I used to love Christmas break when I was teaching. Time home to sleep in, hang out with friends, catch up on fun reading and movies. Did I mention I didn’t have kids at the time? I’m afraid my sleeping in days (at least without the interruption of a morning discussion between my husband and I about who is getting up at the crack of dawn with them) are over. Any fun reading is done late at night often with a headlight on so I don’t have to get out of a warm bed into our wicked cool upstairs to turn off the light. This leads to many a late night followed by that early morning wake up call. Movies…really can’t even remember the last one I saw in a theater, but I believe it was a year ago.
I am currently looking for work so every day is filled with trying to occupy to very energetic little people. I love them and all, but I oh so need to get back to work part time. The last 12 days have been particularly difficult as we have all been sick with varying degrees of illness with M1 being the worst with pneumonia. I would love to say that this made them want to sleep in or less energetic. That is not the case, they still got up wicked early and ran around they were just cranky doing it.
As money is tight I’ve been looking for free to very inexpensive things to do with them during our occupy the house run. We have decorated cookies which of course they then wanted to eat. Not the best idea for getting over their illness. So here are some cute things I’ve found that might keep your kids occupied for brief moments of time now, or once they are on break.
A disclosure word: Some of these activities are from Teachers Pay Teachers a curriculum resource site that sells and gives away teaching resources by teachers. I am a seller on this site. You have to create a login (free) to download resources. If you are a fellow teacher and interested in selling let me know and if you have questions.
- Kissing Penguins Christmas Color by Number
- Christmas Writing Papers for practicing writing and/or writing letters to grandparents etc.
- Christmas Cracker Upper and Lower Case ABC match-up to keep them in school mode
- Paper craft Christmas Tree
- Christmas Book List (540 books for ages 2-9)
- Christmas Craft Ideas
- Christmas Word Match Activity
- Christmas Sudoku
- Nativity Diorama
- Christmas Shape Cut-outs
- Names of Jesus Ornaments
- Pop-up Nativity Christmas Card (print black and white version and color)
- Coloring Pages of the Christmas Bible Story (scroll down to December)
- Fingerprint Candy Cane Craft
- Marshmallow Snowman
- Christmas Tree Paper Strips Craft
- Snowman Milk Jugs
Last year at this time I promised myself I would be a good blogger and plan way in advance for the holiday season. I would have lovely photos to show of crafts, cookies, and the general craziness that happens around family get togethers. I did not anticipate a major move at the end of the summer. So I’m blaming all my lack of planning (at least for another couple months) on the move. So instead of a series of well thought out and written posts about various Christmas topics you are getting a series of random posts.
Hopefully these posts are randomly helpful…
As you may have guessed by the obvious fact that I write a blog mostly about food in my “free” time, I love to cook. Well, let me clarify…I mostly love to cook. However, lately I’ve not been in the love to cook camp. It isn’t that I haven’t been cooking…I have for EVERY meal. And there are some recipes that I would love to share with you all. I’m just in a bit of a crabby place. Even when you read cookbooks, food magazines, food blogs for fun sometimes you just want to order a pizza already. That’s what I wanted to do on Thanksgiving. I was all ready to get out the phone and place a call to Papa Gino’s.
The thing about Thanksgiving is all the preparing that I normally take thinking about food didn’t happen very far in advance. Usually if I’m hosting a Thanksgiving or any holiday meal etc. I really think things through. This year it was just going to be my family of 4 and MIL. So I came upon a theory that I thought at the time (two days before) would be a brilliant Thanksgiving solution. Several days into this theory I’m not so sure…
Theory: small number of adults equals need to cut down on dishes for Thanksgiving so I don’t go insane. This theory sounds good…in theory. However, there hypothetically might have been some grumbling about lack of “traditional” dishes. I like to mix things up a bit on Thanksgiving. I don’t want to eat the SAME thing every year. So at least one dish should be new-ish. This revision of theory…as I will be cooking multiple meals every day anyway I will just break up the “traditional”/new Thanksgiving dishes over a number of days. So here is the run down of my “plan”. Scattered in between these meals was a complete departure of a Mexican supper because really I can only do so much Thanksgiving. Recipes to follow…and tomorrow we are so having pizza.
Meal 1 Wednesday (first courses): Cheddar and Cauliflower soup, Roasted Butternut, Kale and mixed Rice Salad, rolls, Apple dumplings
Meal 3: Spiced Basmati with fruit, peas, roasted carrots, sweet and sour meatballs
When I was younger I had an idea of what I would be like once I reached adulthood. This younger self wasn’t really sure at what age adulthood would start, but there would definitely be an adult-ness that would appear somewhere in the near-ish future. This adult Heidi would be balancing a successful career and family. She would be polished and “together” with kids who listened at least the second time they were asked to do something. The house would be mostly cleaned and organized. Meals would be regular and include vegetables and all the things “adults” eat.
