Sunday, November 30, 2014

Water Color Christmas

These Water Color Christmas trees teach contrast and also properties of warm and color colors. We also talked about proper water color technique and using a pop of color to outline the trees. 

Check out the gorgeous artwork.

Have fun Creating!!!

Advent Calendar

So I was at Home Goods a few weeks back, oogling at the Christmas decorations and trying not to purchase anything, when I came across a beautiful advent calendar Christmas tree thing (yes that's the technical term) but at $79.99 it was far to expensive for me. So, naturally I took a picture and went home to the hubbs and asked him to duplicate it. 

Here is the Home Goods version.....
And here is our version....
The hubbs used wood he had left over from other projects, I spent 18$ on the baskets, and 3$ on the chalkboard for the top of the tree. So the total cost for this AWESOME Advent Calendar is a whopping 22$. And we will have this in our home for years to come.

In each of those little baskets I put three pieces of candy (one for each kid), a passage of scripture for us to read together before bed, and a clue to the fun activity that we have planned for the day. The activities vary from baking cookies, to singing carols at a nursing home, to delivering goodies to our friends and family, to ice skating and much more. The culminating activity is for us to bake a cake Christmas Eve so that we an enjoy birthday cake for breakfast on Jesus' birthday. I love having a month long celebration of our Saviors birth!

This is the reading plan we use for each day leading up to Christmas.
The Advent Calendar has always been one of my favorite Christmas traditions. Growing up we always had those cardboard calendars and I loved getting to eat the chocolate each day. When I had kids I knew I wanted to have a countdown to Christ's birth.  I have been tweaking it for the past few years to include all the elements that we would like to have and I think it's finally where we want it.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


This morning I read an article about what a real house looks like when the kids are home all day. It started off that we all have that one friend that says their house is a mess when it's not. Their house is perfect. It's clean, the dishes are done, their is NOT laundry everywhere (it's probably folded and put in drawers.....insanity I tell you), dinner is cooking, breakfast is cleaned up by lunch time, their dog doesn't shed or make a mess, you know......perfect.

Well, that friend is NOT me. I am messy, my kids are messy and my husband is messy. We have tried and tried AND TRIED the organized got it together, and have clean house, and clean children routine, but that's just not us. We call ourselves the Crazy Criswell's for goodness sake.

Any way back to the article (I have tried to locate it and can't.) The next thing they did was list all the things that happen in REAL life when the kids are home and making a huge mess. I am taking it one step further. I took of some of the mess that is happening right now in my house.
 Yep this is real, those stains on the carpet that I have scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed some more are NOT coming out. That laundry basket has been in the living room for 3 days....The play mat in the back is COVERED in kinetic sand. This is my life.
This is my dining room/school room, there is stuff every where!!! And guess what? I am having a birthday dinner at this very table in 3 days...when will I clean you ask?....probably about 20 minutes before people arrive.
My kitchen, the 5 year old is playing in the water and "washing" the dishes. Everything from breakfast is still out because we woke up, ate breakfast and got started on school.....I will clean this up before dinner....right before dinner.

We as moms constantly compare ourselves to others. We are always wondering if what we are doing is enough. We are thinking that if we could just get organized life would be easier. If we were better at decorating then our family would be happier, the kids wouldn't fight and they would be well behaved. None of that is true. I have had friends tell me that their house is too clean, that they spend too much time worrying about the appearance and they miss out on the fun. And guess what? Their kids still misbehave and argue.

Want to know something else? If someone is your friend, they will come sit in your mess with you, they won't care if you haven't vacuumed that day, they won't care if dishes are in the sink. They won't care if your kids shoes aren't put in the shoe cabinet that you purchased to help 'organize' the shoes. Do you know what they will care about? That you opened your home to them, mess and all and invited them into your crazy life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Gluten Free (Kid and Husband Approved) Apple Pie Crisp

I won't remind you that thanksgiving is about 10 days away and that Christmas is just a little over a month a way, I just won't do it.

That means Apple Pies, Pumpkin pies, and many other sweets that my other gluten free peeps and I  cannot enjoy.

So here is a recipe that you can serve at Thanksgiving or Christmas that will please Gluten Free and non Gluten free alike!!

