Our Favorite Series of Books to Compliment Schooling

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The Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne is a fantastic series of books for elementary aged students that compliment schooling really well.  It is about Jack and Annie, two kids that find this magic tree house that takes them to different points in time where they have a mission that they need to accomplish before they return home.  The kids are both respectful and there are some nice moral lessons that are prevalent throughout the series.  The best part about the series is that it actually teaches you something about the time period that the kids go to.  Mary Pope Osborne puts in factual information and at the end of each book there is a section that gives you more facts about the story in the book.  You can tell that Mary Pope Osborne put a lot of research into each book.

Many times when we are learning about history there is a Magic Tree House book that complements what we are studying.  For example we were reading about George Washington and then we happened to read one of her books that had him in it.  I don’t plan to read her books to correspond with what we are learning, but many times it just happens to work out perfectly.  The books are just long enough to keep the boys’ interest, but not too long that we all get bored with the story (one book can be read in a sitting).  I have found on multiple occasions that the boys will remember factual information about a time period easier from these books than from other books.  Mary Pope Osborne makes the information interesting and having a fun story behind it makes it more memorable.

There are 53 books in the series so far.  We get all of our books from the library, but we are thinking of buying the set because the boys love them and I am sure that once they are reading independently these will be books that they turn to.  The books are also available in audio format and Mary Pope Osborne is the reader and we all enjoy listening to her read the books.

 

Thrift Store Score Before and After

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I’ve been on the hunt for a globe to use for homeschooling because I have found that it would be so easy to refer to places that we are talking about if I had one (prior to moving to our new home we got rid of ours because it took up space and we weren’t sure if we would use it, ha!).  Brand new ones are a little on the expensive side and I was shocked by this.  That meant that Craigslist and thrift stores were my best bet.  I was surprised to find that the ones on Craigslist were still a little expensive for used globes (the cheapest I found was for $15).  I had found many at the thrift stores that were reasonably priced, but the globes were out of date or broken and wouldn’t turn.  I found this beautiful huge globe on this really nice wooden stand, but alas the globe was out of date and we don’t want to refer to a globe that isn’t correct geographically!  Then one day I happened to be in our local thrift store looking for something else and I saw this globe on a cart waiting to be shelved.  I asked the worker if I could take this.  She said yes.  I looked at it and it looked like all of the countries were listed correctly and it worked!  It was just a bit dusty.  I got it for the low price of $5!

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I got home and cleaned all of the dust off.  I really wasn’t a fan of the blue plastic globe holder and I thought that I would use some of the rubbed bronze spray paint that we had for another project that I am slowly working on.  I checked to make sure that it was good for plastic and it was!

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I took the ball out of the base and then sprayed the base with this spray paint (my oldest helped too).  I did about a couple of coats and let it dry, which happened fast.  It was super easy to do.  Once it was dry I put the ball back in and ta-da!  We have a new globe that looks much fancier than what we purchased.

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Here’s a close-up of how the numbers look after being spray painted.

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I’m really happy with how our globe looks and very happy that I waited patiently and only paid $5 for it!

Happy thrift store hunting!

Pi Day!

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I figured that we should make a pie for Pi day!  It was yummy, even though I burnt the outside of the crust a little bit.

A fun art project that we did earlier this year (not on actual Pi Day) was the Pi art skyline.  The boys were amazed that the numbers kept going and going and never stopped.

Hopefully, you got to enjoy some pie yesterday!

Winslow Homer Seascape Art Project

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The boys and I are reading from the book What Your First Grader Needs to Know.  In this book they have an art section and one of the artists that they talk about is Winslow Homer.  I decided that it would be fun to do a Winslow Homer art project to go along with learning about him.  We looked at his painting Snap the Whip, which was in the book and then talked about it.  I checked out the kids’ book Winslow Homer  by Mike Venezia from the library to read to the boys.  In this book they discuss more of his seascapes, which he was famous for.

