Ice play is a perfect exploration/activity for a snow day, after the family has shoveled the driveway, gone sledding, built a snowman, made lots of snow angels, drank up their hot cocoa.
I put ice cube trays on the back porch on a cold night, ice cube trays full of water and generous squirts of food coloring.
In the morning, I popped out the ice, put it in the bowl, filled the ice cube trays again, repeated the freezing on back porch sessions, until I felt I had enough for a good building session.
On a snow day, I set up the ice, baking trays and gloves.
The kids aren’t sure what to do with the ice at first, so I start to build towers.
The ice is starting to melt and is too slippery to successfully stack.
The kids fill a round baking sheet by circling the out to the inside.
Then they’re done.
I see a post from Nurture Store that mentions the use of salt to fuse the ice blocks together!
How could I have forgotten!
So, the next time, there will be ice AND salt.
We have a month until Valentine’s Day, a special day, when we show our family and friends how much we love them.
To prepare for our valentine making fest, we are doing a little bit of research.
We’ve checked lots of Valentine’s Day books out from the library. (Take it from someone that puts library books away, now is the time to check them out because in another week or two, they’ll be flying off the library book shelves.)
We have our sketchpads on the table, some heart shaped stencils and cookie cutters and our favorite mark making tools.
Time to brainstorm.
In the meantime, there are tools everywhere in the playroom lately. Little K takes out the foam base and pegs.
I draw dots in the shape of a heart on a piece of paper and he hammers a nail into each dot.
With each nail he hammers, he says, “hammerin a heartsies…hammerin’ heartsies…”
You don’t have to own this set to make this work.
You can also draw the dots on a sheet of paper, lay the paper on styrofoam, and hammer real nails or some golf t-s into each dot.
See this post when the boys played with hammer and styrofoam.
Here is a list of the Valentine’s Day Books we have checked out of the library:
Valentine’s Day by Anne Rockwell
Happy Valentine’s Day Curious George by N. Di Angelo
Franklin’s Valentines by Paulette Bourgeois
Little Bear’s Valentine by Else Holmelund Minarik
The Valentine Express by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
If You’ll Be My Valentine by Cynthia Rylant
Lilly’s Chocolate Heart by Kevin Henkes
Little K has started using playdough differently lately. Instead of burying tools and vehicles, he’s started to competently roll the dough out and makes prints with tools. I wanted to set up a provocation for him while we were stuck in the house due to sick family members.
Inspired by the “After Christmas Tree,” the kids and I roll out a large slab of peppermint scented, green playdough. I cut it into a tree shape and add lots of small recycled caps to press into and decorate the tree.
We use our favorite play dough recipe and add peppermint extract. The boys press the caps into the dough, making prints, followed by carving out the shapes to create negative space. With the chunks of dough they pull out, they build other things. Little K makes Angels and Little J makes a sun.
It’s time to take down the holiday decorations.
Little J is so broken hearted, especially about taking down the tree.
We decide to put the tree on the back porch after undressing it of its ornaments.
But then, it is all plain looking, so we decide to make suet to hang like ornaments.
We have the best suet recipe. Click on the link to go back to a post where I spell out the recipe.
We pack cookie cutters with the suet and put them outside to firm up in the cold. It’s been below 20 degrees F outside the past couple of days.
We pop the suet out of the cookie cutters and tie them with twine, hanging them on the tree.
We also hang the tree with painted sticks and stones made previously from another project.
Big K says he’s seen happy birds all over the tree.
The birds come out to feed right after the sun rises.
The After Christmas Tree is a book I found amongst the Christmas books at the library. It about a family that feels the after holiday blues and finds happiness by having a winter party. At the party they go ice skating, drink hot cocoa and decorate an old christmas tree with bird food ornaments.
Little J is sick with a temperature of 103. He’s feeling pretty lazy, so I offer him a project he can do without leaving the couch.
I save lots of recyclable stuff in our art studio. We use these materials when the mood and project suits us.
Usually for sewing, a foam tray works perfectly, but, recently I’ve discovered that a clear plastic lid makes a great sewing surface.
I punch holes all around the perimeter with my hole puncher.
I also have a bag of little bits of yarn leftover from knitting projects.
We tie a length of yarn onto the lid and thread it with a kid-friendly, embroidery needle.
I choose to make this an open ended project, allowing the kids to invent a way to use the materials.
Little J practices a traditional basic stitch.
Little K crosses the middle many times, making more of an asymmetrical sunburst pattern.
We use a transparent plastic lid because light shines through it nicely, so this project would be best hung in the light of a window or in among the lights of a Christmas tree.
I set up a table at my town library with all the materials needed to create a unique snowflake.
The snowflakes will be mailed to Newtown, CT.
I just learned about a great way to fold the paper before making your design…found the instructions in a library book, Zoo Flakes ABC by Will C. Howell.
