Saturday, January 30, 2010

Baking Monday - Mocha Cinnamon & Almond Butter Cookies

From last week: Mocha Cinnamon Cookies. I found this recipe on a card that I had written years and years ago. I'm assuming I made them once before, or maybe only copied it down because they sounded good, but never got around to baking them. Verdict: Not good. Blah. They sounded like they would taste awesome, but ended up very bland. They were also too soft - if they had a bit more crunch or texture, they may have been better. I added the icing because they needed something with more flavor. I guess they were well received at pool, but definitely not my favorite. Though Jeff loved them. Hmmm. We don't always have to like the same things? Interesting.

Today: Almond Butter Cookies. Deee-lish! Something a little different from my regular sugar cookies. I love these! I think the icing makes them a titch too sweet, next time I would like to try them with sugar sprinkled on top.

After School Art

This month, we made oil pastel animals. The idea was adapted from this post. Instead of doing just penguins, the kids did all different kinds of animals, using an oval as the base for the body. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera during the program, but they came up with some great creations: fish, sheep, horses, pigs, and some imaginary creatures. They started out with sheets of grey paper, drew their animal in pencil, outlined in thick black marker, then filled in with oil pastels. This was a fun project - everyone got really creative and when they filled up the whole paper, their pictures really popped.

I know it was a success, because Dora and Theo woke up and got dressed on their own the next day and went right downstairs to make more pictures.

Dora's work.

Theo's work. I helped him draw the dinosaur, but the portrait is all his.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Strange Week

It's been a strange week at the Spotgirl house.

The first rule of first grade fight club is ... don't talk about first grade fight club.

Okay, must explain. Boxing is the new thing over here. Wii Punch Out is the current activity of choice. We talk about boxing all ... day ... long. Theo has a good friend who he often trades toys with after playdates. This week, he gave up his super-secret spy suitcase in exchange for a pair of boxing gloves. The gloves are currently in a time out, where they've been since the day after we brought them home. Dora got the idea to use her face crayons to make up Theo's face like he'd really been in a fight. Creative, and a little creepy.

Guess whose toes? Hint: not the child you'd expect to have painted toes. (Disclaimer: it was his request, not my idea.)

It's red. A little too red.

Freak storm that blew through town yesterday afternoon. Very happy we did not have to go out during it.

And one mini product review: I rented Wii Toy Story Mania today and was really disappointed. I found it awkward to navigate - while playing in Story Mode, you can't view which games are available. It's difficult to finish and unlock each game - not because the games are challenging, but each game involves a confusing list of tasks, and your results don't show which ones were successfully completed. Also very little movement involved. Most of the games are target games and the short "extra bonus power boost" movement at the end felt like a tacked-on attempt to get players to move around. After playing all the games in story mode - I think there's about 25 - there weren't any that I wanted to go back and try again. SO happy we didn't buy this one for Christmas!

Sunday School Resources

I'm teaching Sunday school this year for the first time. I was guilted into it. (Ah, guilt, such a powerful motivator.) I'm not very good at it, but it does get easier each week. In the fall, I followed the advice of my very smart and well-organized friend and sat down and made up the curriculum for the year. I wrote down all the class dates, went through the book and selected what lessons and worksheets to use and planned out a theme for each week. This was a huge task, but also a huge help. When I sit down to plan each week, the theme is already in place.

I've found a zillion great resources on the web, but have also come up with a few materials on my own to use in class.

My Finger Prayer - I LOVE the idea of having a little guide for prayer wherever you go. The first graders in our class were probably a little young for this at the time, they may get another copy at the end of the year. I couldn't find an existing printable for this prayer, so I made up my own. The letters are outlined so the kids can color them in, and color the hand, too.

Download Finger Prayer worksheet here.

Heart Puzzle - This went along with our lesson about the Commandments as a reminder of how they can each follow God's Rules. These were printed out on color card stock and the kids got to cut them out and practice piecing them back together again. Each kid got a little envelope to take their heart home. (Busywork you say? Bullseye.)

Download Heart Puzzle worksheet here.

Pretzel Labels - This was a big hit, we used this at the beginning of the year during our lesson on prayer. All the kids got a little clear bag of pretzels with this label stuck on the bag. I read them an expanded version of the story (found online) while they snacked. I discovered something very important that day: when children are eating, they are not talking. This is a sheet of six labels, sized to fit on Avery 3x5 address labels, or print on a large label sheet and trim out.

Download Pretzel labels here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

From the "I Told You So" Files

Me: Clark, I'm going to vacuum now.
Clark: Will it be loud?
Me: Yes, it will be loud. Would you like to go in another room?
C: No, I'm going to stay right here.
Me: Are you sure? It's going to be loud.
C: Yes, I'm going to stay right here.
Me: Okay.

* * *

Where is Monday baking, you ask? The pics are trapped on my camera. It's been a busy week and I have not yet had time to hunt down the little USB thingy to connect the card to my computer. By the weekend, I hope. Several other surprises to share, too.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Baking Monday - S'mores Cupcakes

Up this week: S'mores Cupcakes from Bakerella. I saw this post last week and wanted to try them right away. I learned a few tricks along the way:

The original post said makes 14-16 cupcakes, I got 24 easily. With the marshmallow, they fill up the cups very quickly. Lesson #1: make sure the marshmallows are completely covered with chocolate batter ... otherwise they will try to escape during baking!

