Christmas Newsletter 2014

This time last year we were moving back from Canada . . . and then we weren’t.  But we still had to drive home and make Christmas on short notice.  So there really wasn’t time or head space to put together a newsletter.  This year, I don’t have that excuse, so here you go.  🙂

The Claggett Cable 2014


My children have been watching too much Cake Boss.  I know because they have started imagining the kinds of cakes they want from Carlos’s Bakery for their birthdays.  And they have started requesting cannolis.  If we were back in New Jersey, I would use this as an excuse to eat at Michaelangelo’s after church so we could have cannolis for dessert.  But we’re in Nova Scotia, so I am left with making my own instead.

First, find a recipe.  It was obvious to go with the recipe of the boss himself:  Cake Boss Cannoli Recipe  One problem:  It simply calls for 3 cups cannoli cream with no instructions on how to make it.  I guess Buddy thinks it’s a good idea to keep a secret or two to himself.

So my search for a cream recipe led me to Woodland Bakery.  Then it was just a matter of gathering ingredients and having DredBen cut some dowel rods for me to use as spacers.  And away I went . . .


The most difficult part of new recipes for me is little girls who want to help.  It is very difficult when you have no idea what you are doing, particularly when deep frying.  But after (several) explanations, they were satisfied with helping fill the cannoli shells.






Everyone approves of my efforts.  I think they are rather good myself, though I’ve never had a cannoli from Carlos’s Bakery to compare them properly.  There’s a lot of cream left over, so it looks like I will be making more shells.  It’s good to keep busy, I guess.

In other baking news, finding a Madeleine pan on clearance led to trying another new recipe yesterday:  Julia Child’s Madeleine de Commercy



Mmmmm . . . . off to eat some good things.

First Day of School 2013

The timelines of my life have converged and left me starting school today.  On Labor Day.  After getting home from vacation last night at 11:30 PM.  I had to rely on my mental organization of the year, because the physical organization is greatly lacking.

First things first – first day of school breakfast.  But we’ve been gone for 3 weeks and there’s not much food in the house.  And the store is closed because they take holidays seriously here in Nova Scotia.  Fortunately, I keep a good supply of bacon in my freezer for just such an occasion:


And I found a cute novelty pan at TJMaxx back in the States, so we tried some breakfast dippers too:


The smell of bacon began to draw children from their beds to the table:


Then we dove right in – Lizzy – Grade 2


Annabelle – Kindergarten


Katherine – Grade 7 (I told her to try and look studious) 😛


Charlotte – Guitar prodigy, apparently 🙂



After everyone finished their work, I made them sit on the couch for a group picture.  I asked, “How did you feel about your first day of school?”  This was their reply:


That’s pretty much how I feel when looking at all the things from our trip that need to be unpacked.  Maybe tomorrow . . .


Lizzy is my idea girl.  She has a great imagination, and while most of her ideas are a bit out of my reach – “Let’s build robots to do all the chores for you, Mommy!” – when she asked to make a dress, we were both quickly excited about the project.  Even better, a pattern sale and clearance fabric an additional half off have made it a relatively inexpensive one.  A dress for Lizzy became a dress for everyone.

I’m using McCall’s pattern M6731 for the dresses for Lizzy, Annabelle, and Charlotte.  I found the fabric with the blue and purple flowers first and I knew the girls would love it.


Last night before bed, we got started by ironing the pattern pieces and material and cutting out the pieces.

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We also spelled words with straight pins – an activity that honestly never occurred to me before sewing with a 7-year-old.


I sent the girls to bed after a couple of pieces and stayed up too late to finish cutting out the pieces for Lizzy and Annabelle’s dresses while watching some episodes of Lark Rise to Candleford.  This morning we set to work, piecing Lizzy’s dress first.  Lizzy pulled pins for me while I sewed together ties, and she and Annabelle both had a turn with running the machine to make the straps.


The girls had fun playing with the scraps of fabric that were trimmed off, and Lizzy made me a headband that I have worn proudly all day. 🙂


We pinned the straps to the front of the dress and then I went about the trickiest part – making pockets for the elastic on the back.

