Sewing Lessons

Kaia has been begging me for sewing lessons lately.  She’s done a simple square purse on my machine before, but this time she decided to do something with a real pattern.  She chose a fabulous owl pillow.  I had to stop my hands from taking over and really let her do it all.  I gave her instructions on choosing the fabric and how to cut the pattern, how to change your stitch and how to make your seams…. but she took off and made an amazing pillow!  So proud of her!  I love to see how her mind opens to the possibilities when she learns a new talent.



Yes, the pajamas have changed… we started the project late at night, so she had to finish the next day.


The back has a little pocket.

Renaissance Faire

Kaia and I have been planning and looking forward to this trip for many months!  I knew as soon as we decided to study the Middle Ages that we would need to go to a Renaissance fair!  The Renn Faire in NC is one of the biggest around.  The village is built on 20+ acres in beautiful woods.  We planned to spend the weekend there so we could see everything.

Kaia quickly settled into her own queen bed. (Oh, let me tell you, it was such luxury sleeping in my own squishy bed, all by myself.  We almost skipped the festival so that I could just sleep all day!)

Kaia quickly discovered the joys of the ice machine.

We thought it was important to dress the part in order to get the full Renaissance experience.

Many, many more pictures to follow:

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The Healthier, Happier, Stronger Me!

Two months ago, I took the huge step of clearing my house of all grains, legumes, processed sugars, and processed/prepackaged foods.  From now on, my family and I were going to eat only meats (including fish, fowl, and eggs), veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, herbs and spices.  We were going Paleo.  For most Americans, (especially us former vegetarians) this would be a huge and daunting task, but I felt like it was needed.  We had become so use to grabbing a quick carb-loaded snack from the pantry and forgetting about the veggies in the fridge.  Our daily intake was super high in grains (mostly processed) and very lacking in vegetables and digestible protein.  I say ‘digestible’ because Toby and I have food allergies/sensitivities, and imagine we’ve probably passed these on to our kids.  Toby and I are both sensitive to dairy, soy, and beans, which doesn’t leave much in the way of protein if you are vegetarian.  I was vegetarian for almost 20 years and began eating meat during my pregnancy with Kaia.  WOW!  Did I feel good!  My body had seriously been lacking in protein!  Still, even after we added meat and eggs back to our diet, those made up a very small portion of it.  The carbs led the way and with them came the frequent blood sugar roller coasters, anxiety, depression, temper tantrums, bowel issues, acne, weight ups and downs, PMS, bloating… (Obviously, the kids had the temper tantrums and I had the PMS…. OK, and the occasional tantrum).  For many people symptoms run even deeper and they develop inflammatory and auto immune diseases, and more.

I saw and felt immediate changes, my energy was up and my moodiness was down, my blood sugar stabilized while I lost weight and inches.  Really, I feel fabulous!  I feel strong and healthy!  I use to work out here or there occasionally, but I found that I needed a place to put all of my new found energy and decided to start doing workouts at home.  This only increased the feelings of strength!

Since it was my decision to clean out the house and change my lifestyle, Toby and the kids can choose to eat as they please when they are out of the house.  However, in the house we are strictly paleo.  Nothing comes in that doesn’t fit into our new food pyramid and the whole family follows this lifestyle when we are at home.   (Well, unless a certain Nana comes to visit and brings along tempting tasties.  You know who you are!)  But, I’ve found that I’m not tempted to eat any other way.  I feel so nourished, and I don’t want to go back to the way I was.  Our meals are nutrient dense and toxin free.

Now, I know many of you are saying “Oh, I could Never go without my morning toast!” or “I just LOVE muffins too much to give them up”.  Well, here’s the kicker.  I can still have toast and muffins, but I make them myself and I make them without grains.  I use nuts, seeds, and coconut in most of my ‘bread’ recipes and love the results.  That being said, I eat those bread-ish type of things much less than I use to.

I know I’ve not talked about the science behind paleo… I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the research and science behind the benefits of living the paleo lifestyle. (How the insulin and glucose are processed in the body from one type of food or another, the gastrointestinal inflammation caused by grains and legumes,…)  But, there are many fabulous blogs and cookbooks out there to get you started if you are interested.

