Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Flowering Tea - China

You know how you come across something for the very first time and then you see it everywhere?

That's kind of how I feel about this tea.

I finally found some at Marshalls, bought it and put it in the girl's Christmas stocking.

This morning we made the tea. Since I don't have a glass tea pot or a glass tea mug - it wasn't as spectacular to witness the flower opening up in a ceramic-ish mug. But the kids were sufficiently impressed. After it had opened quite a bit - I transfered the "flower" to a clear plastic container and poured in more water.

The tea is "Earl Grey Black Tea" - but it's not your typical Earl Grey...there were some other flavors mixed in - as the boy stated - it tastes like it smells. And it did smell nice - but I prefer to wear rather than drink perfume.

Ingredients: black tea, jasmine flower, chrysanthemum, globe amaranth flower, carnation, tropaeolum, aristolochia debilis si, calendula officinalis, bergamot flavouring.

The girl had a couple of sips and declared she didn't really like it either.

Now I know there are varying flowers in the flowering tea department - perhaps the others are more flower looking than ours. To me it looked like a bunch of dried up twigs in a flower formation with a little flower-ish thing in the middle. Overall it was some relatively cheap fun.

"Are You Glad You Have a Creative Boy?"


"Are you glad you have a creative boy?" - the question posed to me, by, no surprise - my son.

This was after he came into the house - after he had been outside showing off to me his latest and greatest weapon.

"I'm not creative like a girl (ie. doing crafts like his sister) - but in making weapons." Maybe the military can use him someday.

Fired! Checking out how far it went...

He made some sort of bow and arrow (what I would call it)...using a kind of dowel rod and rubber band and packing tape and a stick. It really did shoot super far - watch out Robin Hood!

"Next I'm going to work on some scopes so I can aim better."

Yes, I'm glad I have a creative boy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Un-Trimming the Tree

The girl opening her stocking - brother watching, Christmas tree shoe-horned into the corner.

I must admit that, un-trimming the Christmas tree can bring almost as much joy as trimming it!

After having the cheerful "clutter" of Christmas overtaking our small house for about a month - I'm always ready to get things un-cluttered, un-trimmed, packed up and hauled to the attic.

It's also easier to get back into a normal routine of school and life in general, when "Christmas" is packed back up. That being said - we are still on "homeschool vacation" (kind of a misnomer) and will probably be to some degree until next Monday.

So when do you take down your Christmas tree? Do you wait until the New Year? Wait until Ukrainian Christmas? Wait until Boxing Day?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Day

Last year we had our Christmas celebration alone (well there were other people but we didn't know them b/c we partook of our feast at a Chinese restaurant). This year we celebrated Christmas with a total of 16 people - and we knew them ALL! This was our first year having all of my husband's family over for Christmas...I enjoyed all the planning and preparations and having all of our family together.

After many changes - some last minute - the Christmas Dinner Menu I finally settled on was:

Pork loin roast, penne with parmesan cream (I skipped the prosciutto - but added a little cooked, diced bacon), parsley cooked baby carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade chunky applesauce, salad (which graciously my sister-in-law made and brought), and angel biscuits.

In preparing the dinner, the pork loin roast was the item of most concern to me. I am not very confident of my meat cooking skills. I generally worry that I'll undercook the meat (ugh worms, food poisoning) and instead end up overcooking the meat (ugh dry, tasteless). I had never cooked a pork loin roast before - so I was depending on my mother-in-law's recipe along with some alterations from an internet source.

In spite of all my worrying, or perhaps because of all my worrying :) - everything turned out fine (at least by my standards).

Children's Table

Friday, December 26, 2008

Brainwashing Does Work

As the boy eagerly began opening his presents, he stopped and asked whether he ought to be writing down who gave him what so he'd know who to send a thank you to.

Boxing Day (which has nothing to do with the sport of boxing) was spent eating candy & pie, writing thank you notes, hanging out in new pajamas, taking naps, eating candy, and playing with new "stuff".

Once I get all my info together - I'll write about our Christmas Day celebration.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Do you have a favorite font that you use for typing all your documents?

