Sunday, September 30, 2012

D is for DIY

I'm blogging through the alphabet again. Or still. Or something. Did you know that if you miss a week, everyone else just keeps going. Can you believe it? I thought about removing the letters B and C from my alphabet and explain that that's the reason why I missed blogging about those two, but somehow I'd have a hard time even writing that. I mean, logging through the alphaet?  Things ould e kinda onfusing and it ould e hard to omprehend exatly what was eing said. Do you onur?

Maybe I should just admit that good intentions don't write posts. People write posts. And that brings us to the letter D.

D is for Do It Yourself. We are big DIYers here. Not only does doing things yourself save so much money, but it's fun too. Both Leighton and I enjoy DIY projects. Our lists are very different though. 

I love homemaking. I make most of our food from scratch (including sauces, breads, desserts, canning, etc.) I make my own baby wipes. I make my own laundry detergent. (I need to post the recipe I've been using. It's even better on stains than my previous homemade detergent.) I make my own household cleaners. I do the schooling. The next two things on my list that I really want to make myself are sunscreen and deodorant. You can check out more of my future projects on my DIY board on Pinterest.

My DIY things are more every day things that save us money on a regular basis, whereas Leighton's projects are more once-in-a-while things that save us tons of money at a time. I said that I love homemaking. He loves homekeeping. He takes care of all the repairs around the house (plumbing, washer/dryer, freezer, electrical, oven.) He completes all our cosmetic work (painting, installing cabinets, remodeling.) He crafts all the woodworking (bunk beds, book cases/shelves, doll house, play set.) He performs all our outside work (demoing things in our yard from previous owners, adding concrete, tree removal.) He does all the work on our vehicles (oil changes, all repairs/replacements, tire rotation.) He fixes absolutely anything that is broken. He is my handyman. And he can do it all.

Why pay someone else to do things that you can do yourself? We are DIYers. And we love it.

Head on over to Ben and Me to read about more D words. And now that I'm done, I'd better start on letter E's post. I'd rally hat to rmov it from th alphabt too. It would b vn hardr to rad. S what I man???

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 9/28/12

Happy Friday! Leighton took Jake hunting (along with my brother, grandpa, and uncle) for the first time last weekend. They didn't see any deer close enough to shoot, but they had a great time together. My brother shot two deer and gave us one of them, so we have a freezer full of venison again. Yea! Alyssa and Zac asked to stay at my parents' house, so it was just the baby and me all day Saturday. Do you know how quiet my house was??? Or how much I was able to accomplish???  Oh, how I love organizing.

Here are a few more things that made me smile this week.

1. Me: "You need to brush your teeth."
Zac: "But it's so boring."

2. Alyssa: "I'm sillier than I thought I would be."

3. The 3 kids were playing in the other room. I was folding clothes while listening to our church Christmas cantata on my iPod.  As soon as I started singing along, the kids came running.
Me: "Yes?"
Jake: "We heard you singing."
Zac: "Mommy you can sing more."
Alyssa: "I like when you sing."

4. Leighton & Me: "Ok."
Me: "Jinx. You owe me a kiss."
Zac: "No, you say 'Jinx. You owe me a cream soda.'"

5. While talking about poor people . . .
Jake: "I would give them all my money."
Alyssa: "I would give them a penny."
Zac: "I would give them my hair."

6. Jake, commanding: "Stop chewing with food in your mouth, Alyssa."

7. Zac, while helping me transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer: "Woohoo! This is so fun!"

8. Tyler  loves to play with my hair, especially while he's eating. He reaches over and runs his hand through it, never pulling, always caressing. It's the sweetest thing.

9. We threw some leftover bread out to the birds and squirrels. A little while later, we watched a squirrel hide a piece of bread on our neighbors' roof. Then, it ran back to find more. It picked up another piece and took off in a different direction and hid it, as well. It was really interesting to watch and was a good biology lesson as we discussed why it was storing food.

10. Zac, out of the blue: "On your mark, get set, race! {takes off running} Hahaha, I told ya I could win!"

11. Me: "Zac, don't pick your nose."
Zac: "But I'm trying to get that thing that's up there."

What made you smile this week?
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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 9/26/12

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Tasty Tuesday: Sweet & Sour Chicken

This is one of those few times when I don't have any pictures of the preparation of the food. Generally, I'll take pictures of every step as the kids or I do them. Measuring? Check. Dumping? Check. Mixing? Check.

But not this time.

I pulled chicken out of the freezer for dinner, but hadn't decided what to do with it. While I love our chicken fried chicken and pulled bbq chicken and salsa chicken and chicken parmigiana, nothing seemed right. I wanted something different, something new. 

Then I remembered that I pinned a chicken recipe that I really, really wanted to try: sweet and sour chicken. A quick check assured that I had all the ingredients and Chinese cuisine it was. 


Double wow.

Even though I wasn't prepared with pictures for a post, this is one of those this-is-so-good-I-have-to-get-it-on-the-blog-now recipes. With just a simple snapshot I took after we tasted it.

