Wednesday, December 28, 2016

DIY Ceramic Tile Christmas Gifts

I didn't blog last week, because I decided to unplug and spend time with my daughter since she was with me this Christmas. These are moments I don't want to miss out on especially when she so young. She asked me to take a break from computer and work-related activities . . . luckily I could and did.

I wanted to share a meaningful "Do It Yourself" (DIY) activity. Alyssa made a ceramic tile gift for her piano teacher and aunt as a Christmas gift this year, but it could definitely be created any time of the year as a gift for someone special for any occasion at any time of the year. 

Let me start with the Photo Ceramic Tile Gift. First, we adjusted the size of the photo to be printed on white copy paper. She chose a picture of her with her piano teacher from recital day. Alyssa used acrylic paint to sponge paint the edges of the tile brown and off white paint to paint the clothespins for the back. Then, she used Modge Podge on the front and back of the photo to apply it to the center of the tile. She carefully worked out any wrinkles. The next step was to spray clear acrylic over the entire project after it dried. Finally, we hot glued the two painted clothespins to the back to create a stand. We meant to cover the back with felt, but it wasn't absolutely necessary.   

The next ceramic tile gift was just a mini sunflower painting my daughter made for her aunt. Her aunt Sammie LOVES sunflowers and the color yellow. After painting it, we sprayed it with clear acrylic and attached the clothespins to the back. 

These gifts can be personalized in any way you desire and they are pretty easy to make. I hope you enjoyed your visit. See you soon! I will link this post up at Virtual Refrigerator. I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!  

Friday, December 16, 2016

Avent Balloon Tree Countdown

I am always on the hunt for fun activities to countdown the days until Christmas. This year I was inspired by two blog ideas to make Alyssa an Advent Balloon Tree Countdown. She absolutely LOVES to play with and pop balloons.

The original idea came from WhiMSy love. Her idea for using a calendar to track events and number the scrolls was very helpful too. She posted a balloon advent calendar. Then, I saw a countdown in the shape of a Christmas tree which I loved. I knew this was the activity for us!

I used green balloons instead of gold or colorful ones. Look What I Made used colorful balloons for her Christmas tree advent countdown. I also decorated the tree with numbered paper ornaments and a strand of garland. I even decorated the pin with a ribboned bell and a few silver jingle bells. I didn't have much on hand otherwise the ribbons would have been red and green.
Decorated Pin
What I Did
First, I researched local events and Christmas activities focusing on FREE activities.
Then, I jotted down the activities we'd most likely participate in this year.
Next, I make a list of those activities on a piece of paper and cut them into strips.
Finally, I rolled them up and placed them inside the balloon before blowing it up. I love the idea of creating scrolled events, but I was running out of time and wanted ours ready when my daughter came home. I tried to stuff a Hershey kiss in it, but my balloons were too small and old so they kept breaking.

You can also research countdown activities and utilize the FREE printables online to make things super easy.

I have to say . . .  this activity was a HUGE hit with my 9-year-old daughter. I wonder if she'll want to do it again next year.

I hope you enjoyed visiting A Learning Journey. Come back soon. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

BookLook Review: The Berenstain Bears' Holiday Cookbook

I received a hardcover physical copy of the The Berenstain Bears' Holiday Cookbook: Cub-Friendly Cooking with an Adult to review.

Book Summary (Taken From the Website) 
Be part of the fun and join Mama, Papa, Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear as they cook up holiday favorites and some unique eats for friends and family with the all-new The Berenstain Bears Holiday Cookbook. Filled with traditional holiday favorites like Frosted Sugar Cookies, Pumpkin Pie, Hot Apple Cider Punch, Cranberry Stuffing, and some unique and fun recipes like Papa Bear’s Paw-Licking Good Chicken Wings, this kid-friendly cookbook will help Bear Country families, and families and friends everywhere, have the most wonderful year of eating ever! 
What We Thought
The 96-page non-fiction children's cookbook was written by Mike Berenstain (son of Jan and Stan Berenstain). This kid-friendly cookbook was published by Zondervan and will be suitable for children ages 4-8. I couldn't wait to surprise my daughter (Age 9) with this book, because she loves to bake and cook in the kitchen. My daughter and I enjoy cooking and baking together especially during the holidays.

My daughter eagerly flipped through all the pages. She found so many appealing recipes to try. The book was organized into holiday and seasonal sections, but many recipes can be used year round.

Holiday and Seasonal Categories
  • Valentine's Day
  • Christmas
  • 4th of July
  • Fall
  • Thanksgiving
  • Easter 

Each section begins with referenced scripture verses and a Bear family story. I love the classic Berenstain Bears stories and fondly remember them from my childhood. However, these stories help children make connections to the Bible stories and verses. For example, the verse for the Christmas section is: "May glory be given to God in the highest heaven! And may peace be given to those He is pleased with on Earth!" - Luke 2:14. In the related story Mama Bear encourages the cubs to set aside a plate of cookies for Mizz McGrizz, because she has a cold and was unable to finish her Christmas baking. Sister Bear also decides to bring her a Christmas card. Papa Bear explains to the cubs that "God loves a cheerful giver." These are wonderful messages to pass on to your children.

