Friday, July 29, 2011

For Fairy Tale Fans

We have another awesome funny fairy tale from Leah Wilcox:
Waking Beauty is a hilarious take on the traditional sleeping beauty.  It was done with the same illustrator as her book Falling for Rapunzel and is just as cute.  In fact, I've now purchased both books to add to our collection because my 3-year old loves them so much and I love them too!  I love a good fairy tale.

Anyway, when the prince finds the princess, he won't listen to the fairies telling him how to wake her and so he tries all sorts of wonderful antics with no luck.  Finally, when they get through to him that he needs to kiss her -- my favorite couplet (two lines that rhyme -- see you learned something) -- "One hundred years of morning breath.  Wow!  That could be the kiss of death."

It's so cute.  I wish I had thought of it first!  But I didn't and I won't be jealous.  
Well, maybe just a little.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Oh my, delicious pie!

My cousin cooks.  And bakes.  And blogs.  And makes a lot of delicious treats that would pad my stomach more than I want them to.  But with our stake throwing a "Pie-o-neer" celebration last week, I needed to make a pie for sharing (and maybe for competition!).

But I hate making pie crust.

It's messy, it's hard to get it flaky and not too thick or not too thin, and I HATE HATE HATE scrubbing my countertops after rolling it out.

So my darling cousin at Cardamommy and Coriaunty Cooking, posted a pie crust that they found here.

It's still messy to make but . . . 

Oh my.
It's delish.  And the scrubbing?  Well since it's made with butter a hot washcloth melts it right off your countertops.

It's a huge recipe (that I cut in half) and I highly recommend you read both blogs about it to get a clear picture but it is so worth trying.  Especially if you like pie.

So here's my apple and my lemon meringue.  Maybe I'll win?

If I don't, it won't be the crusts fault.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Lapdesk for Travel

If you're a fan of FamilyFun Magazine, you've seen that their "Badges of Fun" program for August is to take a road trip.

When I saw the idea for the laptop desk, I got really excited!
In fact, I have this bad habit of buying fabric for intended projects that I never get to.  So this made me feel a little better since I actually used some of that fabric (that yes, had been intended for something else.  Guess I'll just have to buy more!).

It's a simple project where you make your own pillow and glue it onto a clipboard but I thought it needed some slight modifications . . . 

Oh, wooden clipboard?  Hard to find!  Walmart though carries pretty much everything and it was only $1.63.

Anyway, modifications.

My 3 year old loves pillows, being cozy, and small things.  I figured she would have a major meltdown if she had a cute, small pillow covered in cupcakes that she couldn't cuddle with.  Solution?  Velcro.

I just happened to have some leftover super-soft velcro from another project (that actually used what I purchased for it) so it was an easy fix to sew the soft side onto the fabric before sewing the pillow together.

Once the pillow was sewn and stuffed, I laid the grabbing strip of velcro (do you love my technical terminology) on top and spread it with tacky glue.  Then I placed the clipboard on top and weighed it down with some heavy books over night.

Voila!  A traveling lapdesk . . . 

 And a nice little pillow covered in cupcakes.  I can't wait to see how it works (update to come!). 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Founding Fathers Lesson Plan

Ok this is less of a lesson plan and more of an assignment actually.  But the idea occurred to me after the 4th of July when I read John, Paul, George, and Ben by Lane Smith again.
The most common complaint I hear from people who don't like history is that it's boring.  That is a such a shame!  Our history (United States, world, whatever) is full of awesome stories that need to be told!  I think that history teaching CAN rely on too much straight-up information and ignore the human aspect.

That's one reason I love this book: it gives human characteristics to some founding fathers in portraying them as young children with traits that translate into what they did as adults (Paul Revere shouting in his family's shop about giant underwear is hilarious but then he did shout "the redcoats are coming").

So why not make all the founding fathers approachable?

Assign each student in your class (or if you homeschool go through the founding fathers together one by one) a different founder.  Have them find out about that founder and then make up a funny story about them as a child that reflects that trait.  

For example:
The Book of the Founding Fathersby Vincent Wilson, Jr. provides a brief biography and pictures for 35 founding fathers -- famous or otherwise.

Richard Henry Lee of Virginia was a wealthy planter who denounced slavery and was one of the first to organize the boycott of British goods once the Stamp Act was passed.  Blah blah blah right?  But how does that trait translate to childhood?  You could come up with a funny story about how Lee boycotted the neighbor boy's lemonade stand because the sugar was from the West Indies or perhaps he runs around as a little boy organizing protests against common childhood rules such as washing behind your ears or not staying out after dark.

I think it would help kids remember the idea behind what various founding fathers did for this nation in it's beginning.

