Amalia Hoffman Presents: Hanukkah Nights. A New Picture Book of Celebration + A giveaway.

It is always a delight to feature a new book by author/illustrator Amalia Hoffman. Her newest one is HANUKKAH NIGHTS. Amalia is excited to share the book with readers and will give away a copy to one.

thumbnail_Hanukkah nights cover H R

Here is my review of HANUKKAH NIGHTS:

“A simple and festive celebration of the eight nights of Hanukkah and the lighting of the menorah. Children will delight in being able to count and create the colorful lights themselves through various painting techniques. A thoughtful and creative addition to the holiday genre.”

thumbnail_Hanukkah Nights Press Release

thumbnail_Hanukkah Nights storytelling presentation

For a chance to win a copy of this creative take on the eight days and nights of Hanukkah, leave a comment. One winner will be chosen at random and announced later this month.

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Easy and Fun Crafts For St. Patrick’s Day

Easy St Patrick’s Day Crafts for Kids

Many of you who follow this blog know how much I enjoy posting about easy, fun crafts for kids. One of my favorite sites for this is RED TED ART. Check out all the fun crafts for any holiday, season, or just for fun. Everything from paper crafting, origami, painting, clay, puppets, weaving…this site has it all.

Enjoy a bit of extra “luck of the Irish” and get busy with the kids making some easy and fun shamrocks and other decorations.

You can also get into the spirit of the holiday with some fun reading: leprecaun book

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

Easy Holiday Paper Crafts For Kids.

I am in love with the RED TED website! If you haven’t discovered this gem, head on over. There are so many great crafts for kids and adults and many come with step-by-step videos to show you how to make each project. Using any kind of materials imaginable, you and your kids can create so many wonderful gifts to decorate your home or give to family and friends for the holidays.

If you plan of giving some books as gifts this Christmas, why not add a homemade bookmark?  You and the kids can make them following the tutorials on the site.  It’s a simple way for kids to give a gift to classmates,  or as a Scout or Sunday School Project. Here is the link to some of the awesome BOOKMARK PAPER CRAFTS  with a holiday theme:

https://www.redtedart.com/christmas-paper-crafts-for-kids/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=top_crafts_for_the_week&utm_term=2019-11-15

*Christmas Paper Crafts for Kids*. Everyone has paper, right? Combine paper with basic stationery items such as scissors, pens and glue and you have a fantastic list of fabulous Christmas Crafts and Christmas DIYs for kids and grown ups. Love how versatile Paper Crafts. CUTE Christmas Paper Crafts. #PaperCrafts #PaperChristmasCrafts #Christmascrafts #ChristmasPaperCrafts #Christmas #Christmascraftsforkids #papercraftsforkids

For more ideas on Do-it-yourself projects, check out the book BE A MAKER, by Katey Howes.

Happy crafting!

Halloween Crafts For All Ages.

Several years ago I came upon a wonderful site that teaches craft-lovers of all ages how to make some amazing things. RED TED Art hosted by MAGGY, makes crafts using household objects, paper, yarn, origami, crayons, clay, and more. Here are some great links for Halloween Crafts for kids of all ages.

https://www.redtedart.com/halloween-crafts-ideas/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=early_bird_halloween_special&utm_term=2021-09-26

Halloween crafts for kids

https://www.redtedart.com/halloween-activities-for-families/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=early_bird_halloween_special&utm_term=2021-09-27

Halloween Activities for Families

https://www.redtedart.com/halloween-tp-roll-crafts/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=early_bird_halloween_special&utm_term=2021-09-27

If you’re still hesitant about letting your kids go out trick-or-treating this season, they can still have a blast and get into the spirit of the season by making some of these kid-friendly crafts.

Happy Halloween!

Memorial Day Activities

Since Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of summer, that usually means more time outdoors and lots of outdoor eating. If you’re going to a picnic this weekend, here are a few simple games, activities and food ideas to help win the day.                      patriotic-dove

MAKE PATRIOTIC NECKLACES using red, white, and blue straws cut into one inch sections. String them onto a piece of yarn and everyone looks ready for a parade or backyard barbeque.

Try frozen STRAWBERRY POPS to cool off after a fun day in the sun. Wash and remove the stems from a quart of strawberries. Toss them in a blender and add a splash of orange or grape juice.  Puree until smooth. Pour into small paper cups. Place a popsicle stick in each one and freeze until firm. Peel away the paper and they’re ready to eat.

At the next family reunion, have the kids dress up in red, white, and blue and have a backyard parade. You can decorate wagons and bikes, and play some peppy marching band music to add to the festivities. Adults can join in and everyone can “perform” by doing whatever they’re good at: acrobatics, card tricks, puppet show, singing, dancing, telling corny jokes.  Getting everyone – young and old – involved adds to the fun.

