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Archive for the ‘holiday’ Category

We’re taking a break from our regular work this week and making time for lots of art and an African animal study that I hope to make time to blog more about. Today, we started the day by making these adorable handprint spiders inspired by this post at Laugh, Paint, Create.

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Zombie Cookies

This little ghost refuses to turn right side up no matter what I do 🙂

By accident, we discovered a simple way to make zombie cookies. The girls wanted to make gingerbread cookies and decorate them so I got out our Halloween/fall themed cutters and some sprinkles. They wanted to also use candy corn. I warned them that it would likely melt in the oven but they wanted to try it so we did. The results: the candy corns melted completely, turning a reddish orange and looking like decayed flesh. Ta da! Zombie cookies aka dead body gingerbread.

 

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Last weekend, we had friends over to make graham cracker “gingerbread” houses, but instead of houses, M and her friend ended up making a gingerbread land with candy animals, a free-form creative endeavor that they enjoyed immensely.

The little ones made more traditional houses, but our graham cracker engineering skills and the quality of our icing weren’t up to snuff so they collapsed rapidly.

On Monday we made tinsel trees, glittery pine cone trees, and beeswax ornaments with friends. Then we went to see the houses from the National Gingerbread Competition.  We finished a fun day at a Hanukkah party where we ate lots of delicious latkes and holiday cookies.

Lots of baking has been done this week including white chocolate eggnog fudge, cowboy cookies, and gingerbread men.

This week’s favorite holiday reads: Night Tree by Eve Bunting, Mrs. Greenberg’s Messy Haunkkah by Linda Glaser, The Donkey’s Dream by Barbara Berger, Morris’ Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells, and Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray, and Oliver and Amanda’s Christmas by Jean Van Leeuwen.

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Making Caramel

Last week we made Pecan Caramel Clusters combining two of M’s favorite things, science experiments and cooking with me.  Before we started the caramel, we watched this excellent video describing the process of caramelization in simple terms.

First we heated milk, sugar, and salt until the sugar melted.  We sat that mixture aside and combined 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water.  Then we watched the carmelization begin.  M was fascinated by the wild bubbling, and she couldn’t wait to see it begin to turn golden.

To help M visualize the sugar molecules breaking apart, we held hands and pretended flames were jumping toward our hands we stretched further and further apart but finally had to let go to escape.

Once the liquid had turned amber, we added the milk mixture and pecans watched it turned into a thick caramel candy.

Finally, we took it off the heat, added the other ingredients and stirred and stirred and stirred until it cooled.  Then we dropped clumps onto parchment paper and let it harden.

The recipe we used was based on one in the December 2009 Living Magazine:

Combine 1.5 cups sugar, 3/4 cup whole milk, and 1/2t salt.  Heat until sugar is completely melted.  Set Aside.

Combine 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water.  Boil without stirring until the mixture turns golden.  Swirl pan until mixture is amber (approximately 2 minutes).  Remove from heat.

Add milk mixture and 2 cups pecan halves.  Be careful because it bubbles up.  Return to medium heat and cook for approximately 7 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 242F.  (Our thermometer is broken so we just stopped after 7 minutes.)

Remove from heat and add 5T butter, cut into small pieces, 2t vanilla and 4t rum.  Stir until mixture cools and is very hard to stir (about 10 minutes).

Drop onto parchment or wax paper-lined cookie sheets and let cool until hard.  Store in the refrigerator.

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We didn’t get around to making pipe cleaner (chenille stem) wreaths until this week but once we had them made, we went wild with our huge bag of red, white, and green pipe cleaners.

M developed several crafts of her own including a wreath made by curling a pipe cleaner into a spiral and then wrapping another color around it to make a striped look and adding a hook.

She also made lots of pipe cleaner chains.  She dictated directions to me: You bend it into a U.  Then cross the ends and twist them up and it makes a circle. Then you weave another one through it and do the same thing with it.  You keep on doing the same thing until the chain is as long as you want it.

Other projects included candy canes, flowers, and bracelets.

We’re still reading all the books I’ve already mentioned here and we discovered another wonderful new-to-us book, The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco.  It’s a beautiful story about a Jewish family who helps out their Christian neighbors when scarlet fever hits their community during the holidays.

A few days ago we read The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, one that always makes me tear up. After reading about the beautiful nativity figures Mr. Toomey carves, I brought out the Playmobil nativity scene that I’d ordered and we put it together and had a blast setting it up and playing with it.

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Every year, we read several books and do some activities to learn about Hanukkah.  This year, we’re reading Toby Belfer Never Had A Christmas Tree, Mrs. Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah, and I Have A Little Dreidel, all favorites we discovered last year.

Using this pattern from Enchanted Learning, we’re making paper dreidels so we can play for chocolate chips (our facsimile of gelt (chocolate money)).  I also printed out a copy of Enchanted Learning’s Dreidel Activity Book for M to complete.

We’re also making edible dreidels based on an idea in this month’s Living magazine.  Dip the large end of a chocolate kiss in melted semi-sweet chocolate, then “glue” it onto the end of a large marshmallow.  Insert a pretzel in the other end of the pretzel, roll the marshmallow and kiss in melted chocolate.  Lay the dreidels on a cookie sheet and refrigerate until hardened.  Martha Stewart suggests piping white chocolate to make the Hebrew letters on the dreidels sides, but we’ll be using our Wilton decorating icing that we used for cookies this week.

Hopefully, we’ll also find time to make some latkes, we might try sweet potato ones this year.

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Yay!  Advent is here! We’ve got lots of fun activities lined up for the next few weeks.  We made an Advent wreath on Sunday and slowly started decorating the house.  Last night M got to stay up late drinking cocoa and helping me decorate, a new tradition we started last year.  We set up my old Dickens’ Christmas Village (and she renamed the building to fit the Harry Potter universe :)).  We decorated our mini tree to be our dining room centerpiece and we hung mistletoe and gumdrop garlands.

Yesterday, one of C’s friends stayed with us for the morning, and we made these fantastic reindeer from from Let’s Explore and Christmas trees from popsicle sticks and cardstock.  The kids painted popsicle sticks brown.  Then I gave them a sheet of cardstock on which I’d drawn a triangle.  They painted it green.  When it was dry, I cut the triangle out, brushed the whole surface with glue, and they added sequins and glitter.

We also read Mortimer’s Chrismtas Manger by Karma Wilson, Merry Christmas, Ollie by Olivier Dunrea and some selections from Kathryn Jackson and Richard Scarry’s The Animals’ Merry Christmas.

Today we’re going to read Petunia’s Christmas and make wreaths with chenille stems (pipe cleaners).  I got this idea from these wondeful Advent book and craft posts from the creator of Crafty Crow and Bella Dia.

Tomorrow we’re having a few of M’s friends over to decorate sugar cookies and watch the American Girl movie,  Samantha: An American Girl Holiday.  I’m going to make a simplified version of these Chocolate Gingebread Petit Fours for the girls.

I’ll do another post soon with more of the books and crafts we’re enjoying.

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