Double vanilla cookies

Double vanilla cookies

Well, it’s that time of year. The end of school is upon us, which means gifts for teachers and those that have been a part of the tot’s learning experience this year. As a preschool teacher myself, I can honestly tell you the last thing a teacher wants is another coffee mug or stationary set. Gift cards are always welcome as well as tasty treats. And, those goodies can totally be homemade.

I love vanilla – especially really good vanilla. These cookies make the most of whatever kind of vanilla you’ve got, but I do suggest investing in the kind that costs more than a couple of dollars, which will make your cookies even more delectable.

This is also an easy recipe with really cute results, perfect for making with the kiddies. Bag them up in decorated plastic or paper bags and you’ve got the perfect teacher’s gift or special treat for any day of the week.

Ingredients

1/2 cup soft butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Dash of salt

1 1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Few drops of water

Directions

Smooth together the room temperature butter with the vegetable oil and sugar. Once things are mixed, add the vanilla and egg. Whip things together and then sprinkle in the salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Slowly add the flour until the dough comes together. Tear off a sheet of plastic wrap and then scoop the dough in a line along the center. Wrap it up and give a roll, creating a log o’ vanilla cookie dough. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap and place flat in the freezer for at least an hour.

Preheat your oven to 375F and lightly grease your sheet pan. Remove the dough from the freezer and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Place on the sheet pan allowing for a bit of space between each cookie. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until the tops have just browned.

While the vanilla cookies are baking, mix the vanilla glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and few drops of water.

Once baked, remove the cookies from the sheet pan and let cool.

Now the fun part! Drizzle and drip the glaze over the cookies any way you’d like – or let your child be in charge of the decorating. To set the glaze, pop the cookies into the fridge (or freezer) for 10 to 15-minutes.

Enjoy!

 

Crafts for camping

campingWe’ve just returned from our first camping adventure with our tot and it was fantastic. I spent way too much time obsessing over if she’d have fun, if she’d sleep through the night, if she’d have fun, if she’d…. Basically, I totally over-obsessed the fun out of it so by the time we got to our campsite we were all exhausted. But, things went wonderfully, and everyone had a fantastic time!

Along with packing WAY too many things, I put together a craft bag for fun camping crafts. Even in the great outdoors there are moments when kids get tired and ornery. Having a few crafty items to get creative with kept those little hands happy and busy (allowing for some much-needed down time for the adults!). I kept the craft bag hidden so when I pulled something out, the tot (and a few of her new friends) were really excited to get crafty!

What’s awesome about sidewalk chalk is that is it cheap, doesn’t stain, and can be used just about anywhere. After using the chalk around the campsite (on the picnic table, tent, chairs…) we drew letters on the road and painted over them with water and a paintbrush.

chalk

Crayons and watercolors are easy to transport and offer tons of fun. They can be used on their own to create paintings or colorings, or use a crayon to outline a picture for your toddler to paint.

crayons

Along with bringing a stack of paper, I brought a roll of paper for doing big group creations. Simply roll out the paper, toss down a few markers, paintbrushes and paints and you’re good to go.

rollpaper

The final night I brought out a container of sparkly beads and green pipe cleaners for necklace, headband, or bracelet making fun. What I loved was after my tot and one of her friends made necklaces, the beads became part of an elaborate treasure hunt game the kids at the campsite enjoyed until well after dark with the help of flashlights and a map.

beads

Happy camping!

 

Garlic rosemary buns

Garlic rosemary buns

We’re getting ready to go camping and I’m totally terrified. I love camping but am not so sure the tot will. Along with packing tons and tons of crafty goodies, I’m putting together food for us to eat – and share – while at the campsite. They’ll be other families around, which will hopefully make our first “family camping” outing successful.

So, what to make to feed a crowd? Ground turkey sloppy joes, of course! But, instead of bringing boring old store-bought buns, I decided to use some of the rosemary growing like crazy in our garden for something tasty.

Garlic rosemary buns.

All you need is a bit of patience to pull these off – and your friends and family will love them with hamburgers, grilled eggplant rounds, veggie burgers, or whatever! Memorial Day weekend is the official start of summer, which means picnics, parties, and cookouts. These garlic rosemary buns are a great way to make anything just a bit better.

