Adriana

Welcome

We are so glad you found us and Welcome you to join our family as we travel through life’s adventures and discover new routes together!

About us:

Mike is a self- employed General Contractor, an outdoors-man, a carpenter, a runner, and a hands-on dad who loves his kids, traveling and creating new things.

Adriana is a retired documentary film producer, full-time mom who loves her children, gardening, cooking, crafting, traveling and a simpler lifestyle that incorporates a slower pace.  

We have rediscovered our routes through striving to live simpler, traveling in our travel trailer and being a full time family.   We hope to inspire you to rediscover yours! Join us on this journey as we navigate life as a family of six, home-school, travel in our camper, care for the environment, and practice living in a better way.  

The more, the merrier. Be the Route!

Adriana, Home School

Visit Ancient Egypt with Kids: A lesson for Elementary age to Middle School

The kids and I have been having a very exciting time exploring ancient Egypt in different ways over the past couple weeks. Although we haven’t left the house, we’ve traveled through the Egyptian desert, explored the tombs of ancient pharaohs, ridden down the Nile river, studied ancient hieroglyphs and worked with papyrus. Egypt is a fascinating country to explore, rich in history, art, geography, math and mystery. This school year I purchased Oak Meadow’s sixth grade curriculum and have been extremely happy with their Ancient Civilizations and English course book. The course book includes historical information, stories, discussion questions, writing assignments and projects. I have found that I can adapt it as a useful resource for all the children in our Egyptian explorations. Egyptology is also a fantastic resource book for all ages that is beautifully illustrated and extremely informative in a creative way.

Ava’s Giant Sundial in the last of our winter snow

The Egyptians were the first people known to divide the day into 24 hours. The Egyptians used a shadow clock or a sundial to tell time. One of our first Egyptian projects was to create a giant sun dial and keep a record of the time. To do this, Ava simply put a large stick in the ground and observed the shadow every hour marking each hour off with another stick. It was interesting to see how the shadow length changed with the hours of the day. If you’d like to give this project a try in the warmer weather you can try putting a large piece of paper in a sunny spot and securing it down with rocks. Place a piece of clay or play dough in the center and insert a pencil. Follow the shadow at each hour to mark the time. Another fun way to do this is with a large stick placed into the center of a sunny sandbox and watching the shadow each hour. If you live near the beach this is fun to do while you pass the time away in the sun!

I purchased some papyrus paper on Amazon and the kids had lots of fun making origami papyrus boats and bookmarks that they decorated with ancient hieroglyphs.

2-year-old Vivienne enjoyed cutting the papyrus up into little pieces

Highlights Top Secret Adventures Book Club

Another great find that both Ava and Lily have loved is Highlights Top Secret Adventures Book Club. Each mystery kit includes a world travel guide, puzzle challenge and detective game. The kids have traveled to many countries solving the mystery challenge using deductive reasoning skills, math, reading, puzzle games and other activities. Egypt just happened to land on our doorstep at the right time! This adventure series is something Lily, my 9-year-old, works on independently and loves! Leo, 7, also enjoys this adventure series, but needs my assistance in working through the clues and reading the guide book.

Reading Rainbow has an excellent episode on Egypt for grade school children.

We also enjoyed watching this NOVA special on Amazon Prime about the ancient pyramids

This National Geographic Special on Tutankhamun’s Tomb is fantastic.

And no lesson would be complete without some travels with Rick Steves! He has two great episodes exploring Egypt yesterday and today.

Have Some Fun Exploring Ancient Egypt with your Children!

Adriana, Garden, Home School

Getting Ready for our Victory Garden 2021: Seed Starting and Garden Planning With Your Children

It’s the most Wonderful time of the year! Yes, it’s spring and signs of nature’s fertility are everywhere around us. Spring in New England is tricky. We had a short snow squall yesterday morning, yet by afternoon it was 50 degrees, sunny and the crocuses were all aglow. Spring is a very special time of year. Watching the grass turn green and spring plants shoot up out of the warming earth is rejuvenating. It gives me this new found energy and deep renewal of the soul. I find getting my hands in the dirt and growing our own food so therapeutic and rewarding.

The kids and I have been planning our Spring/Summer garden for months now. A favorite winter activity is to look through the seed catalogs and have each child plan their garden. I have found that when kids are involved in the process of selecting what they would like to grow and given a place in the garden to grown their own food, they have a new vested interest in what goes into their bodies and where it comes from. It is a responsibility that is so rewarding and will stay with them for life.

