Monday, November 30, 2009

15 Minutes : Know It : Gifts

image via here

I drive myself almost crazy trying to ponder and order and find the perfect Christmas gifts for my kids. I take into account their wishlists, interests, abilities, and the skills I want them to work on. For instance, last year I wanted my 4-year-old to master the alphabet, have his own game, and incorporate animals (his true love). Found it. My 10-year-old loves Sudoku, but I'm looking for something a little unique? Found that, too.

And then there's the question that looms in every parent's mind: Will it be enough? Or, most often in my mind: Will it be too much? My husband and I balance each other in this game. I, though not at all a Scrooge, tend toward the practical, traditional, lovely yet cool, and of course educational. Staying power, that's what I'm looking for. He looks at my purchases a few days before Christmas and says, "I'm going to Target." He wants to be sure each kid has one really neat-o toy that will bring instant magic to Christmas Day. He isn't concerned that the little r/c helicopter is shelved a week later, that the fancy princess shoes fall forgotten to the bottom of the dress-up box. He just wants them to have fun for a few hours. Like I said, we're the perfect combination of sensible and spontaneous.

So, regarding gift-giving plans, I can say this: I make the plans, my husband adjust the plans, and the kids are happy. It's enough.

Read some more great thoughts about gifts here:


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

15 Minutes : Read It : This is the Feast

image via

We bought This is the Feast as our Thanksgiving book this year. With a rhythm reminiscent of The House that Jack Built, this beautiful picture book tells the pilgrim story with excellent detail and imagery-filled language.

Available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

15 minutes : Make It : Boat Place Holders

image via

I like this idea...good for my two kids who are currently into paper folding and gluing.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Folk Art Pilgrims

image via

Look at these sweet, folksy place cards! We could even use them as Happy Thanksgiving cards for the kids' teachers and friends. (And I'm always trying to find ways to encourage my daughter to practice writing.)


Friday, November 20, 2009

Congratulations to the winners of this month's giveaway...tvmom & G.E.S. Please email with your choice of coloring book and your address.

Be sure to check RedRoko for another giveaway in December, as well as our favorite holiday ideas.


15 minutes : Make It : Napkin Folding

Teach your kids these simple, elegant napkin fold techniques. Then, let them show off their skills as they help set the Thanksgiving table (or and dinner table). I think we may even add napkin folding to our list of setting the table chores.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Hand Trace Turkey

I've never known a child that hasn't loved their hand being traced. There is just something so cool about seeing the shape of your hand transferred onto paper and being able to create it into something like a turkey.

I love this activity because with a little creativity anything can be created. You can use crayons, colored pencils, paint, or even use different materials to create different textures (features, glitter, pasta, rice).


Saturday, November 14, 2009

1 Hour : Play It : Snap Circuits

image via kidstoyclub

My oldest received Snap Circuits for Christmas a couple years ago...and he still plays with it. He builds the projects in the manual (included), and he also tries to come up with his own electronic creations. Here's my favorite part: he is now starting to teach his siblings.

Find it at Amazon and Kids Toy Club.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Veggie Cornucopia

I love this appetizer idea from Family Fun for Thanksgiving dinner.

Here's how:
1. Give each child a tortilla cut in half.
2. Roll the tortilla into a cone and secure with a toothpick.
3. Have your child fill the tortilla with veggies from the veggie tray.
4. Serve with dip or dressing.


November Giveaway

I don't think a day goes by that I don't color with at least one of my children. I assume the same is true for many moms, so I thought I would offer coloring books as this month's giveaway. Dover Publications has a unique selection of quality coloring books; many are educational (alphabet, history, literature), many are interest-specific (fairies, trains, sports), many are artistic (geometric patterns, stained glass). There is truly something for every kid and parent.

To enter the giveaway, leave one comment on this post by midnight (MST) Thursday, November 19th. Two winners will be selected to each receive a coloring book (choose one of those pictured in this post) and a new box of 24 crayons...because no matter how many crayons you have, there is magic in opening a new box.

images via dover


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

1 Hour : Make It : Cranberry Bread

image by redroko

Mini-loaves of cranberry bread make a festive, delicious gift for a teacher or neighbor. My kids helped me make a batch, then we wrapped the loaves and delivered to couple friends. Here's our recipe for this seasonal favorite.

Cranberry Nut Bread
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup chopped cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

1 Tbsp. orange zest
1 egg
2 Tbsp. canola oil
3/4 cup orange juice

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add cranberries and nuts. In separate bowl, combine egg, oil, juice, and zest. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Spoon batter into sprayed mini-loaf pan (or muffin pan, or 9x5 loaf pan). Bake at 350-degrees for 12-15 minutes (or up to 50 minutes for one large loaf), until toothpick comes out clean. Let bread sit in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

Notes: I usually use frozen cranberries because they are storable and easy to chop with a food chopper. You could also use a food processor for this step. Orange zest is best fresh, but I keep a bit in my freezer to have ready anytime.


Friday, November 6, 2009

1 Hour : Play It : Animal Bingo

image via here

My five-year-old loves animals, and I love teaching the alphabet using games. Magnetic Alphabet Bingo was made for us. We played it again today--he giggles when he's beating me.

Find it at Amazon.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Leaf People

I found this idea and picture on a cousin's blog. Two of my kids and I spent quite a while creating our own leaf people on the backporch. They enjoyed it so much that I know we'll make more before fall has completely frozen.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

15 Minutes : Know It : Vote

image via

My main way of showing my kids how Election Day works consists of one activity: taking them with me to the polls. I answer any questions they ask, and have occasionally had a short political discussion with my 10-year-old. It's a start, right?

I may print off a word search or coloring page as well. My oldest would like some of the activities I found at

Julie had more ideas about Election Day. Find those here.


Monday, November 2, 2009

1 Hour : Make It : Thankful Tree

image via flickr

We plan to make a "Thankful Tree" this year. We'll use these leaf templates to help us out. I think this will keep gratitude in our minds during this Thanksgiving season.