Thursday, 28 June 2012

Summer of Fun Chart

It’s finally here! SUMMER has arrived!! Well, two days in a row of sunshine, so far - however, as I type this post, the rain is pouring down again! 
The kids are officially out of school, and summer vacation will be in full swing for the weekend, with a family BBQ, and Canada Day celebrations.

Sorry for the horrible lighting - Iphone photo from last year!
Last year I thought it would be fun to put together a list of all the fun things the kids and I (and Daddy, and Nanny, and whoever else we hang with!) get to do with the girls. We created a Summer of Fun chart (photo above) and on each of the sun’s rays we put cheap/free FUN activities to look forward to.
Every day at breakfast we would pick something from the Summer of Fun chart to do that day. Some of the things on the chart are close to home, some are far away. Some things are just to be done with Mommy, others just with Daddy. Most importantly, they are memories in the making that we are making with our girls, and I can’t wait to get started.

Since the space we used for the Summer of Fun chart is now filled with lovely family photos in the kitchen, we are going with a slightly different approach this time around. I took an old picture frame and spray painted the frame with a lovely teal color the girls picked out. I sprayed the background of the frame with another coat of the paint, called Blue Ocean Breeze.
Then came the list! I sat down the missies and we thought about all of the fun things we did last summer and what we wanted to do this summer. The best memories we had were picking berries, feeding the ducks at the local pond and going to the beach. I tried to plan a lot out outside activities, but since the hubs leaves for work at 1pm, activities that would be easy to accomplish at his (slower than Mama) pace.
Once the big long list was all written out, I printed it in a table in Word and made the font different colors. I was going to try to color code the ones for Daddy, Mommy, etc, but I figure I can put stickers on the ones that are parent specific.
This year we are also planning some bigger day trips, where we will be doing activities from the summer of fun chart – on those ones, I’ll pre-date the tags so we know specifically when to pick them off!
After cutting out all of the activities, I used different summery colored pieces of scrapbook paper to put on top of the activities, so they would be partially hidden from prying eyes (but Mommy would still be able to see and steer the girls into certain activities for certain days).
The plan at this point was to affix the activities to the chalkboard backing, but there were WAY too many activities to fit on the backing of the frame.
Plan B! Off to the dollar store for some jumbo craft sticks! I un-glued the activities from the backing of the frame and glued them onto the craft sticks to look like summery little flags of fun.
While at the dollar store, I also picked up a 3 pack of hot pink canvas bags to hold the sticks of fun. 
In order to attach the bags to the frame, I threaded some vintage buttons I had on hand with ribbon, and threaded them through the frame backing.
I tied the ribbon around a craft stick so that the ribbon wouldn't loosen through the backing. This meant I didn`t have to worry about glue holding up the canvas bags so they would hold up a lot longer.
I picked up a box to hold the sticks once they have been selected and completed. I plan to paint it the same color as the frame and add some decorations to the box. That way the frame can be used year after wonderful year! 
The plan this year is that each morning, after breakfast, the girls can pull at least one activity for the day to do with Mommy, Daddy or whomever they are spending the day!

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Monday, 25 June 2012

Cupcakes for Dinner?

In the last week I think I baked about 300 cupcakes. Seriously, it was all I did with my spare time. They turned out awesome though!

Can you guess what the ingredients above became? 

Dr Pepper cupcakes! Recipes to come later this week. They were delish!
Next up a 100 cupcake and various baked delights dessert buffet. So much sugar this week!
Amid all the baking craziness was Miss A's sports day at school - she had a blast on Team Yellow, and her little sister got in on the action, playing the games with the big kids.

We managed to stick to the menu plan pretty closely last week, only one day we went off the plan, and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was really not in the mood to cook anything, so the girls and I decided to take all of the leftover packages from the freezer and have a frozen buffet dinner! 
We ended up with some chicken nuggets, some taquitos, some hot dogs, some smiley fries. It emptied out some of the freezer and we had a yummy meal.
Our goal this week is to continue the trend of eating from the freezer. We still have a whole whack of freezer meals to go through, and I want to finish them off before starting another batch. Next time up we're going to try some new recipes that will allow for healthy meal contents for summer salads and bbq's.

On The Menu This Week
Monday - Turkey Meatloaf, potatoes and vegetables

Tuesday - Beef Enchilada Bake, cheese quesadillas for the kids
Wednesday - Turkey Teriyaki stirfry
Thursday - Last day of school! Miss A will get to choose dinner tonight!
Friday - Dinner at the Pub with friends
Saturday - BBQ with Family
Sunday - Canada Day! BBQ lunch at church, Cobb salad for dinner

I will be linking up to Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday - hundreds of recipes and meal ideas, go check it out!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Dr Pepper Cupcakes

