Saturday, December 27, 2014

DIY Burned Wood Christmas Tree ornaments

We really got into wood burning this year.  I can’t tell you how fun this was! 


We used a Dremel Wood Burning Tool (this tool) which I ordered from Amazon (you can get them at craft stores as well, but use your coupons!  Because they are far more expensive.) and I got a set of extra tips like this one.  To work with, at first I used branch pieces I sawed off a fallen branch from the yard.  But soon I bought wooden rounds 2-4 inches like these or these.  They are far cleaner cut and I really enjoyed how they didn’t get my table dirty. 

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I was addicted pretty quickly. 

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Some of my designs were complex…

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Some were super simple:

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To look for inspiration, I searched ‘simple line drawings’ in my search engine and spent quite a bit of time copying that.  Then ‘simple snowflakes’ and after a while, I searched for other wood burned inspiration from all kinds of art. 

When I had enough, I took a tiny drill bit and drilled a hole in the top of each round and placed a small eyelet hook into them. 

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I put a ribbon through the eyelet and they were all set to hang on the tree!

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The kids started wanting to do it too.  It seemed a little complicated to draw with something so hot for the kids, so I had them draw their ideas first and then they used the burner to burn their designs into the rounds. 

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I even spent some time burning tiny hearts into large acorns I dried from this fall.  Addictive.  I’m telling you.  And so much fun!

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I even drilled a tiny hole in the acorns and put a tiny eyelet hook in them so I could hang them on the tree too.  By the time we put our tree up, we had an entire tree of homemade, handcrafted, incredibly beautiful ornaments.  

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(The heart is made from shrunken sweaters that my daughter loved as a little kid.)


Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Décor 2014

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This year I spent very little time on our decorations.  More than anything, my favorite décor element right now is ‘clean’.  But the day before our one and only Christmas party I did cut a few boughs, add in some holly and had my oldest help me clean up the front porch.

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My Christmas tree this year was decorated with handmade ornaments that my daughter and I made and silver and red jingle bells.  It was very simple, very clean, and very lovely. 

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Here are a few of the ornaments that we made over the years.  The burned wooden rounds and scrabble tiles were this year.  I also made and gave many as gifts.  I have started adding the years on each of these ornaments so I know when we made which ones.

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The mantel was equally simple with the same burlap banner that I used for fall, but instead of pressed leaves into it, I did a garland of blinking star lights.  Sugar Pine cones and a greenery garland draped on top of the mantel finished it off with some red candles.

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I have seen so many design blogs that create these whole new spaces for the holidays.  I can’t help but think, what a chore!  Yes, they are beautiful, but I really like ‘simple’ and ‘clean’ best of all.  Always.

Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 22, 2014

A moment of clarity

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This time of year, it is easy to be sucked in by the extravagance. To buy the idea that if we spend more, we get more. The fancier a thing is, the better it must be. But in truth, the simpler the desires, the happier we are. Always.

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A day of spontaneous gratitude.  <3

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Creating a new tradition: Advent Wreath–Waldorf Style

Here it is.  The last Sunday in advent.  Isn’t that crazy?  It feels as though this autumn has just flown by, and now it’s the first day of winter, just days before Christmas and soon the light will be returning and a new year beginning.  This season is full, as it always is, but there has been a lightness in this years darkest days this year.  Maybe it’s the supplements I am taking.  Maybe it’s the fact that I am really learning how to not be so mean to myself about missing traditions or going on rabbit trails for a week because we are enjoying a craft we are doing.  Either way, we have really enjoyed this season, even with its chaos and bustle.

For the past few years we have had an advent wreath, just like we had at my Lutheran church when I was little.  Each year I get three purple candles, one pink candle and one white pillar candle.  This year, inspired by this post, I added a few other things to our advent wreath traditions.  I made up cards for each Sunday printed on cardstock and added them to my wreath so I didn’t stumble over looking up each verse when my kids were waiting.  I also gathered all the items I would need to put on the wreath this season into a bag that was in my junk drawer.  Once again, I was just trying to streamline this process so it would be as smooth as possible after Church each Sunday.

I set up the advent wreath Thanksgiving weekend.  It went up before any other Christmas décor and in fact!  Our fall decorations were still on the table as I took this picture:

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The first week, we added shells, crystals, and a stone to our wreath for the Light of Stones.