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It went much easier than I expected and then everything went downhill a bit as kids started asking for lunch. So we took a break and then the sewing moved downstairs so I could monitor the outdoor play of little girls who were now bored with sewing and I forgot about the camera and ended up not taking any more pictures until the dress was done. 🙂

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We are all quite pleased with the result.  Annabelle and Charlotte are excited about their dresses, and I got something a little different for Katherine.


So it appears that I will be spending my “spare” time in front of the sewing machine for the next few days.  Good thing I have two and a half seasons of Lark Rise to Candleford left! 😛

NOTE:  DredBen has been working on his own project at the same time, which upon reflection I would not suggest for a couple with 4 young kids . . .





Our decision to extend our stay in Canada prompted a visit back to New Jersey for the girls and I.  While there, we visited with friends and family, got our teeth cleaned, and had checkups with the pediatrician.  I also snuck away for a couple of days to attend the CHAP convention (an annual homeschool convention put on by the Christian Homeschoolers Association of Pennsylvania).  I bought some curriculum for next school year, attended some workshops, and oohed and aahed over the babies while getting an uninterrupted night’s sleep in my hotel room. 🙂

A couple of the workshops I attended were emphasizing character training in our children, referencing 2 Peter 1:5 as a model for setting priorities in our children’s upbringing, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge.”  While I agree with the idea that as Christians, our first focus should be on growing our children’s faith, then their virtue (or character), and then their knowledge (or academics) – I’m not sure that’s quite what I’ve been doing. I might describe it more as “flying by the seat of my pants and teaching whatever seems important in that moment.”

But this idea kept coming to mind as we packed up in New Jersey and made the long trip back to Nova Scotia.  It kept popping into my head as I unpacked boxes and lugged new summer clothes up the stairs (which we were wearing in Medford but it seems we will never need in Halifax!)  So when it came time to visit the grocery store, I decided this was my moment.  Our trip would be an exercise in character training.  We would focus on good store manners, obedience, and patience.  With a deep breath and a quick prayer, off we went.

About halfway through the store, I was completely worn out.  I reverted to my normal approach to shopping with the kids, which involves buckling as many children into a cart as I can and racing through the store as quickly as possible.  By the time I was done loading the groceries into the back of the car, I was practically in tears.  Maybe I’ll just give up on character, because it is stinkin’ HARD.  How many times do I have to say, “Please watch for other people,” “Please stay in the aisle with Mommy, don’t run over to the next aisle,” and  “Please don’t take that off of your sister and make her scream!”?????  Teaching Algebra is easier that teaching character (but maybe not grammar, as I am not sure of the formatting of the previous sentence, or even this one, come to think of it).

On the drive home, I was telling God that I’m just not sure I’m cut out for this.  And the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart in the kind way He always does, “The character training isn’t just for the kids.”  I had to laugh at the obvious truth of that statement.  By the time I got home, I was feeling much better.  Yeah, the girls and I mostly messed it up, but I think we all learned a little bit too.  Learning to love and give grace to each other when we mess up is character training just as much as learning obedience and patience.  It’s actually comforting to think that character training doesn’t require me to be an expert first, but that it is something my children and I learn together.  It also helps me keep another Biblical principle in mind: “So then neither is he that plants any thing, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase.”  1 Corinthians 3:7

So we’ll keep planting in and watering each other, and trust in God to make good things grow in us.


This week, life (finally!) began to return to Nova Scotia.  Buds on the trees, weed daisies popping up, and the return of cars parked on the side of the road so people can just hike off into the woods.  It’s a thing here.

After a quick morning of school, we packed some snacks and headed off to explore a new (to us) area – Hemlock Ravine Park

We entered the park at a heart-shaped pond and the little girls had fun running laps around the pond while Katherine worked on drawing moving ducks.  I took about two dozen pictures with my nice camera before I realized that I had left the memory card in the computer at home.  Then we walked around for an hour before I remembered that I did have my phone. 🙂

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I had informed DredBen of our plans via e-mail, but we were surprised and pleased when we received a phone call asking, “Where exactly are you guys?”