For most things I use ARIAL 12. I HATE Times New Roman...maybe b/c it reminds me of the old fonts from a typewriter.

Anyway the other day I was telling my husband how I have to change things into ARIAL 12 and he said that HE uses ARIAL 12 too.

So anywhoo - just wondering what everyone's favorite fonts are :) - leave a comment and let me know.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Temporary Dress Christmas-i-fi-cation

I love pom pom fringe.

I had an old tablecloth with pom pom fringe but it had a tear in it and some of the fringe was disconnected. I decided to remove the fringe and had not found a use for it until this weekend.

I thought the pom pom fringe might look cute attached to my daughter's red/white dress and could make it look a bit more Christmasy.

This evening I basted on the fringe and that way, after Christmas it can be easily removed (and saved for another project). Just don't look too close at the stitching :)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Cookie Decorating Party

Yesterday we had our annual Christmas Cookie Decorating "Party" with some friends.

I made more of the giant gingerbread people as well as some small cut-out cookies, for the children to decorate.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Gourmet" Rice Pudding - Chocolate & Orange

I love rice pudding!

Generally I make the traditional variety that I grew up with...cinnamon, sugar and raisins.

My children hate raisins.

Recently I came across a rice pudding recipe that include some orange "zest" - and decided to give it a try. The recipe is a basic on-the-stove-top variety of rice pudding - but instead of adding any cinnamon & raisins, I added some zested orange while the pudding was cooking.

Then (and here is the best part), before dishing out the pudding I placed some mini chocolate chips in each bowl so that when the pudding was added the chocolate would melt.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Proof That You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

Dh playing a rousing rendition of Beethoven's Fifth...or maybe it was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star...

A month or so ago, we purchased a used keyboard for our children. Our plan was to teach them to read music and to see if they were musically inclined at all.

Turns out that the papa is musically inclined.

He had so much fun playing around with the keyboard that he began to think that maybe a 35 year old man could learn to play the piano.

So he bought himself a piano!

He almost never buys anything for himself - let alone something bigger (and more expensive) than a breadbox. He must be serious.

We don't have the space for a traditional piano - so we bought a digital one.

Of course the piano is for the children also - the boy is only mildly interested in it - the girl has been picking things up rather quickly.

So far the hub and girl are self-teaching but considering lessons.

If you had told me a couple of months ago that my husband would buy a piano and LOVE playing it - I wouldn't have believed you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Apple & Orange Pomanders

The other day the kids and I spent an hour or so working on apple and orange pomanders.

I had a huge quantity of whole cloves purchased from a bulk food store some time ago, and decided we needed to use them up - hence the pomanders.

You can use either an orange or an apple for your pomander - we used both. I had a problem with my cloves breaking every time I poked them in the apple - the kids didn't seem to have that happening as much. It could be that my cloves were older (I had a few containers) and so they were more dry and easily crumbled.

This pomander was decorated by my daughter - she placed tape around the orange to make her pattern.

After making our designs with the cloves - I put some ground spices in a bag - popped the fruit inside and gave it a good shake to cover the fruit.

They smell WONDERFUL! I have always loved the smell of cloves...

Here is the one that my son decorated...he claimed he didn't have the patience to do it - but he persevered.

Mine was the lone apple and I decided to completely cover it.

Our pomanders are in the process of drying out - once they are dried, we can tie some ribbon around them and hang them up.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The REAL G.I. Joe

For those worried about gun safety - note the orange plastic on the tip of the gun - it's not real.

I especially like the handmade scope the boy was some kind of toy telescope from a Taco Bell meal...he got the idea to turn it into something really useful.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sad Stories for Kids - An Orange for Frankie

I wish I remembered who suggested this book on their blog recently so I could thank them. When I read the recommendation and noted it was also one of my favorite authors - I checked it out from the library.

An Orange For Frankie is by Patricia Polacco. This is a Depression Era Christmas story. Some of Patricia's books, like this one, are based on real characters and or events in her family - something that makes a story all the more interesting. The story has a sad ending, with the young boy Frankie dying.

