Archive for November, 2011

First Thanksgiving in Swaziland

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

We have had many firsts since being in Swaziland, but as Ben mentioned in his Thanksgiving post this was probably one of the most memorable.  Although we didn’t get to celebrate with our family and friends from back home, we did get to celebrate with some very special Swazi friends.  And even though I didn’t get to make deviled eggs with my grandma or eat my sister’s green bean casserole, we still had some delicious eats.  Ben was in town all week, so we ended up having Thanksgiving a few days late on Saturday.  Here is a run down of our menu / evening in pictures.


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Mikayla’s turkey napkin rings

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Mikayla’s textured THANKS banner


Let me preface the food run down – we can get most foods we want in Swaziland, but some are very difficult and near impossible to find.  We searched around for a turkey and ham in all our usual spots and then got a great lead on a turkey from Sharon (the childcare director) and the sisters stumbled upon a hunk of ham at a more "Western" grocery store.  Some of the foods we had to alter a bit, but I will explain that more as we go.

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Turkey before.  This was our first attempt at making a turkey and I think it turned out pretty well.  We made a rub of olive oil, fresh rosemary, garlic, Italian seasoning, black pepper, salt and then a dusting of cajun seasoing over the whole bird.  The we stuffed him with celery, onion and carrots and roasted slowly until the cute red button popped!

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Turkey after – isn’t he beautiful?  And I don’t even like turkey!  Thanks to Ben who did most of the work on this guy.

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Steve Kickert’s sweet potatoes, which I think were a recipe from his grandma (but I could be wrong on that one).  I know you are thinking, those just look like regular potatoes, but they are sweet potatoes.  In Swaziland the sweet potatoes are red on the outside like we are used to, but on the inside they are white. 

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Ham pieces cooked in brown sugar, cloves and a little water.  I miss ham!

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Turkey all cut up and then green beans, mashed potatoes and the world’s best gravy courtesy of the sisters.  Seriously wish I could make gravy as good as this!

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Sausage and apple stuffing.  I found this recipe last year and it has become my go to recipe for stuffing (which ironically I only make at Thanksgiving – I think I will change that though).

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In this picture we have my Grandma Clark’s famous cooked apples and my Grandma Adkins deviled eggs.  Just a note on the deviled eggs.  We were unable to locate sweet pickles so Ben took some sweet and sour pickles we found and altered the juice.  It wasn’t quite the same, but it worked well enough.  We also had some butternut squash and a wild green (weed that resembles Spinach) cooked up by Sharon.

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Homemade dinner rolls

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For dessert we had an apple braid (not pictured, but posted about previously).  We also had this pie.  It looks like pumpkin pie and tasted like pumpkin pie, but was actually butternut squash pie.  I couldn’t find pumpkin, but butternut squash has the same texture and similar flavor so we rolled with it.  In the end we were very pleased with the outcome!  You should try it sometime.  Just take your butternut squash, cook it and puree.  Then use like you would canned pumpkin.   I used this recipe my friend Catherine found for me.  For the crust I made a recipe found in Betty Crocker cookbook.  I originally made the crust found in the recipe above, but it ended up crumbly for some reason.  If I were to do over again I would have covered the edges of the crust with foil so they wouldn’t burn.

**To cook the butternut squash cut into large chunks and put in a shallow microwave dish – skins up.  Add a little water to the pan and cook until tender.  Take peel off and then mash with a spoon or fork.

The company:

We ended up having 10 guests including us.  The three of us, Sharon (childcare director), Esau (Maintenance manager), Johannes (Agriculture manager), Ncobile (Office cleaner), Ndumane (used to live at the hostel and now works in maintenance), Mrs. Mamba (works with pyscho social department and is also a teacher at the primary school), and Mzamo (works in the office with Ben doing HR).  The sisters helped with some of the cooking but didn’t make it to the meal.

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In this picture (starting with Mikayla and going clockwise) you have Mikayla, me, Ncobile (the "C" is a clicking sound to start the name), Johannes, Esau, Sharon and Ndumane.  Those not pictured arrived later.

The Entertainment:

After dinner we had the usual conversation time (be sure to read Ben’s post mentioned above for details on this) and then introduced them to the Wii!  It was great fun and of course Mikayla bopped around and was Miss Social Butterfly!  We also enjoyed a great Thanksgiving song courtesy of Mikayla. 

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All in all we had a great time, enjoyed some fantastic food (if I do say so myself) and wonderful company.  We hope everyone had as good of a Thanksgiving as we did.

