Exploring Folk Music

This week Wyatt is learning about the Great Smoky Mountains, and I thought it would be a great time to add in some music! He is a huge music lover of all kinds, and while we almost always have music of some sort playing in the house, I have never purposely included it in our plans – mostly because I am not well versed on music, at all. But I thought this was a good basic intro for him!

I found these folk instrument flash cards online and used them not really as flashcards to quiz him but as a way to talk about the different instruments used in folk music. Then I collected any instruments that we had around our house that were listed and set them out for him to play with. I usually have his small instruments out for him in a basket, but the guitar and ukulele are usually put away and for occasions with supervision. The guitar was his grandfather’s and is special to me for that reason. I want him to to use but treat it with respect which is sometimes hard for five year olds who are learning still.

We talked about all the instruments, the types that they are, played around with them, and then listened to music on YouTube. I specifically searched for fiddle music, banjo music, etc so that we could hear what each sounded like, and also threw some in just for fun.

We watched a few Lindsey Stirling videos because I personally love her style. I was surprised that they were not Wyatt’s favorites, because they are so lively and upbeat but I think she was his least favorite! He really loved the harmonica pieces we listened to and Abby the Spoon Lady.

Afterward we constructed a cereal box banjo/guitar but we are still working on the neck – I will update with photo later! I turned it inside out, taped it all back together and had Wyatt decorate it before adding the rubber band strings. His grandfather was an artist and was so talented with calligraphy and design – Wyatt decorating his little art project while we listened to country music just really made me feel like his grandfather was with us for a bit.

So it was a very basic intro but a good one! I am going to look into music for homeschooling as this kid seems to have music in his very soul!

Book Review: The Creative Family Manifesto

Goodreads Summary:

Spark and nurture your family’s creativity–a guide for making creativity an intentional part of everyday life.

When you learn to awaken your family’s creativity, wonderful things will happen: you’ll make meaningful connections with your children in large and small ways; your children will more often engage in their own creative discoveries; and your family will embrace new ways to relax, play, and grow together. With just the simple tools around you–your imagination, basic art supplies, household objects, and natural materials–you can transform your family life, and have so much more fun! This book embraces a whole new way of living that will engage your children’s imagination, celebrate their achievements, and help you to express love and gratitude for each other as a family.

My Thoughts:

My husband grew up in a very artistic, creative family. His mother was always painting or drawing or creating pottery (still is) and she passed this talent and love for art on to her children. When I met my husband in third grade, we shared a double desk and he would draw me pictures. I wish I still had them now! My family is full of creative thinkers, but we are not particularly skilled in drawing or painting, except for my brother and my grandmother. Creativity and fun were a huge part of my childhood, but not necessarily art or drawing. I really want to create an environment full of wonder and art and creativity for Wyatt but I felt I needed a little support, and this book had some wonderful ideas on how to incorporate art into our everyday and lifestyle, and really make it accessible to Wyatt.

A few things that really resonated with me: First, to purchase quality materials for the whole family to use and keep them where your child can use them as they desire. That whole idea of keeping things for nice or special doesn’t work with art supplies. It can be discouraging and frustrating to use poor quality versions of things (we have all had that experience with crayons I am sure!) so I took this advice and invested in some better quality sketch pads, watercolor paints, and colored pencils, as a start. I didn’t buy the top of the line, but I didn’t buy the cheapest there was either.

We have already put our new materials to good use! We have been heading to a quiet spot in the outdoors and spending time sketching and drawing together. I am not an artist by any means but I feel by trying along with Wyatt then I am showing him you don’t need to be in order to enjoy it and do it, and that it will encourage and foster a love of art in him.

However, the book also talks about being resourceful in your materials as well! Don’t limit yourself to traditional items, explore places like the pantry and nature – use found items to create art. I know that we have definitely done this in our home, with all of our Fruit Loop creations earlier in the spring.

Other ideas that I love and that I am going to incorporate into our dynamic is just making fun of the everyday. I try to do this anyway, but Soule had a few suggestions that I loved. One suggestion was a family meeting in bed – I kind of love the idea of all of us piled into the bed on Saturday and Sunday mornings, discussing what we would like to do that day – and to make sure that you make time for art! I also loved the idea of having toasts for accomplishments at dinner – no matter big or small, if they are a proud moment, let’s toast to it!

Soule encourages families to try it all, basically – knitting, painting, photography, embroidery, plays and theater – the only limit really is your imagination. I found this book to be inspiring and can’t wait to see what we all create together!

