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Oliebollen Recipe and Tutorial, or How I Learned to Recreate the Plumela

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , , , , ,

When I was growing up, my family had a recipe for what we called "Plumelas."  They were a special time-consuming treat that we would find on Christmas, Thanksgiving and other snowy/dreary days when my mom felt like spending her time over a hot stove.  The recipe came down to my family from my Great-Grandmother on my mom's dad's side, who was Pennsylvania Dutch.  I had copied the recipe from my mom several times, but have lost it as many as I have gotten it.  Due to life changes, I have not spoken to family in several years, which makes getting a new copy impossible.  I had thought perhaps this yummy treat was lost to me forever, as internet searching have pulled up NOTHING called a "Plumela".  Then I had the idea to search for German and Dutch dough with raisins.  Thanks to some additional help from a Facebook group of fellow cooks, I recently came to realize that what I had been calling a Plumela my entire life, is actually a Oliebollen.  Further research unearthed a sad truth- the oliebollen is closely guarded family recipe in Dutch families and while many people were willing to share their delicious looking pictures- enough to convince me that I was on the right track, no one wanted to share a recipe that matched what I could remember from OUR family recipe.  Turns out, the key was the step that added raisins to the milk prior to scalding.  But, the recipe I was given made 8 oliebollen.  What would one do with ONLY 8 of these delicious little critters?  I decided I had no choice but to beef up the tiny recipe I found, tweaking it to have the proportions of the ingredients I could remember.  And VIOLA!!  Success.  I present to you, in all its glory, the best recipe for Olibollen ever- or if you like you can call them Plumelas.  

Plumelas (Olibollen- makes between 50-60 depending on size)

1 box raisins
2 T. yeast
1 qt (or 4 c.)milk
8 c. flour
4 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. salt

Oil for deep frying
Powdered sugar for shaking

Over medium heat, scald milk and raisins.  Remove milk from  heat and cool until you can comfortably put a finger in it without burning yourself.  Pour milk and raisins into a large metal mixing bowl.  Add salt and sugar and sprinkle with yeast.  After proofing yeast for about 10 minutes, add eggs, flour and salt.  Stir with a wooden spoon until sticky and well incorporated.  (See top picture).  Dough should be very sticky.  Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, bring oil to 350 degrees in a deep saucepan or deep fryer.  Using a teaspoon or tablespoon, drop dough into the hot oil. 

When plumelas are browned, remove from hot oil with a slotted spoon into a strainer.  Test one for doneness.  It may take several gooey centers before you figure out temp/outside color as an indicator for inside doneness.  Pour a couple of inches of powdered sugar into the bottom of a brown paper lunch bag.   Add 2-4 plumelas at a time, shaking to coat with powdered sugar.  It helps to have someone else sugaring, while you are cooking. 

At this point, it is not uncommon for people to begin snagging plumelas from the bowl you are putting them in, as they are tastiest when hot and fresh.  Do not get discouraged. 

Eventually they will start to pile up.  


Creative Writing Free Homeschool Download Grades 1-5

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I am by hobby and love, a writer. I have been writing stories both for children and adults for over 20 years. In talking to other homeschool moms, I find that most of them have no idea how to go about encouraging creative writing in their kids.  Aside from "story webs" and story writing prompts, most have no idea how to teach kids to love writing for writing's sake, and not get stuck on the mechanics of writing.  So, I have set out to create some activities for kids that will allow non-writing moms and dads to help encourage and strengthen that creative muscle.  I am offering the first part, Character Creation as a free pdf download.  I would love to hear from you feedback, and suggestions for improvement.  I only ask that you be respectful and not try to make a profit from my hard work.  Feel free to share, just let people know that they have Creative Mommy to thanks for the printables.  :) Enjoy!!


Alien Travelers and Letters

Author: Michele /

How to Draw An Alien

This coming year, the girls will be doing some serious space learning, so for our summer unit, I have been keeping it light.  Not to mention that with this unseasonable hot heat and as I get closer to giving birth to baby, no one has felt much like buckling down and getting serious.  Yesterday, the big girls put on their writing caps, and came up with some super creative letters they could find in their mail boxes from an alien friend.  The letters were to be written in traditional letter format with date, heading, body, closing and signature.  Being the artistic kids they are, they also added some "photos" from their home planets.   I went ahead and scanned the letters in so you can take a look at them if you are interested.  At the bottom of the post you will find a list of links for the printables we used.  Many are free printables.  Julia wanted in on the writing fun, so I found her a story starter complete with picture to color, about an alien's travels.  Creating writing is not really her "thang" but she had fun coming up with a story for her alien traveler.  Enjoy!!

Alien Letter 1

Alien Travels

Alien Letter 2

Links to recreate our Alien Adventure: (Alien Penpals- You cannot print this without a membership, but you can view it and get the idea)  (these can be downloaded for free one page at a time)

Like A Pheonix From The Ashes

Author: Michele /

(There is a reason I have this tattoo)

It is so hard to believe it has been over 3 years since I last posted here. It's amazing the things that 3+ years can change. We have a beautiful 2 1/2 year old son, Nathan, and another beautiful son on the way. We have moved completely across country, leaving behind Texas, its drama and my family. I won't go into details for many reasons, but should I go the rest of my life without them involved with myself or my children or my husband, it will be perfectly fine. For several reasons, including them, it will be a little different here around Creative Mommy. No more personal details, and no details specific to where we actually are living now. I originally stopped blogging here because of some hateful comments posted by my family, most of which dealt with how useless and pathetic I am and rather than feed into the drama, I went into hiding. There were some horrendous family situations that occurred and please trust me that it was not an easy choice to cut off all ties, but rather a necessary one.

