Sunday, November 28, 2010

Are You feeling ADVENT-urous?

We are advent-ing it all over the place over here. We love it! I have never done it before, but I really wanted to make sure that Christ is the focus of Christmas for my children, like it was for me growing up. I don't want them to miss out on the true joy of this season. The joy of a new toy only lasts for so long. The joy of our Saviour is never ending.

That being said, celebrating advent can be a daunting task. There are 8 million ideas out there of how to do so, some of them expensive, some of them cheap, some of them easy, some of them time consuming, and everything in between? I am not wealthy, especially since every dollar I get this time of year I want to spend on someone I love, and I am also not the most crafty and industrious person in the world. So here is what is working for me.

First, we got 26 envelopes (that is how many days are in advent this year) and then we got out markers, glue, scissors, the day after Thanksgiving adds, magazines, and wrapping paper scraps. My children decorated the back side of each envelope (where the flap is), and I wrote the number on the flap for each day.

Next I got that sticky adhesive and I attached the envelopes to my wall. To make it super festive, I made them in the shape of a Christmas tree. In each envelope is a piece of candy, and then a bible verse or an ornament that represents a story from the book The Jesse Tree, which we are reading this year. 

I really like this book and their are a ton of ideas to make this more fancy (giving it it's own tree, making a tree out of wood and buttons, etc.) but in order to stay with my theme of keeping it simple, we just let our kids take turns adding the ornament to our regular tree.

This book is something our kids have really enjoyed. I also have been planning a lot of  activities, and plan to put a slip of paper with the activity in the pocket. A book that we are using with some activities, and also with ADvent ideas to go along with the activities I have planned is called the ADVENTure of Christmas. Our kids are really enjoying this, as well.

We are also using a free Christmas around the world lapbook you can find here.

Also, here is a link to another blog with ideas for The Jesse Tree. Confessions of a Homeschooler - Jesse Tree

And here is another link to advent activities: montessori advent blog

Also, here is a really cute wood and button Jesse Tree from Ramblings of a Crazy Woman: button jesse tree

I will post more later, my best friend is here for coffee now!

Queen of....Tarts?

One of the things that often comes with this time of year is baking. I absolutely love to bake, and look forward to all of the extra baking I get to do in the holiday season. I often feel that I don't have enough people to bake for, and have thought of opening a bakery or catering business of some sort. Maybe in the future, a girl can dream!

My husband's birthday is November 24th, and that means pumpkin cheesecake. This year I tried a new recipe and I really liked it. It has some lemon extract in it and a few other ingredients that I wouldn't normally have used and it just added such an interesting combination of flavors. We all enjoyed it so very much.

Here is where to find the recipe for the cheesecake: Pumpkin Cheesecake

The other thing we made were English butter tarts. Isabella has been doing a literature study on Alice in Wonderland and this is one of the activities. We got the recipes for these from <a href=""></a> , also. I used  a separate recipe for the crust and the filling. I don't have the direct links to the recipes with me right now because I printed the recipe off weeks ago and put it in my lesson plan book. What I liked about the tarts were that they are such a non-traditional food in the U.S. that I didn't have to worry about being in competition or offending anyone by bringing something that they typically bring to the holiday meals. If you forget to ask in advance what to bring this is a good dish to bring because you know there won't be two of it! Also, it is delicious and tastes very holiday-y if I do say so myself. We opted to put walnuts in ours (not black ones) but no raisins. Everyone who tried them thought they were very good. Also, my daughter was quite proud of her culinary prowess when bringing her own dish to Thanksgiving dinner!

Someone Should Have Warned Me!

So, I am using my lovely Expedition Earth curriculum and studying the country of Germany. Everything is going splendid, if I do say so myself. The children are enjoying it, I am enjoying it. We are learning some Geography but also getting to make this time of year special for Christmas. We have a lot of books, songs, and activities to do each day that help us to think about what time of year it is. We get to think about the history of this holiday, how it is now, and the true meaning behind it all.

You can find the expedition earth curriculum here:
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When I was a kid we made nativity cookies every year at Christmas time and last year I had purchased some nativity cookie cutters so that I could carry this tradition on with my own children. You can find the cookie cutters I bought on

So we have these nativity cookie cutters, we have traditional cookie cutters. We are looking in our Expedition Earth curriculum of Germany, and it says to make gingerbread ornaments. We decide this is a fantastic idea! We can make nativity ornaments even! What a fun, festive, cute little craft!  We printed the directions. I expected a little bit of trouble because my mixer was broken and it is made of things like molasses.

