Friday, December 21, 2012

Little Keepers Christmas Cookie Exchange

Last year we had a Christmas Tea Party.  This year the girls are working on a Cookie Baking pin so we decided to have a Christmas Cookie Exchange Party.  Each girl brought a dozen and a half of their cookie along with the recipe. The rule was taste one, take one home, tell us about your recipe/baking experience and just have fun!

Before the tasting and collecting of cookies began, I had the girls create a little cookie recipe pouch.  You know me and pretty paper so I had the girls pick out a pretty sheet of Christmas paper cut it to 10x12, fold in half, used my binding machine to make holes on both ends, and then had the girls weave in red yarn.  The final touch was a pretty stick on label.

We had a few girls that tried every cookie but most took a nice full bag of cookies home ;D

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December Tide Pools

We spent yesterday with friends at the Leo Carrillo Tide Pools.  It was a gorgeous clear 70 degree day : D  We took along our Pacific Intertidal Life guide.  It came in very handy and we spotted quiet a few specimens listed in it.

California Mussells - Mytilus californianus

Starbusrt Anemone - Anthopleura sola

Purple Sea Urchin - Strongylocentrotus purpuratus

California Sea Lion - Zalophus californianus

Ochre Sea Star - Pisaster ochraceus
Sea Grass and Sea Weed

We couldn't leave before sitting on some rocks; drawing in our journals and exploring a few caves ; )

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Saint Nicholas Morning Tea

We had such a good time celebrating the Feast of Saint Nicholas last year that the kids had been waiting and talking about it.  So off to bed they went last night, but not before chopping some carrots and putting their shoes outside the door.  I hear that the tradition in some countries is to leave one shoe out.  My kiddies prefer to leave two; just in case.  They woke to find a purse of chocolate gold coins, candy cane and clementine for each.  (the sugar rush started early today!!)

Instead of having a simple yogurt breakfast this time we decided to have a try at making some Scepuloos cookies.  I used the recipe from the St. Nicholas Center.   I carved a miter on them : ) They are definitely for dunking; they were a bit hard. Of course, this wasn't a problem because they had plenty of Trader Joe's Candy Cane Green tea to sip.  After seeing the huge sugar consumption this morning I decided they would only have the tea, but for myself I did try a concoction the teller at TJ's shared with me:  make a cup of their Sipping Hot Chocolate and then steep a bag of the Candy Cane tea.  This was delicious!

Our story today was The Secret Gift Bearer from Saintly Tales and Legends by Lois Rock.  Our morning poem came from The Young Oxford Book of Christmas Poems :

December- Prayer to Saint Nicholas
by John Heath-Stubbs
Patron of all those who do good by stealth-
Slipping three bags of gold in through the window
To save three desperate girls, restoring
Dead boys to life out of the pickling tub
Of an Anatolian Sweeney Todd-
Teach us to give with simplicity, and not with an eye
To the main chance: it's less than
Three weeks' shopping time to Christmas.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent & Winter Term 2012

We tend to start school in mid August and by Thanksgiving have finished a first term.  I've enjoyed this very much.  It gives us about five weeks to shift our CM education towards preparing for the Christmas season.  We don't stop school and our style doesn't change; materials just get replaced a bit.  The month is filled with activities and to do lists outside our home; that I really noticed a sense of rush rather than the calm that should be.  So for the last several years I've felt that letting the kids enjoy the time filled with great books, handicrafts, poetry, music, nature study/science, art and good thoughts about the coming of our Savior in our home was important. 

All our regular school book baskets are put away and filled with lots of Christmas and winter type books.  This year the kids and I will be enjoying the following:

Religion/Faith:  Destination Bethlehem by Sharon Altman and Christine Winkelman

Geography: Christmas Stories 'Round the World edited by Lois Johnson

Music/Composer Study:  All About Christmas by Maymie R. Krythe (the last four chapters on carols)

Poetry: The Young Oxford Book of Christmas Poems

Art Study(&Religion): A King James Christmas edited by Catherine Schuon & Michael Fitzgerald

Nature Study/Science:  And Everything Nice: The Story of Sugar, Spice and Flavoring by Elizabeth Cooper (this ties in great with the Marco Polo year we're having too) and  Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed (not scientific, but a cute story that gives us some thoughts to research)

The kids also each have independent reading time.  They have lots of books to choose from and I've not been keeping up with my new purchases so I've had to make a few trips to the library to get some new titles for them.  Besides their chapter books; we have on our schedule a picture book daily (which we read as a family).  On the schedule is also a craft or baking/cooking.  They really enjoy this (I'll post next on how this has turned out great with our Spices books).  This gives us lots of time to enjoy our days, but daylight is shorter.  What are they to do?  Well, I've noticed they ended up indoors more this time of year and this gives them time to create or make handmade gifts for people.  One of my girls is on her third set of crochet items she'll be gifting; don't want to spoil what it is in case the grandmas' & aunties are reading ; )

Our math continues as usual (not so creative here, sorry).  I do, however, create a notebook for them to keep all their copy work or written narrations/pictures for the season; a spot for our language arts you might say.  Another instance when I just love my binding machines, pretty paper and my StartWrite program:

