Happy Lover's Day. May you share your love with those close to you.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
That said, we had a potter's class in the fall and he was tickled as all get out about the "Potter's'" wheel connection. I am certain the sensation of throwing on a wheel would have appealed to him regardless of his HP preoccupation but it made for fun puns along the way.
When we returned and settled into our school routine, the art for the semester was an easy pick. We had private lessons at a local ceramic studio. Throwing on the wheel and creating a bowl from a chunk of clay provided hands on learning at it's finest.
Friday, January 7, 2011
I love this perpetual calendar! What a great way to capture the main events of the day. I try to record a daily journal and track what was big for that day; something funny someone said, an amazing life changing epiphany, or just something notable. Truthfully I can't stick with it. This may just be the streamlined approach I need.
So creatively simple and what a great gift idea. You can use postcards. pictures or anything that might be special for your recipient. There are so many possibilities.
Images and more DIY details from Design Sponge.
Found via The Violet Hours.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Transforming our reluctant reader
So, each of my charming students (both kids, that is) have readers that graduate with difficulty throughout the year. The story selections are phenomenal. Anna began the year as a reluctant reader. She would declare her disdain for the written word and protest at the suggestion of reading. While it had been her mantra for quite some time, she had a subtle change of heart as our school year settled in. Nothing was forced, it was simply offered. Her reading selections that were part of her curricula were interesting to her. She had been stuck reading books that bored her. The basic stories that were previously provided for her skill level were of no interest. There was not enough plot or any interesting description.
Finally she was given some great historical fiction that drew her right in at her level and she hasn't looked back. Not once have we had to debate about her readers. She happily picks them up and often reads ahead. And it's because of the depth of literature offered.
In addition to the individual readers, our program has a history read aloud we do together in the evenings. David usually takes over with this and I often find all three snuggled together intently listening for the next page.
One recent read aloud was the missionary story of Gladys Aylward. She was a determined woman who passionately felt her calling was to serve in China. Her story is a moving testimony of the impact one person can have when their heart has a calling. I don't mind sharing that I caught my dear sweet, but very strong and manly husband crack his voice at the conclusion of the story. He was so moved by her perseverance in seemingly hopeless circumstances.
Can the movie possibly be as good as the book?
The Inn of Six Happinesses is a movie staring Ingrid Bergman that is loosely based on this story. Saturday night, we lit a fire and snuggled in to watch the flick. Too many times to count someone disappointingly declared "this did not happen" and wondered how there could be so many inconsistencies with the written story (starting with the title --"There are EIGHT happinesses!")?! As with most Hollywood depictions of great literature, the story was greatly modified and lost some things along the way.
The Ah-Ha Moment
It was certainly worth it to see our read aloud on the screen in spite of the departure from the original story. I was tickled as all get out that a lesson I have been sharing over and over was finally realized. Movies are never as good as the book. And they saw this first hand. It was beyond their reasoning that the movie didn't accurately depict Gladys's story as it left out so many of the details that truly exhibit her determination and passion.
I think it's safe to say movies - when inspired from a book - have been dethroned in our home. A good read is always better!
P.S. Incidentally there was a quote from the movie that spoke to me as I was sitting with my fresh new notebook on New Year's Day, planning our 2011. Advice was given to Gladys that "A life that is planned is closed. It can be endured but not lived." I put down my pen and snuggled in a bit tighter. Hollywood or not, I like that.
Image and more about Gladys here.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
There was a time, long ago, when I thought I wanted to be a scrapbooker. I'm crafty and I love all the supplies, but really I think it was more drawn to the archival aspect of the craft. My luke-warm commitment can most certainly be linked to my lack of patience for the detail that yields just one page. My visions far surpass my results. I peter out before I complete my grand plan. Not surprisingly, I have plenty of albums started but not too many completed.
My Christmas Album however, is a mark of pride. Not because the pages within it are awe inspiring but because it is filled with Christmas cards from our friends and family since the beginning of our marriage and theirs. Our 'peeps' shared the highlights of their lives and as we flip through the pages we go back to some of those forgotten moments.
Each year I start with our family photo card and letter and thoughtfully group together the photo cards we receive into a set of following pages.
It was a small enough project for me to accomplish in one sitting, and now, ten years later I truly appreciate the time I took to put those cards into the album. My style has changed significantly but that is part of the charm. Recording it, as it is 'now'.
When we are raising a family, building a career or just getting by, we don't often stop and cherish the moments. But over time, when we look back, we recall how much things have changed or how some of the most important things have remained the same. Pulling the album out each year and remembering the folks we have shared a season or more with helps make our micro world a little more macro.
