Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake

I have been craving Strawberry Shortcake for a while now, but I am just not into the foamy looking cake bottoms that they have at the stores out here and there is no Bisquick for thousands of miles, so I had to make my own.

I used about a 1/2 pound of strawberries which I cored and cut up. I then added 2 Tablespoons of sugar to the strawberries and put the bowl in the fridge so it could get all juicy.

For the shortcake, I used this really easy recipe.

I followed the shortcake recipe pretty much exactly, but I did my own thing with the whipped cream.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Whipped cream
250ml heavy whipping cream
1-1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar
1/2 packet of sahnesteif

Preheat your oven to 400F(200C). Add the first five ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Add the heavy cream and mix until just combined. Pour dough into an ungreased 8-inch square pan. I used a small rectangular glass pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until it is golden.
For the whipped cream, pour the whipping cream and the vanilla sugar into a small mixing bowl and mix using a whisk. Add the sahnesteif and whisk quickly until it forms soft peaks.
I allowed the shortcake to cool before I cut it into 8 pieces. I split the pieces in half like a hamburger bun, placed some strawberries with their juice and a LOT of whip cream over the top. Then put the top piece back on and ate it up!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Molar Meltdown

I haven't been around the last week because I've been in molar teething hell with Alexa. We had seven straight nights of less than three continuous hours of sleep. Do you know what that does to a person?? This is not newborn baby wake up, change diaper, nurse and go back to bed middle of the night hell. This is a whole new torture chamber that this mom was not prepared for!

Alexa's always had a rough time with teething. She sports two bright red, super hot cheeks, her temperature teeters between low-grade and high fever and her personality turns uber needy. This time around there were no red cheeks, no temperature change whatsoever, but the neediness was replaced by whininess and clinginess to a degree I could have never imagined. I wasn't allowed more than two feet away from her or she would produce this horrible, high pitched, squeally whine that could only be stopped by picking her up and rocking her for a few minutes. She completely stopped sleeping through the night and turned into a little havoc wreaking zombie toddler.

I hate teething. I really hate molar teething.

After four sleepless nights I was close to breaking. A friend of mine sent me this blogpost to read and it definitely cracked me up and made me realize we would survive this horrible, rotten, no good, very bad week. However, after I read through the comments I did cry because I was doing absolutely everything that every other mom had tried and still, nothing was helping. Nothing was calming her down, reducing the pain, helping her sleep or making those damn molars pop through any faster!

Here's the list of tried and true teething stuff that we used and that lots of other moms suggested as well:

-Hyland's teething tablets (worked like a charm for regular teeth, was basically a snack during molar time)
-Dentinox gel (this is a prescription teething gel here in Europe, in the states I guess baby Anbesol or baby Orajel would work)
-Ibuprofen (in the correct dose for your child, this did seem to help a little bit. Ibuprofen combined with the Dentinox helped initially at bedtime)
-Frozen washcloths or cold washcloths to chew on
-Cold, peeled, raw carrots (parental supervision needed. I just peel a whole carrot and let her gnaw on it)
-Snuggles (I know this sounds like common sense, but after not sleeping for nearly a week, the last thing I was thinking was, "Hey let's snuggle together and it'll be great!" I was more of the "Why are you still clinging to me? What in god's name is going to make you stop whining?!?!?!" It's horrible, but it's true. No sleep makes me very irritable. Getting down on the floor and just hanging out really helped. I pulled the pillows off the couch, brought out our big comfy comforter from the bedroom and put on a movie for us to watch. I also pulled some of her favorite books out and we just hung out, snuggled, watched a bit of the movie, read a book and then snuggled some more. I wish tired me had thought of this sooner!)
-Cold sippy cups of water or milk (Alexa usually drinks cold water no problem, but pre-molars preferred warm milk. This past week it has been icy cold goodness all the way!)
-Freezer pops (Simple genius. I offered a freezer pop in between the ibuprofen and the teething gel.)
-Frozen apples (or other fruit) in a mesh feeder (This was the golden ticket for us! (Thank you Brandi) Alexa was not eating anything except applesauce and yogurt because chewing hurt, but frozen apples got a little bit of food in her tummy and soothed her aching gums at the same time.)

