You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2011.

I am loving…

…morning recess in the backyard with my babes in jammies while steeping Yorkshire tea and feeling the cold nip of autumn on my nose…

…leftover challah and honey buns (yes, again!) from a baking sesh with my mom two days ago…

…that I have a mom who taught me everything about baking and cooking, and that we have so much fun doing it together…

…the memory of my dad and Eric cuddling their foreheads together yesterday…

…my freelance editing work, both the actual writing and editing work itself  and the exchange of ideas and words with my clients, as well as the excitement of getting to work in various genres…

…Victoria’s Secret pajamas, one of my obsessions…

…leftover apple chicken tartlets and butternut squash and cheese conchiglie and  (my mom turned me onto the idea of hiding butternut squash in a “mac and cheese” recipe, and it was super simple: just make a roux, add pureed roasted butternut squash, a bit of cheddar and romano, and use in place of a total cheese sauce)…

…Project Runway last night: that show always makes me laugh out loud multiple times…

…finding the moon with Eric (he says, “Muh, muh, muh”)

…a good little daughter who is content to play on her own for a bit while Mommy does work for clients…

…exploring the yard with Katie and Eric…

..starting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with Katie…

…music class in Fallbrook this morning…

…making hamburgers, homemade french fries, and chocolate milkshakes for lunch (Miss K was really hungry for In-N-Out, especially since she hadn’t eaten a big breakfast, but it was so much better making it ourselves with items we’ve already paid to use—no spending guilt and we can control the quality)…

…the coming of the first October weekend (October is my favorite month)…

…my husband, especially for his amazing mind (he was able to explain fermions and bosons to me today in a way that really helped to clarify some things for me, finally) and for his loving heart…

…that Eric will now bring books over for me to read to him and crawl into my lap (I was worried for awhile that he wasn’t as interested in books as Katie has always been, but now I see that he just had to grow a little—he loves Goodnight Moon and others)…

…the clean kiddos’ bathroom (it was finally on my cleaning rotation schedule yesterday, and I am so enjoying its cleanliness, bright and sparkly)…

…an end of the week feeling of balance: play, work, creativity, learning (with balance is always contentment)…

I am terribly excited for making candy apples with my mom and kiddos tomorrow! And what other adventures await? Life is good.

My friend and former colleague, the creative and awesome mother Susan (Ellsworth) Jaehn, offered this activity during an apple unit brainstorming session. I loved her idea. She suggested using a Venn diagram to examine the phrase “comparing apples and oranges.” Her children are older than mine, and there will be more take-away value in Susan’s lesson about idiomatic speech.

For us, I thought this was  a really solid, thematically fitting idea via which to introduce Venn diagrams. I don’t believe I encountered a Venn diagram until middle school, but why not teach Katie a useful organizational schema now? I strongly believe that content should often be secondary to paradigm in our home school. By this I mean: any content can be made interesting, and a truly curious, intellectually vital person will spend her life searching out new content to learn, regardless of how erudite or humble that particular knowledge may be. A curious student of life is curious about everything, and she will seek it out, either by pursuing new courses of study and/or by reveling in the constant mysterious beauty that surrounds all of us and setting her mind constantly to the questions of how and why. So content is abundant, it is everywhere and in everything, it is always at the ready—everything in life can be engaging.

Paradigmatic thinking, however, must be taught in order for the student to have something on which to hang the content. It is a device by which the curious student may begin to make connections between seemingly (yet really not—in my experience, all fields of knowledge, from poetry to physics, is deeply and beautifully connected) disparate fields of study. So paradigms and processes are the most important part of the curricula we teach at the McGaugh Academy.

The Venn diagram has long been a favorite of mine. It is elegant in its way, you know? This was Katie’s first experience with it.

An apple and an orange (I cut the orange so she could see inside of it better).

Making the Venn diagram… I made the first circle, and she made the overlapping circle.

Labeling the pieces

Our finished diagram… I wrote down what she said in the regions.

This was a highly successful lesson. I wondered, going into it, how much teaching might be needed to convey its function: would Katie understand the significance of the three regions?

