A sweater for Dragonfly

I mentioned last week that I would share pictures of the kids’ new sweaters. Here is the one I made for Dragonfly (who is 4 1/2).


A few details about the sweater:

2D22F32B-9267-414C-81BE-CEC02081983CThe yarn I used is Knit Picks Bare Wool of the Andes, which I dyed using Wilton Kelly Green food coloring. I knit it bottom up (meaning I started with the sleeves, then at the hem of the sweater, joined the sleeves to the body and finished up at the top) in size 4-6. I prefer knitting bottom up because the sleeves get done while you’re still excited about the project – no risk of developing “2nd sleeve syndrome” (a term used by knitters which means that you’d rather start a new project than finish the second sleeve of an existing one).

He wanted a sweater “with buttons” (a cardigan), so this was my first ever steeked sweater. If you’re not a knitter, you may not know what a steek is… It is when you take a sweater that you’ve knit “in the round,” and then cut the front open to turn a pullover into a cardigan. It was a bit nerve wracking to do the cutting, but it all worked out, just like the tutorial promised it would! There were a few extra loose ends (I’m guessing my floats in the steek were too long), but I was able to knot them together with others nearby to secure everything. I plan to be a little rough with it the first time I wash it to encourage those ends to stick together.

I took Dragonfly to the craft store so he could choose his own buttons, and he selected fruit-shaped ones.

I’m not 100% happy with the choices I made in the multi-colored section at the top, but it’s not terrible. And my son loves it, which is the most important thing. 


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Yarn Dyeing

Every couple of years, I get an itch to work with real wool yarn (I usually end up using acrylic because it’s easier to find in-store places). I prefer the natural fibers, especially wool, but it’s not always feasible to get. (Acrylic does have its place though – it’s great for all the animals and dolls I made in April and May.) But the past few weeks, it’s been all about the wool! Today I’m going to share just the plain yarn that I dyed, as well as a quick rundown of the technique. In a few days, I’ll show off the sweaters I made for my littler boys. They have all turned out so gorgeous that I’m excited to show you!

How I dye yarn:

I follow the techniques from Chem Knits on YouTube, but less precise. So, I boil a lot of water mixed with a little bit of vinegar. While I’m waiting for that to come to a boil (simmer, really), I mix about 1/2 teaspoon food coloring (I like the Wilton gels in the little tubs) into a bit of warm water. I prefer to do this step in a disposable cup – we usually have empty Dutch Bros cups around from the day’s drinks, so I often just repurpose those.

When the water and vinegar mixture is hot, I carefully pour in the dye and then gently push the yarn into the water using a cooking spoon. Reduce the heat and let everything simmer for 10-20 minutes, then leave it alone to cool in the pot. What I find the most fascinating is that by the end of the simmering time, the water is clear! 

Once the yarn has cooled, I wash it using cool tap water and liquid dish soap, then air dry (usually outside, away from direct sunlight).

This method works for all “protein based fibers,” meaning something that comes from an animal – wool, alpaca, silk, etc. I’ve personally only ever tried it on 100% plain wool (not superwash), but I’ve seen the videos that show that it just rinses right out of plant based (cotton, linen, etc) or man made (acrylic, polyester) fibers.

And now, yarn.

19129A44-DFFF-41BF-B302-04C1F2E6EA9CThis blue is for Grasshopper’s sweater. He decided he wanted a sweater that was dark blue, and it had to be a pullover. To get the blue color here, I used three different food dyes. I started with 35 drops of McCormick’s blue (from the box of primary colors from the baking aisle of the grocery store) per skein. When it was done, Grasshopper asked if it was possible to make it a bit darker, so I said sure. When I went to get some Wilton’s, though, the only blue they had was Sky Blue; that wouldn’t work for “dark”! So I picked up a vial of black too, and mixed the two. I didn’t measure carefully, but it was mostly sky blue with a bit of black. When I overdyed the yarn, it ended up being perfect! I just love the variations I got by mixing colors.


