Wednesday, February 28, 2018

No.89: My Latest Reads // February

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THE PARIS ARCHITECT by Charles Belfoure
My Rating: ★★★✰
"Let me explain something to you, Monsieur Bernard. Back in 1940, when this hell began, I realized that my first duty as a Christian was to overcome my self-centeredness, that I had to inconvenience myself when one of my human brethren was in danger—whoever he may be, or whether he was a born Frenchman or not. I’ve simply decided not to turn my back.” (6%)
I had high hopes for The Paris Architect.  The premise is really interesting: an architect is commissioned to create hiding places within homes to protect Jews.  I loved imagining the process of hiding someone in plain sight and enjoyed the descriptions of design.  The book itself, though, was good but not great.  An interesting twist on WWII, but there are definitely better choices out there.  And are the French really so cavalier about love-making and having affairs?

COLUMBINE by Dave Cullen
My Rating: ★★★★
When all his bombs fizzled, everything about his attack was misread. He didn’t just fail to top Timothy McVeigh’s record—he wasn’t even recognized for trying. He was never categorized with his peer group. We lumped him in with the pathetic loners who shot people. (60%)
This book was eerie and disturbing, but from a psychology standpoint, also extremely fascinating.  I learned so much and definitely have thought about it after the most recent shootings.  While Cullen claims that psychopathic behavior is to blame, I'm still not totally convinced that there wasn't a small bullying component too.

REDWALL by Brain Jacques
My Rating: ★★★★
Suddenly the spell of the snake was broken. The young mouse’s eyes snapped open, clear and bright. He swung the ancient sword high and struck the giant adder.
He struck for Redwall!
He struck against evil!
He struck for Martin!
He struck for Log-a-Log and his shrews! He struck for dead Guosim!
He struck as Methuselah would have wanted him to!
He struck against Cluny the Scourge and tyranny!
He struck out against Captain’s Snow’s ridicule!
He struck for the world of light and freedom!
He struck until his paws ached and the sword fell from them! When Log-a-log awoke from out of the trance he saw his friend Matthias the Warrior. (p.304)
Our first read aloud of 2018!  Redwall is the story of peace-loving mice who are forced to defend their Abbey from an army of rats led by the evil Cluny the Scourge.  The story was beautifully written, well-paced and engaged the kids from the start.  I enjoyed it much more than I expected too!

THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner
My Rating: ★★★✰
“You learn something new everyday."
"What are you learning?" Sophos asked.
"To keep my mouth shut, I hope.” 
I think The Thief would be considered YA fantasy, which is a genre I don't typically read.  I had a hard time with this one - I liked the story itself, but also felt like nothing really happened.  I enjoyed the beginning and the end, but had to slog through much of the middle.  Obviously, I'm in the minority here because most reviews are glowing.  I also read somewhere that the later books in the series are even better, so maybe I need to give Book #2 a chance.

My Rating: ★★★✰
As I stood outside in Cow Lane, it occurred to me that Heaven must be a place where the library is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
No ... eight days a week.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the story of an 11-year-old girl who becomes an amateur sleuth when a crime is committed on her property.  She is definitely a quirky character!  This book also started strong, lagged a bit in the middle, but picked up at the end.  A cute and different type of whodunit.

HAPPIER AT HOME by Gretchen Rubin
My Rating: ★★✰✰ (more like 2.5)
I didn't want to slow down but, rather, to change the experience of the pace of my life. "Speed is not part of the true Way of strategy," legendary swordsman Miyamoto Mushashi observed in A Book of Five Rings.  "Speed implies that things seems fast or slow...Of course, slowness is bad.  Really skillful people never get out of time, and are always deliberate, and never appear busy."  I wanted a pace of life that was deliberate - that felt neither fast nor slow. (p.132)
Happier at Home was our February choice for book club.  I've read a few of Gretchen's books before and enjoyed them (my favorite probably being Better Than Before) but this one fell short for me.  I'm not sure if it was the way she attacked the pursuit of happiness or because our mindsets are so different, but I had difficulty relating to her this time and struggled to keep reading.  There were a few good tips and ideas there, but it mostly seemed like a lot of repetition from her first Happiness Project.  Just okay for me.


