Monday, December 27, 2010

Out and About

We enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with my extended family at my parents' house and a nice snowfall, too, much to the girls' delight!  And now we are onto other adventures.  I'm going to take a short break from blogging this week to simply be.  And in the new year, I'll report on what we did.

Also, I'm planning a few additions and alterations in our homeschool.  I'm still cogitating.  But stay tuned for updates!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

And God Bless Us, Every One

Christmas Eve.  A clear, cold day.  Hot tea in a lovely cup, with just a hint of sugar.  Ginger crinkles, meltingly warm from the oven.  Lovely music playing in the house.  The promise of church later this afternoon and children singing.  The anticipation of an after-church Christmas Eve get-together with friends, an annual tradition.  An almost full moon and a sparkling of stars thrown across the night sky.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. . . For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:2, 6
Glory to God in the Highest!

God's blessings to you and your family this holiest of days.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What I'm Listening to Right Now...

Christmas Treat Boxes for Neighbors and Marvelous Mocha Fudge Recipe

No one who knows me will ever confuse me with a Martha Stewart masochist, but I took the plunge and made treat boxes for some neighbors and friends this year.  Six of them.  But still.  Here's what they look like:

And here's what's in them, clockwise from the top left: German chocolate/chocolate chip cookies, marvelous mocha fudge, ginger chewies, cranberry bark, forgotten cookies, and saltine toffee.

Since I've been kvetching about the "marvelous" mocha fudge on Facebook, and then I recanted, since it really is marvelous, I thought I should at least post the recipe.  So here 'tis:

Marvelous Mocha Fudge
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
3 T. instant coffee granules
2 T. butter
1/4 t. salt
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine first five ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir for 3 to 4 minutes (I chose 3 minutes); remove from heat.  Stir in marshmallows until completely melted.  Let mixture cool for a couple of minutes, then stir in chocolate chips, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Mixture will be stiff and dry-looking.  Press into an 8 x 8 pan lined with aluminum foil.  Refrigerate until firm, about 2 to 3 hours.  Lift fudge from pan and cut into pieces.

This is a drier, old-fashioned fudge recipe.  It has a creamy "mouthfeel" (I'm stealing that term from wine snobs) and a rich, delicious taste.  Everyone whose had some gives it a big thumbs-up -- even Himself, who doesn't really care for chocolate.  High praise, indeed!

Forgotten Cookies

This morning, I continued my Christmas treat-making with saltine toffee, cranberry bark, and forgotten cookies.  A variety of what is known as meringues in fancier circles, forgotten cookies are easy and ambrosial.  Below is a quote regarding meringues from

Meringue Cookies are airy, sweet and crisp that seem to almost melt in your mouth. I love how the outsides of the meringues are nice and crisp, yet the insides remain wonderfully soft and puffy, almost like mini-Pavlovas. While I often eat these just as they are, they also make a very nice plated dessert that you can top with whipped cream, ice cream, sorbet, and/or fresh fruit.
Or you can eat them as I do: cramming them into my mouth in large quantities while striving to maintain my natural ladylike manners. Ahem.

So called because they are left for several hours in a preheated -- and then turned OFF -- oven, forgotten cookies differ from meringues in that they include chocolate chips and sometimes chopped nuts. There are different versions of the same basic recipe: some recipes (like mine) include other flavorings, like vanilla, while others do not. Some add a touch of salt, and some use less sugar. I've even seen one recipe for forgotten cookies that adds shredded coconut. And I've wondered about using other flavorings besides vanilla, such as peppermint or almond.

I'd post a photo of mine, but they're in the oven right now, and if I open the door, they'll be ruined. So click here to see a lot of photos.

Forgotten Cookies
2 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (I sometimes use mini chips)
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Add sugar gradually, beating after each addition.  Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix.  Drop by teaspoon onto parchment paper-covered cookie sheets.  Place in oven.  Turn oven OFF and let sit in oven overnight or for several hours.  Do not open oven door.  Makes about 3 dozen or so.  Store in airtight containers.