"Mom why do you get these books?!" My son exclaimed as I teared up reading it to them. "It's sad - I don't like sad stories." I found him reading the book again later and asked him about it - "I just don't read the sad part" he said.

So here is my question - when you are reading books to your children, do you avoid books that deal with death or other troubling events (ie. The Holocaust, wars etc.)?

Sometimes you don't know the book is going to be sad until the very end (like An Orange for Frankie). Sometimes you don't realize that it's going to be sad for the children b/c it isn't sad for you (ie. Charlotte dying in Charlotte's Web).

In general, we don't avoid talking about difficult subjects like death, the economy, serious illness and the like, with our children. Our kids (ages 6.5 and 9) are pretty observant and very inquisitive - so it doesn't seem right to avoid certain subjects.

I think REAL stories are the best stories for kids. It's one thing to read ABOUT the holocaust in a textbook - you feel more "distant" from it all - but reading a firsthand account of the holocaust written in a story book format, through the eyes of a child, it is all the more powerful and emotional and you realize that it really did happen (not that I doubt the holocaust - just using that topic as an example).

As well, REAL stories are more interesting for the parents reading the stories aloud. Even if they do make you cry.

I think this would make a good Christmas present for someone - I just wish I hadn't already finished my Christmas shopping - or I would have bought this book...

Another question - what book(s) for children always makes YOU cry?

Show & Tell Friday - Handmade Doll

Well this is not something I made and it's not even something I own. But I think it is very special - an old handmade "rag" doll.

Last time I was visiting my in-laws, I opened a drawer and there it was! A doll small enough and shaped in such a way that a little hand could easily clutch it.

When my MIL was cleaning out a family member's estate - she found the doll mixed in with some old rags. The rags were burned - the doll was saved. My MIL thinks the doll probably belonged to her husband's aunt.

The doll was and is plain, not even a face. My kids thought it looked like a mummy. Yet it must have been a little girl's treasure ...maybe her one and ONLY doll.

For more Show & Tell Friday items - check out There is No Place Like Home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Martha Stewart Need Not Fear Me...

The other day I bought my son a knit, red woolen sweater. Except I didn't realize it was wool and threw it into the washer and dryer. I'm sure you all know the result of that. Though it was a bit smaller than pre-washing, I had him wear it one day anyway. But I soon realized that woolen sweaters and kids don't mix (didn't want to have to dryclean it or hand wash it after one wearing). So since it was a bit small on the boy anyway - I decided to do a little creative recycling.

For a few weeks I've been hunting for red mittens. Mittens. Not gloves. They are not the same. Seems like most stores around here carry mostly gloves. I did find a few pairs of mittens but they were not red. And most of the mittens were rather pricey.

So I decided to make my own red mittens. I read some article online about making mittens from an old woolen sweater, so I set out to give it a try. But at first I didn't have an old woolen sweater (the shrunken sweater not yet purchased) - so I tried an old knit sweater. Too floppy. Thought about using fleece - but realized it was way too thin and floppy (at least the stretchy thin fleece I had). So actually the sweater shrinking was rather fortuitous.

The mittens only took about an hour to make (looks like it some might add). I don't have a sewing machine and even if I did, it wouldn't do any good b/c I don't know how to machine sew. In junior high sewing class I picked one of the easiest projects - a light bulb shaped pillow. So these mittens were sewn by hand - not with even precise stitches, but in my usual I'm- in- a hurry- to- get- this- project- done, method. It took a little extra time on the 2nd mitten as I accidentally cut one of the thumbs off when I was cutting out the fabric. One of the woolen thumbs I mean, not my own. So I had to stitch a patched up thumb part onto one of the hands.

I'm not Martha Stewart. I like crafts - I enjoy reading craft blogs and do try to imitate some of what I see - and most of it turns out looking like, well, like something an unskilled 40 yr old would have made. But sometimes that's OK.

I've come to realize that mediocrity is sometimes just fine. Even if my scrapbooking pages don't look like the ones in the magazine, I can still enjoy scrapbooking and be creative.

These mittens might be described as mediocre at best.