My Sunday-Monday Post

My Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Last week was the definition of a slow summer week. We spent time outside, lazing about the house, and learning about fireflies. We spent time outdoors drawing together, and in my “free” time I researched curriculums for Wyatt’s school year. I am finding there are so many out there, too many options almost! The more I look the harder this gets. And of course all the homeschool families on Instagram are revealing their curriculum choices so I am writing all these down when I see them. I think I need to just stop looking at this point and choose. I had no idea the homeschool world was such a big and connected community but it is. I also had a great evening with my friends having socially distanced drinks together. I am also going to venture out of my comfort zone this week and try the curbside service at the library..

Read Last Week:

I didn’t read very much last week. I finished up Opium and Absinthe, which ended up getting really good, and started The Masterpiece which I forgot I had ordered until it arrived at my door. I was excited to read a physical book!

Reading This Week:

I will continue to read The Masterpiece but I feel the Dear Bob and Sue Part 2 calling my name this week. I am missing trips and travel! We had planned a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains and a side trip to Dollywood for this month pre-COVID which is now on hold.

Posted Last Week:

Book Review: Honey and Venom

Snapshots of Summer So Far

Homeschool, Summer Edition: Birds and Fireflies


We have been watching Nancy Drew, and finally finished Season 1 – so good! Then I started Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix and am addicted. I am squeezing them in where I can. I even went on Reddit to see what other people were thinking of these – I guess I think I am Nancy Drew! For our movie night we watched Woman Walks Ahead which was really good. It could easily have been longer than the hour and forty some minutes and I would have been ok with it, and I don’t say that often. I usually hate movies over two hours.

Stay safe everyone.

Homeschool, Summer Edition: Birds and Fireflies

We have been focusing on life with wings the past two weeks, and have learned about birds and fireflies! Fireflies just feel so summer to me. I wait for them to start blinking their lights every year and when they finally do, I feel like ok, now it is summertime for real. We are doing a little less structured school for the summer, but still learning and creating and keeping up with skills so we avoid that summer slide – which is a real thing and with this year being so abbreviated at school, I felt like I would just keep going.

Last week was bird week! We talked about different nests and eggs, worked on number identification, patterns, letters, and also more nature study type things, like bird identification and listening to different bird songs and calls. Wyatt’s favorites are chickadees and woodpeckers – mine will always be owls of all sorts (in fact we are spending a whole week on owls this fall..) We also measured our “wingspans” and learned that Wyatt’s wingspan is similar to that of a barn owl while mine is close to an osprey.

Art is always a fun part of our week and for bird week we painted with feathers, made a feather branch out of construction paper and a branch (fine motor skills and cutting practice!), and made a bird kite that was more fun to make than fly. Wyatt’s painting though – I don’t think he intended to paint a bird but do you see it? I think I am going to frame it!

Then this week we learned about fireflies, or lightning bugs depending on who you are. Again it was a more unstructured, more nature study versus school kind of week, perfect for summer. We did continue to review skills, and read books and listened to Leo the Lightning Bug on CD a million times. We made a cute little lightning bug and then fun glow in the dark firefly jars. We ended the week with an ice cream dinner then watching for fireflies in the yard. It was a good very summertime feeling week.

Resource Round-Up:

HomeEd Printables Birds

N is for Nest Teaching Mama

Honeycomb Cabin Birds

Fireflies by Stephanie Hathaway

Firefly Activities – Teach With Me

Books and Extras:

(Contains affiliate links for Amazon and Usborne Books)

Montessori Bird Puzzle

Sibley Backyard Bird Matching Game

Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe || Firefly July || Leo the Lightning Bug by Eric Drachman || My Book of Life Cycles || Birdhouse

And that is it for our homeschool the last two weeks! Next week we are doing a very fun unit on the Great Smoky Mountains; pre-COVID we had a vacation planned to the Smoky Mountains and Dollywood which is now on hold until next year, unfortunately. So we will be visiting and learning about the the area virtually! It is a more play based week with an emphasis on art and music and geography and history – I am excited to see how it all goes for us!

Snapshots of Summer..so far

I have a stack of books that my cousin made, that say “Every Summer Has Its Own Story”. Could that be more true for this summer? I think about other weird times in history, trying times and challenging times. Times of war, the year without a summer, pandemics of the past – and now the times that 2020 has brought to us all, globally. Our year has certainly been different, and while I thought summer might bring some relief, we are still fairly locked down.