Don't just take my word for it though. Jake said, "This is so good, I want to eat the whole pan!" I agree, because I ate way too much myself. I made this a couple days ago, and even now as I type, Alyssa looked at the picture and said, "I wish we still had some of that chicken. That chicken makes me want to eat more of it. I really like it. Can you make some more of it?" Jake declared it as his "very favorite way to eat chicken."

See what I mean? You have to try it for yourself.

Trust me.

Next time I'll add chunks of onion, green pepper, and pineapple. Mmm, I think I see more Chinese food on the menu soon.

Sweet and Sour Chicken
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/3 cup vinegar (apple cider or white distilled)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  (I use our electric skillet.)  
2. Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces and season with salt and pepper. 
3. Place the flour and chicken in a gallon-sized ziploc bag and toss to coat. 
4. Dip the flour-coated chicken pieces in the egg and place them in a single layer in the hot skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes and flip each piece over to cook on the other side until nicely golden, but not all the way cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish.
5. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and pour over the chicken in the baking dish. Bake at 325° for one hour, turning the chicken once or twice while cooking to coat evenly with sauce.

*Note: If you like extra sauce, double the sauce ingredients – pour half over the chicken and follow the recipe instructions; pour the other half in a small saucepan and simmer for 8-10 minutes until it reduces and thickens.
recipe adapted from mel's kitchen cafe
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Knights & Nobles

I think my kids would live in Fairy Tale Land if they could. Kings, princesses, castles, knights, dragons, crowns, jewels - it's all just so exciting! That's why I knew they would find a study on knights and nobles intriguing.

Why has Sharon Gibson from Homeschool Legacy created a Once-A-Week unit study on knights and nobles and many other topics? Well,  a unit study is a comprehensive way to learn about a topic. In order to fully understand all aspects about it, you immerse yourself in it and apply that topic to all subjects - science, language arts, literature, math, history, Bible, music, art, etc.. This method helps you learn more, retain it longer, and have fun while doing it.

Since this is a once-a-week study, you study it - yep, you guessed it - once a week. All the planning has been done for you. There is a lengthy list of books and videos at the beginning of each week's plans that corresponds to that week's topic. The list is in numerical and alphabetical Dewey decimal order for you to easily find the books from the library. Also, even if your library doesn't have those certain books, you can use the Dewy Decimal numbers to find the proper section where like books can be found. The suggested study schedule is to read the chosen books daily, complete your regular studies 4 days a week, and only this unit study 1 day a week, along with another day for a complimenting field trip and family movie/game night. A typical unity study day will consist of a family devotional, the chosen reading material, and any accompanying activities. 

Each week is broken down into specific topic:
Week 1 - Castles
Week 2 - Kings & Queens
Week 3 - Knights
Week 4 - Life on a Manor

We didn't completely hold true to the once-a-week part. I admit it. We cheated. But I couldn't possibly tell my little ones (6, 4, 2) that they couldn't learn more. They very much enjoyed learning about castles, royalty, and life during medieval times. Jake (6 yr) has recently fallen in love with the game of chess. Not only did he learn that the game originated during the Middle Ages, but it was interesting to note the name of the pieces and compare them to the rank and power of those living during that time period. Another game that the kids have really taken to and is also from this age is marbles. It's interesting to learn just how far back some things date. We learned the meaning of the rhyme "Blackbird Pie." Have you ever wondered why 1) the cook baked birds in a pie for the king, and 2) why the birds didn't die? Yeah, me too. Now I know, but you'll have to get the study to find out! {grin} We even practiced juggling like a minstrel. (Oh, how I should have taken video, especially when my 4 year old attempted to juggle hotdogs. That was . . . interesting.)

It's really neat when our regular activities are supplemented by what we are learning. Jake learned about archery with his dad when they went hunting. He loves using his own toy bow and suction-cup arrow to shoot around the house, like Robin Hood. There is also a lesson on the armor of God in Ephesians 6. Our pastor just did a sermon on that last week, which complimented our study well. Using those times when life meets learning really helps cement the knowledge in your mind. To me, that's what homeschooling is about, incorporating learning into our every day life. I love when I can say, "Hey, this is just like what we talked about . . . " and delve into the subject more.

Of course, our absolute favorite activity was constructing our very own castle out of Legos. (I know, not surprising in the least.) You should have seen Jake's face when I suggested making one. That boy is obsessed with his Legos, and he was very excited to make it a family affair. As we were all sitting there, surrounded but thousands of pieces, laughing and having a good time, Alyssa (4 yr) said, "This is a family day for sure!" We're still adding to it, but it's already pretty cool with a working draw bridge, mote and crocodile, turrets, throne room, and dungeon. Oh, yeah. Any study that incorporates Legos is a winner.  

These unit studies are good for not only school, but for earning badges for Boy Scouts, American Heritage Girls, and 4H as well. There are directions for a working catapult (much simpler than this one we made) a recipe for making butter, and many other activities that can be completed for credit.

