Tag Archives: cooking

Celebrating Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day will be a little different for us. We usually celebrate it by making or preparing Valentines during the day, then surprising each other with them at suppertime. Our grandma comes over for a special meal, and we end the day with a lot of chocolate.

This year, however, my husband will be working late, so the kids and I have been wondering what to do. The consensus is that we’ll have a special Valentine’s Day snack instead of a supper during the few minutes in the afternoon he can come home so he won’t miss it. And we’ll still end the day with chocolate. 🙂

There are lots of ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Find picture books at the library about St. Valentine, or look up information about him online. Share his story with your children.
  • Spend some time baking together!  Make Valentine’s Day treats from scratch with your kids. You can find all sorts of recipes to try at KidsCookingActivities.com and Kaboose.com.
  • Decorate a room in your house – Cut out paper hearts and tape them around the room. Our favorite room is our kitchen, and the paper hearts are going up all over the windows. Have the kids write messages on the hearts or the names of the people they love.
  • Create homemade cards for grandparents or neighbors.
  • Make valentines to share with the residents of the local nursing home or for children in the hospital.
  • Write a letter to a friend you don’t see very often.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Late for Christmas?

I envisioned this December much differently. We would finish up with schoolwork early in the month, then sit back and enjoy all the sights and sounds of the holiday season. We’d spend a day baking cookies for a friend’s cookie swap party, work on Christmas crafts together, look at the  various holiday light shows, and make some handmade gifts. And I would actually get my Christmas cards out on time this year.

But like everything else lately, Christmas hasn’t come like I thought it would. Our tree still isn’t up. The house isn’t decorated. We haven’t been out to look at the lights. I didn’t make any gifts. And I can’t even seem to locate our advent calendar.

Just days after we arrived home from a Thanksgiving visit with family, my oldest daughter had to go into the hospital with a ruptured appendix. Though my husband was able to get time off so we could take turns sitting with her, things at home fell further behind. It’s as if I’ve spent the last week or so just trying to catch up — trying not to be late for Christmas.

But it’s never too late to consider the real meaning of Christmas. That amid the hustle and bustle of holiday “have-tos”, the reason for the celebration is still there — the birth of Jesus, God’s Son come to earth.

And while we can remind ourselves, we can remind our children, too. Snuggle on the couch and read a Christmas story book. Set up (and even play with) a nativity scene together. Help them wrap a gift for a needy child in your church or neighborhood.  Talk about what it must have been like for Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men as your driving in the car.

So even if the mistletoe isn’t up, the stockings aren’t hung, and the lights aren’t blinking on the lawn, you’re not late for Christmas; any time we think about God’s wondrous gift is the right time.

Fun in the Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year, and it always goes by way too fast. If you’re like me, and the new school year of lessons, projects, and activities have kept you busy, here are a few ways you can take a moment (or a day) to step back and enjoy the season with your children:

Crafts:

My kids love crafts – and I do, too! While you may have thought of doing leaf rubbings, here are a few sites with even more ideas:

Family Fun – On this site, you’ll find thanksgiving cards, a leaf mobile, and more great ideas for fall.

Busy Bee Kids Crafts –  Crafts on this site include an autumn tree collage, pumpkin lollipops, a paper bag scarecrow, and apple stamping.

The Crafty Crow –  with links to other craft sites, at The Crafty Crwo you’ll find directions for creating a leaf picture alphabet, melted crayon autumn leaves, a plastic bottle owl, and marbled shaving cream autumn leaves.

At Danielle’s Place, you’ll find plenty of turkeys for Thanksgiving, including  several paper plate turkey and a turkey potholder.

 

Picture Books:

When the weather becomes a little cooler, it’s the perfect time to snuggle up together with a good picture book. Here are a few of our fall favorites:

Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming

Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

In November by Cynthia Rylant

Countdown to Fall by Fran Hawk

 

Our family also has a few favorite activities we love to do year after year. They include: pumpkin picking, apple picking, attending fall festivals, having backyard picnics, and flying kites. This fall, we’re also going to explore a corn maze and cook up some yummy desserts. What does  your family  do to celebrate fall?

