Friday, November 30, 2012

In the great green room there was a telephone...

...and a red balloon and a picture of the cow jumping over the moon.

If you are a parent of young children, I'm sure you recognize those words.  With all the talk of books and Christmas on my blog this week, this review is fitting.

When Maddie was a toddler, I purchased a copy of Goodnight Moon in a used book store and gave it to her for Christmas. Maddie is, and always has been, a book lover and that book was opened and read many times over the years.

We still have that book on the girls' shared bookshelf and it is now one of Alaine's favorites.  Just yesterday, I found it on the floor where someone had left it after reading.   For Christmas this year, we're giving Alaine a Goodnight Moon Felt Set  from the Cake in the Morn Etsy shop.

Because it is a gift and because I'd rather she not see it until Christmas Day, I asked Maddie (now 8) to try it out first.  We brought it out at nap time, sat together by the lit Christmas tree, and ooh-ed and aah-ed over all the detailed pieces-- the kittens, the mittens, the old lady, the red balloon, and even a bowl full of mush-- all set in their green room.  Maddie arranged the pieces in the room just so. 

We know Alaine is going to enjoy lots of imaginative play with this companion to a well-loved book. 

The Cake in the Morn Etsy shop offers other story book felt sets, too,  from classics such as The Little Engine That Could, Where the Wild Things Are,  and The Velveteen Rabbit as well as other educational felt sets, such as a Human Anatomy Felt Set and Felt TangramsBe sure to order by December 10 for guaranteed Christmas delivery. 

H. Gray is the mom behind the Etsy shop.  She homeschools her four children with an eclectic mix of part-Classical, part-Charlotte Mason, and part-Waldorf philosophies.  She also runs another other Etsy shop of organizational printables,  Coffee in the Morn.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How Do You...Schedule Christmas Events Without Becoming Overwhelmed?

How do you... have fun in December without overscheduling?

In her e-book, Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas, Crystal Paine speaks of taking a few minutes as a family to create a Christmas Bucket List of the events or activities you deem priority during December.  We've been doing this for years but with a twist.  Each year in November, Brian and I have a "business meeting" to discuss the things we want to do as a family in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We do this without the kids.  After we've made plans and penciled in the calendar, we tell the kids and they cheer (literally) as we share what we've planned. 

Our priorities change from year to year. There are things we do every year because they are family tradition and important to all of us.  For example, Maddie and I  have a girls' day out to see a school performance of The Nutcracker  in early December, and as a family we always ride to the ocean to look at Christmas lights on the evening of the last day of school before break. Some things we try because we want the experience, but don't have plans to repeat every year.  These include going Christmas caroling and attending our town's Christmas parade.  Some things we do at home like decorate the tree and watch our favorite Christmas movies...and some we do away from home like have a baking day with my mom and sistersWe pay careful attention to the calendar when we're planning to ensure that we don't plan too much!  No one wants to run ragged at Christmas time!

We also make a conscious choice to guard the last days leading up to Christmas.  Two days before Christmas, we give the house a thorough, all-day, dust-the-crevices, wipe-down-the-refrigerator clean.  Once that is done, we relax and declare Christmas Eve a quiet day at home.  We do not accept invitations or leave the house, but spend the day together playing games and resting before the busy-ness of Christmas Day. 

How do you keep from overscheduling in December?  Let us know in the comments. 

Also, if you have a question for a future "How Do You...?" post, share that in the comments, too, or send me an e-mail! I'd love to hear from you. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Book Giveaway

On Sunday evening, I rolled out my big Christmas Book List with selections for babies, older children, and families.  Today I get to give one of the books away!   

The Christmas Story by Jane Werner Watson

When I was a little girl, this book had a place on our home book shelf.  Then when my own little ones came along, my mom gifted a copy to them.  Does the sight of a  Little Golden book  make you feel all warm inside? What about Eloise Wilkin illustrations?  A mixture of both, this book is sure to make you melt! 

Would you like a copy to read to your children (or grandchildren or friend's children)?  Fill out the Rafflecopter form below for your chance(s) to win.  Giveaway ends Monday, December 3

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Return of the Christmas Book List

Last December, I introduced my Christmas Book List.  The requirements to make the list?

The book must:
  1. be about Christmas.
  2. have good quality writing and illustrations.
Otherwise, the book can be funny or serious... secular or religious... short or long...

I asked for reader suggestions and I continued adding to the list during the Christmas season as we discovered and read new favorites. In fact, I've  continued to slip books onto the list all through this year.  

I'm excited to watch the list keep growing as we read together.  

So, here (or on the button above) to sample my Christmas Book List
and join the conversation! 


Plus, join me Tuesday when I give away a book I remember reading at Christmastime when I was a little girl.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Special

Maybe you're not out there with the Black Friday shoppers today...

