Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Winter Nature Study: Conifers

This post may contain affiliate links.

"Conifers" by They Might Be Giants

When we lived in North Carolina, my friend Sara led us through a nature study lesson on conifers (cone-bearing trees). To be honest, I thought of them all as "pine trees." Before I moved to the South, I called them evergreens, too. They are evergreens, but so are magnolias! I knew there were different kinds, of course; there were blue spruce trees, for example, because we had them as Christmas trees sometimes when I was growing up. I knew the Michigan state tree was the Eastern white pine, and that the loblolly pine is the state tree of North Carolina. I hadn't put much thought into the differences between different kinds of conifers, though. Between studying with Sara, and researching on my own, I learned a lot!

Because many of the conifers in North Carolina were the same ones I'd seen growing up in Michigan, I was familiar with them already and it wasn't too hard to determine their species. In Colorado, though, the trees are very different, and I'm still learning the specific kinds. As I was preparing for this post, I learned that there are TONS of kinds used in landscaping that aren't found in the wild, which means I won't necessarily be able to identify them with my tree books. Alas!

If you haven't done a general study of trees before, you might want to look into that a little bit as you begin looking at conifers. The Handbook of Nature Study has a great lesson on trees. I also have posts on the Year Round Homeschooling blog, about starting a tree study and studying trees in the winter time.

When we studied conifers specifically, we learned how to tell the difference between pine, spruce, and fir trees.

Pine trees are pretty simple: if the needles come off the branches in groups of 2 (red pines), 3 (yellow pines) or 5 (white pines), it is a pine tree. Spruce and fir trees have single needles that come directly off their branches.

 Pine trees tend to lose their lower branches, where firs and spruces keep them (unless they are pruned). When you look at a pine cone, its scales are tough and woody.

Telling the difference between spruces and firs takes a little more work. Here's a little cheat sheet: 

  • Needles are flat. If you pull one off and try to roll it between your fingers, it won't be easy to do. 
  • Fir needles grow directly onto the branch, so when they fall off, the branch is smooth.
  • Needles are four-sided, and will roll easily between your fingers.  
  • Needles are attached to small, woody projections on their branches, so the branches are bumpy. 
Spruce and fir cones have scales that are thin, almost papery.

Here are some pictures, so you can compare the branches:

I am not sure what kinds of pine trees I have there, but I believe the fir is a White Fir, because of the fissures left in the branch from the pitch pockets. The spruce branch is from a Colorado Blue Spruce that grows in my yard.

Look around and see what kinds of conifer trees you have nearby! Is there one you can study outside? If not, do you have a "real" Christmas tree in your house? If you do, it's probably a spruce or a fir tree. Can you tell which one it is? And, don't forget, you can easily make pine cone bird feeders to help out your feathered friends this winter!

The Handbook of Nature Study, my very favorite resource for nature study, has sections on the pine (recommending studying a white pine if possible), the Norway spruce, and the hemlock tree.

Over at Year Round Homeschooling today, I have a post about Christmas trees - a little history, some science ideas, and some craft ideas. Head over there and check it out! And, as my gift to you, please enjoy this free Conifer Copywork ebook. Put some of the quotes in your nature journal if you like.

Also, my friend Jennifer has a wonderful website called Advent Idea Box, with great information and resources for the Advent season.

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.

Thursday, October 15, 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!

Friday, May 22, 2015

REVIEW: Motivate Your Child Action Plan

A while back, I reviewed Motivate Your Child, an amazing book by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. I am thrilled to be a part of the launch team for their latest book, Motivate Your Child Action Plan!  The Action Plan stands alone as a great tool for parents, and of course, goes perfectly with what they share in Motivate Your Child.

The books published by the National Center for Biblical Parenting, including the Motivate Your Child Action Plan, advocate heart parenting. Parents are encouraged to address the heart of a child, rather than only their behavior, and to be proactive in helping them become the person God created them to be. This approach is necessarily unique to each child, because each child is so different.

