Nov 302016
 November 30, 2016  Christmas, recipes 3 Responses »

Looking for a fun, healthier treat to enjoy with your kids as you gear up for the holidays? Try these crunchy chocolate peanut butter balls for an energy boost that everyone will enjoy!

Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls |

Before you start cooking, use this coupon to get your ingredients! And don’t miss your chance to enter the Sing Sweepstakes: see below for details!

This is a time of year I savor spending with my family. There are so many special traditions we’ve built up over the years. One of my favorites is making gingerbread houses with my kids. I love to vary the ingredients each year, such as by making a healthier version of this holiday classic. One year we even did a pizza bread house!

I always buy some special ingredients for decorations, like candy or dried fruit. This year we used one of our new favorite cereals, which we picked up at Target (Save when you use this coupon)!

Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls |

Choices, choices…

Honey Bunch of Oats® (Honey Roasted and Strawberry) were the perfect addition: the flakes make great leaves for leaves and tiles for roofs, while the granola clusters can…oh, let’s be real! We may never know because they always get eaten before they can be used!

Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls |

In his mind, a gingerbread house is anything you can put sprinkles on!

I love how creative the boys are with this project, which always goes differently than I imagine it will! This year my oldest built a skyscraper, while my youngest built a factory (which looked suspiciously like a big mound of ingredients, since he didn’t have the patience to fool with any actual engineering).

Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls |

The trees, unfortunately, were eaten before I could snap a picture!

To fuel my little architects, I made these absolutely scrumptious crunchy chocolate peanut butter balls. I’ve made peanut butter balls for years, but this year I wanted to do something a little different and, well, fancier. I also know that my kids get bored with eating the same old snacks all the time, and these crunchy, chocolate peanut butter balls were just the ticket to shake things up a bit.

Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls


One cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)

1.5 T unsweetened cocoa powder

Honey to taste

1 cup crushed Honey Bunches of Oats ® cereal (we used Honey Roasted): Use this coupon to save!

To Make:

  1. Mix peanut butter, cocoa powder, and honey. If you would rather skip the chocolate (really??), add coconut flour to help absorb the liquid and give it a milder flavor. If, on the other hand, you want more chocolate, you can also add mini chocolate chips once the first three ingredients are blended together.
  2. Form the mixture into balls (any size will do, but larger balls will hold up better in the next step).
  3. Roll the balls in the crushed cereal. Enjoy as is or stick in the refrigerator for a (slightly) neater treat!

Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls |

These are a great, healthier treat for kids and moms! They are a balanced, bite-sized source of energy, plus they make a great midnight snack, moms! (Although be careful, because they are so crunchy you might wake up the kids!)

Sing Sweepstakes

This year we are also planning to go see the Sing© movie, opening soon! It looks so cute and funny! But the fun starts now, even before the movie is out, since you can get coupons for participating Post Cereal Brands, play Fun-Trivia to find the SING© character you are most like, and enter the Sing Sweepstakes for a chance to win a $100,000 grand prize plus the chance to instantly win lots of prizes including movie tickets, speakers and more! What would you do with $100,000??

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Promotion starts 11/1/16 at 12:00 PM (noon) ET and ends 3/31/2017 at 11:59:59 PM ET. Open only to legal residents of the 50 US/DC, 18 years of age or older. See Official Rules for instructions on how to enter, how to obtain codes without purchase, prize details, restrictions, odds of winning, etc. Void where prohibited by law. Sponsor:  Post Consumer Brands, LLC.

Nov 222016
 November 22, 2016  Christmas, crafts, household 2 Responses »

‘Tis the season, and families everywhere are gearing up to buy, create, and lovingly wrap presents for their loved ones. While you’re at it, why not have some fun with all that extra wrapping paper? It is so great for crafts! We had fun with some of our own upcycled crafts recently, so I’ve gathered together some creative ideas for you. Share your ideas in the comments!

10 Creative Uses for Wrapping Paper |

Disclosure: I received complimentary packages of wrapping paper from Tuttle Publishing for review purposes; however, all my opinions are my own.

Do you have a stash of wrapping paper sitting around at the end of the holidays, odd scraps that you’re not sure would actually fit a present but you can’t bring yourself to get rid of? Or perhaps you’ve found some really beautiful wrapping paper that is like artwork all by itself? Here are some fun and creative ways to use it!

10 Creative Uses for Wrapping Paper |

I was so pleased to receive several packages of gorgeous wrapping paper from Tuttle Publishing (shown above are the Blue and White set, Indonesian Batik, Japanese Kimono, and Chinese Silk). With gifts, so much is in the presentation! These premium wrapping papers are so beautiful and artistic that I knew our loved ones would feel very special receiving presents wrapped with them.

