Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ornament Snack

I posted this last year, but this blog was so new then that I thought I would repost it for any new readers.

My six year old loves strawberry jelly and cream cheese, so I made this for her.  I cut the bread with a biscuit cutter and then cut a tiny square out of extra bread to make the top of the ornament.  Then I spread strawberry Polaner All Fruit over the top.  I put a little cream cheese into a sandwich bag and cut the corner off to pipe the designs on the ornament. 

This snack is great to share with just about any Christmas book.  Here are two that we enjoyed this week:

Christmas is Here! by Siobhan Ciminera.  This is a Strawberry Shortcake easy reader.  I love this book to go along with this snack because the book has directions to make a strawberry ornament (made with paper, not strawberries!).  

The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever by Steven Kroll.  Clayton the town mouse and Desmond the country mouse team up to bring the spirit of Christmas to Mouseville.  We have read a few books in this series by   Steven Kroll and we always enjoy them!

Kindness and Giving

I wanted to post this here before December started, but that just didn't happen!  I think it can still be useful to my readers (maybe 12 days of kindness?) so here it is.

Every year, I make a red and green paper chain to count down the days to Christmas.  In past years, I wrote a special activity for us to complete on each link of the chain.  Our activities were often crafts, special outings, or baking goodies.  I wanted to do something different this year.  I read about the idea of giving back a little each day and doing random acts of kindness during the month of December and I knew this would be perfect for us.  Some of the activities I chose involve being kind or helpful to others, and some involve helping those less fortunate.  Overall, I hope my children just enjoy doing something nice for someone else each day.

This is what I wrote on each of the links:

1.  Put money in the Salvation Army Red Kettle
2.  Pick up litter (the path that we take to school each day is full of trash; I have wanted to do something about it since the day after Halloween when I noticed all of the candy wrappers thrown there)
3.  Help Mom cook dinner
4.  Donate toys to Toys for Tots
5.  Help Mom bake something
6.  Make treats for the birds and hang them in a tree
7.  Help someone at school (a teacher, classmate, or anyone who needs some help)
8.  Donate some gently used books to the Angel Tree Program (this organization puts books in the hands of children with incarcerated parents)
9.  Help Dad with something
10. Make a card and mail it to a relative
11. Read to your baby sister
12. Make ornaments for friends
13. Write a letter to the police or fire fighters (or both) and thank them for keeping our town safe
14. Write a letter to your teacher and tell her what you like about her class
15. Bake cookies for the neighbors
16. Call your grandparents
17. Clean up a mess without being asked
18. Write a note to each member of your family and tell him or her what you love about him or her
19. Do something nice for one of your siblings
20. Give someone a compliment
21. Smile at everyone you see
22. Spend some time petting and playing with Kelly
23. Go for a walk to see the lights in the neighborhood and wish everyone you see a Merry Christmas
24. Do something nice for someone
25. Merry Christmas!  Think about all of the nice things you have done this month.

I know there is another week of December that I have yet to account for, and I am still thinking about what we will do during that week.  I will update my list!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Crustless Mini Pumpkin Pies

I love pumpkin pie.  With the exception of my oldest son, everyone in the house loves pumpkin pie.  Until I discovered this recipe last year, I used to just make a regular pumpkin pie; I hate to mess with a good thing, but this is delicious and it has become one of our favorite fall desserts!

1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup Original Bisquick mix
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
1 T. melted butter
1-1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs

1. Heat oven to 350.
2. Stir all ingredients together and pour into a greased muffin pan.

3. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool. Refrigerate to store.
4.  I like to top mine with a little whipped cream and cinnamon!  YUM!

