Now blogging at THIS SIMPLE HOME.

Now blogging at THIS SIMPLE HOME.

At This Simple Home

  • Homemade Magic Shell - I remember having Magic Shell once as a child. The chocolate syrup drizzled over my ice cream magically turned crispy hard. Mmm... So I was rather excited t...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent Calendar Book

Derek's mom just gave us this wonderful advent calendar! It is The Story of Christmas Advent Calendar published by Abingdon Press. Each day in December has it's own little book, mostly quoted from the Bible. I love that it is a countdown to Christmas, but each little book has it's own focus and Scripture included. It's quite large, too, with a trifold cover.

The Story of Christmas: Story Book Set & Advent CalendarDay 1 is called "A Child to Be Born." Each of the little books can be hung on the tree, too, by their silver string! Since this year we don't want to put up the tree right away (due to an active 1 year old), I removed all the books but Day 1, so that we can place the proper book in the "calendar."
By the way, each book does have a title on the spine and a large number on the cover. This is a beautiful set and I know M will love it.

Oh, it looks like we might begin it today since M saw it before school this morning and was super curious about it. I told her it would be a surprise for later.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Our family is greatly blessed. Tomorrow we will be among our family members that live hours away from our home. After a five hour drive, we will see (in relation to the children) six grandparents, three great-grandparents, great aunts and uncles, aunts, uncles, and cousins! And we'll stay on the farm! FUN! With some of our health issues, I suppose it would be easy to just ask, "Why?" However, it just reminds me that every day, even with the fussing, fighting, tears, and tantrums, our lives are greatly blessed with two little children. Of course, not every moment is difficult and filled with tears. However, both of them had situations (E's , M's)that were life threatening, yet they were protected. And we are thankful to our Creator who has plans for each of us. Happy Thanksgiving, Friend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

She Painted!

After posting the earlier post today about not being impressed with the crafts at school, I just had to share that M painted a turkey at school today. It was the first time in five weeks that she used paint! Yippee for a new medium!

School Projects

M attends a speech and language classroom. Their main objective is speech, not art. Last spring I began doing crafts with M on a regular basis, so I have not been too impressed with the crafts that she has brought home from school, though I remind myself that what we did was one on one. Most are crafts are pictures colored with crayons, cut by an adult (which is fine), and glued. However, this past week M brought home two cute projects, and I thought I'd share. I think this scarecrow is adorable! It's covered in short bits of yarn. The yarn adds lots of color and texture. I thought it was pretty clever.
This little project is a new twist (for me). It could be used for any song that is a "Five Little...(turkeys, monkeys, apples, frogs) song. Instead of making finger puppets for real fingers, the little turkeys were placed on a paper hand that has a "bracelet" to help a child keep it on his or her hand. During the song, M easily bent each paper finger down and was able to hold it down until the end of the song. M's teacher does send home songs and poems to read with the children at home that are often related to the craft.

Monday, November 23, 2009


It seems that I am multitasking my crafts these days. I have several things I am working on at once. I can't say that I like the idea of working on so much at once, but that's just the way it is, I guess. They are all related to Christmas.

  • A mouse hand puppet.
  • A Jesse Tree. I am making my own tree, but using Nicole's ideas at Tired, Need Sleep. If you are unfamiliar, it basically is a way to show the lineage of Jesus Christ in an advent calendar way. I will make a felt tree, but paper ornaments, hung with ribbon. The tree will have buttons to hang the ornaments. The button idea came from a real life friend, and I thought it was very clever.
  • Salt dough ornaments. Classic. Simple. Fun. The two that are painted only by me are finished!