I use semi-sweet chocolate chips and omit the nuts, as my family does not love nuts in baked goods.  For a Christmas theme, you could tint the mixture red or green before baking, if you'd like.  And they make a great addition to a cookie platter since they are a perfect counterpoint to dough cookies.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Delights

Isn't Christmas lovely?  We are taking time this week to enjoy some of its special enticements.  At our house, I'm the one who enjoys treat-making; the girls prefer Christmas crafts.  It's become tradition for them to paint two or three Christmas pieces, which we date with Sharpie on the back.

This morning, they painted village houses and ornaments, purchased at Michaels, while Christmas music played on the stereo.

Yesterday, I baked German chocolate/chocolate chip cookies, ginger crinkles, and sesame parmesan thins.  The latter was a first for me, and about one third of them crumbled as I removed them from the cookie sheet after baking.  They were still tasty!  On Sunday, I made another batch of mocha fudge; this time, I mixed the marshmallows in first, stirred til they melted completely, and let the mixture cool a few minutes before adding the chocolate chips.  Alas, the result was the same as last week.  My conclusion: this is just a dry, crumbly, yet delectable fudge.

Today, I'm planning to make cranberry bark and saltine toffee.  Himself asked this morning as I described my plans for the day, "What are you going to do with all this stuff?"  I opted not to point out the obvious (eat it), and answered instead, "I'm giving it to neighbors."  Which I am.  Six cute cookie boxes, three tins, and several decorted treat bags await to be filled with all sorts of goodies.  After the girls and I nibble a few, that is.  You should know that Himself is not a sweets lover, so it's up to the girls and me to make up the difference.

Well, somebody's got to do it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: Deck Them Halls

Our last week of structured school before we take our Christmas/New Year's break!  This week we hit the high points: Bible, copywork, math, French, piano, grammar, spelling, and, of course, our independent reading.  We even took some time to study the digestive system.  Click here to discover some of the online resources we were delighted to find.  But we were busy with other activities, too!
Monday was Jasper's first birthday, and we celebrated big. 
Wednesday was my dad's 70th birthday, and he and my mother came to visit.  We all went to church that evening for the fellowship meal and (drumroll!) the children's Christmas musical.  Tiny Girl sung one of the solos (in French) and Miss Priss served as one of four narrators.  The drive home was tricky, though.  Our area has had unseasonably cold weather this week, and the rain quickly made icy, treacherous roads.  It took us almost an hour to get home from church, and we had to turn around once to find an alternate route.  Thankfully, we made it home safely!  I was at the wheel, as Himself met us at church on his way from work, and I have no interest in duplicating that experience any time soon.
We've been decking our halls in the last two weeks, a bit at a time.  I thought I'd display some of my old favorites in ornamentation:

This candy cane came from my parents' first Christmas tree way back in 1965.

My sisters and I loved the dancing Santas when we were children!

 I made this ball in the fourth grade and it has miraculously survived several moves.

We have two of these nativity ornaments.  Hand-carved in Israel, they were gifts from the girls' baptisms a few Christmas Eves ago.

And here's our tree in all its glory.
We don't have a decorator tree.  Nor do we have what I've heard someone call a "junk tree": one with all the handmade ornaments that dare not sully the other, lovelier tree.  No, our one Christmas tree proudly displays fancy, store-bought ornaments alongside a myriad of handmade, child-made ornaments.  Those are treasures to me.

Posted by PicasaMiss Priss received a Christmas Tree in a Box for her birthday last month.  She loved putting it together.

My first treat-making session was a disaster.  The Marvelous Mocha Fudge was not.  I followed the directions perfectly, but when I added the chocolate chips, marshmallows, vanilla, and cinnamon to the hot, cooked milk, sugar, butter, and instant coffee crystals mixture, the chocolate seized; the result was a fudge that's hard and a bit grainy.  The flavor is wonderful, though!  My dear friend, Jennifer, at Half-Baked Homeschool assured me that traditional fudge is crumbly and a bit dry.  Since she is a trained chef, I felt better.  But I still can't give it as gifts.    I guess I'll have to eat it myself!  I think I'll try again and add the chocolate chips last, after the mixture has cooled a bit.  If you have any ideas, please share!

Blessings from our home to yours for a wonderful, peaceful, blessed Christmastime.  Veni, veni, Emmanuel!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Goes In. . . Links for Studying the Digestive System

A gloomy day here in the American South.  We had icy streets last night, making it slick going as we drove home from the children's Christmas musical at church.  Today is above freezing, but rainy.  A perfect day for a hot cup of Darjeeling, which now sits by my mousepad.

As I mentioned in my last Weekly Wrap-Up, we are studying the digestive system in science.  I found some neat online resources that have jazzed up our educational pursuits in this arena.  I thought I'd share them with you.

This Google page, Images for Digestive System for Kids, features a ton of images, available online.  I liked several because they were easy to study and others because they featured digestive organs in different colors to stand out.  Also, if you click on an image, you can see on which website it resides, giving you a host of research options.

One of the images I selected linked to a neat article for kids that explains the digestive process in a fun, but not silly, way.  "The Real Deal on the Digestive System" even offers a nifty diagram with mouse roll-over information and easy pronunciation guides (esophagus can be tricky if you've never heard it before!)

I also found a few games that the girls enjoyed.  The Canadian Museum of Nature website features a "Build a Digestive System" drag-and-drop game, both for a human body and a bison.  (!)  My girls played both, and it was an interesting comparison activity.  After the game is over, the website jumps into a computer-generated video that follows an alimentary bolus (basically, a small portion of food) through the digestive system.  We loved this.  Tiny Girl said, "It's like a roller coaster!" features an All Systems Go drag-and-drop game that we liked, as well.

This website, neoK12, had lots of great online activities, videos, and games.  We particularly enjoyed the Digestive Organs Quiz #1.  We also found some interesting videos, like this one, which is about 4.5 minutes long:

Health: Digestive System 101
More educational games & videos on Digestive System at  

It went into a tad more detail than we have been learning, but there's nothing wrong with that!

A quick Google search for "digestive system games" and "digestive system for kids" yielded WAY more results than one family needs; but that's a good thing.  These interactive games and videos greatly enhanced our understanding of the digestive system and underscored the material we'd already covered in our two books, Uncover the Human Body and An Illustrative Adventure in Human Anatomy.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, Little Guy!

It's Jasper's first birthday today, and are we ever excited! We've celebrated throughout the day. His "Grandma Leslie," (breeder and first mom) sent him a package containing two new toys and a neat book, The Watching: A Corgi Puppy's Christmas Surprise, which has wonderful artwork. He also got some delicious treats from a fancy bakery for canines, as well as a small birthday cake. What can I say? We love the little guy!

Here he is soon after we brought him home.  Look at that face!

On the boat in Maine.

The birthday boy with one of his new toys!
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: A Touch of Christmas. . .

 . . .always livens things up, don't you think?

This week, we decorated our Christmas tree, made our lists and checked them twice, put up our outside lights (we go for the tacky look), watched Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown, made and froze some cookie dough, and read The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, which brought me to tears, seriously impeding my read-aloud voice.  We also went to the barn twice, had our last piano lessons for a few weeks, went to tumbling, attended choir practice, and visited both the orthodontist and the dentist.  Oh, and we managed to find time for our lessons.

In history, we studied Louis XIV, the Sun King, who was responsible for the Palace of Versailles.  Both girls read and enjoyed Cecile: Gates of Gold, a title in the Girls of Many Lands series, which takes place at the Sun King's court.  We also spent time perusing the Versailles website, oohing and ahhing over the photos, and trying to imagine actually living in a place like that.

The digestive system was our focus in science this week.  We used the books Uncover the Human Body and An Illustrated Adventure in Human Anatomy (actually a much more fun and interesting book than it sounds) in our discoveries.  I'd forgotten some of this stuff, so it was fun to re-learn it.

We completed the Mind Benders A2 book in logic, and attacked plural and possessive nouns in grammar.  In our Plutarch studies, Caesar has just declared himself dictator of Rome, but only for 11 days.  In our Keys for Kids devotion and Bible study, we discussed how we often take the Scriptures for granted, believing in Jesus even though we can't see Him, and the sin of disobedience.  In spelling, both girls have almost wrapped up their individual levels.  Copywork, math, and French are going along as they should.

However, all is not rosy.  Every week, I schedule Latin for Miss Priss and me, and every week it gets shoved aside.  Also, we've fallen behind in our timeline book.    I know I need to address these slights, but I'm not sure what to do to get back in the groove.  Something to think about over our break.

I'm planning a light week next week and adding in some more Christmas activities.  Then we'll take two weeks off, although we'll still take time to read.

How was your week?  To read more Wrap-Ups, pop over the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Happy Advent!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

1 Corinthians 13: The Christmas Version

A friend of mine sent this out to remind us of the important things in this season of crazy busy-ness.  I hope it speaks to you as it did to me.

1 Corinthians 13: The Christmas Version

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love, I am just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love, I am just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

-- by Rita Buckner Smith

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In the Dark of the Morning

"Mama, I had a bad dream!"

Early morning.  Still dark out.  The king-sized bed with warm flannel sheets is a cozy, safe sanctuary.  Within moments, she is sound asleep, curled up by my side.  I breathe in her sweet, sleepy scent.

A little while later, Himself and I arise to begin our day.  And still she sleeps.  Through the showers and other daily routines, through our getting dressed, our morning conversations, and some housekeeping tasks, she sleeps on, oblivious to the goings-on around her.

How many more mornings, I wonder, are left before she no longer needs to crawl into bed with Mama and Daddy after a bad dream?

Oh, precious child.  What a blessing it is to be your mama.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More Christmas Treat Ideas

Well, so much for my choosing only a couple of treats to make and share this year.  I keep getting emails and visiting websites and blogs featuring all sorts of tempting recipes for the Christmas season.  Take the two here, for example, from the Kraft website:

One Bowl Cranberry Bark seems really easy and delicious, two of my requirements if I'm to keep my sanity.  Since the recipe calls for dried cranberries, you could use the orange- or cherry-infused Craisins for a variety of flavors.

Buckeye Bars sound fabulous!  A dear friend of mine and her family make hundreds of Buckeyes to hand out to their friends each Christmas; I have to say, those of us fortunate enough to land a bag of these particular delights look forward to it every year!  But all that rolling and dipping. . .  pure tedium.  These bars, however, promise all the lusciousness of buckeyes with less work.  What's not to love?

Happy treat-making and eating (of course!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Celebration of a Beautiful Live, Well Lived

We got home from Tennessee last night.  It was a good trip, despite and also due to, in part, the circumstances: the celebration of my sweet Mam-ma's beautiful life.  We cried, of course, but we also told funny stories (my Mam-ma was a hoot!) and shared memories.  Some of the stories were familiar to me, but others were new and delightful in their novelty.
She died on November 29, and her 92nd birthday would have been tomorrow, December 3.  For the last few years she languished in a nursing home, caught up in various illnesses that held both her mind and body hostage, not knowing who we were but always glad to see us (when she was awake, that is -- she slept much of the time the last two years).  But that is all over, and she knows every one of us again.

She was the sweetest person I have ever know, and I mean that sincerely.  I never saw her angry, and I never heard her say anything harsh or critical about anyone or anything.  Her smile was almost a permanent expression.  And she had the best sense of humor!  The most she ever said to us kids when we misbehaved was, "Now, Ellen," (fill in the name with that of whoever was acting ugly) to remind us that we knew better.  Infinitely patient, she treated each of her loved ones the same -- a gigantic feat -- and, as a consequence, we all felt special and beloved.  Moreover, she didn't limit her giving to her family; she reached out to friends, neighbors, and the community at large in a way most of us aspire to do, but don't.  She was a true servant, an embodiment of God's grace, mercy, and love, and we know we were blessed to have been part of her family.  If only I could be more like her!

A friend sent me this poem in prose, so to speak, saying that it gave her comfort after her mother passed away.  I felt the same and wanted to share it with you:

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she is only a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky meet and mingle with each other. Then someone at my side exclaims, "There, she's gone!"

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large in hull and mast and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of her destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "She's gone," there are other eyes watching for her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "There, she comes!"

And that is dying.

-- Henry Van Dyke, circa 1925
So  on Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week, we who are still here praised God for Edna Shadden Davis and rejoiced at the joyful reunion we knew had taken place when she arrived home.  Now she will be watching for each of us in the years to come.