Knitted Christmas Sweaters

It’s a little deceiving to call them “Christmas sweaters,” because they’re not designed in a Christmas motif. But they are sweaters that I knitted for Christmas gifts, so I’ll stick with Christmas sweaters.

A lot of these pictures are straight from my Instagram account, so if you follow me there, you may have seen these already. But I want to share them here as well.

For almost all of them, I used the same basic pattern (Flax by Tin Can Knits). I made some changes to several of them, though, for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to add some interest for myself as the knitter. I didn’t want to knit the same exact pattern a billion times in just a few short weeks. Second, I wanted the siblings receiving the sweaters to not have them be identical (except for the color), so I made minor modifications so each one would be unique.

Here are my projects:

flax-for-dad

This brown one was made for my dad. It was the first one I made, so I followed the pattern exactly as written. It’s an adult size S/M, and I used 5 hanks of yarn, each one of which was 100 grams. I had a little bit left over, so it didn’t use up the full 500 grams. Because Seahawk is about the same size as my dad, I had him be my model and “tryer-onner.”

flax-green-fair-isle

This green sweater was my first foray into fair isle knitting. I’d knitted three of the sweaters “plain” by this point, so I was ready for something a bit more challenging. The size for this sweater (a 6/8, for my 6-year-old nephew) had the exact same stitch multiple as the Color My Cowl pattern from Very Pink Knits, so I decided to put that pattern into the middle of the sweater. I think this was a really good introduction to fair isle knitting, and I’m really pleased with the results. The colors in the actual sweater are better than the picture conveys – it’s a nice forest green for the main color and lime green for the embellishments.

Purple Sweater Flax Hack

The purple one was made for one of my nieces. I was nearly done with sweaters by the time I’d made this one, and I was very interested to see what the Flax design would look like with a garter stitch panel down the sides of the sweater as well as on the sleeves. While I won’t come right out and say I was disappointed with the result, it wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind. Also, in my naivete, I had no idea that garter stitch doesn’t line up properly when knit in the round, so I had to do some research and fiddling to get the side that was the “beginning of the round” to not look awful. I only moderately succeeded.

20161223_155455The orange one was the last sweater I did, and I was ready for something really challenging by this point. I find a knitted seed stitch to be rather beautiful, but it’s one of those things that always eludes me. I’ve done it before, but I always mess it up. There’s absolutely never been a time when I’m knitting seed stitch and I look back at my work and realize that several rows back, I’ve got some ribbing instead. I thought that perhaps my difficulty lay in the fact that I was knitting seed stitch flat (back and forth), and maybe it would be easier to work the pattern in the round. I was right. It wasn’t foolproof – I spent over an hour one day reconfiguring several rows of stitches to correct my mistake – but it was a lot better. And I learned that properly done seed stitch is very beautiful.

Apparently I don’t have pictures of the others, which is unfortunate. Here’s the lowdown on what I made that’s not pictured:

  • A Flax sweater as written made in lilac colored yarn (purple with a hint of blue) for my 8 year old niece
  • A Flax sweater in yellow without the sleeve texture and with a blue design around the bottom of the waist and sleeves for my 7 year old niece
  • A Simple Baby Pullover in dark blue (not quite navy) with “transportation” buttons and extended sleeves for length for my 2 year old nephew
  • A Flax sweater as written in Tide Pool colored yarn (blue with a hint of teal woven throughout) for my 4 year old nephew
  • A Flax sweater as written in blue and brown variegated yarn for Small Fry
  • A Flax sweater as written in “bird’s egg” blue yarn with the edges (neck, waist, and wrists) made in leftover brown from my dad’s sweater for Dragonfly

And a few more that I found pictures for on my Ravelry page:

A Simple Baby Pullover as written in the same bird’s egg blue as his other sweater (also with transportation buttons) for Dragonfly – this one is his favorite! The picture was taken before I added the buttons.

A Dexter vest (sleeveless, v-neck) in orange for Small Fry. This was my very first sweater ever, and I chose it because I was terrified of the prospect of knitting in the round or adding sleeves to a sweater. I had no idea how that would work, so for my first time out, I just avoided it!

A Kangaroo Pocket sweater in charcoal for Munchkin. This is the one and only sweater of “mine” that’s been knit in pieces and sewn together. While I know that some patterns benefit from this technique, I do prefer the single piece, in the round style better.

Not all of those were made for (or around) Christmas, but that’s the complete list of all the sweaters I’ve made to date. I’m taking a bit of a break from sweaters for the time being, but I’m excited to get back into them soon. Next up, something with long sleeves and a v-neck for Seahawk. 🙂

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Spaghetti Carbonara ~ Recipe

Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe at Ladybug DaydreamsThe first time I ever had Spaghetti Carbonara was when my mother-in-law passed away in 2007. All of the extended family was in town for her memorial service, and her brother was cooking lunch for everyone one day. I didn’t know at the time what the meal was, but I knew as I was eating it that it one of the very best things I’d ever tasted.

I’m not sure how I came to learn what it was that he’d cooked that day, but sometime much later, I did. And I tried again and again to find recipes that rivaled his from back then. I never did, though several of them were “fine.” But then about three weeks ago, I was making the dish and I decided to find another recipe for it to try. In addition to finding a new recipe that was a smidge different from what I’d done in the past, I came up with some slightly different techniques for the preparation. The result was the absolute best Spaghetti Carbonara I’ve ever prepared. I’m pretty sure it even came pretty close to my uncle-in-law’s from way back then. Today, I want to share that recipe with you.

