Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fa la la la la!

Wow...I can't believe that Christmas is right around the corner!

The kids got an early Christmas package from Aunt Nell last week.  I told my sister not to get them anything, but...she's an Auntie, what can I expect?!  I love the look on William's face.  Once he opened the package and saw what was inside...he couldn't believe it.  He had specifically asked for a flashlight for Christmas.  And lo and behold...a flashlight comes in the mail!

Along with stickers, their absolute favorite!  (Yes, I know Abby's bow doesn't match her outfit, but it doesn't matter.  It's her current fav, the "Christmas tree bow", from her friend Zoe.  Thanks Kim!) 

We decorated Christmas cookies.  This was Abby's first time indulging in the colored frosting and sprinkles and I think she enjoyed every second of it! 

I did need to tell William that he didn't have to be so stingy with his application of frosting.  No frosting means very little stickage of sprinkles. 

 Making sure everything tastes alright. I didn't need to tell her to go heavier on the frosting!

 We also made a "gingerbread" house.  Aunt Joanie got me this cake pan a couple of years ago (or last year?) that has made gingerbread house-making much easier!  I made a spice cake (which unfortunately cracked like crazy!) and the kids decorated it. 

I asked John to run to the store for me to pick up gumdrops for the house, and he came back with literally every kind of candy Stater Bros. had to offer.  The kids were seriously impressed with all the candy.  I did have to put my foot down about not putting the Jr. Mints on the house.  Seriously?  Waste good Jr. Mints on a fake gingerbread house?  I think not. 

This pictures just cracks me up!  We put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving, but I only recently picked up candy canes.  I gave the box to the kids and told them to place the canes all over.  I love how they lined the entire bottom portion of the tree with them!

Last year I was given a cardboard Christmas tree (this year we got a huge house) and now finally this year we are getting around to decorating it. 

I know these next pictures aren't really "fa la la-ish" but I have to show them.  For Thanksgiving we headed south to spend the day with family.  John's sister Deb made the most incredible dinner (must get her stuffing recipe!) and hand-painted turkey cookies for the kids.  The next day when they asked to eat them I almost told them no! 

Our feast!  It was so nice to take the day off from cooking and simply enjoy the day.  Much thanks to the many hands that prepared our wonderful dinner!

I think if they had decided to simply serve only black olives Abby would have been completely fine with that!  She's my olive eater for sure!  William will eat them, too, but Abby is fierce competition!

So Proud

I have so much to blog about...hopefully I'll get around to it soon.  This is just a busy time right now for me.  However, today was a special day for my boy that I must post some pictures! 

Every Thursday he goes to a gymnastics class.  It cuts right into nap that I almost didn't sign him up, but Abby seems to have no problem falling asleep a bit later than normal, so we have continued to go.  I actually love going.  It's a homeschool gym class, and the gym has professional equipment, which I love.  He's not really allowed to use much of it yet, since he's only in the preschool class, but the older kids are doing some amazing things on the uneven bars and balancing beams. 

Since the picture is so blurry I should mention that my boy is the one in the orange.  There are only five, sometimes six kids in his class.  With such a small class they get a lot of 1:1 time with the coach. 

Today was special since it is the last class before Christmas break.  All the kids received a gold medal for participating, along with a few precious seconds on the podium so they could take a bow.

I didn't tell William ahead of time that he was going to be getting a medal, so this came as a complete surprise to him.  I wasn't sure if he would even get up there, with so many kids and parents watching, but yup!  When his name was called he immediately sprang to his feet and got right up on that podium!

And he had no problem giving his salute, either!  I'll probably mention that next time he should leave his socks with me.

The kid was so excited to get this small token!  Before going in his room for quiet time he put it around the stair railing "to keep it safe until Daddy comes home."

We couldn't leave until Abby was able to take her turn on the blue square thing.  She loves watching William "do gym", but can't wait until she turns three, when she'll be able to be in the preschool class! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I am an Artist

I can't really say that we did a whole lot with this book, although I did have great plans for it.  I plan on getting to the activities soon, but since these pictures will soon be outdated, I thought I'd post what we've done so far.  The book is about seeing art in nature. 

The star in an apple.  This was from a page in the book.  (And I promise you we don't live in a perpetually dark house.  There just isn't enough lighting to make these pictures bright enough.  Augh!)

