Mom and Daughter Beret Sewing Project


Sewing and crafting are in Katie’s blood!  Unfortunately, I don’t come naturally to those arts.  However, I do my best to encourage Katie in her crafting and to help her find projects to try when she expresses an interest in creating something.  So, when Katie developed a passion for sewing a beret, we searched the internet and discovered this website with instructions that looked easy to follow.  We don’t have a sewing machine (yet!) so we had to sew it by hand, but it was very easy and turned out super cute.  The instructions call for taking an old t-shirt and “upcycling” it into a cute kids’ beret. Katie sewed what she could, I sewed what she couldn’t, and I ended up sewing over her stitches to make them a little tighter so that there wouldn’t be gaps in the seam.  Though Katie wasn’t quite able to do most of the project herself yet, it was a great learning experience and a bonding experience as well.   Katie wears her beret whenever she can and often gets compliments on it, so we dub this project a success!



Katie trying to look elegant in her beret.


The t-shirt we used for the project had a heart design on it so that became the top of the hat.


Looking stylish at the park.

baby shower

Katie wore her beret to a recent bridal shower with a matching t-shirt.

Crazy couch jumping photos

Our family is a little bit weird. One of our kids’ favorite pastimes is taking photos of each other jumping on our couch. It’s weird (and hard on the couch!) but it gives us a chance to laugh together and what family doesn’t need that?! Here are a few of the kids’ best shots so far…








Embroidering the Kanji


It’s always a challenge to find fun and memorable ways to help my kids (and me!) remember the 1006 elementary school level kanji (Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese language). (See these posts here and here for what we’ve done in the past). One thing we commonly do together during homeschool kanji study time is to look closely at the characters, figure out what their parts are, and then make up silly stories about them. For example, the kanji means “what” and the part on the left means person.  The kids and I decided that it looks like a person wearing a huge backpack with some secret stuff inside of it.  Looking at it makes us wonder, “What is in the backpack??” So that helps us remember that the kanji means “what” and how to read it in Japanese. The kids also write the kanji on paper (or sometimes in the parking lot with sidewalk chalk or on cookies with chocolate pen if we’re feeling creative) and of course they practice reading sentences or stories that have the kanji in them.

Katie is now in second grade so this year she is charged with learning 160 of these characters. To help get the kanji to stick in her brain better, we decided to start a kanji embroidery project.  After Katie practices a kanji in her book and then sticks it to her “kanji tree” on the kitchen wall, she gets to embroider it onto a blue sheet that will later grace her bed.  Not only has this helped Katie remember the kanji she has embroidered so far, but her embroidery stitches have really improved with all the practice.  The project has also inspired her to watch Youtube videos on her own to learn new stitches like the lazy daisy stitch, the french knot, and the chain stitch. (Now all I have to do is find a way to combine kanji memorizing with Lego building and the boys are all set!)

Here are a few more photos of her adventures in kanji embroidery.


After Katie practices the kanji in her textbook, she writes it onto a blank fruit, flower, or leaf shape and then sticks it to her kanji tree. This tree is for kanji that relate to people. Once she learns all the people-related kanji we will add more trees with other themes to make a kanji “forest.”









Family Fun at Green Park

Friends from Katie’s jazz dance class recently invited us to have a barbeque at Green Park in Utsunomiya.  We’d never been there before, but were really impressed with how many fun things there were for kids to do!  After feasting on delicious barbequed meat and vegetables next to the Kinugawa river, the kids set off to ride funny bicycles and then test their physical prowess on the “over water obstacle course.”  There was also a water play area, a paddle boat lake, and venders selling ice cream, crepes, and other delectable treats.  The weather was perfect and we greatly enjoyed the time with our friends.  We definitely plan to visit again!


Pottery Making in Mashiko, Japan

We live in the Japanese city of Utsunomiya, which is less than an hour away from a town called Mashiko that is famous for pottery making.  Tourists from all over Japan make their way to Mashiko to buy pottery and to try their hand at making it themselves at one of the famous pottery kilns.  Despite living close to Mashiko, we rarely go there and no one in our family had ever tried pottery making.  But one weekend Bryan had plans to take Austin and Ethan to a sports camp so Katie and I decided to head on over to Mashiko and let the family Queen of Arts and Crafts give it a try.

