So I’d love to tell you I’m busy whipping together something tasty or creating amazing things with the tot, but that’s not the deal. Nope. We’ve been pretty busy just hanging out – and, well, doing nothing.
What are you busy doing?
The other day I got totally caught up in the latest and greatest time-suck (PINTEREST) and couldn’t get enough of all the amazing pictures of food. But one really caught my eye – Cinnamon sugar pull apart bread from Joy the Baker. The problem was, I didn’t have all the ingredients (mainly eggs) and had a bit of strawberry jam staring at me in the fridge that desperately needed to be used. I took her amazing recipe and adjusted things to work with what I had.
And everything is better with cream cheese, right?
This is a fun bread to make, and seriously easy. You can’t really mess it up, which makes it a perfect kid-friendly recipe. Once the bread dough has rested, everyone can get into the fun of rolling out the bread, slathering with jam and cream cheese, and then dusting like crazy with sugar and cinnamon.
1 packet of yeast (or 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon melted butter
Dash of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cream cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1+ tablespoon sugar
1+ teaspoon cinnamon
Place the yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Heat the milk along the the butter and add to the water. You want the mixture to be around 100 F before adding to your yeast. If things are too cold or too hot, things won’t be happy.
Gently mix together the yeast and warm liquids and let sit for a couple of minutes. Things will start getting frothy, which means you are good to go.
Add the dash of salt, the vanilla, and then slowly incorporate the flour. Once the dough comes together, lightly dust your work surface and give your dough a good kneed for about 3 minutes.
Pop the dough back in your mixing bowl and cover with a towel to rest for about an hour. Go ahead and let your cream cheese come to room temperature while you’re waiting for that dough to rise.
After the hour is up, dust your work surface with flour and press and then roll into a big rectangular shape about 1/4 inch thick. If you’ve got kiddies hanging around, they can help with the rolling and forming.
Now cover the rectangle with the cream cheese. It’s okay if it’s clumpy in areas, no need to get fussy about things being perfect. Spread the jam over the cream cheese and then sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon. If you feel you need more sugar and cinnamon, go for it. Once again, if you’ve got little ones, they can assist with the spreading and sprinkling. Go ahead and preheat your oven to 375 F so things are nice and hot when you are ready for baking.
Use a pizza cutter to cut that rectangle into small squares, about 4 x 4 inches. No need to get out the ruler, just got ahead and cut away! Now start stacking those squares together and layering them in a loaf pan, which will get messy and a bit smooshy. You want the squares to be upright, not flat on the bottom. I found stacking together about five squares and then standing them up in the pan worked. They kind of folded over by the time I had then next five stacked, but I just pushed them back up again before adding the next group. Keep on stacking and standing until all the dough is in the loaf pan.
Place the pull apart bread into the oven for 35 to 45-minutes and then let cool before attempting to eat. Use a butter knife to help release the bread from the pan and then peel away a square of that strawberry jam and cream cheese pull apart bread to savor!
Summer is here and it’s awesome. I’m ready for long days filled with not much of anything to do, grilled dinners, and some serious sitting-in-the sun-while-reading-a-book time. This also means finding fun ways to keep the tot fed as well as cool. If things are healthy, even better. This is a simple recipe perfect for a hot summer day. These frozen banana treats can be tossed together in the morning, left in the freezer to chill for a couple of hours, making them ready for cool summer eating by the afternoon.
Bananas are a high in potassium, which gives your child’s busy body a cardiovascular boost as well as help in building strong bones. Yogurt is full of probiotics, creating happy tummies. And peanut butter offers a nice protein kick, keeping kids full of fuel.
4 large bananas
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
2 cups puffed rice cereal
This is such as easy recipe, which makes it perfect for kids to make all on their own. Keep things safe by trimming the pointed ends from the wooden skewers and then cutting in half before getting started.
