Friday, December 11, 2015

Anna at her concert

     Anna had her Christmas band concert last night.  She's been playing for about a year and a half, and she is doing so well.  Here is a picture showing her intense concentration.  
     I'm not sure who the girl in braids is, but Samuel informed me that he intends to marry her one day.  Of course, he says that about a lot of girls.

Summer in Winter

     It has been so unseasonably warm lately.  It's been in the sixties all week, and today it got up to seventy.  I mowed the yard in a tank top... in December!  It doesn't really feel like Christmas, but hey, I'm not complaining.  I hate the cold.  In fact, it felt so nice today, that I decided to have a little bonfire. 
     We roasted sausages and watched the flames as it got dark.  Listening to the sounds of the chickens bedding down for the night, and noting the absence of night noises, as it is after all, December, and all the insects know that. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Oh Christmas Tree

     We got our Christmas tree this Saturday.  We always get it the first Saturday in December, although we usually end up decorating it a few days later.  This year we had to get a new stand, after not being able to find the stand that both Dave and I swore we bought last year.  Apparently we are both losing our minds, because there was no stand to be found anywhere. 
     After we finally got the tree put up, I realized we were down to only one strand of lights, so I had to get some of those before we could finally decorate.  I told the kids to do it a little differently this year.  We only put on the ornaments we really like, and the ornaments that no one was really crazy about, we would donate. 
     We all really enjoyed doing it this way.  After it was decorated it looked so pretty that the kids all begged to be allowed to sleep under it.  I usually let them do this at least once a year.  The patterns the lights make in the dark room are so magical, and the smell of the fir tree makes you feel all homey and safe. 

     After they finally fell asleep, I snuck in and took a couple of pictures.  Luckily the flash didn't wake them up.  Anna didn't want to sleep on the floor this year, because it's too hard.  I guess she's getting older.  It looks like Ginger Cat felt the same way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Jesse Tree Ornaments Days 21-25

     Today is the first of December and the day we finally get to start our Jesse Tree devotionals.  I did get all the ornaments made in time. (Barely.) Yay!  I finished them today, and got our branch up.  It hasn't stopped raining since we've gotten back from thanksgiving traveling, so I gave up on it stopping long enough for me to cut a branch and take pictures, and had to take the pictures for the last five ornaments in the rain.  Our advent wreath is still bare because I haven't felt like collecting wet greenery in the rain.  I am really getting tired of all this rain.   Anyway, here are the final ornaments, and our Jesse Tree awaiting it's first ornament.

Day 21: Return to the Land

     This is suppose to be a wall, and it is just a little piece of wood with rocks glued on to it.  Easy and simple to do, but I like the way it looks.

Day 22: The Star
     This is made with wire.  The same difficult jewelers wire I used for the grapes.  This time as I was trying to wrangle with it, it whipped around and stuck into my pinkie.  It really hurt, and I will probably never make another wire ornament in my life, but... It did turn out pretty.  This is Anna's favorite one.

Day 23: Light of the World
     Next year I am going to get a real metal clip-on candle holder, but I was trying to spend very little money on the ornaments this year, so this is my makeshift replacement.  It's a wooden candle holder glued on to a clothes pin.  Not ideal, but I didn't have to buy anything for it.

Day 24: Angels Proclaiming the Coming of Jesus
     Angels are so hard to depict.  I don't like to make angels look like women, since that's not very biblical, but I still want to make them look ethereal.  That's why I love wool roving angels.  If only it held up better to touching.

Day 25: The Birth of Jesus
      The final ornament of course, is baby Jesus.  The "manger" is crocheted, and the baby is felted. 

