Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fall Nature Crafts and a Tutorial

Today over at Year Round Homeschooling, I've shared a roundup of some terribly cute crafts I found while searching the internet for what on earth to do with my son's immense collection of pinecones. We also can't seem to help picking up pretty fall leaves, and of course, I love finding different types of acorns. We end up with piles of each, which drives my poor husband a bit batty, and they tend to get pitched out into the yard. That's fine, but I was hoping to find something we could do with some of them, at least. My son LOVES to do crafts!

When you read my post over at YRH, you will see that one of the crafts involves making snowy owls from pine cones. I got the idea from this post at Open-Ended Art For Children, but she didn't give a lot of detail - the words "self-explanatory" are involved. I...don't really do self-explanatory. Heh. I also found these instructions, which are better, but not what I did (of course). When I started making them, I decided to share my own little tutorial, just in case you are craft-challenged like I am. If you're not, carry on! Nothing to see here!

These things are blessedly simple to make, really. You need a few basic things:

  • Pine cones (If you really want to make these and somehow don't have pine cones, you can find them at any craft store)
  • Cotton balls, shredded into bits of fluff (kids love to do this)
  • Pipe cleaners or felt
  • Googly eyes
  • Glue (regular white glue is fine)
For the beak and wings, I used pipe cleaners, so I'm sharing instructions for that. 

Wrap a half a brown pipe cleaner around your pine cone so that the extra ends are in front. (I cut my pipe cleaner with craft scissors. Any scissors will work, just don't use your fabric scissors.)

Twist the pipe cleaner together once so it will stay in place, and fold the ends in so they form the beak.

Next, wrap a full white pipe cleaner around the middle of the pine cone, starting at the front and going all the way around the back, so that the white ends stick out at the side. 

Fold the ends in to look like wings. The pine cone I used was a larger than I thought, so this owl's wings are a bit short. We will call him an owlet.

Now, add your fluff. It didn't take me very long to decide I wanted to use a pencil to push the fluff into the spaces. Pine cones are prickly. Make sure you put lots of cotton in the places where you'd like your eyes to go. That will give you a somewhat solid surface to glue them.

Once your owl is fluffed add the eyes. I put the glue directly onto the owl rather than trying to put it on the back of the little googly eyes.

Once your eyes are on, you're finished!

You can make your owls look however you like. We chose some different colors and styles of googly eyes, for example. Did you know that a group of owls is called a parliament? 

Monday, October 26, 2015

REVIEW: Popular Purple Pencil Sharpener

Don't you just love alliteration? I do. It's such fun. It has nothing to do with anything about this pencil sharpener, but I do love the name: Popular Purple.

I was recently sent one of these lovely things from Classroom Friendly Supplies, so that I could review it and share my honest opinion with you. I reviewed a similar, but red pencil sharpener last year. The red one works very well, but it is not my favorite color. The purple one works just as well, and has the added bonus of being PURPLE, which is one of my favorite colors. It has won a special place in my heart.

I have to believe every person knows the value of having a good pencil sharpener. I didn't give it nearly as much thought until I started homeschooling, though. It is not easy to find a good pencil sharpener these days. There are entire threads on homeschool message boards about which pencil sharpeners are best. I'm here to tell you, the ones from Classroom Friendly Supplies are what you've been seeking, even if you didn't know you needed one!

My kids love these sharpeners. They create what they call "pencils of death." What that means is, one gets an exceptionally sharpened pencil, which is a lovely way to start your math problems. It's almost as if you have a weapon in hand to conquer those algebra equations.

I do have one of the old-fashioned pencil sharpeners - the kind we used to have in school classrooms, with all the different-sized holes on a little disk you could spin around. The issue with that one is that it really needs to be screwed into a wall, and I never could decide where I wanted it to go. We managed to use it, but it could be frustrating. The Classroom Friendly pencil sharpener comes with a clamp, allowing you to attach it to a table or desk, but you can also just use it on its own. Once you have the pencil inserted for sharpening, there is no need to hold onto it, because the mechanism of the sharpener moves the pencil ahead for you. Once the pencil is perfectly sharpened, it stops sharpening. (If you happen to have a good place to affix your Popular Purple Pencil Sharpener, you can purchase a permanent mounting plate and put it there!)

