Saturday, December 31, 2011

Homeschool Update - Preschool

During the Christmas break, I've been spending some time thinking about our homeschool plans and what I need to change next semester.  There are things we started out doing that just weren't working, things we added in along the way, and other things I want to add.  Here are my thoughts on Julia, age 4:
(Next I will post about what Lucy, age 6, is doing including a review of Beyond Little Hearts For His Glory.)

We started out planning to use Learn Your Letters Learn To Serve and The Reading Lesson.

Although I really like the ideas and thoughts behind Learn Your Letters Learn To Serve, (Click here to view more details) I think I just really need things spelled out for me on a daily basis.  I have a hard time looking at a weeks worth of activities and deciding what we are going to do, what to leave out, and when to fit it all in.  *I* am definitely the problem here, the curriculum is great and is chock full of fun ideas.  It will stay on my shelf as fun reference book to use when we need extra activities.  To be brutally honest, we only ever did letter "A" and part of "B".  Plenty of other learning occurred around here, it just wasn't from this book.

The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons
I will post a more complete review of this program eventually.  Julia enjoys doing a couple pages every now and then and is learning to read!  I am planning to use this on a more regular basis next semester.  So far we are only at the beginning of the book, which is fine for her age.  She is asking to do more now though.  I like the simplicity of the book and the fact that we can take it at our own pace.

My First Book Of Cutting (Kumon Workbooks)
I picked this book up several months ago as something fun for Julia.  She enjoys doing a page or two at a time, and it serves as something to keep her occupied while Lucy is busy with math or handwriting.  I've seen her cutting skills improve just over the couple of months we've used this.  I have a pasting book that we will use next semester too.

Shirley's Prepackaged Crafts
Click the link above for my full review.  Julia really likes her box of crafts and asks to do a craft often.  These are right on her level.  We alternate between a craft or her cutting workbook while Lucy is busy.  I have the January box already and am looking forward to letting her get started with it!

Little Hands To Heaven
This is similar to Learn Your Letters Learn To Serve, but I think it will work better for me because of the layout.  I'm planing to start this with Julia in a couple of weeks.  We are not loving the devotional book in Lucy's curriculum, so I think having the exposure to simple Bible stories on a regular basis again will be good for all of the girls.  The basic math introduction, letter learning, and other activities will be a good fit for her now also.

Fat Brain Toys Inchimals
I bought these this fall and haven't pulled them out to use yet.  Julia loves to pretend and these look like she will have a lot of fun with them.  We have plenty of other resources that we can pull out as she shows interest too.  (A fully stocked art cupboard, millions of books to read, preschool idea books and plenty more.)

Julia listens to ALL of our read aloud books: Lucy's learn to read books, storytime books, and history books.  I wouldn't dare read Lucy a lesson without Julia!  She is almost always first to answer the comprehension questions too.  Any art projects or Bible study, she often chooses to do with us.  I am planning to add in Spanish and some science that she will participate in as well.  With the above books I think we will have a good balance of family learning and work that is right on her level.

Okay, what do you think?  Do you have a preschooler?  How is it going?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Easy Christmas Treats

Lucy and Julia enjoy helping me make these simple Christmas treats.  They are certainly not healthy, but make a fun easy treat for Christmas parties.

Pretzel Kisses

bag of waffle style pretzels
bag of chocolate kisses (regular, carmel filled, mint, etc) or Rollos
bag of m and ms

Cover a baking sheet with pretzels.  Top each one with a chocolate kiss.  Bake at 275 for 3-4 minutes, just enough to melt the chocolate.  While they are hot, press one m and m into each.  Yum!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Cookie Tips and a Recipe

My best tip for baking roll out Christmas cookies?  Invite someone over to help!  Last year we made our cookies at a playdate.  This year Grandma and Grandpa came over to help with the long process of rolling, cutting, and baking join in the fun.

The girls loved rolling out the dough and using cookie cutters.  Esther put each cookie in her hand and had to show it to everyone before putting it on the tray.  They all worked very hard and are so proud of their creations.

Tip #2: We will probably frost a few of them just for fun, but we enjoy eating these unfrosted for the most part.  They store well in the freezer that way and we just grab a few out at a time to eat.

