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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: Hello, Harvest Moon (Free Printables)

Learn about the moon with 3 free printables, 2 craft tutorials, and a moon pierecipe in Story Time: Hello, Harvest Moon

Halloween is over.  It’s a little sad, but now we’re on the downhill slide to Thanksgiving, the one day a year I refuse to diet, so it’s all pretty good.  This is the time when I start to plan the enormous feast we’ll have.  I love to cook; have I ever told you that?  It is one of my great joys.  Many years ago, when it became obvious that trying to fit in both families by driving to Martin’s family over an hour away and to my family who are very close made for a miserable Thanksgiving for all five of us, we decided to just have Thanksgiving here.  Unfortunately, my house is too small to fit either family in let alone both, so that decision meant we have to have Thanksgiving on our own.  Sometimes it hurts my heart, but we make a big celebration of it anyway, and we don’t have to spend 2 hours on the road or be unfair to one family or the other, and we get to relax for Thanksgiving.  Well, all the boys do.  I am busy, busy, busy that day.  But I like it that way.

I told you, I love to cook.

It is still autumn, though the days are shorter and it may be getting quite cold where you are.  (Unless you’re one of my Australian readers, then you’re enjoying the slide into spring.  Lucky.)  It hasn’t gotten cold here yet; we’re still hovering between 60 and 70 degrees, which doesn’t bode well for deer season, so if the weather gods could do me a favor and have the temperature go ahead and drop in the next couple weeks?   Thanks.  With the time change the world is bright again at 7 a.m. instead of dark, but I know that will only last a few weeks.   Then winter will set in, and a whole new set of adventures will befall us.

However, since it’s still autumn and Halloween is over but it’s not quite time for Thanksgiving, let’s do a Story Time about another autumn book.
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Story Time: Gus Was a Friendly Ghost

believe in humans

I promise every single post coming up won’t be a Story Time, but I am enjoying this series so much that I have to do another.  In fact, I’m even going to keep with the Halloween theme today and offer you a story time about Gus Was a Friendly Ghost by Jane Thayer, a gem from my childhood.  There are more recent ghost books your littles might enjoy with this Story Time, such as Ghosts in the House.  Feel free to use that book instead if you wish, but for me, nothing quite compares with this warm-hearted story of friendship and the simple  but imaginative illustrations by Seymour Fleischman.

gus the ghost book


Here is a free, four-page download with handwriting practice, a writing prompt, and poetry comprehension about ghosts from the Lit Mama, for your English-learning pleasure:  Ghost worksheets ghost worksheetsAlso, Head over to Education.com for a great reading comprehension compare/contrast of ghost stories.  You have to register to download it, but it’s free and there are lots of other goodies to be had at that site.

Finally, check out this cute, printable, Free board game for practicing tense at ISL Collective.  Again, you have to register, but it’s another site I’ve used for years and it’s free and full of the good stuff.


ghost balloon

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If you have a white balloon handy, you can go with my beautiful husband’s vinegar and baking soda demo, and use a water bottle to blow up a balloon ghost. Easy peasy—draw ghost eyes on a white balloon with a black marker. Use a funnel to fill the un-inflated balloon with 2 TBSP baking soda. Fill the bottle with about a cup of vinegar, then stretch the balloon neck over the mouth of the bottle without letting the baking soda fall into it. Stretch as much of the neck over the bottle as you can so the balloon will really stand up. Shake the baking soda down into the bottle quickly. The chemical reaction will blow up the balloon, providing your littles with a magical ghost!

If you’re tired of my baking soda and vinegar experiments, try some Static Electricity!

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Cut a ghost out of white tissue paper. Use a marker to add eyes and a mouth.  Tape the bottom of your ghost to the floor or a table.

Rub your balloon on your hair (or you could use a sweater) to build up static electricity (electrons). When you move the balloon over your ghost, he will appear to rise up and dance!

