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Fun Friday: A surprising teachable moment

16 Jan
Freaky, yes. Educational? Who knew?

Freaky, yes. Educational? Who knew?

Have you seen them? Have you seen the Monster High dolls yet?

They are bizarre-looking, zombie-like dolls, about the size and shape of a Barbie doll, but clearly *not* a Barbie.

My younger kids love them. They have lots of them. The Monster High dolls room with their Ever After High dolls downstairs in the Barbie Dreamhouse, lounging by the pool together. The Monster High dolls have grey, green or blue skin colors (there might even be other skin colors, but these are the ones we have) and some really monster-ish features to them. They’re unique for sure, and we don’t discriminate on skin color at our house, no matter what color it is. That in itself is a good lesson.

But whatever, not everything can be a stellar STEM/STEAM learning toy, right?

Or can it?

Surprisingly, it can, and no one was more shocked by this fact than I was, believe me.

Now clearly, we don’t have any kind of toy rule or anything, where every toy we buy has to be educational in nature, or STEM/STEAM related. A toy can just be a toy, too, so I was shocked when it turned out that my daughter’s recent purchase of a Freaky Fusion Monster High doll, the newest in the Monster High collection, was found at Barnes and Noble Bookstore. Usually the bookstore sells, well…books. And devices, and learning toys. But a Monster High Freaky Fusion doll? That must’ve been a mistake.

We do have a toy rule with our kids that leading up to the holidays they are not to use their own money to make any frivolous purchases. They need to wait until after the holidays, see what they’ve received, see what old toys need to be given to someone who will make good use of them, and only then can they take their money they’ve saved as well as any money they received as a gift for Christmas and then they can make some spending choices.

Oh my goodness....

Oh my goodness….

The day after Christmas, my youngest wanted to purchase one of the things that was not brought by Santa, and not given to her from anyone else: a Freaky Fusion doll and a Recharge Chamber. This is when we say, “It’s your money, you saved it and if this is how you want to spend it, that’s up to you.” Sometimes we hope they’ll reconsider and think that it’s a silly way to blow twenty bucks, or in this case almost $50, but it doesn’t always happen that way. To me though, the true-er lesson is a week or two later when they have nothing left in their spending money and they see something they like, but now can’t buy because they own whatever it was they so desperately “needed” two weeks prior.  Financial responsibility…it’s a work in progress. They earn their money, they save it, they spend it, sometimes they’re happy they did, sometimes they wish they didn’t. It’s an on-going thing.

Anyway, I digress….

On December 27 we happened to be in Barnes and Noble looking for a different toy that was supposed to be educational for another daughter who desperately wanted it (and you’ll see that one on here next week). They didn’t have it, but lo and behold, there on the shelf was Frankie Stein and her Recharge Chamber. I just happened to have daughter #3’s money envelope in my pocketbook. We counted, we checked the price, and she had enough money. She didn’t want to shop around for a cheaper price or a better deal. She had the money, she wanted the doll, wanted the chamber and she got it.

Well now....wait a minute, what's that say?

Well now….wait a minute, what’s that say?

Imagine my surprise when I see the note on the box that talks about the fact that this toy employs the use of static electricity and then gives a spot on their website where the kids can go and watch some videos to learn more about static electricity! Well now…that’s kind of cool.

Did I make her go home and immediately find the link, watch it and learn about static?

No. By the time we got to the car, I was already on to the next thing, and I really didn’t care if this was a learning toy or not. That wasn’t my objective this time.

Did she do it on her own, unbeknownst to me?

Got Static?

Got Static?

Yes, and she actually learned something.

I know this because later on, on a different day when she was playing with the toy at the dining room table, holding her hand up to the doll’s hair as it flew out all over the place from the static, she told me about the Recharge Chamber, and how it worked and what static was, and why.

I must say, I was impressed, and surprised.

Shocked, you might say.

Get it? It’s a static electricity pun!

