Saturday, October 31, 2009

Not Tricky, Just a Treat

I wanted to try out this jello idea.  Then, life happened.  I didn't read the instructions well enough and didn't start the night before.  I also didn't have any whipping cream or unflavored gelatin on hand.  I also rationalized that my kids would probably be grossed out by this and refuse to eat it.  Maybe next year...

So, because I am in charge of a jello side for our annual family Halloween dinner tonight,(I can't wait!) I thought up this little concoction on my own as a pleasing substitute.

Candy Corn Jello

1 6 oz. box of Lemon (or Pineapple) Jello
1 6 oz. box of Orange (or Peach) Jello
1 8 oz. container of Cool Whip

Prepare the Lemon Jello, using the directions on the box.  Pour into large bowl and refrigerate to set.  (I used my medium sized Pyrex bowl.)

After the Lemon Jello is set (or close to it, about 4 hours), prepare the Orange Jello.  Instead of preparing the with the traditional method, you will make "Magic Mousse Jello."

Here's the directions in for the Magic Mousse in case your box doesn't have this on the side.

Add 1 1/2 cups boiling water to gelatin mix in large bowl;  stir 2 minutes until completely dissolved.  Whisk in Cool Whip until blended.

Put the Magic Mousse layer on top of your yellow Jello layer.  Place back in the fridge until set.  (May be up to 8 hours.)

Post-dinner update:  The jello didn't turn out exactly how I wanted.  The orange layer was so small, you could barely differentiate it from the yellow layer.  So sorry the picture isn't really great.  Maybe next time, I'll just add the cool whip to the top!  It was fun to try anyways.

Enjoy your treat!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cool Beans!

OK, so with my early childhood background, one would think I would have discovered the joy of playing with dried beans a long, long time ago.  Who knew it was so much fun for toddlers and preschoolers to dump and pour and wade through a bucket of beans?  I have seen it suggested several different places, and I just ignored it.  Too messy.  Too simple.  They'll lose interest.  Maybe just because I personally cannot stand to eat beans...

Then I saw this post, and it just looked like so much fun to dive into this tub of "Halloween" beans.  As an added bonus, it was something productive to do with all of the Halloween "junk" that accumulates after parties and such.  (The kind of junk I usually sneakily throw away when the kids have forgotten about it.) 

When I put this together and put it out, I realized, this not your ordinary tub of black beans.  I refer to them as magic beans.  Why are they magic, you ask?

Because my kids sat on the floor together with this bucket and played peacefully, for over half an hour!

No whining.  No teasing.  No fighting.

Just having fun with the magic beans.

No joke, a few hours after getting this out, my oldest actually asked me to get it out again while his brother was asleep.  He played by himself, making mountains and skyscrapers in the beans.

Clean up was a lot easier with a huge plastic tablecloth underneath.  It also gave the boys a "canvas" to spread their treasures out on.  A plastic kiddie pool would have been even better.

Life lesson learned:  It is so often the simplest of things that bring happiness.  Stop and enjoy those simple little moments.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween Stories and a Halloween Math "Book"

My birthday is 6 days before Halloween, so that may be the reason I enjoy the holiday so much.  I don't like the gory or scary parts of the season (I HATE going into costume shops...), but I love the kid-friendly version of Halloween.  That being said, it's hard to narrow down only a few books, but here are some of my fave's.  If you keep on reading, I'll share the fun math Halloween house we made.  Happy Halloween!

Froggy's Halloween by Jonathan London

We love Froggy.  What more can I say?

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams

This little old lady isn't afraid of anything, including walking alone in the woods and some lively clothing items.  Or is she?  Clever resolution at the end.

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

This friendly witch can always find room on her broom, and her kindness pays off in a big way.  Great rhyme and repetition, and fabulous illustrations.

My Monster Mama Loves Me So by Laura Leuck

Sweet rhyming text about why Mama Monsters love their children.  Look for the fun hidden pictures in the illustrations.

Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O'Connell

A cute Halloween countdown story.

Mouse's First Halloween by Lauren Thompson

Mouse is scared of things on Halloween night, but they all end up being not so scary after all. 

The Teeny Tiny Ghost and the Monster by Kay Winters

This is the third Teeny Tiny Ghost story, but my favorite one.  This time the timid teeny tiny ghost has to create a monster that no one has seen before for a school contest.  He doesn't like the scary creations his classmates create.  With his cats, he creates a friendly monster to enter into the contest.  Will his monster be unique enough to win the first prize ribbon?

And now, for a book to MAKE...

This was a fun little art project, as well as a way to practice several math concepts.  The added bonus: Everything fits neatly into a brown bag book.

Halloween Math House:

You will need:

6 brown paper bags
black marker
crayons, stamps, stickers to decorate your cover
small foam shapes for sorting
die cut or clip art images
Halloween picture to use for the puzzle

Cut out the roof line of a house on the tops of six paper bags and staple them down the side to form a book.

Draw a simple house on the front bag with a black marker.  I drew a roof, chimney, windows, porch steps and a door.  Don't worry about it being straight.  After all, it should look a little spooky and have some character.

I wrote the different tasks on the front of each bag (you'll have to write on the back of the first bag because the front is decorated) with the black marker also.

Have the kids decorate their homes with whatever supplies you want.  We used crayons, Halloween stamps and stickers.  Write names on the back covers.

In each bag, place the items for the activity listed on the bag.  Have fun practicing and playing!

1st house-  Pumpkin Shape Sorting

I used my friend's Cricut to die cut 6 pumpkins, then traced one of the 6 basic shapes onto each pumpkin (circle, oval, square, rectangle, diamond, triangle).  I also put a small baggie of foam shapes inside to sort.  I didn't have all of the shapes in my pre-cut foam shapes, so I cut out the missing shapes with leftover pieces.  (Just using what I already have...)

2nd house- Spider Size Sequence

I used the Cricut to create 5 spiders, scaling them 1/2 inch smaller for each one.  I think I started out with 3 1/2 inches and went down to 1 1/2 inches.  I laminated these, because their legs were too fragile to handle without breaking.  The kids can then take them out and put them in size order.

3rd house- Ghost Matching

I had a copy of these ghosts in my kindergarten file, so I made two copies of the ghosts on white cardstock and made a matching game.  I liked this set because you really have to look carefully at the faces to find the exact match.  Some were quite similar.  I saw a cute Halloween printable here that you could print to use if you don't want to draw ghosts, or make a matching game with some Halloween stickers.  The kids can just find the matching pairs, or you could play concentration.

4th house- Bat Counting

I copied this set of bats (I didn't have a bat die cut) and wrote numbers 0-5 on the bellies.  My older son is working on "teen numbers" so his are 10-15.  Use these bats to arrange in order and count, or add small items to count out onto each bat for some great one-to-one correspondence (pumpkin seeds, spiders, candy corns...).

5th house- Candy Patterning

Again, I used the Cricut to die cut three different candy shapes and colors to pattern with.  I had 6 of each shape in the bag ( ex: 6 green suckers, 6 purple tootsie rolls, 6 yellow candy corns), enough to create a decent repeating pattern. If you had Halloween foam shapes, you could substitute a handful instead of cutting out candy shapes.

6th house- Halloween Puzzle

I went through some of my Halloween worksheets to find a picture that would make a good puzzle.  I enlarged the picture and printed it on colored card stock.  I cut it into pieces to make a puzzle.  You can vary the level of difficulty two ways:  you choose the number of pieces you want and you can cut them into even-sized squares or into "puzzle" shapes.  It is more difficult to piece together the squares than puzzle shapes.  I made a smaller copy of the picture to place in the bag and use as a reference.  For my 22 month old, I cut 6 pieces into jigsaw shapes.  For my 4 1/2 year old, I cut 15 evenly sized squares to make it more difficult.  They both needed some help, but it was a good little challenge.

