Sunday, November 30, 2008

The First Day of Advent

Today is the first day of Advent, so I have hung up our version of an advent calendar. Ours doesn't start counting down the days until December 7th, because we decided that we didn't want Blaze's birthday, on December 6th, to be completely overshadowed by Christmas.

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We will be making Christmas decorations between now and Blaze's birthday, but the Advent calendar is the only thing we are putting up now.

We are going to do all handmade ornaments for the tree this year.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What We Did for the Winter Solstice Last Year

A breakfast to celebrate the return of the sun:

Sunny Eggs

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F.


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Starting with small flour tortillas, fold them in half and cut triangles out of the edges.

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Flatten out the tortillas, lay them out on a baking sheet, and sprinkle them with shredded cheese

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Bake about 10 minutes until cheese is melted and tortilla points are crispy. While the tortillas are toasting, fry a sunny-side-up egg for each person. When the tortillas are done, place a cooked egg in the center of each one and serve.

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After Dark:

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Pinatas of the Past

Someone yesterday was asking what to do to celebrate the coming Solstice with a group of children. It got me reminiscing about our Solstice pinatas when the girls were little. Every year we would make our own pinata by covering a balloon, or more than one balloon, with newspaper, flour and water paste, and colored tissue paper. Each year the design was different.
If we were in a place where we could have a fire, the scraps of the pinata would be gathered up after it was broken on the Winter Solstice, to start a bonfire as soon as it started getting dark. Paper mache burns very well.

So, since I'm feeling nostalgic for the days when I had two little girls who could take turns hitting a pinata (with Blaze being the only little one around the house now, we don't do pinatas very often), I have gotten into the old photographs to show some of the pinatas we made in the past.


1994 was the earliest pinata making.
Ula and Nika (Ages 5 years old and 3 years old) working on the Sun shaped Pinata
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1995's pinata was a snowman made using 2 balloons:

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The following year we did a crescent moon:

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Even the grown-ups would get a turn, because our pinatas were usually stronger than they really needed to be and it would take extra strength to break them.
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Then there would be the scramble for prizes
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The Christmas Ornament Pinata was the last one we made ourselves.
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Here we go a-Wassailing

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Wassail

8 Cups of apple cider
2 Cups of Orange juice
3 Tablespoons of lemon juice
1/4 Cup of honey
3 whole cinnamon sticks
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 organic orange, studded with whole cloves, and sliced

Mix all the ingredients together in a crock pot. Set the pot to the high setting until the drink is hot and then turn down the heat to maintain the temperature without over cooking.


Ladle into mugs.
Use the clove studded orange slices as a festive garnish for each cup.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

The season of giving has begun

I just found this wonderful website today and signed up to be part of their Christmas toy drop.

Each particpant makes a toy and then leaves it in a public place to be found by a child and taken home. The plan is to do a world wide toy drop the weekend before Christmas.


http://thetoysociety.blogspot.com/


Another nice project is going on at the new website Mama-to-Mama. Hand made caps and blankets are being collected for newborn babies in Haiti. A pattern is provided for making newborn caps out of old T-shirts. It's really a very clever way of recycling something you don't wear anymore or your children have outgrown, and using it to help someone in need.


http://www.soulemama.com/mama_to_mama/

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving! Let the Cooking Begin!

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In past years DH and I have had this wonderful tradition of buying new Thanksgiving issues of some of our favorite food magazines. We would then spend a day with a pile of food magazines spread out around us on the bed, deciding what exciting new recipes we wanted to try. This year, however, we didn't get to do that, so we are just making some of our old favorites.

Here is DH's favorite cranberry sauce:

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Mulled Cranberry Sause


1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries

1 1/2 Cups red wine

1 1/4 Cups dark brown sugar

1/3 Cup minced crystallized ginger

1 Tablespoon grated orange peel

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


Place all the ingredients in large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and cook about 15 minutes, until the cranberries have broken down and the sauce has thickened. Transfer the sauce into a bowl and chill.



This is another of DH's favorites. It's not a sweet pudding, it's more like a savory casserole.

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Corn Pudding


2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons chopped red bell pepper

1 medium onion, chopped

3 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/4 Cup milk

2 cans of cream-styled corn


Place butter, bell pepper, and onion in a 1 1/2-quart glass dish. Microwave for 2 minutes on high power. Stir. Add flour and stir in well. Add all the other ingredients and stir well.
Bake in a conventional oven for 30 minutes, or until set, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.



A friend from Virginia gave me this recipe years ago, because she said Northerners like me don't know how to make good pecan pie.

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Southern Pecan Pie


1/2 Cup sugar

1/4 Cup softened butter

1 Cup dark corn syrup

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 Cup pecan halves


Cream butter and sugar together. Add corn syrup and mix well. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Stir in pecans. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.



And the cooking continues...

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Blaze breaking up bread for stuffing.

The Annual Handturkey

We lost power again for a little while this afternoon, just as I was getting ready to iron our Thanksgiving table cloth, but it's fine now.
Every year since Blaze was 2, we have had him make a "hand turkey" on the white table cloth that we use for Thanksgiving dinner, so today we added the 2008 hand turkey.

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Lights Out

When we were reading On the Banks of Plum Creek several days ago, Blaze had asked what a slate was, so the last time I was at the craft store I bought one. Yesterday was our first time using it for math and it worked our really well. The novelty value had a lot to do with that, but it also made it easier for Blaze to do subtraction by making tiny dots with the chalk to represent the original number and then using his finger to erase the number of dots being taken away.

