Crochet Hat a Scarf for a Ukulele

Over the past 6 months or so, Ballet Boy has been slowly building up his Instagram account. The focus of that account is cool pictures of his ukulele, which he has named “Ben.” 

When we got to the colder weather, he had an idea to dress Ben up for the cold. He asked me to make a tiny stocking cap and scarf for it. Then, within a week or two of that, we actually got a good amount of snow! That almost never happens around here, so Ballet Boy made sure to take advantage of the beautiful landscape and get some photos. 

Today, I want to share his photos as well as the pattern for the tiny hat and scarf. I don’t expect many of you to want to dress up a ukulele, but these accessories might fit a doll or favorite stuffed animal too. 

For my version of these accessories, I used Big Twist Cotton yarn. This is the JoAnn house brand, and their cotton is actually a cotton/polyester blend. Normally I would use a 100% cotton, but I happened to have this on hand and the color was perfect for a wintry landscape picture. 

Tiny Crochet Hat

Using a size H crochet hook, make a magic ring. Chain 1 and make 6 half double crochets in the ring. Tighten the loop to close the hole. join to first st with a slst. Ch 1.

Round 2: 2 hdc in each stitch around. Join. Ch 1. (12)

Round 3: *2 hdc in first st, 1 hdc in next st* around. Join. Ch 1. (18)

Round 4: *2 hdc in first st, 1 hdc in next 2 sts* around. Join. Ch 1. (24)

Rounds 5-10: 1 hdc in each stitch. Join. Ch 1.

Fasten off and weave in ends. Optional: Attach a small pompom (homemade or purchased).

Tiny Scarf

Chain 65.

HDC in second chain from hook and each chain across. Ch 1; turn. 

Rows 2-7: HDC in each stitch all the way across. Ch 1; turn.

Fasten off. Weave in ends. Optional: Attach fringe using matching or coordinating yarn. 

If you enjoyed seeing these pictures, make sure to follow “A Ukulele Named Ben” on Instagram. Ballet Boy has lots of amazing pictures of his ukulele there!

Blessings, 

Book Club: Meghan March

I have a little secret. I love romance novels. Like, really, really love reading them. I’ve even written one (in the form of fanfiction) before. I rarely talk about this obsession of mine though because it can put people off. Those types of books really do seem to be “love them or hate them,” and a lot of the adult themes aren’t things I’m necessarily comfortable talking about in general life. But yeah… I love them. And have been reading a lot of them lately! Today I want to introduce you to my current favorite author, Meghan March.

Meghan March used to be a corporate lawyer, but she gave that up for writing a few years back. She now has over 30 books and is a NYT bestselling author. I found her books quite by accident; I was out on my own one day and decided to hit up the Overdrive app (digital library for ebooks and audio books) for an audio book to listen to while I drove. (I hate listening to music, especially in the car. Audio books are much more my jam.) I have no idea how or why Dirty Billionaire turned up on my recs, because I hadn’t read a romance novel in a few years, and certainly hadn’t checked one out on the app before. But it caught my eye, and I borrowed it to listen to. And let’s just say I’ve been hooked on Meghan March’s books ever since!

Ms. March’s books are primarily duets or trilogies. She also works her novels in “worlds,” meaning that even though one particular trilogy focuses on a specific couple, just because their story has ended doesn’t mean you won’t see them again in someone else’s story. I have really loved seeing familiar characters show up in other books as I work my way through her library. Her books (as many as I’ve read, anyway) are usually set in either New York City or New Orleans, and depending on which city you’re entering, that’s the world you’ll be seeing and the characters you can expect to meet. You won’t find Creighton Karas (the “dirty billionaire”) in a NOLA book, just like you won’t find Lachlan Mount in a NY book. But you’re likely (though not guaranteed) to find each of them in any book set in their own town.

In addition to worlds organized by setting, Ms. March also does spinoffs to her own books – another way to revisit those characters you love so much after their stories are over. For example, the audio book I’m currently listening to is all about Creighton’s little sister, Greer. When I finish the book I’m reading (the end of the Legend trilogy), I’ll be diving into the Savage trilogy, which focuses on Temperance, who was a background character in the Mount trilogy. Lots of interconnectedness, and I love it.

If you like erotic romance, I can’t recommend Meghan March enough. You can “buy” the first of each of her trilogies absolutely free to try out. Be prepared to buy their sequels almost right away, though! She doesn’t call herself the “Cliffhanger Queen” for nothing. And if you follow her on Instagram and interact with her, you’re very likely to get responses too. She’s very fan-centric, which is nice. I’ve had a couple of short conversations with her on that platform, and it makes you feel good to have a “celebrity” respond to your comments and posts!

What’s your favorite genre of book to read?

Blessings,

Winter Break: Yes or No?

This is a time of year when a lot of families are getting ready for Christmas. There is so much to do, so you might logistically need to have the time as a parent just to get all the baking and card sending and decorating and shopping done. Additionally, if you have a public school background like I do, you might feel obligated to give your kids a break for the holidays. If they have a lot of friends in public school, they likely want to spend time playing with them during the days while they have the opportunity.

Or you might fall on the other side of the spectrum. Maybe you don’t celebrate Christmas. Perhaps you’re Jewish (or fundamental Christian) and you celebrate Hanukkah instead. Maybe you’re not religious at all so you opt out of the holiday. Or maybe you have some other reason you’ve chosen not to celebrate, regardless of what that might be.

Perhaps Christmas doesn’t play into your plans at all, whether you celebrate it or not. Maybe you had some sickness or took a vacation earlier in the year and you need to make up the school hours now. These are all perfectly valid reasons for skipping out on the winter break.

So which is the right answer? Like all things related to homeschooling, that depends entirely on your family and your circumstances. Personally, I can’t imagine not taking a winter break! We do a “light Christmas” since we switched to focusing more on Hanukkah 2 years ago, and even though that holiday is over for this year already, we will be taking a winter break.

If you opt in to taking a winter break, the next thing to decide is when and how long will you take off? Like the decision to take a break at all, this is a very personal decision amongst families. I think 2 weeks is pretty traditional, but I’ve also heard of homeschool families who take the entire month of December off. Another option would be to change gears in the lead up to Christmas and focus more on the holiday itself in your studies. There are dozens of ways you can go about doing this. Maybe do a unit study using the Bible as your guide? Create a lap book if your children are interested in that. I just read an idea earlier to day from one of the leaders of the Homeschool Review Crew who told us about how she and her family took the “secret Santa” concept to a new level. They each draw someone’s name, and then spend the month of December doing special things for their recipient. This can be as simple as doing one of their chores for them or more complex like making them a gift. But all the things are to be done in secret. When you’ve done a service for the person, they leave a paper heart on the other’s bed so they know they’ve been blessed. On Christmas Eve, they reveal one another and have a lovely celebration acknowledging all the blessings everyone had received over the month. What a lovely way to serve your own family during this time!

If you decide not to take a winter or Christmas break, know that that’s okay, too, though. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that either!

Blessings,

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Have you ever finished loading the dishwasher only to look under the sink (or wherever it is you keep the detergent) and discovered that you’re out? That happens to me on occasion, and with the help the internet, I’ve developed a pretty reasonable substitute.

This isn’t a detergent that you can “make” a whole batch of and keep on hand because it’s only 3 ingredients, and two of them are wet. So whenever I need to rely on it, I just do it right in the detergent cup of the dishwasher. It’s so simple, and works great!

First, fill up your detergent cup with baking soda. This handy leavener of baked goods is fabulous for cleaning because it’s so abrasive. If you have a really tough item that needs cleaning, mix a lot of baking soda with a tiny bit of water to make a paste and scrub away! I used that to get all the caked-on stuff off of my kids’ high chair, and that humble wood chair has lasted through 3 kids thanks to this cleaning method. So yeah, add it to the detergent cup to help get all the bits of food off your dishes.

Next, add a splash of acid. It doesn’t really matter what; I’ve had success with lemon juice, lime juice, and vinegar (not at the same time). These ingredients give you a bit of disinfectant in your wash.

The final thing to add is a couple of drops of Dawn (or whatever dish soap you keep at your sink). It’s really important not to use more than 1-2 drops because that soap isn’t designed for the dishwasher. If you were to use it in lieu of dishwasher detergent on its own, you’d be living in a sitcom because your kitchen would be covered in suds! But by using just a drop or two in this recipe, there’s not enough to make bubbles and cause problems. This ingredient gives you the degreasing power you want for really clean dishes.

That’s it! I love knowing how to do this so that if I’ve run out of the “real” stuff I’m not stuck handwashing all of the dishes until I can get to the store.

Blessings,

Arts and Crafts in Homeschool

Art is a very important part of our family. Will draws comics and does graphic design for a living. Ballet Boy is learning to play guitar and ukulele. I knit and crochet. Scorpion makes animations. The younger kids draw and color all the time. Let’s talk a bit today about incorporating arts and crafts into your homeschool – or just taking what your kids are already doing art-wise and turning it into valuable lessons.

First of all, even though arts and crafts are often bundled together in people’s minds, they’re not the same thing. A craft is something that a student (usually a young child) makes to certain specifications. Crafts are usually part of a larger lesson (think about what children make at VBS or Sunday School). Art is – or at least can be – a lesson on its own. Students are still creating, but they’re doing so in a more free form manner. Even if all the kids in the class are drawing the same bowl of fruit, it’s more about the students’ expression than it is about completing the project exactly right (with the possible exception of a still life, but that’s a conversation for another day).

With those definitions in mind, let’s dive in. We don’t actually do many crafts in our home. Because of all the art-mindedness going on already, we tend to focus more on the things that will help our kids have an art-mindset rather than just gluing some macaroni onto a sheet of paper. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that – there’s absolutely not – but it’s not what we do.) In fact, we don’t really even do much organized art at all. It’s just sort of ingrained in our kids and we encourage it. All of our kids have started drawing from the time they could hold a pencil (or crayon), and as long as they’re drawing on paper, we support it. (We actually went through quite a difficult time with Bumblebee, who’s 3 now, where he was drawing on the walls. That was horrible, but thankfully he’s been the only child of ours who ever did that and he’s outgrown it now.) At a certain point, we move them over from loose leaf paper to sketch pads to contain the mess, but outside of that we just let them have free reign to draw whatever they want. This method teaches children that they can create whatever they want. Their only limit is their imagination! There is no right or wrong way to “do art,” and that’s probably the most important lesson to teach in my opinion.

What if you’re more comfortable with crafts than art, though? That’s totally fine! Kids can learn from doing specific crafts just as much as they can by drawing or painting, even if the lessons are a little different. In crafting, children learn how to follow instructions and how to be more precise in their creative endeavors. If they don’t cut that house panel out just right, it won’t fit into the other one to make their 3D house stand up properly.

If you don’t like having a specific art lesson each day (or even weekly, or biweekly), then how about incorporating arts and crafts into another lesson? Unit studies are a fantastic way to do this! A lot of pre-fab unit studies will have ideas for making art to go along with the lessons. Here are a few examples of ways you can add a simple art lesson to another, more mainstream course.

Literature/Reading:

Have your child/children draw an illustration for the book they’re reading, taking care to choose a scene that doesn’t already have an illustration.

Science:

Using supplies found around the house, even if they’re not traditional art supplies, create a model of whatever they’re learning about. (We did this a few years ago with Scorpion and Grasshopper where they made edible models of a cell.)

History:

Write and perform a play based in the time period you’re learning about.

Math:

Create their own manipulations to help master a tricky concept.

What are your favorite ways to incorporate art into your homeschool? Do you do specific art lessons, or do you prefer to use art as a supplement for other subjects?

Blessings,

2021 Blue Ribbon Awards

Each year, the Homeschool Review Crew members vote on their favorite products of the year. Here are my choices, and the list of winners. Links take you to my reviews of the product.

Image by Peter Lomas from Pixabay

Favorite Literature Reading Resource: The Reading Game
Winner: The Reading Game

Favorite Literature Resource: Progeny Press
Winner: Progeny Press

Favorite Vocabulary Resource: (no vote)
Winner: The Critical Thinking Co. Vocabulary Virtuoso

Favorite Language Arts Resource: Words Rock!
Winner: Words Rock!

Favorite History/Social Studies Resource: Figures in Motion
Winner: Home School in the Woods

Favorite Science Resource: The Critical Thinking Co Science Mind Benders
Winner: Greg Landry’s Homeschool Science

Favorite Math Curriculum: CTC Math
Winner: CTC Math

Favorite Math Supplement: Triad Math
Winner: MathRider

Favorite Bible Resource: Bible Breakdowns
Winner: Teach Sunday School Easter Escape Room

Favorite Children’s Bible Resource: Tommy Nelson Roar Like a Lion
Winner: Roar Like a Lion

Favorite Fine Arts Resource: (no vote)
Winner: ARTistic Pursuits

Favorite Martial Arts Resource: Practice Monkeys
Winner: Practice Monkeys

Favorite Elective Resource: The Fallacy Detective
Winner: The Fallacy Detective

Favorite Book/Book series: Buck Academy
Winner: YWAM Publishing

Favorite College Prep Resource: ACT Mom
Winner: ACT Mom

Favorite Helpful Tool or Resource: Fermentools
Winner: Fermentools

Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed: ACT Mom
Winner: WORLD Watch

Favorite Preschool Product: Reading Eggs
Winner: Buck Academy Baby Buck

Favorite Elementary Resource: Words Rock!
Winner: YWAM Publishing

Favorite Middle School Product: (no vote)
Winner: Teaching Textbooks

Favorite High School Product: Triad Math
Winner: CTC Math

Favorite Mom/Teacher Product: Fermentools
Winner: The HomeScholar

Kids Choice, Grasshopper: Words Rock!
Kids Choice, Dragonfly: Reading Eggs
Kids Choice, Bumblebee: Reading Eggs
Winner: Reading Eggs

Teen Choice, Scorpion: Practice Monkeys
Teen Choice, Ballet Boy: Triad Math
Winner: LightSail Education

All Around Favorite: Practice Monkeys
Winner: Creating a Masterpiece

What has been your favorite homeschool product you used this year?

Blessings,

He Man Birthday Party

When Dragonfly turned 6 last weekend, he decided he wanted a He Man and the Masters of the Universe themed party. It was a lot harder to find decorations for that theme than it was for Cocomelon, so we ended up making a lot of them ourselves using the Cocomelon party kit we’d purchased as a guide. 

I mostly chose images from online since I wasn’t posting them publicly; I knew that within our own home there wouldn’t be any issues with copyright. I chose 9 images and used them over and over for the different decorations. Invitations were made easily using a template on Adobe Spark (similar to Canva).

Once those were mailed, it was time for the actual decorations. First, to make the Happy Birthday bunting just inside our front door, I popped each of the images into Photoshop and added one letter to each picture. Then I printed them out, roughly 5×7 (so I was able to get 2 per page). Using the Cocomelon bunting as a template, I cut the images out into a fun shape and then attached them using a blue ribbon.

We were able to find a large banner and a package of themed balloons on Amazon. The day of the party, we blew up the balloons and Ballet Boy tied them all together using a bit of ribbon, and we hung the balloon arch on the wall. We supplemented the themed balloons with some plain ones from Walmart. The banner we were able to get was 9 feet tall and 20 inches wide, so it didn’t fit onto the same wall as the Cocomelon banner had. The big kids hung it in the dining room, right over the table where the snacks and cakes were. That ended up being pretty perfect.

I made two kinds of cakes. I did a carrot cake from scratch and chocolate cupcakes using a box mix. When both were baked, cooled, and frosted, I added toppers to each one. I couldn’t find the toothpicks at Walmart, so I used straws to stick them into the cakes. For the big cake, I printed out one of the pictures I mentioned before, but this time without any letters on it.

Our final bit of decor was bringing out all of the kids’ He Man toys. They have loads of them; Will was really into He Man when he was a kid, so when the toys started being reissued he was thrilled and has been buying our kids one or two a month for over a year. So yeah… their collection is huge. After the photo ops were done, though, the kids decided to take the toys back into their room and play with their cousins.

Overall, the party was a huge success. It’s really fun to prepare and host these themed parties. I’m excited to do it all again next year! (We’re all out of birthdays in our family until next July.)

Blessings,