Monday, August 29, 2011

Building towers

 Thinks Amelia: "Babies can build block towers on the ground.  I'm going to build a tower on Daddy's ear!"

 photo by Amelia (cropped by Marcie)

Here's a tower that I built:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Salt Painting

I've seen a lot of posts about salt painting and decided we would try it this week.  Here's how you do it:

Use a bottle of glue to create a design on a piece of construction paper.  Amelia loved to paint with glue!  Her favorite part was making huge puddles of glue.  I usually don't let her play with the glue bottle, so this was a treat.

Sprinkle the gluey areas with salt.  Amelia did a very thorough job transferring salt onto the glue; I think she went through half a container of salt.  Good thing Dollar Tree sells salt 2 for $1.

Paint the salty areas and watch the paint spread throughout the salt.  We used kids watercolor paint, and we found it worked best if you used fairly concentrated paint, a very wet brush, and just dabbed the brush on the salt to watch the color spread.  (I will say that the color didn't spread as miraculously for us as some people claim, but it did spread some.)  Amelia did her whole painting, and then painted part of my painting, and then got tired.

I used kids washable glue, and I found that when the painting dries, the colored salty glue will just flake right off.  So, don't plan on saving this for posterity or mailing it to grandma.  But even though we didn't end up with a cool finished product, the process was fun.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Learning to color

In addition to smiley faces and the birthday cake she drew for Ben's birthday, Amelia can now draw popsicles and lollipops.  The popsicles are the ones with the lines across the middle, and the lollipops are the round ones on the bottom.

Megan didn't want to be left out - here's her first time trying to color.  She is clearly a fan of the pointillists.  And interestingly, she used only her right hand to color, when up to this point, I would have said she was trending towards being a lefty.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Garage Sale Success

Ben took a half day off on Friday so that I could go garage-saling without the girls during Sun Prairie's biannual city wide garage sale.  (He was gone all day on Saturday at the Kraft softball tournament, which is why I could not go then.  And as it turned out, it poured with rain on Saturday morning, so Friday was really the best day to go anyway.)  Here's my haul:

The toy in the bottom right corner is a magnetic stick and ball building set, and it is super fun to play with!  Amelia and Ben have played with it several times already - last time they made a gigantic pyramid.  I actually found two sets, so I bought one to give to Natalie and Noah in a few years.

Here's the list of what I got:
3 Gymboree outfits (these would have cost more brand new than what I spent on all of this stuff combined.  Yay!)
5 short sleeved shirts
6 long sleeved shirts
1 sweater
3 pairs of pants
1 skirt
1 leotard
1 spring coat for next year
2 sun hats (also Gymboree, with straps!)
4 white t-shirts that we will use for art projects
3 bags of wooden train set pieces to supplement our existing set (Amelia and Ben like to build huge complicated layouts)
2 sets of Lincoln Logs (because you can never have enough Lincoln Logs)
10 books (including Amelia's new favorite book "Wemberly Worried")
1 book & CD set
1 DVD (I know, a Barbie DVD seems like a weird choice, but Barbie's Swan Lake was specifically recommended by a friend as good for little girls who like to dance)
1 bracelet
the aforementioned magnetic stick and ball toys
1 pair of dress shoes
handmade Nativity scene puzzle for Becky (sorry to ruin the surprise)
1 paint canvas
2 bags of lollipop craft sticks
1 package of alphabet beads
1 package of jingle bells
1 package of sea shells
3 bags of styrofoam balls (do you have any idea how expensive these are at a craft store?  Try $1 a piece!)
4 skein of yarn (art projects planned for all of these crafty things)
3 sewing patterns for Halloween costumes (I'm thinking of making Megan Eeyore for Halloween, since she is always so serious)
4 insect car toys for Megan
2 games for Becky's class at school
1 hair bow organizer for Amelia (and it's purple!  with butterflies!)

Now I am working on putting all that stuff away.  Right now, the train set is spread out all over that same space in my dining room/hallway area and it has created a huge obstacle course for poor Megan to try walking over. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy Birthday to Ben!

Ben and the girls enjoyed his birthday cake, a three layer peanut butter cake with chocolate peanut butter ganache filling and a cream cheese frosting with butterfingers.