Ingredients 

2 1/2 teaspoon yeast (or one small packet)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 cup warm whole milk (around 110 F)

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

3 1/2 to 4 cups flour

1 teaspoon olive oil (for drizzling)

Directions

Sprinkle the yeast and sugar in a bowl and then gently cover with the warm milk. Give things a stir and then let the yeast, sugar, and milk do its job. In no time, things will get a bit bubbly.

Add the chopped garlic and olive oil to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. This creates a really lovely garlic oil for creating the buns. The minute you see the edges of the garlic starting to brown, turn off the heat and let things cool. That garlic will continue to brown, so, really, take it off the heat the minute you see browning. Burnt garlic is nasty.

Sprinkle the salt and chopped rosemary over the foamy milk and also mix in the egg. Drizzle in your garlic oil and then start stirring in the flour. Once the dough comes together, knead for a few minutes on a flour-dusted work area. Pop your garlic rosemary bun dough in a bowl, drizzle with more olive oil, and cover with a clean towel. Let that dough rise for at least two hours.

Divide the dough into 12 small balls and then roll and pinch to create flat, round circles. Place on a greased sheet pan, drizzle each with a bit more olive oil, cover with that dish towel and let rest for at least another hour.

Yes, yes. This isn’t a quick process, but that’s how it goes.

Preheat your oven to 400 F and bake your buns for 18 to 20-minutes.

YUM!

Now, while they’re baking, you can toss together a super simple Sloppy Joe mix!

Ingredients

1 onion chopped

1 red pepper chopped

1 carrot chopped

2 cloves chopped garlic

1 teaspoon oil

1 teaspoon water

2 pounds ground turkey

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon flour

1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup water

Directions

Toss the chopped onion, pepper, and carrot into a large saucepan and then add the oil, 1 teaspoon water, salt, sugar, paprika, and Italian seasoning. Bring the veggies to a simmer and then continue stirring and cooking until they start browning.

Now add the ground turkey and cook until nice and browned.

Sprinkle the flour over the nicely browned turkey and veggies and give a stir. Now add the vinegars, barbecue sauce, canned tomatoes and water and let your yummy sloppy joe mix simmer for a minute or two.

You can leave your mix big and chunky, or add half to a blender and give it a quick whir. This creates that really smooth and happy sloppy joe filling….

Homemade Sloppy Joes

I bagged up my mix – and buns – and popped them into the freezer so everything would be frozen solid for our camping adventure!

Enjoy!

String wrapped stars

String wrapped star

Memorial Day is right around the corner, which means taking a moment to appreciate those that have served for our country, people who are currently doing what they do best for our country, and ones we lost while in service. My tot is a bit young for understanding, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great opportunity to do something crafty that might offer up the chance to chat about respect and love. Stars and strips are popping up all over the place, so I figured we could create something festive for decorating our home.

This is a simple project that can go in lots of different directions. Older kids can be in charge of bending and twisting the wire into star shapes while younger kids can focus on wrapping pre-made stars with string and then sprinkling with glitter – or painting. And, this is a great project for any time of year -Fourth of July, Memorial Day, or even the Holiday Season!

string wrapped stars

Start a length of 12-guage craft wire about 1 to 2-feet in length. To keep things nice and safe, wrap the ends of the cut wire with masking tape. Now your child can bend and form the wire into a star shape. Offer adult assistance as needed to twist and secure the star shape when finished. Working with wire is a great way to encourage hand-eye coordination and build fine-motor skills.

metal stars

We experimented with all kinds of string, from white sewing thread to thick hemp string, and using plain white craft string worked the best. Tie an end to the wire star form and invite your child to twist and wrap that string all over the place. You’ll need about a 6-foot length of string (or more) for each small star.

string star

Secure the end of the string with a nice knot. Now your child can brush the string with glue and then sprinkle with glitter or paint with watercolor paints. Once dry, the stars can be hung individually or tied together to create a special star mobile, perfect for any window. We enjoyed painting one of our stars with red and blue watercolor paint and sprinkling the other with silver glitter.

Sparkly!

 

Healthful Mondays – Eating with your kids

yogurt fettuccine

Things have been seriously crazy over here. I had an awesome job interview last week, the tot and I spent lots of wonderful quality time together (now that we stopped going to the preschool), and I made the big decision to have us start eating dinner together every night. What we had done was I fed our daughter dinner around 5 or so. Then, when the hubs arrived home at 6 – 6:30-ish, he’d have one-on-one time with her until bedtime at 7:30. But, by that time, she was out of control, not fun, and my husband wasn’t having any sort of quality time with her at all. Then, after we put the tot to bed, I’d cook dinner (and have a drink) and we’d have adult dinner around 8:30.

