Christmas Baking 2017

Another Advent and Christmastide has come and gone all too quickly. As always, we enjoyed baking (and eating) a lot of treats along the way!

We didn’t make quite as many cookies this year, but we made all of our favorite kinds…thumbprints in two flavors (raspberry and apricot), chocolate peppermint crunch (those are the ones we didn’t make as many of…I only made about half of what we usually bake), sugar, and gingerbread:

Of course we had lussekattes on Santa Lucia Day!

Cherry coffee cake for Christmas Day morning:

I’ve made Oreo truffles in the past, but I’ve never made an Oreo truffle Christmas tree…pretty and delicious!

I baked three different cakes in about two weeks’ time. Chocolate for Jesus’ birthday, a more formal tuxedo cake for New Year’s, and a Guinness cake for Ryan’s Epiphany birthday:

It’s become a tradition for me to make baklava for Epiphany, too:

And one new recipe for a savory baked good…cheese thumbprints with pineapple jalapeño jelly. That recipe is definitely a keeper!

I’m always amazed by how many baking staples I go through at this time of year, and the kitchen is always busy, and smells kind of like a bakery for weeks on end. I will admit to looking forward to a break from various doughs and batters, though!

2013-14 School Year–Week Fifteen

Well, this was about as normal a week as we can expect to have between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our religion lessons now include the Jesse Tree reading for the day, in addition to our usual Bible readings. We’re also working on memorizing another Advent hymn (my personal favorite): “Savior of the Nations, Come.” This is doubly beneficial, because the children are also memorizing part of it in Sunday School.

We didn’t fully delve into Christmas School this week, but we did learn about Christmas in one country: Greece. In addition to learning the Greek Christmas greeting, which I think we did a pretty good job of pronouncing, we also learned about other Greek Christmas traditions. The children particularly enjoyed learning about the Greek Christmas goblins (Kallikantzaroi), and drew some elaborate pictures of the mischief they might make. We also spent an afternoon making baklava, which is a family favorite, but doesn’t get made too often. The children did a good deal of the work this time!

Our other Christmas activity was learning about the real Saint Nicholas, since today is the commemoration of St. Nicholas. This tied in nicely with our Christmas in Greece study, since St. Nicholas is an important figure in a country with so many miles of coastline, as patron saint of sailors. We’re looking forward to learning about Santa Lucia a week from today!

We did do our regular history and myth studies this week, as well, which also tied in nicely with our Christmas in Greece lesson. We learned about the Medes and Persians, as well as Athens and Sparta, in history. The last time we studied ancient history, I asked Turkey and Bunny if they would rather have lived in Athens or Sparta, and their answer this time remained the same–definitely Athens! I completely agree…it sounds like a much more civilized place!

We spent two full days of our mythology studies learning about Heracles (Hercules), and his many labors. I also had Turkey and Bunny write their own Greek myth, based on the gods and goddesses they’ve come to know so well. And, as long as we were learning so much about Greece and myths, we played a new game that I bought: Zeus on the Loose. This is a fun little card game which involves stealing Zeus from other players, and having him in hand when the discard pile totals 100. This is also good practice for mental math, as you have to keep a running total going of the discard pile (usually via addition, but occasionally subtraction, too). I highly recommend it…it’s doesn’t take long to learn, and plays quickly, plus, if you’re into mythology, it’s just a fun concept.

In math, Turkey and Bunny got a break from long division this week, and instead got to focus on equations and finding areas and perimeters. They were very relieved! Ladybug kept working on subtraction, which thankfully isn’t giving her too much trouble. They also kept up with their usual language arts assignments, except for Writing Strands, because I wanted them to work on creative writing with their myths.

We started Bartholomew’s Passage as our current read-aloud, in place of Scotland’s Story. We won’t get back to that until after the first of the year, now. The three Advent story books by Arnold Ytreeide are family favorites, and it’s our second time reading Bartholomew’s story. I can’t believe we’ve been reading them for so long!

The only thing we really didn’t get to was science. Between the baklava making, a rather unpleasant dentist appointment for Turkey, and a Moose snow/sick day, something just had to give. We’ll get back to astronomy next with, with a unit on Mars.

More Christmas School to come–we still have Christmas in Germany, France, Sweden, and Russia to learn about, plus a few field trips on the schedule. It’s a fun, busy time of year!

Tasty Tuesday–Baklava

The baklava I made last week for VBS was a huge hit, so I’ll share the recipe for anyone interested in an impressive-looking Mediterranean dessert. A word to the wise: I’ve never actually used all 16 ounces of phyllo dough in the package. Maybe I spread too many walnuts on each layer, but I’ve always run out of filling before I’ve run out of dough. I haven’t heard any complaints, though, so I don’t think it really matters!

  • 1 16-ounce package phyllo dough
  • 1 pound chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.
Toss chopped walnuts with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cover with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 – 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 – 8 sheets deep.
Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

Baklava

We’re in the middle of learning about ancient Greece, so I thought it would be fun to make baklava. Yes, I know that baklava isn’t *that* ancient, and that there’s a good deal of dispute over its origin, but it *is* something that we identify with modern-day Greece, so it still works for our purposes.

Kala Christougena!

Today was “Christmas Around the World: Greece” in our little school. Actually, it was more of a Greece/Turkey hybrid, but it worked. I had to throw in Turkey because we also learned about Saint Nicolas (since the commemoration of his death is tomorrow, I wanted to make sure we read the story today, and kept things timely), who hailed from what used to be called Lycia, but is now Turkey.

It  was quite amusing hearing Turkey and Bunny attempt to say “Merry Christmas” in Greek (and I have to admit, my pronunciation of “Kala Christougena” wasn’t that great, either!)  We had a fun time learning about Greek children’s tradition of caroling to homes with triangles, drums, and sometimes, small boats, as a nod to their sea-faring tradition. They were very intrigued to learn about the treats the children often receive in response to their songs! Turkey and Bunny also enjoyed coloring a picture of this tradition from their new Christmas coloring books.

Turkey and Bunny were also quite surprised to learn that the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas a week later than most other Christians do.  They did find similarities in our celebrations, though: we all go to church to celebrate Christ’s birth, many of the foods are the same, the Christmas tree with a star on top is the same, the gathering of friends and family is the same, not to mention the giving of gifts!

The highlight of the day, by far, though, was the eating of the baklava. Although I should have chopped the walnuts a little smaller, and I wrinkled some of the phyllo dough a little too much, it was delicious (and a nice bridge between Turkey and Greece, as there seems to be some question from where it originates)!  I have to admit that I was a little surprised that Turkey and Bunny enjoyed it so much–I thought it might be a little too different for them, but they loved it, and had seconds after dinner tonight.  Making baklava might even become a family tradition for the commemoration of Saint Nicholas every year!baklava

We enjoyed our first stop across the world, and we’re definitely looking forward to visiting the Philippines, Italy, Mexico, and Germany in the next two weeks!