It turned out that, not only did she understand it, but she practically intuited it after we had labeled the parts. I only said a couple of sentences about it…and she instantly understood how this device was to be used. She had no trouble at all determining where to put the similarities and where to write the contrasting points.

Later, I tested her authentic knowledge. I asked her what other things we might compare/contrast using the Venn diagram. She had several good examples. Then came the real test. I asked her to imagine a Venn diagram in her mind. One circle was labeled “Dumbledore” and one was labeled “Lord Voldemort.” (We finished the 6th book today, incidentally). I asked, “These characters seem very different, but what could we write in the middle of the diagram?” The middle is for similarities, and she responded, “That they are both the most powerful wizards.” Yes. Dumbledore is the most powerful good wizard, and Voldemort is the most powerful evil wizard.

So, Venn diagrams and character studies merging… This was an extremely satisfying day of preschool!

Then it was lunchtime:

Eric finished up his lunch listening to a lecture by Stanford professor and string theory superstar Leonard Susskind. Do I believe the kiddos really have any idea what he is talking about? Can they understand his discussion of the velocity of recession or black holes? Certainly not. How about the advanced mathematics (well, actually, not terribly advanced today—it hovered around some basic calculus for awhile, it seemed)? They are still working on counting to large numbers… So why have it on?

First, I don’t turn TV on much when they are awake during the day. That is why I hardly follow any prime time programs. I would have to DVR it, and I don’t want to have it on with the children awake for a variety of reasons. I do watch some TV after bed, sometimes, but it is enough of a squeak to fit in Project Runway (and I do LOVE Project Runway) when there are so many other fun things to be done after they retire for the night.

Sometimes, though, I do get in the mood for a little background noise, depending on my mood. In that case, I am most likely to put on the Food Network or something equally innocuous. I do love Peep and the Big Wide World, I must admit.

But the other day I was thinking: why not have something on in the background that has the real power to change their lives? Just as we talk, or listen to music, or listen to French and Spanish in order to have the children absorb different languages, I thought, let’s listen to the language of math and physics repeatedly. We know that at this age, children absorb language almost innately and intuitively. Why not give them a really awesome, really hard language? They must have heard the phrases “x-axis” and “Hubble constant” (along with others) several times in just one hour alone. What if, by a constant repetition of Leonard Susskind, we could equip Katie and Eric with this language? What if, by knowing the vocabulary and structure of this language long before ever encountering courses in calculus and physics, we could give them a distinct advantage of familiarity? I imagine, too, how being familiar with this language will also boost their confidence in those courses when those studies get really difficult. We do not have to be afraid of those courses, or of that language—this is our message to our children. It is a little experiment, my Susskind Conjecture.

So, a little shout-out to Leonard Susskind. I cannot believe I lived on his campus for four years and never mustered the courage to see one of his classes. Silly 20-year-old me. I should have gone, should not have thought I couldn’t, should not have been afraid of not being a virtuoso in his language… I want to give Katie and Eric the gift of knowing that they have the right to wander in whatever language and wherever their beautiful minds take them.

As September wraps up at the McGaugh Academy, we are taking time to review a bit and wind up our thematic study of apples for the year. My mom is going to lead us in making candy apples this week, and we have a couple more little activities as well.

My freelance editing/consulting work has also become enjoyably busy again, as I just added two new clients this past month. One is a children’s book author, and the second is in the process of applying to top-tier MBA programs. I love it. Working in various writing genres suits me well. Not only do I revel in the writing process itself, but also stimulating is how lovely it is to interact constantly with fresh subjects.

So, the McGaugh Academy took a hiatus on Monday for the purpose of a little “back to school shopping.” Hey, that involves (as in, is remotely related to) school, right? Here is Katie, ready with her purse, to go shopping:

Both kiddos have been needing to upsize their wardrobes (Katie is turning 4 and has mostly 3Ts) for a couple months—and of the garments that do fit, most are for warmer weather.

