Fun Food Stuff

Another fun one!  We love to cook and bake around here!


When you stumble into homeschooling {as opposed to it being something you’ve always planned for your children}, you have to work with what you’ve got.  When we started homeschooling, I had cooking and baking.  No awesome artistic abilities, no creative capabilities, no curriculum-building talent.  So, cooking and baking have been used as an oh crap filler, an addition to a lesson, a kick-off-the-school-year activity, or a just-for-fun-we-really-want-to-eat-this activity.  Following are a few of our favorite fun food projects and recipes.

1.  Bake something and decorate it

Whether it’s a cake you bake from scratch, a dozen cupcakes made from a box mix, or sugar cookies baked from a roll of store bought dough, kids love to decorate them.  You can use store bought frosting, buttercream frosting, or royal icing {this one hardens, but many kids still like to eat it…}.  If you don’t have any pastry bags and tips on hand, just put the frosting into a sandwich baggy and cut of a corner, creating an instantaneous piping bag.  This is a great opportunity to teach things like colors, kitchen safety, and math.

2.  Participate in a fair baking contest

This has become a yearly tradition for Babydoll and me.  We enjoy perusing the county fair exhibition books, looking for the various categories we’d like to enter something in. Generally, the children’s categories are judges on appearance and/or taste, and are divided into appropriate age groups.  Even if your child doesn’t win, they usually still get an participation ribbon.  Many fairs even give free admittance to exhibitors. This is our special time together, and involves learning how to budget your time, create or follow a recipe, write legibly, and speak publicly.

3.  Make homemade donuts

Donuts are surprisingly easy to make {don’t worry, you don’t need a deep fryer}, and they’re wicked delicious.  We make donuts to kick off the school year, attempting to make some shaped like the grade Babydoll is entering.  This is a great photo op to document the beginning of each school year. Our favorite recipe is this one by Paula Deen.

4.  Create your own rock candy

We did this during a science unit on rocks.  It’s super easy and Babydoll loved checking her crystals each day.  Babydoll has always been fascinated with rocks anyway, so seeing how they were formed was a treat.  Eating the candy afterward isn’t half bad either.  Here’s a great lesson plan designed around this experiment.

5.  Make your own pizza

Lots of families do this, but you can easily take this a step further.  Use this as an opportunity to teach your child about diameter, meal planning {let them make the list, find the items in the store, and comparison shop}, dough making, how yeast works, there are so many possibilities.  I give Babydoll her own dough, pan, and toppings and let her go to town.  There’s something about making their own food that makes kids feel special.

6.  Read a cookbook together

Sure, some cookbooks are simply filled with recipes and nothing more.  Some of the best cookbooks are filled with stories and personal anecdotes to go along with the recipe.  This makes the cookbook much more interesting, and worth sitting down to read.  In addition to practicing their reading skills, kids can also decide which recipes they’d like to make and what ingredients need to be purchased to make them. Babydoll’s current favorite is Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids.

7.  Plan special meals

Babydoll loves it when we do theme meals.  Whether it’s for a family celebration or just for fun, creating a meal based on a specific theme lends itself to all sorts of learning.  Kids can come up with a theme, research recipes and decor, choose an appropriate date and time for the meal, help shop for necessary items, and help make decorations and prepare the food. Our personal favorite is spring brunch, complete with awesome folded cloth napkins, printed menu, and Winnie the Pooh spring china.

8.  Make ice cream

This is a fun summertime treat to make.  Whether you have an old fashioned ice cream machine, a frozen yogurt and topping dispenser, or an inexpensive model from a craft store, making ice cream can be so fun!  Help your children research and try different recipes, learning how the ingredients work together to create the frozen treat.

9.  Visit the farmers’ market

Farmers’ markets are wondrous places!  If you’re fortunate enough to live in a place that has a year-round market, you’re set.  You can teach your children about seasonal cooking, using the produce that is in season to create delicious and fresh meals.  If you’ve only got access to a summer farmers’ market, you can still fill your warm months by visiting the market each week and teaching your children about seasonal produce, growing seasons, the process of seed to plate, how to pick ripe produce, and engage in the fun activity of creating a meal from market purchases.  Some markets even have fish, poultry, meat, fresh baked goods, and homemade snack foods.  Search for CSAs, farmers’ markets, farms, and other food establishments in your area on this site.

