Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christmas Collage Kids' Craft

Christmas is coming up. I can’t believe that I’m writing those words—but, it is. Every year we try to come up with cute and creative homemade gift ideas. This year, I wanted to go a step beyond that and make something to put those DIY holiday presents into. We made a Santa Claus gift carrier, and one for Hanukkah.

Children's crafts

This time we’re making a simple crafty collage version. It’s got the traditional red and green colors (so, why not use it as a color recognition activity as well?)

Here’s What You’ll Need:
Gift Box

·         A takeout carrier – you can also buy these new at craft stores

·         Red and green tissue paper

·         Clear-drying school glue

·         Cotton balls

·         A paintbrush

Here’s What to Do:

1.      Tear the tissue paper into pieces. Have your child vary the sizes and shapes.
Collage art

2.      Paint a layer of glue on the container (avoid the top tab where your child will close it).

3.      Press the tissue onto the container to create a collage. Your child can overlap the edges of the tissue.
Christmas art
Holiday art

4.      Pull two cotton balls apart to make fluffy strands.

5.      Glue one strand to the bottom and the second one to the top.
Gift box

6.      Fill the homemade gift box container with homemade tasty treats! Your child can add cookies, a cupcake, candy or (my personal favorite) Oreo truffle balls!
Holiday collage

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Friday, November 21, 2014

DIY Hanukkah Gift Box Collage Activity

Whether you spell it Hanukkah, Chanukah, or any other way… it’s coming up soon. If your child is getting ready to gift a teacher, relative or friend a present on one of those eight nights, help her to create a cute DIY gift box. Reuse a takeout container (the paperboard Chinese takeout kind) and turn it into a collage art carrier.
Chanukkah Crafts

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After the crafting is over, your child can fill the collaged container with holiday goodies! Toss in a few cookies, candies or (one of my personal favorites) Oreo no-bake truffles. Keep the entire gift a DIY activity and help your child to make, bake or create whatever she puts into the homemade caddy!

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        A takeout container—If you don’t have one on hand, you can buy a new craft container that looks exactly the same.

·        Blue tissue paper – Choose a few different shades of the color for the holiday present container collage.

·        Clear-drying school glue

·        A paintbrush

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Tear the tissue paper into pieces. Encourage your child to create different shapes and sizes.

Collages Materials

2.     Squeeze a dime-sized pool of glue onto each side of the container.

3.     Spread the glue out with a paintbrush.

4.     Collage the tissue on to the glue. Have your child press the paper on the glue, overlapping the edges. She will need to add more glue to hold the paper down as she goes along.

Collage Art

5.     Repeat this process for the top of the Hanukkah gift container. Avoid the tab that closes the container shut.

Holiday Gift

6.     Fill the gift box with a tasty treat!

Holiday collage

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

DIY Teacher's Gift: Santa Holiday Craft

Christmas is coming! Breakfast with Santa, walking a miles through the snowy mall parking lot to buy gifts that the kids really don’t need, stockings hung by the chimney with care and …. the annual “teacher’s gift.” Every year I’m torn – should I let my son pick out something, have him make a present or just go the gift card route? One year an overly-zealous homeroom mom coordinated a mega gift basket for the teacher (and all the rest of us had to do with chip in $5!).
Christmas crafts
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If you’re looking to go the way of the DIY gift, this crafty creation is simple, fun and will get your child in the Christmas spirit. Dress up a take-out container (you can reuse the one that you got with your sesame chicken or buy new ones at the craft store) and have your little artist turn it into a Santa Claus themed caddy. Fill it with whatever you want. Add a handmade holiday ornament, Christmas candy or make one of my personal favorites – Oreo no-bake chocolate and pretzel truffles (if you’re looking for even more super-easy holiday recipes check out my new eBook Bake Sale Fail).

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        A take-out style container

·        Red tempera paint

·        A paintbrush

·        Scissors

·        Black and yellow paper

·        Cotton balls

·        Clear-drying school glue
Kids' art

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Paint the outside of the container red. Set it aside and let it dry completely.

2.     Cut a 1-inch thick strip of black paper.

3.     Draw a glue line down the paper strip. Press it against the painted container in the middle to make Santa’s belt.

Takeout Craft
4.     But a rectangle from the yellow paper to make the belt buckle. Glue it to the front of the belt.

5.     Pull two cotton balls apart to make strips.

6.     Glue one strip to the bottom and the other to the top of the container.

DIY gift
7.     Fill the container up!

