Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chunky Block Nativity Set

Here is an inexpensive gift for a child in your life.  Takes a little bit of elbow grease but is well worth the effort.  I can see these in my classroom and in my home for many years to come.

Nativity set made from a 4x6 scrap and old paint we had in the garage.   I cut, sanded, painted, sanded again (for the aged look), and then Mod Podged the graphic to the front of each block.

Mary, Joseph, Jesus (sprayed this block with gold before sanding the second time), the angel and star.

Caesar Augustus, Innkeeper, Wise Men and camel.

Shepherd man and boy, sheep, donkey and cow. 

I love how it's a very complete set.

I got the graphics from Prepared Not Scared.   They worked well and her script of the nativity play will go great while telling the story initially to my kids.  I'll laminate it as well so the kids can use it when they are playing with the set. 

I Can Teach My Child

Fall Project Update

After saving peanut butter jars for a year, I had enough to make alphabet jars!

Inside hold little things that start with that letter. The kids love to explore them and we try to guess the letter without looking at the top.  There are all sorts of things to do with these.

Here is the back-to-school sensory bin.

Back-to-school bulletin board

Fall bulletin board

Apple sensory bin.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Jamaican Mission Trip

It's been a week since we have returned from Jamaica and I still haven't processed it all.   I laugh.  I cry.  I long to go back to help.  I saw Jesus daily, which reminds me to keep my eyes wide open here.  It's hard to find the words to explain what took place while we were there.  The best way to find out is to go.  Go on a foreign mission trip.  I know there are plenty of needs here in the US, and we should be working every day where we are to help those around us, but to take yourself out of your comfort zone and be planted in a place where things are most definitely different will broaden your faith.  I encourage you to pray about a future distributed journey. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Making Things for the Preschool Classroom

The minute school gets out I have a list of a dozen things I want to make for my classroom for next year.  Here are a few I have finished.

I love the Montessori Color Tablets because they have so many uses.  I've made my set with paint chips, trimmed and glued back to back so the same color is on both sides.  They will get laminated before use.  My students will start out practicing their visual discrimination, trying to put them in order, and learning what light and dark colors are.  They will be useful when teaching primary and secondary colors.

I got the idea for these craft stick barnyard animals from Make and Takes.  I'll use them in my barnyard sensory box.  Sensory boxes are another new thing I am doing this year.  I had a few very basic ones last year and the kids adored them.  I've been collecting things like mad to have one or two each month. 

Lots more to come.... 

On a side note, the spell check in Blogger isn't working.  Anyone else use Blogger and have this problem and know how to fix it?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Emma's First 5K

Emma ran her first 5K while we werer in MN with a time of 31:45!  Nice job girl!  I coached her the entire way and when asked if she would run with me again she quickly said, no.  LOL.  She'll always remember how hard she ran her first race :)
These ladies ran the kids race and did a fantastic job!

Friday, June 29, 2012

We Have Been....

 Right when school got out we packed up the minivan and headed out.  And now we are back and I'm feeling as if summer is already over.  Agghh.  I think it's just the amount of unpacking I still have to do.

Our first stop: Chattanooga.  We stop there every year and check out something different each time.  This year we went to the Tennessee Aquarium.  They have a building that is a river journey and a different one that is the ocean journey.  Both have lots to see.  Here the girls are at the sting ray tank waiting for one to breeze by.  Fun stuff.

Next we stopped in Indianapolis for a visit with their cousins. At some point on every visit they end up dressing up, acting crazy, and modeling for us.

Wisconsin wins the award for the most large animal statues.  This one, a particularly
 angry chicken,  was in the parking lot of a diner.  You can see the large cow in the distance.  Honestly, there are several animals on the road from Milwaukee to St. Paul.  Apparently, it's their thing.  And yes, there is also a giant cheese.

I attended my 20th reunion while I was home.  It was a lot of fun to see old friends.  We had a graduating class of a little less than 200 and almost all of us had lived in South St. Paul all our lives.  The kids you went to kindergarten with were the kids you graduated with.  Just say we all know each other pretty well.  My good friends and I had to go out the night before so we could spend time with other people the next night.  There's just too much to talk about!