So…although this was not our goal, to buy a STEM doll of the Monster High Freaky Fusion sort, it turns out that we did. I say “we,” but really it was my daughter. She saved her money, chose what she wanted to buy, and chose an educational, unique toy and she was pretty happy with her choice.

Who knew?!

 

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals and the importance of eating together

14 Jan
Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Now that we’re back into our regular routines, we’re back to meal planning for the weeks ahead.

Over the holiday and vacation weeks we were eating out of the house so often, either at other people’s houses or at restaurants, that we had absolutely no meal plan at all, and practically nothing to even make a meal with. Once we got back into the routine, we had to sit down and start our preparations again.

One thing I had done over the vacation weeks however, was to keep a running list of the things the kids were asking for during the two weeks. When someone said, “Can we have Shepherd’s Pie for dinner tonight?” during those two weeks, for example, even though I’d have to say no because we were scheduled to eat wherever for whatever event, I’d go and write it down. Making our meal plan is tough because we have to come up with two full weeks of meals. Having a list of favorite requests made it that much easier the next week when we sat down. And, it was kind of nice that first week back to school (which felt as long as five weeks in a row, rather than just one), to announce at dinnertime whose special request produced that night’s dinner.

It’s also been nice to see the kids checking out the menu we post in the kitchen each week, looking forward to the dinner of choice for that night or a future night, especially when it’s something they requested. It makes me feel good to know that they like the routine of knowing what’s for dinner, and that even better, they look forward to certain nights of the week, just because it’s their favorite meal of the week. Our menus are nothing fancy, our meals are straightforward and our lists are posted on whatever piece of paper we have handy, and we cross off as we go, but it’s a routine we’ve established and it makes us all feel good….less stress, somewhat excited for dinner, and looking forward to eating together each night. That’s all good, and I’m glad we’re continuing to stay true to this routine of ours. I hope that in doing so, we ‘re creating good, healthy eating habits and family foundations for our family as we go so that once our kids are on their own, raising their own families,they’ve got a great foundation so that they can eat well and eat together.

I recently saw an article in the Washington Post about the importance of eating together as a family, and its many benefits. It definitely confirmed for us all that we already knew and believed about eating together as a family. If you’d like to read it, click here. We work incredibly hard to keep our schedules and meals consistent so that we can eat together as often as humanly possible, and although we’ve always seen the benefits, which far outweigh the effort it takes to pull it off, it’s nice to have our efforts validated every once in a while too! The article is well worth the read.

In the meantime, here’s two weeks of meals for you to get you started. I’ve even linked to a few of the recipes for you so that you don’t have to search the blog for them:

Sunday: Roasted Chicken Dinner

Monday: Shepherd’s Pie

Tuesday: Pulled pork sandwiches (crock pot meal)

Wednesday: Spaghetti tacos with meat sauce (could be eaten without taco shells or with)

Thursday: Paninis (we used the bbq pork leftovers in the paninis, SO delicious)

Friday: Homemade pizzas (we made three different kinds but here’s just one kind we’ve made before)

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: Chili

Monday: Ravioli (some of us had butternut squash ravioli given to us by a friend, others of us had cheese ravioli)

Tuesday: Garlic chicken and wine

Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie

Thursday: Fish Tacos

Friday: Breakfast for dinner

Saturday: Hamburgers and hot dogs

Sunday: Lasagna

 

 

Post-holiday review: 6 in 1 Solar Robotikits

12 Jan
There's nothing more rewarding than working on something mechanical and seeing it do what it's supposed to do!

There’s nothing more rewarding than working on something mechanical and seeing it do what it’s supposed to do!

As I’ve been mentioning over the past week or so during my post-holiday reviews, our over-arching theme for gifts this year was definitely a STEAM theme: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. Today’s review is for the Robotikits 6 in 1 Educational Solar Kit. I know that  we’ve often seen this kit in catalogs, especially the Mindwares catalog, and my kids have always thought it looked like a cool toy, but the kit we received from Santa this year was a less expensive kit, kind of an overstocks type of deal such as this one where you get the barebones supplies for a very low cost and your item is shipped to you just in a clear plastic bag with the supplies and directions enclosed. Not pretty in the packaging, but it’s very budget-friendly and you still have everything you need. I believe that this particular kit cost Santa less than $5.00.

