Life Lately

Between school and the four little ones at home, life has just been trucking along here lately. One of the highlights of the last month was celebrating Candlemas with our family on February 2nd. ¬†Diving a bit deeper into liturgical living is one of my goals for the year, and Candlemas seemed like a good place to begin. It’s the feast of Jesus being presented in the temple 40 days after he was born, and because Simeon said Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” it’s a feast day that involves lots of candles!

We celebrated by doing everything by candlelight…. James made some crepes for lunch by candlelight (not totally necessary, as it was pretty bright out that day), and we ate dinner and read the kids their bedtimes stories by candlelight, too. It was so cozy, and the kids relished every moment of it!

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This little lad is now walking all over the place – quickly! He’s quite mischievous and loves getting into all sorts of drawers, and pulling books off the shelves. Seriously, sometimes it feels like a full-time job warding him away from the bookshelves! He’s also climbing up and down the stairs, waving, and generally being quite a delightful, busy little guy.

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His hair is sooooooo soft and fuzzy! I really should cut it, but I rather love the fuzziness, especially after he’s had a bath and smells delicious.

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Climbing everywhere, falling everywhere.

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This week is Exam Week in our homeschool, the week where we look back on the term that’s just passed and recall the various things we’ve learned. Here’s James’s Year 2, Term 2 exam if you’re interested! Each day he chooses 8-9 questions to answer, which usually takes an hour or so – so it’s also been more of a relaxed week – which is great, because I’ve been able to get some homeschool planning for next year completed! Yay! I’ve got a bit of a case of the Februaries, and dreaming about next year has been lots of fun.

Year 2, Term 2 Exam

Religion – Bible Stories:
1. Tell the story of Ishmael, or how Abraham’s servant found a wife for Isaac.
2. Draw a picture about Jacob and Esau.
3. Tell about Jesus choosing his twelve apostles, or about John the Baptist.
4. Tell about Jesus raising the dead young man in the village of Nain.

Religion – My Path to Heaven:
1. Describe the picture ‘The Two Standards’.
2. Tell about The Agony in the Garden.

Copywork
1. Please do the copywork sheet in your neatest writing.

Handicrafts
1. Please do one row of your latch hooking.
2. Please do another row of your latch hooking.

Nature Study
1. Please tell me about one of the walks we have gone on this winter, and something interesting you noticed on the way.
2. Please draw a scene from the Burgess book about Old Granny Fox.

Picture Study
1. Which was your favourite painting by Jan Vermeer, and why? Please describe it for me as carefully as you can without looking at the painting.

Music Appreciation
1. Which of Mozart’s songs we listened to this term did you like the best?
2. Watch Olga Jegunova play Mozart’s ‘Piano Sonata Number 11’ on YouTube.

History:
1. Tell about Richard Coeur de Lion (Richard the Lion-Hearted). You might include something about how his minstrel went about finding him.
2. Why was Bad King John considered a bad king?
3. We’ve read about many battles this term! Please draw a picture of King Edward I fighting against King Robert the Bruce of Scotland; or of King Edward III fighting the Battle of Crecy, or the Siege of Calais.
4. Tell what you remember about the kingdoms of West Africa.
5. Describe the qualities of a Gothic church.

History Tales or Biographies:
1. What was your favourite part of The Little Duke?
2. What are some things you noticed about Duke Richard that show he was a Catholic?

Geography
1. How was Seabird made, and what has Ezra been up to in Seabird so far?
2. Tell me a bit about how cotton, sugar or cocoa is made (as described in The World at Home).

Math
1. Please do a math worksheet.
2. Please give me an example of a cardinal number and an ordinal number.
3. James went on a nature walk at Scenic Canyon Park in the springtime and saw two robins, three downy woodpeckers and one northern flicker. Please make a bar graph of the birds James saw.

Dutch
1. Please sing a song for me in Dutch.
2. Tell me a little bit about a dog in Dutch.

Poetry
1. What was your favourite poem we read this term, and why?
2. Please recite a poem you learned this term.

Literature:
1. Pilgrim’s Progress: Please describe what happens to Christian when he naps in the bower, and what he does afterwards.
2. Pilgrim’s Progress: Tell about Vanity Fair and what happened to Christian there.
3. Draw a favorite scene from Wind in the Willows.
4. Tell what you remember about either of these two Shakespeare plays: All’s Well That Ends Well, or Cymbeline.

