Homeschooling: First Week Back After Break

Hello friends! It was our first week back after our two week holiday break, and while the first day left us both exhausted, we had a pretty good week.

This weeks focus was on winter, which was appropriate as winter came roaring in fiercely the past few days, with weather temps in the teens and lower. Our curriculum, Blossom and Root, gave us the choice of three different books for our language arts this week – I decided to use two of them, Grandmother Winter and The Story Blanket. I had not ever read either of them myself before this week, and wow, I loved them! Wyatt enjoyed Grandmother Winter more than The Story Blanket, but I adored them both. We love using our storytelling basket this year, which is a new addition. Wyatt loves listening to the books and then using manipulative and figures and scarves and such to act out the stories. We put tiny paper snowflakes in a scarf and then Wyatt shook it, causing it to snow, just like Grandmother Winter does in the book. It was cute. Then we also added snowflakes to our Family Tree mural wall – and I snuck in a bit of OT while we were at it.

Since our books were winter themed, we learned a bit more about winter itself, from snowflakes to hibernating animals to just random fun facts. We of course did all of the “basics” as well, reading and phonics and math, and I found a fun “Forest Friends Math” that we have used in addition to our normal lessons as well.

Art this week was creating a winter themed fiber arts scene out of wool roving. This ended up being a collaborative piece as Wyatt did not enjoy the feeling of the roving. So he directed me and I placed it where he wanted it. He seemed pretty happy with the result.

Thursday was a cozy day of learning. We finished our work in the morning and in the afternoon, we read together and created another collaborative art piece. I call it our “kinda quilt”. It was a good way to spend a freezing cold afternoon!

Now, the resource roundup!

Books Read:

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Rabbit’s Snow Dance || Winter Walk || Poe and Lars || The Snowflake || Snowflake in My Pocket || Walking in a Winter Wonderland || Snow || Sneezy the Snowman || How to Catch a Snowman || Little Owl’s Snow || The Big Book of Snow and Ice (this one is fantastic!! I highly recommend it)

Next week is more animals less winter, then after that we are beginning a few week long unit about Russia! I am extremely excited!! I took Russian language classes in college, and so so many Russian history courses as well. It’s going to be a good few weeks!

A Few Quick Book Thoughts: Greenglass House, The Hunting Party, and Crazy Like a Fox

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I have been reading so many good books lately!

Greenglass House by Kate Milford: I read this book the few days before Christmas and it was absolutely perfect for those crazy days. I needed something easy but entertaining and this middle grade was the answer. Twelve year old Milo is so excited for his winter break at his home, Greenglass House. It’s Christmas, there is snow, and usually no guests at the inn this time of year, leaving plenty of time for him to relax all he wants with his parents. Until one after another, guests begin to trickle in. And Greenglass House is not just any inn, but a smuggler’s inn – and these guests seem mysterious and secretive. The whole crew gets snowed in, things start happening, and Milo and his new friend Meddy find a mystery to solve. I absolutely adored every second of this book. It was fun, imaginative, different, atmospheric. Milo has the idea for the guests to tell stories at night to keep each other entertained, and it was such a cool part of the book. I loved all the backstory for the characters – I feel like I could go on and on with how much I loved this book. If you are looking for a snowy middle grade, you can’t go wrong with this one!

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley: I must have been in “guests snowed in at a mysterious remote location” mode for a few weeks, because The Hunting Party also features a remote lodge where the guests are snowed in. This book! It was my first read of the New Year, and I loved it. Loved it. I read it all in one day which for me takes some skill these days. A group of old college friends are on a holiday trip together to bring in the New Year in the highlands of Scotland, in a very posh sounding lodge, with the hostess and the gameskeeper being the only others at the lodge with them. Then one person is found, dead. This book is told from multiple viewpoints over a period of a few days and the mystery just keeps growing as more of the actions from those few days come out. I could not stop reading it, and when I was done, immediately gave it to my mom to read. The ultimate snowed in thriller!

