Saturday, December 31, 2011

Learning about Geography through Food - Rhode Island

We're using the Cantering the Country curriculum for learning about the United States. One of the activities that we look forward to doing is making food that is representative of each state.

The recipes in Eat Your Way Through the U.S.A. which is part of the curriculum had a couple of recipes of Rhode Island (Rhode Island Red Clam Chowder and Mocha Cake). However, neither appealed to us, so I chose to look on the internet for recipes from Rhode Island.

There were two that I found that I thought would be interesting to try: Spicy Apple Twists and Spicy Tuna and Avocado Ceviche. All of us liked the apple twists. Sophia and I liked the ceviche, but Olivia didn't care for it.

Spicy Apple Twists.

Spicy Apple Twists
(Rhode Island Fruit Growers)


2 large apples, pared and cored
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
4-5 tablespoons water
1/3 cup melted butter (we used dairy-free butter)
1-1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon


Slice each apple into 8 wedges. Mix flour with salt into mixing bowl. Cut in shortening. Sprinkle cold water over mixture stirring with fork until dough is just moist enough to hold together. Form into ball, then flatten to about 1/2 inch thickness. Roll out on a floured surface to 16x10 inch rectangle. Cut into 16 10x1 inch strips.

Wrap one strip around each apple wedge. Arrange in 13x9x2 inch pan. Brush with butter; sprinkle with mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

Spicy Apple Twists from RI
Sophia sprinkling cinnamon and sugar
on top of the twists.
Olivia is brushing melted butter on her twists.
Pour 3/4 cup water around pastries. Bake in 450 degree oven 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm or cold, plain or with whipped cream.


Point Judith, Rhode Island, is the Tuna Capital of the World. So, we made something with tuna. Since tuna isn't freshly-caught in Minnesota, we opted to use canned white tuna. It's not the same thing as the recipe calls for, but it's what we had on hand.

Spicy Tuna and Avacado Ceviche from RI
A modified version of
Spicy Avacado and Tuna Ceviche.

Spicy Tuna and Avocado Ceviche
(Recipe Source)


Juice of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon sambal oelek (we didn't use this)
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large red or green scallion (we used a green scallion), minced
1 avocado, diced
1/2 lb chilled sushi-grade tuna, diced
2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves


In a mixing bowl, combine lime juice, sambal, soy sauce and salt. Add remaining ingredients, and toss to coat. The lime juice will begin to "cook" the fish, so make this at the last minute. Serve immediately, while still cold, with crackers, toasted bread slices, or in lettuce leaves. Serves 6-8 as an appetizer.

As a side note, ceviche - pronounced seh VEE chay- is a Latin appetizer of raw fish "cooked" in an acid like lime or lemon.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Weather Experiments - Rain and Raindrops

We've been enjoying Janice VanCleave's Earth Science for Every Kid which has some easy-to-do activities that bring science principles to life and make them easy to understand. We're currently learning about the weather, so Sophia and Olivia did some more experiments from the book.


Purpose: To determine how raindrops form.

Procedure: We poured some water into a quart canning jar - not a lot, just enough to cover the bottom of the jar. We turned the lid and band upside down and set it over the mouth of the jar; and then put four ice cubes inside the lid.

Water Cycle Experiment
Jar with ice cubes on the lid
for the condensation/rain experiment.

About ten minutes later, we took a look at the underside of the lid. Not much was happening, so we waited another ten minutes.

The lid looked wet and finally some water drops formed on the underside of the lid. This was because some of the liquid water in the bottom of the jar evaporated (or changed into a gas). 

Condensation formed on the lid.
This represents rain droplets. Eventually, the larger ones
fell into the water at the bottom of the jar.
This, then, continued the water cycle.

According to Earth Science, "The water vapor condenses and then changes back to a liquid when it hits the coool underside of the lid. As the amount of liquid increase, drops form on the underside of the lid.

"In nature, liquid water evaporates from open water areas such as streams, lakes, and oceans. This vapor rises and condenses as it hits the cooler upper air.

"Clouds are made of tiny drops of liquid water suspended in the air. Water drops in clouds range in size from .000079 to .0039 inches in diameter.

