Thursday, November 29, 2012

What I'm Reading for Book Clubs

Nothing forces you to slow down like a bout of the flu, and our house has been hit hard this week.
With all the resting, cuddling, and general convalescing going on, I've had lots of time to catch up on my reading. 
Don't get me wrong- I'm an avid reader at any time, but for the past few days, I've been steeped in books (reading both mine and the kids'), so I thought I'd share some of what I've been reading over the last few months.

I've always wanted to be part of a book club, but it wasn't till recently that I got the opportunity, when I joined not one, but two book clubs in short order. The first is a classical online book club, organized by Edie at Life in Grace.
I used the word "joined" loosely here, because although I've been doing the reading and following along with the discussion... I don't actually participate in said discussion. Apparently, I'm as much of a wallflower in virtual gatherings as I am in real-life gatherings. So far, I've read (and loved)  The Odyssey, Antigone, and I'm picking away at Plato's Republic. These are not quick reads, but I try to squeeze in a few pages every night.

One of my oldest and dearest friends started a real-life book club several months ago, and I jumped at the chance to join. Coffee, grown-up conversation, books, and snacks? Try and keep me away!
So far we've read:
 "Angry Housewives Eating BonBons" by Lorna Landvik
Set in Minnesota, this was an appropriate choice for our little club, as it focuses on a group of women who meet for (what else?) good coffee, delectable desserts, books, and laughter. 

"Let's Pretend This Never Happened" by Jenny Lawson
There were definitely some hilarious moments in this book (to the point where I didn't read it in public for fear of being the crazy, snort-laughing, shoulders-shaking-with-suppressed-laughter lady). But I don't know that I would recommend the book to someone who wasn't already a fan of Lawson's blog. Read the blog first; if you love her, then read the book.

This month, we are reading "MWF Seeking BFF" by Rachel Bertsche. I'm almost halfway done with it, and so far, so good.
Newly-wed and newly transplanted to the Midwest, Bertsche documents her yearlong search for a BFF. I have to admit to being a bit prejudiced against this book going in because it seemed like the type of fluffy chick-lit that I avoid (actually, you could say that about most of our selections) but I like it more than I expected, and it should lead to an interesting discussion on the role and importance of female friendships at our next meeting.

I was going to include what I'm reading on my own, but that would make this post awfully long and it's already past my bedtime! I think this will have to be a two-part post. I'm always looking for good book recommendations though, so please comment away! Have you read any thing good lately? Do you have any old favorites you love to re-read? I'll share mine in the next post.

For now, I'm off to bed with a good book!
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What I Wore: Thanksgiving Edition

Hello and Happy Wednesday; the day when I share awkward, and often poorly lit, photos of myself.
Why would I do such a thing, you ask? 
Good question, and one which my husband asks me on a regular basis, despite the fact that I've been cajoling him into taking pictures of me for months now.
The short answer: Everyone else is doing it!
Stop by The Pleated Poppy and check out the hundreds of ladies who link up for WIWW every week.
pleated poppy

Wednesday: errands and shopping for pre-Thanksgiving supplies, followed by a Girl Scout meeting, and dinner with Caitlin.
Cardi, jeans: Old Navy
Turtleneck: Target
Boots: Keen
Necklace: Allora Handmade

Thursday: Thanksgiving! These are my version of Joey's turkey-eating pants that I mentioned last week. Nice and stretchy... but not so flattering.
Sweater, scarf: Lands End
Jeans: Target
Shoes: El Naturalista

Saturday: Hockey
Sweater, vest: Lands End
Jeans: Old Navy
Scarf: Amazon
Boots: Keen

Sunday: church
Dress, pin: Lands End
Leggings: Smart Wool
Boots: Clarks Artisan

Later on Sunday: Hockey
Jacket: Esprit
Hat, boots: Macy's
Jeans: Silver, with my wool leggings underneath
"Hockey Mom" bling: a gift from my in-laws

I've been in my sweats since Sunday, so I'll have to get on the ball if I want to have any awkward photos for next week! 
Thanks for stopping by!
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

On our way home from Thanksgiving dinner last week, Chris and I were talking about all the things we were grateful for. It started as a sincere list of  the big things- like family, home, and health- but segued quickly into more trivial territory. 
Chris, for example, is thankful we have all 10 seasons of Friends on DVD so he can get a fix whenever he needs it. 
See? Important stuff, right there.

In the spirit of holiday frivolity, I thought I would share a few of my favorite wintertime things. Of course, I look forward to the tree, the decorations, the cookies, and all the other traditional trappings of the season, but these are my own quirky little indulgences.

Favorite Winter Read:
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
I re-read this every December.
It's comfortable and cozy, if a book can be described in terms usually reserved for fuzzy socks. 
But that's exactly how I feel when I can curl up and slip into the little world Pilcher creates in this heartwarming Christmas story. 

Favorite Winter Relaxation trick:
Badedas bubble bath
I actually found out about this product from the book above. The characters mention it several times but I'd never heard of it, so I googled it, and after reading the reviews on Amazon, decided to try it myself. I love the woodsy, clean scent of this bubble bath. It emanates from the bathroom and drifts under the door like an intoxicatingly fresh breeze. It's definitely not a scent for all tastes, as it borders on the masculine, but I love it and so do the kids. Plus, it's a bright, pine-y green and the kids just think it's fun to turn the bath water that color!

Favorite {healthy} Winter Treat:
Little Cuties (clementine oranges)
We eat these compulsively during the holiday season. I like to think it helps counter-balance all the other extra, not-so-healthy treats we consume during those months. I am still waiting patiently for them to appear at our local grocery store this year...

I think the fact that we only enjoy these treats for a finite period each year makes them extra enjoyable. I look forward to them for the rest of the year.
What are some of your favorite wintertime treats?

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Black {Insta} Friday

Happy Black Friday! 
Did you brave the crowds and get the good deals?

Today I'm joining Jeannett for a look back at the snapshots I've captured and filtered on Instagram during the previous week. 
life rearranged
Are you on Instagram? If you are, follow me! 
I'm dreamanddiffer.

My handsome boys rarely all look at and smile for the camera simultaneously, so I had to share this {blurry} rarity!

Caitlin had her first hockey game of the season last Saturday, so we had a long road trip. 
She scored two goals and her team won!

I have been working on some chalk-art to be the centerpiece of my Christmas kitchen mantel. I wanted to use lyrics from my one of my favorite carols, "Jesus Christ, The Apple Tree." I am very happy with how it turned out and hope to show you the finished mantel soon.

The kids were all dressed up and ready for Thanksgiving at my Granparents' farm. Hunter loves bow ties, and breaks them out at the slightest excuse. 
Please note the sunshine and clear roads on our trip to the farm.

This is what it looked like when we drove home from the farm. Yuck. The cold, snow, and wind combined to keep me from venturing out for any Black Friday shopping. Instead I am still in my pajamas and the kids and I are putting up the family room Christmas tree.
We might venture out later to see if there's anything left on the shelves. Then again, maybe not. I'm pretty comfy in my pjs!
Have a great weekend!
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

On Thanksgiving

Today is a day for gratitude, a day for family, a day for counting our blessings.
In a year of many blessings, one of the biggest for me was returning to full-time mothering and homeschooling Hunter. I am so grateful to have this opportunity, one that means I get to enjoy all the minutia of daily home life. Preparing meals, reading books, decorating mantels, planting flowers, writing a blog; it is quite possible to get lost in these small everyday pleasures. The walls of my home can easily become the limits of my heart.
One of my favorite writers, L.M. Montgomery, gives voice to the importance of a broader perspective in "Anne of the Island":
"The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth."
On Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my family, for our health, for our home. But I am thankful for more than these earthly treasures, so I offer up this (abbreviated) prayer of Thanksgiving from the Lutheran Book of Prayer:
Heavenly Father,
from whom come all good and perfect gifts, 
from whom come mercies new each day,
from whom come blessing beyond measure:
Accept our thanksgiving...
We pray You,
forgive our ingratitude,
open our eyes to behold Your goodness,
fill our hearts with thankfulness,
make us respond in appreciation,
help us to serve in love.
We thank You through Christ, our Lord, 
Your best gift to us.
Amen.
Happy Thanksgiving!
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Welcome friends, to WIWW.
I'll be linking up with Lindsey at The Pleated Poppy.
pleated poppy
This has been a busy pre-holiday week, especially since Caitlin only had one day of school. Hunter and I decided we needed to be on vacation too, so we've been watching lots of movies and staying up late. I've started a few little projects and I've been getting ready to switch the mantels for Christmas. This is the first time I've done anything before Thanksgiving and it feels a little weird! Do you decorate pre-turkey or wait till after the feast to get ready for Christmas?
Here's what I've been up to clothing-wise for the last few days:
 I've been trying to break out of the jeans and sweater rut every now and then, but it's a losing battle most days. I did manage one day with a dress though.
Dress: Shade Clothing
Rosette Necklace: Allora Handmade
Pendant: Made by moi!
Boots: Madden Girl {Macy's}
Leggings: Old Navy

Please forgive the very grainy and poorly-lit night-time phone pics. I keep forgetting to take pictures in the morning. And apparently I've given up on shoes, but I do have matchy socks, so all is not lost.
Sweater: Lands End
Tank: Old Navy
Jeans: Silver
Stripey socks: Target 

On Saturday, we were off to an early hockey game, so it's much more about comfort and (above all) warmth. Note to self: make bed before taking pictures.
Hoodie: North Face
Jeans: Lucky
Tee: Target
Boots: Uggs
Another hockey game, even earlier. This time I had to do the old "wear a hat to hide my dirty hair" trick. 
Hat: TJ Maxx
Faux-Burberry scarf: Amazon
Down Vest and turtleneck: Lands End
Jeans: Silver
Boots: Uggs
Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and in case you're wonder what I'm wearing for the big day:
My turkey-eating pants, of course!
Thank you, Joey, for that brilliant bit of practical, yet comedic, fashion advice!
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Enchanted Snow Scenes and DIY Glitter Critters

We got a jump start on our holiday crafting last weekend with a fun and simple little project: enchanted snow scenes. Christmas is such a magical season, it lends itself well to this type of whimsical craft. The kids were in love with the idea of creating their own little encapsulated world.

The nice thing about this craft is that you don't need a lot of crazy skills, a ton of time, or a lot of money to enjoy it. All you need is a glass container {I used mason jars and Goodwill cloches}, fake snow {cotton balls make great drifts!}, glue, glitter, some bottle brush trees, and little figurines. If your house is like mine, there is probably a vast menagerie of plastic creatures lying around. The kids were happy to put them to good use.
 We applied a generous coating of Mod Podge with a sponge brush and then doused the little fellas in glitter. Voila: blinged out forest creatures!

The rest was simple. Arrange your scene on a base of some kind {we used plates and slices of wood if there wasn't already a base}. It is a good idea to adhere the trees and critters to the base somehow so they don't tip over all the time. A dot of hot-glue works well, and it easily peels off if you want to disassemble everything later. 
 Once everyone is in place, fill in with snow. We used cotton balls to form drifts, then sprinkled sparkly faux-snow over the top. Place the jar over the top and enjoy the magic!

This little Arctic fox is so well camouflaged he can be hard to spot! 

 We just read "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" and both kids pretended they were creating Narnian woodland scenes, where it is "always winter and never Christmas." They reassured me that Christmas would come to these little bejeweled beauties, though.
 I love these little ponies peeking out from between the trees.
This was such a fun little craft and it combined all the best elements of creativity. Magical, miniature worlds, and glitter... everything's better with glitter!
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I'm linking up here:
Jennifer Rizzo
The Shabby Nest
Between Naps on the Porch
Creative Cain Cabin
A Bowl Full of Lemons
The Ironstone Nest
Savvy Southern Style
DIY by Design
Southern Lovely

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Homeschool First Trimester Progress Report

I cannot believe that Hunter and I are wrapping up our first 12-week trimester of homeschool. It has blown right by! This is the point where, if he was still in public school, we would have conferences with the teacher and get his report card. Since that won't be happening this year, I thought I would provide myself with a little progress report for the sake of posterity. Plus, it's nice to see what we have accomplished so far. There are many moments when I panic and think, "am I doing enough? is he hopelessly far behind his peers?" Seeing it in black and white gives me the concrete evidence I need to know that we are getting somewhere!
Just to catch you up, this is our first year homeschooling. Hunter previously attended our local public school as part of a Chinese language immersion program. It wasn't a good fit for him {you can read more about the details here} so we decided to make a drastic change and try homeschool for 3rd grade.
I am happy to report that things are going better than I dared to even hope. 
Hunter and his sugar cube model of Egypt's Great Pyramid
Here's a little breakdown of what we've been up to. We {more-or-less} follow the classical education curriculum laid out in Susan Wise Bauer's The Well-Trained Mind.  
Our favorite portion of the day is definitely reading. Hunter reads independently for 30-60+ minutes every school-day (and lots more on his own time). So far, he has finished Mr. Popper's Penguins, Dr. Doolittle, the first five Harry Potter books, and dozens of Magic Tree House and Dragon Slayer Academy books. He also reads lots of books that correspond with whatever we are studying in history. We spend another 30-60 minutes reading aloud every day. Together, we read The Hobbit, Farmer Boy, Little Lord Fauntleroy, and we just finished The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Hunter started Prince Caspian last week and is loving it so far. 
Trying the trick from Farmer Boy, where you put a cup full of popcorn into a cup full of milk and it doesn't overflow.
It really works!
For history, we are using Story of the World, Volume 1. We just finished studying the Phoenicians and the Assyrian's return to power. History has been the biggest surprise for me; Hunter loves it! I am floored by his interest, curiosity, and desire to explore more and deeper into the time periods and cultures we read about. 
Moses and The Red Sea Diorama
 One of the things I really like about SOTW is the suggestions for projects, crafts, and additional readings that are provided for each chapter. It gives you the freedom to do as much or as little as you like.
Hunter loved studying the Egyptians, so we did lots of projects related to that. 
Egyptian Death Mask
For math, I have been using Saxon 2... which was a mistake. I way underestimated Hunter in regard to math. He did all the stuff in this level in school last year, and I knew that, but went with what the Saxon placement test said. We have been doing 2-4 lessons a day, easily, and will finish the book before Christmas. It was good review, but he definitely could've handled level 3 from the get-go. So now I have to buy 2 sets of math books in one year. Live and learn, I guess.
Language Arts has been another steep learning curve for us. We started with Spelling Workout B, and have been cruising through it quite quickly. Once we finish, I don't think I will purchase book C. Instead, I will have Hunter work online with Spelling City. He loves any chance to work on the computer, and it corresponds with what our district is teaching. I like having that measuring stick at this point to compare his progress with his public school peers.
For grammar, we are using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 2, and so far I do like it. Hunter has learned a lot already. He knows the basic parts of speech and can reliably identify them in a sentence. He has memorized lists of various verb types and can identify different sentence types as well. Having taught first-year English and developmental writing classes at a local university for the last few years, I can honestly say that is more than most incoming freshmen can do.
For writing, we are using Writing With Ease, Level 2. Hunter doesn't love it, but I can see that he is making progress. It is slow and can be tedious, but he has come a long way since the start of the year. I supplement WWE with daily journaling (sometimes I provide a prompt, sometimes he free-writes), and weekly letter writing assignments. 
Memory work is one area that Hunter grumbles about, but secretly I think he is rather proud of himself.  He has memorized The Goops by Gelett Burgess, The Wind by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Christening by A.A. Milne, All Things Bright and Beautiful by Cecil Francis Alexander, and The Year by Sarah Coleridge. He has also learned a timeline of the major historical and biblical events through the Exodus, and  has mastered 3/4 of the states and capitals. 
We are studying astronomy in science, which is another one of Hunter's favorites. We are using Elemental Science and I really like it. It follows the classical model and is very clear and easy to use. We should be moving on to earth science after the holidays, and Hunter is stoked to make a volcano!
As for all the rest, I try to incorporate art into our other subjects, so we don't really have a separate art curriculum. Hunter plays hockey 3-4 days a week, so that covers phys. ed. And he works with a Chinese tutor for 2 hours a week, so that covers foreign languages. 
The one glaring hole in our course of study is music. We have done some very informal composer-studies; really just reading a few biographies and listening to their music. Does letting Hunter play with Garage Band count as music?
If you made it through this epically long post, pat yourself on the back! It took me forever to write it!
Although I have my moments of frustration, overall, homeschooling has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. My son is thriving, he is happy, and his enthusiasm for learning has not only been rekindled, it is raging out of control. I pray I can keep up!
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I'm linking up here:
Weekly Wrap Up
Hip Homeschool Hop Button 

Friday, November 16, 2012

InstaFriday: The Week in Snapshots

Welcome, Friends! Today, I'm joining Jeannett for InstaFriday, a look back at the snapshots captured and filtered on Instagram. 
life rearranged
If you're on Instagram, follow me! I'm dreamanddiffer.

This post, at the Domestic Fringe, totally inspired me to try my hand at bread-making, something I've failed miserably at in the past. I'm happy to report that is no longer the case! Thank you, Fringe Girl, for the inspiration!

Knowing we had a busy weekend coming up, we decided to enjoy our annual pre-Thanksgiving ritual a bit early this year. We watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles every year, and it never fails to crack me up. Classic John Hughes filmmaking, right there!

I've seen this idea all over Pinterest and blogland, so I had to try it out. And it is as good as everyone says! Just put Pillsbury cinnamon roll dough into the waffle maker for a few minutes and top it with the included icing. Easy-peasy and oh-so-good!

Hunter and I had a mid-week lunch date. At McDonald's. We're classy like that.

Here's a little preview of my first Christmas craft of the season. The kids and I made snow-scenes. Details to follow... but I will say this- it involved glitter, lots of glitter. I am still finding glitter in unexpected places.
That wraps up this week. I'm off to make cupcakes for a hockey party tonight. Then we have a game, a scrimmage, and three practices {two hockey, one soccer} to squeeze in over the weekend.
What are your plans for the weekend?
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