I would like to note here that with my ebony pencil, which did fit into the sharpener but is a little bit thicker than a standard pencil, it kept on sharpening until I pulled it out. Also, we have some fun pencils with brightly colored cores that seem to be just a hint thicker than standard, probably because of the coating on the outside, and they didn't stop quite as well as plain ol' yellow pencils.

My only issue with this sharpener remains that it only works for standard-sized pencils. I have a little guy, and he enjoys using those fat pencils for little kids, you know? You can't sharpen those with the fabulous purple pencil sharpener. They do, however, have the amazing Large Hole Sharpener, which works on large AND standard size pencils.

Each pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies is $24.99, unless you get some friends together and order 3 or more, at which point you can receive quantity discounts. You can order replacement blades for them, too, as well as replacement shavings trays, in case yours gets broken or misplaced. The exception is the Car Pencil Sharpener, which is $19.99, and does not have replaceable blades.

I do love my CFS pencil sharpeners, and I hope you will check them out!

Connect with Classroom Friendly Supplies:

I received one purple pencil sharpener for the purpose of my review, and received no other compensation. All opinions are entirely my own.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Don Henley In Denver

Tuesday night, my husband and I went to see Don Henley at the Bellco Theater in Denver, CO. It was a bit of a fluke, actually. My daughter was looking at the paper last Friday, and saw a little ad for the concert. She looked up the ticketing site. I was on my way to the dentist, so I asked my husband to get the tickets, but he had some trouble with their system. I ended up booking them on my phone while my very patient dental assistant waited for me to complete the transaction. I did apologize to her for my rudeness, but she did understand when I told her the show was Tuesday.

In case you don't recognize the name, Don Henley of the founding members of the Eagles. He's the lead singer on songs like "Best of My Love," "Hotel California," and "Desperado." He's one of my all-time favorite singers, and when we discovered last week he was coming to Denver, I was so excited! We got the tickets and I downloaded Henley's new album, just released September 25th, Cass County. {aff link}

When Mr. Henley came out on stage, he said, "I'm in the Mile High City, and feeling every inch." I laughed in complete sympathy! Its a killer when you're not used to it. He commented a couple of times throughout the evening that he was struggling with the altitude, but it didn't affect his performance. He never sat down, even though the last time we saw the Eagles they sat for an acoustic set during the concert. His voice was top-notch - he hasn't lowered the keys of any of his tunes (trust me, I sing along with them all the time; I would have noticed), and he sounds as fabulous as ever.

Here's the playlist:

  • Seven Bridges Road (This was the only Eagles song. His entire band can SING, and they did a beautiful job.)
  • No, Thank You (this one makes me laugh, and I love it)
  • Heart of the Matter (probably my favorite song, ever)
  • Praying for Rain
  • That Old Flame
  • The End of the Innocence (written with Bruce Hornsby, which I didn't know until last night, but seems so obvious now that I do)
He said these next four were in honor of Halloween coming up at the end of the month:
  • She Sang Hymns Out of Tune
  • I Put A Spell On You (Originally by Jay Hawkins)
  • Burn Down the Cornfield (can't say as I'm glad to be acquainted with this song - it's creepy)
  • New York Minute

And then back to our regularly scheduled program:

  • Dirty Laundry (this was the favorite song of the woman sitting next to me, and it was her birthday)
  • Take A Picture of This (He said this is about the phases a marriage goes through, and it doesn't have a happy ending)
  • Words Can Break Your Heart
  • Last Worthless Evening
  • When I Stop Dreaming
  • The Cost of Living
  • Bramble Rose
  • It Don't Matter to the Sun
  • Too Much Pride
  • Everybody Wants to Rule the World (never thought I'd hear him sing a Tears for Fears song, of all things, but he rocked it)
  • Train in the Distance
  • All She Wants to Do Is Dance
It was a fantastic evening. I thought I did a pretty good job of writing down the list of songs in the dark. I like to do that so I can put the songs into a playlist for my girls. They like Don Henley, too. 

