Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 2017 Reads ... or Lack Thereof

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

El Morro National Monument, New Mexico

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Hoover Dam, Nevada



Ventura, California

Malibu, California


Santa Barbara, California

Arches National Park, Utah

And that is the reason I have little to no reading to post this month! We were either frantically wrapping up school, packing or preparing for the trip, or traveling across the United States over the past two weeks. It was all sorts of fun, but left little time for reading. A grand total of two things were read this month:

  • one was a read aloud that the boy and I finished at bedtime, Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary. It has been a LONG time since I have read Henry and Ethan and I promptly went to the library and checked out some more books about him. 
  • I also finished Outlaws of Time #2: The Song of Glory and Ghost by N.D. Wilson. This is the second book in N.D. Wilson's Outlaws of Time series. While I am a big fan of his 100 Cupboards books, and enjoyed one of his stand-alone mysteries, this series continues to baffle me a bit and I seem to have a hard time keeping up. However, I don't mind adding his books to his library because I have a fantasy-loving girl that will enjoy them, and I feel sure the boy will down the road. 
This week is our Classical Conversations practicum (3 days of a mini classical homeschool convention and training for next year) and then I'm hoping there is much pool and reading time in the near future!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

What She Read in April 2017


Squeaking in on the last day of the month to report on April's reading. Such a good month for read-alouds in this house. I'm not saying it's because we are thisclose to the end of the school year, and right now reading aloud is about all we feel like doing! (Math and a few other things are still in the loop, but the end is in sight.) We finished four read-alouds this month, and I read three books - two in the last week ... another sign that I'm about to get a small reprieve from school stuff for some fun reading downtime. :)

Our read-alouds that we finished were:


  • Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. The boy and I read this at bedtime over the last month and as I mentioned in March's post, I really enjoyed reading it this time around. The stories are just so clever and funny. I know some of the humor went over Ethan's head, but they were animal stories which automatically makes it a hit with him. 
  • The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong. This was such a great book. We were totally sucked into the story of the school children in this small Dutch town. The towns surrounding their small area all have storks that come and nest on the roofs of the houses - why doesn't their town have storks? A simple question asked leads to this small town on a quest and several unexpected friendships to bring the storks back to Shora. Loved this one!
  • Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton. This book is such a gem. The story of Henry who loves to draw. But one day one of his drawings escapes and comes to life and, as expected, mayhem ensues. Lots of big thoughts about how it can be scary to be an artist and let your work out so others can see it ... and comment on it! My books is littered with little post-its of great quotes and turns of phrases that I wanted to remember:
Quest. It was probably the best word of all the words ever made up. It meant going on a really long journey to find something you want a whole lot.
Henry was telling the truth. Dragons aren't scary - well, they are, but they're a good kind of scary. They're the kind of scary you want to be scared of. People are the bad kind of scary, he thought. Dragons can only eat you, but people can laugh at you, and that is like being chewed to death with a smile.
It is a dangerous thing to open a door. But that, after all, is the only way to find an adventure.

Of note: we got to meet the author at a book signing for Henry, and she was delightful. :)

      • Stuart Little by E.B. White. This is the first time that I have ever read this one which surprises even myself, considering I'm such a fan of Charlotte's Web and The Trumpet of the Swan (review). We enjoyed it - I do have a soft spot for mouse tales - but I also found this book a little on the odd side. It was a nice short read-aloud, but Stuart is no Wilbur. 
      The books that I read this month:
      • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. I picked this one up for Amy's Newbery Challenge. I'm just sure that I read this at some point as a child, but it has been a while! It's the story of young Kit who must move to colonial Connecticut to live with her extremely strict relatives. The religious liberty that these colonists came to America to find have them extremely suspicious of anything that doesn't fit into their mold, and Kit finds herself very lonely until she meets a women who most of the village suspects is a witch. Fascinating read about early America and one that I think I'll pass on to N2 this next year when we return to American history in our studies.
      • The Unbreakable Code by Jennifer Chambliss Bertram. This is fun literary mystery set in San Francisco. I read Bertram's Book Scavenger last year enough to make sure that the sequel was on our shelves when it came out last week. If you liked Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library or books with lots of literary references sprinkled throughout, I recommend this one!
      • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro. This book was recommended to me by Nicole on Instagram. I enjoy mysteries (can't get the Nancy Drew out of a girl once she's hooked) and when she said this was a YA series based on the descendants of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, I decided to give it a try. This was a great mystery and I definitely liked the premise of the Watson and Holmes descendants always finding each other. That said, I didn't care for some of the language in the book, but that is my only quibble with this. 
      And with that we are on to May. :) With the prospect of school ending, a family road-trip, and the pool opening in the next several weeks, I have high hopes for more reading time to come. Which means a summer reading list, naturally!

