Saint Patrick Day Cakes: Make a Lucky Leprechaun Fruity Rainbow Cake



Saint Patrick’s Day Desserts

All of the Irish and those who are only Irish for one day love to celebrate with great Saint Patrick’s day desserts. Shamrock shakes and floats are popular all over town for the whole month of March. 

Rather than just something green like green iced cupcakes or lime sherbet, why not make something really cute that honors the luck of the Irish and packs a little nutrition too.

This adorable Saint Patrick Day cake is topped with kiwi, blueberries, diced peaches and raspberries.

Lucky Leprechauns and Rainbows

The little leprechauns are tiny little elfin shoemakers who have a pot of gold hidden at the end of rainbows.  Legend has it that if you can spot a rainbow and catch a leprechaun at the same time, you will win the pots of gold. But leprechauns are hard to catch. They live deep in the forest and are very sly and very fast.

How to Make a Lucky Leprechaun  Fruity Rainbow Saint Patrick’s Day Cake

Step 1. Follow directions for making a cake from a confetti cake mix. Or make your own favorite yellow cake from scratch and add rainbow sprinkles to the mix.

Step 2. Cool the cake.

Step 3. While the cake cools, prepare the rainbow fruit topping. Slice and dice kiwis. Use diced canned peaches, blueberries, raspberries, and pink and green mini marshmallows. 

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Step 4: Ice the cake. I like using Duncan Hines starter icing in blue cotton candy. The flavor compliments the confetti cake.

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Step 5. Starting from each end and working to the top, begin the fruity rainbow starting halfway up the cake.

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Step 6. Attach 3 regular-sized marshmallows to toothpicks to form “clouds”.

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Attach 3 marshmallow “clouds” with toothpicks

Step 7. Add gold foil-covered chocolate coins at the end of each rainbow.

LAST STEP: ENJOY THE SAINT PATRICKS DAY LUCKY LEPRECHAUN FRUITY RAINBOW CAKE!

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Skunk Remedy: Removing Skunk Odor On Dogs And In Homes

 SKUNKED!

Isabelle and Penelope are country girls now.

Country Dogs Verses City Dogs

After moving out to the country from the suburbs, I  learned that the country dog lives a different life.

If you have dogs and live in the country, there is a good chance that someday what happened to me might happen to you.  It can also happen if you like to take your dogs out on camping and hiking trips and let them run off-leash.

If your dogs are trained to obey voice commands and stay close by you (which is easy if you give them all your love), there is nothing more enjoyable for your dog and you than letting them run free for a short time in the fields and woods, back where there are no roads or traffic to pose a danger .

A Close Encounter of the Stinky Kind

It was an unseasonably warm, sunny late winter day. My daughter, her daughters, and dog were over for a visit.We decided to take the three of them on a walk with us in the wilderness behind my home. Bobbejaan, the four-legged grandson and my two girls Penny and Bellie started out. It was my birthday, and I had my two-legged and four-legged loved ones with me. Life was good. 

A  beautiful walk at any time, winter is best for a distant view of part of the Appalachian Mountains, as the trees are bare.

 

Great mountain view, Appalachians, North Georgia

 Paths, trails, old roads, woods…there is much to explore for  hikers and  their dogs behind my house.  It was the first time we had ventured that far since I had moved out to the country.

 It was the beckon of what appeared to be an old slave cabin that sits on an abandoned southern plantation that made us trudge through the field above to get a closer look.

Old slave cabin in the distance.

 

Old Slave Cabin on abandoned plantation

After a good close-up look of the old cabin, we turned to start for home. It was while walking back through the field when dog number one was “skunked.” Moving to the country first, my daughter had heard about washing the dog in tomato juice or tomato sauce. I had a big can of tomato sauce in the cupboard for making veggie chili. It was, after all, winter. So much for veggie chili.

We washed Bobbejaan from head to tail with tomato sauce. We threw in a little baking soda, too along with Dawn dish detergent. The combination of acid and alkaline seemed to work.

Be careful not to get the tomato sauce in their eyes. Poor Bobbejaan!

SKUNKED AGAIN!

All was well in the country. No matter what anyone claims on-line, the tomato sauce and baking soda worked. Incident forgotten. Life went on. Then Murphy’s law kicked in early the next Monday morning.  My black Lab Bella went out to “potty” before  Mommy left for work. Pepe Le Pew was close by home and Bellie  just had to check him out.

This time, there was no time for a bath in tomato sauce. It was not a lovely, unseasonably warm Saturday. It was a chilly, back to reality manic Monday. I had to leave Bella in the house and head for work.

While I knew it probably was not the best solution, did I really have a choice?

Gosh, yes! If I had known, I would have called in with any number of excuses not to show up on the job. …car got stolen, house on fire, you name it. I just didn’t know. And I would never dream of leaving the house with the dogs not inside.

Removing Skunk Odor from House and Clothes

Removing skunk spray from the house is no easy task. Although the house did not get sprayed directly by the skunk, the odor that my dog brought in and rubbed against the carpet and furniture was atrocious. It called for action. There are skunk odor neutralizers available on line. There was no time for that. Home remedies to remove skunk odor would have to do.

