Friday, March 29, 2013

just enjoying the moment

 I spent the day spearheading the great egg dyeing of 2013. I had thought of oodles of ideas and then found even more on pinterest and arrived at the homestead with a very full bag and a plan to create alien eggs with the nephew a-go-go. Ultimately though, I loosened the reins and let him explore, dip, dye, and have fun. It is, after all, all about the experience not the end product...which, by-the-way came out pretty fantastic if you ask me. 

We began with water, vinegar, and food color. Added some margarine-like spread, then some oil and then some baking soda. There was a moment when we attempted some tie-dyeing but then we went a little dippy. There was dipping of eggs and then the dipping of paper towels, followed by the dipping of lace and then the dipping of hands. Our color cups went from red, purple, pink, green, etc. to all purple all the time. Our hands eventually came clean(ish) but the muffin pan I am sorry to say a little less so.

Sometimes, you just gotta let it go and enjoy the moment.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

embroidery hoop eggs part 2

 Pom-pom happy! Use all the colors you have, use different sizes or have your kiddos do some sorting into an egg carton to work on those pre-math and reading skills.
While I found my hoops at the thrift, small oval hoops can be found at your local craft store for under $2. Pom-poms need a lot of help sticking to the burlap. Make sure to use a fabric glue or Tacky glue and leave them alone for a few hours to dry. I wish I had painted the hoop for this one but it still looks pretty happy! Have fun!

make embroidery hoop eggs

 I found a small bag of hoops at my local thrift a while ago and thought I would turn the ovals into eggs. I'm posting the projects up over at scrumdillydilly but two of them are especially kid-friendly and thought I would post the how-tos here. First up...make an embroidered egg using yarn.

embroidery hoop egg: stitched
*small oval embroidery hoop
*small piece of burlap large enough for the hoop
*plastic large-eyed needle or other other 
*yarn (this egg uses three different colors) or embroidery floss
*paint optional
Set up a paint friendly work area and have your kiddo paint up the hoop while you gather other supplies. Make sure to take apart the two pieces. This hoop is painted with a neon red acrylic paint. If you are using acrylic paints and are a bit of a neat-nik, make sure your kiddo is wearing paint-friendly clothing or a smock. We used a sponge brush to paint this hoop. Hoops dry pretty quickly...within half an hour.

Once dry add a drops of glue (white glue will work fine but Tacky glue is better) around the outside of the inside hoop. Place burlap over the gluey hoop and place the utside hoop over the whole mess pulling the burlap taut. If it is proving to be difficult, make sure to loosen the screw on the outside hoop until it almost falls off. Then tighten and tug everything into place. Trim excess burlap with scissors. If you do not have burlap you can try a few layers of cheesecloth. You want something with a large open weave so that it is easy or your kiddo to sew.
Thread the needle with yarn and tie into place if needed, or double up the yarn and tie at the end. Young children don't master the whole not-pulling-the-needle-off-the-yarn-entirely thing just yet. A small knot will hold the yarn to the needle while still being able to poke through the burlap.Before your kiddo uses up every inch of yarn, tie it off so that it doesn't come undone but then again, if you are hanging this on the wall or using as a decoration, the yarn should nestle nicely in the burlap without coming out unless pulled.  Switch out yarn if you wish and continue the process! 

I'll post another egg hoop in a short while. I'm up to my eyebrows in allergies and this wheezing is a party pooper.

making charoset

 This recipe is inspired by Passover. While I do not celebrate the holiday of Passover, I have many fond memories from my childhood spent table-side at the many Seders I attended with my best friend. Oh how her mother would cook up a storm. And oh how we patiently waited through the service and questions and dippings and prayer until her brisket was served. One of my favorite flavors from Passover was the charoset (or haroset) that was served as a symbol of the mortar the enslaved Jews used to anchor bricks together as they worked at the mercy of the Egyptians. 

