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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Natural Sugarplums- Nutcracker's Delight

Mix dates, figs, walnuts, fresh ginger, cinnamon, and lime juice to make a wholesome "sugar plum" with no added sugar.

Little ones enjoy forming the dough into balls, and as a nice finish, rolling each sugar plum in crushed walnuts. Beautiful on a holiday table.

Watch this amazing rendition of "Sugar Plum Fairy" to set the mood!
Glass Harp "Sugar Plum Fairy"

Here's What You Need:

8 dried figs
8 dates
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins, (I used golden raisins)
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Juice from 1 lime
crushed walnuts, for rolling

Food processor, or blender

Here's What You Do:

Have your child count out the figs and dates and place them into the food processor, along with the other ingredients.  Process the mixture (an adult's job) until the ingredients are chopped and form a stiff dough.

Turn the mixture into a bowl and show your child how to roll the dough into small balls. (this recipe makes about 15 one inch balls) Roll each ball into crushed walnuts.  Refrigerate until firm and serve. Scrumptious--and good for you, too!

Adapted from a recipe found in:
Raw Food--A Complete Guide for Every Meal of the Day, by Erica Palmcrantz and Irmela Lilja

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Citrus, Cloves & Ribbon=spicy, piquant holiday decorations!

These pomanders make aromatic, 
hand-crafted gifts.
Create them now so they have time to "cure."

Some of you may be fortunate enough to grow your own oranges, lemons or limes.  However, since whole cloves come mainly from Indonesia, Madagascar and Zanzibar, most of us will need to buy those in bulk from the supermarket!

Pomanders date back to the 15th century, and were particularly popular in the Victorian age.  They were used as natural air-fresheners as well as decorations, so you will be carrying on an age-old tradition that appeals to many of the senses.

Here's What You Need:

Oranges, lemons or limes, unblemished
Whole cloves (to be economical, buy in bulk from Costco or the bulk section of the supermarket)
Wooden skewer, toothpick, or knitting needle (to pre-poke holes)
Ribbon in holiday colors
Rubber bands, masking tape, rubber gloves, (optional).

Here's What You Do:

*Use a wooden skewer, toothpick, or knitting needle to pre-poke holes in the rind of the fruit, in your desired pattern.  This avoids frustration as younger children insert the whole cloves.  Older children may design their own pattern.
Before you begin, mark off a criss-cross pattern with rubber bands or masking tape where the ribbon will eventually go.

*Insert a whole clove into each prepared hole.  
*When you are satisfied with your design, wrap a ribbon around your pomander and hang to dry for a few weeks.
*Use to freshen clothes closets, give as gifts, or decorate your home for the holidays!

This is a touching holiday story, set in the days when an orange was a luxury and a rare treat:

Oranges and Lemons, a Nursery Rhyme

Oranges and lemons
Say the bells of St Clements
You owe me five farthings
Say the bells of St Martins
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey
When I grow rich
Say the bells of Shoreditch
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney
I'm sure I don't know
Says the great bell at Bow 

This moving story is well worth a listen, and a good way to begin the holiday season!  Click on the link below to listen to a classic, sweet story.

Here's another story featuring oranges as a gift of love from an older brother to his younger brother, in a time and place where food was scarce and times were hard. Romania, 1989.

Night of Oranges

by Flavius Stan
A child comes of age.
It is Christmas Eve in 1989 in Timisoara and the ice is still dirty from the boots of the Romanian revolution. The dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had been deposed a few days before, and on Christmas Day he would be executed by firing squad. I am in the center of the city with my friends, empty now of the crowds that prayed outside the cathedral during the worst of the fighting. My friends and I still hear shots here and there. Our cold hands are gray like the sky above us, and we want to see a movie.
There is a rumor that there will be oranges for sale tonight. Hundreds of people are already waiting in line. We were used to such lines under the former Communist Government—lines for bread, lines for meat, lines for everything. Families would wait much of the day for rationed items. As children, we would take turns for an hour or more, holding our family's place in line.
But this line is different. There are children in Romania who don't know what an orange looks like. It is a special treat. Having the chance to eat a single orange will keep a child happy for a week. It will also make him a hero in the eyes of his friends. For the first time, someone is selling oranges by the kilo.
Suddenly I want to do something important: I want to give my brother a big surprise. He is only eight years old, and I want him to celebrate Christmas with lots of oranges at the table. I also want my parents to be proud of me.
So I call home and tell my parents that I'm going to be late. I forget about going to the movie, leave my friends, and join the line.
People aren't silent, upset, frustrated, as they were before the revolution; they are talking to one another about life, politics, and the new situation in the country.
The oranges are sold out of the back doorway of a food shop. The clerk has gone from anonymity to unexpected importance. As he handles the oranges, he acts like a movie star in front of his fans.
He moves his arms in an exaggerated manner as he tells the other workers where to go and what to do. All I can do is stare at the stack of cardboard boxes, piled higher than me. I have never seen so many oranges in my life.
Finally, it is my turn. It is 8 o'clock, and I have been waiting for six hours. It doesn't seem like a long time because my mind has been flying from the oranges in front of me to my brother and then back to the oranges. I hand over the money I was going to spend on the movie and watch each orange being thrown into my bag. I try to count them, but I lose their number.
I am drunk with the idea of oranges. I put the bag inside my coat, as if I want to absorb their warmth. They aren't heavy at all, and I feel that this is going to be the best Christmas of my life. I begin thinking of how I am going to present my gift.
I get home and my father opens the door. He is amazed when he sees the oranges, and we decide to hide them until dinner. At dessert that night, I give my brother the present. Everyone is silent. They can't believe it.
My brother doesn't touch them. He is afraid even to look at them. Maybe they aren't real. Maybe they are an illusion, like everything else these days. We have to tell him he can eat them before he has the courage to touch one of the oranges.
I stare at my brother eating the oranges. They are my oranges. My parents are proud of me.