Needless to say, my arm hurt. Now comes the funny part. That recipe makes like 8 majillion ornaments! I just kept rolling out dough and the kids kept cutting and I would put it in the oven and there would still be more! It felt never ending! I was starting to think it was some Christmas miracle like the widow who's jar never got empty, except with a tiring craft! I only have 2 kids and one of them is only 3 so while this is awesome for those of you out there with a lot of kids, it was way too much work for little old me to be doing with only my 8 year old participating.

Here is the box of ornaments we had when we were done baking them:

Here is the dough still left in the fridge because I got tired, ran out of pans and energy, and the kids eventually lost interest in cutting them out:

Will we get to it? Who knows! It was a super fun craft! We just have such a small little family...After our ornaments set for a couple of days to finish hardening (during which time I constantly warned all house guests not to try the "cookies") we finally go to the fun part this morning! Painting! Cute pictures start now!

They really loved the painting! Alex kept sticking out his tongue to help him concentrate but every time I tried to take a picture he would stop. It was frustrating me! Bella takes such time and puts such thought into her ornaments, Alex paints them the favorite color of whomever he intends to give them to. (I am getting a bunch of green ornaments, his Aunt Megan, purple). I had to guide Alex to another activity eventually so that he wouldn't rush through painting them all and leave none for his sister to paint. So now we have tons of gingerbread ornaments. If you are reading this and are related to me, guess what my kids got you for Christmas this year? :D

How Do You Spell....Mr. Potato Head?

Yesterday was crazy. We had our home-school co-op planning meeting and then I came home and did school with Bella before leaving for my own classes. I didn't have much down time. I laid down for about 5 minutes to take a nap but then Bella needed help with something on her school work so I got woke up.

Alex is doing very well with learning to read. I was so proud, in fact, that I decided to show off to my husband. "Alex, what does c-a-t spell?" I asked. "Cat!" he shouted enthusiastically. "Good job! What does, h-a-t spell?" He smiles, enjoying the chance to show off for his daddy, and yells "Hat!" "Great! Now what does r-a-t spell?" Alex is practically bouncing with excitement at this point, he knows he is doing great. "Mouse!" he screams. Then we all have a good laugh.

We continued our Christmas around the world theme in Germany and Bella and I made German paper stars yesterday. This is one of the projects from the Expedition Earth curriculum by my favorite blogger. (You will see me toting her praises here a lot!) Here comes the linkage:

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Anyways, those stars aren't as easy as they look! The video is about 12 or 13 minutes long but it took Bella and I around an hour! We grunted, unfolded, refolded, played back the same spot on the video over and over, but in the end we were very pleased with ourselves when we finally got it accomplished!

Next time, they will probably come out even better! (I hope.)

Okay, and I had one last thing I had wanted to share with you today. Yesterday my black-Friday deals add from JoAnns came in the mail and when I opened the first page, guess what I saw? The workbox carts and they are going to be on sale for $35 dollars a peice! You can get other ones, of course. I just like these because they are so colorful and fun. I think they make things look fun!

You can see the drawers I am talking about here:

Storage Drawers for Workbox System

And information about the workbox system here:

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Have fun dreaming of being organized!!!

While you do that, I am going to go make some gingerbread ornaments!

Blogs Are Addictive, Which is Why I Can't Maintain One.

I have not been posting lately, which is crazy because we have done plenty of interesting stuff since my last post! We are doing crafts and activities almost every single day because of the holidays, plus I have become super addicted to quite a few blogs. I just love all of the creative, fun, free ideas that are out there! In fact, I feel all of those addictive blogs are partially to blame for my not posting. I can't quit perusing other people's long enough to post in my own!

In the past couple of weeks I have had quite a few adventures. I am in a walking boot now, and start physical therapy on Tuesday. This has slowed me down a little, but mostly just from shopping and laundry. It doesn't affect making crafts much so boo-yah bad foot!

