Wild Cupcakes

Today S9 took a cupcake decorating class at our local JoAnn’s store.

We brought 8 unfrosted and undecorated cupcakes.  In the class, the kids learned a way to frost the cupcakes so that they could be decorated further.  Then they used a variety of (Wilton brand) decorating tools to create a monkey, zebra, lion, and other “wild” designs on them.

She learned about using several different decorating tips to create fine details and a variety of shaped pipings.  She brought them all home to show us.  We are going to share them with friends tomorrow at a picnic.




Sewing Class 101

Today we took a sewing class at JoAnn’s. The girls had to select two different fabrics and purchase a specific quantity of each prior to the class, then we made pillowcases with them during the class. They have seen me sew and “helped” a bit before, but this was the first time either of them had actually sewed at a machine solo.


O7’s first attempt was pretty good! She did both a straight stitch and a zig-zag.



Here are their finished pillowcases:

O7 Finished Pillowcase

S9 Finished Pillowcase

Year-End Math Summary

Last fall we started with the Saxon math curriculum. At first, we loved it. But as time went on, both the kids and I began to dread math. This particular curriculum was entirely too repetitive and did not fit their learning styles at all. S9 is a very goal-oriented learner; she wants to get the right answer and move on. O7 is dealing with some anxiety and insecurity about various performance-based things, including writing (of all things!). She found the worksheets incredibly stressful and frustrating. The turning point for me was when she had a problem that read something like this:

“Six girls are on a bus. Four girls get onto the bus at the next stop. Draw a picture for this addition problem.”

O7 read the problem, threw her pencil across the table and burst into tears. “I don’t WANT to draw TEN GIRLS!” she sobbed.

There’s no point in making her do extra steps that are just frustrating when the real point is to get her to understand the concept of addition, which she obviously gets. So we quit Saxon math right then and there.

Since then, we have focused on project-based math. Our favorite tool is the grocery store. I have started sending the kids on “scavenger hunts”, which is totally exciting because they get their own shopping cart and list, just like Mom. We started with simple things, like getting three items on a list (loaf of bread, box of cereal, block of cheese. Etc.) Then, I gradually added puzzles and problems. Here are some examples:

  • Get as many bananas for $1 as you can.
  • Compare Tropicana and Florida’s Natural orange juices.  Which one is cheaper per ounce?  Get one jug of the less expensive juice.
  • I use xx brand of coffee cream.  If it is more than $2, buy one carton.  If it is on sale for less than $2, buy two cartons.
  • Here are three brands of toilet paper. (a, b, c).  Which is cheapest per 12-roll package?  Get one package of the least expensive of the three.

Sometimes the scavenger hunt is just to get information, and sometimes we use that data later at home to figure out more complex problems.

  • Write down the prices of your top three cereal choices.   Also write down the number of ounces in each box.  (we figure out later which is the best deal)
  • Which is more expensive per pound: lettuce or carrots?
  • How much is Swiss cheese in the deli?  (Later we calculate the prices of a half-pound, quarter-pound, etc).
  • List three foods that are sold by the pound, three that are sold by volume, and three that are sold by the piece (such as bagels!)
  • I have a coupon for $55 cents off xxx item.  Giant Eagle will double the coupon.  What will the final price of xxx item be if I use the coupon when I buy it?

The grocery store has been a great tool because we go there every week anyway.  It takes me a little bit longer to write out my list, but that’s not a big deal.  The kids love to shop and work independently, and this is a skill that they will use their entire lives.

Meanwhile, we have been talking about what to do with math in the upcoming year.  The kids have started playing around with Khan Academy’s website, and really dig the online format.  S9 has already started teaching herself some geometry.  O7 likes working on the computer, though she is not as motivated to teach herself new things.  I think we are going to play around with it some more over the summer and see if it is something we can use for the long-term.  I love that I can be their “coach” and see what they’ve been working on.  We are thinking of using the “energy points” for some kind of reward system for O7, who is not quite as self-motivated as her sister.

Holiday Baking

I think it’s important for the kids to be confident (and competent) in the kitchen. They often help with baking and cooking, and love to make cookies. Here is a sampling of some of our Christmas baking. I don’t take pictures during the actual measuring/cooking/baking process, out of fear of what might happen to the camera… but the girls do help make the dough in addition to the decorating and tasting portions (which are a little more camera-friendly!)

Shortbread cookies












Thanksgiving Day

On holidays, I try to get the kids involved as much as possible, especially in the kitchen. This year, they helped make the dinner rolls for our Thanksgiving feast.

I made the dough before they got up, then they helped shape it for the final rise. This recipe calls for the dough to be divided into small portions, rolled out into a snake, then tied in a “bowknot”. We did a few bowknowts, then experimented with coils and other shapes. It was interesting to see how they came out after rising and then baking.




In Anticipation of Thanksgiving

American Thanksgiving is Thursday and, to prepare, we made fall gingerbread cookies.

The cookies are in the shapes of pumpkins, and we used leaf-shaped sprinkles in fall colors to decorate them. The kids couldn’t resist making them into jack-o-lanterns, though, so they look a little more Halloween than Thanksgiving. That’s okay.

Thanksgiving cookies




After decorating our cookies, we settled in downstairs to watch the Peanuts Thanksgiving special. Our DVD has a bonus feature which is an animated retelling of the Pilgrims’ voyage and difficult first year in the New World. To get in the mood, we had a Peanuts Thanksgiving dinner:


popcorn, toast and jelly beans. (I was out of pretzel sticks.)

Thanksgiving Redux

We celebrated Thanksgiving twice this year. Earlier in November, my mom came into town for her birthday, and we flew my brother in from Seattle so he could celebrate with us. It just seemed obvious that we should have a Thanksgiving then. And of course, we had to celebrate it all over again on the regular holiday. We are so lucky, we have to give thanks twice!

The kids helped me a lot in the kitchen this year. They are learning to be very good little cooks. I joke that they are my sous-chefs. For our first Thanksgiving, they helped make apple pies.

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Since we also celebrated my mom’s birthday then, they helped make birthday cakes, too.


Really, they helped more than just licking the bowl afterwards!

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Here is O5 with a tray of dinner rolls. They helped mix up the dough, then they shaped almost all of the rolls themselves. I maybe did one or two, just to show them my method.

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S7 is still a little nervous about putting things into the oven, but that’s not necessarily bad. A little caution in the kitchen goes a long way.

She is good at setting the timer, though!

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We LOVE Thanksgiving!!