Monday, November 24
This post is sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA) and reflects a collaboration with NEA’s Raise Your Hand for Student Success campaign. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own. Be sure to visit the NEA Parents’ Page for great resources for parents!
My kids have this entire week of Thanksgiving off from school. I remember back in the day only getting Thursday and Friday off, leaving you with just a few days to enjoy the holiday. I actually really appreciate having three extra days to relax with our family and enjoy some time off together. But having the whole week off means almost 10 days of no school!
I’m not one to buy workbooks and pull out the flashcards on school breaks. Honestly, I love getting a break from the homework grind. But just because homework and class time are on hiatus doesn’t mean learning has to be. Here are a few things we’ll be doing this week as a family to facilitate fun learning during the Thanksgiving break!
- COOKING! Of course we’ll be cooking up a storm this week and you can bet the kids will be involved. Not only will having the kids cook with me help form lasting memories, but there are ample learning opportunities in the kitchen, especially around math. Anna even got up this morning and made up her own “recipe” with yogurt and milk, so she is ready to go in the cooking department!
- READING! I am lucky that we have kids who love to read, so they’ll do plenty of reading on their own over the break. But even if kids don’t love reading, Thanksgiving break is a good time to get them excited to read. I always buy Christmas books during this week and we kick off the holiday season by reading those books together as a family. We also have fun Thanksgiving books to share together, too.
- DAY TRIPS! We have passes to the Natural History Museum in LA as well as the San Diego Zoo. We will be visiting one of those spots for sure this week! Museums really are a great way to mix learning with fun!
- CRAFTS & LEARNING ACTIVITIES: My Anna loves science more than a million ice cream scoops, so I’m sure we’ll break out our Green Kid Crafts science kit and do a science project together. My friend Marie also has about 1 billion projects on her website Make and Takes, so I’ll be seeing what ideas she has for us, too!
What do you have planned this week with the kids? I’m sure you all have all kinds of creative ideas, so please share them with the rest of us!
Friday, September 26
Okay, so there’s a lot of “mom stuff” I don’t do. I’m not crafty. I don’t make baby food from scratch. I am a terrible gardener. The list goes on and ON. But I do absolutely love making my kids’ birthday cakes. Every year they tell me what they want and I figure out a way to make it happen! For Owen’s 3rd birthday he requested Ripslinger from the movie Planes, or as Owen put it, “the green bad guy plane.” I was a little nervous but I pulled it off! The best part was Owen loved it and today he’s asked multiple times to see pictures of the cake. (That splash sound you hear is me turning into a puddle on the floor.)
This cake was one of the easier ones I’ve done, so I have to share the step-by-step with you. Here’s how to make an airplane birthday cake!
- Bake a 9″x13″ standard cake. I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe (which you can find in this linked post) and it made for a nice tall cake, which gave the plane more height. I doubled the frosting recipe in that same post, which gave me enough frosting for the crumb coat and final coat with a bit left over.
- After you bake the cake, freeze it. Once it’s frozen, make one cut as shown in the diagram below, then flip one of the pieces so it lines up with the other piece perfectly when you stack them.
- The fat end of the triangle you created is the front of the plane – the smaller end is the back of the plane. Shape the front to round it off. Once the cake was done, I wished I had also angled the back end of the plane down a bit so that the entire plan had an upward slant towards the front of the plane, instead of just parallel to the ground (know what I mean?). Feel free to play with the shape or just keep it super simple like I did.
- I used one of the pieces of cake I cut off the front when shaping the nose of the plane to create the cockpit on top.
- Frost between the layers, and then follow the directions in my cake-making guide post for frosting (freezing cake, crumb coat, etc.) The beauty of this cake is you only need ONE COLOR OF FROSTING! Save a bit of white for the window, but other than that you can just make all the frosting one color.
- For the wings and things, I used cardstock! Just cut them into the shape you like and then stick the shaped wings and things right into the cake. You can get colored cardstock or just color white cardstock with a permament marker the color you want he wings to be. (Since I was making Ripslinger, I also made the flames out of cardstock colored with permanent markers and stuck them to the side using frosting as glue.) Don’t worry, no marker transferred to the frosting anywhere!
- The propellors were 2 popsicle sticks colored with black Sharpee marker, broken in half and then stuck in the front. I should have put a black circle of frosting or a Junior Mint on the front in the middle of the propellors. I didn’t, but you can!
- White frosting and black piped frosting made the window in the cockpit, and chocolate chips, stuck pointy side in, served as the eyes.