Home Remedies for Removing Skunk Odor

 



I am sure that should an actual skunk get into your house that the treatment might be more intense. But I  can’t imagine any worse smell than what Bella brought in that day. Problem was, I HAD to get to work, or so I thought. During the day, I was able to grab a few minutes to do some research. The tomato sauce remedy had about a 50/50 approval rate.

Other suggestions included a combination of apple cider vinegar and baking soda. Still another remedy was hydrogen peroxide and baking soda with a little Dawn.

Following is a combination of the  home remedies for skunk odor removal that worked for us.

PETS:
  • Do not let the dog in. Rub her down with fabric softener sheets.
  • Give a bath in tomato sauce or juice and baking soda and Dawn.
  • Try hydrogen peroxide and baking soda and Dawn . Use a cup of peroxide to each quarter cup baking soda and a teaspoon of Dawn.
  • Bath in one cup each of apple cider vinegar and baking soda. 
I found that the tomato sauce works very well IF you wash the dog right away. Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda work fairly well.  I had the best luck with the apple cider vinegar and baking soda remedy for washing the odor off of Belle. But I will have to go with a tomato sauce bath, done immediately, as the most effective. 

HOUSE:

  • Wash everything washable in the washing machine with one cup each of baking soda and apple cider vinegar
  • Line-dry the laundry outdoors, preferably on a cool, sunny and breezy day.
  • Sit anything not washable outside to air.
  • Spray carpets, drapes and furniture with a mixture of water, apple cider vinegar and baking soda.
  • Vacuum carpet with a pet odor neutralizing  vacuum cleaner bag. 
  • Spray carpet, drapes and furniture with Febreeze. Squirt the dog too!
  • Give a final spritz of rosemary-lemon water (recipe below).
  • Tape fabric softener sheets over the dryer vents.
  • Make dried rosemary-lemon sachets for drawers, closets.
  • Place fabric softener sheets over coat  hangers all through the closets.
  • Open doors and windows to air out as much as possible.
I didn’t try to wash everything in the same day. I bagged up clothing, stuffed animals. cushions, bedding…anything that was machine washable in black plastic trash bags.
Wait until a sunny, breezy cool day and wash “first needed items first.” Wash in COLD weather and LINE DRY, as heat reactivates the smell.
Toss fabric softener dryer sheets in the bags. As your clothes, etc. get washed and dried,  tie them up in black trash bags until the smell in the carpet, drapes, etc dies down.

Rosemary-lemon Water

  1. Grate zest from a lemon
  2. Chop up 3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary ( use dried if you have no rosemary bush)
  3. Add to two cups water.
  4. Bring to a bowl. simmer 20 minutes.
  5. Cool. pour into sprayer bottle.

Lemon-rosemary Sachets

Use the dried lemon-rosemary mixture to make sachets in little net bags. Toss them around everywhere. Skunk spray is an oily substance, and the lemon-rosemary is oily as well, making it good for combating the skunk smell.

Getting rid of skunk odor is not fun at all. But if you, your dog or God forbid your house ever gets SKUNKED! I hope this guide for getting rid of that gawd-awful odor helps. And if anyone has TIPS to SHARE please do. 

Bobbejaan,  the first dog in the story. Doesn’t he clean up well? 

 Stock up on one of these odor removal products
before it happens to you!


About Skunks

Skunks are not bullies. They can only  produce enough of their stinky spray for 6 or 7 squirts during a lifetime. They typically live about 3 years.  Therefore, they will stomp and beat before squirting their foul-odored spray. When they do, it is a last resort and the spray comes from sacs near the anal area.

Skunks can grow to be as large as 18 pounds. These are called hog-nosed skunks. All have stripes down the back. They may brown, black or beige colored. All have the classic white stripe down their backs. They are omnivorousness (eats both plants and animals). They have been known to get into human garbage when their habitats are invaded.

 

DIY Valentines: Six Cute Card Ideas

Homemade Valentine Ideas

Imagine getting an old-fashioned homemade valentine from your significant other. Just like every other holiday, Valentine’s Day has become highly commercialized. Back in the old days, valentines were made by hand of paper and cloth. Later on, they were made of old photos, real lace, and ribbons. There were no factories to mass produce die-cut valentine cards.

As valentine card making advanced, the real lace and ribbons turned into  lace  and red, pink and white paper. Purple paper grew popular as a “valentines color” too. Then, in the early 1800’s, Valentine cards began being mass produced and assembled in factories. Gone was the innocence of a sweetly-made Valentine card. Now a girl is lucky to get a Valentine  other than an eCard. It is hard sometimes to beat technology. Don’t let the valentine card become a thing of the past.  

Wouldn’t it be romantic to begin an old tradition anew? Here are six cute homemade valentine card ideas to get started with. Copy them as is, or alter them to use watever you have on hand. Or, maybe these will spark a new idea for your own design.

Materials needed for cute homemade Valentines besides red, white, pink and purple paper can include ribbon, lace, fuzzy pompoms, yarn, fabric, stickers, scrap-booking material and imagination. It is good to have a hot glue gun on hand  for gluing on heavier objects like poms or buttons. Otherwise, some very pretty Valentines can be created with  only paper,scissors, glue, markers or crayons. Just be sure to use paper thick enough that the markers you use don’t bleed through. I hope the following ideas inspire someone to make homemade Valentine cards this year.

