Planning Playtime

Planning Playtime: June 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lemon Brownie Recipe with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

I love all things lemon and I love brownies, so one day I was thinking and decided that there must be a way to make lemon brownies.  All the gooey chewiness of the brownie and the fresh flavor of the lemon.  I googled recipes but didn't come up with much that looked like what I wanted so I kinda made my own version of the recipe.  I used butter instead of oil because it complimented the lemon and made it extra delicious, but you can use oil instead of the butter.


Lemon Cake Mix
Lemon Jello Box (Small)
1/2 Cup of Butter Softened
3 Eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl combine the cake mix and the jello mix.  Add in the butter and mix with a spoon until crumbly.  (Try to mix a little as possible for best results.)  Then stir in the eggs until just combined.  Pour batter into a greased 9x9 inch square pan or for brownie bites, a mini muffin tin.  Bake for 15 minutes for the square pan or 10 minutes for the mini muffin tin.  Allow brownies to cool before frosting.

Lemon Buttercream

1/2 Cup Butter Softened
3 - 3 1/2 Cups of Powdered Sugar
2 Tbsp of Lemon Juice
Yellow Food Coloring
Yellow Sprinkles and Lemon Head Candies (optional)

Beat butter until smooth.  Then add the powdered sugar and beat until all the lumps are gone and the frosting is very stiff.  Add in the lemon juice.  Add in the rest of the sugar a spoonful at a time until you have the consistency that you want.  Add 5 drops of yellow food coloring or more if desired to get the yellow color you want.  Frost brownies or pipe onto brownie bites and decorate with sprinkles and candies.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

30 Minute Playtime - Week 3

So I missed a couple of weeks.  It's one of those things where I've been too busy to write about it, but the kids and I did do some fun things including a family vacation.  On to this week's list.  It's summer so I tried to think of some fun things that represent summer to me.  Here is the list:

Paper Airplane Races - Each of us get a plain piece of white paper to create a paper airplane out of.  Check out some "How to make paper airplanes" tutorials here or just experiment with folding the paper until you come up with something you like.  If you have the time let each of the children decorate their airplane with crayons or stickers.  Then starting at the same line take turns throwing your airplanes.  You can do contests for longest distance thrown, how high the plane will go and how straight it flies.

Domino Snakes - Gather a large collection of dominoes.  Place them standing up in lines to make a pattern.  The dominoes must be close enough together so that if you make one fall down all of the rest will get tipped over in the wave.

Water Balloon Toss - There are a few ways to play this game depending on how many people you have playing.  For few players, toss the balloons back and forth between two people.  Take a step backwards after each successful pass until someone drops the balloon.  For 4+ players, set players up in sets of two and give them a towel to hold as a team.  Place the balloon in the middle of their towel.  Working together they launch the balloon out of the towel into the air and to the other team.  The other team runs to catch the balloon in their towel.

Sidewalk Chalk Art -  This is a great summer evening activity.  Everyone has a chance to draw something on the sidewalk or driveway with chalk.  One of my daughters drew an amazing ballerina picture with a girl on one foot while the others traced each other in chalk outlines on the driveway.  Either way they were having fun with mom.

Jump Rope Competition - This one is pretty simple.  See who can jump rope the longest.  If you have a rope for everyone then do it at the same time.  If not, take turns and count as you jump.  This is great counting practice while having fun with the family.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Begging for Oatmeal

Oatmeal and I go a long way back.  I grew up on a steady breakfast diet of mush which consisted of whole wheat flour and water with a little bit of honey.  So basically boiled paste.  It wasn't our favorite, so whenever we got oatmeal it was a huge treat.  Then I went to college and got married, and I kind of went off oatmeal for a while.  I was doing couponing for a while and managed to get a years worth of cold cereal for free so we ate that a lot.  After that, I decided that I didn't want my kids to grow up eating fruit loops and frosted flakes so I made them oatmeal.  You can imagine that they were less than thrilled after eating sugary colorful cereal for a year.

