Monday, May 31, 2010

Not Me Monday: It’s a Gusher!

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My children are best friends. They never argue. They never fight. Our house is always filled with the wonderful sense of calm…there is never any strife.

So, on Friday, Mary did not pinch Peter. And he did not respond by sitting on her face. Her nose did not gush blood, causing her to scream, “If you broke my nose, I’ll never forgive you!” and “You are the worst brother, ever!”

And I did not smirk because she had already declared David to be the “Worst Brother Ever” earlier that day. Or groan because there were drops of blood everywhere, from the living room to the kitchen. Or contemplate calling the dance studio to tell them Mary would miss class. I did not dig for M’s leotard in the dirty clothes because it did not turn out to not have been in the load of clean laundry I thought it was in.

I never leave things till the last minute. Not ever. My home is a well oiled machine. You will never catch me unprepared.

More about my killer preparedness, my stellar parenting skills, and my resourceful children.

For more Not Me’s, head over to mckmama’s blog.


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Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: Safety Tat

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Once upon a time, when David was about 2, he got lost in a store. I was busy puttering over some stuff in the clearance section, with my docile (at the moment) tow-headed boy standing next to me. I looked up and he was gone. Then came the frantic search. And finally the discovery that he had made it all the way to the other side of the store. And found a friendly clerk. My heart stopped when my dear one was lost and we both remember the experience 8 years later.

Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if he’d had a colorful temporary tattoo on his arm with Mama’s cell number?

Safety Tat is the Tat that brings kids back.® This is a truly innovative product that uses a novelty that most kids like---a temporary tattoo---as a way of protecting your child.

We received 2 kinds of Safety Tats for review:

The Original Safety Tat (Giraffe)

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  • customizable with one line of print (your cell number is a suggestion)includes complete instructions
  • requires a wet paper towel or washcloth for application
  • lasts 1-5 days
  • rubbing alcohol or baby oil recommended for removal
  • available in many designs, selling for $19.95 for 30 Tats (larger quantities also available)

Quick Stick Write-On! Multi-Design Pack

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  • stick-on design you customize yourself with included felt-tip pen
  • waterproof
  • includes complete instructions and alcohol pads to clean the skin before applying
  • lasts up to 2 weeks
  • available in various designs, in 6-packs ($9.99) and 18-packs ($19.99)

In addition to the “if lost, please call” Tats, you can also get allergy alert Tats, and Tats that alert to special needs. The Write-on Tats offer the flexibility of using them with multiple children with different individual needs.

I tried out the Original Tats on 14-month-old Emma and 6-year-old Mary. These go on just like the tattoos you get at birthday parties (and then spend all of Saturday afternoon trying to scrub it off before church the next morning). The instructions provided are a bit vague (you are told to press the Tat firmly on the skin with dry hands for about a minute and then wet the backing paper with a wet paper towel until it is thoroughly saturated and slides off, leaving the tattoo). A “minute” is a long time for a squirming toddler, and actually unnecessary. We found that holding the paper towel over the backing for about 20 seconds was enough to saturate it so it slid off easily, leaving the tattoo firmly in place.

As for durability…good on the 6-year-old, not so good on the toddler. Little Emma is not used to having things on her skin, so she instantly started rubbing at it. Within a few hours the graphic started to get fuzzy and the last couple of digits on my phone number were unreadable. Safety Tat recommends putting the Tat somewhere “out of sight, out of mind,” so your child won’t be tempted to pick at it. Mary left her tattoo alone, and it stayed clear and undamaged all day. You will want to make sure it is visible, though, especially if your child is non-verbal.

I tried the Quick Stick on 10-year-old David. Applications was pretty easy. You just clean the arm with an included alcohol pad, let it dry, peel, stick, apply slight pressure for 20 seconds to make sure it’s firmly in place, remove the protective covering, and then write on it. Writing on my son’s arm was a bit of a challenge, but otherwise it worked great.

I was especially interested in testing how waterproof the Quick Stick Tat is. A Tat that lasts up to 2 weeks would be great if it can stand up to the rigors of camping and other sweaty, strenuous activities. David obligingly washed his arm, gently rubbing, with no soap. Not a smear to the ink, but the edges of the Tat started coming up and within a couple of hours it had completely peeled off. Maybe he was too rough?

