Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Settling Down for a Long Winter's Nap...

I want to need to take some time off.

........It's the holiday season and I want to thoroughly enjoy it without the added stress of keeping up the blog. I don't want to worry that I am not writing or that my heart is just not in my writing. It's not fair to you, my readers. I want to post the very best content I can, off course...I think that's every blogger's objective.

        ........Buttercup and I are done with homeschool for the year, except for a few odds and ends we are trying to get finish up.

                                                       .........I have lots of baking to do which I am looking forward to.

                 .........I need the rest, the down time, the sit-on-the-couch-and-watch-a-movie time.

                                       .........I want to prepare some homeschool material for January.

..........I have a new learning product that I've been working on and I want to put the finishing touches on it so it's ready to be launched at the beginning of the year.

So here are some incredible Christmas/Holiday ideas I've come across on the web to hold you over for the next couple of weeks. Some of them are my own, but mostly I just love to share what other bloggers are doing because it always humbles me to see the amazing creativity out there. So jealous....

Hi It's Jilly is doing a 31 Days of Christmas Music on her blog. How fun!

I'm sharing the recipe for the Best Chocolate Bark EVER!.........

.......and my Advent Calendar idea!

christmas mantel ideas

Take a look at this elegantly decorated mantle at Home Stories A to Z

Check out this front entrance over at The Passionate Home.

I'm loving this easy to make treat for the holidays from What's Cooking, Love?

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season! And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being on this journey with me. Thank you for reading my ramblings...... Thank you for commenting......Thank you for sharing!

See you in January!
Adventures of a Homeschool Mom

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The best chocolate bark EVER!

I hate to cook...

But I love to bake... especially during the holidays.

I've been on a baking frenzy over the last few days.

Several years ago at a family gathering I had the best chocolate bark EVER. And I just had to have the recipe. Lucky for me, the person who made the bark happens to be an amazing person and shared her recipe with me. I've been making Mrs. Hammond's chocolate bark ever since. I make it every year about this time and I bring it to parties, work gatherings, my kids bring it to school and give it to friends. Everyone loves it. No joke.

I just finished a batch and I can't stop eating it. Before I share this super easy recipe I want to give a shout out to Mrs. Hammond. She is my cousin's wife's mother (try to figure that one out!). She has the best outlook on life of anyone I have ever met.   Seriously.   It is a total joy to know her because she is so genuine and so giving.

Even though we are not technically related, I feel like we are family. Do you have someone like that in your life? Someone who just makes your day better? I hope you do. It's wonderful.

So here is Mrs. Hammond's chocolate bark recipe. I'm sure she would want you to have it!

The best chocolate bark EVER

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • Saltine crackers
  • Chocolate chips
  • nuts (I use whatever I have, usually almonds or walnuts)

  • Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray it with PAM.
  • Cover the cookie sheet with a layer of saltine crackers.
  • In a sauce pan, melt the butter, then mix in the sugar.
  • Pour the butter and sugar mixture over the crackers.
  • Put it in the oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes until golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and spread the chocolate chips over the crackers.
  • Turn the oven off and place the cookie sheet back in for about two minutes, just to melt the chocolate.
  • Use a spatula to spread the melted chocolate over all of the crackers.
  • Sprinkle with chopped nuts.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I usually leave it in the fridge overnight.
  • Remove from the foil and break into pieces.

Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

DIY wood projects

I live in an area that was affected by Hurricane Sandy. We don't live any where near the coast, so we didn't suffer the same kind of damage that the folks living in coastal towns did. What we got was a lot of wind, rain, downed power lines and trees.

We lost two trees in our yard, but luckily neither fell on the house, so no damage done, except for losing the trees.

After the storm, my husband, a very kind neighbor and I went out to assess the damage and decide how to proceed. Armed with work gloves, goggles, and a chain saw, we spent the day cutting down the trees. Branch by branch we worked tirelessly. By the end of the day, we were all exhausted and were left with a huge pile of branches that would hopefully be taken away by the township.

After the dust settled, I started to think about the wood we had sitting in our backyard. What a shame to let all of it go to wasted. What could I do? I'm not much of a DIYer or crafter, but I was excited at the thought of recycling, upcycling, something-cycling...

I went to the place I always go to get inspiration and ideas.....

.........a place that has yet to let me down

                                      ..... a place where people share their ideas, their knowledge, their own stories

....yes, I went to the internet!

And there I found inspiration, ideas, how-to's, much more than I had hoped or expected. I was more excited than ever at the possibilities!

The next part was the tricky part....getting my husband to help! After all, I cannot cut all of that wood by myself. I've used a chainsaw but I'm not very good at it and don't totally feel safe.