As I was thinking of ways to make oatmeal appetizing for kids I remembered back to my nanny days when I saw an instant oatmeal that had dinosaur eggs in it.  The eggs were an egg coated sugar candy that dissolved in the hot water to reveal a dinosaur sprinkle.  It was super cool, and the little girl I watched loved it.  Back in my kitchen I realized that I had some left over bunny sprinkles from Easter so I sprinkled some on top of the oatmeal to see if it made any difference to my kids.  It was magical.  The oatmeal had transformed from nasty cereal to a cool treat because it was covered in colorful bunnies.

It's been about 5 years since we started putting sprinkles on our oatmeal, and it is one of my children's favorite breakfasts.  If we are using colored sugar sprinkles I tend to put less sweetener in the oatmeal while I am cooking it so it is still healthy.  Sometimes we use just colored sugar, and often we use the generic rainbow sprinkles from the store.  Occasionally though we do something special and make the sprinkles match a certain shape or holiday.  Some of our recent favorites were the Little Miss Muffit or Halloween Spider oatmeal and the Patriotic oatmeal.  My kids loved the flag on their cereal and have requested that for our 4th of July breakfast.  I'm loving that something so simple and inexpensive has made our breakfasts a more fun and healthy meal.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

DIY Father's Day Gifts - Candy Poster Edition

When I asked the kids what they wanted to give Dad for Father's Day this year my 8-year-old daughter responded, "I know. Let's go to the orphanage and get Dad his OWN baby so he can have someone to take care of too."  Lol.  Since we decided against that option we had to think of something else.

It's always a challenge to come up with the right gift because you want them to be able to make something personal from themselves, but you also want something that Dad want's.  This year we came up with the perfect kids diy Father's Day gift.  Candy posters.  Each of my 3 girls designed their own poster, and they are at different levels depending on age.  

My 4-year-old can only write letters and her name so we had to some up with something that worked for her.  She actually picked out the lifesavers by herself and made it easy to come up with something. 

The 6-year-old version was more fun because she was coming up with lots of sentence ideas and candy phrases.  We had to edit out just a couple of weird ones that didn't make sense, but for the most part she came up with it herself.  The spelling and handwriting is 100% original and un-edited, and you'll notice I let them do the taping themselves.

The 8-year-old version has a weird galaxy/star theme going on, but I like it.  She also wanted to give Dad a date with her to the movies so she figured out a way to make both work.  She had hers written up and planned before we even looked at candy options.

The girls had so much fun picking out the candy, thinking of fun sentences for Dad, and placing each of the candies on the posters themselves.  They can't wait for Father's Day, and I love that we have something for Dad that is personal, made by his kids and yummy.  Happy Father's Day Daddy!

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I'm sorry... - For What?