...Maybe instead, you are cozy at home with your leftover pumpkin pie...

...or maybe you're like us and you're spending the day setting up the tree and visiting with family.

Either way, you may be interested in a fabulous deal 
you can get right from home!

From now through Tuesday, November 27, What's in the Bible? is offering their What's in the Bible? Old Testament Bundle for $30 off with coupon code 30THANKS!  The best part? The set is already on sale and you can apply this discount on top of that for a fantastic savings.

Our family has fallen in love with this series, not only because it is fun and entertaining, but because we believe it is Biblically sound!  It's simply a bonus that we are all learning to recite the books of the Old Testament in order and that my 6-year-old knows the word Pentateuch. 

With this offer, the DVDs come out to $8.89 you get free shipping!  It's a good time to catch up before the first New Testament DVD is released in 2013. 

While you're at it, you could  pick up the Christmas special, too! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November Hospitality...and a Memory-Keeping Giveaway!

Last year, we had an influx of company in October as we hosted three different families for dinner.  Our October this year was slow in the hospitality realm, but we're more than making up for it in November, as we hosted se7en events (big and small) in the space of thirteen days.  It makes me smile! 

I gave up traditional scrapbooking years ago when I decided blogging was a more time-efficient memory keeper, but often I want a way to mark the memories with a special pop of visual creativity. Enter digital scrapbooking

  • On Wednesday (the 7th), we invited Brian's mom for a soup dinner (where I totally neglected to take any photos). 

  • Then it was a sleepover on Thursday night.

  • Next came stromboli with Papa on Friday.

  • On Sunday, we had more company for pumpkin bread and coconut pound cake, coffee and conversation.

  •  We took a few days break and then had a friend for pumpkin pie and Survivor on Wednesday (the 14th).

  • Saturday night was our annual Thanksgiving get together with Brian's family.  Last year, all twenty of us were present.  This year, sickness and other obligations dwindled our number to eleven.

  • And just tonight, we welcomed our friends Allyson and Tim and their family into our home.  We shared the cooking duties for a delicious supper of pizza, salad, and slab blueberry pie. 

When I was offered the chance to review My Memories Suite, I wondered, Do I really want to take the time to learn something new?  Thankfully, the process was quick and painless.  The fun part is, I learned enough in the beginning to successfully use the software, but every time I use it, I discover something new.  

My Memories Suite is not only for the cutesy scrapbooker-type either. It is useful for any blogger. My first project was updating my "get acquainted" page.   Then I designed a super-quick button for the bottom of my Baking With Kids post to add a bold streak of color to my snickerdoodles photo.  

Would you like to win a copy of My Memories Suite digital software?  Fill out the Rafflecopter from below to enter. Giveaway runs now through Friday, November 30. 

***The giveaway is now closed, but the winner was LaurenCongratulations!***

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Monday, November 19, 2012


Do you prefer paper or screen?  I'm referring to reading, of course.  My husband and I met in high school when we both worked for the public library so libraries make me feel all sentimental and cozy.

But... I was given a Kindle for Mother's Day and it didn't take me long to become a convert.  I still prefer my paper books, but I love my e-books, too!  The problem is, I'm a bibliophile that's also cheap, and it's a hard concept to pay for a book that I can't put on my shelf or loan to my sister when I'm done!  Except for one item, every single e-book on my Kindle I got for free.   

  is a brand new website, created with the purpose of
"rescuing your wallet from overpriced ebooks."

Featuring discounted and free e-books and PDFs, I will be a frequent visitor of this site.

Baking With Kids

You know, even though I want my children to learn to cook, and even though I love that they want to learn, most of the time I still would rather do it myself.  I'm faster alone and I'm a lot tidier, too.  Having little ones join me in the kitchen is one way to make me totter on the brink of losing my cool.  In other words, I do usually maintain my sanity, but it's not always easy. 

Here are a few of the techniques I employ to make sure that we all enjoy our kitchen time together: 

  • Slow down!  I encourage the kids help when I'm not needing dinner on the table in 20 minutes.  When we have the luxury of time, I am more open to showing them how to crack an egg or measure the oats. 

  • Give the child(ren) a specific job.  For example, I'll mix the dough myself, but ask a child to cut out the biscuits and put them on the pan.  Or...ask a child to man the mixer while I add ingredients.  Or...have someone  set the oven timer after I put the chicken in the oven.

  • Let the child take charge of a box mix recipe.  If I'm cooking or baking alone, I almost always cook from scratch, but I keep a few box mixes in the house for the kids.  The instructions are simple and they're hard to mess up!  