      Saturday, April 01, 2017

      March 2017 Reads


      March has come in like a lion and is going out like a lion! It has been a full month as we are about one week away from winding up our Classical Conversations work for the little folk in this house. (N1 still has about a month left of her Challenge A class). Thus, it has been a light month for personal reading around here. We did just come off of a week of spring break, but there wasn't much downtime for reading as I was on a decluttering mission, as you do when the weather starts to warm up and you want to shed all your winter fluff in all areas! We have been reading aloud a ton and that is the sum of most of what I have to report this month.


      The boy and I have been in a fantastic night time reading routine and finished two bedtime books this month. We read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl - that book just gets better with each read through! We also finished Akimbo and the Lions by Alexander McCall Smith. This was one of N1's favorite series when she was reading small chapter books and it was a winner with Ethan as well. Really, anything with animals is a winner with him. Right now he and I are about half way through Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, another one that I am enjoying immensely more this time through. Maybe it's because I just came off a year of teaching grammar in our homeschool co-op but Kipling has such great plays on words, alliteration, and clever turns of phrases that it's just been a delight to read. And the stories themselves are fun, too.


      Our school time read-aloud for most of March was The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. I remember seeing the old movie as a child (and was slightly traumatized by the shipwreck portion at the beginning of it!) but had never read the book. It was mentioned in Sally Clarkson's recent book Different as one that really resonated with her wild boy she was trying to tame ... off I went to the library for our own copy to hopefully inspire a couple of mine, likewise. :) This was was actually first published in 1941 (I also didn't realize it was so old) and tells the story of how Alec and the Black were the only survivors of a tragic shipwreck. They learn to depend on one another and Alec becomes the only person able to tame the savage horse. They make it back home and the book culminates in a fantastic horse race - I'll save the spoilers of who won, but I bet you can guess. :) This was a GREAT read-aloud and one I'll pull back out in a few years when Ethan is ready to read it on his own. I could see him getting lost in this whole series.

      Personally, I read three books (I guess I did read a little more than I thought!) but one definitely took the a huge chunk of my month. Johnny Tremain was my pick for Amy @ Hope is the Word's Newbery challenge for March. I had never read this one (shock!). Set during the Revolutionary War against England, this is one I am considering revisiting next year when we work through American history.


      I also read The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill and Pekoe Most Poison by Laura Childs (both on Kindle). Pekoe Most Poison is a light mystery in Laura Childs' tea shop mystery series. A nice clean mystery series sometimes is hard to come by and this is perfect for someone who was a die-hard fan of Murder, She Wrote when she was in junior high, a-hem. :) The Girl Who Drank the Moon was the 2017 Newbery winner and I loved this one. So much that I went in search of more Kelly Barnhill books from my library. On its surface it is a simple tale of magic and love and protection, but through out the story we are unraveling the little lies that the main characters have told to "protect" each other. But were those lies really worth it for all the heartbreak and misdirection they caused? It was one that I picked up for a song on Kindle last year, and it was well worth the couple of dollars I spent on it.


      It's almost time to start thinking about SUMMER READING. :) (I'm eyeing my Mitford stack and wishing I could while away the hours rereading those favorites - there is new one coming in September and I am ready!) I'm hoping to start pulling together a summer to-read list for myself and thinking of what would make a good evening family read-aloud with our whole crew. Book lists are definitely some of my favorite things.

