Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Split Pea Soup & Challah

I wish Thanksgiving produced more ham hocks! There are so many great possibilities! This year’s hock was destined to become split pea soup.

Soup Ingredients:

  • 4T Butter
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 6-8 celery stalks
  • 6-8 carrots
  • 1 pound split peas
  • 4 cups chicken or turkey broth (Don’t forget it’s super easy to make yourself)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1T marjoram
  • ham hock and any leftover ham you may have

Soup Preparation:

Melt the butter in a dutch oven (or a large heavy pot). Add the vegetables and sauté until they begin to soften ( about 8 minutes). Stir in the hock and ham (in large chunks that you will be able to remove easily later) and marjoram. Add the peas, broth and water. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover partially. Stir frequently until the peas are falling apart (about an hour).

Transfer the hock and large ham chunks to a bowl. Use an immersion blender to bring the soup to a consistency that you like (it will thicken slightly as it cools). If it’s too thick blend in more broth. Dice the pork and return it to the soup. Yields about 3.5 quarts.

This soup is delicious (yet terribly not kosher) with Challah.

photo 2(8) 

Bread Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 5 egg yolks (save the whites to brush the dough)
  • 6T softened butter
  • 4C flour
  • 4T gluten
  • 1.5t salt
  • 1/2c packed brown sugar
  • 1.5T yeast

** The freshness of the flour and gluten GREATLY affects the taste and texture of the bread!

Bread Preparation:

I put the ingredients in my breadmaker in the order listed (but I understand different machines have different order preferences??) My machine is a bit on the wimpy side for this wet and heavy dough, so I  stand by during mixing with a spatula. After the machine finishes the dough cycle, I give the bread one more gentle kneading on a well floured surface. Then I split the dough into six pieces and braid two loaves of three strands each.  Brush the loaves with egg whites and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Allow the loaves to rise for half an hour, and then bake at 350 degrees for 18-25 minutes (depending on how doughy you like it).

Every time I make Challah I intend to take one of the loaves to a friend, it just never makes it that far…



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guided Drawing- Thanksgiving Pilgrims


I’m frequently torn  when I think of what ‘art lessons’ should look like for young children. Part of me wants to make it a fully creative process, and part of me wants to include some instruction (in the hopes that my children will be able to draw more than stick people, unlike their mama:) So like may other subjects, I try to balance the kids’ experiences. We do a lot of free art (where they usually end up consuming an entire glue stick each!)

Guided drawing not only allows us to work on some drawing skills, but it is also great for practicing following directions! Most of our guided drawing lessons have been in Ryan’s Drawing Notebook, but I wanted our Thanksgiving lesson to be larger. We followed a lesson from HeidiSongs. Ryan is so proud of his pilgrims and turkeys. I printed out the instructions so that we can repeat them each year and see how his drawing changes.


We’ve also been doing some activities from Draw with Rich. I’ve been eyeing his Pick & Draw Game for awhile, maybe I’ll have to add it to Ryan’s stocking.



Friday, November 19, 2010

Preschool Co-op

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that my friends and I have organized a preschool co-op. We are all so excited at how well it is going. I was a little worried that rotating houses each week would confuse the kids, but it definitely has not. The kids are excited to take turns to have preschool at their house. All the moms have done an awesome job so far! I wanted to show you some of the great activities that Ms. May Tou planned for us this week.


Look how excited the kids were to answer questions during circle time.

Our focus letter for the week was N. On Tuesday we made nest N’s for our alphabet binders, and on Thursday we talked about N words and made necklaces.




These are just a couple of the cute projects we did this week! I love the thankful trees that the kids made. We asked the kids what they were thankful for and put five responses on the leaves of their trees. I love that we asked them individually so they didn’t all just repeat each others answers. Ryan is thankful for peanut butter and jelly, trees, candy, presents, and rain. Ella is thankful for Daddy, Mommy, ‘My Ryan’, flowers, and turkey.  The pilgrims in their pots are on plastic spoons!

Thanks to Ms. May Tou for a great week!

CSN Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Kate (comment #26)! I hope you enjoy your $35 to CSN Stores :)

A huge thank you to CSN Stores for the giveaway!