      That's it for the ornaments, and now for the tree it's self.  Finding a place to put a tree and 25 ornaments is a real challenge in my little home, where every bit of space is already being utilized.  I had to move our toad to Anna's room, and the potted plants to the dining room, where I am hopping the will not die from lack of light until January. 
       I chose to have a bare branch for the Jesse Tree.  I thought a little fir tree right next to our big Christmas tree would look a bit silly. I hung some glass icicles on the branch to pretty it up until it gets its ornaments.  The ornaments are in the numbered bags at the base of the branch.  The nativity scene is also on the table.  Unfortunately the TV dominates the whole scene, but oh well.  There's not  a lot I can do about that.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jesse Tree Ornaments Days 16-20

     I'm nearly finished with all of my Jesse tree ornaments. In fact, I only have one more to make, but I'm the least inspired about it, so it might take awhile. Here are the next five.

Day 16: Prophecy of the Gentle Shepherd
     This is the last sheep ornament.  Even though it is needle felted like the ram, it doesn't look like a repeat of the same ornament.  The legs and the shepherd's staff are made with pipe cleaner wrapped with tapestry wool. 
Day 17: The Prophecy of the Suffering Servant
     I used shimmery Sculpy for the cross.  I wanted something very simple and symbolic of a cross, rather than just making a little cross.
Day 18: The Prophecy of the New Covenant

      I wanted this heart to be different than the heart I made for Ruth and Boaz, so I needle felted a heart.  I was going to embroider writing on it, but I couldn't figure out how to make it look nice on the needle felting.  My solution was making a little quill pen for it.  It's not quite as straight forward as it would be if it had writing on it, but I really like the way it looks.  The prophecy ornaments are hard, because they are not connected with a recognizable image like the Genesis and Exodus ones are. 

 Day 19: The Prophecy of Bethlehem
       This one was not thought through very well.  I had some ideas about what I wanted to do, but ended up just cutting out a silhouette and sticking it onto some cork I had.  I don't really like it, and will probably redo it at some point.
Day 20: Exile
       I had planned on doing something really simple for this one.  I showed my idea to the kids, and they all didn't like it.  It was just representing flames, and they were all like, "Where's the furnace?"  So I made a little clay furnace.  And just because I am who I am, I researched on how ancient furnaces were constructed, and based my ornament on that. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Angel Craft

     I am doing a Christmas themed craft with my Sunday school class for the five weeks leading up to Christmas, so I've been looking for craft ideas that are fun and easy, and don't require a lot of materials and prep-work.  My kids made folded paper angels a couple of years ago, and had a lot of fun with them, so I thought it would make a good craft for my class.  When I looked on-line for a template, I couldn't find one that I could print directly on to card stock.  All the ones I found were either too small, or it had writing on the template.  I ended up making my own pattern, and am sharing it, in case anyone else would like to make a similar craft. Here is the link for it.  You just cut it out on the lines, and then fold it into a cone and slide the slots together.
     Here is some that the kids made.  They used glitter glue to decorate them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Chick Eggs

     We added three new pullets to our little backyard flock this summer, and we've finally started to get some eggs from them.  I love the little eggs that pullets first lay.  I call them chick eggs.  I would blow a few of them, and use them for decoration, but our hens are hardly laying right now, so we eat all the eggs we get.
    Here is a size comparison photo.  The large egg is from one of my older hens, and the small one is from one of the pullets. 

Pilgrim Anna

     Yesterday was our co-op's "Parents Night".  Anna has been taking a class on the US Constitution, and her class recited the preamble to the constitution, and a little bio about an important historical figure that they had written.  Anna's was on Phyllis Wheatley.
      Her teacher also wanted everyone to dress up as someone from America's past.  Of course Anna didn't tell me this until the day before.  Being pressed for time, I decided to make a Pilgrim costume.  I used Simplicity pattern 3725 to make a hat, collar, and apron.  It's just over a regular black t-shirt and a skirt she had on hand.  I love this pattern.  It is my go to pattern whenever I need a costume, since it is so easy to modify.
      I think she looks pretty cute.  She has the type of face that looks as if she could have stepped out of a Dutch painting. 

