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Story Time: Owl Moon

Story Time: Owl Moon - Crafts and activities for the picture book

The Greatest German Shepherd in the World wanted out at 5:30 this morning.  So I bundled up (because it was -1 degree outside) and stepped out on the back porch with him.  The ground was covered in snow, the stars were bright chips in the velvet night, the air was crisp (to say the least).  I stood there, breathing, enjoying the quiet.  Then I heard it.


If you’re a country dweller you know that even out here, the sound is rare.  I held my breath.  It came again.  I couldn’t have stopped the slow smile from spreading across my face at gunpoint.  Owls are such lovely, mysterious creatures, aren’t they?  All the more so because we rarely catch a glimpse or a sound of them.  We know they’re there, hunting the woods and the fields at night, but they are such silent fliers, such very nocturnal animals, we generally only get to enjoy them in zoos.
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Story Time: The Mitten

Story Time: The Mitten Crafts and activities for the picture book by Jan Brett

Ah, winter.  That’s definitely what January means here in the northern hemisphere.  We even had a couple of snow flurries this morning right here in Indiana, where we thought (hoped?) winter would never come.  But even though I hate being cold, I love winter for all its differences from every other season.  The stark nakedness of the trees darkening the skyline, the promise of that beautiful hush of snow, when the whole world seems to hold its breath and quiet down to hear the flakes fall… hot chocolate, cozy sweaters, cuddling.  The smell of wood smoke.  If I haven’t made you fall in love with winter yet, stick around for this amazing Story Time.  If anyone can make you love winter (besides me), it’s Jan Brett and her magical stories.
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Story Time: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Story Time: The Night Before Christmas - Crafts and Activities to go with the picture book

It’s Christmastime!!  Everybody loves this time of year.  Or hates it.  Depending on whether they are at home enjoying their own Christmas tree, mugs of cocoa, and family, or they are out shopping.

People shop all year.  We all have things we need to pick up week to week–food, supplies, clothing.  So what is it about shopping for Christmas that makes some put on their Belligerent Hats and shove through like nutcases?  I suppose we’ll never know.  I’ve always thought shopping for gifts should bring out the best in people, not the worst.  So when I am out this time of year, I put on my biggest smile, and even when someone accidentally-on-purpose heels me with his or her cart for some imagined slight, I offer kind words.  I may not think them, but I speak them.  You know what a big believer I am in paying it forward.

It always makes my experience a little bit better, being kind in the face of all that irritation.  Hopefully, it makes the experience of those who come in contact with me better, too.  I am, after all, an optimist.

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Story Time: Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving (free downloads)

I’ve had a lot of fun just rambling to you, my lovely readers, this week about whatever has been on my mind, but it is (YAY!) time for another Story Time.  There are lots and lots of really great books about Thanksgiving out there, but one of my favorites is ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey.


One of the reasons I love this book is because it’s based on the consummate Christmas poem by Clement Clarke Moore, and it has always been part of our Christmas tradition to read that poem on Christmas Eve.  Pilkey has given us a Thanksgiving tradition with this adorable story about a group of school kids who take the bus on a field trip to a turkey farm and end up saving the day and discombobulating Farmer Mack Nuggett in a big way.  It’s cutesy, yeah, but it’s also fun and if your household is vegetarian or vegan, a great way to celebrate that lifestyle while still being grateful for Thanksgiving.

There are so many activity options that can go with this book, but I’ll keep it to a few really good ones.


One of the best ways to celebrate a book that is a poem is to write a poem of your own.  It might be interesting to pick another holiday, say Valentine’s Day, Easter, Hanukkah, or even a birthday, and write a ‘Night Before’ poem about it.  In fact, here is a free download to get your littles started.

Twas the Night Before - Lit Mama Homeschool

A really fun way to practice grammar that the Littles enjoy immensely is the old Mad Libs or fill-in-the-blanks stories that get funnier every time you do them.  Hopefully you don’t have a boy that thinks body parts and bodily functions are the Funniest Nouns and Verbs Ever, but chances are if you have boys, you have that guy.  Let him be ridiculous.  He’s still figuring out what verbs, nouns, and adjectives are.  Here’s another Free Download, for your Thanksgiving enjoyment.

First Thanksgiving Mad Lib


Since you’re reading this book in honor of the Thanksgiving feast, it’s only right that we do some Thanksgiving food experiments to go with it.  Cranberries are a staple at Thanksgiving, whether turkey is or not, and you know how I Love baking soda experiments, so let’s do this cool one involving cranberries.

Cranberries contain anthocyanins, which are pigments that change color in reaction to either a base or an acid.  With acid, since cranberries are naturally acidic, the berries become redder.  With a base, the color changes entirely.  It’s pretty cool.

What you need:

  • cranberry juice
  • baking soda
  • lemon juice
  • clear glass
  • measuring cups and spoons

What you do:

  • Pour 1 cup of cranberry juice into the glass
  • Add a tablespoon of baking soda and observe the reaction.  Baking soda is a base, so (just like with vinegar) the acid in the juice should make it foam up before it starts turning color (it will be a dark purple or blue color).
  • Give it about 2 minutes and observe the changes that have occurred.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.  This time it won’t foam because you’re adding an acid to an acid.
  • Again, give it about 2 minutes and observe changes.  The acid in the lemon juice should neutralize the baking soda and turn the juice back to red.

