Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Review: Naturally Fun Parties for Kids

Several weeks ago I volunteered to review a book.  Mind you I've never done such a thing, but just the title alone was enough to want my attention.  I was so excited when I received my copy of Naturally Fun Parties for Kids by Anni Daulter with Heather Fontenot yesterday.   I put the little boys down for a nap, the big boys had quiet time in their room and the girls had some independent reading time (a usual mid day routine for us).  Mom gets to sit down and read a bit too ; )  I cuddled in my favorite chair with this book and a cup of my favorite Chocolate Raspberry Tea.

The photography is just lovely.  I opened to the first chapter and there was a huge smile on my face.  The very first party is none other than an Egg-Dyeing Spring Garden Party.  Now, how perfect is that with our current nature study theme and season.  The ladies at 4Real have been discussing and sharing ideas on this very subject: Egg Dyeing.  Oh, this is a book for me; was my immediate thought.  The book is divided by seasons and gives just a bit of information about them, nothing deep,  just a reminder of seasonal changes and their important solstice/equinox dates...another plus.  Within each season there are several party ideas.  The first page of every party is detailed with a list of Projects & Materials and a Timeline needed for the event planning (perfect, for this list kind of gal).  Several pages follow each party introduction with gorgeous photos and detailed how-to's.  Each project or recipe could easily stand alone depending on what we are working on or where our nature study takes us.

There are so many possibilities for fun projects and kid friendly recipes in this book.  While the title does say parties, let's face it, with my six children every project becomes an event with craft and food at the forefront.  Not to mention getting together with friends for play dates ... yeah, those easily could become parties too.  I loved going through the book and nodding my head at just how much our lives have naturally flowed through the seasons with our habits of nature study and out of doors time.  My wheels are certainly turning.  There is a Pancake P.J. and a Strawberry-Picking & Jam Making theme parties with some great recipes to use after our annual strawberry and blueberry picking days.  Besides the recipes there are several projects and game ideas that I know the kids will enjoy trying.  There is Sea Glass Hunt for our beach days and a Gratitude Treasure Hunt perfect for Thanksgiving.  Simple crafts like cute banners we could make for our nature table window; I'm sure my kids would like a break from my crochet inspired ones ; )

I'm not the most naturally creative person or fine cook in the world but I can easily be inspired to create an atmosphere my children will enjoy a living education from.  I depend on books such as this one.  I think for some of my readers I should mention that there is no reference to educational philosophies just fun natural upcycled ideas and healthy recipes.  I'd add further that this book reminds me very much of Alice Cantrell's books (all of which are favorites for me).  I never thought that my chaotic care-free children would enjoy sipping tea with me but thanks to creative work's like Alice's Tea and Cakes with the Saints as our guide; the kids love our Liturgical Teas and we have learned so much about saints. 

I know this book will get just as much use for our seasonal nature study focused planning fun and, of course, my chaotic care-free children will love that much of this will be done out doors.  Anni and Heather just made sure that our "small mountain in the backyard" get lots of use with their wonderful ideas.  I'm sure some of my future post will reflect things from this book.  This is a review I've enjoyed giving you!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Birds and Eggs part 2

I couldn't end the week without posting some pictures of another great experience we had Monday afternoon.  My kids love visiting some good friends of ours and hanging out in their backyard.  Without fail every time we leave I get the usual "why can't we get some?"  My response is always "I wish we could, but we're still trying to get grass on the bottom part of our yard so I don't think Dad wants to get going on building us a great looking chicken coop for chickens anytime soon." For now, we enjoy our play dates.

With our new found interest in birds, we decided  our play date this past Monday would have just a tad of informal structure.  The girls brought their nature journals, the boys were ready to listen and our friends were more than ready to give us a lesson or two about their chickens:  where they sleep, what they eat, where they lay their eggs, why their eggs will never be chicks, how you clean and preserve the eggs before eating them, and of course what kind of chickens they have (Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, and White Brahma).  I can't remember all their names but I do recall they all have very cute names like Henny Penny and Eggbert.

Our wonderful friends!
My kids couldn't help themselves; they just have to hold them every time too:

Then we went inside and got to look at their eggs even closer.  They haven't figured out what chicken lays which egg but they have noticed a pattern in the eggs appearance, color and size.  Can you see those speckles on there:

They were very kind to share a dozen of their eggs and lots of information with us.  My kids had them for breakfast Friday morning faster than I could grab my camera ; D   Here's one last shot; I just loved my friends chicken wire egg basket!  I think I want one...hmm, that might mean I'll have to get the chickens to go with it :-O

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oh, Chocolate!

