Monday, October 31, 2011

Mandarin Mondays: 中国

Because of China's National Day (guó qìng jié, 国庆节), we're studying about China this month. Each Monday I'll be sharing a few of the facts we've learned about this fascinating country. In this last week of learning facts about China, we focused on things that represent China.

China calls itself the Middle Kingdom (zhōng guó, 中国). This name comes from the belief that develop during the Zhou Dynasty (Zhōucháo, 周朝) that China was the center of the earth or at least the center of civilization. China is still an important center of industry and world trade.

China's National Flag (guó qí, 国旗) is red with five yellow stars in the upper left hand corner. Red represents revolution, and the four yellow stars around one larger yellow star represents unity under the Party.

Their national anthem is the march of the volunteers (yì yǒng jūn jìn xíng qǔ, 义勇军进行曲). It is a musical march that was first a part of a play in Shanghai in 1934. It talks about one million hearts beating as one.

DIY Scrap Pumpkin

This pumpkin takes a little more time to sew than the sew easy or sleeve pumpkin, but it is really cute. It is also a great way to use up small scraps and the odd button or piece of ribbon you might have lying around. You could also use this process with all red fabrics and short green leaf piece like this one to make scrap apples.

Scrap Pumpkin

  • Fabric scraps in fall colors
  • Green and brown fabric scraps, felt, or ribbon pieces
  • Needle and thread
  • Somthing to stuff the pumpkin with
  • Extra embellishments if desired (buttons, ribbon, lace, etc.)

  1. Cut several strips of fabric the same length to sew into a tube for the body of the pumpkin. For my pumpkin I used four strips of alternating fabric that are the same length and roughly the same width as well. However, you could use more types of fabric, less strips, or vary the widths of the strips as well.
  2. Cut a piece of green sleeve, a green square to sew into a tube, or a green circle to gather for the pumpkin top. Cut a brown strip of fabric, felt, or ribbon to use for the pumpkin stem.
  3. Sew the strips of fabric together to form a square. I then chose to stitch some scraps of orange lace i had on. You could also stitch contrasting fabric scraps on at this point.
  4. Fold the square over and stitch the long side of the square together to form a short tube.
  5. Gather the bottom of the tube, and stitch closed tightly.
  6. Stuff the pumpkin.
  7. Gather the top of the tube, and stitch closed tightly.
  8. Fold over the piece of green sleeve, and gather the unfinished end together, or gather the green circle.
  9. Fold the brown strip together to look like a stem, and stitch into the green pumpkin top.
  10. Whip-stich the green pumpkin top to the orange pumpkin.
  11. Add any extra embellishments you like.

    DIY Sew Easy Sleeve Pumpkin or Apple

    Out of part of the sleeve from the orange shirt I used to sew a larger pumpkin, I made a cute little pumpkin. The way I did the green part on this pumpkin makes it look sort of like an apple though. You could use this process with red fabric to make apples just as easily.

    Sew Easy Sleeve Pumpkin (or Apple)
    • Orange (or red or green) sleeve, or a square of fabric sewn together to make a short tube of fabric
    • Green and brown fabric scraps (or ribbon) for a leaf and stem
    • Needle and thread
    • Something to use for stuffing
    1. Cut out the sleeve or sew a short tube of fabirc.
    2. Cut short pieces of green and brown fabric or ribbon to use for a leaf and stem.
    3. Gather the bottom of the tube, and stitch closed tightly.
    4. Stuff the pumpkin.
    5. Gather the top of the tube, but before closing tightly, insert the brown stem and green leaf. Stitch closed tightly, and stitch through the stem and leaf a couple of times to secure them.

    DIY Sew Easy Pumpkin

    This is a super easy fall decoration I made out of an old orange shirt and some other fabric scraps. You could use many other types of fabric as well.

    Sew Easy Pumpkin

    • Orange, green, and brown fabric or felt scraps
    • Something to use as a circular template
    • Scissors
    • Needle and thread
    • Something to stuff the pumpkin with
    1. Cut out a large orange circle, a piece of green sleeve to fold over or a smaller green circle, and a brown strip to fold over and use as the stem of the pumpkin.
    2. Sew a loose gathering stitch around the orange circle, begin to pull it tight, stuff the pumpkin, and then finish gathering it together, stitching it closed tightly.
    3. Fold over the piece of green sleeve and gather the unfinished end together, or gather the smaller green circle.
    4. Fold the brown strip together to look like a stem, and stitch it into the green pumpkin top.
    5. Whip-stich the green pumpkin top to the orange pumpkin.