I told my husband my ideas and he just chuckled, but went along with it. We headed outside to pick out just what we needed.

My first project was inspired by Kendra, over at Creative Ambitions. I found her on Pinterest and I love her blog. She made a photo ladder using tree branches and I just love the rustic look.

Here is my version of it (definitely NOT as good as hers, but I love it!)

Photo Ladder

I still need to add the bottom picture

Next, I used branches on the windows to hang decorations!!

Shadow box

I had a wooden box and thought I could do something with it. I gave it a shot and I'm pretty happy with the outcome. 
I started with this box
I got some branches

I used a glue gun and this is what I got

On my wall

I still have more branches in my garage waiting for the next idea. If you have any, let me know!

Happy Adventures!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advent Calendar Idea

Every year we get an advent calendar and it's usually a simple flip the little card open and read a snippet of the Christmas story. My oldest daughter looked forward to the Advent Calendar even as she got older.

A few years back, I got the idea to  make the countdown to Christmas a little more fun and decorative at the same time. We still got the Advent Calendar for the story, but I made simple construction paper trees in different sizes. Then I cut out small circles and wrote the numbers 1-25 on each circle. I attached the circle to the top of the tree and randomly placed these paper trees all over the living room and dining room. Under each tree was a small treat or coins or a strip of paper with something written on it.

The kids loved the idea and couldn't wait each day to flip over a tree to see what was underneath. The rule always was that both kids had to do it together so one wouldn't find out before the other.

I did that for a few years but this year I wanted something different. After tons of research and seeing so many great ideas out there, I came up with my own version of an Advent Calendar/Countdown to Christmas.

I wanted to incorporate the religious aspect with the fun part of Christmas and have some nice decorations for my house!

I bought gift card holders that look like a tiny purse with a ribbon handle. I got them for .99 cents for a pair. I chose different styles and colors but all are Christmas themed.

Then I made the number stickers and printed them on label paper so I could easily peel and stick them on my envelopes.

I typed out a simple, easy to understand, kid-friendly version of the Advent story and printed it on 25 pieces of paper. I attached those to the back of  the gift card holders.

Then I filled each envelope with treats, coins, or paper with an activity written on each. The activity papers are the kids' favorites because they know they'll get to order pizza, go see a Christmas display or get hot chocolate.

This year I also added a few "service" activities; things they would have to do for others.

I used twine clothespins to hang the envelopes. We had so much fun with this project and now we get to look at it everyday. And until December 1, the anticipation builds as to what's inside each little envelope!

Here's my list of activities:

  • Pick a name from the church tree and buy a gift for the person
  • Go see the Christmas tree in (name of town)
  • Go for hot chocolate
  • Read a Christmas book
  • Drive around to see the lights
  • Watch a Christmas movie
  • Bring cans to the food pantry
  • Decorate cookies
  • Order pizza
  • Take a treat to a neighbor
  • Make a card for a friend and mail it
  • Make a gingerbread house
  • Find and read a Christmas story from another culture
  • Go to New York City
  • Have a sleepover in the living room
  • Breakfast for dinner
  • Make reindeer food

 I wish I had better pictures...these really just don't cut it. Oh well...

Happy Decorating Adventures!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Original Lap Desk Review and Giveaway!

I was recently approached by the people at The Original Lap Desk Company to do a review of one of their lap desks. As a homeschool parent, I know that my kids love to do computer work or school work any which way they find comfortable. They rarely use an actual table and with today's laptops and other mobile electronics, there is really no reason that kids and adults can't do their work where they are most comfortable.

This is where the lap desk comes in. It gives the user a cushy area that will rest on their lap and a nice sturdy work area. The lap desk that I used and my kids used is large enough for a laptop or a text book.

We tried out the Platinum series lap desk and loved it! The beautiful color is perfect for the teens and young adults. The lap desk is contoured to sit comfortably on you lap and fit nicely around your waist. The cushion underneath is made from a very soft material that feels great.

Why you'll love the lap desk:
  •  Sturdy material
  • Soft cushion
  • Perfect workspace solution
  • Comfortable anywhere
  • Perfect for writing and drawing
  • Ideal for laptop computers
My oldest daughter used the lap desk to do homework and use her computer. I like to do my online banking at night in bed, so I used the lap desk to pay the bills!

The lap desk is the perfect accessory to have at home. The Platinum Series comes in four bright colors, royal blue, purple, pink and lime green! So you can have more than one! Everyone gets to choose their own color!