Gluten Free Apple Crisp
For the filling:
  • 5-6 Medium baking apples (my family loves Honey Crisp, but you can use Granny Smith) cut into thin slices
  •  2 tbsp gluten free flour
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
  • 1/2 of All spice
  • 1/2 c. of sugar
  • 1tsp lemon juice
For the Crisp:
  • 6 cups gluten free Rice Chex Cereal
  • 1/3 cup melted butter (you can use coconut oil or butter substitute for Dairy Free)
  • 3 tbsp gluten free flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
Preheat oven to 400. Grease small 9x9 square baking dish with butter or nonstick baking spray.

To make filling combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Place sliced apples in a large bowl and pour lemon juice on top. Then toss. Now add dry ingredients and toss again til apples are coated in sugar mixture. Pour into baking dish.

To make crumb topping pour 6 cups of rice chex into food processor and grate. Try not make the Chex cereal to fine. Pour grated cereal into small bowl, add sugar and flour and mix well. Then add butter and mix til crumbly. Spread on top of Apple filling.

Place in oven and bake 45-50 minutes. ENJOY!!!

This dish is wonderful with a cup of Dark Roast coffee, don't tell anyone but this was my lunch today.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Homemade Christmas gifts

Okay, Okay, I just posted about a thankful tree two days ago, but I have to share this with you!

Art is a very large part of our homeschool. My children love to paint, draw and create. Last year our year end art project for the older two was a Monet inspired piece which produced two beautiful works of art which are hanging in our home. I have had many guests remark on the artwork and tell us what a lovely job the kids did.

So this year as I started to think of gifts I realized I wanted to give things that people could use, but that also had a personal or handmade touch. Enter BRILLIANT idea. I took pictures of the kids artwork and turned them into greeting cards that people could use for ANYTHING. Beanie also 'painted' a gorgeous piece last year using celery and leaves. Check it out!!

Great right? The best part is this, snap fish is running a 40% off cards +free shipping special right now. I chose a notecard that allowed me to use my picture as the ENTIRE front of the card, no words....but if you wanted words you could that too.

I ordered 24 of each card and my total was about $85.00. However after the discount I spent just under $50.00 for 72 cards. Once the cards came in (which took 3 days....not kidding....3 days) I divided them into sets of 9 which gives me 7 Christmas gifts (I am keeping a set for myself).  Each set of cards cost about $7.05, and the other day at Target I found card boxes for $0.45 each, bringing my total per boxed card set to $7.50. Here is what they look like.

I cannot wait to give these out for Christmas (if you are on the receiving end of one these sorry for spoiling the surprise).

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sometimes my kids teach me.

Today we went to the wait let me back up.....

This week has been hard, it's been one of those weeks where I have questioned if homeschooling is right for us. If I am really made for this. If this is what is good for my children.

3 hours, it has taken Peanut 3 hours to do math each day for the last week. And I am exhausted, and she is exhausted. I will be quite honest, some of my least favorite parenting moments with her have happened in the last few days. She just CANNOT focus on math. And to say it's frustrating me is a HUGE understatement. And that's just the tip of the iceburg, it felt like we struggled in every way.

But then....

Today we went to the aquarium. And, oh my sweet Peanut was in her element. She LOVES animals, everything about them. And she loves reading, and she LOVES facts. When you first walk into the aquarium there is a huge tank where they have created the Blacktip Reef. It is amazing and gorgeous and actually looks like a Coral Reef. It's wonderful. There are touch screen learning computers all around the tank, and Peanut took about 10 minutes to study the different species and then proceeded...without looking or name each species of fish and ray that lives in this tank. It was amazing. She was like a sponge (see what I did there).

Before we left for the aquarium I had printed out a scavenger hunt that was provided for us and Booger completed all but three questions which, I was told we WILL be finding the answers for tomorrow. He was so focused on learning and completing his project. I was stunned. But his approach was sooo different from Peanut, he was task focused and she was open to everything. And both were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

And I was talking with a new (but it feels more like an old) friend about my kids and their strengths and their weaknesses. And I started to think about all the reasons that we do this.

All children are unique, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. I have 3 children and all 3 are different. It amazes me how different they are, but I love it and I wouldn't change it.

