Archive for September, 2011

September 29th, 2011

Pumpkin Donuts

Pumpkin Donut recipeFall has arrived, and in many parts of the country it is chilly outside, windows are open to the cool crisp weather and leaves are falling. It is lovely weather to enjoy some homemade donuts and a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

Gather your family in the kitchen to make this delicious recipe and then enjoy them outside while you chat about your day. This is a wonderful weekend tradition!


  • 2 cups all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • Cinnamon and sugar, for rolling
  • 1/2 cup butter, for dipping


  1. If using a babycakes donut maker, turn it on to preheat. Otherwise, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a donut pan or regular cookie sheet.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the dry ingredients.
  3. Beat in the pumpkin, eggs, milk, and butter until well combined.
  4. Fit a pastry bag with a large tip and fill with the donut batter. Alternately, fill a large ziploc bag and snip off the end.
  5. Pipe into the donut maker, donut pan, or just pipe in circles on a greased cookie sheet. The dough is thick enough that it should stay in the general shape you pipe it in while in the oven.
  6. If using the donut maker, cook for about 3-5 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick.
  7. If using the oven, bake for about 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
  8. Cool on a wire rack.
  9. Melt the 1/2 cup of butter in a small dish and mix together cinnamon and sugar in a second dish for dipping.
  10. Dip the donuts in the butter and then the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  11. Store in an air-tight container.

This recipe is courtesy of Buns In My

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September 28th, 2011

Halloween Lyrics For Children

Monster-Mash-Halloween-SongThere is music for every holiday season and Halloween is no exception. Here are the lyrics to some of our favorite and most enduring Halloween classics.

Five Little Pumpkins Nursery Rhyme

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, “oh my it’s getting late.”
The second one said, “there are witches in the air.”
The third one said, “but we don’t care!”
The fourth one said, “let’s run and run and run.”
The fifth one said, “I’m ready for some fun!”
OOOhh OOOhh went the wind
and out went the lights
and the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight

Pumpkin song for the very young

Just sing this to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Pumpkin pumpkin on the ground
How’d you get so big and round
Planted as a seed so small
Now you are a great big ball
Pumpkin pumpkin on the ground
How’d you get so big and round

Monster Mash

I was working in the lab late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my monster from his slab began to rise
And suddenly to my surpriseCHORUS – (change pronouns (he, they, she) as needed)
He did the mash
He did the monster mash
The monster mash
It was a graveyard smash
He did the mash
It caught on in a flash
He did the mash
He did the monster mash

From my laboratory in the castle east
To the master bedroom where the vampires feast
The ghouls all came from their humble abodes
To get a jolt from my electrodes


The zombies were having fun
The party had just begun
The guests included Wolf Man
Dracula and his son

The scene was rockin’, all were digging the sounds
Igor on chains, backed by his baying hounds
The coffin-bangers were about to arrive
With their vocal group, “The Crypt-Kicker Five”


Out from his coffin, Drac’s voice did ring
Seems he was troubled by just one thing
He opened the lid and shook his fist
And said, “Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?”


Now everything’s cool, Drac’s a part of the band
And my monster mash is the hit of the land
For you, the living, this mash was meant too
When you get to my door, tell them Boris sent you



If there’s something strange
in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call?
If there’s something weird
and it don’t look good
Who ya gonna call?
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts
If you’re seeing things
running through your head
Who can ya call?
An invisible man
sleeping in your bed
Who ya gonna call?
GHOSTBUSTERSI ain’t afraid of no ghosts
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts
Who ya gonna call?
If ya all alone
pick up the phone
and call

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts
I here it likes the ghost
I ain’t afraid of no ghost
Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah
Who ya gonna call?
If you’ve had a dose of a
freaky ghost baby
Ya better call

Lemme tell ya something
Bustin’ makes me feel good!
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts
Don’t get caught alone no no
When it comes through your door
Unless you just want some more
I think you better call
Who ya gonna call?
Who ya gonna call?
I think you better call

People Eater

Well I saw the thing coming out of the sky
It had one long horn and one big eye
I commenced to shakin’ and I said oo-wee
It looks like a purple people eater to me
It was a one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater
Sure looks good to meWell, he came down to earth and he lit in a tree
I said Mr Purple People Eater don’t eat me
I heard him say in a voice so gruff
I wouldn’t eat you ‘cos you’re too tough
It was a one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater
It sure looks strange to me

I said Mr Purple People Eater what’s your line
He said eating purple people and it sure is fine
But that’s not the reason that I came to land
I wanna get a job in a rock ‘n roll band
Well, bless my soul rock ‘n roll flying’ purple people eater
Pigeon-toed under-growed flyin’ purple people eater
one-eyed one-horned it was a people eater
What a sight to see!

Well, he swung from the tree and he lit on the ground
he started to rock really rockin’ around
It was a crazy ditty with a swinging tune
Wop bop a lula wop bam boom
one-eyes one-horned flying people eater
Ooh, it sure looks strange to me!

Well he went on his way and then what do you know
I saw him last night on a TV show
He was a blowin’ it out and really knockin’ them dead
Playing rock ‘n roll music through the horn in his head!

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September 27th, 2011

Pumpkin Candle Centerpiece

Pumpkin Candle Crafts for the Autumn Holidays from Operation Letter to SantaThis very cute and very easy pumpkin candle centerpiece uses just three items and is very inexpensive to create. You can make these for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

All that is needed is a small to medium sized pumpkin, a 6 inch pillar candle and some faux autumn foliage. You will also need a sharp knife and a marker.


  1. Snap or cut the stem off the top of the pumpkin.
  2. Place the bottom of the pillar candle on the top of the pumpkin and trace it with the marker.
  3. With the knife, cut vertically just inside the traced outline. Discard the cut pieces.
  4. Wash the ink off of the pumpkin after the candle is properly fitted.
  5. Wedge the candle securely in the top of the pumpkin.
  6. Add some fall leaves and autumn foliage as decoration. Or if you are making these for Halloween decorations, use black candles and a few plastic spiders. Very fun!

Using mini-pumpkins with autumn spice votive candles makes for some very nice individual placeholders on the dining room table. Let your imagination go and have a lot of fun with this lovely autumn craft.

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September 23rd, 2011

How to Make Halloween Shrunken Apple Heads

Shrunken Apple Head Craft Project From Operation Letter to SantaThis is a very fun, creative and quite easy Halloween craft.

Making shrunken heads from apples is actually an early American tradition that started when early settlers made dolls using apples for the heads. They did this by carving a face on an apple and then drying it. Now of course, they are used for movies, videos, haunted houses and Halloween decorations. By soaking a carved apple in a solution of water, lemon and salt, the salt will draw moisture out of the apple once it has be removed from the soaking bath and the lemon will help keep the color of the shrunken apple head light and fairly uniform.

Quick tips:

  1. Select an apple that is fairly round and as large as possible. Apples shrink significantly in size as they dry, so the bigger the apple you start with, the better.
  2. Your carved apple head will also take up to two weeks to to dry so be sure to begin this project in plenty of time for Halloween.
  3. The best way to dry your apple is to hang it from a string. Try not to hang it directly in front of a window that receives a lot of sunshine; the warmth and brightness can encourage rot. You also want to avoid very moist areas, such as the kitchen sink or near the washing machine in the utility room. If you can hang them in a cool dark garage, that is ideal.

Be as simple or as detailed when carving your apple head as you wish and have fun with this great Halloween craft project!


1 (or more) large-size, fairly round apple(s)
Bowl of water
2 tbsp. salt
2 lemon wedges
Vegetable peeler
Small knife for carving
Whole cloves if desired
Kite string or other heavy string


  1. Prepare your water about 15 minutes before you are ready to dip your apple(s). Do this by filling a large deep bowl with about four cups of cool water. Pour in the salt and then squeeze juice from the lemon wedges into the bowl. Stir for several seconds so that the salt will begin to dissolve into the water and the fresh lemon juice will blend.
  2. Peel the apple with your vegetable peeler; leave the stem on if desired (it will not affect the drying process). Coring your apple isn’t necessary for drying, but if you wish, you can create a longer, more drawn “face” by coring. (Non-cored apples will end up more round or square in shape.)
  3. Begin carving a face into the apple. You will be carving inward around the most prominent facial feature—the nose. The eyes should be sunken into the apple. Don’t worry about details at this point; just exaggerate whatever features you’d like to stand out on your finished project. For deeply-set eyes, make sure the eyebrow ridge stands out fairly far, and place a clove in the center of each to make a dent once the head is dry. Make sure that you cut deep. When the apple shrivels up you will lose some of the definition in your cut so make sure to cut everything a bit bigger/deeper than you think it should be.
  4. When you are done carving, soak your apple in the prepared water. Let it sit for a minimum of 10 minutes or longer if you live in a high humidity area. Spin the apple a few times as it soaks.
  5. Add some white rice for teeth (just push it into the apple and the apple will shrink around it to keep it in place.)
  6. Hang your apple up to dry using kite string or other heavy duty kitchen string.

Once your shrunken apple head is dry (in about two weeks) you can begin to really have fun with it. You can display it as is or add some very fun details. Glue some large grains of rice in the mouth for teeth if the original ones fell out during the dying process. Make them jagged and scary looking! Or you can glue some strands of pet hair on the top for that scary old man look.

Have fun!

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September 21st, 2011

Take Our Halloween Poll

Halloween is coming!

What are your favorite things to do during the days leading up to Halloween?

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September 15th, 2011

How to Make Your Own Halloween Headstones

Halloween TombstonesThis is a very fun Halloween craft project for families or school classes. This is so much more fun than going to Target or the Dollar Store to buy something that will make your Halloween yard decorations look just like every other house on the block.

You can build your tombstones using plywood or Styrofoam. Both of these are great for this project because you can buy Styrofoam in larger thicknesses (2″ or more) at your local crafts store and it’s already textured so it looks more like a grave stone from the start. Sheets of styrofoam insulation from a building supply store can also be used.  Be careful though, because Styrofoam can be tricky to do the lettering on, is pretty fragile and thicker pieces get expensive. It is also difficult to store from year to year as you will need to place them in large sealed containers to keep them from begin damaged by other stored items or kicked around.

You can also elect to create your Halloween tombstones out of plywood. It is easy to work with, quite inexpensive and you or somebody you know may already have usuable scrap pieces laying around. A standard 4’x8′ sheet  of plywood will be enough for about 6-10 tombstones depending on their size and shape and should only cost around $10-$15 depending on where you live. Storage for these is easy, as all you have to do is lean them up against a wall. No special storage containers required.

How to Build Your Tombstone

  1. Determine the size of your tombstone. 18″w x 24-30″h is a good size for a basic stone. Make sure there is enough room to write the epitaph.
  2. Have your epitaphs ready to write. Here are a couple of websites that you can get some great ideas from: Funny Stones to Tickle Your Funny Bones and Eerie Epitaphs. Just have fun making up your own as well!
  3. Trace out the design of the tombstone on your plywood or styrofoam. A French curve or cans of various sizes are good tools to help with drawing curves if you are uncomfortable freelancing.
  4. Cut out the headstone. A jig saw works well for plywood. You can use a keyhole (drywall) saw or large utility knife for Styrofoam. Be sure to work with your Styrofoam outdoors as it can be very messy.
  5. Paint the headstone. For plywood, start with a base coat of grey or off-white. Next, apply a coat of stone texture spray paint to give it a weathered appearance. For Styrofoam, you can just use the stone texture paint. After the paint has dried, paint the epitaph and any other design elements (skull, scrollwork, etc) on to the stone with a small brush and black paint. For styrofoam stones, it helps to press the letters into the foam first before painting them.
  6. Secure your headstones. The last step is to attach mounting stakes to the back and place the stone in your yard. Use whatever you have available to keep your tombstones in place. For Styrofoam stones, plant stakes pushed into the bottom work well. For plywood stones, you can screw shelf brackets into the back then use tent stakes to secure them into the ground.

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September 9th, 2011

Acorns For the Squirrels – A Collection of Poems

Acorns for the Squirrels by Operation Letter to SantaSoon autumn will be here, the color and quality of the light will change, soft breezes will have leaves floating softly to the ground and squirrels will be gathering their acorns for winter. I d0n’t know about you, but our family loves to watch squirrels at work and at play. We settle very quietly on a bench in the backyard with a digital camera and capture great images of them at work.

Here are some of our favorite squirrel poems.


“Little by little,” the acorn said,
As it slowly sank in its mossy bed,
“I am improving every day,
Hidden deep in the earth away.”
Little by little each day it grew;
Little by little it sipped the dew;
Downward it sent out a threadlike root;
Up in the air sprung a tiny shoot,
Day after day, and year after year,
Little by little the leaves appear;
And the slender branches spread far and wide,
Till the mighty oak is the forest’s pride.

“Little by little,” said the thoughtful boy,
“Moment by moment, I’ll well employ,
Learning a little every day,
And not misspending my time in play;
Whatever I do I will do it well.
Little by little, I’ll learn to know
The treasured wisdom of long ago;
And one of these days, perhaps, will see
That the world will be the better for me.”

The Squirrel

Whisky, frisky,
Hippity hop;
Up he goes
To the tree top!

Whirly, twirly,
Round and round,
Down he scampers
To the ground.

Furly, curly
What a tail!
Tall as a feather
Broad as a sail!

Where’s his supper?
In the shell,
Snappity, crackity,
Out it fell.

Brown Squirrel Song

Brown squirrel brown squirrel
Shake your bushy tail
Brown squirrel brown squirrel
Shake your bushy tail
Crinkle up your little nose
Stick a nut between your toes
Brown squirrel brown squirrel
Shake your bushy tail

The Oak

by Mary Elliot

Observe, dear George, this nut is small;
The Acorn is its name;
Would you suppose yon tree so tall
From such a trifle came?

The Acorn, buried in the earth,
When many years are past
Becomes the oak of matchless worth,
Whose strength will ages last.

In Summer, pleasant is its shade,
But greater far its use;
The wood which forms our ships for trade
Its body can produce.

And many other things beside,
I cannot now explain;
For where its merits have been tried,
They were not tried in vain.

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September 8th, 2011

September Family Activities

September Family Fun Activities from Operation Letter To SantaSeptember is associated with many things. This is the time of year children are back in school, the first day of fall – the autumnal equinox begins in the Northern Hemisphere on September 23, 2011 at 5:05 A.M. Eastern Standard Time. From here on out, the temperatures will begin to drop and the days will get shorter. Did you know that the word equinox comes from the Latin words for “equal night?” The fall and spring equinoxes are the only days of the year in which the hours of day and night are equal as the Sun crosses the celestial equator.

In September we also remember our grandparents as National Grandparents Day falls on September 11, 2011 as does the anniversary of that terrible day in New York when the Twin Towers came down.

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Coloring Pages and Printables

If you are looking for some great coloring page resources to keep your little ones absorbed and entertained this month here are some autumn themed coloring pages and printables.

Autumn/Fall Coloring Pages

Happy Grandparents Coloring Pages

We will remember 9/11

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September 7th, 2011

Some Fun Halloween Trivia

Halloween Traditions from Operation Letter to Santa.comHalloween is the time of year when small children (and the rest of us!) dress up in fanciful costumes and embark on social activities such as trick-or-treating, costume parties, bonfires, bobbing for apples, heading to the fruit stand or a pumpkin field to choose pumpkins for carving, visiting haunted houses and corn mazes, playing Halloween pranks and watching their favorite Halloween scary movies or cartoons.

Halloween costumes are traditionally modeled after supernatural figures such as monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils. Over time, the costume selection extended to include popular characters from fiction, celebrities, and generic archetypes such as ninjas and princesses.

Here are some fun and sometimes silly facts about Halloween. Early traditions that are believed to be the precursors to Halloween include:

  • The Celtic tradition of giving thanks at the close of the harvest season.
  • The European tradition of lighting candles and masquerading in costume to scare evil spirits away
  • The Irish custom where wealthy landowners would give food to the poor in hopes that the ghosts would look favorably on them and spare them from mischief.
  • In Scotland and Ireland trick-or-treating began as “guising” where children disguised in costume going from door to door for food or coins — is a traditional Halloween custom, and is recorded in Scotland at Halloween in 1895 where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money.
  • The practice of “guising”at Halloween in North America was first recorded in 1911, where a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported children going “guising” around the neighborhood.

Did You Know That

  • Halloween was formerly known as All Hallow’s Eve?
  • The name “Halloween” comes from Scotland and the Celtic Feast of the Sun which marked the end of summer was known as “Hallowe’en.”
  • The Celtics would carry a lantern when they walked on the eve of October 31st?
  • The first mass-produced Halloween costumes appeared in stores in the 1930s when trick-or-treating was becoming popular in the United States.
  • The telling of ghost stories and viewing of horror films are common fixtures of Halloween parties. Episodes of television series and Halloween-themed specials (with the specials usually aimed at children) are commonly aired on or before the holiday, while new horror films are often released theatrically before the holiday to take advantage of the atmosphere.

Jack -O-Lantern Trivia

  • The “jack-o-lantern” gets that name from a mean old man named Jack who was too mean even to get into hell. The Devil gave him a piece of burning coal and sent him away. Jack used a turnip to hold the burning coal and serve as a lantern.
  • The first “jack-o-lanterns” were carved with faces to scare evil spirits away. They used turnips not pumpkins for those original jack-o-lanterns.

Do you have Halloween traditions that are not listed here? We would love to hear of them!

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September 6th, 2011

Halloween Spiderweb Cupcakes

Halloween Spider CupcakesThese are easy and FUN cupcakes to make for any party for just for the pure Halloween fun of it!

Having a Halloween party at school? Whip up a tray of these and just wait for the oohs and ahhs from delighted children. And adults love them as well.


  1. Your favorite boxed cake mix
  2. Halloween themed cupcake baking liners
  3. White or cream cheese frosting
  4. Red and yellow food coloring
  5. 1 tube black decorating gel OR melted chocolate (Hint: the tube of decorating gel is much easier to handle!)
  6. Black string licorice
  7. 24 large gum drops
  8. Toothpicks


  • Follow the instructions on the cake mix box for cupcakes
  • While the cupcakes are in the oven, start preparing the orange icing by mixing in a few drops of red and yellow orange coloring in the tub of icing. Start with just a drop of each and then add more to get the desired orange color.
  • After the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost them with the orange icing
  • Using the black decorating gel or melted chocolate inside a plastic bag (cut-off the corner to make it like a piping bag), make 3 or 4 concentric circles radiating out from the center of the cupcake. Then use a toothpick starting at the center of the cupcake and pulling to the edge of the cupcake about 8 times around the entire circumference to create the web-like appearance.
  • Take a large gumdrop and attach 3 or 4 pieces of black string licorice to each side to make the spider legs by poking a hole in the gumdrop using a toothpick where you want to insert the licorice. Use the black decorating gel to put a couple eyes on each gumdrop and place the completed spider on top the cupcake web.

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September 5th, 2011

Make Your Own Halloween Costume

Halloween WitchHalloween is nigh! And what an opportunity to use your creativity and imagination to create your very own Halloween costume. You can even make it a family affair by sitting down with pen and paper, designing your ideal costume and then going on a “scavenger” hunt through boxes, attics and second-hands stores to find the perfect Halloween props.

As it is just barely September, you have plenty of time to get your idea’s down on paper in and imprinted on your mind. Grab a large box to store your finds as you poke around through boxes, cupboards, the back of closets, yard sales and Goodwill!

If this is a family activity, don’t turn up your nose at something that won’t work for your costume, but may well be perfect for somebody else’s. At this stage, just pick up everything that catches your eye. You never know… you may want to change your costume to something else entirely as Halloween gets closer. That is the fun of collecting all of these bits and pieces!

So where do you find these treasures?

  • Attics
  • Basements
  • Garage
  • Boxes and trunks
  • Closets
  • Drawers
  • Family members – think Grandma if you are going for a vintage look!
  • Garage sales
  • Good Will and Salvation Army

Have fun with it!  You can even make some great Halloween decorations doing this.

Each year as Halloween approaches, we create a life size witch who sits very placidly on a bench in the front courtyard. The only three items that had to be purchased were a scary latex witches mask (full mask with hair and all!), a cane that we purchased for $1 at a garage sale and of course, the pointed witches hat that you can get at any dollar store.

The witch is made up of the following items that were found in the back of my closet and in other places around the house.

  1. Floor length black skirt that was going to be sent to Goodwill.
  2. Long sleeved black tunic top that was also going to Goodwill.
  3. A discarded pair of black ladies high heeled boots. Long since out of fashion, but perfect for our witch!
  4. A pair of life size rubber hands that we found at a garage sale. They were apparently part of a CPR training dummy and are quite life-like!
  5. 3 old pillows to make up the body.
  6. A small flash light to put inside the mask at night to light up her eyes. We taped a piece of red construction paper behind her eyes to make her glow! Quite scary.

We then sit her on the bench and surround her with pumpkins, a cow skull (found in a field) some dried flowers and just about anything else comes to hand.


On Halloween, I dress up exactly like her, take her place and rise up to offer candy to the neighborhood children.

Halloween is nigh…

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