  • And sometimes I simply say, "No, I don't need help right now, but I'll let you lick the beater (or have a bite of dough) when I'm done. No one ever complains about that!


As a special week-of-Thanksgiving treat, I'm sharing one of our family's favorite autumn cookie recipe.  I bet they would make good Christmas cookies, too!

1½ cups sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
2¾  cups flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. cream of tartar
½ t. salt

additional ¼ cup sugar
3 T cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream 1½ cups sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla, and beat well.  Add dry ingredients and blend well.  Roll ½ teaspoonfuls of dough in mixture of additional sugar and cinnamon.  Space balls 1 inch apart on cookie sheets.  Bake 8-10 minutes. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How Do You... Make Lesson Plans?

How do you plan our your homeschool work (specifically any forms or such that make it easy to map out activities/work)?
  Do you use a lesson plan book, print out pages from a website, make your own tables, or simply use notebook paper?     
submitted by Allyson

I don't do extensive lesson planning for one primary reason.  I know that I would over-plan and then be discouraged if we didn't do everything on my list.     I have goals for the year like:
  • Work through this  math book 
  • Learn about U.S. geography with this book list or workbook
  • Memorize 3 poems
Then we set out to meet those goals.  I have a basic schedule written out on an index card (that's how basic it is!) that shows our daily flow of subjects. Otherwise, I don't make a lot of specific plans. I mainly plan in my head so that I don't feel like I'm a slave to a list.  

If we finish a goal early (for example, last year, Owen finished his math book several months before the school year was over), we might start something new. If we don't meet a goal (for example, our study of American history took much longer than I expected), we take a break and keep plugging away the next year.

If I have things that I feel are important to get done in a certain time frame, I will jot down notes on a piece of notebook paper. At the end of the year last year, I did this a lot. I really wanted Gavin to finish his math book so I counted out how much he would have to do each day and assigned him those pages. Maddie's handwriting was divided into 5-day weeks, but since she only did handwriting three days a week, I planned a way for her to avoid ending the year in the middle of a lesson. 

I choose notebook paper so I can freely erase and cross out and throw away when we are done.  I concentrate the most on recording what we've already completed, rather than making plans for what we still need to do.

How do you make lesson plans?  Let us know in the comments. 

Also, if you have a question for a future "How Do You...?" post, share that in the comments, too, or send me an e-mail! I'd love to hear from you. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Dress Re-do For Grown-Ups

While Alaine happily styles her way through autumn with her re-made dress, I am sporting a re-do of my own. 

I'm not overly sentimental about clothing.  When it goes out of style or I can't wear it anymore, I'm usually fine with bagging it up and carting it away to the Goodwill.  Sometimes, my frugal side will take over and I'll tuck a used item into my fabric stash to be used later, but that's a different story. 

Recently, though, I came across a sundress in my closet that I hadn't worn in years.  I first wore it on our honeymoon, in the early months of our marriage, and the very beginning of my pregnancy with Gavin.  It had too many happy memories attached to let it go without a little heart tugging. 

me with my mom and sisters: wearing the dress on Easter Sunday 2002

Instead of tossing it out, I made a cut down both sides, saving the front panel.  I also cut a few inches off the botton, then I hemmed the frayed edges. I snipped the shoulder straps,  joining them to go around my neck, and added ties for my waist.

Now instead of a sundress, I have a memory-filled apron...just in time for the holiday baking season! 

Linking to...


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas

It's about this time every year that I get slightly panicky about all that I need to do between now and Christmas. And while I love the Christmas season, with all its smells and sounds and experiences, I do sometimes wish I could calm my brain, get down to basics,  and make it all a bit simpler.  This year, I'm going to take a few minutes to read the new e-book by Crystal Paine, Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas From now through Thursday, November 15th, you can snag it on Amazon for only $0.99 so maybe you can read it, too. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Number Gobbling Busy Bag (with free PDF download!)

Sharks and boys seem to go together.  That's what makes this busy bag so perfect for Benjamin, my 4-year-old who dislikes the idea of sitting down to do school, but loves the idea of an activity or game! 

The Number Gobbling Busy Bag teaches counting and number recognition and introduces preschoolers to the concepts of 'greater than' and 'less than' with a fun, hands-on game. 

Younger children count the colorful stars on each card and choose a shark to eat the larger amount. 

Older children switch to cards with written numerals and choose a shark to eat the larger number. 


Would you like to print one for your preschooler?
Click here for your FREE download!

Busy bags are an excellent way to engage toddlers and preschoolers while the older children are doing schoolwork or homework.  They are also a way to occupy children who need to be quiet during church or at the doctor's office.  I am gradually introducing new busy bags into our morning school time with my 2-year-old and 4-year old. 

Would you be interested in hearing  about some of our other busy bags? 

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