Crazy Like a Fox by Melinda Metz: I read the first book in this series, Fox Crossing, in January of last year, so it made sense to read this second in the series this January. I loved it just as much as the first one! If you visit my blog, you may know I love foxes, and pretty much pick up anything that is fox related. If only I loved in Fox Crossing, where everything is fox themed! This book is adorable. It is the story of Gavin, a typical Peter Pan, and Lillian, who is a Wendy. I mean not really, but that is who they reminded me of. Gavin is forever hopping in and out of relationships with women, although never actually ending the relationship himself; instead, he acts like a brat and eventually drives the woman he is in the relationship away, forcing them to end things. Lillian on the other hand, has given up so much of her own sense of self in order to stay in a relationship with her boyfriend. She has stars in her eyes (and on her toes) when it comes to Owen, and bends over backwards to make him happy. However, during their time in Fox Crossing, both Gavin and Lillian do a bit of soul searching, and things begin to change. This book also has amazing, fun secondary characters. Kristina/Kiki, Simon and Violet, Ford and Stephanie, and of course Honey and Nick and Annie and Banana from the first book as well. I love this series and can’t wait to read the next installment! (Oh, and if you prefer a clean romance, this one qualifies.)

* Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington books for an ebook copy in exchange for an honest review.

What We Did During Limbo Week

Does everyone wander around lost that week between Christmas and New Year’s? I know I spend the week alternately cleaning and straightening but also being incredibly lazy, all while saying I can eat what I want because New Year’s is coming and I will probably not be eating healthy for those two days anyway so why bother now? And so on…

This year Billy had the entire week off with Wyatt and I! I would like to say that we did lots and lots of cool things, but in reality we spent a lot of time bumming around the house together. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun though. Because we did. It was actually really nice to have all that time together while also having time to do different individual projects. Billy spent a few days making bread with my sourdough starter. (I made one for my stepmom too, and I named it The Grateful Bread) We also made homemade chicken noodle soup in the instant pot. It was delicious!

I worked on school things, different plans, watched a lot of YouTube, painted and played games and with different toys with Wyatt, who had lots of new things he wanted us to try out together. And so many books for us both! We have been reading up a storm around here.

We did get dressed in actual clothes and ventured out a few times though.

We went for a hike one afternoon, and were hoping that it would snow while we were out there. There is nothing like being in a forest while it is snowing. And wouldn’t you know it, the universe provided.

Another day we took a field trip to one of my favorite shops, The Conservatory. I love it there, especially in the winter. All the green!! It just makes me so happy. It was short outing but a good one. And I ended up bringing home a new pothos, a Silver Satin that I named Sam Elliot.

And I was excited to learn that The Conservatory is expanding and opens up in it’s new location (two doors down from its current one) on the 8th of January! I may need to take another trip. We followed our plant shopping up with pizza at my mom’s, where my brother and his family joined us. It was a nice night!

We pretty much laid low the rest of the week, watching The Witcher and Brokenwood Mysteries (which we finished…noooo!), doing the same stuff we did earlier in the week. New Year’s Eve we didn’t do anything too special but we did have plans for New Year’s Day! We woke up early (because that is not an issue when you don’t do much on NYE) and headed to the woods as we do every New Year’s Day.

The snow was gone sadly, but we were expecting a bit of a snowstorm later that night – right when we had plans for dinner with my brother and SIL. It was a low key dinner, spaghetti and homemade bread at our house while my mom watched the kids, and gave the four of us a chance to chat and catch up a little without the kids around for a few hours. And that was the extent of our socializing for the week! Sunday we watched movies (The Big Year and Encanto) and all of a sudden, vacation was over.

What do you do that week, if you are not working? Are you productive, or a bit lost like a lot of us?

Hello January!

Hello January, and hello 2022! I already shared my resolutions, first book, and one word, but I wanted to welcome the month and year more fully.

I love January. I am probably one of the only people that does. Janus, the doorway, January..so much potential for everything. To slow down, to do more, to explore, to stay home … whatever floats your boat this month is the perfect month to kick any new venture off. I think I sort of like to do everything in January honestly. Experiment with new recipes, hike in the snow, cozy up with books and projects, go through closets and forgotten places and donate what I find. Make endless lists.

This month Wyatt and I have some exciting fun new topics to study in our homeschool. I spent hours in December planning and gathering materials and I can’t wait to begin today. We have lots of good stories to read, nature topics to explore, art projects, and of course the “basics” but I am going to mix in some fun ways to learn those as well.