"The tiny water drops join together, forming larger, heavier drops. The drops start falling as rain when air can no longer support them. Falling raindrops range in size from .24 to .79 inches."


Purpose: To determine how tiny water droplets in clouds grow into raindrops.

Procedure: We didn't have an eye dropper, so the girls used the ends of their hair dipped in water to sprinkle droplets of water on the coffee can lid. They put as many separate drops of water as they could on the lid.

Putting Water on a Lid
Making do with what they had on hand
to create water droplets on the lid.

When they were done, they quickly turned the lid over. Sophia used a point of a pencil to move the tiny drops of water together.

Combining Droplets to Make Rain
Sophia using a pencil tip to join droplets of water together.
The larger drops fell to the plate below.

The drops joined together to form larger drops; and then the large drops fell.

The drops do this, according to Earth Science, because "water molecules have an attraction for each other. This attraction is due to the fct that each molecule has a positive and negative side.

Olivia Getting a Better View
Olivia wanted to get a better view...
either that or she missed the feeling of rain.

"The positive side of the molecule attracts the negative side of another molecule. The tiny water droplets on the plastic lid as well as in clouds join to form larger, heavier drops, which fall. The falling drops from clouds are called raindrops."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

L is for Lemon Squares - ABCs of Homeschooling

We've been enjoying using Alpha-Bakery - the cookbook that Sophia received as part of her homeschool home economics class. Each week, we've made recipe that begin with different letters of the alphabet.

So far we've made recipes for the letters A through K. This week, we made lemon squares for the letter L.

Lemon Squares


1 cup of all-purpose flour
½ cup of margarine or butter, softened (we used dairy-free butter)
¼ cup of powdered sugar
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
½ teaspoon of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of salt
2 eggs


Heat the oven to 350 degrees Mix thoroughly flour, margarine and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Press evenly with hands in bottom and about 5/8 inch up sides of an ungreased square pan, 8x8x2 inches. (If dough is sticky, flour fingers.) Bake 20 minutes.

Beat remaining ingredients in a medium bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy. Pour over hot crust. Bake just until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center, about 25 minutes. Let stand until cool, and then cut into about 1 ½-inch squares. Makes 25 squares.

Link up to the ABC's

Learning about Geography through Food - Connecticut

We're using the Cantering the Country curriculum for learning about the United States. One of the activities that we look forward to doing is making food that is representative of each state.

The recipes in Eat Your Way Through the U.S.A. for Connecticut include: New England Pot Roast and Crumb Cake.  Both of the recipes were delicious and ones that we would make again.

Pot roast with potatoes and carrots.

New England Pot Roast


1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons salt (this seemed like too much salt, we just used 1 teaspoon)
1 1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 pounds lean boned beef chuck roast
2 tablespoons vegetable broth or butter (we used dairy-free butter)
5 ounches prepared horseradish
1 cup water
8 small potatoes, pared and halved
8 small carrots, halved crosswise
8 small onions (we used two large onions cut into quarters)
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 1/4 ounce canned beef gravy (optional)


Stir together flour, salt, and pepper; rub mixture on meat. Heat broth or butter in Dutch oven; brown meat over medium heat, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat; spread horseradish on both sides of meat. Add water; cover tightly and simmer on top of range about four hours or until meat is tender. About 1 hour before end of cooking time, add vegetables and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Serve with gravy, if desired.

Note:  rather than cook it on the stove, we baked this in the oven. We used a 9"x13" pan and put all all the ingredients in at the same time. We baked it at 325 degrees until the meat was cooked thoroughly and the vegetables were tender.


Crumb Cake from CT 
Crumb cake.

Crumb Cake


2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (we used dairy-free butter)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups buttermilk (we used slightly less than 2 cups of rice milk and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice; and then let it sit for about 5 minutes)
1 cup raisins
1 cup nuts (we didn't include nuts)


Grease and flour a 9"x13" pan. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, spices, and salt. Work in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Remove and reserve 1 cup of crumbs for topping.

Add baking soda to buttermilk and stir into remaining mixture. Add raisins and nuts while there are still a few dry lumps, and continue stirring only until all is moistened.

