Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pumpkin Crunch Cake

I needed a relatively quick dessert I could whip up for company, and had been dying to try this recipe I had found on Pinterest. Good. Stuff. And best of all, super easy:

Pumpkin Crunch Cake (adapted from www.thepickyapple.com)

1 box french vanilla cake mix (others have apparently used spice cake mix and loooved it)
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup butter, melted (that would be two sticks of butter - yeah!)
Ice cream (optional, for serving)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of 9x13 pan. Mix pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pour mixture into pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix over mixture and top with pecans. Drizzle melted butter over pecans - be sure the dry cake mix is covered by butter (any uncovered parts will stay as dry mix!) Bake 50-55 minutes. Serve hot, and a la mode!

Stores in refrigerator if the pan is not immediately licked clean.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pinkalicious Preschool Learning!

Ah, Pinkalicious. I'm so conflicted on these books - I feel as though the lesson is brief and on the last page, and all the bad behavior on the preceding pages isn't quite wiped out. Still, whatever keeps the girls interested in learning and busy during the day is a good thing! We spent about a week doing activities, but there are so many more out there that I think another Pinkalicious week is in the works!
I'm breaking this down into learning activities, just-for-fun activities, and food/snacks:

Learning Activities:
3. Sing songs about pink! I found a very cute one at Mama Made it For You  - she also has other pinkalicious-related crafts and activities!
4. And even more printables: http://thinkpinkalicious.com/games
5. M&M math - I still have a horde of pink M&Ms I bought around Valentine's Day, and we use those to do addition and subtraction problems - and a right answer results in a mouthful of M&Ms!
6. Read the books with color-coded smoothies - the creative mom at Color Wheel Meals came up with 3 delicious smoothies to go with Purplicious, Pinkalicious, and Goldilicious:
Fun Activities:
1. Make crowns - these are FANTASTIC, but require some prep work:
2. Play with pink streamers and dance to music!
3. Get the day started by waking on and decking yourselves out in pink!

1. Pink pasta lunch - you can either add some food coloring to noodles that are boiling, or you can make pasta colored with beets! Love this one featuring Animal. I had found some pastel striped bowtie pasta at World Market that I used for the occasion, combined with "pink" sauce (a marinara/alfredo mix.)
2. Fruit wands - thread different fruits on a skewer, ending it with a slice of star fruit!
3. Strawberry Cheesecake Crackers
4. Pinkalicious Muffin Tin Meal - so cute!
5. All-Natural Pink Milk from One Hungry Mama
6. And - naturally - make pink cupcakes!

Pirate Day! Preschool Activities and Learning

There's a sliiight chance that I'm having more fun planning these activities than the girls are having doing them, but it's definitely up for debate! I love finding just the right activities/printables to go with each day. I'm seriously lacking in the creativity department myself, so am utterly thankful for all the crafty and imaginative parents out there who share their secrets!

For the printables for Pirate Day, I specifically looked for Jake & The Neverland Pirates printables, since that show is what got my daughter interested in Pirates to begin with. The Disney site has some cute pages.
As does the awesome mom at the 1 Plus 1 Plus 1 Equals 1 blog. Her pack is geared towards kindergarten aged children, but I was still able to use several of the pages for my 4-year-old.

We started off the day with my daughter doing some of the activities in the printables, while I prepped for the days activities. We then sat together and had her cut out the pirate patch and bird from the Disney/Neverland Pirate pack. It also helped her establish her pirate name, which was either Big Lani The Kindhearted or Sneaky Lani The Sneaky Snook, depending on whose crew she wanted to join!

After we got her set up with that, we made a pirate hook hand, using tin foil, duct tape, and a solo cup. First I jabbed a thick hole in the bottom of the cup, and covered around the hole with duct tape. I then made a hook out of wadded up tin foil, and put the end of the hook through the solo cup, which I then taped down with criss-crossed duct tape. I've seen some on-line where the cup was painted black, but my kids (and their lazy mom) preferred the red cup, so we went with it!

She already had a compass, a periscope, and a magnifying glass in her playroom, so we gathered all those items and set off for our pirate treasure hunt around our home. Apparently it's super easy to make an authentic looking pirate map. That is, if you budget more than 20 minutes to do it. I poured some tea on a crumped piece of paper, then set it outside to dry - it just came back soggy and dirty looking. Ah well, authenticity is overrated:

Since my handwriting resembles chicken scratch, this is how it went: We left the Great Ship ________ (insert last name) and headed out past the Mysterious Mushroom Patch, and around Baby Butterfly Tree (which consisted of several butterfly hair clips on various points of the tree, and gold bangles underneath and in the branches - treasure!!) We then went around the house to Walk The Plank - a 2x4 I set up behind the driveway. If they were older, I would have set it up on some bricks, but this was about all my almost-2-year-old could handle. They then had to pass the Gate of Riddles - our back gate, where I asked a "riddle".

Why are pirates called pirates? They just arrrrrrrrgh!

If that one makes you cringe, here are more (that will most likely do the same).
Past the gate, we waded through Crystal Waters (i.e. our pool) then around the back of the house to the Fairies Hideaway, where X marked the spot. Along the way, treasure (i.e. more jewelry) was to be found at the various spots. Fairies Hideaway was a bush with a gap in the middle, where I hung bead necklaces
 and glittery scarves, and the treasure was a green bowl full of pirate coins I had snagged from Party City:

The treasure was guarded by fairies from the Safari Ltd Fairies Toob (which were new, and by far the hit of the day!) Afterwards, in an unplanned act of piracy, my daughters threw all the gold coins and jewelry in the pool. Skip that activity.

We ended Pirate Day with an appropriately piratey snack inside, goldfish crackers and orange slices with pirate sails. I can't find the link for the printables with the pirate sails, but this one has some great party printables.

Other ideas for snacks include Pirate Jewels - fruit on a stick or one of the cocktail picks that look like swords, and a tropical smoothie.

I had also planned to set up an aluminum foil river, much like this one, but the heat kept climbing on a hot Florida day, and the treasure hunt was all this hot (not in a good way!) mama could handle! Another website has the river and added waterfalls, which I think would be fantastic for next Pirate Day!