Saturday, December 18, 2010

While studying about Siberian Christmas we found this fun animation of the Christmas story.

We also learned that Christmas Eve dinner in Siberia is often a meal with 12 parts or dishes. These twelve items represent the 12 Apostles during the Holy Supper. Supper is served on Christmas Eve after the first star appears in the sky. I especially like finding that "After dinner, no dishes are washed and the Christmas presents are opened". I believe this is something we will have to do after our Christmas Around the World meal.

As a child myself I remember my mom sharing "Russian Tea" with us. I have found that indeed the instant tea, made with Tang, is based off a traditional tea made in Russia. Here is a yummy-looking recipe I hope to use with my family.

Russian Spice Tea - Christmas Holiday favorite

3 lemons

2 quarts weak tea

3 oranges

2 tbsp. whole cloves

1 pt. pineapple juice

2 c. sugar

Preparation: Squeeze juice from the lemons and oranges. Pour some boiling water over the cloves and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain the juice and cloves. Add sugar and mix well. Add the tea and heat to boiling. Serve hot.

On this same site is a recipe for Russian Tea Cakes, very similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies. I think we will have to have some of these to go with our tea.

Oh my, our Christmas Around the World celebration is going to be quite festive and yummy. I hope I am able to pull it all together. Check back soon to see what all we put together. I hope to have a menu finalized in the coming days and will post it as soon as I do.

Russian American Christmas

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas in Siberia

As we move away from Croatia our schedule is getting busier with Christmas preparations of our own, but we wanted to take the time to look at a few more countries, so today we will focus on a region in Russia, Siberia. As most people imagine, this part of the world can get incredibly cold during this time of year, but I have enjoyed reading about the way they bundle up and face the cold as they go on with daily life.

Christmas occurs in Siberia on January 6th as the Russian Orthodox refused to follow the Gregorian calendar and instead use the Julian to determine the date of the holiday. Because of this Christmas comes after the celebration of the New Year which is often the bigger celebration of the two. Christmas was also outlawed during a time in Soviet reign and this has had an effect on the traditions that have lasted to today.

One story we enjoyed hearing from Siberia was the folktale of Babushka, grandmother, and the role she plays in the gift-giving. It is the story that the three wise men asked Babushka to join them on their way to Baby Jesus. She refused and regretted it later. So, today she offers gifts to all the good children in place of the gifts she missed giving to the Christ-child.

Also in Siberia we found the Santa Claus is represented instead by Dedushka Moroz, Grandfather Frost, and his grandaughter, Snegurochka. These two show up on New Year's Eve to offer gifts of candy to the children.

Russian Crafts
Russian Christmas

Praying for the work of Alex and Yulia in Siberia. Learn more from them at Transform Siberia.

Christmas in Croatia- Cont.

Though I haven't had time yet to make and photograph the ornament for our Christmas Around the World Tree, I am planning to base it off this Croatian traditional ornament, the Licitar Heart. These hearts are given during many special celebrations in Croatia as a symbol of love. They are often edible, though I don't think mine will be.

For our meal I am hopeful our wheat that we planted on the 13th will have grown some, and we will place it in the middle of Bozic Pletenica, a braided bread wreath. A great-looking recipe can be found here.

I also hope to make Croatian Knedle (Potato Plum Dumplings) using the recipe found here. I may be a bit overambitious on all this food, but do hope to have as much of it done ahead of time as possible. We'll see.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas in Croatia

Next we wanted to take a look at Christmas in Croatia. This country has many long-standing Christmas traditions that date back to the 9th Century when Christianity was first introduced here. As in most other countries, homes are decorated with all kinds of festive items including a nativity. A variety of greenery is used, holly, ivy, evergreen boughs, etc., and in more recent years Christmas trees have also become a part of the holiday home.

On December 13th, St. Lucy's Day, many homes place wheat seeds in a saucer of water to begin to germinate. The growth of the wheat is considered a measure of next year's fortune. A tall, stalk of green wheat by Christmas Eve suggests a fruitful year ahead. Straw is also placed around the home and under the tablecloth as a sign of fertility and Christ's birth in a manger.

We'll be continuing to learn more about Croatian Christmas and be back soon to share what we learn.

Christmas Around the World
Holiday Traditions
Christmas in Croatia
100 Years in America

Christmas in the Philippines- Cont.

The kids and I had fun focusing on the Philippines and creating our own simple version of a parol. For these stars, we used colored vellum that allows light to shine through them. With them hanging in the window they make bright, cheery sun-catchers. I also made a miniature parol for hanging on our Christmas Around the World Tree.

Here is a recipe for Pancit Bihon shared by our friend, Naomi, in Mandaluyong City, Philippines. We look forward to making this for our Christmas Around the World Dinner planned for a couple weeks from now.