Pour batter into pan; sprinkle with reserved crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees until the top is browned and a toothpick comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Weather Experiments - Thermometer & Hygrometer

Sophia and Olivia are learning about the weather, so we recently did some experiments to demonstrate different aspects of weather. We used Janice VanCleave's Earth Science for Every Kid which has some easy-to-do activities that bring science principles to life and make them easy to understand.

Up and Down

Purpose: To demonstrate how a thermometer works.

Procedure: The girls held the bulb of the thermometer between their fingers.

Sophia Measuring Body Temperature
Sophia watching the temperature rise
on the thermometer.

Heat from their fingers increased the temperature of the liquid inside the thermometer. As the liquid is heater, it expands and rises in the thermometer tube.

Olivia Measuring Her Body Temperature
Olivia holding the thermometer bulb between her fingers.
She's watching the temperature slowly increase.

Next, they placed the thermometer in a cup of room-temperature water.  The cooler water removed the heat from the liquid in the thermometer.

Temperature in Water
The girls observing how the temperature decreases
when the thermometer is placed in water.

Then, we placed a few ice cubes in the cup of water and watched the temperature decrease even further. As the water cooled, it contracted and moved down the tube.

Temperature with Ice Cubes
Olivia was especially surprised when the ice cubes were added.
The temperature decreased very quickly.
She's saying "Oooo!" as she watches the temperature drop.

According to Earth Science, "Outdoor thermometers are used to measure the temperature of air. Any increase or decrease in the heat content of air causes the liquid inside the thermometer to expand or contract, thus indicating the temperature of the surrounding air."

Wet Air

Purpose: To demonstrate the use of hair in measuring humidity.

Procedure: The girls used a small piece of tape to secure one end of Olivia's strand of hair to the center of the toothpick. We colored one end of the toothpick with a black marker.

Making a Hygrometer
The girls working together to attach
the strand of hair to the toothpick.

Then, we taped the free end of the hair strand to the center of the pencil. We placed the pencil across the mouth of the jar with the toothpick hanging inside the jar.

Measuring Humidity with a Hygrometer
Placing the toothpick into the jar
with the pencil resting on the top.

The toothpick wasn't hanging horizontally, so we added a couple of drops of glue to the light end to balance the toothpick. They made a hair hygrometer (an instrument used to measure humidity - or the amount of water in the air).

The toothpick changes direction during the week. Why? According to Earth Science, "The hair stretches when the humidity increases; with a lower humidity, the hair shrinks. The stretching and shrinking of the hair pulls on the toothpick, causing it to move."

Weather Experiments - Frost and Snowflakes

We are using Janice VanCleave's Earth Science for Every Kid which has some easy-to-do activities that bring science principles to life and make them easy to understand. We're currently learning about the weather, so we did some more experiments from the book.


Purpose: To determine how frost forms.

Procedure: Sophia and Olivia placed glass jam jars in the freezer for 30 minutes. They removed the jars and allowed them to sit on the table undisturbed for 30 seconds.

Learning How Frost Forms
The girls waiting as the glass frosted.
(Apparently the 30 second waiting period was not too exciting.
They both look like they're sleeping and/or bored.)

The glass began to look more frosty, and a very thin layer of soft snow seemed to be stuck to the outside of the jar.

According to Earth Science, "Frost is not frozen dew. Frost forms when water vapor changes directly to a solid. The glass is cold enough to cause the water vapor in the air to cool so quickly that it sublimes (changes from a gas to a solid without forming a liquid)."

Making Designs in Frost
Olivia scratching a design in the jar.

They scratched the cloudy/frosty formation on the outside of the jars with their fingernails to create patterns.

Making Frost Designs
 Sophia scratched a design
in the frost on her jar.

Floating Flakes

Purpose: To demonstrate why snowflakes float.

Procedure: The girls took one piece of paper and divided it in half. They crumpled one of the sheets into a ball and left the other flat.

Snowflake Experiment
Cutting and folding the paper to simulate
a raindrop and snowflake.

They held the flat sheet in one hand and the crumpled sheet in the other hand. They dropped both sheets at the same time.