The art project that we had planned was doing a seascape inspired mixed media painting.  I got the idea from ARTipelago.  The site that I got this project from did this with her fifth graders, but my Kindergartner and 2nd Grader were easily able to do this project.

Materials

  • Art paper (we used drawing paper, but I think anything will work.  We used 9×12) 2 pieces/kid.
  • Paints–blue, black, and white (tempura or BioColor)
  • Origami paper or colored paper
  • Scissors (if not doing origami)
  • Glue
  • Watercolors
  • Paintbrushes

On day one we painted a 9×12 piece of art paper with light blue, blue, black, and white BioColor Paints (these paints are pretty awesome).  We painted the page to look like the ocean.  My oldest and I made a design in the paint by using the end of the paint brush.  We then let the paint dry overnight.

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Day two we cut out the shapes of sailboats.  I had looked into doing origami boats, but it looked too complicated for my boys. The origami paper that I have is the same color on both sides and it would have been nice to have different colored sides so that the sails and the boat looked different.  I freehanded both the boat and the sails and traced them onto colored paper that the boys picked out themselves.  The boys then cut out their pieces.  My kindergartner needed help with this part.

Day three we took the ocean paper and started to tear it into long horizontal strips.  When you tear the strips the top edge usually has some white of the paper where it ripped that looks like surf from the ocean.  Tearing the paper also gives the water some movement like waves.  We glued down the strips of paper onto another 9×12 piece of art paper.  We layered the paper a little bit to give it more dimension and a 3D look to it.  We glued the ocean part about 2/3rds of the way up the paper.  Next, we took some blue watercolor paints and painted the sky.  Once that was done we took our cut out boat parts and glued them to the water.  Then we let the masterpieces dry until they were ready!

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This was a fun project and I’m really happy with how the results turned out!

-Heather

p.s. Any links that go to Amazon are affiliate links and if you purchase the item through the link I get a small percentage of the sale which goes directly to buying more homeschool stuff!  Thanks for supporting us!

 

 

Weekly Menu

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Another week has quickly gone by!  It seems like I am planning more often than once a week :).

Sunday:  BLTs (well, I guess that I should actually call them BLATs since they will have avocado)

Monday:  Roasted Chicken.  I know that I posted last week that we only do this one every other week, but we decided to do it again this week so that we could make more of the tasty chicken broth!

Tuesday:  Ramen (Courtesy of Damn Delicious) of This recipe is very easy and has become a favorite of ours and a staple.  It is so delicious and so much better than Top Ramen!

Wednesday:  Burrito Bowls.  These will be vegvegetarian/vegan burrito bowls with black beans, rice, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, and salad dressing.

Thursday:  Chicken Satay (Damn Delicious) and Spring Veggie Rolls.   We’ve had two sets of friends that recently made us the Spring Veggie Rolls and they were delicious and we hope that ours turn out well too!

Friday:  Enchilada Bake (Damn Delicious).  This is one of our favorite meals, but we don’t have it as often because it uses a whole can of buttermilk biscuit dough and is not the healthiest, but oh so delicious!

Saturday:  Chicken Sweet Potato Bowls (Inspiralized).

Happy eating!

Heather

Weekly Menu

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And I’m back with posting our weekly dinner menu plans!  For awhile there I was all gung-ho and was planning out the whole month, but I found that there were just too many days that we didn’t stick to our plan and things got moved around.  A weekly menu seemed more manageable.

Sunday:  Chicken wings with rice and veggies.  My friend made us these chicken wings one night for dinner and they were so tasty.  I have been meaning to make it and I finally am!  I’ll have to do a post of the recipe for these wings later!

Monday:  Pulled Pork Gnocchi by Bev Cookswhich reminds me that I need to go pull out the pork from the freezer!

Tuesday:  Roasted Chicken with potatoes & veggies.  We decided to make roasted chicken every other week.  My husband brines it first because it ends up tasting much better.  He then cooks it on the Traeger.  After we eat the chicken we always make chicken broth in the amazing Instant Pot (affiliate link, but it is also at a good price right now!).