Again, Happy Halloween to all! 

Go to eighteen25 for more Halloween ideas.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good News

I found this quote in my sister-in-law's home in California. I love it and know it is true.

Oh, how I have been longing to write this little post!

First off, Mike has a new job! Hooray. Hopefully he'll be full time in November. We couldn't be happier. I knew our prayers would be answered. I just didn't know how or when.

Second, a little update on little ol' me. Here is a list of things that I am recently loving:

Pirate's Booty (puffed corn and rice "popcorn" with aged white cheddar cheese)
anything popcorn...
good books
elastic waist skirts
cute shoes and accessories
(since hardly any of my clothes fit right now)
cooler weather
anything pumpkin
healthy kids
being able to see my toes (for the time being)
kids who will take naps with me

Can you guess what most of this list means for our little house?

We're expecting #3 in the end of March. Only a few more weeks until we find out whether to hop back on the boy train or to think pink...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Flu, Begone!

A little update:

The Swine Flu Fairy has finally left the building. She really outstayed her welcome. We sincerely hope she stays away. Two visits is enough.

One doctor's visit, several breathing treatments, Tylenol doses and one antibiotic later, and we're back on our feet.

Luckily it didn't hit the adults as hard as the kiddos. Someone has to feel well enough to tend to the sick ones...

Now, we're bulking up on our Vitamin C, trying to get in more fruits and veggies, doing lots of hand washing and house cleaning.

A sincere thank you for all the kind well-wishes and prayers on our behalf.

We are grateful for our health, more now than even before.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

All I Want is You

My family is going to the U2 concert tonight. All my brothers and sisters (well, Clayton and Eva are not in town, so almost all...), even my parents.

Not us.



Instead, I am going to go to my own U2 concert in my imagination (I did get to go in 2001 with Mike for the Elevation Tour. Awesome.).

This time, I will not have to wonder what is going on below me because some tall drunk people refuse to stop dancing around. I won't even have to squint to see the band. I won't come home with a headache from the sheer noise. (Even if it would be fabulous U2 noise...)

After all, the most important things aren't things (or cool concerts).

Bono said it best, "All I want is you."

So, we will watch U2 videos and maybe even a concert on DVD tonight with an audience of 2. Me and my hubby.

And we can pick our own playlist.

And dance like no one is watching. 'Cuz they aren't.

So Mike, this video's for you. It seems so appropriate after all we've been through. Because who needs all the riches in the world when you have the love of your life right here in your arms? All I want is you.

Family Home Evening-Manners, Monsters and Bullies

Every Monday night, we gather our family together to learn more about the gospel and to strengthen our relationships with one another. We are trying to have a weekly lesson, something that our young children can understand and will help them in their everyday lives. I want them to learn to make positive choices and develop their faith. We attempt to keep it short and sweet and interactive. We also pray together and sing a song or two during this time. If the kids are lucky, I might even include a fun treat afterward.

Our family home evening lesson came out of a need to address speaking kindly to one another, after an especially dramatic shouting contest between one little child who shall remain nameless and a little friend...

We started out with a prayer and this song from the Children's Songbook.

"Jesus Said Love Everyone"

Jesus said love ev'ry-one;
Treat them kindly too.
When your heart is filled with love,
Others will love you.

I found this wonderful article in the Friend about bullying. We read the story and the scriptures and talked about bullying. We focused on the idea that using mean words and yelling are a form of bullying, and that we can't have love in our home when we bully one another with hurtful words.

Then, we played this little game from File Folder Fun called Monster Manners. It was a perfect reinforcement of what words we want to use in our home.

Last, we had our family scripture study, prayed and sang "Kindness Begins With Me."

I want to be kind to ev'ry-one,
For that is right, you see.
So I say to myself,
"Remember this:
Kindness begins with me."

I hope my little family can remember that "kindness begins with me."

