Archive for January, 2014

Churnin’ Butter

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Phillip and I subscribed to Little Passports this school year for Ivy and Violet. If you are on Facebook and have kids, you may have seen the ads for it in your sidebar. Crafty marketers, those FB people. It looked really good as a supplement to Geography. Ivy is studying the states and their capitals this year, and I was looking for something to make the states come alive for her. They have a USA edition, so it looked like a lot of fun. And although Violet isn’t officially doing any Geography in Kindergarten, we signed her up for the World Edition just for fun. It turned out to be even better than we thought. Every month they get a package in the mail from the fictional cousins “Sam and Sofia”. They send out a postcard, gifts and booklets from every place around the world they visit each month on their magical traveling scooter. No coach class airplanes for this duo, apparently. Which makes sense, since they are probably making bank off this thing – it’s a bit pricey, but worth every penny!

I won’t go into all the details of all the cool stuff they get, but suffice it to say it is A LOT of fun for them to open their package every month. Ok maybe a few details… Sam and Sofia sent Violet an amethyst from Brazil, and Ivy gets paper crafts in every package including a 3D paper model of the White House that we put together. I could go on and on about all the neat stuff (sushi eraser from Japan!). Ivy also gets these activity booklets with 2 different states each month that goes over everything interesting and unique about that state. She put stickers of the state flower, animal, flag, etc. in a field guide they sent her. It lasts us all month. Violet gets a “Boarding Pass” to online games related to the country of the month (it was France this month) and an activity sheet that we never do because she is too little still. Actually the USA version is waaaay more intricate and involved than the World version. Aaaaanyway, the point of telling you all this is that in last month’s packet Ivy learned about Winsconsin and making dairy products like cheese and butter. And one of the suggested activities was to make your own butter. So we did.

This was a perfect activity considering that making butter only involves shaking a jar of heavy cream, and I am a) Lazy by nature and b) Pregnant and tired. It sounds so old school and fun, but yet is ridiculously simple.

We started with a mason jar that I boiled for sterilization purposes, poured the heavy cream in, sealed it and went to work shaking it.

Shake it, don't break it, toots. Because seriously, shards of glass are a pain to clean up when you are nearly 7 months pregnant.

Shake it, don’t break it, toots. Because seriously, shards of glass are a pain to clean up when you are nearly 7 months pregnant.

I didn’t time it but it took quite a long while to get anywhere with it. Maybe about an half hour or so. But fortunately the shaking didn’t have to be too vigorous – just continual. Think the tortoise, not the hare. We checked it and it was at the soft peak whipping cream stage. So we poured out a little of the cream and used it to snack on strawberries and cream.



During our snack detour, we kept shaking and it became almost a stiff peak whipped cream. Took a few more tastes, and continued…. and then, suddenly from one moment to the next the thick cream coating the inside of the jar separated and the jar was now coated with a thin liquid.

Looking a little more tired now...but it worked!

Looking a little more tired now…but wait a minute…what’s going on here??



Success!!!! The thin milky stuff is commonly known as BUTTERMILK. Who knew? Not me, as distant as I am from my food sources. So apparently we also made fresh buttermilk from scratch today. I feel so dang accomplished right now. Must find a good recipe that calls for buttermilk. Side note: have you ever tried to find regular buttermilk at the grocery store? You can’t. I’ve tried in years past. It’s all reduced fat buttermilk! Dumb. But I am here to tell you that full fat buttermilk is within your grasp, if you are willing to do a little shaking!

After I drained out the buttermilk, I rinsed the butter because apparently it keeps longer if you take that extra step.

After I drained out the buttermilk, I rinsed the butter because apparently it keeps longer if you take that extra step.

I used cheesecloth in a strainer, but you can also just add water to the jar and shake it, drain. Then continue to rinse and repeat until the water runs clear.

Then I squeezed out the remain water and voila! Fresh butter. Easy peasy.


So simple. Because if it wasn’t, I would have never even tried it.

Oh, and by the way, if you want really fun freebie ideas and printables, go to the Little Passports Blog and their Arts and Crafts page.


Saint Ivy of the Cross

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Well, we all got really sick after my last post. In fact, we passed that sweet “homeschooling in bed” moment and drove off a proverbial cliff. The next day we were too sick to do any school at all and lost out on the rest of the week’s schoolwork. Ivy got a really high fever for a few nights and actually started hallucinating at one point.

I had just given her some ibuprofen because I could tell the last dose was wearing off and the fever was climbing up again. I put her back to bed on the couch when she suddenly asked me, “Mom, when you are sick are you supposed to see things in the window?”
“Well, like what?” I asked apprehensively.
“Like a doll.”
A shiver ran through me, it sounded really creepy. But it was about to get a whole lot creepier.
She suddenly gasped, “A tarantula! Oh….nevermind.” She didn’t really seem scared, and appeared to realize there was nothing actually there.
Then in rapid succession she exclaimed about what she was seeing: a man playing a guitar, a man with no arms eating something by bobbing his head up and down, and a castle with a village and a garden and path.

