Music - First Instrument Exposures

You don't need to sign up for music classes to expose your child to the wonderful world of instruments, rhythms and melodies!

Pretend Play - Snack Stand

Pretend play is essential for young children! Props like this snack stand are easy to make and can fit a variety of play themes.

Early Language and Literacy Development - Listening and Speaking

Think beyond the alphabet to develop early language and literacy skills; sharing books are having family conversations are powerful tools!

Recipe - Mama Bear's Chili

Let's get cooking! A warm bowl of chili will make everyone's bellies happy this fall!

DIY Toys - Pizza Playset

We love making our own toys like this pizza playset. It saves a lot of money and we can make exactly what we want and nothing more!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Spiced Apple Cake

Fall is my favorite time of year and fall food is also some of the best around. Fall brings chili, soups and everything involving apples and pumpkins. I've been wanting to make an apple dessert for a couple weeks now but couldn't decide on a recipe. And then I came across this one on Two Peas and Their Pod. It was full of fresh chopped apples and sounded simply amazing! The only downside to this recipe is the prep time, it takes a while to peel and chop all those apples but it is so worth it! My husband wanted to bring some cake to work so I decided to increase the recipe by 50% to make 2 cakes, a 9x13 and 8x8. He ended up taking the larger one into the office and it was pretty much devoured!

Spiced Apple Cake


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 6 cups chopped apples (we used 5 total apples, 2 1/2 red delicious and 2 1/2 granny smith)
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 and an 8x8 baking dish. (Note: after baking, there was still room to grow in both baking pans so you could try to make one big cake in the 9x13 pan and increase baking time by 15 minutes)
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and allspice in a medium bowl.
  3. Whisk together sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl; add in flour mixture and stir until combined. Batter will be very thick.
  4. Stir in chopped apples, mixing until apples have been incorporated and batter is moistened.
  5. Pour 2/3 of the batter into the 9x13 pan and 1/3 into the 8x8. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool completely on wire rack.
  6. Frosting: Using an electric mixer (or a wire whisk and some strong muscles!), beat together the cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla and powdered sugar. Spread onto cake after it has cooled and try not to eat it all at once! :-)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Letter to my Husband

I’ve seen many articles touching on the underappreciation of stay-at-home-moms and while I do appreciate the recognition we are getting, I feel that full-time-working-dads may also be slightly underappreciated. So now it’s my turn to say thank you. 

Thank you for getting up extra early (while we sleep!) 5 days a week to go to the office. This sacrifice lets you come home earlier so you have some time to spend with us before Little C goes to bed. And your going to work allows me to stay home and focus on Little C and live comfortably while doing so!
Thank you for finding the best work/life balance you could. Even though she doesn’t really know it yet, Little C and I are both so grateful that you’re not on call anymore and have severely reduced the frequency of business trips. 
Thank you for accepting and understanding Little C’s preference for me over you. It’s not fair, but she just doesn’t understand why you have to leave and go to work so many days when I stay with her. One day she will understand and appreciate what you did for our family. 
Thank you for being a parent. It’s sad that in this “modern” age, so many men still feel that parenting is not a two-person job. I’m lucky enough to have a partner in this life, every step of the way, who doesn’t hesitate to step in and do whatever needs doing. 
Thank you for believing in me, supporting me, trusting my judgment and appreciating what I do for Little C and our family. 
Thank you for accepting me and loving me, flaws and all, bad days and good.

In return… 
I promise to not jump on you and ask for help the moment you walk in the door (unless we’re in the middle of some sort of cataclysmic disaster!) 
I promise to remember that your day in the office isn’t necessarily a breeze. It may be crazy and nonstop, stressful and exhausting. 
I promise to treat you as an equal parent. I may make many parenting decisions myself simply because I’m the only one here, but you still have as much say as I do. I will try my best to remember that suggestions and concerns are just those and not reprimands and judgments. 
I promise to show my appreciation for what you do and never let you forget that I can only do what I do because of you. 
I promise to love and support you, every step of the way, bad days and good, for the rest of my life.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2-Ingredient Oatmeal Cookies

I discovered the most amazing recipe today on The Burlap Bag. There are multiple variations, using different fruits in the base but these cookies really can be made with just 2 healthy all-natural ingredients! However, I'm sure most of you will want to add some mix-ins like we did.

