My friend Eva Holmlund, 5, adds details to a sunshine greeting featuring her “sunray” handprints for her grandmother.


 The length of daylight is starting to feel a wee bit longer, kites are flying here and there, but cloudy and cold, stormy day weather forecasts are a reminder that spring isn’t quite in our grasp.

  Here are some sunshine-themed ideas to boost your mood during remaining wintry, and sometimes gloomy days.

  Breakfast Sunny-side Up

  On a large sheet of white paper, draw suns and happy faces all over the surface with a yellow marker or rayon. Use it for a place mat at breakfast. Fry eggs sunny-side up and serve in the middle of slices of toast. On a separate plate, enjoy the sunny taste of cut-out sections of a juicy grapefruit. Or, make tasty tropical smoothies in seconds with a combination of frozen mango and pineapple chunks, and fresh banana.

  Make a Sunshine Greeting

  Your preschooler’s handprints are the rays of the sun in this poster greeting to share with a grandparent, aunt or uncle.

  In the center of a large sheet of heavy white construction paper, glue a round, six-inch diameter piece of yellow paper for the sun (a small salad plate makes a handy pattern).

  Squeeze some bright yellow acrylic paint on a paper plate and dilute with a few drops of water. Stir.

  Place your child’s hand (palm down) in the paint, and guide the painted hand to the white paper. With the palm near the center circle and fingers and thumb going outward to represent the rays of the sun, press lightly to create a handprint. Continue making six more handprints equidistant from each other around the “sun.” Let dry.

  Add details for a face on the sun with a dark marker, if you wish.

  For a kind greeting, print “You Are My Sunshine!” or “I hope you have a Sunny Day!” on the bottom, along with your child’s name.

  Happy Flowers

  Use acrylic paints or paint pens to draw a sun on the outside of an empty, clear jar with the label removed. Let dry. Fill it with fresh, yellow daffodils, daisies or tulips from your market and tie a ribbon around the rim. Give it to your neighbors to make their day sunny, too.

  Follow the Sun

  At bedtime, check the weather online or in the newspaper to find out what time the sun will rise tomorrow.






Click below for a short video on how to make A  bunny balloon. You do not need to stand outside in snow and mouth numbing cold to do this activity.



California artist Ivy Chew makes a simple balloon bunny at the opening event of her “Rabbit Run” art series at Agency in Santa Cruz.


Middle-school English teacher Alex Eckroth calls herself the “queen of takeout.” It’s rare to find her scrolling through online recipes or thumbing through tattered pages of a cookbook. Unless, as she readily admits, she’s baking treats for her adorable pug, Bomba.
“Dogs have a sweet tooth, like me,” she says, “but when it comes to shopping for treats, it’s tricky to find dog biscuits with ingredients I want to feed Bomba. I like to bake treats for him using heart-healthy ingredients like whole wheat, rolled oats and peanut butter. It’s relaxing and fun to do, plus I enjoy sharing them with our neighborhood canine friends.”
If you’re fond of your fido, bake a batch of these crunchy dog biscuits with your kids for Valentine’s Day pet treats and gifts. This simple recipe comes together in minutes — no mixer needed, just a big wooden spoon and your kids’ energy to stir everything together.
Create shapes with heart-shaped cookie cutters. Small hearts, big hearts, and how about a few X’s and O’s?

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup evaporated milk or evaporated goat’s milk
1 tablespoon molasses
All-purpose flour for rolling dough
Makes about 5 dozen 2-inch heart-shaped biscuits.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two cookie sheets, or line them with parchment paper. Set aside.
To make dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, combine peanut butter, milk and molasses. Slowly pour peanut butter mixture into dry ingredients. Stir until well-combined.

To shape biscuits: Sprinkle all-
purpose flour on the counter. Knead dough a few times, until it is easy to roll out into a rectangle that’s 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick with rolling pin. Using cookie cutters, cut dough into shapes. Transfer to prepared cookie sheets.

To bake biscuits: Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Place on cooling rack. Cool completely.

To wrap: Divide your pretty “doggone cool” biscuits into gift bags or heart-shaped paper pockets. Attach valentine tag and deliver to neighborhood dog friends on Valentine’s Day.


Let the excitement of the 2018 Winter Games in distant Pyeongchang, South Korea,  Feb. 9-25, generate some new interests and activities your whole family can enjoy right at home.
The weeks of daily television coverage that follow the pageantry of the opening ceremony  bring opportunities for your family to learn and have fun together watching the competition. Here are some teachable and inspirational moments the games can provide as you and your kids cheer for your favorite athletes.

Devote a family bulletin board (or use a large piece of poster board) to the Olympic Games. Hang it in your kitchen or in a place where you come and go. Help your children find, cut out and display newspaper, magazine or printed online articles of athletes they are rooting for and admire. They might even be your hometown favorites.
To add to the spirit of the games, make a chart with their favorite athlete’s names, nationalities and sports. Note achievements as the games progress.
The Olympics are also a great tool for teaching kids global geography. You might hang a world map near your television or computer to locate continents, countries and cities.