Why Snowflakes Float 
Sophia holding the two pieces of paper
at the same distance from the floor
before letting them drop.

The crumpled sheet hit the floor first each time they did the experiment. The flat sheet floated slowly downward.

Floating and Falling Paper
The crumpled pieces of paper are on the floor, and
the flat pieces of paper are floating down.

Why did this happen? According to Earth Science, "The downward pull of gravity is the same on both sheets of paper,  but the upward force of air on each sheet is not the same.

"Raindrops and snowflakes are both made of water, but they have different shapes. The raindrop, like the crumpled paper, takes up a small amount of space and falls more quickly than does the flat sheet of paper, which behaves like a snowflake.

"The flat paper, like snowflakes, falls slowly because it has a greater exposed area and thus receives more upward force from the air."

12 in 12: Thinking Ahead to 12-12-12

Last year, Sophia, Olivia, and I did a 52 Weeks of Giving challenge as part of homeschooling. I wanted to think of something new for us to do together this year that would continue with making a difference in the lives of others (people or animals) or for the environment.

This year, December 12, 2012, has a numerical significance with three twelves repeating themselves: 12-12-12. Because of special date, we will do things each month - from January to December 12th that involve the number 12. We're naming it "12 in 12."

Each month we will:
- Take 1 bag of food to the food shelf.
- Volunteer 1 hour at a community organization that is chosen each month (can be the same one or different one).
- Donate 1 bag of clothing to a second-hand shop.
- Donate 1 bag of toys and other non-clothing items to a second-hand shop.
- Donate 12 books that we no longer read to organizations needing books.
- Donate $12 to an organization that helps individuals, animals, or the environment.
- Write 1 letter to someone who has made a difference in our lives.
- Donate 1 bag of pop cans to places that collect them to raise funds (e.g., Northwoods, local Lions Club).
- Donate 12 bags of Purina Kitten Chow (dry) to Northwoods Humane Society (where Gretel was adopted).
- Spend 1 hour outdoors doing projects that help wildlife.
- Make and randomly drop off 1 toy for a child to find as part of The Toy Society.
- Share 1 time the gift of music (piano and/or harp) or singing with others.

By December 12, we will have donated:

- 12 bags of food
- 36 hours of time (12 per person) to one or more community organizations
- 12 bags of clothing to a second-hand shop.
- 12 bags of toys and other non-clothing items to a second-hand shop.
- 144 books that we no longer read to organizations needing books.
- $144 to organizations that helps individuals, animals, or the environment.
- 12 letters to people who have made a difference in our lives.
- 12 bags of pop cans to help various non-profit organizations.
- 12 bags of Purina Kitten Chow (dry) to Northwoods
- 12 hours doing outdoor projects that help wildlife.
- 12 handmade toys to children in different parts of the community.
- 12 performances of harp, piano, or voice (as part of a choir) in front of audiences at various organizations.

Are you doing anything special to celebrate 12-12-12 this year?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Embroidery Journal Project 2012

During 2010, I particpated in a monthly journal quilt project. The concept was to create a small quilt that reflected the happenings of the month. I made 12 quilts that were each about 9 inches by 12 inches. They used a variety of quilting methods, with the majority of them incorporating embroidery.

August Journal Quilt without Border
Embroidered journal quilt.
August 2010.

I also wrote about the month's happening and how the activities or experiences were incorporated into the quilt. These two pieces - the textile/tactile one and the written one - were a meaningful and different way to record the happenings of the year.

Close Up of Journal Quilt
Journal quilt from March 2010.

During 2011, I took a break from the making journal quilts. In a way, I wish I hadn't because as I look back on the quilts that I made, I remember exactly what the quilts represent.

April Journal Quilt without Border
April's journal quilt.

However, I came across a project for 2012 that intrigues me. It's called the Embroidery Journal Project 2012.  According to the website, "The idea is to make a small (or large) embroidery every month that reflects something in your life. It can be anything: how you are feeling, the weather, important events, a holiday, a season, interactions with nature. The list goes on and on.

"You can choose any size or any format you like: ATCs, postcards, inchies, circles, quilt blocks, or anything else you can think of. There will be one post every month where you can post your links to your works, and probably a Flickr group or something else to send your photos to.