So, we tried again. This time, he just gently ran some water over it and patted dry,. Within a couple of hours, one edge started coming up, but this one stayed with him for the rest of the day. I have doubts on the “up to 2 weeks” claim, but I am very impressed with the waterproof ink. Not a smudge!

Overall, the products are a little more fragile than I’d like, but definitely a great idea and an easy way to help keep your kiddos safe.

This is a Mama Buzz review. The product was provided by Safety Tat for review purposes and I received no compensation. This review reflects my honest opinion.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tomorrow's the Day...

...we close on our new (to us) house! Can't wait to start sharing this gem with you, we are so excited!
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Win a Freezer!

Over at What's that Smell? Ends 6/9. You could win an upright 13.7 c.f upright freezer---this would be fabulous in our new house. Can never have too much freezer space with 4 kiddos.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Review: LobsterNetwork

LobsterNetwork? Is it…

  • A. tips and tricks for fixing fresh seafood in your own home?
  • B. a website for recording lobster sightings?
  • C. a fan club dedicated to the B-52’s big hit Rock Lobster?
  • D. a social media outlet for crustaceans?

No. No. No…and definitely Not!

What LobsterNetwork stands for:

acronym

What LobsterNetwork IS:

  • 100% FREE secure website
  • an on-line inventory where you can keep a record of:
    • books
    • audios
    • videos
    • and any household item
  • a place where you can create lending library
  • a place to sell curriculum or household items
  • a place to give things away

Your free account allows you to enter countless items into your inventory, complete with description, serial numbers, even a photo, if you like. What you do with your listings is up to you.

Keep them private to have an inventory of your stuff---handy for those of us who have so many books we tend to forget what we have (ahem). Also handy for documenting your belongings for insurance purposes---no chance of your records being lost in a fire.

Share them with a private community---maybe get your local homeschool group on board. You’ll be able to lend things out or sell to people you know and trust…or even give something away to a good home. Got a steam cleaner you only use a couple times a year? List it with your community so your friends will know you have it and can borrow it from you. Want to sell something locally so you don’t need to deal with shipping it? List it on your private community.

Share them with the network---let the whole world know you’ve got things to sell.

I can see a tremendous amount of potential for this service. It would have been perfect for our old homeschool group in MO---they had a “library” stored at one member’s home, but no one checked things out because they didn’t know what was there. Having the resources listed on-line would have made it easy to know what was available and could have streamlined the check-out process.

I love the flexibility of setting how public or private things are. I also love the options for including info on each item…though I can see entering items becoming a bit time-consuming. Good typing practice for the kiddos, I think.

LobsterNetwork is a unique, FREE service, and worth checking out.

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WFMW: Dinner Solution Kids Will Love!

snack dinner

Around here we call it the Snack Dinner. It’s great for the hot summer nights, after a game, before dance class, when Mama is sick, for unexpected guests…and perfect for picky eaters.

The idea is to create a mini buffet that everyone can choose their own meal from. You can include leftovers (some cooked pasta, a meatball, whatever you have that’s not enough to go around), one or two picnicky dishes you can make ahead (here we have Curry Tuna Salad---recipe below), bread, crackers and lots of healthy snack foods: fruit, nuts, dried fruit, raw veggies, trail mix, dips, toasted pita, but stick to whatever you keep on hand. Our plate here has homemade bread and frozen grapes on it. Here are some suggestions:

  • raw baby carrots or carrot sticks
  • washed grapes (can be frozen)
  • almonds, pecans, cashews or peanuts
  • roasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower kernels
  • hulled strawberries
  • apply slices w/ peanut butter for dipping
  • granola
  • dried cranberries
  • dried dates
  • raisins
  • avocado mashed and mixed with lemon juice a pinch of garlic powder
  • guacamole
  • potato salad
  • fruit salad
  • hummus
  • what does your family like?

The rules are simple: each child gets to choose what they eat as long as they have at least one veg/fruit and one protein (otherwise they load up on carbs).

