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Category Archives: Young Fun

April 2017 Reads

I found myself with my nose stuck in a book more often than not during quiet time in the afternoon this month. {Not so much knitting.} So many good hauls from the library and so many great picks added to our house library {that is going to need a new bookcase soon}.

We inadvertently added in a healthy dose of poetry during this #nationalpoetrymonth. All of us gained a greater appreciation and interest in the flowing verse. We’ll be diving into more this summer.

 

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines — {MMD Reading for Fun Challenge, “A book you don’t want to admit you’re dying to read”} I picked up this delightful book without having seen an episode of Fixer Upper. The faith, determination, grit, etc. of this couple is incredibly inspiring. Their belief in the providence of God, an even sweeter cherry on top. Many friends of mine rave about this star couple and I can definitely see their appeal. {And, yes, I remedied that lack of Fixer Upper — made my husband sit through an episode a few weeks ago, and I’m definitely hankering to go back for more!}

America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray — {MMD Reading for Growth Challenge, “A book that is more than 600 pages”} I am a huge fan of historical fiction. I read a ton of it. But this one maybe my top pick in the genre for the year. It’s certainly in my favorites of the era, maybe second to this one. I never knew much about Patsy Jefferson, but she is one female whose story should be included in school history books. Such a feminist for her time.

The Inspired Room by Melissa Michaels — I’ve been wanting to do some more serious decorating in our home over these past few months so I picked up this book to gain some inspiration. It hasn’t disappointed. Many practical tips for simple fixes that can really liven up a room, as well as balance it.

Upstream by Mary Oliver — After encountering and loving many quotes by this prolific poet in others’ writings, I thought it was high time to pick up one of her own. This book was actually short essays, but made me fall in love with her writing. I will certainly be looking up more of her work in the future. In addition to a few essays on the works of some well-known poets that we quite interesting, what this book mostly contained was thoughts and memories of the author’s forays in nature. It is an excellent pick for reading in a cabin in the woods.

Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein — I’m diving in deep to begin my first patch of cut flowers this year. This book is an amazing inspiration {even if you just desire it for the eye candy of gorgeous blooms sprinkled throughout}. Behind all the beauty though, the author gets down to the nitty gritty of the details of growing each of the varieties she’s experimented with on her own farm for years. I purchased a handful of seed packets from Erin’s farm in Washington as well, and I’m hoping to share glorious results within the next few months!

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny — Third in the Inspector Gamache series, this one was the most predictable, but that didn’t make it uninteresting. The underlying premise concerning the great inspector that runs through all of the books, came to a deep twist in this episode. {I didn’t purposely time it this way, but it was perfect for the month of April as that is when it takes place, right during Easter.}

Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd — I’ve been following along with the Coffee + Crumbs blog since its inception, and this lovely collection of essays by the team of main writers was no less touching. I found myself emotionally moved by the feelings shared of mirrored experiences of motherhood. So good.

 

Books Read with My Children

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children by James Herriot — My girls have fallen head over heels for Herriot’s delightful stories of farm animals that he encountered over the years. The personalities of animals can be so funny! I remember reading through many of these as a child myself, and even pulled out an old copy of mine that contains his Cat Stories. Simple and sweet, this is an excellent pick for transitioning into reading chapter books as it is well sprinkled with pictures but longer prose.

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson — We’ve forayed into the land of poetry as my eldest is developing an interest in rhyming words {even making up her own words just so they rhyme with others she’s said!}. This collection has quick ones that capture the attention of children as they speak of imagination, rhythms of the child’s life, and play.

An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston — The artistry of this book is reason alone to own it. From the tiniest ladybug egg to a whopping ostrich shell, this book wonderfully illustrates the incredible beauty and amazing functionality of eggs in many colors and sizes. I learned so much myself! {We also love A Butterfly is Patient, A Seed is Sleepy, and A Nest is Noisy.}

 Easter Parade by Irving Berlin — Based on the text of a song by Irving Berlin, this delightful book was a favorite of my eldest due to the fun, elegant hat made by the young bunny for the Easter parade. 🙂 There are few things better at Eastertide than a lovely Easter bonnet!

 

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Friday Frivolity {7QT}

So much to share, so little time. Luckily, it’s Friday — time for Seven Quick Takes! Hold onto your seats!