An added bonus: Mike and I had fun later that evening, talking and coloring the little monsters for the game (that I didn't finish before our lesson). Love is spending time together, even if it's just coloring a file folder game.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sick Days

temperatures and Tylenol
raspy coughs and teary, bleary eyes
dimmed lights and sleepless nights
anxious sighs and lullaby's
hugging arms that wish to take the hurt away

PBS Kids mornings and Disney movie afternoons
story books and cozy blankets
cooling baths and warm, steamy showers
more liquids and less dinner
extra prayers and teddy bears
thankful hearts when ails depart

These are what sick days are made of.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flowery Tee Makeover

before washing

I have seen several tutorials for making over a simple tee shirt into something a bit more feminine and flowery. I found this tutorial at Hope Studios and my sisters, mom and I tried it out. I ended up putting seven rosettes on my shirt.

after washing

The flowers shrink up a bit after washing, so if it looks too full, know it will thin out a bit. The shirts turned out so cute and still look great after a few washes. After washing, the petals crinkle a bit more. This was a simple project. It took about an hour total to finish, and there was no machine sewing involved. If you are a bit intimidated by all of the clothing refashioning that is the big craze right now, this is a perfect starter project.

Here I am in my new cute tee with my cute family. I'm in San Diego, so that would explain the big, cheesy grin.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pumpkins Galore!

Today I'm sharing a few fun ideas I have accumulated about pumpkins. I only wish that we could get to a pumpkin patch this year to see some in real life. I guess pictures and projects will have to do for now.

Let's begin with some of my favorite pumpkin book picks.

It's Pumpkin Time by Zoe Hall

This book has bold and bright collaged illustrations with an easy to understand explanation of the pumpkin life cycle.

Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington

This book is suited for the youngest children, with a simple telling of the pumpkin's life cycle in words and beautiful, lifelike, feathery-like, colored pencil drawings.

Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell

This book is another pumpkin life cycle, but it starts at the end of a pumpkin's life, as it begins to decay through the seasons. The delightful surprise in the end is that, while Pumpkin Jack is decayed and no longer visible, his seeds regrow and we watch as several new pumpkins grow in his place, and Jack is back!

The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons

If you have not already discovered Gail Gibbons, she is one of the best non-fiction writers for younger children. This book is filled with facts about pumpkins and lots of illustrations. It is a longer read, and you may want to skip some of the history that goes over young children's heads, but it is worth picking up.

The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis

This sing-songy, rhyming book tells the story of what happens when the curious Baxter boys cut a giant pumpkin off the vine on top of a hill. All the Baxters begin to think of the wonderful pumpkin goodies that could be made with this runaway pumpkin. See what happens as the pumpkins and the Baxters come down the hill.

Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman

A fun Halloween story about a witch's big pumpkin and the creatures that try to help her pick it. It has a fun, repetitious rhyme and a cute message about the importance of working together.

Five Little Pumpkins, pictures by Dan Yaccarino

This is the classic Halloween poem, illustated with bright, simple images that bring the poem to life.

Pumpkin Tear Art

I drew a pumpkin outline on regular copy paper, then cut 2 inch strips of orange construction paper. They colored the pumpkin stem and I cut out the outline. I had the kiddos tear the strips and make squares (or something close to it...) and glue them down one at a time, overlapping and making sure none of the white peeked through. (Tearing is a great fine motor strengthening exercise.) I gave them a black mouth and then let them choose what shapes they wanted for the eyes and nose, and cut those out for them to glue on. This was something I loved doing for my bulletin board when I taught, and I was a little unsure how difficult it would be for preschoolers. I was pleasantly surprised that they really needed little help layering the paper and filling up the pumpkin, or placing the face on their finished pumpkin.

