Monday, November 30, 2015

First-Time Tradition: Black Friday Family Hike

How was your Thanksgiving?  I feel like this was the best one we've had in a very long time.  We hosted for our families for the very first time this year! Being two thousand miles away certainly deters the frequent family visits! =)  But this year we had 16 people, four dogs and our two cats in our little mobile.  And it was so wonderful!  Not a perfect meal, but perfect time together.  

Not the purpose of this post, but a couple recipes we have for Thanksgiving that I love (and some were asking for) are the whole wheat rolls (shaped like these pumpkins if you have the time!) with French Cardamom Apple Jam, Balsamic Rosemary Ham, slow-cooker cranberry sauce, Broccoli Casserole (recipe to come) and Spiced Cider (this one is my husband's concoction and I'm hoping he'll let me share this one here soon, too!)

What I really want to write about is a new tradition we were able to start this year and I definitely want to uphold in future years: a Black Friday Hike!  While this may not have been feasible at our Fairbanks home, hiking in this mild climate’s November was refreshing!  After a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, all interested piled into a car and drove just down the road or the maze of trails at the arboretum. 

It was quite frosty, but only on the north side of the hills and became quite pleasant in the sun.  We just dressed in layers and I had room in my pack for all the extra layers as we hiked on the south side.  Another perk of having some grandparents along: extra arms to carry tuckered tykes! 

 We ended up hiking about 3 ½ miles, some of it quite steep, and I’m proud to say my eldest did it all on his own!  Boy, did they sleep good that night!

It felt like the perfect activity for the day after Thanksgiving as we were able to go out and explore together (hikes are much more fun for my little wildlings if the grandparents are along!) and we worked off some of the feast from the day before!  And I hate shopping, so that wasn’t even an option, anyway!  How do you celebrate Thanksgiving after the meal?  I love how each family does certain things to make the celebration uniquely theirs!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Involving the Wee Ones in the Thanksgiving Fun (Plus a Free Printable!)

My Helpers getting ready for the Grandparents' arrival!
Wow, is it ever a Monday!  Whew!  And just before Thanksgiving, no less!  Actually, that thought is making me feel happier!  I'm so excited for Thanksgiving this year!  This is the first year since we've been married to have this holiday with ALL our family (AND some new friends!) together.  And its going to be in our tiny house!  Yeah it's going to be cozy! =)
Maybe I should be a little more stressed, but for whatever reason, I'm not really feeling it!  And I'm grateful for that.  My simple goal is that one will leave with empty stomachs or hearts.
One of the jobs I love as a Mom is the tradition maker/keeper.  I get to bring and teach the meaning of these holidays to our little ones.  The past several years we'd already been covered in feet of snow and ice, so this has been a bit of a new feel to Thanksgiving this year.  Trying to keep it simple and fun (we are dealing with toddlers/preschools after all) here are some of the ways I've tried to get them involved and just keep the celebration fun.
1. Thankful Tree: tried and true idea, new printable!  We did this with our play group last year and for the last several on our own.  You can just draw leaves on or cut them out and glue them on.  I'm going to try to have our oldest write out his own thankful words to put on the tree this year as he's just starting to figure that out!  If you open the blank tree in a new tab, it should be big enough to print out for your own thankfulness.
2. Coffee Filter Leaves:  As I mentioned before, colorful leaves were a scarce commodity by the time Thanksgiving rolled around in Fairbanks, so these colorful substitutions were a fun craft for the littles.  I cut out a simple leaf shape from a small stack of filters, drew the veins on some in permanent marker the set the young 'uns loose with their watercolors.  It's fun to watch the colors bleed so well into the loose filter paper.  We tried to stick to autumn colors, but our little lady was bound and determined to have a blue leaf this year!  They also look very nice in a window with the light shining through!

3. Leaf snack bowls: our super creative friend invited us over to make these fun little bowls!  I love how they turned out!  We rolled out oven baked clay, pressed a leaf into the clay then removed the leaf to leave it's impression.  After trimming the edges, we gently pressed them into oven safe bowls to give them shape and let them cook according to the clay package directions (I believe it was 15 min. at 350).  Once they had cooled, we did a coat of acrylic paint, then a metallic top coat.  I think they turned out so cute and we are definitely setting them out on Thursday!
4. Pumpkin Votives: I was seeing this idea online in several places and thought it would be a fun, quick addition to the tablescape.  I did have to go buy the right drill bit (1 1/2" to fit a standard tea light candle).  Actually, my husband and son took over this project on their own!  I love it when the guys get excited about these types of projects!  The only things I would warn is not to get too small of gourds: they just crack.  And then just be careful not to drill too deep!
I had plans for thankful list napkin holders or placemats and coloring sheets for the kids, but my printer machine decided to bite the dust last night!  And I still need to find a good story of Thanksgiving to read (any suggestions?) As far as setting the table, I usually just like to use what we already have laying around like harvested ptarmigan feathers, pinecones, doilies and gourds.  Those all feel so autumn-ey to me!  If you'd like to see how the day comes together for us, check out our instagram account 
More fun ideas for the day of Thanksgiving:


Monday, November 16, 2015

Come In, We're Open!

Good morning, all!   I hope you all have had a good week despite the horrific news from Paris!  Continual prayers for all involved.  I hope you’ll forgive my inactivity on here lately, but I have been working to get my Etsy shop updated.  I hope you will get a chance to check it out here!  Right now I am focusing on hand painted ornaments in anticipation of Christmas.  Each one takes several hours to complete, in my case spread out over several days.  When little ones are awake, focused painting sessions are few!