Butterfly Homemade Valentine Card

Cute Butterfly Card

This valentine butterfly is made of two red paper heart cut-outs. Cut the inside of each one out to leave a heart outline. Glue a square of pink tissue paper (or color of choice) inside and then trim. Glue in a butterfly shape onto the front of the card. Paint on spots with white acrylic paint. The butterfly’s body and antenna are formed from black chenille stems .

The inside is reserved for a personal message.

A dab of hot glue from a glue gun will hold heavier materials like pipe cleaners and googly eyes better. 

The Birds and the Bee

Cute Bee My Valentine Homemade Card

The birds and the bees have long been the subject of love. This cute card is made with red paper. A  bee of yellow paper  has black marker stripes. It has white heart-shaped wings, tiny googly eyes, pom pom stinger and a red smile cut from felt.

Write a personal message inside.

My Love Grows and Grows 

Love Grows With A Three-tiered Fold-out Card.

A growing flower with pink and purple heart-shaped petals grows taller and taller as the card unfolds. Do this by folding the paper in thirds. Put the parts on each section as shown. The flowers center is a little yellow pom pom, but you could use a wad of yellow tissue or simply a yellow paper circle.

Berry Much Love 

Heart-shaped Berry for a Cute Valentine card.

 

This cute card is a strawberry shaped like a valentine with  little green leaf valentines on the stem. This is all done with paper and marker. Outlining in rick rack adds a nice effect.

 

Squeaking Heart Mouse

 

My Heart Squeaks For You!

 This squeaky mouse is a half of a heart cut from white paper. His ears are a little pink valentine. His curly tail is gift-wrapping ribbon. He has a hot pink pom pom nose, a googly eye and drawn-on whiskers. Add stickers or cut hearts from paper to embellish the card.

Write a message inside.

 

     Soaring Love                                              

A Valentine Kite on a String of Red Ribbon

 

A heart-shaped kite is being flown on a red ribbon string. It is soaring high towards the blue marker clouds. Tiny pink tissue paper ruffles give it some bling. Make the ruffles by inserting a pencil point inside the tissue square.  Twist, remove and glue in place. This is a bit tedious, but the rest of the card is really simple.

 

 

Not crafty? Try vintage Valentines.


Valentine Cupcakes: Make Sweetheart Teddy Bear Cupcakes

Valentine’s Day Celebrations

 

Make Sweetheart Teddy Bear Cupcakes for Valentine’s Day Celebrations.

Valentine’s Day isn’t just for sweethearts, engagements, and marriages. The whole family can have fun getting involved in honoring the Saint of Love. There are cards designed for all family members from grandmothers to aunts. School kids have either made or bought and traded valentines for generations. Remember that tissue covered and decorated shoe box in grade school? And who doesn’t just love a heart-shaped box of chocolates?

Cupcakes are popular Valentine’s Day treats. Pretty red, white and pink decorated cupcakes make any Valentine’s Day celebration better. They can also make a great homemade gift.

There are lots of fun ways to decorate Valentine’s Day cupcakes: red, white and pink sprinkles, candy hearts, white or pink frosting. Don’t ignore chocolate frosting and decor either. After all, chocolate is the elixir of love.

Teddy Bear Sweetheart Cupcakes

Best Valentine Cupcakes

This year, out do all the other Valentine cupcakes with sweetheart teddy bear cupcakes. Almost too cute to eat, they are sure to be a hit with everyone. They aren’t just adorable, they taste divine. These sweetheart teddy bear cupcakes are made with a moist red velvet cake mix.

A moist red velvet cake mix is perfect for sweetheart teddy bear cupcakes.

Romantic Idea: Make Homemade Valentines

 Baking Teddy Bear Cupcakes

Fill the cupcake liners a just little bit fuller than normal. This gives the cupcakes a nice round shape that will be cuter for the teddy bear sweetheart cupcakes. Don’t overfill though, or you will end up with something that resembles a nuclear explosion mushroom cloud!

Fill cupcake liners just a little fuller than normal for nice round faces to decorate.

Decorating Sweetheart Teddy Bear Cupcakes

The cream cheese frosting for these cute valentine cupcakes is lightly tinted pink. The cupcakes are then sprinkled with finely shredded coconut. This gives the teddy bear cupcakes a fuzzy, cuddly look.

Sweetheart Teddy Bear Cupcakes

Sweetheart Teddy Bears Muzzle and Nose

Kraft now markets Strawberry-mallows. These pale pink strawberry flavored marshmallows are available in a regular marshmallow shape and in valentine shapes. They are perfect for creating the sweetheart teddy bear’s muzzle and ears.

Sweetheart Teddy Bear Creation Station

Sweetheart Teddy Bear Cupcake’s Flavors

Add the flavor of a Maraschino cherry nose and semi-sweet chocolate chip eyes for a sensational tasting cupcake. The tastes of coconut and cream cheese frosting  complete this delectable treat.  Yum!

For  delectable, delicious and really cute Valentine cupcakes give sweetheart teddy bear cupcakes a try!

 

Get set to make sweetheart teddy bear cupcakes!

Food Crafts For Kids: Winter Treats To Make And Eat

Winter Food Crafts for Kids to Make

January doesn’t have to be a boring month. Winter snack food crafts can quickly chase away the post-holiday blues. Make these cool snacks with kids on those cold winter days.

