Mulling-Spice Cake

Mulling Spice Cake (2)

I don’t often make cake on a whim, but when I spotted this recipe in the New York Times Sunday magazine, I was thrilled to realize I had all the ingredients on hand and could veganize it in a pinch. Because sometimes, you need to bake a cake for no reason at all.

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 jar non-dairy vanilla frosting
  • Sprinkles for garnish (optional)
  1. Combine the flour, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in bowl; set aside.
  2. Beat the Earth Balance butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the Ener-G eggs and beat until blended.
  3. Pour the molasses into a liquid measuring cup and add the baking soda. Meanwhile, bring the apple cider just to a boil over medium heat. Add the cider to the molasses mixture and whisk together (the mixture will be foamy).
  4. Alternate adding the flour mixture and molasses mixture to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  5. Coat two (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Divide the batter evenly among the pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes in the pans, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
  6. Once cool, spread the frosting evenly over the layers and place one atop the other. Add sprinkles for garnish, if desired!

Mulling Spice Cake (3)

Foam Number Sensory Bag

Foam Letter Sensory Bag (3)

Veronika is just starting to recognize the written numeral that goes along with each number, and I thought it might be fun to make the experience more hands-on today. After all, toddlers learn so well through sensory play!

I set up a classic sensory bag for this activity, just a large zip-top bag filled with cheap clear hair gel. I kept the layer of gel very light so the emphasis was on the numbers.

Foam Letter Sensory Bag (2)

Add the foam numbers and seal the bag, and it’s ready for your child to squish the numbers around. Big brother Travis wanted to see how it felt, too!

Foam Letter Sensory Bag (4)

At first I only used numbers 0 through 4, intending to keep things simple. But she spotted the extra numerals (5 through 9) on the floor and wanted a new bag for them. Since she was already tempted to open up the goopy bag, I decided to give her a clean one for this second batch of numbers

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She loved adding 5 through 9 to this second bag, then taking them out and starting over again. This turned out to be even better, because she named each number as she added it! I was surprised to realize she already seems to know 5, 7, and 8 quite well.

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She also discovered that the bags were fun to toss on the floor, especially the one filled with hair gel since it made a satisfying plop when it landed.

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So we had some good sensory play with some good early learning built right in.

Water-Powered Window Stickers

Water Powered Window Stickers (8)

All you need for this activity are a few sheets of craft foam. And since these “stickers” peel off and on any window as many times as your child wants, they lend themselves perfectly to imaginative stories and play.

We used craft foam in three colors, and started out by tracing cookie cutters to make shapes and people (hint: you’ll want to use a gingerbread man cookie cutter!). Travis quickly wanted all our stickers to have a Star Wars theme, so we traced a few nightlight inserts in favorite shapes like R2-D2 and The Millennium Falcon, too.

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Then he decided to draw a few favorite characters free-hand, like Jabba the Hutt! I was impressed with his creativity.

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Draw on any details like facial features, buttons, or hoods with permanent marker, then cut each shape out.

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All Travis had to do to create a stage for his little characters on the window was to dip them in a dish of water. I set down a bowl of water (and a paper towel to clean up any drips!) and the fun began.

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Travis loved the way he could manipulate the characters all over the window, changing the scene and staging battles and rescues.

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Because you can layer one foam piece atop another, be sure to add accessories, too. Darth Vader’s mask could go over any of the little people’s heads, for example. You could even make a foam cut-out to look like a speech bubble and add words with permanent marker.

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No matter what theme your child has for these stickers, they are sure to be easy and fun.

Water Powered Window Stickers (11)

Winter in a Bag

Winter in a Bag (5)

Veronika loves glitter but I confess I’m not always in the mood to deal with the sparkly mess it leaves behind. This sensory bag is a great way to enjoy all the sparkle and ice of winter, without a single bit of that mess!

To start, I squirted about half a bottle of clear hair gel into a large zip-top bag. Add any items that are fun to squish and resemble little snowballs or snowflakes. To wit, we used white pom poms and large Dandies marshmallows!

Winter in a Bag (1)

For snowy sparkle, I then poured in blue glitter and a few silver star-shaped sequins that looked roughly like little snowflakes. Veronika wanted to get hands-on with the bag right away!

Winter in a Bag (3)

The marshmallows in particular are fun to squish, even through the bag. As a bonus, there’s no sticky mess left on fingers. She also loved spotting the silver snowflakes in the mix.

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She then decided to stand on the bag instead, delighting in how squishy it felt beneath her toes.

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The bag didn’t hold her interest for very long, truth be told, but it was sparkly, wintry fun while it lasted.