I also realized that we could also use it to make wonderful crafts! Here are some of our favorite creative uses for wrapping paper.

10 Creative Uses for Wrapping Paper

Book Covers

When I was a kid, at the start of every school year we would pull out the paper grocery bags to make covers for our new textbooks. (Here is a tutorial that is exactly how we did it when I was a kid). It kept the books in better shape, plus it personalized them a bit. I hadn’t done it for years, so I thought it would be fun to do again. Since we had such beautiful material to work with, I made a cover for my prayer book using a sheet from the Chinese Silk set. Isn’t it beautiful?

10 Creative Uses for Wrapping Paper |

10 Creative Uses for Wrapping Paper |

Line Your Drawers

Add a little beauty to your everyday by lining your drawers with some beautiful wrapping paper! Featured here is a sheet from the Blue & White set. The photo really doesn’t do justice to the pretty dark blue color I used.

10 Creative Uses for Wrapping Paper |

Paper Chains

Decorate your house or trim your tree with some festive paper chains! These are also great to use in a simple advent calendar. This gorgeous wrapping paper will definitely be a step up from the construction paper we usually use!

Gift Tags

One thrifty way to use wrapping paper is to make simple gift tags for the presents you are wrapping. Simply take some of the excess paper, fold it over and trim to make a small rectangle. (If your wrapping paper has a nice design, you could also follow the shape of the images on the paper). Write your note inside and tape it to the gift, and that’s it! Simple, but it does look cute because of course it matches!

Here are some other fun wrapping paper ideas for you:

From Teach Me Mommy: Stick Puzzles

From Jeddah Mom: Paper Collage Using Flower Punch

From Sugar Aunts: Scissor Skills Crash Course

From One Creative Mommy: Christmas Crackers Stocking Stuffers

From Red Ted Art: Thank You Cards

From Red Ted Art: Christmas Cards

You can find even more ideas in the packages of wrapping paper from Tuttle Publishing!

Nov 112016
 November 11, 2016  Christmas Comments Off on 6 Tips to Keep the Holidays Special

Does the Christmas season feel like a marathon for you, as you attempt to fit in all the shopping and special moments for your family before you collapse on Christmas Day? Here are 6 tips to keep the holidays special for your family, so that you are creating cherished memories together instead of rushing to finish an overwhelming to-do list.

6 Tips to Keep the Holidays Special |

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Ornaments of Love for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.

6 Tips to Keep the Holidays Special

1. Make a plan. Don’t want to be rushing around at the last minute? Take some time (ideally before the holiday rush) to outline what you’d like to get done and when. Even if you haven’t had a chance to do this ahead of time, it is worth a breather to write down exactly what it is you are trying to accomplish. Break it down into small pieces so that as Christmas nears you don’t feel overwhelmed. Keep in mind that this does not have to be an elaborate plan! It can be a simple list that helps you keep your focus on the items you don’t want to forget.

2. Simplify. Have  20 items on your list? See if you can get it down to 15. Have 10? Try to get it down to 8. Be realistic about what you can accomplish given your other commitments and the age of your children. Don’t keep something on your list just because you’ve always done it or because that’s what everyone else in your mom’s group is doing (!) Focus on what’s right for you and your family, even if that seems like a simple, non-Pinterest worthy list. Remember that people only post those holiday photos that show the best of what they’ve done, not the dirty dishes or the tantrums, so don’t envy anyone else’s Christmas but focus on your own.

3. Throw out the old. Sit down with your family and share your list. Have each person (yourself included) choose one or two items that are most important to them. You may be surprised! Maybe you didn’t realize how much your daughter cares about decorating the tree together, or that your son really loves Christmas carols. Once you know what is really important to everyone, make those items the focus, so that you can really keep the holidays special for everyone. Let the other items on the list be extras that you get to if you are able (or eliminate altogether!)

4. Try something new. Once you’ve simplified your list, pick something new to try as a family, like going to see a show or taking in the Christmas lights downtown. It’s easy to get into a rut and follow the same routine each year, so everyone will have fun trying out something new together.

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel. At the end of the holidays, hold on to your list, along with any notes you may have made along the way, so that next year you already have a good focus. I actually have checklists on my computer for holidays and birthdays, so that I don’t forget anything that’s really important to me and it’s easy to update each year. Why throw out a good plan after all that work?