This kit allows you to use one gear box and one solar panel and 21 plastic pieces to create six different solar powered machines: a windmill, a dog, a revolving plane, an airboat, a car and a plane. You can also use the pieces enclosed to try creating your own inventions.

The kit is for ages 10 and up, and our 9 year old was on the receiving end. It was definitely not something that she could do on her own yet, and we had to end up calling Dad to the rescue due to some initial confusion on my part. But, they worked on the project she chose to be her first one, a windmill, and then took it outside in the sunshine to give it a try. Seeing her face light up when it began spinning was priceless. You can catch a quick glimpse of it spinning in this short YouTube video. Even I was amazed, watching it go. It was fascinating watching it stop as you moved it out of the direct sunlight and then go again when you moved it back into the direct sunlight. You can hear my amazement and a little bit of our discussion about direct sunlight vs. indirect sunlight in this short video.

I think that projects that cause you to go outside of your comfort zone, that allow parents and kids to problem-solve together, and that produce a tangible result are great. This is one of those gifts. For now, our daughter’s windmill is proudly displayed in her bedroom, but she’ll eventually change it up and choose another solar powered machine to create. She may need some help with it, but she’s learning great hands-on lessons about the mechanics of solar power, and I think she’s really loving her gift.

I would definitely recommend this gift, and whether you choose to go with pretty packaging or bare bones, I think you’ll be pleased with the product itself. It’s been a great learning experience for all of our daughters.

Post-holiday review: Crayola Virtual Design Pro Fashion Collection

9 Jan
Art, technology and affordability all in one. More STEAM gifts for my kids this Christmas.

Art, technology and affordability all in one. More STEAM gifts for my kids this Christmas.

In my first holiday review post on Wednesday, I talked a bit about how my kids love both science and art, and how this year their Christmas gifts were a great combination of STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, ART and Math, not just the STEM area alone. Today’s product is a gift that is quite artistic and creative in nature, and yet uses technology as well.

The Crayola Virtual Design Pro Fashion Collection is something the kids saw on TV in a commercial prior to Christmas. It appealed to them immensely because for two years now, they have all three been students at Jerilyn’s Sewing School here in our city. It’s a sewing school primarily for kids, although it’s expanding now to include adults as well, since moving from Jerilyn’s basement out into an actual storefront facility, and it’s the only one in our state licensed to teach the Kids Can Sew and Fashion Design curriculum, which is a kid-friendly, step-by-step sewing curriculum. It’s a school I stumbled upon as part of my job when I was asked to cover their 2013 fashion show at the end of the school year. It’s an annual event that allows the kids to walk the runway, modeling all of the items they made during that school year. I was astounded as I saw dozens of kids of all ages from first grade through high school showing off items as simple as funky pillow cases, to as complicated as floor-length prom gowns for a senior prom. My kids had been asking to sew for years, but I don’t know how and I had no idea this even existed. I signed them all up the next month and it’s been an amazing experience, opening up a whole new creative avenue for them as well as a whole new option for a future career path in the fashion design and merchandising world, if they so desire.

As it is, sewing is a technical and mathematical skill but it’s also a creative, artistic skill. My most favorite thing of all, besides seeing their finished products, is watching them the day we go to the fabric store to pick out the fabrics for whatever their next project will be. I love watching their creative thought process play out in front of me as the compare fabrics and choose something that’s either “so me” or something that’s so unusual and out-of-the-box, that I can’t wait to see it come together in their next piece.

Designing on paper is only the first half of the fun!

Designing on paper is only the first half of the fun!

