Gingerbread House Christmas Tradition: Recipes, Pictures, How-to Tutorial

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December 16, 2009

gingerbread house

One of the kids favorite Christmas traditions is the gingerbread house.  Yes, it’s the candy, candy, candy.  🙂  Plus, the anticipation of eating it after we admire it for a week or so.  There’s laughter, chocolate faces, sticky fingers, and a big mess that everyone helps clean up at the end.  The house smells and feels wonderful all day!

And we always invite a family over to participate.  So, the recipe and instructions here are for 2 houses:

First the dough – I’m not much of a plan ahead gal, so I don’t do the whole “refrigerate for 24 hours” that many gingerbread recipes say.  I just add a bit more flour so I can handle the dough.  🙂

Dough for two houses (also a great recipe for gingerbread men!)

Cream

  • 1 1/2 c. butter or margerine
  • 1 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 c. molasses

Add dry ingredients and mix well.

  • 12 cups flour (I use fresh ground whole white wheat flour)
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T baking soda

Divide into 3 portions on three greased cookie sheets:

dough

Spread with spatula and/or rolling pin

spread

until about 1/4 in thick

quarter_inch

Bake at 350 for 20 – 25 mins until not glossy and toothpick comes out clean.  (bake 10 – 12 mins for gingerbread men)

Some people cut out the dough in the house shapes before baking, but that’s too much work for me, plus you don’t get as nice of edges to build with as you do when you cut it after baking.

Cut the following out of each cookie sheet:

  1. 4 side walls – 7 in x 5 in rectangles
  2. 4 roof pieces – 8 in x 5 in rectangles
  3. 4 end pieces (the fronts and backs of the houses) – a 6 in wide x 5 in tall rectangle topped by a triangle whose tip is 3 inches tall from the center top of the 6 in side of the square.  I hope that makes sense:  Draw a 6 x 5 rectangle.  Find the center of one of the 6 inch sides.  Measure up 3 inches.  Draw a triangle coming to a point at that 3 inch mark = a triangle on top of a rectangle.

patternscutouts

Whip up the frosting (a double batch):

  • 5 c powdered sugar
  • 1/2 t cream of tartar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 t. vanilla

Beat until it stiffens and will stand up a bit when you pull the beaters out of it.  It dries fast, so keep it covered if you’re not using it right away.

Glue the walls together and let them dry a bit (5-15 mins) before attaching the roof if you’re having trouble keeping things together.  The longer you can let the house dry, the better.  Make sure you use the smaller rectangles for the walls and save the longer ones for the roof.  You could even break up the activity by gluing the house first, and then working on getting the candy out in bowls, play a game together, etc., while the houses dry.  (If you’re desperate, a hair dryer can help a bit, just don’t let it get hot.  Use the low setting.)

glue walls

The fun part:  Decorate with candy and try not to eat too much!

Here are some fun ideas to try and build:

  • Snowmen out of marshmallows held together with toothpicks, candy corn noses, mini-chocolate chip eyes, and Skittle buttons.
  • A pile of logs or fences out of Tootsie Rolls.
  • Windows and benches with Keebler chocolate graham or grasshopper cookies.
  • Build cars out of cookies with round candies for wheels.
  • Line edges and paths with pull apart licorice.
  • Make a pond by spreading some frosting with a bit of blue food coloring, line with licorice and add some Swedish Fish.
  • Put gummi worms in a garden with broken oreos stuck to frosting for dirt.
  • Starbursts make great bricks.

decorate

Try not to eat it for at least a day 🙂

gingerbread_house

What a fun evening!

Enjoy!

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Posted under Homeschool Activities, Homeschool Crafts

Last Minute Rock-Bottom Deals on Gifts and Toys at Amazon!

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December 15, 2009

Sorry for the long time away – the holidays with a family of 7 are a bit crazy 🙂

We took a trip to Vermont for Thanksgiving and just finished the happy chaos of gingerbread houses last night (my next upcoming post!)

gift

Since I’m an avid bargain shopper, some friends have been asking how I get such good deals on Christmas gifts.  Here’s my secret:

I do a lot of shopping this time of year at Amazon.  Combined with the Free Month Trial of Amazon Prime, I’m able to get many of my gifts on sale with no tax, and shipped right to my door.

