Saturday, December 31, 2011


Tumbleweed (Salsola tragus)
We could not say goodbye to the year without one last nature walk.  Hacking and coughing the kids decided after breakfast to walk down the hill to the park (soft balls and gloves in tote).  Please forgive me, I am not an athlete but a biblioholic.  My kids, well, let's just say they need a lot more practice in the athletic areas as well.  I'll give my husband (the more athletic one) credit; he is trying.

Object: protect your face not hide your face ; )
After a few rounds of catch and just before heading back up the hill, the kids found their nature interest.  We've seriously never paid much attention to these other than seeing them roll around like feathers on the road sometimes.  There have been some high winds lately, so naturally we've noticed them quiet a bit when driving around the last few days.  The kids immediately walked over to them and began close up inspections. 

They were eager to see where the plant came off, how it felt, was it really light as a feather, how it rolled, how big were they...
that's my tall five year old behind it
After discerning that we could not roll one home with us, the kids headed back with out a true size sample for the nature table.  When we got back we discovered that you mostly find these on dessert or dry areas; high or strong winds aid in detaching it; it is a dead weed/plant; they are diaspores (seeds/spores get dispersed as they tumble around); and for some places can be big water soakers.  The original plant is mostly likely a Russian Thistle (we'll find out when they are actually living next spring).  Another look at the top of the hill full of them:

 Interesting how even these dry weeds are useful in natural life cycles.  Hmm...winter weeds!?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Books Found Under the Tree

This will be my last book post of the year : ( , it's a good thing a new year is starting soon ; )  It is no secret: we love books!  We buy books throughout the year; at book sales, online, used, new, classics, etc... you get the idea.  Usually the books we wrap and give at Christmas are Christmas/Season books or a fun read, preferably, newer release.  Our family has gotten wind of this or maybe it's that I have a few children that when asked what they want for Christmas, they immediately have specific titles in mind.  Not such a bad thing, right ?

This year the younger children received:
If You Give a Dog a Donut by Laura Numeroff, the little ones always enjoy this series
Strega Nona's Gift by Tomie De Paola, can't go wrong, great for liturgical teas
The Nativity: from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke by Ruth Sanderson, just beautiful
Nonna Tell Me a Story by Lidia Bastianich, has some great recipes at the end
O Christmas Tree: It's History and Holiday Traditions by Jacqueline Farmer, had to add it to our nature study list
The Lego Ideas Book: Unlock Your Imagination,  my son was thrilled!

Not pictured because I'm sure they are somewhere in their bedrooms being enjoyed:  I Spy ChristmasTwelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett and The Book of Fairy Poetry by Michael Haque (my younger daughter loves the illustrations in this book and was thrilled she recognized some poetry too).

My older two girls received:
Junonia by Kevin Henkes,  we like his picture books so we'll see how they like this one
Highway Cats by Janet Taylor Lisle,  I have a daughter who is just engrossed with cats lately
The Girl Who Circumvented Fairyland In a Ship Of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, something new along the lines of Sister's Grimm
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, need to read that before watching the movie ; )
The Heroes of Olympus book 1 & 2 by Rick Riordan, she's read all the other Riordan books

Did mom and dad get any?  Yes, we did.  The girls picked two books for dad and I gave myself two new books that I found at our used library book sale (while looking for dad).

Tournament of Shadows by Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac, he loves out of the ordinary history books
Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution by Woody Holton, looked interesting
The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden, can you believe I didn't own this!!
Harbor Lights of Home by Edgar A. Guest, a 1928 copy, I've already found some very nice poems

I know I'm in good company when many of you will appreciate some titles or at least not think it odd that my family loves getting books for Christmas.  Here is too a wonderful 2011 year filled with good books and looking forward to 2012 with more wonderful titles!! 

Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Under the Weather

We spent our whole fall avoiding getting sick, but, alas, some things just happen.  Once one person gets anything around here there is nothing you can do but wait for your turn.  Well, by the end of last week at least one of us was not feeling to good...Christmas Eve half of us didn't make it to mass... and by Monday morning I think we all felt just under the weather.

