Thursday, September 30, 2010

Home and Kitchen Organization

When I posted about our school notebooks a couple weeks ago. I mentioned that I had also made one for the kitchen/home. I'm FINALLY getting around to posting the details about that. Several years ago I set up a "household notebook" with recipes, home information etc. BUT it was a 3 ring binder, and I just do not like 3 ring binders. I like the convenience, but not the bulk. And I was never good about keeping it up to date. Now that I have my handy dandy pro-click binding system, AND the awesome 2010 Schoolhouse Planner I decided it was a good time to make a new kitchen notebook. I started out to just have it be a recipe book, but then, it occurred to me that w/o the bulk of the 3 ring binder, this would be a great place to keep other forms that people might need to find if I wasn't around, and such. So, I turned it back into a household binder of sorts.

I decided since this will be in the kitchen when we're cooking, to just put everything in page protectors. That way I don't have to worry about spills.

At  some point I might decide to make a pretty cover of somesort, but for now, the cover is the Kitchen Conversion Cheat Sheet from the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner  This is so handy to have easily accessible, when you're cooking. Especially if you're like me and often want to double or halve a recipe.

The next pages are also out of the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner. The first is a page (not shown) is a page of important phone numbers. Next are 2 pages of family health information (the pink is just because our printer was acting up). I hadn't filled it out yet when I took the pictures, but it includes insurance information, doctor & dentist information, etc. *I* may not use this information often, the phone #s are already in my phone and such, but I figure these pages (the phone numbers and the health information) could be helpful to a babysitter or the girls if I was hurt, or whatever. Just good to have it all in one place, easy to find.

Next in the book is a garden planning checklist. This one I plan to use IN the page protector and mark things off with a wet erase (overhead projector) marker. That way I can re-use it from year to year. I also included a page for "Our Pet's Health Log" to keep track of the cats' health information (something I was never good about doing for our dog, figure this way I have a fighting chance LOL). And a general To-Do List. Not sure how often I'll use this, but getting ready for a specific event or something, I can use this with a wet erase marker and have it handy.

Family Chore Chart is a cool form I found in the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner. I was able to personalize it across the top with all of our names, and then the days of the week are down the left side. I wrote our normal chores on the paper itself (I could have typed them in like I did the names, but was in a hurry to get everything printed and didn't think of that. Besides, I'm weird, and kind of like handwriting things sometimes LOL) and then use a wet erase marker for chores specific to any given week. The girls still have their small portable chore charts, but this is something to refer to when they forget them, and keeps everything in one place. The other page in this picture is a Food Inventory Log. I haven't filled this out yet, but it gives space to keep track of what is in the pantry & freezer. My thought with this is to write the basics straight on the paper and then write amounts, and unusual items on the page protector with a wet erase marker. But my pantry & freezer are such a mess it will be quite the job, someday I'll get around to it, until then, the page is there reminding me, hee hee.

The last planner pages I used were Weekly Menu Planners.  I included 5 of these. We've been traveling so much that I haven't done anything with them yet. But my plan is to use them for regular menu planning. If I'm including a recipe that I know we all like, I'll write that on the paper, if I'm trying new recipes, I'll write it on with a wet erase marker. Over time, I hope to have 5 weeks of pre-planned menus, then I can just take a week, and go over it with a wet erase marker and change anything specific to that week (meals we won't be home, or whatever). Easy-Peasy. Since I'll also have all the recipes in this same book it means that if I were sick and someone else was staying with the girls, they could take over the menu planning with almost no effort & have meals the girls & dh will eat.

The last section of the book is the actual recipes. I'm just typing these in Word. I have them by category (Breakfast, bread, etc) and am including the recipes that we use frequently.

This book was so handy to have for our Williamsburg trip. We stayed in a friend's timeshare so had a kitchen and were able to make most of our meals. So nice to just grab this book and bring it along and I had all the recipes I needed for the meals we had planned.

On a related note, I wanted to mention that TOS has just launched a whole line of STUDENT Planners. Since we already had the girls' school notebooks made for this year, and they don't do much independent work at this point, I opted not to get one this year, but these look like great products, I suspect we'll be getting it as the girls get older. You can see them here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy 70th Anniversary Grandma & Grandpa!!!!

This weekend my grandparents celebrated their 70th anniversary! Needless to say, this was cause for celebration!

We enjoyed a weekend with extended family, and on Sunday we had a reception at the church. It was nice to see friends and family we don't get to see often (and those we do).

The big girls really stepped up this weekend and were great helpers.  I'd warned them in advance, that Mama (my mom) was going to be busy and wouldn't have time to play with them. We also talked about how, sometimes things they could normally help with, when people are in a hurry it's most helpful to stay out of the way when grownups can do a job faster. And they did great! They offered to help often, but were accepting when told no. They played by themselves when asked, watched Little Bit when asked . . . I was SOOO proud of how well they did during a chaotic weekend when they got way too little sleep (lots of people making lots of noise way past their bedtimes. I believe it is completely unfair to ask children to try to go to sleep in a house full of people talking loudly, so didn't even try).

Little Bit did well too, I was at least able to help mom with all the extra work part of the time, while she either played with toys (the travel aqua doodle has been a HUGE hit! I had to laugh at how often some of the grown-ups would stop and draw a quick picture on it LOL), or played with the big girls, or sat on some relative's lap and "talked" to them.

By the end of the weekend I could tell the lack of sleep was really getting to Little Bit (naps were hard to catch with all the activity and, like her sisters, bedtime happened later than usual because of all the people still there late into the evening. Whereas her sisters WOULD eventually have fallen asleep despite the noise, and if they'd been showing signs of being over-tired, I would have insisted that they go to bed anyway, Little Bit is such a light sleeper that it would have been pointless to even try to put her to bed until the house quieted down).