Today we picked up some of our slack before my Toastmasters meeting. Last night we prepared a hard boiled egg (shell intact) and poured dark cola (left over from Eric’s party) over it. We talked about the main ingredient in soda, sugar, and how the eggshell is supposed to be like our teeth. What happens if we consume lots of sugar and don’t brush, or brush well enough?

That’s right—we get stained, sugary teeth. Does this seem random to be doing in the middle of our apple unit? Pretty much…

This afternoon, we used toothpaste and a toothbrush to brush our egg. We talked about how long brushing takes to make a real difference.

Eric and I also cooked:

Mr. E helped me to make the pate brisee for our annual apple and chicken tartlets. I don’t actually make up many recipes of my own, but this happens to one. We caramelize apples and red onions in olive oil, brown sugar, a wee bit of butter, and balsamic vinegar. We add thyme from the garden. This mixture is layered first in the tartlets, followed by roasted chicken. Then it gets topped with cheese: I’ve tried bleu, white cheddar, and gruyere over the years—yummy. Today I forgot that my cheese drawer was not prepared for this dish, and I had to use cheddar. Not bad…but I have a palate that prefers much sharper, more piquant cheese.

By the way, Eric kept taking nibbles of the pastry dough, which he is doing here!

Then Katie climbed our apple tree as the daylight faded. Most magical moment of the day, along with studying roly-polies with Eric.

Climbing higher…

I love this picture… Shortly after, she told me, “I am nice and stabilized.” That’s good to know!

This is her first official tree climb ever, initiated totally by her. She was talking happily tonight at bedtime how she plans to try every tree in our yard tomorrow. Love her!

Tomorrow is baking day chemistry over at our house. My mom is coming over, and we’re making double loaves of challah and honey buns at least. Katie had a great moment with fractions last week making my mom’s birthday cake. It called for a teaspoon of an ingredient, so I purposely took out the 1/2 teaspoon measure so I could give her a puzzle (I’m sneaky like that, I admit—I view everything as a time for teaching, generally). I said, “We need a teaspoon of this, but we only have a 1/2 teaspoon measure! What can we do? How many times will we need to scoop this into the baking soda to make one teaspoon?” She responded, “Two!” Hurray!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

This has been a week filled with a happy hum and bustle. Some of our hours, indeed, were spent with people extremely dear to us, our cherished family and friends.

We celebrated Amie’s birthday on multiple days this week. Parents, especially, and grandparents should be feted with fanfare. Birthdays are a time to honor those we love, and that honoring is of special importance when we think of our elders. I know it is kind of funny for me to be talking about elders—since I am married to someone older than I am, and since so many of my good friends are older than I am—but I don’t think of “elders” as being an age, necessarily, but as people who are our most important teachers and mentors.

We celebrated Amie

My mom’s birthday party

David and Ashley at Mom’s birthday party

Katie helps to make the birthday cake for her Amie every year. Eric happened to be napping this year, but one of these days we’ll involve him in it as well.

We also went to celebrate Amie’s birthday with Nana and Aunt Debbie in Fullerton this week. Happy Birthday, Amie!

On Thursday, my friend and colleague Sandy Huth came over for tea and chatting. I adore Sandy, absolutely. I have often said that, in addition to teaching me about our craft in the classroom, she has been a gentling influence on my life. Sandy is one of those really decent, good people. It had been, in fact, too long since we last saw each other in person. She is a beautiful soul, one that the world is better for having. I am not sure she will ever know how much she means to me, but I consider her to be one of the pivotal people in my life. Catching up with her was such a treat! Katie and Eric just gravitated toward her, as well. Katie has met her a few times, and she wanted to take her upstairs to play princess with her—a sign of true acceptance and attachment in Katie’s world.

On Friday night, Boppa came over early to have a go with the Super-rooter snake machine (or whatever it is called—I kept humming the “Roto-rooter, that’s the name…” song all weekend). I am enamored of this machine. Cleaning out the backyard drains is seriously my new favorite task. Anyone need their drains snaked? It immediately became an addicting process, watching all the roots and sludge and the random Easter egg come out of the drain.The kiddos and I ran back and forth cheering when we saw roots emerging and helping my dad figure out where the snake was going. I love cleaning drains. Who knew? That’s the thing about life: there is always something new to be passionate about, or to learn about. I loved the learning process with this.