Mark’s Daily Apple

Everyday Paleo and her super, fabulous cookbook

Nom Nom Paleo

Primal Palate and their scrumptious cookbook

Paleo Comfort Foods and their delicious cookbook

Paleo Parents

The Primal Parent

The Primal Home

The Crunchy Pickle

The Foodie and the Family

The Paleo Home

Practical Paleo

And this is just a short list!  There is so much information out there and so many recipes!  I felt like it was a pretty easy change because of all of this support.

So, what do I eat, you ask?

Well, breakfast usually consists of eggs (fried, scrambled, omelets, egg muffins…), sometimes pancakes/waffles (yes, without grain and usually with veggies shredded up and added in),  sausage or bacon, muffins, or leftovers.  Lunch varies greatly and often consists partly of leftovers.  Dinner… well, for the next few weeks are dinners look like this: Tex/Mex Chicken and veggies, Biscuits and gravy with mashed ‘potatoes’ and green beans (yes, all without grains or dairy), Farmer’s Pie, egg salad sandwiches (with paleo bread), chicken and vegetable ‘lo mein’, mini-egg pizzas , lasagna (ok, this one does have cheese, but zucchini instead of noodles), red curry beef stew,  gingered butternut squash soup and lots of carrots, broccoli, other veggies and salads.  Yes, we eat well!!  No, I don’t feel deprived!

Oh, and please don’t worry about that fabulous new ice cream maker I just bought this summer.  It will still get good use!

Vacuum Wars

If you come to my house and it hasn’t been vacuumed, it’s because someone likes to play war with the vacuum!  Check out the happiness on his face.


When Kaia and I were at the conference this past weekend, we both entered a raffle for various fun prizes.  Kaia has a hard time with raffles because she gets herself very worked up about winning.  So, she was pretty devastated when she didn’t win the wire tree that she’d hoped for.  And it didn’t help that I did win the two prizes that I’d hoped for.  She begged me to buy her a similar tree from a vendor.  But, I really wanted her to understand that she was completely capable of either earning the money herself, or of actually making her own tree.  (I feel like I placate her too often by buying her things she wants.)  The vendor heard how upset Kaia was about the tree she didn’t win and offered to teach us how to make them.  This was extremely generous of her considering she was giving up her time and the money she could have made if I’d bought a tree.  So, for the past two days, Kaia has been working diligently on her own personal tree.

She wanted a white tree.

Check out the concentration on her face:

I’m so proud of her!  She finished her tree and glued it to a piece of Amethyst.  It now adorns her bedside table where she can meditate on it as she goes to sleep.  I think this is a craft that we will do over and over!

Southeast Women’s Herb Conference


I spent this last weekend with Kaia at the Southeast Women’s Herb Conference.  And what a wonderful weekend it was!!  Though the wind threatened to blow our tent away a few times, Kaia came through her first conference with a big smile on her face and asked to go again next year.  She went with me to learn about aromatherapy and candle making, and then headed off to play with friends while I went to classes on fermentation, the respiratory system, biodynamic gardening, and more.  We danced the night away at a bhangra/bollywood party.  We fell in love the Rising Appalachia (if you haven’t heard their music, you should get a CD right now!!!).  It was a great mother/daughter weekend!


I know…

I’ve been seriously slack in posting here.  That’s because I’ve not been slack in the rest of my life.  We are working hard in homeschool, playing hard in the beautiful fall weather, reading great books, picking apples, eating well, and enjoying life!  That’s how it should be, right?!  I have a feeling new posts will continue to be sporadic.  I love you sweet blog friends, but once the kids are in bed and there is little time to blog, I just don’t want to be on the computer.  I’m trying to make it work, though, because I want to keep in touch with you all.  I will often post new homeschool, craft, and food ideas on pinterest.  You are welcome to come find me there!

So, here are a few pictures of what fills out life lately:

Late night dance parties with crazy dad.

Woah!  Step back!  He’s going turbo!

Acorn crafts of all sorts

Life from the perspective of a 2 year old (Leif spent an hour with my camera this afternoon to show you what he’s been up to.  I think he’s a fabulous photographer!)