Anyway . . . the celebration was nice. Mom & Dad had put HOURS (and HOURS and HOURS) into putting together a power point slide show of pictures starting with my grandfather's grandparents! (yes, the date on that picture was in the mid-1800s!) down to present. In addition to the "fiddly" aspect of anything like that, resizing and cropping pictures, putting them in order, etc. they also had to scan alot of them, which is also fiddly & time consuming .BUT it was SO worth it!! People LOVED the slide show and perhaps best of all, I think Grandpa (who is extremely hard of hearing and often doesn't enjoy large gatherings because it's so noisy he can't hear anyone/anything) really enjoyed not only seeing all the old pictures, but sitting near it and talking to people about the pictures, and the people in the pictures.

Some of MY favorite pictures from the power point included a picture of Grandpa's father & his twin brother when they were probably 2, sitting together posed for a formal picture in their cute little dresses that little boys wore back then. So cute to see some of the other twins in our family LOL. There was also a picture of Grandma's father (I think it was) at about age 10, with long ringlet curls, dressed in old fashion knee britches or whatever they were. So fun! When we were showing the pictures to my grandparents (and other family who were around) on Sabbath afternoon, it was funny, Grandma had been very frustrated, when Mom had been pulling pictures together because she knew she had a picture SOMEWHERE of herself when she graduated from nursing school, and it would have "coordinated" nicely with a formal picture of grandpa at about that age. But she couldn't find it. However, a scanned copy of that picture was included in a bunch of scanned pictures that Mom & Dad got from Grandma's sister (I think it was). So they had the picture in the slide show. We had just seen the one of Grandpa and Grandma was telling us how frustrated she was that she couldn't find the one of her, when it popped up on the screen, the look on her face was priceless!

During the program, I got Lina's Aqua Doodle out for her, and, since at that time people were kind of everywhere, just sat her right down in the corner (under the piano) where I'd stashed the diaper bag. Thought it made a cute picture LOL.

In addition to tons of yummy food at the celebration, my uncle and 2 of my cousins sang a song, and several of people got up and talked about their memories of Grandma and Grandpa and things they appreciate about them.

And of course cake! (that's the picture up at the top).

After everything was over, the girls were, again, a great help cleaning up, loading stuff into the cars, and then unloading when we got home. Dad's Yukon XL was FULL of stuff, and the girls, my Dad, and my mom's cousin pretty much unloaded ALL of it! (I helped when I could, but Little Bit was pretty clingy by then. Mom was busy directing where to put stuff once we brought it in).

Anytime we are at my parents' house we walk out to my grandparents' house a few times while we're there (they live on Mom & Dad's property, so the "road" is just their driveway). During one of our walks out there this weekend, I snapped this picture of Little Bit running ahead, isn't it cute?!?

Another cute Little Bit story from this weekend, when we were all sitting around visiting, Little Bit was on Papa's lap playing with his phone. He decided to have some fun, so called my phone and had me answer. The look on Little Bit's face when she heard my voice on the phone (and across the room, but with enough delay (since both were cell phones) that she heard it both places distinctly) was PRICELESS!! We all got a kick out of it! It occurred to me that, while she "talks" on the phone quite often (takes one of our cell phones, holds it to her ear and "talks"), she's never actually "talked on the phone" when there was someone on the other end. So funny!

So, all in all a great weekend! My grandparents seemed to have a really good time. It was nice seeing people we don't get to see often ,and the girls all handled it beautifully.

Weekly Wrap-Up - September 26

Yes, I know I'm a couple days late . . . it was a busy weekend (but more on that later).

Last week we got home from Williamsburg and turned around and went to Sesame Place the next day. Yes, we're gluttons for punishment, but some friends from church had free tickets and asked if we wanted to go with them since they knew we had season passes.  I knew the girls were really disappointed that they hadn't gotten to go on Ernie's Bed Bounce (a big moon bounce) the last time we were there, since it has an age limit of 7 or under, so this summer is their last year going on that. So, we decided to go.

It was a great day!! The girls were excited to "show Ethan the park" so were willing to think about what he would like not just what they like (Ethan is 3 1/2). Penny (the mom) doesn't do well with spinning rides and pretty much all the non-water rides are spinning, so she & I sat with the babies in the shade while her husband took Ethan & the big girls (who don't need an adult with them) on the rides. Rodney either went with them, or stayed with us depending on where they were going. It was fun to relax in the shade and visit with Penny while the kids had fun.

After lunch the little ones needed naps so the daddies took the nap-shift and Penny & I took the big kids (the big girls and Ethan) on the water rides. I'd been concerned that it would be crowded on a Sunday, but it wasn't (it's not open during the week this time of year). We had a great time!! Little Bit woke up in time to get in on the tail end of the water fun. She was so funny, when Rodney brought her in and handed her to me near one of the big wading pools, she immediately started pointing at it and signing "water", she was so anxious to get in the water. So we quickly changed into a swim diaper and she had a blast.

So that was the start of last week. Then we dove into the job of getting back to normal life LOL.  Laundry of course (though having a washer & dryer in the condo in Williamsburg made that not AS big a job as it otherwise would have been).  And putting things away. And doing school.   I decided with extra chores (and knowing that we were going to be gone AGAIN this past weekend) it was a good week to skip copywork, much to the girls' delight LOL.


While we were in Williamsburg, the girls saw and fell in love with lap harps and we had one from way back when we were doing a Waldorf preschool program. But it had gotten stuck in a closet and I'd kind of forgotten about it. So we got that out and the girls are loving it! It's at least giving them a taste of "playing an instrument" without dealing with a learning curve.

Also while we were in Williamsburg I received the second license I was waiting on for the typing program we're reviewing, so now both girls are busy learning to type. They are loving it!

So that was our "extras" in school this week.

I also had some tomatoes that our neighbor had given us just before we left for Williamsburg, so I needed to use those. I stopped at a local farm stand and was able to buy several lbs of  tomato "seconds". Nothing wrong with them, they just needed to be used soon. So I got them, combined them with the tomatoes I had from the neighbor, and we cooked up a big batch of tomato soup. We ate some for lunch (both girls liked it, whew!). And then after lunch, we canned the rest of it (4 qts.).  So now we can have tomato soup this winter too, woo-hoo!

