April 21, 2017
by sarah
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Kid Brownies


Here is the best tasting brownie recipe by Jenny!! However we have found a pretty good one that my 7 year old daughter is very proud she can make all by her self so I thought I would share.

Kid Brownies (adapted from “The Best Brownies” recipe on food.com)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter melted in the microwave
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Mix butter and sugar until well blended
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, stir until blended
  4. Mix all dry ingredients
  5. Stir wet into dry ingredients
  6. Fold in chocolate chips. (We recently learned the trick of shaking a bit of flour into the chocolate chips. Evidently it prevents them from sinking to the bottom of the batter.)
  7. Pour into a greased 9×9 square pan. (This is the only help my daughter needs)
  8. Bake for 25 minutes.

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March 25, 2017
by jenny
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More Freezer Egg Sandwiches

It’s been a couple years since I wrote about Freezer Egg Sandwiches, but they are still going strong in my house. Egg sandwiches are still a big staple dietary element in our house and one of the only foods everyone in the house likes (the only other unanimous yes foods I can think of at the moment are popcorn and big soft pretzels). Egg sandwiches are quick and easy, packed with protein, can add different flavors (with bread or wraps, bacon, sausage, condiments, vegetables, toppings), portable, and we like them for any meal of the day. We like them homemade, at restaurants and store bought.

The top voted egg sandwiches from my kids are homemade egg and cheese on store bought Breugger’s bagels, Starbucks Bacon Gouda, and (typically only reserved for 6am hockey games) McDonald’s Bacon Egg biscuits. I truly think it’s been 7 years since we’ve been to McDonald’s for a meal other than breakfast because the oil doesn’t agree with two of my kids or I. But the coffee is good and McDonald’s reliably listens and responds to custom orders. One of my kids doesn’t like cheese which makes most store bought egg sandwiches difficult or impossible – Breuggers ALWAYS puts cheese on no matter how many times we ask and warn them to double check in advance, Dunkin, Starbucks and others tell us sandwiches are pre-made/pre-packaged. One place (I think it’s Dunkin on bagel sandwiches) says they need the cheese “or else the whole sandwich fall apart” and even if we say we don’t mind, they refuse. We tried multiple stores and they all had the same story.

One of MY top favorite egg sandwiches is the western at Wegmans. As you know, reverse engineering, experimenting, challenges and saving money are some of my favorite things, so I often try to recreate the sandwiches at home. I can’t get my home versions to have the same flavor, or the egg to be quite so puffy or have the same texture (which I can only describe as moist, but I know that word creeps people out). But what the experimenting has inspired me to do is revamp my freezer egg sandwiches, and I’m really enjoying having them on hand for a quick warm no mess breakfast or lunch for myself. I’ve been making batches twice a month for the past 3-4 months. No one else likes veggies in their sandwiches so I never run out unknowingly.

I buy a pack of whatever bread I’m going to use. In effort to stay healtht, it’s typically bagel thin, whole grain burrito size wraps or light wheat english muffins. These generally come in packs of 6-8, so that’s how many sandwiches I make at a time. I chop up and sauté whatever vegetables we have around that sound good or that need to be used up. That has been onion, red pepper, garlic, broccoli, and sometimes starting to get soggy baby spinach. I’ve also thrown in zucchini, leeks, and other peppers when they were on hand.

I mix 8-10 eggs and a few tablespoons of water. I give that a good whip with a fork and then I dump in the sautéed vegetables and stir it up. Next I poor the whole mess in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. I’ve used a lined cookie sheet/jelly roll pan, a nonstick metal baking dish (like used for brownies), and a glass baking dish. I liked the glass baking dish the best because everything stayed more moist (sorry), popped out easily, cleaned up easily, and I could use a knife to cut without worrying about scratching non-stick pans.

I bake the egg and vegetable mixture in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until it was completely set, which varied based on how much and was in the dish and the size/material pan I used, but somewhere between ~25-40 minutes.

When it the eggs were baking I toasted all of the breads (if I wasn’t making wraps), which isn’t necessary, but one of the reason some store/restaurant sandwiches are my favorite is the texture contrast between nicely crispy toasted bread edges with fresh bread insides, the softer egg and maybe a creamy cheese. When I reheat the frozen sandwiches, they typically end up slightly (though not horribly) soggy on one side, so pre-toasting doesn’t really matter, but I still hold onto the thought that it helps. I have also buttered the bread after toasted, but pretending I’m healthy, I haven’t been lately.

