Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Easy Cake

So we're still adapting to our new crazy baseball schedule with multiple teams and conflicting practice and game times.  It rained here and you'd think that it was monsoon weather the way everyone reacted.  We needed the rain, but unfortunately it added even more changes to our schedule canceling our opening day ceremonies and rescheduling other events.  

It's no surprise that I completely spaced on preparing something for the league bake sale that was rescheduled!  Since I'm a team mom for two teams, I had to donate two items.  It's 5pm on a Friday night and what to do ...what to do...  I decided to power on with items in my cupboard without the extra trip to the store.  The result?  A fun baseball that even my 7 year old helped to create.  

Now I'm not claiming this is an original idea. I'm sure someone somewhere has done this before.  I just haven't seen it on a full size cake.

This a fun and super simple way to make an impactful cake for a team party, game snack or even the league bake sale!

What you'll need:
- Two round cakes (either single layer or double layer will work)
- Two cans of white frosting or approximately 4 cups homemade frosting
- Red and green M&Ms 
- Toothpicks

First ice your cakes once they are cooled.  If you aren't familiar with icing cakes, take this slow.  It's easy so don't stress - but going slower will help avoid crumbs.  Lighter color cakes will make this process easier as the crumbs are less likely to show through your icing. If your cake seems to be particularly crumbly (test this by slowly running your finger around the edge and see if there is crumbling or flaking), freeze your cake for a few hours and ice frozen.  

This particular cake I had made had some small bubbles that popped and left holes on the top.  If you have a crack or holes similar to this, fill with frosting before icing the rest of the cake.  

Spread the frosting evenly around the cake.  Each layer should require about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of frosting.  When applying frosting to the sides of the cake, make sure to make the layer extra thick - almost 1/8 to 1/4 inch.  

Once you are happy with your pretty cake canvases, bust out the M&Ms.  My son loved this part!  He also loved separating the green and red candies out from the other colors.  There may have been a few eaten here or there keeping him entertained. ;-)

Take a tooth pick and lightly draw lines in the shape of baseball lines in your frosting.  These lines should just barely overlap the edge of your cake, but not go all of the way to your plate.

Take red M&Ms and place along the lines that have been drawn to create the laces on your baseball.  Once the laces have been filled in, add the grass to the edges.  This is where the thicker frosting layer will come in handy.  You will need it to hold the candies in place.

My son says the best pattern is two across one on top with the M&Ms closer together that they almost start to overlap.  I thought space would be better (and help stretch the M&Ms supply!) but after looking at the finished product, I think he may have been on to something.  The closesness adds to the grass "effect".  

Mine with space ... 

His without the space ...

I think he did a fabulous job!

Once you've added your grass you've got yourself a cake for for a little leaguer! 

I think this would be easily adapted for soccer with brown M&Ms or a basketball with orange frosting and brown M&Ms. 

Easy - but impactful!

Happy baking!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: PB&J Baseball Style

If you haven't been able to tell by now, I have a love affair with markers - a certified love affair.  There is a marker for just about any use these days.  

Marry my love of markers with my overwhelming laziness when it comes to fun new snack ideas and low and behold you have our tasty Tuesday treat for this week.  

This week we're transforming an ordinary sandwich into a baseball.

What you'll need:
- Mostly defrosted Smucker's Uncrustables or fixings for your own favorite sandwich creation
- Wilton food writer food color markers 
- A circular cookie cutter or plastic cup (if not using Uncrustables)

Tip: If you're making a PB&J from scratch, cut the bread first and then add the filling but if you're making a deli meat sandwich, assemble the sandwich before cutting.

Step 1
Cut the bread you are using into circles.  If you don't have a cookie cutter that works for you, use a plastic cup.

Don't judge me by the Red Sox cup - my husband is the fan... I'm a Tigers fan all the way.  

Step 2
Make your PB&J

Step 3 (Uncrustables start here...)

Look at these pretty canvases just waiting to be transformed!

Decide what type of ball you plan to create.  Today I'm making baseballs.  Use your food color marker to draw lines on your sandwich and poof - you're done!

These are a fun snack option for game day or an addition to your year end party menu.

Have fun doodling!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Dugout Parent

For those of us parents that have younger kids in t-ball or baseball, you're probably already very familiar with the dugout parent role and the responsibility that goes with it.  A dugout parent is the parent that hangs out with the kids in the dugout (didn't see that one coming did you?).  Duties include but are not limited to; preparing kids for their at bat, tying shoes, refereeing disagreements, pulling kids down off the fence, tying shoes again, locating lost water bottles-gloves-bats-hats, and locating parents for the kid who just can't wait until after the game to use the bathroom.  This by no means is an exhaustive list.  You might be surprised what types of things come up in a dugout situation! 

