Buttons & Play Dough

Olivia and I made Play Dough with coconut oil a few weeks ago.  I am proud to say that while the color has turned from four separate colors into one grey mush, it is still soft and wonderful.  And it cost next to nothing, so the mixing of colors is less troublesome.

I saw this on remember:
Oh yeah, I have a two-year old I need to encourage and help learn beyond what Dora and Bubble Guppies will teach her.  Now that we're not at the pool six days a week, I have more time at home to play, and do fun things (and clean!  I actually clean my house again!)

I still have a few toddler tricks up my sleeve, but the color matching was too easy to pass up!

The process was simple and originally I thought Avery and I would make our own primary color play dough, but I found 4 perfect "favor" sized pots and used them:  blue, green, yellow (mixed with purple "Go Vikings) and and orangey-pink.  A $3 pack of primary color buttons from Joann's and these little 2 ounce packs of playdough and let her go nuts.

It was only a little prompting of me asking "what color is this?" before Avery caught on and made her own game the way I intended.

Sometimes she got carried away with sticking buttons into any color and that gave me the chance to ask:  do these all match?  What colors do you see?  Redirecting focus is a huge undertaking with a toddler, so this was an excellent activity!

She's got a max of about 20 minutes on an activity, but this bought me a few uninterrupted rounds of Candy Crush and The Price is Right.

Small miracles.
It's very easy to set up and take down, so the length of time enjoyed is totally worth the effort!

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Olivia, age 5 (part 2)

My darling girl turned 5 on Wednesday.
I wrote about it {here}

On Sunday, we celebrated with a few friends at Cherry Berry.
If you've never been, it perhaps the best after-dinner treat out there:  self-serve ice cream and yogurt, with a gazilion toppings.  On a normal day, you walk in and pay per ounce, which can be dangerous (we've heard tales of a $11 Cherry Berry treat) but for her birthday, each kid got a cup to fill to their hearts content.
Load 'em up with sugar and treats and playing wild on the lounge couches.
It was basic and simple, but most of the kids were 5 or 6, so they didn't need a lot of "frills."

No Pinterest-inspired decorations or take-home treats.
Ice cream.

And I didn't have to clean my house.
Or clean up afterwards.
Totally worth it!

I loved the part of the day.  
Everyone had their treats, 
presents were opened,
favors dispersed and everyone sat on the couch together.

Each kid had their own face on the day and a pictures is worth a thousand words!

Happy birthday sweet girl!!!

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*  I have one daughter and one shadow.  Avery does and says the exact same things as Olivia.  Only in a tinier body.

*  I set a reminder on my phone to set the DVR for the new fall shows we're going to try.  The list is long and will be whittled down, but most new shows get a fair shake to start.

*  Some days I go to yoga more to get Avery away from me and around other kids to play with.

*  I'm not a huge Twitter user, however, the coolest tweet I've ever gotten was from @CarolineManzo after I comment I made about her on Real Housewives of NJ.  She's real enough that I'm sure it was her and not an assistant.

*  In an effort to be a cute-after-school mom, I attempted homemade fruit leather.  It was just that.  Fruit and leather.  Call me a fatty, but I need the sugar from good ole Betty Crocker.  Sticky enough to wrap on your finger and pretend you have monster hands.  Don't act like you didn't.

*  After a particularly rough, 2-year-old afternoon, Nate came home with two bottles of Diet Coke and roses.  Before you just the beverage choice, I already had a new box of wine chilling in the fridge.  Good man.

*  I love summer weather and am sad to see it go, but I am really excited to bring out the leggings and boots again.  An excuse to wear "yoga pants" in a professional setting - I'm all for that!

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Olivia, age 5

Five years ago.
Five years ago, I was getting hooked up to pitocin and watching The Price is Right, while my contractions got stronger and stronger.
Five year ago, when The Price is Right was over, I started watching Oceans Eleven as a distraction (hello Brad, Matt and George.  Worked like a charm... until it didn't!)
Five years ago, I had no idea that in a few hours, minutes, seconds, my life would change forever.

Man, time goes by quickly.