So without knowing it my kids taught me today. They taught me once again that they are amazing. They taught me that WE can do this. They taught me that it's okay to struggle and it's okay to have a bad week. Because in a month I am not going to think about the bad week, I am going to think on what came from the bad week....a revelation and a reminder of why we continue to do what we do.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I don't know if you knew this but it's November....

Yes, November, which means Thanksgiving and Peanut's birthday!

 I am honestly in shock at how quickly this year has flown by. Wasn't it just Valentine's day?

We make a pretty big deal out of birthday's around here so I am pretty excited for the party planning. But we also make a pretty big deal about Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for, I don't want the kids to let this time pass by without taking time to understand 
that we are truly blessed. 

Each year we make a thankful tree and all during November the kids write down things they are thankful for and at the end of the month our tree is full of all our blessings. This morning when Beanie woke up she ran straight to the tree grabbed a leaf and asked me to help her write down what she was thankful for today
Since we have 3 kids I chose a different color for each kid and that way the kids can keep track.

I am hoping to take it one step further this year. I want the kids to show their thanks to those around us who do so much to make our lives easier and more wonderful just by being themselves. Handwritten notes are still a favorite of mine and the kids love sending letters to people, so I thought that might be a great place to start showing our gratitude.

How do you show gratitude during the Thanksgiving season?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Homemade Ice Cream

So, I love making anything from scratch, especially desserts, but ice cream has always intimidated me. One I have NEVER owned an Ice Cream maker and Two, I thought it would flavorless. Well, boy was I wrong.

I was given an ice cream maker from a friend who never used it. So, I looked up a super simple recipe:

2 cups Heavy Whipping cream
2 cups milk
1 cup of brown sugar
1 tsp of vanilla


Let me say that again, THAT'S IT.

The kids went nuts over the stuff. They said they don't EVER want to buy ice cream again, but instead they want to experiment and try out their own recipes. And the best part, I bought GOOD ingredients. So there is nothing in this ice cream that I don't want to give my kids.

Next step Dairy Free Ice Cream for momma.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Off to a really rough start.

The beginning of the school year has, for the last 3 years, been the hardest part. Coming off of summer brains and trying to get back on schedule this year has proven to be the hardest yet.

Usually it's just because of summer and schedules, but this school year has already given us our share of  setbacks, injuries, sicknesses and tragedies. For starters, right at the beginning we had construction work going on all around us. As my bedroom and our backyard were being torn apart. Around this same time I also started back at my seasonal braiding job at the Renn Faire which has me gone most of the weekend, and still recuperating on Monday. Then I sprained my ankle....worst sprain I have had in years and was unable to walk for the better part of a week. After which I came down with the plague....(I still don't have my whole voice, and I am beginning to wonder if I ever will.) And then we had a death in the family which turned our close family's world upside down and we have been trying to get back to a sense of "normalcy" ever since.

So here we are about 5 weeks in to our school year, and I am frazzled. I am tired and I am stressed. To top things off the hubbs is traveling this week and I am here to man the ship. So what's a mom to do.....

press pause.

I am going to not worry about lessons this week, I am going to clean up the house, I am going to spend time with the kids, I am going to put things back into order and take a lot of deep breaths. Then I am going to spend more time with the kids, and A LOT of time with God. Then I can reset our school year and more importantly our home. Because we are still going to have a great school year. We aren't behind yet, but we will be if I don't find rest. And that won't happen until I realize that God is asking me to slow down and find my rest in him this year.

The Criswell Academy will be back in session next week, until then we are resting.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A bushel of apples

All three paintings beautifully displayed in our dining room.

Every year for the past 5 years I have enjoyed taking my family apple picking. We haven't made it out yet this year but as I was perusing Pinterest I came across a wonderful art lesson on how to paint a bushel of apples. I thought it would be a good project since we will be heading to the orchard soon for our yearly trip. 

You can find the lesson here, at I changed my lesson up a bit and asked the kids to turn the canvas or to zoom in on the bushel. We also talked about how apples are not all the exact same color red. Apples are red, green, yellow, and sometimes have several different colors in one. Beanie only wanted to paint red apples because right now she will only eat red apples. Oh the mind of a 5 year old. But the other two did a great job of mixing and playing around with different reds, yellows and greens to create depth and interest in their pieces.

