Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Peek Into My Sketchbook

I have become such a fan of daily creative practice over the past couple of years.  The experience of practicing a skill/ improving a talent has been so richly rewarding for me.  I no longer think, "I wish I was making more art." without following up or actual pursuing that desire.  I AM making art.  Consistently.  Every day for the past 1.5 years I have painted or drawn or both.  It is a part of my life and a part of each day.  I can't imagine my days without some dedicated time to make art.

My biggest take-away from this experience so far is that it doesn't have to take hours a day to improve your abilities, artistic or otherwise.  Yes, if you had hours a day to devote to a skill you'd improve more quickly.  But most of us just don't have that time.  So rather than put it off until you have time (when will that be?), just start.  You can set aside 15 minutes a day to pursue a goal or develop a talent.  I guarantee you can find at least those few minutes in your day and when you do, you'll be so grateful that you started now instead of putting it off any longer.

I'm curious: What talent or skill would you like to set aside time for each day?

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Book Report: July 2016

Welcome to my monthly book report! Here I share quick reviews of the books I've finished each month.  I'm always looking to add to my to-read list, so please share your recommendations!  I'd love to hear what you've been reading.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes, aka: The Queen of Thursday Night (creator and writer of several extremely popular TV shows, including Grey's Anatomy) shares her journey to break out of her comfort zone and say yes to the things that scare her.  I really enjoyed the beginning of this book.  I loved seeing the transformation Shonda went through.  Her writing was engaging and funny. Her desire to improve herself was inspiring.  But about 3/4 of the way through the book it turned into a slog for me. Perhaps because I've never watched a single episode of any of her shows, and at that point in the book she talks a lot about certain characters and the stars she worked with? I'm not entirely certain.  But it began to feel very repetitive and I just couldn't quite reconnect with the book again.  

Maude by Donna Foley Mabry

I found this non-fiction story completely fascinating.  Maude was an incredibly strong woman who faced countless hardships throughout her life, including the deaths of her parents, husband and most of her children. She faced poverty, an abusive mother-in-law and a loveless marriage. She worked tirelessly her entire life and made the most of the resources she was blessed with.  She told her life story to her granddaughter, Donna, the author of this book, who shares it in a very easy to read, enjoyable narrative.  I loved it.

My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman

I love reading about athletes and those who challenge their physical bodies and are able to do incredible things. This book about a dad and daughter training for a marathon was a perfect example of just that genre. Every time I read some of it I set it down feeling inspired to head out on a long run (of course, my 7 months pregnant belly slowed me down significantly, but walks are good too).  Because he is a journalist for CNN, Tom is a strong writer, and this book was highly entertaining (I even had a few laugh out loud moments) as well as motivational.

Find the Good by Heather Lende

I loved Heather's book If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name so I was thrilled to discover Find the Good earlier this month.  I read it in just a couple of days.  I love the image Heather paints of her life as an obituary writer in a tiny town in Alaska. While you definitely get more of a feel of that in "If You Lived Here", it shines through in Find the Good as well.  This book is full of tidbits of wisdom that if put to use will help you connect more deeply with your loved ones and live a happier, fuller life.  Charming and fun to read.  I highly recommend it.

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey

This was a read aloud that we all loved.  It's more of a series of short stories than a continuous narrative about Homer Price and the  residents of his hometown of Centerburg.  Packed full of funny moments, not-quite-realistic stories (a doughnut-making machine that won't turn off and a Pied Piper for mice, among others) and delightful illustrations, this is a perfect book to read aloud to multiple children. My 11 year old and 7 year old both loved it.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

This book was not at all what I was expecting.  I was under this impression it would be about creativity and developing creative habits. However, it was about grief.  Despite it being different than expected, I still enjoyed it and found a few tidbits about creative living scattered throughout.   My heart was broken for Didion, who spent nearly every moment with her husband for 40 years, only to have him pass away quite suddenly at the dinner table.  I identified so strongly with her description of the loss she felt, as I imagine I would react in much the same way.  Her husband was her best friend and confidante and she was struck by how difficult it was to feel like she needed to talk to him to tell him this huge thing that had occurred in her life (his own death) and she had to keep reminding herself that he was gone and she wouldn't be able to talk it through with him.