Pancit Bihon
1 8 oz. package pancit bihon noodles (or angel hair pasta)
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded (can also use pork)
1 pound shrimp (optional)
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1/4 cabbage, sliced into strips
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, sliced into thin strips two inches long
3 stalks celery, sliced into thin strips two inches long
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Teaspoon oyster sauce (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
5 wedges of lemon
Soak the pancit bihon noodles in warm tap water to soften for 10 minutes.
Grease a large pan or wok with oil. Saute garlic and onions.
Add the chicken broth, the shredded chicken breast and all the vegetables until cooked.
Mix in the pancit bihon noodles and add the soy sauce, cook for about 5 minutes or until
the noodles are soft. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot with lemon wedges on the side.
Serves 6 as main dish.
Serves 10 as side dish.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas in the Philippines

Moving on from Africa we focused our studies on the chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines. Christmas is a big deal here! As we saw in South America a large percentage of this nation has Catholic influences. (They also have a Misa de Gallo, known as Simbag Gabi in Tagalog). Celebration of the holiday season begins back in September. Yes, in September, when people begin decorating and start a daily countdown from 100 days. This is even broadcast on the nightly news.

Many homes decorate on the inside as much as they can afford to with Christmas trees and a Nativity. The most important decoration in a Filipino Christmas is the parol. This star lantern can be hand-crafted by the family, but is also available commercially.

Gift-giving is an central part of Christmas in the Philippines with gifts often exchanged amongst family, friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. The biggest celebration takes place at midnight on December 24th. During this time, Buena Noche, gifts are shared and a large meal enjoyed.

Caroling takes place throughout the region by those seeking to gain money or food. Performances can also be planned as a way to raise support for charitable work. We enjoyed listening to this Christmas song done by a school in the Philippines.

We'll be back soon to share a little more of what we learned about this region of the world.

Christmas in the Philippines

Special thanks to Naomi for sharing all she is learning in the Philippines. Praying for you and your family.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas in Tanzania- Cont.

Here are the results of our study of Tanzania. For our craft we focused on creating Cut Paper Collages of Christmas scenes. This is a few of the kids works, though they had so much fun with it, they have made many of them to decorate the house.

I also finished the ornament to represent Tanzania on the World Christmas tree- an African-style angel.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas in Tanzania

Continuing with our studies of Christmas Around the World we zoom over to Tanzania today to look at an African country. This country has a population that is largely Muslim, so Christmas is not as prominent as it is in other parts of the world. On a whole the nation is poorer than most as well, so we learned children often receive a set of cloths as their main gift (possibly the only clothes they will receive all year). Knowing that Christmas is simpler here makes me look at our American Christmas through different eyes. What a wealth of things we have for ourselves even when we think the budget is a bit tight. It is good to be reminded of the need around the world for simple things that we take for granted.

Our craft for today is roughly based off the book The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora. This book is a retelling of the well-known poem by Clement Moore with beautiful artwork depicting an African setting. It is done in a cut-paper collage format that we will be duplicating with our own Christmas images. This is a great way for us to incorporate our paper-fold-and-cut snowflakes for this holiday season. Be back tomorrow to share our results.

For links used in reference today go to:
Christmas in Africa
Christmas in Tanzania

Praying for Mavuno Village and their work in Tanzania.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas in Puerto Rico

Now we travel to Puerto Rico in our Christmas Around the World studies. A Puerto Rican Christmas has similar traditions to Bolivia with many of the influences coming from Spanish descent and Catholic history.

Holiday celebrations begin after Thanksgiving and last until January 6, El Día de los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day). Most of the festivities center around music, such as parrandas (caroling), where groups of friends travel the neighborhoods waking up "unsuspecting" neighbors with singing. The group is welcomed with parties and further singing through the night. Here is a well-known song I thought fitting to share.

Many Puerto Ricans do their big feast on Christmas Eve and also attend La Misa de Gallo. After a week of celebrating and bringing in the new year, the children prepare for Three Kings Day by placing a box with grass under their beds for the kings' camels and in return receive gifts. For our Christmas Around the World tree we created a star (again from the ornament dough) to represent los Tres Reyes Magos who followed the star to Bethlehem in search of Christ.

Links I referenced:
A Puerto Rican Christmas
Welcome to Puerto Rico
Christmas Traditions of Puerto Rico

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas in Bolivia- Cont.

Here are the results of some of our Bolivian Christmas studies. The felt gallo is for adding to our Christmas Around the World tree.

The pesebre created with the ornament dough recipe from my previous post. (These were created by my children, ages 8 and under). The background is a woven cloth brought from Bolivia to me by my sister and brother-in-law.

