Saturday, 6 December 2014

Here We Go!

For us, the Christmas season starts when the following items appears in our house: mulled wine and mince pies.

Tortoise and I plan to train ourselves to become mince pies connoisseurs this year by tasting all the commerically available mince pies and then making a comparsion chart to show our results by Christmas.  If this isn't an excuse for gluttony, I don't know what is... but at least our intention is to come up with a really useful chart at the end of our exericse to enable us to make a more informed decision about which brand of mince pies to buy next year.  There is some good to this over-indulgence, really.

As for the mulled wine, it is my private acknowledgement of the arrival of the Christmas season.  Tortoise can't stand mulled wine.  He says it's because he doesn't like spiced drinks, but I suspect the real reason is because he doesn't drink cheap wine (that means anything less than £25 per bottle).  To be honest, the quality of red wine used to make mulled wine is indeed sub-standard, but the mulled wine was introduced to me the first time I spent Christmas in England many years ago so for me, the drink has a very strong association with Christmas in this country, even though the first glass of mulled wine I had was ghastly due to it being over-heated.  Every December since, I have drunk it purely for sentimental reasons and this has become my little private festive ritual.

Before anyone leaves this post in digust at our over-indulgence, let me just clarify that:
  1. the one bottle of mulled wine (750ml) is to last me for 24 days, so a quick division reveals that, at an average of 31.25ml per day, I am grossly under-qualified to apply for membership to the AA.
  2. I only do this from December 1st to 24th, not any other time of the year.

Luckily, it's not all gluttony and drunkeness here.  We only indulge in the above in the "after hours", i.e. after Tiger has gone to bed.  In the day, I continue my role as a hardworking, responsible parent by participating in wholesome activities such as:

1) baking

Our gingerbread family turned out whiter than normal because we used a traditional Victorian Christmas recipe for the "White Gingerbread" and we had used a combination of coconut flour and almond flour for our base instead of the usual wheat flour.  The substitution did not go smoothly as the mixture was too crumbly at first so we had to tweak the recipe even more to make the dough hard enough to cut.  In the end, the activity that should have taken us at most 30 minutes took two hours to complete!

All this time, I wasn't just standing around taking photographs.  I actually helped to turn what was destined to become a crumbly mess into something edible.  I bought two Christmassy aprons to put us in the mood of Christmas cooking -- one for Tiger, one for me.

2) making cards
I was originally very excited about the prospect of us showcasing different card designs this December.  However, when we made a list of everyone that Tiger is to make cards for and the count totalled to 15 (aren't we popular?), we decided to be more realistic about our capability and stamina, and settled for learning to do one design very well.

We followed the instructions found here, with some modifications.  Next year, we might attempt more design varieties but I am happy that, after mass-producing 15 cards of the same design, we have now added this design to our crafts repertoire and can produce it with our eyes shut, almost spontaneously.

3) music
This week we started to immerse ourselves in Bach's Christmas Oratorio.

Tiger was curious about this piece of music and its form, so we talked a little about the background of the music as well as its structure.  Tis piece of music has been our background music this week and will continue to be so for the next two week.  I am slightly surprised that Tiger does not object to having this piece of music playing in the background as he works, since we usually have no background noise when we are working.

We have also been very good about learning our first Christmas carol, Joy to the World:

Another surpise here is how enthusiastic Tiger has been about learning to sing it and the fact that he asked to sing it several times throughout the day!

4) Christmas stories
I found a gorgeously illustrated book to go with learning the carol, a good summary of which can be found here.

Tiger and I read the book together and had a little discussion about the basic elements of literary analysis (such as: setting, characters, conflict, rising action, climax, resolution, conclusion).  Then our discussion took on a broader, somewhat philosophical scope to include:
1.  homelessness
  • where we have seen homeless people
  • the fundamental causes of homelessness
  • where do homeless people go
  • how homeless people are treated or perceived
  • what, if anything, can people do if they become homeless
2.  charity
  • whether it is universally applicable
  • different circumstances under which people choose to apply or not to apply charity
  • how charity can be manipulated or exploited
3.  idealism versus pragmatism
  • given the current social climate, whether it is advisable to invite strangers into our homes, and if not, how else can they be helped
  • under what circumstances, if any, is the idea that "They brought it upon themselves." ever justifiable.

We are just beginning to discuss books in this way, as Tiger starts getting to an age when he is able to consider such questions in a meaningful way.  Like the baking this week, our discussion took way longer than it would have been had we just read the book, but I feel the time was well spent and Tiger relishes at the new challenge of having to think a little deeper and harder about what he reads.