The stage show was kept pretty simple: no pyrotechnics or crazy lights. There were several old radios hanging down from the ceiling, and before the show opened, a light would shine on one of them and a snippet of an old song would play. It was a snapshot of (popular) music history. It was fun to hear the crowd singing along with some of them when the music changed. The volume was at at a great level, too–loud enough so you couldn't hear anyone else singing, but not so loud that I couldn't hear when the show was over. I know, I know, "if it's too loud, I'm too old," but after years of sitting next to the drum line in my college marching band, and some rock concerts without ear plugs, I appreciate the hearing I have left, thanks.

There were three lovely young women singing backup, and they each performed one of the duets with him from the new album. They were amazing. I wish I could remember their names, because I'd tell you to listen for them on the music scene. I have to believe they have long careers ahead of them.

If anyone had asked my opinion before the concert began, I would have suggested they play more of his older stuff.  I'd have loved another Eagles song or two. However, he did sing "Heart of the Matter," which was really my only requirement (and it was all about ME - ha). Don showed, again, what a talented and versatile musician he is. He can do it all - country, rock, folk, blues, you name it.

A brief review of the album: this is a country record. It's much different than any of his previous solo work, but if you know much of the Eagles' music, there is a country feel to many of their songs. Don Henley grew up in Texas, and wanted to explore the musical history and culture there. There are many guest appearances, including Miranda Lambert, Mick Jagger (yes, you read that right), Merle Haggard, and others. I wasn't sure I liked the album at first, but it's growing on me. It helps that we saw the show, because now I have memories associated with most of the songs.

I'm so glad we got to go! I considered not posting this, because I thought, "this has nothing to do with homeschooling!" It does, though, because it reminds me that I have a life, and things I enjoy outside of my children. It's an important part of keeping myself sane. I do love to go to concerts. Do you? What's been your favorite show?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reviewsio: Great Opportunity for Bloggers!

I love Amazon. I love my Prime membership, and *love* that I can get most books I need in 2 days with that fabulous free shipping. As a homeschooler, that's been a lifesaver more than once. Also, as we live far away from family, it's the easiest way to send gifts. I am frequently surprised by what one can purchase from Amazon.

Now, they are launching a new review program: Reviewsio! Here's how it works: sellers know their business improves with positive reviews, their business improves. You browse the products available for review, and once you're approved for the review, you will receive a code that allows you to order the product from Amazon for a discount or FREE. In exchange for your review, you receive points which you can then redeem for Amazon gift cards.

I love writing reviews, and I love free stuff, so this sounds like a win-win to me. If you have a blog, I encourage you to check it out!

The link above is my affiliate link. I will receive Reviewsio points if you sign up through my link, but no other compensation. 

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

New Adventures

My family and I recently moved from North Carolina to Colorado. Lots of big changes! One of the things I'm most excited about is all the new nature study opportunities we have here. We've already seen some things that are brand new to us!

Today on the Year Round Homeschooling blog, check out my post on our very first new discoveries in Colorado.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Got Nature Study?

You know, sometimes homeschool moms need a little help getting started with new things. Nature study can seem a little intimidating at first - I know it did to me! Or, maybe you're in need of a more structured plan to keep things going when life gets busy.

Today over at Year Round Homeschooling, my post is a Nature Study Curriculum Roundup. I've collected a list of things you might find helpful, so do go over and check it out!

Friday, June 05, 2015

Guest Post at In All You Do

Today over at In All You Do, please check out my post that discusses how we use the Moravian Daily Texts in our homeschool for Bible study. It's part of the 30 Days of Bible series, and I encourage you to read along with us this month!