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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Skeleton Veggie Tray

As another healthy alternative, we decided to make a veggie skeleton for the kids' Halloween party. I used Kale, red peppers, mini cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, and carrots. The face is veggie dip with carrots as the facial features. 

Pumpkin Play Dough

Instead of giving David's class candy treats, we decided to give out pumpkin play dough. It turned out really well

To start, put 2 cups of flour, 2 Tablespoons of oil, 1 cup of salt, 2 cups of water, 1 Tablespoon of cream of tartar, and 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice. Mix that in a microwavable bowl with a whisk.


Next, add the food coloring. (I did 40 drops of yellow and 8 drops of red.)



Next, place it in the microwave for 1 minute. Pull it out and stir. Place back in for another minute. Continue this until the mixture becomes a dough. It took mine 4 minutes.

When you pull the dough from the bowl, it becomes very soft and pliable. Knead it for a couple of minutes.


Each batch of dough filled 17 plastic containers. 


We put the lids on the container and drew on a pumpkin face. 

David wanted to add more faces on the sides of the containers for his friends. 




Sunday, October 26, 2014

Make Time for Traditions


This time of year always reminds me of the memories and traditions I had as a child. As a parent, I now understand how difficult it can be creating and maintaining some of these traditions. 
On Halloween, we scramble around trying to get the perfect costume for our children, rush out of work to meet those trick-or-treating hours, and try to squeeze in dinner along the way.  Seems like more of a hassle than anything else.  With that being said, I never remember Halloween feeling like a hassle when I was a child. I am sure it was for my parents, but they never let that get in the way of our experiences.  I can still remember the stops we made every year and where all of the “good treats” came from.  And looking back, our journey around the countryside was so much more than getting candy.  Packing in a van with pillowcases in hand was something I looked forward to all year. My cousins, siblings, and I shared so many laughs and moments we still treasure and reminisce about.
I have similar memories from holidays in November and December. Regardless of how hectic the holiday season became, my parents made sure every moment was special for my siblings and me. Whether it was dinner with extended family, baking cookies, or watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, these became memories I will always cherish.
I am sure we all have traditions or memories from our childhood that stand out in our mind. Chances are, a lot of them are centered on the holiday season.  This tends to be the time that, regardless of how busy our lives are, we take the time to do special things with the important people in our lives.   
Becoming a parent has really opened my eyes to the importance of making the most of every second. It seems like our children grow up in the blink of an eye.  Our lives are hectic: our children are involved in countless activities, it seems like our houses become cluttered by the second, and every time you turn around, the mess you just cleaned up has reappeared. Personally, I often feel defeated by the stack of papers I have to grade, lessons to prepare for, dishes to clean, laundry to fold, etc., but I have made a personal promise to myself and my children to give them my undivided attention for 15 to 30 minutes every night regardless of how busy our schedules are for the day.
 Setting aside this time with my family to do something from our seasonal activity wall has proved to be a magical experience for all of us.  Whether it is going on a nature walk, baking, painting a picture together, taking a trip to the library, or some other random craft,  I have realized that I don’t have to wait for holidays and special occasions to create memories and traditions with my children that will last.  The dishes, laundry, and madness of daily routines will always be there waiting, but my children will only be young for a short period of time. I don’t want to look back on the memories we shared, wishing I would have spent more time with them. I want them to know right now that they are my number one priority.
If your children are grown, or you are not a parent yourself, this message still applies. Don’t wait to spend time with those people that mean the most to you in your life. Don’t let the opportunity to create memories and traditions slip by. Too often we find ourselves looking back wishing we would have spent more time with children, called our mom more often, or made extra time to listen to our grandparents’ stories. Stress and chaos can hinder our outlook on what is important in the moment. Don’t let the time pass you by before it is too late.
So, as you prepare for Trick-or-Treating, in the madness of the event, think about the traditions and memories you are creating with your child. Enjoy the chaos of the holidays. When your children look back on their childhood, chances are they won’t remember your stress, they will cherish the time you spent with them.



Friday, October 17, 2014

Football Footprints

The kids like to make things out of their footprints. (The giggles are endless when we do one of these crafts!)

After painting the bottom of the kids' feet brown, they stepped on a piece of football scrapbook paper. We painted on white lines to make them resemble a football. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Marshmallow Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies

We all decided we needed something chocolate tonight, so I went in search for a new recipe. I came across these brownies on Pinterest: http://www.classyclutter.net/2014/09/marshmallow-crunch-brownies.html

They are amazing! 

Ingredients:
1 box (18.9 ounces) of brownie mix (plus ingredients to make the brownies) 
3 cups marshmallows
2 cups rice krispie cereal
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup butterschotch chips
1/4 cup peanut butter


Start by mixing your brownies up according to the package. Grease the bottom of a 11x7 inch pan. Add the brownies to the pan and bake for 29 minutes at 350 degrees. 
Place the 3 cups of marshmallows on top and bake for 2 more minutes. 

 Let the brownies and marhmallows cool.


While the brownies are cooling, melt 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips and 3/4 cup butterscotch chips in the microwave.  Stir after every 25 seconds. Continue until they are fully melted. 

Add in 1/4 cup peanut butter. 


Then stir in the rice krispie cereal. Let that cool for a couple of minutes. 


Place the rice krispie mixture on top of the marshmallows. Place the pan in the refrigerator to cool. These cut best when they are cool. 

We could only wait for about 45 minutes though, so we ate ours with a spoon. 





Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Felt Peek-a-Boo Houses

This was a craft that the kids really enjoyed. They each took it to their own levels. We started by cutting a rectangle and a triangle out of cardboard. That was the base of our house. Then we cut a piece of felt to fit each piece of cardboard and hot glued it on the cardboard. The kids really liked picking out the colors for their houses and windows. Next, we cut out pieces of felt for the windows and doors. 

Then I cut out pieces of paper that were the size of the windows. On the older kids' houses, they drew a lot of the pictures they wanted to be shown under the windows. 

We hot glued the paper pictures where the windows were going to go. Then I hot glued the top of each piece of window and door felt to the top of each picture. This created a flap. 

For Rachel's house, we glued little pictures of the family under her windows and door. She enjoyed pulling the flap up to reveal each picture. 




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jersey Rice Krispie Treats

David and one of his friends thought it would be cool if I made them Rice Krispie treats in the shape of their favorite players' jerseys. This is what we came up with...
I did not have a jersey cookie cutter, so I free-hand cut one jersey and used it as a template for cutting out the other jerseys. We colored frosting and spread it on the Rice Krispie treats. Then we used a line tip to write on the numbers they requested. 

Fall Snow Globes

The kids made some fall snow globes this weekend. They went out in the yard and collected some sticks. We hot glued them to a canning lid. 


Then we filled the glass jar with red, yellow, and green star confetti. (We couldn't find any leaf confetti.)  We added water, attached the lid, and shook the jar to watch the confetti fall.




Applesauce Pancakes

After watching Pioneer Woman and finding inspiration to make homemade applesauce, I decided to try her applesauce pancakes: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/applesauce-pancakes.html

They were very good. 

Ingredients: 
3 cups flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups milk
1 Tablespoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 eggs

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. 


In a separate bowl, whisk the milk, applesauce, vanilla, cinnamon, and eggs together. 


Slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. 


Heat and grease a skillet over medium heat. Then brown the pancakes on each side. Top with syrup and butter. 




Sunday, October 5, 2014

Homemade Applesauce

Ingredients: 
About 1/4 bushel of apples, peeled, cored, and sliced. 
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup lemon juice

We were watching The Pioneer Woman on Food Network this morning, and she was making this applesauce, so I decided to give it a try. 

Fill a large pot with the cut apples. I did a variety of Macintosh and Ida Red apples. Add the apple juice, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Stir it and cook over medium heat for about 25 minutes. (Cover the pot while it cooks.) 

Stir the apples occasionally while they cook down. 


When the apples are done cooking, place them in a food processor. Pulse them until you reach your desired consistency. 

Store in the refrigerator. 

I then used some of the applesauce to make applesauce doughnuts and apple pancakes...Recipes coming soon!


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Leaf Handprint Crafts

Earlier this week, David came in from playing outside with a handful of leaves.  He said, "Mom, I found some leaves to craft with."  He came up with the second craft pictured all on his own. Rachel wanted to paint too, so we created leaves from her handprints. 