Gift Caddy
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bake Sale Fail: Easy Holiday Baking

Every December I’m tasked with bringing some sort of baked good to my son’s karate school’s holiday party. The first year my son and I spent the evening before baking would should have been scrumptious chocolate-chocolate chip cookies. They made it as far as my garbage can. Less like cookies, more like hockey pucks. The next morning I rushed out to the grocery store, bought a few dozen cookies from the bakery section and repackaged them in a tupperware container.
Christmas baking

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Surprisingly, I wasn’t the only one to do this. More than a few other mom’s toted in their fake baked cookies (and cupcakes). Fast forward to the springtime and I found myself again at the bakery (and again pretending to have baked something). It was the school’s fun fair and there was a cake walk. I, like the other moms who showed up with bakery boxes, didn’t have the skills or the time to start from scratch. Ok, so I’m not alone in my inability to bake amazing goodies for my son’s parties, school functions, extracurricular events and bake sales.

That’s where “Bake Sale Fail” came in to play. I felt like a total failure. I mean, shouldn’t I have some sort of mom gene that allows me to whip up chewy chocolate chip cookies in an instant or bake the perfect three-tiered cake? Not really. Some of us just aren’t from-scratch girls. And that’s ok. That said, I do like getting creative in the kitchen. With a few simple ingredients (and the help of good friends such as Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines) I am able to create some cute cupcakes, pudding pies, terrific truffles (my favorite) and other assorted baked goods. If you’re stressed enough about the holidays already, don’t add to your frustration with trying to over-do it when it comes to cooking. Check out my new holiday edition eBook for a few so-simple recipes that are still super-tasty! As a bonus, they are easy enough for the kids to help out with.

If you want a taste of what’s in the book, take a look at:

Pumpkin Pie No-Bake Truffles
Oreo Truffles

Pretzel and Chocolate Oreo Cookie Balls

Chocolate Truffles
Leftover recipe

Frozen Olaf Melting S’mores

Disney Olaf

Chocolate and Pretzel Cookie Truffles

I can’t even begin to express my emotions when it comes to Oreo truffles. They just make me happy. After the billionth ad for these cute little cookie bites that seemed to smack me in the face (they were splattered all over my local grocery store’s aisles), I finally decided to try them. Wow!!! I’m not adept at making anything remotely cakey. That said, these were a breeze.
Truffle Oreos

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Firstly, they don’t involve an oven. Perfect for me, and perfect if you have your little chef in the kitchen with you. Secondly, you can really get creative with how you dress them up. The other day I made pumpkin pie truffles (using the special edition pumpkin spice Oreos). This time I went with the standard double stuffs covered in – wait for it… chocolate and pretzels. Yum! I also add a thin layer of peanut butter to a few. It’s sweet, salty and super-duper scrumptious.

If you like this (and you will- it's soooo decadently delicious), check out some of my holiday themed recipes in my new eBook Bake Sale Fail: Easy Holiday Baking and Desserts!

To make the basic cookie balls you’ll need:

·        1 package of Oreos

·        6 oz. of cream cheese

·        1 large or family-sized chocolate bar

·        Wax paper

Here’s What You’ll Do:

1.     Crush the Oreos in a food processor. Keep them crumbling until they look like fine dirt (a fun description for the kids!).

Oreo cookies
2.     Empty the cookie bits into a large mixing bowl. Add the cream cheese. Blend it together. Use your freshly washed hands. A spoon may seem neater, but you really need to blend the two ingredients together. As an added bonus, it’s a great sensory exploration for your child. Tell her to keep mixing until the cookies and cream cheese feel like wet sand.

3.     Create balls. Make these the size of toy bouncy balls. Set them on a piece of wax paper.

4.     Pop the cookie balls into the freezer for one hour.

Before you take the cookie mix out of the freezer, get the coating ready. Toss a few handfuls of pretzel sticks into the food processor.

Melt the chocolate. Here’s the easy way to do this: Put the chocolate bar in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave it for roughly one minute. Continue checking on it to make sure that it doesn’t burn. Microwave ovens vary in terms of power. You may need to add or subtract time for this. When you take the bowl out of the microwave it will be hot. Use oven mitts and don’t touch the chocolate.

Take the Oreo balls out of the freezer. Roll them in the chocolate. Use a spoon to coat them (so you don’t have to touch the hot chocolate) or insert a toothpick in to dip them.

Sprinkle the pretzel bits over the chocolate. Roll the truffles in the rest of the pretzel pieces to fully coat them.

Salty Dessert
Cookie balls
If you want to add another layer, coat the chocolate-covered cookie balls with peanut butter. Sprinkle the pretzels on top of the peanut butter.
Cookie treat

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Easiest Pumpkin Pie Truffles Ever

Oreo balls = the best, easy-to-make dessert ever! Seriously. I’m usually a baking failure. My son is constantly saying things like, “Really mom? Are those supposed to be brownies?” But, then I took my quest for making the perfect baked good down a notch. I realized that I: 1. Don’t have the time to just whip up a five-layer cake from scratch, and 2. There’s no shame in cutting corners to accommodate my skills level. If I was opening up a bakery, then things would be different. I’m not. I’m just cooking for my family. My son doesn’t know a crème brulee from a Twinkie, so I decided to concentrate on making little tasty treats that he’ll like and that won’t come out burnt or half-cooked.
Thanksgiving treats

