Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Knitting recap

Even though I am ready to move on to the New Year, I am still surprised that Christmas is over!

I will be honest and let you know that I did very little knitting for Christmas this year.  I was able to make two American Girl scarves for my nieces and a little doll for my little girl.


I am actually planning on making another little doll for my newest niece as well, but unfortunately it will be more of a "Happy three months old" gift instead of a Christmas gift.

It was a little strange to be making so little this year in the way of gifts.  I am such a fan of homemade gifts, and typically that is what we give to people.  This year we scaled way back on everything.  I definitely needed that margin this fall!

I haven't read anything in a couple weeks, but I am compiling my "to read" list for 2015, so if you have any recommendations, I would love to hear them!  I don't typically write a list out of all the books I want to read in a year, but I have seen several people write out a list of books they want to read and thought it might be fun.

I am also looking through these New Year's Eve Reflection Questions - which I love to do every year.  I plan to work through these tonight, and probably will be in bed before the clock strikes 12.  Or perhaps Lucy will want to wake up and ring in the New Year tonight with a late night nursing session!

Are you taking a break from knitting?  Or are you moving right into new projects?  Do you have any traditions for New Year's Eve?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Homeschooling in the New Year

It has been a long and glorious break from homeschooling the past couple of months.  It has honestly been just like a summer vacation…without the warm weather.  The break was needed and savored.  Now that we are past the holidays, it is time to get back in the game!


We haven’t completely dropped off all homeschooling – every day brings new learning opportunities!  But, the formal instruction has taken a back seat to the creative expression and interests of my children.

Incredibly, I have seen my four year old start reading and writing on his own, with no prompting from me.  It is amazing what children will do when left to their own devices!  Emma, has been working a lot on handicrafts.  She is into finger knitting and embroidery, and she loves to create songs and stories all day long.  Her newest obsession is writing books.  One of her gifts this year was some small bound blank books that she can use to record her stories.  They most definitely are not about correct grammar and spelling, but wonderful creative expression.

I am looking forward to getting back into a routine for school though, and I think the kids are ready as well.  They love their free play, and interest led learning is definitely my preference over tests and quizzes, but the kids need more rhythm, and unfortunately with an infant that hasn’t been the concentration these last several weeks.  Add in Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it has essentially been a zoo around here!

We are looking forward to circle time, and memory verses, and new episodes of Cosmic Kids Yoga, as well as the normal reading, writing, and math.

I would like to incorporate more units and projects.  The kids are getting to an age where they can work on a project for a longer period of time, and I think they would enjoy putting together more visuals to go with what they are learning in history and science. 

I have to make sure that our craft supplies are ready for them though, once they get going, things seem to progress quickly, and when I envision something small, it somehow is not the same idea the kids have!  So while I may want them to build a small replica of a teepee with popsicle sticks and construction paper, they will want a full size one in their toy room to use for themselves.  Perhaps there is a happy medium!

The first task I have is re-creating some space for school.  The toys and craft supplies have taken over, and there is not a bit of free work space at their table.  We may opt to do table work at the dining room table for a while.  I have some big ideas on organization, but for the time being our school stuff is shoved away in one of our armoires.


Do you take a long break around Christmas?  What are you doing to get back into your school routine?

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Christmas Aftermath

It is amazing how much time goes into preparing for Christmas, and then it is over in one short day.  What you are left with is a lot of mess, and a lot of new things that need a home.  You may also be left with a bit of the blues for the holiday being over so soon.  I definitely feel all of those things, even with Christmas not feeling quite like Christmas this year.

What do you do after all that holiday busyness is over?  Do you sit down and relax?  Or do you move right into the next phase?  I am ready for the next phase!


Typically we leave our tree up until Epiphany…ok so we sometimes leave it up much later than that.  This year I think I am going to take a page from my sister-in-law’s book and take the tree down now.  Well, she typically takes it down the day after Christmas, so we made it a bit farther than that.

I am ready for a fresh start.

I always love New Year’s.  It is a chance to start anew, breathe new life into old routines, work on incorporating new, healthy habits, and figure out a new rhythm.

I am ready to start reflecting on this past year and look towards the new one, realizing that the New Year will bring new challenges, and be completely different than last year. 

Last year, I spent the majority of the year pregnant, and while I was able to accomplish a lot of my goals at the beginning of the year, I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I had hoped the second half of my pregnancy, and really the second half of this year.