Show and tell time! I just have one quick share today. I put together a really fun post for Babble of CRAZY stuff my friends’ kids have eaten. It’s pretty awesome. Be sure to click through and check it out!
As usual, feel free to share anything you like in the comments, it’s show and tell after all!
Posted by Jane Maynard at 1:01 pm 8 Comments
Categories: birthday cakes, kids, Kitchen Tips, sweet things Tags: airplane birthday cake, birthday cake decorating, birthday cakes, cake decorating, friday show and tell, kids birthday cakes |
Thursday, December 19
One of the only over-the-top-Mom things I do is make fun cakes for my kids’ birthdays. Cate and Anna had both of their birthdays this week so I’ve been a busy baker! Anna opted for a vanilla cake shaped like a fish. Cate decided to go with chocolate cupcakes topped with M&M frosting. I wanted to share the cakes with you, since I always do, as well as the recipe for the frosting because it was YUMMMMMMMMM.
Anna’s cake was inspired by a goldfish in the Cakes for Kids book by Matthew Mead that we love so much! The cake is essentially a 2-layer cake (8 inches or 9 inches works) with a thin crescent cut off the top or each layer before frosting. Those crescent pieces become the fins. The frosted layer cake gets tipped up on its side and and then the fins are added, with toothpicks securing the top and back fins. I think this might have been the hardest cake I’ve made so far, surprisingly. It didn’t come out as cute as I’d hoped but it did come out better than I expected! Anna was completely happy with the cake and that is all that matters!
I think what made this cake so tricky was that I made the fins a different color than the body (to look more like Flounder from The Little Mermaid), but it’s hard enough attaching those fins without having to worry about the frosting colors mixing. Bottom line: this cake was hard but we made it work!
Cate took it easy on me and just wanted chocolate cupcakes with M&Ms. I decided an M&M frosting would be good and took inspiration from a recipe on the blog Cookies & Cups. I changed the recipe to a chocolate buttercream frosting and made it a little thinner. The frosting was fudgy and crunchy and oh-so-delicious. Quick note: when the frosting is just made, the M&Ms are still crunchy, but as it sits, the M&Ms get softer. This is not a bad thing, but it goes from crispy M&M fudge frosting to chunky-chocolate fudge frosting. Just wanted to set expectations properly! If you can whip up the frosting last minute, that’s what I would do! This is not to say that we haven’t happily enjoyed the leftovers!
If you’d like to see the misadventure I had when I started to frost the cupcakes, click here. Fair warning, it’s scary! Moral of the story? Always use a star tip when piping chocolate frosting. And that’s all we’ll say about that!
Chocolate M&M FrostingPrep timeTotal timeAuthor: Jane MaynardIngredients
- 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk
- ⅓ cup cocoa powder, sifted into the bowl
- 1 cup M&Ms, processed to a coarse dust in the blender
- In a stand mixer or with beaters, beat together all of the ingredients on medium-high speed until well-mixed. Spread on cake or cupcakes and eat immediately! M&Ms will be crunchy at the outset but will soften as the frosting sits.
Posted by Jane Maynard at 1:27 pm 7 Comments
Categories: birthday cakes, featured recipes, kids, Kitchen Tips, Recipes, sweet things Tags: birthday cake, birthday cake decorating, buttercream, frosting, kids birthday cakes, m&ms |
Thursday, October 24
Making JELL-O JIGGLERS with my mom as a kid is a very clear and happy memory for me. I can picture the kitchen and the JELL-O like it was yesterday. For some reason making those JIGGLERS was super, duper exciting. I mean, what kid doesn’t like JELL-O, but JELL-O that you can make into shapes and then eat with your hands? For a six-year-old, that is living the dream.
Even though it’s such a fond memory from my own childhood, I have never made JIGGLERS with my own kids…until yesterday! I finally got my act together and we jiggled it up Halloween style. I told the girls the day before that we would be making Halloween JELL-O JIGGLERS and they talked about it non-stop for over a day. It made me so happy that the charm hasn’t worn off from generation to generation.
JELL-O has some fun recipes and projects you can make, so I went browsing the site for inspiration. I liked the idea of just making our own shapes, like these hands, but I loved the color of these creepy crawly JIGGLERS. I decided to make a sheet of the “black” JELL-O and was going to have the kids design shapes for the cutouts. When we actually started making the JIGGLERS, however, we decided to just use our Halloween cookie cutters. It was a lot easier and just as fun!
