Now blogging at THIS SIMPLE HOME.

Now blogging at THIS SIMPLE HOME.

At This Simple Home

  • Homemade Magic Shell - I remember having Magic Shell once as a child. The chocolate syrup drizzled over my ice cream magically turned crispy hard. Mmm... So I was rather excited t...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Plain Wisdom

I live in a highly populated Amish area.  Within a mile of our home, there are no less than five Amish farms.  Our yard backs to a field, and when their cows "got out" (meaning that they were no longer behind the proper fence...or the other fence), I had the opportunity to meet my closest Amish neighbor for the first time.  Below is the photo taken one Sunday morning when the heifers came to visit for the second time.  They liked our "watering trough," I think.  You can see their farm's silos in the background.

My friendship with my neighbor has developed since the spring of 2009.  We visit every once in a while; typically when I go to her home.  We don't see each other every month, but we do enjoy our visits when we are able to chat.

Plain Wisdom: An Invitation into an Amish Home and the Hearts of Two Women
Our friendship led me to review the book Plain Wisdom by the popular author Cindy Woodsmall and an Old-Order Amish woman, Miriam Flaud.  Like my friend and me, these two women, one Amish and English, have developed a real friendship despite extreme cultural differences.  They began their relationship as pen pals, and now Cindy actually travels each summer to spend a week with Miriam and her family!  Cindy and Miriam have much in common as women, wives, and mothers.
"With poignant recollections, unexpected insights, and humorous tales, the two women welcome you into their unique friendship"  ~ From the back cover
The book, Plain Wisdom is just what that summary says- it is a collection of stories from the two authors.  Though a bit of the story of their friendship is shared, most of the short chapters (3 or so pages) are made of a story from each woman's life based upon the same topic.  Some of the topics are "The Waiting Game," "Work Ethic," and "Light in the Dark."  I was particularly amused by the Amish Friendship Bread chapter.  (I believe any recipe labeled with the word Amish probably isn't Amish.)  Lots of recipes are included, too.

Each chapter begins with a Bible verse.  Faith (with focus on God and Jesus) is sprinkled throughout the book, though I think life is really the main focus.  Both authors are encouraged by their faith and celebrate it in everyday life.

If you enjoy Chicken Soup for the Soup-type books, or if you have a desire to to know more about a real Amish family and Cindy Woodsmall, this would be a good book for you.  Personally, I was hoping to read more about the workings of the friendship between Cindy and Miriam and especially, their common faith.  (Our faiths are similar, but there are certainly some differences, though I am still learning.)

Edited: I did share this book with my Amish friend, and she also enjoyed it, though she is more conservative than Miriam.

Thank you, Waterbrook Press, for providing this ARC for review purposes.

Ten on a Sled

 had never heard of Ten on a Bed, despite the song being popular until we were given a copy by Jane Cabrera when M was a wee baby.  It was a favorite of hers to the point that the book was sorely worn out, taped, and retaped.
Ten on the Sled
Knowing the delight that our family had with that book, I was excited to review Ten on a Sled by Kim Norman.  Ten animals, including some large animals like a moose and caribou is definitely not ideal on any sled!  Not surprisingly, they all fall off, one by one in this winter adventure.  This story has clever and amusing illustrations paired with the rhyming text.

What I Liked:
I liked the variety of animals Kim Norman choose to be included in this title.  All of the animals are animals you would find in a snowy, cold area (though I don't think you would find a seal in the woods).  Illustrator Liza Woodruff also made the scenes rather comical.  Some of the animals' personalities really shined!  Kim Norman chooses fun words to help the animals fall off the sled.  Walrus whirled out and Squirrel squeezed out.

What I Didn't Like:
For most preschoolers (and some parents) the illustrated sheep would be confusing because it is a mountain sheep, but only called a sheep in the book.  It took a solid explanation for my 4 year old to get past this since the sheep looks like a goat.  (I do understand that the typical barnyard sheep would have no place on a snowy mountainside, and the mountain sheep does.)

At the end of the book the caribou encourages its friends to return to the sled by saying, "I'm only, I'm lonely, I 'm chilled to the bone.  A reindeer likes flying, but never alone!"  Personally, I don't care for the "I'm only" part.

