Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sandwich Bread to the Rescue!

For those of you who are in the frenzy of cooking up a turkey day meal, I give you a quick project that your children can make in the kitchen with what you have on hand. My love of baking came about at a very early age. My mother spent a lot of time baking and I always wanted to be a part of it. I had little patience to wait until I was "big enough" to use the "real" kitchen tools, my mother had to be quick thinking to create a diversion so she could get dinner finished. From allowing me to help out by rolling out pie-crust to making pie crust cookies or cracking the eggs or measuring the dry goods, she was always able to include me in the fun. Here is a quick and easy faux-baking project for your wee ones to whip up while you're basting that Turkey.

Sandwich Bread Turnovers

*a couple of slices of bread, white bread works best but any soft bread will do
*melted butter
*jam or peanut butter or cream cheese for filling
*rolling pin
*clean paint brush or pastry brush
*cinnamon and/or powdered sugar

Set out your supplies so that everything is within reach.Have your wee ones cut of the crust of the bread using the scissors. Even plastic play scissors should work. For the very young, hand them a slice of bread and the scissors and let them play. Most of the bread may wind up in their mouths and what doesn't can still be used for something else.Roll each slice flat using the rolling pin. This is one of the best parts and I remember LOVING this. If you don't have a rolling pin, peel off the label of a soup can or other canned food item and wash the outside of the can thoroughly.Using the paintbrush or pastry brush, "paint" the edges of the bread with the melted butter. Your wee one can of course paint as much of the bread as they would like. If butter isn't your thing, try a wee bit of olive oil and some apple juice.Add a dollop of jam or other soft filling on one half diagonal of the bread. Fold over other half making a triangle.Using your fingers, push-seal the edges and paint on some more butter. Use the fork to crimp the edges and add a decorative flair.Sprinkle with cinnamon if you like, or powdered sugar and place on a cookie sheet. Pop into a 350F oven for about 20 minutes.Add a bit more powdered sugar, place on a fun plate, pour a glass of something yummy to drink, cut each tart in half to aid in cooling the hot filling and enjoy!While the turnovers are baking, you can ask your wee ones to cut the crusts up into small rectangles. Add them to your stuffing or make some milk toast. You can also freeze for another use. They're pretty good toasted in a pan with a dab of butter and some seasoning and then added to a bowl of soup or homemade mac & cheese.Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day: Thank-You Thank-You Thank-You

(jek & her mister are road-tripping. I'm home with Ander & Zaza...)

No matter where you stand on the current war, somebody in your life has doubtlessly made sacrifices over the years to protect you, your loved ones, and this ever-changing country of ours. Maybe Grandma was a nurse in Vietnam, or Great Grandma helped build planes during World War II. Perhaps Grandad fought in Korea, or Papa was at Normandy.

Ander and Zaza's Grandad 'drove ships' for the Navy for 25 years. Both their Poppy and his brother Great Uncle Sam were in World War II (though the War ended before Poppy's ship ever left the U.S.!).

Their beloved Uncle A is an active-duty Naval officer who has been 'over there' over and over and over since 2001. They worry a lot. They want him to be safe. And he wants to keep us all safe.

We try to never stop being grateful.

So why not send a thank you note to a Veteran today?

We started off by reading some favorite stories about
courage and chivalry, which led to a conversation about freedom, service, manners, and finally to a list of things for which we are grateful.

This deceptively simple project is also an excellent jumping-off point to discuss complicated topics including the American Revolution, the history of the Peace Movement, your own family's involvement in wars through the generations, the history and evolution of the U.S. military, etc.

You will need:

  • Paper: card stock, construction paper, origami squares, copier paper -- whatever takes their fancy. (I steered Ander and Zaza away from 'camo' patterns because, seriously, our military folks see enough of that.)
  • Markers, crayons, colored pencils

  • 5 minutes to an hour
If they want to get fancy, bring on the paints and glue sticks and collage materials (just try to keep it relatively one-dimensional for mailing and/or scanning purposes).

