HEART-SHAPED ICE SCULPTURES

Make beautiful heart-shaped suncatchers out of ice to hang from a tree branch on a cold day. If you live in a warm climate, place an edible version in a punch bowl for a Valentine’s Day party with friends.
Here’s what you’ll need:
–A heart-shaped cake or small cupcake pan with a rim, or the base of a heart-shaped candy box lined with aluminum foil so water can’t seep through
–Dried flowers, leaves and rose petals for suncatcher
–Decorative edible items such as thinly sliced oranges, limes and strawberries
–Strong string or wire for a hanger
–Water
Here’s the fun:
Set some decorative items into the pan or lined box. (For punch-bowl ice, add edible items only.)
Set a portion of a 20-inch length of twine or wire in the water, making sure it is submerged near the top center of the heart. Fill with water and set in the freezer.
When the temperature outside is freezing, remove the heart from the pan and hang from a branch where a glimmer of sunlight will shine through.

ENCOURAGE KIDS TO SAY “THANKS” FOR HOLIDAY GIFTS

This is a great picture for a thank you card. My newspaper column editor, Amy Jaworsky, took it of her daughter Veda and family friend Jennifer Earl with presents Veda received from her at a recent birthday party.

Gifts, meals, activities, memories. It’s that time of the new year to share a big “thanks” to those who made the 2016 December holidays special for our families and kids. By doing so, we model to the youngest generation the habit of expressing appreciation to others. Hopefully they’ll grow into the “saying thanks” habit without our prodding.

According to Amy Jaworsky, editor for the Hearst Corporation and mom of two school-age girls, 13 and 8: “Acknowledging someone’s generosity is a reminder to ourselves of all that we have to be grateful for. The more we realize how lucky we are, the more apt we are to want to deserve it by being better people.” Good words for all, not just for kids.

Teaching her daughters to express thanks to others started on a practical level when her oldest, Presley, turned 4. “I was standing in the background at gift-opening time at her birthday party when the eager guests circled the birthday girl. It felt like a feeding frenzy,” she says. “They closed in, and it moved fast. With all the excitement, Presley tore through the wrappings, so it was hard to get a complete list of who gave what.”

That’s when she came up with an idea the following year to ask gift-givers to stand with her daughter while she opened their present, so she could snap a photo of them as they posed with the gift. Through the years, she has seen how both the giver and receiver feel special when they capture the moment together.

When it comes time to say “thanks,” she has no worries making sure the right card is with the right gift. “I have the evidence in my camera,” she says. “I print out the photos and we mount them to simple cards with envelopes. As my daughters grow older, they can express a more detailed ‘thanks,’” she adds.

Here are more saying “thank you” ideas:
–If your child received a holiday gift from someone who wasn’t present, take a photo of your child enjoying building with the new blocks, dressing a new doll or shooting a puck with the new hockey stick. Print it, and mount it on a card with a personally written thank you.
–Email or text a short video of your child saying “thanks” and using the gift.
–Encourage your children to draw a picture of the gift. If they aren’t writing yet, let them dictate as you write their “thanks.”

EASY BAKED PANCAKE

pancake
Long holiday weekends call for special family breakfasts. It’s a time to relax, read the paper and stir up a new family recipe together. If pancakes have been your Saturday standby, keep up the tradition with a new twist. This Oven Pancake is simple to prepare and dramatic to serve piping hot, right out of the oven. It’s more dense than the common “Dutch Baby,” puff pancake recipe, so it serves more people.

OVEN PANCAKE
Serves 6

4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1. Let one of your kids count and crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Inspect it to be sure there are no remaining shells. Beat eggs with a whisk. Stir in salt.

2. Add milk and flour gradually. Mix well with spoon.

3. Meanwhile, place utter in a 9 x 13 pan. Place the pan in the oven until butter is melted, not brown.

4. Add egg batter and bake for 45 minutes until puffy and golden-brown on the edges.

Serve with good maple syrup, fresh fruit or jam.

I cooked up this recipe in my kitchen for Fox News with host Todd Walker-click below

Donna-Pancake Bake-Fox News 11/27/16

COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS WITH RECYCLED HOLIDAY CARDS

countdown

It’s fun to figure out what the next few festive weeks of family life will look like with this countdown-to-Christmas activity. Get started right now to give meaning, structure and surprise to the busy month.

