Make: Pupcakes (HBD Thor!)

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Furbaby birthday in the house! We’re taking a minute off of kids today, and devoting that minute to…my dog.  Today my gentle giant, Thor, turns 2 – and I have decided to do that thing I said I’d *never* do as a dog owner and celebrate his birthday with reckless abandon. I’m not really a “my dog is my kid” person, but this little corker deserves a day of getting his party on. So far, he has spent the day with his friends rolling in the mud, enjoyed an all-windows-down car ride,  scarfed an oatmeal and apple breakfast fit for a king and is currently sunning on the deck. Not too shabby.

Thor had a pretty tough puppyhood medically, and because there are some lingering issues and dietary restrictions, I don’t typically stray far from his regular food – all the more reason to do something extra special today. So, I combined a few recipes I found online, made some substitutions, added a couple of his favorite things, and came up with this. Not only does he laaah-haaave them, the sweet potato and rice flour are great stomach soothers. Heads up: if you don’t want to puree the sweet potato, you can use organic pumpkin instead.

And…really important aside here – humans take note: the icing is to die for. Goodbye powdered sugar – hello peanut butter and greek yogurt! This icing + dark chocolate anything…I’m going to leave that thought right there for you. Do what you will with it.

Sweet Potato Pupcakes with Peanut Butter & Bacon Frosting

Makes: 6 Pupcakes 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour (or whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons organic canola oil
  • 1/3 cup organic applesauce
  • 1/2 cup pureed sweet potato
  • 1 organic, pastured egg
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 tablespoons organic honey
  • 3 tablespoons organic plain Greek yogurt
  • 1½ tablespoons organic peanut butter
  • 3-4 pieces of bacon, crumbled
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Stir the flour, baking powder, canola oil, applesauce, sweet potato egg, carrots and honey together in a mixing bowl until well combined
  3. Spoon mixture into cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 of the way full
  4. Bake for about 10-12 minutes – you can stick the bacon on another cookie sheet and throw it in to brown up as well!
  5. While the pupcakes cool, in a bowl, mix the yogurt and peanut butter until mixture is smooth and creamy. Use a small spatula or butter knife to smooth a thin layer of the peanut butter frosting over each cupcake.
  6. Top with bacon crumbles (and probably a biscuit…I mean, its a special occasion)

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The Pupcakes should hold up for 4-5 days if stored in an airtight container in a cool, shaded, dry spot. Peanut butter frosting should be stored separately, covered and refrigerated. Frost immediately before serving.

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Consensus…? THOR APPROVED.

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Make: 10-Minute Honey Goat’s Milk Soap

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It’s been rainy all day today, and in a quest to find a fun, quick activity I ran across a recipe I had saved for a shortcut homemade soap. I had recently purchased a HUGE jar of Manuka honey (semi-accidentally) and thought I’d take advantage of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and throw it in the mix. OMG – this was SO EASY to make I had to share. For kids (or adults) with sensitive skin, this is super soft and gentle, and I *swear* it is actually easier than shopping for a dye and fragrance-free soap that isn’t crazy expensive.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Goat’s Milk Soap base (you can find at a craft store or online)
  • 3 Tbsp. Manuku Honey (or just whatever honey you have in the cabinet!)
  • A Mold (Soap/Cake molds, wood or ice cube trays all work – I found Silicone molds are the easiest and used this adorbs Honeycomb mold to make many smaller soaps)

Optional Additions:

  • Soap Colorants
  • 3-4 Tbsp. Oatmeal
  • Lavender
  • Grated Lemon or Orange Peel
  • Coconut, Olive, Palm or Avocado Oil
  • Essential Oils to Scent

Yields: Roughly 4 average-sized bars of soap or 10 smaller.

Cut your base into 3″ x 3″ cubes (anything manageable really). Place the cubes into a microwave-safe container and alternate heating for 30 seconds and stirring for 30 seconds until all the cubes are melted. Stir in the honey, and any other colorants or oils. If you’d like to add grated peels, oatmeal or lavender, place those evenly into the bottom of the mold/molds before pouring.

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Once you’ve evenly poured the soap mixture into the mold, the job is basically done! Put it aside and give it 2 hours to fully harden, then just pop them out of the molds. YAY! Soft and gentle soap for little faces and bodies. I specifically made mine fragrance-free – but even without aromatics and color,  there is a lovely barely-there honey scent and warm off-white hue.

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If you decide that soap-making is your favorite new thing, here are some other ideas we love…

Goldfish in a Bag Soap

Lego Resuce  Soap

Soap Bath Crayons

Soapsicles

DIY Confetti Soap 

Soap Gem Stones

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Make: A Thingamaboard!