First day of Anatomy

We were super excited to start Anatomy this year.  I have so many fun experiments planned.  But, of course, we had to start with the Jello Cell.  Did you create one of these in school?  I remember doing it at least twice!

You can use all kinds of things to create your cell.  This just happened to be what I chose: jello (Cytoplasm – I would advise using a light color if you want to see the details), Whoppers (nucleus), M&M’s (Lysosomes – I think Lemon Heads or jelly beans would have worked better here.  The M&M’s bled their color into the jello and made it a bit murky), Fruit by the foot (we used two different kinds for the Mitochondria and the Golgi Complex), Fruit twists (Endoplasmic Reticulum – I was looking for licorice, but this is what I found).

We read a bit about what it means to be human and then about how cells work in the body.  I found a book with a nice color picture of a cell that we could refer to as we built our jello cell.

I was surprised how much of the fruit and candy actually ended up in Leif’s bowl and not in his mouth…

“Mom, my nuculus won’t stop floating!”

Just as fun to eat as it was to make! (though, not as pretty!)

The princess and the cowboy get hitched

Yesterday, we had a wedding at our house.  Everyone was required to wear hats.  I’m not in any of the pictures, so I’ll tell you, I was a flower girl and I had a viking hat on.  (Yes, Kaia is holding a glass graduated cylinder of flowers!)

Toby officiated, and read from the holy dictionary.  I believe he defined the word “mush” for us.

The ceremony got a bit long for Leif, so he had to take a load off.

“Now you may kiss your cowboy!”

It was a lovely ceremony.  We were all in tears!

My little splurge

I brought in a little bit of money last month with some herb sales.  So, I bought myself a fancy, new ice cream maker.  I’ve never had one and boy, have I been missing out!!!  So far, we’ve tried mint chip, peach yogurt, and strawberry.  Leif waits patiently as the ice cream maker finishing churning…

Crafting flowers out of seeds

Somehow, I’ve ended up with a bag full of extra garden seeds.  Many are years old and some are just varieties that I didn’t care for and don’t plan on using again.  So, I thought I’d use some up in a craft.  Here’s what you need:

  • Seeds Pumpkin and squashes are best, but you can also use melon seeds and tiny seeds, like mustard
  • food coloring
  • rubbing alcohol
  • colored felt or fleece (this will be the background color of our flowers)
  • thin cardboard box, such as a cracker or cereal box
  • buttons for flower centers
  • hot glue gun
  • Elmer’s type white school glue
  • Optional: magnets, longer fleece strips for bracelets and headbands, velcro, sticks/floral wire…

First, pour a tiny amount (1/2 tsp or so) of rubbing alcohol into a bowl and mix with another tiny amount of food coloring.  I have the gel type of food coloring and I simply stuck a fork into the gel and pulled it out again.  What was stuck to the fork is what I then mixed into the alcohol.  (You could also use water, but I like how quickly the alcohol dries on the seeds.)

Pour some of your seeds into the mixture and coat them in coloring.

Doesn’t the purple look lovely?

I ended up using 6 colors for the squash seeds and put a few cantaloupe seeds in green.  I thought these would make nice leaves if I decided to use them.  Place your seeds on paper towels (or in my case, just plain paper) to dry.  I gave them a little toss every so often just to make sure they weren’t sitting in a puddle of fluid.

It takes a few hours for them to fully dry.  So, while that happens you can take this opportunity to visit with the local merboys,

Or have a chat with the viking who lives at the bottom of your stairs.

You can also take this time to get out your felting supplies and cut up some flower backgrounds

Cut 1-2 inch circles out of your felt and glue it (I used Elmer’s type glue, but the glue gun works also) onto circles of the same size that you cut out of the cardboard box.  Let this dry.

Now, once everything has dried, you can start assembling your flowers.

Pick out your petal colors and arrange them on your felt circle.  Then decide what kind of center you would like.  It helps to lay it out before gluing anything down so you can be sure you like the arrangement and that you have enough petals.