Keep it simple and politically neutral: happy images and an enormous "THANK YOU!!!"

Ander (7.5 years) is a peace activist, but he doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. He remembered the family story of his Grandad being spat on whilst attending college in his Navy uniform during Vietnam. He thought about drawing a bunch of children holding hands to form a peace sign, then worried about how that might be interpreted, switched gears, started an illustrated list of 'Good' and 'Bad' things about the necessity of having armed forces, found himself in another (rather weepy) moral quagmire, and finally opted to draw a special edition of his daily comic strip ("the Circus of Rock").

Zaza (4.5 years) threw herself enthusiastically into card-making: folding card stock in half! choosing favorite markers! Then she asked me to write out what she wanted to say ("Thank you for keeping us safe!") and copied out her message on the front of her card.

If you have a local friend or family member in mind, you can leave your note/drawing/card in their mail slot.

If your vets are farther-flung, scan your cards and e-mail them, or just pop them in the snail-mail for a delayed (but no less heartfelt) gratitude-a-palooza.

Or check out the
Armed Forces News Service website for all sorts of options regarding e-mailing servicemen and women who you have never met, but who would be so touched to hear from you.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Vacation Time!

Howdy folks! I will be heading out for a drive up to Portland, Oregon for a visit with friends and exploring. I'll be back on the 16th just in time for Felt Club and hope to have some new projects posted sometime later that week! Happy November!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Don't Throw That Away!...Halloween candy

I know, I're probably thinking "Why would we keep all this sugar?" but I am certain you (and your tots) will want to play around with it for a while. I don't have any pictures for you because I only have half a bag of candy corn here in the casa but I will try to dig up some links for you to look at.

Did you know you can turn your kidlet's Halloween loot into a learning experience? Sure you can! The first and easiest thing to do is to sort it. I'm not sure about your kidlets but I remember the first thing I did was sort my sweets. Since your wee ones probably already do this in their own way, take a few steps further and guide it.

Play the guessing game. Have your kidlet write down how many pieces of candy they think they have. Spend time counting it out. Count by twos, threes or fives to mix it up.

Ways to sort:
*by color
*chocolates versus others
*favorites to not-so-favorites
*by multiples

When sorting with your wee ones, don't forget to ask questions. They may come up with their very one ingenious way of sorting. After sorting, get mathematical by graphing their findings. You can use a piece of paper or some posterboard. Break out the markers and graph away.

*save the wrappers for a collage. Sort by color and make color collages.
*save any small boxes and turn them into structures or Robots like That Artist Woman.
*save the hard candies for a gingerbread house
*have an abundance of American Smarties? have your tots smash 'em up to make a "sand" art collage, or use Pixy Stix.
*save the wrappers to use in a paper maché bowl for next year

*chop up the chocolate bits and mix them into cookie batter. Freeze the rest for a later use.
*melt the hard candies into nifty lollipops or temporary sun-catchers to brighten a chilly day.
*turn the mini bars into hot chocolate (add to milk in a saucepan and stir)
*make s'mores
*add some bits to freshly popped popcorn for a special movie night
*turn it into an advent calendar like Brenda of Secret Agent Josephine did.
*decorate cupcakes or a birthday cake

A few years ago I was hanging out with some nifty kidlets just after Halloween and while they were only allowed two pieces after dinner, they did build some amazing castles with their loot. We would dump the candy onto the kitchen table and they would sort the pieces they wanted to use and stack them up and arrange them until a castle or other structure was built. Then, out game the Playmobile people or Littlest Pet Shop animals and some great imaginary play would happen. Sometimes we would imagine what would happen if we ate all the candy right then and there and other times we would make up stories about the candy. There aren't too many children who aren't enamored with sweets. Why not use them as a stepping stone to great conversations, creative & critical thinking with a few tasty treats thrown in?