My recipe for:

Curry Tuna Salad (this is a use what you have recipe---all amounts are at your discretion, depending on personal taste and how much you are making)

  • 1-3 5-6 oz. cans water-packed light or white tuna, drained and flaked (your preference, make as much as you need, we typically need 3 cans)
  • finely chopped onion (I recommend vidalia or spring onions, if in season)
  • peeled and chopped apples (I recommend granny smith, but really any good eating apple will also work)
  • curry seasoning (your fave blend, to taste)
  • mayo, or Miracle Whip-type salad dressing
  • optional: dried cranberries, raisins, chopped walnuts

Note: I leave my tuna pretty chunky. It seems more substantial and we prefer the mouth feel, instead of having it real creamy…but that’s totally up to you.

More recipes: Cranberry Pork Roast, Roasted Veg with Cheese

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday over at We are That Family….be sure to head over there for more great tips!

wfmwbannerKRISTEN

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Book Review: Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure (Circle C Adventures Series, Book 5)

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Andi and her friends are back again in The Trouble with Treasure, the latest book in the Circle C Adventures Series by Susan K. Marlowe.

After a scary brush with the law, Andi, her brother Mitch, and their friends get away for a week of camping…and panning for gold. But what they hope will be a fun, relaxing trip soon becomes a journey through peril as they come face to face with desperate desperados! They will learn that there are things much more valuable than gold nuggets.

Written for the tweeners in your life (ages 9-12+), Andi’s adventure will keep them turning those pages to find out what happens next, but 13-year-old Andi is also going through a difficult time in her life. She’s learning what it means to become a lady, but not yet ready to relinquish her hold on childhood. And she’s discovering that adulthood is not only about dresses and fine manners. Through it all, she has her Christian faith to help her get through the rough spots.

At first, I thought the characterizations were a little off. Andi will often say something very grown-up and then turn into a selfish whiner….oh, wait a minute, I’ve personally witnessed that phenomenon! I’ve lived it, too. Ms. Marlowe has done an admirable job of capturing the growing pains all young people must feel.

Lest you think this is a book for girls…my 10-year-old son enjoyed it very much:

I would recommend it very highly for people who like that kind of thing. It’s kind of half a story about friendship and half a story about adventure (I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything like it myself before).

You can read an excerpt from Treasure here. There’s also a free, downloadable enrichment guide here, where you’ll find discussion questions and activities, including recipes for rattlesnake (and where to find canned rattlesnake---I think I’ll pass on that).

The Circle C Adventure series is available directly from Kregel publishing for $7.99 per book. Also available from local and on-line booksellers.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Not Me Monday: Not an Independent Contractor

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This meme was created by MckMama over at My Charming Kids. Be sure to hop over there to find out what everybody else is not doing.

My toddler is not an independent contractor:

  • independent- adj - not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself: an independent thinker.
  • contractor- noun - something that contracts, esp. a muscle.

I am not soooo looking forward to moving into a house without central AC…so Emma will stop picking the vents up out of the floor….

052410 018

and carrying them around the house.

052410 020 See those muscles contracting?

You might also like how we get ready for company or blaming it on the kids.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Tale of Scraped Knees and Battered Egos

Time it takes a 4-year-old boy to run down the stairs, through the garage, onto the driveway, trip, fall, scrape 2 knees and 2 hands, start screaming, come back upstairs, and declare his is "GOING TO DIE"...2 minute, 30 seconds.

Time the 6-year-old and 10-year-old spend feeling sorry for their brother and making him feel better...0 seconds.

Time it takes Mama to find the first aid supplies, cleanse the wounds, and find that only 1 is actively bleeding and needs a bandage, and the others only need soap and water...10 minutes---who hid the antibiotic ointment, I ask you!

Time the 4-year-old boy spends sitting, saying "IT HURTS," "I can't run," "I going to have to sit here and color for 4 days," "I'm never playing outside ever again"...I'll let you know when he's done.

UPDATE: 11:04 am-"My Boo-Boo HURTS!"

UPDATE: 11:20 am- Still balancing on toes to walk or hopping on one foot.

UPDATE: 11:44 am-"My Boo-Boo still hurts!"
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Fair Warning: I'm Sick

I've got that thing that's going around that coats your lungs with goo, steals your get-up-and-go, and fills your veins with lead weights. My head throbs, my body aches, and my brain is a general fog...I'm not in any condition to make sense just now.

