Monday, September 30, 2013

September Wrap-Up

Hello there! I can not believe October is upon us! September flew by, probably because I was planning  one event after another.  

My efforts to plan a month's worth of preschool activities and lessons in a few days totally paid off, with the highlight being G is for Grape squashing!

Two Birthdays, which resulted in two really delicious cakes and two really bad pictures of those cakes. 

I did get a chance to share a new recipe, YUMMY SALTED CARAMEL FROSTING I made for the boxing party.  Moving forward I think I'll try this on a caramel cupcake!

My head is spinning from all the planning and excitement that September had to offer, now on to OCTOBER!!!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chocolate Cupcakes With Salted Caramel Frosting

As promised I will share a recipe for chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting.  I have been wanting to try my hand at salted caramel frosting for a while now.  The initial plan was to make them for my hub's, or Bear's birthday cake.   Of course they had to act like it was their special day and make cake requests of their own. He he.  My next opportunity to make the cupcakes I wanted to make, was for the boxing party my hubs and I hosted.  I know, cupcakes don't exactly scream boxing party food.  However, who can resist sinfully rich chocolate cupcakes, topped with a healthy sized amount of salted caramel frosting, with a piece of caramel candy smooshed into the top? Not many.

I have made the these chocolate cupcakes many a time and topped them with everything from vanilla butter cream to Italian meringue white chocolate butter cream (yes, I about died too). But never, have I tried the creamy sweet, nutty flavored caramel frosting on top.  I searched pinterest and google to find the perfect recipe.  There are quite a few recipes that are simple, basically melting caramel candies and adding it to butter cream.  I needed more.  I really wanted the challenge and taste of a from scratch caramel frosting.  I found it here.   Anything that includes heavy cream, butter, and sugar has to be good, right?

The frosting was perfect!  So creamy and perfectly... caramelly(?)  The way the caramel frosting complimented the chocolate cupcakes was pure bliss. 

Beatty's Chocolate Cake Recipe (Ina Garten)

Salted Caramel Frosting
1/2  cup salted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 cups powdered sugar
10 - 15 caramel candies, cut in half
Kosher Salt for sprinkling

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over low heat.  Add heavy cream.  Stirring constantly, increase heat to medium.  Add salt.  Allow mixture to bubble for 2 minutes.  Allow to cool. Once mixture is completely cooled, transfer to mixing bowl and beat in sifted, powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.  I used all 3 cups, but it tasted wonderful after just 2 cups.  After piping frosting on all my cupcakes, I placed a caramel candy on top then sprinkled with a little kosher salt.  Um... Yum!


Monday, September 16, 2013

Preschool At Home: Stamping, Stomping, and Silly Sentences

Whoa!! I feel like I just got off a crazy roller coaster ride.  It's been a super busy week.  I mentioned in this post that we celebrated two birthdays, and a sick (possibly teething) baby.  Well, on top of all that we hosted a huge boxing party.  My husband is really into boxing and is a huge Mayweather fan so it was fitting.  We had about 30 people here on Saturday.  It was loud, messy, and down right fantastically fun.  

Even with all the planning and prep work, I still managed to squeeze in some preschool time.  Here are some of our highlights from the last 2 weeks. 

Theme: All About Me
Letter: Gg
Sight Word: is
Focus:  My Feelings/ My Birthday

We continue to follow the Zoomin' Movin Alphabet.  It's perfect for my little guys, whom are obsessed with all things that go.  It's free from Royal Baloo.  While, I don't do everything that comes with each unit, I use it as a guide to help with my planning.

I like to do sensory activities with the boys, so when I saw this grape sensory idea on Play Learn Love, I knew I had to try it.  I started by laying down some plastic to cover the floor, then grabbing an old bin, last, I gave each little one a container of grapes to harvest.  This took a lot of patience for them.  Bear lost interest in it pretty quickly so I took over his container.  Ace, who loves all things messy, moved quickly knowing that he would soon have the time of his life stomping and squishing grapes.

Bear played in the grapes for a bit, but he is not as interested in sensory play as Ace.  I'm trying to get him more and more interested in things like this.  At one point he disappeared and returned with his fire truck and just drove his little truck through the grapes. 

Once upon a time, Ace couldn't stand getting his hands dirty or icky.  Now, He'd swim in messy sticky stuff if I'd let him... hmmm.

CJ had fun exploring in the grapes too.  While the boys played we talked about the sound that g makes, and other words that start with g.