It has been almost 2 years since we have had any contact with them. So let me tell you a little about what I can. Elizabeth is almost 10 now and Abigail is staring down the barrel of her 4th birthday. We will be having a bug bash (since the girls' birthdays are only 1 day apart it will be a joint party). Can you see that somethings haven't changed around the Henson home? Rachel is starting 2nd grade and has been identified under G and T in two states. Julia is a soccer playing devil with aspirations to play goalie when she gets a little bigger. Nathan- or as he refers to himself "Mr. Boy" is 2 1/2 and all boy. He has an inherent love of all things car. I am six weeks or so away from giving birth to our surprise and completely unplanned third son. Jason couldn't be happier.

Jason and I had a rough bout about a year ago, but I am pleased to say we made it through, stronger than ever. We are deeply happy with our transplanted roots, and the entire family has bloomed and grown here. Due to some bullying incidents at the local elementary school, we are once more embarking on a homeschool journey. We had planned to wait until the baby was a year old, but decided this was actually for the best. I have to admit, I am looking forward to it again. And coming back to this blog, and looking back over what we did in the past has only fueled that fire. I was actually accused at one point, right before we cut off contact with my family, of only homeschooling because I was too lazy to get up and take my kids to school. I can honestly say to that "fuck you." I might have been led into doubt that I was providing my children with a quality education, but looking back- holy crap we did a lot of cool stuff and they learned a ton.

I have been planning out our first month of school and am almost to my favorite part- all the projects and art and cooking and games and educational fun. You are welcome to stop over to our new blog for some very different fun (the style of that blog is VERY different from this one and there are NO personal stories/pictures/details. Or you can continue to follow me here. I will be checking in (I promise)and updating with some fun stuff. If you are still out there and still reading, thank you. Thank you for waiting for us and for caring enough to still check in. And I hope and pray that you have been blessed while we have been away.

Earth Day Clean-Up

Author: Michele /

There has been some controversy lately regarding Earth Day but regardless to its purposes or origins, I would like to help my girls learn respect. Part of that respect is cleaning up after yourself and taking care of the place where you live. In light of that goal, we spent the last two days taking what we call Alley Walks. Generally the idea is just to see what "treasures" you can find in the alleys and to walk somewhere safer than the middle of the road. This week however, we left the house armed with a trash bag. Now, just let me say, my husband works for the city here, and they do a pretty good job of keeping our alleys clean. That being said, we picked up more than a trash bag of garbage from our house to the next block.

Most of this trash was made up of things like bottles, boxes, etc that people didn't quite get into their trashcans. The rest of it was made up of things I can only assume were dropped by walkers or out the windows of the vehicles that use the alleys. My girls were quite willing to pick up other people's trash, enjoying the reward of a job well done. Now, if I can just get that work ethic to carry over into their room cleaning.

My point is that no matter what, we have to live here where we are. Why not make that space as pleasant as possible by cleaning up after ourselves? Love, light and blessings to you all.

WOW back in the saddle again

Author: Michele /

It's hard to believe it has been the better part of a year since I posted on here. There is a lot of change in our lives, but we are still doing what we do best- learning and having fun and learning to be the best we can be. My girls have flown through this year with amazing aplomb. For those of you on Facebook you can see the last couple of units we did on there. We have done rainforests which was completely AWESOME and farms, which was pretty spiffy too. I am not going to repost all the pictures here, but suffice it to say, there were some pretty fun things we did. With spring back on us, my girls were "ant"-sy to get back into the wonderful world of insects. With so many teaching possibilities how could I deny them?

This year we are raising 6 mealworm- hopefully from larva to beetle. They are getting fatter and longer as the days go by. (I will get some pics up today or tomorrow). It has been actually really neat to watch them, and we have lab books documenting behavior and life cycle. We also have some crickets for observation. But I have to say, the mealworms are far more entertaining to the girls.

We are learning about working together and being kind. Who better to teach that lesson than Amelia the Kind Ant. Each day I am taking one thing that someone did as a kindness and recognizing it on our DOOR OF KINDNESS. It has been fun to watch Elizabeth and Rachel documenting each others kind acts as well.

Yesterday we talked about making good choices and using good judgment. Even at 6 and 4 and 2 the girls can recognize good choices. That must mean we are doing something right.

Today, the weather was absolutely gorgeous so we headed outside to make our own crazy bug creations with chalk on the driveway. We discussed the features that make an insect an insect: 6 legs, 3 body segments, and the girls were responsible for making sure that regardless of whatever else their bugs had, they had those characteristics. It was an extension activity from earlier in the week when we identified mini-beasts as insects or non-insects.

If the weather holds, I have an insect walk planned for later in the week. So far everyone is excited to be learning about bugs again, and with the help from some new resources, we are expanding on this theme in fun and new ways.

Thank you all for bearing with me the last year, and keep checking back. :) We are back in the saddle again.