Jesse Tree Ornaments Days 11-15

       The ornaments for days 11-15 are finished! 

Day 11: King David
     I was going to do a basic forked branch slingshot, but Anna informed me that they didn't have those types of slingshots back then.  Yes, she is my child.  So I had to make a historically accurate one.  Samuel tested it out a few times before I sewed the bead on, and yes, it really does work. 

Day 12: Josiah finds the Law
     I tried to make this one a little different than all the other scroll ornaments out there.  I liked the idea of having a little bit of Hebrew writing on it, so I just googled "Hebrew font", and printed out an image I liked.  I have no idea what it says.
Day 13: The Stump of Jesse
     This is the symbol that the Jesse tree gets it's name from.  The new shoot coming out of the stump of Jesse.  I used a real branch for the stump, and a copper wire for the shoot, with a felt leaf glued on.

 Day 14: Lion Laying Down with a Lamb
      Since there are three sheep ornaments in the Jesse Tree, I wanted this one to be very different from the other sheep.  These are two dimensional wood cutouts glued together, with minimal painting.  The effect is peaceful and simple.
Day 15: Prince of Peace
     This one was a little more time consuming than the others to make, but I really like it.  I used a picture of a dove that someone had for sale on Etsy, as inspiration.  I didn't do as much embroidery and I added the crown.  I really like making little stuffed felt birds.  I've made a cardinal and a duck that were very similar to this, before.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Jesse Tree Ornaments Days 6-10

     So far I'm staying on track with my goal of getting all five of my Jesse Tree ornaments finished before December.  I now have the next five ornament completed, and ready to show here!

Day 6:  Jacobs Ladder
     This is a very simple symbol, and there's only so much you can do with it.  I took advantage of that fact, and let Samuel and Abriel help with making it. It's basically twigs glued together with some string added for interest. 
Day 7: Joseph's Coat of Many Colors
     This one took more time than I was originally going to spend on it.  I had thought I would just make a felt cut-out of a coat, and embroider some colors on it, but Samuel told me that would not be right, and it needed to be an actual little coat.  So that is what I made.  Samuel still thought it could have been a little more colorful, but oh well. There was only so many strips of felt I was willing to sew on it.
Day 8: Ten Commandments
This one was really quick and easy.  It's just sculpy with roman numerals marked on it.
Day 9: The Promised Land.
     I have never made any jewelry before, so I didn't know what kind of wire would work best for this type of project.  I got some that was relatively thick, since I wanted it to hold it's shape.  It turns out that I shouldn't have worried about it not holding it's shape.  This is some really tough wire.  I also realized that pliers would have been really helpful.  It took everything I had to bend and twist it into shape, but the end result was worth it.  The amethyst beads are perfect for the cluster of grapes.  I was also able to use the wire to make a little hanger for Joseph's coat.
Day 10: Ruth and Boaz.
     I really wanted to use wheat stalks for this one, like I have seen so many other people use.  Unfortunately, the only wheat I could find was through online dealers, and it seemed silly to buy sixty stalks of wheat for one little ornament.  Then I thought I would look for some grass with the seed heads still attached in my yard.  I couldn't find any of that either, so I gave up and did something different.  I like it ok, and I learned a new embroidery stitch.  The wheatear stitch.   

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Jesse Tree Ornaments Days 1-5

     I've heard about a Jesse Tree for years, and know several people that have one, but never looked into what it was all about.  I knew it had something to do with hanging little ornaments on a tree every day for Advent, which sounds a lot like my advent calendar, so I really wasn't interested in adding that to my Advent traditions.  But I have been looking for ideas on what to do for Advent devotionals.  I tried reading Jotham's Journey last year, and found it not really to my liking.  No offence to all the people I know who love that series.
      Then I saw a picture of a Jesse Tree on Pinterest, and realized that these weren't just random little ornaments; they told the big picture story of Jesus!  I thought, "Wow, how cool is that! " and I've been hooked since.  I've become totally inspired by all the little handmade ornaments that others have created, and have spent way too much time on Pinterest, pinning my favorite examples to copy for my own tree.  I think it is safe to say that I am a little obsessed with making these ornaments. Ideally, I will have finished them all before December. We all know that "ideally" rarely happens, however, that's the goal. These are the first five.  I'll keep posting pictures as I make them.

  Day1: Creation
     This is supposed to be a globe.  I had thought about needle felting one, but I don't want there to be too many of one type of material, so I painted browns, blues, and greens on watercolor paper, and used that to make my globe.

Day 2: Fall of man.
      The apple is needle felted, and the serpent is a pipe cleaner wrapped in tapestry wool.  Bead eyes, and a felt leaf are the finishing touches.

 Day 3: Flood
     This is totally copied from somebody else, but it's a great idea, so I copied it as closely as I could.  The ark is cut out of half inch pine, and the rainbow is crocheted.  So that I didn't have to go out and buy really fine yarn in all the colors of the rainbow, I used embroidery floss. 

Day 4: Call to Abraham.
     I was very uninspired about the tent.  I mean, it's a tent.  I didn't want to put a camel on it either.  For some reason that just looks odd to me. The little bit of machine embroidery around the edge is my attempt to fancy it up.  It looks ok.
Day 5: The offering of Isaac.
     The devotional I am going to use says to have a lamb for the symbol on day 5.  However, the Bible says God provided a ram for the offering, so that's what I made.  It is needle felted, except for the horns.  They are made from a felted sweater cut into spirals and sewn on. 
       That's it so far!  Hopefully I'll have five more made up in a couple of days.  

Give Thanks

     This year I decided to do a little something to prepare for Thanksgiving, so I made a "thankful tree". 
Every day the kids and I write something that we are thankful for that day on a leaf. 

I am finding that it's even helpful for me to think about what I am thankful for, and to focus on that.  It's so easy when you're having a bad day, to just get stuck in that moment.  This helps me take a moment to stop and think, "I just spent all day cleaning house, and I am really tired, but I am thankful that I now have a clean house."  The kids are really enjoying it too, and have had no trouble in thinking of things they are thankful for.

     It was really easy to make. I had some brown packing paper that I had gotten with a package, (free is good) so I used that to make the tree part.  I divided it into three sections, and braided the first part to form the trunk.  In order to make the limbs branch out more, I ripped the paper long-wise to divide the main limbs.  I then tried to tape the tree to the wall, but that did not work out at all.  The tree was too heavy, and it kept falling down.  So I got out my staple gun, and stapled it to the wall.  The kids were a little shocked, because it seemed so permanent, but really, the little holes from the staples will be easy to fix, and the tape might have left a residue or ripped off the paint.
     For the leaves, I found a template on-line and used different colors of construction paper.  The leaves are taped on, but only with scotch tape. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Anna is 12

     Anna had her birthday this weekend.  I can't believe she is twelve, and already becoming a lovely young lady.  When I started this blog she was six, same as the twins are now.  I feel like I've had this blog for maybe a couple of years, and their is no way I can have an almost teenager.  But I do...
    Happy Birthday, Anna.  May all your wishes come true.   (Practical mommy disclaimer: As long as they are helpful and beneficial to you. )

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Things That Leave You Asking, Why?

    Samuel is non-standard.  He often comes up with things that leave me shaking my head.  This is one of those things.  He wrote a story today about a cat. (That's nice.) Who was evil and had to die. (Not so nice.) 
     Translated, it reads: A cat was a tricky cat. And it killed people.  It even called people stupid.  And the owner took the tricky cat and killed it.  And got a good cat.  And it did everything the owner said.
    I find it funny that calling people stupid seems to be a little worse than killing people.  We are not allowed to call people stupid.  It is one of our household "bad" words, so maybe in his mind that was the worst thing a cat could do, if a cat could talk, that is.
    We have recently read The Fire Cat , which deals with a mean cat who changes his ways, and becomes a hero, so I was hoping for a story of remorse and reformation; but no.  It was bad and had to die, the end.  At least the owner got an obedient cat afterwards. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

