10 Ways to Make Today Magical (Holiday Style)

* * * * * * * 10 Ways to Make Today Special… Holiday Style * * * * * *

1.  Decorate a tree for the birds using strands of popcorn, pine cone bird feeder ornaments (roll in peanut butter or sunbutter and then bird seeds), edible seed pods from the garden, etc.

2.  Make cinnamon applesauce ornaments for a scent that will fill up the house (about one part applesauce to two parts cinnamon, leave to dry overnight or bake in a slow oven).  Shape into dreidels, stars, letters, trees, you name it.  Hang in windows and scatter throughout the house for a lovely scented decoration.  Paint with clear nail polish or shellac to make more permanent (though I’m not sure if you’ll keep the scent).

3.  Put jingle bells everywhere!  Sew them onto the kids’ socks, hang them on doorknobs, even put a couple on the pets if they don’t mind.  😉

4.  Cut  out paper snowflakes with the kids and decorate the walls and windows galore.

5.  Have the kids put a special holiday message on the answering machine.

6.  Go on a field trip to collect pine boughs and pine cones to decorate the house.  Spread them on windowsills, tables, etc. and top with colorful bows and ornaments.

7.  Wrap your pictures on the walls.  Take down that tired artwork and wrap it in your nicest wrapping paper.  Top it with a ribbon and bow and hang it back on  the wall.  Enlist the kids to help find other things like cannisters to wrap for extra whimsy.

8.  Find a program to adopt a family and get presents for them, or shop for a “toys for tots” gift with your little ones.  Talk about how happy the child will be to get this present and how happy it makes us to share with her or him.

9.  Add curling ribbon to your daughter’s hair by tying it onto pony tails or barrettes.  Dress everybody in festive colors, red and green, and decorations.  Use small ornaments as necklaces and even tinsel in pony tails.

10. Start a holiday memory book.  Get a scrapbook and start a yearly tradition of filling it with photos, wrapping paper samples, wish lists, summaries of the year and letters to the family.  Record the gifts everybody gets, the meals you serve, the niceties you do for others and your favorite recipes.  Make note of all those little things that make the holiday special, for a souvenir to treasure.

(Note:  I lifted this from one of my old newsletters since I have to go make my living room merry!  Happy Sunday!)

Pics from the Past Week

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to the past week.

Homeschool ice skating…

Baking with Mom…

Spending time with family friends…

Playing music…

Spinning tops with Daddy (if you get them going fast enough they flip upside down and spin on the stems!)…

Making up games…

Helping Daddy do dishes…

Doing puzzles…

Playing with Daddy…

Playing ON Daddy!  😉

Playing on Mommy…

Going to the library…

And making bad puns!  Laughing

We also visited family, ate a lot, swam a lot in the hotel pool, read a lot, learned a lot, played a lot, et cetera, et cetera!  😉  Hope those in the states had a lovely Thanksgiving!

5 Fun Ways to Learn Today

It’s another cozy day at home for us today, which I really enjoy. Here’s some thoughts I had for ways to fill it. Feel free to join in!

1. Silly similes. Teach the kids what similes are (sim-i-lees– comparison words that use “as” or “like,” as opposed to metaphors which say something is something like “all the world is a stage” or “a sea of faces”). Brainstorm together and list a bunch of predictible ones that everybody knows (black as night, quiet as a mouse…). When you have a nice list, have each child make up a new simile for each phrase. Try to be silly and creative, but still accurate. Then share your lists.

2. Make winter collages and cards from old magazines. We’ve been doing this to make our holiday cards this week and it’s lots of fun. I ripped pages out of a Vogue magazine and the girls and I cut holiday shapes out of them– trees, ornaments, boxes for presents, and so on. Then we folded cardstock in half and glued the collages and stickers onto the front of each card. I encouraged them to really think creatively and it’s led to some neat shapes and beautiful pictures.

3. Play Blackjack (21). Here’s the rules if you’ve forgotten how to play (this page also goes into the math benefits and is written specifically for playing with kids).

4. Start a recipe box timeline. We love our friend Tiffany’s index card timeline that stretches around her house at ceiling level, but it wouldn’t work in our house. What we’ve started instead is a recipe box timeline. The kids pick events to write up and illustrate on index cards and then we file them by date. The front has the year and the main event (along with a little picture sometimes), while the back has a few sentences written up for more information. This is a great way to get an idea of when things happened in relation to each other without needing a lot of room, and you can add to it every time you learn about something from history.

5. Play word concentration. Make up sets of index cards (or just cut up paper) with a word on one and a simple picture of the item on the other. If you have older kids, have them do this. My girls love to make up the cards for Jack. Make sure the words are clearly spelled out in large letters. Some examples are ball, door, arrow, cup, box and truck. Then shuffle them and put them all face down. Play with your child or just cheer him on as he tries to find matches in the fewest turns. (For older kids, use this to drill foreign language terms, match up capitols and states or remember word definitions.)

Have a great day!

Checking In & Thanksgiving Links

I’ve been rather lackadaisical in posting lately, huh?  🙂  We’ve been busy with little things– company on Saturday (and the return of the kids’ computer), ice skating and shopping yesterday, library books, Netflix movies, art projects and general life.

I didn’t even post an Unplug Your Kids project this week, even though we did a thankful project (watercolor leaves with thanks on them for hanging).  It seemed rather predictable anyway!  Doesn’t everybody do that project several dozen times over the course of motherhood?  🙂

It has been dreadfully cold but snowless, leaving us in a sort of winter limbo.  It’s too cold to want to go outside but it doesn’t look at all like winter.  I am not a fan of snow, but if it has to be this chilly I wish it would just dump a few feet on us so at least the kids could play and it would look pretty!

