2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,700 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


A Gift for Human’s Best Friend: Homemade Dog Treats

Here’s a great way to spoil the dog in your life and reward him for his devotion and love.  Make these HOMEMADE DOG BONES.  It’s a simple recipe, made with all natural ingredients and so good, you can taste them too!


  1. Combine 2 C of white whole wheat flour, 1 C rolled oats, 1/2 C non fat milk powder, 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl.  Stir to combine.
  2. Add 1 C crunchy peanut butter, 2 lg eggs.  Beat at low speed until combined.
  3. Gradually add 1/2 C water, beating until dough comes together.
  4. Turn dough onto a large sheet of parchment paper.  Cover with a second piece.  Roll to 1/2 inch thick 10 x 13 inch rectangle.  Chill 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  6. Cut dough into 3 x 1 1/2 inch rectangles ( or use a dog bone shaped cookie cutter).  Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake 1 hour or until firm and golden brown.

This batch makes 20 3inch treats.  You can store them in an airtight container.  Your dog will love you even more than she already does when you give her this treat.

Easy,Last Minute Party Food: Sausage Balls

The following recipe is a family favorite around the holidays and is so easy to make.  I make a batch , freeze them and then bake them when I have company.  There are only 3 ingredients for these SAUSAGE BALLS.

  • One 12 oz. package of bulk sausage ( like Jimmy Dean or Bob Evans)
  • One 8 oz. package of finely shredded cheddar cheese.
  • 2 Cups of Bisquick or other baking mix.               2014-11-22 01.25.12

Combine ingredients in a mixer until blended.  Form into 1″ balls.

2014-11-22 01.45.31You can bake these immediately or store in the refrigerator for a couple days.  OR in the freezer for several months.

When you’re ready to bake them, place on a cookie sheet in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, flip them over half way through.   Serve as is, or with maple syrup.  These are great for a side dish at breakfast or brunch.  Also as finger food for a party.

Home Made Treats: Sugar Cookies

This easy and tasty recipe for sugar cookies is one of FOUR found in my MG historical WHEELS OF CHANGE.  You can make the dough ahead and roll it out when ready.  Break out the cookie cutters and gather the kids around for an old-fashioned taste of home.

EMILY’S SUGAR COOKIES                           sugar cookies 2
1/4 pound butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp cream or milk
1 1/4 cups flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cream the butter, then gradually add the sugar, beating until light.
3. Add the egg, vanilla, and cream or milk, and beat thoroughly.
4. Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together, add to the first mixture, and blend well.  Mix until a soft dough forms.  Refrigerate dough for at least 4 hours or overnight.

5. Roll dough onto lightly floured surface until 1/8 inch thick.  Use your favorite cookie cutters to make the shapes.  You can use the rim of a glass for circular shaped cookies.  You can also sprinkle colored sugars or cinnamon on the dough before baking.
6.  Arrange on cookie sheets 1 inch apart.   Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

sugar cookies
Note: Recipes were adapted from the 1896 edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook and the Boston Cooking School Cookbook.

The Gift of Literacy:How Board Games Encourage Literacy. By Shelah Moss

Today’s Post comes from Speech/Language Specialist Shelah Moss.  Shelah talks about the importance of playing board games in developing literacy in children.  Her blog MOSSWOOD CONNECTIONS, is filled with all kinds of activities to enhance language development and literacy.  Here’s Shelah:

We are always looking for playful ways to encourage children to learn. We have found that Board games are a great way to build skills while having fun.

Because we work with children of different ages with a wide variety of skill levels we decided to create a game that can be adjusted for each child’s interests and needs. In the past, we have used Thomas the Tank Engine and Star Wars characters to get kids interested in matching, reading and counting. We can’t include those games here because of copyright laws, but you can take the concept of this game and make your own version.

We also did a category matching game that was lots of fun.
We like to incorporate as many skills as we can into our activities so that we can maximize every teachable moment. This game can encourage memory skills, reading, recognizing numbers and number correspondence, categories, matching, and breath support. Breath support is important for developing stamina as well as producing sounds. We also give you the option to incorporate gross motor by using the gross motor cards.

There are four versions of our DIY Busy Box Matching Games for you to try: Busy Box Numbers Matching Game (A)

(A) Busy Box Numbers Match.

(A) Busy Box Numbers Match.

Busy Box Halloween Matching Game, Busy Box Shapes and Colors Matching Game (B),

(B) Busy Box Shapes and Colors Matching Game

(B) Busy Box Shapes and Colors Matching Game

and Busy Box Sight Words Matching Game.  

Materials Needed to Make Your Own Busy Box Game:
• A Shallow Box 8″ x 12″ or larger
• Straws
• Pom Poms
• Printable Game Sheets

Instructions For Our Own Busy Box Matching Games:
• Place a game board on the bottom of the box. You can use our printable versions or make your own. They are easy to make, the kids can even help with this part of making the game.
• Cut out the matching cards. Again you can make your own cards or use toys and objects that match the targets on the game board.
• Spread the cards out around your play space. You can make it easy or difficult to find depending on the skill level of the kids.
• Cut out the action cards.
• First, have the child pick an action card.                   Busy Box Matching Games
• Have the children use the straws to blow the pom pom in the game box. Whatever the pom pom lands on is what the child has to go and get while doing the action on the card they chose.
• Variations: Instead of pom poms you can use a marble, small ball or a crumpled up piece of paper. Instead of using a straw and blowing, you can use a wind-up toy or spin a top to incorporate fine motor skills.
• The game is over when all the cards have been collected.

