Thank You Cookies

Someone got a sweet box of hand delivered thank you cookies today. And I got to make my first batch of cookies in the new house. ūüôā Seriously folks, my kitchen is amazing. I have counter space for miles and I am LOVING it!

Take a look at these beauties. They may be my favorite hand-painted cookies so far that I’ve ever created. I watercolored all of the floral images and patterns onto the white royal icing then piped the words in a rich deep blue.

















Stress Therapy

We have a lot going on at the Simmons house these days. We’re still trying to settle into the new house, homeschool, work through our Alternative Certifications and find jobs for the fall. Needless to say, I’ve been stressed.

What do you do to relieve stress? One of my favorite stress relieving activities is pen and ink drawing. I don’t know why inking a drawing is so relaxing to me but it takes me to a place of calm.

This is a drawing that I’ve been working on for some time now. I pulled it out again to do a little more inking today.

Doodle Art

I pulled out an old sketchbook to start working on again. How is it that I never quite have time to get a sketchbook finished? Oh if only there were more hours in the day to just doodle.

I observed at a middle school last week that was working on doodle art which, of course, is my absolute favorite kind of art to make. I can remember as a child loving pen & ink when I took art classes. I still love the feel of a great black pen making thick and thin lines.


Georgia O’Keeffe

Today we’re learning about Georgia O’Keeffe and her beautiful flowers. Any day that we use watercolors is a good day in Layla’s book. To learn about O’Keeffe we read “My Name is Georgia” which is an excellent picture book for kids. Then, we used black oil pastels to make a flower and watercolors to paint them.

How to Make Hand Painted Cookies

I’m gearing up for the holiday cookie rush and thought I would post a quick tutorial on how to make beautiful hand painted cookies. These cookies are some of my absolute favorites to make. You can get so creative with them. img_8037


Cutout cookies cooled and iced with white royal icing

Gel paste food colors (I use these from Americolor)

Vodka or other clear liquor

Paintbrushes & Palate


Bake your favorite cookies and cut them out in any shape you like. I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe in these photos with 2 different sizes of heart cookie cutters. Next, flood the cookie with white royal icing. I personally use the Wilton recipe for royal icing. They have a fantastic video on how to make the icing. It’s easy and always turns out fantastic.

Once your cookies have completely hardened, decide on the design that you will paint. If you’ve ever painted with watercolors this should be fairly simple. I use a palette and use the vodka just like I would use water when painting with watercolors. The basic idea is the alcohol will evaporate rather quickly and leave the gel color on the cookies. You will not taste the alcohol at all. It gives absolutely no taste to the cookies. My set up looks like a bit of a muddled mess because the gel colors are very dark until you mix with a little water and paint. Now, start painting your design! And remember, these are cookies!¬†They are going to be eat! So enjoy the process. They don’t have to be perfect. img_0009 14390932_1259083850789484_9029141849868723449_n 14495434_1259083820789487_1261728959774720957_n 14440810_1259083760789493_1445199661143683259_n 14370413_1259083740789495_3359613596808785537_n ¬† Here is a quick look at how I painted these hearts. Oh if my hands would only paint that fast! I could really get a lot of cookies done!

If you would like to see some more great hand painted cookies take a look at my Pinterest board. My cookies pale in comparison to most on this board. There are some really amazing cookie artist on pinterest.

YouTubing through the Alphabet {H-N}

Continuing on, we’ve made it to the letters H-N in our Youtubing Through the Alphabet series. Hope your preschoolers are enjoying learning their letters and letter sounds.

The Letter H

The Letter I

The Letter J

The Letter K

The Letter L

The Letter M

The Letter N**

Note: These videos are not mine. They are videos that I found on YouTube and put into play list for our personal preschool learning experience. If you have problems with the videos please contact the provider on Youtube directly.

YouTubing through the Alphabet {A-G}

I didn’t purchase any curriculum for Ridley’s first year of homeschooling. He is somewhere between preschool and kindergarten so it was a little hard to nail down a specific curriculum that I thought would really be beneficial to his learning. There are so many free resources online and at the library that I didn’t think it was necessary to buy a boxed set. YouTube is one of the many excellent resources for educational videos.