We also have some family events planned this month with our bubble! Soup nights on Sundays, a craft night once a month, game nights on the weekends. Movie nights just the three of us, as well as doing the Kids Moon Club again. I am looking forward to all of these things!

I always spend a lot of January planning. I kind of love making lists and plans, and I am trying out a new dinner rotation idea, like pasta on Mondays, new fancy recipes on Saturdays, etc. I am also creating a list of some possible places to visit and explore this year, family trips up north and field trips that align with our school. And Billy and I are finally, finally going to paint and spruce up our dining room/play room this month. There is also a stack of fat seed catalogs sitting here that I am excited to start flipping through and dreaming over.

Today is our first day back to our regular schedules – Billy was off for a week and it was lovely. But now, back to work, back to school, back to reality. Back to setting our house to rights and organizing all the new toys and books. Back to the daily. But, I want to make sure we keep our whimsy and magic and wonder in as much of it as I can.

Any special plans for January? I’d love to hear!

My One Word, First Book, and Resolutions Post!

It’s a brand new year, y’all!! Happy New Year!

My One Word: I always set a word and intention for the year, much like I do resolutions. This year, the word I chose was Explore – as in explore ideas, new places, the outdoors as much as I can. COVID and work will obviously put limits on where exactly we can travel still for a while, but I want to take more small road trips, see different things and places this year whenever it is possible. But beyond the physical, I want to explore new ideas as well, new ways of living, authors, habits.

First Book of the Year: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I am so excited! I waited to read this until the New Year like a nerd, because the book takes place at the new year.

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

I can’t wait!

Photo by Tim Howell on Pexels.com

Resolutions: I’m going to keep this simple. I always make resolutions but never get down on myself for not accomplishing them. I feel it is ok to dream and try without always having success!

  • Yoga. I miss yoga so much. I need to make time in my life for it again. Before I had Wyatt I did it almost everyday and I loved how it made me feel, physically and mentally.
  • Feeding the chickadees in our neighborhood from my hand. Yep. This is a goal of mine. How cool would that be? I will feel so very Snow White.
  • Eat more whole foods, and keep buying local to support small farmers when and where I can.

And that is it! Keeping it simple. Kind of. Lol.

Traditions: Today we are watching The Big Year like we do every single New Year’s Day for the past ten years or so. This movie I think “flies” under the radar and it is just so good. Especially if you love birds. And Jack Black. And Rosamund Pike. We will take a hike through the woods, taking time to stop and listen and look around. And hopefully eat something good too.

What every you do today, I hope you have a good day!

A Semi-Random Round Up of Favorites and maybe some other things of 2021

It’s hard not to take a look back at the year when you reach the end and a new year is looming. I’ve mentioned before that New Year’s Eve makes me a bit melancholy, the passing of time makes me feel a bit wistful for the things that were and used to be. New Year’s Day I am ready for the fresh slate and adventures to be had, but New Year’s Eve is different for me. Anyway, let’s see what we really loved this year!

Movies:

Hmm. Where to begin? I absolutely loved the new Rebecca and The Secret Garden.I think both were just visually stunning, especially The Secret Garden. I also really loved The Dig – I am intrigued by all of these discovery, archaeological finds from the past and Carey Mulligan was amazing in this movie. Disney and I also had a good relationship this year. I was a huge Indiana Jones fan in my youth, and I loved Emily Blunt’s character. Had I been a kid when this movie came out I probably would want to be Lily Houghton when I grew up. As for Luca, I loved the beauty of this cartoon, the story of acceptance, and of course, the Italy part. And Coco! Wyatt and I watched this together in October for the first time, while Billy was on a camping trip. It is probably one of my favorite Disney movies ever now. I just loved it – although I did totally cry at the end.

YouTubers:

  1. Rachel Maksy: I love this channel. Maksy is a maker, and makes the coolest costumey type clothes. Her videos make me laugh, she is whimsical and weird, and has the cutest dog, named Frodo.

2. Roots and Refuge: A gardening/homesteader channel I watch. I learned how to grow fantastic tomatoes this year thanks to Jess!

