Sunday, December 17, 2017

Stamped Gingerbread Holiday Cookies

Christmas is only a week away, so maybe all your holiday baking is done and delivered. (Or maybe it has dropped down, or completely off, your "to do" list.) But if you are looking for a fun alternative to traditional cut out cookies, here is a delicious possiblitity. They would be a great family baking project between Christmas and New Years--and all the baking supplies will be on sale!

There are a lot of gingerbread cookie recipes out there. The one I used is a favorite from "Our Best Bites." 

This recipe works well for cut out cookies, but this time my goal was to use a decorative rolling pin. Next to it is a ceramic cookie stamp that can be used to create similar cookies:

I made the cookie dough and put it into the fridge for a couple of hours to chill. Getting the dough the right temperature is really the only tricky part. If it is too cold, it is difficult to roll out; if it is too warm, the stamped images are less sharp. I kept any dough that I wasn't working with in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap.

Roll out the dough just a little bit thicker than the recipe suggests with a standard rolling pin. Then roll over the dough with your special pin to make the designs:

Create a similar look using a cookie press like the one below just by stamping individual designs into the dough:

Using a paring knife, score through the dough to create separate cookies. Place on baking sheet:

After the cookies are baked, you can decorate them with white piping to accentuate the design or let the subtle texture speak for itself:

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Fruit Pizza

Delys had a birthday recently, and the children and I wanted to celebrate with something other than cake. So we decided to make fruit pizza. Easy, colorful, delicious, and--if you forget about the cookie crust and the frosting and just focus on the fruit--healthy :) A perfect addition to any celebration or holiday!

We were on a tight schedule, so we used a mix and purchased icing:

If you have time to make it from scratch, this is a yummy sugar cookie recipe from Our Best Bites

Pat the cookie dough onto pizza pan (I lined ours with foil because it has holes) and bake according to package or recipe directions. Let cool.

Choose your fruit, wash it and let it dry, and cut it into bite size pieces:

Frost your cookie. (Somehow I failed to get a picture of that step.) Again, you can use a mix, premade frosting, or make it from scratch.These can pizzas can be works of art, so use your imagination when arranging the fruit. The children wanted a modern art look, and they did a beautiful job:

Slice and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Picture a Christmas Singing Time

Hellooooooooooo Christmas! I love the month of December. I love Christmas songs! It's a wonderful time to be Primary Chorister of the children at church.

Alas... I do not get to enjoy this wonderful time in that wonderful calling, as I was released a few weeks ago. Bummer. However, as our kiddos are singing at the upcoming Christmas party, I did get to half-way teach them Picture a Christmas before my reassignment.

I came across an idea to use the Primary Cutouts as my visual aids for the song (I used pictures from Set 8 and Set 3.) I didn't take a picture of my final result, which is probably just as well, since my printer is on the fritz and won't let me change the ink, despite printing ghastly lines across all my pictures. I had a giant, gold, cardboard picture frame on hand (from my "Fat Lady," Harry Potter Themed Halloween costume last year). I put the frame on the whiteboard and slowly added the visuals as we learned each line of the song (I made a basic "stable" out of brown construction paper). After we learned a verse or when reviewing the song on subsequent weeks, I liked the idea from Sugardoodle to let a child come up and be the ones to put the pictures in the frame as we sang the song.

It was a simple and effective way to learn the song. If you'd like to save yourself the trouble of cropping out the pictures you need from the online sets, here is the version I pieced together and sized to fit my frame. It worked out just right for our Primary.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Week's Worth of Easy, Healthy, Before-school Breakfasts

Half of my children remember homemade breakfasts, prepared daily before school and early morning seminary (a daily 6:00 a.m. scripture class.) The other half remember cold cereal that they got for themselves. (Those were the years that I taught early morning seminary.)

For those of you who believe, like I do, that breakfast should be both filling and healthy but who are, like I am, on a tight morning schedule, here are five of my favorite, mostly healthy, quick and easy breakfast options. (It looks like we eat an inordinate amount of pancakes, but the recipes are all really quite different.)

