Painting with Crayons & Water Colors

Painting with Crayons and Water Colors 1

This was one of those super-simple craft projects that’s nearly free.  You may already have all of the supplies on hand, but this changes things up from a normal painting or coloring project because it mixes the mediums.

It’s also a lot of fun.

What we did was create a drawing with crayons, and then color it in with watercolor paints.  We did some regular pictures (butterflies and flowers) and some that were patterns of lines and shapes.

And don’t mind the ancient crayon box full of mixed crayon types…. this is a “rediscovered” conglomerate of art supplies from my own youth. We use what we can here… it’s part of what makes this craft free, or nearly-free (the water colors are new).   We keep a craft drawer of leftover supplies from other projects, too, and sometimes we have a free-for-all craft with whatever we can find.

The kids love it.

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We discovered that the crayon looks much better if you draw thicker lines to help it stand out against the paint.  It also creates a neat, smooth texture.

And we experimented with the paint as well.

My older daughter tried painting with her fingers, instead of the brush, and she also would tilt the paper in different directions to see what happened when the excess paint dripped across her picture.

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My youngest daughter was not interested in those experiments and instead focused on covering her paper in pretty colors and patterns.  Which was also perfectly okay, of course.  This project gave them both the freedom to be creative in their own ways.

This project was cheap (free if you already have the crayons, paint, and paper) and easy to set up.  It gave them a creative outlet, and it kept them busy for a long time.  It had a lot of benefits on top of the fun-factor.

Plus, I had some beautiful fridge-worthy artwork at the end of it.

Here are a few of the finished products, including one of mine:

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Happy Crafting!

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Book Review: A Unicorn Named Sparkle

A Unicorn Named Sparkle

I recently read A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young and it seriously gave me a case of the giggles.

I mean, it’s a story about a little girl who orders a unicorn for 25 cents from an ad in the back of a magazine (whoever tells you that’s not a dream come true is lying), but what shows up is a goat with an ice cream cone stuck to his forehead.

How can you not love this premise?

It’s a delightful picture book that my children found to be fun and silly.  The illustrations are bright and colorful and … sparkly.

Lucy’s wild hair and polka dot shirt are painted with soft watercolors and dance across pages of wide white spreads, and the baby unicorn/goat practically dances right into your heart with his own little heart-shaped cutie mark.

Now, when Lucy imagines what kind of unicorn will be delivered to her, she pictures something perfect and pretty with a flowing mane and impeccable manners.  When the goat arrives, with his scruffy mane and tendency-to-eat-things manners, she decides to return him.

The truck arrives to take him back, but, luckily, Lucy realizes her mistake before it’s too late.

Because although he was not quite what she expected, “she had to admit:  sometimes he made her smile and sometimes he made her laugh.”  And while friends might not always be perfect, they are certainly precious.

So if you or your kids love unicorns (or goats), check out A Unicorn Named Sparkle for a fun and charming story!

Happy Reading!

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Strawberry Butter

Strawberry Butter 1

I made some Strawberry Butter with my kids for a fun sweet treat, so I wanted to share it with you.

It was super simple to make (just 3 ingredients), and it made for a fun snack or breakfast dish.

It’s the type of dish you could make when you wake up in the morning for a fresh homemade breakfast with very little effort.

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The first time we made it, my oldest daughter said it was actually too sweet, so we adjusted it for less sugar the next time, which is what you’ll find in the printable recipe below.

It was also a nice way to use up some extra strawberries, since my girls prefer to eat strawberries only when they’re fresh and crisp.  Once they start to get soft, I have to incorporate them into a recipe.  They won’t eat “mushy” berries.

But mushy or crisp strawberries both work for this.

You could use the butter to top any kind of bagel or English muffin or pancakes, but we like it in the King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, which is what you see in my photos.

Make sure your butter is completely room temperature when you start, to make it a quick and simple process.  If you’re going to make it in the morning, leave the butter out overnight.

You can refrigerate this Strawberry Butter if you don’t use it all right away, but allow it to come to room temperature before serving.  Or at least don’t use it right out of the fridge, because it will be too stiff.

Strawberry Butter

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup diced strawberries, fresh or frozen

In a small bowl, beat the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy.  Stir in the strawberries and mix well by hand.

Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator.  Bring to room temperature before serving for best results.  Best if used within three days.

Note:  You can use salted or unsalted butter for this.  The salted butter will balance out the sweetness.  And you can use fresh or frozen strawberries, but keep in mind the frozen strawberries may add more juice to the butter, and be sure to thaw them fully first.

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And click below for the printable PDF version:

Strawberry Butter

Happy Eating!

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Nutella Chocolate Birds Nests

Nutella Chocolate Birds Nests Recipe

We’ve made Chocolate Birds Nests in the past, but this year we changed it up…. by adding Nutella!

These Nutella Chocolate Birds Nests were a lot of fun to make with my girls.  It gets them in the kitchen with a combination of cooking and crafting.

And we also picked up a little Edible Grass this time around.  It’s easy to snip into bite-sized pieces with kitchen shears and adds a nice visual touch, but it isn’t necessary if you’re having a tough time finding it.  (And I picked mine up for half off after Easter – since these can be a fun treat all season long.)

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All our ingredients gathered and ready to go….

Since there is no actually baking involved, it’s mostly mixing and shaping and decorating, once the chocolate chips are melted.

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Melt the chocolate at half power, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth.

Then stir in the Nutella.

(And, yes, my kids are wearing superhero costumes while we cook.  That’s how we roll at our place.)

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I slowly poured in the noodles while they stirred.

Make sure all the noodles get covered in the chocolate mixture, because that is the glue that holds everything together.

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Spray some nonstick baking spray in the muffin tins and scoop in some of the chocolate noodles.

You want to be able to shape them into nests with your fingers, so with a small indention in the center, or at least flat as opposed to hill-shaped.  If it’s too bumpy and you’re having trouble flattening it, just take some out.

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Put three eggs in the center of the nest and sprinkle a little edible grass over top, if you like.

You can see that my kids also added a few of the confetti-like bunnies that came with the edible grass.

This recipe makes 24 nests, but if that’s just too much for you, you could half the recipe.  Or share with all the neighbors.

When you first make them, the nests will be gooey and will fall apart if you try to pick them up.  They are still okay to eat, especially for anxious kids who want to try their creations, but they’re much easier to eat if you let the chocolate set first.

Put the pans in the fridge for an hour or so to help the chocolate set (because if you live in a humid place like me, that would take forever at room temperature), and then scoop them out with a spoon.  Preferably a plastic spoon so you don’t scratch the metal.

Store them in covered containers, using waxed paper to separate stacked layers.

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Chocolate Nutella Birds Nests

Ingredients:

1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup Nutella
12 oz. chow mein noodles
72 candy-coated malted milk chocolate eggs (I used Whoppers Robin Eggs)
Edible Grass, cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)

Melt the chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl at half power, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth.  Stir in the Nutella.

Pour the noodles into the chocolate mixture and stir gently until they are all fully coated.

Spray 24 muffin tins with nonstick baking spray and scoop a spoonful of the noodle mix into each tin.  Move the noodles with a spoon or your fingers so that they are shaped like a nest.

Place 3 chocolate eggs in the center of your nest while the chocolate is still slightly melted.  Sprinkle a little edible grass over the top, if desired.

Put the nests in the refrigerator for at least an hour to allow the chocolate to set.  Remove from the muffin tins with the help of a spoon.

Store in a closed container in the fridge, using waxed or parchment paper to separate stacked layers.

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And here’s the free printable PDF of the recipe:

Nutella Chocolate Birds Nests

Happy Eating!

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Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Annnnnd….. now that it’s almost Easter, I’ve noticed that I’ve completely forgotten to post our St. Paddy’s Day dessert.  So here it is!  ;)

We made these Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Cookie Bars based off of the Lemon Cheesecake Bars that I love so much.  But we made these green (and mint) to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

They were a hit with both my kids and my coworkers, so I may try other variations in the future, since the recipe is flexible.

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The ingredients are pretty easy to pull together, especially if you already happen to have cream cheese on hand.

The base for it is a box of cake mix, which makes it a speedy dish to throw together.

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The crust will seem a little dry at first, but massaging the ingredients together will help.

If your kids like to get messy, this is a great job for them to help with.

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You’ll reserve some of the mix for the crumbles that go over the top, but the rest gets pressed into the bottom of the pan.  This is also a good task for little hands.

