Activities, featured, Parenting

Candy Cooking

Candy Cooking

Backup plans. They are important things to have. You probably never thought you would need them as a parent, but they are ever so helpful. We all know that parenting doesn’t always go as planned. You can plan events and activities with the utmost precision, but things happen & inevitably something will go awry. I like to keep a “mental list” of contingency plans for such situations. If I’ve specifically promised my daughter an exciting activity and the weather doesn’t cooperate, I can quickly pull out an appropriate substitute plan. One gadget that I keep around for tons of fun at the drop of a hat is the Poppin’ cookin’ Japanese candy cooking sets. These little kits don’t take up much space, they have a crazy long shelf life, and only require water to get started!

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Neyland mixing the “dough” for the dumplings and spring rolls

Each set comes with a little plastic tray with a variety of different sections for mixing and shaping the different parts of the dish you’re making. It also comes with a bunch of packets of different colored powder. The directions are pretty simple- Add water to the different packets. The amount and location you should mix them are all found on the directions. Depending on your kit, you may then take the resulting “dough” or liquid and place it in a separate area to shape it. The “ramen” kit we were making here, also had accompanying “spring rolls” and “dumplings.” The packaging even doubles as an area to roll out dough and place the “food” for cool photo ops.

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Our “dumplings and spring rolls” are complete!

One of our previous kits involved making candy “sushi.” We had fruit roll up “seaweed” and even had to make salmon roe! As different as all the dough and liquids looked (at least in that previous kit) I was amazed that all the elements tasted the exact same! This time, the “broth” in the ramen did have a different flavor.

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Dropping in our “ramen noodles”

I’m always transfixed at the chemical reactions that obviously take place when you make these kits. I will be the first to say that I don’t understand how they work, but they’re pretty cool to watch!

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Victory!
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Trying out the noodles

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The first time I saw these kits, I believe it was on youtube. I happened across them in a local Asian market here in Knoxville, and decided to give one a try. I’ve even ordered them off Amazon. They are generally pretty reasonable at around $3-4 per kit. Here is the link to the Sushi Kit on Amazon. So far, we have made the sushi kit, an ice cream kit, a doughnut kit, and this ramen kit. The Sushi and Ramen kits were our favorites by far. They were more intricate and took longer to make. I will say that some of the parts are small and therefore not for tiny kids. As always, watch your kiddos closely while they do this. I read the instructions and let Neyland mix the water and powder. We form the shapes together, but I’m sure that an older kid would have no problems with doing that part alone.

*Disclaimer* I am SURE the nutritional value in these kits is zero. Keep in mind that they are candy, and should be used as an occasional treat.

Have you made a Poppin’ Cookin’ set before? Which is your favorite?

 

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Activities, Parenting

Rainbow Flowers

RainbowFlowers

This week has been pretty busy. I had to finally embrace the whole “being thirty” thing, but it has been great thus far. Neyland and I did a lot of fun projects this week. She was a particularly good girl this week and worked really hard on all her homework, chores, and even memorized several scriptures from church. In return, we had a lot of fun outings and activities to reward her excellent work. For “Science Experiment Tuesday,” I pulled an old project out of my hat from when I was a kid. We decided to make rainbow flowers!

This experiment is one more geared toward preschoolers and older kids. The experiment isn’t instantaneous, and therefore won’t hold the attention of younger kiddos. Neyland is really into wanting to know how things work, so it was a great demonstration for her. We started off with a trip to Grandma’s flower shop to pick out the flowers for our experiment. The type of flower isn’t super important. We chose some daisy poms because they hold up well at room temp, and are overall, pretty resilient. Some of the more delicate flowers may wilt after a few hours. The big thing is to (obviously) get WHITE flowers so your little one can observe the color change.

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We also got three different stems of daisy poms. Each stem has multiple flowers, so we would get to see more action.

Next, pull out your food coloring and a few glasses of water. I let Neyland choose what colors we would make in each glass. It was also a good way to review which colors can be mixed to form other colors. She chose to make: Purple, Blue, and Green.

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We mixed up the colors, trimmed excess foliage off the stems, and then finally snipped the stems to freshen the ends. One trick to note is that the shorter you trim the stem, the faster the experiment will yield results. The colored water has a shorter distance to travel. Also, by getting rid of the excess foliage, you limit other areas for the colored water to be carried to. After cutting the stems and placing them in the water, we set them near the window.