We ended up going to a place called Hasegawa Touen, one of many pottery makers who have inexpensive classes for beginners and who welcome children.  Most of the shops in Mashiko offer two kinds of pottery making experiences: forming pottery out of a ball of clay with your hands or using a pottery wheel.  We decided to go with hand forming the clay since it sounded easier.  The staff woman who helped us was very friendly and she assisted Katie whenever she had any questions.  Otherwise, Katie was free to make whatever she wanted and could make use of various tools and clay stamps that the staff provided.

After a bit of deliberation, Katie decided to make a mug that she decorated with various animal-shaped stamps.  When she was finished, the staff woman engraved Katie’s name and the date in the bottom of the mug and told us it would be ready  in about a month.  When we inquired about why it takes so long, she said that first they have to dry the clay, then bake it, then glaze it (in the color of Katie’s choice), and then bake it again.

Several weeks later, we received a call from Hasegawa Touen and went to pick up Katie’s pottery creation.  She was very happy with the results and it is now her go-to mug for all types of beverages!  Way to go, Katie!  You did a great job!  Maybe next time we will try the pottery wheel!

Exploring the Microscopic World

Bug parts, cheek cells, fabrics, leaves, hairs, paper scraps, drops of slimy pond water.  These are just some of the ordinary-turned fascinating items that we have examined under the lens of our microscope so far this school year as part of our Sonlight science curriculum.  It’s amazing how getting a chance to look closely at items we normally take for granted can elicit ooohs and aaahs from kids and parents alike!

We also recently did a project where we made gelatin, added it to petri dishes, and then stuck our fingers in potentially germ-infested substances.  We then poked our fingers into the gelatin to see what kinds of creepy microscopic organisms would grow!  Gross stuff like ear wax, nose mucous, river water, dust behind the refrigerator, and more made it into our petri dishes.  We also pushed a clean finger into one petri dish and in another a finger disinfected with Germ-X alcohol gel so we could compare the dishes that had been touched with something clean with the dishes that had been touched with something dirty.  A week or so later,  we got to look at all the dishes under our microscope.  Wow!  Exciting stuff!

Since we’ve been reading about the structure of cells in our Usborne World of the Microscope book, we decided to make models of animals cells out of cake.  A couple of years ago we did the same project with plant cells, but it was so much fun (and so delicious!) that we decided it was worth doing again.  This time Katie was old enough to join in the fun and make her very own cell model all by herself.

Science is one of our most hands-on topics and it gives a chance to marvel at God’s creativity, intelligence, and attention to detail so it is definitely a favorite around here!

Crafty Katie

When Austin and Ethan were Katie’s age, they spent lots of time playing with toy trains, cars, and Legos.  Katie plays with toys too, but she spends the majority of her free time creating things out of paper, disposable chopsticks, tape, glue, and staples.  Lots of staples.  In fact, to help her enjoy writing, we recently started a blog for her called Katie’s Craft World.  She comes up with craft ideas and makes them.  Then I photograph her with her crafts and she dictates to me what she wants me to type into her blog to explain how to make her craft.  It’s her first foray into homeschool writing assignments, but without having to worry about spelling or get exhausted from writing it down herself.  I get a kick out of the creative craft ideas she comes up with, like sushi made from origami paper or a mini badminton set made out of drinking straws and staples.

Something else Katie has gotten into is sewing.  Back in 2010 I first gave her a piece of felt and a needle and thread to practice making super simple stitches.  She enjoyed it and since then has been improving in her sewing ability little by litte.  A few months ago, I ordered this kids’ sewing book from and also this one and we put together her very own sewing kit. She was super excited to have her own sewing tools, fabric, and books with various projects in them and she set to work right away to make some of the easy ones.  She can now thread and knot a needle on her own and knows how to do a running stitch and a whipstitch.  So far she has made drink coasters and a “tooth fairy pillow” with a pocket to put the tooth in.  She’s also made a couple of sweet dreams masks (to block out sun while you sleep), stuffed animals, and a blanket with a pocket and a “pocket pal”.

I only know the very basics of sewing, so I’m no expert but I am looking forward to learning alongside Katie as I try to help her gain new skills.  I think it would be fun to take a sewing class with her some day if she continues to be interested.