Fruity Chocolate Oat Cookies

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Mmm...these cookies are delicious, but don't leave you feeling guilty for eating them.

What You Need:


1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder (see how to make your own without aluminum here)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup honey

1 banana (could also use 1/3 cup applesauce)

1 egg

2 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups oats

1/2 cup chopped dried fruit  (or not - I used low-sugar Craisins this time & have used raisins in the past)

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped nuts (I didn't use these this time, but I have in the past)

What You Do:


1.  Mix the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

2.  Beat the honey, banana, egg, butter and vanilla on high speed 3 minutes or until lighter in color (easiest in this ).

3.  Reduce the speed to low and beat in flour mixture until just blended.

4.  Add in the remaining ingredients until just combined. 



5.  Drop onto cookie sheets and bake 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees.

6.  Cool on baking sheets and then transfer them to wire racks .

Grab some milk and devour these tasty treats while listening to track #7 on this album!

Are you looking for a cookie treat, without all the guilt?  What fruit/nut combination would you most like to try?  I'd love to hear - leave a comment or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.
 

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Personalized Puzzle Sticks for Preschoolers

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I have always loved Popsicle stick projects.  Somehow, incorporating them into an activity in the classroom made whatever we were doing seem like fun and not work.

They're pretty inexpensive, too.  You can usually find them at the dollar store (although these are a better deal at Amazon)  and even if you spring for some fancy colors , they're still an affordable craft supply.

I've got all sorts of ideas floating around in my head for projects to create with Gv when she gets a little older and this is one of them.   We had a few birthday and Christmas presents to get recently and I decided to go ahead and make these for some special preschool-aged gals who were on our list.

I prefer to make personalized gifts for others because 1)  We have a very limited budget and making a gift often saves us some money and 2) I think homemade gifts are more, ahem, personal than just buying some random thing at the store.  I enjoy getting gifts like this myself and feel it means so much when someone takes the time to create something just for me.

I'd seen a holiday craft idea somewhere where you could glue a picture from a magazine onto a few craft sticks and then cut the sticks apart again to make a simple puzzle.  I liked that, but wanted to take the idea a bit further and sneak some learning into the activity, as well.

I decided to draw letters onto the craft sticks and then include a set for each letter of the girls' names.  They could arrange the sticks to make each letter, then arrange each set to build their name.

You could use this idea for anything - the alphabet, sight words, numbers and math facts...there are so many possibilities.

First, get a bunch of craft sticks.  I really liked the fancy colors for these gifts, but plain ones work, too. 

Next, arrange 5 sticks and put some painter's (or masking) tape over them in an "X" shape:



Turn them over and figure out where your letter will go (practice on scrap paper first):



Use a permanent marker (easier than paint, although paint would work, too) to draw your letter onto the sticks:
 


Remove the tape and you're all set.  I set mine out on the porch to de-gas for a couple of days and get rid of the marker smell.

Since I used one color for each letter, it's obvious as to which sticks go together to make each letter.  If you are using plain sticks (or have more than one set of a color), then you can label the backs of the sticks with matching symbols, letter, or numbers so that it's easy to tell which ones go together.  Having a bunch of sets stored together would make for a great sorting activity, too!

 
Can you think of any other great puzzle ideas for these craft sticks?  I'd love to hear - leave a comment or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com. 

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Project Snapshot {Week 46}




The goal of this post is to capture a memory from the past week, either with a camera, words, or both.  Time passes in the blink of an eye and this will create a collection of treasured memories from throughout the year.

My Snapshot(s)


Little Miss Organizer is at it again.  (She's SO my daughter!)  I have to say, I didn't realize the pots and pans needed work, but apparently they did, because Gv spent an entire episode of streamed Elementary this evening working on this project.  

The fact that she does this from within the cabinet just cracks me up.

But I didn't get a photo of my favorite little helper moment today.  After lunch, I handed her a hot pad and asked her to take it to the kitchen.  She's been this kick lately of taking something back to the kitchen and stretching up on tiptoe to place whatever it is onto the counter.  Gv gets so tickled whenever she can help out.

So that's what I expected her to do with the hot pad.  She heads right to the kitchen and suddenly I hear a drawer opening.  I realize by the sound that it's one drawer in particular, so I creep over to see if I'm right.

She's put the hot pad in the drawer it belongs in!  A drawer that she can only reach by extending her arms all the way over her head.  She obviously has watched me move the hot pads in and out of that drawer plenty of times, but I just really didn't expect her to catch on to the process this soon.

So that was probably my favorite moment of the day.  Or it might be this: 


She wandered off and I found her sitting here, reading a book and looking out the window.  I suppose I could have removed her diaper, just in case, but the scene was just too perfect to disturb.

