Math again!

This week we started work on grouping and attributes with Guess Who! We also solidified it a bit in life by playing 20 questions and I spy, where I asked the questions demonstrating attribute use. This week was much harder for Bear than basic number play. We played a bit of number train at his request (it is now officially A Thing) and mostly ran around like crazy fools working to get our house ready for sale!

I hope you had an awesome week!

What we did for Math week 1

So I want to start a new series. We’ve started minimal instruction in reading and math this year, y0 (if you’re at ambleside, which is our choice of curriculum) style. Reading is slowly following Joyful Shepherdess’ method, which is just a language-updated version of Charlotte Mason’s method. Child being pre-6, we’re obviously still in the pre-6 section. It’s brilliant, I pretty much don’t have to think.

But math curriculum and I have a bone to pick. I love math, I love math, I love math. I hate how much all math curriculum is either drill and kill or a comic book.

My kids are smarter than a comic book. Children shouldn’t need twaddle to get quality math. Drives me nuts.

Anyway, so I’m trying to cobble together something that will hopefully instill specific qualities in my children: ordered thinking, ruthlessly pursues elegance, loves fascinating solutions and clever tricks, is patient, can reason, can elucidate and understand problems and get to the heart of them, is precise, can see patterns, and maybe also can perform arithmetic.

I love Denise Gaskins and her book Let’s Play Math (not affiliated), and if you found yourself here you should really go over THERE and see what she has to say on the subject because my oldest is 6. I have no idea what I’m doing. But hers are some of the footsteps I’m walking in!

She also has two other books, which are on her site, from which I get a lot of my ideas. There are other websites and stuff I’m looking at too.

So, here we go. What Bear (5) and I did this week! We played a ton of Number Train, which I got out of Denise Gaskin’s book Math You Can Play: Counting and Number Bonds. We also played Chopsticks, which I attempted to describe several times (I knew about it before purchasing Gaskin’s game book, wherein it is also contained) and discovered that describing how to play chopsticks is incredibly difficult without photos. I’m not waking anyone up to take photos, so you’ll have to live without. Further reason to purchase her incredibly inexpensive and brilliant book, as she has full instructions there. You can also get it in a bundle with the “adding and subtracting” one, which is super fun too, and tons of adding practice without anything feeling like drill.

We also played mancala some, and I picked up this book at the library. Turns out it is a whole website,, and the website is amazing. The book is pretty cartoony, but hey. We have so far played with patterns and predictions as well as adding and the beginnings of area. I don’t always bother about the fun fact, it’s just not us, but some are super fascinating. We really liked the ketchup one.

For my Doll, who happens to be 3, we did some baking and she got to man the teaspoons. She also loves to count body parts, and (so long as brother isn’t there to beat her) she’s kind of a whiz at multiplying by 2 so long as you are counting feet or hands! “There are 5 people so we have…10 feet!” Yay, Doll! And of course she has to play number train with us. (Seriously, it’s a good game. Easy strategy, quick, involves estimation, number size, ordering – way better than candyland)

I hope next week to get in a exercise, so we’ll see how that goes. Have an awesome week!

