Friday, December 30, 2011

TOS Crew Review: R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish

PhotobucketWe've been dabbling at learning Spanish for about 2 years now. This all came about at the girls' request however, they tend to get frustrated with it and not want to put effort into it. I don't feel the need to drag them kicking and screaming through an elective of their own choosing so we keep trying different things looking for a good fit. . . for the past year we've basically just added a new vocabulary word every couple of days, continuing to review the old words and that has worked relatively well for learning vocabulary, as long as we keep with it BUT they weren't at all getting the concept of putting that vocabulary to use. They could go through the vocabulary flash cards flawlessly but then if I gave them a sentence using those same words they couldn't translate it without breaking it into the individual words, sigh . . . so a couple months ago I began searching for a new option to move them into more useage . . . and as happens so often, the Crew came through with perfect timing!

R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish (R.E.A.L. stands for Relax, Enjoy, Aspire and Learn), is designed for homeschoolers to integrate Spanish into homeschooling. It is designed to be used with multiple ages of children in a homeschool or co-op setting.

We received it right before the holidays, so have gotten a slow start with it, but so far, it's working well for us. As with so many products, whether designed for classrooms or homeschools, we end up adapting it for our more relaxed type of schooling. The activity book is too workbookish for us, though we use some of the pages together orally.

Even Little Bit is loving the suggested puppet shows. By far the hit so far has been the suggestion to make their OWN board game. They had a BLAST making it and as I write they are voluntarily clearing all the other school clutter off the table so they can play their game!

The book is divided into units. With each unit divided into smaller sections. The introductory information indicated that you can either spend however many weeks on one unit, or go through each unit, learning some of the words, then go back through all. I thought that approach would work better for my girls, spending one week on each section, but found that the activities and puppet dialogues build on themselves too much for that to actually work, so we went back to the first unit and are finishing it up this week then we'll move forward again, learning all words in each unit as we go.

So, we've fallen into a pattern (that I think we'll continue), where we begin the week with a puppet show to introduce the new vocabulary. The next day the girls make their own flash cards. The rest of the week, depending on time we do suggested activities for that unit or the girls review their flash cards on their own.

This program is available as an instant download (what we received) for $49.95 or hardcopy for $89.95. The age of your children will affect how quickly you will move through this book. The book suggests that high school students might use it for a single school year, but that younger children will likely take longer. I think this will take us 2-3 years, schooling year round, so that breaks down to a very reasonable price per year.

In addition to the main teacher's book, which includes vocabulary, the dialogue/phrases that we use for our puppet shows, and tips/suggestions for each unit, we also received the Activity Book (workbook type activities) and audio files to go with each of these so we can hear how things are supposed to be pronounced. There is also a Daily Curriculum Guide available for an additional $9.95. This gives suggested daily lesson plans and teach prep work at the beginning of each week. Someone taking a more structured approach might find this very helpful.

Don't forget to check out what my fellow crewmates have to say about this product on the TOS Crew blog.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - The Holiday Edition

This past week was pretty much all about cleaning and Christmas and Hanukkah (in a perfect world, our first year celebrating Hanukkah would have been a year when it falls at the BEGINNING of December instead of overlapping Christmas, but oh well . . .).

So, the cleaning's boring but the fun stuff:


  • We definitely enjoyed using Jotham's Journey for our Advent reading this year. I think we'll use Bartholomew's Passage next year.
  • Our other Advent "thing" this year was I used an advent calendar that has a little drawer for each day and put 2 slips of paper in each drawer (starting once we got back from my parents' house so it wasn't the full 25 days). One slip of paper had a family member or friend to pray for that day and the other had an activity to do that day. They included little things like "Let's have hot chocolate and marshmallows" and silly things like "Let's have an indoor snowball fight" (we used big marshmallows, they LOVED it! Little Bit especially thought it was the best thing EVER!!!), "giving" things like hiding dollar bills in the toy section at the dollar store for other children to find (they LOVED LOVED LOVED this one!) and putting money in the Salvation army bucket . . . it was a big hit! We've decided we'll make a jar (or something) of similar slips of paper and each Sunday we'll draw one slip of paper that is something we'll try to do sometime that week. We talked about the fact that sometimes we might have to "re-draw" (if we choose "let's go wade in the creek" in Feb. it's not gonna happen!) and there might be some weeks when other things are going on that I just have to say "not this week", but overall I think it will be a good way to "force" me to make time for fun stuff that I always think sounds great, but never remember to actually DO it.
  • Wednesday was cookie-making day. Rodney ended up needing to work, so it was just "us girls" so we scaled back the original plans, but we did make 3 kinds of cookies and had fun doing it.
  • Christmas eve continues to be a favorite tradition-filled evening at our house. We open a few, very specific, presents: Mama makes Christmas nightgowns for all 3 girls each year and sends them home with me ahead of time so we have them for Christmas eve (originally, when the big girls were little, I'd just buy them Christmas pajamas, but a few . . .3, I think?. . . years ago I asked Mom if she wanted to make them nightgowns that year (it's impossible to BUY children's nightgowns that aren't made of icky synthetic fabrics and soaked in nasty chemicals, I wanted nice, comfy, non-chemical-soaked, flannel, so that meant handmade) the girls LOVED LOVED LOVED having nightgowns, so that piece of the tradition has continued as well. I also get them some Christmas- themed DVDs, books, or games that they open on Christmas eve. So we had a nice evening watching movies, and reading books.
This is our first year celebrating Hanukkah. I was excited to find a menorah AND candles for it and also a dreidel at Goodwill, so we were all set. Hanukkah started at sundown on Tuesday, so starting Tuesday evening we lit the menorah. Biblical Holidays includes suggested readings for each night that include a few Bible verses and then commentary on those verses. In the interest of short attention spans, especially from Little Bit, and general busyness, We opted to just read the Bible verses this year. We also read the Hanukkah story (about the Macabees) a couple times during the week. We weren't able to do as much with traditional foods as the girls would have liked, when I'm madly cleaning for Christmas and making way too many cookies and such,  I don't have time to attempt latkes from scratch for the first time LOL. But we did try to have some-what traditional foods. I decided perogies were a good option since we like to make them with sauteed onions in the frying pan rather than boiling them. And we got frozen latkes and made them one night. We also had jelly donuts (store-bought, I didn't try making them) a couple times. Now that Christmas is over, I think we might try the latkes from scratch since we have tonight and tomorrow night still.

The game of Dreidel has been a big hit. Even Little Bit is enjoying it. The first night we used a small bag of chocolate coins we have, but then we decided on Hershey Kisses instead, they're more fun to eat later LOL. Especially since we got the cherry ones and dark chocolate mint ones. So we've played Dreidel for at least a  little while most evenings.

So those were some highlights from our week. I'll do a separate post about Christmas, I think dh has the pictures on his computer.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up - December 18

Look, I'm actually writing the wrap-up on Sunday like I'm supposed to (or starting it anyway, I make no promises that I'll FINISH it tonight!).

Highlights this past week include:

Enjoying a nice lunch and celebrating Christmas with our neighbor and adopted grandma, Miss Judy. We celebrated early before she left for Hawaii for a month (yes, we're all jealous!). I have to brag on my kids for just a minute, it's my blog, I'm allowed! We got there at lunch time so ate lunch first. The older girls were chomping at the bit to get to presents (nothing unusual there) BUT they were most anxious to give Miss Judy the things they/we made for her, not to get things.  They were, however, very happy with the gifts they received. Now they keep begging me to help them put together the weather station, and are pouring over their herb book planning the herb garden they want to plant next spring :)

Little Bit spends a part of each day being a butterfly with the butterfly/fairy wings dress-up she received :) I'd take pictures, but she's generally a nakey butterfly LOL.

