Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Old Fashioned Apple Crisp

What do you do when your neighbor gives you lots of apples from their apple tree?  Well, you make some yummy apple treats.  I chose to make apple crisp, but could have made apple pie, apple sauce, apple fritters, baked apples, or just eaten them plain.  I looked online for a good apple crisp recipe and decided to make THIS ONE from Life Love Liz.

Apple crisp is easy to make. 
1. Cut up the apples.  Peeling them is optional

2.  Layer your baking dish with apples.

3. Top with the cinnamon/oat mixture.  Check out this link for the recipe.

4. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes.

Look how delicious this looks.  

You could eat it straight from the oven, or add some vanilla ice cream on top.

Apple crisp and apple pie are yummy fall desserts.  I made this the other week when the weather in PA was actually feeling like fall.  Now it's back to being a bit hot and humid, but I'll take that over wildfires and hurricanes any day.

Oh, and if you are looking for a way to take your apple pies to the next level, check out these awesome pie crusts from So Yummy.  Some of them don't seem that difficult, even I might be able make them.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Whoopie Pie Festival

Saturday the kids and I went to the Whoopie Pie Festival in Lancaster, PA.  I don't know many years this festival has been going on, or why I've not heard about it sooner, but I couldn't pass up a day devoted to this delicious treat.  My poor hubby had to work and missed out on all the deliciousness.  We ate all of our Whoopie Pies before we got home so he never got to taste how good they were.  Guess that means we'll be going back next year.


In case you're wondering what a Whoopie Pie is, it's a popular Lancaster County dessert, kind of like a mini cake the size of a hamburger.  They come in all kinds of flavors too.  

I'm finding that the best time to go to activities is just after lunchtime, when most of the families with little kids are heading home for lunch and to put their little ones down for a nap.  Although my little guy still takes a nap, he is OK to skip one every now and again.  We got there right about 1pm and didn't have to wait in any lines.

Besides buying Whoopie Pies, there were fun activities for the kids.  Even better was that a lot of it was free!

Here my two youngest are on a Whoopie Pie treasure hunt.  Mini Whoopie Pies (about the size of cookie) were wrapped in foil for the kids to find.  It was pretty easy for them to find, and they were allowed a maximum of 5 Whoopie Pies each.  And if you found a Whoopie Pie wrapped in a gold foil, you won an extra prize.  This was a free activity.  3 out of 4 of my kids participated in this so we came away with 15 mini Whoopie Pies.  Of course the kids (and I) had to start eating them right away.

Other activities included a free Whoopie Pie race and a prize for the fasted team.  This involved going around certain obstacles and performing various tasks such as spinning around with your head on a baseball bat.  You raced in teams of two and since none of my kids wanted to do this with me, we had to pass.  

There was also a Whoopie Pie launch.  This was $2 for 3 launches and a prize given to the person who came closest to hitting the target.  My kids didn't want to do this one either, I think they just wanted to eat Whoopie Pies.

Checkers was a fun game to play.  At $2 per person and you got to keep all the Whoopie Pie checker pieces, it was a great deal.  When you got 'kinged' the gals working the booth would add half a Whoopie Pie to the top of your piece.  So in the end we had over 2 dozen Whoopie Pies to eat. 

While the girls were playing a serious game of checkers, the boys had fun at the pond watching the ducks and skipping stones.  My oldest son doesn't like crowds (it's an autism thing) and since there were about 6 checkers games going on at once, it was a bit too crowded for him.  Then there's my younger son who loves food and just wanted to eat all the Whoopie Pie checker pieces, so having them go off together worked out perfectly.  And since it wasn't very crowded overall, I could easily keep an eye on them.

There was a make your own Whoopie Pie station and for $2 you could put together your own creation.  Everyone was given the same supplies:  chocolate cakes, vanilla cream and a baggie of toppings such as mini candies and gummies.  My kids had fun making their own Whoopie Pies but I was hoping for more variety/flavors to choose from.

At the far end of the field was a barn with geese and two tables with more free kids activities.

Once again we split up, this time the boys checked out the geese while the girls did the activities.

The Lancaster Science Factory was there showing the kids how to make slime.  There was also a local art studio (Zole Art Factory) there letting the kids paint necklace pendants.  

And just so you don't think this event was just for the kids.  Various crafters had tents set up to display and sell their wares.  

Home decor, jewelry, candles, pet supplies and women's accessories were some of the wares available to purchase.  I saw these cute wooden pumpkin blocks and think I could DIY this myself.  

Besides crafts there was lots of food for sale like burgers and chicken.  All in all, we only stayed for about two hours which was perfect for my kids attention spans. We didn't stay for the Whoopie Pie eating contest, my son who previously said he'd do it, decided not to.  It was a shame because I think he really could have had a chance at winning.  I mean that boy can eat and eat and eat.  

We ended out adventure by walking past the world's largest Whoopie Pie. 

Anyone else ever been to a Whoopie Pie festival?  I know Lancaster isn't the only town to host one.  

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Moving Fish

This summer went by way too fast.  Between vacations, camps and summer school, we were definitely busier than in previous years.  I loved it though, and am a little sad to see it come to an end. But, they must go back to school.  I can't believe it's the second week of school already.  Granted last week and this week are just 4 day weeks for them, but I'm glad they (and I) can ease back into our new routine.

The other day, I saw this video on how to make a moving fish.  It looked easy, so we just had to try it.  krokotak.com has all kinds of cute paper crafts for kids to make, be sure to check it out for yourself.

