Thursday, March 15, 2018

Can you bake a cake in a KitchenAid mixing bowl?


End of blog post.

Except first, can we talk about internet forums or conversation threads or whatever it's called when someone asks a question and others can post answers? I appreciate such things; I find good tips and helpful answers to the problems that Google doesn't know how to solve. However, upon trying to figure out the above, I found some vague yeses, some "I Don't Knows" (why post at all to say you don't know? Unless you have a related, helpful suggestion?), and a lecture or two about treating the KitchenAid mixing bowl with care rather than hazarding its safety in an oven.

Whatever. The point is, SourPatch had a very specific request for his birthday cake: a chocolate, blue bird cake. A short perusal of Google images later, I found and fell in love with this cake. The artist uses 4 round cakes and shapes them to look like a dome. Then, there's also this very cute tutorial with a pair of round cakes and a dome cake on top.

Here's the rub: I'm trying to cut back on my sugar intake, and the big family party happens after Patch's birthday. For the day of, I just wanted one cake mix worth of cake for the family and a few friends. Further, even if I did want a behemoth of a cake, why not use a cake pan already in the intended shape? So I eyed my stainless steel mixing bowl and asked the internet if I could bake with it.

True, I have had lots of experience baking with the Wilton Wonder Mold Pan. My bestie in high school convinced me to go on a "Barbie Cake" baking run. The advantage this pan has over the KitchenAid bowl is a long, metal skewer running down the center to help it bake evenly. The disadvantage is has is that I don't own one any more.

However, I followed the same baking temperature and time suggested for the Wilton pan: 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Using a Devil's food recipe from the wonderful Cake Mix Doctor Book, I found that time perfect for my cake, even without the metal cylinder in the center. I also found it a little squatty. I know that I managed to cook two mixes at once for a tall Barbie cake, but alas I don't have any memory of how to adjust the time.

The moral is that the cake pan survived (325 is a pretty low baking temp, n'est pas?) and from all appearances returned unscathed from its adventure in the oven. Along with homemade buttercream frosting, I decorated with edible colored baking sheets my mom gifted me in lieu of the fondant (and marshmallows for the eyes.) The final result wasn't polished, but it was delicious!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Preschool Lesson: The Very Quiet Cricket

My husband and I are a little at odds regarding Eric Carle books. I think it's the simple text that fails to wow my sweetheart. However, I remember the childhood magic of opening a book and having it chirp, blink, or squeak at me. Marvelous.

So I was excited about our preschool based around The Very Quiet Cricket. Further, a cursory glance showed that there are many, many preschool lesson plans centered on bugs and insects. "This will be easy," I thought. Yet several days and perusals later, I was having a hard time pegging down my plan. Was it information overload? Did the ideas just not speak? All I know is that it was hard to sketch out a plan. Finally, I decided to let the book be my guide and to have one activity for each of the bugs Eric Carle includes in the story. It made for a fun preschool.

I almost forgot to mention Shoo Fly. I put the song Shoo Fly on repeat while the kids were arriving and had shakers available for them to jam along. SourPatch got so into singing this song, both at the beginning and end of preschool, and his enthusiasm was infectious; everyone got into this song.

Yet all good things must come to an end, so the music went off and we gathered in a circle. After a welcome song, weather song, and calendaring time, we read through The Very Quiet Cricket. After taking a moment to soak in the magic of the chirp on the last page, we talked about insects for a little bit, defining the important characteristics and discovering that crickets fit these parameters. We also put on insect hats. We needed to get our heads in the game, as it were.

We then did our "cricket activity." Okay, I don't know what the dealio is with paint, but this foursome of kids gets so excited about the very thought of painting. They're also an exuberant bunch, and painting is messy. Thus, I was excited to try "salt painting." Previous to preschool, I filled in the outline of a cricket (traced from the cover of the book) with Elmer's glue and covered it with salt. The children then used watered-down paint (very, very watered down paint) to paint the now dry crickets. It's an unusual activity, but the kids enjoyed it, and it gave us time to review what makes the cricket an insect while they colored the six legs, head, abdomen, thorax, antennae, and wings. So I'd call our first salt paint attempt a success.

Back to the book, we read about the locust and sang "Do as I'm Doing" spin style, just like the locust in the book.

Fact: I am now terrified of praying mantises. Not for myself, I suppose, but on principle. They are so, so scary. Did you know they've been known to eat mice, birds, or even turtles? TURTLES? Are you kidding me?!?! I digress, though; for the praying mantis, I showed the children the first two minutes of this video.

Next, the worm. After wiggling together like worms, the kids had to put this puzzle in order and practice using gluesticks to paste it to another page. I found this puzzle in an amazing free download from Royal Baloo. Love this site--she has a giant, creepy crawlies pack full of great activities for multiple age groups.

The spittlebug was a new one for me. Bugs that froth and blow bubbles? Cool. So we stepped out on the porch and blew a few bubbles of our own.

For the cicada, I turned yet again to youtube to let the children listen to a clip of noisy cicadas. I would have loved to show them the creepy exoskeletons I used to find all over the trees growing up...

We buzzed and flew like bees before chanting "Here is the Beehive but where are the Bees?" and doing a little fingerplay.

We did the next two insects back-to-back, as they both activities needing do-a-dot markers (or stickers, if you like). We whizzed like dragonflies and then completed this do-a-dot page from the aforementioned Royal Baloo pack (also the source for the mosquito page below.)

Ah, mosquitoes. Rather than go deep into what these pests do, we practiced sorting lower and uppercase m's in this do-a-dot page.

For the luna moth, we watched a video of its metamorphosis (after silently gliding around the room, of course.) Oh. My. Word. I know I should be used to caterpillars changing into moths or butterflies, but it's still crazy amazing to see. Here's the thing: I can't find the awesome video I showed the kids, and since my old computer sputtered and died, I can't search my history either. My annoyance is real. There are lots of online, time-lapse videos of metamorphosis for butterflies that show the same principle.

Ready for our snack, I arranged pretzels and fruit to look like a butterfly. A little extra effort on presentation goes a long way with these kiddos.

Apart from doing the individual insect activities, we talked briefly about loud and quiet, rounding it out with the "Two Little Blackbirds Sitting on a Cloud" fingerplay.

I loved the idea from to use a box of "Back to Nature" bug pasta (I found it at Target). Sourpatch and I sorted the bugs and dyed them different colors (I discuss how in this post). We then worked on our fine motor skills by threading them onto pipe cleaners like beads, making some bug bracelets. Loved it.

Another great hit was few rounds of Bug in the Rug (I made them put back on their insect hats for this one.) How does one play that, you ask? One of the children leaves the room. Another child hides under the "rug" (or blanket). When the first child returns we chant, "Bug in the rug, bug in the rug, who is that bug in the rug?" The child then has to remember who is missing from the group and correctly guess who is under the blanket. Not hard in a group of four, you point out? Too true, but the kids loved the game all the same.

All these fun activities left no time for other books, which is a pity, since Sourpatch and I read so many books about creepy crawlies leading up to preschool. Two of his favorites were Fly! by Karl Newsom Edwards and The Magic Schoolbus Inside a Beehive.

All in all, it was great fun all around. For me, especially.