While you are celebrating, remember those brave and selfless men and women in uniform who gave their lives  to keep our country free.

Happy Memorial Day.

Easter Treats Recall Ancient Myths by Marilyn Ostermiller.

From chocolate bunnies to colored eggs, traditional Easter treats can be traced back to the 13th century.

The Easter Bunny tradition is thought to stem from the German myth of Osterhas, a rabbit said to have laid colored eggs in early spring. In anticipation of his arrival, children made nests for him, according to history.com

easter-1289267-1280

Decorated eggs date back to pagan festivities in the 13th century that also celebrated spring’s arrival. Easter is a Christian holy day marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s traditionally celebrated the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring.

Recipes for festive Easter sweets abound. Easter egg bread, which involves baking dyed Easter eggs into braided loaves of sweet bread, are attention-getters.  A word of caution, guests can eat the dyed eggs if the loaves are kept refrigerated from the time they are taken out of the oven, until they are served. Otherwise, display your Easter egg bread proudly, but   treat the eggs like you would any nonedible decoration.

thumbnail_IMG_1129Chick and Egg Cupcakes are showstopper on the Easter dinner dessert cart. The recipe is available online on the Food Network app in the App Store. 

Contemporary Easter egg hunts combine the traditions of searching for the eggs left by the Easter bunny with the practice of decorating eggs.

How to produce an Easter egg hunt:

Ask your invited guests to RSVP.

Find a backup location in case of inclement weather, especially if the hunt is for real eggs. Sniffing out an elusive rotten egg weeks later is no fun.

          If you ask invitees to bring their own basket, offer a reward for the most original basket. Designate someone to anonymously judge the baskets before the egg hunt. Reward the winner. Maybe with a five second head start for the egg hunt.

           If you do provide baskets, pails, gift bags or another festive container  remember to keep the size relative to the number of eggs your hunters are likely to find. Basket is a relative term. Gift bags and pails work as well.

          Include about a dozen eggs for each participant.  Artificial grass to line the baskets is a nice touch.

          Hide the eggs strategically based on the ages of the hunters. If the age range is wide, offer two hunts.        egg in tree

DSC_2006-20160406-Easter Egg

          Some hunts rely on hard boiled eggs. Plastic eggs filled with candy, small plastic toys, or money are popular too.

          Prizes are optional.

thumbnail_img_1886Marilyn Ostermiller is a longtime journalist who enjoys tracing the history of traditional holiday foods.

I Wish…I Imagine…Craft For Mother’s Day in the Time of Coronavirus.

While we are sheltering in place and social distancing, it doesn’t mean we can’t do something special to honor our moms, grandmas, step-moms, and the other women in our lives who love us and take such good care of us. 

This simple craft comes from my new book: WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY  (Creston).

WoCCover0111 year-old Jack, his 5 year-old sister Katy, and their mom Lily are spending summer with their grandparents as they wait and hope to hear word about Jack’s dad who is MIA in Vietnam. To help get through the worry and anxiety of not knowing his whereabouts, Lily tells them to “hold onto hope”.

When we hold onto hope, we can imagine better times and imagine how we hope things will be when those better times return.

At the end of their summer together, JACK, KATY, JILL, and CODY decide to make a hand wreath to symbolize their wishes, hopes, imaginings, for when they meet again a whole year away. Here is that poem from the book:

HAND
It’s Jill’s idea to trace everyone’s hand,
both hands actually, so we can make two circles
with hands joined together, fingers
touching wrists,
so it looks like a paper wreath.

Hands of friendship, Jill says, forever linked.
And holding on to hope, I say, thinking of Dad.
We trace the grown-ups hands, too,
all of us linked together
in a circle that doesn’t end, like the silly song.

Jill and Cody keep one circle
and I give the other to Gran and Pops.
We have to make another one, Katy says.
I want a hand wreath so I can always remember
my summer of wishes and how all of them
came true.

Eyes wide, Katy says, Let’s write a wish
on each one so
next year we can see if they
come true without Fred.

Kid genius, Cody says, smiling at Katy.
I think we should keep them
secret, I say as we write down our
hopes and dreams on this third wreath.

We cover the back of each hand with
a paper door,
to be opened like a time capsule
next time we meet. We trade this new one,
the one with our
hopes and dreams,
for the one we gave Gran and Pops,
so we aren’t tempted to take a peek.

wish hands

You and your kids can do this, writing I WISH…I IMAGINE…I DREAM…on one side of each hand, and then what each hope, wish, or dream might be when we are over this pandemic and things are back to normal, on the reverse. Write down the things you’d want to do with your MOM or GRANDMA when you can be together again. Hang it up, or tuck it away and bring it out when we are free of self-isolation and see how many of your hopes, dreams, and imaginings came true.