Author: Michele /

Well, for those who are is an update on life here. I am having a hard time posting pics because my phone, which I was using went KAPUT and my new phone takes HORRIBLE pics. So, I have been avoiding the blog. But I forgot the reason for the blog in the first place. It was not just a place to show off our homeschooling activities, it was a place for me to have a place to talk about the things that are going on in my life and to update family and friends on those things too.

Baby Abby is not so much a tiny baby anymore. She is already 3 1/2 months old. It is so hard to believe. I am still struggling with her birth, but we are getting through it day by day. Even knowing how things turned out at the hospital though, I would have waited for labor again in a heartbeat. No matter who it pissed off. She has been the healthiest baby. And she is just beautiful. She has the biggest smile I have ever seen.

Liz and Rachel and Julia have been working on school. I am loving having all three of them home, and it is such a blessing to watch the relationship between my girls grow and flourish. They are doing so well. I am really proud of them. Sometimes I think its a good thing that I have bright kids, since we are still learning our way around homeschooling.

Julia's new favorite game is what we call THE BUMP GAME. Basically, I stand up 8-10 crayons on the table and she bumps them over, the only catch being that she picks one that corresponds to a color I name. We win when all the crayons are laying down. It has increased her knowledge of colors by a lot and she loves it. Rachel is working on pre-reading. She has been showing an increased interest in letters and the sounds they make in regards to the printed word. She has known all of her letters for quite a while now but is just now getting to the point of realizing those printed symbols correspond with a sound.

Elizabeth is reading chapter books, working on her math, writing and just loving being able to learn at her own pace, which seems to be a tad faster than her age.

Well, I am off this morning to make a Thanksgiving Tree. We are making a tree to put up on the front door and between now and Thanksgiving we will each be writing something we are thankful for each day and putting it on the tree. Thanksgiving I plan to have everyone share the things we are Thankful for. I know Jason especially has been feeling a little low lately, and think this would be a great way to count the many blessings we do and take a fresh look at life.

Love and blessings to you all.

A is for air

Author: Michele /

I have several craft and fun pictures and information to upload and will be doing so in the next couple of days. As always, thanks for your continued patience. This time especially it will be worth it. I found the GREATEST site ever!

Crabby Abby

Author: Michele /

My littlest one in a fit of crankiness!

Example of School Decoration

Author: Michele /

Girls doing school

Author: Michele /

Great Multi-Cultural Website

Author: Michele /

This is an absolutely awesome site devoted to learning about other cultures and countries through crafts and swaps. Worth being checked out and bookmarked.

ABCs make A+ snacks

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , ,

Well we started our homeschooling year today. I was awakened at 7:30 by a little girl who was super excited to get started on school- namely she wanted to make caramel apples for a snack. One of my goals this year is to involve my girls more in cooking, to instill that love of cooking and to teach them the lessons that are inherent in food preparation: patience, measuring skills, reading a recipe etc...

Since we are starting our year off with A, the snacks we will be making all feature something that starts with the letter A. Two of these I will post on today are Alligator Swamp Water and Caramel Apples. Caramel apples are not usually a major production, except that the girls and I made our own caramel. The recipe is super-easy and very tasty and unlike other caramel recipes this one uses ingredients that are already in your cupboard. I call it 1 Cup Caramels.

One Cup Caramels
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup Karo syrup
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
dash salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a sturdy saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until soft ball stage is reached. On my candy thermometer, to set properly I cook it to 245 degrees F, but the soft ball test, of dropping candy into cold water also is an accurate test. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. If making caramel apples, dip apples in hot caramel. If not, pour caramel into a greased 8x11 or 9x13 pan. Cool completely. I had some large leaf shaped sprinkles from last year and after the apples had sat for a few moments, I let Rachel press leaves onto the caramel for pretty fall apples.

Alligator Swamp Water
Mint chocolate chip ice cream
2 liter bottle of ginger ale, sprite, 7 up or Dr Pepper
Chocolate ice cream topping

Put 1-2 scoops of ice cream in a clear glass. Add soda until foam reaches the top of the glass. Let sit a moment until the ice cream colors the soda. Top floating ice cream with chocolate syrup. Serve immediately.

Baby Abby 3 weeks and a few days

Author: Michele /

Mostly I wanted to see if I could post pictures directly from my phone, which it appears as though I can. But this is my baby, 23 days old. In my opinion she is getting prettier and prettier everyday. I am not biased, I assure you...

Writer's Workshop

Author: Michele /

Found here originally:
I thought it looked fun so I decided to give it a shot...
Choose a prompt, post it on your blog, and come back and sign Mr. Linky. For good comment karma try to comment on the three blogs above your name!!

Things I have learned from my toddler. Parents cannot hear a baby crying two feet away if you do not tell them about it. Uncooked noodles and cat food are delicious. Playdough in the bathtub equals gooey squishy fun. Toys are so much easier to find if they are scattered all over the floor. 15 baths a day is a perfectly acceptable number. Fruit snacks = mana from heaven. If a story is good the first time around it will be amazing the 2 millionth time around, and its best to space those readings as closely together as possible. Any squishy medium is great for finger painting. No one wears shoes unless they are going for a walk or to the park.

Julia's Shapes, Colors and Counting

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Links: 5 Little Shapes and 5 Green and Speckled Frogs both came from The flashcards I sent to a friend for her little boy, and forgot to save the website. If anyone knows where they came from please let me know!

