Friday, March 27, 2009

How We're Doing AO Free Reads

We're actually just starting to work through AO Year 1 Free Reads. I've been reading Pinocchio for a while now, but it's slow going. Having to do readings for both of them everyday leaves me with a lot less motivation to do other readings again later. We only have about 6 chapters left of Pinocchio, then I'll start reading Peter Pan.

I had tried getting Pooh interested in reading some of them on his own but was unsuccessful until recently. I've been having him read Stuart Little to me. I think a big obstacle with Pooh was that he would come across words he didn't know and if I'm not there to ask, he'd prefer not to read it. Also, there is the interest factor. It's not as exciting to him as history is so he feels he has to work harder. He had already read part of Stuart Little months ago but never finished it. Thankfully, the day we started back on it was a day where we were reading about Stuart at the dentist's office. Pooh giggled all the way through that part because of the man in the chair trying to talk. I was reading that part and made sure to make it just as if I were in that chair and the dentist's tools were in my mouth. Very funny indeed!

I'm assigning Pooh his free reads from now on. His next assignment will be Little House in the Big Woods. I'm hoping that eventually he'll get to the point where I start the book with him, but then he follows up with it in his own time. Although, I've never read any of the Little House books so I'm anxious to hear the stories. LOL

I found a copy of The Tale of Despereaux the other day and he started reading that book all on his own! He reads everything out loud. Everything. Exactly when does the silent reading start in child development? I've been curious about that. One nice thing about him reading aloud is that it keeps Tigger entertained!

I plan on us being 'behind' on free reads. That, to me, is perfectly ok. I want to take them slowly, not only for my sake as regards time, but for Pooh's sake with his readiness to read them. I've got two boys to read to and myriads of things going on all the time, so it's good for Pooh to be able to work on some of the easier free reads himself. I'll continue to tackle the heavier duty ones myself. Some books I know he'd take one look at and completely freak at the thought of reading them. Pinocchio was one and Peter Pan, while catching his interest, looks quite a bit wordier than Stuart Little. Pooh still likes pictures here and there in his books too. Really, who doesn't appreciate a well drawn picture to go along with a great story?

Some of the other free reads like Charlotte's Web and King of the Golden River I'm still hunting down. I keep hoping they'll turn up in the used book shop I frequent, but so far, nary a sight of them. We have a home school conference coming up and I plan on hitting the book fair so maybe I'll find a few treasures while I'm there.

Well, that's how we've been handling things so far. Got questions/tips? Leave a comment or shoot me an email!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


A couple of significant things happened this week. Significant in the world of Pooh.

The first you see here:

I had already prepared dinner and was upstairs on the computer while waiting for the King to come home. Pooh decided he was going to make the table "fancy". He started all on his own getting out my champagne glasses and filling them with Coke. LOL Meanwhile, I was ordered to stay upstairs and when the King came home he was ordered to stay out of the kitchen. He even let Tigger help.

When we sat down, he pretended to be a chef and Tigger was the waiter. They got our orders and filled them. Pooh even suggested to Tigger: "Ask them if they want to talk to the chef." We, of course, decided that we'd love to talk with the chef! It was a wonderful conversation. Chef Pooh told us he had learned to cook some things from his mother who had gone to Italy at one time. (yes, I've been there. ;D) We complimented the chef on his great service and the waiter too.

There were so proud that they did it again the next night. In fact, the table was set all the way with plates, napkins and anything else we needed.

They are such a hoot!

The second significant thing is here:

This is a boy with autism eating a sloppy joe and not freaking out about it. I saw a look on his face somewhere around the beginning of him trying to eat it and so I started reminding him why it was called a sloppy joe. (I had discussed with him before that this is a 'sloppy' or 'messy' joe.) So when I saw him look at the meat falling out onto his plate and then look at me, I just smiled real big and said, "That's why they call it a sloppy joe!" He smiled real big and said, "Yep, it's a sloppy joe." He then repeated that a couple of times while eating dinner.

The other significant thing about him eating this is that it had diced onions and peppers in it and he ate it all without picking them out!!! This is the boy who begs for lasagna and then takes it apart layer by layer and picks the veggies out. Whoo Hoo for sloppy joes!!!

Change comes to those who wait (and sometimes wait and wait and wait) :D

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Greenhouse Update

This is how the seeds start. See the cute little newspaper cups? Those are made by the King and Tigger. It involves this little gadget.

This is our first year getting the windows somewhat sealed so that the temps don't drop so low. We just used some doubled up plastic that we had gotten for free in a very big roll. It was then stapled and tapes around the edges and the overlaps. It isn't professional or even the best solution, but it worked for us as the following photos show.

This is my volunteer tomato plant. I think it's a cherry tomato. It now has flowers.

This is a close up of my cucumber plants. I have one plant with two iiiiittttyy, bitty cukes on it. Sooo cute!

