Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chocolate-Seed Flowers

My lil Mason will do anything for a chocolate chip.

I was in the middle of eating raw pumpkin seeds when he asked me for a treat. I said, "I'll give you some  chocolate chips if you eat it with these seeds."
To my surprise he agreed. To entice him a bit more I made little flowers on the table: 4 seeds to one chocolate chip. This way I could keep track at the number of seeds and chocolate chips he was consuming.

This is one of those things where, yes, the chocolate chip isn't the best thing for him but I'm willing to be flexible on it because the nutrients in those seeds are still going to do good once inside his body. If I can get this combo going and down the road add a dried fruit to make a trail mix, I would be thrilled.

Shamrock Cupcake

I was experimenting with recipes for my blog and made these cupcakes for the boys.

Just a little green dye for the batter, cream cheese frosting, a clover (made from melted white chocolate) and some green sugar sprinkles and everyone was happy (for a whole 5 minutes before someone was fighting over a superhero toy).

This is the "BEFORE" picture:


And this is where it sat for the next few hours. I thought for sure someone was going to finish it but nope. Just two big bites and off Jaxon went.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How we are beating cabin fever PART 4

We turned Jaxon's closet into an "Elevator."

My buttons are lame because I'm totally out of craft supplies (would be cool to make them out of colorful construction paper) but the boys still had fun with it.
They were making beeping noises when pressing the buttons. One time Brant came out of the elevator and pretended he was giving a tour of "his firehouse" to his brothers. He gave his guests a snack and everything.

At bedtime, I told Jaxon to pick out some books to read and he came back with the elevator buttons. He wanted to count them, talk about all of the circles, etc. It was cute.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Painted Frame project

When I first moved into our house I went to Joann's and bought a bunch of wooden frames. I painted them all with colors that would accent our living room.

Well it's 5 years later and I still don't have those frames hung. In fact, I could only find one that had all of the backing and glass.
So the boys and I glued them together.
I'm not sure which way I will hang this but at least something is done with these darn frames!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How we are beating cabin fever PART 3

A friend of mine posted this on my FB wall - could not have come at a better time!

What you need:

  • shallow bowl/plate
  • milk 
  • 2-3 different colors of food coloring (liquid not gel)
  • dish soap

It's cool. We just took a shallow bowl but you can use a plate and poured a little milk in it. I had each boy add a few drops of food coloring, pretty close together in the center of the bowl. Then you add a few drops of dish soap on top of the food coloring and all these cool reactions start happening in the milk.
The boys were very happy and wanted to do it again and again and again....


How we are beating cabin fever PART 2

The sure way to get my 2 yr old engaged in the kitchen and away from the TV is if he is "cooking."

I gave him a bowl, a spoon, a measuring cup, and odd pantry items that would be easy to vacuum. I found old lentils, old coffee grounds, and stale oyster crackers.
He had a blast! And so did my soon-to-be 4 yr old. Mason and Jaxon played for quite a bit with these "ingredients."

I thought this was going to be hard for me because the floor was going to be so messy but I actually loved it. Kids get so creative when they have stuff like this in front of them. M&J were talking to each other, talking to themselves about what they were doing, it was adorable. You could just tell the juices were flowing - Mason was especially fired up. And how much longer can you do this kind of stuff with your kids? Not long - Brant is 5 and had nothing to do with it (he and I were coloring Batman in the next room).

The best part was when I said it was time to clean up Mason insisted on vacuuming. woohoo! I will be sure to remind him when he is 13 that he used to volunteer to do chores.

How we are beating cabin fever PART 1

This house has been full of sick people for about 5 weeks now and it's driving me nuts. They are not too sick to be lying in bed all day but too sick for school and playdates - so everyone is crabby.
I noticed that the boys have been watching a heck of a lot of TV so I thought, today we are doing activities all day. End of story.

Last night I had them finger-paint before bath time. This morning everything was dry so I just had them embellish their picture with whatever I had on hand: pom-poms and sticky foam hearts.
They must be VERY bored and missing pre-k badly because this kept them busy for a good 20 minutes - even Jaxon.

Juicy, Breaded Pork Chops

If I'm grilling pork chops, I soak them in a apple-whisky brine but if I'm baking them, I marinate them in salty milk. Yeah, I thought the same thing but I read about it in Epicurious about 5 years ago and have been making them like that ever since.

Here is what I do:
I take a gallon-size ziplock bag and fill it with about 2c of milk and 3 TEASP of sea salt. I mix and add 4 thick pork chops. I set the bag in the fridge for an hour (maximum of four hours).

While that is in the fridge I prepare my breading. Japanese bread crumbs are my favorite. So I use 2c of that and then 1/2c - 1c of regular breadcrumbs (seasoned with dried Italian herbs). Then I grate about 1/4c of parmesian cheese, whatever fresh herbs I have (usually Flat-leaf parsley but thyme with pork is always nice), some freshly ground black pepper and 1 clove of minced garlic.