We went on a nature walk.  We grabbed the red wagon, a bin from the house, and went out to see what kinds of "art" we could find. 
We walked all around our neighborhood, with William frequently asking if "this was nature" and "Can I put it in the nature bin?"   

When we got home we went to the backyard and took everything out of the bin and examined the items closer.  We talked about texture, size, color, etc. 

In the book there was "art" in the clouds.  I thought it would be fun to paint with cotton balls.  Again, this was one of those "good in theory" ideas, bad in practice.  The cotton ball fell apart in the paint and left behind cotton pieces. 

So we eventually gave up on that idea and switched to brushes and painting our clouds on black paper.  Worked like a charm! 

We'll be doing more with this book and the ideas soon. 

The House

The kids love playing House.  They meticulously set the table, complete with napkins and saucers, then they serve hotdogs and mac 'n cheese - straight from the grill, of course.  smile  I've been wanting to get them a play house for the patio for some time now, but that just hasn't happened.  So when I was contacted by Cascades about receiving a playhouse, I jumped all over it!  Last year they sent me a Christmas tree made out of recycled cardboard, which has been a ton of fun to decorate (we are decorating it more this year!) so I was familiar with the company and their products.  The Christmas tree is very sturdy, so I was excited to get the playhouse.  Well, Cascades delivered on their promise of a playhouse, and the kids are SO enjoying it. 

John put it together in no time at all.  It has since been affectionately dubbed "The Gingerbread House".  I love it!

William was too busy setting things up to even look out the window for a picture.  But I really love this thing.  It has a front door AND a back door, and comes complete with mailbox and skylights (great for extra ventilation, if you know what I mean!).  We haven't decorated the house yet probably because they don't realize that that is even an option.  I plan to keep it that way for awhile.  So if you're looking for a fun house for your kids stop by to Cascades and pick one up!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ask Mr. Bear

It's been awhile, I know.  We've been doing a lot of reading, but our activities have been focused on fall and Thanksgiving rather than doing a ton of activities relating to Before Five in a Row.  However last week we did row Ask Mr. Bear.  
The book is about Danny, who asks the farm animals for ideas on what to give his mom for her birthday.  He ultimately asks Mr. Bear, who gives him the perfect idea!  William had to sequence the book with the story strips.  If you look closely you'll see his little tongue sticking out!  Too cute!
He's working on his letter writing.  He's got a long way to go, but as you can see, he's mastered his name!  Yah!
 He sorted words out according to their ending sounds.

 This classification activity was easy but fun.  Really, anytime glue can be brought out and used is an occasion for smiling.

These sheets were fun to incorporate this week.  I'm not sure why I never thought to use the Scrabble tiles before, but they worked perfectly for building the vocabulary words.  I did not have him to the "write" portion of the sheet.

Here he had to circle the correct beginning sound of the picture.  This is too easy for him, but he loves doing them anyway.

We are almost finished with all the books in the Before Five in a Row curriculum.  We will be doing I Am An Artist this week and maybe next, and then we are finished.  I did just place my order for all the books in the Five in a Row series, so I'm excited to get started on those.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? is a fun book with lots of rhymes and poems.

Both kids colored a cover page for our lapbook binder.

We made a "fun" paper bear, with interchangeable clothes.  This seemed like a good idea at the time, however a paper bear, with paper tabs that hold the clothes on, and a four year old are not good ideas.  The clothes didn't stay on well and he was thoroughly annoyed at the bear pretty much every time I took him out. 
We talked about eating healthy, just like Jesse Bear does in the book.

We played a fun rhyming words game.

Since it is fall, I found some fun fall activities and printed them out.  He never tires of dot paint.
We labeled the parts of a pumpkin.  Who knew a pumpkin had a brain?

After nap time the kids went outside to play.

This was actually borderline science!  He had to describe the pumpkin: how it felt, how it looked, did it smell? etc. and then circle the correct answers.

William has his numbers down!  (Finally!)  Here he had to count the number of pumpkins and circle the correct number.

More pre-writing, which is quite simple for him, but he loves doing these sheets.  When he's finished with them he usually grabs his scissors and cuts along the lines.

Call me slow, but I just figured out that we can use the Scrabble tiles for this activity, instead of me tediously cutting out little squares of lettered paper!  Yah me!

