Posting about pumpkin carving with pre-schoolers led me down a crunchy leaves lane of nostalgia. Decorating our house and preparing costumes weren’t our only Autumn traditions. Cherished were our drives to Ort Farms in Long Valley, NJ where we’d take a hay ride to the pumpkin patch, pick as many pumpkins as we could carry, and load up on apple cider, doughnuts, and honey sticks. After saying hi to the farm animals, we’d head home. Every year, Hubby got increasingly skilled at carving pumpkins. (Check out his haunted house below.)
It may seem obvious to say pumpkin carving is an easy and fun kids activity, but if you teach preschool (ahem, my wonderful new job), you might think pumpkins, knives, and carving don’t mix with ten super wiggly, touch-everything, curious two year-olds! What does work? Carving open a pumpkin and letting them feel and scoop out what’s inside.
Eight children reached right in, touching and exploring. (“Mushy, gushy!”) The textures were new to them–which showed on their faces–but they dug out the wet, stringy pulp and seeds anyway. Fun!
Two kids wanted nothing to do with this strange mess and backed away from the pumpkin. Funny!
Later in the week, my co-teacher managed to make use of time when the kids were sitting still. She carved shapes into a face. What a great way to learn!
At home, we carved pumpkins, also. It was a first for my daughter’s boyfriend from California. Hands on all around!
“Simchat Torah (Rejoicing with the Torah) marks the end of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings and the beginning of the new cycle. It is a joyous holiday that celebrates the Jewish love of Torah and study. Simchat Torah is celebrated by taking all the Torah scrolls out of the ark in synagogue and spending the evening dancing, singing, and rejoicing.” (https://toriavey.com/what-is-simchat-torah/)
The 2 year-olds in my preschool class made their own mini Torahs and flags. For the flags, they decorated paper with stickers and then glued the paper onto popsicle sticks. For the Torahs, they finger-painted thin strips of paper. After the paint dried, I hot-glued each end to wrapping paper rolls cut into small tubes. The ends were rolled up and their Torahs were closed with pipe cleaners. They loved waving their flags and showing off their Torahs to the cantor, rabbi and other classes. Fun!
Splendor in September, the Women’s Association for Morristown Medical Center’s (WWAMC) designer showhouse at Tyvan Hill in New Vernon, NJ, is open through Sunday, October 4th. Proceeds will aid in the expansion of Morristown Medical Center’s Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute. Hon, it’s well worth the visit!
A 3,000-word article I’d written detailing SIS (formerly known as Mansion in May) was to to be published in Elegant Lifestyles Magazine in April and then again in September, but didn’t run. Thankfully, the designer showhouse was a go! Shout out to publicity liaison Kathy Hobbs for being communicative and welcoming.
Although my editor Kara Sibilia couldn’t come, two friends “in the business” joined me for a tour on Sunday. Interior designer Ina Wallman (Ina H. Wallman Interiors) and real estate professional Jeri Dana (Sotheby’s International Realty) oohed and ahhed along with me as we toured stylish, elegant, creative, inspired and original rooms and grounds. My only regrets? I wish I took more pictures!
Karen Waldron of Classic Home & Garden partnered with Tim Foerster of Foerster Landscaping to design stepped planters. Waldron accents the stone patio with white wicker furniture upholstered in Thibaut outdoor fabric.
Pots filled with color accent the blue and white decor.
I was taken with Katja van der Loo of Papyrus Home Design’s Breakfast Room wall decor. I especially liked the botanical photographs printed on handmade paper and hung on an iron rack.
Sam Ciardi of Samuel Robert Signature Spaces created an oh-so-pretty, French Country-inspired dining room.
What a gorgeous backsplash?! Jaeger Kitchens’ designers Debbie Kerr and Pam Fuertes used navy and teal with hot pink as an accent to make the kitchen pop.
Check out the built-in, stocked wine bar!
After interviewing Callie Bruen of Callie Bruen Interiors, I couldn’t wait to see the built-in tree house!
Black grasscloth walls are set against white furniture and finishes and accented with leaf green accessories. Kristin Badolato of Kristin Ashley Interiors created an unexpectedly serene guest bedroom.
As a ceramicist, of course, I honed in on ceramics by Christina Grodkiewicz Clayworks.
Beautiful ceramic bowls and dishes mirror colors in the floral wallpaper in the contemporary, cozy and technologically advanced room designed by Jane Petrill of Jane Danielle Interior Design and Rick and Beverly Trover of Interchange Technologies.
