Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's drawing day! 

Tami Duvall, licensed and accredited Simply Music Instructor at Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom,  is giving away a month's worth of weekly online piano classes ($70 value)!

I've been struggling with getting the pretty html Random Number Generator to work on the blog, so we're going "old school" with their Random Sequence Generator that appears as simple text. It isn't as pretty, but it does the job! The first number wins!

Random Sequence Generator

Here is your sequence:


Timestamp: 2011-02-19 15:14:14 UTC

And the winner is... JACKIE! 

I'll be forwarding your information to Tami today, and she'll be in touch with you to set up your free classes!

I'm very excited about my daughter taking the classes. Please take a look at the information below and consider enrolling your child in them as well!

Just a reminder about the classes...
The classes will be held LIVE on Tuesdays at 1:00pm CST starting Tuesday, February 22. For more info on the classes check out the following link:

Thanks to everyone who entered! Have a wonderful Saturday!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Review: Beneath the Night Tree by Nicole Baart

Title: Beneath the Night Tree
Author: Nicole Baart
Publisher: Tyndale
ISBN: 9781414323237

Summary from Publisher's Website:

Do I have a child? Julia DeSmit knew she would face the question eventually, but she didn’t expect it now. At twenty-four, she is finally content with the way her life has unfolded. A single mother to her son and young brother, she works at the local grocery store while chipping away at a two-year degree. All her free time is spent with her unorthodox family—her boys, her grandmother, and her boyfriend of five years. It’s not perfect, but Julia is happier than ever.

So when she receives the cryptic e-mail from her son’s father, Julia’s world is turned upside down. She hasn’t heard from Parker since he left her in a college parking lot nearly six years ago. But one look at her son—the spitting image of his father—is enough to convince her that, for better or worse, Parker is a part of their story. Faced with this new reality and an unexpected tragedy, Julia begins a tightrope walk between what was and what is, what she hopes for and what will be.

My Review:

This is one book that I couldn't put down! I found myself sneaking moments to read this book. It literally - though not obsessively - consumed my thoughts until I was able to finish it! Big warning however... there will be tears shed if you are prone to tears! Yet, smiles will be in abundance as well.

I like to do a little pre-reading about the author if they are unfamiliar to me before I start a new book or series. It gives me a bit of a foundation if I can glean a touch about their writing style or the subjects that they tend to lean towards. I was immediately disappointed that I had chosen to read a book that was the third in a series! I'm a chronological girl. I love reading things IN ORDER. But, I gave it a go anyway. I have to commend Ms. Baart because not only was this a fascinating story with life-like characters that you find yourself connecting with, but she also wrote Beneath the Night Tree in a way that we, who didn't grow with Julia through her trials, could still follow along without feeling left out of the loop. That, to a chronological girl like myself, is worth its weight in gold.

The characters in this story are completely lovable, believable, triumphant, heartbreaking, hysterical, sad, and kind wrapped into one. Julia is an underdog that you root for with the strength of a champion. Her situations, though vastly different from some that we may experience, are completely real on the page. Perhaps I connected with her because I was a young mother (22 when my daughter was born), or perhaps it was because I had a similar relationship with my grandmother, but for whatever reason I immediately connected with her character. Even if her life choices are foreign from you they are written with remarkable skill and creativity making you wonder how you would handle them if they were your life. She's a strong mother, devoted granddaughter, and woman trying to make the best decisions she can so that her family has the life that they deserve rather than the one that they have been dealt. Her faith and dependence on God is written clearly and shine through as a foundational part of her life. I applaud Ms. Baart for making her beliefs an integral part of the story rather than a footnote.

I've not yet found any indication that there will be a fourth "Julia" book, but I'll be waiting with baited breath if Ms. Baart should decide to release one. And, I'll be reading books one and two as well (and probably three a second time!)

Rating: 5 Stars! Beneath the Night Tree is a fantastic read that will entertain as well as strengthen your faith as her characters remind you of theirs. But, for those that aren't interested in this aspect, it is still a fascinating read that adds layers to its characters without being "preachy." It will definitely go on my shelf but will be loaned out and suggested. In fact, I might even suggest that my mom read this before a few that are on her nightstand!

And for the folks at the FCC:

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book through the publisher's blogging program in exchange for my honest review. The thoughts and opinions are all mine!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reminder! Natural Notes Piano School giveaway is coming up!

This has been a hectic week so I haven't give you a proper update. So here it is...

It's almost time! Enter today!

The Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom Giveaway is almost among us! Hop over to the original post HERE and comment to be entered into this great giveaway. You could win a free session for your child!