6. Focus on what’s really important. Don’t be a slave to your plan, but let it be a guide. Plans are helpful to remind us about what we’d like to accomplish, but remember that what’s most important isn’t checking items off a list, it’s spending time with those we love. So if your child is asking you to play with them, maybe those Christmas cards can wait. Perhaps building an elaborate gingerbread house that you can display isn’t so important if it’s becoming a source of tension between you and your child, who just wants to have fun with a messy creation. Remember that you are making memories, so what kind of memories do you want those to be?

This year I was so pleased to have been contacted by author Sharlin Craig about reviewing her book Ornaments of Love. It is a lovely story about a family discovering what is really important during the holidays. 10 year old Ayana looks forward to her family’s Christmas traditions every year – decorating the tree, enjoying hot chocolate together in front of the fire – but this year it seems like her parents are just too busy. Her mother is always baking or shopping while her father struggles to finish his work at the office in time for Christmas Eve. It isn’t until a mishap threatens to ruin their Christmas that they come together to celebrate what is truly important.

This is a story that every family can relate to! The parents aren’t cruel or neglectful, they are just busy, like so many of us. The irony, of course, is that they are busy with things that are seemingly important to their family – like sending gifts to loved ones or baking for a holiday party – yet actually keep them from enjoying the simple moments. There are plenty of tender moments that help you realize just how close the family is yet how often they can lose sight of the importance of spending quality time. Author Sharlin Craig is a wife and mother herself, so she understands the struggle to maintain balance. This book is her gift to other families as they seek to keep the holidays special for themselves and their loved ones. I love the gentle illustrations, which match the tone of the story beautifully. (The illustrators for the picture book and coloring book are from Nigeria and The Czech Republic, now living in Germany).

Now you can also get the Ornaments of Love Coloring Book: Slowing Down with Family at Christmas Time! It includes the “Ornaments of Love” picture book in black and white, along with 21 original full-page coloring illustrations tying in with the story that range from easy to difficult. What a great way to de-stress and have some holiday fun together than to sit down with this beautiful coloring book! There are even additional coloring pages available on her website to print.

How do you keep the holidays special for your family?

Ornaments of Love Book Blog Tour

Thursday, Oct. 27th: This Mom’s Delight (Review)
Tuesday, Nov. 1st: K&A’s Childrens’ Book Reviews (Review & Giveaway)
Thursday, Nov. 3rd: Amanda’s Books and More (Review & Giveaway)
Friday, Nov. 4th: Mamitales (Review & Giveaway)
Saturday, Nov. 5th: Christy’s Cozy Corners (Review, Guest Post-
‘My Favorite Ornament Memories’ & Giveaway)
Sunday, November 6th: Unleashing Readers (Guest Post-‘Integrating Ornaments of Love into the Classroom Setting’ & Giveaway)
Monday, November 7th: The Write Chris (Author Interview & Giveaway)
Wednesday, November 9th: This Mom’s Delight
(Guest Post-‘Affirm Your Child’s Worth by Spending Time with Them’
& Giveaway)
Friday, November 11th: All Done Monkey (Post-‘6 Ways to Make the
Holidays Special’, Review & Giveaway)
Monday, November 14th: Connie M. Huddleston
(Monday Morning Indie: Review & Interview)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Feb 012016
 February 1, 2016  Black History Month, Education, raising world citizens Comments Off on George Washington Carver: Facts, Activities, and Resources

Facts, activities, and resources to learn about George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver is known to many of us as the “Peanut Scientist.”  But in researching this article, I discovered that he was so much more!  He was a real people’s scientist, always focusing on what would be practically useful to the common man and making sure to share this knowledge with him.  His life story – begun as a slave, kidnapped and orphaned as a baby  – will fascinate and inspire our young scientists and world changers.

So hop over to Multicultural Kid Blogs to read more about this incredible scientist and find activities and resources for further exploration:

George Washington Carver: Facts, Activities, and Resources

Dec 152015

Las Posadas: Creamy Avocado Salsa Recipe |

With the arrival of our newest bundle of joy last month, we are keeping things simple in our house, especially when it comes to cooking.  At the same time, however, we don’t want to sacrifice taste or comfort, which is why I love this creamy avocado salsa recipe.  So easy, but a real treat for all of us!

This recipe is special because it also celebrates Las Posadas, the wonderful Christmas tradition from Latin America that recreates Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter before the birth of Baby Jesus.  This festive time is one of joyous gatherings of family and friends, filled with laughter, song, and – of course – great food!

