Celebrate the harvest: Crafts for Thanksgiving

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Harvest time in Arizona can take on a different feel. Although the mornings and evenings are definitely cooling down, we often still hit high into the 90s. But who can resist the urge to celebrate apples, pumpkins, the changing foliage, and just being able to get outside and socialize in the cool night air. Whether you're heading to a church festival, planning a school party or Thanksgiving, I wanted to bring you some quick ideas to help you celebrate.

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Apple-teenies I saw a picture of these cute sweet treats and automatically knew I had to figure out how to make them. Plus, I knew they just had to be called Apple-teenies - teeny tiny candy apples. I love that they are a perfect bite of tart apple and the taste of sweet that reminds us of an autumn favorite - candy apples. But as you know, a regular sized candy apple is just way too big and can be hard to eat, too.

Candy Apple Recipe - Here's how I made them: Granny Smith Apples (each apple will make about 10, depending on the size) Butterscotch or Peanut Butter chips Any candy decorating toppings - I loved rolling them in mini chocolate chips Candy sticks (available at craft and baking stores, cut in half to make shorter)

Simply take a melon baller and using the small end, scoop out small balls of apple. Make sure that each apple ball has a piece of apple skin on it to help hold the stick more secure. Don't worry if they are not completely round balls, once they are dipped it won't even be noticed.

Take a paper towel and just dab them a little dry to help the candy stick. Now on the stove simply melt the candy chips then stick each apple with a stick and roll them in the melted chocolate. Follow up by rolling them in mini chips, candy or nuts and set on parchment or wax paper to harden. It'll take about an hour. Yummy and the perfect size to just pop into your mouth!

Craft Project - Autumn Fairies Are you looking for an inexpensive but fun craft for kids that celebrate autumn and harvest time? This one is perfect for any number of kids - from one to a classroom full. All you'll need to get are some of the artificial autumn leaves that are available at craft stores everywhere right now and most are on sale. I chose some glittered ones, because they were heavily discounted. But, if you need a large number, consider picking up one of those autumn garlands and clip off the individual leaves.

I also bought some of those "google" doll eyes to add to the critters. They were only a couple of dollars, but you could also simply paint on eyes or make them out of paper.

Now the best part begins - take the kids out for a nature walk, to gather all kinds of things that nature is shedding during the opening days of fall - sticks, twigs, leaves even small rocks. Just give each child a small bag to gather. This is also a perfect opportunity to talk about why plants loose their leaves and why nature is changing in preparation for winter.

Once back from the walk, let the kids imaginations flow as they create wonderful critters using the leaves and foliage. The artificial leaves inspire great wings or perches. Be sure to make a couple of examples to be able to show the kids what is possible. Also, have each child work on a covered flat surface and help them build their character with white glue.

Now, take it a step farther if you want and have them write a story or poem about their autumn friend - where they live, what they like, etc. This is perfect for home-schoolers, scout troops, grandma visits and more. You get a great walk outside and then a fun craft.

A Perfectly Sweet Treat Mix Recipe I wanted to find a tasty snack mix that the kids would love but would also allow you to make a big batch to save some money. I found one that is really delicious in Halloween Tricks and Treats by Matthew Mead and adapted it a bit. It' centers around peanut butter flavors, so if you can't serve that, just substitute mini vanilla Oreo cookies, plain M&M's and any sweet cereal you choose. But, here's the base - try it as is or make it your own!

The amounts don't really matter; just toss in what you have to make as big a batch as necessary.

1 bag of caramel corn 1 bag of waffle shaped pretzels 1 box of Reese's Peanut Butter Puffs cereal 1 bag of autumn colored M&M's 1 bag of mini Nutter Butter cookies

Simply mix it all together and eat!

Craft Project - A Lovely Homemade Gift The best gifts are simple, homemade and just plain thoughtful. Try this as a lovely token for a favorite teacher or neighbor. The kids can easily help. I just grabbed one of my extra Granny Smith apples and some whole cloves. A thrifty tip is that in the spice aisle, a jar of cloves can cost $6 but take a look in the Hispanic food aisle of your grocery and that's where I found a small envelope of whole cloves for just over $1.20!

This is as easy as can be, simply stick the pointy end of the clove into the apple in a random pattern. The aroma is immediately apparent and delightful. Cover the apple, tie on a piece of scrap ribbon to the stem and you have homemade potpourri that will last a couple of days and fill a room with the fragrance of fall.

Autumn is my favorite time of year. What about you? I love the relief after the heat, pulling out the sweaters and boots and great activities like these. Enjoy whatever festivities come your way this month and try adding a simple new treat to the mix.

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