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Within an hour or two we were already getting visible results! We used this to discuss how plants draw up water and use sunlight to make energy and grow! It was an exciting thing that she got to check on for the next few days. Our “blue” flowers yielded the best color. The green was very subtle and not easily noticeable.  The purple was very interesting. It yielded some purple spots, some red, and some blue. For whatever reason, the colors separated back out somewhat.

This is a super easy and cheap experiment to recreate at home! Even if you have never done it before as a kid. You probably have food coloring in your pantry, and you might even have some white flowers growing out in your yard! Get out there and have a great time with what you have!

Rainbow Flowers

Supplies

  • White flowers (that remain sturdy at room temp) – Rec. carnations, daisies, poms
  • Variety of food coloring
  • Glasses
  • water

Directions

Fill the glasses 3/4 full of water. Color each glass of water with a different color using the food coloring. Trim excess foliage from the flowers and snip the end of the stem before placing it in the water. (Snip the stem IMMEDIATELY before placing it in the water) Set the glasses in a sunny spot and monitor them periodically for changes. You can keep this experiment going for a few days! Just remember to trim the stems on your flowers fresh each day to maximize the amount of water they take in!

 

Activities, featured, Food

Sunday Sundaes

How is the weekend already over??? We had such an awesome weekend, it just doesn’t seem fair that tomorrow is already Monday. Well, here’s to starting this week off right!

This weekend, my friends and family were kind enough to throw me a surprise birthday party for the big 3-0. Thankfully, someone decided it was a good idea to tell me about it since they planned it at MY HOUSE. Pretty sure full blown panic would have set in if 20-30 people had just randomly shown up at my place on Saturday. It was a great time full of food and lots of laughs! Thanks to everyone who came and celebrated! (Unfortunately we were all having such a blast, we totally failed to take any pictures!)

This morning we enjoyed an absolutely fantastic church service! I love when service just “happens” to be on things that I’ve been studying privately! Our service today was on worship. We discussed the different examples of worship in the bible and the specific kinds of worship God specifically asks for! There are many terms for types of worship in Hebrew. It was really interesting and eye opening!

After service, we enjoyed a nice relaxing day out by the pool, followed by homework for Neyland, and most importantly…..the post homework treat! ICE CREAM!

We discussed taking a trip downtown to try the new Cruze Farm location…but as with most new places, IT WAS PACKED. We elected to give it a few more weeks to let the “newness” die down. We decided instead to visit one of my favorite ice cream spots of all time. It is also conveniently, right across the street.

Phoenix Pharmacy & Fountain is everything you could possibly want with a super authentic “old time” feel. This place has a HUGE menu of sundaes, malts, floats, and seasonal specials. They make everything from scratch. All the toppings, whipped cream, you name it. All their ice cream is served in old fashioned glass dishes, and the staff even dresses in classic attire! The pharmacy is still in operation too! Bottom line: This place is the FULL experience. Amazing treats and a full authentic soda shop experience. Check out what we got this time!

 

Check out their website & menu HERE.

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Neyland’s Sidecar – Classic Sundae, only smaller for kids
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I had the “All American.” It was mixed berry cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream!
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My brother had “The Great Smoky Mountains.” A fudge soaked vanilla cake  & a fudge brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, homemade brittle, and homemade caramel sauce!
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My Mom had the “Twixy.” Scoops of vanilla on top of homemade shortbread crumbles with milk chocolate & caramel drizzle.
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Neyland was happy to help finish off any leftovers.

We enjoyed a nice stroll through Market Square and Gay Street before calling it a night!

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If you’re into an authentic experience, don’t pass this place up! After all, Sundays are for Jesus and Sundaes!

 

 

Activities, featured, Parenting

Ice Age Rescue

Most parents would agree that having a routine is really vital for kids. Yes kids are resilient, but they truly thrive when they have a routine. They know what to expect and what is expected of them. I try my best to keep a fairly basic routine with my little one on both a daily and weekly basis. As I mentioned last week, the two of us spend Tuesdays together. I do a lot of housework, but I always make sure we squeeze in some fun activities, and cook dinner together. One of the fun activities that I have had as part of our routine for well over a year now, is SCIENCE EXPERIMENT TUESDAY! I’m a science nerd at heart, and certainly want Neyland to enjoy it too! Science Experiment Tuesday allows both of us to do a fun activity that also has educational value. I have a blast researching and preparing, we both love actually doing the experiment, and then I try to tie it in to some other learning opportunities throughout the week to reinforce the idea.