Leo’s garden plan

About a week ago we started most of our indoor seeds. Mike made a temporary shelf unit in our living room window housed with warming mats and grow lights. We started about 134 seedlings, mostly tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, onions and lots of different herbs for my cottage garden. Fortunately, we have had so many sunny days that I haven’t had to use the grow lights. Have to admit, I prefer not to as they light the living room neon pink and transform the space into a nightclub feel. The kids don’t mind, it inspires them to put on dress ups and dance around like crazy people!

One week later!

After about a week most of our seedlings have sprouted! It’s exciting! Truly amazing that one small seed can provide us with so much life.

My Garden planner

If you haven’t ever used a garden planner, I highly recommend it. They are very user friendly and help you plan when to start seeds indoors in your area and when to plant outdoors for both spring and fall gardening. I got mine at Seed Savers Exchange for around 5 dollars.

Two of my favorite Garden Activity Books when Gardening with kids are Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy and The Garden Classroom by Cathy James.

Hope this adds a little inspiration to starting your own personal garden, with your children or with your grandchildren. Whatever space you have big or small, it can be a small start to a big adventure! Growing your own food is so rewarding to your soul and your health. It is a tradition that has been lost for many of us in our modern day food culture, but it’s never too late to learn and to teach your children! Giving them the gift of homegrown, healthy food, will last with them forever; in health and in heart!

Happy Spring!

Image from The Garden Classroom
Adriana, Food, Home School, Italian Roots

Spring Has Sprung: Easter Crafts, Baking fun and Celebrating Traditions with Kids

Spring; A time for Reflection, Renewal, Rebirth and JOY!

Our house is a buzz with Spring Feaver! Spring has sprung; crocuses and daffodils are springing up in the garden beds, buds are popping out on the trees, garden seeds are getting started indoors, the chickens are laying eggs again, baby goats are being born on the farm across the street, it is a time of renewal, rebirth and joy! After a long winter and a time of great reflection, the earth reminds us that brighter days are ahead.

Dying eggs for Easter is an age old tradition. In some European countries children place fresh leaves onto the eggs wrap them in gauze, tie a string around it and place it in a pot of boiling water and onion skins. When unwrapped the beautiful image of the leaves are impressed onto the eggs. It is no surprise that eggs, symbolic of new life, have become tied to the Easter theme of rebirth. Many European cultures dye the eggs red to symbolize the blood of Christ and serve the hard boiled eggs with their Easter meals. We have tried many different egg dying techniques over the years and a favorite around here at the moment is dropping bits of crayon shavings onto the hot eggs to melt into beautiful, bright colors spread across the egg and then dip them in some food coloring and vinegar water to add an added splash of color and joy in honor of spring.

Butterscotch & Chocolate Birds Nest

Butterscotch Birds Nests

These are a tradition around here to celebrate spring and Easter. They are a favorite from my childhood and a no-bake treat that my kids look forward to making every year!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Chocolate chips
  • 1/2 Cup Butterscotch chips
  • 3 Cups Chow Mein Noodles
  • Cadbury mini Easter egg candy

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate & butterscotch chips in a double boiler on the stove top
  2. When chocolate mixture is melted, add the chow mien noodles and mix
  3. Line a muffin tin with cupcake paper and spoon small scoops of noodle mixture in nest like shapes into tin
  4. Place Cadbury eggs in center and let cool

Lily making Italian Easter Wheat Pie “Pastiera di Grano” A favorite from my childhood that my Nonna would make.

This is a traditional Italian Easter pie made using wheat berries, ricotta, lemon zest, eggs, sugar and vanilla. The taste and smell of it baking brings me back to my childhood Easter gatherings at my Nonna’s house. I haven’t yet mastered making it as good as my Nonna’s and not sure that I ever will, but we’re working on it each year!

A great historical educational program that we really enjoyed watching is Rick Steve’s European Easter. Full of history, tradition and Hope.

Wishing you all a Blessed Easter and a Rejuvenating Spring!

Brighter Days are Ahead!

“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.”