Amelia drew Daddy a picture of a birthday cake with 6 candles (apparently, that's how old he is):

Amelia decided that Daddy needed a present to open, so she wrapped up a magazine and a bag of snack mix for him.  She tried to tie the ribbons herself, but needed some help from Mommy.  Daddy was excited to open a present.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Corn Fest 2011

The girls and I went to Sun Prairie's Corn Fest for dinner on Saturday while Ben was at his softball tournament.  Amelia and I each ate an ear of corn:
Most people at the Corn Fest bought corn by the crate, which held maybe a dozen ears, and you had to shuck it after you bought it.  They had stations to roll the corn in butter and they had salt shakers tied to trees.  I think that was the first time I'd ever had buttered and salted corn on the cob, and YUM.  Amelia, as expected, ate hers plain.  While we ate our corn (and hot dogs, pulled pork sandwich and Cheetos) we listened to a saxophone quartet called Quattro Formaggio (only in WI).  Amelia liked to dance to their music.

Here's what happens when you ask Amelia to smile for a photo:

And as we were leaving, we saw that they had a free bouncy area for babies and toddlers - it was perfect for my girls.  The floor wasn't bouncy, but they had a little slide, and a tunnel, and a car and a ball pit for the kids to play in.  The girls didn't want to go home.  Here's a photo to prove that Megan was there:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Banana Bread

I do not like banana bread, but Amelia does.  Or, at least, she used to, even though she says now that she doesn't like it at all.  Anyway, I had some bananas that were starting to get very brown and I thought I'd make banana bread for my girls to eat for breakfast.  Usually they eat cereal, with toast as a special treat, and I've been starting to think that that is very boring (especially after I found a menu board where the mom was going to serve french toast sticks, pancakes and omelets for breakfast during the week).

Both Amelia and Megan loved it.  I thought it was okay - good, moist texture, but tasted like bananas.

Banana Bread
makes 1 large loaf

1/2 cup butter,softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (mini chips are best)
2 medium bananas, mashed (or 1 cup)

Cream the butter and sugar.  Add eggs, then vanilla and lemon juice, stirring until mixed.

Add dry ingredients, stirring until mixed.

Add yogurt, chocolate chips and bananas.  Stir just until combined.

Pour into 9 x 5" loaf pan (the large size) and bake at 325F for 65 minutes.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sunflower Wreath

Amelia helped me make this sunflower wreath for our front door.  It was really easy to make - the petals are cut out of felt and hot-glued onto a paper plate.  While I was cutting the petal shapes, Amelia sat down next to me with her kiddie scissors and "helped" by cutting scraps of felt into little pieces to use as the seeds.  Unfortunately, they were all yellow, so we didn't use them for this project. Then I spread glue on a circle of brown felt, and Amelia filled it up with dried black beans.  She thought that was pretty fun.

We would be willing to make one for anyone who wants one.  Just let us know.

Idea from The Creative Imperative

Friday, August 19, 2011

Belly Button

Megan can find her belly button now.  She can't find her nose or her toes or her eyes or her head, or anything that might be useful, but at least she can find something.  :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Daddy Adventure Day - Madison Children's Museum

This week we headed to the Madison Children's Museum, and decided to explore the rooftop garden first.  Did you know that you can grow green beans and squash on a huge trellis?  I had no idea.

Megan headed for the little river first, and immediately stuck her feet in.  After splashing in the water, crawling through the dirt and playing in the sandbox, we went inside to wash up at the sink.  And inside the little clubhouse were baby chicks, turtles and best of all, A SNAKE!  Megan sat on the ground and watched the snake for at least five minutes, trying to follow its movements with her finger on the glass. 
Then she discovered the hula hoop.  Here's Megan the Vitruvian Baby:

Amelia and Daddy had a good time using flip-flops to play the slapophone.  (I think this would be fun to make out of pvc and give as a gift to a certain niece and nephew who love to make music, do you think their mom would approve?)

Amelia took this picture to show Grandma Jane, can you guess why?

Alas, the frog did not turn into a prince.  Wouldn't this be a fun planter to have in your garden?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sleepy Girl

Megan fell asleep while drinking her milk at lunch.  It's hard work being a toddler.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Weekly Food Challenge - Beets

This is what my family thinks about beets:

So when we found out they were the secret ingredient of this week's cooking challenge, we were less than thrilled.  My goal was to figure out a way to disguise the beets so well that nobody would even know they were there, and I succeeded!  But first I wanted to see what my girls thought about plain beets.  As expected, Megan liked them, and Amelia, not so much.

