Custom Pancake Bar & Reading List

Custom Pancake Bar 1

Sometimes I forget that my kids don’t always know where things come from (“Is the corn in cans different from corn-on-the-cob?”) or where things go (“What happens to the water after we flush it?”).

So I like to show them the extra steps for things when I can.  Of course, I don’t have wheat growing in my backyard so we won’t be grinding that into flour to make pancakes completely from scratch any time soon.  But what I CAN do is grab some colorful books to demonstrate the process.

I wanted to make a “Custom Pancake Bar” with my girls to show them how versatile pancakes could be.  But even without the grinding of flour, I still wanted to do more than just stir up a box mix.  Pancakes are easy anyway.

We’ve drawn with pancake batter and celebration pancakes are always fun, but I realized that I had yet to post an actual pancake recipe on this blog.  I’m calling this recipe the “Overnight or Now Pancakes” because I like to make the batter the night before, but it could also be used right away.

I am not, by any means, a morning person.  So I like to get things ready the night before:  breakfast, school lunches, my coffee maker … whatever CAN be done WILL be done.

Like this batter.  All made up and left to sit in the fridge until needed.  I also set up the griddle and toppings and even our plates the night before.

Because having kids means I’m often required to do things before I’m caffeinated.

Which can be … interesting.

Custom Pancake Bar 6

We had a lot of fun with this, though, because we personalized all of the pancakes.  Some had just mini chocolate chips or raisins, others sprinkles, and some a combination of everything.  A few had walnuts and cinnamon sugar, which is quite possibly my new favorite.

My daughter even made a face for one with walnut eyes, a chocolate chip mouth, and sprinkle hair.

There are other toppings you could incorporate, like blueberries or pieces of apples or bananas.  Coconut is also good (kinda like I used on my Tropical French Toast).  Just remember to use extra butter when flipping to make sure it doesn’t stick.

Before I share the recipe, I want to talk a little about the books we read.  I picked them all up at the library, but I’ve included (affiliate) links to Amazon in case you’d rather have your own copies.

Pancake Picture Books

Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle

This one is great because it shows the ENTIRE process for making pancakes from scratch – including harvesting wheat and churning butter.  The colorful illustrations demonstrate that there is an awful lot that goes into making our meals, but the story is told in a way that is playful.

There is also a board book version of Pancakes, Pancakes that is abridged.

Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola 

This wordless picture book is a delightful story about a woman who wakes up and decides to make pancakes.  But she’s out of eggs and milk and needs to get some more from her chickens and cow.  She even gets maple syrup from a nearby farmer.  But when she gets back with the syrup, her pets have turned her kitchen upside down and she can no longer make her pancakes … but luckily her neighbors had the same idea!

The pictures are pretty straightforward but drawn in a charming way.  And because the wordless pictures are easy for kids to “read,” it works well for either story time or reading-to-self for even the youngest of readers.

Mama Panya’s Pancakes

This story is a little different.  It also includes some steps in making pancakes, like buying flour and spices, but it focuses more on the people doing the cooking.  It tells us about a boy named Adika who is headed to the market with his mother, who also happens to invite everyone he sees back to their place to eat their pancakes with them.  It’s a wonderful tale of joy and generosity with a positive message about sharing.

There is a recipe, but my kids were more interested in the background information.  They were eager to hear all about village life in Kenya, and as soon as I started to read off the glossary of Kiswahili words, my 7-year-old jumped up to grab a paper and pencil so she could take notes.  I loved the way this book helped me to show my kids that things as basic as shopping with mom or sharing exciting news with friends (or making pancakes) are universal concepts practiced all over the world.

The Runaway Pancake 

This is a fun story which is based off of a fable from Norway and Germany about a pancake who really doesn’t want to be eaten.  He rolls through the forest trying to escape everyone who is trying to eat him, but makes the wrong decision to trust a seemingly kind but very hungry pig.  It briefly mentions how pancakes are made, but the real draw here is the silly story and cute illustrations.  It’s also one a beginning reader can read on their own.

And now … back to the recipe!

I’ve made these to have a noticeable taste of vanilla, and strongly suggest that you invest in some Madagascar pure vanilla extract because it has simply done AMAZING things with everything I use it in, from cookies to cheesecake to, well … pancakes!

