Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Day Sledding Fun!!!

We had a wonderful time playing in the snow on Christmas Day.

Alex running up the hill... ready to play!

Alex getting ready to go down the hill in her 'sled' - being pushed by a cousin.

Papa pulling Alex and her aunt on a homemade sled.

My baby in the snow! This was her first day EVER to sled!

Alex sledding... but she forgot the sled!

Alex sledding in the pool sled... it worked much better! I bet we used it 30 times or more!

Making a snow angel.

Me sledding... well, I almost made it to the bottom before flying out of the pool!

Alex and me in the pool/sled.

Yep! We wiped out, too!


Between visiting our 2 families, we were gone for 8 days for Christmas. We got home Monday afternoon. Since then, we have been busy. I bought and put together two new sets of shelves for Alex's room and we've been orgainzing her things, including her new Christmas presents.

While in Oklahoma, I learned a new skill... how to tile a floor! My mother- and father-in-law are building a new house 'next door' (they live in the country) to my sister-in-law's. They are doing a lot of the work themselves. My sil was busy tiling the floor and asked if I wanted to help. She said it was like a giant craft... she knows how to get my interest! Anyway, I had a lot of fun, though I got very sore!

This is my in-laws master bathroom. Don't you love the tile? Anyway, I wish I would have been able to stick around and get more done, but I did enjoy helping with this room. We got about 3/4ths of it done.

Here's a vew of the back of their new house.

And a view from their front porch. They hope to move in by the end of February.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Eve Snow

We spent the week in Oklahoma and were thrilled to see it snowing Christmas Eve!

We ended up getting about 6 inches. It was nice that we were all snug inside!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

English Toffee

I've made English Toffee every year for about 7 or 8 years with very mixed results. I've thrown out probably half of the batches. I think it has to do with the humidity in Houston! But, this year, I tried a slightly different recipe. And, this one uses a thermometer which takes some of the "guess work" out of it. The toffee turned out wonderful!!! So, here's a link to the recipe at "cooking for engineers" - complete with lots of photos! Just in case the link doesn't work at some time in the photo, I thought I'd post the recipe here, too. (I used my own wording.)

6 oz. (170 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I would use 12 oz)
1 cup (200 g) sugar
about 1/2 cup (60 g) chopped almonds (I used sliced)
1 (5 mL) teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter

In a medium saucepan (but large enough for volume to double), melt butter with sugar, salt, and about 2 tsp water over low heat. Stir occasionally.

When everything is melted, increase temperature to medium-high and stir constantly. The butter and sugar will rise then collapse and thicken. Use a thermometer to measure the temperature. You should cook it until the temperature reaches 300 degrees F but before it reaches 320 degrees F.

Remove heat and stir in vanilla extract. Add the almonds and stir. (The recipe actually calls for the almonds to be placed on top of the chocolate, but I mix them in with the sugar and butter.)

Pour the mixture onto non-stick 9x13 cookie sheet and smooth with a spatula almost to edges of cookie sheet. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Wait a minute or 2 for chocolate to start melting, then smooth the chocolate with the spatula. Place cookie sheet in refridgerator to cool and harden. Break into pieces and store in fridge.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies

These aren't one of my traditional Christmas recipes, but Alex and I made these last week and the whole family loved them. So, we made some again today.

I found the recipe at The original recipe makes 48 cookies. Last week, I didn't have enough oatmeal, so we only made 1 dozen. This week, we made 2 dozen. (There is an ingredients convertor with the recipe online.) I love that the recipe only has 6 ingredients and is quick to make - and to clean up after!


3 cups white sugar
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats


In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, butter and milk. Bring to a rapid boil and boil for one full minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and peanut butter. Mix in the oats, stirring until the mixture begins to cool. Transfer to a large bowl if it does not fit into the pan well. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let cool until set.

This recipe makes 48 cookies. Nutrition per cookie: 152 calories, 7.5 g fat, 8 mg cholesterol

Homemade Christmas

I love making homemade decorations for Christsmas (and other holidays). This pillow, above, is the only cross-stich I've ever completed to the point of being ready to display! I did the cross stitch about 15 years ago and my husband's great aunt sewed it into a little pillow. I hang it on a doorknob every year.

My mother-in-law and I painted these 4 little snowmen when I was on bedrest with Alex over 9 years ago! Aren't they cheerful?

My mother-in-law used to spend a lot of time around the holidays making crafts. (We live in different states.) We made this snowman out of 2 styrofoam balls and a sock. The buttons, nose, and eyes are straight pins with round balls. The nose is a toothpick which was painted orange. And, the cheeks were 'painted' with a little blush. We made the hat out of felt - proabably the hardest part of the project! Didn't he turn out great? I'm hoping to do some crafts with Alex AND my mother-in-law while we visit this Christmas.

Baby Ducks in December?

