Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Goodies Part One

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This Christmas we made a variety of goodies again, but not our normal goodies which we're planning to make next month for a family get together we'll be having. Then again, with the beautiful summer heat we're having we might change our minds.

I stumbled upon a recipe for Peppermint Whoopie Pies which I knew Mr S would love. I squirrelled the recipe away and then made some fun milk container type boxes to put them in. I just googled the pattern and then printed it out and enlarged it by hand onto stiffer paper. I had to tape two 12x12 sheets of paper together in order to make them.

I also chose to cut out a rectangular chunk of the front of the carton and added some clear cellophane which I'd purchased for a previous project by accident. This stuff has come in very handy over the years!

Then I remembered I had some nifty wood scrapbooking decorations that I bought years ago when we lived in the states. I pulled those out and glued them to the front of the boxes. I made two like this for Mr S & his mum. Then I made another 5 that were made the same way but without the extra wooden decoration on the front. The ones without the decoration became the homes of carmel apples that I also dipped in chocolate & Mr S gave them out to his workmates.


As for the pies.. I used the chocolate cookie recipe and swapped the sugar for coconut sugar. The filling I changed entirely, thanks to experimenting with some oatmeal cream pies that I'd made earlier this year:

Cream Filling

2 egg whites
1/2 c Xylitol 
1/2 t cream of tartar
1/4 t peppermint extract


In a double boiler {I just use a pyrex bowl on top of a pan of simmering water}, add egg whites, xylitol and cream of tartar and heat over simmering water. Whisking frequently, heat until egg whites become very frothy and xylitol  is dissolved. Carefully add egg mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer, or mix in pyrex bowl. Mix on high speed for several minutes until egg mixture will hold stiff peaks and is light in texture. Carefully fold in peppermint until incorporated. Add filling to cookie and then top with another cookie, roll the edges through crushed candy cane. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year Devotionals

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For Christmas we often give the boys a couple of standard gifts. I decided it would be equally fun to give them a couple of standard gifts on New Year's Eve in their activity bags. Simple things that would help them in the New Year.

Last year, for instance, after we rang the New Year in we all grabbed our nifty new calendars and hung them in their proper places on the walls.

This year, instead of giving the boys their calendars for Christmas I've kept them hidden away to hand out on New Year's Eve! However, I also decided to order them each a devotional. Something simple that they could read on their own each morning when they got up.


Sounds simple, I know, but it wasn't! I knew which one I wanted for each child and wouldn't you know every store I tried either had one or not the other. The only way I could, for certain, get them both for a while was through a US store, and I knew they'd never arrive on time. I did a little more research and discovered that if I swapped Jayden's title with another similar one I could order them from Koorong. Only, I made this discover with about 2 days to go before the Christmas weekend arrived. Needless to say I asked for quicker shipping on the two items. Oh my goodness was it quick, but check out the packing!!


First the crazy things came in a plastic quick mailer. Then it was wrapped in brown paper and every inch of it was covered in packing tape. Seriously, for a minute I was like, "Boys check this out, this is exactly what it looked like when we lived in American and Grandpa use to package things up for Nana to send to us!" I couldn't even find a place to lift the tape so had to carefully cut the brown paper for fear of damaging my books! Then, after all the careful cutting I found the books wrapped in several inches of bubble wrap..


At least my books arrived, completely undamaged! I've always had good service from Koorong, but man I think this takes the cake on quick shipping, they arrived the following day! As for what I picked, I snagged Jesus Calling for Morgan, & 365 Bedtime Devos for Boys. I had wanted to get Jayden 365 Devos for Boys, but it isn't quite released here yet, plus, once I peeked inside of it some of the devotions are the same as the book above.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

3-D Maps Review

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I've mentioned this book here a few times in the past, but I wrote a slightly more detailed review of Interactive 3-D maps for American History over on the Curriculum Choice!

I've had a lot of questions about our year with Winter Promise, so I've written a detailed review about that curriculum as well & you'll find it up over there sometime next month. I'll let you know when it's up, but in the mean time there's a lot of fun reviews over there written by many other talented homeschool Mammas you can read.

If you missed it, I did a detailed review of our year with Teaching Textbooks last month that you can read if you're interested.

The Curriculum Choice has also undergone a face lift & a few updates as it recently changed ownership. If you haven't checked it out recently you really should!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Papercraft

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Morgan loves to draw, color, cut, & fiddle. He's often lying on the floor while I'm reading aloud and can be found doing anyone of those things. During our final week of school he was lying on the floor supposedly coloring a map for his Timeline Notebook while I read. We got so caught up in the book we read the entire book & when I finally put it down and took a long drink of water Morgan walks up and says, "Check this out!"

What I was looking at were the above items he made out of paper. A pencil, pencil sharpener, & a pair of scissors. Believe or or not the pencil fits perfectly into the funny little pencil sharpener. He was very proud of his perfect detail on the pencil and I was pretty impressed with the handles on the scissors. So much so that the items are still laying up on a shelf because no one can bring themselves to throw them out.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cupcake Kit

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Jayden has a real think for cupcakes lately and I thought it would be fun to put together a cupcake kit for him. Gathering supplies wasn't hard, but packaging them up was another story. I couldn't find a box that would work so I ended up cutting some cardboard we had laying around into the box I wanted. That included cutting out the "window" in the front of the box so I could tape some clear cellophane on.

I actually purchased the cellophane ages ago by accident. I know it's a weird accident to make, but I honestly thought I'd grabbed a package of silver wrapping paper. Imagine the shock I had when I got home, but it's come in very handy for several projects ever since. The cupcake on the front of the box isn't too great looking in the photo, but once the glue finished drying it was much nicer.


Here's the contents that are in his box which were obtained from a variety of places. Believe it or not the little wooden spoon cost me the most money! There are measuring spoons & measuring cups, an egg timer, silicone spatula, basting brush, wooden spoon, various cupcake papers, sprinkles in varying colors, & edible Thomas train images. I'm not sure you can see the later because they are under the sprinkles. I debated getting a cute set of silicone muffin cups, some little bug shaped ones, Jayden had spotted in town earlier this week, but it completely slipped my mind when I picked up the colored ones. Hopefully he won't mind too much. I figured the whole kit will go really well with his nifty cookbook.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Great Minds Think Alike

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Mr S and I have always thought, on most topics, very much alike. Conversations usually start with, "I was thinking it might be fun to ..." followed by, "What?! No way I was thinking the same thing!" That's not to say we always think exactly alike and always agree on every subject. I for one feel the hamper is the best place for dirty socks while he feels the floor is best. I find that cleaning up is a bit more relaxing where as he finds kicking back with a good movie is a better choice. However, the first time we realised just how much we thought alike was a few years ago on Valentine's Day. It's traditional for me to hide his card in some place I know he's likely to sit on it the following morning, it's equally traditional for him to put a card on my pillow sometime after I've woken up and left the room. That particular day I found my card and as I opened it was horror struck that Mr S had somehow gotten the cards mixed up and given me the card I'd actually picked for him. He was in the kitchen having the same horrific thought as he opened the envelope I left on his chair for him. Yep, we bought identical cards at different times! We laughed for days about it and still do when the story is brought up.

Yes, perhaps cheesy to some, but it really does make us laugh. We've since learned to pick cards that either say "wife" or "husband" on them or are totally blank or make up our own. I, for instance, bought him one this year that was so me to him despite being an engagement card that I bought it anyway and scratched out the engagement part and fixed it up so it fit what I needed.


For the past three years we've both been trying to hunt down a croquette set for our family. We both love the game and in the US, thanks to my sister, we owned a set. Our Kmart had sets in a few years ago, and at the time we purchased a different outdoor game instead, and of course since then they've never had one again!

Yes, my mil was sporting a broken foot the day these arrived..
During Black Friday sales in the US some Aussie stores decided to have heavy discounts on things too & I got a lot of emails from places I've shopped with online. One such place was offering a nice wooden croquette set on sale with free shipping! I mentioned it to Mr S and then an hour later disappeared to order him a set. Only hang up, Mr S had ordered one for me shortly after I showed him the email. If that wasn't funny enough, they both arrived on the same day in the exact same wrapping. Oh well, double the fun now!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Caterpillars

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Last week the boys and I went for a walk on a trail nearby our home, halfway around the loop the boys decided they needed a break. They'd worn sweats instead of shorts and were hot. While waiting on the bench Jayden decided he'd check out the sign to see what it said. He was reading away and then comes back and declares, "Nothing to worry about there. It only says Don't feed the caterpillars!"

I laughed myself silly before I could correct him. The sign actually says:

 "Cycle-Walking Track
 'Don River Circuit'"

He got as far as the "don" and saw the c and figured we weren't permitted to feed the caterpillars, but what caterpillars I'm still not sure of. For everything that we did see, caterpillars weren't amongst them! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Day Out

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Last week Mr S's daily carpool wasn't running in the morning & he needed a lift to work. The boys and I have "go to" bags that we can grab full of our school supplies, & that particular morning we snatched them up and headed to the quaint little beach town up the road where Mr S works.

After we dropped him off we walked the beach for a little while, and then sat down to read what was our current read aloud. The boys were so engrossed in the story when two dogs bounded up both boys jumped a mile which excited the dogs.

Once the sun had us well heated {someone didn't put the sunscreen back in the main go-to bag} we headed towards shade in the very tiny park above the beach. There we finished reading through our books for the day and then got side tracked chasing down the cutest baby grasshopper you've ever seen. Well, except that you haven't seen it because the crazy little jumper wouldn't hold still long enough for a photo and so I have nothing to show you, but anyway I digress..

The boys asked if they could swing before we left and I said sure. They were taking turns pushing each other and enjoying their morning brake when a train sounded. The only way into this small town is over a set of train tracks so I looked up and said, "Jayden I can see the train from here." The look on his face above was his reaction when he looked up and saw it.


He's always, always, always been a huge train fan. He has heaps upon heaps of Thomas trains both in the US and in Australia. He despises building on a table with them because a good train track must run through just about every room of the house so he has significant opportunity to trip all of his family members. Our very first house in Tassie was right across the street from a train track, and he'd climb up into the window and stand on tip-toe each and every time he heard that whistle go. He'd be mid conversation with someone and if he heard the whistle off he'd trot. Use to crack us up to no end while mystifying company he was in mid chat to. Jayden recently told me he's a bit big for Thomas trains and I could probably put them away now, but please don't get rid of them.

I asked him if he'd like me to get rid of the Thomas videos too then & he was quite decided that I most certainly shouldn't do that either. The trains are up on the top shelf of the closet for now & the movies haven't budged. He did, however, cry when I gave away his Thomas rain slicker even though it was too small for him. Being 8 and wearing a size 12 because you're so tall means you

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Summer Fun Ahead

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We'll have plenty of non "formal" school time to fill if we take a summer break this year, and a great way to fill it was to ask the kids for some things they wanted to do this summer. Of course, I knew swimming and hanging at the beach would be pretty high on their list, but there were also a few requests that surprised me. For instance, Jayden's goal for the summer was for Mom to read him the rest of his Spy Dog books. The child can read like you wouldn't believe, but still prefers me to read chapter books to him. I'm cool with that and look forward to finding out about L.A.R.A.'s next adventures.

Morgan decided he'd love for me to read the second Harry Potter book to him. He too can read very well, but prefers to hear me read to him. Frankly, I think Jim Dale does an amazing job with these books as audios, but I don't mind indulging my kids either.

Of course I participated in things on the list from practical like having the boys read a book each day {I'm planning on setting up our own home summer reading programme as the one at the library here is a wee bit flaky..} & the Learn Something new today. I'm debating working through an art book with them, but we might swap it for science so to keep the path open I made it vauge. Who knows, it might turn out to be something totally different then either of those!

Both boys have been dying to learn how to whistle very loudly with your fingers in your mouth. It's something I've never been able to conquer but can kill ear drums with a normal whistle. Needless to say we're determined to learn to whistle with our fingers this summer.

I contributed turning the back yard into a movie theatre, something I've been researching and planning for a while now. If all goes as we hope we'll be inviting friends and family around to join us! Hopefully I can keep mozzies away because nothing quite ruins fun like those big blood sucking varmints!

We also included some of our summer traditions like having an Australia Day Party with family & going camping down at Bakers Beach. I snuck things in that will make great boredom busters like blowing big bubbles {Jayden's getting a bubble kit for Christmas} & play in the sprinklers {Jayden's also getting a slip-n-slide for Christmas from his Nana}. Looks like we'll be having a rather adventurous summer.

You can get the paper/background here. It's a free download! I electronically added text to it and then printed it out to hang on our bulletin board. Easy peasy. It'll be fun to stick it in an album later with photos of all the fun things we did.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

School Wrap Up

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This school year has been quite the adventure! We used a new curriculum this year and there was a lot of excitement and nervousness over it. Everyone was excited about it, but I confess to a little bit of nervousness in regards to changing from our former curriculum. The nervousness was a waste of time because we throughly enjoyed ourselves this year.

Despite several moves {not just our own, but family members}, and other hiccups that can naturally occur during a year we were able to always pick right up where we left off. In the past we've always followed a 3-6 week on rotation with a 1-2 week off one. This year we didn't seem to follow that, all though we did enjoy time off for spring break, camping, and out of town company.

The past month or so we've been quickly racing to the finish line. I was so torn on permitting the boys to keep up their galloping pace and finish or hold them back and leave some to pick up with when we regrouped after Christmas break. In fact, I probably put way too much consideration into this and in the end stopped fussing over it as we galloped to the close.


We learned a great many things that caused the boys to say, "Really?" and others that wowed me as Morgan sat there and retold some amazing information to his younger brother. I mean seriously, when on earth did I teach him about the Trail of Tears, or did he read a book about this on his own? I've no idea, but there he sat retelling tales to his brother. There were a lot of mixed feelings about the Native American happenings, but Jaydens one main question was always, "Is this one still alive?"


We read about the Erie Canal and made a pop-up book depicting the scene from the first trip made down the entire length. The boys were amazed I'd written on it, and in horror that I could still remember & sing Low Bridge Everybody Down.


We learned about the Oregon trail & only briefly touched on The Mormon Trail. We googled up some pictures of names etched in Chimney Rock, wagon ruts, and some of the remains of old forts along the way. Thanks to the book On To Oregon, which didn't last long in our sidebar because we simply devoured the book, we felt like we were actually right there on the trail. Did you know that the majority of the people who went along that trail at first did so, once again, to defeat the British? We learned that both British and the US had steaks in the west as both claimed land. It was then decided that whomever could have the most people there by a specific time frame would get official rights to it. American's weren't about to give up the land they'd fought so hard for that quickly and off many of them set.


We learned about some rather amazing mountain men who came off as quite fearless, and while he's not on the page above we even covered Kit Carson. However, I think the one mountain man that will ever remained embedded in the minds of my children will be John Colter. We read about him in various books and each time we filled in a bit more of his story. One account told us he'd saved his own life by running naked from a tribe of Indians. We actually found another source that could give us more detail and as it turned out he had to literally race for his life, because whomever won the race got to live and whomever lost was to be killed. Not once did Colter do this but twice!! His stories really are quite interesting to read.


We read about the Alamo, something my boys truly won't be forgetting as I had their wrapped attention as I read them Susanna Of The Alamo. Mind you, I think they thought, at first, that it was suppose to be about Custer & his last stand, but the story of Susanna was so action filled and amazing they didn't complain afterwards that it wasn't the story there were expecting.


We learned about the underground railroad and read as William & Callie raced towards freedom. The boys were really impressed to be learn that one slave managed to escape to freedom thanks to mailing himself express mail in a wooden crate! It took him two days to reach his destination, but we had a great laugh imagining the looks on people's faces when they opened up that crate! We found Fredrick Douglass' boldness quite amazing as well, & we're intrigued by the Missouri Compromise considering the emancipation proclamation hadn't happened yet. {In short the government wanted to keep the amount of free states vs slave states equal so no one had more balance or power over another, this effected states joining the union!}


Our notebooks are full to bursting now & the boys have had so much fun all ready going back over what they've learned. They are eagerly waiting to start up again in 2012 when we will finally reach the Civil War, one of the few wars they know very little about and can't wait to find out about. We've had such a fun year, but are looking forward to our summer break!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Saturday Entertainment

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Excuse one of my toilets on the web for all to see, but this story is so funny I can't let it slip by. This past weekend was a bit dull around here. Mr S was hit with a fever and the chills and felt miserable & the boys and I were trying to "let our hair down" after a week packed to the brim with school and school projects as we rush to the end of the school year.

Anyway, at one point after tripping over the umpteenth pile of lego the kids had out I stalked off to the small bathroom near my room. As I walked in this balloon greeted me! Complete with ugly smile {or is that a screaming face?} and huge eyes. I stood there laughing, & then grabbed the camera to snap a photo. Then, being sure the kids were still distracted with heaps of lego I ran the entire length of house and chucked him on the toilet by the kids room.

A few hours later when I returned to my bathroom the crazy balloon was back!! Only, this time he had a top hat on. Apparently he was taking his toiletry habits to a whole new level with that top hat! I had to dash back down the hallway but decided to chuck him the shower the kids use instead of putting him back on the toilet. I wondered if it would take them longer to find.

By the following morning it was back in my bathroom, without a top hat, but still grinning {or screaming} like a fool! He ended meeting his demise when I intentionally popped him after I found him laying on the school table. I figured any balloon naughty enough to hang out on toilet seats really wasn't great for keeping around, but he certainly did bring us some entertainment and laughter on a rather dull weekend!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advent Calendar

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My boys have always asked for one of those $1 advent calendars with the perforated doors at the local shops. I've always told them no because it only has chocolate inside. Not that there's anything wrong with chocolate, but when you have a child who can't have sugar there's no point in having the items in the home.

I debated trying to make one with little things inside of it for them, but couldn't quite figure out how I'd make the whole thing work. Then one day the boys came rushing in with an ad {we get junk mail at our new house} and were enjoying looking through it. I spotted Disney Advent calendars that didn't have sweets in them!  By the time we got to the shop there was only Cars & Princesses left, so we came home with one Cars calendar and the boys take turns opening it up.

Honestly, it's not the greatest thing out there, it's really not! However, I can't wait to take the whole thing apart so I can make one for next year that will be worth opening every day! And yes, I know I could have easily slipped surprises and treats in the reindeer calendar, but the boys really wanted the surprise and pleasure of opening up the little cardboard calendar. I suspect their excitement was stemming from the book The Christmas Mystery.

The little boy in the book opens his "magic" calendar every day and finds a bit of a hidden story inside along with a little picture. It caused enough of a stir last year that both the boys requested it this year too! I suppose I really should buy the book so someone else from our local library can have a read of it during the Christmas season..

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Planner Sale

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I forgot to mention that all Aussie Pumpkin Patch products are on sale up to 50% off, from now until Dec 19th {US Time, so that's the 20th in Australia}. In fact there's quite a few products on sale from lapbooks to unit studies and just about everything in between right now over at Currclick. If there was something on your wish list you might want to check and see if it's on sale!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Maximum Orginization

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Our boys are big lego collectors. It was actually Morgan who started the entire Lego phase. He's always loved taking things apart and the challenge of putting them back together. With Lego, this child can come up with anything and build it and make it look exactly as it should.

I'm telling you, this child is a genius when it comes to the came Creationary, he can look at the card and knock it out in a matter of seconds and we all know what it's meant to be. Just don't ask most of the rest of us to try this because as easy as he makes it look we stink.. royally! at it.

The boys usually save their own money up for lego, and that giant kiddie wading pool/sandbox is full of all their lego. All though, that picture was taken last year and the pool is now full to the rim and all most overflowing. I joketh not. Sorting out lego to build specific things {we have a rubbermaid box full of manuals} can be a bit harder for them.


Enter, The Head. Seriously, this is a lego sorter. You pop the round knob at the top off and pour lego in. Put the knob back on and shake. The pieces fall through the "sifter" until the holes are too small. You open it up and pieces are sorted by size. Easy Peasy. All though I confess to growing wearisome of the noise in the old house with wood floors. The sound echoed all over! My kids use the The Head to sort pieces for building specific things, but also for their favourite game which is Trading Post. They load up with all sorts of cool bits and bobs and trade back and forth to make the neatest little lego men they can come up with. It keeps them busy for hours!


My sister-in-law gave Morgan this nifty hot wheels box a couple of years ago. Morgan is much like myself in that he likes to organize his things, the more compartments & pockets the better it is. So this box was a huge hit, except in all the time he's owned it I think it's only had HotWheels in it for maybe a week. It's now his Lego Treasure Trove, and heaven help the person who spills it because tears will fly.


Take a closer look!! Each compartment holds something specific to building a mini fig! From the top left you've got two compartments of heads, two compartments of hats and/or headgear, one compartment of extras that you stick on the neck of lego men {life vests, shoulder pads, armour, etc.} three compartments of upper torsos with a couple of random heads three compartments of legs with two overflowing upper torsos in them, one compartment of swords, axes, & other weapons. One compartment full of skeleton objects, one compartment full of handcuffs and other small weapons including fire/flames, and a third compartment full of odd extras like snowboards, fire hoses, & crossbows.. When we're all really good he lets us choose something from each category to make nifty little mini figs. Then he loans us a Ninjago spinner {top picture, red circle thing next to ninja cards} and we get to test and see how balanced our mini fig is.

Yep, he mashed his love of lego {he's actually written to the Lego company to request a job} & his need to organise to a whole new level here.. if only he could apply that to his bedroom to it'd be even more amazing!

PS: If anyone is collecting the nifty little MiniFig series that Lego has out right now and has doubles of certain ones they'd like to trade he'd be really keen to hear from you. He likes to spend his money on those as well and was desperate to land an Artist from Series 4, but it never happened. He has quite a few doubles of various ones from all of the series he'd love to trade off for ones he doesn't have.