Books Read: 13
Fiction: 9  // Non-Fiction: 4
Kindle Books: 7  // Paper Books: 6
Original 2018 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 443 // Current "to-read" total: 439

Monday, February 26, 2018

No.88: Five February Favorites (A Link-Up & A Giveaway!)

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So sorry for the technical glitches this morning!!

Welcome to the Five Favorites linkup!  Congratulations to Colleen, with January's winning post: Five Favorites and Two More Things.  Be sure to check below for this month's prize pack!  

These soft pretzel rolls are quickly becoming a weekend staple!  They have the perfect mix of crusty outside with soft, chewy inside.  Mark and I like to tuck in sharp cheddar cheese and ham while they're still warm.  The kids prefer to dip pieces in cinnamon sugar.  Either way, they're so delicious!

I've been in an exercise funk all winter, but the Nike Training Club app is finally changing that.  I downloaded it on my phone (it's free!) and started a super easy, four week beginner plan.  I like that the app demonstrates each move and the lady's voice is helpful and clear.  The beginner plan I'm doing includes a lot of stretching/mobility exercises, which has been great for my weird hip problems.  I also like that you can rate your workouts on difficulty and move workouts around based on your schedule.  I'm actually looking forward to exercising again - HUGE!

We've been kitchen table-less since we moved in last June.  It wasn't really a deal-breaker - we just ate all of our meals in the dining room - but I missed the convenience and not having to hear five bickering kids fight over four stools at the counter.  I had my eye on this table from World Market but couldn't justify the price.  I signed up to receive an email for any price updates and lo and behold, a few weeks later, the price went down 60%!!  So far, we've been impressed.  It's sturdy, cleans easily and will hopefully put up with years of use.  

Homeschooling or not, if you love books and love a deal, you have to check out Amy's Bookshelf!  She sells everything from picture books to homeschool curriculum and the prices are fair.  The buying process is simple and easy to understand and she has wonderful customer service.  I recently stayed up ridiculously late during one of her live book sales and came away with a dozen books for a little over $40.  Not thrift store prices, but close.  Such a steal.

He picked up this griddle on a whim a few weekends ago.  I was immediately resistant (did we really need another kitchen gadget/appliance?), but have since eaten my words - it's amazing!  We've made pancakes, omelettes, Ugandan rolexes, even grilled cheese sandwiches!  I never would have purchased it myself, but it's proven really handy, especially with a household of hungry kids.


A Peek into February's Prize Pack
The giveaway items I've chosen are a mix of some of my favorite things: etsy finds, vintage pieces and little bits picked up from various stores.  All have been purchased by me and nothing has been sponsored.  This incentive is to thank you for visiting here and linking up your posts.  It's my small way of showing you that your words are being heard!  I read every single entry and try to comment on or share a few (I wish I could do this for every one - not enough hours in the day!)  Here's how it works: every time you link up a blog or Instagram post, you get an entry.  The linkup will be open until Sunday, March 4th and I'll randomly pick a winner on March 5.

February's prizes include:
1 // Essie nail polish in Ballet Slipper

2 // Felt bookmark from Love Maude

3 // Vintage mug 

4 // Floral Thank You cards

5 // Geranium Soap from Honest Roots Farm

I can't wait to hear about what you're loving this month!  Here's what to do:
1. Write a blog post sharing about five of your favorite things.  You could also share a photo on Instagram too! (hashtag is #bwffivefavorites)  It can have a theme (ie: five of your favorite slow cooker recipes) or just a mishmash like I usually do.
2. Please link back to this post so your readers know where to find the Five Favorites hub (posts not mentioning "Five Favorites" or not linking back to this post will be subject to removal).
3. Not mandatory, but feel free to visit some of the other posts in the link-up!  Sharing and/or leaving a comment is even better.
4. Make sure to add a link to your specific post or Instagram picture, not just your blog address.
Thanks for linking up!

Friday, February 23, 2018

No.87: Our Farmhouse Schoolhouse in Photos (Week 24)

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This week was so unexpected - two days of temperatures in the 70's!  We spent the majority of those days outside playing and exploring.  A perk of homeschooling (that I had forgotten) is the freedom to scrap the plans for the unexpected.  Our to-do list isn't set in stone and we won't be behind forever.  In fact, the next two days have been chilly and rainy and we easily made up the work!  This homeschooling gig is hard, but the pros certainly outweigh the cons. 


+ Our new art and copywork routine is going strong as we read through The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell.  Some days I choose the copywork, other days they tell me their favorite part and we use that.  I love watching their notebooks fill up with their imaginative artwork!

+ M (fifth grade) started reading one last book before we move on from WWI: Rascal.  When I introduced it to him, he looked at it dubiously but quickly changed his tune after the first chapter.  "Mom, it's actually pretty funny!  Can you imagine having a raccoon for a pet?!"

+ Our Aftrican studies took us to the beautiful country of Uganda this week.  We read Beatrice's Goat, which is the story of how the gift of one goat changed a family's life for the better. Very thought-provoking and a great conversation starter. Ugandan street food was on the menu - the Rolex!

+ J (first grade) finished All About Reading Level 1!  Reading hasn't come easily for him, so we are definitely celebrating this accomplishment!  He got a funny book and licorice as his prize.  While we wait for the activity book for Level 2 to arrive, we're going to work on these Henry & Mudge books together.  

Current 1000 Books Project Total: 111/1000


+ Health: A handful of workouts, lots of water and a few extra salads for lunch.  Itty bitty baby steps.
+ Reading: I finished The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  Currently reading Happier at Home for book club (I'm so behind!!), An Everlasting Meal and In This House of Brede.
+ Spiritual: Scott Hahn's Lenten Reflection book and The Imitation of Christ 
+ Fun: I'm on a home decorating kick and have started researching and purchasing a few items for the house!  We moved our things in last summer and really haven't done much of anything, so it's so exciting to start making it feel even more like home.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

No.86: Our Extraordinary Ordinary Life // February 2018 Edition

"The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." 
G. K. Chesterton

One of my 100 Little Things tasks this year was to complete a "Week in the Life" project like I did a few years ago.  For whatever reason, that seems like a monumental task when combined with all of my other responsibilities, so I'm tweaking it into something new: a monthly Day in the Life.  Ten photos throughout the day that show a peek into our extraordinarily ordinary life.


When I scribbled down this idea in my planner, I had no idea it would coincide with the most beautiful spring-like day in February: 75 degrees and sunny!  We were about an hour into school when one of the kids asked, "Do you think we could have some recess and go outside?"  How could I say no?  We spent the rest of the morning riding bikes, swinging and playing basketball.  After a fancy lunch of Ramen noodles and a salad for me, we had Quiet Hour while the baby napped (the big two and I read, the littler ones drew with Art for Kids).  Then it was back outside!  Add in a lot of laundry and a homemade blueberry pie and it was just the best day.  The warm sun and fresh air were so good for all of us. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

No.85: Intentions for the End of February

I had completely lost track of my days, so when Mark came home from work on Friday and announced that it was a three-day weekend, I cheered along with the kids!  We had snow falling most of Saturday and the kids were able to play in it Sunday morning before it all melted.  Lots of bread and pretzel rolls and brownies were made.  Lots of reading was done.  Lots of laughter (and only a little bickering) was heard.  Lots of potty-training was accomplished (finally - praise Jesus!!).  If you need me, I'll be soaking up one more lazy day before reality begins again.    


  • Habit of the Month: Patience
  • for Lent: workouts first thing every morning before touching my phone or computer
  • fill up on more green veggies
  • try overnight oatmeal
  • try kombucha (100LT #58) - a little scared about this one!
  • find one last item for February's Five Favorites prize pack
  • finalize plans for Term Three of the school year
  • start brainstorming Easter baskets
  • make speech appointment 
  • make dentist appointments
  • make eye appointments for the big boys
  • unpack and display my newly inherited china from my grandmother (I need to make the time to do this!)
  • figure out what to do about first floor painting 
  • decide on new chairs for the living room
  • buy frames for living room gallery wall
  • learn how to make baguettes (100LT #50)
  • complete my winter cross-stitch before it's no longer winter
  • bring donations to Goodwill


    If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
    • do something special to celebrate 100 Days of School! (we blew up mini balloons and made homemade funfetti donuts)
    • catch up on blog reading and leave thoughtful comments (I'm so behind - need to make the time this week)
    • wash my used to be white Nike Frees (they still aren't totally white, that darn Virginia clay!  Maybe I should invest in a special stain stick?)
    • make more big salads for lunch (I did this about three times...)
    • find a bottle that will make it easier to drink more water (a covered cup with a straw is the game-changer!)
    • finish research and make speech appointment 
    • find a dentist in our new town
    • read two chapters in my Jackson Pollock book
    • paint the living room and hallway (what a fiasco!  Mark and I have halted further painting until we decided on a course of action)
    • bring donations to Goodwill
    • unpack and display my newly inherited china from my grandmother (still in the box)
    • buy frames for living room gallery wall
    • finish our taxes (SO glad that's finished!)

    What about you?  What do you hope to accomplish in the next two weeks?

    Friday, February 16, 2018

    No.84: Our Farmhouse Schoolhouse in Photos (Week 23)

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    I've been largely off of social media this week and was so sad to hear of another school shooting.  I just finished reading about Columbine a few weeks ago and the timing seemed eerie and scary.  I don't have any answers; the issue is so multi-faceted and there are many factors at play. But as a mother, I ask myself: How I can be an example to my children and what can I teach them?  I know I'll be pondering this for days to come, but this is what I've come up with so far: 1) Look for the ones who are all alone, who seem a little different.  Don't be afraid to say hello.  2) When talking to anyone, everyone from a friend to the cashier at the store to the homeless man on the street, look them in the eye and acknowledge their dignity and worth.  3) Be honest about mental health and supportive of the ones we know who struggle.  Like Mother Teresa said, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."  There's where I hope to start.


    + Week two in our second Sassafras Science Anatomy book!  I wouldn't use this as our sole source of science instruction, but the storyline is engaging and the kids love it.  I use it as the introduction to the different topics and then we dive in deeper.  The theme this week was the human skeleton and we learned the names of major bones, filling out this worksheet and putting together our new puzzle.

    + We started a new read aloud called The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell.  I've wanted my boys to work on their handwriting and copywork, so this new beginning seemed like the perfect segue. To bring some excitement, I bought everyone a brand new notebook.  And each day this week, we've read one chapter, copied a paragraph (my first grader does a sentence) and drawn a picture - me included! It's been a fun way to practice and they've each completed it without complaint - a huge win!

    + Sophie randomly asked if we could start doing a Show and Tell during school.  (I can only imagine she was influenced by Daniel Tiger or another such character.)  She pronounces it so adorably ("Shaun-tell") so how can you say no?  This week, they shared their latest Lego creations.

    + Our Aftrican studies took us to the teeny country of Malawi.  We read Galimoto,  the story of a little boy who collected discarded pieces of wire to make a vehicle.  It was such an interesting look at how one man's trash is another man's treasure! I wish I had thought ahead and saved some of our recycling so we could try something similar.  Instead, we looked up images of real galimotos on Pinterest - amazing!  We also made sweet potato cookies (called Mbatata), which were delicious.  We made two batches and may make a third this weekend.

    + J is thiiiis close to finish All About Reading Level 1.  Just a few more lessons to go!  He has worked so hard...I think we need to do something to celebrate before jumping into Level 2.  

    Current 1000 Books Project Total: 109/1000


    + Health: My Lenten sacrifice is to work out first thing in the morning before I use my phone or open my computer.  I managed to fail on day two, but still finished my run in the afternoon, so that's like half credit, right?  I found and charged up my Fitbit for extra motivation.
    + Reading: Currently reading Happier at Home for book club, An Everlasting Meal and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.
    + Spiritual: I started Scott Hahn's Lenten Reflection book on Ash Wedneday.  Today's chapter from The Imitation of Christ had this advice, which I've thought about (and prayed) all day: "Each day we ought to renew our resolves and rekindle the fires of our fervor as if it were the first day of our conversion.  And we should say: 'O Lord God, help me to keep my good resolution to serve You; give me the grace to begin anew, for what I have done up to now is nothing.'" (Chapter 19, p.24)  It's been a hard parenting week and I've needed grace upon grace upon grace.  Tomorrow's a new day to start again.  
    + Fun: The week flew by and I can't seem to think of what to put in the fun category!  I'll need to work on that.
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