10. Cook something from another country

When Babydoll attended a Montessori school in WA, one of her end-of-year assignments was to partner with someone and create a presentation on a certain country.  Babydoll and her partner were assigned Nigeria, and they had to research all sorts of things, one of them being food.  They didn’t have to prepare a dish from that country, but were encouraged to do so.  We had so much fun learning about the local ingredients, what people in that country traditionally ate, and what foods were viewed as snacks, special foods, market food, etc. We ended up making a dish called chin chin that is so delicious!  It was a great experience.

Food is a part of every culture, and is a common way for people to connect.  While cooking doesn’t have to occupy every homeschool day, it truly is worthwhile to work it in at regular intervals. Children will greatly benefit from the experiences, and it will likely draw the family together and create lasting memories and family traditions.

What about you?  Do you have any fun food activities you do with your kids?

Photo Credits – Fair, Brunch, Ice Cream, Farmers’ Market

Campaign Photography with Sears Grilling: Path to Purchase Photography #GrillingisHappiness #SoFabU


A couple of weeks ago I told you all about the awesome new class I was participating in:  Campaign Photography with Sears Grilling.

I was excited to learn some great techniques for editing photographs in Pixlr.  I used my skills to make a picture of rising yeast dough look much more appetizing.

This week our lesson was in path-to-purchase photography.

Path to Purchase

So, what is path to purchase?

This means the steps a consumer takes to purchasing a certain item.  How do you prepare for the trip?  What do you look at when you get to the store?  How do you make your decisions?

Our assignment was simple:  head to Sears and document the path to purchase of a grill.

I loved the explanation we got with this assignment; my previous Social Fabric shops have left something to be desired…

Now, I finally feel like I know exactly what the entire picture is, what they’re looking for, and I have some great tips for taking great photographs.

My Grill Path to Purchase

Prepare for Shopping

We were given tips on things to look for, pictures to consider taking, and more.

First up, how you prepare for shopping.

If I’m making an expensive purchase {and a grill is an expensive purchase}, I like to research things beforehand.

With all the technology out there, the catchy names for things, etc., I want to understand what I’m looking at before I get to the store.

So, my path to purchase starts with my laptop, at home.

I checked out the Sears site first, to see what grills were available in my area.

I started to lean toward the Char-Broil TRU Infrared grills, but really didn’t know anything about them, so I also viewed a few videos.

After viewing these, I felt I had a good handle on what I’d be looking at once I got to the store.

Heading to the Store

We live in the middle of nowhere, so the closest Sears stores are the Hometown Sears stores.

We have a larger Sears around, but I’ve found that while the selection may be larger, the smaller stores tend to have the not-frequently-bought items that I end up buying.

They also have great customer service, generally speaking.  Small town charm I tell you.

What did I notice about the exterior of the store?

They’re tiny, by comparison, but they’re not as overwhelming.

This day, they had a nice selection of riding mowers lined up in a neat little row.

That’s something that would definitely be great to have, but not today.  There was also patio furniture out there, but we already have a nice set.

I noticed that despite there being quite a bit of merchandise out there, it didn’t feel cluttered.  The walk area was nice and large, and the items were neatly placed, so it actually made me want to look at the items that I might not have normally taken a look at.

I can’t stand cluttered entries.

Store Arrangement and Brand Placement

How merchandise is arranged in a store can make or break a sale.  If things are cluttered, hard to find, or otherwise unappealing, it’s not likely many people will continue to buy from that store.

This Sears, although small, knew that it was grilling season and had everything right inside the door.

There were about seven or eight grills to choose from; not a bad selection for a small Sears!

Branding, Options, and Signage

Consumers like to have options.  They like to be able to choose products based on a combination of price, look, options, etc.

Here are a few pictures I took of the grills, the signage, and how it was all displayed.  A few photos include a before and after to show how they were edited {using the fancy skills I learned last week!}.

Other Tips

We also learned to try to take photos with clutter-free backgrounds, in softer lighting, at different angles.

The zoom feature is your friend, and incorporating brands and signage helps readers see what you were presented with, what you chose, and why you chose it.

You can see more pictures from my visit in the slideshow below!

Which Grill Won?

Yes, the fun part:  Sears is providing us each with a gift card to purchase a grill!!!!

I don’t have a picture of it…

It was one I researched online and the Sears site said there was only one in like a 50 mile radius, and it was at my little Sears.

They didn’t have it put together, though, so it was in the back in a box.

It’s a Char-Broil infrared grill with dual fuel intake and an auto-clean feature.  Love it!

I’d like to once again thank Sears for this opportunity!  I’ve learned so much already and am enjoying putting pictures on my blog so much more!  Thank you!!

True Confessions:  I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears #CBias #GrillingIsHappiness. All photos and opinions are my own.

Raising Risk Takers

Loved doing this post!