As our family grew and the album reached it's capacity, so did my scrapbooking. Instead of adding a second volume to the collection, I now capture all our photos, hole punch them and add them to a ring--with our photo and letter leading the pack. It's the best I can do these days and while it may not have all the extra borders or stickers or labels, it is a doable means for me to still archive photos that we can bring out over the holidays and remember....
The simplicity and pureness of this level of archiving speaks to me and where I am now-a-days. I'm glad I did more when I had the time, but I'm just as happy with these too. The intent and results are the same. If you have made the effort to send us a photo card over the years, chances are good you are in our pages and we think of you each holiday.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
My sister-in-law brought the most delicious pumpkin soup for an appetizer at Thanksgiving. It's perfectly creamy and not too much pumpkin. The thyme and sherry are the little savory somethings that make you go hmmmmmm.
I have been serving it any chance I can muster since I got my hands on the recipe. It was fabulous in a warmer at our Cookie Exchange, and would be great at any New Year's Bash. I have had enough requests for the recipe so I must pass it on. I can assure you this will warm us throughout winter. Please enjoy.
Best Ever Pumpkin Soup
1 T butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 can (15 oz) 100% pure pumpkin
2 cups chicken broth
1 t each thyme and salt
2 small bay leaves
1 cup light cream
¼ cup dry sherry (optional)
Garnish: chopped chives
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add onion and sauté over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until translucent. Stir in pumpkin, broth, thyme, salt and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes to develop flavors. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaves. Cover and refrigerate.
To Serve: Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add cream and sherry. Cook, stirring often, until hot. Ladle into small serving cups and garnish with chives.
Note: I double the recipe and use a combination of heavy cream (yep!) and rice drink (about 3 cups heavy cream and 1 cup rice drink). There is plenty of room to adapt this recipe to your desired consistency.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Our score cards for our 'notable' houses on the traditional light tour. We are going with a five star rating system for the big kids and smiley faces for the little one. It will be interesting to compare notes over the years. Some of these folks really do it up right!
Friday, December 10, 2010
We are hosting a cookie exchange for the kiddos and an Open House for the adults in celebration of Winter Solstice (did we get it all in with one party or what?). It's an intimate low key affair. No bake offs here. As an added bonus, preparing for the party has lended at least four advent activities (making the invitations, baking the cookies, decorating the cookies and the party itself).
If all goes well, we'll make it an annual tradition. You know how I love a good tradition!
Monday, November 15, 2010
We hit the road in late September and had a fabulous time with a (new to us) pop up camper. I had surprises and treats revealed throughout our initiation trip. My most favorite? Our camper cases.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I took a look back at last year's "Grateful For..." posts and I think it is just the thing to prepare my heart and mind for this holiday season. I'm going to read them backwards this year to really stir things up (read: living on the edge).
You can see my month's worth of posts here.
Photo credit: Most photos are mine, but I borrowed a few from here, here, here, and here.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Enter, Basic Math Wrap Ups.
(Side bar: Before you read on and hit the panic button, let me share that this post almost didn't go up when I saw my boy's nails in these photos. Holy black claws, Batman! Who is his mother anyway?! You must know he doesn't live in a complete state of filth. We just returned from the kids' first session on a potter's wheel. Evidently, we brought a little clay home with us--and he is overdo for a nail trim. Another post, for another time. For now, stick with me and please focus on math, not the nails. Much obliged.)
As I was saying, the plastic keys function with a long string that you use to wrap up as you select the correct answer for the operation.
Once you have finished the key, turn it over. If your string path is correct you will will have properly matched the lines and not see anything.
If you have an incorrect answer, your string pattern will differ from the raised lines that are the answer key. (If this description doesn't wow you and you want to see an animated instruction video, click here.)
* For a kinesthetic learner, the hands on manipulation is great.
* For a competitive child, there are plenty of ways to increase the challenge and add a time to your drilling. Setting a goal of how many correct keys can be completed before picking up your brother, for instance, is a common practice in our car.
* For a reluctant mathematician, these are a good way to build confidence and skill.
Wrap ups are fantastically simple and portable and come in a variety of other subjects such as Spanish, vocabulary, and even music theory. These self paced tools are a pretty good fit for most any student.
You can purchase these handy keys from a variety of places, like Amazon,with several options (packs or individually sold, etc.). But to let you in on a little secret, I almost always prefer Rainbow Resources when they have what I'm looking for. The pricing is hard to beat!
And for the record, I (foolishly) don't have any contact with the companies of the products I mention or, dare I say, endorse. Perhaps I should review my options a little better since I am pretty selective about what I share with you all. But for now, it's just free marketing for them. (Read: I need a plan!)
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Tri Tip Kabobs
Herbed brown rice
Greens and mushrooms with lemon vinaigrette
Pasta alla Gianni (Pasta and cauliflower)
Prosciutto and melon
Chicken curry with potatoes and carrots
Green beans with lemon
Tuscan farro and bean soup (via Jora)
Crusty fresh bread
Homemade pizza night
Image via Hip Hostess
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
And that's exactly how I would summarize our recent road trip adventure.
