Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Parcels, Cards and Luminaires


We’ve learned a few fun new crafts and games this December that I thought were worth sharing!


At our neighborhood Christmas party, the kids played Pass the Parcel led by our British neighbors. I’m not sure if I’m the only one who didn’t know about this game or if it is truly a British game per Wikipedia. Anyway, it’s similar to Musical Chairs but a wrapped package is passed while music plays. When the music stops, the child holding the package unwraps one layer of the wrapping.


Our neighbor so kindly put a small chocolate Santa in each layer so everyone got several chocolates since there were at least 10 layers! Finally the child holding the package for the last layer of wrapping paper gets to keep the gift. Then she brought out gifts for each child—so diplomatic and thoughtful!

At the other party we got to attend, the kids did a bunch of fun crafts. Thanks Cristi and Kim {waiting for the yarn hat tutorial on her blog}!


I added to the mix with a craft I based on a Christmas lanterns tutorial from Our Best Bites. I had a bunch of dessert jars I couldn’t bear to throw away yet which I thought could be a small version of their project. The kids cut up small pieces of tissue paper and glued on with a half water/half glue solution. Some of the candle holders looked more Christmas-y than others which is great either way.


The kids got busy with other things before they could have added ribbon and glitter snowmen or trees we had to the outside, but I still think they turned out really cute—and talk about a cheap craft!



We also tackled a few homemade cards for neighbors and local friends this year. Styled after one from Meet the Dubiens' blog, I drew a “cord” for the girls to add finger stamped light bulbs to. Inside I glued on little tags that said “All is calm, All is bright.” Imperfectly perfect?!


One last thing I had to share was one of the “gifts” the girls have put together for another {they ran around the house and put some items together for a “new” gift}. I love the wrapping on this one under the tree—it says “I love you Miah”! Sweetest ever!!!



Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

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Before I’m way past Thanksgiving, I thought I better share about how it went, even if it’s just me for to check next year when I’m recalling what worked or didn’t!


Food wise {for what I made for this meal}:

  • For the turkey, I used Pioneer Woman’s Favorite Turkey Brine again since Butterball’s are not an option here. I think it helps a fresh turkey {the butcher made sure I knew it had been killed the morning I picked it up!}.
  • I made Make Ahead Gravy again from Southern Living. I was a little sad to not put all the good drippings from the turkey to use after I’d already made the other though—but having it already made is so nice!
  • My green bean casserole was much better than last year’s because I boiled the frozen green beans before adding them to the casserole to bake. I didn’t have that problem in America with canned green beans {difficult to find here}.
  • I need to use jello mixes from the same country! One from Germany and one from the US did not make for a solidified jello salad. Funny my kids and husband still ate it though!
  • Keep an eye on the rolls to not let them get TOO brown!
  • Pureeing frozen pumpkin with a little condensed milk helped it get to the right consistency faster. It worked fine in All Recipe’s Perfect Pumpkin Pie instead of canned pumpkin.

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Last year’s napkin holders were still in good shape, and I liked how they looked with my “new” table runner and napkins turned placemats from the flea market.


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I also found some cheap copper-like cups for small bouquets at the flea market. I decided to let our town florist make the bouquets since it didn’t cost me any more than the price of the flowers. I was OK with them after I pulled out all the greenery I wasn’t fond of. So next year I think I’d choose to cut and arrange the flowers myself.

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So thankful for my friends making wonderful treats in addition to the traditional dessert fare! The best EVER sugar cookies—pretty too!

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The cupcakes were not only tasty but helped make our kids’ table Mayflower boats! Later we let the kids ice the cupcakes.


The printables came from Shindig Parties To Go. I only made the ships and napkin rings, but they offered much more to make in the free download.

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The kids had a great time icing the cupcakes and doing some coloring and crafts after our meal.

Everything turned out great—truly thankful for a wonderful time!