My kids greatly enjoy hands-on learning. I am determined to use unit studies more this year. These from Homeschool Legacy are fun, cover a wide-range of activities, can be used with multiple ages, and are meant for the entire family. Of course, this is only a 4 week study. If you want to dig even deeper into the topic, there are plenty of book titles listed that would easily help you find information. My kids would sit and listen to me read all day if we could. I especially appreciated the living book choices. Reading a book that is above their heads gives us the perfect opportunity to stop and explain and learn even more. We talked about the origin of last names, how Jesus is the King of kings, monks, the Plague, and so much more, just from reading. Sure, it takes a lot longer to finish a book, but our goal is not to see how many books we can knock out in a year. Our desire is to teach our children and give them a well-rounded education. One of my favorite discussions was about peasants and money. The children wanted to know if we are rich. At first, I had to chuckle. We are not rich. Or are we? We have a roof over our heads, drawers over-flowing with clothes, pantries full of food, way too many toys, gadgets and frivolities . . . a loving family, a merciful Saviour, a future in Heaven . . . We noted just how much we have and how many people in other countries have so little. Jake said, "We should go there and give them money. I would give them all my money!" Alyssa chimed in, "Well, I would give them a penny." Then Zac, my crazy energetic 2 year old quipped, "I would give them my hair."

I think we have some more teaching to do.

This specific study is best for grades 2-12 and costs $15.95. Remember, there are many other once-a-week studies available from Homeschool Leagacy as well. You can read reviews about Knights & Nobles and the other choices on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog

* Disclaimer: I received this study in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pantry Surprise 9/22/12

I said it before, and I'll say it again: My kids are geniuses. 

They really know how to maximize their time. Remember this tip? They have implemented it many times since then. Just think how much time they've saved!

Their ingenuity has amazed me once again.

See? A hanger in the shower! 

I didn't even notice it until I was in there. I thought, how silly, a hanger in the shower. Then, a hanger in the shower! Of course. We should totally start hanging our clothes in there. Who needs closets? Just think how much time we'd save if we didn't have to go to our rooms to get clothes before bathing! And then we just get dressed right there once we're done. 

Geniuses, I tell ya. 

Want to see more crazy surprises? Find them here.
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Things That Make Me Smile 9/21/12

Happy Weekend! We had such a great week. We had a special day at church called Round Up Sunday. The kids especially enjoyed dressing up - and looked so cute, too! That evening we had a chili cook-off with plenty of chili, cornbread and desserts. Lots of fun!

Confession time - I have a fantastic cornbread recipe. I make it often because we all love it so much. I think I've mentioned before how crazy busy Sundays are between the morning services, coming home for a couple hours, and leaving again for choir practice and the evening service. Because we were busy running errands on Saturday, I had to make both the chili and cornbread Sunday afternoon. I checked the cornbread and noticed that it wasn't rising. It was already cooked too much to combine the batter from 18 muffins down to 12 though. I figured the muffins were small because I normally make 12 but was trying to extend it a bit to feed more people. We just trimmed the muffin liners down so they didn't look so pathetic. I placed the cornbread muffins in a cute little basket lined with a towel and headed to church. Fast forward a few hours. Jake hands me a muffin and says, "These don't taste like they normally do." I took a bite. Dense. Super dense. I started to think about the ingredients . . . hmm, no baking soda or baking powder? Strange. Well, of course, it bothered me. I certainly don't want people thinking I can't even make cornbread, especially when it's always so good. I looked at the recipe again when we got home. 1 teaspoon baking soda. Yeah, totally missed that in all the busyness of the day. Oops.

Moral of the long story: It doesn't matter how many times you make a recipe, the one time you make a mistake will be when serving other people.

The day was still fun, despite the cornbread. And if anyone asks, maybe I can just say the kids made them. You won't tell, will you???

Ok, time for the real smiles of the week!

1. Tyler has been rolling from his belly to back since he was just a few weeks old. Last week he learned how to roll from back to belly. Now he's a little roly poly, rolling all around the house.

2. Watching Jake standing in front of a mirror, attempting to read his shirt. Trying not to laugh, I said, "You do realize it's backwards, right?" Then we both got a good laugh.


4. Zac: "Where's my play dough? I think it's hiding from me."

5. Jake: "Why did we get a new land to serve Jesus and then everybody went and forgot about Him?"

6. Alyssa: "Usually if I'm watching a movie and the disc freezes, I just smack my head and it works."

7. Jake: "How come everyone's favorite color is blue, and I'm stuck with red?"

8. Talk Like A Pirate Day - so much fun!  

9. Zac: "Where are my big Legos?"
Me, pointing to the middle of the room: "Right there."
Zac: "That's a good hiding place!"

10. Zac: "Mommy, you're a cutie pie."

11. Jake, about Tyler: "He's an expert at making slobber bubbles."

12. Alyssa turned 4 1/2!

13. Zac: "There's a bug on the cushion!"
My Mom: "That's ok, just brush it off."
Zac, takes off running and returns a couple minutes later: "I can't find a brush anywhere."
14. Jake: "Angry Birds is such a deadly thing for birds." 