The crust will seem very thin but don’t worry, it will rise a little as it bakes.  Just be sure you spread it out to cover the entire bottom surface of the pan.

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I add the food coloring to the cheesecake ingredients before blending, so the mixer brings it all together evenly.

The more you use the deeper the color will be.  I was going for bright and bold because it was a themed dessert for St. Patrick’s Day, but if you’re going for a subtler minty look, start with only a little color.

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You can see tiny chunks of cream cheese in my cheesecake mixture because it wasn’t fully at room temperature when I mixed it.

This is okay, though.  It will still bake up just fine.

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Sprinkle the crumbles over the top for a fun look.  They also add a nice texture to the finished dessert.

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You can technically cut them into any shape you’d like, but I favor the rectangles.  I cut it twice lengthwise, and then cut those three rows into pieces about an inch thick.

This gives me 30 pieces, which makes it a great recipe for sharing!

Don’t eat these when they first come out of the oven and are still warm – chill them for the best results.  They can be enjoyed at room temperature too, but because of the cream cheese, you’ll want to be sure to store leftovers in the refrigerator.

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Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Ingredients:

1 box chocolate cake mix (15 to 18 oz.)
2 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
Green food coloring, gel or liquid

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

In one bowl, combine the cake mix, one egg, and the vegetable oil.  You may need to use your fingers to help it all come together.

Spray a 13” x 9” baking pan with nonstick spray.  Reserve about 3/4 cup of the chocolate crumb mixture for later use, and press the remaining batter into the pan.  It will be thin but should cover the entire bottom of the pan.

In another bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth.  Then mix in the other egg, the sugar, extract, and a little food coloring.  Beat until smooth, adding more food coloring if needed until you reach your desired color.

Spread the cream cheese mixture over the chocolate crust in the pan.  Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture evenly over the cream cheese.

Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with dry crumbs.  Cool on a baking rack until it reaches room temperature, then slice.  Make two cuts lengthwise and then cut into ten pieces across to make 30 pieces that measure approximately one by three inches.  Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving for best results.

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For the free printable PDF version of this recipe, click the link below:

Mint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Happy Baking!

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Fiona’s Luck: a Book Review

Fiona's Luck

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I’ve seen a few book recommendation lists that include Fiona’s Luck, which is written by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by Kelly Murphy.

I love seeing this book recommended at any time of year, however, because it is simply one of my very favorite picture books.

Both of my children love it, but of course it is my eldest, Fiona, who gets especially excited about it.  My girls love to find their names in books or movies, as most children do, and that was what attracted me to Fiona’s Luck in the first place.

And I am so happy I decided to buy it.

Not only does it give me a chance to have fun playing around with my horrible Irish accent (which is possibly more entertaining to me than my kids), but it delivers a wonderful lesson in the form of a fun and engaging story.

Fiona is a young woman in Ireland, living in a time after the Leprechaun King has stolen all the luck that used to be floating freely around the country, and locked it away in a big wooden chest.  He was upset that all of the luck floating around out there was getting attached to the Big Folk, and so he decided to keep it all for himself.

But he took ALL of the luck, every bit of it, and with no luck left floating around Ireland, a famine developed.  The cows wouldn’t let down milk, the hens weren’t laying eggs, and the potatoes rotted in the ground.

Fiona uses her wits to trick everyone into thinking that she is in fact very lucky by pretending to harvest potatoes and be overloaded with baskets of eggs and buckets of milk.

Her ruse works, and the Leprechaun King magically transports her to his throne room to demand that she return the luck.  Since she knows she is not lucky, she uses that to her advantage when he challenges her to tests of luck.  And though she fails all of his tests, she wins something much greater:  a little bit of the luck that he had locked away.  And as it turns out, a little bit is enough.

Fiona's Luck

Illustrations © Kelly Murphy

Amidst this tale of a woman who would rather have her “wits about her” than all the luck in the world, are gorgeously painted illustrations.  While reading the story, there is so much for kids to look at, and so many beautiful details for their eyes to peruse (like tiny sparkles of luck or hidden leprechauns).