Our families were very kind and still came over like scheduled.  I know the kids appreciated having family around to do their traditional gift exchanges.  They look forward to seeing reactions on the little things they buy or make for everyone (and of course, love opening gifts).  The girls performed at mass and I was told they sounded beautiful (yes, I was one of the casualties Christmas eve).  We tried something new this year and discovered Santa did not appreciate the milk we left for him.  I guess he doesn't have a taste for soy yet ; ), but he did leave some pretty cool things under the tree and in the stockings. 
I intended this week to be low key and a break for the kids before the start of our Term 2, but it has turned right down necessary so we can be 100% by next week.  So there has been a lot of this:

waiting around Christmas Eve
definitely this:

resting and sleeping
plenty of this:

combined the family got 15 new books as presents, six of those for my oldest  : )
and lots of looking out the windows at these:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Greeting

When we moved to our new house my mother in law gave us this plaque which says "Friends & Family Gather Here".  I fell in love with it immediately.  Being part of a big family has been wonderful.  There is always some sort of gathering and every year we feel blessed for them all.  There is always:


At Christmas time, especially, I love to look at it along with all the stockings hanging under it.  Yes, there is a person to claim each one and lots of Friends and Family that Gather Here!

I'm also grateful for sharing this space with you.  I hope the season of joyful waiting has been peaceful and blessed.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Little Keepers Christmas Tea

We hosted our Little Keepers Christmas tea today.  Our youngest four year old Little Keeper was absolutely beaming the whole time.  I think it was her first official tea ; )  The girls also missed two of their friends so we hope to really do this again next year ... maybe for springtime.

But for the menu this afternoon we served:

Orange & Cranberry Cream Cheese Cucumber Sandwiches
Sugar sprinkled cranberries and orange slices
Brocolli and Bacon Quiche Christmas Tree
Candy Cane Chocolate Frosting Cake
Chocolate covered Almonds
Our drinks included apple cider and some yummy Cranberry Orange Tea from Culinary Teas with chocolate covered peppermint sticks on the side. 

Some ambiance provided by last years hand made ornaments and this lovely lighted present:

Before serving tea the girls began their second embroidery stitch: satin stitch.  Then we moved on to practice some of the manners we've been learning about from our Emily Post's The Guide to Good Manners for Kids at the table.  During tea we also enjoyed some nice conversation and some poetry readings from another favorite author and illustrator: Joan Walsh Anglund.  Her depiction of children is so sweet and appropriate for the little ones. We read from her A Christmas Book.

It was a pleasant afternoon.  The girls do enjoy just being girls.  We were quickly reminded, though, that there were a total of five little boys lurking in the boys room.  They held out as much as they could before invading our Tea Party : D

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Candle & Some Chemistry

I had not planned on studying chemistry this year but late in summer one of our homeschool moms opened up a Chemistry Club co-op.  My oldest was just perfect for this mostly middle school group.  The group has met about once a month and are working through the Thames and Cosmos Chem 500 kit.  The group could also choose to read a few suggested titles; among them was Michael Farraday's The Chemical History of a Candle.  I chose to save this small six lecture volume for our Advent/Winter focus time.  The title and theme just seemed so fitting; and, honestly, I didn't want to overwhelm my sixth grader with physics and chemistry at the same time.

The language might just be a bit challenging at first but I do think an advanced sixth grader or mom reading the book can handle it.  I started helping her in the beginning but before I knew it she asked me not to.  She just occasionally will ask about a term or word.  She just finished lecture one today and already I feel she has picked up a lot about chemical reactions and terminology.  Today she was thrilled to light up a candle and observe the beginning of a wick burning.  The best part was putting combustible vapor theory to practice.  That's when you blow the fire on a candle and the smoke you see carries enough vapor to cause a combustion with a nearby flame that will turn the candle back on.  It really works!   The boys had us repeat this several times ; )

We might just get through one more lecture before we start our next official term.  I'll let her decide if she wants to add another science to our Secrets of the Universe.  I have a feeling she will ; )  I can assure you she doesn't look at our traditional lighting of the Advent candles in the same way.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mexican Style Tea for Our Lady of Guadalupe

At the end of mass yesterday our priest invited the congregation to gather at 5:00 a.m. to sing "Las Mananitas" to Our Lady of Guadalupe followed by a special mass.  Well, we weren't able to make such an early celebration but early this afternoon we were able to have a nice Mexican style tea in her honor.

I gathered some of the only blooming roses in our side garden and we did play "Las Mananitas" from the CD  De Colores by Jose Luis Orozco.  He has been a favorite of Mexican folklore music since we met him at a UCLA book festival about eight years ago. We own several of his CDs.  His song books are very colorful too.  I also got busy making an easy recipe Flan and bunuelos this morning.  It's the first time I've made the buenelos and it wasn't that bad.  But my shapes do need some practice.  We also made some simple quesadillas and our drink of choice was Abuelitas Chocolate.  I like to add some cinnamon sticks to the boiling mixture for an even more authentic taste. 

