Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winter Themed Monthly Crafting Book Club: The Snowman and the Snowdog


In Vancouver, we get winter, but not winter like other parts of Canada.
Our winters typically consist of rain and maybe a day or two of snow that immediately turns into slush.

This year has been the opposite of what we're used to. The second week of December it started snowing and it pretty much just stopped.

We actually had so much snow (for us) that I had to run around with all the other unprepared moms and buy snow boots, snow pants and mittens for the girls.
The first day we even had enough to build a snowman.


This snowy weather was actually quite fitting for this months Winter Themed Monthly Crafting Book Club activity.

Since building, (and destroying) a snowman was fresh in our heads, we read,
"The Snowman and The Snowdog" by Raymond Briggs.


Olivia got this book for her first birthday and it's still a favorite even though she's almost 3 and Lauren is four!

The craft we did was painting snowmen and snowdogs with homemade puffy 'snow' paint.
Puffy snow paint is so simple to make, and you only need 2 ingredients.

Homemade Puffy Snow Paint
We painted snowmen and snowdogs so below are the supplies and instructions to make the puffy paint and snowmen

Supplies:
  • White glue
  • Shaving cream - makes sure it's shaving cream, not gel
  • Glitter - optional 
  • Dog cutouts - we used a wiener dog shape!
  • Snowman cutouts
  • Snowman collage items such as:
    • Small Pom-Poms for buttons
    • Orange construction paper carrot noses
    • Small black construction paper circles for eyes and a mouth
    • A top hat
    • A bow for the hat - my girls request!

Instructions:
Before painting the snowmen, we glued the top hats and bows on. 
  • Mix equal parts of white glue and shaving cream in a large bowl and stir well
This bowl was way too small for the amount that we made!

  • Using hands, apply paint to cutouts
  • Sprinkle, or in my kids case, dump glitter on the snowman 
  • Use pom-poms and construction paper shapes to decorate your snowman


The finished products...

Lauren (on the left) told me I was only allowed
to take one picture, so that one was it!
Oh those sassy 4 year olds...

I wasn't able to get the best pictures, because while I was taking pictures of the girls doing art, my camera fell off the table and the flash broke. 

I wanted to get a close up of the snowmen because the paint actually dries puffy and is really soft like snow.



And of course when the art is done, it's time to play!




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Friday, December 9, 2016

Allergy Friendly Peanut Butter Cups

You know Christmas is coming when I break out the Wowbutter, chocolate chips and icing sugar.

These "Peanut Butter" Cups are by far the most popular Christmas treat I make.
Everybody loves them and when if I get invited to a Christmas get together I usually get asked to bring them.


I call them a Christmas treat because even though they can be enjoyed all year long, I only make them at Christmas.
Why you ask?
Because they're sweet, rich, delicious and SO addicting. And for those reasons, they can only be in the house once a year!

As someone with a nut allergy, I love this version of Peanut Butter Cups because I can actually eat them. When it comes to peanut butter and chocolate, nobody should go without.


People have a really hard time believing they're not made with real peanut butter, and even harder time believing just how easy and how few ingredients are needed!

"Peanut Butter" Cups:
Makes about 36 cups

"Peanut Butter" Filling
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup smooth WOWBUTTER, or other nut butter
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt *see note below
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar

Chocolate Coating
Ingredients:
  • 1 bag of semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 bag of milk chocolate chips 
  • 1 tablespoon shortening

Directions:
  • Line 36 miniature muffin cups with liners. I like to use these foil lined baking cups, because I find that the foil lined ones not only hold up better, it's also easier to remove the peanut butter cup from the liner
  • Place the peanut butter, butter, and salt in a microwaveable bowl
  • Heat in microwave until quite soft for about 30-60 seconds. Check and stir every 20 seconds
  • Stir in icing sugar
  • Melt the chocolate and shortening in a heatproof bowl, placed over a saucepan of simmering water
  • Spoon about one teaspoon of the melted chocolate into each of the baking liners 
  • Tap the pan gently on the counter to smooth out the chocolate. 
  • Spoon about a teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture on top of the chocolate. 
  • Then top with another teaspoon of melted chocolate. 
  • Tap the pan gently on the counter to smooth out the peanut butter cups.
  • Refrigerate about 20 minutes or until set. 
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
* I sometimes add a little more salt (a small amount at a time) than my recipe calls for just because the salty, sweet peanut butter and chocolate tastes really good together! 

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!


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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Monthly Crafting Book Club: Cinnamon Sandpaper Gingerbread Men!



This month for our Christmas themed Monthly Crafting Book Club, I chose "The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas".

As much as we love our, "It's Christmas David" book and all the other classics, I decided to get a book that we hadn't read before.


This is a really sweet book about a teacher and her class (and the gingerbread man), that spread Christmas cheer around the community by making special gifts and singing songs.
My girls loved it and we have read it several times since getting it from the library. We may have to add it to our collection!

Not only did they enjoy it, but it was actually the perfect book to read because I was able to start a conversation about our Christmas Eve tradition where we make hundreds of homemade cookies and put together fruit and baking baskets for the families at our local Ronald McDonald House.

So, thinking about the gingerbread man, we made Cinnamon Sandpaper Gingerbread Men! 
That's a mouthful to say!!



Cinnamon Sandpaper Gingerbread Men
A simple, fun craft that smells like Christmas!

Supplies:
Sandpaper - cut into a gingerbread shape
Cinnamon sticks
Glue
Collage items such as:
  • buttons
  • pipe cleaners - cut into small pieces
  • red and green shredded crinkle craft paper
  • snowflakes
  • sequins
  • googly eyes


Instructions:

  • Cut out a gingerbread man (or lady!) shape from the sandpaper
  • Have your child draw on or "color" the gingerbread man with the cinnamon stick



  • Once that is done, start gluing away!


My girls love doing art, and as I mentioned last month, they love messy, messy art. I tend to do a lot of messy (gluing, painting etc.) and open ended art projects with them because I enjoy watching them create.



That being said, I also think there is a time and place for structured art activities, and I feel like this craft is a nice mix of messy, open ended and structured art.

Hope you and your kids enjoyed this craft! I know mine did!



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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Halloween Fun: Monster Rice Krispie Treats & Spider Cracker Sandwiches!


I can't believe that Halloween has come and gone. 
The girls had so much fun this year!
They are both at ages where they get totally excited about every holiday and event that happens!
This year for Lauren and Olivia it was all about Superhero girls!

 



For Lauren's preschool Halloween party, I made 2 different treats - one for the party and one for each kid to take home.

For the party I made Ritz Cracker Spider Sandwiches. They were super cute and super easy.


Spider Crackers:

Ingredients:

  • 2 Ritz crackers per spider. I used one box of crackers and it made about 25 spiders. 
  • 4 Pretzel sticks per spider, broken in half.     
  • Philadelphia Whipped Cream Cheese, I used plain
  • 2 Raisins per spider

Directions:

  • Carefully break the pretzel sticks in half. These will be the legs for the spider. 
  • Spread some cream cheese on two crackers. 
  • Put the 8 legs on the cream cheese side of a cracker. 
  • Place the second cracker (cream cheese side down) on the cracker with the legs. Gently press down. You now have your spider body. 
  • To keep the eyes in place, either dip the raisins in the cream cheese or spread a little bit on the raisins, and then place them on the top of the cracker.

For the take home treats last year I made these Frankenstein Rice Krispie Treats. 
I thought about making something other than Rice Krispie Treats, but I wasn't sure what. 

I decided to make monster sugar cookies with royal icing. Thankfully I did a trial run because I realized that when you flood cookies with royal icing, they take a loooong time to set. 
I scrapped that idea and went back to my original idea of Rice Krispie Treat Monsters! 

I like making Rice Krispie Treats because they're so fast to make and easy for the kids to take home.



Monster Rice Krispie Treats:
(Adapted from www.ricekrispies.com)

To make the Rice Krisipie Treats:
I doubled the recipe (below) and was able to make around 25-30 Monsters

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 80 large marshmallows or 8 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 12 cups Rice Krispies/Rice cereal
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  • In a large saucepan melt butter over low heat.
  • Add marshmallows and vanilla.
  • Stir until completely melted.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add rice cereal and stir until well coated.
  • Using a buttered spatula evenly press mixture into two 9x13 pans coated with cooking spray. 
  • Let cool and cut into squares.

To make the chocolate coating:
Ingredients:

  • White chocolate chips - I ended up using about 2 bags of white chocolate chips
  • 1-2 tbsp Butter - Optional
  • Wilton Colored Icing gels - I used Lemon Yellow, Violet, and Kelly Green
*You could also use colored melting chocolate wafers instead of the white chocolate chips.
Our preschool has a No Nuts policy and all the wafers I found had nut warnings or were sold in bulk so I couldn't use them. 


Directions:

  • To melt the chocolate, bring about an inch of water to a simmer in a saucepan
  • Place a heatproof bowl in the mouth of the pot, making sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl
  • Add chocolate and butter (1/2 - 1 tbsp), if using
  • Stir chocolate occasionally as it softens
  • When chocolate is melted, remove bowl from heat and place chocolate in 3 separate bowls
  • Add color gel until you get the desired color you want
  • Once the chocolate is colored, dip the tops of the squares in it and place on a cooling rack or parchment paper and allow to dry


To make the eyes and smiles:
Royal Icing:

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups icing sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Wilton Christmas Red Icing Color
  • Black decorating gel
Directions:

  • Add icing sugar and milk to a clean bowl, blend with a mixer until it is mostly lump free
  • Add corn syrup and extract and continue to blend until smooth for about 45 seconds - 1 minute
  • If it's too thick, add water by the drop. If it's too thin, add more icing sugar.*See note below
  • Divide the icing into separate bowls
  • For the eyes, keep it white
  • For the smiles, add the red color gel until you get the desired color
  • Using a small round tip, pipe the eyes and smiles onto the squares
  • I used a size 4 for the eyes and size 3 round tip for the mouth
  • For the pupils, I used a small amount of Wilton black decorating gel
  • Wilton sells candy eyes that can be used instead of royal icing, but they have nut warnings so we couldn't send them to preschool
**Royal Icing should somewhat hold it shape for a count of 10. This will make a perfect consistency for the eyes (and cookies and gingerbread house decorating).
Scoop up some icing with a spoon and let it drizzle into the bowl. You should be able to see where you drizzled the icing for a count of 10. If it combines too quickly with the other icing it will spread out too much when decorating.


(Not so) Fun Fact: the decorating gel never actually dries/hardens completely, but it set enough overnight in the fridge to bag them without too much smudging.

All bagged up

These fancy handmade tags definitely
show off my crazy awesome art skills...

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Monthly Crafting Book Club: Have You Seen My Monster?




A few weeks ago I joined a Monthly Crafting Book Club hosted by Raising Fairies and Knights.
The idea of it is to read the book of the month and then prepare a craft or art project for your kids to do and blog about it.
My girls and I love books and doing art, so I didn't need to think twice about joining!

The book for October was Have You Seen My Monster? by Steve Light.


It was kind of perfect that the book this month was about a monster, because my girls have been loving monsters and we've been doing monster art projects for the last few weeks!
It was tough to choose just one to blog about, but I ended up picking their Coffee Filter Monsters!

Lauren and Olivia had so much fun doing this.
It included all the things things they love when doing art - it was colorful, messy, wet and there was lots of glue involved!

Supplies Needed:
  • Coffee Filters
  • Felt pens
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Glue
  • "Monster" collage items such as:
    • Googly eyes
    • Teeth 
    • Arms and Legs - I did them accordion style
    • Random shapes - triangles, circles, ovals, squares etc.
  • Have You Seen My Monster? book
Instructions:
This was actually done over a couple of days as the coffee filter needed time to dry. That being said, the coffee filters do dry very quickly, so I'm sure that if the craft was started in the morning, it could be completed in the afternoon. My girls just have short attention spans!

1. I gave the girls a coffee filter and felt pens and they got busy coloring!



2. Next I gave them a spray bottle with water to wet the coffee filters.
Lauren took full advantage of using a spray bottle, she drenched hers! Which is fine, because it makes the color run more. Olivia didn't really care about spraying her coffee filter, she just wanted to spray her sister!

 
3. Once the filters were dry, I put out some glue and a tray of collage items and they started creating!





Lauren went a little super heavy on the glue (she's very passionate about everything she does!), so I had to put her monster on a piece of black construction paper so it wouldn't stick to the table cloth or rip!

My little monsters with their monsters!

One girl loves her picture being taken...

And the other one?
Well...


For more fun "Have You Seen My Monster?" arts and crafts ideas, click here!


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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Granola


With no shame, I fully admit that I'm one of those people that jumps on the pumpkin bandwagon as soon as that first leaf falls off the tree.
It's not just the cookies, pies, muffins and loaves that I like, I just like pumpkins in general.
I'm not too sure why I like them so much...maybe it's because it means that it's fall? Or that Halloween is coming? I don't know, but there's just something about them that makes me happy!

So needless to say, the last few weeks it's been all about pumpkin!
I've made a few dozen pumpkin muffins, a loaf (coming soon!) and this amazing Pumpkin Spice Granola!


So far, this is my favorite homemade granola recipe I've tried. Lauren gave it the thumbs up too. Olivia on the other hand, she's not a fan. But she's picky and doesn't like granola unless it's in the form of a sweet, chocolate covered bar...

This pumpkin spice granola is perfect in the yogurt, fruit and granola parfaits that I make for Lauren as a snack or a quick breakfast.
It's also good by the handful. But unless you have amazing will power, I don't recommend doing that because it's SO good and seriously addicting!

Pumpkin Spice Granola
Recipe adapted from Annie's Noms

Ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats*
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1-1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp Watkins Pumpkin Spice Extract OR Watkins Maple Extract
1/4 cup vegetable/sunflower oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup pumpkin pureé, not pie filling
1/2 - 3/4 cup add ins (optional): pumpkin seeds, cranberries etc.

*I used one cup of large flaked oats and 2 cups of quick oats because I ran out of the larger oats. I suggest using the larger oats because they tend to "clump" together better.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Place oats, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin spice extract into a large bowl and stir until the oats are coated.

Add in oil, maple syrup and pumpkin purée and mix until well combined and the pumpkin and oil has coated everything.

Place onto prepared baking tray and spread out evenly. It's not necessary to flatten the granola into one layer as you want some clumps of oats. Loosely spread it out to fill the baking tray.

Place in the oven for 35-45 minutes, taking out every 15 minutes to stir and make sure the oats toast evenly.

When the granola has darkened and is crisp to the touch, remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

If using add ins, mix in once cooled.

Can be stored in an airtight container, at room temperature for up to one week. If it lasts that long...



As much as I love pumpkin, I have to say, I'm not a fan of pumpkin spice lattes. But, if you are and you want to try making your own, here's a recipe for you to try. The latte also uses the same Watkins Pumpkin Spice Extract that I used in this granola.

Enjoy!!

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