~*~*~

Spaghetti Carbonara (Bacon and Eggs Pasta)

Serves 6-8

1 pound spaghetti
1 package (12-16 ounces) bacon
6 eggs
1/4 cup (give or take) white wine
1 onion, chopped
1/2-1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (fresh or “canned”)

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions to your desired doneness. Before you drain it, ladle out about 1-2 cups of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta in a colander and let it cool for a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, pan fry the bacon.
  3. Pour off most of the bacon grease, leaving just a couple of tablespoons in which to saute the onions. When the onions are translucent, add the wine to deglaze the pan.
  4. Crack eggs in a large bowl and beat them with an electric mixer until they’re lemon-yellow and frothy. The electric mixer part is important; I’ve tried several times with a wire whisk and the results were never as good as when I used the hand mixer.
  5. Add 1/2 cup (approximately) cheese and the onions to the eggs.
  6. Put the pasta in the egg mixture and mix thoroughly. Utilize the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to make a creamy sauce and help the eggs to cook (but not solidify).
  7. Chop the bacon and mix in with the pasta.
  8. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and your favorite salad and bread.

~*~*~

That’s it. It’s a little labor intensive due to the pan frying of the bacon, but I tried it with baked bacon and it didn’t work all that well, so I highly recommend frying it. Other than that, the two most important steps are to use an electric mixer on the eggs and let the pasta cool ever so slightly before adding it to the eggs. The electric mixer ensures that you break up the egg whites, which can be really stringy and gummy otherwise. The cooling of the pasta allows you to add it to the egg mixture without scrambling the eggs. The goal is a smooth, creamy sauce, not pasta with bits of scrambled egg on it.

Have you ever made Spaghetti Carbonara? What are your best tips for getting a creamy sauce? Let me know in the comments!

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Another Year with the Homeschool Review Crew! (SchoolhouseTeachers.com review)

One of the blessings of being a part of the Homeschool Review Crew (and there are many blessings!) is an ongoing Yearly Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I don’t use this subscription often, but when I’m stuck and feeling like our schooling needs a kick in the pants, it’s definitely my go-to site. Coming out of Christmas break this year, I had just this feeling, so I spent one late night browsing the site looking for fresh ideas for our homeschool. What I found was great: not only were there some great new history classes (more on those in a minute), but the whole site has been given a makeover since my review last year.

This post contains affiliate links. This means that a purchase using any of my links will result in a payment to me, but no extra cost for you. Thank you for support.

What is SchoolhouseTeachers.com?

Simply put, it’s the homeschool curriculum website run by The Old Schoolhouse (which is the parent company for the Homeschool Review Crew). There are dozens of classes available on the site, and they’re written in such a way as to allow the homeschooling parent a lot of flexibility. If you’re looking for a “do this on Monday and this on Tuesday,” then a lot of the courses on SchoolhouseTeachers.com might not appeal to you. (Some of them are laid out that way, though.) If you want something that allows you to decide when to do what and how much to add or supplement to a specific subject, though, then SchoolhouseTeachers.com just might be what you’re looking for.

It’s not just homeschool curriculum, however. SchoolhouseTeachers.com has printable planners for all ages, a transcript writing guide for those homeschooling high school students, videos, a monthly meal plan, and much more. And with the newly revamped site map, it’s easier than ever to find what you’re looking for.

How did we use SchoolhouseTeachers.com in our homeschool?

air-travelAs I mentioned before, I was looking for something fun and interesting to help ease the boys back into school after having taken a couple of weeks off for Christmas. It’s easy to find subjects by either subject or grade; I decided to try to find something that would be challenging enough for both of the older boys (7th and 5th grade), but also interesting enough that Small Fry (age 4) might enjoy listening in. Because we hadn’t done much in the history department yet this school year, I started there. I was pleasantly surprised to find several courses that fit the bill. I narrowed it down to two that I wanted us to try first – History of Air Travel and Bold Explorers – and let the boys decide which they wanted to do first. They chose Air Travel (which surprised me not at all).

To run this course, I had to log in to World Books (using the Schoolhouse Teachers member login, included with membership). I was able to read the required texts for the course (there are 5, but each one is pretty short) aloud to the boys, and then they answered questions provided by the course instructor on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. These questions came in the form of a series of printable worksheets. There are 5 books to read for this course (At Home in the Sky, Beyond the Sky, The Early Days of Flight, The First True Fliers, and War in the Air), and the questions provided cover a bit from each chapter of each book. At the end of each unit (e-book read), I printed off some relevant pages from my NotebookingPages.com membership and had them write a report based on that particular book. The books are short enough that we did 3-4 chapters per day and finished one book per week.

aardvarkIn addition to the Air Travel history class, Small Fry and I watched several episodes of From Aardvark to Zucchini. I’d never heard of this show before, but I knew upon reading the synopsis that it would be great for my 4-year-old. It’s a series of 22-minute episodes, each of which focuses on a single letter of the alphabet. What makes this show different from others like it, though, is that it focuses heavily on prayer. So not only are children learning about the alphabet, but they’re also learning that it’s okay – nay, good – to talk to God anywhere and everywhere! I loved this concept.

What did we think of SchoolhouseTeachers.com?

