Monday, November 30, 2020

Our Advent Plans ~ 2020

This year we are doing an event most days of Advent. Most of them are small, but they are going to add so much joy and meaning to this season and help us wrap up this difficult year on a cheerful note. I purchased this Advent music box (photos below) on deep clearance at a small gift shop in town this year. I think it will turn into a wonderful heirloom and be used for many years to come. It plays Christmas carols when you open the doors. Behind the doors, I either placed a card telling the kids what we would be doing that day or card saying something that I appreciated about them. I also placed a few pieces of candy or a few quarters behind most of the doors. One door even reveals a few dollar bills. Below is a list of what we intend to do each day.

  1. Secret Santa Miss Nancy ~ There is an elderly woman who lives down the hill in a tiny house (330 square feet) that she built herself a few years ago. She is an incredibly industrious woman and is always working in her yard. She has turned a completely ruined pile of dirt yard into a lovely landscaped gem. My kids are constantly impressed with her work ethic. The kids had no trouble agreeing that she should be the recipient of our Secret Santa gift this year.
  2. Charity Wednesday ~ We will be selecting an animal to purchase for a family in need through Heifer International. This is hands-down one of our favorite charities. 
  3. Easy Thursday ~ Candy and and appreciation cards
  4. Make Christmas cookies and Elijah chooses a movie for family movie night. (We have been working on a weekly rotation of family members' picks since the pandemic started.)
  5. Arboretum Lights ~ We will drive through the light show at the arboretum.
  6. 1950's Christmas Night ~ We will be having Hungry Man TV dinners (which were invented in 1954 and which my kids have never had). For after dinner entertainment, we will be having a board game tournament with the game Stratego and taste test of 1950's candy.
  7. Guess Who I Am game ~ Christmas edition
  8. Make more Christmas cookies
  9. Charity Wednesday ~ Buy and deliver a bag of groceries for the food bank.
  10. Easy Thursday ~ Candy and appreciation notes
  11. Hot Chocolate Bar ~ Anne's movie pick
  12. National Gingerbread House day ~ Make our own Gingerbread house
  13. Make Scottish Eggs ~ because I have always wanted to try them.
  14. Christmas light drive around the neighborhood with Starbucks Hot Chocolate
  15. Christmas nighttime walk downtown to see all the decorated store fronts and get a treat of soda or candy from Rockets.
  16. Charity Wednesday ~ Donate money to a local music venue to help support the arts through this difficult time.
  17. Easy Thursday ~ Candy and appreciation cards.
  18. Surprise ~ I am not sure what we are doing this day yet. I am still looking for options. It is my turn to pick the movie for movie night.
  19. Cook dinner over a Christmas bonfire.
  20. Celebrate Los Posadas, which is the Mexican celebration of Mary and Joseph's journey to find room in the inn. ~ We will be breaking a piƱata and having a Mexican meal (maybe tamales from the local food truck).
  21. Winter Solstice ~ Christmas for the earth. We will be feeding the birds, unless I think of something even more magical.
  22. Surprise ~ Another day when I am keeping my options open for now.
  23. Charity Wednesday ~ Sprinkle homeless kits around the downtown area.
  24. Christmas Eve ~ Pizza and big game night, including the Guess What's in the Box game for a Christmas Eve treat.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, November 27, 2020

A Cozy Christmas Season

I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving. Ours turned out to be lovely after a rather bumpy week. My husband was sick over the weekend and ended up not going to work on Monday. On Tuesday, he thought he was better enough and went to work. He lasted less than an hour before being sent home and told to get a Covid-19 test. After being tested, he came home and slept the majority of the week away.  When he was awake, he had a tiny cough and was a bit achy, but mostly just very, very tired. On Thanksgiving, he woke up feeling much better. By late afternoon, his test results came back negative. We are so thankful! So, we don't know what he had...just some weird virus or perhaps the flu (although he did have his flu shot). 

Thanksgiving was a light affair. I took more shortcuts than usual. We had store bought rolls and store bought pumpkin pie. I did make homemade stuffing, apple pie, and mashed potatoes. We asked the advice of the county extension office, who informed us that anything my mother intended to eat should be cooked in her house and then returned to our home. This would be best so as not to infect her. So she cooked the turkey and baked the apple pie, took a portion before it came back to us. We played Yard Yahtzee, watched The Crown and had an evening bonfire. I used my Spode plates this year instead of getting out all of the fine china. Each of our Spode plates are different, and I am slowly collecting them from a charity thrift store that runs a huge estate sale twice a month. It was an easy and light Thanksgiving.