Both of the kiddos were very much into this, too. It was hours of entertainment for us, except for today (Sunday), I think it started turning into work for my dad a bit. It was more fun when we were all out there together, but today the kiddos needed some naps, reading, and quiet time. However, on Friday afternoon/evening and Saturday for most of the day, it felt almost like playing.

Saturday morning, we were raring to do at 8:30 AM. The kiddos and I walked down to Starbucks and got my dad some sustenance and a pumpkin latte for me. We put on our work clothes and had a fun misty morning figuring out the drains.

Eric was a good helper, too. He knew we had to run a hose into the drain in order to help the guck wash away. Helpful little man…

I loved this week! So many memories and moments of hearty laughter and time with people we love!

Q: Did I read this title right? Are you really giving up your cell phone?

A: Yes. Well, yes and no. I am giving up my current cell phone, yes, as well as access to unlimited minutes. I am not currently reachable via a cell phone, so yes. However, for safety reasons, I am carrying a pre-paid cell phone for emergencies only.

Q: What precipitated this change?

A: Although my parents have been extremely generous in keeping my brother and me on a family cell phone plan for all these many years, we have decided that it is time for us all to go our separate cell phone plan ways. Makes sense, yes? I really expected them to nix the family plan years ago, but I think it made sense at the time to keep going with my teacher discount and my brother still in college. Even then, they have been more than generous in giving us free access to cell phone use for much longer than any other family I know. Since I am not sure yet about what, if any, kind of cell phone plan I want next, it did not make sense for me to keep paying for Verizon service at $40 a month (Bill has AT&T), while I figured it out.

Q: Wait, what? You think you might not enter into another cell phone plan?

A: Well, I am on the fence about it. Cell phones generally do not suit my temperament. I have felt guilty for a couple of years at least that my parents were paying for a service I rarely use. I am not sure if I am ready to commit to another plan or phone. That said, Bill has me somewhat convinced that an iPhone 5 (to be released by Christmas or sooner) might be the way to go. I would possibly do it for the camera and GPS capabilities. Even so, I am not a big cell phone user. That is part of the reason why I want to experiment with not having a cell phone in use for the next few months. Will I miss it at all?

Q: But this is a cell phone culture. How could you not miss it?

A: Unlike the land line, cell phone technology brought with it the expectation of constant access. We agree that, when we call a house phone, the person may or may not be home, may or may not be at dinner, may have legitimate reasons for not picking up the line. House phone culture has always been a bit more patient in that regard, more old-fashioned. Cell phone technology, however, carried with its emergence a sense of expectation. Because our phone could now travel anywhere and everywhere, it became expected that we would, or even could-should, answer our phone whenever it rings. I cannot speak for everyone, but I have personally never enjoyed the feeling of being constantly accessible, or the expectation that I could be constantly accessible. There are many times in which I am immersed totally and passionately in something or someone, and I am not reachable because I am savoring time with that hobby, task, or person/people. But  even just having a cell phone can lead modern callers to assume you want to be/can be constantly accessible, and this leads to hurt feelings and disappointed expectations… So I won’t miss it in that respect.

Q: A half dozen people, or more, have remarked how hard you can be to reach on a phone, and probably more than that have thought it. Care to remark?

