Thrift Store Score Before and After


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  I had found many at the thrift stores that were reasonably priced, but the globes were out of date or broken and wouldn’t turn.  I found this beautiful huge globe on this really nice wooden stand, but alas the globe was out of date and we don’t want to refer to a globe that isn’t correct geographically!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!


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!


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.


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


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!

Winslow Homer Seascape Art Project


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.


  • 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.




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!



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


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!



Creo Chocolate Factory Tour


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.


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.


The next step is to roast them:


Here are some roasted beans:


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).


Here is the winnower:


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


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


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.


Here is the tempering machine:


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!


A picture of a cacao pod with cacao beans


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!).

IMG_20160105_111028180_HDR IMG_20160105_111037933





Piet Mondrian Art Lesson


In celebration of Piet Mondrian’s birthday (3/7) I decided that we’d do an art lesson on him.  I think that he is one of the easiest artists for kids to replicate.  It is very simple and young kids have an easy time following what they need to do.  Before we get to the lesson, let’s learn a little about Piet Mondrian himself.

Piet was a Dutch painter born in 1872.  He was part of a group of artists that formed a new style of art called neoplasticism which was art painted on a white background with black vertical and horizontal lines in a grid shape.  The geometric shapes were only painted the primary colors.  He lived in Amsterdam, Paris, London, and New York.  It was in New York where he went away from the black grid lines and instead followed a grid with the primary colors.  He was very much influenced by the jazz music scene, and the city itself.

It was funny because I had already had a lesson planned out for him and I just happened to come across this Lego video that does a Mondrian.

My boys LOVED it!  Right after we watched the video Nathan went and got paint, a paint brush, and Legos to recreate what he just watched (no prompting or suggesting by us).  He sat there “painting” his Lego Mondrian.  When he was finished he built a Lego frame and hung it on our wall.  Anderson made his own painting too, but he didn’t try and recreate it like this video.


Working on creating the Mondrian


Here is the second version of the Lego Mondrian (the first one fell off the wall and broke)

I had wanted to read a kid’s book to the boys to introduce them to Mondrian.  Unfortunately, there really aren’t any great ones out there.  I only one I could find was Coppernickel Goes Mondrian (affiliate link).  The book has a character that is supposed to be Mondrian and many of the paintings in the book have the grid shape and use the primary colors.  At the end of the book there is a little write-up about Mondrian.  This book wasn’t a huge hit with my boys and I would actually recommend checking it out from the local library first to see if you like it.

As fate would have it, another Mondrian video randomly showed up for me and I thought that it was interesting and shared it with the boys.

Now for the art lesson!

Step 1:  Gather all of your materials.  We used our BioColor paints, paint brush, 1/2″ masking tape,  and painting paper.


Step 2:  Tape off the piece of paper in a grid of your choosing.


Step 3:  Color the rectangles or squares either red, blue, yellow, or white (you could leave some of the spaces blank and not paint them white, but I found that my boys were getting some stray paint in the white areas, so it was better to just paint it white.


Step 4:  Once the paint is dry pull off the tape.


Step 5:  Paint the area that was under the tape black to create your black lines for the grid.


Anderson’s Mondrian


Now your kids (or you) are all done and you have created your own Mondrian!!



Chinese New Year


All of last week we learned about Chinese New Year (also called Lunar New Year because other countries besides China celebrate it), since the New Year date was on 2/19/15.  The new year is always held sometime between the end of January and the end of February, and is based on the moon.

We started off by talking about how we celebrate our New Year in the United States.  Then we read these three books:

Bringing In the New Year

Dragon Dance

Sam and the Lucky Money

I thought that Bringing In the New Year  was the most informative out of the three books.  It also kept the boys engaged.  At the end of the book there is a bit about the history of Chinese New Year written in a kid friendly manner.  After we read the three books we compared the similarities and the differences between Chinese New Year to our New Year.

Another day we started making these dragon puppets, but the boys weren’t interested in coloring them, so that project didn’t take off :(.

One Chinese New Years tradition is to give kids money in red envelopes (hongbao).  I thought that it would be fun to make some origami red envelopes and give to my boys.  I followed this great tutorial:

I made small envelopes because I only had small red paper and I figured that my boys would be happy receiving a quarter.  On the envelopes I added the Fú symbol    which means “good luck” or “good fortune.”