I sold many of these the year before Fynn was born and ended up creating about a half dozen or so custom orders.  These were so much fun and I just admired the creative ideas each individual had, often customizing with name, event, and year.
  Anyway, all that to say if you or any one you know is interested in a special ornament this year, please let me know!  Here’s a sampling of some of my custom and past orders:

Enjoy this season of anticipation and celebration!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mountain Apple Dumpling Recipe



Do you still have any apples left?  As promised, I’d like to share with you our Mountain Apple Dumplings.  Now, I’d like to tell you some wonderful, woodland tale about backpacking deep into the Cascades and stumbling across a story book cottage of a sweet, elderly, mountain lady who kindly shared with us her treasured family recipe.  That’s the fable that plays in my head when I hear the name but, no, not quite so romantic.  The name comes from the secret ingredient: Mountain Dew.

Is this healthy?  Eh, “healthy” is a continuum, right?  It’s better than some, has real fruit in it and is amazingly delicious!  This recipe is quick and easy and always ends up being a hit at get-togethers.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been asked for this recipe!  And the funny thing is that, though I got this recipe from my Mom ages ago, she and I have both evolved it to our own tastes, and now we would write it out completely differently.  So take this recipe as a general guide and have fun with it!  I’ll include some comments about different ways you could tweak it. 

Mountain Apple Dumplings


2-4 apples

2 refrigerated crescent dough (or pie dough)

1 c. butter (she uses 1/2 cup)

½ c. sugar (or 1 cup for tart apples)

1 can Mountain Dew (I don't usually have soda in the house and have used orange juice in a pinch.  I works, but changes the flavor)

1-2 TBSP Cinnamon (I like to add nutmeg, cloves or allspice, too!)

See!?  Every ingredient is adjustable!  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Core and slice apples into 16 pieces.  You may peal them if you desire, but I usually leave the skins on. 
Wrap each slice in a triangle of dough (it’s okay if it’s not completely covered) and place in greased 9x13” pan. 
They will probably all be touching.  Pour sugar evenly over dumplings, then spices over the sugar. 
 Gently (so as not to wash all the sugar off dumplings) pour butter, then Mountain Dew evenly over dumplings. 
Cook for one hour, then enjoy!  These taste amazing warm with a little ice cream!

Can I just share the story of this plate while I have it in a photo.  I know it’s not much, but I think it’s beautiful: emerald on the top and cobalt underside.  My kinda colors!  So, we were on our daily walk down our dirt/ice road last breakup (spring) in Fairbanks.  As the snow had just begun to melt it revealed this beautiful plate, surprisingly unbroken, on the side of the road.  Though I immediately wanted to take it home (is that gross?  I sanitize!) I figured it belonged to someone farther down, so I set it upright in a snowbank so any one passing would be sure to see it.  I let a week pass and it remained, so I brought it home and thought of it as my lovely scavenger’s treasure.  Not long after before we were having a meal on our porch because it was finally ABOVE FREEZING!!! And the baby pushed the plate off the table and it shattered into a million pieces.  Aw man, sad!  Oh well.  I threw it away.

Does he remind anyone else of a tiny Kristoff?
My walking buddies
The next day on our walk, I found the exact same plate in the exact same spot!!!!  What?  Wow, thanks, God!  Hee hee!  Now my little miracle plate makes me happy every time I see it.  And who said God doesn’t care about the little things! =)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Beyond the Books: October

Another month in the books of our first year homeschooling preschool!  Again I wanted to share the ways we took learning past the books.  When I say books, really all we're doing is a couple of workbooks I found at the book store for writing and math.  Partially because he doesn't get this as much day-to-day and also just because he wants to learn!  I love that mindset in him!  He finished his first two books this month and was so proud of himself (as we were!)

AND he learned to ride his bike with no training wheels!  No book can teach that =)

New structures: as much as we could we talked about how each of these were made and why.

Harbor Docks

Covered Bridges

Lava rock observatory

Giant Compass!
Light house visit
New landscapes


Coastal rocks

Tide rising

Ancient Lava Flows

New animals:

So much learning at the Whale Museum

New plants and how they work:
Kelp at the ocean: grows under water with air pockets

How logs can hollow out at the center

How pumpkins grow on vines in the field (and what the insides look like!)

How apples grow from trees (and how to pick them)

Carnivorous lilies in a bog 

On a stay-at-home morning (hence the jammies =) ) he changed the plates on our vehicles almost all by himself with his own tools!

 Our friends' little preschooler has been super interested in volcanos, so we decided to make our own.  I'd done the baking soda and vinegar before, but this time we added food coloring and dish soap and it really made it dramatic and longer lasting.  We also made our own volcanos out of a cup set on a plate, then covered in tin foil.  I attempted to make it look like a snow-covered peak by spraying it with hairspray and dusting with flour.  Such fun!

Then we got the guys in the kitchen helping us cook to make carameled apples.  I had help throughout the month cooking.  Such a great way for them to reap the benefits of their hard work and be careful with the measuring and stirring.

Cultural Experience: Highland Games!  Such joy watching the events and pipes, then they danced the night away with the Highland Country Dancers (P.E.?)!

There was so much more, but I'll leave it at that for now! If you'd like any more information about any of these things, please wade back through the posts of the last month or feel free to shoot me a comment or message!  Happy learning!