Flavius Stan was an 18-year-old exchange student from Romania who was attending the Fieldston School in the Bronx, New York when he wrote this story, which originally appeared in The New York Times.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Botanical Rubbing Art

Rubbings are magical for children--as they press the crayon to the paper, the image gradually appears.

Photo credit:  Seth Chrisman
Besides beautiful botanical prints, you can also make a game of the rubbings and place a mystery object underneath the paper.  As the image appears, your artist can guess what it is!  I used puzzle pieces, keys, sandpaper, and books with raised embossing.

Here's what you need:

plain white paper
crayons with the paper removed
leaves or other objects with interesting texture

Here's what you do:

*tape a piece of paper to the table.
*place the leave or other object under the paper.
*secure with tape
*show your child how to hold the crayon flat side down and press rather firmly to rub the crayon up and down over the paper.

The same technique can be used to make bark rubbings on a tree trunk.
A tree's bark is like its protective outer skin.  You can sometimes identify trees by examining the bark
My Friend Tree (a poem)
My friend tree, my friend tree
Roots on you are like feet on me!

My friend tree, my friend tree
Trunk on you is like trunk on me!

My friend tree, my friend tree
Bark on you is like skin on me!

My friend tree, my friend tree
Branches on you are like arms on me!

My friend tree, my friend tree
Leaves on you are like hands on me!

GREAT books about TREES! (click on link for listing)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Go Fish!

Apollo attracts an octopus with his magnetic fishing rod. (all photo credits:  Seth Chrisman)

This fishing game has endless variations, built-in teaching moments and lots of fun!  You can talk about sea-life, magnets, and the sport or occupation of fishing.  Your child will exercise skill, strategy, judgement and perseverance.  You can "fish" inside or outdoors, weather permitting.  It can be done with one child or many.  When I brought out the wading pool and told Apollo we were going fishing, he said "I'll go turn on the water hose."  No water required for these fish though--the secret to the catch is magnetism!

Here's What You Need:

Colored paper
roll of stick on magnets (I found mine at Jo-Ann Fabrics) Alternately, you can just attach a small magnet for each fishing pole)
paper clips (jumbo works best)
implement for fishing pole (examples: bamboo sticks, wooden spoons, ruler, yard stick)
string or yarn

Optional:  wading pool, cardboard box--anything to serve as the lake, or ocean. You could use a blue blanket to make a pond or river on the floor.

Here's What You Do:

Cut fish and sea life designs from colored paper.  You can go free hand, or use this template:  Fish Template

If you found the stick-on magnet strips, you can cut a small piece and stick it on each fish.  If not, simply put a paper clip on each shape.

Tie a piece of yarn or string to one end of each pole, and attach a magnet at the other end.

Put the fish, magnet side up, (or any way with the paper clip) on the floor or in the wading pool or your "ocean."

Give each child a fishing pole, and let the fun begin!
Apollo and Sunshine snagged the same fish!

Click on the link below to listen to one of my favorite songs featuring a variety of fish (the kids LOVE this one!)

"Octopus" by Charlotte Diamond

Related Books:

By Franklyn M. Bramley
By Lois Ehlert
By JoAnne Pastel and Kakie Fitzsimmons
By Lucy Cousins

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rolling in Dough

Sunshine is experiencing The Absolute Best, Home-Made Play Dough Ever! 
All photo credits by Seth Chrisman

Here's What You Need: (per color)

1 cup white flour
¼ cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 teaspoons food coloring

medium sauce pan
plastic bag or airtight container

Here's What You Do:

*Mix flour, salt and cream of tartar in a medium pot.
 *Add water, food coloring and oil.

