December 29, 2013

An Apology, a Resolve, and a Plea

Let me start first with an apology...I realize it's been two months since I've posted anything.  I really haven't abandoned you all; I just needed to focus my attention on my family and the upcoming holidays.  That being said, now that the holidays are over, I may not go back to posting twice a week like I did before.  It was becoming a little overwhelming to find an interesting topic, and the time to properly research it, then write a post about it.  As I've said before, the good life should be simple and stress-free.  I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to churn out regular blog posts, and it was becoming not such a good life...or rather, not such a good wife and mom.

With that in mind, for the upcoming new year I am going to resolve to live the good life.  I will review what I do & why I do it, and make the changes necessary to get the most out my life.  I'm sure there are some things that I need to put more effort & time into, and other things that I need to let go of.  Join me in the good life in 2014.  What changes can you make in your life to reduce your stress and increase your enjoyment?  How can you simplify your life?

My final thought for this post is a plea.  As we are taking a look at various aspects of our life for the start of the new year, we have realized that our daughter has reached a new maturity level.  She is a tween.  One of the many changes that comes with that is a desire to watch older tv shows.  It didn't take long for my husband and me to realize that most of the popular shows aimed at tweens just aren't what we want her to watch.  Many of them are filled with sassy attitudes and disrespect for others, specifically parents.  I'm looking for suggestions.  Actually, I'm begging you, please help us stop the tv wars.  What shows do your older children watch?  What shows have you found where the characters are actually decent to each other? 


October 29, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Where NOT to Trick-or-Treat

Halloween is almost here.  It's the time of year when we are gearing up for the holiday season, and thinking warm fuzzy thoughts.  Most of us do not take the time to think about each and every house we let our little ones walk up to as they parade around town in their costumes, but we should.  We all like to believe that our neighborhoods are safe.  Take a moment to be sure.  The U.S. Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Public Website allows you to search your area for registered sex offenders.   Several states and counties hold Halloween events that specifically require offenders to attend so that they aren't out with trick-or-treaters, but it is always best to know if any offenders live or work nearby.  Point those houses and businesses out to your children and let them know not to interact with anyone there.   Knowledge is a very powerful tool.  Educate yourself and your children, and have a happy and safe Halloween.


October 27, 2013

Halloween Costume Update: Round Eared Cap

I've finally completed  my daughter's Colonial American girl costume.  Here is the completed outfit.  One piece was particularly difficult to make; the round eared cap.  It's not that the actual project was difficult, just figuring out how to make it.  Overall, I'm happy with the end result.  Although, there were some hiccups along the way.  It's not quite as historically accurate as I'd like it to be, but this was a faster, more cost effective version.

Historically, women and girls wore these caps from the 1740's through the 1820's.  They were made of white linen, and obviously hand sewn.  There are historical patterns available, but I didn't want to spend the money on a pattern.  I looked at some pictures of finished caps, and a wonderfully helpful website with general instructions for making historical caps.

Mine, on the other hand, is made from an old white cotton pillow case.  It is mostly hand sewn.  I did use the machine to sew the draw strings.  I also machine sewed the casing for the draw strings, however my stitches were too close to the raw edge and it pulled out.  So, I ended up hand sewing that part, too.

I didn't follow any particular pattern.  I just took a few measurements of my daughter's head and cut pieces out of paper to try on her.  If I make another one in the future, I will definitely make it bigger.  What I thought would be the right size, ended up a little too small for her.  It would probably fit a 4-5 year old much better (she's 9).  

Here is my paper pattern with a 12 inch ruler for scale.  From top to bottom the pieces are the crown, ruffle, then band.  I cut two pieces of the ruffle.  If your fabric has a finished edge (selvedge), use that edge for the front edge of your ruffle. That eliminates the need to hem it.  I did not make a pattern for my drawstrings.  I simply cut two strips of fabric about 1/2 inch wide and 8-10 inches long.

