Sunday, January 29, 2017

Chocolate (Texas) Sheet Cake

This is my all time favorite chocolate cake. My mom made this growing up and I have memories of my sister and I completing an entire pan by ourselves.. in one day. I made this today and love the chocolatey, soft consistency of the cake. I cut myself a rather large piece and put it in the microwave for eight seconds, which made the frosting melt even more into the cake (see picture below). If you want a good chocolate cake recipe, this one is all you need. Rating: 10/10



Ingredients for the Cake:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 heaping teaspoons cocoa
  • 1 cube butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 eggs

Directions for the Cake:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) In a small bowl mix 1/2 cup buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Let is sit until foamy. In a large bowl combine 2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar and a pinch of salt. Mix well and set aside.

3) In a saucepan combing 4 heaping teaspoons cocoa, 1 square butter, 1/2 cup oil, and 1 cup cold water. Mix and bring to a boil. Add to the flour mixture and beat. Add the buttermilk; mix and beat. Add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat well for 2 minutes - it will be runny. Pour into greased and floured 15x11 inch cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes. Let it cool.

While the cake is baking, make the frosting...


Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 1 cube + 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 teaspoons cocoa
  • Powdered sugar (I used around 2 1/2 cups)
Directions for the frosting:

1) In a saucepan mix the margarine, cocoa, and milk. Bring to a boil. Remove from stove and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Mix with 1 teaspoon vanilla and powdered sugar (to desired consistency). 

2) Distribute the frosting evenly on the cake right when it comes out of the oven. You can let the frosting set and cool 1-2 hours (the cake cuts really nicely this way) or eat the cake right away.  If you wait for the frosting to set, cut a piece and put it in the microwave for eight seconds. So heavenly.

The Best SLIME Recipe



Can I just say we had the best time playing with SLIME today! This is the third recipe we've tried and it is by far the best. I found this recipe at Little Bins for Little Hands. Click the link to find out how slime is science. I love that it only has three ingredients, one being water. It's so simple to make and can be made it five minutes. The main reason I love this recipe is because it's not messy at all. The slime sticks to itself and nothing else. It's extremely stretchy, can be cut (my 19 mo. old loved using the rim of a cup to cut circles out of the slime) and you can even make bubbles! Seriously, go and buy the ingredients below and make this today. You'll love it! Don't forget to check out our other favorite play dough recipe and flubber recipe!


Ingredients for Slime:
  • 1/2 cup of clear Elmer's washable school glue (must use this brand!)
  • 1/2 cup liquid starch (found in the laundry isle - we used Sta-Flo)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Optional: food coloring, glitter
Directions for Slime:

1) In a medium-sized bowl, mix 1/2 cup of glue and 1/2 cup water together. Mix well.
2) Add food coloring or glitter at this point, if desired. We added two drops of blue food coloring and a bunch of glitter we had from the dollar tree. Mix. 
3) Pour 1/2 cup liquid starch into the bowl. You will see the slime immediately start to form. You won't be able to mix with a spoon for long.
4) Knead the slime with your hands for a few minutes to make sure the majority of the liquid has incorporated into the slime. Time for play!

Note: The original recipes claims the slime can be kept in a container, loosely covered, for up to a month. I kept ours in a covered container and when we played with it the second day it was too sticky. If this happens to you, just blend a little more liquid starch into the slime until it's no longer sticky.


A Few Pictures:


I love how sparkly and blue our slime turned out! 


 This gives you an idea how far it stretches.


To make slime bubbles, fold the slime around the end of a straw. Make sure there are no holes. Blow the opposite end of the straw. Making bubbles was the all time favorite of ours!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Letter K Activities (ages: 3, 19 mo.)


Here's what our week looked like for a three and 19 month old: 

Read, Read, Read. I love reading to my kids on a daily basis. I'll usually alternate reading during a meal time, before naps or randomly in the day. I checked out our Letter K Booklist at the library a week in advance. The picture above were our very favorite books, but you view more great Letter K books by clicking on the booklist link. 

Read Letter K Book. We also love to read these Little Letter Books from The Measured Mom. For my three, we focus on the big and little letters at the beginning of each page. My 19 month old especially loves these books! He enjoys looking at the pictures and repeating the words after me on each page. 

Letter K Songs & Rhymes. This year, I'm putting together an interactive set of songs & rhymes for each letter of the alphabet. My three and my 19 mo. old had so much fun doing the Letter K Songs & Rhymes with us this week. If you're looking for something more simple without props, take a look at this printable set of songs and rhymes from The Measured Mom.


Writing Practice. Every child is different, but my three loves writing letters! We practiced writing the Letter K's with "Letters of All Sizes" from The Measured Mom. I printed and slipped ours into a sleeve protector, so my three could erase and write these over again if he wanted. While my three practiced writing Letter K's, my 19 mo. old stamped Letter K's with a dot marker.

Craft #1: Kangaroo Pouch Aprons. After reading "Katy No-Pocket" from our Letter K Booklist, both boys used shape sponges and washable tempera paint to decorate aprons. The book is about a mother kangaroo without a pouch and she has no way to carry her baby. Luckily, the kangaroo finds an apron with a lot of pockets to carry her little one and many more animals! We used these aprons later in the week for a baby kangaroo hunt - see below. I found these aprons at the dollar tree.

Craft #2: Kite Sun Catcher from The Measured Mom. I found contact paper and pre-cut tissue paper squares at the Dollar Tree. I love how these turned out. You can view a tutorial by clicking the link above.



Craft #3: Kool-Aid Finger Paint from Fun at Home with Kids. We had the best time playing with Kool-Aid finger paint! All you do is mix one cup of plain yogurt and half a kool-aid packet together in a bowl. Both boys painted a K is for Koala page in the tub (picture on the left) and then painted paper on the tub wall afterward (pictured on the right). I love a good contained mess. Super fun. 

Color Review - Kite Color & Size File Folder from The Measured Mom. I love this file folder! My three drew a kite, identified the color and matched it to the correct kite (above picture). Afterward, he placed the kites in order from smallest to largest (below picture). My 19 month old drew a kite and was able to color match all the kites, even though he doesn't know all of their colors yet. I tried to have him repeat the color names after me. We compared kites big and small.

Math - Shape Sponges. We used these shape stamps (the ones pictured above are discontinued, so the link is to a different set on Amazon) to decorate our Kangaroo Pouch Aprons above. I tried to talk about shapes, but the boys were honestly having too much fun stamping them in paint! We saved talking about shapes for later. 


Math - Kite Count & Clip Cards from the Measured Mom. I forgot to take a picture of this activity! My three drew a card, counted the number of kites and placed a clothespin on the correct number. We did numbers 1-10. My 19 month old saw his older brother do these and wanted so badly to do them as well, so I helped him count kites 1-3.


Sensory Play - Decorating Cakes (Kitchen Theme). We used Kool-Aid Playdough (this is the easiest playdough to make - it cooks in the microwave and is so soft!) and Playdough Cake Mats to decorate cakes. In the muffin tin are buttons, googly eyes, beads, popsicle sticks, cut straws, toothpicks, and cut pipe cleaners. After decorating their cakes, the boys decided to make "cupcakes" in the muffin container. I loved watching their creativity. This activity lasted over an hour. 

Letter Kk Activity #1 - I drew letter K's on office stickers and stuck them on these baby kangaroos (pictured on the left). I hid them around the room and my three found the kangaroos, identified the letters, and put them in his apron pouch. My 19 mo. old wasn't having the apron, but enjoyed finding the kangaroos and repeating the letter K. 



Letter Kk Activity #2 - Kk is for King and K is for Kangaroo from This Reading Mama. Both of the worksheets above are in the same printable pack. I placed these worksheets on a magnetic cookie sheet. My three used power magnets to cover the Letter Kk's on the king and my 19 month old used power magnets to cover the circles on the K and kangaroo. We'll most likely continue to do these type of worksheets each week, but use office stickers or dot markers to fill in the circles.



Beginning Sounds: Beginning sounds has been one of my goals I've wanted my three to work on this year. He has really picked up on them, so we started a program for very early readers called "Reading the Alphabet" from This Reading Mama. We're slowly going through it and I've been so impressed by how the program is organized. Click the link to find out more.



Letter K Science - Kitchen Slime. We tried making three different slimes this week and this recipe - from little bins for little hands - is by far the best! This slime only has three ingredients and is MESS-FREE as it sticks only to itself. My boys loved seeing how far the slime could stretch, cutting shapes out of the slime (with the rim of a cup) and making slime bubbles. You have got to try this! Click the link to see how slime is science.



Alphabet as a Whole - Catch the Alphabet. I filled up our tub and put a few drops of blue food coloring into the water. My boys used their nets (from the Dollar Tree) to catch our bath letters. Once they caught a letter, I tried my best to tag team with two kids and identify some letters. Both boys really enjoyed this activity. 


Name Review - Kitchen Spices Name Review. I drew my three's name with elmer's glue on a piece of paper and drew a Letter K with elmer's glue on a piece of paper for my 19 mo. old. Both boys LOVED shaking old spices onto their papers. Once the spice containers were empty, we shook the excess spices off their papers into the trash.


And that's it!

Kool-Aid Playdough


I was so excited to find an easy home-made play dough recipe from kids activity blog! There are so many things that I love about this recipe. Most home-made play dough needs to be heated on the stove, but this recipe is heated in the microwave. I love that I had all the ingredients, with the exception of Kool-Aid, already at home. My kids (ages 3, 1) loved helping me mix the dough together and we had a fun afternoon playing with our play dough!


Ingredients for Kool-Aid Playdough:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 2 kool-aid packets
  • 3/4 cup water
Directions for Kool-Aid Playdough:

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and stir until well mixed. Place your bowl in the microwave for one minute. Stir the edges of your bowl with a spatula and let the play dough sit for a minute to set. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and place on your working surface (I placed mine on parchment paper). Add 1-2 tablespoons of flour to the dough, and knead together until the play dough is elastic and no longer sticky. 


How We Played:

This activity was apart of our Letter K Activities for preschoolers and toddlers. We used these play dough cake mats (from Picklebums) and my boys decorated their "cakes" with beads, googly eyes, buttons, toothpicks, cut straws, popsicle sticks, cut pipe cleaner and beads. I loved the sensory learning taking place and watching the creativity take place. This took up a good hour of our afternoon!  





Friday, January 27, 2017

Letter K: Booklist



Here's a list of our favorite Letter K books:


Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too? by Eric Carle: This book was my 19 month old's very favorite on the list. He loved looking at the pictures of mother and baby animals. Each page starts with the question, "Does a (goes through a series of animals) have a mother, too?" And at the end of the book it asks, "Do mother animals love their babies, too? Yes, just as your mother loves you!" 


Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes: This book was loved by both boys (ages 3, 19 mo.) and me. It's about a kitten who sees the moon in the sky and thinks it's a bowl of milk waiting for her. She does everything she can to get it, including climbing a tree and jumping into water seeing the moon's reflection. At the end of the book, the kitten goes home cold, wet and hungry to find a bowl of milk waiting for her on the porch. Cute story. 


A Kissing Hand for Chester Raccoon by Audrey Penn: This book is about a baby raccoon who is nervous to go to school. Mother raccoon tells him how much fun he'll have and gives him a special kiss on his palm. That way, he could always put his hand up to his cheek and have a kiss from his mother. Another cute story.


Kite Flying by Grance Lin: This book teaches about how to make a kite! We read this before making a kite craft this week. You can read more about it here.


Marsupial Sue by John Lithgow: This book came with a CD recording that my boys both enjoyed listening to while I flipped the pages in this book. It's actually a song - you can listen to it on Youtube as well. This book is about a kangaroo that's not quite happy. She goes around to other animals trying to be something she's not. In the end, the kangaroo realizes it's really not that being who you are. 


Katy No-Pocket by Emmy Payne: This book is about a mother kangaroo that doesn't have a pouch to carry her baby in. She decides to ask other animals what they do to carry their little ones. After finally asking the wise owl for advice, she hops into the city and finds a man with an apron - a perfect solution with multiple pouches! We read this book before decorating aprons and going on a baby kangaroo hunt. You can read more about it here.  


The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie DePaola: My three loved this book and requested to read it a bunch the past two weeks. It's about a knight who hasn't fought a dragon and a dragon who hasn't fought a knight. They both read books and prepare to fight one another. When the big day comes, they realize they both aren't meant for fighting. Instead, a worker at the palace gives them books on how to BBQ. They read up and start a BBQ stand together. 


Koala Lou by Mem Fox: This book is about a little koala bear who loves to hear his mother say, "Koala Lou, I do love you." As the mother koala has more and more children, life gets busy. The little koala decides to train for the olympics in tree climbing. She trains hard, but when the day comes, she gets second place. As the disappointed koala bear returns home, her mother repeats "Koala Lou, I do love you." 


A Kiss for Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik: This book is about a little bear that draws a picture for his grandmother. He asks the hen to give it to her. The hen completes his request, but then is asked to give the little bear a kiss in return. The kiss is passed around from animal to animal, until it finally reaches little bear. 


Kite Day by Will Hillenbrand: This book is about a bear and a mole that are out flying a kite. They are having so much fun, until it starts to rain and their kite gets stuck in a tree. Disappointed, they look at their kite and soon realize it's stuck in the perfect position - protecting a nest of baby birds from the rain. 


King Midas and the Golden Touch by Charlotte Craft: This book was a bit long for my 19 mo. old, but my three year old enjoyed it. It's about a greedy king that loves everything gold. He is offered a wish and his wish is that everything he touch will turn into gold. His clothes turn into gold and the flowers turn into gold, but he realizes his greed when he touches his daughter and she turns into gold. He is able to take his wish back and realizes what true happiness is all about.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Letter K Songs & Rhymes



1) K is for Kangaroo.
  • Use the actions below to sing this song. We sponge painted aprons this week (to resemble kangaroo pouches as in our library book, Katy No-Pocket) and wore them while singing this song. Tune: Skip to my Lou
Jump, jump jump
Goes the kangaroo.
(jump up and down)
I thought only one,
(hold up one finger)
but now I see two!
(hold up two fingers)
Mommy and her baby
(pretend rock a baby)
With his head popping out;
(place hands on head)
He holds on tight 
(hug self)
As they jump about!
(jump 3x)


2) Five Little Kites from Adventures in Storytime.
  • Make five kites out of craft foam and place a magnet on the back. Place the kites on the magnet board as shown below.
One little kite in the sky so blue,
(hold up one finger, place first kite)
Along cam another, and then there were two.
(place second kite, two fingers up)

Two little kites flying high above me.
("fly" hand with two fingers up)
Along cam another, and then there were three. 
(place third kite, three fingers up)

Three little kites, just watch them soar. 
("fly" hand with three fingers up)
Along cam another, and then there were four.
(place fourth kite, four fingers up)

Four little kites, so high and alive. 
("fly hand with four fingers up)
Along cam another, and then there were five.
(place fifth kite, five fingers up)

Five little kites dancing across the sky,
("fly" hand with five fingers up)
What a sight to see, way up so high!
(continue to make kites "fly")



3) Three Little Kittens:
  • Use the Three Little Kitten Clipart from Keeping Life Creative to sing the song. Hide the mittens around the house for you children to find after singing the first verse.
Three little kittens,
 They lost their mittens,
And they began to cry.
Oh, mother dear, 
We sadly fear
Out mittens we have lost.

What! Lost your mittens,
You naughty kittens!
Then you shall have no pie.
Meow, meow, meow, meow
You shall have no pie.

(have your children find the mittens at this point)

Three little kittens,
 They found their mittens,
And they began to cry.
Oh, mother dear, 
See here, see here,
Out mittens we have found.

What! Found your mittens,
You silly kittens!
Then you shall have some pie.
Meow, meow, meow, meow
Oh, let us have some pie.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Letter J Activities (ages: 3, 19 mo.)


In my option, around 18 months is a great time to begin a letter of the week series! It's just when little ones are really beginning to explore and learn so many new things. Remember the focus of doing these activities at this age is to HAVE FUN. Let your child lead as they explore. At this point, I will include activities we did for both my three and 19 month old. Here's what our week looked like for Letter J: 

Read, Read, Read. I love reading to my kids on a daily basis. I checked out our Letter J Booklist at the library a week in advance. The picture above were our very favorite books, but you view more great Letter J books by clicking on the booklist link. 

Read Letter J Book. We also love to read these Little Letter Books from The Measured Mom. For my three, we focus on the big and little letters at the beginning of each page. My 19 mo. old especially loves these books! He enjoys looking at the pictures and repeating the words after me on each page. 

Letter J Songs & Rhymes. This year, I'm putting together an interactive set of songs & rhymes for each letter of the alphabet. My three and my 19 mo. old had so much fun doing the Letter J Songs & Rhymes with us this week. If you're looking for something more simple without props, take a look at this printable set of songs and rhymes from The Measured Mom.


Writing Practice. Every child is different, but my three loves writing letters! We practiced writing the Letter J's with "J's of All Sizes" from The Measured Mom. In the past I've laminated these, but this week I realized how much easier it is to slip one into a plastic sleeve protector. While my three practiced writing Letter J's, my 19 mo. old colored a block letter J with markers (also in a sleeve protector). 

Craft #1: J is for Jewels Crown. I bought some letter stamps that we've been really enjoying this week! For our crowns, my three stamped big and little letter J's while my 19 mo. old stamped only big letter J's on a piece of card stock. Both boys also glued jewels onto their paper. Once they were finished, I cut the piece of card stock in half with jagged lines (as shown above, bottom right) and taped the pieces together to form a crown. Both boys LOVED these and have worn them around the house all week.

Craft #2: Paper Bag Jelly Fish from No Time for Flash Cards. I'm not sure what it was about these, but both my boys REALLY enjoyed painting and making these. I would say this was their very favorite craft of the series so far. All you do is paint a paper bag (we added glitter to our paint), wait for it to dry and glue on googly eyes. Cut slits in the bottom of the bags to represent tentacles. I hung our jelly fish from a light in our kitchen. 



Craft #3: Jello Finger Paint Wall. This was a messy craft, but perfect to do in the tub! All you do is pour a packet of jello in a bowl and add enough water to make it a good finger paint consistency. I taped two large sheets of paper (from a large paper roll from Ikea - the ones used on easels) on our tub wall and let my boys go to town. My three loved squirting the jello finger paint with a syringe and dumping the paint. My 19 mo. old loved making hand prints. 

Color Review - Jj Color Puzzles. I made these puzzle pieces from card stock and markers. I hid the big letter J's around the room and my three identified the color and found its lowercase match on our table. My 19 mo. old found a big letter J and repeated the color name after me. He doesn't know all his color names yet, but he is able to match colors together. 

Math - Stamp the Shape. I drew a bunch of shapes on a piece of paper and told my three that all the shapes needed a stamp to get into the museum. "Can you stamp the circle so he can get into the museum?" He loved this game. We did something similar with my 19 mo. old, only less shapes (we're working on circle, triangle and square) and more guidance. 

Math - Jewels on a Sword. My three is obsessed with swords, so I knew he'd love this. I was planning on him drawing a number and adding the same amount of jewels (cheerios) on his sword (pipe cleaner). He wasn't interested in doing numbers, so we didn't! He couldn't wait to show dad when he got home. My 19 mo. old also made a sword, but only put on a few cheerios on and off. This is a great fine motor activity. If I ever have a girl, I'll make a jewelry bracelet with her. 


Sensory Play - Jungle Animal Excavation. This activity was a highlight of our week! We excavated our toy jungle animals from gelatin. You can read more about it here

Letter Jj Activity #1 - We stamped big and little j's on our jewel crowns we made this week (read about this above in the "J is for Jewels Crown" paragraph).

Letter Jj Activity #2 - Jj Color Puzzles (read about this above in the "color review" paragraph).




Beginning Sounds: My three is doing really well with letter sounds and can recognize the majority of uppercase and lowercase letters. He knows all the letter sounds and has shown a lot of interest in reading. I was so excited to find a perfect (and free!) reading series for very beginner readers that know their letters and sounds. It's called "Reading the Alphabet" from This Reading Mama. It's a 31-week program that has lesson plans for each day of the week. The lessons take up around ten minutes of our day and I have been so impressed with the program and how well my three is grasping a very early start to reading. We're taking it at our own speed and it's a perfect fit for us. Click the link to find out more.


Letter J Science - Tornado in a Jar. After watching a tornado video on youtube and explaining tornados in very simple terms, we made this tornado in jar (it's actually a plastic water bottle). I'm pretty sure I had more fun with this than the kids. All you need is a water bottle, water and dish soap. Click the link for a tutorial (activity 4).




Alphabet as a Whole - Shoot the Letter. My three helped me draw letters on our window with window markers. Our picture didn't show the letters very clearly, so I edited them in. My three loved telling me which letter he wanted to shoot and trying to shoot it with his nerf gun. Make sure your bullets are the ones that can stick to windows. My 19 mo. old had more fun sticking Squigz on the window letters. 


Name Review - Letter Stamped Name. I told you we've been having fun with our letter stamps! This week, I wrote my three's name on a piece of paper. He stamped the same letters on the correct column. I did a similar activity for my 19 mo. old, but only wrote A, B, C, and J on a piece of paper. I pulled out our A stamp and showed him how it matched the A on the paper. Every time he'd stamp, we'd say "A!". We did the same thing for the other letters.


And that's it!