I find that flashcards are great for my kids, not so much so I can walk around and drill them on whatever it is we are working on, but so they have something to hold and carry around. Julia will take one to me and ask about it, then take it to her dad, and her sisters then back to me. The reinforcement works very well, and it gives her a special manipulative that is hers to "play with". The set I made her is for basic colors. This site had many more I would have loved to have, so please let me know if you are familiar with it. I saved the file to my computer, but not the address to my favorites.

The shape song is to the tune of Three Blind Mice, and can be found on Shelley's childcareland site, under the freebies. It promotes basic shape recognition and once again provides a manipulative for my daughter to use and move around.

5 Green and Speckled Frogs is a song I learned in pre-k many years ago. My oldest learned it in pre-k as well. The frogs themselves came from Shelley's site, although any clip art of frogs would work. You could also make a glove puppet or finger puppets, depending on your child's interests and learning style. The pattern was for a flannel board, which I do not have at this time. However, as I have shared before, I do have a metal board my husband made me, and so I find that magnets work well for us. As always, everything on here has been reinforced with packing tape, although contact paper or laminating sheets would work as well.

Many people I know do not actually do school work with their younger kids, but instead give them something to keep them out of the way. I find that involving all my girls in school makes things go more smoothly for me, and the little ones are learning more than I would have expected.

At not quite 2 Julia can sing the ABC song, count to 10 on her own, manipulate objects to 10, recognize basic shapes, as well as knowing the words to several nursery rhymes. She is also learning the letters in her name. I do not sit down with her and drill her and make her do schoolwork. But she loves to sing, so we sing, and she loves to count spoons, so we count spoons and she loves to sit on my lap and dictate shape-drawing or letter writing. So we do all those things and I find that she is already gaining a love of learning. When I say it is time to do school, she is often running at the front of the pack to get to the table.

That to me is the beauty of homeschooling.

ABCs, Colors, Shapes, Cats and other School Activities

Author: Michele / Labels:

I am in the midst of preparing for school to start at my house. I had hoped to be all ready and started by Monday, but I seriously overestimated myself. Hey, it happens. So, today and the rest of the week are crack the whip time. Elizabeth will be home Sunday, so we will all start on Monday with school work, which means the rest of this week is time for me to set up our school room, aka my living room.

Rachel will be doing ABCs. I have some file folder games for her, a lapbook, recipes for snacks, an animal book, coloring pages etc... I will be posting as we do each letter. The first one, is of course A. We will have an alligator wall set up, as many of our crafts and science projects involve alligators. We will also be making pinweels for AIR. There are several songs we will be learning and a fingerplay. (All the information for this will be posted online, as soon as I get my pics up). I will post the links for you as well, and if there is anything on here that you are interested in, template-wise, feel free to leave me a message and I can email you what you need. I will also post the snack recipes.

Julia will be learning the 5 Green and Speckled Frog song, complete with magnetic puppets, working on the 5 basic shapes, colors and reinforcing her counting skills. There will be some overlap with Rachel's school work, as her coloring pages lend themselves well to kids Julia's age as well.

Elizabeth will be making a cat lapbook found here. The lapbook Rachel is making is also found through It's a great resource, especially if you are new to lapbooking. She is also learning American History, beginning with the Native Americans. My hope is to have some overlap between the lessons I am using for her and Thanksgiving.

Please note that almost everything I use I find free online, or get the idea from a book I have and go from there. I do not purchase any materials online whatsoever so you will seeing a lot of links on my blog this year (as much of Elizabeth's stuff especially is found online) and they are all to free materials you can print out on your own computer, or download and save. I promise I will get this laid out in an orderly manner so you can find what you are looking for. I will be posting off and on over the next few days, as I get stuff organized and set up.

Getting Back On Track

Author: Michele /

Well, it looks like Elizabeth will be taking a week long vacation with my aunt, so we will commence the school work when she gets home. I started gathering the materials I needed today. I found an entire workbook online for Liz for math, which will at least tell me what concepts she needs to work on and we can go from there. I also found a lapbook for her to do for science, and a great American History website for social studies. Throw in some vocab and a book/reading worksheets from and I think we have her covered. For Rachel we will be focusing mainly on ABCs. My plan is to do one letter a week. I will be using a lapbook for each letter as well as resources and templates from several of my books. The crafts I will probably just spread out among all three girls. For Julia, we will be focusing on counting songs, stories, nursery rhymes etc in addition to the basics like shapes, colors, numbers, etc.

I will, as always be putting up the resources, as I find them and posting pictures for your viewing. I was dreading school starting up again, just due to the amount of work in putting together not only one, but three curriculums, but what I found today is that I am actually very excited to get started. So, we will be gearing up. I may start with Rachel next week, while Elizabeth is gone, but it will depend on how quickly I get her information scanned in to the computer and printed off.

I also need to make a supply run. I have been keeping busy making diapers for Baby and making cloth shopping bags. My kids keep absconding with the bags I make, which is OK since the ones I have been practicing on have Dora the Explorer, Tinker Bell and Cinderella. I also want to get started making some Christmas presents. It will just be a matter of getting into some sort of routine. I am kind of putting any major plans on hold, while I wait to start school.