My husband shocked me last weekend when he said that we could go out and buy our Christmas tree. He is a real stickler for tradition and waiting until the day after Thanksgiving is our tradition. However, I asked him if we could do it early since new restrictions were going into effect, and I just wanted to knock out as much shopping as possible before. His replied, "Whatever makes you happy." We were off and away within the hour before he changed his mind ~ lol. We decided to get two trees this year (one representing his childhood and one representing mine). The kids really don't want much in the way of gifts for Christmas. They are content. They miss travel, friends and events much more than stuff, so why fill the house with more of that? We decided to channel our funds this year into making Advent and Christmas big in family fun, events, and cherished memories. We decided to pull out ALL of the decorations and go wild (as my husband said when he made it out of bed after a few days and saw what Anne and I had done). Here is a little tour of our cozy Christmas home.

Our Library (the living room)

We put the Fraser fir in the library. That is the type of tree that my husband grew up with and what we have mostly had over the years. My childhood tree will appear when we get to the kitchen.

We put our Sarah, Plain and Tall Village and electric candles with fresh greenery cut from the back yard on our fireplace. Our fireplace doesn't work, because we haven't invested the money into repairing the inside and outside of the chimney. 

We placed the stockings on the bookcases.

We placed an angel and Boomer's ornament on his ashes.

One of my favorite "nativity" pieces (escape to Egypt)

Anne decided to add her small artificial table top tree to our library this year. We turned it into a snowman tree.

We even set up the nativity, which traditionally goes up on the first day of Advent, but nothing is quite the same this year. The Star of David chain that is woven through the figures is from my husband's childhood. The chain was purchased in the Middle East when he was a toddler and his military family was stationed in Saudi Arabi. Since his name is David, the chain was a nod to him each Christmas and was placed on their tree in a place of honor. It is very fragile and lovingly worn so I didn't want it to get tangled in the tree.

Lastly, we put the carolers in the library. The room is so cozy to sit in at night with all the Christmas cheer and lights.

Our Kitchen/Dining Room

We haven't done very much in the dining area yet (which is really part of our eat-in kitchen...this house doesn't have a formal dining room). The table centerpiece is still set up for Thanksgiving. We placed the smaller tree in this area. It is a white pine and what I grew up with in my childhood home every year. They are hard to find here in the south and are more expensive than Fraser firs. That is just the opposite of my childhood farther north. The kids decided that this tree was a female and named her Mrs. Patmore after the cook in Downton Abbey. We didn't add lights and kept the decorations very simple with homemade ornaments, fresh flowers, snowflakes and bells. It is our old-fashioned Christmas tree. 

Lastly, I will show you all my sink. It has been a goal for several months now to make sure all of the dishes are clean and the sink is shined before I go to bed. It makes for a nice start to the day to awake to a clean fresh start each morning. I added a bit of Christmas cheer to make the start of each day even brighter.

Wow, this post got long. I still have the snowman and Advent display areas to show. However, I will wait for another post and explain all of our plans for Advent. Hopefully, I will get that up before the first of December.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

We had a busy, busy week. I have been busy gathering gifts from local small businesses. I am trying to be done with my in-person shopping by Thanksgiving in case the virus goes even more crazy after the holiday. I suspect it will. I am using the same format as last week (Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real).

Pretty ~ Anne had her first professional photo shoot this week. She needed a headshot and action dance picture for a scholarship for which she is applying. This growing up thing is both very exciting and at the same time anxiety producing (for all of us). We are so proud of all of her hard work. 

Happy ~ Five things that made me happy this week before Thanksgiving.
  • Easy dinners ~ We had one of our favorites this week, cheese and fruit platter. I had to refill the fruit and crackers three times, but still so easy.
  • A brisk walk with crunching leaves under my feet.
  • The smell of campfires.
  • Laughter ringing out in my home.
  • Board games.

