sheep cupcakes

I made these adorable sheep cupcakes for Easter, based on these directions.

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I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe (German chocolate cake from the Babycakes Covers the Classics cookbook), and store-bought frosting to save a little time.

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mint chocolate fudge pie

I love any recipe that is both super yummy and super quick and easy to make. Plus this chocolate mint pie has an extra bonus going for it: one of the main ingredients is tofu, so I can justify eating a slice at any time of the day.

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I followed this recipe, and because I don’t enjoy making pie crust, I used a store-bought gluten-free crust.

horsetooth falls

Horsetooth Falls is one of my favorite hikes in Fort Collins. I hoped to finally see the waterfall flowing at more than a trickle on this March morning hike, but as you can see, I’ll have to try again.

maple donuts

I made these delicious maple donuts on a snowy day in January, using the Babycakes Covers the Classics plain cake donut recipe with a little tweak. I added one teaspoon of maple extract into the 1/4 cup vanilla, giving the donuts a slight maple flavor. For a stronger maple flavor, two teaspoons of maple extract would probably do the job.

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trolls party

To ease us through the doldrums of January, we hosted a Trolls themed party for eight four-year-olds. The highlights of the party were a make-your-own troll hair headband craft, strawberry cupcakes, and dancing to music from the Trolls movie.

For the troll hair headbands, I mostly followed the instructions I found here. I figured it would be more fun – and less work for me – for the kids to make their own headband (with help from a parent) during the party. So I just did a little preparation by cutting lots of strips of the tulle (roughly 5″x22″) in advance. Then I laid out the tulle, headbands, ribbon, and decorations on a table so everyone could make their troll hair headbands whenever they wanted to.  Pretty soon there were a lot of Poppy-inspired trolls running around our house, and a few more unique trolls as well!

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For party snacks, we had strawberry cupcakes (I based them off of Erin McKenna’s blueberry muffin recipe), hummus and pretzels, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and Trolls cereal.

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We also printed out some Trolls coloring sheets to provide another party activity for the kids, and handed out Trolls goody bags as the guests headed home.

baked pumpkin oatmeal

I realize that pumpkin is a fall food for many people, but I really enjoy it during every season. This baked pumpkin oatmeal recipe turned out great.

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The only modifications I made were a substitution of walnuts for pecans, and I baked it in a 9″x9″ pan. This would be a great dish to make for a breakfast or brunch party!

wild animal sanctuary

We visited the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado on a warmish January afternoon. It was amazing to see the lions, tigers, coyotes, wolves, bears, and other animals roaming freely in their large habitats.

It was a pleasant surprise to see two bald eagles visiting the sanctuary as well.

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bright nights

Bright Nights in Springfield, MA is a great holiday activity for a cold night. Since we went a few days after Christmas, it wasn’t super busy – we arrived about five minutes before it opened for the evening and only had a few cars ahead of us waiting to get in. The last time we came to Bright Nights was about three years ago, and it seemed to have grown considerably since then. We were able to drive steadily at our own pace, and spent about 30 minutes enjoying the many detailed light displays.

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If it hadn’t been such a brutally cold night, it would have been nice to take advantage of the place to park, get out of the car, and ride a carousel and enjoy warm drinks. Maybe next year!

magic wings

On a cold winter New England day, a warm, humid butterfly house is just the place for me.

The Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens, in South Deerfield MA, is a great change of scenery and climate during the winter. You’ll find yourself immersed in beautiful flowers and greenery, with butterflies flitting all around you (and sometimes even landing on you).

In the main butterfly room you’ll also see uncaged birds (including a hummingbird and parrot), a tortoise in a large open pen, and a small koi pond. An adjoining room contains numerous terrariums housing many species of amphibians, reptiles, and insects.

the amazing world of dr. seuss

On our Christmas vacation, we visited the Springfield Museums. This museum complex includes five museums and a sculpture garden, so you could definitely spend the whole day exploring (if you can handle that much museum time in one day). The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden has been here since the 1990s. In 2017, it was joined by the newest museum in the complex, the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss.

Housed in a beautiful old home, the first floor of this museum includes many rooms with interactive kid-friendly exhibits and lively, colorful representations of characters and scenes from popular Seuss books such as The Lorax, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, and Horton Hears a Who!.

The upstairs of the museum has more adult-oriented biographical and historical information about Seuss himself, and the basement offered some hands-on craft opportunities for children.