Exhausting.

Since stopping the preschool (another story for another time) the tot’s behavior has been better, but we still seemed to be running into a bit of trouble during the last few hours of her day. And the two dinner thing wasn’t working. I decided we’d try eating all together around 6:30. I figured she’s old enough to start sitting with us while eating, and we’re old enough that we really should be eating much earlier in the evening, so we tried it for the entire week.

Some nights were better than others.

I’ll be honest, by the weekend I’d decided I needed a break, so the tot  enjoyed peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches (her new favorite) while I cooked our adult dinners that we enjoyed after she went down for the night.

The highlight? *Creamy yogurt fettuccine! Along with a more enjoyable time together in the evenings, our toddler loves setting out napkin placemats for us, learning more about table manners, and assisting with dinner clean-up!

yogurt fettuccine for toddlers

Eating together as a family has so many benefits, including an opportunity to really chat together about everyone’s day, and studies show eating family meals encourage healthy eating habits, better school performance, and positive behavior. I grew up in a family that ate together every night, which was sometimes seriously annoying as a teenager, but it worked. I sulked my way through many a dinner, but deep down I valued that time together with my family. Even after my sister had gone off to college, I sat down to eat with my parents most nights of the week.

On a side note, I had a tragedy over the weekend. My laptop crashed. This was seriously traumatic for me – resulting in a bit of crying and some serious brooding. Wonderfully, it was an $80 fix, but I lost everything on the computer. Everything. I hadn’t backed-up my pictures in months, resulting in hundreds and hundreds of lost pictures. Yes, I take a lot of pictures, and, now that I’ve got the fancy phone, many are on the phone, but I’m still a bit sad over what’s not there anymore. I got a seriously wrist slapping from the husband about how I hadn’t backed up. All I’m saying is invest in a small hard drive, or get yourself set up with a back-up system, and back your stuff up! This way if your computer decides to take a dive you won’t lose your precious stuff.

Seriously.

Do it now.

(It was also my birthday and my husband bought me a cake – and lots of chocolate)

Happy Monday!

*I’ll share the recipe for yogurt fettuccine later in the week….

 

Glitter picture frame

glitter picture frame

It seems all I’ve done lately is clean. From going through closets to wiping down counters, I am crazy in the midst of spring cleaning. We’ve been in this house for just about three years, making it the longest time the husband and I have ever lived in the same spot. Instead of moving boxes that haven’t been unpacked (like ever), I’m on a serious attack of dust, old stuff, and more dusty old stuff.

I came across a whole box of unused frames – even one that had never ever been used – along with some other really awesome vintage frames. This one was boring and made of black plastic or something. It seemed a shame to not do something with it, and, while cleaning out the craft drawer, came across some super-fine glitter…

Super sparkly glitter picture frame!

This a fun project for both kids and adults. But, WARNING! If you aren’t a glitter person this is NOT the project for you! Super-fine glitter is even more invasive than the regular stuff. You’re going to have glitter in your house (and maybe your hair) after this project.

I’m all good with glitter at my house.

All you need is an old wooden or plastic picture frame, super-fine glitter, a wide paintbrush, an old shaker-top seasoning container, and Mod Podge. It’s a good idea to cover your work area with a sheet of paper to help make clean-up easier. Remove the glass and backing from the picture frame, give it a quick clean, and then place on the paper.

glitter picture frame

If you have small packets of glitter (like I did), open the packets and pour into a container with a sprinkle top. You can buy super-fine glitter in sprinkle ready containers, but I went with the mongo-multi color package at the craft store…. I used three small packets of glitter for my 8 x 10-inch frame.

Using a wide brush, generously coat the frame including the sides. Now the fun part – shake, shake, shake the glitter all around the frame. You can work in sections if you prefer – or if working with young helpers that might take a bit longer to shake-a-shake (you don’t want the Mod Podge to dry!).

glitter picture frame

Let the frame dry for at least an hour.

Gently pick up the frame and tap it while trying not to manhandle the frame. If you’ve got any areas that need more glittering, dot with glue and then coat with more glitter. Keep going until the entire frame is covered. When done, you can gently fold the paper to collect the glitter and then pour back into the container.