This tradition is especially poignant for our family this year, as it celebrates community and family, two things that are of particular importance when a child is born.  We live far away from our families: mine is scattered throughout the US, while my husband’s is in Costa Rica, distances that seemed even greater as our due date drew near.  And while our families did their best to support us (last minute plane trips, Skype, packages of presents), we knew we would be leaning heavily on friends when our little girl arrived.

And so it was.  Friends and neighbors babysat as we went to the birth center: one dear friend responded to a desperate text at 5 am, while another cheerfully spent all day with our boys.  In the days that followed, women from my moms’ group – some of whom I had never even met before – dropped off hot meals, while other friends offered to take our older children out for play dates.  Blogger friends sent guest posts and gave my articles extra love.  My personal inbox and Facebook page were flooded with well wishes and offers of help.

In short, our family – including our new little one – was surrounded with love and support, at a time when we sorely needed it.  And that is what Las Posadas represents to me: a celebration of community, as people come together to provide shelter and support to those in need.

HERDEZ® is encouraging this wonderful tradition by sharing favorite recipes and traditions, plus a contest! (See details below).  Here is an easy holiday recipe made with HERDEZ® Salsa Verde, perfect for Las Posadas or other holiday celebration.  Even for busy families like ours, it is easy to put together!

Las Posadas: Creamy Avocado Salsa Recipe |

Avocado Salsa Recipe

2 ripe avocados

1 & 1/4 to 1 & 1/2 cup, HERDEZ® Salsa Verde

Dash of lemon juice

Mix all ingredients well in a blender.  Adjust proportions as needed.  Enjoy as a dip or as a topping for tacos.  I’ve even seen it used as a sauce for pasta!

Las Posadas: Creamy Avocado Salsa Recipe |

How are you celebrating with your loved ones this holiday season?

Las Posadas Instagram Contest

As this holiday brings family and friends coming together enjoying food and celebrations, HERDEZ® brand is holding a photo contest on Instagram. The Share in the Magic of #MisPosadas contest lasts from December 7th – January 6th.

Each week, a fill in the blank question relevant to the holiday will be posted for fans to answer with a photo. Three top winners will be selected as well as honorable mentions. Prizes are as follows:

– Grand Prize: Dinner prepared by a personal chef for up to 4 people in your very own home!
– 2nd Place: $250 Gift Basket
– 3rd Place: $200 Gift Basket
– Honorable Mention: Custom T-shirts

To enter, submit a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #MisPosadas to answer the weekly fill in the blank question.  Visit  HERDEZ® on Instagram to play along!

Dec 072015
 December 7, 2015  Christmas, crafts Comments Off on DIY Gifts: Christmas Tree Bookmark Craft

Thanks to Colleen of Sugar Aunts for this wonderful tutorial for a bookmark your kids can make.  These are fun to do and make great DIY gifts!

Kids love to create handmade gifts for friends and relatives! This Christmas tree bookmark craft is a fun and easy craft idea that kids can make.  And the best news is, that they can create a bunch of these at once.  Everyone will love to receive these DIY gifts this Christmas!


This craft is super easy to make.  You’ll need a sheet of burlap and green paint.  Cut the burlap into strips.  Next, cut the burlap into bookmark sized strips.  Older kids can do this part, or an adult can do the cutting.

To make the Christmas tree shape, fold the burlap strip in half and snip a triangle near the top of the bookmark.  Snip a second and third triangle so you have a string of triangles.  When you flatten out the bookmark, you’ll have a tree shape.  You can snip a small trunk, too.

Have the kids paint the burlap, evenly covering the burlap.  When the paint dries, turn the burlap over and paint the other side.  Allow the paint to dry again. You can make a bunch of these bookmarks by painting a sheet of burlap and then cutting them into strips.  Cut the tree shape out after the burlap has been painted if you are making several bookmarks.

Pair this bookmark with a favorite book for a gift that anyone will love to receive!

Colleen writes at Sugar Aunts about crafts, activities, recipes.  Colleen is an Occupational Therapist and pulls her OT background into each post.  Follow Colleen on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, and Google+.

Dec 032015
 December 3, 2015  Christmas, multiculturalism, raising world citizens Comments Off on Christmas Around the World: When to Celebrate

Christmas Around the World: When to Celebrate |

When is Christmas celebrated where you live?  Do you know why many countries celebrate on December 25 (and why others do not)?  Thanks to Carrie of Crafty Moms Share for teaching us more about this fascinating aspect of Christmas around the world.

