Solar System Cupcakes: Make A Cupcake For Every Planet!


A Fun Cupcake Recipe

Kids today have such an advantage when it comes to both learning and being entertained at home. There are so many interesting topics to explore on the internet! When I was growing, up glossy color photos in an encyclopedia and television was as good as it got.

One of the most fascinating topics to explore is outer space. There is a multitude of cool websites that feature fantastic “close-up” and real photos taken by satellites sent into space. Some of the sites are interactive. Kids at home for the summer or on a cold winter weekend have no excuse for boredom anymore.

Some kids have to be motivated more than others to seek out knowledge. The way to a kid’s brain may be through the stomach. Grab their interest in learning about the solar system by helping bake and decorate solar system cupcakes! Each cupcake represents one of the planets in the solar system and orbits around a big yellow sun cake!

Supplies for Solar System Cupcakes

Use your favorite cupcake mix and various items to help decorate. Browsing the cake decorating aisle at a couple of different supermarkets first is a good way to plan the cupcakes. Here is a list of what we used for decorating the sun cake and the cupcakes.

  • 2 boxes of cake mix (add eggs, oil)
  • 1- 7 oz. tube red decorator icing
  • red, & yellow food color (mix to make orange icing)
  • blue food color
  • Wilton decorating gels in green, pink, purple, yellow and sparkle white
  • Cake Mate decorator cupcake gems
  • Shimmer white sugar sprinkles
  • Cinnamon drop sprinkles
  • 16 ozs. Betty Crocker Frosting Starter
  • Packets of mocha almond, caramel and cotton candy flavor packets for frosting starter
  • Red sugar crystals
  • 16 oz. can white cake frosting
  • life savers
  • For each of the terrain planets, fill the cupcake tins half full with batter and let the kids add a dollop of red icing to cook inside. This will teach the fact that they have hot molten cores.Fill the giant gas planets up a little fuller with batter so they will look bigger.Bake and decorate as described below. For the sun, bake two single layers of round cakes. Frost one yellow and one orange. Cut the orange cake into “pie wedges” and place around the yellow cake to represent a glowing sun.

    Acronym For Learning The Order Of Planets From The Sun
    • My-Mercury
    • Very-Venus
    • Educated-Educated
    • Mother-Mars
    • Just-Jupiter
    • Served-Served
    • Us-Uranus
    • Nine-Neptune
    • Pizzas-Pluto, dwarf planet



    With an orbit equivalent to 88 Earth days, Mercury is the fastest planet around the sun. However, it rotates very slowly, about one rotation for 59 Earth days. Like Earth, it is a terrain planet and is thought to also have a molten iron core.

    Mostly composed of rock and metals, Mercury is full of craters like the moon. Although it is dry, hot and airless this planet has H2O ice at both poles that lies deep in the craters-so deep the heat of the sun does not completely melt it. It is dusted with a thin layer of minerals called silicates.

    Decorating Mercury: frost Mercury with white icing and add white cup cake gems to represent a rocky planet with craters.



    Also known as the morning and evening “star”, Venus is a terrain planet that is the brightest object in the night sky after the moon.

    Similar in size to Earth, it is the closet planet to Earth and is referred to as our sister planet.

    It is also thought to have a hot molten core. Images for Venus show a variety of land forms-mountains, rolling plains and volcanoes made of hot lava.

    With a very dense atmosphere, this planet probably had water like Earth but it boiled away-which is exactly what would happen to Earth were it closer to the sun!

    Decorating Venus: frost Venus with caramel icing (use just enough of the caramel frosting starter mixed in 1/2 cup white frosting, do the same for mocha chocolate). Swirl in some of the mocha chocolate frosting.



    Home sweet home! Earth is the only known planet in the solar system that supports any form of life. That’s because it abides by the “Goldilocks Law”-being neither too hot nor too cold but just right.

    The distance that Earth is from the sun allows us to live in comfort as far as temperature goes. Well, most of the time anyway. Sometimes it is hard to believe that our home planet is three quarters water. Images of Earth show a beautiful blue ball spun with green, brown and white.

    Since scientist live here, we can of course learn more about this planet. We know that it is about 4.5 billion years old, and that the temperature of the inner core is 7500 degrees Kelius-that’s 13,040.6 degrees Fahrenheit- hotter than the sun! The surface of Earth is constantly changing due to things like erosion and earthquakes.

    Decorating Earth: tint some of the white frosting with blue food color. Swirl with green and white decorator gel. Use a toothpick to swirl in a bit of mocha chocolate icing.






    Mars is known as the red planet. It has been easy for spacecraft to get images of Mars because they actually landed on the planet.

    For a long time, it was voted “planet most likely to have life other than Earth” and science fiction writers liked writing about it. The last terrain planet, Mars has about the same land as Earth-but it is much smaller and has no oceans. However, scientists think Mars might possibly once contained bodies of water.

