Posts Tagged ‘Autumn Holidays’

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!

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  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 Oven.com

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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.

Instructions

  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 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 27th, 2010

Top Halloween Party Games For Kids

Personalize your Halloween Party at ShindigZ.comHalloween is just around the corner! Kids like to have fun, and what could be more fun than a Halloween party? If you want to have an entertaining Halloween party without too much sweat and toil, make sure that there are plenty of activities for your child and their friends to enjoy. Here are a few games you might want to include on your list of activities to hear roars of laughter from your kids:

Bobbing for Apples – This was great when you were a kid, and is still a favorite. Find a large metal wash tub and fill it with cold water. Add crisp, pretty apples. Each kid takes a turn bobbing his or her face into the wash tub, hoping to bite into, and bring up, an apple.

Pumpkin Carving – Kids love competition. Provide each child with a small pumpkin and a safe carving kit. Pick themes or let their imaginations drive their creations.  Give prizes for different categories (scariest, prettiest, most unusual) and be sure everyone gets a prize of some sort. Operation Letters to Santa’s Halloween section has plenty of Halloween Stationery and Halloween Certificates that you can print from your computer and personalize with your own name!

Mask Mania – Use construction paper or pre-made mask shapes. Provide paint and plenty of embellishments so each child can create a fanciful mask. Offer prizes for several categories, ensuring that each child walks away with some sort of recognition.

Haunted Hayride – If you have the space and the equipment, this is a very fun party. Hitch a trailer to a truck. Fill the trailer with hay bales for the kids to sit on and carry them through the field while someone tells ghost stories. See who can tell the scariest story. This is also a great idea for small, scattered neighborhoods where walking between them may be a little dangerous because of the roads. It allows the parents and the children to all be together in one group and is a lot of fun for everybody!

Trivia Games – What’s your favorite scary movie? Come up with challenging questions about everyone’s favorite movie and see who can get the most answered correctly, for prizes, of course.

Scavenger Hunt – Use your own backyard or even your house, basement, or garage to set up the hunt. Divide kids into teams and provide ghastly clues to each piece of the puzzle that leads to  the largest treasure.

Haunted House – Halloween is all about being scared, right? Create a haunted house in your backyard, garage, or basement in the form of a maze. You get to laugh at all the screams you hear as they make their way from spooky beginning to frightening end.

Dance-a-Thon – Let’s see who can dance the longest to a non-stop reverie of new and old haunted Halloween songs. Even see who can perform the classic dances like “Monster Mash” like a pro. Those who dance the longest win a prize.

Who says that Halloween has to be all about trick-or-treating? You can host a party for your kids and have a spooky great time.

Visit us at Operation Letters to Santa for almost 1000 pages of Holiday Activities, Christmas Carols, Christmas Sheet Music, Holiday recipes, Free gifts and downloads and so much more!

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August 30th, 2010

Trick Or Treat Safety Tips

Vintage Hallowen Trick or Treat BagTrick or Treating is the best part of Halloween for the young and young at heart. All October long we plan our costumes, stock up on candy, and get ready for a great time.

The days of children safely navigating house by house looking cute and gathering trick-or-treat goodies have gone by in most American neighborhoods. But fear not, there are plenty of safe alternatives for your little (and sometimes big) trick-o-treating fans.

Here are a couple of safe trick-or-treat ideas for schools, churches, and communities that are great alternatives to ensure a fun and safe time for all the kids.

Source: All Hallows Eve

Trunk or Treat

Instead of having the kids go door to door, get with your neighbors (or church, community group, etc.) and host a Trunk or Treat event. This can be done at night or in the daytime and there is very little set up and preparation. Just decorate the inside of your trunk and display the candy in a really cool way. When the event is over, close the trunk and drive home. Use caldrons, skeletons and rats for a spooky theme. Or use pink fabric, a toad, and a tiara for a frog princess theme.

This is a perfect safe Trick or Treat idea for schools and can translate into other settings easily. If you are hosting the event in your neighborhood, all of the participants can park their vehicles at the end of their drive way. This is a great way to indicate who is and who is not participating in the event.

If you are hosting the event at a church or community center, have all of the participants park their cars in a circle. Explain to children and parents that they should only go to the cars inside of the circle. This is a great way to manage who is around and predators will be easily recognized.

Mall Hosted Trick-or-Treating

Most cities across the US will have at least one mall that hosts a trick or treating event. Check your local listings and the mall website for dates and times. Usually during this event, children can travel the mall, visiting various retailers for treats. Children can definitely dress up, and actually, it is encouraged! The participating stores will have some sort of sign posted indicating they are participating in the event. This is a great event because your children are able to have fun in a familiar and safe environment, and you can shop!

If you are still up for traditional Trick-or-Treating or if you know trick-or-treating will take place in your neighborhood follow these safety tips provided by the National Safety Council.

Motorists

The National Safety Council urges motorists to be especially alert on Halloween.