We also enjoyed playing with our friends E & J a couple times this week. We stopped by their house one evening to drop something else and stayed a little while so the big girls could play a game with E and Little Bit and J could chase balloons around the house. Another day, E & J came and played at our house while their mom had a doctor's appointment. It was tooo cute, Little Bit was still taking her nap when they got here, but it was time she could wake up whenever. J (just passed 2) kept asking to "me go wake [Little Bit] up" so finally I let him go upstairs, and sent MiniMe along to make sure things went ok. A few minutes later they all came back down and Little Bit was laughing and told me "J woke me up from my nap, that's SOOO SILLY!!"

We wrapped up our week by enjoying a nice evening with friends Sat. afternoon/evening. We enjoyed a yummy Indian meal picnic style and then the kids all had a blast building and decorating gingerbread houses, and eating their weight (and then some) in candy, in the process. The pictures of that are on dh's phone, I'll have to bug him to send them to me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

TOS Crew Review: The World's Greatest Stories

I have to admit, I'd never even heard of The World's Greatest Stories when the review came up, but it only took about 30 seconds of reading what it was for me to say SIGN ME UP!!! This is the greatest concept I've heard in a long time!! Actor, George W. Sarris reads stories directly from the Bible (available in either KJV or NIV, we chose KJV), but does it with so much expression, and some sound effects in the background, that it is a fun story that keeps children's (and adults') attention. 

We were sent Volume 1: The Prophets, to review. I didn't tell the girls anything about it beyond, "Here's a CD of Bible stories for us to review". After we'd listened to it, I told them it was word-for-word from the Bible and they REFUSED to believe me!! We had to re-listen to it with the Bible in front of them, for them to see that it really WAS word for word! (I have to admit, I wanted to "check it" myself, it's amazingly well done!). Another bit of "trivia" that I found fascinating, is that Mr. Sarris MEMORIZIES the Bible passages he performs!

When I asked the girls what they thought of it, after they'd confirmed that the website wasn't "lying" and it really was straight from the Bible, they said they liked it, but would rather hear their favorite Bible stories. So I think a couple other volumes will be on our shopping list in the near future (really, when my child asks to hear the Bible, and the CDs are only $7.95 each, how can I refuse?!?!).

While obviously this can be used as a part of Bible class in homeschooling, this is a great product for all families!!! We have been listening to it in the car as we do errands and such. It would also be a great choice for family worship or for a younger, non-reading child to use for their personal Bible time (for that matter, an older child could use it that way as well, just because a child CAN read doesn't mean s/he has to every time).

The website suggests these stories are for children age 4 and up. I would argue that they are most definitely NOT just for children! I have to admit that, since we have been in the car alot and having an audiobook of some sort on helps to keep the big girls quietly entertained while Little Bit naps, we listened to this CD during her naps, so I can't say for sure what a 2 year old would think of them. But I do think that, one story at a time (to not exceed her attention span), she would enjoy these stories too. So, while perhaps not something I'd purchase for a 2 year old, I do think it's something the whole family, including the littles, can enjoy together.

Be sure to check out the website, where you can listen to audioclips for yourself.

Also check out the TOS Crew blog for other reviews of these products! 


Jam Surprise Muffins

I adapted this recipe from this site.

(Makes 12 muffins)

1 egg
3/4 c milk
1/2 c butter or coconut oil, melted
2 c ww flour
1/3 c sucanat
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Juice sweetened preserves for filling

Preheat oven to 400F and grease muffin pans. Combine flour, sucanat, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl beat egg slightly and add milk and melted butter/oil.  Add to dry ingredients. Stir until just moist (do NOT overmix).

Spoon batter into muffin pan, filling each cup about 1/2 full. Add a spoonful of preserves to each muffin, then top with additional muffin mix.

Bake until golden, about 15-20 min.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up - December 13

I'm a couple days late, but close enough . . . last week was a BUSY week!!! The big girls were at Mama & Papa's all week, Mama & Papa picked them up on Friday and took them home with them. So Little Bit and I were on our own while Daddy was at work the first part of the week.  We enjoyed more relaxed mornings without school for the big girls, though I greatly missed being able to say "watch Little Bit while I go put the laundry in" since I don't like taking Little Bit down our steep concrete basement steps. And afternoons getting some shopping done that I wanted to do without the big girls around.

Meanwhile the big girls

  • Got their C&O Canal Junior Ranger
  • Did a bunch of biking
  • Went to the Baltimore B&O Railroad Museum and saw their Christmas Hobby Train display
  • Went to our favorite Chinese restaurant
  • Went to Ford Theatre and did that Jr. Ranger program
  • Went to their favorite frozen yogurt place (I think, I know they were planning to) 
  • Saw the National Christmas Tree and state trees
  • Helped Papa on the playhouse
  • Did Christmas crafts
  • Probably other things I'm forgetting, or didn't hear about
Wednesday Little Bit and I headed to Mama and Papa's to join the big girls for more fun. 

While we were all there we:

Went to Mt Vernon. In addition to the normal mansion tour and viewing the grounds we got to:
  • Met Aladdin the Christmas camel (apparently one year Washington rented a camel for the entertainment of his guests)
  • Saw how 18th century chocolate was made, and tasted 18th century drinking chocolate (since the girls had it in Williamsburg last year and have learned my love of very dark chocolate, they disappointed the people handing it out, by loving it instead of making funny faces like most kids do)
  • Toured the 3rd floor of the mansion, only open for tours at Christmas time
  • Met with an "in character" gentleman who talked about Christmas in the 1700s as if he lived in the 1700s, he gave the girls a hard time about how silly it sounded to cut down a tree and drag it in the house LOL.
  • Went on an "Adventure Map" tour of the grounds, answering the questions.
  • Enjoyed the new Education Center/Museum, including a video about the war, but we didn't have NEARLY long enough there to see it all.
We also enjoyed the blacksmith apprentice who was more than happy to answer the girls' countless questions and seemed to be truly enjoying himself in doing it. As we left he proclaimed them "the most inquisitive guests I've met today" hee hee.

Drove through the Seneca Creek Park light display. The big girls didn't remember it (we went every year when we lived closer, but it's been a couple years) and Little Bit had never been, so they all enjoyed that.

Went to Monocacy Battlefield and the girls did the Junior Ranger program there and we enjoyed that museum. The girls were able to try on a soldier's coat and hat, and try to lift his pack, although it didn't have any kind of a strap, not sure if it would have been a backpack or what, but I'm pretty sure they didn't just carry them in their arms, so that frustrated the girls abit. There's also an interactive map of the battle, which was a great visual way to understand what happened there (kind of like what they used to have at Gettysburg (I haven't been to Gettysburg since all the renovations, so not sure if it's still there) only smaller.

While we were at the battlefield, the girls also got the "Civil War trading cards" that the civil war related national parks are giving out right now in honor of the 150th anniversary of the war. The park volunteer who gave them to the girls was great and discussed each card with them in detail, they got a pretty good summary of the civil war from him, and he was good with their many questions as well.

Visited a C&O Lockhouse that has been renovated to be like it was during the Civil War, and is currently decorated for Christmas. The girls met a 19th Century Santa and Mrs. Claus, played with period toys, decorated Christmas cookies, played checkers, and tested out a rope bed, and a trundle bed.