Just out of the oven ... they all fell in the middle, I did not get nice rounded tops on these. Maybe if I had been more careful covering up the marshmallow. I may try using a 1/4 marshmallow next time - or a few minis - instead.

Finished! Final verdict: just okay. I'm not a huge marshmallow fan, but I do love s'mores, so I was excited to try these. I skipped the chocolate glaze, but think that will be a must for next time. Or maybe sprinkle some mini chocolate chips on top along with the graham cracker crumbs? Hmmm. That sounds worth a second try.

The cupcake batter itself is delicious ... I will definitely use this recipe again for plain ol' cupcakes.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Birthday #8

Dora had a friends' birthday party yesterday. We kept the guest list small, and it was a great time. I put together little favor buckets for each guest.

Mini notebooks. I made these last year for D's class valentine party. The idea came from lovely design. They are so easy to put together and make such a nice little gift, I love making these.

A friend of mine made these adorable hair clips, she does great work. Also included sparkly pens for the notebooks and a package of fruit snacks.

It was kind of nice doing the party after her early January birthday, because the stores are full of Valentine items, like these cute little heart pails.

Birthday cookies, of course. I don't usually use sprinkles but have been looking for a reason to use these cool pearlescent jimmies. The icing color did not turned out exactly as I hoped ... I accidentally made the green too dark because I used the wrong color, so I had to make all the colors darker. They're cute, but I wish I had done them a little differently.

And I was so disappointed that the icing separated overnight. That sometimes happens after a couple days, but usually not overnight. Maybe my gel coloring is too old? They still tasted great!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Baking Monday - Chocolate Shortbread

Martha's Chocolate Shortbread .... mmmm. And a few more sewing projects from December:

Monkey bags.

Supergirl capes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Christmas Highlights

Finally starting to go through pictures from the holidays. Here are some highlights ...

Cookie trays 09. Supposedly, there are fewer varieties this year, see how skimpy the trays look?

Two of the cookie helpers, my adorable aunts.

Christmas Celebration #1.

Getting ready for the pageant.


Christmas Celebration #2: Favorite gift of the year: Lazer (with a "z") Tripwire. Theo is now much more calm and relaxed, knowing that his stuff is protected.

Red and purple box of goodness.

Christmas celebration #3: trying on new slippers.

Another favorite gift, Bakugan Xbox game.

Dora's awesome gift from Grandpa. It's purple!

Onsie for baby Elijah.

Mini golf morning.

Moments before the meltdown. We're now two-for-two with meltdowns and mini golf. Do we keep trying, or avoid mini golf forever?

Me giving Clark a KO while playing soft block boxing.

New Years' Eve toast, a rare moment of sibling happiness. Of course, alcohol is involved. (Just kidding!! It's grape juice!!)

Dora got her birthday wish ... snow for sledding.

Why We're Idiots

Two things are happening with our television right now. The first is that Jeff is trying out a series of external hard drives in an attempt to expand the minuscule amount of hours currently available on our Time Warner box. The experiment ... is not going well. Things record for awhile, but then the drive shuts down and programs previously recorded become no longer available. Imagine the awfulness of a weary mom and a cranky three-year-old, going to turn on the tv, longing for a few minutes of quiet, hoping to relax with the gentle comedy of Peep, only to find that THERE IS NO PEEP, PEOPLE! Bad things happen.

The second happening is my doing. In the fall, excited by the upcoming Seinfeld "reunion" on Curb Your Enthusiasm, I decided to order HBO for the first time ever. I called Time Warner to find out the price.

Me: How much for HBO?
TW: X amount.
Me: GAH!
Me: Any - ahem - deals or specials going on right now?
TW: No. Suck it.

I went ahead and ordered it, because hey, Jerry's worth it, right? We got to watch a few episodes of the new season before the DVR decided to poop out. Luckily, the new season is available on the HBO On Demand channel. Ahh, I can relax knowing that the new episodes are tucked safely away on channel 920.

Fast forward through December ... life has been crazy busy. Lots of orders plus getting ready for Christmas, plus everyday stuff like keeping the children bathed and fed (they're so demanding!) No time for frivolous things like television.

And finally, last night ... new year, guests have gone home, to do list is (slightly) shorter. It's time to sit down with my hubby and watch some tee-vee.

Me: Hey! Why don't we get caught up on Curb tonight, so I can finally cancel HBO?

(I think you can see where this is going.)

Curb is no longer available On Demand. And all the episodes that we had recorded are being held captive by our Home-Improvemented DVR. Which means I have just paid GAH! amount for HBO for the last four months and didn't even get to see the show I ordered it for.

These kinds of things happen to us ALL THE TIME.

The only silver lining to the whole event is that our short time with HBO did allow us to get hooked on Flight of the Conchords, so I am trying to look at the bright side. (Don't mention that the price I've just paid for four months of HBO would buy both seasons on DVD. Don't even go there.)