Wednesday:  Cheater Pho Soup from Damn Delicious.  I have not made this yet, but her recipes are winners with us.

Thursday:  Quinoa Black Bean Tacos from Damn Delicious.  Haven’t made these either, but I have high hopes.

Friday:  Mac & Cheese with Veggies.  Wanted something simple for this night.  It’s the mac & cheese out of a box from Trader Joe’s with veggies & chicken thrown in.

Saturday:  Cheeseburgers.

Happy eating!

Heather

The Compassion Experience

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A homeschool group that I belong to posted about The Compassion Experience online.  The Compassion Experience is a mobile caravan where you get to “experience other cultures, the realities of global poverty, and how you can change the life of a child living half a world away.”  You walk through rooms that are set-up to look like the places that other kids live and get a real feel for what it is like to live in poverty.  The few responses on the thread said that they enjoyed this experience and it was eye opening.  Someone questioned how much religion is in this experience and one mom that had previously gone stated that even though it is put on by a Christian organization(s) it didn’t have a strong religious tone to it, which is something we were looking for.  I thought that this would be perfect for my boys because they have a bad case of the gimmes and greedies lately.

We didn’t make a reservation because they were full, so we walked in.  There wasn’t a long line, but it took awhile to see the exhibit because they only let people in every five minutes.  When it was our turn we had to choose between two stories.  We decided on the story of the boy from Ethiopia (his story didn’t seem as depressing and more suitable for our boys).  We each got headphones and an iPod which would tell us a story through the exhibit.  We headed into the first room, which was this teeny tiny room that could just fit us four (they said that the max would be six per room, but I think that would be too crowded).  The story started, but they didn’t connect what we were seeing in the room to the story that much.  Then we went to the next room, which was supposed to be a portion of the house that the boy lived in.  It was hard to feel like this was an actual room because it was so small.  I had really expected that there would be an exact replica of a couple of rooms, but there were not.  Again, the story didn’t really give us much insight into how a kid in poverty lives.  The next room was a school room.  This is where the stories started mentioning Jesus and God a lot with the message that they were the only ones that could bring you out of poverty and save you; this message continued on in the next two rooms.

When we were done the first thing that the boys said was, “That was boring.”  I would have to agree with them.  I really had expected something much different than what we experienced.  I was hoping that my boys would see what it was like for others living in poverty and feel a little compassion and know that they have it really good compared to other kids in this world.  I think that if the Compassion Experience had better stories, actual replicas of rooms (instead of just a sliver of the room), and tried to explain what it was like for a kid to live in poverty it would have been much better.  I assume that if you are religious, particularly Christian, you might get more out of the experience than we did.

 

2016 Reading Challenge

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Right now my one and only hobby seems to be reading.  I LOVE reading and can’t get enough of it.  I follow the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy, which is a book/life blog that I enjoy reading.  Anne, the author, is very likable and has given some great recommendations since I started following her blog.  Last year she had a reading challenge that I did not participate in because I wasn’t sure if I was up for trying to read stuff based on a certain criteria.  This year I decided that I would give it a try.  The image above are the categories of the books to be read.  If you would like to join the challenge go to this page for more information.

Here are the books that I will be reading (not in any particular order):

A book published this year:  The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney 

“A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.”

This book got some good reviews and comes out in March.  It looks like a funny and light read, which I’m always good for.

A book you can finish in a day:  Night by Elie Wiesel 

Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps.”

This book is on one of my lists of books that people should read and I’ve been meaning to read it for a few years now.  It’s a short book at just 120 pages that I think I can get through in one day.

A book you’ve been meaning to read: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

“Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.”

I bought this book last year because I had heard great things about it and nothing but praise.  I just hadn’t gotten around to reading it.  I actually did read it in January and I’ll review it later.

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller:  Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

“A razor-sharp satire set in Texas during America’s war in Iraq, it explores the gaping national disconnect between the war at home and the war abroad.”

