Happy International Rabbit Day!

Happy International Rabbit Day!

I wanted to pop in to tell you that I will be taking this next week off from blogging in order to do some site updates and other improvements. I'll be back with new posts starting on Monday, October 1. 


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. 


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!


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! 


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.


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!


Fall Library Tic-Tac-Toe

Remember the Library Tic-Tac-Toe game I shared over the summer? I've made a fall version!

Feel free to print this out and enjoy it at your library. Full instructions for how to play Library Tic-Tac-Toe are here. After the library visit, try a fall-themed craft or two!


Cardboard Tube Scarecrow

When you see this cardboard tube scarecrow, do you think of fall...

....  or do you think of The Wizard of Oz? Because really, it could go either way. 


Cardboard Tube Scarecrow


  • cardboard tube
  • scissors
  • construction paper (green, brown, black, red)
  • craft glue
  • burlap
  • scotch tape
  • light brown yarn
  • googly eyes
  • black Sharpie
  • dried hay bits (plenty of those here, thanks to Trouble!)


Wrap a piece of brown construction paper around the bottom third of the cardboard tube. Glue it in place. Wrap a piece of green construction paper around the middle third, slightly overlapping the brown. Glue it in place. Wrap a piece of burlap around the top third. Tape it in place temporarily. 

Cut two pieces of yarn. Tie one piece around the scarecrow's waist and another around his neck. 

Push the portion of burlap that sticks up past the edge of the cardboard tube down into the tube. Remove the tape from the burlap; it should stay in place. 

Create a hat by cutting a rectangle of black construction paper that is about 2" x 6". Fold one edge up, then wrap the construction paper around the scarecrow's head, forming a cone shape by overlapping one end of the construction paper over the other. Add tape to temporarily hold the cone shape. Remove the hat from the scarecrow, trim the excess construction paper, then add glue along the overlapped section. Keep the tape in place until the glue is dry, then remove it. Put a generous amount of glue on the inside of the hat and glue it to the scarecrow's head. 

Cut a small red triangle and two red squares. Glue the triangle where the nose would be. Glue the squares onto the scarecrow's pants. 

Cut a smile from the scraps from the hat and glue it in place. Add the googly eyes. Then use the Sharpie to draw the scarecrow's legs and the stitch marks on the patches. Finally, glue little tufts of hay (or straw) to the scarecrow. Raffia would work, too.

Yes, of course I have tutorials for Cardboard Tube Dorothy and Cardboard Tube Toto. More characters coming soon!


Food Fight - Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages

One of my favorite things about being a blogger is that stuff randomly arrives at my house for me to review. Look what recently showed up in the deRosier mailbox: 

I could not wait to dive into Food Fight: A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages (affiliate link). I don't know the author, Tanya Steel, but she is obviously a kindred spirit of mine. This book could not be more Cindy! Seriously, a delightfully-illustrated National Geographic Kids book about food through history? It's pretty much all of my favorite things in one! 

It turns out that Ms. Steel is the former editor of Bon Appetit and Food & Wine. She started the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids' State Dinner that Michelle Obama hosted for five years at the White House. Tanya Steel has written award-winning books and is considered a global food industry leader. And, as it turns out, she's very interested in the history of food. 

Food Fight is organized into 15 chapters, starting with the prehistoric era and ending with predications about the food of the future. Each chapter has a well-written introduction to the time period, then talks about food through the lens of the culture, politics, economics, and technology of the time. There are sections about table manners during each time period, as well as "Yucky Habits of Yore." Fun anecdotes about food and charming illustrations are sprinkled throughout. Each chapter has two kid-friendly (and kid-tested) recipes either inspired by, or actually from, the era. At the end of each chapter is a multiple choice quiz. 

Having cooked my way through US history with many fifth graders over the years, I was particularly drawn to Chapter 8 called 'America Revolts.' How fun to read about much of the same material I'd taught! But I was even more interested in the other chapters, as the material was new to me, for the most part. I'd never given much thought to what the Mongols ate along the Silk Road, for example. Nor did my history teachers cover much about kitchen tools, table manners, or foods eaten by different social classes during ancient Rome. I wish they had!

I tried a recipe from the Rome chapter. It was adapted from a fourth-century cookbook called Cooking and Dining in Imperial Rome and was written by Apicius, one of the world's first cookbook authors. Wow. Basically, you combine milk, honey, pepper (!), and sliced apricots and let them sit out for awhile.