The Making of the Truffles, and other sundries

Well! Candy-making went well, for the most part. We did make Caramel Corn, by recipe on the back of the Old Dutch Puffcorn package.. This recipe is one of Those Recipes, where you don’t change it because the person who loves it has been having it since they were small? Yeah. It’s honestly a good recipe, though!
I will say the caramel is one of the better caramels to make, ridiculously easy and quite tasty, and could just as easily be put on anything else that happened to walk in your vicinity while you were making it. Like popcorn, or nuts, or spatulas that you happened to be licking….(though do let it cool off before you do that. Ahem.)
We also did chocolate covered pretzels and nuts! In my childhood, you melted chocolate chips with paraffin wax and dipped everything in sight. We couldn’t find paraffin wax, so we relied on my husband’s childhood memories of melted almond bark. This stuff is NOT CHOCOLATE. (it’s also probably not fair trade, but that’s a different beast). But! If you add three tablespoons or so of powdered cocoa to the entire package, it transforms from meh to nicely chocolate-y.
You can also substitute a solid vegetable shortening–say, coconut oil–for the paraffin, if keeping to fair-trade chocolate is something you’re trying to do. (we used these fair-trade chocolate chips, by the way. They are a lifesaver and a staple in my life…and two of my local grocers carry them!) You technically don’t need the shortening or the wax (we used waxless chocolate for the chocolate covered nuts, and those hardened after about 4 hours on the counter) but it does help things get firm faster, and then they are less likely to melt in your hand. If you don’t use any wax or shortening, I would put your candies in wrappers so people can try to handle them without coating themselves in chocolate.
And with that wonderful segue, we come to truffles.
Oh, truffles. I’ve been making them for five years now? Six?  They are, without a doubt, the biggest pain in the candy-making hind parts, and that includes getting sugar syrups to “soft ball” without a thermometer. (I always found that delicious, since my mom let me eat the little sugar blobs….not on topic!)
You will get chocolate everywhere. We tried a new method this year, as detailed in this recipe. Recipe: good. Method: worst yet.
When you make a truffle, you begin with a thick ganache (chocolate mixed with heavy cream and set until mostly solid). Then you measure out tablespoonfuls, ball them and roll them in something, usually cocoa and powdered sugar mixed together. We blend candy canes into dust and use that. (9 candy canes was just enough for 1 pound of chocolate).
The problem? The ganache melts absurdly quickly. Every three or four candies you make, you’ll scrape an entire truffle’s worth of ganache off your hands. If you have a toddler, you just keep their candies separate, because they are licking their hands constantly. My preschooler refuses to  help at all, because he likes to be relatively clean.
Next year, I will be pouring my mixed ganache into a 8×8 cake pan. Then, I’m going to use a melon baller to make the appropriately sized balls. I’m pretty sure I’ll still have to roll them around in my hands a bit – you want the chocolate to be slightly soft to pick up the candy cane dust – but I expect it will be a lot easier and I’ll only get “messy” not “I’m so covered in chocolate I’m not sure where the chocolate ends and I begin”.
I’ll get back to you next year on how that goes. I know, I know, if I were a truly dedicated blogger, I’d make another batch of truffles just to find out. Ya’ll, I have two kids under 4 and I’m pregnant. Pick your battles.

Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

 to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified
 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.

For I the Lord love justice;
    I hate robbery and wrong;[
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
    and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
 Their offspring shall be known among the nations,
    and their descendants in the midst of the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge them,
    that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
    my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
    and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
    to sprout up before all the nations.

Psalm 126

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
    we are glad.

 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
    like streams in the Negeb!
 Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!
 He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    bringing his sheaves with him.

Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
John 1:6-8, 19-28 

 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as awitness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”  He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”  He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)  They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

O Come Divine Messiah

You probably recognized last week’s traditional hymn. It’s pretty popular. The next one is also one from my childhood, but I suspect that says more about me than about the song! “O Come Divine Messiah” is a beautiful old Advent hymn, rendered very well here:


Mmmmm, shivers. Joyous Advent!

Build Your Kingdom Here

Okay, so the next song is also just one of my favorite songs, period. But!  It’s a truly fabulous Advent song, so long as you are willing to think outside the “solemn and reverent” Advent box. Any song that is asking God to come down to us is a song that is well-sung at Advent, and “Build Your Kingdom Here,” by the Rend Collective, is a song that does just that.

Happy second week of Advent and all that! We put up our outdoor lights this week and finished off the last niggling decoration bits so we are Fully Go for Advent – speaking of, we’re actually using this Jesse tree this year, and so far it’s pretty good. Just coloring, which we love. And free, which is nice (though I still say that Truth in the Tinsel is worth it, so long as you use the printable decorations. My kids are too young for the crafts.)

I totally forgot to tell you all about St Nicholas’ Day on the 6th, which is a holiday we’ve celebrated with our kids since my oldest was aware of it. Santa actually lived and breathed, a man named St. Nicholas, whom you can read about here. He was pretty cool – definitely worth a holiday! And if you celebrate his feast day, Santa has already visited your house. He doesn’t need to steal Christmas’ thunder, since he’s already made a showing. The kids get a couple clementines, hats and mitts, and a toy at our house. Easy peasy stocking, they are pretty excited, it’s a good day. I know a woman who doesn’t buy oranges until after St. Nicholas’ Day, to make them more special. My kids already love clementines to pieces, but it’s something to consider.

So that’s Advent at our house this week! We’ll be making candy this weekend to put away. Come back next Monday for the recipes we chose, but I can tell you truffles will be involved. And chocolate covered nuts for mama. And this caramel puffed corn stuff from my husband’s childhood.

See you next week!

Second Sunday of Advent Readings

Isaiah 40:1-11
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass.The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.


Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin. Selah

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.  Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

2 Peter 3:8-15a

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him.

Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

O Come O Come Emmanuel

I told you to come back on Friday for the latin, right? Well, here you are:



I love it. You can of course also listen to this beloved favorite in english many times over:


Or in lovely instrumental:

I love them all. This song gives me goosebumps.