Category Archives: Kids Stuff

The Land Down Under – a World Studies party

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The Land Down Under – a World Studies party

7th– 8th Grade Unit Study on Australian Culture

Well, y’all, today was a privilege of privileges!  I got to throw another school party for my grand’s World Studies class.  We seriously had sooooooo much fun! Praise the Lord for His graciousness.  I love sharing these class parties with you all in the hopes that you will find something inspiring, or useful, that you can do with your kiddos.  I can barely organize my thoughts to tell you about it all.  I’m blogging about it with a full heart that truly did not want the time with them to end.  It was a case of having too many things that I wanted for the kids to experience (story of my life), and having much too small of time for us to actually accomplish it all with quality.  We managed to squeeze everything in, but we sure could have used another couple of hours.

Their teacher very capably led their studies through the chapter on Australia and Polynesia in their World Studies book, and then generously and graciously allowed me to step in for a brief moment at the end of the chapter, to share the things I’ve collected from all over the world, which this time included a few things from the Land Down Under.  The Lord has graciously provided over the years for me to get to have these things, and not only that, but also to allow me the opportunity to utilize the deeply compelling, God-given passion that’s in my heart, which is to research, and plan, and cook, and decorate, and bring the cultures of other peoples to life.

This party was all about Australia, from the indigenous peoples to the settlers.  We learned about Digeridoos, Dancing Sticks, Boomerangs, and Bull-roarers.  We ate Aussie Meat Pies “with sauce” – the national food of Australia, Tim-Tams, Pavlova, and some varieties of licorice “lollies.” We were able to experience a sniff of Vegemite (the kids were too chicken to taste it – although I had snuck some into the meat pies when I made them, so they actually had tasted it and didn’t know it – Ha!  And we all got to taste a glassful of Bundaberg Ginger Beer.  So delicious!!!!  We also listened to some Australian music, both of the indigenous peoples and some more modern.

Side note: Ask me how glad I am to have a Cost Plus World Market fairly close-by.  Unfortunately, they have discontinued carrying ANZAC Biscuits and didn’t have any Lamingtons. The even more sad thing was that I was too pressed for time to be able to make very many of the things at home that I wanted to this go around – but I have included all the recipes below for you (and myself), in case you (or I) ever want to try this party (again) at home for a Birthday, or dinner party, or family get-together, or for your school, or Homeschool World Studies unit, or for a church function (perhaps you have some displaced Aussies in the congregation who are maybe feeling homesick, or missionaries to the Outback whom you could honor), or whatever the occasion!!!  Perhaps you just want to try some of the lovely foods from down under?


Okay, I’ll start with

Music and Decorations…

I had ordered this tablecloth (above) on Amazon, but it never came. ☹ 

Fortunately, I found this one on eBay and it arrived just in the nick of time. 😊

The food on the table also served as decoration (more on that below), but I also tossed around a few stuffed animals, some real boomerangs, and some Aussie flags and road signs to lend atmosphere.  One of the student’s fathers had a real digeridoo, which he allowed his son to bring to the party.  It was really heavy, made from a real tree, and decorated with real tribal designs.  It was very cool.  I also contributed to the party decoration by wearing a t-shirt that said “G’day Mate!” on the front of it.  It made me happy all day just wearing it. And I had made some little road signs and Aussie flags to scatter around on the table. I have a friend who lives in Geelong and is a huge “footy” fan, the Cats in particular. She sent me some souvenirs of the 2009 Premiers, because of course the Cats were champs that year!!!!! I wished I could have found stuffed animals of all the Aussie animals, instead I ended up getting a t-shirt, which featured at least 10 of them.

This is the music I had playing when the kids entered the classroom, so they could hear what digeridoo sounds like, but I was careful not to play it for long, or loudly, or to meditate on the sounds too closely, since the indigenous people call it dream music. I don’t know, but it may open a portal to the spirit world, and I had no desire to do that.

And this is the CD that I played after we had made our dancing sticks.  I found a used original online for $6 – a find of the century as it is out of print.  It has all the favorites on it.  “Down Under” by Men at Work, Waltzing Matilda by The Outback Singers, and an audio passage from The Man from Snowy River by Fred Hollows.  Absolutely perfect!!!!


Crafts

Digeridoos

So, I wanted the kids to have an opportunity to try playing a digeridoo, but I didn’t want them passing around my real digeridoo and spreading germs during cold and flu season.  So, we made one per kid using gift wrap tubes (which I had asked parents to provide, while they were massively available during the holiday season). The kids then used paint to decorate their digeridoos with various tribal designs. 

How to make a Digeridoo out of wrapping paper rolls:  https://www.koolkidscrafts.com/make-a-didgeridoo.html

How a real Digeridoo is made, by David Hudson:  https://youtu.be/2lBZ6yPW9WU

How to play a Digeridoo, by David Hudson:  https://youtu.be/0XlEkeot7HM

And then we all tried to play them.  It definitely takes some skills. I didn’t manage to get a photo of the kids playing them, but I did nab this photo of some decorated ones that the boys had done.


Bullroarers

The first thing was to show the kids the video clip of Crocodile Dundee demonstrating his Bullroarer skills in a scene from the second movie: 

Normally Bullroarers are heavy pieces of carved wood threaded with a strong thick string or thin leather strap, but I found a kid’s craft version that worked like a snap:

How to make a kid’s Bullroarer:

https://www.schooloftoy.com/freeprojects/

Click on the link above and then scroll down to the bottom of the webpage until you see this video, pictured below:

I premeasured lengths of thin paracord and stuffed them in baggies, and I also predrilled holes in the jumbo craft sticks (tongue depressors). It made it super easy to pass out the elements. All the kids needed to do was thread the string through the hole and they were ready to use.  I had the kids decorate their sticks with Sharpie markers, and then we all went out into the great room to give them a whirl, (literally)!  This was probably the most fun experience of the whole party.


Boomerangs

The same man (David Hudson) who did the video on digeridoo playing also did one on how to make a cardboard boomerang, which he called a “Roomerang.”  The kids watched the video, and then I passed out the strips of cardboard that I had precut.  I marked the center to help the kids be able to attach the two pieces properly, and we fastened them with glue dots, which worked like a charm.  I had made a few as examples, and also so that I could test them to see if they really worked.  They did, but, not as well as his did in the video, but maybe with practice. I found that they worked best when held between thumb and pointer finger right at the base and flicked vertically, and sort of towards your right (if you are right-handed). It takes a little practice.

 

How to make a kids’ Carded Boomerang (“Roomerang”) with David Hudson:

   https://triballink.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/How-to-Make-a-Roomerang.webm

In this video (link above) he also talks about the designs, which are special to the Gubbi Gubbi/ Kabi Kabi people. These were my examples:


Dancing Sticks

And finally, our last activity was to make the dancing sticks.  The same David Hudson as did the Roomerangs, and Digeridoo has a teaching video on how to make the dancing sticks, I basically followed his instructions, except instead of using the clear shipping tape that he uses, and then wrapping it with string, I used a decorative Duct tape to save a step.  I also used Bamboo because I have it growing in abundance in my yard and am always looking for useful opportunities to get rid of it. 

       

How to make Dancing Sticks, video featuring David Hudson:   https://youtu.be/u-6yEYPiYsE


Food

What Australian party would be complete without food? Top of the list has to be the national dish of Australia – the Aussie Meat Pies, and then Tim-Tams, Vegemite, and Pavlova!  I really had ambitious plans for this party, and although I didn’t have time to make everything I wanted to, I’m including the recipes for everything I wanted to.  That way, if you (or I) ever want to make these lovely morsels, we’ll know where to find all the recipes.

First things first, Americans need to know how to eat a Vegemite Sandwich, because most of us try it and do it all wrong, and end up spitting the nasty gack substance out into the garbage can with a majorly disgusted look on our faces.  So, I thought it fitting to let Hugh Jackman give us a proper demonstration:

Hugh Jackman on Jimmy Fallon: https://youtu.be/P_sUhTWtvG4

I found Vegemite at Cost Plus World Market, but unfortunately the parent who was supposed to bring the white bread and butter for the party, ooops forgot.  Meh! It happens. 😦   So, I wasn’t able to make a Vegemite Sandwich for the kids, nor was I able to make Fairy Bread for the kids either.  I was disappointed, but we had lots of other stuff to eat and do, so I eventually got over it. LOL


This is Fairy Bread:

All you do to make the Fairy Bread is toast and butter some soft white bread (just like you do for the Vegemite Sandwich) and then cover the topside with sprinkles.  They can’t be just any sprinkles though; to be truly OZ-thentic they need to be the tiny round sprinkles you see in the photo.


Aussie Meat Pies

I made a batch of these before the party just to see what they tasted like, and I think they are quite similar to a sloppy joe in a pie crust.   I did them exactly the way Aussie Girl Can Cook does in her video, but to be authentic the bottoms of the pie are supposed to be a “short crust,” which, in America, is just a regular pie crust, and only the tops of the Aussie pies are supposed to be puff pastry. I made mine in a muffin pan. And I didn’t have enough puff pastry to do the tops properly, so I used the little bits of corners that I had snipped from the squares to make them round. Didn’t have to cut a vent hole that way.

So, because I was extremely pressed for time, this is how I made mine for the party:

Mrs H’s Aussie Meat Pies

3  12-oz. packages (8-count each) of Texas Pie Company Pastry Shells, sold exclusively at HEB

1  17.3 oz. package Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets

2 pounds ground beef

1 onion finely chopped

1  24-oz. can Hunt’s Manwich Sauce

Enough chicken stock to make a little gravy

1 tsp. Vegemite

I started my process 2 days before the party by cooking the beef filling first and then placing it in the fridge.  Cook the ground beef until browned, add onion and cook until slightly softened.  Pour in the Manwich sauce and stir.  Let simmer on stovetop for about 10 minutes.  Add enough chicken stock to make the gravy and let it cook down to thicken. Stir in the Vegemite and remove from heat.  Let cool slightly and transfer to a food storage container. Place in fridge overnight.

The next day take the frozen Puff Pastry out of the freeze and set on counter top to thaw.  Take the Pastry Shells out of the freezer also and arrange on a cookie sheet.  Flatten the edges of each shell to remove the decorative ridge, then put the shells in a 350 degree F oven for 20 minutes (as directed on the package).  Pull the shells out of the oven and immediately begin filling each with about a small ice cream scoop full of the chilled meat mixture. 

On a slightly floured work surface, unwrap and gently unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Use a drinking glass or biscuit cutter (that is roughly the size of the tops of each pie), cut circles in the pastry.  If you run out of dough, the bits can be collected and gently kneaded on a floured surface and then rolled out with a rolling pin.  Let rest a few minutes and then cut more circles.  One package should cover 24 little pies, if you are frugal.  Take a circle of puff pastry and hold it in one hand, dip a finger of your other hand in a cup of water and moisten the pastry all the way around the edge on one side.  Lay the moistened side down on top of a meat pie, stretching if needed, and then press it against the pastry below with your thumbs.  Use a fork to seal the edge all the way around.  Continue with the next pie, and the next, until you have finished covering all your pies. 

Beat an egg or two in a small bowl and then using a pastry brush, brush the egg over the top of each puff pastry top.  A little milk can be added to the egg if you need to stretch it to have enough for all the pies. Use a knife to cut a little vent hole in the center of each pie.

Place the pies in a 350 degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top crusts are shiny and golden brown.  I think mine might have baked longer than 30 minutes, but my oven has been weird lately. Just keep an eye on them to get that beautiful golden-brown color.  Remove from oven.  Let them cool slightly and then remove them from the pie tins. They can be served hot at this point, plain, or with sauce (ketchup).

If you want to serve them the next day, just let the little pies cool completely on a baking rack (removed from the tins) for about 10 or 15 minutes. Place the cooled pies in a single layer in a large zip-loc bag and then pop them into the refrigerator for overnight storage, or they can be individually wrapped, tightly, in plastic, and then placed into a zip-loc bag and into the freezer for longer storage. 

The next day place the pies on a cookie sheet and pop them into a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 20 to 30 minutes.  If they are frozen they can be removed from their wrapper and baked in the same temp oven, but may take a little longer to reach a safe 165 degree internal temperature.  We also tried reheating them in the microwave for about 3 minutes and that worked also.  Serve plain or with sauce.  (My hubby likes salsa on his – he likes salsa on everything. Ha!).


Outback Barbie (what we States-side would just call a BBQ

Once a good fire is established in the firepit, put on some shrimp (what we call prawns), snags (sausages – kind of look like fat hot dogs), and Barramundi (a type of fish).  There’s also many things that are and have been cooked up over fire in the wild, and that’s what Australians call Bush Tucker (Bush Food).

NOTE: many of the foods in Australia are like the foods we have in America.  They harken back to both of our British roots.  In Great Britain the meat pies are often served as a pie floater, which means they are perched in a pool of mushy peas. 

Other common foods are beef stews, chicken and dumplings, pot roast, meatloaf, baked chicken, and that sort of stuff.  There is a large Malaysian, Polynesian, and southern Asian influence also, just as there is Chinese food, Italian, French, Cajun, etc. foods here in the U.S.  There are also animals, berries, fruits, and herbs (and even bugs) that are native to Australia, like Wattleseed and Lemon Myrtle, that are used in Australian cooking.  I enjoy watching Marion Grasby’s You Tube channel.  She makes lots of Asian infused Australian foods.


Tim Tams

Tim-Tams can be purchased in the U.S.  Amazon has them, and they are at World Market.  They are kind of like a chocolate wafer/biscuit sandwich with cream filling, and then coated in chocolate.


ANZAC Biscuits

ANZAC Biscuits were a type of eggless oatmeal cookie that were sent to the soldiers who were off fighting in war.  They are made of oatmeal and coconut, and to make them properly you must use Lyles Golden Syrup.  Australia celebrates a national holiday called ANZAC Day every April which gives the whole country a public holiday from work.  It is a day for Aussies and New Zealanders to honor those who fought and lost their lives at war and also to honor those who serve in the military for the freedom of their country. 

Australian Women’s Weekly published this “Best ANZAC Biscuit Recipe of All Time.”  I say we give it a try!

Ingredients

4oz butter, chopped

2 tablespoons golden syrup or treacle (see tips)

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

2 tablespoons boiling water

1 cup rolled oats (see tips)

1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup desiccated coconut

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two large 9 X 13” baking pans; line with baking paper.

Stir butter and syrup in a medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Stir in combined soda and the water, then remaining ingredients.

Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls; place 2 inches apart on lined trays, then flatten slightly.

Bake for 12 minutes or until golden. Cool biscuits on trays.

Notes

Spray your measuring spoon with a little cooking oil spray before scooping up the golden syrup; this will help prevent the syrup from sticking to the spoon. Make sure you use rolled oats rather than quick-cooking oats as they will produce a different result. Store biscuits in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Lamingtons

These can be purchased, but are not difficult to make. They are basically a sponge cake cut into blocks, dipped in chocolate icing, and then rolled in finely chopped desiccated coconut.  Martha Stewart has a lovely recipe; click on this link (Martha Stewart’s Lamingtons) and you should end up there, unless they have moved it since this post was created. In that case here is a print out:

Lollies

I found a variety of licorice at World Market. It’s a little bit different from the licorice we’re used to. Sooooo yummy!!!


Pavlova

The utter queen of desserts.  It is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.  It is said to resemble her flowing layered ballerina skirts.   It is crisp on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside, and topped with whipped cream and various fruits.  There are vanilla Pavlovas, and chocolate Pavlovas, and I even saw a lemon Pavlova – which would be a perfect way to use all the egg yokes (lemon curd) and help counter balance all the sweetness.

I decided to try using a carton of liquid egg whites to see if it would work, rather than have several egg yokes to have to deal with.  It didn’t work quite as well as it probably would have with freshly cracked egg whites, but it did work, and got raves from all of those who sampled it at the party for the first time ever in their lives.

1 cup cage-free 100% liquid egg whites + 1 freshly cracked egg white (save the yoke to brush on meat pies)

2 cups of regular white sugar

½ teaspoon of pure Vanilla

1/8th teaspoon of Cream of Tartar (or may substitute 2 tsp of lemon/lime juice or white/apple cider vinegar)

2 teaspoons Corn starch

You will also need parchment paper, a large cookie sheet, a 340 degree preheated oven, a pan with water, and a rubber spatula, and then some fresh sweetened whipped cream, and an assortment of fresh fruits.

I decided to do the Swiss Meringue technique, which is to dissolve the sugar in the egg whites in a double-boiler before whipping.  I placed about 2 inches of water in a saucepan and turned it on to boil.  While I waited for that, I measured my egg whites and sugar into a stainless steal bowl that I could perch on top the pot of water.  As soon as the water boiled, I turned off the heat and let the water cool for a few minutes.  Then I set my bowl of egg whites and sugar on top and used a whisk to stir, stir, stir, lifting the bowl from the pan of water occasionally, just to make sure I didn’t cook the eggs at all.  I reached in and mushed the mixture between my fingers a couple of times to see if it was still gritty, and once it felt not gritty I took it off the water completely and started mixing it with the mixer. 

I only have a hand-held Kitchen-Aide mixer, and wasn’t sure if it was powerful enough to do the job.  It seemed like it took forever for the eggs to start turning a glossy white.  Finally, after 10 minutes or so I began to see a soft white mixture, and that is when I added all the other ingredients (vanilla, Cream of Tartar, and Corn Starch, and I also added a splash of lemon juice in case my cream of tartar wasn’t up to snuff – it’s not something I use very often).  I scraped down the sides of the bowl and went back to mixing.  It took a really long time, maybe 20 minutes or so, but it finally started getting the stiffer peaks.  The videos I watched said you can’t over whip it, so I just kept whipping, and whipping, hoping to achieve stiff peaks I saw in videos.  When I thought I had achieved it finally, I stopped whipping.  My poor little mixer was getting warm.

I got a large cookie sheet, put a dab of meringue in each corner, and placed a sheet of parchment paper to cover the pan (the dabs of meringue keep the parchment from moving around.  Then I dumped the meringue in the middle of the pan.  I didn’t fuss with trying to shape it.  I just sort of made a depression in the center and called it good.  Mine didn’t set up tall and hold its shape like the ones in the videos, which is when I realized I probably gave up beating it too soon.  Oh well.  I guess we’ll see.

I placed the meringue into the oven and immediately turned the temperature down to 190 degrees F, and set the timer for 65 minutes.  After the 65 minutes I turned the oven off, but did NOT OPEN THE DOOR.  I left the meringue in the oven overnight.  I did peek through the window though and it looked to be the same size and shape as when I put it into the oven (hallelujah), only it had a slight baked tint to it, and only had a couple of hairline cracks on the side. Praise the Lord – so happy!!!!!!  Hoping for the best.

While the Pavlova was in the oven, I made my whipped cream.  I put about 2/3 of a pint size carton of heavy whipping cream into a cold bowl.  I added about 2 slightly heaped Tablespoons of powdered sugar, and ½ a teaspoon of pure vanilla.  I started the whipping process slowly to incorporate the sugar, and then as the mixture started to thicken a little, I increased the speed.  It was messy and there was spatter, but as soon as firm peaks appeared, I whipped a smidge more and then stopped beating (fearing I’d end up with butter).  I immediately transferred my whipped cream to a covered container and into the fridge to be used on my meringue first thing in the morning.

I decided on the following fruits:  Strawberries, bananas, canned mango drained, blueberries, and kiwi.  I waited until right before serving to top and decorate my Pavlova.  I started by removing the meringue from the oven and carefully and gently peeling away the paper.  I placed my meringue in the center of a large platter, and then dumped my whipped cream on top and spread it out a little.  Then I started decoratively piling on the sliced fruits and blueberries (Uh Oh, what happened to my banana? Okay, minus the banana, I must have dropped it on the sidewalk somewhere between my car and the school).  

OMGosh, it looked amazing!!!!  The kids thought it was fantastic, and the teacher and other staff who sneaked in to try it said it was to die for.  No one had ever eaten Pavlova before – which is probably my saving grace.