I would also like to get back into working on my novel, which I have started on the Pheonix Rising blog. It would be nice to carve that time for myself again, at least until Bible Study starts again. But, as always, best laid plans and all of that. LOL. I also need to finish Liz's toucan bookmark. Wow, the more I type, the longer my to-do list gets. I guess I should get off here and actually get busy.

I will have some pics up soon as I start making games and manipulatives for the kids.

Baby Abigail Here!

Author: Michele /

Well, baby Abigail Grace made her grand debut on the world on July 28, 2009, one day after Elizabeth's 6th birthday. She weighed 7lbs 6oz and was 21 inches long. Today is her one week birthday and she is doing great. She is a happy, peaceful baby.

The rest of us are trying to get back to some semblance of order. It will no doubt take us a bit, but the goal is to start school again on a serious note by the beginning of September. I am currently looking for any sites, ideas etc so if you know any let me know. Elizabeth will be in first grade, Rachel will be Pre-K/Kinder and Julia is Pre-K.

Thank you so much to everyone for everything. We will be back to business soon!

Still Here

Author: Michele /

Well, I am still here, and still waiting for baby. Apparently she is more a slow-cooker than a microwave kinda gal. Its been nice though; we have been spending time with the girls. We took Liz to get her birthday presents this past weekend (it's early, but I didn't want to try to be doing it around who knows what else). Then we spent the 4th at the park.

Not much going on here. Just trying to stay cool and get through this summer. I am looking forward to fall so much! I hope to be back posting regularly after the end of this month. Thank you all for bearing with me and being patient. That is one of the nice things about homeschooling though, is that we can fit it around our schedule and our lives.

Peace and blessings to each of you.

38 weeks pregnant

Author: Michele /

I know this is usually a blog about our homeschooling journey, but these days it has been so hot here and I am so tired, we haven't done much. Mostly we have been reading, and coloring and singing the ABC song. I am counting down the days until this little one makes her appearance. Last night, or this morning rather, I woke up at about 5 with contractions. I was up with them for a couple of hours, and figured this had to be it, then I dozed off and slept until 9. When I got up, the contractions started again, mostly in my back, and they have been intermittant all morning. But, they aren't getting closer together and they aren't getting stronger (at least not yet). I am glad I didn't call Jason in the middle of the night and tell him I was in labor.

Luckily, he will be home from his class this afternoon sometime. It has been a rough couple of days here, due to some issues with family that I will not go into at this point. But as I sit here and type this, I am getting phone calls from an unknown number and so am pretty sure the family in question is up to some new tricks this morning.

I am just praying this baby gets here soon! I am so worn out and not sleeping well. But I will keep everyone who needs to know posted, and be patient with my homeschooling hiatus. I don't know why I was thinking we could manage a whole curriculum this summer. I must have been out of my mind.

Pretzel Fish

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , ,

Pretzel Fish

2 C warm water
1 T yeast
1 t sugar
4 C flour
1 T table salt
2 T baking soda
1 T sea salt

In large bowl combine 1 1/2 C. warm water, sugar and yeast. When yeast is bubbly, add table salt and flour (1/2 c. at a time- more flour may be needed). When stiff dough is formed (similar to bread dough), place ball of dough in bowl and let rise until doubled. When dough is doubled, punch down. Pull off golf ball sized pieces and shape into long thin ropes. Twist ropes into fish shapes. Mix last 1/2 c. water with baking soda. Dip fish shaped dough into the water and place on a greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt (or other topping of your choice) and bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

Ocean Poetry

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , ,

I apologize for the lack of postings lately. It has been sweltering here, and i have not had the energy for much. I did make Elizabeth a set of magnetic poetry. I looked online for a word list, where someone else had made a set for their own kids. However, much to my suprise the only ones I could find were overpriced commercial sets. I bought some magnetic strips at Wal-Mart (88 cents for 15 strips.) I stuck them to a piece of paper and wrote several copies of each word running from and, the and of to octopus, flashy, fish, seahorse. I covered the strips with tape and cut them apart. Elizabeth can then play with it to make sentances or poetry on a cookie sheet. I spent less that 5 dollars, (closer to three I think) on a set of magnetic poetry that would have run me closer to 15 had I bought it retail. :)

bunk beds

Author: Michele /

Well, we spent yesterday repainting the girls' bedroom and assembling and repainting some bunk beds we got used from a friend of a friend. The kids were super excited to get their bunk beds finally, and although it took us almost 9 hours, we feel like it was a job well done. I cleaned their room again and repainted the walls off-white (which they badly needed) and made the trim and the beds a powdery blue (which Rachel loved since it matched her shirt lol). Anyway, just wanted to share. :)

Ocean Floor

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , , ,

Elizabeth and I made a drawing of a diagram of what the ocean floor looks like. I had found the detailed instructions to draw one (let me know if you need the directions) and then she and I painted it with tempera paint. The next morning, we added labels such as continental shelf, shoreline, plain and trench. (The goal for me is not that the girls memorize all these features, but that they are introduced to them and introduced to the idea that the ocean floor is not a flat surface. Eventually I am sure we will come back to oceans and I want the seeds of knowledge to be there.)

SAND MODELING DOUGH: (textured play doh!)