But, you have to hurry – there are only 2 days left to get gifts delivered in time for Christmas with Free Super Saver Shipping.

sale

Here are a few of the tips I use to find the best deals:

  1. Check out the Holiday Lightning Deals that come up throughout the day.  You can scroll through them in the morning, and see if there is anything you’re interested coming up that day.  Make sure to check back right on the hour, if it’s something popular.  There are usually plenty, but often for no more than 10 – 15 minutes.  For example, there has been a nice Lego set ($30-$50) come up almost every day for 50% off!  Or a big $25 Transformers toy for $9.99.  There are gone quick.
  2. Check out the Movers and Shakers Page to find items that have suddenly increased in popularity.  This is a great way to find items that have suddenly dropped in price and are worth buying.  Click on you catergory on the left, ie. “Toys” to see what’s a deal.
  3. Browse the list of items that are discounted 70% off or more on Toys.  Many toys are the cheapest they’ll be all year and make great additions to a ‘gift box’ you can keep in the closet and have on hand for future birthday parties, etc.
  4. Check out the 18 Days of Video Game Deals, with the Special Deal of the Day – something new only for that day.
  5. And if you’re looking for FREE:  Check out 25 Days of Free Holiday Songs – a new MP3 is added every day, and if you missed any, they are all available right now.  This makes for a great list to play for holiday background music on your computer.

Here are some examples of HOT deals today (Grab them quick, prices change fast!):

tractor

Lil’ Movers Vehicles – Tow ‘N Pull Tractor – $5.99 down from $17.99

harry_potter

20Q Harry Potter – $7.99 down from $24.99

cake

Melissa & Doug Birthday Party Birthday Cake $9.99 half price from $19.99 (My 4-year-old LOVES this – he still plays with it a year later and ask me to make wishes and blow out candles!)

trivial_pursuit

Trivial Pursuit Digital Choice $9.99 down from $49.99

monopoly

Monopoly Family Championship $7.99 down from $24.99

star_trek

Scene It? Deluxe Star Trek Edition$7.99 down from $29.99

 

There are seriously too many to list.  I enjoy browsing the lists above and finding gifts I know my family and friends will enjoy for half (or more) of the price.

Enjoy!

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Posted under Homeschool Bargains

Great Deals on Leapfrog with Amazon Coupons.

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November 11, 2009

leapfrog_phonics

My younger kids love many of the LeapFrog learning products, so I though I’d share some great deals on Amazon right now.

Not only are the products marked down, like the popular Fridge Phonics down to $15 from $22, but if you use the code listed below for Fridge Toys (LPLFT900), it’s another 20% off, making it $12!

They say “while supplies last” so get what you want quickly!

 For a complete list –>Complete List of LeapFrog Codes and Deals on Amazon

Enjoy!

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Posted under Homeschool Bargains

Vote in the Homeschool Blog Awards!

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November 10, 2009

blog_award_button

You are the nicest readers!  Thank you for nominating me for the “Best Homeschool Mom Blog” and the “Best Eclectic” homeschooling blog.

The voting just started and won’t be up long, so if you have a minute and would like to vote for Homeschool Bytes . . .

It’s really easy:

  1. Click here –> The Homeschool Blog Awards
  2. Scroll down and click on “Best Homeschool Mom Award” and/or “Best Eclectic” blog.
  3. Find “Homeschool Bytes” on the list and click on it.
  4. Click the “Vote” Button

That’s it 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and expecially for your suggestions and comments.  I really enjoy hearing from you!

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Posted under Homeschool Websites

47 Amazing Pumpkin Carving Patterns Video – Get Ideas.

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October 30, 2009

When visiting family last year, we were introduced to a whole new world of pumpkin carving. 

I’m normally a ‘triangle and jagged teeth’ type, when carving faces on pumpkins, but I had no idea how creative the professionals could get.

My sister-in-law was born on Halloween and now celebrates it with a vengeance.  Family and friends come over the whole week before Halloween, carving and carving and carving . . .

(Tip: And I learned that if you want an early pumpkin carving to last a few extra days, one trick is to get a big tote full of water and immerse the whole carved pumpkin for a nice ‘plumping’ soak, and it’s as good as new.)

I hope you enjoy taking a look at all the pumpkins.  There are some great ideas here:

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Posted under Homeschool Crafts

Free Online Homeschool Videos: Math, Science, and More!

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October 23, 2009

camera

With Youtube and video capabilities on most digital cameras, there is an overwhelming amount of video available online.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could go through and find the educational ones, pick some of the best, and then sort them by topic?

Well the folks at NeoK12 have done just that – reviewed, chosen, and catalogued TONS of free online educational videos.

Find the topic your children are currently studying and let them watch a few videos on the subject:

I just sat down with my 4-year-old on my lap and had a great time running through a few of the counting videos – Counting Sheep and Super Simple Song’s version were his favorites.

Do you have suggestions for online learning videos?  A website or technique you use?  Thank you for the ideas!

Enjoy!

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Posted under Homeschool Curriculum, Homeschool Websites

How to do a Homeschool Bird Unit Study This Fall.

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October 21, 2009

Gull

Do you remember coating pine cones in peanut butter and bird seed, hanging them outside, and then pressing your nose against the back window waiting for the birds to come?