  • Watch for children darting out from between parked cars.
  • At twilight or later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing.

Before They Go Out

Before children start out on their “trick or treat” rounds, parents should make sure that:

  • Children travel only in familiar areas and along an established route and youngsters understand not to eat any treat until you have inspected it.
  • Plan and discuss the route trick-or-treaters intend to follow. Know the names of older children’s companions and a return time has been established

Costume Design

  • Remember: fire-retardant materials for costumes and loose but warm clothing underneath.
  • Outfits should be made with light-colored materials. Strips of reflective tape should be used to make children even more visible.

Face Design

  • When buying special Halloween makeup, check for packages containing ingredients that are labeled “Made with U.S. Approved Color Additives,” “Laboratory Tested,” “Meets Federal Standards for Cosmetics,” or “Non-Toxic.” Follow manufacturer’s instruction for application.
  • If masks are worn, they should have nose and mouth openings and large eye holes.
  • ACCESSORIES
  • Knives, swords and other accessories should be made from cardboard or flexible materials. Do not allow children to carry sharp objects.
  • Bags or sacks carried by youngsters should be light-colored or trimmed with retro-reflective tape if trick-or-treaters are allowed out after dark and carrying flashlights will help children see better and be seen more clearly.

On The Way

Children should understand and follow these rules:

  • Do not enter homes or apartments without adult supervision.
  • Walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic, if there are no sidewalks.

Treats

To ensure a safe and enjoyable trick-or-treat outing for children, parents are urged to:

  • Give children an early meal before going out.
  • Insist that treats be brought home for inspection before anything is eaten and when in doubt, throw it out. Don’t allow children to eat anything that is “suspect.”

Safety tips courtesy of the National Safety Council.

Visit us at Operation Letters to Santa for almost 1000 pages of Holiday Activities, Christmas Carols, Christmas Sheet Music, Holiday recipes, Free gifts and downloads and so much more!

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August 24th, 2010

26 Inexpensive and Fun Autumn Family Activities

Source: Life123.com

Autumn ScarecrowCheck out these great, fun and cheap autumn activities for you and your family to enjoy:

  1. Apple cider is its best during autumn, and when heated it makes a wonderful hot beverage to warm little bellies up after they’ve been playing in crisp weather.
  2. Bundle up, as the weather is getting colder. Just to be silly, have a contest to see how many layers of clothes your kids can put on at a time. Prizes can also be given for how quickly they get their extra clothes on and off.
  3. Corn roasts can be particularly wonderful in early autumn when conducted with fresh sweet corn over a barbecue grill.
  4. Drive to a place where trees are plentiful, just to observe the turning of the leaves.
  5. Every autumn, some birds fly south for the winter. Notice what types of birds live near you and look up whether they migrate or stay put. See if you recognize any other kinds of birds in transit, like Canada geese.
  6. Figure out how many days there are in autumn by counting the days on the calendar between the first day of autumn and the first day of winter.
  7. Go on a nature hike at a state park, and bring along some popcorn and warm apple cider in a thermos.
  8. Hay-rides are often sponsored by nearby farms or community groups. Look for one and join in the fun.
  9. In the mornings during autumn, you can often see your breath when you walk outside. Help your kids look up why this happens and ask them to explain it to you.
  10. Jump in piles of raked leaves, but make sure the rake is somewhere else first.
  11. Kandy Korn is a favorite autumn candy. Fill a large jar with Kandy Korn and have your kids guess the number of pieces in the jar. You will have to count them beforehand and keep people from eating any.
  12. Leaf rubbings can be made with a crayon and a piece of paper placed over a leaf. The leaves you make can then be decorated and hung up as an autumn decoration as well as a teaching tool for helping your children learn the difference between different types of leaves.
  13. Make pumpkin loaves with your kids to give to grandparents, teachers or others as a wonderful autumn treat. Those of you who don’t bake well can fool everyone with boxed mix.
  14. Nobody likes a spoilsport. Many sports are active during autumn, so take your children to a local school’s sporting event, like a basketball or football game. Cheer for a team and explain the object and rules of the game.
  15. Oranges, reds and browns are prevalent during autumn. Call out one of the color names and have your kids make a list of everything they can think of which is that color. The child with the most things on their list wins.
  16. Potatoes are incredibly versatile. Make a list with your kids of every way you can think of to cook a potato, and then have them help you prepare potatoes in each way down the list.
  17. Quite appropriate also is to make lists together of sights, sounds and smells associated with autumn and help each child develop their list into a poem that can be read to their class at school or before Thanksgiving dinner.
  18. Read your kids a spooky story like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “The Telltale Heart” or a Goosebumps book. Then you can make puppets and act out the story for grandparents.
  19. Scarecrows can be silly or scary. Build a scarecrow with your kids out of household items and put it in the yard.
  20. Turn all your clocks back one hour on the appropriate day, and explain to your kids why we have daylight savings time. Ask them to figure out whether you get one hour more of sleep or one hour less of sleep during the autumn.
  21. Use strips of colored construction paper to weave interesting placemats for Thanksgiving dinner.
  22. Very soon it will be Halloween. Have your kids draw pictures of what costume they’d like to wear this year, or have them cut out pictures from magazines and make a collage of Halloween-themed things.
  23. Weathervanes are often depicted on the tops of farmhouses or barns. Find a weathervane near where you live, point it out to the kids and explain why it’s there. Then with tape, scissors, tin foil, cut up pizza boxes and cardboard rolls that come from paper towels, try to make one together.
  24. X-amine the animals around where you live and see how their behavior changes with the seasons. Make a list of the animals you see and how they prepare for and endure colder weather.
  25. You could make garlands for your outside trees by stringing together popcorn, cranberries or paper designs. You could also make birdfeeder ornaments by putting peanut butter on pinecones and hanging them up. This way, you’ll help the birds and squirrels prepare for winter as well as have fun decorating trees.
  26. Zzzzzzz. When the weather is cold outside, it is blissful and relaxing to hide under a big comforter and take an afternoon nap with your kids.