Then you drain the apricots and bake them until they're soft. Then you serve the warm apricots with Greek yogurt. Yum!

It was so neat to reflect on the fact that I was preparing and eating a 1600-year old recipe. 

So obviously, I really like Food Fight: A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages and think you should buy it. It's packed with interesting information and is so engaging, both in the way it's written and the way it's illustrated and laid out. I really enjoyed it. However, I do have a few complaints about the book. First, I am not a fan of the "Food Fight" part of the title. "A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages" would have been a better title, even if it is a bit wordy. Even calling it "A Mouthwatering History" would be much better than "Food Fight." My second criticism is equally small, but still worth mentioning. I love that there are quizzes at the end of each chapter, but I found some of the multiple choice options to be (intentionally, I'm sure) ridiculous. One question asks, 

What didn't the prehistoric humans invent?
A) plow
B) wheel
C) fur coat
D) iPad
E) needle and thread

Not only is Choice D obvious to all but the dullest of kids, but it is going to date this book. Another question gives Taylor Swift as a possible choice for someone who influenced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in the French Revolution chapter. Taylor Swift and iPads and a few of the other silly answers aren't necessarily going to have meaning to kids in a decade or so. Better to choose more timeless silly options; Beethoven and Elvis will probably both be recognizable to kids long after Taylor Swift is forgotten (no offense, Taylor) and a television or airplane might be a better choice than an iPad for the invention question. 

All in all, I am happy to recommend Food Fight. I'm looking forward to trying more of the recipes and revisiting some of the fun facts. I have a little challenge in mind for myself based on something from one of the chapters, so stay tuned for that....


September Roundups and Long Pins

I've been busy with another batch of craft roundups! I made all of these as part of my job as Editor of Fun Family Crafts. For each topic, I made several different sizes of graphics, each optimized for Pinterest, Facebook, or some other purpose. I'm sharing just one or two versions here. As always, I made all of the graphics using PicMonkey (affiliate link). Yea, PicMonkey!

First up, September Crafts. There are a lot of special days in September, some of which you may be able to guess based on the images I used. 

What's more fun than making Pirate Crafts on Talk Like a Pirate Day?

Next is Sunflower Crafts. So pretty. 

Fall is a great time for crafting. I particularly like crafting with items from nature, like pine cones, acorns, and leaves. 

I'm working on a scarecrow craft, but didn't finish it in time to include it in this roundup. 

I LOVE Halloween crafts. Interestingly, this was the hardest of this month's graphics for me to make. Too many choices, I guess. 

On the other hand, there are more than 10,000 craft tutorials for school-age kids on Fun Family Crafts and I didn't have as much of a problem narrowing those down.

More roundups, coming soon!


Paper Plate Cheshire Cat

To me, there is only one acceptable movie version of Alice in Wonderland, and that is the 1951 Disney cartoon. I'm sure there's merit to the versions that have come after it, but this will forever be the Cheshire Cat to me.

I remember seeing Disney's Alice in Wonderland as a kid, and I remember enjoying the Alice in Wonderland ride at Disneyland. I also read Lewis Carroll's books. (Side note: Did you know that Lewis Carroll is a pen name? I had no idea until just now when I was hunting for a link.) I think I saw the movie before reading the books, and I'm almost certain I rode the ride before either seeing the movie or reading the books, so it's no surprise that my mental images of the characters are the ones that Disney introduced in 1951. 


Paper Plate Cheshire Cat


  • paper plate
  • scissors
  • paint (light and dark pink, yellow, black)
  • black Sharpie
  • craft glue


Cut the paper plate into this basic shape. 

Use the scraps to cut out six whiskers, two circles, and an oval. If your scraps aren't large enough for all of that, use cardstock or construction paper. Either is fine. Paint the ears and the area around the smile with light pink. Let it dry. 

Paint the two circles yellow. Then paint the oval, the main part of the face, and the outer portions of the ears dark pink. 

Trim the fluffs around the ears to look, well, fluffy. Paint pupils in the center of each eye, then glue them in place. Paint black eyebrows above the eyes, then add nostrils to the nose. Paint the whiskers black. 

Glue the whiskers behind the nose, then glue the nose in place. When the paint is dry, outline the mouth with a black sharpie, then add smile lines. 

It's hard not to smile looking at this guy.