Tip #3: If you enjoy soft chewy cookies, roll the dough a bit thick and use large cookie cutters.  It helps the process go faster that way as well.  ;)

Tip #4: Give some away!  We sent a bag full of cookies home with Grandpa and Grandma and still have plenty left over to enjoy.

Tip #5: Use soft white wheat flour to make these whole wheat, yet still light and tasty:

Roll Out Sugar Cookies

1 1/3 cup butter
2 cups sugar
Cream together.

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbs milk
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Beat in ingredients.  Chill overnight, roll, cut, and bake at 325 for 8-10 minutes.

linked to Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!  Here is a little update on our busy growing family:
Lucy: 6, loves coloring, drawing, and her ballet class.  She enjoys being homeschooled and does especially well at reading and handwriting.  Lucy is a wonderful big sister and can often be found reading to the little ones or helping them with something.
Julia: 4, has a very caring heart and loves to make people laugh.  She is learning to read and enjoys crafts.  Playing Barbies, listening to stories, and imaginative pretend play are some of her favorite things.  Julia is often our entertainment at the dinner table and loves coming up with silly things to say.
Esther: almost 2, loves her sisters “Dewey” and “Woocy”.  She is always giving hugs and loves to snuggle.  She is quite a content little girl and enjoys playing with baby dolls or Playmobil.  She talks very well for her age and loves to laugh and be silly.  Esther is usually tagging right along with whatever her sisters are doing. 
Baby: due March 23.  Gender will be a surprise.  :)
Christy: loves being a mommy.  She enjoys baking, trying new recipes, and of course blogging.  Teaching the girls and being home with them keep her plenty busy as well.
Ross: is a producer for a film company in the area.  Work keeps him busy, but a certain three little girls have him wrapped around their pinky fingers and always run to greet him with big hugs when he gets home.
We hope this finds you well and wish you all the best in the new year!
The Vande Waas

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tex-Mex Chicken Appetizers

We ate these tasty little appetizers for lunch today because I wanted to test out the recipe before bringing them to a couple of holiday events.  I enjoyed these once at a Pampered Chef party but had never made them myself.  The recipe is easy enough to mix up and has a delicious flavor.  Ross' only suggestion was to add a slice of jalapeno pepper to the top.  I think they are perfect as is.  They are different enough than your average party food that I think they will be a success!

Tex-Mex Chicken Appetizers

1 loaf canape French bread*
Slice into about 20 slices and arrange on a baking stone.

1 10 oz can chunk white chicken, drained and flaked**
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup mayonaise
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well.  Using a medium scoop or spoon, place one scoop on each slice of bread and gently smash it down.

2-3 plum tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Top each slice of bread/ chicken mixture with one slice of tomato.  Sprinkle cheese over tops.

2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes until bread starts to brown and cheese is melted.  Sprinkle with cilantro.  Serve warm.

*I found canape bread already sliced at the grocery store.  This is basically just a small loaf of bread about 2-3" across.
**I used a pouch of chicken that was 7 oz, figuring it was probably equal to 10 oz since you don't have to drain it?  You can also use 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken.
***I left off the cilantro because I didn't have any on hand.

What is your favorite holiday party food?  Let me know if you give these a try!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Toy Garden (Review and Giveaway!)

I always enjoy browsing A Toy Garden for unique natural toys that my girls will love.  They have a huge selection of interesting items that I end up looking at for hours.  Seriously... stocking stuffers, dolls and gnomes, travel toys, and more.

We recently got to review some absolutely gorgeous toys - the small tractor and trailer and the farm animals boxed set.  Esther especially enjoys these and has played with them quite a bit.  Both sets are made of hardwood and beautifully finished.

I love that the animals are made of different colored wood; it adds character and fun to the set.  If you've ever priced wooden animals, $24.95 is a really good deal for eight pieces.  These are perfectly sized for little hands to play with.  Esther likes to fit them all into the trailer.  (Sometimes the cow drives, watch out then!)  The animals do have some thin parts to them (legs, etc), but they are very sturdy.

The tractor and trailer is expertly made and will definitely be an heirloom toy!  The trailer attaches easily to the tractor, and can pull quite a load of animals at once.  ;)  The peg person comes out of the tractor for play.  Both of these sets would make wonderful Christmas gifts for any little person.  I love toys like this and feel so much better about spending money on them rather than plastic junk that will not last.