After that, we did quite a bit more exploring than I would have felt comfortable doing with the girls by myself.  It really is a beautiful park, I can’t wait to go back when Spring is in full bloom.

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And to prove I was there too . . .


DredBen had to head back to work after that, but the girls and I were so glad to be outside that we headed to a favorite playground before going home.

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We had a wonderful day, and as a bonus I got four tired girls who didn’t fight with me over bedtime. 😛

Repeat after me

This morning, I was invited to a spa in Annabelle’s room.  As I got comfy on the bed and prepared to have my hair done, Lizzy and Charlotte came into the room.  Annabelle said, “OK, you pretend like Lizzy and Charlotte are your kids.”  A stretch, I know, but I think I could manage it. 🙂

As my hair was being brushed, Lizzy and Charlotte decided to have a pillow fight.  Annabelle told me to talk to them like a Mom would.  So I said, “Girls, please be careful and Lizzy don’t hit the baby too hard.”

Annabelle was quick to correct me, “No, Mommy, that sounds like something a Grandma would say.”

“Well, what would a Mommy say?”

“A Mommy would say, ‘Don’t have a pillow fight in a spa!'”

So I spent the next few minutes parroting the “Mommy” lines that Annabelle felt were most appropriate:  “Don’t run in a spa!”, “Don’t jump in the pool!”, etc.  I got a little carried away when I repeated, “Oh, I can’t get this clip in,” because Annabelle sighed and said, “Mommy, don’t say the spa-ish things!  Just say the Mommy things!”

Perhaps I should ask her to draft some good Mommy speeches for me . . . 😛



So life’s been pretty crazy around here.  Lots to everyday “things to do” with a dash of big, stressful decision thrown into the middle.  Long story short, we’re staying in Canada longer.  But we’re really, really going home after that . . . yeah, I’m not sure I believe it either.

Regardless, it’s good to take time to acknowledge the important things in life, no matter how busy or stressed out you are.  This past week involved two big ones – the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ and the celebration of the birth of our oldest daughter.  However, it also included a smaller holiday . . . International Tabletop Day.  March 30 is set aside to engage in the exciting, relationship-building, and fun activity of tabletop gaming!

Of course, this year it happened to be on the day before Easter – so most of my day was spent in meal preparations.  BUT we did find some time to play a couple of games.

First up – family favorite Dixit.


Everyone can play but Charlotte, so she gets to be in charge of the discard pile 🙂


Annabelle was the first to reach 30 points!


But Daddy got there on the same turn, so they declared it a tie. 🙂


Katherine and I continued the celebration with a game of Ticket to Ride: India after everyone else went to bed.


When all was said and done, she beat me by just three points.


Then she went to bed and I stayed up too late decorating a cake for Easter brunch


I’m very excited that as the kids get older and more able to participate, we can start having tabletop gaming days once a month  . . . or once a week . . . or every other day?  Well, lots.  You know what they say, “The family that play together, stays together.” 🙂

In my book, decorating Easter eggs qualifies as a “the more adult hands the better” type of activity.  So we tackled the project while GB is still here visiting.  I tried the oven baking method for hard-“boiled” eggs and it worked really well.

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Annabelle’s eggs in front

Lizzy’s eggs in the back


Charlotte’s eggs in front

Katherine’s eggs in the back

The girls were excited to get some early Easter gifts from GB before she goes home today and we are all hoping to be together again on a permanent basis soon!


An Early Party

GB has come to visit!  It has been so wonderful to visit with Grandma and have a couple more hands around. 🙂  Sadly, she has to return to New Jersey before Katherine’s birthday in a couple of weeks, so we decided to have an early party.  Katherine asked to have her party on St. Patrick’s Day, which I thought was a wonderful idea.

She also wanted to make cake pops, so we had a great time figuring out how to make and decorate them.  It helps that they were yummy too.

Pictures from Katherine’s St. Patrick’s Day party

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Halifax!