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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Chocolate Caramel Turtles - Anansi's Party Time

We are cooking our way through books.  It means that whenever we come across some food in a children's book, we cook it.  (You can read more about it HERE).   As soon as we finished reading Anansi's Party Time  my kids started jumping up and down shouting, "But we MUST make Chocolate Turtles."  And so we tried.  Six Sisters Stuff recipe struck our fancy.  This is a good recipe, if you like really sweet things.  However, it was too sweet for us.  Too much sugar, too much chocolate, too much caramel and too much nuts. And we decided that there was not enough of a base layer (the stuff that we did like).  So without wasting any time I set out to make the new version of Chocolate Turtles.  I doubled things we liked (eggs, butter and flour) but didn't double the things that we didn't like (sugar, chocolate, caramel and nuts) and it came out very go...oo...od.  We will definitely do it again.

You can find our Anansi's Party Time Literature Unit here.  Now to baking!

Our Chocolate Turtle Brownies 
(serve with whipped cream)
4 cups milk chocolate chips, divided
1 cup butter
6 large eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
15 caramels
2 Tablespoons milk
All the ingredients for the Turtles.  Except the bird. 
  1. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cut butter into small pieces and put in a large bowl. (We follow Waldorf curriculum and cutting with real knife is part of our program.  Please, use close supervision and if you haven't introduced your child to knife yet, read up on some basic safety instructions first)
  3. Measure 3 cups of chocolate chips on top of butter.  (Measuring and cooking together is a great introduction to math)

  4. Melt in the microwave and stir until smooth. 
    Oh, melted chocolate and butter I could look at your for hours...
  5. Stir in eggs.  (I like to crack my eggs with a knife.  But I just took a cooking class in a fancy French cooking school and our instructor said that you are supposed to crack an egg against a flat surface, like a table top.  I personally thought it was a very bad idea.  Not only I saw some drips flying all over the table (contamination... food borne illness... no, thank you), but also his hand was covered with slime too.  So, knife it is for me). 
  6. Add in flour, sugar, baking soda and vanilla.  Stir together well. 
  7. Spread batter into the greased pan, then sprinkle with chocolate chips and chopped nuts.
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until set and toothpick comes out clean.  Our Turtles were done in 32 minutes.  It was a perfect time for it in our oven. 
  9. Microwave caramels and milk in a small bowl for about 1 minutes.  Stir and then microwave for 30 seconds more.  Repeat stirring and microwaving until melted and smooth.  Drizzle over warm brownies.  
    Look who is helping!  And he didn't even try to eat it.
    We didn't use Rolo though, we ended up using the Costco stuff,
    which you can see on the pic of all the ingredients
We liked it with whipped cream!

On a second thought what we ended up with is not much of a Chocolate Turtle, but more of a Chocolate Cake!  I guess we are still looking for a good Chocolate Turtle recipe.  Feel free to link your favorite recipes in the comments section.  

And here is what we've got when we followed Six Sisters Stuff recipe.  Hey, I couldn't pass up a chance to post a cute pic, could I?  And we did end up eating the whole thing.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Walking on Eggs - video

What wouldn't I do in the name of science?  Hmmm... I think I wouldn't eat a bug.  I just read about a scientist who swallowed a live fly and described the sensation of it fluttering inside his throat on the way down.  You know what really happens when you swallow a fly?  Depending on the size of a bug you will have 1% less of your daily protein requirement.  Fly protein shake, anyone?  Luckily, no one is asking me to swallow a fly.  Today I will be testing just how hard chicken eggs are by attempting to walk on them.  (To be honest, I am more worried it would work.  What would I do with four dozen eggs!?)

Our interest in this experiment is two fold.  First, weight distribution.  My kids were wondering how mother hen doesn't crush her eggs.  We discovered that mother hen uses her beak and feet to move eggs in certain positions under her.  That allows to distribute her weight equally among all eggs.  In addition, hen feather's provide cushion much like store egg cartoon does.  The second reason, egg's shape.  Scientists tell us that the secret to egg's strength is not it's hard shell.  It's not that hard if a newborn chick can break it.  Egg's strength is in it's shape, it's curved design. Curve is an important element of many structures, from bridges to sports stadiums to subways.  The ancient Romans built arch bridges that are stills standing today.  So, walking on eggs in effect segueing us into our next study topic. Architecture.  If you want to learn more about curves I really liked the History of Bridges website.   In a jinx, the reason curved design of an egg or bridge is so successful is that "it doesn't push load forces straight down, but instead those forces are conveyed along the curve of the arch to support on each end."  Isn't mother Nature amazing?

