Ornamental Cherry Tree Pastel: A Spring Masterpiece in 4 Easy Steps

Carter & Ammon's Spring Pastel Painting

Carter & Ammon’s Spring Pastel Painting

Need (Suggested beginning doses: more paint for darker color OR add more water to lighten it up)

1 Plastic Cup

4 tsp. Water

2 drops Watercolor Blue 

2 drops Watercolor Green

1 Brown Oil Pastel Crayon (Holbein Oil Pastel)

1 Big dollop of Pink tempera paint 

1 Sheet Water Color Paper

1 Paintbrush

Step 1: On the Water Color Paper, lightly pencil the ground and tree

Step 2: With a brown oil pastel crayon, heavily color the tree

Step 3: Trying not to allow the green and blues to mix, saturate the ground with green and the sky with green. Once again, the oil pastel repels the watercolors. 

Allow the Painting to Dry for 24 hours

Step 4: With pink, tempera paint dollop out pink. With the child’s finger tips (prints) dabb the tree with pink fingerprints to make the pink, ornamental cherry blossoms then allow to finish drying.

Winter’s Full Moon (5 Steps to a Winter, Artistic Masterpiece)


After an autumn watercolor project turned out so nicely for Ammon and Carter, I decided to try one for winter.

Need (Suggested beginning doses: more paint for darker color OR add more water to lighten it up)

1 Plastic Cup

4 tsp. Water

2 drops Watercolor Paint (Van Gogh #506-Ultramarine)

1 White Oil Pastel Crayon (Holbein Oil Pastel)

Water Color Paper

1 Paintbrush

Step 1: On the Watercolor Paper, Etch out the Winter Scene lightly with a pencil. Carter, Ammon, and I elected to take a perfectly round object to trace our moon. You and yours can draw a moon anyway you wish.

Step 2: Thoroughly color in all objects you want to appear white with the Oil Pastel.


Step 3: Add drops of paint to the water and mix. It doesn’t look like much, but it is PLENTY. Once again if the paint wasn’t dark enough add paint droplets and if it was too dark, add a few drops of water at a time to the glass. Keep a practice Watercolor sheet handy to experiment.

Step 4: Paint! Make sure you saturate the paper. The oil pastel will repel the water (oil doesn’t mix with water).


Step 5: Find a flat place for your painting to dry.

As you can see from the intro photo, we had them framed. We painted the paintings on the 1st Day of Winter, allowed them to dry, then framed them on December 23 just in time to flank the mantel for Christmas. There they will remain until spring.


Quick, Fun, & Delicious Christmas Pretzels to Make with the Family in Minutes

Yep, Guided by their Daddy H, Ammon & Carter make homemade holiday pretzels!

Yep, Guided by their Daddy H, Ammon &
Carter make homemade holiday pretzels!
Pretzel Prep Time (including Baking) = 30 minutes
Decorating with Vanilla Candy Coating & Color Stripes = 30 minutes
Yield = 2 dozen (24) 3 inch Pretzels

(Simple ingredients for a Scrumptious Treat…oh, yes, we we’ve been studying German and Spanish as well)
Pretzel Ingredients

Turn your oven on to 425° F

Pretzel Ingredients
Packet of yeast
1 ½ cups of warm water
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
3 cups of All Purpose Flour

Vanilla Coating = Log House Candiquik

Red & Green stripes = Wilton Candy Melts

To make the Pretzels alone, you probably already had the necessary ingredients in your cupboard/kitchen cabinets. During the Holiday Season, it was quite easy to find the vanilla Candiquik as well as the Wilton Candy Melts. All I had to do was make a quick trip to Walmart. It had everything we needed.

As you stir the mixture (no electric mixer necessary) keep adding All Purpose Flour, ¾ to 1 more cup to make the dough bouncy and not sticky.

No Mixer = Easy-Peasy!

No Mixer = Easy-Peasy!

Keep a squeaky-clean, flour-dusted surface while kneading the dough.Poke the dough with your finger. If it bounds back, it is ready to make a pretzel ribbon.