As of last night, I think one of the bottom molars has broken through the skin. She has been in a substantially better mood the last two days and I can only hope the upswing continues as the molars come all the way through. This was such a horrible and trying week. I'm hoping next week is much better.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Painting with Cotton balls

Alexa and I had such a great time painting with cotton balls on egg drawings for some Easter decorations last week. I used the homemade finger paints we made last week for this activity. The paints were a little thicker than I would prefer and I think next time we might use some other washable paints that are a bit runnier. 

All you need for this activity is a paper plate to put the paints on, a few clothespins (one for each color of paint you want), washable paint, a smock (optional) and paper to paint on. We used paper that I drew eggs onto.

Alexa was very curious about the cotton ball on the clothespin, but once I showed her how to dab it on the paper or use it like a crayon, she got right down to it! She liked dabbing it, but the paint needed to be replenished rather quickly. We still came out with some pretty great egg decorations.

This was a quick activity and didn't leave much in the form of clean up. I just unclipped the clothespins from the cotton balls and then tossed the paint plate along with the cotton balls right into the trash. Since we used a smock, Alexa was pretty clean. After washing hands, we were all cleaned up!

We will definitely do this again in the future. Another variation that I'd like to try sometime soon is painting with pompons. I bet it would make some pretty cool looking paint splotches on the paper.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

I hope all of my friends and family in the US and Europe have enjoyed a wonderful Easter with good people and good food. We spent a wonderful day with family and friends. The Easter Bunny surprised Alexa with some new gardening tools, a couple of new snuggly friends and a new bathing suit for our upcoming beach vacation.

 Yummy raisin filled Easter eggs!

 Yay gardening tools!

A little chick and little bunny, knit by Mama.

I even made time for a pre-dinner photo shoot, selfies included!

The food was A-M-AAAAAAAAAA-Z-I-N-G! Michael cooked two beautiful legs of lamb and the rest of us pitched in by making the sides and desserts.

Alexa had so much fun playing with her little buddy, big D and I had such a relaxing time chatting with everyone and just hanging out. We had a perfect April day with sun and a few sun showers. The day even ended perfectly when we saw a rainbow on the drive home!

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter Sunday!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Homemade Finger Paints

I've had these homemade finger paints in my "Need to Try" box for quite a while now. I originally found the recipe on Pinterest. Here is the original recipe, like always, I added a little something to make it my own!

The original recipe wasn't very clear about how long to cook the mixture for, or about how long it would take to thicken, so I doubled the recipe to ensure that I would have enough goo to make six colors of paint. **The original instructions did not work for me, but I have them listed below. I also have listed the final instructions that I used to successfully create the paints.**

I started by gathering the supplies:

6 small glass jars with lids (glass baby food jars work great)
Small Saucepan
Large Measuring cup
Powdered Food coloring in a variety of colors
Baby Wash

3 Tablespoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Cornstarch
2 cups Water

<Original instructions> Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and warm until mixture thickens. Cool and pour into containers. Add coloring to create desired colors.

 Sugar, Cornstarch and Salt Mixture 

Powdered Food Coloring (Lebensmittel Farbe)

While my ingredients were "warming", I took the lids off of the jars and added 1/4 teaspoon of powdered food coloring (Lebensmittel Farbe) to each jar. I used red, orange, yellow, blue, green and purple.

After allowing the mixture (which still was not thick after cooking for 40 minutes) to cool, i added about 150ml of the mixture to each glass jar. It immediately mixed with the powdered food coloring and became a very vibrant, still liquid, mixture. I added 1-2 drops of liquid baby wash to each jar and then left it to sit, cool and congeal. An hour later, it was still completely liquid, so I sat the jars in a glass dish and added boiling water to the bottom. Let's see what happens next!

After 15 minutes sitting in the boiling water, the finger paints were still completely liquid. I thought I'd try the oven next! Haha at this point I was just too stubborn to give up. I used all of my cornstarch by making it a double batch and I was determined to have some finger paints for Alexa to paint with. The oven didn't work either (Shocker!).