Fold your drawstring pieces in half, lengthwise.  Stitch them shut.  Because they are so narrow, it is very difficult to turn them inside out.  My quick fix solution was to trim the raw edges, and seal them with clear nail polish.  I'm not sure how effective a solution this is for the long term, but it will at least get us through Halloween.

On to the crown...Because I didn't allow for extra room for a hem, I machine sewed my hem much too close to the raw edge and ended up having to hand sew it after it unraveled on me.  You can choose to either add an extra 1/4 inch or so to the bottom of your crown and machine sew the hem (or casing), or leave it as is and hand stitch it.  

Next, cut a small slit at the center of the casing.  Use needle & thread to wrap the hole like a button hole.  Use a safety pin to feed the drawstrings through the casing, letting the extra length hang out of the center hole.  

For the top of the crown, hand sew a running stitch for your gather.  I cut a piece of thread the same length as the length of the band.  That made it easy to fit the two pieces together.  Evenly distribute the gather and pin the two pieces together.  Be sure to include the drawstrings.  Whipstitch the crown and the band together using very small, close stitches.  After you have attached the two pieces, remove your gather thread.

Now for the ruffle...As I stated before, if you have a nice finished edge that you can use for the front of your ruffle, do it!  Since I made my cap out of a pillowcase, I had no nice edge.  I did not want to hem the front of the ruffle, so I again used clear nail polish to seal my freshly cut edge.  Attach the two ruffle pieces, end to end, with a couple of small stitches.  Next, cut another length of thread the same length as your band and gather the back edge of your ruffle.  Again, pin the two pieces together and use a small, close whipstitch to attach the ruffle to the band, removing the gather thread when you are done.


There you have it, a genuine fake Colonial America era historical-ish round eared cap!  I hope your hands and eyes don't hurt from all those whipstitches as much as mine do.  More importantly, I hope this tutorial helps make your project a little easier.


October 9, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: So Much To Do...


You know the old saying..."So much to do; so little time."  That pretty well sums up how I feel these days.  We are up to our eyeballs with school.  There are projects to complete, lessons to do, and tests to take.  Many days we've found ourselves doing school up until time to start dinner.  After dinner is the battle of the shower.  Then, once I get the kids in bed, it's my time.  

Normally, I work on setting up the next day's lessons, and writing my posts.  However, right now I'm making a Halloween costume.  My daughter has decided to be a Colonial American girl.  After many hours searching the internet for patterns or even images of historical colonial fashion, I'm now making my own pattern based off of a couple of pictures of good reproductions.  There are a few historical patterns out there, but they cost more than I am willing to pay.

It's coming along nicely (after a couple of tries).  I'll post about it more once I get it complete, although I keep forgetting to take pictures as I finish each stage.  I'll start you off with a picture of my inspiration.  This is the best photo I've found of the type of outfit my daughter had in mind.  What do you think?  What will your kids be for Halloween?  Are you making or buying costumes?


October 2, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Creative Block

I know it happens to everyone once in a while.   Still, I can't help but feel inferior when it happens to me.  I'm talking about creative block.  Not only can I not write, but I can't do anything creative.  All of my projects have come to a complete standstill, and I feel like I don't know how to pick up where I left off.  It's kind of like when you can't think of a word.  It's right on the tip of your tongue, but you just can't think of it.  That's how I feel about the sewing project I'm stuck on, coming up with foldables for my daughter's lapbooks & notebook, and even topics to write about here.

I want to hear from you.  What do you do when you have creative block?  What do you tell your children when they are stuck on a project?  What tips do you have to help pull me out of my hole and get me back to myself?  I'm just not me when I can't be creative.  Thanks in advance for any suggestions you have to offer.