“Tranquility” is an apt name for the contemporary arbor designed and built by Abby Jochnowitz of Designants and John Risoli of JR Landscape & Management Services.
An outdoor sectional and pouf sit near the outdoor cooking and dining area designed by Lisa Mierop and Frank Contey of Mierop Design.
I was also taken with “Seasons of Renewal,” a square garden featuring planting for each season designed by Anthony Cortese of Split Rock Design.
Hubby and I are shuffling rooms, something we’ve been doing ever since we moved in. When I had a home-based crafts business, a bedroom became my workspace. Fast forward to triplet toddlers, and the dining room transformed into a playroom. (I definitely wasn’t entertaining!) When those same toddlers woke up every day at the crack of dawn, our “sitting room,” a small room between our bedroom and theirs, was fitted with a couch, VCR, mini fridge, and individual containers of cereal. Guess who learned how to pop in Sesame Street and get themselves drinks and snacks? (I call it promoting independence!)
Shared bedrooms gave way to individual bedrooms and back to shared when our fourth child was born. A finished attic, which had been a guest room, became our son’s room when WWIII broke out every morning. The reason? Triplet tweens fighting over bathroom access before school! (Hubby may or may not have turned the hot water off when certain people hogged the shower!) Tween girls sharing a room argued over bedtime routines and privacy, so we somehow squeezed a twin bed and night table into the “sitting room.”
The basement has been a playroom, party room, craft room, tween and teen hangout area, American Doll sanctuary and, during quarantine, Hubby’s temporary office. Time to switch again! My office is becoming Hubby’s and the “sitting room” is becoming mine. That leads me to my newest project…re-painting an office cabinet. Just like the desk refinished recently, I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, a quick drying paint that covers furniture without priming or sanding, and Clear Chalk Paint Wax, which seals the paint. They’re the same products used to turn three different colored wood dressers and a night table in a matching set.
Refinishing furniture isn’t just relaxing, fun, and satisfying for adults; why not pick a project that kids can work on? For an Easy DIY Kids Craft, let kids choose a piece of furniture (chair, night table, step stool, side table…there are so many possibilities) and paint color. This paint has minimal fumes, goes on smoothly, and washes out with water. It’s a win-win.
That’s what one of my daughters (shout out to Hannah) and I are doing during quarantine. Need a break from work? Bake! Stressed out? Bake! Family of 5 wants dessert? Bake! (Hon, guess who’s going to need to go on a post-quarantine diet? Me!)
In preparation for the unofficial start to summer, here are the Top Ten Patriotic Desserts. Click on dessert names under the photos for links to each recipe.
Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.
For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, but in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees and declared Memorial Day a federal holiday. The change went into effect in 1971.
Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday.
When I was an assistant pre-school teacher for the Transitional Two’s at HGEEC, the kids made lots of paper plate creations. I Heart Craft Things’ “Paper Plate Fluttering Butterfly Craft,” pictured above, would have gone great with the two, three and four year-old’s butterfly units. Butterfly habitats were ordered, and the children watched caterpillars eat, form chrysalises, and transform into butterflies. Then they set them free.
Best kid quote: Upon seeing a butterfly open and close its wings, a two-year old girl said, “The butterfly is clapping!” How cute is that?!
Want8 more imaginative paper plate crafts for kids?
If you’ve only used paper plates to simplify the clean-up process after a barbecue, prepare to discover a whole new world. Because they’re plentiful and inexpensive, paper plates make for a fantastic children’s craft supply. When it comes to paper plate crafts, the themes available are nearly endless, from animals and masks to flowers and holiday décor. We’ve rounded up eight creative paper plate craft ideas for kids (although you might find that the whole family wants to get in on the fun).
Note: In addition to scissors and paint or markers, many of the crafts require a few additional supplies. Always supervise little ones as needed.
Click here to find out how to create a paper plate Jellyfish, Fox, Puppy, Hedgehog, Pumpkin, Christmas Trees, Wings and Shaker.
Looking for an easy, DIY Mother’s Day gift? I made this silk flower arrangement for my mom when I wanted to give her something pretty that required no care. I featured a photo of it on my blog before, but How-To instructions were posted in my guest post on middle grade author Darlene Beck-Jacobson’s blog Gold From The Dust: Bringing Stories to Life. If you’re like me, you have Styrofoam-from-packages lying around the house (because why throw away something that might come in handy in a craft project?) If not, supplies can be found at local art shops such as A Paper Hat Art + Design Supply (curb side pick up) and crafts stores such as Michael’s and A.C.Moore.