Ok, enough talk.  Time to walk on eggs.  Warning: don't get alarmed by the creaking sound, it's coming from egg cartons.


Only one egg broken.  I'm choosing to believe that egg was defective.  Are you going to try it at home?  You can get more instructions on Steve Spangler website.   Have fun walking on eggs,

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A book about ME - Activity for Kids with Free Printables

Kids love to read about themselves.  This book is easy to make, fun to read and it’s a great bonding activity.  Kids love to be the center of your attention and they enjoy answering questions about themselves.  We have done a couple of these over the years.  My daughter would be happy to make a new one every day.  She thinks it's one of the best things you can possibly do - cutting, gluing, writing and talking about what she likes to do. 

What you need

  • paper
  • scissors
  • pens
  • glue
  • punch hole or anything else for making holes (you can also glue or staple the pages together)
  • yarn or ribbon (if that's what you pick for keeping the pages together) 
  • photo of your child and perhaps family members, if you are including them on family page (alternatively, you can ask your child to draw self-portrait and family members)
  • printer (if you are printing my printables)

The following are some pages from different books we made over the years.  You see the Victoria Secret model on the last page?  More about it below. 

I asked my daughter what is a picture of a model doing in her book.  She said, “She looks like you.”  “Oh,” I said, “You think I look like a swimsuit model! It’s so sweet.  Thank you!  Thank you!”  “No,” she corrected me, “that’s how you looked on old pictures.  Before the kids.”  Hmmm… Oh, well, it’s still kind of a compliment, I guess.  

At the end of the post I offer some templates for sample pages and the common things kids love to eat and to do.  You can print it out and use it.  This way you can jump into putting a book together right now.  Or go to Google Images and find images that better suit your child’s personality.   If you little ones show interest in using scissors, let them cut all the pictures out (under supervision).  You can also add pages that seem relevant to your child, hobbies, perhaps, or favorite books or toys they dream about.  Sometimes I give my kids toy catalogs and ask them to cut out a few pictures for their book (I call it a sneaky way to get some scissor practice into their day).   Depending on the age of your child you do the writing or ask them to do it (i.e. the names of foods they like or activities they picked, heading for the pages, names of family members).  Have a picture of your child ready for the front page and pictures of your family members for Family Page.  You are all set to start.  I hope you have fun doing it!   

Templates - Kids Love to Eat and Do

I'm standing on Eggs... and you can too

Easter is a week away and our egg-centric activities are in full swing.  Kids have been wondering how is that mother hen can sit on eggs without breaking them.  We looked into it and turns out it's all about equal distribution of weight.  According to some sources an adult can stand on eggs without breaking them.  And even walk on eggs!  What?  We had to try.

One leg up and the other one down.  This is the way to London Town.  I didn't get that far, but standing on eggs is sure a nerve titillating experience.

Yep!  I'm standing on eggs.
And they didn't break.

What you need
Raw Eggs
Willing adult
Kids can do it too, but my kids refused

How to do it
If you are going to try it at home here are some pointers.

  • Make sure all eggs are pointed the same way, so they all bear an equal amount of your weight.
  • Go slow!  
  • I don't know how sensitive you are to the sensations in your feet (I'm a yogini of long standing), but if not too sensitive, it might be better to hold on to someone or something when you have one foot planted on eggs and lifting the other one in the air (as the first foot will bear the whole weight of your body at that moment).  Once you are on eggs let go of your support and enjoy the sensation.  There is nothing like standing on eggs!

Why the eggs didn't break
Eggs do not stand well to uneven forces, that's why a tiny chick can break through the egg shells, while fat mother hen can sit on it for days and don't break it.  The egg cartoon played a role in keeping eggs safe in our experiment too.  Egg cartoon has been especially designed to keep the eggs from breaking by cushioning and separating them.  Some say that if you drop a cartoon of eggs and it lands just right, the eggs won't break. We are yet to try that.

And now you can watch part II of our egg experiment - Walking on eggs.

(This experiment is inspired by

Oh, and have you heard the latest news?  300 hens stolen from a farm in California.  Not any hens, mind you, the special pastel eggs laying hens.  How do you steal 300 hens?  


Friday, March 27, 2015

Color Changing Milk Experiment - #That leftover milk at the bottom of your cereal bowl

Do your kids finish all the milk in their bowl of milk with cheerios?   Well, then you are lucky because my kids never do.  I tell them "can't you just drink that milk?"  And they say it tastes yucky.  So I was very happy one day to discover how to put that milk to use, all the while teaching early childhood chemistry.  The younger set will not get the explanation, but they will enjoy the experiment anyway.