They actually look like oven mitts. These mittens would fit best, a person with short, thin thumbs and rather misshapen hands. Or young children playing outside in the snow - when gloves just aren't warm enough.

Here is a tutorial for instructions on making your own mittens - or just google (mittens sweater tutorial) and you'll probably come up with a whole lot of different sites you can check out.

For more Works for Me Wednesday tips - go on over to Rocks in My Dryer.

As Maria once sang, "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens; Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens; Brown paper packages tied up with strings; These are a few of my favorite things...."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

FUYU Persimmon

Don't you just love the color of this persimmon?!

This beauty cost 99 cents.

I was a bit concerned that our taste test would result in a very dry mouth - but before we took a sample, I printed out some info. on persimmons and has happy to find out that the variety we bought - FUYU - is not as astringent as some.

I even loved how the persimmon looked when it was sliced - a little delicate "flower" design on the inside. And when you hold the slice up to the light - you can see that the flower portion is a bit transparent. Fun.

Both my girl and I liked the persimmon. The boy didn't. Actually to me it didn't have much flavor - but kind of reminded me of a dryish cantaloupe that wasn't quite ripe - the little flavor there was - was sweet.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Footlong Gingerbread Folk

In a magazine recently I saw how a family had some giant gingerbread people on display in their kitchen. The gingerbread folk were bought from a bakery, the article said.

I decided to try and make some myself this morning. Not quite as large as the ones in the magazine - but larger than I've ever made before.

I didn't have a large cookie cutter - so I just found an image online of a gingerbread man (GBM), enlarged it and printed it. Then I cut out the GBM and then traced around it on the dough. You can't tell real well the true length b/c of how I positioned the ruler but they are almost an inch shy of a foot. So I call them "Footlong Gingerbread Folk".

I just used a standard GBM recipe for the dough - and cooked them a little longer than the recipe stated.

I love putting "hair" on my gingerbread folk - this posting describes how you can make the hair.

This was just a trial run on the Footlong Folk - for the real ones we'll plan on icing them and decorating them up a bit more. The kids love making these...the girl (and mom!) love eating them. The boy just came and asked if I could make some "white" Footlong Folk b/c he doesn't like the gingerbread taste.

For more kitchen tips - check out Tammy's Recipes.

A Trip to the World Food Store - Finally!

Seems like it's been too long since we were last at the world food store, but finally on Friday we had an opportunity to make a quick trip.

As soon as you step foot into the store the thing that strikes you most, is the smell. Sometimes it's not as bad as others - but on Friday it was really nasty. I think it's just a combination of totally different foods from lots of countries and a lot of frozen food/fish/seafood/meat.

It's not really possible to pick up much if you are in there for only a 1/2 hr or so like we were. We bought a couple of old favorites - some chocolate bars from England and some Yan Yan and some "floppy bread" as I call it or "flesh bread" as the kids call it. I also bought a variety of apples someone recommended as being "wonderful" and a few other items. We did buy some WONDERFUL cheese from Ireland. I could have eaten the whole block myself. In one sitting.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Just Out of Curiosity ...

How many baby teeth do you think could fit inside a Hefty OneZip Gallon Size storage bag?

Last night the "tooth fairy" visited ds and found a tooth under his pillow. But in order to make sure the tooth didn't get lost, ds put it in a bag. A Hefty OneZip Gallon Size storage bag to be exact. I'm sure about a million baby teeth could fit inside that one bag that was holding ONE tiny tooth.

I'm rather careful with my onezip storage bags - these are generally the only plastic storage bags that I consider worthy of rinsing out and using again if need be. I'd say this is definitely one storage bag that will not be reused.

The boy gave a rather squeamish, detailed report of how he yanked out his tooth...let's just say it started with "first I TWISTED it."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

If There Ever Was a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree - This Is IT!!

Today the kids were very excited to begin putting up our tree. We popped some popcorn and made some hot chocolate and listened to some festive music on the radio.

If there ever was a "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree" - this is it! It's homely - but well loved.