This is a photo of my attempt:


And what to drink? …

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In conclusion, if we want to sound like Aussies for a day here are some Australian Vocabulary Words:

G’day Mate = hello

No worries = not a big deal

Sanga = sandwich

Lollies = sweets/candies

Bush Tucker = Outback Food (that’s native to Australia, and grows in the wild)

Aussie (pronounced Ozzie) and is why Australia is sometimes called Oz

The land down under = Australia

Wallabys = kangaroo (aka ROOs)

Joey = baby kangaroo

Billabong = a pond in a dry river bed

Dingo = a wild dog native to Australia

Footy = What Aussies call football

Kookaburra = a type of bird native to Australia

Walk-a-bout = a hike or vacation (traveling)

To “Captain Cook” something = is to Take a Look at something

To “John Dory” = is to tell the story

Dunny = Toilet

Bloke = male

Sheila = female

Crickey = WOW!

Snag = a sausage


• Other Links:

David Hudson website: https://www.davidhudson.com.au/

(Bullroarer, You Tube video)  https://youtu.be/Gy05kWu88u0

2nd Digeridoo playing instruction:  https://youtu.be/F1hnDwjuLGM

• Movies featuring the Land Down Under:

The Man from Snowy River

Quigley Down Under

Crocodile Dundee

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! It’s a Junior High Renaissance Escape Room & Feast, Come One, Come All

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Hear Ye! Hear Ye! It’s a Junior High Renaissance Escape Room & Feast, Come One, Come All

That’s the way our little affair got started. Let me tell you the tale of a Renaissance Escape Room that happened recently, one very foggy mid-autum’s day. The Jr. High students of our quaint little school had been looking forward to this day for weeks. They picked out costumes from the Drama Department’s costume closet and daydreamed through chapel just waiting for the chance to crowd into their classroom and see what awaited them there. Their laughter and excitement filled the room, but in just a moment it was all abrutly interupted by aTown Crier with news! She shouted out to them in a booming voice, and that is when they discovered their mission.

She then exited stage left and our dear “Mrs. Hollingsworth” appeared (which just so happens to be a real English renaissance family name from my own family’s history – how about that for a little historical fiction to go with our turkey legs). She was dressed as the rest, but in a red velvet costume, and when she cleared her throat a faux English accent came out. She addressed the students thustly:

Hello, I am Mrs. Hollingsworth.  I’ve come to help you.  We are going to have to be sneaky and very quiet so as not to draw attention to ourselves.  We’re going to need to split up.  Here, I’ve put some slips of paper in this black sock.  Each of you must draw a slip out and then sort yourselves into your teams. 

White team, your area of the room is over there. [she pointed]

Red team, yours is over there. [she pointed]

And Green, yours is there.  [she pointed]

You must stay in your area until you have completed your tasks.  I’ve put together an envelope for each team.  You will find them once you enter your area.  Read the outside of the envelope and follow its instructions.

Your knowledge of the Renaissance is all that will save you now.  Okay, be off!!!!!  And good luck.

The room was divided into 4 areas, using long classroom tables. Each area was clearly labeled, Red, White, and Green. The kids were divvied up into their 3 groups and sent away to their respective areas to begin their escape. It started with reading the outside of the envelope and then dumping out the contents. They had the choice of solving a puzzle that would tell them where to look for their 8 questions, or they could just look for them if they were feeling lucky. Most decided “just looking” sounded good. They found questions stuffed in bottles, and questions stuffed in boxes, others stashed in books , and books made out of boxes. They were high up and low down, on top of things, and underneath.

Let’s start with the Envelopes, please…

(In the interest of full disclosure, the images on the envelopes for the questions and puzzles were taken from a purchase of materials at Teachers Pay Teachers. I’ll tell you more about that a little later in this post. But I used their template for the question cards,although I made many of my own questions using our school’s World Studies Textbook, along with information found in various other books, such as these, and some online sources).

I organized all the Level One questions to be about Famous Artists & Architects of the Renaissance. Level Two questions were about Famous Explorers & Navigators of the Renaissance. Level 3 questions were about Famous Inventors & Humanists of the Renaissance. Level 4 questions were about Famous Thinkers & Philosophers of the Renaissance. Level Five questions were about Famous Writers & Composers of the Renaissance. And, Level Six questions were about Famous Mathematicians & Influencers of the Renaissance.

I made a cheat sheet for each team, printed on both sides. I wanted them to be able to check their answers, but also, since I had included some information that wasn’t in their textbook, I wanted them to be able to find the correct answer for the things they didn’t know about. Here are the CHEAT SHEETS, and QUESTIONS, and MASTER LOCK CODE SHEETS for each team…

Level One Questions Cheat Sheet.  Did you know that the Renaissance was a “rebirth” of art and architecture, deliberately anti-Gothic/Medieval? Because of the wealth of citizens, and the church, many works of art were commissioned (that means the artist was hired and paid a certain amount of money for his creation). During the Renaissance the wealthiest and most influential members of Italian society were called Patricians.  Before the Renaissance, only royalty, religious leaders, and the very wealthy could afford to have their portraits made. The Renaissance produced a booming economy, and ordinary people could then afford such things. There was a humanist (human virtue) interest in art, and a renewed interest in mythology as subject matter for art. The Medici family, the richest and most prominent family in Florence, used their wealth to sponsor new artists and help fund the humanist movement.  The Medici family became wealthy from banking, mining, and trade. The Medici family paid Brunelleschi to build a massive domed cathedral in Florence.  Brunelleschi studied ancient Roman ruins to help create his unique architecture.  Architecture during the Renaissance combined perfect mathematical proportions, domes, and classic columns. Religious works, portraits, and landscapes were mostly displayed in public; while mythologies and nudes were generally displayed in private homes.  Some of the greatest artists and architects of this period are listed below. 

Famous Artists and Architects of the Renaissance:

• Filippo Brunelleschi – famous for the dome of the Cathedral of Florence

• Ghiberti – famous for the doors of the Baptistry of Florence

• Sandro Botticelli – famous for his Adoration of the Magi, Primavera, and The Birth of Venus

• Titian – famous for The Assumption of the Virgin, Pesaro Madonna, Bacchus and Ariandne, and Venus of Urbino

• Leonardo da Vinci – often referred to as a Renaissance man, was a painter, sculptor, architect, inventor and writer.  He created the most famous painting in the world, The Mona Lisa. Her portrait demonstrated his mastery of 2 new painting techniques, Sfumato (blends colors to create a smoky effect) and Chiaroscuro (uses light and dark to create depth and texture).  Some other paintings include Adoration of the Magi, The Virgin of the Rocks, and The Last Supper.  His sketch books contained drawing of various machines, some that could be used as military weapons, and others that were beneficial to the advancement of medicine. The final drawing in his sketchbooks was the Vitruvian man inside of a square and a circle. The term Renaissance Man refers to a person that was talented in may areas.

• Raphael – was a painter and architect born in Italy.  He painted his greatest work called The School of Athens.  He also did an oil painting called The Sistine Madonna.  It features two cherubim (angels) at the bottom.  These angels have been featured on stamps and t-shirts, and many other memorabilia of modern day.

• Donatello – famous for his Bronze David and his later stone David sculptures, as well as many Biblical figures, his innovation of shallow bas-reliefs, and his larger architectural reliefs.

• Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, otherwise known by his first name.  He created a statue of David which features realistic muscles, joints, and veins.  His works also include the sculptures of Bacchus and Pietà, and painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, which was commissioned by Pope Julius II.  He also designed the dome on top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

• Giotto di Bondone – was the first Renaissance painter in Florence, Italy.  He broke away from the typical Byzantine style.  He painted people and objects that looked natural, not abstract.  His paint style became knows as realistic painting. 

Level Two Questions Cheat Sheet.  Did you know that the Renaissance was a “great re-awakening” of exploration and navigation? During this period, there was a great renewal of interest in the ideas of ancient Rome and Greece. Many of the leaders of the Renaissance, who were born in the different city-states of Italy, found inspiration in these ancient writings and wanted to know more by studying art, architecture, and culture. Some brilliant minds pursued knowledge through the study of math, geography, and science.  All of this expansion of knowledge contributed to the exploration of the world, which was both good and bad. The famous Silk Road, a once-prosperous trading route, had become very dangerous with tribal groups reclaiming land and charging fees for passage, or taxes on goods. Europe was desperate to find a route to China and India (where their most treasured exotic goods came from), that would avoid these dangerous middlemen. Many explorers and financiers of the age were also unfortunately desperate for fame and fortune and conquest. Part of the reason explorers were able to travel farther from home had to do with advances in navigation and shipbuilding techniques.  Not only did Europeans hope to find direct routes to places with exotic goods, some European kings and queens were inspired to send expeditions out for religious reasons as well. 

Famous Explorers & Navigators of the Renaissance

Niccolò De Conti – was a self-funded explorer, mostly by land, and one of the first Europeans to reach Indonesia and Burma. He shared many exciting stories about people, spices, animals, and geography. His travels helped to improve maps of Asia, such as the Genoese, and his experiences also helped to create a map of the world.

Christopher Columbus – made 4 legendary voyages. His maiden voyage was funded by Ferdinand and Isabella (King and Queen of Spain) in April, 1492.  That voyage included three ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and his flagship, the Santa Maria. He named the first island where he landed San Salvador, in hopes that the natives would find “salvation in Christ.”  He is credited with discovering the “New World.”

Vasco de Balboa – is best known for the discovery of the Pacific Ocean. Balboa started a European settlement in Antigua del Darien, on the east coast of Panama.  Hearing that there was a sea on the south side, he journeyed across the Isthmus of Panama and sighted the Pacific Ocean while standing on a peak. The Spaniards called the Pacific the Mar del Sur (South Sea). The expedition descended the mountain and become the first Europeans to navigate the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the New World.

Hernán Cortés – is famous for a legend where off the coast of Veracruz, he burned his ships in a do-or-die effort to conquer the land.  He warred against the Aztecs and their leader Montezuma II, and lost all of his treasure and most of his men in The Sad Night. 

Amerigo Vespucci – a great navigator, explorer, cartographer, and cosmographer and is where the continents of the Americas got their name.

Ferdinand Magellan – was a Portuguese explorer and navigator who led the first successful circumnavigation around the word. Unfortunately, he did not finish the journey, but his surviving crew members managed to complete this history-making voyage. He was the first observer of a previously unknown species of penguins, discovered galaxies, and was the first European to cross the great Pacific Ocean.  He discovered a shortcut through Chile in South America, which became known as the Strait of Magellan. Besides the strait, Ferdinand Magellan also has a rail car (Ferdinand Magellan Railcar), lunar craters (Magelhaens and Magelhaens A), and even a penguin species (Magellanic penguin) named after him. His expeditions showed clearly that all the world’s oceans were connected.

Marco Polo – though born very early in the Renaissance period, probably inspired some of the enthusiasm for exploration through his book, “The Travels of Marco Polo.” Young Marco became a trader, traveler, adventurer and storyteller. His life inspired a children’s game that is still played today.

Juan Ponce de Leon – was rumored to have been looking for the “fountain of youth.” Served as the first governor of Puerto Rico.

Sir Francis Drake – Accompanied John Hawkins in a voyage of the slave trade. Became a privateer who attacked and plundered other ships.  Was considered a pirate by the Spanish, but a hero by the English. Was given a fleet of 5 ships by Queen Elizabeth I and his expedition was only the second in history to sail around the world. He brought back lots of treasure for the queen. The queen knighted him and he was known as Sir Francis Drake thereafter.

John Cabot – was an Italian explorer sent by King Henry VII of England to the New World. It is believed that he landed in what is now called Newfoundland, in Canada, and was the first explorer to find that part of the world since the Vikings who had traveled there many centuries before.  On his second voyage his ships were lost at sea and the fate of John Cabot is uncertain.

Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, and Pêro Da Covilhã are a few other famous explorers, but there’s not enough room to talk about them.

And these were the questions that were hidden all over the room (inside of books, and boxes, and bottles, etc.)

This was their code sheet:

Level Three Questions Cheat Sheet.  The Renaissance began in Florence, Italy somewhere in the 14th century (1301 to 1400) and lasted until sometime in the 17th century (1601-1700).  Humanism played a big role during the Renaissance?  Humanism was a cultural movement, and idea that everyone should seek to be educated in arts, science, and literature.  It was a time when human emotions were expressed in the form of art.  It made the people think about their own lives and less on spiritual ideas. This new idea about education and emotional art quickly spread to Venice, Rome, and Milan, Italy.  Eventually, new ideas spread throughout Europe.  The start of the Renaissance brought an end to the Middle Ages.  The fall of Rome brought the beginning of the Middle Ages.  People were more consumed with survival during the Middle Ages.  They didn’t have money or time to learn or to study.  They were mostly poor farmers/peasants serving the royal class.  Advances and progress in science, art, and government were lost during the Middle Ages.  This part of the Middle Ages was referred to as The Dark Ages.  The Renaissance was a time to “come out of the dark.” Renaissance means “rebirth.” The Black Death delayed economic grown in northern Europe. Many believe the Renaissance began with the invention of the printing press.  The printing press made books and written materials more easily available, and because of the rise of the middle class and new found wealth, people were eager to learn and prosper. People began to feel better about themselves and optimistic about life.   

Famous Inventors & Humanists of the Renaissance

Erasmus of Rotterdam – was one of the most highly regarded and influential scholars of the Renaissance.  He mastered Latin and Greek.  He was the first to publish a Greek New Testament, which was an essential tool for the Reformation.

Leon Battista Alberti – a humanist author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, and cryptographer.

Thomas More – was a close friend of Erasmus and served in the court of King Henry VIII of England.  His work, Utopia (which means “nowhere”) is a story about an imaginary country based on Christian principles, and the philosophy of Plato.  In this work More presented his view of an ideal state.  More supported the supremacy of the Pope and rejected the Reformation.

Johannes Gutenberg – inventor of the printing press

Leonardo da Vinci – inventor of many, many, many types of machines.

Galileo Galilei – was

Niccolò Machiavelli – created a new branch of political science based on humanist principals, where human interests were the priority.

Francesco Petrarch – was known as the “Father of Humanism.”  He studied Ancient Rome’s poets and philosophers.  His poetry became inspirational to other writers. 

Level Four Questions Cheat Sheet.  During the Renaissance, people loved learning about new ideas and having their old ideas challenged and changed.  They were thirsty for knowledge about art, biology, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, literature – everything!  The printing press made it possible to mass produce books.  As books became readily available, more people learned to read, and new ideas spread faster than ever.  During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church played an enormous role in European life, but during the Renaissance people began to have different religious views. The first book to be printed on a printing press was the Gutenberg Bible.  During the Renaissance, people (called humanists) were more interested in finding and studying the original versions of texts.  They began to interpret writings in different ways, and to ask questions.  Universities across Europe played extraordinarily significant roles in the Renaissance and the Reformation.  They hosted innovative research in many fields and changed forever European religion and society.  Universities and their professors may have had greater influence on society in the Renaissance and Reformation than in any era before or since.  That influence endures to this day.   

Famous Thinkers & Philosophers of the Renaissance

Francis Bacon – argued for an approach to scientific research based on observation and reason.

Desiderius Erasmus (of Rotterdam) – was a Dutch philosopher and Catholic theologian.  Among the humanists he was given the nickname “Prince of the Humanists,” and has been called the “crowning glory of the Christian humanists.” He wanted to introduce humanistic enlightenment into the Catholic Church without breaking with Rome.  He mastered Latin and Greek.  He was the scholar behind what is now known as the Textus Receptus, when the only Bible available at the time was the Latin Vulgate.  His versions were used by Martin Luther for his German translation, and William Tyndale for the first English New Testament, and also contributed to the Robert Stephanus edition of the Geneva Bible and the Authorized (KJV) Bible.

Thomas More – a close friend of Erasmus, served as lord chancellor in the court of King Henry VIII.  His work, Utopia (which means “nowhere”) was a book of social and political satire which presented his views of an ideal state. 

Filippo Brunelleschi – was at first a goldsmith, and made a living making jewelry. He competed for the commission of the Baptistry doors, but bowed out when they wanted to team him with another artist and went to Rome.  While there, he studied ancient Roman ruins, and in the process of making detailed drawings of them, rediscovered a lost artistic technique known as linear perspective.  He also solved major problems in architecture and was able to construct the largest dome ever built without wood supports. Because Brunelleschi never wrote down his designs, historians have struggled for centuries to unravel the secrets of his success.  It is still not fully understood how he accomplished what no one else has ever been able to do.

Niccolo Machiavelli, an Italian philosopher, created a new branch of political science based on humanist principals, which emphasized human interests over religious views.  He wrote groundbreaking books about politics. One small “mirror book” called The Prince, which has been translated into dozens of languages and read by millions. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin kept a copy of it on their nightstands.  His last name became a euphemism for everything bad in politics.  Lying, cheating, scheming, backstabbing, killing—are all qualities associated with Machiavellianism.

Nicolaus Copernicus – worked out accurate measurements of the earth in relation to the sun.

Garardus Mercator – outlined an approach to scientific inquiry that changed several branches of science.  Queen Elizabeth gave him the nickname, “Little Lord Keeper.” He was the first English writer to use an “Essay” format.

And this was their code sheet:

Level Five Questions Cheat Sheet.  Thomas a Kempis authored the book, The Imitation of Christ, which is still in print today.  The Canterbury Tales is a collection of twenty-four stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer and can also still be purchased today.  Did you know that the Elizabethan Era is famous for the works of William Shakespeare?  It was the Tudor period of England’s history, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  This “golden age” represented the apogee (which means the peak or highest point) of the English Renaissance. The era is most famous for it’s theatre, but it was also an age of exploration and expansion abroad.  The circumnavigation of Francis Drake brought wealth to England. 

Famous Writers & Composers of the Renaissance

William Shakespeare – was an English playwright, poet, and actor.  He is credited as having written 39 plays, 154 sonnets, 3 long narrative poems, and a few other verses.  His most notable works are “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “Anthony and Cleopatra,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” “Othello,” “The Comedy of Errors,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” and many more.

Petrarch – was a scholar and poet of early Renaissance Italy. One of the earliest Humanists.  His rediscovery of Cicero’s letters is often credited as initiating the Renaissance.  His notable works include odes and sonnets to Laura, the idealized subject of his chaste love, Triumphs, Canzoniere, Secretum Meum.

Dante Alighieri – wrote his narrative poem/book, the Divine Comedy in 1308.  The first part of this epic poem is Inferno, often referred to as Dante’s Inferno.  It describes Dante’s spiritual journey through hell, guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil.  It includes nine concentric circles of torment located within the earth. Inferno (hell) is followed by Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paradiso (Paradise/heaven).  His book is considered the greatest piece of literature written in Italian.   Iconographic images from Donte’s Divine Comedy have been painted inside the dome of the Cathedral of Florence, the brainchild of Brunelleschi.

Nicolaus Copernicus – was an astronomer and one of a handful who believed that the sun was at the center of the universe and that the earth and planets revolved around it. He proved in his book, On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, that the heliocentric model was correct, backing up his theory with mathematical equations.  It was Johannes Kepler that later proved Copernicus right. Also, Galileo, developed telescopes powerful enough for astronomers to see for themselves that Copernicus’s heliocentric model was accurate.

Machiavelli – is famous for his little book, The Prince, which was a how-to or guidebook for rulers.  He was called a lot of bad things, including “devil” and “monster,” but nothing indicates that he was ever terribly “Machiavellian.”  He was influential, but never sought power for power’s sake. And every devious strategy he described in the book was based on the actions of others.

Erasmus of Rotterdam – was known as the “Prince of the humanists.”  Was a friend of Thomas More and was staying at his home when he composed what is considered one of the most important works of the Renaissance, “In Praise of Folly.”  In this work, Erasmus took a humorous approach to old superstitions and corruption in the Catholic Church.  He dedicated the essay to More.

Sir Thomas More – was famous for his book, Utopia, which was his idea of the ideal society.  He was very religious and served as lord chancellor to King Henry VIII.

Castiglione wrote a book on manners and etiquette (social behavior). His book was titled, The Courtier.

Level Six Questions Cheat Sheet.  Did you know the Renaissance began in Florence, Italy somewhere between 1350 and 1400 and lasted until the mid 1600s. The Hundred Years War took place between 1337 and 1453 and ended in a French victory. During the Hundred Years War, a peasant girl from France named Joan of Arc believed she was being led by God to drive out the English.  The French defeated the English under her leadership, but the English later captured her and burned her at the stake.  The Black Death may have started in China and by 1347 had spread to. It claimed the lives of an estimated twenty-five million Europeans. The Renaissance (which means “rebirth”) was a period of great awakening of classical arts, culture, science, medicine, education, literature, art and music. It was a time to “come out of the dark.”  The Renaissance began as more and more people were able to afford to learn to read and write, the printing press made printed materials more available, and the Italian seaports traded goods as well as new ideas.  