Christmas Around the World: When to Celebrate

The Bible does not tell us when Jesus was born. No one actually knows the date of his birth. The first recorded Christmas on December 25th was in 336AD. It was during the time of Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor. A few years later Pope Julius I declared Christmas Day to be December 25. There are many theories as to why this date was chosen. One theory is it is nine months after the date of Annunciation, when it is believed Mary became with child (March 25). Another is that it is around the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice as well as other Roman pagan festivals. The Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, begins on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev (a month that often occurs at the same time as December) and since Jesus was Jewish, perhaps it was to honor his past.

In the early church Christmas was also celebrated on January 6th, also known as Epiphany (the revelation that Jesus is God’s son and the Baptism of Jesus). Then there is the switch of the calendars from the Julian to the Gregorian, though some churches still use the Julian calendar. All of this affects the date of Christmas and various countries celebrate Christmas at different times. There is also the question of what is the Christmas celebration? Is it when Santa Claus or other gift bearer brings gifts to children? Is it when families gather for the celebration or when people go to church? Each of these things also occur at different times in different cultures.

In Venezuela some people begin their celebrations with St. Barbara’s Day on December 4th. On December 16th families bring out their pesebre, elaborate nativity scenes, and the height of the celebrating begins on December 21st and lasts through the 25th. Epiphany or Three Kings Day is also celebrated in Venezuela. The main presents arrive Christmas Eve.

In the Netherlands December 5th is a big date. December 6th is St. Nicholas Day; however, in the Netherlands there are major celebrations on the 5th. The kids leave out their shoes for Sinterklaas to fill with gifts during the night. Then there is a large parade on St. Nicholas Day. Christmas is a much quieter event with church and a family meal.

Mikulas a cert v Praze (1)
Traditional St. Nicholas Celebration in the Czech Republic By Chmee2 (Own work)[GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Many countries celebrate St. Nicholas Day, December 6th. This is often when the kids in those countries receive their gifts. Some of the countries that celebrate it are Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Posadas en Tequixquiac (4)
A Posada By Marrovi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In Mexico the celebrations begin on December 16th. Each night the children perform Posadas (which means inn). The kids parade in the night carrying candles and with someone acting as Mary and Joseph. They go to houses each night where Joseph asks for a room. Eventually at the chosen house they are told there is room and they are allowed in, followed with a party. In some parts of Mexico kids expect Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and in other parts they wait until January 6th for the Three Wisemen.

In the Philippines the celebration begins on December 16th as well. There it starts the nine days of pre-dawn church services which end on Christmas Day. The celebrating lasts until the first Sunday in January (Epiphany).

In Romania the celebrations start on December 20th with St. Ignatius Day. Traditionally this is the day the family kills the pig that will be for the Christmas meal. The real celebrating however begins Christmas Eve with the tradition of decorating the tree.

In Kazakhstan Christmas is not a national holiday, so it is often celebrated the Sunday before Christmas since people are off work that day.

Edinburgh Hogmanay Longship
A Viking longship is burnt during Edinburgh’s annual Hogmanay (New Year) celebrations.By Lee Kindness [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Many countries celebrate December 24, 25th or January 6th or a combination of these days. The next interesting date to note is in Scotland. December 31st or Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is a bigger celebration than Christmas. The word Hogmanay comes from a type of oat cake which is given to the children on this day.

In Greece gifts are brought to the children on January 1st by Saint Basil. They however have celebrations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

In Spain there are some gifts on Christmas day however the children write letters to the Kings on Boxing Day (December 26) asking for what they want. The Kings come on January 6th, the Epiphany.

The real difference in dates occur with the different calendars. Places that have Orthodox churches tend to celebrate Christmas on January 7th. This is in countries like Georgia, Ukraine, Serbia & Montenegro, Russia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Macedonia. In Georgia however people get their gifts on December 31st (New Year’s Eve). The gifts are brought to the kids by Tolvis Papa or Grandfather Snow. In Macedonia the celebrations actually start January 5th called Kolede. The kids sing carols throughout the neighborhood and are given nuts, coins and fruit. When the singing is done everyone gathers around large bonfires.

With all the different dates and traditions, it makes the holiday season even more interesting. When do you celebrate Christmas? What is the most important part of the holiday for you?


Crafty Moms ShareCarrie is a former high school math teacher with diversity training and helped advise many diversity clubs at the schools she taught. Now she is a stay-at-home mother of an almost five-year-old and very active with her church. She writes about her life with her daughter and the fun things they do at Crafty Moms Share. You can also find her on Pinterest and Google +.

