Sunday, October 27, 2013

1,000 Words

A life we're enveloped in. A life we've lived.
Tumultuous, invigorating, beautiful and angry. Like the waves in the tide, rolling behind us. Chasing and eager to devour us alive in the fury, the flurry of memories.
Roaring, infused with the power of life. Beautiful, dramatic. Sweeping us together into the promises of a life well traveled, a life well lived, a life blessed with living.

Let go.
We leaped over the railing long ago.

"These rolling hills remind me of what the countryside in Italy might look like," Palmer said.
"We'll find out," I said.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween, Pumpkins & Fall - Oh my!

October arrived and you better believe I hoarded as many fall, pumpkin, Halloween and apple activities as I could find. We started off focusing solely on apples to gear up for an apple picking trip we planned for the following weekend.
We started off with apple volcanoes (which were super cool until my super cool 3 year old blazed through a whole bottle of vinegar) and we used apples to make apple and pumpkin stamps. I posted about our apple volcanoes and apple stamping in our Letter A unit post.

All you need: vinegar (food dye optional), baking soda and as many apples as you want to destroy.

Apple stamping is one of the easiest (though messy) activities to keep kids busy for a while. I'll prove it.
Step 1. Cut an apple 
Step 2. Dab in a glob of paint 
Step 3. Stamp
That easy.
We used our stamps to make a card for Grandma!
After making the most of one half of the apple, I carved a Jack O Lantern face into the other half.
Heey Guys!

Oopsey Daisy's Mommy School is fan-freakin-tastic. She has downloadable packets that are packed with a little bit of everything. I used her A is for Apple packet to get the bulk of our apple activities, songs and stories. 
In said packet were these apple counting cards we used during snack time (yes, white chocolate chips counted as a snack). 

These paper dolls I found via Pinterest (via my mom and I's shared board) were entertainment that got me through dinner until bedtime. She named them Sabrina and Finley and we drew different adventures for them to go on. (We only got through two different scenarios but it was time well spent!)
Click here for the link!
Click here for the link!

Another fine product of Mommy School's Halloween packet was a make your own storybook that reads like Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Because of the familiarity with the story and the pictures, she was able to read it herself which she very much enjoyed!

Our goofy looking egg carton bats have been creepin around our hallway for about a week now. They're actually pretty nice so I let them stay.

Pardon me while I take a moment to reveal something that has changed my life. 
Friends, neighbors, family and countrymen: I have just recently discovered the wonder and miracles of the laminator. (You have to say it like Dr Doofenshmirtz. You just have to. It says so on the box.)

It makes tediously cutting out all of these random little things worth it. And it was so easy. And best of all, get this, it was $20 at Aldi. WHAT?? I know. Anyway, onto the important stuff...

The day we went to the pumpkin patch with her preschool class we went over the life cycle of a pumpkin with the flash cards provided in Mommy School's packet.
She got to practice her scissor skills by cutting out the key at the top :)

On another occasion I cut out a pumpkin shape and let her go through my magazines to find all things orange to create a pumpkin collage. This was good color recognition practice for her (we still have trouble getting them all right) but, as you can see in the finished product, she got bored after no more than 5 minutes. Oh well. I'm using it to cover some flaws on the door.

This little monster from the aforementioned Halloween packet got a snazzy little makeover on a rainy afternoon. 

Yet another story with (laminated!) visuals from Mommy School. Her little eyes smile and shine when she watches little characters act out a story. Those are the moments that make me keep doing the print outs, the stories, the activities, the crafts. What some see as silly wasted time are times I can capture a connection with her. And it's awesome.

We made these coffee filter leaves last fall, this fall and probably next fall too. I found them at The Chocolate Muffin Tree's blog and using the same technique you can make just about anything you want to (Easter eggs, flowers, etc).

Leaf animals!

Pumpkin carving is a must in October.

I found this (seemingly) super easy carving alternative from this pin on Pinterest. Of course, it looked soooo easy, and it was, I guess. But I had hoped it was something Bella could easily participate in and it ended up being more of a chore than I anticipated.  You take a cookie cutter and hammer the shape into the pumpkin to easily carve shapes. Awesome! Easy! I have those things already! Well...
We had to hammer it pretty firmly and directly onto the cookie cutter to make any progress (I mean, duh) and neither of those things were easy for Bella to do and she ended up getting frustrated. Also, I should have thought ahead (HA! When have I EVER done that) and measured because the shell of the pumpkin was thicker than the cookie cutter. Mom fail. 
So then we hit the inside of the cookie cutter with the hammer until we punched out the shape. It ended up demolishing a layer of the shell on the inside, but whatever. We did it yaaaay just don't look too close!
Also, the hammer totally destroyed the cookie cutter. A lot of lessons learned from this activity.

Ta daaaa!
Going along with the pumpkin carving, I highly encourage you to save the pumpkin seeds and try making these 
Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seeds
2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet and bake until dry throughout, 50 to 60 minutes. 
Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the seeds with the butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Return the seeds to the baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

That also brings me to another activity we did: Boo our friends! (Not in the way you think!)
I found a printable from TomKat studio with directions of how to start a Boo chain with your friends and neighbors. We made treats and dropped them off to friends with the downloadable sign attached. Although it was supposed to be anonymous, every single person caught us. Whoops. (Proof we would make the absolute worst spies.)

One of our Halloween books that we've made into somewhat of a tradition of reading is The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. I decided to try to think of a craft to accompany the book and, lo and behold, found some printable visual aids for it at Toddler Approved!
Look at that face! I mentioned earlier how much she loves stories with visual aids and that lit up face is proof. Her friend was visiting and loved that the story prompts were a good excuse to yell during the story! He also loved being in charge of the big scary pumpkin head. :)
Another Pinterest craft we had to do: Boo Print Ghosts! Ours came out much messier due to wrangling a 9 month old with white paint all over her. Our yellow crescent moon (made from Bella's fist) also looks a little unusual, but oh well! It was a cute little keepsake that was worth the paint mess. 

We made Jar O Lanterns last year (2012) but I wanted to add them to this list anyway because I saved it and brought it out again this year! I saved some jars (one from spaghetti sauce and one from jam) and  I let the kids paint the inside of them. I printed out some Jack O Lantern face templates that I then cut out and let them tape onto their jar. Then we put a tea lights inside and enjoyed our Halloween lanterns!

October 2012

Last, but not least, we wrapped up Halloween and the end of October with Halloween Bingo that I printed off from The Crafting Chicks. We played it once for fun but we've been using it as a way to dispense Halloween candy gradually (where you get a piece with every win) as opposed to having a free for all with it (not saying that didn't happen...).

PS: If you're feeling super Pinteresty and have an entire 3 hours to kill (which is how long it took me to do it), you can try making these 3-D pumpkin cookies from Glorious Treats.
LOL. The M&Ms inside were my favorite part.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Letter A

At the beginning of 2012, around the time Bella turned 2, I started doing some preschool "curriculum" I compiled through Pinterest focusing on a letter of the alphabet each week. I didn't do a good job documenting everything we did and the things that did and didn't work but I'm diving into it again and wanted to try to do a better job sharing what we do (and how it goes over).

We usually start the week off with a letter coloring page and an accompanying book cover to put our week's worth of letter activities in. I love the ones Mr. Printables offers.

Mr Printables Book Cover
I let Bella color this one and attached it to the finished collection of letter projects she did to put in her keepsake box. (Yup. I'm that mom.)

alphabet coloring pages letter a
Letter A

I also use Tot School Printables to accompany activities throughout the week.

This coloring page is from Enchanted Learning, which feels pretty old school (I had a flashback to 4th grade computer class) but has some good material and quite a variety of activities for a wide age range. 

We took advantage of doing a lot of apple oriented activities. Like one day we went apple picking around the house.
Apple unit | 2012
We also printed off trees I found somewhere and made fingerprint apples, going from 1 - 10 apples per tree. Not that it's necessary but I have a picture somewhere of it and it's driving me crazy that I can't find it. I'll post it as soon as I find it. Bella still needs a refresher on our numerical order so counting games are always good for us.

My absolute favorite resource I found through my homeschool preschool endeavor was Mommy School from Oopsey Daisy's blog. I used almost everything she offered for A is for Apples, including this story board with visual aids. (Sidenote: stories with visual aids are Bella's favorite. So naturally, I printed off every single one.)
It's not the prettiest flannel board anyone's ever seen but I made use of an old sweater and Bella loved it.
Another story she offered with accompanying visual aids:
That fancy looking tree was made out of thrift store sweaters. 


This fall we dove back into the fall themed crafts and activities, which included a lot of apple stuff. (obvs.)
One day we made an apple volcano! I got the idea from Growing A Jeweled Rose, which is a great resource for a lot of other awesome and unique activities.

All you need: vinegar (food dye optional), baking soda and as many apples as you want to destroy.

Next we tried apple stamping.
In honor of all things Halloween and October, we carved a Jack O Lantern face into the apple. 

Ta da!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sloppy Joe Pasta

Sloppy Joe's are one of those things that I do not find appealing at all but if someone makes it for me and sets it down in front of me, I smile and devour it, all the while thinking, "WHY don't I make these more?" And then I sit rather ashamed at myself for enjoying it so much. 

Most of this scene is actually a pretty good reenactment of my relationship with Sloppy Joe's.

However, this recipe is basically everything you (regretfully) love about Sloppy Joe's minus the shame. 

Image borrowed from Delectable Edibles because my picture turned out really questionable.
Sloppy Joe Pasta

1 lb ground beef (I use ground turkey)
1 envelope sloppy joe mix
1 cup water
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 package (7 oz) small shell pasta, cooked and drained
1 cup (8 oz) cottage cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (HA! I never measure cheese)

In a large saucepan, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.
Stir in sloppy joe mix, water, tomato sauce and paste. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5-8 minutes or until heated through. Remove from the heat; stir in the pasta.

Spoon half into greased 2 1/2 qt baking dish. 
Top with cottage cheese and remaining pasta mixture. 
Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Baked Blueberry French Toast

My girls and I really enjoy this breakfast. So much so that I can't really speak for my husband because there's not usually much left for him. (Sorry babe.) My girls' favorite part are the blueberries. I love that it feels like I'm putting some effort into breakfast without it taking forever (from prep to finish it takes about 40 minutes). 

The recipe came from a Taste of Home magazine so just knowing that the odds are that it's worth at least trying. It's technically called "Baked French Toast with Blueberry Sauce" which sounds fancier but I don't call it that. Because I'm not fancy this time.

Baked Blueberry French Toast 

1/4 cup butter, melted
4 eggs
1 cup 2% milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
8 slices texas toast (I actually use Oroweat's Oatnut bread and love it)

Blueberry sauce:
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves (I actually leave this out sometimes because cloves make me feel like I'm eating a Christmas candle)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 Tbsp thawed orange juice concentrate (I've actually used regular ol' orange juice and been happy with how it turned out)

Pour melted butter on a 15 in x 10 in x 1 in baking pan; lift and tilt pan to coat bottom evenly. 
In a large shallow bowl whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla and nutmeg. Dip both sides of bread into egg mixture; place on prepared pan. 
Bake at 375 for 20 - 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

For sauce, in a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and cloves. Stir in the blueberries and orange juice concentrate. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
Serve with toast. (Doi.)