Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Homemade Cake Batter Ice Cream


I admit, I have a thing for cake batter. My favorite flavor snowball is wedding cake. Even when I tell myself over and over that this time I'm going to order something different, I always cave at the end and go for the sweet taste of cake. On those rare occasions when I set foot in a pricey ice cream shop, the only thing that can tear me away from peanut butter and chocolate goodness is cake batter. If cake batter is on the menu, I'm ordering it. If I had been in Marie Antoinette's shoes, I would have shouted, "Let them eat cake...BATTER!" So I may be a bit biased when I tell you the kids and I whipped up some homemade cake batter flavored ice cream Sunday and it was awesome! It would have been even better if I hadn't scorched the mixture ever so slightly. It was barely noticeable though and the kids had no complaints. I'm sure if you asked them, they'd say they're used to mom burning stuff. But a day later there wasn't the slightest trace of ice cream left and Hubby wasn't even here to get in on the action. I hope to get
more made up for the 4th. It just isn't the 4th of July without homemade ice cream and this will make a nice change from boring old vanilla. Guess I'll have to replace the leftover red and green Christmas tree sprinkles we used for a topping with something a little more American though! I found the original recipe on All Recipes and made a few changes. Here's my lightened up version:

1 cup milk (I used 1% Hood Simply Smart)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 egg yolks, beaten
3 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups evaporated skim milk
3/4 cup white cake mix, sifted

Whisk all ingredients together in a saucepan until well blended. Cook over medium-low heat until mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Stir constantly! I only stopped stirring for a second to put the milk back in the fridge and the mixture was already beginning to stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and cool in the refrigerator or freezer.

Pour the chilled mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions. Once it has the texture of soft-serve ice cream sneak a little for yourself all the while telling your kids it's not ready and needs to harden some more. Place whatever's left in the freezer in your ice cream maker's container or in a lidded plastic container to harden.

Next time I will double the recipe since this only made about 8 small servings. I also want to try cutting the sugar down to about 1/3 cup. As is, it was not too sweet, but I think the sugar could be reduced some without it making much of a difference.

This post is being linked to Balancing Beauty and Bedlam's Parade of Foods and Works For Me Wednesday.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Learning All Summer Long - Fun Boredom Buster

We are on the go a lot during the summer. It's rare to have one of those days when there's absolutely nothing on the schedule and no where to go. Even so, when one of those rare days comes along, the kids start getting restless. I don't think they've ever actually uttered the words, "I'm bored" but it's pretty obvious they need something to do when they're laying on the floor, rolling around on top of each other, and arguing. A couple of weeks ago when one of those rare days rolled around, I was prepared.

Spice received an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas and sadly the only time she has actually used it was to bake hubby a birthday cake...on Christmas! I've been meaning to get it out again, but I knew Sport would want to be in on the action too. So to drag the fun out as long as possible and keep everyone involved I came up with a BRILLIANT idea (that's my opinion anyway).

While the kids weren't around (another rare occurrence) I wrote this on our dry erase board:

Help Wanted

Baker - Young female needed to bake cakes and cookies. Must have experience with mixing and stirring and know how to operate an Easy Bake Oven.

Quality Control Manager - Experienced cake and cookie eater needed to taste baked goods and determine if they meet our high standards. Must be able to communicate likes and dislikes well. May be required to taste icing or frosting on occasion.

See Mom to apply.

When they came downstairs later looking for some entertainment (i.e. me), I directed them to the board. I was worried Sport may be jealous he did not get to actually bake. Instead I heard him exclaim, "YES! I got the best job." They ran to see me, ready to get to work. I told them it wasn't that easy and that they must first apply for the job. I gave them each an application I had found online and printed out and had them fill it out. This was a great educational opprotunity. They were able to practice filling in a form asking for their name, address, phone number...as well as answer harder questions like "What previous experience have you had that can help you in this job?" and "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?"

Once the applications were turned in, I called them each in for a one-on-one interview with the boss. It was funny to see how nervous they were that they might not actually get the job. During the interview I threw in some random school type questions like "Can you do math? What's 7x9?"

I'm pleased to report both of my kids had a great time. They took their jobs very seriously and there was no fighting over who got to push the cake pan into the oven or who got to eat the first cookie. They've been asking me when we'll do it again. Lucky for them we have another lazy day coming up tomorrow!