1) Diving into the garden season with a lot of weed pulling and a lot of seed planting. I’m trying my hand at a cut flower plot this year. There will be cosmos, zinnias, celosia, bachelor’s buttons, amaranth, and black-eyed susans {hopefully!}. I’m excited but feel a bit daunted by the task. I haven’t had much luck with growing flowers from seed in the past. I purchased Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden a few months ago, and I’m trying to follow Erin’s advice to a ‘T’ {with a little prayer of hope thrown into the mix!}. We’ll have some veggies and, of course, the strawberry patch too!

2) Last weekend, we attended a local(ish) Scottish Highland Games. The Celtic blood runs deep on both sides of the family, so the girls have taken a natural liking to the heritage both of their parents love. {Evey often asks to learn Irish dancing. One of these days, we’ll find a good group in the area for her take lessons.} We saw a group of harpists that renewed my great desire to own a harp of my own. There was even one for sale! — but, alas, out of our price range currently. We marched in the parade with the Cochrane clan, a surname on Steve’s paternal line.

3) Stephen and I got out for a wonderful date night in March that included a concert and surprise! Eucharistic adoration and Confession. A fellow Christendom alum, Marie Miller, was performing the opening act for Five for Fighting, so we grabbed some of the last seats in the house, up in the nosebleeds, but had the best time anyway. Marie did an amazing job, and we were equally delighted with the the lyrical genius that is Five for Fighting. I don’t own any of his albums, but I certainly want one now.

We also stumbled upon a Lenten night of Eucharistic adoration taking place at the cathedral that was such a blessing for both of us. Not only did we get to spend some quiet moments with the Lord, but we also were able to partake of the sacrament of Confession.

4) After much deliberation, we’ve decided to start Evelyn in some more formal schooling this fall. We worked through the early set of Explode the Code this year. She’s certainly excelled in learning her letters and their sounds, and is SO ready to learn how to read. {We may just dive into this early during the summer months!} The Charlotte Mason method has been a natural fit for our family so we’ll be following along with their curriculum, particularly that of Mater Amabilis with a few additions/revisions from Ambleside. {I may do a more thorough explanation of our preschool curriculum from this year. Would anyone be interested in hearing more about it?}

5) We instituted “popcorn and poetry” afternoons which we’ve enjoyed several of this month. It’s an alternative to an afternoon tea which will be coming back around when we start school in the fall. Not sure who enjoys it more — the adults or children.

6) Steve began a new job at the beginning of April which required a bit of travel at the beginning for training. Some of it allowed for our family to stay at my in-laws’ cabin in the mountains which are still thoroughly covered with snow…and much was still coming down during the month of April! The girls loved the extra snow play and we made it cozy with hot chocolate treats and many snuggly reading times {with a side of knitting for mama}.

7) I purchased for myself today this lovely new tank for the summer that Blessed is She just released. It will be a constant companion during the summer months in the garden, by the pool…whenever the temp reaches the triple digits, to be sure! The one with the Teresas has me all “heart-eyes” too.

I’m also looking forward to my new copy of the academic Blessed is She planner {if you’re awaiting the calendar year version, it releases in October}.

I might also have to pick one of these prayer posters for our large living room wall. A good {and helpful} reminder to say our prayers!

 

{Linking up with the fabulous Kelly on this lovely Friday afternoon for 7QT.}

#write31days ~ day 7: our favorite autumn activities {7QT}

1. baking
It probably comes as no surprise that my favorite autumn activity is baking. In my food blogging days, I think my greatest collection of recipes was during the fall months. The spices used, the warm foods with the onset of cooler weather, the delight of turning the oven on when the house isn’t already a toasty 85 degrees.

rolling out dough

Here is a collection of some of my favorite autumn baking recipes:

pumpkin pecan scones
chai spiced granola
pumpkin gingerbread cookies
soft ginger cookies
mendicino pumpkin muffins
pumpkin chocolate chip cookies 
pumpkin crunch granola
coconut chai coffee cake
pumpkin protein bars
apple cider donuts
pumpkin spice donuts

2. Apple Hill
If you are not in close proximity to Apple Hill {or a place like it}, I’m sorry. There is nothing quite like this location of all-things-apple that affords you the ability to go apple picking, munch apple donuts dunked in a cup of warm, fresh cider, pull apart a gooey apple cinnamon roll or fritter, or sip a glass of cool, crisp cider {of the alcoholic variety}.

apple hill treats

It is an annual tradition we’ve been doing since I was a tot with my grandparents and are now passing on to the next generation.