Monday, November 28, 2011

The Camping Party


Our oldest daughter wished for a “Playmobile camping” party for her 7 year old birthday. It was really just a camping themed party, no overnighting this time. Playmobile showed up just for the cake {and a few gifts}!

Miah's Invite 001

I looked at invitations on Etsy and Pinterest and decided to make my own with my Silhouette program—I didn’t have to use the cutting machine for this one.  The color on the invitation above is a bit off since I had to scan it {Silhouette doesn’t seem to want to share it with other programs}. I purchased the 2 graphics and pink wood grain background from their online store and found the log font for free. I was able to use these items to make some of the party décor.


Pinterest was a great place to find ideas for the party! I copied others’ ideas for food:

  • Catch of the Day: Swedish Fish
  • Snakes: gummy strings
  • Twigs: Twix bars and pirouettes
  • Ants on a log: celery with peanut butter and raisins
  • Trail mix: nuts, raisins, and M&M’s
  • Smores {of course!}: we don’t have graham crackers here in Portugal but a cookie that is similar


Portuguese often have pudding and mousse at parties, so I made a little for some kiddy looking camping coffee.


I decorated with some vintage camping thermoses I found, lanterns, some of the girls’ toy binoculars and compasses, a small evergreen tree, some stars I hung over our dining room table, and a pennant banner I made.



We didn’t know anyone with a tent to borrow, so we had a very makeshift one for the party {and who knew if the November rains would hold off that day!}.


My husband got his new outdoor fire pit made just in time for the party. The American children were more keen on making smores than our Portuguese friends, but everyone enjoyed the roasted hot dogs.



Another hit for all the kids was making laminated nametags—kind of like a luggage tag. We had camping stickers and markers, they decorated them, then I laminated them and added twine through a punched hole.


The kids then got to choose a “camping satchel” to put their nametag on. I had collected pockets from my husband’s worn out pants for years, and I finally had a chance to use them! I hope to write a post soon about how I made them {I would have like some instructions!}.


Here’s our birthday girl sporting her nametagged bag post party! I think she was pleased with how things went. Many thanks to the moms and dads who helped it be special!!!


Friday, November 4, 2011

Month of Meals

In an attempt to simplify life with my seeming “full time job” of homeschooling, I decided to give monthly meal planning a go. Years back I was amazed that my friend Joy could plan that much and repeat the same meals. I’ve resisted for quite some time! Now, I wanted to share that it’s not that difficult, you can take baby steps {like planning a week at a time first}, and you don’t have to stay in a rut if you don’t like it.

1. LIST THE MEALS YOU NORMALLY MAKE: I chose to make a chart a few years ago with all the meals I liked to make/my family would eat under different headings like beef,  ground meat, chicken, pork, breakfast for dinner, fast/premade, fish, soups, and so on. Add to it as you find new recipes that pass the family test.

2. PLUG IN MEALS: When it came time to make a monthly plan, I plugged in meals from my chart making sure to not repeat chicken too much in the same week, etc. and making decisions on what kind of meals I’d need to make on certain days of the week {ie: fast meals on nights we have the girls in sports}.

Nov meal plan

3. EVALUATE AND MAKE CHANGES: My first month felt like such a success knowing every week what I’d need to get at the store right away. In review the second month, I saw how often I didn’t get to follow my menu to a T, so I started noting what changed, pushing the rotation down to the next week if we hadn’t gotten to eat those meals, etc. All that to say is I’ve now got menus for 3 months that are a little different. Maybe next year when those months roll around I’ll be able to use those again? Who knows what I’ll feel like then, but I know I’m going to stick with this monthly planning thing for a while. I think it’s working!

I’ve seen so many helpful blog posts on meal planning, freezer meals for a month {YES, really—and not a bunch of casseroles}, and even weekly and  monthly menus! The issue {or mine at least} is doing it! If I can, you can—really!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Homeschool Curriculum, Part 1

We’ve been at homeschooling full time for 7 weeks now, so I’m feeling in more of a groove, even letting go of some things I thought I’d be doing. I’m so thankful for encouragement I’ve gotten from friends and family as well as the vast online homeschool community. So I thought I should share what we’re using this year {at least right now!}. Hopefully it can be helpful to someone else as others’ recommendations years back helped me navigate the plethora of curriculum choices!