*Stir over medium heat for 3-5 minutes; don't worry if it looks like a globby mess--it'll turn into play dough!

      *When the mixture forms a ball in the center of the pot, take it out and put it on a floured surface.  Knead the dough until it is not sticky, but smooth and pliable.

*Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

  Apollo is delighted with the results
of using a garlic press!
    Much of the discovery and delight comes from improvising and using interesting kitchen gadgets--we loved the potato masher as well as the garlic press!  No need to go out and buy play dough....or the play dough tools--you can use what you have and experience even more creativity and fun.

The Absolute Best Home-Made Playdough, Ever! 
(from: KidsCooking, A Very Slightly Messy Manual.)

From Klutz Press

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stone Soup

When we each give a little, we can feed the whole world.

Marianne Larned

The beauty of this soup is, you can use whatever you have, ask your child about their favorite vegetables and use those, or invite some friends over and ask each to bring one ingredient to add to the soup.  When I taught preschool at Shorewood, we made this soup every year, and it always delighted the children.

Here's What You Need:

a "magic" stone that you and your child have chosen together. Clean it well, and boil it in water a few minutes to purify.

A large pot.

A bit of olive or canola oil.

Onions, celery, carrots, potatoes....clean out the refrigerator! Or, invite friends to participate and bring a few ingredients.  

Optional:  chicken or vegetable stock, but water works just fine!  Tomato paste, salt, pepper, seasonings.  Anything you would normally put in your soup.

Here's What You Do:

*Read the story below and have storytelling time with you children--you can tell it in your own words. Or, go to the library and check out one of the versions recommended at the end of this post.

*Take a walk together and select your magic stone. Clean it well.

*Chop up vegetables, letting your child help as much as possible.  Peeling the vegetables is optional--many of the nutrients are actually contained there, and it gives the soup a rustic look if you chop without peeling.

*Add a little oil to the bottom of the pot and saute onions, garlic and celery, if you are using them.  

*Add several cups of water, stock or broth to the pot.  Add your clean, magic stone.

*dump in all of your chopped vegetables and other ingredients.  (tomato paste, barley, cooked rice, quinoa, your choice!)

*Bring soup to a boil for two minutes, and then turn to medium/low--and cook until veggies are tender/crisp.  (not too soft)

*Have dinner with your family, friends and neighbors--whoever contributed to the stone soup!  Great with crusty bread, corn bread, or tortillas.

Stone Soup

A Folktale

     There was once a man who had been traveling for a long time. Having run out of food, he was weary and hungry from his journey. When he came upon a small village, he thought, "Maybe someone could share some food."
When the man knocked at the first house, he asked the woman who answered, "Could you spare a bit of food? I’ve traveled a long way and am very hungry." "I’m sorry, but I have nothing to give you," the woman replied.
     So the traveler went to the next door and asked again. The answer was the same. He went from door to door and each time he was turned away. Not one of the villagers were willing to oblige the man as times were tough and no one had much to spare.
But then one villager said, "All I have is some water." "Thank you," the traveler said smiling gratefully, "We can make some soup from that water. We can make stone soup."
     He asked the man for a cooking pot and started building a small fire. As the water started to boil, a passing villager stopped and asked him what he was doing. "I’m making stone soup," the traveler replied. "Would you like to join me?" The curious villager agreed.
     "First, we must add a special stone," said the traveler. "One with magic in it." He reached into his knapsack and carefully unwrapped a special stone he’d been carrying with him for many years. Then he put it in the simmering pot.
     Soon people from the village heard about this strange man who was making soup from a stone. They started gathering around the fire, asking questions. "What does your stone soup taste like?" asked one of the villagers. "Well, it would be better with a few onions," the traveler admitted. "Oh, I have some onions," he replied.
Another villager said, "I could bring a few carrots." Someone else offered, "We still have some potatoes in our garden. I’ll go get them."
     One by one, each villager brought something to add to the pot. What had started as just some water and a magic stone, had now become a delicious soup, enough to feed the whole village. The traveler and the villagers sat down together to enjoy their feast, and the miracle they’d help to create.  