The first item on my agenda is definitely going to be to clean up all of the craziness that is our house after Christmas.  I think every new toy that the kids received is out and all over the place.  The kids have been so excited about their new activities and toys that each one is taken out, and they go back and forth between them all.  I can take some mess, but I am ready for order again!

How are you preparing for the New Year?  Do you spend time reflecting on what worked and what didn’t during the previous year?  Are you all cleaned up from the holiday, or do you (like me) have a long ways to go?


 


If you are looking to start off the New Year right with healthy living goals, take a look at the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle, which is on sale now.  Just for two days!  Get it while it is here because it will be gone soon!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday Quotes


Christmas isn't a season.  It's a feeling.
~Edna Ferber

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

when Christmas doesn't quite feel like Christmas

I have said it before, I absolutely love Christmas.  It is such a wonderful time of year.  Incredibly festive with all the lights, and delicious food to eat all the time.

This year it seems different though.

Don't get me wrong, I am having a wonderful time with all of my kids, and my husband, but this year it doesn't quite feel like Christmas.  Not at all in a bad way, just in a "how can it already be the end of the year and Christmas is two days away!?" kind of way.

I think that a large part of it is because of how busy we have been with a new baby.  I haven't had as much time to decorate, or bake, or get out into the thick of the holiday shopping.

Instead, we have our tree up and decorated, I made goodies for my husband's work, and I did the majority of my shopping using Amazon prime this year.

Maybe it is because everything feels so rushed.  We are incredibly busy with the new baby and other activities for the kids.  Maybe because it is still so fresh having a newborn that I don't have enough mind space to get into the Christmas spirit.

I know that the reason we are celebrating is because of Jesus' birth.  So maybe I don't play as many Christmas carols this year, or bake as much, but it is still a wonderful year full of blessings!

My kids are enjoying every bit of the holiday season, even if it doesn't quite feel like Christmas to me, it certainly does to them.  And making sure they are happy and enjoying this Christmas season is incredibly important to me!

Have you had a year where Christmas didn't quite feel like Christmas?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Quotes


Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store.
Dr. Seuss

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Hottest Apps and Accessories to Make the Holidays Special!

Christmas is just a few short days away!  Can you believe it?  I certainly cannot.  Are any of you still shopping?  I am all about the last minute this year!  

One easy way I have found to simplify my gift giving is to give some apps and other mobile accessories.  

Did you know that 58% of American adults own a smartphone and 42% own a tablet?  This, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, was a big eye opener!  I know people love their smartphones, I did not realize that it was such a large percentage of the population.



For the music lover, you could try the Beats Solo HD 2 Headphones.  I am constantly having trouble finding headphones that do not hurt my ears.  These will definitely do the trick!



For the photography buff, there is the amazing Olloclip 4-in-1 lens system.  This lens system attaches to your iPhone or iPad and includes two macro lenses (5x and 10x), a fisheye and a wide-angle lens.  Honestly, I think I might be gifting myself this one!

And for the chef?  iGrill.  You can modernize the primal art of grilling with the iGrill family of apps!  Monitor your grilling with Bluetooth Smart Technology right on your iPhone or Android device.  Easy to read displays and different alarms let you cook your steak to perfection.

What are you getting the tech savvy person on your Christmas list?  No really, I need some more ideas!

I am part of the US Cellular Blogger Brigade and was compensated for this post.  The opinions are my own.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A City Full of Santas and a giveaway!

A City Full of Santas

A City Full of Santas Ranked as #1 BestSeller on Amazon India This Christmas is special; really special for Santa. Read this lovely Christmas tale that would re-define the meaning of Christmas. A must read for everyone. Just like Pooja's other books, this book brings love, warmth, and a special message. A story that parents would love to read to their children.


add to goodreads

Pooja

Author Pooja Sardana Pooja Sardana, is a mother, a teacher, an illustrator, an author, a visionary and the co-founder of PictureBookTree. Her books and her initiative - PictureBookTree have been widely covered in Indian media and abroad. Titled as one of the Unsung Hero in 'Saga of the Unsung Heroes of India" , she continues to touch lives of many through her books and her work. Her picture books for children can be availed free of cost by NGOs or individuals working with Under-privileged children. If you work with under-privileged children, you can drop an email at Picturebooktree (AT) GMAIL (DOT) COM to receive your free copy.