Happy creating, hon!
glue gun and glue sticks
Styrofoam blocks or pieces
marker, serrated knife, wire cutter, scissor
Figure out how many pieces of Styrofoam will fit in and fill up vessel. With marker, mark where to cut Styrofoam and, using serrated knife, cut foam into correct number of pieces.
Prepare flowers part 1. Determine how long stems need to be to sit inside foam and also stand above rim of vessel. Tip—hold flowers in a bunch, approximating the way they are to be arranged. This helps determine which stems are to be cut shorter and which longer. Trim stems with wire cutter.
Prepare flowers, part 2. With scissors, cut off excess leaves, especially those that would sit inside foam. Too many leaves get in the way. Too few leaves may look bare. Tip–Save cut leaves to possibly glue to moss.
Hot glue bottom of cut Styrofoam and secure inside vessel.
Hot glue flowers stems, then stick stems into Styrofoam, carefully arranging flowers. Add extra glue to spot where foam and stems meet.
Spread moss around top of Styrofoam. Lift up sections, then glue them down.
Fill in bare spots of Styrofoam with more moss and cut leaves.
K-2 students made these cute, Spring-themed, animals bookmarks using the same steps as the Easy Winter Kids Crafts, Felt Mitten Bookmarks. Pick an animal and get creative with whatever decorative supplies you have on hand. Possible animals and insects besides puppies and birds? Cats, horses, unicorns, lions, butterflies, caterpillars, etc.
Happy crafting, hon!
Create paper patterns.
Cut out shapes. Sandwich ribbon between felt. Decorate.
Spring Felt Bookmarks
felt (or a thick fabric), small pieces will do
grosgrain ribbon (or satin ribbon), about 14 inches per bookmark
small googly eyes
any other things to use for decorating such as glitter glue, thin ribbon, foam shapes, sparkly stars
craft stick (or cotton swabs)
newspaper, wax paper, tin foil, or cloth (whatever you don’t mind getting glue-y)
Measure ribbon. What size book is the bookmark being made for? A picture book? A chapter book? Measure the book, then add 6 inches to that measurement, which will allow ribbon to stick out of the top and bottom of the book and to be sandwiched between the felt. For example, if a book measures 8 inches, add 6 inches and cut a 14 inch piece of ribbon
Create a paper pattern by drawing animals. We drew a profile of a puppy head and a whole bird. Also draw a coordinating pattern for the bottom of the bookmark. We drew a bone to go with the puppies and eggs and nests to go with the birds.
Cut out paper patterns.
Trace shapes on felt: two side of the animal and two sides of the coordinating object. Make sure the two sides are the same so that they line up when glued together.
Match up animals and objects, figuring out which will be the fronts and which will be backs. Using craft sticks (or cotton swabs), spread fabric glue on the insides of the cut-outs. Sandwich 1 inch of the ribbon between the fronts and backs. Press to help glue adhere.
Decorate bookmarks, either one side of each animals or both, there’s no right or wrong.Let dry.
Tips: Trim excess felt. Check seams for gaps and, using craft stick (or cotton swab), add extra fabric glue where needed.
Zoom will be getting a workout tonight as families all over the world connect over the internet to celebrate the first night of Passover. Shout out to my niece Gavi who asked if I could mail charosets from New Jersey to California (lol!), but made her own and FaceTimed to show me the results. This is a favorite dish at our seders and for the remainder of the holiday.
Each Pesach, we embark on a journey through Egypt with stories, songs and food. Charoset is the part of the Seder plate that represents the mortar used by the slaves in Egypt when building under the Pharaoh’s rule. We enjoy this sweet fruit and nut mixture, along with the intense flavor of the horseradish, in a sandwich of matzah, which symbolizes the end of the Passover ceremony and the start of the much-anticipated feast.
Our sweet, crunchy mixture of fruit, nuts, wine, and spices…is so good, you’ll eat it by the spoonful. YUM.
2 cups walnut pieces
3 large apples
4 Tablespoons sweet red wine or to taste
4 Tablespoons honey, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ginger or to taste
4 teaspoons cinnamon or to taste
In a food processor, process walnuts until they are finely ground. Pour into a mixing bowl.
Peel and core apples. Cut into quarters. Process until finely chopped. Add apples to ground walnuts.
Combine remaining ingredients and mix well, adjusting spices to taste.
Yield: If allowing for 2 Tablespoons per person, about 20 servings. If eating by the spoonful, less.