A: Yes, I am extremely difficult to reach on a phone, unless we have made plans to call or unless we have somewhat of a standing date, like I do with Mom on most days. I am highly reachable by e-mail, even moreso by Facebook. Why am I difficult? Well, for starters, I guard my time in person with others like a jealous lover. If I am in the middle of something with Katie and Eric or Bill, for example, they have my full attention and I don’t usually answer the phone. Sometimes I do, it depends. I have the tendency to be immersed in whatever I am doing—I don’t know how else to describe it. When I am immersed, even if it is just polishing the wood, it is very hard to break my concentration on savoring that moment. I am a person who loves to concentrate. I multi-task very well, actually, but my mind feels happiest when it can immerse and concentrate. That is one reason why I actually love studying for hours and hours, or why I can work on a project all day hardly stopping to eat. I often don’t even hear the phone if it rings. People wonder how that can be; it is just the way my mind functions—when I am focused, my mind sometimes shuts out white noise. And don’t get me started on checking VM—the only time I check VM is if I happen to remember that it exists. Again, how can this be? Not sure, but I do know that “check my VM” is truly not a conscious thought most days, and the only way it would be, would be if I wrote myself a note daily.

Q: Ugh. You sound weird.

A: A little… But I am super easy to reach in other ways. The written word is a more natural medium for me. And I love to savor family and friends in person. And, I am not that weird. My mom and I talk on the phone almost every day. The advantage to e-mail and the like is that I can do it late at night, too.

Q: So, do you belong in the 1800s, or not?

A: Probably so.

Q: Really?

A: Yes, really. But I would want my iPad and access to the Internet. 😉 Oh, and access to modern medicine, especially for my children.

Q: Seriously, though, do you think you might get an iPhone 5 and rejoin our cell phone culture?

A: Honestly? Maybe so. It is tempting. I need to see how I feel about the pre-paid phone. It certainly would be cheaper to stick with that, and for the little amount I use a cell phone, I am not sure I could justify the iPhone. However, I have an infatuation with Apple products. Infatuation makes people do all sorts of crazy things…

Q: What do you think the outcome of this experiment might be?

A: I have often said that I feel as though I have “half a phone too many.” It feels like too much to me to have a cell phone and a house phone, in some undefinable way. Yet whenever I thought about giving one line up, I felt stuck with both for pragmatic reasons: the land line is more reliable, on the whole, and I can cradle it between my neck and shoulder if I need my hands to be free; the cell phone is a useful safety tool to have on long car trips or on walks with the kiddos. Maybe the prepaid phone solves the half-a-phone problem? Most of the time, I end up not using a cell phone when I am out (you can’t use them in the car, I am not a fan of buds in my ear, and I am usually talking with my children or my mom on errands), and when I am home, I can just use the house phone. It becomes almost a max-min math problem of sorts: what is the least amount of money I can pay to have all the functions/utility I desire? That is one question I will try to answer in these next few months.

Q: Any last thoughts?

A: Yes, a big thank you to my parents for gifting us with cell phone use for so many years. I do not think a cell phone is a right or a necessity, and so they really gave us a gift of something that is a luxury. I enjoyed my cell phone the most when I used it to talk with my mom every single morning on the walk from my room to my classes at Stanford. It came in handy during my season of wedding planning, as well, when I was doing business frequently and out and about in the local area. When I had my teaching career and was pregnant, it came in handy to call my OB a few times during my breaks about test results and appointments—it was nice to have a personal line to use at work, especially since I was often there from 6:30 AM to 4:00 PM every business day. The cell phone has also made traveling with the kiddos much safer, especially to and from music class. So it was a gift. A gift that was not expected or a necessity, but which made life a little easier and nicer here and there.

I think the time is right and good to strike out on our own, and to require my brother and I to put our own value on such a luxury. I will either end up appreciating the luxury more because I will be paying for it myself, or I will find that I can do without it. Either way, it is a worthwhile experiment.

Every morning for the past five days, the FIRST activity the kiddos want to do downstairs has been to watch the birds with our bird chart in hand. Katie calls it our “bird show”; Eric points and babbles happily. Seriously, they aren’t tiring of it either. Katie says watching the birds is “better than TV” (of course I agree—no surprise there!), and we have seen many different kinds in our backyard, birds we didn’t even know we had. We made a journal entry in our nature journal/field notebook about all the types of birds we have observed. We are contemplating a trip to buy different kinds of feed that might attract even more variety. This morning, we ate breakfast outside and tried closer observation; alas, the  golden and house finches were a bit more wary and the spotted towhee didn’t come out at all. All three of us are very passionate about our birds right now. So much to wonder at and learn about in this world, yes?