For further study of Bolivia we will be endeavoring to make some treats that may be found in Bolivian homes around the holidays. Here are a couple links to recipes for special candies, Turrones, and puff pastry, Buñuelos.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas in Bolivia

For our first country we focused on Bolivia as a representation of South American culture. We listened to a few villancicos de Navidad (Christmas carols) and found this one to share.
We read that many Bolivian homes have a pesebre (nativity) as their centerpiece. To make our own pesebre we are using the following recipe and molding the pieces:

Clay Christmas Ornaments
Mix together in a large bowl.
4 c flour
1 c salt
1 tsp alum
1 1/2 c water
If the dough is too dry, work in another Tablespoon of water. Roll dough to 1/8" and cut with cookie cutters, or mold dough into figures no more than 1/2" thick.
Bake ornaments at 250 degrees Fahrenheit on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 30 min. Turn over and bake another 1 1/2 hr until dry and hard. Remove and cool.
Sand with fine sandpaper and paint. Seal with clear acrylic or shellac.

We also found that many Bolivians attend La Misa Del Gallo (Mass of the Rooster). This name is based on the legend that the rooster may have been the first animal to announce the birth of Jesus. To remember all the countries we are studying this year we have started a felt tree. Each country will be represented by an ornament we place on the tree. For Bolivia we have chosen to make and add a rooster. For now I will share this wonderful rooster I found online. Soon I hope to have pictures of our own work to share.

For more links and sites I have referenced go to:
Bolivia Bella
Christmas Traditions in Spain and Latin America

The Ornament Recipe is loosely based on a recipe found in Feed Me I'm Yours by Vicki Lansky.

Christmas Around the World

Christmas is such a busy time in our home, that I decided to take a relaxed approach to our home school day. Our plan for the next month is to continue with math and reading, while for other subject areas, we will be completing a unit study on Christmas around the world. As there would be no way to cover the cultural traditions of most of the countries, we have chosen to focus our studies on countries that have a more personal meaning to our family. In the upcoming days I will be organizing my thoughts and ideas here, so feel free to glean any helpful ideas that would benefit your own home. (And if you have any ideas to share with us, please feel free to leave a comment. We love to learn.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Duck Soup by Jackie Urbanovic

Each day I start preschool time by asking Bearhugs and Darlin' to pick out a book each for me to read to them. I find that it is something they look forward to and beg for if we miss it. One of the books chosen for today was Duck Soup by Jackie Urbanovic. We received this book from an Aunt and Uncle as an addition to our library in honor of Bearhugs 5th birthday. It has become an instant favorite.

By Darlin' (DD3) and Bearhugs (DS5)

After our reading time the kids often want a craft to do that goes with the story. (Construction paper and glue never last very long at our house =) So for today I thought I'd take the time to share kiddo's creations. Notice Trapper and Trout won't be left out of preschool activities when if involves paper and glue!

By Trout (DS7) and Trapper (DS8)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Slow Cooked Moroccan Chicken from

Always on the hunt for more great recipes for the Crock-pot I came across this Moroccan-Style Chicken that my family loved. It is a little different than the typical American flavoring we are accustomed, too, but it is a fun ethnic food that we all enjoyed.
Slow Cooked Moroccan Chicken


  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 8 oz. baby carrots with tops, trimmed, or baby carrots, halved lengthwise if large
  • 1/2 cup pitted dried plums (prunes)
  • 1 14-oz. can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
  • 1-1/4 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon


1. In a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker combine onion and carrots. Add plums and broth. Top with chicken. In a small bowl combine curry powder, salt, and cinnamon. Sprinkle over chicken.

2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. Remove chicken, fruit, and vegetables from cooker with a slotted spoon. Spoon some of the cooking juices on each serving. Makes 4 servings.

This recipe is not my own and can be found at

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What I'm Learning About Tae Kwon Do

Hana, Dul, Set, Net...
Let me start by saying this is a crash cultural course if there ever was one! I have no background in martial arts of any form. No one in my family participated in them, I never attended any events surrounding them, and my understanding of martial arts was predominantly formed by movies such as The Karate Kid (think 1984 version with chopstick fly nabbing).

Fast forward a couple decades and now I have children that want an after school activity that both challenges and fascinates. Enter, Tae Kwon Do.

After a thorough search of the internet and local do-jangs we decided to look into a Kukkiwon approved studio that works with all ages. Upon visiting with Master M. we decided to preview the first couple classes before signing up full-time.

We were impressed and overwhelmed, to say the least. In the first class it became apparent that the older more experienced students are responsible for the younger students. My 7yo DS, Trout, jumped into the first class excited to try this new experience. In about 2 seconds he realized he had no idea what he was doing, didn't understand why this older boy was redirecting him, and figured it might be best to watch from the sidelines where his 3 siblings were already gawking at all that was going on.

