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Archive for the ‘memories’ Category

On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “Q.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter Q…is for Quilting.

For over four years, Sophia and Olivia have been learning how to quilt. They started hand-sewing a bit before machine-sewing to get comfortable with a thread, needle, and fabric.

One of the first projects that the girls did was a simple patchwork quilt. They picked fabric from what I had on hand (a lesson in itself of resourcefulness and making do).

For some of their first sewing projects, they traced squares onto the back/wrong side of the fabric and then cut them out. They moved onto measuring and marking lines on the fabric. Sophia now can use a rotary cutter to cut fabric.

Assembling the Quilt
Olivia arranging squares for her first patchwork quilt.
She’s about 4 years old here (2007).

One of Olivia’s favorite quilts that she made was one using fabric she found at a quilting store in Pella, Iowa. The girls, my parents, and I traveled to Pella in the spring to see the tulips. There was a wonderful quilting store right off the main square.

Olivia liked a printed fabric with dogs on it. From that pattern, she picked several other fabrics to coordinate with it. She cut, arranged, and sewed all the pieces together to create her quilt.

Olivia with the Quilt She Made
Olivia made this quilt using fabric she found at a quilt shop on a trip.
This quilt holds special meaning and memories for her.
She was 6 years old when she made this quilt (2009).

Olivia entered her quilt in the county fair in the youth open class division. She was competing with children up to the age of 16 years old in her category.

She won first prize… a blue ribbon (there are only 6 ribbons – 1st through 6th place – awarded in a category). Needless to say, she was thrilled!

Olivia - Blue Ribbon on Quilt
Olivia with the quilt she made
that won her a blue ribbon!

For 2010, at 7 years old, she wanted to challenge herself to do something different. She looked with me at pictures of quilts on Flickr and saw one that she liked. It was a circular quilt made from a variety of fabrics.

The quilt she saw was done in rainbow colors with a white center. Olivia wanted to do hers in all blue fabrics with a white center. Since there was no pattern, we had to create a pattern for the blue pieces and center white piece.

Olivia chose a variety of textures also for the blue pieces which posed a bit of a challenge since each had a different “pull” to it. She had to try sewing different types of fabric together which was a good skill to learn.

Another skill she learned was doing free-style quilting. On the white fabric, she moved her presser foot around in a random pattern to secure the top, batting, and backing together.

Olivia Working on Quilt
Olivia working on her blue and white circular quilt.
She’s doing some free-motion quilting to secure the top, batting, and backing together.
Olivia was 7 years old when she did this quilt (2010).

Sophia started making quilts in 2006 (when she was 5 years old) and did a simple doll-size patchwork quilt from a kit she received for Christmas. The nice thing about the kit was that the squares were already cut for her. She simply had to sew them together and then create the quilt.

Once she learned how to do that she wanted to create another quilt using fabric that she picked out from what I had on hand. She used the same method as I used with Olivia (tracing of the shape on the fabric and then cutting it out).

By 2008, she was enjoying quilting so her grandma gave her a quilting kit in her favorite color: pink. The kit came with the fabric and pattern, but Sophia had to cut each piece for the quilt.

The fabric was a variety of textures – cotton, satin, and minky.  It was delightful to feel (from a sensory perspective). In terms of sewing…a bit more challenging, especially for a beginner quilter.

She patiently worked on the quilt and was so pleased with how it turned out. She used the quilt and enjoyed how it felt with the different textures.

Sophia in Bunkbed Camping with Quilt She Made
Sophia in a bunk bed in a camper cabin.
She wanted to bring her quilt on her first camping trip.
Sophia was 7 in this picture (2008).

By the following year, Sophia set a goal of making a quilt for her bed. She wanted a quilt in colors that she liked. We checked out some books from the library and she found a pattern that she liked. After a visit to the fabric store, she was ready to start making her quilt.

Sophia Laying Out Her Quilt
Sophia placed the pieces for her quilt on the floor.
She would pin the pieces she needed to sew as she went along.
Sophia is 8 years old in this picture (2009). 

She was happy with how her quilt turned out; and has used it on her bed since she made it.

Sophia's Finished Quilt
Sophia holding her finished quilt.

She entered the quilt in county fair and received a red ribbon on it (second place). At 8 years old, she was in the category with children up to 16 years old. 

