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Cloistered Away | Ginger CookiesCloistered Away | Ginger Cookies

I look forward to this season every year, when the home twinkles and the hearth glows, when the kitchen smells of spices and baked goods or a simmering pot on the stove, when the children and I begin afternoon tea with Advent read-aloud and crafts, when we thoughtfully plan out our gifts to make or purchase for dear and near ones. And yet this particular holiday season has been different. I have been away from my home far more than I have been in it. I actually counted the days yesterday and discovered six precious days at home in December. My heart sunk a bit. I don’t regret my days away, as they were meaningful and necessary in their own manner, even when they were unexpected. But without recognizing it, I have found myself chasing home, chasing Christmas this year. I have found myself rushed to do, do, do, to somehow catch up with time, compressing 20 days at home into six. But that pace begins to suffocate me after a while, it squelches the soul, the connection. Instead I am letting go of my own plans this year, releasing it even as I type this out. I’m releasing the unfinished baking and making, the imperfect gifts and lagging Advent readings, the crafts that were never begun, and all of those quiet afternoon cups of tea and read aloud. I’m releasing it all to embrace what we chose instead this year: to serve others in need, to offer my children a small opportunity with theater, to light candles and sing Christmas hymns and carols by candlelight most evenings, to enjoy many afternoons building forts in the woods with friends, to spend time with cousins and grandparents, even a great-grandparent during Christmas, to make wreaths and garlands for other homes instead of my own. Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Sometimes the imperfect, the unexpected events and happenings are what make it good (and also sometimes uncomfortable for me).
Cloistered Away | Ginger CookiesCloistered Away | Ginger Cookies

Earlier this week, Olive and I spent the day at my sister’s house, baking gingerbread cookies, writing Christmas cards, and crafting with them. As it happens, we also enjoyed tea––a new loose leaf blend gifted by a dear friend, in a new Japanese tea kettle and hand thrown cup gifted by TOAST. I plan to use both often this winter, ideally with these cookies and heaps of gratitude. Kristen’s ginger cookies are my favorite cookies. Period. I prefer them extra gingery, rolled in raw sugar, soft and chewy, slightly cooled from the oven. The fresh ginger is absolutely wonderful. Rolled out and left in the oven a tad longer, this recipe also creates a perfect dough for cookie cutting, too, and as we have it, perfectly imperfect cookie decorating also. In the event you’re looking for a small afternoon craft or something delicious to share with loved ones, here’s Kristen’s simple recipe for you, a salute to letting go and receiving the day or season at hand, perfectly imperfect. They are tasty and heart-warming in every season or month of the year.

KRISTEN’S GINGER COOKIES

  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap unsulphered molasses
  • 1 egg
  • raw sugar for topping

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl (or mixing stand), mix together the fresh ginger, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses and egg. Add in the dry ingredients. Taste and check the ginger flavor of the batter. Add more if necessary (sometimes I add up to 1/2 cup of fresh ginger). Chill for at least one hour.

To bake, preheat the oven to 350 ºF.

For softer, chewier cookies, roll a spoonful of dough between your hands into a ball. Roll the ball in the raw sugar and place on a baking tray 2″ apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

For cookie cutting, lightly flour a surface and rolling pin. Roll out the dough evenly, about 1/4″ – 1/8.” Bake for approximately 15 minutes for a crispier cookie, checking not to burn. Cool entirely before icing.

ICING

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk

Wisk together. It will have a thick, glue-like consistency. Pour into a piping bag to decorate.