"This is a challenge of sorts - to make it through the year with 12 embroidery projects that are personal and have a story to tell. You can use the chance to experiment with colors, stitches, fabrics, design, anything you like. The important thing is that it comes from inside and is tells the world something about you."

November Journal Quilt
Journal quilt from November 2010.

So, I thought about what I would want to do with 12 embroidery projects - ATCs, postcards, and inchies didn't seem large enough to work with nor have any long-term use.  I'm not sure what circles were - except the shape - and those are quite difficult to work with when sewing and doing embroidery (at least they are for me). 

Journal Quilt without Border
May 2010's journal quilt.

I began to think more about doing quilt blocks, and have decided to do a quilt. The quilt will be about 45" wide by 80" long. Each square will be about 15" by 10" (raw size is 15 1/2" by 10 1/2" - giving 1/4" seam allowances on all sides).  The quilt will be three squares across by eight squares long.

In addition to the embroidered squares, there will be an alternating square of fabric that represents the predominant color that I see when look outside or think about that month. 

June Journal Quilt without Border
Journal quilt from June 2010.

All the fabric and embroidery floss will be from what I have on hand. As I have done with the past two quilts that I have made in 2011, my goal is to use up what I have on hand rather than purchasing new fabric.

Summer of Color quilt made from June-August 2011.

This will help me use what I like and, in the process, donate what I don't want to work with for this or future projects. 

Completed MN State Quilt
Minnesota state quilt
made during November 2011.

More about the Embroidery Journal Project and some visual ideas are HERE.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Celebrate Christmas - Countdown to Christmas - Day 25

Bright and early, Olivia woke up about 5:15 a.m. and was eager to celebrate Christmas. "You know, I've been up for a couple of hours and was just waiting to get up," she said. 

Olivia went downstairs and looked at the glass table with the Christmas socks on them.

Sophia's and Olivia's stockings.

She wanted to make sure Santa left treats for the dogs, cats, and horses. 

Filled stockings for the pets and horses on top of the piano.
If they were any lower,
Montague would eat them all in minutes.

Then it was time for her to open the gifts in her stockings.

Shadow watching Olivia open gifts.

She went back to bed to rest for a bit more until Sophia got up around 7:30 a.m. Sophia opened the gifts in her stocking.

Gretel wondering what Sophia is holding
(it's a glass straw).

We checked out the table where the cookies, water, and notes for Santa were; and where everything was for Flossie, the Tooth Fairy.

Looks like there was quite a party during the night.
Lucy is checking out the note that Santa left.

We read the notes that Santa left for each of the girls.

Above and below: Notes from Santa placed over
the ones that the girls wrote to Santa.

We gave the pets and horses some special treats before heading to my mom's/Nana's home. 

After eating a light breakfast (delicious cinnamon rolls and caramel rolls that Mary brought from Breadsmith), we opened the stocking that mom/Nana had filled. 

Sophia and Olivia opening the gifts in their socks
with my brother and part of his family.

We opened gifts in the living room.

My mom/Nana opening one of the gifts we gave her.
This is a very warm sherpa blanket
that she can use when she naps in the afternoon.

My brother (Jim), his daughter (Ashley), and I visited my dad at St. Therese.

From left to right: Me, Dad, Ashley, and Jim.

Although we brought some gifts for him, we had to describe them to him because his eyes were closed the entire time. He alternated between listening and sometimes responding with a word; and other times sleeping. 

Placemat that Sophia made for Papa.
She picked lots of images of cardinals since
cardinals are one of his favorite birds.

We had dinner and dessert at mom's/Nana's home.

The cousins enjoying a meal together.

Then we came home and rested a bit.

Sophia opening a gift from Roseanne.
She's excited to have checkers with
the traditional red and black pieces
instead of images of
Disney princesses which she's had for years.

We opened gifts, and then called it a day.

Olivia picked this hat out earlier in the month.
It actually fits, but she couldn't get it on
with her hair up in a bun.
She likes it because it's warm and fuzzy.

Lost December - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 52

Lost December marks the 52nd book that I read this year as part of the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.