When I'm ready to get the chops out of the fridge, I set the oven to 400 and get my pan and grapeseed oil nice and hot (mind the "smoking point" though - every oil is different. In a nutshell if the oil in your pan is literally smoking you have past the "smoking point". You must discard the oil and start over. Unless you like carcinogens then have at it!). I remove the pork from the milk mixture and pat dry. Not too much though because I want the breading to stick. I sear the breaded chops on each side until golden brown and then transfer to a baking sheet.

I bake them for about 7-10 min depending on how thick the chops are. I take the pork out of the oven when the internal temp reaches 150 degrees and then I let them continue cooking in their own juices for about 7-10 minutes. We eat our chops medium, which is 160 degrees. If you like your chops well done, internal temp should be 170 degrees so take them out at 160 degrees to "rest."


I saw this on Pinterest a few weeks back. I actually had it mind for Valentine's Day. I wanted to mail it to Adam's great aunt but a few hours I after I took this picture Jaxon thought it would be better if he chewed it.

I was going to write: "Some-buggy loves you!" beneath the butterfly.
Maybe next year...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Review on Air Zoo in Portage MI

To break up our trip to Northern Michigan, we made a stop at the Air Zoo.
It's an aviation museum (air and space craft).
It's great for homeschoolers, kids, adults - no one is leaving this place unhappy.
The price is so reasonable. For the five of us basic admission was only $24.

We started our visit off by looking at the aircraft. Brant and Mason are very into "army guy stuff." So they liked aircraft such as the Bell AH-1J Sea Cobra. But loved the faces on the Curtiss XP-55 Ascender and Bell P-39 Airacobra. We all loved seeing the Lockheed SR-71B Blackbird. It's a spy plane - it's the coolest!!! The star aircraft in Top Gun, F-14 Tomcat, has a home here as well.

Lucky for us February is "Open Cockpit Month."
So the boys got to sit inside a North American AT-6 Texan. The volunteers there were so nice, gave us just enough info about what we were seeing - not overwhelming us with info at all. They were very passionate people, it made the visit so enjoyable.

I have to say the art in this place is remarkable. There is a 28,800-square-foot hand-painted indoor mural that I could have spent hours looking at. Apparently the mural was created by renowned flight artist Rick Herter (and his assistant Tony Hendrick); the project took 14 months to complete.

Any wall you look at has something awesome on it. I don't have any pictures of the mural but below is a picture of Jaxon playing in the Kids Korner. Behind him is a space mural inside that room - so cool!! The boys and I only see tiny pictures of planets in our books and this gave me a chance to show them the craters, the colors of the planets, etc.
The Kids Korner is a great area because the kids can do a craft, ride on small rides (for free and unlimited), play with toy air planes, etc.

Next we visited the World War ll artifact display - the boys LOVED the guns of course! This section has metals, guns, bullets, uniforms, all sorts of stuff. My grandfather, who survived D-Day, would have loved to be with my boys as we looked at this incredible collection.

Air Zoo also has a National Guadalcanal Memorial Museum. Below is from their website:
One of the longest and bloodiest campaigns of World War II, the Guadalcanal campaign is known as the psychological and geographical turning point of land war in the Pacific.
This nationally-recognized memorial commemorates the experience with a large collection of artifacts, insightful dioramas, first-hand narratives and the Wall of Honor, memorializing 20 men who earned the Medal of Honor for their sacrifices on the island.

The boys LOVED the space wing and I did as well. I can't wait to come back when the boys are older so they have a better understanding of the replicas. For example I'm explaining to Brant why the astronauts have to sleep standing up or why the silverware is stuck to the wall with velcro and all I see is this confused little face staring back at me...but we'll get there.
Anyway the space wing has cool things like a space suit, Destiny Module, Moon Rock and Lunar Rover, etc.

The Air Zoo also Amusement-style rides such as the Paratrooper Jump and Montgolfier Balloon Race (pic below is from website) as well as full-motion flight simulators, a 4-D theater and much more. The whole family had such a fun time I can't wait to go back!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Brownie Ice Cream Pops

I saw these on Pinterest (hers looked WAY better http://www.goodlifeeats.com/2011/06/chocolate-covered-brownie-ice-cream-sandwich-recipe.html) and decided to make them for Valentine's Day.

These bars are easy to make and taste decadent. They would make a great summer dessert or birthday treat.