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    Family Fridays: Sick Boys

    No pictures for this post, and you'll thank me for it. The boys caught some sort of stomach bug this week. Aaron threw up a miniscule amount twice on Monday and then has has mild diarrhea since. Andrew was fine until yesterday and then threw up all day long. It was one of those days where I went from holding sick baby, to cleaning up throw up, to wiping the toddler who still has diarrhea, to starting some laundry, and then repeating. No, this was not my most fun day ever.

    However, these days have been so few and far between for me that it is making me stop and count my blessings at the same time.
    • Generally, we all have been blessed with remarkably good health.
    • The boys are healthy enough that a minor illness like this doesn't seem to affect them much at all in the long run.
    • I'm really appreciating our all hard floors in this house right now.
    • So thankful for a washing machine to wash dirty laundry.
    • This week has been warm and sunny, making laundry dry fast and our water nice and hot for bathing and washing.
    • We aren't moving, traveling, visiting, or required to be any where right now that would make this illness more bothersome.
    • Walmart sells real Gatorade here.
    • The sweet sick baby cuddles and says, "hug, mama, hug, mama."
    And today I am so thankful that both boys seem to be doing better. Baby's fever broke today and no more puking. Stopped by a friend's house briefly, and she had real chocolate stuffed Oreos for the boys, and both ate some with no ill effects.

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    DIY Pumpkin Bars

    These are great fall treats. You can make this recipe either regular or light, both are quite tasty. This is one of my husband's favorite desserts.

    Homemade Pumpkin Bars

    • 4 eggs
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 cup vegetable oil (or half oil and half milk for a light version)
    • 15-ounce can pumpkin or 2 cups homemade pumpkin puree
    • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp nutmeg

    Cream Cheese Frosting

    • 8-ounce (1 cup) cream cheese (homemade works great) softened
    • 1/2 cup butter softened
    • 2 cups powdered sugar (homemade works great)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    1. Combine all ingredients for pumpkin bars in a large mixing bowl, and stir until thoroughly combined.
    2. Spread into a greased jelly roll pan or a 9x13 cake pan for thicker cake-like bars.
    3. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes (may vary based on thickness of bars). Allow bars to cool. Top with cream cheese frosting for a rich dessert or lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar for a lighter version.
    4. For the frosting, beat powdered sugar into cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth and creamy. If you desire a stiffer or sweeter frosting, continue to add powdered sugar until it reaches desired consistency. Spread on top cooled bars.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    DIY Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

    If your already processing your own pumpkin, why not roast up the seeds for a salty snack intead of throwing them away.

    Homemade Pumpkin Seeds

    • raw pumpkin seeds
    • about 2 Tbsp oil or melted butter
    • salt for sprinkling (regular table salt, season salt, or sea salt will all work great)
    1. Lightly coat the pumpkin seed with a small amount of oil or melted butter.
    2. Spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet or baking pan.
    3. Sprinkle with salt.
    4. Bake at 350 F for 15-30 minutes or until nicely browned and crispy.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    DIY Processed Pumpkin

    If you can get a great deal on pumpkins, you can save a lot of money by processing them yourself instead of by pumpkin puree or pie pumpkin already in a can. If you do a large batch at once and freeze it, you can still have the convenience of ready to use pumpkin at a fraction of the cost. We got an interesting looking thing that Walmart here called a pumpkin. It doesn't really look much like a pumpkin, but tastes just the same as the big orange guys back in America. It works for us.

    Homemade Pumpkin Puree

    • Pumpkin
    • Water

    1. Begin by cutting the pumpkin in half lengthwise.
    2. Scoop out the seeds, and save them for making roasted pumpkin seeds if desired. Scoop out the stringy center, scraping the firm flesh free of strings.
    3. This year I did something different that really worked well. I cut off the outer skin next, like peeling a cantaloupe. Then I cut the pumpkin into small pieces.
    4. Next boil the pumpkin in a pot of water on the stove top, or bake in a shallow baking dish in the oven at 350 F. With the pumpkin already peeled and chopped small, both methods seemed to only take about 20-30 minutes for the pumpikn to cook up nice and soft.
    5. After the pumpkin has cooled slightly, blend the pumpkin with a small amount of water until very smooth.
    6. Use as you would pumpkin puree or freeze for later use.