We are putting our safety goggles on and pulling out the power tools today! Admittedly, this DIY is one of my more random ideas, but while trying to use up some spare wood, I kind of stumbled upon it and – honestly – I have never had more fun!  You only need a few simple materials and 10 minutes to make this super versatile fun toy – we’re calling it a “Thingamaboard” and *you* decide what it can be…this is an imagination encourager for all ages! Here’s what you’ll need…

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Materials: 

  • A piece of scrap wood
  • Dowel Rods (we used different sizes, you wouldn’t have to though)
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill
  • Drill Bits or Spade Bits (depending on the size of your dowel rods)
  • Optional: wood glue, non-toxic eco friendly craft paints, non-toxic wood stain or sealer

Instructions: I made this *especially* super-easy for myself and bought a bag of pre-cut dowels of different sizes. After drilling some random holes in my square of scrap wood and the tops and sides of some of the dowels, sanding the edges, and inserting the rods – BOOM! It was ready for some creative play! We didn’t paint it, but you definitely could, and we wanted our dowels to be able to be removed, but you could glue those in (or on, if you don’t want to mess with drilling holes).

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So, you’re going to make this, and sit down with your kids, and frankly, its going to look a little “meh” – but add just the teensiest bit of imagination and the possibilities for playing with this are ENDLESS! For instance, wth just a few added elements from around the house it can become…

A campsite in the mountains…

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A jungle paradise for some little monkeys…

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A game of ring toss for teams…

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You guys – we could go on and on!!! A few of the things we haven’t yet put together, but are on our list are:

  • A finger puppet theater
  • A pipe cleaner sculpture
  • A construction site with ropes and pulleys for our legos

We would LOVE to see what you guys think of! Don’t forget to take pics of your Thingamaboard creations and tag us (@barleyandbirch or #barleyandbirch) – we can’t wait to see and share the creativity of our b & b’ers!  Love this? Want to pass it on? Please, please do! Our only request is that if you repost somewhere, you include a shout-out back to us with the original link to this post instead of a direct link to the files – we appreciate it!

For more pics of our own Thingamaboard creations check us out on Instagram and for more  fun projects to inspire a little creativity and free play, visit us on Pinterest!

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Freebie: Download a Spring Print!

We’ve been feeling spring lately, and in an effort to brighten things up around here, I did a little playing with my sumi brushes and ink. Having this little print right by the window where I work has been such a good reminder that spring will, in fact, be here before we know it, so I thought I’d share a little of the cheer with you!

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These are sized to 8×8 and 12×12 to fit perfectly within Ikea’s square Ribba frames (I had a couple to fill).

Just click to download and print!

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Don’t forget to tag us if you post pics (@barleyandbirch, #barleyandbirch) because we always love to see how you’ve trimmed with b & b! You are welcome to get as creative as you want and share away –  our only request is that if you repost somewhere – could you please include a shout-out back to us with the original link to this post instead of a direct link to the files? We would so appreciate it!

(Copyright barley & birch. Prints are for personal use only and are not for reproduction or sale. For more information, please refer to our TOU). 

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Read: Some of Our Old Favorites

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We’re taking a step back in time today to celebrate one of our favorite past-times – reading!  Raise your hand if any of this rings a bell: hiding under the covers, flashlight in hand, with one eye on the page and the other on the bedroom door. Not only did I sneak reading past my bedtime, my parents made a point of carving out time to read to my sister and I – it was a favorite nightly ritual at our house.

Though there are tons of scientific reasons explaining why we should be reading to our kids – I am here to make the simple, honest arguments for it. It feels good to be read to (and just as good to be the reader)! I could still happily lose myself in a Reading Rainbow LeVar narration (time out: for those of you suddenly craving a listen to the theme song  here’s a throwback – AND the newThe Doors cover…ok, technically its Jimmy Fallon).

I recently volunteered my dog for an awesome program called PAWS for Reading – we hit up the library every week to cheer on some young readers who need a quiet (ideally) listener. Thor is reaping the benefit of making new friends with extra attention and pets.

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In the spirit of our new volunteer activity, I made a list of my favorites from back in the day – some well-known, others forgotten – ALL great books. For some newer classics, check out and follow our ever-growing list of kids reading favorites here on Pinterest!

(PS – the lovely illustration at the top of this post is part of a series called “Ideal Bookshelf” by artist Jane Mount – you can checkout the prints here)!

