Posts tagged fun
My older girls are away at camp and when I asked my youngest what she wanted to do she told me, “Pick strawberries.” So that’s exactly what we did.
Strawberry picking time is almost over. If you haven’t been out yet, there’s still a week or two. The strawberries in Ohio are much smaller and tarter than the big, California variety I usually find at the grocery store. As my daughter said, “They taste like sunshine.” I agree.
Meet Ed and Edward. That’s what my daughter named her carved orange creations. When I asked why, she looked at me liked I’d just asked why leaves are green. “Because they’re elephants, mom.” Well, that answers it.
When I was cleaning out some of my cookbooks the other day I stumbled on The Fine Art of Garnished, publishing date, 1978. My mother-in-law sent it to me awhile back and I haven’t had a chance–or the hutzpah–to give it a try. My youngest? Well, when she saw it as I was stacking up books she immediately started thumbing through it, planning out what we were going to try. Luckily, I talked her out of making the viking-inspired watermelon boat this time…
These elephants are actually easy to make–and don’t require a sharp knife. I was making an apple bird while my youngest settled on the elephants. Well, you can see how my bird turned out (in my defense, it was a very, very small apple). But my daughter followed the instructions and stopped at two elephants just because we ran out of oranges.
How to make a carved orange elephant:
- Find the end of the orange with a circle (where it was picked). Use a paring knife to cut a long “V” in the skin, going down from the circle. Gently pull the skin away from the pith.
- Lay the “V” portion onto a cutting board (still attached to the orange) and then shape it into a trunk.
- Use the paring knife to cut a circle on either side of the trunk for the ears. To do this, push the knife into the orange skin but not all the way through to the juicy part. Make a circle starting above the trunk and ending just below the trunk–it’s almost as if you were cutting a slice. Do not slice the circle all the way around. Repeat on the other side and then carefully pull the “ears” away from the base of the orange.
- With toothpicks, secure grapes for the elephants’ “eyes” and gumdrops for their “feet.”
- Add kiwi fruit “grass” (optional, but fun).
Trouble. Sorry. Whoonu. Don’t worry–I’m not expecting any problems on Thanksgiving, other than maybe a little indigestion. These are the games I’m going to bring over to a friend’s house where we’re spending the day.
See, sometimes Thanksgiving can seem like more of a grown-up holiday. So this year I’m trying to look for ways to keep my kids involved (and to win at least a round or two of Uno—seriously, when did my 7 year-old become such a card master?!).
Plus I’m really looking forward to spending some time with my girls without having to worry about homework getting done, being late for basketball practice, or even keeping up with my email.
Here’s what I’m planning so far–I’d love to hear your ideas too!
- Whoonu lets players rank items on cards according to how much they like them. You rank “macaroni and cheese” above “petting zoos”? Cue: Whoonu?
- Apples to Apples Junior is another favorite, giggle-inducing, didn’t-know-that-about-you game. Players take turns being the “judge.” The judge puts down a green apple card that has a word on it, say “dangerous,” and from the other players’ stash of 5 cards, they put down what they think best matches. The judge then picks the winner–and at least at our house–has to justify why she chose “doing the dishes” over “pirates” as the best match with “dangerous.”
- For more board games your family might enjoy, click through this round-up of games from Parents.com. I’ve been checking out their site as part of the Motherboard team.
My 9-year-old has become an origami machine. She’s already filled two shoe boxes (and we’re talking winter boot boxes here!) full of paper-fashioned frogs and snakes dragons. I asked if she wouldn’t mind trying out some of her skills with napkins and her eyes went two shades brighter blue. She went and grabbed her origami book and read the Table of Contents asking what requests I had. So along with bringing rolls, a dessert, and some games, we’re bringing napkin animals.
Lately, when I’m making batches of goodies to give to friends, I save a little dough for my kids. I just let them create whatever shape comes to mind. Last week my 9 year-old crafted a volcano sugar cookie oozing with raspberry jam lava. And before that my 7 year-old built snowmen out of coconut truffle dough, complete with M&M eyes. So along with making one regular batch of dinner rolls, I’m going to let my three kids roll out the second batch. My guess is some will end up crescent shaped, some frogs (a current fascination) and others snakes–because it’s just fun to roll the dough out with two hands and then add a couple raisins for eyes.
Do you remember anything fun that you did as a child at Thanksgiving to make it memorable? Are you planning on doing anything different this year to keep your kids involved?
*Reminder: If you haven’t already, make sure to enter the King Arthur $60 Giveaway. The deadline for the contest is next Monday.
Sometimes readers get the wrong idea about my blog–nope, I’m not serving my kids squid every night (just the occasional fried calamari or grilled). Instead I’m all about raising adventurous eaters.
Children tend to be miniature explorers by design. I’m just trying to tap into that through their stomachs. As a parent, it’s a way for us to share something together. I may get a bored playing Littlest PetShop for hours on end with my 7 year-old, but making calzones together, that’s something we both enjoy.
During the week, I’ll be sharing some recipes and guest posts about my blog’s namesake, squid. Now you don’t have to do these recipes with squid–chicken, pork or even tofu can be stand-ins–but I hope you’ll follow along to learn something more about what might be a new-to-you ingredient, cooking technique, or even an inspiration to try yet again for your kids to sample a food they’ve declared “yucky” in the past (I’m not talking squid here, spinach used to fall into that category around here).
So how do you jumpstart your child’s tastebuds? I have a few unconventional ideas.
Shop at a new grocery store. Okay, this might not be that unusual, but I’ve found that our favorite grocery stores often aren’t always around the corner. Google local seafood, vegetable, Asian, and/or Mexican markets to find new places to shop. Take the kids. We bought our squid by the pound at an Asian market in what used to be a mall. The person in front of us in line bought pounds of squid and tilapia and other seafood so my kids saw we weren’t the only ones!