I finally came up with a Hail Mary pass and it worked!

<My Instructions: that work!> Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Once the mixture is bubbling for 10 seconds, remove from heat and stir rapidly while the mixture thickens. The mixture will be a little thicker than store bought finger paint. Pour into jars with food coloring and allow to cool. Final paint mixture, when cooled, will be a little chunkier than store bought finger paints, but the additional sensory stimulation while painting is really fun for the kids!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter is Just a Hop Away

With Easter just around the corner, I've been seeing all of these really fun looking Pinterest craft ideas that I would love to do with Alexa. I might try and get one of two of them done before Sunday, but I think I might have missed the boat on all the Easter crafts. Maybe next year we will be a little more together.

Instead of painting and crafting, we have been practicing for Saturday's Easter Egg Hunt! I've been hiding a plastic egg around the apartment and Alexa loves running around trying to find it. Granted, it has to be hidden in plain view otherwise she just goes and finds a different toy to play with, but I think she's starting to get the idea. We are going to rock this egg hunt Saturday morning!

Another thing on my list of things to do this week is to do an Easter photo shoot with Alexa.  We did a mini session Sunday morning and I am hoping that I got a few cute shots. I'll post them later this week once I have time to upload them onto the computer. I'm really looking forward to taking pictures of her in her Easter dress. She's going to look so cute!!

Here are a few of my favorite Pinterest Easter arts and crafts ideas:

Playdough Carrots

Pom Pon Easter Egg Painting

Fingerprint Carrot Craft

Yarn Easter Eggs - this is a decoration

Marble Easter Eggs - made with foam shaving cream, food coloring and hard boiled eggs

Have you done anything fun with the kids to prep for Easter?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Do I Or Don't I...I do!

As you all know, I am a chocoholic. A big one. I've given up chocolate for Lent this year and let me just tell you that I think I have done a pretty amazing job of not eating (that much) chocolate these last four million days of Lent. I have cheated, I won't lie, BUT I've only done so maybe five times. That is AMAZING for me, chocoholic extraordinaire. Well, there are only six days left until Easter, so....hmmm...I made some Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies. My friend over at Novelstyle Blog just had to make cookies tonight and temp me with their yummy deliciousness. So, of course, I just HAD to make some cookies for myself!

I found the original recipe for the Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies at MommySavers, but of course I couldn't just make the recipe as written, I had to adjust it to the contents of my pantry (a.k.a. my tiny little cabinet with all of my baking stuff in it). I would like to try making them again in the future, but this time with chocolate pudding!

Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies


1 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup Whole Rye Flour
1 cup White Flour
1 tsp. baking soda

In a mixing bowl, cream together sugars, butter, vanilla extract, and vanilla pudding mix. Beat until creamy. Add eggs. Add dry ingredients and stir until well-combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Bake at 375 degrees (190C) for 10-12 minutes. Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

**I made two dozen cookies and then put the remaining dough into the refrigerator to use later.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Money in the Bank

I've been trying to come up with some interesting activities that engage Alexa and encourage her to develop her fine motor skills. One very simple activity that we have come up with is putting money in her piggy (actually a lion) bank. **This activity MUST be fully supervised by an adult.**

Whenever I have extra change, I allow Alexa to put the small coins into her lion bank. This is an EXCELLENT activity for developing fine motor skills, patience and concentration. The slit in the back of her lion bank is small and narrow. She must focus not only on getting the coin into the little slot, but also on having the coin in the correct position. After showing her once or twice, she was able to pick up a coin and get it into the slot on her own. I always hold her in my lap during this activity. I hold the lion bank in one hand and the coins in the other hand. She has figured out that putting in one coin at a time is the only way to get the money into the bank. I even let her give it a little shake once she has dropped all the coins in.

This has become a really fun activity for her. We generally do it on the weekend, that way she can see what change her Papa has in his wallet too!