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Favourite Recipes of 2018

I have a collection of recipes neatly organized into two binders, but the recipes I use a lot end up getting stuffed beside the binders when I’m done with them. So today I was sorting through that stash-of-papers-stuffed-beside-the-binder and realized that the stash actually comprises many of our family favourites, so I thought I’d share some of them with you!

We made these muffins over and over this past year. Thursday is our Muffins for Breakfast day, and we tried lots of lots of muffin recipes before settling on this one. These Morning Glory muffins are hearty, filling, and tasty!

Morning Glory Muffins
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups peeled and grated carrots (4-5 carrots)
1 large apple, peeled, cored, grated
1/2 unsweetened coconut
2/3 cup walnuts
1/3 cup bran
3 large eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 orange juice or milk

Preheat oven to 375F. In a mixing bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Stir in the carrots, apples, coconut, walnuts and bran.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, vanilla and OJ/milk. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until just evenly mixed. Spoon into a greased 12-cup muffin tin. Pop in the oven and bake for 25 minutes till the muffins are beautifully domed and have no gooey bits on the top.

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I love having quick dinner recipes on hand for those days when the afternoon goes by a little too quickly and dinner is staring you in the face! This tortellini soup is super easy to make (it will probably be the first dinner I teach James how to make in a year or two) and tastes great, too. We buy the 3-pack of tortellini from Superstore/Costco and throw them in the freezer for busy days. 

Tortellini Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 large (28-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
8 cups chicken broth
1 large package (700 grams) of tortellini
5 cups of fresh spinach, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
parmesan, for serving

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add in the onions and cook until the begin to soften (5-7 minutes or so). Add in the garlic and cook another minute. Add in the oregano and tomatoes and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook for 8-9 minutes. Add in the spinach and cook for one additional minute. Add the salt and pepper, and serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top!

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We really enjoy this delicious chicken-y, pasta-y, broccoli dish! It’s pretty decadent, so it’s more for a special occasion than a regular menu item. Very tasty!

Baked Chicken Broccoli Alfredo
3 cups broccoli florets, steamed till tender
3 cups small pasta, boiled till tender, and drained
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (I cook mine in the Instant Pot, or use a rotisserie chicken)

Sauce
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4-5 cups of milk, half and half, or heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup parmesan cheese, divided

Topping
2 tablespoons butter
1 and 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 375F.

Make the sauce: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour, and stir with a whisk to make a thick paste. Very slowly (over 5 minutes or so) whisk in the milk until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in the cream cheese and 2/3 cup parmesan until the cheese has melted. Stir in the spices and remove from heat.

Combine the broccoli, chicken, pasta and sauce in large bowl and stir together. Transfer to a baking dish. (I use two large Corelle dishes.)

Put the butter in a glass dish (like a large pyrex measuring cup) and melt it in the microwave. Stir in the breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning. Sprinkle over the broccoli-chicken-pasta mixture. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on top, too.

Bake for 15 minutes, and enjoy!

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These are the perfect cookie! They spread just the right amount, have a nice crinkly look to them, don’t crumble, and are soft and chewy. The recipe is huge and makes about three tray-fuls of cookies – nice for baking, and saving some cookies for later in the freezer, if you do that sort of thing.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter (don’t be fancy and use all natural peanut butter, this works best with the Jiffy type of PB)
2 cups white sugar
2 cups brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars together until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Form into one-inch balls and put them on cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for about 14-15 minutes.

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And here are a few others we made regularly, too:
Taco Rice (simple, tasty meal; we probably had this almost once a week)
Best Bread Ever (very tasty white bread that doesn’t take forever to make)
Sweet and Spicy Cashew Chicken (very tasty, I usually serve this skillet meal with rice)
Shepherd’s Pie (this is a bit labour-intensive, but is nice and hearty)
Silly Greek Chili (I seem to like this better than the rest of my family, but it’s really, really good with some little baguette crisps)
Spiced Ginger Cookies with Molasses (the perfect Christmas-y cookie!)

First Steps

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This little boy took his first steps this past Sunday! He was so, so excited, and pleased as punch when we all erupted into cheers at his success. This crowns a period of intense mischief lately: getting into cupboards, breaking plates, choking on dishwasher detergent tabs, rummaging in my homeschool cart, throwing books off our shelves and side tables (note the books that have been moved to higher planes in the photos above), tugging on lamp cords, and… climbing. I don’t think Alice climbed on anything till she was 2 years old, but Leo is determined to be James the Second. He’s been desperately trying to climb onto the living room table for weeks, and finally succeeded yesterday. Again, he was pleased as punch to have hauled himself up there! He’s got this little trick lately, where he puts his head on the ground and straightens his legs, and then looks through them. It’s quite hilarious. Of course, when he decided to pull that trick on the living room table I had to take a quick picture, before wiping the grin off my face and moving him to safer ground.