I’ve been a member of this site for over 3 years now, and I can honestly say that I’m more impressed with it now than ever before. With the recent redesign, it’s easier to find classes and videos, it’s easier to understand how to use and adapt the classes, and the selection of licensed videos to stream is excellent. I barely scratched the surface of the site in my review today, so make sure you head over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to find out how other families used the site. I bet they’ll come up with things I didn’t! I can’t wait to utilize this resource more in our homeschool.

How can you sign up for a membership?

That’s easy! Go to the Yearly Membership page, and it’s very self-explanatory. You can pay monthly ($12.95) or annually ($139). (Please note: These prices will increase sometime in the middle of the month this month.) If you’re not sure whether SchoolhouseTeachers.com is for you, use the code TRIAL to get your first month for just $1. That’s pretty low risk! And even better, if you purchase by January 15th, you can get a discount on the regular monthly or yearly prices. Use the code CHRISTMAS to get the monthly plan for just $9.95 a month or CHRISTMASYEAR to get the annual plan for $90. If you lock in at these new lower rates, you will be immune from price increases for as long as you keep an active subscription.

Oh, and one more thing: The price you pay is for your entire family. There are no per child fees; whatever plan you choose is good for every child in your home.

I highly encourage you to check out SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

High-quality, Self-paced, Online Homeschool Resources {SchoolhouseTeachers.com}
ladybug-disclaimer-review-crew-copy
 

 

Book Club: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Book Club with Lori

For Book Club this month, Lori and I have been reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I suggested it after having seen the movie with my mom (on a “girl date”). The movie was enjoyable enough, so I was interested in the book. Because we borrowed the book from my mom instead of the library, Munchkin and Will also read it this month (we didn’t have to worry about late fees).

In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, here’s the synopsis from the publisher:

A mysterious island…. An abandoned orphanage…. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience.

As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Before I dive into the questions, I want to give a short review of my thoughts on the book. Going in, I wanted to like it. I really did. My mom, husband, and son all read it before me and raved about it, so I thought it would be great. But I found it to be touch on the boring side. It took a really long time to get to the action, and by the time it was there, I wasn’t really sure I cared anymore. I understand that the author wanted to really build up the idea behind the island and the peculiar children (are they real or was Jacob’s grandfather making up stories?), but it was too much in my opinion. It would have been better served making things happen a bit quicker. That isn’t to say the book is bad, it was just slower moving than I’d expected based on the film adaptation.

Questions are from LitLovers. Spoiler alert is in effect.

What effect did the photographs have on how you experienced this novel? In fact, what was your reading experience of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? How did it make you feel? Were you disturbed…or fascinated…or something else?  Did the book hold your interest?

I enjoyed looking at the photographs, but I don’t think they really effected my experience of the novel. I thought they were rather interesting to see, but the novel wouldn’t have been worse without them. I did think it was a very interesting way of “illustrating” a book. However… I also thought they seemed forced sometimes. What I mean by that is that it seems that perhaps Mr. Riggs found a bunch of random pictures in an attic or estate sale or something and decided to use them as the basis for a story rather than the other way around. I also hated that some pages went unfilled in order to fit a photograph in. It would have been better to run some of the photographs smaller (rather than letting each one take up a full page on a background) and put them at the bottom of the text. It seemed lazy on the part of the book designer to just leave off in the middle of a page, even if it wasn’t at the end of a chapter. There had to have been a better way to lay out the book to include the pictures without compromising the beauty of the book. (Now I sound like the wife of a book designer… which I am.)

As far as whether the book held my interest… yes and no. As I mentioned earlier, it took a really long time to get going. Once it did, and Jacob made it into Miss Peregrine’s house, it was fine.

What about Abe Portman, what kind of character is he? What kind of a world does he create in his stories for young Jacob? Why do the stories intrigue Jacob so much?

Abe Portman (Jacob’s grandfather, who dies at the beginning of the book) was a pretty deep character, despite the fact that he didn’t even make it out of the first chapter. He was talked about by the other characters, and obviously loved by the other peculiar children (children with special “powers” and abilities) in the home, and they were devastated when he left to join the war effort in 1940. The stories he tells young Jacob are fascinating – who wouldn’t be interested in tales of a girl who floats or a boy living with bees inside of him?

The stories are intriguing to Jacob for a couple of reasons. First, they’re being told by his grandfather. He has a wonderful relationship with him, and he wants to trust him – he does trust  him. Secondly, there’s just so much going on in each one that they seem like fantastic adventures, and that’s enough to intrigue any little boy.

As he moves into adolescence, why does Jacob begin to doubt the veracity of his grandfather’s stories? In what way does he think they may be connected to Abe’s struggle under the Nazis?

Jacob’s not a very nice teenager (he’s 16 when the book takes place – the parts about him being a child listening to his grandfather’s stories are told in retrospect only). He’s very worldly and generally rotten. It’s not surprising that a child with that personality would suddenly doubt the truth in the stories his grandfather told. Simply put, he outgrows the stories.

As for the stories being connected to Abe’s struggle under the Nazis, that idea comes about as a way to justify Jacob’s own disbelief.

Talk about the house in Wales. When Jacob first lays eyes on it, he observes that it “was no refuge from monsters, but a monster itself.” Would you say the house serves as a setting to the story…or is its role something else—a character, perhaps?

