Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gingerbread Waffles

In my opinion, Rachael Ray's recipe for Gingerbread Waffles is the best of the best.  They are so good, and they smell like Christmas!  I topped them with homemade cinnamon whipped cream as a special lunch today.

Maybe not the healthiest lunch, but they do have pumpkin in them, so they are not all bad!  They sure are delicious!  Here is Rachael's recipe:


3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, eyeball it
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter, plus some to butter the iron
Syrup, whipped cream or fresh fruits for topping, to pass at table
Preheat waffle iron.
In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar until fluffy, then beat in pumpkin, milk, molasses and melted butter. Stir the wet into dry until just moist. Do not over-stir the waffle batter. Brush the iron with a little melted butter and cook 4 waffles, 4 sections each. Serve with toppings of choice.

Gingerbread Play Dough

I love to make homemade play dough.  This week, I used my favorite play dough recipe and added spices to make it smell like gingerbread.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the way this play dough came out; it looks and smells fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is the recipe:
1 c. flour
1/2 c. salt
1 T. cooking oil
1 T. cream of tartar
1 c. water
spices (I used ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice - I didn't measure them, just put in some of each.  I used quite a bit because I really wanted it to smell good and I wanted the spices to turn the dough brown too.)
food coloring (I did not use food coloring for this dough; the spices took care of that!  If you want to make the dough darker - more like gingerbread, you could mix red and green food coloring to turn the dough brown.)

I measured the ingredients into a nonstick pot and stirred until well mixed.  Then I cooked it over medium heat until the dough pulled away from the sides and formed a ball.  I dumped it out onto a cutting board and once it was cool enough to touch, I kneaded it until smooth.

I gave C and R gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters and rolling pins to play with this dough.  I also gave them beads to decorate their gingerbread boys and girls.  On the recommendation of a friend (who happens to be C's Kindergarten teacher from last year) I warm the dough in the microwave before giving it to C and R.  It makes it even more enjoyable!!!!!!!!!!!

Here are two more of our favorite gingerbread books:

The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires features a cowboy hat and boots wearing gingerbread man in the wild wild west who runs from the rancher, the javelinas, and cattle, but finds himself in trouble when he meets a coyote.

The Library Gingerbread Man by Dotti Enderle is about the Gingerbread Man escaping from his place at 398.2 on the library shelves and leading other literary figures and the librarian on a crazy chase through the library.  I think this book is a cute way to teach kids about the Dewey decimal system.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Gingerbread Boy and a Gingerbread Girl

We have been reading The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone and The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst.
I thought it would be fun for C and R to become a gingerbread boy and a gingerbread girl.

First, I traced their outlines on brown craft paper.  The outlines were not perfect AT ALL, but they didn't seem to mind.

They used markers and crayons to decorate the gingerbread boy and gingerbread girl.  This activity took most of Sunday afternoon and they both had a lot of fun creating their gingerbread selves.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Zooberific Thanksgiving

We hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year.  It was my first time hosting and I really enjoyed it.  I felt so June Cleaverish.  It was also the first time I ever cooked a turkey, and I completely forgot to take a picture of it.  I take pictures of everything and I forgot that.  Oh well, in all reality, my mother-in-law did all of the work preparing and cooking the turkey.  I just observed and poured salt in her hands and whatever else she needed, so next year when I do it myself, I'll take a picture. 

The point of this post, however, is that as I looked at the pictures I took yesterday, I noticed that more than half of them feature Zoob building pieces!  If you have never heard of Zoob, the pieces are really cool building toys that my kids love.  Zoob pieces click together in many different ways, and because the pieces move, they can become just about anything. 

Zoobs became jewelry

and Zoobs became robots.

Cool Zoob creations were built with an uncle

and an aunt.