Overall, this book can be enjoyed, but it just doesn't meet my expectations for a must-read book.  It'd be fun to add it to a winter unit study though!

Thank you, Sterling Publishing, for providing this book for review purposes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Paper Dolls

One day we were reading a Little House picture book based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  To be honest, I am not sure which book it was, but I think it was Winter Days in the Big Woods.

Just as Ma cut out paper dolls for her girls, I was inspired.  Last year, I found all sorts of vintage paper doll books at the thrift store.  Yes, the price tag on that Daisy book says fifty-five cents!

Not knowing if M, age 4 would appreciate that adorable Daisy doll and not wanting to cut a beautiful vintage book, I made a colored copy of just two pages.  I printed Daisy on cardstock, but the clothing is just on regular paper so that M could work with them easily.

M was so excited as I was cutting out the dolls.  She knew immediately that they were paper dolls like Laura and Mary's.

These dolls were used well for only about a day.  I probably should encourage her to use them again, or use some of the other pages from the Daisy book.  Maybe we'll do that today!

They are so cute!  In one outfit, she is using an artist's palette.  In another she has a kitty in her apron.  Just like Laura and Mary, she even uses a candle!

Maybe you are more creative and could draw your own for your child.  I think it'd be fun to create outfits out of scrapbook paper or wallpaper.

~Please know that I do not know if this is a violation of the copyright of this book.  Yes, it's out of print, and this was just for personal use.  I just wanted to make sure I shared that, in case you considered doing the same thing.~

We really enjoy the Little House series.  If you peek at my book list of the books I'm reading/listening to this year, then you know that we've been listening to the chapter books.  I really appreciate them, but the picture books are perfect for a four year old!  I highly recommend checking your library, bookstore, or Amazon for the My First Little House picture books!

Check out these great blogs for other inspiration!  Though this is not a true craft, it does let my little girl use her imagination!
Shibley Smiles

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

Even my daughter enjoys these tacos!  They couldn't be easier to make!
Chicken Tacos
3-4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup chicken broth

Please see the remainder of this Chicken Taco recipe on my new blog.

Happy cooking!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Emily of Deep Valley

Emily of Deep Valley: A Deep Valley Book (P.S.)I think this book did it for me.  Really.  I knew I really liked the books I have read by Maud Hart Lovelace.  So far I have read Betsy-Tacy, Betsy, Tacy and Tib, Heaven to Betsy, Betsy in Spite of Herself, Carney's House Party, and Winona's Pony Cart.  (Links are to my reviews.)  I just finished Emily of Deep Valley.  I have to say, I think Maud Hart Lovelace has stolen my heart!  I just love her writing.

Emily Webster is just finishing high school and longs to go to college.  She lives with her grandfather and is fully committed to staying with him to care for him.  She sees all of her friends off to college and is left alone and lonely.  Depression sinks in.  Emily fights it.  She  thinks about others-especially the Syrians.  She reaches out first to the Syrian children creating a Boys Club (that a girl is welcome to be part of), and then by teaching the Syrian women English!  Wow...remember this was in the early 1900's!

Not only is Emily amazing in her love toward the Syrians of Deep Valley, but she also had a deep love and respect for her grandfather, as well as others of his generation.  She sacrificially cares for him.  At first it is hard for her, but then it becomes her joy.

Emily starts a book club as another way to keep her mind engaged and fight the depression.  Friendships grow and her depression lifts.

There is also some subtle history withing Emily of Deep Valley.  I learned that Memorial Day was once Decoration Day-a truly patriotic day.  Emily's grandfather and his friends who fought in the Civil War marched in the Decoration Day parade and visited the local school.  His generation was respected and honored, as they should be!  Emily's home is also called the Hull House of Deep Valley.  Jane Adams had invited the poor and lonely into her home to help them, and Jane did the same.

Emily has a deep crush on a bit of an obnoxious fellow.  Slowly she realizes that his character is lacking, especially when compared to her friend Cab and the new teacher.  Cab helps Emily get to know some of the Ancients-those from the class of 1910, who graduated just two years before her..