My daughters are currently 5 1/2 years old and nearly 7 years old. So I have a kindergarten and 1st grade student.

Reading: Explode the Code

I started using Explode the Code books last year for my oldest when the girls were still in Portuguese kindergarten. Both of them like the humorous pictures and sentences. I am so thankful for the Teacher's Guide Books that give great ideas in helping teach and reinforce the lessons. We also use the 1/2 books for each level as additional practice for the girls.

I also use some of 1+1+1=1’s You Can Read program for sight word practice and her Raising Rock Star’s Kindergarten printables as additional practice for both girls. We used the RRS’s Preschool printables last year, so it is nice to revisit the Scriptures we focused on last year. These items are helpful for me to give one girl to work on while I’m teaching/working with the other.

Spelling: All About Spelling

Both girls have enjoyed our spelling curriculum, All About Spelling. I have found that it’s multisensory approach keeps things more fun, and it’s been a great reinforcement for what the girls are working on with their reading. They get excited to finish a step and color it on their chart! As others have said, you do have to be ready to do the up front work of cutting our letter tiles, attaching magnets, etc., but it is minor in the scheme of homeschool prep in my opinion. I did buy two sets of cards because the girls are at different levels, but I made my own dividers and use a different lidded container for the second set. The teacher’s guide is very helpful as is the website and online support.

Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting

After our calendar time in the morning, we start with handwriting. My oldest has just finished the A Reason for Handwriting: Level A review lessons. This week she began the 5 day process of practicing the words in a Scripture to write on a special page she’ll color at the end of the week—copywork in a sense. She had been looking forward to it! My kindergartener loves the letter pages with an animal to color on the back. Once the girls get started, I read about the animal to them {from the Teacher Guidebook}. The guide is full of helpful tips in encouraging best handwriting. I like that it covers level K through 6th so I won’t need to buy a new one for a while!

Math: Singapore Math Standards Edition

We’re using Standards Edition Primary Mathematics 1A & 1B for my 1st grader including the textbook, workbook, extra practice and tests book. I love the Home Instructor's Guide for how it gets me prepared for lessons, reminds me what is really important for her to have down well a certain point, has creative and simple ideas to reinforce concepts and has a scheme of work {what I can aim to accomplish in one week}—nice that I can use it again next year too!

This is my 2nd year to use Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics Standards Edition A and B for my girls as kindergarteners. I use the Activity Book for with it too. I don’t have the instructor guide for this level, but I feel I’m making it ok without it. I’ve actually just decided this week I’m going to skip a few units for my kindergartener and save them for when we’re working on the same concepts with my 1st grader soon {ie:weight, capacity}.


So, that is the chunk of our morning curriculum. Please ask if you have any questions. I hope to address the other subjects we cover in the afternoon soon!

Monday, September 26, 2011

An Easy Wreath


I got to work on a wreath this weekend, and it came together amazingly fast! I had a back-to-school theme in my head {most kids have only been back in school here in Portugal 1-2 weeks}. I’m holding off on putting out the fall décor for a wee bit longer. 


The only wreaths I have left to work with here at 2 Styrofoam rings—on the small side, but they’ll do! I cut one of the arms from a discarded shirt of my husbands into strips and started wrapping the wreath.


I used straight pins to secure the ends as a way to save on hot glue and since I’ve had those pins for ages.


I didn’t plan on it, but one of the cuff button holes ended up so nicely showing. I didn’t have time to finish the embellishing that night and then I forgot to take photos of that process the next day.