Finding fun experiments to do with your kiddos isn’t a difficult task. A quick internet search, or even just thinking about some of the activities that stood out from your childhood can yield great results.

This particular experiment is super simple, but a LOT of fun. It’s great for toddlers and preschoolers, and even elementary school kids. There are a lot of learning opportunities for different age groups.

Ice Age Rescue

Supplies

  • Water safe/freezer safe container (Decent size)
  • A bunch of cheap/plastic/water safe toys (you likely have plenty laying around the house)
  • Water
  • Blue Food coloring
  • Plastic utensils
  • Squirt bottle
  • Salt
  • Sponges

The basic idea for this project is to fill the water safe/freezer safe container (I found a random plastic storage box at Goodwill) with water (about 3/4 full.) Add a few drops of blue food coloring and mix. Don’t skip that step, it really does add to the effect. Place a variety of different plastic toys in the colored water. It helps them spread out evenly if some sink and some float. This is a great time to let your little one see the water and touch it. Explain to them the differences between liquids and solids. Let them see you/help you place the container into the freezer. Check on it every hour or so. It’s important to let them feel how cold it’s getting and feel the ice start to form. Eventually (depending on the size of your container,) you will have a solid chunk of ice FULL of plastic critters that need your little one’s help to break free!

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At this point we moved our project to the bath tub to contain the imminent watery mess. I freed the giant cube from the plastic container and offered Neyland several options/tools to try and free the animals. I offered plastic eating utensils for her to chip away at the ice, sponges, salt, and a squirt bottle of warm water. We tried each item individually so that we could observe what effect it had on the ice.

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After trying each tool, I let her decide which item she thought was most effective. She quickly decided that the warm water squirt bottle was the best option! As the ice melted, it was really beautiful. The warm water carved out all kind of cool little passages through the ice, and made breaking the critters free even more fun.

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*As a side note- Not long after I first did this, a friend of mine tried it with her son. She added another educational aspect by waiting until winter and allowing the block to freeze outside over several days! Her son really enjoyed checking on it each day, and it was great to connect the actual weather outside with the experiment!*

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This is seriously simple and seriously fun. It’s a great sensory activity for toddlers and learning activities for preschoolers. You can teach each child as much or as little as they are capable of absorbing for their age. I guarantee they will be asking to do it again!

featured, Food

Why Korean food is everything missing from your life

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Whew! The last two weeks have been busy ones! Unfortunately, my little one has been away for the past week, so I made it a point to keep myself very busy. I am lucky enough to have many fantastic friends who were kind enough to occupy my free time. One such friend, who shall be known on my blog as “Raul,” is my general cooking buddy and partner for all things food related. Raul has greatly broadened my horizons since we became friends. I really have to give him major props in the cooking department. He busts out recipes that most people wouldn’t even attempt.

Some time back in the fall, he made me aware of a “life changing” Korean chicken recipe that he had recently made. Raul was kind enough to make a batch for me, AND share the recipe with me! I have made this chicken a few times since then, and it does NOT disappoint. I will go ahead and warn you that it is a bit spicy. If you don’t like heat, this may not be for you. It has spice, sweetness, some tang, everything a good sauce needs in my humble opinion. This is a great sauce to make and add to store bought fried chicken. In fact, every time we’ve made it, we’ve added it to Bojangles fried chicken. I will say that the surface area to sauce ratio is VITAL. I would definitely recommend smaller pieces of chicken/ dark meat to make sure you get adequate sauce in each bite. Legs & thighs are my favorites for this recipe. If you want to be super fancy and make your own fried chicken, that would work well too! Just make sure to get adequate breading for the sauce to stick on. I love this chicken recipe SO much, that I now affectionately refer to it as PDC. No explanations on that name, but bonus points if you figure it out!