This was enjoyed as we had a round robin read of Tomei De Paola's The Lady of Guadalupe.  There is nothing like a good book, a nice hot drink and a sweet treat to receive some wonderful narrations.  The breaks are a must for some delicious sips.  We had not had a liturgical tea in months and I can tell my kids really missed it.
And to this day, the Mexican Indians say to newborn children, " May God be as good to you as he was to Juan Diego."  from The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomei De Paola

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Oh, Christmas Tree"

 When we first moved to our house a few years ago my mother immediately wanted me to cover up this great glass wall.  It took me a while to decide what to do with it.  I think that this has become the perfect spot for my little guys to just stop by on their way to the kitchen or living room and hang out.  I caught my little one scrutinizing our evergreen treasures from our latest walk.  There is a stool to sit and usually something under the table for them to play with too.  This month it is a wood blocks nativity set.  I actually love how the nature table looks when you walk up to the door.  It really has become our nature seasonal area of sorts.

This month on our nature table:

The books in the basket:
Just a little bit on the last book.  We really enjoyed it.  Our favorite part, of course, is the end.  Mainly because we have heard Dad's stories (before we even knew of this book) of how this was a tradition his parents did and guess what:  they are still on the slope of his parents house.  I hope you read it and find out what I mean ; )

A closer look at one of our nature journals:

And just a quick look at my crochet trees:

"O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!
They are green when summer days are bright,
They are green when winter snow is white.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!"

(first verse of the Christmas carol "O, Tannenbaum")

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Feast of Saint Nicholas

The children went to bed last night but not before putting their shoes outside our front door with a few carrots for Saint Nicholas' kind horse....

This morning they woke up to find some nice treats in the place of carrots : )

Then we had a nice yogurt & granola breakfast while listening to The Miracle of Saint Nicholas by Gloria Whelan.

They got to enjoy a few chocolate coins and their tangerines too.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wonderful Community

I just started blogging this year, and I never imagined what a wonderful blog sphere community I would encounter.  The ladies I've had a pleasure of interacting with have been such an inspiration on this journey.  It is wonderful to know that even states (and countries) apart there are families who travel likewise. 


I want to thank Erin from Seven Little Australians & Counting and Angel from And the Kitchen Sink whom over the weekend awarded me with a Versatile Blog Award.  I can't forget to give thanks to Serena from Casting Pearls who also passed along this nice award to me back in October.  I hope you will visit each of their sites. 

I am always impressed with how wonderful Erin runs a full home and has such great wisdom for us young moms (I dare still call myself that).  Angel has some wonderful posts on books.  Honestly, how can I not like a blog about books ; )  And Serena, well, you'll just have to stop by and be inspired by her beautiful pictures of one of my favorite things: nature.

Now, here are the rules:
  • Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them.
  • Tell your readers 7 things about yourself.
  • Give this award to 15 recently discovered bloggers.
  • Contact those bloggers and let them in on the news.

1. I love books, (but you already know that).  Some of my favorites have been Tale of Two Cities and Les Miserables. (Hmm, is that a theme...)
2. I am a horrible cook even though my dad has worked in a kitchen for over 15 years and my mother makes amazing authentic Guatemalan dishes.  My husband seriously was disappointed when he discovered I couldn't cook like my parents. (I'm a better baker though : D )
3. Oh, how wonderful it would be to live near snow.  I so admirer all the winter landscapes and traditions:  But, let the weather get to low 60's or below and I feel like I'm going to freeze!
4. I enjoy romantic comedies, one of my favorites is You've Got Mail, and it's probably more because of the children's book store rather than the romance. I can't believe she had to close that down : (
5. Anything chocolate is good and if it doesn't have it; I'll probably add it.
6. I'm a year round coffee drinker, but come the cold months you'll always find some tea brewing.
7. Crocheting has become my new obsession.  I didn't realize how relaxing and enjoyable this was!

I will reserve my pass along awards to 15 bloggers for just a little longer.  Like Angel, I will sheepishly say that I only keep a handful of blogs on my reader.  While all of them deserve this I think they've already received this honor from mutual admirers.  I did want to take the time to say thank you to the lovely ladies and participate.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Winter Focus: Advent & Christmas Season

For the last few years I've enjoyed finishing up our first term right before Thanksgiving.  Our next term always starts after the New Year.  So what do we do for the five weeks in between?  Our math continues as routine (lighter to allow for some math drills), but all our other subjects will have a focus relating to the season with lots of baking and craft making : D  Somehow, lightening our load and shifting to a more faith filled time, really helps us welcome the Christ Child with open arms and more sincere hearts.  Our plans are pretty much finished (for now). 