  1. I used a broken measuring tape like ribbon to wrap the wreath and secured it in spots with hot glue.
  2. I cut apart a 3 circle doily that was stained, hot glued the center of one to felt and gently stretching it out lightly glued every other tip or so. I glued it all to a thin piece of cardboard for stability with fabric glue and added a button with hot glue.
  3. I cut 4 circles of felt in graduating size and secured them with an X of embroidery thread.
  4. I made a yo-yo and glued a button for it’s center. See my last post on yo-yo’s for more info on making them.
  5. I added small pieces of cardboard with  hot glue to the back of several of the items including the little chalkboard so they’d layer well on the wreath.
  6. I twisted some wire around straight pins in the back for a hanger and added hot glue to secure it all.


If I run across something else “schooly” I might add it, but this works for now. I got a lot of these ideas from wreaths I’ve pinned to my wreath Pinterest board.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Have you joined Pinterest yet? It’s been a GREAT place to store all the ideas I see in one place with photos, not just a link as you would have saved in your web browser favorites. You can also search for things other people have pinned. Let me know if you’d like an invitation!

Happy wreath making to you all!

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Friday, September 23, 2011

A Hoopoe in Our Yard

What is a hoopoe? Let me start from the beginning.

Over the months of reading about different types of homeschooling philosophies, I found that nature study is an important facet of the Charlotte Mason type curriculums I have considered.  Time outdoors, a nature notebook, animal identification… So I wanted to buy a field guide or two yet didn’t want to spend the money and/or never followed through. Finally my husband said I should go for a DK one—our DK travel guides were always nice with great pictures.

I’ve tried to mark a few birds in our book {RSPB Birds of Britain and Europe by Rob Hume (DK)} that I saw might be in Portugal, and we think we’ve spotted a few. But yesterday we hit the mark. My husband saw a strange bird fly out of our yard with a head full of feathers poking up like a peacock. He came in to tell us and was able to grab the book and one daughter before the bird flew away.


The best thing was that this bird, the Hoopoe, is on the cover of our book! How convenient was that! I missed seeing the bird that first time and found it hard to believe such a bird would be seen here. Little did we know this bird would take a liking to our yard. He has come back several times a day over the past two days, and I’ve had several opportunities to take pictures of it {through windows only so far—it flies away once we open a door.}


I want to keep trying to get a photo of the Hoopoe with its head feathers up. So you can see, here is a photo from Bird Forum by Rajiv Lather .

Rajiv Lather

We’re so thankful at how this has energized nature study for our whole family—albeit somewhat more spontaneous than I planned! It’s amazing what we see when we are looking!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dyed to Please

Last weekend I took action on some inspiration. I decided to dye some lace and doilies in bright shades for a lampshade skeleton I have after seeing one done so well with neutral tones.


In addition to the neutral items, I had a shirt and sweater that had faded {and I wasn’t ready to stop wearing them} along with a nice white towel that would not let go of its stain after several bleaches. imageimage

My mom had brought me some iDye {such a trendy name don’t you think?!} and some liquid Rit dye. Interesting how their instructions were not the same.


I used the stove top method since we have a front loading washing machine {although that didn’t stop me before}. I’m all about taking risks with clothing and fabric that would otherwise be thrown out or sit unused. The capris I dyed brown a few years back are now a nice shade of gray that I love!


I learned a few things:

  • Give the fabrics enough room to move in the pot. My sweater came out splotchy even though I did stir the pot. I hope this wouldn’t have happened had I not stuffed the pot.
  • Don’t wash the polyester lace because the dye will nearly all come out. This would really be a problem if it were going to be a part of a washable garment. There is iDye for synthetics but I didn’t have that kind. You can see how the cotton lace was the only one that retained the bright color.


I’m wearing the shirt I dyed today so that was a success. My favorite results are the doilies!


This was the kind of color I was hoping for. I don’t think I’ll use them on my lampshade since they don’t go all the way around, but they do look neat on one side of it.  Now I have to decide if I want to keep them or sell them in my etsy shop!



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