I have actually had a really hard time articulating why I love this book so much.  I don't feel that I'm giving this book review justice because I was so emotionally involved.  Overall, the sensitivity and compassion that Emily has is amazing.  The character of Emily is so well developed, and I relate to her on so many levels.  This is why I "am" Emily Webster according to the Betsy-Tacy quiz.  (I wasn't surprised that Emily was followed by Tacy.)
Which Betsy-Tacy character are you?
Your Result: Emily Webster
Shy and quiet, uncomfortable with the boy-girl bantering that comes so easy for others, Emily is kind-hearted and dignified yet prone to melancholy. She is intellectual and knows the value in serving others, such as the children in Little Syria, and knows how to �muster her wits� in order to conquer her bouts of depression and sadness. Although at first boys don�t see her as the type of girl they�d take on a date, soon they see Emily as a �stunner� who is more interesting to talk to than most girls! Emily ends up with someone who doesn�t care what she was like in high school but who understands her and loves her for who she is!
Tacy Kelly
Irma Biscay
Betsy Ray
Tib Muller
Julia Ray
Carney Sibley
Winona Root
Which Betsy-Tacy character are you?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz
I can't say enough about this book from beginning to end.  Not only did Maud Hart Lovelace write about issues such as depression and racism in the year 1950, but she did it well.  I think everything she wrote about in 1950 is still applicable today.  Just like the forward to Carney's House Party/Winona's Pony Cart, the forward to this book read like I was talking to my best friend about another deeply loved friend-Emily.  The notes in the back of the book, "About Emily of Deep Valley" helped the reader to understand that the story of Emily Webster was very similar to the story of Maud Hart Lovelace's friend Marguerite Marsh.  Much is shared about Marguerite's life.  However, she died two weeks after giving birth to a son, in 1925.  Unlike the other books that MHL wrote, she was not able to seek out the real-life friend to help with some of the details of the story.  After reading the notes in the back of the book, it's apparent that Marguerite Marsh was a young lady of compassion who earned my respect.

I can't recommend this book enough, especially if your personality is anything like mine!  Thank you so much to Harper Perennial for providing this book for review purposes.  I also want to let readers know that Library Hospital has the Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge every year in October!  This year when it's closer to the challenge I will have a giveaway for a couple of MHL books to encourage you to participate!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Look! A Book! (Review and Giveaway)

Look! A Book!My children love books.  I love books.  Despite this, I have never seen both of my children love a book so quickly and so much as they love Look! A Book!  We've had Look! A Book for a couple weeks now and it is still the most-read children's book in our home.  Just about every day both of my children request it to be read and often spend time examining it themselves.  Usually my son looks at books in his bed, but this is one book they he just loves and will look at on his own any time of day.

Look! A Book! is "A Zany Seek-and-Find Adventure."  I love the big (sometimes inches big) words.  Some of the pages offer peep-holes to the next page and the text is rhyming.
"Look!  A bone!  A cone!  A pumpkin phone!  A clock!  A sock!  A toothy croc!"
My daughter (age 4) can certainly "read" and remember text like what is above.  What amazes me is that she is able to remember silly text like this, even if she just wants to sing it without the book in front of her:
"Bubbles!  Bubbles! In the sea!  AQUA-GOOFY JUBILEE!  Search to find the honeybee!"  
This large book includes illustrations about a variety of things.  Inside each illustration are hidden things like pizza slices, baseballs, and, of course, books!

  • Things that go
  • Museum creatures all escape
  • Aqua-goofy jubilee (under the sea)
  • Merryworld (amusement park)
  • Haunted house
  • Treetop town (tree houses)
Personally, I love the illustrations and will be seeking out more of Bob Staake's books.   My only complaint is that it has a haunted house scene in it (including a red devil).  Not that I want to desensitize my children, but my 4 year old has gotten used to this scene.  My 2 year old was never bothered by it.  This concern would make me think carefully before giving Look! A Book! to some children.

I really appreciate books like this published by Little, Brown.  Now that I review books, I notice who publishes books, especially quality books.  We were given an incredibly beautiful book called My First ABC that features paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art while keeping it simple and bold enough to keep a child's attention.  My first thought was, "Who published this awesome book?"  It was Little, Brown!  Does anyone else find that they are very interested in publishing companies now that they review books?

