Getting Your Family to Eat More Vegetables

veggies

There is one thing that almost every diet (vegan, paleo, Mediterranean, traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic…) agrees upon:

We should all be eating more vegetables!

As a busy mom, I understand that veggies can take extra prep work and have longer cooking times than other side dishes. On top of that, I think every mom has felt the pain of working hard to prepare a new veggie, only to have everyone pass on it and for it to end up in the trash. I am going to share what I’ve learned about getting veggies cooked efficiently, on the table, and used up by the end of the week.

The vegetable “crisper” is a graveyard for produce

If I just put my veggies in the crisper drawer, probably 50% of them end up going straight to the compost bin at the end of the week. That is why, if possible, I need to prepare my veggies BEFORE they go into the fridge. I looked up the numbers, and my experience is not unusual. Estimates are that half of our fresh produce ends up thrown away. That’s a pretty sad number. We put a lot of resources into growing food, so I’d much rather have it go in my belly!

Produce tastes best when it is cooked fresh

It wasn’t until I started reading An Everlasting Meal that I considered how much better my produce tasted when I prepared it the same day that I brought it home. The beautiful carrots from the farmers’ market were limp and soggy after just a few days in the fridge. However, if I came home and roasted them, we could eat them that day or reheat them sometime over the next few days. They tasted even better after being roasted, and the texture was still just as great as if I’d eaten them the first day.

Preparing and cooking in batches saves time and energy

Sitting down and peeling squash or chopping broccoli can be a pain, especially if it is the only thing I’m cutting. If I, instead, cut and roast all of my veggies at the same time, I am able to save both my own energy (less clean up and time spent throughout the week) and household energy (from only running the oven once for all of my veggies.)

My Veggie Prep Routine

The first thing that I do is preheat my oven to 375, and prepare my veggies to roast. Pretty much everything gets diced up, tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper before I cook it. Then I sprinkle on any other herbs that I want.

I like to group my veggies by the size/shape that I cut them, and then I roast them together. That helps keep the cooking times similar.

This week I had parsnips and celeriac, which I cut into sticks and roasted together in a pan. I also had a big batch of carrots, which I coined and roasted in a second pan. Then I had a romanesco and broccoli, which seemed to work well in a pan together, so they were my third pan. I also had leeks and potatoes, which I diced up and roasted in a fourth pan. These four pans all fit in my oven at once, and were all happy at the same temperature. I threw in whole sweet potatoes that I had as well, and my oven was pleasantly full. About an hour later, I had veggies ready to go for the week.

While all of my roasted veggies are cooking, I wash, chop, and put my greens in a container. Having my greens already washed and chopped means that I am SO much more likely to use them throughout the week. For a long time, I bought bagged greens, because I found that I was more likely to make a salad, toss them in a soup, or whip them into a smoothie if I had them ready to go. Now I do that for myself, and the taste is so much fresher than the bags at the store.

By the time my veggies come out of the oven, I can have the kitchen cleaned up and the bulk of my work done for the week. I love that. I toss the finished veggies in mason jars, and I am good to go!

Having veggies prepared means you eat more of them

I am a homeschooling mom to four kids, and we have a full schedule. If I have food ready to go in the fridge, it is easy to reheat what I have and make a healthy lunch. If I don’t, it is far more likely to be a day of gluten-free sandwiches and fruit…. maybe with a pre-made Trader Joe’s salad, if I had the forethought to buy one.

On the other hand, if I have veggies already made, I can pretty much guarantee that we will eat them with every meal. You don’t even need to heat them up. They make excellent salads at room temperature, and can easily be tossed in anything from eggs to rice or noodles to make for an instant meal.

Near the end of the week, I simply take the vegetables that I haven’t used, and toss them in a soup. Sometimes I make smooth soups. Other times I just add them to stock, throw in some kind of meat, and let it all simmer together. Herbs make anything better, so I just experiment and see what happens. Homemade stock is obviously great to have around, but sometimes I cheat and use organic vegetable broth cubes. They are good in a pinch, when my soup needs just a little more flavor.

Kids eat food they see often

I had a revelation when I read French Kids Eat Everything, I considered the culture of food in our house. The truth is that we hadn’t done a great job at making new foods exciting (as opposed to scary) and we didn’t offer them nearly enough times before we gave up. Research indicates that you need to offer a food up to 15 times before you expect a child to eat it. Having vegetables around, all of the time, is one of the keys to getting kids to try them and eat them. They need to see you eating and enjoying them.

I Want to Hear From You!

Which time-saving meal prep tips have helped you? I am always looking for new inspiration as I strive to make our family as healthy as possible! :)

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5 Ways to Stay Healthy in Cold Weather

Frosty Morning in Forest

This week, as arctic air grips the nation, we are all trying to find ways to stay warm and healthy. In traditional cultures, especially Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda, much importance was placed on maintaining balance in your body. When it is cold outside, it is especially important to keep your body warm. With a few small changes, you can make a big difference.

Avoid Cold Drinks

When you drink something cold, your body has to spend a lot of extra energy bringing it up to a usable temperature. In TCM, they use the mental image of your digestion being like a fire. Drinking or eating something cold is like throwing cold water into a hot pan. It creates a bunch of steam and requires a large amount of energy for the pan to become warm again. That’s not a good thing when you’re trying to keep your body functioning at its best.

Instead of iced drinks, consider drinking your water warm or at room temperature. Better yet, make some nourishing herbal infusions, and warm your body while also giving it tons of vitamins and minerals!

Avoid Raw Fruits and Vegetables

I know. This one can be shocking at first. January is a time when Americans LOVE to start juice fasts, raw food diets, and all sorts of cold-natured eating plans. However, when you look at what people traditionally ate during the winter, it is warming food that is easy to break down. These foods help nourish your body through the cold months.

Instead of eating your veggies raw, lightly stir fry them. If you are in the mood for fruit, try baking or simmering it. I like to chop up apples, throw in pumpkin pie spice and a little water, and simmer it together on the stove until the apples are soft. From there, you can eat it as-is, or mash it up a little and serve it like applesauce.

Eat Warm Stews and Slow-Cooked Foods

When fall arrives, we naturally seem to start craving slow-cooked foods like stews and roasted vegetables. Winter is a perfect time to eat these heavier foods that don’t appeal during the hot summer months. Some favorites meals around our house are this Harvest Blessings Soup or a Dutch Oven Pork Roast (or any roasted meat, for that matter.)

For warm breakfasts, consider making oatmeal overnight in the crockpot, or a delicious congee. Congee is a nourishing food used in TCM. It is kind of like a rice pudding. We love ours with goji berries and a little maple syrup.

Use Warming Herbs in Your Food

Consider how you season your foods, and choose spices that will warm your body rather than cool it. Some great choices include ginger, cloves, cardamom, and turmeric. Try to keep the spice level at “medium” or below. You want your food to be warming, but not so hot that it makes you sweat and ultimately cools your body.

Get Moving!

Finally, I know that cold weather can make you want to hibernate, but movement is one of the best ways to warm your body and keep things from getting stagnant. Take this as a great excuse to get up, turn on some music, and dance around the living room with your kids.

 

I hope these tips help you and your family stay warm this winter. Spring will be here before we know it, and then it’ll be the perfect time for all of those cleanses and fasts. ;)

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Glorious summer!

This summer has been absolutely dreamy so far. We’ve been building forts, soaking up the sun and salty air, playing board games for hours at a time, reading amazing books, and crafting our hearts out. The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous, and we have finally been here long enough that we are finding our “clan” and have plenty of like-minded friends to hang out with.

Some of our current favorites are:

Bird Bingo

Bird Bingo – This game has been getting hours of play each day. My oldest is a passionate birder, and it has been great to see everyone else (including the adults) expand our bird-identification skills and have fun at the same time. I also love that reading is not required, so all of my kids can play together.

Qwirkle – Another great board game that is great for all ages. This one allows kids (and adults) to work on strategy, matching, and simple math. We all love it!

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Creativebug (and their awesome summer series for kids!) – Creativebug has been a favorite site of mine for months, and we are loving it even MORE since they are offering a ton of great workshops for kids. I have the monthly subscription, and I have taken workshops on embroidery, quilting, dress making, soap making, stamping, upcycling, you name it… They are taught by some of the best teachers (Natalie (Alabama) Chanin, Anna Maria Horner, Amy Karol, Kaffe Fassett, Rebecca Ringquist, Rad Megan, and so many more.) This week the kids and I worked on a quilt, an embroidery sampler, a table runner, and a teepee all inspired by Creativebug.

The picture above is of a wholecloth quilt that I am making, based on one of Anna Maria Horner’s Creativebug classes. The long orange stitches are basting stitches which will come out when I’m all done. :) On the front you can see how I’m quilting around the motif, and the back shows just my stitches in my cotton thread.

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The glorious beaches! – We’ve been spending at least one day a week unplugged, feet-in-the-sand, enjoying the beautiful Pacific Ocean. We usually go with friends, and often have the beach to ourselves for at least a good part of our day. Summer camps are incredibly popular in this area, which means that there still aren’t many families out and about, even though school is out. We’re happy that it isn’t crowded, but I feel a little sad that so few people around us are getting to enjoy all of the natural beauty of our area. Soon the fog will be rolling in, and these sunny days will be few and far between on the coast.

Project Based Homeschooling – We’ve always loved project-based learning, and Lori’s book and blog have been a long-time source of inspiration. I signed up for her upcoming master class, and I can’t wait to dig deeper.

This summer, my 11-year-old has decided to focus on an astronomy project. He is reading a ton of books on astronomy, mapping the night sky, and writing about what he sees each evening, inspired by websites like earthsky. We’ve been learning so much!

My 9-year-old is working on version 3 of her dog encyclopedia project. She has worked for several years on compiling information on breeds, illustrating, and writing a book. Each version of her book has been more refined and used additional sources. This year’s book is already looking amazing! I can’t wait to see the end result.

My 5-year-old decided that her project will be learning all about sewing. We’ve been reading lots of books and getting even more time with hands-on learning. It has been great.

So what are you and your family doing this summer? I’d love to hear more. Feel free to drop me an email or comment below. I always enjoy being inspired by other families!

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From Frazzled to Focused

I’m not sure what initially motivated me to pick up this book when I saw that it was available for review. I wouldn’t self-identify as “frazzled,” but I am always interested in being more focused. I am an organizational junkie (and sometimes I wonder if I prefer the theory to the actual doing.) Something about the description led me to believe that this book would be one I’d like.

In From Frazzled to Focused, Rivka Caroline leads the reader through exercises to organize and “systemize” his or her life. She focuses on areas in the house (broken down by room) and activities (like meal planning and scheduling.) The book is aimed at mothers with young children, although many of the ideas could apply to anyone. Rivka is witty, and even though we obviously live very different lifestyles (she’s in Miami Beach), I appreciated her self-deprecating humor.

Although I cringed at all of her systems and plans at first, I realized as I went through the book that I already do a lot of what she recommends. I read the book slowly over a few weeks, and noticed that by the end I’d naturally adopted many of her techniques.

If you’re looking for a quick, fairly light read on organizing your home and your time, this book could fit the bill. :)

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Growing my craft

I love making New Year’s resolutions. This year, I felt really stuck, though. I just couldn’t figure out how to put my hopes for the year into words.

Last year, I focused on quantity — I wanted to get 12 different groups of 12 things done. The year before that, I also focused on quantity — knitting up at least 50 items. This year I wanted something more meaningful, not just a numeric goal.

Over the past few weeks, I finally figured out what exactly it is that I want to work on: I want to get back to being more of a do-er. In the crises mode of the past two years, through my mom’s diagnosis with leukemia, her treatment, our big move to a new state, and my mom’s death, I feel like I’ve been treading water in terms of the things I am able to do for my household. I was able to maintain the skills that I already knew, and continue to do those things for my family, but I haven’t been able to grow my skill set. This year, I decided that I really want to learn new things and continue to find ways to be more of a producer rather than more of a consumer.

I’ve found so many fun projects to work on this year that are growing my skills, and I am loving it. I’ve started working on reverse applique and hand-sewing my own clothes. I bought my supplies through Alabama Chanin, and I have found the process so relaxing and fun. Here is one of the shirts that I’ve been working on. Once I finish backstitching around the stencils, I’ll cut out the top layer on the inside, to reveal the cream material underneath. I can’t wait to model it!

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I was also inspired by French Kids Eat Everything to really dress up my table and have a nice tablecloth. I looked on etsy, and found so many beautiful ones, but decided to give it a try myself. I’m currently working on hand-stitching a border around the oilcloth that I bought, and I am loving it.

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Also, I was inspired by the doll blanket that I made my daughter for Christmas to try to make a king-sized version. I know, it is crazy, but it is the perfect project when I just need some mindless crochet.

