Friday, January 31, 2014

DIY Lovebug Cookies

Give your lovebugs some lovebug cookies this Valentine's Day. These super cute chocolate sugar cookies are sure to put a smile on their face.

I didn't have a bug cookie cutter, so I just used two different sized circles (small jars actually) and then stuck them together before baking. (I dampened the edges to be joined very slightly with milk). I was a little worried about the heads falling off, but this method worked without any problem.for me

You can even invite your kids to help you make these. Most kids love to cut out sugar cookies and paint on the icing.

Do be sure to let the sugar cookies cool completely before icing and the icing harden completely before adding words, stacking, or serving for best presentation.

Homemade Roll Out Sugar Cookie Recipe

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup butter or margarine softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • Milk (if the dough is too dry)
  1. Cream together butter and sugar.
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  3. Add dry ingredients, incorporating flour about 1 cup at a time.
  4. If the dough is too dry add milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator a couple of hours or overnight. I did find that with all real butter though I had to let the dough soften up a bit after chilling it overnight.
  6. Roll small sections of dough at a time to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters and place on an ungreased baking sheet.
  7. Bake at 400F for 6-8 minutes, until edges just begin to brown.

Powdered Sugar Icing Recipe

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp milk
  • Food coloring
  1. Place powdered sugar is a small mixing bowl and add milk a Tbsp at a time until a nice consistency. Stir until smooth. Add food coloring if desired.
  2. Drizzle or paint cooled cookies a solid color with a food safe brush. Sprinkle with sugar or sprinkles if desired.
  3. Allow to harden for at least 1 hour before carefully contrasting color for stripes and spots on the bugs.
  4. Allow to harden again at least 1 hour before stacking or serving.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Fireworks are going off all around here and probably will continue all night long...

But since our sunset comes before your sunrise, you still have time to celebrate Chinese New Year's Eve all day.

Make some potstickers, bake some almond cookies. light off some fireworks (OK maybe not). If you are still looking for other ideas for a Chinese New Year Celebration, check out my free Chinese New Year Activity Book.

And we hope you all have a wonderful New Year!

DIY Strawberry Cheesecake Chocolate Trifle

I love layered desserts. To me a trifle is the combination of flavors and textures of a bunch of great desserts into one super dessert.

If you make each layer in this dessert from scratch it will take some time.  Definitely still worth it, but if you are pressed for time or just want an easier option, buying the components pre-made and layering them yourself would make this trifle quick and easy.

If you are presenting this dessert in jars, using cupcakes is great because they slide right into jars and make nice layers.

Homemade Strawberry Cheesecake Chocolate Trifle Recipe

  • Chocolate cake cubed or cupcakes (homemade or store bought)
  • Strawberry cream cheese (store bought or add 1/2 cup strawberry jam to 1 cup cream cheese)
  • Strawberries
  • Whipped cream or cool whip
  • Chocolate chips (optional)
  1.  Layer ready made ingredients into glass jar, trifle bowl, or other container. Start with chocolate cake and end with whipped cream and/or chocolate chips.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) Preschool Activity: Fireworks in a Jar

Another fun firework activity we did were these fireworks in a jar. I saw the basic idea of oil color diffusion at I Can Teach My Child, and added the glitter and sequins for longer lasting fun.

My boys had as much fun with these fireworks in a jar as they did snow globes and played with them for a long time.

This is also another great activity to do around 4th of July.

Chinese New Year or 4th of July Preschool Activity: Fireworks in a Jar

  • Watertight jars with lids
  • Water
  • Bowl or shallow baking dish
  • Oil
  • Food coloring
  • Glitter and/or sequins if desired)
  1. Fill a clean jar 3/4 full with water.
  2. Add glitter and sequins if desired.
  3. Put a few tablespoons of oil in a bowl. Drop several drops of food coloring in and use a fork to break them up into very small specks.
  4. Carefully add the oil and color mixture to the jar.
  5. Watch as the least dense oil holds the color at the top briefly and then the heavier color droplets begin to fall through the water and diffuse.
  6. After all of the color droplets have sunk you can put the lid on tightly and let your child shake the jar filled with colored water, glitter and sequins.

This craft is from the Chinese New Year Activity Book. Enjoy this free downlaodale ebook for more Chinese New Year Activities Crafts, and Recipes.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Groundhog Holiday Preschool Craft: Groundhog Masks

Last year we made these really simple groundhog masks for Groundhog Day. First we read about groundhogs and Groundhog Day, and watched some videos about them. Afterward we made these masks and then my little boys pretended to be groundhogs.

They had such a fun time "popping up" out of their "holes" like groundhogs.

Groundhog Day Preschool Craft: Groundhog Masks

  • Cardboard circle or paper plate
  • Markers or crayons
  • Scissors and hole punch for adults to use
  • White cardboard "teeth" and glue stick (optional)
  • String or elastic to hold the mask on, or a popsicle stick to hold up the mask
  1. Ahead of time cut out eye holes and holes at the side to tie on string or elastic if desired.
  2. Give the children markers or crayons and show them a picture of a groundhog. Ask them to decorate their mask like a groundhog.
  3. If you want to introduce gluing into this project you can have them glue on two big white front teeth . This was a highlight for my boys.
  4. When they are finished decorating tie on string or elastic or secure popsicle stick.
  5. Let the children pretend to be groundhogs!