These  snacks are fun for kids to make and healthy to eat. Make these winter food crafts at home, daycare or school. What a good break for home-schooled kids to make and eat winter food craft snacks!

There are some ways to weave a little learning into these cute kid’s food for winter. We’ll talk about the ways as we go.

Banana Raisin Bears

Banana Raisin Bears

Banana raisin bears are made with toasted slices of wheat or raisin bread. The kids can spread the slices with peanut butter or Nutella. Banana slices are ears sprinkled lightly with cinnamon. Raisins are eyes. Place a raisin on top of a third banana slice. This is the bear’s muzzle. Give him a row of juicy raisins to finish his face.

Learning Connection:

Bears hibernate in winter, sort of. Black bears really just doze on and off during the winter months. They are not very active and don’t require a lot of food. Use this snack while learning how some animal behaviors change in winter. Include humans!

A Book to Share: 

Read Sleep, Big Bear Sleep by Maureen Wright

 

Veggie Snowman Snack

 

Veggie snowman is made of crackers spread with cream cheese.

Make veggie snowmen with different sizes or shapes of snack crackers and cream cheese spread. Spread the crackers with ‘snow’ and decorate the veggie snowman. He has earmuffs made of a green pepper strip and tiny broccoli florets. Cut a thin sliver of carrot for the nose. The rest, coal buttons, and face, are little pieces of chopped, ripe black olives. Use sliced pimentos for the veggie snowman’s scarf. This is a fun way to get a picky eater to down some veggies.

Learning Connection:

Sequencing and following directions are skills that making veggie snowmen can help teach. Talk about the different steps in creating this healthy snack. List them on a big piece of chart paper.

Kids can snack on veggie snowmen and enjoy some really cool snowman stories for read-aloud time.

A Book to Share:

Read The Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll

Feed the Snowbirds Treats

Treats for the Snowbirds are seeds and raisins on a cream cheese snow-covered ground.

This winter food craft for kids is made by spreading  cream cheese on a whole graham cracker. The graham cracker represents the ground and the cream cheese is the snow. Feed the birds and sprinkle a handful of shelled sunflower kernels and raisins across the snowy ground.

Learning Connection:

Animals make adaptions to the different seasons. Some species of birds migrate south to escape snow that covers their food supply. Sometimes surprise snows may make it hard for these birds to eat. Teach the kids to help out our feathered friends in winter. They will really relate with this winter snack craft that represents a snow-covered ground with handfuls of food that birds ( and kids) love.

A Book to Share:

Read Animals in Winter by Berta Hader

Snow Buddies

Yogurt and fruit snow buddy snack.

This healthy snow buddy is a scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt. He has a strawberry winter hat, a cherry nose, and a strawberry slice smile. His eyes are blueberry bright.

Learning Connection:

Have the kids name their snow buddy.They can write a story about a snow day and playing with this pal.

The youngest students can dictate the story to the teacher and “read” it back. This is the language experience strategy for teaching reading.

Older kids can use inventive spelling to write their snow buddy stories.

A Book to Share:

Read  A Snowy Day, a classic story about a boy on a snowy day. Written by Ezra Jack Keats

 

 

Melting Snowmen

Kids will love watching Frosty melt atop their hot cocoa

Spear two marshmallow on a toothpick. Use decorator icing to add features. Keep a supply of these for kids to top hot cocoa with. They will love watching Frosty melt.

Learning Connection:

Make these for the kids to have at snack time with some hot cocoa after a science lesson about the weather or the three states of matter. Ask them what causes the marshmallow snowman to melt. Then ask what causes real snow to melt.

A Book to Share:

Read Snowmen at Work by Caralyn Buehner

Be creative this winter. Recommended by My Creative Palette: See also Winter Art and Learning Center Ideas 

 

Organizing An Elementary Classroom

 

 

Elementary Classroom Arrangements

An elementary classroom specifically refers to a class of grades 3-5. Needs for a good functional classroom for this age group are a bit different from the early childhood classroom arrangement. Kids in this age group are expected to become more self-directed in their learning. But they are not ready for a middle school organization.

These students have unique needs as they are between primary and middle school.  A critical time, many school systems have third grade reading testing as a best practice. Students not on grade level at this point are provided with remediation and/or retained.

Arranging a classroom for this special age group can require some unique planning. The following organizational ideas can help the elementary classroom operate smoothing. This smooth operation saves valuable time for the elementary teacher and provides a secure environment for students.

Classroom ArrangementFlat table top desks are preferable over tables and slanted desks for the elementary classroom. These desks can be moved around, grouped and lined up in functional order. In this classroom, the table top desks form a sort of  double square horseshoe shape. This is the preferred arrangement for whole-group instruction, but they can easily moved together for peer tutoring and cooperative learning activities. These students are at an excellent stage for shared learning. A round table and four chairs at the back of the classroom invites group work.

Counters and a clean-up area are shared characteristics of the early childhood and elementary classroom. These kids still love to paint and make creative projects, and that is an important part of their development. Separate tables provide areas for self-directed learning centers, another important aspect of elementary classrooms.

Teaching aides and charts turn cabinet doors functional

Using Pocket Charts as Teaching Aides

You will notice that pocket charts are used a lot in this elementary classroom. The clear pockets make them a great visual organizational tool. These charts and teaching aids make the cabinet doors attractive and functional. Incentive charts attractively displayed can really go a long way to reward achievement. Pocket charts provide really durable materials. The teacher won’t have to keep making these sort of teaching tools from poster board and laminating.