Do you have any fun ideas for making your own version of our Busy Box Game?

About Shelah:
After attending college Shelah took some time off to raise her daughter. When she moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1990 she began working for The Family Program for New Beginnings, receiving three years of training in play-based intervention services for children on the autistic spectrum. In 1993 Shelah began to work privately with clients. Her clients have included children on the autism spectrum, anxiety disorders and learning disabilities. She is now a contributor for Mosswood Connections, an educational resource website.  http://www.MosswoodConnections.com

Shelah 6Logo Ad

The Gift of STAR WARS: Kids Crafts of Favorite Characters.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of a new Star Wars Movie.  Especially one featuring the original characters.  For the Star Wars fans in your house, why not check out the amazing crafts, food items and activities found on the Red Ted Art site. In addition to the YODA  craft below, it features Princess Leia Cupcakes, Chewie Cookies, Wookies, Death Star Watermelon, Milk Carton Storm Troopers, and many more fun to make crafts.

You can start off with the easy YODA craft that even the youngest children can make.

yoda craftJust follow the pattern shown.  Here’s the link to the site for more than 30 STAR WARS activities, crafts and recipes.  http://www.redtedart.com/2014/12/26/30-star-wars-crafts-activities/


The Gift of Penguins! Easy Pin to Make

I came across this craft many years ago and thought I’d post it for a new generation of crafters.  It is simple and fun to make and give as a small gift to anyone who needs a smile.   PENGUIN PINS are made with wide craft sticks, black markers, white paint, felt or fleece scraps and orange foam sheets, tacky glue (NOT Elmer’s), and pin backs.    penguin pins                      1.  Color one side of the stick black with a permanent marker.  Let it dry.  I did 12 at a time since I planned on giving them away as gifts.

2.  Next, paint the “belly” of the penguin white as shown in the photo left.  Let dry a few hours or overnight.

3.  Now for the details.  I cut the beaks from orange foam, the scarves from fleece.  You can also use felt for the scarves.  You can make a felt hat as well.  Or, you can use the Santa Hats I found at A C Moore.  They came 4 to a pack and fit over the end of the stick perfectly. 

4. Before you begin gluing the pieces on, make the eyes and buttons using the black marker.  See close-up photo, right:  2014-12-04 21.27.51

5. Now you are ready to GLUE on the “bits”.

I put a dab of tacky glue on the back of the scarf, back of the hat, and edge of the beak and pressed each into place.   See photo below.  Let dry overnight.

pin 2

6.  Turn over the penguin to attach the pin as shown in the photo below:

2014-12-04 21.28.02




Voila!  Your penguin is ready to grace a sweater or jacket all season long.  Just looking at him makes me want to smile.


Got Stuff? Make Art With Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

I had the absolute joy of meeting author/illustrator DEBBIE RIDPATH OHI at the American Library Association summer conference in San Francisco last June.  Friendly, engaging, and sooo talented.  She also generously took time from her very busy career to be a guest on this blog.  If you’ve never had the joy of seeing Debbie’s work, here is an opportunity. 

Debbie is known for making art from found objects such as candy wrappers, sticks, buttons, strawberries…You name it, and she will make art from it.

For this tutorial, gather the kids around, break out a handful of almonds, clean paper and some pencils.   Here’s Debbie:

Creative Fun With Found Object Art

by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

 A fun art activity for young readers: doodle with found objects!

This may look like a pile of almonds:


But you never know what may happen once you add a few lines.

All you need is a blank piece of paper, an object, and something to draw with. If you’re working with a messy found object, make sure you put plastic underneath to protect the table.








You don’t need fancy drawing tools.    10-WritingInstruments-600




Here are some examples of found object art that I’ve made:


For more tips, see my Look Again resource (http://DebbieOhi.com/LookAgain).

Debbie Ridpath Ohi – Twitter: @inkyelbows – DebbieOhi.com      
Author/illustrator of WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? (Simon & Schuster), My illustrations also appear in books by Michael Ian Black & Judy Blume as well as the upcoming Ruby Rose books by Rob Sanders (HarperCollins), Mitzi Tulane books by Lauren McLaughlin (Random House). I blog about reading, writing and illustrating children’s books at Inkygirl.

(Darlene here:  I got so inspired by Debbie’s enthusiasm and gift of doodling, I tried some “almond doodles” myself.)

Who knew almonds were so much fun!                                                            2014-12-02 01.56.41

With Author Debbie Ridpath Ohi

With Author/illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi

A Month of Gifts Beginning Today.

Beginning today, all my posts for the month of December will be centered on GIFTS.  Things you might make for others.  Treats to make and give.   Ideas worth sharing.  Recipes.  Crafts.  I hope you enjoy each post and welcome your feedback.  Have a happy, healthy holiday season.

Today we’ll get a chance to make an easy, fragrant table decoration.  CLOVE STUDDED CITRUS FRUITS are so simple, even the youngest child can lend a hand.  All that is needed are: oranges, lemons, and/or tangerines; whole cloves, toothpicks.  2014-12-01 19.42.54

Use a toothpick to poke a hole in the citrus rind.

Insert a whole clove into the hole.

Continue until you have the design you want.  I did a simple design to show you the idea.  But you can do initials, shapes such as hearts, stars, etc. Spirals are especially pretty.

Place them in a bowl for a fragrant decoration.   Or hang them (with a festive ribbon) in windows, on a tree or from a chandelier.  The citrus/clove scent will fill the house with a wonderful smell.

2014-12-01 19.47.43