If I don’t let the the bread and egg are completely cooled before freezing, I’ll get a lot of frost and more chance of freezer burn if I don’t eat them quickly and/or soggy outcome when reheating. I never leave them in the freezer long!

Once everything is cooled, I cut the egg into squares, put them on the bread and freeze, usually in the bags the bread comes in if everything fits. I eat the sandwiches within a couple weeks, but if it were longer, I may want to put them in a more air tight container. I’ve also used ziploc bags and rubbermaid containers in the past for egg sandwiches.

When it’s time to reheat, I might put a piece of cheese on or meat from the fridge if there is something there (I’ve used ham or turkey, bacon, sausage, pepperoni and a couple times leftover taco meat), but with the vegetables added, there is usually enough texture for me. After I heat the sandwich up I’ll sprinkle some Frank’s Red Hot on the egg (I’ve also used Gulden’s Sriracha mustard which I don’t like as much, but a change!) I’ve also added avocado, lettuce, tomato and pesto (not all at once) after heating it up.

When it’s time to reheat, I take a sandwich out of the freezer and wrap it in a paper towel. I put it in the microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds at 30% power level which thaws the sandwich. If I’m adding anything else from the refrigerator (cheese or meat), I’ll do it after that step. Then I flip the sandwich over, and heat it up for 1 minute 30 seconds at full power.

I still like the sort of crepe method for making my kids plain freezer egg sandwiches mentioned in my post a few years ago, but if you or your kids like (or will tolerate) more in your sandwich, this is a very quick and easy to make method!

Enjoy!    

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March 15, 2017
by sarah
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Easter Crafts


During the snow storm yesterday we were channeling Spring with some Easter crafts. We made two types of eggs. One with string / yarn and the other on paper.

The instructions are pretty good. Here are some hints I found helpful:

  1. For the eggs on paper – instead of compromising  an entire bottle of glue and turning it black. I used a frosting technique, I placed a plastic bag in a glass and poured in equal parts white glue and black paint. Then I cut off the corner of the plastic bag and we used that to draw the outline in black.  
  2. For the eggs made with sting and yarn – The yarn was better because it was thicker as a result covering more of the balloon. We should have used more embroidery floss on a couple, they turned out very fragile.
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February 28, 2017
by jenny
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My current favorite podcasts

I really like to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I listen in the car (with or without kids), while walking the dog, while running errands (with earbuds) and sometimes while doing stuff around the house if no one else is around or with earbuds if I’m wishing no one else was around! [I’ve found Skullcandy brand earbuds (Amazon Affiliate Link) to be super comfortable where other earbuds never fit or hurt my ears – they come in women’s size, sports, etc. check them out if you’ve sworn off earbuds.]

For audiobooks, we have an Audible account, and we also like to get audiobooks digitally from the library using the OverDrive app. I’ve tried Hoopla from the library as well, but am used to Overdrive. Someone told me recently you can get apply for a Boston Public Library account online to use for these digital library apps and have a bigger range of books, but I haven’t done that yet. Most of the books we want we need to put on hold and then wait a month or so to come in, so at some point, I’ll probably look into the Boston option further!

For podcasts, I use the Overcast app to handle my subscriptions. I typically can catch up on all of my podcast subscriptions while I’m waiting for a new audiobook to come in. Sometimes I run out of shows to listen to and try out new ones. I’m always on the hunt for suggestions.

I’ve learned that for the most part I like edited podcasts the best and not radio show style with people conversing. My kids will tell you I like the science shows the best because I tend to come back from a dog walk excited about something I’ve learned, but I enjoy a variety of topics, except self-help, economics, and most politics. I like non-fiction much better than fictional.

Here’s what I’m enjoying to these days in alphabetical order:

Some others that I subscribe and listen to are TED Radio Hour, The Tim Ferriss Show,  Invisibilia, Surprisingly Awesome (sometimes, sometimes I don’t like it), and Homemade Stories. Sarah has me listening to Modern Love as well!

What podcasts do you listen to? Do you have any recommendations for me?

