Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cranberry Sauce
Oh, happy Thanksgiving, dear ones! I am thankful for your company on this journey. So, so thankful. I am also thankful that I decided not to make sweet potatoes this year. Just like that. "I'm not making sweet potatoes," I just said to Michael, two minutes ago. And he made a sad face. Too bad. He can be thankful that I've made them so many times before! Oops--that wasn't a very thankful thing to say, was it? No. It wasn't.

And will you be thankful for my recipe for cranberry sauce? Maybe. But only if you didn't already buy canned. It's fine to buy canned. Be thankful that you did.

I am also thankful for Mr. Outtakes.

Oh he sure likes to insinuate himself into photographs, that Flattypants Cat of ours.

Although this sad little scene I couldn't even blame on the cat.

Are you thankful that you didn't have to clean my stove top? I know I was! Ha ha. Thank you, Michael. I owe you.

Next week I'm going to offer some book and game suggestions for holiday giving--to grown-ups and kids both. And I'm wondering if you might offer me some advice: Ben is getting a little bit of computer time, newly, and I'm wondering about some great sites for kids. Mostly he plays little games on the American Girl site, and they are quite benign ("Fun for girls!" he likes to read from the banner, in his wry way, before playing). But do you have any thoughts about other fun games he could play? Cool things he could look at? Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you!


  1. For Ben: There is a great FREE computer programming language for kids developed by MIT, called Scratch. (Scratch.MIT.edu) It lets kids program their own little games. You get a jump start if you read their little 14-page PDF manual, but the most important ingredient is a psychology that is happy when fiddling around. The payoff for a little patience is big, and within 30 minutes of starting, my kids (age 8 and 10) had programmed their own maze game.

    And, did I mention FREE?

    Happy Thanksgiving from a long-time reader in Rochester, NY!

  2. Bensmama16412:38 PM

    SO GLAD you said you would post book ideas. I remember back some time ago there was a discussion on this blog where so many people offered great book ideas for kids. I wish I had saved that! Or.... is it still accessible? Anyway my son is 8 and loves to read (is a couple grade levels ahead in his reading level too) and I need IDEAS for books for him! The only thing he really doesn't like is mysteries. Thank you Catherine and anyone else who contributes to the discussion of good books for kids! I'll check back! (Also, my 8 and 5 y/o are just now starting on the internet too so I'm going to check out the online ideas as well! Great discussion topic)!

  3. Here you go, Ben:


    (And lest you think we're total science geeks, my 8 y.o. son also like the Star Wars Lego site.)


  4. Oooo! A question made for a teacher!
    Starfall.com is fun, but probably more for Birdy than Ben.
    Storylineonline.net is a fave - SAG actors reading aloud classic children's books! (would you like Frodo to read to you? I would!)
    pbskids.org - lots of wholesome fun.
    mathbrain.com and funbrain.com are SUPER fun and addictive. You can enter your age for game play at just the right level and get a password to return again and again.

  5. Anonymous3:32 PM

    A great Australian kids author is Morris Gleitzman http://www.morrisgleitzman.com/fst_contents.html

  6. All girls here, 7 and 9. They like to play at www.webkinz.com but you kinda have to buy the stuffed animal first so if you don't have any it won't be any fun...

    Also, Colonial Williamsburg has some cute games on their site, www.history.org/kids

    My 9 yo just learned to type in a very fun way here: www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing

  7. We love StarFall (www.starfall.com).

  8. My kid loves Scratch and pbskids. Also loves nickjr.com much to my chagrin. I didn't mind so much when it was noggin.com (but they just switched it).

    He gets 1 hour/day of screen time and is 6. Mostly that means TV or videos but sometimes computer time.

    Oh and one more that Ben will like (but you might not).

    Lots of potty humor but will let you relive your 1970's past.

    - a big fan from Ithaca, NY

  9. Anonymous4:12 PM

    The national geographic site for kids is great. Starfall, which I saw someone already mentioned is also a fun one (albeit probably kind of young for Ben). My kids tend to choose to spend their computer time on the pbskids site - my son who is 9 especially likes the games under Cyberchase and Fetch.