I don't promise to not blog while I'm sick, though I will be trying to rest. I'm only giving myself an excuse so anything I say won't be used against me.
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review: Light Speed AP Chemistry Exam Prep

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If your children are in high school, they just might be taking some Advanced Placement (AP) courses, hoping to score some college credit before they get there. But how can you know they are really ready for the test?

Cerebellum Corporation (Also known as Standard Deviants), known for their educational videos on various subjects (including Light Speed Math), has a new series of DVDs designed to help your child prepare for the AP exam.

Each set comes with an approximately 50 minute video that gives tips and tricks for taking the test, as well as a brief overview of 30 of the topics most commonly appearing on the test (“30 in 30”). Also included is a “digital workbook” on cd-rom, which provides an overview of how the test is set up and practice questions, so your child can get familiar with the types of questions to expect on the exam.

GH4001-2T We received the Light Speed AP Chemistry set for review. Now, none of my children are high school age…and it has been many years since I took an AP exam (won’t say how many)…and I never took an AP Chemistry exam (chemistry definitely was not my subject). I will be concentrating on the quality of the product in this review and the test-taking tips, as I haven’t the knowledge to critique the chemistry info given, nor the accuracy of the AP specific info.

The DVD is well produced, with clear sound, titles and graphics. The “stars” are young people, possibly high school age, though possibly slightly older. The idea here is definitely to pack a large amount of information into a small amount of time, zipping from one point to the next. Check out this trailer:



The “digital workbook” is a handy tool for getting a feel for the actual exam, giving actual questions of each type that will appear on the exam.

Do not expect this set to be adequate preparation if your child is shaky on the concepts. The intent is help her feel comfortable while taking the test, by showing her what to expect and to give her tips on how to manage her time wisely. I found the test-taking tips to be sound for any type of standardized test. They concentrate on time-management, but also offer advice on issues like when it is wise to guess, when you are not sure about the answer.

The “30 in 30” is a good way to make sure that your child has a solid grasp of the concepts that will be on the exam. If she struggles with those concepts, it might be a good idea to do some more studying…or skip taking the exam.

Cerebellum also has Light Speed AP videos available for: English Language and Composition, History of the US, and US Government and Politics.

Each set is regularly priced at $14.98, but right now they are on sale for $11.24!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complementary copy of Cerebellum’s AP Chemistry Exam Prep set for review purposes. I received no compensation and the opinions reflected in this review are my own.

For more reviews of this and other products, please visit:

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Playtex Brassiere Makeover

Ahem...you might want to check this out when the boys are in another room.

Playtex is sponsoring a makeover for your brassiere, ladies! Seems that 7 out of 10 ladies have poorly fitting foundation garments, which can lead to poor posture and...let's face it...weird bulges.

Solution: a professional fitting!

The only thing is, are you willing to go to New York and star in a webisode about it?

If you dare, apply for a Playtex Bra Makeover.
Friday, May 21st is the last day to apply.

Disclaimer: By posting this information, I am entered into a contest to win a free bra from Playtex. I did not receive any compensation for this post and thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Not Me Monday: Dance Class Pics

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I did not spend a half-hour trying to curl Mary’s straight-fine hair with a curling iron to fulfill the dance instructor’s request that they wear a curly ponytail. I also did not spray on about half a can of hairspray.

We did not take off, with costume, the other half-can of hairspray and lipstick, only to discover 5 minutes down the road that we forgot her tap shoes.

We did not take off again, tap shoes (and ballet shoes, just to be sure, thank you) in hand, only to discover 6 minutes down the road that the mandatory headband 9the one the instructor had emphasized had to be worn) was not in the bag.

And I assuredly did not stomp back into the house with Mary in tow, grumbling to confused, questioning stares, “I forgot the stupid headband!” Nope, I would never lose my cool over a stupid headband. Or only having 25 minutes left for a 25 minute drive. And I would never bark at my 6-year-old to “hurry and put on the stupid costume” because there would be no time to put it on at the studio.

We did not arrive 2 minutes late. And have to park a couple of blocks away and walk. And definitely did not discover that they were running 45…minutes….late!

And no, Mary’s hair did not fall before picture time.

How was your weekend?