I finally told her to close her eyes and get some rest. She was freaking me out.
The rest of the night was uneventful, she slept peacefully once the medicine took effect. The ugly cough was pretty bad though and it has yet to clear up. In fact, I think the illness hit her the hardest out of all of us. Just yesterday she got a coughing fit that made her throw up, poor baby. If it doesn’t clear up by Wednesday or Thursday I may have to take her to the doctor. I figure a week with a really bad cough merits some medical attention.

In other Ivy news, today she came home from catechism and said she didn’t feel ready for her First Communion because she feels she hasn’t studied the life of Jesus enough. As if any of us have! And then she squeezed my heart by saying that she didn’t want to wear a white dress for her First Communion because she wanted to be humble before the Lord. I asked her, “Well what then, do you want to wear a sack cloth or something?” I laughed, but she nodded solemnly. “Yes,” she said.

Playing dress up as a nun recently

Then she proceeded to tell me she didn’t want to be herself, she wanted to be a saint. I told her that God made her as she is and loves her as she is, but that being herself does not stop her from being a saint.

Phillip and I were commenting how we just don’t deserve a daughter as sweet as Ivy. She is probably already on the road to sainthood if she keeps it up like this. She is always forgiving, generous, helpful, hard-working, self-sacrificing and deeply sensitive to others. She has humbled me so many times by telling me how much she loves me and how happy she is that I am her mother. These are sweet words that I eat up, especially since she seems to know just when I need to hear them because I’m feeling inadequate in my mothering.

Another thing she said to me is that she would like to one day be known as Saint Ivy of the Cross. And about a week ago she asked if I could take her to Adoration so that she could ask Jesus to make her a nun. I am always left stunned by these assertions and the things that come out of her mouth. I pray that she will always remain this pure of heart and that she will always be open to God’s will for her life.

I’ve heard it said that God’s love is limitless, and that the only limits to His love are the ones that we ourselves place on Him. God seems to work in Ivy’s life in a very concrete way, and it seems to me that she never places any limits on God’s love. I ask you all to also pray for Ivy and for God’s will to be done in her life.

Happy 2014!

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Happy New Year!

Christmas and school vacation is over, and it was a much needed break that we enjoyed a lot. There were visits from family, we listened to a lot of the  music of the season, there was prayer, lovely presents, and way too much delicious food. We have been so blessed by God.

Now we are back to school, and while there is a little bit of sadness that we can no longer be lazy, the structure is better for us as a family when we are schooling.

The break has allowed me to gain fresh perspective on school, which I also needed though I didn’t realize it. Some of the things I have come to realize about homeschool and our family are:

1) If it doesn’t happen in the morning, I cannot count on it happening at all, because naps take precedence (including my own nap!)

2) Teaching homeschool is actual WORK. I was spoiled by only teaching one child kinder and 1st grade. Now there are 2 school-age kids, and one is a second grader. Its way more work than I had thought, especially with a toddler running amok.

3)  I’ve been sucking the joy out of homeschooling by insisting on sticking exactly to the curriculum and placing high priority on math and phonics. Boooring! We haven’t been taking field trips or doing anything fun because I’m so concerned with sticking to the schedule. No longer! In 2014, I am planning on taking a field trip every week, or at a minimum every other week. I’m also planning on allowing Ivy to lead me a little more in her interests like science and nature. If it were up to her, we would do science and nature stuff every day, all day. If it were up to me we would do it once a week. So I’m going to let her encourage me more, and I am going to support her more. I also want to re-start Ivy on Latin. We did it for a while last year but she forgot everything over the summer, and we didn’t do it this year. I want to make that a priority. In summary: less workbooks, more science and Latin!

One of the particular joys of  homeschooling happened today. It could’ve been crummy day, but we turned it around. We have all been getting colds, and today Ivy finally succumbed as well. She was croaky and feverish and said she wanted to lay down somewhere warm, so I put her in my bed with a tray and we did school in bed. The other 2 also thought it was really fun and so they joined Ivy. We spent the morning in bed AND we got a lot of schoolwork done, which is awesome on so many levels. It was a lot of fun for all of us, including me. We even did cutting and pasting in bed, but I trust Ivy to be responsible with a glue stick so it wasn’t as risky as it sounds.


And, just for funsies, here is a picture of Violet.


I found her like this when I went to wake her from a nap a few weeks back. Those are stickers that she placed over her eyes and mouth. Creepy!!

In other news, I have been leading the Schola Cantorum at church. In the wake of the passing of our dear priest, Fr. Leo just before last Christmas, the congregation was quite lost and the music was the first to suffer. Its been gratifying to see how far the kids (ages 10-14) have come over the last 6 months or so. Now that we are back to rehearsals after the break, I am going teach the kids to sight read Gregorian chant and I am going to start teaching them some sacred polyphony. Palestrina, to be exact. Here is an easy one, we’ll probably start with this piece. It sounds complex but is is actually quite easy.