My mixer broke while making cupcakes for co-op on Thursday, and I forgot lots of the supplies, but I am the queen of improvisation. Using only coffee beans, my class and i still managed to create these cute Panda cupcakes:

After that, the kids and I covered Thanksgiving. We made lots of lovely crafts that I got from the Craft Lady's blog, which you can find here: Craft Lady

The kids loved these crafts a lot, but the Turkey bags were their favorite. That was probably my favorite, too. I didn't think to use my scrapbook paper-cutter to make the squares for the corn until halfway through when my hand started cramping up from cutting so many things out with scissors. It was a lot of cutting!

We also read a new book called Thank You, Sarah.

This book is about the woman who wrote the song "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Apparently the same woman is responsible for why our country all celebrates Thanksgiving together. She wrote thousands of letters to 5 different presidents before 1 finally agreed to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. It was very interesting, fun for kids, and something that even I had never learned before!

Other things that happened this week is that Alex learned to read and write his name:

Bella made a picture entitled "Rainbow Valley" using crayons and tempra paint that she is very proud of  and that I immediately matted and hung on our kitchen wall:

The last thing that happened this week is I purchased the Expedition Earth curriculum. I am very excited to start it! I got a lot of the books to go with it from the library, but I had to purchase a couple of them. We are starting with the Christmas Around the World unit since it is so close to Christmas, and our first country is Germany. Last night we made felt gingerbread men cookies. The tutorial came from the same blog as the Expedition Earth curriculum, which can be found here:

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Honestly, this is probably my most favorite blog. It is where I get a lot of my ideas right now and I just can't get enough of it. I am on their every day, sometimes several times a day. I would like to do 12 hour school days just to fit in all the fun ideas this lady has! She is great!

So, as you can see, it has been busy around here! All the crafts were actually done this week, and we are already gearing up to do more. I was up until 1 am last night trying to plan out when to do all of the fun things I have found. Of course, I was also watching a special about Prince William's wedding, but that is besides the point. Silly television distracting me with gorgeous royal weddings and sparkly tiaras. Tonight we are going to a craft swap where I will get to see some friends I haven't seen in a while, make some new ones, and hopefully come back with even more inspiration! I love the holidays!

Busy Little Sewing Bee

<p style="text-align:left;">Yesterday I was so productive, I feel that I deserve a medal. I am really trying to streamline my "to-do" list and add a few more thing that I actually enjoy "to-doing" onto it, and yesterday I finally got that done!</p>
Every since we saw the latest Alice in Wonderland for my birthday last year I have been in love with the Red "Um" dress that Alice wears in that movie. I told everyone "That is the next dress I will make myself!" Flash forward 7 months and I wasn't lying because I haven't made myself a thing in all of this time. Well yesterday I decided to finally get this dress started so I can wear it to a Halloween party I am going to.

I don't have the luxury of just losing myself in a project like I used to so I had to make a list of things to accomplish each day, not just for my project, but for the other things I have going on to.

So here is how yesterdays list read:

go to church

go to Jo Anns and buy ribbon/tulle

read 10 pages of Art History book, chapter 10

Finish section 2.3 of my math book

finish folding/putting away laundry

finish the curtains I started for baby Aubrey

cut out pattern pieces for red dress

pin the ribbons to the boddess

How it went:

Well, I got all of my tasks done pretty much! I didn't quite finish Aubrey's curtain because I ran out of hook-and-loop tape 2/3s of the way through, and that made me mad, but I am so close because I just have to add that last little section and then pull the cord through the curtain because it is a balloon style curtain. Here is a picture:

I really wanted to finish that curtain before I started my own project because otherwise I might never get it done and Aubrey will be moving into her own room in just a few short weeks because she is getting too big for her bassinet! I want it all ready for her.

Here is a sketch I made up of what I think my dress will look like based on the fabrics I bought.  (A very rough sketch, I have never tried to sketch a dress before)

The next step was to cut out all of the pieces from my main fabric, which will be the red fabric:

And my last step for yesterday was to pin down the ribbons to my boddess which I will be having to sew on by hand!

Sooooooooo, I accomplished a lot yesterday, and I actually got all of this done before midnight. I would have made it to bed at a reasonable time if curiosity hadn't gotten the best of me and led to me watching the show "Sister Wives" until 1:30 in the morning (All Megan's fault). At any rate, go me!