    This dusty, rocky planet has a cold,dry atmosphere. Like the other terrain planets, it probably has a hot,molten core.

    Decorating Mars: Frost Mars with the red icing, sprinkle with red sugar and place cinnamon sprinkles around for Mar’s rocky, dusty surface.

    note: don’t try to color white frosting with red food color, it will just get dark pink.



    Jupiter is the largest planet and the third brightest object in the night sky. With no solid surface, it is the first gas planet in our solar system. It is composed of mostly liquid hydrogen with traces of methane, water and ammonia.

    Jupiter has a rocky core made of various ices, or solid gases and is surrounded by small, faint rings. The vivid bands of color seen on images of this planet are probably due to chemical reactions of trace elements in the atmosphere. There are wind bands of high velocity winds on Jupiter and a giant red spot, a high pressure region with higher,colder clouds.

    Decorating Jupiter: Frost Jupiter with caramel frosting and swirl in mocha chocolate and red frosting. A red life saver represents Jupiter’s giant red spot.



    Saturn, the second largest planet, is composed of gases much like that of Jupiter with liquid hydrogen as the main ingredient. It also has a rocky core made of various ices, or solid gases.

    This planet is surrounded by very thin rings made of rocky particles coated with H2O ice. Images of Saturn also show bands of color like Jupiter, only fainter. Helium, the gas that makes balloons float on air can be found here.

    As Earth is the most dense planet, Saturn is the least dense. Some scientists think this planet is so light it could actually float on water! This could make sense. Think about how light helium is. How easily the balloons filled with helium float away~

    Decorating Saturn: Frost Saturn with white frosting. Use the purple, pink and yellow gels for Saturn’s rings. Sprinkle with shimmer white sugar to represent the ice. Gas ices have formed on Saturn, a cold planet far away from the sun.



    As we travel through the solar system the planets farthermost from the sun get harder to see. They are also the hardest to learn about. Uranus is the next gas planet in the solar system. Images of Uranus show up as being a beautiful shade of blue due to methane gas in the upper atmosphere. Scientists think that this planet probably has bands of color like Jupiter but they are hidden by the methane layer surrounding it.

    Decorating Uranus: Frost Uranus with frosting starter that is mixed with some of the cotton candy flavor packet. Shimmer white sugar shows it’s cold surface.



    Neptune is the last gas planet in the solar system. Now getting still colder and darker, images of Saturn appear as deep blue in color. Hydrogen and helium are the two known gases to make up the composition of Neptune.

    So far away from the sun, it takes Neptune 165 Earth years to orbit the sun once. In fact, in 2011 the planet completed it’s first orbit since it’s discovery in 1846. Neptune is whipped with very strong winds, up to 2000 km per hour.

    Decorating Neptune: Tint some white frosting with blue coloring. Use more to make it darker than the icing used for Earth. Sprinkle with shimmer white sugar.



    Poor Pluto was dropped from the list of planets in our solar system in recent years. It is now considered one of the dwarf planets. So far from the sun, it is in constant darkness. Only Hubble has been able to show very faint images of the largest of Pluto’s features.

    Decorating Pluto: Frost Pluto with mocha chocolate frosting. Sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles and shimmer sugar.

    How To Make Letter Shaped Pancakes

    A Breakfast Family Tradition


    Years ago, the popular children’s book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett inspired me to establish Saturday morning as family pancake morning with my children. This delightful story opens with Kate describing Saturday morning breakfast with a jolly grandfather who makes pancakes. He prides himself on the art of flipping pancakes. On this morning he flips a pancake so high it crosses the room and lands on her brother Henry’s head. They all have a good laugh and the event kicks off the “best bedtime story ever” that night.


    Grandpa creates a wild tale about the town of Chewandswallow, a town where the food supply doesn’t come from grocery stores. Instead, the townspeople walk out with a plate and utensils to catch food the sky serves up three times a day. It may rain tomato soup, snow mounds of mashed potatoes- or maybe a storm of hamburgers blows in. All is well until the “weather” turns yucky and extra large and the people are forced to set out in search of a new town.

    Children (and adults) love pancakes. A family pancake morning can promote togetherness for the family and create fond memories. It provides a chance to connect and talk about the week’s events. Children can pitch in and practice measuring and cooking skills. Pick any day of the week that is best for you.


    Children will Enjoy Making Letter Shaped Pancakes

    C is for cherries!

    Children will especially love making shaped pancakes. Making letter pancakes is one idea for pancake fun. Letter pancakes are created using your favorite pancake batter and a turkey baster. After mixing the batter simply draw the mix up into the turkey baster just as you would with meat juices. Release the batter by squeezing the bulb. Now “write” your letter onto the hot griddle. Brown and flip just as you would an ordinary pancake.