Praise for the Book "Such a lovely story that brings back the meaning of Christmas, one that many will want to read." "Parents/teachers will enjoy reading this story to their children. The children will be full of questions and want to discuss Santa's surprise." "Artwork "pops" off the pages pleasantly and storyline has a great message. A fine addition to any Christmas collection and it is a children's book that I would recommend!"

50_Amazon_Paypal   

Book Blast Giveaway $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 1/4/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Knitting

We are coming into the final stretch for Christmas.  Yay!  And also, how the heck did time escape me again?  Oh yeah, baby!

I came to the realization that a little infant needs very little in the way of Christmas toys.  But, I also want to put something fun under the tree.


I started knitting a little gnome doll for her.  I have knit both of my older kids the same gnome doll, and they are affectionately named Ellie and Eli.  

Luckily it is a quick knit.  I was able to almost finish the legs while Emma was at Daisies last night, so that was encouraging.  I typically am working on things right through Christmas Eve, apparently I work well under pressure!

I just finished up Frugavore.  I really enjoyed it.  It stresses the "peasant diet" which may sound bad, but in all actuality mainly consists of using up as much as you can.  If your root veggies go soft in the fridge, make some stock.  Use up all parts of the chicken.  Grow something, whether it is herbs in a window, or a huge kitchen garden.  There were quite a few decent recipes as well that I have ear-marked for future use.  Definitely a good read if you are looking for ways to save on food!

Do you have any last minute Christmas gifts on the needles?  Do you craft right up until the very last minute?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Baking


This past weekend I had planned on doing all of my Christmas baking...as you may have guessed, that did not happen.

Every year I love to spend a weekend doing Christmas baking.  I make the same things every year it seems, but they are only had during Christmas, so it is something I always look forward to.

Because I didn't get to it this weekend, today will be spent in the kitchen, baking.  And I have to say it is one of my favorite times of the year.

Last year was the first year that Emma was really able to help me, and she is looking forward to helping me this year as well. 

I always spend the whole day baking and trying to get it all done in one shot.  I don't know why this is, it is something I have always done.  I know there are a lot of people that cook all through the Christmas season, and that probably would have been the smart thing for me to do this year with a new baby!

I did make some fudge and pound cake this past weekend though.  And had to promptly get them in the freezer so it would help deter me from eating it all!

I better get to it then!  Lots of baking to do before distributing all the goodies to Matt's work - well a good portion of the goodies!

Do you do all of your Christmas baking in one day, or do you spread it out over a couple of weeks?  Do you mainly bake for your family or for neighbors, friends, and co-workers?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Quotes


He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
~Roy L. Smith

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rosetta Stone Kids Reading

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Rosetta Stone. I received a product and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

As a mama, one of my primary goals for my children is to instill in them a love of reading.  Reading is hands down how I love to spend my free time (not that I have much of that!).  As a homeschooler I realized early on the importance of teaching my children to read, and to read well.  Because of this, I constantly look for fun ways to give my kids extra reading practice.

Whenever you can find a fun program that teaches your children, without them realizing it, is a plus in my book!


Enter Rosetta Stone Kids Reading.  I’m sure you have all heard of the wonderful language programs Rosetta Stone offers.  Did you know that they also have a reading program?  It is geared towards children ages three to seven.  The kids are able to learn through games, and earning little rewards along the way.

I had the opportunity to try out this wonderful program, and my kids absolutely LOVED it.  No, seriously, all they wanted to do was play the “Lingos” which are the cute little characters that help the kids learn more about reading.  Both my four year old and my six year old had a great time.


They start off with matching different letters to their sounds, and move on to eventually putting sentences together.  I liked that I could help them login and then they could play as many games as they wanted during their computer time, unlocking new levels along the way.  It always amazes me how technologically savvy my children are at such a young age.  The instructions are incredibly easy to follow, and there are always extra hints if they need it.

There is a parent portal that you can go to in order to see what your child’s progress is, and if they may need extra work on something specific. 


Overall this is a wonderful program to add to your child’s regular reading program.  It is fun and keeps their interest in learning to read, which can sometimes be an incredibly trying time. 

If you want to try out this wonderful program, Rosetta Stone is offering the first level for free, so that you can try it out for yourself.


What ways do you encourage reading?

