Friday, September 21, 2018

Inventing a State Cookie for California

May I interest you in a California Cookie?

"What exactly is a California Cookie?" you may be asking. "I've never heard of it." Well, of course you haven't, because Trevor recently made it up. But before I tell you the story of how Trevor invented the California Cookie, let me back up.

When I plan a trip for our family, it is just as important to me to research what we're going to eat as it is to research what we're going to do. Just as I don't want to miss any amazing museums, historical sites, natural wonders, or other unique must-sees, I am not going to travel across the country and miss the chance to try the official state dessert of Maryland, for example. I want to taste every regional specialty whenever possible, whether that is unique and beloved fast food in Nebraska or Kentucky's best burgoo.

When we visited New Mexico in November 2016, Trevor and I fell in love with biscochitos, the official state cookie. I decided that our family would try every state's official state cookie. One problem... 48 states don't have an official state cookie. Besides New Mexico's biscochito, Massachusetts lays claim to the chocolate chip cookie, which is not exactly something we need to go out of our way to try. And that's it. No other official state cookies.

I did some googling. I found proposals for state cookies in Pennsylvania, an interesting collection of the (allegedly) most popular cookie in each state, and a kindred spirit from my home state of California. I became determined to create a state cookie for California.

What would California's cookie have? There are so many possibilities. California produces almost all of the country's almonds, apricots, dates, figs, kiwi fruit, nectarines, olives, pistachios, prunes, and walnuts. It leads in the production of avocados, grapes, lemons, melons, peaches, plums, and strawberries. I started dreaming up yummy combinations. 

And then, in true deRosier fashion, I turned my quest to create a California Cookie into a contest. Here's the invitation that went out to Trevor's classmates:

Trevor and I were so excited. On the day before the party / competition, we each mixed up our own entry. Can you guess why Trevor's cookie dough has a lovely green tint?

We refrigerated our cookie doughs overnight, along with the plain cookie dough we'd prepared for friends to use. On the morning of the party, we baked up our cookies while we waited for our guests.

One friend brought baked cookies, another brought raw cookie dough and baked at our house, while a third brought mix-ins and used our plain dough.

It took quite a while to bake all of the cookies, but at last we were ready for judging. One by one, the four kids and I each introduced our cookies and explained our inspiration. 

Starting with the top left and working clockwise:
  • M's California Cookie has an oatmeal base with slivered almonds, apricot chunks, and golden raisins. California is the #1 producer of almonds, apricots, and raisins, and the selection of golden raisins represents the Golden State.
  • S's California Cookie is a lemon poppy seed cookie. California leads the nation in lemon production and the poppy seeds are a nod to California's state flower, the California Poppy. The lemony color represents California's sunshine.
  • My California Cookie features sliced almonds, dried apricots, and toffee bits. The almonds and apricots are top products in California. The toffee bits, which are golden in color, are meant to represent the California Gold Rush. 
  • Trevor's California Cookie began with mashed avocado taking the place of butter in the cookie base. Not only is California the #1 producer of avocados in the US, but they replace the saturated fat of butter and make the cookies healthier. He added raisins and almonds, both very important in California agriculture.
  • L's California Cookie features almonds and Jelly Belly candies. The Jelly Belly factory is just down the road from us, so they're definitely Californian!

None of us had talked about our planned cookies ahead of time, so it is fascinating that 4 out of 5 chose almonds. Raisins appear in 2 and apricots in 2. Trevor had made up scorecards for us, so we carefully tasted and rated each cookie.

All five of the cookies were delicious. And all five contestants had made a good case for why their cookie represents California. We completed our secret ballets and the kids ran off to play. 

I totaled the scores and there was a clear winner... congratulations to Trevor for inventing the California Cookie!

I've included the recipe below so you can bake the cookies and see for yourself if they deserve the title of the official state cookie of California. I think they do. Let's join New Mexico and Massachusetts to become the 3rd state in the nation to adopt an official state cookie!


The California Cookie

by Trevor deRosier


1/2 c. butter
1/2 of an avocado
3/4 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 T. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 T. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/2 c. raisins
Use a mixer to cream the butter and avocado until they are smooth and uniform in color. Add the sugars and beat for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, beating for another minute or until fully incorporated. 

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until the dough comes together. Fold in the almonds and raisins. 

Use a cookie scoop to drop dough onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake the cookies at 350°F for 9-10 minutes or until barely golden. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Craft Block I-Spy Game

I spy an animal that lives in the ocean. Can you guess what it is? 

Here are some clues to help you.
  • The animal I spy is bigger than a human. 
  • The animal I spy is a mammal.
  • The animal I spy is a single color. 
  • The animal I spy uses echolocation to find breathing holes in the ice and to hunt in dark waters. 

Now can you guess? This close-up photo might help. 

Did you say beluga whale? If you did, you're right!

I am in love with this new I-Spy game Trevor and I made. It is lightweight, small enough to fit easily in a tote, and is a great way to pass the time during car trips, at the doctor's office, or waiting for food at a restaurant. You can adjust the clues you give based on the age of the child you're playing with. You can also create a solitaire version - just write up a list of items for the child to find and hand it over!