In this elementary classroom, the times tables are cleverly displayed for students to learn. This is a critical step in mathematics for this age, and the responsibility for memorizing the times tables falls on the student. For achievement  testing, these visual aides have to be taken down. Studies have shown that long-term exposure to these teaching aides remain in a student’s visual memory even if they are removed.

Calendar Math Bulletin Board

Instructional Bulletin Boards

Again, pocket charts help to create a really organized Calendar Math instructional area. So many math concepts can be taught with a calendar! Ordinal numbers that students can relate to transform into other numerical expressions like decimals and money.

Notice the patterning for this month. Colors and shapes help continue the important patterning concept the students learned in Kindergarten. The patterns just become more complex.

The Calendar Math bulletin board is a cheery red with small white polka dots. It is a cloth covering, and will not have to be replaced because of looking ragged. The Calendar Math bulletin board introduces many opportunities for whole group instruction and independent work.

Classroom supplies that are organized in categories and containers will help to make a smoothly operated classroom.

Storage, storage storage

That saying about location, location is a great way to explain storage for the elementary classroom. It’s all about storage. Having equipment and supplies in ‘apple pie order’ can mean the difference between an effective and non-effective classroom.  Have plenty of plastic bins, jars, baskets and pans for storing classroom materials and game pieces. This type of classroom sorting can help facilitate learning by organizing visual and conceptual  input.

Speaking of organized information, notice the hundreds board that is arranged on the Calendar Math bulletin board. It helps elementary-aged students see patterns in numbers, an important future algebraic concept.

 The Numbers System

Use cardboard  file holders for student materials such as notebooks, workbooks and folders. paint them white and decorate with a number sicker on the side. Each student has a number. This allows the student to learn to independently keep up with materials with minimal assistance. They are stored neatly on a shelf in numerical order. This efficient method saves time that is used for more instruction and less ‘housekeeping tasks’.

Cardboard file holders and a number system for organization
Cardboard file boxes help keep student notebooks and folders organized.

The Numbers System and Behavior Charts

The same numbers used to organize classroom supplies for the elementary classroom can be used to notate daily behaviors. In this way, a system of rewards and consequences can be implemented with less confusion. Student reward coupons are placed in numbered pockets. These coupons list special privileges like computer time.

A numbers system allows the teacher to give rewards in numbered pocket holders

 

A levels system with student names on clothespins is an effective semi-public method to encourage cooperative and respectable behavior in the elementary classroom. again, cabinet door displays add attractiveness and functionality to the classroom.  The teacher places clothespins for behavior levels as infractions occur. The students should have been taught these rules and consequences from day one. They also need to be reviewed often.

Behavior incentive charts take up less space on cabinet doors.

Small Group Instruction in the Elementary Classroom

Small group instruction area

In an elementary classroom, students will invariably have differing levels in both reading and math. Reading in the content areas will soon get more difficult. A  half circle or kidney-shaped table is ideal for small group instruction.

Organizing Classroom Supplies

The teacher can think of  creative ways to organize materials. Here we see the  acronym  BUILD as a way to incorporate independent learning activities into the elementary classroom organization. Again, storage, storage, storage!

Creative ways to organize materials

 

Sweet Potato Fries Recipe: My Secret For Home Fries

Spicy and Steaming sweet potato home fries
Spicy and Steaming sweet potato home fries

My Special Recipe for Sweet Potato Home Fries

Now that Thanksgiving and Christmas have  past, everyone is putting  the pumpkin and sweet potato recipes back in the file boxes. There were yummy pumpkin and sweet potato pies topped with whipped cream, pumpkin loaves and rolls, pumpkin squares and marshmallow-topped sweet potato casseroles. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of pumpkin and sweet potato recipes.

Sweet Potato Fries

Although most consider sweet potato and pumpkin recipes to be seasonal dishes, garden-grown sweet potatoes are available all year. Lots of folks enjoy just tossing one in the microwave for a sweet and healthy treat. They have become increasingly popular for making a healthier alternative to french fries. Like other sweet potato dishes, there are several variations. The sweet potatoes can be julienned (cut into thin strips), cut fat or cubed for sweet potato home fries.

My Sweet Potato Home Fries Recipe

The first time I had sweet potato home fries, I was teaching at a technology academy that had a culinary arts department. The students sometimes fixed gourmet meals for the staff and sold them dirt cheap. Their sweet potato fries were cubed and cooked home style. I remember that there were onions and bacon bits in those yummy things, but there was a gourmet flavor that I just loved.

I set out to  re-create the flavor and eliminate the bacon for a healthier, yet still delicious version. After some thinking and experimenting, I came up with the following recipe for sweet potato home fries.

I used olive oil and a little butter rather than the bacon. Lemon juice adds a tang to the flavor, and a dusting of sea salt, sugar and cayenne pepper completes the gourmet flavor for these tasty sweet potato home fries morsels.