But the vanilla in the recipe could easily be halved if (for some strange reason) you’re not a big vanilla fan.  And you could stir in your add-ons ahead of time (like chocolate chips or walnuts or sprinkles) instead of doing it the pancake-by-pancake way.

The individual way was an awful lot of fun for my kids, but just make sure to keep safety in mind!  Remember that flipping pancakes can cause splatter — and nobody wants to be pelted with splashes of hot butter!

When it comes to making the batter, we did it the night before and stuck it in the fridge.  It’s easy for kids to put together, which makes it nice for them because they are so involved in the whole process.

One of the things I wanted to mention, was that we decided to add some extra milk to the batter the next morning.

I don’t know why I did that.  I blame it on the caffeine deficiency.

Anyway, my point is that the pancakes still tasted great, but were much thinner than I had intended them to be.  It’s not necessary to add the extra milk like I did.  If you follow the recipe and don’t add any extra milk, your pancakes will be thicker than the ones photographed here.  Just stir the batter when you pull it out of the fridge in the morning and start frying!

Custom Pancake Bar 7

I used an ice cream scoop to measure out the batter.  My oldest daughter measured out one or two, but I mostly did that part.

And (again) make sure there are plenty of reminders of how hot the griddle gets and how much we realllly don’t want to touch it.

Cooking is fun, but safety is important too.

Custom Pancake Bar 8

Some of the add-ons made things a little sticky, so make sure to add more butter, or non-stick spray, when flipping the pancakes.

You can see where we made some with only one topping, like mini chocolate chips, and others which were combinations of toppings, like the one with chocolate chips, walnuts, and cinnamon sugar.

Custom Pancake Bar 9

Don’t those look delicious??

You can see where the cake sprinkles seeped color into the rest of the pancake, but the flower sprinkles held their shape and color nicely.  Both tasted nice, and the thicker sprinkles gave a little sugary crunch to the pancake.

I put them on the platter with the topping side up and spread them out so you could see which was which.

Leftovers refrigerate and freeze nicely.

Let’s get cooking…

Overnight or Now Vanilla Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
4 tablespoons (half stick) butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Optional:  Toppings like mini chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles, chopped fruit, etc.

Combine the milk and vinegar and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes to “sour” into buttermilk.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk eggs, melted butter, and vanilla into the milk.  Then whisk the milk mixture into the flour until the large lumps are gone.  Make sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated, but don’t over mix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or use right away.

Before cooking, stir in any extras you’d like.  For example, you can mix in about 1/2 cup of miniature chocolate chips, blueberries, strawberry pieces, or something similar.  Or you can do the Custom Pancake Bar (see below).  For the Custom Pancake Bar, do not mix anything extra into the batter.

To make pancakes, preheat a large skillet or griddle to medium heat.  Coat surface with butter or nonstick cooking spray, and spoon about 1/4 cup of batter onto cooking surface for each pancake.  Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, then flip and cook 2 minutes or until browned on the other side.

Serve with syrup.  Leftovers can be refrigerated or frozen.  Makes 15 to 20 pancakes.

For Custom Pancake Bar:  Do not mix extras into batter.  Leave batter plain.  After scooping batter onto griddle, sprinkle your toppings over the pancake.  When it bubbles, flip the pancake and cook for about 2 minutes or until lightly browned on the other side.

*****

Click here for the free printable PDF copy of the recipe:

Overnight Or Now Pancake Recipe

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Happy Cooking!

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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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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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Marta Big & Small: Book Review

marta-big-and-small

I recently picked up Marta Big & Small, written by Jen Arena and illustrated by Angela Dominguez, and I just had to share it.

This bilingual book is wonderful not only for the understated yet adorable illustrations, but also because of the lyrical flow to the text.

As we follow Marta through the story, she is compared to various animals, so we are practicing opposites.  The comparisons are made in both English and Spanish, but in a way that sounds poetic as opposed to a school lesson.

For example, “To an elephant, Marta is pequeña.  Small, very small.”

This makes it fun to read while also being educational.  And my kids love to ask me how to say things in Spanish, so to have these words presented like this is something I can really appreciate.

