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Friday, July 25, 2014

Make Learning Fun with Disney Jr., Preschool Superhero Sounds & Counting Free Printables!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

My four-year-old son will be starting preschool for a second year this fall.  Except this time, I've decided to homeschool him rather than send him out. I know I'll need to get really creative with my teaching methods in order to make learning fun and to successfully prepare him for kindergarten.  Disney Jr. has some great learning tools, so I picked up a fun kit at Walmart and then put together some additional sound and counting activities of my own, which you'll see free printables for at the end of this post.
I love seeing how different each of my three kids' personalities are.  For example, my oldest daughter learned the alphabet at age 3 and then begged me to teach her to read after just turning 4.  She is a book worm through-and-through, and I'm so glad.

My four-year-old son's disposition is night and day from her in that he would much rather play superheroes than practice letters and sounds.  Learning to read before kindergarten would, I'm sure, be seen as pure torture to him.  I'm not going to force anything, because I want him to enjoy learning, but I'm determined to provide him with fun activities at our mommy/son preschool in the coming year that will teach him important concepts and help him enjoy the ride along the way.

To help make learning fun for him this year in preschool, I picked up a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Learning Schoolhouse Activity Kit at Walmart the other day. My son couldn't wait to get home and open it!

I found the kit over in the Back to School section of the store.  Some other great Disney Jr. items that are available are:

Learning Easel Activity Center
Learning Schoolhouse Activity
Counting Learning Activity
First Words Learning ACtivity
Rhyming Learning ACtivity
Alphabet Learning Activity
Numbers Learning Activity
Colors & Shapes Learning Activity
We got home and he immediately opened it and began tracing letters on the dry-erase alphabet board.  I love that it's so easy to wipe clean and can be used over and over for lots of practice!

And see that cute little mini clock up top?  It's the perfect way to jump start time-telling skills!  I didn't think my son would understand it yet, but he's catching on quick!

 The kit also includes some fun star stickers to reward A+ work, which I happily did.  :)  

Then he moved to the counting and alphabet flashcards.  He's becoming a pro counter!

Next, he played the role of teacher and proceeded to quiz me on my U.S. geography and state capitals.  I'm a little rusty, but I think I passed. :)
The Disney Jr. Learning Kit is a fantastic learning tool.  But because every individual learns very differently, I decided to supplement my son's preschool curriculum by creating a few more simple educational opportunities.  He gets excited at the mere mention of superheroes, so I knew I needed to come up with activities centered around them...
...like this Superhero Counting Game (free printables below).  I simply laid out the large number sheets and allowed him to count out different amounts of each superhero logo to put underneath.  
Two thumbs way up!  He's going to be so #Ready4Preschool to start in a month! 

I wanted to reinforce his letter recognition and teach sounds, so I designed a set of superhero flash cards with the beginning letters emphasized.  I quizzed him on what each letter was and asked him to say the word out loud to me, pausing on the beginning sound of each.
B is for "buh, buh" Batman, his favorite superhero of all time!  He got a kick out of this game.  


Print the superhero logo circles HERE.

Number Labels for Superhero Counting:
Number 1
Number 2
Number 3
Number 4
Number 5
Number 6
Number 7
Number 8
Number 9
Number 10

Superhero Sounds Activity:
Superhero Sounds Game Sheet 1
Superhero Sounds Game Sheet 2
Superhero Sounds Game Sheet 3

Collectively, these activities really got my son excited about learning!  Sweet success! At this rate, he may be reading before kindergarten like his sister did!  I hope you find them useful too!

Thanks, #CollectiveBias, for the opportunity to help make learning fun for preschoolers like my son!

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Deluxe Strawberry Banana Cream Pie with Perfect Pie Crust Tutorial

I cannot say enough good things about this deluxe Strawberry Banana Cream Pie, so I'll let the photos do most of the speaking.  It includes five layers of divine goodness that are well worth the time and effort.  I'm sharing this fabulous recipe as part of Nap Time Creations' "Summer Fun" series, of which I'm thrilled to be a part.
Feast your eyes on that.  Is your mouth watering too?  

