Book Club Friday – “The Chocolate Sundae Mystery”

Chocolate Sundae Mystery

All during the school year last year, My Little Man watched his big sister have fun with her book club friends, and he wanted to have one, too.  In fact, he asked to start his own club more than once – and I always answered the same way:  You can have your own book club when you can read a chapter book.


Well, last spring, he picked up a fictional dinosaur chapter book and put it down after reading the first six chapters to me.  Then we knew it was time.  


This week My Little Man got together with a few of his friends to have fun with The Boxcar Children’s The Chocolate Sundae Mystery.  


We started out by summarizing the story and then reading Ebenezer Bleezer.  It’s such a funny poem!  The boys each invented their own crazy flavor and drew pictures of them.



Then we headed off to the kitchen to make our own ice cream – for real.  They mixed up a batch of super rich chocolate ice cream to put into a countertop churn, and then each boy made his own batch of Freezer Bag Ice Cream.  



We tucked the icy bags into satchels and sent the boys outside to churn their ice cream on bikes and scooters.  It worked pretty well, and they were able to burn off some energy while they worked.

When both varieties were done, they came inside and created their own sundaes like Benny did in the book.  I think they liked this part a lot – and they declared the ice cream to be yummy.

We never could tell which they liked better, though – the vanilla or the chocolate.  

Which would you prefer?

Book Club, Boys’ Edition: “The Secret of the Prince’s Tomb”

It can be a bit complicated organizing two book clubs, especially for kids who are so close in age.  Sometimes, though, I luck out and they can read the same book.


That doesn’t mean that we’ll do the same activities, though.

Secret of the Prince's Tomb Boys   

This month both of our book clubs read the Imagination Station’s book called “Secret of the Prince’s Tomb.”  It’s about the cousins, Beth and Patrick, traveling back in time to when the Pharoah first enslaved the Hebrews in Egypt and how they learned to trust God even in hard times.  You can read my post about what the girls did here.

After discussing and summarizing the book, the boys made gratitude journals.  These were simple books with scrapbook paper stapled over folded copy paper.  The boys had fun choosing their animal-print scrapbook paper and seemed to like the finished product.

They were much more excited to go outside.  This is our ‘before’ picture …

and this is the group as we trudged off to a nearby clay pit.

Once there, the boys dug up clay to find out just how difficult it would be to work with.  In our story Tabitha carried a water jug to Hebrews who were digging canals, so we decided to find out how easy it would be to dig  through this muck all day – and what it’s like to then try to make something out of it.

We decided that it’s way more fun to play in than to work with seriously. 

Nobody cared about trying to make jugs or mugs and went for simple spherical shapes instead.

Muddy though they may be, these orange fingers worked hard throughout this activity – and took away some neat truths, too.

And the ‘after’ picture.  While not as muddy as I expected, I think they had fun getting dirty – though they’ll remember just how hard digging is when next they think of the Egyptian slaves.

What good books have you read lately?

This post was shared at I Can Teach My Child.

Book Club, Kids’ Edition: “Arthur & the Poetry Contest


This month both book clubs read Arther & The Poetry Contest.  This simple chapter book is about the contest that Arthur and his friends start with a friend to decide who writes the best poetry – and the loser will have to join the poetry club for a whole year.  A cartoon version of Jack Prelutzsky officiates the contest.


Poetry might not sound like much fun, but when you’re willing to be silly with it, it’s fantastic – and these kids were definitely willing to be silly.



The kids brought their favorite poetry to share – if they had any – and then we talked about a few different kinds of poetry.  I read a few examples of each type, and then the kids wrote their own.


Some of them really got into this part.  They illustrated and rhymed, and the girls even stood on the couch to read, while the rest of them sat in the ‘audience’ section of the floor and applauded after each poem.




The boys cared less about illustrating and more about being flat-out gross.  I think they definitely win an award for this – but they worked hard at rhyming and were really creative, too.   Everyone found something to write about and wrote a poem.



Then we made pudding.  In the story the poetry contest entrants eat pudding as a snack, and so we made our own two ways – first from a boxed mix and then from scratch.  Everyone wanted in on the whisking! 




We decided that pudding was most exciting with toppings, so everyone brought his own and shared.  Gummy bears and marshmallows make for very popular pudding toppings!


