Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cookie Building


The Christmas season just wouldn't be quite the same without our gingerbread creations. 
We tried some new things this year, and as you can see, we needed to be sure we had a nice, sturdy icing for it...
I found a fantastic recipe on --
Beat together on high for 7-10 minutes: 1 lb. confectioner's sugar, 3 egg whites & 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar.
We use sealable plastic bags with a tiny bit of the corner snipped off as pastry bags.
Can you spot Santa Bear on the roof?
Teddy Bears sledding?
Bears caroling around the Christmas tree?
Away in a Gingerbread

To get all these cookies to stand up, I made paper templates for stands.  Using the cookie cutter height as my guide, I cut triangles and labeled them.  Some templates could be used for multiple cookies.  People got one stand each, animals got two.

I got better & better at it as I went along.  This was the winning combination -- so fast & easy once I figured it out!
Hold your cookie in the correct spot & pipe a line of icing where the base of the stands will go.   

Remove the cookie and pipe icing where stands will touch the back of the cookie, as well as on the bottom of the cookie, where it will touch your plate.

Place your cookie in front of the piped lines on your plate.
Place a plain, uniced stand on the plate & against the cookie.

Repeat with the second stand.
This icing recipe made it very sturdy once it dried.
It's definitely the one we'll use next year.
(And, now I'll know where to find it, too.  My gift from me, to me.)
Happy creating!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Finding Inspiration

What inspires writing at your house?
Chanukah, Winter Solstice and Christmas gave Sela cause to pick up her pen(cil).

As we all begin to pack away our decorations for another year, I send you wishes for celebration and inspiration in 2013.

Happy Chanukah
Happy Chanukah,
Happy Chanukah,
While candles bright are burning
Happy Chanukah to you!

Candles, candles, burning bright,
How lovely you look on a dark winter's night.
Candles, candles, show your light,
Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful sight.

Snowy Acrostic
Soft and cold
       Not bad, but great
              Out of nowhere it falls
           White and wonderful
 Yay for snow!


Christmas Carols (haiku)
Short, long, high or low
Christmas carols are great fun
To sing along to

Hanging by the fireplace,
On Christmas to them there's a race,
Filled to the top with games and toys,
All of these are Christmas joys!

Mistletoe, mistletoe, over the door
Walk under again and
I'll kiss you some more!

Christmas Haiku
Christmas is a time
Of happiness, love & joy
The world celebrates!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies (a haiku)
by Sela
Alone or with friends
Baking delicious cookies
Is always super

pecan logs
1 cup butter, softened
5 Tbsp confectioners' sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
confectioners' sugar

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in vanilla.  Add flour, beating on low speed just until combined.  Stir in pecans.  Cover & chill for 30 minutes.
Shape 1/2 cupfuls into 1/2-inch thick logs.  Cut logs into 2-inch pieces.  Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets.  Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes.  Roll warm cookies in confectioners' sugar.

A simple way to chop nuts it to put them in a bag and roll them with a rolling pin!

from Taste of Home Holiday: Christmas Cookies & Candies


Monday, December 24, 2012

Mother's Work

I always love some quiet time at the end of the day,
when everyone is asleep but me.
I can't help but hear the famous line,
"not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."
I love this all year round.
When everything is still, I can REALLY take in the beauty of our day,
our home, my children, in a way that's a little less, well, a little less like herding cats.
Recently, we read Peter Pan.  I connected with it in a way I hadn't expected.  Early on, Barrie writes this:
Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children's minds.  It is the nightly custom of every good mother after children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for the next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day.  If you could keep awake (but of course you can't) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her.  It is quite like tidying up drawers.  You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humourously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight.  When you wake in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind; and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.

In December, these maps of the minds Barrie describes, these Neverlands, spill over into little vignettes around the house. 
And a sleeping house reveals things like this --
tucked beneath our big tree, a tiny little tree with tiny little
presents wrapped with care for softies and dolls.
I can feel her sweet heart, lying right there on top.