September 25, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Land of the Lost

How many sets of Legos do your kids have that can't be put back together because the instruction sheet is MIA?  How many of you have learned that lesson already and now have an entire file full of every instruction manual that has ever entered your home?  I have a solution for all of you.  Let's Build it Again is a website dedicated to providing instruction manuals for Lego sets online for free.  Simply choose the theme name, then set name to see or download the instruction sheet for building that set.  Now your kids can rebuild all those sets that are sitting in pieces, and you can clean out your filing cabinet.  Talk about a win-win!


September 21, 2013

Sadie's Interactive Math Notebook

We've completed our first full unit of math using an interactive math notebook.  So far, my daughter and I are both enjoying math so much more than ever before!  It does take me a little bit of time to decide what kind of printable/foldable I want to use for each lesson and get it prepared, but it is so worth it to me to see her actually enjoying math class.

For those of you who aren't familiar with interactive notebooks, they are a way of taking notes for a subject in a creative way that is both visually appealing and...well...interactive.  I usually try to create some sort of printable that contains some of the information, but leaves a space for her to finish the "notes".  I also try to choose a fun way to present that information such as a foldable, and using fun fonts & colors.  Don't know what a foldable is?  It's easier for me to show you than to tell you, but basically a foldable can be anything that opens or can be manipulated by the student. It can be used to divide information into groups, or to help the information flow from one step to the next.  Graphic organizers and minibooks can also be used to hold information.  Let me show you what I mean...

I printed out a cover and inserted it into an old 3 ring binder.

I printed out title pages for each section of the notebook.  First is the Table of Contents.

Very simply, list either the title of the lesson or the topic, and the page number as you complete each lesson.

Next comes the body of the notebook; the actual lessons.

Place Value


How to add, subtract, multiply, & divide.

Properties of Numbers

 Order of Operations

Place Value of Decimals

Comparing & Ordering Decimals

Front End Estimation

Operations with Decimals

Powers of Ten

Story Problems: 4 step plan

Story Problems: clue words

That is the end of the first unit.  We will continue on with subsequent units so that her entire year of work will be accessible in this one notebook.

The last section of her notebook is for vocab words.

Here she writes simple definitions or examples of terms she is unfamiliar with.

Wow!  That was a lot of pictures.  I hope I haven't overwhelmed you, or bored you to tears.  Since we have started using an interactive notebook, I'm always looking online to see what other people are putting in theirs.  I decided it would be nice to post pics of what is inside ours so that others can see it.  Do you use an interactive notebook?  How do you use it? What is your favorite foldable or mini book?  


September 18, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Talk Like a Pirate Day, It Be Me Hearties!

Shiver me timbers! Tomorrow is talk like a pirate day.  It's a great day to act silly and have some fun.  It's also a great day to sneak in a little history and science...along with the fun.  I've found the motherload of pirate resources for your little lads and lasses.

Before you can be a pirate, you need to learn about pirates.  Older pirates will get a real feel for the life of a pirate by watching any of the pirate documentaries a available on YouTube.  After that, let them learn which flags various pirates flew and what those images meant.

Younger pirates will get a thrill out of learning to talk like a pirate, and generating their own pirate names.  Disney has an entire subsite dedicated to pirate crafts & activities for younger children.

To be a pirate, you need pirate gear.  Younger pirates will enjoy this adorable yet simple duct tape sword.  This homemade compass is a great science lesson on magnetism.  Every pirate needs a telescope to see far off treasure.  I've found one tutorial that looks more like a pirate spyglass, but does not have lenses, and one less traditional looking telescope that gives a great explanation of how the lenses work to magnify distant objects.  Finally, pirates must love the water, and your little pirate will absolutely love making his own ocean in a bottle.

So smartly get yerself ready to be a pirate, or the youngsters may send you to Davy Jones' Locker!

(Sal "One-Legged" Curnow)

September 14, 2013

Use Transparencies to Make Lessons More Clear

There are some times when no matter how you present a lesson, your student just can't see the connection.  One of the tools I use to make lessons more clear is transparency sheets.  They are a great way to not only mix things up a bit, but they can make lessons and lesson planning less wasteful, too.  Just be sure to use mirror images when printing.  Here are a few of the ways I use transparency sheets.