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Quiet Holiday with a New Baby?

You may have noticed that it has been a lot quieter around here lately.  Why?  Well because we have a new baby in the house, of course.  It seems like there is not enough time in the day, yet we only have three children.  It shouldn’t be that difficult, right?!

Well, it is for this mama, and I am sure any mama with a new baby would agree with me!


Leading up to the holidays, I knew that I wanted some quiet.  I wanted to do all of our regular traditions, but scale back on the outside commitments.

Funny thing, we actually added several more commitments to the month of December and beyond.


I had planned way back, when we first found out we were expecting number three, that I would take a long break from homeschooling after the baby was born.  We typically take off between Thanksgiving and Christmas anyways, but I was adding in a lot more time off.

It didn’t take long after the baby arrived to realize my other kids still needed that school routine in their lives.  And then we realized basketball was starting up again.  And then I found a piano teacher who had an opening for a new student.  And then Emma decided she wanted to join the Daisies.  Yes, here we are, one week into December and the crazy has started!

It might not seem like a lot of extra commitments, but with a new baby it certainly seems that way.

Now I am trying to decide what other parts of our normal December we may let slide. 


A couple items I am crossing off my list before I start to think too much about them are:

1.)     Christmas Cards

      Every year I like to send out Christmas cards.  I love receiving them, so I figure others must as well, and every year I dutifully fill out the cards.  I always try to write something small in each card personal to each person receiving the card.  However, this year, I am not.  I think the fact that I still have not gotten my thank-you notes done from the wonderful gifts we received for Lucy was a good indication that Christmas cards were not in our future this year.

2.)    Christmas Pictures

OK, so this does not mean that I won’t be taking any Christmas pictures.  But, the very cute Christmas picture that I take of the kids every year and include in the aforementioned Christmas cards will not be happening.  I still plan to take a Christmas picture of the kids, but it might be Christmas morning while everyone is in their Christmas pjs and not the fancy one with everyone dressed up.  I definitely do not want to pressure myself to get the “perfect” picture, especially when my kids are so little.  Christmas pictures = stressful afternoon in my book, so they are out as well.

3.)    Christmas Eve Party

I have talked before about how much I love Christmas Eve.  Every year when I was younger, my mom always had a Christmas Eve party.  Some of my best memories are from those parties.  Our tiny house filled to the brim with people.  The delicious food that my mom single-handedly prepared every year.  Piling onto my brother’s bed to play Super Mario Brothers on the Nintendo (we are talking original here people!).  Amazing memories.  Ones that I wanted to recreate with my kids.  Typically we have friends and family over on Christmas Eve, we eat a bunch of good food, decorate cookies, and have general merriment.  This year, I will not be doing a Christmas Eve party.  I’m sure I will still make a large majority of the food, but the extra people will not be here.  Instead I plan to spend Christmas Eve with my children and my husband, most likely watching Elmo’s Christmas Countdown, and hopefully getting into bed before 10pm!


Are there any traditions you are bowing out of this year?  Do you adjust your expectations of the holidays each year depending on what you have going on in your life?  What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunday Quotes


Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
~Calvin Coolidge

Friday, December 5, 2014

Turkey Pot Pie and a Recipe

I bought two turkeys this year for Thanksgiving, instead of my usual very large one.  I figured that I would cook one for Thanksgiving and then the second I would cook a few days later to have for putting away.

What I didn't count on was how much my family loves turkey!  Why do we only cook turkey once a year?  

I was able to put away a good amount of turkey stock for the winter soup making that I am so fond of.  Unfortunately I didn't have enough turkey meat to put in the freezer as well.  I did have a bit left over from the second turkey though, and decided to make a turkey pot pie.

Last night I did just that!


Turkey Pot Pie

2 pie crusts

1 Tablespoon butter
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
8 oz frozen baby sweet peas
1 turkey breast, chopped
gravy from turkey - or - add some chicken stock and a little flour to thicken

Saute carrots and celery in butter, add salt and pepper to taste.
Add in frozen peas.
Add gravy and turkey.
Pour mixture in a pie crust in a 9" pie plate then top with second pie crust.
Cook at 450 for 10 minutes and then turn heat down to 350 for another 20-30 minutes until crust is browned on top and bubbly in the middle.

Easiest turkey pot pie ever, and named "best thing I have ever eaten and want every day for the rest of my life" by my lovely Emma.  