The skills and stories of hard work, courage and persistence of thousands of athletes worldwide are inspiring. When they tumble and fall, they get back up and keep on going, teaching those of us at home to strive to do our best. And remember, despite their talent, even the best trained athletes still make mistakes and only a small percentage actually win a medal.
Ask your children what personal characteristics they think led to the success of the athletes you watch. Then talk about the sports they enjoy in their lives and the challenges and feelings of accomplishment they experience on the ice, in a gym or snowboarding down a hill.

Encourage a spirit of cooperation when engaging in your own family projects, sports and games. Winning certainly is fun, but encouraging and supporting others can be even more enjoyable. If you’re playing board games, tackling a household chore or if you’re inspired to try an Olympic sport like ice skating or skiing, aim toward challenging one another in a cooperative spirit.


Be warm and feel cozy with easy, no-sew polar fleece scarves. Make one for each member of the family — including your dog! — in the same plaid or pattern, and you’ll be dressed with extra family spirit for  sporting events, get-togethers and taking photos.
Find washable polar fleece fabric in a variety of patterns and designs by the yard online and at fabric stores. (Stores such as Jo-Ann offer coupons regularly for significant discounts on your purchase. My scarves came to less than $2 each.)
I zoomed in on the checks and plaids, and chose classic black and red buffalo check this year — a great look for cold winter months. The straight lines of plaids and checks provide a visual guide when measuring and cutting, a timesaver when cutting out several scarves.
For school-age kids and adults, an 8-inch-by-60-inch scarf is a nice size, so count on purchasing about 1 2/3 yards for six scarves, depending on the repetition of the pattern. Since the fleece doesn’t ravel, there’s no need to allow for seams.
Here’s what you’ll need for six medium-size scarves:
  –1 2/3 yards of 59-60-inch-wide polar fleece fabric
  –good sewing scissors or rotary cutter (adults only) and rotary cutting mat
  –a clear plastic ruler such as a quilter’s ruler
  –straight pins or fabric pencil if using scissors
Here’s the fun:
  1. Lay out the fabric on your worktable and rotary cutting mat, if using rotary cutter. Measure and mark the length (60 inches) and width (8 inches) points of your scarves with straight pins or fabric pencil. The scarf length should be along the selvage (not across the width of the fabric), so that the scarves won’t stretch out of shape. For a uniform look, be mindful of repeat checks or plaids as you measure. Adjust measurements if making scarves for small children or your pet.
  2. Cut off the selvages, and then cut out scarves.
  3. Cut fringe 1/2 inch by 4 inches on each end for a fun, finished look.
  Extra idea: For a unique and useful memento, make matching scarves for guests at your next birthday or sledding party.



  “Tell me another story about your sled dogs … didn’t they get cold feet?” Ten-year-old Aubrie Odeyemi was full of questions as cousin Mary shared the adventures of her incredible accomplishment of finishing the almost 1,000 mile 2016 Iditarod sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.

  Mary, 34, was good at telling her action-packed experiences of perseverance from the fear of losing the trail and getting lost, and taking care of the dogs in sub-zero temps every night, no matter how cold or tired she felt, to feeding the huskies meals and providing frozen beef and fish snacks throughout the day when on the move — “they’re like a popsicle to a dog!” she adds. In every story, her love of her dogs, the thrill of the challenge, and the beauty of Alaska came through her words.

  Stories magically hold our attention. What do you remember from a presentation? It’s usually the story that was told. How do savvy political candidates try to get your vote? By telling a heartwarming story. And what keeps us gathered around the table long after the dishes have been cleared? A lively storyteller spinning a yarn.

  This festive season, discover that the best dramas, mysteries and true adventures aren’t necessarily in theaters or on the big screen. They’re also in the hearts, minds and experience of people right under your roof, because everybody has a story.

  Here are three story-swapping tips:

  Photos make lively story starters.

  Grab a family album and show a photo from decades ago to a grandparent to trigger a memory of an event. “Oh, that’s at our annual family picnic when I was in charge of churning ice cream,” Grandpa might say. “We made the special treat ourselves in those days. Once your Uncle Paul put a pickle in it when I wasn’t looking. It tasted just awful.”

  Good listening encourages creative, confident storytelling.

  Encourage your kids to listen to one another respectfully as stories are told.

  The world is waiting for your stories.

  There is no right or wrong way to tell a story, and you’ll never run out of ideas. As someone’s tale is being told, the hidden magic, images or meaning will get you thinking, and your own stories will surface, to everyone’s delight.



Creative time also can be vocabulary-building time when your kids learn how to say and spell “arborvitae.” Check it out online or, depending on where you live, take a walk together and discover the common hardy shrub with flat spraylike green branches that grows in most zones of the country. Here’s the fun part. Take a closer look, and see how the tips on branches resemble the shape of a pine tree.

