Friday, December 24, 2010
We've been getting into the spirit of the holidays around here, baking, and gifting, and visiting with family. This has been a difficult year for our family as we have lost many people and the holidays only seem to reinforce this. It's difficult to ignore their absence or the hole it is created in our lives, but it also is impossible not to feel the joy of Christmas when I see my kids' excited faces. They make it magical!
The kids made some delicious cookies and also a beautiful fleece tie blanket for their nana last night. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Happy Holidays!
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Hello December! I have been submerged in holiday craziness up to my neck the past two weeks so haven't had much time to post. We have seen the Nutcracker, been to our niece's fabulous middle-school performance of 'Fiddler on the Roof' (she was the best Tzeitel ever!), rehearsed for our church pageant in which J will play the very important role of 'the donkey', been to J's Suzuki violin holiday recital, and decorated our house with all manner of holiday loveliness. We've been baking and shopping and online shopping and shopping some more. In the midst of all this holiday cheer we've managed to keep up with our regular learning schedule, and thank goodness everyone is healthy. Knock on wood.
Last week we spent an afternoon at the Museum of Science. It was the most enjoyable, relaxing field trip we have taken as a family yet. The Museum was quiet and now that K is almost 3 we were able to see many of the exhibits without taking time out for diaper changes, nursing, snacks, or general toddler craziness. We saw the reptile exhibit, built with K'Nex, made enormous bubbles, saw a presentation on skunks, dressed up as bees and birds and built our own family nest, and of course spent time seeing the dinosaurs. K was in heaven, dinosaurs being her favorite thing ever. They can't wait to go back.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
We have had a rough week here in the GB household. J has been sick now for a week with a terrible cold and cough that keeps her up most of the night. K has recovered from a 24 hour stomach bug only to catch J's cold. Hubby and I are fully exhausted after staying up most nights with the girls, and only D seems his usually bouncy, cheerful self. At least one of us is healthy and well-rested.
Despite her cold, J has been learning about birds the past few weeks. We've talked and read about how they fly and find their way during migration, what they eat and how they care for their babies. I am always amazed by the knowledge of animals that my children have, but especially of birds. They know the names of so many different birds, I can't keep up with them. Both D and J love to draw birds and even K will come running to tell me there is a downy woodpecker or northern cardinal at the birdfeeder. D can often be found pouring over his audubon field guide to birds of North America, and John James Audubon is one of his personal heroes.
This week we matched different feathers to a picture of the bird they belong to. I ordered the feather kit from http://nature-watch.com/. I love their nature science materials and we have used many of their kits over the years. Last year when we learned about owls I brought out the owl dissection pellets. D took one look and the mass of fur and bones that had been regurgitated by an owl and yelled "awesome" while J scrunched up her nose in disgust and said, "I am not touching that". I'm glad the feather kit was greeted with greater enthusiasm.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I love Modge Podge. I can't knit, sew, crochet, embroider, paint, or draw particularly well, but give me a can of gloopy, gooey glue and I am all over it. I saw this beautiful craft posted first on facebook (thanks Erica!) and decided it was right up our alley. You can find all the details at
I decided to make ours using fall colors to decorate our mantle for Thanksgiving. I love the way they came out, and my three did them all on their own (aside from K who needed help arranging her leaves). We used fabric remnants and inexpensive fabric squares that I bought at a fabric store, and modge-podged them to canvas. I initially thought I would cover the canvas with darker fabric, but liked the contrast of the bright leaves on the white canvas so didn't end up covering it after all. I did all the tracing and cutting. The kids did all the modge-podging. I love that each tree is unique and look forward to decorating our mantle with their trees for years to come. Happy Fall!
Saturday, November 13, 2010
The kids made some paper mache fiesta masks to wrap up our study of South America. This was a fun, messy project that they enjoyed very much - the mixing, smearing, and painting were all very toddler-friendly and K jumped right in. J was a bit grossed out by the slimy paper mache feeling and refused to touch it, but she was able to use a paint stick to spread hers around. D tried to make his mask as ridiculous looking as possible and I love how it turned out. They are a colorful addition to our school/play room!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I had hoped to post this by Halloween, but we had a whirlwind of a weekend so I am a bit late, which seems to be my m.o lately, but oh well. We've been baking all sorts of yummy autumn-inspired foods the past few weeks, including our family favs, pumpkin bread, sweet potato and mushroom lasagne, and apple crisp. For Halloween we decided to bake another of our all-time favorites, with a slight twist. I've been a vegetarian for more than twenty years, and have tried to go vegan several times with less than stellar results. But the more I read and learn about the dairy industry, the less compelled I feel to eat their products. So I decided that this time around I would give up dairy in small increments, and really commit myself to finding substitutes that I can fully enjoy, especially in baking, because I truly believe that life is too short to live without chocolate chip cookies and macaroni and cheese! Finding yummy alternatives to cheese and baked goods has been a challenge for me in the past, but I'm finding that I'm having greater success this time around. There is so much information out there on the blogosphere now, which I never had in my past vegan endeavours.
My favorite vegan blog thus far is veganyumyum.com. Her recipes are delicious, fun, and quirky, but not so weird that I have to go on a specialty-store scavenger hunt to find the ingredients. She has a post for vegan gingerbread cake with "cream cheese" frosting, but I decided to go with my favorite gingerbread recipe and make some vegan adjustments. It is definitely inspired by vegan yum yum's recipe, however. I used her recipe for vegan cream cheese frosting and it was delicious. I definitely recommend checking out her blog for tasty veg-inspired recipes.
Here is the recipe for vegan gingerbread cake, adapted from "Deceptively Delicious"
Earth Balance vegan margarine
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. allspice
1/4 t. salt
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 Ener-G egg replacer, pre-mixed
1 cup pureed carrot (I'm not going to even suggest that I steamed and pureed my own carrots. I used jarred baby food, organic, of course)
1/2 cup plain soy yogurt
1/4 cup molasses
2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. grated orange zest (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8x8 baking dishes with Earth Balance margarine and line the bottom with parchment paper. Flour the pans.
Mix the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside
In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar, oil, and pre-mixed egg replacer until smooth. Beat in the carrot puree, soy yogurt, molasses, vanilla, and optional orange zest. Add the flour mixture and mix until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the top. bake for 25 - 30 minutes. Once cool, frost one cake with vegan cream cheese frosting, and stack the other cake on top, then frost the top of the other cake. You can keep it whole or cut it into small squares.
Here is the recipe for vegan cream cheese frosting from veganyumyum.com:
8oz. tofutti cream cheese
1/4 Earth Balance margarine
1 lb. confectioners sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Beat all the ingredients with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Enjoy!
Monday, October 25, 2010
D is learning about physical science this year and we decided to begin our year with simple machines. He decided to start with some LEGO education building kits, being the LEGO enthusiast that he is. He built a tractor to demonstrate how wheels and axels work, and a crane to learn about pulleys. In our homeschooling group we've been exploring bridge designs and D's class built a truss bridge. At home we've been using the book 'The New Way Things Work' by David Macaulay and Steven Caney's 'The Ultimate Building Book' to read more about simple machines. If you haven't seen either of these books, they are definitely worth checking out of your local library. They are awesome!
Monday, October 18, 2010
Ah, Kindergarten. Remember the naps? The snacktime with those little cartons of milk? Learning to raise your hand before speaking? Sitting up front on the bus so as not to be inundated into back-of-the-bus-mayhem at too young an age? I have fond memories of playing with the letter people in Mrs. Erikson's class, of striving to color inside the lines, of finding the courage to hang upside down from the monkey bars with no hands, and of dressing up as Ms. A in the Kindergarten play.
Kindergarten has most likely evolved since 1981, and kindergarten here in our house certainly differs from my kindergarten experience in many ways. First of all, J hasn't napped since she was 2. I often encourage her to color outside the lines just to shake things up a bit, you know, think outside the box and all that. I'm sure the concept of learning your letters at age 5 would seem absolutely ridiculous to her. However, our mutual love of snacks very much lives on. I mean, who doesn't love snacks? And the sweetness of early learning - the snuggling up while reading together, the crafts and creating, the wide-eyed wonder of learning something new, the pride in mastering a task, are things that are very much present here as J begins her Kindergarten year with much pride. I hope she holds on to that wonder and joy in learning in the years to come.
Monday, October 11, 2010
We kicked off our fall learning with two field trips to M.I.T. They offer classes for homeschoolers at the Edgerton Center for education and this year Dylan has been twice. He took part in a motorized LEGO car ralley and also made a quizboard, which helped him learn about circuits. The girls enjoy coming along for the ride, riding the T and running on the quad with their HSing friends.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
If blogging were a class entitled 'one more thing to add to your busy life that you will truly enjoy but eventually find you don't really have the time for due to your tendency to procrastinate and already very full schedule' we would pass with flying colors. I must admit that I am a bit embarassed that it has taken me so long to return to the blogosphere after our summer hiatus, but here we are, finally writing a new post! our school year is off to a great start this year. We have changed much of our curriculum which seems to be working very well for D. Here is a list of the resources we decided on for this year:
Math-U-See 4th grade
Learning Language Arts through Literature 5th grade
Winston Grammar Basic Level
The Story of the World Vol.4 and Kingfisher History Encyclopedia
The New Way Things Work, combined with lots of building kits and experiments to explore physics
J is now a kindergartener, a moniker she wears with great pride. She continues to work on her reading and writing and is very earnest in her endeavors! I've struggled with the idea of teaching reading to a young child, having been through it once before with D. It seems that they pick it up so much faster if you wait a bit longer, say around age 8. But she wants to read so very much! So we work on it a bit each day, and as long as she is enjoying the process I'm happy to go along with her on the journey. I've been using Houghton Mifflin's Reading for Meaning and Bob Books to combine a whole language approach to reading with phonics. We use math every day in our daily lives, and I also have Saxon Kindergarten Math for the days when she would like a formal approach to learning math. She has decided to learn about animals this year so thus far we have been focusing on insects, arachnids and mammals. We are using Around the World in 80 Tales to learn geography, along with maps, puzzles and crafts for reinforcement and fun, of course.
Of course with both children our curriculum continues to be a jumping-off-place, or point of departure for learning. I let their curiosity or interest in a subject or idea be the fuel that sets us on course, and that's when learning becomes a real adventure!
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
We have settled in to our summer home, our favorite place in the world, and one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen. This is where DG and I met, where we fell in love (awww) and where he proposed. We were a bit late settling in here this year, but now that we are finally here we've been boating, building castles, staying up far too late with friends and family, catching crabs and minnows, digging sea clams, toasting marshmallows by the bonfire and reading lots of good books. The water has been shockingly warm (let's hear it for global warming! wooohooo - that's sarcasm, difficult to pick up via computer so I just thought I would clarify) so we've all been swimming lots and lots. It's rare that I put so much as a toe in this ocean, but I'm loving it this year. D and DG have been fishing up a storm, though so far they've only caught sand sharks and small cod.
We've been barbecuing, making fruity summer drinks and eating drippy watermelon. I've realized that my true calling in life is laziness, slothdom, and mastering the art of doing absolutely nothing. Ahhhhh, summer. I love it. And I feel so fortunate to live in such a beautiful place, where I can fully enjoy it.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
June has somehow become the new December. What used to signal the end of a busy school year has now become chock full of graduations, holidays, baby showers, recitals, end of year reporting to our school district, and packing up most of our belongings to move to our summer home. My visions of leisurely sitting on the beach, watching the kids splash in the surf has more or less been postponed until July. In the midst of the craziness the kids did participate in several recitals. J played in three violin recitals, and D pretty much rocked his recital, playing drums for the first time and possibly causing substantial hearing-loss for the people sitting in the front row. He also joined Julia in a duet on violin. It was nice to see him pick it up again and he was pleasantly surprised to find that he remembered how to play it.