    Looking forward to book suggestions!


  10. The obvious, PBSkids.org and nationalgeographic.com are the big winners in our house. I'm sure you have heard these suggestions a gazillion times but they are great. I also set up a separate computer login for my son. Then I set up the parental controls so he can only play the games and view things that are rated for children under 7. He feels really important being able to turn on the computer and login to his own account! And it gives him free reign on websites like cartoonnetwork.com which, under normal circumstances, would be forbidden.

  11. The Legos website holds the attention of my ten, nine and seven year old boys very well. There are games and a creator function.

    My kids are big dorks like me, but they also find it very entertaining to look up places on Google Earth. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    And you discussed Ben's last month, but didn't you have a birthday yourself? Happy belated.

  12. Definitely check out the games on orisinal.com. Not only are they fun for all ages, but the graphics are just lovely.

    Hope that helps!


  13. Teafortwo9:01 PM

    We really like PBSkids.org for fun stuff on the computer, but mostly because that's the only thing the kids can watch on our tv. There is also a subscription based site, called Brainpop.com, that has amazing content. Our school's technology specialist had it on his "hot list" and you can try it for a week free.

    I'd love to hear your book recommendations. I still love "Ask Me" by Antje Damm, but it appears that it is now out of print. I wanted to buy it for a friend who is having another baby in a few weeks and has a four year old.

    My godfather is making the cranberry sauce this year. My father will be bringing his own can of Ocean Spray.

    Happy Thanksgiving, even without the sweet potatoes!

  14. iknowthat.com - very fun and educational...

    edheads.com - simulated surgery - my 10 year old is fascinated!

    clubpenguin.com - disney owned now... but free games and you get your own virtual penguin...

    Those are the favorites at our house right now... for the 10 year old and the almost 7 year old...

    Happy thanksgiving to you - be blessed!

  15. brainpop.com is pretty cool (I might just think so b/c I teach)

    readwritethink.org is another one that is educational but has all sorts of fun templates to create cartoons, fables, short stories, etc.

    Speaking of writing- we totally need another book from you!

  16. My suggestion isn't as intelligent as many of the others, but...PopCap games are bright and fun, with themes for every mood (medieval wizards! mummies! gems and jewels!) and there are many free on-web versions if you don't mind the occasional advert:


    Bookworm is particularly addictive in a brainbending solitaire Scrabble-ish sort of way. Most of the games do exercise strategic and spatial skills, even if they seem like brain candy.

  17. Happy Thanksgiving. You and your wonderful recipes and wry wit and wisdom will be one of the many blessings I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.

  18. Anonymous10:28 PM

    orisinal.com might be a bit young for Ben, but the games are so lovely and sweet and the music is wonderful. If he'd been playing Call of Duty all these years, he'd die laughing at these games, but he may enjoy them in the nascent stage of computer usage.

  19. BOOKWORM!!!!! It's made by popcap. You can play online for free, and all you do is make words. Good for kids, good for grown ups. The only downside is that INSANELY ADDICTIVE.


  20. I'd recommend signing up for Clickschooling.com. It's free. You will get an email each day in your inbox with website reviews for children. Most are educational in some way, and are often themed around the season. For example, in the last few weeks there were videos of a cranberry farm, a pictorial tour of how turkeys are brought to market, a recommendation for printables themed around Thanksgiving, and tons more. Some of the items that come through are for older children, but they are all clearly marked. They also have an online archive of all the sites that have ever been reviewed and you could get lost in there for weeks, so be careful.

    Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, Catherine!


  21. We love www.uptoten.com and http://www.ferryhalim.com/orisinal/


  22. Michele8:56 AM

    In addition to lots of other great sites already mentioned, don't forget games like Blokus, text twist, or Sudoku online...

  23. I second the Lego website, but if you're willing to install it, you can't go wrong with Oregon Trail. They've updated it quite a bit, but the heart and journey is the same!

    Wanted to add we're doing homemade gifts for a lot of kids this year. A simple decopaged memory game (w/favorite features on the front), tumbling/stacking blocks with the child's name on one side, fabric on the others, and the all time favorite crayon aprons.