What made YOU smile this week???
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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Ahoy, me mateys! Yest'day be International Talk Like A Pirate Day! A funny coincidence - me oldest buccaneer asked on Saturday if there be a national pirate day since he be lovin' the pirates, he do. I tell 'im that there be a Talk Like A Pirate Day, but me not knowin' when it be. Then, I check the list on Monday and find out it be yest'day. Ho! I find it funny.

Me hearties and me set sail in th' morn for a day o' adventure. We read th' pirate books. We wore th' pirate clothes. We played th' pirate games. We be real pirates, we be. 

We not be smellin' like th' pirate stench though. Or drinkin' th' pirate ale. Or actin' th' pirate ways. Got it, landlubbers? Good.

This lit'l lad  might be stinkin' at times though. It's the booty, y' know. And not th' treasure booty me talkin' about.

Aye, but we be forgivin' 'im. He be quite the beaut and provides entertainment on th' voyage.

We practiced th' Pirate Code. Th' oldest buccaneer and me plundered a copy just last weekend from th' thrifty store.

Blimey! Th' lad left Pieces of Eight - $4 worth - t' pay fer it.

I still be tryin' t' teach 'im how t' properly pillage. Aye, he be a stubborn one, that scallywag.

Shiver me timbers! We seen th' great sea monsters. They wanted me loot. 

Me mateys and me loaded the guns and "Fire in the hole!" Down went the scurvy dogs, down into Davy Jones' Locker. 

We found this 'ere map. (Here's how ye can make yer own.) We waited 'til th' Cap'n returned from 'is duties on the Barbary Coast b'fore searchin' fer th' treasure.

Th' map had a note with a clue. We hung 'em both up by th' door so th' Cap'n be seein' 'em when he get home.

Those lit'l buccaneers, they be excited to watch th' Cap'n search. Lots o' gigglin'. Lots o' smilin'.  

Ho! Th' treasure be freshly baked choc'late chip cookies! Th' Cap'n's favorites! Th' clue be handy too. Th' treasure be in a cash box "buried" under stuffed animals. The combination be "34." 

The lit'l pirates had more treasure maps for the Cap'n. He be a busy scallywag searchin' fer th' treasures. 

But he found 'em all. Aye, lots o' celebrations.

Talk Like A Pirate Day be lots o' fun! Silly talk, treasure hunts, and treasure??? Arrr, we be likin' th' day.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 9/19/12

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Make It Monday: Kool-Aid Play Dough

Happy National Play Dough Day yesterday! The kids and I love play dough. They'll play with it for hours, giving me time to get some things done. Sometimes they'll talk me into playing with them. We'll make all sorts of yummy treats, silly creatures, shapes, or letters. A big chunk of soft dough is fun to squish around and roll into a ball. It's also really great for strengthening hand and finger muscles and helps with fine motor skills. See, it's not all about fun!

We love to make our own play dough. The texture is so much better than store bought. Along with our regular dough recipe that we usually make, we've made gingerbread scented play dough as well. This time, in honor of National Play Dough Day, we made Kool-Aid play dough. Combine the joy of play dough with the scent of Kool-Aid and you get an activity that produces many smiles!

My kids did all of the dumping, pouring and stirring (except Zac did not pour the boiling water.) Remember to use your own judgment. I did the kneading since the dough was so hot. Once it cooled a bit, they enjoyed smooshing the warm dough on their bellies though. Silly kids.

We made a batch of cherry, lemonade, and blue berry. Smells yummy! The boys each chose their favorite colors. Alyssa originally picked pink lemonade because of her favorite, but Jake talked her into regular lemonade so it would be close to red, white, and blue. So patriotic! 

Tons of play doughy fun! They really do smell fruity. Jake asked, "Are you sure we can't eat it? It is dough." Then he asked to keep the dough in his room so he could smell it at will.

Yeah, they liked it. 

Do you have a favorite play dough recipe?

No Cook Kool Aid Play Dough
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cups boiling water
1/4 cup salt
1 packet Kool-Aid
1 Tbsp. cream of tarter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1. Mix all dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir.
2. Add oil and boiling water.
3. Mix well until dough begins to form and let cool slightly.
4. Remove from bowl and knead until you reach desired consistency, adding a little more flour if dough is too sticky. Keep in air-tight container or bag.
adapted recipe
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Family Time Fitness

This has to be the most fun review we've had!

And the most painful.

Sounds kinda contradictory, huh? You see, we're a fairly active family. The kids are . . . well, typical kids. They run, jump, swing, climb, wrestle, and so on. People ask me how I stay so small after having 4 children. I usually respond with "I never sit down!" It's a constant go-go-go in our house. One of our favorite activities is geocaching. We'll load up the baby in the stroller, 2 kids in the wagon, and our oldest on his bike and find caches along 1-2 mile stretch. Not only is it fantastic exercise, it's so much fun! 

But all of that did not prepare me for Family Time Fitness.

We received Fitness 4 Homeschool physical education curriculum, geared toward K-8th grades. I'm doing this program with my 6, 4, and 2 year olds. This was going to be easy, right? Wrong. After just one lesson, I was sore. Not like I-can't-move-a-muscle-sore, but sore just the same. And being the smart woman I am, the next day I thought, "Hey, why don't we start lesson 2?" Yep, more soreness. I must be a glutton for punishment, because we continued in this fashion. We just couldn't help it. Each day we had so much fun! I laughed. Repeatedly. Like laughing-so-hard-tears-are-falling-and-I'm-getting-a-cramp-in-my-side laughing. We exercised mostly in our tiny living room. Picture with me - small space, furniture, baby gear, with 2 little kids and 1 mom attempting to shuffle across the room, bumping into each other, falling over, crashing. I should have videoed it. 

Speaking of videos, along with the 260 Core 1 lessons, there are links to demonstration videos to ensure you're preforming the exercises and activities properly. For instance, I had no idea what carioca is until I watched the video. Then I said, "Oh, that's what's it's called!" I knew how to do it, but didn't know the actual name. My 6-year-old on the other hand already knew the name and demonstrated it immediately. He learned from a friend who plays football. Talk about showing up your momma! The Little Smarty Pants didn't know all the exercise names though, and the videos proved very helpful.

Since this is a fitness curriculum, it was designed to maximize the benefits of spatial awareness, body awareness, environmental awareness, enhanced neurological development, mind-body coordination, stress reduction, social engagement, poise and confidence. This is not a boring program! There is so much variety. I worked muscles I completely forgot I had doing things that felt like games. Remember the crab walk? I used to love playing crab soccer as a child. It was one of my favorite gym class games. Walking like a crab was not nearly as fun as I remember it though. It hurt! Immediately my triceps screamed out, "You're not a 9-year-old girl anymore!" I realized just how naive I've been about my physical shape. I need this program just as much as my kids. 

The lessons are super simple to follow. Each one lists the skills taught, equipments needed (ie ball, bean bag, hula hoop, cones, jump rope, etc), suggested recovery time, 3-4 warm up exercises, 3-4 activity/game play, 2-3 cool down exercises, and an outdoor activity. Everything is very detailed and written out. They say it takes 30-45 minutes a day to complete. Honestly, I don't even know how long it took us. You know the saying time flies when you're having fun? So true! The kids would ask repeatedly to continue with an activity. One of their favorites is a variation on the bean bag catch. Every time you miss the bean bag, you lose a limb! We played that over and over . . . and over.  There were many casualties that day.

The website has a fantastic picture of brain activity after only 20 minutes of walking compared to sitting quietly, proving that exercise is a fantastic stimulus for learning. I know I did the program backwards. See, the kids had so much fun and asked every day when they could exercise, that I used it like a reward. As soon as the rest of the work, the boring stuff - math, reading, writing - was done, we could swing our arms, hop around, and lunge across the room. It was fantastic motivation. 

The Fitness 4 Homeschool Curriculum includes a startup guide, PDF lesson plans, video demonstrations, assessment tools, reminder emails, lifetime curriculum and video updates, access to online webinars and certificates of completion. Everything you need to give your children a thorough physical education course. I'm telling you, it's great. One curriculum for all your children with lifetime access to all the updates and revisions for a total of $57.00 Seriously, it's worth that just for the fun aspect, let alone all that good-for-you physical stuff!

We really, really enjoy Family Time Fitness. (Can ya tell?)  They also offer a course for high school students and some workbooks. If you just can't decide if the program is right for you, you can try it free for 2 days

I had been saying for a while that I wanted to get in better shape, but trying to find the time to exercise (remember - small room, 4 kids always underfoot) never worked. Now I can exercise with them. And have tons of fun at the same time. Sounds like a winner to me.

Don't forget to swing by the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read more reviews of Family Time Fitness.  

* Disclaimer: As part of the Review Crew, I received this pdf in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, Scooby-Doo

September 13th is Scooby-Doo's birthday, so you know what that means - we had to celebrate with him! The day was filled with tons of Scooby-Dooby-Fun. We colored Scooby pictures, assembled Scooby puzzles, played Scooby computer games, and watched Scooby movies. We even had an injury during all the fun and used a Scooby-Doo band-aid, of course.

If you're a fan of the Scoob, you know that he and Shaggy can eat. And eat. And eat. While they're "searching" for clues, they're often distracted by a kitchen or a spread of food on a table. And they especially like sandwiches. Bigger-than-your-mouth sandwiches. Huge, monster-size sandwiches with crazy ingredients.

So, we made our own monster sandwiches, Scooby-Doo style.

I let them choose their own fixings. Whatever they wanted. Whatever they wanted. It was . . . interesting watching them pull ingredients out. I started to question my sanity. And theirs.

Alyssa's monster sandwich: bun, black cherry topping, bologna, cheese, pickles, Hershey chocolate, rotisserie chicken, peanuts, chocolate spinkles, pickles, mandarin oranges, buttercream frosting, bun, topped with a cherry.

Jake's monster sandwich: bun, buttercream frosting, bologna, pickles, butterscotch topping, honey mustard, rotisserie chicken, chocolate sprinkles, Hershey chocolate, strawberry syrup, buttercream frosting, hot sauce, bun, topped with a cherry.

Oh, yeah. They were big. And other then the buns, they ate every. last. bite. Each crazy ingredient. Every odd concoction.

Scooby would be proud.

Me? I'm still amazed they said it was yummy.

Throughout the day we spent plenty of time solving mysteries with the gang. There were missing doughnuts, lost dino bones, and mummies on the loose! It sure was a good thing they had our help. We are master sleuths, you know.

Speaking of mysteries, we even had our very own. In our very own house.

Everything seemed normal as we headed to the kitchen to make Scooby Snacks. What would his birthday be without his beloved treat? Anyway, as we started to gather our ingredients, we discovered that they were all GONE! Every single ingredient was missing. What we found instead were strange items.

Dinosaur and play dough toys in the pantry. Socks with the eggs. A book and Polly Pocket in a cupboard. Car, remote, hairbrush, marker . . . all found in odd places. Sure, we're used to that. In fact, I was the one who questioned the strange items. The kids just kept saying, "We don't have any. It's all gone," as they ignored the toys. It would have been comical had our things not been missing.

We had a mystery! It was time to solve the Case of the Missing Ingredients! {dun dun dun}

As Jake went to the drawer to put away the Wii remote, he found 3 sticks of butter in its place. Oh, sure, it was silly. But more importantly than that, it was our first clue! Next, they returned the socks to Alyssa's drawer. What did they find? A bowl with 4 eggs! Can you believe it? Eggs with her socks! Someone sure was playing a trick on us. The kids found it hysterical. Jake started jumping up and down. It was all starting to make sense to them and they were excited. They ran around the house, returning each item to its home. Every time, they found an ingredient. There were tons of laughs and smiles as they solved the mystery. Jake thanked me over and over. Me? I was just as confused as the kids. Sort of.

Let me tell you, when your kids are by your side every second, it is a little difficult to exchange items. Or so I would imagine. You know, if I had been the one to set up the mystery.

We eventually made our Scooby Snacks once all the ingredients were accounted for. The kids giggled the entire time. Jake asked for more mysteries. Zac kept looking in his drawers for his own bowl of eggs. They let me know just how much fun they were having.

I wish I had a video camera running to capture the excitement and remember it forever.

We let the dough chill for a couple hours and continued with our Scooby fun. When it was time to bake the cookies, we found one more mystery - the cookie cutter was missing! This time, they knew exactly what to do and we were forming our bone-shaped cookies in no time.

I'll tell you what, Scooby knows what's good. Those Scooby Snacks are delicious! Soft, flavorful, yummy. I might even walk into a haunted castle full of unthinkable creatures. For 2 Scooby Snacks, of course.

Happy Birthday, Scooby-Doo! I hope your day was just as fun, just as silly, and just as memorable as ours.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile 9/14/12

Happy Friday! I am so excited about fall coming. It's my favorite season of the year and my favorite baking season as well. Apples. Pumpkins. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Cardamom. Doughnuts. Cider. Hot chocolate. Aaaah, fall. I smile just thinking about it!

Here are many more smiles from this week.

1. Alyssa, dreamily: "I fell in love with Tyler." 

2. Jake: "In hopscotch, what if somebody throws their stone passed 10?" 

3. Alyssa, while making beaded necklaces: "It's ok if you make it pretty. I love pretty." 

4. Alyssa, while praying: ". . . the end." 
Jake: "You mean amen."
Alyssa: "Right. Amen."

5. Alyssa, yelling: "Zac! Give it back!"
Zac: {runs away}
Me: "Zac, did you take that from her?"
Zac: "No."
Me: "Look at me."
Zac: {looks at my arm}
Me: "No, look at my eyes. Did you take that from her?"
Zac: "Uh . . . nnn . . . ummm. Yes."

6. Alyssa: "If ever I have a baby, I'm going to name it Moses."

7. Celebrating National Chocolate Milkshake Day.  

8. Jake, after listening to a description in a book: "Ok, I pictured it. In black and white, too. I can also do it in movie and cartoon."
9. Alyssa: "I love Tyler the most. And Jesus. I love them both the most."

10. Jake: "Mom, your breadsticks are better than the restaurants'. And I mean it."

11. Alyssa: "Tyler said thank you in real talk!" 

12. Zac: "May I have more cheese?"
Me: "More cheese?"
Zac: "Yes. I have the power to eat a lot. And to be the fasterest."

13. Me: "Why is Alyssa emptying the dishwasher?" (Jake's chore)
Jake, smirking: "I dared her."

It's ok. She got him back. She dared him to "wear girl clothes." He went and put on one of her fancy dresses. No, I did not include a picture here because I know he would never forgive me when he's older. 

14. Helpers.

15. Celebrating Scooby-Doo's birthday

16. Jake: "One is not very many, and zero is even less."

17. While talking about fairy tales with the kids . . .
Me: "Daddy's my prince."
Jake: "Daddy is not a prince."
Me: "Why not?"
Jake: "He doesn't have royal blood."
Me: "Hmm, if he's not my prince, then what is he?"
Jake: "He's just 1 piece of your heart. You need to find 4 more people to love and your heart will be full."

What made you smile this week???

Linked to Friday Favorites
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Speekee TV

¡Hola! There's just something intriguing about a foreign language, isn't there? My kids are fascinated by them. Whether it's watching shows on TV that incorporate words and phrases or hearing strangers in a store, foreign languages are all around us. My kids love to pick up on it and try to repeat it. They even like to speak in their own language and say silly words. It sounds like gibberish and makes me laugh, but they know exactly what they are saying. It's the same way when we hear a real language that we do not understand.

I think it's a good thing to learn another language. Even if you never plan to travel to another country or have no direct need of speaking to someone in a different tongue, knowing another language - even just the basics - can help you better understand your own. So many words have similar root, prefixes, and suffixes or even pull direct words from other countries.

Let me tell you something, while I took 3 years of Spanish in high school and even visited Spain years ago, I cannot remember the majority of the language. Sad, I know! I loved learning Spanish. I remember a decent amount of vocab that when my children ask me to translate a word I can usually do it. I cannot, however, teach them Spanish just from my knowledge. Where I lack skills, the Schoolhouse Review Crew steps right up. They sent someone to my house who is fluent in Spanish! Wasn't that nice? His name is Speekee and he's a cute, purple puppet.        

He taught us on our computer screen using 10 episodes on Speekee TV. Each video is 14-20 minutes long, geared for kids 2-10, and is completely in Spanish. Completely in Spanish. At first I was confused. (And not because I couldn't understand them. Ha.) How were my kids, who knew absolutely no Spanish other than the occasional hola, adios, amigo, and a few other words, going to learn the language? Sure, there are the optional subtitles at the bottom of the screen, but they can't read those that quickly or not even at all. Yes, it has fun, catchy songs. Yeah, it shows real kids in real places. It's full of cute, cuddly puppets. It feels like fun instead of learning. But how was all that going to teach my kids the Spanish language???

Ah, this is where Speekee FastTrack comes in. Every week I receive an email that outlines exactly what to do each day. It includes worksheets and activities and flashcards and games and all sorts of ways to incorporate the videos into real-life learning. The best part about it? It's all laid out, nice and organized, and ready to help you teach Spanish. The FastTrack program contains 40 weeks worth of supplements. It's meant to ensure that your children get a good grasp on the language.    

So, what did my little ones think of Speekee and his sock-puppet friends? Well, my oldest snubbed them half-way through the first video. You know, because 6 is way too mature for puppets. (Don't take it personally, Speekee. He never liked a certain show with a big yellow bird, either.) He did like all the work and learning though.  Go figure. The other 2 children (ages 4 and 2) loved the videos! I cannot tell you how many times one day my 2 year old watched the same episode. When eventually stopped watching it, he still wanted to leave it on as background noise. But, a bigger positive than they're enjoying it, they're learning! It's so fun to hear them sprinkle Spanish words with their English. Gracias, Speekee.    

If you would like to have Speekee come directly to your home and teach your kids Spanish too, the cost for a subscription is $7.50 per month or $60 per year. Could you imagine finding another private tutor at that price?!? He'll even come visit for the first 2 weeks for free and you can send him home and cancel your subscription at any time. 

We weren't the only privileged ones to have Speekee as our tutor. You can read more reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

* Disclaimer: As a member of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received this subscription in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Make It Monday: Magnetic Sticker Set

This is another busy bag that I made for our recent vacation. I've seen magnetic sets in various stores and have wanted to buy them all. There's just something so cute and fun about little magnetic scenes. 

The problem? 
They are way too pricey. 

Easy solution? 
Make your own.

I looked through my oodles of stickers from my scrapbooking days. I found 3 sets that worked well together. Then, I bought a box of magnetic sheets at Michaels. After that, I simply placed the stickers on a sheet.

I shouldn't really say simply. It was more like strategically. I wanted to get the biggest bang for my buck, you know? I fit the pieces in as tightly as I could while still leaving room to cut.

The box I bought came with 3 magnetic sheets. All the stickers didn't even cover half of 1 sheet. I bought the sheets nearly 2 months ago, so I don't remember the exact price, but I think they cost somewhere around $3 after my coupon. That means that the sheets cost about $1 each. (See, this is why I'm qualified to homeschool my children. Ha.) Between the stickers I had lying around for years and using a portion of 1 sheet, this activity cost less than $0.50 to put together. Now that's worth my money! 

I picked up a couple little metal suit cases, also from Michaels on clearance for $0.20 a piece. (Have I ever mentioned how much I love that store???) We store our magnets in one, but you could also use an Altoids tin, Ziploc bag, pencil pouch, etc.

The container doubles as a playing board! It's the perfect size to throw into a purse or diaper bag.

But when we want a bigger playscape, we play on a cookie sheet too. If you're using this as an on-the-go busy bag kit, you could also use a small pie tin if you don't want to lug around a big ol' cookie sheet. I just keep a cookie sheet next to my seat in the van for all our magnetic activities. It doesn't get in the way (in fact, you don't really even notice it) and it's always ready for fun. You can also use these magnets at home on the refrigerator or a metal filing cabinet. 

The kids love playing with these! I am very pleased with how they turned out. They were incredibly easy to make and very cost effective. I already have lots of ideas for more sets that I want to make!

I may still be drawn to the sets in the store, but no more do I have to lament not buying them. From now on, I'll just head home and make them myself!

Linked to Show-And-Share, the Sunday Showcase, TGIF Linky Party
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

National TV Dinner Day

Yesterday we celebrated National TV Dinner Day! We don't ever buy frozen dinners since I prefer to make most things from scratch, but that didn't stop us from celebrating. We simply modified the day. Instead of eating a frozen dinner in front of the television, we ate a regular home-cooked dinner. Now, it was nothing fancy. I had made chili on Saturday and had plenty leftover. I love using homemade chili for hotdogs, so that's what we had. It's so much better than the chili from a can. Another way to improve a simple hotdog is by making your own buns. Oh. my. goodness.  I'll be posting the recipe soon and you'll definitely want to try it. Trust me.

The kids were excited to "have a picnic" in the house for dinner. Every now and then we eat on a blanket in the living room and watch a movie. It's a special treat that they all love.

See? We used our divided trays. It's as close to a frozen TV dinner that we're gonna get. 

Happy National TV Dinner Day! Do you ever eat while watching TV?

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Is for Art

I am so excited to be blogging through the alphabet! My friend Marcy started this meme a while back and it looked like so much fun. You know how I am though, since I didn't start the first week, I personally couldn't start partway through. That would just be wrong. I was happy to see that she was starting again. And since it's week 1, I can participate!

So even though we're camping, here I am sitting beside the lake, typing. The sun is warm, the breeze is cool, and I'm thinking about art. (Or at least I was sitting by the water basking in the sun . . . a week ago. How am I ever going to keep up with all 26 letters when it's taken me all week with just the first one. sigh.) Art is such a big part of our lives. Not looking at fancy art in a gallery or anything, but creating our own. The kids can make art with just about anything. You can hand them a pile of scraps, and they'll turn it into something beautiful.

You don't need expensive supplies to create masterpieces. Here is a list of art projects that we've made using regular household items.

So much fun and so decorative! They're well on their way to becoming high-demand artists!

What other common objects do you like to use for creating art???

Still need more ideas for art projects? Click on our Make It Monday tab for oodles of artsy fun. And make sure to stop by Blogging Through the Alphabet to find other A words.

Blogging Through the Alphabet
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Pantry Surprise 9/8/12

I think we have a closet eater.

Some people leave empty potato chip bags scattered around.

Others shove candy wrappers into pockets or drawers.

Our kids?

Our kids sneak uncooked pasta from the pantry and leave traces of it on the bedroom floor.

For now, I'll assume it's a passing phase. But if I start to find spaghetti sauce and parmesan cheese on the dressers, we'll seek therapeutic help.

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National Read A Book Day

Have you noticed how many days celebrate reading? There's Mother Goose Day, World Read Aloud Day, Dr. Seuss Day, and lots more. Today is even International Literacy Day. You don't have to twist my arm to make me take part in a day devoted to reading, reading, and more reading. In fact, many of the fun days we celebrate, we spend an abundance of time in books (sea serpent day and leap day to name a couple.)

Thursday was National Read A Book Day. Yea, more reading! Of course, I'm pretty sure there was a typo when the holiday was registered. They meant to claim September 6 as National Read Books Day, at least for those in the young crowd who are not yet reading novels. 

I had each child pick out a book to read. Then I picked out a few myself - some we hadn't read in a while and a couple we never even read before. It's crazy to think to we have books that have not been read with all the reading we do around here, but when your children's library is well over 600 books and you often allow the kids to make the selections, a few stories tend to fall through the cracks. 

Speaking of books, yesterday I bought another 20 (Shh, don't tell my husband. He already teases me about my book obsession.) from Salvation Army for a grand total of $4.00.  I found some really great ones for school and a few for just because. Leighton is making me another set of bookshelves for our schoolroom. I'm so excited! I can't wait separate the books and use my label maker to organize them. Just think, it'll make things so much easier to find books of the same topic when celebrating national days. 

Oh, how I love books.

If you didn't participate in Read A Book Day, don't worry. Remember that today is International Literacy Day! Take time today either with your kids or by yourself and read a book or even writeyour own. Practice those literary skills. Your mind will thank you.

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