The Table of Contents lists each recipe under seasonal or holiday categories with page ranges. The book utilizes real, full-color photographs of the recipes. The photograph is located on the right-side and the recipe is on the left-side. There are approximately 40 simple recipes. Each section consists of around 7-8 recipes including desserts, appetizers, beverages, snacks, main entrees, and sides. Each recipe includes a list of bulleted ingredients and supplies needed and numbered step-by-step directions to follow. The recipes practice a variety of cooking and baking skills for all levels such as measuring, mixing, blending, stirring, beating, rolling dough, cutting, and more. Several recipes require the use of a microwave and oven.

There is also a helpful Table of Kitchen Measurements at the back of the book. It contained both standard and metric conversions. Picture icons were utilized to indicate tablespoons, pinches, cups, quarts, and so forth. The recipes do have canned ingredients listed if that is of relevance to you. Individuals who tend to make whole food, clean eating, or all natural recipes may need to substitute with real food items.

How We Used the Book
We chose recipes based on the ingredients and images. My daughter wants to make the Valentine's Day Pizza in February which was in the shape of a heart. The crust is a "made from scratch" recipe. She also can't wait to make the Pink Party Popcorn. We both like cranberries, white chocolate, and semisweet chocolate chips. The recipes look absolutely delicious.

My daughter made Lovey-Dovey Banana Bread. The bread was moist and tasted really good. Next time we'll probably leave out the strawberries. We made the banana bread in my Pampered Chef mini loaf pan so the cooking time was reduced.

The Tricks and Treat Trail Mix recipe was easy for my daughter to make independently. It made approximately 5-6 servings, but it lasted much longer for the two of us. It was stored in the container below with a fitted lid.
Tricks and Treats Trail Mix
We plan on making the Cozy Hot Cocoa on Christmas Eve so that we can enjoy it as we watch Polar Express. This sounds delicious and even adds a touch of peppermint with candy canes. 

I highly recommend this book for all families with young children wanting to learn how to bake or cook. It is a great addition to our holiday cookbook collection. I am always looking for kid-friendly cookbooks to encourage my daughter to explore her hobbies and interests. In my opinion, the Berenstain Bear Holiday Cookbook is a fun and outstanding book for children ages 3-9 with adult supervision of course. The book would make a perfect Christmas gift for beginner cooks or bakers. This Colorful Christmas Poke Cake will be a great Christmas treat your child could make during the holidays.  

Store Prices
Zondervan $12.99
Amazon $9.38
Christianbook $7.79

Note: All prices are subject to change without notice.

I received a complimentary, free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers Review Program in exchange for an honest, unbiased review on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 
I review for BookLook Bloggers

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Tween Craft Day: Holiday Stamping

I love seasonal crafts! Last week at our local library's Tween Craft Day, Alyssa and the other children visited a variety of craft stations. Alyssa completed a Stamped Clay project that she adored and definitely plans on repeating once I find all of my scrapbook supplies. This would make an excellent gift for a family member or close friend. 

A variety of holiday stamps were provided. She chose a penguin stamp. First, the air dry clay was rolled flat. Then, she stamped the penguin in the clay. Ornaments, magnets, or trinkets could be created. She decide to make a trinket or plaque. The next step was to use watercolor paints to add a touch of color. Finally, she went over the entire project with Modge Podge. This is such an easy and fun craft for children! Why didn't I think of that! Not to mention . . . the end results are absolutely adorable.  

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey. I will link this post up at Virtual Refrigerator Blog Hop hosted at Homeschool Coffee Break.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Books for the Holidays Linky: Our Top Ten Christmas Books

I have a large Christmas book collection. I've been collecting books for many, many years. These are the top ten Christmas books I plan on reading with my daughter this year. Many of these book selections are part of our Advent Book Tree Countdown to Christmas activity.

1.) Unwrapping the Greatest Gift written by Ann Voskamp
2.) The Jesse Tree written by Geraldine McCaughrean 
3.) Humphrey's First Christmas written by Carol Heyer 
4.) Santa's Favorite Story written by Hisako Aoki
5.) Penny's Christmas Jar Miracle written by Jason F. Wright
6.) The Prayer Chain written by Kimberley Williams Shaw
7.) Mortimer's Christmas Manger written by Karma Wilson
8.) The Sparkle Box written by Jill Hardie
9.) The King's Christmas List written by Eldon Johnson
10.) A Special Place for Santa written by Jeanne Pieper

Please check out the Linky below to read about other Books for the Holidays suggestions from the Homeschool Review Crew members.
Books for the Holidays