Friday, September 30, 2011

Our Family's Favorite Books to Read Together

My family loves to read. We read aloud as a family every night and every extra opportunity we have. Our love of books is very evident in the huge number of book shelves scattered all around our house. Each child has a bookcase in their rooms, we have one in the upstairs hall, and the playroom downstairs has wall to wall bookshelves on one end filled with books. And all that is with us using the public library to borrow as many books as possible rather than buying them.

We also love to read book series and books that have been made into movies. I enjoyed seeing the kids' reactions to a movie we watched after first reading the book. They were appalled that the movie left out so many parts of the book they liked and changed things right and left. It was a good lesson in "the book is always better than the movie".

I think this whole "read a big book aloud" thing started on a rainy Sunday when I brought out The Mouse and the Motorcycle to read to the kids while they played LEGO. We read for a while in the mid morning, then ate lunch, read more in the afternoon, had dinner, then finished the book at bedtime. I wasn't really sure if my youngest, who was probably 4 at the time, would have the stamina to sit through the whole thing and stay interested, but he did. After that I decided to bring out all of the books I loved as a kid to read to MY kids. And so far, they love it, too.

Recently a friend asked me to send her a list of some of our favorite books and book series for her to read to her children. Her youngest is in 1st grade, and she wanted to make sure the books would be simple enough for that child to follow. Below is the list I sent to her. These are all books and series Hubby or I have read to my kids. Some kept their attention better than others but overall they were all well received. Happy Reading!

Simple chapter book series 1st Graders may be able to read partly by themselves:
Jigsaw Jones
Junie B Jones
A to Z mysteries
Cam Jansen
Geronimo Stilton
Flat Stanley
Elmer and the Dragon

Bigger stories but still simple enough for 1st graders to follow:
Magic Tree house
Little house on the prairie series (Little house in the big woods is first) (has a TV series)
Ramona series (starts with Ramona and Beezus) (has a movie)
Secrets of Droon series
Keyholder series (This side of Magic is the first book)

More complex, but my 1st Grader still loved them and could follow the story with some reminding:
Spiderwick Chronicles (has a movie)
Harry Potter series (has movies)  (might be too scary after #3 for more sensitive 1st graders)
The 39 Clues series (upcoming movie)
The Indian in the Cupboard series (has a movie)
Lemony Snickets (has a movie)
The Hobbit

Stand alone books that are great:
Charlotte’s Web (has a movie)
Stuart Little (has a movie)
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
Mary Poppins (has a movie)
Peter Pan (has a movie)
Dr. Dolittle – children’s version has more modern language
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (has a movie)
Tales of Desperaux (has a movie)
Mr. Poppers Penguins (has a movie)
The Little Prince
Journey to the Center of the Earth – children’s version has more modern language (has a movie)

Any book by Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, or Roald Dahl is a good choice.

Books I haven't read to the kids yet but plan to in the near future:
Pippi Longstocking series (has a movie)
From the mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E Frankwieler
A Cricket in Times Square
King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Chronicles of Narnia
Inkheart series (has a movie)
Wizard of Oz (has a movie)
Little Women
Percy Jackson series (has a movie)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

More Images from the Garden




Pumpkins in the strawberries



White spider


 The chicks have all of their feathers now. So they just look like mini versions of adult chickens minus the comb.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Strawberry Banana smoothie...with a surprise

Yesterday The Boy asked me to go to Starbucks for one of their strawberry banana smoothies. But I really didn't want to drive to Starbucks and pay money for a smoothie that may or may not really be very healthy for you. So I convinced him to let me make one here at home. Now, The Boy is one of my worst critics when it comes to homemade food. He is dubious of everything, which I suppose is deserved since I do try to sneak healthy bits into almost everything. But I got lucky this time and he stayed out of the kitchen while I made this one. I gave him a tester sip to make sure it fit his criteria of a Starbucks smoothie, and he gave me the thumbs up! Hopefully your personal food critic will like this one, too.