Also on the cooking front, I tried a couple other recipes that were a good hit. We made cornmeal mush for breakfast one morning, and both girls liked it (confession time, the girls don't think they like cornmeal mush, so we made "breakfast polenta" instead LOL . . . they liked it, so it worked!). I also tried a new recipe, Crockpot Lentils & Rice one night when hubby was working late (he claims he doesn't like lentils, though I may try this sometime when he's home & see what he thinks). It was SOOO easy!! and SOOO cheap!!! and SOOOO healthy!!! . . . and the girls gobbled it up!! And asked for more. So that'll be a frequent meal, at least when Daddy's not going to be home!

Friday we headed to my parents' house for my grandparents' 70th anniversary celebration, I'll write about that in it's own post.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: Schleich

Perhaps of all the vendors I saw listed on the possible reviews for this year's TOS Crew, the one that I was the most excited to see was Schleich animals! I first discovered Schleich animals when the twins were toddlers. A moms group I was involved with, was doing a group buy, to combine shipping and generally get a lower price, so I tried a few. I LOVED them! Loved their quality, and the detail. However, the twins weren't very into them, so we didn't get any more.  Then Little Bit came along. She liked them! She has a thing for putting things in & out of containers, and lining them up and such, and little animals are perfect for that. So finally, our Schleich animals were getting some love. And THEN we got our oh-so-exciting box of animals to review!

I had wonderful intentions of setting up a cute scene with the animals we got specific for the review, and taking nice pictures, but as soon as we opened the box, they started migrating all over the house. And then we went on a trip, and handing Little Bit an animal at a time was a great way to keep her occupied in the car, but it meant that many animals migrated to various nooks and crannies throughout the car, and suddenly, this review is due and trying to pull together JUST the ones we got for the review seems impossible. So, I'm not going to try. I'm going to show you pictures of Schliech animals, some from the batch we got for the review, some that we already had, and some (er . . . many)  that we've gotten SINCE we got that box to review.

Because you see, NOW the big girls think they're great too! And we needed a good incentive to get them back on track for doing chores without a million reminders after all our traveling this summer, and so, Schleich animals became the currency of choice. And while I was ordering animals for the big girls, I ordered more for Little Bit because, did I mention she LOVES them? (and I LOVE them!).

I believe these animals (at least some of them) ARE marked for age 3+ I assume this is because some are small enough to be choking hazards and little ones chewing on them could mess up the hand-painted detail (that's right, did you know these are HAND painted? I didn't! So cool!). However, Little Bit (18 mo) LOVES them! She likes all of them, but I've found the small ones (baby animals and little animals like frogs (see the one in her hand?) and such) to be lovely for their versatility and portability. I keep a small bag of them (whichever ones I happen to grab that day, mixing them up keeps them more interesting too) in the diaper bag. These are some well-traveled animals.  In addition to their weekly trips to church in the church bag (where they often become a favorite with many of the children who sit near us), they visited Colonial Williamsburg with us. Little Bit and I spent a good part of the time that big sisters and Daddy were attending a "trial" at the court house taking the animals out of a bag, lining them up on a bench, putting them back IN the bag, and then doing it all over again . . .

The animals also came to Sesame Place with us this past weekend. A nice table in the shade was a lovely place to line them up over and over again while big sisters were off riding rides.
Schleich animals are available from various online sites, including Amazon. They are also available at most Target stores and I've been told they are sold at Farm and Tractor Supply (we don't have one near us, but there's one near my parents, so we might have to go check that out when we're down there next). The Schleich website includes a store locator. Prices vary.  In most cases the small animals start in the $2 range and as the animals get bigger, the prices go up. But the quality, compared to discount store plastic animals, makes the higher prices absolutely worth it!

When we received our box of animals to review, in addition to a bunch of more common animals (horse, pony, elephant calf, piglet, donkey, and probably others I'm forgetting) it included an Okapi, a Gnu, and a Gnu calf, so we started out right away with "learning" by pulling out our big animal book and learning about these less common (at least in our experience) animals. 

When the big girls started "earning" additional animals for doing chores without being asked, they both decided they wanted to focus on farm animals. It's given us an opportunity to discuss some of the considerations in farming . . . stallions don't get along with other stallions (and yes, these animals are anatomically correct, the girls quickly figured out how to tell which of their horses were male and which were female), so that's a consideration. We also discussed the fact that a cow doesn't give milk until she has a calf, and why that is. So it's led to some great discussions, even if we haven't "officially" used the animals for school.

I also can see, as Little Bit gets older, the potential for using them as math counters, and to learn about animals and who knows what else . . .
I highly recommend these to anyone with animal-lover kids! They're open-ended toys that encourage imaginative play, portable, good quality . . . what's not to love? 

Not to mention, the "play worlds" that we haven't even talked about . . . there's a whole "world" of knights and castles and princesses, for those who enjoy that era. There's also a "frontier" play world and a play world full of fairies and related stuff.  One of the animals A2 chose when we ordered animals (I let them each choose several but they don't GET them until they earn them with the chores thing), is a Pegasus and it is SOO pretty!! It seriously looks ceramic! I'm not sure how she plans to incorporate it into her "farm" but that's her problem, hee hee.  Oh an SMURFS!!! Remember smurfs? Those little blue things, 3 apples high . . . they're still around! And Schleich has a whole playworld FULL of them! So fun!

AND, when I went onto the Schleich website in preparation for writing this review, I discovered that they also have ONLINE games and coloring pages and all kinds of fun stuff! Who knew!!

Disclaimer: I received a sampling of Schleich animals in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Salem Ridge Press Review

Salem Ridge Press is a wonderful publishing company dedicated to bringing back some of the wholesome old living books of the 1800's and early 1900's. I have to admit, I've drooled over their site many times, so I was very excited to receive some of their books.

We were sent Soldier Fritz plus 2 e-books, The American Twins of the Revolution and Mary Jane, Her Visit these books are in the $10-$13 range for the soft cover books.