Last year in 4-year old preschool Ridley worked his way through the alphabet. He had excellent teachers that really worked with him.¬†I’ll have to be honest though, I didn’t do a good job of reinforcing and working with him away from school. It was our first year homeschooling our older two children and I was struggling to keep my head above water learning how to teach and still manage the rest of our life too. So, we’ve been working through the alphabet again (at a more rapid pace)¬†to make sure he really gets the letters and coordinating sounds. During the day when I am helping the older kids,¬†¬†I let him watch these little video playlist to reinforce the letters we are learning that week.

This first playlist includes a collection of ABC songs. These aren’t the typical little ABC song that you learned in school.¬†Ridley’s favorites are the surprise egg videos. Then there is a playlist for each letter of the alphabet.

I just discovered that I could have YouTube on my television through our Roku which is so helpful. Yes, I know, I am now old and¬†behind the times on technology. Bless it, I’ll get there eventually.

The Letter A

The Letter B

The Letter C

The Letter D

The Letter E

The Letter F

The Letter G

I hope these videos are as helpful to you as they have been to our family.

** Note: These videos are not mine. They are videos that I found on YouTube and put into play list for our personal preschool learning experience. If you have problems with the videos please contact the provider on Youtube directly.

LEX’S BOOK REVIEW: Spirit Animals: Book 1 Wild Born

Spirit Animals: Wild Born is a fantasy adventure book written by Brandon Mull. The story begins with a nectar ceremony. Four 11-year old kids had to drink some of the nectar and then there was a flash of light after they drank it. They see a wolf, a panda, a leopard, and a falcon. They realize that they have summoned the animals from legends.

img_7992Boys and girls both would enjoy this book. Animal lovers would definitely love it. The best thing about this book is that the spirit animals and the people work together to overcome the battles they face.

I’m exited there are 6 more books in the series to read. This book was a page-turning thriller and it got my attention quickly. I didn’t want it to end.

You can also play a game at Spirit Animals. I’m ready to play the game and summon my own spirit animal.

~Alexander age 9

If you would like to check out the entire series you can find them on Amazon.

Spirit Animals: Book 1: Wild Born

Spirit Animals: Book 2: Hunted

Spirit Animals: Book 3: Blood Ties

Spirit Animals: Book 4: Fire and Ice

Spirit Animals: Book 5: Against the Tide

Spirit Animals: Book 6: Rise and Fall

Spirit Animals: Book 7: The Evertree

How to Make Marshmallow Pops

Ok friends, this is my favorite easy peasy party recipe. They are supper easy and look fantastic with any party spread.


Large Marshmallows

Lollipop Sticks or Paper Straws

Candy Melts in your choice of colors


waxed paper


First melt candy melts for 30 seconds in the microwave. Stir then microwave another 30 seconds. Continue in 30 second intervals until melted.

While candy melts are melting, put lollipop sticks or straws in marshmallows.


Now put the marshmallow in the melted chocolate and spin to cover as much as you would like. I like to just cover the bottom but you can cover the entire marshmallow if you like. Next dip the chocolate covered marshmallows in your choice of sprinkles. Get creative with this. You can use chopped nuts, sprinkles, graham cracker crumbs and an assortment of other goodies. Or dip¬†them in dark chocolate and graham cracker crumbs to make S’mores on a Stick! YUMMY!!


Now put the finished marshmallows on waxed paper and let the chocolate harden.


There are endless possibilities for these yummy treats. How cute would it be to use the pink strawberry marshmallows for Valentines Day!

Ok, now let’s talk about how to turn making treats like this into a learning experience. First, I made these with my 4 (almost 5) year old. We counted marshmallows and sticks. We divided the sticks up and added them together to practice our addition. We talked about all of the colors of the rainbow while looking at the sprinkles.

With my 7 year old we talked about time as we melted the chocolate. We estimated how many sprinkles were left in the jar after we had used them in the recipe. We also did a little research on how cake sprinkles are made which lead us to the origins of chocolate and a long discussion about manufacturing.

Friends, you can turn anything into a learning lesson if you take the time to stop and explain things to your kids. How often are we so busy that we push them to the side in order to “get it done”. Teach your kids while you are busy with the mundane task of daily life. They often learn more in those circumstances than with any kind of prepared lesson.¬†ūüôā Happy homeschooling!