Cool, huh?  I’m loving that one.

Another thing you can do with cranberries is the whole ‘Dancing Dried Cranberries’ thing.  All you have to do is throw some dried cranberries into a clear glass of Sprite.  The carbon dioxide bubbles will stick to the rough edges of the cranberries and float them up to the top.  Then, when the bubbles pop, the cranberries will sink back to the bottom until enough new bubbles cling to the edges to float them back up.

Can you say fun?  Especially for very small littles?

Here’s another really cool one, that can actually help with the Turkey Day Feast.  We milked a neighbor’s cow while they were on vacation a couple years ago, and she let us keep the milk so it wouldn’t go bad.  We had So Much Milk!  So we decided to Make Butter.  Your littles can too.  It’s time consuming, but  it’s easy, and they can say they contributed to the feast.

You can get heavy cream from the grocery store if you don’t have fresh milk available.  All you do is pour about a cup of cream into a mason jar (or any lidded jar), so it’s about half cream and half air.  Then you shake, shake, shake.  As the air and cream mix, the cream begins to solidify.  It. Is. So. Freaking. Cool.  This will make about 4 tablespoons of butter, and your littles can say they made the butter for their rolls on Thanksgiving.  It’s delicious, too.  Nothing you can buy in the store tastes that good.  My Littles had a blast doing this.  Oh, and you can add a little salt for flavor if you want.  We don’t.


If you really look into the history of Thanksgiving (beyond that first one), there’s some pretty cool facts to know.  Here’s another Free Download for your littles that lists several of those facts.thanksgiving facts


coffee filter turkey

What would a Thanksgiving book be without a turkey craft?  Here’s a cute Coffee Filter turkey for your littles to save from the axe.



What you need:

turkey supplies


  • red, yellow, and green food coloring
  • 6 coffee filters
  • Lit Mama’s turkey body template
  • brown, yellow and red construction paper
  • googly eyes
  • Eye dropper
  • glue
  • scissors

What you do:

littlest food colorLay down newspaper to protect your work surface.  This is messy.  Which littles love.

  • First, mix a few drops of red and yellow food color in a small bowl to make orange.
  • Drop a few drops of red into another small bowl, a few drops of yellow into a third, and few drops of green into a fourth.
  • Add about a tablespoon of water to each color.
  • Cut the coffee filters in half.  With the eye dropper, drop the colored water in designs onto the coffee filter halves.  You can do equal numbers of each color, or however many you want to of each.
  • When the filters are the desired color, allow them to dry.
  • In the meantime, cut the turkey body template from the brown construction paper.  Cut a triangle-shaped beak from the yellow and a squiggly snood from the red.
  • Once the filters have dried, fold each in half to make a cone shape.folding filtersAccordian fold the cone shapes.
  • Add glue to the back of the filter at the pointed end.gluing filters
  • Glue to back of brown turkey body in alternating colorsIMG_20151119_095709982
  • Once you’ve glued all your coffee filter feathers to your turkey, turn him over.  Add his beak, snood, and the googly eyes and you’re done!


Okay, so I’m totally making these for breakfast for Thanksgiving, and I may even eat one.  (I told you, I don’t diet on Thanksgiving.  It is Not Fair to ask it of me.)  I love pumpkin and I love the comfort-y flavor of these muffins.  Plus, I can make them the day before and I won’t have to worry about cooking breakfast And Thanksgiving feast that day.  Also, you can make these standard size or as mini muffins, depending on what your family would enjoy most.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins







What you need:

For the muffins:

  • 1 15-oz can pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup canola or olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp each baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, & ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

For the filling:

  • 8 oz neufchatel or cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • chopped pecans (optional)

What you do:


  • preheat oven to 350
  • In a stand mixer, mix pumpkin, oil, and sugar together on low
  • Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each
  • Add vanilla
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and spices
  • Slowly add flour mixture to pumpkin, combining thoroughly


  • Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a small bowl


  • Grease muffin tins or line with paper cups
  • Drop in spoonfuls of pumpkin mixture
  • Add smaller spoonfuls of cream cheese on top of pumpkin mixture
  • With a skewer, swirl the cream cheese mixture around.
  • Bake full-sized muffins for 25-30 minutes and mini muffins for 20-25 minutes

Mmmm. Yummy.  Cannot wait.


Okay, so the turkeys in this book are named after characters from old TV shows, like Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, Leave It to Beaver, and Groucho Marx.  It would be kind of cool to find these shows at the library or on Netflix and show your littles where Dav Pilkey came up with the names and the kind of television that was available to their parents and grandparents (and maybe even great-grandparents right now.  Which does not make me old.  It means you people are babies. haha)

Also, you can always make a thankful tree, such as the one over at Craftionary (there’s a free printable, too!).  We did a similar tree two years ago, and throughout the day we drew prompts from a jar such as ‘best memory,’ ‘favorite friend,’ and ‘something I’ve learned,’ and wrote a response on a leaf of the tree.  It was really fun, and everybody participated.  Now I have this beautiful tree to commemorate that Thanksgiving.  I think I made about a million prompts.  Make some up yourself.  You know best what kinds of things for which your family is or should be thankful.

I love putting together these Story Times for you.  I hope you enjoy putting them to use as much.  Now, I have to get back out to the woods.  There is venison to be put on the table.  Yummy again.

Love wins,