Measure and add the yogurt and peanut butter to a bowl and whisk together. Once things are smooth, add the powdered sugar and stir. Go ahead and pour the puffed rice cereal onto a plate.
Peel the bananas and then cut in half. Place a square of aluminum foil under the bananas, which makes cleanup easier.
Use a butter knife to coat the outsides of the bananas. Along with being fun, slathering that peanut-yogurt mixture on those bananas hones fine-motor skills and takes concentration. Gently roll the bananas in the puffed rice. Once coated, spear with a skewer and pop in the freezer for at least 2-hours.
I think you could coat just about anything with this tasty peanut butter yogurt frosting, roll it in puffed rice, and it would be good. We tried strawberries – but you could also experiment with apple or pear slices, chunks of pineapple, or even grapes!
Yesterday we all had the day off and decided to (finally) take advantage of a few free passes the husband had won for admission at the California Academy of the Sciences in San Francisco (before they expired at the end of the month). Located next to the de Young Museum, and the Japanese Tea Garden, as well as paths and paths in Golden Gate Park, this is a total destination spot for San Francisco visitors – and even those of us that live in the Bay Area. There is no way to explain this place. With aquariums galore (one you even walk under), crazy realistic stuffed animals, real penguins, baby ostriches running about, amazingly good food, a complete faux rainforest with three levels, a planetarium, special exhibits, interactive activities for the kids, museum shops, and upper natural living roof observational level, you can’t go wrong. I’ll be honest – admission isn’t cheep. But, if you’ve got a toddler like we do (kids 3 and under are free), it’s not that bad. And there’s enough stuff for the tots to keep them entertained and engaged. We did everything twice – and being there on a weekday meant less crowds. Kids under 6 aren’t allowed in the planetarium, which gives us something to look forward to in the future. My husband did an awesome job taking pictures while I chased after the tot…
Want more info? Here’s the California Academy of Sciences website.
The other day temps were in the mid 80’s and the last thing the tot and I wanted to do was anything in the house. Sure, it’s always fun to bring markers and crayons outdoors, but there are also lots of fun ways to get crafty with summer outdoor art activities that keep everyone cool. Along with helping hone fine-motor skills, these toddler tested (and approved!) projects can be done over and over and over and over….
You know what I’m saying.
Frozen edible paints – This is so simple – and so fun! Fill small popsicle molds 3/4th of the way full of lemonade and then add a few drops of food coloring to each, creating several different vibrant colors. Pop the tops on the popsicles and freeze overnight. The next day, release the popsicles and take outdoors along with a several sheets of white paper. Enjoy drawing with the popsicles along with taste testing! Your child can see if the various colors of popsicles taste the same – or different! Just be prepared for a very colorful face and mouth once finished….
Magic mist – Select three colors of washable paint with your toddler and add a scoop of each to three small spray bottles. Small misters are around $1 at your local everything store. Add about 1/2 cup water to each bottle, screw on the top, and shake, shake, shake to mix the paint and water together. Pick a spot outdoors to tape the paper on an wall, fence or even flat on your driveway. Now your child can spray and mist that water-downed paint all over the paper watching as the colors blend and drip together. Encourage color theory skills by having your child yell out colors along the way! Make sure to use washable paint and avoid working on untreated wood, which does stain (which I discovered while doing this project (oops)).
Driveway painting – Draw large shapes, letters, or objects with your toddler on the driveway or sidewalk using sidewalk chalk. Once finished, offer your child a small plastic container filled with ice-cold water and a medium-sized paintbrush. Encourage your child to paint over the top of the chalk drawings and see what happens! And, if your child gets more interested in painting themselves with that cold, cold water – so be it. Experiment by doing the activity in reverse – draw with the water and then cover with chalk. Does the chalk look different? What happens with the water? Along with being plain fun, this activity encourages letter and shape recognition.
Sand play dough – Mix together 2 cups sand, 1 cup flour (you may need a bit more), 1/2 cup water, and a glug of vegetable oil. Mix and kneed the mixture together to create a fund play dough that makes for hours of fun outdoors. And you can leave it in the sun to dry, creating really fun shapes and forms.
