Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fun and Tasty Easter Project:

I will admit that I have not tried this yet, it is on the agenda for Friday night but it sounds like it will be really easy and fun for the kids.
Who doesn't LOVE rice krispie treats? We end up adapting recipes/ideas each holiday and many times that includes rice krispie treats because they are easy to mold into just about anything and the kids LOVE them. So Easter will be no different, we will be making rice krispie treat Easter eggs filled with jelly beans (I am sure everyone had already seen this on the commercial...but just in case you haven't here you go). My kids with be easter egg hunting with my husbands cousin (5 years old) on Saturday and my cousins (6-10 years old) on Sunday so the plan is to make enough of these to bring for both days.

What you need:
Plastic Eggs
Jelly Beans
gel icing in pastel colors to decorate
rice krispie's

Here is what you do:

Just make a basic rice krispie treat recipe (you can genrally find it on the rice krispie box if you need it) but essentially you melt down the butter and marshmallow, dump it into a bowl of rice krispie's and mix to combine.

Next you will mold the rice krispie treat mix in each half of the plastic eggs (so you will have 1/2 a rice krispie treat egg) do not fill it completely because you will be adding jelly beans on the inside)

Fill the inside of one half of the rice krispie treat egg with jelly beans

Take the other half of the rice krispie treat egg and stick the two halfs together.

You will will end up with a whole rice krispie treat egg that has jelly beans inside.

From here you will want to take the gel icing and decorate the egg to make it look like an easter egg.

It sounds like it will be fun. We made rice krispie treat Christmas Trees at Christmas time and the year old loved it. I am sure he will be just as excited to make the Easter eggs and it will be a fun treat to bring as we visit family this weekend.

The Park Inn Hotel (near Hershey PA)

We decided on a last minute trip to Hershey, PA this weekend with out little guys. When we are planning last minute getaways we always check out Roomsaver first. Do you use Roomsaver for your last minute getaway's? If not, you should check them out. We basically use them as our fist resource for any weekend/long weekend trips.

So we checked out Roomsaver for Hotel deals and found a room at the Park Inn for $49 per night. The room rate was using the Roomsave coupon and was only supposed to be applied to walk-in guests. On Friday night (we were staying in Hershey on Saturday) my husband called the hotel, to (i) ensure that they would be honoring that room price (ii) ask what the availability looked like for the following night, (iii) make sure that the indoor pool would be available during our stay and (iv) ensure that they offer cribs to guests traveling with babies. While he was on the phone with the hotel I was checking out online reviews for this hotel.

The man who answered the phone that evening was so wonderful and accomadating. He answered all of our questions told us a little bit about the rooms, the distance from Hershey and the pool and restaurant at the hotel.

After reading more reviews I had a couple of concerns with the hotel (i) it is motel style so there is only outdoor access to the rooms (ii) that meant the my children would be walking outside to get back to the room in the middle of April (still a bit cold for that) (iii) some people said that the place was a bit dated. However, with hundreds of reviews on TripAdvisor the hotel averaged a 3 1/2 to 4 star rating on the reviews and every one that I read said that they staff was friendly, helpful and accomadating, that the rooms were clean and overall the experience was good. So we decided to go for it. If we got there and the place was too bad we just wouldn't stay there. That is one of the benefits (in my opinion) of using Roomsaver for last minute rooms, since they are mostly "walk-in" rates you can see the hotel before giving them your credit card and being commited.

So we called back just to get a better feel for how booked they were and if we would have to "walk in" first thing in the morning or if he thought there would be availability if we got there later in the day. The man working at the hotel said that he would book us a room (even though we were using the "walk-in" coupon) so that we didn't feel like we had to rush to get down there in the morning. Then while they were discussing the outside walk from the pool he told us that he had already booked us in the closest room that he had to the pool (we ended up being about 4-5 doors away and were quickly back in our room warming up after the swim).

When we arrived we were quickly checked in and given a key to our room. I will be 100% honest this was not a fancy/upscale motel. From the outside it looked a bit dated and once again, since there is no indoor access to the rooms it does give it that motel type of feeling. As soon as we entered our room though, I knew that we made the right choice for the money. It was a decent size room (not big, but big enough for our family of four), the had already sent the crib up to the room so that was waiting for us. There was not one thing that I could find out of place or that was not clean...there are a lot of hotels that are much more upscale and expensive that you could not say the room was 100% to your satisfaction. It wasn't anything special, but was a nice and clean hotel room which is the most important thing for me anyway.