Stone Soup Inspirations
The Stone Soup Folktale has been the inspiration for many other groups and organizations. Most notably the book, Stone Soup for the World edited by Marianne Larned. This collection of heartwarming stories, many which can be found on the Stone Soup for the World website, feature ordinary people doing extraordinary things and show that greatness grows out of simple acts of giving. After reading the inspirational stories, we hope you catch the Stone Soup spirit, which is the belief that "Like the traveler in the folktale, we each have a magic stone: the power to give and get others to join us in building a world that works for everyone."
The Stone Soup Foundation works to support the premise of the stone soup story, that with a little imagination, cooperation and goodwill, we can make the world a better place.

Somewhere on this planet, someone has a solution to each of the world's problems.
It might be one of us.
The future is in our hands and the hands of our children.
With your help, we can build a more hopeful world.
What can you do today, tomorrow, next week, next year?
And if you sometimes think you haven't enough time, energy, or resources,
remember the Stone Soup folktale:
When we each give a little, we can feed the whole world.

Marianne Larned 

By Ann McGovern

By Heather Forest

By Jon J. Muth

By Marcia Brown

By Jess Stockham

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Munchy, Crunchy Pumpkin Seeds!

Easy to roast at home,
and a delicious, nutrient-rich snack

After carving your jack-o'lanterns, separate the seeds from the stringy pulp and get ready to roast 'em!  (save a few to plant in next year's pumpkin patch--see "Seed Harvesting" in the garden section.)

Here's What You Need:
about 1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds,  separated from the pulp.
sea salt, or any salt
bowl of water
baking pan (line with foil for easy clean-up)
olive oil, (or other oil)
Optional:  garlic power, Mrs. Dash, other seasoning sprinkles. 

Here's What You Do:  
*separate the seeds from the pulp as well as you can--
*put about 2 cups of water in a bowl with about 3 tablespoons of salt.
*Soak overnight, drain, and pat dry.
(alternately, you can skip the overnight soak process and sprinkle salt on the seeds after tossing them with oil.)
*heat oven to 300 degrees.
*toss pumpkin seeds with a bit of olive or other oil and spread on the foil lined baking sheet in a single layer.
*sprinkle with other seasonings, if desired.
*bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring and turning occasionally, until the pumpkin seeds are golden brown.

Pumpkin seeds are packed with vitamins and fun to eat!  You can also toss them into salads.

Five Little Pumpkins Fingerplay

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, 
"Oh my it's getting late!"
The second one said, 
"There are witches in the air!"
The third one said, 
"But we don't care."
The fourth one said, 
"Let's run and run and run!"
The fifth one said, 
"I'm having so much fun!"
Then Wooooooooo went the wind
and OUT went the lights (clap hands)
And the five little pumpkins 
rolled out of sight.

Mr. Jack O'Lantern Poem
Mr. Jack O'Lantern, is very round and fat.
He has a yellow candle, 
Lit right beneath his hat.
It makes his face look happy,
and very, very bright.
When he winks and smiles at me,
On spooky Halloween night!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Autumn Leaves

Photo Credits:  Seth Chrisman

     Yesterday, we took a walk in the unseasonably golden sunshine of a Seattle afternoon.  The leaves were blazing with vivid color--we gathered up a bunch and brought them home to preserve them in translucent wax paper.  Remember this childhood classic?

Here's What You Need:

fresh-gathered colorful leaves
2 sheets of wax paper for each picture
an iron
paper towels or thin dishcloth

Here's What You Do:

*Your child chooses favorite leaves and arranges them on a sheet of wax paper.  Be sure to leave an inch between leaves so the wax paper can melt around them and hold them in place.

*When the design is complete, place another sheet of wax paper over the top--like a leaf sandwich.

*An adult turns the iron on low.  Place a paper towel or thin dishcloth over the picture to protect the iron from the wax. An adult gently presses the iron to the picture.  Move it slowly over all of the leaves so the wax melts and seals them in place.  Make sure the edges are melted together, too.

*Trim around the edges to make them neat--(I decided to round the corners) and then tape it to a window and admire your creation!

Here are some fall books to enrich your autumn adventures!

by Lois Ehlert

by Elizabeth Maestro

by Linda Glaser

by Zoe Hall

by Lois Ehlert

Falling Leaves Finger Play

Four little leaves  (hold up 4 fingers)
Sitting on a tree, (Put them on back of other hand)

One fell off  (make 1 tumble down)
Then there were three.

Three little leaves (hold up 3 fingers)
All yellow and brown,

One danced away (make 1 swirl away )
Down to the ground  (touch the floor)

Two little leaves (hold up 2 fingers)
Waving in the breeze. (wave them about)

One flew off (make one "fly" away)
Away from the trees.

One little leaf (hold up last finger)
Left on the tree—

Said “goodbye wind!” (wave goodbye)
And flew down to me. (point to self)