#1: Oatmeal Pancakes
These pancakes are made from a homemade mix that I found online at Mel's Kitchen Cafe. They do require a little early prep to make the mix, but on the morning of, all you need is an egg, buttermilk, and a cup of mix. Here is the recipe:



  • 3 1/2 cups rolled (quick) oats (optional: first grind oats in a food processor for a smoother mix)
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 more cups whole wheat for a heartier pancake)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable or canola oil

  1. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer or gently by hand, combine all the dry ingredients together. Slowly drizzle the vegetable oil into the bowl while stirring. When all the oil has been added, stop and squeeze a clump of mix in your hand. If it stays together, it is finished. (If still crumbly, add another tablespoon of oil at a time until the consistency is correct.) Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks at room temperature or longer in the fridge/freezer.
  2. To make the pancakes: whisk together 1 cup of mix, 1 egg, and 1/2 to 1 cup buttermilk (depending on how thick you want your batter). Though the mixture may seem thin at first, the oats will soak up the milk as it stands while the griddle preheats. Spoon the batter onto your heated griddle. When the edges look dry and bubbles come to the surface and don’t break, flip the pancake over to finish cooking on the second side. Enjoy!
I don't always have fresh buttermilk, so I keep a canister of powdered buttermilk in my fridge. Using the powdered milk does change the texture of the pancakes but doesn't alter the taste.

#2. Puffed Oven Pancakes

These are easy, delicious, look fun, and are loaded with egg protein. One of our eaters is not a fan of eggs (hence the lack of egg dishes on this post,) but he loves these:

The recipe is an old one from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that may have been a wedding gift. Prep is easy, but it takes 25 minutes to bake, so you have to plan ahead. I double the original recipe to feed four, so I am giving you the doubled version:

Puffed oven Pancakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

4 T butter
6 eggs
1 c flour
1 c milk
1/2 t salt

Place butter in a 9x13 glass or metal cake pan. Place in a 400 degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes. In a medium mixing bowl, use a wire whisk or rotary beater to beat eggs till combined. Add flour, milk, and salt. Beat till mixture is smooth. Immediately pour into the hot pan. Bake about 25 minutes or till puffed and well browned.

Top with fresh fruit or your favorite pancake toppings.

Here is a similar recipe from that cuts your baking time to 15 minutes because you bake the batter in muffin tins: 

mini puffed oven pancakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1 cup milk, 6 eggs, 1 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/4 cup butter, melted

Blend first five ingredients in a blender to smooth out flour lumps. Blend in butter a little at a time.

Grease muffin tins well and fill slightly less than half full.

Bake 15 minutes or until puffy and golden on top. A crater will form on its own. Add your favorite toppings.

#3 Wednesday Waffles

I used to be a huge fan of  commercial mixes because they are so convenient, but as I learn more about what is in them, I rarely use them any more. However, I make an exception for this one:

I buy it at Costco, but I think it is available at other stores as well as online. Although I am not a nutrition expert, the ingredients in this mix seem simple and healthy. It is also a pancake mix, but I use it exclusively for waffles. The recipe calls for 1 cup mix, 1 cup cold water, and 1 T of oil. They are quick and delicious.

#4 Homemade Granola

I have no imagination and eat this every morning (almost.) It's delicious alone or mixed into yogurt. Find the recipe here on our blog.

#5 Wheat Muffins

I don't have time to make these in the morning, but they are great to make ahead to use later. They freeze well and can be pulled out of the freezer the night before. I don't know where I got this recipe, so I can't give credit where it is due.

Wheat muffins

1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/3 c butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3 egg whites
1/2 skim milk
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper baking cups. Stir together flour and whole wheat flour. Measure out 1 T flour mixture and sprinkle over blueberries; toss to coat evenly and set aside. Stir baking powder and salt into flour mixture and set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Beat in egg whites until well combined. Stir in milk and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture, blending just until moistened. Stir in blueberries. Spoon into muffin cups, filling nearly to the top of each cup. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 12 muffins.

So here are five of our favorites. On the search for five more. . . .

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Children's Art Gallery

I have spent way too much time trying to figure out how to make a gallery for the grandchildren's school papers and art work. I wanted something simple, attractive, and at their eye level. There are a bazillion ideas out there, and I even bought the things needed to make one of them. But I opted out when I realized it would require making big holes in the walls. So here is my "why didn't I think of this earlier" solution.

