Monday, December 29, 2008

Handmade Gifts

Quilt Closeup
Originally uploaded by
Pictures by Ann
I made this quilt for Sophia for Christmas. It is based on the pattern in "Bend the Rules Sewing" - a book I checked out from the library.

Modified the pattern by choosing more fabric patterns (there is significance to some beyond color...for example, one has butterflies on it because Sophia loves to raise butterflies in the summer, one has dance shoes because she likes to dance); making it into a quilt that fits a twin bed (rather than a lap quilt); and hand tying the quilt (rather than sewing all 3 layers by machine).

It is stuffed with wool from sheep I use to raise many years ago.

I enjoy making handmade gifts for the girls, especially when I see how excited they are when they receive and use them. Some of my favorite things I received are those that people have made for me - my Grandma's wood recipe box that my dad repaired so I could have; my other Grandma's hand-crocheted afghan; Christmas ornaments that my mom made for me throughout the years; and hand-drawn and hand-painted pictures that my daughters have made since they were little.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Traditions

Having traditions is very important in children's lives. They are something they can anticipate and count on happening at regular intervals - whether its annually, semi-annually, monthly, or weekly.

One of the traditions that the girls look forward to is preparing for Santa's visit each year. On Christmas Eve, they make reindeer food (oats and candy sprinkles); and peel and cut carrots for the reindeer.

They choose 2 cookies and fill a glass of water for Santa and place it on the dining room table.

They write (or dictate and I write for them) a letter to Santa, and then place it next to the cookie plate so Santa can write a note back to them.

And then, with a lot of excitement (yet being quite serious with such an important task), they open the window that overlooks the mudroom roof. They carefully spread the oats and carrots on the roof, and then talk about how Santa's reindeers will land on the roof. They hope that they've provided enough food to give them energy for the night...or until the next family feeds them.

The girls then are able to open one present before they head off to bed early..."because we wouldn't want Santa to fly right over the house because you're awake!"

It's amazing how quickly they fall asleep...despite their excitement.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Playing Outdoors in the Winter

The girls enjoy playing outdoors now that there's more snow on the ground. They can lose track of time as they make snow angels, build snow forts, and shovel paths through the backyard.

The dogs also spend time outside with the girls, and they explore the nature trail together. It's fun for the girls and dogs to find the tracks in the snow left by rabbits, pheasants, birds, and other wildlife.

So many opportunities for outdoor learning and exercise - two elements of homeschooling that complement what the girls are learning indoors.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Window Stars

One of the benefits of being sick is that I seem to have a bit more time to do creative work since I don't have the energy to do much else.

Tried two new patterns of window stars - the one on the left hand side (the smallest one) and the ten-pointed star. The five-pointed star I've done before, but in a different color.

These are three of the stars that will be in the windows for Christmas. Made green ones and white ones as well.

I think it is important to have simple decorations around the home that allow my daughters to focus on pattern and color. The girls are always so excited to see what new patterns and colors I'm making when I make the stars.

Many of the stars I make are for customers for Harvest Moon by Hand (my Etsy shop). Needless to say, when I told Sophia and Olivia that this most recent batch of stars I was making was for them to decorate the windows, they were thrilled.

Simple pleasures can delight children and bring happiness to their days. It was so evident when the girls were told they could decorate the windows for Christmas with the stars. I'm finding that the more frugal, handmade holiday decorations and gifts are just as meaningful to Sophia and Olivia this year. For that...I am truly thankful.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Preparing for St. Lucia Day

At the weekly Home Ec class I teach to this group of homeschool girls, the focus was on St. Lucia and the yearly celebration on December 13th (St. Lucia Day).

Read "Hannah's Christmas" which the girls enjoyed. Had a variety of handouts that they could color at home related to Sweden, St. Lucia, St. Lucia's Day, holiday decorations in Sweden (ones made of straw), and three-pronged candles (to represent the Wise Men).