The best part is that the folks at The Original Lap Desk are offering one lucky Adventures of a Homeschool Mom reader their very own Platinum Series lap desk.

Here's how this contest works:
  • This contest is open to US residents only.
  • You must be 18 or older.
  • Use the Rafflecopter entry form below. (Wait a few minutes for the form to load)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Playroom storage DIY!

I've had this white cabinet for years and it is very utilitarian, albeit ugly, so we've kept it through several moves. Originally, it was a cheap bookshelf. I wanted to be able to hide the mess, so we put doors on it. And that's how it's been ever since. As Buttercup grew, she decorated the cabinet with random stickers she would get in books or at the doctor's office.

It really became an eye sore that I just kinda ignored. It currently sits in our kitchen and a couple of weeks ago, the kitchen got a fresh coat of paint and the ugly cabinet became more of an eye sore.

On a whim, I decided to spruce it up. I figured I really couldn't make it worse. So I started by peeling all of the stickers off.

Since I had a little bit of paint left over from the kitchen, I decide to use that so the cabinet would at least blend in. So I painted it yellow. Well, once it was done, it was too yellow and it just didn't look quite right.

I remembered I had these old drawer knobs from when 1D was little. They were butterflies and ladybugs and one day she just outgrew them but I never threw them out.

So off to the basement I go in search of these cute little doorknobs. I changed out the old boring knobs for the ladybugs and 1D painted red spots randomly on the cabinet.

Not a good picture!
I am so glad with the outcome. It looks almost new and it's perfect for a playroom or kid's room. And I still get to hide all of our art supplies in there!!

I really love being able to upcycle things I already own. I am frugal and hate to waste money. Plus, I love these little projects. I get to do something creative and it doesn't take very long (I have no patience for things that take days to make).
I'm already cooking up my next DIY project. I can't wait to post pictures! Enjoy!

Fall Arts and Crafts Project

If you live in the northeast, you know that this time of year we start spending lots of time indoors. Well, I do anyway. I am originally from Brazil. Need I say more? Seriously, even though I've lived in this beautiful country for a very, very long time, I just cannot get used to the cold weather. So I do "hole up" during the late fall and winter.

As a result, we do a lot of projects during this time. I've been searching for fun Fall projects, and we've been trying out different things.  Can I just say "Halleluiah for Pinterest"!!

Here are a couple of things we've done this Fall!!

Leaf Art

We started by dividing a white sheet of paper (we used computer paper) into six squares. We made the lines to separate the squares using a Sharpie. Next, using a pencil, Buttercup drew the leaves. I taught her to draw the veins first and then make the leaf around. It was hard at first, because she was used to drawing leaves the other way around (making the outline then filling in the leaf). But she got the hang of it and I can see an improvement in her drawing.

We outlined the leaves with Sharpie, then Buttercup painted each leaf in warm, Fall colors.

Finally, she painted the background of each square in a pattern of blue, green.

Falling Leaves on Wood

I thought this project was super cute and pretty easy to make.

  • 8" x 14" piece of wood, 1/2" thick. This was what I had lying around. You could use a different size.
  • Wood stain.
  • Paper or plastic leaves.
  • Make sure the wood is sanded (we don't want to get splinters!)
  • We glued the fall colored leaves on the wood in a "falling pattern"
  • Once the glue dried, we covered everything with a coat of wood stain
  • We let it dry for 24 hours.
That's it. How can you not do this. Oh, and I got the inspiration from Pinterest.The project came from Craftiments, And, can I just say that hers is much nicer than mine. I actually didn't follow any instructions. I simply looked at the picture and came up with my own version of it.

Fall Door Hanging

This one came from searching the internet for ideas. A lot of what I found is really geared toward very young children. Well, Buttercup is seven so most of those projects would be boring for her. But this one was so perfect. The added benefits were practicing using scissors and tracing.

  • Leaf foam cutouts (the writer used pre cut leaves and letters, but I didn't have that, so I used the templates from her site. I must say it worked out very well.) We used red, yellow, orange and purple (didn't have brown)
  • Letter foam cutouts (used the template from All Kids Network
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • String
  • I printed and cut out the leaf template and the letters.
  • I taped the leaf to a piece of foam and let Buttercup trace and cut 4 leaves.
  • I used the letter template to cut out foam letters.
  • Cut out a 4" x 8" foam rectangle.
  • Glue the letters HAPPY onto the rectangle.
  • Glue a letter on each foam leaf (FALL).
  • We hole punched the foam and tied string to each component to hold it all together.
What are some Fall projects you and your family are working on? I'd love to hear some ideas.

Happy Homeschooling Adventure!