Monday, March 31, 2014

Mandarin Mondays: Street (The Chinglish Files)

Friday, March 28, 2014

DIY Sand Art Sugar Cookie Cake

These giant cookies turned out so pretty decorated with colorful sanding sugar. Edible sand art, these cookie cake are fun to make and eat. My two older boys loved sprinkling and spreading colored sugar all over their own cookie cake.

You can use any sugar cookie recipe you like. I actually ended up using 1 1/2 batch of my yellow cake mix cookies, spread out between two 9 inch cake pans. This sugar cookie recipe made with real butter, would probably be even tastier, or use your own favorite sugar cookie recipe.

After you have mixed up your sugar cookie dough, spread evenly in cake pan(s). Then sprinkle with lots of colorful sugar to decorate however you like. Pastel colors are great for Easter,but by changing up the sanding sugar pallate you could customize these for any other holiday. You could even use stencils to make more distinct designs or letters if you wanted.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

DIY Easter Decorations: Simple Cross Tree

This is another super simple Easter decoration, very similar to our Cross Garland.

My boys love decorating a "tree" for any and every holiday they can, and I thought this was another fun way to point to the reason we celebrate Easter.

I love finding ways to involve my boys in holiday preparations and they love all kinds of crafts and projects, so we had fun making the paper crosses together.

I cut out and hole punched the crosses, and the boys decorated the crosses with stamps and markers, just as we did here. You could also paint, add glitter, add stickers, or decorate paper trees in many other ways.

Once the colorful paper crosses were complete, I threaded a loop of white thread through the top hole and tied it to make it easy for my boys to hang. The boys then hung the crosses and some small fake gems on the bouquet of sticks we arranged in the vase.

Simple, easy, beautiful.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Announcing Greenfield Reading Cards! {And Our Heart Behind Teaching Reading Early}

Today, my husband and I are pleased to announce the birth of our technological and paper “baby twins,” Greenfield Reading Cards and Guidebook to Early Reading: How We Taught Our Babies to Read! These projects have had a long, six-year gestation, starting even before the birth of our first child, and we are so happy to tell you all about them.

{Our Heart Behind Teaching Reading Early}

First, I want to tell you a little bit about our heart behind why we have chosen to teach our children to read very early, and why we want to help others do so as well. I have mentioned briefly on this blog that we teach our babies to read but haven’t covered it in depth. This is mainly because it is truly difficult to talk about how glad you are that your children have learned how to read at an incredibly young age without sounding arrogant and judgmental, or perhaps like a delusional lunatic.

This is hard to do even “in real life” when people actually know us (and we apologize if we’ve ever offended any of our family and friends in our utter excitement), but it’s even harder to do on the internet when you can only see a small two-dimensional snippet of our lives.

But here is my long-winded and stumbling attempt to clearly articulate our passion for early learning and our love for you all regardless if you agree with us, dismiss this idea immediately, or even adamantly disagree with us (and think we’re a bit crazy for trying it).

Basically (like any parent) we want what we feel is best for our children, and early reading is a small piece in that puzzle for us. We want to help our children achieve the fullest possible potential for their lives, for them to have the most abundant life possible. By learning to read so young, their whole world opens up early and they have a firm foundation for learning for the rest of their lives.

Our Guidebook to Early Reading goes into great depth about why we started to teach our children to read early (and why you might want to consider it), but it boils down to the fact we could only see potential benefits and no downsides. So we decided to give it a try. We figured the worst that could happen was that he wouldn’t learn to read any earlier and that we would just be spending intentional time together with our son.

Today, our five-and-a-half-year-old can read college level material, our four-year-old can read fourth-sixth grade books, and our one-and-a-half-year-old can read more than one hundred words.

Want to see him read? Watch Aaron go from 11 months old and just learning to talk/read to five and a half and reading college level material in six minutes of video.

This process worked out beautifully for our family, and we see the benefits of early reading in many aspects of our sons’ lives. Now with our three early readers, we can still only see benefits to teaching reading early. Our boys are still little boys. They play. They make up nonsense. They watch videos (audible gasp). They fight, both play fighting and real fighting. They make mistake just like their parents. They have great imaginations and are incredibly creative. And they can also read! The older two can read for hours on their own. They can read instructions and directions all on their own so they can already do a little a schoolwork on their own without our help. They can already pursue their interests by reading about subjects they love on their own, which typically involve knights fighting dragons.