In the past year, my darling girl has:

...been visited by the tooth fairy three times
...successfully completed her second dance recital
...learned to swim and dive down eight feet to retrieve toys
...stopped sucking her thumb (!)
...had her ears pierced one and a half times (one had to be redone because it fell out)
...added another stamp to her passport, visiting Turks & Caicos for a second time
...started Kindergarten
...got a bunk bed (and claimed the top bunk)
...attended her first birthday party without a parent
...watched her first play "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"
...took her first ride in a convertible
...welcomed two more cousins to her family tree

Five years ago today, I became a mom.
I had no idea that meant I would be forced to have my heart walk around outside of my body.

Read about Liv's
{third birthday}
{fourth birthday}
{favorite cupcakes}

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Monster Cookies

With cooler fall weather, I can bake cookies and not feel guilty about having the oven blasting in 90 degree weather.  I know, I'm so generous to the environment and my energy consumption.  Cookies in the name of heating my home.

I saw Ree Drummond makes her monster cookies on Saturday morning and thought they looked amazing.  She inspired me to try my own mix of candies and treats into the batter because, as she said, living in the country, she doesn't always every thing a recipe calls for, so substitutions are always welcome!

With a mix of candies, chocolate and nuts, this cookie is super to please any sweet tooth!

My mix included the following (but remember, you can sub out any nuts, cereal, chocolate bits, or candies that you have on hand):

  • 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1-1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
  • 1/2 c peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 c M&M candies
  • 1/2 c chopped dry roasted peanuts
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cream together your butter and sugars until nice and light and fluffy.  This is where the electric mixer is a Godsend.  I have no idea how people made cookies before this invention.  Perhaps this is why Nabisco and the Keebler Elves hit their payday.
  3. Add in your vanilla and eggs, one at a time and mix well.  I love that Ree uses a whole tablespoon of vanilla.  I always do in my cookies and it's always amazing.
  4. Mix in your dry ingredients - flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and again, turn on that wonderful mixer and let it do it's thing.
  5. Now it's time to fold in the candy and treat ingredients.  Add in one at a time and mix to incorporate.
  6. Scoop out a generous spoonful of batter onto a greased baking sheet (or one lined with Silpat) and bake for 12 minutes, until a lovely golden brown.

As you can see, we used a small ice cream scoop and put 6 cookies on a sheet.  They made wonderfully large cookies, but that's part of the "monster" aspect.  I assume smaller cookies would be good too, but then you'll just eat two (or more) so you might as well start with a bigger cookie!

If you have a ham in your home, make sure that they pose while scooping cookies.  She's prepping for her Food Network career!

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Homemade Play Dough

What is it about kids and play dough?  It must have to do with the texture and just pure *smoosh* of it. We've had our fair share of tubs of the "real" play dough in this house.  They're getting a little crusty and rather than buy more, I thought:

Hey, I've seen that on Pinterest!  And so I made some.
I used the recipe from {Small Friendly} and was originally drawn to the fact that she used pumpkin spice to make it taste good, but even more excited that she used coconut oil.  I've had a jar in my pantry for awhile now, waiting for a project (or many, again, Pinterest.)

That being said, the pumpkin spice was purely for scent and has no baring on how wonderful the play dough will turn out.

The coconut oil was awesome.  The dough was soft and playful, even after my kids left it out without picking it up after they'd found something else to play.  Weird, usually they're so tidy and considerate.


The ingredients for this you'll need:

1 c flour
1 c water
1/3 c salt
1 Tbsp oil (Coconut is recommended, but vegetable or canola would probably do fine too)
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp pumpkin spice (optional)
food coloring

Mix everything together in a sauce pan - only include food coloring if you want to have your whole batch be one color.  This is certainly better than hand mixing (and staining) your hands later, but for varieties sake, we left our color out until the dough had "cooked."

Over medium-low heat, mix together until it's no longer stick.  The mix will go from looking like a thick pancake batter to a honest lump of play dough.  It takes maybe 4 minutes, so keep an eye and don't wander.

Turn dough out onto your countertop with a light dusting of flour and let cool.  Smoosh it out to help cool it faster.  I could not believe how hot this got and how long it held temperature!  Don't burn yourself over a kids craft - it's not worth it!

Once it's cool enough, knead the dough to make sure everything is smooth.  Divide as you'd like and start coloring (if you haven't done so already!)

You're working with food coloring - or a horrible, food-safe dye that will stain anything and everything it touches.  I used a piece of wax paper over a cutting board to protect my countertops.  While they are white, laminate and awful, I still don't need big red and blue stains on them.  I'll leave that to my carpets and fabric paint from {this dandy.}

Drip in your color and start kneading away to mix everything in.  I let Liv do the drops and I did the mixing.  I figured better my hands got stained than hers!

The pumpkin spice does add a golden color to what I imagine is an otherwise white dough, so the food coloring does take a different hue.  You can see we tried to make green, red, blue and purple, but the purple ended up being more brown.  Didn't seem to matter much to the little fingers in this house.

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White Peach Sangria

Happy hour anyone??  You know I love my wine.  White wine especially.  Pino grigio to be exact.  But I'm not opposed to other cocktails, especially those that INCLUDE my beloved alcoholic beverage!  Summer is NOT over yet, even if we've passed Labor Day.  The sun is still high, and the drinks still sweat when you carry them outside.

Sangria is absolutely in order.

Now the name can be misleading.  Because I used strawberries and raspberries, my drink got a little more (ok a lot more) pink than white.  But that's fine.  The fruity flavor was delicious!  And I was using WHITE peaches, so I guess it's all up to interpretation!

Mix together:

1/4 c sugar
2 peaches, peeled and diced
1 cup mixed fruit of your choosing (berries, grapes, go wild!)
1 bottle (750 ml) white wine (pino grigio or chardonnay)
3/4 c peach vodka

Set aside:
1 liter of Ginger Ale (less if you don't like super sweet drinks)

Add all your fruit and sugar to your pitcher and mix gently. Allow to macerate for 5-10 minutes; this allows the sugar to start to breakdown the fruit releasing the juices and making is extra yummy, especially in when added to a liquid.

Dump in your wine and vodka and chill for 2 hours (or even over night.)  Stir in chilled Ginger Ale and serve over ice.  Eat fruit responsibly.  You may have "college wop" flashbacks, but now it's distinguished because you're having it with wine instead of cheap rum.  You're all grown-up now!

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I'd like to think that with Olivia going back to school and Avery getting more of my attention one on one that the tantrums would have lightened. This was not the case. They haven't exactly gotten worse, but they sure haven't gotten better. Thank goodness wine comes in boxes.

This was a good fit caught this week:

I wouldn't let her jump on the couch.  And while I looks like she's only grabbing one cheek, this is mid-dramatic-bury-face-in-hands moment.

Wanna share your greats with the rest of us?
Other highlights of hell humor this week!

 photo nobathroom_w3_zps5212ffab.jpg
No shopping carts allowed in the bathroom while Mommy is going potty.  @jibbletz

 photo coughdrops_w3_zpsdebd4f37.jpg
No, cough drops are not candy @packpackard

 photo purplecup_w3_zps1fb6f36d.jpg
The milk is in the purple cup, not the pink cup with the missing straw @mandareearmstrong

 photo bubbles_w3_zpsa6281bdc.jpg
But mama, the bubbles @cassie_grey

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Chocolate Chip Shortbread

I find most of my life and humor is made up of quotes from TV and movies.  I do consider myself to be quite clever, but there's just something about a good quote from Tommy Boy or Will & Grace that makes the conversation that much funnier.

Remember the episode of FRIENDS - The One With Phoebe's Cookies

Monica wanted to be the mom who had fresh baked cookies for her kids, Chandler didn't want their kids to be fat and Phoebe wouldn't give up the beloved recipe.  Ironically enough, the recipe she wouldn't give up was from Nestle Tollhouse, where I adapted this shortbread.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together 2 sticks of butter (softened to room temperature) and 3/4 cups of white sugar.  Let the mixer do it's thing and cream the butter and sugar for a good 3-5 minutes, get some really good air in to it.  Once it's good and light, mix in 1 egg and 1 tsp of vanilla extract (or more if you're like me, don't measure and hope that you add more.)  Slowly mix in 2 1/4 cups of flour until well incorporated.  Lastly stir in 2 cups of mini chocolate chips.

Turn dough out into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and press evenly into the bottom.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and wonderful.

Cool completely before turning out and cutting into squares (or huge chunks if that your cookie-eating-MO.)  If you've got a chocolate-loving kid in your house, feel free to save a few chips aside and add them to the top for little fingers to pick off and enjoy.  They're only little once!

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