The Quest for the Perfect Cupcake continues...
As I continue my journey on the Quest for the Perfect Cupcake, I am taking requests from friends and family for what type of cupcake I should try next. So far, I have made Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting, Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, and (my favorite so far) Turtle Cupcakes.
A friend at work has lunch with her fiancée on Mondays (they are seriously so sweet). Mandy and Shane have their romantic lunches and usually finish them off with whatever baked treat I have brought in for my workmates. So far Shane has gotten to try all of the cupcakes on The Quest, and LOVED them. I told him he could pick the next recipe, and he certainly did not disappoint. After getting himself setup on Pinterest and searching out cupcake recipes, he pinned this one and sent it to me.
The original recipe from BSintheKitchen calls for a chocolate cake mix as a base, and of course, I was out. Fear not friends, I just adapted the same chocolate cake base from my dark chocolate cupcakes and instead of the coffee used the same amount of Dr Pepper soda. The original recipe also called for a LOT of strange and random ingredients I didn’t have on hand, so I went with my own vanilla cream cheese recipe and added the Dr Pepper reduction from the original recipe.
All in all, a delicious, light cupcake with amazing frosting. The Dr Pepper reduction was time consuming, but totally worth it. It made the frosting taste SO GOOD!

Dr Pepper Cupcakes with Dr Pepper Infused Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting and 
Topped with a Dr Pepper Reduction

Recipe adapted from BSIntheKitchen

This recipe makes about 4 dozen regular cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients

1 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 egg whites
1 1/2 cups Cocoa Powder
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp Vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups Dr Pepper
Dr Pepper Reduction Ingredients
2 cups Dr Pepper
1 cup sugar
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
2 8oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
4 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups icing sugar
Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add in eggs and egg whites and beat again until light, about three minutes.
Alternate the dry ingredients and the Dr Pepper and vanilla, starting and finishing with dry ingredients. My batter looked and tasted almost foamy, it was strange, but don't worry. Mix for another 15 seconds or so until it starts to look smooth.
Scoop into your prepared cupcake pans and bake until a skewer inserted in the cupcake comes out clean, only for about 12 minutes. It must be the chemistry of the soda or something, but they really didn’t take as long as regular cupcakes to bake!
While the cupcakes are baking, mix 2 cups of Dr Pepper with 1 cup of sugar. Dissolve the sugar into the Dr Pepper and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes. The goal is to reduce the mixture to a syrup, similar in texture to pancake syrup. It took me about 35 minutes to get the mixture thick, but I think I could have left it longer.
While the reduction is reducing, beat together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract and slowly incorporate the icing sugar until well combined. At this point, wait until the Dr Pepper reduction is ready, and cooled down a bit. Add two to three tablespoons of the reduction to the icing mixture then beat about five minutes, until light and creamy.
Using a Wilton 1M tip, pipe a swirl onto the top of the cupcakes. Using a spoon, drizzle more of the reduction over the tops of the cupcakes. If you are serving these right away, the reduction will glaze over the top in beautiful amber colored beads of goodness.
I drizzled the cupcakes the night before they were served at our work potluck and the after sitting in the fridge overnight, the Dr Pepper reduction was incorporated into the icing swirls. Still totally delicious, but the color contrast was lacking on the second day.
I hope you enjoyed this recipe, and will give it a try! I am sure the instructions seem time consuming, but it's really not that bad. I will be linking this recipe up on A Bowl Full of Lemons, Delightful Order and Serenity Now. Come check them out!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Kindergarten Graduation Presents

Pic taken just last week
I can’t believe it is the end of the school year already! It seems like yesterday I dressed my big girl up in her first-day-of-school outfit, put her wee little backpack on and tearily dropped her off at school. For Miss A it was her first year of kindergarten! I can’t believe my first baby is already five years old and finished her first full year of school!
I already showed all of you the end of the year teacher appreciation gifts the girls and I put together for the teachers. 
I also thought it would be fun to make a little graduation present for the kindergarteners, to mark this year of accomplishment in their lives.
After hitting up my favorite inspiration site (Pinterest, of course!) I first decided that I wanted this gift to be fairly inexpensive, and also practical, so the kids could get some use out of the present. 
I decided to go with bubbles (its summer, who doesn’t love bubbles!?), smarties, rockets, and a couple of pencils (you know, for working on their penmanship over summer break!). My total investment for these gifts was under $20 for all 24 kids in the class.
I used regular mailing labels and had them printed up with a teal background, red circle border and text reading “Congratulations Smartie Pants, you did great this year! Love, Aidyn”.
Next, I enlisted my special little helper in all things crafting, Miss E. She peeled the labels, I stuck them, I put in the bubbles, and she counted out the smarties and the rockets. She put the pencils in; I tied the bags off with green and blue ribbon. 
We made a pretty good team! Start to finish, the entire process took about a half hour, and we had fun doing it (partly because we ate the extra smarties and rockets as we went along…).
Here’s a look at the finished product! Miss E and I are going to hand them out to the kids after the kindergarten grad. We’ll give the teachers their gifts the same day.
I still can’t believe kindergarten round one is almost over. Next up I hope to post about out Summer of Fun chart! 
Last year we put up this chart, and worked our way through the activities. This year we’ve had to come up with something new, because the wall where the Summer of Fun chart lived has new family photos on it!
Check in later this week and see how it all turns out!

Weekend Bloggy Reading


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