    Making letter pancakes is especially good for preschool children learning to identify letters. Activities using letters will help children learn the alphabet more easily. If you have a preschooler you may have noticed certain activities they do- like gluing macaroni on a large letter M for example. Preschool teachers usually introduce one letter per week and conduct activities with that letter each day. Find out what your preschooler’s letter of the week is for the following week. On family pancake morning, introduce that letter with letter pancakes. This will give your child a head start on letter mastery. For phonemic awareness (a necessary reading prerequisite) practice the sound that letter makes.

    Whole Wheat Pancakes

    Studies have proven that whole wheat flour is the most nutritious for your family’s pancakes. Whole wheat significantly lowers the risk of many chronic diseases including stroke, type 2 diabetes,  a risk of heart attack and colorectal cancer. It is thought that whole wheat aids in maintaining a healthy weight. Following is a quick and easy recipe for whole wheat pancakes courtesy of



    • 2 Cups Whole wheat flour
    • 2 tsp Baking powder
    • 1 tsp Salt
    • 2 Eggs, Well beaten
    • 2 Cups Milk
    • 2 Tbs Vegetable oil


    1. Stir the dry ingredients together.
    2. Then add the eggs, milk, and oil.
    3. Cook pancakes until browning and bubbly around the edges.
    4. Turn with a spatula and cook until done.

    Add to the taste, fun, and nutrition of pancakes with fillings and toppings. Choose a different filling or topping each week, or perhaps have two or three choices and let each child choose a personal preference. Chop very finely or sprinkle on the pancakes as they cook for the letter pancakes.

    In recent years research has produced results labeling certain foods as being super foods. Super foods are high in anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants, as the term implies, attacks damaging oxidation in animal tissue. They contain vitamins, minerals and enzymes (proteins that assist in chemical reactions) thought to prevent the development of several chronic diseases.

    Older children, between ages 8 and 10 are old enough to understand the dangers of unhealthy eating. Discuss diseases and causes, particularly the ones that may be genetic in the family. Talk about the benefits of food research and super foods so that they become aware of them.

    Nutritious Pancake Fillings and Toppings 

    Healthy fillings and toppings for letter shaped pancakes
    Healthy fillings and toppings for letter-shaped pancakes

    Dried cherry filling: red cherries are packed with anti-oxidants. Plenty of research indicates tart cherries as having anti-inflammatory value, reducing pain from gout and arthritis.Heart health benefits are also linked to the cherries.

    Fresh blueberry filling: blueberries are naturally sweet and children will love the taste without added sugar. Research indicates blueberries as highly beneficial in protecting neurological damage to the brain. Lifelong consumption of these antioxidants could slash the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in future seniors.

    Semi- sweet chocolate morsels filling: dark chocolate is very rich in poly phenols which are good news for chocolate lovers. Poly phenols are known to be inhibitors of the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that a small bar of dark chocolate a day thins blood as well as a baby aspirin reducing the risk of blood clot formation that can lead to strokes.


     Other Fillings and Toppings

    Have fun with family pancake morning! There are so many possibilities for fillings and toppings that can add variety and nutrition to your pancakes. The whole family will look forward to family pancake morning!

    Other filling and topping ideas:

    • stir finely chopped walnuts into the batter. Top pancakes with sliced bananas and cinnamon.
    • add chopped fresh in-season fruit to the batter, such as strawberries or whipped cream.
    • top with bananas, strawberries, and honey.
    • add finely chopped apples and raisins to the batter.
    • top pancakes with homemade fresh cherry pie filling.

    Get creative and I’ll bet you will come up with your own yummy and nutritious creations!


    Lime Bavarian Salad: A Retro Recipe

    I will have to say that it was regrettably an unfortunate incident that caused me to come up with this retro recipe for lime Bavarian salad. My mother, an octogenarian, was recently recovering from a short illness and doing quite well. My sister picked her from the hospital to go home on a chilly but sunny winter Saturday and was involved in a pretty serious car crash.

    Back to the hospital they went, this time both as patients. A few cracked bones and bruises turned out to be quite devastating for my mother. My sister, although not admitted to the hospital, was quite banged up as well. So I took some time off to go and stay with Mom while Sis recovered.

    Retro Salad Recipe

    Lime Bavarian Salad
    Lime Bavarian Salad

    Stirring around in the still unfamiliar kitchen (she moved into a condo a few years ago), I happened upon her old cook book from the local women’s church group. Published in 1979, it contained all sorts of interesting recipes, all neatly typed in old typewriter pica type with the name of the Lady’s Auxiliary member submitting the recipe. They were neatly bound with plastic spirals and colorful dividers for the recipe categories.

    During the 1960s and 1970s, congealed salads made with different flavors of gelatin, fruits, cheeses and other ingredients were popular. I am sharing what turned out to be one of my favorite retro recipes, a version of lime Bavarian salad.

    There are several different Bavarian salad recipes from potato salads to fruit salads. This fruity jello salad incorporates crushed pineapple and lime jello with mozzarella cheese. Cool Whip and marshmallows add fluff and sweetness, while chopped pecans add crunch.