Did you hear that... win... free... session!!!

That means one month's session - 4 weekly classes - free! Not only is this a great program, but it's also a $70 value. Not too shabby. :)

So hop over to the original post, read the details, and enter to win!

The winner will be announced right here on Wild Crickets on Saturday, January 19, 2011.

Good luck!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Photography projects: Ideas and Inspiration for old photos

A family wedding (c 1920)

I only touched on my love for genealogy in yesterday's homeschooling post. I truly have been bitten by the bug again. I can't believe that I let it slip away from me for so many years! With my renewed interest came a renewed determination to do it correctly, accurately, and fully. It's no longer based simply on an interest, but a need to record the life story of the people that we have lost as well as to discover the stories of those forgotten. I don't want my uncle and grandparents to become forgotten along the way.

I'm a visual person. (I'm also a wordy person, but that's another story!) When I think of creating a lasting memory the path at some point will lead me to photography. I was blessed to have photos of my father in law's family when he was a little boy - and even before he existed! - as well as photographs from my grandmother's family for several generations.

My mind is racing... what can I do with these photos to give them the attention that they deserve?

Frames... everyone does frames. (And who has the wall space for all of that?)

Scrapbooks.... maybe, but then I'm still faced with the same problem that I had in the first place. No one would be able to look at them unless they knew where to find them.

I'm still undecided, but I have a few spots of inspiration. I'd love ideas. If you've used old photos in a creative way please share your stories!

Stay tuned to see how I decide to incorporate these pieces of family history into the art that I see hidden behind the curtains. But until then, maybe you'll get some inspiration for your own family photographs from the links below.

*Disclaimer: I am fully aware that original photos should be preserved and maintained in a way that future generations can see them, love them, cherish them. I'll be using copies. I'm creative... not MAD!

Project ideas:

A wall clock. This could definitely be a possibility! Talk about a centerpiece for a room!

Quite a long list of ideas, but I think that I love the idea of holiday cards. I'm thinking note cards would be wonderful...

A photo quilt square! I love this idea! It might be a long-term project, but it would incorporate a few of my favorite things. (And now I'm singing with Julie Andrews...)

Photo magnets (though I can think of an additional way to use these using some recycled jars.)

And, last but not least, Martha. I said then name, and you knew, didn't you? I have to say that I'm not always a fan of the Miss M., but she does have some amazing ideas for photos! (My problem isn't with her specifically, but I would love to see her with a rats nest in her hair and a spill on her shirt every now and again just to make her seem human. he he...)

So tell me, how are you using your photos (and can I steal your ideas?)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Homeschooling + Genealogy = High Interest Learning

So, I'm a girl that posts a lot about art and music. I love it. But, I must admit that I have another love affair of a different sort. History. I can get lost in the sights and sounds of another time period so very quickly. I truly think that my love of history is what sparked my interest in genealogy. Granted, I've taken a long hiatus from my research but I'm back and ready for action. Because I've been working more on it lately it started me thinking... History + Genealogy!

Merriam-Webster's website defines history as:
1. A tale, story
2. a chronological record of significant events (as affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes 
3. a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events
4. a: events that form the subject matter of a history; and
    b: events of the past
Let's review these definitions. A story or tale... History isn't a dry bunch of dusty facts. It's a STORY! It's a tale of living people and the EVENTS that happened during their lives. Understanding these stories and learning about these events helps us EXPLAIN past events and even where we are today. (I know how my family ended up in GA. Do you know how your family ended up where they are today, and why you speak with the particular accent you do rather than another?) These events and explanations together build an entire SUBJECT... the HISTORY of our families, our country, and our world.

So back to my original thought: History + Genealogy! What better way to make history come alive! We've always tied our family history into our studies where it was applicable, but in all honestly I could do a better job. American history is steeped with opportunity to focus on our family's history. Every family has a part, whether it is the immigrant story, the adventure of the Gold Rush, the courage of the Civil Rights Movement, or the bravery and heroics of any number of wars. The various wars that involve the United States throughout history are also good places to incorporate world history. Suppose you find out that Great Uncle Louie loved to tinker in the garage with his latest inventions. Wouldn't that be a wonderful way to tie in the greatest minds of the past such as Tesla, Edison, Carver? Think about how real history will seem when you suddenly have a relative to include among the dry facts and dates. It is also much easier to remember facts and data when you have a hook on which to hang the information. Make Great Uncle Louie that hook!

So, how do you get started? Don't forget, Google is your friend. A quick Google search will return many ideas on how to incorporate genealogy into your homeschool. Here are just a few that I particularly liked for the younger to middle set:

A to Z Home's Cool has a great list of links to enjoy under the title Genealogy For Kids.