Despite this, we are trying. We are seeing friends and family, yet more often in person socially distanced rather than just online chats. We can get outside more frequently, and easier, and Wyatt and I try to spend either mornings or evenings outside. The evenings are nicer, because then Billy can be with us.

We’ve enjoyed drinks outside…

… and all sorts of treasures from nature.

Tonight we are being crazy and having an ice cream for dinner picnic outdoors – complete with waffle cone bowls. It’s gonna get messy!

Stay well everyone.

Book Review: Honey and Venom

From the Publisher:

Considered an “industry legend” by The New York Times, Andrew Coté has one of the most intriguing, challenging, and unique jobs in New York City—maintaining millions of honey bees atop some of the city’s most iconic buildings. His apiaries have crowned the Waldorf Astoria and the Museum of Modern Art; reside on the North Lawn of the United Nations; reign above stores, hotels, restaurants, schools, churches, and synagogues; and are situated in community gardens, and even cemeteries, throughout the five boroughs.
In this debut collection, Coté takes readers with him on his daily apiary adventures over the course of a year, in the city and across the globe. Here, among his many duties, he is called to capture swarms that have clustered on fire hydrants, air-conditioning units, or street-vendor umbrellas. Annually, he travels with his father to regions like remote Fijian islands, rural Uganda, Haiti, Ecuador, or Iraq with his organization, Bees Without Borders, where he teaches beekeepers how to increase their honey yield and income via beekeeping endeavors.
Written with Coté’s trademark humor, acumen, and a healthy dose of charm, Honey and Venom illuminates the obscure culture of New York City “beeks” and the biology of the bees themselves, from the humble drone to the fittingly named worker to the queen herself—who is more a slave than a monarch. The hive world, Coté reveals, is full of strivers and slackers, givers and takers, and even some insect promiscuity—startlingly similar to the prickly human variety.
For Coté, a fourth-generation beekeeper, this is a family tradition, and this personal significance pervades his celebration of the romance and mystery of bees, their honey, and the beekeepers whose lives revolve around these most magical creatures.

My Thoughts:

When I think of beekeepers, I think of pastoral, rural, peaceful settings, a life full of flowers and honey ; Andrew Coté is far from this image. His life and career is globetrotting, star studded, and full of rooftops and city streets, hard work and long hours (although I am sure those rural type beekeepers also work long and hard hours!)

I was pleasantly surprised by this book! I should have realized that the life of an urban beekeeper would be leagues different from those on farms and homesteads, however I never would have imagined the amazing things that Coté, has done in his life as a beekeeper. One such thing is his Bees Without Borders program that he founded to help fight poverty, and he has travelled to such countries as Kenya, Nigeria, and Iraq and others, to teach them beekeeping skills. Some of the stories he had to tell about his travels were were humorous, while some highlighted the dangers he faced in his mission to help others, and bees.

Coté, also had stories to tell of commercials, tv show appearances (Cake Boss, for one), and being a beekeeper to the rich and famous – namely one very famous woman renowned for her lifestyle whose name begins with M. In addition to all of this, Coté, also founded the New York City Beekeepers Association, maintains his own empire of bees, and assists with dangerous bee situations that plague the city – such as a hoarding house whose bees became a danger and nuisance to the city, working side by side with the police in such cases.

I really loved this book – I loved hearing about all of Coté’s adventures, his family history with bees and beekeeping, and the little facts that he threw in about bees as well – such as the fact that the scent of bananas enrages them! This book was a great read and I loved learning about a whole different world, the world of the urban beekeeper.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

My Sunday-Monday Post

My Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

So the first week of July is behind us – and summer has arrived to our little corner of the world with high temps, long lazy days, and our garden beginning to bear fruit, literally. Wyatt and I split the very first ripe raspberry from our garden, when it was still warm from the sun, bringing back so many memories of sitting in my uncle’s garden eating peas directly from the garden, peaches straight from the tree. We spent the fourth having a picnic in the park, then heading to my brother’s for a socially distanced get together with my family. Wyatt and my niece saw their first driveway firework and were very impressed.

Read Last Week:

I am almost done with Opium and Absinthe, and so far it is good but I am not enjoying it as much as Kang’s other books. Maybe the end will really bring it all together, we will see. I absolutely loved The Creative Family Manifesto, and am hoping to order some new art supplies today.

Reading This Week:

I have to be honest, I am not sure! I have a bunch of books I was planning on reading but I am not in the mood anymore, I am sort of in a reading slump but I think it is because we have been outside quite a bit and when we are inside I am usually doing stuff with the family. These are some contenders for the week:

Wyatt and I also finished Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne and have started reading The Little Prince as our afternoon read aloud. I have always loved that story and it will be fun to share with him.

Posted Last Week:


Paris In July – Parisienne Farmgirl

We Made Shampoo Bars

Friday Favorites: Hair and Skincare

I didn’t get a chance to post our summer homeschool roundup about birds, which was a great week! I hope to get that up tomorrow or Tuesday.


We are still watching Nancy Drew, Rosemary and Thyme, and then Friday night we watched a fantastic movie from the French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet called The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, which is on Amazon. We had not heard of it but the cinematography looked amazing in the trailer and it also had Helena Bonham-Carter in it and I love her, so we gave it a go. This movie is so beautiful visually, rich and vibrant, clever, and quirky, all things I love. The ending was sort of weird but other than that, I loved this movie and thought it was very well-done!

Stay safe everyone!

Friday Favorites: Hair and Skincare

I am always fascinated with other people’s skin care and hair routines – is this just me? I just recently asked my tribe of friends what they do to get ready and everyone is so different, I love it. I love too, that my friends Jill and Kelly put on all of their makeup even when they are wearing a mask, and that Kelly has red lip imprints on the inside of her mask after going out. Chrissy has a similar routine to mine, and Mary has an even simpler routine. Our favorite products run the gamut as well, from expensive to my type, which are easily found at your local Target or drug store. Well except my shampoo and soap bars. I love that this is what makes us all up, and that we are all different with our routines; I love these things that make us so individual!

I was also looking to change up my own routine, and I knew that I wanted something easily accessible, especially now in these crazy times, natural, and affordable. I have bought really expensive products before and also very inexpensive and right now, my mindset is affordability. I like quick and easy in the summer so that was important too.

My hair is pretty thick, coarse, and wavy/curly. On humid days, it gets humongous, left to its own devices. I straightened it for years and years but lately have been letting it just go all natural. I seem to have found the magic products finally to keep it sort of in line. Two years ago I switched to shampoo bar/soap bars in an effort to reduce my plastic consumption and I have not looked back. Two of my friends have hopped on the train and like it as well! My SIL so much so that she even makes her own products because she is awesome – and if you saw my post yesterday, she taught me how to do it too! For now though, I am in LOVE with the bars from Soap Cauldron’s Three Sisters Apothecary. Right now I am using their Lavender and Tea Tree Shampoo bar, and it does great things for my hair – plus it smells amazing. It also has a great lather, which is hard to find in a shampoo bar. You can buy their products from their Etsy site, or Amazon. If I am buying a bigger order I usually order from Etsy, but for a bar here or there I order from Amazon. I also use their California Misson Fig and Honey bar soap too, that is delicious smelling as well!

I definitely need detangler for my mass of hair. Which has just gotten longer during COVID. I spritz my hair when it is wet with Orange Vanilla Leave in Condtioner Detangling spray from The Honest Company then comb it through with my wide toothed detangling comb. I also use this detangling spray on Wyatt’s hair, since he has inherited my thick hair.

For skin care, I have been using Burt’s Bees Sensitive Skin Face Wash, and then following it up with either the Burt’s Bees Day Lotion with SPF or the Burt’s Bees Night Cream. The day lotion is light and non-greasy, which is huge in my opinion. I love that it has SPF too. The night cream is a little heavy for me, so I only use that once or twice a week. Both of the lotions are in glass bottles and jars which is nice – but the detangler and face wash are in plastic. And of course I use sunblock, I am super fanatical about using sunblock – and wearing a giant hat and sunglasses outside. My family and friends joke that I am a vampire. This is just my gardening look… lol.

What about you all? Anything you are really loving right now?

We made shampoo bars!

Over the weekend, my sister-in-law Chrissy showed me how she makes shampoo bars. We both are die hard fans of soap bars and shampoo bars, and Chrissy started making them last fall in her kitchen. For my lesson, she moved it outside and we masked up – but only for the lye. We were able to socially distance and hang out and make cool things. I have been wanting to learn how to do this but the lye freaked me out. I had visions of myself falling face first into a vat of boiling lye and emerging as a supervillain. Or something similar. So Chrissy was out to show me how non-scary this whole process really is.

Wasn’t she nice to bring everything outside to show me how to do this? I think so. One thing I learned is to have dedicated bowls and products just for soap making due to the lye. And you can’t use anything aluminum, because that could cause a bad reaction. Chrissy actually bought all of her supplies at the dollar store, including her goggles and long gloves. And then we just wore our masks that are just a normal part of life these days. (My mask is from Love Woolies). I bought my goggles and gloves from Amazon since I am not really shopping these days.

We used a recipe from The Nerdy Farmwife so if you want to make these, make sure to pop over to her site for the full instructions and not just my abbreviated version. She has many recipes as well as a soap making 101 post. That being said, after Chrissy added all the oils and shea butter it was time to add the lye. And it wasn’t as terrifying as I had imagined! You do have to take precautions though – you don’t want to get it on your skin or in your eyes, and you don’t want to inhale the fumes, so avoid breathing those in. If you have breathing issues or sensitive lungs at all, wear a mask. Do this project in a well ventilated room, no matter who you are. Chrissy said that in the winter she keeps the window open in the kitchen and sets the lye solution near it, and when she adds the lye to the water and mixes it, she turns her head away from the mixture. Also, you never want to add water to the lye; you want to add the lye to the water, or you will create a volcanic reaction. But if you follow these rules, you should be ok.

Then we waited for everything to come down in temperature. The lye solution creates a heat all of its own, which is just crazy chemistry! But the oils and things are heated up to melt everything down. So both have to cool before they can be mixed together. While we waited, we just chatted and I checked out the garden and talked to my niece who was running around the yard. A little wren came down and was singing away to us – we later realized it had built a nest in the birdhouse in the tree and was probably mad we were so close! I can’t tell you how just nice it was to be doing something different for a change. Billy had the kiddo, I was chatting with Chrissy, one of my very best friends, and the day was gorgeous.

Once everything was cooled down low enough, Chrissy mixed everything together and used an immersion blender to thicken it. You basically blend it on low until it looks like well, shampoo. You keep doing it until you get trace, which is when you pull the blender out and the drip forms a line on top. Then you carefully pour the mixture into your mold, cover it, and let it sit for 2-3 days. After that time you cut it into bars, then let it cure for however long it takes to cure, a few weeks generally. Then all you have to do is clean up! The lye solution is still active until 24 hours has passed, so you don’t want to get any of this any on your skin. Chrissy carefully washes the smaller items, but bags up the bigger items and stores them in the basement for a day or two before washing, which makes a lot of sense!

I haven’t ordered anything yet to make soap or shampoo bars from scratch – I just placed a huge order for supplies to make melt and pour soap, which basically takes the saponification out of it, but you can still add in scents and other things to personalize the soap. Once I use those supplies up, I am going to put my newfound knowledge to the test!

Thanks so much to Chrissy for taking the time and effort to show me how to do this!

Currently – July

Today I am linking up with Anne in Residence’s monthly post, Currently… This month we are sharing what we are cooking, photographing, sharing, trying and wondering.

Cooking: We are not too exciting on this front right now. Mostly summertime foods on the grill, easy stuff like burgers and salmon, and fruit and veggies and cheese. We attempted to make strawberry jam the other night, and I stood over a hot stove full of boiling pots while my hair curled up like crazy, only to not have any of our jars seal! I am not sure what I did wrong; I feel like I did all the things, the only thing I can think of that I didn’t do is give them enough space for air flow while they were cooling. So, back to the drawing board and try try again!

Photographing: We haven’t been venturing too far from home, so I’ve been mostly photgraphing my son, who loves his photo taken and asks for it, my garden, insects, and my cats.

Sharing: This month I will be sharing French-themed posts on my blog for Paris in July, hosted by Thyme for Tea. I also “shared” all of the black swallowtail eggs and caterpillars I found on my carrots and dill with my sister-in-law and niece, who are raising them. I found a few more yesterday though so it looks like we might be raising them too..

Trying: Lots of new projects! My sister-in-law showed me how to make shampoo bars the other day, which was the perfect socially distanced social time, since it was outside and we had to wear PPE anyway. I was very nervous about working with lye and she showed me that it was not as scary as I had imagined. (I’m hoping to post about this tomorrow or the next day) I also have an embroidery kit to try, and I bought my son a kid’s beading/sewing kit. I thought if we did it together it would be neat, plus he likes stringing things together and bonus, fine motor work for my cp warrior! However, my husband has to teach both Wyatt and me..

Wondering: Like everyone else, how to stay sane. How to keep our kids happy and healthy and non-traumatized by these world events. When and if things will return to normal. When I will feel comfortable enough to get ice cream from my favorite ice cream place again.

Stay safe and well everyone!