Our library has a shelf of books that the librarians have recommended and this book looked interesting and one that I hadn’t heard about.  As I was looking for a picture to put in this post I see that the movie of this book is coming out at the end of this year.

A book you should have read in school:  The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Adulteress Hester Prynne must wear a scarlet A to mark her shame. Her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, remains unidentified and is wracked with guilt, while her husband, Roger Chillingworth, seeks revenge.”

In middle and high school I’m pretty sure that I read everything that was assigned to me, so I don’t think that there is a book that I didn’t read for school.  With that being said, I know that there are many books that other people read in school that I didn’t.  This is one of those books and I thought that I would finally read it.

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF:  Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

“A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.”

My husband is a fan of Neal Stephenson’s work and good sci-fi novels.  This book came out last year and my husband enjoyed it thoroughly.  This book was also on many best of 2015 lists.

A book published before you were born:  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

“Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration.”

This book was definitely written before I was born (1844)!  It’s been on my to read list, but I haven’t been that interested in reading it.  At the end of last year a couple of blogs that I follow wrote how they read this book and really enjoyed it, which piqued my interest and made me think that I should read this (I enjoyed the movie that came out in 2002).

A book that was banned at some point:  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

“On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.  As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy.”

I think that most everyone has heard of this book and it is one of those that is on the must read lists.  When I Googled banned books I saw that this one was on the list.  Since I have been meaning to read this book I figured that this one would fit nicely in this category.

A book you previously abandoned:  The Princess Bride by William Goldman

“Rich in character and satire, the novel is set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an “abridged” retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin that’s home to “Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions.”

For this category I thought that it would be very hard because I am a person that tends to finish books even if I am not into them.  I only abandon books that are so terrible to me and there would be no way that I would pick them up again.  Then I remembered that last year I had started reading The Princess Bride  to my boys, but at some point my husband took over on bed duties and I never finished this book.  This year I will finish it.

A book you own but have never read:  And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

“One of the most famous and beloved mysteries from The Queen of Suspense—Agatha Christie”

I’ve never read Agatha Christie, but I’ve heard that her books are good and they have been recommended many times.  This book is perhaps her most well known book and I bought it a couple of years ago, but I just haven’t gotten around to reading it.

A book that intimidates you:  Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

“Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln’s political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president.”

I got this book last year when it was on sale for the Kindle.  I had heard great things about it and the majority of ratings on Amazon and Goodreads are excellent.  It intimidates me because the book is 944 pages.  It should be the longest book I read this year.

A book you’ve already read at least once:  A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

“In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys—best friends—are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy’s mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn’t believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God’s instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary.”

John Irving is my favorite author and I love his writing.  I read this book many years ago and I want to revisit it because so many people would list this book as their favorite of his and for me it isn’t, although I did enjoy it.  Maybe reading it now after many years I will enjoy it more?

Phew, those are the books that I am going to try and get through this year.  I have one down and 11 more to go!

Happy Reading!

Heather

p.s. All of the links above are affiliate links, which gives me a small percentage if you buy through them and this all goes back to buying homeschooling stuff 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creo Chocolate Factory Tour

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At the beginning of this month the boys and I went on a homeschool field trip to The Creo Chocolate Factory.  I have to admit that when I hear and/or think chocolate factory I think of a big factory like the one that my previous employers had (we made cosmetics in a big warehouse with big machines and that’s what my image of a factory is).  I’m sure that the boys thought it might be along the lines of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  We get into the building and the first thing you notice is the aroma of chocolate, which wasn’t all that bad for this non-chocolate loving person.  The space was very clean and decorated nicely.  It had a very relaxing and comforting vibe and felt more like a coffee shop.  The space, including their “factory” was the size of a coffee shop and not a big factory.  I should have expected this since I knew it was an artisan shop and I went on a chocolate factory tour in Los Angeles and it was even smaller.

Here is the story of chocolate and particularly Creo’s chocolate.

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First, a little backstory about them.  The name Creo /KR-É-OH means I believe in Spanish and I create in Latin, which the family who owns this business felt meshed nicely with their business motto.  To learn more about the family and how they got into chocolate and came to own the store go here.

The process starts down in Ecuador where the cacao beans are grown in pods on cacao trees.  The beans mostly grow on the trunks of the trees, which was neat to see.  Once the pods are ripe (they turn a different shade) they are ready to be harvested.  They are taken off of the tree and then cut open.  When they are cut open there are all of these white looking seeds that have a citrus smell to them.  These are the cacao beans, but they can’t be used yet.  The farmer will then take these beans put them in bins/boxes and let them ferment.  This process gets the white pulp off of the cacao bean.  Once they are done fermenting they are laid out on concrete, asphalt, or something hard and sun dried.  The owner told us that some farmers will use the roads to dry the beans and when this happens anything from cars that leaks or anything that is on the roads can get into the beans and because of that these beans are cheaper to buy and mostly the big mass produced chocolate makers buy these, yuck!  While they are drying they are raked and the workers will wear special shoes while stepping on the beans.  The beans are then sent up via a ship to Portland where the owners go and get them.  They are then stored in the basement until they are ready to be used.  Here are some videos to watch of the growing to shipping process.

Once the beans are ready to be used they come upstairs to the store.  The first process is to sort them.

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The next step is to roast them:

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Here are some roasted beans:

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After they are roasted they are put into a container that looks like a funnel with a drill at the bottom that turns this machine and “smashes” the beans.  What it is doing is removing the outside husk/shell.  Under the husk are the nibs.  These are the chocolate and taste very much like dark chocolate (yuck for me, but yum if you like dark chocolate).  The bean parts are then sorted by size.

The beans now make their way to the winnower (I got video, but it wasn’t that great and I was behind some people who got in front of my camera).

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Here is the winnower:

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Once the nibs have been separated from the husk they are now ready for the conching process:

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Sugar and/or milk is added at this point.  This is a conching machine:

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Once the nibs are done being tempered they look like melted chocolate and taste more palatable than the nibs (it is that extra sugar and milk!).  Now it is time to temper them.

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Here is the tempering machine:

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The chocolate is put into molds, shaken to fill in the mold evenly, and then put in a fridge to harden.  When the chocolate is ready they take it out and pop it out of the mold.  They then put it in a compostable cellophane wrapper and cardboard sleeve.  It is ready to be sold!

This store only sells dark chocolate and I had some samples and really didn’t care for it (I don’t like chocolate and can only handle small doses of milk chocolate, yes I do know some people think that I am crazy!).  My boys really liked it and the other guests seemed to too.  The owner and his son were really nice and if you are ever in the Portland area and are looking for some chocolate you should stop by this store!

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A picture of a cacao pod with cacao beans

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Lastly, their bathroom floor was made with pennies and it was the first one that I have seen and it was very interesting and pretty to look at (there were 20,000 pennies!).

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Weather Tree #2

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First, let me say that I need to work on my photo taking skills a lot!  Yes, I know that the tree is a little blurry, but I hope that you get the idea :).

Last year I was all excited to do a weather tree for our homeschooling year.  A weather tree is a visual piece of art that lets you record the weather where you live.  Here is my post about it and the steps I took in creating one.  I thought that it would be something fun to look back on and it didn’t seem that hard to do.  Just like this blog the weather tree made it to Spring.  I had all these grand plans to go on the internet and look up the weather for each day and fill it in, but who was I kidding?  Then at the end of October I decided to start doing it again.  Here is our finished 2015 Weather Tree (again, look past the bad photo).

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Since I was on a roll with keeping up for November and December I decided that I would make another one for 2016.  So far, I’ve been able to keep up, but we’ll see how it is once April rolls around!  If I quit sometime around then someone please remind me not to do this again!

-Heather