Stay Safe, hold onto hope, and have a Happy Mother’s Day.

Stuck Indoors? Get Your Craft On!

I know we’re all at the point where we’re getting itchy from “sheltering in place”. Tired of videos and online learning. But, there is one sight out there that can provide hours of crafting fun for kids of all ages.

I’ve mentioned RED TED ART on this blog before, and it is still one of the best craft sites out there. Origami crafts, recycled object crafts, paint, pencil, clay,  paper mache, you name it, there’s a craft for it. Here is a sample using newspaper:

How about Newspaper Easter Bonnets?

Eco & Thrifty, but still GORGEOUS. Fun ways to craft with Newspapers this Easter. Inexpensive craft ideas for Easter. Find Easter Crafts with Newspaper ideas. Great Easter inspiration for all ages. Love newspaper diy crafts and ideas!

Newspaper flowers?

Eco & Thrifty, but still GORGEOUS. Fun ways to craft with Newspapers this Easter. Inexpensive craft ideas for Easter. Find Easter Crafts with Newspaper ideas. Great Easter inspiration for all ages. Love newspaper diy crafts and ideas!

Newspaper Flower Headbands.

Each craft comes with easy step-by-step- instructions on video so everyone can follow along.

For another way to get your kiddos engaged and learning while having fun and creating something unique, check out Red Ted Art.

https://www.redtedart.com/easter-crafts-with-newspaper/

Easy Last-minute Thanksgiving Treats Kids Can Make.

I recently went to a party and we did this “food craft” with the kids. They had fun making these treats and serving them to everyone afterwards. The recipe was on the package of Kisses.

Candy Acorns

You will need:  Hershey Kisses unwrapped, peanut butter morsels, mini Vanilla Wafers, vanilla frosting for glue.  Take a look at the photo…it’s self-explanatory.

acorn treats

MAY YOU AND YOURS HAVE A SAFE AND BLESSED THANKSGIVING!

Mincemeat Enjoys a Storied Past, by Marilyn Ostermiller.

“Would you like a mincemeat cookie?”

When I offer holiday guests a platter of fresh baked mincemeat cookies, I’ve come to expect one of two responses, happy or sorta queasy.

It’s understandable. Minced meat and cookies aren’t a famous pairing, like peanut butter and jelly, or cheese and crackers.

 

Mincemeat can be traced back to Medieval Times in Europe. Back then, it was a way to preserve food without refrigeration. Finely chopped lamb was mixed with dried fruits, sugar and vinegar to keep it from spoiling.

 

A tradition evolved that tied mincemeat pie to Christmas. The pie crust was rectangular, like the manger in Bethlehem. It was filled with mincemeat and a small replica of baby Jesus rested on the filling. A sprinkling of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg symbolized the gifts of the Magi. 

 

Over the years, the meat — finely chopped beef became popular — gradually began to be supplanted with preserved fruits, and sweeteners.

Crosse & Blackwell Rum & Brady Mincemeat Filling & Topping ~ 1 count ~ 29 oz jar

Today’s mincemeat is made mostly from preserved fruits. The brand I prefer doesn’t have a trace of meat or suet. Instead, it’s made with apples, raisins, and orange peel, mixed with corn syrup, vinegar, cornstarch, spices and salt. Some other brands still include beef and suet. Some are spiked with brandy or rum.

While I take the shortcut of prepared mincemeat, two of the cookbooks that will guide more adventurous cooks through the steps to make theirs from scratch include:

  • The Forgotten Arts: Making Old-Fashioned Pickles, Relishes, Chutneys, Sauces and Catsups, Mincemeats, Beverages and Syrups (Yesterday’s Skills Adapted to keywords=Mincemeat+recipes&qid=1571846370&s=books&sr=1-1
  • Preserve & Pickle Recipes (Preserve & Pickle Recipes : With these Fruit Cheeses, Curds, Mincemeat, Conserves, Chutneys And Relishes Book 2) Written by Ana Bridge.

Like pumpkin pie and fruit cake, mincemeat pies, tarts and cookies have their season. It begins at Thanksgiving and ends at Christmas, although leftovers are fair game until New Year’s Eve.

My family favors this recipe:

mincemeat

Mincemeat Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3 cups unsifted flour

1tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/3 cups mincemeat (I use Crosse & Blackwell brand)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar in a mixer. Add eggs, one at a time. Whisk together dry ingredients. Add gradually to the creamed mixture. Stir in mincemeat. Drop tablespoon-sized rounds of batter on a greased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Makes 6 dozen.

Marilyn Ostermiller      Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who enjoys baking for family and friends.