Happy Halloween!

Holidays are so much fun as a parent, but for me at least they seem to be really busy days. Here are a few cute Halloween coloring pages (they are legal and not copyrighted) to keep your little ones busy for at least a little while you get everything ready for Halloween.















Flap Jack-o’-lanterns

Making pumpkin pancakes for/with your tots is the perfect start to a Happy Halloween!


Flap Jack-o’-lanterns

2 cups flour                                        2 eggs

Pinch of salt                                       1¾ cup Buttermilk (or milk)

2 Tbsp Sugar                                      3 Tbsp melted butter

1 Tbsp baking powder                       1/2 cup pureed, cooked pumpkin (or canned)

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or add a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon if you don’t have it)

(If you want them to look orange like a pumpkin, you can add food coloring.  I added 6 drops yellow and 3 drops red to the batter.)

Mix dry ingredients together first, then mix wet ingredients separately and add to dry ingredients to make batter.  A few lumps in the batter are good.  If you want them extra fluffy, separate the egg whites from the yolks and beat the whites into fluff then fold in separately from the mixed yolks.

Great with butter and maple sirup, and if you are really indulging, throw in some chopped pecans.       HAPPY HALLOWEEN !

Trick-or-Treat Cartographer

My three-year old daughter Nora likes to pretend she is a cowgirl, and she has actually said, “Every cowgirl needs a map!” Thanks to Diego and Dora the Explorer, maps are now an awesome accessory that every kid needs in their rescue pack. When I was in the fourth grade I made a map of my neighborhood with my friend Megan so we could feel really official and cool about our trick-or-treating plan. Megan and I highlighted the highest-income streets with a different color, because that is where you would possibly get full-sized candy bars, but you had to walk up a hill to get there.  Our map’s purpose was to maximize our trick-or-treating efforts. Doing this with your child could actually be a great opportunity to show them all the things that maps can do! A custom trick-or-treat map of your neighborhood or town could demonstrate to your child that maps do not only show roads, but also physical landscape features, population destiny/change, borders/boundaries, economic information, natural resources, and other geographical information. It might be interesting to discuss what information would be most useful to show on a map for trick-or-treating.

As for my little Nora, her map may not be so complicated.  My goal will be that she understands that the street on the map is the street where she is walking and to recognize when she has come to an intersection. I think she can do this, and I think it will be fun for her.  Including a few physical landscape features, like a recognizable tree might also be doable for her.  I wish you all happy, safe and directionally sound trick-or-treating!

What’s In a Pumpkin?

Nora dissected her first pumpkin yesterday and it turned out to be interesting and fun work.  I think I might have built up the activity in her mind a bit much though, because as we were cutting open the top of the pumpkin she exclaimed, “Mom, I’m excited! I’m really excited!”, to which I replied, “Well, honey, it’s just seeds and pumpkin fruit in there, but I think that is exciting.”  (Yes, according to Wikipedia, a pumpkin is technically a fruit, from the gourd family.) When we opened the pumpkin she did not seem too disappointed, and I asked her to separate all the seeds for roasting from the slimy pumpkin hair.  I thought she would give up after about six seeds, but to my surprise she pulled out every single seed on her own.  We then scraped out the inside very well and placed it immediately into the fridge, because we will use our pumpkin as a soup tureen before it goes to the dark-side and becomes a jack-o’-lantern.  If you also want to try out the pumpkin tureen, be sure to scrub the outside of the pumpkin with soap and water and shine it up nicely. Our favorite Autumn soup is Butternut Squash and Green Apple Soup.  (My Recipe Below)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Butternut Squash and Green Apple Soup

4 diced shallots (or 1 med onion)

1 rib celery, chopped

1 carrot chopped (I use only a small carrot, because they can overpower)

2 Tbsp butter

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, chopped (you can buy them already chopped up at the store, which is what I do)

2 tart green apples, peeled, cored, chopped

3 cups veggie or chicken broth

1/2 cup water

1 tsp salt

Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Cardamom to taste ( ½ tsp each for me, or a bit less)