    Try this retro salad for a change of pace from all those regular salads. It will compliment any meal.

    • 1 small can pineapple, crushed and drained
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 small package lime jello
    • 1 cup pecans
    • 1 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
    • 20 marshmallows
    • 1 large container Cool Whip

    Lime Bavarian Salad Instructions

    1. place marshmallow and water in pan. heat until the marshmallows melt.
    2. add directly to the lime gelatin powder in a bowl.
    3. mix well and chill, but not until set.
    4. stir in pecans, cheese and pineapple.
    5. refrigerate several hours or overnight until set .
    6. if desired, garnish with sugared lime slice flowers with cherry centers.
    start by melting marsh mellows in hot water.


    stir in crushed pineapple, pecans and mozzarella cheese














    stir in crushed pineapple, Mozzarella, and pecans












    fold in Cool Whip. chill a few hours or overnight














    Delicious, authentic Bavarian food reflects regional cooking that developed over centuries. Growing out of the rural areas, the recipes were refined by Bavarian dukes to serve to the royal court.

    Some other Bavarian and starter dishes include warm red cabbage salad, sausage salad, potato salad with radishes, white cabbage salad with horseradish and cauliflower salad.


    South African Christmas Trifle : Ribbons Of Red And Green Jello


    Trifle, a Dessert with a History

    Trifle is said to have it’s origins in foole, a dessert of fruit puree, sugar, and whipped cream. In 1596 Thomas Dawson of England published a recipe consisting of thick cream, ginger, and rosewater. In later years a milk custard and alcohol-soaked bread were added.

    Variations of trifle today include fruit, jellies or gelatin, custard, cream, and port or sherry-soaked cake. They are truly tasty and decorative as well.

    Today my friend Annejie (pronounced A nee kee) shares with me her old family recipe for a delightful trifle. Annejie is originally from South Africa. She is of Dutch descent and her cooking is divine. To her family, Christmas without trifle would be an American Thanksgiving without turkey.

    The British have influenced the South African culture throughout generations. They took over the Cape from the Dutch in 1795. It was returned to the Dutch seven years later and was seized by the British again in 1866. After the discovery of diamonds and gold in SA, the British fought determinedly in the Boer Wars to retain control. SA remained a Dominion of England until 1931.

    Annejie’s dishes often reflect English, Dutch, and Malaysian influences.

    Planning The Trifle

    Annejie plans her trifle in two-day sessions. On day one, she makes the cakes and prepares the Jello. The next day, she cooks her custard, whips the cream and layers the trifle when the custard has cooled.

    South African Christmas Trifle

    • 3 Loaves Sugar Cake, cut into bites, recipe below
    • 4 Packages Lime and cherry Jello, large size
    • 8-10 Cups Custard, favorite recipe or packaged
    • 2-3 Cans Fruit Cocktail, tropical, drain and reserve juice
    • 2 Cups Sherry or port wine
    • 1-2 Cups Malted milk balls, optional
    • 1 Quart Whipping cream, whipped


    To prepare for her masterpiece Annejie will bake a “sugar cake”. The sugar cake is surprisingly easy. Annejie prefers this recipe because the cake’s texture and consistency are excellent for soaking up the fruit juices and port in the trifle.

    Sugar cake recipe:
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3 eggs
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    This recipe makes one loaf. Annejie needs a large trifle. She will bake 3 loaves of sugar cake.She begins by beating the eggs and then adds the other ingredients one at a time.She explains that a good mixing machine is important for the fluffiness of the batter.


    A good quality mixer is important for the batter.












    Annejie bakes the sugar cake loaves in a 350-degree oven. They turn out perfectly as she removes them from the hot pans to cool on a cooling rack.

    Cooling the sugar cakes on a rack.
    Jello Rainbow

    The cakes are cooling. Annejie prepares the red and green Jello brand gelatin according to package directions. It will take awhile for the Jello to gel. Meanwhile Annejie stores the sugar cake in air-tight containers. They will be cooled off and sponge-like for the trifle building.

    Annejie uses 4 large boxes of red and green Jello for her Christmas trifle
    Annejie uses 4 large boxes of red and green Jello for her Christmas trifle.
    The Custard

    Annejie will next make a custard for the trifle layering. This sounds like it is going to be a bit more difficult but Annejie makes hers with ease.

    In the UK custard is a medium-thick sauce and is popular for using in desserts. Many times people want to resort to packaged custard because it is easier. But for the best tasting custard Annejie recommends a homemade custard.

    Like most good cooks, Annejie measures, tastes and adds as she cooks. There are many custard recipes available if more precise measuring is desired.

    Annejie makes her custard with milk, sugar, vanilla and custard powder. She uses almost a gallon of milk.She purchases custard powder, available in the international foods aisle in most supermarkets. She pours almost the whole gallon of milk into a large sauce pan. She heats the milk, adds some vanilla and begins with one and a half cups of sugar. She uses the rest of the milk to stir up with about 7 serving spoons of the custard powder. (To use eggs, use 8-12 beaten egg yolks).