Went to the Museum of Civil War Medicine. While there, in addition to the normal exhibits, we met a Civil War era Santa, played with period toys, made cards for (current) wounded soldiers, talked to a lovely lady who had her collection of Civil War era nursing supplies there and was dressed in period dress. She patiently answered the girls' questions, not only about each and every thing she had on display, but her clothes, and many other aspects of life in that era. The girls LOVED it, and she seemed to enjoy answering their questions.

So, needless to say, it was a BUSY week. I'm going to try to get the pictures I took into a Picaso album soon, and will post when I do. I forgot to get dad's off his camera so those will have to wait until I see him again at Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Vintage Remedies For Kids


Long term readers of my blog might remember that we were using Vintage Remedies for Girls to learn about nutrition last spring. We LOVED it (and I keep wanting to continue with it, we stopped when another review product overlapped it, and haven't gotten back into it, we need to). So when I saw that Vintage Remedies was a potential review product on the TOS Crew I was thrilled!! I was hoping that since their book for younger children is a new offering, it would be the review product, but figured it was more likely they'd be reviewing the "for girls" book we already have. 

But guess what, they gave us OPTIONS!! We were able to choose between "for Girls", "for Guys" (which I'm sure is lovely, but we're abit short on "guys" (of school-age) in this house, hee hee), and the one I was hoping for, Vintage Remedies for Kids, woo-hoo!!! I was so excited!!! 

PhotobucketVintage Remedies for Kids teaches about healthy living for younger children, the recommended age range is 2-6, so since Little Bit is almost 3, and loves to do things like her big sisters, I figured this would be fun.  I was right!! Just this weekend she was proudly telling my mom that "I made pizza and ice cream" (the 2 projects we've done so far).  The text is still over her head, and too long for her attention span, but I think would be great for 4-6 year olds. With her, I skim/summarize and then we move on to the fun part, COOKING!! The first lesson talked about healthy food choices and then the project was to make individual pizzas. I set the older girls to work making the dough (a nice healthy, easy recipe that we'll be using regularly now!) and prepping the toppings and then once that was ready I spread the sauce on and let Little Bit put on the rest of the toppings. She was sooo excited to ask each of us what we wanted, and make each of our pizzas accordingly.  Another thing I LOVED about this recipe is that it only bakes for 10 minutes. My normal pizza recipe bakes longer, which is fine normally, but I think it was BRILLIANT of them to have such a short bake time on a recipe for little kids!! I tried to take pictures, but since she still thinks that clothes are only for when we leave the house, she was, as usually au naturale when we were ready to cook, and somehow telling her to put clothes ON for a potentially messy project seemed counter productive, nice as pictures would have been.

I did manage some so-so pictures of her making "ice cream" (I'd call it a berry smoothie, but the book called it ice cream, and she was all about that LOL). So, the review. For an oldest child, I would say hold off until they're 4+ (I can see my friend's 4 yr old really enjoying this), however if, like me, you have a younger preschooler who desperately wants to "do school" like the big kids, then I'd agree that 2+ works. The projects are easy enough for them to feel like they are doing them (I had to giggle at Little Bit though, she has a hatred of anything "noisy" so "she" made the "ice cream" by putting the berries, etc. in the blender, but then she ran to the family room to be "safe" from the noise while I ran the blender LOL.

This curriculum, like the "for Girls" curriculum (and I assume the "for Guys" is similar, but haven't seen it), focuses on real whole foods, avoiding chemicals and processed foods. Later in the book it also talks about health & wellness, with chapters on herbal medicines, natural care of scrapes and bruises, etc.  As well staying clean, avoiding germs, and things like that..

I would recommend this to anyone looking to help their children learn to make good choices about health and wellness. While the "for Girls" book is much more in depth, and I'm glad we have it for the older girls, and for Little Bit when she's older, I do think that children in the 7-10 range could still enjoy the "for Kids" book, especially if you have younger children as well and want them to all be able to learn together. One thing to note is that the "for Kids" book is a much smaller book, so not only is it written in simpler terms, with less detail, but it also doesn't have nearly as much in it. This would make it a great option if you're wanting to do a quick summer unit or if your children are in school but you'd like them to learn real nutrition at home, this book is short enough that you could do a lesson per week or work through it in a couple weeks in the summer.  This book is also very reasonably priced, at $25.

Be sure to check out the TOS Crew blog for more reviews on all three of these curriculum options. Also check out the Vintage Remedies site for classes and books on herbal medicines for grown-ups as well as kits to make your own herbal medicines and such.  


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quick Black Bean Soup

Quick Black Bean Soup

Tonight I needed a soup recipe that I could make in, oh . . . 10 minutes! A google for "quick soup recipes" brought lots of recipes from people who have a very different definition of "quick" (80 minutes is NOT quick in my book, thankyouverymuch, much less crockpot recipes! but I digress . . .). One thing that jumped out at me was black bean soup recipes. With canned beans (which I had) they could be quick. But all the recipes I read (2 or 3) had ingredients that someone in my family wouldn't eat. So I used those recipes as a rough guide for proportions and "winged it". . . here's what I came up with:
2-3 Tbsp butter (or olive oil)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic (should have done 3-4, I ended up adding some garlic powder since there wasn't enough garlic, but real garlic is better)
2 c water or chicken stock
3 tsp vegetable broth (eliminate if using chicken stock)
3 cans black beans, drained & rinsed
a "shake" of cumin
a tiny pinch of red pepper
salt to taste
a couple large spoonfuls your favorite salsa

Saute onion and garlic in butter. Add water, chicken seasoning, 2 cans black beans, and seasonings.  Heat through. Use immersion blender to mostly blend the soup. Add last can of beans & salsa, adjust seasonings as needed, heat through. Serve. I would guess sour cream would make a nice garnish on this (I'm not a fan of sour cream on soup, and didn't think to suggest it to dh until he was done).

Sassy & MiniMe both declared it DELICIOUS! If time isn't a factor, cooking dry beans would make it cheaper. Hubby's review was "I can eat it" but he tends to not be a big soup person OR bean person, so that's about all I can ask for from him LOL.

Pasta and White Beans

Someone on a message board awhile back mentioned this as a quick, cheap meal, so we tried it tonight. Yummy, healthy, and cheap, what more can one ask for?!?!

Cook 6-8 oz whole wheat pasta of your choice (we used the corkscrews)
Meanwhile, saute some chopped onion and chopped celery (I used one small onion and 3 stalks (is a stalk the whole thing or one "spear"? 3 spears is what I used . . .) of celery) in some butter or olive oil. Add 2 cans great northern beans, drained (make it cheaper, and healthier, by cooking dry beans), and heat through. While it's all heating, go through your spice cabinet and add whatever herbs & spices sound good. I used some adobe seasoning, another seasoning blend that someone gave me, not sure what all is in it, some sage, and some sea salt. When the pasta's done, stir it into the bean mixture and serve, topped with parmesan if you like.

Kids are chowing down on it, so I call it a success :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

(Almost) Monthly Wrap-Up

Wow, my last weekly wrap-up was on November 12, I've been slacking . . . let's see, what have we been up to?

A never-ending cold. I had the longest-lasting cold I have EVER had! It took forever to get back on top of things, and I had to make sure to not push too hard or I'd get to coughing and not be able to stop, and then get a headache. So, we slowed down on things like read-alouds for school, and non-"essential" chores.