When I was in the library the other day, Lost December was one of the books on the display as you come into the library. The library staff pick out books from its collection and displays them up front as a way to encourage people to read books that they may not normally see when they are looking for books.

Lost December is written by an author who I've read several stories by recently - Richard Paul Evans. I enjoy his style of writing. It's simple, straight-forward, and the plots are never complicated. His books are easy and inspiring to read; and are great for those people who either have a lot on their plate but want to read, or who get interrupted a lot. (Evans' books tend to have short chapters which is nice for people who like to complete a chapter or two in a sitting.)

With that being said, Lost December is a modern tale of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The main character, Luke, leads a sheltered, yet full life. Working at his father’s business from age twelve, he quickly advances to be a very astute manager in the family's national business chain.

After college, Luke planned to take over the business he knew so well, but his father insisted that he attend graduate school first. The goal was not only to receive an advanced degree, but to “see the world.”

Luke goes to Wharton and lives away from home for the first time. He becomes friends with several people and is introduced to "the world" rather quickly. Many of the lessons he learned and life experiences he gained were painful and unfortunate. Some were his choice (excessive drinking) while others (like the death of a good friend) were not in his control.

Graduating, and with a million dollar trust fund, he returns home to tell his father he does not want to return to run his business. Rather, he wants to “see the world” by traveling with his college friends. This is devastating news to his father, who subsequently retires (though maintains a majority of shares in the company) and has a triple bypass surgery.

So, Luke goes on an extravagent European tour with his "friends." Luke, although "book smart," is still naive and basically pays for not only his trip, but those of his companions. Almost immediately, Luke's traveling companions lavishly indulge themselves with money that is not theirs to spend. Expensive meals, hotel rooms, and gambling become the norm.

Up to and including this point in the story, I am having a very difficult time identifying with Luke or his friends. Staying in $4,000 per night rooms, buying extraordinarily expensive's just not something I've ever done or can even comprehend.

To me, that's such an incredibly wasteful way of living. If I had that kind of money, I would want to help others, the environment, or animals.  Think of how many people that $4,000 could feed...or what that could do to help a family who is struggling...or how much land could be preserved for generations to come. So many ways to make a difference.

Anyways, I almost put down the book because I was having such a hard time finding anything in common with the story. However, I'm glad that I didn't.

Within a short period, Luke finds out that his entire trust fund is gone. He and his friends have wasted all the money; and now he is broke and - literally - homeless.

Luke's girlfriend (who he was going to propose to on the trip) left him because she didn't want to struggle to survive. She didn't want to have to watch her money or clip coupons. In essence, she liked Luke more for his money than for who he was as a person.

This is when Lost December starts to become more meaningful.  The author shows the impact of Luke's decisions; and how he went from a riches to rags story. Then, through hard work, describes how Luke overcomes being homeless. 

I have learned that if you have something to eat,
a roof overhead and clean water,
you should be most grateful -
you number among the world's most blessed.
(Quote from Lost December)

As Luke said at the beginning of the book, "It has been said that sometimes the greatest hope in our lives is juts a second chance to do what we should have done right in the first place. This is the story of my second chance."

Truly, one can understand after reading Lost December how difficult it must be to get out of being homeless and/or poverty. The challenges and obstacles that are placed in the way of those struggling to survive and to make ends meet are accurately described.

As the book said, "The world only offers you what you don't need....You can't get a bank loan until you can prove you don't need it, and it's tough to get a job if you don't already have one."

The story also shows the difference that a person can make in another person's life, particularly someone who is in need of help. Taking a risk, reaching out to provide some assistance, can make all the difference in the world to someone who is stuck...for whatever reason. A lift up and out...such a simple concept with far-reaching impact.

Lost December is a very believable story that reminds us all that life is not just fun and games. Sometimes the best things you receive in this world are those for which you work. And, even more important than work and success, is love and family.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Prepare for Christmas - Countdown to Christmas - Day 24

As we do every year, we went to the 4:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service at church. The church was beautifully decorated with poinsettias, trees wrapped in white lights, and a huge tree in the fellowship hall decorated with Swedish ornaments.