It’s one of my pet peeves when people suggest that a place is a character in a story. Words have meanings, and “setting” and “character” are not interchangeable. So no, I don’t think the house was a character. It was a setting. Jacob considers it a “monster” because it was such a different kind of place from what he was used to. When he first sees it, he sees the bombed out version, not the lovely place that his grandfather and the other peculiar children know and love. Seeing the destroyed house, which no one in 70+ years bothered to restore or tear down, was a kind of confirmation to Jacob that his grandfather’s stories were nothing but tall tales.

Talk, of course, about the peculiar children. Which of their oddities and personalities do you find most intriguing?

I struggled a bit to keep the names straight among all the different peculiar children because so many of them are mentioned so briefly to be almost just in passing. Obviously Emma is an easy choice because she’s the main character after Jacob himself. I think my favorite is the girl who floats, though (in the movie, this was Emma, but it’s a different character in the book, and I can’t remember her name offhand). I thought it was really great how Mr. Riggs thought of seemingly everything in regards to this character – she wore lead shoes to walk around, she had to be seatbelted to her chair at mealtimes. Perhaps I found her the most intriguing because I’m so short. Being able to rise above things isn’t something I’ve ever experienced (excluding airplane trips, but even that’s been nearly 20 years for me). On a subconscious level, I think I liked the idea of getting to see things from a different, higher up, perspective.

In what way can this book be seen as a classic quest story—a young hero who undertakes a difficult journey and is transformed in the process? Do you see parallels with other fantasy works involving young people?

Definitely a “classic quest” story. Jacob has no idea what to expect – doesn’t even know if he should be expecting anything – and comes across something absolutely beyond what he could have seen in his wildest dreams. He moves from being pretty much a punk of a teenager in the beginning to being one who sees value in his grandfather’s life and stories.

From the very beginning, the book reminded me of the Percy Jackson series, so yes, I saw parallels with another fantasy series.

~*~*~

Thanks for reading along with my thoughts on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Make sure to visit Lori’s blog as well to read her insights. I’m always fascinated how the two of us can read the same book and come up with such different answers to the same questions – that’s what makes this book club so fun!

Our next book is Beric the Briton by GA Henty, which is available for free on Amazon Kindle if you’d like to read along with us.

Did you read Miss Peregrine with us this month? Write about it on your blog? Have you read it before, and want to share your thoughts? Link up with us! Questions are from LitLovers, or you can write your post as more of a “review” style if you prefer.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Year in Review: 2016

I’ve heard a lot of “2016 was terrible!” types of posts/broadcasts from different news sources over the past month or so, but that was not the experience our family had. I know there were a lot of celebrity deaths, most of the people who work in media were unhappy with the US presidential election results, and loads of other things that I’m sure made them feel like it was a rotten year, but in our home, we had a great year. Here’s just a glimpse.

In January, Will and I celebrated 15 years of marriage. This Friday, it’ll be 16 🙂

20161223_155455

In February, I learned to knit. This was an absolute game changer in my creative endeavors. Since then, I’ve made 13 sweaters, 2 hats, 10 washcloths, several baby teething rings, and a pair of mittens (maybe more stuff, but this is what I can remember of the top of my head).

In March, we missed out on all Easter celebrations because we were sick. The kids were sick about half a week before the holiday, and I spent most of Easter Sunday in bed, too exhausted to wake up. Fortunately, Will was feeling weak but not sick, so he stayed up with the kids and they watched movies all day. I woke up just often and long enough to nurse the baby.

In April, we had a nice time visiting with some old friends at our nephew’s birthday party. We also took the kids to a couple of concert band concerts at the local university.

kimg0409

In May, the kids went to the eye doctor. Munchkin’s prescription got a little stronger (he has an astigmatism), but the others are still fine. We also went to the Elephant and Piggie party at our local library.

In June, Dragonfly had to have an ultrasound on his backside. He was born with a “dimple” in his bottom which can sometimes indicate incomplete closing of the spinal cord prior to birth. Fortunately his came back normal. Also, Munchkin and Small Fry attended the VBS (Vacation Bible School) at a local church we attend when we don’t go to my father-in-law’s church for whatever reason.

KIMG0003

In July, half of our family had birthdays – me, Will, and Small Fry. We had a cookout party for Small Fry (he loves doing that – good thing he was born in the summer!). For our immediate family’s celebration, we went to a theme park near here called Enchanted Forest. At the end of the month, Will and I went to the opera. This was the one and only time we’ve ever paid babysitters. Normally we just ask my mom, but it was going to be too late a night for this event.

In August, Will had a speaking engagement at the State Fair’s Author Day. While the event didn’t pay, it was a good time for him to get the word out about his books.

In September, Will and the three older boys, along with Will’s dad, went to one of the Comic Cons. Based on the pictures (which I promise I plan to share soon!), I know they had a fabulous time. Also, Munchkin turned 10 years old and Dragonfly turned 10 months old on the same day.

kimg0077

In October, Munchkin, Small Fry, Dragonfly, and I went to see the Portland Opera To Go version of Hansel and Gretel, which was being performed at a library about half an hour from our home. That was the plan, anyway. What actually happened was that I took the boys to see it and Munchkin and Small Fry got to stay in the room and watch. I ended up having to take Dragonfly into the foyer because he wouldn’t hold still or be quiet. (My fault for taking an 11-month-old to the opera, I guess.) I was pretty bummed out about that, but there’ll probably be other events. Also, Seahawk became a teenager.

In November, Munchkin spent the first half of the month dealing with having a needle stuck in his foot. On October 21st, he was walking across our living room when he suddenly felt a sharp pain and discovered a sewing needle. However, the tip was nowhere to be found. Upon inspection, we were able to see a glimmer of “something” in his toe, but it was too deep to get out with tweezers. We took him to the emergency room that night, but the doctor was unable to get it out, even

Seahawk doing his toy soldier solo dance during dress rehearsal for The Nutcracker.

after x-rays, ultrasound, and cutting the toe open to the bone. After getting the runaround from several different doctors, we finally got him into a specialty clinic for feet and ankles, and that doctor was able to get the needle out in under ten minutes. Also, Dragonfly turned 1.

In December, the big boys got to dance in a local production of The Nutcracker. We all started taking ballet classes near the end of September, and the boys really took off in their love and skill of the dance, especially Seahawk. Because they were fairly new additions to the dance school (they’d only had one or two lessons by the time it was audition day for the recital), they didn’t have huge parts – Munchkin was an extra in the party scene and Seahawk played a toy soldier (he had a one-minute solo). They had a fabulous time, though, and are itching to get back to class (after the final performance, the school took the rest of December off for Christmas, but classes start again next week).

So as you can see, it really has been a great year for our family. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store!

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

A Bit of Randomness

I’ve been neglecting my this space for too long, so it’s time to remedy that with some random thoughts I’ve had recently. This will serve as both a quick update on me and my family as well as a reference point for me to add more details (in future posts) for some of these.

  • Way back in September, Will took the three older boys to one of the local Comic Con events. Will’s dad joined them as well, making for a really fun day. They met some really famous people and characters, but I’ll save the who for a future post 😉
  • Baby Dragonfly isn’t much of a baby anymore. He’s been walking for several months and he turned 1 over a month ago. While this new stage is amazing, I miss those cold winter days of just snuggling with a newborn that I had last year.
  • We had a lovely Christmas surrounded by family. We did our typical four celebrations: on the 23rd, we did presents with our children and went to church with my parents. On the afternoon of the 24th, we had my dad and his fiancee over for a meal together and gift exchange. The evening of Christmas Eve was spent with a dinner, singing carols, and exchanging gifts at Will’s dad and stepmom’s house. On Christmas morning, we went to church and then came home to pulled pork in the slow cooker, which we shared with my mom, stepdad, brother, and brother’s family (his wife and two sons).
  • I successfully knitted 8 sweaters for Christmas gifts: 7 for nieces and nephews and one for my dad. They were all really well received, which was quite rewarding after all the hours of work I put in making them. I finished the last one just one day before the party in which it would be gifted.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I can think of offhand. I’ll expand on some of these, as well as try to come up with more innovative posts, this week.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

5 Random Things: December 10

5 random things

It’s been an interesting week here. I hope yours has been a bit less eventful!

  1. We had a snowstorm a couple of days ago. This might be par for the course in many parts of the country, but not where I live. My town is nestled right at the edge of a valley, so we rarely see snow, and when we do, it’s usually not enough to be concerned about – a little flurry and then gone. On Thursday, I was taking the trash out at 8:00 am when I noticed that it was snowing ever so lightly. By around 10, all the neighbors had come over to play (public school was canceled, so I let our kids have a snow day as well). By noon or 1:00, they’d built a reasonably sized snowman at the neighbor’s house.
  2. Thanks to said snowstorm, we had a power outage at our house around 4:30. It only lasted two hours (hardly anything compared to what others have during the winter months), but it was completely unexpected. We were definitely ready for it to be back on by the time the power company had fixed the problem!
  3. My laptop has been acting up recently. A couple of months ago the battery started charging only occasionally, which means I have to keep it plugged in all the time in order to use it. Not ideal, but not the end of the world. Still better than not having a computer at all! Well then, just a few days ago, it decided that even being plugged in wasn’t good enough and it wouldn’t turn on at all. Since then, we’ve been researching new batteries for it. We tried to support a local business (two different ones, actually), but neither of them had the battery we need, so we’re going to get it from Amazon.
  4. Today, however, I tried the laptop, “just in case,” and it’s working! We’ll still likely replace the battery in the next couple of weeks, but at least the several-days-long rest was enough to get it working again for now.
  5. My Christmas knitting is nearly done! We added two more kid sweaters that needed to be done at the last minute, and I’m pleased to report that I have only one sleeve plus one sweater left to go. With two full weeks left until Christmas Eve (when they’ll be presented), I’m confident that I’ll finish on time. Yay! (I have a post planned for next week – probably – showcasing all of the sweaters, so be on the lookout for that if you’re interested.)

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Book Club: The Book of Negroes (Someone Knows My Name)

Book Club with Lori

For Book Club this month, Lori asked if we could read The Book of Negroes (previously published as Someone Knows My Name) by Lawrence Hill. She warned me when she suggested it that this would be a difficult book to get through based simply on its subject matter, and she was right. The novel tells the story of Aminata Diallo, a woman who was kidnapped from her African village in the mid-1700s and brought to America as a slave. She was only 11 years old when she was taken, and lived with and worked for multiple families before escaping during the chaos of the Revolutionary War. She moves to Manhattan and then London on her quest to return to her homeland in Africa.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this book (the subject matter is quite intense), but I’m glad I read it. Aminata is a wonderful character that I won’t soon forget.

Questions for this month’s Book Club come from LitLovers. As always, a spoiler alert is in effect.

What is the significance of the title Someone Knows My Name?