They did wonderful job, check it out.


Beanie, I did help her with her apple shapes but she did everything else, Not bad for a 5 year old.

Booger. I was glad he decided to turn his and do something a bit different from his sisters.

 Have fun painting.....with or without the kids.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Kid Approved, Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Taking our family to a gluten free lifestyle isn't easy. We aren't perfect. With the exception of Beanie and I no one HAS to be gluten free, they do it because I cook with gluten free ingredients. (If the hubbs wants pizza he ops for a local fave A-1.....gluten filled he calls it.) 

Anyhow, it's fall and fall means baking. The kids and hubbs went to First Fruits Farm to help harvest veggies for the local food pantry's this weekend and brought home 3 huge zucchinis. Which of course means.....yep, you guessed it..... zucchini bread. Here is the recipe that the kids LOVE.

Dairy Free, Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

3 cups Namaste Gluten Free flour. (I use this because I don’t need to add xanthum gum)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½  teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups coarsely shredded, unpeeled zucchini
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup dark chocolate pieces (Gluten Free and Dairy Free)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of two 8x4x2-inch loaf pans; set aside. In a large bowl stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture.
  2. In a medium bowl combine eggs, zucchini, sugar, oil, and vanilla. Add zucchini mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in nuts (if desired) and the chocolate pieces. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pans, spreading evenly.
  3. Bake about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on rack.
  4. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

I hope you love this recipe as much as we do. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Do you ever get a moment to yourself?

I have had 2 people ask me this question this week. When do you get moment to yourself? A good friend of mine who is just starting out as a homeschooling mom asked me if there is ever down time...if I ever get a break. Another was a family member just curious about our day to day routine. I honestly don't know how to answer this.

Yes, I have moments to myself. I go on dates with my husband, I have coffee dates with friends, I train for marathons and I go to the gym....I even get to play volleyball 1 night a week....GASP.....and I hold a part-time job. So yes, there are 'me' moments.

But, no I don't drop the kids off at school or walk them to the bus stop. We wake up together have breakfast in the kitchen and then head to the dining room for lessons. We spend the whole day together. Then head to gymnastics, karate, music, or church. I might head to the gym when my hubby gets home or go to volleyball. But when I come home we have family time, read books, say prayers, and go to bed to wake up and do it all again.

You know, when school started last month I was reading all these blogs about moms dropping there kids off at school and getting freedom. And watching these funny commercials about getting to go to Target alone. Or reading Facebook posts about finally painting that room they have been putting off forever. I was jealous. I was jealous of the free-time, jealous of the first day of school pictures. Jealous of the "normalcy" of it all. And to be completely honest this was the first year we got a push back from Booger about homeschool and him wanting to GO to school.

So I was beginning to question all of it. But then we started school this year and I realized this is our "normal".


We do life together, we do moments together, we homeschool together. And no we don't get many moments to ourselves, but don't feel bad for us, this is our choice. And with the help of God we are going to continue doing just this.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Modernizing Mona Lisa

This year for art I picked up The Usborne Book of Famous Paintings. I am loving it.

Some lessons are just reviewing the piece of art and discussing it but others will be about putting our own spin on some classic art. Today was the Mona Lisa. Let's take a look at that famous picture...
Is she just beautiful? A bit out of date but I am sure she was a catch in Da Vinci's day. Did you know that Da Vinci used a special technique call sfumato where he blurred the corners of her eyes and mouth? Well he did, and that technique is what makes her smile such a mystery. Depending on the angle at which you view this masterpiece you will notice her smile change.

I was going to have the kids simply draw there own version of the Mona Lisa but then because of Pinterest I had a much better idea. Why not use the classic face and hands of the original but add our own artistic elements? Here are the results!! So much fun.

If you decide to do this for yourself you can download your own Mona Lisa Template here.

This is the original template
And here is what the kids and I came up with.....
Booger's Masterpiece

Beanie's Masterpiece

Peanut's Masterpiece. (Peanut and I both thought she would look better with eyebrows)

I did mine with a bit of a Harry Potter flair.

You don't need the book to do this awesome activity, just discuss the painting and artist with your kids and then let them have fun. A perfect art lesson for any age!!!

Hopefully Da Vinci isn't rolling over in his grave.