Friday, October 31, 2014

Have Some Family Fun Setting Records!

My kids enjoy looking through the world record books at school and marvel at some of the records.  We may not hold a record in one of those books so we made our own!  I bound some blank white paper into a simple book.   Then, once a month, our family has the chance to set a new record or break an old one.  They can do something together or alone and it could be anything.  We then record the record with the person's age and date completed in the book.  You could even add pictures.  We try to make sure every member in our family has at least one record.  My oldest son holds the record for "longest late night football catch" as well as a record he holds with me in "the most consecutive football catches on the run" (we just broke the record and set a new one at 19!!).   My other son holds the record for "most mini marshmallows in mouth" (it was 55 if you are curious).  My oldest daughter holds the record for "longest sustained head stand".  Be creative and have fun!  My kids (and me too!) are super excited about this-its been a blast to do together!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Witch Hats

Here's a quick and easy Halloween activity for kids. It's perfect for a children's Halloween party or for a family who wants to squeeze in just one more holiday craft. We made witch hats last week when some friends were over and had lots of fun!

Here's what you need: sugar cones, frosting and candies. Easy peasy as my kids would say!

First, apply some frosting to the bottom of a sugar cone. This will help it adhere to the plate so it won't slip around as you decorate. Now, flip the cone upside down and "glue" it on a plate. Finally, be creative and decorate! Have fun!

The best part - eating them afterwards!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Inspiration for the Week

Halloween Books for Kids

We have a tradition of pulling out our favorite books for each holiday and putting them in a special basket for that month.  They're all together and easy to find when we want to read.  So, curl up in a blanket, sit by my side, as we read a spooky Halloween book- don't try to hide!

My kid's all time favorite Halloween book is Ten Timid Ghosts.  A witch wants to move into the ghost's mansion.  Will she scare them away?  Or is there one little ghost that finds her tricks? Countdown and look for the ghosts and her tricks on each page.

Another favorite is Stellaluna. Here you find a little bat that is raised as a bird.  Watch her find out who she really is and even if we have differences, we can still be friends.  Great bat facts in the back of the book.

Finally, Angelina's Halloween.  My kids loved the Angelina books.  In this one, it is Halloween night, getting costumes ready and trick-or-treating.  Will the little mice go to the "haunted" house?  Who and where is the little ghost?  Find out as you read.  I love the cute illustrations in these books too.

Carrie's picks:  Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley.  Your kids will be delighted as they watch the Big Green Monster appear with each page turn. Each page turn adds eyes, ears, nose, etc. to the monster's face. But, don't be too scared. The monster will then disappear slowly with each page turn. Soon nothing will be left of him and your kids will triumph by scaring him away!

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams   (This book is also on Kristin's list)   My mom introduced this book to our family years ago and it has been a classic ever since.  You almost sing the words as a rhythm naturally comes out. Your kids will have fun dancing along: "Two shoes go CLOMP, CLOMP. (stomp your feet) One pair of pants go WIGGLE, WIGGLE. (shake your legs)"  

Kristin's favorites:  Goodnight Goon, a charming parody of the children's classic book "Goodnight Moon".  Written in the same poetic form, your family will enjoy saying goodnight to "monsters everywhere".

The Ugly Pumpkin:  Another take off of a children's classic book -"The Ugly Duckling".  Follow a pumpkin trying to find his place amongst the patch.  He finds those not so welcoming, but in the end he finds where he belongs.

Five Little Pumpkins:  A sweet and simple book that is great for young children or those just learning to read.  Kids can get involved as they read about five little pumpkins.  

Say Boo:  Meet a Ben, a young ghost trying to find his voice.  He hasn't scared anyone yet and it is almost Halloween!  Can he find out how to say Boo in time?

Have fun reading!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Table Runner and Decor

I love using table runners and change them out for the seasons.  This is what I have up in my kitchen right now.  This runner, I've had for years.  I love the ric-rac trim on it.