Picture Book Baskets: We have two crate like baskets filled with Christmas books.  We pick one a day to enjoy.  I pretty much let this lead us on any trails.  I'll try to post what books we've read for the week.
Faith & Religion & History:  This will be our first year through a Jesse Tree.  I found a great branch tree at Michaels to hold our very simple but elegant (and free) Jesse Tree ornaments provided by the lovely Michele from Family Centered Press.  I miss doing this every year so we are excited.  I went ahead and splurged a little on these (again) simple but elegant O Antiphons ornaments for our live tree.   We'll also have weekly readings from Children's Advent and Christmas (sorry this is a hard one to find but it looks just right for my little ones). The other one we chose is certainly easily attainable One Wintry Night by Ruth Graham; the illustrations are very nice in this book.

Geography:  We used this book once a week last year too, so the girls are eager to read some different stories from it:  The Return of the Light:  Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solsitce by Carolyn M. Edwards.  The girls read a story and then will look it up on a map or even go off on a trail about the country they just read.  The stories are not too long, but they are captivating.

Poetry:  I will pick one poem per week for copywork out of O Holy Night: Masterworks of Christmas Poetry.  Each section also includes some good bible verses for copywork and/or dictation.

Art Study:  We chose The Saturday Evening Post Christmas Book by Norman Rockwell.  There are some wonderful prints and good stories in it.  Our focus is Rockwell.

Music:  Our favorites are always the Wee Sing Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Classical Kids Christmas and this year we are adding Christmas Carols for a Kids Heart.  These pretty much just get played as background for now.  We also delight in listening to the girls practice for their choir performance at the Christmas Eve Mass.

Nature Study & Science:  I was so excited when Jen posted about the books by Glenn Blough.  We bought Christmas Trees and How They Grow and will be the focus of our studies for the next five weeks or so.  Once a week the girls will also be reading from a fun scientific-like (IMO) book: Flight of the Reindeer by Robert Sullivan.

Baking & Crafts: I was excited to find on Currclick Scipture Adventures: A Christmas Adventure.  While it could stand alone as our Faith Studies; I'll be honest I liked that there is a craft or baking activity for every day in December 'till Christmas!

Independent Reading & Read Aloud:  We started this last year so this year it will be our focus; Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien.  The girls will also have some nice chapter books to choose from for independent reading.  First up is Just David by Eleanor Porter for my sixth grader, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson for my third grader and with my first grader we'll continue with Frog and Toad Treasury by Arnold Lobel skipping to Frog and Toad All Year to the Down the Hill and Christmas Eve Chapters.

It might seem like a full load but really the weekly readings don't take too long.  This leaves plenty of room to enjoy the season with each other mostly cuddled with a book of choice or in the kitchen creating.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Nature Green Fridays

We had a wonderful time with our family this Thursday.  We are fortunate enough to live near my in laws and my family.  After two deliciously turkey and all the trimming meals we have made it a tradition to go on a nature hike the day after Thanksgiving.  I'll admit we postponed it to Saturday this year but for good reasons.  No black Friday shopping here, rather, a kind God mother wanting to take her godson to the movies.  Very sweet of her!

After breakfast this morning the kids were ready to go.  While some friends have been recording in their Book of Firsts lovely white snow; my kids were ready to hit the trail in shorts and sunglasses in our sunny California 70 degree weather.

Our first water break stop would be near the lonely maple on the hilltop among the lush green shrubs and trees.  Clearly a sign that this is fall, right?  Those are yellow falling leaves on it, just a little too much sun to make them out I guess ; )

The kids ran into some great stuff along the way.  Our favorite was a bloom that we haven't seen on our trails so far.  We're having a hard time identifying it.  We've been looking at CA wildflower sites all day.  I need to put something together for a study of California flowers and plants.  I know the kids would really enjoy it.  This is what it initially looks like:

But then the little silk like fibers start looking like this:

We're still trying to read more about it.  We've learned more about inflorescence flower clusters and the more common plants in this group than when we started our hike.  I'll keep you posted when we discover what it is.  If you're familiar with it, please give us a hint. 

We also saw several animal tracks, including some horses:

My son started poking some pellets and could make out a few bones (I know a little ugh, but he demanded the picture be included):

Some very festive Bearberries still around:

Bearberry or Kinnikinnick ( Arstostaphylos uva-ursi)
And the wonderful view from the top:

Yes, we much prefer Nature Green Fridays' after Thanksgiving.