After eating this delicious treat, we read Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman.  In this story, a witch plants a pumpkin seed with the intention of baking a pie for Halloween.  When she is unable to move the pumpkin herself, passersby (a ghost, vampire, mummy, and bat) offer to help.  They work together, and in the end, share the pie.  There are some great lessons in this book - helping others, accepting help, teamwork, size doesn't always matter, sharing, etc., which make the book one of my favorites for Halloween.                                                 

*This recipe is from In Between Laundry.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Elmer the Elephant Pumpkin Pal and Snack

We are big fans of the book Elmer by David McKee, so when my six year old daughter was given an assignment to create a pumpkin pal based on the main character of a book, it was an easy choice for her.  Actually, she briefly considered Pinkalicious and The Cat in the Hat, but Elmer got her excited about the project.  I do want to mention that this was supposed to be a family project and we worked on it together, but it was mostly just gluing on tissue paper so it isn't very complicated.

Everything we used to create the pumpkin pal was already on hand.  We began by painting glue on the pumpkin in small patches and placing the tissue paper squares all over the sticky surface including the stem (trunk).  Then we coated the squares with a layer of Mod Podge.

We made the ears by drawing ear shapes on the back of a cereal box, cutting them out, and covering them with more tissue paper.  Then we folded part of the ear and used tacks to stick them into the pumpkin.  I tried glue, but it wasn't strong enough and I am out of sticks for the glue gun so the tacks had to do.  Finally, we glued on googly eyes.

I think the final product is great and it was so easy to create.

For a simple snack, I made a patchwork peanut butter and jelly.  I don't really think this needs explaining, but it is one slice of bread with peanut butter and one slice of bread with jelly cut into squares and arranged like patchwork.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bat Pancakes - Halloween Breakfast or Snack

My eight year old used to be obsessed with bats.  One year, he chose the vampire bat as his animal to adopt at Christmas time!  So, even though he isn't as obsessed as he once was, I still like to make batty treats this time of year.

We began with a snack of bat pancakes, a scoop of ice cream in a pumpkin silicone cup, a little whipped cream, and some bat and pumpkin sprinkles.  YUM!  I made the bats out of chocolate pancakes.  This is the recipe I used (SO good!!):


  • cup milk
  • egg
  • tablespoons butter or tablespoons margarine, melted
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Directions:
  • 1.  In a small bowl, combine milk, egg and butter; whisk until blended.
  • 2.  In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt; mix well.
  • 3.  Add milk mixture; whisk just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  • 4.  Heat griddle over medium heat until hot.
  • 5.  For each pancake, pour scant 1/4 cup batter into griddle.
  • 6.  Cook 1-2 minutes or until batter is set around edges.

7.  Carefully turn over pancake; cook 1-2 minutes or until pancakes are cooked through.

I cut the pancakes with a bat shaped cookie cutter.

After the snack, we played a game of bat roll and color addition.  This is perfect practice for my six year old.

Each child had a page with bats and a bat cave numbered from two to twelve.  They took turns rolling the dice and would color in the bat or cave with the corresponding number.  The first person to color in all of the numbered spots was the winner.  They had a lot of fun with this game!  You can find the printable bat page to play this game by clicking here.

We have a lot of favorite bat books, but here are a few that we seem to revisit:
  • Stellaluna by Janell Canon - a baby fruit bat is separated from her mother and taken in by a family of birds; she must try to live like a bat, but luckily she eventually finds bats just like her
  • Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies - a group of bats have fun at the ball field
  • Bats at the Beach by Brian Lies - a group of bats enjoy a summer night at the beach
  • Bats at the Library by Brian Lies - a group of bats are thrilled when the librarian forgets to close the window and they can enjoy some great books
  • Bat's Big Game by Eugenia Nobati - a great lesson about sticking with your team whether you are winning or losing can be found in this book about a bat who wants to win.  This also introduces a little science - is a bat an animal or a bird? 
  • Five Little Bats Flying in the Night by Steve Metzger - a rhyming book that counts down from five, featuring five little bats getting into mischief

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Super Easy Spider Snack

It doesn't get easier than this.

