Saturday, November 30, 2013

A St. Nicholas Tradition

I love traditions, and a favorite family tradition of ours is one centered around Saint Nicholas! 

Our Tradition
Each year my husband’s family took part in a German tradition that celebrated St. Nicholas. All over the world people celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day on the 6th of December. Now my husband and I carry on this same tradition with our own children. Our family is Catholic so this is also a good time to learn about saints. The night before St. Nicholas’ Day we like to read the story about this favorite saint. Then the kids create their Christmas lists. The children put their letters to St. Nick in their shoes or boots. They leave them by the front door and hope that St. Nicholas will fill them with fruit, nuts, candy, and treats that night. In the morning, the kids are overjoyed to find their shoes stuffed with some delicious and fun treats.
 




Who was Saint Nicholas?
St. Nicholas was a real person and a very generous one, too! His parents were rich and when they died, he inherited their wealth. Because he was a devout Christian he  knew that God wanted him to help people in need. A famous story about St. Nicholas is  one where he helped a poor man with three daughters. The family did not have enough money to pay a dowry for the daughters to get married. St. Nicholas dropped a bag of gold down their chimney to help them out. A sock was hung by their fire to dry. When the bag of gold was dropped, it fell into that “stocking.” (Hence, the tradition of stockings hung by the fireplace.) He continued to drop money down the chimney each night to help the family. The father waited up one night to see who was leaving the gold. He discovered it to be St. Nicholas, who quickly became known for his generosity!

 
Image Source: To Europe With Kids
 
If you are looking for a tradition to start with your family this one may be the one for you. It is a tradition of fun mixed in with a little history.
 
 
 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Elf on the Shelf Arrives


Thanksgiving is over...and, now it is time to officially move into Christmas mode. Last night we had a new visitor. An Elf on the Shelf scout joined our family for the first time! The kids were so excited this morning when they saw who had arrived from the North Pole! My seven year old had been wishing that he would come to our house this year. She called it a miracle. Haha!

He was sitting in a Christmas cup waiting for them to wake up. A table runner was made with red and green felt pieces. He brought them each their own Christmas cup, the Elf on the Shelf book, and Christmas foam stickers. After going back and forth a while they decided to name him "Elfie Scout."





 I cannot wait to see the many adventures our Elf on the Shelf brings this Christmas season!

Is your family participating in the tradition of Elf on the Shelf? What adventures will your elf go on this year?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Travel Activities for Kids

Are you traveling during this holiday season? More importantly, are there kids in your traveling future? Today I am sharing some of our own ideas on how we keep our children entertained for those long car rides.

First, decide how and where you will put all their junk toys and activities.



These carriers have worked best for us:
  • Backpacks-Child-size (backpacks work well if you will be walking a lot on your trip or if you are traveling by plane)
  • Reusable Grocery bags (these sit nicely on an empty seat next to them or at their feet for easy access)
  • Drawstring or zipper close bags (I liked using these when the kids were smaller. They had just a few small toys that they could carry around and often pack themselves.)
  • Easy-to-open storage containers (like a plastic shoe box container or a small container with latches and a handle)

When choosing items to pack for your child remember their interests and don’t forget their favorite toys. But, also set aside toys, books, and travel activities that are reserved solely for road trips and time away from home. They will be like “new” toys for them and hopefully, will keep their interest longer.
.
Find age-appropriate activities for each child ahead of time and pack them in their individual bags.

For your Baby:
  • Board books, touch-and-feel books
  • Teethers, baby rings and chains
  • Rattles and other favorite baby toys
  • Any toy that squeaks, rattles, or makes noises (great distracters)
  • Pacifiers or anything that soothes your baby
  • Baby essentials, bottles, and snacks

For your Toddler or  Preschooler:




  • Board books, Busy books, touch-and-feel books
  • Favorite stuffed animal or lovie
  • Mini-photo albums (my little ones loved flipping through photo books and seeing familiar faces)
  • Stickers and paper (foam stickers work well, too)
  • Crayons, washable markers, coloring books
  • a travel lap desk, clipboard, or flat tray for coloring/writing
  • Magna-Doodle
  • Magnetic dolls, magnetic letters, and a magnetic cookie tray
  • Sewing Shapes
  • Small dolls or toy cars (put in a drawstring bag or Ziploc bag to keep together)
  • Small flannel board or felt piece with storytelling flannel pieces
  • Dry-erase board with dry-erase markers