Sophia - Red Ribbon on Her Quilt
Sophia by her quilt at the county fair.
She was 8 years old.

When Sophia was 9 years old, she tried a different form of quilting. Her grandma gave her a pre-printed image on fabric. Sophia quilted around different parts of it to give it texture and definition. She added sequins and beads to embellish it, and then finished off the quilt. 

She entered it into the county fair for one of her 4-H needlework projects. In 4-H, the children talk with a judge who asks them questions about their project and determines how much they understand about their project area. Sophia received a blue ribbon for her project which made her happy.

Sophia Talking About Quilted Wallhanging
Sophia meeting with a 4-H judge to discuss her project.

During the 2010-2011 homeschool year, Sophia took a sewing class at the homeschool co-op. One of the projects she worked on was learning quilting patterns.  During the spring, she learned six new patterns. She chose to sew the squares together to make a little lap or doll quilt.

Sophia with her Quilt
Sophia holding a lap or doll quilt that
shows six new patterns that she learned.
She’s 10 years old (2011).

Quilting has been an important part of homeschooling for the girls. In addition to art/creative expression, quilting helps with math and reading. I’ve also integrated geography and history when doing some of the quilts.

With a back-to-homeschool trip to New England in September to celebrate the start of a multi-year/multi-disciplinary geography study, the girls are excited to visit a quilt shop in New Hampshire that has over 5,000 bolts of fabric.

They each want to pick some fabric so they can make a quilt when they return home. Having a tangible reminder of this special time together is something that I hope they look back on with good memories in years to come.

Peek-a-Boo with the Sewing Machine
Looking back….
Olivia at 4 years old working on her first quilt.
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Welcome to the Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here’s the line up:

1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer activities”
2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer crafts”
3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer recipes”
4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Family Fun Backyard Fun Badge

In the July 2011 issue of Family Fun, the Backyard Fun Badge was presented. For ten months, there will be a monthly challenge for families to do. There are three options from which to choose.  By doing the activity, you earn a badge (either use the one in the magazine or download from the computer).

Then go online and tell them what you did and enter their sweepstakes for a chance to win prizes. 

One of the ideas that caught my eye for July was option #2 – Host a Campout.  Although they suggested sleeping out under the stars, we don’t have a tent so we opt to spread out a blanket and pillows and enjoy spending part of the day outside.

Fire by Lake Superior
A campfire I made on the
shore of Lake Superior.

One of the recipes I remember trying when I was in Girl Scouts and one that is easy to use with children is called Dough Boys. To make them, here’s a basic recipe:

Ingredients:

hot dog
biscuit mix
water

Directions:

Make biscuit dough mix according to the directions on the box or a recipe. Take a hot dog and wrap the biscuit dough around the hot dog (completely or just a center wrap).

Be careful not to put too much dough on or your hot dog will not cook. Toast your “dough boy” over hot coals until it is cooked through and golden brown on the outside. Serve with catsup or mustard.

When I directed a camp program for children, one of the meals that we taught the children to make was All in One Wrapped in Foil Dinner.

Ingredients:

ground beef
oil
sliced raw potatoes, carrots, and onion
seasoned salt
catsup
foil

Directions:

Fold aluminum so that there is a double layer. Put ground beef (about the size of a small hamburger) on foil, in the center. Drizzle a small about of oil on it (about 1/2 tsp).

Place carrots and potatoes (to your liking) and then onions. Fold over foil edges to make a flat packet. Be careful to fold over any edge so the package doesn’t leak. Use tongs and place right on the coals.

When you hear it “sizzle,” flip it. Flip it often and cook for 7-10 minutes. Open carefully (the foil will be hot!) and poke a potato with a fork. When it pierces it easily, supper is ready. Serve with seasoned salt and catsup.

The Girls and I  at William O'Brien Camping
Olivia, Sophia, and I at William O’Brien State Park
camping one year. It was so much fun!

A couple of years ago, Sophia, Olivia, and I went camping with my sister and her two sons. One of the things we made were Brown Bears.  All of us liked this easy dessert.

Ingredients:

refrigerator biscuits
spray margarine
cinnamon and sugar
wooden dowel for roasting stick

Directions:

Stretch biscuit dough and wrap around a wooden dowel and roast over coals until brown. Remove biscuit from dowel, spray with margarine and roll in cinnamon and sugar mixture. Fun to make and tasty too.