I screwed two white cup hooks into the underside of some white molding along an archway in our kitchen. When I remove the hooks, the holes won't even be visible.

(I realize that not everyone has an archway exactly like this, but look for other possibilities that might work. For example, I did the same thing under the mantel to hang up seasonal decorations. The underside of laminate countertops/bars works well also.)

Purchase small curtain clips similar to this one. They are available at Ikea and at numerous online sources:

Using clear fishing line or sturdy string that blends into your wall color, tie one end of the string to one of the hooks, add the curtain clips, and then, keeping it taut, tie the string to the other cup hook. I used white kite string, and it is almost invisible.

Let your budding Picassos and Da Vincis hang up their art treasures--and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Primary Program Song Puzzle

I wasn't kidding when I told the children that being the Primary Chorister at church each week is the best calling. True, it adds to my overall stress, but I'm so lucky that gracious people surround me and are ever thanking me and kindly complimenting when things go well.

We're just a few weeks before the Primary Program, the singing/speaking showcase of sorts where the 3 to 11-year-old children get to share the songs and gospel truths they learned this year. I wanted some way of recognizing and "passing off" songs as they became "program ready." As always, I searched the internet, and somewhere I saw a picture of a "build a temple" puzzle idea that I loved. How perfect: simple, beautiful, and symbolic of making right choices (complementing our "Choose the Right" primary theme this year). Alas, the picture didn't link back to a working site, so I decided to build my own. By enlarging a template of the Salt Lake Temple found in the children's Friend magazine, I made a poster-board sized puzzle for both the younger and older kids in primary. I just printed it off at home on cardstock and cut along the dotted lines. What could be easier? Here's a picture clandestinely snapped in bad lighting behind the piano during "Sharing Time."

It's a nice visual to see how much we've accomplished and how more we have to learn in the next month. Here's a blank copy  of the puzzle or the version with the 2017 songs. Best of luck, all ye choristers and primary children!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Volunteer to Make a Difference--From Home

When my parents passed away a few years ago, I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time. It quickly became clear that I needed something meaningful to fill the void that their passing left in my life. I was lucky to find a volunteer opportunity at a community resale shop that gave me a creative outlet, a fun circle of friends, and a chance to make a difference.

However, my circumstances have changed once again, and I need some volunteer projects that I can do from home. Thinking that there may be some of you out there in a similar situation, let me share some fun ones that I have found. Some of them require sewing, but others can but done with items that you purchase and put together. You can work on these projects alone or invite others to your home to share the joy. I will try to update this as I find more ideas:

Dolls to Donate: While I was working at the resale shop, I bought used 18 inch dolls and cleaned them up. My goal is to give each doll two different outfits, complete with shoes and fun accessories--dress and pajamas, swimming suit and jeans/top, skirt/sweater and cheerleading outfit, etc. I make the outfits from scratch, revamp small baby clothes, or scour resale shops for used doll clothes that I bring home, wash, and refresh. I put each doll and her clothing in a fabric bag that I make from my still-too-large stockpile of fabric. I donate these dolls to a local women's shelter, but they would also work for refugees, children's hospitals, and other children's charities. My granddaughter and her friends had so much fun putting together the outfits and dressing the dolls.

Days for Girls: This is an amazing project that blesses girls and young women in countries throughout the world. The non-profit group creates feminine hygiene kits for girls in third world countries where menstration can interupt education and jobs and sometimes leads to personal harm. There are opportunties to sew different components for the kits and donate them to local chapters of the organization. For example, there is a chapter about 30 minutes from where I live where I can drop off the things that I make. Ultimately, they will be assembled and delivered to girls in Africa, South America, India and other countires along with helpful education. Here is a link to the official site which includes informational videos, instructions, and patterns:

The Preemie Project: This group has various projects that can be made for new moms and their preemie babies and for parents who lose their babies at birth. Snuggle hearts for preemies, soft blankets, hats, and burial outfits are some of the things they ask for. Instructions and patterns are available for download at: Again, you can send them to the official non-profit company or donate them to local hospitals.