You might also enjoy reading about some of the joys of raising boys.

Not Me Monday is the brainchild of MckMama over at My Charming Kids. Be sure to head over there and check out what everybody else is not doing.


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Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Review: Thicker than Blood

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Christy is a “bookman,” one of a fading breed in this electronic age, who finds the perfume of an honest first edition irresistible. She has finally found the “love” of her life…but will the sins of the past take it all away? At her lowest moment Christy seeks out her sister, the one person who2, by rights, should turn her away. The sister she deserted years ago.

May is conflicted. She so wants to embrace her sister with open arms and forgive her as her Christian faith teaches, but the pain of Christy’s betrayal runs deep. And her own world is threatened---will she be able to save the ranch, or be forced to find her only comfort in the faith in God she clings to?

Now, add to that some tension-filled suspense, a crazed ex-lover, and heart-wrenched soul-searching, and you have Thicker than Blood, a debut novel by C. J. Darlington. Miss Darlington is a homeschool graduate who began writing this novel at the tender age of 15. She is also a recent recipient of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Award.

I enjoyed reading this page-turner. There are a few false notes in the characterizations and a couple of predictable devices, but overall, an entertaining read. The two main characters, both flawed as we all are, are easy to relate to, and while this is definitely Christian fiction, its message isn’t intrusive---I never once felt like the author was beating me over the head. Congratulations to Miss Darlington on a highly readable first novel. I look forward to her future efforts.

Read the first chapter of Thicker than Blood here.

For a limited time, Thicker than Blood is available for only $5!

I received a review copy of Thicker than Blood from C. J. Darlington. I received no compensation.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review: ideal curriculum

Ideal-curriculum-logo
Looking for some organized activities for your Littles with an emphasis on early literacy and a fun theme to tie it all together? ideal curriculum is a 9 month program for preschoolers, packed with music, hands-on activities and big motor movement to keep the wiggles at bay. Each complete month-long unit focuses on a special topic:
  • Transportation
  • Color
  • Weather
  • All About Me
  • A Healthy Life
  • Animals
  • People in My Community
  • Traditions in Our Country
  • The World Around Us
Each unit covers language arts, math, calendar, and science/social studies and is available in print or as a download.
We received the 1st month (Transportation) as a download for review. The curriculum includes teacher’s guides (one each for language arts, math and science/social studies), MP3’s with original music, 3 full-color reading books (the download version can be read off a computer screen), and worksheets.
Language arts begins with letter recognition and learning the alphabet. Math begins with recognizing numbers and rote counting both forwards and backwards. Science/social studies will vary by topic. Transportation includes a gentle science unit on wheels and axles, with lots of hands-on activities for experiencing them first-hand.
The emphasis here is definitely on literacy, with the literacy manual (for one month!) totaling over 50 pages. Each day has at least 4 literacy activities, focusing on:
  • Letters and Sounds
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Concepts about Print
  • Sight Words
The science manual contains at least one activity per day, usually including a read aloud of a book related to the topic (there’s a list given of suggested books you can find at your library). The activities themselves are highly varied, with investigation, narrative, critical thinking and art all coming into play.
In contrast, I found the math and calendar activities to be pretty skimpy. You are given one concept and activity for each for an entire week. Week 3, for example, introduces counting backwards by playing the elevator game, or the rocket ship game. All week. I would have liked to have seen more integration of math into the science activities.
I like ideal curriculum’s neat package, with everything laid out for you, it will save you the trouble of seeking out activities on your own. But, there is still a fair amount of teacher prep to do with reading the manuals and tracking down books and other resources. Perhaps a little too much time to prepare for 1 or 2 preschoolers, especially if you have other children you are educating. I also found that I needed to add some more math and make some connections.
Our preschool philosophy tends to be: Let them learn from their older siblings. And a little gentle direction from Mama. And they do. But, this could be a great resource for a preschool classroom, a daycare, or for the homeschooling parent just embarking on this journey for the first time. It’s a little like being taken by the hand and shown what to do. And how. And why. And that can be both helpful and comforting. A real confidence builder. Perhaps a month would serve as a springboard to get you started planning your own activities.
Monthly units can be purchases separately, or save a little money and purchase 3 or 9 month sets.
  • 1 month print $55 or download $30
  • 3 months print $156 or download $85.50
  • 9 months print $440 or download $240
You can also get the year long curriculum by subject for $560 (print).
Or order by subject.
As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the first month of ideal curriculum’s preschool program as a download for review purposes. I received no compensation. This review reflects my personal experience with this product.
To read more reviews of this product, please visit:
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10 Signs Your Home is Overrun by Littles