The girls sang two songs with the children's choir. In addition, because the choir sat together in the front two pews, the choir director (Neil) and his wife (Ellen) encouraged the children to sing the Christmas songs loudly (and nicely) throughout the service. Everyone could hear the joyful voices of children throughout the service.

Afterwards, we drove around for a bit to look at Christmas lights. We visited some areas that we normally don't drive around, so it was nice to see how people decorated their home and yards for Christmas.

I made a simple "Christmas Around the World” dinner to celebrate our “roots.” Chinese and German are the two nationalities/cultures represented in the meal.

Olivia, Sophia, and me.

For the Chinese part, I made lettuce wraps with rice (there's a vegetable/meat filling as well as rice that each person puts into a lettuce leaf and rolls up) and found coconut cookies from China in the international section of the grocery store. For the German part, we had sweet pretzel cookies made in Germany.

After dinner, the girls each could pick one present to open.

Olivia picking a present to open.

Olivia's present was a weather station that she can assemble. She enjoys reading the weather report each day in the paper, so it's a gift she was very excited to receive. Since we're studying about the weather for homeschooling, it's something that will be used right away.

Sophia's gift from Yoshiko, who lives in Japan.

Sophia picked out a gift from Yoshiko. I've known Yoshiko since high school when we became penpals - 30 years in 2012!

Since that time, our friendship has continued and we've had several opportunities to visit one another. Yoshiko has visited Minnesota twice (including once when she stayed here at the farm and the girls got to spend a lot of time with her which they enjoyed). We also met in New York once; and spent time in Japan on a layover when adopting Olivia.  Hopefully, we can persuade to visit us again soon...we always have a lot of fun together.

The girls checked the computer to see where Santa was on his journey at . They enjoyed touching the presents on the map to see the names of cities and countries around the world; and watching the videos about different cities. (Learning about geography on Christmas a homeschooling parent, that's always a plus!)

Sophia and Olivia looking at the map where Santa has been.
When they touched an image of a gift or video camera,
they learned more about
different cities and countries around the world.

We cut carrots and and mixed up some bulgar wheat and sprinkles for the reindeer. (Normally we use oats, but we used them all making the homemade bird suet the other day.)

Reindeer food that Olivia made.

This year, I had the girls put the reindeer food and carrots in two bowls. In the past, they would sprinkle the mixture over the mudroom roof and lay the carrots on the roof (a bedroom window opens to the mudroom roof).

Olivia holding two bowls of treats.
Notice how she managed to borrow
Sophia's gift from Yoshiko?
Olivia said she wanted to be warm, and
the fleece shirt from Japan
helped her stay comfortable all evening.

As a side note, the reason for the bowls is that one year a carrot rolled down the icy mudroom roof. The girls had always been so happy when the food was gone in the morning, so having a lone carrot that wasn't eaten would be somewhat disappointing.

So, someone in the middle of the night crawled onto the mudroom roof and slipped on the ice as she reached for that carrot. One more step, and falling off the roof would have been a reality.  From that point on...bowls.

But, I digress. Back to Christmas Eve. Sophia and Olivia each wrote letters to Santa, including many questions they hoped would be answered.

Sophia writing her letter.

The girls put cookies and water on the table. Sophia even folded the napkin so it looked like a flower. The cup of water was placed in the center.  (Santa gets milk instead of water since milk can spoil and make Santa sick.)

Sophia folded a napkin.
Olivia put three cookies on a plate.

Just as things looked like they were done for the evening, Sophia remembered: "My tooth!  I have to put my tooth out!" 

"What?" I asked.

"I've been holding on to it for about a month or month and a half now. I'm going to put it out like I did last year on Christmas." So, she brought a tooth, tooth holder, note, miniature table, tiny cup and plate, and bedding for Flossie (the tooth fairy).

"This is the 15th tooth I've lost!" she said. 

After that unexpected addition to the evening, we checked one last time to see where Santa was - the Falkland Islands. He was heading to Argentina next.

With that news, the girls headed to bed immediately. They were asleep within a half hour. Santa waited until they were definitely asleep and arrived around 1:10 a.m. and delivered gifts, wrote notes, ate cookies, and drank some water until about 1:45 a.m.  Santa was very tired at this point and needed some rest.