Funny ~ Elijah and Tim spend so much time together. If they aren't building models, they are playing computer games or Playstation. It has been so nice to see their relationship grow during this pause in normal life. They do get very passionate about games sometimes. Their shouts of glee can be heard all over the house. 

Real ~ Elijah did lots toward getting a job this week. He went on a tour of a big box store and talked to employees in different departments. He also had an information interview with a manager at Target. He is getting a few more ideas about possible jobs that he would like to do. His job coach will start working on his resume next. 

Anne is loving her level 3 online sign language course through Start ASL. It isn't terribly challenging, but challenging enough that she doesn't feel like she is wasting her time; and she should have a certificate of completion at the end of the course. 

Hope you all stay safe and sound in the coming weeks. 

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, November 13, 2020

A Spot of Beauty

I have been craving beauty and peace lately. Today, I thought I'd do a post style that I used to love that was hosted by Like Mother, Like Daughter. They don't do it anymore and I sometimes miss that platform. It is called Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real. The point is to find contentment in everyday life.


I'm giving you a little peek of our fall table. I saw the white roses at Trader Joe's for a steal and couldn't resist them. I have always loved white roses. These smell as wonderful as they look. Now if I could just keep people from dumping stuff on the table and messing up the landscape ~ ahem!


My mother bought this bookend from an antique store when she was a teenager. It has sat neglected for a great deal of time on her bookshelves and then mine. I decided to polish the silver this week and return it to its glorious past. My mother was told that this bookend was from around the time of the Civil War. The details are incredible. There are windmills, people dancing, churches, dogs and sailboats. The emblem in the middle is made of real human hair and real butterfly wings under a thin piece of glass. There is still tarnish to remove from spots, but it is vastly improved. It was black before! I am glad to have this lovely piece that was so lovingly created in a bygone era.


We have spent the last 20+ years being dog people. We had a cat here and there, but always along with having a loving dog or two. When our beloved dog, Boomer, passed in the first few weeks of the pandemic, we felt adrift without a dog. Then we decided to get a second cat for my daughter's early, early graduation a year early. It just feels right to have two cats right now and no dog. During this pandemic season we decided to just stick to cats. They are less expensive and need less care. When this pandemic is over, we are hoping to take a big trip. Once we are home, we will consider adding a dog again to the mix. But for now, two cats are filling our lives with a great deal of laughter and joy. Two cats (that are friends) are definitely better than one. They are always up to crazy antics.


Our studio's adult dance company

My pictures are pretty bad. I am asking too much of my phone camera and need to pull out a good camera and learn how to use it in the dark. However, we are excited by the progress our dance company is making to find ways to safely perform during the pandemic. One idea that they are working on is a dance performance in the stairwell of  a parking garage. They plan to perform this piece on two different occasions in the next few months for an audience in the parking lot.

Elijah did two job samplings this week through Vocational Rehabilitation. One was working in a grocery store and the other was working at the food bank. He preferred the job at the food bank. He will be paid for these jobs and it gives him and his evaluator lots of information about what might be a good fit for him in the future. Hopefully, in the next week or two, he will get to go on an informational interview at Target and learn about all of the possible jobs there.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Elijah's Transcript ~ Visual Arts II

Elijah continued his studies in fine art by completing a second year of Visual Arts. He split his time between classes with Miss Laura (a well known artist in our area), lessons from his Grandmother (who holds a degree in art) and lots of field trips to galleries and art museums. He earned an A for this course because he completed all the assigned projects and contributed in all classes. He completed 144 hours of lessons for this course.

Classes with Miss Laura ~ He completed 55 hours of classes with Miss Laura. This year they concentrated on ~ 
  • Watercolor
  • Shrinky Dink
  • Portraits

Classes with Grandma ~ Elijah studied numerous artists with Grandma. They learned about the artist and then created a piece of work in the artist's style. He studied ~
  • Claes Oldenburg
  • Georges Seurat 
  • May Lin
  • Faith Ringgold
  • Wassily Kandinsky
  • Dale Chihuly
Claes Oldenburg project

Wassily Kandinsky projects ~ Elijah's on the left

Field Trips ~ We explored a variety of art galleries and art museums.

