Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Learning is Fun! Puzzles

I know, I know, the only thing I'm consistent in is being inconsistent!! I'm trying :-P

Puzzles are awesome for kids. Did you know that? They have to think (that certainly never hurts), they have to match, they have to use their fingers to work the pieces in correctly. I'm no teacher and I'm no doctor, but I am a mom and I can tell you that puzzles are a very good thing to work on with your children. There are all sorts of puzzles! Colors, numbers, animals, shapes, body parts, etc. Autumn is 23 months old and she is getting really good at (peg, not jigsaw) puzzles. I can't remember when we first started working on them, but I know that she wasn't very good in the beginning. I try to bust out our puzzles once a week and we always have two just out in the family room if she wants to do them. I know that not all kids love puzzles, but if your child is willing to sit down and work a puzzle, encourage that! I think they are awesome. Here's a pic of my precious girl doing a magnet puzzle and some other ones as well.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

YOU ALL. Listen. You know how sometimes you are maybe somewhere and you get asked, "If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be"? Well, I never have an answer to that question. Never! BUT, now I do. Hands down, without a doubt, I want to spend some time with Mary Frances Nolan, the protagonist of this most excellent novel. Francie is the most precious heroine in the world and I think will forever be one of my most favorites.

I don't have the patience for plot summaries and all that, but it is a coming of age story and takes place in (surprise, surprise) Brooklyn, in the early 1900s. Here's the Goodreads Book Blurb: The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith's "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness -- in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.

And, there ya go. Here are some of my favorite quotes...although, really, pretty much everything that comes out of Francie's mouth is charming.

Responding to her brother's claim of getting drunk she says:
"I've been drunk too...last spring, I saw a tulip for the first time in my life...Well, when I looked at it, the way it was growing, and how the leaves were, and how purely red the petals were, with yellow inside, the world turned upside down and everything went around like the colors in a kaleidoscope-like you said. I was so dizzy I had to sit on a park bench...I don't need to drink to get drunk. I can get drunk on things like the tulip".
 PRECIOUS, right??

And another:
"No! I don't want to need anybody. I want someone to need me...I want someone to need me." 
Yes, don't we all?

One more, quoting her granma:
"To look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory."

Ohhhh, I just love this book and I love Francie Nolan.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Some Love

Some love for my boy since his sister normally takes center stage on here!  Here is my precious, handsome, wonderful, joyful, easy going, adorable, lovable, snuggable, kissable, sweet sweet sweet son.  These are a few of his 3 month professional pics.  

Gosh, he's darn cute.

Learning is Fun! Hand Tree & Stringing Beads

Yes, I missed a food post.  I cooked some yummies, but I didn't take pictures and I just think a recipe post without a picture is not so helpful (like that sentence structure?).  So, check back next week.  

Moving on, here is something easy and fun to do with your toddler:  

It's a hand print tree!  Isn't it so cute?  Just trace hand/arm on brown paper, glue onto a different color sheet of paper and glue your leaves (cut out from yet another piece of paper) onto the fingers.  We used a glue stick and practiced taking turns gluing and placing leaves.  If I let Autumn have her way, she would spread glue on everything all day long...including her lips :)  This craft idea came from Green Kid Crafts.  You pay for a 3, 6, or 9 month (I think) subscription and they send you 3 age specific craft packs a month made from "non-toxic, natural, and sustainable supplies".  Pretty sweet deal.  So far, we have had fun with them.  This particular craft is cool because you can do whatever colors you want and it's a nice substitute if you don't have the time and/or energy and/or patience to do a paint hand print tree.  Ours is pretty plain, but you could do fall or spring colors.  A grandma or aunt would love it!

Something she's not quite ready for is stringing beads.  Her little fingers are deft, but not quite that deft :)  I strung her a bracelet and about 3 seconds later it was broken and beads spilled everywhere.  Le Sigh, mama's too ambitious sometimes...

*On another note, if your 22-month-old can string beads, be proud.  Be very proud :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Learning is Fun! Craft Stick Bugs & Painting a pillowcase

I still haven't come up with anything cute to call our activities.  I was thinking of Flops & _____?? Finds?  Friends?  I don't really like either one of those.  I'll keep trying to think!  

So, one thing we did that was awesome and fun was we made Craft Stick Bugs.  You just take a craft stick and have your child color it (we used markers).  Then you wrap pipe cleaners around it for the legs and glue on googly (googley?) eyes.  Ta-da! You have just made a bug.  Here's a pic of our bugs: 
She's wearing antennae and therefore we called her "Autumn Bug" for the rest of the day which she, of course, loved :)  If I did this activity again, I would also glue on antennae to the bugs. 

For our activity flop, I tried to mix food coloring and water in a spray bottle & then spray a white pillowcase.  The food coloring did dye the water, but it was barely noticeable once we sprayed it on the pillowcase.  I get I need to figure out another way to put paint in a sprayable format (Maybe tempera paint mixed with water??).  So instead we just carefully dripped the food coloring onto the pillowcase.  We still had fun so it's not exactly a flop, but still.