Ingredients For Sweet Potato Home Fries

  1. 2-3 medium sweet potatoes
  2. 1/4 cup olive olive
  3. 2 TBS lemon juice
  4. 1 TMS sugar
  5. 1/4 cup butter, melted
  6. sea salt
  7. cayenne pepper

 

Sweet potato home fries are great to add to a  healthy dinner like lemon rosemary chicken or salmon dishes. They make a good alternative to potatoes,  pasta and other starches. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin B-6, which is known to break down homocysteine, a substance that causes hardening of the arteries. They are chock-full of beta-carotene, or vitamin A, a potent cancer-fighting antioxidant. Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of vitamins C,E and manganese. Manganese has been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels. Eat more sweet potatoes!


Christmas Tree Themes: Christmas At The Beach

Beach Themed Christmas Ornaments

Coastal dwellers love anything with a ‘beachy’ look. At Christmastime, you are likely to find beach-themed Christmas ornaments and other nautical decorations in their homes.

However, these days you don’t have to live by the sea to enjoy the beach-themed decor. Even folks in Kansas can incorporate a nautical theme thanks to online ordering. These beachy ornaments will help you achieve a nautical look for your holiday decor.

If you live near the beach or take vacations there, be sure to comb the beach and the shops for shells to make ornaments next Christmas.

Starfish Ornaments

Santa From the Sea

Starfish are generally hard to find on most beaches, and if you do find one that is still alive, tossing it back to sea is a good thing to do. They can be found in souvenir shops at the beach and ordered online.

The starfish Santa is painted with red and white acrylic paints. His belt and boots are black. He has a foil belt buckle. Paint his face pink after the beard and hat have dried. Then, when the face has dried, attach tiny wiggly eyes and a red pom pom nose with hot glue. Add a white pom pom to Santa’s hat.

Star fish Santa

Oyster Shell Ornaments

Finding Oyster Shells

Oyster shells are harder to find for the in-lander. Islanders can find them scattered abundantly on the beach. One place you can find them is at restaurants that serve oysters. However, the green thing to do these days is to send the shells back to oyster farms where they are used to grow new crops of oysters. The ones lying sun-bleached on the beach are best to use. Otherwise, they must be soaked for a while in a solution of bleach and water.

Oyster Shell Santa

There is something about the shape of an oyster shell that lets us paint a Santa face. Paint the bottom white for a beard . Red paint and a pom pom completes Santa’s hat. Glue on small wiggly eyes, red pom pom nose and a white Santa hat pom pom.

 

 Golden Oyster Shell Ornament

The golden oyster shell ornament is a breeze to make and looks very elegant. Larger oyster shells have  differing, interesting shapes.Simply spray some with gold spray paint.  Then just attach a fancy bow with hot glue and add an ornament hanger. How easy is that!

Golden oyster shell ornament is easy to make.

Sand Dollar Ornaments

Finding Sand Dollars

Sand dollars are my favorite find in beach combing. They are harder to find that oyster shells but easier than star fish. On the beach, they are usually buried underneath the sand just at the shore line. They will need to be bleached for ornament making. Sand dollars can be bought by the dozens in seaside souvenir shops and on-line. They are very inexpensive.

Sand dollars have a natural imprint on them that resembles a flower with five petals. Turn this into a poinsettia, or Christmas flower with acrylic paint. A rim of glitter adds some bling. Spraying them with clear Krylon will give them a glossy look and help protect from breakage.

Sand dollar poinsettia ornaments

Clear Fill-able Ornaments

Beach-scape Ornament

Clear fill-able ornaments can be purchased at craft shops or ordered on-line.These can be used to make pretty ornaments with things found on the beach. Believe it or not, beach sand can actually be ordered, but it has to be bought in bulk. The lowest amount is 25 pounds. You will want to get white craft sand from a craft supply store. Better yet, the next time you get to visit the beach, get a little sand in your shell-collecting bucket along with some tiny shells. Then you will have what you need to make a pretty  beach–scape ornament.

Beach-scape inside a clear fill-able ornament

Sea Glass Ornament

Sea glass is old broken glass that has been tossed and churned about for many years. It is smooth and has a frosty look. Some sea glass is rare, and its rarity is determined by color. Green, white and brown are the most common. Red, blue, amber, orange and some shades of green are rare.

Collecting sea glass is a hobby for some people, and it is much sought after. Authentic sea glass can be ordered, but it is rather pricey. Fortunately for me, I have my own collection of sea glass that I have collected over time.

Sea glass can also be made artificially by a special tumbling process that gives it the frosty look of real sea glass. Craft grade sea glass is available on-line and in craft supply stores. Fill a clear ornament with some sea glass, authentic or manufactured. Tie it on the tree with a pretty green ribbon.

Clear fill-able ornament with colorful sea glass.

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Simple Nautical Wreath

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All it takes is two natural grapevine wreaths, shells, starfish and some Christmas ribbons to make these simple yet nautical wreaths.  Just hot glue your beach finds to the wreaths. Add long, long ribbons.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Palm Bark

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Spray a piece of palm bark with clear acrylic for a little shine. Then just glue on huge googly eyes and a big red pom pom.


Homemade Christmas Crafts For All Ages

 

Homemade Ornaments, Gifts and Party Favors to Make For Christmas

Celebrate the Season of Joy! Make pretty Christmas crafts with these homemade Christmas craft ideas.Use these ideas for ornaments, give them out for party favors, or use them as special homemade gifts.

Ideas are included for younger and older children. Even adult crafters will enjoy some of these Christmas craft ideas. They don’t require a lot or preparation,and the materials used are easy to obtain and inexpensive. So get out the craft box and add some homemade fun to the holiday.

