Monday, August 31, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday - Circus

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

We are back for another Muffin Tin Monday and this time everything in our tin is edible. The theme this week is the circus, so I decided to focus on clowns and serve sundaes. I was going to decorate the sundaes to look like clowns, but figured it would be more fun for C and R to decorate their own sundaes. They definitely enjoyed the decorating as much as they enjoyed the eating!

I filled the muffin tin with pretzel peanut butter sandwiches, licorice bites, M&Ms, animal crackers, and cone hats. All of these items were specifically requested by C and R.

This is R's clown sundae. She did a great job. You can see the M&M eyes, the licorice mouth, and the pretzels for hair.

This is C's clown sundae. His idea was to just put as much as possible on the ice cream before Mom changes her mind and takes the candy away!After enjoying the clown sundaes, we snuggled on the couch and read two circus books.

Circus Adventures was written and illustrated by a nine year old girl, Lindsey Wolter. The book is very well written and the illustrations are fantastic. The main character, Molly, goes to the circus and becomes one of the performers. Molly finds herself performing with the clowns, toppling the acrobats, and being shot out of a cannon. This is a fun, action packed read and it is perfect for young children because the illustrations tell the whole story.

Olivia Saves the Circus by Ian Falconer features our favorite little pig describing her summer adventures to her class. Olivia tells her classmates about a visit to the circus where all of the performers were suffering from ear infections, but luckily Olivia was willing and able to juggle, walk the tightrope, clown around, tame lions and more to save the circus. We think Olivia is adorable!

Visit Michelle at Her Cup Overfloweth to see more muffin tins!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Simply Made Sunday - Popsicles


I am really enjoying Simply Made Sunday because I think it is so important to get kids in the kitchen, and this is a great incentive to do that. There are so many opportunities for learning in the kitchen - measurement, food preparation, food safety, etc.

With less than two weeks before school starts for us, we decided to make something that captures the flavors and fun of summer. Our local newspaper had a recipe for homemade ice pops made with fresh fruit - perfect!

*Strawberry Kiwi Fruit Pops*
  • 2 kiwi fruit, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, cleaned and hulled
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (if needed, this depends on the sweetness of your fruit)
  • One drop vanilla extract
Puree kiwi and strawberries in blender with water, vanilla, and sugar. If mixture is too thick, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture is easily poured but not runny. Taste for sweetness. If it tastes perfect before freezing, add a pinch or two more sugar, as flavors tend to diminish when frozen.

Pour into pop molds and freeze at least 8 hours.

Per serving: 53 calories, 1 g protein, zero fat and cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 9 g sugar
*This recipe was published in The Providence Journal on Wednesday, August 26, 2009.
We also combined one cup of strawberries, one banana, a few spoonfuls of vanilla yogurt, and a little milk in the blender and made another batch of popsicles.

Both flavors were delicious! C was not happy about the seeds from the strawberries and kiwi in his popsicle but he did eat most of it.

We used Tovolo ice pop molds in both rocket and star shapes. If you are in the market for popsicle molds, I strongly recommend these. They are easy to use, very sturdy in the freezer because they fit into a base (see photo below), and they feature built in sticks and drip guards! Our molds came from (if you know me, you know I buy everything from Amazon!), but they are also available at Bed Bath & Beyond.

For more recipes, go visit my friend Susana at Our Homeschool Fun!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

I saw this on Valerie's Frugal Family Fun blog and had to try it for myself.

C and R did not have a lot of patience with me on this. I really wanted to add more stars and try to get them together in a few photos but they were not interested. It was fun for me though.

If you are not familiar with Valerie's blog, you should check it out. I have bookmarked so many of her ideas to try that I think I should start a Frugal Family Fun folder. When you visit her blog, be sure to read the comments. Her husband, Mark, comments regularly and he cracks me up.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Open ended art - Crayons


The Open Ended Art Project of the week is to create something with crayons. I happen to love crayons, but C and R never choose crayons when they are creating art; they both prefer markers and paint. I knew this would be a challenge.