  • one Reese's peanut butter cup (we used dark chocolate, but any variety will do)
  • a tiny bit of melted chocolate (I melted a few chocolate chips)
  • four pretzel sticks broken in half to make eight spider legs
  • two candies for eyes
  • Place the peanut butter cup upside down on a plate
  • Melt your chocolate 
  • Dip each pretzel stick half into chocolate and stick them to the sides of the peanut butter cup to make legs
  • Dip the candies in the melted chocolate and stick them on top for eyes
If you are looking for a fun book featuring spiders, check out Aaaarrgghh! Spider! by Lydia Monks.

This book is hysterical.  A spider simply wants to become a family pet, but every time she tries to warm over the family, they scream and throw her outside.  This is a must read with fantastic illustrations and some very funny moments.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Halloween Lunch - There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat

We love the different books based on There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.  Currently, we are having fun with the Halloween version featuring an old lady who swallowed a bat.  While I was grocery shopping (convenient timing!), the idea of making a special lunch based on the book popped into my head.

In the book by Lucille Colandro, the old lady swallows a bat, an owl, a cat, a ghost, a goblin, some bones, and a wizard.  Here is what I made:
  • I used a bat cookie cutter to cut a bat out of bread and then spread Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread on the bat shaped bread.  The red eyes are icing.
  • The owl is a piece of bread cut into an owl shape with peanut butter, white icing, chocolate chips, and a piece of candy corn on top.
  • I do have a cat cookie cutter but decided to just serve cat whiskers (pretzels).
  • The ghost was cut out of bread with a cookie cutter and the bread was topped with plain cream cheese and raisin features.
  • The goblin is a spinach leaf with raisin eyes and a dried cherry mouth.
  • I used my kitchen shears to cut a bone shape out of a marshmallow.
  • For the wizard, I cut a star out of a piece of cheese and placed it on a pretzel stick to make a wand.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Halloween Cookies and Cream Muddy Buddies

I found a recipe for Cookies and Cream Muddy Buddies  at Chef in Training, and decided to use the Halloween Oreo cookies with orange filling to make them seasonal.  We also used Candiquick instead of almond bark.

First, we crushed twenty Oreo cookies.

Then, we measured six cups of Chex cereal into a large bowl.  We melted 12 ounces of Candiquick in the microwave and mixed it with the cereal until the cereal was coated.  Next, we added the Oreo cookie crumbs and mixed it all together.

Finally, we added 1/2 cup powdered sugar and stirred it into the snack mix.

One of our new favorite Halloween books is Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson.

This is a fun book about friendship and helping others.  The witch is flying through the night on her broom and keeps dropping things; every time she drops something, she stops to pick it up and also picks up a new passenger.  All of those passengers work together in the end to help the witch.  We love everything by Julia Donaldson, and were very grateful to Natalie from Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns for mentioning this book that is new to us!  I also recommend heading over to her site to find out what others are reading right now!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Graham Cracker Haunted Houses

We made edible haunted houses using graham crackers, chocolate frosting, ghost marshmallows, and Halloween sprinkles.  The kids had a lot of fun making these!

The frosting is Pillsbury Easy Frost chocolate frosting.  It was easy for the kids to use it to stick the graham crackers together and to stick decorations in place.

We finished the haunted fun by reading In the Haunted House by Eve Bunting.  This is a fun, slightly spooky (fun and silly, not scary) book about two children walking through a haunted house.

Another one of our favorite haunted house books is

Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O'Connell.  It really is a fun read.  Ten timid ghosts live in a haunted house, but a witch moves in and wants them out.  She plays tricks to scare them away, but in the end, the ghosts play their own trick.  We love the rhymes and the countdown is a nice bonus.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Halloween Marshmallows

Two years ago (where does time go?) we had quite the stash of marshmallows for some reason and I decided to get creative with some of the huge campfire marshmallows left over from the summer.  We had so much fun with it, that I thought I would share some old pictures with you.

A Wilton food writer marker turned marshmallows into ghosts and mummies.

The kids and I melted some orange and green Wilton candy melts to cover a few marshmallows.