If you want to read some Real Science about ghosts, check out this intriguing article about scientists creating ‘ghosts’ in a lab at Telegraph. It definitely provides some conversation sparks!

Get Active

Play Ghost Hunter

This is a fun take on a scavenger hunt. You can use a ghost you’ve made from the Art/crafts section of this post or a ghost decoration you already have. Here are the rules:

  1. Decide on a ghost hunter agency name
  2. Discuss who and how the ghost is haunting
  3. Have mama or dada hide the ghost
  4. Littles ask mama or dada 20 yes or no questions about where the ghost might be such as
    • Does the ghost like toys?
    • What does the ghost eat?
    • Does the ghost wear grown up clothes or little clothes?
  5. When the littles have figured out which room the ghost is in, the questions can get more specific until they finally find the ghost.

Or head over to No Time for Flashcards to get directions on how to set up Ghost Bowling.



You can, of course, make a Tootsie Pop ghost, which requires a sucker, a tissue, a marker, and something to tie your tissue to your sucker with.  They are popular and tasty.

But if you want a more permanent ghost you hang from your ceiling fan (and he won’t get eaten)….

Mini Hanging Ghosts


1” or2” Styrofoam ball

8” x 8” square tissue paper or cheesecloth (looks especially spooky)

School Glue

Google eyes

8” embroidery thread, any color



Cover top half of ball with glued. Place, glue side down, in center of tissue paper. Fold tissue paper around ball so ends drape around it. Glue google eyes on for a face.

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Use a needle to pull embroidery thread through top of ball. Tie thread in a knot. Cut off excess.


Hang your ghost wherever he makes you happy. Or tie him to the handlebars of your bike and watch him float along with you as you ride.

Felt Gus the Ghost


All you need for this cute and cuddly craft is some white felt, a marker, and some googly eyes.  Oh, and this template from your ever-faithful Lit Mama.  Just cut out the template, use it to cut your ghost from felt, then follow the template to make the dash lines, hands and mouth.  Add some googly eyes.  Done!  A ghost your little can take to bed if she wants!


Boo Brownies

boo brownies

Serves 6 (makes 12)

Cooking time: 2 hours 

What You Will Need: 

For the brownies: 

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup)
  • 6 oz dark chocolate, broken into small cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

For the meringue ghosts:

  •  3 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1⁄4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 sugar
  • black writing icing

What To Do: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Butter and lightly flour an 8-inch square pan.  Line the bottom of the pan with wax paper, then butter and flour the paper.
  2. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring to blend.
  3. Remove from heat.  Stir in sugar, egg, salt, flour, walnuts, and vanilla.
  4. Spread in prepared pan.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes in pan, then turn out onto a rack and peel the wax paper off the back.  Cut into squares.
  6. To make the meringue ghosts, place the egg whites in a large, clean, grease-free bowl and whisk with electric beaters until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking until the mixture forms soft peaks. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking after each addition, until you have a smooth, thick, glossy mixture.
  7. Heat the oven to 250 F. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment. Spoon the meringue mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle
  8. Pipe small mounds of meringue on to the baking sheets (you might get more than 12, but extras can be saved and used later). Bake for 1 hour 30minutes,untilcrispanddrytothetouch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  9.  When cool, use the black writing icing to draw eyes and a mouth on each. Top each brownie with a meringue ghost to serve.

If you want a healthier snack for ghosts, try these Banana Ghosts:

banana ghosts

What you need:


semi-sweet chocolate chips

mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

What you do:

Peel bananas, keeping ends intact. cut in half.

Press the point of a chocolate chip into the center of the top of a banana half (the mouth).

Press the points of 2 mini chocolate chips above the mouth for eyes.

You can see why I’m so excited about this series.  Coming up with all these ideas for you guys is So Much Fun!  Now I have an interesting way to spend a Monday afternoon, too.  I hope my littles don’t get tired of picture books any time soon.  At least, I hope they don’t tell me if they do…

Love wins,