For your Older Child:


  • Picture books and Chapter books, bookmarks
  • Crayons, markers, colored pencils, papers
  • Etch-a-Sketch
  • Travel games (travel board games, peg board games, and magnetic games)
  • Go Fish and other card games
  • Wikki-Stix, Bendables, and pipe cleaners (to make different shapes and “building”)
  • Magnetic paper dolls, magnetic words, and a magnetic cookie tray or board
  • “I Spy” books, “How to Draw” books
  • Coloring and Activity books

Electronics:
  • Leap Pad, Leapster, or other learning game
  • IPAD, IPOD (with downloaded Apps for children)
  • DVD’s and Media or DVD player (pack children’s shows and animated movies that they have never seen or haven’t seen in awhile)
  • DS or other handheld games (We don’t have these, but I know they are popular with other families!)

* *Don’t forget the extra games, batteries, and chargers

Other:
  • Travel Pillow and Blanket
  • Lovies or favorite toy
  • Snacks and water, handwipes
  • Tissues
  • Trashbag or canvas bag (to hang from the seats for trash along the way)
  • Puzzles, play-doh/mat, and other toys for hotel rooms
  • Frisbee, jump rope, small ball, or other outside toy for rest stops

These are just a few ways to keep your sanity during the busy travel season. Have a safe and happy trip!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Santa Hat Cups



When I was in Kindergarten my mom made some adorable Santa cups for my class. She filled them with goodies for all my classmates, and I have never forgotten them. Her craft inspired me to make these Santa Hat Treat cups that were similar to hers. Use them for classroom treats, party favors, cookie/candy gifts, or hang them on your neighbor's doorknob for a nice Christmas surprise!

Supplies

  • Red Felt
  • White Felt
  • Clear plastic cups (9 oz.)
  • Hot glue/glue gun
  • Sewing Scissors
  • Yarn (White, red, or green)
  • Tapestry Needle
  • Candy or Treat of your choice

Instructions

  1. Cut a 9" X 12" piece of red felt in half lengthwise. Use one half for this project and set the other half aside for another cup. Cut about a 24" strand of yarn. You can trim it at the end if you want a shorter string.
  2. Thread the yarn onto the tapestry needle. Hand-stitch a straight "running stitch" across the top of the red felt piece. Tie off the ends. 
  3. Hot glue about 3/4" of the bottom of the felt all around the rim of the cup. The ends will overlap so finish with more hot glue there.
  4. Cut about a one-inch strip of white felt (lengthwise.) You can either do a straight cut or weave your scissors in and out to make a squiggly line. I like adding that textured line at the bottom of the hat.
  5. Glue the white strip around the entire rim of the cup. (The white will overlap the red a little bit.)
  6. Fill your cup with your favorite goodies. Cinch the top of the Santa hat closed by pulling the ends of the yarn. (Trim yarn, if desired.) Tie the ends together.

Fill your Santa cup with stacked cookies, wrapped candies (Hershey Kisses, Reese's Peanut Butter cups, Peppermint candies, etc.) or Christmas trinkets and gifts. Make somebody's day by dropping off this cute Santa Hat Treat cup!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Guest Post: 10 Ways to Get a Cozy Yet Beautiful Home

Guest Post from Jessica from 4 Interior Design

If you are looking into how to make your home not only beautiful but cozy too, then read on! The following ten tips will show you how you can have a comfortable and welcoming home while keeping it beautiful and attractive at the same time.


Make a Safe Haven
One important element in creating coziness is by subtly emphasising the difference between inside and outside. An ideally cozy home is one that is particularly appealing when the weather outside is awful! You want to emphasize the fact that your home is warm and bright while the outside is cold and dark. Install points of light and make sure the temperature within the home is always comfortable.


Natural elements
For some reason, we humans like things to be natural: wood or stone panelling or décor give us a feeling of 'getting back to our roots'. Use natural wood furniture or invest in a stone or stone effect fireplace surround to give your home some instant cozy charm.