Little, Brown has offered one LLL reader a copy of Look! A Book!  Please leave a comment below (with contact info if it's not located in your profile) telling me who you would share this book with!  Leave a second comment if you are a LLL follower for an extra chance to win!  You do not need to be a blogger to enter, but you do need to live in the USA or Canada.  Giveaway runs through February 25, 2011.

Giveaway winner is #17, Linda Kish!  Congratulations!

I thank Little Brown for making fabulous books and providing Look! A Book! for review purposes.  I also take no responsibility for your children fighting over this particular title.  Yes, that's right.  My children have been known to not want to share Look! A Book!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Read Alouds

This week we've been enjoying a few different books repeatedly, plus we've continued with our chapter book; this time it's Raggedy Andy!  

Even Firefighters Hug Their MomsEven Firefighters Hug Their Moms is a favorite of both of our kids, written by Christine Kole MacLean.  They both request it frequently!  This book is all about pretend play.  A little boy pretends to a fire fighter, EMT, and many other professionals.  He includes his little sister and mom in the play time.  His mom always asks for hugs, but usually the boy is too busy working to hug his mom, but not always.  The illustrations are great and really help the reader to want to be creative in their own pretend play.  It's definitely one of the longer books that holds my 2 year old's complete attention.

Look! A Book!Another favorite is a look and find book, called Look! A Book!  Though it's mostly pictures and not a lot of text, it's still a fabulous read aloud with rhyming text.  (Come back tomorrow for a more thorough review and giveaway of this book by Bob Staake.

We have also read Raggedy Andy Stories by Johnny Gruelle.  Like Raggedy Ann (linked to my review) these classic stories are sweet and wholesome.  Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy were made at the same time, but separated for many, many years, just like the actual toys the books were based upon!  The dolls in Maracella's nursery go on many adventures when the people of the house are not around, just like in the movie Toy Story.  I like that Raggedy Andy is just as thoughtful as Raggedy Ann, and he certainly keeps the adventures going.  Though I am calling this a chapter book, really the Raggedy Ann and Andy books are collections of short stories, so it's not a true chapter book.  We're big enough fans that we also made a Raggedy Ann and Andy craft!
Check out these for more great read alouds!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Raggedy Ann and Andy Craft

Having read The Raggedy Ann Stories (linked to review) and currently reading Raggedy Andy Stories, I was excited to look for craft ideas.  Looking online, I didn't really come up with much.  I was quite disappointed, but did find a tube doll.  Below outlines our very basic craft that truly excited my daughter.  My son enjoyed it, too, and liked to point to them and say who made which craft.

Though my son (age 2) doesn't know Raggedy Ann or Raggedy Andy, he does like to craft.  (We're just getting started.)  My four year old suggested that he make Raggedy Andy and she would make Raggedy Ann.
Materials Needed for each:
Paper plate
2 black buttons
Red yarn
Pink or red paper
We've read enough of the stories, that I knew my daughter would remember what shape nose and what kind of eyes (shoe buttons) that the dolls have.  I asked her about each.  She also remembered that they have painted smiles.  She was not disappointed that I only had buttons and not shoe buttons.  They worked!

For Raggedy Ann, I showed my daughter how to make looped yarn hair since that is how the book describes  it.  We just placed the two ends of a long piece of yarn together and glued it.  Also based on illustrations from the book, first we drew the smile with a pink marker and then a black.   Somehow both of my children placed the noses upside down, but they certainly do not mind!

To help my son with the idea of making a head, I first drew the smile on the plate.  Then we glued the eyes and nose.  Lastly, he placed hair on Raggedy Andy.

I highly recommend reading any of the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy books by Johnny Gruelle!  (We haven't tried any of the other authors yet.)  I'm thankful our library has several copies, but we may want our own later.

abc button

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Teach Basic Shapes and Colors

Children learn shapes and colors from their toys, books, and even their clothes.  I still like to be purposeful in teaching the basic shapes and colors.
To make this game you just need a basic envelope and paper (cardstock is best) in the primary colors. 
I cut a small circle, triangle, and square from each of the red, yellow, and blue papers.  (About 1 1/2 inches each.)
I traced each of the shapes using a pencil onto the envelope.  Then I went over the pencil marks with a black permanent marker.  (If you are going to laminate-or use packaging tape- the shapes, now is the time to do it.  I made the same exact game for my daughter years ago, and it lasted for the time that we needed it-without laminating.)
Then have your children match the shapes.
Later you can request a certain color and shape.