The Crayola Virtual Design Fashion Collection (which also has a car collection for boys) is a complete art set in a hard carrying case, which allows you to download an app so that once you have completed your designs on paper, you can see them on a model on the runway, virtually. We allowed the kids to download the app on one of our phones, since the younger ones don’t have their own phones until middle school. That piece is the technology piece and is consistent with real life. There’s an “app for that” for everything, including room design and fashion design, so seeing the virtual models walk the runway in the clothes they’ve designed is a great parallel to a real life experience in a career like fashion design.

Priced at less than $30, and with frequent coupons and sales dropping the price even lower leading up to the holidays, I think this makes a great, affordable gift for kids who are into design. With the advent of shows such as Threads and Project Runway, which make sewing “cool” and “trendy,” this gives kids a chance to do a little bit of what they see on some of the television shows, especially my own kids who not only can draw it on paper, and see it on the virtual runway, but also now have the skills to go in their room and create it for real, and even model it in a real fashion show through Jerilyn’s.

Virtual Design Pro 2

There’s an app for that!! See your designs walk down the runway, turning around to show both front and back, once your designs are complete!

As an added bonus at our house, our television has a Chromecast set up with it, allowing you to “cast” what’s on your phone screen (or other device such as a Nook for example) onto the big screen television. So not only do they see the virtual fashion show of model after model walking down the runway in all of their own designs, but they can see it here on the big screen. It was beyond exciting the first time we did it and saw it come to life on television.

Initially upon opening up the art portfolio, we thought that you could only use the types of media that were found in the case. However, my friend Gina, whose daughter also received this for Christmas, let me know that she tried glitter pens and metallic markers and those worked as well. The model shown here is modeling a dress which used a silver metallic marker and red glitter glue pens in the design, a perfect dress for the holidays!

The more designs you create, the more models that participate in your fashion show, encouraging kids to keep up the great work.

I’ve been so pleased with this gift, another A+ for Santa! I highly recommend it for girls interested in the world of fashion and design. It goes perfectly with our mission of keeping girls moving forward in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math!

 

 

 

Post-holiday review: Quick attach microscope

7 Jan
Can you guess what this is?

Can you guess what this is?

I’m slowly getting back into our regular school and work routines this week, but I missed blogging on Monday, my usual first post of the week. I had several appointments through the day that just threw my schedule right off. So here we are on Wednesday already, and I’m set to start off blogging about some of the fun gifts the kids received this year for Christmas. I do this because throughout the year your kids and my kids all have birthdays to attend and events that involve gift-giving and gift buying, and I like to post some great, affordable gifts that could be used by my readers all year long. If you see something really great, it’s nice to have it on your mental list as a go-to idea.

I know that everyone’s budgets are different, but nothing I’ll share here costs more than about $50. I know that if we’re buying for our own kids, our budget is higher and if we’re shopping for a birthday gift for someone else, it might be lower, so these gift ideas will have a good range for you.

The lens didn't come with this carrying case, but it's an old jewelry pouch I had which was the perfect size.

The lens didn’t come with this carrying case, but it’s an old jewelry pouch I had which was the perfect size.

Our girls have always tended to be kids who love hands-on activities, crafts and projects, but they’ve also tended to love, love, love science. They are interested in much of what the mayor of our city calls STEAM rather than just STEM. STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, but STEAM adds in the Art component to that. During a recent interview that I did with one of our high school art teachers, she talked about the natural connection between art and science and even the fact that long, long ago, the scientists depended on the artists for accurate representations of what they were studying and discovering; something I’d never thought of before. I used to think that Art was involving one side of the brain, and Science and the like involved the other, and never the two shall meet, as they say. However, over the years I’ve come to learn that’s not true at all.

This year, Santa did a wonderful job of getting a great mix of artistic and creative gifts and a great job of mixing in some science, technology and engineering gifts, and best of all, he seemed to find gifts that were affordable. Great job Santa!!

Or this? Any guesses what this is a picture of? Answers can be found at the bottom of the post.

Or this? Any guesses what this is a picture of? Answers can be found at the bottom of the post.