    Over medium heat she stirs the mixture constantly until it is a medium-sauce consistency.Annejie pours her custard into casserole dishes to cool.

    Cooling off the custard
    Cooling off the custard
    The Fruit

    The fruit is going to be an important part of the trifle.The fruit juice,combined with port or sherry, helps to give the trifle it’s delicious flavor.The sugar cake will be essential to soaking up the liquids. Annejie chooses tropical fruit cocktail for her trifle.


    Annejie uses 3 cans of tropical fruit cocktail


    Annejie uses a strainer to drain the fruit juice.She combines the drained fruit cocktail juice with about two cups of port wine. She sets the fruit aside to use in the layering.This trifle is sounding better and better!



    Fruit juice from the tropical fruit cocktail is combined with a bit of port.

    Instructions For Christmas Trifle Recipe

    1. Prepare the jello. Cut into cubes when set.
    2. Bake sugar or pound cake in advance. Cool
    3. Make custard using your favorite custard recipe. Cool
    4. Drain fruit and reserve
    5. Add fruit juice to sherry or port.
    6. Cut cake into bite-size pieces
    7. Layer ingredients in a large bowl. Cake, custard, Jello, fruit. Toss in a few malted milk balls if desired
    8. Pour liquid over ingredients. Let soak a few hours.
    9. Before serving, top with whipped cream and sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles.
    The layers begin with slices of sugar cake
    The layers begin with slices of sugar cake
    Cake, custard, Jello and fruit layers. Add the liquid in between. Malted milk balls add a fun surprise.Top it off with whipped creme.
    Cake, custard, Jello and fruit layers. Add the liquid in between. Malted milk balls add a fun surprise.Top it off with whipped creme.

    Putting it All Together

    All the ingredients prepared, it is time to build the layers of the trifle. Annejie chooses a large glass bowl to make sure everyone can see that it is just as pretty as it is tasty. She begins by placing layers of the sugar cake at the bottom of the bowl. Next goes on some of the custard topped with the red and green jello (which has been cubed).Then she adds some of the tropical fruit cocktail.

    Annejie continues to layer the cake, custard, Jello and fruit cocktail. She stops now and again to pour in some of the liquid(fruit juice and port mixture). Often when she makes trifle she will toss in a few malted milk balls here or there for a crunchy surprise but this is optional.

    Annejie whips up a quart of real whipping cream to top her creation. Now the traditional Christmas trifle her family loves is ready to adorn the table. It is SO delicious! If you try Annejie’s delightful trifle with ribbons of red and green gelatin, you may just start a family tradition of your own for generations!

    7 Cute Christmas Ornaments To Make With Craft Sticks

    What are Craft Sticks?

    Craft sticks are actually Popsicle sticks and tongue depressors like doctors use to check out our throats. Tongue depressors are wider than Popsicle sticks. There is no need to eat lots of Popsicles or swipe tongue depressors from the doctor’s office. Boxes of them are sold in the craft section of department stores and they are very inexpensive.

    Other craft supplies to use for homemade craft ornaments include the following

    • pom poms in different sizes
    • wiggly eyes
    • paints
    • glue
    • ribbon
    • glitter
    • craft foam

    Craft Stick Christmas Ornaments

    Craft stick Christmas ornaments are easy for kids to make. Inexpensive materials and little preparation time make them a good choice for making Christmas ornaments with kids, especially as last minute ideas. Teachers and caregivers will appreciate these simple ornament ideas using craft sticks.

    Craft sticks, along with other craft supplies will help kids create really cute homemade Christmas ornaments. Some of these ideas make great refrigerator magnets, Magnetic strips can also be purchased in the crafts section of department stores.

    Parents and grandparents will cherish these ornaments or magnets for years to come. They will appreciate the teacher or caregiver’s efforts in helping kids make homemade Christmas ornaments. These are fun to make with your own kids too.

    Craft Stick Tree Ornament


    1. Glue three craft sticks in a triangle shape.
    2. Tuck in and glue a third craft stick.
    3. The kids can paint this shaped with green paint.
    4. Allow the paint to dry. Kids can decorate them with pom poms or other craft supplies.
    5. Add gold glitter on a yellow craft foam star for the top
    6. Add a ribbon hanger.


    Craft Stick Rudolph Ornament


    1. Glue craft sticks in a triangle shape.
    2. Leave an overlap for antlers
    3. Paint with brown tempera or acrylic
    4. Allow to dry.
    5. Glue on googly eyes
    6. Give Rudolph a red pom pom nose
    7. Add a festive green ribbon and hanger


    Snowman Craft Stick Ornament


    1. Paint a craft stick white
    2. Allow to dry
    3. Glue on eyes and buttons with small black pom poms
    4. Use a black Sharpie to add a mouth
    5. Glue on an orange pom pom for the nose
    6. Add a scarf of Christmas plaid ribbon
    7. Cut and glue on a piece of chenille stem for the earmuffs
    8. Add pom poms on each side to complete the earmuffs.

