Monday, January 30, 2012

Groundhog Day

Gourmet Mom on the Go shared these directions for these Groundhog Day pancakes a few years ago, and we have been making them since.

First, cut an apple in half and take out the core and seeds.  Then fill the hole with a scoop of peanut butter.  The peanut butter is not necessary, but it adds some protein and tastes yummy.

Then, place each half of the apple cut side down on a plate.  This will provide the base for two groundhog day pancakes. 

Next, make some pancakes (any recipe will do) and cut a small circle in the center of your pancakes.  Lay the pancake on top of the apple and place a doughnut hole ("munchkin" in this neck of the woods) on top of the opening.

The munchkin is the groundhog's head.  Cut a mini marshmallow in half and use some icing to stick both halves on as the whites of the eyes.  Then use more icing to stick some m&m candies on for the eye color.  Stick a red m&m on for the nose, and two peanut butter chips for ears.

We used some green icing to look like grass and pink icing for some spring flowers. 

We have been reading:

Substitute Groundhog by Pat Miller - In this very cute book, Groundhog has the flu and posts an ad for a substitute groundhog to fill in for him on Groundhog Day.  Several animals apply, but they just aren't right for the job.  Finally, Armadillo, who is in town from Texas visiting his cousin, Badger, offers to do the job.  When Armadillo sees his shadow, he invites Groundhog to return to Texas with him where there is already nice spring weather.

Go To Sleep, Groundhog! by Judy Cox - Groundhog tosses and turns, but he just can't get to sleep.  He decides to go for a walk each time he wakes and while out, he sees wonderful things like jack-o'-lanterns, turkeys, and holiday lights.  Each walk ends with a different holiday character (witch, turkey, and Santa) bringing him home and tucking him in to bed.  When he finally wakes up at the right time, he is happy to see that he has six more weeks to sleep because he is exhausted!  There is a nice description of the Groundhog Day tradition at the end of the book.

Our winter weather has been so mild that I'm thinking the groundhog will not see his shadow.  What do you think?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Homemade Dog Treats

I recently read a review of George and Diggety by Maggie Stern at Almost Unschoolers.  I knew my kids would relate to the short chapter book featuring a family and their dog, and I was certain that our Bernese Mountain Dog would be thrilled to try the recipe for homemade dog biscuits at the end of the book.

The book was a big hit.  C (7) and R (5) thought Diggety (the family dog in the book) was a little like our dog.  They especially liked the chapter about Diggety going sledding with the family.  The last chapter in the book is about the dog's birthday and homemade dog biscuits; the biscuits taste so good that everyone eats all of them before Diggety gets to try one.

We usually make homemade biscuits for our dog's birthday every year, but when it passed in November, we were busy with a newborn and the biscuits didn't get made.  This recipe is simple enough that we decided to try it for a belated birthday treat.  The recipe can make dog biscuits and people crackers, but the only person in the house who would even try them is R.  Something about the fact that they are supposed to be dog biscuits is hard to ignore.

The recipe is posted on the author's website.  Try them out for yourself, and let me know what you, or your dog, think - our dog thinks they are delicious!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Penguin Sandwich

This is a very simple snack.  I like cute food, but I am certainly not one of those people who can make elaborate and beautiful foods.  I like to keep it simple!

I began by using a circle cookie cutter to cut a piece of bread.  You could also use a glass to cut the circle shape.

I covered that circle with tiny trapeze all natural marshmallow creme.  It's like Fluff, but from Whole Foods.

Then I cut another circle out of bread, covered that in chocolate hazelnut spread (like Nutella) and cut the circle in half to make wings.

A peppermint patty became the head, and I used icing to make the eyes, beak, and feet.

Penguin Day by Victoria Winteringham is a fun picture book that follows a colony of penguins from dawn to dusk.  We especially like the silly illustrations of penguins doing laundry, bathing, and making art!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Somebunny Loves You

We have been enjoying My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall for a few years now.  It's a fun book any time of year, but we especially like to read it around Valentine's Day.  Each page of the book features a different animal created out of heart shapes with a description about how the narrator's heart is like each animal, for example, the heart is eager as a beaver, steady as a yak, hopeful as a hungry heron fishing for a snack.

Our heart cookie bunny is the perfect snack to go along with this book.  One of the pages in the book has a  rabbit made out of hearts and it was the inspiration for this treat.

To make your own heart bunny, begin with two large heart shaped sugar cookies, one small heart sugar cookie, and a heart shaped marshmallow. 
I found these at Target.  You could always use a regular mini marshmallow.

We iced some of our cookies, but that is optional.

Cut one small heart cookie in half.  These will become the ears, so I like the icing .

Place a large cookie, the marshmallow (tail), and the cut heart (small heart cookie; ears) on a plate as shown.
Place the second large heart cookie on top as shown.

I used black gel icing to make the face.  I would have loved to use a heart shaped sprinkle for the nose, but we didn't have any.  I made a tiny upside down heart with the black gel icing.

Linking to:  For the Kids Friday

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chinese New Year - dragon snack and craft

I found a great printable to make dragon puppets for Chinese New Year.  The kids enjoyed coloring them and playing with their puppets.

C (age 7) told an elaborate story about how his dragon tricks people because he looks friendly (his is the top dragon), but once a person befriends the dragon, he eats the person!  R (age 5) said hers is just mean.

We are reading  D is for Dancing Dragon, A China Alphabet by Carol Crane and Zong-Zhou Wang.  I recommend this book for a little insight into Chinese culture.