Imagine yourself standing outside, while the sky and air around you fills with snowflakes making a slow, soft, quiet world. It’s the perfect gift to give these children and teachers in Newtown, CT, who will be returning to school after this winter break.
I cried all day after hearing the news from Newton, CT.
I’m an educator.
I’m a mother.
I pray for these babies and the people who died protecting them. I hope the end came quickly and that they’re in a heaven better than any of us can imagine. I pray for this disturbed boy and for others like him that are haunted by anger and mental illness.
I thanked my son’s teachers for standing on the forefront everyday with my babies in their hands.
Even without cable, I’m hit every day since, with news and opinions and reactions to this tragedy.
Many of the opinions revolve around, how we could have stopped it: gun control, creating better policies for the mentally challenged.
Many of the opinions revolve around, how we’re going to protect our children: more guns, stricter security protocols in schools.
I’m not going to focus my energies on a false illusion of safety.
I refuse to live through my fears of what might happen.
Short of sixth sense, gun toting teachers, a sniper on every school roof top, some grand solution to mental illness, stricter gun controls…we are never perfectly safe.
The only thing we can do, is love our people.
If our lives are cut short, even if it’s before that life has hardly begun, “may we find peace no matter what we’re given.” Aruni Nun
Look at your babies.
Listen to them while they talk and focus on their work of play.
Celebrate who they are, who they might become.
Show them, the best way you can, that you love them.
Hold them, smell their sweet smells and to them, act right.
It’s the best we can do in this imperfect world.
There are some cookies that are fast and have a “low messiness” factor, that just aren’t worth the calories. There are other fussy, high-maintenence cookies, that cause you to use just about every bowl and measuring cup, spoon in the kitchen…and they are magic in your mouth.
These molasses cookies are easy and magical. It is a matter of taste too, of course. Big K’s favorite would be something that involves lots of chocolatey, chocolate, chocolate and peanut butter.
The cookie of which I drool, is the Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies from the Martha Stewart website. I’ve never particularly had much luck with Madame Martha’s recipes…there always seems to be something missing, but this one is DYNAMITE!
(I say this with my best Cookie Monster / Animal from the Muppets” impression.)
I hang out at a friend’s house with the kids, so the hubbyies could watch football.
An innocent, wonderful container of molasses cookies, all thick and chewy and molassess-y, sit on the kitchen counter.
Did you know molasses is sugar cane, reduced down to a syrup.
No wonder the ingredient is my kryptonite.
I rave so much about these cookies, my friend packs me half the container to go home, to be savored one delicious bite at a time. The family that made them, quickly got me the recipe. (Probably for fear I might bite their hand as they hand me the paper.)
Friend A and I have the morning to ourselves. He is curious about the molten, thick molasses that moves slowly in the transparent jar as we tip it back and forth. I let him dip his finger in, to answer all his questions about its consistency. He licks his finger and says, “Mmmm, tastes like chocolate and honey.”
We pick up the younger friends from school before lunch and Friend E, Friend A and Little K help me with the dishes by licking the spoons.
It’s a great recipe for kidlet helpers. They love to roll the dough into balls and then in the sugar.
We are making them today for an annual MOMS Club holiday cookie swap.
Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a shallow bowl, place 1/2 cup sugar; set aside.
With an electric mixer, beat butter and remaining cup of sugar until combined. Beat in egg and then molasses until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in dry ingredients, just until a dough forms.
Pinch off and roll dough into balls, each equal to 1 tablespoon. Roll balls in reserved sugar to coat.
Arrange balls on baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. Bake, one sheet at a time, until edges of cookies are just firm, 10 to 15 minutes (cookies can be baked two sheets at a time, but they will not crackle uniformly). Cool 1 minute on baking sheets; transfer to racks to cool completely.
Parents.com has some great advice on how to organize a cookie exchange. If you click on the link, the article also includes more delicious cookie recipes.
Here’s how the MOMS Club does it:
* An invitation is sent out via Evite about 2 weeks in advance. The whole club is invited, 60 families, but due to schedules, not everyone can make the chosen date and time. Usually 10 to 20 familes attend.
* Guests let host know, in their Evite RSVP, what kind of cookies they’re baking, so there aren’t any duplicates.
* Families are asked to bring 3 dozen cookies. Guests bring the cookies on a pretty platter, with labels for cookies, especially if there are allergens in the cookies, and especially if there is a family with a food allergy. Some groups like to exchange recipes too.
* Everyone brings an empty container for toting their selections home. (My son has a nut allergy, but Big K loves peanut buttery cookies. I bring a separate baggy for the nutty cookies.)
* We make the event a pot luck brunch. Families contribute fruit, eggy casseroles, baked sweet breads, along with their cookies.
* After snacking and schmoozing, guests circle the cookie platters and collect their share, trade recipes etc.
* The MOMS Club arranges one extra platter of cookies. We donate to the group of choice, decided among the families in attendance at the event. Last year, the platter was donated to the town Selectman, the year before, the DPW and the year previous, the police and fire department.
I’ve been working as a page at the library 3 evenings a week for about 4 months now.
I re-shelve books,
help patrons find what they need,
prep craft projects for story times
and some clerical chores.
On some nights, when I haven’t been in for a while. There are mountains of books to be put away. On those nights, I touch 100s of books.
In this way, I get to explore.
These are the Hanukkah books that are HappyLittleMesses approved.
Some are traditional tellings of the Hanukkah story.
Some are silly, more modern takes of families celebrating the holiday.
Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah is full finger plays, poems, instructions on how to play dreidel, and to dance the Hora.
Letter on the Wind by Sarah Marwil Lamstein
The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
The Runaway Latkes by Leslie Kimmelman
Confused Hanukkah by Jon Koons
Hanukkah Oh, Hanukkah: Songs and Games to Share
Inside-Out Grandma by Joan Rothenberg
I have 2 little friends that celebrate Jewish holidays at home.
They spend some time with my Christmas celebrating family during the week, and they’ve gotten caught up in the story and magic of our “Elf on the Shelf.”
They ask over and over again to tell the story.
For the holidays, I bought an “Elf on the Shelf,” and covered the red clothes with blue felt, by simply wrapping the new felt over the red and sewing it on.
I don’t have a tutorial and didn’t take pictures of the process, but I don’t have a high level of sewing skills.
I think any one could figure this one out if they’re interested in converting an elf.
Taking it one step further, my friend Paul, wrote up a little story to go along with the made over elf.
Every year round December
Something magical begins.
The nights grow longer
And leaves fly off with the winds
As the days get colder
And snow begins to blanket the park
Candles in windows begin to brighten the dark
Hanukkah is celebrated all over the world.
This is the time, I come to your home from mine in the north.
Where the skies are full of light, a lovely land.
I bring my light to you.
And to parents and elders, I lend a hand.
I count children’s good words, every thanks and Shalom.
I watch children’s good deeds (and make note when you’re bad)
And cheer when you are kind to your mom or your dad.
This season is for memories, and feelings to share
I’m around to remind you how much we all care.
Menorahs and candles, and stars made of blue and silver paper and felt
I can hear children excited for family time, good food, presents and gelt.
I’m excited for the season, and my chance to help.
But, I need your help first!
I have no name; it’s just the worst!
People call me “hey you” or sometimes “that guy”
Sometimes they wave, or just point and sigh.
Can you help me please? Any name would be fine–
Ottomer or Zed, Kizzy, Heese, or Kreine,
any name would be great
So long as it’s mine.
When you sleep in your bed, I’ll chat with your loved ones
And tell tales of your day
Your hugs and your smiles, your tantrums and trials
I’ll whisper your wishes of presents,
Your hopes and your fears
And together, we shall care for you, my dear.
I will watch every harrumph, and remember a shove
Though I tell those who watch you, I do it with love
Oh! One more thing!
You never know where I might be…
You may find me in strange places
I am stuck when you come around, you see.
When you wake, I am caught still
In the fridge, on a plant, or on a window sill.
I try to hide, which makes a fun game
Can you find me? Will I answer to my name?
I am a sensitive, magical sprite, so please do not touch.
You can talk to me though,
and you can come near
And whisper your wishes, close to my ear.
When Hannakah is done, home to land of light I must go,
I wish I could be here the rest of the year,
But this season is great, the best one for sharing
There’s no better time to display all your caring
At home and school,
With family and friends
I’m proud to watch your kindness
And when the season ends,
And I can rest without fear,
Because you’ll be wonderful
For the rest of the year.
I’ll be back next season, I can hardly wait!
But right now it is Hanukkah,
the moment to love and to celebrate!
Black beans are a staple in our home.
I am Cuban, I am made of the stuff, had it almost every night for dinner when I was a kid.
It’s oober healthy for the kids, and they mostly love it.
They go through phases when they say they don’t like it.
Here’s my recipe y’all:
1 can of black beans with liquid, my favorite is from Trader Joe’s. It’s low sodium.
My grandmother’s favorite is Goya, “Lista para comer.”
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 pepper, chopped
(I cut up a whole bunch of onions and peppers and store the extra in the freezer)
clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 can of water
Small sauce pan on the stove at medium heat.
Add oil until heated.
Add onion, pepper and garlic
Saute until golden
Add cumin, tumeric, salt and saffron
Add can of black beans and 1/4 can of water.
Mix and heat until boiling.
Turn down the heat.
Simmer for 45 minutes with the cover on the pot.
Serve on top of rice.