Friday, September 30, 2011

A Scrapbook that is "Do-able"

Happy Birthday to my Sweet Jonah!

I did it! I finished Jonah's ABC book before his birthday! I have been doing ABC books for Jonah and Carson since they had their first birthdays. I thought I would stop at age five, but Jonah begged me to keep making them, and here we are, Jonah is SEVEN (?--where did the time go) and I am still making them, and having a lot of fun doing it.

I actually borrowed the idea for the ABC book from my good friend, Jenny Workowski. She made them for her kids and I really liked the idea. It is so do-able. I get overwhelmed trying to keep up with a scrapbook for my kids that includes all the goings on of day to day life--Christmas, birthdays, baseball games, first days of school. It seems like an endless process. But ABC books are simple, and they have a deadline. One or two (or sometimes even three) pictures per letter, and it has to be finished by their birthday. Done. Here's a sneak peek...

It's amazing how many pictures and memories I am able to squeeze into a 26 page book. This year I wrote a lot more on each page, making sure to document people and events we always want to remember.

I make sure to include grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, and now cousins (yay!!!) so the boys are reminded of the family members we do not get to see as often. B is always for "Boompa" and "Boompa Drew" and now G will always be for "Griffin," as well as "GG" and "Grandma Linda."

This year, I actually considered making the boys' books digitally. But there is something about cropping the pictures of our boys' by hand, getting to choose how to display each picture (oval, square, triangle) and seeing my own handwriting under their sweet little faces that made me want to continue making them by hand. Plus, it is so much less expensive. I buy my materials at AC Moore, and I always use a coupon.

I usually struggle with the end of the alphabet. X stumps me, and so does Y. This year X is for "eXactly right," and Y is for "yellow sunset." Z is traditionally a sleeping picture, and as the boys have begun enjoying sleeping in the same bed on the weekends, I have found lots of opportunities to take pictures. This year, I was reminded of several events that did not find their way into Jonah's ABC book. My dad suggested an "addendum" to his book. So I am considering this tip. Just need to figure out how the addendum would work...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Game/Review Night (and Yummy Quesadillas)

Game/Review Night

Last Wednesday, we decided to review all the countries we have studied so far: Australia, Ghana, England, Mexico, and China. We also made Halloween-shaped quesadillas, a recipe I borrowed from "Handstand Kids" ( with a few variations. I guess you could say our meal was from the United States. :)

Carson helped me cut pumpkins, ghosts, and cats out of tortillas. Then I prepared the filling. Did you know you can "blend" chicken? I steamed some squash, then tossed it into the blender. I added some grilled chicken, cut into very small pieces, and blended it all together. Then I spread some of the mixture on a piece of tortilla, added some cheese and cooked it in a frying pan. It turned out very yummy, and both boys ate well.

After dinner, we plated games from some of the countries we have studied. We played "Bounce Eye" from Australia, a marble game; "Ampe" from Ghana (like Odds and Evens in the US); and "Challenge" from China --by far the game requiring the most brainpower--go figure.

Then it was time for Bingo. Before the game, we reviewed each country and made sure we remembered where they are on the map. We used candy corn as markers and when we were finished, the boys ate the candy. I was very proud of them for remembering so much about each country. The game ended in a tie, so everyone was happy.

Next week, we are off to Brazil!

Monday, September 19, 2011


Something happened today that made me so happy. Carson and I were at the library and we looked up to see a banner of flags hanging across the ceiling. He said, "Mommy, why don't they have the Ghana flag?" Then he started naming the other flags he recognized: Australia, USA, Mexico. I was so proud of him! What we are doing each week really is making a difference!

Last week we studied China. We had Kung Pao Chicken, thanks to my good friend, Jenna Hall, who passed along the recipe from her "All You" magazine. She has really made me interested in "All You." It even has coupons! I may need to look into a subscription.

I realized I need to plan our "Worldly Wednesday" meals around when Justin is going to be home to help me eat them! This was another one that was delicious to me, but the boys didn't love. Jonah ate the chicken and noodles well, and Carson only ate his noodles. If I make it again (which I probably will because Justin LOVED the leftovers), I will add the broccoli toward the end so it does not end up mushy. We like our veggies crisp.

Of course we had fortune cookies for dessert. Then we watched a video about China. The Union West Regional Library has a great selection of videos about various countries. The boys were surprised to learn about China's one child rule, and the fact that most children go to school until 5 pm and may have as many as 58 kids in their class. When I visited Jonah's class the next day, I saw that he had written about China in Writer's Workshop. He was most impressed by the fact that the children all wash their feet before going to bed--that sounds like something we may want to start doing! :)

I did a really poor job of taking pictures this week! Busy week with school and sports. I will do better next week. We will be reviewing and discussing our favorite meals and fun facts from the countries we have studied so far. Maybe with a BINGO game? Still working this one out...