 

 

Holiday Gift Wrap, Three WaysHoliday Gift Wrap, Three Waysmpix-2Holiday Gift Wrap with Photos

It may sound silly, but gift wrapping is one of my favorite parts of gift giving. It is the icing on the cake, the thoughtful finishing detail to what I always hope is a thoughtful gift. That said, like many other areas in our life, I have paired down this process over the years, opting for more economical and ecological options to create less waste. As it turns out, simplicity and economy can be just as beautiful as all the glittery frills. Today, I’m partnering with Mpix to share a few ways I am using nature and photographs this season to beautifully and economically wrap our gifts.Holiday Gift Wrap, three WaysHoliday Gift Wrap

WRAPPING BASICS

sturdy craft paper and natural twine / For starters, I keep a large roll of sturdy craft paper (found at most hardware stores) and natural twine on hand at all times. Having a natural colored base allows for versatile, seasonal details based on the holiday or celebration at any point in the year. Plus, with craft paper, there’s the opportunity to transform it to kindling, coloring paper, or a craft project after the gift has been unveiled. Another option might be to use small swaths of cloth or cloth bags for wrapping.

washi tape / It’s easy to find washi tape anywhere these days, the dollar store to high end paper stores. I like to keep a couple around for my children’s artwork and crafts, but they come in handy for taping branches or photos to gift wrap, too. Wink.

twigs with colorful leaves or berries / This is an excellent way to include children in gift wrapping. They can help search for fallen leaves or twigs, or even learn how to prune a few on their own. In the past, I have also snipped stems from our Christmas tree for wrapping, but this year, we gathered a few bits from our nature walk earlier this week––colorful cedar branches and assorted tree berries.

Holiday gift Wrap, Nature and PhotosHoliday Gift Wrap with Nature + PhotosHoliday Gift Wrap with Nature + Photos

PHOTOS, THREE WAYS

photo prints / For friends and family who might who might appreciate an updated family picture for a frame or even a landscape from a favorite trip during the year, try taping an image to the wrapping or tucking it in the twine. I used double-sided tape on some and washi tape on others. Double-check the washi tape first to make sure it won’t ruin the photo paper. Pair smaller natural accents with larger images and vice versa for images that take up less space. Use natural pieces that complement the colors in your photo. I loved how the orange cedar complimented the sunrise in one of my images.

photo magnets / A medium sized photo magnet can be ideal for minimalist family members or those who love to keep images on their fridge. They’re strong enough to hold a piece of paper, too. So if you have littles, this might couple well with a handmade card or Christmas drawing. I used washi tape for the photo magnets, accompanied with purplish leaves that complemented the images.

mini-photo gift tags / You know those little scraps of paper leftover during the wrapping process? Tape a mini-photo to a piece of torn scrap paper and use it as a gift tag! I hole-punched the paper and used twine to tie with a small branch. Write a small message on the back and presto! It’s something special for the recipient to keep and more economical than purchasing pre-made gift tags.

Happy wrapping, friends!

 


This post is sponsored by Mpix, a photo lab based in Kansas, committed to quality printing services. All images and thoughts are my own. 

In the Kitchen with Sarah Hart

“In the Kitchen” is a series celebrating the family table––the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the people with whom we share it all. Each edition welcomes a new voice to this conversation on kitchen life and food, and today, I welcome Sarah Hart, the talented every-woman behind the Home is Where the Hart Is  Instagram and blog. Sarah is the mother of four boys in the suburbs of New York City, who appreciates the kitchen for the solitude it offers as much as the family togetherness. Her kitchen is a touchpoint to the past and also a place to enjoy holiday crafts, which she’s sharing with us today. Welcome, Sarah!


Spending time in the kitchen during the holidays is one of my most favorite things, especially when the kids are involved. The smells, the twinkly lights, the greens and holiday tunes playing in the background make for a cozy spot to create wonderful holiday memories and traditions.  Because I love the holidays so much, I don’t stop at the Christmas tree when decorating our home.  Instead, I like to add little touches throughout our entire home, especially in the kitchen since it’s where I spend the majority of my time.  Little touches like old Santa mugs that belonged to my grandmother and our elf Chippy really add some cheer to the space.

One of my favorite simple ways to decorate is by drying orange slices in the oven and using them for garland or ornaments.  I usually hang the oranges somewhere in the kitchen, but this year I decided to add them to the garland that surrounds our front door and used the leftovers for ornaments on the tree.  The great thing about these dried oranges is that they will usually last you more than one year if you store them in an air-tight container.