Today’s focus (no pun intended) will be on the Quick Attach Microscope, which is a small, amazing tool. It’s a lens that fits onto one’s hand-held device, whether it’s a phone or an iPod, and uses the built in camera on the device along with the lens itself to magnify things 3x their normal size, just as a tabletop microscope would. Users can use the camera on their device to take a photo of whatever they’re looking at, and save it to their device, magnified at 3x its normal size.

I’ve added some photos to my post on the left side that shows just a couple of the close-up shots taken using this lens. Can you guess what they are? Answers will be at the end of my post. We’ve been doing mostly indoor shots, but the kids are excited for the warmer weather to return and along with it, things like bugs and worms so that they can take close up shots of those as well.

I like this tool for many reasons.

1) It’s fascinating to use and see so many things around the house, inside or out, at 3x their normal size.

2) It’s small and portable, easy to take anywhere with us, which is different than a tabletop microscope.

3) No slides needed, and things don’t need to be flat to be magnified.

4) Your pictures are saved right onto your device for quick and easy accessibility later on, any time.

5) Affordability. Ultimately, things often come down to budget, and this tool, as amazing as it is, costs $20 or less, depending where you get it and depending on sales, coupon codes etc. Doing a search today, I found it here for $2.98!!! At that cost, you could get a bunch and stock up on future birthday party gifts!! You can even pick it up in store, if you have one near you. I am pretty sure that I can guarantee that Santa probably did not have such luck when he was shopping!!  If you can’t find it there, or it’s out of stock, here’s the Amazon link as well.

Now, I know you’ve all been making your mental notes as to what you think the two photos are, which are pictured on the left side of my post, so here you go:

Photo one, top of the page: Fur lining on the hood of a grey winter coat

Photo two, further down the page: Lips of one of the girls, not sure if it’s a lip selfie or if she took a photo of her sister’s lips, but either way, it’s lips!

We’ve also explored skin, scrapes, and human hair, for starters.

I hope you have enjoyed the first in my series of gift reviews today! Tune in Friday for the next one!

 

Saving My Sanity Holiday Chex Mix

22 Dec
This Chex Mix recipe literally saved me this year.

This Chex Mix recipe literally saved me this year. I filled an entire laundry basket with gift bags, plus a Tupperware Cake Taker full of the mix itself.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 20, 2013:

I think we’d all agree that the holidays are much more enjoyable when you’re not totally and completely stressed out.

Agreed?

Agreed.

That being said, this school year, the holidays and the treat-giving season that goes along with them, had the potential to put me right over the edge. And really, as a working mom of three this time of year, that edge is awfully close most of the time anyway, so I really didn’t have far to be pushed.

Normally, I’m a cookie baker at Christmastime. Between my mom and I, we bake over a dozen different types of cookies, creating cookie trays for our family and friends.

As a mom of three, I have always given all of our kids’ teachers a cookie plate at Christmastime. I also have given one to the secretary, bus driver and bus monitor, teacher aides, principal and I make a tray for the faculty room. I also treat the staff at my husband’s school to a tray of cookies in the teachers’ room, and then I make them for our family as well.

It seemed doable when my oldest was first in school, and even when two were in school. It started to get a little tougher when all three were in school, as well as my husband at his own school, but I continued on.

Then last year came middle school.

SEVEN TEACHERS. A whole new set of office staff. A principal AND an assistant. TWO secretaries.

A lot of people will say, “Oh, in middle school that all ends. No gifts for those teachers anymore.”

I’m not sure where that theory came from, but I will say I used to BE a middle school teacher, and I love cookies, but more than that, I liked being thought of at this time of year just as much as when I was an elementary teacher.

My daughter didn’t want to stop our treat-giving tradition, and I couldn’t find a good reason why she had to. And she didn’t want to leave any of her teachers out. So we didn’t.

This year, my husband has a new job at a larger school.

With 90 staff members.