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Little Bookbean

I have a little bookbean. She is so into reading lately. She will sit and look through books for a good 10-15 minutes at a time, multiple times a day. She loves being read to as well, if you read the pages she turns to! She doesn't necessarily want the book read from front to back, or beginning to end. She most certainly has her favorites as well. Right now she loves Chicka Chicka ABC, Little People Farm, Dear Zoo and Zieh mich raus, hier kommt die...!

I put her giant dog pillow out on the living room floor and pull her book bin up next to it and she will just lay there and look through books for a while. She even likes to lounge on the couch and read next to me. The only problem I'm finding is that if I actually want to read a book of my own, she stops reading her book to see what I'm doing. On Sunday, I sat and read out loud to her three pages from my book. She kept looking for pictures, but turned back to her books when she didn't find any.

Have you ever read adult books out loud to your kids? 

My husband and I both love love love reading. I couldn't be happier that Alexa seems to be following in our footsteps with a love of books.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Qtip Watercolor Painting

We found another crafty activity to add to our repertoire! Watercolor painting using qtips as a paint brush. Alexa is super into anything crafty. So far, we have painted with watercolors twice and she enjoyed it both times. She likes being able to dip the qtip into the water and then pick her color. It is hard work trying to mix the water into the color, but she did a really great job the second time we did this activity. 

All you need is some qtips, water color paints, an old yogurt container, water, some paper towels and a lot of patience. This is a great activity for developing and fine tuning those fine motor skills and it also makes a very pretty piece of art when finished.

For this activity, I have been setting up the art station on the living room coffee table. I use clear tape to tape down two sides of a piece of white paper. Then I use an old yogurt cup as a water cup and place that on a paper towel to absorb any spills. I grab 3-4 qtips and the watercolor paints. Alexa fits perfectly on the couch with the table pulled all the way up to her. I hold the water cup so she can dunk the qtip in. She practices dunking the qtip in the water and then has to concentrate to get paint onto the qtip.

She's getting very good at holding the qtip between her thumb and pointer finger like you would hold a pencil. Her control is also getting better. Her favorite part is mixing the water with the paint. After she stirs it for quite a while, I try and convince her to actually paint on the paper!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lazy Mommy

Since we've been going outside to the playground so much lately, I kind of don't know what to do with myself, or Alexa for that matter, when we are inside. I've gotten used to running around after her out in the grass, or just watching as she plays with other kids. Now, when we are inside for any length of time I feel like she's a little bored, but I also don't know what to do to entertain her or what new/old tricks to pull out of my hat so that she entertains herself. She is very good at playing on her own for short amounts of time, but sometimes she just wants my full attention. I just don't feel like I've got the attention span like I used to. Where did all my crazy, fun play ideas go to? Where did the mommy motivation go? And how do I get it back! It makes me feel guilty that I don't always feel like playing with her, but at the same time, I'm tired and sometimes I just don't feel like playing toys on the floor. Does that make me a horrible mommy, or just a lazy mommy?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Learning through play(ground) time

We have been having such gorgeous weather here in Austria, so Alexa and I have been spending as much time outside as possible. It is so amazing to me how much she has grown and changed in the last few weeks. Watching her on the playground I see just how much see has learned recently.

A few weeks ago she was very hesitant about walking on the gravel sidewalk in front of the playground. The playground itself has a sand bottom, so she wouldn't dare walk through the sand. She would just stand or sit wherever I put her. She was very unsteady and uncertain.

Now she jumps off her bike as soon as we pull up to the playground and off she goes. She slows down only to get down the small incline into the sand pit itself and then she's off again. She has no fear of other children and will go right up to them to see what they're doing and to announce that she is there. "Hi!" She greets every single adult, dog and child we meet. She's just so friendly, I could just eat her up!

She loves to follow all the bigger kids around and then copy whatever it is that they are doing. The last few days her favorite thing to do at the playground is to climb onto the concrete blocks and walk along them. It's what the cool, big kids do, soooooo obviously that means Alexa needs to do it too.

Big kid jumps on this weird silver thing. Alexa jumps on the weird silver thing.

It just blows my mind to see her climbing up ladders or onto slides and STANDING UP! She has no fear at all. I love how curious she is and it just brings a smile to my face to see how pleased she is with herself when she figures out how to do something new.