—Harriet Ann Jacobs
Adriana, Food, Home School

Maple Syrup: A New England Tradition- Tapping Trees with Kids

Nothing says New England quite like Sugar Maples and fresh maple syrup. The roots of modern American sugaring traditions lie heavily in Native American history and culture. In the early 1600’s before the arrival of European settlers, Native Americans were already tapping sugar maples and making maple sugar. The Native Americans in New England used maple sap to make cake sugar, grain sugar and wax sugar. During maple sugaring season, New England Native Americans would set up sugar camps. They would collect the sap in wooden buckets by creating V-shaped slashes in the tree to allow the sap to pour out. Since they couldn’t boil the sap in the wooden buckets, they would add hot rocks to help boil away the water and create a syrup-like consistency that would be made into products like brown sugar, maple sugar molds and wax sugar which was a taffy like maple confection made by pouring hot syrup on snow.

Sugaring was a skill that European settlers learned from Native Americans. Instead of making V-slashed cuts into the trees, the settlers drilled small holes into the trunk that allowed the sap to drip into metal pots which could later be boiled down over a fire. The settlers poured the syrup into wooden molds to create sugar blocks. The sugar blocks stored well and were used throughout the year for baking.

What started long ago, still carries on strong today. The hills of Western Massachusetts are dotted with Maple Sugar Shacks that come alive this time of year. It is amazing to visit these establishments and see how the sap is collected, stored and turned into syrup! Each year my kids have loved volunteering at a local Maple Sugar farm to help transport the sap down to the sugar house. They have learned so much about history and the hard work that goes into one gallon of Maple Syrup. Usually, about 40 gallons of sap are needed to make 1 gallon of maple syrup! That’s a lot of sap!

40 gallons of sap to make this gallon of Maple Syrup!

Maple syrup can be made from any species of maple tree. The highest concentration of sugar is found in the sap of the sugar maple. If you have some maple trees in your yard, it is a simple and very rewarding process to start tapping your trees. We picked up some sap buckets and taps from our local farmer supply store, but you could also use plastic food grade buckets. The best time to tap your trees is when the day temperatures stay consistently above freezing, but the nights still dip down below freezing. When we’ve collected enough sap we just put it in a pot on the stove until it boils down to syrup. It’s a great family tradition to share with your children. Who doesn’t love homemade pancakes and some homemade syrup!

Two of our favorite books about the Maple Sugar tradition and process:

Here’s a little glimpse in to a New England Sugar Shack Maple Sugaring Process:

Wishing you all a Very Healthy and Sweet Start to Spring!

Adriana, Home School

Ava’s Book Corner: 3 Great Books for those 11 and older That Inspire Hope through Hardship

These three books, The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart, Pax by Sara Pennypacker and The Girl With More Than One Heart by Laura Geringer Bass are stories about overcoming hardships and sadness with hope and love. These books taught me that life is not always going to be easy and we need to live, enjoy and cherish good times.

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise is a story about a girl who lives in an old school bus with her dad. Five years ago she lost her mom and sisters in a car crash she hasn’t been home since. Now she finds out that the park where she, her mom and two sisters buried a memory box is about to be torn down. She has to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles without him knowing were he’s going. As she starts on a trip back home she is joined by five interesting people and one surprise guest. I liked this book because it had an exiting adventure, taught me that memories are important and that you can find strength from bad things that happen.

Pax is story about a boy and a fox. Peter has had Pax since he found him as a small kit cold and all alone. When his dad enlists in the military, Peter is forced to return Pax to the wild and move to his grandfather’s home. He knows he did the wrong thing, letting Pax go. So, Peter embarks on a journey to get Pax back. He has to travel 300 miles to where he left Pax. Along the way Peter has some trouble and meets Vola a woman who lives alone in the middle of nowhere. Peter realizes that Vola can help him and that he can help her. This book is a story of friendship and about fighting for someone you love.

Sometimes we can feel like we need another heart to get through hard times. When Briana’s father dies, she seems to grow another heart. A heart that talks to her and it sounds like her dad. The heart says things like “Be Your Own” and “Find Her!” Briana has no idea how she can be herself when she is struggling with her mother not getting out of bed, taking care of her little brother and dealing with her friends treating her different. How can she live without her favorite parent? This is a beautiful story that is filled with love and tells us that even in times of misery and sadness there is always a path to hope.

I hope you find some inspiration from these great books –

From, Ava

Adriana, Home School

Studying The Italian Renaissance with Kids: A Fantastic Art, History and Geography Adventure!