The first light of Advent is the light of stones.  The light that shines in seashells, in crystals, and our bones.

Once it was set up, it was easy to maintain:

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Second week of advent we added pressed leaves for the Light of Plants.

The second light of Advent is the Light of Plants.  Plants that reach up to the sun, and in the breezes dance. 

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We added some of our chickens feathers for the third week in advent.

The third week of Advent, it is the Light of Beasts.  The light of faith that we may see the greatest I the least.

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We added a roving angel for the fourth week in advent.

The fourth Light of Advent; it is the Light of Humankind.  The Light of Hope, of thoughts and dreams.  The Light of hands, heart, and mind.

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I did it a tiny bit different than any of my other traditions, this time we lit the Christ candle every week. 

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It is so easy this time of year to shift our focus from the light that Jesus was in the world to something more earthly.  I wanted to always have that light shining.  So every week, for the few hours these other candles were burning, that center candle stood bright and happy.  A great reminder of the His greatest love for us.

One last note about all family traditions…  Traditions are lovely, but sometimes they do not work the way you want them to.  These beautiful family moments, especially with toddlers or young children, have to have room for climbing on tables and jumping off chairs and fights over who is going to blow out the candle when we are done with lunch.  They must continue, even though there may be holiday decorations on the floor, or it’s technically Monday, or you only have 2 of the kids home out of 4.   

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And the glory of traditions is that kids don’t notice!  They do not care if you had that weeks advent lighting a day late because you were sick, or if the breakfast dishes are not put away, or if you have to keep stealing the gloves back from the dog while reading the card.  Any of that they remember, they will remember with laughter and it will add to the charm of the tradition, not deter from it.  Tradition is like a budget… if there is no wiggle room, there is almost no chance of success.


Friday, December 12, 2014

First week of Advent 2014


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Day 1: We watched Elf and I made this amazing caramel corn with no corn syrup!

  • Preheat oven to 300
  • Melt 2 sticks of butter in a sauce pan
  • Add in 1 cup honey, 1 cup organic brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  • Mix constantly as you bring it to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. 
  • Remove from heat and add in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.
  • Mix well. 
  • Pour over 12 cups popped popcorn. 
  • Place on parchment covered cookie sheets.
  • Shake a bit of kosher salt of fresh ground salt over each cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 25 minutes stirring (carefully) halfway through. 
  • Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before eating to avoid burns. 


Day 2: Make peg nativity.

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Day 3: Special chocolate.

Day 4: Making giant paper snowflakes

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Day 5: Journey to Bethlehem

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Day 6: Breakfast with Santa and Gingerbread Houses


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We are almost done with week 2 so there will be another installment I a few days!  Smile


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent list 2014

And here it is!  What we do for school electives all December.  Our advent activities are the most serious of traditions.  My kids wait for this moment for weeks and honestly I do too!  We have a ton of family filled fun each year and as the years pass I realize more and more how fast all of this time with my family goes.  My oldest is 18 this year and although he is still living at home, he graduates this year and is planning on going into the military.  I have made this list especially set up so that he can do things with us (his girlfriend too, when possible). 

I hope everyone takes the time to set up a crafty, fun-filled, family tradition like this!  These are memories that we will take with us for a lifetime.

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Links where applicable to give the most inspiration possible!

Nov 30th: Advent Sunday (today) set up Advent Sunday candle wreath with the first of the 4 Sundays.

  1. Christmas Movie & Caramel Popcorn
  2. Peg Doll Nativity Calendar
  3. Giant Paper Snowflakes
  4. Special Chocolate
  5. Journey to Bethlehem
  6. Breakfast with Santa (gingerbread party evening)
  7. St Nicholas Day Camp Out in the School Room
  8. Get Tree with Daddy
  9. Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt
  10. Clothes Pin Stars
  11. Paper Chains
  12. Waldorf Paper Stars
  13. St Lucia Day! (Baking bread)
  14. Paradosi Ballet doing “Commissioned”
  15. Fantasy Lights
  16. Twig Winter Lanterns
  17. Special Chocolate
  18. Gifts for the Birds
  19. Chocolate Dipping Day!
  20. Make Cookies for Neighbors
  21. Dreidel with friends (Hanukkah)
  22. Lets go find some snow!
  23. Seeing Scuba Santa at the Zoo
  24. Christmas Movies with the family
  25. Open Your Stocking!