Then you begin gluing.  We have a fairly ‘cool’ hot glue gun, but it can still give you a nasty burn.  If you are working with younger kids, it’s best to let the adults use the glue guns.

Kaia liked the look of laying the seeds flat in a circle.  I went for the layered look.  With the layering, be sure to angle your first seed up a bit so that there is room to slide the last seed underneath it.

Once you have arranged your outer petals, you can do another layer of smaller petals, or use small seeds or a button for the center.  (We really liked the buttons!)

And while the older kids are working with the glue gun, the little ones can make circle trains. 🙂

Kaia and I spent ALL afternoon with this craft.  In fact, we were up until way past bedtime finishing off the last ones.  It was so much fun!  There are endless possibilities of what you can create with your flowers and they make fabulous gifts.

Use them as they are and tape them on presents.  Glue magnets on the back to hang your favorite artwork or projects on the fridge.

Glue them onto felt strips to make bracelets, chokers, or headbands.  A little strip of velcro makes the perfect closure.

Glue them onto barrettes.

Glue them onto a stick and create magic with your new wand.

You could also glue it onto a pin and make a broach.  What about attaching the flowers to green floral wire and making a bouquet for your table?  What would you make??



Kaia has been in art camp all week, from 9-5.  When I pick her up, she spends at least 30 minutes telling me about what they did all day and showing me her art before I’m allowed to pull out of our parking spot.  She is in her element.

Last night, she just couldn’t get enough art and decided to break out the Suminagashi kit that I got her for her birthday (thank you Frugal Family Fun for the recommendation!)

It took just a little bit to get the hang of it, but once she did, Kaia covered our kitchen table and floor with her art.

We didn’t realize that this one had a heart in it until we pulled the paper off.



She would use an 8 x 11.5 piece of paper to pull of the first design.  Those would come out bright and colorful.  Then she would use half sheets of paper and do it again, without adding any more ink.  These had more subtle colors, but were just as beautiful.  I like the subtle ones the best.

Don’t worry, she almost dropped the paper at the end of the video, but it turned out fine.



Birthday Twister

We gave this to Kaia for her birthday.  It brought back such memories for Toby and I that we just had to jump in and play!

Yes, my pony tail was tied tightly at the back of my head before the game started.  But, I’m happy to report that I was the last one standing!!!

My Sweet Baby Turns 8!

My sweet little girl is becoming a young lady! She is growing so fast, and that shy little toddler who use to hide behind my skirt is now stepping out to take on the world.


You are my I love you
I am your parent you are my child
I am your quiet place, you are my wild
I am your calm face, you are my giggle
I am your wait, you are my wiggle
I am your audience, you are my clown
I am your London Bridge, you are my falling down
I am your Carrot Sticks, you are my licorice
I am your dandelion, you are my first wish
I am your water wings, you are my deep
I am your open arms, you are my running leap
I am your way home, you are my new path
I am your dry towel, you are my wet bath
I am your dinner you are my chocolate cake
I am your bedtime, you are my wide awake
I am your finish line, you are my race
I am your praying hands, you are my saving grace
I am your favorite book, you are my new lines
I am your nightlight, you are my sunshine
I am your lullaby, you are my peek-a-boo
I am your kiss goodnight, you are my I love you

Author: Maryann K Cusimano


Kaia, on the day you were born you wrapped yourself around my heart. It was so full of love, I felt it might burst. Yet, somehow, as each day passes, I love you even more! Happy Birthday!

Pyramath Winner!

Wow!  Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments and math game suggestions!  We are excited to try them out.  We are also very excited to tell you that we now have decks of PrimeBomb and Fractazmic that we will be reviewing soon.

So, with out any further ado… The winner of the Pyramath deck is:


Congratulations, Vanessa.  I’ll be contacting you soon for shipping details.

More Fabulous Math with PyraMath & a Giveaway!

In early May, I read this review on a game called PyraMath and immediately thought it would be a great way to practice math facts with Kaia.  I went to the website and clicked on the link to Play.  We happened to be visiting in Boston a the time, but I thought I’d just play through it once to see if I thought it would really be useful.  Unfortunately, I got sucked in!  I kept trying to beat my best time and ended up playing late into the night.  All that play paid off when I won a deck of PyraMath cards!

The day that they arrived I think we ended up playing a gazillion times!!  I showed Kaia how to play a solitaire game beginning with 5 cards.  Each card has a number on it, from 0 to 9, and the number word written in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Roman, and Chinese (so they learn a little about other languages at the same time!).  The first 5 cards are put out in a line.  Then Kaia drew a card from the main pack and see if she could use it in an equation.  

Here you can see that her top cards were 1, 4, 5, 2, and 0.  Between adjacent cards you use either addition, subtraction multiplication, or division to create your answer.  So, between 1 and 4, she used the number 3 when it was drawn from the deck, because 4-1=3.  Over on the other side, between 2 and 0, she used the number 0, because 2×0=0.   The cards that couldn’t be played were placed in a discard pile and play continues until the last card on the pyramid is placed.  She loved it!  And I love that this deck can be used for kids that may only know addition facts up to adults who just want to review.  So, I can play with Leif when he gets a little older, too.  And really, for Kaia, the game isn’t at all about math practice, it’s just about having fun.

Later in the evening, she challenged me to a game, which she won.  We started this game with 7 cards.  Her pyramid is on the right.  We haven’t covered division yet in school, but she started working out a few equations on her own here.

So, because I love finding ways to make math fun, and the fabulous people at PyraMath sent along a deck to give to you lovely readers, I’m having a giveaway!  YAY!!

Here are the rules:

  • For one chance to win, simply leave a comment.  You don’t have to, but I’d love to hear your favorite ways to ‘play’ with math.
  • For another chance to win, share this giveaway on your blog or facebook, and leave me a comment about it.

Don’t forget to leave a way to contact you if you win!  If you don’t win, don’t be discouraged!  A deck costs only $6.95 plus shipping, which I think is completely worth it!! (and no, I’m not being paid to say that!)

I’ll draw the winner on Monday, June 20th, at 7pm EST.

Now I’m off to the PyraMath Wiki page to learn more ways to play!!


Play Tents

Kaia and Leif LOVE playing in tents, so when I saw this project, a little A-Frame play tent, I knew we had to do it!

It was so simple, we were able to make both kids their own tent in less than an hour!  Kaia made the measurements while Toby drilled the holes.

Then I sewed up a couple of tents and voila!

A place for playing, reading, eating, napping, and even traveling to the Amazon with your dad!

River Walk

We found a wonderful little riverside spot for playing during the hot summer days!  Nice and shallow with lots of spots for getting dirty.

You can’t tell from this picture, but Kaia is soaked up to her neck!  She did a good bit of splashing!

Multiplication Bingo

One of the games I thought we might play this summer to sharpen Kaia’s math skills is Multiplication Bingo.  I found this great site for creating your own Bingo cards, Print Bingo, and simply plugged in the answers to the multiplication facts for 2×2 through 9×9.  If two or more equations have the same answer, like 3 x 4 = 12 and 2 x 6 = 12, I only entered the number 12 once on the bingo sheet.  I printed the cards out on yellow paper and ran them through my handy-dandy laminator.

Then I wrote down the equations on red paper and laminated them, too.  I wasn’t planning to pulling this game out until the next time she said “MOM!  I’m bored!”, but Kaia saw me doing this and wanted to play immediately.  So, we put the red equations into a paper bag.  She would pull them out, one at a time, and say the answer.  If either of us found the answer on our card, we’d cover it with a blue cube.  I was the first to yell “BINGO!”, so we kept playing until she made 5 in a row and could scream it herself, too.  Next time I think I’ll use chocolate covered raisins instead of blue cubes.  Then we can eat our playing chips when we are done!  Yay for fun learning!

Memorize in Minutes Multiplication Review

School is out!  Kaia is officially a 3rd grader, and we are celebrating with doughnuts and a party!  But before I retire the curriculum for the summer, I wanted to tell you about Memorize in Minutes: The Times Tables.  I bought this after hearing good reviews from other homeschoolers.  Adding in art and stories to Kaia’s math lessons seemed right up her alley.

When I first got it and looked through the book, I was skeptical.  Each number is assigned a word, like 2 is “shoe” and 6 is “chicks”.  Then a story is developed for each equation using these words as clues to the final answer, in this case “elf”.  And when you think of “shoe” and “chicks” you remember “elf”.  It sounded good, but I really didn’t think Kaia would know her multiplication facts just from hearing a story.

I’m very happy to tell you that it worked wonderfully.  Kaia really enjoyed coloring the picture of the equation while I told the story.  She would repeat the equation a few times and that was that.  We would do a new multiplication fact 2-3 times a week and review them once a week.  The book doesn’t cover multiplying by 0, 1, or 10 because those are pretty easy facts to memorize.  It also doesn’t repeat facts.  For example, once you learn 4 x 7 you don’t do 7 x 4. You learn as you go along that they are interchangeable .

When we finished, she taped them up on the wall in what she calls her “shrine to math”.

Working on the shrine

(The rainbow circle in the middle of the shrine is Robinsunne’s Multiplication Clock, a beautiful way of looking at the multiplication table)

She may still take a minute to think about the facts before giving the answer, but she knows the answer.  I think we’ll play lots of math games over the summer to help solidify the knowledge, but overall, I’m very impressed with the results!


Because today, I really needed to read this …

Beautiful words by Alicia Bayer to help me remember why I do what I do.

The Never-Ending Parent

Sometimes it’s hard to be a good parent.
Sometimes you wonder why you’re not like others
Who make themselves the priority, who are stern and unyielding
Or who let everybody else take care of their kids.
Sometimes you envy them their time, their space,
Their full night’s sleep.

Sometimes you start doubting yourself and wondering
If you really are just crazy, being this kind of parent
In this kind of world.

Your house is noisy and full of chaos
And you wonder if it will last forever.

I have a secret.  If you keep this up….
It will.

Think of it.

When you get up at 3 a.m. because your baby cries, think of the time
When he’s a teenager and calls at 3 a.m. to say he needs a ride
Instead of getting in the car with his drunk friends
Because he knows he can be honest with you and that he can count on you.

When you take the time to explain “why” for the hundredth time today
Wondering if you will ever get a moment’s peace and quiet,
Think of the days when your daughter is grown and on her own
And will still call because she loves your conversations.

When you discount all the well-meaning people who tell you to let your baby cry
And you go to him, hold him, comfort him anyway
Think ahead to the times when he’ll be a strong, secure, independent kid
And those people say “I don’t know how you were blessed with such an easy child.”

When you nurse your daughter and hold her close
Spoiling her with all that love and care, think of the time
When you’ll overhear her tell a friend
“My mom and I have always been so close.”

When the house is full of noise, mess and chaos
Think of the days when the kids are grown, and it will start all over
With your grandchildren, because your family is so bonded
That everybody still gathers at your loving home.

No, if you keep this up it will never change.
Your children will be in your life forever.
And honey, you’ll love the noise.

~ Alicia Bayer

Learning about negative numbers

Kaia and I are wrapping up her school year this week and next, and we thought we’d learn a little about negative numbers to end the year.  We talked about things less than zero, looked at thermometers and time lines.  Then she drew a number line from -5 to 5.  I gave her a few dollars of monopoly money and set up a little store.  If she wanted to buy something but didn’t have enough money, she’d borrow from the mom bank.  She started off with $5 and stood on the number 5.  She wanted to buy a head band worth $8.  So she borrowed $3 and moved back to the -3, because she now owed me $3.  Then she would ‘earn’ money somehow (birthday, chores) and move up again.   We’ve been over this concept of owing before, but it was nice to put it into action and then write the equation on the board so that she could see how 5-8 could equal -3.  She enjoyed it so much that she ended up playing store for over an hour and a half!

Yes, I bribe my children …

This is the only way I can ever get Kaia to put paper to pencil!

I told her I would make Ice Cream Pie if she could write me the recipe.   Yum!

Ice Cream Pie by Kaia

1. Fill crust with ice cream.

2. Top with whipped cream.

3. Drizzle on chocolate syrup.

4. Sprinkle on marshmallows and sprinkles.

5. Add 8 cherries.

6. Eat it!