Another great thing about these cookies? Cleanup is a breeze! Our supplies were as follows: a mixing bowl, fork, measuring cup, 1 1/2 tbsp cookie scoop and parchment-lined baking sheet. The bowl and fork go in the dishwasher and the baking sheet is clean under the parchment paper so all I was left with were a measuring cup and cookie scoop to wash!

And the last great thing about these cookies is, they taste good! If you're craving a true crumbly cookie, this isn't it. But they're sweet and chewy and even if you end up eating half the batch you don't have to feel bad! That only means you ate 1/2 cup of fruit and 1/2 cup of oats plus a small handful of whatever else you tossed in. I'd call that breakfast :-)

2-Ingredient Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 cup mashed peaches, 1 cup pumpkin or 2 mashed bananas (I had soft bananas and Little C had mentioned banana cake randomly today so that seemed the way to go for us!)
  • 1 cup oatmeal 
  • Mix-ins of your choice: chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, raisins, spices...

1. Mash and stir until everything is combined and moist. Add in a handful or two of whatever mix-ins you'd like. We went for chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.

 Little C decided that stabbing the bananas was better than mashing time we use the potato masher

This is what the dough looked like after Mama took over and stirred it all together

2. Spoon the batter onto a greased or lined baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes or until firm and set.

 I think next time we're making a double batch!

Note: As these cookies are moist from the fruit, I'd recommend putting them in the fridge if there are any left after a day or so to prevent mold. But if you're anything like us, there probably won't be many left...(Little C and I each had 3 cookies right after we made them - if you noticed our total cookie count was only 13 that means we ate just about half of them!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Weird Science Wednesday: Rain in a Jar

Since April showers do bring May flowers, I thought it'd be fun today to learn a little about why it rains. I've read about the rain in a jar experiment several times before and it seemed easy enough so we gave it a try!

  • Large glass jar (a large mason jar or tomato sauce jar would work well)
  • Water
  • Heat-resistant plate
  • Ice cubes
1. Boil enough water to fill your jar up about 2". For us, this came out to about a cup of water. We heated the water in a glass measuring cup in the microwave until it was very hot and boiling. Little C absolutely LOVES operating the microwave and I like that she practices number recognition, responsibility and safety (never touch the dishes inside the microwave, watch out so the door doesn't hit you in the head as it opens...).

2. Pour the very hot water into your jar and immediately place the plate on top.

 Little C helped pour the water into the jar, hence the goggles and oven mitts :-) Better safe than sorry!

3. Wait 2-3 minutes as the steam rises and condenses on the plate. Then place a handful of ice cubes onto your plate. Stress the importance of not touching or moving the plate at any point! Little C kept messing with the plate and we had too much steam escape the first time around and had to reheat our water and try again.

4. Watch what happens!
I have to admit, it's kind of anti-climactic because it doesn't really RAIN. It starts dripping down the sides, slowly. But while we waited to catch a drip (and subsequently yell "Drip!"), we talked about how the water at the bottom was hot and making steam. Little C already knew hot and steam went together because she often sees our hot food steaming. Then we observed that the plate was much colder than the water just like the air way up in the sky is much colder than down on the ground. The cold makes the steam turn back into water and when the plate is too full of water, it drips back down.

It may not have been super exciting, but Little C liked it so I have to call it successful!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Dirt Pudding with Flowers!

Welcome to the first installment of Tasty Tuesdays! Get ready for some cooking fun with your little one!

Since it's springtime and flowers are starting to bloom, I thought we should make our own edible flower pots. The whole thing is a bit of a process and if you're crunched for time you could just make the pudding - I doubt anyone will complain!

Let's get started!

First, stir together 6 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp cornstarch and 1/4 cup cocoa powder in a small saucepan.

Add 1 1/2 cups milk.

Stir until everything is blended together.

Bring mixture to a boil then cook 2 minutes or until thickened, stirring often.
Remove from heat, add 1/2 tsp vanilla and chill in the fridge.
 Slice pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew into fairly thin wide pieces. Use flower-shaped cookie cutters to make fruit flowers. Press the fruit onto popsicle sticks.

Crush 2 chocolate graham crackers (or any chocolate cookies to yield about 3 tbsp cookie crumbs).

Spoon cookie crumbs on top of the pudding.

Stick fruit flower pops into pudding and enjoy!