Read, Write, and Learn…With DevoKids!

About a year ago, I first found out about DevoKids.com, a fun and safe site for students. Part of Christian Devotions Ministries, DevoKids’ mission is to entertain children while sharing with them the love of Christ. There’s so much for kids to read and learn about — and they can even contribute, too!

Devotionals are posted weekly on the site, and each one is based on a particular scripture or passage. The link “Music Dudes and Divas” contains articles about different types of music and various musicians.  In “DaVinci’s Playground,” kids will find ideas for crafts and experiments. There are also links for puzzles and games, cooking ideas, nature and history articles, and money tips.

And there’s more! You’ll find two writing sections to the website, “The Write Buzz” and “Write Now!” In “The Write Buzz”, award-winning author and teacher Christopher Maselli answers questions about writing, while the “Write Now!” column features tips for kids by published authors such as Margot Finke, Carol Baldwin, Donna Shepherd, and Patti Shene.

One of my favorite features of DevoKids is that the site is open to submissions from students, too! What can kids send in? They may choose to write devotions, or they can give directions for making their favorite recipes. If they’ve found a good way to earn money, they can send that in, too. DevoKids is also looking for students with stories about saving, tithing, investing, and giving. Or, if your child has an idea that would fit in the music column, he can submit that as well.

DevoKids is constantly adding new articles, so it’s a site to return to again and again. And because it has so many opportunities for children to learn, create, and grow, you’ll want to do just that.

DevoFest 2011

Although the  concert didn’t turn out quite as I expected, the conference had a lot to offer parents at all stages in their homeschooling adventure. Speakers were helpful and informative, and the vendors offered curriculum, products, and opportunities for students in elementary through high school. One of those opportunities is DevoFest.

Held at the Ridgecrest Coference Center in North Carolina, this three-day conference (June 17, 18, and 19) is designed to encourage students to discover and develop their interests in writing, film, and public speaking. There are three age-specific tracks: the Kid Track for ages 7-9, the Tween Track for age 10-12, and the Teen Track for ages 13-17, and everything is presented from a Christian worldview.

Younger children in the Kid Track can participate in classes in drama, science, and creative cooking. Activities include exploring DaVinci’s Playground, bear walks, lazer tag, experiements, and more.

Students in the Tween and Teen Tracks can join in workshops for writing a novel, creating a graphic novel, acting, script-writing, story-telling, and producing a film.   Public speaking for the teens also includes lessons on the art of stage presence, dynamic deliveries, and how to create compelling talks that leave audiences waiting for more.

The list of faculty members for this event is impressive. It includes:

  • Zena Dell Lowe from Skirt Films
  • Award-Winning Authors Steven James, Michelle Adams, Ann Tatlock, and Vonda Skelton
  • Authors Jenny L. Cote, Diane Wolfe, Time Shoemaker, Eddie Jones, Cindy Sproles, Terri Kelly, and Tom Bailey.

And what’s more, you can make this a family event! Housing and meals are available through the conference center. So while your children are learning in the workshops, you can be relaxing and enjoying the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

So if you’re looking for something to spark your child’s creativity this summer, consider DevoFest. It’s not only fun — it’s an investment in your child.

 

Resolutions for the New Year

There are a few times each year when I feel like I can have a real fresh start — those “magical” dates for reordering life and restructuring how I do everything. One is my birthday, because I’m embarking on another year; one is the first day of the school year, which fortunately comes just weeks after my birthday, in case I didn’t get off to such a good start; and the third is New Year’s Day, especially if the fall months didn’t go quite as planned.

So each new year, I make resolutions, write out lists, develop more detailed schedules. But by mid-January, I’m usually ready for a new “fresh start.”

This year, I’m going to try something new, an idea I read in the book Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist. In one of the chapters, the author describes her tendency to pressure herself into not only doing everything, but doing everything BETTER. It was then she decided to write down a list of things she wouldn’t do — activities that, while productive and good to do, weren’t necessarily the ones SHE should be doing.  By following this list, not only did she excuse herself from activity overload, but she allowed herself time for the things that mattered most to her.