Christmas Crafts for Younger Kids

Craft Stick Christmas Ornaments

Craft  sticks can be used to make really cute ornaments. Craft sticks are merely Popsicle sticks  or tongue depressors. You don’t have to save them up. They can be bought by the box in the crafts department.  Turn them into refrigerator magnets by gluing magnets on the back. These inexpensive magnets can be purchased in the craft section of department stores. Moms and grandmothers will cherish these ornaments and magnets year after year.

There is no cutting involved with craft stick ornaments. Little kids can do a lot on their own. They get a sense of self accomplishment and the ornaments look quite impressive.

Craft stick reindeer ornament

How to Make a Rudolph Craft Stick Ornament

There are different versions to this craft. Use the narrow Popsicle size for one and the wider, tongue depressor size for another. Paint sticks brown or leave natural. Twigs can be antlers or antlers can be the tips of the craft sticks

You will need:
  •  craft sticks, either size
  • wiggly eyes
  • ribbon or hanger
  • small red pompoms
  • glue
  • twigs(optional)
  • brown paint(optional)
How to make:
  1. paint sticks if preferred, or leave natural
  2. let dry and glue into a triangle shape
  3. leave some of the two side craft sticks over-lapping the top to form antlers. (or glue without the over-lap and glue on twig antlers.
  4. add ribbon, yarn or cold cord for a hanger.
White paint and clear plastic bead help to create this shimmery Popsicle stick snowflake homemade ornament.

How to Make a Snowflake Ornament

You will need:
  • Popsicle-size craft stick
  • white poster or acrylic paint and paint brushes
  • clear plastic crystal beads
  • yarn or silver cord  for a hanger
How to make:
  1. paint the six craft sticks white
  2. allow to dry
  3. glue on clear beads with white clear-drying glue
  4. add a hanger

 

Sweet gum tree ornament gives the tree a bit of nature’s beauty

How to Make a Sweet Gum Ball Ornament

Very safe for young children to make, older crafters will enjoy this project as well. Sweet gum ball homemade Christmas ornaments will add a touch of nature to the tree. Sweet gum balls are plentiful in late fall and early winter. Just search the ground underneath the sweet gum trees.

 

You will need:
  • sweet gum balls
  • wooden tooth picks
  • glue
  • white paint
  • silver glitter
How to make:
  1. stick a toothpick in each hole around the sweet gum ball. use a dab of glue to help anchor it.
  2. paint sweet gum ball and toothpicks white
  3. shake on silver glitter while the paint is still wet
  4. Dry and glue on a piece of ribbon or yarn for a hanger

How to Make a Reindeer Hand Print Keepsake

Reindeer hand print keepsake.
You will need:
  • brown craft foam (construction paper may also be used)
  • white paper
  • brown finger paint
  • large-size wiggly eyes
  • medium to large red pom pom
How to make:
  1. cut a large triangle from the craft foam or paper
  2. child makes hand prints with paint on white paper
  3. cut out hand prints and glue on for antlers
  4. add a fringe of brown paper to the forehead
  5. glue on eyes and nose

Christmas Crafts for Older Kids to Make

Older kids and adults like to make ornaments and party favors.  They look for ornament ideas that will make good gifts for friends’ Christmas trees. They can also help younger kids make things.  For example, the candy cane reindeer are great for kids to pass out at school. They can also be hung on the tree or put in stockings.  Older kids and adults can help with the gluing.

How to Make Candy Cane Reindeer Party Favors

Candy cane reindeer can be hung on the Christmas tree.
What you need:
  • wrapped candy canes
  • small pom poms
  • small wiggly eyes
  • brown chenille stems
  • hot glue
How to make:
  1. hot glue eyes and nose on candy cane
  2. cut chenille stem in half
  3. bend stem to form an antler
  4. glue on two antlers

 

How to Make a Recycled Light Bulb Santa Ornament

Recycle a light bulb to make a cute homemade Santa ornament.
You Will Need:
  1. burned out light bulb
  2. acrylic paints
  3. paint brushes
  4. small wiggly eyes
  5. cotton balls
  6. yarn or ribbon for the hanger
  7. small red pompom
  8. medium-size white pompom
How to Make:
  1. paint the top part of the light bulb red
  2. glue on the wiggly eyes
  3. add a red pom pom nose
  4. paint on rosy pink cheeks and red mouth
  5. glue cotton on the bottom part of the bulb for a beard
  6. form eyebrows and moustache from cotton and glue in position
  7. glue on ribbon for a hanger

 How to Make a Fan Ornament

Pretty fan ornament makes a great homemade gift

The secret to making this pretty fan ornament lies in the measuring, folding, trimming and gluing techniques. Use these colors or others. Gold, pink and white would look pretty.

