Pumpkin Patch Memories

Hubby’s headless horseman.

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.)  

Hon, what Fall traditions does your family share?

Easy Kids Activity: Pumpkin Carving

Lucy and I at Wyoming Presbyterian Church’s Pumpkin Patch.

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!

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Mini Torahs for Simchat Torah

Chag Sameach! (Happy Holiday)

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!

Wrapping paper tubes were cut into 3 inch pieces.
After finger-painting thin strips of finger-paint paper, I hot-glued each end to the small tubes.
Each end of the mini Torahs was rolled toward the center and held together with a pipe cleaner.

Top Ten Patriotic Desserts

1. Red, White & Blue Chocolate Covered Strawberries, yummyhealthyeasy.com

Compulsive Baking

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.

Ever wonder how Memorial Day originated?

HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY care of History.com

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.

2. Berry Ricotta Cake-Gluten Free, thoroughlynourishedlife.com

3. Flag Cake, tasteofhome.com

4. Berry Financier, familycircle.com

5. No-Bake Cheesecake Parfaits, ymmyhealthyeasy.com

6. Vanilla-Raspberry Sundaes with Spoon-Shaped Cookies, marthastewart.com

7. Patriotic Bark, delish.com

8. Patriotic Pops, tasteofhome.com

9. Berry Spritzer, marthastewart.com

10. Fireworks Cookies and Cream Cookies, insidebrucrewlife.com

Happy Holiday, hon!

Sources: insidebrucrewlife.com, tasteofhome.com, delish.commarthastewart.com, yummyhealthyeasy.com, familycircle.com, thououghlynourishedlife.com, history.com


Easy DIY Kids Activities: Paper Plate Crafts

Source: I Heart Craft Things

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?!

Want 8 more imaginative paper plate crafts for kids?

Quill.com’s  Tiffany Jersey said,

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. 

Happy creating, hon!

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Spring Felt Bookmarks

Fun with Felt!

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!

Gather supplies.

Spring Felt Bookmarks
Suggested Supplies:  
  • felt (or a thick fabric), small pieces will do
  • fabric glue
  • grosgrain ribbon (or satin ribbon), about 14 inches per bookmark
  • tiny pom-poms
  • small googly eyes
  • any other things to use for decorating such as glitter glue, thin ribbon, foam shapes, sparkly stars
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • marker
  • craft stick (or cotton swabs)
  • newspaper, wax paper, tin foil, or cloth (whatever you don’t mind getting glue-y)
Sourcing supplies: Michael’s, Oriental Trading, Target or any local crafts store.
  1. Set up craft area with newspaper, wax paper, etc.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. Cut out paper patterns.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Passover Recipe, Charosets

Charosets, photo credit The Jewish Kitchen.

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.

Hag Semach or Happy Holidays, hon!

Don’t know what charosets is? The Jewish Kitchen’s Jodi Luber says,

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
  1. In a food processor, process walnuts until they are finely ground. Pour into a mixing bowl.
  2. Peel and core apples. Cut into quarters. Process until finely chopped. Add apples to ground walnuts.
  3. 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.

Little Shop of Horrors, Off Broadway

A Sun Star plant along with Brussels sprouts and cabbages welcome theatre goers. "Audrey II's" and photo care of my friend Lynn.
Plants, cabbages, and Brussels sprouts welcomed theater goers when my youngest daughter performed in her middle school’s production of Little Shop of Horrors.


Westside Theatre, Off Broadway

Lucky me, I’ve had a chance to see several shows in Manhattan recently, and the darkest, funniest award goes to LSOH, the 1982 musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken and revived by Michael Mayer.

“A certain carnivorous plant has been repotted in Hell’s Kitchen, and I am delighted to report that it’s thriving there,” reviewed Ben Brantley for The New York Times.

[LSOH], staged in a 270-seat theater, restores the show to its original scale and sensibility, reminding us of the special potency of grisly things that come in small, impeccably wrapped packages.