Let them cook. That’s how my daughter came up with banana hot dogs. Give them a variety of ingredients, see what they come up with. If you’re willing to try their creations, they’ll be more willing to try yours. (And yes, this can be very scary.)
Try out a new restaurant. Chains don’t count.
Mix new with the old. When I’m trying to entice my kids to sample a new curry recipe, I pair it with plain rice, naan, or another food I know they’ll like and it. I serve it in small ramekins too to avoid that whole it-touched-my-rice/noodles/green beans issue. A new food isn’t nearly as intimidating if it’s served in small portions.
Refuse to share. Then share. I can’t tell you how many times, “Oh, you won’t like this” led to my kids trying, then asking for something I was sure they wouldn’t eat.
Yesterday I kept a room of 22 costumed 2nd graders in my daughter’s class transfixed for a whole ten minutes.
And this was after their school Halloween parade and after they’d exhausted all the games we’d planned for the in-room party and while they were eating cupcakes, grapes, and caramel-dipped apple slices. (Well, I guess the cupcakes helped keep their mouths a little occupied.)
Such is the power of a good children’s picture book–there were several parents that even stopped cleaning up tables to listen and look at the pictures. I had stashed two Halloween books in my bag in case the party became a little chaotic and I needed something to calm the (literally!) little monsters:) Sure enough the party activities went much faster than planned so I pulled out my book, hoping for the best.
While I’d love to claim this ten minutes of bliss was entirely due to my brilliant reading–I owe the few moments of calm entirely to Dav Pilkey (yes, the man behind Captain Underpants) and the author and illustrator of The Hallo-wiener. Thank you!
Hallo-wiener tells the tale of Oscar, a dachshund, who’s constantly teased by the other dogs for his hotdog-esque appearance. The 2nd graders immediately related to Oscar, especially when the little dog didn’t want to hurt his mom’s feelings and ended up wearing a hot dog costume for Halloween. Eventually, Oscar saves the other dogs from embarrassment at the hands–er, paws–of two “ornery” cats. His nickname, “Wiener Dog,” replaced with “Hero Sandwich.” (You’re tearing up too, right?)
The whole experience got me thinking about what favorite Halloween books to read to kids. I’ve asked a few friends to contribute their favorites. I suggest curling up with your little witch/hippie/punk princess/construction worker/SWAT team member/angel, grab some candies and read some of these books together.
Latisha S. is keeping two ninjas and a vampire happy reading Popcorn by Frank Asch. About a little bear that ends up filling his house with, you guessed it–popcorn, while his parents are at a Halloween party. I have to wonder if this one was inspired by true events.
Kimberly M.’s family, who is dressing up as the gang from Disney’s Princess and the Frog, has several favorites, including
Frank was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves tells the story of a zombie who wants nothing more than to dance. But his Frankenstein-like body can’t quite keep up with his moves.
In Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini, Gritch the Witch heads off to Old MacDonald’s farm to dine on a few piggies. But the pigs knew she was coming and donned sheep outfits and other disguises.
CinderHazel by Deborah Nourse Lattimore is a quirky retelling of the familiar princess story, only this time she’s a witch. And Prince Charming–that would be Prince Alarming.
Do you have a favorite Halloween book to share? What about your favorite Halloween candy? (You know, the other 364 days of the year, Twix candies hold no appeal, but on Halloween, I, uh, well, tend to eat my fill, and then some.)
I had a vague idea of creating meatballs that looked like mice as a Halloween gag for my kids. I mentioned the idea to my husband, stuck him with the ingredients and then headed out to pick up my oldest daughter at a trick-or-treat party. When I returned, my younger two children were just giggling and my husband had a mischievous smirk on his face.
“They look so gross,” he said.
Now, you should know that when left alone my husband can come up with some pretty inventive creations. A few years ago he disappeared into the garage after asking where I’d stashed some black fabric we had leftover from one of my daughter’s witch costumes. Jump to a couple hours later and he’d crafted a giant black widow spider using old wiring, a deflated basketball, the fabric and some red paint. Seriously, the spider was about 6 feet across! He positioned the spider just above our front door and of course added webs all around. The 5 year-old living two doors down refused to walk on our side of the street in the week leading up to Halloween and she didn’t even stop by our house for candy.
Back to the mice roasting in my oven—here’s what my husband did, enlisting my daughters as helpers. He molded the meatball mixture into mice bodies (think teardrop-shaped) then he cut tails using slivers of deli ham. Olive pieces make up the eyes and once the meatballs were done baking he coated each one with spaghetti sauce.
Ready for a yucky dinner? Hey, only in appearance, they tasted delicious.
Directions for Mice Meatballs
Prep time: 25 minutes + 25 minutes baking
Servings: Around 5-6
Meatball or meatloaf fixings
Deli ham slices
Using your favorite meatball or meatloaf recipe, mix together the meat and spice combination. [In this recipe cut out the vinegar, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce and add a teaspoon of dried oregano or basil to the meat mixture.]
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly coat a baking pan with cooking spray.
Working with about 2 ½ to 3 tablespoons of meat, form the mixture into a teardrop shape.
Line up the meatballs in rows on the baking sheet.
Thinly slice the deli ham into “tails.” Press a “tail” into the back end of each meatball.
Add fingernail-sized piece of cut black olives next to the “nose” part of the meatball. Press into place. Repeat with all of the meatballs.
Make the spaghetti noodles according to the package directions.
Brush warmed spaghetti sauce over each “mouse.”
Serve 2 or 3 mice meatballs over the spaghetti noodles and top with additional sauce.