The doll version

The doll version

The "grown-up" version

The “grown-up” version

So, are you working on anything new? I love inspiration!

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The Post-Church Christian

The Post-Church Christian is a book written by father and son, both of whom have served as pastors in Evangelical churches. It addresses many of the reasons why the younger generation is leaving the church, and how the older generation views their choices. It is written in a conversational style, with the son going first, presenting the view of “millennials”, and then the father going next, presenting the “boomer” view. In the final section, they combine their points to discuss the future of the church.

As neither a millennial (I miss the cutoff by a mere 18 months) nor a baby boomer (by, uh, about 15 years), I thought this might be an interesting book to read. I figured that I could hopefully see the value in the points made by each side.

In the first section, showing the millennial viewpoint, Carson Nyquist covers many of the big reasons why his generation is turned off by the church. If you browse through my previous posts, you’ll probably find them all listed, LOL. His first issue is the church’s lack of authenticity in sharing sins. Quoting Jon Acuff, he says,

Have you ever been in a small group with people that confess safe sins? Someone will say, “I need to be honest with everyone tonight. I need to have full disclosure and submit myself in honesty… So you brace yourself for this crazy moment of authenticity and the person takes a deep breath and says… “I haven’t been reading my Bible enough.”

Yes, we’ve all seen it. When my husband and I first started attending The Refuge, we talked about how awesome and also incredibly uncomfortable it was that everyone there was really, truly open with the kinds of sins that you never heard mentioned elsewhere. Even the pastors! It was mind-blowing.

The book goes on to mention Jon Acuff’s idea of “giving the gift of going second”, meaning that if you honestly share your struggles, the ugly ones that no one normally mentions at church, it is much easier for the next person to be honest. I saw this at the Refuge, and it rocked my world. I will never look at faith communities the same, and I now have a much higher standard.

Throughout the rest of his section, Carson addresses other frustrations with Evangelical culture, including the lack of integration of faith life and everyday life, pop culture/copycat Christianity, the fact that Jesus wasn’t a white Republican, and the church’s stance on homosexuality. I found myself nodding along to many of his frustrations.

The second section, written by Paul Nyquist, covers the “boomer” response to the millennials. One of his main arguments is that the millennials need to forgive the boomers and have grace on them, both because we are all part of an eternal family and called to forgive. I found his argument really compelling. He also discusses how the younger generation will make mistakes itself and soon be passing the torch on to their children and be looking for forgiveness themselves. He apologizes for the mistakes made, and tries to explain the boomers viewpoints and why they’ve chosen to run the church in the way that they have.

The final section brings both voices together, with a vision for what the future could bring for the church. Paul asks again for reconciliation and forgiveness, Carson reminds millennial readers that they will also make many mistakes in trying to follow God as best as they can, and that grace is needed for all of us. They both do a good job of wrapping up their points throughout the book and bringing it together in a cohesive way.

All-in-all, I enjoyed this book. It is a quick read, and although I’ve either said or heard many of the general ideas covered in here, the authors took fresh approaches to many of them and kept my attention throughout. I really like the format of the book and felt like it gave me a better understanding of both the generation in front of and the generation behind me. I love the conversation that they’ve started, and I hope that it continues.

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The End of Sex

I love reading books for review, and I was instantly intrigued when I saw the title of Donna Freitas’ new book, The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy. Now that I’ve finished this book, I feel like I have many new ideas about how I want our family to approach the topic of sex.

Donna Freitas uses The End of Sex to describe the findings of her research on hookup culture on college campuses. Hookup culture is defined by the absence of relationships and emotions in sexual encounters, with a hefty dose of alcohol added in for good measure. ;) Freitas uses the students’ own words to explain how college students are expected to hookup, and the huge pressures within the culture for students to have no feelings for the person with whom they are hooking up. The students explain how dating no longer happens on campuses. In the majority of cases, students either didn’t know anyone who has ever been on a date or they only used the term to describe “serial hookups”, where you hookup with the same person, but still don’t spend time with them when you aren’t intoxicated or having a sexual encounter.

She polled students in a variety of settings — public and private secular colleges, private Catholic colleges, and private evangelical Christian colleges. The results of her study were fascinating. With the exception of private evangelical Christian colleges, the hookup culture was virtually identical on college campuses. Freitas found that private evangelical colleges have an alternate scene – a purity scene – which was filled with its own quirks. Having attended a private evangelical college, I didn’t need any further explanation. ;) She does, however, suggest additional resources for people who want to read more about the culture of purity.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book is that Freitas looks at many different angles of the subject, including ways that different students have attempted to “opt out” of the hookup culture, and programs that have worked (and failed) at college campuses across the country. One of her biggest points is that students realize that they want to have GOOD, meaningful sex, but often don’t know how to get it in the midst of hookup culture. Young men are encouraged to act out macho roles, pretending that they only care about getting a lot of random sex. Young women are encouraged to play out fantasy roles, inspired by pornography, at theme parties every weekend, and feel extreme pressures to neither appear “needy” nor to want more than semi-anonymous sex.

I feel like I am walking away from this book with a much stronger understanding of the sexual attitudes that I want to teach my kids. Freitas’ research shows that students who feel empowered to make a stand to wait for meaningful, good sex are much more likely to avoid the depression and emptiness that many describe as part of hookup culture. She encourages the reader to not only reconsider religious, conservative abstinence-only programs (which do not influence a majority of college students), but to equally scrutinize the far-left curriculum which focuses primarily on avoiding STIs, pregnancy and rape as opposed to being selective about sex. She feels that there is a need for education that shows students that there is a middle ground, and that it is important for both sides to adjust the rhetoric for the sake of the students.

I really enjoyed this book, and I’d recommend it to any parent. It has not been many years since I was in college, but I know that the culture has shifted a lot in a short time. This book adds much to the conversation about young adults and sex, and it is well worth the read.

As I mentioned, I received an electronic copy of this book to review for NetGalley. I was not otherwise compensated, and I was under no obligation to give a good review.

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No Easy Choice

I am not sure what led me to request a copy of No Easy Choice to review. Maybe I chose it because it deals with birth, which is a topic that I always love.. after all, I am a midwifery student, birth doula, and mom of 4. Maybe I chose it because the author is a Christian, and I was curious to hear her take on ethical and moral issues. Maybe it was that I was drawn to the idea of a book that asks the difficult questions about when life begins.. Whatever the reason, I must say that I was really blown away by the quality of this book.

Ellen Painter Dollar uses this book to share her story of living with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) — a dominant genetic bone disorder that causes bones to break, often without warning — and the impact that OI had on her decision to become both a wife and mother. She passes OI on to her first daughter, and then grapples with the decision of whether or not to use reproductive technology, including preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to attempt to ensure that she will carry a child who does not have this trait.

Besides being beautifully written, Dollar does a superb job of explaining the views on both sides of the debates. She goes far deeper than just the question of whether or not life begins at conception, and explains why focusing on that one issue can lead you to overlook dozens of equally important questions.

The way that the reader is taken on the journey is beautifully crafted, and I can honestly say that I will never consider the ethical choices surrounding reproductive technology and even the pro-life and pro-choice movements the same again. I recommend this book very highly.

I received an electronic copy of this book to review for NetGalley. I was not otherwise compensated, and I was under no obligation to give a good review.

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French Kids Eat Everything

After reading several heated threads about this book, I decided that I needed to read it ASAP. I have to say that I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did, and it has given me new insight into cultural beliefs about food that are decidedly American (but I thought were universal.)

As the longer title suggests, this book is about a family who moved to France, revolutionized the way their family ate, cured their picky eaters, stopped snacking, and then ultimately moved back to North America and realized that it was much harder to maintain when you’re outside of the French culture.

First, let me say that this is not the same author who wrote French Women Don’t Get Fat. That’s a whole different lady, making a whole different point.

This author, Karen Le Billon, married a Frenchman and decided that it’d be fun to go live in France for a year. At first, it was hard for her to adjust to the way of life in France. She was one of the few people at the supermarket. The locals shopped at their local fresh market that was held downtown. At the market downtown, you tell the vendor which day/meal you plan on eating a particular food, and they pick the perfect item for that timing. It is a slow process, and very personalized.

As she adjusted to the ways of shopping, she also learned that the French approach food education with their children completely differently. They encourage the kids to view new foods as exciting, rather than scary, and expect for kids to need to try foods many times to develop a taste for it. They don’t snack, as that makes the child less hungry for real food at the meals. They also view mealtimes as a special occasion (with most people still going home for hot lunches, their biggest meal), and eating on the go is a big no-no.

The author also learns first-hand that school lunches are a whole different beast in France. There is only one option, the kids sit at tables with tablecloths and real silverware. The meal is a traditional 4-course meal, with a cheese course and everything, and there is NO personalizing the meal. The idea is that if you are given good food, you should eat it. They view the idea of giving kids a choice in what they eat as stunting — leading to having an adult population who is still picky like toddlers.

One thing that I didn’t expect, but really appreciated, is that the author is coming from a background of what she considers attachment parenting (although it is bordering on permissive), and she has no desire to adopt the parts of French culture that are far from AP, including the appalling low breastfeeding rate in France. I didn’t feel like she took an overly rosy view of French culture, but I did like how she took the things that worked and found ways to use them in her life, both in France and when they returned to North America.

I think this book is well worth the read. It has yummy recipes in the back, including a killer mousse au chocolat that we made. Her descriptions of how food is approached in France were really eye-opening for me, and have changed the way we approach mealtimes. Definitely check it out if you get the chance. :)

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National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia

Well, not every book can be a winner.

My kids LOOOOOVE animal encyclopedias. They read them like novels. We were at Barnes and Noble a few days ago when my kids found the National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia and begged us to buy it. We ended up surprising them with it later. Tonight I asked my son how it is, and he said, “It is nice, but a lot of the pictures are wrong.”

We sat down, and he showed me a picture of a Ground Squirrel that was labeled as a Prairie Dog. I agreed with him that it was a Ground Squirrel, but a fairly innocent mistake. Next he showed me a picture of a King Vulture that said it was an Andean Condor. There was definitely no mistaking that one. Next he showed me this page:

Red Ant?

Red Ant?

Erm, yeah… That’s pretty bad.

He went back to reading, and just a second later noticed that the Sea Nettle was labeled as an Urchin, and the Urchin as a Sea Nettle. I’m sure he’ll find more mistakes as he continues to read it.

What a bummer. I expected them to have better editors at National Geographic. :( If your kids want an animal encyclopedia, I definitely recommend on passing on this one.

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Making your own elderberry syrup

It is that time of year again. Flu season is upon us. Boo!

We’ve been fortunate to avoid illness so far this year, and I think that our homemade elderberry syrup has been a huge help. Over this past week, I’ve had several friends say that they want to make elderberry syrup, but they aren’t sure where to start. I thought I’d share how I make mine, plus some tips that I’ve learned along the way. :)

Elderberry syrup is such a great way to support your immune system. You can use it to prevent or help fight off colds and flus. Nutritionally, it packs a punch, containing vitamins A, B, and C, plus lots of antioxidants, potassium, beta carotene, calcium and phosphorus. You might’ve seen the graph/”pin”/meme going around from Traditional-Foods.com that shows how well elderberry reduces flu symptoms. Recent studies have also shown that elderberry supplementation can cut the duration of flu symptoms by half.

The process of making elderberry syrup is very easy. You are going to make a decoction out of the elderberries, strain, add honey, and you’re done!

Now, for the details:

First, you will obviously need elderberries. If you are fortunate enough to have an elderberry shrub/tree nearby, then you can use fresh ones. If you don’t have fresh elderberries, I am a huge fan of Mountain Rose Herbs. Their products are high-quality and fresh, which is so important. You don’t need much to make a batch, and Mountain Rose Herbs allows you to order small amounts — starting at just 4oz.

Once you have your elderberries, you’ll want to make a decoction. A decoction is much like a strong tea that you then simmer to reduce the total amount of liquid. To make the elderberry decoction, combine 1 cup of fresh or 1/2 cup of dried elderberries with 3 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring this to a gentle boil, reduce the heat and then simmer for 30 minutes. At this point, your decoction is done! Woohoo!

Next, smash the berries and strain the mixture. Don’t forget to compost the leftover berry mush. :)

Finally, allow the liquid to cool and add 1 cup of honey (raw and local, if possible). Bottle it up in a glass jar, and you’re done!

Your elderberry syrup will last 2-3 months in the fridge. Take 1 tablespoon daily to help keep illness away (or 1 tsp for kids.) If you are already sick, you can take 1 teaspoon every 2-3 hours.

When I make my initial decoction, I like to add a stick of cinnamon (which is strained out when I strain the berry mush.) You could also add whole cloves or fresh, organic ginger. My kids love the taste of the cinnamon with the berries. As always, don’t feed honey to young children.

Happy remedy-making!

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

1/2 cup dried or 1 cup fresh elderberries
3 cups water
1 cup honey (raw and local, if possible)
Optional: cinnamon stick, cloves, or ginger

Bring the elderberries, water, and optional spices to a gentle boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, until liquid is reduced by about half. Smash the berries and strain the liquid into a glass jar. Once the liquid cools, add the honey and store refrigerated for 2-3 months.

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A month into our new school year and loving it

Don’t you love the start of a new school year?

The kids and I started school about a month ago. We finished our last school year early, which worked out well since my mom was so sick. With everything that has happened, I thought it’d be nice to get back to a predictable routine earlier than the “regular” school year. The kids do well with it, and I’ve found that it is always nice to have a little extra time built in to our school year, just in case a big life event happens. I really pray that this year will be mellow, though. I think we’re overdue.

As most of you know, we’ve used Ambleside Online for most of our homeschooling adventure. I really love Ambleside, and it has been so great for us. This year I decided that I really wanted to just order a curriculum and not have to put things together. That sounds kind of lazy when I type it out, but life has just been so complicated and I wanted everything to come in a nice, neat package. I’ve also been wanting to cover American history, because we’ve done a lot of ancients and world history in the past few years.

I decided to order Sonlight Core D (5-day with the Advanced Readers). I actually bought a used, full set, rather than buying new, although I bought my 4-year-old’s core directly from Sonlight — more on that later. Anyways, the woman that I bought the Core D from even packaged it in the original Sonlight box, and the books were in amazing condition. Hooray for a good ebay score!

The great news is that the kids and I have been absolutely loving everything about the curriculum. As I speak, they are both lying on a couch, reading ahead in their independent readers because they like them so much. (For those who are interested, they are reading Pocahontas and the Strangers and A Lion to Guard Us.) This curriculum has been a really good fit so far, and it has been fantastic to be able to just open the instructor’s guide and go. Last night my oldest asked if we could double-up on the assignments, because he’s enjoying them so much. That’s a nice thing to hear. :)

Other than that, we’re just plugging along. For those who don’t know, we use Singapore Math for both big kids, and have from the beginning. I went ahead and ordered some of the Life of Fred books for them as well, because they read the samples and thought they were hilarious. We’ve also used Handwriting Without Tears from the beginning, and we’re continuing on with that. I must admit that I’m really pleased with the way that the kids’ handwriting has developed, and I think my son’s cursive is probably better than mine, LOL.

For Science, my daughter is doing Sonlight Science D and my son is doing Science E. The picture at the top of this post is my son doing one of the experiments from Science E, where he made his own wires and created circuits. Again, I was able to score the Science E on ebay, although I bought the Science D new. The books that come with both science cores are great. We were surprised by how much we loved the first book in Science E — Diary of an Early American Boy. It was fascinating. I learned so many things while reading it!

My 4yo is right on the cusp of the Kindergarten cutoff here. Our district has a fairly late cutoff. Last year it was December 1st. This year it is November 1st. She has an October birthday, so she’d be a Kindergartener here if she went to school in our district, but she might not make the cutoff date if we sent her to a charter school or a school in another district.

Taking all of that into consideration, we decided to let her start working through My Father’s World K, which my now-8yo loved so much when she was 4 that she asked if she could do it again with her little sister, LOL. The phonics part is good, but their literature is kind of “meh”, so we are also doing Sonlight P4/5 with her for everything else.

My older kids have really enjoyed all of the fairy tales, fables and world stories in the P4/5 books, so that’s been fun. My 8yo has read a few of the anthologies in there 2 or 3 times on her own in the past few weeks. My 4yo and 2yo think the stories are the funniest things ever. They’ve been retelling them and laughing hysterically every time. Awesome. That’s one sign of a good day of Kindergarten.

We’re using Teach a Child to Read with Children’s Books once again, because it has been a wonderful method for teaching reading to all of my kids. My 4yo is so proud of the books that she is reading, and my 2yo has even gotten in on the action and read a few of them. So cute. Check out my review of this book from back in 2007, if you’re interested.

Well, that’s the “brief” description of what we’re doing this year. I guess I should also mention that anyone who wants to order through Sonlight can get a $5 discount on your first order if you use this referral code – AH20357105. Even if you don’t use their curriculum, they have really cool summer reading packages that make great gifts. My kids have read several of the recommended books and they’ve all been winners so far. :)

I’d love to hear what everyone else is doing for this year. Please feel free to email or comment or post a link to any blog posts that you have about your homeschooling year. I love getting inspiration from other home schoolers. <3

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Craft Activism

One thing that I love is when a book inspires me to do something that I wouldn’t attempt otherwise. Craft Activism by Joan Tapper and Gale Zucker managed to do just that. :)

I belong to a few websites that offer copies of books for bloggers to review. We aren’t obliged to post about the books, but I love to share when I find a good one. When I saw Craft Activism listed on one of these sites, I was really excited. I’ve heard great things about this book, and the topic is one that is dear to my heart.

Craft Activism is a celebration of people who are passionate about DIY, creating and making a statement. Some of the ideas are ones that get a fair amount of press (yarn bombing, quilting to raise awareness, etc.), whereas others are ideas that I’ve never heard of apart from this book. One such crafter is Ruth Marshall, who hand knits some amazing, intricate “pelts” of big cats and other animals. She is trying to raise awareness about poaching and other issues that are threatening wild animals. For each crafter who is profiled, there is also a pattern so you can join in on their movement. For Ruth Marshall, there is a scarf pattern that looks like an ocelot. The pattern for the color work is breathtaking. I can’t wait to try it!

Some of the other projects in the book include a sassy sweater with pro-cycling (as opposed to anti-cycling) color work, a small quilt with a message for peace, a pattern for sewing an adorable, modern housedress, a crochet granny square greenbag, and so much more. The project pages are widely varied, and I think anyone could find something to try. I love that they encompass so many crafts, and not just one or two.

I was inspired by the section on embroidery to pick my needle back up. I haven’t embroidered (apart from the small amount done on knit toys) since I was a child. Reading the section on embroidery with attitude made me really miss it. I had so much fun tracing the pattern onto the tea towel and firing up my needle. I’ve since remembered how relaxing embroidery is. How could I’ve forgotten?! Watching me embroider inspired my 8-year-old daughter to pick up her needles too, so now we’re sharing the craft together. She has decided to work on a fairy design. If you’d like to try the pattern that I’m working on from the book, there is a copy of it here. It is a tea towel that says “Hot Stuff” and has a volcano. It is so cute.

The start of my "Hot Stuff' embroidery

There are so many projects in this book that I can’t wait to try. I love that it has helped me think of new ways to express myself through crafting. It has really encouraged me that I am not alone in my desire to share my passions by creating. It is such a beautiful portrait of the many faces of crafting and how we are all so different and yet so alike. I hope you check it out and enjoy it too!

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Charity Knitting – 5 Ways You Can Help

First, I want to apologize for my absence on here. We’ve had a tough couple of weeks, with my mom in the ICU due to complications from her leukemia / bone marrow transplant. She is still in the hospital, but things are more stable than they were before. Cancer is such a horrible disease, and we’ve really been reminded of that over the past few weeks.

We flew to be near my mom, and I really wanted to knit and create while we were there. I didn’t want to make just anything, though. I wanted to work on projects that could give back somehow. I think that tough times remind me of how much suffering there is in the world, and it gives me a kick in the pants to start helping some more.

Luckily, I’ve had the privilege of knitting for several great charities over the past few years, so I knew what kind of items I could make. I’d love to share some of them, and hopefully get more knitters involved. :) When I first started looking for charity knitting a few years ago, I was overwhelmed at the choices. I wanted to find reputable charities that were truly getting the items to those in need. I’ve found several great organizations that do just that. A lot of these projects use scrap amounts of yarn and a minimal amount of time. If your kids know how to knit, these projects are simple enough that they can get involved.

1. Mother Bear Project

What it is: The Mother Bear Project is a group that provides a simple gift of hope and love through a hand-knit or crocheted bear to children affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations. Each bear is signed with the name of the person who made the bear. The coordinators at the Mother Bear Project take pictures of the children receiving their bears and email/post them. As always, the pictures from the latest distribution are so beautiful. They have stories on their webpage from some of the children who have received the bears, if you’re in the mood for a good cry. ;)

How you can get involved: All of the bears for the Mother Bear Project use the same WWII-era pattern. It is SIMPLE, which has been great for me. I need mindless knitting right now! The whole bear is basically made as a tube (knit flat or in the round, you decide), and then you split for the legs and pick up for the arms. The clothes are knit as part of the bear. I can finish a bear in a few hours of work, and they only require about 35 yards of 3 colors of yarn. If you have 50 yards of each, you can easily embellish as you wish. The bears do not need to be “realistically” colored (duh, they are wearing clothes, y’know…) so any yarn in your stash can be used!

The flat version of the Mother Bear pattern is available in the beautiful book, Knit for Peace, and it is also archived on the DIY Network’s site. If you have the $5 to spare, I really encourage you to order the pattern directly from Mother Bear. They will send you the pattern in the mail as well as a brochure explaining the program and a tag to attach to the first bear with your name on it. When you mail in your first bear (or set of bears) they will send you more tags. If you mail in more bears than you have tags, they’ll write tags for you.

For each bear that you send in, they ask for $3 to cover the “bear fare” (the costs to fly and get the bears into their new country.) When you pay for the pattern, your first bear’s “bear fare” is included in the cost, so there is no need to send in $3.

For more information, the Mother Bear Ravelry group is excellent. They host monthly challenges that include drawings for yarn and other knitty prizes :)

2. Wool-Aid

What it is: Wool Aid is a community of knitters that creates warm clothing for children in the coldest climates that have the least access to resources. All items knit for Wool-Aid need to be made of natural fibers of at least a worsted weight. The thicker the better.

How you can get involved: The Wool-Aid Ravelry group is a wealth of information. They keep an updated list of all of the current campaigns. Their blog also has details on where knit items are currently being sent and what is most needed. If you want to get involved, join the ravelry group or read on their website for which items are currently needed and their guidelines, and then mail them to their headquarters. I recently participated in a campaign for children impacted by the earthquake in Tibet, and I was so happy to be able to create some warmth to children who really need it.

3. Mittens for Akkol

What it is: Mittens for Akkol is a group that knits for an orphanage in Akkol, Kazakhstan. Akkol is very cold, with snow starting in August and lasting through April. Temperatures reach 40 below 0 and the orphanage is not well-heated. The organization was started by two parents who went to adopt two children and then realized that they wanted to help all of the children there in any way that they could. Each year the very active yahoo group makes up a database for all of the “graduating” children in the orphanage (those who have to leave because of their age) and helps to make a warm wardrobe for them, including thin and thick socks, sweaters and scarves. Each grad asks for certain colors, and knitters sign up based on what they would like to make. The group has a hard deadline for when the items will be delivered. They are flown out there in luggage and hand-delivered. It is beautiful to watch as everyone works to complete the projects for those children. The group also works on items for the “baby house” and other projects each year.

How you can help: Join the yahoo group and/or ravelry group, and see what is currently needed. There are always new campaigns cycling through, so it is easy to get involved.

4. Bundles of Joy

What it is: Bundles of Joy is a group that supports babies in the Pine Ridge Hospital OB Ward (which is part of the Pine Ridge Reservation.) Poverty is extensive on the reservation, and many of the babies have no clothes or other items waiting for them when they go home.

How you can help: Join the ravelry group and see what current campaigns are running. Bundles of Joy accepts non-knitted items as well, so feel free to check out their ravelry group and see what items are needed the most right now.

5. Your local hospital/homeless shelter

This one doesn’t need much of a description, but I really encourage you to see what is available in your hometown. When my mom was in treatment in Colorado, she was so blessed by the hand knit items that were donated to the hospital (and made by us.) A soft, fuzzy hat can bring more comfort to a cancer patient than you could ever imagine. Most hospitals have programs. Ravelry allows you to search by location, and you can easily see what kinds of opportunities are available in your hometown. If nothing is available, try calling your local hospitals as well as domestic violence, homeless and pet shelters. Needs are different depending on the population that is served, so you can easily find charities that would love items made out of yarn that might otherwise seem undesirable. For example, most cancer wards prefer that you use acrylic, whereas charities like Wool Aid or Mittens for Akkol are happy to take items that are not machine washable, since the population that they help doesn’t have washing machines.

If you knit for a great charity that isn’t mentioned here, please feel free to leave a note in the comments or email me. I’d love to hear about them and share the word!

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Cliques, Hicks, and Ugly Sticks

While browsing to see which book I might want to review next, Cliques, Hicks, and Ugly Sticks by K.D. McCrite immediately caught my eye. It is the second book of “The Confessions of April Grace” series, although I didn’t realize that until I finished the book.

The story is told by April Grace, an 11-year-old in Arkansas in 1986. April Grace is starting junior high and her world seems to be falling apart. The new school year starts and one of her best friends is now snotty and mean to her at school, boys are starting to notice her (which makes her uncomfortable), and then her parents drop the bombshell that they have a new baby on the way. The book follows April Grace’s life through the first half of her school year as she tries to adjust to all of the changes in her life.

Reading this book was fun. I smiled at the descriptions of life in the 80′s. April Grace’s character has a great blend of innocence and spunk that translates well for the tween crowd. I think my daughter will really relate to her. I’m going to get the first book of the series and I plan on reading them aloud with my kids.

This book is published by Thomas Nelson, but the Christian message is very subtle in it and I think it would be an appropriate book regardless of a person’s faith. The overall tone of the book is positive without being syrupy. I’d definitely recommend this book and I look forward to checking out the rest of the series.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Friday Favorites

What have you been enjoying this week? Here are a few of our favorites:

Favorite Non-Fiction Children’s Author:
Nic Bishop

We just discovered Nic Bishop’s books, and we have been LOVING the gorgeous photography and interesting facts. For instance, I didn’t even know about the osmeterium (a smelly organ that black swallowtail butterflies use to defend themselves by wiping on attackers) until I read his book on butterflies and moths. Each of his books is beautiful in it’s own way, and I recommend them very highly.

Favorite nerdy video:
Doodling in Math: Spirals, Fibonacci, and Being a Plant

This is such a great way to show the relevance of math, and it is really fun to watch. My whole family enjoyed viewing it and discussing the math behind each of the three parts.

Favorite laptop cover:

Source: etsy.com via HippieMommy on Pinterest

I’ve been hunting around for the perfect cover for my little laptop, and I fell in love with this one instantly.

Favorite workout:
Zumba, of course!

As many of you know, I really love Zumba classes. This week I signed up to take the instructor training. It is a little (OK, totally) outside of my comfort zone in some areas, but it seems perfectly natural in other ways. I taught cheerleading when I was younger, so hopefully those skills will transfer! I’m sure I’ll be scared to death to start, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I saw this pin earlier, and it sums up my feelings:

Source: nbp.org via HippieMommy on Pinterest

Favorite song for working out:
Shake, Senora by Pitbull w/ T. Pain and Sean Paul

I love dancing to this song in Zumba. My classes have each done different choreography than what is shown in this video, but I’d definitely take this instructor’s class too. :) It looks fun!

Favorite knitting pattern:
Deep Blue Sea Shark Mittens

How cute are these? They include a pattern for a shark bite victim, which is great too. My kids are in love with them.

Favorite recipe:
Elana’s Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know, I know… I’m not the biggest fan of agave nectar either, but these cookies are soooo good. No one ever guesses they’re gluten-free, casein-free and sugar-free. I’ve been all three of those things (gf/cf/sf) for the past 2 1/2 weeks or so, and I’m feeling awesome. The inflammation that I was dealing with in my knees is totally gone, as are my random low-level headaches. I should’ve done this a long time ago.

I hope you enjoy a few of our favorite things from this week! What have you been up to?

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Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall

One of the reasons that I love reading autobiographies is because I believe strongly in Charlotte Mason’s teaching that “autobiographies… often lift the veil, for the writer may make free with himself.” Even though this book isn’t the kind of book I normally discuss on here, I find it really interesting to read other people’s stories and learn from them. I thought some of you might like it too :)

I picked up this book with no expectations. Aside from the press attention that occurred during the trial of Warren Jeffs, I knew very little about the FLDS or Elissa Wall.

This book taught me many things about the FLDS sect. Before reading this, I didn’t realize that the “prophet” had such power over the everyday lives of the members of their community. As Walls says early on in the book, “The prophet decides when two people should marry, when families can form, and when families that are not working are to be reorganized.”

She also describes how,

It was common practice to expel men… all that is required is for the prophet or someone acting at his direction to say: “You have lost your priesthood.” The significance of this is enormous for believers, as it creates a culture of fear. If a husband loses his priesthood, his family is literally no longer his. In addition, he has to leave his land and home because his home is owned by the FLDS Church and controlled by the priesthood. Faithful wives and children will accept these decisions and wait to be reassigned to another man.

Elissa’s story helped me to better understand the mindset of someone in the FLDS. I’ve never understand why polygamy was so central to the faith of those in the FLDS. Wall’s explanation of how a man must have three wives in order to attain the highest level of heaven was really eye-opening. This “need” to have at least three wives drives men to do what they can to please to prophet and show how faithful they are. This is the only way that they may have at least 3 wives assigned to them and not have their wives ever taken away. Removal of their wives (and subsequent reassigning of their families to new men) causes men to lose their place in heaven.

In this book, Elissa is honest about what her life in a polygamous family was like. There were parts that were great and parts that they tried to hide. I’ve seen interviews with women who live in plural marriages, but reading it from a child’s point of view was enlightening. It is clear that Elissa really loves her family and that she feels that her mother and father were trying to do their best to walk the line between taking care of their families and doing what they felt they needed to do to ensure them all a place in heaven.

Reading about the psychological impact of cultural conditioning was both sad and fascinating. Many of the teachings were strange and contradictory, but they were accepted. One such is example is that “Warren preached that when a family remarried to another man, God changed their blood and DNA to match that of the priesthood man they now belonged to. If we did not have worthy blood running through our veins, we could not gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven.” Pretty crazy, no?

I saw that other reviewers criticized Elissa because she could come across as immature or unable to take responsibility. It did not come across that way to me. On the contrary, I read it as a book written by a woman who is still young, still finding herself, and still in the midst of healing. I thought that she tried to be honest about her shortcomings. I think that she shared a lot of her flaws and that they made her story more credible rather than less.

I enjoyed reading this book. My one complaint is that I wish that they would’ve made the authorship more clear. I finished the book wondering how many of the words were from Elissa and how many were from her co-author. On GoodReads, Elissa’s name is listed first, but the Kindle edition has her co-author, Lisa Pulitzer first. The book is written as a first-hand account, but the listing of Lisa Pulitzer first makes me wonder how much was reconstructed by her.

Overall, I’m glad that I read this book. It was far less graphic than I expected, and I think she did a good job of explaining her side of the story.

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The Biggest Bear and other picture books for older children

The kids and I have been working our ways through both the Newbery and Caldecott medal and honors lists as part of the #nerdbery and #nerdcott challenges. We’ve already found dozens of new books to love. Sometimes we all agree, and sometimes our reviews are mixed.

Today I’d like to share our opinions on The Biggest Bear, Snow White, and Baboushka and the Three Kings. Each of these books had strong points and weaknesses. My 7-year-old and I had different opinions about The Biggest Bear, so I’ve also included her review here.

The Biggest Bear

My review:
I was really excited when I first picked up The Biggest Bear. The illustrations are beautiful and instantly caught my eye. Despite this first impression, I was a little disappointed once I started reading. The story really shows it’s age. There are many parts of the book that could seem shocking to young kids, particularly those who live a suburban or urban life.

The story follows a young boy who wishes to shoot and kill the biggest bear. He goes into the woods with his gun, but he finds a cub rather than a large bear. Instead of killing the cub, he feeds it and brings home. As the bear grows, he starts to cause mischief, and the boy tries unsuccessfully to lose the bear. The point comes when he must kill the bear. Right before the bear is shot, the bear becomes afraid and runs into a trap. This trap was set by men at the zoo, who are thrilled to welcome the bear into their exhibit. The story ends with everyone happy about the bear going to the zoo.

This book is so gorgeous, but the content is probably a bit above the level of the average picture book reader. Parents who wish to avoid images of children with guns will want to skip this book. I was very disappointed that the consequences of the boy’s choice to feed the bear are never explored. I think this was a missed opportunity. It seems to end on a happy note and the boy’s actions are not questioned.

On a positive note: This book fueled good conversation with my older kids. I initially started reading it with my 1 1/2 year-old (who was drawn to the beautiful illustrations of the boy and the bear), but I decided to bail and distract her once we came to the part where the boy was taking the bear out to be shot.

My 7-year-old daughter’s review:
I like this book. It is a story of a boy who adopts a bear. The pictures are very realistic. I wish that I could draw that well! I thought it was really funny when the bear swam for 2 miles and didn’t get very wet. I like that the bear doesn’t get shot and gets put in the zoo.


Snow White
Also as part of the Nerdcott challenge, we recently read Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by the Brother’s Grimm. There are many editions of this book, and several have won awards. We decided to poke through a few of them and see what we thought.

One edition particularly caught my eye. It was illustrated by Tina Schart Hyman. She won the Caldecott Medal for Saint George and the Dragon, which is another family favorite and an Ambleside Year 1 selection. This particular retelling of Snow White is darker than most, and I wouldn’t recommend it for younger children. If your kids are a bit older and enjoy classical tales, I think this is a great book.


Baboushka and the Three Kings

And, finally, a book that differs in pretty much every way from the previous two. Baboushka and the Three Kings is a story with very simple illustrations, but it would be appropriate for any age. It is far shorter than the previous two books, and toddlers should have no problem sitting through it. It would be a great read-along with young kids around Christmastime when you are discussing traditions in different parts of the world.


I’d love to hear your opinion on these picture books or any others that you’ve read. Some of the other books that we’ve all recently enjoyed include Sam, Bangs and Moonshine, The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, Hide and Seek Fog and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. How about you?

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The Book Whisperer

I’ve completed my first book for my 2012 reading challenge, and it is a book about…. BOOKS! LOL. I decided to pick this one up after I saw it recommended on a message board, and I really enjoyed reading it.

The Book Whisperer is described on the back cover as “…a primer of the heart on how to make reading magical again”, and I think that is a very accurate description. The author, Donalyn Miller, is a 6th grade language arts and social studies teacher. Through much research, she’s devised a program for her students that empowers them in their reading choices and increases their reading and writing skills at the same time.

The main point that is driven home throughout this book is that students should be able to pick their own reading material (with guidelines for the number of books read in each genre) and that school time should include significant blocks where kids read rather than complete busywork.

One of the things that I really like about this book is that she almost perfectly describes the way that we homeschool. I check out large amounts of books that relate to the units that we do in our other subjects, and let my kids free read from all of the different genres. I try to keep the shelves stocked with library books that I think my kids will like, and they also pick out a large number of books for themselves. I had no idea that I was so cutting-edge, hehe.

Obviously there are parts of this book that are not applicable to homeschooling parents (after all, we are not the target audience), but I still really enjoyed the book. I have placed several of her book suggestions on hold, including The Tarantula in My Purse: and 172 Other Wild Pets (which I think it will be an awesome read-aloud!) I also love Miller’s description of a reading journal where the student and teacher write back and forth in a conversational style about the books that they’ve read. I think it can easily be tweaked for homeschooling, and I’ve been wanting to start a journal with my kids anyways. It reminds me of the notebooks that my friends and I had when we were in middle and high school.

One of the other important lessons that I’ll take from this book is that there is great value in reading children’s literature as an adult. I belonged to a children’s lit bookclub, but I haven’t read with them in several years. She shows how a knowledge of children’s books will enable you to give better recommendations for your students. Thanks to her inspiration, I’ve picked up a few children’s books for myself. I really want to join the #nerdbery and #nerdcott challenges now. We have several of these books on our shelves, so I went ahead and read one of the #nerdcott books today. :)

If you’ve read this book or decide to read it in the future, I’d love to hear your opinion.

Happy reading!

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12 12s in 2012

As I said in my last post, I love the clean start of a new year!

Last year I set a few annual goals, and I had so much fun working at them. My first mission was to knit 52 items, and I totally blew that number out of the water. I completed about 25% more than my goal. Yay!

I also committed to reading 52 books in 52 weeks. I only had to count a few knitting books to hit my goal (…and, to be fair, I spend a lot of time with my nose in a knitting book, LOL.) Considering what a doozy 2011 was, I’m considering this to be a huge accomplishment.

I was reading on ravelry and saw this idea for making 12 lists of 12 things to complete in 2012. I decided to come up with my own list. :) I’m going to try to find a widget that I can use to keep track of them in my sidebar.

So, on top of my goal to read another 52 books this year, I also hope to complete:

12 items knit from my pattern library
12 items knit for charity
12 gifts knit
12,000 yards knit
12 of my oldest skeins of yarn used up (I’m looking at you, Handspun Bulky)
12 weeks of “cold sheeping” (a.k.a. no buying new yarn – ACK!)
12 classic read-alouds with the kids (in addition to bedtime reading and school reading)
12 books on midwifery or herbalism read cover-to-cover
12 books that have been in my queue or are partially read
12,000 minutes of exercise
12 new homeopathic remedies or herbs that I’ll become familiar with and use
120 green smoothies consumed

Happy 2012!

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