Newborn blankets: You don't need an official organization to make a difference. A large hospital near me that services the disadvantaged members of our community is thrilled to get flannel receiving blankets. The volunteer director told me that they have had parents take their babies home wrapped in newspaper; they simply couldn't afford a blanket. Purchase flannel when it is on sale (look for red tag clearance flannel at JoAnns), cut it into 45" or larger lengths, and serge the edges. Warm, soft and simple.

Project Night Night: This group puts together comfort bags for homeless children. Each fabric bag includes a soft blanket, a brand new children's book, and a new stuffed animal. You can purchase official bags from the non-profit, buy your own bag from a store, or simply sew one. Our local police force was thrilled to have us offer them bags that we are putting together in an upcoming service project at church. They can also be donated to homeless shelters, women's shelters and children's hospitals. You can find more information here:

Pillowcases for Children's Hospitals, or Hospice Patients: Last Christmas, one of our grandsons spent Christmas week in the hospital fighting a serious strep infection. While he was there, he was given a soft, flannel Star Wars pillowcase. He is a huge Star Wars fan, and having the force with him during that difficult time was magical. The pillowcase is still a favorite. There are all kinds of sites out there that give directions and suggestions for making and donating cases. Here is one of them:

No-sew Lap Blankets for the Elderly or Children's Hospitals: During his hospital stay, our grandson was also given small fleece blanket. Nine months later, it is still his go-to thing to snuggle with. It is simply a square piece of fleece that someone made special by cutting and tying a fringe around each side. Here is a fun fringing idea from the internet:
These blankets also make ideal gifts for nursing home residents or for cancer patients to use during chemo sessions.

We can make a difference!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Preschool Lesson: Caps for Sale

Happy Fall! Almost, anyways. I really love this time of year, and I get excited about the "back to school" buzz. This works for us, too, since our preschool is tentatively up and going. This year, we leave the alphabet theme behind us and instead take a literature approach. I hadn't heard of a preschool where each class revolved around a children's book, but it didn't take me long to get excited. This opens up so many possibilities.

For some mysterious reason, the first book I wanted to choose was clearly Caps for Sale. I love this book, and it kept speaking to me anytime I thought about picking something else.

Sadly, I failed to have my completely adorable calendar center up and running (curse you posterboard for being too small!!), but we started with a very short morning-meeting circle time. We sang Here We Are Together and What's the Weather? before diving into our book.

So this preschool strengthened my belief in the power of books. Since this was our first preschool with this particular quartet of kids, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. They range in age from a new four-year-old to a late 2-year-old, and I was curious to see how their attention spans, well, spanned. As can be expected, some activities appealed more to some than to others. However, all four seemed to love listening to books. Such a win.

Anyways, I read Esphyr Slobodkina's classic tale to my wide-eyed audience. We then talked about what a peddler is and how he sold hats for 50 cents. Handing each child a bag of 10 pennies, I explained how they'd need their 10 cents to buy various things for our activities (this was my "Math" bit of the day). To start us off, each child bought a monkey mask for 1 cent for our game of "Monkey See, Monkey Do."

In this simple game (our Imagination Activity, if you will,) I started off as the "peddler" wearing this fancy Bavarian Hat. Then each of the "monkey" children had to copy my actions as did the monkeys in the story. Once they had the gist, each child had the chance to play the peddler. We then took a moment to sing "5 Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree" with actions... it's a favorite.

We then took a minute too look and observe that the peddler sorted his caps by color and to count how many of each he had. At the table, the kids brushed up their Fine Motor skills and made their own stacks with blocks. We talked about the different color blocks we were using but didn't end up sorting them as I had thought. There was important building to be done. Priorities...

For our Snack, I intended to display green grapes and pretzel sticks in the shape of a tree on their plates like this. Instead, we ate green grapes and pretzel sticks sans tree shape (and snack cost 3 cents). The kids colored this neat coloring page (and a generic monkey picture) while I prepped the food.

For Music Time, we busted out the shakers for an animated "5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed." Other songs to match the theme include "Tapping on my Sticks" (I was thinking the monkey see, monkey do bit again?) and "My Hat, It has Three Corners."