I was surprised to find many of my non-Jewish friends unaware of the traditions steeped in many of the Jewish holidays and so I thought I would share a few memories, a recipe I created and a few links you can follow to learn more about Passover (also called Pesach). One thing you might be surprised to find is that in the hierarchy of holidays, Passover is more important than Hanukkah and is often observed for eight days (and sometimes for seven). Depending on each person's faith, there are a number of dietary restrictions involved which most importantly call to refrain from food goods that use leavening such as everyday sandwich bread, and/or baked cookies and other cakey-sweet treats. That is why you may see an abundance of matzoh showing up in your recipe feeds, and/or super market aisles.

All of the foods on the seder-plate symbolize elements from the Passover story. A Passover Seder (dinner) can last for many hours, or longer than you thought possible (that's my ten year old perspective there) but it isn't at all boring and even involves a little hide and seek when it comes time to hunt for the afikomen. If you ever receive an invitation to attend, I recommend you do so. This world is vast and full of differences that at their core holds the pureness of heart. What better way to grow, than to share?

Here is an easy child-friendly recipe for charoset. Keep in mind that if you are Jewish and hold dietary restrictions for the holiday, you will know what is best to substitute. This is recipe is my way of sharing some insight with those who are new to Passover and to encourage you to cook and/or prepare food with your children. There are all sorts of neato-keen developmental elements hidden in this recipe from using small motor skills, to math, and reading. Children take pride in sharing and enjoying something that they made. Recipe following builds autonomy, prepares children for kitchen safety and is super fun!

Spiced Pear & Pecan Charoset
*2 soft pears of your choice
*1 cup pecan meats or pieces
*2 T butter
*3 T brown sugar
*pinch of cayenne pepper
*1/2 t cinnamon
*1/4 pear juice
*1/4 cup diced red onion (optional)
*plastic or butter knife
*melon baller
*food chopper (optional)
*vegetable peeler
*wood spoon
*matzoh for eating

If your pecan meats are whole you will need to chop them up. If you have a press food chopper, you can have your kiddo get to chopping (supervised of course). If you do not have a chopper, toss nuts into a sealable bag and have your kiddo mash em with a rolling pin. While nuts are getting chopped up, add butter to a skillet and turn on medium/high heat to melt. Once nuts are melted and butter is melted, reduce heat and add nuts. Give them a stir to coat and add two tablespoons of brown sugar and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the pan and mix away with a wooden spoon.Remove from heat after five minutes or so and allow to cool.
Have your kiddo give the pears a good washing and then remove the skins with a vegetable peeler. You are the best judge to know if your child is capable of this, if not, peel the pears yourself but allow your child to cut them. Pears are soft and easily cut with a plastic or butter knife. Have your kiddo cut each pear in half and then use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds in the center. They can then cut the pear up into smaller pieces as they see fit. Place pear pieces into a small mixing bowl.

Pour a bit of pear juice into a easily pourable container that your child can hold. Allow them to measure out 1/4 cup of juice. I used a pear cider from Trader Joe's. If you cannot find pear juice, you can use apple or pomegranate or even a little wine if you wish to go the traditional route. A little juice goes a long way as the pears themselves will release a lot of juice during the mixing process. Add the measured juice to the bowl and then have your kiddo measure out the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar and the 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Add onions as well if you are using them.

 Add the candied nuts to the bowl and mash/stir it all up with a fork. You can give it an easy swirl to keep it chunky or give it a good mashing so that it is more akin to applesauxe. It's up to you and your kiddo. 

Transfer to a serving container and use as a dip for matzoh or other water crackers. It is surprisingly delicious! Find more recipes and Passover fun over at my pinterest board.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

fun with peeps


My local library is hosting a peeps diorama contest. All of  the entries are based on books. Can you guess which children's books/stories these come from? Grab yourself a shoebox, some glue, paper, pens, crayons, peeps, and your kiddos and have them construct their own. I would love to see what they come up with!

Monday, March 25, 2013

change is approaching...