Motivate Your Child Action Plan is designed to help parents find the steps to help their child work through things they need to change. This book is set up like a workbook, and helps you figure out exactly what you need to do to address an issue with a child. There isn't a lot of writing - there are places for you to write, if you'd like. I have more than one child and more than one issue to address, so I do any writing in a separate notebook. In fact, writing things down has been key for me, because I tend to forget easily what has been discussed, and if we are going to have a plan and I am going to be consistent with helping them work through the plan, I'm going to need a written record of it. I'd never thought about writing things like this down before, and it's been very helpful.

There are twelve chapters in the book, and they average approximately 10 pages each. Additionally, there are 12 audio recordings,  one to accompany each chapter - the download instructions are in the book. You will learn how to identify specific areas in your child's character that need to be addressed, and work with them to strategize ways they can make changes. I love that the focus is on having the parent and child work as a team. We're also encouraged to pray for and with our children, and meet with them throughout the process. It's so important to maintain that connection. Also, parents are encouraged to review how things are going as they work with their children, and make any adjustments to what they're doing as needed.

There is a great deal of wisdom throughout this entire book, but my favorite quote is this:
Don't confuse firmness with harshness. Firmness draws a line that says, "This is not optional." Harshness adds emotional intensity to show that you mean business. Harshness damages the relationship and isn't necessary. (64; ch. 5). 
That one section speaks directly to my heart. I have a hard time keeping harshness out of my tone. It's something I've worked hard on over the years, and the only way I made any progress was to turn it over to the Lord and let the Holy Spirit work in my heart. I see the same thing now in one of my children. We are talking about it, working on it together. In fact, I showed them that quote, and pointed out that they tend toward harshness, particularly in dealing with another sibling. They are learning to turn to God, too, and listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

As wonderful as my children are, I can see in each of them issues we need to address. I haven't been sure how to go about that. I am pretty good at seeing the big picture: I can generally see what needs to change. I'm often stymied, though, when it comes to figuring out exactly how to accomplish those changes. As they say, the devil is in the details, and I am not always good with the details. That's where this book comes in: it helps me think through each part of the process, and remember that change isn't going to happen overnight. I'm learning more about how to be the mother my children need. Thank you, Dr. Turansky and Mrs. Miller, for sharing your work.

Purchasing options: 

If you order the Motivate Your Child Action Plan book through the National Center for Biblical Parenting before May 31, 2015, you can get it for $29.95 - 25% off the regular price of the book.

If you don't have the Motivate Your Child book, yet, and you'd like to get it along with the MYC Action Plan, you can order them together for $36.99 and save 35%!

You can also purchase the ebook version of MYC Action Plan for $9.99 for Kindle, Nook and iBooks.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Motivate Your Child Action Plan GIVEAWAY!

I am thrilled to be part of the launch team for the Motivate Your Child Action Plan book release! I recently reviewed the book Motivate Your Child by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, which I loved, and this book is the companion volume, and is intended to walk parents through laying out a plan to work through issues with their children. My review is coming soon! In the meantime, be sure to enter the:

Motivate Your Child Action Plan Giveaway 

To celebrate the release of Motivate Your Child Action Plan, we are joining other members of the Launch Team in a wonderful giveaway filled with an iPod Touch, $50 iTunes Gift Card and several biblical parenting products! A value of nearly $350! Here's what you could win: 

Apple iPod touch 16GB Black/Silver  ($195 value)  

  • In the Box - iPod Touch, Apple EarPods, Lightning to USB cable, QuickStart guide
  • Brilliant 4 Retina display with Multi-Touch IPS technology
  • Front-Facing FaceTime camera with 1.2MP photos & 720p HD video recording.  
  • iOS 6 features - Siri, Apple Designed Maps, Integrated Facebook, Shared Photo Streams, Passbook & more

iTunes Gift Card ($50 value)

 Because you'll need apps and music for that iPod Touch!