That’s it!  We are looking at a fun-filled month!

Need more inspiration?  Here are the lists for the last 5 years:

Advent 2009

Advent 2010

Advent 2011 (Around the World for Advent year)

Advent 2012

Advent 2013


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gluten Free, low carb, REAL FOOD feast!

Ok, so I am trying something new.  And by new, I mean, I have been doing this pretty regularly since March 3rd.  It is November and we fell off the wagon this summer, and of course, dealt with the health issues that came with it.  The bloating, joint pain, lack of energy, etc.  So last month, I started it back up again.  Hence – NEW.  But really, I have been learning this for the past 8 months.  I have figured out our likes and dislikes, I have figured out where we need to be hardcore and where we can bend the rules a little, and I am enjoying the process of making food OH SO MUCH MORE now that I don’t hurt after every bite I eat.

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This new food philosophy is loosely based on Trim Healthy Mama book by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison.  I have gained much understanding about sugar cycles and the way my system deals with sugar.  So, soon, there will be more information on sugar… but for now, on to the feast!

I hope you enjoy this feast as much as I loved making it.  For weeks we have had all of our snacks with Thanksgiving day feast foods so I could get all of these just right.  I learned cauliflower does not belong in stuffing (even if it is gluten free) and there is no getting around mashed potatoes if I don’t want my daughter to revolt in protest and that sometimes, you just have to use some honey.  But for the most part, this feast is all whole and beautifully good for you foods and not a can of Cream of Mushroom in site!  Enjoy!

Turkey - simple recipe.  Turkey with butter and fresh herbs.   I rinse and dry my turkey.  Then I mix a stick of  salted butter with chopped thyme, sage, rosemary, and chives.  I stick the herbed butter under the turkey skin in as many places as I can reach.  I oil and salt the skin on the outside with olive oil and pink salt and preheat my oven to 475*… yes… that hot.  And I put the turkey in for 20 minutes.  After that I turn the temperature down to 250* and cook until the thigh meat is 165*.  Best turkey ever!  Be prepared with a turkey baster, because you are going to have more drippings than you know what to do with to make the best gravy ever!

Gluten Free Gravy -  This requires a special ingredient…  Glucomannan powder is the thickener in this stuff.  When your gravy is seasoned as you want it (I use the drippings almost exclusively for this.  They have enough flavor (and butter!) to make an amazing gravy.  Salt to taste.) add tiny shakes of glucomannan powder and mix until combined… then wait a little while.  It thickens as it cooks and it takes a minute to reach it’s full thickness.  Do that repeatedly until you have the consistency you want.  It is added in tiny amounts so your gravy doesn’t turn gelatinous, but it’s perfect to add to your thanksgiving feast!

Mashed Potatoes – Potatoes spike your blood sugar.  They just do.  And I feel better when I don’t eat them much.  But, it’s Thanksgiving.  And my daughter would rebel if I didn’t have mashed potatoes.  My recipe is simple; sour cream, Lawry's Seasoned Salt, and butter.  In amounts that make it taste amazing.  Which usually means a lot of everything. 

Cheddar Biscuits – I made these last night and was SO tired that I forgot to take a picture… but dang.  They were amazing.  (Adapted from this recipe.)

  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 3 Tbs melted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • pinch of garlic powder
  • pinch of onion powder
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Sift coconut flour into a bowl and mix in all ingredients except cheese until smooth.  Then fold cheese in, careful not to over mix.  Drop biscuit batter spoonful's onto parchment paper and bake at 350* for 15 minutes.  Take out and serve right away.

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Pumpkin Custard Cups – OMGosh.  These are like crustless pumpkin pie.  I plan on topping them with whipping cream and 85% dark chocolate shavings on top of each ramekin cup.  12 packets Truvia, blended until powder, in a high-speed blender.  Then add 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup heavy cream.  Place in ramekins (fills 4 small ones) and preheat the oven to 350*.  Place ramekins in a larger shallow baking dish and pour boiling water on the outside of the ramekins about halfway up.  Bake for 45 minutes or until they are firm (shake the pan gently to test).

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(Recipe above – tripled, and put in a lightly greased tart pan.  Turned out great!)