Famous Mathematicians & Influencers of the Renaissance

Nicolaus Copernicus – was the mathematician and astronomer who formulated the model that the Earth revolves around the Sun and not the other way around.

Galileo Galilei – was an Italian mathematician credited with creating the first modern telescopes, which supported Copernicus’s idea that the Earth revolves around the sun.

Johannes Kepler – was a German astronomer, mathematician, astrologer, natural philosopher, and writer of music.  He is best known for his laws of planetary motion, as well as his books Astronomia Nova, Harmonice Mundi, and Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae. He was a contemporary of Galileo Galilei.

Johannes Gutenberg – was a German inventor, printer, publisher, and goldsmith who introduced printing to Europe with his mechanical movable-type printing press.

Henry VIII – was king of England from 1509 to 1547.  He is credited with initiating the English Reformation by separating the Church of England from papal authority.  He appointed himself Supreme Head of the Church of England.  He also invested heavily in the navy.  He made radical changes to the English Constitution.

John Calvin – was a French theologian, pastor, and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He developed a system of doctrine known as Calvinism.

Elizabeth I – was Queen of England and Ireland from 1558 to her death in 1603.  She was the daughter of Henry VIII.

Pope Julius II – was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 1503 to his death in 1513.  He was nicknamed “the fearsome Pope.” He chose his name in emulation of Julius Caesar.  He was one of the most powerful and influential Popes.  He established the Vatican Museums and initiated the rebuilding of the St. Peter’s Basilica.  He invited Raphael to decorate some rooms in the Vatican. The Catholic Church – used their wealth to make extravagant cathedrals, ornately decorated inside with architecture, paintings, sculptures, expensive doors, and domes.

Martin Luther – was a German priest, author, and hymnwriter Catholic friar responsible for starting the Protestant Reformation.

Lorenzo de Medici – was a poet, known as Il Magnifico (“The Magnificent”), the wealthiest and most powerful man in Florence.  He was a supporter of humanist thinkers and a great patron of the arts.

And this was their code sheet:

The Question cards were hidden individually all over the room, but each team needed 2 puzzle cards and those were hidden together in a locked box for each team. The students had to find and answer all their questions correctly (8 per team), plus find the key for their locked boxes (which I hid in books and in a soup can), and also the locked boxes themselves. Once they figured out the codes for each of the the Questions. Those codes would then be used for finding the FINAL MASTER CODE that would unlock the final “Escape Door.”

These were the puzzle cards I used, and I got them from a kit I purchased of a Renaissance Escape Room. This is where you can get your kit: Escape Room EDU @ Teachers Pay Teachers. It is very well done and very inexpensive. They actually designed it to be used in connection with the internet, but it works easily without it. Since there is nothing on the website or in the printed materials to forbid me sharing these images with you I included them here. Please, though, go visit that website and download your own complete kit. Please support the hard working people that put these awesome things together. It is only a few dollars and very well worth it. I altered the Level 6 card.

Once some of the students had finished this first part, they needed to wait for all the teams to finish in order to go on to the next part as one big group. So this is when they were invited to feast. And what a feast it was!!!!! Bread and wine (okay, grape juice), grapes and pears and apples, cheese curds, jello – did you know that gelatin was invented (discovered?) in the Renaissance?, carved meats and roasted turkey legs, pies and tarts., beer and ale (okay Root beer, and Ginger ale). The kids sat at a table fit for King Henry VIII.

After about 10 minutes, since no one had noticed a certain incognito item that was crucial to the success of the mission, I asked if anyone had seen the tag thing that was hanging from Da Vinci’s the LAST SUPPER painting, which was hanging on the wall by the table of food. Of course the kids made a bee-line over there to check it out.

The tag was attached with a string to a note that was taped to the back of the painting. It said:

“What is missing from DaVinci’s Last Supper Table, that is always part of our Communion Table?” 

They searched and searched…

…and someone blurted out, “THE CHALICE!”

Under the CHALICE was a note tucked inside of a little blue envelope that said:

“Look under the drawbridge!”

…and so they did!

Under the drawbridge was this TAP CODE/Polybius Cipher puzzle which needed to be solved. It required all teams to come together with their Master Lock Code Sheets, plus the box that had the 3 colored blocks in it (which hadn’t served a purpose yet), and a cipher key.

This was the cipher key to the TAP CODE/Polybius Cipher:

If you’ve never done one of these before, each letter of a word is represented by two numbers. It helps if the first thing you do is draw a slash between each pair of numbers in the puzzle. Then tackle the first pair, which in our case is 55. First go 5 spaces across the top, and then 5 spaces down. So 55 equals W. 32 is 3 spaces over and 2 spaces down and is an H. 43 is 4 spaces over and 3 spaces down, which is O. So, the first word is WHO. To make the puzzle more challenging, remove a few letters in this key.

After solving the puzzle, the question is asked, “Who found the blocks in the box?” One of the kids remembered and ran and grabbed the box. There were three blocks in the box. One block was Green, one was White, and one was Red. The Green block had a code written on it: “Level 3/Q2/Digit2” (or something like that). The White one and Red one also had a similar written code. Each number of the escape code came from a different team’s code sheet.

The kids were sure they had figured it out. They jumped up and ran to the door. They twisted the numbers on the wheels of the luggage combination lock to enter the code: [?] [?] [?] and voila, SUCCESS!!!!!!!!! The lock popped open and the kids escaped, exactly 30 seconds before the end of the class period.  YAY!!!! They got to keep their heads.

Inside the locked pouch I had placed bookmarks, one for each student, with their names on them, and an exclamation that said, “I Escaped the Renaissance!”  The kids got to keep their drink goblets and the bookmarks as souvenirs. And they seemed to have had a really fun time. Half of them had to hurry off to their next class, but the other half stayed and helped me clean up, and haul all my decorations and food service out to my car. What a great group of kids.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question.” — “Hamlet”

“All the world’s a stage …” — “As You Like It”

“O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” — “Romeo & Juliet”

“Is this a dagger which I see before me…” — “Macbeth”

“Be not afraid of greatness…” — “Twelfth Night”

“If you prick us, do we not bleed?” — “The Merchant of Venice”

“The course of true love never did run smooth.” — “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” — “Sonnet 18”

Mrs H’s Unofficial “copy-cat recipe” – Tiago’s Cabo Grille Chocolate Cake

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Mrs H’s Unofficial “copy-cat recipe” – Tiago’s Cabo Grille Chocolate Cake

I want to preface this post by saying if you live near one of these restaurants you absolutely MUST go and have the chocolate cake (and the margaritas, and the guacamole, and….), but if, like me, you live hours away, then I hope to help delight our tastebuds with my less-than-perfect take on their fantabulous desert!!! They serve their cake freshly warm from the oven with a ganache-like frosting oozing over the sides, a scoop of cinnamon ice cream and a dalop of whipped cream on the side, and the whole mess sprinkled with a dusting of cinnamon. Oh my gosh!!!! To die for!

INGREDIENTS

1 ¾ cup granulated sugar

1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup Dutch process, unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Tablespoon ground Saigon Cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 tsp finely ground pink Himalayan salt

1 cup whole milk

1 ¾ sticks salted butter, softened

2 eggs

2 tsp Mexican vanilla (I always splash a little over the measurement)

¾ cup boiling water

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease the bottoms of two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans, and line with parchment paper.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add milk and butter.  Beat on medium speed to 2 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix until incorporated.  Stir in boiling water.

Divide the batter evenly between two prepared pans.  Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the tester comes out clean when inserted into the cake’s center.

Cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes.  Removed cakes from pans, discard the parchment paper, and transfer them to a wired rack to cool completely. 

Now they are ready to be frosted. And this is my favorite ganache recipe. Make yours with bittersweet chocolate, add a teaspoon of cinnamon, and up your ratio of chocolate a little more to make your ganache thicker, since it will be spread on warm cake and you don’t want it to just soak in and disappear.

I know there really is no duplicating the deliciousness of Tiago’s original, but this is a dynamite stand-in for when you are just craving it like no other and live 2 hours (or more) away from the closest restaurant.

And now to the second part of this post… A HAPPY BIRTHDAY cake!!!!!

So… it’s August. It’s my granddaughter’s birthday, and her day fell on a school night this year. Her parents are both full time employed and I wanted to be a blessing, so I volunteered to make the birthday dinner and cake. I am a decent cook, I guess, or at least that’s what my family says, but I am NOT a baker, not by any stretch of the imagination, and so perhaps this is what inspired me to blog about this cake, because it is the ONE baking attempt I’ve made that actually turned out, miracle of miracles, and I figure this to be the greatest reason to save it for posterity, i.e. my grandchildren, if indeed we are all still around and we haven’t been raptured by the time they are grown bakers. (Come Lord Jesus). Anyway, the birthday girl wanted “grammie’s tacos” for supper and sooooo that’s what inspired me to go with the Tiago’s cake for her birthday cake. Her special request was for a 2-layer cake, one layer being chocolate, the other layer being vanilla, and she wanted it frosted with a vanilla frosting. Each cake recipe makes 2 rounds, so I ended up with 4 total rounds of cake, and decided her cake would just have to be a 4-layer cake instead. I didn’t think anyone would mind, unless of course it didn’t turn out, but it did, so yay! 😉

My Vanilla Cake recipe:

INGREDIENTS

2 cups granulated sugar (I use just a little less)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

3 small eggs (or 2 large)

1 teaspoon vanilla (I always let it dribble a little over)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease the bottoms of two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans, and line with parchment paper.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add milk, water, and butter.  Beat on medium speed to 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Mix until incorporated. 

Once both of my cakes (chocolate and vanilla) were baked and completely cooled, I wrapped them tightly in two layers of cling wrap/plastic wrap and then tucked each individual layer in a gallon size zip-loc bag, pressing out all the air, and then put them all into the freezer overnight. Tip: Baking the cakes the day before makes for less work on the day of the party, plus the cakes are easier to frost when they are frozen, and they stay super moist and fresh for up to 3 months (so I was told by my cake decorating friends).

The next day I whipped up my frosting. I didn’t have enough cream cheese to make enough frosting to frost the whole 4 layers, so I whipped up a batch of chocolate buttercream as well as a batch of cream cheese frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

INGREDIENTS

12 Tablespoons butter, softened

5 (and up to another 1/2) cup confectioner’s sugar (depending on how sweet you want it

1 cup Dutch process, unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon

2/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla (I always splash a little over the measurement)

Pinch of salt

INSTRUCTIONS

In a bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy.  In a separate bowl, mix confectioner’s sugar with cinnamon and cocoa.  Blend sugar mixture with butter, alternating with milk, beating well after each addition.  Beat until smooth.  Blend in vanilla. 

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick Butter, softened

8-oz. Cream Cheese, softened

1 (10-oz.) package Confectioners (powdered) sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

splash of Half-and-Half

Combine butter and cream cheese in a bowl and beat until light. Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add milk only if needed for the desired consistency, beating until smooth. If you want to add a sprinkle of cinnamon also, do it!!!!

About two hours before the party I took the frozen cakes out of the freezer, unwrapped the first chocolate layer, placed it on my cake plate and slathered it with chocolate frosting on top. I unwrapped a white layer, carefully placed it on top of the chocolate one, and frosted it on top with chocolate frosting. Repeated with the last two layers, leaving the very top layer unfrosted on top. I spread my cream cheese frosting all around the sides of the cake first, and then I did the top last. As you can see I am NOT a skilled decorator either, and I won’t even play one on the Internet. But I am happy to report that the cake was delicious, and a hit with the grateful birthday girl.

This cake was so moist and delicious. I wanted to send it home with the birthday girl (no, I didn’t), but her mother wouldn’t let me (say it ain’t so), saying they already had a bunch of leftover cupcakes from the school party at their house (I’m crying on the inside), plus they are trying to eat healthier (and then there’s that). Oh my. Maybe the 4-layer cake wasn’t such a great idea after all. Soooo, in order to keep me from eating it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, for the next two days, because I also am trying to eat healthy (I know, so boring right), I decided to wrap it up and tuck it back into the freezer for the next time the girlies come over for a sleepover. I’ll have to let you know if it stays good frozen with the frosting on it.

The balloons pictured were a Balloon Arch kit ($7 at the grocery store) that I put together and then wrapped around my hanging dining room light. I had a few of the long bubbly balloons leftover from a previous party (green, red, orange) that I tucked in for a party effect. I would have added more if I’d had them. These kits come with the various sized balloons, and the ribbon (with the holes in it) that is used for holding the balloons in place. I didn’t know how to do this so I spooled up a You Tube video which was very helpful. You basically put all the bigger balloons into the tape, and save the little ones to fill in the spaces afterward, using glue dots, or I used invisible scotch tape. Unfortunately one kit won’t make an arch. Mine only ended up to be about 4 feet long, so I decided to do this with it instead.

And you know what? I was just thinking… (yes, that’s what that awful noise was) …as far as freezing cakes go, if you are an empty-nester and only cooking for two now-a-days… if it is true that naked cake keeps for up to 3 months in the freezer wrapped up correctly, why not bake a couple of cakes and freeze them for those nights when you want dessert, but don’t want to go to a lot of fuss. Cut each cooled round into 4 pieces, wrapping and freezing as described above, then tuck the wrapped pieces into a gallon size zip-loc freezer bag and press all of the air that you can out of the bag. Finally, mark the outside of the bag with the expiration date (so you’ll know it’s still good when you find it 2 months from now and have long forgotten that you did this). Also make up a batch or two of frosting and portion it out into little snack size cups (with lids). Make sure to fill the cups completely so that the lid smashes down on the frosting when snapped on, so there is no air space. Place those cups in a zip-loc bag and into the freezer also, next to the cake. The next time you and hubs are craving something sweet after supper, all you have to do is pull out a piece of cake from the freezer, and a frosting cup, let them thaw on the countertop together. Maybe you’d rather whip up a small batch of ganache instead of the frosting? Cut the cake in half, pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds (if you want it warm), and slather each with thawed frosting or warm ganache. Can be served with a scoop of ice cream (cinnamon, if you can find it), a squirt of canned whipped cream, and a dusting of cinnamon on top, if desired. And there you go… Tiagos (almost) in an instant. Make some coffee to go with your cake and curl up in front of a good movie or go outside and sit by the firepit and enjoy a cool fall evening together.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is cast off, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27

VBS Summer Fun for Kids

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VBS Summer Fun for Kids

I saw my first hummingbird this morning.  She was little and green and so delicate looking.  She glided ever so wistfully on the warm dewy breezes with the skill and elegance of a ballerina. She came right up to the rain spattered pane of glass where I was looking out. She’d caught me in my jammies and sitting at the table, still groggy from sleep, holding my first cup of freshly brewed coffee in front of my face. My hands wrapped around the handle on one side and the smooth side on the other. I’d held it to my face just to let the steam rise up and tickle my nostrils with its tantalizing aroma. I was just about to take a sip when this little buzzing beauty stopped by. 

Now she was fluttering outside my window, her wings barely visible, and her tiny eyes glaring in at me. I could almost read her thoughts as I watched her, and I think she was trying to tell me, “Hey lady, where’s the juice?”  Oh my goodness, the juice! Sure enough, the chains were dangling, but the feeders were not there. They were put away since Christmas.  I’ll get right on that, I thought to myself, and wanted to tell her, just as soon as I finish this magnificent cup of coffee.

I held my cup away from me, elbows perched on the table, and watched as my graceful guest took a quick flutter over the garden and then buzzed by my flower pots. I had two of them hanging on hooks on the porch and they were filled with some kind of succulent with red blossoms. Yes, I suppose that is what attracted her. In just a moment though she had lost interest in my vegetation, turned on her wings, kicked her engine into hyper-drive, and sped on a beeline off into the vast blue sky.  “Come back! Come back!  I wanted to say.  “I’ll get them!”  But it was too late.  She was gone. Perhaps someone down the road has their feeders out for her.  

As the last drop of coffee dangled from the brim of my big ceramic mug onto my waiting tongue I rousted myself into action.  First I went to the cupboard where last I had put my feeders after washing them out last fall, put the kettle on the counter by the sink, and then got to work making a brand new batch of sweet nectar.  As it was cooling I disassembled my pretty green glass feeders, then filled them up with the glistening liquid, and hung them on the empty hooks outside hoping the little darlings would give me a second chance tomorrow.

With that chore accomplished, I went to get dressed, made a list for the grocery shopping, and ran out the door before the heat of the day. As I drove down the street I happened to notice a banner hanging outside of a church. VBS it said, and the theme and the dates were listed. Wow, that’s right, summer break from school was right around the corner, wasn’t it! The town was soon to be inundated with restless little people with nothing to do. It got me thinking how much those VBS banners, tied to t-posts on the church lawns, were a lot like my hummingbird feeders. If they hang them, kids will come!!!

I thought back to my days of young motherhood and how VBS was a major staple of our summer activity list. It’s definitely how I entertained my kids when they were young. I felt with all the secular imbibing their little minds had taken in over the school year, they could really use some Spiritual flushing and rejuvinating over the summer. In fact, if I dealt my cards right, we could spend all summer doing the VBS circuit, and they could see how exciting the Bible can be. It was the perfect antidote to classroom withdrawal. The kids would get to hang with their friends, learn about Jesus, do crafts, play games, sing songs, have snacks, be active, and it all came with a minimal cost, a couple of canned goods, usually, and a small daily offering, .50 cents or a dollar maybe, tops.

I got to thinking how this old lady, with more time on my hands than good sense, could invest in her family, rather than be lazy, sitting on my couch all day, gazing out the window and watching life pass me by. At the same time, what a blessing it would be to get to relive some of my fondest memories of young motherhood.

As a young mom, I always looked so forward to summer. I thought of it as a time to unplug from secular mainstream and snuggle in with God. I thought of all the ways I could help try and tutor my kids in the subjects they struggled with so much during the school year, but we didn’t have the time to address. I thought of all the projects that needed done, that we could do together. Mother’s Day was usually about the time I put on my rose-colored sunglasses and started daydreaming of all the fun we were going to have over the summer. I envisioned the glorious bonding experiences – just the kids and me.

I always took advantage of the bargain priced summer passes for the roller-skating rink, Summer Movie Matinees, and swim lessons at the swimming pool, and could usually count on the cousins visiting for a few weeks in June or July, which would include camp-outs, sleep-overs, sunbathing on the roof, trampoline bouncing, playhouse lounging, bike riding, park picnics, hiking adventures, and various other backyard shenanigans. I made sure to have a freezer full of popsicles and all the stuff on hand to make Orange Julius’s and French toast.

I also remember how just when we were all starting to slip into lazy mode, sleep-in-til-8am, stay-up-til-midnight, TV-binge-watching, and oh so unproductive summer routines, every once in a great-great while I would selfishly crave a morning to myself, to spend outside in the fresh air, in my Bible with a hot cup of coffee, listing to a favorite worship CD, soaking up some blue skies and summer sun, the smell of blooming lilac bushes wafting in the air, green grass tickling between my toes, and the various birdie’s serenading. Ahhhhh!!!! the dew-covered serenity of it all!!! And what I would have given to be able to bask for just a few uninterrupted hours, without a kid whining for breakfast, or sniveling that they can’t find their shoes, or begging in their I’m-soooo-bored-voice if the neighbor kids can come over and play, pleeeeease? What I would have given for a grandparent to knock on my door and ask to kidnap the kids for a few solitary hours.

So, here I am, a decade and a half later, the grandparent. Slipping on the same rose-colored glasses and imagining how I can be a blessing to my grandkids like I tried to be for my kids. It’s easy to be lazy, but how much work is it really to get up, get dressed, pick up kids, take them to VBS’s, drop them off, and in a couple hours, repeat the process in reverse? How much trouble is it really to throw down a slab of clay, a box of crayons, a set of dominoes, a deck of cards, or a good book and spend an afternoon showing little people how to do it? How much trouble is it to drag out the sleeping bags, pop a bag of popcorn, and then camp out together and giggle in the guest bedroom on the king-sized bed watching movies until we can’t keep our eyes open any longer? How many memories can we pack into a day, a summer, a lifetime?

