Friday, November 30, 2012


Welcome to our very first day of A-Z Advent Activity!  To begin our celebration of the Christmas season, we're spending a day celebrating the first messengers of God's Christmas story.  

Preschool Activities
My little man and I will be starting most days with a coloring page.  Check out this angel coloring page. We'll also try to get to this paper plate craft and I will post pictures once we do!

My preschooler loves play dough so I found a recipe to make our own and we're making it angel dough (white playdough filled with silver glitter)!
Mix together 1cup water and 1cup flour. Add 1/4 salt, 1tbsp oil, and 2tsp. cream of tartar.
Heat in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the dough comes together.
Remove from heat. Knead glitter into the warm dough.
Store unused dough in an airtight container.

Check out lots of other angel craft ideas we've collected on our Advent Pinterest board.

Family Activity
As a family, read Luke 2:1-21.
Ask your older children, who did an angel appear to in the original Christmas story? Then go on a biblical scavenger hunt for the answers - they're not all in Luke 2:
  •  Joseph: Matthew 1:20-21 (NIV) "But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
  •  Mary: Luke 1:26-28 (NIV) "In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 
  • Shepherds: Luke 2: 8-12 (NIV) "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 

Service Activity
Decorate your mailbox with fresh greens.  Wait for your mail to be delivered and offer your postal worker a cup of hot cocoa in a disposable cup with a lid.

Purchase a gift for an Angel Tree child.  Select a child the same age and gender as your own children so they can participate in selecting the gift.  Wrap the gift together and pray for the child who will receive it.

Build stick people angels from pretzel sticks and mini-marshmallows.  Serve with a cloud of whipped cream.


Angels from the Realms of Glory
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Angels We Have Heard on High Sing-Along 


Don't forget to come back tomorrow for our letter B Advent activity: Baby Jesus!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A-Z Advent Activities for Families

With Thanksgiving weekend coming to a close, I'm looking forward to one of my most favorite times of the year.  This year we are reprising a favorite countdown to Christmas Day.  Two year ago we did Little Family Fun's ABC Christmas Countdown.  I found the countdown to be the perfect mix of simple educational and fun holiday activities.  In addition, we have always struggled to strike a balance between the secular Christmas influences picked up at school and the Christian message we hope to instill at home.  I was originally drawn to this countdown because it incorporated both so well.

This year, I want to share with you our advent activities.  Please excuse the slight diversion from our usual theme.  Many of these activities can be moved outside, some are even intended for outdoor enjoyment.

Each day I'll share with you suggestions for scripture, songs, snacks, and books to enjoy together.  I will share activities appropriate for preschoolers that I enjoy with my almost three year old during the day.  Additionally, I'll share some family activities that I've reserved for after school with the whole clan.  Please feel free to enjoy our Spotify playlist as you participate in the daily activities.

The only prep work required is to find and decorate a letter for each day.  I will be re-purposing last year's Christmas cards, cutting each one into the shape of our daily letter.  We will be hanging our letters as ornaments on the tree. 

Starting on November 30th, each day's activities will be based on one symbol of Christmas from A-Z.  I've made changes over the years, but again, I cannot give great enough thanks to Linda at Little Family Fun for inspiring the original A-Z list.  I only hope to build upon her original theme and I encourage you to jump over to Linda's site and enjoy her activities as well.

Join us starting November 30th for Advent Activities from A to Z:
November 30: Angels
December 1: Baby Jesus
December 2: Candy Canes
December 3: Donkey
December 4: Evergreen
December 5: Family
December 6: Gingerbread
December 7: Horns
December 8: Ice Skating
December 9: Jingle Bells
December 10: King
December 11: Lights
December 12: Magi
December 13: Nativity
December 14: Ornaments
December 15: Presents
December 16: Quilt
December 17: Reindeer
December 18: Star
December 19: Tree
December 20: Unto
December 21: Village
December 22: Wreath
December 23: Xylophone

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf

Fall is such a beautifully sensory time of year.  I love the smell of the leaves, especially when wet from dew in the early morning. The sound of leaves crunching underfoot or rattling together as they're blown in a gusty fall breeze.  The feel of drying leaves as you run your fingers along the center vein.  And of course the gorgeous, vivid colors of the changing leaves.

It took until November, but we finally have colorful fall leaves on the trees and falling into our yard.  To celebrate the season, we took one of our favorite fall books - Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf - onto the back porch to read outside.  Then we took a through our neighborhood and collected red and yellow leaves.

My preschooler loves this book for the rhythmic story and the colorful leaves on each page.  My older children love to read along and pour through the detailed glossary soaking up detailed information about the tree's life cycle.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas upon us, it feels strange to just now be celebrating fall's colorful leaves.  But I feel so blessed to live in a temperate Southern state where outdoor activities are feasible, and even easy to enjoy year round.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Whole Food Thanksgiving Menu

If my thumb were greener, this post would be titled something different.  Maybe Thanksgiving from the garden, or Homegrown Thanksgiving Dinner.  Unfortunately, my thumb is sometimes as black as the puppy's paws are brown with garden soil. So we settle for whole-foods in place of home grown.

What are whole foods?  Whole foods are fresh and homemade or made with as few real ingredients as possible. Store-bought whole foods have generally less than five pronounceable ingredients, ie. flour and water not chemical compounds.