You can easily make your own Halloween table runner. 
Here is what you'll need:
table runner 
(I found one at a local discount store that has a slight green tint to it, perfect for Halloween)
Ric-Rac (a few inches longer than your runner length for each strip)
sewing machine

Lay out your runner and decide on the placement of your ric-rac.  I had some of this fun chunky ric-rac, just waiting to be used. :)  Cut it with 2" hanging over each end.  Center one ric-rac strip down the middle.  Then evenly measure your other pieces on either side.  Pin down, making sure you have one pin on each end and pin along each piece from one end to the other.   

Take a match and light a little candle.  Slightly burn the ends of your ric-rac strips.  This will prevent it from fraying when you wash your runner and because of daily use.  It is a good trick to use on any ribbon or cording.  ( I do it to all my girl's hair ribbon too.)  

Fold over the end of the ric-rac behind the runner edge and pin down or just hold down as you begin to sew.  I used a wide zigzag stitch.  A few inches before you get to the end, make sure the end of the ric-rac is folded around the runner edge so it will be sewn down.  You're finished!

Spiced Apple Cider Jelly

Every year, I look forward to autumn.  There are so many things to enjoy this season: the beautiful leaves will change colors, you can wear a sweater, football games in the front yard, and the apple harvest!    We have a century old cider mill around the corner that is so charming to visit.  We like to eat their homemade sugar donuts and of course try their wonderful cider.  It only lasts a few months so we frequent the Cider Mill almost weekly.  Here is an easy and delicious recipe for cider jelly!  Fun to enjoy or give as gifts to neighbors, friends, or teachers.  It makes 4 - 5 Cups of jelly.

 You will need the following equipment:

large processing pot (canning rack if you like)
canning jars, pint or quart size depending on the size you like
canning funnel for pouring the jelly mixture into the jars
"canning tongs" for lifting the hot jars in and out of the water
long canning magnet for easily gripping your lids out of the hot water

Your Ingredients:

2 1/2 Cups fresh pressed apple cider
1 stick cinnamon broken into 4 pieces
3 1/2 Cups Sugar
1 pouch pectin

Combine Cider and cinnamon pieces in a large saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes. 

Strain cider through several layers of cheesecloth or a fine strain.  Reserve cinnamon stick pieces to add to jars later.  Rinse saucepan.

Measure 2 cups of cider and return to saucepan, add sugar.  Bring to a full boil over high heat stirring constantly.  Stir in pectin, return to full boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  

Ladle into hot jars and add one piece of cinnamon stick to each jar.  Put lids on jars and process for 10 minutes.  Make sure lids seal and allow to cool.  

Canning Tips:
-Always use clean equipment / sanitized equipment
-keep jars in hot water bath until time to ladle mixture into them
-Measure measure measure, don't estimate
-do not make substitutions when canning and do not double your recipe, follow it exactly
-have all your ingredients and equipment out and ready 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Halloween Fun with Food

A few years ago, while living in Germany, we started a new family tradition - family Halloween dinner. At the time, we were a bit homesick for all the Halloween magic the States offer. In Germany, Halloween isn't celebrated as an official holiday (although many do small parties here and there). We wanted to get our fill of Halloween fun so one evening we had a spooky family dinner.

We served mummy pizzas along with . . .

veggies with a witch's hand in the dip. (Just peel carrots until they look gnarly. Use sliced almonds as the finger nails.) For dessert, we ate a dirt pie - chocolate sandwich cookie crust with chocolate pudding and gummy worms. (For some reason, I forgot to take a picture of the pie.)

Last year's dinner included ghostly shepherd's pie. Just make shepherd's pie as usual, but plop the mash potatoes on top to resemble ghosts. Use peas as the eyes. I was surprised how well the ghosts kept their shape even after baking. (You can use Heidi's recipe for this!)

For this year, I decided to do something a little simpler. My kids have been dying to make caramel apples ever since we got our fondue pot last winter. So, last night we had a fondue party!

For caramel apples, the recipe is easy: one bag of caramel squares and 3 tablespoons of water. Put both ingredients in your fondue pot or saucepan and stir constantly over medium to low heat until the caramel is melted and smooth. (Sorry for the blurry photo.)

Get your candies and sprinkles ready.

Then, have fun! Dip and decorate apple slices!