I knew something had to give. I was not going to be able to do it. There wasn’t any way that I could possibly make enough cookies for all of the teachers and staff in all three schools and my family, and keep my job. Or my sanity. I’d be baking all hours of the day and night for weeks to make that happen.

There had to be another answer.

Simple, affordable ingredients, few dishes to wash. A win-win!

Simple, affordable ingredients, few dishes to wash. A win-win!

Enter The Tailgateista and her Homemade Crock Pot Apple Cinnamon Chex Mix.

That’s right. I said CROCK POT.

That was the answer to my problem, thanks to my Crock Pot partner in crime, Gina, who was also searching for another solution to the gift-giving issue. She’s the one who found this recipe and sent it to me.

We both decided to go with Chex Mix gifts this year, although we each chose a different mix to make, and today, as I type this three days before the last day of school before the vacation, I can honestly say that this saved my sanity.

My gifts are done. Cooked, cooled, bagged, tagged and ready to be handed out on Friday, the day you’ll be reading this.

And I still have my job and my sanity, thanks to this recipe from The Tailgateista.

I doubled her original recipe and made a few modifications to it, to serve my purposes. I will put her recipe and my modifications below.

I doubled the recipe SIX TIMES.

That’s right, six times. 72 cups of cereal, and the equivalent of 48 two-cup gift bags of Chex Mix.

And the best part of all? Not only is it a very cost-effective gift, but it cooks while you accomplish other tasks!!

For me, a journalist who works from home a good part of the week, I could type all day and my gifts were cooking themselves over in the crock pot behind me as I worked. Or, if I was working away from the house all day, I could throw in a batch at night to cook itself while we worked on homework and showers and cleaned up from dinner. Some days, I did both: a batch in the daytime if I was here, and a batch again in the evening or after school.

Phenomenal.

And delicious.

I’ll still be making Christmas Cookies this weekend, all our favorites, and I’ll still share them amongst our family and some close friends, but I won’t be cooking over the mixer and oven,rolling and frosting, baking and cooling late at night for a week in between working and parenting obligations, and still not  having enough cookies to go around.

We’ve found a way to thank our teachers and staff members for their time, talent and hard work without pushing me over the proverbial edge the week before Christmas.

I even had enough gifts to give out extras to people I have always wanted to give cookies to, but didn't ever have enough!

I even had enough gifts to give out extras to people I have always wanted to give cookies to, but didn’t ever have enough!

Below is the Tailgateista’s recipe and my modifications follow below it.

Give it a try, it’s delicious! Maybe this Chex Mix will be the key to saving your sanity too!

Ingredients

6 Cups Chex Corn Cereal
1/4 Stick Butter
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Cup Chopped Dried Apples

***You can also add Pecans, M&M’s, any other candy,dried fruit or nuts!!

Instructions

* In a microwave combine all spices, sugar and butter until it is melted.
* Add the Dry ingredients (cereal, apples) into crock-pot
* Add all melted ingredients into the crock-pot and mix
* Cook in crock-pot on low for 3 hours
* Enjoy!

I used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter instead of real butter, which makes this a bit lower in fat.

I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter instead of real butter, which makes this a bit lower in fat.

MY MODIFICATIONS

1) I doubled this recipe each time, since my crock pot is large enough to hold a double recipe.  ***2014: Another sanity-saving tip I have added in this year is using the plastic bag liners for the crock pot for every batch. The brand I used is an Aldi’s brand, Boulder, and they’ve been amazing. I would not make this again without using the bags.***

2) I substituted the Dulche le Leche flavored Cheerios for one cup of the Chex, (so two cups of Cheerios for a double recipe and ten cups of Chex.)  ***2014: Substituted Frosted Cheerios instead of Dulche le Leche.***

3) The butter should read 1/4 cup for a single recipe, in my opinion, not stick. I used 1 stick per double recipe.

4) I opted not to use the apples, because the first time I did a trial run, they burned.