As we started to read the American Twins book, I realized to my delight, that this was a book by an author that I LOVED as a child. Lucy Fitch Perkins wrote a whole bunch of books about boy-girl twins from all different countries, and when I was a child, I read every one our library had, and LOVED them. I don't remember if I ever read this one or not, but I'm thrilled that this great series is available again for my children to read (and who are we kidding, for me to re-read too!).

Salem Ridge Press is unique (in my experience anyway), in that they make slight edits to both the text and pictures of the books they reprint. These edits keep the books in keeping with good, conservative Christian values, editing out kissing (I assume outside of marriage?), rude dialog, and immodesty and such in pictures. My children are just starting to read books on their own, as long as we were doing all read-alouds, I didn't worry too much, I could "edit" the books as needed while reading them, whether it was changing "millions of years ago" to "thousands of years ago" or skipping over inappropriate scenes, BUT now they're starting to read on their own, I can't begin to tell you what it means to me to know that I don't have to worry about any of that with books from Salem Ridge Press.

The descriptions of the books include a recommended age range and I found that to be pretty accurate for my kids.  Those that are listed for age 8+ required more explanation from me, which is fine, and seems in keeping with being geared for kids a little older than my 7 yr olds. Which reminds me of another great feature of these books!! When the books use unfamiliar language (because of being older books, some terms naturally aren't still used), the editors have included a definition on the same page where the word appears. So convenient to just glance down to the bottom of the page to see what it means, I LOVE that!!!

I was pleased with the quality of the books. They had a nice number of  black and white pictures scattered throughout and the physical book we received seemed to be a good quality paper and as sturdy as would be expected of a paperback book. Obviously, these aren't intended to be handed over to toddlers, but it didn't feel "cheap" to me.

We used these books as read-alouds at bedtime. Which is our main read-aloud time. Our whole family enjoyed the stories (well, Little Bit (18 mo) wasn't overly impressed, but that's to be expected, hee hee). In our house full of girls, DH enjoyed that these weren't as blatantly "girly" as alot of the read-alouds we choose LOL.  The girls enjoyed them, and generally begged for "just one more chapter" I must admit, I obliged them whenever time allowed, because *I* wanted to hear more too, LOL.  We were reading one of the books during a recent trip with my parents, and my dad commented that they might have to stay an extra couple of days so they could hear the rest of the story, so guess the stories appeal to all ages quite well.

This review was written for the TOS Crew.

I received the products mentioned above in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received, my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review: Homestead Blessings - The Art of Cooking

In a world where homemaking skills are, at best, ignored, and too often ridiculed and looked down upon, I love that the West Ladies of Homestead Blessings, are spreading their love and knowledge of so many wonderful homemaking topics!

My daughters, especially A2, LOVE learning about cooking and working in the kitchen, so when Franklin Springs Family Media gave me the choice of which of the Homestead Blessings videos to review, choosing The Art of Cooking seemed like the logical choice.

We received our video a few days before we were scheduled to leave for our week in Williamsburg, but despite all the preparations we were in the middle of, I couldn't wait to sit down and watch the video with the girls.  The West Ladies are so personable! Watching their video is like sitting in the kitchen chatting with them while they cook. I also have to admit, I was fascinated by all the things they have hanging on the wall behind them, I could watch it over and over just to see all the interesting things on that wall, hee hee.

As I was watching the video, I thought . . . this is great, but I wish they gave me the complete recipe(s) on one screen so I could pause it and write it down. But then, when we were ready to try a recipe and I went looking, I found something even better, you can put the DVD in your computer and there is a .pdf of the recipes!! Woo-hoo, no copying required, just print it out and you're good to go (though some of the simpler recipes aren't included, but that's ok. What a great idea!!!

We didn't have alot of time that week for extra cooking, and now that we're home, we're trying to catch up on laundry and stuff, so STILL haven't had alot of time for anything beyond the bare minimum of cooking, but we did get to try a few recipes before we left for Williamsburg.  What I was the most excited about was their tomato soup recipe. I already have a tomato soup recipe that I'm happy with, so initially figured  I wouldn't get much out of that particular part of things, but then, as I watched it, I got a GREAT idea!! I also have a tomato sauce recipe that I like but my girls don't like it because it doesn't have "chunks" in it. This summer we tried making some chunky tomato sauce but weren't very happy with it. BUT, the tomato soup recipe on this video was for a tomato soup that had chunks of tomato in it, and I realized that I could combine that aspect of the soup recipe with the sauce recipe I already use, and it would be PERFECT!! I had tomatoes that needed to be used before we left, so on Friday, as we were trying to pack and such, I also had a big pot of tomato sauce simmering on the stove (Little Bit desperately wants to see whenever there's anything cooking, so she tries to climb the oven door), and it turned out BEAUTIFULLY!! I'm so excited with my new sauce recipe, and it's all thanks to the West Ladies' tomato soup recipe! Woo-hoo!!!  Their video also got us in the mood for homemade pizza, so we had fun one evening using a couple frozen crusts from the freezer, and making our own version of their yummy pizza!

But then . . . one of the recipes the girls REALLY wanted to try was their recipe for apples and onions. Now I have to admit, I was skeptical (at best)! I like apples, and I like onions, but TOGETHER? Ick! Especially because I'm very picky about mixing sweet & savory (I can't stand any form of sweet & sour, for example).It also seemed odd that the girls wanted to try this since they don't even LIKE onions! But they kept coming back to wanting to try that recipe, and it was something quick and easy, so we made it for lunch one day (it's on the West Ladies' breakfast menu, but that's ok).

We re-watched the part of the video that tells how to make it, and then I set the girls to work. They don't like cutting onions, so I did that part, but they did the rest. It did smell delicious!! But I served up small servings just the same . . . but we all LOVED it!!!  The "savory" aspect of the onions seems to completely disappear and it's just a yummy, sweet . . . almost dessert! But it's healthy! The girls thought we should have it again the very next day but since I'd only  bought a few apples to use for this recipe, and we were leaving that morning for Williamsburg, we put it off. Now that we're home, I have a feeling we'll be getting some more apples soon and this will become a regular breakfast &/or lunch around here, it's SOO yummy! And easy, and healthy! What more can a busy homeschool mom ask for?

