The World’s Best Cookie Cake (seriously)

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Today we we celebrated my husband’s 41st birthday with the most delicious cookie cake ever. My eight year old, our resident baker, asked my husband if he wanted a cake or cookies for his birthday this morning. When he said he couldn’t decide, we chose to do both and make a cookie cake. Best. Decision. Ever.  We used a 9-inch cake pan, which resulted in a thick, moist, perfect hunk of heaven.  Here’s how we did it:

Ingredients for cake:

1 & 1/2 sticks of butter, room temperature

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1egg

2 tsp vanilla extract (click to learn how I make my own!)

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Ingredients for buttercream icing:

1 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 stick of butter, room temperature

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (recipe!)

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 and line a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper. In a mixer with paddle attachement, cream butter and sugar together for about three minutes, I use the “stir” setting on my mixer.

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Add in the egg and vanilla extract.  Increase to low speed, and add flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and press into cake pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top begins to get very slightly golden brown.  Allow to cool in the pan and the lift out of the pan with the parchment paper.

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Heavenly.

For the buttercream icing, use your mixer, affixed with the paddle attachment to mix the butter and sugar on low speed until well blended. Increase speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add vanilla and cream and beat for 1 minute. Frost cookie cake to your liking!  This cake easily yields 10 generous slices.

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When you’re done, feel free to sit in the floor and lick the spoon.

 

 

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DIY Bath Salts with Young Living Essential Oils

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This month is Teacher Appreciation month at the school my kids attend (and where my husband teaches); with each week having a different theme along with suggestions of how to “appreciate” the teachers. This week’s theme is pampering, with suggestions like lotion, Chapstick, candles, etc.  The kids and I decided to make some bath salts for their teachers using Young Living Essential Oils.  Here’s how we did it and what you’ll need:

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1 cup Epsom salts

1 tablespoon baking soda

2-4 drops essential oil of your choice (my kids chose Lavender, Peace & Calming, and Peppermint)

food coloring, if desired

8 oz canning jar(s)

jute/twine and brown paper for tags

Directions:

My kids wanted to color some of the bath salts and layer them so they would look pretty in the jar. I don’t like to use food coloring, but I made an exception in this case for aesthetic appeal.  If you are going to color half of the salts, split the Epsom salts and baking soda in half in two bowls.  Mix the baking soda and salts, then, while stirring, add 1-2 drops of essential oil in each bowl.

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Then, in one bowl, add about 2 drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly.  Don’t get too crazy, you don’t want to end up with a pink, purple, or blue bathtub.

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Alternate pouring the white and colored salts into the jar to create a very pretty effect.

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Our canning jars came with labels, that we used to identify the essential oil used, and then using zigzag scissors, we cut tags out of paper shopping bags, which we tied to the jars using twine.  On the tags we wrote “Bath Salts: use 1/2 of jar in bath.”  My kids took them to school today, and before school was dismissed, I received an email from my youngest daughter’s teacher thanking me for such a “fancy thing.”  Enjoy!

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Easy DIY Hedgehog Valentines

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My younger daughter, Emaline, wanted to get on the bandwagon and make her own Valentines just like her sister .  She decided to make hedgehog valentines in honor of her classroom’s class pets, Daisy and Henry. We came up with an easy and super cute DIY that she was able to do all by herself.  Here’s what you’ll need:

construction paper

zigzag & regular scissors

school glue

can of vegetables or other round item to trace

heart cookie cutter or other heart-shaped item to trace

pen to draw eyes

paper dots for the noses-we just emptied out the reservoir in the hole punch

First, trace the can on brown construction paper. Trace at the edge of the paper, letting the can go over a little so it creates a flat side to the circle.  Cut out the circles with zigzag scissors; these will make the hedgehogs’ bodies.

 

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Now, trace the heart on to construction paper and cut out with regular scissors. The hearts will make the hedgehogs’ faces.  

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Now, the fun part. Glue the heart to the back of the hedgehog’s body so that the triangle part of the heart is sticking out of the flat part of the hedgehog body.

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Now, flip it over and glue your dot to the end of the triangle for the nose and draw an eye with your pen. Emaline drew eyes with eyelashes for Daisy and eyes with eyebrows for Henry.

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I printed out little pieces of paper that said “I’m hog wild for you,” along with “To” and “From.”  Emaline cut them out with the zigzag scissors and glued them to the front. Then, she used scotch tape to affix a pencil to the back of the valentine as a treat for her friends.  She had so much fun doing this and cannot wait to take them to school tomorrow!