New Uses for "Old" Things

I love the magazine Real Simple, and one of my favorite articles is "New Uses for Old Things," where they give a fresh purpose to a household object. For example, a pillow case for dusting a ceiling fan, something I have yet to try, but it sounds like a great idea.

Well, my children have discovered new uses for the common sticky note. I guess I kind of started it, though.

On Friday, Carson learned about the letter "G" in preschool. I wanted a way to review what he had learned (and I also needed to hop in the shower, so I was looking for something to keep him out of trouble), so I printed the letter "G" on four sticky notes, and gave them to him. I asked him to walk around the house, and place the "G" sticky note on something that started with the sound /g/. By the time I was finished in the shower, he was so excited to show me all the things he found in the house that started with "G." When I asked him to show me, he said, "No, you have to find them." So it became a game for us. Here is what he found:

G is for green chair

G is for guitar

G is for gun (squirt gun, that is)

and my personal favorite...

G is for Griffin (too bad the sticky note is hiding his cuteness!)

I went to finish getting ready and by time I came back downstairs, there were sticky notes all over the house, including one on me! M is for Mommy, W is for wall, B is for bannister, B is for bed, M is for mouse (that's computer mouse), C is for counter, R is for refrigerator. The boys had gone crazy, "tagging" things with sticky notes. They had so much fun with a pad of stickies. It turned into a great rainy day activity. One to file away for later.

Friday, September 9, 2011


This week I was reminded of the whole reason we started Worldly Wednesday. I want to branch out from the mundane dinners we have gotten used to--chicken quesadillas, pork chops, fish sticks--you know the drill. I want to introduce my kids to new foods. So, I decided to challenge myself to make a new dish from a particular country each Wednesday, and to try and throw in some facts about that country as well. Another big part of Worldly Wednesday is exposing my kids to geography. I have always felt embarrassed of my knowledge of geography, and I want my kids to have a good grasp on the subject. So here we go.

Last week we studied Ghana. Ghana is the name of Carson's soccer team this year. Their colors are "highlighter yellow," and black, and according to his coach the plus side is we will never lose his uniform and socks.

This week we made a dish called Jollof Rice, that reminded me a lot of gumbo. Justin loved it and I knew he would, since he typically likes "one dish dinners." Jollof Rice, and many other starchy dishes, are staples in Ghana. I liked this recipe because it allowed me to use some leftover veggies I had in the fridge. It is the kind of dish you can just throw any veggie of your choice into and it will taste good (Stacie Destin, this is your kind of meal too :)! I cheated a bit because it called for uncooked rice and I used Steamfresh with corn and veggies already mixed in. Anyway, it was very good, and we had lots of leftovers. Yum!

For dessert, we had plantains. Harris Teeter sells "microwave plantains," and all you have to do is follow the directions on the sticker to cook them! We sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar. The boys weren't too excited about them...and neither was I. Justin liked them. I think I'll try them again on top of vanilla ice cream. :)

Then we watched a short video about Ghana. We learned some interesting things, like the fact that public schooling is a fairly new concept, and the children do a lot of cleaning as well as learning in their schools. Carson was surprised to learn that in some of the poorer schools, the children own their desks and have to take them home over the holidays so they will not be stolen. Here are some other interesting facts about Ghana:

*music and dance is an important part of their culture
*the literacy rate has gone from 25%-60% in the past 40 years; compare that rate to 97% here in the US
*many children walk or bike 3 miles to school every day
*the children are responsible for sweeping their classrooms and arranging their tables and stools before the school day starts
*the children in Ghana are taught in English
*most kids cannot afford lunch, but the ones who can eat rice and spices at school
*there are many different ages in each classroom because school is still relatively new and there are so many learning levels
*the children love to play and enjoy a game called "Crooked and Straight"
*student wear uniforms to school so they all look the same even though many are poorer than others

Carson was also intrigued by the animals of Ghana, like the lizard who was doing pushups to keep himself off the hot sand. The Discovery Education website really did an excellent job teaching us about the people and animals of Ghana! Thank goodness I am married to one of the masterminds of Discovery Education and can view their wonderful teaching materials anytime I want! :)

I suggested to Jonah that at the end of our unit, it would be fun for him to create a "Worldly Menu" with meals from all the places we have studied. He got excited and decided to start right away. That kid is so much like me, it kills me. He made the "sign" for the restaurant and posted it on our easel. He calls it the "Rode Globe" restaurant, but he really means "Road." He listed all the places we've visited and will add to it as we go. I think I will end up helping him a lot with the menu part. I need to gather some menus from local restaurants as references.

Jonah liked the Jollof Rice and so did Sir Carson. I think this is a dish I will definitely make again!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mexico Here We Come

Last week, we studied Mexico, and I'd better go ahead and get this blog posted before it is time for another edition of Worldly Wednesday!