So, all-in-all, this was a GREAT video!! Full of yummy recipes (you can see a list of the included recipes here).  An added bonus for our (vegetarian) family, there was only one meat recipe, I'll admit we fast-forwarded through that part. But the rest of the recipes were vegetarian or easily adaptable, the pizza included pepperoni but it's easy to leave that off.

AND . . . Franklin Springs Family Media has these videos on sale right now for only $14.95, or check out their boxed sets for savings when you buy more than one of the Homestead Blessings series.

And now the really cool part, Franklin Springs Family Media has generously offered up to 3 copies of Homestead Blessings The Art of Cooking to give away to my readers!  So, if we get up to 25 entries, I'll give away one copy, 26-50 entries, I'll draw 2 names, and over 50 entries, I'll give away 3 copies.

Mandatory first entry:  Visit Franklin Springs Family Media and leave a comment on this post telling me which of the Homestead Blessings videos you think sounds most interesting.

Additional entries: Please leave a separate comment for each entry.

  • Follow my blog (link in the right sidebar), or let me know that you are already a follower.
  • Blog about this giveaway, and leave a comment here with a link to your blog post.
  • "Like" Franklin Springs Family Media on facebook.
  • Post about this giveaway on facebook.
This giveaway will close on September 28. Winners will be notified on September 29. Please make sure that I have a way to contact you (via your blog or e-mail address). If I cannot contact you, I will have to pick another name. You will have 2 days to respond to me, or I will draw an alternate name.

This giveaway is now closed, winners have been notified. If they do not respond, alternate names will be chosen and notified.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Homestead Blessings The Art of Cooking from Franklin Springs Family Media in exchange for writing this review, Franklin Springs Family Media is also providing the videos offered in this giveaway. No other compensation was received and my opinions are my own.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Williamsburg Fun!

Last week we had a lovely time in Williamsburg for their annual Fall Homeschool Days.  Last year my parents & I took the girls and got a 2-day pass and it was nowhere NEAR long enough, so this year we opted for 5 days! And we STILL felt like it wasn't enough LOL. There is so much to see, and do! One thing that took alot of time this year was special tours at the museums. I'm not sure if they do them all the time or just for Homeschool Days but every day there were special themed tours for the kids at the museum (where they took you to see specific things within the museum) and then generally a craft of some sort at the end of the tour. The girls thoroughly enjoyed those and did quite a few of them. Thankfully the museum also happens to have a nice area set up for children to color (tables with colored pencils and both blank paper & pictures to color).  Little Bit was generally pretty happy to hang out there scribbling away while her sisters were off on the tours.

On Sunday we went to Busch Gardens, since we were close by, and our Sesame Place season passes also give us free admission to Busch Gardens.  Little Bit thought the 3-D glasses were great fun, though once the movie (Sesame Street theme, but very LOUD) started she curled up on my lap for protection. And I didn't try to get her to wear the glasses during the movie. Figured stuff flying at her might be abit much for a 17 mo old.

It was an overcast day, and rained in the late afternoon (at which point we gave up & left.  I was highly amused to see a family putting money into the "Family dryer" half-way through the park, as it continued to pour down rain. It's situated near some water rides with the idea being if you get wet on the rides but then want to be dry again you pay your $5 and it blows warm air on you and you dry off. HOWEVER, I'm not sure what the rationale was to use it in the pouring rain, they were going to be wet again as soon as they stepped back out of the dryer, but whatever . . . it gave me a giggle.

Little Bit had fun on the Dragon boat ride with Papa. She was grinning at me, but just as I snapped the picture she noticed Daddy and Mama standing on ahead a little ways and grinned at them instead, oh well . . .

We were able to use a friend's time share for the week and it was SO nice to have bedrooms (much easier to put kids to bed when there's a separate room!) and a kitchen. We even had 2 bathrooms, a luxury we don't even have at HOME, hee hee.  My parents came down with us and stayed through Tuesday, then headed home and left us on our own for the rest of the week. Rodney wondered, on Tuesday afternoon, as we sat in the shade while Papa was up in the Magazine (where they stored amunition, I think . . .) with the big girls and Mama was helping to entertain Little Bit, if we could find grandparents to rent for the rest of the week LOL. There were certainly plenty of grandparent-aged people around but we didn't find any takers on our rent idea.

I was interested to see how much more outgoing the girls have become in the past year. Last year they were still pretty shy about asking questions and such, this year they LOVED it!! At one point, L1 saw a woman in colonial dress nearby and commented, "Oh I need to think of a question to ask her, so we can talk to her!" no, this is NOT my child LOL.  And yes, she DID think of a question, and the 2 girls ended up talking with that particular lady for a good half hour or longer.

In general the employees seem to truly enjoy answering questions and interacting with the kids, and since most of the other people visiting Williamsburg, at least this time of year (other than other homeschoolers) do tend to be older people, they usually enjoy hearing kids ask questions too, so it works well. Of course, that is one reason that 5 days wasn't enough, we easily spent half hour to an hour at most of the places we stopped because the girls had so many questions.

Most days we took a lunch with us and found someplace to sit and eat. I had to snap a picture the day the girls sat down on the roots of this tree, Little Bit was there too, but got up before I could get the camera.

You can see A1's hat in this picture. Both girls got plenty of use out of their hats again this year, the weather was lovely, but quite sunny and warm if you were in the sun.

After making a point of having the girls listen to various historic stories in preparation for this trip, twice, I had people there correct me when I reminded the girls of some historic "fact" we'd heard, either on Felicity or on Your Story Hour. Oh well . . .