{I’ve got a great collection of apple recipes for you here if you like that kind of thing. ;)}

apple picking

3. breaking out the warm drinks : alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike

I drink tea year-round, but the delight factor is turned up a notch of that first cup in the morning when you wake up to the chill of an autumn morning. The chai comes out more often too.

cloves

oranges and cloves

My husband has a knack for making some wonderful libations in the fall/winter months as well. He’s especially good with glühwein {mulled wine}, which we like to fill our thermos with and take on a walk through the golden, rouge leaves falling. 

In preparation for the holidays, we begin testing out our eggnog making skills. We can never get enough of this smooth drink.

4. pumpkin picking at a farm {or enjoying our homegrown ones!}
Of course, the fall wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a pumpkin patch or two! We like to visit Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm in our area. There are so many great activities for the kids, including a trampoline covered in hay, a petting zoo, and a train that takes you on a tour around the farm. The hay ride out to the patch and back for your pumpkins is a huge highlight of the day.

pumpkin picking

This year, we grew some of our own pumpkins too which we are very excited to finally display {they’ve been chilling in the linen cupboard since early August due to mama’s too-early plantings}. We just took them out yesterday to add to the fall decor on our porch. It’s so much fun for the girls to see the pumpkins they grew from seed. They are very proud!

5. decorating
On a related vein, I can’t wait for the opportunity to pull out all the warm colored decor to sprinkle all over the house. Our resident porch scarecrow is a favorite, and we enjoy picking out various squash, gourds, and Indian corn for a natural display at home.

porch scarecrow with pumpkins

6. hiking
We are fortunate to live in an area with hiking trails aplenty. Fall is my favorite time of the year to go meandering through the hills, observing the changes of the season.

hiking on the trail

taking a walk

7. watching fall sports : futbol and football

Both Steve and I were soccer players growing and intend to introduce our daughters to league play when they are old enough. {If they decide to take it to the next level will be determined by their interest.} The family enjoys going out to watch other family members play. This year our nephew is playing and being coached by his dad and uncle. We watched his first game a few weeks ago.

We are fortunate to have FC that started her a few years ago, the Sacramento Republic FC. Steve went with a few of my brothers to watch one of their first games, and we’re hoping to go together soon on a date night.

College football viewing runs deep on both sides of the family, with the biggest rooting happening behind USC, Stanford, and Notre Dame. It makes for some exciting Saturdays during these fall months.

playing in the leaves

 

What are some of your favorite autumn activities? 

{Linking up with Kelly this week over at This Ain’t the Lyceum. Go there for more of 7QT!}

#write31days ~ day 6: camping with young children

calaveras big trees camping

I’m no pro at this camping game, but I can say, without a doubt, taking the girls outdoors overnight several times this summer has been an excellent decision. The family/friend camaraderie is bar none when one is able to wile away the hours in the wild.

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Jan}

We eased in with our first trip in July, staying just one night with some close friends at a state park we had been to before. I am glad that we only committed to one night this first time because it was relaxing to know that if things didn’t work out, we’d only be missing out on one night’s sleep.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Jan}

Shortly after our camping trip to the coast, we began looking at other possibilities for a second trip this summer. We chose a spot none of us had been to, and invited Steve’s parents to come along for the fun. Our spot was the Calaveras Big Trees, not too far from Yosemite. This state park was a little closer to home than the last, allowing for more play and less driving.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

A few days before we left, we decided to extend our stay an extra night. We were only inconvenienced by having to move sites the second night {and the first was our favorite, boo}.

camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

Evelyn continued her tradition of searching for “mysterious creatures” in the woods with her little headlamp. She also brought along her camera again this time and was capturing snapshots of all the things of interest–moss, bark on trees, a camp chair, the dirt on her sister….

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Jan}

calaveras big trees camping

Lucie got dirtier than anyone I’ve ever seen, announcing at the end of every meal, “I’m done. I go play in the dirt!” It’s a little hard to keep her out when it is everywhere. She took advantage of mama allowing this unbridled freedom by spending every possible minute in it.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping {photo by Jan}
calaveras big trees camping {photo by Jan}

The BIG trees were truly spectacular. They soared to the sky–there was certainly some neck craning to catch a glimpse of the top. In one spot, we were able to stand on top of the stump of one that had been cut down. It was big enough to host a party on!

