Monday, July 25, 2016

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go became a huge sensation as soon as it was released. I don’t need more things to distract me or occupy my time, but I have noticed that when I go out with the family that Bobble is reluctant to do things. Squiggle wants to hike and walk, Bobble just wants to go home. Sometimes he evens asks to just go home so he can play video games.

This is disappointing for me, as he really doesn’t get to play video games very often. Sometimes not even at all in a whole week. I finally succumbed to the Pokémon Go fad because I thought that if it would get him to stop complaining when we were out and about, it might be worth it. Also, it's free.

I tested it out to get an idea of how you play the game while the kids were asleep, catching a few Pokémon in our house and learning the very basics. I even saved Bobble's life that night. Obviously.

The next day I took them for a walk downtown to catch Pokémon. They fought over who got to hold the phone, and it wasn’t very fun because the fighting escalated into tantrums.

I tried again the next day, walking around the neighborhood with them. This time, I turned the volume on the game up (I had it on silent and it would vibrate when a Pokémon appeared) and put it in my pocket. I told them that when there was a Pokémon, I’d let them know, and they would take turns. That worked much better.

Now they know that I hold the phone no matter what. We walk, and I let them know who gets to catch the Pokémon (they alternate) and who gets to spin for items at the Pokéstops (they alternate for these, too). If I have the volume off so it just vibrates, sometimes I don’t pull the phone out hardly at all, and the kids just happily walk with me. Bobble occasionally will ask if there is a Pokémon or Pokéstop near, and sometimes I’ll pull the phone out and look with them. As it stands, however, they (mostly Bobble) accept I’ll just tell them when it’s time to catch something, and we now get to enjoy walks without as much whining.

Thanks, Pokémon Go!

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for the contents of this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Perfect Chocolate Cake (recipe)

I know I've shared the surprisingly delicious vegan chocolate avocado cake recipe, but it was a denser chocolate cake, I thought I'd post my go-to recipe for a light, fluffy chocolate cake. It's 100% just the recipe from the back of a box of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa powder. I have use this recipe for roughly a decade now, and it's awesome. The frosting recipe that accompanies it is also great.

I do change a few things slightly, but that would be like using the sodium-free baking powder since Bobble has the sodium restriction, and using sunflower oil in lieu of vegetable oil.

Don't mind the cake on a plate on a carrier. I forgot I owned the cake carrier before I frosted the cake, and when I realized it I figured it was just easier to keep it on the plate!

This cake turns out perfect every time, too!

So, if you prefer fluffier cakes and have no food restrictions, try this one out.

Hershey's "Especially Dark" Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water


Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans or line 28 to 30 muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans or fill cups about 2/3 full with batter.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans or 22 to 25 minutes for cupcakes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "ESPECIALLY DARK" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

"ESPECIALLY DARK" CHOCOLATE FROSTING 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter, Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff was not compensated in any way for this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. The recipes are both Hershey's recipes and can be found at the links above.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Adventures with chicks (pt. 7)

At 8 weeks old, the chickens are really coming into their own! They have enjoyed a few treats like some fresh plants, dried bugs, and a few pieces of fresh fruit scraps.

Marshmallow (white cochin) and our unnamed Bantam Partridge Silkie + photobomb from our Blue(?) chick

Black Australorp

I just dropped some wild strawberries in for them, and the OE is more interested in making sure she's in the picture

Our most curious chick is the little Barred Rock

This pretty girl was just getting ready to stretch out her wing (which is why it looks a bit funny)

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for the content of this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A chalk alternative

I like to do a weekly menu for our dinner meals and place it on the fridge. It would be quite wasteful to print something like that out weekly, especially when it could change anyway. I don’t have one of those neat little chalk wall sections like I’ve seen in some houses, so I got a little dry erase board and some markers. 

The markers I got were too wide to allow me to write a full meal in the allotted space legibly, so I didn’t really use them much and bought fine point markers. That left me with markers just sitting around.