(Okay, after Thanksgiving so we can still travel to the in-laws.)

The kids have been tag-teaming us at night, skillfully interfering with any hope of getting nearly enough sleep. My children are perfectly suited for college cramming or medical internships, because of their remarkable abilities to exist on hardly any sleep.  I found myself wishing I could spike the apple cider with Benadryl last night.  😉

I’ll post some pics and fun stuff soon.   In the meantime, here’s an interactive Thanksgiving lesson from the Plimoth people (involving children who are descendents of the Wampanoag and colonists), here’s a great lesson plan for “The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush,” and Susan shared these great pages– a unit study she wrote for “Across the Wide, Wide Sea: The Mayflower Journey,” a page for Mayflower history, a unit study she wrote for “Sarah Morton’s Day:  A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl,” a unit study she helped write for “A Lion to Guard Us” about Jamestown, and this site about Jamestown.

And for another Thanksgiving perspective, here is information about the National Day of Mourning that some native people hold on Thanksgiving.   The page is well written and offers a lot to think about as we’re educating our children about our nation’s history.  Here’s a snippet:

History is not a set of “truths” to be memorized, history is an ongoing process of interpretation and learning. The true richness and depth of history come from multiplicity and complexity, from debate and disagreement and dialogue. There is room for more than one history; there is room for many voices. 

And with that, I’m off to read a pile of library books to some disheveled sweetie pie children.

Fun, Free Wrapping Paper


I ordered a gift from Amazon last week and when I unpacked it I found this massive length of brown paper inside as packaging.  What fun!  We turned it into a canvas and the kids happily drew all over it for hours.  You gotta love packaging that’s environmentally friendly AND is fun to draw on.  🙂

Notice what it says by the tiger striped bells?  Laughing

When Mama's a Dingbat & Dinner Becomes a Science Experiment

We are low on groceries around here and it’s a big expedition into the real world to get them since our local grocery store burned down.  And when we’re low on groceries, I make soup.

So last night I decided to make a favorite soup around here that’s a bit like Zuppa Toscana (however that’s spelled) at the Olive Garden, except it’s vegetarian so there’s no sausage.  If I tweak it just right, even meat-loving Daryl thinks it’s fabulous.

I’m one of those tinkering chefs who never uses a recipe and tosses willy-nilly into the pot.  So I started cooking– sauteed finely diced onion and peppers in butter till translucent, covered with water, tossed in sliced potatoes, chopped spinach, lots of garlic, sea salt, pepper, turmeric… you get the idea.  Then I let it all bubble and blend while I checked my email, cuz I’m like that.

The kids were noisy, I was frazzled, Daryl had the TV on and I was sort of on autopilot.  I can make soup with my eyes closed.  Well, almost.

I grabbed the corn starch and stirred a bit into some cold water to thicken my lovely soup.  I slowly poured it into the simmering pot and….

My soup exploded!   Surprised

Okay, it didn’t really explode, but it fizzled and bubbled like I had added the magic potion in a Halloween movie, and any minute a frog was going to jump out.

And I had only drizzled in a tiny bit!

I was most perplexed.

I stirred it in, and drizzled a bit more.

FIZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Foam!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Bubble bubble bubble!!!


At this point, people with full uses of their brains would have stopped drizzling.  Not I.  I know how to make soup.  You thicken it with corn starch.

So I drizzled the rest.

And the soup again did it’s impersonation of a golden potato-spinach volcano.

Finally, Victoria came up to me and asked “Why are you staring into the soup?”.

“Because it’s not behaving right,” I told her.

We both peered in, as the last of the angry fizzing petered off.

Well, there must be an acid reacting to the baking soda, I thought to myself.  But why doesn’t it usually do that?  I’m not cooking anything super acidic to react to the base….


Baking soda.

One does not thicken soup with baking soda!

Idiot woman!

This was the part where I wandered into the the living room and informed Daryl that I might have ruined dinner.

He googled the safety of eating soup made with baking soda, assuming we’d even want to.

Turns out it’s just fine.  Safety-wise, anyway.
The next step was tasting said soup to see if any of us even wanted to eat it.

It was strangely good.  Even more bizarre, it tasted just like clams.  Everybody tasted it, and everybody agreed.  Clams.

So I got out some corn starch (double checked the box!) and thickened it, added milk to make it creamy, put in a few dashes of tobasco for a bit of a kick and served it.

It looked nothing like clam chowder at all.  But with the milk it was even more like clam chowder.  The kids could not stop wondering about it, and Victoria now wants to do taste tests with various combinations of foods to see if we can figure out why.

Daryl and the girls each ate 2 bowls of the stuff.  Jack thought it was too spicy even after I added more milk, so I finally had to do the train to get it into him.  But that was the dash of tobasco, not the wacky baking soda bit.

My family members are such good sports!  How many other mothers serve foods that erupt?!   Embarassed

“Here, eat it!  It’s science!”.  Laughing

Crafty Goodness

Want to make something crafty and adorable with the kids?  Here’s some fabulous projects I’ve stumbled upon lately….

The Storque has this darling tutorial of how to make a chipmunk from a knit glove.

The Cherry Blossom Girl has instructions to make lovely flower crowns.

Betsyann posted instructions on how to make darling leg warmers (and purses, dresses and more) on Craftster.

Even easier?  Use socks!  Z Recommends shows you how.

The Crafty Chica tells how to make this secret compartment book.

Lastly, Carrieme shared instructions on Craftster about how to make this lovely Waldorf style doll from a few items from the dollar store.

We have some projects to finish up here but I’m going to keep these in mind for lazy days and gifts for the kids to make.  What are you crafting at your place?