I will post details on all soon. I hope.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Speech and School Update

M started school five weeks ago. She goes four days a week and loves it! She doesn't talk a lot about it, but she will answer questions. She can always tell me what she had for snack! Her favorite activity seems to be the jungle gym. She seems to like her teachers and speech therapist (and calls them by name). Though it is a speech and language classroom, I can't say that I have seen huge improvements in her speech. By this I mean that her articulation has not noticeably improved and she doesn't seem to be stringing longer sentences together. However, her vocabulary has been expanding. She also seems to talk throughout the day more. M has improved her alphabet, and she counts better, too. She counts past ten now (correctly, for the most part). Other than when we were counting steps, I never counted past ten with her. Oops. She also likes to try to remember the letters in her name, too. M rides the bus daily. This past Thursday I picked her up from school since I was in the area, as I am every Thursday. She wanted to ride the bus! She cried for about ten minutes, but at least she didn't throw a tantrum. Her bus ride is long, about 45-50 minutes. The classroom is about 25 minutes from our home, so it's not a surprise. Personally, I look forward to spending some time in the classroom. I want to see how it operates and how speech is incorporated into everything. When we visited before, we were quite the interruption, and I was not impressed with the speech incorporation. However, as a former teacher, I fully understand that what happens on a regular basis may not happen when a visitor comes. We will be changing the goals on her IEP to better meet M's needs. Basically, she can already meet the goals, so she isn't being pushed to do more. The SLP has to work on the goals, not go past them. The SLP and I have already spoken about changing goals. I am hoping to get paperwork this week. In case you are new to the blog, M has a speech disorder called apraxia. It is not outgrown, but is overcome. M is doing a fabulous job of overcoming it! She is still hard to understand, but she is doing wonderfully. If you are interested, you can read about M's situation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Behavior Chart

Last Thursday when M had a second day in a row of some small, but irritating behavior problems, I decided to start a behavior chart. The are not all big problems, nor are they all daily problems. I wanted to include some easier things that she was more likely to have success.
The chart addresses a few issues.

  • brushing hair (She has long hair. She tends to put up a fuss when it's brushed.)

  • bus (Two days in a row last week she went to the back of the bus instead of getting off it.)

  • nap time (She will put up a fuss, run away, and anything else she can think of to delay it.)

  • eat dinner (A few days before the chart started, she started eating better.)

  • bed time (Same as nap time problems.)
The chart does not have days of the week. I just wanted it to be a simple chart.
M's response: At first she was indifferent, even saying no to stickers she earned. Now she loves it and is earning a lot of stickers daily. "Oh, boy! Oh, boy! Oh, boy!" has been said about getting a sticker.
My response: I think this was a good tool to get M involved in thinking about her behavior. However, I think M is strong willed enough that the stickers don't really motivate her. If she doesn't want to do something, a reward won't matter. (Dessert doesn't even entice her if she doesn't want to eat dinner.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teacher Gifts

So I just realized that M now has
  1. a teacher
  2. an aide
  3. an SLP
  4. a bus driver
  5. a bus aide
  6. Sunday school teacher

WOW! Now, as a former teacher I really appreciated Christmas gifts from my students. My favorites were not "teachery" but things like Christmas ornaments, lotions, and candles. I also loved books for my classroom. The best were the little gifts the children choose for me themselves. (I still use a bookmark from Claire on a regular basis.)

It is very, very strange to be on the parent side of education. I really don't know the personalities of any of these influential people in her life except her Sunday school teacher. (Or their health concerns. Hopefully with my plans they aren't on low fat, low sugar diets.)

I'd like to make (sew?) stuff, but I'm just not sure what would be appropriate. The bigger issue is what I have the time to make! I still want to do create some things for my own family, and I am not sure that I will get much of it completed. I guess I better get to work. But first I need some better ideas. Right now all I can think to do is a chocolate chip cookie pie and a homemade bookmark. Maybe we'll do those two items with a book for the classroom, too, for the teacher and SLP. Is it lame?

I don't like Christmas to be about the gifts, yet I like to give. Oh, and I tend to be frugal.(You can say cheap). Somewhere there is a balance! Last year M made pasta necklaces for some special ladies in her life. I'd like for her to be involved in the gift making process somehow, and the chocolate chip cookie pie is an easy way to do that. It's an easy recipe, and she can easily help.

What do you do for the teachers and such in your child's life? Do you have any suggestions for me? (I know gift cards would be appreciated, but I don't prefer to give them.) Any ideas for gifts that M could help make (other than food)?

Would you please forgive me for posting about Christmas (again) before Thanksgiving? It's the handmade thing that makes planning necessary. (Or at least I can tell myself that. In reality, I try to buy Christmas gifts year round. The earliest I've ever been done Christmas shopping was when I was in college. I finished in October once. Now that I have children, shopping doesn't happen often.)