This post is being linked to We Are That Family's Works For Me Wednesday.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Learning All Summer Long - Board Games

A while back I decided to clean out our game/puzzle cabinet. Here's a before picture of all the games and puzzles. This doesn't include the stack hidden behind the couch...

Sadly, the after shot didn't look much different. The fact is, we LOVE to play games (and do puzzles) so while our game cabinet is bursting at the doors, it's really hard to clear out too much when we really do play them all. I've bought pretty much every one of our games at garage sales or thrift stores, or picked them up for free at one of our homeschool swaps, so for us board games are a way to have a lot of fun at a very low cost. I lean heavily towards games that have an educational purpose. That's just my way of sneaking in a little more learning each day. We use board games regularly in our homeschooling as well to spice things up a bit.

I think all board games provide an opportunity for learning...patience, focus, winning and losing gracefully...but some teach much more than others. Here's a look at some of our favorite educational games:

Consider this a math version of Scrabble. Instead of spelling words, players create number sentences using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Though it is difficult, Spice plays this game too. I have access to her tiles and will guide her in coming up with equations, but leave a certain # out for her to figure out for herself. For example, I'll say, "Place your 3 tile before the addition sign, place the four tile after it, add an equals sign and the answer." She'll look through her tiles and find the 7 to finish off the equation.

This is an awesome critical thinking game! Players lay out 12 cards and race to make sets of three. Sounds simple, but it's not. I have been making a real effort to teach Sport to FOCUS on one thing at a time. This game is excellent for that. If you're not giving it all of your attention all the time, you're toast! Spice has not played this with us yet. (It's hard!) But the last time we played, she watched and did call out a couple of sets of her own so maybe she's ready.

Boggle Jr.
This game helps preschoolers learn their letters and beginning words. Players roll the letter dice and try to find all the letters needed to spell the word on their card. Players can see the word they are trying to spell to make it easier, or the word can be covered up for added difficulty once the child becomes more proficient at spelling and sounding out words.

What's Gnu
Similar to Boggle Jr., but geared towards early readers who can put together three letter words. Instead of dice, it uses a cool sliding dispenser thingy that kids love to spit out letter tiles. Spice could just sit and play with that part all day.

Scrabble Junior
Like the grown-up version, but has words already spelled out on one side of the board for players to match their letters to. More advanced players can turn the board over for a blank slate.

Not much explanation needed here, but we use it for math practice. I let Spice count the dots on her dice when needed to add up her score. For Sport, I quickly scoop up the dice and have him add or multiply in his head.

This may not seem like an educational game, but if you have a preschooler it's great for reinforcing numbers and colors. When Spice first started playing, I pretty much knew every card in her hand so I easily could have run her over, but sometimes it's not about winning the game, but providing lots of practice on certain concepts instead. (I have to remind myself of that often.)

Go Fish
Another one that's good for number and color recognition. Even those he's mastered those skills, Sport still likes to play this game. That darned fishing pole is just too much fun!

Monopoly Jr.
After I played my first game of Monopoly Jr., I knew I'd never go back to the grown-up version. Monopoly Jr. is fun, easy to follow, and most importantly, doesn't take 3 hours to play. This is a favorite of Sport and Spice. In the beginning, Sport was our banker, but lately, Spice has taken over that role and is getting in tons of math practice.

Trivial Pursuit for Juniors
I picked this up at an estate sale in my neighborhood recently and much to my surprise, the kids have really enjoyed it. There are questions that are easy enough for Spice to answer, but sometimes if she gets one that's too hard I might rephrase the question or make up a different one altogether. No one's ever the wiser. The science questions are much more on my level too! Most importantly, both Sport and Spice have been able to spout off facts they remember from the game.

Wiz Kidz
There are two decks of cards, one with a set of topics like "a piece of furniture" or "something found at the mall" and another deck with letter cards. Two cards are flipped over at the same time and players try to be the first to come up with a word that fits the category and starts with the correct letter.

Money, Money - A Discovery Toys game that is no longer produced, but if you see it at a garage sale or thrift store snatch it up. Players make their way across a board earning or spending allowance on every space for things like recycling cans or feeding the fish. The player with the most money at the end wins.

Math Magic - A self correcting game by Ravensburger that focuses on addition and subtraction.