Love these baby feet.

I was really excited to get our new Melissa and Doug letter stamp set.  We have a few stamps the boys like to play with, but I really wanted a full upper and lower case set, and a non-toxic pad.  I gave Ace some of his sight word cards and he practiced stamping them.  Bear is obsessed with the letter B so he did a lot of B and G stamping.

These pictures are really dark, typically my back doors give great light, but not on a dark and stormy afternoon.
By the way, the sight word cards come from the Zoomin' Movin' Alphabet Units.
Using salt on a tray was a great sensory activity for Bear.  He was able to get his hands "messy" then quickly dust them off if he wanted.  I let the boys do what ever they want in their salt, and just allow teachable moments to occur.  Bear typically asks me to write a B, although today he asked for an A.

 Ace was drawing different types of faces (happy, sad) because we had been discussing feelings.

I made a feelings lapbook for the boys to explore.  The printables came from 1+1+1=1, you can download them for free here.  

I was really excited to use the sight words Ace knows in sentences.  He was so proud of himself for reading them.  Of course he had to make some of his own.  It was interesting watching him put the cards down.  He first began just laying the in random order and telling me his own sentence (even if it didn't match what was actually on the table).  I started to rearrange his sentences so they would make sense and I think we both got a little frustrated.  Him, because I was messing up his sentences, and me because I wanted him to make sentences that made sense.  We compromised in the end and I told him he could make "silly" sentences (thanks mom for the good idea!).  He was totally okay with that.  I find that I am constantly struggling with balancing fun, creativity, and learning.  It's helpful to keep reminding myself he is only 4.

We finished out our week by decorating cupcakes.  I had this activity planned for the afternoon of Bears birthday since we weren't having a party or anything.  My hubs decided to take the day off so we spent a great day as a family eating pizza and visiting Chuck E Cheese.  We ended up doing this activity in the evening and Bear was burnt out, so it ended up just being Ace.  In hindsight I should have just saved it for the next day.  Oh well.

As always, thanks for reading!!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

2 Birthdays, And A Sick Baby

Hello folks!  September is a very busy time for us.  Mainly because we start the month with 2 birthdays.  My hubs and Bear have birthdays on consecutive days.  When my little brown bear was born the day after my husbands birthday, I promised myself I would make them both their own cake each year, as opposed to one cake with two names.  This should be pretty simple, but since I'm such a cake and icing snob I make them from scratch, and decorate them as close to professional as I can.

My husbands cake turned out fabulous!  He requested the red velvet and cream cheese cake I made him a few years ago.  Since I have made it before, it was pretty simple to recreate.  For Bear I had planned on keeping it simple.  We decided that we'd have a quiet birthday no big party.  Maybe share cake with my mom, and our neighbors, but that was about it.  I figured a simple round cake would be fine and I'd throw a toy train on top for fun.  MY little guy simply requested a "chotet tate" for his birthday.  For some reason in a moment of mom guilt I decided to make a train cake.  I made a train cake for Ace when he turned two that was super cute.  I mistakenly figured that since I've made it, it too would be easy to recreate.  Wrong-o!!!

My first mistake was using a super moist chocolate cake.  Moist cakes are NOT good for carving.  The second problem was my little sick CJ.  Ever try to complete a baking marathon with a baby who can't be put down.  Poor little guy was extra cuddly, something he's not been into ever since he started cruising.  I did love the extra snuggles I got from my warm and sniffly baby, but it was a huge hindrance in my cake baking, and decorating schedule.  Sigh.

Anyway, I finished all the baking Sunday night, and moved onto creating a chocolate train cake for my soon to be 3 year old.  The final product was not my favorite cake at all.  it tasted great, and resembled a sad little train.  In fact my husband actually agreed with me when I said I thought it was ugly.  The nerve!! Of course when I picked up my sweet little boy to show him his "train" cake in the fridge, a smile spread from ear to ear and he exclaimed "My train tate!".  Suddenly my attitude about his cake changed and I realized it truly is the thought that counts.

Now, the bad blogger that I am, I didn't snap any before pictures of my two cakes.  Instead I'll share with you what they look like after two days of getting picked on.  NO slices here after guests leave.  Straight off the cake with a fork... that's how we roll people!

I'll leave you with some links to other cakes I've made in the past and a promise to share my next cupcake conquest with you once it's complete.  Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting!  Sounds delish right? Can't wait to try it!