You can also check out my handmade gift plans. We'll see what I have time for.

Let me know your ideas for handmade items or teacher gifts!

Today's the last day for the Fun Felt Giveaway! Be sure to check it out!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Puzzle Book

M, age 3, loves puzzles. We have many wooden puzzles, but this Sesame Street: School Days Puzzle BOOK is my favorite (and maybe M's too). I think I've shared this before, but thought I would again. It's my favorite because it is a puzzle book. M likes it because it's Sesame Street.
1. 5 puzzles in one book.
2. 16 pieces each.
3. There is a picture under the puzzle, but if your child doesn't need it, they can put it together without looking, too.
4. Easy's a book!
5. Each puzzle's backing has a different color, so if they are all out at once, it would be easy to sort the pieces.
1. Abby Cadabby isn't in it. (Well, it was a disappointment for M.)
2. It might be hard to find. A Google search wasn't so productive, though I did find other Sesame Street puzzle books.

For other puzzle ideas/reviews you can check out Izzie, Mac, and Me's Christmas Reviews of Games and Puzzles.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fun Felt! Review and Giveaway

Meet Rosa from Story Time Felts. She is M's new felt friend and part of the Felt Dress-Up Dolls collection. Here she is showing off her "grandma" nightgown, as M calls it. Rosa is made from 1/4 inch felt. She is flexible, but very sturdy. All of her accessories, and there are a lot, stay on her quite nicely. Rosa has dresses, pants, shirts, sports uniforms, costumes, and more to wear! Rosa also has a variety of hats and shoes. But it's not too long before Rosa is dressed in her pretty yellow dress, with coordinating shoes and a hat! It was fun to hear M use newer words like "crown" and "mask" because of the felt accessories.
Clean up and storage is easy with this red carrying case that is included with orders. Personally, I felt that there were so many items, that I sorted them into baggies to help M make easier and more purposeful decisions. An older child would probably be fine with just making choices for clothes right from the bag. Since these are washable, they can even go in the bathtub for additional play! The felt sticks to the walls when it's wet. It falls off when it is clean and dry. More fun!
Story Time Felts is much more than just felt dolls. Take a look around as you consider the boys and girls on your Christmas list. They have wonderful full size story board activity sets, quiet books, puppets, Scripture-based felts, and more! The colors are bold and made with non-toxic dyes. Boys and girls would enjoy these! I think Story Time Felts is a very appropriate name because each felt set will help your child's imagination open wide to tell new stories.
Want to win a doll set? Thanks to Karen, one of my readers gets to choose a boy or girl set which includes a girl doll and precut girl clothes or a boy doll and the precut boy clothes.
Mandatory Entry-
Visit Story Time Felts and come back here and leave a comment telling your favorite product that is offered and why you like it. Be sure I have a way to contact you!
The giveaway is open until Tuesday, November 17 at 8PM (EST). Winner will be announced November 18.
Earn Extra Entries- (After completing the mandatory entry, complete any of the following and leave a comment for each extra entry you complete.)
1. Make a purchase from Storytime Felt.
2. Sign up for Storytime Felts newsletter.
2. Follow this blog.
I did not receive monetary compensation for this review. I did receive the felt doll and clothes to review.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I've been making cheesecakes for nine years-since Derek and I began dating. He's always been a big fan of cheesecake. For years I just made a basic no-bake cheesecake. Simple. Good. Not so rich that you can't have seconds.
After having some good cheesecake in some restaurants, I wanted to bake a cheesecake. I did with my regular pie pan. It was fine. But I wanted to do more.
Last Christmas, I asked for and received a springform pan to make a real cheesecake. Eleven months later...I made one.
Yes, there is a giant crevice in it. But it is good. I followed this New York Cheesecake recipe. There were lots of suggestions in the reviews, but when I make a recipe for the first time, I prefer to start with the basic recipe and make changes upon repeat attempts at the recipe. This recipe is a keeper. I did have my ingredients at room temperature, but next time I will put water in the oven for a steam bath (the water bath seems messy).
Derek's coworkers will enjoy a bit of the cheesecake. It's not a light, fluffy cheesecake, so there is only so much we can eat, and we do not want it to go bad. I suppose we could freeze it...but it's fun to share.
I'd encourage you to try it, too. Unfortunately, I prefer to bake instead of cook. And I prefer to read or use the computer instead of exercise. It's all adding up, and not in a good way.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reusable Workbooks