    Craft Stick Christmas Snowflake Ornament



    1. Arrange six Popsicle sticks in a hexagonal design.
    2. Paint with white tempera or acrylic
    3. Allow to dry
    4. Glue on clear beads.
    5. Add a hanger of silver rope thread

    Peppermint Stick North Pole Sign Ornament


    • Paint a craft stick with white tempera or acrylic
    • Add stripes of glue
    • Sprinkle on red glitter
    • Make a green construction paper arrow sign shape
    • Write ‘North Pole’ on the sign
    • Glue to the top of the candy cane pole


    Manger Picture Frame From Craft Sticks


    1. Form a square with four craft sticks that over-lap.
    2. Glue the four craft sticks together at the corners
    3. Glue on two extra craft sticks at the top in a triangle to form a roof
    4. Glue blue paper behind the ‘roof’.
    5. Add a craft foam star
    6. Add a photo from Christmas manger scene play
    7. glue magnetic backing or use as and ornament


    Snowman Fridge Magnet


    1. Glue 6 wide (tongue depressor) craft sticks onto a backing of 2 narrow (Popsicle)sticks. The Popsicle sticks provide support for 6 wide craft sticks.
    2. Glue a wide craft stick across the top horizontally, about 2 inches from the top.
    3. Paint the bottom white to represent the snowman’s face. Paint the top and horizontal stick black to represent the snowman’s hat.
    4. Allow to dry. Add googly eyes.
    5. Add craft foam shapes for hat band, carrot nose and mouth.
    6. Add a narrow black ribbon, and the magnet becomes and ornament.
    7. If desired, kids can personalize the front with name, date. Use a silver Sharpie.



    Thanksgiving Memory Tablecloth Idea

    Start a Thanksgiving Memory Tablecloth

    Because of distance or travel time, Thanksgiving may be one of the few times during the year that certain loved ones can get together. Since children,grandchildren, nieces and nephews grow and change each year, this year try starting a Thanksgiving Memory Table Cloth. It is an easy and inexpensive way to create a special family keepsake.


    Materials for Memory Table Cloth


    1. Purchase an inexpensive linen-type white table cloth

    2. Fabric paint in Fall colors

    3. Fabric markers

    4.Large size artists brushes


    Spread brown fabric paint on child’s palm and thumb with the large artist’s brush. Then carefully paint each of the four fingers a different color such as yellow,orange or green. Have child to carefully press hand palm-down on a prearranged area. Wash hand! Child then uses fabric markers to embellish the “turkey” with eyes, comb and waddle. Maybe even a little Pilgrim’s hat one year to be different. Encourage each child to express their own creativity.

    Be sure to have each child use the fabric markers to add their name, date and special yearly message if desired.

    Thanksgiving Memory Place Mat

    A variation of the Memory Table Cloth is a Thanksgiving Memory Place Mat.Individual children can do hand prints on 11-inch by 14 inch construction paper. Use Tempera or acrylic paint rather than fabric paint. Embellish with fine pointed colored Sharpies brand markers. Cover with clear Con-tact for durability. These would make great gifts for grandparents, aunts and uncles.

    Imagine how valuable your Memory Table Cloth or Place Mat will be in years to come!


    12 Terrific Ideas For a Red Ribbon Week Door Decorating Contest


    Red Ribbon Week Door Decor

    Does your school, office, or dorm have a Red Ribbon Week door decorating contest? Need some fresh ideas?

    The contest comes around every year along with other activities to honor Red Ribbon Week. It comes around the same time as, you guessed it, Halloween, so it’s not unusual to see a Halloween theme incorporated in the decorations.

    History of Red Ribbon Week

    Red Ribbon Week is a week in late October or early November to emphasize and promote drug and violence prevention. It started slowly after the kidnapping and murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camereno and his pilot in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1985.

    Camereno’s efforts led to the discovery of a multimillion dollar narcotics manufacturing operation. Citizens in Camereno’s hometown wore red ribbons in his honor. Clubs were started in California high schools in 1986. Club members presented Nancy Reagan, then the first lady with a proclamation.

    The first official Red Ribbon Week was organized in 1988, proclaimed by Congress, and chaired by Mrs. Reagan.


    12 Ideas for Red Ribbon Week Doors

    1. Drugs will Make You Croak.
    A confused frog smashed into the window.


    2. The Fortune Teller’s Crystal Ball Says it with Lights

    Painted with poster paints on black paper. Your Future will be Bright if you Keep Drugs out of Sight.

    3. Warm Hugs Not Drugs

    Individually decorated snowmen and snowflake cutouts


    4. Oh, The Places We’ll Go

    Dr. Suess theme. The good life, drug free.


