Monday, March 28, 2011

Little Hearts For His Glory - Week 6

I can't believe we are through week 6 already!  We are enjoying Little Hearts For His Glory.  The girls have gone from "No.... I don't want to do school." back to "Yeah, I love school, Mommy!".  Julia (3) enjoys  jumping in right along with us.  She doesn't do workbook type things or any phonics yet, but loves the read alouds and any activities.  I love that she doesn't have to feel excluded from school time any more.  

I was telling a friend that we are enjoying all of the activities in LHFHG, when she started to sigh and say "Oh, I end up not ever getting to the activities!".  I agreed that with our other curriculum we struggled to get the activities done, but these are just so easy and so much fun that its different.  Its hard to skip them!  I haven't had to scrounge for strange materials or even plan much ahead.  I can see the girls really learning the concepts and I think the simple activities are really helping to reinforce things.  Lucy enjoys having Julia doing schoolwork along with us and that seems to help the learning dynamic as well.

Without giving too much of the curriculum away, recently we've had fun:

punching our names in black paper and then holding it up to the light to see the results

making Egyptian collars

smelling different spices (Lucy liked peppermint and Julia's favorite was cinnamon)

We are almost finished with My Father's World phonics (the blue notebook)!  Lucy is reading very well now and its so much fun to see her pick up a book and read to Julia or Esther.  We are working through an Explode The Code workbook and she enjoys that.  MFW moved pretty quickly through the phonics rules, so I want to keep reviewing for a while.  I did purchase the Emerging Readers' Set and the teachers manual (Beyond Little Hearts For His Glory).  We just started this week.  I feel like it is right on level for Lucy.  She does well reading and is challenged by the questions.  She dislikes answering comprehension questions about reading so we are working on this.

Math is still super easy for her.  I like that it includes so much hands on work and hope it picks up a bit as we go along.  There were a couple of challenging lessons for her last week with learning more than and less than.  (5 is 2 more than 3, 4 is 3 less than 7, etc)

Science... I should probably look ahead more and then try and find some extra books or activities having to do with what we are studying.  The girls like to watch You Tube videos on the computer, so we've done that a few times.  (This week I think we looked up quail, railroad worms, and tap dancing.)  The activities in LHFHG have been great, but I feel like we could expand on them a bit more.

This week was review week for the memory verses and Lucy is working hard at being able to say all five verses for Daddy.  (Yes, I bribed her with getting to pick a prize from my little stash of stickers, etc.)

This past week I was honestly surprised that we were already though week six, we're having so much fun.  I used to add up in my head how many weeks or lessons we had left until finishing a curriculum.  With Little Hearts For His Glory I haven't done that at all.  I am content with knowing we are having fun and it is right on my kids level.  It is such a blessing to see them growing and developing so much.

I sound like an ad for Heart of Dakota, don't I?  I am not affiliated with them.  Maybe I'll have to think really hard and come up with something I don't like next time.  ;)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I am...

One Thousand Gifts <--- maybe the best book I've ever read.  seriously.
Raising Your Spirited Child
Nourishing Traditions

homemade hair gel
chicken and biscuits (This was my fourth or fifth attempt at biscuits and they actually turned out!)
Tammy's pinto beans

That my car wasn't actually stolen, I just forgot that I parked on the other side of the parking lot.  I did have to wander around in the freezing rain carrying my heavy bag of groceries... But I really thought it was lost, so I'm happy it's not.

listening to:
my girls giggling in their beds

our homeschool curriculum
my husband (this list is not in order, lol)
Nutella (definitely not in order)

tired of typing with one finger on the iPhone. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Homemade Cream Soda

I am completely addicted to homemade cream soda!  It used to be a treat that Ross and I both enjoyed on the rare occasion we were out to eat somewhere that happened to have real cream sodas.  Now we often enjoy making our homemade version after dinner, its so good its almost like dessert.  I adapted the recipe just a bit from this one.  Make the vanilla syrup ahead of time:

2 cups cane sugar (regular sugar is ok too, but the cane sugar gives a better flavor)
1 cup water
Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves and mixture turns somewhat clear.