Little Bit spent her week playing with the gravel and broken shells (in colonial times, they didn't have a way to turn rocks into gravel, so, at least in Williamsburg, they used clam shells for their paths and such, since those would break up easily under the horse hooves and carriage and wagon wheels). She also greatly enjoyed seeing the horses go by with some frequency (there were several different carriages giving carriage rides (for rather steep (IMO) prices), so that kept the horses going by for her entertainment.

Of course, whenever she could get by with it, Little Bit ALSO enjoyed playing with Mommy or Daddy's phones. I LOVE this picture of her "talking" on the phone.  We'd stopped at the bake shop for a snack, and while we sat in the shade outside, she walked "laps" on the raised platform around the well, "talking" away on Daddy's phone.

Another favorite part of the week was Great Hope Plantation. Which is a part of Colonial Williamsburg set up like a typical (not rich people's) farm during that time period.  In addition to the buildings, garden, fields, and animals you could see whenever, they also generally had some hands-on stuff for the kids to do (again, I'm not sure if they do that all the time or just during homeschool days, but it sure was cool!!

The girls were stunned at how heavy the bucket of water was, when they were asked to carry it from the well to the garden. And that was with it only half-full and them working together to carry it! Obviously children were much stronger 200 years ago LOL!! (of course, practice will do that for you!).

Apparently, if I want the girls to consistently help me water OUR garden, I need to get rid of the garden hose and have them use gourd-dippers instead. they happily helped water newly set out cabbage plants for quite some time using this method LOL.

Another day when we were there (but I didn't think to take pictures), the girls made beeswax candles by dipping a wick in a big kettle of melted beeswax over an open fire. They had done that last year, but it was still fun to do it again.  A2 was hoping we'd be there sometime when they were doing laundry by hand (it was listed as one of the things they'd be doing) but it never happened while we were there. She was disappointed, but at least during our tour of the Randolph house, the tour guide gave a good explanation of how the laundry was done in that house, where there was a room just for that purpose and slaves essentially did laundry all day every day. So at least she got an idea of what was involved.

So, that was pretty much our week. Lots of history for all of us, but also lots of fun!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I See Cards - Homeschool Review

As regular readers of my blog probably know, I'm not a big fan of "math class" per se. I feel that simple arithmetic can be learned more easily & with better retention, through life. So, when I saw that we were on the list from the TOS Crew to review a math game, I had mixed feelings. But hey, it's a game, and I feel confident that my children are at or above "grade level" in their math skills, so I figured we'd see how it goes. . . 

We received the Pyramath card game from I See Cards. Who knew a simple deck of numbered cards could be so fun! At least to start, I decided we'd stick to addition & subtraction. While the girls do know some multiplication and division, they don't know all of them, and I felt that would simplify things, at least while we're learning.  What this game taught me was that, while the girls understand addition and subtraction, and can do it, they're not fast at it. Which isn't a big deal, but certainly doesn't hurt to work on that. And this game has done that wonderfully! We've been playing it for a few weeks now, and I've seen their speed really pick up as we continue to play it.  We also recently started including multiplication in our games, and they're doing well with that too. 

A1 LOVES this game. She asks to play EVERY day!! And would play multiple games in a row, if time allowed (card games and a busy 17 mo old don't mix well, so we only get a chance to play when Little Bit is napping or Daddy's home to watch her).  A2 enjoys it, but overall she's not a fan of competitive games (winning games, as she calls them).  She prefers co-operative games. I think she also dislikes the absolute "luck" aspect of this game. Sometimes we'll work together playing the solitaire version.

The game is listed as being for Grades K and up, and I think that is probably accurate. Although Little Bit thinks the cards are great fun to scatter around and pick back up whenever she manages to get ahold of them, hee hee.

This is a great, educational game at a great price! Only $6.95, can't beat that! And another fun feature. The cards, in addition to having the regular numbers on them, it has the Roman numeral, Chinese symbol, Aramaic symbol, and the number written out in English, Spanish, and French.

I See Cards also sells several other card games that teach fractions, prime numbers, and a combination of language learning and basic math. 

All in all, this is a great game, I'd highly recommend it to anyone with kids who enjoy games!

Disclaimer:  I was sent the game Pyramath in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received , all opinions are my own.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up - Sept 12

Another busy week . . . 

Sunday the big girls went to Grandmom's with Daddy. Little Bit & I had an exciting day of errands and cleaning and other exciting things like that. 

Monday, Daddy had off for Labor Day, so we went to the Renaissance Faire. The big girls had a BLAST!! They remembered the storyline from last year and immediately jumped into the new storyline. Given the choice of eating cupcakes with the queen or watching a joust my ladylike little girls obviously chose . . . the joust! They also begged to stay for the final joust, a "joust to the death" and declared it not "THAT violent" when it was all done. We happened to go on "children's weekend" so there was also a kids' treasure hunt, which the girls, of course were very into. And, like last year, the human chess game was a favorite (why now, we didn't get around to the actual children's shows . . . we're weird that way).  Little Bit spent the day insisting on WALKING, generally helping to push the stroller, and otherwise being Little Bit. Our biggest challenge was that she REFUSED to nap! There was entirely TOO MUCH else going on. Finally, while the big girls were happily decorating their crowns (can't pass up a chance at crafts), I found a relatively unexciting corner and nursed her to sleep. By then, she was exhausted enough that she even stayed asleep when I transferred her to the stroller, and continued to sleep in the stroller throughout the Human Chess game.

Thurs. night we had a book club for moms of young children, hosted by our pastor's wife. While the moms talked, and the little ones played with Duplos and such, Pastor Mike too the twins outside to play with a huge yoga ball type ball that they have. The girls had a blast, and when the evening was over, Pastor Mike had logged a mile and a half on his pedometer. I offered to bring the girls over weekly so he could cancel his gym membership LOL.  Also during bookclub, Little Bit saw Jared (11 mo old, but as big or bigger than she is), crawl by & tried to climb on his back. She has great fun riding "horsey" with her big sisters, and was quite certain that Jared would be up for the game as well. Mommy spoiled her fun and didn't allow it, hee hee.