  24. Neopets (http://www.neopets.com/)is a really fun place to play games. You get to make your own little pet and earn points by playing tonnes of games. http://nuttyaboutneopets.com/ is a great place to go to learn all the tricks to get free food for your pet. :) Good luck!
    And thank you for the blog- I have been reading your posts since baby center.

  25. my 7-y-old loves http://www.machinarium.org/ which is a beautifully illustrated journey-type game.

  26. dhogan4:21 PM

    My son LOVES primary games. It is mostly educational games, but has some fun vehicle and tank jumps. My son loves to roll the tanks down the hill on purpose so they catch fire. Sounds violent, but it's so not!
    It's a fun (free) site and they have it bookmarked on his classroom computer lab - so I felt safe that it was fairly innocuous!

  27. dhogan4:23 PM

    Oh, doh, sorry, forgot to give you the web address for primary games:

  28. We are loving this right now..


  29. Becca6:17 AM

    www.poptropica.com, if you can get past all the advertising.
    also, www.pilkey.com, if the kiddo is into Captain Underpants.

  30. Ellie8:42 PM

    I second Machinarium and the other point and click games from Amanita design...

  31. The National Gallery of Art has a bunch of great art activities-


  32. Made your cranberry sauce and everyone was very thankful I did! It was awesome :) Thanks!

  33. www.poissonrouge.com

    Ben is a little old for it but my 7 & 4 year old enjoy it. Visually a great site - in three languages.

  34. This is a free download. My 9 and 11 yr old boys love it.
    You create your own stick figure movies. Way cool!

    I had another, but it left my brain!

    Thanks for the years, and years, and years of witty writing Catherine!

  35. My 5 1/2 y/o is very into cartoonnetwork.com, pbskids.org and popcap.com.

    If Birdy has access to the computer as well, I hear Starfall.com is great for teaching reading.

    I second the suggestion to set up the "kid only" profile. It saves many headaches later when you realize they've learned how to download content too.

  36. Julia8:57 PM

    hi Catherine,

    Just wanted to thank you for the great cranberry recipe. I made half the portion, and even though I didn't have allspice or cloves, it turned out great!

    Then my mother spilled wine into it by accident, which apparently is a nice addition. Anyways, thanks!


  37. Anonymous4:18 PM

    For the computer... The Line Rider game (addictinggames.com?) is a favorite around here.

    As for the cranberry sauce, it was a huge hit. My son in particular has been eating several servings a day as his big treat. We are preparing to make batch number 3.

  38. My nine-year-old discovered this game and thinks it's the funniest thing ever, and it gets her to practice multiplication tables. First you design your granny, choosing hair, clothes, etc., then she races her wheelchair to victory, and you help her go faster by answering multiplication questions.


  39. Teafortwo9:25 PM

    Catherine, the spaghetti sauce is fabulous. I made it this morning for company tonight, and they raved about it. We all did. Yum!

  40. My kids love webkinz (the got them as gifts)- it's a site where you buy the stuffed animal and then "register" it online where you can play games and earn Kinzcash to buy groceries and stuff for you pet. The games to earn the "money" are fun and are for kids through age 12, I think.

    They also like Club Penguin, though we just take advantage of the free parts of the site instead of paying for membership.

  41. Our son (almost 6) plays the games at the kids part of the AOL site. They are a mixed bag, but there are some very good ones and it's free!

  42. I'll put in another plug for Webkinz. Yes, you have to spring for the stuffed animal, though you can get a little one for around $8 at Walgreens. The Arcade has tons of really great games, including a version of Mah Jong (sp?), some spelling games, one to help with typing skills, and lots of others. I actually play several fave Webkinz games myself as a way to take a break when I'm writing. I avoided Webkinz for a long time--thought they were too much about consumerism (you earn virtual "cash" by playing the games and then "buy" stuff like food to keep your pet healthy and furniture for their online rooms). But I'm kind of hooked now and all three of my kids enjoy the games and taking care of their pets.