New Sweden and Dala Horses

     We have moved on from Pilgrims to Swedes in our Konos studies.  In between was the Dutch, but I didn't do much at home with them.  It was the week before Halloween, and I was working on costumes instead of doing fun homeschool activities. 
     The Konos activities are a little bit limited when it comes to learning about non-English colonists, but I really wanted the kids to get a little more from learning about  New Sweden, other than that they built log cabins.  Our Konos co-op is going to be doing the cabin bit, so I decided that for our at home activities, I would have each one of the kids paint a little Dala horse, and we would learn some of Sweden's historical culture. 
     I cut out the horses using a pattern I found online, gave them a minimal amount of shaping, and the kids fine sanded them.  Using acrylic paints, they picked out what color they wanted, and painted it solid.
I then drew the details with a sharpie on Abriel's and Samuel's.  I copied the designs from the same patterns I used to cut the horses out.  Anna drew her designs by herself.
     After they were done painting the details, I redrew the outlines to make it look tidier. I had intended for these to be used as ornaments, but the kids all wanted to use them as toys, and so that is what they have done.  Samuel had his little doll house guy riding around on the Dala horse yesterday.  I think that I might make myself a little Dala horse, since painting them looked like so much fun. And that one will be an ornament.
     Today, continuing with the Swedish theme, we had Swedish meatballs and pepparkakor (aka gingersnaps) for lunch. 
      After reading about how the Swedes built log cabins in New Sweden, and why it is such a good house design for settlers, I showed them a clip from the PBS documentary "Alone in the Wilderness" about Dick Proenneke building his log cabin.  It really sparked an interest in the kids, particularly Samuel.  He is very keen on building his own log cabin now, and kept getting out of bed tonight to ask me more questions on Dick Proenneke.  Like, did he have a car or electricity, and did he hunt for food. 
     Samuel is very into hunting right now, although not so much into killing.  He goes back and forth between wanting to shoot a bear with a bow, and not wanting to eat meat, because he doesn't want any animals to die.    He is very conflicted about the whole food chain thing.  Although he didn't seem to mind wolfing down a bunch of meatballs today. 

Monday, November 2, 2015


     This year for Halloween we did something different from our usual.  We went up to my sister's, and spent the day with her and my brother's families.  Even with her two oldest out of town, it was still a crowd of young'uns. 
     One house we went up to seemed a little stunned at the amount of children invading their doorstep.  When my sister said, "They're all cousins!" she looked down right horrified.  She said, "I can't imagine how Christmas is."  I love it.  Yeah, having all the little ones means it gets pretty crazy, but it's a good crazy.
     This year Abriel and Samuel were Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf. 
      I love that they went for a theme again this year.  I thought for sure they had said goodbye to coordinating outfits last year.  
     Anna was an owl.  The wings turned out exactly the way I wanted them to.  It was worth the effort spent on sewing all those "feathers". 
     The great thing about Trick or Treating at Sarah's is that she lives right in the middle of a charming little town, so we didn't have to drive any where, and also got to peak into some beautiful historic homes. 
     It had been cloudy all day, so we went out a little on the early side, hoping to avoid a possible shower, but when we were about 3/4 of a mile down the road, it started raining.  Sarah pulled out her phone to check the weather, and the radar showed that it was going to start pouring down on us, so we started heading back as quick as we could.  After a while she looked at the radar again, and it showed that it should have been raining on us right then, but it wasn't.  We could see the rain all around, but it wasn't raining right where we were.  We all managed to make it back to her house dry, where we had chili and pumpkin muffins waiting for us.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Popping Off Pumpkins

     What do you do when your Jack O' Lanterns are getting a little gooey?  Target Practice!