One of my biggest concerns when we were considering homeschool was how I would organize everyones work so that we actually knew what we were suppose to be doing. I am a complete mess when it comes to organizing anything. I organize and then two days laters it’s a complete mess again. I’m pretty sure that’s what sparked the look of complete terror on my husbands face when I originally mentioned that I thought we should homeschool.

I think this is probably a common concern for homeschoolers and people considering homeschool. When I tell people that we are homeschoolers there are a few things that most people ask – “How do you know what you are suppose to do? I could never be that organized!” I’ve heard that so many times since we started homeschooling and my first thought is I’M NOT ORGANIZED. As I was considering that thought this week I had to step back. Once again, I¬†am amazed at¬†what God has done¬†with my¬†fears and concerns. Planning our weeks has become a joy to me. Finding the perfect mix of our curriculum and activities to go along with them that I think each child will enjoy is one of my favorite activities.

The way I organize our schedule didn’t come easy. I tried quite a few methods before I found something that really worked for our family. I will tell you that my way doesn’t work for everyone. The most important part of organizing your homeschool day is finding something that works for your family.

The first thing I do before we start the year is schedule everything on This website is amazing. I’m not going to lie, it isn’t the most user friendly site at first. I had to watch all of the tutorial videos to figure everything out. Once you get everything input it’s easy peasy though. There are some amazing tools for tracking your school work, grades, and field trips. Honestly, I don’t use the grading part of the site but I think that will come in handy the older my kids get.


It¬†took me a few days to input everything for 2 children. I created a list of subjects that we are going to work on and then input the outline for each subject. For example, in History we use Story of the World. We do one chapter a week each Thursday. So, I input each chapter in the subject and every Thursday that chapter is listed on our calendar. I don’t type out any details. I just type “Chapter 27 The Rise of Rome”. On Sunday afternoon after I print their schedule, I work out the details of each lesson.


When we complete the chapter I can mark it off and the next one will appear on our calendar. Many weeks we don’t get everything finished so it appears on our calendar the following week. That is the main reason that I love Homeschoolskedtrack. The program makes it so easy to reschedule things if you don’t get around to doing them.

Now, after everything is input for the year. YES! I said YEAR! I input our entire year for most subjects. I know that Lex does 2 math lessons each day so it’s easy to go through the table of contents and list them online.

Each week I print a small version of each child’s calendar so that I can punch them and put them in my Happy Planner. Friends, I love this planner! I’ve used a lot of different planners but this is it! It’s beautiful with thick pages so that ink doesn’t bleed through and my favorite thing about it is – you can buy a punch so you can insert whatever you like! That little fact right there wins it for me.¬†There are lots of different designs but this is my favorite. And these planners are 18 month planners which a plus in my book too.

Each week I print each child’s schedule. Let me pause for a minute to say we do not always finish everything on the weekly schedule. In fact, we hardly ever¬†do. So, on Sunday afternoon I go into Homeschoolskedtrack and check off everything we completed for the week and then print¬†a new schedule for the following week. My youngest is doing PreK and Kinder work so I don’t usually print a schedule for him. I just write his 5 days out and then he does a lot of the work with my older two. For instance, he listens to all of their read a-louds, history and their art and science.



I love this planner because I can use it for every aspect of our family life. See the column on the left? I use that as a menu planner for the week. If it’s highlighted that means I’ve cooked it. (Did we seriously have tacos like every night that week???)

I use the weekly part of the calendar for activities and errand lists or phone call I need to make. I have tons of stickers to use to make it fancy but honestly I found that I don’t really use them much. It would be nice to make it look better but this seems to work for me.

img_0002Here is a closer look at the actual printed schedules for the week. The little card on top is the¬†4 year olds work. At the time we were using EasyPeasyHomeschool but we decided that he was a little more advance than I had originally thought so I moved on to some other work that I had. The page under that is a schedule printed at 65% via Homeschoolskedtrack. The kids love being able to highlight their work when they finish and it makes it very easy for me to check everything off on Sunday afternoons. It also makes it easy to see how much we’ve accomplished with a quick look.

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