Inspired by an Art History Class Lily (9) is taking on Outschool.com, the kids and I have delved a little deeper into the Italian Renaissance and some wonderful lessons in History, Art and Geography. Throughout history, no art movement has had an impact quite as profound as the Italian Renaissance. The Renaissance was a time of “Rebirth” and a renewed interest in the culture of classical antiquity. It is a period of great cultural change and achievement that began in Italy during the 14th century and lasted into the 17th century. Master artists like Michaelangelo, Leonardo DaVinci and Rafael adopted a more humanist approach to art. What started as a humanist movement soon spread to other areas including literature, religion, science and exploration. It truly is a revolutionary movement in time with so many magnificent outlets to explore!

The kids and I studied Renaissance altarpieces, what they were used for, the art perspective, families that commissioned them and the history behind the work. Lily painted her own altarpiece on a piece of wood with some acrylic paints. She also created a mosaic vase after we explored the mosaics often found on church walls and ceilings created during the Renaissance and during the Byzantine Empire.

Lily and her fresco – a painting of our family at the dinner table

Inspired by Michelangelo’s works at the Sistine Chapel, Lily decided to try her hand at painting a fresco of her own on our basement wall. She captured our family at the dinner table! The Vatican Museum has a wonderful virtual tour of the chapel found here: https://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/cappella-sistina/tour-virtuale.html

Below is a great clip about Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel from ArtRageous with Nate.

If you haven’t ever explored “Rick Steves” programs he has a whole series called “Rick Steves Europe” that you can watch on YouTube. I think it originally aired on PBS programming, but can be found on Youtube too. The kids and I love watching these programs as it gives us a real look into the places we are studying. Below is a link to his episode on Florence, Italy and the Renaissance.

We love science in this house and “egg-speriments,” So, what could be more fun than testing the strength of the dome shaped egg! After learning more about Brunelleschi and his amazing architectural feat with the creation of the Duomo built at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, the kids and I had fun testing out the strength of the dome shape.

For this simple science experiment…

  • Wash and dry some egg shells. The more the better because they do eventually crack under pressure!
  • Place 4 egg shells of about equal size on a flat surface and gradually stack books on top until…. the eggs break!
  • Then weigh your books to see how much weight the eggs held. Ours held a surprising 19 pounds worth of books!
  • If you’d like to have your child practice the Scientific Method, you can have them each write down in their note books a Hypothesis for how much weight they think the eggs will hold, or how many books and then compare the results with their “scientific educated” guesses.

This experiment is a great way to incorporate art, architecture, history, geography and a math lesson!

Below is a great clip about how the Duomo was built.

This is only just the beginning! There are so many fascinating directions you can take when exploring Italy and the time of the Renaissance. The kids are currently working on painting their own self-portraits and creating some DaVinci inspired machines!

Some great books and audio recordings for those ages 6 and up to explore these topics further are:

DK Series Eyewitness Books are full of great information

Along with…

Masters of the Renaissance: Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and more (The Jim Weiss Audio Collection)

Here’s to Inspiring some Great Artists of Today!

 

Adriana, Home School, Projects

All you Need is LOVE: Family Valentine Fun and Crafts

A Heart Sun-catcher by Lily

Valentine’s Day is such a special time of year to spread some love and cheer. It’s a time to celebrate love and friendship, to spend time together as a family crafting, baking, making Valentine’s, having tea parties and eating lot’s of chocolate! The kids and I have been busy making some holiday crafts and working on our Valentine’s, for each other, family and friends. This year more than ever, it’s extra special to send out some handmade Valentine’s to those who might need an extra reminder that they are not alone and are loved!

A favorite and simple craft for kids of all ages and one that is adaptable with the seasons and holidays is making sun-catchers for your windows. My kids love making these and never seem to run out of creative ideas for their festive sun-catchers. I particularly love seeing them light up our dining room like stained glass especially during the colder, darker winter months. All you need for this craft is some sturdy card-stock paper, contact paper, tissue paper and scissors.

Busy at work

Directions:

  • First have either you or your child cut out the frame design out of card-stock. For the one above we made a heart.
  • Next, cut out your contact paper so that it will overlap a bit on the frame of your card-stock. Then, peel the paper off the contact paper to reveal the sticky side and stick it to the frame.
  • Cut up the tissue paper and stick it to the sticky side of the contact paper. It’s as easy as that!

Another favorite in our house and a great way to introduce children to sewing is making hand-sewn felt hearts! Teaching your children to hand sew is one of the best skills you can give to them. It helps develop fine motor skills, builds self-confidence and patience. It also helps children practice communicating and following instructions along with encouraging them to use their imaginations and creativity. I have sat with all my children from an early age (2 or 3) and practiced hand sewing skills either with felt projects or lacing cards. It’s an activity that you can share in together with your child and as a family. We often gather round the dining table with our hand sewing supplies and listen to a good audio book or music and spend time crafting together. It is a calming and therapeutic activity.

Hand-sewn felt hearts

To make these felt hearts all you need is some felt, embroidery floss, fabric scissors, some stuffing (could be actually stuffing, or cut up old clothes) and a sewing needle.

Directions:

  • First have your child draw their design on the felt with chalk. Fold felt in half so that you can cut out two equal shapes at one time (the back and front of your project). Cut out design with fabric scissors.
  • Next, cut a medium-length strand of embroidery floss (not too long or the kids tend to knot or tangle). Layer your design one on top of the other and start sewing around the edges of the felt, leaving a 2-inch wide space open to fill with stuffing. If your child is young, you can help them push the needle through and pull it out always reminding them to pull the needle away from themselves.
  • After stuffing your design, then sew the gap closed. You can then run a string through the top to hang your stuffed creation. We made our Valentine Hearts and tied them to some yarn to hang together in the window as garland.
A Heart Jar

Like sun-catchers, another craft we love making for all seasons are jars decorated with tissue paper to put candles in and cozy up our home. This simple craft was made using a recycled jar, some tissue paper hearts and Elmer’s clear glue (modge podge and regular Elmer’s glue work well too and dry clear).

Directions:

  • Wash and dry a glass jar
  • Cut out tissue paper designs
  • brush glue with a paint brush onto jar, place tissue paper on the glue spot and then brush glue on top of tissue paper so that it won’t tear off easy. Spread glue over each spot at the time you are ready to adhere the tissue paper.
  • Let it dry
Leo’s handmade February Calendar with a heart mandala design

Bake a special treat, set the table for your Valentine’s Tea Party, put a candle in your Heart jar, gather round the table and share in some Love, Laughter, Valentine’s and Chocolate Enjoy!

From our Family to Yours, Sending you all a day full of Friendship and Love

 

Adriana, Family, Food, Home School, Italian Roots

Making Homemade Pasta with Kids!

Time to make the pasta!

This Christmas, my wonderful husband surprised me with a pasta machine! I was truly surprised because even though it was something I’ve thought of purchasing over the years, I had never mentioned it. I know what you’re thinking, how could someone really be that excited about doing more work to get a simple meal like pasta on the table? Doesn’t she know that a box of pasta only costs less than $2.00? Call me crazy, but there’s something about making pasta from scratch that makes me feel as if I’ve stepped back in time into my great-grandmother’s kitchen in Italy and am taking part in a very sacred tradition.

It’s truly amazing how emotions and memories can be triggered by traditions. I used to love going down into my Nonna’s basement kitchen around the holidays and crank the dough through the pasta machine to make fresh pasta and Italian Christmas cookies. My grandmother and her sister would put on their weathered aprons and enormous dollar store magnifying eye-glasses. Nonna would always pull her hair back in a handkerchief and Zia Rossa would have on a winter cap. For the pasta dough, Nonna never needed a recipe; It was engrained in her heart from her own childhood. The Christmas cookies were another story. She would pull out the smallest, crumpled piece of scrap paper with her recipe jotted down in Italian. She would always have a hard time reading her handwriting and ask me what I thought it said, I don’t speak Italian well, and am no better at reading it! Zia Rossa would soon chime in about how she used orange zest not orange juice and before you knew it, they were on the phone with a cousin in Italy to solve the dispute. Oh yes, a simple thing like a pasta machine can bring back so many memories.

Somehow I subconsciously must have been channeling my Zia Rossa as I too, wore my winter cap to make pasta!

My excitement must have been contagious because everyone in our house wanted in on the pasta making fun. Fortunately, our dough came together beautifully. No real chemistry there, just a simple recipe of flour, egg, oil and a touch of salt. Yet, us rocket scientists had a hold up as we encountered a bit of trouble getting things rolling through the machine. If you’ve ever seen a pasta machine, the simple ones with the crank handle, there’s not much to them to figure out. We were pros at sending our rolled out dough through the first round of the machine flattening it out to the desired thickness. But, as we all anxiously awaited the final step that actually makes the fettuccini; Lily cranked the machine, Leo had his hands ready to grab the pasta as it came out… and nothing. Like a carousel ride, our pasta just kept going round and round the machine. Mike suggested I make the dough less sticky, so I patted it all down with a little flour and we tried again. Nope, the pasta kept going round and nothing came out. I took out the directions, yes, now I took out the directions, but there was no information in the ten different languages written that instructed you on how to put the machine together. Hmm, what were those little metal bars and plastic inserts for that were sitting on the counter? I just assumed they were to clean the machine. Good thing Mike is a contractor, because yes, a contractor is always good to have around especially when you are making pasta and need help figuring out where the missing parts fit into the machine!

The kids loved making pasta. I think they were truly amazed that they could make yet another thing on their own that we usually buy from the store – and that it could taste so good! The fettuccini was such a hit that a couple nights later we made homemade spinach ravioli and Leo made us all spaghetti!

If you’re feeling inspired, I encourage you to get that pasta machine, put on your apron and if you’re really feeling it, your winter cap and give pasta making a try! The memories you will be creating for your family are priceless.

Pasta Dough Recipe (makes about 1 pound of pasta)

Ingredients:

  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 Cups “OO” Flour
  • 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • A pinch of salt

Instructions:

  • Add all ingredients to your food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds or until the mixture is crumbly in texture
  • Remove the dough and form into a ball with your hands. Then knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for a couple minutes until it is smooth and elastic. The dough should be pretty dry, but if is seems too wet, just add more flour a tablespoon at a time.
  • Form the dough into a ball and wrap it in parchment paper or plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  • When dough is ready, roll it out into small rectangular shapes and run through your pasta machine to desired thickness for the pasta you are making (this is indicated in the pamphlet that comes with the machine). Then send the dough through the machine to be cut into your pasta shape!

*Fresh pasta will cook quicker than dried pasta – usually between 1-5 minutes depending on the thickness of your pasta.

*Our pasta machine is an Atlas 150 and now that I know how to use it – I really do love it!

“Tutti a tavola a mangiare”

(Everyone to the table to eat)

Below is a video (I found on Youtube) of my dad’s village in Italy preparing for the September festival to celebrate the Saint of their town. It is a tradition that dates back for centuries and is truly an honor to experience. People come from all the neighboring towns to celebrate and some, like mine, travel every year from the United States back to their village to visit family and friends and celebrate together. One of my favorite pasta making memories is visiting this village and making pasta with family and friends as we prepared for the festival. The first image in the video is of the remains of a church built in 1590 and the second stone building is the grain mill where my Nonna and her family would grind their grain into flour. Although this video is in Italian, you can still appreciate the work that goes into the festival and the joy of the people who make the village what it is! Wait until you see how much pasta they make!

And here’s a video I found to give a peek into the festival! After the church service, everyone processes through the town singing and circles back to the church to feast on all the amazing food and enjoy the music and festivities. If you visit Italy in the summer and early fall, you too could visit these historic villages in the mountains and enjoy a different festival almost every weekend!

Adriana, Home School

2021: New Year, New Resolutions, New Hope

A special message tucked into my farm share pick-up for the New Year

Yet again, during this great pandemic, there is a time to pause, reflect and reset. No global shutdowns this time, but the unavoidable passing of another year in time brings me to reflect on the preciousness of life. I usually find this time of year, with the beginning of fall and the holiday season leading into the new year as a great time for reflection. A busy time, but yet a time to try and slow the pace and reflect on what I am thankful for, a time to make more time for what I hold truly precious in my life and a time to embrace change.

Our holiday season, although different, was very special. We found ways to connect with those we love and spread some holiday cheer. No germs, just cheer. The kids and I made many holiday breads and cards that we delivered to the doorsteps of family and friends. We surprised some lucky folks and sang Christmas carols on their snow covered front yards with our masks on! We put on our Christmas pajamas and watched Uncle Joe (Mike’s younger brother is a Franciscan priest), give the Christmas Eve Mass via zoom at his church in New Hampshire. We even lit candles and sang silent night with the lights out in the living room – a favorite Christmas Eve church tradition of ours. We had lots of zoom gatherings with family and friends. We spent time baking and making some special holiday meals together. Though we weren’t able to gather in person with our extended family, the time we took to connect, even if it was over zoom, felt all the more special and significant because our surroundings were less busy and we were able to spend quality time together in a very different way. Most often after a busy holiday gathering I feel exhausted and that I didn’t have enough time to visit with everyone. Strangely enough, I felt this holiday season we were all able to connect with so many loved ones in a really meaningful way. Kind of ironic, but I’ll take it!