In the Kitchen with Sarah HartIn the Kitchen with Sarah Hart

I have a confession to make before I share this “recipe” with you: as much as I enjoying spending time in the kitchen with my boys, sometimes that time isn’t always the most relaxing. There’s often bickering about who gets to crack the egg or who’s turn it is to stir.  There’s also often a lot of mess, which is totally fine, don’t get me wrong, but it’s nice to have a kitchen activity we can ALL participate in without fighting or tears, and that won’t end with me cleaning flour off the ceiling.  Just make some hot chocolate for back up in case anyone is feeling a little Scrooge-y.

In the Kitchen with Sarah HartIn the Kitchen with Sarah Hart

OVEN-DRIED ORANGE SLICES

I found this recipe from Martha Stewart (who else) years ago that I use as a guideline:

1 navel orange

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat.  Top with orange slices in a single layer, and generously dust with sugar.  Bake until the peels are dry and the flesh is translucent, about 2 1/2 hours.

Just a few notes here:  I use whatever oranges I have sitting on my counter leftover from my Thanksgiving turkey prep.  Sometimes I line my baking sheets, sometimes I don’t.  I have never dusted them with sugar, but they still look beautiful to me when they come out of the oven.  Also, I find I need to bake them for closer to 4 hours to get them the way I really like them.  But like I said, you can use this recipe as a guideline.  A helpful tip though: let the oranges sit out on the counter for a day or two after they come out of the oven so they can harden up a bit, then you can simply string them up with some twine or ribbon, or insert ornament hooks directly through the flesh for hanging.

Whether hanging from your kitchen window or on your tree, strung up around your front door or displayed in a pretty jar, these oranges are just so festive and cheerful to me.  As pretty as they are though, it’s the tradition behind them and the process of making them with my family that really makes them so special.  Happy Holidays!
In the Kitchen with Sarah HartIn the Kitchen with Sarah Hart


All images and words by Sarah Hart for Cloistered Away. You can find more from Sarah on Instagram @homeiswherethehartis and her blog Home is Where the Hart Is. Thank you, Sarah!

homeschool_gift_guide_2016

The Advent season has arrived, and with it so many favorite things: carol-singing, beeswax candles, tree trimming, hot chocolate, Christmas cards, afternoon tea and read aloud, baking, and of course gift-giving. Last year, I created a gift guide for the homeschool that has been requested several times again this season. For new readers, I suggest you begin there, as this list feels like more of an extension of the first. I also articulate some of our gift-giving philosophy in the last post, which might be also be helpful. In short, we purposefully select gifts that fit our family budget, home, and lifestyle. Read: minimal. We tend toward beautiful, well-made tools, toys, and resources that encourage ingenuity and creativity, and those which can also be passed down or gifted to someone else when we outgrow them. When our budget is tighter or when we want to avoid more things at home, Mark and I have often gifted experiences. I referenced several experiences in last year’s gift list if that is where your own family fits best.

Naturally, this guide isn’t exclusive to homeschoolers, nor is it exclusive to Christmas. Here, I have gathered a list of things we currently love or things we’re interested in for our own home. You’ll find it loosely categorized by interests, including gifts for a broad spectrum of ages, preschool to teen. This list, dear readers, is my gift to you this season, as it has taken many hours to gather. I hope it is helpful to you, a gentle guide in a sometimes stressful part of this season.  Merry Christmas!


christmas_homeschool_gift_list_2016_young_artists_makers_busybodies

[ YOUNG ARTISTS + BUSYBODIES ]

1. Wood Multiplication Ring | 2. Indoor Outdoor Toddler Swing | 3. Wood Working with Children | 4. Wood Carving Tools + Knife Kit | 5. Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors | 6. Camera Obscura Kit | 7. Sarah’s Silks Play Streamer + Play Silks (not numbered) | 8. The Art of Tinkering  | 9. NUN Studio Doll Kits and Pattern Books | 10. Hedgehog’s Filled Sewing Box (or an empty one to fill) | 11. Stick-Lets Mega Fort Kit | 12. Wood Peg People | 13. Kikkerland Animal Multi Tool | 14. Lyra Rembrandt Watercolor Pencils | 15. Fair Trade Peruvian Hand Drum 16. Makedo Cardboard Tool Kit

christmas_homeschool_gift_list_2016_young_naturalist[ YOUNG NATURALISTS ]