  • Blue Spiral ~ A lovely art gallery in Asheville that has constantly changing exhibits from artists all along the East coast.
  • Fine Arts Theater ~ He saw the movie Loving Vincent.
  • Montgomery Art Museum, Montgomery, Alabama
  • Art Museum of Cincinnati ~ Cincinnati, Ohio

Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Biltmore Estate

Elijah completed his Visual Arts II credit with an artist retreat trip. He went on a three day retreat with his homeschool class with his teacher, Miss Laura. They did a watercolor retreat in Virginia. They attended classes, went to a festival and spent hours sketching and painting in the mountains. It was a wonderful experience for him.

Blessings, Dawn

Elijah's Transcript ~ Math III

Elijah did a variety of workbooks for this course. His concentration was in consumer math with a minor in basic geometry. He completed 145 hours of math and earned an 84% (B) for this credit.


  • Bargain Math by Sue Leroy ~ This workbook was mostly working with coupons, how to get the best deal with sales, purchasing things used and comparison shopping.
  • Budget Math by Sue Leroy ~ This workbook concentrated on how to establish budgets and save for both long-term and short-term goals.
  • Bank Account Math by Sue Leroy ~ This workbook concentrated on everything you need to interact with your bank, from checking and savings accounts to reading all sorts of statements and bills.
  • Exploring the World of Mathematics by John Hudson Tiner ~ This text book follows the history of math from ancient times to the present. It is filled with interesting information and challenging math problems and puzzles.
  • Exploring the World of Mathematics: Supplemental Questions published by Memoria Press ~ This is the workbook that goes with Exploring the World of Mathematics. It is filled with lots of discussion questions and more math problems.
  • Quizmo Geometry
  • Guesstimation
  • Take Out
  • Geometry Bingo
Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Elijah's Transcript ~ Industrial Arts 1/2 credit

Elijah's Industrial Arts class was designed to expose him to a variety of tools and home repair situations, as well as increase his talent in building. Elijah received an A for this course. He did everything that was asked of him and showed an occasional burst of initiative and self-motivation on projects.

Tools ~ Elijah became very familiar with the tools listed below. He is comfortable using all of them, although he prefers to use alternatives to a chainsaw whenever possible. 

  • Dremel
  • Bandsaw
  • Chain Saw
  • Axe
  • Machete
  • Hatchet
  • All the tools found in a basic handyman tool set
Gaming Computer ~ Elijah did lots of research on how to build a gaming computer with his Dad. After much research and a few videos, they ordered all of the components to make a gaming computer. They put it all together and it still works great. 

Nerf Guns plus Medieval Costumes and Swords ~ Elijah showed a great interest in modifying Nerf guns and creating Medieval costumes. This involved a lot of math, measuring, sewing, using tools (especially the bandsaw) and creating his own blueprints from which to work.
  • Modify Nerf guns with worker pieces
  • Drew patterns for armor
  • Made a shoulder pauldron
  • Made a large banner
  • Made a scabbard
  • Made and repaired boffing/foam swords
  • Mended by hand Medieval clothing
Home Repair ~ He worked alongside his Dad whenever there was a home project to do.
  • Removal of old insulation and installation of new insulation
  • Power wash the house siding
  • Assembled an office chair
  • Cutting and painting boards to make shelves
  • Exterior painting of shed
  • Putting up drywall
  • Laying contact paper in the pantry
  • Spray painting clay pots
  • Laying peel and stick tile on floor
  • Built a computer desk for his room
Landscaping ~ 
  • Planted 40 flower bulbs
  • Pruned numerous trees and shrubs in yard
  • Weed control with pre-emergent
  • Weeding
  • Removal of bushes and small trees of less than 12 feet in height
Eureka Kits ~ Elijah really enjoyed making the Eureka Kits by Kiwi Company. They were always interesting and just challenging enough to learn from each of them. He completed 11 kits.
  • Basket ball waste paper basket
  • Ukulele
  • Card shuffling machine
  • Two in one lantern
  • Perpetual calendar
  • Mechanical lockbox with a pin tumbler
  • Stereo headphones
  • Pinball machine
  • Articulated lamp
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Soap dispenser
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Elijah's Transcript ~ Health

Elijah completed 144 hours of Health class. His grade for this course was an A. Below is a list of resources that he used for his curriculum.

TED-Ed Lessons ~ Elijah watched 15 TED-Ed Health videos on nutrition, mental health and anatomy. He completed the lessons and discussion questions for each lesson.

Doctor Appointments ~ Elijah attended five doctor appointments during this credit. With each appointment, he made notes before the appointment with any questions that he had for the doctor. He then asked the questions and learned how to advocate for himself. If it was an appointment that I did not attend, he reported back to me how it went.

Choices Scholastic Magazine   ~ Elijah read and completed all of the lessons and quizzes in six Choices Scholastic magazines. He learned about a variety of topics. Here are just a few of the topics he covered.

  • Dieting and health
  • Sleep and its importance to teens
  • Social media bullying
  • Depression in teens
  • Healthy snacking
  • Relationships and dating
  • School safety
Helping the Homeless ~ He helped make many hygiene kits throughout the course and distributed kits whenever he saw someone in need.

DMV Online Course ~ Elijah completed close to half of this course before needing to withdraw due to his grandfather's illness and death in a different state. He had an 87% for the first half of the course. He decided that he didn't want to learn how to drive at this time. 

Better Me board game ~ Elijah played this game with his psychotherapist seven times. The game always led to great discussions.

Daily Health and Hygiene by Sarah Joubert  ~ Elijah completed this workbook with 100% accuracy.

The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven ~ Elijah read this entire book.

DK First Aid Manual ~ Elijah concentrated on treating burns and cuts.

Unit Studies ~ The following unit studies were based off of Elijah's interest and concerns. We read about each issue and often followed up with a video. We also had long discussions on each topic. The very last topic was my choice. I felt that he needed a basic understanding of human reproductive anatomy.
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Death and grieving
  • Drug usage, both illegal and prescription
  • Cold weather survival
  • Male and female anatomy
Movies and Shows ~
  • Super Size Me
  • Rotten ~ He watched the entire television series on Netflix. It focused on problems in the process of supplying food. 

Blessings, Dawn

Elijah's Transcript ~ Zoology 1/2 credit

Elijah completed 72 hours of zoology to earn a half credit. He received an A for this course. He was an enthusiastic student. His focus for this course was the importance of zoos to help endangered animals reproduce and thrive, both in captivity as well as returning them to the wild.

Zoos and Nature Preserves ~ We were able to visit six nature preserves and zoos during this course. We spent one to four hours at each destination. Elijah enjoyed studying a large variety of animals in person.

  • National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
  • Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee
  • Greenville Zoo in South Carolina
  • WNC Nature Center in North Carolina
  • Grandfather Mountain Zoo in North Carolina
Unit Study ~ The following studies were achieved through reading assignments, worksheets and videos:
  • Food Chains and Food Webs
  • Endangered Animals
  • Elijah watched 17 National Geographic shows. He watched all of the National Parks series. The rest of his concentration was in sea creatures and adaptation skills of animals, such as how bats thrive in the darkness.
Games ~ Elijah memorized all of the facts from the following games with 99% accuracy:
  • Professor Noggins Earth Science
  • Professor Noggins Rainforest 
Books and Worksheets
  • Where is the Serengeti by Nico Medina
  • 12 animal reading assignments and worksheets from Easy Teacher Worksheets website.  He concentrated on endangered animals.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, November 6, 2020

Elijah's Transcript ~ English IV

Update ~ I am still trying to catch up on Elijah's transcript. Just a few more to go.

Elijah did very well in his final year of English. This year was a catchall of books and movies that I wanted him to accomplish before graduation. Elijah read all of the books independently and answered questions through essay or narration. He also did a bit of grammar and critical reading lessons through workbooks. He earned an A for this course.


  • Reading RX workbook
  • The Fallacy Detective workbook
  • Daily Mindbuilders Language Arts workbook
Books ~
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Brother's Grimm by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  • Beowulf by Anonymous 
  • Pet Cemetery by Stephen King
  • I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Who Was Maya Angelou? by Ellen Labrecque
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemmingway
Movies ~
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • The Jilting of Granny Weatherall
  • The Old Man and the Sea
  • Pet Cemetery
Short Stories ~
  • The Monkey's Paw ~ W. W. Jacobs
  • Contents of a Dead Man's Pocket ~ Jack Finney
  • One Thousand Dollars ~ O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)
  • A Toast to the Oldest Inhabitant: The Weather of New England ~ Mark Twain

Blessings, Dawn