“Why not glue the flat tree-like tip portions of the branches onto clear glass votive candleholders?” thought my friend Lisa MacMartin, who is always on the hunt for natural materials for sharing projects with children at her welcoming store and family craft studio, Heartfelt, in Minneapolis (

I gave her idea a try. After clipping a few sprigs in my backyard, I flattened them between pages of a thick book for a week. When pressed, the mini branch tips were ready for adhering to clear glass votive candleholders. For the holidays, a dash of white glitter on the sticky glue was the perfect wintry touch.
Press a few branch tips, and you’ll be set for a family craft night making these festive votives for a cozy candle lit evening in your home. Or, wrap extras up for hostess gifts when you share the season with others.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need:
–pressed stems of arborvitae
–standard-size clear-glass votive candleholders available at craft stores, or upcycle clear glass jars with labels removed
–Mod Podge water base sealer, or household white glue
–paper plate
–small paintbrush
–fine white or sparkly white glitter

Here’s the fun:
1. Trim four “tree-shaped” ends of the arborvitae to fit a bit less than the height of the votive holder.
2. Pour Mod Podge or glue onto plate. (If using glue, dilute with a few drops of water). Brush Mod Podge or glue mixture on a section the size of one of the “trees” on the outside of the glass. Press greenery with your fingers until it adheres. Lightly brush on another layer or two of the adhesive. Sprinkle with glitter. Repeat as you go around the candleholder.
3. Once dry, your votive holder will be set for service. Place a lit candle inside, and watch it shimmer.

Extra idea: If you don’t have access to arborvitae, instead, print and cut out images of pine trees or other natural images online or from magazines.
Safety note: An adult should always be present when burning candles.


French-born Nicole Winters enjoys telling the story of serving her favorite chocolate dessert from her childhood at a Christmas party gathering of over 20 friends and family. When her 3-year-old grandson, Jacob, stepped up to the dessert table after the meal, a woman offered him a small bowl and asked, “Would you like some chocolate pudding?” “It’s not pudding, it’s mousse au chocolat!” he confidently exclaimed with a perfect French accent.

“I was so surprised,” said Nicole. “He had just been in the kitchen cooking with me the day before when I taught him how to say those French words. Cooking together is an enjoyable way for me to pass on family food traditions from my background and culture to my children and grandchildren, which I believe is so important,” she added.

Since her easy blender version of rich “mousse au chocolat” (chocolate mousse) doesn’t use raw eggs like the traditional French recipe, and it comes together effortlessly in just 10 minutes, it captured my attention for our family holiday menus.

I gave it a whirl in our blender, poured it into small dessert bowls, and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight. Topped with fresh raspberries or a dollop of whipped cream, it’s a keeper.
Makes 6 servings
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk
Cream cheese (3 ounces), cut into several pieces
Fresh raspberries or whipped cream for topping
1. Place chocolate chips, sugar and vanilla in your blender.
2. Heat milk in a saucepan to almost scalding. It should be steaming. Immediately pour it into the blender over the chocolate chips, sugar and vanilla, cover and blend for 30 seconds.
3. Add cream cheese pieces and blend until smooth.
4. Pour into six small dessert dishes or a dessert bowl. Refrigerate at least two hours, until set.
5. To serve, top each dish or serving dish with a few raspberries or a dollop of whipped cream. A little sprig of fresh mint is a nice added touch for a special occasion.


“When the calendar turns to December, we’re a blended family as far as holiday traditions go,” said professional caterer and mom, Carole Blumenberg Garrigos. Her husband was born in Seville, Spain, of Catholic heritage, and she was raised in the Jewish faith in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Their high-school-age daughter Carmen practices Judaism, but appreciates both family religious traditions, including the approaching celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas.

On a recent visit to their home, I asked 17-year-old Carmen what the eight days of Hanukkah, beginning Dec. 12, mean to her.
“The most memorable night is when my extended family gathers at our home at sunset, and we light candles on the menorah, sing a blessing, and eat a meal with tender, juicy brisket, a green salad, Jell-O and — fresh out of sizzling pans on the stove — potato latkes!” she said.

So we grated, stirred and fried up a big and beautiful batch of 12 golden latkes (potato pancakes) together. Topped with dollops of applesauce and sour cream (if you opt for ketchup on top, that’s OK too, according to Carole), I was convinced that latkes are delicious not only during Hanukkah, but anytime of the year.

Serves 4-6
4 large potatoes (Carole prefers Yukon gold, scrubbed and unpeeled)
1/2 onion
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
vegetable oil for frying
sour cream for topping
applesauce for topping
1. Cut potatoes and peeled onion in chunks and coarsely shred in a food processor, or use a box grater. Place in a mixing bowl.
2. Add eggs, flour, salt and pepper, and baking powder. Toss to combine.
3. Heat 1/4 inch oil in a heavy frying pan over medium high heat. Drop mixture in heaping spoonfuls into the hot oil. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Turn with a spatula and cook to light brown and crisp on both sides.
4. Serve immediately with toppings of sour cream and/or applesauce.

EXTRA IDEA: For a twist, heat up your waffle iron, oil lightly, and cook the potato mixture by the spoonful until crisp. Enjoy as a brunch item topped with a poached egg, smoked salmon and chopped chives as a garnish, if you wish.