Dragonfly wanted a green sweater, and he wanted his “to have buttons” (a cardigan). I dyed his yarn using Wilton’s  Kelly Green. What surprised me most about this one was that there was such a bright blue left at the end of the dyeing. The yarn had turned a nice bright green, and there was lots of blue left in the water! I went ahead and continued simmering to absorb that blue, and what happened was that I got a few specks of bright blue on top of the green. They’re barely noticeable in the knit sweater, but pretty cool anyway.

The orange you see in that same picture is dyed from Wilton’s Copper. I’d hoped for a more “coppery” copper, but I only used 1/4 teaspoon dye per skein (it was the first one I did from this batch and I was out of practice), so it turned out pastel orange. Still very pretty, and I’m pleased with the result even if it’s not exactly what I had in mind. The orange became a sweater for Bumblebee (who turns 2 next month), as well as accents in Grasshopper’s sweater.

The pink was another surprise to me. It was a color called Burgundy (also Wilton’s), and I expected a much darker color. Not only did it turn out bright pink, but I didn’t stir the yarn enough, so it ended up pink-and-white variegated instead of a nice deep burgundy like I expected.


The last one to talk about today is this dark purple. Would you believe me if I told you it was dyed using just one color: Wilton’s Black?! It was. Because the black food dye is made up of different reds, yellows, and blues, they all strike the wool at different rates, leaving this beautiful, mottled purple. This yarn became the accents for Dragonfly’s green sweater.

Okay, in a few days I’ll reveal the sweaters! (But if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have already seen the blue one.)


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Leather Armor

As I mentioned last week, Ballet Boy took up the hobby of swords and related things when ballet classes were put on indefinite hold due to COVID-19.


He started by purchasing a pair of fencing foils from an antique store last fall, and things have been “all swords all the time” ever since. For the holidays, he made a couple of swords (yes, MADE) for gifts. I got a new sewing machine earlier this year, and after a couple of very basic lessons, my oldest child just took on on his own, and his biggest accomplishment (besides making his own swords) has been the “leather” (really vinyl fabric) armor he made for himself.


He didn’t use a pattern, but instead just estimated the size and shape of fabric he would need and cut it straight out. Brave boy!! But it worked out for him. We bought a separating zipper, and he YouTubed his way into installing it correctly. On the areas where he was working with many layers of fabric, he knew that he needed to use rivets instead of stitches, and he did that. Overall, he’s done an amazing job, and I am ridiculously impressed with the work he did on this.


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Because the boys’ ballet classes were cancelled for so long due to COVID-19, they had to find new hobbies. Ballet Boy (16) took up swords, sword-making, and armor-making, which I’ll talk about next week. Scorpion (13) took up animation, and he is the topic of today’s post.

Each semester, we require the older boys to choose a topic of interest to them and do a full study on said topic. Then they have to present a project showing us (Will and I) what they learned. The idea is that they get to have some autonomy over their schooling, but also that they will learn to manage their time effectively (all they’re given is a due date).

Sometimes they choose to present their findings in a video, sometimes it’s a poster or a report. Once, Scorpion did a project on locks and keys and made a working safe out of a cardboard box. This term, he chose animation.

illusion bookTo help him with his studies, we bought him a book that Will always wished he’d had as a teenager called The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation (not an affiliate link) by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and Scorpion has been reading it practically nonstop. In addition to reading the book, he’s been working with various iPad apps to develop his own animated stories, and he has 8 of them so far. Each one is a little different in length and story, but they’re all pretty fun, and they definitely show a full understanding of the topic – which is the whole point of the “project” class. He’s even started a YouTube channel with all of his animations, using the name “Box on a Belt” that he created for his “company.” He tries to add a new one every other week or so.

Here is the first big one he did. (I know the title sequence looks a lot like Finding Nemo, but the rest of the story isn’t like it at all.)


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Dollar Tree home decor sign

I decided recently that I wanted to redo our bathroom. Even though it’s fairly cliche, I decided on a beach theme. We live fairly near the coast (about 30 minutes away), and spend a reasonable amount of time looking at the ocean. (We haven’t been able to go actually down on the beach lately because of COVID restrictions.) I love to see the Pacific Ocean, and so I was okay doing a fairly unimaginative theme in there based on my likes.

