Thursday, December 1, 2016

More Favorite Christmas Stories

We couldn't wait. Before we had turned the calendar to December, my children had pulled out our stack of Christmas books. I plan to reserve a few of our favorites from the library later this month. I try to be careful not to keep Christmas books too long so that others can enjoy them as well. 

Several years ago I shared several lists of Christmas books. But since then I've discovered some more books, so today I'm sharing an all-new list of favorite children's picture books about Christmas. 

And as always, I'd love to hear what you are reading. 


The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
A young boy learns his father's craft of harvesting “tears” of myrrh. A special surprise at the end connects it with the Christmas story. Beautiful illustrations.


Papa Panov's Special Day by Mig Holder Illustrated by Julie Downing
A lonely shoemaker waits for a special visitor on Christmas Day. A classic Russian tale, popularized by Leo Tolstoy, is retold with excellent illustrations.

 

Lucy's Christmas by Donald Hall, illustrated by Michael McCurdy
In 1909 in New Hampshire, a young girl prepares for Christmas by making gifts for her family and friends. Based on the life of the author's mother, this is a warm look at life a hundred years ago. The wood engraved illustrations add to the old fashioned charm.


One Candle by Eve Bunting
A family's Hanukkah celebration remembers the dark days of the Holocaust. Beautiful story of perseverance with lovely illustrations.


Annika’s Secret Wish by Beverly Lewis, Illustrated by Pamela Querin
Annika hopes that this is the year that she will find the almond in her pudding. Take a journey to Sweden and enjoy a special Christmas celebration and the joy of giving. Dazzling illustrations bring the joy of Sweden to life.

Toot and Puddle search for the perfect gift to make for each other. A sweet Christmas story about friendship with delightful watercolor illustrations.


Winter’s Gift by Jane Monroe Donovan
A lost horse and a lonely man meet at Christmas to share the hope of new life. Warm paintings add to the beauty of this lovely Christmas tale.

Check out the past lists for more holiday reading.
Favorite Adult Christmas Books

Christmas Chapter Books for Children

Christmas Stories from Other Times and Places




This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Games for the Whole Family

Last night we had a comfy Sunday evening at home. We didn't have church and because of our coughs (which have been hanging on for Weeks) we decided to not make any other plans.

Our lovely fall weather abruptly changed to freezing temperatures and howling winds this weekend, and Ed started a fire in the fireplace. We got out hymn books and enjoyed singing (until the coughing made us curtail that activity), read out loud (but that is hard to do coughing too), and enjoyed some games.

It reminded me how much I enjoy winter evenings. Our family loves outdoor activities like hiking and biking, but there is something special about indoor activities on cold winter evenings.

My mother-in-law has blessed us with some great games for our children's birthdays. In case you are looking for some new family games, here is a list of some of our favorites, starting with the very easiest to play and moving to harder games.



Can You See What I See?
This is a current favorite of our two-year-old. The bright cards are irresistible.



Too Many Monkeys
I think all of our five-year-olds have went through a stage that this was their favorite game. It can be played by non-readers, but a little more challenging than Uno.



Quirkle
Another game that non-readers can play but appeals to all ages. This might be my favorite on the list. There is just enough variety to each game to keep it interesting yet it isn't too mind stretching for a weary, side-tracked mom.



Dutch Blitz
Ed teaches my children the classic games such as checkers, Monopoly, chess, and scrabble. I'm glad he does because I'm too hyper to enjoy games of strategy. Dutch Blitz has been my favorite for years because you don't need to take turns. Everyone lays out cards at the same time.


Blokus
Another game that is fun for all ages. We have the travel version that is played by only two people, but there are many other versions.



Apples to Apples
My oldest daughter's favorite. A game of crazy comparisons.





Rummikub
Sometimes the old games are the best. Rummikub is a current family favorite. Create sets and runs with tiles, then build on the other players' tiles. Fast moving enough for even me.




Taboo
Describe a word, without using a list of words. This one is difficult for those like me who talk without thinking, but good practice in communication skills.

What games are your family playing?

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Q/A: Gift Ideas for Children

I just realized today that Thanksgiving is next week. Don't ask where I've been, but obviously not somewhere that has a calendar. Maybe in the laundry room?

We try to keep Christmas simple at our home - especially in the gift giving department. But we do like to find a special gift for each of our children. Our children also like to give small gifts to their siblings. This year for the first time, our four oldest children exchanged names so that they only have one sibling to buy/make something for. I admit that I suggested a name exchange mostly for my own sanity as I usually get the task of helping come up with ideas. Four children times four. Too much for this mom's brain.

Recently a Home Joys reader asked for some gift ideas for older girls. I thought I'd share some of my ideas in hopes that all of you would contribute some more ideas.

For our older children we have attempted to find gifts that would help build skills or give experiences. We want gifts that are not just going to add to the clutter of our house or feed the "gimmie" attitude.

I'm not sure how well we have succeeded, but here are some ideas we've done in the past.

1. Crochet hook and yarn with some directions for an easy project such as a scarf.

2. Binoculars for a budding bird watcher.

3. Wood working tools with scrap wood, paint, and nails for hours of creativity. (And this can be for both boys and girls.)