      Tuesday, February 28, 2017

      February Reads for 2017


      Last day of February ... sneaking in here at the last moment to catalog what has been read around these parts this month. My stack is still on the smallish side, but there has been lots of reading-aloud done and I've checked a couple books off my list that I've been wanting to get to so it's a win for me.

      As far as read-alouds, we finished three this month, though only two are pictured above. One was the bedtime book for me and the boy - we are working our way through his sister's Roald Dahl collection and it has been such fun to read these again with him. The nice thing about Roald Dahl, besides his fantastic writing, is that his chapters are just the right length for a little boy winding down at night and on a good evening we can get through two during a reading sessions. Fantastic Mr. Fox was the recent read and enjoyed by both of us. We have since moved on to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which is always an excellent read-aloud. However, as I read, I go back and forth in my head between the Gene Wilder version and the Johnny Depp version of the movie, depending on which part of the book I am in. So confusing! And don't ask me to pick a favorite because I love them both! :)


      As a collective bunch, we read aloud Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. This is the second time that I've read this one aloud - the last time was in 2010, before the boy was born. At that time, I had one 7 year old girl hanging in there with me while I read it (and two tag along little sisters) and it was a new book to both of us. This time, I just didn't love it as much. Peter and Tink really aren't very nice people! I think I prefer the polished up Walt Disney version.



      Working on our review crossword from our apologia science workbook. I do this along with the little girls and it's very interesting to see what I am able to remember from the lesson vs. them!

      The last read-aloud (not pictured) that we checked off this month was our science text, Apologia's Land Animals of the 6th Day. We started this "text" in the Fall of 2016 and it has taken us about a year and half (minus summer) to work our way through it. We have learned so many things about mammals and I'm so thankful that I got to read this along with the kids as part of our schooling. And now, I see the fruit as the three younger will spout out random and interesting animal facts that they have retained at different moments, ie., when the boy and I were emptying the dust canister from the vacuum and he comment that there were probably a lot of dust mites in there that we just swept up. Um, yes, there probably were! Ick. :)

      That strong willed child, that one that process information differently than I do ... such a radical change of perspective to think those are the very things God will use instead of things I need to fix. Very much looking forward to @sally.clarkson new bo

      Personal reads for me were all over the board this month! I finished Sally Clarkson's newest book Different, which was written with her son Nathan. This book probably deserves more discussion than I have room and time for here, but this is different than many of Sally's other books that she has written. This was a book written for the mama who is parenting that child at home that is what she calls an "out of the box kid." They don't fit the mold or expectation of how a child should learn and behave whether it is because of a larger than life personality, a learning struggle, clinical diagnoses of some kind, or a combination of any and/or all of the above. It was an encouraging read for me as we navigate different scenarios with a couple of our own and I need to go back and make note of some of those things that I marked the first time through. Highly recommend this one.

      I read Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer as part of Amy's (@ Hope is the Word) Newbery Challenge. I'm two for two so far for 2017! Roller Skates is a story set in New York in the late 1800s. And, as always when I read books set in a time since past, I am amazed at the freedom given to children in that day and age. (A similar feeling struck me as I read the All of a Kind Family books and The Saturdays, and its sequels by Elizabeth Enright). You can read Amy's review of Roller Skates here - this could be a great read aloud as you study America during this time period, but might need a parental pre-read if you have super sensitive little ones.

      Another one that I finished, not pictured in the photo was When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This was the 2010 Newbery winner - and again, recommended by Amy - and it was good. There was mystery, fantasy, and lots of literary tie-in's to A Wrinkle in Time and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

      The last book that I read this month was one that I picked up on a whim at the library and read over our winter break. The After-room by Maile Meloy is the third book in the Apothecary series. I had read the first two books quite some time ago. Long enough that I was VERY fuzzy on characters and story line and pretty much everything going into the third book. That probably should have been a clue that I didn't love them enough to spend the time reading the third book, but I did anyway if just to see the series wrap up and move on.