Two days ago, we stopped by a pond full of ducks to feed them some bread. One of our favorites is this type of duck with feathers sticking up in mass on the top of his head. We call him an "Einstein duck." I thought his feathers were that way because someone had been picking on him, but a naturalist told me that there are breeds that look like this. Unfortunately, I can't remember what he called them! (Does anyone know?)

We were also surprised to see this mama duck walking her babies down the street... in the middle of December! We also saw a different mama duck 2 days after our snow a couple of weeks ago. I'm glad these mamas know how to keep their eggs and babies warm!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Berlin Wall

Lately we've been learning about The Berlin Wall. November 9th was the 20th anniversary of the fall of this infamous wall. During that week, the History Channel was airing The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall. We recorded the show with our DVR and watched it over several days. It was fascinating. Not only is the story incredible, but this movie has incredible computer graphics and shows exciting escape reenactments along with testimonials of the people who escaped.

I had to write my brother, "The World Traveller", and see if he'd ever been to Berlin. He's been - twice. He said it is one of his favorite cities. He told me about visiting the museum at Checkpoint Charlie. He said the museum documents "the division of the city, the airlift, and the actual contraptions people built to sneak to the west (including a homemade hot air baloon and a homemade plane)."

This morning I was searching for videos and came across this one of the failed escape attempt of Peter Fechter. I don't think it is too graphic, and I love that includes part of the famous JFK speech given at the Wall. It gives a little more background to his famous words, "Ich bin ein Berliner" translated "I am a Berliner".

And here is a portion of Reagan's famous "Tear Down This Wall" speech. (Isn't it amazing that we have access to so much on the internet?)

Two nights ago, we read a book called Talking Walls by Margy Burns Knight. This book has 2-page spreads about various famous walls throughout history. It includes the Berlin Wall, but also walls like the Great Wall of China and the walls of the prison cell of Nelson Mandela. This book is really interesting and we plan on doing some more research on some of these famous walls. I also plan on creating a map showing where the walls are located.

For the past 2 nights, we've been slowly reading The Fall of the Berlin Wall (Days that Changed the World) by Jeremy Smith. This is a pretty complicated book that introduces a lot of new material to Alex. (And, history is not one of my strong points!) This book also covers the rise of the Wall, so we've been talking about Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Gorbachev, Karl Marx, the Romanovs, NATO, the Warsaw Pact, the Iron Curtain... that's why this book is taking us such a long time! I think we got through 4 pages in 30 minutes last night.

And, I'll be sharing this video with Alex today. It is an ABC news report on the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Goose Club

A few days ago we finished reading the unabridged story of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Last weekend, we were watching Twas' the Night Before Good Eats in which Dickens ghost shows up and teaches Alston Brown about Christmas in his time. (It'll be on again Monday and Tuesday!)

One thing they mentioned was that the Cratchit family probably belong to a Goose Club. A Goose Club was where a worker contributed part of his weekly wages to a local "club" to reserve a goose for the family on Christmas. The following interesting explanation is from this Learning English site:

Around Victorian times another traditional Christmas feast was roasted goose or roasted turkey. In Victorian times, most Londoners would have been familiar with the "goose club", which was a method of saving to buy a goose for Christmas. Goose clubs were popular with working-class Londoners, who paid a few pence a week towards the purchase of a Christmas goose. The week before Christmas, London meat markets were crammed with geese and turkeys, many imported from Germany and France, although some were raised in Norfolk, and taken to market in London. The birds were walked from Norfolk to the markets in London, to protect their feet the turkeys were dressed in boots made of sacking or leather and geese had their feet protected with a covering of tar. The traditional Christmas goose was featured in Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'.

To continue with our "Dickens Christmas" theme, we read Charles Dickens: The Man Who Had Great Expectiations by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema. It is a wonderful book describing Dickens life. Alex LOVES Dickens and is ready to read another book by this great author!

Update: Another great book about Dickens is Stand Up, Mr. Dickens: A Dickens Anthology. This book goes back and forth with a chapter about Dickens life written by Edward Blishen followed by a long excerpt from one of his novels. Books excerpted from include: Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Christmas Carol, Dombey & Son, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ivory Snowman

Tonight, 'we' (Alex couldn't help much with her cast on) made this cute snowman... out of Ivory soap! You can find the instructions at Craft Elf.

First, we used a cheese grater to grate the Ivory soap - it is very simple to do! (I used 2 bars, but had some left over.)

Then you add a little water at a time until you can work with the soap. Next, you make the 3 balls. It is a little difficult to make a ball. I've never worked with anything like it and don't know what to compare it to. I worked on a piece of wax paper and I also used a toothpick through the middle of the snowman for stability!

We were using supplies we had on hand, so we used food coloring for the buttons, eyes, and mouth. I just made little puddles of the food coloring on a paper plate and dipped the toothpick in it. Then I "poked' the color into place. For the nose, I mixed red & yellow food coloring, died the end of a toothpick orange, and broke off the tip of the toothpick to use as a nose.