First, find your bundle of stashed-away holiday cards or other cards you have saved through the years. Choose enough for each day counting down to Christmas. Aim for cards that are fairly similar in size, and that are blank on the reverse side of the front of the card. You also can use printed photos from years past, depicting special times like cutting down or decorating a Christmas tree or going caroling or sledding.

Let school-age kids cut off the front of each card and set them aside for the project. If there is writing on the back, they can measure and cut out plain paper the size of the card, and affix it to the backside with glue. Stack the fronts of the cards and photos, face-side up, in a pile. Measure and punch one hole at the top center of each card/photo. Punch two holes, 2 inches apart, at the bottom of each card/photo.
Loop a stationery ring through each of the bottom holes, creating a mini-book. Flip the stack over and, with the rings at the top, number the backs of the cards with the dates counting to the 25th.

Using your calendar as a reference, write a family activity or reminder by the number for each day. Include favorite family traditions and have fun making up new ones. For example, “Bake cookies,” “Craft ornaments,” “Pick up Aunt Jane at the airport.” Include a birthday if there is one, or add an inspirational thought or conversation starter, like “Share with the family the best Christmas gift you ever gave.” Decorate with stickers or cutouts, if you wish.

Once you have done the first activity, lift up that card and hang the countdown cards on the wall or a bulletin board in your kitchen or family room from the single hole at the top. The next activity in December will be revealed with a colorful card or photo above.
Your kids will look forward to flipping a card each day until Christmas. No peeking ahead!

SNOWBALL CANDLES

snowball

Bring extra holiday light into your home during the December holidays with candles. Instant mood creators, the flickering light not only brightens a dark winter evening, but also quiets us down after a busy day and becomes a subtle conversation pacer.
Here’s a fun way to create festive wintry candles by whipping up melted paraffin wax and frosting it over and around a round candle or votive, so that it resembles a pretty white snowball Or, add some whipped wax to pillar candles to look as if covered with freshly fallen snow. Make extras for gifts, too.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need for snowball candles:
–ball-shaped candles or 2-inch or larger votive candles
–coffee can, or other sturdy tin can such as a clean 28-ounce stewed tomato can
–paraffin wax (available in the canning section of most grocery stores)
–saucepan
–medium-size heat-resistant bowl used for crafts.
–small metal whisk or fork used for crafts
–dull craft knife or brush (optional)

Here’s the fun:
1. Bend one side of the rim of the can to create a spout, then place a brick or two of paraffin wax in the can. An adult should set the can in 2 inches of water in a saucepan to create a water bath. Heat the water until the paraffin melts, keeping an eye on it at all times. Never place the can on the burner or over an open flame, because the wax is flammable.
2. Carefully pour the melted wax in the bowl and let cool, about 20-25 minutes. It will develop a firm crust, but it should not be hard. Gently beat the wax and thick liquid with the whisk or fork until it becomes a fluffy white consistency. It’s amazing to watch the transformation!
3. Kids can spread the warm whipped wax around a candle, keeping wick exposed. If your candle isn’t round, add more wax as it hardens and mold a ball shape with hands. Let wax harden before use. If you have extra wax, re-melt in tin can and add to pillar candles. (See below.)
To create snow on pillar candles, “frost” the wax onto the sides and top of a candle, keeping wick exposed with the knife or a craft paintbrush. Sprinkle with glitter for extra sparkle.

Safety note: Before burning candles, always set them on a plate or tray intended for candles. An adult should always be present when candles are burning.

BEST FUDGE SAUCE

fudge

What’s in your refrigerator right now? Mine is in a bit of disarray with the basics — milk, eggs, yogurt, condiments, a few nondescript leftovers, and wilting arugula. Now, if you open Nancy Nyberg’s fridge door in Naperville, Illinois, you eye her delectable homemade fudge sauce in neatly stacked jars in the back corner. Any day, month or year.

No wonder her four grandkids think she is the sweetest grandmother ever. Her signature “Heavenly Hot Fudge Sauce,” which she has been making for 20 years, is now affectionately renamed “Mormor’s Hot Fudge” (“mormor” is Swedish for “grandmother”).

Granddaughter Paige, 9, makes it with Nancy to sell annually at a country fair by their summer place in Bethany Beach, Michigan. “She learns how to measure, pour and stir until the sauce is ‘just right,'” says Nancy. There’s a bit of finance that goes into the mix, too. “We shop together and figure out how much each jar should sell for to cover costs with enough left over to give to a nonprofit project. We have fun learning and cooking together. It’s really more about the relationship-building with my granddaughter than the fudge sauce,” she says.