So, we grabbed our tin of spooky cutters and got to work. The girls divided up the cookie cutters between them and did a great job taking turns. Fitting all the shapes into our square pan was kind of like doing a puzzle. The girls were so happy the entire time we worked on the project, it did my heart good.
I hope this ends up being a lasting memory for the girls – I know it will be for me! The only thing more fun than being a kid is to be the parent watching the kid.
Spooky JELL-O JIGGLERSAuthor: Jane MaynardIngredients
- 1⅓ cup boiling water
- 1 package (3 ounces) JELL-O Grape Flavor Gelatin
- 3 tablespoons JELL-O Lime Flavor Gelatin
- 8×8-inch pan
- Halloween cookie cutters
- Mix grape and lime gelatin in a bowl. Add boiling water and mix for 2 minutes, until sugar is completely dissolved. Poor directly into pan and refrigerate for 3 hours or until firm.
- Press Halloween cookie cutters into JELL-O, making sure to push all the way through to the bottom of the pan. Carefully remove cookie cutter – the JELL-O shapes should come out easiliy with the cookie cutter. Pop out onto a white serving platter (for high impact with the dark JIGGLERS!) and eat with ghoulish intent!
The girls aren’t very ghoulish, but they sure are cute!
This post brought to you by JELL-O, making Halloween more wiggly for everyone. Check out more Halloween recipes here: JELLO.com/recipes. This post was sponsored as part of the DailyBuzz Brand Ambassador Program.
Tuesday, September 24
I love making my kids’ birthday cakes. The tradition stems from my childhood. I remember so many of the cakes my mom made for me and I also remember being sooooo excited for each of those cakes. They made me feel special and like my mom could work magic. My brother and I have both continued the tradition with our own children. It’s one of those things that I really love to do for my kids.
Each time I make a cake I share it on the blog (let’s be honest, I like to show them off!), but I never get around to explaining how I put the shapes together. I thought I’d give a quick rundown of how I assembled the Little Blue Truck cake.
First and foremost, be sure to read through this post to get lots of tips for successfully decorating cute cakes. The instructions below mostly focus on how to create the shape of the truck, but the tips in that post are just as important!
I decided to make Little Blue just a day or two before Owen’s party, so it was pretty last minute. I was planning to do a 2-dimensional cake in the shape of Little Blue as he appears on the cover of the book. While the cake was cooling, Anna found a 3-dimensional truck cake in our favorite book Cakes for Kids and plans changed!
In Cakes for Kids, the truck cake utilizes loaf pans to create the shape, but since I had already baked a standard square cake for my 2-dimensional version, I went with my own design. It actually worked really well, so here’s what I did!
- Bake an 8-inch square cake. (When I am baking cakes to cut into shapes, I like to use a pan with very straight, right-angled edges. Also, use cake strips so it cooks flat.)
- When cake is completely cool, cut it into three pieces as indicated by this diagram:
- Find something to use as a “lift” for the cake – I used four blue duplo legos (I should have used white or black). Cut a piece of cardboard that is just a smidge smaller than the largest piece of cake. On your cake board (the final board the cake will be displayed on), line up the legos (or whatever you’re using as a lift) underneath the cardboard cutout so that the legos are near the edges and placed where the wheels on the truck would go. Set the cardboard cutout aside, then secure the legos to the cake board using frosting. Freeze so frosting gets hard and legos stay in place.
- Put a dab of frosting on the cardboard cutout, then place the largest piece of cake on the cutout, lining it up so you can’t see the cardboard. Frost cake with crumb coat then freeze.
- Place one of the smaller pieces on top of the frosted cake, where the cab of the truck would be, making sure to use frosting to attach it to the cake below. Spread a layer of frosting on top of the small piece you just placed, then add the second small piece on top. Shape the two small pieces using a knife so it’s narrower at the top. Apply crumb coat of frosting and freeze.
- Frost cake with the pretty layer of frosting.
- Use white rolled fondant to make the windows, bumper, headlights, license plate and grate. I added a smidge of black food coloring for the bumper and grate and a smidge of yellow and orange food coloring for the license plate. Windows and headlights stayed pure white. I used a black edible pen to draw in the eyes on the headlights and lines on the grate.
- To get the right size and shape for the windows/etc, I held up a piece of cardstock to the cake, estimated the size for each piece, then drew out the pieces and cut them out of the cardstock. I adjusted the templates where necessary then traced the shapes on the fondant with a knife, then cut the pieces out. Be sure to roll the fondant out quite thin or it will look too bulky on the cake (some of my windows were a little thick!).
- Place truck on top of legos on the final cake board, securing with frosting.