The first thing I did was to cover the ugly yellow countertop with a blue shower curtain, which I taped down. Because we rent, I couldn’t do anything super permanent about the counter. I cut out a hole for the sink, which was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I also bought a blue toothbrush holder (we’d been using a kitchen glass before that) and a blue votive holder with “coastal breeze” scented candles. For the finishing touch, I bought a package of seashells from the Dollar Tree and spread them out on the counter.

And the piece de resistance (lol). I took a summertime sign from the Dollar Tree:

0BB82E94-4945-4F31-BB14-88DD616C670F and turned it into this:


How I did it:

I bought two pieces of scrapbooking paper from JoAnn. I really love the seashell one! I googled “beach theme home decor phrases” and found one that I liked – I’d rather have seashells than snowflakes. I really love that it’s not just something basic like “Life’s a Beach” or something. And it went with my paper perfectly!

 I first dismantled the sign. I knew I wasn’t going to want to keep the bright pink ribbon holding it together, so I wasn’t concerned with keeping it nice. Then I took the arrow boards and traced them onto the back of the paper and cut it out. Using school glue (I was out of Mod Podge and forgot to buy more), I glued the paper onto the sign pieces, and then had trim the edges a little bit.

When the glue dried, I did the stenciled words on the blue tiles. This wasn’t as perfect as I’d hoped, but it turned out okay enough. I freehanded the word “than,” and decided that I liked that a lot better than what I’d stenciled, so I decided to just paint the “seashells” freehand on the center board instead of using my stencil. When all the words were painted and dry, I used my school glue to seal everything down. It worked really well! I love the firm, glossy feel it gave my sign.

After the glue dried, I had Ballet Boy drill new holes in the sign so that I could reattach them to one another. I threaded some twine into a yarn needle and then used it to tie the signs together in the right order. For the final flourish, I took one of my seashells and hot glued it to the seashell part of the sign. Ballet Boy had a small artificial pearl on hand, so he glued it into the shell.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how the room turned out – especially the sign. 


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Mastering Essential Math Skills (review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.


Math… You either love it or hate it, am I right? Personally, I rather like math. Perhaps not as much now as when I was a kid, but I definitely don’t hate it. My kids, on the other hand… even the ones who claim they love it aren’t very willing to do their math classes! And with the teenagers, it’s always been a struggle. In fact, they have always fought me on basic things like learning their times tables. This is why I requested a copy of Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 2 Middle Grades/High School from Math Essentials. We’ve had great experiences with Math Essentials in the past (I’ve done reviews of No-Nonsense Algebra and Math Refresher for Adults), so I knew this would be another fantastic choice for my family.

Mastering Essential Math Skills is a 158-page, softcover book, and like its name implies, it goes over all the most basic essential skills of mathematics. There are chapters on Whole Numbers (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing), Fractions, Decimals, Percent, Geometry, Integers, Charts and Graphs, and Word Problems. It concludes with a final review (could be used as a test if desired) and the answer key, with the final ten pages being a resource center. This includes things like a glossary of terms, reference sheet of math symbols, times table, list of prime numbers, squares and square roots, and fraction-decimal equivalents. The book comes with free access to a plethora of instructional videos taught by author Richard W. Fisher. Everything covered in the book has a corresponding video lesson, which is great if you as the parent/teacher are unfamiliar with a concept – you don’t have to be able to teach it! For the more basic lessons, the “helpful hints” on each page is probably enough, though. For example, on the subtraction page the “helpful hints” are:

  1. Line up the numbers on the right side
  2. Subtract the ones first
  3. Regroup when necessary

For most of us (and our older children, whom this book is geared toward), this is enough information to get through the lesson. On the off chance it’s not, though, you can refer to the appropriate video lesson.