Add 1 Tbs vanilla and then let it all just sit in the saucepan and cool.

Store your syrup in a jar in the fridge.

To make a glass of cream soda, use 3 Tbs syrup.  Pour in 3/4-1 cup club soda, enough to almost fill the glass.  Add a couple of ice cubes and a splash of heavy whipping cream.  Gently stir and enjoy.  Try your best not to suck it down all in one big gulp!  Sooo tasty!

We carbonate our own water for this recipe, using our Soda Stream home soda machine.  Club soda purchased from the store works just as well.  Be sure and try our ginger ale recipe too.  Let me know what you think.  :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Miessence Review - Includes Giveaway

One of my friends recently became a consultant for Miessence - certified organic skin, hair, body, cosmetic, oral, and nutritional products.  I got to attend her first home spa party.  (Yay, Jessica!)  Jessica is a stay at home mom of three and is passionate about all things natural and healthy.  I had never heard of Miessence, but I'm impressed.  They are certified organic, which means no yucky chemicals, no GMOs, and the products are good for your body.

I've been trying out their Aroma Free Roll On Deodorant for the last couple of weeks.  This is kind of the ultimate test for Miessence because I have such a hard time finding deodorant that works.  I've tried so many different ones: Kiss My Face, Tom's of Maine, Crystal .... nope.  Homemade deodorant works for the most part, but can be greasy and isn't completely reliable for me.

I am very happy with Miessence deodorant.  This summer will be another test, but so far so good.  I'm glad to have found something that works and contains natural, safe, organic ingredients.  Two thumbs up!

Are you interested?  Jessica is giving a $25 Miessence gift certificate to one of you. To enter, do any of the following and leave a comment on this post.  You can do as many of these as you would like to, for a total of four possible entries.  Leave a separate comment for each one.  Be sure to include your email address or have it enabled in your profile.

- visit Miessence and tell me what product you would most like to try
- follow my blog, or email subscribe
- like Jessica's Miessence page on Facebook
- follow her on Twitter

I'll close the giveaway in two weeks on April 2 at midnight.  If you are interested in placing an order, you should know that after your first order you become a preferred customer and receive 10% off all future orders.  Thanks, Jessica!

I received an Aroma Free Roll On Deodorant for review.  All opinions expressed are my own.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Doorposts Giveaway

Doorposts has a new blog and is doing ten days of giveaways to celebrate!  Check it out!  I included one of Doorposts' products in my post on character training recently.  I'm looking forward to reading more of their blog.  :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kitchen Experiments

I usually keep a running list of recipes I want to try.  Most weeks I include at least one new recipe in my plans.  Other times I am on a roll and knock several off my list.  I try to experiment on the weekends when I have a bit more time to spend in the kitchen and Ross is here to help watch the little ones.  Here are some of the recipes I have tried recently:

whole wheat noodles - These were pretty thick, but turned out okay.  I was quite proud of myself for trying this out!  Lucy and Julia didn't love them, so I think I need to try again with a different grain.  (soft white wheat?  spelt?)

Tammy's butter spread - This is an easy recipe to whip up.  Having spreadable butter ready in the fridge is nice, but the taste is a bit more watered down than I like.  I'm going to experiment with this some more and tweak the recipe a bit, maybe add less water.

Italian dressing - Success!  I have tried several different homemade Italian dressing recipes and we never really liked them.  This one was a success this week.

fajita seasoning - I can't remember where I found this recipe, I hope I still have it written down!  Instead of buying expensive seasoning packets, I made my own fajita spice mix.  It worked well, and although I didn't do the price breakdown, I think its cheaper.  At least I can now make fajitas without having to have a spice packet on hand.

toasted spelt cereal - I picked up this recipe from some people that sell flour at our farmer's market.  It looked good in theory, but actually was a big flop.  The recipe did not include baking times, and no matter how long I toasted the crumbled cake it refused to crisp up.

kefir- A friend gave me some kefir grains last week.  I'm happy to say that I have kept them alive so far.  We've used kefir in smoothies and for soaking grains.  I tried making ranch dressing with kefir, but it was about the nastiest thing I've ever tasted.

soaking - Ideally, the majority of the grains that we eat would be soaked or sprouted.  I have never actually done this very much, aside from soaked baked oatmeal.  Now that I have an unlimited supply of kefir, I've tried soaking a few things this week.  Even if I don't soak a recipe for the recommended time, some soaking is better than none.  I soaked some cornbread and then later read that cornmeal has to be soaked differently, lol.  Oh well.

I still have a long list of recipes that I want to try!  How about you?  Do you often experiment with new recipes?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Organizing Children's Clothing

This is what my stored children's clothing used to look like:

This is what it looks like now:

A couple of months ago I pulled up every box and bag of children's clothing and piled it in the living room.  It took a few days, but I went through it all.  After having three girls and rummaging through the clothes numerous times to find swimsuits, store out of season clothes, look for a snowsuit, etc, it had all jumbled into a big mess.  Now I have a big tub for each size of clothing.

The tubs are labeled with an index card taped to the inside:

0-3 months,
3-6 months,
6-12 months summer,
6-12 months winter,
12-18 months summer,
12-18 months winter,
24 months/ 2T summer,
24 months/ 2T winter,
3T summer, and so on.

The bag on top is all of our swimsuits and swim diapers.  As I store clothing I'll continue with my system of having a summer and winter box for each size.  For now the shoes are all in a big tub together since we don't have too many of those yet.

I cannot even tell you what a relief this is to have organized!  Every season I would dread changing out the clothing.  I would think about it for weeks and had such a hard time finding the right clothing for everyone.  Now all I have to do is find the right box.  Organizing like this even allowed me to give away several big boxes of clothing to moms in need.  Although if we have a boy someday I guess I would need to have double the amount of boxes!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday

Its Muffin Tin Monday!

Lucy and I started pulling leftovers out of the fridge: garlic toast, a yellow pepper that looked good... It was feeling a little random until I remembered that it was Monday.  A muffin tin makes it all better!  We rounded the meal out with ranch dip, cheese, crackers, and lunchmeat.  (Actually Julia had sauerkraut in her tin, but no peppers or lunchmeat.)  :)  Happy Monday.  Happy kids.

The Vacuum Cleaner Search Continues....

A friend recently mentioned the Shark Navigator Lift Away vacuum cleaner to me.  I had not come across it in my earlier research, but it looked great!  After reading quite a bit about it, I was almost sold.  The vacuum cleaner is a sealed system and says that it offers HEPA filtration.  I never got a reply from Shark about whether or not they are RoHS certified (which would mean they regulate PBDEs used in the vacuum cleaner).  I did see in the FAQs that the vacuum cleaner is made of ABS plastic and PP (I assume this is polypropylene), which is great.  There are plenty of great reviews and people very impressed with the amount of dirt that this vacuum cleaner pulls up.

The one thing holding me up was the fact that there were sooo many complaints about Shark's customer service.  Their facebook page is a mess of accusations and minimal very lame responses from Shark.  Then, while reading a review on Amazon, I came across this fact: The Shark Navigator Lift Away vacuum cleaners do not all have HEPA filtration.  Only the direct purchase model does.  I think that is absolutely shady.  I was planning to purchase a Shark Navigator from Bed Bath and Beyond because I have read that they have a great return policy.  Purchasing directly from Shark means I would have to deal with their terrible customer service if something does not work right with my vacuum cleaner.

Sigh.  I had high hopes for the Shark Navigator.  They have two strikes against themselves now though - shady advertising and poor customer service.  I think I'll stay away.

Update:  I called their 800 number and talked with someone in another country who assured me that "you can find HEPA filtration on store models".  This was after me telling him six times that I didn't want to create an account and just wanted to ask a question.  The email address given on their phone line did not work for me.  I then had a chat with their online support:

James: Thank you for contacting Shark, how may I assist you today?
you: Hi, just a quick question for you...
James: certainly
you: Does the Shark Navigator Lift-Away have HEPA filtration?
James: Yes it does. However, you can only obtain a version with Hepa filtration if ordered directly through Shark
you: So only the direct purchase models come with a HEPA filter?
James: Correct
you: What else is different about the models purchased directly vs the models found in stores?
James: As far as I knew, that was the only difference.
you: I'm sorry, but that seems pretty shady to me.
James: Certain accessories may not come with the store models, but the machines are practically I dentical. (We will also offer better warranties)
you: Also, I just called customer service a minute ago, and the guy told me that I can find HEPA filters on the store models. So which is it?
James: Hepa filters are only available in direct Shark purchases. I verified this last week, myslef
James: *myself
you: Ok, thanks. I still think its shady.
you: and your call center has the wrong info...
James: Thank you for using our live chat service and have a nice day.
Chat session has been terminated by the site operator.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Building Character

I recently asked on a couple of homeschool lists for ideas on character building.  Teaching our children to be loving, kind, and obedient is much more important than teaching them facts and multiplication.  I realized that I was spending all day teaching things like reading and writing, but not really knowing how to deal with character issues.  I didn't have a teacher's manual for character issues, or a clear plan on how to teach these types of lessons.  I work hard at giving my children a good education (facts, multiplication, reading, and writing included!), but realized that character training takes a focused effort too.

In no particular order, here are some of the ideas I received:

A Child's Book of Character Building

making lapbooks on character building - lots of ideas here

reading stories from The Book of Virtues and The Children's Book of Virtues

My ABC Bible Verses

Joy Berry books

The Put On Chart from Doorposts <-----  We bought this one and plan to use it.

Big Thoughts for Little People: ABCs to Help You Grow <----- We have this from the library right now and really enjoy it.  In the photo above, this is the book they are reading.  :)

Right after I had asked this question, we ended up switching to Heart of Dakota for our homeschool curriculum.  Although My Father's World was Bible based, with Heart of Dakota I feel like the girls are catching on to the lessons a bit more.  We have had some great discussions about character issues in Reddy Fox, the Bible stories, and more.

I'm so thankful to be home with my girls and imparting these important lessons to them while they are still young!  Please feel free to chime in if you know of another good resource for teaching character.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Food Documentaries

Ross and I watched a couple of food documentaries on Netflix recently and were totally inspired!  (Ok, not really recently, I wrote this post months ago and forgot to post it?  lol  Its still good though.)

This is a must-see.  Really, everyone should see this movie.  We learned so much about our food, where it comes from, and some of the (shocking) politics behind it.  Food Inc is very well done, educational, and eye opening.  It has prompted us to make even further changes to our eating habits.  Watch it and you will never be the same.  Ross and I both agreed that we want to buy this movie and show it to anyone who will watch.  (We did end up buying the movie.)

After being so inspired by Food Inc, I searched Netflix to find similar movies we could watch on demand.  King Corn touches on some of the same issues as Food Inc, focusing more on the corn crops and farm subsidies.  Its a bit slower and not as all encompassing, but still a good one to see.  We learned more about some of the farming issues and it kept our interest.  

No Impact Man was sort of like watching a reality TV show.  The family in the film tries for a year to make as little impact on the earth as possible.  They try some interesting things - going without electricity, making an alternate refrigerator, and more.  Not much detail is given about anything that they do, other than how they felt about it.  Kind of fun to watch, but not revolutionary.  It could have been done in a more compelling manner.  

There are a couple more food documentary type DVDs on my Netflix list, but I doubt they'll be able to top Food Inc.  Have you seen any of these?  What inspires you to change your eating habits for the better?