What you need

  • milk
  • four colors of food coloring - red, yellow, blue, and green
  • liquid dish soap
  • Q-tip


  1. Pour milk in a dinner plate to completely cover the bottom (about 1/4 inch).  I get my kids to transfer it out with a spoon.  Good practice for pouring and coordination. 
  2. Add all four food colors - one drop of each - right in the center of the plate (keep the drops close together)
  3. Touch the tip of a Q-tip in the middle of the color blob in the middle of the milk.  Don't stir the mix!!  Did anything happen?  Not yet!
  4. Now soak a fresh Q-tip in a liquid dish soap.  Place the soapy end of a Q-tip in the middle of your plate of milk and hold it there 10-15 seconds.  Again don't stir!  Just hold it there.  What is happening?  Milk started to move around!!  
  5. Soak another Q-tip in a liquid dish soup and place it in a different place in the milk.  Do you see a beautiful burst of color? And how exciting is it that milk continues to move even after Q-tip is removed!  
What is happening
The composition of milk varies depending on an individual animal, but we can say that on average milk is 87% water, 4% fat, 3.4% protein, 4.8% lactose, and 0.8% minerals (such as calcium).  Dish soap alters the relationship between the parts that make up the milk.  When the tip of your Q-tip introduces the dish soap into the mix, that dish soap weakens the chemical bond that holds the proteins and fats in solution.  Some soap molecules start racing around trying to join up with the fat molecules in the milk.  In response the molecules of fat bend, roll, twist, and contort in all directions. During all this movement the food coloring molecules are bumped and shoved out of the way, allowing us to see all the invisible activity between dish soap and milk.   Why does the movement stop?  Because milk and soap become evenly mixed.  We haven't tried this experiment with 1% or fat-free milk, but that's what we are doing next.

I found most of the information about this experiment on Steve Spangler Science website.

How do you play with colors?  What is your favorite color experiment?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Playing with Water

Early Voting – Done!  School work for the day – Done!  Toddler’s nap?  Miracle … but he is sleeping.  Now I have a few moments to share with you a cute little water activity we did this morning.  As you can see it’s very easy to set up. 

All you need is five plastic beakers and food coloring.  I like to smell something nice, so I threw in Almond Extract too.  

Is it really worth an effort, you might be wondering?  How long can a couple of bickers and water keep a child occupied?  You would be surprised how long.  My toddler – who is not buying into the whole independent play hype – played this game for 25 minutes.   It's a major achievement even if I did have to stay right by him and occasionally contribute exciting reassurances, "Oh my God!  You poured it without spilling!  Such a great job!"  My two older kids, who could have been spokespeople for the independent play movement, have been known to engage in this play for an hour without my slightest involvement.  My almost seven year old still likes this set up, only he plays it differently now.  He likes to build Lego bridges between the beakers and have his Lego men fall down into the water.

Set up
5 plastic beakers of different size 
Food coloring

(When I was a young mom I had no idea what to say and how to do the whole "playing-with-children" thing, so for those who are just beginning to teach their children, I am laying it out in detail here)
Draw child’s attention to contents of pitchers.  Say, "This one is full and this one is empty."  Pick up a pitcher, demonstrating proper hold.  Position carefully, so when pouring spout will be over center of a pitcher.  "This is how we pour water."  Invite child to pour. When he seems to be losing interest add different colors.  "Look it's red/green/black now!"   If a child looks engaged, it's a good time to start practicing what I call Engage-and-Walk-Away.  Don't go too far though.  If they call for help, come back.  You want a child to be sure, you are available, which creates a safe space to explore independence.  

What is he learning?
  • Pouring drinks (which is a practical living skill)
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Development of concentration
  • Colors


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Russian Borscht - Grandmother's recipe

If you have ever cooked Borscht in your life, you might have a very strong opinion about how it should be cooked.  And that’s ok.  Everybody cooks it differently.  There is no consistent recipe for borscht.  There is no agreement where it came from either.  I have heard Ukrainians say that borscht has Ukrainian origin and I have heard Russians claim the same about Russia.  Encyclopedia Britannica simply states that borscht has Slavic origin.  And I have once read that borscht used to be the national food in Ancient Rome.  It doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters is that it tastes good.  So, go ahead make a pot!

This past year my kids and I started an exciting project.  We are cooking our way through children's books.  It means that whenever we come across a tasty dish in a children's book, we cook it together.  (You can read more about it HERE).  