1 cup sand

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon Alum

3/4 cup hot water

food coloring if desired

Mix sand, cornstarch and Alum in bowl. Add hot water and stir vigorously. Add food coloring if desired. Cook over medium heat until thick. Let dough cool. Mold into desired shapes and let dry in the sun for several days. Store any leftover dough in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Then we used this recipe to make sand modeling dough to make our own ocean floors. I will get some pictures up of the finished product, but they are still drying. The directions for the floors says to have the children make diagrams of the ocean floor and label the features. We did not go quite that far (especially as the activitiy is for 2nd graders). But the girls had a wonderful time creating sea features for their ocean floor like coral beds, tunnels, starfish etc.

It always amazes me how much kids can rise up to the expectation set for them.

Texture Bags

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , ,

While I wait for the sand dough to cool so we can make our models of the ocean floor, I thought I would post on here about some texture bags I made for the girls last night. Julia (my two year old) hardly gets as much fun school stuff in the form of games as the other girls, but she loves this. I took a very sturdy zip-loc bag and added hair gel to it. Then I took a handful of shells and wooden beads that I bought at Wal-Mart and dropped them into the gel. I sealed the bag, folding down the top and taping it. She then can squish the beads and shells around, as well as play with the gooey hait gel.

Rachel wanted a bag too, but since I was out of hair gel, I made an adaptation of it for her. I took some tempra paint and squirted it in a zip-loc bag. I then took a magic marker and wrote her name on the outside. After sealing and taping the top of the bag, I turned it over to her. She can trace the letters in her name, while playing with the squishy paint, and has a "big-girl" texture bag. Both were great hits!

Necessity is Truly the Mother of Invention

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , , ,

Again, the pic is not of our experiement, but I wanted to share it with the friends and family who browse this blog.

Yesterday marked the first "official" day of our summer schooling program, although we had been doing work before then. We did the funnest experiment. Part of what we are doing prior to actually starting our first lesson on the coral reef, is learning about the ocean itself. We have learned the names of the oceans and where they are on a map (although memorization will be an ongoing proces. We are also learning what makes the ocean different from other bodies of water, both in terms of the salinity of the water and in the formations beneath. Tomorrow we will be looking at a diagram of a cut-away of the ocean floor (which I will be drawing today) and then making our own models, so I will get pics up of that. Yesterday however, we talked about the heaviness of the salt in the water, and how it makes the water sink compared to tap water.

I had found an experiment online and as the directions weren't very good, couldn't get it to work. Bless my husband, who sat there until he found an experiment online that did work, then tested it to make sure we could recreate it, then helped corral kids while we actually did it.

Luckily, I had an old water testing kit my mother had given me for aquariums that had small glass tubes. They worked perfectly. Here are a fairly concise set of directions. I hope you have as much fun with this as we did!

Take three small containers of water (100ml). Add food coloring of contrasting shades to each container. We made two of ours too close in color and it was harder to see the end result. Then add 1/2t salt to one of them and 1t of salt to the other. The third leave unsalted. With a dropper, squeeze half a dropper of water out along the edge of the tube, so it runs down the inside of the tube into the bottom. This will prevent the force of the water from mixing the colors.

First add the saltiest water. Next add the next saltiest water. Finally, put the plain water on top. What you should end up with are striped bands of colored water. Just to show what happens if you change things up a bit, make another tube, this time with the plain water on bottom, followed by the less salty and then the saltiest water. Discuss what happens and why. Why does the first tube stay banded and the second tube mix?

My kids thought this was akin to a magic trick and we did it probably 6-8 times. Then they had a great time shaking the tubes when we were done to mix the colors. This is a great chance to review color mixing too. :) Hope you have as much fun as we did.

Oceans of the World

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , ,

First a quick note about the picture. Yesterday was dry as a bone, about 93 degrees and you can see my kids in their special go-pick-up-sister outfits. The rain boots and knit cap cracked me up and I had to snap the pic.

Anyway, we started our official ocean unit last night. Until that point, Rachel and I had been working on some ocean-themed worksheets I printed out online from learning page. We looked at a map of the world, and identified the oceans. We discussed how much of the world's surface is actually water. Then the girls colored each ocean a different color to match the corresponding map key.

After they had done that, we did our first ocean water experiment. I took two mason jars, and filled both with water. To one I added about 1/2 salt. The kids tasted the water, observed the clarity of the water (salt water is very cloudy). We put the jars onthe mantle with no lids to observe the effects of evaporation.

More Oceans

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Please note, these three are all my own creations. Aside from some templates I borrowed from other resources, the ideas and executions were mine.

You can see Rainbow Ootopus. His body is made of blue felt. Just a large oval shape with a flat body. I added googly eyes, a pom-pom nose and a magic marker smile. Then I took and cut eight legs from various colors of felt. I found buttons in corresponding colors (except for the white leg- it has a black button) and sewed them on by hand in evenly spaced intervals. Then I cut a slit in each leg so I can be buttoned onto the body. This is a great fine motor skills game, as well as a way to teach colors and counting. Very hands on.

I made an Oceans of the World file folder game. I took a simple map of the Oceans of the World. This is in fact, the map we will be using for several of our activities. I printed out one copy with the ocean names, and another copy with the names erased (thank goodness for art pad huh?). I colored them identically and glued the labeled map to the top half of the file folder and the unlabled map to the bottom half. Then I took an index card and make small lables for the oceans. Rather than just having 5 labels and a zip-loc bag, I once more broke out the magnets and attatched a magnet in the correct positions as well as magnets on the back of the lables. It makes for a very sturdy game that is movable in its pieces, but strong enough to handle being shifted around. And if by some change we do lose a lable, they are very easy to replace.