      And there's February and it's on to March. I realize that February is the shortest month, but it seemed to FLY by this year. If you read anything amazing and wonderful in the last while, do share. I am realizing that my books seem to be junior and YA lit heavy lately, but that is where I'm finding all sorts of reading gems so I'm unapologetic about it. :)

      Saturday, February 18, 2017

      Mama's Successful Winter Break Involves a Crockpot


      Our CC group was on break this week, and it worked out perfectly for us. I seem to do better (as do my kids) on a six/seven weeks on, one week off schedule. Sometimes this lines up with our homeschool tutorial, sometimes not. But I was ready for a week to recharge. Usually these weeks involve lots of cleaning out of closets and tasks around the house, but I didn't do as much this week. All of our regular activities were still on the calendar (music lessons, Awana at church, gymnastics, etc.) so our days were still humming. However, unknowingly, I managed to give myself a bit of a break by putting four brand new crockpot recipes on my menu plan. I know! Totally risky. Crockpots are funny things - the right recipe is gold, but there are plenty of bad ones out there.

      In the spirit of mom solidarity, I thought I would share the four that I made with our comments. All of these recipes came from Six Sisters Stuff. I've been following them on Instagram for a while now, and when I see them post a recipe I like, I use Instagram's new little save feature (the flag that is underneath a photo on the right). Then when I'm menu planning, I pull up my saves and go through and see if anything new jumps out at me to try.

      Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas - this recipe is actually one that the Six Sisters made from the 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook. We had some taco meat left over from the weekend from something at our house, and I found one smallish steak in the freezer. I knew my kids would not be fans of the onions and peppers cooked with the steak, but the grownups were. One smallish steak plus a load of veggies was perfect for me and my husband to have for dinner ... and the kids got taco leftovers. I'll make this again.

      Slow Cooker Lasagna - this was another good one. I made this on Valentine's Day. (Nothing says Valentine's like something Italian). It was tasty and just the right size for our crew. FYI - on all these recipes I used my 4 quart crockpot, instead of my bigger 6 quart. If I make a recipe to fill my larger 6 quart size, I generally end up with more leftovers that I want to eat! The 4 quart has been working out perfectly for us, but I know that won't last long. As different children enter different growth spurts we run out of food some nights!

      Crockpot Creamy Ranch Pork Chops & Potatoes - this one got RAVE reviews from my kids. I honestly don't know the last time they have gushed about a dinner like this. The six year old boy kept asking for more "chicken" (we corrected him several times that it was pork, but it didn't stick) and said that this meat was "'ah-licious!" multiple times. (I will be so sad when he stops saying delicious that way). My 11 year said that if it wasn't considered rude, she would lick the sauce from this dish off her plate. High praise indeed for this one!

      Crockpot Swedish Meatballs - another major hit with my kids (and me!) This is the only recipe I took a picture of and, other than the fact that my meatballs fell apart in the crockpot after cooking all day, it was such a good comfort food dish. I did what Six Sisters suggested, and served it over mashed potatoes and that was pretty fabulous, and I'm not a mashed potatoes person. I think the meatball problem was that they were turkey meatballs made from a Pioneer Woman recipe and in my experience, I have not yet learned the trick to getting my meatballs to stay together well. It didn't affect the taste in the least!

      All these recipes are going in my keeper pile and into rotation. I have my favorite recipes and cookbooks that I fall back on time and time again, but it's always nice to find a new recipe / blogger / Instagram account to add into the rotation for some new inspiration!

      Saturday, February 04, 2017

      Things That Are Saving My Life : February 2017

      Our Tennessee winter has been crazy mild this year. We had one brief bit of snow right around Christmas and that is (sadly) all the white stuff that has hit these parts. Lots of 50 degree days (which has been nice) and lots of rain (which has been quite soggy, especially with a puppy that has to go out all. the. time.)

      Anne Bogel (of Modern Mrs. Darcy) makes a list in February of things that are "saving her life" right now as she slugs through the second half of winter. While I love cold weather and wish it would get cold enough for me to pull out my big coat, I can relate to the slugging through. By the time you are homeschooling through January, it's not nearly as exciting to crack open the books as it was in September when they were brand new. School supplies have lost their lustre (and usually their lids if we are talking about pens around here) and I'm replacing the first round of dried up dry erase markers. I loved her suggestion of throwing out a few things that bring a smile right now so here are a few of mine, in no particular order:


      1) Making a more concerted effort to read. I have appropriated (with permission) one of my girl's Kindle paperwhites and am toting it around with me so I always have a book at the ready. Never fear, there is a stack of "real" paper books sitting on my desk that I'm planning on giving some attention to.


      2) Reading aloud. Always my favorite part of our homeschool day. Right now, we are reading Peter Pan. I try to remember to write inside the cover when we read books out loud and the last time that we read this was before the boy was born, almost seven years ago when N1 was his age!


      3) Chocolate peanut butter powder. It is not for everyone, but when you need a sweet treat, it sure tastes yummy when you dip banana into it.

      She is so much cuter at 6am instead of 3am. #georgiareyshepherd #mamaisnotamused

      4) Puppy love. This was my birthday present this year and she is my new baby. Georgia Rey is a little goldendoodle, she's about fourteen weeks now and just as cute as can be. We are deep into puppy nibbling, lots of trips outside, and the occasional barking in the middle of the night, but she is still the most fun.


      5) The Hide Facebook Feed extension on Chrome. I have wanted to take a long, extended break from Facebook for ... forever. However, I have a business page connected to my personal account and deleting my account (and even disabling it) causes wrinkles. The Hide Facebook Feed in Google Chrome fix has been PERFECT. The only reason that I get on FB anymore is to check the occasional group, answer something sent in Messenger, or see what I'm tagged in. Those still reach me through email or I can pull up FB's page and check the left column to see if anything new is posted in the groups I care about. Best use of technology in 2017 by far, in my opinion.


      6) Less screentime for little people in general. Do not hear that I am a "screens are evil person." I love my iPhone, iTunes, Kindles, etc. But, truly, we got in a habit with morning screen time on Christmas break and it was great ... for our break. Not so good for school mornings. With small exceptions for a boy who has the privilege of sitting an hour at sisters' music lessons or gymnastics class, screen time has been greatly reduced during the week. It's been good to see the piles of Transformers on the kitchen table and books laid open where someone sets it down mid-chapter. A certain boy also spent one lunch hour perusing the newest Lego catalog and asking for help in writing things down for his birthday list. (His birthday is in October, but nothing like being prepared). :)

      There are always other things that are a must on a list like this - coffee, my morning quiet time before little people awake (now punctuated with a playful pup), a new pack of pens in all the colors, but these are the currents for this year!

      Monday, January 30, 2017

      January Addendum

      As par for the course, since I got our / my January reads up last week in a timely manner, I've now got a couple additions to make! (Truly, though, this is a rarity). However, we did finish another read aloud on Friday and I made time over the weekend to read a short Newbery honor book and I would hate to leave those off my reporting lists. They are worth sharing about!

      Since it was Friday, we went for a quick little read aloud that we could finish on one sitting ... The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh. 🐻 Perfect length and subject matter for an animal loving 6 year old boy. #readaloudrevival

      On Friday, we decided to pick a (super) short read aloud so that we wouldn't be starting something that would have to sit over the weekend. Sometimes I find that when we start something new, we need several days in a row to dive into it or we lose momentum. The boy picked The Bears of Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh off our shelves, and since it was short we dove in. This is the story of young Jonathan - a boy growing up at the base of the Hemlock Mountains. These mountains are full of all sorts of wonderful animals that Jonathan observes with his favorite uncle, James. Except for bears - of course, there are no bears on Hemlock Mountain! (Or are there?) No one will speak definitively on this matter, but Jonathan is soon sent on an errand over the mountain to collect a large pot from his aunt. Will he find bears or won't he? This was a fantastic read for one sitting and our animal boy LOVED it. The illustrations in the version that I linked are also fantastic. I can see this being something that we will pick up again and that the boy will enjoy reading when he is off and reading independently.


      The other book I finished this weekend is one that I chose for Amy's (@ Hope is the Word) Newbery Challenge. This is her 3rd(?) year of hosting this challenge and I have been a very sporadic participant. I am going to try my best to jump in when I can this year and with that in mind, I decided to read The Windy Hill by Cornelia Meigs this weekend. It was the perfect length. You can find the book in print, however, I read it on Kindle because I already had that version (and it was free). An honor book for the Newbery in 1922, it tells the story of Oliver and Janet who are spending some of their vacation with their cousin Jasper. However, there is a family mystery and of course they need to get to the bottom of it! It is full of stories within a story as the children learn about their family history with a little bit of a puzzle to thrown in for good measure. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this - definitely time well spent this weekend!

      I don't foresee finishing any more books before January is over, so I'm feeling pretty confident about pressing publish on this post! Then it is on to February!

      Thursday, January 26, 2017

      January Reads for 2017

      Happy New Year!


      I had good intentions of writing sooner than the last week in January. I miss this spot and some times want to peck a few more keys that I am allowed on Instagram. I guess we'll just warm back up to posting with a quick post on what I read in January, and it will be short and very sweet.

      Evening reading.

      This month, I got through four books - three of them were read alouds with various and sundry children, and I got through ONE book personally. Why only one, you ask? Well, I bought myself a new edition of Little Women for Christmas and my January goal was to reread this beloved favorite. It did not disappoint. It has been several years since I read this ... I want to say that the last read of this book was with the girls and we only read the first half of the book with promises to return and finish the second half. (Ahem, apparently that has never happened!) Reading this book over and over through the years as a teen, then as a young adult, as a mama to littles, and now returning to read as a mama of one little and a handful of (gulp!) middles, it has something for me in every age and stage of parenting and loving my family well. Working through anger and impatience (like Jo); being graceful, patient and willing under affliction (like Beth); running a happy home and loving my husband and children well (like Meg); and using the small talents that God has given me in whatever small way that I am humbly allowed (like Amy) - this book never fails to inspire.

      And now I want to read Little Men. :)

      The three read alouds that we read this month were so randomly and fantasticly different.

      Not the bedtime reading I would have chosen but the boy and I finished this tonight at bedtime.  #readaloudrevival
      • Animal Planet Chapter Book: Sharks - The boy and I had been reading through this at bedtime. (Not my first choice for bedtime reading, but he seemed to suffer no ill affects). This was actually a book sent to me by the Amazon Vine program to read and review and it got two (make that four) thumbs up from us. Lots of facts and pictures for my animal loving boy and we are going to hunt for a few more of these books for him.
      • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - This is the first time that I have read this book aloud and B (age 9 1/2's) first time through the book. I think she has seen this movie once, but with our older two, the general rule was that had to read through the books to get to watch the movies. (And that usually resulted in getting to stay up late after other siblings went to bed for a private showing with Daddy. Super cool privilege). :) I'm pretty sure that B has been grandfathered in to a few viewings as a younger sibling, and honestly she hasn't been as interested in diving into the series as they were. She is my one that has not jumped into reading as fast as the bigger girls. The first time that she expressed interest in the series, I handed her the hardback from the library. The sight of so many pages completely overwhelmed her! We solved that problem by an offer to read it aloud together at bedtime AND we read the book on Kindle. Problem of an overwhelmingly big book solved! We finished it up yesterday and are looking for a night where we can watch the movie together.
      • The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton - this is a delightful stand-alone story that was recommended to me by a fellow homeschooler on Instagram. It is a blend of nonsense and wordly wit that reminds me of the great Roald Dahl. There were so many lines that I wanted to go through and flag so that I could read them to my grammar class that I teach in our Classical Conversations community - fantastic uses of alliteration, rhyme, -ly adverbs, etc. The author is a crazy, talented illustrator in her own right AND is the sister in law of Andrew Peterson, author of another of my favorite series, The Wingfeather Saga. So many good signs that pointed to us loving this book. And we did. Highly recommend as a read aloud and for your library.
      There were several that I wanted to read in January that I just didn't get to ... Little Women consumed all my time, and I just didn't have as many spare minutes this month. Luckily next month has a week of winter break for us and I always try to spend some down time with a book when we aren't doing as much school. I'm already looking forward to it. :)

      Linking up with Amy at Hope is the Word who is bringing back a once-a-month Read Aloud Thursday roundup. Yay!