Do we think teaching reading early is the best option? Well, obviously, or we would have chosen differently for our own children, and I wouldn’t be excitedly rattling on to you about it. Do we think that teaching reading early could help any child unlock their fullest potential? Yes, we believe all children are extraordinary and this concept could literally revolutionize learning.

But at the end of the day, teaching reading early is not an issue of right or wrong. Parents are entrusted with the great responsibility of training up their child, but many of the specifics are left up to personal preference.

We love you regardless. We love you, even if you think we’re a bit mad for trying this approach. We love you even if you don’t like our products.
Want to learn more about early reading?

In our Guidebook to Early Reading we share why you should consider teaching reading early, explain the most common early reading theories, and illustrate how to practically incorporate early reading into your everyday life. This week only, you can get the PDF ebook completely free with the coupon code: GUIDEBOOKFREE

Greenfield Reading Cards is a powerful tool to help you teach your children to read. We’ve created over 1,000 cards (with more than 500 high quality beautiful photos) along with interactive games to help make teaching reading easier.

Also in celebration of our launch this week we are offering 50% off  of Reading Cards (which automatically includes our ebook free) with the coupon code: READINGCARDS50

Offers end at the end of the week (March 29).

We’ve done the research and the prep work for you.

Are you ready to unlock your child’s potential?

We’d love to hear from you if you have any questions.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Homemade Easter Treats: DIY Cross Brownies

Our wonderful parents usually fill the kids Easter baskets with plenty of store bought goodies, so I like to put a few homemade treats in their baskets from us. These cross brownies are quick and easy and point to the purpose of celebrating this holiday.

Make a batch of brownies, Better Than Boxed Brownies, Cake Mix Brownies, Black Bean Brownies or Peanut Butter Black Bean Brownies for gluten free versions, or your own favorite recipe.

After they have cooled, either use a cookie cutter or knife to cut out cross shapes. I used a knife and made these crosses 3 inches wide and 4 inches tall. That way the remaining pieces were 1 inch squares (or could be cut in half to make 1 inch squares).

If serving for dessert you can frost with regular frosting, but if you want to package these, I suggest spreading melted chocolate over the top. (Here is how to and how not to melt chocolate.)

Sprinkle with colored sugar or sprinkles while topping is still soft. Allow chocolate to harden before packaging.

What are your favorite Easter treats to give?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

DIY Easter Decorations: Simple Cross Garland

We love making a big, huge, wonder-filled deal out of Easter, because this holiday commemorates the most wonderful event ever to happen in history, the Resurrection. But sometimes simple holiday preparations are all that can happen.

Last year we had the wonderful privilege of both sides of our family coming to visit us in the spring. Both visits were awesome and amazing in themselves, and if people are willing to travel half-way around the world to see you, you make the time. But Easter was in the middle of the visits, so our preparations got simplified.

I'm going to share a few of the decorations and projects we made, even thought they are far from perfect, because sometimes (many times in fact), done is better than perfect. Sometimes you need to just go ahead and do it now, or nothing will ever get done. Maybe someone else will be inspired by this humble decorating project.

This very simple cross garland added a burst of color to our dark dining room and reminded us of the reason we celebrate

Simple Cross Garland

  • Paper (We used colored cardstock, but you could make virtually kind of paper work)
  • Something to decorate with (We used stamps and markers)
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Straw to use for a needle to string the garland
  1. First I drew and cut out the paper crosses. I flared the ends slightly to give them a little bit of a Celtic feel. Or you could have your children cut out the crosses for cutting practice.
  2. Then I punched holes in both of the short sides of each cross.
  3. Next I called my boys and let the decorate them however they wanted with the stamps and markers that I had already chosen and laid out.
  4. Finally I let them take turns stringing the garland, similar to how we did this Valentine's Day garland, just showing them how to make a pattern with the different colors of crosses.
Done and ready to enjoy!

Friday, March 14, 2014

DIY Herbed Focaccia

This delightfully dimply bread is crusty and flavorful. It is great cut into strips and served with red sauce for an appetizer or as bread for a gourmet sandwich. It is also a great accompaniment for anything from soup and salad, pasta, chicken, or even pizza.