Thanksgiving - we had a lovely, quiet (as quiet as it can be with our 3 chatter-boxes daughters) Thanksgiving that was "just us". The big girls were on the schedule to tell children's story at church that week and we decided it made more sense to just enjoy our immediate family than have a rushed trip to visit extended family and rush back for church. The big girls asked to be in charge of Thanksgiving dinner, and made us a lovely meal of angel hair pasta with red sauce and alfredo, raw veggies and dip, sweet potato fries, probably something else I'm forgetting . . . and homemade chocolate orange ice cream for dessert. It was a nice day. I got an inexpensive tablecloth and had it on the table that day and after we ate I passed out Sharpies and we each wrote something we're thankful for, and the date, I plan to use it every year (if not ON Thanksgiving, near Thanksgiving, for those years when we do travel to visit family on Thanksgiving) and keep adding to it.

Decorating for Christmas - when we lived in MD, I always used the weekend after Thanksgiving to do my Christmas decorating, but it's been abit more sporatic since moving to PA, since we sometimes are gone for Thanksgiving (in MD all the relatives lived close enough that we just went to whoever's house for Thanksgiving dinner, not the whole weekend). But this year since we stayed home, we got to decorate on the weekend after Thanksgiving again. The girls had decided that this year they wanted a small, simple tree with just lights and I found a nice inexpensive live potted plant/tree that I can hopefully keep alive as a plant after xmas, we shall see . . . I like how it looks though. I gave the girls the choice of Advent wreath or Jesse tree and they chose Advent wreath this year. They inherited my love of candles, I think I'll have to figure out a way to incorporate candles into a Jesse Tree display to convince them to do that again another year LOL.  We're reading Jotham's Journey, and loving it!

School - we're reviewing a Spanish program, Little Bit and I are reviewing a preschool nutrition program, our slowness going through history so far worked out nicely to have us studying the Pilgrims near Thanksgiving, so that, combined with me not feeling good, meant I slowed things down abit more and spread the Pilgrims out over 2-3 weeks to take us right up to Thanksgiving. We thoroughly enjoyed an audiobook about the Pilgrims that gave alot more detail into their lives than I ever remember hearing. It conveniently gave us a great children's story for the girls to tell on the Sabbath after Thanksgiving too :) Now we're moving on into Benjamin Franklin and such.

We've had some lovely warm weather for lots of outdoor play, this time of year I try to make sure they soak up any good outdoor time we get to store up for when it's cold and icky!

Dh's office Christmas Party.  The big girls were quite proud of themselves. They chose to participate in the $5 gift-exchange game (everyone brings a wrapped, unmarked $5 gift, they put them all in the middle, everyone gets a number, and when your number is called you can either choose a gift from the middle and open it or steal someone's already-opened gift. If someone takes your gift, you get to steal from someone else or get one from the middle).  Sassy happened to choose a box of chocolates from the middle, and when someone took MiniMe's original gift, she stole another box of chocolates (both were Witman's samplers) from someone else. So they were now both happily sitting there with "twin" boxes of chocolate. But then someone took MiniMe's from her. There's a rule you can't re-steal the gift that was just taken from you but it took the 2 of them about a split-second (and slight nudge from Daddy) to get around that rule. MiniMe took Sassy's box of chocolates, which left Sassy free to legally steal "MiniMe's" chocolates from the guy who had taken them from MiniMe. Everyone thought it was hillarious, and the girls were quite proud of themselves.

This past weekend dh and I celebrated our 14th (!!!!) anniversary! As usual, the big girls got to spend the weekend (plus . . .) at Mama and Papa's. I tried to convince my parents that in the interest of "fairness" they had to take Little Bit too, since the first year they took the big girls was when they were the age that Little Bit is now (nevermind that she still nurses to sleep (they didn't), she still sleeps with us (they didn't), and she often wakes up during the night (they didn't). AND mom & dad just kept them for one night that year, whereas now they keep the big girls for a weekend or beyond, so it wouldn't work well to keep Little Bit one night. It was still fun to give them a hard time about it LOL). So we've had Little Bit with us, but our neighbors/adopted grandparents did babysit her one evening so we could go out to dinner on our own. It's been a nice weekend. My "anniversary present" was that dh finally replaced the LCD screen on the coffee maker, so now I can actually read what the machine is telling me instead of guessing what the random lines mean LOL.

Meanwhile, the big girls have been riding bikes and doing junior ranger programs and I don't know what all else at Mama and Papa's. Little Bit & I will go down later this week to join in the fun and then bring the big girls home.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some of the fun stuff we've been doing, but in the interest of actually getting this posted, I'm going to leave it at that for now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Artistic Pursuits

My girls love all things art and craft related, so I knew they'd be thrilled when they found out we were going to review Artistic Pursuits. And I was right. 

We received Grades K-3 Book One to review. Because this is an art curriculum, it is necessary to purchase art supplies to use with the curriculum. The company was really on top of things, they sent me a letter ahead of the book with a list of the necessary supplies, and those needed for the first few lessons highlighted, so that I could get the supplies and be ready to start when we got the book. You can order the supplies along with your book, here, or click through to the supply pack for your book to see a list of supplies needed and get them yourself locally. If you scroll to the bottom of the art supply page you'll also find links to purchase the supplies at a discount from Blick Art. Because we were travelling when we received the letter, I didn't have time to order the supplies online, so I just went to our local craft store to get the supplies for the first few lessons. I found that if I get the rest of the supplies over time, using the store's discount coupons for the larger items, it will work out to be about the same price as ordering the pack from Blick. Additionally that allows me to pick and choose which things we need per child (a pencil, paint brush, etc) and which things they can share (the watercolor crayons).

The website says that these books require no teacher preparation, but I've found that's not quite accurate. Perhaps in a well-stocked art classroom that would be true, but some of the lessons say things like "your teacher has a variety of pictures for you to look at" that ummmm . . . I don't have magically available :) In that case, there was the option of looking at the pictures or going outside and finding things in nature and conveniently the weather was nice that day so I just sent them outside, but it showed me that I *do* need to read over the lessons ahead of time. Overall, however, there is very LITTLE teacher prep required, as long as you have the listed art supplies on hand. 

The curriculum combines teaching about art, art appreciation, and hands-on projects so that it is a complete art curriculum. Each book includes 32 lessons so it will cover a whole year of art (one lesson per week). 

Each lesson talks about some aspect of art, examines a famous piece of artwork (a color picture of the art is included in the book so you don't have to have art prints on hand), and then has an assignment for the children to do using the techniques or whatever that were discussed in that day's lesson. Today's lesson talks about how artists use photographs to give them ideas and allow them to paint things that wouldn't sit still to be painted or whatever. Then the assignment is to find a photograph they like, and use it as the basis for a picture they draw with watercolor crayons, then paint over.

The book we are reviewing is designed for a grades K-3, I'd say that's accurate. Little Bit wants to "do art" with her sisters, but I usually just give her water colors or something. I don't think much younger than 5 would understand the techniques and concepts presented, though they might enjoy drawing/painting/etc along with older siblings. Older children who haven't had a ton of art would probably enjoy doing this along with younger siblings. I'm enjoying learning along with my children. Artistic Pursuits also has a Preschool book for ages 3-5, and books for older children (Grades 4-6, Junior High, and High School) so unless you're wanting to do art all together, it's easy to get a book that's the right "fit" for your child's age.

Maybe it's just my children, but hands-on art seems to be a winner with all learning styles. This provides the structure that more structured teaching styles would appreciate, but the lessons are short enough, and the children are eager enough to "do art" that it's fit nicely into our eclectic-leaning-toward-unschooling approach as well. A visual learner could read the text themselves, my auditory learners are happy to let me read it to them, and of course getting to try each lesson's techniques out for themselves appeals to the kinesthetic in everyone.