  43. Holly in Michigan1:38 PM

    Comcast has a kid browser called Kidzui, you install it for free and it puts a big K link on your desktop. When the kids launch the K, it opens a "web" browser that only allows kid friendly sites (like many of the ones your comments have listed here) It doesn't allow any unapproved sites to be accessed from it. It has TONS of web site links that are great for kids. Best thing is they can tool around on the "web" and you don't have to worry about them stumbling upon something not appropriate for their age!

  44. Anonymous5:22 PM

    I would be thankful if Family.com could get its act together and post your blog entries correctly - and on time. What's up with them??? It's really not rocket science - I should know, I'm a programmer.

  45. Anonymous8:09 PM

    The very best site in the world is a Canadian one called TVO kids. There are games where you can learn about opera (my daughter regularly argues with me over which one is "the best") and science experiments. They are really fun and kids of all ages seem to enjoy it! Have fun!

  46. perhaps a tad young for him but sooo visually cool and I myself like to explore here:

  47. Anonymous9:35 AM

    I know that this is probably too pop-culture for you to want to associate yourself with, but Webkinz are little stuffed animals that you purchase and 'care for' in a animated world-wide-web way. It gives children a sense of responsibility and there are games to play. Some of the games are educational too. There have been many a night that my husband and I sit and have contests over who can do the fastest math or type the quickest or memorize the most steps in a pattern puzzle. We limit our kids to 1/2 hour (45 minutes at the most) per day to care for and play with their webkinz. I forbid any other handheld video gaming in their lives, but I do see the good in this webkinz business. And this might appeal to your sense of greeness.....a portion of the purchase price associated with SOME of the webkinz animals goes to charity organizations such as greenpeace, extinction prevention, disaster relief, and Habitat for Humanity. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!!! :)

  48. I just made your pulled turkey in the slow cooker, and it turned out great!

  49. I second (or third or fourth) Lego.com. My boys also like www.fusionfall.com it has great parent control, connected to the cartoon network. Also www.jumpstart.com.

  50. That picture of Craney's head in the glass is just too much. That cat is out of control with his merry making, and I need to get my hands on him.

    Loved that oatmeal recipe. How clever! And, I covet those four sweet little oatmeal bowls.

    xo e

  51. FROG GUTS dot com. My Noah never tires of dissecting a computer generated frog (and it is free).

    Oh, and this link right here (which is, I admit, from my own blog, and contains a video of my children and their wonderful potty humor, which is why I *know* Ben will love it. Seriously. go watch it).
    :: http://www.theblankiechronicles.com/blog/2009/12/the-turd-shop-yup-thats-what-i-said-folks.html

  52. And a PS-- has Ben read the Percy Jackson Series yet? Still one of Noah's favorites-- greek mythology and action abound. And have you read Rabbit Hill with the kids? Mine still ask for it every year about this time, even though it isn't a holiday book:) Oh, and Noah is wondering if you could give his game, Barfopoly, a plug? ;)

  53. The Art Institute of Chicago has some fun games to play with masterpieces, like matching the correct head with the correct body in famous works. Kids can have a lot of fun by *not* matching them correctly. There are a few other fun/educational games too.


    Karen (aka misplaced_mama)

  54. We aren't much help on the websites, as our 5 year old hasn't ventured outside starfall.com for games. Dad has been showing them videos of actual space shuttle launches on nasa.gov, which is very cool.

    Also, if it's not too much to ask...I was wondering how long your "Master Sauce for Chicken" lasts in the freezer? We've made it several times since you posted the recipe for the Soy Braised Chicken, but I didn't know if it has a lifespan, or if we can just keep freezing and thawing and adding the liquid indefinitely. Thanks!

  55. Anonymous2:57 PM

    fun educational content: (recommended by our teacher)
    build your own spelling lists-- http://www.spellingcity.com/

    fun stuff semi-educational:

    non-educational that my girl enjoys:

  56. aricaiamama7:28 AM

    For all those mamas who want great books, go FASTFASTFAST to planetesme.com- she's an amazing writer, teacher and librarian and readologist. She also has an amazing book out called "How to get Your Children to Love Reading" (even if they already do) and tons of great books for kids. Esme Raji Codell is one amazing person.

  57. Anonymous5:44 AM

    Good Work