The video and pictures at that link show each step in creating this moving fish, so I'll just show you our finished product.  I made these with my 2, 6 and 12 year olds.  Of course I helped my 2 year old cut and glue but he wasn't very interested in making it.  My 6 year old tried to do it herself and got frustrated.  But my 12 year old was able to complete it on her own.  She enjoyed making it more than playing with it, whereas my 2 year old loved playing with it.  Later that day we went out and he had to wear it on his hand during the car ride.  So I'd say this craft is more for older kids to make and younger kids to play with.  

They were pretty easy to make and didn't take too long either.  You could do all sorts of colors and shapes of fins, making an entire school of fish.

And speaking of fish, check out this whooper my little guy caught while on vacation.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

Earlier today we got to witness a solar eclipse.  


Being in PA, we weren't in the path of totality, however we did see a partial eclipse.  It wasn't very dramatic though.  The sky didn't really get any darker but we did have fun viewing it with some old school methods.

Here is my daughter showing off the pin hole viewer we made.  And yes, it really worked.

My son thought he could view it by wearing all of our sunglasses at once.  I had to tell him that still wasn't considered safe.

In PA, our part of the eclipse began around 1:18pm and lasted until almost 4pm.  The darkest part was to occur at 2:41pm.  Shortly before the eclipse was about to start the clouds came in to block our view.

They occasionally parted and we were able to see the eclipse.

We had lunch outside while we waited.  Aside from a few clouds that just happened to be right where the sun was, it was a beautiful day.

You can't tell from the pictures but this is the darkest part of the eclipse.  I think we were in the path that was only getting 70% of a total eclipse.

The pin hole viewer actually did work.  Looking into it over time, you could see the shape of the sun changing.

Several neighborhood friends happened to stop by to play with my youngest daughter right before the darkest part of the eclipse so I made them come watch it with me.  Her friends had their own homemade eclipse viewers.  These were just a hole poked through some cardboard.  You could see the shape of the sun from the shadow it cast on the ground.

We used sidewalk chalk to trace the shadow.  The sun went from being a "C" shaped crescent, to being a "U" shaped crescent to being a backwards "C" shaped crescent throughout the eclipse.  This was a neat way for the kids to see the eclipse happening and how the image of the sun was changing even though we couldn't see it get any darker outside.

In case you missed the eclipse or would like to see what it looked like in different areas across the country, you can check out THIS LINK from NASA.

And, if you'd like to plan ahead for the next eclipse, it will be taking place on April 8, 2024.  It will take a different path and be visible from Mexico through the central United States into Eastern Canada.  According to THIS LINK, PA will be able to see 90% of the total eclipse, whereas the path of totality will from from Texas to Maine.

So what did you think of the eclipse?  How did you view it?  Are you thinking of making plans to see the next one?  I was disappointed that we didn't get any darkness, but it looks like I won't have to travel to see it for the next eclipse since we'll be in the 90% path.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

DIY Cinder Block Umbrella Stand

I've been slowly but surely updating my patio and making it more kid friendly.  When I created the Kids Rock Garden, I knew it would needed to be shaded.  Adding an umbrella next to that area would certainly provide shade and since we already have an umbrella at our patio table, I just bought the same color for the kids play area.   Next up was to find just the right umbrella stand. I wanted it sturdy but didn't want to pay the $50+ price tags for the options out there.  That lead me to see if there was a cheaper yet sturdier DIY option.  Of course there was and it only cost $6.21!

In the past,we've had a couple of those offset cantilever umbrellas.  Below is a picture of one from amazon for a really good price, but I wouldn't buy one again because we haven't had much luck with them.
I like them because they are out of the way and the kids can have shade without running into an umbrella.  Over the past 10 years we've lived here I think we've gotten three because they keep braking due to the wind.  So, I knew I didn't want one of those again.  Since this umbrella would be in the flower bed I wouldn't have to worry about kids running into it, but I still needed to make sure it would withstand the winds that blow across the fields behind our house.  

I got my inspiration from Sara over at Pot Belly Bird HERE.  She lives in Chicago and has a rooftop patio so she needed an umbrella stand that could stand up to the windy city.  She went the extra step and added flowers to her cinder block umbrella stand.  One of these days I might get around to doing that.

This set up seemed like the perfect thing for my area and oh so easy to make.  I couldn't wait to get started but first I had to find the cinder blocks.  I thought I could just get them from Lowes or Home Depot.  And while they both had the regular 8x8x16 hollow cinder blocks, they did not have any 8x8x8 hollow cinder blocks.  They wouldn't do site to store with free shipping and I didn't feel like driving two hours to the nearest store which had them in stock.  I almost thought about abandoning this DIY project, but then I remembered we have a local building supply company about 20 minutes away.  I called and yes, they had exactly what I needed and better yet, it was cheaper than the other stores.  I purchased 2 of the 8x8x16 hollow cinder blocks and 3 of the 8x8x8 hollow cinder blocks for a grand total of $6.21.   

First up was to make a level base for the cinder blocks to set on.  I just used one of the concrete pavers that was used to weigh down the base of our old cantilever umbrella.

I layed down the 8x8x16 cinder block first, then added the 8x8x8 cinder block next to it.  I added the other 8x8x16 cinder block on top of the 8x8x8 block and half of the 8x8x16 block.

Then I added the remaining two 8x8x8 blocks on top of that, making sure they all lined up.

Then I placed my umbrella pole inside and filled around it with some rocks I had left over from the Kids Rock Garden project.

I wiggled the umbrella pole and everything felt nice and sturdy.  No fear of this thing getting blown over.

What a cute shady spot for my son to play in.

 And if I wanted to fancy up those plain ol' cinder blocks, I could always paint them like Bethany from Reality Day Dream did HERE.  The colors she used would even match my umbrella.

Be sure to check out my other patio updates:

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