However, not all books are to be discussed as such otherwise the process becomes tedious so Tiger also read the following for his own enjoyment.

5) Christmas STEM
We looked at a few maths problems from the Chrismaths book that I mentioned in the Christmas curriculum post.  The book's problems cover a wide range of ages (KS1 to KS3) so we started in the middle where the problems look more suited to Tiger's current ability but found them not overly exciting so we switched to working out the problems from this year's primary maths advent calendar.

One advent calendar led to another.  We also looked at the 2014 Chemistry Advent Calendar to get our daily dose of chemistry snippets.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Hip Homeschool Hop - 12/2/14
  2. Finishing Strong - Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years Week 39
  3. Virtual Refrigerator
  4. My Week in Review #15
  5. Collage Friday - Choosing December Activities Wisely
  6. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one with the new Christmas tree


  1. What a lovely week. The Math advent looks like great learning. Have a wonderful advent.
    Blessings, Dawn

    1. Thanks, Dawn. The maths advent is quite a good site, with many interesting problems so it's worth a look. :-) I hope you enjoy your advent too!

  2. You have packed in a lot of Christmas joys this week! I would love the tradition of Mulled wine and Mince pies!

    1. Mulled wine and mince pies can be made at home quite easily, so you can enjoy them too, if you fancy it! :-)

  3. I would just love a Christmas curriculum! Sounds like great fun :) And what a wonderful Christmas card design - I'm sure they will be cherished, especially knowing Tiger made them.

    1. Thank you, Marie. Given how well you've been doing with culture-based studies with your girls, I'm sure a Christmas curriculum would be easy-peasy for you. I'm still refering to your Chinese New Year study for ideas! :-)

  4. I giggled all the way through this post, Hwee! Are you sure you didn't write it post your 31.25ml of mulled wine?!
    What a lovely start to the holiday celebrations!

    1. Is it so obvious that I was *slightly* intoxicated when writing this post? ;-) Oops. I'm really a lightweight when it comes to alcohol consumption... I'll have to reread my own post and change anything inappropriate.... :-)

  5. What a neat week you had! Love the Christmas learning. :)

    1. Thank you. :-) I try to change our study routine a bit in December to coincide with Christmas, and to give us time to prepare for the festival.

  6. I left a long comment on this post last night, but I think Google ate it. (It seems to do that on blogger blogs when I'm not logged into Google. Anyway, better luck this time...!)

    I love your mince pie challenge idea. I do wish I liked them! J(9) and I are having to make do with chocolate log... oh well, perhaps it's not such a hard life. And while AA might not have you, I think you'd have a good chance of qualifying for membership of Moderates Anonymous! You've reminded me how much I like mulled wine - I must pop a bottle in my next shopping order.

    I love your Christmas ideas, they are always so inspirational. We'll have to check out the chemistry advent calendar. Your post also reminded me of the RI advent calendar you mentioned last year (oh my goodness, how time flies). I'd like to incorporate a bit of music, too. The Christmas Oratorio seems a good place to start. Thanks for lots of ideas. :-)

    1. Isn't it frustrating when a long message disappears?! I've had that happen to me a few times too.... Thanks for taking the time to write again! :-)

      Mince pies are a love-it-or-hate-it kind of food, aren't they? My mother-in-law and sister-in-law (both English) don't like them. It took me a while to acquire the taste and now it's my December staple food! :-)

      Thanks for your kind compliments about my December ideas. I wasn't sure whether The Christmas Oratorio would be too serious for Tiger but he seems to be enjoying it so far.

  7. I love love love love love "Christmas Joy," it is such a great book.

    Oh, and it took great discipline to read the whole post and not just stop at the whole mulled wine minced pie story at the beginning before I commented because it amused me so much.

    1. LOL. I must admit I was a little tipsy when I wrote the post... :-)

      I'm always glad to find stories that are well illustrated, with a straightforward storyline and yet touches my heart with its simple truth.

  8. Hwee,

    I love mulled wine too! And mince pies. We also love Christmas story books and I add to our collection every year. I really like the look of 'Great Joy'. I might just be tempted to buy a copy. Thank you for sharing!

    1. I was surprised at how much I like the 'Great Joy' book. It goes so well with the carol that we're learning and the illustrations are beautiful, in addition to it being a totally lovely story. I think you'll like it, Sue. :-)


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