 

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February 12, 2017
by jenny
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Another game thing we’ve been loving

We bought Usborne Pencil and Paper Games book at The Paper Store near us, and it looks like it’s out of print through Amazon (Affiliate Link below), but it’s been a lot of fun. It’s likely out of print because the pages don’t tear out nicely (which is annoying!), but the games inside are fun!

There are the standard paper games, like the grid of dots, and players take turns connecting horizontal and vertical lines and see who can make the most boxes, and then twists on those games. I think all of the games are two players (though some could be adapted easily), and each game seems made to be played in about 5 minutes.

This book has been fun at the table for us, and fun when my kids are sitting around at the ice rink watching games.

Do you have books like this? We’d love suggestions!

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February 11, 2017
by jenny
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Board Games: What we are playing now

We love games of all kinds in this house. We love to play games when we eat, so our favorites are most often games we can play at a table with food on it and have time to eat in between turns. We like one on one games (like chess), multiplayer games (like Monopoly) and team games (like charades). I’m not sure if its lack of experience, lack of coordination or hand size, but my younger two don’t hold cards well so we haven’t gotten much into card games – yet. Once in a while I’ll try to teach my kids a new card game. We played “Bullshit” a bunch last month (I told them it was called “Bull,” I think others call it “I doubt it.”) My youngest is so good though and after beating the rest of us 6 games in a row, no one wanted to play anymore.

My kids are 8, 10 and 12, so they can understand and hang in there for most older games, and be reasonable to excellent competition on some of the more thinking and strategy games. I’ve mentioned that we play some games make my kids cry; most of our favorite games don’t involve stealing or sabotage. Sarah and I have posted about games before (see Games and Board Games) and given/received  good suggestions).

We still enjoy chess, Uno, Pass the Pigs, Monopoly, Sorry, Clue, Ultimate Mastermind, Dixit, Apples to Apples, Googly Eyes, Pie Face, Shut The Box, Pit, and GobbletSet has our renewed interest and has been our go to game over the past month.

Here are some of our current favorites, in no particular order (Amazon Affiliate links.)

Codenames: I requested and received this game for Christmas for myself and we played with family of mixed ages. I’ve also played at home with kids. It’s similar to the gameshow Password, with some twists. I really like it and many of the adult and kids family members and we played with liked it, but it wasn’t for everyone. It’s likely best for a group of about 6 “cerebral adults” because pushing your cleverness to the limit and appreciating other’s out of the box thinking is the biggest part of the fun. My kids can hang in there, and my younger kids are fans, but there are definitely references and words (geography, current events, history, vocabulary) that make it a lot more fun with adults.

Ticket To Ride: My younger two and I love this popular strategy game. My older daughter isn’t a great risk taker, and only reluctantly plays with us. My son plays by impulse and can win here and there, and my middle daughter has a strategy that gets her a win most of the time. It’s fun to play because the strategy can be as simple or complex as you make it.

Schmovie: This is a silly sort of Balderdash-esque crossed with Apples to Apples game that has the players making up movie titles given a topic and genre. My kids love it. Sometimes it’s super funny. Sometimes you want it to be funnier. It’s generally always fun enough.

Telestrations: Telephone meets Pictionary. This game is great for all ages, crowds, levels of intoxication, etc. My kids love to play with their friends and we’ve given it as a gift a bunch of times.

Bellz: This is another game my younger two and I love and my older daughter isn’t that into. It’s like magnetic pickup sticks, but less arbitrary if something moves.

Tenzi: Everyone gets 10 dice and you make up what happen next. There are a few game rule suggestions to get started (for example first player roll all 10 the same number) and you can buy an additional book of game ideas (or I’m sure the internet holds many ideas!), but we have fun making up our own games. The dice come in all different colors. We don’t recommend getting a set with blue dice and yellow dots as they are by far the unluckiest dice in our set, even bringing down the luckiest set when teamed up together. In kindergarten or first grade my daughter wanted to (very randomly) give her class dice for Valentine’s day, and I bought a 5 lb bag of dice on Amazon for a few dollars, you could do that and make up your own Tenzi style games too.

LCR: Left Right Center. Another dice game. It’s totally a game of chance and you can lose your chips right away and still win in the end. We’ve played with candy (M&Ms) and pennies as the chips, and winner takes all. You can play with any age or bigger groups with no skill or concentration needed, making it very versatile. We have a game, Swipe, which two of my kids enjoy, that is similar to LCR in concept but requires slightly some stealing from neighbors.