Everything was going fine until we were eating dinner and the power went out. First completely dark and then the emergency lights came on. I was shocked that my boys didn't flip out, but they were very well behaved. Though everyone was sort of scrambling to figure out what to do (they had a wedding there that night too) they were very accomadating. We finished our meal, in the dark (which believe me is a task with a 16 month old and a 5 year old and they offered us flashlights and glow sticks to bring back to our room with us. The glow sticks were exciting for the 5 year old so his mood completely changed from "I am a little scared of the dark" to "this is a fun adventure". We obviously could not pay since all of the computers were down so they took our room number and said that they would bill it to the room.

We returned to the room, in the dark, and using our trusty flashlight got the boys ready for bed. Of course shortly after they both feel asleep we quickly realized that we had left the TV and lights on in the room before going to dinner. Luckily, I was quick to shut everything off and they stayed asleep.

The following morning we ordered room service and when my husband asked how much they charge for a pot of coffee (not because he didn't want to pay for it, but because he wanted to make sure he wasn't going to be paying for a $10 pot of coffee) they said they would send one up at no charge. Just one more small added touch that makes you feel good about the place that you are staying. Finally when my husband was checking out they noted that he had a charge on his room for dinner and asked him how his meal was. He replied that it was very good and we enjoyed the romantic candlelight meal...he was completely joking and didn't mean anything by it. The individual checking him out promptly removed the dinner from our bill - we didn't ask them to and honestly didn't expect them to. It was a transformer issue down the street and the whole block lost power, it wasn't really there fault so we didn't expect them to "eat" the cost of our meal...but it was nice that they did.

We had a great visit to this hotel. Yes, it is dated and not the nicest looking place in the world (from the outside) but we would absolutely stay there again, especially if we get the $49 Roomsaver rate.

My Cupcake Adventure - Week 8

This weeked we re-visited the bakery that inspired this cupcake adventure a few weeks. The bakery is the Sweet Shop in the Hotel Hershey, in Hershey, PA. We got a great deal on a room about 20 minutes from Hershey (through Roomsaver - if you don't use Roomsaver, especially for your last minute getaways you should check it out) so we decided to head down there for the weekend. We couldn't make the trip to Hershey withough stopping at this bakery that we came across on our last trip down there. They make 3 sizes of cupcakes, but we generally opt for the mini's....why? Because you feel slightly less guilty when you eat more than one of them.

Anyway, the little man had fallen asleep in the car so I took the 5 year old in to pick out cupcakes to bring home with us. I let him choose the 6 mini's that we were going to get. He said that he definately wanted the smore's one...which was one of our favorite's last time (so we went with 2 of those) and he wanted carrot cake (one for him and one for daddy) and he said he wanted "velvet cake" so we got one of those and went with one vanilla cake with pink buttercream (which I believe is just a dyed vanilla buttercream). So we got our cupcakes packed up and we headed back out to the car.

When we got to the car though, my husband was getting the baby out - they were coming in to meet up but we were to quick. So we all headed back in and decided to have a little treat in front of the fire before heading back out. So my husband got 7 more mini's (3 for us to eat there and 4 more to bring home). For our snack my husband went with the carrot cake one, I had a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and peanut butter chips on top and the 5 year old dug into the smores cupcake. They were all just as delicious as they were the first time. The 5 year old devoured the Smore's one - he was so excited that we were br more of them for later. We offered the little guy (16 months) a cupcake and was pushing it away and wouldn't even try it. Good for him - at least I may have one child who likes to eat healthy.

If you happen to live near / visit the Hershey area, check out the Sweet Shop inside the Hotel Hershey.

Monday, April 11, 2011

My Cupcake Adventure - Week 7

Early last week you may have seen my tweet that my 5 year old wanted to make "square cupcakes stuffed with frosting". I generally don't think of cupcakes as being square so this got me thinking about everything from what pan I would bake them in to what size squares to how we would fill them. In thinking about how we could make these square cupcakes stuffed with frosting the though of our homemade ice cream sandwiches popped into my head (not really sure why, or what triggered that thought).

This thought triggered the idea for our square sandwich "cupcakes". We actually started with a chocolate cake that we then baked in a rectangle cake pan. We actually made a cake batter that was closer to a brownie consistency to make the next process of cutting it a little bit easier. Once cooked we cut the cake into squares and circles and then cut those pieces in half (across). The two halves were then layered with cream cheese frosting to basically end up looking similar to a whoopie pie. They were delicious and the little guy got to make his square "cupcakes" stuffed with frosting. Though I had a cake that was somewhere between the consistency of a cake and a brownie I think that we will be making these next time we make brownies in our house too.