  1. Here’s another article with lots of easy bird feeder ideas and what birds eat what.
  2. A couple of years ago, we filled a few bird feeders, perched them on the railing of our deck and had a great time watching the birds come and go.  I was at a loss to figure out which birds were which until we checked out this great bird guide from the library that is perfect for beginners.  I love that it is organized by color, so when the kids saw a yellow bird, they would flip to that section in the book and then search for ‘our’ bird.
  3. Here are the ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ versions of the bird guide:

  4. Another amazing resource I just discovered is What Bird.com.  This site has so much bird information it can be overwhelming.  For a start, check out some of these links:

Enjoy!

Do you have any fun bird-schooling stories or favorite bird study resources?  I’d love more ideas.  Thanks!

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Posted under Science Curriculum, Science Websites

Would You Mind Nominating My Blog?

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October 20, 2009

red_check

The Homeschool Post is having their annual Homeschool Blog Awards, and I’d love to enter the competition for one of their “Best . . . Homeschooling Blog” awards.

So, if you like what you read here on my blog, feel free to nominate me.

It takes less than a minute and a few easy steps:

  1. Click here to nominate Homeschool Bytes!
  2. Scroll down the page and choose a category.  I was thinking “Best Eclectic Homeschooling Blog”, “Best Homeschool Mom Blog”, or “Best Crafts, Plans, and Projects Blog”.  But, feel free to pick the category you think fits best.
  3. In the category field, type “Homeschool Bytes”
  4. In the category URL field, type http://www.HomeschoolBytes.com (the “http://” stuff needs to be included)
  5. Pat yourself on the back for doing something nice 🙂  Thanks!

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Posted under Homeschool Websites

Ideas to Use Instead of Homeschool Curriculum

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October 19, 2009

ideas

Since we’re pretty eclectic homeschoolers and tend to follow what works for our kids and what they’re interested in, I’m always looking for good ideas.

Melissa Wiley has a great archived blog article:  Things to Buy Instead of Curriculum.  It’s a great list full of ideas you can use next time you’re looking for a ‘fun’ teaching idea or right now lots of them would make great ‘non-toy’ Christmas gifts.  Check it out.

Do you have favorite ‘non-curriculum’ teaching tools you use?  I could use some new suggestions!

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Posted under Homeschool Curriculum

Homeschool Vacation Adventures!

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October 15, 2009

Being homeschoolers, we can pick up and leave for a vacation late in September, and enjoy cheaper flights and emptier museums.  Even luckier, some of our public-schooled cousins are on year-round school and had a couple weeks off to play with us.

Here are a few highlights from where we’ve been for the last few weeks:

boys_tramp

A backyard trampoline was the main attraction of the trip and outshined the museums, fun centers, and aquariums. 

girl_cousins

Lots of wonderful girly girl cousin time for our princess who loved getting away from her brothers.

talk_grandma

Gardening and quiet chats with Grandma – we miss her!

balloon_grandpa

Silly time with Grandpa – even balloons can be made into swords. (Thanks Aunt Heather!)

best_friends

Best friend cousins 🙂

dad_luggage

Dad joined us with a week to go, and here he is helping with the ‘fun’ task of maneuvering a family of 7 and all their stuff through the airport on the way home.  You should have seen the looks I got doing it on my own on the way there.

And here are a few ideas to while away the boredom while waiting for your meal at a restaurant. (It’s not like your mom taught you anything about manners – at least that you can remember.)

We loved seeing all our family and I so enjoy seeing my kids play with their cousins and get to know all their aunts and uncles!  What a fun vacation!

The mishaps – there are always a handful.

broken_toe

 The first mishap on the third day of our trip – I broke my pinky toe on the leg of a couch!  My husband laughed over the phone and said, “You mean to tell me you spent 20 years doing karate without ever breaking your toe, and now you broke it on a couch?!” 

comfrey

Good thing my sister-in-law had some comfrey growing in the backyard.  I simmered some and then draped the hot leaves over my toe.  It healed in a couple days instead of a week.

fever

That same day, the baby got a fever that spiked over 104 and stayed high for 3 days prompting a visit to the Urgent Care, a blood draw that missed the first time (so sad!), and nothing found after all.  Just a virus as I thought.  My 6-year-old followed with his own fever the very next day.  With 10 kids in the house, we felt lucky the fever only spread to 2! 

sick

Oh, and on our first morning back, I and Alex were knocked flat by a vicious stomach flu, fever, muscle aches, and other yuckies!  I’m just glad it didn’t happen on the flight home.  One of these days, we’ll have an illness-free vacation (fingers crossed).

I have a question for you larger homeschool families:  Do you have any tips or tricks to make traveling with a big family easier?  How do you keep the whole age range interested and having fun?  I’d appreciate any good ideas!!

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Posted under Homeschool Activities