351D6FC6-0062-431D-998C-E7FCA04A04BEMy teens, as I mentioned before, aren’t as quick as we’d like them to be on their times tables. They know them, but they have to think about anything above 5s. So I had them dive into those lessons first (we skipped addition and subtraction). The book allows a little bit of space for working the problems, as well as a column for recording answers, so I had Ballet Boy work right in the book. The lessons took him under 20 minutes, and while he was quite rusty at first (a reasonable number of wrong answers), just a little bit of practice had him up to speed easily.

Mastering Essential Math Skills Book Two has been just as great an asset to us as I knew it would be. I will continue to have the kids work through the book on a regular basis; it is going to be really great for reinforcing the math skills they’ve learned in the past as they look to move into more advanced math programs in the future.

The Homeschool Review Crew is reviewing three books from Math Essentials this week. In fact, it’s the two books I’ve previously reviewed (Math Refresher for Adults and No-Nonsense Algebra) and this one. Make sure to click through to learn more about those books.


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More Amigurumi!

Okay, so you’ll remember when I mentioned last week that I was obsessed with making stuffed animals, right? I meant it! Here are more of the creatures I’ve made this month. (Amigurumi, by the way, is the Japanese word for “knitted or crocheted toys.”)


This is Victor the Viper, made for Grasshopper. I don’t know what it is about this kid, but he loves all things wicked and creepy! He always roots for the villains in the movies, and when I was making stuffed animals, he asked for a snake. 🙂 The pattern is from Crochet Cute Critters by Sarah Zimmerman, which Will bought for me from Amazon.


This is Oswald the Raccoon. I was initially going to give it to Dragonfly because he always has such huge circles under his eyes (I know he doesn’t sleep enough, but it’s hard to make him sleep in, and he lays awake for a long time every night before falling asleep). But then he asked for a giraffe instead. So Oswald here will go into my “stash of future gifts.” In fact, that will be the fate of most of the animals I’m making right now. Pattern is from Jess Huff.


This is Giselle the Nightingale. She’s from the same book as Victor (though in the book she’s called Nina). Another animal for my stash.




And finally, Bella the Bunny. I combined patterns from both Jess Huff and Crochet Cute Critters to make her. The main parts are all from Jess Huff, but I wanted floppier ears so I pulled those from CCC. Additionally, I loved the idea of a pompom tail that was in CCC, so I did that instead of crocheting a ball like Jess Huff suggested. She’s also going into my stash.

Fun fact about that rocking chair: it’s quite old. My father-in-law had it when he was a small child, then my husband used it, and now my kids have it. My father-in-law gave it to us when Ballet Boy was tiny, and now Bumblebee is using it. So he’s the 7th boy to love on it!


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Learning About America’s Seal (book review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

Scorpion, my 13-year-old son, has gotten to read a lot of great books lately! Today, he and I will be talking a bit about Michael Kanis’s book from The Hidden Message, LLC. The book, The Hidden Message of the Great Seal: How Foundational Truth from the Dawn of Liberty May Rescue a Republic in Peril, is a softcover textbook.

From Scorpion:

The first several chapters are an introduction to the author’s investigative pursuits. He travels around historic sites around America to find out as much as he can about the seal. There is a brief history of the Seal of America, namely that congress in 1776 decided that America should have a seal and they tasked Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams with designing it.

BFBA7270-6759-42F9-9526-AED01C506F58This is a fun, historical book that is different from other books. It’s more interesting than other books of similar topics because it’s so well written. The topic is fascinating. The layout is pretty fancy (it opens landscape instead of portrait), and I like that the pages are full-gloss. It’s a very visual book.

Of what I’ve read so far (which is not the entire book, just the first 9 chapters due its denseness of information), chapters 6 and 7 have been my favorites. Chapter 6 talks about the author studying the seal and its symbols and what each one means. For example, the pyramid with the eye… a lot of people think it’s the eye of Horus (Egyptian god of the sky), but it’s not. We learn from the author’s studies that it’s actually meant to be God looking over the American people.