His way of letting us know he’s happy is to shriek in noisy, raucous delight. Aside from that, h`e mostly refuses to chuckle except for at James’s silly antics. When Jeremy comes home from work, Leo stands at the top of the stairs, and rattles the gate back and forth vigorously and noisily – a fine hello! He’s also sleeping much better at night… though the tradeoff is that now our days begin at 5am. Regardless, he’s seems happier now that he’s getting a more solid night’s sleep, and we’re pleased with that!

2018: a look at the year through fuzzy, imperfect photos

My phone maxed out today, stuffed to the brim with photos and videos, so I uploaded them to our computer and thought I’d share some of them here with you. They’re not perfect photos, but they do capture something of what our ordinary days were like last year. Mostly they are photos of Leo, with some of his siblings thrown in from time to time. Many of them are in our home (where we love to be), or outside on some of our nature rambles. Here they are for your enjoyment!

We moved in early 2018, and a week later Leo was born!

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The kids (James, June and Alice) spent some time at my mom and dad’s (one of their favourite places to be). I love this picture of James and June, as it captures their joyful love of each other!

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It took a good seven weeks before Leo cracked a smile, but since then he’s had many a cheery grin to share with us.

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June got a cute haircut.

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Dilworth Mountain.

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Taking a break from his math to practice headstands.

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Twin Day!

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When I was pregnant, James was dearly hoping that Leo would be a boy. And he loves the fact that he has a little brother, so there were many moments like this…

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James’s copy of an illustration of his hero, St. George.

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More math!

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End of the year exams for First Grade!

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For James’s birthday, we made him a treasure hunt. This clue was the first verse of Genesis (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”) and the little piece of paper was wedged into the spine of our picture study book. Kinda took a long time to find…

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The kids loved spending time at the lake last summer!

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Camping!

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James starting his first campfire…

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I met up with an old friend in Seattle during that time, too.

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And James flew with his Uncle Anthony in a Cessna!

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Alice turned three!

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We spent the evening at the lake on her birthday.

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We put up a huge map on our kitchen wall!

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Smoky/rainy skies.

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Hanging out with Auntie Tanya!

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Brrrrrrrrrrrrr!

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Jeremy and James went salmon fishing.

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Enjoying some tree climbing at Chichester Wetlands.

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That time when Leo outgrew his baby chair, but we didn’t want to admit it. So he started flipping over and rocking back and forth on his hands and knees!

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All four kids on the swings at the park just down the road from us…

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Autumn!

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Autumnal afternoon at the lake.

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Second grade…

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Halloween.

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One of Leo’s favourite things to do is watch his siblings play in the front yard. The couch is a good perch for this viewing!

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We gave the kids a section of the backyard for digging, and they took it quite seriously. There’s currently a 2.5 foot hole, with canals to smaller holes, too.

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He just won’t stop growing up!

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One of our favourite walks at Scenic Canyon Park.

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James lost his first top tooth!

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An enjoyable visit with Grandpa and Grandma!

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The kids have been thoroughly enjoying the bit of watercolour painting we squeeze into our days.

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Christmas at my mom and dad’s.

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Many a visit to the shop with Grandpa!

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June meeting her new little cousin, Hallie!

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Celebrating mom’s 60th birthday!

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A special evening: watching Tudor Monastery Farm by candlelight.

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The kids with all their cousins!

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Leo is one investigative little child.

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Day 10 of 10

One of Leo’s favourite things to do these days is to blow raspberries.

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We usually finish the bulk of our homeschool work in the morning during Leo’s nap and have slower afternoons. Today we worked on some paper sloyd, making envelopes and tucking little drawings and notes inside them.

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Day 9 of 10: Narrating for Fun

Last night after dinner, the kids wanted to re-create a scene from The Little Duke (one of James’s school books) that had particularly struck them. Richard (the 9-year old duke) is being held prisoner by the King of France and when he and his squire go outside the castle walls to go for a dip in the river (it’s a frying hot summer day), the queen harshly scolds them, threatening to poke out the squire’s eyes if Richard doesn’t obey.

James, June and Alice each took turns being Queen Gerberge and uttering dire threats against Richard.

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June relishing her role, and finding it a bit hard to take it seriously!

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Alice as Queen Gerberge:

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Richard and his squire:

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James’s turn:

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The chastised duke:

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There was so much laughing and roaring! So fun!