I'm sure creative, artistic mamas (or papas) could do something similar without a book, but for those of us who are art-challenged, this series is a great option. And $42 for a full year's art curriculum, that can be used with as many children as you have, it's a great value!

The girls have been enjoying this book immensely, and I plan to continue using it the rest of the year (though during the review period we've often done 2-3 lessons per week, and now we'll probably cut back to one every week or two, just to free up time for other things we're working on). Sassy loves everything about it. MiniMe loves the idea of it all, but her perfectionist tendencies are getting in the way. I finally told her that she wasn't going to  be allowed to continue if she kept thinking she had to produce PERFECT, photograph-like paintings and drawings.

I love that the lessons are short and require very little prep-work. I like that a variety of mediums and techniques are presented. I like that I'll be able to use this same product in a few years with Little Bit. One of the main products that have been used so far are watercolor crayons and I have to say, I'm not a fan of them. My children just aren't understanding how they are supposed to work, even when I've showed them. They hear "draw a picture" and so they draw a picture, with the detail typical in a drawing, then they are supposed to go over that picture with a wet paint brush to get the water-color effect and it smears all their detail. They're slowly getting it, but I think at this age, it would have been better to either just let them draw with crayons, markers or colored pencils, and not have "paintings" or let them actually paint. I wanted to use the product "as suggested" first to get a feel for things, but I think going forward when water color crayons are suggested I'll give my children the choice to use them, or another medium (either one we've learned about, or regular water colors, or the typical children's art supplies that we usually use).

Be sure to check out the Crew Blog to see what my fellow crew mates thought of the Artistic Pursuit books (we all chose which book to review, so you'll also get information about the other books.


Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Biblical (Jewish) Holidays

I've mentioned several times over the last few months that we've started celebrating the Biblical (Jewish) Holidays.  I thought I'd share a little more about that, and some of the resources that have led us on our journey.

As I think is the case for most Christians, I was raised with the understanding that Jesus fulfilled the Jewish holidays so they no longer needed to be observed. The one exception being, as a Seventh-day Adventist, we still keep Sabbath since it's commanded in the 10 Commandments and is a memorial of creation, which wasn't fulfilled.

Then a few years ago I happened to be reading something written by someone who DOES keep the Biblical holidays as a Christian (I don't remember who) and mention was made of the fact that the spring holidays pointed to Jesus' first coming and the fall holidays point to His Second Coming. That threw me. If the fall holidays point to his SECOND COMING, why aren't we still celebrating them? It has been on my "to study" list ever since, but never made it to the top of the list. I DID, at some point when it was on sale, purchase the ebook version of Biblical Holidays, but never found time to read it.

Over the past year or so I *have* done more studying/reading/thinking about Sabbath, and how God intends it to be celebrated (not just kept). As a part of that journey, I discovered a wonderful company called Wholesome Learning. Their products are available from both Currclick and the TOS Store. One thing to note, for some reason, the mp3 files from Currclick have a kind of strange sounding voice saying something about "this file was purchased from" that takes some getting used to. The TOS mp3s don't have this (or anything like it, obviously it wouldn't say it was purchased from currclick). So, if the price is the same, I prefer to purchase the audio files from TOS for this reason.

So anyway, I discovered Wholesome Learning, and purchased their mp3 Let's Celebrate the Feast of Shabbat. At that point, the girls and I listened to it. They liked the idea of having a special meal, but not the blessings and such. So we started small. We decided that soup would be a good Shabbat (Friday night) meal and accordingly we went to TJ Maxx and found some pretty bowls and "fancy" glasses. We started lighting candles and setting the table nicely on Friday night. And I started getting Challah bread sometimes. For a long time that's all the girls wanted to do with it, and that was fine. . .

Meanwhile, this fall, someone on a message board I'm on mentioned that Rosh Hashanah was coming up in about a week. I had my typical "oh yeah, I need to research the fall feasts" thought, followed by the (also typical), but it's coming up so soon, I don't have time to study it properly to celebrate them this year . . . and then I thought back to what I'd been learning/realizing about Shabbat. Regardless of whether or not any of this is "required", it's a chance to celebrate God! As I've told the girls several times, to God, it makes no more sense to say "we have to keep Sabbath" than it would to them for me to say "we have to celebrate Christmas" (that was a real ah-ha moment for them LOL). And what I realized this year is, I don't HAVE to have all the answers, my children LOVE any chance to have a party and whether the feast days are required or were done away with or whatever, there's certainly nothing WRONG with celebrating God's leading. So we decided to just "jump in".  I dug out my Biblical Holidays book and started reading about Rosh Hashanah, but I also remembered Wholesome Learning and went looking. Sure enough they have an mp3 called Children, Let's Celebrate Rosh Hashanah! and also a Rosh Hashanah Scavenger Hunt. The Children, Let's Celebrate was a great way to introduce Rosh Hashanah to my girls. It gave us a starting point, then I was able to read them bits & pieces from Biblical Holidays to help them understand more about it. We had great fun, I talk about it a little bit in this post. I should note that the weather didn't cooperate for us to use the scavenger hunt, so I filed it away to use next year, it looks like great fun!

And so began our journey into the world of Biblical Holidays. The girls are LOVING it! What child wouldn't jump at the chance to have extra PARTIES!! We've continued to use the Wholesome Learning mp3s as a great intro and then supplement with information from the Biblical Holidays book and various online sources.  While the individual workshops are wonderfully affordable, you can also get a"bundle" product to learn about all the (or at least most of the) feasts.

Jumping back to our Shabbat celebration, once we began learning about, and celebrating, the other Biblical holidays our girls were ready to add to our Shabbat celebration. One Friday evening they decided they wanted to wear scarves on their heads. With their renewed interest we relistened to the workshop about Shabbat again and added more pieces. Now they were interested in learning the Hebrew blessings, so we're working on that (I found this little ebook helpful in teaching them the Hebrew blessing for the candles, I'd love it if they made more of these for the other blessings). We've also started making our own challah bread which is not only yummy, but cheaper and healthier than store-bought!

This has been such a fun journey for us. As we move through November we are already making plans to celebrate Hanukkah as well as Christmas next month. It's fun to see my children soo excited about what God has done!

Before I close I want to mention one other product-line I've been enjoying from Wholesome Learning. When I was reading the Dahveed series (GREAT BOOKS, by the way, I'm impatiently waiting for her to release book #4!!!) it really inspired me to learn at least a little bit of Hebrew, I don't have much time, or brain-power to try to learn it like an "adult" (giggle), but I noticed that Wholesome Learning has a "Read Hebrew Today" program. The price is reasonable, and it's geared for young children on up, so I decided to try it. I am LOVING it!! I won't be translating the Bible, or carrying on conversations in Hebrew anytime soon, but it's giving me a starting point that I can fit into little bits of time in the car or wherever and I'm having fun with it. I'd like to introduce it to my girls, but figure right now we need to stick with Spanish and not confusing things with a 3rd language. So for now it's just for me! 

Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for Amazon, Currclick and the TOS Store. Items purchased through the links in this post will provide me with a small commission from these companies. I only recommend products that I believe in and all opinions are my own!

Weekly Wrap Up - November 12

We had an extremely uneventful week, due mainly to the fact that I was sick all week (nasty cold, still hanging around, grumble grumble). The girls have been coughing some but nowhere near as sick as me. Which is good, but I'm struggling to be much of a mommy, sigh . . .