Children are born with an innate curiosity that leads them to take risks.

Then, we as parents, spend the better part of 18 years stomping that curiosity right out of them.

While this is a good idea to a point {who really wants their kid to stick their head inside an oven to see what all the fuss is about?}, there are compelling reasons to raise risk takers:

  1. It teaches them to love learning – When you’re curious, you dig for answers and information.  Curiosity breeds a natural love of learning.  Risk taking teaches kids to always question things, always want to know more, always love learning.
  2. It teaches them to  become leaders – Leaders are risk takers.  They know when to push the envelope, and when to just hold on.
  3. It teaches them to think of others – A risk taker learns to consider others when making decisions.  While this may be a learned behavior, it is one that is learned rather quickly when one is faced with how his or her decision affected others.
  4. It teaches them to deal with disappointment – Every risk we take and every decision we make will not turn out the way we want.  Teaching our children to become risk takers allows them to learn how to handle disappointment with style and grace.
  5. It teaches them to go after what they want – Nothing in this world is handed to you, you have to work for it.  Risk takers know this, and go after whatever it is they want.  They might not always get it, but they know they tried.
  6. It teaches them appreciation - Risk takers quickly learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them.  They have what they have, they are who they are, and they can do what they do because of every person they have interacted with.
  7. It teaches them to become decision makers – Risk takers learn to make decisions.  They don’t sit around waiting for others to make decisions for them.
Image credit

Sweet Critique: Best of Summer Recipe Bookazine


I am unconscionably late with this review.  It’s crazy.  But, life’s been crazy so it just kind of happened…  I never take something that I don’t then review, though, so it’s going up now!

If you’re a regular here on Sweet Phenomena you know it’s no secret that we love to cook in this house.

Summertime is one of those seasons where everyone likes to cook; they like to get outside and grill, use fresh produce, visit farmers’ markets.  It’s all fun!

I was recently sent a copy of Best of Summer, a bookazine with 157 recipes, all 400 calories or less.

This is a great little thing to have in your kitchen.  Not only are there tons of great recipes, but it’s also got some great tips on throwing a party, grilling, and more.

One of my favorite recipes?

It’s labeled as a “farmers’ market favorite” – Two Cheese Corn Gratin.  Um, yum.

You can find out how to build a better burger, create some killer desserts, and share some great drinks with family.

At only $9.99, this is a killer collection that I would recommend to anyone who likes to cook or entertain.  It will be useful no matter the season!


Homeschool Workboxes

This was my very first blog post. Good times!


Throughout our first year of homeschooling I was told that I’d look back and realize how completely awful I was at it.  OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I definitely look back and wonder how someone like myself, so full of neatness and organizational abilities, let it get so bad.  Sure, we had fun and Babydoll learned tons of stuff, but it wasn’t a smooth process by any stretch of the imagination.  To help with this, I decided to implement the workbox system going forward.
This is what our new system looks like.  We have 12 workboxes, four bins for supplies, and a bookcase with curriculum materials.



When Babydoll begins her day, she’ll get her blank schedule strip…
…and look for box number one {or whichever box happens to be first for the day}.  I wanted to have a fairly open system, so she’ll always work in numerical order, but box number one may have a subject in it that we don’t use everyday, so there will not be two numbers on the front.  She knows to look for the boxes with two numbers: one to place on her schedule strip and one that labels the box.  So, if box number three is the first box {in numerical order} to have two numbers on the front, that’s the one she starts with for the day.

She can take one box out at a time and work on it.  It if has a “Mom” circle, she needs to do the lesson with me; if it doesn’t, she can work on that box by herself.  This is a better example of what I was describing above.  Box number one only has one number sticker, so she knows she won’t use that box for the day.  She’d start with box number two, which has two number stickers on it.
Once she is done with the box, she’ll take off the number on the left and place it on her schedule strip.
Now, she can look at her schedule strip and see which box she has done, and she can  look at her boxes and see which ones still need to be done.


After each box is completed, she’ll place her work in the “inbox”, where it will sit for me to check.

If she needs help with something and I’m unavailable, she can place a “Help” sticker on her work.

Even though Babydoll still needs me for quite a few lessons, this system also serves as a great way to keep me organized.  I’ll plan out about two weeks in advance and make a note of all books, worksheets, etc., we need and place the work in her boxes each night.  Bottom line is this: she’s looking forward to starting school and I’m thrilled about our new setup!

The workbox system was developed by Sue Patrick and the schedule strips and stickers I used were developed by Cassie Jones.  You can see her workbox setup at Spell Outloud.