Homemade Herbed Focaccia Recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups flour (white, whole wheat, or a combination)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 pkg or 2 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar or honey 

  • Oil (olive or other)
  • Salt
  • Minced garlic (fresh or dried)
  • Minced onion (fresh or dried)
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Shredded mozzarella
  1. In a mixing bowl combine flour and salt.
  2. In a liquid measuring cup combine warm water, 1 Tbsp oil, yeast, and sugar or honey. Let sit 5-10 minutes.
  3. Pour liquid into flour and salt and stir and knead until soft dough forms. Add a little flour or warm water if the consistency is to wet or dry. Let sit 10 minutes.
  4. Heavily oil a cookie sheet. Sprinkle salt over the bottom.
  5. After dough has begun to rise spread over cookie sheet like thick pizza crust. Make indentations with your fingertips or knuckles.
  6. With a clean pastry brush, heavily paint the top of the bread with oil. Sprinkle with as much or little salt, garlic, onion, herbs, and cheese as you desire.
  7. Let rise 15-30 minutes in a warm environment if you are impatient like I am. Allow to rise 12-24 hours covered and refrigerated if you want richer taste and can wait that long.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 450F for 10-20 minutes (depending on how brown and crisp you want it).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

DIY Cream of Potato and Spinach Soup

This creamy soup is naturally green and delicious. Subtle flavors meld into creamy comfort food. This soup is great paired with Irish Soda Bread Biscuits any day of the week. Add carrot sticks and you have all the colors of the Irish flag for St. Patrick's Day.

I began with Joy the Baker's Spinach Soup Recipe, but changed it up a lot. This soup turned out thick and creamy. My second son gobbled down about three bowls of it.

Homemade Cream of Potato and Spinach Soup

  • 2 Tbsp butter or oil
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (or even water)
  • 4 cups cubed potatoes (you can peel them if you like, I don't bother and once they are blended you can't tell)
  • 6 cups spinach (or other favorite greens)
  • 1 tsp or more salt to taste
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 or more cups cream or whole milk
  1. In a large soup pot saute onion and garlic in butter very low to caramelize.
  2. Add chicken broth and cubed potatoes. Boil low about 15 minutes or until potatoes are soft.
  3. Add greens and seasonings. Stir greens around until limp.
  4. Blend either with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. Use caution of course. Hot soup is hot.
  5. Add cream or milk, stir until well incorporated, and serve hot.

Great with Irish Soda Bread Biscuits

Friday, March 7, 2014

DIY Irish Soda Bread Biscuits

We love the taste if Irish Soda Bread and these biscuits bake up even faster. Great with soup or stew for St. Patrick's Day or any day.

Homemade Irish Soda Bread Biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup regular milk with 1 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice added)
  1. In a mixing bowl sift together all dry ingredients.
  2. Add milk and oil, and stir until just combined.
  3. Either roll out on floured surface and cut with biscuit cutter, or drop rounded tablespoons full onto greased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake at 400F until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes for average size biscuits.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

DIY Fresh Coconut Chocolate Cake

I love baking with the real fresh fruits and vegetables available in the markets here. This coconut chocolate cake recipe uses fresh coconut juice and meat.

You can make this recipe even easier by using a store bought or homemade cake mix. Or simply mix up the dry ingredients when you are preparing the cake; it doesn't take very long. I imagine you could substitute canned coconut milk and dry shredded coconut, but I haven't tried.

This is a great island twist on a classic cake. One medium coconut should yield more than enough juice and meat to make this recipe. Drink the juice up (quickly it goes bad fast) for a natural electrolyte drink, Or freeze to use later. Place extra shredded coconut on a cookie sheet and toast in your oven to use in other recipes or add to your granola.

Homemade Fresh Coconut Chocolate Cake Recipe

  • Chocolate Cake Mix OR
    • 2 1/3 cups flour
    • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
    • 1 Tbsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup oil (if using coconut oil melt first) or melted butter
  • 1 cup coconut juice, conout milk or regular milk
  • 2 cups shredded fresh coconut meat (divided)
  1.  In a medium mixing bowl dump cake mix OR sift together dry ingredients.
  2. Add oil and juice or milk to dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
  3. Fold in 1 cup shredded coconut into batter.
  4. Pour cake batter into a greased 9x13 cake pan.
  5. Sprinkle remaining shredded coconut on top of the cake.
  6. Bake at 350F for 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the coconut on top is toasted lightly.
  7. Garnish with extra toasted coconut when serving if desired.


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