The final game on this post is one I call How Fish Use Camouflage. I took a file folder (one of the long ones) and taped it open, then covered it with blue construction paper. I then took sea creatures and habitat features and cut them from different colors, patterns and textures of materials. I cut a starfish and two rocks from sandpaper, a manta ray and coral from craft foam, a killer whale and coral from a foam veggie tray, a shark and seaweed from bubble paper I colored blue, an eel and seaweed from a polka-dotted piece of tag board I had from who knows what and an octopus and coral from plastic canvas (very cheap and we will use it for another craft). I colored the octopus and coral purple. I then tacked the file folder to the wall and again, using magnets (I figured it would be easier to play with than having it flat and losing pieces) I put a magnet on the back of each sea creature and a magnet on the front of each piece of coral, rock and seaweed. This allows the kids to play with various textures of creature vs camo and they can see what works and what doesn't. It will also be a great tool when we study camouflage. Some of you might remember a smaller version of this I made for insects. It just highlights a very important survival technique for ocean animals.

While these games are a touch on the time-consuming side to make, they do provide a great hands-on opportunity for kids and I find them very well worth it.

Ocean Time

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

For summer school, we always try to do something fun, and relatively craft based. Last summer, we spent our time learning about life around the world. This summer, our topic is Oceans of the World. You can see the wall map I set up, so the kids can see the world's oceans; there is also a set of ocean-themed numbers (I have ABCs but dont have them quite finished yet; Julia is learning her colors so I have made a Rainbow Octopus and a set of color sea-life flashcards for her; there is also a magnet board full of sea creatures for play. There is also an ocean-themed board game. The pile of stuff I have amassed on my living room table is amazingly impressive. I will try to post all the information here as I had a very hard time finding enough stuff online and in my books to cover an entire summer of ocean fun. I had to make up a lot of the stuff myself, which is fine, but boy am I glad I got started with it now.

The World's Oceans is basically a map that I bought at Target for a dollar last summer, after having to draw my own world map on newsprint paper. I tacked it up on the wall and added my own bulletin board letters to spell out THE WORLD'S OCEANS. We will be learning the oceans of the world this summer, as well as looking at where different countries lie along the coasts. I wanted the girl's to have a concrete reference for this, as well as giving them the beginnings of map introduction.

On my living room walls, we normally have posters with the letters and numbers, as well as weather charts etc. For the summer, I have taken them all down, to give my living room, which also serves as our school room, the best possible chance of being turned into an underwater showcase. I also wanted the kids to have something new and different to look at this summer. I wanted to find ocean themed alphabets and numbers to put up, again for reference and because we always do a lot with letters and numbers (tis the age at my house). It took my a goo dbit of searching, but finally I found a site called Sparklebox, which had the numbers you see featured and a set of lower case letters which follow the same theme (I will get them up on here once they are up in my house :) ). Rather than making a static chart, what I wanted was to make something the kids could actually shift around, so I put magnets on the backs of them. I buy magnetic strips for less than a dollar a package in the craft section of Wal-Mart. My front door is metal, we have one window covered in sheet metal (you will see it covered in magnetic sea creatures) and Jason also made the girls a large magnetic board. It is our solution to a flannel board. When we are done with a unit, the pieces go to the refridgerator door where they provide another countless set of hours of entertainment.

Anyway, magnets are great at my house because even Julia loves to play with them and rearrange them. I plan to make the alphabet magnetic as well. You can also see a picture of magnetic sea creatures. I still need to add seaweed and coral to the mix, but basically its a large version of those magnetic books you can take in the car. It will allow sorting, putting in order of size, and just general play. It is also a good way to expose the girls to the general creatures under the sea. We have already begun the "what is this called" game, which leads to the "what does it eat, where does it live etc" game.

I made Julia a set of color cards. She has recently become fascinated with learning the names for everything. Among her recent loves in this regard are counting (she can count to 11 believe it or not) and colors. I just took a set of game cards from one of my books, although any small ocean clip art would work and colored them the basic primary colors as well as brown, grey, white, pink and black. Then I took a binder ring and punched holes in the top corner of each card, threaded them on the ring and viola! A set of flashcards she can't lose the pieces too. Another color game I made her I will put up in the next post- Rainbow Octopus.

Finally, I found a free board game maker online and made the girls a board game. The site allows you the option of putting in your own text, so mine includes things like bonuses for using camouflage and penalties for getting caught in whirlpool. Then of course, since I don't have color ink in my printer, it was time to break out the markers and color the board. This is a great activity for the kids to do together, and in fact one the whole family can be involved in.

Bug Cake and Our Final Insect Hoo-rah!

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , ,

Well all, I am back to finally finish the bug unit I started and to post our summer fun of Oceans. As you know, Elizabeth's school has become the bane of my existence these days, and the last couple of weeks have been no exception. They have been very needy, sending home lists of things for her to bring to school. Just last week she ended up taking 4 bottled drinks, 2 packaged snacks, 1 "birthday cake", 1 pkg of paper plates, one jug of kool-aid, 1 pkg of napkins, and one bag of silverware for three days of activities. I am still not entirely sure why they even bother with school the last two weeks, as they are just play days pretty much.