The green candy coated marshmallows became Frankenstein's monster with a little help from black icing, white frosting, and chocolate chips.

I think the cracked look makes him look just right.  It wasn't intentional!

I'm sure you can guess what became of the orange coated marshmallows....

our very own pumpkin patch!  
(The stems were created with green Betty Crocker cupcake icing - the kind you squirt out of the can.)

It seems like we were just talking about back to school stuff, and it's already time for Halloween fun!  Do your kids trick or treat?  What will they be dressed as this year?  We have a grim reaper (yikes), a spiderweb queen, and a ladybug, plus one teenager who stays home and hands out candy so that Mom and Dad can trick or treat with the kids for a bit.

What is your favorite Halloween book for kids?  We are big fans of Natasha Wing, and we like her book, The Night Before Halloween.

It has trick or treaters, spooky, but not too spooky, creatures, and a fun, rhyming Halloween twist on The Night Before Christmas.  Check it out and let me know what you think!  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pirate Fun

We had so much fun with The Pirate Girl's Treasure, An Origami Adventure, by Peyton Leung and Hilary Leung.  The pirate girl heads out on a quest to claim the mysterious treasure left for her by her pirate grandfather.  She has quite the adventure full of obstacles like a mountain, lightning, a shark attack, and more.  The book is fun, but we loved that the last few pages include directions to retrace the steps of the pirate girl's adventure in origami.  

The book was perfect for our small celebration of  Talk Like a Pirate Day.

We didn't have a special snack this year, but way back in 2009, I made a pirate muffin tin lunch.  I have to do this again!  I feel like I was so much more creative then; I have been slacking.

Our muffin pan was transformed into a pirate ship. On the top left there is a pirate walking the plank (fruit leather), there are wooden legs (pretzels) in the top middle, and crackers for Polly in the top right. On the bottom left there is a Jolly Roger grilled cheese sandwich (I cut it freehand so it's not perfect), the bottom middle cup is filled with emeralds (peas), and the bottom right cup has rubies (strawberries) and sapphires (blueberries).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Apple Pie Tree

The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall is a fun book that follows each season of an apple tree as it grows leaves, blossoms, and apples.  When the apples are ready to be picked, it is time to make an apple pie!

Instead of making apple pie, we made apple pie dip.  Oh my, this is SO good!  You can find the recipe on the Family Fun magazine website.  Click on that link now and get this recipe because you will want to serve this at your next party or social event.  Really, it's that good!

Of course you need something to be dipped into this deliciousness.  The recipe called for using tortillas, but we used a Pillsbury pie crust instead.  I just unrolled the crust, brushed on melted butter, sprinkled on cinnamon and sugar and then used our fall cookie cutters to cut shapes from the crust.  Then I baked them in a 350 degree oven for about ten minutes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

School Bus Cake

I made this cake for my kids two years ago on the first day of school.  They loved it.  It may reappear this year.  My kids still have a few weeks before the school bus returns.

You can find directions to make this school bus cake on the Family Fun magazine website.  They make it look easy, and their cake is much prettier.

One of our favorite school bus books is The Haunted Ghoul Bus by Lisa Trumbauer.

You can't help but laugh at the silliness of a boy getting on the wrong bus and finding himself surrounded by spooky creatures.  This book is fun for laughs at the beginning of the school year (as long as your child is secure enough to know that he or she will not end up in this predicament!) and will last right through to Halloween.

For a more traditional school bus book, check out School Bus by Donald Crews.

When my children were preschool age, we read this book over and over again.

Do you have a favorite school bus book?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Patriotic Fruity Flag

If you need a healthy, fun snack for Memorial Day, Flag Day, or Independence Day, this is perfect.

To make this flag, you need:
  • blueberries
  • banana slices
  • chunks of watermelon
  • skewers
Simply skewer the fruit to look like a flag.  It doesn't get much easier.
Check out I Pledge Allegiance by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson and illustrated by Chris Raschka.  This is the best book I have ever seen to help kids understand the pledge of allegiance.