This post is part of the Christmas in Different Lands series from Multicultural Kid Blogs.  Learn more about Christmas traditions and celebrations around the world through the other articles in this series.
Feb 192015

Sweet Potato Pie: Soul Food and Food for the Soul |

Happy Black History Month!  To celebrate we are not only participating in a BIG giveaway with Multicultural Kid Blogs (see details below!) but also giving away a copy of Last Stop on Market Street, a wonderful picture book from Matt de la Peña.  Find out how to enter at the end of the post!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Last Stop on Market Street; however, all opinions are my own.  This post also contains affiliate links.  If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.

This year for Black History Month I decided to try out a dessert I have been curious about but never tried making: sweet potato pie!  How did it turn out?  Spoiler alert: It was wonderful!  Very easy to make and a big hit with everyone that tried it.

Sweet Potato Pie: Soul Food and Food for the Soul |

Sweet Potato Pie Does Not Equal Pumpkin Pie

It turns out that sweet potato pie is so simple to make and really delicious!  If you’re thinking but I don’t like pumpkin pie – not to worry!  Pumpkin pie is not my favorite either, but this sweet potato pie is so much more flavorful.  Several people who tried my pie remarked that they were surprised how much they liked it.  They didn’t expect to since they don’t like pumpkin pie and were really just being polite.  Luckily for them they actually loved it!  I’ve noticed a similar difference when I substitute sweet potatoes in my pumpkin bread recipe.  Good before but really wow! with the substitution.

So what makes the difference?  First, sweet potatoes have a deeper, richer taste and a thicker texture.  I think many people are turned off from pumpkin pie because of its sometimes simpering, mushy texture, which cooked sweet potatoes do not have.

Sweet Potato Pie: Soul Food and Food for the Soul |

But I think the biggest difference is that the recipe calls for roasting the sweet potatoes and pureeing them yourself.  Now, if you’re anything like me, at Thanksgiving battling a pumpkin into submission – dealing with peeling that tough skin and navigating the awkward bumps that look cute on a jack o’ lantern but not on my cutting board – is quickly skipped in favor of opening up a can of ready made puree.  How would pumpkin pie taste if I went to the trouble of really starting from scratch?  We may never know.  (Or at least will have to wait until the kids are older and I am really bored one day).

Sweet potato pie, on the other hand, is easy to make from scratch.  So head over to The Wichita Eagle to see the full recipe and try it yourself! You can also read a wonderful story about the importance of sweet potato pie in African-American traditions and why it is often called pumpkin pie’s “Southern cousin.”

I recommend doing as the recipe says and roasting the sweet potato instead of steaming it, as this makes it much sweeter.  And be aware that depending on how sweet your sweet potatoes are, you probably will not need the full cup of sugar it calls for.

Sweet Potato Pie: Soul Food and Food for the Soul |

While your pies are in the oven, enjoy reading these two children’s books about soul food and food for the soul:

Grandma Lena’s Big Ol’ Turnip is a twist on a Russian folktale, as Grandma Lena and her family try to harvest the enormous turnip that she has grown in her garden.  The story itself is fun – with repetition that kids will love – and it is also a fun way to learn about some traditional African-American dishes, as well as the hospitality that goes along with them.  Bonus points to Grandma Lena for getting my Monkey interested in eating turnips!

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña is a wonderful new offering from Penguin Books: a picture book about a boy and his grandmother, as she gently teaches him to always look for the beauty in the world.  As CJ and his Nana ride the bus together after church one day, CJ feels sorry for himself.  Why can’t he ride off in a car like other kids, or go home to play, instead of riding on the bus to a rough part of town with his grandmother?  But Nana helps CJ learn to appreciate the good in his situation and in those around him.  After all, the bus breathes fire, and the driver always has a trick for him.  And who wants an iPod when you can listen to a fellow passenger play the guitar live?

When they finally arrive at the last stop on Market Street, CJ discovers a perfect rainbow arcing over the dirty street and realizes how glad he is that they come to their soup kitchen every Sunday, to see the familiar faces and find the beauty where he had never even thought to look.

Win a copy of Last Stop on Market Street

To win a copy of this wonderful book, just comment on this blog post, telling us what dishes conjure up “home” for you!  In one week (end of day Feb. 26, 2015, at midnight Pacific time), I’ll draw one random winner from the comments.  US shipping only.