We recently got some workbooks for M to use. Her drawing is a bit weak, and she is not ready for numbers or letters yet, but we are ready to work on some straight lines like matching and dot to dots. It's not a new concept, but I knew I wanted to make the workbooks last and last. When I was a teacher, some of us used plastic protective sleeves and dry erase markers to make worksheets reusable. Of course laminating would work, too. I had asked Derek to bring home the plastic sleeves and markers. I was absolutely thrilled when he brought home these markers from Wal Mart. They each have a built in eraser and a magnet on the back! (Purple is the missing color.) They are also on the smaller side, so they fit in a three year old's hands well. She is not only willing, but excited to do several papers in one sitting. M's favorite part is definitely erasing though. I have decided to store the markers, on the fridge, right beside my weekly chart that I made to help me organize my thoughts on dinner, cleaning, and things to do.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Photo Collage (Affordable Christmas Card Picture)

For those of you who love photos and are frugal, you might appreciate this, especially if you do a photo with your Christmas cards.
Last year I could not find a photo Christmas card with two or three places for pictures at any of the sites I wanted to use to print them. I don't like the idea of spending a lot of money, because in reality, many people glance at the pictures and never look at them again. At the same time, I know that others just love to see how the children are changing (or in our case last year, get introduced to E).
I have been using Picasa, a free digital photo hosting site by Google, for several years. Picasa allows you to crop, straighten, fix red eye, add text, mess with the lighting, and make COLLAGES! I was thrilled when I realized the collage part. Collages can be in grid form or stacked. It took some time to get used to how to make it work because I am fussy. You know, I wanted this picture under this one, and that pictured angled just so. A grid would have been very easy though, but it's not my style. (But a great idea for scrapbooking mini pictures.)
Here is last year's collage that we included in our Christmas cards. I loved how it came out. A picture of the family, the kids, and one each of M and E. Since we just moved into our home, I included a picture of the house, too.
Each photo collage costs the same as a regular 4x6 inch print (or whatever size you choose to make). Picasa allows you to pretty much print wherever you want whether it's Walgreens, Wal Mart, Snapfish or 20 or 30 other places. I'm not exactly sure what our plans are for this year's Christmas photo, but I do know that I won't be buying Christmas photos, even if they are cute.
I enjoy "creating" and get much satisfaction from it, even if it's just a photo collage.
I just loved the pictures of M (age 2) and E (2 months)!
One more thought. In the past I have taped all the photos we get to our fridge, but it got to be too much, and I didn't leave them up year round. I'd love to use the photos we get to remember and pray for our friends and family. What do you do? Do you have any suggestions for me?
Vanilla Joy has a tutorial for creating collages with Picasa. Honestly, I don't think you need it if you just go in and play. If you give Picasa a try, let me know!
Oh, and for those of you who blog with Blogger, Picasa will load your pictures directly to your blog, fully edited! (I have found I can only post four pictures using Picasa, but I'm not sure if that is my fault or not. If you use Picasa and can add more, let me know!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

stARt: Freight Train

This is a repost from our family blog. I just loved this project and so did M. We did this when she was about 2 1/2. It's a great way for children to identify and say colors. It was a great speech activity at the time, though now it would not be challenging to M. We made a paper freight train based on the wonderful book by Donald Crews. We used the book to help us know which car/color would come next. I had the cars precut into the appropriate shape. I also had the track drawn on the paper ahead of time. M really enjoyed telling me which color would come next with almost no prompting. We know the book well. She chose to use crayons for the smoke. She was so precise with where it went. This was our second train, so I didn't tell her where to put it. She knew. The wheels are made with her little fingerprints. Yes, the yellow hopper car is upside down. This is quite large. I thought two inch wide cars would be a good size. It wasn't until after I had cut them out and was placing them on the paper that I realized that there was no room for the black tender even with the two papers side by side! An inch would have been large enough!
For another similar, yet different Freight Train project, visit my friend Jennifer at My Two Happy Homeschoolers! Check out the Gundersen's felt Freight Train, too. For more story based art projects, visit A Mommy's Adventure.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Advent Idea