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Easy DIY Owl on a Branch Valentines

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So, my eight year old LOVES owls and crafts.  Being the crafty child she is, this year she decided she wanted to make homemade owl Valentines for her classmates. I scoured Pinterest trying to find an easy idea, and ended up coming up with my own easy DIY. Here’s what you will need:

  • construction paper and some patterned paper, if desired (we just happened to have some really cute origami paper)
  • googly eyes
  • school glue
  • scotch tape
  • pencils
  • large can or other round object
  • scissors

First, trace the can on construction paper, letting just a little go off the edge of the paper so that you have a flat side to the circle, and then cut out.  Or, you know, have your kid do it.

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Then, cut out triangles that are just a little wider than the flat part of your circle. The origami paper we had made the perfect sized triangles when quartered.  Now, you have the body and ears/beak of your owl.

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Now, the fun part.  Simply glue the triangle upside down to the body of the owl (flat part of the body on top) and glue the eyes on. I printed out little tags that said “Owl Always Be Your Friend,” on my computer and my daughter cut them out with zigzag scissors. You could just write it , though. Then, for the branch, use scotch tape to affix a pencil to the back of the valentine to give the appearance of an owl sitting on a branch. So cute!  My daughter made these completely on her own. The ONLY thing I did was trace the can for the owls’ bodies. She was so proud of herself and kept looking at them all evening.

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Skunk vs Poodle

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Sometimes we receive glaring evidence that we live on Green Acres.  Take last Friday, for example.  I knew something smelled funny in my house, however I lost my sense of smell almost nine years ago while pregnant with my middle child.  I had a crazy cold that made me feel like my brain was going to fall out during my second trimester and left me without a sense of smell for several years.  It has very slowly come back, but is extremely dull.  Especially when it comes to bodily kinds of smells…ie: B.O., farts, and, evidently musk.  Most of the time it’s not a bad thing.  I keep reading that a lost sense of smell means something serious, and one article even said most people who lose their sense of smell die within five years.  I’m not dead yet, though, and all my medical workups are fine.

I work from home and all throughout the day, beginning early in the morning, I kept trying to figure out what smelled weird.  I stuck my face down in the vents, because it kind of smelled like something burning to me, and I thought it had something to do with the heat.  I smelled the bottoms of the shoes by the door, thinking it was barnyard poop stuck on a shoe (which I also cannot smell very well).  I emptied the cat’s litter box and got rid of the mushy potatoes at the bottom of the pantry.

It wasn’t until about four pm that I was sitting at my desk and Ollie, our standard poodle, came up and put his head on my lap.  I leaned down to kiss his head, and realized that he had been sprayed by a skunk.  There wasn’t much I could do at the time except for let him outside.  About half an hour later my husband came home to the smell that makes pretty much everyone want to tear their faces off.  He says it hit him so hard when he opened the door his eyes watered.  It was everywhere, because the dog had rubbed all over the couch, wallered on the floor, spent most of the day on the shag rug in my office (which still reeks),  and loved all over me.  It was also in my car, because he had loved on me before I took my daughter to meet her new pediatrician earlier in the morning (reeking of skunk-facepalm).

The thing about poodles is that they are basically giant swiffers.  EVERYTHING absorbs into their fur.  My husband went to the store to get some tomato juice, but came back with tomato sauce, as he was unable to find tomato juice because he didn’t realize it was an actual juice on the juice aisle and was only looking in the canned tomato section.  We rubbed the poor dog down with tomato sauce like he was a manicotti shell.  It did not work.  So, he spent the night in the garage and the next day I had to shave him down.  It takes about three hours to shave him all the way, so I did the front half on Saturday, and the rear half on Sunday.  The husband commented that he looked like a minotaur after his front half was done.  Oh, the shame.

 

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Delicious Semi-Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

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So, I have revamped my pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe about a million times, and I think I’ve come up with a pretty good version that isn’t too naughty.  I really wanted to use all whole wheat flour, but it just doesn’t taste quite right (kinda like a brick), so I have settled for half regular flour and half whole wheat.  This is a super easy recipe…enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 & 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 & 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 & 1/2 cups sugar

1 can (15 oz) 100% pure pumpkin

4 large eggs

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (mini chocolate chips are better in muffins…plain and simple)

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flours, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs and oil in a mixing bowl and beat on low just until blended.  Stir in flour mixture just until moistened.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.  I like to use this handy dandy scoop so that they are uniform.  Bake 25-30 mins.