This tray is a mixture. It has a couple of brussel sprouts, a couple of cabbage, some parsley plants and the one with the yellow flowers is another cucumber plant. They look a little spare because I just transferred them to these pots. They were just in my little newspaper cups before this.

Here's my lettuce. Isn't it pretty!

This is the carrots. They are a very short carrot and while the greens look lovely, so far the actual root isn't yet big enough to eat.

Pardon the mess (if you see it) in there. We actually did a clean up in there this past weekend. The King is building me a shelving unit in one corner. Yeah!!! I went through a bunch of stuff and decided to put all the big pots on a shelf OUTSIDE the greenhouse to help with space issues. I gathered all the saved newspapers into one area. We use those under mulch to help cut down on weeds. But you need a lot of them and they take up lots of space. I can't wait to get them in the garden!

I still have to get my sink set up in there, but I think I know where I want it and I may use a sink I already have in a potting bench I haven't been using. I'll eventually have to take down the plastic we have covering the windows. The nights need to be consistently warmer before that happens. The greenhouse is closed all day for the next few days, but when we have sunny weather in the 60's I have to leave the door open to keep the temps down. It can easily get to 100F in there when the sun is shining! I'm planning on putting in some type of shading for the summer. Probably some roll up blinds.

More to do is getting our rain barrels ready. I have a bunch of barrels that need to be sanded down and painted and polyurethaned for use this year. Here's hoping that will happen. LOL We always have more projects than we have time for.

Note to self: Clean the house during this rainy weather so you can be ready to get back outside when the sun comes out. (If it ever does. :O)

A Candid Review of AO Year 1 Books...So Far (Part 3)

This is a review by Pooh. I asked him what he thought about each book separately and these are his responses. If I had let him, he would have told you a story from each book, but I really just wanted you to get an idea of what he thinks about each book in general. These are written exactly as Pooh talks so you have an idea of that as well.

An Island Story: It's a great book because it has history of Britain. The part of Britain which is now called England.

Parables from Nature: Weeeeell, it talks about nature. A lot about animals. I hate it because it's boring.

James Herriot's Treasury for Children: I like that one because he takes care of animals like Moses, the kitten.

50 Famous Stories: That's a good book. They have sometimes about ships and artists and heroes and different leaders.

Just So Stories: I like the part of how the Alphabet was made because Taffy was funny. I like it because it has the whale who swallowed the man.

Burgess Bird: I like that one because it has cardinals and the downy woodpecker and Bully, the English sparrow.

Paddle to the Sea: I like that. It's about an Indian in a canoe and it had to get through some lakes to get to the sea. It even went through Canada and the United States.

Ben Franklin: I like it because he was a great American. He was trying to tell the government to have peace with America but they wouldn't listen. He even met King Louis.

George Washington: It's cool!

Pinocchio: It's great! He has cool adventures. He has to see his Papa.

Stuart Little: It's cool. I like the part where he does the sailboat race on the schooner called The Wasp.

Aesop: It's cool because it has some wolves in it. I love wolves.

Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare: I like the stories like The Midsummer Night's Dream.

Poetry: I like Robert Louis Stevenson. There are some ships on his poem books and castles.

There you have it. It looks as if the only book on Pooh's black list is Parables from Nature. Not a big surprise.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


When the King got home yesterday, we decided to go for a walk while the boys rode their bikes. We were outside and Tigger was asking where the King was. I told him what the King was doing and said we'd just wait for him to finish.

Pooh says: "Mommy, we're waiting just like the cricket had to wait, right?"

See, even though he 'hates' that book, he's still learning from it. Amazing.

(He was referencing our latest story from Parables from Nature.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Candid Review of AO Year 1 Books...So Far (Part 2)

Well, I got the hard part over with. Now onto some lighter material.

What we've discovered this year is that Pooh. Loves. History. He really, really, really, really, loves it. LOL His reading took off a few months ago, we started some Year 1 books such as An Island Story and 50 Famous Stories, and now he's taken over the history aspect of his learning.

He checks out history books (with a little dinos and pirates mixed in. ;D). A lot of them are centered around colonial times. He will talk about bible history too. He draws the city of Jerusalem with the biblical beasts that attack (representing world powers). He wants to know who was governor of Rome when and what part. And he'll remember it. He helps me remember stuff I never would without him.

Needless to say, the aforementioned books are his favorites of the year. He's even taken to carrying them around and re-reading chapters that we've already read. I do allow him to do that. Once we've read it as part of our school day and he's given his narration, he can re-read those chapters. He's very good about sticking to that rule. also, Pooh loves anything to do with England, so studying the history through An Island Story is thrilling for him!

This love does lead him to some static conversations. I use several different 'tactics' to deal with that. Ignoring it. Asking him to stop and continue later. Throwing him curve balls with misinformation. Singing a silly ditty that one of the words reminded me of. (Ex: He was reading a Step into Reading book about the ship Endurance getting stuck in the South Pole (i think--you'll have to ask Pooh for the details because I don't remember) and he mentioned something about the 15 men. I started singing the ditty from Treasure Island-15 men and the Dead Men's Chest... "Mommy, what are you doing?" "You said 15 men!" ) Ok, I know, I'm weird, but it keeps Pooh on his toes. ;D

So, the history readings are going very well. He can focus on listening and narrates beautifully.