Found object sculpture – Have fun with the natural objects in your yard by creating a small structural sculpture using twigs, leaves, or even flowers. Help your tot start by forming a teepee like base using small sticks. Now your child can add to the creation by embellishing with leaves or adding bigger sticks. Creating a balanced form takes focus and concentration! Make sure to take pictures of the finished sculpture to remember the experience.
What’s your favorite summer outdoor activity to enjoy with your toddler? Share a link!
A friend of mine asked me to share this information with you about a great way to give back to those that have given for us. I don’t often get up on my soapbox about stuff, but this is a cause I am standing behind. It’s not about politics, religion, or really anything other than those that are deserving – and might not be able to help themselves due to other reasons.
Take a look at this short video sharing how you can help out injured military personnel throughout the country by building better housing for them. Together, the Gary Sinise Foundation and Tunnel to Towers Stephen Sillers Foundation, are working towards raising monies for this purpose through a benefit concert event on July 27th.
Remember, every bit counts.
If you are interested in donating, please email my friend Victoria directly at: Victoria.firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much – it really means a lot!
Or, if you are in the Jefferson City, Missouri area, purchase tickets for the event on July 27th – all proceeds go to the foundation!
*p.s. I wasn’t compensated for this post – just wanted to share.
There’s nothing like a cold treat on a hot summer’s day. I love making frozen desserts that are nice and creamy and fit perfectly in small hands. This way I can grab-and-go without worrying about dirtying a bowl or forgetting a spoon. And, if there’s any mess, we’re usually outside near the hose, or the sprinkler, or the kiddie pool.
You get the idea.
This is a super simple frozen summer sandwich, and with a little help from COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, things just got a bit easier. Pairing COOL WHIP with tangy vanilla yogurt makes a sweet filling for fudgy cookies and strawberry jam – the perfect everyday treat. You’ve probably got everything you need in your pantry, and it’s a totally kid friendly recipe!
Yesterday, while I was trying to get a bit of work done and the tot was watching Curious George, she came into my office and said there was a spider under the floor. I assumed her yammering was connected to something she was watching so I brushed her off and kept typing. But, a few minutes later, she came back to tell me the spider was really under the floor. Then my brain hiccupped back to last year (remember the black widow incident?!) and I went to make a thorough investigation. Sure enough, there was a spider, but just a small one, crawling along the floor. I am not a fan of spiders – at all. But she was looking at me with those big, excited eyes, so instead of squashing it up, I grabbed a glass lidded jar, swept in the spider, and figured it was time for some impromptu learning.
My toddler is three. No need for bug vs. spider discussions – just a bit of observational learning. We discussed what color the spider was, how many legs he had, how he could walk upside down, if he had a family – or a name…
After about an hour (full of showing the entire house to the spider) I was beginning to become worried about lil’ spider’s well-being and declared it time to head outside. We could look for spider’s family and release him if we found any relatives.
It was decided that spider loved water so a shallow mud-pit was created. During this time, spider was positioned safely on a table so he could see.
When I asked my tot if she was ready to let spider go and have lunch time, she said NO.
He is my BEST FRIEND.
I have to KEEP HIM.
He LOVES me.
All I could think was that dear old spider was going to be lifeless any second and how I needed to use my super-mom abilities to save poor spider (whom I actually didn’t really like). I offered lunch and the incentive of some sort of sweet treat, which sent the tot trotting up the stairs. While her back was turned (and hopefully before she’d remember to grab spider) I popped the top of the jar and hoped spider would make a quick escape.
Once upstairs, she realized she had forgotten spider, looked out the window and observed the open container.
Oh NO! SPIDER! Ohhhhhh!
We talked about how spider had decided it was time to find his family but that he’d probably be back to visit.
After lunch, and a quick clean-up and change, we sat down to draw spider – and his family.