The bird show

Eric holds the California bird guide. Just like Katie, Eric loves for me to point to every bird in the guide and tell him the names…

Our Monday morning preschool started off well this week. We wrote down the birds we saw during the bird show, and we also diagrammed the parts of an apple blossom in our journal. Thank you, friend Susan Jaehn for this idea! Along with our flower blossom, we colored, cut out, and glued a bee into the journal. We’ve been talking about the process of pollination, and Katie correctly answered the question: “How do bees help an apple to grow?”

One of our books for this unit is The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall (illus. by Shari Halpern). The following project is totally not mine—I found the idea in several other places online. It was a great preschool project for Katie. The Apple Pie Tree is all about how an apple tree (and a family of robins nesting in it) changes over the four seasons. We have read this book several times now over the past few weeks, and so yesterday we finished our culminating activity:

We made our own apple trees for each season, one in each quadrant of butcher paper. We are going to watch our apple tree in the backyard this coming year to see if it, too, changes with each season.

When Daddy came home from work, Katie showed him her apple blossom entry in her nature journal.

We also worked on math and counting and are drilling initial blends in phonics.

As September is winding up, I have started planning and setting out our materials for our next month of study. I am planning to break October into smaller units: a moon-themed unit and a botany/harvest unit. I have some of our reading selected, but I am still searching a bit. Everyday, I have renewed appreciation for my elementary school colleagues. The amount of prep you do is staggering. It takes me enough time to print, cut out, and laminate materials for just one student; you all do it for 20 or so students! There was quite a bit of prep in high school English, as well, and of course, the immensity of the grading of essays and writing rec letters took hours and hours. Still, prepping for multiple preschool subjects, while really fun, is also so much work and takes a great deal of forethought. Elementary school teachers, my hat is off to you!

This week has been filled with creative energy. From meeting with a former student (and now a client) yesterday to review his manuscripts, to working on art projects with my children, to starting music class for the year, to exchanging invigorating e-mails with a colleague and friend about a project she has started,  to spending time with cousin Hannah for tea and scones this afternoon, this has been a week filled with moments that feel so alive.

Katie and I worked on food groups and designing nutritious meals this week:

I set up a tray with different magazine clippings of food, and I drew breakfast, lunch, and dinner plates on a large piece of butcher paper. We talked about food groups (apple is a fruit!) and gave several examples, and then she could choose from among the clippings and glue good, healthy, balanced meals onto each of the plates.

Making her meals!

Cousin Kd also came over to begin sewing her quilt:

Is there anything more lovely than working on projects side by side and talking about life?

She sewed half of the rows for the quilt top, while we chatted, shared apple slices, and played with the kiddos. I have loved every moment of this project and of having her here with us. In my fantasy home, I would turn it into an open academy of sorts—where family and friends could drop by any time  to learn with us, to teach us, to share a nourishing snack and conversation, to test out ideas, to work on projects of their own alongside of us, to put feet up and do homework or study for a test, to create in the kitchen, to play music, to be exactly themselves and to indulge in their artistry, to produce. I would love to resurrect the 18th century salon of sorts, a place of sharing ideas, of talking and thinking, of working toward self-betterment and creation. I love nothing better than the energetic hum of minds working, planning, designing, making, and finding beauty. In my fantasy home, I would have (for example) cousins and former students stopping by to brainstorm college essays at the dining room table, with my mom working on her weekly bread in the kitchen, my husband programming in his office, my friends and colleagues stopping by for tea and chatting, my Katie gluing and painting in the kitchen nook, and my Eric building blocks with his baby friends in the family room.

I am brainstorming in part, yes, but I also have serious ideas about this. What if there really were such spaces we could float into and out of? What if I would create such a space? What if really cool people I know could meet other really cool people I know? I guess the best way I could describe what I envision would be this: I wish my home could almost be like the common room/lounge in a university dorm. The best part of a university dorm, in other words, without having to share a small, non-private room at night…

Anyway… Later on in the week we made rosemary bread:


I love walking outside to pick my herbs out of the garden. It is such a money saver, for starters. I use fresh herbs almost daily, and those add up in the market. I am thinking about expanding my herb garden next year to take over the whole garden box and perhaps attempting my tomatoes and other veggies in a different plot of earth.