I have several posts in mind but after last nights experience I couldn't resist.  A couple of our homeschool groups will offer the opportunity for the occasional Mom's Night Out.  It's a chance to just have a lovely evening with other lovely ladies.  Last night eight of us had the chance to experience chocolate in a whole new way.  We drove to a lovely little shop called TIFA Chocolate.  They offer chocolate tasting parties and boy did we get an education ; )

Our host was amazing.  She started us off with some wonderful information as to growth of beans and manufacturing.  Along the way she gave us some great historical information, story/industry tid-bits and explanations about generic chocolates compared to more true chocolatiers.  Great information and here I thought I was a chocolate lover ; )

O.K., lets get to the chocolate.  We each had a glass of water, some wafers, a serving of raspberry sorbet (to cleanse our palates of course) and an extremely nice young lady refilling our needs.

She started us off with  two samples of white chocolate containing about 30-35% chocolate.  Each sample after that grew in percentage and was plain cacao or small blend.  She was very descriptive and talked us through experiencing each one: touch, smell, taste.  There was something different about each.  That difference depended on the origin of the bean and the maker for sure.  After 11 samples came the big one: 100% Dark Cacao (blend) from Pralus, Indonesia - France.  Wow! Our grocery store buys don't come close to these delights.

Wait!  It didn't end at that.  Then she talked about chocolate confections.  We tried real truffles, lavender chocolate (my favorite), a spicy pepper chocolate, an amazing blue cheese chocolate, Jasmin chocolate, and even a bacon chocolate just for fun ; )

Aaah, to end the evening we all got to take home a small cup of absolutely delicious liquid chocolate flavored with our choice blend.  I picked lavender.  I absolutely savoured my cup this morning; delightful, to say the least!

I had a great time with the ladies last night.  I couldn't imagine a more pleasing way to learn about chocolate than with a group of friends.  My wheels are turning and my search engine is hot for some chocolate history titles.  If you know of any good ones, please share ; )

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Marathon Finish

I've mentioned this a couple of times; my husband loves the outdoors.  I think this same admiration for fresh air has led him to pick his favorite form of exercise: RUNNING.  I remember he enjoyed this during our college years and then you get married-start a career-have kids...and, well, you kind off let some things go.  I'm very proud to say that for years now he has consistently taken to running several times a week as his primary source of exercise.  Just for fun he has run some 5k's, 10k's and even a few 1/2 marathons.  

A few weeks back he had the opportunity to agree to run this year's L.A. Marathon: a full 26.2 miles course from Los Angeles to Santa Monica!  What can I say, he is a guy, and jumped on the opportunity.  I don't think I've ever seen my husband more nervous than these last couple of days.  This was a trial, a triumph; he just had to try.  He got up at 4:00 a.m. this morning met up with one of my sisters and together drove to Los Angeles to pick up my youngest sister (this was her second marathon, way to go girl!) and then headed towards the starting line at Dodger Stadium to be dropped off.  There was no turning back now.  A small wait for the blowing of the starting line horn and he was off.

the 2012 L.A. Marathon finish medal

The kids and I nervously prayed and watched the elite runners on T.V.  All the time wondering where and how dad was doing.  He called me at about the 16th mile and said he needed to walk for a bit.  It wasn't fatigue, just the onset of possible muscle spasms (oh no!)  After a few minutes he said he had to pick up the pace and continue.  It was now determination time.  I didn't hear from him again until 1/2 mile from the finish.  Yes, he's almost there! And then the final call, A MARATHON FINISH, he had crossed unto that triumphant sense of accomplishment.  We are so proud of you, you are amazing and ever so blessed.

at the finish after 4hrs & 50mins of running, not bad for his 1st marathon
He is home now.  I'm sure this will be an experience he'll never forget, but guess what he gets to do next.  While, yes indeed, the kids are all excited for him; they can't wait to just cuddle and watch Hugo with him tonight ; )  And so is life ... God is great!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Math Fun Mat

My five year old has definitely stretched me in more ways than one.  He is such an active-hard-to-sit-still kind of little boy that I've had to be ... well ... creative in how I present ideas to him.  I've come to learn to think beyond my norm in order to accommodate his learning style and preferences.

I decided we would give Math Lessons for a Living Education (book 1) a try.  It has been just perfect for him.  He enjoys following the story of the kids and the excercises are just enough for his attention span.  The book doesn't cover a specific grade and from its scope & sequence it could easily be spread out over two years.  We are taking it slow and I couldn't be more pleased with our progress.  We're already half way through the book and I feel he really understands the concepts well. 

I've used every math manipulative idea thus far.  The book does have some handouts to copy and use at certain points, but he has found them not enough (or to flimsy on just regular paper); especially his recent addition page.  We've given it just a little more a-ha!