This is our second week on this schedule and already I feel like we've slowed down and are enjoying each other.  I can't wait to share with you what's on our nature study table and the cute things the boys are enjoying in that little nook. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Our Advent Countdown Calendar

Even though we had a full week after Thanksgiving before Advent began I have to admit there wasn't much I did to get ready.  Any time we can spend with Dad we absolutely do! Luckily, I had ordered my candles several weeks ago and, of course, our Advent/Winter term was ready before Thanksgiving.  The kids enjoyed their first week already. But over the weekend I realized I hadn't purchased or put up an Advent countdown calendar.  The kids always enjoy the treat but really I'm not enjoying having six of them around anymore (maybe that was my procrastination).  ; D

What to find in my craft drawers that I could turn into just one calendar?  ... board, push pins, rubber stamps, garland and candy!!!  With the help of the kids this is what I came up with:

We took a pin board; decorated it with a garland and stamped some pocket pillows from the craft store.  These were on a clearance bin over the summer and I couldn't resist the price.  I'm glad I've found use for them.  Each pillow is filled with six treats the kids get to enjoy:

I'm having the kids replace the candy with a piece of paper.  They can write a word or more about something good they've done or seen that particular day.  A sort of good deeds/things collection spot. There it is a quick put together Advent countdown calendar for our family. 

I'll be back later to share our Advent/Winter term books and nature study table ; )

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mighty California White Oak Tree

Over the summer we loved sitting under the shade of a Coast Live Oak tree in our neighborhood park.  Well, as nature study goes, you start to notice all the details of what becomes your subject.  Not because your told to but because you are near it so much that you can't help but explore all it's intricacies.  An image has been set.

The school year activities began and so did my running around.  One Thursday afternoon for a particular choir practice; the boys and I ended up at a park near our church while we waited for the girls.  Mind you, we've been to this park plenty of times, but this day was a little different...the boys really paid attention to the Oak trees.  They knew they were oaks, but they didn't look like our summer shade tree at all. 

California White Oak or Valley Oak - Quercus lobata
The leaves were certainly different:

But yet, it still had acorns ... different shape and color though:

Needless to say they got busy doing what they do best: explored, played and stuffed their pockets with take home treasures.

Forward to this past weekend, while on a hike with friends, my kids noticed both the Coastal Live Oak and a lonely California White Oak on the same trail.  We brought home a few branches of both and put them in some water (because our previous treasures were of course pretty dried up).  Their enthusiasm was contagious and I couldn't help but want to look up more Oak trees.  We found a site with a nice comparison page of Common California Oak Trees at  Look around there is some pretty neat information.  (the site names it Valley Oak, notice the acorn is longer than the Oregon Oak mentioned on the page with a similar leaf) Here's the Wikipedia link for Valley Oak (my husband and I are used to calling them White Oaks rather than Valley, but that's just the name we grew up with). 

What can I say...Oak trees are on our radar now!  There is another trail we've hiked in which I'm pretty sure I've seen Black Oak trees.  I'm hoping to go there soon ; )

Friday, November 2, 2012

On All Soul's Day: a little Dia De Los Muertos

Last year my oldest daughter requested that we please observe All Soul's Day Latin style; meaning with some Dia De Los Muertos traditions.  I thought that with our Nana, now in heaven, the kids would appreciate the significance this year.  I've heard of the traditions all my life, but, honestly, never participated because I didn't understand loss. 

So, early fall I ordered a sugar skull making kit from  We stayed up one night to mold our sugar skulls, all 30 of them:

And then over the weekend we invited some friends and cousins to join us in decorating our skulls:

They turned out pretty neat:

Now, you can't eat these and you know I decided to use last year's All Soul's Cake recipe to make skull cookies.

We let them decorate and eat these!!!

Everyone had a wonderful time and we did talk about the significance of the tradition and the ties to All Souls Day.  Our Dia De Los Muertos Altar has sat all week as we remember our Nana and all the other soul's who have passed.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Pumpkin Carving Evening

After our Monday afternoon bike/nature walk with dad, we came home for an evening of pumpkin carving.  Dad took the lead on this tradition, after all it is kind of gooey and icky:

A few weeks ago my oldest son, the artist, drew his own design. He had been waiting patiently for carving day : )

The kids had a great Monday with dad.  We'll be missing him tonight as we trick or treat with all our cousins!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Autumn Leaves Crunch

We headed to the park, as usual, for our Monday afternoon outdoors time and some nature study inspiration.  Today was an extra special trip:  Dad was around, woo-hoo! This meant we could drive two cars and take six bikes with us!!

As we walked the trail I couldn't help but just admire the leaves on the trees.  In California you tend to notice the evergreens more than the deciduous, but there are a few trees that still give us that autumn color inspiration.

California Sycamore - Platanus Racemosa

American Sweetgum - Liquidambar Styraciflua
The second thing about these trees that always give us just a bit of the autumn feel is the leaves we see on the ground.  We don't get to see many leaf piles, so we have to settle on those few that we happen upon.

But you want to know what my kids favorite part of all these leaves is:


The CRUNCH they make when you ride your bike over them!