We taped the finished drawing to the fridge and both enjoyed a much-needed nap/quiet time.
My tot is totally into getting creative. Along with making lots of art, she has begun to master the concept of putting her art tools away and how to display her own artwork. I’ve also encouraged this through a few simple things, like giving her a dedicated drawer in the kitchen to keep her crayons and such and leaving out the tape for her to use. Displaying your child’s artwork shows you are proud of her creativity, which encourages her to strive to create more. For toddlers, creativity is more about the process than the end result, meaning most artworks won’t be representational in any way – just a bunch of big scribbles.
Nurturing self-esteem is one way to foster successful, healthy, and happy kids (and adults). For toddlers, art is one of the main means of self-expression, so when your child sees her art displayed within the home, she truly feels special. We adults can focus on:
– The child’s ideas (and not our own) during creative times. Hey, if your toddler wants to scribble her way through a drawing of a dinosaur cooking dinner, so be it.
– Providing accessible art materials available for when your child wants to create. This is a challenge because no one wants crayon-coated walls. Start with leaving out paper and stickers and eventually moving to mark making implements as the child develops. I cleared out a drawer in the kitchen and my tot has proudly organized her art materials. Here’s her craft drawer compared to mine….
– Creating a comfortable creative space. No matter if it’s a spot at the kitchen table or a dedicated art table, if your child has a go-to scribble spot, she’ll feel good about getting arty when she feels the creative juices flowing.
– Allowing your child to display her finished artworks! Sure, if you have a few favorites along the way, pop them in an old frame or hang from a clothesline in your home. Leaving out a few strips of tape for your child to use to hang her own creations is a wonderful way for her to be in charge of where she wants her art to be seen. I tear off a few strips and leave them on the edge of the kitchen counter for her to pull off and then stick onto her paper – and then wherever she wants that art to go (which is usually the fridge).
I love finding the tot totally engrossed in getting creative without any prompting. Sometimes it involves mess, but, hey, that’s what sponges are for, right?
Summer is here, which means cranking up the grill, enjoying frozen treats, the smell of fresh-cut green grass, and tossing together cool salads. It also means the potential of wearing a swimsuit. Sure, I’d love to comfortably strut my stuff in a two piece. But, yeah. No. I’ve been working on walking instead of driving to places closer than a mile from the house, cutting back on sweet treats, and lightening-up our favorite dishes. One of my go-to regulars for lunch is chicken salad. There’s nothing like that creamy, comforting bite of rich chicken salad sandwich full of garlic, tangy mustard, and wonderful mayo. But, OH, the calories! 1 tablespoon of regular mayonnaise has around 60 of them!
Not so nice and light.
So, for summer, and the hopes of dropping a few jiggly pounds, I decided to lighten-up my tasty go-to chicken salad recipe. I swapped that high-calorie mayo for plain, tangy, light yogurt. Not only was I in love, my toddler couldn’t get enough of the lightened-up summer chicken salad either.
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 scallion, chopped
1/3 cup plain light yogurt
1/2 teaspoon grainy-style mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
Squeeze of lemon
1/4 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
Cube your chicken and add to a medium mixing bowl. I’ve been roasting whole chickens once a week for dinner and then using the leftovers later in the week. If you don’t have any home-roasted chicken hanging out in your fridge, you can poach a nice-sized chicken breast to use for making this lightened-up chicken salad.
Add the garlic, mustard, salt, and big dash of pepper to the chicken. Go ahead and chop your scallion and add along with the plain yogurt. Give things a gentile stir until all the chicken is coated.
Chop and add the cucumber and cherry tomatoes along with the nice squeeze of fresh lemon. Stir again, give a taste test, and season to your liking before serving.
Now, you can go ahead and slather that lightened-up summer chicken salad on a few slices of whole wheat bread, but I love topping a few hearty crackers with spinach leaves and then a big scoop of the fresh salad.