Here is one my finished envelopes:


On Chinese New Year we went out for Chinese food.  We wished our waiter “Happy New Year” and she was surprised that we knew about it.

On the weekend we went to Chinatown to the Chinese Garden to celebrate the New Year.

First we went to the Wishing Tree where we each got a ribbon with a gold piece tied to it.  We were supposed to throw it on the tree and make a wish.  All of us got our ribbon to stick with the first throw.  Other visitors were not so lucky :).


Nathan getting ready to throw the ribbon


Nathan and the wishing tree

Next we looked at all of the red lanterns hanging throughout the gardens (very pretty).  At about this time the Lions came out to dance!  The Lion Dance is done during the Chinese New Year to ward off evil and bring good fortune.   Many people mistake the lions for dragons, but one easy way to tell if it is a lion is to see how many legs it has.  The lions only have four legs (two dancers) and the dragon has more.  We all really enjoyed the dance very much (the dancer’s seemed to get a great workout)!


After the dance we went out to visit the Sheep pavilion, since it is the Year of the Sheep/Ram.  As a fun fact, my zodiac sign is a sheep.  My husband’s is an Ox and supposedly we do not make a good match 🙂  One of my sons is a Tiger and again the Sheep and Tiger aren’t supposed to get along well.

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Xin Nian Kuai Le! 新年快樂!


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Weather Tree


Last year in one of the online Waldorf groups that I belong to someone had posted about a weather tree.  I had never heard about a weather tree, so I was intrigued.  The idea is to have a visual representation of what the weather is like for your family where you live for the whole year.  You have a tree with twelve branches that represent a month of the year.  On each of the twelve branches you have the number of leaves that correspond to the days that month (a total of 365 leaves, unless it is a leap year).  Every day you color a leaf to represent what the weather was for the day.  I thought that a weather tree would be something fun to have, especially at the end of the year when you can look back and see exactly how the weather was.  This concept is one that is common in the Waldorf community and there are many ways that a family can go about creating one.

I had wanted to buy one to make it easier on myself and I saw this one.  I really liked the look of the poster from the UK, but the pricing was too much, especially to be shipped to the US.  I looked around on the internet and the other trees out there just really didn’t fit the look that I wanted.  I came across a tree that I loved the look of, but couldn’t find any way to purchase a print.  My next best option was going to be for me to make one inspired by the one I had seen.  I figured that I could make the outline of the tree and then I could have my boys help me color the tree.  I wanted to start the weather tree on January 1st, so that we would have a complete record of the year.  Well, you’ll never guess what I did?  I procrastinated!  It was the end of December and I knew that I probably wouldn’t get it done in time.  That is when I had the genius idea of using our projector and copying the image of the picture that I really like.  I got everything all set up and got to work.  It was a quick and easy process to transfer the image onto another piece of paper.  Once I got it done Nathan helped me color the tree brown.  Then we decided together what color a leaf would be to represent the weather.


A close-up of some of our leaves

We taped up the weather tree in our homeschool area (aka our dining room).  Every evening after dinner our family talks about the day’s weather.  We then pick out the colors of the leaves that we would use to color in the leaf and proceed to color the leaf.  One observation that we made was that the day could have different types of weather.  We decided on days when this happens we could split the leaves up so that all of the weather types could be represented.  So far January is done and we are working on February.  I am very excited to see how the tree looks when the year is over with (I’ll be sure to post a picture).


Has your family created a weather tree?



Paul Cézanne


Paul Cézanne was a French painter born on January 19, 1839.  I thought in celebration of his birthday it would be fun for my boys to learn about him and then do a still life painting, which is one thing that he is famous for.

My boys are not ones that just like to sit there with me spewing information out to them about a person or thing.  I also didn’t want to bombard them with a lot of information that they would immediately just forget, so I did a short lesson.

We first read the book Cézanne and the Apple Boy

The story is about Paul Cézanne and his son Paul.  They discuss how many people did not like the older Paul’s paintings at first and thought that he was crazy, but then an art dealer named Vollard came and bought some paintings from Cézanne and sold them and made Paul Cézanne famous.  My boys enjoyed this book and it was a good introduction to young kids about Paul Cézanne (some of Paul’s actual paintings were in the book, which was nice).

We then went to The Met Museum’s online interactive site for kids about Paul Cézanne.  They listened to the story about how Paul liked to paint apples and we explored that apple painting.

We then talked about how Cézanne liked to paint pictures of fruit, especially apples, and inanimate objects and that this type of painting was called “still life.”  Now it was time to do some still life painting.


  • Paper (we just used our heavier drawing paper even though we would be painting)
  • Paint brushes
  • Paint (we used our BioColor paint)
  • Plate with fruit on it.

IMG_20150127_145743751The boys wanted to paint on the ground, so that is what we did.  They both started off the project and didn’t quite understand what they were supposed to do, so I explained again what still life painting was and how we were supposed to try and paint the plate with the fruit on it how we saw it.  I started to paint first so that they could see how I was doing it.  Nathan got the hang of it.  Anderson was more into free painting, which was fine with me since I didn’t want to put pressure on him for getting it right (he’s only four).

Once we finished our paintings we waited for them to dry and then we got a black crayon and outlined our paintings because Cézanne outlined many of the objects in his painting with black paint.



Not the best picture of the final drawings :/


Here are some interesting facts about Paul Cézanne.

  • He didn’t like other people touching him.
  • His painting The Card Players is the most expensive painting ever sold.  It sold for $250 million in 2011. 
  • He has been credited for starting the cubism movement in painting.
  • Matisse and Picasso have stated that “he is the father of us all.”
  • He was friends with the author Emile Zola since grade school, but after Zola modeled a pathetic character after Cézanne their friendship ended and was never repaired.

Have your children done still life paintings?  Did they enjoy doing them?


Updated 2/7/15:  Cézanne’s painting The Card Players is now the second most expensive painting ever sold.  It has been said that the Gauguin painting of two Tahitian girls sold for $300M these past few days.

Stop Motion Animation


My sons both LOVE Legos.  They play with them all of the time and it seems to be the only thing that they care about.  When I am not looking my oldest son Nathan sneaks off and gets one of my laptops (yes, I have two but it was because one of them was broken for a long time and I needed one while the other one was waiting to be fixed).  He doesn’t read or write yet, but he knows how to spell L-E-G-O.  He also knows how to spell things related to Legos by looking at the instructions.  He always navigates to Lego videos on YouTube.  He happened upon one and he wanted me to watch it.  It was a stop motion animation video that was really well done.  After we finished watching the video I told him how stop motion animation worked (homeschooling at its best!).  He said that he wanted to do that.  I asked him to please wait so that I could get ready for the day and then I would help him.  He didn’t want to wait and was very eager and I didn’t want to miss this opportunity, so we got right to work.  Here are the steps that we took.

  1. Get a backdrop/scene set for what you want to take pictures of.
  2. Find a steady surface or a tripod for your camera and set those up with the camera directed at your scene.
  3. Start taking pictures of the thing you want to make a video of.  In each picture the thing (in our case a Lego man and snowmobile) will want to be moved just a little so that when the video is played it looks like it is moving.  Remember to keep all hands out of the pictures 🙂  This part takes a long time!  My son took over 200 pictures for his short movie.


    Positioning the Legos just so

  4. Once you are done you want to go through your pictures and edit or delete ones that need to be.
  5. Upload the photos to a movie maker program (we used iMovie)
  6. Add in sound effects
  7. Save your movie and share it with everyone.


Nathan did all of the picture taking himself.  He was very patient and seemed to enjoy it very much.  My husband and I worked on uploading the photos and doing the iMovie, but Nathan gave us input as to what sounds he wanted to use.  He has been busily taking a whole bunch more pictures, so more videos will be sure to follow!

Drumroll please……Here is Nathan’s Arctic Adventure!!!



p.s. This project is so not Waldorf, but it is something that he is really passionate about and I would hate to miss such a great learning opportunity that he enjoyed so much because it didn’t “fit in” with what a philosophy says.

p.p.s.  I will be putting a password on my computer so that he can’t continue to sneak off with my computer to watch videos!

p.p.p.s.  I just learned that Lego has an app to make these videos from your phone.  I heard that it is super easy to do.  I’m not sure that my son will be able to keep the phone still though.