What was your favorite memory from this past week?  I'd love to hear about it!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

Coconut Milk Caramels

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I set out to make that batch of Caramel Apple Muffins the other day and realized I was happy with everything in it except the caramel.  I'd never made caramel myself before, but I thought surely it would be worth getting past my candy-making trepidation in order to keep some of the junk out of these special seasonal treats.

What I discovered was that these candies are ridiculously easy to make and their taste transcends that bagged junk so much, I'm finding it extremely difficult not to eat the whole batch up just by itself.

That may not seem so hard to believe, but I am not a candy person, unless it's chocolate.  I especially detest anything chewy and gooey like Tootsie Rolls, Now & Laters, Starburst, or caramels.

But OhMyGoodness.  I have absolutely discovered my new binge food.  You can bet that I'll be coming up with all sorts of baked creations that I can throw these little gems into, they're just so good.

What You Need:


1 cup honey

3/4 cup coconut milk (This is the BEST coconut milk to use in your cooking!)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 Tablespoons butter

What You Do:


1.  Combine honey and coconut milk in a sauce pan on high heat until it comes to a boil.  Stir occasionally until mixture reaches soft ball stage (235-240 degrees on your candy thermometer ).  I think this part was what most intimidated me about making candy, but there's really nothing to it if you use the thermometer!

(This took me literally just a couple minutes to make, since I used my awesome new induction cooktop)

2.  Remove pan from heat and immediately stir in vanilla and butter until well combined.

3.  Pour into a generously buttered 8x8-inch dish and freeze for 30 minutes.


4.  Cut into squares (I find it's easiest to use kitchen shears or a pizza wheel ) and add to your favorite recipes...that is, if you don't gobble them all up as you take them from the pan!


 
There!  Isn't that much better than using something with a list of ingredients that were created in a lab?  At first, I was intimidated by candy, but this recipe was so simple, I might be brave enough to venture further into candy-land.  Have you made candy before?  I'd love to hear - leave a comment or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com. 

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Thanksgiving Decorations to Make with Your Little Turkey



After creating such fun Halloween decorations with Gv this year, I knew I wanted to repeat the experience when we decorated for Thanksgiving.

I decided on three projects, all of which avoided using paint.

Tissue Wreath

I thought Gv might enjoy the tactile experience of tissue paper, so I decided to grab a paper plate and some glue and see what she did with it:

I put our trusty shower curtain liner down on the ground before we embarked on this project, because, well, glue!
Apparently tissue paper is the most delicious thing ever, because for the first ten minutes, all she wanted to do was stick it in her mouth and lick it.

Ew.

Once she decided she'd had her fill of the tasty little paper wafers, we got down to business.

I first cut out a circle from the center of a paper plate.  Do not worry about how neat this circle is, because it will be completely covered up with tissue paper and it's just silly to waste time being all OCD about something like that.

Plus, extra time cutting means extra tissue paper ingested...

Just fold the plate enough to snip the center and then cut out a circle.  Years of school figures mean I can create a pretty mean circle out of anything.

Next, cut out some squares from harvest-colored tissue paper (I chose red, orange, yellow and green).  Feel free to reuse stuffing from old gifts, because this project will wrinkle up the squares anyway.

Finally, drizzle a bit of glue (the wet stuff, not a pansy glue stick) over the face of the plate.  I suggest showing your little one how to put the tissue paper on the plate first.  Really make a production of jamming it on there and then taking your hand away, otherwise he or she might decide to snack some more...

You'll probably want to add more glue for the outermost layers.  Rather than drizzling it over the plate again, I just put a dot on a square of paper at a time and handed it to Gv to mash down.

Voila!  The perfect craft for a toddler, because really, this is all the wreath could ever look like anyway:

Handprint Turkey

I wanted to make a turkey out of tracings of Gv's hands and feet.  I grabbed some construction paper (brown, red, orange, yellow and green) and followed the same basic steps I did for the Halloween ghosts.

I traced each of Gv's feet onto brown paper (had to make one of these for the grandparents, you know) and then outlined them in black marker.  I added eyes and a beak and cut them out.

Next, I traced Gv's hands onto the other colors of paper before handing them over to "decorate" on her own with markers:

I didn't trace the "feathers" in black marker, because I thought they looked better plain.

I cut those out and then glued the turkey body (foot tracing) on top of the arranged feathers (hands).

  

Leaf Wreath

I decided to make another wreath, but this time using handprint tracings to look like leaves.

I should have saved this for another day, because Gv was still so enamored with putting the  marker caps back on and taking the markers out of the box and putting them back into the box, but I was a gal on a mission and wanted to move on to something else.  

I'd wanted to create this entire wreath from tracings of her hand, but three was all I was going to get.

Her feet were stationary, though, so I traced a zillion of those and figured they would work just as well as hands, because there are plenty of leaves that look like feet, too.

I added the veins to the leaves and glued them on another paper plate that I cut out like the tissue wreath above.