5) I did not stir the Chex Mix in my trial run, which may be the reason why the apples burned. In every subsequent time however, I stirred the Chex Mix every 45-60 minutes while it cooked for the 3 hrs.

6) For my mix-ins, I used 1/2 bag of mini marshmallows, 1/2 bag of red and green mini M&Ms, and one full bag of white yogurt covered raisins, per double recipe.

7) Each double recipe with my mix-ins filled eight gift bags. For my husband’s school, I filled  a large Tupperware Cake Taker, normally used to carry layer cakes, with an entire double recipe, just for his faculty room. I sent in small plastic drinking cups for them to eat it out of.

Although cost is not always the deciding factor in gift-giving, it’s certainly taken into account. I think most everyone sticks to a budget when shopping for gifts. With each of the six double recipes yielding 8 two-cup bags of mix, and my ingredients costing a total of $40.68 for all six batches (I used coupons for the M&Ms and the cereals), these 48 gifts cost me $.85 per bag to make. I spent just under $2.00 on two packs of 20 gift baggies to put them in. Even still, that cost me less than $1 per gift.

Over 100 people will be enjoying my Sanity Saving Chex Mix this weekend, and I was able to accomplish it relatively stress-free and budget-consciously.

Have a great Christmas everyone!!

Pumpkin Palooza…My grand finale: Here’s to friends and pumpkin pie cupcakes

26 Nov

I’m thankful for being able to stay connected to friends from “way back when” who are both near and far.

ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 16, 2012

I went to a high school outside of my hometown, with kids from all over my state and a neighboring state. Therefore, I met people there I would not normally have had a chance to meet, had I attended my local high school. Upon graduation we all went our separate ways, but we always tried to keep in touch.

At first we kept in touch by letters and the occasional phone call, but today with technology the way it is, we keep in touch by email and things like Facebook as well.

We’ve attended and/or been in each others weddings, we’ve visited each other when new babies were born, and gotten together when one or another of us were in town, visiting from wherever we had now settled, and even bumped into each other at the occasional swim lesson or scouting events. Each year though, at Thanksgiving, we try to get together to share a meal, whether it’s breakfast or dinner, just to catch up before another year goes by.

The photo here is last year’s picture after our Friday after Thanksgiving breakfast. We have another one scheduled for this year. Pictured here are high school friends Lia, Jenn, Nicole and I. We missed Bethany that year but she’ll be there this year!

A delicious treat!

My friend Nicole is in the fushia sweater, and today’s recipe was posted on Facebook by her, a couple of weeks back. I printed it right away but I only just got the chance to make it this week. She wrote that she’d made these pumpkin cupcakes by Baker Chick for all of the teachers at her school where she is the school librarian. I bet they loved them! I know I did! They got thumbs up from almost everyone here at our house, and I thought they were even better the second day; just like a slice of pumpkin pie in a cupcake wrapper!

The recipe states that these cupcakes puff up when cooked and then shrink back down, which is exactly what they did. Baker Chick also says that the fact that they shrink down is great because it gives you the perfect place to squirt some whipped cream, and she was right about that as well.

This was an easy recipe and didn’t take too long. I found my cook time to be slightly longer than the 20 minutes stated, but I just kept checking them every 2-3 minutes til they were done.

I hope you get a chance to try these out this week! Thanks to Nicole for sharing, I’ll see you soon! Thanks to Baker Chick for a great recipe!

Two bowls, simple ingredients.

PUMPKIN CUPCAKES
INGREDIENTS

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 15-oz can pumpkin puree

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup half and half

 

Cupcakes puff up when they’re first cooked….

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or silicone liners. *If using paper liners, lightly coat them with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and half and half until well combined.

Add in dry ingredients and whisk until no streaks of flour remain and batter is smooth.

Distribute batter evenly in the muffin tin. (they should be about 3/4 of the way full.)

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool cupcakes in pan. (They will sink as they are cooling.)

Chill cupcakes before serving. Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

…..and shrink down when cooled.

Makes 12

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