The mood of the story comes alive against the soft natural colors, with the gloomier parts reflected by more subdued shades, and the lighter moments highlighted by the playful twinkling of the luck.  The friendly faces set against the sprawling Irish countryside makes for gorgeous viewing for adults and kids alike.

I highly recommend this book.  You won’t regret sharing the brave and spirited Fiona with your own amazing kids!

Happy Reading!

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Cinnamon Ginger Cookie Cheesecake

Cinnamon Ginger Cookie Cheesecake Recipe by Roaming Rosie

This past year for Thanksgiving, I created this Cinnamon Ginger Cookie Cheesecake.

It’s smooth and creamy and full of autumn flavors.  A perfect ending to the day.

I played around with some other recipes that are out there, and was happy with the way this one came out.  I utilized advice about how to make a cheesecake without cracking, and this one turned out nice and smooth.

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I love these Anna’s Ginger Swedish Thins.  I also used them in my Ginger Cookie Truffles.

I also used pure Madagascar vanilla extract and a stronger cinnamon.  I picked up the  Korintje Cinnamon and the vanilla at Whole Foods.

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By finely crushing up the two 5.25 ounce boxes of cookies, I got just over the 2 cups of crumbs that I used for the crust.

You could use a different cookie here, if you have another favorite, or if you can’t find these in your local store.  (I picked up the cookies at Walmart.)

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After mixing the cookie crumbs and butter together well, you’ll want to smoosh them into the bottom of your springform pan.  Grease the pan first, with either butter or a non-stick cooking spray.

A cup with a flat bottom can be used to press the crumbs down firmly.

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For the cheesecake batter, once you’ve mixed together the cream cheese and sugar, and then blended in the eggs, you will mix in the sour cream, vanilla, and the mixture of flour and cinnamon.

The brown powder you see there is not just cinnamon, it’s the cinnamon mixed into the flour.

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Then pour the whoooooole thing into the pan.

Wrap the bottom of the pan in tin foil, just to make sure no water from the water bath gets into the pan.

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You don’t need a water bath, strictly speaking, but it’s a really really good idea.

Just put the cheesecake pan in a larger pan and fill that pan with an inch or so of water.

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After baking for an hour, turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in it with the door closed for an hour.

Then pop open the oven door a little and let it sit in there for another hour.  Once that hour is up, take the cheesecake out of the water bath, trace a knife around it to loosen the edges (above pic), and move it to the counter to let it cool fully.  Then refrigerate it overnight before serving.

Now, this all sounds like a great time investment.  It kind of is, except that all these steps are really easy.  You could, theoretically, skip some of them … but the cheesecake might crack or not set right.  So I suggest taking the time to do it.  It’s totally worth it!

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Oh and there is one of my Turkey Gingerbread Cookies.  Those were super delicious too.  ;)

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Cinnamon Ginger Cookie Cheesecake

Ingredients:

2 cups crumbs from ginger cookies or ginger snap cookies, finely crushed
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) butter, melted
4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and set the rack in the lower middle of the oven.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and melted butter.  Press into the bottom of the pan.  Use a flat-bottomed glass to help press it down.  In a small bowl, combine the flour and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, use a mixer to blend the cream cheese and sugar until creamy.  Mix in the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time.  Then mix in the sour cream, vanilla, and flour mixture.  Pour into prepared crust.  Wrap the bottom of the pan with foil (to help keep out the water from the water bath), and place the cheesecake pan in a larger baking pan.  Fill the larger pan with an inch or two of water.

Bake in preheated oven for one hour.  Turn off the oven but let the cheesecake stay in the oven with the door closed for another hour.  Crack the door open and let it sit in the oven for one more hour.  Then, remove the cheesecake from the water bath and run a knife along the inside of the pan to loosen the edges.  Let it sit on a cooling rack on the counter until completely cool.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Refrigerate overnight before serving for best results.

[Note:  I used Anna’s Ginger Swedish Thins for the crust, but any type of crispy ginger cookie should work.  I ground up two 5.25 oz. packages which made a little over the 2 cups of crumbs I needed.  Also, using the water bath and allowing the cheesecake to sit in the oven with the door open helps to make sure it will not crack.  These steps are not completely necessary, but I highly recommend them.]

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Click here to print out the free PDF of the recipe:

Cinnamon Ginger Cookie Cheesecake

Happy Baking!

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