Plan A: I placed some coins and paper clips on the table and taped a piece of paper over them. C and R were given crayons to create a rubbing of the items. R was not in the mood to color. C did a little of this but quickly tired and decided it was not fun.
Here is what he accomplished:

Plan B: I decided to use masking tape to make an R and a C on paper and then have them color over the letters. I would remove the tape to reveal the letter. No luck with this one. C did not even want to try it, and R only made a few squiggles on the paper. What was I thinking? Neither one of them would ever color that much of the page.

Plan C: I was beginning to think this project would never succeed, but I was willing to try one more time. We recently made sun catcher butterflies with crayon shavings and they enjoyed that project, so I decided to do it again and let them make the design however they wanted. C and R were happy to use crayon shavings to make an open ended project. I let them choose the colors and place them wherever they wanted on wax paper. I then placed another piece of wax paper on top, placed the crayon filled paper between two towels, and ironed until the crayon melted. Finally, a completed project and they were both very happy with the results.

This is the design R made.
C made this red and blue (his favorite colors) creation. He had every intention of making Spiderman. I think it definitely resembles him. What do you think?
It took three tries, but we completed an open ended art project with crayons. Phew!
Visit Teaching My Little Bookworm to see more crayon creations.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

No Bones About It

We have been working on the letter "X" so we made these "X" is for X-Ray pages that I saw on No Time for Flashcards. I drew the bones on cardboard and after they were painted and dried, we glued them onto black construction paper. The topic of x-rays inspired C and R to pull out some of our human body activities.

C and R are painting "bones" in these photos. C is wearing his flotation vest. He wears it often because it is Spiderman and he just likes it. R has a pink vest that she likes to wear too. I don't think they have ever worn them in water!

C and R always enjoy putting together this skeleton puzzle. The puzzle is easy to assemble, but the back of each puzzle piece names the bone so it would also be neat for an older child. The puzzle is from Learning Resources and comes with an activity guide.

While building the skeleton, we sang and read Dem Bones by Bob Barner. There are a lot of interesting bone facts in this book, and it is just fun to look at.

C and R got these girl and boy puzzles for Christmas last year. I definitely recommend them as a learning tool. I love that they are anatomically correct.

The puzzles have a lot of pieces and it is easy for R to get overwhelmed and confused. To avoid that, we approach the puzzle in steps. First, we place all of the pieces right side up. Then we place like pieces side by side (for example, the heads are lined in a row first followed by the torsos). Finally, she builds each layer. There is a little guide on the front of the puzzle to help. It shows the order of the layers.

C is capable of completing the entire puzzle without taking any of these steps. He really enjoys looking at the books we have about the human body while he completes this puzzle. His favorite books are My First Encyclopedia of the Human Body and See Inside Your Body (this is an Usborne Flap Book and even I enjoy lifting the flaps to see what is underneath).

The human body is an ongoing topic of study for us because C and R enjoy learning about their bodies. A few months ago, I traced their outlines and they filled in the details. That is always fun, and we will probably do it again soon.

We lucked out this week because Sid the Science Kid had episodes about bones and muscles! We are big fans of that show. Do your kids watch Sid?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Preparing for a BIG Day

In a few weeks, C will begin full-day Kindergarten and R will begin a three mornings preschool program. I am doing my best to prepare them for the transition, and of course that involves some good books. Here are a few of our favorites:

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is definitely my favorite book to prepare children for school. Chester Raccoon is about to begin school but does not want to go. To comfort him, Mrs. Raccoon shares the secret of the kissing hand.

Mouse's First Day of School by Lauren Thompson is about a little mouse that crawls into a backpack and finds himself discovering all of the wonderful things at school.

Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney features that sweet little llama on his first day of school. He is sad to be without his mother, but in the end discovers that school is fun.

The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing begins with the children and parents preparing for the first day of school and leads us to the parents saying goodbye as their children happily begin their school day. I like that this book touches upon the bittersweet experience parents have as they send their children to school.

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate is a book that reinforces the alphabet and animal names while also helping children prepare for Kindergarten. We always have fun reading this book because the text reaches out and addresses all of those jittery feelings in an upbeat, rhyming fashion.