Made Lucia buns and Swedish hard tack prior to class so the girls could taste some Swedish treats. They also tasted Anna's Ginger Thins, Polka Mints (VERY good and strong peppermint candies), and Swedish fish.

They learned about cardamom and saffron, the part of the flower that saffron comes from, and tasted cardamom which was used instead of saffron in the recipes.

Sophia is dressed up as St. Lucia in this picture, Olivia is Star Boy (with her crown falling off...her head is a bit too small for the crown). Two of the girls are holding books that relate to St. Lucia Day, and the other is holding a straw decoration that was from Gammelgarden (an historic Swedish site in Scandia, Minnesota).

On December 6th, the local church in Scandia held a St. Lucia tea party which the girls and I attended. They had a fun time seeing St. Lucia, listening to a violin/guitar duo, and sampling Swedish treats.

Afterwards, we visited Gammelgarden to see their holiday display. The lobby was decorated with gnomes of all sizes. It was quite festive.

For more pictures from St. Lucia preparations, St. Lucia tea party, or Gammelgarden, please visit:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Visit from St. Nicholas

In preparation for St. Nicholas Day, I read the girls books about St. Nicholas and the impact he made on people during his time. They learn about the tradition of St. Nicholas Day around the world. By December 5th, they are eager for a visit from St. Nicholas.

On the evening of December 5th, the girls place their shoes in the mudroom. They need assurance that the outside door will be unlocked so St. Nicholas can get inside and fill their shoes. They go to bed and try to fall asleep right away so St. Nicholas doesn't pass by the house.

In the morning on December 6th, they eagerly go to the mudroom to see what was left in their shoes. This year, St. Nicholas brought them a tiny doll, an ornament from Slovakia, and a pack of gum since each of them love to chew gum (helps with sensory issues since both have sensory integration dysfunction).

They were little gifts...but the girls were so excited. It's something they look forward to...a simple tradition that they can count on and remember throughout the year.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sophia and Olivia Making a Korean Dinner

As part of homeschooling, I do a monthly geography unit (an ABC journey around the world). The girls are now on "K" and I've chosen Korea for them to study (both North and South Korea).

Generally, the girls learn where the country is, what the flag looks like, clothing typical to the area, listen to music from the featured country, do art projects, look at and include postage stamps from the country they are learning about, and cook various recipes.

Cooking, by far, is what the girls enjoy most about the unit studies. They have made and tasted food from: Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, and now Korea.

When Sophia was adopted, there was a layover in South Korea. Got a small taste of what South Korea was like, and enjoyed being there.

The girls are helping make dinner which is rice noodles with stir-fried vegetables and beef. The top of the dish is garnished with eggs. Sophia is chopping some of the vegetables in the picture above. Olivia and Sophia are ready to eat in the picture below. Both girls enjoyed the dinner.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Homemade Christmas Decorations

The girls love to decorate the refrigerator with their art work. So, the centerpiece of Olivia's side of the refrigerator is the handprint Christmas tree she's creating.

I clipped this idea from a magazine many years ago. It actually was done on a white sweatshirt with fabric paints. The children's hands were much smaller and put closer together so you couldn't see the prints as clearly.

For Olivia's picture, I painted her hand with green paint and then helped her press her hand on the sheet of white paper as shown in the picture.

She used a paintbrush to paint the tree trunk and snow. The ornaments (red, yellow, and purple) were added all over the tree.

Olivia was very happy with how her tree turned out, and had a lot of fun in the process.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Making Handmade Gifts for Christmas

This year the girls are learning to make several handmade gifts for Christmas. Sophia is making a handprint Santa card. She painted her hand white and pressed it onto a piece of green paper to represent Santa's beard.

She cut a piece of red paper out for the hat and glued it to the paper. Then she glued two googlie eyes on. With her finger, she put two pink dots to represent Santa's cheeks and one black dot on his beard for his mouth. There's also a row of white dots along his hat.

It's a simple craft, but one that she enjoyed doing.