I'm so excited to announce that A Toy Garden is giving away a Small Tractor and Trailer set to one of you!  To win, do any of the following and leave a separate comment for each entry (for a total of four possible entries).  Be sure to include your email address so that I have a way to contact you.

- follow or email subscribe to One Little Word She Knew
- share about this giveaway on your blog/ Facebook/ or some other way
- like A Toy Garden on Facebook
- subscribe to A Toy Garden's email list (at the top of their home page)

If you're interested in purchasing the small tractor and trailer set, go ahead and do that now.  If you are the lucky winner, A Toy Garden will gladly refund your purchase price.  The giveaway will close on December 21 at midnight.  Many thanks to A Toy Garden for this fun holiday giveaway!

*Now Closed.  Congrats to Domestic Diva!*

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Felt Card Table Playhouse Tutorial

I started the super secret sewing project last night!  (a felt card table playhouse for Esther's birthday)  Since several of you were interested, I decided to take photos as I go and post them as a sort of tutorial.  I am not including exact measurements for each piece, but I thought it would be helpful to show how I put it together.  I'll update this post each night as I work on it.  There are some FAQs and tips on Jill's website as well.  Let me know if you decide to attempt this and how it turns out!

First I drew out my pattern, deciding on colors and where I wanted to place everything.  (Ross vetoed the pink heart door in case we have a boy next.  I obliged since making a square window is much easier.)

My mother in law had a card table for me to use.  I think its a fairly standard size - 34 inches x 34 inches on top and 28 inches high.

I purchased my felt at Field's Fabric.  It comes in 72" length and cost $6.97 a yard.  My total was about $50, although I think I will end up with extra.  Here is what I got:

1 1/2 yards brown
2 yards blue
1 yard white
1/2 yard red
1/4 yard black
1/2 yard light green
1/4 yard orange
1 yard of a mesh fabric

I already had plenty of colored thread.  (Gutermann thread works best; its nice and strong.)  I also already had large pieces of green, dark blue, and small colored sheets of felt on hand.

To start, cut each of the four side pieces.  I added an inch to each side, so my brown top piece will be 36x36 and each blue wall piece is 29x35 or so.  It was difficult to get each piece exactly straight, but I can fix that a bit when I sew them all together at the end.

Lay out the front panel, and get started!  I cut my door out of dark blue and just laid it on top and cut it to the size I wanted.  DO NOT cut the wall panel yet, just sew the door on.  (I used dark blue thread for the main thread and a light blue for the bobbin so that the seams wouldn't show badly on the inside.)

To make a window in the door, cut a hole through both layers of felt.

Cut a piece of mesh bigger than the hole and slip it in between the layers.

You can sew the mesh to the blue first, but I cut my white trim and pinned it on, sewing all the layers at once.  I ended up sewing several lines through the trim because I wasn't catching the light blue back with the first seam.  (Again, white thread on top and light blue for the bobbin.)

For the mailbox, you have to look closely, but there is a red pocket where mail can be delivered.  I sewed the pocket and back of the mailbox on first.  The lid to the mailbox was then sewn across the bottom and has velcro holding it on.  The other half of the velcro was sewn on above the pocket.  (In other words, the velcro doesn't just stick to the felt, I did sew on the other piece of velcro once I could tell where it needed to go.)

I knew that my girls would want a doorknob inside, so this is how I accomplished that.  I cut the circle for the front knob and then placed a big black piece of felt behind it, sewing all of it on at once.  I then went back and cut around the doorknob piece on the back, making it into a nice circle as well.

After adding a bush, my front panel is almost complete!  (I tried putting flowers on the bush, but they ended up looking like spiders.)  The light blue felt needs to be reinforced on the back at the top where the door hangs because it pulls on the background a little too much.  I haven't figured that out yet...

Okay. that's it for now.  Check back in the next couple of days for more...

(Nevermind!  This pregnant mama was too tired to sew and figure out posting a tutorial too.  You can see the finished playhouse here, and of course feel free to ask me any questions if you decide to attempt this!)  :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


a trip to Illinois for Thanksgiving to be with family and celebrate my Grandpa's life and passing

secret sewing projects: (a superhero cape for a special little boy!)

another secret sewing project that I am so excited about!  (for Esther's birthday)

snuggles and books

playing games

and so much more!
What's keeping you busy this December?