Monday, August 26, 2013


Today's post could be titled Frugality, Fashion, Family, Friends and the Faithfulness of God.

Today we had our bi-annual clothing sorting day at my mom's house.  We keep our girls' clothes in my parents' attic so twice a year, we bring it all downstairs.  (Or rather, we ask the men to bring it down for us!) Then the women do the work of sorting and supervising the giant fashion show. With three girls-- my sister, Bekah (12) and my girls, Maddie (9) and Alaine (3 on Sunday!)-- it is a huge and tedious job. Hours are spent having a girl  try on yet another pair of pants or holding shirts up to the light to check for stains.  More time is spent folding the things we are finished with and figuring out if either of the girls can wear a certain sweater or if it needs to be put back in the attic... or maybe passed on to another family.

The girls think it is a party. What's not to like?  Hang out with some of your favorite people while you dance and twirl around the room wearing new-to-you clothing.  Alaine was our shoe girl today.  Between each different item, she would say, "Now what about some shoes?"  She didn't care if the only shoes she could find were boots that were six sizes too big!

The older girls enjoyed posing and finding coordinating outfits among the jumble of jeans, scarves, socks, sweaters, and t-shirts. 

They laughed and twirled and tossed out a few opinions.  "Yes, please keep that owl nightgown!"  "Um, I'm a little bored of that dress."

Despite all the fun and the fellowship and the fashion (and the small bits of frustration at how slow the process can be at times), I was sobered to think how blessed we are.  Blessed to have clothes to wear.  Blessed that we have room to store what we're not using.  Blessed to have friends who pass along what they are done with to share with our family.  Blessed to have more than we need and be able to pass our surplus along to others.  Blessed that our children are healthy and well.  Blessed that God provides every little thing we need. 

Each year we joke, "I'm not sure there will be as much this time.  This might be the year the girls have nothing to wear."  But of course, that is never the case.  Each year, the Lord provides.

Last November, Alaine went through a growth spurt and needed 3 things:  a pair of pajamas, a bigger pair of shoes, and several longer pairs of pants.  Money was tight with Christmas coming and Brian's winter time off from work.  I didn't tell anyone, but I prayed that God would provide what we needed without us needing to spend the money.  That very week, a friend e-mailed and asked if we were interested in a bag of hand-me-downs.  In the bag?  Three pairs of pants in Alaine's size.  Then my sister called, saying she was out shopping and wondered if Alaine would like a pair of pajamas for Christmas.  Then on Thanksgiving Day, my sister-in-law brought some things her girls had outgrown, including a pair of boots in Alaine's size. 

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? "  (Matthew 6:28-30 NIV)

His faithfulness is new every morning, every week, every season.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer Sewing

Though much of our summer was filled with baking and reading, I also took a few minutes to slip in some sewing.  I'm a mediocre seamstress, especially when it comes to machine sewing but I enjoy tinkering and seeing a finished result.  

For the second summer in a row, I've made Christmas ornaments in July.  I find that I'm more inspired and less stressed if I work on fun, non-essential Christmas projects during the summer rather than wait until after Thanksgiving when I have many other things claiming my time. I took my design from an idea in Craft-a-Day: 365 Simple Handmade Projects {affiliate link}.  I love the slightly non-traditional colors and would love to incorporate more turquoise into my Christmas decorating. 

I also handstitched a few Kawaii key chains.  I'm using the icecream cone ring for myself, but I don't have plans for the others yet. Giveaway, anyone?

Though I don't have the courage to make clothing from scratch, I enjoyed changing a maxi dress into a maxi skirt. 

I used this tutorial as my inspiration, though I did not follow her instructions exactly. 

I also altered a few too-big shirts using this tutorial.  The instructions say you can alter jeans in the same way, but I've not been brave enough to attempt that. 

Do you sew?  Have you made anything this summer? 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Study Art For Free Without a Curriculum

{This post contains affiliate links.}

My kids are artsier than I am.  I appreciate and admire art.  They like to create it!  Last school year, I developed a system of studying art that appealed to all of our tendencies...including my "book-ishness."  

We chose 1 artist to study for 3-4 months.  Last fall I chose Grandma Moses as our featured artist.  Each month I picked a new painting and hung it on the side of the hutch in our dining room. (You could hang yours anywhere it is sure to be seen-- the refrigerator door, the bathroom wall, the chalkboard.) Then, during that month, we rotated through 4 activities, one for each week

Week 1: Study the painting.  Identify the name of the artist and the name of the work.  Talk about what you like and dislike about the painting.  Point out colors and lines.  Talk about the style of the artist (abstract, pointillism, etc.)

Week 2: Read a book about the artist.  These are the books we enjoyed for their story-like qualities, but you could chose any that appealed to you or that were available at your local library.

The Year with Grandma Moses
by W. Nicola-Lisa
Grandma Moses by Alexandra Wallner
Grandma Moses (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists)by Mike Venezia
Grandma Moses' The Night Before Christmas

We also veered off and read a few books written and illustrated by Grandma Moses' great-grandson, Will Moses, and compared the style of their works.  (A few to try: Mary and Her Little LambJohnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend, or my favorite, Silent Night.)

