Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day Fun

This week has really been a week full of Valentine's fun.  I made up a game!!  I'm really excited about it.  I can see many future applications for this game idea.  This is what we did this week.  I cut out several different sizes of hearts, then traced each smaller heart in each next biggest heart (explaining things like this is not my strong point, I'm doing my best here.)  I wrote the message on it, one letter per piece, and then I cut each heart (except for the smallest one) into to pieces, except for the largest one, which I cut into four.  

I tried to make the pieces fun shapes rather than just a half a heart.

Then I hid the pieces, the kids searched for them, assembled them, and we had a treat!

Another thing we did this year, which may become tradition, is we made pocky sticks from scratch.  We used this recipe, but we modified it a bit.  I didn't have unsalted butter, but I love salt, so I just used the butter we had.  I didn't have ground cardamom and was too lazy to ground some from pods, and which part of the pod do you ground anyway, and I didn't feel like googling that... so I'm super curious about what that would add, but they were delicious without.  I followed the recipe for the sticks, but didn't use the recipe for the coating.  Instead we used almond bark flavored four ways: hazelnut extract (didn't come through), strawberry jam (Cloud's favorite), lemon extract (one of Rainbow's favorites), and chocolate chips, although I don't like sweet chocolate, so I took most of it out for the kids and made my own coating with dark chocolate chips and a bunch of salt, and it was amazing.  So I guess technically we had five dunkies.  The kids liked mine, too.  :)

We didn't exactly make only thin snakes.  And we didn't measure them to be about five inches.  I just filled one tray with snakes and we filled another with hearts (the kids thought this was FANTASTIC for Valentine's Day) and odd shapes.  

I salted half the sheet to see which we'd like better, so that's what those little white sprinkles on the silicone sheet are.  I saw a tip on another website to use a pizza cutter very lightly on the top to make those denty marks, but our sticks were so thin that they actually broke, even though I barely pressed and it didn't seem like it'd break them.  I actually doubled the batch and for the third and fourth cookie sheets of snakes I made them MUCH bigger, salted all of them, and should have done the pizza cutter thing, because they were very sturdy.

Melted a LOT of almond bark.

Forks were helpful in getting the coating on to the thinner ones.  The strawberry jam/almond bark combination was the best consistency.  The chocolate was second best.  The ones with extract got thick.

These were a huge hit with the kids.  We don't have much sugar, but I wanted to do something homemade for them that was special, that they'd remember, that would replace the commercial candy and stuff that yells at them every time we go to the grocery store.  They didn't even ask for any Valentine's Day candy.  They really seemed to be satisfied with this project.  And they're hopeful we'll do it again next year.  A couple of days after we did this we went over to some friends' house and they are gluten-free, so we picked up a bag of gluten-free pretzels, warmed up the dunkies in the microwave, and had a little dunky party.  It was really fun for the kids to be able to share these yummies with their friends.

We also did several homeschool activities.  Rainbow liked this activity, inspired by this activity best.  I just punched two holes in a heart cut from construction paper, wrote a number on the heart (1-10), slid a pipe cleaner through, twirled it at the top to keep it in, and put a bowl of beads with them on the tray.  I did count out the beads beforehand and told her if she did the activity correctly she wouldn't have any beads left, but I don't think she would have cared if I hadn't.

I found so many activities and printed and cut and put together, and Cloud just wanted to play with the geometric fractions puzzles we have.  After he was done with it as a puzzle, he started to play stacky, and then color stacky (he named the games himself.)  He had a great time.  

The night before I had soaked the red polymer water beads in water.  They were ready for scooping by morning.  We used the ice trays from Ikea and some scoops I found at Goodwill.  

Later in the day I put the beads in the bath and let the kids get naked and play with them, really get into the gelly texture of them. 

 I told them how the beads are used to water plants, and they decided they wanted to do an experiment to see if they could get seeds to sprout.  So we put some beads and some adzuki beans in some snack baggies and hung them up on the cork board.  We'll be watching to see if they sprout! 

We also put some in a glass that has a monkey on it, measure the beads against the monkey, and the kids are going to watch to see how long it takes them to shrink and to see how much they will shrink.  

Later in the day we read a really nice Valentine's book called "Valentine's Day" about a classroom of kids who make cards for a friend who lives in Japan (maybe she moved there after the whole class had known her already?), they share cards with each other and then they receive a package from Japan with origami cards from the friend.  It was very sweet.

Then we did an activity inspired by Lawteedah.  We sang a song to the tune of "Did You Ever See a Lassie?", but it was "Did You Ever See a Valentine?", we found a bear my mom had sent to me many years before for one of my deployed Valentine's Days, and put it on our pink scarf and bounced the bear around while singing the song.  The kids started giggling so hard!  I forget sometimes that it's not the activities that they want, it's the interaction.  I was laughing, too, and decided to have some fun with it.  We also bounced around an elephant with hearts on it.  Then Cloud bounced it too hard and I said, "UH OH!  Ouch!!" and they were just laughing and laughing, and we did it over and over, adding other stuffed animals.  After it got to where they couldn't even bounce it once, I just picked up the bear and threw it at the ceiling and sang, "Did you ever see a Valentine, hit the ceiling, hit the ceiling?  Did you ever see a Valentine hit the ceiling like that?"  And it just got more fun from there.  Rainbow told me to make song with the shark and the couch, so I sang, "Did you ever see a sharky hit the couchy and say 'ouchy!'" and so on.  We went through several rounds and ouchies before that lost its magic.  

Tomorrow morning I'll be trying some soaked pancakes that are pink.  I'll post if it works.  I'm going to use this idea since I don't have a heart pancake shaper, nor do I intend to get one.  I do have a heart-shaped cookie cutter, just picked one up the other day, so I can easily switch out a white for a red heart center and vice versa.  We're going to surprise Scotch with a special dinner:  homemade bread, homemade heart-shaped ravioli with a sausage and cheese filling, and salad with blackberry vinaigrette.  We also start ballet lessons tomorrow, from a friend, for both kids... it's a busy Valentine week!  We'll need a few down days next week to re-connect.  :)  

I hope you have a wonderfully deliciously full-of-love week this week and every week.  

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