's favorite cookie," they're my favorite processed cookie as well. Whether it's the traditional cream filling (double-stuffed, of course) or the very berry, peanut butter, chocolate, or golden, I'll eat them. I've already confessed my secret about the mint ones. Oreo has lasted the test of time. It's the only cookie I'll dunk in milk - and that's saying a lot. I have never liked milk. We didn't drink it while growing up. (Not much nutritional value in it. You can get more calcium from leafy green vegetables.) In fact, I disliked milk so much that I poured water over my cereal and dunked my cookies in water as well. Weird? Yeah, pretty much. I've since gotten over my complete hatred of the white stuff enough to use a little to moisten my cereal. And of course, dunk my precious cookies.

Speaking of dunking cookies, Oreos are not just for plain white milk. Have you ever tried Oreos in chocolate milk? Hot chocolate?? Or my favorite, coffee??? Mmm, you just can't go wrong with the Oreo.

And any good food that you can buy at the store or a restaurant has a copy-cat recipe. Oreo is no exception.


Dump the first 8 ingredients into your stand mixer. If you don't have a stand mixer, buy one.

Or use a hand-held mixer.

Or use a spoon and good ol' man-power if you're trying to build muscle strength in one arm.

After the addition of the egg yolks, add the flour and cocoa powder. Mix well.

You'll have to use your hands to mash it into a smooth ball. That's half the fun.

Roll the dough onto a cocoa-powdered surface. This will ensure you don't end up with flour-dusted cookies. No one wants floury Oreos. No one.

Use a cookie cutter to cut your cookies. (Original, huh?) Bonus points if you have a stamp on one hand and the remains of a temporary tattoo on the other. Definitely makes the cookies taste better.

Jake said it was just like playing with play dough. I agree. The consistency was definitely like the cooked regular and the uncooked gingerbread play doughs we've made. The stiffness of this dough helps the cookie disks to keep their shape while baking. They don't spread and don't puff.

After 3 times of rolling and cutting, the dough lost its mushability. (Don't worry, that's totally a word.) It got dry and cracky. We used that last 1/3 cup for the piping. (I know we could have made more cookies out of the scraps, but I didn't feel like fighting with the dough.)

Yes, this recipe definitely makes a mess. Embrace it.

Add 1 teaspoon of hot water and mix it up. Continue adding water until it gets to the proper piping consistency.

I stopped with 3 1/2 teaspoons water and transferred the mixture to a pastry bag. Normally, I would use my dessert decorator, but I knew I needed more control. I learned 3 things:

1. I am not a cake decorator. (If you need one of those, call up my sis-in-law. She's amazing!)
2. My pastry bag felt neglected and was holding a grudge. My hand got really tired from trying to squish the thick substance many times.
3. It was super simple once I added another 1/2 teaspoon hot water.

Moral of the story: make sure you have the proper consistency for piping. In this case, 4 teaspoons was perfect.

Once the cookies are baked and cooled. Whip up your cream filling. Please try not to eat the whole bowl before assembling the cookies.

And try your best to keep the kids from eating it all, too.  Because, trust me, they'll try.

Fill up a pastry bag with whatever cream substance you can manage to salvage from the children. I think my pastry bag may have forgiven me by this point. It was a much easier process to swirl on the filling.

You really don't have to worry about it being pretty though. You're just going to smash another cookie on top of all your hard work.

The most important thing to remember is be generous with the cream!!!

 And there you have it - homemade fauxreo cookies!

Many of ours ended up being a little on the thick side. I realized after taking a crunchy bite that the wafers were more like 1/4 inch. I could blame it on having 3 little kids helping me roll and cut the dough, but that might not be entirely fair. Maybe I was distracted. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention. Maybe I just can't read a ruler.

Don't be like me. Make your wafers 1/8 inch. Please and thank you.

The cookies, though a little larger than real Oreos, are still pretty stinkin' delicious. Especially when dunked.

Little Zachy had no desire to dunk his though. He immediately treated this homemade confection just like the processed goodies - pulling apart the 2 halves, licking out the cream filling, and leaving the cookies untouched.

What kind of cookie eater are you? Do you separate the halves and enjoy just the filling? Do you eat the 2 components separately? Or are you a dunker? There's really no wrong way to eat an Oreo. Wait, hasn't that already been coined???

Happy Birthday, Oreo! Thank you for being so delicious!

Double-Stuffed Fauxreo Cookies
Chocolate Wafers
6 Tbsp  butter, room temperature                                    1/2 tsp espresso powder
1/2 c  sugar                                                                      1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c brown sugar                                                            2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp salt                                                                     3/4 c + 1 Tbsp flour, sifted
3/8 tsp baking powder                                                      1 c cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 tsp baking soda                                                          few tsp hot water

1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, espresso powder and vanilla until thoroughly mixed. With the mixer still running, add in the egg yolks one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula well after each addition.
2. After the yolks have all been incorporated, add the flour and cocoa. Mix on low speed until uniform and stiff. Scrape the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula and knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Flatten into a disc. At this point, the dough may be rolled right away or wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to a week. If you choose to refrigerate the dough, make sure you allow it to soften at room temp before rolling.
3. Preheat oven to 350F. Dust the counter with cocoa powder and roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8". When the dough has been rolled, loosen it from the counter with a spatula to prevent sticking.
4. Using a 2" (ours was 1 3/4" and close to the size of a real Oreo) round cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can. Use a spatula to place them on an ungreased baking sheet. Re-roll scraps as needed.
5. Place remaining scraps into a mixing bowl. Add 1 tsp of hot water and mix thoroughly. Continue adding more hot water, a teaspoon at a time, until you reach a piping consistency.
6. Transfer the softened dough to a piping bag fitted with a very small tip and pipe your preferred decoration onto the cut rounds.
7. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch. Do not overcook. Once the cookies have baked, set the baking sheet on a rack and cool thoroughly. Use a spatula to pop the cookies off the sheet.

1/2 c shortening                                                               2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c powdered sugar, sifted                                        1/4 tsp salt

1. Cream together the shortening, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt until very light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl to incorporate fully. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a medium-sized round tip.
2. Flip half the cookies upside down and pipe a spiral of frosting onto the upside down cookies. Top with another cookie and press gently to seal. Transfer prepared cookies to a sealed container and refrigerate for a few hours to set the frosting and bond the wafers.

Recipe adapted from Whisk Kid.
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