While I was visiting the author Ace Collins' website I was reading an excerpt from 25 Days 26 Ways To Make This Your Best Christmas Ever, I came across a new idea for Advent, which in Latin means, "the coming." (Yes, I learned that, too.) Ace suggested reading one chapter from the book of Luke in the Bible each day in December to focus on the birth, life, and promise of Jesus Christ. There are just twenty-four chapters, so it's ideal. Though I have not read all of 25 Days 26 Ways, I do know that what Ace Collins had to say about Advent alone was what I needed to hear. Whether a person is a Christian or not, the orgins of Christmas are clear. I think December is a wonderful time to explore the beginnings of Jesus and revisit the real reason we can have joy and peace during what can often be a busy time of year! A new tradition? I hope so! I will be reading Luke this December. Will you?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Organizing Efforts

In an effort (once again) to try to be better organized in my life, I think I may have finally found something that works for me. Weekly lists just don't work, but I have found that keeping a calendar on my refrigerator does work to keep track of therapy (in the past), school, meetings, appointments, and due dates (not babies, library books). However, I like my calendar normal size, and I have plenty to write on it already. Knowing my inclination to use calendars, I created a weekly calendar personalized for my needs. This is what it looks like. Ready for the best part? I laminated it! So now I won't be wasteful of paper! I already had a wet-erase marker, so that is effective for now. As you can see, I included my "issue" areas: cleaning and dinner (and other stuff that I might forget about. As for cleaning, I tend to vacuum on Mondays, but the rest of the house is just "as needed." The bad part is when I finally get around to it, the cleaning is no longer just's past due. I really think this will help me to clean more. Maybe not a lot more, but more. I have tried monthly meal planning, and I find that I miscalculate leftovers and such. So I'm always "off." This, used in conjunction with my dinner ideas list, should be effective for knowing what we're going to eat and when. Then there are things I just need to do. Of course there is always those pesky phone calls to make that I easily forget about like to make an appointment. It might also be when I need to go some where. If you would like to try this idea and don't want to create your own chart, I'd be happy to email it to you, just be sure I have your email address. (You could even change the text to make it more personal.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Finally! (How I Spent My Weekend)

This weekend I finally made myself a new purse. I made one in the spring, but it was definitely a summer purse in a bright orange color. It was also SMALL. Too small for a daily purse. I like a small purse. For the longest time (maybe the first 30 years of my life) I pretty much just used a wallet or even a wallet/keychain combo. However, now that I wear glasses daily, I MUST have my lens cloth to clean them at all times. Dirty glasses are annoying and they give me a headache. (I also like a clean windshield, if you care.) So here it is. A buttercup bag! Again. It's the same pattern as before, but this time I enlarged it by 15%. The handle is a bit too long, I think, but it will fit better with a winter coat. (My winter coat does not match the purse at all. I don't care though.) I love the fabrics. I have several more yards of the liner since it was a good price and quality. I like the outer fabric even more, but I only bought two yards because of the price. I added interfacing to the handle, outer purse, and the divider that I put in myself. I'm not sure the divider needed the interfacing, but I don't think it hurts either. I also added a large pocket to the divider. It might be too large; I'm not sure.
Here is the old purse (same pattern) and the new. You can see the size difference.
Just to give you an idea of how small the orange purse is, I will share what I keep in it that stuffs it FULL. Wallet, lens cloth, cell phone, lip balm, keys, pen(s), and a checkbook-size calendar. I found that if I put in more than two pens, closing it gets really tough! Isn't that funny!? Although in full disclosure, the magnetic snap I placed in it was placed too low so it took away room in the purse.
It's a pretty simple pattern. I'm a beginner sewer and I think it's doable, though I spent a lot of time (and wasted thread) seam ripping. If you are interested, the buttercup bag pattern is free, but if you want to sell them, the pattern is just $10. Too bad sewing is so stressful for me, otherwise I would love to sell something like this! (Not that the craftsmanship is great, either.)
The dark fabric just doesn't photograph well for details, but you can see enough.

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