Are you in a rush to have this wonderfully yummy snack? Try using the Tollhouse pull and bake brownie bites (for a cute one bite treat) they are actually the best pre-prepared brownie bites that I have found. Bake them according to the package directions and let cool. Either make or buy cream cheese frosting and layer two brownie bites with the cream cheese frosting in the middle. As another option, mix chocolate chips into the cream cheese frosting.

Here is the 5 year old trying one of the round ones

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ultimate Blog Party 2011

Ultimate Blog Party 2011

Well, I am showing up a little bit late for the party, but I will just have to make the most of the next couple of days.  Let me start by telling you a little bit about me.

I began blogging just over 1 year ago (the end of March 2010) and the UBP was actually my first blog event that I participated in.  I loved that so quickly after starting my blog I was able to participate in this event which allowed me to *meet* some wonderful bloggers.
I am a mom of two wonderful (and sometimes crazy) boys.  My little guys are 5 (will be 6 in May) and 16 months.  I began blogging a few months after the baby was born thinking that it would be a way to keep track of what the boys are up to because I am just not too good with the baby book thing.  My blog now includes a little bit of everything.  I talk about what my boys are up to, but I also write about our family adventures, recipes, baby food making and family fun tip.  You will find a little bit of everything here.
I work full time, outside of the home and have an hour commute each way.  This makes for a VERY hectic week and definately not as much time with the boys as I would like.  This means my husband and I try to make the most of the time we have with the little guys on the weekend.  We do a lot of day trips and long weekends as well as just spending time at home.  The 5 year old loves cooking/baking with us so when we are having a low key weekend we will generally make cupcakes or brownies as a special treat.
I hope everyone is enjoying the blog party and I hope you enjoyed visiting my blog. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Cupcake Adventure - Week 6

We took a week off from baking and visited a local bakery (Sugar Bakery and Sweet Shop) that specializes in cupcakes. They actually competed in and won Cupcake Wars. We have been wanting to go there for a while, but they aren't open on Sunday's and it seems our Saturdays have just been too busy to stop in there.

Well I have to say that after just one visit I have a slight obsession with their cupcakes. They were amazing, I can tell why they won Cupcake Wars. Poor planning on my part put us at the bakery about 15 minutes before closing so they were sold out of some of their cupcake varieties and I did have an unfortunate incident, in which I asked one of the women behind the counter for the last chocolate chip cheesecake cupcake and while she was in the back getting a box the other woman behind the counter sold it to someone else. I was a little disappointed - but since I did not want to be the next crazy cupcake lady, I shrugged it off and went with the Oreo cupcake instead. My husband went with the chocolate cupcake filled with chocolate mouse and topped with chocolate frosting and the 5 year old went with the chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and Reese Pieces on top. After completing our purchase we went out to the car and began to dig in to our cupcakes. My husband got half way through and decided he was going in to buy a couple more before we left, which was a good thing since the 5 year old ate half of my cupcake (he was saving his until after dinner).

The chocolate cake (which is somehow what we all ended up with for our first round of cupcakes) was amazing. It had the perfect consistency. They were spoungy and light on the inside with just a slightly thicker consistency on the top. The frosting/fillings were a perfectly sweetened, they were not too sweet like some of the fillings/frosting that you will find in cupcakes and were perfectly balanced by the cake. The cakes were so good that I actually wanted to dig into round two of the cupcakes that evening, but I was able to keep my obsession for these cupcakes in check and we saved round two for Sunday.

We only had two additional cupcakes for Sunday. We went with the Chocolate cake, chocolate mouse and chocolate frosting, because we all loved that one and also decided to try the Red Velvet cake. My 5 year old LOVES Red Velvet cake so once again, my husband got to wat his own cupcake and I got to share with the 5 year old. He had a couple of bites and that was it for him - he liked it, but had just finished lunch and wasn't very hungry - that worked out great for me since I was able to eat the rest of the cupcake. The red velvet was good and had a nice little tang that mixed perfectly with the creaminess of the cream cheese frosting. But by far our favorite was the Chocolate cake with chocolate mouse and chocolate frosting. We will be buying them again - I am positive of that.

I must add that I am happy that we had the misunderstanding at the beginning of our visit and that they sold the last chocolate chip cheesecake cupcake right out from under me....why??? Now I have an excuse to go back there and I can't wait. It is so dangerous that I found this bakery less than 10 miles from my house.

Any locals who have not visited this bake shop - you have to stop in there, you don't know what you are missing.

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