I'm yearning for another piece right now.  A perfect pie crust layered with sweet cream cheese, then sliced bananas, succulent fresh strawberries, a strawberry glaze and topped with fluffy whipped cream.  

I mentioned earlier that I visited my parent's house a few weeks ago and number one on my bucket list while I was there was to partake of my mom's homemade strawberry pie.  I seriously dream about it.  I grew up indulging in it every summer.  My siblings and I would beg her to make it.  I even often promised to cut strawberries and bananas to make the job easier.

Of course you can just buy the crust and cut out a lot of the work, but to my mom, pie making is an art, and she would never think of using anything but a homemade crust.   However, if you're short on time, there's no crime in purchasing the crust.  I promise not to hold it against you.  :)

For some reason, I've always been intimidated by making pie crust.  Are you like me?  Each time I do, though, I'm amazed at how easy it really is. Probably the most important thing to remember is not to add too much water.  A soggy crust is no bueno. 

I'll try to be detailed in my instructions so you can output the perfect pie crust to impress your family and friends!

Makes two 9" pie crusts

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/8 c. shortening
 Stir flour and salt together. Add shortening on top.
Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture forms pea-sized pieces.
Add 3 Tbsp. ice water (ice water prevents the shortening from melting) and work into mixture with a fork, pushing aside the moistened portions.
Sprinkle ice water, 1 Tbsp. at a time on dry areas, and continue working moistened parts to the side until all the dough is moist.
Divide dough into two equal portions and form into balls.  You can use a scale for this or just eyeball it like we did.
Press dough ball with the palm of your hand to flatten a bit.
Roll out on floured surface until about 2" wider than your pie plate. 
Scrape dough underneath with a metal spatula for a clean release from the counter top.
Fold dough in fourths to transfer easily to the pie plate.
Align dough so it overhangs by about 2", then unfold.
Trim dough so it hangs over the pie plate by about 1".  If some areas are scant, grab a piece of trimmed dough and use a few dabs of ice water to "glue" it to the area.
Fold dough under so a little of it sticks above the pie plate.
Now flute the edges using two of your fingers as support on one hand and your index finger on the other hand to press the dough between your fingers.  Be sure to press down so the dough will be right up against the pie plate.  This will prevent shrinking.
Prick the bottom and edges with a fork so the crust can breathe while baking.  Bake at 475 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-15 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.  Let cool, then add filling layers listed below.  You'll want to make the glaze while the crust is baking.
Look at that gorgeous glistening strawberry glaze!  I want to dip my finger into the picture and take a lick.  There are lots of layers, but I guarantee you'll want to jump on this bandwagon, because it will take you to pie heaven!

Layer 1

Makes enough for two 9" pies

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. cool whip

Mix in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy.  Divide in half and spread onto bottom of crusts.  

Layer 2
6 Bananas, sliced and divided in half

Place bananas over cream cheese layer

Layer 3

2 cartons of strawberries, washed, dried, and stems removed.

Slice strawberries in half and arrange 1 carton's worth over each pie on top of the bananas.

Layer 4

Makes enough for two 9" pies

12 c. (or 2 cartons) strawberries
2 c. sugar
6 Tbsp. corn starch
1 c. water

Mash enough strawberries to measure 2 cups.  Mix sugar and corn starch in 2 quart sauce pan.  Stir in water and strawberries.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir one minute.  Cover with plastic wrap and let cool completely.  

Pour and spread half the cooled glaze mixture on each pie.

Layer 5


1 pint whipping cream
2 tsp. vanilla
4 heaping Tablespoons powdered sugar

Put all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until peaks form.  Spread on top of pie.

Place pie in refrigerator and chill for 3 hours before eating for best results.

It's simply irresistible, just like it looks!  Strawberries won't be in season for too much longer, so you should make this ASAP!  You won't regret it.  At bite one, you're sure to be hooked and this incredible pie will become a tradition for you, too, each summer.

Do you enjoy making pie crusts from scratch, or are you all about buying them?

Check out these other "Summer Fun" ideas by my awesome fellow bloggers!
summerfun part 8
Chocolate Dipped Mickey Treats from Forty Eighteen- yum!
My Overstuffed Life is sharing How to Host a Summer Book Club for Kids- FUN!
And last be sure to check out this delicious Banana Strawberry Cream Pie at I Dig Pinterest.