Working with an ace design team, Mayer heightens the show’s classic pulp elements, its aura of low-rent noir splashed with flecks of blood-red.

The Corman film of “Shop” was, like many horror and sci-fi flicks of the Eisenhower years, a fable of the atomic age, playing to a nation’s fears of science run amok. This triumphantly revitalized musical has its own sly message for an era in which celebrity is regarded as a constitutional right:

Embrace fame at your peril. It’s a killer.

My youngest daughter was an Urchinette in her middle school’s production of the show. In keeping with the plant-out-for-blood theme, another mom and I baked and decorated 100 Audrey II cupcakes for the cast party. Fun!

Creative Cupcakes

Here’s how we made edible “Audrey II’s,” the mysterious man-eating plant.

Step 1.  Gather your ingredients.  Rather than make fondant from scratch, we used Fondarific. Supplies included cake mix, baking cups, canned icing, Wilton icing, food coloring, rubber gloves, romaine lettuce, spoons,wax paper, Wilton Decorating Bags and Tips, Swedish Fish candy and Cake Boxes.

Icing and Fondarific.
Icing and Fondarific.

Baking cups and food coloring.
Baking cups and food coloring.






Step 2.  Prepare fondant decorations.  After the Fondarific was warmed and softened, rubber gloves were donned, and food coloring was mixed in by hand.  Small balls of fondant were pressed onto spoons. Then romaine leaves rubbed onto fondant created leaf impressions.  After carefully lifting fondant leaves off of spoons, they were layered with wax paper and left to set.  (I put them in a container covered with foil, not refrigerated, overnight.)  The leaves needed to be stiff enough to stand up, but pliable enough to form LSOH’s man-eating plant.

Add food coloring to icing and softened fondant.
Soften fondant.  *Put on rubber gloves BEFORE blending food color into it.

Form leaves--or whatever shape you want--and let them set a bit.
Form leaves–or whatever shape you want–and let them set.







Step 3.  Bake cupcakes according to package directions. Food coloring was also mixed with vanilla canned icing then spread on cooled cupcakes.  Icing the cupcakes kept them fresh while the fondant leaves set overnight and formed a base to work on.

Bake cupcakes.
Bake cupcakes.

Ice cupcakes once they've cooled.
Ice cupcakes once they’ve cooled.






Step 4.  Assemble Audrey II’s (or whatever decoration goes with your theme).  Lynn said that, though the canned icing was good for a base, the stiffer Wilton icing made better leaves surrounding the “plants” and fangs on the Audrey II’s.  She used Wilton Tip #103 to form surrounding leaves and Tip #4 for the fangs.  Mini Swedish Fish candies became tongues.  Eww and yum!

Assemble cupcake decorations.
Assemble cupcake decorations.



"Whatever you do, don't feed the plants!"
“Whatever you do, don’t feed the plants!”

Headed to the cast party.
Cupcakes with bite!


DIY Paris-Inspired Terrariums

Beautiful terrariums on a table in the Maison Astor Paris.

At our chic hotel Maison Astor Paris, a tabletop arrangement of terrariums inspired me to make my own. I bought large and medium-sized glass globes and succulents to add to the vessels and plants I already had at home. I also picked up small, white rocks, soil and moss. On a walk, I found fallen pine boughs and plan to scatter tiny pine cones around the succulents. Guess what’s doubling as Thanksgiving centerpieces?

Happy indoor gardening, hon!

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Patriotic Checkerboard Cake

I inherited a checkerboard cake pan set from my mother-in-law after commenting how great her checkerboard cakes were. Truth be told, I used the set once and then put it away, only re-discovering it recently. I decided to bake a red, white and blue cake and, though it was yummy, it wasn’t the prettiest! I guess that means I’ll have to try it again.

If you want to try to bake a checkerboard cake, click here to find sets online.

Happy baking, hon!

Assemble layers with icing and ice the cake. Enjoy!