Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'm from the Dark Ages

Jonathan: "Mom, when you were little, did you play Starfall on the computer?"
Emily: "No, they hadn't invented Starfall yet."
Jonathan: "Well, did you play other games on the internet?"
Emily: "They hadn't invented the internet yet, either."

Totally boggled his little mind. :)

The Mute Button (Improv Everywhere)

I really love Improv Everywhere. They're so consistently entertaining and they dream up some of the most creative missions! Their latest: The Mute Button!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Strawberry Orange Banana Smoothies

I think one of the best summer treats is a freshly made smoothie. Today when we came home from the park we made this one:

Strawberry Orange Banana Smoothie

Milk (probably about 3/4 cup or so)
2 spoonfuls orange juice concentrate
2 oranges
1 cup spinach (loosely measured)
1/2 frozen banana
10 or so frozen strawberries

Blend milk, concentrate, oranges, and spinach until smooth. With blender running, add banana and strawberries one at a time. I added strawberries until the smoothie just started to turn pink from green.

The boys declared it "AWESOME!"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I spent some time working in my front garden today. It has truly horrible soil, riddled with roots from the neighboring tree, and it is difficult to get much of anything to grow in it. But it is in front of my house, in the area that *technically* is the HOA gardeners' domain, so I feel a need to try to keep it looking nice.

{I commandeered the space years ago, when we had a gardening service that didn't even pretend to garden, and the only thing growing in that space (in front of my window!) was a thorn bush.}

It looks better now. But what really made me smile today is what happened about an hour later. When my oldest excitedly called me out to see his garden. Two little patches of grass and weeds, carefully dug up and transplanted next to mine.

Cultural phenomenon

How is it that Star Wars has taken over my life, even though none of my boys has ever seen the movies? The boys dress up as Luke and Darth Vader. They pretend to be Anakin (is it going to be traumatic when they discover who that poor kid becomes?) and talk about Mandalorians. Jonathan sets up elaborate battlegrounds between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" with his star wars lego. (I think the designations might be entirely fabricated.) All the boys battle each other: Jedi (blue light saber) against "Roger-roger" (a droid, apparently? with a gun), ably supported by Josiah in the role of Yoda (green light saber). The computer game of choice for Jonathan and Thomas is currently this one which Jonathan found, all by himself, by laboriously typing (and correctly spelling!) "star wars lego" into my browser.

{Does anyone have a recommendation for really good internet parental control software? I don't want him stumbling into something icky by accident.}

It really is kind of strange how much the story and characters have succeed in capturing the boys' imaginations. I wonder what they will think of the movies when they eventually get to see them. When we do show it to them, in which order should we show it? 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3? or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6? Come to think of it, do you suppose I could get away with not showing them 1, 2, and 3 at all? I hate to think of them running around imitating Jar Jar!

Reading in Puddle Lane

Touchstone recently started publishing a column by Kathie Johnson entitled "First Books". Kathie has a deep love for children's literature, and she has a truly amazing library in her house, available to children in Berkeley. In this month's article, she reviewed some of the "just-beginning-to-read" books that she has found the most children to respond to, and discussed why different children might be drawn to different kinds of beginner books. One of the series' was Puddle Lane, by Sheila McCullagh.

Puddle Lane books are written specifically to be read together with an adult (or older sibling). They are small hardcover books with wonderful illustrations, easy to hold and very attractive. You just want to pick them up! In "Stage 2" (where we're currently reading) the left hand page holds the adult text, which reads like a good children's story. The right hand page has one or two sentences of the same part of the story, the same or very similar to part of what was just read. The beauty of this is twofold: you get a real story, and the beginning reader gets some help from his memory as he reads his page. This allows him to read more fluently, which is far more rewarding than sounding everything out all the time.

And the stories are just a lot of fun! They include such delights as talking mice, Griffles and Gruffles, a Magician, various townspeople, and children with names like Peter Puffle ("Hey, it rhymes with Gruffle!" says Jonathan.) I'm not worried about the magical elements, as we've been reading fiction since Jonathan was about 2 years old, and he has a firm grasp on real vs. story. Besides, eventually I want him to read C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. :)

Learning to read has been a struggle for Jonathan after the first week of "wow" wore off. He's very bright, and he can pick things up quickly, but he hated the slogging along. As he informed me, "it isn't really reading, not like Daddy does!" To some extent, we just had to muddle through that part...but Puddle Lane has come along at just the right time. Jonathan is watching for the mail to arrive to see if a new Puddle Lane book comes. He asks to read them with me. And after only a few days, he's realizing that he knows more than he thinks he does, and that it transfers. This afternoon he asked me where The Big Red Barn (another wonderful book!) was, and sat himself down to read it.

Thank you, Kathie, for your heart for children and their books. And thank you, Touchstone, for publishing her wisdom.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Poor Josiah fell off his chair yesterday evening and bit his tongue. I was actually a little scared when I picked him up, because he had blood everywhere - covering his teeth, smeared across his face, all over his hand. It was a nasty double sided bite. Poor baby!

He recovered enough to show it off for the camera, though. :)

How about a close-up?

Yeah, ouch.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Now THAT is a moment of a lifetime!

Earlier this month, Paul Simon called a fan up on stage and invited her to play a song on his guitar. Can you imagine how incredible that would be? Seriously, just imagine it.

(Having looked up the lyrics of the song, I can't say I recommend them...but the music is great.) :)

Credit to Katie for the link!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Roller coaster

And after that lovely day yesterday? Today, I have lost all my focus and motivation. Gah! Someone save me from myself! :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Your Big Backyard and Ranger Rick magazine DEAL!

Mamapedia has another awesome kids' magazine deal available, starting TOMORROW (May 16th)! This time it is a one year (10 issue) subscription to your choice of Animal Baby, Your Big Backyard, or Ranger Rick for only $10!

(There is a coupon code floating around the internet - MAY10 - which may take 10% off your order. But since I haven't tried it yet, I can't promise that it will work.)

We gave the boys a subscription to YBB and RR two Christmases ago, and they were MAJOR hits. (Jonathan and Thomas are constantly asking when they'll get another magazine, even now, months after the subscription ended.)

I've mentioned before how I like Mamapedia's 5% donation to charity on every purchase. And you get to choose the charity!

Full disclosure: if you purchase through my link, I get $10 in referral credit. But I honestly think that this is a great deal - we're buying it - and I hope that the information is useful to some of my readers!

A good day

Sometimes it is nice to look back over the day and bask in the accomplishments.

Cooking: black beans, dinner quesadillas

Baking: 2 batches of granola bars, blackberry cobbler (sadly, the banana muffins didn't quite happen)

Laundry: the hamper is merely full now, instead of overflowing. :)

Homeschooling: math, art, handwriting, maps, narration, reading (Frog and Toad: Spring)

Little kids: water play, playdough, baking "help" :)

Cleaning: complete kitchen clean

Gardening: cut all dead flowers off the rose bushes, and arranged two vases to bring indoors

Toward the mortgage: listed three sets of cloth diapers on ebay, sold breadmaker (craigslist)

AND we had a lunch time play date in the midst of all of it!

[if only every day could be this good]

Rose garden

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Free stationery cards from Shutterfly

Need a few cards? Shutterfly is offering a promotion right now: 5 free cards (pay only shipping and handling). Plus, if you go through ShopAtHome, you'll get 20% of your cost back.

[I'm not sure if the refund applies to total price paid or only to the subtotal.]

The code for free cards is CARD4GRAD. Also, the photo books are on sale for 20% off right now, and if your purchase is over $30 you can use SHIP30 to get free shipping.

This is what I just purchased - I've been waiting for a good deal!

Blossom Thank You Card
Turn your photos into thank you cards at Shutterfly.com.
View the entire collection of cards.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

I've really been enjoying the {pretty, happy, funny, real} Thursday posts up at Like Mother, Like Daughter. This time I decided to join them!


Once a month the Huntington Library and Gardens offers a Free Day. We take them up on it about 4 times a year; the boys particularly love the Children's Garden. This time the roses were in full bloom! Jonathan took this picture - didn't he do a great job?


Josiah is the happiest child in the world if you give him a bucket of water to play with!


We're building a bookshelf to replace the one that is falling apart in the boys' room. Josiah decided that he'd prefer it to be his new bed.


What, this isn't real life in your house?

Vitamix giveaway

This has to be the best giveaway I've ever seen. Head over to Crystal's site, The Thrifty Mama, and enter to win!

While you're at it, you should subscribe to her blog. She writes a niche deal site covering healthy and organic deals, and I've found it very helpful as I try to buy organic without breaking the bank. :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New curtains, Dave Ramsey style

I'm working hard on not spending money on things that I don't have to spend money on, in the interest of paying down our mortgage (and moving! to Oregon! yay!) But my kitchen curtains were at least five years old, and they'd been washed to the point of falling apart. Buy new ones? No way. :)

I found some pretty white fabric in my stash - actually I think it originally came from my mom's stash - and sewed myself some new ones this afternoon! I modeled them on the old ones, because I really liked them, but these are made of nicer fabric which will hopefully hold up to washing a little better.

Total costs: $0 + a few hours of time

(Honey, I hope you don't mind leftovers for dinner. The hours weren't in my daily budget.) :)

Monday, May 09, 2011

Announcing: Crowning Achievements!

I'm pleased to announce that my doula service website is up and running! Gabe was, of course, invaluable in building it, and I have a whole new appreciation for both his job and for designers...building a website from mostly scratch is hard!! :)

I'm excited to have my little space on the web. If anyone has suggestions/feedback, please let me know! And of course, if you know someone who might be interested in a doula for her birth, I would truly appreciate referrals.

Upcycled summer wear

Some time ago, a friend (I think it was Jessica?) gave me some old skirts. They weren't really wearable - they kind of screamed "I was fashionable in the 90's!" - but they were made of nice fabric and I thought I'd sew something with them.

Well. This weekend I was going through my fabric stash and got inspired. Check out the result!

For the blue one, I cut off the bottom of the skirt, and sewed the bottom trim in such a way that it ruffles just a smidge. Adds a little bit of flounce. :)

For the black/pink one, I cut off the top of the skirt and then took it in with a lot of pleats. I'm not quite as happy with this one, mostly because I wish I had the skills to add a side zipper, but it will do, and it sure looks better than it did!

I'm ridiculously pleased that investing a couple of hours and some thread just resulted in two new-to-me summer skirts!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Cheerful determination

Usually I post pictures and photos of my own kids on my blog. But today, I just have to send you over to The Joy and the Care.

Bethany was my first roommate during college, and she was (and is!) a lovely person. I enjoy keeping up with her precocious girls via her blog, as well as reading Bethany's reflections on motherhood. She's an insightful woman. In this video her youngest, Jane, is featured demonstrating the most cheerful determination I've ever seen. Edifying baby video - what could be better?! :)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Catching on...

Jonathan finished today's schoolwork during his morning quiet time. This afternoon he asked, "Mom, if I do tomorrow's schoolwork right now, then would I have the whole day to play?"

It has been a bit of a rough year, homeschooling, but I think that Jonathan is starting to see some benefits of staying home!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Perfect Beef Stew

One of my favorite new recipes from our Lenten meal plan: perfect beef stew. I adapted a whole slew of recipes and we absolutely loved the result!


* 1 lb beef chuck, cubed
* 6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* 3 tablespoon butter
* 1 onion, diced
* 3 cloves garlic, crushed
* 4 cups water
* 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1/2 teaspoon oregano
* 2 bay leaves
* 3 carrots, cubed
* 2 stalks celery, sliced
* 4 small-medium potatoes, cubed


1. Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a bag. Dredge beef cubes in the flour mixture. Brown beef with onion and garlic in a medium stock pot.

2. Add water, Worcestershire, oregano, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour.

3. Add carrots, celery, and potatoes. Simmer until soft (about one more hour)