About 4 years ago I was out at a garage sale and came across this vintage beauty. In the original box it was shipped in! I love vintage items and the tree was inexpensive - so it seemed like a good deal. I'm thinking it's from the 50's or 60's. The "trunk" of the tree looks very similar to a broom handle. The branches look and feel like the old baby bottle brushes or an old wire rounding brush - very wiry and bristley (the kind of thing you would not want your hair to get tangled around).

The tree came with the original instructions (thankfully) and is very easy to put together. If the kids were a bit taller they could probably do it all themselves.

I'm not good at decorating trees. I usually do the lights and the garland and let the kids have at it - with some supervision and advice. It probably wouldn't look much better if I had a more active role in decorating or even if I decorated it all by myself. This way if the tree looks like a 9 yr old and a 6 yr old decorated it - I can say it was :)

I decided that we did not have to put all the decorations on this year - which is fine being that it is a very small tree. We did put on all the special ornaments - the plethora of handmade ornaments and the ornaments that the kids got from mom and dad each year in their stocking.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday - Storytelling

My kids, like most, enjoy having books read aloud. We read a lot.

But sometimes the kids want something a bit different - they want something a bit more "personal". Thus began "The George Chronicles", (very) loosely based on my grandfather named George, who was in the Canadian Air Force many moons ago.

The boy especially likes the George Stories - b/c he loves anything with a hint of military-ness.

It seems like I had not told a George Story in about a year - when this week the boy started begging for one. And he wanted it to be a paratrooper George Story. Finally today we lay down on the bed (b/c a made up story requires one to be very comfy - you can even close your eyes - just be careful not to fall asleep!) and the story began.

I was only part way through the story when the boy interrupted me. Not uncommon by any means, he is very active in the story - filling in details, correcting me if need be (like when I kept talking about Doug - one of George's buddies - and the boy piped up that well Doug shouldn't be there b/c he was dead...apparently he died in one of the stories I told a yr or so ago). But this time he interrupted me and said "You are the best storyteller I ever have heard"!

So - what Works for Me? Storytelling. Why? It can happen anywhere. Waiting in line. Waiting in the doctor's office. Snuggled up in bed as a wee one is falling asleep. It encourages imagination - and sets an example for young future storytellers. You can personalize it with little Jimmy's name, little Jimmy as the hero etc. A good way to keep the little ones close at hand and out of mischief while YOU are sick in bed and can't do much other than talk (like I said you can even do it with your eyes closed).

I know when I was a little girl, I loved having my mom come into our room in the evening to tell us stories...some were true stories of when she was a little girl...some were made up stories...some a bit scary - but all very fun.

For more Works for Me Wednesday tips - head on over to Rocks in My Dryer.

Cinnamon Apple Buns

The other day when I was fixing cinnamon buns, I decided to add some diced apples to "liven" things up a bit.

They were wonderful!

I did everything the same way as when I make traditional cinnamon buns - but before I rolled up the dough I added some finely chopped apple.

I froze the ones pictured above - and they were just as good reheated a week later. And actually they seemed to hold together better after having been frozen.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Over the River and Through the Woods

We literally went over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house this weekend.

We had a pleasant Thanksgiving with family and a relaxing/leisurely visit.

The highlights for the kids (other than spending time with family) was:

For the girl - catching a frog down at the creek. Unfortunately she brought the frog home to grandma's and left it on the back porch. Unfortunately b/c there was a cat on the back porch. The next time the girl went looking for froggy - he was gone. And the cat was grinning :)

For the boy - doing a little BB gun shooting with his dad. He was quite proud to report to me that he hit a can on the fence, 5 times in a row! Dad didn't do quite so well.

On Sunday morning the children awoke to the first real snow of the season. I figured there would be no snow back home when we arrived - but I was mistaken. Our little hamlet had even more snow than they did out at grandma's.

I brought my camera, planning on taking some interesting photos. Unfortunately the camera was usually upstairs and I was downstairs - out of sight out of mind.

I did manage to take a couple of photos of the kids with 2 of their cousins, before we left on Sunday. And I did take a photo of an interesting family heirloom...