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pumpkin Cupcake Cake

I decided to make this cupcake cake for a friend's birthday this week. I used my recipe for pumpkin spice cupcakes (http://workingmomwonders.blogspot.com/2013/08/pumpkin-spice-cupcakes.html), and placed the cupcakes on a pan to resemble a pumpkin. There were 23 cupcakes on the pan. Then I covered the cupcakes with orange frosting, and piped on a brown stem and some green vines. I added some orange lines to give it more of a pumpkin look and then added writing. 

Name of the Day Craft

David has been coming home every day talking about the "Name of the Day" activity they complete in kindergarten. Last night he asked if we could start our own "Name of the Day" craft for the names of the people in our family. This is a great activity for everyone in the family to participate in, and it really helps him as he is trying to learn to draw all of the letters. 

I took a piece of computer paper and cut it in half. I made a spot to write the name of the selected person for that day. Each of us then drew a picture of that person and signed our name at the bottom.
Tonight we picked a different family member's name and drew a picture for them.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pride Tickets

Our school has implemented new parking requirements this year. To help promote the rules, I made these tickets for the administration to place on the students' cars that were following the rules. This was a great way to reward the students that were doing what they were supposed to be doing, as opposed to just providing negative reinforcement to the students that weren't following the rules. 

Students turned in the tickets the following day and were rewarded with a treat. 

I am planning on changing the wording on the tickets to use for positive behavior in my classroom and for my own kids at home. Very quick way to promote positive behavior! 


Simple, Small Wedding Cake

This is a very simple wedding cake that went together very quickly. 

I used two 9-inch cakes (leveled off) for the bottom. 

Then, using another cake mix, I made an 8-inch cake and a heart-shape cake. I placed the 8-inch cake on top of the two 9-inch cakes to make the bottom taller. Then I placed the heart cake on top. 

I used a basic frosting recipe my aunt has used for years to decorate her cakes. (1 cup of crisco, 4 cups of powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 4-5 Tablespoons of milk) I made a double batch of frosting for this cake and had some leftover. 

I used a very large star tip for the swirl decorartion on the bottom. I used a smaller star tip to fill in the openings. Then I used a larger circle tip to place dots on the sides of the heart cake and to make a border around the bottom of the heart. 

I used a small line tip to draw on the R for the top. 



Apple Suncatchers Made from Colored Salt

This is a quick fall craft for kids of all ages. We started by coloring the salt crystals. (We did different size crystals, but found that the finer salt worked best.) 

To color the salt, we dumped some into a ziploc bag. Then we added a few drops of food coloring. The kids moved the salt around in the bag until it was all colored. Then we placed the different colors into containers. 

Next, we placed a piece of contact paper, sticky side up, on the table.  We placed a piece of red construction paper (that was cut in the shape of an apple) on top of the contact paper. The kids filled in the apple with their colored salt. 


Next, we placed another piece of contact paper (sticky side down) on top of the apple and salt to seal it in. We cut out the apple. 



For a finishing touch, we added a piece of brown construction paper for the stem and placed it on the window. 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Canned Tomatoes

My mom has found a pretty quick and easy way to can tomatoes. This recipe can be turned into chili juice or salsa. 

Start by washing all your tomatoes. We did a small batch today. We only had about a gallon-size bucket of tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes into four quarters and place in a blender. Blend them (do not peel the tomatoes). 

Place in a big cooking pot. (This amount of tomatoes filled up to the 4-quart line of the pot.)

Put a little bit of the juice in the bottom of the blender. Add a couple of jalapeno peppers.


Then add about 3 cloves of garlic, an onion, a few stalks of celery, and a green pepper. Blend that up and add to the tomato juice. 


Add about 2 Tablespoons of sugar and 1-2 Tablespoons of salt. 
Stir and cook down on the stove. Let it simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. 


Wash all of your jars. In a small saucepan, boil some water. Place your lids in the boiling water. 
Pour the cooked down tomatoes into the jars using a funnel.  (I use a coffee mug to transfer the tomatoes to the funnel.) 
 
Wipe down the top of the jar with a small towel. Pull a hot lid from the boiling water and place on the jar. Tighten the lid. 


Immediately turn the jar upside down on a towel sitting on the counter. Let sit overnight (at least 12 hours). 

When you flip them over after sitting overnight, the jars will be sealed. 


***To turn this mixture into salsa, add tomato paste after the tomatoes have cooked down. Add enough until it reaches your desired thickness. Let that heat through and then place in the jars.