To make your own I-Spy game, you'll need a Craft Block (affiliate link) and something to put inside it. I received a Craft Block as a sample and had been testing all sorts of items to put inside before Trevor came up with the idea of the plastic animals

The Craft Block is made of acrylic and measures 8" x 8" x 3". It has a 1.5" access hole at the top with a reusable rubber seal. There is a wave pattern to the acrylic that creates a really cool effect. Look at the bouncy balls we put in the Craft Block. They're all perfectly round, but the waves have distorted their appearance!

The same thing happened with marbles. Look at the clear marble sitting on top of the others. It's perfectly round, but it sure doesn't look that way! 

There are so many other things that you can put inside a Craft Block to make an I-Spy game, or simply to display a collection. And because the seal is reusable, you can empty out the Craft Block whenever you want and fill it with something else!

I have more ideas for the Craft Block to come, including one that I can't share until after a certain nephew's October birthday. Do you have any fun ideas for the Craft Block? I'd love to hear how you would use it!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Exploring Virginia (and Washington DC) Through Little Passports

Time to share our latest Little Passports adventure, a virtual trip to Virginia and Washington DC! Trevor started by building a model of the White House.

Then we did the art activity. We learned how to draw the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. Trevor will be visiting both, along with many other sites, when he travels to the east coast with his school next March. I had the pleasure of taking a group of students to Washington DC as a teacher and it was incredible. I am so glad Trevor will have a similar experience.  

We read about the Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach and used a series of clues to determine which drawing of the Neptune statue was accurate. Then we unscrambled puzzle pieces to reveal a photo of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. We solved a matching activity about Monument Avenue in Richmond and solved a map puzzle based on the Pentagon. 

Next, we learned about the plant life in Virginia's coastal wetlands. We read about the performers and guides at Colonial Williamburg and discovered the town's motto: "That the future may learn from the past." We worked on a rebus activity about how some of Virginia's state parks (Smith Mountain Lake State Park, Chippokes Plantation State Park, Kiptopeke State Park, Fairy Stone State Park, and Holliday Lake State Park) were named. We added the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria to our list of places we'd like to visit someday. 

We read about famous events from Virginia history and learned some fun facts. Three presidents graduated from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg; George Washington received a surveyor's certificate there. The first successful electric trolley system in the country opened in Richmond in 1888. The largest bridge-tunnel complex in the world, the 20+ mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, opened in 1964.

The cooking project was Mary Ball Washington's Gingerbread. She was the mother of George Washington and, like him, born in Virginia. She was well-known as an outstanding baker.

We certainly enjoyed it!

Virginia was our 50th and final virtual adventure through Little Passports. Looking back on all that we did and learned together, I could not be happier. Trevor and I had so much fun learning about our 50 states through cooking, crafts, science, puzzles, and other fun activities. I highly recommend Little Passports for the child in your life! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Happy Halloween 2017

Here's the second (of two) pages about Halloween 2017, ready to go in the album. I usually do one page about Trevor's costume, then a second page about trick-or-treating. 

Happy Halloween 2017 (affiliate link)

On the topic of trick-or-treating, I'm curious what age you consider the upper limit. Back in my 1970's California neighborhood, kids stopped going out when they left elementary school, which in my case meant my last year trick-or-treating was in 5th grade. But now, around here at least, there is an expectation that kids will trick-or-treat quite a bit longer than that. I'm totally fine with preteens and teens trick-or-treating, provided that they are polite, in costume, yield to smaller children, and don't stay out ridiculously late. In many ways, kids have to grow up so fast now. I am happy to let them have one extra night a year of just being a kid and having fun.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Paper Plate American Green Tree Frog

About half of the United States (23 to be exact) have named an official state amphibian. Both Georgia and Louisiana have honored the American Green Tree Frog, which was the inspiration for today's craft. This post contains affiliate links.


Paper Plate American Green Tree Frog



Cut the paper plate so that the back half forms a gentle point, as shown below. Paint it green. Bend one pipe cleaner into a pi shape for the front legs. Bend two pipe cleaners into N shapes for the back legs.

Draw a three-toed back foot and a four-toed front food on green construction paper. Cut them out with the microtip scissors, then trace them and cut out a second back foot and second front foot. 

Cut two yellow circles for the frog's eyes and two green arcs for the eyelids. Glue them together. Use the Sharpie to add the pupils. Cut two small green rectangles, fold each in half, then glue one end to the back of each eye. You'll use these to attach the eyes to the plate.

Cut a thin strip of red construction paper and roll it around a pencil or other narrow cylinder to make the frog's tongue. 

Glue the eyes to the top of the plate and the tongue underneath the plate. 

Turn the plate upside down and use hot glue to attach the pipe cleaner legs as shown. 

Turn the frog back over the correct direction and glue the feet in place. Now adjust the legs until your tree frog is balanced.

It would be easy to adapt to make other species of frogs. I may just give that a try!