2020 has not been easy and unfortunately, the hardships faced will not simply go away with the changing of the year, but we are getting there and I have hope. We are resilient by nature and finding ways to adapt to change and create new, beautiful memories amongst these trying times will help us all persevere and appreciate the simple gifts of life.

Hope is contagious and having it gives you the ability to face all things great and small.

As we prepared to celebrate 2021, the kids and I did something we do this time every year, we worked on our New Year Reflections and Resolutions. We write about things we’ve learned over the past year, new interests and challenges, something special that we did and we also write about what we’d like to learn in the new year; topics we’d like to explore, books we’d like to read, something new that we’d like to teach ourselves, somethings that we might like to change and do different, we set goals.

Leo’s homemade calendar for the new year

This years reflections were a bit different, and maybe you’ll find this true in your life too. We faced a lot of different challenges, a lot more has changed than usual and we did a lot more reflecting on how we want to live our lives and spend our time in the new year. Surprisingly, amongst the craziness of these times, the kids reflections were positive. My oldest two daughters have done a lot of soul searching for kids their age (11 & 9) and have been spending more time doing things that really fulfill them and exploring interests that we didn’t have time for during our normal homeschool days. There are things they look forward to returning to when the time allows and there are other things and even friendships that they realize weren’t fulfilling to them and feel more empowered to move past. They have also given more time toward nurturing and strengthening the relationships in their lives that they cherish, with each other, grandparents and close friends. All of the kids said they enjoy being less busy and having more down time at home and even enjoy spending more time together than we usually do! They miss traveling and seeing family and friends, but their resolutions were full of hope. They look forward to what the year ahead will bring and as children always have the gift of doing, they bring their joy and love of life to the present and to the future. As I looked up from my own resolutions scrawled on the paper in front of me; to worry less, to sleep more, to read more, to re-learn 6th grade math so I can teach it to Ava!…. staring at me from across the table sat my four simple joys of life – full of love, full of joy, full of hope. Looking at their sweet faces I knew, if they could make sacrifices, if they could find the good during hard times and if they could believe in the joys of tomorrow, than how could I not have hope. It’s a powerful thing, pass it on – our children, our societies and our world need it, now more than ever.

Praying you are all safe, loved and full of hope this New Year!

Adriana, Food, Home School

Homemade Gingerbread for an Old-Fashioned Christmas

Nothing says Holiday Baking quite like some Old-Fashioned soft gingerbread! During a normal holiday season one of our favorite things to do is visit Old Sturbridge Village’s Christmas by Candlelight in Massachusetts. It is an amazing living history museum and their old-fashioned holiday celebration is truly a treasure of an experience. One of our favorite soft gingerbread recipes is adapted from a very old recipe found in The Good Housekeeper by Sarah Josepha Hale, 1841. I got this recipe at our last visit to Sturbridge Village and it has been one that we love to make during the holiday season.

Six teacups of flour, three cups of molasses, three cups of cream, two of butter, one tablespoon of pearls and the same of ginger. Bake in a quick oven about half an hour.

The Good Housekeeper by Sarah Josepha Hale, 1841

The Modern day method of making this soft gingerbread:

  • 4 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Ginger
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking soda
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar
  • 2 1/4 Cup Cream
  • 2 1/4 Cup Molases
  • 1 1/2 Cup Butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together flour and ginger. Dissolve baking soda and cream of tartar in the cream. Cut butter into dry ingredients and blend thoroughly. Stir in cream mixture and molasses into dry ingredients. Pour into two greased 9-inch pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Dust with Confectioners sugar and serve warm, but it’s also tasty after being chilled in the fridge!

If you’re looking for a fun craft to do and book to read while enjoying your gingerbread, you can’t go wrong with The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. An easy beginner sewing project to do with your children is to sew a felt or fabric gingerbread baby. Leo sewed this handsome gingerbread baby when he was 5 years old. He drew the pattern of the gingerbread baby with chalk onto some felt, we folded the fabric in half so that we would have two pieces the same size and cut it out with fabric scissors. He drew on a mouth and nose with fabric marker and we sewed on the button eyes together. Then, Leo sewed it together with a large needle and embroidery floss and stuffed it with batting – you could use old clothes or stuffing from an old pillow. It’s a lot of fun and a great beginner project to hand sewing!

Have Fun & Enjoy!