That’s where Oreo truffles come in. I’ve seen what seems like a billion ads for these so-sweet morsels at the grocery store, online and just about anywhere else that’s promoting holiday cooking. I tried the standard chocolate –dipped ones, and then decided on some embellishments. I made a few different kinds. They really came out so well that I couldn’t decide which one to post first. Given that Thanksgiving is coming up, the pumpkin pie truffles seemed fitting. These are waaaaaaaaay easier than baking a pumpkin pie, and they are super-duper tasty. And (bonus!), they are so easy to make that even your child can do most of the work.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        1 package Pumpkin Spice Oreos (they’re limited edition, so get them while they’re still around)

·        6 oz. cream cheese

·        White chocolate bar

·        Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal (you can substitute graham crackers)

·        Wax paper

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Crush the cookies in a food processor. I’m a complete klutz when it comes to kitchen appliances, but even I could manage this step. You can’t just smash the cookies with a spoon or masher – you really need to use something electric. Crumble them until they are sand-like in texture.

Crushed cookies
2.     Pour the crushed cookies into a large mixing bowl. Add the cream cheese. Mix thoroughly. I daintily started this process with a spoon. That didn’t work. Might I suggest that you use your hands? If your child is working with you, have her wash her hands and then mush and mound the mix until it feels like wet sand. As a little extra – it’s a great sensory activity for smell, taste and texture.

3.     Form the mix into spheres that are the size of bouncy balls (again, use your hands). Place them on a piece of wax paper.

Pumpkin recipe

4.     Pop the balls into the freezer for an hour.

5.     Crumble a few handfuls of the cereal (or graham crackers) in the food processor until they are the consistency of sand.

Cinammon cereal
6.     Melt the chocolate. I did this in the microwave. Put a large or family-sized white chocolate bar in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat it for about a minute. Microwaves vary, so you may need more or less time. Continuously check on it to make sure that it doesn’t burn. Be very, very careful when you take it out. The bowl and the chocolate will be hot. Never touch it with your bare hands and never, ever allow your child to touch or eat the hot chocolate.

7.     Take the balls out of the freezer and dip them into the chocolate. Use a spoon or a toothpick so that you don’t have to touch the hot chocolate.

8.     Set the truffles on a piece of wax paper. Pour the crushed cereal (or grahams) over them. Roll the balls in the crumbs until they are completely covered. You can start off with a spoon to put between your hand and the hot chocolate coating. As you cover the truffle, you can start using your hands to roll them (you will only be touching the cereal coating, and not the hot chocolate).

Oreo balls
Store the Oreo truffles in the fridge. Serve them as a Thanksgiving dinner dessert or at a holiday party!

Pumpkin pie
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Monday, November 17, 2014

Thanksgiving Art Activities for Kids

Thanksgiving is almost here. Can you believe it? It seems like I was just getting my son ready for summer camp and now it’s turkey time! While you’re prepping for the holiday feast, keep the kids busy with a few creative crafts.
Kids' art

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If you’re looking for an art activity that takes turkey crafts into sensory play, pattern prints and more, read on. And, if you want to start the Thanksgiving art-making off with a book (which is a great way to introduce the theme at hand), you’ll find a few good reads at the end of the post!

Thanksgiving table napkin rings. Your child can make table décor by reusing a cardboard paper towel tube. Add paint, craft feathers and more to these table-toppers!

Holiday table

Shaving cream art:

I’ve got two different shaving cream turkeys and one cornucopia for the kids to try.

1.     Sensory play with shaving cream turkey wings. The textured wings are fluffy and puffy with this DIY paint.

Turkey Project

2.     Handprint turkey. I’m not a huge fan of the handprint turkey. Sorry, but I have a ridiculous stack of these paint projects that my son has made over the years. And they all look exactly the same. That said, I have seen a few creatively cute ones that inspired me to do something a little different.

Shaving cream paint

3.     Cornucopia. A while ago I did a scented shaving cream art post. Your child can use the same sweet smelling stuff to create a cornucopia (or mix paint with the shaving cream instead).

Thanksgiving paint

It’s not exactly as it sounds. Your child isn’t making a turkey out of popcorn – although, now that I think about it that sounds like a fab idea! Instead it’s a textured print-making project.

Thanksgiving art

The other day I was cutting apart a cardboard egg carton to use for another art activity when it dawned on me, “Hey, this looks like a bird’s eyes and beak.” I took the carton and turned it into a 3-D turkey craft.

Egg Carton

Before you start the art, try reading a Thanksgiving themed book together. Here are a few of my picks:

·        Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving by James Dean

·        The Story of the Pilgrims by Katharine Ross and Carolyn Croll

·        Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon

·        The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing

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