July 30, 2014


I am not the best seamstress.  I guess at everything, measure once and cut twice, throw the pattern away mid-project--not the best seamstress.  Definitely not in the position to teach impressionable little girls their first lessons on sewing.  But we're doing it anyway.  Sophia and her wannabe-seamstress-mother are hosting a little sewing class for our neighbor girls this week and it has been so much fun.  They have come every morning so excited to learn and create.  I love their faces when they serge and raw edge with no help or twirl in the new skirt they just made themselves--its so gratifying.

We've kept it really simple.  Really simple. 

We gave out little invitations with times and what everyone would need: fabric and sizes, scissors, elastic, thread, etc.  I wanted the girls to be able to pick out their own fabrics and really see a project from beginning to end.
Sophia and I made (completely unnecessary, but cute) nametags.  Just a little something fun to give the girls on the first day of class.  I had all their stuff ready to go for the first day: tote bags!

For their tote bags, I had them each buy a 1/2 yard of heavier cotton or canvas fabric.  Ahead of time, I cut 4 inches off the top raw edge of their fabric and cut it in half for the handles.  So they didn't have to turn skinny handles right side out, I just ironed them in half, opened it back up and folded the edges back to the middle fold and ironed.  Then they sewed them shut. 
We hemmed the top of the bag, attached the handles, and folded the fabric in half to create our bags.  They serged along the side and bottom and that was it! 

They wanted to add a little monogram, so I had them pick scraps out of my stash to do that.  We used iron-on adhesive to stick them on.  Then I stitched around the edges to make sure they stayed put.
Day two was skirt day.  Again, no pattern.  Just a 1/2 yard of fabric, cut to the length of each girls' sizing.  We kept the width for fullness.  They hemmed the bottom, added a casing for elastic on top, and that was it!  

Pretty sure they were happy with their work.

Today is our last day, but I'm thinking they're going to want to sew more projects after today! 

July 28, 2014


We're moving into a new week while we're tipping our hats and graciously curtseying to the weekend.  It lived up to all it's expectations we heaped on it.  With four little kids, it's easy to say no to a lot of things because, well, it's not easy to schlep four kids plus all their stuff all over creation.  But when we say yes we almost never regret it.  We live in this magically weird place that begs to be explored.  After living here almost three years, there's still so much we want to do and redo again.  This weekend we redid and did some new things too, providing us with a list of Good Things to start our week off right.

Downtown Asheville

To say it's a great place to people watch would be a gross understatement.  To say it's a great place to people watch on a Friday night is an even grosser understatement.  We love the Friday night drum circle.  A collection of the strange and unique all toting their random percussion, yes, even two spoons count.  Anyone can join in, and believe me, anyone and everyone does join in.  

This girl could hula like I've never seen.

Saturday Morning Color Run
This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, and it was especially worth the wait to do it with Noah!  We got up bright and early to run and be pelted by chalky color till we were almost unrecognizable.  Totally worth the wait.

Budding Photographers
Coming home, reluctantly showering off our color, and carving out a couple hours to nap provided just the right mix of fun and rest.  We had an easy summer supper off the grill and Jack avoided cleaning up by brushing up on photography skills.  He calls this one: Vera Through a High Chair Back.
Nature Discoveries

I love being called outside to see the newest discovery.  Sunday night it was interesting mushrooms. 
Weekend Sewing Class Prep
After a couple little neighbor girls asked me again to show them how to sew, it hit me: a fun little summer sewing class to teach them some basics and help them create some fun projects.  We got organized with invitations and supply lists.  Sophia and I hung pretty banners and prepared work stations and completely unnecessary custom name tags.  The little students will be here at 10am to learn some sewing machine basics and sew a brilliant tote bag. 

Before I go, I have to share something so fun coming up this Friday: The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas!

I was super excited to join 54 other homeschooling mamas to compile this HUGE book of homeschool ideas.  Any question you might have about homeschooling is written about in this book.  I wrote three chapters: Children's Literature, Homeschool Conferences, and Unit Studies.  Here's a little more on the details of this book:
W H O: 55 new and veteran homeschool moms talking about their favorite subjects: their kids + school.
W H A T: 103 chapters on everything you would want or need to know about homeschooling.  Stages from infants to high school, every subject under the sun, and challenges like learning disabilities, moving while schooling, and sticking to a budget.
W H E R E: You can buy the book right here on my blog! Only the 55 writers of the Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas will be selling the book on their blogs.  Come back on Friday to purchase.
W H E N: Friday, August 1st is the big day!! It will be available at 12am.  I'll also be giving away a big basket of nature study goodies, so come back on Friday! Make sure you're a subscriber so you don't forget!
H O W: After you purchase the Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas, you'll receive a link in your email box to download.  With your purchase, you'll get the .pdf version, plus versions for your electronic readers as well.
W H Y: Because it's our passion.  I'm a member of a fantastic group of home educating mamas at iHomeschool Network and we are passionate about schooling our kids at home.  We want to spread that love to you all too. 
Don't forget to come back Friday, August 1st!!
Happy Monday, peeps.  I'll leave you with this to ponder on this week:
"Be in love with your life, every detail of it."
-Jack Kerouac 