Amelia and I made Goat Cheese & Beet Gnocchi along with a pork tenderloin for dinner.  She didn't want to get her hands messy rolling out the gnocchi, so she took charge of the fork and made the indentations. 

Gnocchi is a good main course for kids to help cook, especially if they like to play with playdough (and you could make it with a much more normal flavor, too).  Ben and I liked the gnocchi, which were a very unusual pinkish purple color, and Megan loved them.  Amelia wasn't too sure what to think of them, but did eat a whole one with the promise of chocolate cake for dessert.

And then, I made a Chocolate Beet Cake!  In searching for beet recipes, I found lots of different recipes for chocolate cake with beets, and thought I ought to give it a try.  I chose to use the recipe from Always Order Dessert because it had the most chocolate, and I wanted to make sure the beets were disguised as much as possible.  This cake is DELICIOUS!  You can't taste the beets at all, and it has a perfectly moist texture.  I'm not sure I would make it again, because of the extra steps involved in roasting and pureeing the beets, but I'm glad I tried it.

Chocolate Beet Cake
makes 6 mini bundt cakes

For the cake:
1/4 cup butter, softened and divided (6 tbsp and 2 tbsp)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup beet puree (about 3 small-medium beets roasted, peeled, and processed until smooth)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp salt

For the ganache:
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream

To make the cakes:
1) Cream 6 tbsp butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and beat until mixture is doubled in volume.
2) Melt the chocolate chips with the remaining 2 tbsp butter.
3) Add chocolate chips to mixture, beat until smooth.
4) Add beets and vanilla, beat until smooth.
5) Combine dry ingredients, add in small batches, beating just until mixed.
6) Pour into mini bundt cake pan that has been sprayed with Pam for baking.  The batter will be a strange mauve color, but don't worry, it will turn a normal chocolatey color as it bakes.

7) Bake at 350F for 20 - 25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
8) Cool in pans for 20 minutes, then turn over.  Once cooled, top with ganache.

To make the ganache:
Heat cream until just boiling.  Add chocolate chips and butter.  Stir until smooth.  Pour over cakes while still warm.

If you want to make a whole bundt cake, double the recipe.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bubble Painting

We did a new fun art project last week - bubble painting! It is so easy:

1) Pour some dishwash soap into a cup
2) Pour some washable non-toxic kids paint into a cup (the more paint, the brighter the final product)
3) Add a little bit of water
4) Add a straw
5) Blow bubbles until the bubbles are way over the top of the cup
6) Smush a piece of paper or cardstock onto the bubbles
7) Repeat

As far as the amounts I used, I didn't really measure.  I used wide juice glasses, and the final mixture was maybe up an inch from the bottom of the cup.  Next time I would try to get by with using less overall paint/dish soap because it worked best to blow with the straw right at the bottom of the cup anyway, and we ran out of dish soap, red paint and purple paint (Amelia's favorite colors to paint with).  She was really good about not sucking up the paint, but just blowing out.

As we were blowing bubbles (because of course I had to try it myself), Amelia kept saying "I really like this!".

If you are very talented, you can blow bubbles in two different colors at once!

Even Daddy got to try!

Final artwork:

Mom and I were talking about what Becky can do with all her kids' artwork, and she suggested that Becky could mail it to people.  What a great idea!  So all you relatives, you might start getting more mail from us...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Future Career for Megan?


Yes, that is my daughter picking Aunt Becky's purse.  She managed to get her phone, her train tickets, and some bandaids.

Amelia wants to show off her mad alphabet typing skills:


Here is a photo of her typing while doing acrobatics:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Peach Pound Cake

I know our weekly food challenge required that peaches be used in an entree, but I couldn't do all this cooking without using peaches in a dessert.  And after trying peaches several different ways, I can safely say that my favorite way to eat a perfect fresh-picked peach is just plain.  But, this cake comes in a close second.  The peach flavor is subtle but delicious, and the texture is moist.

Peach Pound Cake

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped (1 large peach)
¼ cups all-purpose flour 

Sprinkle of turbinado sugar

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between.  Add vanilla and beat until mixed.

Gradually add 1¼ cups flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir until mixed.

Toss diced peaches with remaining ¼ cups flour to coat peaches.  Immediately fold into batter and pour into buttered and sugared pan.  (Don't skip this!  The sugar crust is delicious!)  Top with turbinado sugar. 

Bake at 325°F for 60 minutes.