Black History Month 2015 | Multicultural Kid Blogs

This post is part of the Black History Month series on Multicultural Kid Blogs. Be sure to visit the main page for the full schedule and to link up your own posts about sharing Black History Month with kids! And of course, don’t forget to enter our amazing giveaway:

Black History Month GIVEAWAY

Grand Prize Package

Divah Taylor - World of EPI

A Divah Taylor doll from World of EPI, the company whose mission is to express joy by providing children access to dolls that encourage dreams, promote intelligence, challenge perceptions, and open their hearts to all types of beauty. US Shipping only

Global Wonders - African-American

Global Wonders: African-American DVD for kids: Join twins Trey and Alisha as their playroom is transformed into a world of dreams and discoveries highlighting the fascinating and influential culture of the African-American family. US & Canada only

ABC Me Flashcards

One set of ABC Me Flashcards, teaching African-American history from Africa to Zora Neal Hurston! Illustrated in vibrant colors with easy to understand wording on the back. US Shipping only

I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer

From Penguin Books, I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer US Shipping only.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

Also from Penguin Books, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña US Shipping only.

1st Prize Package

Black History Month Spanish Edition - Open Wide the World

Learn about Black History Month in Spanish with this fun educational pack from Open Wide the World. Students will meet 10 African Americans of historic significance in this packet, at an introductory level.

Tru-Colour Bandages

A three pack of bandages (one of each shade) from Tru-Colour Bandages, the company on a mission to bring bandage equality to the industry by providing bandages in your skin color. US & Canada only


Shekere – a beautiful and unique African gourd instrument –

Shekere Tutorial

plus a craft tutorial on how to make your own from Daria and Crafty Moms Share US Shipping only

endeavor's long journey

From East West Discovery Press, Endeavor’s Long Journey by By John D. Olivas US Shipping only.

Black Girls Can

Black Girls Can: An Empowering Story of Yesterdays and Todays, from Rachel Garlinghouse of White Sugar Brown Sugar US Shipping only

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Feb 042015

Chinese Zodiac Game for Chinese New Year |

A few years ago when Monkey was part of a preschool co-op, I created a simple activity to teach the kids about Chinese New Year.  Most of the games I had seen were for school age kids, but there were few for preschoolers.  The game below is simple enough to do with young kids (even toddlers), yet with a few variations it can still be played with school age kids.  It is also an active game for kids (like mine) that learn better when moving.

The kids in the preschool group had a great time, and when I dusted it off recently to play with my now school age Monkey, I was pleased to see that he still enjoyed it, as did his toddler brother.

Chinese Zodiac Game for Chinese New Year |

All you need is a printer or – if, like me, your printer seems to be perpetually out of ink – the ability to sketch some animals.

1) Print off or draw the animals of the Chinese zodiac, one per page.  (You can use the printables in Daria’s Chinese Gong tutorial or Kid World Citizen’s zodiac poster tutorial or browse the wonderful collection assembled by Marie’s Pastiche).

2) Explain briefly about the Chinese zodiac: the idea that in the Chinese calendar, each year is represented by a different animal, and the people born during that year are thought to share some of the characteristics of that animal.  For older kids, you can go into a more detailed explanation and have fun seeing what animal sign they were born under and what it represents!

3) Lay the animal pages in a circle on the ground and ask each child to stand on one, facing the middle.

Chinese Zodiac Game for Chinese New Year |

4) In the simplest version for young kids, go around the circle and have each child make the sound of the animal whose picture they are standing on.  After everyone has had a turn, have them shift to the right one spot and repeat.  Repeat several more times until each child has had a chance to do several animal sounds.

For very young kids, this is plenty!  For older kids, you can try these variations:

1) Play “musical animals” by having the kids walk in a circle to music (if you can, use some Chinese kids’ songs, like those from A Little Mandarin).  Periodically stop the music, and each child has to make the sound of the animal they are standing on.

2) Lay the animal pages in a line along the floor, and each child has to hop from one to the other, making the appropriate animal noises as they go.

3) Tape an animal page to the back of each child, taking care that they can’t see which is on their back.  Then have the other children help them guess which animal they have, either through animal sounds or descriptions or answering yes/no questions.

For more zodiac fun, check out this bilingual zodiac activity from ET Speaks from Home and learn all about the Chinese zodiac from Marie’s Pastiche!

Chinese New Year | Multicultural Kid Blogs

This post is part of the Chinese New Year series and giveaway on Multicultural Kid Blogs. Enter our giveaway to win one of these great prize packages, and don’t forget to link up your own posts about Chinese New Year on our main page!

Giveaway begins Jan. 21 and goes through midnight ET on March 5, 2015. Enter below for a chance to win! Remember you can make a comment on the blog post of a different co-host each day for an additional entry.

First Prize Package

All About China

From Tuttle Publishing, All About China: Take the whole family on a whirlwind tour of Chinese history and culture with this delightfully illustrated book that is packed with stories, activities and games. Travel from the stone age through the dynasties to the present day with songs and crafts for kids that will teach them about Chinese language and the Chinese way of life.

Long-Long's New Year

Also from Tuttle Publishing, Long-Long’s New Year, a beautifully illustrated picture book about a little Chinese boy named Long-Long, who accompanies his grandfather into the city to sell cabbages in order to buy food and decorations for the New Year. Selling cabbages is harder than Long-Long expects, and he encounters many adventures before he finds a way to help his grandfather, and earn New Year’s treats for his mother and little cousin.

A Little Mandarin

From A Little Mandarin, a CD featuring a collection of Chinese children’s classics – songs loved by families in China for generations – given new life with a contemporary sound and voice. The 15 tracks fuse rock, pop, dance, ska, and hip hop influences with playful lyrics to make it a unique and fun learning companion for all ages. Featured on Putumayo Kids Presents World Sing-Along.

Second Prize Package

US shipping only

Celebrating the Chinese New Year

From Tuttle Publishing, Celebrating the Chinese New Year, in which Little Mei’s grandfather tells her the stories of Nian and the monster Xi for Chinese New Year.

The Sheep Beauty

Also from Tuttle Publishing, The Sheep Beauty, which brings to life the kindness and generosity of those born under the sign of the sheep in the Chinese zodiac.

Chinese Zodiac Animals

Also from Tuttle Publishing, Chinese Zodiac Animals, a fun and informative way to learn about the ancient Chinese Zodiac, explaining the traits of each animal sign and what luck the future might hold for the person born under that sign.

Monkey Drum

From Tiny Tapping Toes, a monkey drum, plus a free pdf of a craft version. World Music children’s performer DARIA has spent the last two decades performing in the USA and around the world, creating music to inspire all the world’s children and allowing children to become a part of the celebration and the fun of exploring world cultures.

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Jan 082015

Martin Luther King Jr and Super Heart: Learning about Love and Courage |

This post is part of the Martin Luther King Day for Kids series from Multicultural Kid Blogs (see details below). 

This post contains affiliate links.  If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.

With Martin Luther King Day approaching, I thought it was a good idea to introduce Monkey to the legacy of Dr. King and the lessons we can draw from his life.  While we often talk about love and unity and how to celebrate diversity, because of Monkey’s age we had not really touched on racism and its painful history (and ongoing legacy) in our country.

So I wasn’t quite sure how he would react to learning about segregation and the long, terrible struggle against it.

Turns out he responded as a five year old will: he created a superhero.

We started off by reading the wonderful picture book Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr and segregation, emphasizing Dr. King’s use of big words rather than fists to solve problems and fight injustice.

Martin's Big Words

As we went, we wrote down some of Dr. King’s big words, like peace, hope, and together.

We also talked about segregation, and I tried to make it comprehensible to him by talking about what it would be like if we went to a restaurant and they wouldn’t let Daddy in because his skin was dark?  Or what if we went to the park and they wouldn’t let us play because we spoke Spanish?  After a while, the examples got a little silly: What if we couldn’t go to the movies because we had three heads?  What if aliens took over the earth and put “ALIENS ONLY” signs in all the stores?

We talked about how Dr. King had love towards everyone despite all of the terrible things that people did.

Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Again, I tried to put this in a context he could relate to.  If someone is being mean to him at the park, how should he respond?  Should he be mean back or try to be friends instead?  We even tried to brainstorm the kinds of things he could say.

Martin Luther King Jr and Super Heart: Learning About Love and Courage |

We also talked about how Dr. King had courage to do the right thing, even if it was scary.  Sometimes it can be hard to stand up to someone who is being mean or doing something wrong, but we have to have courage.

It was around this time that Monkey began doodling, and his doodles soon took the form of a superhero: Super Heart.  Super Heart is small but powerful, and he eats bad words like war, separate, and hate.  He even eats “Whites Only” signs.  He uses words and love to solve problems.

When I shared this photo on Instagram, my friend Aimee of Raising World Citizens said she wished Super Heart were real.  Monkey immediately responded that Super Heart is real – and there is one in every home!  She checked – and it was true!  There was a Super Heart in her home as well.

If you look, I guarantee you will find a Super Heart in your home, too.  In fact, all you have to do is look closely, and you can find a Super Heart inside everyone who has the courage to choose love.

Love is the key to the solution of the problems of the world. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Martin Luther King Day for Kids on Multicultural Kid BlogsThis post is part of the series Martin Luther King Day for Kids from Multicultural Kid Blogs. Come learn with us this month as we share resources to teach kids about Civil Rights and community service! You can link up your own posts on our main page or find even more resources on our Black History and Teaching Global Citizenship Pinterest boards.

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