Anyway, the photo above is the cake I made. I won't bore you with details, just suffice to say that it was one of those cases of everything I tried to do I didn't have the ingredients, and yet God came through for me in a big way. The crumbs on top were chocolate cookies I made, then there were two chocolate cakes and chocolate (powdered sugar-less) frosting. One of the richest cakes I have ever tried but very tasty. And even though the recipes were all ones I had never tried before the cakes turned out perfectly.

I also managed, on a very tight budget, to find plates, drinks etc very cheaply! YAY! Anyway, with the rest of our insect unit, we spent one afternoon at the park catching bugs and drawing pictures of the ones we caught.

Over the past weekend, it rained here pretty hard. The girls went into the backyard to play, on a clear part of Saturday and made an awesome discovery. There, near a fire ant mound, were tiny, fuzzy bright red bugs that looked like spiders. Well, it took a while to figure out what they were, but come to find out they were Velvet Spider Mites. Apparently they only come out here after a hard rain (which is not that common) and they eat all manner of pesky bugs. Jason tried to get pictures of them both with a cell phone and with my camera, but all the pictures were too blurry to use. However, we were very pleased to have gotten to see this rather rare occurrance. And what a fun end to our Insect Unit!


Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , ,

We learned about dragonflies one day over the weekend. Actually it was really cool, because Jason sat down with the girls to do this craft and mini-book (both pulled from He took the girls online while their crafts were drying to learn important dragonfly facts like how a dragonfly's eye works, where they live, what they eat and how fast they can fly. Then, they made their books and assembled their books. He does not do school with them very often, so I try to encourage it on the weekends.

The crafts were simple, just a printed template and a popcicle stick, colored and decorated with glitter. The book was a mini-book from the lapbook on dragonflies on the site above. It was part the success of this simple little activity that made me decide to try my hand at helping the girls lapbook this summer.

Tissue Butterfly

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , , ,

The butterfly we made from tissue paper was a very simple craft to make. I just took a simple butterfly outline template from one of my fine motor skills books, and the girls put down glue with paint-brushes, then pressed pre-cut (I cut them ahead of time) squares of tissue paper over the glue. I wrote their names on the butterfly bodies, as they both love to watch you write their names. Even Julia is getting able to recognize letters in her name and she will promt you when you say them outloud as you write.

Ladybug Paper Plate

Author: Michele / Labels: , , , ,

We took a paper plate and painted it red with tempera paint, then the girls took a cotton ball dipped in black paint to add spots. We accordian-style folded six legs(which imo gives it a spidery look- lol) and then added google eyes. With drying time, it took us the better part of an afternoon.


Author: Michele /

Hey all. Sorry. We have been busy with schoolwork, but I have not had much time to post. So once more I am playing catch-up. In addition to regular schoolwork, I have begun starting to gather things together for at least a month or two of our summer work, so I am not trying to pull it together right before/after the baby is born. I will posting pictures of our summer unit as I get them done. Then, we also plan to try our hand at lapbooking this summer. I think Liz will really enjoy it. The set-up is pretty neat. For now, I am using a series of lapbooks I found free online at Check out the ocean ones in particular, as I think we will spend our summer diving under the sea. I had thought to just do animals, but its too broad for us. So, we will be concentrating it down. Then we will pick up other animal groups as time allows. We will however, be spending time learning animal classification, etc... Honestly, take a look at the lapbooking site. I am very excited about it. Of course, we will do much of the same things we always do: games, art, math, reading etc. Also, if anyone can think of kids movies featuring ocean life please let me know. We have Little Mermaid, The Reef, and Finding Nemo and that cartoon where Will Smith is the fish's voice (can't remember the name off the bat).

Been Kinda Lazy Lately

Author: Michele /

Well, as anyone who checks here often can tell, I havent been posting as much as before. Its not that we havent been doing school its that I have been lazy. I need to get our dragon fly stuff up here, our ladybug stuff and our ants we made yesterday. We also got our painted lady butterflies in the mail. At Christmas, more than anything else, Elizabeth wanted a butterfly house, so that is what she got. The cool thing is that you can send away for the caterpillars to raise. We are really excited about them. I will see if I can get some pictures of them today. It might be hard since they are essentially in a plastic cup. It has been so hot here, and it is supposed to be 101 today and 103 tomorrow. On top of that, I have been back in my old sleep patterns of insomnia and horrific nightmares. I am sooo tired!

Anyway, I will get our pictures up in the next day or so. We had a great playdate the other day with a super nice mom and her three little girls! I am really excited about that and hope that we can continue to get together with her. We have also recently found a church (fingers crossed), and God answered the what are we eating today question. Hopefully things are back on an upswing for us. It seems like every time we get a little ahead or even caught up, something happens. But we have to start getting things ready for this baby.

She is coming in two months, give or take and there wont be any stopping this one. She already reminds me of her oldest sister. Heaven help us all. LOL.

BTW the picture at the top is what happens when Rachel and a bottle of glitter collide. Poor thing, she poofed the glitter container and had glitter everywhere. This is the after-effects many hours later and you can still see how she shines- as if she needed any help at all there.

Insect Book

Author: Michele /

Rachel made a book full of insects. The book has fact files with insect information. It was a family project, as Rachel gets tired of coloring. She delights in showing everyone the pictures they colored.