Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Autumn Wreaths





Autumn is a wonderful time of year to explore the outdoors.  I love to take the children on long walks around the neighborhood.  We find all kinds of leaves, acorns, seedpods, corn husks, feathers, and more.  Nature has a plethora of goodies just laying around for the taking.

I gave each child a bucket or bag to fill with their treasures as we walked.  It always amazes me what the children find or deem valuable enough to keep.  Their loot is carefully chosen and identified.  I delight when a 3 year old can tell if a leaf came from an oak, maple, or cottonwood tree.  It is remarkable how observant children are (if we let them be).

This year, I took our nature walk to another level.

We lugged home our brimming bags of twigs and leaves to create autumn wreaths for their parents.  This let the children display their goodies and create a fun craft.  The wreaths look amazing-  I had the children make me three to hang in my dining room windows!

I love this craft and was excited to see something similar featured in the Family Fun Magazine I received in the mail.  They used colorful fall leaves for their backdrops and the colors really popped as they hung against the rustic barn.  What a great use of nature's bounty!



To make an autumn wreath of your own, you will need the following:
  • sturdy cardboard
  • plate
  • scissors
  • hot glue
  • hot glue gun
  • dried leaves, sticks, flowers, acorns, etc.
  • dried corn husks (we saved some from the sweet corn we froze during the summer)
  • yarn or ribbon
Here is how we constructed our decorations:
  • Decide on the size of wreath you want to make.  Choose a plate that is about that size and trace it on your sturdy cardboard.  Take a smaller plate or lid and trace it in the middle of the large circle.

  • Carefully, cut out the circles.  This will create your wreath's base.
  • Plug in the hot glue gun and chose the best corn husks.
  • Glue your corn husks around the circumference of your base.
  • Next, add different elements from your walk.

  • Secure the leaves, sticks, seedpods, etc. firmly with the hot glue.
  • Attach a ribbon or piece of yarn around the wreath so you can hang it.
  • Display your wreath on the front door or in a window.
Do you have any crafts that are perfect for the fall?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Franken-Cups!



These little monster cups are what we dished up for snack today.  The boys and girls loved the creepy green pudding and the crunchy cookie topping.   It was frighteningly good! 

I ran across these simple treats on pinterest or in a magazine.  I can't recall the source of inspiration, but what a neat idea!  The boys enjoyed this treat so much, that they were carted to Scout meetings and over to the neighbor's house.

Make sure you assemble plenty of these pudding cups-  the more the scarier!

To make these fun snacks you need the following:
  • vanilla pudding (pistachio pudding or green Jell-O would also work) 
  • milk
  • green food coloring
  • chocolate cookies
  • small clear cups
  • permanent marker
To finish these delicious bites, you need to:
  • simply draw "Frankenstein" faces onto clear cups-  include a stitched scar and a few bolts on the neck
  • prepare the pudding and tint it a scary green
  • fill your cups with the green pudding about 3/4 of the way up
  • refrigerate
  • before serving, crush the cookies and sprinkle on top of the pudding for hair
  • serve and dig up a bite!

Do you have any fun and easy treats to make for Halloween?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Caramel Apples



 
This year, the apple trees have been loaded with wonderful fruit.  The apples are large and almost perfect-  they are a far cry from the misshapen and wormy blobs from last year.  The children and I have been picking away-  so far we have yielded at least 3 baskets! 

Naturally, the children want to take advantage of this opportunity to convince me caramel apples are a much needed snack! 

Who can blame them?

Not I!

So, I thought I would write an introduction on how we make simple caramel apples.  You can keep your apple old school or indulge your senses with chocolate, candies, cookies, and more drizzled over the sticky coating.  Get creative and enjoy making a mess. 

In my book, Autumn is the best time of year to enjoy a tart apple dripping down your chin!



To make these easy apples you will need:


  • 6-10 small clean apples at room temperature (DO NOT use cold apples-  the caramel won't stick and you will have an epic fail on your hands!)
  • 1 bag wrapped caramels
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • spoon
  • 6-10 popsicle sticks or skewers
  • wax paper/foil lined cookie sheet or pan



Here is how we made several batches of this fall treat:
  • Unwrap the caramel candies.  This is a perfect activity for little hands-  it develops fine motor skills and saves you the hassle of the tedious task.
  • In a microwave safe bowl, melt the caramels and two tablespoons of water.
  • Place a stick in each apple.  I like to let the apple stand and position the stick so it is upright.  Occasionally, the stem is not the true center and you will get "crazy" sticks if you don't adjust for wobbly apples.
  • Use a spoon to scoop caramel over the apples.  You will want an even coating.
  • Take the bottom of the spoon and wipe off the excess caramel at the bottom of the apple.
  • Refrigerate the apples for at least 2 hours.
  • 20 minutes before serving, remove the apples from the fridge and allow them to warm up.
  • Enjoy!



What is your favorite treat during the fall?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lazy Day Cookies

I was having one of "those" weeks.  You probably are familiar with them.  The weeks where every night you have 3 different practices, games, or meetings to attend in different towns. . .

I was exhausted, but that didn't stop the children from wanting snacks and dinner.  I opted to whip up "lazy" cookies for a treat for the frazzled crew.  Everyone needed something sweet-  especially after the week we have had.



I made simple cake mix cookies and frosted them with purchased Halloween frosting!  These cookies are perfect for hectic schedules or Autumn parties and can be baked in a flash.  Simple and fast is good!

I told you I was lazy...



To make these simple treats, you will need:

  • box of cake mix (I used yellow and chocolate)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of oil
  • nuts, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, etc.  (Get creative!)
  • frosting
  • sprinkles


Here is how you make these sweet treats:

  • Combine the cake mix, eggs, oil, and additional nuts.
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes.
  • Cool cookies.
  • Frost and add sprinkles.
  • Serve!  People won't know how easy these babies were to make! 


What treats are you making to celebrate the harvest season?

Friday, October 11, 2013

One Week Later...After the Tornado


Friday, October 4th, was a dismal afternoon. 

The gray sky hung low promising rain that autumn evening.  I was completely oblivious to the threat Mother Nature was stirring up just south of us.  The above picture from Siouxland Severe Weather, taken by Aaron Siders, shows the clouds as they brewed behind a veil of rain.

I paid a few bills online, scanned facebook for friends' and family updates on the snowstorm pelting the western part of Nebraska and South Dakota, and surfed a few opinionated online posts about the Government shutdown.  I was waiting to pick up my oldest son from school and planned to head into Wayne to run errands.  My younger boys and a couple neighbor children played with Lincoln Logs on the floor. 

A typical, ho-hum kind of afternoon.     

At least, it appeared that way.

With little warning our world was turned upside down within minutes.

A grandmother appeared at my door and informed me that a tornado warning was in effect for the area.  A tornado was on the ground barreling towards us.  She whisked her grandkids off and I raced the 6 miles to town to get my son who was waiting in the library. 

That was one of the longest (and fastest) trips to town that I can remember. 

I know that sounds strange, but my heart was pounding and I was concentrating on getting everyone home and nestled in the basement before the storm hit.  The constant radio warnings and my cellphone buzzing "extreme weather alert" only heightened the urgency.  Then the radio went off the air.  I pulled into our drive three minutes before the storm was predicted to be on top of us.

What I didn't know then-  Wayne, just a few miles to our south, received the brutal hit.  Here is a picture from ABC9 News in Sioux City showing a portion of the devastation:



It was breathtakingly sickening.

Splintered buildings, hurled John Deere implements, tossed airplanes, flattened homes, and cotton fabric flapped in stripped trees. 

That part of town was almost unidentifiable.

The tornado leveled a good portion of the eastern side of town.  It left a mass of homes, farms, and businesses strewn across Northeast Nebraska.  Luckily, no one died.  People were injured and hundreds were left unemployed.  The storm knocked most of the residents into a stunned state of being.

However, Nebraskans don't stay down for long. 


Within minutes, the roads were filled with emergency crews racing to help.  Volunteers flooded the town and clean up had begun.  People rolled up their sleeves and united as these dark and lightening filled storm clouds rolled away to the northeast.

Why? 

Because it was the right thing to do. 

It's amazing to see the camaraderie and support people from all walks of life have offered to the community.  Old and young, rich and poor, Lutheran and Catholic, Republican and Democrat, all working together for one common goal.  Shoulder to shoulder.  People putting aside differences for the common good.

It's been one week since the EF4 tornado hit Wayne. 

Businesses that were wiped out are already back to work in rented offices and machine sheds.  Fundraisers are springing up to help those in need.  Wayne is rebuilding and forging ahead with dedication and teamwork. 