 Then, of course, we sampled our work.  The girls preferred to mix the homemade vanilla and boxed chocolate together …

While the boys mostly wanted to eat chocolate.  Either way, I saw some awesome pudding creations.  

And some pretty rockin’ poetry, too.

Are your kids fans of poetry?

Book Club, Girls’ Edition – Valentine’s Day with Jigsaw Jones

V-day with Jigsaw Jones

I’m a bit behind in sharing this book club event with you, but we had a great time exploring Jigsaw Jones’ Valentine Mystery together.

After discussing the book, we jumped right in to imitating it.  We chose to make ransom note valentines, but we decided to make these to encourage others.  We began by talking about abbreviations and language shortcuts, like ‘BFF’ for ‘best friends forever’ or ‘2’ for ‘to, too, two,’ and then they began.  Armed with colorful paper, scissors, glue, and lots of magazines, the girls spent over an hour searching for just the right elements for their chosen messages.  They really got into this!
Then it was time to celebrate this heart-shaped holiday with some Minute-to-Win-It style games.  For the first challenge, the girls tried to stack candy hearts into the highest tower – Heart A-Stack.  This turned out to be harder than it looked!


Next came the Heart Toss.  Each girl stood back and tried to toss her candy hearts into small cups.  My kitchen was soon covered in pastel hearts – and the giggling began.


I couldn’t get a clear shot of this game – nobody could hold still!  Each girl licked her heart and stuck it right between her eyes, and then tried to wiggle her face and get the heart into her mouth.  One girl managed to do it!  Giggles were out in full force for this one – and afterwards, each time someone spied some leftover sugar still attached to a forehead.


This Chinese-style challenge really divided our group.  It became very clear who loves to eat with chopsticks as the girls used either pencils or chopsticks to pick up the hearts and transfer them to their plates.  


We had to make a simple snack, too, so we went with love bark.  We melted some white chocolate, spread it on waxed paper, and stuck in some clean candy hearts.  
In the end, we celebrated with some pink-and-purple snacks.  The girls made floats with lemon-lime soda and raspberry sherbet and had fun drinking them out of colorful goblets. They munched on cookie bars with white chocolate chips and pink-and-purple sprinkles.
My Big Helper loves the color scheme of this holiday, and she had fun sharing it with her best friends.
What’s your favorite holiday book?

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “Understood Betsy”

Understood Betsy
When I was a little girl my grandmother gave me a copy of “Understood Betsy” by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.  As winter approached and we began to make plans for our January book club, I knew this was the perfect choice.
Understood Betsy is the story of Elizabeth Ann, a young girl who is being raised by her maiden aunts – at least, she was until one of the aunts takes sick and needs to go to a warmer climate to recover.  Elizabeth Ann is sent to live with other relatives nearby, and when their circumstances change, as well, she is shipped off via train to live with those Putney cousins in Vermont.  On this mountainous Vermont farm, Elizabeth Ann begins to think for herself – and has all sorts of adventures.
Undestood Betsy is a fantastic story – one you’ll want to read again and again.  We had a great time celebrating this book Betsy-style – and we hope you will, too.   
After talking about the book, we built a fire with a flint and steel.  Since there was a polar vortex happening outside our Southern home, this was quite appropriate, and we appreciated the warmth of the fire.  It made our meeting extra special to be cozied up to the fireplace!
 Next we made butter from cream.  None of the other girls had done this before, and they quickly got tired of shaking the jar. 


They appreciated the finished product, though, and enjoyed squeezing out the buttermilk like Betsy did, although they didn’t like the taste of the buttermilk!

Since we weren’t sugaring, and it wasn’t snowing, there wasn’t an easy way to recreate Betsy’s waxing of the maple syrup in the snow.  I did learn a few things about New England and maple syrup from visiting my grandmother as a kid, though, and so we churned our own vanilla ice cream.  While the churn was going, we did a blind taste test of real maple syrup and a fast food restaurant’s syrup.  (The real stuff was identified by nearly every child by appearance alone, and every single one choose it in the taste test.)  After our ice cream was ready, we topped it with maple syrup, New England-style, and headed back to the fire for our snack.

In the book, Betsy and her friends make a new outfit for a little boy in the hopes of helping him get adopted.  While we’ve taking on several simple sewing projects, I opted not to try to make pants.  Instead, we knotted scarves for a scarf mission in Scituate, Massachusetts.