    5. Cool Ninja Turtle

    Of course, he’s wearing a red bandana!


    6. Your Team Against Drugs.

    Your favorite team is in the lead . Drugs score 0.


    7. Be a Lifesaver, Not a Dum Dum

    Can we eat the candy later? Yes, it’s real.


    8. Drugs are a Nightmare

    A Halloween theme spelled out on a big yellow moon.


    9. Don’t Be Bugged by Drugs

    Spooky spiders and bats with googly eyes.


    10. Election Day is Around the Corner

    The candidates are saying drug free slogans.

    11.You Only Live Once

    Think twice. A powerful message personalized with photos.


    12. A Message with a Halloween theme.

    The haunted house, big moon, ghosts, and bats tell the message perfectly.


    Jack-o-lantern Cheese Ball For Halloween Parties


    Pumpkin Cheese Ball For Fall

    Turn your cheese balls into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween! This cute cheese ball will delight your guests, and if you are invited to a fall potluck event, it travels well.

    Simply follow a cheddar cheese ball recipe and form the cheese ball into a pumpkin shape. Tinted cream cheese will give your pumpkin cheese ball a jack-o-lantern face. A green bell pepper’s stem become’s your pumpkin’s stem.

    Use this same idea all through the harvest season into Thanksgiving by leaving off the jack-o-lantern’s face.

    Ingredients for Jack-o-lantern Cheese Ball
    • 2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
    • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, reserve 1/4 cup
    • 1 8 oz. container chive-and-onion cream cheese
    • 2 tsp paprika
    • 1/2 tsp red pepper
    • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
    • stem of a green bell pepper
    • black and orange (red/yellow) food coloring




    Directions for Jack-o-lantern Cheese Ball
    1. Mix all ingredients and form into a ball
    2. Chill at least 2 hours
    3. Use a piece of string or yarn to make indentations like on a pumpkin
    4. Dye about a  fourth cup of cream cheese with black and orange food coloring
    5. Put the dyed cream cheese in a sandwich bag and snip the corner.
    6. Pipe on jack-o-lantern’s face.
    7. Insert bell pepper stem at the top
    8. Serve with crackers, veggies, apple slices

    Creative Snacks For Nut Allergies

    Many early childhood programs assign children days for taking turns sharing snacks for snack time by bringing them in from home. One February, we wanted to get really creative and send a snack in to commemorate American Dental Health month.

    They are made by slicing red apples, spreading peanut butter on the slices and attaching mini marshmallows as teeth. But alas! We remembered that a note home earlier in the year warned that one child in the class had a peanut allergy. Darn. And it was such a cute idea. But wait! Why not substitute cream cheese for the peanut butter! Better yet we could use strawberry cream cheese to represent pink healthy gums!

    The apple smiles snacks turned out great and were a big hit with students and teacher.We are sharing some ideas for good snack sharing in case your child has a classmate with peanut allergy. They are very easy to assemble and children can easily help. The only task the parent should do alone is slicing the apples.

    Please read the background information on peanut allergies first.

    Incidence of Nut Allergies on the Rise


    There appears to be no clear reason for a dramatic increase in peanut allergies in recent years. One theory is that the rise is due to more consumption of dry roasted peanuts rather than boiled. The drying process may alter the peanut protein in some way.

    Other Nut Allergies:

    Botanically speaking peanuts are actually legumes like beans, however, studies indicate that children who are allergic to peanuts are at increased risk for being allergic to at least one other tree nut (pecans, walnuts almonds, chestnuts, macadamias and more). Most doctors of children with peanut allergies advise parents to eliminate all tree nuts from the home if a child has a peanut allergy.Introducing tree nuts into the home should be managed by the individual’s allergy specialist.

    Symptoms and Dangers of Nut Allergies

    The medical condition caused by a peanut allergy, anaphylaxis, causes cells in the body to release a massive amount of histamines. Symptoms will include itching, hives, sneezing, coughing and wheezing. Gastronomical distress may also be present. Upon constriction of airways, an extreme drop in blood pressure may occur. Without a shot of adrenaline, death is likely. There have been cases reported where a child ate cookies or other foods with “hidden” peanut products and tragically did not survive.

    Parents of peanut-allergic children have real and understandable fear. A study conducted by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) found that food allergy families suffer greater emotional distress than even those with epilepsy or asthma. This is probably due to food sharing at school, children’s parties and play dates at other’s homes.

    Replacing Peanut Butter When Cooking With Kids


    Peanut butter is a popular food for cooking with kids. It can be a sort of natural food glue for all those cute creations we like to make. Kids love eating foods that resemble animals or other familiar objects. This is a great motivator to encourage young children to try new foods. Due to the extreme danger of anaphylaxis, we should refrain from using peanut butter or any nut product for food sharing with other children. Try substituting cream cheese for the “food glue” properties of peanut butter in snacks!