When we reached addition a few weeks ago, I decided to take a few things in our arts & crafts cabinet to create something more sturdy and vibrant for him.  I gathered some scrap booking paper, packaging tape, extreme glue stick, letter stickers, a small envelope and two chipboard sheets.

I placed the two chipboard sheets just a little apart so that it could fold in like a book and ran the tape down the middle on the front/back:

Then really it is up to you how you want to cut your paper and design your mat.  My son picked the paper and their placement.  I have many letter sticker sheets; he got to choose that too.  I just made sure I placed the envelope in the middle of one side and the sheet with the equation squares on the opposite side.  I used my glue stick to secure everything in place:

I cut all the little squares and numbered two sets up to 20.  I also keep handy a little container full of these colorful rocks he likes to use as counters:

The little container gets covered put back on top of the filing cabinet with the other manipulatives we've made for his math so far.  The math mat gets closed and filed with his math book in the filing cabinet.  He looks forward to pulling it out in the mornings and showing me how much he can add.  I couldn't be more pleased  : D

Friday, March 9, 2012

Birds Tweet Tweet: Part 1

We really missed the Great Backyard Bird Count this year.  Still, my kids wake up every morning commenting on all the tweet tweets in our backyard.  A few weeks ago my 8yr. old mentioned how we needed to add the first sighting of birds in our yard into our Book of Firsts.  The sounds can't go unnoticed so early this week I decided we needed to set up some bird feeders so the kids could get a good look at our new neighbors more closely.  I have lots of pine cones sitting in our nature basket from our winter evergreen studies ; )  so we took a few and covered them in smooth peanut butter then rolled them in bird seeds.  We tied some twine rope on them and hung them on the closest tree to our glass backyard sliding doors.  We put them out on Tuesday afternoon.

The kids have checked every morning ... and guess what ...  there must have been about 15 little birds near that tree bright and early today.  Meet the White Crowned Sparrow common to California's coastal regions:

Zonotrichia leucophrys

The kids plopped down on the ground and watched these little guys have a feast.  We did have some strong winds the past few days so many of the seeds were also all over our grass less yard (we're working on that!):

After some time to observe and some nature journaling we headed over to the computer to find out more about them.  We found this site that also has a small clip of their sound calls.  Well, yes, that is exactly what we've been listening too lately : D

My 6yo, wait, (as of today) 7yo nature journal page
My 8 yo page ( I just noticed she needs to check the calendar)

I think we just found our spring study topic ; D

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ah, Lovely Book Giveaway!

Good morning friends!  I've only been blogging for less than a year and have discovered some very lovely sites for maybe the last two or so years.  I've mentioned this before: my goal is not to reinvent the wheel but to look for guidance from those before me.  With that help I can create a truly faithful living education in my home.  There are so many of you out there that have been instrumental and inspirational in guiding me through our Charlotte Mason journey.  Let me say; I'm truly grateful.


Today I thought I'd mention one of those very inspiring and full of wisdom places I like to visit: Sage Parnassus.  The author, Nancy Kelly, has been very gracious and kind.  I do wish I didn't live clear across the country, as I know I have an open invitation to visit her home library ; ) , and what a library she has. Which brings me to a very lovely book giveaway she is offering in honor of her three years blogging. 

I also noticed she is offering her wisdom by personal consultations.  What an amazing opportunity if you are new to Charlotte Mason.  She has been homeschooling and living her journey this way for the last eighteen years.  I hope you stop by and visit.  Look around and be inspired; Charlotte Mason would be proud.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Just Around the Corner

Yesterday my six year old son finished his last Frog and Toad story.  It was a very timely chapter: Corner from Frog and Toad All Year (sorry we don't read in order).  It was in short about Spring being just around the corner.  Wouldn't you know it: the last few days we've been prepping our garden area for planting so yesterday we put in some of our seeds.  Just as we were finishing my husband called and said he would be home shortly.  Did we want to go on a hike? Perfect! Let's go find some more spring around the corner.

I won't bore you with the ugly details of trying to get six kids ready for an out of the blue hike.  Oh, the chaos!  But, instead lets focus on the actual hike and all that we got to take in.  Our destination was the back side of our usual Wild Woods spot in the Santa Rosa Valley.  Here we go on a criss-cross steep incline trek:

My three year old and I carried the rear and yes I felt just like him:

Along the way up we couldn't help but admire what was above us:

This hawk kept circling for a while.

To the east an almost full moon in the sky:

And once we got to the top we could start looking down (a little endurance credit: I carried the baby down ... o.k. because my husband had to carry our three year old):

Don't know if you can see it, but there is a little creek down there ; )
It's interesting how the kids started noticing some color on the ground:

Usually an hour before the time we were heading back it has already turned dark outside.  To the west of us, as we descended, the sun going down:

Yes, just around the corner, I'd say!