Do you decorate for Thanksgiving?  If so, do you put up elaborate adornments around your house, or handmade creations like these?  I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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Project Snapshot {Week 45}




The goal of this post is to capture a memory from the past week, either with a camera, words, or both.  Time passes in the blink of an eye and this will create a collection of treasured memories from throughout the year.

My Snapshot(s)


No baby swings?  No problem!  Enjoying some flying fun with Daddy after a friend's birthday party at a nearby park.

What was your favorite memory from this past week?  I'd love to hear about it!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

Caramel Apple Muffins

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Ahhh...what says fall more than caramel apples?  These muffins are just the thing to munch on while watching the leaves change color on a lazy Saturday morning.

Or while dreaming of fall foliage, if you're like me and live someplace that has just two seasons:  summer and not-quite-summer.

Since these muffins include baking caramels, I didn't include any other sugar.  If your palate craves a little more sweetness, then you might want to add in a little honey to your batch.  I wouldn't add more than 3/4 of a cup, though.  Try a little bit first; you can always add more.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post on making your own baking caramels so you can avoid using the processed stuff in recipes like this.  The basic bag of Kraft baking caramels will totally work, though, if you want something fast and easy.

What You Need:


2 cups whole wheat flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (see how to make your own here)

2 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon


1/2 teaspoon salt


1 lightly beaten egg


1 cup milk


1/2 stick melted butter


1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla


1/2 cup peeled, finely diced apple


about 12 diced caramel candy squares (you'll never want to buy some again after you make these)

What You Do:


1.  Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.

2.  In another bowl, combine egg and milk, then stir in butter and vanilla.

3.  Add flour mixture to wet ingredients, stirring just to blend.

4.  Stir in apples and caramels.

5.  Divide batter among muffin cups (wow, will you check out that price?  These would make great stocking stuffers!) and bake at 350 degrees 25 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly pressed.
 



Are you drooling over the thought of these caramel-apple-as-a-muffin breakfast treats yet?  I'd love to hear - leave a comment or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com. 

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Easy Popcorn Costume

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Last year, Gv was so still so little, it didn't make sense to haul her around trick-or-treating, so we created our own Halloween fun by holding a little book character parade, just the two of us.  This year, I knew she'd enjoy an introduction to the whole trick-or-treat experience, so I started pondering what would make a cute {and cheap!} costume for her early on in the month.

I was inspired by some laundry antics she engaged in one day - we have one of those mesh-and-wire foldable hampers and she'd started dancing around with it over her head.  I thought, "Hmmm, I could cut out a hole in the bottom, put her arms through the handles, and then fill it with towels and washcloths and she could be some laundry."



I headed to the dollar store to get a new hamper, because I only wanted to cut up the one we had if I could get a replacement.

No hampers.

I was so disappointed, because I'd gotten myself all jazzed for this idea, but then I saw this nifty popcorn box.

We love popcorn at our house and when I first noticed this box, I thought it would make the basis for a good gift basket (I still do!), but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it might also be the solution to my costume angst.  I bought the box and headed home.

First, I measured the base of the box and Gv's waist diameter, to make sure she would fit.  I was thinking I'd need to create straps so it could hang on her shoulders.  I had an extra set of shoelaces, so I figured I'd just punch some small holes in the top and thread them through.

Next, I took my trusty utility knife and sliced along the bottom edge.  I popped out the base and then covered the rough edge with regular old duct tape.  Ideally, it would have been nicer to use white duct tape , but I didn't have any on hand and figured it wasn't worth spending another dollar to get white, when it most likely wouldn't show too badly on the bottom anyway (I was right).




I grabbed a white onesie and slipped her legs through the bottom of the popcorn box to see how it fit.


She wasn't quite sure what to think of this contraption at first, but quickly became distracted by the sound of a dog barking in the distance and completely forgot she was wearing it.  I left it on a good half hour, just to make sure she'd tolerate it on Halloween night.

I was excited to discover that I didn't need to do anything else - it sat right on her little hips and still allowed her full range of movement in her arms and legs - she could even sit down in it with no trouble!

Finally, I added the finishing touch:  wadded-up white tissue paper to be the "popcorn" in her box!  On Halloween, I also dressed her in some white tights, but that's just because it was a little chilly (by Florida standards) and I wanted a little more of a barrier between her legs and the gazillion blood-thirsty mosquitoes who were also enjoying the trick-or-treating fun.


Now that Halloween is over, Gv's been playing with this box quite a bit.  She'll put it over her head for a game of peek-a-boo and then pull it down over her body before stepping out to repeat the whole process again.  It's been keeping her entertained quite a bit - Bonus!
 


Do you have a popcorn lover in your house?  If so, this easy, inexpensive costume might be just the thing for you!  And if you have a larger popcorn-lover, you could easily recreate this idea using a cardboard box and some paint.  What do you think?  Will you be buying your next costume, or making it yourself?  I'd love to hear - leave them here in the comments or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com!

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