Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Reading Report :: March 2015

Starting a new read-aloud today. #shepherdslovebooks2015


That was March. There really wasn't that much on the calendar this month - so many things being cancelled due to our crazy cold weather. Maybe it's just because the last week was so busy! We went to the Nashville Teach Them Diligently conference at the tail end of our spring break and it was such a wonderful time of encouragement. If there is one of these conferences anywhere near you, I highly, highly recommend it!

Where most of my early March reading happens - in the warm car at soccer practice. ⚽️

Now we are thick into soccer season and counting down the end of our CC year and school year. Only four more weeks of Classical Conversations to go and, at last tally, 48 days of school left for Shepherd Academy. Not that we have a countdown on our white board or anything. Ahem.

I seem to always be pleasantly surprised when I get to the end of a month and look back at the list of what I have read. I definitely got through more in March than I thought! Granted most of these books were very quick reads (a couple of them I was even able to tackle in an afternoon thanks to spring break and nice weather outside where kids could play).
  • The Council of Mirrors (The Sisters Grimm book 9) by Michael Buckley This is the last book in the Sisters Grimm series. N2 is deep into this series and I decided I needed to read the last book before she beat me to it. I definitely lost steam near the end of this series.
  • The Friendship Riddle by Megan Frazier Blakemore (started and didn't finish) I was so excited about this book but after the first couple chapters ended up setting it aside. I adored her first two books but this one introduced some social issues that I'm not ready to hand off to my girls in casual reading.
  • The Golden Road by L.M. Montgomery 3/5/2015 (read-aloud) We were all very sad to get to the end of this two book series based around the King family.
  • Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater I read this as part of Amy's Newbery challenge as my book pick from the 1930s. A fun cute story that will probably pop up as a read-aloud for us down the road. I can totally see our boy loving this one.
  • Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon (reread) I'm really not sure why I picked this one off the shelf and reread it! But still, time in Mitford (in my opinion) is never wasted!
  • The Practice of the Presence of God by A.W. Tozer (skimmed last 1/2-1/3) This was the book of the month for Carrie's bookclub and I staggered through this one. Man, is my brain out of the habit of reading something a little meatier. Note to self: read non-fiction (and older non-fiction) more often to stretch those lazy brain muscles.
  • Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (R/a) We read this as a tie in with our American history studies for this year on Amy's recommendation and it was wonderful! Such a beautiful story of a life well-lived in the face of great odds. I shared a quote that I loved here and have several others that I might come back and share if time permits.
  • King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry My selection for this month's books in Amy's Newbery Challenge. I needed to read a book from the 1940s and having never read a Marguerite Henry book that seemed an obvious choice to me. (We have Misty of Chincoteague around here somewhere, but I've not read that one). I am now eager to read another of her books, and definitely putting her on our to-read-aloud list. 
Starting our next read-aloud today! #readaloudrevival

What I'd like to get to in April:
  • the 4th book in the Penderwicks series arrived today and I'm eager to dive into it, though I may have to race the 11 year old to get to it first.
  • the 5th book in the Incorrigible Children series arrives later in the month. Also high on my list.
  • a book for Amy's Newbery challenge from the 1950s. Right now I'm thinking of The Witch of Blackbird Pond (if I have read that one before, it's been YEARS), Theodore Roosevelt by Clara Ingram Judson, or one of another handful I have on a post-it in my planner to decide from. 
  • 1984 by George Orwell is the book selection for Carrie's bookclub and it's on my kindle waiting for me.
  • We also started The Green Ember as our next read-aloud. Excited to dive into this one with the kids!
I'm sure other books will crop up as well. : ) Happy reading!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Project Life 2015 :: February, Part 2 (and a smidge of March, I think)


Memories from the last few weeks of February. Lots of reading. Lots of snow. Not a lot of variety in my photos, but it's a true glimpse of those cold, cold weeks where we were home reading and eating and that was about it!


So much random-ness in my journaling cards. I'm on a mission to CLEAN OUT my stash and if it's out, it's getting used up.


Only one insert snuck in here. Someone is working really hard to write his name. : )


Photos + memories document = good stuff.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Notes from What We are Reading : Amos Fortune, Free Man

Amos went to church for long hours in the morning and again in the afternoon, observing with respect the laws that pertained to the Sabbath during the hours when he was not under the vigilent eye of the minister. It puzzled Amos that the white people put

Amos went to church for long hours in the morning and again in the afternoon, observing with respect the laws that pertained to the Sabbath during the hours when he was not under the vigilent eye of the minister. It puzzled Amos that the white people put so much stress on Sunday. Yet it seemed somehow similar to the stress they put on the color of a man’s skin. To Amos, once he understood the Lord, everyday was lived to Him.

Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Worth a Share

A few posts that I have bookmarked and keep referencing:

  • a post from Modern Mrs. Darcy on how to save big on audible audiobooks. I had noticed this a few weeks before she shared her post, but she wrote it out much more succinctly and clearly that I could have.
  • Heidi at Mt. Hope Chronicles has been on a book list kick lately and I am devouring them. My wish list in Evernote and Amazon is getting quite long.
  • these two posts on creative lettering. Handwriting and creative lettering has also had a special place in my heart and these two inspired me.
  • Mystie's series at Simply Convivial about using Evernote for homeschooling. I have been using Evernote to store recipes and blog posts I want to revisit for years, but I'm learning tricks to use it even more effectively. I'll never move away from planning with paper, but for long term reference and searchability, Evernote is the bomb.
Now I want to go and reread each of these posts as we start off a slow Saturday since our first day of soccer games have been cancelled due to the snow!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner


We are under yet ANOTHER winter storm warning here so it was time to pull out a spring book! This one arrived in the mail yesterday - I love it when I pre-order something for one of the kids and it falls off my radar. Surprise mail is the best.

We were a fan of Kate Messner's book Over and Under the Snow and when we saw that she had a spring/summer volume coming out, I snatched it up. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt is a delightful look at the inner workings of a family garden. While on the outside, you might just spot tomato plants and the tops of carrots, there really is a lot more than what meets the eye when you get in close. There are bugs galore (my little guy is all about the bugs right now) and other animals that come around to investigate the garden. These animal descriptions are interspersed with descriptions of how a grandma and granddaughter tend to the garden through spring planting, summer watering, and fall harvest.


And the illustrations are just delightful.

While reading this book today didn't bring spring immediately, it did give me hope that the sun will come again. In the meantime, I'm going to make some more coffee and go work towards something warm for dinner!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Restricted in Love


A photo of a boy, eating oatmeal and drinking hot chocolate, and sitting on his toes as only little boys can do.

Very often we feel restricted in our situations, our families, or our surroundings. But maybe the real problem lies elsewhere: in our hearts. There we are restricted, and that is the root of our lack of freedom. If we loved more, love would give our lives infinite dimensions, and we would no longer feel hemmed in.

- Fr. Jacques Phillipe

From the Restore Workshop.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reading Report :: February 2015


Reading in the winter is just the best. There are very few other (outside) demands on my time, and there's nothing much better than climbing into bed, almost immediately after I've tucked kids in bed, with my own book.

What I tackled this month:
  • The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery (read-aloud), blogged
  • The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, blogged
  • The Love Song of Ms Queenie Hennessy (skimmed) by Rachel Joyce - didn't love this one. I mentioned that I was sent this one for a review and again, language made me want to put this one down.
  • Bliss by Katheryn Littlewood, recommend to me the girls by our friends the Dillows so I snatched up a used copy and sped through it. Sweet, magical and involving baking. It was a great one to snuggle up with!
  • Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin (reread), one I read last year and recommended. Worth taking the time with it again.
  • The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner. I feel like I want to say more on this book in another post. This was one of those books that kept popping up EVERYWHERE I turned. Seriously, everywhere. Every blog I read reviewed it (some that surprised me), it was all over instagram as folks showed off their copies arriving. Just everywhere. Apparently I needed the message and I've already gone out and bought a copy for a friend. So yes, I think (I hope) I will come back and journal some here on this book.
Coming up in March:

My Friday night. I am about 1/3 of the way through this book so far and it's pretty fascinating.
  • Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin. Another review book, but I'm about half-way through it and it is fascinating.
  • The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer for the March Reading to Know bookclub. I totally wimped and bailed out on February's book (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Just a couple paragraphs told me that I was not going to put forth my best effort on that one!) But Tozer has been on my list to read for just FOREVER so I really, really, really plan to read this one. Really.
  • my book for Amy's Newbery read-aloud. (I got stuck on my little non-fiction jag as February ended but I'm not giving up on these Newbery books!) 
Happy reading, indeed.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Project Life 2015 :: February, Part 1

It's amazing how you can find time for a little bit of scrapbooking when you don't leave your home in five days. Our area was hit hard with ice the last week and from Sunday night to Saturday afternoon, our little crew was homebound, as were all the area schools and quite a few businesses. There was some snow playing here, but there was also school to be done ... we had taken a couple days off the day before for a winter break that coincided with a break with our Classical Conversations community so we needed to get some schoolwork in this week which we did succeed at, for the most part.


Last week (before the bad weather) we went to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation's annual convention which was at Opryland Hotel. They had a free family program which we did when N1 was in kindergarten, but they had a much more hands-on kids area this year - or maybe I don't remember our first visit very well. They had quite a few booths with different pieces of outdoor equipement (bows and arrows, bb guns, etc.) that kids could try. As you can imagine, a certain four-year-old boy was in HEAVEN. (The girls enjoyed it as well, but the boy was in his element).


Another random page protecter that I cut to work for what I wanted. I rarely take vertical photos but definitely didn't want to exclude these pics of the girls at the state park's photo booth.

Tennessee State Parks had several booths set up as well and I am inspired to get us out to some of these parks that we've not visited when the weather warms up. We live in a beautiful state and haven't taken the advantage of it that we could.


Paddington photo from the internet.

Random February moments. (The green card above hides a photo of one of our recent foster girls).


Random photos from this week. This miscellanous-ness (totally made up that word) of this page makes me happy, but this was a lot of what went on this week. So much reading. Ice. And ending it with a friend coming to spend the night and rescue us from a week of our own company!


Photos + memories document = good stuff.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reading Report :: What He's Reading Now

Mom, you can get under my blanket and read to me. #itssimplytuesdayUntitled

We are on day four of being iced in here at home so suffice it to say there has been a lot of reading aloud. It's been a while since I've documented what the boy has been into reading so it's about time for a round-up of those tiles that I have read over and over and over and ... you get the picture. I've been doing a little searching and looking at booklists for some new-to-us books that might interest the only boy here in the house and these are a few that we've enjoyed:

  • Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant - must get another book in this series because after some initial hesitation, this is the one that has been reread the most this week.
  • A Perfectly Messed Up Story - this one has him giggling when you turn the page and find there is jelly! and peanut butter! in the the book!
  • It's a Tiger! - one of the favorites for bedtime. A little boy is exploring the jungle and everywhere he looks he finds a tiger! Run!
  • Toy Boat - this is probably the sweetest of the bunch. The story of a little boy who makes himself and little boat and what happens when the boat gets away from him one day out on the lake. The illustrations in this one are very sweet.
  • Not Your Typical Dragon - the story of a little dragon who has some unique talents and doesn't quite fit in.
  • Dragons Love Tacos - another one that is repeated quite a bit and might get added to our personal bookshelves. Dragons DO love tacos, but you better not feed them anything spicy!
  • 10 Little Rubber Ducks - one of Eric Carle's that we don't have and that I can't remember reading so I'm glad that I brought this one home from the library. Any books by Eric Carle involving animals are always a hit with the boy.
We are also currently working through A Bear Called Paddington as time permits. (Some nights neither of us have the energy for chapter book reading). We saw the movie last weekend as a family and pronounced it super cute so it was a logical choice to jump into since he was somewhat familiar with the characters. It's a book I've never read so I'm eager to read it with him!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Project Life 2015 Looks a Little Like This

Project Life has been my go-to scrapbook approach for the last three years now and I still love this concept. Pictures that pop into pockets. Cards that have lines for quick journaling. As little (or as much) embellishment as I want ... it still really works for me.

That said, I was ready for a little change in the way that I worked through my album. Especially as we have started foster care, my time is even more limited for scrapbooking and I'm finding that I'm even missing pulling out my camera for moments that I do want to remember which I REALLY don't like!

The plan for now: no weekly layouts. I just don't have a guaranteed time that I can sit down and work on the album as my days change, well, daily around here! For now, I'm printing pictures again at home with a little Selphy printer that Travis got me for my birthday. Definitely NOT as cheap as sending them to Sam's which had been my go to for the last couple years, but having the pictures in my hand in a matter of a couple minutes has made it a little easier to get them in my album.


This year is about using up some of the PL cards that I have been hoarding. I've cancelled my Studio Calico kit subscription which I enjoyed the last several years and am all about using up my stash.

Line through the bottom right photo because of a speck of something in the printer. I'm embracing imperfection and putting it in there anyway!


I'm also all about using up the different size page protectors that I've accumulated around here. On the left above is the story of the table that Travis BUILT for us and I stuck a journaling card in behind one of the pictures. The back is filled with miscellaneous school notes.

A recent story by B - definitely needed including.


Another random page protector that I found. I used the Project Life app on my phone to make some photo collages that I could print as 4x6 prints and then just cut them in half. Super easy.

And the best - the photos from our trip to the zoo on Monday are already in my album so that we can enjoy them.

Still sold on Project Life and it's simplicity for  me and am really enjoying a more laid back approach to it for this year!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy Birthday President Lincoln


My girls asked me yesterday what we were going to do to celebrate President Lincoln's birthday today. Obviously, by taking pictures of our Lincoln books! We don't have the right kind of pretzels to make log cabins and we have lost quite a few of the lincoln logs so this will have to do. Luckily, we are a book loving bunch.

The book in the top photo is the newest Lincoln book we have read (as of yesterday), Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman. We enjoyed her take on our 16th President and her artwork was definitely eye catching.


We found this book via list I spotted through Facebook which of course I can't find now. It generated a whole slew of new-to-us picture books that we have been working our way through and hopefully I'll have some winners to share soon.

Post that relates:
- some of our Civil War reading

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Reading Report :: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting


Finished! My friend Amy is hosting a Newbery Through the Decades Challenge this year and I finished January's book ... only one week into February. Close enough! I read The Voyages for Doctor Dolittle for the first time and I have to admit, I loved it! Such a quirky story about the famed animal doctor who can talk to animals. The book was chock full of adventure - it would make an excellent read aloud because of the fun storyline (and the shorter chapters).

Hugh Lofting had just the right amount of descriptive language throughout the book. (Since I've just come off reading L.M. Montgomery aloud to the kids, I'm quite sensitive to when too much description is too much!) One of my favorite descriptive sections which I marked:
It was a wonderful kitchen, that. I had many meals there afterward and I found it a better place to eat in than the grandest dining room in the world. It was so cozy and home-like and warm. It was so handy for the food, too. You took it right off the fire, hot, and put it on the table and ate it. And you could watch your toast toasting at the fender and see it didn't burn while you drank your soup. And if you had forgotten to put the salt on the table, yoou didn't have to get up and go into another room to fetch it; you just reached around and took the big wooden box off the dresser behind you. Then the fireplace - the biggest fireplace you ever saw - was like a room in itself. You could get right inside it, even when the logs were burning, and sit on the wide seats at either side and roast chestnuts after the meal was over - or listen to the kettle singing, or tell stories, or look at picture books by the light of the fire. It was a marvelous kitchen. It was like the Doctor, comfortable, sensible, friendly, and solid.
I checked out the book from the library, however, it's free on Kindle. Of note, when you "buy" the kindle version, the audio version from Audible is ridiculously cheap! I've been filling our audiobook library up this way lately with several classics by tacking the audio book on to a very inexpensive, or even free, kindle book purchase.

Up next, I'll be reading a book from the 30's as part of Amy's challenge. Since I'll likely only get to one, I'm trying to decide between:
All three of these are currently in our house which is half the battle sometimes! Of the 30s winners, I have read Thimble Summer and Caddie Woodlawn and enjoyed those some time ago.

If you want to join in, you can read about Amy's challenge here!

Monday, February 09, 2015

On the Menu :: Overnight Crockpot Blueberry French Toast

Crockpot blueberry French toast. Oh, we will be making you again.

We tried this recipe out on Saturday night and it's a keeper. Not one of my better attempts as a faux food blogger because it was (a) winter/dinnertime lighting and (b) not much in the way of leftovers so I could take a better picture in the daylight. We are big fans of breakfast-for-dinner and I seem to go in spurts of keeping it in the rotation and then forgetting about it for a while - probably because I feed the kids waffles for breakfast fairly regularly. However, Travis doesn't get them as often so whenever I pull a full-on breakfast for dinner, I get rave reviews from him.

Anyway, you can view the recipe here - I made it as is with no changes (unless you count leaving out the vanilla because I forgot about it). I even used leftover french bread that we didn't eat with dinner and just threw it in all haphazard. You definitely don't want to cook it longer than the suggested 3-4 hours. We pulled it out at 3 1/2 hours and it was starting to get crispy on the bottom (but I liked the crispy sweet pieces of bread. Yum yum.)

PS. This post from Flower Patch Farmgirl on surviving motherhood by way of food spoke to me. Worth a read.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Read Aloud Report :: The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery

The current read-aloud. One of my favorites!

We finished our first read-aloud of 2014 this week - The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery. This was part of the L.M. Montgomery reading challenge hosted by my friend Carrie at Reading to Know and it is one of my favorite things about January.

This is the second LMM book that I've read with the girls and I think, at 11, 9, and 7 1/2, they have reached an age where they can wade through Montgomery's lengthy descriptions with the best of them and come out the end with the gist of the story. (Obviously, this is with a read-aloud. The little two definitely aren't ready to wade through her works on their own). Our first was Jane of Lantern Hill which just might be my absolute favorite of her books and one that I recommend anyone starting out with when introducing their kids to LMM.


Our diagram that helped us keep the King family straight during our read-aloud time.

I'll leave you my original post on The Story Girl which explains why I love it, and it's sequel, so much. Some of the comments from my girls at the conclusion of this book were quite humorous, and spot of, after this year's experience with LMM.

From the 7 year old: "I like the stories that The Story Girl tells, but not the other parts of the book."

From the 11 year old: while I can't remember her quote verbatim, she picked up quickly on Montgomery's lengthy descriptions of  places and scenery and that many more words seemed to be used that were actually necessary.

From the 9 year old: "When can we get to the part where we find out what is in Cousin Rachel's blue chest?!"

Thanks, Carrie, as always for hosting this challenge every January. The big question, now that we've finished The Story Girl, is do we continue on with The Golden Road or save it for later. One sneaky child looked ahead the table of contents and saw that Aunt Olivia gets married so there may be no holding us back because of course (!) we have got to read about that. : )