This year, our thanksgiving crowd will be enjoying the following whole foods menu:

Turkey: we purchased a cage-free turkey that had been fed an all vegetarian diet and never any antibiotics.  There are admittedly more humane options.  Free range or grass fed meat is always my preference.  Purchasing direct from a local humane farm adds additional green benefits.  Of course, turkey does not make a Thanksgiving dinner, we could go vegetarian... (Hello?  Have I lost you?)  We opted for a lower price per pound and the convenience of a grocery store purchase for the big meal but try to eat as humanely as possible throughout the rest of our meal plan.
We brine our bird and grill it for a decadent smokey taste, crisp skin, and wide open oven for delicious side dishes!

Mashed potatoes: I mash white or gold potatoes with just a little butter, milk, fresh parsley, and salt.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes: I like my sweet potatoes without marshmallows, maple syrup, or much else.  Seasoned and roasted deliciousness!

Sauteed Fresh Green Beans: again, the emphasis is on simple ingredients that highlight the taste of beautiful farmers market green beans

Applesauce: I chop a few apples early in the day and throw them into a pot with about an inch of apple cider.  They simmer throughout the day and I add spices and sweeteners as requested.  I don't use a recipe, but vary the ingredients and method based on guest preferences.

Homemade bread: my beloved dutch oven makes beautiful, crusty bread with just a few ingredients

For picky kids, there are bowls of sliced cucumbers, baby carrots, and grapes on the counter all day.

I hope that you and your family are enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving today!

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him; sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!
1 Chronicles 16: 8-9
1 Chronicles 16:8 - Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples.

Read more:
1 Chronicles 16:8 - Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples.

Read more:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fall Harvest

This is the harvest that I never thought would happen.   Because of a June move, we planted late.  The North Carolina summer was warm and dry.  And then there was the dog... The dog that I could not keep out of the garden.  The dog that ate garlic, potatoes, carrots, and lots of lettuce right out of the ground.  Yet somehow, the garden peas survived.

Three beautiful bushes of peas have survived our Fall garden and are now just days away from maturity.  We've picked several from the vine and even my veggie averse two-year old loves to split the pods open to eat peas standing right there in the yard in his PJs.  This little adventure has proven, at least to me, that children who take part in the process will want to enjoy the results.

For the spring, there will be chicken wire to keep the dog out and a new round of veggies to plant with the kids in tow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Water Play with Kids Who Like to Drink the Water

Mud in the fall.  Ice in the winter.  Puddles in spring.  And pools in the summer.  We love water play at our house and I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to play in water year round.  I even devoted a board on Pinterest entirely to water play ideas.  The only problem is, I have a water drinker.  It doesn't matter if the water is chlorinated, soapy, or disgustingly dirty, Little Man always wants to drink big scoopfuls of water while playing.

In my quest to keep my little guy playing in the water without constantly having to say, "DON'T DRINK THAT WATER," I replaced most of his usual water toys with a variety that doesn't hold water.  Here are a few of our new favorites:
  1. Small balls and balloons took the place of squirt toys.
  2. Plastic cars  and animal figurines took the place of boats whose decks can hold a surprising amount of water.
  3. Slotted spoons and sand seives took the place of other scoops and spoons.
  4. A funnel took the place of several cups and bottles used for scooping and pouring water.
Thanks to some well placed slots and holes, we can continue our year round water play!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Roasted Pumpkins and Seeds

I don't love Halloween but I certainly don't hate it. I respect the fact that MANY people have spiritual misgivings about the holiday, but I am just not in that camp.  Mostly because we don't treat Halloween as a spiritual holiday and try very hard to stay away from the gore and the ghosts.  (see what Pastor Mike Madding has to say about "disputable matters" of faith in his sermon series True Religion)

As the mother of boys, I have always encouraged them to play pretend and am thrilled that they love to dress up and role play.  On Halloween night we enjoy trick-or-treating which I frame as an opportunity to dress up and get to know our neighbors.  The boys love the candy of course and I am usually the mom lagging behind, talking to someone or other, while the kids run ahead and probably fail to say either trick-or-treat or thank you as they collect their reward.  Interestingly, beyond the first night or two, I seem to be the only one gorging myself on Halloween candy...

So when Halloween is over, I have no qualms about putting the leftover candy in the freezer and hacking into those oh-so-cute sugar pumpkins that never were carved.  Right now I am enjoying some Christmas music (it starts now and lasts until January) and the aroma of Old Bay seasoned pumpkin seeds roasting in my oven.

If you've never roasted a pumpkin or seeds before, it is easy in theory.  Cut your pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast in the oven.  It's the cutting into the pumpkin that can be difficult, so please, please, please be careful!  Once your pumpkin is split in half, scoop out the stringy innards and discard everything but the seeds.  Give the seeds a quick wash and pat dry with a paper towel.  Spread the seeds into an even layer on a cookie sheet, toss with a tsp. or two of oil, and roast at 400*F for 15 minutes.  The pumpkin halves go cut side down in a baking pan with an inch or two of water in the same 400*F oven for 45 minutes to an hour.  Once they're cooked, pull them out, let them cool, and scoop out the yummy pumpkin meat.  You can cube or puree the meat for use in so many recipes, just substitute your own puree for the canned variety.

I am a bit of a pumpkin junkie, so it never goes to waste.  However you can freeze the puree or concentrate it into a yummy pumpkin butter.  Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

Pumpkin Puree Baby Food (from Wholesome Baby Food)
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 10 Ways - this Marylander goes for the Old Bay seasoning
Roasted Pumpkin Sage Soup
Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Pumpkin Pancake Squares (a great grab and go breakfast)
Pumpkin Fluff Weight Watchers recipe
Pumpkin Spice Latte - better than the coffee shop version
Pumpkin Cream Cheese (this link has a ton of other pumpkin recipes that look scrumptious)
Slow Cooker Pumpkin Custard Oatmeal