      Monday, October 24, 2011

      Mandarin Mondays: 历史

      Because of China's National Day (guó qìng jié, 国庆节), we're studying about China this month. Each Monday I'll be sharing a few of the facts we've learned about this fascinating country. This week we're learning facts about China's history (lì shǐ, 历史).

      Ancient Chinese civilization grew rapidly along the Yellow River (Huánghé, 黄河). The ancient political system was based on hereditary monarchies, beginning with the Xia dynasty (Xià cháo, 夏朝) about 2000 BC, and ending with the Qing dynasty (Dà Qīng Dìguó, 大清帝国) in AD 1912.

      On October 1st, 1949, the People's Republic of China was officially declared a nation and the current system of government began. This is why October 1st is celebrated as national day.

      Today the People's Republic of China has the fastest growing economy. It is also the world's largest exporter of goods. Which is easily seen since you can by goods made in China just about anywhere.

      Sunday, October 23, 2011

      DIY Scrap Wreath

      This is another way to use tiny scraps of fabric to make something beautiful for your home. It is a smaller project than the fabric scrap garland, taking less time and scraps. Again, if you did a lot of seasonal sewing you could make a wreath for every season or holiday for free, if you felt like it.

      Homemade Fabric Scrap Wreath

      • Wire hanger bent into a round shape, florist wire coiled to make a small circle and loop to hang, or a very small/thin wreath form
      • Fabric scraps cut into small strips (I think 1" by 5" to 6" works best)
      • Extra embellishments (ribbon, buttons, etc.)

      Simply tie the fabric strips around the wreath form you have chosen in single or double knots. Continue tying fabric strips, spacing out the colors and patterns fairly evenly, until you like how full the wreath is.  Add any extra embellishments you like, I tied a green fabric tie and sewed a button on this particular wreath. Hang it up, and enjoy your new decoration.

        Saturday, October 22, 2011

        DIY Place Mats

        This is a super easy sewing project that is good practice for a beginning seamstress. By using fabric you already own, clearance fabric, or fabric from a thrift store piece (even something like a high quality sheet or curtain could be re-purposed) you can dress up your table for pennies. A nice set of place mats could make a lovely gift.

        Homemade Place Mats

        • Fabric
        • Coordinating thread
        1. Cut two pieces of fabric into a 13" by 18" rectangle, or use a place mat you already have that you like the size as a pattern, cutting an extra 1/2 inch around the whole piece for a seam allowance.
        2. Place right sides of the fabric together. Pin to secure edges.
        3. Using 1/2 inch seam allowance, sew almost all the whole way around the rectangle, leaving a few inch gap open for turning.
        4. Turn right side out. Pin open edge shut.
        5. Top-stitch gap shut and around the entire place mat to prevent the place mat from bunching or pulling.

          Friday, October 21, 2011

          Family Fridays: Preparing for Grandparents to Visit

          It's less than one month until Grandma and Grandpa come to visit from America. We're all excited and starting to get ready for the visit. Andrew is excitedly practicing saying, "Hi Papa, hi a-Gramma-gram." And Aaron is already helping sprinkling on the cinnamon and sugar for the cinnamon rolls to go in the freezer. Can't wait to see you all.

          We love all our family bunches! Thanks for keeping up with us.

          Thursday, October 20, 2011

          DIY Scrap Garland

          This is a great way to use up a ton of tiny scraps of fabric. If you do a lot of seasonal sewing, you might be able to make a garland for each season or holiday if you wanted to. This project is so easy; the only skill required is knot tying. My husband helped with this garland a little bit and Aaron, our three-year-old, really wanted to help. He tried to tie knots for a while, so it was good practice at least. An older child could easily do this project all by themselves.

          Homemade Scrap Garland

          • Fabric scraps cut into short strips (I think 1" by about 5" or 6" works best)
          • A piece of rope, string, or fabric cut longer than you want your finished garland to be (I used a clean old pair of tights cut into a long strip, over 12 feet long, for this garland)
          • Optional embelishments

          Tie the rope or long fabric strip to two chairs or two hooks on the wall to make it easy to tie on the shorter pieces. Begin tying the shorter strips in a single or double knot along the length of the rope. I didn't use any particular pattern, but I did try to space out the colors and patterns fairly evenly along the length of the garland. Continue to fill in the short pieces until you feel like the garland looks full enough. Trim the ends of the rope if necessary and tie in a loop or knot to keep the shorter pieces from slipping off of the ends. Tie on any other embellishments you like (ornaments, ribbons, old spools, etc.). Hang up, or use as you would any garland.