Pumpkin Life Cycle

This came out of a book from Creative Teaching Press from the Celebrate the Months series (October, grades K-3 edition). I tried to find this series on the publishers website, but it looks like it is out of print (again, sigh...). This series has some great ideas, although you will need to simplify and adapt them for preschool. I loved that this life cycle went in a paper sack and you could make the pumpkin grow. If you don't have this book, you can easily make outlines of the pumpkin life cycle stages and make one of your own. I hot glued a real pumpkin seed (you can find roasted ones all over stores now for very little money) on a length of green yarn. Then the kids color the flower yellow, the little pumpkin green and the large pumpkin orange. Tape the shapes onto the string in order and let them pull them out of the bag, seed first, and watch the pumpkin grow.

Pom Pom Pumpkin Pick-up

I have these cute little pumpkins and bunches of pom poms. I let the kids use tweezers and tongs to pick them up one at a time and put in the containers. Even the babies liked this activity (my 22 month old loved picking them up with his fingers and putting them in the pumpkin). Then they could shake them out and try again. You could even give the pumpkins to one child and let them sort the pom poms by color, or practice counting them as they are picked up.


Instead of bingo, we played Jack-o, with a pumpkin patch on the top of the bingo card. You could really put anything on the cards, pictures to practice beginning sounds, numbers, shapes, whatever you are working on to reinforce your learning. Let them use pumpkin seeds or candy corns to cover their spaces. This was an old copy that was passed on to me from other teachers.

Pumpkin Seed Count

I made up this game as a way to practice number recognition and counting. I had two or three sets of laminated pumpkin seeds with numbers 1 through 10 printed on them. I placed those in one jack-o-lantern basket.

I put real pumpkin seeds (more from the roasted ones I bought for the life cycle) in the second basket.

Each family member got a little jack-o-lantern container to hold their seeds. We took turns drawing a numbered seed, and counting that many real seeds into our little containers. We played three or four rounds and then dumped our seeds and counted to see who was the winner. If your child is too young to count that high, you could line up the seeds, making a graph on the floor so they could see who had the most. In another variation, you could reduce the numbers you put in the basket (only use 1 through 3 for example instead of 1 through 10). Both of my boys really enjoyed this little game.

Five Little Pumpkins

I happen to love this little poem, so I had my kindergarteners make this little art project and we printed the poem on the back.

If you don't know it, here are the words:
"Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, "Oh my, it's getting late."
The second one said, "There are witches in the air."
The third one said, "But we don't care."
The fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run."
The fifth one said, "I'm ready for some fun."
"O-ooooooo," went the wind and out went the lights,
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight."

For the picture, we glued popsicle sticks on the bottom for the gate.
I then gave the kids five orange squares or rectangles. They clipped the corners to make a pumpkin shape. If this is too difficult, you could draw pumpkin shapes (circles and ovals) for the kids to cut out. Glue the pumpkins on the gate and make faces with a black crayon. Color the night sky with a white crayon (this shows up better than mine that used yellow and blue...), or give them some sticker stars. Glue the poem on the back.

Pumpkin Cookies

And now, for my favorite pumpkin activity. Decorating pumpkin cookies. This is a family tradition of mine from childhood. It just didn't feel like fall until we had baked and decorated at least one batch. This is an old recipe and different from the one that is on the site for Libby's canned pumpkin, so that is why I am retyping it here.

Libby's Great Pumpkin Cookie

4 cups all purpose flour

2 cups quick or old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked

2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can (16 oz) Libby's solid pack pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, oats, soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside. Cream butter, gradually add sugars beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well after each addition. For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto lightly greased cookie sheet; spread into pumpkin shape. Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 minutes until cookies are firm and lightly browned. Remove and cool on metal racks. Decorate with frosting and candies.

Makes 32 large cookies.

Variation, add 1 cup chocolate chips or raisins to dough and enjoy
unfrosted. (We never do this, frosting is much too fun!)

A few notes: This is definitely a cookie that you want cooked well. If you are a gooey cookie lover like me, don't under cook this type. They really will seem firm and slightly browned when they are done.
We always use cream cheese frosting (you can tint it orange to look more pumpkin-y) and usually use the following candies to decorate the pumpkin faces: Smarties, M&M's, Reese's Pieces, Candy Corns.

