This Month's Featured Resources...

Explore the 50 States
ChristmasHistory Bundle Christmas Latin Latin Calendar

Monday, November 30

Rocket Man (Elton John)

I see no need to reinvent the wheel....so follow us here to our HUGE free space & astronomy unit study!!  We've got lapbooks, literature, science, physical education, math, more rabbit trails, and even music videos.  If your kids are as space-crazy as our's, they're going to love it!

On to Alabama!!!  
En route to our Virginia job, we stopped off at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.  It was a rainy day, so the outdoor activities were off the table, but a very friendly docent gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the newest section of the museum, which will open next summer.
The main exhibit is a really interesting, futuristic look at scientific applications.  We explored the role of DNA in general disease, and created our own virtual selves.  The boys also tried their hands, er heads, at mind control.
The Space Camp section of the museum will soon be open to the public for tours, and this friendly docent led us behind-the-scenes to check out all of the new stuff.  It's so new that some of it wasn't even finished yet!
While we were in town, Rocket Boy lost a tooth...and the tooth fairy brought him a gift certificate to the museum store.  Unfortunately, the one thing he wanted was not in stock, so he's holding on to it until we can find a space helmet...  (We've been to three NASA centers and still can't find one.  If you live near one, and they have one in stock, please drop us a line!)
Be sure to check out our free unit study for all things space & rockets!

Tuesday, November 24

The Good Life (Carmen McRae)

You aim to eat right and exercise most of the time, but we all stray from our healthy path every once in a while . . . and it’s a good thing.  With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, and all those yummy family feasts, you can be sure that more people will be indulging that not this week….

Allowing yourself indulgences as an exception, rather than the rule, will make you happier in the long run and make you more apt to stick to your diet.  So go ahead, and enjoy that pie!!

In fact, as an indulgence to ourselves….this week’s Tiny Steps Tuesday post is going to be very short!  Here are your action steps :
  • Skip the Workout.  Enjoy family time.  Play some cards, read a book, take a walk together.  Let your body relax.
  • Laugh.  Recount old family memories, snicker at Uncle Joe’s new toupee, or watch a funny movie.  Laughter feeds the soul.
  • Eat leftovers.  There’s going to be plenty, and you won’t have to cook.  This is a good time to teach the kids to load the dishwasher, too!
  • Pop Open the Wine.  Did you know that moderate alcohol use can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes?  Have a glass.  Have two.  Don’t go overboard.  You don’t want to be the subject of next year’s family memories….


Thursday, November 19

Computer Age (Neil Young)

Short and sweet today....



We passed through central North Carolina en route from west to east, and I had the chance to catch up with an old friend.  You know how they say that the best friendships can pick right up where they left off, even a decade later?  It's true! 
E. and I were both in the same scholarship program, and had oodles of time to hang out during the mandatory 'bus ride across the entire state' excitement after freshman year.  It's a bonding experience...  We are complete 180's of each other, which always worked out nicely.
Today, he works for a company called SAS (which looked an awful lot like Google to me, from the outside).  If you're a computer person...I recommend checking it out for a job!!  Our boys were working on the Digital Technology badges for Boy Scouts (see their newly-minted page here), and I thought "Who better to help them with this than E.?"  He loved the idea...and the boys loved visiting!  I have to be honest, though, and tell you that about 3/4 of what he explained to the boys was Greek to me!!  I sure hope they understood!

At the very least, they did learn a few things this day, including what an awesome job you can have if you work hard and apply yourself.  They got to see things that I could never show them, and I got to take an old friend to lunch and catch up.  All in all, a beautiful Carolina-blue-sky kind of day!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 18

Ninjabread Craft

My mom is a Hallmark junkie.  I mean that in a loving sense...she loves their stuff!  However, my style lends itself more toward mid-century-hippie, and that shows up in our home decor.
For example, each year, we make these fun and easy ornaments with the kids.  It gives them an opportunity to make their own gifts, which they hand out to friends and loved ones.  We also save a few each year to commemorate their current likes and interests.  Last year, we created Lego Ninjago and Southwest Airlines goodies....I wonder what this year's theme will be?!


Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

Supplies (we doubled this recipe)
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 200°F. Mix applesauce and cinnamon in small bowl until a smooth ball of dough is formed. (You may need use your hands to incorporate all of the cinnamon.) 
  • Using about 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll dough to 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap. Peel off top sheet of plastic wrap. 
    • If you can't find a rolling pin, you can use a quart-sized mason jar in a pinch.
  • Cut dough into desired shapes with 2- to 3-inch cookie cutters.  Pull away extra dough, then carefully transfer cutout to waxed baking sheet with a spatula.
  • Using the spatula, straighten up any sloppy edges around the cutout.
  • Make a hole at top of ornament with drinking straw, toothpick, or skewer. 
  • Bake 2 1/2 hours. Cool ornaments on wire rack. 
  • Decorate with paint, if desired.  Add magazine cutouts with glue.  Allow to dry.


  • Using a clear spray paint or gloss paint, varnish the ornaments.  This is optional, and will make them last longer.  If you want that cinnamon smell, skip this step.  They won't last as long, but they'll smell heavenly!
  • Insert ribbon through holes and tie to hang.

  • Visit 30 days of homemade crafts to see more!

    Tuesday, November 17

    I Walk Alone (Oleander)

    My friends and family are fabulous. We get along great, and I love being around them . . . most of the time.  As a self-proclaimed introvert though, I have to admit that my alone time is just as precious to me.   For introverts, solitude is crucial.  It’s less so for extroverts, but still beneficial to your health. 


    Alone time is a pretty difficult concept for some of us to grasp. Between cell phones, email, and social media, we are spending more and more time plugged-in.  Solitude is the state of being alone with no one to communicate with, but it’s not loneliness.  You can be connected and lonely, and you can be disconnected and not lonely. 

    Here are more reasons why alone time is good for your soul.
    • Being alone gives you time to think. -- Life can be crazy sometimes, and being alone gives us the time we all need to reflect on important events and to organize our feelings about the things that have happened. Without this, we can get overwhelmed with all we are trying to juggle mentally, and this can cause extra anxiety and stress.
    • You can get creative. -- There's nothing like putting on headphones, listening to your favorite songs, and getting down to work. Being by yourself gives you the motivation and the opportunity to open your mind and explore new ideas, then put those ideas to good use.
    • You can recharge. -- Being around people means having to constantly be alert and aware of what's going on around you and in conversations that require your full attention. When you're alone, you can use that quiet time to recharge and regroup.
    • You get to know yourself better. -- Spending time alone means putting yourself first, and getting a chance to explore your personality in depth. The more you get to know yourself, the more you'll find out just how awesome you are.
    • You become more independent. -- When you're alone, you don't have the option of depending on other people for their opinions, advice, or help. You call all the shots, and even though that can be scary sometimes, it also means you become more reliant on yourself — and this is a great thing.
    • You see and hear things you wouldn't otherwise. --  When we're quiet, we can hear and see things we don't notice otherwise. We are able to appreciate the small things in life because we’re not distracted when they happen.
    • You get to do whatever you want to do. – You can spend all the time you'd like to doing exactly what you want to do, without compromise.  And going on your own private adventure can be exciting!
    • You appreciate the people in your life. -- Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Taking some time away from the people in your life can help you realize how important and valuable they are to you.

    Take It to the Next Level

    Now that you know WHY you should be spending time alone regularly, you have to figure out HOW.  Here are five quick tips to get you started…
    • Set aside time each day to unplug from all the ways you connect with others. Turn off your cell phone, TV, and computer. You'll be amazed at how much more you can get done when you're not distracted.
    • Wake up a half hour earlier than everyone else in your house and use that time to create, produce, problem solve, meditate, or just “be.” 
    • If you’re at an office, close your door for a period of time and just concentrate on the tasks at hand.  If you’re a mom at home, close the bathroom door…..and good luck with that!
    • Once a week or even just a couple of times a month, commit to spending lunch with yourself. Don’t work through lunch, but take a walk, sit in the sun outside, and enjoy the time you have alone.
    • Mark off time in your day planner or calendar for spending time with yourself -- it doesn't have to be long. Any time that you can spend alone with yourself to reboot is better than no time. 


    Thursday, November 12

    Freezer Cooking 101 : November

    Whew!!!  You put in the effort and did a slew of holiday baking for the family…now you have enough leftovers to feed an army!  But they don’t have to go to waste…  Read on for a guide of what to freeze, and how to freeze it.

    If you're planning ahead, be sure to check out our Make-Ahead Menu!!

    Uncooked stuffing
    • Freeze for: Three months.  Shape into one-inch balls, then open-freeze on a tray lined with baking parchment. When frozen, transfer to a ziploc bag.
    • Bake from frozen, adding 10 mins to the cooking time. Ensure they are hot through to the center before serving.

    Homemade sauces (including cranberry)
    • Freeze for: Three months.  Once cooled, transfer to ziploc bags, seal firmly and freeze in a flat layer on a baking tray. Once frozen, remove the tray and put the sauces back into the freezer.
    • Defrost by placing the bag in a bowl of lukewarm water until defrosted, then reheat until piping hot.

      Fresh herbs
    • Freeze for: Two months. Finely chop soft herbs and place in ice cube trays, top up with water and freeze. Woody herbs can be frozen whole in ziploc bags. Tie rosemary, bay leaves and parsley stems together.
    • Don't defrost.  Use from frozen.

      Egg whites
    • Freeze for: Six months.  Place in ziploc bags and freeze in a flat layer (see homemade sauces, above). Label with the quantity of egg whites.
    • Defrost at room temperature

    Milk (skimmed and low-fat only)
    • Freeze for: Three months.  Freeze in the container, but pour off roughly an inch of milk first as it will expand in the freezer.
    • Defrost overnight in the fridge. 

    Bread
    • Freeze for: One month.  Place in a large bag or wrap well in cling film.
    • Defrost at room temperature.

     Raw processed meats (including sausages and bacon)
    • Freeze for: Three months.  Freeze in the packaging or transfer to ziploc bags. Freeze bacon in 3-4 rasher packs – perfect for bacon sandwiches.
    • Defrost overnight in the fridge.


    Cooked vegetables and soups
    • Freeze for: Three months.  Freeze in plastic containers or bags; ensure any chunks of meat are well covered by liquid.
    • Defrost overnight in the fridge or place container in lukewarm water until defrosted. Heat until piping hot.

       Potatoes
    • Freeze for: Four months.  Once cooked and cooled, freeze mash in tubs, gratins in freeze-proof baking dishes and open-freeze roast potatoes on a tray until frozen solid, then tip into food bags.
    • To defrost, cook roast potatoes from frozen, but defrost mash and gratins overnight in the fridge.

     A few more tips...
    • It’s important to label frozen foods with the contents and date they were frozen. Sticky labels often come unstuck in the freezer, so pop labels inside the food bag.
    • Never re-freeze frozen food (unless it’s been cooked into another dish) – this can encourage bacteria to multiply to dangerous levels.

    The Lighthouse Tale (Nickel Creek)


    Visit the Book + Craft Ideas for Kids landing page to see what other books are featured!

    Hatteras & Bodie Island Lighthouses
    During our stay at the Outer Banks, we coasted (like the pun?) down Highway 12, through Hurricane Joaquin floodwaters, to Hatteras Island.  Our mission?  Visit one of the most iconic symbols of the eastern seaboard....the Hatteras Lighthouse. 
    The poor park rangers had to evacuate their home when it flooded!  You can see the hose emptying it out.  And since there were no park rangers on site, the museum and the lighthouse itself were both closed.  It was a bit of a bummer to drive so far and be denied access, but we still enjoyed visiting this iconic landmark! 
    As you can see, we still enjoyed ourselves immensely...having a Silly Day!!!
    We found some fabulous historic references, including the very first Hatteras Fresnel Lens from the 1854 lighthouse.  There was also a very nice rendition of the North Carolina lighthouses.
    Bodie Island was more of the same....while it wasn't flooded, the lighthouse was closed due to high winds.  We were able to talk with a park ranger for a bit, getting some history of the area, and were thankful that we'd taken the time to pop in last year!

    Lighthouses Unit Study Writing Prompts
    • You are commissioned to design a new lighthouse.  Describe the design, including the daymark, height, signal, location, and other details.
    • Before electricity, lighthouse keepers lived on the premises and kept the lights burning.  Write about your life as a lighthouse keeper in the 18th century.
    • Why was the Fresnel lens such an innovation?  What did it do better than previous lenses?
    • Choose a lighthouse, and write a story from ITS point of view.  The story can be set in present day or a historical era.  What did it see and hear?
    Reading List

    Literature Units
    Science & Geography
    Painting Lesson



     Build a Lighthouse


    Supplies: (per child)
    • paper plate, 
    • 16 oz or larger Styrofoam cup, 
    • 1 inch toilet paper roll piece, 
    • construction paper, 
    • scissors, toothpick, 
    • wooden bead or pony bead, 
    • glue (foam or tacky glue works best), 
    • scotch tape, 
    • regular markers, & permanent markers
    Assembly:
    • You can start by coloring your island with waves breaking over the shore and rocks and trees around the island. If a number of children are making the lighthouse and you want to identify the builders, put their name on the other side and set it aside. 
    • Using the bottom of your “tower”, draw a circle on a piece of construction paper for the Dome [Note: you should use the same color paper you plan to color your lantern room]; cut the circle out and set it aside. 
    • Now you decorate the tower. Using the permanent marker (fine point works best) draw the door and windows. At this time you can color your tower with stripes or other patterns to display your daymark (see examples below). 
    • Glue your tower to the island and set it aside. [Note: If you are making a large number of lighthouses for a group of children, it is recommended that you pour some white glue into a small plastic container that the bottom of the tower fits; dip tower lightly into the glue and place it on the island.] 
    • Next prepare the lantern room. Cut 2” piece of paper roll and cut a 5 ½” x 1” piece of yellow construction paper to make your storm window. Using the permanent marker, make a border along the long edges and, if you choose, down the center of the strip. Tape one end of the strip at the top of the lantern room, wrap it around, and tape the other end. Draw in the astragals (metal frame running vertically or diagonally that divides the lantern room glass into sections) with the permanent marker. 
    • Color your lantern room below the window strip. Using the circle cut earlier for the dome cut a slit to the center and slide one edge over the other to form a peaked cap; tape it together. 
    • Glue the lantern room to the top of the tower and the dome on top. [Note: If making a large number, use the white glue in a plastic container, and dip both ends of the lantern room, place on tower, and attach dome.] 
    • Now take the vent ball and carefully put some glue into the hole [Fast drying glue works best], about ½ full, set it on the peak of the dome, and stick the lightning rod (a 1” piece of toothpick, sharp end up) into the glue in the ball.