Set a large saucepan over medium-heat with your 2 Tbsp of butter, and sauté shallots, celery, and carrot for 5 minutes. You do not want the veggies to turn brown. Next add squash and apple, stir about 2 minutes, and then add broth and water.  Bring to boil, then turn down heat and cover pot with lid.  Simmer about 30 minutes, add spices, simmer 5 more minutes.  Let cool slightly before pouring into blender to puree (I like mine a little chunky). Then pour your soup into your festive pumpkin tureen and garnish with heavy cream and roasted pumpkin seeds. ☺

Pumpkin Patch Comparison and The Life Cycle of a Pumpkin

We found a nice medium-sized pumpkin that was “just right” for our little Goldilocks, Nora, at the grocery store pumpkin patch.  I would have gladly visited a real pumpkin patch, but there doesn’t seem to be one here in Pasadena.  My good friend MollyK, who taught kindergarten for many years encouraged us to use the pumpkin patch excursion as an exercise in using descriptive words and making comparisons.  Pumpkins and gourds come in lots of sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. Nora liked feeling the knots and twists on the different gourds, but I think her baby sister liked it more.

Later, I made a drawing of the life cycle of a pumpkin for her to color and we had a chat about where pumpkins really come from (not the grocery store).  As Nora colored hers she insisted that the pumpkins in her patch were PINK. Here is my humble rendering of the life cycle of a pumpkin.

You can open an uncolored pdf of this drawing by clicking below:

pumpkin life cycle color page

Lesson Plan: Our Amazing Hands

At a preschool playdate a few months back when we were still living in NY, Nora and a friend enjoyed using their hands in different and fun ways. We started off by singing songs that required the child to use their hands.  (If You’re Happy And You Know It, Two Little Blackbirds, Five Little Pumpkins, Popcorn Popping)  We then read together a picture book all about the things our hands can do, such as Hands Can by Cheryl Willis Hudson.  Next we had an interesting activity that illustrates for the child the power of touch.  The hosting mother had a medium sized brown paper bag, and she would place an item possibly recognizable by touch to the child inside the bag.  She gave the girls a chance to feel inside the bag and say what they were feeling and what they thought it might be.  To my surprise Nora, who was only two and a half at the time, actually got a couple right.  We then enjoyed eating finger foods, painting the girls’ fingernails and making hand-prints with washable paint.  This preschool playdate was a big hit and very insightful and appropriate for the children. I plan to  do it again someday soon, but will also try some new activities such as lacing/sewing and possibly use sock-puppets, which Nora has been begging me for, and would be a great craft for us to do together : )

Clean Up, Clean up, Everybody Do Their Share

Today is just one of those days.  As I type sprawled out on the floor Nora is rocking back and forth on my back ordering me to “neiiiigh!” as she says, “Giddy-up horsey!”  Although I had a fun pumpkin activity planned, the alarming amount of housework  that needed to be done took over my limited amount of free time (I am still nursing an eight month old baby).  So as I tried to clean my dining room and finish putting up painting tape, which Nora also “helped” with,  I felt a little bad that we did not get to our planned activity.  Then, as I was vacuuming, Nora got her toy popper vacuum and happily joined in the tidying up.  This cheered me up a bit and I smiled as I watched her pretend to vacuum. I noticed my eight month old sitting in the corner watching us with a worried but brave expression (motor noises worry her).  When we finished Nora leaned her toy vacuum up against the wall next to my vacuum, and seeing our vacuums together against the wall made me feel great. This really got me thinking about how little I actually include her in housework, and what a huge mistake this probably is. A friend of mine once told me that she had taught her two- year-old to fold washcloths and hand towels, and I thought, “Yes, that’s important!”  Admittedly, I have been bad at this.  In cruising the blogosphere I found this post on the importance of including young children in housework and I thought it was excellent common sense. The message I came away with was that there is a developmental reason that young children want to help with chores, and that if we rob them of this opportunity to form good habits they may not be as tidy and organized as they could be later in life.


I am sure the day is not far off when Nora will be trying to get out of her chores. Of course this is my big chance!  She wants to help me now, and so the time to teach her is now. This week I have a renewed resolve to make a cheerful event out of the laundry, dishes, picking up, and taking the time to include Nora in all of this.