Did you know that next month I’ve been blogging for an entire year? Did you know that I rarely stick to something for an entire year ;) I think we should celebrate!! Stay tuned for more giveaways :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Countdown to Christmas

Last year we used a paper chain to countdown to Christmas (and practice our patterning, and end the non-stop question of ‘How many more days?)

We have an adorable advent calendar that our cousins gave us, each of the little pockets has an ornament to hang on the tree (with Velcro). I love that I don’t have to buy little junkie things for this calendar each year!


This year I was hoping to get my act together earlier and do something a little more elaborate. I was so excited when I saw one of my favorite bloggers, The Activity Mom, post an Activity Advent Calendar. I LOVE the idea of counting down to Christmas by doing something fun and holiday themed each day!

I love that she included the printable cards, Plan B activities, and a super organized materials list for the entire month!

Print out your Activity Advent Calendar today and enjoy an activity a day as you count down to Christmas!

Monday, November 15, 2010



I love to use Tumblr as virtual bookmarks for the blogosphere! My Tumblr page is an easy and cute way to keep track of all the great things I find online.

Check out the cookies a friend and I made today, the money game I’m currently making for Ryan, or the erasable activity books that I want to make for Christmas gifts.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Win $35 to any CSN.com store!

I was excited when CSN Stores contacted me about doing a review or giveaway.

Since the handles on my work bag are literally falling apart, I thought about getting this adorable briefcase.


Then I looked at all the great things I could get for the kids.

pans blocks flowers brush

Then I realized, where is my giving spirit;of course I should pass this on as a giveaway to my readers!

So enter below to win a one-time-use $35 gift certificate to use as you wish at any of CSN’s 200+ websites!


Tell me how you would spend your $35 at CSN Stores


* Become a follower of my blog or comment if you already are  (1 entry) (use the follow button on the right hand side of the page :)

* Blog about this giveaway and leave me a comment with a link (3 entries)

Giveaway ends November 18, 2010 at 11:59PST.  Be sure to leave a valid email address otherwise I won't be able to contact you if you win.  Winner will be chosen via random.org.  If the winner does not contact me within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.  Good Luck!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Leaf Week

A few friends and I have started a preschool co-op. We take turns teaching & hosting preschool at our house two afternoons a week. It’s tough with 2 two year olds, 3 three year olds, and 2 four year olds. But, the kids love it and it’s nearly free! We made a schedule of themes, and a common circle time and behavior system that stays consistent each week.

I taught for our first week last week. Leaf Week was a huge hit!

During Circle Time I introduced some fun songs from preschool rainbow.

The kids’ favorites were:

Gray Squirrel, Gray Squirrel
Shake your bushy tail (pretend to shake tail)
Gray Squirrel, Gray Squirrel
Shake your bushy tail (pretend to shake tail)
Wrinkle up your funny nose (act out line)
Put a nut between your toes (pretend to eat a nut)
Gray Squirrel Shake your bushy tail (Pretend to shake a tail)

Red and yellow, green and brown. (count off colors on fingers)
Leaves are falling to the ground. (simulate falling leaves with hands)
We pile them up OH SO HIGH:  ('pile' leaves with hands)
Then we JUMP in! (pretend to jump in)
My friends and I!

Circle Time also included a calendar board similar to the one we usually do.  The kids favorite part was when I introduced our sensory bin.
photo 1
I’ve considered doing sensory bins before, there are some amazing ones in the blogosphere. My final inspiration came from Delightful Learning; her recent sensory bin showed me that it’s more than just squishing little hands around to feel things!

Our fall bin included dried beans & green and yellow split peas as the filler. There were fabric leaves, real peanuts and walnuts in their shells, leaf buttons, real acorns, plastic acorns, and plastic spiders.
I showed the kids how to use small tongs to take items out of the bin and sort them in ice cube trays, or pile them on a large leaf platter. The kids had hours of fun and creative play with the bin, and even added some new words to their vocabulary.  I’ll be doing one for each new theme!

During other group activity times we enjoyed our rhythm sticks, and took turns practicing writing our focus letter-L, with a paint bag.