Now, if you have other veggies, you can certainly add those.  I tend to put onions and garlic in everything, but didn't have any onions in the house.  Typically I also add potatoes and green beans as well.  However, I didn't want to peel potatoes, and my son decided that he absolutely hates green beans this week.

Are you still eating leftovers from Thanksgiving?  Did you put some easy meals together in the freezer to free up some time this month?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Knitting and Reading

Last week really marked the start of the crazy around here.  December always seems to be extremely busy for us between activities for the kids, church activities, as well as visiting with family and friends.  Every year I hope it will be relatively quiet, every year it is definitely not quiet!


I am still working on the American Girl scarves for my nieces.  OK, working on them is probably not the correct phrase.  I have one that I need to finish, and I hope to sit down to do that today.  It won't take long, but finding an hour to sit and just knit is difficult.

I plan to move on to knitting a couple of gnomes if I can finish that scarf soon.  It is something I saw at Plain and Joyful Living several years ago, and I absolutely love them!  They are really a quick knit.  I have adapted the pattern to make them into dolls for my kids, and have given one to each of them at Christmas when they were babies.

As for reading, a couple of weeks ago I saw the book Frugavore on Ginny's yarn along post, and I decided it was definitely a book that I wanted to read.  I finally got it from the library, but haven't had a chance to get into it yet.  I will let you know!

How is your Christmas crafting coming along?  Have you picked up any new books lately?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advent Bags

It is that time of year!  Advent.  What a wonderful season of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  

I remember when I was little being so excited to open the little door on the calendar and eat the little bit of chocolate that came with it.  I obviously wanted my kids to have an understanding of Advent, and I also wanted it to be a fun little tradition just the same as my brother and I experienced when we were little.

What I ended up with were Advent Bags.  This is essentially the same thing as the little calendars that you see in the stores.


Emma decorating last year's bags

Starting earlier in the fall I give the kids brown paper lunch bags to start decorating.  It helps them practice writing their names, drawing pictures, writing numbers - I like to sneak in school whenever I can!

Then once all the bags are decorated, I put verses, a little toy, and a little chocolate in the bag.  The toys are little trinkets.  This year I spent a lot of time at Target's Dollar Spot to find items to put in their bags.  They are heavily book/puzzle/craft related this year.  


Jack decorating last year's bags

Every morning they come downstairs and are excited about opening their Advent Bags.  

It gives me a chance to sit down with them and discuss Advent a little more fully as well because they are so excited about the toy, they tend to sit still for longer so we can discuss what each verse means and if they have any questions.


The kids' ornaments for this year, from our trip to StoryLand

I love to share this time with my kids!  It is a routine that we have easily come into during this wonderful celebratory season!  The kids come down in good moods every day, and that makes me happy!

What traditions do you have for Advent?  Or for the Christmas season in general?

Linking up at One Project at a Time

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Christmas Tree is Up!

Well hello December 1st!  I am happy to see you.  December is probably my favorite month of the year.  There is so much delicious food to eat, there is the wonderful lead up to Christmas, and after Christmas I start to think ahead to the new year and my plans and goals.  

We had an amazing Thanksgiving this year.  It was small with us and my mom, and it was fun!  I *may* have miscalculated the amount of time it would take to get everything cooked and prepared with the responsibility of also nursing an infant.

Luckily I was able to get almost all of the food that I had planned to make, made.  Everyone ate it, and that means it must have tasted ok, or perhaps everyone was just starving since we didn't eat until almost 2pm.

The weekend after Thanksgiving every year we spend time shopping and decorating our tree.  

We put up a fake tree.  I know that there are all kinds of opinions on that, but we do it because certain family members are allergic.  But, I like having the fake tree because we can leave it up from Thanksgiving to mid-January with no issues!


This year, it took us two days to get the tree up and decorated.  It was fun to do, as always.

The other difference this year is that we are planning on getting a tree for the kids' bedroom.  Every year they tend to remove the ornaments on the tree to play with (we have the soft ornaments on the bottom half of the tree).  This year I figured that we would skip that by giving them a tree of their own.  We haven't gotten it yet, but hopefully this week!  Plus, it will be nice for them to have the Christmas lights at night as they go to bed.

There are so many fun things to look forward to over the next several weeks!  What are you most looking forward to this Christmas season?