Don't forget old fashioned favorites like dominoes (great for math skills with all of its different scoring versions), checkers, chess, and a good ol' deck of cards. Sport and Spice have been hooked on Solitaire lately (another one that I hope will improve Sport's attention span.) I think there is a Bingo game available for pretty much any subject too. We probably own about 95% of them - addition, division, ABCs, human body, Spanish...

This post is linked to WFMW's "Mom I'm Bored" edition.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Learning All Summer Long - Math

We Are That Family is hosting a special boredom busters edition of Works For Me Wednesday this week. We keep boredom at bay around here with lots of games, preferrably educational ones. Over the next week or so, I plan to write a series of posts about how we keep learning all summer long.

Did you know in Singapore children attend school 25o days of the year? Japanese students log 243 days, while those in Scotland, The Netherlands, Israel, South Korea, and Thailand total 200 or more. Heck even the French spend more days in school than Americans, and their countrymen are on vacation for more than a month out of every year. Is it any wonder our students lag behind the rest of the world in so many areas?

Call it "brain drain" "education eraser" or "loss of learning" the 2-3 month summer break students so look forward to only makes matters worse. It's estimated the average student loses 2 months worth of learning each summer. As homeschoolers, we could easily school year-round, but we don't. I admit, I like my summers and haven't been able to give them up completely although they do keep getting shorter. : ) Our summer break officially started last week, but being the sneaky mom I am, I continue to sneak in all kinds of educational activities for Sport and Spice. Sometimes they're on to me, other times they're clueless. This post will focus on the subject that seems to suffer from "brain drain" the most...math.

Sport will be reviewing his multiplication and division facts everyday. We could go the boring old flashcard drill route, but why do that when you can have FUN! Here are some of the ways we practice basic facts (any of these games can easily be adapted for addition, subtraction, or division):

Target Practice: Choose three (or more) multiplication facts for your child to practice (sixes, nines...) and write each of those numbers on a separate sheet of paper. If you want to go all artist like, draw a bull's eye on each piece of paper and write the number in the middle. Remove all of the number cards from a deck of cards. If you have a deck for each person, even better. Players stand behind a line and take turns trying to hit the targets with their cards. If a card lands on any part of the target, the player has to multiply the number on the card by the number on the target. If correct, the player earns that many points. If incorrect, the opposing player gets a shot. Set a number to play to and the first player to reach that # wins (200 works well for multiplication). As the child improves, make it more fun by adding in the jokers as wild cards. It's tempting to use the joker to create an easy equation, but a thinking student will realize a harder equation likely adds up to more points!

Football: Draw a rectangle on a piece of paper. Mark off 2 end zones and 10 yard lines. Randomly label the yard lines with the numbers 1-10 (or whatever facts you want to practice). Make several footballs out of cardboard or heavy cardstock and label each with a #. Player 1 selects a football (without peeking). Starting at one end of the field, the player multiplies the # on the football by the # on the field. If correct he continues across the field. His turn ends after scoring a touchdown (and earning 7 points) or committing an error. Player 2 then takes over with a new football from his end of the field. Set a time limit in advance to keep things exciting and keep the game moving quickly. The player with the most touchdowns at the end wins.

Multiplication War: Using only the # cards from a deck of cards, two players flip their cards over at the same time. The first player to correctly multiply the two numbers together and call out the product wins the pair. The player with the most cards at the end of the game wins.

Use a clock to practice the fives times tables. Point to a number on the clock and have the student quickly call out the number of minutes it represents.

There are tons of websites and software programs that offer fun math practice as well. One of our favorites is Quarter Mile Math. Sport loves to race against his previous scores to try and set a new personal best time. Students can choose horse or auto racing. Parents get to set parameters to determine exactly what is practiced, for example addition facts for the numbers 1-5. The best part about it is both of my kids can use it. QMM topics range from kindergarten to 9th grade. At the kindergarten level, letter recognition is covered as well as numbers. Spice often practices finding what letter comes before/after another and identifying vowels or consonants. Sport has tried everything from multiplication, to fractions, decimals, division, and estimation.
QMM is offering a $5 discount to anyone who orders the software using the following link:

Another favorite around here is Timez Attack. This program offers a truly entertaining way to practice times tables, but at $30 or more, is a bit pricey considering it only tests multiplication. We have enjoyed the free basic download available from the website though.

Hope this post gets you to thinking about how to sneak in a little learning this summer. Check back tomorrow for a look at some of our favorite educational boardgames.