Chore Chart

Awhile ago, we started a chore chart for Caleb based on a section we read in Toddler411. Toddlers can totally do chore charts, and after a few weeks (or however long you determine), the chore chart can be stopped and the hope is that the kids will still be willing to do the chore even without reward.

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For Caleb, the chore was to clean up after himself. Basically, we were getting tired of so many toys all over the place! After each row is completed on this chart, Caleb gets a new Hotwheels car. He sits on our bed and takes foreverrrr to choose a new car each time. He loves it.

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We increased the number of times he has to clean up to get a car, maxing it out at seven, so that he would get the hang of the process. Sometimes, it takes 2-3 weeks for him to clean up seven times since he is not even two yet :) But he understands the chore chart concept for the most part.

Today, he finally finished the first total chore chart after 2.5 months! It took way longer than we thought – but we thought he’d be sneaky and dump out his toys right after picking them up to get more stickers. Thankfully, this only happened once :)

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Since it took awhile and Caleb took a big interest in this chart, it was ripped down a few times and some stickers were removed – definitely time for a new one! Although this is the stopping point that Toddler411 talked about, I think we will continue with the chart since he is doing so well with it. In the future, we plan to add more tasks to the chore chart, and possibly use it for potty training.

So, here is a PDF of the chore chart that we used incase you would also like to use or share it: Chore Chart.

Bake15: Salty Pretzel and Mint Chip Chocolate Cream Pie (Pie #10)

One of my absolute favorite things to eat when I was younger (and, okay, now) was mint chocolate chip icecream… with pretzels. Dipping the salty pretzels into the sweet mint chip icecream makes for a pretty darn perfect combo. When I saw this recipe for a chocolate cream pie, I decided to use Joy the Baker’s Salty Pretzel Crust from Homemade Decadence and top the pie with her Mint Chocolate Chip “frosting”.

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I have started to realize that buttermilk pie crusts are a good thing. A really good thing. They are perfect for both sweet and savory pies, and the texture is just fantastic.

This crust from Joy the Baker’s Homemade Decadence uses salty pretzels and gets pre-baked before adding the filling.

The filling is from the original cocoa cream pie recipe that I found on forgottenwayfarms.com. It starts out very thick, gets very thin when the milk is added, and then thickens again to an almost pudding-like texture.

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I took another tip from Joy (although she didn’t write the cocoa cream pie recipe, she has a butterscotch cream pie in Homemade Decadence) and put a layer of plastic wrap touching the filling. This way, a film will not form on the filling.

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Once the crust and filling both cool, the filling can go in the crust.

Then, to get the mint chocolate chippyness, I wanted to add another layer on top. Originally, I planned to use Joy’s Mint Chocolate Chip “frosting” – I keep putting this in quotes because it is a very light and fluffy frosting with minimal sugar, almost like whipped cream – from Homemade Decadence. I thought it would be the absolute perfect topping (and still hold to that). However, I had no heavy cream. Silly me looked up a substitution that said a cup of regular milk + a tablespoon of cornstarch is a SURE substitute for heavy cream. Yeah, no. Not at all. Total fail!!! So I decided to try more of a thick layer of mint chocolate goodness, and it’s a lot on the sweet side. Totally disappointing! I am not even putting that part of the recipe on here because I don’t want you to try it.

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Next time, no substitutes.

 

The pie was still really good, though – in very, very small slices! I highly recommend this cocoa cream pie – it’s very easy, and super good. I also obviously recommend reading Homemade Decadence, since I’ve mentioned it about 21491287 times so far in this post.

The pie ratings:

The pie rating scale is a Mike-determined scale from 1 – 10, with a 5 being the “classic, homemade apple pie”, and 10 being the highest rating.

Emily: 6 – although I think this would go up quickly if I tried again with the right topping.

Mike: 6.5

Gardening Books

 

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I recently read a lot of gardening books. A LOT. And some of them were really great!

How to grow Perennial Vegetables: not totally what I was looking for. This was a very glazed-over book.

Edible Spots & Pots: My absolute favorite of the books. Every pages was worthwhile and contained a wealth of information. This seriously helped me plan out my garden well!

Gardening Lab for Kids: A wonderful read that has awesome ideas for kids of all ages. I would love to get Caleb involved with gardening, even if it’s just in growing a few seedlings or making a few garden stones! There is lots to learn and teach when it comes to gardening.