As a recently turned 38-year-old, I’m guessing that I must be an adult. The reality of my adulthood is in no way what I envisioned. Once again I find myself looking for work. This of course is partly my own fault as I left a perfectly good job when we moved to MA. The fact that I’m only looking for part-time work so I can stay with my kiddos is another factor going against the whole successful career part of my life. Though this adult Heidi does realize that this time is fleeting and once the kiddos are in school I’ll be going back full-time. So we are broke, but together. My kids while cute are little terrors. Seriously. We can only blame the upheaval of the last 4 months on their recently shockingly bad behavior for so long. I spend most days not together or polished, but losing my mind and pulling my hair out! The house is rarely clean and completely disorganized.
As far as meals go I would like to say that adult Heidi eats wonderfully all the time. This does not happen. There are still vegetables I don’t like. This list is embarrassingly long. And I’m a VEGETARIAN! I’ve been trying to branch out lately and introduce some vegetables that aren’t normally part of our everyday meals. The only time I usually eat cauliflower is in Aloo Gobi an Indian potato and cauliflower dish. So in order to eat a new-ish vegetable I did what many people often do with vegetables…add some cheese.
This recipe is adapted from Everyday Foods.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
- 1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 5 cups water (or 4 cups vegetable broth and 1 cup water)
- 4 tsp McKay’s “chicken” seasoning (leave out if using vegetable broth)
- 1 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
In a large pot, melt butter over medium. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook until just beginning to brown, 12 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add water and McKay’s seasoning; bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat and simmer until cauliflower is very tender, 20 minutes. Blend with immersion blender until smooth. Heat over medium until warmed through; add cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper.
Unless you’ve been under a rock for a while you know that the East coast is about or currently being hit with Storm Sandy. The Z household was a little slow to get prepared for this storm. We were gone to a church camp out at Winnekeag and thought we would have plenty of time. How wrong we were! Seems that everyone else got on buying generators last week. Our local Home Depot answers the phone like this “Hello, Home Depot we are out of generators, is there something else we can help you with?”
As we are new to this house we are not sure how the whole electricity thing will work. At our house in Ohio if the electricity went out we still have water (hot). I can do without cooking, dishes, laundry for a while as long as it isn’t too cold. However, I do NOT do well without a shower/flush toilet. Robert thinks that because we are on city water that we will still have it…and we have a gas water heater. Not sure if it only turns on with electricity or not yet.
It would seem that one other thing I didn’t buy that I should have is bread. Yesterday when I went out the sandwich bread was gone! I have some burger buns and half a loaf of ciabatta but other than that nothing.
Then this morning when the electricity was still on I make “cheesecake” stuffed baked apples.
This is a large 2.5 quart dish. The apples are THAT big. I got them at a local apple farm. They are called Big Wolf and are recommended specifically for stuffing and baking because of their size. They are rather tart so if you can find some make sure you taste a little to adjust the sugar. There really isn’t a “recipe” for these. I sprayed the pan REALLY well. Cut the apples in half and cut out the core with a knife and grapefruit spoon. Then I make the hallow larger with the knife and spoon so that I had about 1/4 of an inch of apple “shell” left. I chopped up this portion of the apple and creamed it into 4 ounces (you need about 2 TBSP filling per apple) reduced fat cream cheese. I then added about 1 1/2 TBSP dark brown sugar and some cinnamon sugar to taste. I still didn’t make the filling that sweet just enough to balance the tart of the apple. Then I sprinkled the apples with more cinnamon sugar and filled with about 2 TBSP cream cheese filling. Then I baked at 350 degrees for around 45 minutes or until soft. I figure these will be okay for a day or so if the electricity goes out, but really expect Robert to have eaten them by this evening anyway.
Next I made some apple dumplings (recipe to come) and these Cranberry-Ginger scones .
So basically we will have sweets and not much else to eat. The kids will love it and think every storm will be like this. Unfortunately for them Mommy and Daddy are preparing now for the next one…generator ordered!
Thoughts and prayers to all others in Sandy’s path!
“Hi, my name is Heidi and I’ve turned into a complete wuss.” To which you answer “Hi, Heidi”. After almost 9 years in southern Ohio where one (okay not me, but Robert) can be mowing grass into November and you get a good snow storm once every year or so I’m completely unprepared for the cold that has descended on New England. The kiddos are equally unaccustomed as they have been trying to wear flip-flops (or as Micah says “plip-plops”) out in 40 degree weather.