Hot Colour Highlights
Red and copper touches speak of inviting warmth and are perfect for infusing neutral décor with a splash of liveliness. A copper fireguard and some soft red cushions can make an amazing difference to a room that otherwise has cool décor colours.



Hideaway nooks
Make the best use of natural window seats by creating natural looking secluded areas, perfect for curling up in with a good book. Arrange furniture and curtains so as to give a good vantage point from the hideaway without any feeling of being exposed. You will find that children, in particular, will gravitate to these spots and will entertain themselves for hours!


Something Soft Underfoot
Nothing adds decadence to a room more than a deep pile carpet or furry plush rug. Lay your carpet or rug strategically and you will see how visitors and family alike will enjoy walking over the soft layer with bare feet, a sure sign of feeling safe and welcome.

Get Soft!
Sofas should sprout plump cushions and harsh corners should be softened with slip covers and padding. Taking out the hard lines and sharp edges from a room immediately gives the room an appealing, almost womblike welcome. Allow everyone to luxuriate in pampering softness and they are sure to remember how kindly and inviting your home is. 



Kitchen Charm
The kitchen is at its best when it is busy. Have seating for informal meals, arrange hanging pots and pans, especially copper ones and hang strings of onions or garlic and bunches of herbs from the ceiling. Not only do these bring everything to hand as soon as they are needed, but they give your kitchen the look of an authentic country kitchen, oozing warmth, delicious food and good smells. 



Fragrant Home
Add good smells to your home, and not only in the kitchen. Sprinkle a little ground cinnamon on your radiators (or hide cinnamon sticks behind the radiator) and as the room warms up the delightful smell of cinnamon will float throughout the entire house. When baking, leave the kitchen door open so the scent of fresh bread, cakes and biscuits permeates every level. Pleasant potpourri and natural scents go a long way to making a home feel welcome, speaking to the most primitive and ancient part of our brains. 

Shut Out the World
When the weather is truly awful, with a howling gale screaming around the eaves and snow and sleet falling thick and fast there is a wicked element of pleasure in being able to close that inclement weather outside! Invest in some thick velvety curtains to enclose your family and loved ones in the bosom of the home. Using thick blackout curtains will ensure that the sounds of the storm are muted and that any lightning flashes will not be able to penetrate into the room to scare pets and small children.


Cheerful Focus
Create an inviting focal point in important rooms, such as the living room, but preferably not a television! Arrange the room around your fireplace, no matter whether the fire is real or fake, or around something bright, cheerful and unusual, such as a reconditioned jukebox. Whatever you choose as the focal point, it should be a literal draw, inviting everyone to draw near and take their place nearby. 


Depending on the size and layout of your home, you may not be able to implement all of these tips. Do not panic though, use the tips that are relevant to you and you will be delighted and pleased at how much difference just one or two of them can make to your home!


About Our Guest Blogger:


"I am someone who is born to decorate this world! Jessica Christian here with this guest post about Cozy decor. A bunch of thanks to Janell for having me here. I can be found at 4interiordesign.co.uk"

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Dye Pasta and Use with Children's Activities


I like to dye pasta of all shapes and sizes to make fun kid’s projects. The best part about colored pasta is it is cheap and easy to make. All you need are a few things you probably already have around the house.

Materials


  • Different Shaped Pasta (I used Rigatoni, kid’s shaped pasta, and 2 different types of Elbow macaroni)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Food Coloring
  • Paper towels
  • Craft tray or cookie tray
  • Zipper-close plastic bags




Layer your tray with paper towels. Add 1 Tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and 4-5 drops of desired food coloring to a zipper close plastic bag. Then place your dry pasta into the bag. Close your bag completely. Shake the pasta in the bag and swirl it around until the pasta is completely coated with the food coloring and alcohol mixture. Drop the pasta onto the paper towels to dry. Use a toothpick to spread out the pasta for drying. Repeat with different colors in separate bags. Mix food coloring to make additional colors. Make sure the pasta is completely dry before handling again.


