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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Making Corn Bread and Butter

Each week at school we cook on Wednesdays and Thursdays and make our own snack.
Most weeks it is our school bread recipe or apple cake (look under cooking at school for recipes).
However as the school year progresses and as the children become well acquainted with the routine of cooking, we start trying out different cooking projects.
Right before Thanksgiving break it was very fitting that we made corn bread muffins.
 In addition to the corn bread, my assistant, Laura, suggested making butter.
I have had a recipe for this but had not tried it out with the kids, so I was thrilled with the idea.
The butter making recipe is simple and wonderful to try at home.
You will need:
*Heavy whipping cream (try to find one that is not ultra-pasteurized, I bought mine at Stewart's)
*2 or 3 marbles
*A clean jar, we used a mason jar
The children each added a little whipping cream to the jar, and then we placed the marbles in.
The jar went around in a circle and each child was able to have several turns shaking the jar.

Some were sceptical, but they kept up the process, and as they did they started to see lumps forming in the cream.

We passed ours around maybe three times

Here is a picture as the butter was really starting to form.
Eventually, the excess cream was poured off and we had a nice bowl of butter.
We placed this butter in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to firm up a little more.

Later we placed the butter in a butter pad, and each of the children pushed it out onto a plate.
I think this would have worked better if we had refrigerated the butter longer, but it still made cute little pads of butter.

The children each were able to butter their corn bread muffins with their own butter they made and pressed.
I wasn't able to take pictures of the corn bread muffin making, but here is the recipe we used:
1 cups corn meal
1 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons maple syrup or honey
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 stick of melted butter (save the wrapper for greasing the muffin tins)
  1. grease the muffin tins.
  2. preheat oven at 375 degrees.
  3. sift dry ingredients then add sweetener.
  4. add the milk and egg and mix until smooth.
  5. mix in melted butter.
  6. fill each muffin tin half full.
  7. bake 12-15 minutes
  8. makes 12 muffins

Sunday, November 4, 2012

All Hallows Eve and Dia De Los Muertos

This week was a busy week, preparing for Super Storm Sandy, which we were so fortunate not to have been physically affected by, and celebrating both Halloween and Day of the Dead.
I hope these pictures bring some smiles to faces after the stress and emotions from a hurricane coming to town, but also in remembering the pure excitement, joy, magic, and wonder children have during this time of year.
Here we are lined up just before our little parade, which really only made it's way over to my 96 year old neighbor's door to wish her a Happy Halloween, but it was a  fun journey not matter how short.
At school that day we had a Fairy Tale, a Princess, a Lady Bug, a Butterfly Princess, a Pumpkin Princess, a Quarter Back, a Cow, a Bat, Spiderman, Peter Pan and Dice!  It was an exciting group of guests that arrived that day.
When the children came into school I had a Halloween house set up for them to explore.

There were lights coming through the ceiling, packing bubbles on the floor so that when they went in, it made noises. Spiders hanging from the ceiling and snakes hiding in the bubble wrap.
I think it had just enough to not make it scary, but have a Halloween feel.

All the children that day are actually inside the house, but a couple are hidden in the back.
They had a ball in there, and I have to say they were rather calm.  I think popping the packing bubbles put them in a trance.  We also played a fun game of pin the wand on the witch and monster match, a memory game we have with candy monsters.

From play time we had circle and then painting pumpkins in art time.
This little group was very serious about their art that day!
I did not want the children to have candy, I figured they would have plenty later on, so I made these Ghouls for snack.  Apples with almond slices for teeth, tooth picks with green grapes as eyes, and they did get two chocolate chips each from the eyes.

They also made pumpkin quesadillas, which were very tasty and warm.
Peter Pan checking out the Ghoul, deciding whether or not to eat him.
When I cut the circles for the quesadillas I didn't want to throw out the extras so I cut them into bats and baked them so they were like chips.
I think the bat that came to school that day enjoyed that.

 Here is a Pretty Pumpkin Princess Playing with Pegs.
Try saying that 5 times fast!
 Our Fairy Tale Duo, Cinderella and The Unicorn Fairy Tale.
 A Little Butterfly showing off her cat tattoo

The Quarter Back flying high while the Pumpkin Princess cheers him on.
A funny thing about our Quarter Back, he was a Giant, and when the children shared about their costumes at circle time, a couple children who did not know what that meant, got a little concerned saying they didn't like Giant.  I explained to them that he wasn't a fairy tale "giant" but a football player for a team called the Giants. It always amazes me when I realize how truly new the world is to these little ones and each day they are learning so much.  
Peter Pan and the Butterfly taking flight

A ladybug and cow coming to a stop at the train station.
He was too cute in this costume, and a blur in this picture because that little dice kept moving around.
I tried to get individual shots of all the kids, but there was a whirlwind of activity and enjoyment that I didn't get to capture them all on the camera, but here is one more group shot of these little ones.
Dia De Los Muertes
Day of the Dead is traditionally a Mexican Holiday, but it is also celebrated all over the world.
On November 1st and 2nd, honor is given to those who have passed away, a joyful remembrance and in turn a celebration of life.  Alters are set up with flowers, pictures of loved ones who have passed, often favorite foods or sweets, a lot of time sugar skull and papel picados (paper cut-outs) are placed around the alter and decorate the home and village. 
I feel this is a special celebration to honor, for it offers thanks and remembrance to loved ones, but I always look at the holiday as a celebration of the life we have, and to give thanks for that as well.
When I talk about this holiday with the children, we have a simple conversation without discussion of afterlife or even too much focus on death, for each child has their own relationship with these ideas at home.  What we do talk about is the people we love as well as pets, and how some of these people and pets are no longer with us all the time, but we can remember them and feel happy.  The children who brought pictures for the alter placed their pictures on the alter and some talked about the people and pets.  Other children who did not have a picture shared stories of someone or a pet and placed a flower on the alter, and others just chose to put a flower by someone else's picture.  This is something I love about this little school, we embrace everyones experience, and because they are little they can share without self-consciousness and we try very hard to teach the children to respect someone when they are talking and to be understanding of everyones unique differences as individuals.
Placing flowers and pictures on the alter
I have a wonderful Pan de Muertes Bread recipe that the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo use to make.
Unfortunately, I was unable to start the bread the night before, so what we did instead was make our usual bread recipe, and then shaped them into skulls, added a nose and
eyes with chocolate chips, and sprinkled powdered sugar on top which with traditional Pan de Muertes is the final touch.
Although is wasn't real Pan de Muertes, it was still very tasty
We then made celebration Dia de los Muertes masks

 We also attempted papel picados, paper cut-outs.
This is a great project for hand eye coordination and cutting with scissors.
We worked on doing an accordian fold together by making a game of it.  "fold, crease, and flip!"  Just shouting out those three words was enough to get them having fun with it.  They then cut the sides of their paper like you would a snowflake.  This was the harder part for many of them.  With a little more practice we will be making some great snowflakes soon.

Here is a picture of the papel picados that we had hanging around the school.
For more projects on Day of the Dead and Halloween, you can view last years posts by clicking on the links below.