If the dough bounces back, you're ready for pretzel ribbons. Kneading is fun!

If the dough bounces back, you’re ready for pretzel ribbons. Kneading is fun!

Depending on the size you want your pretzels to be, pinch off dough so as to roll out a ribbon. It took several trial & error pinches of dough balls to figure out what made our length of ribbon. We had it down in less than 5 minutes. Anywhere from 12-18 inches inches (once again, depending on the size you want your pretzels.

A clean surface helps roll out the ribbons smoothly

A clean surface helps roll out the ribbons smoothly

Shape your pretzels into a circle then twist the ends together.
Egg Bath: Beat an egg, pour it into a shallow bowl or pie dish, give the shaped pretzel a nice bath (both sides) and sprinkle with salt. Some people these days keep Sea Salt in their kitchens, or if you all are like us, use simple table salt. This egg bath with salt is a DEFINITE in this household for regular pretzels. If you want to keep your Christmas pretzels “sweet” you may want to skip this process; HOWEVER, if your taste-buds love that “sweet-salty” combination, by all means, SALT AWAY!

Dust your baking pan/pans lightly with flour for baking. Place your pretzels in the pan and bake at 425° for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the oven to broil for 5 minutes (maybe less….watching closely ) to help the tops become brown. Take the pretzels out of the oven and find a good place for them to cool down.

Dipping the Pretzels into Log House's Vanilla Candiquik

Dipping the Pretzels into Log House’s Vanilla Candiquik

After the pretzels have cooled for approximately 15 minutes, start reading your directions on how to melt your Candiquik. If you are adventuresome, use a double boiler. If you are more like us, follow the microwave instructions. Use a sturdy toothpick to turn your pretzels. After they are coated, place them on either butcher paper or wax paper. The coating will be hard in about 5 minutes.

With Daddy H's syringe creation, making green stripes on the Pretzels

With Daddy H’s syringe creation, making green stripes on the Pretzels

Finishing up with some red strips from Wilton's Candy Melts

Finishing up with some red strips from Wilton’s Candy Melts

Follow the directions (back of the packaging) for melting the Candy Melts. I used the large syringes (our collection from years of dispensing liquid, toddler medications) for making thin stripes of red & green on the pretzels. The melted Melts liquid is too thick to suck up in the syringes, so I took a plastic baggie, scooped the warm, melted Melts into it, dotted a whole in one corner and pinched in the liquid through the open stopper end. It flows WONDERFULLY as long as it is dispensed QUICKLY. If you do not have syringes, drizzle with a spoon or perhaps a honey dipper.

Once again, making and baking these pretzels only takes 30 minutes. The decorating takes another 30 minutes. So, 1 hour of fun, family baking and a treasured time for Christmas togetherness.

Squanto & The First Thanksgiving

There are people in history whom God has blessed and used joyously and from them flowed wonderful and positive events.  I immensely enjoy the story of Squanto, the Native American who befriended the Pilgrims. He lived from 1590 to 1622.

He was a contemporary of John Smith, Pocahontas’ famous, English friend, and he even met him in 1614. It was not the honorable John Smith who fooled and kidnapped Squanto (Tisquantum) and took him to Europe but an English sea captain named Thomas Hunt. Hunt took Squanto to Malaga, Spain and sold him as a slave, but by God’s grace Squanto wound up with Christian priests who freed him and sent him to England. By 1619 he was returning to New England with the help of another sailor, Thomas Derer. Unfortunately, the inhabitants (including Squanto’s wife, children, & parents) of Squanto’s village had been all but eradicated by European diseases.

Squanto became a “prisoner” of another Native American tribe, the Pokanoket, whose leader was Massasoit. Squanto was treated well, and Massasoit saw the importance of his English interpreting skills. Squanto was eventually set free. It was Squanto along with another Native American, Samoset, who on March 22, 1621 walked into Plymouth to help the Pilgrims with their new land. Squanto taught the Pilgrims to hunt better and most importantly how to raise and care for corn, beans, and squash. Squanto along with the other Pokanoket Native Americans and the Pilgrims celebrated that first Thanksgiving in October of 1621. Most scholars say it lasted for two weeks.