I’m Sorry!  I hear the phrase so much that I daydream about it sometimes.  Who first invented the phrase “I’m sorry,” and what on earth had they done?  It’s fun to think about huh?  Really, I guess I should be glad that my kids say the words, “I’m sorry,” but with the repetition of it that we see at our house, it tends to sound rather hollow and meaningless.
So the rule at our house is that if you do something wrong to someone else you sit in time out and then when you get out you go straight to the person to apologize.  Then I sit back and feel very proud of my mothering skills for 2-5 minutes until the child is back in time out for doing the same thing again.
That’s not how it’s supposed to work!  I just had them sit in time out and then apologize to the injured party.  How could they have forgotten so quickly?  Am I not punishing severely enough?  My husband and I don’t believe in spanking.  What else can we do?  Is it healthy to put your child in time out five out of every ten minutes, and is it going to do any good over time?  At some point one of us asked the question, “Do you know why you’re in time out?”  The child’s answer, “No.”  WHAT?  You just knocked down the baby for the 4th time.  You really don’t know why you’re in time out?  After some conversation, and a lot of frustration, we realized that she really didn’t remember why we had put her in time out a large percentage of the time.  So, No.  All of that time in time out wasn’t doing us any good because she either didn’t know or couldn’t remember why she was in time out.
We developed 3 strategies that changed Time-out and the Apology after for us.
  1. Lets Talk About It – We took the time to talk to the child about why they were in time out.  The best time to talk is generally near the end of time out.  You are more calm, they are more calm, and they are bored and ready to listen.  We made sure they remembered what they had done and that they knew why it was a problem.  We also pointed out to them why it was in their best interest not to do it again.  For example,”You love the baby and you want her to like you, but she will not want to play with you if you knock her down.”
  2. For What? – When the child went to apologize we made them apologize for something.  For example, “I’m sorry...  for knocking you down.”  There is a difference in “I’m sorry” and “I’m sorry for knocking you down.”  It didn’t really make a difference to the injured party, but making the offender say the offensive action gave them ownership of it.  They did it, they knew it and they knew what not to do again.  It was particularly hard for one of my children to do this.  She has her pride, and she didn’t want to say sorry to begin with.  When we could finally get her to say, ” I’m sorry,” she was done with the apology.  Before I would let her go back to play I would prompt her, “For What?”  For a while she would say I don’t know, and we would say the words and have her repeat after us.  Now she does it on her own most of the time, and if she forgets, a quick, “For what,” is all the prompting she needs.
  3. It’s all about the Love – I love my kids, they love me and they love each other, but that probably isn’t what they are thinking about during and right after discipline.  But your best chance at getting them to not repeat the offense is to remind them of it.  I’m not talking about saying, ” You know I love you.”  I’m talking about showing them the love.  After our new and improved apology and sometimes during, I tell my girls to look into each others eyes.  I do it in a bit of a silly voice and they start giggling and trying to turn away.  Other times I encourage them to give each other a Crocodile hug which is when they hug so hard that they both tumble gently down.  Whatever your method, I believe humor is a fun way to move on and remember the love instead of the frustration.
Last Sunday morning the girls got in a dispute that ended with the younger sister hurting the older one.  The younger one sat in time out, and when it was time for her to  apologize the older sister was gone.  I called for her to come, and I heard a muffled, “I don’t want to,” from the closet.  She told me she was hiding because she didn’t want to be hurt again, and she didn’t want to come out.  I asked her to come out so that the younger sister could apologize to her “beautiful eyes.” In response she stuck her little toes under the door and said, “She can apologize to my beautiful toes.”  I couldn’t stop laughing and neither could either of the girls as I had the younger sister apologize to her sister’s “beautiful” big toe.  I then had her give the toe a hug with her two fingers.  The door opened, the girls went back to play and had several hours of fun.
It’s not fool proof.  We still have time outs, but there aren’t as many.  That’s improvement and I’ll take it.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Pink Lemonade Cupcake w/ Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

I love pink lemonade in the summer, and since I also love cupcakes I thought why not join the two.  The cupcakes came out tart and lemony and so the sweet, rich, raspberry frosting topped them off perfectly.  I had to make these about 3 times over two weeks because we just kept eating them all.



Pink Lemonade Cake:

1 Box White Cake Mix
3 Eggs
3/4 Cup Buttermilk
1/2 Sour Cream
1/2 Packet of Pink Lemonade Koolaid
1 tsp Vanilla Extract


Raspberry Buttercream Frosting:

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup frozen raspberries, thawed and strained

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine cake mix and koolaid mix.  Then beat in the eggs, buttermilk, sour cream and vanilla.  You can add pink food coloring if you want a deeper pink color for the cupcakes.  The picture above had no food coloring added.