Easy Fun School also has a fun Genealogy Mini Unit. It's a great little jumping off point with options for both younger and older students.

Homeschool Learning Network has a free unit study available for Grandparent's Day and Family History. (Lessons #1 and #2 are perfect for an intro into genealogy!)

For my high school-aged daughter I simply drag her along for the ride with me. I'm in the process of setting up the Legacy Family Tree free genealogy software, but once I'm up and running she'll help me search through records online and locally. (I'm getting to sift through mountains of notes and papers in order to make sense of it all... and I love it!) I hope to find a few more connections to Jamestown Colony and other events before we study American history next year. While we won't approach it as the beginning for our unit study we will incorporate it as we find information or as we cover particular chapters in history. I will include biographies as well as maps and source documents wherever possible. How better to understand what life was like during the 1700s in Virginia than to read the letters and will of an ancestor? I know it makes it more real to me. Now, to just figure out how to convince the husband that we need to take a research trip around the great state of Virginia...

Do you love genealogy? Are you actively connecting your family history with your homeschool history assignment? I would love to hear about it! Who knows, maybe I'll write a post about genealogy. After all, it is becoming another "new found" obsession interest and it is on my Big Fat 100 of 2011 list!  :)

And, to give you something fun to think about, has a free two-week trial membership. If you need a bit of entertainment to kick off a new hobby check out the new season of Who Do You Think You Are? I'm a new fan, and let's just say that I've been spending a lot of time watching Season One on! (I have no reason to post these links other than I enjoy them. No reviews, no compensation, no reason... just because...)

History is exciting and a real part of our lives. We are making history ourselves in our own circles and our own communities. It's time to remind ourselves that it surrounds us every day. Go talk to a grandmother or make a family tree. Your kids will thank you for it!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Giveaway: Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom!

I hope that you are ready for a fantastic giveaway! Regular readers know that art and music play a big part in our lives, so I'm really, REALLY excited!

Are you ready...

Tami Duvall, licensed and accredited Simply Music Instructor at Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom,  is giving away a month's worth of weekly online piano classes ($70 value)!

From the Simply Music Website:
"Simply Music is the largest playing-based music education institution in the world, with educators at 520 locations throughout the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It presents a revolutionary, Australian-developed piano and keyboard method for those who would like to teach music, or learn how to play. This breakthrough program has students of all ages playing great-sounding blues, contemporary, classical and accompaniment pieces - immediately - from their very first lessons. Simply Music educators look at music in an entirely new light, transforming the teaching and learning process. The program sets a new standard in music education, and presents the possibility of a new era in self-expression through music. "

The classes will be held LIVE on Tuesdays at 1:00pm CST starting Tuesday, February 22. The drawing will be held on Saturday, February 19.

If you would like to be entered into the drawing, post a comment including these words, "I would like for my child(ren) and me to have music as a companion for the rest of our lives!"

The winner will be chosen using a random number generator. Make sure that you include either a link to your blog or an email address so that we can notify the winner about their fantastic prize!

For more info on the classes check out the following link:

*Note: Only students from USA and Canada can participate in Natural Notes Piano School Online Classroom.* 

I'm pretty excited about the giveaway, and I'm also excited that the kid will have the chance to participate in the next session as well. We will finally put the piano to good use!

Good luck everyone, and come join the music!

Book Review: The Beginning Reader's Bible

Title: The Beginning Reader's Bible
Illustrated by: Marijke ten Cate
Compiled by: Tama Fortner
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (Tommy Nelson - kids division)
ISBN: 9781400317028

Summary from Publisher's Website:

This exceptionally illustrated Bible storybook allows children to read the story, pray to God, and grow closer to Him.

Using actual Bible text from the International Children's Bible® as well as prayers, memory verses, and fun activities, children will love this large format and be engrossed in the intricate detail of the illustrations. Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments are included and stories are accompanied by a prayer for the child to pray, a verse to memorize, and a fun activity to help them grow. 

My Review:

This hardcover children's Bible is fantastic! It is meaty, simple, enjoyable, heartwarming, educational, encouraging, and interest-provoking. Whew! But, true. :)

I am amazed at how simply Thomas Nelson introduced children to the concept of a Study Bible through The Beginning Reader's Bible. Each section includes actual Biblical text rather than a watered down story version. I especially love how the chapters are referenced under the section title for the adults reading along. (Imagine reading through the Bible with your young child... they read the sections in their Bible while you read the referenced chapters in yours!)