Here’s the recipe with steps to involve school-age kids.

HOT FUDGE SAUCE

Makes 1 quart

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate bar (in the baking section of your market)

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 12-fluid-ounce can evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Let kids break up chocolate and place in the top of a double boiler with the butter. Stir until melted together. Add salt.

Stir in sugar gradually, making sure it is completely blended before making another addition. Mixture will become very thick and dry.

Stir in evaporated milk, a little at a time. (Shake the can well before adding.)

Continue to cook about 10 minutes to blend the flavors and dissolve the sugar.

An adult should remove from the heat and set on a trivet. Add vanilla and stir. Serve warm over ice cream.

To store in containers: Pour into a quart-size measuring cup with spout and pour into storage containers such as Mason jars. Keep refrigerated

MAKE A SUCCULENT PUMPKIN CENTERPIECE

succulents-choice-2

Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween. Available in green, white, blue-gray and various shades of orange, like the deeply ribbed Cinderella pumpkin, they make an eye-catching Thanksgiving Day center- piece when you glue moss and living succulents on top.

Keep the succulents misted as they root into the moss, and enjoy an attrac- tive creation in your home into the December holidays and beyond. When the pumpkin eventually begins to soften and age, toss it in the compost bin and pot the succulents indoors in soil in a flowerpot or outdoors in a frost-free gar- den bed.

Kids will enjoy making the centerpiece with you this week. Swirling the non- toxic sticky glue, handling the wiry moss and arranging the succulents and add-ins make for artful fun.

Here’s what you’ll need for one succulent pumpkin centerpiece:

—One clean pumpkin with a flat top surface and center indentation works best.

—Water-soluble white glue that dries clear, such as Mod Podge Matte finish

—Sphagnum moss available in garden centers or craft stores

—Several succulents. Use cuttings from your garden or purchase at garden centers

—Natural add-ons such as seedpods, acorns, tiny pinecones, eucalyptus

Here’s the fun:

  1. Set pumpkin on a newspaper covered work surface. Remove stem with clippers, being careful not to cut into the pumpkin.
  2. 
 Drizzle glue around the top area of the pumpkin in swirls. Cover with the moss about 1/2-inch thick, pressing firmly in place. Let dry.
  1. Remove roots and soil from the succulents from containers. Dip 1/4-inch stems into glue and poke into the moss. For balance, place a tall succulent for a focal point near the center and add remaining succulents and add-ons around it over the moss. (An adult may use a glue gun to affix the add-ons, if you prefer)

Care: Set the centerpiece on a trivet or tray. Mist succulents and moss weekly, making sure the pumpkin remains fresh and dry. The succulents will begin to root through the glue into the moss. Keep away from excessive heat, freezing temperatures and rain.

Extra idea: Make succulent pumpkin place cards for each place setting at the Thanksgiving table using single minis, such as the Munchkin pumpkin. Tuck a name card in each one and set at each plate. Guests may take it home to enjoy.

succulents

8 TIPS FOR READING PICTURE BOOKS WITH KIDS

david-l-1

david-l-3

My friend David LaRochelle is an accomplished, award-winning creator of books for young people as well as an illustrator, and in my book, he’s also an inspiring educator who knows kids and knows what kids like.

When he took center stage at a “meet the author” event at our neighborhood bookstore, he not only read his newly published “Monster & Son” — illustrated by Joey Choll and published by Chronicle books (2016) — but he paused after these monster’s words to his son, “Your fearsome yawns won’t frighten me, I’ll hug you strong and tight, then gently tuck you into bed while whispering … good night,” and invited the eager children to participate in creating a big drawing of a monster. Hands went up, ideas bounced off the walls; giggles, “oohs” and “aahs” resounded as David quickly sketched their ideas. The book’s theme expanded into a playful time as vocabulary was enriched and children grew in their love of storytime — and maybe even a monster.

Judge a picture book by its potential for reading enjoyment, and for social and mental growth. Evidence is clear that reading to kids is one of the best ways to ensure success in school. It also strengthens the bond between you and kids!

Here are eight spinoff ideas David shares to enrich picture-book reading time at bedtime or anytime:
1. Look at the book’s cover and predict what it might be about. Funny? Scary? Make-believe? Factual?
2. Use lots of expression. Practice making different silly voices for the characters.
3. After reading it once, let your child retell it in his or her own words. Or, take turns using the illustrations to make up your own stories.
4. Ask what your child thinks will happen after the last page. Maybe the two of you will be inspired to write a sequel together.
5. Turn to a page at random and play “I Spy.” Choose a detail from the illustration and give clues to see if your child can spot the item. (“I spy something small and furry with a long tail”). Then let your child be the clue giver.
6. With older children, explore the copyright and dedication pages, as well as the author and illustrator bios. Ask if the book is older or younger than your child based on the copyright year. Who might your child like to dedicate a book to?
7. Many books list the medium the artist used to create the illustrations, such as collage, watercolors or digital art. Perhaps you and your child will want to try creating your own pictures using the same medium.
8. Have fun!
Resource: www.davidlarochelle.com

david-l2

PUFF PANCAKE

puffpan#1

puffpan#2

Bake a Dramatic Puff Pancake With Lemon for Breakfast

Make weekend breakfasts extra special when you put this delicious puff pancake on your menu. Also called a Dutch baby, this version of the recipe is simple to prepare with kids, and dramatic to serve piping hot, right out of the oven. Believe me, mouths will be watering when it arrives at the table. Take a bow, and then serve with fresh fruit or other favorite toppings.

DRAMATIC PUFF PANCAKE
4 eggs
1 cup skim or whole milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Topping: 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
1. Let one of your kids count and crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Inspect it to be sure there are no remaining shells. Beat eggs with a beater until light and pale.

2. Another child may measure and gradually beat in the milk, flour, sugar and salt.

3. Meanwhile, place butter in a 10 or 12-inch cast-iron or ovenproof skillet, or a 9-inch-by-13-inch oven-safe glass baking dish. An adult should place it in the oven until it is hot and the butter sizzles. Remove from oven and pour batter into the hot butter. Return to oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until puffy and golden-brown on the edges. (Keep oven door closed until done.)

4. Squeeze lemon juice on top, dust with powdered sugar and serve tableside immediately.
Serves 4. Serve with fresh fruit, such as berries, grapes and kiwi slices.

Alternate blender method for steps 1-2:

Put eggs in a blender and whirl for one minute. With motor running, add milk and slowly add flour, sugar and salt.
Whirl for an additional 30 seconds. Proceed with step 3.

“I MADE IT” GIFT FOR MOM ON MOTHERS DAY

mothersday
For Mother’s Day on May 8, nothing is more original or more cherished than a child-made gift. These two crafts are easy for a child to assemble with the help of dad, a caregiver or a teacher.
The paper basket is a stylish container a preschooler will have fun crafting and filling with a mini-bouquet of flowers, chocolate or a small present. School-age kids can show off their artistic talents when they paint a windowsill flowerpot and plant a hardy succulent or Mom’s favorite herbs. Here’s how:
Mother’s Day Gift Basket
(Preschooler craft)
What you’ll need:
–Round plate with even edges, approximately 7 inches in diameter (for a pattern)
–Two sheets of 8.5-by-11-inch heavy construction paper in contrasting colors
–Pencil
–Scissors
–Stapler
–Stickers or lightweight decorations
–Small bouquet of fresh or silk flowers or small gifts
1. An adult should help the child put the plate on a piece of construction paper and draw a circle around it. Cut out the circle. Repeat with the second sheet.
2. Fold both circles in half. Slide rounded edges together. Without folding, slide the bottom creases together to form the shape of a heart. Staple circles together to make a heart-shaped basket.
3. To make a handle, cut an 11-inch long strip of paper that’s 1 inch wide, and staple to basket.
4. Decorate with stickers or objects such as a paper butterfly, and arrange flowers or gifts inside.
Paint a Flowerpot
(Schoolage craft)
–One 4-inch clay pot and saucer
–Newspaper
–Acrylic paints
–Paper plates
–Paintbrush
–Potting soil and a succulent or herb plant
1. Place the pot and the saucer on a newspaper-covered work surface. Squeeze paint onto the plates.
2. Paint over the entire outside surface of the pot and saucer. Let dry. (For a natural look for the background, skip this step.)
3. Use a variety of contrasting colors to make designs around the plain or painted pot. Experiment with a splashy design of swirls, zigzags, stripes, dots and spots. (Dip an eraser of an old pencil in the paint to dab on spots). Let dry.
4. Fill with potting soil and plant a succulent or herb.
5. Add a card for Mom.