What you need:
  • metallic gift wrap
  • colored tissue gift wrap (in two colors)
  • ribbon
  • lace
  • a bead
  • hot glue
  • card stock (an old file folder works)
  • ruler
How to make:
  1. begin by cutting three 4″ x 5″ inch pieces of metallic wrap
  2. fold each piece accordion (fan) style
  3. trim the ends so that each pleat will be even
  4. open up and put a dab of hot glue between each pleat at the bottom only
  5. lay aside. repeat process for two pieces of tissue the same size.
  6. use white glue, not hot glue for gluing the tissue wrap pleats
  7. cut one longer rectangle in the second color,  4″ x 7″.
  8. fold and glue in the same fashion
  9. next, it is time to glue the fan pieces together
  10. then cut a card stock strip only as long and wide as the fan
  11. glue the fan to the strip with hot glue. trim as needed
  12. add lace, bows and a bead with hot glue

important: use hot glue when gluing tissue to metallic wrap sparingly. use white glue for gluing tissue wrap to tissue wrap

How to Make a Pot of Pinwheel Poinsettias

Pretty pinwheel poinsettias make a great homemade Christmas gift

The poinsettia flower has been used in Christmas decorating for a long time. These poinsettias won’t shed or need special care. They are made of paper using a basic pinwheel cut-an-fold as illustrated. These can be left plain if preferred, but I like to use glitter on mine to add some bling. Try other colors like pink and white. Pinwheel poinsettias can be placed on mantels, table tops or shelves or “planted” in a planter. Coordinate the tissue wrap with the poinsettia colors.

What you need:
  • red and green construction paper
  • red and green tissue wrap
  • three wooden dowels
  • green acrylic paint
  • light green and yellow tissue
  • gold, red and green glitter
  • small plastic planting pot
  • hot glue
How to make:

pinwheel cut-and-fold:

Mark top left corner as 1
Mark bottom right corner as 2
Mark bottom corner of left side as 3
Mark top corner of right side as 4
    1. paint the wooden dowels green
    2. set aside to dry
    3. cut half of a sheet of 9″ x 11″ of red and green paper for each poinsettia
    4. “square off” the paper by folding and cutting as shown(you should have a perfect square that is 5 and 7/8th  inches on each side
    5. Fold in marked corners to the middle and glue to secure
    6. Make a red and green pinwheel for each flower
    7. Attach together with the red pinwheel on top and turned at an angle so the green pinwheel shows
    8. glue wads of light green and yellow tissue in the center
    9. make a “wash” with part white glue to part water
    10. using a paint brush apply the wash to petals and the flower’s center
    11. quickly sprinkle red glitter on red petals and green glitter on green petals
    12. sprinkle gold glitter to the flowers center
    13. If making into a planter, hot glue the poinsettias to the wooden dowel.
    14. Place in planter with floral foam and cover planter with red, pink or white tissue wrap
    15. Add green tissue to cover the floral foam.


Christmas Cupcake Recipes: Cupcake Decorating Ideas For Kids

Christmas Cupcake Ideas

Cute Christmas cupcakes mean so much to kids during the holidays. Mothers bake and decorate them to send to school, church bazaars, kid”s parties or just to have them at home.

The possibilities for cupcake decorating ideas for kids are limited only by the imagination and what decorating items you can find. Fortunately, at this time of year, grocery and department stores are well stocked with things to help with your Christmas cupcakes.

Past  Christmas Cupcake Decorating

I was a little disappointed when I couldn’t find some of the things I have used in the past for Christmas cupcake recipes. Those strands of little candy canes in cellophane seem to not exist anymore. I have yet to find any ‘reindeer corn.’ Reindeer corn, which is green,red and white candy corn makes cute Christmas cupcakes. Just ice the cupcake and form a flower with it in the center. Tiny candy canes and red and green sprinkles used to be a tradition for my Christmas cupcake decorating.

New Items for Creative New Cupcakes

There are  newer candies available  that save the day for kid’s Christmas cupcakes. We used Rips, which are squares of red and green licorice candy, mini M&Ms, decorating gels and colorful sprinkles.

The kids are out of school for a long break. Schedule an afternoon of fun by decorating Christmas cupcakes with them. It is a good way to help them develop their creativity. Bake and ice the cupcakes, then set out some of these sprinkles, gels and other colorful candies. The kids will enjoy decorating, eating and sharing their creations.

Here are some inspirations to get you started.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Cupcake

Ice cooled cupcakes with your favorite chocolate frosting. Form the muzzle with a vanilla wafer and add a red M&M nose. The eyes are blue mini M&Ms. The antlers are added with mini pretzels. Use chocolate piping to outline a mouth and add pupils to the eyes .

tip: Just put some frosting in a plastic baggie and cut a small slit at the tip on the bottom. Then squeeze on the piping.

Cute reindeer Christmas cupcake

Santa’s Hat Cupcake

For the Santa’s hat, use red icing that is bought in tubes. It is impossible to tint white frosting red with food dye. It will just turn pink. Frost the cupcake first and then carefully frost a small ice cream cone. Invert the cone on the cupcake. Add mini-marshmallow fur and a pom pom at the tip.

Santa’s hat is a cupcake, inverted ice cream cone and mini marshmallow.

Poinsettia Cupcake

The red and green licorice squares have a shimmery sugar coating that makes a lovely poinsettia. Use kitchen shears to trim the petals from the pieces. Use a yellow mini M&M for the flower’s center.

 

Abstract Design Tree Cupcake

The abstract Christmas tree design is easy to achieve with a tube of green cake decorating gel. Add round dot sprinkles to represent the ornaments.

Draw on an abstract tree design with green cake decorating gel. Add sprinkles for ornaments.

Have fun with Christmas cupcake decorating ideas for kids. You will create memories for a lifetime that they will in turn pass on.