The Christian Parenting Handbook and Companion Guide ($56.95 value) 

The Christian Parenting Handbook contains nuggets of parenting wisdom condensed into 50 short chapters, each one biblical, practical, and relevant for parents of children ages 2-18. Learn appropriate ways to correct, instruct, and set limits. Glean wisdom for dealing with emotions, conflict, and developing closeness in your family… and much more. These 50 strategies provide you with hands-on tools for parenting children of any age.  The Companion Guide is a workbook of 50 lessons along with 50 audio tips to take you through The Christian Parenting Handbook step by step. Each lesson contains advice from Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller in a 5 minute audio tip and then offers teaching, an assignment, a Bible verse, and a prayer to help you apply each idea or strategy in your family. The tips are available to you as MP3 downloads and access to them comes in the workbook.

Family Time Activities Book Bundle ($45 value)

Your kids will have fun learning about God's Word and how it applies to their lives. Science experiments, art activities, and games are all designed to reinforce spiritual truth. Each lesson is clear and simple, yet profound even for parents! You'll teach kids how exciting it is to learn about God and his ways. Your kids will love these books, but more importantly you'll build spiritual memories of Family Time in your home. Titles in this giveaway include: 

Enter the Giveaway using the Rafflecopter below! This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY to those 18 years of age or older. Void where prohibited by law.

Join us for the Action Plan Facebook Party on Wednesday, May 20 at 9:00PM ET. There will be even more prizes and giveaways there and the authors of Action Plan will be present to answer your questions! The winner of this giveaway will be announced at the Facebook party!

RSVP here for the Party! 

Action Plan Facebook Party

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Hearts for Home Blog Hop - March 5

It's time for the Hearts for Home Blog Hop!

The most clicked post from last week was My Little Pony Trays from Montessori Madness.

Some others you might enjoy:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hearts for Home Link Up - February 26

It's time for this week's Hearts for Home link up!

Last week's most clicked-on posts were:

Brush, Brush, Brush Our Teeth! from The Hoggatt Homeschool

Backyard Bird Watching from A Nest in the Rocks

And some other fun posts you might like:

Homeschooling Without a Printer from A Little R&R (Is that even possible?!?)

Create a Recipe Notebook from Day to Day Adventures (I'd like to do this with my girls)

Mexican Monday - Chimichanga Recipe from Apron Strings and Other Things (Always looking for good new Mexican recipes!)

    An InLinkz Link-up

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hearts for Home Linkup - February 19th

It's time for this week's Hearts for Home Linkup!

Last week's most clicked on post was the Handel composer study from Year Round Homeschooling!

Some fun posts from last week:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Knitting Class

Some friends of mine at our little book club asked me to teach them knitting, and I was honored to do so. I have never taught anyone to knit before, really, but lately I've noticed that I've been knitting long enough myself that I really understand how the stitches work, and what happens when you make them. It's pretty cool. Another ten years, and I might be ready to design a pattern! Ha!

I talked with my friend, the marvelous Mary, at my local knitting shop, and asked for tips. I thought I'd share them with you, in case you want to teach knitting, too!
  1. Cast on for your student(s), and have them practice the knit stitch, before teaching them to cast on. Brilliant tip, actually. The knitted cast on is just like knitting, but it's a little tricky when you're first learning. Once they are comfortable with the knit stitch, it's much easier for them to learn the cast on.
  2. Start with cheap yarn. Red Heart Super Saver is a good option. You can make several small things with one skein, and it's not a huge investment. You don't want to buy expensive yarn before you know if you will enjoy knitting. I start by teaching my students to knit a dish cloth. I make them with cotton yarn, usually Lily Sugar and Cream, because it's (a) fairly inexpensive and (b)goes on sale often and (c) is readily available at craft stores, and even Wal-Mart. However, Marvelous Mary told me that one can make a dish cloth using Red Heart, and it turns out more like a scrubbie. Red Heart comes in all kinds of garish bright colors, so you should be able to find something for just about everyone.
  3. Limit the number of students. Knitting is almost a one-on-one thing. It's hard to teach more than one brand-new student at a time, because you never know exactly what they will have trouble with and how you'll need to tweak the lesson. It's good to be able to sit with someone and watch what they're doing, so you can catch any errors before they become habits. I was fortunate to have one of my daughters who knows how to knit there with me, so she could help some of the other students. Also, two of the girls knew how to knit already (one just needed a little refresher) so that helped a lot.
  4. Teach students the rhymes for the knit stitch and the purl stitch:

I took pictures of the steps for the knit stitch rhyme, so I could show you:

Thank you to my lovely assistant, my daughter, for being the model. :-)

One thing I hadn't thought about ahead of time was the possibility of left-handed knitters. I had no fewer than three. You wouldn't think it would be such a big deal for either them to watch facing me, or for me to simply knit left-handed, but that was a real mind-bender for me. Even the poem came out incorrectly as I tried to teach them. I had Jack coming in through the window and out through the front door instead of the other way around. I am going to practice left-handed purling before our next session so I can teach it better.

I encouraged my students to practice every day,  just for 10 or 15 minutes. That's the best way to become comfortable with the stitch (just like anything else). When we get back together this month, they will learn the purl stitch. If we lived closer together, we would meet more often, and we might still try to do that, but our first meeting was at our monthly book club gathering and we didn't make plans for another time outside that. Meeting weekly would be ideal, but I live about 45 minutes from where our book club meets, so we'd definitely have to plan a get-together; it's not as simple as just meeting up locally.

The two students who were already comfortable with knitting started making small dish cloths. They used this pattern, which is a very common one and a great beginner's project. In addition to knitting practice, it teaches yarn overs and decreases. Those two were so funny! They knit like gangbusters so they could get the first half done, so I could show them how to decrease for the second half before they had to go on to their other class.

I haven't quite decided what we're going to do next. Knit Picks has their 52 weeks of free dish cloth patterns (something for both knitters and crocheters), and I think it might be just the ticket for our little group. Dish cloths are small, manageable projects, and they would have the opportunity to learn several different patterns that way. I've had a request to learn to make a headband, too, so that's a possibility. I'll keep you posted on our progress.

Here's my group:

Aren't they great? :-)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Winter Eden

We've had some cold weather lately, and I know some parts of the country are getting snow dumped on them. I found this poem by Robert Frost and thought it might inspire some positive thoughts about our wintry weather. 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Pizza Bible: Learn to Make Great Pizza!

This post contains affiliate links.

I love pizza. At my house, we have pizza for dinner almost every Friday night. Sometimes we get to order out, and I love that, because I don't have to cook. However, most of the time, I make the pizza, so I'm always on the lookout for good recipes, tips and tricks. sent me a copy of The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani for review, and I'm excited to try out his methods. He owns seven restaurants, co-owns the International School of Pizza in San Francisco, and has been making pizza for 20 years. I'd say he's qualified to teach people how to make good pizza!

When the box with my book arrived, I had no idea what was in it. It was heavy! I thought, "Wow! The only things I'm expecting are a couple of books to review. What on earth is this?" It was my Pizza Bible. Goodness. I'd be tempted to get the Kindle version of this one, because it's a monster. On the other hand, it's a beautiful book with fabulous pictures, including instruction images. As a visual learner, I appreciate the photos, and while I know they'd still be there in an ebook, I like having this cookbook in my hands, big as it is. The one issue I have, aside from the weight of the book, is that the cover is made of porous paper. If I spill something on it when I'm working in the kitchen, it will most certainly stain the book and I won't be able to wipe it off. I don't like that.

Mr. Gemignani has assembled an impressive collection of recipes in his cookbook.  He has regional American, Chicago style (both deep-dish and cracker-thin), Sicilian, California style, Napoletana, regional Italian, global, grilled, wrapped and rolled, and focaccia and bread pizza recipes. I have to believe there is something in here that everyone will like!

I am personally most excited about the "Detroit Red Top" recipe, which is the style made at Buddy's Pizza, our favorite pizza place in Dearborn, Michigan (where my husband grew up). I have two blue steel pans on order and am anxiously awaiting their arrival so I can try my hand at making some!

Tony discusses three things that help you make great pizza : ingredients, tools, and time. The most surprising thing to me? He says pizza dough needs to rise slowly, in the refrigerator, for 36-48 hours. That's going to require some significant changes in my pizza-making routine. I guess I will have to schedule dough making on Wednesday if we want to have it for dinner on Friday.

If you're interested in learning to make great pizza, you have to give this cookbook a try!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. I am disclosing this information in accordance with FTC regulations.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Book Review: Motivate Your Child

This post contains affiliate links.

You know, this parenting gig is a lot more challenging than I ever thought it would be. Have you ever felt that way? I have often wondered why children don't come with some kind of manual. You hear people joke about it, but it's so true! When my first child was born, I was SO thankful I'd taken a parenting class - I would have had no idea that babies need to eat every hour or two. That was just the beginning of my ignorance.

As my girls began to get older, I learned that I was a "yeller." I saw fear in my children's eyes when I was angry, which was far too often. I didn't like being a yeller much, and worked hard to change that about myself. I had to learn that my anger was a choice. It sure didn't feel like one, after years of responding habitually with anger.

When we first started homeschooling, I was blessed beyond measure to "meet" Joanne Miller through a homeschooling message board, and she, along with some other wonderful ladies, set me on the road to heart parenting. Let me tell you, this has not been an easy journey for me. It's not at all the way I was raised. However, having seen the results of punitive parenting, I know this is a much better way. I was thrilled to be given the chance to review Motivate Your Child, a brand-new book by Mrs. Miller and Dr. Scott Turansky.

This book teaches parents about the conscience, and how to develop it in their children.  Through narrative - stories - you will find lots of ways to teach and encourage your children to be responsible, caring people of integrity. It took a long time to read it, because I made a lot of notes! I especially appreciate the Scripture references, because even though they were all familiar to me, I realized it would be good to have my children memorize them, and be able to remind them of pertinent ones.

Although I don't want to parent using behavioral modification, I find myself falling back on it because it's what I know. Get on electronics during school time? I will take them away. That's much easier than teaching responsibility. However, it doesn't take long to see that it only works when I'm available to supervise, and what happens when they're out of the house and on their own? They need to learn to be responsible for themselves.

My kids are some pretty fabulous people. When we are at church, for example, they work hard, and do so without being asked. At home tends to be a different story. I need some help getting them to take responsibility for what they should do, and to do things without being asked. I can definitely see some areas in their characters that need some work. This book gives great guidance in how to work on those things.

Heart parenting comes down to this: As a parent, I have to set a good example, and be willing to engage with my children. I have to keep working on being who God made me to be, in order to teach them to be the people God has created them to be. This has not been easy - I realized through reading this book just how selfish, and, frankly, lazy, I have allowed myself to become. It's much easier to address a behavior than the heart issue behind it. I'm changing my own habits, and that can be hard, but it's very much worth it. I've already seen positive results in my children. When I do what I need to do, they are much more willing do what they need to do. I want them to do the right thing because it IS the right thing, not just because I say so. I've wished often to know how to bring that about, and this book is helping tremendously.

Motivate Your Child is available on Amazon, $12.45 for a printed book and $9.78 for Kindle. And, if you purchase a book before January 31, 2015, you can email your receipt to and receive $150 in FREE parenting resources from the National Center for Biblical Parenting! This book is a fabulous tool for any parent. I encourage you to check it out.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Potluck With A Twist

This post contains affiliate links.

I love potluck meals. Our little church is full of the most fabulous cooks. I love it when there's going to be a "covered dish," because I know everyone brings their specialty dishes. Church ladies are the best, aren't they?

I was intrigued by this new cookbook I received to review: The Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook (available from Amazon in hardcover or ebook). The cover says it contains "150 Seasonal Southern Recipes." How could I turn it down? The author, Nancy Vienneau, is a local food activist, has a food blog, and  participates in a community potluck meal on the third Thursday of the month. In her cookbook, she's assembled favorite recipes from her unique group, using seasonal food.

This is a beautiful cookbook. From the pictures of beautiful food to the layout to the text, it's simply lovely to pore over and ponder the recipes. There are appetizers, main dishes, meat dishes, vegan dishes, and gift ideas. There's even a flourless cake! Truly, there is something for everyone in this varied, interesting collection of recipes.

I decided, as it's January, to try one of the January recipes: Tomato and Mozzerella Strata. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, and while the dish didn't turn out quite as it was supposed to, I'm pretty sure it was user error and not the fault of the recipe. It was not a quick dish to make, although it wasn't complicated; definitely something I'd make for a gathering (such as a potluck!) rather than just for lunch at home.

I'm going to try the Indian Potato and Onion Curry next - doesn't that sound delicious? I finally have some urad dal and can't wait to make that for my family. We love Indian food, but there's no Indian restaurant where we live, so I've been learning to make it. I'm always on the lookout for good recipes, and this one sounds great!

If you're in the market for a cookbook with some tasty, unique recipes using whole foods, definitely look at this one. I don't believe you'll be disappointed!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Want to Learn About Companion Planting?

I love to garden. I mostly love to plant flowers, but I've recently become interested in growing my own vegetables, too. I've heard a lot about companion planting, and have been interested to learn more about it.

Enter: The Mix And Match Guide to Companion Planting by Josie Jeffrey. I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books, in exchange for my honest review.

In the first part of this book, there is some basic information on companion planting, along with how to use the book, as well as basic botany and gardening information. If you're completely new to gardening, this book would give you a good start.

Remember those mix-and-match books you had as a child, with characters split into three parts, and you could make a wrestler look like a ballerina with a duck head? That's how this book works. There are three sections: Aboveground Companion, Central Crop, and Belowground Companion. There are 25 plants in each section, arranged in alphabetical order: certainly not every plant you'll ever put in your garden, but plenty to get you started learning about companion planting. First, you choose your Central Crop, and then look for plants that will play nicely with it in your garden. Each central crop card has a row of colored dots across the top, and a row across the bottom. By matching those dots with cards above and below, hopefully I will find good plant pairings.

For example, let's say I want to plant turnips. As I flip through the top and bottom sections, I learn that rosemary is said to go well with brassicas (turnips are a brassica), so that would make a good aboveground companion. I also find that peas are good companions for turnips, so I could plant peas as a belowground companion. According to the handy-dandy key in the front of the book, rosemary attracts pollinating insects, turnips repel pests and deter soil pests, and peas can help increase the health of other plants, increase the yield of other plants, and improve the soil. Of course, turnips being root crops, and knowing that rosemary grows into a shrub and peas can be quite tall, I will have to be careful about arranging them together, but they should make a nice garden combination.

Overall, I'd say this is a nice beginning guide to companion planting. It's a fun book to help you pass the winter weeks as you plan your garden for spring!

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own. I'm disclosing this information in accordance with FTC regulations.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Motivate Your Child GIVEAWAY

I have the privilege of being a part of the launch team for a new parenting book that's just coming out, called Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent's Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need To Do Without Being Told. I am learning a lot from this book. It's all about "heart parenting" - addressing a child's heart rather than just their behavior. It's something I have wanted to learn for a long time, but just couldn't quite figure it out. I'm finally beginning to understand.

To celebrate the release of Motivate Your Child,  members of the Launch Team are sharing a wonderful giveaway filled with a Go Pro Camera, $50 Mardel Gift Card, $25 Amazon Gift Card, and book bundles from both the National Center for Biblical Parenting and Thomas Nelson Publishing! Three winners will win prizes with a total value of nearly $800!

  motivate your child giveaway

Here’s what you could win: 

GRAND PRIZE  ($500+ value)

Go Pro HERO3+ Silver Camera ($300 value)

HERO3+ Silver captures gorgeous, professional-quality 1080p60 video and 10MP photos at speeds of up to 10 frames per second. Built-in Wi-Fi enables you to use the GoPro App to control the camera remotely, preview shots and share your favorites on Facebook, Twitter and more. Compatible with all GoPro mounts, you can wear it or attach it to your gear for immersive POV footage of your favorite activities. It’s waterproof to 131’ (40m) and built tough for all of life’s adventures. Combined with stunning low-light performance, high-performance audio and an ultra wide-angle glass lens, HERO3+ Silver makes capturing and sharing your life easier than ever.  