The following day we had to get all of our kids together.  They had a blast.  The girls way outnumbered the boys.  Hopefully they will grow up knowing each other, even if they see each other once a year.  It's great to have out-of-state friends.

That gets us through the first week.  Part 2 to come...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's Been Up

 Singing the National Anthem at another softball game.

Attending an 80's party.

Emma as "Chip" in Beauty and the Beast

A first birthday cake I made for a special boy!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Chocolate Beet Cake Update

I'm sure you are on the edge of your seat, waiting on an update on the Dark Chocolate Beet Cake.  I hope I didn't cause any sleepless night from you wondering what had become of it.

I made this cake last Saturday.  It is now Friday and there is one piece remaining (it normally wouldn't make it this long but it was Teacher Appreciation Week this week and I got a lot of tasty treats).  It has been in the refrigerator under a cake dome all week and it's STILL moist and delicious.  Just thought you should know.

Excuse me, while I go take care of this....

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dark Chocolate Beet Cake

I am headed into 6 weeks of craziness.  There is not going to be any time for baking, blogging, reading, or cleaning (I wish).  I am using this weekend to get ahead on anything that I can.  I made meal plans for the next few weeks and the beets in my refrigerator didn't quite fit in (nobody is a fan but me).  I couldn't let them go to waste and because I won't be baking any time soon, I thought I'd make a cake I pinned a while back.  Chocolate Beet Cake by VeggieBelly

I'll let you go look at the recipe over at her place but here are a few of my pictures with some notes you might find helpful.  While cooking the beets the recipe said that the liquid should be gone after cooking but I had plenty of liquid left over. I drained it off and will add it to my morning smoothie.  It's the most beautiful red (sweet tasting, too). 

I love recipes where all the ingredients can be weighed.  It just easier that way and everything is ready to go. 

Isn't the beat puree awesome??  The recipe said that it took about 3-4 large beets to get 300 grams.  I had 3 beets and it was more than double what the recipe called for.  I saved the extra puree to add to Scarlett's apple sauce.  I think she'll dig the red if I don't add too much to change the taste.  If she won't go for it I can add that to my smoothies too.

The recipe called for a 10 inch cake pan but I used a 9 inch.  The baking time was a little longer and I probably could have left it in another minute or two.  I would much rather have a moist cake than a dry one and I find there is a fine line there.  I think my cooking time was 38 minutes.


I love a good ganache.  I didn't have heavy cream and not even enough half and half.  I ended up using half and half and 2% milk and only making about half the amount of ganache in the original recipe.  There was still tons left over which I will most likely eat by the spoonful right out of the jar.

If I waited to top it until the cake was completely cool I would have used more but I couldn't do it.  I had it on the cooling rack about 5 minutes before frosting it.   The recipe also says to let the ganache set before serving.  If letting the ganache set for 22 seconds counts (the time it took me to lick off the spatula), then I nailed that step.

The cake is incredibly moist and so very chocolaty, like a mud cake  I could taste a little beet because I obviously knew it was there.  My daughter just read this post over my shoulder and cannot believe I fed her beet cake.  She had no idea.  I haven't told anyone else and I made her promise she couldn't either.  It might kill her. She has this nervous laugh when she is holding something back and I'm thinking that the secret will be out as soon as anyone attempts to take a slice.  

This cake is so much better cooled the day after (I put it in the refrigerator because of the ganache). Absolutely no trace of beet.  Just one rich and chocolaty cake that is even good cold. 
This might be my go-to chocolate cake!

I love telling my peeps AFTER they eat something what they just ate.  I have been known to try some strange recipes and if they know beets are involved I know there will be no takers.   I really cannot afford to eat this entire cake by myself, although I can't help but think that it's a health food with all that beet (and all that sugar??)!  Maybe it will freeze well...I can ration it out over the next six weeks.

Go ahead and try this one!  You will be pleased!

And just to make you laugh....a picture of my youngest. 
This completely captures her true essence.