    Edible Flowers and Ants on a Log


    Children can spread cream cheese on a round, whole wheat cracker and press in golden raisins for the “seeds” in the middle of the flower. Use a few thin slices of the apples to form the “petals.” Add a celery stalk “stem.” Be sure to talk about ways to use the apple scraps; eat them, make cooked apples or even use in composting.

    Ants on a log are popular and healthy children’s snack. Substitute cream cheese for the usual peanut butter in ants on a log. For a really cool variation use dried cranberries for some of the ants (they can be fire ants) as well as raisins. Cranberries are an antioxidant-rich super food and they taste great with plain cream cheese.

    Apple Smiles

    Apple smile snacks will make everyone smile! Be sure to have an adult cut the slices. They should be about one-half to three-quarters of an inch thick. Blot the apple slices well with paper toweling. We found that if they are too moist the cream cheese doesn’t stick well. Add mini-marshmallows and enjoy!

    Cute Food Crafts

    Make healthy snacks that look like sailboats and other objects.

    Fall Themed Cupcakes: Autumn Color Frosting and Candy Acorn Toppers

    Beautiful autumn color can inspire just about anything, even cupcakes. Celebrate the season with my autumn-inspired cupcakes. Granny Smith apples and spice give these cupcakes the flavor of the season. They smell wonderful while they’re baking and give the kitchen such a warm, homey feeling.

    To frost your fall cupcakes, experiment with mixing just the right amounts of yellow, brown, red and orange food colors. (Brown food color is available in most specialty sections of department stores). You can create shades that mimic Mother Nature’s palette.

    The acorns? They’re made with Nutter Butter minis, Hersey kisses and butterscotch morsels. Just hold everything together with a tad of creamy, sticky peanut butter.

    Bake these and serve with spiced tea at your fall book club meetings, or any fall event. They are the perfect fall cupcake.


    Ingredients for Apple Cupcakes
    • 2 Eggs
    • 1/3 Cup Butter, melted
    • 3/4 Cup Milk
    • 2 and 1/2 Cups All purpose flour
    • 1 Tsp Cinnamon
    • 1 Tps Baking Powder
    • 1/2 Cup Sugar
    • 2 Cups Granny Smith apples, chopped
    • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
    Apple Cupcakes
    1. Combine eggs, milk. melted butter and vanilla
    2. Mix sugar, flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a separate bowl
    3. Add dry mixture in the liquid ones just until moistened
    4. Fold in the chopped apples
    5. Bake in cupcake liners at 350 degrees for 18 minutes




    Mix until just moistened and add chopped Granny Smith apples



    Fall Leaf Peak Times in the United States

    East Coast
    West Coast
    Late September
    Northernmost parts of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.
    Central parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Colorado
    Highest elvations of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
    Early October
    Highest elevations in North Carolina, West Virginia and Maine, Pennsyvania
    Far North New Mexico, Cenral Colorado, Western Wyoming,
    Eastern Idaho, Westernmost Montana, Northernmost Arizona and Central Utah
    Mid October
    Western North & South Carolina, Western Virginia, Maryland & Delaware, Most of Pennsylvania, Western New York, Eastern Connecticut, Far Eastern Massachucettes and Maine,
    Central & Southern Minnesota, all of Iowa, Northeastern Kansas, Southern Missouri, South and Central Wisconsin, Eastern North & South Dakota
    Eastern Wyoming, Northern Arizona, Western Idaho, Central Oregon, Central Washington, North-Central California, Western Nevada
    Late October
    Northernmost Alabama, Mississippi & Arkansas, North Georgia, Western Virginia , Maryland & Delaware
    Northeastern Oklahoma, Central Kansas, Souternmost Indiana
    All but the central parts of Oregon& Washington, Lowest elevations of Northern California
    Early November
    Eastern Delaware, Eastern Virginia, North & South Carolina, Central & Southern Georgia & Alabama
    Central & Soutern Arkansas, Central Mississippi, most of Oklahoma, Northern Texas, Western Kansas, Eastern Nebraska

    Why Do Leaves Change Color?


    Leaf coloration in the fall depends on leaf pigment and weather. Longer and cooler nights in the fall spark chemical processes that paint the leaves on deciduous trees brilliant colors in many part of the world. The three types of pigments that effect color are chlorophyll (green), anthocyanins (red) and caretinoids (yellow).

    Chlorophyll and caretinoids exist within the leaf all through the growing season. Anthocyanins are present in the fall due to bright light and increased plant cell sugars in the leaf cells. As the length of darkness increases in the fall, the leaf stops making chlorophyll and the other pigments take over.

    Leaf color also depends on tree species. Oak leaves turn red or russet. Poplar,hickory and aspen will be golden or yellowish. Sourwood trees and certain maples will be flaming crimson. Dogwoods are a pretty purplish-red.

    Weather affects the fall show of colors. The most spectacular shows follow successions of warm, sunny days and nights that are cold but not freezing.