When each girl finished making her scarf, she decorated a simple card to go with it.  They were really creative with these!

We had a great time celebrating Understood Betsy style, and we really packed a lot into the few hours that we had.  This is the perfect winter book – and since it takes place about a hundred years ago, there are many skills to practice throughout the reading.

Have you read Understood Betsy?

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “The Smuggler’s Treasure” An American Girl Mystery

Disclosure Pic

Smuggler's Treasure

 It’s book club time again!  We ate well this month after reading The Smuggler’s Treasure, an American Girl History Mystery set in New Orleans during the War of 1812.

I had the chance to visit New Orleans a few years ago – back before Katrina – and so we talked about the culture and what makes the city unique – the Cajun culture, the heat and humidity, the architecture – and then we talked about the food.  Food is always fun to talk about, but especially when the book you’ve read is set in a bakery!
Our club meeting just happened to be scheduled for Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, and while that wasn’t mentioned in the book, beignets were – and since I come from an area where doughnuts are the traditional way to fry the fat and sugar out of your cupboards before Lent, we decided to do the same.
First we got our dough ready.  Beignets use yeast, so we talked about the science of how yeast makes bread rise as we watched it wake up and act.  The girls seemed to think that was pretty cool.
 When the dough was ready, we rolled it out and used a pizza cutter to shape the squares.  I wasn’t sure we’d have enough at this point, because we really wanted to be able to share outside the club, so we started on another batch.


Then we moved them to a tray so we could roll and slice the second batch …

and while all of the dough was rising, we headed off to talk future careers.  The main characters of our story were torn – one wanted to run the bakery someday, while the other wanted a different life.  After the girls each shared their dreams for their own future, they thought about how they would market their bakery – if they had one.  Each girl came up with a name and logo for her bakery – except for these three.  They decided to work together and did the project jointly.


Next it was time to fry the beignets.  The girls watched from a safe distance, and then after they drained, we dropped three into their bags on top of a small pile of powdered sugar, just as they’re served in Cafe du Monde now.


Then it was time to do the happy beignet dance and shake that sugar all over the hot pastries!  My Little Man couldn’t bear to be left out of this fun, so he grabbed a bag, designed his own logo, and hopped in line.


The girls polished off these beignets and some wanted more, so we tried them in the more traditional Amish style, dusted with regular sugar:

Both were great.  This was definitely a fun way to bring a bit of New Orleans’ culture into book club – and it’s one we’ll be repeating again. 
What are your kids reading now?
Bring the culture of New Orleans to your event with these fun products:

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “A Surprise for Lily”

Disclosure Pic 
We are currently experiencing both the best and worst of times in our book club this month.
The best, because we had a really wonderful time reading and interacting with A Surprise for Lily by Suzanne Woods Fisher.
The worst because this is the last in the series.  There are no more Lily Lapp adventures to read.
Because Lily had so many outdoor adventures in this book, we decided to make our club meeting a whole-family affair and moved it to a local park.  


My husband manned the grill.  Although Lily usually roasts her hot dogs on a stick over the fire, that wasn’t possible for us in the park.  We enjoyed our freshly roasted hot dogs, anyway.  He makes a great grillmaster!


The girls enjoyed eating together and discussing the book, although they were really anticipating our next adventure …

boating!  We decided to take to the lake the way that Lily and Hannah did in the family rowboat – hopefully, though, without capsizing.  Together our families rented two canoes and two kayaks.  The kids took turns canoeing around the lake with some dads in charge …

while some of the older kids were able to kayak on their own.  They really loved this part!


Afterwards everyone played a spontaneous game of baseball.  The kids get along well together.  We’re happy not to have any rocky Lily-and-Aaron relationships at this point!

We have enjoyed reading this series together.  I’m sad that our time with Lily is ending.  Perhaps Suzanne Woods Fisher will write another great kids’ series.

You can read more about our other Lily Lapp book club adventures here:

“A Big Year for Lily”  by Suzanne Woods Fisher

What are your kids’ favorite books?


Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “Secret of the Prince’s Tomb”

Secret of the Prince's Tomb
We hosted another book club this week, and my Big Helper surprised me by saying that this was one of her very favorites! The girls read The Secret of the Prince’s Tomb, an Imagination Station book about the enslavement of the Hebrews in Egypt.  Despite it’s seemingly depressing topic, it’s a really great story, and we had fun working with it.
After summarizing and discussing the book, we made gratitude journals.  We made them this way – it’s a very simple but fun project, and the girls seemed to enjoy matching up scrapbook paper patterns to get a pretty notebook.
The main characters in the story, Beth and Patrick, learned that it was important for the Hebrews to remember that God had been faithful to them in the past and would continue to be so.  We discussed the Biblical direction to be “thankful always” and to remember and celebrate what God has done for us.  Journaling about these blessings and gifts is one way to do that – and then we can also look back during hard times to remember His providence.
The girls and their finished gratitude journals!  It was fun to see how excited some of them were to begin writing in their books.


Next the girls sewed dyed ditalini onto gold-painted paper plates cut to resemble the rich, thick necklaces worn by wealthy Egyptians.  We speculated that perhaps Tabitha from the story would’ve worn something like this in the beginning.


By the end of the story, Tabitha is a slave and is forced to carry heavy jugs of water on her head to other slaves.  We practiced carrying books on our heads to see how easy it was – and decided it’s not.


Then the girls graduated to a simple metal vase containing a few water balloons.  They decided that this wasn’t any easier, but that dropping the water balloons was lots more fun than dropping the books!  Either way, much practice is required to be proficient in this skill.
How do your kids interact with their books?

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “The Pizza Mystery”

This week I want to share with you not about some place that we went, but about something we did – that I happen to think was pretty neat.
My Big Helper started a book club.
We read books in preparation, choosing a book that we felt we could do a lot with.  We discussed activities, thought of questions, and sent invitations.
The day finally arrived.
Four of her friends arrived, aprons and favorite pizza toppings in hand, ready to interact with Gertrude Chandler Warner’s The Pizza Mystery.  This Boxcar Children book tells the tale of the time when the children move in with elderly friends to help them run their failing pizza shop – and while they’re at it, they solve the mystery of who’s been sabotaging their business.
After summarizing the story, the girls got to work on their dough.  They took turns measuring out their flour and other ingredients, mixing it all up in my Kitchen-Aid.  They rolled out their own dough and created their own flavor profiles with the toppings that they brought, pooling their resources.  Some ventured away from their norm, and some stayed with traditional toppings, but all seemed pretty pleased with their creations.
Soon it was time to eat.  The girls were big fans of their pizzas.  It was fun to see them so impressed with their own handiwork!  They ate fruit, carrots, and lemonade alongside their pizza for a simple meal.  After waiting as I served drinks and put pizzas on plates, we talked about whether or not they would be willing to serve as a waiter, just like Benny did in the book.


Two of the girls got really excited about the different varieties of pizzas available.  After hearing about dessert pizzas, they chose to make this Gimme S’More Pizza.  We’ll definitely be making this again.  YUM!

After that, the girls looked at menus from a few different pizza shops to get ideas for more creative types of pizza.  We talked about breakfast pizzas, dessert pizzas, and fruit pizzas, and then they each created their own.

We had a lot of fun learning about pizza!  Can’t wait for the next book club event.


What are your favorite pizza toppings?

Book Club, Girls’ Edition – Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking
After a short summer break, our book club girls are back at it – and this month, we had a blast!  We read “Pippi Longstocking” and found a million things to do with this book.
After summarizing and talking about the story, we moved into the kitchen to make pancakes –not Pippi style.  I was hoping to keep the batter in the pan and off the walls, and as always, the girls did a great job.
Each brought her favorite pancake extra, so the girls made their own creations.  Most added chocolate chips, sprinkles, and whipped cream.  Nobody chose raspberries!  
When their creations were complete, they moved to the playroom to watch the movie while they ate.  This one is particularly cute with several songs, and being able to see quirky Pippi on the big screen really makes these traits come to life.


We discovered one scene that was in the movie and not the book – and so we decided to re-enact this one.  In the movie Pippi buys ice cream for the residents of a local orphanage, and then they get into a huge ice cream fight in the middle of the town square.  Since ice cream would be super sticky – and expensive! – we decided to use shaving cream instead.  Although still quite messy, the girls had a blast smearing and squirting the stuff everywhere.  

My yard smelled great for days.

What about you?  Are you Pippalotta fans?