F O L L O W   B Y   E M A I L:  
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July 25, 2014


So technically I have only read one book on my original summer reading list, but I did add two to it, both of which I did read.  I'm thinking some of these might have to transfer over to the "Fall Reading List," but that's fine with me.  Good books will be there waiting for me when I close the back cover.  Lately it's been a lot like chain-reading around here.  Everybody's got a book, which makes me happy. 
I wanted to check in with you and review the books I've checked off so far this summer, book critic style, using their fancy verbiage. No "goods" allowed.  I can only be fair, since I made my kids to it that way.
See, it's gotten bigger since June...

House Girl by Tara Conklin: Intriguing and Wearisome.  This book is about a slave girl in pre-Civil War Virginia.  She is determined and strong and desperate.  She shares the main character role with a woman living in modern-day NYC.  I like how this book intrigued me to learn more about the time period, especially about the Underground Railroad.  If you like historical fiction, you will like this.

Serena by Ron Rash: Agitating and Severe. I was interested in reading this book because the setting is right here where I live.  It's crazy to me to think that just in 1929, you were able to cut down whole forests of trees, just because you could.  No regulations, just stake your claim and go for it.  This book was centered around a couple from Boston and their hunger for money in the field of timber.  They are a pretty strange couple to begin with but they get even stranger when the wife, Serena realizes that her husband has an illegitimate child.  (spoiler alert: she's really not happy about it.)
This book was hard for me at times because of the harsh way of living and the dangerous conditions the workers had to live in.  There was some violence in this book, just to let you know. 
I kind of feel like there were a few questions left unanswered, but other than that it was a great book.
This and the following book were added because of an article I read about movies coming out this year. I am a firm believer in "read the book first," which is why I refuse to see The Book Thief.  I must read it first.  

Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn: Alarming, Twisting, Nuts.  I read this book in four days.  Like I've said, I am not a fast reader, but I had. to. know. how. it. ended! The twisting and turning is incredibly.  A husband comes home to his house in disarray and his wife is missing.  And so begins the game of cat and mouse.  I lost many hours of sleep over this book.  It was a thriller for sure!
There was quite a bit of harsh language in this one, so be warned. 
Alright, obviously I have nothing to do but read, so back to my book!
How are your summer reading lists coming? I would love to know what you're reading.
Happy weekend to you!

July 23, 2014


I know, I know...everyone's talking about how summer is almost over.  Target has their school supply aisles stocked, the flip flops are on clearance--but I refuse to believe them.  And there's still so much we want to do! Our summer has been weird because we were gone for most of June, so summer feels like it just started for us, but I know our time is ticking.  So you know what that means--I made a plan.  Yes, it's kind of my thing.  I have made six-week plans and summer plans, even down to the food.  So I'm here to do it again: My Summer Plan.

Here's the problem: we want to do all this stuff.  We have a fun summer list all drawn up and we want to do the stuff.  Then we realize summer isn't 40 months long and there's no way all our summer dreams will be fulfilled.  But I'm not happy with all that discontentment either, so I always think it's best to start with a good plan of attack.  If that plan of attack is in pen and paper in a great planner, that's my favorite.  I started with those things.  Then I jotted down all the things I want to organize and do before our sacred five weeks are over.
-a schedule
-summer school
-summer reading
-field trips and

I broke it all down so you can see what I've done.  Before you freak out on me, or worse yet, call me an overly anal psycho planner, just hear me out.  I think better like this.  I call it organized fun.  I want to do all the fun stuff but if I leave too many of those things to be sporadic fun things, they almost never happen.  So, for me, my brain works better this way...on paper with pen.  Then we can carry on, knowing that our summer dreams are going to happen...because they're in the planner...so of course they are, right!?

Ok, the schedule.
Having a baby that needs...and by baby needs, I really mean baby and ME need.  It's critical.
Afternoons are pretty much off limits for too much at this point.  I didn't write this in my planner, but if I wrote down our typical day, it would be something like this:
8ish: eat breakfast and relax
10ish: do something fun or go somewhere fun or errands (usually not fun)
12ish: lunch
1ish: nap for Vera/summer school stuff for kids
Afternoon: kids play outside/mama does her mama thing
6ish: dinner
play outside after dinner (it's summer-that's what you do)
8ish: bedtime (and yes, that sticks during summer, save a night here or there)
I wrote into my planner (find a copy of mine here) all the dates I needed to save for sure: doctor check-ups, Noah's youth group activities and Boy Scout meetings, etc.
We didn't really sign up for anything this summer, so after writing in our few obligations, I could sit back and write in the activities and field trips I wanted to do for sure.

Having an outline of a daily schedule isn't meant to be rigid or strict.  It's just sort of an idea, or a gently rolling flow of how our days should go and how we function best together.

Next, I penciled in things I really wanted to do with the kids, such as:
-Sewing Class (we're doing this next week, so I'll tell you soon!)
-Craft classes at Michael's
-Cheap movie day at the movie theater
-Lowe's classes
I made sure to go online and  sign the kids up for the classes so I knew that was done.
Setting goals for myself too is important to me.  If I have big jobs I want to get done, I always write them behind the monthly calendar in my planner.  Things like clean out kids' closets or sew maxi dress for Sophia goes here.
There are so many fun places around us and we definitely want to take advantage of them.  Field trips are bigger than the activities because they might cost more money and/or take more time.  I might need to hire a babysitter for Vera or make reservation or plan a day trip.  We made a list of the field trips we'd like to do and I penciled these in around the activities and other obligations.
Here's our list:
-Gem Mining
-Tourist baseball game
-Civil War reenactment
I love the idea of doing each of these field trips, but I know we probably won't get to do every single one.  Life happens.  But if I can find a space to pencil it in, at least I know it's a good possibility.  Writing these things in my planner makes me feel like we're being purposeful about our free time, leaving plenty of days free for doing whatever strikes our fancy that day.

I am not a big one for doing summer school.  I know a lot of homeschoolers do school all the way through the summer, but for us, we welcome the long break.  Although, I know that my kids wouldn't know 2+2 by the time Labor Day rolled around, so there has to be a good balance too.  Learning in the summer means you have things sprinkled around the house to cultivate learning all the time.
My kids are each doing a math lesson per day and also reading or practicing reading everyday.  I have everything they need sitting on the buffet in our dining room so it's easily accessible.  Also right there I have their incentive chart and tickets.  I talked about this a few posts back and to follow up with it, my kids are loving it.  The tickets and prizes are really motivating for them.
Summer school should feel different than the regular school year.  A little bit freer, a little bit looser.  I don't really give them much instruction, and I think that gives them the self-motivation to get those tickets!

I've made a summer reading list since I was an infant, I'm pretty sure.  You can see my Summer Reading List post here, although I've added a few to it.  I've finished three already and I'll be posting reviews soon.
My kids have lists too.  I didn't write out their lists, but I did go buy/find them copies so they were available when they finished one. 
Noah is reading:
Jack is reading:

The last and probably my least favorite part of the summer plan was meal planning.  It's just not that fun for me.  I know, though, that if I don't have a plan it's going to be meltdown time at my house (including me.)
I love the idea of seasonal menus.  Pulling out 12-15 great, seasonal meals that your family will love and then rotating them for that season.  When the next season rolls around, you can choose another 12-15 meals for that season.  Fall needs soups and pumpkin dishes, winter needs pot roast and comfort foods, spring needs fresh, green dishes and egg souffl├ęs and summer needs easy dinners.  Grilled meats with an easy side, salad suppers, and fast and healthy meals.  Another way to make summer meals super easy is using your freezer.  I made a bunch of things from Not Your Mother's Freezer Cookbook and saved them in my freezer.  It makes meals so much easier!
I posted about having a summer menu already and you might find some good ideas there.  You can also find a weekly menu download page on that post as well.  But here is an updated summer menu for us.  I included links to recipes or links to the cookbook I get them from. 
1. Ginger-Sesame Chicken Salad (I die over this salad!)
2. Grilled Chicken Wings (This is one of those "in your head" recipes.  It's quick and easy. I'll try to share soon.)
4. Spaghetti and Meatballs (I eat the spaghetti squash version noodles while my kids eat whole wheat noodles.)
5. Grilled Chicken Breast with a salad
9. Apple, Bacon, Pecan Salad (This salad!!)
10. Grilled Sausage and veggies
11. Frozen Burritos (Not like from a gas station...trust me.)
I hope these ideas help someone beyond the barrier of little old me.  I know it's late in the summer, but we've still got a few weeks to make the very most of it, right!? Good luck, brave souls.
Long live summer.
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