So, for this New Year, here’s my list of things I’m not going to do:

(Please note: These are all great things to do, and for that reason I usually pressure myself into doing them, or I feel guilty if I don’t. And they may be just what you are good at or what you want to do this year. Likewise, your “Do Not Do” list may have things that I enjoy doing.)

  • I’m not going to plant a garden. Okay, I have yet to plant a full garden anyway. But we live in the country and have the room, so every spring I feel like we should be planting rows and rows of vegetables. This year, instead, I’m going to concentrate on growing some cherry tomatoes in pots.
  • I’m not going to try to can my own jellies or vegetables. I have tried this one, and though many people around me like to can, I just don’t. But I don’t mind supporting the little shop down the street that sells local jelly.
  • I’m not going to landscape. I love looking at homes with beautiful yards, and I wish our yard looked like that. We even have an area beside our house that would be perfect for a flowerbed. So this year, I think we’ll throw our some wildflower seeds and just see what grows.
  • I’m not going to hang laundry on the line. Though it would save on the power bill, clothes I put on the line usually end up being left there for a day or two… or three. Then I have to wash them all over again.
  • I’m not going to clip a lot of coupons. I’ve tried couponing this year, and while I saved a lot of money, it was very time consuming for me. So this year, I’m only clipping out coupons for laundry detergent, cereal, yogurt, and pet food. Otherwise, I’ll just shop the sales.
  • I’m not going to make hot lunches. Cooking is not my forte, so I’ll save the hot meal for suppertime. After all, a good sandwich can be very tasty.
  • I’m not going to mail birthday cards to extended family and friends. While I did this one year and it was a lot of fun, the family has grown since then to 40+ people. I’ll call or email them instead.

Instead of doing these things, I’m going to enjoy more time with my children doing crafts, putting puzzles together, and playing games. What’s on your “Do Not Do” list?

Cooking Up Something Sweet

The holidays are the perfect time for trying out new recipes, especially with your children! There are simple recipes for desserts to share with friends and neighbors, as well as foods you can make to give as gifts. If holiday baking with your family is part of your plans this week, here are some websites to check out:

Families Online Magazine – This site features treats you can make with your children, including Candy Cane Cookies and Popcorn Snowmen.

Family Fun – Family Fun is one of my favorite magazines, and one of my favorite websites too. Here you’ll find recipes for advent calendar cookies, cookie kids, and dancing gingerbread people.

Dreams Alive Magazine
– On the page featuring Christmas crafts and cookies just for kids, you’ll find the directions for making chocolate coffee spoons with peppermint and a Christmas chocolate kiss tree. There’s also a recipe for gingerbread cookies in a jar, a nice gift kids can give to relatives or neighbors.

Easy Kids Recipes – While this site has a few interesting recipes posted by the author, there are many, many more on the “Cookie Recipe Contest Page.”  Just click on the link, and you’ll be directed to the 2010 winning recipes as well as 40+ other recipes to try.

Apples4TheTeacher – There are quite a few ads on this site, but once you close them you’ll find a number of tasty recipes, including chocolate fudge and candy cane marble.

NorthPole.com – You’ll find lots of recipes for baking with kids here, so many that they are divided into categories: cookies, cakes, pies, candy and fudge, breads, and other recipes.

Kids Cooking Activities – This is one of my favorite sites for cooking with kids, and they have a page dedicated to Christmas cookies too. Visit this site for the basic sugar cookie recipes for making cut-out cookies, as well as the directions for making jam-filled wreaths, reindeer cookies, and gingerbread men.

Photo by cohdra

Easy-Strawberry-Recipes.com

This past month, we’ve been to the strawberry farm twice for strawberries, once to pick them ourselves and another time just to purchase them. Even though it’s already June, fresh strawberries are still available at the farm and roadside markets. If you have extra berries in your refrigerator or freezer and aren’t quite sure what to do with them, visit the website Easy-Strawberry-Recipes.com.