They also wrote or dictated groundhog reports and drew groundhogs.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) Preschool Craft: Firework Crayon Resist Painting

Probably the most famous aspect of the Chinese New Year celebrations is the fireworks associated with this holiday. However, before living in China, we could never have imagined just how many fireworks there would actually be.

For about a month around the holiday, people buy and set off fireworks all the time. The night of the new year, fireworks go off most of the night, with a huge explosion right at midnight.

We like to watch the fireworks from afar, but also did some firework crafts for my firework loving boys. This way we can enjoy them longer and more safely.
We've also done this activity around 4th of July, because that is when Fireworks are popular in America.

Chinese New Year or 4th of July Preschool Craft: Firework Crayon Resist Painting

  • Paper
  • Crayons
  • Black or dark blue watercolors
  1. Firmly color fireworks with crayons. Use some white and/or light colors for the most dramatic effects of the fireworks appearing.
  2. Paint over the fireworks with dark watercolors and watch as the crayon fireworks resist the paint and stand out against the night sky you painted.

This craft is from the Chinese New Year Activity Book. Enjoy this free downlaodale ebook for more Chinese New Year Activities Crafts, and Recipes.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

{Free} Chinese New Year Activity Book: 20+ Activities, Crafts, and Recipes to Celebrate China's Biggest Holiday

As an American who moved to China as an adult not really knowing what Chinese New Year (which we found out is actually called Spring Festival in China) was all about, I'm always looking for fun and exciting ways to teach my kids more about this holiday.

This year I have put together an ebook with over 20 activities, crafts, and recipes to teach children about China's biggest holiday.The Chinese New Year Activity Book contains a bit of background information on the holiday and a collection of blog posts to walk you through fun learning activities and delicious recipes.

This ebook is completely free for you to download and contains some of my most popular posts (including the Chinese New Year Firecracker Decorations) and some that haven't been released yet (such as the Chinese Almond Cookie Recipe and Chinese New Year Lanterns).

Download the Chinese New Year Activity Book here.

I hope that you enjoy learning about Chinese culture and celebrating in your own way.

Happy New Year! (Xīnnián Kuàilè!, 新年快乐!)


Friday, January 17, 2014

Groundhog Holiday Preschool Activity: Edible Chocolate Groundhogs

I mentioned in passing last year that I decided at the last minute (actually about 7 pm that evening) to celebrate Groundhog Day with learning activities for my kids. But obviously I didn't get around to posting this activity in time for anyone else to try it last year, so I'll post it now.

This activity is great because it combines a craft like project and a treat.

Basically I mixed up a small batch of edible chocolate play dough and after we had watch a few videos and read some things about groundhogs and Groundhog Day I told them I had something special for them to do. I gave them each some chocolate play dough and told them to make the best groundhog they could and then after I had seen it they could eat it!

They loved this fun activity and it was a great way to complete this very simple holiday for little kids!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) Preschool Craft: Door Decorations

Another set of decorations that we made last year were these Chinese New Year Door Decorations. Traditionally, Chinese people hang red decorations on their doors at the New Year festival to scare away evil spirits and invite good luck into their homes. The center square decoration is often even hung upside down for even more good luck.

We don't believe that these decorations are going to bring us good luck, and we didn't even hang them on our door, but they are pretty and good practice for writing Chinese characters. We also used this opportunity to talk with our children about fake luck and true blessing.

 Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) Preschool Craft: Door Decorations

  • Red Paper
  • Markers
  • Glue and glitter or glitter-glue if desired
  1.  Cut red paper in a square for the center and strips for the sides and top of the door frame.
  2. Write Chinese characters or decorate as desired. We wrote happy new year (新年好,Xīnnián hǎo) on the strips for the top and sides and blessing, although this can also mean lucky, (福,fú) in the center square. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

DIY Cake Mix Cookies

Ironically, I got this recipe for cake mix cookies from one of my grandmothers. Not quite the from scratch recipes from her childhood, but she used it a lot when she wanted to make cookies, but didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

This recipe is great to have if you need to take cookies somewhere in a hurry, and it is extremely easy and versatile. Change out the type of cake mix and additions for endless possibilities. Make bit size, giant, or bars (pan cookies) and just adjust the baking time.

This is also a great first recipe for kids who could safely be trusted with the oven to make on their own.

Homemade Cake Mix Cookies

  • 1 cake mix OR the following dry ingredients from homemade cake mix
      • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
      • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
      • 1 Tbsp powder
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (for  chocolate cookies only obviously)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Up to 1 1/2 cup additions (chocolate chips, M&Ms, raisins, nuts, etc.)
  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined.
  2. Place on prepared pan and bake at 350F (bake 8-12 minutes for average size cookies, 20-25 minutes for brownies or bars).
  3. Enjoy your really easy cookies!
Makes 2-3 dozen average size cookies, or 1 9x13 pan brownies or bars (pan cookies).


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