Head over to Nap-Time Creations to see lots of other ideas for Summer Fun
last week's collage: summer fun 7
Crochet Nautical Handbag by the Stitchin' Mommy
Strawberry Shortcake by O Taste and See
Mini Greenhouse by Sugar Tart Crafts on Nap-Time Creations
Hop on over to Nap-Time Creations to enter TWO great giveaways...

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Movie Night Popcorn Cake & a Rio 2 Family Night Surprise!

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® Pop Secret and Fox Entertainment, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia  #PopForRio2 http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV.

Have I got a treat for you today! A Movie Night Popcorn Cake made with buttery Pop Secret Popcorn, melted white chocolate and marshmallows, then loaded with peanuts, pretzels and colorful chocolate candies! Combine it with a fun-filled family movie night watching the newly-released Rio 2, and it can't be beaten!
In our home, we have a tradition/precedence of "family home evening", as we like to call it, where we devote one night each week (usually Monday) just for family time.  All other obligations and distractions are put on hold for a few hours while we spend quality time with the ones we love talking, laughing, eating, and being entertained.  :)  We always look forward to it.
A highly-requested family home evening activity is watching a movie.  When I heard that Rio 2 would be hitting the shelves on July 15th, I made a neon mental note to run to Walmart that morning to pick up a copy and some popcorn.  There's a great coupon running right now for $1 off any Pop Secret Popcorn, while supplies last!
The kids begged us to take them to see Rio 2 while it was in theaters but because of the timing and life happening, we didn't ever make it.  So I planned to surprise them with it and a Pop (top) Secret Popcorn treat for family home evening!
I'll tell you-it wasn't an easy feat when the children I was hoping to surprise had to accompany me on my shopping trip.  But I have my ways, and suffice it to say, they were still utterly and completely shocked that evening for the big reveal. :)
Later, while the kids were off playing, I threw together a phenomenal Movie Night Popcorn Cake.  I wanted to incorporate not only a food that's inseparably connected to movies (i.e. popcorn), but also the beautiful bright colors that are found in the rain forest where Rio 2 takes place.  

Adapted heavily from Cookies & Cups

1 bag plus 2 c. Pop Secret Butter Flavor Popcorn, popped and extra kernels removed
2 c. pretzels, coarsely chopped
3/4 c. peanuts
2 Tbsp. butter
1 bag (12 oz.) white chocolate chips
1 bag (10.5 oz.) miniature marshmallows
1 c. colorful chocolate candies

Pop popcorn according to package directions, pour into a large bowl, then toss in peanuts and pretzels.  In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter.  Stir in white chocolate chips and marshmallows and allow to melt, stirring vigorously and constantly until completely melted and smooth.  Mixture will be very thick.  

Remove from heat and immediately glob or scoop marshmallow mixture onto popcorn and lightly stir/toss with a wooden spoon to incorporate.  I ended up putting butter on my hands and working it evenly into the popcorn that way.  It was much more efficient.  Add in M&M's and lightly work them in.  Transfer mixture to a bundt cake pan (12.5 cup capacity) that's been lightly buttered and press around evenly.  Let set completely at room temperature, then run a knife carefully around the edges to release.  Turn upside down on a plate or cake stand.  Cut with a serrated knife and enjoy!  Store tightly covered.  Best if eaten the same day.

It looks so beautiful in the pan!  As you may have guessed, it was a delicious hit with the whole family!  The Pop Secret "pop-and-serve" bags save so much time on this recipe (especially since I don't have a popcorn maker), and the pre-buttered flavor wonderfully accents the chocolate mix-ins.
Then came the big surprise.  I got butterflies, I was so excited!  I blindfolded the kids, then walked them into the living room to the couch.  I turned on Rio 2 and asked them to guess what movie they thought were about to watch.  As soon as the opening song began, they immediately knew and yelled it out.    
They tore off their blindfolds to make sure their ears had served them right.  My daughter's face is priceless.  She was thrilled!