There is also a spread where we learn the Spanish words for the animals.  For example, Marta is “fast like el caballo.”

I am also completely enchanted by the female-positive message at the end.  She is called “clever, very clever, like una niña.”  This is a fantastic way to end the tale that includes her outsmarting a snake who though she looked “sabrosa” or “tasty.”

Plus, we get another spread which lists the words in the book with the Spanish and English words side by side, as a glossary.

Fun to read and educational!  Can’t beat that.

Happy Reading!

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I Have Seen Beyond Infinity

From Beyond Lovecraft Quote

As you may have noticed, if you follow my blog, I read a wide variety of genres . . . but there’s a special place in my heart for horror.

I love how there’s so much you can do with horror, how it can encompass everything else, from science fiction to romance.

Anyway, I’ve been reading a little Lovecraft lately, and while he has many quotable phrases, this particular bit stuck with me enough that I felt I should illustrate it.

So I made this graphic.

It reads:

I have seen beyond the bounds of infinity and drawn down daemons from the stars . . . I have harnessed the shadows that stride from world to world to sow death and madness . . .

The imagery conjures something vast, something terrifying, but in words that translate the concept of cosmic horror with a sense of beauty.

Or, it does for me.

This quote can be found in From Beyond, a story from the collection The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft.

The photo features a small but very active galaxy in the Camelopardalis constellation and can be found on NASA’s website.

And you can find more images like this that I’ve made in my Quotes section.

Enjoy.  :)

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The Story of Diva and Flea (Book Review)

The Story of Diva and Flea

I am so happy I picked up The Story of Diva and Flea.  I may even love the book more than my kids do, and they really like it.

First of all, Mo Willems is currently my kid’s favorite author.  Seriously.  Elephant & Piggie are HUGE in our house right now.

But whereas Elephant & Piggie are more of an Easy Reader book for K-2 kids, this book is aimed at a slightly different crowd.  Not too different – if you look on Amazon, they’re both listed for ages 6-8, but this is a book that is more likely to be read TO them than BY them.

And I certainly don’t mind.

(Actually I adore reading the E&P books with all my funny voices, too, but that’s beside the point.)

Diva and Flea has a great rhythm and an excellent structure.  They meet, they both try something new, and they discover how wonderful it is to try new things – even if they seem scary at first.

There are three acts.  In the first they meet, in the second Diva expands her borders, and in the third Flea expands his.  They both face their fears head on  – with the support of each other – and come out the better for it.

What a wonderful, wonderful lesson for children.

The writing itself is peppered with so many fun details.  For example, Flea is a stray cat who considers himself a “Flâneur,” which is “someone (or somecat) who wanders the streets and bridges and alleys of the city just to see what there is to see.”  The part I like best?  “A great flâneur has seen everything, but still looks for more, because there is always more to discover.”

Little Diva has a tremendous fear of FEET because she is aware of just how “squishable” her small stature makes her.  But she loves Fleas stories, like the ones about “The Underground Rooms on Wheels” and “The People Who Drink Cough-Fee All Day.”  And those stories are part of what inspire her to explore they city.

Flea introduces Diva to the world outside of her courtyard and the “tower that could cut a cloud in half,” and helps Diva discover the bravery inside of her.  Then Diva helps Flea conquer his fears, which also grants him the gift of the thing he doesn’t have:  a home.

The illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi are beyond charming.  I love the perspectives of the tiny dog Diva, I love the facial expressions of Flea, and I love the colors and the dazzling backdrops of the Parisian setting.

Diva and Flea by Mo Willems

And that setting!

Ah, Paris, my Paris.

Many years ago, when I was writing my Travelblog, I said that upon leaving Paris I had left part of my heart there.  And how very true that was.

Paris took me in.  There is life in the very bones of the city, deep in the foundation, in the stones, and the hum of the Seine and the glow of the Tower against a gently falling night.  It calls to me still.

But even if you don’t feel about Paris the way I do, it certainly never hurts to explore different cities and different cultures with your kids.  The Story of Diva and Flea brings many things to your children, and, at the very least, is a wonderful read-aloud to snuggle with.

Happy Reading!

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Usborne’s Amazing Books on Shakespeare

best shakespeare books for kids

I am mildly (okay, that’s an understatement) obsessed with Shakespeare.

I’m not exactly a Shakespearean scholar or anything, even coming from a literature major in college, but really more of what I call a Shakespeare groupie.

I love Shakespeare and everything that he has given us, and I love to share the stories and the characters and the words with my kids.  My girls are still very young, but we’ve already seen multiple live performances together, watched some of the plays as movies, and done crafts and activities based on the plays.

And one of the original reasons that I became a consultant with Usborne Books & More is because of  Usborne Publishing’s amazing collection of books about Shakespeare.  Which is what this post is about.  I wanted to share with you how these books help to get kids excited about Shakespeare and help to research and understand his plays.

Though, honestly, I really got the books for myself.  My kids just get the benefits of having them around.  ;)

This seemed like the perfect time to share them, too, with this month being a worldwide celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.  Not a celebration that he died, mind you, but a celebration that we’re still so excited about and grateful for everything that he brought into our world through his art.

Talking about books seemed to me a great way to honor the words he gave us.  ;)

The books are much more impressive in person, however, than they appear from a simple photograph, so I’m first going to share a video review I made of the books listed here – so that you can see a glimpse inside of them and compare what they offer.  Then I’m going to list each book with a brief description.

Ugh … I don’t like watching myself on video.  But hopefully I was able to explain and demonstrate the books well enough for you to figure out what would be best for your household or classroom.  (Even if I did get confused and stumble over my words here and there…)

But if anything was unclear, or you have any further questions, please leave a comment here and I’ll do my best to help!

Here are the books, including the gift collection not mentioned in the video:

Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare

Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare

Recommended Age:  8+

Pages:  414

The Illustrated Stories contains retellings of 6 plays, all fully illustrated with artwork on every page.  It’s a hardcover book with a soft outer cover and includes a ribbon bookmark.

Plays included:  Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and the Tempest

Usborne Shakespeare Illustrated Collection

Usborne’s Shakespeare Hardcover Gift Collection

Recommended Age:  7+

Pages: 5 books at 64 pages each

This boxed set contains five hardcover books, one for each of the five plays represented, and each includes a ribbon bookmark.

Plays included:  Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo and Juliet

Sticker Dressing Shakespeare

Sticker Dressing Shakespeare

Recommended Age: 5+

Pages: 24 pages + 10 pages of stickers

This sticker dressing book allows you to dress up characters from many of the plays with over 160 stickers, from Bottom to Macbeth and Cleopatra to Hamlet.  Also includes some quotation stickers.

Where's Will Shakespeare's Hidden Characters

Where’s Will: Find Shakespeare Hidden in His Plays

Recommended Age: 7-11

Pages: 48

A truly fun and unique concept, this book of Where’s Will is the Shakespearean version of Where’s Waldo.

There is an illustrated summery from 10 of his plays, followed by a double spread illustration for each of those plays in which you must seek out characters from the play.

Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare

Stories from Shakespeare

Recommended Age: 12+

Pages: 192

This book is covered with a sturdy flexi-binding and retells 10 of Shakespeare’s plays with large lively illustrations.  Includes summaries of all of the plays.

Play include:  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, As you like it, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, The Winter’s Tale, Macbeth, and The Taming of the Shrew

The Usborne World of Shakespeare

The Usborne World of Shakespeare

Recommended Age: 11+

Pages: 64

Available in flexi-binding or in library binding, this book will thoroughly introduce you to Shakespeare.  Find out how he lived, what Elizabethan London was like, and why we still perform his plays today.

Includes multiple glossaries plus information about how to further research the topics on the internet.

Usborne's World of Shakespeare Reference Book

The World of Shakespeare Reference Book

Recommended Age: 10+

Pages: 32

Shorter than the book mentioned just above, this hardcover reference book contains similar information, but in smaller chunks and with a more colorful format.

That’s it for my review!  Overall, I highly recommend ALL of these books, but I understand most people aren’t going to rush out and stock up on each and every one of them, so I hope I’ve been able to help you decide on a favorite(s).

Also, be sure to follow me on Facebook where I have a habit of posting random funny or interesting Shakespeare stuff.  ;)

Happy Reading!

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