The Burgess Bird Book: Not a favorite, but not horrific either. Pooh has good and bad moments with this book. I have a feeling that the Burgess Animal Book will go better. I don't think that the bird stories really captivate his interest. His favorite is still one of the first ones we read. He really likes hearing about Bully, The English Sparrow. sigh

Just So Stories: This writing style is soooo different. I never heard these until this year. I like them but wasn't really sure how it would go over with Pooh. This is another so-so book. He finds parts of it amusing and parts of it just don't interest him. He's getting a kick now over the stories of The First Letter and Alphabet because of the little girl in it. Her nickname is Taffy, but her whole name stands for something along the lines of "little girl with no manners who ought to be spanked". He had me say that several times and would just laugh! LOL I did manage to watch a film recently on pbs about Rudyard Kipling. It was the one where his son goes off to war and dies. In it there are a couple of scenes where the actor is reading bits and pieces of Just So Stories for some neighbor children. Listening to him, I understood more of the grandeur behind the stories. How richly they can be told aloud. I always use voices in my readings. For Taffy, I try to sound like the little girl she is. It's nothing compared to the actor's readings but the boys enjoy it.

James Herriot's Animal Stories for Children: The first one we read did not go well. At all. However, each story has gotten progressively easier and better. Pooh is enjoying each one more. He loves dogs and so receives a special treat when we're reading about one of the dog stories.

Paddle to the Sea: This is a really good book. We're enjoying using the map in the book to track Paddle's adventures. Pooh and I both learned that Lake Michigan is shaped like a wolf's head. Thrilled him to no end to understand that! ;D These chapters are only one page and the book is loaded with pictures.

Pooh also loves the Du'laire biographies recommended for Year 1. Big surprise. :P

Next I'll post Pooh's responses when asked about his different books and I'll also do a post on how the free reads have gone.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Candid Review of AO Year 1 Books...So Far (Part 1)

Last month I almost threw out one of the books we use for our AO Year 1 schedule. Almost. I even said, "That's it! We're not doing this one anymore." Any of you who've used AO Year probably know which one it was.

Say it with me: Parables of Nature. Yep, week 24 of our schedule and I'm ready to hurl the thing across the room. Why haven't I given it up altogether you ask? Replace it with Among the ______ People? I can be a little stubborn at times. (cough, cough!) That's part of it. The other part is realizing that all the stress is coming from HELLO!, ME!!!

I've read on the AO Yahoo boards that this book is a difficult one for many kids to get used to. For a child with autism, it is extremely hard. A huge part of it is the language. Pooh has language delays and CAPD (central auditory processing disorder). He doesn't always know what is going on or he'll get things backwards (who is talking to who(m)?). At other times, he can give me a very good rough narration.

One chapter we've read is called Training and Restraining. It's basically about the wisdom behind being guided by principles and rules. It is illustrated through a story of flowers in a garden who are tied up and guided to grow certain was being tricked by the Wind. The Wind convinces them that they don't need these restraints, that they can be 'free'. Of course, the Wind then blows hard enough to completely destroy many plants, making a complete mess of the garden.

I like this book. When I'm not trying to help Pooh narrate from it. LOL I like how the author uses nature stories to teach us life lessons. It reminds me of some of Jesus parables from the bible. It will make you think. Which is the whole point really.

I've stuck with this book for several reasons. There is the usual 'finish what I start' mentality I've got going. I like the book. Pooh has been able to narrate small portions of it without help, so I know the potential is there. It is challenging for him. (a good thing--I'll explain why soon.) It's stretching his thinking and narration skills.

What I've discovered is that:

1. I need to take this book in small sections on a more regular basis. I can't do one story in 1-2 days like many. It's too much. The stories are too long. The both of us get stressed about it. What I'm doing now is taking 2-4 pages at a time (with several stops for narrations) and just doing it every day until the chapter is done.

2. I need to remember to let Pooh read this to me more. He seems to pay better attention on this book when he reads it aloud himself. Because the book is harder for him, it's too easy for Pooh to allow his mind to wander when trying to 'listen'. Reading himself helps keep his focus. Today I saw a big difference when I did that. He still got a little confused over some details, but he was able to give a narration instead of saying "I forgot to listen. I'm sorry!"

3. I have to do some narrating myself with this book. It helps Pooh to get the story a bit better.

4. Keep him on track. Today's story had a paragraph that mentioned a volcano. That was all it took for him to start going off about the volcanoes in Hawaii. A gentle "Ok, but we need to narrate what's happening in this story right now." is all it took for him to refocus.

