Sunday, April 13, 2014

Volcano Cake!

Speaking of birthdays I just realized that I never ended up sharing the awesome volcano cake I made for my hubby's birthday! It was pretty epic and I really believe that it deserves to be shared. It was made with 1.5 boxes of cake mix, an entire jar of jam and a whole lotta icing! If you've got a special birthday coming up that requires a Volcano cake don't panic--it's not as hard to make as you might think. Read on for my step by step instructions on how to create the perfect (and scientifically accurate!) Volcano cake.


Ingredients:

- 1 box Chocolate cake mix
- 1 box Rainbow Sprinkles cake mix
- 2 small (or one large) container of chocolate frosting
- 1 large jar raspberry jam, warmed and thinned
- small bag of stick pretzels
- bag of shaved coconut
- green food colouring
- miniature plastic dinosaurs

Instructions:

1. Mix both cake batters according to directions in seperate bowls and preheat oven. Fill one round cake pan (8x8 or 9x9) with chocolate batter, and one round cake pan with rainbow batter. Bake according to package directions and set aside to cool.
2. Using left over batter from both bowls make your own "marble" batter in an oven safe glass bowl by adding a little of one, and then some of the other. Bake the marble batter until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
3. Loosen the chocolate and rainbow cakes from the tins and stack them on top of each other with a layer of raspberry jam in the middle.
4. Once cooled, loosen the marble cake from the bowl and place ontop of the other two layers, again with a layer of jam between them. So you should now have three layers of cake, with two layers of jam. Using a large serrated knife trim on an angle the bottom two layers to create a sloped edge. Using the same knife cut out a small circle shape in the top of the smallest cake to create a little well that you can fill fill with jam. (Like picture below)


5. Once the cake is assembled you can apply your first layer of frosting to help seal it. Make this rough, it doesn't need to be neat and precise.... it's a volcano after all! Place in the fridge overnight to chill cake and set frosting.
6. Remove from fridge and apply a much thicker layer of frosting taking to care to help "shape" your volcano into a nice sloping shape. Again, this doesn't need to be smooth and shouldn't be, because it's meant to look like rock. Make sure to leave your hole at the top so you can add the rest of the lava later.


7. Take the remaining jam and warm it up to thin it out a little bit. Keep spooning it into the middle of the cake in the hole you carved out until it starts to over flow and drip down the cake. Add some spoonfuls to the natural patterns that emerged to thicken the lines up a bit. Put cake back into fridge as quickly as possible to "set" the jam by thickening it back up when it cools. This will help it to stay in a flowing pattern without all pooling on your tray instead.
8. Place some of your coconut shavings into a bowl and add a few drops of green food colouring. Mix thoroughly to coat the coconut. It doesn't take much food colouring so just keep mixing it. Once you've got your coconut coloured you can take a pretzel stick and dip one end into some of the leftover frosting and then roll it around in the coconut to create a little tree. Stick as many trees as you'd like randomly into your volcano. 


9. The finishing touch is to add a few plastic mini dinosaurs and you're all set! Keep cake chilled until you're ready to serve and enjoy!

The cake looks awesome once it's cut as well and you can see all the layers inside. The lava even started to drip down on the inside too. Yuuuuum! Happy cake making!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Birthday Sneak Peak

It's almost here--It's almost here!! The boy-o will be turning one on the 20th of April and I can't believe it's less than 2 weeks away already. I've decided that I need to get my act together a bit more and get going on his party decoration stuff and getting things organized (loot bags, food lists etc.) There's so much to think about when you're doing it all yourself, but the cost savings will be totally worth it! I can't wait to make his Pirate themed cake too!!

In the meantime, I've been working on making the boy-o a "birthday chalkboard" after seeing some of the lovely ones that my friends had put together for their wee ones. They're such a great source of inspiration! I tried downloading some photo editing software to design it and ended up getting frustrated beyond belief, so I just stuck with simple Paint. Although it's much harder to fix errors, it's also much simpler to work with as there's way less of a learning curve. I'll get the chalkboard printed out on an 8X10 paper and framed, and we'll use it as photo prop for our little mini photo shoot.