4. Leatherworking kits.

5. Whittling knives and whittling book.

6. Para-cord and knot-tying book.
(I wrote about our favorite whittling and knot-tying book here.)

7. Scrapbooking supplies with some photos.

8. Music instruments. We've given simple instruments such as a harmonica and a ukulele. Music lessons could also be given for an experience type gift.

Games are also a gift that our children enjoy and can be enjoyed by the whole family. But maybe I'll save our favorite games for another post.

Shari did a recent post on inexpensive gift ideas with a focus on younger children. Check out her list for some great ideas.

Your turn. Do you have any good non-clutter gift ideas for children?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Sourdough Biscuits



I can probably trace my interest in sourdough to reading By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I longed to have a taste of her famous sourdough biscuits. This recipe is different than what is described in the book, but of the various sourdough biscuit recipes I have tried, this is our favorite.

So pretend you are Ma Ingalls and make sourdough biscuits for breakfast. We love these with sausage gravy for breakfast.

Sourdough Biscuits

1 cup active starter
2 cups milk
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 T. honey
2 1/2 cups white flour
2 tsp salt
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

The night before, mix the starter, milk, butter, and whole wheat flour together. Stir well, cover, and sit overnight at room temperature.

The next morning add honey to mixture. Mix white flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together. Stir the dry ingredients into starter mixture. Mix quickly then pour onto a well-floured counter.

Knead briefly, just enough to smooth and shape into a ball. The dough should be sticky. Flatten dough to about 1-inch thick. Cut biscuits with a three-inch cutter. Place in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Serve hot with butter and honey or sausage gravy.



Looking for more sourdough goodness?  It is all on the sourdough page.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Mom's Apple Pie


While the rest of the internet goes in a tizzy over this election, maybe I'll write about something that maybe we Americans can agree upon. Apple pie.

There are so many great fall desserts that I'd hate to choose a favorite, but apple pie would certainly make the list. And I've never eaten an apple pie that I like better than my mom's recipe. This was the first pie that I learned to make when I was about twelve. Which reminds me that I should teach my twelve-year-old how to make it.

I usually make apple pie with a crumb topping, but occasionally, like last week, I'll make a double-crust pie. I like it both ways. I either use my mom's pie crust recipe or the sourdough pie crust. Both are delicious.



Mom's Apple Pie

5-6 cups peeled and sliced apples
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1 unbaked pie crust plus second pie crust for top OR crumb topping

Toss apples with cinnamon and sugar. Place in pie crust. Cover with crust or crumb topping.

Bake pie for 30-35 minutes at 375 degrees. Serve warm or cold.

Crumb Topping:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour

Mix together. Sprinkle on top of apples.

Bake pie for 30-35 minutes at 375 degrees. Serve warm or cold.



Thinking about apple pie didn't cheer you up? Still discouraged by the news? Go read something uplifting. Like this.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Bookmarks - Children's Books on Human Body and Health

God used His incredible creative power to design the human body. Here are some great children's picture books that we enjoyed to our children to appreciate and care for their bodies.

A fun introduction to the names and functions of your bones.

Amazing photomicrographs join fun comic-style illustrations to tell the story of our body's reaction to an injury.

 
Germ Zapper by Fran Balkwill and Mic Rolph
How does your body fight disease? Discover the world of tiny germs, bacteria, viruses and all the cells God created to protect your body.

The Skeleton Inside You by Philip Balestrino
What is our skeleton made of and why do we need it? A fun way to learn about our bones. Warning: A brief mention of Halloween.

Breath In, Breath Out: Learning About Your Lungs by Pamela Hill Nettleton
This book explains the role of your lungs in simple terms. If you like this one check out additional books by this author on other parts of the body.

With clear illustrations, this book introduces a child to all the major systems of the body in an understandable way.

After my children read this book I often heard “Did you know that...?” Look for other child-tested books in this series.

TheCirculatory Story by Mary K. Corcoran

Why do you bleed when you get a cut? Humorous illustrations help tell the story of your blood and heart and their busy life. 

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sourdough Crepes



I love when you all share your recipes with me. Andrea shared a recipe for sourdough crepes with me a few months ago and it is a new family favorite.

I had never made crepes before in my life. They are definitely time consuming, but far easier than I imagined. I doubt they will become a weekly tradition, but we enjoyed these crepes for several leisure Saturday breakfasts this summer, especially when we had fresh berries.

Sourdough Crepes

2 cups sourdough starter (fed within the past 12 hours)
5 eggs
4 T melted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk (maybe more)

Heat a greased cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
Whisk together sourdough starter, eggs, butter, and salt. Add milk and whisk well. Add additional milk, if needed, to make a thin batter. The amount of milk needed will depend upon the thickness of your starter.
Pour 1/4 cup batter into the center of the skillet. Quickly pick up the skillet and tilt it so the batter spreads over the bottom of the pan.
Cook until the edges of the crepe peel up from the pan and small bubbles form, probably less than a minute.
Flip the crepe over with a spatula and cook the second side for about 20 seconds. Transfer to plate and cover with a towel. Repeat with all crepes, stacking on the plate. Call the children to the table and serve up the crepes with your favorite sweet or savory filling.



We love crepes rolled up with yogurt, a dab of jam, and some raspberries. The children eat them up about as fast as I can roll them. I'd like to try them with sauteed veggies and cheese sometime.

You can find lots more sourdough information and recipes on the sourdough page.

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