Friday, April 30, 2010

Sunflowers (not Snowflowers)

It's been snowing for the last couple of days on our Earth Day Sunflower House. I covered many of the flowers with little milk jug "greenhouses" in hopes of keeping them a little bit warm. The rest I covered with a sheet set that has silly putty stuck all over it. When I checked the sunflowers yesterday, they were doing okay. I haven't checked today -- it's too cold to go out! That is why the picture is from so far away. I didn't want to leave the comfort of my warm home to snap a picture of my garbage (and snow) covered flowers.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Kid Projects Displayed

We have a lot of projects the kids make at story time, church and school. They are often not just flat peices of paper. The kids are proud of them and don't want to get rid of them right away. We made these display boards to keep them in one place. When it's full, they have to decide which item to take off, take a photograph of and then get rid of so that the new one can be put on.

For the blue board we used: Foam board, the sham from his comforter set, red ribbon.
For the pink board we used: Backing from a broken poster frame, sequin fabric, purple ribbon

We used hot glue to glue the fabric to the boards. The ribbons were glued 5" apart and were woven to hold the items better.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

To celebrate Earth Day, we planted sunflowers and morning glories to make a sunflower house that the kids can play in during the summer. The idea came from Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots I bought heirloom sunflower seeds from Seed Savers so I can harvest the seeds and replant next year. We also reused household items that would have been thrown away or recycled for the containers (newspaper, milk jugs, toilet paper tubes, paper grocery bags, etc.) when starting the seeds. We talked about the things we love about our earth and what we can do to help the earth.
These are our sunflower starts. We used most of them.
This is what the base of our house looks like:

Now we just have to watch the weather carefully to make sure they don't get too cold. We love our earth!

Oh, and we bought second-hand bikes for the kids today so they can spend time outside enjoying our earth.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hamburger Buns

I got this recipe from my friend Marisa from Backyard Farming gave me this recipe for hamburger buns:

Hamburger Buns
2 Tbsp yeast
2 cups warm water, divided
3 Tbsp sugar, divided
1 Tbsp salt
5 Tbsp oil
5-6 cups all-purpose flour, divided

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Stir in 1 Tbsp sugar. Let this mixture stand while you combine the remaining water (1 1/2 cups), remaining sugar (2 Tbsp), salt, oil and 3 cups flour in a seperate bowl. Add yeast misture after it becomes frothy. Add the rest of the flour. Mix until it is kneadable. Let is rest for ten minutes then knead for one minute. Do this three times. Let it rest for an additional ten minutes. Make them into 3.5 oz. balls (makes about 12) and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten them with the palm of your hand. Check back in a few minutes to make sure they are still somewhat flat. If not, flatten again. Let rise for one hour. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes.

This may seem like a time-intensive process. It does take a lot of time but most of it isn't hands-on time. The first time I made these I got a lot done while I made them. I listened to an audio book during the first part. During the first ten minute rest time I unloaded and loaded the dishwasher. During the second I sorted and started a load of laundry. During the third I tidyed up the house. During the fourth I colored with my kids. During the one hour rise time I went for a run. During the bake time I got all the burger fixings ready. (My husband was working the grill.)

The second time I made these I used 2 Tbsp of honey in place of the sugar that didn't get mixed with the yeast. I also used half freshly ground wheat flour and half all-purpose flour.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Children's Poetry Book

I love this book of poems for my little ones. When my daughter turned three, she recited this poem from it:

Three little candles on a birthday cake
Count them very carefully so there's no mistake.
We've counted three and there's no doubt
Now it's time to blow them out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Version of Homemade Samoas Cookies

*Be sure to scroll to the bottom for my Carmel Delights variation for those who don't like coconut or don't have it on hand. They are awesome too! Oh, and they are less work.*

Homemade Samoas Cookies
1 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla. The dough should come together without being sticky. If the dough is too dry, add a tiny bit of milk (no more than 2 Tbsp should be needed). Add a bit of extra flour if it's too sticky. Roll into little balls about the size of a nickle. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and flatten with the palm of your hand to 1/4" thick or less. Use the end of a WIDE straw to make a hole in the middle of each cookie. If you don't have a wide straw, a regular straw will work. Just do three holes overlapping and kind of smooth the edges with the straw after the last hole. *Tip: When you make a hole, twist the straw a bit and it will collect the hole inside the straw.* Repeat with remaining dough. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set. Cool for few minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

3 cups shredded coconut
12 oz chewy carmels
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp milk

8 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 F. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet and toast in five minute increments. After five minutes, see if most of the coconut is toasted. If there is a lot not toasted, stir and return to the oven for another five minutes. It should take about twenty minutes before the coconut is golden. Cool on the baking sheet, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, unwrap the carmels and place in a large microwave safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times. When smooth, mix in the coconut. Have a bowl on water on hand to wet your hands with. With slightly wet hands, form a piece of the topping in to a snake shape, place around the top of a cookie and connect ends. Flatten slightly so the topping sticks to the cookie. Repeat for each cookie. If the topping gets to firm to work with, stick it back in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it.

While the topping sets, melt the chocolate chocolate chips in the microve for 45 seconds. Stir until all the chips are melted. Dip the base of each cookie in to the chocolate and place on parchment paper to cool. Drizzle the remaining chocolate (or melt a little more if necessary) over the finished cookies. Let the chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container. Makes 3.5-4 dozen cookies.

Carmel Delights
Prepare as above except dip the base in the chocolate before adding the topping and don't add the coconut to the topping recipe. You can just pour the melted carmel mixture to the top of each cookie, drizzle with chocolate and wait until they are set.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Simple Kitchen Clean-up Tip

To easily clean up rice or pasta that has been spilled on the floor:

Leave it for an hour or two. It dries out and sweeps up like a dream.

If you can't handle letting food sit on the floor for that long, buy a corn broom. They seem to have a slicker sweep to them. They work better for me to clean up this type of mess than the plastic bristle brooms.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


This is a fun and educational activity to do with children. Mix 2 parts cornstarch with about 1 part water. That's it. It's magic.
Sometimes it's solid,
sometimes it's liquid.
I don't fully understand it but it was really fun! Talk with your children about properties of liquids and solids -- and you could throw in gases too. Try squeezing the goop, pouring the goop...even just holding the goop is fascinating. I played right along with them for quite some time. They played for an hour. It washes off with water and is, of course, non-toxic. If you want to add color, add a drop or two of food coloring to the water before you mix it. It's really hard to mix in the color after you've put the cornstarch and water together.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Menu Planning

Menu Planning the SimpleBlue way:
Step 1 - Keep a Running Shopping List
When you are getting low on an item, write it on the shopping list
Step 2 - Create a Menu
Ask each member of my family what their favorite foods are and write them on a list. Ask what foods sound good to them (for meals or snacks) and write them on that same list.
Step 3 - Find Recipes and Create a Shopping List
Find a recipe for each of the foods listed. On your shopping list, write down any of the ingredients you will need to purchase. Keep all the recipes you just read through grouped in one place so when you are ready to make any of the meals, the recipe is easy to find. Also add any snacks/fruits and vegetables you'd like serve your family.
Step 4 - Shop
Stick to the list as much as makes sense so you don't have extra food hanging around that hasn't been planned for.
Step 5 - List of Meals
Write the list of meals you were able to get ALL of the ingredients for. I write them on a white board in my kitchen. Erase or cross them off when you make the meal if you don't have enough ingredients to make it a second time.

There is now a list of meals you could create on any given day for the next couple of weeks. You won't need to plan out a specific menu for a specific day. Just make sure you look at the list of dinner choices either the night before or in the morning so that you have time to thaw anything that may be frozen (or get it in the crock pot in a timely manner). You can make anything on that list that sounds good or that fits your schedule on that particular day. I think it will surprise you how flexible this menu is, how much your family will like what you have made (they chose the food, after all), that you will waste less food because you know what you have, how easy it is for you and how long you can go between your trips to the grocery store. This strategy for menu planning is flexible, convenient and makes sense for my family. What are your tricks to menu planning?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Super Sister

My sister will be occasionally be adding items to the shop! Look how cute this baby sling is!