Then we all enjoyed some Popcorn Cake while viewing the rest of Rio 2.  It is seriously the cutest movie!  The kids and I all agreed that it was even better than the first, and that's saying something, because we thought the first one rocked! 

I don't want to give the plot away, so I'll put things very discreetly.  We jumped up and danced to the upbeat music, full-on belly laughed at the plentiful humor, and were drawn into the wonderful story/theme of family love and adventure.  We couldn't get over how adorable Blu and Jewel's kids were too!  

Rio 2 has already entered the rotation of favorite movies in our home!  It's the perfect companion to a tasty Popcorn Cake!


Do you enjoy family movie nights at your house?

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Friday, July 18, 2014

STARBURST Strawberry Sorbet Limeade & Summer Sippin' Free Printable

A frozen STARBURST™ Strawberry Sorbet Bar served in a chilled, sparkling limeade drink makes the perfect "cooling-off" treat on a hot summer's day!

I'll never turn down a limeade-especially when the temperatures soar high outside like they have for the past while here.  I feel like I'm constantly parched and am ever on the lookout for a yummy remedy.  

The other day I had a light bulb moment and decided to combine a refreshing STARBURST™ Sorbet Bar with one of my favorite drinks to see what came of it.  I think the photos below will tell you that it was a screaming success!  I love when that happens, don't you?
It's the type of drink that lends itself to what would normally be seen as ill-mannered behaviors (i.e. slurping).  Except in this case, people won't look at you weird because they'll wish they were slurping on one too.


1 pkg. STARBURST™ Strawberry Sorbet Limeade Bars
2 liter Sparkling Limeade Drink (I found mine at Walmart)
Fresh limes for squeezing and slicing

Simply pour a bit of sparkling limeade into your cup, filling it just under 2/3.  Squeeze a little fresh lime juice into it if you'd like, insert a yummy STARBURST™ Strawberry Sorbet Bar, and enjoy!  I like to add some fresh lime slices inside the drink and on the edge of the cup to  pretty things up even more.
Look at that...the happy pink bar is swimming in limeade and making delicious foam as it melts!  A Strawberry Limeade Float might have also been an appropriate name for it.  I appreciated the show, but my taste buds were eager to experience it first-hand.  So I humored them without complaint. :)
We have a running debate at our house as to whether the red or pink STARBURST™ are the best.  I vote pink, hands down, but my husband leans towards the red.  So you can imagine how excited I was when I saw a pink STARBURST™ in sorbet form the other day while I was in the frozen treats aisle at Walmart.  Ha! I win! Multi-packs of STARBURST™ Brand Sorbet Bars are also available at other select grocery stores as well as convenience stores nationwide. 
Find them in 2.6-ounce 4-Packs for $3.99 and 2.6-ounce singles for $1.49 each.  You can bet I'll be adding these to the regular list of "summer must-haves" going forward.  

These new STARBURST™ Brand Sorbet Bars further boast Mars' already popular ice cream portfolio, which includes DOVEBAR®, TWIX® and SNICKERS® Ice Cream Bars.  My mouth is literally watering as I type.
However I choose to eat them-in a limeade or on their own-they are simply fantastic!  They're light and refreshing and the perfect size for a quick treat that won't melt before it can be enjoyed.  And they're made even better by the fact that each bar is only 70 calories!  How great is that?
The bars were a welcome sight after a very sweaty outing to the botanical gardens the other day.  If you could zoom way in on this photo you'd see the glistening beads on the kids' faces and their wet, matted hair.  We had a blast, but couldn't wait to get back to our air-conditioned house and some cool STARBURST™ Strawberry Sorbet Bars afterwards.

I could totally see the drink/sorbet bar combination served at a potluck or summer party too!  The bars add a lovely color and an exhilarating burst of strawberry flavor to the limeade drink as they melt.  Mmmmmmm!  They're sure to "wow guests. 

If you'll be hosting a fun gathering where these cups of lusciousness will make an appearance, be sure to download and print your free Summer Sippin' Printable Here Then simply attach them to some fun striped paper straws with baker's twine or other cute string.  They add a fun element to an already delectable and gorgeous dessert. 

If you're not already, be sure to follow STARBURST™ on Twitter and Facebook for a deliciousness overload!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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