By having your child group by shapes or colors you are also introducing sets, a mathematical concept that will be used for many years to come.  (Even if you never learned the word as a child, you'll have to trust me that it won't be the first foreign concept to you in math with your school-aged child.)

I'm linking up to ABC and 123's Show and Tell.  

Monday, February 14, 2011

No-Bake Cookie Recipe (Chocolate or Peanut Butter)

Need a quick and tasty sweet?  Try No-Bake Cookies!  Cooked in one pot on the stove top, they really are quite simple to make.   Filled with oats and peanut butter (and a bit of sugar and chocolate) they aren't completely unhealthy!  With a simple adjustment to the recipe, you can make chocolate or peanut butter cookies!  

We had a friend who would request these cookies every time we came to visit as my contribution to dinner.  So easy!! 
Mom's No-Bake Cookies

Prepare wax paper for cookies.

2 c sugar
½ c milk
½ c cocoa
½ c butter
Put sugar, milk, cocoa, and butter in pan.  Stir frequently at medium-high heat bring to a rolling boil for 60 seconds.  (A rolling boil cannot be stirred down.)  Then remove from heat.

½ c peanut butter
 Stir in peanut butter.  (Peanut butter can be smooth or crunchy.)

1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
2 ½ c+ oats 
Then add vanilla, salt, and oats.  Stir until completely blended.  (Quick or old-fashioned oats are fine, though you will get different textures.)

Drop on wax paper by teaspoon or tablespoon, depending on the size of the cookie you want!  Cookies will set up as they cool.

To make peanut butter no-bakes, omit the cocoa and add an additional 1/4 cup of peanut butter.
Some notes: When I measure the oats, I like to have each measuring cup of oats slightly rounded to give my cookie mixture a thick enough texture.
If your No-Bake Cookies do not set up, then you likely didn't cook them at a rolling boil for the complete 60 seconds.  (I personally don't mind them a bit gooey, but they don't transport as well if gooey.)
If your cookies are really hard, you likely cooked for too long.
This is what my cooking space often looks like.  I have my recipes typed on color-coded papers and laminated.  I have used this method for about a year and still love it.  If interested, you can read more about how I organize my recipes by clicking the link.

♥Happy Valentine's Day to all of my blogging friends!♥
♥ 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.       ♥ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Friday, February 11, 2011

My New Purse

For years I didn't carry a purse.  I had a wallet that attached to my keys.  I liked it that way.  My "purse" could fit in my back pocket.

Then I started wearing glasses (really since 1st grade but I wore contacts beginning in 8th grade) daily maybe 5 or 6 years ago.  That meant I couldn't go anywhere without my lens cleaner.  I started using a purse.

The past three purses I have made myself from a free pattern.  (#1, #2, #3)  Things are about to change though.  Last week I had an eye appointment and I ordered new lenses for my current glasses (which I really like) and sunglasses to finally give my eyes a break in the sun.  My prescription is strong enough that the transition-type lenses are not recommended for me.  There is no way that my sunglasses will fit in my purse.  My current "stuff" barely fits.  So I broke down and bought a new purse.  This is a really big deal for me.  Not only is it new it's huge.  Let me not exaggerate.  It is huge for me.  While shopping I wanted to look at all the little purses...that were the same size as my current purse.  

Here is my emptied purse.
Curious?  It's mostly the basics.
Ziploc bag=E's Diastat in case of a seizure
2 wallets (my ever important lens cleaner is in one)
Hand sanitizer
Bubbles (from a wedding and for the kids)
Nail file
Girl stuff
Breath mints
Chapstick (x2)
Stickers (for the kids)
Mini notebook (fully out of season)
My cell phone is missing from the collection.
I might have a love/hate relationship with this new purse.  It feels as big as a diaper bag!  (It is not, but close.)  It's horribly heavy compared to my fabric purse.  
The best part is that I can fit a book inside!  When I go to church or the doctor's office, I won't need a separate bag to carry my book (or water bottle, sippy cup, snack,or diaper).  Woo-hoo!  

I am so ready for my sunglasses!

If you suddenly had tons of room in your purse, what would you carry?

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