Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays!



It is not easy to celebrate the coming holidays after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. But life is stronger and it goes on. As we pray for the innocent victims, we all hope that they had a destiny and a purpose in life. And in a sad way they will help us all make changes and make life safer and better. 

With this stress added to the holidays hassle and bustle we must be extra careful with our kids. Whether we have our extended family and friends visiting at our homes or we go for a visit with friends and family the festivities, the overindulgence in food, the noise, and least but not last the changed routine can all affect seriously our kids behaviour. 

Children, especially the younger ones, can become irritable, wining, aggressive, and even the unwrapping of gifts can lead to sibling rivalry and in some cases - disappointment. 

Some children can also have an issue transitioning from school to vacation and vice versa. If your child has such a problem make sure you give them enough time to adapt, even if that means shortening your holidays time. 

At this time of the year try to be extra patient and understanding; check on the kids often and do a lot of explaining. And have at hand little tricks to calm them down and bring back the peace. Things like a favourite toy, a small quieter place  where the kid can spent some time and recover, small rewards items, are all very helpful. As difficult as it is, ensure your kids eat properly avoiding additional stimulants  like caffeine, for instance and make sure they get enough sleep. 

It may seem like a lot to think about and do, but rest assured it's all worth it and it will bring to your holiday season a lot of dear, joyful and memorable moments.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Helping Kids Cope with the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary


Today's tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT  has been a shock to society.  We cannot fathom how today's events can even occur, they are so far removed from the basic of human instincts: protecting & nurturing children.

As we have trouble processing today's events, imagine how difficult it must be for kids themselves when they learn about what happened. There's no room for today in their innocent thoughts.

To help, we've compiled some useful articles from trusted Parenting resources that help parents help their children cope & process with these tragic events:

PBS Parents - Talking With Kids About News

Parenting - Five Tips of Talking to Kids About Scary News

ParentFurther - Strategies for talking to Kids based on their age

If you have any article you'd like to share, please let us know so we can add it to the list.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Festive Edible "Ornaments"



There is something very heart-warming, sweet and unique in homemade Christmas decorations.  You don't need to go into huge expenses or buy only special products, it's more about spending special time and bonding with your kids, unleashing their and your own creativity, and of course - having fun. You can do this not only for Christmas, but for other special family holidays too. It can be the start of a good new tradition for your family.

Is there a kid that does not love marshmallows? How about homemade marshmallows imagine the delight in your kids' eyes! They are easy and fun to make.

Christmas Marshmallows

Ingredients:

2 cups confectioner's sugar and more for dusting
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon plain gelatin
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint oil
Red and green food colours

Preparation:

In a large saucepan over medium heat mix 3/4 cup water, the granulated sugar, corn syrup and a pinch of salt until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook about 10 minutes - by then the temperature of your mixture should be 240oF.

Meanwhile pour 3/4 cup water in a bowl sprinkle the gelatin and stir on low until the gelatin softens.

Keeping the mixer on low start gradually pouring the hot sugar mixture into the gelatin mixture. Gradually increase the speed and beat until the mixture becomes fluffy and stiff, about 10 minutes. When ready, separate in three bowls. Add 11/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract to two of the bowls and a tablespoon of the peppermint oil to the third one. Add a couple of drops of red food colour to one of the vanilla flavoured bowls and green - to the peppermint flavoured one. Mix well to incorporate the colour and flavouring. See, here you absolutely need more than two hands!

Spray a baking pan with non-stick cooking oil and coat generously with confectioners' sugar. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a spatula, which you had also spayed with non-stick cooking oil, and let sit at room temperature until firm. Usually it takes about 4-6 hours for the mixture to harden.

Unmold the mixture onto a work surface. Spray a serrated knife with non-stick cooking oil and cut the marshmallow in squared or any other shape you or your kids may like. Pull the pieces apart and toss in a bowl with confectioners' sugar to coat all over.

Most festive edibles are sweet, but here are a few ideas for interesting savory "ornaments" to unleash your imagination:

Santa Claus 

Ingredients:

Half of PC thin bun
Cream cheese
Ham
Sweet red pepper

Preparation: 

With a sharp knife cut the shape of Santa's head.  Cut the same shape from a slice of ham. Butter the piece of bread, put the ham on top. From the pepper shape Santa's shoulders and hat, Use cream cheese to form the hair, mustache and beard. Two black pepper grains will make the eyes and another small piece of ham will be the nose. Sprinkle some fresh dill around, it's leaves resemble somewhat pine twigs and give additional colour to your creation.


Snowman

Ingredients:

Half of PC thin bun
Cream cheese
Sweet red pepper
Black olives

Preparation:
Cut two circles from the bun which will be the snowman's head and body. Cover with cream cheese and assemble. Split 1 or 2 black olives to form the hat. A sliver of carrot will be the nose and  a few black pepper grains will be the buttons and the strips of pepper make his scarf. Use some more cream cheese for the snow.
  

Christmas Tree

Ingredients:

Half of PC thin bun
250 g cream cheese
Sweet red and yellow peppers
Carrot
Fresh dill

Preparation:
In a food processor mix cream cheese, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon sour cream and fresh dill. Set aside. From the bun cut the tree. Apply generously from the "green" cream cheese and your tree is ready for decorating. Use small cuts from the red and yellow pepper, dill leaves and black pepper grains to decorate your tree. Some cream cheese will be the snow and the finishing touch.


Enjoy!



Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ideas for Christmas Decorations



The stores are full with Christmas decorations - for the home, for the tree, for the festive table. Fashion changes and the selection is so big sometimes it is not easy to make a choice. There hardly are, however, more beautiful, unique and valuable decorations than the ones made by your kids. Let your kids unleash their imagination, be patient and you can have not only great decorations, but most wonderful memories for life too.


Here are some ideas:

Garlands

You can use different kinds of wrapping paper, mixing and matching any way you want.

Step 1. Cut double-sided strips about 1/2 inch wide and 5-6 inches long.

Step 2. Glue the ends to form a ring; insert the next strip and glue too. Keep building till you get a garland as long as you wish.




 For another type of garland you can use wrapping ribbons of one or more colours. Work in a similar fashion like with the previous type of garland.


Step 1. Cut strips about 10 inches long and combine 3 or 4 together.

Step 2. Wrap those together around a container and tie them forming a tight knot.


 

Using a container will allow you work easier and to have rings with the same diameter. Keep building till you get the desired length.

You can also keep the chain short for small ornaments. Once you are satisfied with the length, it's time to really help your kids.

Step 3. You can use scissors or a dull knife. Press one loose end to the sharp end and quickly pull to curl the end. You can curl all or just some of the ends.   

 

You can also make single rings and use them as interesting napkin holders. 



Snowflakes

Use heavy paper, it will give you snowflakes which will keep their shape better. You can make them bigger or smaller, it is up to you.

Step 1. Cut a square and fold by the diagonal 3 or 4 times depending on how big your snowflake would be. 

Step 2. Once folded, shape the top as an ice-cream cone. Unleash your imagination and cut the ends. If your kids are too young you should leave only the decorating of the snowflake to them. 



Step 3. When finished with the cutting unfold, press to straighten the folds and you are ready to decorate.

Step 4. Use watercolours or apply glue and sprinkle with sparkles, or apply sparkling paint - your choice.




You can also use snowflakes as coasters.


Pine/Spruce/Fir Cones

Pine and spruce cones make great ornaments. And it will be so much better if you take your kids for a walk in the park and collect your own. You can have fully closed or completely open ones; they all are beautiful in their own way. First, of course,  you have to clean them very well. Then simply start decorating them. You can help your kids by simply carefully spaying some with Shellac, they will be all natural, clean and shiny. Cones can be painted with acrylic paint - be monochromatic, paint by scales or make stripes - your choice. You can leave them like this or finish them with sparkles. If using sparkles sprinkle the cones while the paint is still wet, then you don't have to use glue. Once dry, you have to help your kids to make the hook. 


Add some fresh branches left from trimming the tree, some ribbon and you can have an amazing centre piece for the festive table too.

Come back in a few days to check some ideas about eatable decorations.



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