5 amazingly bonded adventurers
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Last hurrah summer panzanella (Smitten Kitchen and Ina Garten)
Roasted red potatoes
Baked cod with artichokes, tomatoes, capers and wine
Herbed brown rice
Shrimp Fajitas (Next time I'll use chicken and try Steph's slow cooker recipe)
Black beans and lime
Slow cooked beef stroganoff
Brussel sprouts with lemon
Sweet potato fries
Greens and Goddess
By the way, did you see these fun weekly menus from Ollibird?
(via My Favorite Things)
In the midst of it, while trying to savior our serendipitous life on the road, you can find us noshing on a little bit of this and that.
These stuffed peppadrops are a perfect blend of sweet and salty:
* TJ's peri-peri peppadrops (pickled piquante peppers)
* Chevre with herbs
Simple, easy and a little delight.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Sleeping in a tent (on an air mattress, of course) is much nicer than I remember it to be. Even if you have 'weather' and it rains, being out in the fresh air and waking to chirping birds is a great way to start most any day. I love the connection to my most basic surroundings; the things I would certainly miss if I was typically huddled in a trailer, RV or cabin.
Cutting a deal with the husband upfront to be on breakfast detail and have coffee brewed and served was a very wise move on my part. He's a little hardier in the elements and doesn't mind getting going on the cups of joe, so who am I to stop him?
Planning your food out makes all the difference. I had all our meals planned, to the day. Grilled chicken, hobo meals, and even tacos are pretty easy camp food. Since we had to live out of a cooler, we had our freshest meals at the beginning and by the end of the trip succumbed to the crowd favorite (except me) of chili dogs. Marinating, even kabobing, and freezing ahead of time gave us a good variety of flavorful food.
We are booked for the same trip next year, but I will be in a camper. The experience was great and my kids loved it with no notice of the wind. Not one complaint from them. I, on the other hand, feel best if I can escape the elements a bit each day. I love boating and being out all day but I need to take a break from the sun, or wind or rain or whatever the weather serves up and reboot.
I'd like the record to show that I will always advocate a family trip of this nature (Pun intended!). It brings your tribe together and gives your kids a wonderful appreciation for what is simple and basic. If I can endure this with three kids, a throbbing sinus infection, too many snake sightings for me and unseasonable wind, then you can too!
Get out there!
Post script: I echo Marta's recent Q&A on camping here. Great tips!
Thursday, September 30, 2010
We use ours at the beach, concerts, camping, sporting events and even simple picnics. It's great for the obvious noshing but it also helps pass the time when we NEED a good cribbage or chess game.
Simply rolled up and tucked in a handy bag, this sweet little number can be slung over your shoulder as you saunter down for a lovely sunset at the beach with wine and cheese or ....
You can find one for yourself or your favorite person on your list here, here, here, or here.
Photo from Table In A Bag
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Year of Plenty started as a chronicle of a Spokane family's journey to consume everything local, used, homegrown or homemade for one year. From that experience came a movement they are passionately sharing. Stay tuned for details on their book deal!
I love this beautiful description of their journey:
We may be completely biased since these lovely folks are our extended family. But truly I am so refreshed by their perspective and resources. Wander over and see for yourself.
Photo from Year of Plenty
Thursday, September 23, 2010
This year there will be far less fanfare, sort of.
We are hitting the road on his birthday for a two week adventure up the coast of California into Oregon -- because we can! (Plus one in the homeschool column.) I can't think of a better way to follow up a surprise birthday bash with all your favorite people than hopping in the car before sunrise with your wife, three kids and thirteen year old lab to drive and drive and drive some more. Can you?!
Last Christmas I picked up this great travel book from Anthropologie for my adventure man. I knew D would love to hit the road in a camper one day and I thought this book was charmingly inspiring for our sentiments. At the time we didn't have any plans to acquire such a treat. We just like traveling and I planned to use the book to chronicle our family trips.
Fast forward almost a year later and we have ourselves a sweet little pop up camper. It's a little brady bunch on the inside and we LOVE it. When searching for a super deal we had planned to redo some things and make a camper our sweet little home away from home. I anticipated sewing curtains and reupholstering, at a minimum. But we got lucky. The ole cliche "they just don't make them like they used to" is so true. Our little gem doesn't need a thing. It has been crafted well and meticulously maintained. A few dishes and throw blankets for cozy times and it's home for us.
And so the birthday boy gets a big treat this year. We are going big and serendipitously living on the road (we have a semi-loose plan of our travels to Portland and back). I have some posts lined up for you during my absence and may pop in here or there from the road (catch the pun?). Wish us happy travels and maybe even say a prayer for us that we stay safe and far away from poison oak and hungry bears.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Bittman's Plum Chicken Salad
Baked Potato Bar
Turkey Taco Tuesday
Chicken Verde Enchiladas
Salad with Pepitas and Cilantro Dressing
Broccoli and Mushroom Pesto Pasta
Photo via here
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Banagram letters (talk about multi purpose game pieces), my star students spell the word for the number I write on the white board.
Our game is not a race. Everybody 'wins' and everybody gets fed when the word is spelled correctly. Extra credit is awarded to the player who can tell me which letter combinations make the specified sound.
The added challenge is that these aren't even our weekly spelling words. These are just words that sometimes creep in and give us pause. This is a fun portable game that can be used for so many different spelling options.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Anyway, it was a very fun wrap up to our summer and we love this gathering with friends. I brought one of my favorite appetizers of this summer; pancetta and chevre stuffed peppers. Served cool or at room temperature, these sweet little nibbles hit the spot.
Here is the super simple recipe.
1 bag petite peppers (I get mine at Costco)
1 package diced pancetta (Trader Joes)
1 log chevre
10-20 leaves of basil
1 small to medium onion
Remove pepper stems and clean. Toss with EVOO and bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes. (This cooking time varies on how many peppers you are cooking and how soft you like them. I prefer a very slight crunch to mine. You decide how you favor yours.) Cool.
Dice onion and saute with EVOO until slightly translucent (about 3 minutes). Add diced pancetta and brown. Remove and cool.
In a bowl, mix goat cheese, chopped basil and cooled onions and pancetta. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and a splash of EVOO. This is a loose ratio. Add enough pancetta and onion with the basil to the chevre to give you a treat in every bite. Once mixture is combined to your liking, stuff the cooled peppers. Chill. Serve cool or at room temperature.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Getting back into the swing of things, here's this week's menu. We have sports most nights when I would normally be putting dinner together. Our meals will need to be prepped before our practices or be working out their goodness in a slow cooker. This is the season of our lives, nothing glamorous but good hearty food.
Panko Crusted Chicken
Chicken Noodle Soup
Spaghetti Carbonara with Peas
Chili, Chips and Cheese
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Photo from a recent trek to one of our favorite local hiking trails.
We are easing into our flow and slowly layering in new lessons. I like to call it the strata of our schooling. We start with the fundamentals; reading, writing and arithmetic. Introduce the subject, obtain a grasp of how it works each day and then let it settle. Our primary curriculum is Sonlight and Excel Math. The literature-based approach to learning history and science helps enhance our core reading and writing, even if we are studying supplemental topics. We are building our foundation.
And so, we add in science and history, also through Sonlight, and let it settle.
Then we proceed adding a writing workshop, layering in Meet the Masters, and a periodic trip outside for the day with a program like Earthroots Field School. We have sports to add in and some really great field trips as well.
We have not had any problem filling our dance card. In fact, I echo what a seasoned homeschooling mom recently shared with me.
It's about choosing the things that are truly exceptional.
Programming and Socialization
There are so many options for fun, good programming. We don't even give the socialization piece any energy. It is not a problem at all (Heather wrote a great piece here.). Our challenge has been more a matter of determining what is outstanding among the many choices offered. Maintaining focus when there is a super cool program available is much more typical than not finding enough good options.
Plan and Scheduling
Part of what is keeping me grounded is the plan and schedule. Working the plan and chipping away at it. We look back and realize, wow, we covered a lot--even on just this first week. Building our program is a fine art in calendar management and planning in order to make it all work. But it's doable and sustainable, layer by layer.
The other piece that is critical for me and my composition (read: incessant researcher) is a good support network. D is my #1 support. He partners in the teaching an itty bitty bit but more importantly for me, he has my back. He covers me with the kids and gives me room to find the best programs (for us).
I have also latched on to some wise homeschooling mamas who have been there and done that. They offer wisdom and comfort not found in a lesson plan or book.
I also seek like-minded folks who offer camaraderie and support on the philosophical level. We stepped out on this journey when no one close to us was homeschooling. It has been wonderful to meet and bond with great families. Their curricula may be different and their family intention may not be ours but the commitment is shared.
And then there is my posse. My girls keeping it real and giving me outlets that have absolutely nothing to do with schooling. My monthly dinners with Jora, my creative outlet (and so much more) in Michelle, and my regular grounding and belly laughing with Adrienne are just a few that keep me going.
The balance is key for me.
Post script: If you are familiar with our crew then you may be panicking with not a single mention of my little helper, Parker. He's here and he's a helper. He has preschool three mornings a week, which is great for him. He has a blast. And then he's home with us the other two days. He adds another layer for us and we work as a group to find our rhythm. He is watching and learning how to learn too.