  • I baked a box of brownies in a 9x13 pan and then cut the pan of brownies in half.
  • I topped one half with softened vanilla ice cream and placed the other brownie half on top of the ice cream.
  • I stuck it in the freezer until firm so it would be easier to cut (about 2 hours)
  • I took them out and cut them into squares. I always stick my sharp knife under hot water for a few minutes before slicing. But how it cuts depends on the texture (crumbly, chewy, etc.) of your brownie so you have to go with it. At this time I also stuck a popsicle stick in the center of each brownie pop.
  • I stuck them back into the freezer for another hour.
  • I melted about 10-15 of my dark Dove Chocolate Promises and used my silicone basting brush to paint the bars with the melted chocolate. This is when I decorated them with Valentine's day goodies.
  • I stuck them back in the freezer until we were ready to eat.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cookie-Oreo-Brownie Cups

My computer crashed but now I'm back up and running!! WOOHOO

Ok, so I saw this concept on Pinterest but decided to make them in a muffin tin (the recipe was baked in a 9x13 pan). Reason being: I wanted to take something to my neighbor's Superbowl Party but didn't want to deal with bringing my pan, cutting it, etc. This way the guests can grab one and go watch the game.
This actually didn't take long to prepare.
Both adults and teeny-bops were excited to try these - which I was surpised about. Guess this combo brings out the kid in everyone.

You can use any cookie recipe you want. I didn't have any pre-made dough on hand so I just made a chocolate chip cookie dough recipe without the chocolate chips (I did make choc. chip cookies from the leftover dough). I sprayed the muffin tin with Pam and then put a layer of cookie dough in each section. I topped it with an oreo cookie.

I scooped my brownie batter and poured it over the cookie/oreo combo.

I baked it at 350 for about 20-25 min. Not long. My oven runs hot so I would adjust the baking time to your oven.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Valentine's Day Bark

Valentine's Day Bark:
The kids have fun making this and it takes only a few minutes to complete.
Melt a bowl of your favorite white chocolate. Divide it in half - dye one bowl red and keep the white. Add your favorite candy, dried fruit or nut too if you like (white chocolate, dried cherries, pistachios = YUM).
You can also flavor the red portion raspberry or strawberry if you have the extract handy.
Use the leftovers to stick in your coffee for a white chocolate coffee.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Valentine's Day Graham Cracker treats

When I have leftover melted white chocolate I usually decorate "pretend cakes" for the boys. They love it. It always surprises me how excited they get over frosted graham crackers.
Just pipe any design you'd like and decorate with seasonal sprinkles.
You can also make it look like an envelope (for a love letter) or use the cracker to make a place card for your little one.

Friday, February 3, 2012

S'mores Popcorn

I saw on Pinterest someone made Marshmellow Popcorn.
I decided to try it but didn't add the brown sugar. I just popped 1/2c of kernals on the stovetop, melted 1 stick of butter with a bag of marshmellows and poured it over the popcorn. It's amazing and as usual I wish marshmellows didn't taste so damn good.

I put half of this marshmellow popcorn into another bowl. I sprinkled crushed graham crackers (to taste, really, just a few TBSP) and drizzled melted chocolate over it for a S'Mores version. It's pretty good.

Here is the original Marshmellow Popcorn recipe on Pinterest:

3 bags popcorn (pop and take out extra kernels) 2 sticks of butter 16 oz bag of marshmallows 1 cup brown sugar Microwave butter, marshmallows, and brown sugar for 2 1/2 min. Take out and stir. Microwave again for 1 min. Repeat until thin sauce. When done pour over popcorn and mix.

Valentine's Day Peppermint Mocha

Start your sweethearts day with this Valentine's Day Peppermint Mocha.

Recipe for 2 servings:
In a microwave or sauce pan melt about 1/3c of white chocolate chips. Add 2-3TBSP of crushed peppermint candy. Stir in 2 cups of milk. If you are using a sauce pan consistently whisk so it doesn't burn. The combo is pretty sweet so I make sure to use a strong coffee if not espresso.

Candy Hearts:
I melt white chocolate in the microwave and then pour into a baggy. I snip the end of the baggy and pipe hearts onto wax paper. I stick the wax paper in the freezer and just peel off when firm. It takes just a few minutes.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Potato Heart Stamp

I have been wanting to try "potato" stamping for quite some time....like since Mason was born.
I was looking up recipes for dinner and feeling unmotivated, decided Mason and I should give potato stamping a go.
This project took 5 minutes to do. The idea of carving a shape into a potato seemed time consuming but it wasn't in the least. Mason loved it. Brant thought it was funny we were dipping a potato in paint - he also thought the Joker calling Batman a "crazy bird" was funny too so who knows with that kid.

Valentine Jars

A few months ago on Pinterest I saw these cool jars. The woman had hot-glued a word on a jar and then painted the jar (black I think). I was going to try it to display in my bathroom but decided to try it with the boys for Valentine's Day.
Mason and Jaxon loved painting the jars and Mason told me repeatedly how pretty he thought the heart was on the jar.
I'm going to put a tea light at the bottom but it would also be cool to fill it with little cookies and give to someone on Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Projects From Finger Painted Pictures

I always save the pictures my boys make from finger painting. I love the way they look after they dry - even if they use only one color it looks dark in some spots lighter in others (I'm sure theire is a fancy art word for this). I usually cut out shapes - hearts, cross, etc. to make seasonal cards/projects from the finger-painted pictures.

Here is what we did for Valetine's Day.
The boys were VERY excited to glue the crayons to the canavs and blow dry the crayons. They couldn't believe the crayons were melting.