The Girls Making Cinnamon Rolls Over the Campfire
Olivia and Sophia trying 
Brown Bears for dessert.

For another dessert, there’s a special treat that reminds me of when I was growing up and took a kids cooking class. It’s a chocolate-banana melt dessert that was featured in the June/July 2011 issue of Family Fun

To make the dessert, cut a lengthwise slit in a peeled banana and place it on a sheet of alumninum foil. Stuff in as many chocolate chips and mini marshmallows as you can fit.

Wrap the foil around the banana and place it on a grill for about five minutes. The melt, once cooled, is best eaten with a spoon (and lots of napkins).

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

For the August Badges of Fun, the theme was “Hit the Road.”  Out of the three activities, we chose to do “Pack Easy-to-Eat Snacks.”

One of the recipes on the Family Fun website is for homemade granola bars.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups crisp rice cereal
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried fruit bits
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350º F. Coat a 9- by 13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Melt the butter or margarine in a large pot over low heat. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the sugar, honey, flour, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Transfer the mixture to the baking pan. Using a sheet or waxed paper and the palms of your hands, press the granola firmly into the pan, packing it to a flat and even thickness.

Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow the granola to cool 1 hour in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into bars. Makes 16 to 24 rectangular bars.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Now it’s your turn to share some of your kid-friendly summer activities!

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “N.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter N …is for Nature.

Nature is a major focus of homeschooling. Living on almost ten acres of land, nature surrounds us each day.

One of the girls’ favorite activities during the summer is raising butterflies. In 2008, there were an abundance of monarch caterpillars. Seeing the life cycle – from caterpillar to butterfly was fascinating for the girls.

#1 - Look at Me!
Olivia with a monarch butterfly.
This one was ready to be released.

Perhaps the most memorable release was when a monarch butterfly was brought outside and didn’t want to leave the girls. It stayed on their fingers, flew to a nearby milkweed plant, flew back in front of them, and then…eventually…flew off.

August 23rd - Third Monarch Butterfly Release
The third butterfly to be released in August 2008.
This one was quite content
to stay around the girls for a long time.

Both Sophia and Olivia enjoying feeding the birds and squirrels. One of the first activities I had both of the girls do for homeschooling involved watching the birds that visited the feeders. Each time a bird would visit, the girls would add a check mark next to the type of bird.

After a certain period of time (10-15 minutes…30 minutes if they were interested and lots of birds were visiting the feeder), they would create a chart to show which type of bird came to the feeder the most.

Sophia by Squirrel Buffet and Feeder
Sophia standing by the squirrel feeder that she and Olivia built.
The corn cob pathways with shell corn
sprinkled on the paths was Sophia’s idea.
The birds and squirrels enjoyed eating the corn.

One of the nice things about living in the country in a home that was built in 1890 is that the surrounding land has some very old trees which are great for climbing. The girls started out climbing the apple trees in the backyard, and have moved onto some of the larger pine trees in the front yard now.

Girls in the Tree
The girls in the tallest pine tree on the property.

During the past year, we have begun taking time for weekly nature study using the book Handbook for Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.

Taking the time to learn more about the wildlife, trees, and seasons has been such a highlight of the past year. It has given us a new appreciation for the land here as well as the wildlife that visits and lives on our farm.

Sophia Taking a Break From Nature Journaling
Sophia taking a break from nature journaling.
She is listening to and writing down sounds she hears.

Olivia Drawing in her Nature Journal
Olivia enjoyed nature journaling even when she was much younger.
Here she is at four years old
drawing a picture of what she sees outside.

Since the girls were young, gardening has always been a part of their life. They have learned to raise vegetables, pumpkins, fruit, and flowers. Both have been able to plant seeds; transplant trees; and harvest and preserve what they’ve grown.

Sophia with Pumpkin
Sophia with one of the pumpkins that she grew.

We enjoy going on walks with the dogs and horses. Living in the country, there’s always something interesting to see in the fields, in the sky, along the road, or in the ditches.

Olivia Looking for Rocks

Olivia is looking for rocks and
then putting them in her cone-shaped purse.
If you notice…she picked heavy winter boots
to wear with her light summer dress.
(Summer 2008)

One of my favorite pictures is of Sophia on the far nature trail spreading milkweed. She had lots of milkweed pods in her pocket and she would open them and let the wind carry the seeds to new locations.

She hoped that by doing this, there would be more milkweed available for the monarchs the following year…and in years to come.

Floating Milkweed
Milkweed seeds being carried off by the wind
as Sophia releases them.

Even though there are plenty of opportunities to explore nature right at our home, in the pastures, and on the nature trail, we enjoy exploring other areas as well. One of our favorite places to visit is William O’Brien State Park.

Girls Running on Trail at William O'Brien State Park - Homeschool Phy Ed
The girls running on one of the trails
at William O’Brien State Park.

We also have enjoyed walking on some of the trails at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This is a bit of a drive, but the trails are easy to walk and provide a different view of what we normally see at home.

Olivia Looking at Hawk in Tree
Olivia observing a hawk in a tree at the
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

We enjoy picnics outside (especially when there are no bugs – which is spring and fall in Minnesota).  There are lots of places to have picnics, but parks that have a lake or river by them are ones that are especially nice.

Feeding Ducks and Gulls
The girls feeding ducks and sea gulls
after a picnic we had.

Sometimes we visit places after we read about book. If a topic in a book interests the girls or if seeing an example of what was mentioned in the book would be of benefit, I try to find a place to go that would extend their learning.

For example, a few years ago, we visited Interstate State Park as part of a unit study we did on the ice age (after reading one of the Magic Treehouse books about the ice age).

Since the girls learn best by seeing and touching, I took them to this park to see first-hand what gorges are and the impact the ice age had on the area where we live.

This park has some fascinating and beautiful rock formations, glacial potholes, and gorges. The St. Croix River runs between the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the park.

Girls at Minnesota Interstate State Park
The girls on a rock overlooking the St. Croix River.
This was taken at Interstate State Park
on the Minnesota side.

When we travel, we always make sure that nature is part of our trip. One of our favorite places to visit is Grand Marais (Minnesota). The girls enjoy being able to be in Lake Superior (although the water is very cold) and play on the shoreline.

Walking on Water
Olivia and Sophia in Lake Superior
at Grand Marais, Minnesota.

One of their most memorable moments on a trip to Grand Marais that we took in September 2010 was being able to feed a chipmunk. We traveled up the Gunflint Trail and stopped along the way.

At the stop, there was a very friendly chipmunk who the girls fed Pik-Nik sticks (fried potato sticks). The chipmunk came up so close to them. They still – almost a year late – recall that moment as if it happened yesterday.

Close Enough To Pet the Chipmunk
The girls feeding a chipmunk.
Nature is such an integral part of homeschooling. Each day, the girls are outside playing or discovering something new. Having both of them so excited about wildlife and caring for the environment is a direct result of being able to homeschool them and have the opportunity to spend so much time outdoors.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “L.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted  Letter L …is for Literature

Literature is written or spoken material that is the work of the creative imagination, including works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. Through the current curriculum I’m using with the girls (Sonlight), we’ve been introduced to wonderful literary works in each of the genres mentioned.

Girls Reading on Box Day
Sophia and Olivia on “Box Day” – when the books
for the upcoming school year are received.
They enjoy looking at all the books they’ll be
reading or listening to during the upcoming year.

In addition to using the books that are part of the Sonlight curriculum, I’m also using several lists of books to introduce the girls to a wide variety of literature (e.g., Newbery Medal, Caldecott Medal). 

The Association for Library Service to Children has a website that has information about different awards that are given each year to children’s books that are of high quality.  Each award has a different focus.  The ones that we’re focusing on include:

(John) Newbery Medal – honors the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

(Randolph) Caldecott Medal – honors the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

(Theodor Seuss) Geisel Medal – honors the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year.

(Laura Ingalls) Wilder Award – honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

Reading is such an integral part of homeschooling for us.  Since the girls were young, I have read to them daily. Once Sophia began reading on her own, she spent more time being able to read independently which expanded the number of books she listened to/read each day. The girls both listen to books on CD as well.

In addition to reading inside, the girls enjoy reading outside – on blankets on the ground with the clouds and trees as the backdrop…or in one of the climbing trees in the backyard.

Reading Aloud Outside
Sophia reading outside on an early-fall afternoon.

Literature has introduced the girls to historical facts, given them insight into different cultures; and provides the inspiration to learn more about different times and traditions other than their own.

Some of our favorite homeschool memories center around literature-based unit studies.  The first series we did was the American Girl one that focuses on ten year old girls from a variety of ethnicities and time periods in the United States. 

We started with the Kaya series which was set in the 1700s with the Nez Perce and finished with the Julie series that was set in the 1970s and had a Chinese-American sub-theme (this was nice for the girls who are both Chinese-American).

Olivia Reading Outside
Olivia taking a look at one of the American Girl books
under the willow tree on the nature trail
in the back part of the farm.

The girls and I did crafts, cooked/baked food that tied into each series, and took field trips to places to bring alive what they were reading in the American Girl Series.

Field Trip to Fort Snelling - Food Rations
The girls learned about rations, the Victory pledge,
and Victory Gardens when we did the Molly unit study.
Here, at Fort Snelling, there was a homeschool day
focused on WWII (when the Molly series took place).
This display shows rations at the time (e.g., food, gasoline, shoes).

The other series that we enjoyed was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Starting with Little House in the Big Woods and ending nine books later with The First Four Years, we not only read the books but did hands-on activities and took a trip to Pepin, Wisconsin (where Laura spent the early part of her childhood).

We visited Pepin once when we started the series and were reading Little House in the Big Woods to see where Laura’s childhood home was located, saw the cemetary where some of the people mentioned in her book were buried, and visited a museum focused on the Ingalls family/Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

In 2010, we went back to Pepin with the girls’ grandparents; and stopped at the lake and went through town.

Lake Pepin
Sophia, Olivia, and Papa (the girls’ grandpa)
on the shores of Lake Pepin (Wisconsin).

Children’s literature also has opened up the girls’ imagination and fostered an enthusiam for learning about things that they normally wouldn’t have thought or known.  For example, I read to the girls a long time ago a book called Mailing May in which five-year-old Charlotte May Pierstorff begs to visit her grandmother, but her parents cannot afford to send her.

In Idaho in 1914, the train is the only way to make the 75-mile trip over the mountains. The Pierstorffs come up with an unusual solution – mailing May. Sending her as a package is a third of the cost, and since her mother’s cousin Leonard handles the railroad mail car, she does not have to travel alone.

So, we were on a trip up north a few years ago, and visited a train museum.  There happened to be an old, restored mail car at the Duluth train museum. This brought to life this book which the girls clearly remembered and made the connection to; making the visit such a fun experience for the girls.

Old-Fashioned Mail Car in a Train
The girls in a restored mail car a train museum
in Duluth, Minnesota.

Another way that literature has been a part of homeschooling is by sharing the gift of reading and quality books with others.  We have donated many books to the local second-hand shop.  All the proceeds from the sale of the books help fund programs that serve those in need in the community.

The girls also donated some books to Books For Africa through the 52 Weeks of Giving program that we’re doing this year. 

And, perhaps, most meaningful (on a personal level) is seeing the gift of reading and literature shared between generations.  One of my father’s favorite books that his mother read to him when he was a boy was The Story of Ferdinand.

The story, written in 1936, is about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights. He sits in the middle of the bull ring failing to take heed of any of the provocations of the matador and others to fight.

Sophia Reading Papa His Favorite Book
Sophia reading Papa one of his favorite childhood books.
At the time (August 2010), he was able to still read the book.
Now (June 2011), with Alzheimer’s Disease,
he struggles with reading,
but enjoys being read to and listening.
Literature has been and will continue to be an important and central focus of homeschooling for us. 

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For the 26th week of the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I chose All That Matters by Jan Goldstein.  I enjoyed this book; and read it in a couple of days.  Although it was rather predictable, it was a very moving story of the relationship between a granddaughter and grandmother. 

The story centers around a 23 year old suicidal woman (Jennifer) who finds happiness and purpose in life with the help of her grandmother, a Holocaust survivor.

At the beginning of the book, Jennifer thinks there is little to live for: her mother is dead, her Hollywood-producer father is busy with his picturesque new family, and her boyfriend has dropped her. She attempts to take her life, but ends up being released into the care of her grandmother, Gittel “Gabby” Zuckerman.

Gabby takes Jennifer back with her to New York with the hope of helping Jennifer.  It is not so much Jennifer’s story that is fascinating, but rather Gabby’s story of surviving the Holocaust that is the most engaging part of the book.

As the author notes at the beginning of the book, “When I was a young boy my father’s first cousin, Fania Ingber, shared with me the story of how she survived the Nazis: hiding in the forest as a young girl and later in the attic of a righteous woman for two years.  Those details help form the character of Gabby.  Through her I humbly pay tribute to all the survivors, the Fanias of the world, each with his or her own indomitable spirit.”

Keeping this in mind, when Gabby finally shares her story with Jennifer during a trip they take to Maine, it is captivating to read – even if it’s fiction.  Gabby said that after witnessing her parents and sister murdered by the Nazis that she didn’t have the will to live.  She was found wandering in the open by a woman who had frequented her father’s shop (he was a tailor). 

The woman (Mrs. Pulaski) screamed at her, “‘Foolish girl, don’t you see it is not for you to throw away what your family was so desperate to have? You must choose life. You must live for those who had no choice.”

She described how she hid in Mrs. Pulaski’s attic: “During the day I would cling to the slanted walls.  This way my feet would not touch down on the floorboard.” (This was important because Mrs. Pulaski was a seamstress who had customers who came to her home and any noise from the attic might alert others that she was hiding someone…a crime punishable by death.)

Gabby continued, “Hanging on, I would feel my knuckles turn white with pain. Many times they became so numb I could not feel them again for several hours.”  She lived this way for a very long time as a teenager, and eventually broke down crying one night as Mrs. Pulaski comforted her. 

Mrs. Pulaski said, “There are times when it seems everything good in life has been taken from us…Now is such a time.  But I promise you, little one, if you open your eyes, your heart, you will find there are still gifts waiting for you each day.”

She encouraged Gabby to try to find at least one good thing each day – a dream, a bright yellow butterfly sunning itself, a glimpse of sunlight through the crack in the roof, a memory of her mother’s cooking, the sound of rain, and so forth.

After sharing her story with Jennifer, Gabby told her, “There is a gift waiting for you each day…If you’re willing to see it, hear it, even feel it, it’s there.” 

It was on the trip to Maine that this story was shared.  In addition, Gabby and Jennifer visited several places that sounded interesting including the Norman Rockwell Museum. 

There were paintings there that were based on a speech given by President Franklin Roosevelt outlining the Four Freedoms to which every human being was entitled:
-> Freedom from want
-> Freedom of worship
-> Freedom of speech and expression
-> Freedom from fear

As I read (and re-read) these Four Freedoms, I thought of the last book I read (Another Place at the Table) which focused on the United States’ foster care system, and the challenges that the children in it have faced in their young lives.  I thought that some of these core freedoms – freedom from fear, wants, speech/expression – were violated in many of the cases shared in that book. 

All That Matters is also the second book that I’ve recently read that encouraged one of the main characters to keep a journal.  Gabby gave Jennifer a journal and said, “The pages are empty. They wait for you to fill them, to tell about the gifts you will find each day….

“Maybe, when you are going through a difficult time – and such days are part of the challenge we get to face in living – you will take out this book and read what you have already written.  It will remind you that while there is darkness, you also have good, beauty, light, and rich memories to cling to.”

Gabby writes a message to Jennifer in her journal: “To my greatest gift, my granddaughter – Listen for me in your heart, that is where I choose now to live…for that is my heaven. Love, Nana.”

All That Matters is a story about the will to survive – on several different levels and with different characters.  It is a good reminder that each person has their own challenges…and, sometimes, the difficulties we face are small compared to ones others have had to deal with in their lives. 

The book also serves to underscore the importance of looking for at least one thing each day that is a gift…something positive that helps you get through the day.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “K.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter K…is for Kitchen.
When I think of homeschooling, one of the places that we spend a considerable amount of time in is the kitchen.  The girls and I enjoy cooking and baking, so incorporating a culinary aspect into homeschooling is a natural fit.
The girls have been helping in the kitchen since they were about 18 months old.  As they have gotten older, the new skills they learn match their developmental and physical abilities. 
Both Sophia and Olivia will look at recipes as I’m planning meals for the upcoming few weeks.  When I’m doing this, they often will look at the pictures that accompany the recipe (the majority of my recipes come from cooking and women’s magazines).  They’ll see a picture of something that looks good and will ask if they can make it. 
Trying a new recipe, having it be a part of the meal, and seeing what it tastes like is something that makes the girls happy and proud.
Olivia with Pumpkin Pie
Olivia holding a pumpkin pie she made.