Each section includes three main areas: Remember God's Word, Pray God's Word, and Do God's Word. This is a wonderful way of introducing these concepts! Remember God's Word incorporates a selected Bible verse that is useful for discussion or memorization. (Parents notes in the front of the Bible indicate this as well.) Pray God's Word gives an introduction to using God's word in our personal prayers. For example, Psalm 139:14 ("I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well.") is highlighted in the Creation story. What a wonderful verse to share as well as teach to our children as a prayer of praise! I have to admit that I was not taught the way to pray God's Word as a child, and I wish that I had been! The third and final section, Do God's Word, holds fun and inviting activities for your children to use in order to cement the Biblical concept and story in their minds and hearts. It may be sketching something that God created, playing a game, or singing a song, and through each of these your children will have fun, build memories, and strengthen their understanding.

Concluding this Bible is a very handy section that includes items such as the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer, a list of disciples, selected verses from Psalms, etc. One of my favorite parts: The reading and scripture memorization lists. I'm a list checker by nature. I love it. In the back of The Beginning Reader's Bible are lists to check off! Your child can indicate the date that they read a particular chapter or memorized a particular verse. It speaks to my inner list maker (and will serve as a wonderful memory later in their life.)

Typically I always find hardcover children's books (and Bibles) to be an awkward size. Not so with this Bible. It's square shape is easily held and used by children and adults alike. The paper is a wonderful weight that should withstand lots of use by little hands who may or may not be as careful as we would like them to be. The illustrations are wonderful! I am completely drawn in by books with good color and illustration, and The Beginning Reader's Bible exceeds all of my expectations. The illustrations give a wonderful balance to the text, so I think that it would be enjoyed by children even slightly younger than the targeted age range (non-readers.) Perfect for siblings! They are gently, soft, and inviting, yet not cartoonish and fanciful like some that I have seen in the past.

All in all, this is a keeper! I wish that this would have been available when my daughter was younger because the content and illustrations far exceed the quality of the children's Bibles that she had at this point in her life. This would be a wonderful gift Bible as well.

Rating: 5 Stars! I'm so excited to pass this on to the daughter of my closest friend. I hope and pray that it brings her many moments of joy as she learns God's words.

And for the folks at the FCC:

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book through the publisher's Booksneeze blogging program in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: February 7, 2011

Cooking has been an adventure around here lately! I haven't been able to stand in the kitchen as long as I would like, so that has limited it a bit. We've also become a gluten-free family, and our commitment to being casein-free has been renewed. In reading and researching about a gf/cf diet (and paired with my units in my Vintage Remedies Family Herbalist course) I've also renewed my interest in health and nutrition. All of that adds up to Mom trying new recipes!

Here are a few that we tried this weekend:
Quinoa Black Bean Salad (I did a quick google of my ingredients and this came up. It's fantastic!)

Teriyaki Veggie Cakes and Garden Veggie Cakes, both from The Spunky Coconut (now one of my favorite foodie blogs! Great for allergies! And these are now going into a regular rotation. Even the meat-gnawing carno-husband loved them... and they are raw-inspired! I used a combination of cannelloni beans and black eyed peas because that was what I had in the fridge!)

Kale chips - fantastic... though I want to try curly kale next time instead of dino kale to see if there is a texture difference, and I might toss them in the dehydrator as well. (I just threw it together on the fly using olive oil and a Greek seasoning mix after reading several recipes, but you can peek at a video on Kath Eats Real Food - another new find!)

Tomato Soup from Veggie Converter (another go to blog if you are vegetarian/vegan! Watch her go through her converting challenge this year! This soup is a keeper. I'm going to add some roasted garlic next time, and I used almond milk - doubled - instead. Yum!)


On to this week's menu! My goal is to plan three meals a day plus snack, and actually cook all of it. This has been hard with my back lately, but we really need to have meals planned so we aren't eating ick or tempted to throw a - very expensive - frozen gfcf pizza in the oven. We'll see how successful I am. (Maybe I'll even update!) I'm hoping that the excitement of some new-to-me recipes will carry me through. Because I'm going to focus on shopping at the local winter farmer's market on Saturdays I'm going to run our menu planning Sunday to Saturday. I'm hoping that this makes it easier for me to plan based on what I find while shopping. It will definitely be easier once the growing season begins around here, but for now we'll do what we can. Here's to locally grown whole foods! :) And, these are gluten-free and casein-free, vegetarian, and in a lot of cases labeled on the original site as being free of other common allergens. So get your allergy-free cooking groove on!

