Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Our Classroom Today--December 29

We missed the homeschool day at the Works this month. The weather was a little iffy and the roads weren't great. Kiddo also had art class that afternoon, so it just made more sense to get to the closer event and skip the other one.works,classroom

But my Tuesday group decided to go to the Works for one of our Tuesdays! It was a general public day, so it was very different than the homeschool days. It always amazes me what the kids will do here. Kiddo hit the block room and helped build a huge fort out of the foam blocks. You can see from the picture that is was as high as the door. It is so much fun to watch the kids working together to build something. I missed how this started, but by the end, they were using all of the blocks and all of the kids were working together. Love it!

Kutey loves to play in the dark room. She loves to mix colors, and especially dance in the split light. They have three lights on the ceiling, which results in the fun multi-colored shadows you see above. Kutey and I spent quite a lot of time in there playing. She didn't get into the foam block building, but did build a nice tall tower out of the small wooden blocks.

The activity was disk drive dissection. I was a little disappointed they didn't tell us more about the drives. We took the whole thing apart, and then, fortunately, could take it home with us. The trickiest part was getting it back into a state that could be taken home again! I wanted a few screws in place so it wouldn't fall apart in my bag. The drives also have super powerful magnets inside them. If they are put back together, that magnet has a much smaller chance of coming into contact with things it shouldn't.

Kiddo is lucky. Daddy works in computers, so they took the whole drive apart again and Daddy explained how it all works. I felt bad for the kids who couldn't go home and have it all explained. Mostly, it seemed, Kiddo liked the noise his made when he turned the platters. I am not sure he had any real idea of what the drive even was, just that he got to take a whole lot of screws out of it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas....

PhotobucketWell, not really. We got white. We also got snowed in. We managed to get to my Dad's house for Christmas Eve, we only got stuck twice and both times were within a block of our driveway. The first was at the end of the driveway. They hadn't plowed our street yet, and the 8 inches of snow were more than the mini van could handle. Lucky for us our neighbors are kind (and strong) and pushed us out of the snow.

Santa paid us a personal visit when we arrived at my Dad's. He has been coming by before his rounds every year since Kutey was born. It is a great treat, though my kids are both still very uncertain. Neither of them will sit on his lap. This year I got them to stand next to Santa for a photo--that was pretty good! We prepped some food for dinner (cranberry orange chicken, Swedish meatballs, cranberry-raspberry salad, lefse, mashed potatoes, etc.) then we left for church.

By 5 p.m., sitting in church (where we barely made it because we got stuck...again), we knew there was no way we were driving home. We went prepared to stay, fortunately. We had a wonderful evening--in spite of the fact that two of the people who were present had been up since about 2 am plowing snow--and were looking at getting up at the same time on Christmas morning to repeat the process. Kiddo got Legos from all of his aunts. Kutey got an adorable pink camouflage sleeping bag. I got Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. Everyone who was leaving had 4-wheel-drive and had a much shorter drive than us.

We awoke to more snow the next morning. The kids were thrilled that Santa found them at Papa's house and we had a quiet morning. My sister arrived at about 10 am and informed us that we wouldn't be able to get out of the driveway and down the tiny bit of road that led to the much clearer roads. This was the view from the window:A White Christmas So we hunkered down and watched White Christmas (one of my Santa gifts...along with white socks).

Eventually Hubby and my sister went out (with the kids) and shoveled out the van. We gathered everything up and made our way home. The roads were fine, though I was pleased we were driving them in daylight!

In all, though, it was a good holiday. We had to cancel plans for Christmas Day, but they were easy enough to reschedule. Still, I don't necessarily hope for a repeat next year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies

December ActivitiesEvery year my sisters and I get together to bake about a bazillion kinds of cookies in one day. Really it is only seven kinds, but some of them are so putzy that it feels like more. My kids have grown to love this day, and Kiddo listed it among the traditions he did not want to miss when I asked him what things we had to do this December. The picture is of how he thought it would be best to cut out sugar cookies--one of every cutter.

We spent basically the whole day baking cookies. We arrived later than I might have liked, about 11 am. My sisters had already mixed up the chocolate crinkles and the sugar cookies because they have to chill. We proceeded to mix up and bake peanut blossoms, almond bark cookies, almond butter cookies (which are pressed with a spritz press), krumkake (Norwegian cookies shaped like scrolls, baked two at a time on a special iron), and chocolate turtles (baked 4 at a time on a waffle iron). The kids helped with the almond bark cookies, the almond butter cookies, and the sugar cookies. They took some major breaks to play, go outside, and play some more. We got snow earlier in the week, but by the weekend it had warmed up, so in addition to making cookies, Kiddo and Kutey got some time outside with Auntie J in the snow. Another absolute favorite activity. They may have watched a movie in there, too, I can't really remember! I was busy. Seven kinds of cookies in one day is a lot. I wish I had remembered to take a picture of each kind, but, well, I just didn't. Maybe next year!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sandpaper Gingerbread people

I love crafts that use somewhat unexpected materials. Sandpaper provides a great texture experience for the kids as well as a unique look to the finished project.

