Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Where she hides

Sock progress

2 balls worsted weight yarn - Universal Yarn Classic Worsted Tapestry in Wild Aster on Size US 4 DPNs
Ann Norling Wide Wale sock pattern

Winter Term Plans

It's been a very nice January and we've been chugging away nicely. I've been meaning to post our Winter term plans for a while now. So, here we go:
Luke finished his 5th grade math workbook yesterday. I've found that when we mix up the math concepts, he enjoys math a lot more. Instead of working on one concept for twenty pages or so, he enjoys working on something different each day. So, that's what he's been doing. We had been using Modern Curriculum Press math since first grade. I decided to use a mix of things for 5th grade rather than use MCP 5th. I just ordered a few 6th grade workbooks and an introduction to Algebra for 5th/6th graders. We'll implement those this term.

We're pretty low-key about science around here. We've been focusing on nature and observation for the past couple of years. This year Luke has started reading through Enid Blyton's Nature Lover's Book. I love this book!!! It has such beautiful illustrations and it's just enchanting. The book is divided into chapters by months of the year. There are birds, trees, flowers to learn to identify. There is even a nature poem for each month which Luke uses for copywork. We're listening to My Side of the Mountain right now which is awesome and goes well with our nature study curriculum. I didn't read this one when I was younger, but I'm excited I get to read it now. We've been listening to this one when we're driving around.

Luke also keeps a daily nature journal. Sometimes, he writes and sometimes he draws something he sees in our yard. He received this book for Christmas and is working on refining his bird drawings.
The Sibley Guide to Trees will be another book to use to identify local trees around here.

Since little Tessie has arrived, I have had way less time for reading aloud to Luke which bums me out considerably. We used to read aloud together before bedtime and it was our special time together. Paul would put Sammy to bed and read to him while I would read to Luke and put him to bed. Now, Paul continues to read to Sammy nightly and I put Tessie to bed while Luke reads or listens to a book on his own. Currently, he's got several books on his MP3 player. He's listening to book 3 of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and The Princess Bride is up next on the MP3 player.

I have plans to read Swallows and Amazons to Luke this term. As I mentioned before, we used to read so much more together, but I'm going to embrace the less is more approach and focus on one really good book per quarter.

I am now requiring one book report monthly. He can choose any book that he has listened to on his own, with me or one that he has read. I don't let him just listen to unabridged books. I require that he is reading as well. Listening and reading are two different skills.

He has been working through the Spectrum 5th grade book for Reading Comprehension as well.


Luke completed half of Latina Christiana I last year, but I had him start the book again for review. I don't want him to just finish the book. I want him to truly learn and the review is good for him. We may have to go through the summer, but I hope to have Latina Christiana I completed before he begins 6th grade in Fall.
We started French from Memoria Press this year and this had been a struggle for Luke. I can't believe I keep hearing that he thinks Latin is easier! We've made it through the first 10 lessons and I will have to do some serious review before we continue.

Nature Journal
Book reports
Copywork- He copies out a couple of poems each week to practice cursive italic.

We are about to begin to learn how to diagram sentences this term. I thought this was so fun when I was a kid. I hope Luke likes it too.

We are pretty informal about cooking, but Luke has gotten proficient at baking chocolate chip cookies on his own. I told him I want him to plan a meal for the family this term. He will have to make a grocery list and figure out his budget as well.

I would like him to feel comfortable making spaghetti, grilled cheese sandwiches, old-fashioned oatmeal, scrambled eggs and pancakes. You know, staples he could make confidently himself.


I admit this is all workbook. He's motivated to work through it though.

These are the things that should carry us through Winter and Spring and some of these things we will cotinue through Summer albeit on a lighter schedule.

Mama's reading/learning


We're slowly working through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

This should keep us busy around here!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Less is always more

I have to admit that I'm really tired this week. I've been trying to go to bed earlier, but it really hasn't translated into more rest. In fact, I feel more exhausted than usual. Maybe I'm getting too much sleep, but that can't be it. I'm still getting up a couple of times nightly to nurse Tess.
Anyway, I've been working on the house the week- doing those jobs that I've put off for months and months like finally tackling all the paper piles around the house. I'm determined to organize and to purge everything that I haven't managed to find a home. It's a constant theme here that I fully believe that less is more. For instance, I decided that I'm selling my set of parfait glasses. I haven't used them in five years! Now, I know that I will find the yummiest parfait recipe as soon as they're sold, but oh, well. I am a minimalist at heart and I don't think that I'll miss them that badly. Right now, I'm reading Simplicity Parenting and I'm on the chapter that focuses on the impact of your child's environment. It's intuitive for me that cluttered spaces leave children feeling overwhelmed and anxious and frankly this isn't new information for me. I've read it all before. This chapter talks about toy overload. I got the boys together this week and we started going through their stuff looking for things that we might donate while organizing their room. I can see that they are visibly relieved when we organize their room and purge a few things. It's easier for the boys to focus on the things they actually do want to play with when there are fewer things to play with and they can easily find those things. They don't have to go searching through jumbled toychests looking for missing pieces.
I've written about this before, but it's worth repeating. It's so easy for things to mutliply in your house without you even noticing sometimes. Today, I just went ahead and chucked a few things. Normally, I just hate the idea of things going into land-fill, but I know Goodwill doesn't really want a box of old toys. They probably have more old broken toys than they know what to do with. So, I just threw them away and I felt relieved. They weren't anything special--just things picked up at garage sales over the last year or so.
It's not just the toys though and this is where Simplicity Parenting got my attention again.
It's the books! Not only are unloved toys the target. So are the books. I say this hesitatingly, but it's true. There is such thing as book overload.
Books offer such delight and satisfaction to children, conjuring magical worlds and bringing the wonder of our own right into their hands. How could it be possible to have "too many" of such good things?
-Simplicity Parenting
The same principle that applies to the toys also applies to the books. I have learned over the years that as much as I love books, I don't need to own everything. Over the past five years, I have relied heavily on my library and sometimes I'm much happier know that I have to return the book than having to find space on my bookshelves. Of course, I still buy books and probably too many of them, but I'm much choosier than I use to be.
I've noticed that my 4 year-old prefers reading the sam few books over and over. He has a special relationship with his favorites and many books just sit there. We want our children to have a connections with good stories and those favorites deserve a permanent place on on their shelves. Simplifying our children's environment is our goal and the same principle goes for both toys and books.
We honor the value of something (like reading) in our child's life by fostering a deep - not disposable - relationship to it.
-Simplicity Parenting
So, as we enter 2010, I'm going to be even more focused and determined to make even better purchasing decisions on everything. I always remind my boys that purchasing things has consequences. Where are we going to put those things? Will it hold your attention very long? Things are just that. Things. I plan for us to make better connections to our books and our crafts this year. I don't want them to just "consume" books, but to read and to make meaningful connections with those carefully chosen books. A simple environment clears the way for true connection.

Could I go a year without buying a new book?? Hmmmm....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 Reading Goals- Book 1

When I was a new mom, I ordered Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison from the Chinaberry catalog. It was one of those books that has stayed with me over the years. Every now and then, I pick it up and re-read some sections of it. It's a book that urges mothers to find serenity in simplicity and being present in the daily moments of life.

Recently, I discovered that Katrina Kenison had written a sequel of sorts to Mitten Strings. In this book she writes about her almost grown sons and what that means to her as a mother. At first, I was shocked. How could her boys be so grown up already?! In her new book, Kenison's older son is getting ready to go to college and her younger son is in high school. In her first book she talks about her days with her young sons, then 6 and 9. I realized that almost a decade had past since I had read Mitten Strings. This is actually the whole point of her new book about how fleeting time is. Our children aren't with us very long, but when our children are very young, we can't imagine them ever leaving the nest or life without them. My oldest son is ten and I am constantly thinking that the last decade just slipped away so quickly. More than half my time with him is already gone. (I know. I'm so glass-half-empty about this.)
Anyway, her book is about many things converging all at once. In the midst of a happy life, she and her husband start looking to move from a home that they love. It's almost as if she anticipates the changes on the horizon. Her boys are growing and thus are growing increasingly independent from her. As they grow older, she examines her evolving identity as a mother. So, in the midst of all the changes, she and her husband search for a new home which causes its own anxiety. She admits that when they sold their home, it's like the door shut on her boys' childhood. It was a defining moment in her family life, but in the midst of everything, she remembers that ordinary days are filled with beauty and joy. She enjoys the time she has left with her family as she knows it. Holding onto the days with teenage sons and appreciating those ordinary moments that all to quickly will be gone. It's sad, but hopeful.

She has beautiful lyrical quality to her writing, but of course, I felt a little agitated as I began to look ahead to my own future as my oldest child grows (way too quickly). I will face these same feelings too, but for now, I can enjoy the ordinary and discover all it has to offer.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tessie's cabled beanie

I stayed up late last night knitting this hat for Tessie. As you can see, she hates modeling for me. The color is not coming out as it truly is. It's a heathered green and I love it, but it doesn't
photograph well.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Soup Recipe #1 - Cheesy Potato Soup

Heres' a recipe from The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen:
I checked this book out from the library and I decided to try the Cheesy Potato Soup. I've made this soup a few times and it's hearty and delicious. I never used to like creamy or cheesy soups, but I love them now.
4 TB butter (1/2 stick)
1 C diced carrots (sometimes I use 2 cups.)
4 C chicken broth ( I use Pacific brand Organic free-range chicken
5 C russet potatoes (peeled and cubed)- about 4 medium size
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp- salt (you could probably leave this out since broth has
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 C milk
8 oz sharp cheddar grated (2 Cups)
1. Melt 1 TB of butter in a large stock pot over medium-high heat and add carrots and saute' until softened--probably about 4 minutes.
2. Add the broth, potatoes, basil, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
3. Lower the heat and simmer until potatoes are tender-- about 2o minutes.
4. While soup is simmering, make the cheese sauce. Melt remaining 3 TB of butter in a medium-size sauce pan over medium-hight heat.
5. Whisk in the flour.
6. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. (I think the recipe suggest 2 minutes, but I've found that it takes way longer for it to thicken.)
7. Add the cheese and stir until cheese is both melted and thoroughly combined.
8. Gradually, pour the sauce into the soup and stir until blended.
tip: I made this soup last night and I decided to blend some a little chunky for Tess. Her soup looked so good that I blended mind and oh, Yum!!!
This soup is really good and just so easy to make. I tend to make it when I have potatoes that I need to use up and I always have carrots. Oh, I also add a couple garlic cloves when I saute the carrots in butter for a little extra flavor.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Winter menu planning

It's Winter and it's now starting to become bitter cold around here. I've been wanting to plan a Winter menu for the past few weeks, but with all the busyness of the holidays, I just didn't make time to look through all my cookbooks, bookmarked recipes and magazines. The past few days I've been perusing through some of my favorite cookbooks and jotting down ingredients for lasagna with turkey sausage, filet of beef au poivre and Paul chose shrimp with tomatoes, basil and garlic from his cookbook, How to Boil Water. When I purchased this book for him a while back, he was a little insulted by the title at first until he saw that it really wasn't a cookbook for college students who can only manage boxed mac n' cheese. There are some good solid recipes in this cookbook! I really think that Ina Garten is the essence of good hearty comfort food. I don't think the filet mignon will make the Winter rotation, but it will be fun to try at home at least once during Winter.

I also want to try this soup that my friend Jennifer emailed to me a while back. It's just soup weather now! So, we'll try out these recipes and I'll add a few more. I'm trying to plan for three dinners during the weeknights with leftovers on the other nights. That makes planning a lot more manageable.

I'm going to try and put up a new soup recipe each week. This week will be the Toasted Bread, Bean and Vegetable soup from Sunset magazine.

Another resource I discovered this year is Everyday Food. I know this magazine has been around forever, but somehow I dismissed it thinking it would be lots of food made with a lot of processed ingredients, but it's not that at all. There are a lot of ads for foods that I would never eat, but the recipes don't really seem to use them. It offers some nice monthly food inspiration whenever I'm growing bored with our routines. I was given Cook's Illustrated as a birthday gift this year and this magazine is just awesome! I learn so much from reading this magazine. I would love it for the cover art alone!
Here's to a season of warmth and coziness around the table.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Contentment on our last day of Christmas Vacation

It's quiet cozy evening. Paul goes back to work tomorrow and he has to go to bed early since he has to rise at 4:30. How he does it, I'll never know. We really enjoyed a week of getting to stay up late with each other. I would knit while he'd be looking something up on Craig's List or we would watch something. We got through Lost Season 5 and now we're half-way through the intriguing but short-lived Jericho. Anyway, I promised that I'd go to bed earlier too even though I am much more of a night owl. So, I better make this post quick!

We took down the Christmas tree and I lovingly packed away all of the decorations especially our collection of flower fairies ornaments. I am actually content. I'm ready to slowly easy back into Ordinary time. We listened to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra while taking down the tree. Luke particularly likes the dramatic rendition of Carol of the Bells and he put it on repeat and I admit it. I love it too so it didn't bother me to hear the same song six or seven times in a row.

We then watched one more seasonal movie, A Dog Named Christmas. It's one of those Hallmark movies that gets you crying from the very first minute. How do they do that? Hallmark Hall of Fame movies are famous for cheesy content, but I liked it anyway, but mostly because I like Bruce Greenwood. We then capped off the evening by reading O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi...fitting since we celebrated the Epiphany today. I love this edition that I just bought the other day. It has beautiful illustrations by P. J. Lynch and I'm happy to add it to our collection of holiday books.

I took lots of pictures today with my new camera, but the battery needs charging so I'll add highlights from our last vacation day tomorrow. Okay, I'm off to bed early after I finish weaving in the ends of the crocheted blanket that I blogged about last year. I admit this blanket doesn't look great, but I learned something in the whole process. I don't really care for crocheting. I mean, I'm glad I tried it and I'm sure I will be inspired to try it again, but for now, I'm glad to
completely finish this project. It's a new year and I really want to tie up the loose ends up
of last year (no pun intended). It will be donated to the Newborns in Need program at a hospital in Denver and I know that this blanket will keep some baby warm and that makes it worth it.
Oh, it snowed today and I didn't even mind!!!

Well, that's it for tonight. I wish you all contentment in the new year. It's my motto for the new year.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Regular Guy Beanies

So, I knit these hats in the last two days, but they weren't intended for the boys. I used the Regular Guy Beanie pattern that I found at Ravelry. After I knit the first one, I determined it was just slightly too small for Paul. I then gave the hat to Luke and I proceeded to start on a second hat. I added a few extra rows, but again, it was too small and so I gave it to Sammy. Yes, I was too lazy to do a gauge swatch, but now the boys have wool hats for the winter! Now, I'm off to find a new Man Hat pattern for Paul!
By the way, I forgot to mention that I received the most awesome Christmas gift! I got a new camera. I had been unhappy with the quality of my photos on my blog for a while. So, these photos are the first on my blog using my new camera!!!! Thanks honey! I love the new camera!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Reading Goals

Since it's clear that I can't seem to follow a list of books, I've decided to make it easy on myself this year. I'm just going to read at least 50 books. That's easy. I'm not going to write down a to-be-read list in advance. It seems that every time I make a list, I change it or something I didn't know I wanted to read comes to my attention and then I change the list again. I updated my list so many times for the 2009 4x10 Reading Challenge, but it didn't matter. I just couldn't stick to my own list. I guess I just want to be free! So, I'll read to my heart's content without checking anything off a list. It remains to be seen where the pages of a book will take me this year!
Here's to another year of reading adventure!
image from

New Year's Day book

Outside my Window - Sunshine! It's going to be a gorgeous New Year's day! We're going to have to spend some time outside today. It's a glorious way to start the new decade.

I am listening to - crackling coming from the kitchen. Paul is frying up the leftover potatoes from last night's fondue party. I'm really going to miss him making breakfast every day when he goes back to work next Monday. It has been such a nice relaxing week.

I am wearing - my PJs. I'm wearing a pair of comfy pants and one of Paul's long-sleeve t-shirts.

From the learning room - I'm slowly beginning to think about Spring term. Last term was largely a workbook term and I really didn't like it, but it's been a transitional time since I'm slowly working with Sam and teaching him to read while juggling the baby's nap schedule. Luke is working on a daily nature journal, but he's been concerned that his drawings aren't very good. I got him a book on how to draw birds with colored pencils for Christmas. I'm thinking about more art, more cooking less workbooks and more relaxed days. These things sound all nebulous and unformed, but ideas have been cooking in the back of my brain the last couple of weeks. I'm thinking about how to review French and Latin and come up with a good daily schedule so as not overload on the languages.

Favorite Things - New yarn! I have been organizing my projects on Ravelry and figuring out what's on the schedule for the new year. I still have to finish Luke's wallaby sweater. It's been on hiatus while I work on a lot of smaller projects.

From the Kitchen - I am determined to work on a winter menu. I always say I'm going to do this, but I never really finish it. I bought this book, Sunday Soup a few months ago and I'd like to try a new soup each week. Soup is cozy during the winter months and something that can be eaten for a couple of nights. Right now, I can smell those potatoes coming from the kitchen.

I am Creating - a January budget! It's time to set some financial goals for the new year. We have some home projects we'd like to complete including finishing the boys' bathroom. We gutted the bathroom when we moved into our house four years ago and we've been sharing our bathroom with them since. As they get bigger, our bathroom seems to grow smaller. So, it's time to finish that project. We're also saving for a new car. Our '98 Toyota Sienna is beginning to have lots of little problems. So, we have some careful budgeting on the horizon.

Plans for the rest of the weekend - I think we'll take down the Christmas tree on Sunday. The boys would like to keep the tree up until Epiphany, but I'm one of those people that likes to take the tree down on New Year's day. I compromised with the boys and we'll take down the tree this Sunday. We'll leave the Nativity sets up until Epiphany though. When the new year comes, I need to mentally prepare for regular life again.

I'm also going to clean up the kitchen. It's a disaster from our New Year's Eve Fondue party. I'm going to put Tessie down for a nap and sit down to finish knitting Regular Guy Beanies for Paul and Luke.

Some things to learn in the new year -

1. Magic Loop method for knitting socks

2. read Bleak House and The Count of Monte Cristo

3. learn to draw realistic birds with Luke

4. Fair isle knitting

5. how to make good homemade pizza (I'm sure this involves buying a good pizza stone.)

6. how to grow a successful kitchen garden

Happy New Year friends!!!! Enjoy the possibilities of a new decade! Where will it take you?