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Posted in Cooking, Life |

This Week’s Happenings 11/21-11/27

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

The bulk of the past week was spent on prepping for two big events – Our Thanksgiving feast we had on Saturday and then the Hostel’s Christmas party on Sunday.  Ben was also gone Monday-Thursday to a meeting in town so Mikayla and I held down the fort here in St. Phillips!  While in town he picked up some hard to find items including a Christmas tree and grill!!

On Tuesday Mikayla, Sharon (the childcare director) and I began some preparation for the hostel Christmas party.  We took out our new car for a spin and headed to Big Bend (a town about thirty minutes down the road) to pick up some supplies.  While driving I noticed that the car kept pulling in one direction and turns out we had a slow leak in one of our tires and it was almost flat by the time we got home.  Thankfully some of the guys on the mission helped us out.

A couple of weeks ago I volunteered to make cookies for the kids as part of their gifts.  At two cookies per kid, plus some for the staff I was looking at making almost 400 cookies!!  On Wednesday I baked 200+ chocolate chip cookies and then on Thursday I baked 200+ snicker doodles.  Mikayla was a big helper and cooked along side of me most of the time.

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Have I mentioned what an imagination Mikayla has?  She can take almost anything and turn it into a fun game.  This week I tied a string to an egg carton and she called it a turtle and took it everywhere with her.  She made it go for walks with us and talked to it just like we talk to her. 

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On Saturday we had some folks over for a Thanksgiving celebration (more about that coming soon), so Friday and Saturday were spent cooking, cleaning, prepping and eating a lot!

Sunday we headed to the hostel to celebrate Christmas with the kids.  They celebrate early because their school term is over next week and they will all head home to their homesteads for several weeks.  The kids put on a very nice play featuring the birth of Jesus and did some traditional dancing and singing.

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Shepherds with their sheep from the Christmas play

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Some cows and donkeys hanging out in the manger

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The Christmas cast singing Silent Night

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Auntie Jane on the left bringing in some of the older girls to do some traditional dancing.

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Remember this guy?  Simo has grown so much!

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The choir plus some of the staff singing/dancing at the end.

Found this guy just hanging out on the laundry this week, must be time for it to rain again!

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Picture taken using the Light Scoop given to us from my sister-in-law, Sarah!

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Posted in Life |

Toddler School–Letter T

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

For the past two weeks we have been studying the Letter T and Thanksgiving.  I had a lot of activities planned for the two weeks.  Some we got to, but a lot got missed because we had a couple of days where we were unable to have school (more on that in a later post).  I guess we will just use those for next year.  Here are some of the many activities we did in the last two weeks.

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She put Thanksgiving themed stickers onto the letter T.

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I made a letter dice out of some of the letters we have been studying and turned it into a letter graphing game.  She would roll the dice and then put a sticker above the letter.  She did great and caught on really quick at putting the stickers in the correct places.  The only downside was that she wanted to keep playing even when we ran out of boxes!

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I wrote letters onto the bottom of an egg carton and had her "hammer" the letter down when I called it out.  Thanks Lara for the suggestion, she loved it!

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She weaved string around the letter T.

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This was a two part game.  Part one, she would choose a number card (number on the front and corresponding dots on the back) and then count out that many turkeys.

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Part two, after a few days of the first game she was tired of it so I wrote numbers on the turkeys and had her match them up with the number cards.

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Letter T turkey – thanks again Lara!

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We wrote letters on the sidewalk with chalk.  I called out the letter and she would run and stand on the corresponding letter.  We did this in between drawing lots of pictures on the sidewalk!

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This was one of my favorite activities from the past two weeks.  I laid out some letter cards on the ground and got back out her letter dice for this one.  When she rolled a letter she would go stand on that one and then gobble like a turkey.  The best part was instead of saying "gobble, gobble" she said "cabba cabba" and referred to turkeys as "cabblas".

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We played several feather games.  For one game she rolled two dice and then counted out that many feathers.  We also color sorted the feathers.  I also hid feathers around the living room and then she would find them (again, thanks Lara).

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One last feather game we played was making a Turkey counting book.  I drew out several turkeys minus the feathers and wrote numbers on their stomachs (and corresponding number of dots in the corners).  She glued on the correct number of feathers to the turkey bodies.

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One of my favorite crafts from the two weeks were these turkeys we made for our Thanksgiving lunch.  We started by painting some cardstock with lots of colors.  Then I traced and cut out her hands (three per turkey).  For the body I cut toilet paper tubes in half and glued on the rest!  We stuffed napkins inside and used them as napkin rings.  They turned out really cute.