Let dry again for at least an hour

Give that frame a final few taps to release any not glued glitter and then you are good to go!

I had the perfect picture for our finished glitter picture frame and love looking at it hanging on the wall. Just think how cute smaller glitter picture frames would be – sparkly pink for baby girl pictures, bright silver for wedding frames, or vibrant red for the holidays!

 

Yogurt quick bread

Yogurt snack bread

The other day someone asked me if I was more of a baker or a cook. My first reaction was that I’m a cook – but I’m also a baker (kind of). I’m not a patient person, so waiting for something to bake drives me batty. I can’t open the oven and stir or baste or season. With baking, you’ve got to wait, wait, wait a bit more, and then wait. You can’t frost cake until it’s cool. Let the cookies rest before removing from the pan…

But, I do love making quick breads.

And I love yogurt.

Today the tot and I whipped up a simple yogurt quick bread. It’s nice and moist, lovely drizzled with glaze, and perfect for taking to any picnic or gathering. Use a good, thick plain yogurt for a delicious, tangy bread.

Ingredients

1 egg

1 cup plain yogurt

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup melted butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 packed tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon pain yogurt

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 F and get out a mixing bowl. Whip together the yogurt, egg, oil, salt, sugars, and melted butter. Sprinkle in the baking soda and baking powder and then slowly add the flour. Once the batter comes together, pour into your greased loaf pan and pop in the hot oven for 45-minutes.

Yes.

It’s that easy.

Now the hard part. While the bread is baking your house is going to smell really good. Really, really, really good – and you have to relax and wait. You can whisk together the glaze by smoothing together the yogurt, powdered sugar and vanilla so it’s ready when the yogurt quick bread is. After 45-minutes, take out the bread and let cool for at least 20-minutes before drizzling with the glaze.

Enjoy!

 

Toddler fine art

We had this cubby in our bedroom that needed something. I happened to have an unused canvas that needed a little something, too. It was also the perfect day for doing an art activity with my toddler. Mother’s Day is all about being a mom, celebrating mom, honoring mamas all around us, making special memories with your kids and remembering memories that you’ve had with your mom. Making something together that then would be displayed in our home was the perfect thing to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon. And, this is pretty much a no-fail way to create something seriously cool to hang in your house. Even if you’re not that crafty you only need a few things, it’s okay if things get messy and all smooshed up, and you can use any color combo you’d like. Older kids can get into creating patterns or intricate designs – or you can just go willy-nilly like we did.

Start by cutting lots of squares out of tissue paper. Older kids can be in charge of cutting tons of squares, big or small, and of any color. Once you’ve got a big pile, mix together equal parts of Mod Podge and water in a small container, get out a few brushes, your canvas (any size), and cover your work area with newspaper.

Now slather the canvas with Mod Podge and start layering on the tissue paper squares. This gets messy – and sticky – but it’s lots of fun. Your kids can watch as the tissue paper squares blend together and create new colors.

Once the entire canvas is covered, let the tissue paper and Mod Podge dry. What’s great is the Mod Podge gives things a nice gloss, creating a really finished feeling.

We decided on accenting our tissue squares with circles, but you can use any shape you’d like. Squirt a few drops of acrylic paint onto a paper towel to create a stamp pad. We found that paper cups created the perfect circle stamps and placed lots of black and white circles all around the canvas.

The finished toddler fine art fit our empty spot perfectly!

And I had a wonderful time spending Mother’s Day with my tot.

(lovely)

Fine art for kids – Balance with Ted Harrison

Ted Harrison art activity for kids

The tot and I have really been enjoying this glorious spring weather. While tending to the garden – and checking just about every 10-minutes to see if any strawberries are ready – we’ve been checking out the colors all around us. Thing are pretty cheery right now and I’m trying to soak up every moment. My somewhat-agreeable-but-often-stubborn toddler is growing up, which makes me happy and totally sad all at the same time. It is so awesome when she finds something she’s excited about and to hear her tell me everything she knows (this flower is yellow, bees like flowers, AND bees make honey!).

The one word that comes to mind when describing the artwork of Ted Harrison is cheery. The famed Canadian artist creates whimsical images full of color, line, and natural elements. From mountains to animals to sunsets, Harrison’s paintings are wonderfully simple but amazingly composed. His paintings depicting the Canadian Yukon are iconic and the reason he’s one of Canada’s most celebrated artists.