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping {photo by Jan}

We went on a little hike through the woods, and had planned on coming back the next day to the series of trails for another, but never made it. There are many trails to explore at this park, for various levels of experience.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Jan}

There was so much for the girls to be involved in, including food prep, dish washing, journaling, tree identification, and, of course, plain, ol’ playing in the dirt, which I demonstrated as Lucie’s greatest strength when it comes to camping. 🙂

We actually got the girls to sleep for a nap {despite the neighbors practicing a hip-hop dance to some loud beats–who does that in forest?}. They needed that rest to make it through the evening with s’mores on the horizon.

calaveras big trees camping

calaveras big trees camping
{photo by Stephen}

My favorite part of the trip was witnessing the girls with their hot chocolate and mugs of oatmeal first thing in the morning. It seemed quintessential camping and they looked so cozy bundled up in their warm gear. That and s’mores roasting. They took to the camping traditions like fish to water.

If you’re on the fence about taking the leap with your family, I’d say, Go for it! At least one night. It’s an excellent adventure that’s great to have in the family memory bank.

#write31days ~ day 4: circus

circus vargas roseville ca

About a month or so ago, Evelyn remarked that she would like to attend the circus. I believe the idea came from learning about the circus in The Story of Babar. She’s repeated this request several times since then.

enjoying the circus

I had no idea when the circus would be in town or whether we would be able to go. But some fortuitous events coincided recently that meant not only would it be in town imminently, but also that we would certainly be able to go.

circus vargas

I was scrolling through Instagram one evening when I noticed that one of the local events accounts mentioned that Circus Vargas was coming to town. On that photo, they were having a contest for locals to win a family four pack of tickets. I commented saying that my three-year old was anxious to go and we would love to take her.

Lo and behold, within the week, I found out I was the lucky winner of those tickets!

circus vargas

We attended this past weekend and it truly exceeded even my expectations. The high-flying trapeze, the circular cage traversed by two daredevil motorcyclists, the limber acrobatics {which Evelyn claimed were ballerinas}, the kamikaze trampoline bounces by a troupe of male gymnasts. It was truly an amazing spectacle.

img_0449

#write31days ~ day 3: BIG painting

big painting

With two little people who are super inquisitive, I decided to glean a little extra help with a structured, yet very loose, curriculum from The Homegrown Preschooler this school year. It’s called A Year of Playing Skillfully. I am very much into play-based learning, hands-on experiences, etc. and this curriculum fits that to a ‘T’.

big painting

big painting

Last year, I read The Homegrown Preschooler, written by the same authors of the curriculum, Kathy H. Lee and Lesli Richards. I appreciated their educational philosophy and incorporated some of the activities offered into our day. Between this and Twenty-Six Letters to Heaven {which we LOVED and are supplementing with again}, we had a great thing going last year.

big painting

big painting

But I could tell this year that Evelyn needed a little something extra. I was faced with the decision of, essentially, putting together my own curriculum or seeking a bit of help. I chose to do the latter because I was feeling a tad overwhelmed at the prospect this time around.

We’re a month in, and although we didn’t get to half the prescribed activities in September, we had a great time with the ones we did. It’s a great program because Lucie can easily get involved too, even though she is only a fresh two years old. {She’s much more interested in kinesthetic learning, so she truly has no problem diving into many of the activities!}

big painting

big painting

One of last month’s activities was BIG painting. We took out a large roll of paper, cut about 15 feet off, and got to work on it with paints, sponges, paintbrushes, and a few other natural items we found in the yard {Lucie really liked stamping with a large rock}. Evelyn surprised me by instigating the body painting, which she is usually hesitant to try.

big painting

big painting

They had the best time working together…and individually when they each needed a bit of space. It easily allowed for that.

big painting

big painting

Since we used washable paints, clean-up was relatively easy. Even mama got some on her shirt and it washed out. 🙂

painted

painted

Looking forward to sharing more of our projects with you as the year progresses!