  1. You are fluent in 2 languages---your native tongue and Littlespeak.
  2. You have a cabinet full of multi-colored non-breakable tumblers---and you know how they got their name.
  3. You are losing your hearing---not because you blasted your ears with your walkman 20 years ago, but because the walls constantly echo with joyful squeals and angry wails.
  4. There are nose prints on every window at knee level---and you don’t own a dog.
  5. Your sofa rattles when you move it---because it’s full of pretzels, Duplo and wooden puzzle pieces.
  6. You step in a pile of crumbs in your bare feet---and you’ve already swept the floor 5 times today.
  7. There are tooth marks in the TV stand, graham cracker crumbs in the VCR and indelible ink marks on the kitchen table.
  8. All small, mouthable, destructible objects are at shoulder-height or above.---and everything else is bolted to the wall.
  9. You keep a change of clothes for everyone in the car---including yourself.
  10. The word “potty” is a place, a verb, and an object---and everyone needs to visit it to do it on it before going anywhere.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WFMW: Make a Lighthouse Cake

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I promised a tutorial and here it is!

You will need:

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  • 1 8”-9” round cake layer
  • 12 cupcakes
  • 2-4 bamboo skewers (we used 4)
  • 1 can chocolate frosting
  • 1-2 cans white frosting (we used 1)
  • food coloring (we used paste), yellow & blue
  • 1 sheet of black construction paper
  • scissors
  • clear tape

One recipe of chocolate cake batter from my Betty Crocker cookbook was enough to make one round layer and 1 dozen cupcakes. I used silicone cups for the cupcakes. Highly recommended: freeze your cake and cupcakes before attempting to assemble (nope, I didn’t do this cuz the kiddos were anxious to make this thing, but I regretted it later---you’ll see lots of cake crumbiness in the pics).

cake 012 Place your layer on a serving plate, slightly off-center. Slip strips of wax paper under it around the edge (protects the plate from superfluous frosting---you’ll remove this later).

cake 013 Place 3-4 cupcakes, upside down, on one side (I know this shows 3, but I added another one later as I built the “cliff”).

cake 014 Frost your cupcakes on all sides with the chocolate frosting, filling the gaps between them and the cake. This is the base of your “cliff.” Add 2 more cupcakes on top, overlapping between the cake and the cupcakes.

cake 017See all those cake crumbs? (Subliminal message: Freeze your cake:-) Frost on all sides, I added another cupcake on top of the cake to build some rocks.

cake 019 Frost just the top of one cupcake…

cake 020 …and put it upside-down on the cake, next to the cliff. This is the base of your lighthouse. Repeat, using the white frosting, placing each cupcake on top of the previous one.

cake 022You’ll notice by the time you’ve got about 4 on that, well, it looks a little like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This is where the bamboo skewers come in.

cake 023 If you freeze your cake (hint, hint), 2 will probably be enough…I needed 4 ultimately and a lot of delicacy until the frosting dried. Don’t do what I did…figure out exactly how long the skewers need to be and CUT THEM before you put them in the cake. The final tower will be 6 cupcakes high with a little paper peak that can hide the ends.

cake 026 cake 030 Frost the outside of the tower with white. I found I had to add a little milk to make it more spreadable. Put some of your white into a small bowl and add yellow coloring.

cake 031Make it nice and bright. This will be for your light.

cake 032 Put cupcake #6 on top, right-side-up. Frost it with the yellow.

cake 033Now, you’ll want to smooth your sides as much as you can and cover any cake crumbs, ahem. Time to make the water.

cake 035 I don’t know how well you can see this, but try to keep it streaky…you want it to look like waves and whitecaps.

cake 036After covering the cake crumbs on my cliff, I frosted the edge in chocolate (saved me from opening the 2nd can of white frosting).

Using a lid from your frosting, trace a circle onto your construction paper and cut it out.

cake 037 Cut a line from the edge to the center. Overlap the 2 edges of that line to make a short, fat cone (you want it to be just slightly bigger than the top of your tower). Tape in place with your tape. And crown your tower.

cake 045Now, you could add a Daymark, a railing, a ladder, whatever you want. We kept it simple because…I didn’t know if it was going to fall over. And I already had 2 whole cans of frosting on it.

You might also like our family bakery.

Or how to make your MP3 player into an e-reader.

This post has been linked to Works For Me Wednesday over at We are that Family.

wfmwbannerKRISTEN

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Raising Boys part...5? Or Mama's Alter Ego: Game Master

4-year-old boy: Mommy, you could make a computer game called "Dragon Flaps," with lots of dragons in it.
Mama: Dragon Flaps?
4-year-old boy: Yeah, you could make me that computer game.
Mama: Really?
4-year-old boy: Yeah, you could make that computer game for me!
Mama: !

I can't help but be flattered by his confidence in me (grin).
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Bread from a Can?

breadfromacan

Not much to say about that, really.

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Tuesday’s Toolbox: Techie Cheapskates

Tuesday's Toolbox button

I admit it. I’m a bit envious of all the spendy technology floating around out there. I would love to have an iPod Touch, for example. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear about another cool app I could put on it to make my life easier…funny how with all this technology in my home already, my life isn’t really any easier. Even though we don’t watch television, it’s a daily struggle to keep the fam from totally disappearing into the electronic vortex…

So, I’m hesitant to bring another hunk of plastic filled with non-moving parts into my home to become an attention hog. The Touch simply does too much. You could lose your life in there. But there is something it can do that really would make our homeschool journey a little easier. Think tremendously versatile ebook reader here (and don’t try to sell me on an actual ebook reader folks, cuz there’s simply no way this Mama will plunk down a couple hundred on something that can only do one thing…and in black and white, no less). Reading these 1001 pdfs I’ve got stashed on my hard-drive on the monitor (or even the netbook) ain’t doing it for me. My eyes can’t take the strain…besides there’s the added temptation of checking my email every 5 minutes. And it’s much more comfy to curl up on the sofa, or even a park bench

Enter Ebook to Images, a brilliant software program designed by Merlin Software. This program will take your pdf (or txt, or htm, or html) file and convert it into smaller “pages” you can read on any mp3 player that will display jpegs (or bmps, or pngs). You can format the images to fit your player’s screen. You can also format the font size and style, whether it displays portrait or landscape, choose your text and background colors, and more. Drawbacks? Image files take a lot more memory than text files, so your player will hold a lot fewer books than songs, and your “book” will probably be thousands of pages…but it will output into a single folder per book that is easily transferred to your mp3 player. Works great on our iRiver Clix. And…the software is free! Go check it out.

Disclosure: This post is unsolicited. I happened to find a product that I like and wanted to share it with my readers.

View previous installments of Tuesday's Toolbox here.

If you have a common tool for uncommon learning, feel free to drop me a line and leave a link in the comments so we can all come and check it out.

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Our Littlest Princess

emma1

Is a little devil.

emma1a

A delicate flower.

emma1b

A constant clown.

A precious treasure.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Not Me Monday: The Mother's Day Edition


I just got a Wii balance board with Wii Fit Plus on Saturday! I did not stay up until the wee hours of Mother's day trying it out while dear hubby put the finishing touches on a German chocolate cake. We know we are much too old to function on so little sleep, especially when we are expected to get 4 rambunctious children ready for church the next morning.

And I did not wake the next morning with stiff muscles and my ego still smarting from finding out I have a Wii fitness age of...wait for it...55.

I did not have to remove Emma from the cry room during Mass because she was screeching so loudly my right ear was temporarily deaf and my left ear was ringing. And I definitely did not set her loose outside in the graveyard cemetery surrounding the church. Or watch as she tried to climb gravestones in her Easter dress.

We did not call for reservations at the restaurant we planned to go to at 4:30...only to find out that the earliest reservation was for 6:30. And that the current wait was 45 minutes. We did not arrive for our reservation only to find out that the wait would still be 45 minutes. But we did get seated earlier than expected!