Carson picked Mexico, and I knew that it would be an easy one to plan a meal for since our whole family loves Mexican food! I was excited to introduce the boys to a new feature of our Worldly Wednesday...passports! My good friend, Christy Mazer sent this link to me, and we printed our passports and filled in the appropriate information.

This was also a great opportunity for Justin to talk to the boys about his own passport and how he needs it each time he travels out of the country on a business trip. He flipped through his passport and showed the boys all the interesting stamps he has received from places like Thailand, Jamaica, and Canada.

Carson and I decided to make salsa. We printed a book from (you'll have to sign up and receive a username and password to gain access to the entire site, but you can preview some books and see if you like it for free) called Making Salsa, by Ava G. Kalisch. Carson read the book to me, and we gathered the ingredients we would need for the salsa: peppers, onion, tomato, salt and black pepper, cilantro, and lemon juice. The book is very simple..."In go the peppers. In goes the onion. In goes the tomato." and so on. You could even write the sentences on a piece of paper and draw pictures to go with them. The website also has a printable worksheet with the pictures of the ingredients, which I printed and cut out. After Carson read the book two times, we retold the story using the pictures. Then he helped me put the ingredients in a bowl (I had already cut up all the veggies) and we mixed it up. We made some yummy salsa which we enjoyed with chips and our standard beef tacos for dinner!

After dinner, Justin showed the boys a short video about Mexico. They were interested in hearing the people of Mexico speak Spanish. They also learned about the climate and geography of Mexico. We read a little of the book, M is for Mexico, by Amy Weber (also from Afterward, Jonah recited the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish, which he learned in school last year.

Then the boys glued their stamps into their passports, stating they have "officially" visited Mexico on our world tour. Stay tuned for next week: Ghana, in honor of Carson's soccer team this fall! :)

One more note: Thanks to my wonderful neighbor, Leah Prasse, the names and pictures of the ingredients for our salsa are laminated so I can use them for other lessons. Maybe ABC order or a grocery store scavenger hunt? Do you have some ideas?I'd love for you to share!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Muffins and Math

Carson and I made muffins the other day. We had so much fun cooking together, and besides having yummy, healthy muffins to enjoy, we had a few great math lessons along the way. It just sort of happened that way. I am not even sure Carson knew he was learning some new stuff! Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?

So, we started with the ingredients. As we added them, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, Carson smelled them--he is a very sensory oriented kid--and measured them. We talked about how big a tablespoon is compared to a teaspoon, and a half a cup compared to a whole cup. Carson did the measuring, the counting, and the mixing. We decided to make some mini muffins and some regular sized muffins. When it was time to pour the muffin mixture into the muffin pans, we estimated how many muffins each muffin pan would make. Then we counted how many muffins each pan would make, and since we had three pans, how many muffins we would make all together. We got ready to put the muffins in the oven and discussed why the regular sized muffins would take more time to cook than the mini muffins.

While the muffins were baking, Carson asked me where his blue bandana was, and that led to a fun game to play while we were waiting. I lined up the spices we had used for the muffins: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves; and threw in a couple extras: garlic salt and sugar, and we played a guessing game. I put the bandana around Carson's eyes, and put each container under his nose so he could guess what he was smelling. He knew all of them! I was so impressed. He did inherit his good sniffer from me. :) Then he wanted me to guess, so I put on the bandana and had a turn. It was fun!

When the muffins were finished, we had a tasty snack. I added a secret ingredient this time--pomegranate craisins (we were out of raisins) and they added a yummy kick! I have posted the recipe for the Bran Muffins at the end of this post. I have to give credit to my good friend, Amber Butler's mom, Rachel Goodgame, for this wonderful recipe. I enjoy these muffins every time I make them. The great thing is, you can mix up a bunch and then keep the mix in the refrigerator. When you want to make them, just pour the batter in muffin cups and bake. Then you have fresh baked muffins. The batter is good in the fridge for three weeks.

Happy baking!

Recipe for Refrigerator Bran Muffins:

Beat together:
5 eggs
1 cup oil ( I substitute 1 cup of applesauce.)
1 qt. buttermilk ( I use lowfat buttermilk.)
2 tsps. vanilla

Stir the following into the above mixture:
20 oz. raisin bran cereal ( I use the cheapest brand I can find because it won’t make a difference.)
3 cups brown sugar
5 tsps. baking soda
1 tsp. cloves (I use less.)
1 tsp. salt (I use less.)
1 tsp. nutmeg
1½ tsps. cinnamon
3 cups flour

Pour into prepared small muffin pans.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

You can make regular sized muffins, just adjust the baking time.

The batter may be refrigerated up to 3 weeks, and bake as needed. Because it makes such a large amount, I sometimes make half a recipe. I can get about 7 dozen of the small muffins from half the recipe.