Homegrown Harvest: This is a season-by-season book that I think would be better suited for those who can do year-round gardening – which obviously doesn’t happen in New York! I also didn’t think that the book went into enough detail about actually planting anything in the garden. There were some helpful plant and harvest charts in the back of the book.

Groundbreaking Food Gardens: This was another favorite. If I had really read the synopsis, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up, but I really liked the cover (haha!). This book goes through the designs of many different gardens, and was very helpful for figuring out how to divide up my gardening land and plan everything out. There are tons (or, specifically, 73) different ideas for all types of yards.

Gardening 101: If you want to see oldschool pictures of Martha Stewart, this book is your book! It was a little broad for me, and went through gardening LOTS of items, including trees.

So, if you are looking for a good gardening read, Groundbreaking Food Gardens and Edible Spots & Pots are two that you should definitely check out!

Bake15: Blood Orange Meringue Pie (Pie #9)

I got blood oranges recently. DELICIOUS, right? And also beautiful. Probably my favorite fruit to look at – there are natural gradients!

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I figured that it might be cool to do a blood orange meringue pie – like instead of a lemon meringue pie. It sounded good! But did not end up very well.

^ This crust though? Awesome. It has pecans in it. I’d totally use that again.

I think this was the killer. A layer of raspberry jam at the bottom. It made the pie WAY too sweet for my taste.

The filling looks a little… neon… when the blood orange juice is added.

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But lightens up with sweetened condensed milk (which always sounds so good, but was probably also an additive to the mega-sweetness…) All of those little floaties at the top are bits of orange / orange zest.

Last was the meringue – which I had never made before!! It was easy and fun to make. 

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So then the recipe said to put the meringue on the filling without cooking the filling first. This was a pretty big red flag for me, but I figured that I would ACTUALLY FOLLOW THE RECIPE (for once in my life), and I regret it.

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The whole pie baked at once.

And ended up looking like this, which doesn’t look so hot in my opinion.

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But this here picture looks a little bit better!

This is the recipe from food.com.

The pie ratings:

The pie rating scale is a Mike-determined scale from 1 – 10, with a 5 being the “classic, homemade apple pie”, and 10 being the highest rating.

Mike: 4

Emily: 2

This pie was way too sweet, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the consistency. Unfortunately, not a winner.

The easiest (and cutest) toddler Valentine craft

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! And while I have no idea what Mike and I are doing, if anything, Caleb and I already made our Valentines. They are obviously adorable and I kind of want to keep one for myself. That would be fine, right?

Supplies:

  • Cardstock (8.5″ x 11″)
  • Marker
  • Tissue or origami paper
  • Scissors
  • Elmer’s glue

We used the full 8.5″ x 11″ paper for a few very special Valentines and also made quarter-sheet Valentines – the size is up to you! Determine your paper size, draw a heart, write “I love you to pieces”, and cut tissue or origami paper into 2″ x 1″ rectangles or smaller. Then hand it over to your kiddo for some art action!

The plan was to have Caleb dip the pieces in glue and then stick them inside the heart… but that didn’t last for so long. What he enjoyed much better (being the messy boy that he is) was putting glue all over the heart and then making the pieces “rain down” onto the heart. This also ended up working out a lot better for his *ahem* short attention span.

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Easy crafts are always the best crafts for the little guys… especially when you get to share the results with others!

Adapted from babyology.com.au.

Bake15: Grandma’s Blueberry Pie (Pie #8)

Some days in the winter, a girl just wants blueberries. Am I right, or am I right? Those are the days when Grandma’s handy pie recipes come out of the cabinet. You just can’t go wrong.

I also wanted to play around with low contrast “faded” photos, so we’ll just call it a ‘vintage’ feel that goes along with Grandma’s recipe.

The pie crust is shortening + flour + salt.

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And then some water. The recipe says 4 – 5 tablespoons, but I find that 5 tablespoons is definitely the best for a flaky crust.

The dough gets divided for a bottom and top crust. Once rolled out, put the bottom crust in the pie pan.

PS – check out how cool this pie plate is!!! It is nerdy and awesome and such a great Christmas gift from my Uncle.

The filling is simple: blueberries, sugar, and corn starch. And, ironically, the blueberries are from my Grandparents’ garden. So this really IS Grandma’s blueberry pie.

Once fully mixed, it looks like this, and goes straight into the pie crust. No pre-baking this time.

While you are filling the pie, it’s possible that someone might sneak pie dough.

And continue to sneak pie dough from the actual pie as you add butter. 1/2 tbsp cut up into small pieces, set around the filling.