A List of MY Favorites:

Anno’s Counting Book and Anno’s Counting House by Mitsumasa Anno

Roar and More by Karla Kuskin

The Graphic Alphabet by David Pelletier

Simon’s Book by Henrik Drescher

There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly by Jeremy Holmes

Miss Nelson is Missing  by Harry Allard

George and Martha by James Marshall

The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne

A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis

An Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton

Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Strega Nona and Pancakes for Breakfast  by Tomie dePaola

Black and White by David Macaulay

Round Trip by Ann Jonas

People, Circus and Rain by Peter Spier

Doctor De Soto by William Steig

Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber

Mouse Soup by Arnold Lobel

Island of the Skog by Steven Kellogg

The Frog Prince, Continued and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka

Weslandia by Paul Fleischman

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

Just A Dream by Chris Van Allsburg

Next Stop Grand Central by Maira Kalman

It’s MY Birthday! by Pat Hutchins

The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume

Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban

Big Big Book of Mr. Small by Lois Lenski

Babar’s Anniversary Album by Laurent deBrunhoff

The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base

Bea and Mr. Jones by Amy Schwartz

Tuesday by David Wiesner

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp by Mercer Mayer

No Jumping on the Bed by Tedd Arnold

Stringbean’s Trip to the Shining Sea by Vera B. Williams

Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Christmastime in New York City and The Inside-Outside Book of New York City by Roxie Munro

Imogene’s Antlers by David Small

Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book: Make a World by Ed Emberley

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frank… by E.L. Konigsburg

Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

The Best of John Bellairs a collection of stories by John Bellairs

Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Lists of OTHERS’ favorites:

The New York Public Libraries Kids Reading List Page

The Children’s Book Guide “Top 100 of All Time”

The ALSC’s List of Caldecott Medal & Honor Books

Teachers’ Top 100

Kids top 100 picks

Reading Rainbow Episode List with Featured Books

NPR’s Children’s Book List

And for those times you JUST CAN’T – some links to help them learn:

Reading Rainbow is back as a subscription app! 

Get 50 free e-books through The Billion eBook Gift (!!!)

Check out our Kids Apps Board on Pinterest to find a few of our favorite reading/story apps (among other things!)

Interactive reading activities for kids through PBS

Celebs read to your kids!

Uhhh – this looks awesome – I haven’t thoroughly checked it out, but you and your kids can create, print, read and share stories through Storybird!

Animated story readings online by Tumblebooks

A Comic book creator! (WHAT?!?) YES! AN INTERACTIVE COMIC BOOK CREATOR

A National Geographic online book club with reviews by kids

Give books or get books through his amazing non-profit

Freebie: Spring Desktop + Phone Wallpaper!

It is a balmy 54 degrees here today (in February!!!!) and before we run outside to soak up some Vitamin D and play the rest of the day away, we thought we’d share a quick, spring-y download with you. We made some designs with potato stamps, scanned them in and voila (FYI – such an easy way to create a fun series of wall prints)! Enjoy and think SPRING!

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You can download the wallpapers by clicking on the links below:

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b&b spring phone wallpaper 

 

 

Discover: The Butterfly Joint

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The Butterfly Joint  (San Francisco)

“The Butterfly Joint is a woodworking and design studio for children ages 18 months and up (and adult classes are offered as well!). 

When students walk through the doors of the Butterfly Joint, they are transported into a woodworking studio designed just for them. They clock in with their very own punch cards, put on their work aprons, and get started on their projects after hearing the sound of the steam whistle.”

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that my very first emotional reaction to hearing of this studio was jealousy. Not a pang – it was the painfully intense, “nothing-can-fix-this!” jealousy of a toddler. Oh, how I would have LOVED this as a kid!!! You’ll be happy to know that after a few minutes I recovered from my regression, shed my angst, and found the prospect of this place even existing SO exciting that I HAD to share it. I had no choice. I mean, just look at these smiles (and enthusiastic determination!)  If you’re anywhere near San Francisco, living or visiting – get there. Do it for me. If you’re not anywhere near San Francisco, check out their website and instagram feed for some great inspiration to try some small wood projects (we did, and we’ll have the DIY coming for you shortly!) I also have added something to my life wishlist – steam whistle.

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The Butterfly Joint

2640 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

email: make@thebutterflyjoint.com
415.894.2685

 

Follow on Instagram for adorable pics: https://www.instagram.com/thebutterflyjoint/

 

 

Make: Pink-Salted Soft Pretzel Hearts

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Not-so-secret secret: I am a carb-aholic. The weather has been damp and dreary lately, and these gray January days make me feel like folding myself into a huge dough ball and eating my way out. I had run across this delicious-looking recipe, and thought I’d give the whole pretzel-making thing a try. O.M.G. – so, so scrumptious. This is my idea of a perfect Valentine’s Day treat (bread over chocolate for me any day) so here is my own “twist” on the recipe [giggles at pretzel punning]. Kids will have a ball helping to twist the taffy-like dough and, for maximum enjoyment, turn up the tunes and shake your salt bags to the beat.

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Pretzel Recipe
Serves 8

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 TBSP light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 4 TBSP canola oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 1/2  cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 TBSP cold water
  • Rock Pretzel Salt
  • Red Food Coloring
  • 4 TBSP butter, melted

Proof the yeast in a small bowl by adding the yeast, 1 1/2 cups water and brown sugar together.  Cover with a towel and let stand for 5-10 minutes until bubbles or a foam form.