No one is ever perfect, but thanks to Squanto and his vision of peace and brotherhood of different races and cultures, we have the wonderful example of how people who are different can entwine their lives into a peaceful existence.

Ammon, Carter, und Interviews

Volkswagen & Children

“Ich heiße Carter.”
“Ich heiße Ammon.”
“Ich heiße Catharina.”

Ich musste von Ohr zu Ohr grinsen. Carter hatte unsere Begrüßung mit Catharina Mette (von der Werkskommunikation Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee) einer gebürtigen Deutschen, die jetzt in Chattanooga, Tennessee, unserer Heimatstadt, lebt und arbeitet, ganz von allein initiiert. Carter hatte mit “Mein Name ist Carter.” begonnen, dann folgten Ammon und Catharina und teilten ihre Namen mit. Ich war so froh, dass Carter und Ammon hier ihre Sozialkompetenz unter Beweis stellen konnten und dies nun sogar ganz ohne meine Aufforderung taten. Wir hatten seit mehr als zwei Jahren an zwischenmenschlicher Kommunikation gearbeitet und jetzt konnten sie ihre Fähigkeiten anwenden und gleichzeitig üben, deutsch zu sprechen.

Ich schilderte Public Relations Mitte September mein Anliegen, erklärte, dass Ammon und Carter zuhause unterrichtet werden, neben der deutschen Sprache auch etwas über die deutsche Kultur lernen sollen und ich Ihnen eine Möglichkeit geben möchte, ihre Sozialkompetenz in einem einfachen Interview zu trainieren. Ich fragte, ob es einen deutschen Muttersprachler gäbe, mit dem sie ein persönliches Interview führen könnten. Er war so freundlich, ein Interview mit seiner Kollegin Catharine Mette anzubieten, mit der ich bald Zeit und Ort abstimmen konnte. Ein Mitarbeiter eines Multi-Milliarden-Dollar-Konzern erwies zwei 5-Jährigen aus Chattanooga, Tennessee die Ehre, Zeit mit Ihnen zu verbringen.

Catharina (ihre persönliche Höflichkeit ist fantastisch)persönlich begrüßte Carter und Ammon am Besucher Check-in mit einem warmen Lächeln und freundlichen Gruß. Die drei lagen sofort auf einer Wellenlänge. Wir wurden dann in einen Besucherempfangsraum geführt und Carter und Ammon konnten ihre roten Rosen, die wir als Dankeschön mitgebracht hatten, überreichen. Es gab bequeme Stühle, Tische und ein Mini-Theater mit einem riesigen Flachbildschirm an der Wand. Nach ein paar Grußworten und einem kurzen Austausch zu Carters und Ammons Deutschlandreise schlug Catharina vor: „Lasst mich euch zwei ein paar Videos über die Geschichte dieses Volkswagen-Werks zeigen.”


So saßen wir im gemütlichen Mini-Kino und bekamen zwei Videos zu sehen: Das erste widmete sich ganz der Geschichte des Volkswagen-Werks in Chattanooga. Es war sehr professionell gemacht und stellte gleichzeitig einen persönlichen Bezug zu unserer Heimatstadt her, auf die Carter und Ammon sehr stolz sind. “Wow, Chattanooga!“, flüsterte Carter mir zu. Das Video endet mit einem Fokus auf dem Passat (der hier hergestellt wird) und dem Motortrend Car of the Year Award 2012, den das hart arbeitende Team des Chattanooga Werkes feiern durfte. Das zweite Video war nur 3 Minuten lang, aber es zeigte im Zeitraffer 12 Stunden im Bau eines Passats. Es fesselte Ammon und Carter an ihre Sitze! Als das Video endete rief Carter. “Wow, das Auto haben Sie aber schnell gebaut!”. Wir alle kicherten.


“Jetzt wollt ihr zwei mir wohl noch einige Fragen stellen?”, leitete Catharina anschließend auf das Interview und Carters und Ammons Übungslektion in Sozialkompetenz über.