A Griswald's Christmas Tree

I learned something new this Christmas.  I didn't really want to learn it at the particular moment I learned it, but...
We went to the mountains and chose our tree.  We cut our tree, strapped it to the top of the car, stopped for a warm, cozy dinner on the way home.  Lovely.  (Did I mention there was a tree farm pie shop involved?)
Tree goes in the stand, DH goes out to buy new lights (another story altogether, but that's for another day), I put the lights on the tree.  I run out of lights.  I send DH out for more lights.  At this point, I'm in it too deep to turn back, but wonder if I should really have 1400 lights on the tree.  Well, I've made my bed and now I'm going to have to lie in it.  We do love how the tree looks after it's finished.
We drag out the ornament box, kids are giddy to get their hands on the ornaments and start decorating(fairly spazzy, to be completely honest). Sela plugs in the cord... GASP!  OOOO!  AAAAAH!  And then... total darkness.  Silence.
I want to dissolve into a puddle.  Or run from the room.  But, my sweet little ones have been waiting, waiting.  I have no choice but to solve the mystery of why the lights went out and fix it.
Did you catch the clue?  I said Sela plugged in "THE" cord.  Now I'm remembering something about "you're not supposed to connect too many light strands together."  Hmmm.  So, probably 8 is too many?  I'm remembering "fuses." Something about changing blown fuses.  Good thing I have always compulsively saved all those tiny fuses even though I never had any intention of dealing with them.
Turns out, it's so easy.  So, a gift from me to you this season: How to Change a Fuse, or How to Avoid the Griswalds' Christmas at Your House.
I went to the source of all current know-how and found a YouTube clip on the subject.
How to get the tiny fuse box open?! It slides DOWN.
Pop out the fuse with your tiny screwdriver.
Press the new fuse in with the flat side of your tiny screwdriver.
So, save your fuses and bulbs, people. Get yourself a cute little box & locate your tiny screwdriver. Keep them handy, and you'll be set for the light mishaps.  (Oh, and maybe pick up a few extension cords.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sweet Dreams

The inexpensive tension rod that usually acts as
our homemade doorway puppet theatre
got a makeover this season.
Hanging in Sela's doorway, it's a bit like having
visions of sugarplums dance in her head
as she falls asleep.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Beauty is in the Details

I was rushing by the dollhouse when something caught my eye. Was this a deliberate set-up? I had to slow down and go back.  Tucked in the back, in front of two dolls rolling a ball between them and a baby sleeping on the bed, here sat two friends, reminding me: Slow Down.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sigh : )

I haven't been on my blog in a while.
I miss my blog.
Really miss my blog.
I've been trying to get back here.
I have thought about how to re-enter,
how to describe why I've been away --
without whining, complaining, raaaaaambling...
Life is so busy lately.
So busy.
And, not really related to the holidays (though they add another layer).
Last night, I walked around the corner from the kitchen to see this --

This kind of sums up why I don't have time for much lately.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Mama, what's for dinner?
"Onomatopoeia" is for dinner?!

Where do you find onomatopoeia?
Inspired by If You Were Onomatopoeia by Shaskin

Thursday, November 1, 2012

If there had been a moment yesterday, this is what I would
have enjoyed sending to you all!

Linus's costume was inspired by one of his very first friends (see how he inspired another firetruck enthusiast here).  It seemed especially fitting now, as his big-boy friend decided not to wear a costume this year for the first time.  Passing the torch, I suppose.

As for Sela's costume, we -- she -- found in Family Fun magazine.  She pours over
our Halloween issues for months looking for inspiration!  It was easy to make & consists mostly of items we had around the house.

Here are the simple directions we crafted:
  • Using a wide-brimmed hat from the dress-up basket as a base, we wrapped and piled plastic bags on top to form a dome for the bell of the jellyfish.  We used packing tape to secure it occasionally.
  • Once the bell was formed, we covered it with bubble wrap.  More tape.
  • We layed a piece of irridescent fabric over this.  I did a simple basting stitch underneath, gathering the fabric at the crown of the head and tucking it up inside the hat.  I was concerned that tape wouldn't stand up to wear & tear.
  • We cut lengths of curling & silk ribbon and used packing tape to secure those as well.  (The hair tentacles we've been working on for quite a few years!)
  • It was a happy accident that this hat had a chin strap -- that turned out to be a must!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

heh heh heh!

...and WHOOSH! 
We're off!
Happy Halloween to all!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Felt Jacks

Have I ever told you that we keep oodles of felt on hand here?  Does everyone, maybe?  It's, well, a jack-of-all-trades (sorry).  It's versatile and easy to work with at all ages.  Sela and I whipped this up in a jiffy (really!!) last year when both kids were sick one day & we needed something fun to do. 