Using Your Colored Pasta With Children


There are endless uses for colored pasta. My kids enjoy making arts and crafts, gluing them, making jewelry, counting, sorting, patterning, building, and making different shapes out of the pasta. Work on fine motors skills when you string and make necklaces and bracelets from the colored pasta. We will use our jewelry when learning more about Native Americans this Thanksgiving season. Colored pasta works wonders in your sensory bins, too. Let the children mix, scoop, and play with them.

Make Crafts and Jewelry


Practice math skills like counting, sorting, and patterning. 




Use in Sensory Bins



Follow these easy steps to make your own colored pasta and use them for all your favorite projects, too! 




Friday, November 8, 2013

My Favorite Banana Nut Bread Recipe


When I got married my sister-in-law gave me a recipe box with some of her favorite recipes. One recipe that she included was her Banana Nut Bread recipe. I tried it and for eight years it has been my go-to recipe for making banana nut bread. If you like to bake you probably have all or most of the ingredients sitting in your pantry already. This is also the recipe I keep handy when I have bananas sitting on my counter for a few days…which happens just about every week. Buying extra bananas is my excuse to indulge in my favorite Banana Nut Bread!

My Favorite Banana Nut Bread Recipe

1 ¾ cups Flour
¼ tsp. Baking Soda
2/3 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
¼ cup Vegetable oil
2 tsp. Baking Powder
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup Milk
1 cup Mashed ripe bananas (about 2 bananas)
½ cup Nuts, chopped (walnuts are great)
½ to 1 tsp. Cinnamon
Pam Nonstick Spray

Grease and dust small loaf pan.  Mix all ingredients.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. If you want to make mini-muffins like I often do then bake them for about 12 minutes.







Hope you enjoy this banana nut bread and muffin recipe as much as we do!




Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Turkey Shaped Pancakes


Want to make some fun pancakes for the month of November? Reusable ketchup/mustard squirt bottles are the perfect tools to make the cutest turkey pancakes for your family. (I purchased a set of these bottles at the dollar store.) Use your favorite pancake batter recipe or cheat like me with a store-bought pancake mix. Prepare the pancake batter as directed.

Pour some batter into one of these squeeze bottles. This will help shape the feathers for your turkey. Reserve some batter to make round pancakes, too. (The round pancakes will be for the body of the turkey.)


Squirt some batter from the ketchup bottle directly onto your skillet. Make an oval shape or feather shape outline when you squirt. Fill in the outline with more batter. A measuring cup works well for easy pouring to make the round pancakes. Make some small round pancakes and some medium round pancakes. You will need one small and one medium pancake for each turkey you intend to make. I chose to do the feathers and the body separately because I thought the kids would like to dip the feathers in their syrup. (They did!)



Layer a small round pancake onto a medium round pancake for the body. Put a banana slice on the top round pancake for the head. Arrange the feather shaped pancakes above the body and head. Stick two pretzel sticks below the body to make the legs. I used mini chocolate chips for the eyes, walnut pieces for the beak, and a mini red M&M for the wattle.



Hope your family enjoys these turkey shaped pancakes!




Friday, November 1, 2013

Fall Snack Mix


I am a huge fan of trail mix and other snack mixes. They are simple to throw together and you can modify your snack mixes to fit your cravings or whatever you have in your pantry. I like to make snack mixes when I am planning out snacks for the kids, too. I can toss them into a baggie or container and take them anywhere. They also make fun and tasty gifts.

My children have two wonderful teachers this year so I wanted to make a Fall Snack Mix this week to show my appreciation for them. I ended up making individual baggies to give as treats for their classmates as well.

Here is what I put in this Fall Snack Mix:

  • Autumn candy mix (candy corn, candy pumpkins, etc.)-1 bag
  • Quaker square cereal
  • Stick Pretzels
  • M&M’s (Autumn mix)
  • Cracker Jacks (3 boxes of caramel popcorn and peanuts mix)
  • Cheerios (for the kids' bags)







I purchased some mason jars (any airtight container is fine) so the snack mix could stay fresh. I used a hot glue gun to add some ribbon and bow around the lid. I then traced a circle out of cardstock and glued it to the top. I personalized each jar with the teacher's name spelled out in cute stickers. Here is a tasty treat and cute gift to share!