While I have focused on bringing you projects and experiences for you to do with your children these last five or six years, I have to admit that I really yearn to make connections in what and how your children are really learning. I've written about it before but I am an educator at heart with a deep empowered belief in the philosophies of Fredrich Froebel,  Magda Gerber, Rudolph Steiner, and the Reggio Emilia approach. Our world is changing quickly everyday with more and more pushing towards an accelerated approach to academic learning (eegads, the things they are throwing at our kindergarteners). Tearing the curtain down, I'm hoping that by visiting here and other lovely spaces and blogs, you will find a confidence in slowing down and allowing your child to grow and develop on their own. Trust in those little brains and enormous hearts.

I have had the heartache to learn that I will not be a mother to my own children but my entire adult life has been steeped in learning and observing children at work and in their developmental stages a la Piaget, Vygotsky, Erikson, Bronfenbrenner, and the like. It is my aim to add more content on a developmental level and so now I introduce to you links from the web world that you may find interesting, astounding, reassuring, or even appalling. Not everyone will agree with these points or beliefs but I do hope that you find something that interests you and your children. Thank you from my heart for continuing this journey with me!

To begin:

*my pinterest board for developmental goodies
*a favorite blog
*an introduction to Piaget video
*a favorite picture book
*a lovely post on slowing down

Saturday, March 23, 2013

diy rainbow cakes

 I really had meant to post this BEFORE St. Patrick's Day but there was a bit of a snafu that involved canceling our internet and a dead laptop. I'm back now and I really do believe that rainbows are cause for celebration year-round, don't you? So in a nutshell, I bring you an easy diy alternative to funfetti cake which is probably less easy than using a box of funfetti mix, but your kiddos will thank you when they get to mash the fruity pebbles with a rolling pin so why not?**

*one box yellow cake mix or this recipe
*two cups fruity pebbles
*small zip-close bag
*rolling pin
*cupcake pan and liners
*heavy cream
*spoon, etc.
Place one cup of fruity pebbles into you baggie, seal and hand your kiddo a rolling pin (we used a seasonal XTREME color box of cereal). Let them roll away to create fruity dust. Follow the recipe on the back of your cake mix box or use this recipe or other favorite plain cake recipe. Before adding your eggs, oil and the rest, dump your new fruity dust into the mix or dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate. Mix well with your remaining ingredients and pour into your prepared muffin pan. Children love placing liners into the cups so let them have a go at it. 

Bake according to your recipe and allow to cool. While cooling, whip a cup (or two) of heavy cream with one tablespoon of sugar until peaks form. Don't over-sweeten it. There is plenty of sweet both in the mix and the cereal topping you are going to add. 
Once cool, set up a decorating station and allow your kiddo(s) to add a dollop of cream to their cupcake then a smattering or more of the cereal to the top. 
 Take a zillion happy photos and enjoy with your favorite milk beverage!

**the pebbles crumb up easier than the loops, they also add a super nice crunch as a topping that is of all things actually quite delicate. They were a win all around save for the mister who thought adding faux fruity anything to cupcakes was a waste; but he's just a bit grumpy like that.

Friday, March 15, 2013

st. patrick's day: rainbow leprechaun bread

I first posted about fairy bread back in 2007 to celebrate Australia Day! I've brought it back for St. Patrick's Day because rainbow sprinkles are hard to resist. This time, instead of butter, I have use creme  fraiche with a pinch of powdered sugar and an experiment in green color and frosting flavor. I think I prefer it sans the color but you can mix it up a bit if you like. In honor of St. Patrick's Day I have dubbed it Leprechaun bread, check it out! 

Leprechaun Bread:
*super soft bread 
*creme fraiche (or softened butter or other butter-like spread)
*knife for spreading
*cookie cutters
*food color or frosting color/flavoring
To make super yummy fairy bread or for now Leprechaun bread you begin with a piece of super soft sandwich bread. I used both potato bread and a soft multigrain roll I had camping out in the fridge. Like I wrote in my previous post I prefer squaw bread butfor some reason squaw bread is hard to come by and these rolls realy kinda taste just like it.  
 Dollop a spoonful of creme fraiche (or cream cheese or other spreadable bit of goodness) into a small bowl and add a smaller spoonful of powdered/confectioners sugar. Hand your kiddo the spoon andl et them mix it all up. Add a drop or two of food color if you like and get back to mixing. I had an envelope of frosting flavoring that I wanted to try but did not want to flavor the whole container of creme fraiche nor did I wish to dump the whole packet of flavoring into my dollop so I tried a pinch or two or three so the color and minty flavor barely came through. When you make your Leprechaun bread you can add more or less. My take is to add less as the sprinkles really do pack a punch.
Hand you kiddo a butter knife or plastic knife or a cheese spreader and let them cover their bread with the creme fraiche. 
Now it is time for sprinkles. Your kiddo can shake away from the container directly or you can pour the sprinkles into a small bowl and see if they can use their fingers to pinch (fine motor skills in action!) their sprinkles onto their bread.
Once sprinkled to their satisfaction, hand over a cookie cutter and let them cut out a happy shape. Metal cookie cutters work best for this but even then may not cut nice and crisp. 
To creat a peek-a-boo bit of Leprechaun bread, have your kiddo use their cookie cutter on a plain piece of bread that is then sandwiched on top of the sprinkled bread. Cut of the crusts if you must but the shape the cookie cutter makes may stretch and morph a bit. You may wish to cut crusts off right at the bat.
Try different sprinkles or larger sprinkles (like my bunny bread up there?). Add two colors of food color and try mixing colors. Oooh, flavor and color the creme fraiche with a bit of green fruit juice, experiment, have fun! 

**I picked up my creme fraiche from good old Trader Joe's. I really wanted to use clotted cream but my jar was a scary shade of fuzzy green and I couldn't find any locally to purchase (World Market was out). There are all sorts of recipes out their for creme fraiche. You could also try using greek yogurt as well.  Oh and I left out my creme fraiche to soften and it got a bit too liquidy so the pics are a little less cool than I wanted. Soften your spread a smidge so it will be easier for your kiddos to apply but not so soft it melts away. Enjoy! 

lace it up for St. Patrick's Day

There is hardly anything new to lacing up a cereal necklace for fun but here is my take on it anyway. A few years ago I did a rainbow necklace using fruity cereal for St. Patrick's Day, this time around I have tossed in some developmental goodness to the mix.
*waxed dental floss
*two bowls 
You can use any ring-shaped fruity cereal for this but to make it easier for your twos, threes, and fours, I would recommend Apple Jacks as there are only two colors for sorting and one of them is green! Set a bowl of cereal out onto the table, along with a cupcake liner or other small bowl and have your kido sort out the green loops. Sorting the small cereal pieces helps work those fine motor skills while color recognition works thos pre-math skills.
 Tie a length of waxed dental floss (floss works a little easier for lacing and won;t stick to the sugary cereal) to the eye of the needle so that your child doesn't lose the tail and tie a loop of cereal somewhere near the other end to keep the loops from falling off the floss.
  Now your kiddo can lace up their necklace to their heart's content or until they run out of green loops. 
You can also limit their necklace stringing to a specific number to help them practice their counting skills. 

Once finished, tie off the two ends (or if you are like me, use a wad of washi-tape) and pop over the top of your kiddo's (or yours) head to keep the pinches at bay! 