Sometimes we just put together fun faces, other times we play a game with it.  We created a die out of a block by cutting construction paper pieces to represent each of the four categories.  On your turn, you roll the die and put up the piece you rolled.  The first to complete her pumpkin "wins."

The feltboard is a homemade job, too.  Felt by the yard hotglued to a canvas from the craft store.  I've seen felt glued to an old cookie sheet, too.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Bat, a Spider & a Cat Walked into a...

I saw these as pencil toppers last year, but I thought they'd make great finger puppets.  They're fun for playing around with, and also for playwriting!  Sharpen your pencils, hand out parts & GO!

We used pipe cleaners, googly eyes & glue, and for the black heads we made little black yarn balls.  Pom-poms would have worked, but we didn't have any.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

GOOD morning!

Monday's Mission: Be the Fall.
Cook a pumpkin.
Make Halloween sugar cookies.
Enjoy every drip, drip, drip out the window.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The ghostly moans were mostly groans.

Can you tell what this is?  These are my children, riding in the car, of course.  Of course!

Family life is full of silly fun.  Some evening, when things have gone off the rails at your house, try reading something silly like Six Sheep Sip Thick Shakes, and Other Tricky Tongue Twisters.  (Because silly is always better than the other way...)

And then, after a good night's sleep, why not make up your own?  At the back of the book we found a page titled "Make Your Own Tongue Twisters" -- so we did.

We enjoy Cleary's whole series, Words are CATegorical, for an entertaining and informative look at language.  Some of his titles include:
Dearly, Nearly, Insincerely: What is an Adverb?
How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear?: What are Homonyms and Homophones?
Cool! Whoa! Ah and Oh!: What is an Interjection?

I'm just discovering he has a website that looks like it might be fun to check out!  And I notice his official title is Word Nerd -- I knew I liked that guy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

There's Nothin' Like a Field Trip!

Sela asked me what "physics" was recently.  Well, my dear, it just so happens that we, Mamas, have been conspiring to take a field trip to talk about just that!  What better place to talk about physics than at the bowling alley?!  Dawn blogged the details better than I could -- check them out!  I'm just spreadin' the word about about how fun and fruitful field trips can be.

So, Sela's most recent question on the topic was (in a truly exasperated tone), "Ma-maaa!  When are you going to teach me PHYSICS?!"  This was funny for so many reasons: a) the phrasing; b) that she thinks I could actually; and c) because I had *just* nearly tripped over and tossed into the library bag an audiobook about Newton and his laws of motion!

We listened to it; we enjoyed it, even as it got complicated at parts.  I don't need for her (or me!) to understand all the nitty-gritty details.  We're interested -- and that's enough.  I've pulled out a couple physics experiment books I picked up at a library book sale, thinking we might be interested in exploring it some day.  So, it's some day.  Great!  I love living with curious people.

Check these out:
Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities by Hollihan
Janice VanCleave's Physics for Every Kid by VanCleave

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Looking for Good Stories?

We just finished listening to The Railway Children audiobook by Edith Nesbit.  She and Arthur Ransome (of Swallows and Amazons) have rocketed to the top of my Favorite Authors list.

We returned it (thank you, Linus), and I am missing those three kids!  Linus asked if there was "anover book of da railway chid-wen" -- I think he's missing them, too...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Acorn Caps

I love fall.  I think I love everything about it.  I love that the weather is cool enough to think about really doing outside activities again -- like playing at the park without a careful calculation of the timing, riding bikes, walking farther than across a parking lot to the car.  I love the foods of fall, the colors, the hours spent at the pumpkin patch, the morning and evening chill.  The acorn caps.  Sounds funny, I know!  I'm drawn to them.  I feel compelled to pick them up and collect them.  They're tiny hats to homemade dolls, fairy bowls, caps to felt "acorns."

As Linus and I enjoyed a morning walk to the library I couldn't help but see this one, lying in the middle of the path, open-side up, all by itself, as an empty bowl -- a beggar's bowl.  Whatever is placed in the beggar's bowl is a monk's nourishment for the day.  Sue Bender wrote in one of my favorite books, Everyday Sacred, "Like the monk going out with his empty bowl, I set out to see what each day offered."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Number Patterns

We've been working with patterns in math lately. Our wonderful Mathy Mamas at math group kicked off our year with a hands-on exploration of Fibonacci numbers.