5. Accept that what he does get out of the story is 'enough'. He may or may not get all the deeper meanings behind these stories. He may sorta get it. One thing about Pooh is that one little tidbit will sometimes connect with another tidbit a lot later on and then he gathers enough to come to some excellent conclusions. I have to learn to wait for that. (Incidentally, today we finished the story about Waiting. How appropriate!!! ;D)

6. Explain some of the unfamiliar words. Today as he was reading, Pooh asked me what a crone was. "An old lady" I said. Let us hope that that word stays in our literary world. I can just hear it now "Mommy, is grandma a crone?" Within earshot of said Grandma, of course. LOL

I'm glad that I have so far persevered with this book. Do I think that Tigger will get much more out of it when it's his turn? Yes. However, I like that Pooh is getting his 'tidbit' and maybe when he hears it again for Tigger, he'll pick up some more 'tidbits' and it'll help connect some missing pieces for him. Today ended well. He told me that "mole had good advice" and "the crickets had to wait just like we have to wait". Those were two of his own observations just from what he understood. Even though he didn't capture many other points, he captured two important things and that was wonderful. (Whew! Somebody have a towel?? I can wipe the beads of sweat, I mean glow, off my forehead. ;P)

Access to this book online is here. You can also find it on Amazon.

I started this with our hardest book first. I have seen a lot of progress and wonderful things since beginning this journey with a CM education. I'll share how the other books are going soon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Today's Schedule

I know that I'm always looking at others' schedules to get ideas and to see where I can make improvements, so I thought I would present our morning for those who may be looking right now. I have one student in AO Year 1 and one in my own version of a .5 year.

8am-Mom rolls out of bed on a rainy morning. I am an hour late (stayed up too late the night before!!!). The goal is 7am so that I have exercise time. Spend some time on computer and drinking my morning tea.

9am-Both boys are now up and I start them doing their morning routines and chores. Take time keeping Pooh from reading books (he has a hard time not stopping to read some history along the way) Warm them that school will start at 10am. Mom is busy making bed, doing a little laundry, watering plants in greenhouse, getting supplies ready for afternoon seed planting.

10am-Boys are ready and mom is still putting dinner in the crock pot. We don't celebrate the holiday but I found the corned beef on sale and since it's been years since I've eaten it (like 20 yrs) I'm making corned beef and cabbage. With a little Dijon mustard. Ooooo, momma, that's good! School started at 10:20am.

10:20-11:15-Daily Text, Genesis chapter 46 (even slipped in a little Spanish--la biblia, Genesis, capitulo 46 LOL). Also, Tigger's code B Explode the code pages, Pooh's copywork of daily text and Tigger's math page.


11:40-Pooh's Math ladder game. Start readings. One chapter Pinocchio, Pooh reads aloud from Stuart Little (free read-I'll post about this later), one chapter Paddle to the Sea, two pages from Parables from Nature (this will also get a separate post), The Tale of Tom Kitten (Tigger).

12:45-Lunch Tuna sandwiches with carrots and tortilla chips. Kids get 15 minute break while mom eats and watches a couple little health excerpts online from the Today Show.

1:15-Begin audio of Learn from the Great Teacher

School is officially over.

2:00-Off to Lowes! My cukes in the greenhouse are starting to flower even though they're still incredibly small. I need to buy a pollinator spray since I'm not intending on inviting bees in there. ;D (The search to 3 stores was fruitless!!! Nobody has the spray now. I guess I'll have to use a paint brush until I can order some.)

I won't bore you with the details of the rest of the day. :D Suffice it to say that some days we have errands to run, some times they get outside and play, there's composer/artist/nature/spanish studies going on at various times. Also, if we had gotten started on time, we would have been done earlier in the day in order to provide time for those 'electives'.

We have officially ended Term 2 and started this week on Term 3. I'm running about 3 weeks behind the schedule I had set for us so that means we'll school right through June instead of taking a month off. I want to start Year 2 in July so as to have more flexibility for getting out in good weather next year for nature walks, etc. July and August are very hot here and we tend to stay inside a bit more anyway.

New Bird-Pine Siskin

These little birds have shown up at our house this winter perhaps within the last month. They could have been here before and I just didn't catch it. They look very much like a female house finch or you could possibly mistake it for a female goldfinch. That's who they seem to be hanging out with-the Goldfinches. They are after the thistle seed. If you do a Google search, you will find that people from all over are having an irruption of these birds. I'm glad that I don't have numbers up into the hundreds like some. I couldn't afford to feed that many! Thistle seed is pricey!!!

What got my attention were the yellow bars on its wings. One day I was watching my feeders through the window and noticed them while it was fluttering. Boy, that bird book came open so fast!

Some minor differences I've noticed and things I look for when I'm trying to figure out who is who:
*The beak is pointier-sharper looking.
*This bird is aggressive-it goes after any other birds looking for its spot. A serious 'don't mess with me' demeanor.
*It is streaked like the house finch but instead of white hints in its wings, there are yellow hints.
*I believe it is a little smaller than the house finch.
*When it flies you may see the bright yellow bars (or patch section). I need to investigate that more because it seems as if the female may not have the bright yellow patches that I saw on the male.