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We also made some textured letters to spell THANKS and made it into a banner to help decorate the house.  We used foil, buttons, pom poms, ribbon pieces, cut up straws and glitter.  I was pretty pleased with how it turned out!

In case you missed last week’s post about the turkey name game, it is yet another idea for a letter T activity.  We also worked on a really fun Thanksgiving song that we will try to post on YouTube for you to see soon.  She sang it before we had our "feast" on Saturday for all our guests.  Precious!  Like I said we had a lot of activities we didn’t get too, but maybe next year!

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Posted in Parenting |

This Week’s Happenings 11/14-11/20

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

The most exciting thing to happen this week was we finally purchased a vehicle.  It is the Suzuki I mentioned in a previous post.  Ben went into town on Wednesday and brought it home.  The windows still do no operate so we will have to take it back in when the parts arrive.  But for now we at least have our own transportation!  Of course we haven’t driven anywhere yet, but it is there if we need it!

We also made plans to host a mini Thanksgiving dinner next Saturday.  The sisters will be coming and possibly our friend Joey from the Peace Corps.  We haven’t found a turkey or ham yet, but are hoping to find something this week.  If all else fails there is a farm on the way into town that sells live turkeys and Ben said he would slaughter one for us.  So we shall see!  It will be memorable either way.  Mikayla  is enjoying studying about turkeys and Thanksgiving in school (which will be updated next week when we finish our Letter T study).

We were also approached by Sister Barbara this week asking if we would keep the twins again for a bit over the children’s summer break (December and January).  It would be off and on for the seven weeks the kids are not in school and back at their homesteads.  Of course we said yes.  There are also two other opportunities for us to keep high-risk children, but the details are still up in the air.  I guess you could say we are becoming the "foster parents" for Cabrini, which we are totally okay with!  There are a whole lot of orphans and vulnerable children in our area that have some support from extended family, but need special attention for a short period of time.  At Cabrini we call this respite care and it seems to be a good combination of needs, skills, and availability.

Power outages have been ridiculous this week.  On Friday and Saturday we only had power for about four hours combined.  Crazy!  Things could be worse, but it is getting a little annoying.  Especially when humidity levels are 80% and it is 90 degrees outside like it was one night this week.  Needless to say we have had a couple nights in the last week where it was just too hot/humid to sleep!  We actually lost some food in the fridge because the outages were so long and it also means we will have to cook up most of the meat from our freezer today.  I foresee a braii (BBQ in our future).  That is the first time that has happened to us. Not much fun, but like I said things could be worse. 

On Friday night we discovered we had a bat in the house.  Mikayla and I hunkered down in her room while Ben tried to capture and release it.  He never did catch it but since we didn’t see it anymore we decided that it had flown out on its own.  About an hour later the power went out (again) and we decided to make some popcorn and watch a Friends episode or two before calling it a night.  While Ben was making the popcorn I noticed Mikayla’s artwork moving on the wall, which was weird because there was no wind or fans going.  Then all of a sudden out flew the bat again.  And let me just say that this bat was fast!  He was swooping back and forth it was hard to even track him with our eyes.  Eventually Ben was able to knock him down with our comforter (and yes it did get a good washing the next day and we slept with just sheets that night) and then grab him and release him outside.  It made for an exciting and interesting few minutes. 

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Creepy bat!

I was commissioned this week to make some biscuits (cookies) for one of the child care staff.  Instead of her paying me I offered her a trade of making Mikayla a dress for a bag of cookies.  So excited to see it when she is finished.  I am sure it won’t be a Dacia original, but it is great to know someone here who can sew!

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World’s cutest baker helping mommy make cookies and banana bread!

On Saturday Ben drove 6+ hours (one way) to pick up Bongani from the hospital in Pretoria.  He is one of our health care staff members who was recently diagnosed with cancer.  Since no where in Swaziland offers any kind of cancer treatments he has to travel to Pretoria, South Africa.  When he first went to the hospital about a week ago he was in really rough condition, but Ben said he looked much better yesterday and did great on the ride home.  He will return in a couple weeks for another round of chemotherapy.  We are hopeful that this treatment will help.  So far it looks like he is responding well.

Today we travel to Manzini to Mr. Ceuhlo’s house for his wife’s birthday.  He is a contract worker and friend of the organization.  He is actually the one who got all the food donated and cooked for the Feast of Mother Cabrini and also the man who had all the bananas donated a few weeks ago when I made all the banana bread!  He is a great chef so we are looking forward to some yummy eats.