I've read 46 of my goal of 60 books this year. Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy  for more Quick Lit book reviews. 
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Thursday, June 30, 2016

What I'm Into: June 2016

How can June possibly be over already?.  We're currently in the midst of a very busy season.  Miss Ellie has swim practice every morning. Getting out the door first thing is a new experience for this homeschool family. During the school year, I don't schedule anything for the mornings, it's our time to do home things together: school and chores, mostly.  Now we're out the door by a little after 7:00 and school is bumped to later in the morning.  Goodness, but those everyday practices are helping our girl!  She recently took 12 seconds off in one event and 13 off in another. So, so fun to watch!

Ethan was recently recruited to a competitive soccer team and his practices are in the mornings as well. That's what happens when it's nearly 100 degrees outside in the afternoons: all of our outdoor work and adventuring must happen first thing, or there's no way it's going to happen.  

Ellie has been attending an incredible summer camp each afternoon. She's been immersed in Harry Potter goodness 3 hours a day for the past month.  Next week is her last week, and I'm pretty sure she'll be having withdrawls after so much time spent with fellow Harry lovers, doing all the Harry Potter things.  They've done everything from make wands to study astronomy, and the girl is in heaven.

We've been spending a lot of time outside lately, as that's really where we're happiest as a family.  Kayaking, hiking, time at the park, in the garden, and swimming.  It's what we're all about in the summertime.

What I'm Into:

Read and Reading:

My reading has slowed tremendously as of late.  I still try to steal little pockets of time throughout the day, but more often than not, I end up falling asleep.  Such is life when you're big and pregnant, I suppose. I put together some reading lists for my kids and have enjoyed stealing a few ideas from Ellie's list.  Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World has been fascinating, and while I'm only a few pages in, Chasing Vermeer seems fun so far. I'm also reading Emily of New Moon.

Find out what else I've been reading here.


This season is full of time spent driving kids places, so I've been catching up on podcasts in the car, in between sessions of the Okee Dokee Brothers, as demanded by Elijah.

Judging by that line-up, I must be in the midst of homeschool planning for next year (I am).

I just finished listening to Maude on audiobook (loved it!) and started Find the Good.


Jason and I have been watching Chuck lately.  We started this one a while ago, then took a break and are back at it again.  We've also recently tried Veronica Mars...I've heard about it several places lately and so we decided to check it out. From the first couple of episodes, I'm not super impressed.  Is it worth sticking with?


Working on wrapping up a few projects before baby comes.  Stay tuned for a Baptism Study Journal, and a Hymns Coloring Book in the shop over the next little while.  My early morning hours are being devoted to these projects lately and I'm making some good progress.

Also, spending lots of time on the "Never-Ending Cross Stitch Project That I Thought Was a Great Idea". It might be finished sometime.  Maybe.

Also, I'm growing a human.  So, that's pretty much 24/7 creativity, right?  I like to think so, especially in the evenings when all I want to do is put up my swollen feet and drink something with slushy ice in it.


My morning scripture study has been devoted to the Parables in the New Testament lately.  I'm working my way through slowly and learning so much as I go.

I've also been working my way slowly through Sally and Sarah Clarkson's book, The Life-Giving Home. It's beautiful and so inspiring, so far.  I've got to keep my highlighter handy when I'm reading.

Links I Love Lately:

Skillshare Classes. I've been watching a class almost every morning lately.  Use this link to get 3 months for only 99 cents!

$5 Meal Plan is saving my life right now.  I LOVE having a ready-made meal plan and grocery list each week.  We've all loved most of the recipes, too.  It's been so fantastic for us in this busy season!

On the Blog:

I'm joining Leigh Kramer today to share What I'm Into.
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Our Summer Morning Time Plan

As I've mentioned before, we homeschool year round. I love this approach for many reasons, but a few of them include:

--A slow and steady approach means we spend less time on schoolwork on a daily basis.  The big kids and I get through most of our learning time in less than an hour first thing in the morning. Independent work takes them another hour or so, and I'm there to help as needed.

--It's a habit.  There is virtually no complaining about Morning Time because it's expected.  It's routine and something we all look forward to.  Choosing awesome books plays a big role it that, but I think more than anything the habit is what makes it possible.  

Our Morning Time this summer looks like this:

Memory Work

We've just started using a memory work binder similar to this one, and it's been simply amazing so far.  Our binders are a little different, but the idea is very much the same.  It's simple and still so effective.  I printed out a copy of each of these things for each of us. We open up our binders and run straight through it every morning.  The problem we've had with memory work in the past is remembering to pull it out or forgetting to work on it consistently.  Now because all of the things we're memorizing are in the same place we don't have that problem.  I can't believe I didn't think of it before.

We'll change out the new items we're memorizing with each 6 week term throughout the year.  And as we add new things, we will add a short review period to the end of each days' session so we are sure not to forget the things we've memorized in the past.

This summer our Memory work includes:
  • Hymn. This term we are working on Praise to the Man.  We sing it straight through, all four verses, every single morning.  
  • Scripture Passage.  We are memorizing Doctrine and Covenants 109: 7-8
  • Articles of Faith.  We take turns reading through the Articles of Faith. We read all 13 of them every day.  Ellie and I already have these memorized, so this practice is mostly for Ethan.  He's making huge progress already.
  • One poem per person.  Each child reads through the poem they are memorizing and then I read mine.  (They love that I am memorizing a poem, too.)
All of this only takes about 15 minutes per day, but I feel like it has added so much to our homeschool.


For science this summer, we are reading the Thornton Burgess Bird Book.  So far it's been a perfect read aloud.  The chapters are short and engaging, and even humorous at times.  While I read aloud, the kids draw the bird that the chapter focuses on in their science journals. Simple and fun.

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey.  This is our current literature read aloud.  None of us have ever read it before, but we're loving it.

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  We finished this one last week. There are no better read alouds than "The Laura Books"  as we call them around here.  Ellie has read them countless times, but this is Ethan's first time through.  No matter how many times I read these books, I never grow tired of them.

I'm also hoping to get to Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne and our currently family read aloud
The Trumpet of the Swan  by E. B. White.

The thing that's made the biggest difference in our Morning Time routine lately has nothing to do with books or memory binders.  It's the fact that my crazy, crazy toddler will now sit still and watch a show.  If we had talked about this when my two older children were little, I would have had very strong feelings about not allowing a 2.5 year old to watch something while the rest of the family was together, reading and learning.  I may have even experienced a little guilt at letting him watch anything at all.  But my tune has completely changed.

Morning Time had taken on a stressful, grumpy tone because the two year old was bored.  This particular two year old cannot simply play in a room quietly or roam around the house unattended.  He is a cyclone of a two year old.  Trying to engage him in our Morning Time routine was not successful and was adding a lot of time and frustration.  A few weeks ago I set up our laptop in the living room (where I could still see him) with an episode of Daniel Tiger on Netflix.  I don't know why I thought to try this, he'd never in his life sat still through a 20 minute show before.  But I did, and it was amazing.  Incredible and life-changing.  He happily (and quietly!) watched the show and the big kids and I happily and efficiently did schoolwork in the next room.  It was everything I imagined morning time to be: poetry and music, lovely books read aloud, happy children gathered around the table.

He usually watches 2 episodes of a show which allows us to do all of our memory work plus a chapter of science and a chapter of our read aloud.  And, let me tell you, I have no guilt about that.
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