Friday, April 29, 2016

Country Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I can't remember where I first discovered this recipe. I'm pretty sure it was during the baking frenzy of my high school days. (Remember the Barbie Cakes, anyone?) The point is, this recipe has been a staple in my repertoire for over a decade, because it's just that good and wonderfully simple to make. The secret ingredient? Buttermilk. Buttermilk makes everything it touches better, you know? Pancakes, biscuits, syrup, and bread.... mmm...

So without further ado:


1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 TB cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, beat butter, 1 cup sugar, and the egg until blended. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the large bowl and stir until just combined. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and cinnamon.

Grease a 8x4x2 inch loaf pan and add 1/3rd of the batter to the bottom, smoothing it out to form the bottom layer. Sprinkle 1/3rd of the cinnamon sugar mixture on top of the batter in the pan. Repeat the layers twice. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Preschool Alphabet Lesson Plan: The Letter "U"

We recently studied the letter "U" in our preschool lesson and if I do say so myself, we did a mighty fine job of it.

Here are some of the things we did that worked really well:

  • Talked about the letter "U" and made this craft with lots of "U" words: the big U is an underground tunnel, an up arrow, umbrella (the little "u" is the handle of the umbrella), unicorn, Uranus. While we worked on the craft, we listened to ukelele music.

  • Read What a Treasure by Jane and Will Hillenbrand about a mole who digs underground and finds some seemingly ordinary objects that are treasures to the animals around him. As the mole found the underground objects (like a twig and shell and acorn), the kids drew them on their papers.

  • We then pretended that we were at a University and each child picked a profession to pursue. One child wanted to be a doctor. Another chose to be a dancer. Each child had a notebook they used to draw pictures of or glue in odds and ends associated with the mini classes we did. For geography, we learned about the United States of America. For Astronomy, we talked about the planet Uranus. For Music, we taught each other our favorite dance moves and danced to "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid. (See how I tied in all the "U" words. Good times.)

In the end, we had a graduation ceremony and each student received a diploma. They got to dress up in the uniforms (yes, another "U" word) associated with their professions and they played the rest of the time. I sure love my little doctors and dancers.

Bonus: Here is a fun letter 'U' video the kids enjoyed:

Monday, April 4, 2016

Charmed by Chalk Paint

I was a bit slow jumping on the chalk paint band wagon. Although I was intrigued by what I saw on Pinterest and loved pieces that my friends had painted, it took a push from Delys to get me started. Last summer, she decided to give her kitchen a punch of color by painting a small hutch that began its life as bedroom furniture:

We had planned to go with Annie Sloane paint because, frankly, that was the only chalk paint brand we knew, but I happened to notice that Lowes carries a chalk paint, Valspar Chalky Finish Paints, and we decided to give it a try. We chose a blue that matches colors in her living room--which is open to the kitchen--and got to work:

We simply followed the directions on the back of the can and were generally pleased with the results. One of the things that we had been told about chalk paint, along with the fact that you don't have to sand the original surface, is that it has excellent coverage. This piece definitely required two coats. We let the paint dry over night and then applied Valspar Sealing Wax for Chalky Finish Projects. The wax provides a protective layer and adds a warm patina to the paint. (They also have a darker wax that can be used for a more distressed, antiqued look.) The can suggests using a brush for application, but we used an old T-shirt rag to rub on a thin coat:

(The galley kitchen didn't give me enough space to get a great picture, 
but this gives you a glimpse of the result. It turned out great!)

A few months later while I was visiting Elin, she decided to update a desk that she purchased years ago at a thrift store. Some creative little student, Max, had written his full name in large letters on the top of the desk with a permanent marker. (It was interesting that Elin chose, without any influence from Delys or me, the same color for her project.) She also updated the drawer pulls. I don't have a before picture, but here are a couple of afters. I love that the paint makes the decorative details in the wood pop:

Our most recent project is a dresser and mirror for one of Delys' daughters. It was another thrift store find and was in good condition, so we debated about whether or not to paint it at all: 

But we opted to go white because we thought it would stand out better against her moss green walls. (This project required three coats of Valspar. My plan is to do another piece using Annie Sloane to see if the coverage is better.) 

However, we do love the result: