Saturday, July 31, 2010

Piggy Bank Classroom Kit

Little Ava is one lucky girl! Her mom is going to make a Piggy Bank for each of the party guests who come to her birthday party. 

Mom is going to set them out as decorations and then the little party-goers get to take them home as party favors. I think that the Piggy party decorations will be super cute, but I forgot to warn her that when piggies get together Them Piggies Is Crazy! 

Since mom is making all the piggies herself before the party, we decided that a Classroom Kit would be the perfect match. All of the crafting supplies, none of the prepping or shopping or organizing hassle. Pure crafting fun!

All the supplies are labeled and sweetly packaged (look at all those white styrofoam piggy legs waiting to be painted the perfect piggy pink!):

In a super cute reusable box:

With a birthday message that can be used as a table topper or birthday card:

It's party time made simpler!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Banking 101

There is a fort made of chairs and blankets and such.

Inside the fort is The Bank complete with a banker (me) and a bank president (Peyton). Outside the fort is a customer (Ella).

Before I can play Bank I must understand the very complicated way in which the bank operates. It's pretty similar to a regular bank. If that regular bank was operated by very strange and imaginative children who enjoy cheese suckers. I don't even know what those are.

Bank President: "Ella's going to put some money down through here and you're going to try to catch it in the tub."

Bank President: "But when she's done, she's going to put her card inside here. Ella! Not yet!"

Customer: "I didn't!"

Bank President: "Yes you did! And Ella's going to put her card through here when she's done. And she's going to push it over. And then at the end, and she doesn't have any money on it, and you're going to put money on it. And then you're going to give it to me and I'm going to put money on it. And I'll give it to you and you push it back through."

Banker: "Okay. And then she's going to take it?"

Bank President: "Yes."

Banker: "And why is there pee-pee in here?"

Bank President: "Because we have a dog."

Banker: "It's not potty trained yet?"

Bank President: "Umm... No."

Banker: "And why is there a dog in the bank?"

Bank President: "I don't know. Because he's awake all night and he sleeps at day so he's sleeping right now. Because when robbers come out, they usually come out at night. So he'll bark at them and he'll bite them when they try to get money."

Because my kids like to play Puppy they've made a whole set of Pretend-Play Puppy Essentials. They've created throw-up, poop and pee. I bet you can figure out which is which. I'll give you a hint: The throw-up has carrots and puppy food in it.

You are so welcome.

Bank President: "All right, Ella! Now, Mommy, remember, you're going to try to catch it."

Customer: "Wait Mommy! One more thing. Umm... You have to tell me how much I need to do."

Bank President: "Yes. How much buttons she has to pay. But don't say all of it."

Banker: "Okay."

Bank President: "But when she's done doing all the numbers that's done. When she's done putting all the buttons in there, you're going to have to dump it out to me and then I'll put it in the deposit for her."

Banker: "And that will go on her card?"

Bank President: "I'll put it in the computer and then some will go on the computer and when I slide her card, some will go on it."

Banker: "I'll take 5 buttons please."

Customer: "Okay! 1, 2, 3..."

Bank President: "Oh, also, Mommy, you can ask her if she wants a sucker, but she can only have a rainbow colored one."

Customer: "4, 5."

Bank President: "Ella, slide your card and then put it in there. Mommy, when you get it, when I'm done putting money back on it you're going to give her one of these money and put it there with her card and give it back to her. Get ready."

Customer: "Mommy, wait! One more thing. This is how you lock it and this is how you unlock it."

Customer: "Now what am I supposed to do?"

Bank President: "Now you're supposed to get some of this money and put it in there but when I give you your card back you're going to put it there. Here you go. You need all these coins, too."

Banker: "So how much is in on the card now?"

Bank President: "I usually slide it and it then it goes $1000. And you know what? If you work at this bank you get a lot of money. Because it takes up all the money off of her card."

Banker: "So she deposits 5 coins and she gets $1000 on her card?"

Bank President: "Yeah. But then when she comes back, she just paid $1000 plus 5 equals $1005. We have $1005. And then she's going to come back and do a lot of other stuff. Ella, do you remember what to do when you're done by the front of the bank?"

Customer: "I know, go home."

Bank President: "No, come to this side. And bring your money."

Customer goes to the other side of the bank: "Hello."

Bank President: "Hi. Put sticks in here."

Customer: "Put sticks in here. Got it! How much sticks?"

Bank President: "All of them, remember?"

Customer: "Okay."

Bank President: "Can I have all of your cash? Except for what the banker gave you?"

Customer: "Okay."

Bank President: "Thank you."

Customer: "Wait! I want a sucker, please."

Bank President: "One sucker, coming up."

Customer: "Wait, I want to pick which one I want, remender? Cheese, orange." (The customer says remember like that - remender.)

Banker: "I think we only have rainbow."

Customer: "I want rainbow and cheese and red."

Bank President: "All we have is two more left. Would you like two?"

Customer: "Yes. No! I mean four!"

Bank President: "Sorry, we only have two. Since you are almost the one hundredth customer...." (Makes computer sounds) "Here! A $9 million dollar bill!"

Customer: "Cool!"

Bank President: "And that's really lucky. Because when you come back, you don't have to pay. Will you slide your card?"

Customer: "Okay, man."

Bank President: "Before the bank closes."

Customer: (Slides card) "Good-bye."

Bank President: "Oh! Would you like a toy? Look in here and you can pick."

Customer: (Picks a toy) "Okay. Goodbye sir."

Bank President: "Goodbye."

Could you keep up with all that? Because I barely could. When my kids are trying to explain something to me, and I say, "Okay" it usually means "What the heck did you just say? I have no idea what's going on here. Where am I?"

AND we had to do the whole thing 2 more times so that we could each be the customer.

My sweet, sweet children.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Did you know that Chocolate Covered Strawberries are so so so so so easy to make?

For some reason I always thought that they must be incredibly difficult and time-consuming and expensive to create. Oh, wait, I do know the reason - because they are ridiculously over-priced in those mall specialty shops. It's a classic case of "Over-price it and they will come." Oh, and I did! One hundred years ago I would save 3 weeks worth of minimum wage salary at Wet Seal just to enjoy a single specialty strawberry. Sure, it was worth it. But that was a hundred years ago. Things change. When I figured out how easy they are to make, it made me reevaluate my view of the world.


I don't even measure anymore. That's how easy they are to make. You can check out an official recipe here if you want to be all measury and stuff. One more thing, if you don't have vegetable shortening, go ahead and make them anyway. Lots of recipes call for the shortening, and lots of recipes don't. I think the strawberries turn out better with the shortening, but it's not a huge difference.

Here's what you need:
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Vegetable Shortening

In review, just in case you missed it:


Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips and Vegetable Shortening:
(I used Hershey's because it was on sale, but I usually use whatever cheap store brand I can get for cheap. Reevaluate the world. Cheap. It really doesn't matter. Cheap.)

Throw some chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl or cup and add a large spoonful of shortening:

Stick the cup in the microwave:

Most recipes will tell you to melt the chocolate chips over a double-boiler. I read that as "An extra dish to wash," so I don't do it.

VERY IMPORTANT! Don't over-heat the chocolate chips. If you do, the chocolate will seize and get lumpy and hard and you'll have to throw it away.

Turn on the microwave and watch. Check the chocolate chips every 30 seconds. When they look like this:

Take them out. Stir until they all melt into this deliciousness:

Dip your strawberries into the chocolate and place them on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Stick them in the fridge for as long as you can stand it:

Or until the chocolate cools and hardens - about 20 to 30 minutes.


And, yes, I know you can make them all extra fancy by drizzling on white chocolate, blah blah blah. Let me just tell you about my Chocolate Covered Strawberries: See how mine are all fancy in a bowl? It's all a lie. I eat them right off the cookie sheet. As I stand in front of the open refrigerator. So I don't have to share them with my family.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sweet, Delicious Terror

This year we decided to take Peyton and Ella strawberry picking. I put it on the To Do in Iowa Before We Move to California list. So that meant if we didn't pull it off I would have a void in my heart that can only be understood by hard-core list makers. DON'T MESS WITH THE LIST! It's how we are. It's what we do.

Of course they have berry picking elsewhere, like in California, and I'm sure it's just as fantastic, but I wanted to do it in Iowa. Because I wanted to do it in Iowa. Because it's Iowa. But the weather in Iowa is so wacky that it stormed consistently from 8 am - 12 pm almost every single day. Those hours, of course, are the very hours that you are allowed to pick berries at the Berry Patch.

We had only few precious days left to cross everything off Darcy's Crazy-Maker List, so James and I finally decided: TOMORROW IS THE DAY WE PICK STRAWBERRIES! RAIN OR SHINE!

The next morning: It stormed. And we didn't back down. Because we're awesome.

We drove up to The Berry Patch. The lady in charge handed us a couple of empty ice cream buckets for the kids:

And pointed us in the direction of the strawberries and blueberries with a warning, "If it starts to thunder, GET IN YOUR CAR!"

And off we went to find the strawberries:

And the blueberries:

And it poured.

But it was hot, so we braved it. In our shorts and rain jackets:

And I'm so glad we did! It was so much fun! Within a few moments the rain stopped.

One for the bucket:

One for me:

One for the bucket:

One for me:

And as we drove back to the front to look for cherries, I heard a faint but steady buzzing sound. And then I saw (from the safety of the car with rolled up windows) what I can only assume are my worst nightmare. Bee hives. Just writing that makes me shudder.

When I see a bee in real life, and my kids are with me, I do the whole, "Bees only bother you if you bother them," nonsense that parents tell their children. So, basically, I lie. Because I know. And while I'm winning my own personal Best Actress Award on the outside, inside I'm slowly dying of terror. Same with wasps and hornets and every mean, horrible bug out there in the world. Because they are ALL after me. Because they want to sting me and bite me and make me die a slow, horrible death.

James zoomed in to take this picture so you could see them better:

I took this picture so you could see how TERRIFYINGLY CLOSE I was to them:

A mere moment away from swarms of Darcy-stinging terror. I KNOW!

Then we drove over to the cherries. Here's the deal with the cherry trees. They are covered with gazillions of wasps. Did you know that? It's true.

I walked in bravely, tasted a cherry just to say I did, and decided no matter how sweet it was (and it wasn't), I wouldn't be risking my life by picking any more.

James and the kids were a little more brave (obviously the kids didn't notice the wasps):

On our way out, James bought me one of the metal picking trays. We're going to polish it up a little and maybe paint the wood handle white. Aren't they cute?

And what did we do with all our strawberries? We made fresh strawberry shakes! Ella was in charge of deciding how many strawberries went into the blender. So you know that means that every last strawberry got shake-ified.

Delicious! Totally worth defying death.

And I got to cross berry picking off my list - crisis averted!


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