So, after last week a few baby steps toward getting caught up on housework, this past week has been another jump back. The girls have done quite abit of the meal prep, but I figured asking them to do too many chores on top of that, while I sat in the recliner and did nothing, was asking abit much. So hopefully I'll feel better soon (VERY soon, since I have a moms' group scheduled at MY house this Wednesday, sigh . . . I'm praying the weather will be as nice as it was a bunch of this past week and we can move it to the park, worst case, they'll see how we really live LOL) and we can get back on track.

So let's see. We had lovely weather most of the week so I bought myself a little bit of resting time by sending all 3 girls outside to play for spurts of time.

We've moved on to the "Pilgrims" unit for history, which is coinciding nicely close to Thanksgiving. My voice hasn't been up to much read-aloud-ing, so I had them read their independent reading books first, and finally started Squanto (our read aloud) on Friday.

Also to save my voice, we put the Christmas symbols lapbook on hold and have gone back to our regular Bible plan for this year. We fell into a lovely pattern where all 3 girls gather at the dining room table and play with playdough while listening to the Bible chapters. It keeps Little Bit much happier with things than when we tried to listen in the family room. Now she asks "is it time for school yet?" LOL.

Little Bit has also embraced our Spanish routine. She loves getting one-on-one time with each sister while the other is doing vocab with me. I let her choose who will go upstairs (or outside) and play with her first.

Our other main subject right now is Art. The girls are absolutely LOVING Artistic Pursuits (look for a review next month), and beg to do it every day. I've been aiming for 2-3 days per week right now, to get a good sampling of the lessons before the review period is over. I'm planning (and have warned the girls accordingly) to settle into a routine of doing Art once a week after the review period is over.

We need to get back into our Insect studies for nature/science, but for now I've let that slide to the back burner (to make time for art more days per week) and we're listening to Jonathan Park CDs whenever we're in the car and calling that science (they are AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME creation science stories. Click the link in my sidebar to check them out (and get me a slight commission if you purchase through the link).

And that has pretty much been our week. Nothing very exciting. A sick mommy will do that, sigh . . . but we keep moving along with things and that's what's supposed to happen :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up - November 6

After our eventful weekend last weekend we had a quiet week.

AND after all our travelling in October, it was time to get back to chore packs and try to find our house under the clutter.

While Rodney  was gone we had some fun trying recipes that I've had on my "to try" list but were things Rodney wouldn't like. The girls were excited to help cook these new dishes and overall they were a hit. Some of the recipes we tried (and liked) included:

Butternut squash mac & cheese (Sassy insisted she didn't like it, because she doesn't like squash, but I still don't think she'd have been able to tell there was squash in it if she hadn't known. For that matter, I'd love to see what Rodney thought of this, see if HE could tell the squash was in it).

Dutch Baby Apple Pancake (I LOVED it, the girls said it was too "eggy")

Easy Italian Pasta Bake (we all LOVED this one! It will definitely be a go-to recipe whenever Rodney's out of town (he doesn't like tomato sauce so he wouldn't like it).

Baked Apple Oatmeal (Sassy declared it "too oatmeally" but the rest of us liked it, and *I* generally do NOT like oatmeal, but this was yummy!)

Taco Corn Fritters (we all liked these too, and I love that they can be made ahead and frozen, will probably keep these in mind as a lunch option when we travel too)

Meltaway Cabbage over egg noodles (Sassy LOVED this one. MiniMe and I both ate it fine, though I'll admit it's not the best thing I've ever eaten. But if the kids like it, it's a healthy, inexpensive dish so I can go with it. Little Bit didn't like the cabbage but was happy to eat the plain egg noodles).

So those were our cooking adventures while Rodney was gone.

Otherwise we were doing school, and chores and such exciting things. The girls WERE excited to start our latest review product, Artistic Pursuits, anything art-related is a hit with them, and this has been no exception.

We were all happy to have Daddy come home mid-week. Little Bit especially was THRILLED to have Daddy home. She went RUNNING to him when he came in the door and would NOT let go of him all evening. The next morning instead of getting up and fussing about wanting to nurse (I was in the shower) or going and bothering her sisters, she headed straight downstairs to find Daddy and cuddle with him until he had to go to work. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review and GIVEAWAY: Christmas Lodge

Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Laura Lane, our new winner!

I love Thomas Kinkade's artwork, and I love Christmas movies, so it was a no-brainer to say yes when I was given the chance to review Thomas Kinkade's "Christmas Lodge" DVD.

This morning while the girls and Rodney were visiting Grandmom I curled up with a pumpkin spice latte and some leftover apple dutch baby pancake and thoroughly enjoyed this movie!

Of course, I got impatient and STARTED watching the movie before the girls left, so as soon as they got home this evening they begged to finish watching the movie, so now we're watching it again, hee hee.

In a nutshell, this is a movie about a city girl who rediscovers Christmas Lodge, a mountain lodge her family used to visit when she was a little girl. Now it's falling apart, and she decides to help the current owner get the financing and help he needs to renovate it and re-open the lodge. In the process she brings her family closer together and falls in love.

It's a great, feel-good movie that I suspect will be a Christmas favorite in this house full of girls! One consideration, there are quite a few references to grandma being in heaven and "speaking" to her, etc. which goes against our belief, that those who have died are sleeping until Jesus comes to raise them again. But since the belief that the dead in Christ go straight to heaven is the belief of most Christians this isn't surprising and I'll gladly accept this in order to have a wholesome movie where unmarried couples get SEPARATE rooms when they go away for a weekend in the mountains, grace is said before meals, and prayer and God's will are prevalent throughout!

I highly recommend this movie!!!!

And now the fun part, I get to give a free copy of this DVD to one of my readers!!! If you'd like a chance at winning this video, leave a comment for each entry opportunity below, and make sure to include an e-mail address or other way for me to easily contact you:

  • Mandatory Entry:  What's your favorite Christmas tradition?
Additional entries (leave a separate comment for each)
  • Follow my blog on Google Friend Connect (see side bar)
  • Like my blog on facebook
  • Follow me on twitter 

And now the "fine print" giveaway open to US addresses only. You must be over 18 to enter. Giveaway closes on November 10 at 8pm Eastern. Winner will be notified and will have 2 days to reply or another winner will be chosen.

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services 

mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I 

only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: 

"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

TOS Crew Review: The Person I Marry


A couple years ago at a homeschool convention I happened to stop at a booth in the vendor hall that had absolutely GORGEOUS children's books. The artwork is beautiful paintings, not the silly drawings that are so often used for children's books. I didn't have the money to purchase any of the books, but I have to admit I wandered back by several times during the convention just to flip through them, and they stuck in my mind.

PhotobucketFast forward to this year's crew, and we were give the opportunity to review The Person I Marry from Bower Books. As soon as I clicked through to their site on the review interest form, I recognized the books as the beautiful ones I'd seen in the vendor hall, and jumped at the chance to review it.  I have to admit, I was disappointed to find out that, rather than a downloadable ebook, we received a link to an online version of the book. But at least we were able to read and enjoy this BEAUTIFUL book!

Since the twins are currently in a "we're too old for picture books" phase, I told them before we started that yes, this is a picture book, and yes, little kids would enjoy it, but it also has a message for older kids, kids their age, and even teenagers and young adults. I don't know if my comments "worked" or if they were as enthralled by the beautiful artwork and lovely text as I was, but they listened to it without any complaints.

The author did a good job of keeping the book applicable to boys AND girls. So my girls spent the whole book trying to decide "who" was talking, a boy or a girl LOL.

At the end of the book, when I asked the girls about it, they not only said they loved it, but decided they each need their own copy. The back page of the book is a lined page that the child can list his or her own list of traits to look for in a husband/wife, and that was the reason each girl wants her own. We talked about how they also wanted to be able to sit down with the book on their own and read through it more slowly, thinking about each trait that is mentioned and how it applies to their life. And so, this book is going on their Christmas lists this year. A copy for each of them, and possibly one for Little Bit as well, though I may wait a couple years to get her her own copy.

This book absolutely is NOT just for homeschoolers!! It's a lovely book that can be enjoyed by little children, tweens, and teens. Actually *I* enjoyed the book as well, did I mention I love the artwork? But obviously it's abit late for me to be considering the traits to look for in a husband ;-)

It's a nice flowing text to read aloud, and, as I mentioned, my girls, who love to be read to, specifically said THIS book was one they wanted to be able to hold and read on their own as well.

The Person I Marry is available on the Bower Book website for $11.99. Be sure to take some time to look at all the other beautiful books available, with topics ranging from Heaven to friendship to adoption.

Also stop by the TOS Crew blog to see what my fellow crew mates have to say about this lovely book.

Disclaimer: I received access to an online version of this book in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Weekly Wrap Up - Snow Edition

So I actually have an excuse for being late with this week' wrap-up! We had a snow storm this weekend!!! From Saturday afternoon until Sunday afternoon we didn't have power and then when the power came back on we didn't have internet until today (Tuesday, but it might be Wednesday by the time I get this posted). So . . . I'm just not dedicated enough to try to write a blog post on my phone, sorry!

Ok, so back-tracking to the beginning of last week. . .

Sunday and Monday were just normal days.

Tuesday afternoon we left with Rodney to go to the Scranton area. Honestly, the hotel's indoor pool, and of course, time with Daddy, were the main draw. We were at Steamtown not too long ago, and there's an admission charge if we go without my parents (who have the "old people national park pass" that gets them, and their "party" in free). The coal mine tour sounded kind of cool until I saw the admission prices, they're not outrageous, but I decided it was more than I wanted to pay to wrangle Little Bit in a coal mine.

As we were going out to the car to go to supper that evening I grabbed some brochures in the hotel lobby and jokingly told Rodney that there was a big antique store nearby. The big girls latched on to that and REALLY wanted to go, so that became our plan for Wednesday. Needless to say, they also wanted to swim, and of course an antique store isn't an all-day excursion for 8 year olds (and certainly not for a 2 year old). When we dropped Rodney off at the treasurer's house, I saw that the antique store was near her house. So I told the girls we'd go back to the hotel, swim and do school that morning, then go out for lunch (the hotel website hadn't mentioned a microwave or fridge so we opted to just eat out this trip, turned out we DID have a microwave and fridge but for 2 nights I decided it wasn't worth finding a grocery store and getting food for in the room when I hadn't brought dishes or anything with us), then drive to the antique store while Little Bit fell asleep, let her nap in the car till she woke up and then we could go to the antique store, then go pick Daddy up. Turns out, he got done sooner than expected and texted me to come pick him up just as Little Bit was waking up. So we coerced Daddy into going to the antique store with us after we picked him up. He wasn't real excited, but it worked alot better for me because he was able to take Little Bit outside while I stayed with the big girls in the store. They were enthralled by it all, and we ended up finding a cool candle holder that holds 8 small candles. Not an official Menorah, but it will work nicely as one and the girls thought it was cool to get something at the antique store.

That evening we went to Uno's for supper. The girls didn't remember ever going to an Uno's, the one near us closed a couple years ago. A "new" thing, or perhaps just that store's thing, was that when we were seated the guy who seated us gave each of the girls a ball of raw pizza dough that they could shape however they wanted and then the waitress took it back to the kitchen where they sprinkled the dough with cinnamon sugar and baked it, then brought it back out to us. So the girls thought that was really cool and it kept them well entertained while we waited for our food.

Thursday we came back home, and Rodney happened to see on facebook that they were calling for SNOW on Sabbath. So I altered plans slightly to make sure to get all grocery shopping and such done on Friday.  Rodney left Friday afternoon to visit a friend in Florida for the weekend (great timing, huh?).

Sabbath morning it was still rain, but the forecast still said we'd be getting snow, starting mid-morning so, since I'm a wimp when it comes to driving in snow, and Rodney was gone, the girls and I chose to have a "home church" day. We sang songs from Little Bit's Sabbath School program and discussed various topics the big girls wanted to talk about, it was nice. Then just after I'd gone in the kitchen to start fixing lunch the power went out. It had blinked several times that morning, but this time it stayed out. We ate apples and cheese for lunch, then I put Little Bit down for her nap and read to the big girls while she slept.

The power came back on late afternoon so I cranked the heat up, knowing it could go out again (it was still snowing) I wanted to "store" as much heat as possible while we had it. We went outside to see how things were (I wouldn't let the girls go outside while the power was out, since we didn't have a way to get warmed up if they got cold). When we went outside and I saw how many BIG branches had fallen, I told them that even with power they couldn't be outside, too many big trees near our house! We went back in and cooked supper and the power went off again right after we finished cooking supper, and stayed off until noonish on Sunday. We ate our supper, lit candles, and talked, played guessing games and sang songs until bedtime. At bedtime I decided since the power was out, that it would be better if we all slept on the living room floor. For one thing, our main floor has 18" thick stone (I think, it's covered with stucco, but the interior walls in the basement are stone so I assume that's what's inside our main floor walls too) walls which do a pretty good job of keeping heat (or cool in summer) in, but upstairs are normal thin walls and not real-well insulated, so I knew it would get alot colder upstairs than downstairs. Also I figured if it got really cold, we could all share body heat if we were all sleeping together. We have 2 small LED lanterns but one is tempermental about turning on/off so if we were all together we could have the one working lantern easily accessible for anyone who needed to go to the bathroom or whatever, although the moon on the snow provided pretty good light. And my final reason, that I didn't mention to the girls, was my fear of trees falling on the house. I figured if one of the big trees near the house DID fall, or a big enough branch to come through the roof, the main floor was a safer place to be than upstairs (again, those thicker walls, plus farther from the roof).  So since MiniMe's normal bed is a king size feather mattress topper folded in half, we brought it down and laid it out flat for us to all sleep on (not a super cushy bed, but as soft as when the girls sleep on the floor in hotels. I knew I wasn't likely to get much sleep no matter what) then they each had their own twin down comforter (Little Bit and I shared hers) and I spread my queen down comforter over all of us, though that ended up being too warm. Once we were quiet and in bed the snow/ice/branches falling off the trees and landing on our roof was constant, and loud, enough that even from downstairs it sounded like someone was walking around upstairs. So that was Sat night.

Sunday morning it was chilly, but still in the high 50's according to the thermostat in the living room, so not too horrible. Still no power. Our "emergency plan" for heating food when we don't have power is to use the grill on the front porch, which would work well if dh was here, but I have to admit I've never used the grill AND Little Bit was being really clingy/fussy. So I knew if I tried to go out there and cook breakfast (and heat water for coffee and hot chocolate) it would mean either taking her out with me (and at least one big girl to watch her so I could focus on figuring out the grill) so we'd ALL have to be out in the cold, or have her literally standing at the door screaming for me the whole time and I didn't like either option. We don't keep cold cereal in the house (after this experience I've decided I should at least make sure to keep a batch of granola in the freezer for "emergencies") since the girls don't like it, and it's not a healthy or economical choice anyway. And did I mention I wanted coffee? So, as I looked out the window, I was pretty sure I could make it up the driveway (it had been plowed on Sat. afternoon and, in retrospect, I'm thinking the plow must have come back through during the night, though I didn't hear him) and if the driveway was that clear, roads probably were ok, and we could go to Starbucks! Regardless, by that point I needed to recharge my phone (had been texting to dh pretty regularly to keep him informed about our status, plus it was my source for weather and stuff), which I figured I could do in the car. So I told the girls we were all going to go out to the car. Little Bit could watch the DVD player in the car and my phone could charge. IF I could make it up the driveway and the roads were ok we'd go to Starbucks. If not, at least we could warm up, Little Bit could watch the tv she kept asking for, and my phone could charge. The big girls were great help at cleaning the car off and shoveling the little area between the back of the car and the plowed part (and Little Bit was perfectly happy to sit in the car and watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while we worked).  Once we got the car cleared off, we were able to get up the driveway easily enough, and our road was clear, though LOTS of branches down along the sides, or pushed off to the side. The main roads were snow-free and trees had, again, been moved to the side. The stoplights for the first while were out and a road not very far from us was closed and we could see a HUGE tree completely blocking it. But Starbucks was open (and doing a brisk business LOL).

After breakfast we went home, hopeful that our power would be back on, but we were disappointed. It was still out, but we went ahead and did some school and around noon the power came on, but the cable and internet were completely dead.

The girls and I both decided we appreciate heat and electricity more after living without it for a little while, and are very thankful that we were only without power for one day.

The girls also mentioned that it was kind of fun to spend an evening just talking and playing games and stuff instead of all doing our own things, so we agreed that we'd have an evening like that (but with light and heat LOL) on a regular basis.

So that's what our week last week, and the first day or so of this week, were all about. The snow was pretty, but sure did alot of damage!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vegetable Broth Powder

My kids will eat broth made with this plain! I call that a hit :) Almost anytime a recipe calls for chicken broth or vegetable broth, I use this instead. This makes a large batch to keep in the pantry and use as needed.

1/4 c celery seed
1/4 c dried parsley flakes
2 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp ground savory
2 tsp dried marjoram
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground sage

Combine all in a mason jar, shake to mix. Shake before using. Use 1 tsp mix per cup of water to make broth.

adapted from this recipe

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: Catch-up Edition

I seem to be doing well with the "week and a half" thing, sigh . . . so let's see, where did I leave off?

A week ago Friday . . . that was just a day of packing and getting things done.

Sabbath (Oct 15) - after church we headed to Pittsburgh. When Little Bit woke up from her nap she was REALLY grouchy (not sure why, it's not like her). So when we stopped at a rest area soon after that, I decided it was time to turn her carseat forward-facing. She's not at the max weight for rear-facing in her carseat yet, and up until now she'd been content so we went with it. But the thought of 3 hours of the big girls having to keep a grouchy toddler entertained when I've gotten lazy about planning car activities because usually she's such a good traveler, just made me head hurt. Turning her forward facing means now we can utilize the minivan's built in DVD player to help keep her entertained. We really haven't been using the DVD player at all with the big girls, but thankfully I HAD brought along a couple DVDs. One was a Magic Schoolbus video on bugs to go along with our current nature study on bees. I'd figured the big girls could watch it during Little Bit's nap sometime. And then for some reason I through in the Theo video we reviewed awhile back.  So, while I took the girls in for a potty break at the rest area, Rodney turned the carseat around.  Needless to say, Little Bit was pretty excited to be able to "sit like sisters" and was amazed to discover we have a TV in our car LOL. Thankfully, she enjoyed the Magic Schoolbus videos, even asking for them sometime even later in the trip (on Sunday I went to Kmart and got a couple DVDs of some of her favorite tv shows).

Sunday was a day of swimming and such at the hotel, we originally considered going to a museum, until we went to breakfast at the hotel and realized, based on the fact that we were literally the ONLY people in the breakfast area NOT wearing Steelers clothes, that there was a Steelers game that day. Since both museums are pretty close to the stadium we opted to stay far away from that area on a game day.

Monday we went to Carnegie Science Center. The big girls were thrilled to have the sports building pretty much to themselves. Their big accomplishment was to climb to the top of the climbing wall (shudder).

Little Bit enjoyed the "little kid" area.

Tuesday we went to the Pittsburgh Children's Museum. As always the art studio was a big hit. Little Bit got into the action more this time. Her favorite was the clay, she spent hours (more or less) playing with clay while her sisters did recycled sculpture projects. They were doing some remodeling and were between special exhibits so there wasn't as much else to do, but Little Bit enjoyed the "nursery" (little kid area) for awhile and the big girls had fun with an electricity exhibit, figuring out how circuits and stuff work.

Wednesday Rodney needed to go to Erie for the day, and since it was supposed to rain, the girls and I opted to stay at the hotel. If it wasn't rainy we would have gone to the Erie Zoo, but I wasn't as confident about keeping them entertained all day on a rainy day. So we did school, and played in the pool and such.

Thursday morning Rodney had one last appointment and then we were leaving around noon. So while he went to that the girls and I packed and snuck in a final trip to the pool. One of the highlights of Pittsburgh trips for Little Bit is the "sparkley tunnels" her name for the white tile walls and florescent lights in the tunnels on the trip out, and between our hotel and downtown Pittsburgh. On the trip home she napped for the first however long and then coincidentally (seriously, none of us made any noise or anything) woke up while we were IN the first tunnel of the trip home. She was SOO excited to wake up in a sparkley tunnel, it was cute.

I should also note that most of our trip fell during Sukkot. We had talked about making a "tent" over the desk in the hotel room but the girls didn't remember while we were there and I must admit I didn't remind them, 5 of us in a rather small hotel room is chaotic enough. We had also talked about them making a dollhouse size sukkah to have in the hotel room but we got there and I couldn't find the doll house dolls and other supplies that the girls had planned to bring, so I figured we'd forgotten them. I did find them, tucked in the corner, as we were packing to leave on Thurs morning, oops.  So, not alot of celebrating. We DID read about and discuss the various symbolisms of the holiday each morning for Bible.

So that was our fun, trip. Friday was naturally a day of laundry and groceries and such.

I should also mention the changes we've made to our Friday night "Shabbat" celebration. Awhile back we had talked some about the traditional things Jews do to welcome Shabbat, but the girls weren't really interested. For the last year or so, when possible, we've used special dishes (we went to TJMaxx and found pretty soup bowls and some simple, inexpensive stemware), we have soup and challah bread and light candles. A few weeks ago, when Sassy asked to light the candles she remembered that one of the things we learned about the Jewish celebration is that the women wear scarves or other head coverings. So she went and found a scarf to wear when she lit the candles. Then last week (a week ago), I thought I'd surprise the girls and have grape juice instead of water to drink. And the girls remembered that another part of the Jewish celebration was passing around a special cup and saying a blessing on the grape juice (this, incidentally, is most likely what Jesus would have said/done when he "took the wine and blessed it" at the last supper). So they wanted to do that but I'm not organized to be able to lay my hands on the wording (in English or Hebrew) for the blessing at the last minute, so we just made up our own for that night.

Fast forward to Thursday while we were doing school and waiting for Rodney to get back from his morning appointment. I found the mp3 about Shabbat and we listened to it again. The girls wanted to learn the blessings, in English AND Hebrew. So we started with the blessing that's typically said while lighting the Shabbat candles. They quickly learned it in English,and now we're slowly working on learning the Hebrew version.

And I think that pretty much catches us up on what's been going on around here. I have some pictures, but those will have to wait till later.