What are you playing these days? We’d love recommendations!

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January 31, 2017
by sarah
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MESSY = Paper Mache

I just ran an art class the other day. We started with paper mache. So messy and the biggest hit with the kids! I also just found this article about the importance of being messy.

When my littlest needed a birthday gift to bring to a 5 year olds party. I decided to make a paper mache making kit. I know this particular family well. I am thinking that messy is OK with them since they invited 40 friends over to carve pumpkins with power tools at Halloween.

Here is what I included in the kit: a small Rubbermaid plastic containers, strips of newspaper, strips of white copy paper, strips of tissue paper, some pompoms, an old jam jar 1/2 full of white flour, a roll of tape. I also added a couple recycled things like toilet paper roll to get her started.  I also included these instructions.

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January 13, 2017
by sarah
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DIY Valentines

It seems like the down time we enjoy on the MLK long weekend has often turned into the start of our hand made Valentines. Here are some of our past attempts: heart crayons and paper flowers. This year my 7 year old wanted to use the sewing machine to attach painted paper hearts to card stock. I set her up and she was off and running (or sewing).

Sewing on paper was one of the first things that connected Jenny and I. I think it was 6 years ago when I sewed a family photo on to a folded piece of card stock and sent it out for our yearly holiday card. After Jenny received it I quickly got an email enquiring why and when and how! We were friendly before, but it connected us as fellow crafters and experimenters.

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January 6, 2017
by jenny
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Some of our favorite movies

In honor of Hayao Miyazaki‘s 76th birthday yesterday (January 5th), I’d like to recommend Miyazaki’s movies to people and families who haven’t watched them.  My kids and I love watching these movies. We are definitely not original or alone in that.

These Japanese anime style movies are often talked about because of their strong leading female characters or their amazing imagery, but there is so much more to talk about.

We started watching Studio Ghibli films when The Secret World of Arriety came out around 2010. My daughters (who were 4 and 6 at the time) LOVED the movie right away. The story is that of The Borrowers. The film is very gentle and beautiful, which is what my girls were into at the time. The story concept in this one is pretty easy to follow, especially for girls who love playing with dollhouse/Polly Pockets/Legos.  We have rented Arriety on Demand and borrowed it from the library again and again and again. After seeing the previews before Arriety so many times, my girls starting asking to see Ponyo.

But a couple years later (by now my son was old enough to follow a movie) we watched My Neighbor Totoro. And we watched it again and again, until I bought our own copy. Totoro is a big Studio Ghibli fan favorite, and a good example of what the movies are like. Most of the movies are somewhat of fairy tales and magic happens in different ways. Because the main characters are relatable in such a real sense and the imagery is so awesome, it’s easy to melt into the world created by the movie. But then there is so much that happens around the characters that stretches the limits of your imagination. A cat is a bus in Totoro. When we first watch one of Miyazaki’s movies, it’s both very comforting and very uncomfortably confusing. Having a little time to digest, and wrap our heads and stretch imaginations around character concepts (there is a lot of spirits becoming animals, beasts or human like), plots and probably knowing the whole story helps. We re-watch and usually appreciate it even more.

(I got these socks for my daughter for Christmas and she reported a couple other kids at school also received them over vacation!)

Because we like to watch these movies over again, we know the next movie is going to be awesome and the list of movies is finite (we only have a couple left!), we have been savoring and re-watching each movie (and others we’ve seen) for a few months before moving onto the next film. We have been saving (and looking forward to seeing) Howl’s Moving Castle, which is also a big fan favorite. I bought it for Christmas. We’ve bought of the movies (before and after seeing the movie for the first time). We have watched some OnDemand (free and paid) and getting discs out of the library. Song of the Sea streams free if you have Amazon Prime.

We took a vote in our house and while we have a range of favorites, Kiki’s Delivery Service is currently the top by popular vote!

If you haven’t seen these movies yet, they likely aren’t like anything you’ve really seen before! Give it a try!

(Disclaimer: While not necessarily violent, in most of the movies there are monsters and big wind storms or tidal wave sort of scenes, my girls are generally sensitive to that stuff, but haven’t minded or been scared by these things, again, there are some common fairy tale sort of themes, but you’ll want to see what your kids are comfortable with!) (Second disclaimer: Links are Amazon Affiliate, but as mentioned, check your library!)

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