Lesson Planning - As I mentioned in my Workbox post, I use transparency sheets in our Workbox file folders.  Each day I write out instructions for every lesson so that my daughter can quickly see what needs to be done for her classes.  At the end of the day, I wipe them clean and write the next day's instructions.  No paper lists to throw away!  I've used the same sheets for 3 years now, and don't see them wearing out any time soon.

Handwriting - When my boys were little I printed out handwriting practice sheets for each of them.  Having twins, it was easy to see just how many sheets of paper were being used up.  When my daughter came along, I wised up and printed her handwriting pages on transparency sheets.  We used them in conjunction with her Doodle Pro for a no mess way for her practice her letters over and over again.  If you don't have a magnetic doodle board, simply use dry erase crayons or markers.

Science - As my youngest is now in 5th grade, classes are getting more complex.  In science, she is currently studying the body systems of animals.  How better to illustrate how all the body systems fit together than with transparency sheets?! I found images of the systems at, and printed them on the sheets.  She added them to her science lapbook, layering them so that she can view different combinations of systems together.  (Just ignore the ugly packing tape used to attach the sheets to her lapbook.  Sometimes you just use what you have!)

Maps - Whether the class is U.S. History or Government, transparencies are definitely the way to look at how states vote. I found these election maps at  Laying one on top of the other makes it very clear which states are red, which are blue, and which are more of a purple.

Early learning - Although I have not done it myself, as you can see from the purple states, layering colored strips of the transparencies blends the colors beautifully.  Print one sheet with 1/3 of the sheet red, 1/3 yellow, and 1/3 blue.  Cut the three colors apart.  Then, leave them out for your preschooler to discover, and watch the magic of the rainbow light up his face.

How will you use transparency sheets to make lessons more clear?


September 11, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Stencyl Game Studio

The next stop on my list of ways to jazz up our learning this year is at the Stencyl Game Studio.  Stencyl allows users to create their own games, playable on iOS, Android, and Flash without coding (although you can write your own code if you wish).  Character behaviors are customizable using building blocks similar to those used in Scratch.  The freely downloadable program comes complete with resources for creating countless games, and also allows users to import their own resources to create truly unique games.  The Crash Course game and tutorial has you making your first game in minutes.  There is also an extensive "Stencylpedia" available to answer any questions you may have.  Once you have made your amazing new game, you can make it available in the App Store or Google Play Store.  You can also display the game on your website or blog.  BLiP is just one of many games available in the App Store created using Stencyl.  Of course, if you want you can simply play the game on your computer as well.  What will you and your children create?


September 7, 2013

Grandparents Day is Tomorrow!

Grandma & Grandpa, Mamaw & Papaw, Nana & Pawpaw, Mimi & Pop matter what your kids call them, grandparents are special.  Did you know that tomorrow, September 8th, is National Grandparents Day?  There's no need to panic, though, I have already done the searching for you and found some great last-minute ideas for showing your children's grandparents how special they are...even if you did forget about Grandparents Day.  I know that when it comes to last minute gifts, money can be an obstacle, so I've put together a list of DIY gifts you and your children can make together at home.

Before you break out the construction paper and glue, check out this list of activities from Huffington Post that show Grandma & Grandpa how much they mean to you. recently updated their annual list of handmade gifts for Grandparents Day including this adorable Goofy Grandkids photo book.

If you are looking for gifts the kids can make that their grandparents will actually like, then these 9 ideas from are for you.  From pill boxes to ice cream, these moms know what grandparents want.

Sometimes, all grandparents need is a kind word to remind them that they are loved, and a picture is worth a thousand words.  The Babycenter blog lists 9 gift ideas, many of which include pictures of your little ones.

One thing that long distance grandparents miss more than anything else is hugging their grandkids.  Grandparents all around the world will love receiving this paper hug in the mail.