Though it's hard to see, there is a jack-o-lantern drawn on the top half of the door
When cleaning off the area where those markers were kept, I noticed they also said “window chalk”. I never thought about much, but they would work nicely for window decorations, so I decided to let the kids use the markers. They knew they were special markers since they were only ever used for the menu, so they understood they couldn’t use them like normal markers. I let them decorate the front storm door windows and other various windows in the house. This worked great for rainy days when they couldn’t play outside with chalk, and it also was great for when they had a party. They want to help decorate for their parties, but there really isn’t much they can do yet. They cannot blow up balloons yet (they try, though!), they can’t reach to hang items from higher up, and they really just feel left out when it comes to that. Now I let them use the markers for helping decorate.

They have not tried to use regular markers on the door/windows, and they haven’t tried to use the special chalk/dry erase markers on anything but glass (thankfully!). I’m glad that the markers aren’t going to waste, and that the kids can feel useful when “decorating” or can express themselves for all to see without it being permanent.

The markers are also easy to clean up because they are water based. They wipe off easily (dry with a bit of pressure, or water takes it right off), and they come off of hands easily, too!

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for this post. All products were purchased by me. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Adventures with chicks (pt. 6)

One day before turning 7 weeks old, our chicks had to move house again. I feel bad that they don't have the ability to fly up on the side of the baby gate to roost anymore, but as they get bigger they create more dust. I prefer not to have my house smell like a chicken coop, so they relocated to the garage.

All 9 of the chicks in their new home
We have a really large metal dog crate that they got relocated to, and a large (yet small) branch was fed through the bars in the back section to allow for them to still roost if they want. Often times they still prefer to just plop together in the straw to sleep.

Of course, now our garage smells like chickens, but that is much better than a room inside. We often open our garage door and the back door to the garage to let the air circulate through to help cut down on smell, but it is going to smell a bit like chicken until we move them outside.

Though I feel bad for making them fully enclosed (versus an open top like they had) they are a bit more at ease when the kids come near them because the kids can't just reach down and try to grab them. I also feel bad about the size, wishing it was so much larger so they can roam far and wide, but I keep reminding myself it's only temporary, and that they have it much better than a conventional laying hen that is kept in battery cages that are so small they can't even stand up and can just poke their head out to eat/drink. At least my chicks have enough room that they can literally run around, fly about a bit, and have space to roost.

You can see the branch to roost on if you look at the left side of the picture

Soon I'll have to find homes for a few of these girls, as we don't have room to add 9 more chickens to our coop. Well, going back to the battery cages bit, we technically do have room, but we would rather not crowd our flock too much.

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for the content of this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Tips: Fruit Flies

I don’t know how common of a problem this is, but every year we have issues with tiny little flies. I think they are fruit flies or gnats, honestly, though I’ve had them long before I had children (which means sometimes food ends up in places you wouldn’t think to look). They hang around drains, they hang around potted plants, and of course, food.

To help control these little pests without using unsafe chemicals, we put little dishes (think tiny condiment dishes) with apple-cider vinegar (ACV) near the sink and the fruit. 

You know the saying “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar”? Yeah… I’m convinced that’s a lie. They really, really like the ACV. Of course, they can’t fly in it, they can’t swim, and so they are trapped. Success!

You can also add a tiny bit of dish soap to it and mix it up to help thicken the consistency and ensure they are actually stuck. We empty them out and refill them every couple of days during “fly season”.

Do you have any tips for controlling fruit flies?

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Adventures with chicks (pt. 5)

Our chicks are 6 weeks old and officially have feathers! They are also significantly harder to keep still for pictures, so I had to resort to holding the birds in front of me and snapping a picture. If their feet touched something, they would use it to their advantage and push off and sneak away. Without my friend over this time, my helpers were Bobble and Squiggle... erm... "helpers". 

Black Australorp, and the calmest chicken at the moment. She let me take this picture with minimal fuss.

 Above are the two EEs. Bobble's is on the left, and I'm holding the other one on the right.

We finally figured out that this is a Bantam Partridge Cochin. I'm loving this little one! She's so... different!

This barred rock is fiesty, and is making a run for it as the picture is being taken.
Still not 100% on this gorgeous chick, but current guess is Blue Orpington or Blue Andalusian
We have come to the conclusion that this lovely blue is actually an Olive Egger.. mostly because of her cheeks (see second picture below)

Squiggle's white cochin is on the left (note the black leg band), and the other has now grown in all white feathers (right). Good thing we put a band on them!

The chicks also had their first taste of treats today, as we gave them some dried mealworms after their (forced) photoshoot.

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for the content of this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.