The other fun this week was lots of cooking.  We tried a new recipe for whole wheat vanilla wafers. They're YUMMY, but stuck to the pan. The recipe DID call for baking them on parchment paper but I assumed we didn't need that since I use baking stones. I think they would have been ok if I'd taken them off the pan as soon as they came out of the oven. We sample them at that point and they came off the pan fine, but then I left the rest while I took the big girls upstairs and put them to bed, and by the time I came back downstairs, the cookies were well stuck to the pan. We've been enjoying the cookie crumbs, just the same LOL.

We also made and canned a big batch of tomato sauce (I finally have a "recipe" I think we like, I'll post about that later). A2 was a HUGE help with that. She ran all the tomatoes through the blender for me! A1 was helpful by playing with Little Bit so we could get them all done, which is also helpful LOL.

A2 began learning typing this week, she is SOO excited about it (A1 will be able to begin hopefully by next week, waiting on a second license to use the software). It moves quickly, so she can see progress, which is always key for her in learning . . . 

So, a productive, week all around. Lots of fun AND lots accomplished!! 

Little Bit continues to dabble at potty learning. She generally wants to be nakey if we are home. Or perhaps more accurately, she generally wants to be nakey & and generally allow it when we are at home. It's probably 50/50 that she will go sit on the potty on her own, or will start to pee, then give me a kind of shocked "oh no!" look, and stop and I'll run her to the potty where she finishes up. So, we're moving in the right direction . . . One night this week as she was getting ready for bed, she was wearing a diaper she could remove herself (we have a few snap ones that she can't . . .yet . . .). She took her diaper off, handed it to me, went to teh potty, and peed. Works for me.  . .

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review: Organic Milkmaid Tea (and a coupon code!)

A week or so ago Earth Mama Angel Baby, sent me a box of their Organic Milkmaid Tea to review. I first heard of Earth Mama Angel Baby when a dear friend gave me some of their products as a baby gift when the twins were born (yes, 7 1/2 years ago!).  And I have loved their products ever since. Even at the health food stores it is hard to find truly SAFE products!! Many of the "natural" products still contain artificial "stuff". But EMAB is dedicated to keeping their products truly natural and safe.

I happened to receive my tea on a day when I wasn't feeling great anyway, so it was a great pick-me-up.  I was abit worried that the fennel taste would be too strong for my liking (I'm not a fan of licorice, and fennel tastes similar). But it's quite mild. It's a yummy blend of flavors and lovely health benefits!

Then I noticed that the box said it could be served hot OR iced. So of course, in order to give a complete review, I had to try it iced too. Why yes, that is yummy too!

But THEN, as I was starting to write this review (what, you didn't think writing blog posts happen all at once did you? I can't tell you how many drafts of posts I have going at any given time, it's a process, I tell you, a process!), I happened to notice, as I was looking on the EMAB site for the specifics of the tea, that they have a recipe tab (see it? It's right there next to the ingredients and the reviews and such). So of course, I had to check that out. French Vanilla Chai . . . umm, of COURSE I need to try that!! BUT . . . I don't have vanilla creamer (soy or otherwise), and didn't really want to go buy some because, well, I don't like soymilk in any form, and pretty much every flavored creamer I've ever seen (can't speak to soy creamers because, did I mention I don't do soymilk) is full of artificial flavors and preservatives and all kinds of things that I TRY to limit in my diet. But now I was totally in the mood for vanilla chai, so I improvised.  I brewed my yummy milkmaid tea. And stirred in a little sucanat (natural sugar). Then I added a little organic vanilla extract, then some raw milk. Then sprinkled some cinnamon and ginger on top.  Oh WOW!! That was some GOOD stuff!!! Seriously, I'm not a huge chai person (I like it, but don't get it often, and certainly am no expert on it) but I think this was at LEAST as good as "real" chai tea, and certainly a healthy version, with all those good herbs in the tea! Seriously, you have GOT to try it!

The Milkmaid tea contains lots of great herbs for helping with milk production, including fennel, anise, and caraway! It also contains nettle & red raspberry leaf which are chock full of great minerals, super healthy for all of us, and especially those of us who are sharing our nutrients with a nursling.

I can't say I saw any change in my milk production from drinking the tea, BUT I'm nursing a toddler, not an infant, and I've always had plenty of milk (I nursed twins without any problem, afterall). I CAN say that I have heard MANY moms who were having difficulty with milk production, vouch for how well fennel and anise work, so this would be a great, easy, YUMMY solution if you ARE experiencing difficulties.

And if all that hasn't convinced you to run right out and try this yummy, healthy tea (even if you aren't breastfeeding, it's yummy & red raspberry leaf and nettles are good for you no matter what!) Earth Mama Angel Baby is letting me share a coupon code with you too!! Just use coupon code Milkmaid 20 at checkout to receive 20% off your purchase of Organic Milkmaid Tea.  Enjoy!!!

Disclaimer: I received a free box of Milkmaid Tea in exchange for writing this review. No other compensation was received, my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Organizing Our Chaotic Life . . .

I mentioned a few weeks ago, that the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner, is a great tool for organizing our homeschool (and life). But I thought I'd take a few minutes today to give you the specifics of how we use it, and other resources to keep things organized around here.

This summer, on the recommendation of another homeschool mom, I got a Proclick binding system. It is AWESOME!!! I don't like 3 ring binders because they're bulky, and the rings get in my way when I write (I'm a lefty). I'd contemplated comb binders various times, but really prefer spiral binding that can be folded all the way around (again, getting stuff out of my way to write left-handed is a major factor here, but even for righties (like my kids), if we're in the car or otherwise limited for space, being able to fold the book back and take up half the space is a benefit). So, when I heard about the Proclick I was thrilled!! It is basically a hole-punch that punches a BUNCH of holes. Then the spines can be clicked shut and it is essentially a spiral bound book (but they CAN be popped back open to add or remove pages. Alternately (though I haven't tried this) you can buy 3:1 spiral coils and "twirl" them into the holes for a permanent, and actually spiral-bound, book. I plan to do this for the girls previous-year school work and other "archive" type things that I know we shouldn't ever have to remove or add pages to. But for now, we're using the pro-click spines.