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Posted in Life |

Feast of Mother Cabrini

Friday, November 18th, 2011

As promised here is a quick snapshot of the Feast of Mother Cabrini that was held last Saturday.  Ben is working on putting together a video montage from video clips we took and putting it on the Cabrini website.  As soon as he does I will be sure to let you know so you can check that out as well.  Like I mentioned last week, everyone had a great time!

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Some of the staff working hard before mass to get lunch ready.  I was so proud of the staff and all that they sacrificed to make this event grand.  Behind the ladies is the hostel’s kitchen.  The big pots are built into a fire pit that they use each day when cooking for the kids.

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Entrance of children – all the children walked into the service following a statue of Mother Cabrini.

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The bishop entering the service.  After the service was over Mikayla definitely went up to him and asked him what his name was!

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Everything was a celebration.  Even the way the Word of God entered before scripture reading.  This group of girls (and a few others not pictured) danced their way down the aisle while singing to present.

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Some of the staff dressed in traditional clothing for the event.

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The men cooking the meat up – now this was a real brai!

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Sharon, the director of the hostel, wrote a beautiful poem about Cabrini that the kids recited.

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These girls are some of Mikayla’s favorites from the hostel.  They sang and did some traditional dancing throughout the performances. 

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The Cabrini choir – beautiful voices.

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The guy second from the left is Themba.  He is a driver for Cabrini and this is his band performing as the closing event.  They sang and danced and really worked up the crowd.  They were amazing.

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Meet Novuselelo – this is the twins older sister.

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Here are some of the guests watching the group sing and dance.  Most of the kids are kids from the hostel.  The even also took place in the boys dormitory.  In the back you can see mosquito nets hanging from the ceiling.  For events like this they push all the beds back against the back wall leaving a large open area.

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This is a terrible picture, but please ignore that.  This is Sr. Diane dancing with the Statue of Mother Cabrini!

Posted in Random |

Turkey Name Game

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

This week at Toddler School we are studying the letter T for Turkey and Thanksgiving.  I made a Turkey Name Game for Mikayla I wanted to go ahead and share before my weekly post in hopes that someone out there might want to use also. 

It was super easy to make and Mikayla loved it!  I first made a felt turkey body.  Then I made different colored feathers (one for each letter in her name) and hot glued felt letters to the tips.  Her job was to spell her name with the feathers around the turkeys body.  Like I said she loved it and an added bonus was it was easy to make!



If your child isn’t quite ready to spell their name yet, you can use plain feathers or use some clothespins as feathers to work on gross motor.



This Week’s Happenings 11/7-11/13

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

We had a couple of visitors over for dinners this week.  The first was Joey, our friend working with Peace Corps.  He came over on Sunday for some chicken and dumplings, green beans and an apple braid (you can read about it here).  It was nice to catch up because we hadn’t seen him in a couple of weeks.  Then on Wednesday we had a family from one of the organizations Cabrini works closely with (PACT) over for dinner.  The family is getting ready to move to Tanzania, so this was a good bye dinner.  Todd (the husband) is actually the person who hooked us up with Cabrini.  When we first came to Swaziland over a year ago, we met with him to check out PACT.  While there, he mentioned we should go and see the sisters – thinking that we would be a good fit.  We did, and the rest is history!  He has a lovely family and it was great to just sit back and relax for the evening.  The sisters provided the food and we made chocolate cake for dessert. 

We have been finding a lot of these little geckos in our house this week.  I am not sure if it is the warmer weather that is attracting them or the fact that we had opened one of our windows that doesn’t have a screen!  I don’t mind them too much.  But the minute they end up in my bed is a different story.  Mikayla loves to look at them and try to catch them, this week she succeeded (with a little help from daddy).

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People aren’t kidding when they say they make creatures big in Africa.  Check out this guy, a huge beetle looking creature.

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Just a little perspective on how big he actually was.  HUGE!!

On Saturday we celebrated Mother Cabrini with a Feast of Mother Cabrini.  This is an annual event, but this year we were celebrating the 40th year of Cabrini in Swaziland.  We had a special mass, complete with singing, dancing and readings from the kids, and a huge feast and party afterwards.  Complete with dancing sisters!!  I plan to do a large post on that this week, so I will save the juicy details until later.  But I will mention that we have a dancing fool for a daughter!  I don’t think she stopped moving once the music started!  Not sure where that comes from.

Feast of Mother Cabrini 145 Dancing with her friend Bayanza.

And just because I can, check out this beautiful girl!  I found her laying on the couch like this – can we say Senior pose?  Also look at her beautiful curls!