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Last night we had an unintentional lesson in what it would be like to live in pioneer days. Our power went out.
DH and I had gone out to the grocery store, and to buy fast food for last night's dinner (because it was around 7:30 by the time we were headed home from the store). Since we hadn't bought anything that needed to go into the freezer, we decided to eat dinner first before unloading the car.
When we set our bags from the hamburger place down, we noticed what they said and had to take this picture:

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As soon as I finished eating, I headed out to get some of the grocery bags from the car, but I had only gone halfway to the parking lot when all the lights went out. We live in a fairly large apartment complex with a well lit parking area and a lit basketball court and volleyball court, so no lights at all was pretty dramatic.
We were without electricity for for about an hour and a half. DH, Blaze, and I went out walking around to see what was going on and we stopped for a few minutes to admire the stars, which were so much brighter without the street lights. We passed a couple men talking about what stars they had been able to see before the power outage and how clear others were now.
An alarm was going off at the office/laundry room building, but nothing seemed to be really wrong, so we turned around and headed home, but that was when the sirens started. Police cars and three fire trucks descended on the University Family Housing Complex. The alarm must have called them, but they drove around in a really confused way, with sirens blazing and lights flashing. Two of the fire trucks and an emergency van ended up at the office, so we walked back up there to see what was going on.

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There were a lot of people milling about by that time, but nobody knew what was going on.
We finally came home, got Blaze ready for bed and I started reading him his bedtime story by candlelight and flashlight, when the power came back on.
The electricity went out again for a short time while I was getting ready for bed, but it's working fine now and we still have no idea what caused it to go out in the first place.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A pig on a sled/ what we are reading this week

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The second part of the Little House on the Prairie bendy doll swap that I'm involved in, is making accessories to go with the dolls. I have always liked the illustration from the story Pa tells in Little House in the Big Woods, about he and his brothers sneaking off one Sunday to go sledding and running into a pig on the way down hill. The pig is sitting in his brother's lap on the sled in the picture, so I made a pink felt pig to sit on a sled that I found in the holiday craft section at Micheal's and painted.

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We are very close to being done with the third book in the Little House series, On the Banks of Plum Creek. I've been reading two chapters a night aloud as a bedtime story, so I figure we'll be done by tomorrow night.

We'll also be reading books about the Pilgrims this week:

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And some fun Thanksgiving books:

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Cranberry Thanksgiving has the best cranberry bread recipe printed on the back cover!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Things Blaze is Thankful for

The theme of this week's "Unplugged Challenge" was "THANKFUL", so we used the word "thankful" to make a poster with an acrostic poem of the things Blaze is thankful for. An acrostic poem uses each letter from the word described by the poem to start a word or line of the poem.
I wrote the word thankful on a piece of plain white watercolor paper and then Blaze brainstormed things he was thankful for that started with those letters. For the sake of correct spelling, I wrote the words out on a piece of scrap paper and he copied them onto the poster. Then we mounted the white paper on a large piece of construction paper and Blaze decorated it with watercolor paints and pressed Fall leaves.

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In case the words are not all that clear in the picture, it says:

Trees
Hot Chocolate
Apples
Night sky
Kayla
Family
Understanding
Lake Alice

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Brunch

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Potato Pancakes

1 large red potato cut into chunks, but with the skin still on
1 yellow onion cut in quarters
1 egg
2 Tablespoons unbleached white flour
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying

Place potato, onion, and egg in a food processor and blend until completely liquefied. Add flour, salt, and pepper and turn the food processor back on until well blended. Heat oil in frying pan and then fry the pancakes until they are brown on each side.

For our family of 5, I double the recipe

Mail to the Chief

Handwriting Without Tears, the handwriting program recommended by Blaze's occupational therapist, is sponsoring a chance for children to write to the new president of the United States. They are collecting handwritten letters of advise for President Obama, written by children in kindergarten through fourth grade, which will be hand-delivered to the White House on January 23rd.

For more information, check out their website:

http://www.hwtears.com/handwritingday




I also just found a free download of a 3-D paper model of the Jamestown settlement.

http://www.homeschoolinthewoods.com/HTTA/promo/Jamestown-Replica.htm


We will probably be using this in a couple weeks. We're just now introducing European settlers into our American History lessons. Because Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday, we will be focusing on the Pilgrims this week. I still have several books about the pilgrims from when the girls were little and we took them to Plymouth Plantation.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hay!

I saw this poem posted on another blog yesterday and thought it was perfect for this time of year:


"Seeds and flowers have gone to sleep,
You and I the watch will keep,
Watch over seeds in Winter night,
Till they will rise to see the light." ~ M. Meyerkort, Autumn by Wynstones Press


Being in one of the "warmer" parts of the country, we still have some plants growing in our garden. The temperatures have been a little below freezing the past couple nights,though.

This is what has become of the banana trees that grow in a student garden plot near our garden.

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Yesterday, DH brought home a bale of hay, and Blaze and I used it to protect the remaining plants.

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Blaze really liked the concept that we were tucking the plants in with a blanket of hay so they would stay warm through the night.
He was such an enthusiastic helper, that as soon as it warms up, I may have to go out and make sure there is some sunlight reaching the plant leaves. When he was done covering the cauliflower plants, I couldn't see them at all.

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There was leftover hay, so Blaze used some of it to make a nest inside his tepee and he had a great time playing with it.

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Ready to hibernate for the winter:

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Crafty Crow