I wish that Washington and America would learn a cooperation lesson from Wayne, America...




Tonight, our thoughts and prayers are lifted for those in need-  especially for the communities in South Dakota devastated by the blizzard, my neighbors and friends who were impacted by the tornadoes, and for the people suffering from the Government shutdown. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fishing for "Ff"

Last week, I was fumbling around for activity ideas for the letter "Ff".  I typically include Fall/Autumn activities, but I wanted something fun and fantastic that we haven't done before.  I was stumped.

I sat listing and brainstorming words that begin with "F".

Fruit
Football
Flint
Fingers
Forecast
Flies
Friends
Frankincense
Frankenstein (a little scary for the four year old market)
Frankfurters (yeah, I was getting desperate!)

and

Fish!

Finally, an idea that was fun and appropriate! 

I incorporated fish, fingers, and friends to create an easy hand painting craft.

It was simple and the kids love creating fish friends with their fingers.

It painted up a fabulous time!

Here is a sample of some of our Fishy Finger artwork:


Do you have any lesson ideas for the letter "Ff"?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A View From Powder Creek

Here is my wordless Wednesday post.  We went fishing at Powder Creek over Mother's Day weekend and I took the opportunity to take a few pictures.






Monday, May 20, 2013

Letter Yy Preschool Activity



I try to use an alphabet letter each week in my lessons with the younger children.  As the end of the year approaches and summer beckons us outside with promises of sunshine, I need easy and low stress activities.  This past week I crammed a quick "Yy" lesson in with the kids.



Here is what I used:
  • yellow yarn (but I let the children choose their colors)
  • a cardboard "Y" cut from a box


Here is what I did:
  • I started the yarn for the children.  I simply tied a knot around the base of the Y and showed them how to wrap.
  • I let the children go and enjoy this activity.  It is low stress and introduces the children to some fine motor movements that is great for coordination and developing skills.
  • I tied the ends of the yarn as the children neared the end of their string.
  • Voila!  Easy Peasy!
Do you have any fun activities for the letter "Yy"?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

My Dandelion Runneth Over...


It's finally Spring here in Nebraska!  I am so thankful to see green grass and vegetation growing this year that I don't mind mowing or pulling weeds.  My yard and the neighbor's yard, at least what is left of them, are in bloom.  Full bloom!  The children took the opportunity to pick as many yellow bursts as possible. 

I literally had bowls upon bowls of their sweet offerings lining my kitchen table. 



 

We won't even mention the loaded ice cream buckets they had waiting on the porch!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Letters From The Tooth Fairy- Mission Fail

I woke up yesterday to wails of disappointment escaping from my youngest son's room.  It took me a minute to realize that I dropped the ball last night.  Not a real ball, but I forgot to play the role of the "tooth fairy".  I broke the parent and tooth fairy clause in the parent handbook. 

He was upset that the tooth he tried so hard to wiggle loose for weeks remained in his cup-  forgotten.  He was worried that the tooth had a cavity or it wasn't good enough because of the hole in the bottom.  It took a few minutes, but eventually I rationalized that something important probably had kept her away.  Things happen...

Last night, in a last ditch effort to redeem myself, I wrote up a small apology and added 4 extra quarters to his haul.  This morning he was so excited!  I think he enjoyed getting the letter more than the money.



Have you ever botched a tooth fairy mission?  What did you do?


Monday, May 13, 2013

Pioneer Lunch 2013 Style





The school year is almost over and that means programs, fun days, and extra activities.  My middle son and I had a lot of fun this evening preparing for "pioneer school".  They are supposed to dress the part and bring an authentic lunch in a pail to school in the morning.   

Here is what we came up with:

A biscuit filled with a slice of ham neatly wrapped in a blue bandanna

Two boiled eggs

1 juicy apple



I can't wait for tomorrow!  He gets to wear plaid and suspenders... 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Be A Gracious Mother


The arrowhead necklace and blue heart are presents from my middle son.  During his much anticipated class trip to Lincoln, he lovingly spent all of his souvenir money on me.  Yes, me! 

Needless to say, I was a little bewildered when he offered up his heartfelt treasures the minute he bounced off the bus.  His eyes were twinkling and he was so excited to give me something "real".  Something that he purchased with his money.  Something that Dad or his brothers didn't help choose.  Something to surprise his mother with.