Katie also is entirely autonomous on her trike now! She has grown adept at peddling backwards and turning. Yay!

I think I have been reading too much Harry Potter (well, not really—we can never read too much, right?), because the other day her trike got stuck on the bridge over the pond feature in our yard, and in the midst of trying to get it to travel forward, she exclaimed in her sweet little voice, “Bloody hell!” I have to say, I burst out laughing—she sounded so British, and I mean, she was in her dress on her tricycle. I have censored all the other cuss words in the novel (“damn” for sure and even “shut up”), but I know I have read “bloody hell” a couple of times, because I guess I don’t view that one as being so bad (yes, “bad” words are subjective to an extent). We’re definitely a non-cussing family, but this was pretty funny! We both had a good laugh over it, she and I.

And finally, we had our first day of music class for the year:

We always make sure to take a first day and last day of school picture. We were so excited to see our friends and Kara (our teacher) again! Some of our friends finished the program last year, so it was a little bittersweet, a reminder of how FAST our children grow up. Technically, Katie has only two more semesters of the class before she has finished the whole program. If even that makes me feel like getting lumpy and teary-eyed, and it does, I can only imagine how it will feel to drop her and Eric off at college someday. How did my parents survive such a thing? Eric still has so much of our music program to complete—I am tempted, since we homeschool anyway, just to have Katie redo some of the semesters with him. Not sure what the age limit is…

The kiddos and me before music class this morning.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!!

You know what I loved this week? Honey buns. Made me think of the song from South Pacific, too. Musicals, autumn, sweet yummy yums? Oh yes.

I used a Martha Stewart Living Recipe. An online version is found here.

Mascarpone cheese, creme fraiche, and pecan filling…

Ooey, gooey honey mixture…

Nine little buns, before baking…

Get into my mouth!


Why not make some? We ate ours for dinner (!!!!) with a lentil and tomato stew. Best part? The dough makes enough for two more batches of these—so I froze 2/3 of the dough and have it on hand for our next honey bun craving. It is such a delicious, eggy, yeasty dough!

We eased into our preschool curriculum this week with an art project and a recipe that is a September tradition for us.

But before we did that, Eric was sweet…and cute:

Most mornings, he likes to take his framed picture of Nana holding him off of his nightstand and study it.

“Where are Nana and Eric?” He points.

Sweet little great-grandson. He sure loves his Nana! It is pretty cute how much he loves to look at this picture of the two of them.

As part of our apple unit, we are trying to make a papier-mâché apple holder. I don’t know if we’ll put pencils in it or something else, but we thought it looked like fun. Katie has never worked with papier-mâché before this, but she really liked it!

Tearing strips of newspaper

Dipping the paper in our starch and flour paste

Covering the balloon

Several times she exclaimed, “This is fun!” and “I love this!”

After a change of clothes and Eric’s nap, we made our annual apple strudel. This is one of our symbolic traditions, especially for my daughter and me. Our special song is “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, and we sing it nightly, along with the special song Eric and I share. Katie and I sing about “cream colored ponies, and crisp apple strudels/doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles…” We make apple strudel every year in September in honor of our song. I always tell her, as I told her today, “Whenever you hear that line of our song, I want you to remember us making this together, and to know how much I love you, and how glad I am that you are here and my daughter.”

We like to use our apples from Julian, as we did today. Katie and Scooby-Doo put apples into our bowl.

Our preschool day, which included a morning walk, was definitely lower key than they have been lately, but some days we just need a more relaxed rhythm I think. We did make an entry in our nature journal, with pictures: we glued in pictures of our new bird feeder and are writing a daily observation log, to record how many days it takes for our birds to find it.

Tonight is the harvest moon!!! Time to go bake our strudel!