What I love about Harrison’s paintings is his use of balance. Through line and color, his images are balanced or arranged in a visually pleasing way. Balance is one of those art terms that is part of The Principles of Design, which are concepts that are used to organize or arrange elements of design (which also have their own collection of concepts). Balance is the idea of equal weight within a creation. It can be symmetrical (the same on both sides) or asymmetrical (not the same – or informal) where things work together to create harmony.

While looking at Harrison’s artworks, one can see how he uses line and color to create asymmetrical balance within his paintings. The tot and I spent a bit of time enjoying his creations and observing colors and subject matter. I figured we could create our own Harrison inspired artwork with the help of crayons and watercolor paints!

Older kids can use an artwork of Harrison’s for inspiration or create their own uniquely balance design. Start by outlining the artwork with crayons. Your child can use random colors or ones that correlate with the subject matter. While working, encourage your child to think about if they are creating an artwork using symmetrical or asymmetrical balance.

Once the outline is finished, your child can use watercolor paints to fill in the artwork. Along with creating vibrant areas of color, your child is also honing hand-eye coordination by concentration on painting within the lines. Once again, your child can use color to create balance within the artwork by working symmetrically or asymmetrically.

After the painting has dried, find a special spot to display the vibrant Harrison inspired artwork!

*My toddler is a bit young for this activity, but that didn’t stop us from painting over the crayon and watching as it poped through! I made a second outline drawing and encouraged her to paint her own unique Harrison inspired creation.

Thanks for the Feature, Let’s Lasso the Moon!

Lasso the Moon

Shine Supper Club – Sticky monkey bread

Sticky Monkey Bread

With Mother’s Day right around the corner I have been finding myself thinking about food. Honestly? I think about food pretty much all the time. Lately I’ve been thinking about the things my mom made when I was young that have stuck with me over the years. With my own tot at home, I want to start great cooking memories with her – just like my mom did with me. The theme for this month’s Shine Supper Club also fits right in – making your mom’s best recipe!

I absolutely love my mom’s homemade Sticky Monkey Bread. Sure, you can follow the recipe found on the side of the biscuit can, but this is the original version straight from the 1970’s church cookbook of my midwestern town. This is the stickiest, gooiest version of goodness out there. While growing up, my mom would hand my sister and I our own plastic baggies filled with cinnamon and sugar to shake-shake the bits of cut canned biscuits and then toss into our well-used bundt pan. After a serious coating of butter, more sugar and cinnamon, and a bit of love, that seriously sticky bread was devoured on Sunday mornings.

She still makes it for us every time we visit.

This isn’t the healthy breakfast dish. And, after talking with my mom, I was planning on adjusting the recipe to make it a bit less sugary and buttery but just couldn’t. Why mess with something so good?  I admit to updating the recipe with brown sugar and vanilla to give it a bit more kick, but other than that, this is the best Sticky Monkey Bread  you’ll ever make.

Ever.

This is a great recipe to make with the kids to surprise mom with on Mother’s Day. It’s super easy and you can’t mess it up. And, along the way, your kids hone fine-motor skills as well as learn more about cooking in the kitchen. Older kids can make this pretty much all on their own – just remember to offer a helping hand when melting the butter and using the oven.

Ingredients

3 tubes buttermilk biscuits

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3/4 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Open the biscuit tubes (trying not to flinch when they pop) and then quarter. Your kids can use butter knives to cut the biscuits into bits or, if you’ve got young ones, they can tear the pieces into smaller pieces. Go ahead and preheat the oven to 350 F.

Fill a plastic zip-top bag with the plain sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Enlist the kids to shake-a-shake the bits in the cinnamon sugar, remove, and then drop into the bundt pan.

While things are shaking away, melt the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon together until things are bubbly. You can also sprinkle in any leftover cinnamon sugar from the zip-top bag.

Pour the melted butter mixture over the sugar-cinnamon covered biscuit bits and then pop into the hot oven for 30-minutes.

Remove the bundt pan from the oven and let cool for 10-minutes. Place a large plate over the top of the bundt pan and carefully flip over. Let the big oeey-goooooey Sticky Monkey Bread rest for a few minutes before digging in.

Enjoy!