17. Bug Bingo (also Bird Bingo and Dog Bingo) | 18. Student Insect Collecting + Mounting Kit | 19. A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky | 20. Wood Microscope | 21.  Animal Tracks Casting Kit  (not numbered) | 22. The Year in Bloom 2017 Calendar Kit | 23. Sturdy Stilts | 24. Play the Forest Way  | 25. Listen to the Birds: An Introduction to Classical Music | 26. Moon Phases Wall Hanging | 27. Travel Telescope | 28. Flower Press Kit | 29.  John Muir Wilderness Essays | 30. Compact Kids Binoculars  | 31. 59 Illustrated National Parks | 32. Natural World: A Visual Compendium of Wonders from Nature | 33. Audubon Society Field Guides 

 

christmas_homeschool_gift_guide_2016_engineers_scientist

 [ YOUNG ENGINEERS + SCIENTISTS ]

34. Mechanica | 35. mini 3D printer | 36. Morse Code Kit | 37. Wood Go Cart Kit | 38. Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World  | 39. Aristotle’s Number Puzzle | 40. MEL Chemistry Experiment Subscription | 41. Rosie Revere Engineer | 42. 52 Amazing Science Experiments cards | 43. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind | 44. Block + Tackle Wood Pulley | 45. Da Vinci Catapult Kit  (or the Ornithopiter Kit) | 46. Tegu Magnetic Wood Block Set | 47. Grimm’s Nature Inspired Math Cards | 48. Leonardo Sticks | 49. The Story of Buildings

christmas_homeschool_gift_list_2016_young_techie_inventor[ YOUNG TECHIES + INVENTORS ]

50. How to Code in 10 Easy Lessons | 51. Who Was Thomas Alva Edison? (or other book from the series) | 52. Kano Computer Kit | 53. Seedling Design Your Own Headphones ( also the punk rock version) | 54. Dover’s Great Inventors and Inventions Coloring Book | 55. Digital Microscope and Camera | 56. Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: First Computer Programmer | 57. Kindle Fire Kids Edition | 58. Osmo Coding | 59. Sphero SPRK + STEAM Educational Robot | 60. GoPro Hero | 61. littleBits Electronic Base Kit | 62. First Computer Patent poster | 63. The Inventor’s Notebook

homeschool_gift_guide_young_writer_foodie

[ YOUNG FOODIES + WRITERS ]

64. The Forest Feast for Kids | 65. Water Garden Fish Tank | 66. Williams Sonoma Junior Chef Set | 67. Camden Rose Tabletop Play Kitchen | 68. Food Anatomy | 69. Lyra Ferby Pencils | 70. The Foodie Teen | 71. Odette Williams Pinstripe Linen Child’s Apron Set | 72. Solid Wood Tea Set | 73. Opinel Le PetitChef Set  | 74. How to Be a Blogger and Vlogger in 10 Easy Steps | 75. Tombow Brush Pen (or in assorted colors) | 76. Kindle for Kids | 77. Olive Wood Mortar and Pestle | 78. I Am Story | 79. Handlettering 101 | 80. Cursive Alphabet Tracing Board | 81. Rory’s Story Cubes | 82. Woodland Pencils | 83. Leap Write In! | 84. Spilling Ink

CHRISTMAS_HOLIDAY_BREAKFAST_CHAI_WAFFLES-4CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY BREAKFAST | CHAI WAFFLESCHRISTMAS HOLIDAY BREAKFAST | CHAI WAFFLESCHRISTMAS HOLIDAY BREAKFAST | CHAI SPICED WAFFLES

The gifts are wrapped. Our school work is finished. Mark is home, and yesterday marked the final Sunday of Advent, meaning Christmas is merely four sleeps away. Our family welcomed this week with a leisure breakfast of Chai waffles with sautéed fruit, softly scrambled eggs with pesto, and coffee of course. I’m entirely grateful for the rich meaning of this season, a celebration of Hope in the weary earth. I’m grateful for the break in routine, the rest for weary bodies. I’m grateful for my own childhood home, which taught me these celebrations call for more time lingering together and delicious food. In terms of holiday breakfasts, these waffles have stolen the show.