We like to make dragon claws for good luck every Chinese New Year!  The recipe is from Gourmet Mom on the Go.  They are Nutter Butters covered with melted chocolate (green Wilton candy melts) and cashew claws.

Blow Painting Monster Science

The kids and I had a quick science lesson that included an art project and a snack.  We blew air out of our mouths and then blew air through straws comparing the difference in pressure.  We learned that forcing air through a narrow opening makes a high pressure jet that can be directed more easily.

First, I put two blobs of watered down paint on paper and let the kids compare blowing the paint around on the paper with just their mouths and then through a straw.

When the paint dried, they used markers to add monster details.

I love the high heeled lipstick wearing monster!!!!!!!!!

Next, we used two kinds of pudding thinned with milk to do the same experiment.

Candy eyes and m&m candies turned the pudding blobs into monsters.

To go along with our scientific monster art and snack, we read  I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll.

When a young boy looks under his bed to find his monster, he finds a note saying the monster is away for a week.  The boy interviews several substitutes, but his monster is the only one that does the job right.  We all enjoyed this book.  I thought it might be scary, but the friendship between the boy and his monster is perfect to ward off any fears.

Linking to:  Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom and Link and Learn at No Time For Flash Cards

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lots of Dots

Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier is a celebration of dots (or circles) all around us.  Ladybugs, scoops of ice cream, gumballs, and more are showcased in bright colors with simple, rhyming text.  I read this book to my girls (5 years old and 4 months old) and they both enjoyed it.  It's perfect for toddlers and preschoolers - there are many learning opportunities including color recognition, counting, and of course, finding all of the circles.  I plan to revisit this book when the baby is older.

I searched for an m&m cookie recipe to go along with this book, and we were very happy with the one I found.  I think they are the best m&m cookies I have ever had - yum!  Here is the recipe:


  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup shortening (I used 2 sticks of unsalted butter instead of shortening)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups candy-coated milk chocolate pieces


  1. In a large bowl, mix sugar, eggs, shortening, and vanilla thoroughly. Add flour, salt, and baking soda to creamed mixture. Blend well. Add 3/4 cup of M&M candies.
  2. Drop dough by teaspoonful onto cookie sheet. Slightly push a few candies on top of each dough ball with remaining candies.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 9 to 11 minutes, to your liking.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quesadilla Snowflakes

If you can make a paper snowflake, then you can certainly make one out of a tortilla!

Begin by folding a tortilla in half.

Then bring one side over to the middle.

Next, bring the other side over to form a triangle.

Use kitchen shears to make cuts.  If you google snowflake patterns, you can make a much prettier snowflake, but I did this  on a whim and it was dinner time!

Place the cut tortilla in a hot skillet to crisp it a bit.  Then remove it from the pan, place an uncut tortilla in the pan and cover with cheese and the cut tortilla.  

Once the cheese is melted, remove and enjoy!

We are hoping for a little snow, but our weather has been so mild that I have no idea when we will see some real snow.  In the meantime, Winter's First Snowflake by Cheri L. Hallwood is a beautifully illustrated lyrical poem about the journey of winter's first snowflake.

Maybe, just maybe, if we read enough books about snow and make (and eat) enough pretend snow, we will find ourselves with a little of the real stuff!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gingerbread Man Sandwich and Play Dough

We recently had fun with a gingerbread theme, and this special sandwich was a huge success.  I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on wheat bread, and then used a gingerbread boy cookie cutter to cut them out.  I decorated the sandwiches with white icing, and added candy eyes, and sprinkle noses, and mouths.

I like to make homemade play dough to go along with our themes; this is our gingerbread play dough:

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the way this play dough came out; it looks and smells fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is the recipe:
1 c. flour
1/2 c. salt
1 T. cooking oil
1 T. cream of tartar
1 c. water
spices (I used ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice - I didn't measure them, just put in some of each.  I used quite a bit because I really wanted it to smell good and I wanted the spices to turn the dough brown too.)

I measured the ingredients into a nonstick pot and stirred until well mixed.  Then I cooked it over medium heat until the dough pulled away from the sides and formed a ball.  I dumped it out onto a cutting board and once it was cool enough to touch, I kneaded it until smooth.

I gave my children gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters and rolling pins to play with this dough.  I also gave them beads to decorate their gingerbread boys and girls.  To make the dough even more enjoyable, warm it in the microwave before playing.

Here are two of our favorite gingerbread books:

The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires features a cowboy hat and boots wearing gingerbread man in the wild wild west who runs from the rancher, the javelinas, and cattle, but finds himself in trouble when he meets a coyote.

The Library Gingerbread Man by Dotti Enderle is about the Gingerbread Man escaping from his place at 398.2 on the library shelves and leading other literary figures and the librarian on a crazy chase through the library.  I think this book is a cute way to teach kids about the Dewey decimal system.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Art with Food

We decided to make art and snack at the same time one day after school.  I told the kids that graham crackers could be their canvas,

candy melts could be their paint,

and pretzel sticks and marshmallows could be their paint brushes.

They were only limited by their own imaginations.

Willow is a young girl who has her own idea about what makes good art.  Her art teacher likes things orderly, and does not like things (including art) to be different or out of the ordinary.  Willow refuses to be stifled and in doing so enlightens her teacher.  There are many great lessons in this book.  We love that Willow is true to herself and encourages others to be true to themselves too.

You can find a teacher's guide for use with Willow by clicking here.

Linking to: