November 29, 2012

Sour Cream Banana Bread

One day a few months back I had a bunch of very ripe bananas and had the craving for banana bread.  In all the recipes I have, I couldn't find a single one for banana bread.  I went to to see what I could find.  I scrolled through the endless banana bread recipes there and found one that had ingredients I had on hand that day.  I have to say I think I got pretty lucky.  It was the first recipe I found and I haven't had the desire to try any others since.  I think the sour cream is the secret ingredient.  The flavor is amazing, and it's such an easy recipe.
  I usually make four mini loaves out of this recipe and sprinkle turbinado sugar (the same sugar I use on my  gingersnaps) on the top.  I put the sugar on the loaves about 15-20 minutes into the baking time.  If you do it too soon it melts in, and if you do it too late it won't stick. 

Sour Cream Banana Bread
1 C. sugar
 1⁄2 C. butter
 2 eggs
1 C. mashed bananas (very ripe) 
1⁄2 C. sour cream

2 C. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1⁄4 tsp. salt
1⁄2 C. nuts (optional)
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla

Sift dry ingredients together; set aside. Cream sugar and butter. Beat in eggs, bananas, and sour cream. Add dry ingredients, nuts, and vanilla. Place in pan and let stand for about 10 minutes. Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes.  Enjoy!

This has nothing to do with banana bread, but do you love quotes?  I could get lost on Pinterest for hours just reading quotes.  I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite quotes every now and again.  
Here's my quote for today.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

-Thomas Edison
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November 28, 2012

Christmas In/Out Game & Printable

This game goes right along with the Santa On/Off game I posted yesterday.  It's another fun way to learn number combinations, but more challenging.
Here's what you'll need.

A container (can, cup, bucket) of some kind.  I used a bucket from the dollar bins at Target.  I have a million of them!  I have the hardest time passing up cute containers.
I decorated mine with some ribbon and a Christmas sticker mounted on card stock.  A plain old cup would get the job done as well, just make sure it's not clear.

Counters of some kind.  This time I'm using marshmallows.  Your counters can be anything small enough to hide in the container you've chosen.  Once again I have a cute container for the marshmallows (totally unnecessary, but adorable!).  These fantastic little white bags can be found at Dollar Tree.  I think you get six for a dollar!  I usually find them in the wedding isle.

Next, you'll need some kind of record sheet.  I've made several here you can print out, or a plain piece of paper would work.  Recording helps your child see all of the combinations for the number of counters you are using.  The numbers at the top of the record sheets are the number of counters you'll need.  I included a blank record sheet so you choose the number of counters.  Oh, and you'll need two players for this game.

Here's how you play.
Choose the number of counters you want to use (smaller numbers for younger kids, bigger numbers for older kids).  Have one child close his/her eyes (or go out of the room if they tend to be peekers like my boys) while the other child hides some (or all) of the counters in the container.  When the counters are hidden the child uncovers his/her eyes and tries to figure out how many counters are under the container based on how many counters are left outside the container.  I used six marshmallows in the picture above.  Five marshmallows are outside the container, so how many would be inside?  Tricky, I know.  Kids get the biggest kick out of this.  Who doesn't love a good guessing game?  At first it might be a guessing game, but it doesn't take long until they start using some math skills to figure it out.

You could even have your child write out the number sentences (5+1=6, 3+3=6, 0+6=6,...) after the In/Out record sheet is filled in.  Happy counting!

Linking to these parties.
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November 27, 2012

Santa Math Game & Printable

When I taught first grade we had a math program that used a lot of fun games to help the students learn math concepts.  One of those games was called On/Off.  It's such a simple concept, but it helps kids learn number combinations while having fun.
Here's what you'll need. 

A board of some kind.  I made mine with a cute vintage Santa from The Graphics Fairy.  I printed out the Santa, then cut off the excess white on the sides and mounted it on red scrapbook paper.  My board turned out to be about    6 1/2" X 8".   You don't want your board too much bigger than this size, or the game won't work out as well.  A standard paper size (8 1/2" X 11") would work as well, but I wouldn't go any bigger.  

Some type of counters to drop.  I used mint M&Ms (my favorite!), but you could use anything.  Candy is fun because the kids can eat them when they're done.  I've also used marshmallows and BINGO chips.  You just need something small you can drop and won't roll around too much.  
You'll also need a recording sheet.  I've made a fun one here you're welcome to use or you can use any piece of paper.  You'll notice I have a 5, 10, 15, and 20 at the top of the recording sheets.  That number indicates the number of counters you'll need.  I also made a blank sheet so you can use any number of counters you'd like. 

Here's how you play.  
Take the number of counters you've chosen, hold them in you hands, and drop them directly over the board.  

Some of the counters should land on the board and some should land off.  After the counters have landed, record your numbers on the record sheet.  If you are using 10 counters and 3 counters land on and 7 counters land off, then put a 3 on side of the table that says "ON" and 7 on the side of the table that says "OFF".  Keep playing until the entire table is filled in.

It's fun to see all the number combinations that have been recorded on the board at the end of the game. Point out that all the combinations are ways to make 10 (or which ever number you choose to use).  Your kids will have their addition facts down in no time.  It's also fun to point out flip/flops.  Ten can be made with 3 and 7, but also 7 and 3.

This game is easily adapted for different age groups.  Use smaller numbers for younger kids and bigger numbers for older kids.  I made the blank record sheet for this reason.  Adapt the game to whatever skill level you need.

I hope this all made sense.  Now I need to make some boards for every month.  This is an easy game to play with each season/holiday.  I need to find a cute snowman for January and use some min snowballs (marshmallows) for counters.

I'm linking to these parties.
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November 26, 2012

Pomegranate & Apple Raspberry Jell-O

Do you like Jell-O?  I do at times, but I wouldn't say I love it.  I do, however, love this recipe.  I try to put pomegranates in everything this time of year because they are so good and only around for a short time.  My mother-in-law gave me this recipe and it's become a yearly tradition.  It's an easy recipe, but a bit time consuming when it comes to the pomegranate.  Do you have a trick for getting the seeds out?  I often do it in water to keep the juices at bay, but that's about my only trick. I had a cut up pomegranate on the counter the other day and each of my boys took a section and cleaned out every singe seed.  I would put them to work for me, but it would be pointless.  Each and every seed that came out of the pomegranate went straight into their mouths.

Pomegranate & Apple Raspberry Jell-O
1 large pkg. raspberry Jell-O
 2 C. pomegranate seeds (more of less to your liking)
2-3 shredded apples (more or less to your liking)
Cool Whip

Mix Jell-O according to box directions.  Add pomegranates and shredded apples.  Refrigerate until set (over night is best).  Top with Cool Whip.  Enjoy!

P.S. Have you ever tried adding coconut cream pudding to your Cool Whip?  It's delicious!  Just add 1 cup of milk to the pudding (make sure it's the instant kind) and whisk together.  Fold in the Cool Whip. Put it on top of any      Jell-O, or eat it by the spoonful (it's that good!).

Linking to these parties.
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November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought;
 and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  
~G.K. Chesterton

This year I am thankful for the four most important boys in my world, loving, supportive family members, good health, challenges and growing opportunities, the beautiful valley I call home, creativity, and my faith.
  I hope you enjoy this day of thanks!

*Thank you Graphics Fairy once again for the wonderful clip art!*
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November 21, 2012

Thankful Game & Printable

My boys love a good guessing game, so last year at Thanksgiving we played a little game during dinner.  Before dinner everyone got a card and wrote down five things they were thankful for.  Then we put all the cards in a pile and during dinner I read each card out loud.  We had to guess who had written the card based on their thankful list.  Some were dead giveaways, (my two-year-old had Thomas the Train on his list) but others were a bit harder.  It was a great way to reflect on our blessings and have some fun.  We didn't have a huge group of people at our dinner, so it was easy to do together.  You could have each table be a group or even do it with everyone before or after dinner.

Last year we just had plain pieces of paper to write on.  But, I always love an excuse to make something cute, so I decided to make some cards to print out this year.

 I need to figure out how to share a download on my blog.  Check back later tonight for a link to the "I am Thankful for..." cards.  Hopefully I'll have it figured out by then.  I have them in black, gray, orange, and brown.  I got the download to work.  Click here to get it.
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November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Books & Songs

I have a feeling many of the posts on my blog are going to begin just like this one here.  I have this teacher inside of me that doesn't sleep (and I haven't had my own classroom for six years now).  I didn't realize it at the time, but elementary education was the perfect profession for me- not only as a classroom teacher, but as a mom.  Every holiday I have to get out my whole stash of books, songs, poems, and activities.  

Here are some of my favorite children's books for Thanksgiving and a few fun songs to sing with your kids.  My twins are six and at times I wonder if they've out grown the songs or find them a bit silly, but just last night I was singing "Five Fat Turkeys" (without even realizing it- my husband just loves it when I do things like that).  I guess I stopped before the song was over because one of my boys said, "Mom!  Aren't you going to finish the song?"  He loves them and he can't help it! (:

I found all of these at  You can click on each book to find more information and pricing.  When I taught I would buy almost all of my books from  Scholastic Book Clubs.  They always have great prices and fun holiday books.

(I'm not quite sure what happened to the poor "Plump and Perky Turkey" book.  It's a bit tiny- sorry.  Tiny, but with a huge price!  The listing price at Barnes and Noble is only $349.89!  What a deal!)

Here are three of our favorite songs for Thanksgiving.

Five Fat Turkeys
Five fat turkeys are we
We slept all night in a tree
When the cook came around
We couldn't be found 
And that's why we're here you see!
(Click here to listen to the tune.  The video is a bit crazy, but at least you can hear how the song goes.)

Turkey Dinner
(Sung to the tune of ‘Frère Jacques)
Turkey dinner, turkey dinner
Gather round, gather round
Who will get the drumstick
Yummy, yummy yum-stick
All sit down, all sit down.
Cornbread muffins, chestnut stuffin'
Pumpkin pie, one foot high
All of us were thinner 
'Till we came to dinner
Me oh my, me oh my!

The Pilgrims and the Indians
The Pilgrims and the Indians
Had a pow-wow a long time ago.
The Pilgrims and the Indians
Felt like having a party and so,
The Pilgrims and the Indians
Cooked a turkey and Indian corn.
Sat down and ate together,
And that is how Thanksgiving was born!
(Amy at Sunlitpages has a link where you can listen to a bit of this song or purchase it on CD.  It is extremely catchy!)

I'd love to hear what your favorite Thanksgiving books and/or songs are.  Happy Thanksgiving reading & singing!
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November 19, 2012

Pumpkin Fluff Dip & Gingersnaps

I love cooking, and I love everything seasonal.  I try to squeeze in as many pumpkin recipes during the fall as I can.  This recipe is always a hit and it's quick to prepare. My sister gave me this recipe, but I couldn't find it when I tried to make it the other day so I googled the ingredients and found it at This recipe makes a TON.  I usually end up halving it.

Pumpkin Fluff Dip
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1 (5 oz.) pkg. instant vanilla pudding mix
1 (16 oz.) Cool Whip
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Mix pumpkin, pudding mix, and pumpkin pie spice together.  Fold in Cool Whip.  Chill until ready to serve.

I've always used cinnamon graham crackers with this dip, but I didn't have any so we used the gingersnap cookies I'd made.  I'm glad I didn't have the graham crackers because I think I like the gingersnaps better.  I've also seen apple slices used for dipping.

My best friend gave me this gingersnap recipe years ago and I use it constantly.  They are amazing on their own, but they are also great with pumpkin ice cream,  cream cheese frosting, and now pumpkin fluff dip.

1/2 C. butter
1/4 C. vegetable oil
1 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. molasses
1 egg
2 1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves

Cream the first five ingredients until fluffy.  Sift the dry ingredients together.  Stir dry ingredients into the molasses mixture.  Form into balls.  Roll in sugar (I always use turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)).  Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet and bake at 375° for 9-11 minutes.

Now I just have a few more days to get all my pumpkin cravings out of the way.  I don't know about you, but once December hits I'm all about peppermint!  Maybe I need to come up with a peppermint fluff dip.  What are your favorite peppermint recipes?

Linking to these parties.
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November 16, 2012

Turkey Battleship

Last year I found a pumpkin Battleship game online that I printed out to use for Halloween.  My boys fell in LOVE with it, so when November came around I thought we could easily make a Thanksgiving-themed Battleship.  I love the strategy that's involved with this game.  When my boys first played Battleship they were all over the place with their hits, but the more they've played, the more they've learned the strategy involved.  It definitely takes some patience and skill.  They also love to yell out "Hit!" when their targets get taken out.  This game is fun to play throughout the month of November, or it's a great way to pass some time on Thanksgiving day.  

I used a 6 X 6 table for our grid and six turkeys for the targets.  I printed the table out on to a brown paper bag.  I was making this the night before Thanksgiving last year and really wanted to use a brown paper bag color for the game, but couldn't find any shade of brown paper in my stash.   I did find an old brown bag from my local craft store and cut it down to a standard paper size.  It went through the printer with no problem.

I then used my Martha Stewart alphabet stamp set (the same set I used in my Thankful Journals and November calendar) to mark the coordinates.

The final touch was finding the right turkey for our targets.  It took a bit of hunting, but I found the perfect one.  I have looked and looked this year for the source of my turkey, but I can't find it anywhere.  There are a lot of great vintage turkey images out there- just google it.  I shrunk the turkey down to size so he'd fit in the squares of the grid.  Then I copied  about 50 turkeys on to one page and printed it out.  I did have to cut all the turkeys out, but with my paper cutter it was an easy job.  We adhered our turkeys to the grid with tape, but glue would work too (if you're not wanting to reuse the grid or turkey).  You may also want to print two grids per player- one to put your own turkeys on and the other one to keep track which enemy squares you've called.

 Battleship of any kind can be adjusted for any age group by changing  the size of your grid and the number of targets.  Now on to making a Christmas Battleship.  My only problem there is deciding on a target- Santas, trees, reindeer, candy canes...  or maybe all of them!

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November 15, 2012

November Calendar For Little Ones

 The teacher in me has always had a thing for calendars.  When you walk into your child's kindergarten or first grade classroom do you immediately notice the cute calendar/meeting area?  I do.  Every time I see one it makes me miss my own (well, my adopted own).  Mrs. Linda Lewis (amazing lady!) was my cooperating teacher my first year of teaching.  She passed her handmade calendar on to me when she retired (score!).  I wish I had pictures of every month, but I don't.  She made every single month as cute as the October one below.  This was before the Cricut, the Silhouette, or any other electronic  cutting devices.  We did have our ancient hand-cranked die cut machine in our school workroom, but I don't think she even used that.  The majority of it was done by tracing, drawing, and cutting out by hand.  Talent and patience!

Mrs. Lewis's Handmade Calendar
(sorry about the glare)

I remember telling my husband when I was pregnant with our twins that I was worried about turning off my teacher mode long enough to be in mommy mode. I thought for sure I'd be doing everything I did in my classroom in my home with my boys.  He was quick to remind me that I might be a bit too busy being a mom to teach all day long.  I adamantly disagreed with him.  Well, needless to say, after three months of no sleep and an exhausting (but wonderful) first year of being a new mom with twins, I had to eat my words.  Being a mom was consuming my every waking minute, as it should have. 

Fast forward a couple of years, and my hopes of being the teacher-mommy seemed a bit more attainable.  I was sleeping and had a good grip on the twin thing.  One of the first things I made for my boys was a calendar corner.  Classroom calendars are so adorable, but they serve a greater purpose.  Teachers use them to help cover many areas of their curriculum.  Months, weeks, days, numbers, counting, patterns, today, tomorrow, before, after, how many days until... the teaching possibilities are endless.  I love being able to teach my boys things without them really knowing I'm teaching them.  You'd be surprised what a child can learn by simply having access to a calendar.  I always make my calendar big enough  for my boys to see and at their eye level. It's as simple as that.  And of course it needs to be cute!

I make a new calendar every month.  I know that's probably crazy to some people, but I've got it down to a science and I kind of enjoy it.  Looking a Linda's October calendar makes me think about laminating one, but I like to switch the background color for each month.  
Here's what I used for my November calendar.

1.  Brown craft paper (it comes in a roll) from the dollar store (I cut it down to roughly 21"x 15")
2.  A yard stick for measuring 
3.  Sharpie for the lines
4.  Martha Steward alphabet stamp set for the days of the week and numbers
5.  Orange letters cut out from my Cricut (I used the Classic Font cartridge)
6.  Orange glitter for the November letters
7.  The turkeys I used on our Thankful Journals from Michaels
8.  Embellishments for special dates

There are tons of other things I could add to the calendar itself, or around it, but for now it works for us.  We also have a lot of scheduling items that could be added to the calendar, but I'm afraid that would make it too crowded and a bit overwhelming.  We keep this calendar fairly simple.  I honestly never get tired of watching my boys head over to the calendar from time to time to count the days until a special occasion, to see what day it is, or to check how many more days they have until church day- their favorite day of the week!  :)
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November 13, 2012

Thankful Journals

November is such a wonderful time of year.  I love how it easily lends itself to reflecting on your blessings.  I've tried to instill an attitude of gratitude in my boys, but that takes a bit of work.  Each day in November we take turns saying what we're thankful for that day (something we should be doing every day of the year).   In year's past, we've written our ideas on leaves and made a Thankful Tree.  I've loved doing this and will probably do it again in the years to come, but I wanted to add a little bit more.

 Last year I saw this darling idea from Cat over at Caterinas Creative Corner.  She wrote down what her family was thankful for on brown paper then framed it and put the word Grateful (I believe she used vinyl) on the glass.  I love when beautiful home decor can be meaningful! 

Caterinas Creative Corner
So in order to incorporate all these ideas, I decided a Thankful Journal would be helpful this year.  The journals have enough pages that we can use them from year to year.  It will be fun to pull the journals out each November and read through our thankful lists from years past.  In the past when we've done the Thankful Tree I've just thrown  the leaves away after Thanksgiving.  The journals will be a more permanent place to keep our thoughts, they'll help in making our list for Cat's cute Grateful frame, and we can still add our thankful ideas to leaves for a tree.

Our journals are very simple.  You can be as fancy or plain as you like.  Here's what I did.  I bought these cute journals (they're plain brown on the front when you buy them and only $1) from Sierra's.  I love going to Sierra's when I visit my parents in Idaho.  They are closing their store there (sniff, sniff), so I'm going to stock up on them next time I go.  I bought the felt turkeys at Michael's and used my Martha Stewart alphabet stamp set to put the lettering on the front.  I used stickers to put the year at the top of the page inside.  Simple, simple.  We'll fill up as many pages as we need this year and then put them away until next year.  Happy journaling.  
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November 12, 2012


"In creating, the only hard thing's to begin; a grass blade's no easier to make than an oak."
 -James Russell Lowell

This quote is the exact reason it's taken me months to actually post something on my blog.  I've been at a standstill on what to do for my first post and haven't gotten anywhere.  I guess I figured my first post needed to be ground-breaking (or something close to it). That hasn't quite happened, so I'm just going to start.  Here is my first official post.  It's nothing fancy or exciting, but a start (I already feel better).

I love all things holiday- the sights, the smells, the sounds, the feelings.  Long ago in my high school days I would get together with my three best friends and make mixed tapes.  When iTunes came along, my mixed taped days became so much easier.  I have a mix for every holiday, and I have to say my Thanksgiving mix might just be my favorite.  Well, Christmas may have a slight edge over Thanksgiving, but my Christmas music doesn't really fit into the mix category.  It fits more in the category of volumes upon volumes.  So, here are the songs on my Thanksgiving mix.  I love how these songs immediately bring the feelings of Thanksgiving into my surroundings.  Isn't music powerful?  I hope you find one or two you like, and let me know if you have any other favorites I should add to my list. 

Thanksgiving Mix

  1. We Gather Together by Paul Mccandless, Philip Aaberg & Michael Manring
  2. Simple Gifts by Barry Phillips And William Coulter
  3. (There's No Place Like) Home For The Holidays by The Carpenters
  4. Thanksgiving by Jim Brickman
  5. Over the River and Through the Woods by Julia Lane or Michael Silverman
  6. Thanksgiving Theme by Vince Guaraldi Trio (Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits)
  7. Come Ye Thankful People Come by David Shelley Ensemble
  8. All Creatures of Our God and King by Mark Magnuson
  9. I've Got Plenty to Be Thankful For by Bing Crosby
  10. Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep) by Bing Crosby
P.S. All of my songs came from iTunes.  I wish I knew how to link you directly to each song or how to make a cool playlist you could click on, but I'm not quite sure how to do that (something to add to my "Learn How To Do" list).  Also, if you want to learn a little bit more about me, click here.

* Thank you to The Graphics Fairy for the wonder clip art!  Love her!*

Linking to these parties.

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