I shared my plan with my daughter one day before school got out. Bless her heart, she was more than happy not only to share her children with me and let me relive some of my best mom-moments with them, but to also go with me to all the churches in town and gather information. We made a notebook of all the information we could from the info stations of each church, and I started writing VBS dates on my calendar.

We found that pretty much every week of the summer some church or another in our town was having VBS, and the weeks that were empty, those weeks could be easily filled with other things that were available in our community, like gymnastics camp, movie matinees, library day, picnics at the park, Frisbee golf, hiking, floating the river, fishing, baseball games, rodeo, etc. Whatever was lacking in our town could be done at home: backyard movies, cookie baking, a lemonade stand, bike riding, learning a new board game, a homeschool science camp – using You Tube, a homeschool art camp – using You Tube, swimming, soaking our feet in tubs of sudsy water, crafts, Nerf gun wars, taking pictures, collecting items for craft projects, etc. There were also going to be birthday parties to host and attend, 4th of July fireworks, and bull riding would be in town the weekend before school started back again.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men. Fast forward to September and can you guess how our summer flew by? It was hands-down one of the best summers EVER!!!!! One for the record books, for sure. We filled it with lots of sleepovers, VBS every week, visiting cousins, tons of crafting, “Hunter-Hunted” Nerf wars in the back yard with grandpa, yard-saling on Fridays, ice-cream, BBQ, hot dogs, watermelon, and everything else on the list. By mid-August we had been-there-done-that, seen it all, done it all, and had to start changing gears for back-to-school with clothes shopping and gathering supplies (and you know the whole love affair that goes with all of that NEW STUFF). By the time things started to slow down, which, honestly, they never did, it was right about perfect timing for the kids to start missing their routines, their desks, their friends, and could hardly wait for school to start again.

I want to encourage all you grandmas out there, that if this page full of rambling words has caught you in your jammies, sipping your morning coffee, and gazing out your window at the tiny hummingbirds scavenging for food, I hope you’ll think about the little people God has gathered to us, who are just as hungry for our time, our love, our attention, and a great big long sip of GRANDMA, as those returning hummers are for that red nectar.

I hope if your mind has sauntered off into a delicious daydream of motherhood-gone-by, that you’ll be spurned on to good works by GRANDMA-not-gone-yet. I hope if you have grandkids, and more time on your hands than good sense, that you’ll get busy and be useful before the little people in your life hyper drive off to another feeder (and be gone forever). I pray you feel equipped by what you’ve read here with an arsenal of great ideas to keep your family busy, Stuff it all into your ditty bag and unpack it with the ones you love while sipping a slushie lemonade in a hammack in the shade, all along the summer trails of life.

Oh that we would consider it all joy, to serve the precious darlings we’ve been so blessed to have in our lives. Oh that we would not waste another moment sitting around in our jammies staring out a window, but jump up and number our days, and sprint into action to redeem the time. May we treasure the memories that will be made, before a single tick-tock of life robs us of them! To the praise and glory of God!

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“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.'”

Matthew 19:14

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“Happy Resurrection Day” Treasure Hunt 2021

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“Happy Resurrection Day” Treasure Hunt 2021

He is risen, risen indeed!  And before He departed He raised His hands and blessed His apostles and all those who were with them, and gave them (and us) a GREAT COMMISSION…

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Amen.”  Matthew 28:17

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved…”   Mark 16:15-16

This is the theme I felt compelled to share with my grandchildren this year.

Easter Sunday Morning I made our sort-of traditional dinner (Lamb Chops, Ritz Chicken casserole, Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts in Hollandaise Sauce with bacon and toasted slivered almonds, Sweet Pea salad, Hot Cross Buns, Garlic Butter Smash Potatoes – loaded with onions, cheese, bacon, and sour cream, and for dessert…a Strawberry Cobbler).  I had the hot dishes warming in the oven when family arrived, so that the kids could do the Egg Hunt part of it all right away, because I knew they were really excited about it, and then we sat down to dinner to satisfy our hungry bellies before we continued with the rest of the fun.

Oh my goodness, I could hardly wait for them to arrive that morning. I had spent weeks preparing for this moment.  I was nervous though too, hoping it would all work out as planned. 

When I heard the car doors closing out front,  I ran to greet them at the door, and welcomed all their super-tight, I’ve-missed-you-sooooo-much grandma hugs and kisses.  “Are you ready for some fun?” I asked.  Oh yes, for sure, they seemed just as excited as I was. So, I led them through the house to where I had their plastic buckets waiting for them by the back door.  As we arrived there I pointed to my wall hanging and asked them if they liked my pretty “CHURCH.”  I wanted to make sure they saw it.  I think they liked it, but honestly they were so distracted with hunting for eggs I was slightly worried that they were going to miss an important clue.  Oh well.  I supposed that if I had to help trigger their memory later that would be fine.  We stepped outside the door to gasps and squeals as they caught glimpses of all the colorful eggs strewn to kingdom come all over the lawn.  There in front of them was the lawn sign that said, “You’ve been egged…” 

We read the sign together and then the girls, pausing for permission, got the green flag to GO! Like racecars lined up at the starting line, engines revving, grandma waved them off and there they went as quickly as their little legs would carry them.  One girl ran right, the other ran left, like two little humming birds buzzing around, literally just blurs against the green lawn.  I had to put my camera into “sports” mode so the pictures wouldn’t all be just a blur. I barely got a handful of shots before the eggs were completely gathered.  Lol!  The girls sat down in the lawn and dumped out their buckets wanting to see what was inside all the eggs.

But at this point we pushed the pause button on the hunt so we could partake of our feast.  All our tummies were growling.  The girls left their buckets and eggs lie, and we all washed up.  I swiftly set our hot dishes on the table and asked Jo to set out napkins and silverware for everyone.  We all sat down, bowed our heads, and thanked our precious Jesus for giving His life for us, and for blessing our fellowship this beautiful day.

The next part of the fun was to open all the eggs and see what was inside.  The eggs were filled with candy mints (Testamints), Resurrection buttons, and paper items. 

I instructed the girls to set their candy aside and put all their paper items back in their buckets.  They pinned all their Resurrection buttons onto their shirts.  Jo was the winner of the empty egg.  I asked them if they had found a paper heart with their name on it.  Yes, they both had.  Perfect!  These hearts had scriptures written on the other side – Proverbs 23:26/Matthew 22:37-38 /Romans 10:9.  Their dad pulled the scriptures up on his cell phone Bible app and the girls read them out loud together.

“My [daughter], give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” Proverbs 23:26

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.”  Matthew 22:37, 38

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9

Will you give your hearts to Jesus, your whole hearts, I asked?  Then I handed them a note.  On the back was a clue where to look for Jesus.

The girls tore off in that direction, with granny hot on their heels.  Lol, no, I was nowhere near their heels.  I was miles behind them panting and yelling for them to wait for me as I hobbled at top granny speed. Ha!  I could hear them screaming in the distance, “We found Him!  We found Him!  We found Jesus!  I got there just in time to snap a photo of them reading the note from Jesus’ right hand.  It said:  Read John 21:12-17/Matthew 25:31-40 …

Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”  John 21:12-17

I asked the girls, “Do you know what Jesus meant by “feed my sheep?”  Who are Jesus’ sheep? And what do we feed them?

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:31-40

… and then the note said to “Go and look for the “least of these,” the lost people, who are everywhere, and bring them to Jesus, and give them what they need.  Then open the note in Jesus’ left hand.

So the girls began looking around for the lost people (the paper people) and finally spotted one pinned to the backside of a tree.  They found them all pinned to the backsides of the trees, lots of trees, hiding basically behind every tree.  Some high, some low.  The girls kept looking and finding…Red people, white people, brown people, black people, yellow people.  And all of the people had needs written on them.  The girls brought them all to the feet of Jesus and laid them out, and then began going through the paper items in their buckets to see if they had the things the paper people needed.  They helped each other meet the needs until all the food and clothes, etc. had been given away. 

Then the girls opened the note in Jesus left hand.  It instructed them to take the people to church.  To my delight the girls remembered exactly where the church was.  They grabbed up all the paper people and took them to church, with all of us (parents and grandparents) gasping for air and trailing along after.  We brought Jesus with us and left him just outside the back door.  When the girls arrived at the church there was a bag of jewels beside it, with a note on it that said to read James 1:12.

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12

I told the girls that each one could take one jewel (from the bag of jewels) for each person they brought to Jesus, helped, and brought to church.  So they counted out their jewels, and as they did I got out crowns for them and let them pick which color they wanted, and told them to use the jewels to decorate their crowns.  So they sat down at the coffee table and stuck their jewels to their crowns while I read 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”  1 Corinthians 3:11-15

We talked about how the only works that will survive the fire are the ones we did out of love (1 Corinthians 12:1-4) and true love comes only from Jesus.  “Greater love has no man than this, that He lay down His life for his friends.”  It is the love of Jesus in us that compels us to do His good works and we should always listen to that still small voice that lays things on our hearts to do.  Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? How the religious people were on their way to do religious things, but passed on by the person in front of them who had a need. Only one person helped that person – the good Samaritan.

When the girls were finished, I took a picture of the two of them wearing their beautiful crowns and then asked them to read the scripture written on the inside of the crowns, and to do what it says. 

“the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”   Revelation 4:10-11

They took their crowns outside and tossed them at the feet of Jesus.  Then I told them about there being one last note on the back of Jesus.  They opened this note.  It said, “I’ve seen your good works.  Behold, your reward is under your bed!” 

Now, if I was a truly Godly old woman it would have ended there, but I’m ornery, and didn’t want the fun to end.  So, when they went to go get their rewards they found only empty boxes with a note taped to each that said, “Oooops, I lied, you might try looking [in another spot] for your reward.”  I heard the littlest one say, “Graaaammmaaaaw!” as they stood to their feet and headed to that other location, and there they both again found another empty box and another note attached to it that said, “Oooops, I lied…”  Those notes mercifully led them to the right spots, and soon they appeared with their Easter Baskets in hand, excited to tear into them and see what they got.

Grandpa had gotten them a huge egg with Easter crafts inside.  I had gotten them each a game – one an Easter finger puppet game and the other an Easter Match-it game.  There were a couple of other goodies too.  Another little note in the bottom of their bags said, “Happy Easter darling! It gave them a list of more things they could do now that their hunt was over:

  • Go “egg” someone’s house
  • Do their Easter crafts
  • Play the Match-it game with sister
  • Put on an Easter Finger-Puppet play for the grown-ups
  • Play the Jesus Ring-toss game outside (it’s what I had used as our JESUS for the hunt)
  • Watch a movie*
  • Eat dessert

*Our choices of movies were:  The Chosen season 1 (DVD), Risen (Pure Flix), Drive Thru History 3-episode Easter Special (TBN/dvr), The History of Easter (TBN/dvr).

The girls did their crafts, put on their finger-puppet play, had several competitions of Jesus ring-toss, and played Match-it while I got dessert together.  We all ate dessert and then watched Risen.  Welllllllllll, the girls actually only watched part of Risen, and then one fell asleep, and the other disappeared to the mancave where the men were watching something else waaaaaaay more entertaining.  Probably Dude Perfect or something.  At one point I do think they meandered to their bedroom to watch the animated movie, Lion of Judah – The Lamb That Saved The World.

I took a dish of our cobbler over to my elderly neighbors, and when I got back my son-in-law was saying his goodbye’s.  He had to get up early for work the next morning so he bid farewell and made his exit .  I drove my daughter and grandchildren home a couple hours later, after we had watched The History of Easter on the TV.  It was the best day!  The girls said it was their favorite Easter ever, buuuuuuttttt they say that every year.  I’m so blessed to have them.  What great, and grateful kids they are.  Easy to love and easy to spoil.

If our Easter celebration sounds like something you’d like to do with your kiddos next year, here are some of my helps:

Preparations

• About 3 weeks before Easter, after I had worked out what I was going to do, I placed an order with Oriental Trading Company.  They ship quickly, but it’s nice to have things well in advance.

• I already had a bunch of plastic Easter eggs that I keep in a plastic tub and use from year to year, but if you don’t have any, you’ll need to purchase those – about 40 per child, various sizes and colors.  And if you want to fill yours with goodies (other than mints and buttons), go grab that stuff as well.

• Make Paper people: Need construction paper, 2 sheets each of red, yellow, black, brown, & white.  I folded my various colored construction papers, accordion style, and then cut paper doll shapes out of them (see diagram below).  On each person I wrote a need (shirt, shoes, pants, dress, Bible, medicine, food, etc.).  Save these “least-of-these people” to hide near the area where you place the Jesus ring-toss figure.

• Make paper items:  Need various colors of construction paper.  Cut out the shapes of one heart for each child, shirts, dresses, pants, medicine, food, etc. and also include the tiny Bibles. You’ll need enough paper items for each paper doll (see diagram above) to have one item.  On each heart write a child’s name so that if one kid finds both hearts they can give it to the one that it belongs to.  Write the scriptures on the back of each heart.

• Put Jesus together.  I used packing tape to hold the footings of the Jesus ring-toss figure in place.  I clipped a clothespin to Him to hold the hearts that the girls gave Him. I taped the notes, in envelopes, to His right and left hand, and His backside.

• I hung my church wall cling near my back door, where our Easter Egg Hunt would begin.  I placed the kids’ Easter buckets in front of the “church” so they would take notice of it. 

• Beside the church I placed a bag of jewels.  On the bag of jewels I put a note that read (take your pick) 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 2:10 & 3:11; James 1:12; and 1 Peter 5:4.     

• Write “Revelation 4:4, 10-11 on the inside of each crown. 

• Put up the “You’ve Been Egged” yard sign just outside the back door (or wherever you plan to hide your eggs).  Remember to leave one egg empty.  You can have a special prize for the kid who gets the empty egg.  And, you can decide later if you want to “Egg” somebody else’s house.  If you decide to, have the kids fill 11 of 12 eggs with little prizes (buttons, mints, or anything you choose – in fact, you could even decide to bless someone (in the spirit of all we’ve learned today) by stuffing the eggs with money and “egging” a house where you know the people and children are very poor, and provide them little trinkets to put in the eggs to keep the game going.

• Fill the eggs.  Fill with all the paper items first, and then with the buttons and the mints, and if you have more eggs, fill them with whatever other items you would like (candy, small toys, coins, etc.).  Remember to leave one egg empty.

• Put together the final prize baskets (my daughter doesn’t like her girls to have too much candy, and since it is for their health I try to behave myself as grandma, which is really really hard, but I understand so I try to honor her wishes.  Grandpa and I fill the prize baskets with toys and minimal sweet things.  A chocolate cross and a package of peeps is about all I am able to get away with.  Grandpa tucks in a few toys and I try to find a small game or two that I think they will enjoy. 

I pray you have a happy Resurrection celebration with your family and are able to make use of my plans.  May we all be watching for the LORD to return and busy about the Lord’s business until that day, especially in these dark LAST DAYS!!!!  God bless you my friends.

Mr. Popper's Penguins, Classroom Book Party

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Mr. Popper's Penguins, Classroom Book Party

I just so happen to know a classroom of 2nd Graders, who are about to finish their book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and a teacher who is generous to allow an ol’ gray-headed granny to workout her party animal muscle on an excited group of fun-seeking little readers.

Like most classroom book parties, this one features decorations, games, snacks, and a movie. I did some research here in order to gather ideas, since I have not read this book.

I thought the kids might like dressing up like little penguins (large white t-shirts with long black jackets, and puffy yellow penguin-feet slippers) and then putting on some of the same acts from the book, that Captain Cook, Greta, and their adroable waddling mini-mes did, for their teacher and classmates. I’ll divide the classroom into three groups. They won’t know why until I take the first group outside in the hallway where they’ll put on their costumes and then hear my instructions for putting on a silly show. The first group will come out on stage and do some marching – which may involve the passing off of a penguin egg or baby penguin (stuffed animal), and I’m hoping they will really get into character to make the show entertaining for their audience. That group will then exit the stage, take off their costumes, and take their places back at their desks. The next group will enter the hallway, don their penguin apparrel, take their turn on stage, and have a silly boxing match with oversize boxing gloves and some silly fancy footwork. Finally, the last group will take the stage, climb up on bean bags and slide back down, to the whoots and cheers of their adoring classmates.

I’ll put up a map of the United States on one of the classroom walls, and during the movie, pause to let the kids move penguin stickers across all the places where the penguins put on their shows.

The kids will get to watch the movie and at the same time nibble on some fun snacks, which I’ll serve on penguin paper plates, with penguin paper cups and napkins.

SNACKS:

undefined Penguin Rice Crispy Treats

— OR — a more healthy alternative

undefined Penguin Banana Snacks

Goldfish crackers undefined

undefined Snowcones in a cup – our little school happens to have a snowcone machine – hurray!!!!

undefined

Easy Sonic Ocean Water Recipe

5 min·Yield: 3

You have to try this Sonic Ocean Water Recipe. Make your favorite Sonic Ocean water at home.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp Water
  • 3 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Coconut Extract
  • 4 drops Blue Food Coloring
  • 24 oz Sprite ((can be 3 cans or from a 2-liter that you can get for cheap))

Soooooo, now you know my plans. I’ll head back to this post in a few weeks and add pictures, just as soon as my little munchkin-hearts get to have their epic-antarctic party!!!! I’m so looking forward to it. ❤

The Sign of the Beaver, Book Party

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The Sign of the Beaver, Book Party

I was recently blessed with the task of throwing a book party for my granddaughter’s classroom, to celebrate their finishing reading the book, The Sign of the Beaver. It was a “Dinner and a Movie” party, in which I was asked to provide the food and decorations. The party took place over their lunch hour. I set the food up as a buffet, and arranged a few minimal decorations while the kids were in PE, which mostly consisted of stuffed animals and a river. After a brief explanation of all the foods, the kids were allowed to help themselves and eat while they watched the movie. And when the movie was over the teacher did a little activity with them to compare the movie to the book. The kids were so excited, and not only did they eat everything, they asked to take all the leftovers home with them. All that was left was a little bit of stew in the bottom of the crock pot, so I would say it was a success! What a great group of kids, always so grateful and always a ton of fun to spoil.

This has become, honestly, one of my very favorite volunteer activities in the whole wide world to do, even though it is a ton of work. It is a labor of love! In order to prepare, I read the book and made a list of all the foods mentioned, as well as took notes of some decorating ideas that I hoped would kind of bring the book to life for the kids. I had never read this book before, and shame on me, because it is a terrific little book. I am a huge fan of historical fiction and children’s novels are just my speed. I’m not much of a reader, for a plethora of reasons, but when it only takes about three hours to knock a book out, that’s in my wheelhouse. So, after reading it I set out doing some research to find authentic northeastern tribal recipes for the foods mentioned in the book. It couldn’t have been more perfect for this party to come during Thanksgiving/hunting season, and during the last harvests of our gardens. And for a beverage I brought two jugs of “Penobscot River water” and let the kids sweeten it with a bit of maple sugar.

I decided to center the party around the idea of the Bear Feast that was celebrated in Attean’s village after Attean and Matt encountered and killed a bear in self-defense while they were out retrieving a rabbit from one of the snares they’d set up. I also wanted to incorporate some of the wild game, the maple sugar Attean gave to Matt, and some of the fruits and berries and native foods that would have been eaten back then.

DECORATIONS: The book’s setting is in the late summer into early wintertime of the year, early/mid 1700’s Maine, and in the vicinity of the Penobscot River, where Matt and his dad cleared a tract of land, built a cabin, and planted a garden. Attean and his Indian tribe lived nearby. It was a wooded area teaming with wildlife, maple trees, and wild berry bushes. So for decorations I decided to gather up all the stuffed animals we had that would represent the animals in the forest: a bear rug/blanket, bunny rabbit, fox, deer, squirrel, fish, turtle, beaver, and Attean’s useless dog. I also gathered up a blue bedsheet that I used to make a river with the first time I threw this party (I used bulletin board paper the second time), a pile of sticks on one end to make a beaver dam, some rocks to line the river (and the second party I used the rocks to hold the tree upright), and because we’re in Texas, I used a Buc-ees Beaver the first time I threw this party to sit on top of the beaver’s sticks. I used some gorgeous, colorful, fall paper maple leaves to scatter around beside the river. I drug my little tree to the school to set beside the river and I used a Drimmel Tool to carve a beaver design into a tree stump, which I used as a decoration. The Teepee shown in the photo below was an afterthought, I wish I would have remembered to bring it to the party, but considering the northeastern Indians actually lived in wigwams, rather than teepees, t’was no biggy I guess.

In case you’re thinking of throwing this party and would like a great big bear rug to spread on the floor for your party, don’t go spend a fortune at an Outdoor store before you check your local thrift stores. I frequently find a giant teddy bear at Goodwill for $6, which would work marvelously as a rug with all the stuffin’s pulled out. I already had a bear blanket at home that I thought would work just dandy. BTW: Goodwill is a great budget friendly place to bargain shop for theme parties!

FOOD: Some of the foods mentioned in the book consisted of Johnny Cakes, which Matt’s dad made the last morning for breakfast, before he left his 12/13 year old son in Maine to care for the cabin and garden alone, while he went back to Massachusetts to retrieve Matt’s pregnant mother and sister. He left Matt with his good rifle to hunt with, and for self defense. Some of the animals they hunted were deer, rabbits, and fish with one precious fish hook.

I made deer jerky out of a couple packages of deer cutlets gifted to me by one of the parents. My sister has the absolute best jerky recipe on the planet and so I used it, and only modified it slightly, so it wouldn’t be too spicy for the kids. This is my adaptation:

Sister Geraldeen’s Beef (or venison) Jerky

1  3-lb roast, fresh, raw (it is easiest to slice if placed in the freezer for about an hour)

16 oz. Soy Sauce

2.5 oz. liquid smoke

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp Salt Lick dry rub, with garlic (equal parts cayenne powder, black pepper, and garlic powder)

Stir together in a large oblong glass baking dish until sugar is dissolved.

Using a sharp knife, slice lean meat into thin strips (1/4 to 1/8” thick and 1/2  to 1” wide).  Slice across the grain for a tenderer product.  Lay the slices down into the marinade until the meat takes up most of it.  Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down on top of the meat so the marinade covers the meat completely.  Place in refrigerator overnight. 

In the morning, drain off and discard all of the marinade.  Then mix together these dry ingredients in a separate small bowl:

1 Tablespoon cracked Pepper

1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper flakes

1 teaspoons of Chili powder

Sprinkle over drained meat strips and toss with hands to coat evenly (I use latex gloves).  Preheat food dehydrator.  Lay strips of meat on each rack leaving small spaces in between the pieces for good air circulation.  Stack the racks in the dehydrator, cover, and allow to dehydrate undisturbed for about 8 hours.  Check the meat for doneness, and let it dehydrate more if still wet or bendy when cooled.  Depending upon your dehydrator, it could take up to 24 hours or more for the meat to fully dry.  Meat is done when a piece removed and cooled will break in half easily and not bend or fold at all without breaking.

If you don’t have a dehydrator you can buy a package of disposable Aluminum Grill Liners (I use KT’s Clean BBQ brand available from Home Depot) or online, and completely cover the racks in your oven with them, then lay the strips of meat on those. Also lay a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of your oven to catch the drips. Adjust the racks to that they are placed in the center of your oven, and then set the oven temp to its lowest setting. Mine will only go as low as 170 degrees F. Prop the oven door open a little bit with a wooden spoon so the moisture can vent out as the meat dries. It won’t take as long to jerk your meat in the oven at that temp as it will in the dehydrator, so check it after about 4 hours, and then every half hour or so after that until the meat is dried as described above.

Place finished jerky in clean, sterilized mason jars, and use a Food Saver to remove all the air from the jars.  Place jars in a cool, dry place for up to two weeks.  For longer storage, place in refrigerator and eat within a month.

Johnny Cakes

I ran out of time to make these for the the first party (poor time management the morning of the party), but I did make them for the second party, and the kids loved them, especially with real butter and pure maple syrup on top. YUM!

Ingredients

1 cup flour

1 cup cornmeal

2 eggs

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup melted butter

1 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Butter or oil for frying

Instructions

1. In a large bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in milk, water, egg, vanilla and melted butter. Thoroughly mix until pancake mixture is smooth.

2. Heat a lightly oiled cast iron or frying pan over medium high heat. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of the batter onto the pan.

3. Fry each Johnny cake until brown and crisp; turn with a spatula, and then brown the other side.

4. Remove and serve immediately with syrup and/or butter. These can be eaten hot for breakfast, or cold as a snack later in the day.

Three Sisters Harvest Stew  (a.k.a. Bear Stew)

INGREDIENTS

1 pound beef stew meat

1 teaspoon ground cumin

 Kosher salt, as needed

 Black pepper, as needed

2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups turkey, chicken, or beef stock, or combo (low sodium bone broth),

1 rib of celery

1 large carrot

8 small red or yellow potatoes, cut in half

1 medium yellow squash, diced

1/4 cabbage, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained

2 cups fresh or frozen cut green beans

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 (4-ounce) can roasted green chilies (1/2 cup)

Add 1 jalapeno, unless using spicy green chilies

½ bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

PREPARATION  (YIELD: 8 servings – TIME: 1 hour 40 minutes)

Season beef with cumin, salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add beef, in batches if necessary, and cook, turning as needed, until lightly browned on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer beef to a bowl and set aside.

Add onion to pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, until lightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Return beef to pan, along with stock and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium simmer and cook meat until almost tender.  Add carrots, celery, potatoes, and bring to a boil.  Cook 20 minutes, then lower heat to medium.

Add beans, tomatoes, corn, chilies and squash, and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until stew has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.

COOKING NOTES

Three sisters is so-called because Native Americans inter-planted corn, beans and squash in the same mound. The 3 thrive together because corn provides a natural pole for the beans to climb, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, and the squash leaves shade the ground to prevent the growth of weeds, and also helps to hold soil moisture.

Recipe adapted from: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016956-three-sisters-stew

Grandmother’s Indian Cornbread (Broadswords)

The Iroquois Indians made a wonderful boiled corn bread. They made flour by pounding corn into corn flour. To make bread, they mixed water with the corn flour. Sometimes cooked beans were added, or berries or nuts. The bread was kneaded and formed into small loaves. The loaves were dropped into boiling water and cooked until the bread floated. Boiled corn bread was served both hot and cold. They also used the same bread mix to bake bread by putting it on clay tablets in the fire. They used sunflower oil to fry bread. Below is a recipe for steamed corn bread with beans, wrapped in corn husks. It is remarkably similar to tamales. This was the kids’ FAVORITE food of the party. I would have bet against that. Good thing I made a big batch!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups masa harina (corn flour used for tamales)
  • ½ cup rendered bacon fat (many traditional Native American recipes use fat as a flavor element and source of vital nutrients)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup cooked beans (really any type of bean will work but small brown beans are traditional. I used great northern beans)
  • 2 cups hot cooking liquid from beans
  • Dried corn husks

Directions

  1. Set up a steamer on your stove top using a steamer basket fitted over a pot with plenty of gently simmering water.
  2. Thoroughly rinse about 25 corn husks. Place corn husks in a large pan of boiling water. Place another smaller plate or bowl on top of the corn husks to keep them submerged. Set husks on low heat to soften while you prepare the dough.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine masa harina and bacon fat. Using your fingertips (I used latex gloves), work the lard into the flour until it is evenly distributed. Add salt, baking powder, beans, and the hot cooking liquid from the beans. Use a spoon to stir mixture until a thick, sticky dough comes together, it will be about the consistency of chocolate chip cookie dough.
  4. Use your hands to scoop ¼ cup-sized portions of dough, working quickly as dough will still be hot from the bean cooking liquid. Shape the dough into a ball and flatten slightly into a 1-inch thick oval, which is your “broadsword.” Wrap the broadsword in a corn husk, folding the husk around the dough on all sides to completely enclose it. Tear off small strips of corn husks to use as ties around the broadswords to hold them closed. Place the wrapped broadswords vertically in the steamer basket as you go. When all broadswords have been added to basket, lower it over boiling water, cover the steamer basket with a tight fitting lid, and allow broadswords to steam covered for 1 hour or more.
  5. After 1 hour, check the bean bread- if the corn husk pulls away easily, the broadswords are done cooking.
  6. Broadswords may be eaten hot, or stored in refrigerator to be eaten cold or rewarmed in oven or microwave.

Roasted Pumpkin

Members of the Chippewa tribe near Lake Superior have been enjoying this sweet and savory side dish for generations.

Ingredients:

1 small sugar pumpkin

1/4 cup maple syrup or maple sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

Instructions:

Cut the cap off of pumpkin and stab it about 4 times with a sharp knife.  Scoop out membranes and seeds.  (Wash seeds in a colander and discard all membranes. Place seeds in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon sea salt, toss and allow them to soak a bit while you prepare the pumpkin, then spread seeds on a very lightly oiled, or parchment lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with some extra salt. Place seeds in oven with pumpkin, but check and remove seeds once they have roasted – about 15 minutes or until you hear one or two pop. Check by removing a seed, let it cool, and then eat it. If it is crispy it is done). Add butter and syrup/sugar to the pumpkin.  Replace cap on pumpkin and place whole in a large ovenproof bowl .  Place pumpkin in a 350 °F oven for about 1 hr. and check for tenderness. Depending upon size, and variances with ovens, it may take up to 90 minutes for pumpkin to cook fully. You know it is getting close when the pumpkin looks like it has a tan and the sides are soft to the touch. Check tenderness by piercing side of pumpkin with a fork.  If the fork punctures through the skin and into the flesh easily, it is done.

Dried Fruit & Nut Cake

I’m not much of a fruitcake person, but I think it is because I don’t care for the usual candied fruits that come in fruitcake, such as pineapple and green cherries, etc. Using dried fruits is so much better.

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup Molasses

1 ½ sticks of Butter (3/4 cup), softened

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup each rough chopped dried: apricots, plums, figs, pears, dates, golden raisins, blueberries

1 cup each: walnut halves, pecans, almonds, pistachios

Instructions

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 320°F (150°C). Spray the loaf pans (either two 9-by-5-inch 8-cup loaf pans or 8 mini loaf pans) with vegetable oil spray and then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix the first eight ingredients together using a mixer on low speed.  Increase speed to medium and beat until batter is smooth, scraping the bowl often with a rubber spatula.  Stir in the dried fruit and the nuts and mix thoroughly, with your fingers if necessary. Set aside.

3. Use an ice cream scoop or scrape batter into the prepared pans.

4. Bake until the top is deep golden brown and the batter clinging to the fruit seems set, about 30 minutes for smaller loaves, 10 to 15 minutes longer for a large loaf. Insert toothpick to check for doneness. Toothpick should come out clean. Don’t let cake overbake or it will be dry. Tent loosely with foil if the cake appears to be browning too much. Cool completely in the pans on a rack.

5. When completely cool, remove the cake from the pans. The cake keeps, wrapped airtight in foil or plastic wrap, for several weeks at room temperature or at least 3 months in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for at least 6 months.

6. To serve, cut into thin slices with a sharp heavy knife.

Dried Fruit and Nut Cake Recipe adapted from © 2007 Alice Medrich. All rights reserved. All materials used with permission. Alice used dates, dried Angelino plums, and dried pears.

Fire Roasted Fish

I didn’t make the fish for the first party, although I was given some trout for the party and had a wild daydream about having the kids following me outside to the park just a block from the school, where my husband could be tending a fire next the creek that runs through it, and on the way having them mark their trail just like Attean showed Matt to do in the book, so they could find their way back to class, but reality check – there really wasn’t enough time for that kind of shenanigans, and besides that, the only way to eat trout is freshly caught and properly cleaned, otherwise I think it would have been a waste of time to try and fix it for the kids. I’m sure they would all have turned up their noses and shied away from having even one tiny bite of the stinky fish, plus the teacher was surely not going to appreciate her room smelling of stinky fish for days either. For the second party I cracked open a can of Herring fillets, and to my surprise the kids ate the whole can.

This however, is an outstanding recipe for any fish. Give it a try with walleye, snapper, perch, bass, cod, redfish, tilapia, etc. If using fillets, lay all the ingredients on the fish and wrap with bacon rather than placing the bacon inside.

Ingredients

Salt and Pepper

1 Big Fish (Salmon, Trout, Perch)

Butter

Lemon Slices

Onion slices

Green Bell Pepper slices (or Jalapeno strips)

Several strips of thin sliced precooked (but not crispy) bacon

Directions

  1. Set up an outdoor kitchen: a hot fire with glowing coals surrounded by large flat rocks; a big jug of fresh clean water for rinsing the fish, plus the knife, and your hands.
  2. Carefully kill, gut and scale each fish immediately upon catching it, and rinse well in clean water.
  3. Sprinkle inside of fish with salt and pepper.  Place pats of butter, lemon, onion, and bell pepper slices inside the fish and lay a strip of precooked bacon down on top of them in the cavity of the fish. Tie wet string around the fish to hold the stuffings in and to hold it together while it grills.
  4. Or, rub fish with butter on both sides and wrap tightly in a big piece of tinfoil and crimp the edges closed.  Wrap again in a second piece of tinfoil.
  5. Bake on a smooth flat rock really close to the fire (but not in it!), or if you have a grate, lay the fish on the grate above the fire. Or, fry in butter in a heavy cast iron pan over the fire.
  6. Use a long handled spatula to carefully turn the fish about half way through cooking and also to remove it from the fire.
  7. Note: The amount of time it takes to cook varies depending on the size of fish and how close it is to the fire. Just keep checking it, it will be done when the flesh flakes easily with a fork.  May take from 15 to 20 minutes if on a grate over the fire, or to up to an hour if laying on a hot rock next to the fire.

Recipe adapted from one found by Lauren McArdle …who learned this from her Mohawk Grandmother in Saskatchewan.

“Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, the tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed…” Psalm 74:2

Our Big Fat End-of-the-school-year Classical Academy Toga Party

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Our Big Fat End-of-the-school-year Classical Academy Toga Party

Costumes

  • Togas  (made from white sheets and king-size pillowcases), with golden rope for belts
  • Laurel wreath head garlands – given as prizes for Olympics  (made from green posterboard and spray painted with gold glitter paint)
  • Sandals  (made from cardboard and ribbon)

Decorations

  • Classroom door:  Pillars on each side, sheer white curtains draped over the top, and a “Phi-Beta-Kappa (ΦΒΚ) TOGA PARTY HERE” sign hanging crooked on the doorknob.  *P.S. Phi Beta Kappa means “Love of wisdom is the guide of life” or “Philosophy is the governor of one’s life.” (*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phi_Beta_Kappa)
  • Food table (in center of the room):  Push all the desks together to make a table and cover it with layers of colorful tablecloths and draped tulle.  Make a centerpiece of tall candlesticks and metal vases with flowers.  Set finger foods around on the table like a buffet.  Set out fixings for Gyros.  Set out platters of cheese curds or cubes, almonds, and varieties of olives; figs, dates, pomegranates, artichokes, and pedestal-bowls heaped with green, red, and purple grapes spilling over the sides.
  • Chase lounge chairs covered in sheets or cushions:  poolside or lawn lounge chairs are what I had in mind.
  • Music CD:  Animal House Soundtrack (some of it is fun and useful), and if you have a computer, or even better, a Roku and TV available there are some marvelous Greek instrumental music (You Tube) videos (some up to 2½ hours long) out there that offer both music and a slide show of Grecian landscapes that are awesome for ambience. 
  • Photo Booth props with backdrop:  Amazon.com

Food

  • Greek “grazing” table (grapes, olives, figs, pomegranates, artichokes, almonds, gyro ingredients: flat bread, Tzatziki, roasted chickpeas or grilled chicken pieces, grape tomatoes, spinach, and cucumbers, Fava dip, *cheese curds, white or purple grape juice in wine bottles, and Baklava for dessert
  • Wine goblets with handles on both sides (like sugar bowls w/o lids), which you can later use to explain an ancient Greek men’s game of throwing out the dregs.

Activities/Games

Foot & Hand Washing

I provided a tub of clean water on a mat beside the classroom entrance, and paper towels, for the kids to wash their own feet and hands.  As soon as they entered the room – with their correct “first” foot, I asked them to remove their shoes and then explained the custom of foot washing.  And then, since food was often eaten with hands, the Greeks also had a custom of hand washing before meals.

Symposium

I introduced several Table Talk discussion topics while the kids were sitting around in the recliners eating (I have a Box of Table Talk cards that I use for dinner table discussions – Food for Talk by Julienne Smith, which the teacher said she also has, that her mother sent to her. It must be a grandma thing! 😉 Too funny!).

Indoor games

I introduced Marbles, Dice, and KnuckleBones (which are available on Amazon: “Gogo Jacks, Rainbow Jacks, Osselets – New Vintage Game of Jacks Full Set of 5 with Instructions.” by On The Go) to the kids, explaining how each is played, and also…

Guess Who? (Family Box game, but replace caricatures that come in the game with my Greek versions – Greek teachers, philosophers, historians, artists, poets, playwrights, etc.  I made sheets of these which you can download and print for free).

I broke the class into 4 groups of 2 or 3 kids.  Each group started at one of the four games.  I gave them about 10 minutes to play their game and then signaled them to stand-up and move clockwise to the next game.

Crafts

I was prepared for two craft projects:  Making sandals, and Making earrings, but we ran out of time to do these.  (They were honestly a back-up plan for inclement weather anyway). 

Olympic games (Outdoors), End-of-the-school-year theme

  • Lunch box discus throw – I filled a lunch bag with dried beans to give it some weight
  • Pencil javelin throw – I used an old broom handle, painted it, and sanded a tip on one end
  • Long jump –  I used full plastic water-bottles for the weights, the larger the better
  • Alarm clock shot-put – I painted a clock face on a rock
  • Reading/Writing/Arithmetic Foot Race Relay – stack books up as obstacles on the track
  • Chariot/horse racing – I made stick horses, but wrap-around cardboard chariots where my other plan  “I have finished the race…”
  • Thumb or Arm Wrestling  (after a popsicle break, the kids can pair up at the picnic tables)

Alternative Outdoor games

  • Medusa Freeze Tag

Story Time

  • Gracee read to the kids for the last 15 minutes out of Aesop’s Fables (FYI: Aesop was born in Greece).

These are some wonderful books that offer tons of ideas, games and crafts a few of which are featured in this post ( I purchased my copies used from online booksellers):

RULES TO GAMES

  • Knucklebones:

The game of knucklebones, also known as astragaloi in Greek and tali in Latin, can be played in several different ways. The simplest and perhaps most common form of this game, played by children, is comparable to the modern-day game of jackstones: all five small pieces are simultaneously tossed into the air, the goal being to catch as many as possible on the back of one hand. Another variation of the game involved players throwing one or more of the pieces into a small dirt hole in the ground or into the opening of a small vessel. He or she with the best aim would win.

  • Marbles

Marbles is a fun game that has been enjoyed for thousands of years.

Setting up the Game

Use yarn to make a circle on the carpet about 3 ft in diameter.

Place 5 of each players (usually three players) small marbles inside the circle, near the center, and arrange them in an X pattern.  The one big marble in your set of marbles is your “shooter” marble.

To determine who goes first have each player sit about 10 feet from a wall and shoot or roll their shooter marble to see who can get the closest. The closest player goes first. Next closest goes second, etc.

Taking a Turn

To take a turn the player kneels outside the ring and then To shoot your marble correctly, tuck your thumb, pinkie, and ring finger into your palm. Wrap your pointer finger around the marble, holding it against your thumb knuckle. Then, with your “knuckles down” on the ground, use your thumb to flick the marble from your finger towards the group of marbles in the center of the circle.

The first shot must be taken from the edge of the circle, but the next shot can be taken from the spot where the shooter landed.

Pick up all the marbles you knocked out of the circle and place them beside you, then have another turn. If no marble is knocked out of the circle, the other player then gets a turn.

Winning in Marbles

When the ring is empty of marbles the game is over.  The player with the most marbles at the end of the game is the winner.

Marble terminology

Taw – shooter marble. It’s usually a heavier marble than the ones in the center so it can knock them out of the circle.  Other names for the shooter marble include Aggie, boulder, Steele, king, and middleman.

Mibs or Kimmies – the marbles in the center of the circle.

Lagging – shooting or rolling the marble to a line to determine who gets to go first.

Mibster – marble player

If you and your friends have sets of collectable or keepsake marbles and you are pretty good players, you may choose to play for “Keepsies.” Most of the time Marbles are played “for fair,” which means that every player keeps their marbles, but sometimes players keep the special marbles they win. One of the first things you want to decide is if you are playing “keepsies” or “for fair” before you begin a game.

  • Yoyo

Here’s a great website for learning Yoyo tricks: https://yoyotricks.com/yoyo-tricks/beginner-tricks/

I picked up the cheap yoyo’s from the toy section at Walmart and they were kind of frustrating for the kids to use. The string wasn’t tied tight around the center of the yoyo, so it made it hard for them to get it wound back up again once the string came unwound. Grrrr. Maybe you can figure out a solution for this?

  • Guess Who? – Greek version

I made cards to replace the cards that came with the game. 

Click HERE for the FREE PRINTABLES I made, so you can make your own Greek Guess Who game.

How to Play Guess Who?

To play this game, first choose your game board and then flip all your frames upright by tipping the game boards.  Players sit facing each other so they can’t see the other player’s frames.  Shuffle the MYSTERY cards and place them face down where each player can reach them.  Each player chooses one MYSTERY card and places it in the slot in the front of their game board.

Notice the differences in each of your 24 faces.  Some are girls, some are boys, some have a red, or black, or yellow background, some are wearing hats, some have beards/mustaches, some are wearing clothes, some are looking to your right, etc. 

The youngest player ALWAYS goes first.  On your turn you may ask ONE yes or no question. Example: Does your person have a gray background?  Your opponent must then answer either “yes” or “no.” If they answer “yes” you may flip down all the faces on your board that do not have a gray background.  After you ask your ONE question, and flip down any faces you can, your turn is over. 

If you are an expert on famous Greek people in history, here are some questions you may want to ask for this special GREEK VERSION of the game:

Is your person a…

Sculptor…doctor…poet…politician…artist…philosopher…mathmetician…author… historian…playwright…astronomer?  

When it is your turn again, and you think you have figured out who the MYSTERY person is, you may guess.  Example: Is your person Archimedes?  But don’t guess until you are sure, otherwise if your guess is wrong you will lose the game.  If your guess is right you win the game.  When you win you may slide your game counter over one point for each game you win.  Begin a new game by flipping all your faces back up, and drawing a new MYSTERY card.   The first player to win five games is the champion.

Recipes

Roasted Chicken or Chickpea Gyros 

from LiveEatLearn.com

Simple and delicious Mediterranean inspired vegetarian Roasted Chickpea Gyros with refreshing tzatziki sauce.

 Prep Time 10 minutes

 Cook Time 20 minutes

 Total Time 30 minutes

 Servings 4 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas or 1 ½ cup soaked chickpeas if starting from dry, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp paprika*
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned, skin removed, and chicken cut into bite size chunks
  • 6 pita flatbreads
  • 1 cup tzatziki  (see below)  **This can be purchased ready-made.  Look for it in the deli section at Walmart (they carry it at mine, so it is likely at yours as well)**
  • 1/4 red onion cut into strips
  • 2 lettuce leaves roughly chopped – I used baby spinach
  • 1 tomato sliced – I used grape tomatoes sliced in half
  • I sliced and chopped additional cucumber as a gyro topping

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prep: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pat dry chickpeas with paper towel, removing any skins that may come off. Gently toss chickpeas with oil, paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt. – I poured olive oil over the chickpeas in a zip bag, and then I mixed the spices together and sprinkled over the oiled chickpeas and tossed them in the zip bag to coat.  This method worked very well!!!
  2. Roast: I oiled my baking sheet and let it get hot in the oven BEFORE I spread the chickpeas on it.  Spread chickpeas onto greased rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned but not hard.  I tested, tasted, tossed, and let my chickpeas bake for about another 10 minutes.
  3. Assemble: Spread some tzatziki onto one side of the pita, then sprinkle in ¼ of the chickpeas and add veggies. Fold in half and enjoy!

NOTES

  • *If you don’t like spicy foods, halve the amount of paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Taste a chickpea before baking and adjust flavors as needed. The yogurt does mellow the spiciness of the chickpeas.
  • If your pita breads crack when you fold them, cover them with a moist paper towel and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds. Assemble your sandwich immediately after microwaving.

World’s Best Tzatziki Recipe  

from LiveEatLearn.com

This is the best tzatziki recipe! Refreshing cucumber, creamy Greek yogurt, and zingy lemon make it the perfect condiment for just about everything.

 Prep Time 5 minutes

 Total Time 5 minutes

 Servings 3 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt, can use dairy-free
  • 1 cup shredded or diced cucumber
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 Tbsp chopped dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Thicken yogurt: Strain yogurt using a cheesecloth or paper towel for 30 minutes to 3 hours to remove excess moisture (can skip this step if you’re in a hurry).
  2. Prep cucumber: Meanwhile, sprinkle a pinch of salt onto shredded or diced cucumber and spoon into cheesecloth or paper towels. Let sit for a few minutes then wring it out to draw out moisture.
  3. Mix: Mix together yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, and lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

NOTES

  • Add a touch of extra-virgin olive oil for flavor and shine.
  • Serve with pita, veggies, on Roasted Chickpea Gyros, or really anything!
  • The flavors become less tangy as you let them sit, so your tzatziki might just be best the next day.

Fava Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry yellow split peas, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped red onion
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Paprika for garnish (optional)

Instructions

1. Place the split peas in a large saucepan with 5 cups of warm water. Set the burner to high heat and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Skim any foam that forms on the surface of the liquid, then add the red onion, scallion, and garlic. Return the liquid to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and cover the pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Once the peas are tender, turn off the heat and add the olive oil and salt. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture (or process in batches in a tabletop blender). Taste and add more salt as needed.

3. The fava will thicken as it cools. Serve topped with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika; provide crusty bread and/or sliced vegetables for dipping.

Baklava 

from fifteenspatulas.com

This heavenly baklava combines honey-soaked layers of flaky phyllo pastry with spiced walnuts. It’s a great make-ahead dessert!

Ingredients

For the Baklava:

  • 16 oz walnuts
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (plus a pinch of ground cloves)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 boxes phyllo dough* thawed
  • 1 cup butter melted

For the Syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup good quality honey**
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 strip orange peel
  • 1 strip lemon peel

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Pulse the walnuts in a food processor with the cinnamon, cardamom, and salt until well chopped.
  3. To assemble the baklava, place 8 layers of phyllo dough one-by-one on the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan, brushing each lightly with butter.
  4. Spread 1/5 of the walnut mixture evenly on top (about 2/3 cup).
  5. Add another 5 layers of phyllo one-by-one, brushing each with butter, then add another layer of nuts. The total sequence should be phyllo layers of 8,5,5,5,5,8, with nuts in between those layers. 
  6. Carefully cut the Baklava into squares or triangles with a buttered knife.
  7. Bake the baklava for 50 minutes, until golden on the edges and tops.
  8. In the meantime, bring all the syrup ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  9. Remove the citrus peels and cinnamon stick, and pour the hot syrup evenly over the hot baklava. 
  10. Let the baklava cool completely at room temperature for 8 hours (uncovered, to prevent sogginess). Then it’s ready to enjoy!
  11. Can be served with chocolate syrup drizzled over the top of each slice.

Notes

*Note fifteenspatualas said: “My 1-lb box of phyllo said it had 18 13×18″ layers, so I cut them in half, and had 36 sheets total for my 9×13 pan.” but I (mrshlovesjesus) had a 10½” X 15½” pan and I used 1 1/2 boxes of Phyllo.

**I cannot overstate how important it is to use a good honey here. If it comes in a bear shape bottle, probably steer clear. Ideally look for raw honey.

Print the following schedule and have it handy to review as you conduct your party

Party Schedule

11am               Set-up and decorate classroom (food table), lawn loungers, put CD in boom box, set Olympic games stuff by back door  (Remember to bring CAMERA and take pictures)

11:45am          When children arrive have them take off their shoes at the door and “wash” their feet and hands with wet paper towels.  Give them each a TOGA to put on and then let them pose and take Photo Booth pictures – serious faces and silly faces.

12:15pm          Symposium (let the kids help themselves to gyros, fruits, nuts, and “wine,” and while they are eating introduce a few discussion starters that we can all talk about from my box of Table Talk cards.  After the kids have eaten lunch let them get dessert – Baklava.

12:45pm          Indoor games (Yoyos, Marbles, Knucklebones, Guess Who?  Explain how each toy or game is played.  Divide the group into sets of 2 or 3 kids.  Give each group a toy/game to play with.  After 5 or 10 minutes have each group rotate to the next toy)

1:30pm            Crafts (make sandals & earrings) followed by Dancing to LouieLouie, and Twistin the Night Away.  At the end of that give the youngest kid in the group the Olympic torch and let him/her lead us all to the playground for the games.

2:00pm            Outdoor Olympic Games:

  • Lunch box discus throw
  • Pencil javelin throw
  • Water-bottle weights long jump
  • Alarm clock shot-put
  • Foot Race (books stacked as hurdles) -or- Horse/chariot Race (stick horses)
  • Thumb or Arm Wrestling

Demonstrate how each event is done and give each child a chance to practice a few times before competing. 

Give the kids a Popsicle break after they’ve completed the series of events, and then after that we will conduct a Pentathlon where each kid will do the whole series of events by themselves to see who can complete it in the fastest time. 

All competitors will be given a laurel wreath head garland in an awards ceremony.

3:15pm            Kids will return to classroom and prepare for dismissal, while Gracee reads to them a few Aesop’s Fables.

PARTY TIPS: I don’t know about you, but I am usually so forgetful about taking pictures.  I just get so busy keeping the party moving that I don’t think to stop and take pictures.  I also often forget to eat and get to the end of the party so famished that all I want to do is collapse in exhaustion!  So, if you are like me and want to have printed memories of your party, prearrange for someone to take pictures of everything from the table to the party itself – EVERYTHING, and also, make sure you eat something that will stick to your ribs BEFORE the party starts!!!!!  So you have energy to be your best, joyous self.

“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (KJV)

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The “Hofols” Celebrate Easter/Passover

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The “Hofols” Celebrate Easter/Passover

This past Easter we celebrated the holiday a little differently.  In actuality, EVERY Easter is just a little bit different from the one before it – a side effect of my vexatious A.D.D. I suspect!!!  This year my “passion” blossomed out of a “cavernous” fancy to “resurrect” (puns all very much intended) the Jewish roots of our Christian holiday and blend them altogether.  I wanted to celebrate Jesus, our Passover Lamb, especially since this year Passover fell on Good Friday (2019). Perhaps you’re looking for ideas how to celebrate and you’ll find something here that trips your trigger?

The “Steady Eddy’s” of our holiday usually include new dresses/outfits for church + shoes to go with them + the same basic food & drink (except this year I added LAMB to the menu) + an Egg Hunt. And there is always some sort of fun activities to follow. So, let’s get started with the menu, and then we’ll work our way on down to the ever-evolvingfun stuff at the end…

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— THE MENU —

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HAM

A nice 10-lb spiral cut honey smoked ham. 

Make a Chamoy glaze of apricots (2 cans plus the syrup), honey (1 cup), and spicy chili peppers (2 or 3 fresh green Cayenne peppers finely chopped/ground – or ½ tsp Cayenne powder).  Place glaze ingredients in a pan on the stove. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer until reduced and thickened.

Heat ham in the oven, wrapped tightly in foil for about 1 hr and 40 minutes at 350 degrees.  Place ham on serving platter and pour glaze over ham just before serving.

LAMB CHOPS

6 Lamb Chops

Preheat outdoor grill with charcoals, preparing to add mesquite or applewood chips just before grilling.  While the charcoals are getting ready prepare the sauce and the lamb.

Sauce:  ½ cup Olive Oil, ½ cup chopped onion, 3 cloves peeled and sliced garlic. Sauté in a sauce pan until onions are translucent, and then remove from heat.  Place onions, oil, and garlic in a blender (I use my Bullet) also adding 2 Tablespoons low sodium Soy Sauce, 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar, 1 Tablespoon fresh Rosemary needles, 2 Tablespoons course ground mustard, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and about ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.  Blend until thoroughly emulsified.  Set aside.

Rub lamb chops with salt and pepper.

Separate charcoals and sprinkle with wood chips.  As soon as they begin to smoke, place chops on grill about 6 inches above heat and close the lid.  Let them grill undisturbed for about 4 or 5 minutes.  Lift the lid and flip the chops over to the other side.  Close the lid and let grill for another 4 or 5 minutes.  Lift the lid and check the internal temp of each chop.  Continue flipping and cooking until each chop reaches an internal temp of 135 degrees (medium rare).  Don’t eyeball it – use a thermometer for perfect results.  The moment they reach temp, remove them from the grill, placing them on a dish.  Let them rest for a minute or two, then drizzle each with sauce and serve with a sprig of Rosemary for garnish. 

NOTE: I wish I could remember where I found this recipe so I could give them credit and kudos!!!!  If you know, please let me know in the comments. And I’ll tell you, I am not a fan of lamb…  (I just don’t care for the gamey flavor.  I don’t like goat or goat cheese for the same reason) …BUT THIS LAMB was a wonderful surprise.  My family LOVED it and have begged if I will make this every year from now on.  So, if you don’t really care for lamb either, you might want to give this recipe a try.  I promise it will change your mind.

TATER TOT HOT DISH

32 oz. bag of Tater Tots

1 cup onion, chopped

1 16-oz container French Onion Dip

1 jalapeno, minced

2 cups shredded Colby cheese

1 10-oz can Cream of Chicken Soup

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt (or more to taste)

1 can French Fried Onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a large casserole dish.  Mix together the Onion Dip, jalapeno, cheese, soup, garlic powder, and salt.  Toss in chopped onion and frozen tots.  Use hands to mix tots and sauce all together.  Arrange tot mixture in casserole dish.  Top with French Fried Onions.  Bake in oven about 60 minutes.

SWEET PEA SALAD

2-lb package frozen sweet peas, thawed

½ Red onion, diced

1 ½ cup Cheddar Cheese, cut into pea size cubes

8 slices bacon, fried crispy and crumbled

3 Tablespoons parsley, chopped (optional)

½ cup Sour Cream

¼ cup Mayo

1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Sugar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix together the sauce ingredients and carefully stir them into the thawed peas.  Add the red onion and cheese and carefully incorporate.  Taste to make sure there is enough salt and pepper.  Place in serving dish and top with bacon for garnish. 

DEVILED EGGS

1 dozen eggs, hard boiled (place cold eggs or fresh eggs in cool tap water in a pan big enough to fully cover the eggs with water, bring to a rolling boil on high heat on the stove and boil for 7 minutes. Remove from heat, let sit 5 minutes and then pour off water.  Let eggs cool.  Eggs can then be peeled and placed in a zip bag in the refrigerator overnight.)

Cut eggs in half, remove yolks to a small bowl.  Mash yolks with a fork.  Add about ¼ to ½ cup of Mayo or Miracle Whip to them until a thick creamy texture is achieved.  Also add 1 to 2 teaspoons coarse ground mustard, and 2 Tablespoons each finely diced onion and sweet pickle relish.  Stir until well combined.  Drop dollops of yolk mixture into the split egg-white halves.  Sprinkle with sweet paprika.  Garnish each egg with finely chopped green onion or chives.  If you have sweet pickles, slice into “pennies” and press a penny into the center of each egg.  Cover and refrigerate or serve immediately.

HOT CROSS BUNS

I usually use a hot roll mix and follow package directions, except to add a 1/3 cup of dried currants and 2 Tablespoons of orange zest to the mixed dough.  Bake as directed.  Let cool completely.  Mix an icing of 1 cup powdered sugar and about a Tablespoon of milk (thin with additional milk a tiny drop at a time until desired thickness).  Place icing in a zip bag and cut the corner off.  Pipe a cross on top of each roll.  Garnish with a few more currants and some orange zest.

This year I cheated and purchased frozen cinnamon rolls, and added the currants and some orange zest as a garnish after icing.

RHUBARB CRUNCH

Filling:

2 packages frozen rhubarb (or 5 cups fresh)

2 granny smith apples peeled, cored, and chopped

½ tsp. salt

Splash of lemon juice

½ cup of sugar

Stir together and place in a buttered casserole dish.

Topping:

2 cups sugar

1 cup flour

1 cup oats

1 tsp. Cinnamon

1 ½ sticks of butter, softened to room temperature

1 tsp Vanilla

¼ tsp salt

I sometimes mix this all together in a gallon size zip bag the night before and let sit on the counter until baking time.  It saves me time later and gives the butter time to soak up the flour and oats and lends a nice crispiness to the finished product.

Serve warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

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Beverages:


Sweet Tea, Lemonade, Lemon water, or wine

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Sunday Dinner is usually served immediately after the egg hunt.  The children give the blessing and then we all start stuffing our faces. 

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— THE EGG HUNT —

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all of your heart.”  Jeremiah 19:13

This year’s egg hunt mostly consisted of plastic eggs strewn all over in the yard, all the way around the house. A few were perched in the limbs of the trees and some other slightly more difficult hidey spots. As per grand-daughter’s request I hid special GOLDEN eggs (1 per kid) in the more difficult places. They got to redeem those for one special prize each – their Easter Baskets!  I put a little note inside each golden egg which told the kids where to look for their “special surprises.”  The special Easter Baskets were filled with a few candies, some little toys, jewelry, Knick knacky things, and a pretty journal and fancy pen for each girl, which they’ll get to use as journals all summer.

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— THE FUN STUFF —

Food – done….. Egg Hunt – done….. Let the games begin! As I said earlier we did a PASSOVER theme. Our Passover activities commenced down on the banks of the little brook that weaves a path by our backyard. It was the perfect setting for our first activity, saving baby Moses!

Saving Baby Moses

I made each girl a little bamboo raft (we have so much of it growing along our river front, it was a ready material that cost me nothing).  Walmart had perfect little 6” baby dolls for about $2 each – I bought one for each girl. 

Our youngest granddaughter wasn’t feeling well, so she went down for a nap while we did all the activities with her sister.  But later, when she awoke, we did the whole thing all over again for her, exactly as we had done for her sister. 

The girls wrapped their baby Moses in a blue blanket, laid him in his raft, and then walked down into the river and placed him on the water and let him float away as we all looked on.  As baby Moses floated away we all prayed that God would save baby Moses’ life, just like in the Bible! 

It really worked out that the one granddaughter was napping when the other granddaughter did this, so it seemed to each child as if there had only been one baby Moses.  If they had both been involved for the shared experience, we would have only floated one baby Moses.

Little baby Moses slowly floated away and when he was finally out of sight I told the story of how Moses was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, how he then grew up to be a young man, and then found out that he was a Hebrew. He accidentally caused an Egyptian to die and then in fear ran away and lived with a Midianite priest and his daughters in the desert. That’s where he met God on a mountaintop in a burning bush, and God told him to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the Hebrew slaves go free.

The Plagues and Pharaoh Games

(I had prepared each of the plagues days before and had them ready in a box for this exercise).

I told the children how Moses went to Pharaoh to ask him to let the people go, but Pharaoh said, “NO!!!!!”  I instructed the kids to yell, “NO!!!!!” whenever I asked them if Pharaoh let the people go.