Although they appear to be fancy, these waffles are the simplest to make and could easily be adapted to your own pancake recipe, too. I tripled the recipe and there was more then enough left over for the six of us. If you’re looking for a special breakfast this week, try making the waffles ahead of time to leave in the fridge.  You can toast them under the broiler Christmas morning while you sauté the fruit. They are only slightly sweet, which I tend to prefer, and easily complement savory sides of meat or eggs. I lightly dusted the waffles afterward with powdered sugar, but they would be incredible with a cinnamon-maple syrup whipped cream, too. Either way, below you’ll find the recipe to enjoy in your own way. Merry Christmas!


CHAI WAFFLES    Serves 4

1 1/2 cups milk
7 chai tea bags, or 12oz of tea concentrate (Dona Chai is a current favorite)
2c all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, yolks separated

PEARS + BLACKBERRIES

4 Bartlett pears, washed and sliced
1 c. blackberries, washed and patted dry
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon
a drizzle of maple syrup

TO MAKE : WAFFLES

  1. Bring milk (and tea concentrate, if using) to a simmer over medium heat. Turn heat down to low and steep chai tea bags for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the chai-steeped milk, cooled butter, vanilla, and egg yolks.
  4. Combine and stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
  5. Beat the egg whites using a mixer until stiff peaks form. (I prefer using the stand mixer so I can do other things in the meantime.)
  6. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
  7. Pour waffle batter onto preheated waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer’s directions until golden brown.
  8. Serve with sautéed fruit, powdered sugar, whipped cream, or maple syrup.

TO MAKE :  PEARS + BERRIES

  1. Toss the sliced pears with lemon juice until they are ready to cook to prevent browning.
  2. Heat butter over medium heat in a sauté pan. Add the pears and cinnamon to the pan, and drizzle them with maple syrup. Toss and cook for about 5 minutes. If you prefer them softer, turn heat to low and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Otherwise, remove promptly to a serving dish.
  3. Add a bit more butter to the warm pan, and lightly toss the berries over low heat just until they are warmed and soft.  Promptly remove to another serving dish (or the plates themselves).

(Recipe adapted from Kara Lyndon.)

handmade_salt_dough_ornaments_christmas_homeschool-11handmade | Christmas salt dough ornamentshandmade | Christmas salt dough ornamentshandmade | Christmas salt dough ornamentshandmade | Christmas salt dough ornamentshandmade | Christmas salt dough ornaments

These weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to pass too quickly each year. Between the fluster of finishing our school work, giving or making gifts, visiting family, and joining local celebrations with friends, time feels so concentrated. One way I’m trying to slow up our days and enjoy the season a bit more is having a craft and read-a-loud time each afternoon with my children. These are often hours contrasting with the loud, boisterous mess of handmade projects and the quiet doodles with candles and warm drinks and read-a-louds. Honestly, it’s been wonderful. Even the mess.

Last week, for one project, we made salt dough ornaments together. I pulled out all of Christmas cookie cutters (and the boys grabbed the Star Wars pancake molds in honor of the anticipated movie release–ha!).  My sister and her three children joined us, because this project is really fun and easy for all ages. She created a really sweet video from our afternoon together, which you can view by pressing play in the above box. In case you’re interested in making these at home, I’ve included the recipe we used below (and doubled). Enjoy!