I don’t normally need a reason to bake, but I’ve been in a bit of a cooking funk lately. However, the cold weather has left me rather desperate to get warm. As we don’t know what the heating bills will be like in our rental yet, we are keeping things on the cool side. So when all else fails turn the oven on and let any escaping heat from opening the door to rotate cookie sheets kiss my freezing nose and cheeks.
These cookies have been on my “to do” list since last cold weather season. I don’t know why I haven’t made them yet as I LOVE snickerdoodles and chai. I’m guessing it is laziness over the extra step of rolling the dough in a spice-sugar mixture rather than dropping directly on a cookie sheet. But now that I’ve made them I’m kicking myself for not making them earlier.
This recipe is adapted from Baking Bites. A note about the spice level…I like my chai to be kick you in the face strong. On the rare occasion I have the money to order one from Starbucks I have this big explanation about not adding water and extra pumps of chai etc. When making it at home from scratch with all those whole spices my recipe is about double the strength of the one my Mom makes. So if you (or your kids) don’t like the slight heat that a touch more ginger and cinnamon bring, please use Nicole from Baking Bites original recipe found here.
Chai Snickerdoodles adapted from Baking Bites
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup butter, soft
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine sugar and spices; remove 1/2 cup of this mixture and place in a medium-sized, shallow dish or bowl (like a soup plate). Add butter to bowl and cream with sugar mixture until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla extract.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda. Add to sugar mixture and stir until fully incorporated.
Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in reserved sugar-spice mixture. Place on baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between balls to allow for spreading.
Bake for about 12 minutes, until edges are firm to the touch, but not quite browned. Cool for 3-5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 4 dozen.
Martha called these Apple Brownies. Umm Martha, there is no chocolate in them so aren’t they technically a blondie? Either way they are good. Initially they have a crumbly semi-crunchy top and soft inside kind of like apple pie. Then if you have any left over they get more into gooey brownie like texture which may explain the whole brownie reference. I used tart apples and might reduce the sugar a little in the future. Also no walnuts due to allergy. Thinking that toffee pieces might be a nice crunchy element though then I would definitely cut the sugar.
It’s been nine years since I’ve spent a Fall season in New England. Even that one 9 years ago was short lived as Robert and I got married at the beginning of October and then promptly went on a job interview to OH, went on a tropical honeymoon, and moved to Ohio. Before Sept./October of 2003, it was even more years that I was away from the absolute WICKED best season in New England.
As hard as this transition back East has been on the friend and job fronts, I do love New England in the Fall. Check back with me mid-February and I may be singing a totally different tune from under my snow drift.
Fall in New England is about riotous colored leaves and in my mind apples. Heirloom tomatoes seem to be big in the Midwest, but here it is heirloom apples. There are farms in Maine where over 200 varieties of apples grow. I’m rather partial to the crunchy tart-sweet kinds (I know it should be sweet-tart, but then that implies more sweet than tart and I like more tart than sweet). I picked up some apples like this at a farmers market a little while back. What was the variety Heidi you ask? Well I could have told you that if my kids hadn’t mixed bags up into one bag upon our return home. Needless to say we have apples, thus you will be getting some apple recipes.
A word about pancakes. I was not a fan as a kid. I know obviously there is something wrong with me. Turns out I’m just not a fan of plain Bisquick type pancakes. Other types like my Oatmeal Pancakes or Almond pancakes I like in small amounts. My children and husband are more normal. They eat pancakes of pretty much any kind in large quantities. In my efforts to mix things up a bit I tried an apple-buttermilk pancake recipe from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. Of course there has been some modification on my part. In my mind apples and maple go together as Fall things so I broke out some maple sugar. Nice! Anyway make these! They are light, fluffy and not too sweet.
Apple-Maple Sugar Pancakes
· 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
· 1 tablespoon maple sugar
· 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
· 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
· ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
· 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
· 1 cup buttermilk
· 1/2 cup applesauce
· 1 large egg
· 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
· Cooking spray
· 2 apples, peeled and diced small
1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, maple sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, applesauce, egg, and butter. Add applesauce mixture to flour mixture and whisk until just moistened (batter should have some lumps; do not overmix).
2. Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle (I use a griddle) with cooking spray or a dab of butter and heat over medium-high (or 350 degrees. In batches, drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls (an ice cream scoop works well) into griddle. Sprinkle each pancake with diced apple (next time I’m going to try mixing the apples into the batter). Cook until bubbles appear on top and a few have burst, 2 to 5 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook until golden brown on underside, 2 to 5 minutes. Repeat with more cooking spray and remaining batter, wiping griddle clean between batches.
Adapted from Everyday Foods