I've seen math referred to as the "science of patterns."  This made more sense to me when I heard myself say to Sela one day as she worked through a math problem, "Look for a pattern.  What do you notice?"  Sadly, "exploring" math is still outside my natural comfort zone as a homeschooling mama, but I came across an article that focused on "pattern-based thinking."  I liked that term.  It's concrete language to help me remember that when children are comfortable looking for patterns and then using those patterns to solve problems, then they can develop understanding of new concepts in the same way.

So, I enjoyed the kids enjoying exploration of this math pattern! They used natural objects, graph paper & colored pencils, dough, pipe cleaners and beads.  We keep saying we're going to make Fibonacci cookies -- why haven't we yet?!

These books are fantastic -- engaging and not overly complicated -- and I highly recommend:
Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by D'Agnese
Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature by Campbell

I listened to an interview with the author of this book and it sounded great -- I hope to read it sometime,
The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution by Devlin

For more activities, either with a nature-based or pencil & paper focus, I came across these two sites worth checking out.

We added a field trip to the bead store.  Can you see why?





Thursday, October 11, 2012

Community Art - WOW

Because I mentioned earlier that we participated in a great community art project, I want to share the results with you!  The original image (top picture) was divided into over a hundred sections. Participants were each given a sheet of paper that had mysterious blobs of color on it (with no idea of what the "big picture" looked like), and we were to reproduce is -- using anything at all.  And although we went traditional with ours -- oil pastels and watercolors -- the variety of materials used was fascinating: wool, magazines, embroidery floss, yarn (all below), glitter, fabric, found objects, shells, freeze-dried green beans (!).  The result was beautiful!

This is our contribution -- we matched up pretty well! 
I'm happy I stretched myself to try it -- that felt good.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

home with heART

"Gold Day" at the museum

We're changing gears here, switching over from "summer" to "fall."  Because we take our time with most everything, it's a gradual process.  In the transition, I'm thinking about how we spent the summer.  And, you know, it was really, really lovely.  I think I always have a vision of what I want from summer.  I don't know that a lot of the pieces of that vision generally come to pass.  And -- that's really okay.  Each summer has a different flavor with different highlights.  But this year, I guess the stars were just aligned.  It was slow-paced (which I craved), but we did some things that were, well, just what our souls needed.  Book-ended by special trips, with camping in the middle, and all that glorious summer-themed reading I mentioned -- we also got art-y!

Our local museum threw open it's doors to families -- with a fascinating variety of entertainment, art & play activities, and featured art to make exploring the galleries just the right size for us.  It became our cherished weekly ritual.  And though I hadn't intended it, it gave our summer routine its' shape.

And, it made me more mindful to pull out (& keep out) art supplies again.  When Sela was small, there was a permanent art & writing area set up.  But as she grew, she outgrew this specific arrangement and things got put away -- because she would just get things out when she wanted them & we'd put them back into baskets, drawers, counters and cupboards when she was done.  And, for the materials that stayed out, it got to be that the legs of her tables and desks grew taller and taller (like the little table in Alice in Wonderland!).  Suddenly I realized that everything was up too high for Little Linus.

So, I'm trying to notice where I can shrink the legs on things again. And create these same fruitful areas for exploration for him -- so they're ready and waiting whenever it strikes him to draw or write or paint or cut or glue or squish or sticker or ...

Q-tips ("tiptoes," he calls them -- I love that he doesn't pause when he can't remember a word exactly, he just lets the closest thing he's heard come out and moves on) are very fun for little ones to paint with.  What else do I have lying around that we can use?  Marbles, toy car wheels, vegetables, packing bubbles, foam trays, the ends of cardboard tubes...

One project led to another -- all summer long.  We were inspired by Art & Max (if you haven't read, you really must), and we made string art one morning, using embroidery floss and a plate of glue.  Splatter painting was the follow-up request...

Sela and I participated in a local art center's community project.  We did our painting together, which was so much fun for me to share with her.  Our panel went up with over one hundred others to complete one large installation.

The kids picked up free canvases from our art store and the returned art was displayed in the store window.  We went by to check out our resident artist's "show" -- what a thrill!  (Linus decided to "only hang [his] at home.")

Do you have a local art scene?  I loved connecting with ours this summer!

This was our art haul from any given Friday,
from car to kitchen.