For whipping cream - pint of heavy cream whipped and added in 1 heaping Tbs of sugar and a dash of vanilla.  Yes I am using real sugar.  But it is less than a teaspoon per serving.  I just don’t like the flavor of stevia sweetened whipping cream.


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Paleo Cranberry Sauce – This one took a while.  So enjoy it! 

  • 1 can of apple juice concentrate
  • 1 bag of frozen cherries (the small, 6-8oz bag)
  • 1/2 a bag of cranberries (or 6 oz)
  • 1 small piece of ginger
  • 3 Tbs honey (if needed)

Defrost apple juice concentrate in a sauce pan, place cranberries and ginger and boil on medium until cranberries ‘pop’.  Add in the bag of frozen cherries and remove the piece of ginger.  Use a potato masher to mash the cherries and cranberries together boil until slightly thick.  Remove from heat when mashed thoroughly and add in honey if needed.  It will thicken as it cools. 


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For stuffing, I just used gluten free bread in place of my regular cornbread and then followed my old stand-by recipe.  Link here.


Monday, November 10, 2014

B is for Bat week

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B is for Bat week was simple because that week also contained Halloween!  It was the perfect easy unit study for Halloween week. 

First, I don’t just have a preschooler, but they are the easiest to write about.  I also have a second grader and an eighth grader and a senior as well!  But I notice that preschool gets front and center on my posts a lot because preschool is so easy to write about!  It’s much harder to talk about teaching my 7 year old to write in cursive or my 8th grader to write a 5 page essay.  Plus, I don’t get to be as creative!  I have to, like, follow rules and junk. lol…

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I use a metaphor for early education like a garage that is empty, and your job is to fill it with lots of boxes that have labels on them and very little IN them.  Each time you sit down with your preschooler to learn/play/read a new subject or unit study, you are giving them a new box.  You don’t have to fill it, or even put anything into it right away.  You just have to give them a space in their brain to categorize more information later.  Kinda like an empty box in a clean garage.  Then, as you collect information to share with them and they get older and have more experiences, you put more and more into that box.  Before you know it (seriously… it’s like a flash) they know more than you do and they are explaining to YOU why bats do not actually hibernate or why alligators only hatch one gender of egg at one time. 

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My preschooler, Luke, right now is obsessed with knowing the names of things.  It can not just be a bird, it is a Harpy Eagle or a Chestnut Chickadee.  And the bat study was no exception.  Stellaluna wasn’t just a ‘bat’.  She was a ‘fruit bat’.  It will not be long before he is teaching me instead of the other way around.  But for this precious time, I get to keep giving him boxes and little trinkets to add to them. 

Ok, so Bat Week! 

First, it was Halloween week… so it was CRAZY EASY to find bat items for this study.  Snack was bat pretzels or bat fruit snacks.

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Magnet board was a bat house:

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And I didn’t even have to cut out the bats, they were in a fall felt die-cut package from Michael’s Crafts store.  All I did was add magnets on the back.  I also added magnets to some craft sticks I had on hand and then we looked at pictures of a bat house and created one on the magnet board.  He decided that it needed to be warm, so he covered it with leaves and spent quite a bit of time letting the bats fly in and out of the bat house. It was cute to have him put all the bats upside-down until they were flying.  Then they were right side up!  So cute to watch their brains picking up all that information.

We had a conversation about what bats eat as well.  Stellaluna was a fruit bat, but the little brown bats we have around here (that we see quite often) eat bugs!  And thank goodness (because I am not a fan or mosquitos)!  So we used our bug math manipulatives and I printed out some free bug sorting cards from Pre Kinders.

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They have sorting by type of bug and sorting by color.  This was fun for Luke and he has done it several times this week.

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I had some fun with the chalkboard work this week.  I wish there were more fingerplays about bats, but as it stands, it took forever to find a bat poem appropriate for preschool and I had to change it a lot.

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The book basket reflected the theme once again.  This doesn’t have all the books we used in the picture, but you get the idea.  The library has been VERY helpful for these studies.  I always get simple books for Luke and then some for the older kids as well. 

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The art project this week was a bat silhouette picture.  He used a pencil to put dots all over the sheet, but after a while he felt that was taking too long.  So he just used his fingers.

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It turned out pretty cute!  Smile

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This week was less theme activities than most weeks because Halloween was Friday, but we had a great time learning about bats!

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