The class starts with a simple stretching routine. As the students follow the masters instructions they are sure to respond with "Yes, Ma'am" and the proper Korean counting. They work through a series of simple exercises before moving to more difficult techniques that are to be learned or worked on by all participating. The more advanced "belts" (students that have tested to prove their advanced understanding) work to help the newer students, or lower "belts". Everyone in uniform is expected to participate. At this particular do-jang respect of authority is strongly emphasized as the students must respond properly and do as expected or they are punished with further exercise (most often push-ups).It's great! Currently all 4 of my kids participate, ages 8, 7, 5, & 3, and they love it! I love the training they are receiving on respect, discipline, exercise, routine, and defense. It is an excellent reinforcement of so many things we hope to instill in our children at home, but how fun and cool is it to learn while wearing white uniforms!

Stick around and I'll share more about all this in future posts as I am learning more all the time.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Homemade Meals- Hearty Veggie Beef Stew

As a busy mom and wife with 6 of us to feed, there are many times I find myself wondering how food is going to appear on our table come meal time. I enjoy cooking some days, some days I don't. I have lots of time to think about cooking some days, some days I don't. I have a thoroughly filled pantry and fridge some days and some days I don't. So as a favor to myself and a way of sharing some of the things I have learned with others, I hope to have an ongoing blog meme concerning all these matters. Let's begin...

The first of many recipes I want to share is assembled by myself and prepared by my trusty cooking companion, the Crock Pot. This recipe is great! Throw in all the ingredients, fix a side of biscuits (especially if you have no eggs for bread or rolls) and sit down to a great dinner once you have all congregated around the family meal table.

Hearty Veggie Beef Stew

2 lbs. lean stewing beef, thawed the night before and cut into 1" cubes
3 medium potatoes diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced chunky
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp thyme
16 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups water
2 bouillon cubes (water and bouillon may be replaced with beef stock)

Combine all ingredients in crock. Cover and cook- Low for 8-10 hrs; High 4-5 hrs

Delicious option for the end of a cool fall day! Enjoy!

Monday, September 13, 2010

They Were Completely Amazed

While looking at Scripture this morning I was caught up on this portion of Mark 6, "They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened." This chapter recalls the event of Jesus walking on a stormy sea to calm the waves for His disciples lurching about in their boat. (This all happened shortly after the feeding of the five thousand, hence the reference to the loaves, a provision from the Lord.) As He approached the vessel they became frightened thinking He was a ghost, but He settled their hearts by announcing Himself before climbing into the boat and calming the storm. As the storm abates the disciples were amazed that Christ could accomplish this "for they had not understood about the loaves;...".

So many times I find myself in the same predicament, wondering how the Lord will see me through my trial of the moment. Then, when He answers "immeasurably more than all [I] ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within [me]", I am amazed. Have I forgotten the many ways He has already cared for me?

I must then ask myself the questions found in Galatians 3:3. "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" When the disciples found themselves on storm-tossed seas, yet again, Christ is there to meet their need and answer before they have even asked. Why should I doubt that He will answer my need? I am not able to accomplish anything as great as He, so I need to continue to trust Him.
May my faith in Him grow greater! That I may know to surrender my path to His will, trusting always that He will guide my steps, even through the dark ways.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:24)."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saturday Morning Donuts

This morning I woke up to a crisp, chill in the air and thought, "Today is a good day for donuts!" Silly, yes, but it doesn't help when one is reading Homer Price to the kids at night and you just recently read the chapter on the unstoppable donut machine =)

So with vim and vigor I got up and decided to try my hand at making donuts for my family. I got my tried and true copy of Joy of Cooking from the shelf and mixed up a batch of Sweet Milk Donuts with my 3yo's help. The dough was a little sticky, so I had to add flour. While I was doing that my oil got too hot, so the first donuts out were a bit doughy in the centers.

But, lo and behold, after getting the temperature corrected and the consistency of the dough right, we ended up with a beautiful batch of homemade donuts. This recipe was so sweet that we decided they were good enough without added sugar or glaze. What fun! Glad I got up and did this today, but my thighs will thank me for not doing it all that often!BTW Notice my utensils here. The biscuit cutter was my Grandmother's and the smaller cutter (used for the centers) was taken from my kids play dough supplies. Gotta love play dough cutters =)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

School Scheduling

Well that time of year has come again. I have been busy organizing materials, planning and preparing for our upcoming school year. In some ways it can be overwhelming to get it all done, but one bite at a time, and I am so thankful for the results when I get done.

You can see my most recent daily school schedule here. This is a result of lots of time and reflection on what has worked for us in the past. It is an ever-changing agenda that acts as a guideline for our school days, but by no means is it a rule.

Now time to focus on the individual subjects themselves as I finish pulling together materials, establish yearly and monthly goals, and excite my children for their upcoming academic pursuits.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Grocery Shopping

New adventures at the local grocery store

Hope this lasts more than a week