SALT DOUGH ORNAMENTS (adapted from Moonschooling Eleanor)

1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
1/4-1/2 cup water
a few drops of essential oils (optional)

  1. Mix together 1 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup salt really well.
  2. Slowly add water until a dough forms–careful not to make it too wet!
  3. Add a few drops of essential oils (peppermint, balsam fir, or orange/clove –if your child isn’t sensitive to the clove)
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it chill in the fridge for about twenty minutes.
  5. Roll out dough on floured surface and cut shapes.
  6. Poke holes using something toothpick-sized.
  7. Bake at 200 degree oven for about 60 minutes. Check them often, so they don’t harden or brown.
  8. String with twine and use for your tree, gifts for friends, or as gift tags for presents.

 

gift_guide_homeschool_cloistered_away_2015

We tend to keep the holiday season in our home fairly simple in terms of gift giving, both the quantity and expense. This isn’t from a desire to be Scrooge-like or withholding, but instead another way we’ve learned over the years to simplify, to stay within our financial means, and to help keep our home filled with fewer things we really enjoy and can manage well. Living in a small home has taught me a valuable life lesson: less really can be more, but it means making tough decisions. Buying less, means I choose something far more carefully. My husband and I often pick high quality gifts, something that can easily be passed down between siblings, family, or friends when they’ve outgrown it. We also love giving gifts that engage their interest and skill sets, tools that can double for our home school experience, too.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve received a few emails and comments and texts from other parents asking about Christmas gifts for their own homes, wondering what we’re getting our children or asking about our favorite books or toys or nature books. Although it took me a bit of time to collect a few, I created this gift guide as a way to share both our favorite learning tools and ones still on our wishlist. I added “gifts of experience” section to each category, because often we have given experience over things to our children for Christmas or their birthday. It can be a fantastic way to give something meaningful without carting more things into your home or when finances are a little tighter. Clearly, this is not a finite list, nor is it strictly for the homeschool or Christmas season, but I hope it in itself is a tool of inspiration. Enjoy.

gift-guide-nature_cloistered_away_homeschool[ THE YOUNG NATURALIST ]

1. Kanken mini backpack | full size 2. Suunto compass 3. Wild Explorers Adventure Club membership 4. Critter Cabin 5. National Park pass (4th graders are free!) 6. Nature Anatomy 7. Cavallini Insects wrapping paper (frame it as a poster)  8. Fujifilm instant film camera 9. Strathmore watercolor journal 10. Animalium 11. laminated local pocket field guides 12. Magiscope

 GIFT EXPERIENCE | museum passes | a state or national park pass | handmade coupons to use during the year for weekend camping, star-gazing, fishing, or hiking | Wild Explorers membership

gift_guide_young_foodie_baker_cloistered_away

[ THE YOUNG FOODIE ]

13. Odette Williams apron set 14. Farm Anatomy  15. A Kid’s Herb Book 16. Garden in a Can 17. Le Petit Chef Set 18. Chop Chop: A Kid’s Guide to Cooking Real Food 19. The Simple Hearth play kitchen 21. Mini Woven Basket 22. Moleskine Recipe Journal

GIFT EXPERIENCE | 20. local cooking classes | handmade coupons for special kitchen time together | meal at a special/favorite restaurant

gift_guide_artist_homeschool_cloistered_away[ THE YOUNG ARTIST + DOODLER ]

23. Tabletop Paper Holder 24. Pottery Wheel 25. Paint Jar Holder 26. Lrya Rembrandt Polycolor pencils 27. Strathmore Mixed Media Journal 28. Lyra Ferby colored pencils (best for little hands) 29. Lost Ocean coloring book  30. WhatchamaDRAWit  31. Fun with Architecture book and stamp set  32. Drawing with Children  33.Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series  34. Stockmar Beeswax crayons  35. Fantastic Cities: A Coloring Book of Places Real and Imagined  36. Stockmar watercolor paint

GIFT EXPERIENCE | 37. art museum membership or trip | art lessons | meet a local artist in a similar medium

gift_guide_young_writer_homeschool_cloisteredaway

[ THE YOUNG WRITER + BOOKWORM ]