Week 3: Orally describe the painting, using as much detail as possible.  Pretend to describe it to someone who has never seen it before. 

Week 4: This was a favorite!  Get out paper and art supplies and recreate the painting or a portion of the painting.  Do your best work, but don't aim for perfection.  The original painting is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece and you will never fully capture its essence. 

When we studied Pumpkins, Maddie chose to recreate the whole landscape...

...while Gavin chose to focus on only a small portion of the same painting. 

In a Charlotte Mason-style education, narration plays a large role.  Narration is "retelling in your own words" what you've read or heard.  Recreating a painting is a visual and hands-on form of narration. 

During the spring, we studied Georgia O'Keeffe, using the same weekly format. 

Again, these are the books we enjoyed, but you could choose others. 

My Name Is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter

The kids found O'Keeffe's work to be easier to imitate   As opposed to the bustle and busyness of Grandma Moses' folk-art, O'Keeffe's  subjects were singular and more simplistic.

Gavin's Apple Blossom

Gavin's Red Poppy

Owen's Ram's Head

Do you use an art curriculum?  Do your kids take art classes?  How do you study art in your homeschool?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lucky Ducklings

Lucky Ducklings:
A True Rescue Story

by Eva Moore
illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

 It's been awhile since I shared a favorite picture book.  I've talked about the longer chapter book we're reading, but not mentioned any of the books with which we fill the cracks.  Sometimes I'm uninspired when browsing the shelves of our smallish library.  I feel like we've read everything there worth reading and compared to the large library in our old town, the selection is not as varied. 

When I found Lucky Ducklings on an upper shelf, I was drawn the old-timey feel of the cover illustration.  Though it is made from a mix of charcoal and digital media, the colors have the soft muted look of an older book.  In fact, the book reminds me of the classic picture book, Make Way for Ducklings-- from the survival story to the rhyming duckling names. 

Lucky Ducklings is a true retelling of an event that happened in Montauk, New York in 2000.  When out taking a walk with their mother, a group of baby ducklings falls down into a storm drain.  Through the combined efforts of  an onlooker, a worker with a cable, and 3 firemen, the baby ducks were reunited with their mother.  My children love true stories and this was a special one! For a solid week, almost every time I offered to read  a book from our picture book basket, someone would bring me this one. 

By the end of the week, I brought out Make Way for Ducklings to mix things up a little. I'm sad to say that though it sits on our own bookshelf, my youngest two children did not remember reading it so we have now remedied that.

Have your read any picture books lately, old or new,  that are worth a recommendation?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Baking

First of all, when the thermometer hits the upper 90s, it is best to keep the oven off, right?  Well, I mostly complied during the two heatwaves we had this summer.  However, since the temperatures have been on the milder side for most the season and only in the 70s the past few days, my helpers and I have taken it as an excuse to bake. Truthfully, I hardly need an excuse to bake any day or month of the year. 

It's handy that with plenty of this on the counter...

...we also have plenty of this to balance it out.

We sampled some old-fashioned peanut butter cookies.  I've been making peanut butter cookies for over 20 years.  Back in the day, I even won a blue ribbon at the county fair for my cookies, but these were the best I've ever eaten.  They were the perfect combination crispy edges with chewy centers.  I adore a chewy cookie!

Spare bananas are a rarity, but one week we had 3 extras that turned brown before anyone gobbled them up so we made banana bread  and thew in a handful of chocolate chips for good measure.  I took it over the top by spreading my slice with cream cheese. 


The pièce de résistance of all my summer baking was a little chocolate cake with only five ingredients.  That is if you let the 5 eggs in a one-layer cake count as 1 ingredient!

It was called  Kate's Winning-Hearts-and-Minds Cake and it was the kind of cake with flavor so rich and deep that it required each small bite to be savored quietly.

To be fair, Brian said, "It's good.  It's not my favorite, but it is good," and Owen said, "I don't like this cake," and nibbled away at bits of his small slice before putting the rest in the trash.  ~Horrors!~

But the females of the family-- those of who us who love our chocolate enough to nibble on unsweetened chocolate if none else is available-- deemed this cake perfection.

We made cake pops to give as favors at a birthday party.  We cheated and used a box mix.  Alaine helped make the cake. Maddie and I assembled, coated, and wrapped the pops. 

Then there was the fun mustache cake Owen and I made last Saturday.  The oven was acting a little funny so the presentation trumped the taste, but really, can you have a bad chocolate cake? 

By the way, it's no accident that 3 of these 5 recipe used chocolate!

Do you bake in the summer?  Do you have a chocolate addiction like I do? 

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Look at Goals After a Busy Summer (with photos & links!)

Since we started back to school last week, I decided this was an appropriate time to review my goals one last time before a final year-end check-in:
Even Newer and More Revised Goals for 2013 
Goals are in black; updates are in red.

Short-term Goals:

  • Learn to change the oil in van...and maybe the wiper blades, too  Still not done this, but I did learn to operate a chainsaw.

  • Run another 5K in June  (read about my 2nd 5K here!)

  • Redesign The Dress for summer (or fall?) With a closet full of dresses, I decided to give Alaine's dress another rest.

  • Finish the e-book I'm writing by the first week of June (access my free reading guide for families here)
  • Compile the kids' portfolios for their school records Compiling the portfolios was easier this time as I kept up with our records all year long.  We had a bunch of friends (5 moms, 10 kids) over to review everyone's portfolios for our umbrella school... and then I breathed a sigh of relief.

  • Plan our 2013-2014 school year  I shared my curriculum choices here, here, and here.

Longer-term Goals:

  • Work with the kids on responsibility and finishing tasks to completion This is still a work in progress, but once we formulated a plan, the kids began to take more responsibility for their own work, plus they learned  a lot of new skills in the process! 
Gavin washing the car & experimenting with hose settings

Owen cutting tomatoes for a salad

  • Continue to find ways to welcome people into our home    We did not focus on formal entertaining during the summer months, but we did host our portfolio review group in June. 
    9 of the 15 happy kids at our house for our portfolio review day

    We had a single friend over once for dinner and a movie and again to watch a baseball game.  Cousins came over for an afternoon of swimming and play.  A young aunt joined us for a sleepover

    And last weekend, Maddie and Owen celebrated their birthdays with a family dress-up birthday party.  

  • Have a date night with Brian (at home or out) once a month  Despite a wet spring and summer (which equals steady work for Brian), we  managed to slip away for a double date with friends, an early morning yard sale date, and a dinner date for our 12th anniversary.

  • Train for a 10K After suffering an injury in July, I decided to wait to run a 10K in the spring and hopefully get another 5K or two under my belt first.


As it stands, these are the goals I will carry with me through the end of the year. 

Short-term Goals:
  • Learn to change the oil in van...and maybe the wiper blades, too
  • Run another 5K in October (if my injury is healed and I'm able to run again)
  • Give The Dress  a radical new design for fall
  • Do a  push-up (I've never had the upper body strength to do even 1!) and hold a plank for 60 seconds
  • Finish the preparation for my October blog series, 31 Days, 31 Printables

Longer-term Goals: 

  • Work with the kids on responsibility and finishing tasks to completion
  • Continue to find ways to welcome people into our home
  • Have a date night with Brian (at home or out) once a month 
  • Train for a 10K during the cooler months of fall and winter

Did you make goals for the year?  Have you made any progress? 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Books We Read (and Plan to Read) This Summer

With school is back in session, I'm hoping we don't lose our momentum with just-for-fun reading aloud.  Read aloud time is a special part of the day where all of us can share a book together.  No matter that 5 (bordering on 6) of the 7 of us are capable of reading on our own. If you visit our house you will almost always find a book resting on the living room coffee table, waiting until we snatch our next spare moment.

These are the books we have read since the beginning of June with a brief thought on each.

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links.}

In an effort to appeal to the two youngest (ages 2 and 4), we made our way through the entire 28-book Henry and Mudge seriesand the 12-book Annie and Snowball series, both by Cynthia Rylant, our favorite picture book author.

We began Wonderstruckby Brian Selznick right after we finished an excellent book by the same author (The Invention of Hugo Cabret).  Not nearly as good, but the highly visual storytelling (at least a third of the thick volume is pictures) did not disappoint.

In an effort to finally complete our self-imposed Beverly Cleary book challenge, we chose Mitch and Amy next. It was a fun selection and the kids enjoyed that the chapters flip-flopped between the boy-appealing Mitch storyline and the more feminine Amy storyline. 

Gavin picked The Adventures of Sammy Jayby Thornton Burgess for us to read next.  I love books with short chapters because they motivate me to read to the kids even when we only have a few minutes. All 5 kids listened as I read this after dinner every evening for a week.  It got me excited for science this year since we plan to use The Burgess Animal Book for Children as our base text.

Next up was Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Farmby Betty MacDonald.  I wouldn't have chosen this in a million years.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series, but I could barely get through the second.  My kids requested that we continue on in the series so I pushed out of my comfort zone and gave it a try.  Nothing compares to the first book, but this third volume was more tolerable than the second.  I still found it to be unnecessarily wordy, though.

I wouldn't have chosen to re-read Ramona's Worldby Beverly Cleary either.  It takes a lot for me to re-read anything besides picture books, but Maddie and Owen requested it so I obliged. I must say I was glad I did. It reminded me how much I love the Ramona series! 

I may be crazy, but we are currently reading 2 different books.  One is primarily for my girls (Tumtum & Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn), and the other is primarily for my boys (The Midnight Foxby Betsy Byars), but tonight when I sat down to read aloud, Gavin sat at my left elbow and Maddie at my right.  Owen, Ben, and Alaine spread out with cars in the floor and no one excused themselves for either selection. 

Before the summer months are over, we hope to also read The Doll Peopleby Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin which incidentally was illustrated by Brian Selznick who wrote Wonderstruck!  And inspired by our re-read of Ramona's World, I want to squeeze in another read of  Beezus and Ramonaby Beverly Cleary, especially now that Maddie received a copy as a birthday gift.

Do you need a spot to record the books you've read this summer? Download my Free Read Aloud Log Sheet!

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