3. Alexandra Roselyn: I just started to watch her channel recently. I love that she includes YA and middle grade reads in her videos as I am working on our home library for Wyatt beyond picture books. I know I will include tried and true favorites like the Little House books, Narnia, etc but I also want to explore newer options as well.

Music:

I hesitate to include this as I am not very knowledgeable about music; I just listen to what sounds good to me. But without a doubt, I became a Swiftie this year. Not really her earlier music, but her Folklore and Evermore albums in particular.

And now for some random favorites, as I did say there would be randomness!

Cereal: We eat a lot of cereal in this house. Well, Wyatt and I do. Our go to’s are Mom’s Best Cereals Mallow Oats, Nature’s Path Sunrise Crunchy Cinnamon, and Nature’s Path Envirokidz Panda Puffs.

Pens: This set of Tul pens in assorted colors. I always get a set of pens for Christmas and these are my favorites!

Favorite Starbucks Drink: Matcha Latte – iced or hot, I love it

Favorite candy: Haribo cherries!

Favorite purchases this year: I know Billy’s answer – the InstaPot. I am a tiny bit afraid of it but I like what he has made in it so far this year. My favorite non-animal purchase – all the art I have purchased this year from artists on Etsy. It’s been fun redoing our rooms!

I would love to hear about any of your favorite media that you have been consuming – listening, watching, tell me! Or any of your other favorites as well!

A Solstice Celebration

Nature is such an important part of our life. We have such a connection to nature, to animals and the trees and the earth around us, that I don’t like to let a solstice go by without some sort of acknowledgement. This year Wyatt and I were able to turn it into a bit of a science lesson as well, albeit a fun one. When we woke up, I talked about how the day ahead was the shortest day of the year, with the longest night, and that the next day would signal the return of the sun, and that gradually, slowly, slowly, the days would become longer and the dark and night would become shorter.

To celebrate during the day, Wyatt and I read Bear Noel and The Animals’ Santa. We had a lot of fun reading them both, but we added a bit of fun to our reading of Bear Noel, with sound effects and participation. I think we might continue this as a tradition, at least for another year if Wyatt lets me. Then we decided to be a bit of an animals’ Santa ourselves, and make gifts for the outdoor animals near us. The birds and the squirrels and the porch opossum, although I haven’t seen the latter in a week or two which makes me nervous. Neither of us like to get sticky fingers so we skipped any ideas that involved goopy peanut butter or even worse, lard. However, dried apples and oranges were just our speed, so we (I) dried the fruit slices in our oven and when they were dry, Wyatt turned them into hanging fruit ornaments to put outside. I also threw some pecans out there as well, for a little added treat.

After our activity, we both had a little quiet time. I read my book and he played a bit. Eventually it became time to make dinner so I switched on some music (Alexa, play Taylor Swift Folklore..) and got to cooking. Every year I want to make sun bread and never remember. This year included. But I did make Greek Lemon Chicken and Rice in a skillet, which was delicious. With lemon to celebrate the sun! Then..we had my ugly cake. I had planned to make cranberry cake which is amazing and delicious. However, I found I didn’t have any sugar! How did this happen! Thankfully we had a spare cake. Lol. The Sunday before solstice we had celebrated my brother’s 40th birthday; I was supposed to make the cake. It was a bit of a baking disaster though, and we deemed it too ugly to take to the party, so we bought one at Kroger on the way instead. My brother was appalled though, and told me I should have just brought the cake anyway. Well, it worked out for solstice because what is a celebration without dessert?

A not great photo of my not great looking cake. At this point I wasn’t sure what was going on with it so I just threw some plastic over it, not caring much about preserving the frosting. It wasn’t too bad though, removing it, we still had plenty somehow. It was actually quite yummy!

After dinner, we moved into the den and read two more books, The Shortest Day and The Longest Night (we absolutely love this one). We talked about some of our favorite nature memories this year – Billy’s camping trip for him, our trip up north with the old Cedar Forest trail and the picnic among the wildflowers, swimming in the lake. My monarchs. Tomato sandwiches, made with tomatoes from our garden. The trolls. So many wonderful moments this year.