- Dab a bit of frosting on the edge of an Oreo cookie then stick to the sides of the cake, covering up the legos from the side, for wheels. If a little frosting squishes out around the edge of the Oreo, use a toothpick to clean it up.
- If I had planned ahead a bit more, I could have filled the back of the truck with animals, but I didn’t, so Little Blue had a light load that day!
There are some fancier Little Blue Truck cakes out there that are sooooo cute (you have to check out this one – thanks for the link, Hillary!). But my simpler version worked just fine and Owen was ecstatic about his cake, crying out “Little Blue Truck!” every time he saw it. Plus, it is a pretty generic truck so you could make whatever color truck you want!
A quick note on the big green toad cake: I simply cooked an 8-inch round cake and then cut a few pieces out around the edges to make a shape of the toad’s head, with fondant for eyes. Super simple!
My various birthday cake links if you’re interested!
- Click here for tons of tips for decorating birthday cakes, as well as the buttercream and chocolate cake recipes that I always use and love.
- Giraffe Cake
- Princess Crown Cake
- Hello Kitty Cake with Cat Cupcakes
- Elephant Cake
- Ghost Cake
- Spiderman Cake (my first successful cute cake!)
- My first successful layer cake (boring but cute)
- My first birthday cake post on this blog that shows just how far I’ve come and proves anyone can make cute cakes!
Sunday, September 22
Yesterday we hosted a simple birthday party for little Owen, who is turning 2 this month! My mom and sister were in town so we decided to seize the moment and celebrate Owen’s big day with them. Owen is obsessed with the book Little Blue Truck. I love making fun cakes for my kids’ birthdays, so I decided to give the truck a try. I had no plan going in and thankfully it all turned out okay! I’ll do a quick post this week explaining how I put the cake together as it was quite simple! Owen loved the cake and thoroughly enjoyed his party – although we had to stop singing “Happy Birthday To You” halfway through because he burst into tears with all the attention! So sweet.
Another week, another menu! I actually made everything on last week’s menu, so I can’t carry any items over. Bummer! I have to think of new things!
– Corn chips
– Tuscan Tomato Soup
– Grilled cheese
– Kitchen Sink Quesadillas
– Chips and Guacamole (just remembered this is my birthday, so I may relax and order out!)
– Barbecue Chicken Pizza
– Take out
– Pot roast (I haven’t made this in AGES!)
– Mashed potatoes, gravy and a veggie
Looking forward to seeing your menus! As always, they are great inspiration when planning each week! Please share no matter what your menu looks like!
Monday, September 16
Looks like it’s giveaway season on this here blog because I’ve got another one!
Today I am teaming up with some wonderful bloggers and companies I love to do a big fat giveaway worth ~$600! If you are in the “Starting Solids” phase of life with a baby (or know someone who is!), then you need to enter this giveaway!
- From giggle, a BABYBJÖRN high chair (like this one) and bib
- method is going to help you clean it all up with all-purpose cleaner, foaming dish soap, and laundry detergent
- Plum Organics is offering a tasting menu of $100 worth of goodies
- variety of NEW Stage 3 Training Meal pouches — varieties include mild herbs & spices!
- variety of fruit, veggie, whole grain and Greek yogurt blends in easy, squeeze pouches
- variety of Super Puffs, Little Yums and Little Crèmes for tiny teethers
- set of Plum’s Dispensing Spoon by Boon for one-handed feeding
To enter, use the handy-dandy Rafflecopter entry form below. There are plenty of ways to get extra entries! Winner will be selected on 9/30. Good luck!
Fine print and disclosures: We did not receive compensation for running this sweepstakes; we just wanted to get together and get a great prize for our readers. We hope you like it. Retail value for prize is between $400 and $600 depending on where you shop. Rafflecopter widget will choose a single winner of all prizes. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before another winner will be chosen. And so on. Winners must be over age 18 and live in the continental USA. No cash awards will be given in place of this prize so don’t enter unless you want it. Void where prohibited.
Thursday, June 20
Hey everyone! It’s looking like I’ll be able to share our fun news with you tomorrow! Which is one of the reasons I’ve been missing from the blog this week. Things to do! Things to do!
Until then, I want to share a little trick I just discovered. Oprah would call it an “A-HA!” moment, but I think it can more accurately be described as an “OH, DUH!” moment.