It shocked me. 

I was expecting him to collect odds and ends, little cheap trinkets from all the tourist shops they wandered through.  I thought he would buy chewing gum and magnets.  Not sentimental items for me. 

"Thank you," I uttered. 

A perfectly fine response.  Then I HAD to open my big mouth.  Looking back, I regret my response and wish I handled it better.

"I gave you money to buy things for yourself, not me," I lectured.

Luckily, it was dark in the van and I couldn't see the disappointment darken his hazel eyes. I hadn't considered how terrible my response was until my husband pointed out a startling concept.  As much as I hate to admit it, he was right. 

Here is his mind blowing statement:

"Why can't we do nice things for you?  You always go out of your way to make our days special and he wanted to do something for you.  Just let it go and let the boy treat you the way you treat us."

Please, learn from my mistake. 

Allow the husband and children to lather their love on you.  If they pick dandelions or buy you a bouquet of roses- let them.   If they bring you breakfast in bed-  eat it.  I could go on and on, but I know you get the gist of what I am saying.  Allow them the joy of  helping.  Let them show their appreciation and develop empathy for others. 

As mothers, we are accustomed to putting everyone else first or their needs ahead of ours.  Some of us have had years of practicing this martyrdom and it's become second nature.  We may not even recognize it!  We give the children our dessert or we scrimp pennies so they can go to summer camp.  Isn't that what mother's are supposed to do?

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying we need to become the alpha mother and expect everything to be served to us on fine china.  However, we can take these moments and enjoy them.  Give the experience of loving to your children.  Let them own it and cherish their appreciation. 

So, here is an idea to ponder this Mother's Day: 

Be a gracious mother.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rustic Colored Jars- Perfect Mother's Day Gifts

 

Mother's Day is approaching and I was on the lookout for easy gifts the children could make for their special ladies.  I wanted something that the children could make themselves and be useful for their parent.  I finally decided to try a new technique that I saw on facebook awhile ago.

I wish I would have pinned or bookmarked the idea.  I just remembered they showcased painted colored Mason jars with glue and paint to tint the glass.  I took this idea and simplified it by using school glue, food coloring, and a little water to create softer hues.  We rummaged through the recycle bin and came up with enough empty pickle and salsa jars. 

I gave the children a choice of making candles or vases and handed them the paint brush.  Voila!  Beautiful gifts and happy crafting children made for a productive afternoon.  Now, we just need to keep our "secret" for a few more days to surprise Mom.



To make these recycled jars, all you need is:

*  School Glue
*  Food Coloring
*  Water
*  Mason Jar or Recycled Jar
*  Paint brush



Here is how to create beautiful candles and vases for your Mothers:

Mix a small amount of glue, food coloring, and water.

Paint the outside of your jar.  It may take several coats and a little retouching as the glue dries.  THIS part can get a bit messy if you have very energetic artists!



Allow them to dry. 

We added ribbons and stickers to our jars, but I want to make some wire hangers to use outside this summer.  Could you imagine these lit up hanging above an outdoor dinner party?  Gorgeous!




What did you make for your Mother?

Monday, May 6, 2013

5 Ways To Brighten Your Day!

For the past few weeks it's been foggy and dreary in this part of Nebraska.  If it isn't snowing, it's cold and damp.  I will gladly take the moisture, but it is May!  I need to let a little sunshine in, if you know what I mean. 

So what is a girl supposed to do? 

Sit and wallow in the shadows?

Absolutely not! 

The weather may be dumpy, but I need to kick Spring into gear-  even if it is only inside the house.  I made a short list of frugal and easy ways I plan to brighten up my day.

1.  Open The Curtains. 

Pull back those drapes or blackout curtains and let the natural light filter in.  Sunlight is important to our natural body rhythms, vitamin D levels, and frame of mind.  Even if it is cloudy, opening the curtains allows you to glimpse outside.  This is the simplest and easiest way to brighten your day!

2.  Clean The Windows. 

Housework?  Yes, because those windows are dirtier than you think.  The glisten a wiped window provides will instantly freshen up any dull day.  It's cheap and takes little effort.  Little finger prints and sloppy dog noses will quickly cover up the sheen in my house, but for the few minutes and little bit of vinegar, it was worth it.  It's surprising how much grime collects on a plate of glass.