I've seen dugout duty handled a couple of different ways.  One way is to have a couple of parents that want to handle dugout duty for the entire season.  These parents are usually given the opportunity to volunteer for this role as it's quite a commitment for the season.  A rotation schedule should be agreed upon between these few parents ahead of time so they each know what games they are required to cover in the dugout.  The second way this could be handled, and my preference to be honest, is to link the dugout duty to snack duty.  For the lower age divisions where dugout duty will be required, snacks are still distributed for the games.  Parents are notified ahead of time that snack duty and dugout duty days are one in the same.  If the parent is bringing snack, they are responsible for dugout duty that day. 

The second option is my preference for a few different reasons.  One, it's not as much of a commitment for any one member of the team.  Two, it doesn't put so much pressure on a family or parent not to miss a game if they have a reason they must do so.  And third, if you know you have snack duty you're pretty on top of things for that game which means you're about 99.9% sure to be at the field that day, making you slightly more reliable to handle dugout duty.

With all of these things in mind, the dugout can get quite out of control when talking about kids under the age of 8.  Here are some helpful (and hopefully some fun) tips to keep the dugout happy and calm when you have dugout duty.

Keep the Lineup Organized

It's so important to keep the lineup organized in a dugout but it's not always easy.  Visual markers and name labels help with this task. 

One of my favorite ways to keep the lineup organized for t-ball specifically, is using t-ball buckets.  Click here to see the post where I go more into detail on those.

You can also keep your dugout lined up through making magnetic name tags to put on the bench.  These printable magnetic sheets make this task easy!  Print each player's name on their own magnetic sheet.  You can make these as cute or as plain as you would like.  Of course mine tend to be out of control and avoid anything plain and verge on chaotic, but they get the job done all the same.  These can be stored in the coach's bag for each game.  They'll look a little beat up by the end of the season, but they'll get you through.  You can buy these gems at your local office supply store or here on Amazon.com.

Another option - make your banner do double duty.  Instead of printing one large banner to show your team spirit, try printing pennants instead.  Not only do they make great individual keepsakes for each of your players at the end of the season, they also can be handy tools for keeping your lineup organized!  Simply hook the pennants on the fence above the bench in name order to give the kids a visual clue of their spot in the lineup.

Pay Attention to Personalities

It's no secret that not all kids play well together.  For many kids t-ball can be their first experience in a team setting.  While playing a team sport is mostly about just that - learning to be a part of a team - it can also be a tense environment for some.  For those kids that just have natural conflicts and can't seem to play nice together, make a mental note to keep them separated in the dugout.  Hopefully your team manager has already made a note of this and separated them on the lineup, but if not, do what you need to do to put them in different spots on the bench, including getting your manager involved to change the lineup if needed.  One important thing to note however, try to be sly when rearranging kids if needed as to not bring any unnecessary attention to the conflict.

Make Dugout Time Fun

Let's face it, it's not easy for kids to sit still, relatively quiet and pay attention for long periods of time.  Dugout time is no different.  Kids can often find it pretty dull so they will start to act out.  Instead of getting to that point, try making dugout time more fun. 

The team name game - Boost team spirit and create a fun game using the player names.  Recite the lineup to all of the players sitting on the bench and make it a 'challenge' to remember the order of the lineup.  Each time a player goes up to bat have the kids recite the list in order by memory together.  It's not a complicated idea, but you might be surprised at how this keeps players engaged.

Team cheer - Give your batter a little extra confidence by rooting him on as he walks up to bat.  Coordinate a phrase amongst the team on the bench and have everyone chant it at once.  The key here is to not keep chanting over and over as this could ultimately become distracting to the batter.

Rock paper scissors - You know the game.  Bust this fun one out where the bench is vs. the dugout parent.  This will keep them distracted and sitting without fail.

What's happening - Keep the kids reminded of what's actually happening in the game vs. standing their quietly and just barking orders.  Encourage them to cheer after a ball has been hit, or cheer their runner on to home plate.  This sounds simple, but it's often forgotten in the chaos of dugout duty.  Along with this use proper baseball terminology and have one player on-deck and one player in the hole waiting for their turn to bat.

If these simple ideas don't work for your team, don't sweat it.  Find the formula that works for your group and keep it up.  The more fun you make it, the better off you'll be surviving dugout duty!

Here's to happy dugout time!