Monday, December 23, 2013

Mandarin Mondays: Don't Try So Hard (The Chinglish Files)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Preschool Holiday Activity: Play Dough Christmas

If you need an activity to keep your little ones busy for a while you are preparing for the holidays or while you are in the middle of entertaining and trying to keep a lot of little people happy and out of trouble, grab some play dough and tell them to make anything they can think of related to the holiday.

Last year my boys spent an entire morning building Christmas trees, Nativity scenes, gifts, Christmas food etc. They even made play dough relatives and a bunch of stories in the process.

You can also have them make letters and try to spell out holiday words. But that might require more adult involvement.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

DIY Indoor Snowball Fight Gift

One of my boys' favorite gifts we gave them last year, was the gift of an indoor snowball fight. We live in an area that doesn't really get any snow, so that made is even more special, but I think all kids would like this gift. This could also make a good rainy day activity for January.

I wrapped up mittens and "snowballs" for each of my two older sons and labeled them indoor snowball fight. We had them open the gifts at the same time, and then off they ran chasing each other and throwing their soft fleece balls.

The quickest, easiest way to make this gift would be to pick up some mittens or gloves and white socks (roll them up in balls) for each child. If you want to hand make this gift there are lots of great mitten patterns for free or sale on the internet. Or you can even just trace around the child's hand with enough margin for seam allowance.

You can quickly sew up soft fleece balls by cutting 4 ovals the same size. You want elongated ovals, not to round or you will end up with funny pumpkin shaped snowballs like some of mine were. Although in the end my kids did really like that, because they could stack them up and build "snowmen: as well (like in the top picture), so it is your call. Sew them together right sides together halfway around the oval top to bottom (the long side of the oval). Continue sewing ovals together until you have all four sewn together with only a small opening to turn and stuff. After you turn and stuff the fleece ball whip stitch or invisible stitch it closed, very securely since these are going to be thrown all over.

Either way kids will have a great time with this simple gift and get useful mittens (and perhaps socks) out of it as well. It might just be the most fun way to package mittens and socks for gift giving. :)

I think this would be a great gift if you needed to give something to all of the children in the extended family, unless the gift exchange takes place at Grandma's house in the living room full of crystal. Only Grandpa can bounce a tennis ball off the wall in that room and not get yelled at.

Friday, December 13, 2013

DIY Payday Bars (Caramel Peanut Clusters)

If you like some crunchy or salty with your sweet these caramel peanut clusters are for you. They are a nice twist on some of the more traditional holiday candies.

Homemade Payday Bars (Caramel Peanut Clusters) Recipe

  • Soft carmels
  • Salted peanuts
  1. Take a 1 inch caramel and knead it slightly (with clean fingers of course) until soft.
  2. Roll in salted peanuts. Press peanuts in firmly.
  3. Wrap individually in plastic wrap or parchment paper.
  4. Store in an airtight container. Freeze for longer storage (if you can keep them that long)

Want more crunchy caramel goodness?

No Corn Syrup Caramel Corn

Friday, December 6, 2013

DIY Chocolate Caramel Walnut Turtles

The only thing better than chocolate or caramel separately is chocolate and caramel together. These decadent turtles combine chewy caramel, rich chocolate, and salty walnuts.

These special chocolates are great for holiday parties or gift giving.

Homemade Turtle Recipe

  • Soft caramel candies (Homemade are awesome, but store bought should work too) (one for each turtle you want to make)
  • Walnut halves or quarters (5-6 for each turtle you want to make)
  • Chocolate to melt and spread over the top
  1. Take a 1 inch caramel and knead it slightly (with clean fingers of course) until soft.
  2. Place 4 pieces of walnuts for legs, 1 for the head, and 1 small piece for a tail if desired.
  3. Place on a plate or cookie sheet, caramel side up. Allow to harden slightly.
  4. Melt chocolate and spread a small amount over the top of the caramel.
  5. Allow to harden before stacking or serving.
  6. Store in an airtight container. Freeze for longer storage (if you can keep them that long).
Want even more chocolatey, caramel goodness?

Dark Chocolate Cake with Caramel Sauce

Turtle Ice Cream

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Homeschooling for the Holidays

Today I'm delighted to be guest posting over at Free Homeschool Deals.

From the post:

Homeschooling for the Holidays

Homeschoolers have a lot of freedom when it comes to how much school and what subjects they will cover during the busy holiday season. My boys are still young, and their workload light, so we'll be continuing our normal routine and working in fun Christmas projects.

Whether you "officially" take the entire month off, do "Christmas School," or just incorporate a few holiday activities here and there, these 5 ideas can help your family keep learning and have fun during the holidays.

Read the full post here.

Christmas Holiday Preschool Activity: "Painting" Sugar Cookies

A great Christmas baking activity to involve kids in is not just baking sugar cookies, but "painting" them with icing afterwords. Most kids love to cut out sugar cookies and paint on the icing and they make a great holiday treat for your family or to share with friends. Kids love to be actively involved in preparing for important things and like to help cook and make gifts.

Last year we did this with my 4 1.2 year old and 3 year old and they had a great time.

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

Homemade Roll Out Sugar Cookie Recipe

  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 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 if desired
  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 at least 1 hour before stacking or serving.

The stars and snowballs turned out pretty good.
Don't their Christmas trees look festive with sprinkle ornaments?

Painting sugar cookies can be fun for adults too!


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