            Wednesday, October 19, 2011

            DIY Potato Pancakes

            This is a easy, hearty side dish to accompany anything from eggs to pork chops to meatloaf. You could even top with a little sour cream and cheese, and call it a light dinner all by itself. Just like with homemade hash browns, pre-baking the potatoes makes them cook up really fast.

            Homemade Potato Pancake Recipe

            • 4-6 baked potatoes grated
            • 2 or more cloves of garlic chopped
            • 1/4 or more of an onion chopped
            • 2 eggs
            • 2/3 cup flour
            • 1/4 milk or water
            • 2 Tbsp oil (plus oil for frying)
            1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
            2. Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick or cast iron skillet.
            3. When the skillet is hot, scoop about 2/3 cup potato batter into pan, and press to flatten about 1/2 inch thick.
            4. Fry until bottom is golden brown, flip over, and fry until other side is golden brown.
            These are great with homemade ranch, ketchup, or barbecue sauce!

              Tuesday, October 18, 2011

              Train Themed Preschool Craft: Shape Train

              Similar to our shape dinosaurs, we made shape trains for our train unit last month. I used a Walmart ad instead of construction paper, to save paper. This time I also let Aaron cut out some of his own shapes free form with preschool scissors. He did surprisingly well, and it was additional fine motor skill practice.

              Train Themed Preschool (or Tot School) Craft: Shape Train

              • Paper or coloring sheets 
              • Shapes cut out of construction paper (or already colored on paper or ads)
              • Glue sticks or glue (homemade glue works great!)
              • Preschool scissors for an older child to cut (optional)
              You can choose how much freedom or direction your child has with this activity. A coloring page and shapes to match is the most directed way; whereas blank paper and a vast choice of shapes (or even letting them cut their own) is much more opened ended. Both have benefits. Whatever method of doing this activity, the goal is to help the child recognize the shapes and colors they see and how they fit together to form pictures.

              You can do this shape craft with just about any theme. You can see more details of shape crafts and more ways to do them in this post about our Shape-a-saurus crafts.

                Monday, October 17, 2011

                Mandarin Mondays: 地理

                Because of China's National Day (guó qìng jié, 国庆节), we're studying about China this month. Each Monday I'll be sharing a few of the facts we've learned about this fascinating country. This week we're learning facts about China's geography (dì lǐ, 地理). Since China is so big (hěn dà, 很大), it is not surprising that it had very diverse landscapes and climates.

                This vast country has almost every kind of terrain there is. Forests (sēnlín, 森林), coastline (hǎi'ànxiàn, 海岸线), deserts (shāmò, 沙漠), mountains (shān, 山), and even subtropical rainforests (yàrèdài yǔlín, 亚热带雨林) can all be found in different parts of China. From the cold north up by Harbin to the warm island weather of Hainan, China has just about every climate also.

                China also has some of the world's highest mountains and longest rivers as well. The world’s highest mountain, Mt. Everest (Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng, 珠穆朗玛峰), at 29,029 feet (8,848 meters) is on the China-Nepal border, and second-highest point is 28,251 feet high (8,611 meters) and is on the China-Pakistan border. The Yangtze River (Chángjiāng, 长江) is the third longest river in the world, and the Yellow River (Huánghé, 黄河) is the sixth longest in the world

                Saturday, October 15, 2011

                DIY Hearty Pancakes

                We love pancakes around here and will often eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (just not all in the same day). This recipe is heartier than most and keeps us full longer. It is great with homemade butter and homemade pancake syrup.

                Hearty Whole Grain Pancakes

                • 1 cup whole wheat flour
                • 1 cup flour
                • 1 cups rolled oats
                • 2 cups milk
                • 2 eggs
                • 2 Tbsp oil
                • 2 Tbsp suger
                • 1 tsp baking powder
                1. Mix all ingredients well in a large mixing bowl.
                2. On a hot greased skillet, griddle, or wok, pour 1/2 cup batter, and cook until the underside is gloden brown.
                3. Flip over, and cook the other side until golden brown.
                Andrew especially loves these cake-cakes!


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