Of course we read lots of leaf & fall themed books:
Fall Leaves Fall!
The Apple Pie Tree
Fletcher and the Falling Leaves
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf
The Little Yellow Leaf
Leaf Man
The Autumn Leaf
Investigating Why Leaves Change Their Color

For our art project the first day we used marbles to paint leaves (inspired by 1+1+1=1). It was a fun mess-free craft (since I put the paint on the marbles, and put them into their boxes).
photo 2

Our art project the second day was inspired by Deep Space Sparkle. After reading  Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf and Leaf Man. We examined the illustrations, and talked about all the different shapes of leaves. The older kids used oil pastels, and the younger ones used crayons to draw leaves. We finished by using liquid watercolors to go over our pictures. You can see Ryan’s picture of leaf man.


Since our focus letter was L, we made leaf L’s, and used bingo markers for a find the L activity. The four year olds practiced writing L’s.

We used leaf stickers to make leaf counting books. I differentiated for the different ages. I did all the writing for the two year olds, the three year olds had a place to trace their numbers, and the four year olds traced a couple numbers and then practiced writing their own.

At snack time we tried to crack peanut and walnut shells with our hands. When they couldn’t open the walnuts we brainstormed as a group how we could do it. The kids spent the rest of our outdoor time cracking walnuts with rocks. (Thanks to a good friend of mine for that idea :)

The oldest kids did some extra activities. they enjoyed all of the fall games from File Folder Fun. I even used their blank acorn template to create an uppercase and lowercase matching activity that we did as a group.
Acorn Addition was a huge hit. The four year olds used the acorns from the sensory bin. They each rolled two dice, and then used the acorns to figure out who had the larger sum. They used the leaf buttons from the bin as a way to keep track of their points. I was excited to see that they frequently knew the sums without the help of the acorns.
acorn addition      

We did so many fun things, but still not everything I had planned! I look forward to my turn to teach next month, but even more so I look forward to my free afternoons when it’s someone else’s turn to teach!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Good Behavior For Gems & Jewels

Every house has its rough patches, right? When one (or both) of the kids is behaving like a little monster poorly, I can usually figure out what’s causing it. It’s usually a change in sleep, a change in diet, or that we are too busy! Monday we started an intentionally calm week, and it has worked wonders.

Besides slowing down, the other trick to pleasant days in our house is rewarding positive behavior. A few moths ago we implemented a great system that I saw on Teach Mama. photo(13)

The kids earn Gems and Jewels for good behavior. We call the little beads gems, and the larger ones jewels. They can earn them in tons of ways, like helping someone, putting away toys without being asked, remembering to clear their plate from the table, etc. It’s been a really simple way for us to consistently recognize good behavior.

The goal is to reach the line in their bowl. When it starts getting close we talk about what they would like to earn as a reward. After filling his bowl a couple weeks ago, Ryan had a movie night with Dad . We have a rule that they can’t ask for gems or jewels (that could get really annoying in our house). Sometimes Ryan will point out that he did something the first time that I asked, or was helpful. They both can also lose beads for poor behavior, but we don’t do that very often since we rely on 1,2,3 Magic techniques . I picked up the containers and the glass beads at the dollar store.

This system has been working great for a few months in our house! Ella’s bowl is almost full so we will soon be enjoying a family trip for frozen yogurt :)


Monday, November 1, 2010

Treasure Chest

One of my favorite aspects of the holidays is giving unique & creative gifts. Ryan and I made this treasure chest for a friend’s birthday.
IMG_1866 IMG_1865
I bought a wooden chest at our craft store. I painted it black, and then used a sponge to add some gold paint. On the inside I used Mod-Podge to apply gold flakes. I tossed in some assorted buttons and jewels, and topped it off with the real loot- pirate books!
I’m trying to come up with some creative gifts for this year. I’m going to make Ryan his own treasure chest. I was thinking of making this dollhouse & dolls for Ella. I’ve been meaning to make some crayon rolls for friends. You can keep track of some of my favorite ideas from around the web on my Tumblr page.
What are some of your favorite homemade gift ideas?