My kids loved decorating the faces and of course, enjoying a sample or two of their handiwork...

All of this pumpkin talk is making me hungry for a cookie!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Apple Treats

My memories of Labor Day are filled with the scent of apple orchards. Just about every Labor Day weekend, my family would travel to southeastern Arizona, where both sets of my grandparents lived for a long weekend visit. Monday usually meant a trip to nearby Mount Graham and Angle's Orchard. We would load up the cars with family and go pick apples in the afternoon. It was always a fun day, filled with cousins and lots of tasty apples (of course you have to eat as you pick!).

Although some Labor Days were hotter than I wanted, the walk through the orchard longer than expected, and the bugs sometimes too plentiful, the boxful of apples that came home with us down the mountain were certainly worth it.

This year, we missed the excursion up the mountain in order to spend a bit more time with our California family. Luckily, our Arizona family still loves us, and shared some of their bounty this year. We have been in a state of apple happiness for a month now.

In honor of apple picking season, here are two of my all-time favorite apple recipes. The wonderful thing about both is that you can use your older apples that maybe aren't firm enough anymore to eat by themselves. Waste not, want not...

Apple Crisp

4 cups sliced and peeled apples (approx.6 apples)
1/2 cup flour
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup rolled oats

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place apples in greased 8x8x2 pan. Blend remaining ingredients until mixture is crumbly. Spread over apples. Bake 30-35 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden. Serve warm. (Even better with a bit of vanilla ice cream on top...)

Apple Streusel Muffins

1/2 cup nuts (I prefer pecans)
1/4 cup flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 stick (2 Tablespoons) melted butter
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup diced apples

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients for topping until crumbly and set aside.
Mix wet ingredients together and fold in apples. Mix dry ingredients together, then add to wet ingredients until just combined. Divide batter into greased muffin tins and sprinkle topping on each. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Best served warm.

Happy noshing!

Monday, October 5, 2009

More Apples

Here are a few more fruits of our labor from our apple unit.

Apple concentration

I made a simple concentration game using some apple stickers I had in my stash. The board is a full sheet of poster board, cut in half. I placed apple shaped stikki notes on the posterboard and laminated the two pieces before taping together with clear electrical tape (leave a small gap between the two pieces so that the board will fold neatly). These boards make it easier for kids to place the cards in an orderly manner.

Because many of the apple stickers were very similar, this was great visual discrimination practice. I also had the kids describe the differences to me (ex: "This one has a fat worm on the side, this one has a long skinny worm on the side, so they are different."), so it became some good vocabulary practice as well.

Tissue paper apples

I drew an apple shape with a leaf and stem on a white piece of constrruction paper and cut it out. I then let Andrew color the leaf and stem, then he used tissue paper squares to fill in the apple. (We used the old-school "wrap the tissue on the end of a pencil and dip in glue and paste on" method.) This gives the apple some dimension.

I recommend this art project for the older preschooler set, because it is time consuming and requires quite a bit of coordination. If you want to adapt it for younger children, just have them use a glue stick and lay the tissue paper squares flat onto the apple shape.

Letter matching

I die cut 26 apples and 26 worms, wrote the uppercase alphabet on the apples and the lowercase alphabet on the worms and laminated them. Kids can then match the worm to the corresponding apple with the same letter.

Apple lacing

This is one of the foam shapes I used here to make a bunch of lacing cards. I just gave the kids the apple and a green lace, so they could have the "worm" eat around the apple.

Apple tree snack

I found this cute idea in an old issue of The Mailbox (a fantastic resource...). You have the kids frost the top of a graham cracker quarter and one side of a Ritz cracker with green frosting. Stick the graham cracker end with the frosting under the frosted Ritz to glue the pieces together. Then add 4 m&m's (red, yellow and/or green) to the top of the tree and eat. My kids loved this activity and requested we make "trees" again the next day (and the next...).

Enjoy the "fruits of your labors". Tomorrow, I'll post a few apple goodies for the whole family to enjoy!