Several times throughout the book, Aminata laments that she’s become a nameless black woman. The “buckra” (white people) struggle to pronounce her name, and that’s not taking into account those who don’t bother trying. The ones who care (even just a smidge) give her the nickname Meena, because it’s easier on their American/British tongues and ears. So, for someone to learn, say, and know Aminata’s name is a big deal for her.

What is your opinion about Hill’s suggestion that Aminata’s very youthfulness at the time of her abduction enables her emotional survival, even as some of the adults in her world show signs of crumbling?

I absolutely agree with this assessment, 100%. All of the adults around her (specifically on the slave ship in the beginning of the novel) simply fall apart. Many don’t survive the journey, and it’s implied that the cause for that is emotional as much as physical hardships. One woman who gives birth on the ship even slits her newborn son’s throat and tosses him to sea to avoid bringing him to “wherever they’re going.” Even in the worst of circumstances, sane people don’t do that.

Aminata, though unhappy and horrified by the situation in which she finds herself, simply puts her head down and gets through it. If she’d been older and more mature, she may not have been able to separate herself from what she was going through, and she’d likely have suffered the same fate as many of those she knew in her previous life.

The section of the book set in the sea islands of South Carolina depicts eighteenth-century indigo plantations where African American slaves and overseers are left largely to their own devices during the “sick season”—a good half of the year. To what degree does this cultural and social isolation allow for an interesting development and interaction of African American characters in the novel?

I don’t think there would have much opportunity for character development at all without that time away from the “buckra.” The story is that of a slave, not that of her masters, so it was important to show what her life was like as she lived and interacted with other slaves.

Aminata suffers some horrifying cruelties at the hands of her captors, but her relationships with her masters aren’t always what you’d expect. How does Aminata’s story reveal the complex ways that people react to unnatural, unequal relationships?

It’s definitely true that “her relationships with her masters aren’t always what you’d expect.” Some of them, while not necessarily surprising, were positively despicable. Others weren’t so bad. It was interesting to read how different people react in different ways to the same situations. One master might be a miserable man who rapes his slaves, while another might treat them as members of his own family. There’s not really any way to tell in advance what kind of master one might be until you get into the part of that story where his/her story with Aminata begins.

During the course of the story, Aminata marries and has a family. Although she is separated from them, she is reunited from time to time with her husband and one of her children. What does the work tell us about the nature of love and loyalty?

Simply put, that it (love and loyalty) trumps everything else. Even when her child is brutally stolen from her as a nursing babe, Aminata never stops loving him. Her husband leaves her one day and doesn’t come back, but she never searches for another one. She is a remarkable woman.

Aminata struggles to learn and master all sorts of systems of communicating in the new world: black English, white English, and Gullah, as well as understanding the uses of European money and maps. How do her various coping mechanisms shed light on her character?

I never really considered that her thirst for knowledge was a coping mechanism, but it makes sense that it would be. Her need to cope with her situation is understandable; we all have ways of dealing with the things around us, and learning to be the best she can be in her new life is Aminata’s. They tell us that she’s determined, and that she’s unwilling to let things happen to her. She’s a fiercely independent woman who wants to be in control of her own life, and the best way she can make that happen as a slave is to learn everything she can about living in Carolina.

Aminata is a woman of extraordinary abilities—she is skillful with languages, literate, a speedy learner, a born negotiator. Why did Hill choose this story to be told by such a remarkable woman? What effect do her abilities have on the shaping of the story?

I’m not sure the story would have been as potent with a less extraordinary character. Aminata is a rare breed that can do anything she puts her mind to, and she uses that ability/determination to her advantage. If she’d been a passive character, the novel would have been very different. More subdued, a lot darker, and not nearly as hopeful. Aminata having the personality she did was vital to the story that Mr. Hill wanted to tell.

On another level, I think he may have made her that strong because he named her after his own daughter. Whether on purpose or not, I think he wanted to tell his daughter that she could be as strong as her literary namesake.

What do you think would be the challenges involved in writing a realistically painful novel that still offers enough light and hope to maintain the reader’s interest and spirit?

Ha! I think the challenges in writing this kind of novel are too numerous to name. I’ve written novels in the past (not necessarily very good ones, and they’re not published, but they exist), and I’m not sure I could have pulled off a novel of this magnitude. It would be emotionally difficult to live in this world each day as you wrote it, but you’d always have the knowledge as you wrote that you were moving the character toward something better, and having that hope in your own body would help to shine the light through the story you were writing. I think.

What lessons does Aminata’s tale hold for us in today’s world?

Perseverance is vital for survival.

Determination goes a long way.

Be the best you can be, despite your circumstances.

Love and loyalty can keep you sane.

I’m sure there are others, but that’s what I’ve got off the top of my head.

~*~*~

Thanks for joining me in another month of Book Club! Make sure to head over to Lori’s blog to read her thoughts on the selection. While you’re there, stay awhile and read her other posts. She has a great blog with all sorts of different posts ranging from homeschooling elementary and middle school students (she has 3 daughters around the same ages as my two older boys) to hymn studies to simply sharing about their lives. It’s a delightful place to spend some time.

This month, we’ll be reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. If you want to read along and join the discussion, we’ll be posting answers to questions on January 5th. If you have a blog, you can answer questions there and leave a link with Lori or me. If you don’t have a blog and you still want to read along with us, please do! You can comment on either of our blogs your thoughts about the book. I’ll have at least one special guest for that post, as well – Munchkin and Will have already read the book, so I’m going to present them with questions. I know Munchkin is going to answer them, and Will might, too, so I’ll be sharing their answers along with my own next month.

