“Should I Share My Ice Cream?” Party

Jake Licks Batter

My son is smart and wily and creative. He is thoughtful and determined and energetic.

And he is 3 years old!

It's My Birthday!This year for Jake’s birthday, I really wanted to keep it simple. I wanted to spend less time worrying and preparing, and more time marveling at how my tiny baby turned into this enormous, articulate preschooler, a little boy with a strong will and a contagious smile!

Jake never hesitates when you ask him what his favorite foods are: ice cream and pizza. (Clearly I have been teaching him everything I know…) So this year we decided to have an ice cream party to celebrate what an awesome kid Jake is!

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Rainbow Swirl Sugar Cookies

Rainbow Swirl Sugar Cookies

When I was a kid, the local grocery store was famous for their rainbow sugar cookies. Everyone I knew loved them.

Everyone except me. I thought they tasted funny. These cookies were probably the only dessert I would actually decline as a kid. They just didn’t wow me. The bright colors didn’t fool me (I had also figured out that sprinkles didn’t actually make ice cream taste more delicious…go figure), and I just wasn’t going for them.

For years, I eschewed food coloring. (This may also have had something to do with the fact that I was afraid of pink foods actually tasting like strawberries…either way, no good.)

But now my oldest is nearly 3 (!!), and I have realized that for him, color does make something more awesome. He literally likes to go around naming all his favorite colors of Legos, crayons, Play-Doh (news flash, it’s every color in the rainbow), sometimes spending more time talking about the colors than actually playing with his toys. Sprinkles are beautiful and food coloring is delicious.

Of course, I still have a rule that food should be primarily yummy and secondarily pretty, but when I spotted a recipe for rainbow swirled cookies on The PinterTest Kitchen, my Secret Recipe Club blog for August, I knew immediately that Jake would love them! Food crafts for kids!

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No Churn Mint Pistachio Ice Cream

No-Churn Mint Pistachio Ice Cream

Over the last month or so, Jake has developed quite an obsession with the book Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems. He carries it around the house with him. We read it at least once a day and up to four or five times in a row, if we have the patience. Jake likes to sit down to read the book aloud (quite accurately, I might add) to his baby sister, and he has on many occasions just recited various sections to himself when the book isn’t on hand.

Get your cold ice cream for a hot day!

I Love Ice CreamI have to admit that I love this book, and not just because I am amused that all Jake’s favorite books are somehow about dessert. The crisis Gerald goes through, trying to decide whether he can bear to share his very favorite thing, the greedy rationalizations partnered with loyalty and affection for his best friend—they ring so true!

But it has always puzzled me that Gerald’s ice cream is green. I mean…green. (Maybe because real elephants are herbivores?) Nothing against mint or pistachio or matcha ice cream, particularly…I am just surprised to see such a grown-up color in a children’s book.

But maybe this is a good thing: expanding my kid’s horizons in the name of ice cream and reading!

I told Jake we would make Gerald’s ice cream…and then we set out to combine two classic green flavors, with tremendously delicious results!

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Baby Caitlin

Baby Caitlin

Life has just gotten more beautiful!

Our new little daughter, Caitlin, is such a charmer. She is definitely keeping us on our toes, but every time she flashes that ear-to-ear smile (yes, I know it’s a reflex, but it’s just so cute!) she melts our hearts.

Life as a family of four has been very sweet so far! We feel so blessed as we get to know our newest little one!

Happy Family

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Easter Egg Nest Chocolate Cupcakes

Easter Egg Nest Chocolate Cupcakes

It’s almost Easter!

For several months now, Jake’s favorite “book” has been a Wilton cupcake decorating magazine. He found it on the cookbook shelf and immediately started asking me to “read” it to him, naming and describing all of the cupcakes from bubble-gum machines to bouncing babies to Christmas penguins. Now the poor cupcake magazine is more dog-eared than any other book in the house.

(In case you don’t know, I have never been a fan of fondant. Or extravagantly decorating desserts purely for visual effect. I am a firm believer that food should be primarily tasty, and that efforts that don’t affect the flavor are a waste of time.)

This cupcake book is entirely to blame for the fact that Jake has become obsessed with Easter eggs. Begging daily to do an Easter egg hunt (an event that he has never actually experienced…).

Because of this cupcake book, I am slowly realizing that I will have to let go of my ambivalence toward cute foods in favor of having fun with my kid.

Spring certainly does present a lot of fun (food) craft opportunities for little ones, so this week we decided to embrace the chocolate malt Easter egg and do a delicious art project! Jake had a blast decorating these cupcakes! Not only were these cupcakes cute and festive (perfect for a party!), but every part of them was tasty.

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How to Bake with a Toddler: Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

Before Jake was born, several of my well-meaning friends told me to say goodbye to homemade cookies and from-scratch dinners. Wish my kitchen well and move on.

I both scoffed and worried about that advice. Was it really true that I wouldn’t be able to spend time cooking and baking the way I really like to?

While it’s certainly true that having a kid turned my world upside-down, I have discovered that we can do almost anything together if I am patient. Including baking!

Here’s the thing: baking/cooking together is not only a great way to build culinary confidence into a toddler, and a great way to make a fun activity out of something you were going to do anyway, but it also has a lot of developmental benefits for a little tyke! From early math (let’s count the eggs as we add them to the bowl!) to dumping in the ingredients into the bowl, baking is full of magical learning for little kids. (And guess what, folks!? Toddlers are super capable! I even let Jake help me make this wedding cake I’ve been going on and on about, and it turned out just grand.)

This Christmas season, during a time when family and togetherness are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, I thought I would share with you a few tips that may encourage you to spend time in the kitchen with even your littlest ones. Jake and I have been baking together since he was old enough to stand on his own—he can’t wait to help or watch with even the most mundane kitchen tasks, like making coffee! And it is my sincere hope that he will grow into a confident chef as we continue to cook together!

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Farm Birthday Party

It happened.

Farmhand JakeMy baby turned 2! I am still not sure how this is possible, but every day he is chatting incessantly and singing songs and creating new things and just delighting us. (What a big difference from what he was doing two years ago!)

For example, this morning, he wanted to play with play-doh, and as I was getting it out, he announced, “Don’t eat play-doh,” (which, as you may guess, is a rule for a reason…) and then proceeded to build a layered birthday cake with little straws for candles.

Yeah, the birthday event really made an impression on him!

Look, Sheep!This year, we went to a local farm park to celebrate Jake’s birthday with family and some of his friends. Frying Pan Farm Park has a working dairy farm, a collection of antique tractors and farm equipment, a ton of animals to check out (and, bonus, the pigs and goats recently had babies), as well as open spaces to run around, a carousel, and two sets of playground equipment. It’s the real deal for kids of any age!

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Chocolate Prune Smash Cake + Curious George Party

Chocolate Prune Smash Cake

My baby is 1!!

How did that even happen?

In keeping with my goal to one day turn into Annie of Annie’s Eats, I planned the heck out of a birthday party for him. I landed on a Curious George theme (from the books, not the show), because my kid looooves to investigate anything he sees or gets his hands on. And he gets into everything. It seemed fitting.

Mantle and Gift Table I spent days and days cutting cardstock into circles and stripes and triangles to make favor tags and birthday signs.

Curious George GuestbookI framed pictures scanned from the Curious George books to accent the whole house (gift table, cake stand, activities for kids, you name it!).

Piano DecoI put monkeys and photos all over the house. (And you can’t see it, but on the far wall there is a giant slideshow of Jake over the last year!)

I blew up balloons and tried to redecorate the entire house into primary colors (um, yes, I did tack yellow vinyl tablecloths to the walls. I don’t want to talk about it). It took a lot of effort. I got very little sleep. But in the end, I was so happy with how Jake’s party turned out!

Fist Full of CakeHe seemed to have fun, too.

Especially with the cake (he is, after all, my son)! He grabbed a fistful of cake and shoved it into his mouth and ate/smeared/shared happily for 20 minutes. (P.S., I spent the entire birthday song choking back tears…how did my little bundle turn into a toddler already!?)

I am so proud of this smash cake! I wanted to make something that wouldn’t overload him with sugar out the gate, since we have been very diligent with his diet up til now: the only sweetness he’s ever had has been from actual fruits, and I’m not talking about juices or concentrates. I decided that I wanted to give Jake chocolate cake because it’s clearly the best, but I also wanted it to be vaguely familiar to him, with minimal added sugar. So I decided to include fruits, which would lend flavor, texture, and sweetness, without being overpowering. Hence, chocolate prune cake!

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Homemade Baby Food

Pea-Puree Goatee

I can’t believe Jake is almost 7 months old!

We have been feeding him solids for about a month now. We started with rice cereal, per our pediatrician’s recommendation, and then slowly started introducing vegetable purees.

But, um…did you know that a lot of store brand baby foods have all kinds of chemical additives in them? Yikes!

Am I crazy to think that baby food should just be made out of, well…food?

Baby Food CubesI was thrilled to see a great idea for baby food on this month’s Secret Recipe Club blog, Join Us, Pull Up A Chair. I had already tried making a few veggie purees for Jake, but I particularly loved Heather’s method for storing the baby foods: freezing individual portions in an ice cube tray! This totally eliminates the need for baby food jars, and it also means that I can make and store a variety of foods all at once. Hooray!

Don’t worry. It is not at all hard to make your own baby food. You don’t need a Baby Brezza or anything like that. Doing it yourself is not only way cheaper than buying the jarred baby food, but it is also healthier for your baby.

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Baby Jake

Guess what!?

I’m a MOMMY!

Little Jake couldn’t possibly be more adorable if he tried.

Dave and I are busy adjusting to life as parents…and let me just say it has been an adventure so far! Our little guy is so amazing, and we are so happy that he has *finally* joined us!

 

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