What a delightful weekend!

On Saturday the kiddos, my mom, and I took a walking history tour of Old Town Temecula. I would recommend this tour to all Temeculans, as well as to visitors. Our local history is so rich! Parts of the tour made an impression on my almost-four-year-old daughter, as well, and she has wanted to continue discussing some of what she has learned throughout the rest of the weekend. After stopping for lunch in Rosa’s Cantina (one of Katie’s favorite restaurants in Temecula, in fact, she suggested we eat there), we played at the park a by the museum a bit and then came home and prepared for….


We have finished the 5th Harry Potter, and to celebrate we watched The Order of the Phoenix and experimented with making our own version of butterbeer. We found that a combination of butterscotch chips, cream soda, sweetened condensed milk, and a light drizzle of brown butter was quite tasty. Katie liked hers cold, and Eric and I gobbled ours slightly warm and frothy. We felt as though we could have been inside of the Three Broomsticks!

After Eric went down to sleep for the night, Katie and I finished the movie and I worked on hemming the jumper I made her so that she could wear it today for….


(Let the massive amount of pictures begin)!

My mom and Katie walk hand-in-hand to the orchard in Julian. I was happy that Katie was excited to wear her dress today. For many years I have wanted to make a dress for my daughter. My sewing could stand to improve in its precision, but it is wearable—somewhat to my own surprise! I never have really thought of myself as someone who could pull off making clothes, but I have such a love for sewing now that I am beginning to see that making clothes is possible. In fact, putting this pattern together was fairly straightforward, and Katie and I are eager to make another one in more of a winter fabric. Yay!

Katie picks! She picked a whole bag—and then some—by herself! Eric picked most of our second bag. I only picked a few!

The McGaughs

Eric loved this. I kept thinking: last year when we came, he was only one month old, nestled in my Bjorn harness. Now he is a big boy, picking on his own…

Eric looks for apples.

With my two babies

Grandparents and grandchildren. We are all so lucky, that is for sure.

Eric puts his apples into the bag.

Boppa and Eric

Mr. Eric in the orchard

Katie and Mommy

After picking apples, we went into town and had lunch. Then we did a bit of shopping… Katie buys her own cherry lollipop at the candy store. Big girl!

My mom and I also had fun shopping for birthday presents. There is a store in town that sells old-fashioned colored milk glass. Last year, my mom and Boppa were able to buy a present for my birthday while I was browsing in the other part of the store, and it was a surprise on December 28th! This year, I had the idea that I would find a surprise present in the store for my mom’s birthday, which is the 20th of this month. Meanwhile, she had the same idea today for me… So both of us kept asking what the other liked and then trying to generate a pretext for us to be separated in the store (so we could sneakily buy the present). Well, it soon became clear what we were each up to… Long story short, we both liked the same milk-glass piece! And there happened to be two… So I bought one for her, and she bought one for me, each of us knowing… And we are going to wrap them up for each other’s birthday. We like, too, that the present now is also a fun memory and that we will have the same piece in each house to remember this day by. She is lucky that her birthday is coming up so soon! I’ll have to enjoy the piece in her house for a few months!


After a bit more shopping, we ended the day with apple pie and treats at Mom’s.

Katie had a sundae.

Eric and I shared an apple crumb pie—actually, he ate most of it!

This is a still from Bill’s video. Eric LOOOOOOOVED his pie!

This is how to eat pie, Mommy.

When we got home, we had time to set up our new bird feeder. We love having birds in our yard! Boppa treated Eric and Katie to a chart showing all different kinds of California birds. Before reading Harry Potter (6th) tonight, Katie had me identify each and every single bird in the fold-out chart. Her attention to all of them amazed me. This child adores nature and giving things names, that is for sure. She was trying to memorize them, as well, and would point at them and repeat their names. Very cool.

What a beautiful, memorable day!

And guess what?? Tomorrow night is THE HARVEST MOON! Of course we have Harvest Moon Day/Night 2011 planned to celebrate. It is the little things in life that can be the most magical, yes?