Thanks again to Lori for stretching my mind with this month’s selection.

book club button 200

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

Blue Ribbon Awards 2016

As members of the Homeschool Review Crew, the boys and I recently had the privilege of voting in their annual Blue Ribbon Awards. Now that the winners have been announced, I thought it would be fun to compare our choices with the actual winners. Enjoy!

blue-ribbon

Favorite Reading Curriculum

I chose Logic of English for this category because it’s such a comprehensive program that covers not only reading, but every aspect of the English language. We’re still using it in our homeschool, after having taken a bit of a break after the review period.
Our choice: Logic of English
     Winner: Logic of English

Favorite Writing Curriculum

Here to Help Learning was such a fun program to work through! My kids absolutely adored the “writing warmups,” and still ask to do them sometimes.
Our choice: Here to Help Learning
     Winner: Here to Help Learning

Favorite Spelling Curriculum

I chose Logic of English for this category as well because it just makes so much sense. I like how they explain the rules to students in ways that make sense and are easy to remember.
Our choice: Logic of English
     Winner: Talking Fingers: Read, Write, and Type

Favorite Literature Program

Literature is my biggest weakness in our homeschool; we read a lot of books! I love a good book, and I want to pass that love on to my boys. I really like the Memoria Press workbooks. They include a wide variety of questions, and the teacher books are the perfect companion.
Our choice: Memoria Press
     Winner: Institute for Excellence in Writing: Poetry

Favorite Vocabulary Program
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: The Critical Thinking Co.

Favorite Grammar Program

Grammar is right up with Literature as far as “things I like to teach my kids,” so this was a great category for me. I picked Sentence Digramming: Beginning by The Critical Thinking Co. because not only is a good way to visualize how sentences go together, but my kids liked it too. We’re still working our way through this book (somewhat slowly because although the kids like it, it’s a bit intense for them sometimes).
Our choice: The Critical Thinking Co.
     Winner: The Critical Thinking Co.

Favorite Literature Resource

I deferred to the kids on this choice, and they had a hard time deciding amongst themselves. In the end, Seahawk’s choice of Heirloom Audio won over Munchkin’s choice of The Glass Castle because he was more passionate about it.
Our choice: Heirloom Audio: Beric the Briton
     Winner: Heirloom Audio: Beric the Briton

Favorite History Curriculum
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: Home School in the Woods

Favorite History Supplement

Heirloom Audio was a new review product for us this year, and one that we enjoyed. Seahawk, being an auditory learner, liked it the best of any of us, and he was so enthralled with it that this one earned our enthusiastic vote.
Our choice: Heirloom Audio: Beric the Briton
     Winner: Carole P. Roman

Favorite Science Curriculum

Munchkin was the lucky recipient of two science curricula this year. He’s working through one of them now, and the other will be his curriculum next school year. Because he was the main one using these products, I let him choose, and Science Shepherd got his vote.
Our choice: Science Shepherd
     Winner: Apologia Astronomy

Favorite Science Supplement

NotebookingPages.com is such an amazing resource for so many things! We’ve used it time and again, and I’m so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to review for them. I look forward to continuing to use my Lifetime Membership again and again.
Our choice: NotebookingPages.com
     Winner: NotebookingPages.com

Favorite Math Curriculum
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: CTC Math

Favorite Math Supplement

The multiplication tables were something my kids struggled with for years. We tried several things over the years, and this one, Times Tales, finally stuck. I’m extremely grateful for this product, and will definitely use it again when the little boys are the proper age for learning multiplication.
Our choice: The Trigger Memory Co. (Times Tales)
     Winner: The Trigger Memory Co.

Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: Middlebury Interactive Languages

Favorite Fine Arts Product

2016 was the first time we’d reviewed an art program, and Seahawk got to be the primary user. He really liked ARTistic Pursuits (and is still using it), so it gets his vote.
Our choice: ARTistic Pursuits
     Winner: Art Achieve

Favorite Elective
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: Stop Motion Explosion

Favorite Christian Education Curriculum

Science Shepherd is such a wonderful creation-based science program for elementary students. Munchkin just loves doing it each day (it doesn’t hurt that the lessons are super short!). I like that I don’t have to worry about the worldview it’s presenting; I can comfortably set him up with the video and workbook and leave him to it on his own.
Our choice: Science Shepherd
     Winner: Veritas Press

Favorite Christian Education Product

The Zonderkidz Faith Builders Bible is one of Munchkin’s all-time favorite review products. He takes it to church every Sunday and reads it during the week.
Our choice: Zonderkidz
     Winner: Chara Games

Favorite Preschool Product

It’s no secret to anyone who’s read my blog very much at all that we adore Kwik Stix, made by The Pencil Grip, Inc.. I’ve reviewed for them twice. My kids love to paint, and I love that there’s no mess.
Our choice: The Pencil Grip, Inc.
     Winner: The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Favorite Elementary Product

The Faith Builder’s Bible wins this category for us, too. I’m thrilled that Munchkin has finally found a bible that he enjoys reading.
Our choice: Zonderkidz
     Winner: Veritas Press