Recently we came across The Princess of Borscht by Leda Schubert in our library.  In this book a little girl Ruth goes to visit her grandma in the hospital.  Grandma complains about food and requests homemade borscht.  Before Ruth can ask for a recipe, grandma falls asleep.  Not to worry, back in her apartment building all the neighbors are happy to help.  Despite the contradictory advice and some intense bickering between the good meaning ladies, Ruth manages to make a pot of soup.  The back of the book has a recipe for a vegetarian borscht.    

The recipe in the book didn't appeal to us very much, so I am sharing with you my grandma’s true, tried and tested one.  It wouldn't be me, though, if I didn't modify a recipe. In contrast to my grandma, I love to add mushrooms, zucchini, and beet foliage.  But I avoid potatoes, tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar, and tomato paste.  That’s just me though. Do what you like with your borscht.  It’s not going to complain, I promise.  There are so many wonderful ideas out there.  Next on my list is to try this Borscht Hong Kong Style.  I want to be surprised. 

I believe that for a good quality borscht you need to start with a homemade stock.  Beef bone marrow or meaty pork bones are good choices.  I like to use a combination of meats. This way I get richness for the stock and good meat to eat for kids (I almost never eat meat myself). 

20 cups of water
2.3 lb of pork spare ribs
1 lb bone marrow

If you are a vegetarian, don't look at this photo

I like to add meat to the boiling water in contrast to most recipes that suggest placing meat into a pot and topping it with cold water.  With my method all that nasty white foam comes on top right away and I use slotted spoon to get rid of it.  I believe this method produces cleaner and more flavorful stock.  

Go ahead, ask your kids to count 20 cups of water out loud
When I feel fancy I add a bouquet garnet to the pot, but it’s not necessary.  It comes out tasty either way.  If you do want a bouquet garnet this is how you make it. Gather together a few of your favorite herbs.  My usual three are: parsley stalks, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves.  Tie it with a kitchen string or put it in a bouquet garnet bag.  Add bouquet garnet to the pot.   

The bones should be simmered for about three hours.  After that the cooked meat is separated from the bones and returned to the pot.  If you used a bouquet garnet, discard it now.  If this all seems like too much of a time investment, think about the health benefits of a homemade stock .  This article does a great job explaining them. 

6 large beets with beet greens (all the beets you see on the top pic of this post.  To see benefits of eating beets check here)
1/2 16 oz bag of baby carrots (saves peeling time)
1/4 small cabbage (I'm not a big fan of cabbage, so I use the minimum amount)
1/2 small onion
1 1/2 Tablespoons salt
8oz (1 package) fresh mushrooms
1/2 zucchini 
I like to add garlic but I didn't have any this time.

These are the veggies I used for my borscht
1. Wash your veggies.  I love beets.  Aren't they lovely?! 

2. Cut them into stripes, circles, squares or any other shape that appeals to you.  (Note: I like to use lots of beet greens.  Among other things they are high in vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese.  For a full list of benefits check Food Facts).  

3. Drop all the veggies into your stock and either boil them for about 10 minutes or simmer for about 20 minutes (or until beets are soft).
4. Once the borscht is cooked, turn off the heat and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes.
I like to eat borscht with freshly chopped dill or parsley, dark rye bread and piled high with veggies.

 But my kids don't like to see veggies in their soup.  So, I sift the veggies out and add a dollop of sour cream to their bowl of soup.

I hope you give it a try,

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Easter Books

One of my favorite things about being a parent is reading lots of fantastic children's books that I have never heard about and would have never read, if I didn't have children.  In a way I'm discovering a whole new world through books together with them and I am as excited as they are.  There is no end to the selection of Easter books on the bookstore shelves, but here are the ones we have been reading for a few years now and love dearly.  In those books we are still discovering new meanings and finding new ways to talk about them. We will be adding more to this list as years go by, but for now this is our list of favorite Easter Books.

1. The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown

2. The Easter Bunny that Overslept by Priscilla and Otto Friedrich

3. The Easter Egg by Jan Brett

4. The Berenstain Bears' Easter Parade by Mike Berenstain

5. The Berenstain Bears and the Real Easter Eggs by Stan and Jan Berenstain
6. The Night Before Easter by Natasha Wing

7. The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous

8. A Tale for Easter by Tasha Tudor (we love ALL Tasha Tudor books including Tasha Tudor cookbook)
9. Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco

10. The bunny who found Easter by Charlotte Zolotov

11.  The Easter Egg Farm by Mary Jane Auch (a wonderful book to encourage creativity)

13. Lego City: Follow that Easter Egg (This is our new addition this year.  It's not a classic, but my kids can not get enough of it, they giggle every time we read it and there is a good lesson in it too.  Oh, and as a bonus they always go and play with their legos after we read this book)