The first plague was to turn the Nile River into blood:  I poured water into a glass for each kid and added red drink powder to it.  Then we tossed in some Swedish Fish to represent the fish that died.  Then I asked, “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!”  – and I pointed to the kids to say, “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent a second plague – Frogs:  I had purchased some sticky frogs from Walmart and put them in a big jar.  I handed the children the jar of frogs and let them take the frogs out and stick them to us and squish them and play with them for a bit.  Then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said (and I pointed to the children who said), “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent a third plague – Lice:  I used confetti eggs, called Cascarones here in south Texas, and divided two dozen of them between each of us and we all got to break them on each other’s heads.  This always causes lots of laughing.  Then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said (and I pointed to the children who said), “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent a fourth plague – Flies:  I used black pipe cleaners, cut into about 4” pieces and twisted them into wings and a body shape and I filled a glass jar full of them.  I took the lid off this jar and dumped the flies in the kids’ hands and let them put them on us grown-ups, in our hair, down our shirts, etc.  They then had fun picking them up off the ground and tossing them around some more.  Then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said (and the kids yelled), “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent a fifth plague – the dead animals:  I found a cheap container of farm animals at Walmart. I pulled it out, opened the lid and dumped the animals out, instructing the children to put all the animals on their backs with their feet up in the air, which they happily did.  Some would fall over as they were setting others upside down so it took a while to get them all to “die.”  I talked about how stinky that must have been.  Pee-Yoooo!  Then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said (and the kids yelled), “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent a sixth plague – Boils: Now, I know you are probably going to think I’ve lost my marbles on this one, but I cut up about 6 panty-liners into 3 pieces each and wrote “BOILS” on each piece with a Sharpie marker.  I put them in a jar.  I opened this jar and let the kids take the BOILS out one by one and peel the paper off the back, and stick them to all of us on our bare arms and legs and faces, and we stuck a bunch of them on the kids as well.  The sticky is sort of irritating to the skin after a while so it produced a decent effect, but it didn’t hurt to pull them off later. Then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said (and the kids yelled), “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent a seventh plague – Hail: I had purchased several boxes of ping pong balls (6 balls for $1 at Walmart).  I gave each person a handful of balls and on the count of three we all simultaneously tossed the balls in the air and let them fall on our heads.  We then picked them up and tossed them at each other for a little while until I said, “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said…“NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent an eighth plague – Locusts:  For this plague I produced a zip bag with a leaf of romaine lettuce per each person of us.  Since locusts are veggie eaters, on my mark we would have a lettuce eating contest.  1-2-3-crunch, crunch, crunch!!!  Hey this is one way to get kids to eat their veggies.  Ha!  And then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said … “NO, NO, NO!!!” (-muffled through their mouthfuls of lettuce).

So God sent a ninth plague – darkness: For this one I had purchased a game of Blindfolded Twister.  It wasn’t a good thing to play outside, where we were at the time, so I improvised and had the kids cover their eyes and try to find mommy, then daddy, then grandpa, then grandma, then sister.  (We did play the Twister game later, in the house and it was perfect).  Then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said … “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So Moses informed Pharaoh that if he didn’t let the slaves go that God would send a plague of death of the firstborns among the Egyptians.  Moses told all the Hebrew slaves to kill a baby lamb and use the blood to paint on their doorposts, then cook and eat the baby lamb with unleavened bread.  And that night when the spirit of death came to Egypt it PASSed-OVER the houses with the lamb’s blood, but the Egyptian firstborns all died, including Pharaoh’s son, which made Pharaoh sad and mad enough to say “GO, GO, GO!!!”

Here’s how we did this next part…

I told the girls that Jesus came to set us free from our slavery to sin.  The Bible says that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23). In the history of mankind there has been no one who was without sin – only Jesus.  And that is why He was the perfect Lamb of God – to take away our sins.

John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

I gave each girl a little lamb, a nail, a Popsicle stick cross, and a hammer, and we nailed their lambs to their crosses.  I explained that if that lamb was a real lamb the nail would make the lamb bleed. 

I then gave each girl two hearts cut from foam board that I had punched holes in all around the edge.  I gave them each a needle and thread so they could stitch the two pieces together to make a pocket.  As they stitched I explained that we all have to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus (which means we have to turn from our sinful nature and open our hearts up to Him).  Once their hearts were sewn together I gave the girls red paint, representing the blood of the lamb, and we used a clump of weeds to paint the “blood” on their hearts.  And then we asked Jesus to come into our hearts – which was represented by placing the lamb-crosses inside the pockets of the hearts they made and painted.

I explained that we all have a body and we all have a spirit.  Because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden our bodies will someday die, but our spirits will either go on to live with Jesus in heaven or with the devil in hell.  If we prepare our hearts and let Jesus come in to us, even though our bodies die, the second death – the death of our spirit – will PASS-OVER and we’ll get to live with Jesus in heaven forever.

Communion

At the Last Supper, Jesus said His body was broken for us, and He took bread and broke it and asked His disciples to eat of that bread in remembrance of Him.   

I took a saltine cracker and broke it and divided the pieces with everyone.  Then we partook of the Lord’s body which was broken for us.

Jesus, at the Last Supper, then took the cup of wine and said it represented His blood that was shed for us for the remission of our sins.  He asked His disciples to drink of it in remembrance of Him until the day that He comes back for all of us.

I then poured us each a little cup of wine, and we partook of the Lord’s blood that was shed for us. 

The little one wasn’t a huge fan of “real” wine! Ha! So she chased it with a swig of bloody Nile water.

Family Movie Time

After our riverside adventures, we all got a heaping helping of dessert and snuggled up on the couch in the mancave to watch The Ten Commandments (w/Charleton Heston) together as a family.  This was always a tradition in my son-in-law’s growing up life to watch that movie at Easter, and what a lovely tradition to continue. 

A Craft Nightcap

We girls left the mancave for one final thing – crafting the Red Sea.  After asking Jesus into our hearts, the Red Sea event is kind of like a water baptism.  First we are saved by Jesus, then we are baptized.  After that, our souls make the long journey to our heavenly “promised land.”

And that was our Easter/Passover of 2019! I hope if you have the chance to do this with your family for your next Easter that you are as blessed as we were by the experience. All glory to God!

He is not here for He [Jesus] is risen!

Risen indeed!

“I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and recieve you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3

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The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe — Narnia Party

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The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe — Narnia Party

I thought I’d share a recent school party that I did for my granddaughter’s class. She and her classmates have been reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and as the kids were nearing the end of the book their amazing (and I do mean A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!!!!) teacher asked if I would like to put together a party to help them celebrate finishing the book. “Well heck ya,” I told her! “I love that stuff” (which I’m fairly certain she already knew 😉 )! Anyway, I’m sharing with y’all, just in case someone else out there has the opportunity and would like some ideas.

The Wardrobe Doors

I made a fairly crude set of wardrobe doors to decorate the classroom door entrance, out of a large cardboard box (I think it came from a furniture store). I measured the classroom door and then cut the cardboard to fit using a square and a utility knife. Then I painted the cardboard with some mahogany colored varnish I had leftover from a furniture refinishing project I did a while back. I let the cardboard dry for about a week and then I cut the doors in half lengthwise. I didn’t have a lot of time to make these doors, otherwise I would have put a lot more thoughtful detail into them, but at least I gave them handles.

Since the door frame on the classroom was metal, the only way I knew of to be able to attach these doors was to use clear packaging/shipping tape all along the henge edges to tape the doors to the door frame. This worked fairly well. Perhaps Duct tape would have been better??? Of course, the doors wouldn’t stay closed once they were hung, so we had to use a small cardboard dowel rod and insert it in the door handles to hold them closed until all the kids arrived and could walk in together to discover the transformation of their classroom. Their teacher kept this all a total surprise!

I used an inexpensive shower curtain rod (purchased from Walmart for about $5) to hang some long robes and long dresses on. Beings this is south Texas nobody had long coats we could use, and I wasn’t sure how much weight that rod would hold either. Anyway, as soon as the kids opened the wardrobe doors, all they saw was a closet full of clothing which they had to walk through.

It’s Always Winter in Narnia

Once inside it was a winter wonderland. I had cut out about 25 paper snowflakes and hung them to the ceiling with string and push pins, all over the classroom.

It’s not a party without food…

Soooo, I thought it would be fun to celebrate all the foods featured in the book/movie:

For the White Witch’s table I made a White Hot Chocolate in a large thermos and had glass mugs for the kids to drink it out of. I glued little snowflakes on each mug. Next to that was a round box filled with Turkish Delight, tied with a green silk ribbon!

I used quilt batting to cover the table in “snow.” I placed a framed quote from the book, and a large sample box of a big variety of flavored Turkish Delight, which I ordered from amazon.com about a week ahead of the party. Oh my gosh! It’s delicious. I had never had it before, have you? I want to order another box just for myself. Then again, I’ll just eat the whole thing and it does nothing for my girlish figure, so I probably better not!!!

The Beaver’s table needed to feature fish and potatoes, and marmelade roll-ups. But, as much as I love “fish n’ chips” I didn’t figure the kids would be as big of fans – so I went with Swedish fish and Goldfish crackers, and potato chips. I thought the ones with skins on would be the coolest so I went with TGIFriday’s potato chips. I served the little morsels in these perfect little wooden bowls that my husband made for me several months ago. And I covered the table in a brown fur table cloth.

Now if you are familiar with the story, the Beaver’s had beer with their supper. But they also had tea, which is a bit more kid-friendly. I went with iced tea. And after trying, and failing, to make the little sandwiches into roll-ups, I decided to just cut them into triangles. I was surprised that the kids liked marmelade, but they ate the whole platter!

Finally was Mr. Tumnus and Lucy’s Tea Party table. I set this table with real teacups, and a spread of “sugar topped cupcakes” and TOAST with honey butter. I brewed a big pot of tea and set out sugar cubes and lemon slices so the kids could doll up their cups as they wished.

I made the honey butter using a stick of real butter and added about 1/4 cup of honey and a tsp of cinnamon to it. And the cupcakes I made with a yellow cupcake batter and a brown sugar buttercream frosting that is out of this world. I found it when I went looking for a frosting I could make without powdered sugar. OMG! They were beyond delicious!!!!! In fact, this might be my favorite frosting of all time!!!!! You must try it! Once I frosted the cupcakes, I sprinkled them with sugar sprinkles. They turned out pretty!

So there you have it…our party in a nutshell! The kids were so excited!!!! It was all the reward I would ever need to get to watch their faces as they entered the classroom with wide-eyed wonder and awe. They saw the snowflakes and started jumping. They wanted to keep them for souvenirs, which of course I obliged. And I even promised to come teach them how to make them some afternoon. They ate everything there was to eat and some of every beverage. And when it was all said and done, they each wrote notes thanking me for all my efforts, and telling me how much they loved the party and will never forget it as long as they live! Well, if that doesn’t make your heart go pitter pat, I don’t know what would. I must be the luckiest ol’ gal on the block to have such a wonderful opportunity to lavish love on this precious group of kiddos. I feel so very honored that their teacher trusted me for this task.

The kids drank and ate their fill while they watched the movie version of the book. And when the party was over, the kids found their way back to the real world by the soft glowing light of the street lamp!

What a blast! And there you have it!!!!! You could make this a classroom party for your kids, as I have done, or you could use it for a theme birthday party, or even celebrate summer book reading with a theme party. The kids will remember it forever!!!!

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the LORD and not to men.” Colossians 3:23

Grandpa’s Treasure Hunt Conspiracy

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Grandpa’s Treasure Hunt Conspiracy

My husband has let me in on a little covert operation he has been planning for his granddaughters, and it tickles me so much I’ve decided to blog about it.  He’s been scheming this thing in his head for months.  The first thing he did to get the ball rolling was hunt for an appropriate treasure box, which he found at Hobby Lobby, except that it needed a sturdier bottom.  It didn’t take much to just attach a piece of wood.  He then began filling it with treasures: handfuls of pennies that he spray-painted gold and silver, and a few other miscellaneous discarded junk jewelry pieces that once belonged to his mother – probably things she found at garage sales and never did anything with.  

And then this is where I became involved in the delicious conspiracy.  He wanted some help coming up with some sort of little story, not a treasure map, but a story that would pique their little interests and ignite some spontaneous junior sleuthing.  He thought it would be neat if the story was written on parchment paper and then rolled up and tucked in a bottle with a cork in the top.  He planned to place this bottle in a sort of inconspicuous place somewhere along the path by the river where the girls could stumble upon it while outside adventuring with their grandpa.

Now mind you, grandpa has already been out and surveyed where he plans to bury this treasure, and deposit the bottle with the message inside, and he’s also done a fair amount of trail grooming through the tundra of bamboo we have growing along the banks of our river.  In fact, as he took me on a tour, he pointed out the clever touches he’s added — like putting googlie eyes on some random stalks of the bamboo, so he can say to the girls, “Do you get the feeling you’re being watched?” And then wait for them to get it!  Ha! Ha!

It was this curious little detail that sparked my imagination for a story.  I sat down with my trused computer and after a few minutes, this was what I came up with:  

THE TRAP HAS BEEN SET!!!!!!!

We are both so excited about this and hoping we can pull it off.  Our imaginations are spilling over with delirious day-dreams of how the girls will react.  Will they truly believe they’ve found an old old letter in a bottle, and that it leads them to a real buried treasure?  I think both our hearts might just burst with excitement.  But we’ve got to play it cool.  We’ve got to both stay in character, as if nothing whatsoever is up.  In fact, I’m just going to stay indoors the day they come over (if I can possibly contain myself) and let grandpa do all the clever charades.  I’ll just try to act surprised when they come screaming into the house with stuff in their hands, and talking so fast I can’t even understand them.  Hee hee!!!!  And we’ll sit down on the floor and I’ll let them tell me all about the letter they found and I’ll let them read it to me, and I’ll let them explain how they looked for the treasure box and where they ended up finding it, and we’ll sort through all the stuff in their box, and I’ll take a group selfie with my cell phone and probably post it on Facebook (and here later, of course), and it will all be grand!  Just grand!!!!!    (I hope!) 

“Children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward.”   Psalm 127:3

“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty warrior; so are the children of one’s youth.  Happy are the [GRANDPARENTS] whose quiver is full!”     Psalm 127:4-5



UPDATE: The plan turned out better than we could have ever anticipated. The girls were delirious with excitement. Oh the sweet faith of a little child to so easily believe … almost makes a person ashamed to exploit it. But how fun to see them with so much enchanted enthusiasm, and to listen to the little wheels turning in their minds trying to solve a puzzle, trying to uncover a mystery, embarking on an epic adventure, and to hear them share their little theories with each other for where to look and why. It was as delightful an experience as any storybook or children’s film that’s ever captured your imagination. Sooooo much fun!!!!!

After a year or so I came clean with the grandchildren, telling them that it was all just a made up story. I didn’t ever want them to think Jesus was also just a made up story. I could see the disappointment in the youngest one’s eyes, and the oldest, well, she seemed okay with knowing. We talked about how it is sometimes very easy to believe a fantastical story, especially if the person telling it is persuasive. As Christians we need to be on guard against such things, and weigh everything against the word of God. So, this was a good lesson in being gullible. But also, make believe it’s not all bad. Think of all the books and movies out there. They are not all true. Some are soooo good that we want to read them or watch them over and over. Maybe this little treasure adventure will spark their imaginations to want to write non-fictional stories as they get older, like Harry Potter, or Alice in Wonderland, or the bamboo people who live in the river?

MrsH’s “Girl Scouts” Hobo Supper in Foil

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MrsH’s “Girl Scouts” Hobo Supper in Foil

 

I grew up in a small town where there wasn’t a lot for kids to do but just be kids and play in the great outdoors.  That was plenty enough though, believe me.  My sisters and I made dirt houses lined with pebbles, floors swept down to the hard dirt, rocks and logs for furniture, and we served each other our fancy mud pie concoctions.  We played secret maze games between the sheets hanging on the line until we got hollered at to get away with our unclean hands.   We climbed Tank Hill just for something to do, and then tried to RUN down it without stumbling.  Sometimes we took a picnic lunch up there and ate it overlooking the town where we could watch all the goings on.  One time I climbed the tank – which was a mistake.  I guess I’m a little afraid of heights I found out.  My grandpa had to come and rescue me, and right after he called a welder to cut off the ladder so it couldn’t ever be climbed up by a kid again.  Oh dear!

We had bikes and rode them all over a whole vast network of oilfield roads, to secret places – under bridges, the old electric plant, and to the pond to catch frogs and salamanders and horny toads by the dozens, but hopefully not see any snakes – ’cause ewwww, girls don’t like snakes!  We all played ball or watched the games, and we all sat on the fences at the ranch rodeos and watched the cowboys do their stuff.  Sometimes they even let us run the hot-shot on the steers in the shoots, and open the shoot gates for the ropers.

Our little oilfield community had the first lighted baseball field, and the first lighted football field in the whole state.  We had a bowling alley, and a swimming pool, and in the winter we had a frozen pond to ice skate on. They say we even had a golf course, but it wasn’t like any golf course you’ve ever seen – just dirt and rocks and prairie, with flags stuck in holes here and there.  The clubhouse was just a corregated tin outbuilding, but it was something to do for those that are into that stuff!

If there was nothing else to do it was always fun to watch dad tinker with something in his shop, or tag along with him to his work.  I got to tag along once to the Blue Creek Ranch out by Kaycee, and they let me ride an old nag of horse all day long while dad fixed whatever it was they needed him to fix.  And my grandpa could be found in his massive garden most all summer.  It was fun to pick and eat peas while he watered and weeded.  I sometimes took my matchbook cars and made trails along the rows of corn.  I accidentally sat in an ant pile once though, and that wasn’t so much fun!  My grandma was always in the kitchen sowing or cooking.  And when me and my sisters stayed at her house, it was fun to play secretary with pens and notebooks in the garage.  Sometimes we’d nap with grandpa in the afternoons on the bed they kept out there, where the cool breezes blew through.

There was always a lady in town that taught piano lessons, and occasionally someone would travel through with gymnastics or dance classes, and our families all went camping and to the lake as often as we could.  My folks had a motorcycle and a scooter and we went for rides as a family, sometimes be gone all day!  And everyone in town met at the sand rocks to shoot off fireworks on the 4th of July – all of the families, and we shared our snacks and our fireworks with each other.  Sounds magical, doesn’t it?  It was!

We had a Girl Scouts troop and a Boy Scouts troop, and even a Boy Scouts camp on the Pine Ridge.  What in the world else does a kid need?  It was a wonderful life!

Girl Scouts was one of my fondest childhood memories.  I remember getting to go to summer camp (Camp Sacajawea) on Casper Mountain one year.  I got to ride on a bus up the mountain with a whole bunch of really nice bigger girls, singing old hippy songs all the way, and coolest of all, it was an over-nighter.  We made ditty bags out of bandanas and tied them to a stick (I’ve still got one of the nicer ditty bags we were given – shown in the photo below).  We filled them with snacks and water, and one of the days we used the ditty bag sticks as walking sticks and hiked to a really cool waterfall that flowed over a rock that we could walk behind (just like in the movie The Last of the Mohicans).  That’s the way I remember it anyway! 🙂  I remember doing crafts and selling cookies.  I remember one year being really ambitious to sell those cookies!  I ed Girl Scouts!

Girl Scouts memorabilia

This is a throw back meal from when I was a Girl Scout at Camp Sacajawea.  Very easy to make and I think it is delicious!  Of course we made S’mores for dessert – I’m pretty sure that was another Girl Scouts invention too!  😉

Hobo Foil Packs

This recipe feeds 4 to 6 people.

  1.  Peel and chop several cloves of garlic.  I did a whole bulb’s worth.
  2.  Wash a small bag of yellow potatoes, and a small bag of carrots, peel the carrots and then slice both into bite-size pieces  (figure on about 2 small potatoes and 1 whole large carrot per person)
  3.  Peel a yellow onion, cut in half, and slice it into quarter inch slices
  4.  Place all veggies in a bowl.  Salt and pepper to taste, and then drizzle generously with olive oil, toss to coat evenly, set aside
  5.  Mix 2 lbs of hamburger with 2 packages of dry onion soup mix, and a small minced jalapeno, a little salt and pepper, and mix well, then form into patties
  6.  Place a heaping ladle full of veggies into the center of a generous sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil
  7.  Lay a hamburger patty on top of veggies
  8.  Top with a spoonful of mushroom soup
  9.  Bring both ends of foil up and fold together to seal well on top, and then do the same on both sides.  Repeat making foil packets until all veggies and burger patties are used up.
  10.  Preheat BBQ grill, or campfire (or 350 *F oven), and when coals are hot and gray lay the packets on a grate about 6 to 8 inches above them
  11.  Let packets cook for 15 to 20 minutes and then carefully and gently flip and rearrange the packets so they can cook evenly on the other side for another 15 to 20  minutes.
  12.  Open one packet and test the veggies for doneness
  13. When done, remove the packets and serve one packet per person.

Step 5 - Grill 1 hour

Enjoy!!!!!!

Dinner Served1

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the way of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgement.  Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh, for childhood and youth are vanity.” 

Ecclesiastes 11:9-10

Kid’s Summer Reading Program, A Parent’s Primer

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Kid’s Summer Reading Program, A Parent’s Primer

 

Bevery Cleary

Soooooooo… Each summer I try to think of creative ways to seize the moments with my grandchildren.  The first year I focused on skill building/tutoring type stuff and learning styles (see my School’s Out for Summer blog post).  The next year I went with daily themes/ boredom busters (see Summer Survival Guide).  This year my focus has been on Summer Reading.

I wanted to get them some fun books they would want to read, but realized fairly quickly that picking books is a little more complicated than you would think, if you want to be successful. For instance, did y’all know that the reading level of books is usually printed near the bar code? Yeah, I had no clue. But, in all fairness it isn’t obvious.  It’s like a secret code that only a few privileged people get to know about – such as an alphabet letter inside a triangle, or something like RL:2.1.  A child’s reading level, I’ve discovered through much research, is super important when picking books, because it will directly affect their enthusiasm for reading.  When developing a love for reading in a child the books cannot be too easy or too difficult, and therefore it is super important to get that part right.  I’ll explain more of what I’ve discovered about the reading level codes and such in just a minute.

In the meantime, I began my book search at Amazon.com, first gathering several highly rated, award/medal winning, quality books that were at my granddaughter’s reading level into my shopping cart.  I probably ended up with about 30 or 40 books.  After that, the next time she was over for a visit, I grabbed her up in my lap and we went through each and every one of those books, read the back covers together and flipped through the pages, weeding out the ones she was less interested in until she had picked her top ten. Some of the books were thicker and would take longer for her to read, some were thinner books that could maybe be read in an evening; some were dog stories, a couple were Roald Dahl, and so on.  After giving her the opportunity to do the picking, you can imagine how excited she was for those books to come in.  And now that they have, the child has been a reading fiend ever since, and her sister also.  Her first pick: James and the Giant Peach.

Great choice, because Roald Dahl books have a ton of other trappings and odds and ends to go with them.  So many have been turned into movies – which makes for a perfect celebration activity when the kid finishes a book, plus there are activity sticker books, a crazy Revolting Recipes cookbook (two actually) with recipes for all the wierd foods featured in his books, a dictionary which includes the crazy made up words he uses in his books, and there’s even a cute video game app (free) featuring the Twits that is super fun, if a little bit nerve-racking for kids!!!!!  There’s even a Roald Dahl website with even more to offer, like a Party Pack for his 100th birthday celebration, and the subsequent Party Packs for his next two birthdays (2017 & 2018), which includes crossword puzzles, word searches, coloring pages, drawing activities, games, classroom decorations, party hats, invitations, and so much more.  All of which are great for public school classrooms, home-school classrooms, and generally support a child’s enthusiasm for his books.

This is one of the activities we did together recently as a family after my granddaughter read James and the Giant Peach:

J&GP Dinner & a Movie

I surprised her with this “family supper” one night.  The Revolting Recipes cookbook is loaded with recipes that are intended to be made together with the child.  (I did a little ad-libbing with my renditions of the foods.  I made a gravy for my Mud Burgers, rather than serving them on buns.  I used my own deviled egg recipe for the Stink Bug’s Eggs, and rather than an apple for the Hot Frogs I used peach halves – in keeping with the peach theme, and they would have been even more delicious with grilled fresh peaches rather than the canned peaches, plus I let them swim in warmed tapioca – “frog eye soup” – rather than pudding).

And did you know James Patterson writes kid’s books now?  Many are highly rated on Amazon.  My granddaughter thought Dog Diaries would be fun to read, and she was right; she can’t wait to read it every night before bed, and tells her mom and me all about what she read because it is so funny and entertaining!!!

So, this is what has inspired my blogging today.  I just wanted to pass along the knowledge I’ve discovered, and some terrific ideas that have worked really well for us.

Book Collage Two

ASSESSING READING LEVEL

Most modern chapter books show a reading level somewhere on the bar code label (or the inside pages at the front of the book). Poof *mind blown* I did not know this, did you? Look for either a number such as RL: 2.1, OR a letter inside of a triangle. The example RL: 2.1 translates to Reading Level: 2nd grade, 1st month. If the bar code shows a letter inside of a triangle, this is the Fountas & Pinnel reading level system. In this system A-C is Kindergarten levels, D-J is First Grade, K-P is Second Grade, Q-T is 3rd Grade, U-W is 4th Grade, X-Y is 5th Grade, and Z is 6th Grade and into middle school. There is also a Lexile measurement, but it is a little more complicated. (Note: if you really want to be an expert on your child’s reading level and ability, visit Reading Rockets).

Book BarCode

So now, when we are out shopping with our kids and they run to us with a book they want to read, we can quickly decide if it is anywhere near their right age level or not.

If you can’t find the reading level on the book anywhere and you happen to have your smart phone with you, you can check it at the Accelerated Reading website (arbookfind.com). If the book title comes up, it will give you the reading level.

It is also helpful to check the reading levels of the last few books our kids have read and talk to them about them. Who were the characters? What was the story about? Was it easy to understand? Was there anything in the story you didn’t understand? Were there any words that you didn’t know how to pronounce, or that you didn’t know what they meant? Was the story hard to follow? If the last few books that they read were pretty easy for them (matched their grade level), the child was motivated to read them all the way to the end, and is able to tell you lots of details about them, chances are they were a pretty good reading level fit. Armed with this information, we might want to challenge them to go a little bit harder with their next book.  It will add words to their vocabulary among other things.  BUT NOTE that if a book is too easy children will lose interest out of boredom, and if a book is too hard for them to understand the child will lose interest out of frustration.  Finding books that match their reading level is crucial to fostering a love of reading in them.

If you are looking for a way to more officially test your child’s reading level, I found websites that offer free reading level assessments, like: macmillanreaders.com/level-test/

Beginner Readers

If a book is on your child’s correct reading level and aimed at her interests, and is also well written and entertaining to her, she will at least be tempted to read it without a lot of coaxing on your part!!!!!  My youngest grandchild was struggling with confidence issues.  She didn’t think she could read so she didn’t even want to try, but I knew she recognized letters and that she had the skills to sound out words.  So I picked up these beginning readers and they were just the ticket. The very first page offered words she recognized and words that were easy to sound out.  When she realized she could read her confidence skyrocketed. These little readers were not only filled with beginning sight words she was familiar with and easy words she could sound out (at her reading level), but they are “irresistible” as advertised.  Not only can she read them, she comprehends what she is reading, which is very exciting!!!!!

There are also ways to sweeten the deal, incentives to help motivate and encourage kids when their attention span is waning, which I’ll delve into in detail a little further down!!!!  Biggest thing to remember is that this is NOT SCHOOL!  There are no time constraints.  There is no test at the end.  There is no right or wrong way to read – our kids have the luxury of getting to read books they got to pick, which they can read by themselves, or if they would rather we can read them together.  Reading should be FUN not a chore.  It should be exciting, not drudgery.  I sooooo want my enthusiasm to spark their enthusiasm.  I want to be a cheerleader and a good role model.

Book Collage Three

ASSESSING LITERARY VALUE OF BOOKS

Caldecott and Newberry give “medals” to books with high literary value. You can also Google: Notable Children’s Books or Literature and see what comes up.

After you’ve nailed down their correct reading level, next make a pile of medal winning books (online shopping cart -or- brick & mortar bookstore), and finally go through the pile of books together. Flip through the pages and see how long it is and how small the print is. Read the back covers. Read a few pages.  Narrow down the giant pile to about ten books that most interest them. And then…

Book Collage One

ASSESSING SUBJECT MATTER

Once you have the giant world of children’s books pared down to a child sized pile of quality literature that matches her interests and reading level, you can weed out the ones that might have objectionable content. Obviously there is really only about one or two ways to go about this. One, is to read the books ourselves before we let our kids read them. The bonus for this way is that it comes in handy later when we want to ask them questions about the book to access their comprehension, or come up with follow-up activities.

The second, is to read reviews at websites we trust the opinions of. Perhaps, like me, you are concerned with certain subject matter being appropriate and would like a good Christian review? In that case, you might find the following websites helpful:

RedeemedReader.com (Children’s Book Reviews for Christian Parents)

www.cbn.com/entertainment/books/new-christian-book-reviews.aspx

ccbreview.blogspot.com/

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews

https://www.christianforums.com/threads/childrens-book-review-warriors.7328543/

https://www.pluggedin.com/book-reviews/

These websites will usually alert parents to subject matter which might be offensive, controversial, or a maturity level that we would prefer to preview and prepare our kids for ahead of time.

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DON’T FORGET – FIND A GOOD BEDTIME STORY BOOK

Depending upon our kids’ ages, we might want to consider also picking up a great story book that we can read to them. Everything I’ve read says it is good for kids to hear books read to them by someone who reads really well. It is bonding as well as skill building. I remember as a kid what a great reader my mom was, how soothing her voice was, and how much I looked forward to the nights when she had time to read bedtime stories to my sisters and me. She had a big book of bedtime stories that included Tall Tales, Fairy Tales, Aesop’s Fables, and Classics, like Black Beauty, Swiss Family Robinson, and Peter Rabbit. The fluid way she read, her voice inflection, her own enthusiasm for the stories, made them come right off the pages and into my imagination. I wanted to grow up to read just like her.

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These are a few such books:

A Treasury of Children’s Literature (Hardcover) by Armand Eisen

The Book of Virtues, A Treasury of Great Moral Stories

The McElderry Book of Aesop’s Fables (Hardcover) by Michael Morpurgo (Author), Emma Chichester Clark (Illustrator)

American Tall Tales (Hardcover) by Mary Pope Osborne (Author), Michael McCurdy (Illustrator)

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ACTIVITIES AND REWARDS

Some kids are naturally attracted to reading and will take to it like a duck in water.  Oh glorious days!  Others are more math minded, or science minded, or just lazy.  It’s not a lost cause to get them to want to read, it’s just a matter of getting creative to find the subject matter that will hook them.  Finding books about kids with their similar likes and dislikes is one way to do it.  Maybe comic books would be more their thing.  Maybe reading to them instead of beating our head against a wall trying to get them to read on their own?

Motivating our kids to read by letting them picking great books of interest to them is one way, but also following up their efforts with fun activities is, well, jam on the peanut butter…is chocolate syrup on the ice cream… is icing on the cake!

In trying to make reading fun for my grandkids I had to ask myself, “What makes reading fun for me?”  I’m one who hated (all caps, bold letters, double underlined, and triple exclamation mark – HATED!!!) reading in school, and I am still not a huge book reader as an adult.  I do however enjoy Bible study.  Family history research, old photographs, and pedigree charts.  I like audio books when I’m going to be stuck in the car for a long drive.  It is more motivating to me to read if I am part of a book club or something that involves fellowship and food once a week.  I like historical fiction.  I enjoy mysteries.  I like stories like the Little House books – I’m not sure what that genre is, biographies or dramas maybe?  I honestly prefer children’s books because they are a quick read and I have a short attention span.  I don’t like horror, romance, science fiction, or fantasy.  I love writing and illustrating so much more than reading.  Our kids are not so different in their likes and dislikes and tastes from us.  Sometimes all it takes to motivate a kid is to give them opportunities that are so appealing they can’t resist.

Kids who like to read might find it enjoyable to have a favorite little nook to read in.  Maybe a secluded space by a window, with a shag area rug, a bean bag chair or giant stuffed animal to lounge on, and a groovy free-standing lamp sitting next to it, tucked away in a secret corner of the attic, or in a tree house, or a lovely little bench in the garden?  Maybe our child would enjoy reading with soft noise in the background or music – classical music, piano or guitar music, or white noise like thunder, lightening, and rain, or ocean waves, or gentle wind?

Kids who don’t ever sit still long enough to read might enjoy taking a drive through pretty country, looking out the window with binoculars and listening to an audio book that captures their imagination?  Or, rather than listening to the audio book in the car, they would prefer to listen while we all as a family do some project together, like draw, or color, or paint, or clean a room?

When my kids were little I created opportunities for us to get out and read.  We would pack up some drinks and snacks, and a big blanket, and we’d head to a shady, secluded spot in one of our city’s huge sprawling parks, or we’d drive up to a lookout or back country road on the mountain with our snacks and big blanket.  Sometimes we’d invite grandma to join us, and spend an afternoon browsing magazines, perusing cookbooks, or thumbing through whatever print material that suited our fancy that day – even puzzle books, quiz books, illustrated dictionary, and catalogues counted.

Sometimes what kids hate about reading (me) is having books chosen for them, with subject matter that isn’t the least bit interesting to them, not to mention all the painful formalities of the classroom – oral book reports, testing, reading out loud, etc.  UGH!  Maybe they just have ants in their pants and can’t sit still long enough to get into a book.  Perhaps just creating an environment that is geared toward their unique dispositions might just help them blossom into the burgeoning reader we are hoping for them to be???  We just need to find that gateway drug that gets them hooked.  🙂

Maybe all my kid needs is to get to go to the library or book store once a week and hang out looking at all the books available to them there?  Or, maybe it is getting to do an activity that is featured in a book they are reading – especially if it’s one they never heard of before (playing a game of marbles, catching butterflies in a net, making a cane pole and trying to catch fish with it, floating on a raft, flying a kite, building a tree house or fort, etc.)? Perhaps the introductions to such new discoveries will trigger something in them?

In my research, I came across this comment in a thread of a post on Facebook and it is just too apropos not to pass along:

“Jon David Groff writes: As a junior/senior high school English Language Arts teacher, I have stopped doing the traditional novel study. After reading The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller, one summer, I went out and gathered together a decent classroom library. Come September, I told students that we would no longer do a formal novel study. They loved it. Then I told them they’d instead have a goal to read 40 book — one a week. They were not happy.

However, they could read what they wanted, didn’t have to write reports or assignments on what they read, would have some class time dedicated to reading, had no marks whatsoever tied to how many books they read or didn’t read, could abandon books they didn’t like, books over 350 pages counted as two books, and they could get books from wherever they wanted.

Most kids loved it. One grade 12 boy that year came to me after two weeks and said he’d finished the first book of his life and wanted the second in the series. I had a parent come to me at After a Christmas and day on vacation her daughter insisted on taking books into restaurants even though she’d never liked reading before. I now play ball on a team with a student who graduated who has thanked me for getting her into reading by using this approach.

I’ve since reduced the book count to 20 books a year — one every two weeks. I read when students read. They keep a book journal online that tracks their genres, book totals, and a any comments they want to make. I do also. I report their book count on each report card (but there’s still no grades) and use their own reflections about reading to help parents understand if they are happy having read 50 books or 5 for the year. For some, those 5 books are more than they’ve read over the previous 5 years. For others, their 50 books is a bit of a disappointment.

Last year, I began a monthly book challenge, completely optional, and most having nothing to do with reading speed. Challenges like, “carry a book EVERYWHERE for the month” or read in the craziest place and get a pic or vid (staff voted on the winner), or read to another person under age 10 or over age 60 — bonus entries for length of time, groups of three or more, and if they were strangers (haha). Every month I’d take those who chose to participate and entered them in a draw for a $15 Chapters-Indigo gift card.

Next year, my grade 8 students will participate in a Gamification class that attempts to do a lot of crosscurricular between LA and Social. They will have mutant powers and travel through history to stop a villain. And they will need to read a book about time travel in order to adopt that method of time travel for their own. They’ll create a visual text of the time travel method. But again, the choice of book will be there’s. (If you have any suggestions or want to donate books on Time Travel to my classroom library, please please please let me know. My summer reading is all time travel books and I’m trying to scrounge up enough books for 55 students, which means roughly 75 books if I’m going to be able to offer choices. That’s a lot of books and money.)

I’m trying to make reading fun and done in a way that adults read rather than the way school typically make kids read. Because even I don’t like reading books I’m told I have to in order to write a test based on someone else’s opinion of the book. We learn our curriculum using short stories, short films, movies, poetry, non-fiction, and other types of texts. We save books for enjoying, sharing, discussing . . . and actually reading!

*I’m sorry for the long response, but I wanted to share what I’m doing and to let others know that not all teachers are happy doing things the traditional way.”

MORE IDEAS

»Encourage your kids to spy out new words and perhaps make a word-journal.  We could even pay them for every 10 words they find that they didn’t know how to pronounce or what it meant before, and let them choose what to do with the money.  We could make those new words into a game where we are all challenged to use those words, like a secret word a day game, in sentences with other family members.  Remember on Pee Wee’s Playhouse where they would have a secret word and any time someone said that word, bells and whistles would go off.  Yeah, maybe kind of like that!

» If our child chooses a book that has been made into a movie, we can reward the completion of the book by going to the movie, or renting the DVD and making a family movie  night out of watching it. Maybe set it up as a backyard movie with a popcorn bar and root beer floats, and even let them invite their friends, or extended family, if they want.

» Choose an activity from the book to do together as a family (ie. Maybe the people in the book went out for Chinese food and ate something unfamiliar – like dim sum, or there was a horse race, or a dog parade, or the family went camping by a lake or on the beach, or there were racecars, or star-gazing, or gymnastics/dance/skating, or fishing, or picking berries and baking a pie, or watching/playing a ball game, or making Indian crafts, or growing a garden, or visiting a museum, etc.). If the story was about an artist, maybe the family would like to take an art class together? If it was about a nurse or fireman, perhaps the family would like to take a CPR class together or visit a hospital/firestation/police station? If it had a part in it about sailing on a boat (I’m thinking of Stewart Little) – maybe find a nearby sailing regatta to attend?

» If the book was a spy book, we could send the child on a spy adventure. Give them a pen and notebook and camera and let them do some detective work to see and report back on what the family cat does all day, or who mows the lawns in the neighborhood and on what days, or what time the mailman delivers the mail each day and how much of that mail is advertisements (junk). We could reward them with a puzzle book and some fancy mechanical pencils.

small-boy-readingbook

» Does your town have a few Little Free Libraries tucked away here and there in various neighborhoods or public parks near you?  The kids might enjoy making a habit of taking their unwanted books and trading them or donating them to a Little Free Library.  Sometimes if there is a bench nearby one of these Little Free Libraries, its fun to just sit and look through some of the books rather than take them.

» Pin a world map on the wall and locate where the stories take place. Then rent a travel video of the places and watch it together. Or pin-up a history timeline and locate the time period when the stories each took place. And then find what other things were happening in the world during that time, or how things are done differently now than they were then. We could visit an antique store, or spend a morning going to yard sales and trying to find knick-knacks or dress-up clothing from that time period that they kids could use to create their own backyard play with.

» Allow our kids to change their mind about a book, and move on to something else if it is boring or too difficult to get into.

» Maybe comic books are your kid’s thing!

» Perhaps a children’s Bible Study is right up their alley.  The Quest by Beth Moore is one suggestion, and Kay Arthur has written some as well.

» Maybe our whole family would love listening to an audio book to pass the long miles of a road trip vacation?  Take along a sketch book so they can doodle while we all listen, or take along a craft (needlepoint, crochet, knitting, weaving, whittling, yarn and finger games like Cats-eye, bead necklaces, friendship bracelets, tying flies, kenetic sand, playing solitaire on an i-pad, or watching out the window to spot eye-spies on a checklist/scavenger hunt) that can be done on one’s lap while listening.  Or encourage the kids to make up a story to tell to all of us using story cards (like Tell TaleStory War –included here only for a suggestion on how to play such a game, or Create-a-Story Board).

» We could give the kids an opportunity to write their own stories, and make their own books, with homemade book covers (cloth/scrapbooking paper/wall paper samples and cardboard), let them take and add pictures, or draw illustrations. Help them to make a rough draft, use some of the new vocabulary words they’ve learned, do some editing, and then re-write it in their very best handwriting. The books, if they are very well done, would make great gifts for grandparents at Christmastime, or a great gift for their teachers at Back-to-School night in the fall, or just to keep as a keepsake in their baby books forever.

Okay, well, I guess that’s all I’ve got for us for now.  I hope I’m not coming across as a know-it-all.  Far be it for me to tell anyone else what to do when I don’t even have it figured out for myself yet.  Just gathering my research into one place, and sharing it with the hopes that you feel as encouraged and empowered as I do now to foster a love of reading in our precious kiddos over the summer, and hopefully for the rest of their lives!  God richely bless you!!!!!

Book Collage Four

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6