NCBP Book Bundle ($115 value)

The Christian Parenting Handbook  and Companion Guide
Parenting is Heart Work God's Awesome Story
Hero Training Camp Children's Curriculum

Thomas Nelson Book Bundle ($90 value):

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst
Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson
Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine
All Pro Dad by Mark Merrill
The Passionate Mom by Susan Merrill 


FIRST PRIZE ($165 value)

$50 Mardel Gift Card

NCBP Book Bundle ($115 value):

The Christian Parenting Handbook and Companion Guide
Parenting is Heart Work God's Awesome Story
Hero Training Camp Children's Curriculum


SECOND PRIZE ($115 value)

$25 Amazon Gift Card

Thomas Nelson Book Bundle ($90 value):

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst
Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson
Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine
All Pro Dad by Mark Merrill
The Passionate Mom by Susan Merrill

To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. 

Giveaway dates: January 12, 2015 @12:00am ET through January 28, 2015 @ 11:59pm ET

Terms and Conditions: This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age. This giveaway is in no away associated with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Amazon. No purchase necessary for entry. Odds are determined by the number of entries. Selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prize or another winner will be drawn.


Youngpreneur Program Open - TODAY ONLY!

Shirley Solis is a homeschooling mom and businesswoman with a heart for building strong families, and equipping children to be independent with solid life skills. Several of her children have their own businesses!

She has developed a great program called "Youngpreneur" that will give your children a  young start in business and help them develop solid marketing skills. If you have a child who would be interested in something like this, PLEASE check it out! As I type this, there are only about four hours left to sign up. It's an investment of only $37!

Friday, January 09, 2015

She's Just Away

A dear friend of mine, Elyse, passed away this week.

Wow, that's hard to write. It makes it seem more real, somehow. Living three hours away from her, it's much nicer to pretend it's not true.

She had a brain tumor. She learned of it 10 years ago, right after her youngest child was born. It was inoperable, and she went through a lot of chemo and other treatments to try to get rid of it, or at least keep it under control. It finally got the best of her physical form, but her spirit never wavered.

She was such a beautiful soul. She had an amazing smile, and it was always peeking out of her eyes. She was a homeschooling mama of five, and I wonder what they will do without her? I remember her telling me that people often advised her to put her children in school, but she kept them home, because she didn't know how much time she had and she didn't want to miss any of it with them.

She was one of the first friends I made who introduced me to Charlotte Mason. She told me she wished she had been educated with Mason's principles, and wanted to be sure her children were. She led book clubs and taught other people, because she believed passionately in a living education.

I want to share a poem with you. It's called "Away" by James Whitcomb Riley. I saw bits of it on headstones at the cemetery in Old Salem, on the graves of men I would guess were soldiers killed during World War II.

I cannot say, and I will not say
That he is dead–. He is just away!

With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand
He has wandered into an unknown land,

And left us dreaming how very fair
It needs must be, since he lingers there.

And you– O you, who the wildest yearn
For the old-time step and the glad return–,

Think of him faring on, as dear
In the love of There as the love of Here;

And loyal still, as he gave the blows
Of his warrior-strength to his country's foes–.

Mild and gentle, as he was brave–,
When the sweetest love of his life he gave

To simple things–: Where the violets grew
Blue as the eyes they were likened to,

The touches of his hands have strayed
As reverently as his lips have prayed:

When the little brown thrush that harshly chirred
Was dear to him as the mocking-bird;

And he pitied as much as a man in pain
A writhing honey-bee wet with rain–.

Think of him still as the same, I say:
He is not dead– he is just away!

-James Whitcomb Riley

The first three stanzas bring Elyse to my mind, particularly the bit about the cheerful smile and wave. In my mind's eye, I see her beautiful, mysterious smile, eyes lit with joy as she sees heaven waiting, and she lifts her hand to wave as she steps beyond the veil. I know I will see her again, but in the meantime, I will miss her so very much. She is not dead–she's just away–and I know heaven rejoices in having her, for surely she is as dear there as she was here. Farewell, my friend.