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Apple Picking + No Sugar Applesauce Recipe

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My grandad had a small apple orchard when I was growing up.  I remember picking the apples, mostly to secretly feed to his cows.  He’s been gone for almost seven years, and with no one to tend to the orchard, the apples are pretty funky and are mostly food for the bears and deer that outnumber people in Highland County, VA.  Anyway, in an effort to recreate that activity with my own kids, we decided to visit my best friend for the weekend in Brevard, NC and take our children to Skytop Orchard located in nearby Flat Rock, NC.

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I have to say, this was quite the operation and much bigger than I expected.  You can buy pre-picked apples or venture out into the orchard to pick your own.  We grabbed our empty apple baskets, a wagon, and a map outlining where the varieties of apples were growing, and went to it.  It didn’t take long for the kids to fill the baskets, and then they played on the playground while two of the adults stood in line to get the apple doughnuts.  YOU MUST GET THE DOUGHNUTS…trust me.

When we got home, I made some super easy applesauce that is amazing.  I researched some recipes, but they all added sugar, which I think is completely unnecessary.  Here is how I made mine:

Ingredients:

4 lbs apples, peeled, cored, and quartered

1 cup water

Cinnamon to taste (I just sprinkled some on top)

1 tsp lemon zest

Dash of salt

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat an simmer for 20 minutes.  Mash or process in food processor, depending on how chunky you prefer your applesauce.  Enjoy!  Sorry I don’t have pictures…I was too eager to eat it!

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Laundry Detergent Recipe

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Wow, have I been a slack blogger!  It’s no coincidence that my last post was July 2nd, and our surprise mini-donkey, Pearl, was born on July 9th…what a ride!  It is time for me to get back into my blogging grove, and I can think of no better way than to share my laundry detergent recipe with you!  I have tried many different natural commercial detergents, but come back to this one time and again.  This recipe makes enough to last my family for FOUR MONTHS, providing significant savings!

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Ingredients:

2 bars Fels Naptha soap

2 cups Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

2 cups Borax

I shave the bars of soap with a cheese grater, then place all of the ingredients in my food processor until it is a powder-type consistency.  

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For one load of laundry, you only need to use TWO TEASPOONS of the powder.  It works in both conventional and HE washing machines.  Enjoy!

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How to Cut a Pineapple

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For a long time I was intimidated by this spiky fruit.  I don’t know if it was all of the episodes of Psych I’ve watched or if it was the fact they were on sale at Earth Fare, but recently I bought one.   When I got home, I grabbed a knife and cutting board, watched a how-to video on youtube, and my world is better for it.  Here’s how:

First, cut off the top and end:

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Then, slice down the sides.  You may have to slice again, as there will still be some remaining divots, or you can use the pointy side of a veggie peeler to dig them out:

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You now have a pineapple cylinder.  Now, cut into slices of your desired thickness:

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Then, take the end of your knife and cut around the core of each slice:

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Push out the core:

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If you wish, cut your pineapple slices into chunks!

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Yum!  Now you have a big bowl of sweet snackin’!

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Easy Remedy for Equine Rain Rot

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We had an extremely cold, damp winter and spring.  This left our mini-donkey, Macy, with a rain rot issue.  From what I understand, rain rot is bacterial.  I diagnosed her after discussing her symptoms with someone who has had horses for many years, and after viewing photos posted online.  She had a large patch of fur that was missing along her “Jesus Cross” on her back, and her skin was scaly and nasty looking.  In my research, I found there are two home remedies that people swear by. One is by using a bleach and water mixture, and the other is Listerine and water.  I decided to go with the Listerine because I like to start with the least harsh treatment possible and because it made sense to me that if it is bacterial, Listerine may be effective due to its antiseptic properties.

OK, so here is the picture of her rain rot before I treated it:20140622-215336-78816353.jpg

All you need is a spray bottle, Listerine, and water.  I did a 50/50 mixture of Listerine and water.20140622-215655-79015165.jpg

I sprayed it on twice a day for about a week, and then brushed her.  After each brushing, I sprayed down the brush really well with the solution and let it set in the sun, because the bacterial will stay in the brush.20140622-215654-79014070.jpg

It worked wonderfully.  I began to see improvement within about two days, and here is what it looks like after two weeks:

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Her fur has grown back…good as new!

 

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