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

make a st. patrick's day garland ombre style I like to call it, fun with tints! I did a post on tints back in 2011 and want to revisit it for this St. Patrick's Day garland.  Not only is this garland super pretty, there are many opportunities for learning if you hand the reins over to your child or children to create it. 
*marker; any color
*white paint
*green paint
*sponge brush or large paint brush
*small container for paint
*one large sheet of paper 11"X17" or newspaper
*yarn or twine
*stapler and staples
The first thing you will want to do is set up your crafting space to allow for a mess and easy clean up. I have used oilcloth, a vinyl tablecloth and wax paper, all of which work well. Once you have your area set up with your paint, brush and paper you can begin by first folding your paper in half as many times as you can. I got four folds into my paper which was 11"X17". Teaching your child to fold the paper in half as many times as they can can trigger conversation detailing math concepts such as fractions. The physical work of folding and creasing the paper as even as possible is not as easy for little hands as it is for us grown-ups.

Next up we're going to get to painting each section of the folded paper going from a light tint to a dark or vice versa. You can begin with white paint or green paint, it doesn't matter which only that you use a LOT of paint. Well...more paint than you think you need as you will be adding to your bowl for each section of folded paper but to keep the color changing you want to make sure you have enough of your base color whichever it may be.  If you choose to begin with white, you will want it to be mostly white with a drop or two of green paint mixed in so that your white paint is the faintest of greens. 
You can refer to my original post if you like to explain what tints are to your kiddo but to get to the painting have your child paint up the first section from top to bottom or bottom to top.
Once that fold is painted, add another drop or two of your white or green paint and get to painting the next fold and so on, adding a drop of paint with each fold. 
By the time you reach the end your painted sections should go from light to dark or dark to light but still remain within the same hue...aka ombre. Set aside to dry.
 Once dry, have your child fold the painted paper in half from top to bottom or height-wise. Once folded, flip the paper over and draw a line along the fold. This will be a guide for your child to cut along. Scissors work is an important skill for young children to work on. We as adults take it for granted how easy it is to pick up a pair of scissors and get to cutting, but a youngster around 3 or 4 finds the task quite trying, especially if they have yet to figure out which hand is their dominant hand. Scissors work utilizes hand to eye coordination and develops both fine and large motor skills. Learning how to properly hold and use a pair of scissors strengthens your child's fingers which will aid in a firm grip for writing. An added benefit to scissors work with your child is that they learn how to use them properly under your guidance. Think of it as both a bonding experience and a learning adventure. 
Once your child has (or you, depending on the age of your kiddo though I encourage you to allow your three year old to practice cutting) cut the paper in half, flip it over and number each fold so that once the next batch of cutting is finished the pieces will be numbered to maintain the nifty ombre effect. Make sure to number the other half in the same order to keep it consistent.

Now we're back to folding. Have your kiddo fold each piece in half and stack in a safe place in numerical order. My paper gave me sixteen pieces. Once fold, hand your kiddo their scissors and let them fringe the edges. Fringing with scissors is usually a bit easier than cutting along a line so your child may really enjoy this part. If they have a completely different idea, let them get to it. It's remarkable what children can produce when their ideas are encouraged. 
Now it is time to assemble the garland which means your child gets to use THE STAPLER! Oh how a kiddo loves a stapler. You would be surprised how difficult stapler work is for a young child. I know you are probably thinking "What? A stapler? For my three year old? Are you kidding me?" and well, I'm not, unless you plan to hand them a stapler and then leave them alone. It goes without saying that one should never leave a young child alone with scissors, staplers, or any other sharp object. But under your guided supervision your child will joyfully staple away even when things go awry, and they usually do. To create the garland you will need a large length of yarn about six feet or so. Fold over one end and tie in a knot to create a loop of sort and place a fringed and folded piece of garland over the yarn so that it is nestled inside and give that stapler a good push. Er...have your child give the stapler a good solid pressing. Kachunk! Continue until all your pieces have been garland-fied and you are ready to hang. 
Pretty, isn't it? If you begin now you can have your child work on this in stages and be ready to hang the next day. Change out the color and you can create a garland for any holiday! Hop on over to scrumdillydilly for a grown up version which is much the same except I scalloped the bottoms and stitched it all together. Happy almost St. Patrick's Day!