Strawberry Banana smoothie with a surprise
(Paleo, Primal, gluten Free, Dairy Free)
1 ripe banana
1 C frozen strawberries
1 ripe nectarine or peach
1+ C milk (can be almond, coconut or cow's) Add more as needed to blend well
1/2 C sunflower seeds
3/4 C torn kale

Blend all ingredients in a blender until well incorporated. Makes about 3 good size smoothies. Top each cup with whipped cream if dairy is ok and serve! I serve mine in a cup with a lid and a straw so the kids can't inspect the contents as they drink it. If they can't see the tiny green bits of kale they won't have a problem with it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hens in the Rhodies

We still have 4 feral hens...or rather we have 4 feral hens again as most of the ones who were sleeping outside the coop earlier in the spring and summer got to see the inside of a raccoon's stomach. I don't know why they want to sleep in the rhododendrons rather than inside the coop where there is ample space for them and their roost-mates. It's been getting fairly cool here at night, and you'd think they'd want the warmth of all of those other chicken bodies to keep them toasty at night. But not these gals. They like to sit in the Rhodie and leave a manure trail down all of the leaves below them. Yeah, that's attractive.

I decided to try to get pictures of them last night when they climbed up into the tree. Three of them are Barred Rock and one is a Brown Leghorn. The first picture is from me trying to photograph black-ish chickens in the dark without a flash to startle them. The second is from me getting frustrated at the black-ish hens moving around and getting spooked by my walking around them anyway, so what the heck I'll turn the flash on. Neither is great, but there you go.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hooded Towel for a Big Kid

The other day I saw this post about hooded towels at Sew Like My Mom, and knew I had to make these for my kids. Now you may think that a hooded towel is something for a baby or toddler, but you would be mistaken! My big kids love hooded towels and have tried to squeeze into the baby ones that for some reason are still in the linen closet. They have friends who have hooded beach towels that they take to the pool, and my kids have looked longingly at them all summer long. So now that I had the instructions on how to make one myself, I got to work.

These hooded towels uses regular sized bath towels and hand towels sewn together; so technically they could fit an adult...I tried them on and they were so snuggly that I may just make one for myself! I went digging in the linen closet and found 2 white bath towels and 2 white hand towels that looked like they had maybe been used once. Perfect! Then with my coupon to the fabric store in hand I bought some remnants that would be used for the edging on the hood and for a bit of decoration on the back of the towel.

The process of making a hooded towel is fairly simple. First I took the hand towel, folded it in half, measured 6 inches along the folded edge then cut from there diagonally to the corner.

I then took my remnant, and cut a strip 5 inches wide by about 24 inches long. This ended up being a little too long, so measure the distance along the cut edge of your hand towel to determine the exact length you need. Then I basically made bias tape out of the fabric by folding the edges of the fabric to the center then folding the whole thing in half again long ways. In the end you have your fabric folded to 1/4 of the width with edges folded to the inside.

Position your homemade bias tape along the cut edge of your hand towel, pin it, then sew it on.

Take your hand towel and refold it in half with the fabric edge along one side. Sew the other side of the towel to make the back of the hood. At this point right sides of your hood are on the inside. Turn the hood right side out so the seam on the back of the hood is now on the inside.

Take the neck part of your hood and center that onto the center of one side of your bath towel. The curve of the hood will make the neck not lay completely straight against the side of the towel, but do your best and pin this in place. Sew the right sides of the hood and bath towel together.

Now you can be finished if you like, or you can embellish a bit. I added a fabric Hot Wheels panel to the back of The Boy's towel and the Girl wanted her initial on the back of hers made in the same fabric as the hood edging. You can also add little hand pockets to make it easier for little hands to hold the towel closed, or not, it's up to you.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Images from the garden

Bean Flower

Heirloom tomato

Cherry Tomato!

Mystery squash (it grew from the compost, so I have no idea what it is)

Purple bean flower (I love the seashell looking inside of this one!)

Awkward teenage chicks 

Purple cabbage


Basil almost flowering


Savoy Cabbage

Carrot flower

Suspicious Rooster


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