December Activities

I used the template provided here for the larger ones. Kiddo wanted me to do my own, too, but I didn't want to use another sheet of sandpaper, so I freehanded the smaller one. I think it turned out fairly well!

Once we had the gingerbread people cut out, we got out the Scribbles 3D paints and started drawing the details in. Kiddo wanted to know what gingerbread people looked like, so I went and found the book Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett.

December Activities.

It is a cute story, and new for the kids this season. I picked it up at H*lf-Price Books sometime this summer. SO once Kiddo had used it for the pictures, I read them the story. We followed it up by eating some gingerbread cookies!

Paper Strip Trees

I have seen this activity a couple of places, and it seemed so easy yet festive and fun!
December Activities

The materials were so simple! Paper and glue. We added stickers, but you certainly could do it without the stickers. I bought a book of 8 x 8 Christmas themed scrapbook paper for something like $5. It was on sale, and we have plenty of paper left after this activity to either do other crafts or actually use for scrapbooking (if I ever find time to do such things!)
December Activities

I took out one sheet of each pattern, cut 2 half-inch strips off of each, then cut them in varying lengths--some 1 inch, some 2 inch, some 3 inch, some 4 inch, and some 5 inch. I put each group into one of our recycled applesauce cups. I also cut light weight cardstock so that I had pieces that were 6 X 8 1/2.

December Activities

The kids took one strip of each size paper, smeared glue on the back with a glue stick (I used school glue and a paint brush because all but 2 of our glue sticks are worthless) and placed them in order from longest at the bottom to shortest at the top.

Then we realized we had floating trees. So I cut some sort of goldish cardstock from the same paper book into 1 inch squares and we glued those on as trunks. We used stickers for the stars on top. I thought they were lovely just the way they were, but Kiddo and Kutey wanted to decorate the trees. Hmmm, well, OK. I dug out some stickers and let them pick out what they wanted. I won't say they were the most Christmasy stickers but the kids enjoyed them and that is what matters!

December Activities

Mine are the undecorated two on the left. Kiddos are the two on top, and Kutey's are below his. As you can see, Kiddo went with all one color paper, which means two things: I had to cut more paper halfway through, and there is a bunch of other colors left in strips. There was going to be some left over anyway, so it isn't huge, but I need to find a craft that would use it up now. Any ideas are welcome!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our Classroom Today--December 8

Our Classroom

One of the benefits to living in a metropolitan area is the vast array of opportunities available. Today our Tuesday group spent the afternoon at the American Swedish Institute. I love the Swedish Institute. I have only been there at Christmas time, when they have the whole house decorated for the season. It is beautiful. And educational. They do a "Nordic Christmas," which means you get to learn about Christmas traditions in not only Sweden, but also Norway, Finland, and Denmark.

The history is right up Kiddo's alley, too. In fact, when we left, he said he wanted to go back sometime because we didn't get to read everything and explore everything.

The mansion that houses the Swedish Institute was built in the early part of the 20th century by Swan Turnblad. He published the Swedish language newspaper Svenska Amerikanska Posten. He moved into the house in 1908 with his wife and theri only child, a daughter. They lived in the house until his wife passed away in 1929, when they moved across the street and created the American Swedish Institute, giving house to the organization. I am always taken aback that this house was built for three people to live in. Their daughter was already in her 20's when they moved in, so they knew they would not be having more children. And then to live there for 20 years, and be the only family to ever live in the house. It just amazes me.

We didn't do a guided tour this time--our experience last time was a bit less than expected, so we opted to go on our own--but we did buy the Tomte Tour book for $2. It was worth two dollars, though I am glad it didn't cost more. They also had a sheet of 100 things to try to find in various parts of the house. With a group of 8 kids ranging in age from not quite a year to 6 1/2, we didn't try to find all 100. I am impressed we got as many as we did!

When we had exhausted the children's attention span, we headed to the basement of the institute where they have a small (very small) cafe. We snacked on flat bread and cheese, fruit soup, and cookies. I love fruit soup, but don't get it very often. This was delicious. Kiddo and Kutey sampled it, too, and enjoyed it. I think I will find a recipe to try...in January or February.

The kids also enjoyed riding on the hand crafted Dala horse, playing in a great little Swedish kitchen complete with pretend lussekatt and pepparkakor, and hunting for all 11 of the kakelugnar. We only found 10, which just means we'll be looking again next time!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Christmas Tree

Every year we head out to the tree farm to cut our own Christmas tree. And it seems that every year the weekend we select is the absolute coldest weekend possible. This year was no different. Still, the kids look forward to it, it is a family tradition (I am big on those, and I recognize the importance of them to children), so we went.

December activities

I love evergreens. Maybe it is because I live in an area with short summers. The deep green of the spruce and fir and pine trees is beautiful against the snow here. Even before the snow comes, the green provides some contrast in the otherwise brown landscape. The snow isn't deep this year, which is good. We went to a different farm than in years past because our past farm no longer had any fir trees. I like fir trees. I don't like spruce trees. I break out if I touch a spruce tree. That makes decorating a bit tricky. It is interesting to go to different farms and see the difference in their trees. The previous farm made their trees look quite cone-shaped in their trimming. Unnaturally so. They also seem to color at least some of their trees--to make them more green (aren't evergreens green in the first place?) This year's farm trimmed their trees some, but they looked much more natural. And none of them seemed an unnatural green.

We walked out in the freezing cold. We searched through all the trees. Kiddo kept finding a new one that was the right one. One of the pleasures of cutting your own tree is that you get to see what it looks like before it was all squashed on a truck. I grew up with an artificial tree. Hubby grew up with real, but not cut your own. We finally settled on one that I deemed "good enough!" That is usually what happens. I get so cold I'll say yes to any tree! The kids love to watch Daddy cut it down, and then we dragged it back to the stand and the car. Another Christmas tree down.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Peppermint Glitter Playdough

I love homemade playdough. It is so much more malleable than the store bought stuff, it lasts for what seems like forever in the refrigerator, and you can make whatever color you want. So when I read this, I knew it would be one of the things I made for our December activity countdown.

I used this recipe, which is basically the same as the recipe the originally poster links to here. I like her list of ideas, however, so I am linking hers, too! I added about a teaspoon of peppermint to this batch. I actually like the peppermint addition! I do not mix my food coloring in until the end, however. That allows me to make more than one color out of a recipe. One recipe made enough for 3 colors, and enough for Kiddo and Kutey to each have a ball of each color.

christmas countdown

I let Kiddo and Kutey pick the colors--red, green and white. Then we picked glitter. Oh, the fun. Adding glitter was new to all of us. They chose to have the glitter match the color of the dough--green dough/green glitter, red dough/red glitter, white dough/white glitter. They had a blast!

I added 5 cookie cutters I got for a couple of bucks at Targ*t. So simple, so fun. I am glad I made this early in the month--I can see it being played with a ton!

christmas countdown

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mint meltaway cookies

Today the kids and I made Mint Meltaway cookies for my MOMS Club's cookie exchange tomorrow. Well, actually, the batch we made will be consumed by us. The batch I made by myself after a trip to the grocery store will be for the exchange. Something went wrong with the first batch, though I can't figure out what.

These cookies are quite simple to make, and the recipe makes a manageable number of cookies. The ingredients are quite simple. You add a little green food coloring, though, and the mint extract, and they become very festive. I also like to add some red and green sprinkles to the powdered sugar you roll them in at the end. It makes them a bit more festive.

Here is the recipe, in case you'd like to try them yourself.

Mint Meltaway Cookies
1 cup of butter or margarine (I use butter)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix butter, powdered sugar, and mint thoroughly. In a separate bowl, mix salt and flour together. Mix into butter mixture. Mix in a few drops of green food coloring. Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet (I use a small cookie scoop). Cookies do not spread, so they can be placed fairly close together. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 8 minutes (I think mine are usually a little less), until cookies are set but not brown. While warm, dip in powdered sugar and red and green sprinkles.


Modified from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book.

Now THIS is an outdoor classroom!

One of the reasons I love our Tuesday playgroup so much is that we regularly spend vast quantities of time out of doors. Kids are at there best when they have access to that. So this sounds fabulous! I love that it is mixed ages (coincidentally approximately the same age range as out playgroup). I love that they go out in all kinds of weather (I admit to being a bit of a weather wimp. I like to be warm. Cold and rain are no good. Makes it tricking when I live in Minnesota). I got the feeling they are given lots and lots of freedom to play, which would be the ideal. Think we'll be seeing anymore of these?

December Christmas Countdown

I love the Christmas Season. But I don't love feeling harried and rushed. Sometimes I feel like I miss things. So this year I am trying something new. I put everything on my goo*le calendar (I LOVE my goo*le calendar--but that is a whole other post) and I simply go there to make sure I am not missing anything. I filled it with activities, crafts, decorating, and baking, just to name a few. I also added all the holiday TV specials to the calendar, because it always seems that we miss them!

One of the great things about setting it up as a goo*le calendar is that I can easily change things up if I have to. When Kiddo received an invitation to a birthday party, I was able to move the activities I had planned for that day (like cutting our Christmas tree) to another day easily. It is an extraordinary visual reminder of what I hoped to accomplish today. It also makes it easy to keep the kids doing things all month. I hope to post most of what we do all month, but I may have to do them in clusters!

What are you doing for the month of December? Do you have an organized way to keep track of your activities? Do you use one of those beautiful advent calendars? I love this one, but, well, it was a bit more than I could do this year! Maybe I'll make it in January, so I have it ready for next year!