And it could be really funny.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Our Founding Fathers: George Washington

A friend of mine is starting some American history kindergarten curriculum for her son this coming fall and was looking for ideas.  Browsing in the library one day, I came across this book and decided it would be a great learning tool:
George Washington's Teeth by Deborah Chandra

This delightful book is told in rhyme and is the story of George Washington's teeth and their loss.  Almost everyone knows some kind of story about Washington and his teeth, but I tell you what -- I learned something!

After the story is finished, there is a timeline of events for Washington's life that is taken from his own letters, diaries, and accounts.  And there is quite a bit about losing his teeth, teeth pain, or calling the dentist (which at that time pretty much meant removal).  In fact, did you know that the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington included padding in his face because of lack of teeth?  I had to laugh at that one -- I would think that a painter could just paint as if they were there!

The whole timeline is actually very fascinating and would make a great jumping off point for talking about Washington's contributions to American history as it spans from his birth until death.  For kindergartners, it would also be fun to keep track of how he loses his teeth and count them down.

Actually, I wished that I had had this book to read to my 9th graders.  Even they love a good story and all that "gee whiz" information.  In fact, a lot of times they prefer that to major historical events!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

National Ice Cream Day!

Happy National Ice Cream Day!!
Ice Cream Sunday -- get it?

Apparently the proclamation for National Ice Cream Day was made by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.  But ice cream itself goes way back: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both made it and strawberry ice cream was all the rage at James Madison's second inauguration (all info. courtesy of my Parade magazine in the Sunday paper!).

For us?  I need to practice making apple pie anyway so we're going to serve it with a classic: vanilla ice cream.  And I'm sure we'll make it from scratch before the summer is through.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A New Direction (at least for a little while . . . )

My husband and I have been watching the Harry Potter movies in anticipation of the final movie coming out (just like everyone else, I know) and I realized it had been a while since I'd read all the books in order.  I have a friend who has read the entire series 16 times (I'm serious -- and I know he's not lying), and while I don't intend to go that far (right now anyway), I've almost finished the first and am loving the reread.

It's fun to pick up on things with fresh eyes but also with the perspective of knowing what happens in the end.  Kind've makes me think that when I'm in a life pickle (or trying desperately to make lemonade out of lemons) that I need to mellow out because I don't know the end.  My husband and I have already been in situations where the end has come and we've said to each other "so that's why this and this happened before"!

And that's my philosophical moment from Harry Potter for you.

Anyway, since I'm planning to be occupied in reading books that have been reviewed a gazillion times and read more than that, I'm going to focus more on teaching ideas for the next little while.  I've been re-inspired by a friend who is planning her son's kindergarten curriculum.  I've had a few ideas that will hopefully work for someone out there!

That, and I'll be traveling in the near future which means hopefully I'll be inspired by that as well!

We'll see what happens -- stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Kane Chronicles Continue

Book 2 of the Kane Chronicles: The Throne of Fire was better than the first book.
I have a couple of theories as to why because it's essentially the same style, Carter and Sadie are still trying to save the world, etc.

But I think that first of all I was able to follow the Egyptian line a little better.  That may have been because I had more familiarity after reading the first book, or it may have been because he did a lot better job explaining things.  And the recap of book one didn't hurt.

Secondly, I felt that the action and plot was more believable.  The first book almost seems to out there to be plausible.  The second has Carter and Sadie as more fallible teenagers and I liked that they didn't always do so great and that they learned about themselves and their powers as they went.

I don't know how many books will be in this series but there are definitely more ahead and I think I'll read them all.  But I actually want to find out what happens to Zia and Walt (side characters) more than Sadie and Carter.  I think I care about them more.

This book waffled between good and attached.  What I want to know is how kids in the middle/high school age range are thinking about it though.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How I Rate Books

There's nothing more subjective than a book rating system.
After all, it's really based on whether or not you like that type of book, plus how well-written it is, plus characterization and movement of plot and all that good stuff.

But I've noticed that I have my own way of classifying what I read.  And so, if nothing else, it gives you a good idea of how I felt about the book.  

So without any further ado:

A book that looks good, has a great description, but I couldn't get past about the 1st chapter -- usually due to sex or language.  I don't have any examples for you at the moment because I never finish those books and so don't remember them!

A book that takes work to get through either because the plot is confusing or the subject matter has a lot of stuff in it that I am not familiar with.  The Life of Pi  was a workable book for me.  I finished it, but felt it was more of a chore than a pleasure.

A good book sit's on my nightstand usually.  I read a couple chapters before I go to bed each night.  The story is easy to keep in my head if I pick something else up in the meantime, but I'm content to read it when I have the time.  The new Kane Chronicles from Rick Riordan have been like that.

These are the books that I can't put down.  They're the owns literally that are attached to me -- I read them while I eat (a very very bad habit), on the couch while the girls watch a movie, in the bathroom (sorry, you maybe didn't want to know that).  I shoot through them until they are done!  That's what happened with The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  Although I will warn you they are incredibly violent.

These are the books that, even if I picked it up at the library, I will then buy so that I can read them over and over whenever I want to.  I also hesitate to lend these books to friends because I fear that I won't see them again!  These is My Words by Nancy Turner is in that category.  In fact, I finally went and bought ANOTHER one because my mom didn't give mine back (or did she send it back to Grandma because I wouldn't give it back?).  Anyway, for children's books, these are the ones that my girls ask me to read over and over and over -- thus they are personal library worthy

So that's it in a nutshell.  Of course that doesn't address content AT ALL -- this spans all genres really.  But it gives you a better idea of how I feel about a book.  And so if you find your taste runs like mine, it could be really helpful!

Friday, July 8, 2011

For the Egyptologist in You

My brain has been in slug mode all week and so nothing has been getting done around here.  Believe it or not, even reading!  But I did manage to finish the first in Rick Riordan's new Kane Chronicles:
I think if you liked his Percy Jackson series that this is a safe bet for you as well.  It has the same feel as Percy Jackson: gods and monsters who try to destroy the protagonists every other chapter, an insane amount of time (4 days I think) to defeat the evil god who is planning on taking over and destroying the world, wise-cracking teenagers who do what the adults can't -- you know, that kind of stuff.

I sound more sarcastic than I mean to be I think except that the biggest difference between these and Percy Jackson is the origin of the gods and monsters.  In this case: Egyptian.  So in a way it's a lot more of the same but I've had a harder time with this one, I think mainly because I'm not familiar with the depths of Egyptian history and lore and so it reads a lot more foreign to me.  I had a hard time keeping things straight and clear as I read.  And while I finished the Percy Jackson books and The Lost Olympian in record time, this one (and it's sequel which I'm reading now) has been fine on my side table for before bed reading.

So it's good -- but not tip-your-hat fantastic.

Monday, July 4, 2011

God Bless America, Land That I Love!

It's a quiet 4th of July for us today and that's just fine.  Since we're not busy running to parades and fireworks and having people over for barbecue (although we will grill out for ourselves of course), it's given me some time to reflect on the things that I do love about this land:

In No Particular Order
Patriotism and seeing our national colors everywhere I look
National and State parks -- the wide variety of beauty preserved by our nation
The goodness of people
The variety of places to live and jobs to do -- you can have any life you want!
Clean air, clean water, and clean rest stops for traveling!
A fantastic road system that takes me to my friends and family
The beaches, the crab cakes, and the she-crab soup (oh Charleston, how I miss you!)
Huckleberries in Montana in the summer
Warm weather in Texas in the winter!
Mountains of grandeur and mountains of tranquility
Wildlife -- but not bug life (sorry I just can't love that!)
The sun setting and turning the Sandia mountains pink
Quirkiness and the little things that bring us together -- Roswell and the aliens, Dallas and the Mavericks, Washington DC and the commute!
Washington DC -- city that I love!
Road trips that are filled with ridiculous and wonderful things
Historical sites -- my particular favorites are Colonial Williamsburg and Pioneer Village
Public Librarys!!!!

I think I could go on and on but I won't.  Today I'm just grateful for so much that we are blessed with!
Happy 4th of July!!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

I Secretly Love Nanny McPhee . . .

I don't like it when my husband's gone: night noises are more alarming, the days are longer, and the girls miss him too.  But I do actually like having a few evenings where I can watch girly movies and eat an entire bowl of popcorn.

I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to rent Gnomeo and Juliet, but alas.  So instead, last night I rented Nanny McPhee Returns.  It was Lovely.

First of all, I ADORE ADORE ADORE Emma Thompson.
I think I've loved her in every movie of hers that I've seen, particularly Sense and Sensibility (her crying scene at the end is PHENOMENAL!).
But these Nanny McPhee stories are just delightful and not only does she play the Nanny, she's written and directed them so her influence is, of course, huge.

For this second movie, it's set in World War II with a woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is struggling to keep it together while her husband is away at war.  She also takes in a niece and nephew who create quite a bit of havoc and of course the entire situation warrants the help of Nanny McPhee.

Nanny McPhee teaches her character lessons (all wonderful ones) and of course works her magic in the process.  I loved the story, the emotion of a husband and father away at war and the family dynamics.  It made me cry, it made me laugh, and it did make me roll my eyes at the ridiculousness of it -- but I love that too.  And it's completely clean.

I highly recommend both of these movies.  Oh and it was a joy to see not only Thompson (Professor Trelawney) but Ralph Fiennes (Voldemart) and Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) together in something entirely different.  Maggie Smith particularly was a joy!

And it's wonderful for children of course -- although I haven't had my girls watch it because it might still be over their heads (we're in cartoon stage of course) but I'll save them for later for sure.