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Spicy Korean Chicken

Ingredients

  • Appoximately 8 pieces of fried chicken
  • 1 Tbsp Canola oil
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup tomato ketchup
  • 1/3 cup Karo syrup
  • 1/4 cup hot pepper paste (Gochujang)
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Sesame seeds

Put the oil & garlic in a small sauce pan on low and allow it to heat up a bit. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk lightly to mix them all together. Allow the sauce to heat on low for 7-8 minutes. Make sure to keep the heat low, so it doesn’t burn. Turn off the heat. Place the fried chicken in a bowl and pour the sauce over it. Toss the chicken gently until covered. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and enjoy!

 

The other Korean treat we enjoyed with our chicken was a Kimchi Pancake. Would you believe that before last year, I had never had kimchi? I didn’t even know what it was! As I mentioned, Raul has been a culinary gold mine! If you are in the same sad boat I was once in, and you have no clue what I’m talking about, allow me to enlighten you. Kimchi is a delicious spicy fermented cabbage. You can find it in most markets in the refrigerated vegetarian/vegan section. Because it is fermented, it contains bacteria that can be beneficial to your gut health. Delicious AND health benefits??? SIGN. ME. UP. I use kimchi all the time now. It is super tasty, and kicks up any number of dishes.

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Enter the Kimchi Pancake. I love when foods take a turn from the way we traditionally consume them. When you think of a pancake, you likely get images of fluffy syrup covered breakfast items. This is a crispy and savory 180 degree change from the pancakes you know and love. In many Eastern cultures, pancakes include any number of ingredients that are pan fried and served as a side dish. You may never look at pancakes the same way again. Before embarking on your new pancake adventure, I would recommend making a dipping sauce. Raul was a bit reluctant to fully disclose the exact ratios of dipping sauce ingredients, but this should be fairly close.

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cup good soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Mirin
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-3 scallions, minced
  • Splash of sesame oil
  • A few shakes of sesame seeds
  • A squirt of Sri racha

Mix well and set aside.

Kimchi Pancake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped Kimchi
  • 3 Tbsp kimchi juice
  • 2 Tbsp chopped Onion
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Flour (all purpose flour)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Vegetable Oil

Directions

In a bowl, place chopped Kimchi, kimchi juice, chopped onion, salt, sugar, flour, and water. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

Heat up a 12 inch non stick pan over medium/high heat. Drizzle in about 2 Tbsp vegetable oil. Spread the kimchi batter out evenly in the bottom of the pan with a spoon. Cook it for 1 to 1.5 minutes. Until the bottom gets golden brown and crispy. Turn it over with a spatula or flip it. (Raul did this, and it looked pretty cool.) Lower the heat to medium, and cook for an additional 1.5 minutes. Turn it once more, and cook for ~30 seconds, before transferring to a plate for serving. Cut into bite sized pieces. Use chopsticks to pull apart pieces and dip. Serve hot.

 

Recipe cred to Maangchi (Be sure to check out more of her awesome recipes!)

Well, there you have it! All the tools you need for an awesome evening of Korean deliciousness! These recipes are packed with flavor, and will fill a culinary void you never knew you had! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

If you try these recipes, let me know what you think!

 

Activities, bigfoot, featured, Trips

The Great Outdoors

Neyland and I were fortunate enough to meet up with an amazing group of ladies for a little get away this past weekend! A short trip away was just what the doctor ordered!

It is so easy to forget the beauty of the mountains when we live in this amazing area, and the mountains are our back yard. I realize that I often drive around and overlook them completely even though I adore them!

As I have mentioned previously, I do a bit of bigfoot reseach in my spare time. I have made some of the most amazing friends that share my passion for nature and mysteries. We have just “clicked” ever since we first met. It is a rare thing to find friends with whom you can truly just be yourself. I have laughed with  these ladies, cried with them, traveled with them, camped with them, tick checked them, had midnight forest raves with them, eaten an unhealthy amount of cinnamon rolls atop a mountain at 3am with them, and much much more. I believe it suffices to say that we have a great history together with fantastic memories doing what we love to do. It seems that all of us have walked some deep valleys over the past few years, and have been unable to get together as often as we would have liked. This weekend we were thrilled to not only have a reunion of the “beaver squad,” as we often call ourselves, but to bring our two newest members along for initiation! We decided that since the two little ones were so small, we would stick to a cabin this time rather than though it out in tents.

Neyland and I were the last to arrive Friday evening. A quick game of “being shy” lasted all of 5 minutes, and the girls quickly became best buddies. It was so great to see all my favorite ladies! We enjoyed dinner and a dip in the hot tub out on our amazing deck. Check out that view!

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After a quick bath and a ton of play time, the little ones were off to bed. We enjoyed catching up for a few more hours before a wonderful night’s sleep. The AC was certainly more pleasant than the 90 degree temps outside!

In the morning, true to form, Ronie was up making enough food to feed an army.

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Breakfast tacos and hashbrowns….and lots of coffee!

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We got the girls dressed, packed up a picnic lunch, and headed up to our favorite spot on the mountain. An area affectionately known as “camp scream.” As it’s name suggests, we’ve had some pretty exciting sasquatch activity there in the past. It is WELL away from where most people go, and we’d certainly like to keep it that way. We were surprised to see that the camp area we had used in the past, was almost completely covered in fallen trees. Thankfully, we were still able to hike back and let the girls play in the creek for a bit. They had a blast clacking rocks and playing in the water.

 

We then had our picnic lunch and hiked for about 2 miles. The girls did great & had so much fun! Check out the video of them practicing their squatch calls!

 

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Perhaps we were even interesting to some forest spectators, as we did hear a few interesting sounds on our hike!

We continued to another location where the girls could play in the creek again. We were able to catch some salamanders and crawdads, and even saw some rainbow trout.

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On the way back to the cabin, we stopped at our favorite spot for ice cream. The picnic tables where we were eating were right by the water. We got to watch a few guys fly fishing, and even got to see an osprey! Between the guys and the osprey, only one was successful catching a fish. Hint: it was not the humans.

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When we returned Ronie cooked ANOTHER delicious meal complete with her famous homemade doughnuts for dessert!

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The master at work!

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We ended the day out on the deck DESTROYING these little jewels. The girls were COVERED in sugar. We were fortunate enough to hear an owl, and attempted to call back. Our owl calls quickly escalated into tiny squatch calls again. I’m quite certain the neighbors thought we were insane. These are the things that memories are made of.

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We said our goodbyes Sunday afternoon, and the drive home was bittersweet. It got me thinking about how I’m so thankful to share this life with such amazing people. Every day is an adventure if you chose to make it so.<3

 

Activities, Parenting

Blackberry Summers

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When I was a little girl, I spent a great deal of time with my Grandparents. Every summer, they always planted a huge garden, with two big rows of blackberry bushes at the very back of the field, closest to the woods. There was nothing growing in that garden that I looked forward to more than those huge plump berries. Each morning, before the heat was unbearable, my best friend and I would grab our buckets, and head out to collect our loot. She wasn’t quite as fond of the blackberries as I was. Her bucket would actually come back with berries in it, while mine…..Well, it was usually empty. Sometimes I would have to make the difficult decision: Do I eat them now, or save them so Grandma can make a blackberry cobbler? She DOES make the BEST cobbler ever.

Over the years, the work of the garden became too much for my Grandparents, and eventually it became only a memory. All that remains today is the lonely berry patch. I’m thankful for this small piece of my childhood to share with my daughter. If there is one thing that I’ve enjoyed most about parenting, it is sharing the things with her that were most important to me. You think that the joy you experienced back then simply can’t get better, but it can. When you see the joy on your child’s face, the magic simply multiples.

Every Thursday, we spend the day with my Grandparents. They were/are such a big part of my life, and I am so thankful that Neyland has the opportunity to know them. My Grandma cooks breakfast, the kind of breakfast only a Grandma CAN make. I’m still convinced that there is something magical about her kitchen. The food ALWAYS tastes better when she makes it. After breakfast this past week, I asked Grandma how the berries were coming along. She indicated that there may be some ready to pick. I quickly showed Neyland where to find a bucket to put our berries, and out we went. She was so incredibly excited. Of course she was intent on gathering more berries than I could, which I’m sure she did. Only problem? There were none in her bucket by the time we got back to the house! It’s funny the way life repeats itself. It amazes me how many things she does naturally that are just like me. I know the memories will be just as sweet for her, and that she can share this tradition with her daughter some day.

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