I stumbled upon this clean and easy-to-use site not long ago. It’s a great resource for anyone who loves to cook and loves eating strawberries. Here you’ll find breakfast recipes for smoothies, muffins, jams, waffle toppings, pancakes, and crepes. Click on the “salads” link and you’ll find a number of fruit salad recipes, as well as ones for different types of Jello salads. There’s even a recipe for Strawberry Turkey Pasta Salad!

And, of course, there are dessert recipes listed as well. You’ll find directions for making strawberry cheesecake, strawberry cakes, strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, and strawberry cookies. There are also instructions for strawberry ice cream and strawberry sorbet, as well as strawberry milkshakes and strawberry punch.

Often when I’m in a rush, I find myself preparing the strawberries and making the dishes myself. If you find yourself in a similar situation, just place the strawberries in your refrigerator until you have a little more time. Then, invite your children to come help you. Show them how to rinse the berries, pat them dry, and remove the caps. Choose a recipe you will all enjoy, and take them through the steps in preparing it. Show them how to mix, measure, stir, and blend. You’ll find that even young children like the challenge of following a recipe.

With some strawberries, a little time, and recipes such as those on Easy-Strawberry-Recipes.com, not only will you be able to cook delicious food to eat, but you’ll create a learning opportunity as well as make a memory with your children — and all at the same time!

Pizza Day

Pizza_6Once a week, a friend of mine organizes a special day for fellow homeschoolers she knows. It might be a science day, when we try a few experiments, or it might be a field trip to a bakery or nature park. Sometimes she hosts a holiday celebration. While my family isn’t to attend the event every week, we are usually able to attend the get-togethers held at her house. And this week, we all met for Pizza Day.

Every family that was able brought in some pizza dough, whether it was homemade or frozen or pre-made from the grocery store. Some of the dough was whole wheat while other dough had been mixed with parmesan cheese. We also brought along our favorite toppings: pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, feta cheese, pepperoni, sausage, bell peppers, hot peppers, mushrooms, onions, barbecue sauce, chicken, pineapple, coconut — if it sounded tasty, someone had brought it along.

Then came the best part. The tables were covered with baking pans coated with cooking spray, and the children got to work. First they decided which dough they would use, then they flattened it in the pan using either their hands or a roller. Then they chose their toppings. When the children were finished, they compared creations, and one by one the pans went into the oven.

Although everyone didn’t eat at the same time (there was a constant rotation of cooking sheets with pizzas on them going in and out of the oven), all enjoyed their personal pizzas and shared slices with each other. There was so much pizza, in fact, that we even took some of the extra home with us.

Pizza Day not only provided us with a great lunch, but it gave the kids some hands-on cooking experience and the moms time to visit. All in all, I’d say Pizza Day was a huge success!

Homeschool Resolutions

New_YrsAlthough it seems I’m always assessing how well our schooling is going, there are generally two times of the year when I make big changes. The first is in August, as I plan for the new school year, and the second comes at the end of December, before school starts again after the holidays. Now, for the new year, I have several homeschooling resolutions:

1. Focus more on school during school time: I tend to get easily distracted with “life” during the school hours, so naturally, my children become distracted as well. For me, this resolution means that I’ll be unplugging the phone and leaving the computer off until after lunch.

2. Include more of the fun stuff: Some days, it seems that it’s all we can do to get the academics covered well. But part of the joy of homeschooling is being able to explore, investigate, and create together. Whether it’s taking nature walks, working on projects, or trying out new recipes, I want enjoyable activities to be a regular part of our school days.

3. Get dad involved: My husband has a full-time job during the day and then works a few extra hours a couple of nights a week. It’s hard to imagine that he’d have time to help out with the schooling, but there are some easy (and relationship-building) things he can do with our children. He can snuggle up with them on the sofa and listening to them read, or he can choose a story to read to them. Or, he could call out a few of those math facts while they sip cocoa together. Either way, the children would enjoy spending that time with him.

4. Make the most of trips: Because we have a lot of extended family living within a day’s driving distance, we often travel to visit and spend time with them. This year, we’ll make the most of those trips by using each one as the focus of a unit study. Before we go, we’re going to research our destination, locate it on the map, and trace our travel route.

All in all, I think it’s going to be a good year. Are you making any changes in 2010?