It was most definitely a Zooberific Thanksgiving!  AND, since it is the season of shopping for presents, our family recommends Zoob!  We have the 125 piece building set that I linked to several times in this post, but I am thinking that we could use some more! 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Click here for turkey cupcake directions.  I changed it a bit by using Swedish Fish for the snood, but the rest is the same.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crazy for Cranberries

I walked by the book Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin many times without even considering it.  The cover did not appeal to me at all.  Then I saw the book mentioned on Almost Unschoolers and decided to give it a chance.  The interesting thing about all of this is that the book is all about not judging people by their appearance, or, you could say, not judging a book by it's cover.  I also used the book as an opportunity to talk to my children about the fact that some strangers may look nice but not act nice and they should never go anywhere with a stranger no matter how nice they appear to be.  I use every opportunity to get that message across to them.

There is also a recipe for cranberry bread at the end of the book, and when a fictional book has a recipe, I have to try it.  There is an option to put raisins in the bread, but we made ours all cranberry.  If I knew the kids would not like it (they took one bite and said, "yuck"), I probably would have added walnuts to the recipe.  Actually, chocolate chips would be good in the bread too.  This reminds me of my favorite ice cream made at a local creamery; they call it Cranberry Bog and it is cranberry ice cream with walnuts and chocolate chips.  It is SO good!  Anyway, my husband and I both enjoyed the cranberry bread! 

I posed a few questions to the kiddos while we were waiting for the bread to bake:
  1. Do you think cranberries bounce?
  2. Do you think cranberries will float or sink?
  3. What do you think cranberries look like on the inside?

We had fun hypothesizing and then testing each hypothesis.  Cranberries were rolling all over the kitchen.
Because we were bouncing cranberries, I had to pull out our copy of Clarence:  The Cranberry Who Couldn't Bounce by Jim Coogan.

We actually met the author when he came  to our local public library for a special story hour about two years ago.  The book is a nice way to talk about perseverance. 

After making the bread, I had a few cranberries left over and I could not resist making a batch of cranberry tinted pink play dough.  

I used my favorite play dough recipe and followed the cranberry steeping directions from Almost Unschoolers.  I just poured boiling water over a 1/4 cup of cranberries and let it sit for a while.  Then I stuck it in the microwave for a minute or two to get the most color from the cranberries.  I used the cranberry dyed water in this recipe:

1 c. flour
1/2 c. salt
1 T. cooking oil
1 T. cream of tartar
1 c. cranberry dyed water
1 t. extract (I used vanilla; see comment below)
1 t. glitter (optional)
food coloring (I did not need food coloring for this dough; the cranberries took care of that!  R loved the pretty bubblegum pink color!)

I measured the ingredients into a nonstick pot and stirred until well mixed.  Then I cooked it over medium heat until the dough pulled away from the sides and formed a ball.  I dumped it out onto a cutting board and once it was cool enough to touch, I kneaded it until smooth.

I knew from Almost Unschoolers' experience that there would be no cranberry fragrance, so I added some vanilla extract just because I like the dough to smell good.

We might have to continue the cranberry fun because I saw that there is a Cranberry Christmas book by the same authors as the Cranberry Thanksgiving book!  FYI:  the cranberry is the state fruit of Massachusetts (our home state)!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Native Americans

C has been learning about Native Americans in school.  He corrected his sister when she used the term "Indian" a few days ago; he said, "Indians live in India, that person in the book is a Native American".  He was not quite as calm as the sentence suggests though.

C is very interested in the Native American picture dictionary he received from his teacher.  I managed to find the same one online, so click here if you are interested.  We have been using the dictionary to write messages to each other with crayons on sandpaper.

I also printed the Native American paper dolls from the same site that had the Pilgrim paper dolls. Again, I laminated them for durability.

We read the book, Squanto's Journey:  The Story of the First Thanksgiving.  This book is told from Squanto's point of view and is historically accurate.  R is a bit young for this book, but she listened to most of it; C enjoyed it.

I am going to write another message for C now before he comes home from school!  Try the picture dictionary; I bet you will have fun with it too!

Pilgrim Dolls

We had a Mayflower, but no Pilgrims, so we had to get to work.  I found paper dolls and Pilgrim outfits at MakingFriends.com.  I love the paper dolls there.  They are bald and you can choose from a variety of different hair styles.  They also have a lot of different outfits to choose from.  C and R colored their dolls and the outfits.  R's pilgrim is a bit more colorful than any pilgrim I have ever seen.  C, of course, decided to go the traditional route.  Then we glued the outfits on and I laminated the dolls for durability.  I own a laminating machine, so I tend to laminate things often.

If you are looking for an activity for the kids to do on Thanksgiving, it would be cute to have the dolls and outfits out for them to color.  I would recommend printing them on card stock, but paper would certainly be fine.  You can also print out Native American paper dolls at the same site.

We have been reading The Story of Thanksgiving by Nancy J. Skarmeas.  This is a great book for preschoolers.  It tells the story of the first Thanksgiving in very simple language, but unlike most of the preschool Thanksgiving books I have read, it includes the fact that the Pilgrims came to America seeking religious freedom. 

While C and R played with their Pilgrims, C was telling R that most of the Pilgrims did not survive the first winter.  This made me think of the amazing Pilgrim study that Almost Unschoolers posted.  I think I have to try to fit it in over the next week.  Click on my link and check it out; you will be impressed.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Some of you may have noticed the MadJaxx button on my blog. MadJaxx is an online bookstore and so much more.  I have known two of the founders for several years now; they live in my town and have young children around the ages of my children.  Recently, one of the founders that I know (the one who built the site) suffered a seizure and is waiting for a diagnosis of his condition.  His current medical condition prevents him from working, but the partners are trying to raise funding to hire developers to continue the work he was doing to make MadJaxx even better than it is now.

If you plan on purchasing books for presents this year, please visit MadJaxx and purchase your books there.  They have a great variety of books for people of all ages and carry all of the New York Times Bestsellers, great new and self-published authors, a great selection of  books for children and MORE!

Please tell your friends about MadJaxx, like MadJaxx on Facebook, and consider making a purchase.

*In the interest of full disclosure, if you click through to MadJaxx from my blog and make a purchase, I may receive a small percentage of those sales. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pilgrim Hats

I'm sure you have seen these pilgrim hat treats before.  T and C love them.  R doesn't really like marshmallows.  Actually, she doesn't really like sweets.  She likes the idea of sweets, but one or two bites is usually enough for her.  She has a very sophisticated palate. 

Anyway, to make the pilgrim hats, I place Keebler Fudge Stripe cookies upside down on a plate.  Then, I melt chocolate (I used chocolate chips and followed the melting directions on the package) and roll large marshmallows in it until they are covered.  I place one chocolate covered marshmallow on each cookie and then stick a yellow m&m candy on each hat (this is the buckle).  I usually stick them in the fridge for about fifteen minutes because it speeds up the hardening of the chocolate.  Sometimes (like today), I wait until the chocolate is hard and stick the candy on with a tiny bit of frosting.  That way the candy stays yellow instead of getting chocolate smudges all over it.

Turkey Story Hour and Easy Thanksgiving Place Card Holders

I hosted a fun Thanksgiving story hour at our favorite local coffee shop.  The theme was turkeys!  We read two turkey books:

  • 10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston - a fun rhyming and countdown book about ten silly turkeys on a fence
  • Setting the Turkeys Free by W. Nikola-Lisa and Ken Wilson-Max - a young boy's handprint turkeys take on a life of their own and he has to save them from Foxy the fox
Usually, we just read books and make something fun, but this month I added a few turkey songs that I found at 1+1+1=1.  There is also a printable there for this super funny turkey with feathers that can be added to his back.

I printed it out, laminated the turkey and the feathers, and then hot glued clothespins to the back of the feathers.  I gave each  child a feather and when I said the color of the feather he or she was holding, he or she came up and clipped on the feather.  The kids really seemed to enjoy that.

Our craft was a turkey place card holder.  To make one, you need:
  • one coffee filter
  • washable markers
  • spray bottle with water
  • one clothespin
  • a tiny bit of red craft foam
  1. First, use markers to color the coffee filter.  Just scribbling is fine and you want to leave some areas uncolored.  Also, using different colors will create prettier turkey feathers.
  2. Once you are done coloring, spray the coffee filter so that it is damp.  This will make the colors run - so pretty!  Lay it on paper towels to let it dry.
  3. On the end of the clothespin that clips, draw eyes and a beak.  (You could use googly eyes, but you need the really tiny ones and we only had the big ones.)  It's important that you draw the face on the end of the clothespin that clips so that it can hold your card!!!!
  4. Cut a snood out of the red craft foam and glue it onto the clothespin.  You could use construction paper.
  5. When the coffee filter is dry, fold it in half.  Now you have the turkey's feathers.  Glue your clothespin turkey to the feathers.  You want the clothespin to stand up, so position it so that the coffee filter is even with or a tiny bit above the bottom of the clothespin.  
  6. I folded index cards in half and stuck them in the clip part.  You can write names on the cards for place card holders, or just make one and write "Happy Thanksgiving" or draw a thumb's up like R did. 

I forgot my camera (grrrrr...) so I didn't take any cute pictures of my story hour friends this month!  My friend, Robin, was kind enough to take a few pics of the kids but because I wasn't taking pictures, I forgot to get permission from the other moms to post them.  (Scatterbrain this month!)  So, I only have two photos that I have permission to post.   

Thank you to all of the moms and children who attended story hour, and super big thanks to Cuppers Cafe for providing a great space and free hot chocolate for all of the kiddos!

I am linking this to stArt at A Mommy's Adventures, Read.Explore.Learn at JDaniel4's Mom, and What My Child is Reading at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Dinosaur Tamer

If you are studying the fifty states like we are, you should check out The Dinosaur Tamer by Carol Greathouse.  This is an action packed book about Rocky, the best dinosaur tamer that ever lived.  Taming dinosaurs was pretty easy work for Rocky until he met T.Rex.  T. Rex was quite the challenge, but Rocky was not the type to give up. 

This adventure crosses many western states and mentions landmarks from the Mississippi River to the Olympic Rain Forest and Mojave Desert. We read this book while studying the state of Utah, so C and R both liked the reference to the Great Salt Lake.

This is one of those fictional books that has an element of geography for young children while also managing to entertain them with a fun story.  There is even a map of dinosaur tracks through the states.

We made our own dinosaur tracks across the western states.

I printed maps of the United States  and put them out with a giant ink pad and a toy dinosaur.  Then as I read the book, I would direct C and R where to place the dinosaur tracks.  They made the tracks by stamping the dinosaur in the ink and then putting it down on the map.

They got a bit carried away, but who cares?!  They had fun and we practiced finding a few states on the map!!

I am linking this to Geography & History at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Mayflower

Thanksgiving Day by Anne Rockwell is a great introduction to why we celebrate Thanksgiving.  The story is told by Charlie, a student in Mrs. Madoff's class.  The teacher reads the class a story about the first Thanksgiving and the class acts out the story.  Each student has a role and explains why he or she is thankful.  For example, Charlie is the Mayflower and he is thankful that he tossed and rolled, but did not sink in the waves.  We really like the book and recommend it!

After reading it several times, we decided to make our own Mayflower.  I cut a boat shape out of a large piece of cardboard.  C and R worked together to make it look like the Mayflower replica in the book.

They used markers and paint to add details.

Using packaging tape, we attached wooden dowels to the back of the boat.  The sails are just copy paper that we affixed to the dowels by poking holes through the paper.  Finally, we taped on some construction paper flags.  

Do you like all of the barrettes in R's hair?  This is her new favorite look.  I don't have the heart to tell her it looks crazy.
C and R both like the size of our Mayflower.  They are having fun playing with it.