My observations of these birds have come on rainy days so that may affect how they appear to me. I hope to view them when the sun is shining to get a better idea of how they compare to the other finches. Oh! and I guess you could say it might resemble a song sparrow too. That may help you get an idea of what I've seen. The picture above shows the yellow very well, but you may not be able to see it as easily when it's hanging partially upside down on a feeder.

I've got my new camera! Hopefully, I'll be able to get some bird photos of my own now. I'm not sure how that's going to work without scaring them away but I'll give it a go.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Nature Science Center

We went with our homeschool group to a local science center on Friday. Even with the dreary weather we had a great time.

The snake room was open and the volunteer took out several snakes AND a bearded dragon for the kids to touch. This snake I *think* she said was an albino corn snake. She did show us two different corn snakes. When you lift up the corn snake and look at the belly, you can see why they named it the corn snake. It looks like ornamental corn with it's dark and light corn pattern. My favorite was the bearded dragon named Elvis. LOL He felt very interesting. I was surprised after feeling the smooth snakes to feel how rough the dragon was. Not exactly cuddly, but very cute!

The outdoor zoo had a little petting area. The kids got to see Alpacas, touch sheep, goats and Tigger informed me this morning that there was a peacock there. I never saw it! Tigger said he tried to scare it so it would show its feathers. Evidently that didn't work. LOL

We tried to see these Maned Wolves, but there were snuggled together sleeping. Kind of a good idea on such a cold, wet day.

See those blobs of brown behind the stick? Those are the wolves. Technically the sign said they're not really wolves or foxes. They sort of look like the australian dingo to me. Very interesting.

We visited the gift shop of course and Tigger came home with a gold digging kit. Boy, they ripped that right open when we got home! They really tried to keep all the dirt on the mat, but were just too into it to bother. They are now the proud owners of a little pouch of gold. LOL Tigger let Pooh help dig some out. All sorts of tools were used as you can see from the photos. That block was hard!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pampering the Boys

I told the boys they were going to have a treat. "It's called a manicure." They thought it was something to eat! LOL I had both of them sitting at the kitchen table with a towel under their hands. First came the liquid cuticle remover. Then they each soaked their hands in a warm water solution of honey and lemon juice for 5 minutes. After drying their nails, I pushed back cuticles, did some very minor shaping and gave them a clear gloss topcoat. They were so proud of their shiny nails! ;D

I did have an ulterior motive. Pooh's nails are terrible. He's been a nail biter for a couple of years now. It's gotten to where he bites them down to the almost bleeding stage. He picks at the skin around all his nails, along the sides and the top part which should be under a nail. He's never messed with the cuticles and they looked like they were starting to take over what nail he does have. I've read before about providing manicures to nail biters in the hopes that it will motivate them to take care of their nails.

Usually Pooh bites and picks when we are at our Sunday meetings. However, today all he did was pick out dirt from under his nails. When I looked at him he said "I'm just getting the dirt out." He never bit or picked at them. Has it worked??? Only time will tell. I hope to give him a little manicure every week or two if it motivates him to leave his poor nails alone. Maybe I'll actually get to clip them! I haven't been able to do that in years.

These pictures were taken a couple of days later, but at least you can see the present state of their nails after the manicure. Yup, there's dirt again. The one with some length on the nail is Tigger. The ones down to the quick are Pooh's.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mother Culture: Pampering the Body

Is there not some need for "mother culture"? But how is the state of things to be altered? So many mothers say, "I simply have no time for myself!" "I never read a book!" Or else, "I don't think it is right to think of myself!" They not only starve their minds, but they do it deliberately, and with a sense of self-sacrifice which seems to supply ample justification. There are, moreover, unfortunately, only too many people who think that sort of thing so lovely that public opinion appears to justify it. But does public opinion justify anything? Does it justify tight-lacing--or high heels--or bearing-reins for horses? It can never justify anything which leads to the "Oh, it's only mother" tone in any young person.
from The Parents Review
Volume 3, no. 2, 1892/93, pgs. 92-95

In this article, they were mainly discussing the growing and caring of the mind. However, I think 'Mother Culture' should apply to the body as well. Too many of us give up the care of our bodies during the time our children are young. I'm trying to change some of those bad habits I've fallen into. Some things that tend to fall by the wayside are: diet, exercise, hobbies and even spirituality. I'm working on several of these right now. However, today's post is just for the skin.

Old Man Winter has done a number on my body. My hands are dry, my legs are itching and my scalp is flaking. Not a pretty picture I know. A couple of years ago I bought some ingredients for making skin care products. I did the smell test and they all seem to be viable. So today I decided to make up a couple of products and indulge my body in some overdue skin repair.

First a shampoo. I basically made a pot of tea. I boiled water and put in a couple of tea bags of sage, one of peppermint and some rosemary. After it had steeped for about 30 minutes, I took the tea bags out and added in about 2 oz of castile soap. I have a huge block of castile soap I had bought and I shaved some off for this recipe. The castile and tea get warmed up so that the castile is well melted. You let this cool and then add a couple of tablespoons of vodka and whatever essential oils you like. For this shampoo, I went with the herbal theme I already had going and added rosemary and peppermint. I haven't used this yet as it needs to sit for a couple of days.

Second a body butter. This I've never made before, but I have to do something about my itchy legs. I melted shea butter, cocoa butter, and a little beeswax in a bowl in the microwave. Added some other oils like apricot kernel oil and rosehip seed oil. Then I heated separately 1 cup of water with 1 teaspoon of borax in it for one minute in the microwave. With the hand mixer I started blending the melted oils and gradually added in the water. Wow! That's how they get the cream to turn white! Borax, who knew? LOL

I blended and blended but it was taking too long to cool and firm up. Soooooo, I started putting the mixture into my freezer for 5 minutes at a time. After each 5 minute period, I would take it out and blend it up again. Towards the end I added the essential oils I wanted which were rose, lavender and geranium. I now have a full jar of body butter! So exciting!!!

A few more items were needed before I headed to the tub: sugar-to blend with my liquid soap and do a body scrub, my face wash--will also mix with sugar for a face scrub, hair rinse-a blend of apple cider vinegar and water. These supplies were placed next to the tub.

Now for the pampering...Ahhhhhh! Once that was done, body butter on (heavenly and went on like dare I say it ? butter!) I wrapped in a big tower, applied a facial mask (this one was bought--I'm using that up first) then got dressed. I feel wonderful and I smell really good! LOL And a bonus, my legs don't itch. (sigh of relief!)

I'm not done yet! After a detour in pampering the boys a little (details tomorrow), I'm onto my feet. I realized during the brief warm up we had this week, that my feet need a little TLC. Last night I remembered to put on my Burt's Bees Foot Creme with socks. Then today I pumiced during the bath and now my pedicure is done! In honor of spring, my toenails are a pretty pink, namely Tulip Take Off. More pumicing and moisturizing must be done on my heels to get them ready for flip flop weather, but at least now I've made a start. Ever since I was a little girl, I hated the sight of cracked heels. Only vigilance will keep it from happening and I aim to pamper my feet this spring.

I shouldn't have waited so long to get this done. It makes it that much more work to slough off the old and herald in the new. Nighttime moisturizing is now on my schedule.

How about you? Have you pampered your skin lately? Get those old, scaly feet ready for spring!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gardening Has Begun!

This past weekend was GORGEOUS! And yes, I had to yell that word because it soooo beautiful. We went from 34F on Monday to 79F on Saturday. It kinda felt hot! LOL

I managed to get my out-of-shape booty outside to get some things started in the garden. It was tough because I was suffering a cold. But I did it. The plants don't seem to mind my fever and germs. The King and I put stakes in the ground and wound garden twine to make trellises for my spring peas. I always plant sugar snaps and snow peas. (They are in the ground now.) I love them! They're good cooked and in salads. I also planted cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and onion sets. I bought those plants this year instead of starting them from seed (well, i have a couple of little plants of cabbage and broccoli that I started from seed) because I never seem to be able to get the timing right! My brain was too busy to try to mess with it this year.

I did put in some leek seeds though. I have some in the greenhouse and some I just planted in the ground. We'll see how they do. Leeks are great because you can leave them in the ground through most of the winter and just dig out what you want to use when you're ready. Leek and potato soup is a winter soup must-have.

I have some brussel sprout plants that I was given in the fall. They never did produce anything but there's still some life to them even after the snow. I'm just going to leave them in the ground and see if I get any sprouts on them this spring. If all else fails, maybe they'll go to seed and I'll collect the seeds from them.

I'm a lazy gardener so I always have things sprouting up that I don't plant in the current year. I've noticed I have some Tom Thumb Lettuce coming up in the garden. Last year I planted it but it didn't do too well. I never pulled it up and it went to seed. So now I have several baby lettuce plants going to town out there. I keep telling the King that my laziness seems to pay off in these instances. I always have cilantro reseeding itself. And dill. They come up every year on their own. Lots of times it comes up where I don't want it, but, hey, lazy beggers can't be choosers. ;D

I'll post pictures when my new camera gets here and I figure out how to use it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Camping Supplies

We've been shopping. The tax refund was received and immediately put into use. One main plan this year, was to get supplies so that we could start camping as a family. Last year was the first vacation we had taken in a long time and we decided that we needed to do that more often, even if it's just long weekends. The only way we can afford to vacation is to start camping. Paying $20 a night verses $60-$80 makes a big difference to us. We'd like to spend time at beaches, mountains, Washington DC and, as you know, I want to head back to Jekyll Island one day.

Here are some things we've recently acquired or already had. Some we paid full-price, some have been found at Goodwill and some were given.

Tent-similar to this one. Ours sleeps 6. Bright orange. I really wanted one that would blend in but couldn't find one in our price range. We set it up this weekend and it looks great. I love the vestibule area! The boys slept in it and they had a blast. I was sick and didn't want to chance making it worse with an allergy attack so I stayed indoors this time. I'm ready to give it a go as soon as my head is clear. We do plan on sealing the seams too which is another reason it'll stay set up for a little while.
Tarp-one to go under the tent. This protects the flooring of the tent. We'd like to get another tarp to put on the inside floor of the tent so as to easily clean up anything that gets tracked in. Although the rules are "no shoes, no food, no drink". I'm really averse to being eaten by a bear. I'd also like to get a tarp or something to hang over the picnic table area. That way we can still sit out and cook when it's raining.
Sleeping bags-we purchased only two for now. They are for the adults and are rated for 20F. We have one old sleeping bag and some blankets that the kids will use for now.
Sleeping pads-these go under the sleeping bags. Evidently, the cold of the ground will still seep through the bags so you have the pads to prevent that. Ours are the self-inflating kind. We purchased the Coleman brand for now.
Lantern-this is a rechargeable one. It has a nightlite and low/high settings. It works pretty well.
Whistles-for everyone to wear. This is a safety issue. The King is a little more paranoid about it than I am but it is recommened in the camping books we've been reading. You fall down somewhere or even get lost in the campground trying to find your way back to the tent from the bathrooms in the middle of the night, you've got your whistle. LOL
Cooler-our large cooler is cracked so we'll use that for the dry goods (bread, pb, crackers, etc). The one we purchased is smaller and will be for our cold/frozen items. It's on wheels and has a pull out handle like luggage.
Drink cooler-for water.
Kitchen bag-this is a bag we found at Walmart that has a special carrying pocket for our Coleman stove. The rest of the bag can carry the propane containers and other odds and ends of the kitchen.
Duffel bag-I would love to find 4 different colored ones so that each of us can recognize our bag just by looking at it. So far I have one in red.
Coleman 2 burner propane stove and two one burner ones that I'm not sure how they work. One is an old military one that has some sort of waxy looking container that sits under it. The King can figure all that out.
Pots and pans-I have cast iron skillets and a couple of regular pots were given to us. I'm thinking about getting a griddle in the future. For the pancakes of course! ;D
Ceiling fan-This is a little gadget that you can hang in the tent when it's really hot to get some air moving.
Camp chairs-we have 3 Coleman adult size chairs and one small camp chair for Tigger. He found a cute little umbrella at Goodwill that attaches to his chair for some shade and he loves it. He's into gadgets like his dad.
Pocket knives-The King has a myriad of these all over the place. He loves these kinds of things.
Flashlights--we have a couple of the regular kind that need batteries and one that you shake for a minute to get it to light up. That one isn't the greatest, but it'll do in a fix, especially for the boys.
Fishing supplies-I know we have a couple of fishing rods and even a box of tackle that was given to us. I'm not sure how much we'll use this. Maybe once we get out into the whole camping 'arena' we'll use it more. At this point, the boys aren't interesting in eating any fish. I'm not really interesting in cutting off the heads. Ick!

I'm sure we have more odds and ends that we've gathered but that's all I can think of right now. I'm guessing it's a pretty good start. I'd like to experience a few camping trips to see what else is needed or even not needed.

Our first trip will be in another month or so. We'll be heading to Wilmington, NC. Our local homeschool group is planning a little 2 day venture there to visit the Fort Fisher Aquarium and to experience a River Boat Ride. There are only about 5 families going but I know we'll have fun. We'll all be staying at the same campground, some in tents and some in cabins. We're heading there a day early and staying a day later to take advantage of a couple of seeing a couple of other things. I'm considering going to see the Battleship that's there and I'd like to just hang out at the beach a little. I may not swim as I think it'll be too cold, but the boys might. They seem immune to the temperature of the water until they're done playing. Then they're freezing. ;D

Here are a couple of photos to wet the appetite. I'll be taking more while we're there and will definitely share.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Great Bee Count

Some of you may have participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Well, I have a new project for you!!

Visit The Great Sunflower Project for more information on recording the bees in your area. They will send you free sunflower seeds of a particular variety (yes, it matters to them). Then you plant, watch, record and enter online just like with the birds.

Very easy! We're trying it for the first time this year. Some things to learn will be telling the difference between wasps and bees, identifying the different types of bees, all about pollen, all about bee hives and bee habits. This could be very interesting!

If you are participating, let me know. It'll be fun to see everyone's data.

Water Saving Update

I got my latest water bill. This time around we've used HALF the amount of water we used last year.

Last year 20.45 average use per day.
This year 10.57 average use per day.

When I figured it out money wise, we've saved over $18 on just one bill. The only major change we've made since last February is to use our bath water to flush the toilet. That's it. I still use the dishwasher for the majority of our dishes and hand wash the others. I have the same washing machine and dishwasher we had last year.

It's got to be the flushing. Who knew it would make such a big difference? I just wanted to try it as an experiment. I'm not a Nazi about it. Sometimes we do flush with the handle, the boys especially tend to forget. Overall, I'm very happy with our savings and will continue our 'No Flush' methods.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Boys' Party Summer 2008

The theme was Pirates. I know you're not surprised. LOL All our summer parties are kept outside. That's purely for my sanity. We usually have around 20 kids and it's all water play. We set up the water slide and various other sprayers etc. If we end up with rain (which only happened once), we postpone to the next weekend.

We had a battle of pirates vs. landlubbers complete with cannons (water balloons). There was a treasure hunt...

Then there's the grub: goldfish, squid n seaweed (hot dogs cut and cooked to resemble squid on a layer of green spagetti),

And we can't forget the cakes. This is the pirate ship cake. It's sitting on blue dyed coconut for the water effect. There are rollos involved for the gold on board and those cookie stick things for the cannons. It was listing to one side no matter what I did, but that kind of went well for the whole idea of it being attacked by a Kraken. :)

Treasure Island was actually filled with treasure. I used those colored coins sold at the dollar store to insert within the cake after baking but before icing. Also the bottom of the cake was baked in a bundt pan so it would be hollow in the middle. A great place to hide more candy and jewels. A smaller circle cake was placed on top and the whole thing iced and covered with sand (crushed graham crackers). The people and other decorations were picked up at one of the dollar stores.

The paper that I used to label the cakes and other food was doctored up to look like an old pirate paper. If you have plain white or tan paper, you can take weak tea and stain the paper. Then you carefully burn all the edges. Just be sure to blow it out almost as soon as you lite it or you'll be left with ashes.

The enjoyment part...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Real Snow at Last!

Most people on the east coast of the US just had an awesome snow fall. In our area, we ended up with 5 inches. I know because I took my measuring stick outside and measured several places in our yard just to be sure. I never trust those news forecasters on snowfall totals. ;D

My camera was out of commission during this snowfall so I have no current pictures to show you. I do have a couple of pictures of the usual sissy snow we normally get. That 'light dusting'...

January 2008

January 2009

See what I mean? Sissy snow. Not this time though. With 5 inches we were finally able to go sledding!!! It's been about 5 years since our part of the country has seen 5 inches. (and if I remember correctly, that was the year our power was out for 3 days and we broke down and bought a kerosene heater.)

We took off to a nearby school (I knew those public schools were good for something. LOL) and proceeded to spend two hours riding down some great hills. It was so fun to see everybody out there. There were, of course, tons of little kids, parents and even teens on their snowboards. We had pretty humble equipment: cardboard and an empty bird seed bag that was great for me! ;D They all did the trick.

After that we came home for a potty break and lunch. Then the kids went back outside in our yard while I did some inside chores. They were very disappointed that they couldn't form a snowman. The snow that fell was pretty dry. However, with a little bit of melting from the afternoon sun and Dad to the rescue, they were able to go back out in the evening and make one. Complete with eyepatch and one of their pirate hats. (of course!)

Charlotte Mason would be so proud of all our Outdoor Time today! LOL

Surprise!!! One of my friends is graciously letting me use some of the photos she took in the woods behind their house. She did a great job with these pictures, don't ya think?

And a few of her feathered friends enjoying the seeds she provided...




Hope you enjoyed a glimpse of our recent winter wonderland!

Jekyll Island, Ga 2008 Vacation Pictures

This is the place we decided to take a rest stop at on our way back from Florida. It just happens to be right off I95 and the most fabulous rest stop EVER! LOL On our way we picked up sandwiches from Subway and one of these pictures is of me chowing down on the beach.

This is after we got the boys cleaned up and changed. They had a blast. You can see the bridge we crossed to get to the island in the background.

Here's a link with a lot more info about the island. Since it was a Sunday when we were there, the Sea Turtle Center was closed. However, I told the King that one day we'll have to go back there and do some camping. It's just too beautiful. I'm a sucker for peaceful beaches.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Sea World 2008 Pictures

Waiting for the Shamu Show to begin.

The Show:

After the show with one of the trainers. This show affected Pooh powerfully. He was very emotional when it was done. He even shed a few tears. I think it was a combination of the story presented (of a young boy who grew up to work with whales at Sea World) and his own love of anything related to the ocean.

Feeding the dolphins. If you want to do this, show up extra early and make a beeline for the feeding area. Otherwise, you'll be waiting in a very long line.

Flamingo Parade: This was hilarious. They had a flock of flamingos with their trainers? coming through one of the main paths that the tourists walk on. They were just calmly walking along. It's the closest I've ever been to one of these birds. The kids thought it was great!