Dirt Pudding with Flowers
Yield: 2 large or 3 small servings
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 chocolate graham crackers
  • Sliced pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew
  • Lollipop sticks
  1. Combine sugar, cornstarch and cocoa in a small saucepan.
  2. Slowly pour in milk and stir until all ingredients are well combined.
  3. Heat pudding mix over medium-low heat and bring to a boil; cook about 2 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour pudding into cups/bowls and chill in the refrigerator.
  5. Place graham crackers in a zip top bag and crush with a rolling pin (this is a good way to get some aggression out!). Sprinkle about 1 tbsp crumbs over each pudding serving.
  6. Use flower-shaped cookie cutters to make flower fruit shapes. Thread flowers onto lollipop sticks.
  7. When ready to serve, place fruit flowers into the pudding cups (don't expect them to stand upright! Lean them against the side)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sticker Story Books

Now that Little C is 3, I've decided to graduate from spontaneous learning experiences to a more structured home-school setting. I'm still organizing, prepping and working out all the details, but one of the activities I'm trying to implement daily is drawing-writing. There are SO many ways to include drawing and writing in your day and here is just one of them.

Sticker Story Books
Step 1: Buy/ make a booklet for your child. It should not be lined, but have blank pages (8 pages is a good minimum). I found this great pack of blank 8x8 booklets in the $1/$3 section of Target. In hindsight, I wish I'd have gotten more packs because I have a feeling we're going to be doing a lot of drawing and writing!

Step 2: Draw a line 1.5-2" from the bottom of the page separating the drawing and writing areas.

Step 3: Get out all those stickers you've got hiding around the house! Let your child pick one sheet of stickers to work with. (After they've been doing the activity for a while, children may be able to handle multiple pages of stickers, but I think for beginners it's easier to choose one so they don't get overwhelmed).

Step 4: Guide your child in choosing stickers for the page (make sure you work on 1 page at a time!) and help them develop a scenario - what is going on in the picture? For example, in the photo above, Little C began with the sticker of Toby (the cactus from Sheriff Callie) and when asked what he was doing, responded that he was picking flowers. She then added a couple more stickers and drew a field of flowers for Toby to pick.
Tip: If your child needs help drawing, you can draw hand over hand with them or guide them verbally - "draw a circle for the sun, around-close"

Step 5: Create a caption for the drawing. Help your child come up with a sentence (or two if they're older or more advanced!) about their picture and write it with them at the bottom of the page.

"Peck is playing horseshoes with Priscilla and Sheriff Callie."
I underline each word to make it more obvious where one word ends and another begins. 

Step 6: Reread the sentence! After you've written the sentence, have your child point to the words one at a time and read the sentence with you. 

Repeat this as many times as you and your child want! I'm sure Little C would've kept going until all her stickers were gone but I distracted her after 3 pages :-)

Age: 3 yrs

St. Patrick's Day and All Natural "Shamrock" Shake

I've been a little behind on my holidays since the new year and hadn't really planned ahead for special St. Patrick's Day activities. However, I didn't want to let the holiday go completely uncelebrated, so while Little C was napping I whipped up a quick rainbow and put some gold (chocolate) coins at the end!

My rainbow was simply 6 long strands of yarn taped off at either end! (I'll be on the lookout for a small black plastic pot/cauldron to use for St. Pat's and Halloween activities in the future, that blue bowl just doesn't look at festive!)

We had a rainbow and some gold, and now we needed something green! We've made green smoothies in the past, but I wanted something extra special for today. So I decided to try this recipe for a natural healthy remade Shamrock Shake - for those unfamiliar, it's a fast food sugary caloric minty green milkshake. I was doubtful it could actually taste similar to the original, but I was pleasantly surprised! I didn't taste the fruits/veggies, just the vanilla and mint! Here's our version:

All Natural "Shamrock" Shake
  • 1 cup vanilla flavored milk (we used Horizon's Organic Vanilla Milk)
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 10 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
Blend all ingredients until smooth!
Tip: For better blending, mix the milk, spinach and mint together first. Then add in the banana and mango and blend until smooth. I'm lazy and have a superpowered Blendtec blender so I just throw it all in together :-)

Another tip...

Drink your shake fast before the Smoothie Bandit gets to it!
(I know I'm holding it for her, but letting a 3 year old hold an open glass is just not a good idea!)