Lastly, I cut up a sock (I used the other sock the other day to make a cover for Alex's cast. It is kind of scratchy and she now sleeps in the sock to keep from scratching herself. A handy hint from my sister-in-law!) I cut a strip of sock for the scarf and used the toe end of the sock to make a cap. I also added some soap flakes to the bottom of the snowman so he looks like he is sitting in snow.

UPDATE: This morning, the food coloring on our snowman had 'bled' and the colors were separating - for example, the blue eyes had red rings around them. If I did this craft again, I would use beads or small buttons. I think they were trying to keep the project as something you could actually use in the tub.

From Splint to...


Yep! We went back to the doctor's this week to get another x-ray to see if Alex could take off her splint. Unfortunately, they found out that she had broken a different bone than the one they thought she had. (The doctor explained that these wrist bones are very small and sometimes you can tell more about where the break is by where the healing is taking place.) This bone needs a cast, not a splint. So, we are back to the starting point. She'll be in the cast for 3 weeks and then we'll see if she can get it off.

Christmas Caroling

This week our church homeschool group went Christmas Caroling at a nursing home. We belong to a very small church which is made up primarily of older people. But, our younger population has going and most of our families homeschool! For the past 2 months, we have been having monthly get togethers. But, this is the first one Alex & I were able to make. We went caroling to a nursing home and then handed out Christmas cards and sugar free candy canes. It was so wonderful to watch these older ladies and gentlemen enjoying the carols and the kids!


Then, we went back to the church and had a Christmas party. The kids exchanged inexpensive gifts, we had snacks, sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus, and played games. We had a wonderful time and it is so nice to be getting to know some of the other families from our church!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Dickens on the Strand

Yesterday afternoon, Alex and I drove south through the snow to Galveston. (We stayed at Hilton Galveston Island Resort which we loved!) And, the snow followed us all the way to the island! This photo was taken this morning (Saturday). What a difference a day makes! Last night (Friday), we went out to dinner at Rainforest Cafe and then to Moody Gardens where we visited the aquarium and saw a 4D production of Polar Express. It was a neat show - complete with wind blowing on us, water splashing us, lights flashing, etc. But, we were shocked that they'd condensed the whole movie into about 15 minutes!!!

We spent the night in a wonderful hotel (we'll definitely use it again!) and had lots of fun. We made hot chocolate and watched the DVD of Polar Express on Alex's small TV she'd brought with her. We really had a wonderful evening! This morning, we headed to Dickens on the Strand.

I've wanted to go for years, but this is the first time we've made it. It is a pretty large festival in the historic Strand district of Galveston. There are lots of people dressed in Victorian costumes - including this WONDERFUL Marley's Ghost! A lot of the people who come to see this event dress in costumes, too. And, everyone is so wonderful about having their photos taken.

Some Beefeaters. Did you see the sign above them... "Welcome to the Nut House?" It is really a place where they are selling nuts, but I thought the photo turned out funny. Alex actually bought nuts there. There is LOTS of food for sell!

Alex posing with some constables.

There are lots of singers, and this was our favorite group. They were singing a very silly song. We LOVE their dresses! There are acts like this on stages and street corners every where you go!

And, here comes Queen Victoria! I was thrilled to see her. Unfortunately, I really didn't get a very good photo. She was surrounded by her entourage of Beefeaters wherever she went. The town cryer (I think that is his title) is in the blue and gold.

Alex is watching her favorite performance here.

This was Alex's favorite performer - Mary Merrie. She did all kinds of juggling and strange things. :-) She had broken her wrist 9 weeks ago - just like Alex! (Alex broke hers 3 weeks ago.) Alex laughed & laughed at one of her skits. She really was entertaining.

Alex had her hair done up in a neat hair thing. I don't even know what to call it. She really wanted it, but it was $35! I just couldn't see spending that much.

Mr. and Mrs. Claus.... shopping! I wonder who they're shopping for!

The last thing we did was watch the Queen's parade. We loved these Victorian bicycles. We also saw a lot of the acts we'd already seen - singers, etc. We had a wonderful time and stayed pretty warm, especially in the sun. It was only in the 40's, but we stopped at WalMart and bought some gloves, scarves, and ear covers. I am so glad we went to Dickens on the Strand and plan on going back next year!

Snow Much Fun!!!

The snow never stuck at our house yesterday. But, as we were driving south through Houston, we were thrilled to see snow on the ground, the trees, the cars, the buildings...! I saw snow in the field next to a gas station, and had to stop!

We hadn't packed our gloves (when do we ever need gloves???), but I had to play in the snow. I made this tiny snowman. He's maybe 4 or 5 inches tall. At first Alex didn't want to get out and play, but she soon changed her mind.

We started making snowballs and throwing them at a telephone pole... and at the car.

It was COLD out, and Alex was in her flip flops - her favorite footwear! I think we played for about 10 minutes.

Alex took this photo of me. We had a wonderful time playing and I'm so glad we stopped!
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