3.  Make A Pitcher Of Lemonade or Raspberry Cordial.

I chose to make a food that reminds me of summer so I whipped up a batch of bubbly lemonade.  I haven't decided if it's the pucker of the sour juice, the vibrant color of the yellow rind, or the ginger ale that washes away the blues.  This drink instantly puts a little pep in my step and a smile on my face.  You can easily choose another drink or treat, but choose something that you associate with summer.

4.  Plant Something.

Damp dirt is one of my favorite smells that I have yet to find a scented candle for.  The aroma after a rainstorm or the musk of tilled soil is iconic with renewal.  So if you are like me, with no garden to plant until the temperature rises, what are we supposed to do?  There are several ideas on pinterest for small planters or you can start a few herbs indoors.  I concocted an old pallet I found laying in our basement into a planter for our lettuce and spinach.  I even transplanted some thyme and rosemary for in the kitchen.

5.  Shave Your Legs.

This probably is my craziest way to brighten the day, but the feel of freshly shaved legs makes me think of Summer.  After all that cleaning and planting you will want to take a shower or soak in a hot bath.  If it's warm enough, you can even wear capri's or shorts!  Lather up and wash that dreary day down the drain.


What tips do you have to brighten up a rainy or bleak day?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May 2013 Blogging Challenge


I am the first to admit that I falter when it comes to consistent, regular posting on the blog.  Life gets in the way or the occassional television show, book, shopping trip, etc.  See, I am great at making excuses.  I decided to sign on for a blogging challenge for the month of May.  Let's cross our fingers that I keep up with this, because it is a wonderful concept.  Feel free to join up!


Friday, May 3, 2013

Beautiful Strawberry Pie


It's almost strawberry season and I am starting to find great deals on the succulent fruit.  I had several helpers this morning and we decided to concoct a couple of pies.  I am a huge fan of this strawberry pie recipe-  the filling is a cinch to put together and the chunks of fruit make this treat amazing.  No complaints were heard from the children and almost everyone finished their piece.    

I cheated and used pre-made pie crusts from the store.  Honestly, I could have rolled out my own, but our Spring schedules are so hectic that I cut a few corners when I can.  The children were too busy licking the bowls that no one seemed to notice we skipped a step. 

This pie is easy and quick-  we timed it at about 15 minutes of prep.  Perfect for a busy day!  Take advantage of the local produce or the sales at the supermarket and try this recipe.  I think you will agree that it is definetly worth the hassle of a few dirty dishes. 

For the strawberry pie, you will need:

* one baked single pie crust
* 4 cups sliced fresh strawberries
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 cup water
* 4 Tablespoons cornstarch
* 3 Tablespoons strawberry gelatin ( I just used a whole 3 oz. package)
* Cool Whip


Here is how you prepare this berry dessert:

Prepare your single crust pie shell.  You can get elbow deep in the flour or cheat and buy pre-made.  I won't tell if you won't...

Clean and slice your strawberries.  I prefer a thicker slice and the children really enjoy it.  Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine your water, sugar, and cornstarch.  Bring to a boil.

Add the strawberry gelatin and mix.

Cool.

Mix in the strawberries and pour into your baked pie crust.

Refrigerate and let set up for a few hours. 

Top with cool whip or softened ice cream for a cool treat.



What do you like to make with strawberries?


Birds In Pane

 
 
On our morning walk we spied a couple of sparrows enjoying the sunlight streaming in an old carriage house.  We heard them chirping and noticed them in this glass free window.  We were lucky to have the camera along and snapped a few pics of the birds for prosperity.  This carriage house is currently being torn down and salvaged, but it allowed us a nice view of the pair hidden inside.  
 

 
 







Thursday, May 2, 2013

Nutella Croissants



These are delicious!  The chocolate hazelnut spread and warm flaky croissants melt together and create a tasty treat.  They are made from two ingredients and you can pull them together fast.

I saw these on Budget Savvy Diva's blog and just had to make them.  Her recipe is a lot more detailed and exact.  You might want to read her post for a better recipe.  I just winged it. 

Here is what I used:

1 can croissant dough
Nutella

Here is how I put them together:

Unroll the croissants.

Use a spoon and spread Nutella on the triangles.

Roll them like a traditional croissant.

Bake according to their directions.

Serve warm with a tall glass of milk.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy May Day!

Speechless... 


It's definitely a Wordless Wednesday in this part of Nebraska.  This is what we woke up to on May 1st!