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Posted in Random |

Toddler School–Letter F

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Due to some unexpected travel time last week, we decided to extend our Letter F week into a second one.  Mikayla had a blast using fish, flowers, frogs and families/friends to learn all about the letter F and practice basic math skills.  Stay tuned next week for the Letter T (we are skipping ahead because of Thanksgiving and Turkey)!

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This game is a two part game.  I cut out different colored fish shapes and wrote the numbers 1-5 on them (these are the numbers we are heavily focusing on right now for recognition).  The first game is a colored paper clip matching game.  It is as simple as its name, match the clothespins to the correct colored fish.  She actually pretended that the paper clips were the fishing pole and when she "caught" the fish she proceeded to give it a big kiss!  I made these from thin construction paper, but I would recommend thick paper or cardstock because they were very flimsy for her to attach the paper clips.  The second game is a counting game.  For this game she would only match up the number of paper clips that are written on the fish.

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Of course we did lots of finger painting!  She loved this.

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More finger painting – like I said we did this a lot!  Side note – round plastic lids work great for paint trays (this one came from a can of cocoa).

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We sorted big and small flowers from my hair clip supply.  I had her use tongs from her kitchen to pick the flowers up with to work on her motor skills a bit.  This also turned into an impromptu game where she made a flower soup for us to eat.  Her sense of imagination never ceases to amaze me!

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She glued flowers onto the letter F.  At first she had a hard time with squeezing the glue, but after she got the hang of it she did great.  She even had me get more flowers out because she was having so much fun with the glue.

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She sorted straws into a color coded egg carton.  I flipped one upside down and colored them different colors.  Then I cut a small hole in the top, big enough to stick the straws in.

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Flower/letter match.  The petals had capital letters and the centers had lowercase letters. 

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I made flower petals with the letters in her name and then wrote her name on a strip. She matched the flowers up with the correct letter.  We even took away the name strip to see if she could make her name without seeing it.  She got the first few letters, but then needed some help. 

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I put spaghetti noodles in an empty pepper shaker and let her empty and fill it up.   Great fine motor practice.

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I made some fish with numbers on them and then worms with dots.  She counted the dots and matched them up to the correct number.  She is starting to recognize her numbers and can almost always find the number 1 and the number 5. 

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In the middle of one of our letter games she thought it would be fun to put letters on her fingers.  Since she was having fun I rolled with it and had her tell me what letters she was putting on them. 

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We made French toast  Have I mentioned how much this kid loves helping out in the kitchen?  She even loves to do dishes…not sure where that comes from!

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We had lots of fun with these little froggies from my craft selection.  We rolled the dice and made that many froggies jump.  We got out our foam numbers and set that many froggies on top.  And we just played with them – they took baths, went to the park, ate a big dinner and had lots of fun.

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She put fish stickers on the letter F.  She is trying to make a fish face here.

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And what Letter F study would be complete without a paper plate frog??

We also made a flower out of her hand and foot prints, made a Letter F with feathers and a few other side activities!  We also made a couple of forts throughout the weeks for her to play in.  We spent a lot of time talking about family and friends, reading through our family/friends picture book I made before we left and worked on a special project for some of our family and friends in the states. 

As I mentioned previously, in honor of Thanksgiving we will skip forward to the Letter T for Thanksgiving and turkeys!  Stay tuned for lots of T fun!

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Posted in Parenting |

Apple Braid

Friday, November 11th, 2011

While we might not be experiencing fall like all our friends back in the states, we can still eat the occasional fall food.  I have yet to find pumpkin of any variety, but we do have apples.  So this week I set out to make a yummy apple treat.  We had dinner guests coming over for two occasions so I immediately thought of trying out an apple pie for one of them.  Then I stumbled upon this recipe for an Apple Braid.  It not only looks impressive, but was relatively simple to make and even had a nice flavor.  Plus I didn’t need to try and find a substitute for a shortening based crust.  This is something that Mikayla could even help me out with (although she was sleeping when I made it this go round).  Here is a snapshot of the finished version.  We didn’t manage to get a picture of it cut open, but imagine a delicious apple filling on the inside.

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If you want to see detailed description, pictures, and recipe for the Apple Braid click on the link above.

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Posted in Cooking |

Mrs. Dacia’s Dress–Then and Now

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

I was just talking to my dear friend Dacia last night about how big Mikayla is getting and how she has outgrown the fabulous dress Dacia made her for her birthday.  This mornign when Mikayla chose her dress she chose one that Dacia had made for her first birthday (over a year and a half ago).  I was shocked to find that she could still wear it comfortably!  It is the dress that keeps on giving!  Thanks Dacia for all your craftiness you send our way!

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Then – April 2009

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Now – November 2011

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Posted in Life, Parenting |