Visit us at Operation Letters to Santa for almost 1000 pages of Holiday Activities, Christmas Carols, Christmas Sheet Music, Holiday recipes, Free gifts and downloads and so much more!

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August 21st, 2010

Fun and Free Family Activities for Autumn

Source: The Dollar Stretcher

Are you looking for some autumn activities for the whole family that won’t cost a mint? Are you racking your brain trying to come up with autumn family fun ideas suitable for your three-year-old, as well as your 12-year-old?

Autumn is a great time of year to get outside, take in the crisp fresh air, admire the beautiful foliage, and appreciate the mild weather while it’s still with us. What better time to make a family date and do the following fall-like activities:

  • Fun and Free Family Activities for AutumnVisit an apple orchard and pick your own apples. You can make a day out of this by not only picking apples but packing a basket and finding the perfect spot for a family picnic. First, plan to also visit the orchard’s country store (if they have one) to pick up some apple cider or other fall treats to add to the picnic basket. Don’t forget to store apples in a cool, dark place when you get home. Later on, you can have fun making caramel apples and apple pies.
  • Invite friends and family over to have a raking or yard cleanup party. Ask everyone to bring their favorite seasonal dish and have a potluck while you’re at it. (Of course, you’ll want to coordinate this aspect of the party, as you don’t want to end up with four dishes of homemade applesauce.) This is not only a great way to clean up and winterize your yard but have a fun get-together at the same time.
  • Take a nature walk in the woods and point out interesting trees, plants, and wildlife. If you’re not up on the names of trees and plants, you can check a book out of the library that will serve as a guide. Encourage everyone to pick up leaves to press later on. They can make collages or all kinds of pictures and crafts from them. (One year for an autumn-themed birthday party, we used pressed leaves under a clear table covering for an impressive look.)
  • Likewise, make a trip to the pumpkin patch and then bake your own pumpkin pies. This is great fun for the kiddies, and they’ll enjoy baking and eating the pumpkin seeds, too. It’s the perfect time to begin teaching little ones about cooking and measurements, as well.
  • If the kids are a bit older, consider taking a longer hike. Make sure everyone has the proper clothing and footwear, as well as food, snacks and drinks. It’s a great way to commune with nature and get out in the open. It’s great exercise, too!
  • Get together with friends for a once-a-month (or more) autumn potluck. Make a heaping batch of beef stew, chili, or your favorite big batch meal, and call several family friends to join you with side dishes. Next month, let someone else do the same, and keep it up. Just think, if you do it more often, say once every two weeks, that cuts down on cooking for everyone!
  • Research museums in your area. Plan a day trip to one that you’ve never been to before. This is an especially helpful hint for those rainy weekends that creep up during the autumn months, and it’s educational. It can also lead to new interests and new field trips.
  • If you live anywhere near a farm, arrange a hayride for your family and friends. Later, bring them back to the house for hot cider, popcorn, pumpkin pie, and any other fall goodies you can dream up.
  • Find a local festival or fair. These are always fun for everyone with all the sights, food and activities to partake of and they are almost always on a weekend for your convenience.
  • Check out school and church bazaars as early as October and November to find very affordable holiday gift items. You’ll be surprised at some of the terrific sales you’ll get at these holiday markets. The children will be so pleased when they can find items that will fit in their budget, plus it makes for a fun day for everyone.

Autumn goes so quickly, so be sure to make the most of it by getting out and participating in some of the above activities.

Take the Next Step:

Autumn is a wonderful time of year, but it passes quickly. Start making some plans now, so you’ll be ready when the leaves start to change and the temperature starts to drop. There are many wonderful things to do. Maybe you’ll want to try one of the above activities or ask around and see what’s available in your neck of the woods.

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