Then the top pie crust goes on and gets pinched together. Here’s where that extra tablespoon of water comes in handy for the crust: it’s so easy to pinch together and stays really well! Worth it.

As a part of the Christmas present from my Uncle, I also received a pie crust shield that I wanted to try out. Burnt crust is the worst!

It is a super flexible silicon shield that protects both the top and sides of the crust.

There are notches on the side to keep it in place so that it can be used for different sized pie pans. Super convenient!

I also got this lovely pie drip catcher… which my oven and my husband will be thanking my Uncle for. No more burning fruit filling smell coming from the oven! Woohoo!

The pie plate ends up sitting atop of a silicon ring in the middle of the drip pan so that air can still flow around the pie.

Cue music: Isn’t she loooovely? Isn’t she wonderful?

Look at that beautiful crust!!! The pie crust shield did a great job. The crust got a little smushed, but it was perfectly golden and not burnt at all! I guess the packaging was right when it said that the pie crust would get a nice tan.

Then… eat. Maybe two pieces. Grandma would approve, right?

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The pie review:

Crust: This is the classic crust, in my view – although, it is the crust my family uses for pies. I love it because it’s simple and so flaky. LOVE.

Filling: Super basic. Blueberries don’t need any additional spices, and the amount of sugar is perfect for the pie.

Overall: It’s Grandma’s pie. It’s delicious.

The pie ratings:

The pie rating scale is a Mike-determined scale from 1 – 10, with a 5 being the “classic, homemade apple pie”, and 10 being the highest rating.

Emily: 9.5

Mike: 9

Grandma’s Blueberry Pie

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp shortening
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp cold water
  • 4 cups of blueberries (I used 9 cups of frozen blueberries)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp corn starch (use 4 tbsp if using frozen blueberries)
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter

Directions:

  1. Defrost blueberries if needed – straining liquid and/or patting with paper towels.
  2. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  3. Combine flour, salt, and shortening in a large bowl with a pastry cutter.
  4. Once combined, add 5 tbsp water to the crust mixture, making sure to disperse the water over the entire mixture. Mix with a fork to form a ball of pie dough.
  5. Separate pie crust dough into two pieces. Roll out each piece of pie dough into a 13″ circle. I like to roll the dough out between two pieces of wax paper – this way, it is “portable” and won’t stick to the counter, and it’s very easy to transfer to the pie dish.
  6. Transfer one of the pie crust pieces to the pie plate.
  7. Combine blueberries, sugar, and corn starch in a medium bowl to make the filling. Transfer the filling to the pie dish.
  8. Place the second pie crust on top of the pie. Trim the pie crust edges and pinch together.
  9. Cut a few slits in the middle of the pie with a knife to allow proper ventilation.
  10. Add on your pie crust shield and place the pie pan on a pie drip pan, if needed.
  11. Bake pie for 40-50 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the top is turning golden.

Annual Memory Jar + Line a Day Journal

For two years now, Mike and I have been keeping an annual memory jar: aka, a giant yarn-covered coffee can.

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We seriously just think it’s the best. Ticket stubs, hotel cards, save the dates, hospital bracelets, placecards, programs, birthday candles, maps, invitations, you name it… If there’s a memory (good or bad) associated, it goes into the jar.

It is so much fun and super easy to keep up! We put the can on top of our china cabinet and add things to it whenever we remember. Or sometimes when I clean out my purse and find ticket stubs and hotel keys from the previous 4 months…

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On New Year’s Eve, we take everything out of the jar and go over all of our memories from the past year. There are always so many events we forgot about or say, “Wow! That happened this year?!” We love this way of reminiscing.

The best are always the quotes. If something funny is said, we write it down with a date. Half the time, by December 31, we have absolutely no clue what the quote is about. Other times, they’re just hysterical, like so:

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This year, I also purchased a line-a-day journal that can be kept for five years (which Samson is apparently very interested in). I got my mom this one for her birthday.

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Each day has it’s own page, and you write the year number and a line about what happened that day. Then, you continue for five years. It’s an easy way to see what happened on a certain day over a period of time – and I can totally handle a line a day. I always try to start heavy-duty journaling and I just can’t keep the commitment. Maybe this will help me start a journaling habit :)

This is also pretty similar to the notecard memory calendar idea – except it’s compact, and if someone drops it, cards don’t go all over the place. (It’s possible that I might be speaking from personal experience with the notecard calendar. Total disaster.)

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I think that these will both be longheld traditions in our family. We’ve already started adding to our memory jar for 2015…!