Look at all that candy goodness!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Shepherds Pie

My kids love shepherds pie.  It's easy and the perfect dish on a busy night.  Just put it together early in the day and pop it in the oven at dinner time.  Here is what you'll need:

1 can tomato soup
1 can green beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
1 lb. hamburger, cooked and drained
1/2 onion, chopped, cook with the meat
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups mashed potatoes
1 egg
1-2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

Pour the soup, beans, corn, cooked hamburger in a 9x13 baking dish.  Plus, fill your tomato can half way with water and add.  Put in a dash of salt and pepper. 
 Mix and spread out evenly.   Make your mashed potatoes.  While still hot, add the egg and mix in.  Your mashed potatoes can be from the real thing or I like to use potato pearls (an instant potato that you can find here).  Spread the potatoes over the mixture.  Top with grated cheese.  

Mine is only 1/2 covered with the cheese because some of the kids don't like cheese (I know it is crazy).  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes with foil on, then remove foil and bake another 10 minutes.  Serve with bread.  Ideas for just couples or college students:  Make up your shepherd pie.  Take the left-overs and put in smaller plastic containers and freeze.  Then later in the week or next week, when you don't feel like cooking or are rushed, just microwave and you have dinner.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Its Pumpkin Time!

Here is a fun craft that is easy and super cute to decorate your home for the fall!  We keep our pumpkins out from the first day of fall until Thanksgiving.  It only requires a few supplies and your kids can help too!

You will need:

-fun craft paper with fun patterns in oranges, browns, reds, or any color you choose
-Mod Podge
-Glitter-if you would like to add a sparkle!
-burlap ribbon or twine to tie on the top
-orange and brown paint
-wood pumpkin cut out

Sand and prepare your wood for painting.  Paint and allow to dry.  While drying, tear strips of scrapbook paper at angles to look like the round ribs of a pumpkin.  Arrange overlapping a bit.  Paint Mod Podge on to glue on paper one by one.  Mod Podge over top as well taking note to push out any wrinkles or bubbles.  If you would like to add some light glitter dust apply now!  Allow to dry and then trim the top with burlap, rafia, twine, whatever you choose!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Trick or Treat Bags

What to do when your kids out grow their orange plastic pumpkin pails? This is the question that faced me when I started to unpack our Halloween decorations. I love those orange pumpkin pails. They bring back so many memories. But, when only your youngest will use it, what to do for the older kids? I know there are "big kid" pails out there and we have a few, but even my kids are outgrowing those. Yes, pillowcases or shopping bags work, but I wanted to create something special for my kids. Create a memory for them. Something they could look forward to each and every year. So, I decided to make our own trick or treating bags.

These bags are great: they are easy to store, their draw string top keeps kids from crying over spilled candy (It seems every year one of my children trips and spills their candy in the street.), their cord handles let kids swing their bag over their shoulder when tired, and they can be personalized with fabric choices. My kids are so excited to use them this year! It feels great to have my "older kid" trick or treating bag problem solved and to know that these bags will now be something we'll use for many, many years. Here's how to make your own:

First, it's the fun part. Picking out your fabric! Right now is a great time to buy Halloween fabric. Most fabric is on sale since Halloween is fast approaching. I picked two fabric choices for each of my children: a main fabric for the bulk of the bag and an accent fabric for the top. I bought half a yard of each fabric choice knowing that I'll have extra for future projects.

Second, cut your fabric. I kept it really simple. I kept the main fabric choice at half a yard and cut 9 inches off both ends. Then, I cut the accent fabric. I cut two pieces measuring 9 inches by 19 inches. Once the fabric is cut, sew the accent fabric to the ends of the main fabric.

This is the bag for my oldest son. It's hard to tell from the picture, but the main fabric is a pattern of skulls. Cool, in his eyes.

To hide the seam, I then sewed a ribbon across the point the two fabrics met. Here's a photo of my daughter's bag.

Here's a closer look:

Then, for actually sewing the bag together, I followed the directions from this blog: momtastic. She has wonderful step by step directions. I chose not to make our bags into back packs although this would be great idea. When kids get tired of carrying their bags, they could wear them on their backs. Instead, I stopped once the cords were inserted at the top. My kids liked the idea of having a bag. Here's the finished product!

This bag is super easy to make. You still have plenty of time to make one for this year. Happy Trick or Treating!
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