Floral Identification

flower identification

flower identification

flower identification

flower identification

flower identification

The girls and I have been fortunate to spend some time in the mountains the past couple days, in the cooler air and away from the smoke. This morning, we went on a long walk and spent the time finding as many wildflower varieties as we could. We came back with quite the array.

The remainder of the morning we spent with the flower identification book attempting to figure out each flower. {And I had some fun photographing with my camera!} Here were our findings.

Flower #1 : Yarrow – achillea millefolium

flower identification

flower identification

Flower #2 : Couldn’t get this one — it appears to have small seed pots on the stem.

flower identification

flower identification

Flower #3 : Sierra Daisy – erigeron algidus

flower identification

flower identification

Flower #4 : Checker Mallow – sidalcea oregana

flower identification

flower identification

Flower #6 : Sierra Gentian – gentianoposis holopetala

flower identification

flower identification

Flower #7 : Sierra Stickseed – hackelia nervosa

flower identification

flower identification

Flower #9 : Sticky Cinquefoil – potentilla glandulosa

flower identification

flower identification

Flower #10 : Spur Lupine – lupinus arbustus

flower identification

flower identification

Flower #11: Sierra Penstemon – penstemon heterodoxus var. heterodoxus

flower identification

flower identification

Flower #12 : Parish’s Yampah – perideridia parishii

flower identification

flower identification

Flower #13 : Mountain Dandelion – agoseris retrorsa 

flower identification

flower identification

Can you tell we’re in the Sierra Nevadas? 😉

 

Linking up with {pretty, funny, happy, real} over at Like Mother, Like Daughter.

Wings of Their Own

We are huge fans of play silks. They fire the imagination better than most of the toys that reside in our play corner. Evey, especially, tries every configuration she can come up with to make a beautiful, flowing dress from the cloth. Princesses are certainly on her radar these days.

Lucie loves to see them fly. We play ‘pop the bubbles’ frequently or throw it high in air to watch it gently glide to the floor over her head. Giggles flying high too.

Evey butterfly wings

Evey butterfly wings

A little play silk search online the other day led me to this wonderful shop called Oakmoss and Ivy. They carry the typical play silks, but another item caught my eye: butterfly wings made from recycled Indian saris. With an emergent interest in butterflies blooming this Spring, I couldn’t think of a better surprise for the girls. And they are just SO beautiful!

Evey butterfly wings

Evey butterfly wings

The morning after it came, I couldn’t get them out of their pajamas before they were running around, floating with their new wings.

Evey butterfly wings

Lucie is a tad small for the wings and she doesn’t quite get the idea of holding your arms out while flying. She keeps tucking them into her chest. I think she’s afraid of letting them go.

Lucie butterfly wings

Lucie butterfly wings

She would love to soar but I think she needs a few more inches of height before it works well for her.

Lucie butterfly wings

Lucie butterfly wings

If you would like to get a pair of your own wings, Oakmoss and Ivy is offering a 10% discount to my readers with the code: MUFFIN10. They have some other great offerings too, including nursing covers, bow ties, and mini slings for baby dolls.

#write31days ~ Day 16: Ballet {in Color}

ballet-pique-color

ballet-dots-color

ballet-releve-color

ballet-balance-color

ballet-trio-color

A few more fun details from my ballet photos yesterday. These ones I left in color as those sweet shades of pink are too nice to let go of sometimes. 😉

#write31days ~ Day 15: Tiny Ballerina in Black and White

ballet-butterfly

ballet-stretching

ballet-at-the-barre

ballet-chasse

ballet-waiting

ballet-balancing

ballet-grand-jete

For almost two years now {more than half her life–crazy!}, Evelyn has been going to ballet classes on Thursday mornings. We started in the Itty Bitty Ballet class where not much formal training was done but it gave the children an opportunity to get used to rhythm, following instructions, and learning about their bodies movement in space.

About six months ago, Evelyn moved up to the more advanced Pre-Ballet class and has continued to enjoy it, including the more formal learning of ballet steps and movements. I’ve loved watching her grow and blossom in these classes. She gives her all and absolutely loves every moment of it. I’m so proud of her holding her own amongst girls who are a bit older than her. {The class is designed for 3-6 years old and she hasn’t even reached 3 yet. But the teacher felt she was ready to move up!}

Whether she decides to stick with ballet long-term, switch to another type of dance, or abandon it altogether further on down the road, I’m so glad she’s had this opportunity.

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