Add 3 TBSP of  the oil and the 2 tsp. of salt.  Begin adding in the flour a cup at a time while mixing, and continue until its all been combined. Knead the dough until the dough its smooth and pulls away from the sides. Remove the dough from the bowl and pour the remaining 1 TBSP oil in.  Form the dough into a ball and place it back into the bowl,  turning it to give it a nice thin coating of oil (this will prevent it from sticking to anything).  Cover with a towel and place in a warm place until it has doubled in size (about an hour).

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Fill a large pot with water, add the baking soda, and bring to a boil. While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, throw some rock salt in a bag with a drop or two of red food dye. Give it some good shakes, and continue to add drops of color until your salt has reached the desired color. For this beautiful mixture of pinks and reds, I used about 4 TBSP. of salt and 2 drops of color – all in the same bag.

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.  Twirl and pull both ends of a piece, until you have a long rope, then shape into a heart, and pinch or roll the ends together toward the middle. Repeat with remaining pieces.  Boil each pretzel in the water solution for 45 seconds.  Drain with a slotted spoon and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet (just a note: even on the parchment, mine stuck to the paper a little, so either drain the excess liquid off well, or throw a tiny bit of rock salt on the paper before you put the pretzels on to bake).

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Once they have all been boiled and drained, beat the egg with 1 TBSP of cold water and brush over the tops.  Generously sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 16-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and immediately brush with the melted butter.

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Obvi, these are SO GOOD 20 minutes after cooling – almost right out of the oven – but honestly, 3 days later, they still taste just as wonderful and retain their chewy soft texture. We totally recommend showing your love with salty soft pretzels this year!

If we’ve inspired you to jump on the carb bandwagon, be sure to tag @barleyandbirch / #barleyandbirch in your pretzel-making pics – the making is REALLY half the fun and we’d love to see how yours turn out. For more kid-friendly cooking ideas, check out our  In the Kitchen board over on Pinterest!

Make: DIY 2016 Art Calendar Printable

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Just in time for a wintry weekend, we have a super cute printable for you! This one doesn’t require any instruction – just print out on a thicker paper or cardstock, cut the months apart, and let the kiddos go nuts filling in fun pics to brighten your walls (or theirs!) Add chill tunes + hot chocolate for a perfect snowy Saturday afternoon. Pro tip: print one out for yourself and scribble away – this is seriously relaxing after a long week. You don’t even have to worry about staying in the lines.

You can download the files here, and if anyone wants to get *extra* creative, here are some ideas that go beyond markers and paint:

  • Paste on some found items from nature
  • Recycle some old paper & collage
  • Create stamped patterns with vegetables, bubble wrap, or toilet paper rolls
  • Use up some scrap fabric
  • Punch some holes in patterns and thread with yarn

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Be sure to take lots of process and finished product pics and tag us (@barleyandbirch or #barleyandbirch) when you’ve finished your mini works-of-art – we can’t wait to see and share the creativity of our b & b’ers!  Love this? Want to pass it on? Please, please do! Our only request is that if you repost somewhere, you include a shout-out back to us with the original link to this post instead of a direct link to the files – we appreciate it!

For more fun snowy day ideas head over to our Pinterest page – so. many. projects. !!!

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Change: Teaching Activism

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others? ‘” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

OK world-changers – who is ready to DO? We’re big believers that you’re never too young to start changing our world for the better…but where to begin…?  If you don’t know of it already, DoSomething.org is an awesome place to start.

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Wow – I wish there had been something like this around when I was a kid. With projects that range from hosting a park clean-up rally, to creating an anti-bullying comic, to acting as PR rep for your local animal shelter, this site is an ahhh-mazing tool for budding activists (really good inspiration for adults too!) What a great way to show kids how far some knowledge, planning, effort and care can go in the fight for good. While this is definitely geared toward older kids, there are lots of good ideas and inspiration for projects you could tweak to be used with younger ones as well.

In their own words: One of the largest global orgs for young people and social change, our 4.8 million members in 130 countries tackle volunteer campaigns that impact every cause. Poverty. Discrimination. The environment. And everything else. Our promise: Any cause, anytime, anywhere. 

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Some of our favorite things about it:

  • It doesn’t just share causes – it gives great information and facts
  • Encourages group participation & sharing
  • Utilizes social media, but doesn’t require it
  • Promotes goal-setting, activism, volunteering & community service
  • The search provides a super-simple way to find the right cause/project
  • Offers TONS of creative projects and ideas for involvement
  • Multiple projects can be followed

*Heads Up: In addition to tackling some pretty serious issues that may need more explanation, the activities on this website invite users to create an account in order to participate. An email address is required to set up an account and a cell number is optional for texts – so we’d say this is definitely (at least in the beginning) a kid + parent thing.

Happy MLK day, young do-ers!