We did not arrive home after 8 with 4 super hyper kiddos literally running around the furniture and take forever to get them to bed, only to find it was no longer Mother's Day when we turned in ourselves.

There's no such thing as the perfect day...would we remember those moments so well if they were all perfect anyway?

Be sure to head over to MckMama's new and improved blog at My Charming Kids and see what everybody else is not doing.
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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Review: Beeyoutiful Milk & Honey Facial Soap

soap

When you’ve got a little guy with a serious skin condition, soap becomes a serious subject. I’ve mentioned before that our youngest son has a rare skin condition called Lamellar Ichthyosis, which causes thick scaling and extremely dry skin. So I was very pleased to have the opportunity to review an all natural facial bar, chock full of skin quenching ingredients…if it can help Peter, then just think what it could do for somebody with “normal” skin.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a complimentary 1.75 oz Milk & Honey Facial Bar from Beeyoutiful. I received no compensation. This review is based on my personal experience and honest opinion. I am not a dermatologist or a skin expert.

This is an unusual bar of soap. Let’s first take a look at the ingredients: Raw Goat Milk, Distilled Water, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Vitamin E Oil, Vegetable Oil, Sodium Hydroxide (lye), Raw Honey, Bee Pollen, Bee Propolis, Beeswax, Sweet Orange Essential Oil

Notice the prevalent bee products? Now you know where the name Beeyoutiful comes from (the company also produces a number of bee supplements, as well as other natural products). Their website claims that the combination of goat’s milk and bee products will help balance your skin, clear acne, and soothe and nourish dry, itchy skin.

On unwrapping the bar, I found the aroma of oranges to be a bit overpowering, but with subsequent uses, the scent became less powerful. This is just personal, but I found the choice of orange oil odd for a “Milk & Honey” bar, but, then again, why not?

The soap lathers well, not overly foamy, but a thick lather, the type you expect from a quality hand-made soap. The bar also holds up really well in the shower. Most hand-made soaps will continue to absorb moisture until they disintegrate in the shower. This bar stayed firm and lasted a good while.

Peter liked the soap well enough, but I saw no real impact on his skin’s texture while using it. I wasn’t expecting a miracle (though, we have seen miracle soaps, before). The soap did not irritate his skin, so that’s a plus. It’s possible that with prolonged use we would have seen improvement, but we used up the bar in about a week.

I also used the soap on my own face. I have combination skin and I’m not particularly prone to acne. While I liked the lather, and my face did seem a little softer while using it, my skin also felt a tingling rawness after each use---not a good sensation, more like a mild sunburn. As I continued to have this unpleasant sensation after each use, I stopped using it after a few days. I should note that my skin is not particularly sensitive. I have used (horrors) deodorant soap on my face with no noticeable ill-effects. Perhaps I’m sensitive to bees?

The Beeyoutiful Milk & Honey Facial Bar is available in two sizes:

  • 1.75 for $5
  • 4.25 for $10

You can read more reviews of this product and others from Beeyoutiful here:

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Happy Mother's Day!

A necklace with bling. Made by my dear 6-year-old daughter.
A German chocolate cake. Made by my dear husband.
An afternoon with my dear mother. And a dinner buffet.
Three children singing "Polly Wolly Doodle" at the top of their lungs. All the way home.
Priceless.

What do you do on your special day?
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday’s Toolbox: A Tape Measure

Tuesday's Toolbox button

Why is it that no matter how many rulers I buy, I can never find them when we actually need them? Do you think it has anything to do with the boys using them as swords? (Here’s a tip: never let them whack your leather sofa with a metal edged ruler.)

And why is it that when there’s only one, two children cannot share it without snipping at each other? But I digress. After listening to Mary and David fight over the ruler, I gave in and let Mary use my dressmaking tape measure.

tape measure graphic Do you see what I see…a super long number line! The kiddos were measuring distances with a ruler and then adding them up. A little hard for the kindergartener, but with her tape measure, she was able to confidently add it up. Another tool to add to the ole toolbox.

Some previous posts from Tuesday’s Toolbox:

The Wright Brothers

Cereal Boxes (or other cast-off cardboard)

Your Camera

If you have a common tool you use for uncommon learning, feel free to tell us about in the comments.

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