Here's a sneak peak of the chalkboard:


I think this will make a nice colourful keepsake, and I did it up in the colours of his room and play area (Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green) It wasn't that hard to make once I gave up on the fancy software, and I would encourage you to think about making one to celebrate your little one's birthday milestones. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Colour Me Happy: Pasta Dying

I love making crafts--and when possible I prefer to make my own supplies as well, rather than buy pre-made stuff, because that's half the fun! I've started looking after a two-year old in addition to the boy-o, and I wanted to come up with some fun craft ideas that she would enjoy doing while the boy-o was napping. One of the things that was always a huge hit at the daycare was making rainbow coloured jewelry. I've used all kinds of materials in the past including FruitLoops (edible accessories!), beads and pasta. I didn't have FruitLoops or beads on hand, but I had tons of pasta and some food colouring, so I dyed my own "beads" for necklace making. It's super easy and the colours turn out nice and bright! I made Yellow, Green, Blue, and Red.


What You Need:

- a bunch of pasta noodles
- a ziplock bag for each colour you want
- as many colours of food colouring as you want
- rubbing alcohol
- wax paper
- paper towel


Instructions:

1. Place desired amount of pasta in each of the ziplock bags.
2. Splash a little rubbing alcohol into each bag.
3. Add a few squirts of food colouring to each bag, one colour per bag.
4. Roll the bags around and around to make sure the pasta gets well coated with the food colouring mixture. You can let the pasta sit in the bags for a few minutes to make sure it soaks in well.
5. Dump the ziplock bags out one at a time onto a thick pile of paper towel to absorb any extra food colouring mixture.
6. Transfer pasta from paper towel to wax paper to dry. (It really doesn't take very long!)



And when your pasta is all dried you'll have beautifully coloured "beads" all ready for necklace making or any other threading activity you want to use them for!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mamas in Business For Themselves

You know who's awesome? Mamas. You know who's super lucky? Me! I have the very distinct pleasure of having TWO groups of mama friends to share the journey with. One of them in an online group that's been together since our babies were little beans in our bellys, and the other is a group of local moms I met when Peter was just a couple months old. Our family has been incredibly blessed to have these ladies and little wee ones in our lives, and today I want to show you just how amazing some of these ladies are!! Not only are they busy with all the demands of being a mama (some to multiple kids!) but they've taken on the task of starting up their own businesses to become Work From Home Moms as well.


Today's blog post is going to look at some of the businesses and products that my online group of mama friends have to offer. They range from things like homemade clothes such as Tutu's and Bows, to sewn stuffed creations, and even re-useable cloth diapers!

Clothes and Accessories




Tutus galore! This work from home mama has two little ones on the go and just recently started up her own children's clothing business where she specializes in tutu's and dresses for your little princess! I've also seen pictures of her wee prince in one of the tutu's as well, and he looked fab! Located in the UK, Jammy Pops Creations welcomes custom orders and would be more than happy to work with you to create exactly what you've dreamed of! 




This fab mama creates headbands and hair accessories that range in size from bitty baby to classy lady! She has two wee ones at home and still manages to find time to get creative. Her darling daughter does most of the modeling and it's hard to say whether the head pieces or the model are more adorable--but the two combined is an AWWWW! overload. Based in the USA, Pretty Little Things by SweetPea welcomes custom orders and designs. Let this mama create something amazing for the little diva in your life!




Tutus and hair bows are the specialty over at TUTU Pretty and Accessories! This hard-working mama has four kiddos and her darling baby girl is the model for most of her outfits. These amazing outfit combinations are the perfect way to create exactly what your little princess desires. The Tutus are available in sizes ranging from infant to five years old and would make an excellent "Cake Smash" outfit, or for any fancy occasion. Based in the USA, TUTU Pretty and Accessories welcomes custom orders and would love to chat with you about your special order needs!


Cloth Diapers


Cloth diapers have come a long way from the kind your grandma used! If you're looking to start into the world of cloth diapering, or if you're already old hat with terms like AIO2 and Pocket Inserts and are looking for some new and exciting ways to make and use cloth diapers, then you need to check out Fluffy Duff! These diapers are made by a cloth diapering mama to two little girls who wanted to improve on the options that were already out there, while also offering super fun prints. Located in the USA, Fluffy Duff welcomes custom orders, but only accepts so many at a time to keep wait times down--so get yours in today!


Handmade Keepsakes



If you're looking for some unique home decor with a family orientation to them then look no further! Whether it's the perfect Mother's Day gift or a special pick-me up for an amazing mama in your life, Handmade by Her has got what you need! Mama to two little kiddos, and based in the UK Handmade By Her welcomes your custom orders and requests for wooden plaques, artificial bridal bouquets and much more!




2. Get Stuffed: Handmade Creations and Keepsakes:

This busy mama of four (!) specializes in stuffed creations including sewn animals and fabric crowns for your little prince or princess. Owls are how it all began, but there are new additions to the Get Stuffed family arriving, including Pegasus and Mini Dinosaurs. Custom orders are welcome, and this Austrian based mama would love to hear from you about your special requests for the little ones in your life!



Share the love and support your fellow mamas!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

World Book Day!

I've posted before about the importance of reading to your little ones to help foster a love for reading from an early age, help develop language skills, and stimulate the senses with bright pictures or "Touch and Feel" books. But with today being World Book Day it seemed like an opportune time to visit this important topic again. We read to the boy-o every night before bed, and sometimes during the day too when he's willing to sit still long enough for a little cuddle. Some of his old favourites are still strongly preferred, but we've introduced some new favourites into the mix as well.



Currently the boy-o's favourites include: The Belly Button Book, The Barnyard Dance, and B is for Bear. We have a lot of Dr. Seuss books that we read pretty frequently as well. There are so many excellent children's books out there it can be hard to choose which ones to buy--which is why I'd suggest that if you don't already, register your child for a public library card and go speak to your local librarian! They're excellent at providing age appropriate books that will be of the most interest your little one. 

Some of my favourites that we don't currently have which are aimed for more of a pre-school audience are:

1. Oink-A-Doodle-Moo: My sister was actually the person who introduced this book to me and I think it's so fantastic it's now become my go-to book gift! It's basically barnyard telephone gone horribly wrong! It's very short with only a few words on each page and full page pictures. It provides lots of opportunity to be silly and explore how the game of telephone can go wrong..




2. The Llama, Llama Series: There are several books in this series and they're all fantastic! They help teach concepts like patience and feelings in a fun way. The Llama Llama books are very creative and are written in a simple rhythmic style that helps to keep the attention of littler littles. The illustrations are also wonderful and you'll certainly enjoy accompanying Llama Llama on his adventures.




3. The Lady With the Alligator Purse: This book was always a big favourite at the daycare I used to work at. There's an accompanying song you can sing the book along to, but even just reading out the rhymes is great fun. It's a silly book with excellent illustrations that stretch the imagination to the world of the impossible. 


Canadian Authors:


Guy Gavriel Kay:

And finally, being Canadian I have two Canadian authors whose work I really love that I'd like to share with you as well. The first is an adult author, and I own ALL of his books and eagerly await the announcements that a new one is coming out. Guy Gavriel Kay writes Fantasy books and the worlds that he creates are truly astounding. I've listened to him do a book reading before where he explained that his books are loosely based on historical cities and civilizations and that makes me love them even more! My favourite books by him include The Finovar Tapestries, Ysabel, and Tigana. 

Melanie Watts:

The second Canadian author that I'd like to share with you is Melanie Watts. She writes children's books and is quite well known for her Scaredy Squirrel series, but she also writes a fantastic series about a cat named Chester! We have two of the Chester books so far, and although these are definitely meant for pre-school+  I look forward to being able to read them to the boy-o one day because they are quite funny and very creative. Chester the Cat likes to try and take over the story and "re-write" it as it goes along with his red marker. I highly recommend this series to everyone! 


But most importantly, whatever kind of book it is you enjoy reading today on World Book Day pick it up and do some reading--and read to your little ones. The love for reading starts early and as parents we should do all that we can to help that love grow!

Your Turn: What's your favourite book and who introduced you to it?


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Creative Ways to Reuse and Recycle!

I was browsing around the inter-web yesterday looking for some DIY inspiration, and stumbled across these awesome suggestions for repurposing some of your household items into new and useful things once they've out lived their original purpose. Some of the things I found were incredibly ridiculous, but these two are things I could actually see myself doing!

Heading out on a road trip and looking for a compact and convenient way to keep the older kids busy in the car? Check out this simple Colouring Set in a DVD Case created by Stacey Vaughan. She gives some detailed instructions on how to make the pocket side (you need to remove the click-in wheel where the DVD goes) and on the other side cut some paper to the appropriate size and slide it in under the tabs to hold it in place. When you're all finished drawing you simply close the case the keep your pencils and papers safely stored inside!



The second idea I came across over at A Little Learning For Two is also pretty fantastic. By the time the boy-o is done with his crib the rails will be in pretty terrible shape after all his gnawing on them, so by the time it makes it through a second (and maybe third...) baby it won't be in pretty shape. This clever little way to reuse it though ensures that you'll get the most life out of it that you can! When you're all done using it as a bed, you can remove the front rail and mattress, and install a fitted sheet of plywood covered in "Chalkboard Paint". You can then attach other art items as desired on the remaining crib walls and slide some chairs up to it to make the perfect kid sized desk!



I love both of these ideas and will be sure to let you know of any other awesome DIY's I find that could make life with kids just a little bit easier!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Quinoa Recipes: Cheesy Quinoa Cakes

Quinoa is quickly becoming an incredibly popular food and alternative to eating rice. A lot of people who want to try out quinoa at home are put off though because they don't know what to do with it. We're big fans of quinoa in this house so I figured I'd share some of our top recipe suggestions for how to incorporate quinioa into your diet at home. Today's recipe is Cheesy Quinoa Cakes.


Cheesy Quinoa Cakes


Ingredients:


2 cups cooked quinoa
- 2/3 cup grated fontina cheese (or any cheese you happen to have on hand!)
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste

Directions:


1. Place all ingredients, except for the oil, into a mixing bowl and stir together until well combined. Season with salt and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes.
2. Pour oil into a large sauté pan and place over medium heat. 
3. Form ¼ cup patties with the quinoa mixture and place in the heated sauté pan. (this will have to be done in batches) 
4. Cook quinoa cakes for about 5 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining patties until all of the cakes have been cooked.



The best part about these quinoa cakes is you can top them with WHATEVER you want!! Seriously. I've tried them with zucchini relish, left over curry, tamarind sauce, a little greek salad dressing and plain! They've been delicious every time. You can also make them into mini cakes for a super kid friendly side dish. I've tested these out on a room full of 3 year olds, and they were a big hit!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

55 Dr Seuss Inspired Activities

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a collection of Dr. Seuss inspired activities that you can do with children of varying ages. She knows that we're big Dr. Seuss fans in this house (the boy-o's room is Seussed out!), and that I *love* doing crafty things, so it's like that compilation was just made for us! I haven't had a chance to look through all of the activities yet, but from what I've seen so far this needs to be shared far and wide.


My Favourites:


1. The Foot Book: Fizzy Footprint- This activity is based off the Dr Seuss book "The Foot Book" and although it wouldn't be appropriate for very small children, toddlers and pre-schoolers are sure to enjoy this one! Simply take some baking soda and food coloured vinegar to create a fizzy surface that you can place plastic toys in to see how their footprints show up.





2. The Lorax: Handprint Truffula Trees- This activity is based off the Dr. Seuss book "The Lorax" and puts a new spin on hand painting. Using your fingers only you make the Truffula Tree trunks and use a stamp to paint the fluffy top. They even provide a resource on how to draw your own Lorax to add to your picture!




3. The Cat in the Hat: Stacking Buttons and Corks- This activity isn't directly related to the Cat in the Hat books, but it's very reminiscent of his balancing acts and stacking one thing ontop of another! All you need are some large bright buttons, some old corks, velcro dots and shoe box lid! A little bit of patience would help as well as the longer you let the adhesive set on the velcro before playing with it the better. Again this activity wouldn't work too well for the littlest littles, but toddlers and pre-school kids are likely to really enjoy all the different sensory aspects of this play.



4. Bartholomew and The Ooblek: Ooblek Recipe-  This particular activity is based on the Dr. Seuss book "Bartholomew and the Ooblek" and it's a definite favourite of mine! You get to make your own green Ooblek to play with (I've posted a recipe for it before and called it Magic Mud!) This activity is great for young infants who able to sit up right up to pre-schoolers and beyond! My 10 month old son loves playing with it because of the textures, and older kids will be interested in learning the science behind how it works. 

To check out all 55 Dr. Seuss inspired activities you can check out the original page over at No Time For Flashcards. Dr. Seuss' birthday is coming up soon--March 2nd, so start planning your Seuss themed celebration now!

What's your favourite Dr. Seuss book?
In our household Dr. Seuss' "A B C Book" and "The Shape of Me and Other Stuff" 
both reign supreme right now.