During the past few years, I created an ABC Journey Around the World in which the girls learned about a different country in alphabetical order (e.g., Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, and so forth until ending with Yemen and Zambia). 

One of their favorite parts of learning about other countries was seeing what people would eat in different parts of the world.  I found recipes on the internet as well as through recipe books from the library. We tried anywhere from one to six recipes per country (some were easier to find recipes for than others).

Making Mexican Hot Chocolate
The girls made Mexican hot chocolate
using a recipe found in a children’s cookbook.
They also made Mexican scrambled eggs
that morning for a complete breakfast.

French Green Bean Recipe
Sophia is holding a green bean sidedish
using a French recipe. 

Olivia Making Swedish Rolls
Olivia is making Swedish cinnamon rolls.
The recipe came from a local church cookbook
that had a whole section on Swedish cooking
(we live in a community that was founded
by Swedish immigrants).

The kitchen is more than a place to cook and bake food.  With homeschooling, the kitchen also becomes an area to do science experiments and hands-on activities.

One of the science lessons that the girls did focused on marine life and pelicans. Apparently a pelican can hold 13 1/2 quarts of water in its pouch. The water drains out, leaving only the fish which the pelican then can swallow and eat.

Sophia Being a Pelican
Sophia trying to catch a marshmallow
as part of a science lesson about pelicans.

In the photograph above, there are 2 marshmallows in the sink representing fish. Sophia’s job is to catch the marshmallows. It’s harder than it looks.

The girls learn best when they can make a hands-on, tangible connection with the subject about which they are learning.  This is so important when the concept might be more difficult for them (e.g., electricity) or would benefit from a visual example (e.g., lung capacity).

Lung Capacity Experiment
Olivia learning about lung capacity.
She took a deep breath and then blew air through the tube
that led into the water-filled 2-liter pop bottle.
The air would push out the water from the bottle
and show how much air was in her lungs.

Sometimes when we’re cooking, the girls learn new words or make a connection between what they’re cooking with something else they’ve heard or learned.  For example, when we were making cheese, the curds separated from the whey.  They immediately made the connection with the nursery rhyme they had heard many times:

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey,
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

Cheesemaking - Curds Separating from Whey
Learning to make cheese.  In the process,
the girls saw the curds and whey separate; and
made the connection of a nursery rhyme they heard.
(The curds are the white part; the whey is the liquid.)

For one nature study, we focused on learning about dandelions.  In addition to the science part of the study, we added a culinary component where we made dandelion cookies, dandelion vinegar, and dandelion oil/salve.

Making Dandelion Oil for Salve
Olivia making dandelion oil.
The oil can be used as a base to make salve.

The kitchen also is a place where the girls create things for the holidays and different seasons. 

Borax Snowflake - Step 3 - Sophia
Sophia making borax snowflakes.
Homemade Marshallows for Valentine's Day
Olivia holding homemade marshmallows
she made for Valentine’s Day.

Gretel Waiting for Pumpkin Guts
Sophina carving a pumpkin while Gretel looks on.

An important part of our time in the kitchen is when we make food to help others.  We have made many meals and desserts for people experiencing medical/health challenges; and have chosen to donate some of our food to those in need. 

Cereal to Donate
The girls packaging up some of food to donate
to an organization that serves people who are homeless.

We also make food for animals – treats for the dogs, cats, and horses; and for wildlife.  Making food for the hummingbirds to drink during the summer and suet for the birds during the winter are regular activities. 

Sophia Helping Make Bird Suet on a 25 Degree Below Zero Day
Sophia making suet for the birds on a
very cold 25 degree BELOW zero day.
Needless to say, the birds needed the energy
and were constantly eating the homemade suet.

Seeing how excited the animals are to get a treat…and to see the variety of birds that now visit the feeders is a lot of fun.  Being able to observe animals up close (especially birds) is such a highlight of homeschooling.
So many subjects are covered in the kitchen beyond home economics – reading, math, science, community service, and geography. The kitchen truly is one of the centers of learning for homeschooling…and one of our favorite places to learn! 

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Welcome to the third time of our Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here’s the line up:
1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer activities”
2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer crafts”
3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer recipes”
4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

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The girls and I enjoy cooking and baking; trying new recipes; and making up our own recipes.  During June, we’ve been making food using herbs and fruit from the garden. 

Homemade Pizza Using Fresh Herbs from the Garden

One of our favorite dinners during the summer is homemade pizza.  Each person gets some dough to make their own individual pizza using their preferred toppings. 

The pizza dough recipe came from the June 2006 issue of Better Homes and Gardens and is the easiest one I’ve found.  There are extra steps in the original recipe (like letting the dough rest), but I skip them just to save some time.

Pizza Dough

2 3/4- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water (120-130 degrees F)
2 tablespoons oil or olive oil

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/4 cups of the flour, yeast, and salt.  Add warm water and oil.  Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping the bowl constantly.  Beat on high for 3 minutes.  Using a wooden spoon stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface.  Knead in remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6-8 minutes total).  Divide dough into 8 pieces.  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.  Makes 8 mini-pizzas. 

(Note: I mix everything by hand; and do not cover and let it rest for 10 minutes.)

The girls pressing out the dough.

Add whatever topping you prefer.  On this night, we had onions, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh herbs from the garden (rosemary, oregano, and basil) as well as cheese (regular and dairy-free).

Some other ideas from Better Homes and Gardens
Meats: precooked ground beef or Italian sausage, sliced pepperoni, chopped or shredded chicken, sliced or chopped ham
 Vegetables: fresh tomatoes, sweet peppers, olives
Cheeses:  mozzarella cheese (shredded or fresh), shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, crumbled feta cheese
Garlic:  minced or coarsely chopped

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.

The recipe makes a lot of pizza –
enough for dinner with leftovers for another meal.

One of these nights, I’m going to try making the pizza on the grill and see what that tastes like. Perhaps the next time we make the pizza we’ll do this…along with adding vegetables that are ripe from our garden (like tomatoes, peppers, and onions).

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Strawberry Patch Float

The girls adding sprinkles to the top of their floats.

This recipe comes from the Taste of Home June/July 2011 issue. 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons strawberry jam (we used homemade jam we made last year)
1 teaspoon water
Strawberry ice cream (we used both strawberry and vanilla ice cream)
Sliced strawberries (we used frozen strawberries that we picked last year since local ones aren’t quite ready to be harvested yet)
1/4 cup cream (we didn’t include this)
Strawberry or raspberry sparkling water
Whipped cream
Sprinkles

Directions

Spoon the jam mixed with water into a tall glass.  Top with ice cream, strawberries, cream, sparkling water, whipped cream, and sprinkles.  Enjoy! 

They enjoyed their floats and
wanted to know if they could have another one tomorrow.
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Pretty Herbal and Fruit Ice Cubes

In an issue of Better Homes & Gardens, there was an idea for making pretty ice cubes.  Simply place cleaned whole mint leaves or lemon rind curls (or both) inside each compartment of your ice cub tray.  Fill with water, then freeze until solid (about two hours). 

Olivia Making Mint Ice Cubes
Olivia placing part of a mint leaf
in each ice cube compartment.

To use, drop a few of the flavored cubes into a beverage of your choice (e.g., lemonade, iced tea).  As the cubes melt, the drink gets a bit more flavor from the herbs or citrus fruits.

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Orange-Ade

Fresh Orange-ade
Orange-ade

Oranges and lemons don’t grow in Minnesota, so this doesn’t quite fit with making food from our garden.  However, this is a recipe Sophia and I created based on the one that my grandma use to make when I visited her as a child. I remember her hand-squeezing the lemons and oranges, and sitting on her porch relaxing while the breeze came through the windows. 

This is what Sophia and I made, and it is as close to my grandma’s recipe as I remember:

3 cups freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 cups freshly-squeezed lemon juice
4 cups of cold water
1 cup of sugar (start at 1/2 cup and continue adding sugar until you like the taste)

Squeeze the juice out of the oranges and lemons (we used about six each, and had enough leftover juice to make another batch of orange-ade).

Sophia Juicing Lemons
Sophia getting the juice out of a lemon.

Measure the juices and then pour them into a pitcher.

Measuring Orange Juice
Measuring the freshly-squeezed orange juice.

Add the water to the pitcher.  Gradually add sugar and stir until it is dissolved.  Refrigerate and serve chilled…or use the pretty ice cubes you made (see recipe above) to add a hint of mint to the orange-ade. 

Now it’s your turn!
What are some of your favorite recipes for summer?

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