Line cupcake tin with cupcake liners and fill each liner about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake for about 11-13 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

While the cupcakes cool, beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar in 1/2 cup at a time until frosting is the consistency you want.  Then add in the vanilla and raspberries.  Mix until combined and then pipe the frosting onto your cooled cupcakes.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream inspired Cookies

I have a thing for Ben and Jerry's so when I had to make some cookies this weekend I allowed my obsession to inspire me.  These cookies are based on Ben and Jerry's Everything but the... flavor.  All I can say is Yummy!!  I'll be honest, one plate of the cookies never made it to the event, and the three that did were gone before dinner even started.  Not bad!  They were chewy with a hint of peanut butter, lots of chocolate and here are there a little bit of toffee crunch.  The white part of the cookie resembled a chocolate chip batter so the brown sugar/butter flavor was in there two.  Delicious!!

So here's what I did.


Vanilla Cake Mix
Milk Chocolate or Fudge Chocolate Cake Mix
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
3/4 Cup Butter Softened
4 Eggs
2 Tbls Water
1/4 Cup Flour
6 Mini White Chocolate Bars (I used Hershey's Cookies and Cream Bars)
2 Large Heath Bars
10 Small Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the Vanilla cake mix in a bowl with the brown sugar and half of the butter.  Then beat in two eggs.  Add half of the flour and 1 Tbls of water.  Mix tip combined.  Chop up the chocolate bars and peanut butter cups into medium sized chunks.  Gently stir them into the white batter.
In a separate bowl combine the chocolate cake mix with the remaining half of the butter.  Beat in the remaining eggs.  Then add the remaining flour and water.  Mix until combined.  Now we are adding the chocolate and vanilla mixes together, but we want a swirl effect and do not want them fully mixed.  I put the chocolate batter on top of the vanilla and pulled my mixing spoon through both several times creating swirls of the two mixtures.  Once you are satisfied with the mixture spoon the batter into 1" cookie balls and drop them on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for about 8 minutes.  Cookies should be starting to brown on the bottom but not the top.

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30 Playtime Ideas - Week 2

Last week I was in charge of a large family reunion for about 50 people, so we didn't quite make it through the entire list, but we did accomplish most of them plus a few.  One of our favorites was Roll tag and the Mini Pillow Fights.
This week we have some new fun things to do.  Here is the list:

Flashlight Tag:  Wait until it's dark, (a bit hard to do in the summer,) and give everyone a mini flashlight.  We usually use the small ones from Harbor Freight.  Turn off all the lights in the house and select a person to be it.  While that person closes their eyes and counts the rest of the family uses their flash lights to find a great hiding spot.  Then they turn off their lights.  When the person who is it finishes counting they can turn on their light and search the house to find the hiding players.  If they find you then you are caught and wait for them to find the rest of the players.  Once the have found everyone the first person they found is the new it person.  My kids are terrified of the dark and they still love this game as long as they get their own flashlight.

Bikes and Scooters Tag:  This game is a lot like it sounds.  It's tag, but faster.  We get out all of our bikes, scooters, plasma cars and more and play tag on the sidewalks of our cul de sac and our driveway.  Use all safety precautions for this game, but it is super fun.

Beehive Tickle Tag:  One person is it, usually mom, and the others keep a safe distance.  The it person puts their cupped hands together to make a beehive type shape and says, "Here is the Beehive.  Where are the bees?  Hidden inside where nobody sees.  Soon they'll come creeping out of their hive.  1, 2, 3, 4, 5."  Then they make buzzing sounds while they chase and tickle the other players with their fingers (the bees.)

Charades:  You can do these as individuals or divide into groups of two.  Choose a theme like nursery rhymes, Disney stories or super heroes.  Then each person or team acts out their story for the rest to guess.

Hula Hoop Competition:  If you have enough, everyone gets their own hula hoop and you see who can last the longest without the hula hoop falling down.  If you need to make it harder you can add complications like walking or jumping while keeping the hula hoop rhythm going.

Whose Line is it Anyway - Kid Version:  For this one I give one of my kids a scenario and they have to immediately go into character.  The rest of us join in and it is an instant theater production.  The kids love this one, and sometimes they give me a scenario too.

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