2013 Book List ReCap

Our read alouds from last school year.

Our read alouds from last school year.

I haven’t posted anything here since January 2013, so it is only fitting I post something now.  First a recap of my 2013 books and maybe I’ll get motivated to post my booklist for 2014.  I also read some extras this year including getting back into the Tana French novels thanks to an impromptu ebook club with a college friend, discovering the Wilderking Trilogy for my kids by Jonathan Rogers (we just started it as a read aloud for 2014), and having way too much fun with my kindle app & the ebooks on our library site!  Here was my list from last year & some notes on what I read.  My comments are in italics.

For Spiritual/ Personal Development:

  • Gift from the Sea- Anne Morrow Lindburgh  A short book, but a classic on looking inward.  I really enjoyed it. 
  • Against the Tide: the Story of Watchman Nee- Angus Kinnear  Watchman Nee’s life is so inspiring and I have another one of his books on my 2014 list.  The part of his biography when he was in prison for over 20 years is so moving and reminds us of the persecution that occurs all the time to all faiths.  The middle of this book got slow, but it was worth finishing. 
  • Complete Money Management- Dave Ramsey (We’re in the middle of an FPU class).  As noted, we read this as part of an FPU class but it was a good reminder.  My family hasn’t mastered even half of his “baby steps” yet, but it has helped us set priorities for getting out of debt totally. 
  • Dug Down Deep- Joshua Harris  I started this, but couldn’t finish…it got a little preachy for me.
  • The Good Life for Less: Giving Your Family Great Meals, Good Times, and a Happy Home on a Budget- Amy Allen Clark  Again-started but couldn’t finish.  I might try again.  I think I just wasn’t in a timeframe to read when I got it out of the library. 
  • Cost of Discipleship- Dietrich Bonhoffer  Didn’t start, but still on my list!

For Homeschooling/Parenting:

  • The Lost Tools of Learning- Dorothy Sayers (this is really a long monograph rather than a book).  Oh so classic!  This was a speech given in 1943 and so many things are still true today. 
  • Last Child in the Woods- Richard Louv (this is a re-read, but I want to read it with friends)  I did read it with friends & reminded me of how important free, natural play is for a child’s development. 
  • The next 4 I didn’t get to read….maybe in 2014?
  • How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk- Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners -Lori McWilliam Pickert
  • Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement- Kay Wills Wyma
  • History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade- Susan Wise Bauer

For Non-Profits:

  • The Secret of Teams-Mark Miller- I didn’t get to read…couldn’t find it in our library & I didn’t want to buy it.
  • Set of workbooks by the Muttart Foundation around non-profit management- So helpful and contained a lot of practical stuff.

For Fun:

  • Code Name Verity- Elizabeth Wein  So, so, so good!  I couldn’t put it down after about half way through and I’m a little ashamed to admit that in order to finish it I put on a movie for my kids, crawled back into bed, and emailed the friend who recommended it at 10am that morning with the words “It’s all your fault….Your fault I’m sobbing after this book, but in a good way.” 
  • Mother Tongue- Bill Bryson (one of my absolute favorite authors)  Funny and put into perspective for me why it has been so hard to teach my kids to read & write.  There are so many *&@#% exceptions in the English language! 
  • The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table-Sam Kean  Didn’t get to, but on the 2014 list!
  • French Kids Eat Everything-Karen Le Billon  I couldn’t get into this, but good stuff initially.  Maybe just the first 3 chapters are enough?
  • The Wingfeather Saga(4 books)- Andrew Peterson  Actually in 2013 only the first 3 books were out.  this was a great series for families to read aloud.  My kids are a little young, but I think next year it will be perfect!  Besides, with titles like “North…or be eaten” and characters like toothy cows it was a good fantasy romp with important lessons about family.  I can’t wait for #4.
  • A Place of My Own- Michael Pollan  I didn’t get to this one.
  • Endangered- Eliot Schrefer  This was so good, but for me.  If you are a tree-hugging, endangered species, daydreams of saving animals in Africa kind of person this is a wonderful tale of a girls adventure and the conflicts between people where animals are caught in the crossfire.

With the kids:  They loved Charlie & the Chocolate Factory & Mr. Popper’s Penguins, but we didn’t get to the Strawberry Girl.  However, we did start the Ramona & Henry Huggins books by Beverly Cleary and they really like those.

  • Charlie & the Chocolate Factory- Roland Dahl
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins- Richard & Florence Atwater
  • Strawberry Girl -Lois Lenski
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Discovering King Tut’s Tomb

Or maybe this post should be titled “Having too much fun homeschooling.”  For our history curriculum we use Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World set.  This year (the first year) we are studying ancient history.  The basic curriculum is this: we listen to a chapter on the audio CD, then, in the workbook do a map page and a coloring page.  On another day we read library books about that particular time period or figure in history or folktales from that country.  Now, SWB’s workbook also had activities that you can do to reinforce the learning and I don’t usually do those.  They tend to be crafty type things and I’m not a crafty type.  But this one sounded like fun.  The activity book recommended that if you have a small space in your house to recreate opening King Tut’s tomb like Howard Carter and his team.  Well, we just happen to have a little cubby under our stairs.  And that’s where the fun begins….

As any good archeologist would do, the kids first had to make an inventory of what they saw and draw pictures.  My role was the all-around local lackey who does the grunt work!

Reading List for 2013

I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions this year, but I did make a book list. What does that say about me? These selections are books I’ve had on my shelf but not read, recommendations from friends, and some year-end booklists I came across.  I don’t know how many of these I will actually read, but it’s fun to make a list.

For Spiritual/ Personal Development:

  • Gift from the Sea- Anne Morrow Lindburgh
  • Against the Tide: the Story of Watchman Nee- Angus Kinnear
  • Complete Money Management- Dave Ramsey (We’re in the middle of an FPU class)
  • Dug Down Deep- Joshua Harris
  • The Good Life for Less: Giving Your Family Great Meals, Good Times, and a Happy Home on a Budget- Amy Allen Clark
  • Cost of Discipleship- Dietrich Bonhoffer

For Homeschooling/Parenting:

  • The Lost Tools of Learning- Dorothy Sayers (this is really a long monograph rather than a book).
  • Last Child in the Woods- Richard Louv (this is a re-read, but I want to read it with friends)
  • How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk- Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners -Lori McWilliam Pickert
  • Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement- Kay Wills Wyma
  • History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade- Susan Wise Bauer

For Non-Profits:

  • The Secret of Teams-Mark Miller
  • Set of workbooks by the Muttart Foundation around non-profit management

For Fun:

  • Code Name Verity- Elizabeth Wein
  • Mother Tongue- Bill Bryson (one of my absolute favorite authors)
  • The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table-Sam Kean
  • French Kids Eat Everything-Karen Le Billon
  • The Wingfeather Saga(4 books)- Andrew Peterson
  • A Place of My Own- Michael Pollan
  • Endangered- Eliot Schrefer

With the kids:

  • Charlie & the Chocolate Factory- Roland Dahl
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins- Richard & Florence Atwater
  • Strawberry Girl -Lois Lenski

I can already tell you that Gift from the Sea and the biography of Watchman Nee are inspiring and I’ve got Code Name Verity on my nightstand waiting for the weekend when I have more time to loose myself in a book!  I’m hoping I’ll not only enjoy many of these, but gain useful tools in my own life.  Happy reading!

Gingerbread!

004005My daughter has been asking for the past two years when we would do a gingerbread house and I finally succumbed. I bought one of those kits you see in all the stores and it was surprisingly easy and fun. unfortunately, I pulled it out to try to cheer my little ones up. They are sick today with fevers and have been so lethargic I hoped it would make them smile. It did, but it’s hard to see my normally sparky kids so worn out. We did have fun though putting it all together. Here’s a few photos. Doing this kit reminded me of the Christmas when I was a kid when my mom and brother made a gingerbread house, people and some other stuff totally from scratch. I don’t remember helping to make it, but I do remember eating it! I have a feeling this store-bought-kit gingerbread won’t be anything like my homemade memory, but it will be fun to watch the kids break it apart. We’re planning on taking to our Harris-side Christmas dinner and let the under-10-group break it up. When we were done with the kit, being the dorky homeschool mom that I am, I showed the kids some photos of fancy gingerbread houses and stumbled upon this video of the history of gingerbread. I hope you enjoy it too. I had no idea the tradition of making gingerbread was so old and meant so much!

Fall Reading Round-Up

This blog was created as a way to catalog my loves of reading, cooking, community work, and the activities of a-trying-to-do-homeschooling person.  So, in the spirit of all of that, here is my fall reading round up.  I’ve really enjoyed some of our/my books this fall.  Many are old favorites with some new ones too.  First I’ll list my books, then the ones I’ve been reading with the kids.

  • The beginners guide to Backyard Chickens by Eric Richardson.  This is one of several “chicken guides” I’ve picked up.  We’re considering taking the plunge next year and getting our own hens.  We’re allowed by our zoning laws and have the room.  I’m just a little nervous about keeping them warm in winter and keeping out predators.  I think I’ve found the coop I want to build so we’ll see.  
  • Kaytek the Wizard by Janusz Korczak.  This book was not a modern day wizard story and therefore didn’t have the ease of reading or typical writing of a new book.  What made it interesting was the author.  Here is a brief bio:
    “Janusz Korczak was the pen name of Dr. Henryk Goldszmit, a pediatrician and child psychologist who famously ran a central Warsaw orphanage on innovative educational principles; when his children were transported from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 Korczak insisted on staying with them and died with them in the Treblinka concentration camp. Korczak left behind a large written legacy, including books on education, plays, essays, letters, and of course, novels and stories for children, including King Matt the First. ” My grandmother’s side of my family is Polish and I enjoyed reading this book for its historical content.
  • The Social Media Survival Guide for Non-profits and Charitable Organizations by Sherrie A. Madia, PhD.  Very helpful tool for non-profits trying to get into the social media game.  I will be using parts of this book in my class at Edison Community College.  However, I unwillingly became the permanent owner of this library book when my son spilled my coffee over it.   He was trying to hug me so I guess it’s ok!
  • Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.  I didn’t read her first book, The Happiness Project, but this one did appeal to me. However, I found it hard to finish because, like some of Eat, Pray, Love, I got a little tired of the self-focused tone of the writing.  But there are some good parts and some good advice and great quotes from all over the literary map. 
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein.  Need I say more?

Children’s Read-Aloud Books & History Books:

  • This fall we added history to our homeschooling subjects and have been following the Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer.  Each week we listen to a chapter from the audio version and do an activity and map work from the activity book.  Then we follow up with books from the “literature sugestions” section.  We have loved this program and the follow up books have been great. 
  • One of the favorites from the Story of the World has been the Gilgamesh Trilogy by Ludmila Zeman.  The three books are Gilgamesh the King, The Revenge of Ishtar, and The Last Quest of Gilgamesh.  The illustrations are amazing and  we have all learned a lot about this ancient story.
  • Three Tales of My Father's DragonTree Tales of My Fathers Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. My kids absolutely LOVED this book and I’m so glad I came across it in a reading list as most people nowadays have never heard about it.  It was so sweet.  Here’s a synopsis from Amazon: “The classic fantasy trilogy of Elmer Elevator and the flying baby dragon has delighted children and their parents for generations. Now, on the occasion of their fiftieth anniversary, Random House is proud to bring the three timeless tales together in one beautiful commemorative edition, complete with the original delightful illustrations.  A Newbery Honor Book and an ALA Notable Book, My Father’s Dragon is followed by Elmer and the Dragon
    and The Dragons of Blueland.  Each story stands alone, but read in succession, they are an unforgettable experience.”
  • Trumpet of the Swan by EB White.  I had never read this book and we all loved it.  We laughed and the kids could not wait to read it at night. 
  • Charlotte’s Web by EB White.  Again, my kids love this.  However, we are getting to the end and I am curious to see how they react to Charlotte’s death.  I also found the original cartoon movie at our library which we’ll probably watch this weekend.

Cooking: I gave myself a subscription to Bon Appetit Magazine and just got my first issue-just in time for Christmas cookies. There was also a piece on perfecting potato latkes. I really want to try to make potato latkes for Hannukah this year.  There isn’t a drop of Jewish blood in our family, but I think it would be fun to make these latkes and introduce the kids to some other traditions.  I also have been going back to my copy of Sur La Tables’ Gifts Cooks Love.  I think for my “give-away” gifts I’m going to make their Mexican Hot Chocolate Mix and pair it with these marshmallows!

Quick! Post while the kids are distracted!

I subscribe to a few mom & food centered blogs and there are two (One Hundred Dollars A Month and Life As Mom) where the author posts frequently.  Like every day.  I wonder HOW do they do it?  I mean, I barely have time to sleep some days.  Yup, we’ve hit the stage where the kids are in activities, but I’m the one trucking them around.   Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying this.  My kids are fully interactive and make me laugh with their antics.  We’re also going through all the age-appropriate training that comes with school age kids.  You know, reminding your kids to respect their elders, be friendly & kind toward others, etc.

This year we kicked off our homeschooling year in full swing.  Both kids are now enrolled as one of Suzy Ally’s “GrandArt Kids” and loving their lessons with her.  Gwen has started piano and, thanks to a donated full size keyboard, she can practice regularly.  We’ve got Brukner homeschool nature club once a month and a group homeschool science class.  We’ve got scouts. We did an amazing program at the Cincinnati Museum Center as part of their homeschool Mondays.  The biggest adjustment was having the kids both in soccer.  I can see how it becomes an American rite of passage- we got to spend 3 days a week at the soccer field.  Gwen’s team, the green snakes, did really well winning most of their games and having a coach that worked with them.  Luke’s team, orange crush, didn’t win one game and hardly practiced.  But I’m ok with this- I think it was what both kids needed.  Gwen tends to be, well, lazy.  She’s pretty content to lay around and draw or look at books all day.  That’s great sometimes, but other times you do need to work.  Instilling in our kids that work is something that is part of all of our lives is important to us.  I was happy to see Gwen responding well to a coach that also made her learn all the positions and do a little extra.  For Luke, he is super-energetic and we wanted him to play soccer as an outlet for that energy.  We just wanted him to have fun and meet some new kids.  But he also tends not to take losing well-whether it be a family board game or a game of tag with friends.  This experience taught him that winning isn’t everything and you can still have a great time.

In the midst of all that, we bought a van.  Over the summer our/my volvo station wagon was hit by a deer.  In evaluating the situation we decided it was time to upgrade.  I have very mixed feelings about this.  I loved driving my volvo.  Part of it comes from my hippie Vermont childhood.  About half the state drove an old beat up volvo wagon because they are great on snow and just keep on ticking.  However, they are expensive to repair and ours was needing a lot of work anyway and the deer strike was the nail in the coffin.  On the other hand, my kids wanted extra leg room and the ability to carpool with friends.  So we found, after about 2 months of searching, a 2008 Honda Odyessy.  It’s probably the nicest car I’ve owned and I think, with it’s navigation system and other bells & whistles, it might be smarter than me.   The other plus is that now we have this super-roomy vehicle so my secret master plan of homeschool-by-travel just might work!

The kids have been so much work right now, but in the end I do love it and them.  We’re making such great family memories with all these activities.   I recently ran across a post in a British blog I like, Artspip, about Lovebombing.  What a concept!  But more than that, I love the word.  Lovebomb.  (Hey there-how ’bout I lay a lovebomb on ya?)  I miss my old career at times, but I am grateful for this time and know it will go all too fast.  Now excuse me while I make these pumpkin bars for a brunch this weekend….

Vegan Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bars

Ingredients {slightly adapted from Frugal Vegan Mom}

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice mix
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup canned  pumpkin {I used pureed of course}
  • 1 1/2 cup {soy} semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 13 x 9 in. baking pan* with parchment paper {for easy removal}

In a medium sized bowl sift together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt.

In a mixing bowl combine the sugar, oil, vanilla and pumpkin. Once mixed gradually stir in flour mixture until smooth.  Fold in the chocolate chips and bake at 350 degrees for 28 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.  Cool 1 hour. Slice into 2 inch bites and store in an airtight container.