Kindergarten Rocks by Katie Davis is a humorous book about a boy who is not the least bit scared of going to Kindergarten. His stuffed dog, Rufus, on the other hand is terrified! They both find out that Kindergarten rocks!

Countdown to Kindergarten by Alison McGhee is about a young girl who is very concerned about the fact that she cannot tie her shoes a few days before she will go to Kindergarten. She soon discovers that she is not alone, and that teachers are there to help students succeed in many ways.

Obviously, going to school is a huge transition for children and they will have to adjust when the time comes but I do think that reading and talking about some of the things they may be feeling, as well as some of the experiences they will have helps a lot. Are your children starting school? How do you prepare?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Best Toys Were Never Meant to be Toys

What does this look like to you?

A few months ago, I purchased something that came in a box with this packaging. I put the packaging aside to be recycled without a thought. C, however, noticed it and decided it was the coolest toy ever! He has been playing with it nonstop since that day.

Recently, I was in Starbucks and noticed the cup holders on the counter and decided it would be the perfect addition to his packaging playset.
C has used his imagination to turn this packaging into forts, mountains, mazes, and battlefields.

Boxes, bubble wrap, tape, string,'s true, the best toys were never meant to be playthings!

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Girl

R got her hair cut at my favorite (and only place I would ever go) salon on Sunday.

The stylist made this beautiful braid in her hair and I just want to show it off because there is no way I could ever duplicate it. I tried to watch her do it, but she used all ten fingers and worked so fast that I just laughed. My fingers do not have that kind of dexterity.

I have to admit that I love the braid much more than R. She wanted it out before we even made it to the car, but I insisted that she wait until Daddy could see it.

Muffin Tin Monday - People and Faces

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

The theme for Muffin Tin Monday this week is People and Faces, and I think I may be breaking all the rules here because there is absolutely nothing edible in our muffin pan this week. My original plan was to make pancakes and fill the muffin cups with foods that could turn the pancakes into faces, but then I found a recipe for homemade face paint and I just had to try it.

  1. In each muffin cup put: 1 tsp cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon water (I used a little more), 1/2 teaspoon baby lotion or whatever you use on your children (something mild), and 2 drops food coloring
  2. Stir gently using separate stirrers in each cup so that you don't mix colors
  3. Paint your face, hand, belly, or entire body! We had a lot of fun with this. The paint spreads easily and washes off with soap and water.

*This recipe can be found in the cookbook, Fun with Kids in the Kitchen by Judi Rogers. To see how other people filled their muffin tins, visit Her Cup Overfloweth.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Banana Cake Butterfly

C and R helped me make a butterfly banana cake this week; we even got a little help with the frosting from T. This cake is really good and we make it often. The recipe comes from The One-Armed Cook cookbook by Cynthia Stevens Graubart and Catherine Fliegel. The book features quick and easy recipes, meal plans, and advice for moms. If you click on the title of the book in the earlier sentence, you will be routed to The One-Armed Cook website where you can find more recipes and information. (I have the cookbook and enjoy it; I am not being compensated for this recommendation.)

Banana Cake
2 sticks butter softened to room temp.
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed banana
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Coat two 9 inch layer cake pans with cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Mix on high for one minute, until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
  5. Add mashed banana and beat for one minute.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda, stirring well to mix. Add to banana mixture. On low speed, continue mixing until thoroughly mixed.
  7. Add milk and vanilla. Mix for one minute.
  8. Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
We frosted the cake with cream cheese frosting:
  1. Mix 8 oz cream cheese and 1 stick butter (both at room temp) on high speed for 1 minute
  2. Add 1 pound confectioner's sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix on low speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
  3. Frost your cake
I only used one layer of the cake and half of the frosting to make the butterfly.
I first saw the butterfly cake on the Living and Learning blog. I am happy that she posted this because it was fun and so easy to do! Here are some photos that show how I cut the cake:
After we frosted the cake, I outlined the butterfly with yellow icing. Then, we covered the body with chocolate sprinkles and used pink and rainbow sparkling sugar to decorate the wings.

Click here for complete directions from the Betty Crocker website on how to cut the cake.