Chapter 7 details the Seal further and how and why the author became interested in it. He has four children, and felt like he wasn’t getting enough time with any one of them, so he decided to take individually on trips based on their own interests. With his third child, they went to Philadelphia because they had a friend there, and that’s where he discovered the seal and started studying it seriously.

DDCF5B33-0C1A-4222-84B4-ADE1A521391DI have really enjoyed reading this book and learning the details about America’s seal. I am excited to read more of this book, and I definitely recommend it. In fact, I’ve already recommended it to Ballet Boy (my older brother) because he would love it. He’s even more of a history buff than I am, so I know he would really enjoy reading this book. My dad, too. I’m really glad we have this book in our home library. It’s been a fantastic way for me to get some fascinating history learning in this month.

Back to Mom:

I love when we get books that my kids love, and we have been very blessed in that regard this school year. This book, as you can tell from my son’s review, is no exception. I didn’t read it myself, but he did, and I’m so glad to have been able to provide it for him. Based on what he’s told me, he is absolutely right: this would be a book both his dad and older brother would find fascinating. I hope they can find the time to read it themselves.

If you want to look at this book for yourself and/or your family, now is a great time to do so because Mr. Kanis is offering a 50% discount off the cover price of the book ($29.95 USD; paperback and ebook are the same price) from now through May 30, 2020 when you purchase through his website. Use coupon code HOMESCHOOL to get the discount.

As with all reviews through the Homeschool Review Crew, there are more thoughts on this book than mine (and Scorpion’s!). Click through to the blog to read them.


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30 Prophecies: One Story (book review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.


In the weeks leading up to Passover (and Easter), I had the absolute pleasure of being able to read and review the book 30 Prophecies: One Story from Christian Focus. It was especially good timing, because in addition to leading up to Holy Week, we received the book about the time all the churches (ours included) started shutting down due to quarantine. I loved having this resource to read to my younger children (7 and 4) during this time.

The book has the subtitle “How God’s Word Points to Jesus,” and that is really the guts of the book. Author Paul Reynolds has looked at 30 different prophecies throughout the Old and New Testaments, and written out in an easy-to-read format what they all mean and how each one leads us right to Jesus.

There are three sections: “From the Fall to King David,” “Major and Minor Prophets,” and “Prophecies Made by Jesus About Himself.” Each one has a series of prophecies from its respective section of the Bible, and each prophecy is given a 2-page spread. The text follows the same formula for each prophecy. Let’s take a minute to go over each aspect of the entries.

Like most books with sections (or chapters), each one has a title. In the case of 30 Prophecies: One Story, these titles are the different prophecies (for example: Jesus: The Son of David). Each entry is broken down into seven sections, and the sections are the same from entry to entry.

IMG-4180Prophet Name/Dates tells us who made the prophecy and when. Prophecy Made is the scripture (written out exactly, so you aren’t required to look it up separately in your Bible) of the prophecy being discussed. Then and There gives background information, and is one of the longest sections. It gives basic information not only about the time and place of the prophecy, but also about both the prophet and the person to whom the prophecy was made, as well as any commentary from the author regarding the section. Prophecy Fulfilled is direct scripture quotations, usually from the New Testament, that describe exactly how the prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus. Scarlet Thread is how the whole story of the Bible ties itself together. Mr. Reynolds uses this section to talk about how all the different parts of the Bible, despite their various authors and decades of difference (as far as when they were written). Application is just what it sounds like: how we can apply the scripture to our daily lives. Prayer is an actual prayer you can read to your children as written or read and paraphrase as you pray together. Each prayer is custom written to match the prophecy of the section.

As I mentioned before, I read these pages to my younger kids leading up to Passover. We read one prophecy per day and talked over what each thing meant. Even though this book has a suggested reading age of 5-11 (with a parent) or 6-12 (to read alone), I found that my kids did better when I stopped to explain things rather than just reading the entries straight through. I loved reading this to them, though, and to see their faces light up as things were all becoming interconnected the more we read. What a joy!


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Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing a total of three different books from Christian Focus this week (Psalms for My Day, 30 Prophecies: One Story, and Not If, But When). Click through to find out more!