Now, go have some fun with your child!!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Book Love: Library Love

My apologies, readers, for dropping the ball(s) on my planned post(s).  But, onward and upward.  Today I bring you some book loooove.  Let's talk the libary, shall we?  Is the library the bestest and awesomest institution ever or what?  It is a secret dream of mine to work in a library one day.   I use the word secret loosely. 

So, today, my mother graciously volunteered to baby-sit my babies while they slept (gotta love joint nap-times) so I could go to the library and actually look around instead of zooming through.  Here's what I checked out:

Stolen: A Letter to My CaptorStolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher

Goodreads Book Blurb:
It happened like this.

I was stolen from an airport.
Taken from everything I knew,
everything I was used to.
Taken to sand and heat, dirt
and danger. And he expected
me to love him. This is my story.

A letter from nowhere.
The Weird SistersThe Weird Sisters by Eleanor BrownAmazon Book Blurb:
Three sisters have returned to their childhood home, reuniting the eccentric Andreas family. Here, books are a passion (there is no problem a library card can't solve) and TV is something other people watch. Their father-a professor of Shakespeare who speaks almost exclusively in verse-named them after the Bard's heroines. It's a lot to live up to.
The sisters have a hard time communicating with their parents and their lovers, but especially with one another. What can the shy homebody eldest sister, the fast-living middle child, and the bohemian youngest sibling have in common? Only that none has found life to be what was expected; and now, faced with their parents' frailty and their own personal disappointments, not even a book can solve what ails them...

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Goodreads Book Blurb:
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life

The First Days (As The World Dies: A Zombie Trilogy #1)The First Days by Rhiannon Frater

Goodreads Book Blurb:
The morning that the world ends, Katie is getting ready for court and housewife Jenni is taking care of her family. Less than two hours later, they are fleeing for their lives from a zombie horde.

Thrown together by circumstance, Jenni and Katie become a powerful zombie-killing partnership, mowing down zombies as they rescue Jenni's stepson, Jason, from an infected campground.

They find sanctuary in a tiny, roughly fortified Texas town. There Jenni and Katie find they are both attracted to Travis, leader of the survivors; and the refugees must slaughter people they know, who have returned in zombie form.

I realize that three out of four of them are kind of darkish, but really they're not (except for maybe Stolen).  They are all pretty easy reads.  I've never heard of the Weird Sisters, but I liked the title and the 3 girls are all named after Shakepearian characters (Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia) so how could I not read it?!

As for my Wednesday post, I will try to post a few kids activities we did last week either later today or tomorrow!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Food Love: Noodle Heaven

This recipe is from Once A Month Mom which is an awesome website for bulk cooking. I personally don't bulk cook (hopefully will one day), but I love their recipes and they are in a friendly format to not only double or triple the recipe, but also to freeze. They have tons and tons of recipes so go check it out. This particular recipe is Noodle Heaven and it is from their 10 Day Mini Menu (January 2012).

And I thought it was yummy. Very yummy!

8oz egg noodles
1 lb ground beef
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp salg
1 tsp sugar
16oz tomato sauce
8oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp onion salt
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Brown the beef.

2. Add garlic, salt, sugar and tomato sauce and simmer.

3. Combine cream cheese, sour cream, and onion salt.

4. In a 9X13 greased pan (don't forget, I grease everything), layer cooked noodles, cream cheese mixture, and meat mixture. Repeat.

5. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.

6. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes

I actually took a picture, but it's still on my camera :( Will try to update later.

*Update* Picture as promised:

Sorry 'bout that shadow, but look at all that cheesy goodness! YUM!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral


Book blurb from Goodreads: After her mother died, Glory retreated into herself and her music. Her single father raised her as a piano prodigy, with a rigid schedule and the goal of playing sold-out shows across the globe. Now, as a teenager, Glory has disappeared. As readers flash back to the events leading up to her disappearance, they see a girl on the precipice of disaster.

So.  This book was a brand new experience for me.  Glory's story is told non-traditionally in pictures, photographs, and words.  I suppose someone somewhere has done this before.  I have not been privvy to this type of book before so it felt very new to me.  I finished it start to finish in about 45 minutes and I was being somewhat leisurely. 

Glory is a piano prodigy.  Her mother is dead and her father is raising her solo.  She begins a relationship with "the boy next door", Francisco Mendoza, somewhere in those wild, turbulent, crazy, maddening high-school years.  The story of her rise and fall is told mostly through correspondance between the two of them.  The author and illustrator use everything from ticket stubs to oil paintings to actual photographs to convey what is happening to Glory, both in the outside world and inside her mind.  It is not a "happy" story, but neither is it likely to leave you needing tissues.  

What I loved about this book is the uniqueness of this format.  I really enjoyed engaging my sense of sight while reading.  It was intriguing to see the story through the author and illustrator's eyes.  I wouldn't want to read these books all the time (generally speaking, I like EPIC tales of monstrous proportions), but it was a very enjoyable experience that I would repeat again at some point.

As far as the story goes, I thought it was very good.  I was engaged in the story as it went along, never got bored and I never saw the twist coming.  Call me dumb or the author excellent, I was blind sided.  I did not love, however, the open ending.  I really like closure and this book left me making up my own ending.  Dislike.  Most of it is wrapped up except for a very obvious missing element.  And that's all I will say about that. 

Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.