Okay, so I have kids who won’t eat the crust on their sandwiches. It drives me batty. They all started out as people who ate their crusts, but all three of them, at some point along the way, just stopped eating crusts. I think it’s such a waste and I hate it, but there’s not much I can do about it! Since there’s no fighting the no-crust-eating around here, I always cut their sandwiches into four triangle, which results in straight crusts. If the crusts are straight, they end up eating a lot more of the actual sandwich.
My one problem has always been when they just want half of a sandwich. I always cut squares for half-sandwiches. When you try to cut rectangular-sized bread into a triangle for a half, the edges don’t line up.
As a result of all this, I hate giving my kids half sandwiches because I feel like they are hardly getting any sandwich at all with those dumb cornered crusts.
And then, the other day, as I was making a half sandwich, it finally hit me. We CAN have half sandwiches AND straight crusts, too! (PS…I’m pretty sure this is what Marie Antoinette actually said.)
Cut the bread in half diagonally, into two large triangles.
Then, flip one of the pieces over, like so. (This is the secret to success here!)
Look at that! The long edges line up with the long edges, the short edges line up with the short edges. All is right with the world!
The result? A half sandwich cut into two triangles with straight crusts!
When I was photographing the bread for this post yesterday, Cate asked, “Do you think other people don’t know this?” She makes a good point. You may all have already figured this out, but if there is just one of you in the “OH, DUH!” boat like me, then it’s worth writing the post!
Happy non crust half sandwich eating, spoiled children of the world!
Friday, June 14
Two weeks ago, ONE invited us to join them at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s annual event “A Time for Heroes” in Los Angeles. Our family had a wonderful time enjoying the carnival, seeing the sights and celebs (Richard Simmons called Nate his son and Owen his grandson, and Owen is best buds with Gwen Stefani’s dog…in fact, the dog kissed Owen AND Nate, which basically means they both kissed Gwen, right?), and spending time with some amazing people, like Marcus Samuelsson’s wife Maya.
Anna was especially delighted that there was face painting and a table where they COLORED YOUR HAIR. Anna is kind of obsessed with anything that involves decorating her body (face paint, hair styling, jewelry, flashy clothes, tattoos…we’re kind of scared).
So, anyway, I wanted to share the hair coloring trick with you because it was so simple and genius! I know, none of this has anything to do with food, but I’m pretty sure some of you reading this blog have kids and a long summer stretching before you. This is definitely a fun activity and I love how UN-permanent the color is. Plus, the color ends up looking really pretty and subtle. Win-win for parents and kids…crazy colored hair that’s actually not that crazy and washes out easily!
Completely Un-Permanent Colored Hair
– Chalk (color of your choosing!)
– Hair spray
Wet a small portion of hair, from the root to the ends. You can spray the hair with spray bottle or use a very wet towel or papertowel. The lady at the party used a papertowel. I used a spray bottle, which was decidedly less pleasant for the hair coloree, but she was my kid, so I wasn’t too worried about it.
Slide the chalk up and down the piece of hair, applying moderate pressure, until hair is sufficiently colored. The smaller the piece of hair, the easier it is to apply the color. Work in small sections!
Spray lightly with hair spray to set the color, then smooth out gently with a comb and/or fingers.
Tuesday, June 11
Today’s recipe comes from my 5-year-old Anna! She loves cooking and is very proud that her recipe is going on the blog this morning. So cute!
Yesterday in the car Anna kept telling me she wanted to make colorful toast. I honestly thought she was just making it up, but this morning I had her explain the process to me and discovered it was something she had done at preschool. Even though I was a little doubtful about how it would come out, I decided to just go with it and let her teach me something new.
The toast came out VERY colorful and it was actually pretty good! The top doesn’t get very crispy, but it still tasted good and kids are NOT going to notice or care as they bite into their favorite-colored toast! I wouldn’t recommend serving this colorful toast at your next brunch party for fancy adults, but it is definitely something fun to do with the kids on a summer morning!
Colorful Toast, by Anna MaynardAuthor: Jane MaynardRecipe type: BreakfastIngredients
- White bread (it’s more colorful that way!)
- Food coloring
- Brush of any kind (pastry brush makes for broad coverage, smaller brushes allow for some design work)
- Mix a bit of food coloring with a bit of milk. Next you brush the milk on the bread “very delicately” (those are Anna’s instructions and she’s right on the money – don’t get too heavy handed with the milk or the bread will get too soggy).
- Toast, butter and eat!
- The top doesn’t get crispy, but the bottom does and there is actually a sweetness that is left behind as the milk evaporates. Very fun!
The final product!
Add milk, a bit of powdered sugar and a swig of vanilla to the leftover colored milk for a nice drink to go with the toast!