Monday, April 2, 2012


The one hobby that I have gotten rid of because of the the added work days this year is gardening.  I love to garden but there just isn't enough time in the day.  There was a huge sale on plants and soil so I finally gave in.  I spend a good deal of my weekend preparing the bed and then connecting a drip irrigation system that I purchased a few years ago but had never installed.   

Here is my blueberry bush that the girls have named Blue Baby.  I also planted watermelon (worth a shot), orange peppers and several varieties of tomatoes.   I have three larger beds on the other side of the house but I know I won't have time for that much.  I'm keeping it simple.

You can kind of see the irrigation system.  It works so well!  While I was at it I dug around, laid weed fabric, and mulched my three citrus trees.  They are finally producing fruit (because I finally fertilized and watered them).  Let's hope it doesn't get too hot too soon and fry all my plants!  I also hope that the squirrels stay away long enough for us to get some of the harvest.  They are my main garden pest.

Any garden aspirations this year?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pursuing Your Calling Rather Than Your Potential

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I received Amy Chua’s book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother this past Monday and could hardly put it down.  Our lives and parenting styles are vastly different; however, each page I read makes me think about why I do what I do and how I can do it better.  Each night after reading I went to bed and thought about why I felt something huge was missing when taking the Tiger Mother approach to parenting; it dawned on me that, while the dedication and service to the children achieving their potential was unmatched, serving others was not a priority as the child became the extreme focus of each and every day.  God gave me the gift of a servant’s heart, so it becomes a part of everything I do and what I try to teach my children.

At the same time as reading the book, I listened to a sermon from Pastor Mark Driscoll in his series on the gospel of Luke.  Jesus just gets through casting out demons and healing the sick and in Luke 4:42-44 He moves on.  As you can imagine, everyone wants Him to heal more people.  He has the power to make everyone well but He does not.  He tells them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.”  You see, He has huge potential but a very different calling.  He does heal others and casts out more demons but His focus is on preaching per His calling.

I have a very dear friend, Hannah, whom I met on a mission trip to Ukraine.  We were there to be of service to orphans, while showing Jesus’ love to them.   Hannah distinctly heard God’s calling for her life to be one of service to Ukrainian orphans.  For the almost three years since our trip she has been back to Ukraine three times, staying 82 days.  Did I mention Hannah is still in high school?  Not only does she have a heart to serve, she excels academically and has the most amazing voice.  Before the first trip, she was planning on majoring in music.  After several trips, she had everything in line to study at a Ukrainian institute for her medical degree, while pursuing her ministry with the children in the orphanage system.  Just recently she decided that, although by being a doctor she could be of great service (she certainly has the potential for it), she also wants to focus on orphans and eventually to be a mother.  With wisdom beyond her years, she understands her purpose is not in line with her potential.  She is instead pursuing a ministry degree and planning her permanent move to Ukraine this summer.  That is inspiration and inspirational.

In high school I wanted to be an architect.  I received early admission to the school of my choice in their pre-architecture program but was persuaded to go into geological engineering because, at the time, there was not a job market for architects, and the engineering field was a prosperous one.  I did not end up getting that engineering degree because in my junior year I hit a breaking point while working on a physics problem requiring me to calculate some sort of friction some sort of monkey caused by climbing up a rope.  I could not care less and felt my chosen path was wrong for me.  Always being the one to make rash decisions based solely on emotion, I switched to biology without a plan for what I would ever do with a biology degree.  After MANY years of blowing aimlessly from job to job, I discovered teaching and found my calling.  I had never thought of teaching before but now after teaching both high school sciences and preschool students, I cannot imagine any other field of work.  Looking back, I would have been a great architect.  I have a great aptitude for math (or at least I did at one point) and love design, building, and creating.  I do not regret not following my calling back then, as I would not have the blessings and pure joy I have now, or maybe I would, it just would have been different. 

So while Amy Chua pushes her children to pursue their potential, I have chosen to push my children to pursue their calling.  Do I know what their calling is yet?  Honestly, no.  But I do have an idea of what their calling is not.  It is awesome Amy had the courage to write such a book and give us an insight to the hows and whys of being a Chinese Mother.  Reading this will make me push myself and my children a little harder, but in their pursuit of calling instead of that which the world deems as potential.