That morning, we started the day with two songs – Here Comes the Sun which is Wyatt’s favorite, and Morning has Broken, one of my favorites.

It was a wonderful start to the holiday season! A little tiny celebration before the happy chaos of Christmas.

A Very Merry Christmas

It was a wonderful holiday this year, full of smiles and laughter and togetherness. Wyatt was so excited about everything, and that makes it so much more fun, the anticipation and excitement.

The days leading up to Christmas we spent baking and wrapping and cleaning (me). Wyatt also wrote Santa a letter and we mailed it from the big mailbox downtown in our city, the mailbox that has direct delivery to the North Pole. And would you believe it? Santa wrote Wyatt back!

Christmas Eve we spent the afternoon with Billy’s mom and dad, then later in the evening went to a small gathering with my mom and brother’s family and my sister-in-law’s mom. This group of five people is our regular bubble, we are like a little team. It was a low key night, with a bit of excitement when both kids decided to pillow attack Devin. This was followed up with Devin reading the kids a book, which was good to calm them back down before heading home to Christmas pajamas and cookies and milk. And no, he didn’t read The Night Before Christmas, but Pete the Cat Rides the Bus, a request from Wyatt.

My little baby is such a big little kid now!

Sunday we spent at my dad’s, to celebrate with him and my stepmom. The kids were once again showered in gifts, to their delight, and to the delight of the grandparents. These kids certainly do not want for anything. Wyatt has so many books, games, painting kits, a pottery wheel, and science kits for growing crystals as well as toys now to keep him busy for a long while. He is currently obsessed with mail carriers (do all kids have weird phases?) and was thrilled with his mail carrier dress up stuff. He also wanted to open his painting kit from my mom at bedtime last night. We settled for giving his dog Bowser a bath.

The adults had a good holiday as well. Besides seeing my family, I had wrens visit my bird feeder on Christmas day! I also feel pretty spoiled, with all the new books and journals and other things I got – included cozy warm slippers! Billy also got me a “Raised by boooooks” shirt with a wolf howling on it, and a “Be Kind to Bugs” hoodie, which I have pretty much lived in the past two days.

We had a great few days! We are looking forward to this slow week ahead of us, reading and writing and playing. Billy is off work for the week so I am hoping to get a hike or two in as well.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

My Favorite Books of 2021

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season if you celebrate! Things were good around here, and my kiddo was very into the magic of Christmas this year (more about that tomorrow).

I had a very dark reading year this year! Not all of my favorites are on the spookier, scarier side, but..it appears many are. I also had a really rough reading year. I had so many books I didn’t finish, times I just couldn’t get into reading, it was very weird for me. I was just a little off my reading game. However, there are some books that I just loved.

Fire Keeper’s Daughter was my absolute favorite read this year. I learned from it, was entertained by it, and completely devoured it. I also love that it was written by a Michigan author!

Hmmmm…maybe I spoke too soon. Maybe World of Wonders is my favorite book this year. Ok. This is my favorite nonfiction read of the year. I ran around telling everyone to read it. I loved the connection to nature, the throwbacks to her childhood, which while on some level were relatable to me, also were very far from my own experience.

Small Favors – just so good. I never quite knew where this story would go and I had a few surprises. I read this obsessively and I love everything Erin A. Craig writes so far. Also, another Michigan author!

The Final Girl Support Group and Bunny – both such good books, such crazy. Bunny was a trip and a half. And The Final Girl Support Group spoke to the part of me that grew up watching horror movies, Freddy and Jason and Michael Myers.

The Family Plot – Another dark, crazy read. But I completely loved it and my mom and I could not stop talking about it. I mean, a book that involves true crime? I am there.

The Box in the Woods is another one that I really enjoyed. I really love the Truly Devious series and I thought it was a bit cheeky of Johnson to have a murder mystery set at a summer camp. Perfect, right?

And finally, A Solitude of Wolverines. A mystery about a wildlife biologist who gets mixed up in a bit of a situation, one that could prove to be deadly. I have been waiting so long to read the next book in this series – next month! I decided January would be a good month to read a book about polar bears…

I wonder what roads my reading will take me down next year? I can’t wait to find out!