Again amazed at their fixed attention, we had more Storytime by reading Old Hat, New Hat and Ten Apples Up on Top. After the latter, we talked about balance. I showed some pictures of women in Ghana balancing giant loads on their heads. We got some Large Motor movement going when we tried balancing on one foot. Here, I thought it would be adorable to do some preschool yoga! I never planned it out... but it still sounds adorable. We then had a "balancing race" by running around the room with pillows on our heads.

We did these delightful hat puzzles, talking about how different professions wear different hats. Then, I thought it would be fun to end by telling the Caps for Sale story again but this time with story bracelets. Elin blogged about them here; they "bought" pipe cleaners and beads for 2 cents and then I walked them back through the story, using different beads to represent a person, thing, or event. I knew this might be a little complicated for the group. I already had the beads divided into individual bowls and had them look for each bead as we got to it in the story. Perhaps I should have kept all the beads myself and handed each out at the appropriate part in the story? It worked out as it was; the younger two charged ahead and started stringing the beads in any order as I talked through the monkey tale once more. The older two somewhat followed along with me, pulling out the beads as I talked about them but not necessarily waiting to string them in the right order. No worries: the kids seemed to enjoy the activity, everyone was able to string the beads, and it provided an opportunity to talk about letters, colors, and symbols. Here's the gist of the story.

To cap it all off (see what I did there?), we decorated dollar store caps. I was going for an open-ended, simple craft. They bedazzled their hats with gems, feathers, pom-poms, and buttons while I scurried around hot gluing the treasures into place. I ditched the fabric paint last minute; we were short on time, and I felt under-prepared to prevent painting their clothes along with the hats.

I had a great time with the peddler, his caps, and some monkey business. I hope the kids did, too.

Caps for Sale Story Bracelet

Once there was a peddler (“P” bead) who sold caps. First he had his own checked cap, then the gray caps (gray bead), brown caps (brown bead), blue caps (blue bead), and red caps on the very top (red bead). He walked up and down the streets calling “Caps! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!” One day he couldn’t sell any caps and went for a walk in the country until he came to a nice big tree (green, leafy bead). “That’s a nice place for a rest,” thought he. So he went to sleep (“Z” bead). But when he woke up, all his caps were gone except his own checked cap (“O” bead… as in zero caps. Too much of a stretch?). He looked into the tree. And what do you think he saw? On every branch sat a monkey and on every monkey was a cap (“M” bead). 

The peddler shook his finger at the monkeys (index finger bead). “You monkeys, you, you give me back my caps.” But the monkeys only shook their fingers back at him and said, “tsz, tsz, tsz.”  This made the peddler angry, so he shook his hands at them (fist bead) and said, “You monkeys, you!  You give me back my caps.” But the monkeys only shook their hands back at him and said, “tsz, tsz, tsz.” This made the peddler very angry, so he stamped his feet at them (foot bead) and said, “You monkeys, you!  You give must give me back my caps!” But the monkeys only shook their hands back at him and said, “tsz, tsz, tsz.”

The peddler was so angry (“P” bead) that he took off his own cap, threw it on the ground, and began to walk away. But then, all the monkeys (“M” bead) took their caps and threw them out of the tree. So, the peddler (“P” bead) picked up the caps and began to stack them on his head: first own checked cap, then the gray caps (gray bead), brown caps (brown bead), blue caps (blue bead), and red caps on the very top (red bead). Very slowly, he walked back to town calling, “Caps! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!”

(SourPatch's bracelet with creative ordering. I apparently didn't keep my original bracelet that followed the story sequentially. Sorry!)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Curio Cabinet (size small) Redo

My parents, especially my father, I think, had wanderlust. And, fortunately for their children, they took us along on their adventures. One of my favorite things is a simple wooden curio box that I bought years ago to house some of the tiny treasures that I found or was given during those journeys. Family and friends have added to my collection of "tinys" over the years:

Each little cubbie holds a treasure, and each treasure has a story. So when one of my granddaughters needed a place for her special things (out of reach of her darling but destructive little sister), I started the search for a curio cabinet for her.

The one I found--for a dollar at a resale shop--looks very different than mine, but I liked its classic style and the fact that it has doors to keep out the dust (and little fingers):

I carefully took out the glass, removed the doors and all the hardware, and gave it a couple of coats of white satin spray paint to match the blue and white decor of her bedroom:

A new generation of treasures has a home.