38. Bookrest Lamp  39. The Puffin In Bloom Collection  40. Emoji Stickers  41. Personalized Pencils  42. Postcard Set  43. Calligraphy + Lettering Set  44. Mamoo Bookbag  45. The Storymatic Kids Game  46. Tell Me a Story  47. Wood Small Moveable Alphabet  48. Wool Writing Journal  49. Don’t Forget to Write (elementary grades) | (secondary grades)  50. Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing

 GIFT EXPERIENCE | tickets to a play | homemade coupons for a new monthly book | summer writing camp | create your own story prompts

gift_guide_young_maker_homeschool_cloistered_away

[ THE YOUNG TINKERER + BUSY BODY ]

51. Lap Loom  52. TinkerCrate subscription  53. Things Come Apart  54. Morakniv Wood Carving Junior Knife  55. Rulers and Compass  56. Seedling Fashion Design Kit  57. The New Way Things Work  58. Wooden Child-sized Real Tools  59. Child’s Natural Broom  60. Playful Math Kit  61. European Math Kit  62. Sewing Kit  63. Child’s String Mop

GIFT EXPERIENCE | build or make something together | sewing or woodworking classes | tickets to a science museum or the Exploratorium in San Fransisco

 

2015_week48-4OUR CHRISTMAS TREE2015 | week 48OUR CHRISTMAS TREE2015 | week 482015 | week 48OUR CHRISTMAS TREEOUR CHRISTMAS TREE

Every year on the weekend following Thanksgiving, we pack into our car and pick out a tree together. It’s a simple tradition really, one that’s not particularly unique to our family, but something we look forward to every year just the same. This year, it was mild and drizzly, the preface to a cold, wet storm. Blythe grabbed the empty wagon. My husband held the saw. Burke helped cut and catch the tree. Liam supervised and helped push the loaded wagon to the car. Olive found a ladybug and had her toe rolled over by the wagon. And in the quick 2o minute adventure, I took the pictures and forgot to get in one myself. It wasn’t an overly romantic outing, but it was an honest welcome to the Advent season.

_________________________________________________________

Liam | We’re having more conversations with you about your interests and talents, about university and life when you leave our roof. We still have a handful of years, which I’m grateful for, but admittedly it still feels weird to think of you as a man one day. Where ever life leads you, you’re going to be a good one, that I know.

Burke | I’ve only recently noticed you are a gift giver. When you want to express your appreciation or love of someone, you give them something special, often purchased with your own money. To the common eye, these gifts might seem small–a bar of dark chocolate for me, a small truck for your cousin. But I know how little money of your own you have, and in my estimation, your generous heart makes these little things extravagant.

Blythe |  Last week, I overheard you reminding the boys to put away the [movie or video game] discs when they’re done. Liam responded, with a slight laugh and encouragement, “you’ll make a good mom one day, Blythe, keeping your little army right in line.” Whereas this might have been given as an insult or out of annoyance, his tone toward you was gentle and full of esteem. He’s quite right, too.

Olive | You love chewing gum and tend to carry a dollar or so with you any time we grocery shop, just so you can buy a fresh pack to enjoy. Yesterday, you opted to chew three pieces at once, and I had to ask you to throw it out since it was hindering your speech. One piece is a good rule of thumb. You have sometimes tried to save your gum as well, like Violet in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Last week I watched you leave it on your neck during your meal, and again I made you put it in your mouth or in the trash. Years from now, when I think of you at age six, I will remember a large, gap-toothed smile and a wad of gum.

 

I’ve been quiet here lately, trying to focus more on the people right around me, on our togetherness. Still, the concentrated family time manages to feel blurry with warmth and goodness: sweet visits with both sides of our families, tasty foods and drinks mixed with raucous laughter and conversation, late night movies, and of course, anticipation. Typically, I would wedge in a little time here to write our experiences out, but this year, I’ve instead focused on rest and being present. I’ve also been reflecting on the year, and naturally, making some plans for the new one. I’ll be back soon to share some more, but wanted to say in the mean time, Merry Christmas.

I hope your holiday has been blurry with warmth and light. Thank you for following our family story here. xo