So, with this handy dandy tool, and the OH SO handy 2010 Schoolhouse Planner, I set to work.

First, I made books for each of the girls. I wanted all of our daily-use school papers to be in one place so that they're easier to keep track of here at home and also easier to take with us on the road.  I let each of the girls choose a picture off my camera to use for a cover for their books, then just added title information to the picture & printed it.  I slid these into sheet protectors to keep them from getting torn & make them seem like more of a "cover".

The first section of their books, I included a 2010 calendar and the monthly calendars for the next few months (I plan to "revise" their books every couple of months, removing completed pages and adding new ones, to keep it small enough to be manageable, so did the same with the calendar pages). I had a free printable calendar with horse pictures that I'd downloaded, so used it for their monthly calendar pages. Also in this section, I included a page for "books I've read"  where they can list any books they read on their own (we will NEED this information, starting next year when we have to report to the state, so I want them to get into the habit now.  Then to differentiate the sections of their book, I got tabbed pocket dividers. This gives them some pockets in their books to slip extra pages and such into, and was an easy way to divide it into sections.

These sections are for each of their school subjects that requires "papers".  There is a section for their Bible copywork (they copy a Bible verse or part of a verse off the white board each day).  A section for Peterson handwriting, and a section for Spanish.

Next I decided to make myself a "Homeschool Planner".  Not for lesson-plans per se (I keep them on the computer), but for all the other odds & ends.  I didn't other with a fancy cover for mine, choosing instead, to use a tabbed pocket divider as my cover (gives me more pockets to stuff papers into that way, hee hee.

My first section is my "calendar section". You can see in the above picture, that the first page inside my book is a 2010 calendar (most of these pages come from the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner). Followed, logically by a 2011 calendar. Then I have my "annual plan" page. While I don't have everything on here, by any means, it allows me to add trips, holidays, other things that I need to keep in mind when figuring out what we're doing for school. As much as we're traveling this year, this page is going to get lots of use LOL.
Also in the Calendar section, I have a couple pages of "dates to remember" to write future dates, by month, in case it becomes relevant, and then I included a "Year End Evaluation" form. I suspect I'll end up jotting notes on this throughout the year & then fill out a new "pretty one" to actually include in our 2010-2011 "school work to keep" book, but I wanted it in here throughout the year for just that purpose.
The last page I included in the calendar section was my own "books I've read" page. I use this page to record the read alouds that I read to the girls, both for school and at bedtime. Again, trying to get myself in the habit for next year when we "have" to do this.  And finally, I added some blank notebook paper to the back of this section (and all my sections). Like in the girls' books, I used tabbed pocket dividers between my sections, and use the pocket at the back of the first section/front of the second section to hold the book of Stories that came with our felts (and a guide of what felts to use when).

My second section, I consider my "fun" section. I LOVE to plan ahead & make lists & such, and this is my section for just that purpose I had so much fun looking through the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner & printing whichever pages struck my fancy for this section.  First I have a list of "teaching supplies" I can use it to jog my memory of things we need to get, record when I find a good deal and stock up on something, etc. (don't mind the pink stripes on the paper, our printer is acting up again, sigh).
Next I included an "all purpose wish list" where I can jot down things that I think of that we might "need" for our school.  To  be honest, I already have quite a long wish-list of school related stuff stored on, and will continue to maintain that as my main wish list, BUT I thought it would be nice to have a paper one handy if we're sitting at the table working on something and something comes to mind (did I mention I LOVE lists?).

Following my wish list is my Loaned/Borrowed List. I LOVE this!! My friend Vicki & I trade books back & forth ALL the time and this way, I can keep track of what she has of mine (so I don't waste time hunting for a book that isn't even HERE) and what I have of hers, (so I remember to return it).  I also loaned out some curriculum this year, and feel better having that recorded, again, so I don't go hunting for it in vain. I didn't take a picture of the next page, but it's one of my favorites. It is titled "One of these days I would like to . . ." and then there are categories for all the things I'd LOVE to do someday. I love being able to jot ideas down on this page as they come to me!
And finally, another very fun page. I found this in the "information" section of the Planner. It's a whole double-sided page of ideas for Preschoolers!! And while, Little Bit isn't a preschooler, per se, I still love having the ideas there to start thinking about it. I will add my own notes and ideas and plan to work this into a page that I can flip to when we're trying to do school and she's needing something to keep her busy. Just this morning she threw a huge tantrum when she realized that the big girls were "doing school" in the dining room while she had to come upstairs with me for naptime. She wanted to be doing school with her sisters (I made a mental note, from now on, I take her upstairs and THEN the big girls go into the dining room, if that's the schedule for the day). So, even though she certainly doesn't need "academics" for quite some time, I can see that we do need to have things that she will perceive as "school" available in the very near future, this list should come in handy for that.  And finally, in the pocket in the back of this section, I keep the lists of weekly, monthly, and annual chores that we pull from each week when we decide who's going to do what for the week.

The final section of my planner is my Blog Reviews section!  I printed off another copy of the Annual Plans form to use for this section, and write in the blog review dates as I get them. I also have listed at the top of the page, a reminder of some of the weekly Blog Carnivals and such that I would at least LIKE to participate in, it doesn't always happen.
 Next I have a checklist page that another crew member created, for keeping track of all the reviews, and what I still need to do for each.  And finally, I have several copies of another page, created by another crew member, that reminds me of the specific information to include in each review (I use one for each review that I am involved with).  And that's my planner! I love how personalized it is, and compact (thinner than a normal spiral notebook). Easy to grab and go when we need to travel.

I was planning to also show you the handy-dandy Kitchen Notebook I made, ALSO with pages from the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner, but this post has already gotten so long, I think I'll save that for another day.