Die vier wichtigsten Fragen, die Carter und Ammon vorbereitet hatten, bezogen sich auf traditionelle Küche, Kleidung, Gebäudearten und Familienmodelle in Deutschland. Ammon und Carter wechselten sich mit der Fragestellung ab.

Ammon und Carter lieben es, Brezeln zu essen und hatten bereits gelernt, dass diese ein wichtiger Teil der bayerischen Kultur sind. Wir hatten sie während unseres Urlaubs ( http://bit.ly/13CXrSZ , http://bit.ly/ZvyR7c ) im Jahr 2012 gegessen und im Rahmen unseres Unterrichts zuhause selbst welche gebacken. Durch ihre Fragen fanden sie heraus, dass deutsche Brezeln nicht zu den traditionellen Snacks der Region Wolfsburg, der Heimatstadt von Catharina und Volkswagen, gehören.

Carter fragte dann: “Haben Sie Lederhosen?” – “Nein, Carter, Lederhosen sind ein traditionelles Kleidungsstück aus Bayern. Wo ich herkomme, hat man keine Lederhosen. ” Das nahm Ammon sofort als Ausgangspunkt für Ihre nächste Frage: „Sehen Ihre Häuser genauso aus wie die Häuser in Chattanooga?” – “Naja, irgendwie schon”, sagte Catharina und fügte hinzu “bei uns gibt es mehr Steinhäuser.”

Carter fragte dann: “Sehen Sie Ihre Familie in Deutschland?” – “Ja schon, ich fliege sie ein paar Mal im Jahr besuchen. Tatsächlich bin ich gerade letzte Woche von einem Besuch zurückgekommen”, antwortete Catharina.

Eine frei formulierte Frage von Carter bildete dann ein famoses Finale für das Interview und fasste den Sinn unseres Ausflugs und des Interviews selbst wunderbar zusammen:

“Haben Sie auch so einen Volkswagen?” erkundigte er sich.
Und Catharina antwortete schnell: “Nein, aber ich habe einen Volkswagen Tiguan. Der ist wie ein Van.” Zur Erläuterung wurde schnell ein Foto eines Tiguan gegooglet und Ammon rief sofort: „Oh, der ist schön!”.

Damit beendeten wir unser Interview, denn Catharina musste wieder an die Arbeit. Wir machten noch einige Fotos und Catharina bat die Rezeption, Volkswagen Besucherausweise für Carter und Ammon anzufertigen. Sie waren sehr stolz! Mit Umarmungen und Lächeln und mehreren „Auf Wiedersehen” verabschiedeten wir uns schließlich.

Dank persönlichen Höflichkeit Catharinas, Ammon und Carters Zwischenmenschliche Interview war ein großer Erfolg.

Carter & Ammon Shine in a Personal Courtesy Interview

Carter and Ammon Shine in a Personal Courtesy Interview

Volkswagen & Children

“Ich heisse Carter.”
“Ich heisse Ammon.”
“Ich heisse Catharina.”

I stood grinning ear to ear. Carter had initiated our introduction with Catharina Mette (Volkswagen of Chattanooga, Tennessee Plant Communications ) a native German who is now living and working in Chattanooga, Tennessee our home town. Carter started with “My name is Carter.” Then Ammon and Catharina followed with sharing their names. I was so pleased that Carter and Ammon were practicing their interpersonal skills without any prompt from me. We had been working on interpersonal skills for over two years, and now they had combined both interpersonal skills and speaking German.

I wrote to the Public Relations in the middle of September, and explained how Ammon and Carter were homeschooled, were studying the German language, studying the German culture, and needing to practice their interpersonal skills with a simple interview. I asked if there was a native German in personal relations with whom we could conduct an interview. They graciously agreed to an interview with Catharina Mette with whom I soon arranged an interview date and time. I was honored that someone from this multi-billion dollar industry was taking time to spend with two 5 year olds from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Catharina personally greeted Carter and Ammon at the visitor’s check-in station with a warm smile and greeting. There was an immediate bond between the three. We were then ushered into a visitor reception room. Carter and Ammon gave her the red roses we had purchased for her as a “Thank You”. There were comfortable chairs, tables, and a mini-theater with a huge flat screen television on the wall. After initial greetings and a review of Carter and Ammon’s travels to Germany, Catharina interjected, “Let me show you two a couple of videos on the history of this Volkswagen plant.”

Roses for Catharina

We all sat comfortably in the mini-theater where we viewed two videos.The first video was on the history of the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant. It was so professional and personal to our hometown in which Carter and Ammon are so proud. “Wow, Chattanooga!”, Carter whispered to me. The video ended with a focus on how the Passat (the plant’s car) won Motortrend’s 2012 Car of the Year Award, and it all connected to the hard working team at the Chattanooga plant. The second video was only 3 minutes, but it showed a 12 -hour time lapse of how a Passat is fabricated. Ammon and Carter sat riveted. When the video finished, Carter exclaimed. “Wow, they made that car fast!”. We all giggled.


“Now, I understand that you two have some questions for me.” , Catharina said while leading Carter and Ammon into their interpersonal interview.

The four main questions Carter and Ammon had created were regarding the cultural areas of food, clothing, types of shelter, and the composition of family units in Germany. Ammon and Carter took turns asking questions.

Ammon and Carter love to eat pretzels, and we had studied that pretzels were a favorite snack tradition in Bavaria, eaten them during our vacation there in 2012 ( http://bit.ly/ZvyR7c, http://bit.ly/13CXrSZ) and made them in our home during the study. Through questioning, they found out that German pretzels are not traditional snack foods from the region of Wolfsburg, Germany, Catharina and Volkswagen’s hometown.

Carter then asked, “Do you have lederhosen?”, “No, Carter, lederhosen is a traditional style of dress, once again, from Bavaria. I do not have lederhosen.” Ammon then took her cue for the next question with, “Does your house look the same as houses here in Chattanooga?” “Well, kind of….,” Catharina said continuing with, “…we have more rock and brick houses.”

Carter then asked, “Do you get to see your family in Germany?” “Well, yes, I return home to see them several times a year. As a matter of fact, I just returned last week.” , Catharina stated.

Our meeting ended splendidly with Carter’s free question, “Do you have a Volkswagen like this one (the Passat)?” Carter inquired. “
Catharina quickly replied, “No, but I have a Volkswagen Tiguan. It’s like a van.” We then Googled an Internet photo of a Tiguan. “Oh, that’s nice!” Ammon exclaimed.

We then agreed that our questions were over and that Catharina had to return to work. We snapped photos, and Catharina had the reception desk make Carter and Ammon Volkswagen Visitor badges. They were so proud! We then departed with smiles and hugs, and a few “Auf Wiedersehen” .

Thanks to Catharina’s personal courtesy, Ammon and Carter’s interpersonal interview had been a huge success.

If you made it this far (LOL), please learn more About us and give me, Haven Caylor, a Google. Thanks to all!

Find Out!

Ammon, Carter, and I are in a book! It’s called Find Out Anything From Anyone, Anytime.


Maryann Karinch and James O. Pyle co-authored this book, and one of Maryann’s chapters is Questioning in your Personal Life. She wanted to incorporate my good questioning techniques that I use with Carter and Ammon. She even references my future book (still unpublished, but written none the less!) and has a transcription of a conversation Ammon, Carter, and I had as we planned our Disney World trip last August.

Maryann sent Carter and Ammon signed copies of her book with a “Thank You.” We are all mentioned in her Acknowledgments, and our part of the book can be found on pages 208-211.

Maryann is a very dedicated author, and I think you all would enjoy reading this book. The “Find Out Anything….” can empower us to:

-Identify and practice good questioning techniques.
-Recognize types of questions to avoid.
-Know the questions required when hearing unconfirmed reports of gossip.
-Practice good listening techniques and exploit all leads.
-Determine when and how to control the conversation.
-Gain real expertise fast.

I enjoyed the book, and I think you all will too.