I don't do a lot of patterns with William (I have no idea why not) but this week we did a lot of them.  He gets the whole idea of patterns, but was a little confused as to why I would want to put colored leaves in a line in the first place.

And that's a wrap for this week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Countertop Yogurt

We eat a lot of yogurt around here.  That and the fact that yogurt is loaded with probiotics is what prompted me to do a little research into making my own.  I figured if I could make my own I could determine what ingredients went into it, how long to culture it (a longer culture decreases the lactose), and control the cost.  All good things in my book.

I was determined not to have to buy another kitchen gadget.  I have many of them, but I refuse to buy uni-task items, such as a yogurt maker.  I found out that with a little practice I could make counter top yogurt in a crock pot.  It it so easy!  All you need is milk and bacteria.  I got my initial start-up bacteria from a store-bought culture, but you can also use plain ol' yogurt from the store. 

I heat my milk (about a half gallon) in my crock for several hours, until the temp is about 180.  This will sterilize the milk.  Then cool it back down so that you can hold your finger in the crock for 10 seconds without getting burned.  (About 90-110 degrees for a good incubation temp.)  Then stir in one cup of plain yogurt (I always save a cup of my original batch to "start" the next batch).  Put a lid on the crock and wrap in a towel.  It's a good idea to keep it free of cold drafts, as you want the milk to cool down slowly.  Incubate between four and 24 hours.  The longer the incubation period, the less lactose there will be (the bacteria consume the lactose).  And, well...that's it.  I store my yogurt in glass canning jars, and always use plastic or wood utensils when scooping out the yogurt.  Maybe it's an old wives' tale, but they say with any live culture not to put it in contact with metal, as metal is reactive and the culture might get damaged. 

The yogurt is quite good plain, but I usually have a batch of homemade granola ready to be sprinkled on the top.  (Store-bought granola is too pricey for me!) 

This is a half gallon of yogurt.  I make this amount twice a week so...yes, we eat roughly a gallon of yogurt a week.  Wow...

I've used my yogurt in all sorts of ways...I sub it in recipes that call for buttermilk (did you know you can make this yourself, too??), use it as sour cream, sub it for evaporated milk, put it in smoothies...the list goes on!  Basically, though...we just eat it.  The kids started out not liking it one bit.  I had bought the sugar-loaded yogurt for way too long and that was what they were used to.  However, little by little they have learned to really like it.  They are asking for it all the time now (but it better have that yummy granola on it!)

Monday, October 24, 2011

And we have rise!

I think I just might have accomplished a personal goal.  It's not a lofty goal, but since it has proven quite difficult for me, the fact that I DID IT the other day gives occasion for celebration.  Here, let me show you.

See?  See?  I was able to get a sourdough loaf of bread to rise!  Yes, I know that you are going to have to take my word that this loaf is an actual sourdough loaf, but trust me.  This is sourdough baby.  100% of this rise was created from a sourdough starter that I have babied for quite some time now.  Up until this point I had only created pancakes, crepes, and cheddar crackers.   But today!  Oh today was the day!  I have to say that it was quite good, too.  I made some cream of cauliflower soup and the bread made for a very yummy side dish.

The only thing that I have to figure out is how to decrease the first rise time.  My initial rise took almost eight hours.  I don't really have eight hours to wait, but if that is what it takes to have a perfectly soaked wheat bread that has soured...I'm all over it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Homemade Cheddar Sourdough Crackers

Like I said, I'm trying to control what my family eats so that we eat healthier.  To do that requires more homemade items.  Another snack that quickly shoves the ubiquitous bag of goldfish out of my shopping cart is cheddar sourdough crackers.  Oh boy.  These babies are so good. 

I have to admit, though, that without a large food processor they were a bit tedious to make.  I tried my Kitchen Aid, my VitaMix, and my small food processor.  None of them were a home run when it came to making these crackers, but I was able to use my small food processor, putting small portions of the dough through at a time. 

Last week a made a batch of whole wheat crackers.  Wow.  Mega gross.  Even the kids, who normally eat anything labeled "snack", really didn't eat many of them.  I upped the ante with the whole wheat crackers, though, and made a hummus dip.  Yes, I soaked the beans and everything.  I'm not sure what I did wrong but with the gross wheat crackers and boring hummus...I think I'll stay with these cheddar crackers!