Favorite Middle School Product

Some days, I still can’t believe that I have a middle school student. He’s growing up so much, and while I like that he can do a lot of his studies independently (it frees me up immensely), it still feels weird to begin stepping back from his schooling a smidge to let him take the reins. ARTistic Pursuits was the first product he really got to do “all by himself,” so it wins our vote in the “favorite middle school product” category.
Our choice: ARTistic Pursuits
     Winner: Apologia: Writers in Residence

Favorite High School Product
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: The 101 series (science)

Favorite College or College Prep Product
Our choice: n/a
     Winner: Everyday Education

Favorite Parent Product

This was a tricky category for me. In the end, I chose the GREEMU oil because it helped ease baby Dragonfly’s diaper rash (although temporarily) when he was extremely red and hurting.
Our choice: Devonian (GREEMU oil)
     Winner: MyFreezEasy

Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed

My vote in this category probably isn’t completely representative of the title of the category. I knew we needed a way of teaching the kids their times tables, but I wasn’t sure just how much Times Tales would help, so it gets my enthusiastic vote.
Our choice: Trigger Memory (Times Tales)
     Winner: ForBrain

Best Online Resource

I cannot say enough good things about NotebookingPages.com. This website provides a huge variety of notebooking pages in a plethora of subjects. What a fabulous resource!
Our choice: NotebookingPages.com
     Winner: Veritas Press

Best E-Product

We’ve reviewed Progeny Press every year since 2014, and it is easily my favorite e-product. Their literature study guides are bar none, and I wish they were a bit more affordable.
Our choice: Progeny Press
     Winner: Grapevine Studies

Favorite Novel, Book, Audio Book, or Audio Drama

This was another category that the boys disagreed. Munchkin wanted to vote for a book (The Glass Castle that he read earlier this year) and Seahawk wanted to vote for Heirloom again. Because I let Seahawk win the Literature Resource category, I gave this one to Munchkin.
Our choice: The Glass Castle
     Winner: Heirloom Audio

Just for Fun

Paint sticks for the win again!
  Our choice: The Pencil Grip Inc.
     Winner: FlipStir puzzles

Kids Choice (ages 0-12)

These choices were easy for my kids. Small Fry loves to paint, and Munchkin loves to read.
Small Fry’s choice: The Pencil Grip Inc.
     Munchkin’s choice: The Glass Castle

Teen Choice

I was a little surprised by Seahawk’s choice here, but he enjoyed using Kwik Stix just as much as his younger brother did.
Seahawk’s choice: The Pencil Grip Inc.
     Winner: 101 Series

All Around Crew Favorite

I mentioned before that Grammar is one of my favorite subjects, and that rings true in just about every aspect of my life: teaching, reading, writing, etc. I’m really passionate about good grammar, so it’s something I’m very diligent about teaching my kids. For this reason, The Critical Thinking Co. (Sentence Diagramming: Beginners) won my vote.
Our choice: The Critical Thinking Co.
     Winner: CrossTimber

Make sure to click over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to find out more about the Blue Ribbon winners!

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

What We’re Reading: November 2016

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while, mostly because the boys have been reading whatever they want (so long as it’s something, I’m not super particular) and I’ve been doing Book Club with Lori. But since everyone’s actually got a book they’re specifically working on right now, I thought it might be nice to record what we’re reading.

Me

I’m working my way through The Book of Negroes. Lori suggested is as our book club book for next month. While I can’t say I’m enjoying it per se, I’m glad I’m reading it. It tells the story of a girl captured to be a slave during the revolutionary war era. More thoughts on it next week in my Book Club post.

Will

My husband loves biographies. Really loves them. Last month, he read one on Frank Sinatra and another on Buddy Epsen (best known for his role on The Beverly Hillbillies, as well as being the original Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz – he was replaced in that role due to an allergic reaction to the silver face makeup). He’s currently reading the Autobiography of Mark Twain, volume 3. He listened to volume 1 on Audible a few years ago and read volume 2 when it came out. I was in the library the other week looking for something for him (he gets a strange pleasure in reading books I choose for him rather than picking for himself, which I don’t mind), and I spotted the third volume and knew instantly that he’d want it. I was right. These books are incredibly dense: large pages, small type, and very, very thick. So he’ll be reading it for several weeks to come.

Seahawk (7th grade)

Munchkin got a Kindle for his birthday back in September, and to go with it, my parents got him an Amazon gift card to buy books. One of the books he bought was Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (we’d read the first book as a family read-aloud last summer). He read it super fast, and now Seahawk is reading it.

He’s also reading his Bible regularly. This week, he’s reading and meditating on Romans 8:18-21 and Revelation 3.

Munchkin (5th grade)

This kid has been reading practically nonstop since his birthday. He’s worked through too many books to count: the entire Wizard of Oz series (14 books), Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, Percy Jackson 2, Encyclopedia Brown, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow… I’m sure I’m forgetting about a million. But right now, he’s reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – a hard copy. It’s on loan from my mom, and I think he’s really enjoying it. He’s reading it quite quickly (as he usually does with books). I’m looking forward to getting my hands/eyes on it when he’s done.

Small Fry (age 4)

Small Fry is beginning to learn some very basic reading skills. This hasn’t translated to reading books yet (although he did read the word “Sam” on one of his online learn-to-read programs recently), so he’s still a listener. His current favorites include What Pet Should I Get? (a new release from Dr. Seuss, which was a gift “from” Dragonfly upon his birth), Elephant and Piggie, Franklin the Turtle, and just about anything from Syd Hoff or Dr. Seuss.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy