Dollar Tree DIY winter welcome sign

I’ve been watching loads of “Dollar Tree DIY” channels on YouTube lately (did you even know there was such a thing? They’re so cool!), and they’re all very inspiring. These crafters have sent me into the Dollar Tree store more during the past three months than in the past three years! And one of those times, I saw this snowman sign that I knew I wanted. The only problem with him was that he said NOEL at the bottom, and I wanted a sign that would last all winter long. So, using some tips and inspiration from all those YouTube creators, I made a few adjustments to my snowman to make him look more winter and less Christmas. Here’s what I did (Unfortunately I don’t have a before picture, and I can’t find the sign I got on Dollar Tree’s website either.)

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First, I found a gift bag that said “Season’s Greetings” in a font I liked (also from the Dollar Tree). I cut the “greetings” portion off (because after all, “greetings” is another way of saying “welcome”). After sanding all the glitter off of the “Noel” part of the sign, I used Mod Podge to glue the paper down. Because I was using Mod Podge, I also painted glue over the top of my bag cutout.

I got a piece of blue fabric from Walmart for 97 cents and cut out pieces for his scarf and mittens, using Mod Podge to cover up the red. I had some jingle bells leftover from another project, so I painted 8 of them in “cool blue” paint from Apple Barrel (50 cents at Walmart). Then I used hot glue to apply them over the top of the ornaments on the snowman’s wreath. 

I love how this sign turned out, especially for my first project of this type. Seeing it outside my door every time we come or go makes me happy, and I won’t be embarrassed to leave him out all winter now.

Blessings,

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Crochet 2019 Calendar Blanket

All year long, I’ve been working on a “mystery crochet along” or MCAL, with Jayda from the YouTube channel Jayda InStitches. She does one of these every year, but this is my first time participating (definitely not my last though!). For 2019, the calendar blanket is a mural of sorts. We started the year, way back in January and February, by crocheting the canvas for our blanket. The color changes represent different landscape areas, from the dark blue “water” at the bottom up through the light blue “sky” at the top. 

Each month from March through December, there has been a new appliqué to crochet and sew onto the blanket – some months two or more. As of today, we’re still waiting for the December appliqué pattern to be released. There will also be a border added this month. (I will post the blanket in its entirety when I finish.) But for now, here’s what I’ve done on it. 

March: Sun

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April: Trees
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May: Barn

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June: Town

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July: Lighthouse

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August: Tractor

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September: Sailboat

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October: Pumpkins and Sunflowers

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November: Horse

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In addition to these “official” parts of the blanket, Jayda has released a few optional appliqués. I haven’t gotten around to those yet, but I do plan to add them to my blanket as well (clouds, toadstools, and evergreen trees). I also added the tractor’s trailer on my own (no pattern), thanks to a suggestion from Seahawk (my 16-year-old son). And of course, a tractor pulling a trailer to the barn needed to be full of hay! I will also be adding a sheep next to the horse. 

 

Create Your Own Book Ads with BookBrush (review)

Being married to a graphic designer who specializes in books, we’ve been on the lookout for a way for him to easily take his book covers and make them look like actual books for use in ads. This has been difficult for many years… until I was emailed about BookBrush.com. I looked over it briefly, then asked Will if he wanted to try it out for review and he said, “Sure.” So I requested the review, and we’ve been playing with it a bit over the past couple of weeks.

BookBrushImage-2019-4-23-12-557Using the website was fairly easy for Will, considering his experience with graphic design programs in general. In just a few minutes, he was able to poke around, learn how it was laid out, and upload his own book covers onto their templates. Now his flat image looks like a real book, ready to be used in ads! In a matter of 20 minutes, we were able to put together 3 “books” and one Instagram ad. And before we’d been at it very long at all, he was already asking me, “How much does this cost?” I think that means it’s safe to say he was very impressed with the site and already thinking beyond our review access and into purchasing a subscription.

(For the record, there are two pricing structures. You can set up a free account – no credit card required – and make up to 3 images per month, plus have access to a limited number of Book Brush’s 3D templates, stamps, and fonts. Or for $8 per month, you can create unlimited images, have access to ALL of the 3D templates, stamps, and fonts, the ability to upload your own fonts for better branding, get 5 free video creation credits per month, and customer support. Both accounts give you access to over a million background images and the ability to upload your own.)

Book Brush Mag Ad InstagramIn addition to making your flat cover images look like real books, there are templates for e-books, so you can put your book cover right on an “iPad.” The stamps I mentioned in the pricing structure paragraph are things like the Amazon and Audible logos (among many others), which show customers where they can buy your product. There are loads of fonts available for the text you include on your ad, and you can put it in a box (like we did above) or right on the transparent background. There are also image-based backgrounds you can use. We went with a plain one because that fits our product best.

If you’re in the business of selling books, you should definitely check out Book Brush. I think they’ll be your new best friend.

Blessings,

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Photo Update

Because it’s been a few weeks since I posted here, here’s a “photo dump” of some of the things we’ve been up to lately. Some of them will justify a post of their own, so look for those in the next couple of weeks.

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Dragonfly turned 3 back in November, and he really loves PJ Masks (a show on Netflix for those who are unfamiliar). We had a small party for him, and I made 2 cakes inspired by the characters. This is “Gekko.” The other one was “Catboy.”

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When you have a baby to care for and laundry to fold, sometimes this is the easiest way to transport both together 🙂

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Karate Frogs is a new feature in Will’s Casey and Kyle magazine. Seahawk (now 15) is the illustrator for the stories.

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We made “ninja bread” cookies at Christmas time.

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I let Dragonfly watch a movie one day while I was at the house with just him  and Bumblebee (the others were at dance class). I needed to care for the baby, so a bit of tv was necessary. I came back a few minutes later to find him like this. 

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We got each of the boys one “big” gift for Christmas this (well, technically last) year. For Dragonfly, it was this suit because he’d long outgrown his previous one. This picture was taken by Seahawk.

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Seahawk danced the title role in the boys’ dance studio’s production of The Nutcracker. Munchkin got the role of the toy soldier, which had been Seahawk’s the past two years. Small Fry was finally able to start classes (girls start practically from birth, but boys have to be 6), and he was so cute as a part of the Russian dance with his Boys’ Movement peers (including both big brothers).

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I made this knitted Nutcracker doll for Seahawk as a commeraration of his lead role.

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Bumblebee turned 4 months old on December 29th.

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Seahawk got a crystal growing kit for Christmas from one of his aunts and this was his first attempt.

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We got some apples from church the week before Thanksgiving, and they were terrible. Absolutely no flavor. So we didn’t eat very many of them, but ended up leaving the box on the back deck. Several weeks later, we noticed that many of the apples were missing (the box was nowhere near as full as it had been) and most of those left had been eaten. A few days later, we learned why!

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We, especially Will, have been reading the Bible with a much more literal interpretation, and ignoring our own cultural points of view on it. That, plus finding a good Greek interlinear version online, led us to discover and believe that contrary to popular belief, the Old Testament laws regarding things like the Sabbath and clean/unclean foods are still very much in effect. We have since given up all unclean foods (in our diet, this was primarily pork and non-fish seafood). The boys and I also work hard on Fridays to prepare the food we need for Sabbath (sunset Friday until sunset Saturday). On the week I took this picture, I made burritos on homemade flour tortillas for Saturday lunch.

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Last but not least, Bumblebee turned 5 months old earlier this week.

Blessings,

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Forensic Faith (book review)

I love forensics. When I was a young teenager, I’d watch Forensic Files with my mom. As an adult, I watched CSI (Vegas and NY; didn’t like Miami for some reason) with my husband. It’s been a while since I’ve seen any of those shows, but I still have that ingrained interest in the topic. So when I heard the title of the book I’m reviewing today – Forensic Faith for Kids – I was intrigued. 

This book, from David C Cook and Case Makers Academy, was an interesting read. We read it out loud together during our daily lunch break; this way we could read the book without interrupting the school day. It tells the story of a group of kids (their ages aren’t specifically stated, but they seem to be about middle school aged) who are part of a detective group in their local police station. They learn a variety of detecting skills from their mentor, Detective Jeffries. This character is based on the author’s real-life mentor of the same name. Author J. Warner Wallace is a cold case detective who has shared his knowledge on such shows as Dateline. He is also a former atheist, and he now uses his background as a criminalist to write books proving the truth in Christianity. Forensic Faith for Kids is his fifth such book.

During the baseball team car wash fundraiser, a dog shows up out of nowhere. There’s no sign of an owner. The only clue is a name, Bailey, on its collar tag.  

At church, Tiana tells her friend Hannah about a new friend named Marco. Marco believes that Jesus was “just a prophet.” He even has a book to back up this belief.

With the help and guidance of Detective Jeffries, using forensic science, the kids will solve the mystery of the dog and discover more about Jesus. Because the book was written by a cold case detective, it follows the real steps one must go through in order to solve any mystery, and it does so in reasonable detail. Besides showing the required actions in the story itself, there are callout boxes explaining different investigation terms and why they’re important. Sprinkled throughout the book are also “CSI Assignments,” which include scripture to read and critical thinking questions. This is in addition to the illustrations, each of which is captioned with a line from the text.

The book is unusual in its writing in two ways. First, it’s written in present tense (Jason asks, as opposed to Jason asked). This isn’t unheard of, but it is definitely rare. The second thing I’ve only ever read before in Choose Your Own Adventure books, and that is that it’s written in second person. This simply means that “you” are a character in the book. While that perspective was different, I think it’s very effective in this format – namely, because it’s challenging kids to explore their own faith and learn to defend it, putting them right into the book is very clever.

When I asked the boys their favorite parts of the book, Seahawk said he liked the CSI Assignments. Munchkin and Small Fry really liked the pictures. I liked how it took a potentially difficult, boring subject and turned it into an engaging story for kids.

Blessings,

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Forensic Faith for Kids {David C Cook and Case Makers Academy Reviews}
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I Know It (math review)

I’ve been working with Small Fry (6 years old) on a new math website called I Know It. From the creators of Super Teachers worksheets, I Know It is a completely online program offering supplemental math lessons for kids K-5. 

Even though it’s designed to work as extra practice for your child’s main curriculum, we don’t actually have one right now, so we’ve been using as a main math curriculum the past few weeks. Because Small Fry is only in first grade, that’s been okay; seeing the program in action, though, I agree that it would be best as just a supplement.

F2DB91CA-328F-496E-9B58-712280CA633FSetting up the account was really easy. It was just a matter of entering my son’s name and grade. Everything else was automatic, specifically the available lessons.

When you go to the site and log in, there’s a little pop up from which you choose the student who is using the site. Once you do that, the pop up closes and age appropriate lessons are available. 

You can assign specific lessons to your child or just have them choose from what’s available in their grade. I tried the assign method to see how we liked it, but in the end decided it was better to choose a lesson on a day to day basis. If you have upper elementary school students who can work semi autonomously, though, that would be a great tool to keep them from having too many choices and therefore not being very efficient with their time. Another reason assigning didn’t work too well for us was because my son doesn’t read independently yet (he’s still working on CVC words). Since I was sitting right with him during these lessons, I could just select the lesson I wanted him to work on that day. 

Once I’d logged in and selected a lesson, the questions would start right away (one at a time). I read the question aloud to Small Fry, and he would answer it on his own. There are lots of different types of questions: fill in the blank, multiple choice, q & a. One thing I appreciated was that on the questions that required a typed answer (all numerical in the first grade level), the website used its own keyboard rather the standard iPad one. This made it a lot easier to focus as Small Fry wasn’t distracted by the letters. 

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When the student answers the question correctly, a positive word shows up in green and the robot mascot did a little animation. This changed from question to question, though there were some repeats. 

Each week, I received an email from I Know It detailing what was worked on. It spelled out exactly how long he spent on the lessons, how many questions he answered, and the names of the lessons completed. This wasn’t super important for me since I helped my son each day, but if you have an older child working largely on his own, this information would be invaluable – especially if you live in a state that requires curriculum reporting. 

We have had a very positive experience with I Know It. Small Fry enjoys the lessons, he’s getting good reinforcement on age appropriate concepts, and it doesn’t take too long to get through a lesson (8-10 minutes for 15 questions). But don’t just take my word for it; click the banner below for more reviews. 

Blessings,

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Interactive Math Lessons K - 5 grade {I Know It Reviews}
disclaimer

Bumblebee: a birth story

EE0671B2-D9E2-4FCB-AC8F-5E8463F42369My csection went great. Much better than my dream the night before, in which everything was going wrong. The anesthesiologist was amazing! And my doc got a cyst removed from a sensitive area while I was already numb, so that’s good.

55F1DD34-1124-4AB8-9EE4-268D0BC0434AWe got bumped back by almost an hour because there was a 34 weeker delivering at my time. Vaginal, but the NICU team was needed for him/her and they like having them on hand for csections too, so we waited. I haven’t heard yet how that baby is doing, so maybe keep the family in your prayers. 

They had a designated picture taker for us, and he gots of good ones using my iPhone throughout the entire procedure. I got a few minutes of skin to skin in the OR, which was a first for me and I loved it.

F5C1A0DC-DFBF-488B-B797-BE54D41DA512I spent  2 hrs in recovery eating ice chips, then got moved up to the mother/baby unit where we’ll be for the rest of our stay. I was a bit dizzy from lack of sleep and quite itchy on my face from the anesthesia, but rest and IV meds took care of those. He’s nursed successfully three times now, by just 13 hours old (as I write this at 2:15 a.m.).

Weight: 7lbs, 4 oz. He’s the exact middle of my kids in this regard.

Length: 19.5 inches

Time: 1:20 pm

Apgar: 9, 9

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Blessings,

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The Opera: Orfeo ed Euridice

I wrote recently about our trip to see La Cenerentola (Cinderella), and now I want to talk about when we saw Orfeo ed Euridice (or-fay-oh ed yoo-reh-dee-chay). If you read the Cinderella post, you’ll know that we took Small Fry to see that show. For Orfeo, we took the big kids (Seahawk, age 14, and Munchkin, age 11). We thought this would be a great one for them because it was advertised to be a combination opera and ballet, and they dance ballet.

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The story of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the oldest on the planet (excluding the Bible), and has been the basis for many, many things over the years. Let me give a short rundown, just in case you’re unfamiliar.

orfeo 1Orpheus is a demi-god in mythology (meaning he was the child of one god and one human). He was in love with Eurydice, and on the way to their wedding she gets bitten by a viper and dies. Orpheus, in his anguish, finds favor with the gods and they tell him that they will allow him to go into the underworld and save her. But there’s a catch. There was always a catch with those guys! He’s not allowed to look at her during their trip back. If he succeeds, she will rejoin him in the land of the living and they will have a long and happy life together. If he fails, she will be pulled back to the underworld, essentially dying again. They get all the way back to the opening, and Orpheus, so excited to have made the journey successfully, turns to look at his beloved only to discover that she hadn’t stepped out yet. Because she hadn’t completed the journey fully, she is pulled back to the underworld.

orfeo 2This is the basic story that Orfeo tells, but there was a bit of a twist at the end. I won’t worry too much about spoilers since the opera is no longer “playing.” After Euridice is pulled back to the underworld, Orfeo sings songs of great sadness and eventually Amor (Cupid) comes to him with good news. Love conquers all, and he has heard Orfeo’s anguish and knows that he is truly in love with Euridice. Therefore he is overriding the other gods and allowing Euridice to rejoin Orfeo back on Earth.

For this opera, we arrived early enough to the theater to participate in the pre-show, where an opera expert gives a short (30-minute) lecture on the play and the composer. It was really interesting, and especially good for the kids to get some background on what they were about to see. They got a bit of history (both fictional, in the history of the story, and fact, in the history of the composer) in addition to just having a better grip on the story before it even started.

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The combination of opera and ballet was stunning, and the sets and costumes were gorgeous. This was one that I wasn’t entirely sure about when I found out that Will had bought tickets, but after having seen it, I’m so glad he did! We both agreed after seeing Italian Girl, Cenerentola, and Orfeo that Orfeo was our second favorite. (Italian Girl still wins in our books, and Cinderella came in third despite being my favorite fairy tale.) The kids loved it too.

Blessings,

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