Sunday: church potluck lunch for our new student minister! (Our first since becoming gf/cf.)
b: Green Smoothies & choice of cereal, leftover muffins, waffles from freezer, etc
l: Potluck fare (bringing Creamy Scalloped Potatoes, gf chocolate chip cookies)
d: Leftover Raw-inspired Veggie Cakes (see links above), GF/CF Rice and Broccoli Casserole (recipe from The Ultimate UnCheese Cookbook)
s: GF Chocolate Chip Cookie
To Do: Make muffins. Make breadcrumbs with last week's leftover bread and ends.

b: Apple Cake with Cranberries (made as muffins)
l: Mac and Cheese (recipe from The Ultimate UnCheese Cookbook)
d: Savory Vegetable Quiche (- sausage + red bell pepper), Salad
s: Clementine sorbet
To Do: Make breakfast bread. Prep CP items.

Tuesday: Bible study with the church ladies
b: Sweet Potato Bread with Chocolate Chips
l: CP Split Pea Soup (no ham + veg broth) and Cheese (nutritional yeast) Toast
d: Spaghetti with Karina's Veggie Loaf done in Meatball-Not style (noted on her site); salad
s: GF Cheese Straws
To Do: Soak garbanzo beans and black eyed peas.

Wednesday: evening church activities
b: Vegan Mom's Scrambled Tofu (+ veggies to make it more like a scrambled omelette-ish.)
l: Garbanzo bean spread sandwiches (smashed gb's, mayo, nutritional yeast, salt/pepper/garlic to taste) & fruit or veggies in ranch
d: Hoppin' John over rice, Southern Greens mix (collards, mustard, etc), Cornbread
s: GF Pecan Crackers (but with almond meal and no caraway seeds)

b: Biscuits and Gravy (I miss this. Trying it w Pamela's Baking Mix to see if it works!)
l: leftover Spaghetti and Meatball-Nots
d: Roasted Parsnip and Garlic Soup with Mushrooms, quinoa with sauteed veggies, garlic toast
s: Hummus w veggies, leftover cheese straws, pretzels, etc.
To Do: Make buns for breakfast and rolls for dinner. Prep CP ingredients.

Friday: babysitting day!
b: Banana Hot Dogs and fruit (I'm going to attempt to make buns with a cinnamon flavor.)
l: GF Pizza with Daiya "cheese" and whatever toppings the kids want (I'm voting for spinach & olive)
d: CP Lentil Sloppy Joes with GF Buns and Crispy Potato Sticks (oven fries)
s: Popcorn (air popped with a buffet of spices to choose from!)
To Do: Make polenta and set in fridge overnight.

b: YOYO (You're On Your Own - we wake up at different times, so it's just easier this way!)
l: YOYO (trip to the farmer's market usually means that some of us snack there, some eat breakfast late, and some eat leftovers when we get home! Day off for me!)
d: Roasted Vegetables on Broiled Polenta & salad (using up all the veggies left in the fridge from the week!)
s: Peanut Butter Quinoa cookies

I'd love to hear if you will be trying any of these! Let me know it goes, or if you found that you love one of the websites listed!

Hop on over to's Menu Plan Monday thread. Check out great menus, and link up your own!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

January Recap: My Big Fat 100 of 2011 list

It's the big January Recap of My Big Fat 100 of 2011 list! I know, I know... I did a recap halfway through the month. I've decided that since most of this will be boring to all you out there in blogdom I will limit my recaps to one big monthly wrap-up. It's mostly to keep me accountable and motivated, so once a month will be a good pace to keep me on the move.

So, what did I get done, you ask? Let's take it section by section. Don't worry. It won't be long. I promise. (I wasn't THAT motivated this month!)

1. Make a budget. Jan '11
3. Learn to coupon and do it! Jan '11 BLOGGED

* Ok, so I didn't get anything else done in this category since my last update. Still, things are moving forward and I have two items checked off of this list. I'm feeling pretty good about it!

1. Read through the Bible in 2011

*I haven't completed this yet, but I have included it because it's an ongoing project. I have other ongoing projects, but none as important as this. I'm struggling a bit in this area. I truly don't think that it's because of the daily reading or that I don't want to read. I love it! The reading plan isn't working for me. I'm looking at options right now of mixing it up a bit so that I can still participate with our women's ministry but read through at a pace and schedule that works for me. I'm considering using the 90-day schedule. Still processing it. I love reading daily, but having it chopped up is bothering me. I'm a "straight through till morning" kind of gal, and reading a bit of this and a bit of that is driving me batty.


*Nada, zip, zilch. I did sort through clothes for our clothing ministry at church only to find out that it is seasonal and not year-round. So, clothing went to the local Goodwill. Best of intentions... I'll get more spring/summer things organized for the next clothing drive with our clothing ministry.

7. Create a better schedule so that we have more free time in our day Jan '11
8. Create our long term course of study for the high school years. Jan '11 BLOGGED

*While we are still a long way from having a traditional start time (we usually start by 9:30am or 10am) we have found a great routine! We've broken up our day into two sections: Mornings are for the basics - literature, math, Bible, writing, etc. Afternoons are for her concentrated subject work and elective. I've blogged a bit about our new routine but it was secondary to the topic. I'll write up something about it very soon. It's working great, and I love it!

5. Visit the local art museum at least twice per month.

*Ok, so it wasn't twice. And, I shouldn't include it. We were on a good pace with plans to complete this but were sidelined by my back injury. We got one very good, very enjoyable trip in. Next month we will be victorious!

1. Begin the Family Herbalist course. Again. (done when three units have been completed) Jan '11
4. Track food in WW's online tracker daily Jan '11
5. Be a better motivator and supporter to my mom and sister in our journey toward health Jan '11

*I'm making progress! I've almost made a few other goals, so hopefully February will bring those in an update as well. I'm thoroughly enjoying my Family Herbalist course. Thoroughly! I have a renewed focus and excitement about the subject matter. I've done well with tracking. I did get off track (off track with the tracking!) this week because I have had to adjust things a bit since I'm seriously sedentary while I heal, but I'm saying this bad boy is DONE. Woosh! I've been updating, texting, emailing, and chatting with my sweetheart of a baby sister, and life is good. I'm working with mom to create more meals that better fit her needs due to her health issues. Again, life is good. I'm content with my work in this area.

3. Post two book reviews in January Jan '11 - Reviews blogged HERE and HERE

*Done! :) You can also find info and reviews linked in my "Reading" tab at the top of the blog.


*Yeah, nothing got checked off in this category. You'd think it would considering it's the second most important area. Yeah, no. What can I say. I suck. ;)

8. Post a minimum of two book reviews per month Jan '11
9. Document progress on all of my goal lists once per month Jan '11

*Still slow moving in this area, but I got my January updates/goals in since I blogged mid month! From now on I'll try to blog an update on the last day of each month. Key word "try."

WildCrickets Shop:
3. List ten new items in January - fail!

*Epic fail. I'm not sure why I lost my motivation after the holidays, but I did. I have items finished and ready to photograph, but I just didn't get them listed. (And no, there aren't ten.) I am making it a goal to focus on the shop in February. Definitely.

So there you have it! My first monthly update on my first annual Big 100 list. Now to get moving so that February's update is a tad more impressive in certain key areas. :)

What are your goals for 2011? Are you meeting them? I'd love to hear about them so that we can motivate each other!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Homeschool Mother's Journal: Feb 4, 2011 (Wk 3)

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Look at that... multiple posts in one week. Maybe I'm on a roll and getting into a routine like I wanted. I like it!

It's time again for The Homeschool Chick's weekend meme... The Homeschool Mother's Journal. Click on the links or the linked graphic above to read other homeschool mom's entries or link up your own!

In my life this week...
We had such winter-filled weather this week! I typically have a hard time with the grayness of Ohio winters. Pair that with the newly sedentary life that I'm leading with my back injury and it makes for a bad attitude. Thanks to the lovely attitudes and praise-worthy Facebook posts and blog entries of some of my friends (thanks, Debbie!) I made a conscious decision today that I was going to have a good attitude today. I had a very pleasant afternoon! It's amazing what a little gratitude can do for the soul. (And it didn't hurt that the sun was out shining brightly today either!)

In our homeschool this week...
I had a bit of validation this week! The kid stayed on track, made some great progress in math, and showed me for a second week in a row that she can work independently AND stay on target. I have been saying that she's made this jump, and I knew it, but I don't think I really felt it until this week. I think sometimes we need that to get us through the rough weeks!

Places we're going and people we're seeing...
Tomorrow we're heading to the local winter farmer's market. Normally we would be there nearly every weekend but the last year has just been a zebra of a different stripe. (Horse of a different color is used so much... trying to be unique. ;)  I'm looking forward to getting back to something that feels normal!

My favorite thing this week was...
I had a ball cooking this week! I didn't get to do much of it because I'm still on restricted activity, but what I did do thrilled me to no end. I've been able to steal away moments to myself to read about nutrition and health, and I've also been able to work on my Family Herbalist course. Selfishly, my favorite thing this week was my "me" time!

What's working/not working for us...
I really need to get into a better morning routine. Ours is SO bad. We have always followed the idea that if the kid needed sleep, she just needed sleep. I'm still good with this, but I'm feeling the pressure to have a more normal schedule. We are still accomplishing our list (most days), so maybe it's not that bad to have a relaxed start time. Something I'm pondering...

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have...
Lately I've really been taken with the idea that we only have a handful of years left with the kid at home. I'm trying not to focus on the "empty nest" portion of our life before we get there, but I also remember how hard it was when our oldest moved out. She was my nighttime chatting buddy. How do you keep yourself from thinking too far into the future and forgetting the present?

A photo, video, link, or quote to share...
I've posted several times that we're walking down the gluten-free road now. I've been reading gobs and gobs of blogs and websites on the subject. (I'm a tad addicted to foodie blogs!) My lovely friend, Sheri, introduced me to The Spunky Coconut. She is a hoot! I love her recipes, and have been spending far too many hours reading her blog. Ok, so we'll call it research. She does have wonderful posts about nutrition, so it's educational! :) I'd love to pass on her site to anyone with or without allergies. Try some Spunky Coconut recipes. You'll be glad that you did! (I believe that I read they were homeschoolers, too. Woo hoo!)

Book Review: Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner

Title: Lady in Waiting
Author: Susan Meissner
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
ISBN: 9780307458834

Summary from Publisher's Website:

Content in her comfortable marriage of twenty-two years, Jane Lindsay had never expected to watch her husband,  rad, pack his belongings and walk out the door of their Manhattan home. But when it happens, she feels powerless to stop him and the course of events that follow Brad’s departure.

Jane finds an old ring in a box of relics from a British jumble sale and discovers a Latin inscription in the band along with just one recognizable word: Jane. Feeling an instant connection to the mysterious ring bearing her namesake, Jane begins a journey to learn more about the ring—and perhaps about herself.

In the sixteenth-century, Lucy Day becomes the dressmaker to Lady Jane Grey, an innocent young woman whose fate seems to be controlled by a dangerous political and religious climate, one threatening to deny her true love and pursuit of her own interests.

As the stories of both Janes dovetail through the journey of one ring, it becomes clear that each woman has far more influence over her life than she once imagined. It all comes down to the choices each makes despite the realities they face.

My Review:

I have to be honest. Susan Meissner has been one of my favorite authors since I read The Shape of Mercy. Let's just put it out there right in the beginning. So, yes, I was probably a little bit biased when I selected this title. I expected to love it. I hoped that I would love it.

I did love it!

Ms. Meissner's style - integrating the present with the past in an unforgettable and completely applicable manner - never leaves me wanting. Her writing style is beautiful. She chooses words and phrases that put you into the heart of the characters. When Jane Lindsay hurt, I found myself hurting. When she cried, I found myself crying. When Lucy Day felt compassion, I felt compassion. It's her beautiful integration of fiction and real life that draws you into the characters. They are fully developed, and best of all they are real, solid, and whole. Neither story is lacking as both are fully developed. You don't find yourself feeling lost in transition, nor do you notice one character being stronger than the other. They are each unique so you may find yourself feeling connected to one more than the other, but this isn't a distraction in the slightest. (Or, you could be like me and feel connected to both!)

I do have to say that being a history fanatic I was a bit nervous about how I would react to her interpretation - or rather, hope - of how Lady Jane's life transpired. I flipped through the book, as I always do when I read historical fiction, looking for historical or author's notes. (I know... some might see it as cheating, but I like to see how an author applies history and academia to their stories. I found this quite funny when the character of Wilson was introduced... read and you'll understand!) I love that Ms. Meissner takes the "What if" approach to piecing together Lady Jane's story. Brilliant! We are allowed to dream for a while, which is exactly what good fiction is meant to bring you.

Rating: 5 Stars! I was sad to see this story end. I was pleased with the way that it ended, but sad none the less. It left me wanting more simply because the story, and Ms. Meissner's writing, is just that good. I can honestly say that I will be reading this book again. Though I'll be recommending this title (and possibly loaning it to a privileged few outside of my immediate family) I won't be parting with it. It will live on my shelf next to my other two favorite Meissner titles. After all, you don't give away friends, do you? Lucy and Jane Lindsay are my two newest friends. Have fun reading!

And for the folks at the FCC:

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book through the publisher's Blogging for Books blogging program in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review: Titanic Unit Study by Joshua Noble

Every homeschool mother's dream is to instill the love of learning in their child. We try to lead them, encourage them, inspire them... and sometimes it takes.

What do you get when you have a homeschooler that has a passion for history, specifically the Titanic, and parents that encourage that passion?  You get a UNIT STUDY!

Joshua Noble is that homeschooler, and he has created a fantastic unit study on The Titanic. Perfect for any homeschool, this unit study - all 109 pages of it - gives a wonderful overview of the history, design, and events surrounding that fateful journey and so much more. I had the pleasure of reviewing his unit study, and all I can say is wow.

The first thing that impressed me was his approach to the subject. I am completely taken with the level of respect that he gives to the lives that were lost. The story of the Titanic isn't some fictionalized Hollywood blockbuster. It was a real event that affected men, women, and children. It made heroes, and frightened cowards. It affected families. By way of an introduction and a respectful tone Mr. Noble sets the stage so that our children can realized that, much like the events of 9/11, the events and lives aboard the Titanic are to be given respect and honor. I am so glad to see this being taught as a foundational truth of the study. (But don't worry that it carries a heavy tone throughout... your kids will enjoy this study!)

Let me say that the resource guide is amazing. Mr. Noble gives such a complete list that any homeschool mom (or dad) will be able to easily locate enough resources to complete this unit study regardless of library stacks or book budgets. We've all been there... great unit study... four obscure titles... not in the library catalog... and each more money than you spent on dinner last night for a family of four. You won't run into that problem with this unit study. Because of it's depth and breadth you'll be able to easily locate acceptable resources for your children no matter the level. (And, he's included free videos on the Internet as well!) Have a visual learner? He has video suggestions!

This unit study is written in a "buffet" style. Walk up to the loaded table and take your choice of subjects. The content is the deepest that I've seen, but don't let that scare you off if you have younger students. You are able to pick and choose going as deep into one area as you would like. I could see this unit being used over a few weeks with one family just as easily as a full year by another. It is that flexible. The activities are geared toward both younger and older students, and with few exceptions could be easily adjusted to work with a variety of age ranges. You'll find art, design, math, and composition assignments as some of your selections. I especially like the final project suggestions that are included as well. It truly gives those who desire suggestions and form the walls that they need while giving a wide area to dance to those who want the freedom to make it their own. He's found a good balance. Each section makes it clear that Joshua Noble has invested time and passion in this subject, and your children can benefit from it!

Last to mention, but certainly not least in importance, are the field trip suggestions! And... there are virtual field trips listed as well! I'm a sucker for a good virtual field trip, and having a very visual learner makes me prone to swooning over good links. Yep. I said swoon.

Though we're currently studying Ancient History, I am so tempted to toss this at the kid. She loves it! I look forward to using it with her as part of her American History studies in the future. I haven't yet decided how much time we will spend on it, but I can say that I, personally, couldn't see my child being happy with anything less than a month. It's that good, and her being a mini-Titanic obsessed fan I think she'll want to learn from each section in the unit study. The background that she would learn would be perfect to pair with her next long-term creative writing project. Talk about great research for a project. Oh no... now my wheels are turning...

Take a journey through Joshua Noble's blog, The Titanic Gazette.

Read about The Titanic Unit Study.

Look at a sample. And pick it up for your crew at the most reasonable price of $25.

*Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this unit study for review with no stipulation that I give a review on my blog. I was not compensated in any way for this review. I am giving it because I am so very impressed with it, and I love to share great products!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Great Googly Moogly... A Fantastic VR Essentials Giveaway!

Pretend that I'm doing a jig over this one. (I really am, but it's on the inside since my back is still out of whack! But it's an internal Irish Jig none the less...)

I've mentioned before that I'm a student in the Family Herbalist program over at Vintage Remedies. I love the program and the staff. The materials... hands-down one of the best that I've found (which is why I became a student!) The books available are perfect for those interested in natural living, student or not. Jessie Hawkins has come up with some amazing things over the years, and the newest program, Vintage Remedies Essentials, is nothing less than amazing! She strikes again!

Today through midnight on Wednesday, February 2, Jessie and Vintage Remedies is hosting a fantastic Giveaway in celebration of the new Essentials program! Gift certificates and copies of The Kitchen Herbal are just waiting to find a new home. So, what are you waiting for? Go read Jessie's blog, fall in love with the new program, cruise around the Vintage Remedies website, and oh yeah... don't forget to enter the Giveaway!

And for those homeschoolers out there who are attending the MidWest Homsechool Convention in Cincinnati: Be sure to check the schedule because Jessie will be speaking at the convention! I sat in on her sessions last year, and to say that you'll be walking away with useful, pertinent, important information doesn't stress enough how helpful these sessions are to your life. If you breath, eat, and have kids (just pick one of those) you'll find it applicable to your life.

Enough gushing... I'm going to make lunch!